Sword and Planet - let's talk about it

Help me pick a system/setting for a Sword and Planet game? Tell me about your favorite S&P game or fiction?

ARMY OF THE DOOMED (working title)

I am gearing up to run a sword and planet adventure, inspired by the artwork of Jack Gaughan, Dune, works of ERB, The Dark World by Henry Kuttner, Merrit’s Dwellers in the Mirage, Le Planete Sauvage, PJF’s The Stone God Awakens, Thundarr, etc.

It will be a one-shot that possibly develops into a campaign.


I like rules light, ‘old school’ systems - frontrunners right now are Warriors of the Red Planet, Troika (not the setting, just the rules), Into the Odd (ditto), and (very unlikely) a hack of DCC. OR - a revision of my own Lords of Mars.

I have only a few weeks to prep - so while I want to build a whole world I only have time for maybe 6 hexes worth.


Here’s what I have so far:

  • Characters are doomed-to-die warriors from earth’s past (and future) - a soldier in the charge of the light brigade, a hoplite guarding the pass of Thermopylae, a trench soldier from WWI, a soldier in the fourth inter-system wars addled by combat drugs, whatever.

  • At the moment of their death they are ripped through time and space and arrive in a big transparent tube, naked and being injected with shit - they can see/feel needles in their skin and a garbled transmission shooting into their brain is downloading languages (or maybe everyone on the planet uses mind speech?). Standing in front of the tubes is a strangely garbed sorcerer figure (think Jack Kirby headgear).

  • A strange sucking/groaning noise happens - one of the big cylinders holding the goo being injected into them is running low and/or there’s a blockage (they can see it off to their left, with a red blinky light on it and an obviously low on purple goo level.

  • The sorcerer is stopped in mid-gloat as he talks about building his ultimate mind-controlled army. Oh no! The mind-control goo is out! That means these warriors won’t be the subservient badass tools he imagined!

  • From there it goes sandbox. The sorcerer’s tower has airships, an army of mind-slaves captained by a hulking warlord, a field of purple lotus flowers around it from which the mind-control goo is made, underground access to cisterns and canals, etc. Characters can fight their way up/down/out, recruit an army of their own mind-goo-addicted soldiers, fight the two-headed venus flytrap monster in the poppy fields when you try to burn them down, whatever.

  • If a character dies, there’s always other NPCs (some native, like four-armed greenfolk or batpeople) or time warriors that a player can ‘slip into.’

Cool? Not cool? How can I spice it up? What kind of NPCs and character interactions can I put in there? I don’t just want it to be monster fights.

I have a long way to go as you can see, but I think I could also throw it together in about three days with focused energy, since it starts as a one (or maybe two) session game.


I have only heard of but never read or played Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells (link)

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I like this sort of setting a bunch! It’s very Edgar Rice Burroughs/John
Carter of Mars which I’ve loved since I was a teen! BTW the John Carter of Mars movie is terrific fun, but I’m guessing you saw that.

Sorry, for the lack of constructive criticism. Let’s see… give the players something to fight for and not just against. Maybe to defend someone or group. Maybe give them someone(s) they know (a person they were enamored with from a far on earth?) being hauled off by slavers. Have them subtly changed (having wings or crimson skin) to keep them guessing.

Good luck, this sounds like a blast! To no avail, I’ve been trying to sell a game like this to my players for years. Grumble, grumble.

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You have any NPC prince/esses interactions planned? This seems like a staple of the genre.


I wouldn’t be fulfilling my due diligence if I didn’t at least mention JCoM, but I’m sure you already know it. And I’m sure it’s too setting-specific for your uses. Still…


I have it (Solar Blades and Cosmic Spells). Not sure why I didn’t think of that! Diogo is a good designer. The game seems more SF than Sword and Planet, but it’s worth pulling it out and having a look again.

