Saturday, March 25, 2023

Edgar Rice Burroughs 'The Master Mind of Mars', Original Dungeons & Dragons, and Our Warriors of the Red Planet/Hyperborea rpg

 Last night we stepped back from gaming because of conflicts with work schedules and whatnot. So instead we DM's got together for a beer. We got a chance to take a breather & discuss Edgar Rice Burroughs, Barsoom, and one of my favorite of the ERB's Mars books The Mastermind of Mars. And my all time favorite is the 1927 publication in Amazing Stories Annual of 'The Mastermind of Mars'. 

The Mastermind of  Mars concerns  Ulysses Paxton, & elderly mad scientist Ras Thavas, the "Master Mind" of the title, as Paxton comes into the household of the mad scienctist. Ras trains Paxton in a few levels of the mad science of Mars. 
And these operations were ground breaking for the 1920's as organ transplants and mind transplants were the stuff of Science Fiction. And this plays the central theme of the novels plot as the mad scientist transplants the brain of an evil queen into the body of a Martian princess. He does this for a fantastic fee of course.. 
There are more then a few things that are interesting about Mastermind of Mars. One is how Ulysses Paxton assembles his team of Martian adventurers. 
Ras Thavas has a wide selection of Martians on the slabs of his science center 'mostly dead' whom Paxton then selects to be his crew. And we get a really interesting White Ape who has the partial brain of a Red Martian. And we also get a swordsmen plus one of the first depictions of a Martian assassin. 
The second half of the book is the really interesting part because of the fact that we get a real deep dive into a Martian city. And  Ulysses Paxton as well as his crew go into the Martian city of an enemy city state. And we see full on the Martian life of the Red Martians from the bottom up so to speak. 

Yes lots of adventure & excitement including a look at the bogus religion of the Martians of  the city-state of Phundahl. One of the neglected areas that almost everyone seems to forget is the wilderness of  the city-state of Toonol. The swamps surrounding  the city-state of Toonol, are completely infested with every horror known to Martian including the four armed White Apes. And this goes straight back into the ideas for monster placement within original Dungeons & Dragons The Underworld & Dungeon Adventures book. 

Everyone seems to forget the scope of ERB's Mars and just how big of a planet that Mars is. Within our Hyperborea/ Warriors of the Red Planet rpg. This is something that we as both DM's and players have come across time and again. 

Not only is there more then enough room for all of the various classes of Hyperborea. There's plenty of room in society that many of the classes of characters that we find within Leigh Brackett's Mars could easily fit into one of Mars citystates without issue. 
What really plays the part here has been Night Owl Workshop's OSR Social Systems. These have allowed our heroes to go about thier business on Mars quite nicely. 

I believe that Paxton & crew are a part of an untouchable caste on Mars. This allows many of the Martians to go about thier business quite nicely. And it fits the strata of the huge number of examples of adventurers going about thier business in ERB. Why?! Because the Green, the barbarians, and other hordes are a part of the uncivilized caste on the sands of Mars. I'm not saying that you can go through the social strata of Mars far from it. There is however an ancient reminder that every Martian has in society of thier place think of fuedal Japan and the samurai as a possible example. 
Martians racially remember the fall of the society of the Ancients & they instinctively have the social strata system in place. This allows assassins & swordsmen to move freely and along with adventurers are looked at with quiet distain by polite society.. Even while the citystates go to war there is still quite a bit of day to day society going on. And within the shadows of society the adventurers skulk and change the course of destiny of a civilization. 

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