Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Down The Blood Soaked Alleyways of SANCTUARY! A Deep Dive Into Chaosium's Thieves World rpg Campaign Box Set

"Skulk through the night on the heels of Shadowspawn . . . delve into the twisted tunnels of the Purple Mage . . . attend the court (or perhaps the harem) of Prince Kadakithis . . . dodge the keen-eyed Hell Hounds with Jubal's Hawkmasks . . . drink your ale and guard your purse at the Vulgar Unicorn . . . boldly walk the streets of the wildest, most varied, and most downright fascinating city in fantasy literature — SANCTUARY, the Thieves' World!
* The Players' Guide to Sanctuary — the creation of Sanctuary; Thud and Blunder, Sanctuary chronology; 'Hakiem' and 'The Hell Hounds'; a stroll through the city; a captured llsigi document; magic, working ladies, and oaths; glossary /pronunciation guide; a map of the known world; a city map. * The Game Master's Guide to Sanctuary — palm-greasing and arrest procedures; a secret Carronnian report; city gods and religions; main city encounters; encounters for the Jewelers' Quarter, Processional, and Westside; 18 tables of specific encounters, descriptions/encounters for The Maze, Bazaar, Street of Red Lanterns, Downwind; business generators and tables by area; 6 area maps, 15 floorplans of typical buildings (including the Vulgar Unicorn); scenario suggestions.
* The Personalities of Sanctuary — story/character index; system notes as applicable and character stats for 9 RPG systems (minimum of twenty characters each, each system divided to Prince and Retinue. Transients, and Residents); general descriptions of other characters.
* Wall Map of Sanctuary. Referee Maps of The Maze, The Maze underground.""
Write up of Chaosium's Thieves World Thanks to Wayne's Books Rpg resource. 

Today was one of those days where I was messing around with some older materials of mine & doing research after work. This isn't a light weight sort of day, today was the day that kinda hits you between the eyes.  I was deep into the depths of a sewing machine & up to my arm pits in grease. But was thinking about my first exposure to some old friends. Those friends were at the
'Vulgar Unicorn' & that place was located in vaults of the city of Sanctuary. This was the first time I experienced the bloody & dangerous backstreets & alleyways of the city of  box set of 'Thieves World' thanks to Chaosium games. Little did I realize the significance of this box set. Thieves World book reared its head back back in 1978. The box set reared its head in 1981 & Wayne hits it on the head as why the box set is so beloved;"One of the first "Shared World" fantasy settings -- now commonplace -- was Thieves' World. Contributors to the first two volumes included Lynn Abbey, Poul Anderson, Robert Asprin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, John Brunner, Christine DeWees, David Drake, Philip Jose Farmer, Joe Haldeman, Janet Morris, Andrew Offut, and A.E. van Vogt.
The darkly grim city of Sanctuary was an immediate hit with readers. The series with its roots in fantasy roleplaying in turn inspired the Thieves World Sanctuary Adventure Pack. In keeping with the spirit of the montage of authors of the series, Greg Stafford, et al at Chaosium worked with with some of the brighter lights of the RPG industry (Dave Arneson, Steve Marsh, Midkemia Press, Marc Miller, Steve Perrin, Lawrence Schick, Ken St. Andre, and many others) to make the Thieves' World RPG compatible with 9 RPG systems: AD&D, Adventures in Fantasy, Chivalry & SorceryDragonQuestD&DThe Fantasy TripRuneQuestTraveller, and Tunnels & Trolls.

Truly a Rosetta Stone of early roleplaying.


Chaosium's Thieves World box set is the product of a Sword & Sorcery movement that began in the Sixties & Seventies among some of the most important writers of Fantasy & Science fiction. Their legacy bleeds through the 1978 anthology setting book. This shared universe was unto itself both unique & vital. A sort of alternative setting that had in its essence all of the best of 70's high weirdness & the unpolitically correctness of its time. I got to tear into & read tons of my uncle's Sword & Sorcery anthologies, pamphlets, etc from the Sixties & Seventies.

