Monday, February 12, 2018

Earthman Blues For Edgar Rice Burrough's Llana of Gathol For Your Old School Campaigns

I got an email request for a bit of Warriors of the Red Planet action over the weekend from dungeon master Chris. Don't worry we'll return to the Lion & Dragon Thirty Years War action soon enough. So on Friday I dragged out some of my old Warriors of the Red Planet campaign notes & resources.  One of the campaigns that I miss is my Old Mars campaign setting & tonight I was going over one of my favorite Edgar Rice Burroughs novels that I used for it. Namely ERB's Llana of Gathol & why is this later Barsoom novel an old favorite? Because the entire novel is one big hex crawl with tons of factions & the original science fiction magazine Amazing Stories had one of the best releases of the novel.

Llana of Gathol is a collection of four science fantasy stories by American writer Edgar Rice Burroughs, which were originally published in Amazing Stories in 1941. The first collected edition of Llana of Gathol was published in 1948. It is the penultimate book in the Barsoom series and the last to be published during Burroughs's lifetime.

The stories in Llana of Gathol have a somewhat more humorous tone than earlier entries of the Barsoom series, and this book is considered to be an example of Burroughs engaging in self-parody late in his career."

The whole novel centers around John Carter's granddaughter Llana of Gathol, whose miss adventures place her center stage with her grand father coming to her aid & the classic Barsoomian monsters, adventure locations, & boat load of Martian background we the readers get spoon fed. This isn't a bad thing because Llana of Gathol is one of the more accessible Barsoom novels for the fans. We get a wide & wild overview of some of the lesser known corners of Barsoom & lots of  potential for old school adventure locations.
The novel was first serialized in the March 1941  issue of  the classic science fiction pulp magazine Amazing Stories & many issues  before being published as a complete book in 1948. Here's a list of the Amazing Stories appearances & we'll find out why this is important in a moment.

The City of Mummies: Amazing Stories: March 1941
    J. Allen St. John cover and two interiors
Black Pirates of Barsoom: Amazing Stories: June 1941
    J. Allen St. John cover and two interiors
Yellow Men of Mars: Amazing Stories: August 1941
    J. Allen St. John cover and two interiors
Invisible Men of Mars: Amazing Stories: October 1941
    J. Allen St. John cover and two interiors
The City of Mummies: Amazing Stories Quarterly v.1 n.4 reprint: Fall 1941
The Black Pirates of Barsoom: Amazing Stories Quarterly v.2 n.1: Winter 1941
Yellow Men of Mars and Invisible Men of Mars: Amazing Stories Quarterly: v.2. n.2: Spring 1942

 Now this novel has been the basis for a lot of original Dungeons & Dragons adventures & I've dungeon mastered  a whole lot of Night Owl Workshop's Warriors of the Red Planet. None of my adventure stuff ever confines itself to the purity of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Personally I've always preferred the James Allen St. John artwork for Llana of Gathol's installments in Amazing Stories James Allen St. John artwork captures the pulpy weirdness of the Barsoom setting in spades. Dungeon crawling in the pits of Barsoom, duels of honor to stay alive, slave actions & weird creatures galore along with some god damn concrete answers about Mar's history all make  Llana of Gathol an old favorite of mine.

There is little to redeem the Black Pirates of Barsoom, we get a look inside the horrors of a state controlled kingdom with science fantasy mechanisms that seem to belong in the 1984 rather then a Edgar Rice Burroughs novel. We also get lots of sword play action, plenty of double dealing, and three kingdom factions of Barsoomian royals who are complete pricks. So there's plenty to mine for the DM whose looking to get into the ins & outs of some royal double and triple dealing.

Black Pirates of Barsoom: Amazing Stories: June 1941's cover has some weirdness to it but I love the action that St. John brings to the events on Barsoom. Amazing: August 1941 - Yellow Men of Mars - (Llana of Gathol) picks right up with the action centered around the poles of Barsoom. We the readers finally get into one of the most mysterious of the Barsoomian races The Yellow Men of Mars and some of the background strangeness that the enemy has been up to. We get yet another faction of Barsoom to toy with and some of the dangerous horrors lurking in the Martian ice.

Invisible Men of Mars: Amazing Stories: October 1941 is the final chapter of the series. This round robin novella  pits us against the real enemy behind everything in this series & here we've got a huge science fantasy device that could change warfare on Barsoom in the grand Burroughs style.

The action here is fast, the love interest finally get's wrapped up, & we've got the Carter family headed back to Helium. But the question is what about all those adventure loose ends? The factions, the pirates, the kingdoms, the devices, the underworld of Barsoom? Well that's where your adventurers come in.
Llana of Gathol offers a DM a lot of options to put on the table for Barsoomian style adventures. These are some of the most accessible of the ERB Barsoom stories allowing a dungeon master to pick and run with any of the loose ends. Since I love the pulpy Amazing Stories version of these tales from the Forties & they're now easy to get for anyone because their on line free. All of these Amazing Stories releases are available through the Internet Archive starting with:
The City of Mummies:Amazing Stories: March 1941
Black Pirates of Barsoom:Amazing Stories: June 1941

Yellow Men of Mars: AmazingStories: August 1941

These novels have a special place in a dungeon master's arsenal allowing one to cherry pick what and where the right adventure places, elements, & monsters can be used for the greatest and best effects on the players. Llana of Gathol is certainly one of the most underrated of ERB's Barsoom novels in my opinion and one of the 'forgotten' Barsoom novels allowing a DM to offer some new thrills to even the most jaded of players.

Llana of Gathol is still owned by the ERB estate with the  trade mark & copy right. This blog post is not an attempt to violate that trade mark or copy right. The Amazing Stories issues are in the public domain in the United States & are being used for download for educational and entertainment purposes. The makers of Warriors of the Red Planet are not anyway responisble for the content of this blog. All commentary here is copyrighted & trademarked to Dark Corner productions @2018.

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