Sunday, April 9, 2017

Encounter With 'The Thoth' An 'Old Mars' Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea & Warriors of the Red Planet Hybrid Campaign Actual Play Event

Tonight I got a chance to get into
my Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea & Warriors of the Red Planet hybrid campaign known as 'Old Mars'. The adventurer came across an ancient ragged & ruined city inhabited by strange bird creatures after their sky ship crashed near a weird city. There they came across one of the original races of Mars the 'Thoth'. They opened trade from their minor royal house with the Thoth. Things were very interesting in tonight's game to say the least. Here's some of the background.

 Tonight I've gotten together with my players for my Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea & Warriors of the Red Planet hybrid campaign known as 'Old Mars'. Well, lately I've been rereading a lot of Stanley G. Weinbaum's planetary romances. Wiki as per usual under states the importance of Stanley Grauman Weinbaum (April 4, 1902 – December 14, 1935) to early science fiction writers such as Isaac Asimov  & Arthur C. Clark among many others.

Issac Asimov described Weinbaum's story "A Martian Odyssey" as a hand grenade in the field of early science fictinon;"The story "had the effect on the field of an exploding grenade. With this single story, Weinbaum was instantly recognized as the world's best living science fiction writer, and at once almost every writer in the field tried to imitate him." "His first story, "A Martian Odyssey", was published to great (and enduring) acclaim in July 1934, but he succumbed to lung cancer less than a year and a half later."

story "A Martian Odyssey" HERE

So what exactly is it about the two stories in Weinbaum's Mars that have any enduring impact on Old Mars & why you should pay attention to an early science fiction set of novellas? Well these stories fit the alien criteria of  editor & science fiction guru John W. Campbell. Known as Campbell's dictum, 'write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man'."
"A Martian Odyssey" & its follow up "Valley of Dreams" are stand alone Martian science fiction but they dove tail right back into Weinbaum's solar system stories. But I can already hear the groans from certain corners of the OSR, so its very easy to explain how PC's would be encountering the plot points of  A Martian Odyssey. Earth has suffered a devastating cosmic event & has only recently be experimenting again with atomic drives. 
It is only recently that certain human city states have been exploring all of the corners of Mars. Which is where they're likely to encounter Tweel & 'The Thoth'. The 'Thoth' are straight out of A Martian Odyssey;"Early in the 21st century, nearly twenty years after the invention of atomic power and ten years after the first lunar landing, the four-man crew of the Ares has landed on Mars in the Mare Cimmerium. A week after the landing, Dick Jarvis, the ship's American chemist, sets out south in an auxiliary rocket to photograph the landscape. Eight hundred miles out, the engine on Jarvis' rocket gives out, and he crash-lands into one of the Thyle regions. Rather than sit and wait for rescue, Jarvis decides to walk back north to the Ares. Just after crossing into the Mare Chronium, Jarvis comes across a tentacled Martian creature attacking a large birdlike creature. He notices that the birdlike Martian is carrying a bag around its neck, and recognizing it as an intelligent being, saves it from the tentacled monstrosity. The rescued creature refers to itself as Tweel. Tweel accompanies Jarvis on his trip back to the Ares, in the course of which it manages to pick up some English, although Jarvis is unable to make any sense of Tweel's language. At first, Tweel travels in tremendous, city-block-long leaps that end with its long beak buried in the ground, but upon seeing Jarvis trudge along, walks beside him."
The Toth have visited Earth's Egypt in the ancient past or more likely around the time of Alexander The Great. Or during the Roman Revival Period of Egypt. The 'Thoth' are a decedent & declining alien culture by the time the crew of the Ares has contact with Tweel. Yes Thoth is the Greek pronunciation of the Egyptian god's name but then there's that the whole classic argument  I could go over but  that I don't have time to go into.

There are several reasons why "A Martian Odyssey"  is truly important the least of which is the influence it had on Gary Gygax's monster ecology. This fact hasn't escaped other pundits of the hobby.  When we get to Valley of Dreams then we start really getting a snap shot of the extent of the 'Thoth' alien civilization. "Near a canal, the men find a strange, deserted city thousands of years old. The buildings are inhabited by birdlike Martians of Tweel's species, including Tweel himself, and Jarvis and the Martian enjoy a happy reunion. Jarvis persuades Tweel to guide them through the city.
In one building, they come across a ratlike being hunched over a Martian book. Tweel angrily chases the rat-thing away and replaces the book on a shelf, though the Earthmen are not sure whether the rat-thing was reading the book or eating it. Elsewhere in the building, which seems to be a library, Tweel shows the Earthmen a huge mural of a human kneeling before a seated Martian. When Leroy remarks that the Martian in the mural looks like the Egyptian god Thoth, Tweel excitedly repeats the name, pointing to itself and all around them at the city. The Earthmen realize that Tweel's people, the Thoth, had visited ancient Egypt and served as inspiration for the Ibis-headed god. (This is actually anachronistic, since Thoth was the classical Greek version of the god's name."
These ancient Martians seem to have forgotten much of their advanced super science technology & gone right down the slide towards degenerative decline we see so often in Martian races & cultures.

Valley of Dreams by Stanley Grauman Weinbaum Is Available Here For Free

So we've got a truly alien set of humanoids living & working on Mars. The Thoth are perfect fodder for a Clark Ashton Smith solar system.Clark Ashton Smith's Mars is a place of ancient alien decadence & ageless evil. These stories are filled with Smith's Old Mars rulers, races, & the eldritch horror  that hides in the dark. 