But for me its my late uncle's blood that seems thunder through the memories of this box set. His voices that he'd do as our DM & the NPC members of Sanctuary's various establishments, back alleys, & slave markets.  My friend Dirk The Dice covers the box set & you can see his enthusiasm for the box set.

But digging out my copy of Thieves World box set & it was a trip down the memory hole. To say that it was light a weight trip was not doing it justice. Suddenly I was back at my uncle's table with dice in hand & surrounded by my cousins gripping the dice as adventure events got more then a bit dicey. The trouble these young adventurers got into could fill days of blog entries!

Yeah we young,dumb, & full of 'thud & blunder' back then. We went through gold, treasure, etc. like water often having PC's resurrected by the Spider goddess cult and then having the PC get counted out recovering from the resurrection. There were repercussions of those & they caused us no end of headaches. Still don't believe that Chaosium's Thieves World box set was that good? Fine check out this video review by a friend.

Not long after the box set the Thieves World Companion came out in '86 and it shadow lighted the changes that the anthology books had wrought on the setting;
"The Thieves' World series began in 1979 to instant acclaim. Not long after, Chaosium published a boxed Thieves' World roleplaying supplement, which gathered awards and more acclaim. Since the first book hit the newstands, more than 2200 paperback pages and eight additional Thieves' World volumes have been printed - a phenomenon others imitate but cannot duplicate.
Sanctuary, the town too mean to die, has changed a little from the time it first saw print, but many new characters now stride the city's streets, pillage the foolish in its alleys, and connive in its back rooms. Lalo, Ishcade, Roxanne, Niko, Mradhon Vis, The Beysa, Chenaya, Zip, and many more have come to life, and are now included in the Companion's full character stats for the RQ3 and MERP systems.

New essays consider Rankan, Ilsigi, Beysib, and Outsider deities in the light of further tales of Sanctuary, that place which is the funnel of the gods and the eye of the Rankan hurricane. The excellent encounter tables from the Thieves' World box have been revised to reflect later events and personalities, and are presented her in full. There are also floor-by-floor isometrics of the Great Dungeon. Though adjacent to Kitty-Cat's palace, nobody seems to go there. Now you can study its defenses and understand why.
Alone or with the Thieves' World box, the Companion rekindles the fabulous world of Sanctuary - Thieves' World."

So the 'Thieves World Companion' was an  important book for me because it opened up a couple of letters to Greg Stafford at Chaosium about this book, Runequest, & 'The Knights of Pendragon' Rpg. I have a life long love of this rpg table top game that came out in '86 and it also kindled my love of Arthurian legend & lore. Its also partially responsible for me meeting my wife. But that's a whole other blog entry.

Many of the lessons of the Pendragon rpg I would apply to my Greyhawk DMing years & much more. Pendragon would prove pivotal for running the Stormbringer rpg for many years as well as the crossovers with Runequest.

But what about the OSR of today?! Thieves World is perfectly suited to be slotted into the back end of an OSR campaign! Now more then ever I can see this venerable classic box set coming into its own!  There are so many retroclone systems that this box set could slot into that its not even funny.
For Castles & Crusades this beautiful Sword & Sorcery style box set lines up on all of the running lights!  Gritty back alleyways, dirty deals, daring deeds, & occult action make Thieves World a perfect add into the campaign settings of C&C.

In fact many of the elements of Thieves World are ideal to add to the retro clone feel of the system as campaign elements. Bring this product into a whole new light & to a new generation of players! The C&C adventures & modules could use Sancuaray as a staging area for classic adventures. A trade point for the treasures, spice, slaves, & more of campaign.

But for Adventurer,Conqueror, King rpg Thieves World becomes something else. It becomes a staging area off of the routes of many spice, trade, and even as the point for war! Thieves World's material is ideal suited to run a down & dirty campaign in which the players are carving out their own piece of the action!  The late Roman Empire feel of ACK's fits well into the Rankin empire very well.

The history of Sanctuary fits as possible border nation against the empires of the official world setting of ACK's. The filler books of ACK's supplement material provides the DM with plenty of adventure fuel a Thieves World campaign! 

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