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Author Topic: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns  (Read 1866 times)

Trond

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Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« on: December 02, 2022, 11:28:19 AM »
I've always been interested in the Bronze Age, Ancient Greece, the Hellenistic period, and Rome. Of course we can draw inspiration from these in a historical way, or alternatively without being too literal (perhaps including more magic or myth). Have you ever run a sword and sandal campaign that you enjoyed? Would love to hear about it.

Greentongue

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2022, 01:30:00 PM »
I tried using Mazes and Minotaurs but the players were too steeped in D&D expectations. Jason and the Argonauts was the initial hook.
http://mazesandminotaurs.free.fr/revised.html

Trond

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2022, 09:25:16 PM »
I tried using Mazes and Minotaurs but the players were too steeped in D&D expectations. Jason and the Argonauts was the initial hook.
http://mazesandminotaurs.free.fr/revised.html

Interesting, but what's with the "older than D&D" shtick?

weirdguy564

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2022, 10:29:01 PM »
Sort of like Dark Sun, but weird. 

The “Universe” is a natural Dyson Sphere.  A hollow ball with a Star at the center.  Due to this fact there is no such thing as night time.  There isn’t a word for it.

But, the sun is dying.  It’s notably dimmer and more yellow light than what it was in grandpa’s time.  It’s hotter, drying out, getting darker, all of which mean plants are dying.  It’s kill or starve, tribe vs tribe, cut throat lives.

There is no metal other than gold.  Weapons and armor are all leather, bone, stone, or wood.

Lastly, anything that can be made weird, go for it.  Trading caravans don’t cross deserts on camels.  They use giant sand snails the size of elephants to pull wagons.  Salt flats galore?  Sailing on wheeled barges is normal-ish for crossing them.   

Swords are rare.  Spears are the weapon of normal people.  Hoplites, mostly, but the armor is not bronze.  It’s ivory collected from massive animals or sea life like clams the size of suitcases and fed a statue months ago that grew a shell around that statue.  Now it form fits a man.   

It’s an opportunity to wander around and get creative with cultures, tech, and invent new, fantastical weapons, animals, plants, and customs
Saying D&D is the best RPG is like saying Bud Lite is the best beer.  Maybe we shouldn't equate "popular" with "good"?

Trond

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2022, 11:27:45 PM »
Sort of like Dark Sun, but weird. 

The “Universe” is a natural Dyson Sphere.  A hollow ball with a Star at the center.  Due to this fact there is no such thing as night time.  There isn’t a word for it.

But, the sun is dying.  It’s notably dimmer and more yellow light than what it was in grandpa’s time.  It’s hotter, drying out, getting darker, all of which mean plants are dying.  It’s kill or starve, tribe vs tribe, cut throat lives.

There is no metal other than gold.  Weapons and armor are all leather, bone, stone, or wood.

Lastly, anything that can be made weird, go for it.  Trading caravans don’t cross deserts on camels.  They use giant sand snails the size of elephants to pull wagons.  Salt flats galore?  Sailing on wheeled barges is normal-ish for crossing them.   

Swords are rare.  Spears are the weapon of normal people.  Hoplites, mostly, but the armor is not bronze.  It’s ivory collected from massive animals or sea life like clams the size of suitcases and fed a statue months ago that grew a shell around that statue.  Now it form fits a man.   

It’s an opportunity to wander around and get creative with cultures, tech, and invent new, fantastical weapons, animals, plants, and customs

Well, that really does sound different. The armor reminds me that many helmets from the Bronze Age were actually made from boar's tusks.