  • Dweller in the Gulf, The (1933)
  • Mnemoka (1955) Fragment
  • Vaults of Yoh-Vombis, The (1931)
  • Vulthoom (1935)
  • Seedling of Mars or The Planet Entity [plot by - E M Johnson] (1931)[An alternative background to the proceeding 4 stories]
     But how could a dungeon master run these stories of planetary sword & terror? The simplest way is too make one area or former empire country setting the confined area of these horrors. Ignarh the capital of C.S. Smith's Mars is a decadent den of ancient inequity & Martian sleazy. The type of place that is perfect for adventurers,outlaws, and type of sword & sorcerous scum that PC's seem to gravitate towards.
Its also the sort of a landscape that the Thoth could easily inhabit & not send nary a ripple across the desert sands of Mars. 

The Thoth

No Encountered:3d4 

Alignment: Neutral (with Lawful tendencies)
Size: M 
 Movement 50 (Jump 450) 
Dexterity: 16 
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice:3 
No of Attacks: 2 Claw/Claw or by weapon
Damage: 1d4/1d
Saving Throw 15
Experience Points:120

'The Thoth' are a mysterious & very ancient race of Martian bird like humanoid race that visited Old Earth in the distant past thousands of years ago.  These are creatures of a bygone age of Old Mars, having the characteristics of plants & animals, the Thoth neither sleep nor eat or drink. Instead they draw nutrients & life giving materials. For several hours a day they will encase their trunk like flexible beaks within the Martian soil to feed. Children are produced by budding when two 'Thoth' join during their mating season when buds are produced asexually.
 The Thoth are incredibly agile & dexterous covering many city blocks in one leap or more. They can easily cover Martian cliff sides and valleys with easy. Their flexible beaks acting as breaks to ad in their stopping. 
These creatures although human in appearance are completely alien & have a completely different arrangement of organs with the brain of the Thoth being located in the chest. This arrangement accounts for the armor class of the Thoth. They also have bright feather like coverings that protect them from the incredibly chilly Martian nights. These feather like coverings retract during the day and become invisible. The 'Thoth' are also armed with retractable claws of remarkable sharpness that they will use defensibly if backed into a corner. They can strike for 1d4 points of damage per claw.
The Thoth have an incredibly complex alien language that is represented by whirls, signs, & symbols. These are incredibly difficult for humans to grasp and require four or more Wisdom and Intelligence checks to understand.
The Thoth communicate in distinct forms of whistles, clicks, and shrills that certain low land Martian barbarian tribes understand. To the average adventurer it takes years of contact to even grasp the lower forms of this alien language. The Thoth have no trouble grasping common, high and low forms of Hyperborean & many other human languages. Because of their advanced grasp of higher stage logic there is a thirty percent chance of the 'Thoth' being able to unweave any magick spells cast against them. This is an innate ability to the 'Thoth'. The 'Thoth' are 6th level wizards/scientists with innate abilities of magic, higher order alien super science & other alien abilities
There were once millions of humanoid 'Thoth' but now only a few thousand remain. They are an incredibly old as well as advanced civilization. Their cities sprawling ruins can still be seen  in certain lost valleys which housed millions of the species. These cities contain many lost relics and weird artifacts of the 'Thoth'. Many of the 'Thoth' cities use an advanced form of solar power,
as well chemicals and steam propulsion in weaponry. The 'Thoth' also use an advanced form of alchemy processed  Martian radium they as an ever burning power source. This is known among the Martian human colonists as 'ever burning coal' which it resembles. They use this for an energy and light source for heat. Ever burning coal units are worth 10,000 gold pieces in Martian human city states where they are highly valuable.
The 'Thoth' carry
a bizarre firearm made from a transparent glass-like material, which fires poisoned splinters using steam power. These weapons have 1d100 shots when found in clips which must be hand loaded. A 'Thoth' dart gun will have water & the Martian propellant liquid which will mix when the handle is squeezed. Targets must save vs death or poison when hit by a glass dart. The guns have a range of 50 feet & do 1d3 points of damage in addition to the poison's effects. The glass darts are mostly harmless to humans. The darts poison can be easily adjusted by the 'Thoth' to compensate for  human biology.
The 'Thoth' have only recently begun to master the fine art of nuclear power after trading with several of the human city states on 'Old Mars'. There is evidence that as far back as the human Stone Age 'The Thoth' had staggered contact with humanity.

Old Mars Campaign Resources

Old Mars OSR Campaign Evolution - A Warriors of The Red Planet & Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Hybrid Campaign

Sword & Sorcery Solar System & Old Mars Campaign Resource Round Up - Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers Of Hyperborea & Warriors of The Red Planet Hybrid Campaign Resources


'Old Mars' Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyprborea & Warriors of The Red Planet Hyrbid Campaign Notes 


Commentary On Ass Kicking Warrior Women of The Old Mars Setting

Further Afield 'Old Venus' & 'Old Mercury'

Old Venus A Sword & Sorcery Adventure Setting For Using OSR Resources With The Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Rpg System

Adapting The Free Leigh Brackett's 'The Stellar Legion' Novella To The 'Old Venus' Campaign Setting


Adapting The Free Leigh Brackett's 'The Citadel Of Lost Ships' Novella To The 'Old Venus' Campaign Setting


Old Mercury Under A Hyperborean Sun - Commentary On Several Free Novellas From Leigh Brackett For The Old Mars Campaign Setting

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