Tag Archives: roleplaying

Worldheart Ocean Map from Raven the Swordsmistress of Chaos

In the 1970s I discovered the Raven, Swordsmistress of Chaos books by Richard Kirk. Richard Kirk was actually two people – Angus Wells and Robert Holdstock. They wrote five books in this fantasy series, and I am somewhat disappointed that they didn’t finish it. When it comes to this series we are not talking about high brow literature here, but fairly good swashbuckling sword and sorcery. The main protagonist is Raven, a slave girl who is destined to be the ‘pivot upon which the world turns’ and the harbinger of Chaos. Exactly why I am not sure. She has a supporting cast of friends and lovers and they battle various alien, evil and nefarious schemes over the course of the five book series.  A lot is made of the descriptions of sex but to be honest, perhaps I was desensitised by all the Penthouse Letters I read as a teenager because I found it pretty tame.  That being said, Raven was ambidextrous and definitely played for both teams. One of the things I loved about the books were the covers by Chris Achilleos, one of the great fantasy and sci-fi artists of the last century.

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Some of you may remember these images of Kate Bush that are based on the Achilleos artwork used on the book covers. She was a hotty then and still is.

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Anyways, I always liked the world the series was set in. The World was dominate by the Worldheart Ocean.  Around it were the various nations and lands of Raven’s world.  Beyond the known lands were mountains, snow, ice and mist – which was never really explained. The known world was like a bubble and everything outside was chaos.  The preeminent state was the Altanate, with it’s cities and gold. Sly is home to tribes of black skinned warriors, Ishkar to blonde hotties (this was Raven’s home after all ) and a rift full of lost cities, jungles and half-human beastmen. The South is characterised by deserts and grasslands.  The land of Xandrone is where tribes herd and ride giant war cows called Xand. The Lost Lands is where you find your fairly traditional S&S barbarian and tribal states. The North is home to great craftsmen in metal in the land of Quwhon.  The island of Kragg was a viking type culture. The mysterious Isles of Kharwhan is home to a cabal of sorcerers whose machinations seem to piss Raven off no end while she continues to do whatever it is that they want. If that sounds confusing it is because it is.  All in all you find all the usual tropes required in good old fashioned Sword and Sorcery.  If you want to spend an hour chilling out I still think these stories are fun. Just don’t take them seriously.

So here is my take on the map that was included in the Raven books.

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FGU Space Opera Roleplaying Game

Another blast from the past today.  Back in the early 80s I first discovered Fantasy Games Unlimited’s Space Opera science fiction role-playing game. A few friends and I sat down and tried to make characters.  It wasn’t hard so much as somewhat tedious.  Trying to figure all the pre-requisite skills for your Armsman became a chore when you wanted to get gaming.   We reverted back to using Traveller for character generation.

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However, I really liked the background of Space Opera – a mish-mash of science fiction staples of the time. There was the United Federation of Planets (obviously from Star Trek) but with a completely different style. There were Robert Heinlein’s Bugs from Starship Troopers. Hell, the Federation Marines were even called CAP troopers. The associated Sci-Fi Miniatures Wargame was called Space Marines (again long before Games Workshop tried to claim ownership of the term).   The Federation’s biggest enemy was the Azuriach Imperium, an evil totalitarian racist state that actually farmed and cooked intelligent aliens – Space Turkey.  I ended up doing what all good GMs do – I ran a Traveller game set in a Space Opera inspired setting. Converted lots of the ships over to Traveller versions and still have the paper deckplans.

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In a few years, there were a whole heap of material published. There were about half a dozen Sector Modules published. These covered most of the major power centres of the official Space Opera setting. My favourite is still the first – The Terran Sector.  Each sector encompassed a 200LY Cube. As much as I liked Traveller I really preferred the FTL used in Space Opera. It presented space in three dimensions as opposed to Traveller’s two dimensional hex-based star mapping system.

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All you needed was a ruler and a slide-rule/calculator (or your head if you were into that sort of thing) and you could determine distance between stars in Light Years on the map.