Rhymer88

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2022, 04:30:12 AM »
I've been toying with the idea of using the Mythras rules for such a campaign, but they are probably a bit too cumbersome. The setting would have Atlantis in it and would basically be inspired by writers such as Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. However, I would also incorporate a lot from real-world mythology as well as take inspiration from Bronze Age cultures - not just those of the Mediterranean and Middle East, but also from Central and Western Europe. The finds at Nebra and the Tollense valley battlefield are especially intriguing.
Here's an article about the Tollense site:
https://www.science.org/content/article/slaughter-bridge-uncovering-colossal-bronze-age-battle

rhialto

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2022, 09:18:23 AM »
I've been toying with the idea of using the Mythras rules for such a campaign, but they are probably a bit too cumbersome. The setting would have Atlantis in it and would basically be inspired by writers such as Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. However, I would also incorporate a lot from real-world mythology as well as take inspiration from Bronze Age cultures - not just those of the Mediterranean and Middle East, but also from Central and Western Europe. The finds at Nebra and the Tollense valley battlefield are especially intriguing.
Here's an article about the Tollense site:
https://www.science.org/content/article/slaughter-bridge-uncovering-colossal-bronze-age-battle
Excellent read, thanks!

So if Mythras is too cumbersome, what direction are you leaning? Have you looked into Blood & Bronze?

Greentongue

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2022, 09:55:44 AM »
Interesting, but what's with the "older than D&D" shtick?
I guess the author had to do something to draw attention. Playing off of "D&D" makes it show up in searches maybe?
Still, a lot of time and effort was put into it so, it works well enough.

TimothyWestwind

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2022, 10:09:04 AM »
My home-brew setting isn't strictly Sword & Sandals but takes a lot of inspiration from Bronze Age to Antiquity level civilisations. It's set in Southeast Asia at the end of the last Ice Age. My taste leans towards taking inspiration from civilizations like the Mayan, Aztec, Harappan and Sumerians rather than the Greeks and Romans, but a lot of the material I've created is useful for Sword & Sandal type settings.

It's a setting construction kit, since there's no official lore or history, but many tools like random tables and generators to create your own city states, cultures etc.

One of the inspirations is Graham Hancock's books, he recently did a Netflix show; Ancient Apocalypse which is quite big at the moment.

From my blog:

Sundaland is the name for the Southeast Asian subcontinent that lay between current day Java, Sumatra, Thailand, Malaysia and Borneo. This area was flooded between 15,000 to 5000 BCE* as the last ice age came to an end.

Archeologists and historians working outside or on the fringes of mainstream academia hypothesise that this area could have been an early cradle of civilisation and perhaps even the real location of the fabled Atlantis.

Think of city states in jungles or along rivers, forest gardens and early agriculture, towering temples that priests use to track the motions of the stars and planets.

Economies are simple, based on trading commodities, tools and artefacts, perhaps early forms of currency. Literacy isn't common often reserved for a select group.

There are no horses. The main beasts of burden are the Elephant and perhaps the Water Buffalo. There are hundreds if not thousands of rivers that are traversed with canoes, boats and ships. The people of this land were the ancestors of the great Polynesian navigators who colonised the Pacific all the way to, Hawaii and Easter Island (perhaps even further: Genetic studies link indigenous peoples in the Amazon and Australasia).

Religions are polytheistic and regional. Priests and shamans take consciousness altering substances in order to enter trance states and communicate with spirits and gods.

Societies rise and fall within hundreds of years, cities are swallowed up by the jungle then built on top of by their successors. Cities allow for specialisation and division of labour but also lead to decadence, overextension and overuse of resources.

A touch of Sword & Sorcery. If the gods are real they are capricious and need to be appeased. There's no good or evil as we know it today. Might usually makes right. If magic exists it's mysterious and hard to control. There are possibly monsters or the last remnants of ice-age animals in the deep jungles and high mountains. And perhaps strange ancient races of humans or even non-human sentient species.



