Thinking About Sword & Planet Adventures...

The sword & planet (also referred to as planetary romance) sub-genre of heroic fantasy has been on my mind quite a bit of late. I am sure this has much to do with the fact that I recently read Robert E.Howard's Almuric, read and reviewed Clovis Cithog's Red Planet: The Fantasy Roleplaying Game Based on Selected Martian Tales and I have Michael Moorcock's Kane of Old Mars series of books waiting in the wings to read. And come to think of it, I watched Flash Gordon just a few weeks ago as well. All this has me pondering an idea for a setting that can be used as the backdrop for a Sword & Sanity campaign with a strong sword & planet flavor. This is inevitably going to spawn a series of posts that I will tag under "Dark Corners of High Adventure", which I will begin in the next few days.


Tom said...

I will follow this progression. I'm a fan of S&P fiction myself, and have always wanted to play an RPG set in that kind of world. But I could never convince any gaming group to go for it. Still, love reading about it.

Sean Robson said...

Have you read The Sword of Rhiannon, by Leigh Brackett? This is one of my favourite S&P stories. The protagonist, Matthew Carse, is a martian archaeologist and tomb looter who gets transported by an artifact back in time to when Mars was covered in lush vegetation, and its civilization was at its peak.

I can also recommend The Sky People and In the Courts of the Crimson Kings, recent science fiction novels by S.M. Stirling, that are a loving tribute to Burroughs.

Greg said...

I'm right there with you, man. One of my goals with 8th Planet is to build a setting that bridges the gap between HPL and ERB.

Trey said...

I'm a big planetary romance fan, as well, and I second all of Sean's recommendations.

Looking forward to seeing where you got with this.

Shane Mangus said...

@Sean - I will need to put all of those books on my wish list. Of course I read Burroughs when I was a very young man, but outside of the John Carter of Mars books I have not had a lot of exposure to S&P fiction. Thanks for the suggestions.

@Tom/Greg/Trey - lets see what I can come up with... hopefully it will be entertaining.

Clovis Cithog said...

Thanks for the shout out yesterday.
HPL’s work fairly much insists on SnP expandability with Earth serving as a common backdrop.
I am pretty much a one trick pony when it comes to Sword and Planet, love ERB’s Barsoom (unfortunately, other hobbies& work take too much of my time to expand my literary horizons)!

When I designed Red Planet, I tried to make the rules easily generalizable to other planets and settings. Those who order a copy of my 8 x 11.5” spiral bound RPG before New Years will receive a special bonus (shameless plug ; - )

R.R. Hunsinger said...

Looking foward to the "Dark Corners"

Joshua said...

I've actually read quite a lot of sword and planet fiction... and I actually created that wiki page back in the day, although it little resembles the page that I created anymore (which is probably a good thing.)

Sadly, once you move beyond Burroughs, the quality of most of it starts falling off rapidly. Most authors, especially of the 60s revival of the genre were content to imitate Burroughs very explicitly, although often without really understanding exactly what made Burroughs' books a delight to read.

The Moorcock Kane of Old Mars books are actually not very good at all (although if you've got them, you might as well read them; at least they're short); in fact they're among my least favorite of the genre. Lin Carter, an author who I'm otherwise fairly lukewarm towards, had a pretty good run for at least the first three of the Callito series, and Gardner Fox did a 2-book Llarn series that's at least good for a laugh. Stirling's Sky People was pretty good, but for some reason I really struggled to get into his Mars book in the same setting.

Another halfway decent series, and one that will keep you busy for a long time is the Dray Prescott series, starting with Transit to Scorpio. I think there's about fifty books in that series, many of them with cool Clive Caldwell covers. I can't vouch for the quality of most of them, but the series starts off decently enough.

For that matter, although it's notorious for devolving rather quickly into mysogenistic porn of sorts, the first three or four Gor books by John Normal are really just sword & planet too. I remember thinking that the first one, when I read it as a teenager years ago (long before I knew anything about the series' reputation) was a decent Barsoom rip-off with a bit of a more savage, REH like feel to it.

Shane Mangus said...

@Joshua - thanks for the insight.

@Clovis - no problem at all. Your efforts deserve more attention in the OSR.

@All - Thanks again for all the positive comments, fellas!

Joshua said...

Sorry; John Norman, not Normal. Typo there.