Monday, February 6, 2017

Old Mars 'On A Budget' - Free Classic Edition OD&D Warriors Of Mars Download Mixed With The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Rpg System For A Hybrid Setting

I got an email asking me about doing 'Old Mars' on a budget and was it possible? The answer is absolutely with some modifications & here's how. I've run numerous variation D&D  Mars/Barsoom games over the years going all the way back to when I first got into the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
Warriors of Mars is a 1974 miniatures wargame rule book, written by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume and published by Tactical Studies Rules. It simulates combat in the fantasy world of Barsoom, originally imagined by Edgar Rice Burroughs in his series of novels about John Carter of Mars. It is a 56-page booklet in the same style as the original Dungeons & Dragons books, even sharing the same artist Greg Bell.Gygax and TSR published the rules without permission from Burroughs estate and soon after its release they issued a cease and desist order and the game was pulled from distribution. Because only a few copies were sold the book is now rare and sells for a high price"  This of course goes back to Gary Gygax who said, "Those wargamers who lack imagination, those who don't care for Burroughs' Martian adventures where John Carter is groping through black pits.. will not be likely to find DUNGEONS and DRAGONS to their taste."
Right so this is all ancient history to those of us who have been play Original Dungeons & Dragons & to some folks more of a footnote in the cobbled path of Dungeons & Dragons history. To those of us who yearn to play on Barsoom, this game was beacon in the Martian darkness.

Barsoomian war gaming goes right back to the foundation of original Dungeons & Dragons which the following set of rules were inspired by.
"Dungeons & Dragons Warriors of Mars, a Barsoom OD&D supplement by "Doc" from the OD&D forums--based off of the original Warriors of Mars Miniatures Battles game put out by TSR in 1974" Surely this set of rules couldn't be adapted to Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea?! Because of the modular nature of OSR materials & supplements it can! But there are going to be exceptions, adapting and a bit of twisting so bear with me. First thing to bare in mind is that this a supplement for OD&D meaning that its facilitated toward & geared to adapt the existing Original Dungeons & Dragons rules to Barsoom not Old Mars. There is a vast difference in both tone & application are going to be centered around the warriors & adventurers of Barsoom as well as it monster, vile villains, & more

The first thing you've got to realize is that we're dealing with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea as the back bone system for PC generation. Because AS&SH goes up to thirteen we can pretty much ignore the level adjustments for Fighters right off the bat but I would include Berserker as an option. There are at least two instances in both Michael Moorcock's Mars novels & Burroughs where these sorts of fighting men appear. Scout from AS&SH has no substantial changes except in tone. Our old friend the assassin is in there & we get a whole bunch more background on them but again AS&SH is our back system so no real changes.
There's even a small psionic system included in the download;"There are four types of psychic powers on Barsoom, the Telepath, Mesmerist, Necromancer, and Beastmaster. All four classes are written to be played very simply with the DM adjudicating their use as applies to his own campaign." "Let's start out with some basics.
ALL Barsoomians posses a low-level psychic awareness that allows them to tell how many people are in their general area. In game terms, they have a 75% chance to detect all humans (which includes Red, White, Black, and Yellow Martians, but not Green Martians or beasts) within a 50' area around them. This applies even if the other people are in another room, building, or in hiding. This does not give the character any idea of the identity or the intent of these people, merely that they are there. Also, the character MUST be concentrating to use this detection. Assassins (Gorthans) have learned how to nullify their psychic trace for short periods of time to render them invisible to this form of detection."

Could this system be used? Yes with level adjustments & a bit of mathematics on you the Dungeon master's part.
There could be clans of Martians who sit along the banks of the river of the death goddess who speak psionically with the dead practicing the dread necrotic arts as they have for centuries. 'Good' & honorable necromancers whose art is perverted by those black hearts. This was something I've used in the past as a plot device. There's also an honor system but doing a down & dirty campaign out in the wastelands its utility is ummm interesting.

Then we get into the most common Basroomian races a good quick overview of the Barsoomian text book races. This is a good selection to refer too when making PC's & its not badly put together. But when it comes to the money,equipment, etc. I stuck to the gold standard, its just easier.
Monsters are standard Barsoomian horrors, mounts, etc. its easy to see the AS&SH equivalents such as horses, mounts extra.
Then we get into the underworld & Wilderness adventures - Which basically goes into the Barsoomian honor bound combat scheme, a good overview of Martian martial arts, etc., this is followed by Barsoom religion, the vast cities and city states, etc. Then the various personalities of Barsoom which PC's are never likely to meet.
I do love this free download but let's go into my problem with it, the focus here is on the royals & royal houses of Barsoom. A post Colonial Old Mars has had its Barsoomian royalty apex and is now in another era.
This is a world of back alley brothels, dirty deals, sword & sorcery mixing in with forbidden alien sciences. These are not the kinds of events or  places that one is likely to find John Carter. This isn't the fault of the Warriors of Mars OD&D download but rather an adventure & campaign conceit on the part of the Dungeon Master. This is really borne out Leigh Brackett's Mars novels which have a far grittier sword & sorcery feel then Burroughs but could easily be placed upon Barsoom. As Wiki says,"
Burroughs' heroes set out to remake entire worlds according to their own codes; Brackett's heroes (often antiheroes) are at the mercy of trends and movements far bigger than them." But again this one of a dungeon master's view point & not one that falls on the back of the supplement.  The Barsoom article from Heavy Metal magazine by Richard Lupoff from issue September 1982 issue illustrated by Clyde Caldwell.Gives an excellent overview of the Barsoomian world setting & ideals. Its available as a free download here!

The OD&D Warriors of Mars is downloadable under the companion booklets & OD&D resources you'll find the Warriors of Mars download along with some great OD&D Conan material. Thanks to Grey Elf for providing these valuable additions to the Barsoomian DM's out there. And Doc for writing this all out.


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