Friday, 23 March 2012

More Mars! ERB Shadows of a Dying World (d20 OGL Skirmisher Publishing)

Man walks into a Bar(-soom) ... 
Barman asks "Why, the four arms?"

I was going to delete much of this (badly-written-brain-blah) post since it revealed far too much about my own fetishes.  Instead I shall leave most of it in as "filler" between product pictures and links, and I ask you, dear browsing reader, dedicated player, to treat it as thus.  Do not worry.  My family and doctor have been informed.

Free eBook, Sir?
A Princess of Mars at the Gutenburg Project
Over 30,900 downloads in the last 30 days.
Incidentally my local Waterstones doesn't seem
to be stocking any E R Burroughs at all.
And suddenly I'm a "".

Curse you Google!  And now the masks are off!  The English are exposed!  Hmpf.  Oh well, blogger is free I suppose.   ... For now... Mwhahaha .... Evil Capitalism always wins!  Google's stormtroopers are boarding their Boolean AT-ATs as I type.

(...and breathe...)

Back to the Mars!

This whole Mars settings thing is feeling like quite a fad for me, no doubt next week I'll be rattling on about how super Buck Rogers is or "Why won't my friends play Dungeon! with me?"  I'm even wondering whether it's worth going to see the John Carter movie at the cinema, when I know I'll acquire it on budget DVD in four months time.  I'm looking forward to it, it's just my life moves in slow time, but also since starting to read the original A Princess of Mars novel (I have a decaying 1920's copy - acquired by accident with a bunch of Tarzan books which I passed on as a gift for a friend) certain simple discrepancies have made me realise that there's just no point even having the "What Hollywood does to Literature" debate, when the planet Mars in the books does not even have dust, and everyone wanders around naked in a sort of naturist get-back-to-primal-basics fantasy.  Also, since the Green Martians ("Tharks") lay eggs, why is it that every illustrator in comics, books and fan-art they have breasts (all be-it sometimes covered with armour)?

On the subject of exposed boobies it would be amiss not to refer to the politics of attire regarding the, aforementioned princess, Dejah Thoris.  When talking to Carter in A Princess of Mars she implies that Earthmen are somehow perverse in their insistence to "cover their bodies with strange, unsightly pieces of cloth" and that Carter's origins are confusing due to his "absence of grotesque coverings" I mention all of this because I was surprised to read secondhand of a legal challenge by the Edgar Rice Burrough's Estate over Dynamite Entertainment rights to publish Tarzan and 'Mars related publications.

At some point the sexy covers of Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris has come in for criticism for being pornographic - I sort of doubt that this is the main thrust of the fight (just that we're all enjoying citing it ;) ). The irony here is that even with bejeweled thonged-kickers on she's still dressed more formally than in the book.  Perhaps out of this comes the idea that being a Disney movie, the John Carter franchise may be in need of a more wholesome, family-oriented image.  I doubt Burroughs was ever writing for the whole family, I doubt that he was even writing for women readers.  To be honest, the lawyers might as well be arguing about the number of legs different alien animals have and whether those numbers are loyal to the books.  But who knows what the original truth here is because I forgot to read any actual news threads because I had a lovely night in, Google searching Dejah Thoris with "Safe Search" turned off. :)  Not quite work safe, you probably wouldn't get fired, but it's harder to explain to the girlfriend though.  My guilty thoughts are currently being assuaged by me saying "this could be worse, I could Googling the Gor covers..."  Dirty, filthy, dirty boy!  Actually, I'm still in the doghouse for trying for being caught with the Red Sonja cosplay photos on the screen - I'm innocent m'lord!  They was in a game blog!  I'm still not convinced that they could claim "Armour Class 5" on the character sheet ...

Again, I need to say that I hadn't realised that in the original books that there is "no dust" on Mars.  In place of dust, soil or sand is soft coloured fungal flora covering the vast tracts of dried ocean.  So my visions of sword-fights in dusty deserts may have been misplaced.   (I wonder, did Disney at any point consider not to have Mars as particularly desert-like?)  But hey, I don't mind having deserts on Mars -reminds me of Tatooine.  Time for a skiff fight!  (I could have said "Deserts remind me of Frank Herbert's Dune", but no really, Star Wars bounces up and down in my brain first... I know, I know...)

