Thursday, November 3, 2016

Sword, Sorcery, and Super Science Without Tears Or Defining Your Old School Campaign on Your Terms

I had an interesting discussion last night with some friends around the table about sword & sorcery old school rpg's like Original Dungeons  & Dragons as well as retroclones such as Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperboria, Labyrinth Lord, Basic Fantasy, Dark Albion, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Adventurer, Conqueror, King,  Fantastic Heroes & Witchery and lots of others. The conversation got bogged down into the definitions of the genre of sword & sorcery  is & how I was doing it wrong. Let me go on record as saying that you as the dungeon master define the world; the players fill it with exploits of their PC's. Here's why.

Sword & Sorcery is defined as follows;"
Sword and sorcery (S&S) is a subgenre of fantasy generally characterized by sword-wielding heroes engaged in exciting and violent conflicts. An element of romance is often present, as is an element of magic and the supernatural. Unlike works of high fantasy, the tales, though dramatic, focus mainly on personal battles rather than world-endangering matters.[1] Sword and sorcery commonly overlaps with heroic fantasy.[2]
A film genre tangentially related to sword and sorcery, at least in name, is sword-and-sandal, though its subjects are generally oriented to biblical times and early history, instead of fantasy. Not to be confused with cloak and dagger or cloak and sword, which are alternate genres."

Another reason why I draw from the swords & sorcery genre is because of the femenist perspective of it;"Despite the importance of C. L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, Andre Norton, and other female authors, as well as Moore's early heroine, sword and sorcery has been characterized[by whom?] as having a strongly masculine bias. Female characters were generally distressed damsels to be rescued or protected, or otherwise served as an inducement or reward for a male hero's adventures. Women who had adventures of their own often did so to counter the threat of rape, or to gain revenge for same.[24][27] Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthology series (1984 onwards) attempted the reverse. Bradley encouraged female writers and protagonists: the stories feature skillful swordswomen and powerful sorceresses, working from a variety of motives.[28][29] The series was immensely popular and Bradley was editing her final volume at the time of her death (the series continued under other editors). Jessica Amanda Salmonson similarly sought to broaden the range of roles for female characters in S&S through both her own stories and in editing the World Fantasy Award-winning[30] Amazons (1979) and Amazons II (1982) anthologies; both drew on real and folkloric women warriors, often from areas outside of Europe.[31][32] Today, active female characters who participate equally with the male heroes in the stories are a regular feature in modern sword and sorcery stories."

For me I draw from both sword & sorcery and the sword & planet genre freely;"Other pulp fantasy fiction — such as Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom series and Leigh Brackett's Sea Kings of Mars — have a similar feel to sword and sorcery, but, because alien science replaces the supernatural, it is usually described as planetary romance or sword and planet, and considered to fall more in the area of science fiction.[22] Despite this, planetary romance is closely aligned with sword and sorcery, and the work of Burroughs, Brackett, and others in the former field have been significant in creating and spreading S&S proper.[23] Sword and sorcery itself has often blurred the lines between fantasy and science fiction, drawing elements from both like the "weird fiction" it sprang from."

So how is Accursed Atlantis different from the run of the mill material out in the wilds? Well as a setting it draws deeply from pop culture whist still using tradition material. Accursed Atlantis has a number of alien races, near humans, mutants, and others all vying in an entropic wasteland after it all went to hell. The technological level is someplace between a pulpy late 1800's all the way through 1960'sscience fantasy levels on the high end. And unlike other settings the relics are quite literally all over the place and that's the problem. High amounts of magickal pollution, Lovecraftian horrors, dimensional instability, space gates, mutation, magick, and worse are stalking the world unchecked. Accursed Atlantis is a world where warfare is common & survival is a matter of sword or sorcery.  Humans are on the menu and anything can happen.

Basically Accursed Atlantis started out as my OSR sand box & its grown into a fully fledged campaign setting where I drop anything into without 'breaking' it. Here there are strong ties with ancient mythology and weird twists on some of the usual themes. There is black powder weaponry, lots of fighting women & men, gods walk among men, etc. In other words many of the themes of traditional sword & sorcery are there but with my own twists.

So what's with all of this explaination and exposition about Accursed Atlantis? Because as a dungeon master I'm defining the OSR at my table on my terms not on an authors terms, not on a designer's terms, or a publisher's terms. Its my world there will be lots more to come as the days roll on.

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