SURVEY: Why Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea?

Hey, thanks to @Grotonomus, folks are listing the games they hope to play/run in this new year. For everyone’s information, I will be offering, for BSers, as much Conan 2d20 as there is interest (first game announcement coming very soon). I also will offer at least one Cinematic scenario of the Alien RPG (I want to run it first for my regular group, so that BSers can have a more polished experience: it can be pretty roleplay-heavy). There is at least one more game that I am fully capable of offering, but I’m uncertain just what experience those who hope to play it also hope to get out of it. This is Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. The difficulty I foresee with this one is inherent in its D&D nature (everyone is invited to disagree with me here, of course). Whereas Conan 2d20 and Alien RPG have standardized rules systems and typically run in an episodic format, D&D, more than most games, is not played the same way everywhere. AS&SH’s rules are more codified than many OSR games, but, even so, were I to run it, I would prefer to add some house rules (mostly for increased PC survivability at early levels, as one example as to why). But I wonder if this would counter player expectations. Hence, this survey. What do folks want out of AS&SH? Some possibilities:

  • Do you want to experience Jeffrey Talanian’s articulation of D&D entirely rules as written?

  • Are you rather more interested in exploring the weird fantasy tone of his human-centric Hyperborean setting?

  • Are you interested in trying out one of his custom-made character classes (even though Talanian warns that some old school Referees very well may limit player selection to the classic four)?

  • Do you want to play in one or more of the “official” Hyperborean adventures for an “authentic” experience?

  • Do you want this experience to be confined to a single adventure or session (as with convention play), or do you hope to explore a longer campaign?

  • Do you just want to play some D&D, and this seems to be an interesting flavor?

Without anticipating any answers to these questions, one of the approaches I have been considering is simply to run Talanian’s introductory adventure “Rats in the Walls” for interested folks and see where—if anywhere—we want to go from there. Even so, I think even a single, introductory adventure will be a challenge to me, because my own “brand” of D&D, based on Swords & Wizardry, is so engrained in my consciousness and practice that running AS&SH may pose an insurmountable code-switch for me, and I’m trying to gauge how much any latent variation on my part would matter to prospective gamers.

Just some thoughts.


This isn’t answering your question at all, but I’m curious if you’ve seen Crypts & Things. While I don’t have much first-hand knowledge about AS&SH or C&T, both are attempts to adapt D&D to the Swords & Sorcery genre, making it suitable for Conan and similar settings. But C&T is based on Swords & Wizardry, and since that’s the D&D system you have most experience with, I figured C&T might be a natural fit.

I only played C&T in a one-shot at a con once, which was a lot of fun. Very lightweight mechanics, but the Swords & Sorcery vibe came across very well.

I’m having tons of fun running a solo game with a long time friend and gaming buddy. We both wanted to play something with an old school feel and that setting drew me right in. We’re trying to play rules as written. It’s tricky with those two phases per round but worth experimenting with. We’re probably ten hours in and I think we’ve got the flow of it.

I’m a huge Robert E. Howard fan so the setting sings to me. The only thing my buddy asked was no laser guns. I’m fine with that…at least for now. I’ve got a bunch of Talanian’s adventures and I’m seeding Rats in the Walls in Swampgate hoping the player will bite on it. He’s explored a third of the Worm Caverns before having to wisely retreat.

A big selling point is it feels like D&D, so it’s scratching that itch, but it’s not 5e which I love, but am currently burned out on.


Thanks, Phil (and @digitalhobbit).

My purpose in this survey was to determine what prospective players (if any BSers wanted to play AS&SH with me) were hoping to get out of the game, were I to run it. It appears I can stop thinking about it now. :slight_smile:

Crypts & Things definitely looks like a cool game! If I’m doing Sword & Sorcery, though, I don’t prefer a level-based, D&D system. And, if I’m doing D&D (especially for my home group, who are keyed into the “baseline” D&D toolkit, with demihumans and kitchen sinks and everything), I prefer Swords & Wizardry. I was hoping to determine, were I to run AS&SH for BSers, just how much conformance to the raw would be expected. As you point out, Phil, AS&SH – especially combat – is highly codified.

I played “Rats in the Walls” with Talanian at Gamehole Con one year. If I started an AS&SH campaign, I definitely would start with that adventure, then, depending on how long PCs wanted to hang around in Khromarium, head north to Swampgate (this seems quite similar to how you’re doing it, Phil).

For a few years now, I have been playing in a PbP over at the Hyperborea forums. I am playing Gundrabu the Esquimaux Cleric of Khalk-xu, and he miraculously is still alive! It’s been a good time.

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I for one am most interested in simply experiencing and exploring Klarkash’Ton’s weird fantasy realm of Hyperborea. I often come at roleplaying games through literature, I am a reader first and foremost, and this setting along with REH’s Hyborea are humanocentric ones I would love to explore.

As far as playing “rules as written”, I do not think I care too much. I am more in it for the world experience. I also don’t have any strong preference either way between using custom classes or the basic four.

If the GM wants to use the published Hyperborea adventures or create their own, I don’t have a preference either way.

I am not interested in just playing another D&D game in some setting, I want a Hyperborea game with all the strangeness that entails!


Good answer!!!

Hail, fellow reader! I don’t know if you frequent the Hyperborea boards, but what you say here minded me of this interesting exchange that led to Talanian sharing his consideration to revise, for the next printing, the game’s subtitle to Swords, Sorcery, and Weird Science-Fantasy.

I have seen at least one person take the game mechanics and strip it out of its setting. I can see how that works, but ignoring the setting strikes me as a missed opportunity.

I haven’t been on the Hyperborea boards in quite some time. I will go read that thread tonight for sure.

I cannot believe someone would take the mechanics and throw away the setting, that is just insane to me!!!

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Yeah, the Hyperborea boards tend to be fairly quiet. But I’m there daily because of my involvement in the PbP I mention.

Let’s see… I’ve seen one guy… David Thomas, I believe he is, who maintained The Rambling Conan Blog on G+… he sought out his own “ideal” rpg system for emulating Hyborian Age Conan adventures. He rejected such formats as 2d20 and Barbarians of Lemuria to settle on AS&SH.

Kevin Madison of the Dungeon Musings channel has been running Reavers of Thule, an AS&SH campaign. I have the impression that very little of the Hyperborean setting has any influence on it, but @Hobbs, perhaps, can better speak to this, since he participates in that campaign.

Thule is set in Talanian’s Hyoerborea. So all the characters are from the setting while Thule is a homegrown location.

I would play whatever you want to run, but completely selfish… I’d rather it be Aliens or Conan.

Wow! Thanks, Hobbs!

Well, if my Conan game for BSers isn’t a complete disaster, I’ll advertise another one. Also, as you have noticed on Discord, tonight I should start a session of a cinematic scenario of Alien. If that, too, goes over well, I likewise should run for BSers. I’ll keep you in the know!