Wednesday, December 30, 2020

OSR Retro Review Thieves World Roleplaying Game (Boxed Set) By Greg Stafford For Your Old School Campaigns (Updated)


Wayback in the annals of time in the misty years of the Eighties, Chaosium had author Greg Stafford release a glorious box set of the Thieves World sword and sorcery material. Thieves World was completely shared world that worked along a Gygaxian NPC ecology. Wiki has a decent break down of the set up for it;"Thieves' World is a shared world fantasy series created by Robert Lynn Asprin in 1978. The original series comprised twelve anthologies, including stories by such science fiction authors as Poul AndersonJohn BrunnerAndrew J. OffuttC. J. CherryhJanet Morris, and Chris Morris." Here's the complete byline for the series of novels:
"Thieves' World is set in the city of Sanctuary, located at the edge of the Rankan Empire. The city is depicted as a place where many are downtrodden and where the invading Rankan gods and the Ilsigi gods they had ousted begin a struggle for primacy. As the series continues, additional invasions occur, and the city is taken over by the snake-worshipping Beysib as the Rankan empire collapses. Over time, a number of the characters in the series are revealed either to be the offspring of or otherwise blessed by various figures in the pantheons of the competing cultures, and they discover or develop various powers as the series progresses"

"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."

Back in 1981 Chaosium published one of the most under rated box sets ever to come out. It had everything you the dungeon master could want! "The Thieves' World Complete Sanctuary Adventure Pack is a boxed set published by Chaosium in 1981, containing: 1) The Player's Guide to Sanctuary; 2) The Gamemaster's Guide to Sanctuary; 3) Personalities of Sanctuary; 4) Map of Sanctuary; 5) Map of the Maze; 6) Map of the Maze Underground"  Did I also happen to mention it was cross compatible with AD&D first edition, Stormbringer, Tunnels and Trolls, Runequest and many others? No? Well no this box set doesn't get mentioned too much because it was a highly successful in my neck of the woods so much so that it spawned a companion in eighty six.

""The Thieves' World stories began in 1979, to instant acclaim. Not long after, Chaosium published a boxed Thieves' World roleplaying supplement which garnered 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 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, Ischade, 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 MERPs 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 here 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 along with the Thieves' World box, the Companion rekindles the fabulous world of Sanctuary - Thieves' World."" So could the material in these box sets still be used today? Guess what they are! Many of the Connecticut dungeon masters that I know never gave this material up at all and went on to use it for many games including Traveler. Yes there was a conversion for that game already worked into the box set. You got stats and work ups for of such characters as;
* Shadowspawn- a master thief that finds himself in the middle of a web meant to catch another...
* Prince Kadakithis- the brother to the emperor he is a political threat so he has been sent to San to bring order, or to meet a more gruesome end...
* Myrtis- the most powerful and beautiful madam in Thieves' World she will do whatever it takes to protect her girls and their way of life, even if that means bargaining away a bit of her soul...

I've used this box set several times with Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Dark Albion but its always been as a place where the PC's have visited as dimensional travelers who have had to watch their step. The fact is guns haven't been that much of an equalizer and in fact there are several things in the set that can cause some vicious horror aspects into a campaign of LoFP.

You got a ton of material that could be inserted into many old school sword and sorcery  campaigns and would be a perfect addition into an Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea campaign. There would be a bit of  twisting and converting but this material would fit  in spades. This comes from another time before Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was so  controlled. The spirit of these earlier styles of games is evident throughout the box set and you have to give a bit of respect for the editing slight of hand that went into many of the NPC's and descriptions in this box set. Is it still useful? Well it most certainly is and the material is a bit dated though because portions of the shared world anthology have moved on. That being said there was far more sense of fun and vile purpose about this series of books then say Game Of Thrones. And Thieves World could easily be converted over to the Castles & Crusades system making an excellent basis for a C&C campaign. 
Many of the authors were from the foundations of the sword and sorcery literary movement in the Sixties and Seventies so there was whole cloth feel to this box set as well as some of the products in the line. I used this box set with many of the Judge's Guild and Arduin materials switching in and out what I needed and wanted. The city of Sancutary could easily be ported into a region of inner Hyperborea or even better used on its own and used as a location that the PC's could potentially visit.

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