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Wouldn’t be PC to have them save a princess these days. But point taken. :slight_smile:

Here’s my noodle on the tower and surrounding hexes. Cody Mazza gave me this idea. We bought 1.5 inch hex punches and wooden hexes from amazon, punched art out of Magic the Gathering land cards, and voila! A fun little tile set for hex crawls. I am thinking about each hex as showing a feature (scale is loose/imaginary). So you start with that funky tower in the middle with the red sun. NE of it is an ancient city partially covered in sand - where the green men are? SE is a weird forest where some eco-warrior tribe lives that is pissed off at the sorcerer. S is actually under the tower. It’s access to the cisterns and canals. SW is a swamp where ratfolk or something live. (Not sure if I’m going to use any alien species other than the green men.) NW is a tar pit filled with the bones of rotting creatures. Carnivores are drawn there by the smell of flesh, but also often trapped. The only winners are the pterodactyl-like carrion eaters who land on the exposed parts of the carcasses. N is the barracks and forges, here is where the airboats are kept and that’s why those blue floating islands are up there (access to the sky above). Stretching out to the left and right are places the group might go in an airboat. I’ll let them pick a general direction and then “quantum” the one closest to their pick into place. To the right is a big ass desert - some kind of rune-powered boundary - and a city of decent folk. To the left is a cloud forest and the polar ice caps where some standing water might be found.



As much as Lord of the Rings started my love of Fantasy , Tarzan and John Carter certainly cemented what for me was adventure fantasy!

My D&D has always had spaceships, ray-guns alongside longswords and monsters!



Sounds like a fun setting!

What kind of play style are you aiming for? Pulpy? Crunchy / tactical combat? Old-school? Narrative?

There are a lot of Sword & Planet options out there, depending on what kind of feel you’re looking for. @Gabe already mentioned the 2d20 based John Carter of Mars, which could be a good fit. Savage Worlds would be a good choice for a pulpy campaign - perhaps using the Flash Gordon setting, or vanilla Savage Worlds. For a more narrative option, there’s a Dungeon World expansion called “Adventures on Dungeon Planet” that should do the trick. DCC has a Sword & Planet module (actually a boxed set with some additional setting material) called “Purple Planet”, if you’re looking for a more old-school feel. Those are just some of the ones that come to my mind, and I don’t have first-hand experience with most of them, but they might be worth a look.

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All good recs. All good games I’m sure. I’ve played and run Savage Worlds, Dungeon World (a lot), and DCC (and have Purple Planet though I haven’t read it). Those are all just over the crunch edge for what I want. I want something I can ad lib better and invent on the fly. I’m pretty much down to Troika and Warriors of the Red Planet (Oe reskinned for Barsoom – it’s excellent). I even considered Viking Death Squad. :slight_smile:

Tone wise I want sword and planet - cinematic - heavy metal. Not quite pulpy - at least not in the Rocketeer or Buck Rogers sense. Though I did love the Flash Gordon cartoon from the 70s. That would seem to fit.

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Sounds like huge fun, Ray. Not a ton to add that other BSers haven’t pitched your way, but system-wise this is indeed squarely in the arenas where Fate and Savage Worlds do so well with pulp action. I would add Hypertellurians to the list, but it’s probably heavier than you’re looking for. Oh, and Cortex Prime would work, but I can’t recommend it in good conscience since I think you’d have to build your game out of all the pieces and parts, and the book is (IMHO) pretty awful at teaching people new to Cortex to do that.

There are a bunch of purpose-built games I know little about (Planets of Peril, Tales of the Space Princess) and a couple of simple or OSR-inspired games I own but have not read: one actually called Sword & Planet, and Simon Washbourne’s Jarkoon: The Princess and the Green Men. Speaking of Washbourne, I think you could skin Barbarians of Lemuria really nicely for S&P… and you could also go with something as simple as a Lasers & Feelings hack.

I don’t know Warriors of the Red Planet, need to look into that one… but I actually think one of your best bets would indeed be to go with Troika! The advanced skills would really bring the genre to the fore nicely…

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Some great answers there. I didn’t know about Wasbhourne’s Jarkoon - so I’m excited to learn of it - and Barbarians of Lemuria is a great suggestion. Thanks.

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Good luck, and report back!

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