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Starship construction rules, like pretty much everything in this game, probably worked better if you were the guy who wrote the game.  Even looking at the official starship designs it was obvious that the authors fudged the rules something chronic. I have tried to retro-engineer some of the designs and they almost always don’t add up.

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I have collected every bit of official material published by FGU and sanctioned by them for this game. That even includes the Star Sector modules for a lost colony of humans who are enslaved and in rebellion against a race that look and sound like Klingons!  There are lots of published adventures as well to give you a feel for the setting.

If you like retro sci-fi I cannot recommend this game enough. If nothing else you will get a good laugh and have some fun reading through the various books. Originals are still available pretty cheaply from time to time from places like Noble Knight Games and of course from eBay. DrivethruRPG also sells PDF copies of most of the material – often at quite a discount.

UPDATE: I just found out on TMP that FGU are still in operation. Who knew? Here is a link to their site where you can still get product directly from the publishers themselves.

UPDATE 2: I have or am going to convert some of the ships from this game to Traveller versions with electronic versions of my paper deck plans. Keep an eye out for them.

Beasts and Barbarians – Unlabelled World Map

I had a request to post an unlabelled version of my Beasts and Barbarians role-playing game map. Well, here you go.

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The original map and my expanded version of the game world can be found in this post.

https://woolshedwargamer.wordpress.com/2013/04/11/beasts-and-barbarians-roleplaying-game/

Beasts and Barbarians Roleplaying Game

I have been a role-player for longer than I have been a wargamer. Admittedly, as kids in the late sixties and early seventies we didn’t use dice but were more into Live Action Role Playing – fighting off Germans and Japanese invaders in the back yard for the most part.  In my teens I discovered what we now call roleplaying – with paper and dice. I was hooked and it has been a hobby that has run alongside my wargaming interests ever since.I have not done much in recent years – much to the chagrin of my RP-friends who keep hassling me to get ‘something going’ again.

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So…what to play. I have had a hankering for a simple Sword and Sorcery campaign – something like Conan the Barbarian. I played around with creating my own world (I am an avid map-drawer since I was a kid) but just couldn’t find the time to get my arse into gear and get something created.  I also have pretty much used either the Hero System or Harnmaster for most of the last thirty years and decided that a break from those was required.  Fortuitously, last year I discovered Beasts and Barbarians, by Umberto Pignatelli.

This is a fully fledged fantasy world set in the Dread Sea Dominions. Pretty much all the classic Sword and Sorcery tropes are included, with some nice touches. Steel is a relic metal from an earlier, more advanced civilisation – most people are using bronze and iron at best.  Wildebeast riding Black barbarians from the Ivory Savannah fight scaled cataphract riders, fierce Mongol-like nomads call the Valk swarm in from the unknown East, a large decadent Empire (or two) that have seen better days and are now just corrupted shadows of their former selves, and of course, there are black haired, mightily thewed barbarians with smouldering blue eyes from the cold grey hills of the north (and that is just the women).

The game uses the Savage Worlds rule set – which if you have not played it is a great, simple set of rules that can be adapted for any genre. They are built around ease of play and the fact that player characters are heroes. They easily chop their way through minions until they are standing in piles of reeking gore, leaving them battered and bruised for the final confrontation with the big bad guy of the session.

There are a heap of free adventures available, and a growing compendium of supplements that further flesh out the game world. The entire lot is available as PDF files which is my preferred way of buying roleplaying product now – it takes up a hell of a lot less shelf-space for starters.  The artwork is very cool. Some examples.

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The game book has a simple hand-drawn map that is pretty cool as far as it goes.

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I decided that the world needed fleshing out. In a form of role-playing solitary vice, I decided to expand the original map and add a bit more of the world (well my version of it anyway). I have not even made a character or NPC up for this game and already I am thinking about mapping the other continents as well.

Full Size Map

Beasts and Barbarians World Map Hex V2.0

Now I have to get the guys together to make some characters, fill a flagon and get gaming.