Wednesday, February 27, 2019

PWWO: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

I got my Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2nd Edition book as part of the Kickstarter, so I have had it for a while now.  In the time I have been reading through it I came up with at least three (or four depending on my mood) completely separate games/campaigns I want to do with it and only one is the Default setting.

So let's talk a little about those while I see what I also have on my shelves to use.

Since it is an "Retro Clone" of sorts and an OSR game it naturally lends itself well to mixing an matching.  I mentioned in my review yesterday that I feel it is a good blend of both B/X D&D and AD&D.  Maybe leaning towards more to the AD&D side of the equation.

B/X D&D goes to 14th level, AS&SH goes to 12th.  So any adventure written for Basic or Expert D&D is in theory (and very much in practice) going to work for AS&SH.  I mean you will need to do something about the elves, dwarves, and halflings about.  But for the most part I make them Kelts and Picts respectively.  Sometimes I even throw in the odd elf or dwarf to keep things weird.  The feel of the two games is also very, very similar.  The four Basic human classes map exactly to the four main classes of AS&SH, with sub-classes essential being role-playing notes.

But you don't need to take my word for it alone.  Eric Fabiaschi over at Swords & Stitchery has been blogging about AS&SH for years.  In fact, he has been working through many of the classic TRS-era modules for use with AS&SH, both 1st and 2nd editions.
I read a lot about other's games online most times I think "wow, that looks fun!", sometimes I think "Er. OK, you do you, but I am happy WAY over here." But with Eric's I am most often going "Damn! Why didn't I think of that first!"

Speaking of which.

I recently ran Isle of Dread for my kids under 5e. It was fantastic, really. We had a great time and I got to relive some great moments of the adventure that I had back in the early 80s.  I could not help but think how awesome X1 would be with the AS&SH rules.  Go all pulp with dinosaurs, King Kong and creepy ass cults.
As you can imagine, Eric has covered this topic well on his blog too.  So instead of me trying to tell what you can do in a paragraph, check out his pages of ideas!

So I mentioned that I see AS&SH as good combination of B/X and AD&D rules.  Essentially it is what we were playing back in the early 80s.  Where I grew up it was not uncommon to come to a game where people would have an AD&D Monster Manual, a Holmes Basic book and a Cook/Marsh Expert Book.  The rules we played by were also an equally eclectic mix.
AS&SH is like that. It favors the AD&D side more, but there are enough B/X influences that I smile to myself when I see them.

Labyrinth Lord and Basic Fantasy are both implementations of the Basic D&D rules, but expanded out.  Lots of great stuff in both systems.  Basic Fantasy, in particular, has an absolute trove of materials usuable with the core rules and easily for use in AS&SH. 
The same is true for Blueholme, the Holmes-inspired clone. 
While all three have significant overlap in monsters, there are some unique ones in each that make for a fuller picture.  In particular Blueholme has a few good choices.

I mentioned Realms of Crawling Chaos before. Both of these books cover some of the same Lovecraftian beasties, RoCC gives a little more detail on how to run a Lovecraftian-style "D&D" game.   Hyperborea is not so much about horror, it's more Howardian, but there is no reason why it can't be.  This is a good place to start.

If Crawling Chaos is good, then Call of Cthulhu is even better.  Again all these books cover the same ground and feature similar themes.  The d20 CoC book does have a section on how heroic characters (aka D&D characters) would respond to these monsters, as opposed to the normal people of the CoC proper rules.  Grabbing a copy of CoC is good for ANY gamer in my mind but for the AS&SH gamer/gamer master there are some great ideas on how to play the Lovecraftian, and Smith, side of the game more. In truth, all monsters get a boost thematically speaking with a read through of CoC.

That is great and fun, but what if I want to up the Howardian or Pulpy aspects of the game? Well for me I wanted to run a Pellucidar-like game.

Hollow Earth adventures is a pulp-style game using the Ubiquity system, so system conversion is different, but the themes are 100% compatible with AS&SH.  What about the lands UNDER Hyperborea, are their Lizard People? Snake Cults?  Dinosaurs? OF COURSE there is! 

Amazing Adventures and many of the works of Jason Vey to be honest (including his Wasted Lands house setting) work great with AS&SH.  Again, not a direct translation, though the SIEGE system is easier to convert to AS&SH, but thematic.  I actually ran a playtest of the "Red God" adventure under the AS&SH (1st Ed) rules.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is an amazingly flexible system and strikes all the notes that many games attempt.  I guess that's why the core book is 608 pages.

Mixing these I have decided that what really want to do is a Zothique game.  Based on all the Zothique tales from Clark Ashton Smith. 
There is an unofficial d20 supplement for Zothique that is good and can be easily converted to AS&SH.   Even James at Grognardia wanted to do a CAS game.

As I work on my game more with all the materials above I'll keep you all posted.


Denis McCarthy said...

Nice broad scale comparison, good enough to give you to a taste of each of the systems.

Tom said...

Oooh, a Zothique guide? Snagging that!

We live in an era with a crazy wealth of systems. I actually get analysis paralysis when trying to decide what game to run, and ASaSoH is a big contender. And the artwork is fantastic.

Jon said...

Where did you get the BX 1/2 Hardcover in the first photo?

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