Sunday, September 17, 2017

Review & OSR Commentary On Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition) From North Wind Adventures

So many months ago it seems that the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition's kickstarter seemed to take the OSR community by storm! Well the long await is over! Last night whist I was at my weekly AS&SH game the pdf broke! It was billed as the premiere Sword & Sorcery OSR rpg during the kickstarter. So let's see if that's true and I'll be the judge of that claim! Clocking in at over six hundred & twenty two pages this is one hell of a hefty tome. But let's get the big question out of the way first for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hypborea first edition fans this second edition is fully and wholly compatible with first edition.

For myself and other fans of AS&SH this is an OSR retroclone that we've been waiting for with both baited breath & some trepidation. Trepidation because its a game that hearkens back to Dungeons & Dragons whist wearing its sword & sorcery linage on its sleeves for all to see. All of the usual AS&SH humancentric racial choices are here with Hyperborean &  Atlantean intact inside the PC game swell.
Lets start at the top all of the usual PC core classes are there:
-Fighter: a swordsman, bowman, or other warrior type
- Magician: a sorcerer who memorizes arcane formulæ and casts spells 
- Cleric: an armed and armoured mystic sorcerer 
- Thief: a nimble swordsman possessed of numerous specialized skills
Then instead of multi classing like AD&D or certain B/X Dungeons & Dragons editions you get subclasses  of the main four and there are twenty two of them enabling players to get the pick of the Hyperborean litter: From the fighter you get:
- Barbarian: an outland warrior possessed of feral instincts
- Berserker: a rampaging shock trooper renowned for unbridled battle rage 
- Cataphract (Knight): an armoured horseman and warrior elite
Huntsman: a wilderness warrior who glories in the hunt 
- Paladin: a champion who crusades for justice and Law 
- Ranger: a borderland fighter, frontiersman, and defender 
- Warlock: a spell-weaving fighter who wields steel and sorcery interchangeably
From the Magician you get:
- Cryomancer: a sorcerer who commands the elemental power of ice
- Illusionist: a sorcerer who evokes phantasms and manipulates shadows and light
- Necromancer: a sorcerer who practices black magic and communicates with the dead
- Pyromancer: a sorcerer who commands the elemental power of fire
- Witch (Wizard): a sorcerer who brews potions, divines portents, and lays curses
The Cleric has some interesting choices:
- Druid: a mystic sorcerer empowered by ancestral, elemental, and animistic spirits
- Monk: a warrior-priest who strives for physical and mental mastery
Priest: a chaplain mystic of prodigious spell-casting capacity
- Runegraver: a mystic warrior who carves runic spells on bone, metal, stone, and wood
- Shaman (Witch Doctor): a primal sorcerer who confers with ancestral and totem spirits
 And the Thief adds their own flair to the mix:
- Assassin: a thief who specializes in murder and intrigue
- Bard (Skald): a warrior, scholar, and weaver of enchanted lyrics and/or music
- Legerdemainist: an adept thief who also commands the power of sorcery
- Purloiner: a religious thief who also practices the esoteric mysticism of a cleric
- Scout: a lightly armed explorer, intelligence gatherer, and stealth master
Now many of these character classes  are making their debut in the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea in the second edition of the game. Before this they appeared in AFS OSR gaming magazine which has always worn its pulp, Weird Tales, & old school roots proudly. For AS&SH fans all of these classes has been collected, edited, and combined in one package that works with the second edition system. This means that DM's don't have to fart around with system issues straight out of the gate. So why was a second edition necessary? The layout, artwork, organization, and internalization  of  the games contents is where this game really shines. Divisions of sorcery,campaign & world building material even the advice is all laid out with care.

So one of my friends have scoffed at the claims that the  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg cleaves close to the twisted visions of HP Lovecraft & Clark Ashton Smith. Well I'm happy to report that its so much hog wash. This edition injects even more Smithian goodness into the rpg setting material. The author and his vision are well intact in AS&SH with the roots of Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborean cycle center stage. HP Lovecraft is here sure but its really Smith's game center stage now. The monster section has borne the fruits of all kinds of metal style monsters in its blood soaked pages. I've got to say something about the demon section.


The demon section has been expanded with some brand new types with Russ Nicholson artwork thrown in. But that's the whole issue, many of the monsters from ants  to zombies have been expanded upon & amped up for the Hyperborean setting. This closely ties in with the setting material being knotted back into the world setting of Hyperborea. This is a far more lived in world not defined like you get with Middle Earth or even the HP Lovecraft  Dreamlands but lived in. This means that the Dungeon master has clear license to create lots of their own twists & turns in Hyperborean adventure for themselves.

The Lovecraftian  little touches that get brought the fore mean that you as the reader get snatches of the world within and actually will want to play in Hyperborea. Take for example that Brown Jenkins from HP Lovecraft fame is now an option for only the wickest of sorcerers;"A brown jenkin is sent by Thaumagorga (or one of his six dæmon princes) to serve only the wickedest sorcerers. Its mandate is to encourage its master to greater deeds of depravity and Evil." Its the little touches that make this a solid addition to the AS&SH line. But there are heaping slime laden gobs of  Hyperborean campaign & world building goodness.
There's a ton of expanded setting material, campaign stuff, DM advice & guidance. Plus a starting adventure and campaign location. All of this I will get into sometime next week!


Whole sections of the Hyperborea world itself have been built, expanded upon, and been blown open. This also includes the incredible map included by Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design . 
Let's be honest here. This is an excellent example of a map waiting for adventurers to put their mark of violence and depravity on it. There's also a fillable pdf character sheet as well that comes with the pdf

Now how would I rake this second edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea? Well, kids lets be honest here for a moment, I've done incredibly rude things to my own home game of Hyperborea. I've twisted the world, distorted the setting, added and subtracted huge chunks of the setting, modified the system and much more. I can totally & honestly see me doing the same thing with this edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  I give the second edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea a solid five out of five. I only got the pdf at ten o'clock this morning and cranked this review out at three! This is 'the' game system that I personally use at my table and my players love!

Right Now PDF is on sale for 12.75 HERE!

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