Saturday, May 4, 2024

Holy Martian Terror, Warriors of the Red Planet & The Gods of Mars By Edgar Rice Burroughs

 It's been a New York minute since I've written anything about Mars and the last time was back on March 29th. Our Warriors of the Red Planet rpg/Hyperborea rpg campaign has been on hiatus because of two of our player's personal business.  This hasn't kept me away from the Mars Appendix N material in this case the second book of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom books 'The Gods of Mars'. 

Everything Barsoomian that you loved from 'A Princess of Mars' is now turned up to eleven. We've got details on the shame behind the Martian religion is and how the worshipers become plantman food. Let's take a look at 'The Gods of Mars' plot summery from the Wiki entry; "As usual for him, Burroughs begins with a frame story that explains how he (Burroughs) came into possession of the text. At the end of the first book, A Princess of Mars, John Carter was unwillingly transported back to Earth. The story proper begins with his arrival back on Barsoom (Mars) after a ten-year separation with Dejah Thoris, their unborn child, and the Red Martian people of the nation of Helium, whom he has adopted as his own. Unfortunately, Carter materializes in the one place on Barsoom from which nobody is allowed to depart: the Valley Dor, which is the Barsoomian afterlife." 
'It's actually the second part of the plot summation that contains an interesting tid bit;"After John Carter's arrival, a boat of Green Martians on the River Iss are ambushed by the previously unknown Plant Men. The lone survivor is his friend Tars Tarkas, the Jeddak of Thark, who has taken the pilgrimage to the Valley Dor to find Carter. Having saved their own lives, Carter and Tars Tarkas discover that the Therns, a white-skinned race of self-proclaimed gods, have for eons deceived the Barsoomians elsewhere with the lie that the pilgrimage to the Valley Dor is a journey to paradise. Most arrivals are killed by the beasts who dwell here, and the survivors enslaved or eaten by Therns." 
The Holy Therns are not simply shame priests but a cult of holy cannibals who feed on spectrum of Barsoomian tribesmen and life. Let me put this into perspective for you as a player playing in a post Gods of Mars & Warlord of Mars  Barsoom.  The Holy Therns are on the run and very desparate! Who are they?! According to the Encyclopedia Barsoomia entry on the Cult of the  Holy Therns;"  The Holy Therns were a vicious Martian cult populated by the therns. Inhabitants of the Valley Dor, they worshipped the "living goddess" Issus (who is actually merely an ancient Black Martian woman), and sought to keep her happy with human sacrifices. For centuries, they enthusiastically promoted the idea that the Valley Dor is the gateway to Martian Heaven and decreed that any Martian who had reached 1,000 years of age or merely tired of living should travel to the valley to either spend the rest of eternity in paradise or be reborn. When the unsuspecting pilgrims reached the valley, they found a beautiful land where fruit and water were plentiful... which also happened to be heavily inhabited by white apes and plant men. Those who survived those creatures ended up enslaved by the Holy Therns, who would work them to death before feeding them to Issus or the Tenth Cycle. The Holy Therns' downfall came in 1886, when John Carter suddenly returned to Mars." 
The Therns are part of the social logical technological   pyramid of power on Barsoom with the Black Pirates, the Therns, and then The Red Men behind the movements of Barsoomian society. The Holy Thern cult is able to manipulate many of the Royal houses on Barsoom subtly. This is evident in the Dynamite series 'A Warlord of Mars'. The Therns agenda is one of survival, domination, rulership, and total power.  Then finally consumption through cannibalism. 

What does this mean for adventurers on Mars or Barsoom?! The fact is that the player's PC's could stumble upon Holy Thern operations & then be branded as outlaws in all Barsoomian society. At the center of this is the 'goddess' Issus  the Goddess of Life Eternal, Daughter of the Lesser Moon, Mother of the Nearer Moon, and the Goddess of Death. She is 'incharge' of the Holy Therns & the First Born. The Therns manipulate both her & all of Barsoom. Adventuring on a Pre John Carter Mars could be a death sentence for the adventurers. Or the means of living the outlaw life on a Mars  without the yoke of the First Born and the Therns.. 

There is literally no citystate on Mars that the influence of the Holy Therns can't reach which means that an outlaw PC campaign would have the player's PC's surviving in the city ruins along the dried up seas. There is literally no where the PC's can escape the Holy Therns in a pre John Carter campaign. The power of the Therns is legendary among Martians and thier evil agenda is one of power and domination throughout Barsoom. 

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