On the subject of monsters with too many legs, I'm finding myself warming now to many RPG monsters of my past which I thought were somehow "improbable".  Come to think of it, the extra limbs on Displacer Beasts and Basilisks are pretty mundane compared to their other powers.  This also reminds me of the fact that two-legged wyverns made better "evolutionary" sense than four legged dragons, but then I was dissapointed that wyverns in D&D didn't breathe fire (okay, I was a bit of a doofus logic-wise and I still am).  I think it was some sort of four-limbed "believable aesthetic".  Burroughs on the other hand (pun! did you see that?) uses extra limbs to remind us that the environment is utterly alien, but then adds aspects of Earthly familiarity, like referring to a creature as a "white ape" (it just also happens have six limbs and a really weird face).  Slowly, I'm getting used to the fact that "many legs" and arms is okay, and I'll be honest Burroughs is way more fun than Wells whose writing 15 years before often tried to justify the look of things with scientific explanation.  Burroughs just goes for it: tusks, extra arms, green ... next!  Suddenly I'm remembering Volturnian monsters in Star Frontiers - no longer do the creatures they seem absurd, but now they are homages to writers like Burroughs.  This is a strange journey I'm on.  ERB is making me appreciate the naffly mutated!

But quick!  To the actual content, man!

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars:
Shadows of a Dying World

$5.99 on DTRPG

Skirmisher Publishing
I've been particularily enjoying reading a review copy of the re-launched  Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Mars: Shadows of a Dying World (An OGL Guide to Monsters, Races, and Beasts) - Skirmisher Publishing.

The OGL system in this case is the d20 SRD (D&D3 friendly).  Whilst going crazy for mining customized OD&D books and the Savage Worlds MARS adventures (see blog post), I'd overlooked this well made gem.  A quiet voice is whispering that this probably isn't an "official" Burroughs' Estate approved document, so it might be worth buying it soon, in case it quietly goes underground, but maybe we're just too over cautious these days, after all, some of the actual book texts appear to be out of copyright - hence free ebooks.

Shadows of a Dying World is loyal to its source material.  Excerpts from the novels are used as part of the monster descriptions.  I especially like the fact that some of the monsters can be used as characters (using the Racial Ability Scores Modifiers - a hallmark of 3.5e).  I'd love to play an 8ft tall four armed green-skinned Thark.

But what about armour? Look, the characters in the books barely wear clothes, so D&D plate-mail doesn't really have a place here.  Also, no matter what flavour of D&D armour class you use, there is very little incentive for fighters not to strap metal and leather to exposed parts.  Appendix III in Shadows' provides us with Class Defence Bonuses - which give players just enough of a level-linked boost to AC so that even when they're standing still characters may still survive the slings, arrows and radium guns of outrageous Barsoom.  Loin-clothed barbarian-types are welcome here.

With Feats descriptions and Random Encounter Tables, this product comes over as a succinct, settings based, Monster Manual with extras.  It's all generic enough to make the Mars milieu your own.  Skirmisher Publishing have also included a document built from select tables and text in the SRD to assist with creature building and modifying what's already provided in the text. 

Because this is an OGL product, in theory all you would need is the d20 Source Reference Document and this product to play campaigns on Mars (but if I remember right, the SRD doesn't include character generation so you'll probably enjoy this more if you actual own the rules for Pathfinder, core DnD3/3.5 rule books or d20 fantasy-equivalent).

The many interior illustrations are in a variety of styles, black and white and printer friendly.

For many DMs who are fans of this genre, who use a d20 system, this document will be perfect starting point for encounters with monsters based on adventures from one of the grand-daddies of fantasy.

I'm really grateful that I've had a chance to see this product. It's certainly worth the $6.  It is definitely worthwhile considering if d20/PF/DnD/3-3.5 is your preferred system and you're dying to try out some classic, but brutal, sci-fantasy. :)


Rare TSR Warriors of Mars
for OD&D -Taken from the
entry on the Noble Knight
Games site
.They can email you
if they get one in stock,
so they can torture you hope
before  they finish you off
with an asking price ;)
Other Burroughsian Martian ("Barsoom") links for sourcing your campaigns:

A Princess of Mars - free book download at Project Gutenburg (other books in the series also available there, but sadly at the moment, no "Venus" books - not that I can find)

Mars/Barsoom settings for Tunnels & Trolls on Trollbridge forum:  "Trolls on Barsoom"

John Carter/Mars settings OD&D / Whitebox/ S&S -see my post here (inc. Grey Elf links)

Also see this respective look on Grognardia at the rare Gygax/Blume Warriors of Mars

> Edgar Rice Burroughs Martian Books - full list on <

Not quite ERB...
Dejah Thoris
Warlords of Mars
(Dynamite Comics)
-She's a very modern girl!

You may also want to see the new film.   Disney's website for John Carter.  Ah, look at cute Woola!
Blimey, a film?

Not sure, if I'm ready, myself, I'm too busy speculating on different archaic game systems, and shopping for new ones ... What a life, eh?

Thanks for reading, browsing, clicking, whatever.

Shopping is good for you - it's your duty to spend in the Recession!

RPG shops need your food vouchers.

Now get on that thoat and bag yourself a red-tinted princess!

EDIT 25.03.12
Pulp adventure Mars fans may also like:
 Cavaliers of Mars (Free Quickstart Rules)
Tales of the Space Princess RPG (Lulu Print Copy) / Tales of the Space Princess RPG E-Book

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