There's a link to it in my signature if you want to learn more.
« Last Edit: December 03, 2022, 10:16:01 AM by TimothyWestwind »
Sword & Sorcery in Southeast Asia during the last Ice Age: https://sundaland-rpg-setting.blogspot.com/ Lots of tools and resources to build your own setting.

rhialto

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2022, 10:26:15 AM »
There's a link to it in my signature if you want to learn more.
Your blog is quite the labor: thanks for the reminder, I had checked it out some time ago, then forgot about it... :-[

TimothyWestwind

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2022, 10:41:27 AM »
There's a link to it in my signature if you want to learn more.
Your blog is quite the labor: thanks for the reminder, I had checked it out some time ago, then forgot about it... :-[

I'm collecting the original material together for a free PDF. No idea when I'll be done though.
Sword & Sorcery in Southeast Asia during the last Ice Age: https://sundaland-rpg-setting.blogspot.com/ Lots of tools and resources to build your own setting.

rhialto

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2022, 05:56:08 PM »
I'm collecting the original material together for a free PDF. No idea when I'll be done though.

Good to know: in the meantime I'll catch up on your blog.

Rhymer88

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #12 on: December 04, 2022, 03:57:36 AM »
I've been toying with the idea of using the Mythras rules for such a campaign, but they are probably a bit too cumbersome. The setting would have Atlantis in it and would basically be inspired by writers such as Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith. However, I would also incorporate a lot from real-world mythology as well as take inspiration from Bronze Age cultures - not just those of the Mediterranean and Middle East, but also from Central and Western Europe. The finds at Nebra and the Tollense valley battlefield are especially intriguing.
Here's an article about the Tollense site:
https://www.science.org/content/article/slaughter-bridge-uncovering-colossal-bronze-age-battle
Excellent read, thanks!

So if Mythras is too cumbersome, what direction are you leaning? Have you looked into Blood & Bronze?

I'm not sure yet about a system. It would have to be something that is very low magic or at least focus on making magic mysterious. For example, magic couldn't be quickly cast, but would instead require lengthy rituals, so it would be useless for casting in a direct combat situation. Priestly magic would mainly focus on interpreting signs & portents because the gods "work in strange & mysterious ways." Sorcerers would excel at controlling spirits. For example, a sorcerer could send a disease spirit against his enemy, who then would gradually succumb tot the illness. Religion would focus on making sacrifices and there would be no creeds or belief systems. Anybody could make these sacrifices, not just priests, although the person who leads such a sacrifice would generally be the head of a family or the commander of a war band, etc. These sacrifices (whether of plants, animals or humans) would be performed not only to ask the gods for favors, but also to placate them and to thank them for things such as a good harvest or favorable winds on a sea voyage. Curses, the evil eye, and wards against them could be performed by basically anyone, but there would also be "experts" who can cast curses for a fee.

Wisithir

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2022, 04:15:00 AM »
I have not run one, but the last campaign I played was. It used Mythos for Savage Worlds. Some of the other players struggled with not playing it like D&D, but it was fun nonetheless. Heroes receiving what a mounts to supper bennies from divine favor definitely encouraged the players to garner divine attention.

rhialto

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Re: Tell me about your sword and sandal campaigns
« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2022, 06:32:45 AM »
I'm not sure yet about a system. It would have to be something that is very low magic or at least focus on making magic mysterious. For example, magic couldn't be quickly cast, but would instead require lengthy rituals, so it would be useless for casting in a direct combat situation. Priestly magic would mainly focus on interpreting signs & portents because the gods "work in strange & mysterious ways." Sorcerers would excel at controlling spirits. For example, a sorcerer could send a disease spirit against his enemy, who then would gradually succumb tot the illness. Religion would focus on making sacrifices and there would be no creeds or belief systems. Anybody could make these sacrifices, not just priests, although the person who leads such a sacrifice would generally be the head of a family or the commander of a war band, etc. These sacrifices (whether of plants, animals or humans) would be performed not only to ask the gods for favors, but also to placate them and to thank them for things such as a good harvest or favorable winds on a sea voyage. Curses, the evil eye, and wards against them could be performed by basically anyone, but there would also be "experts" who can cast curses for a fee.
Given that you're aware of Mythras I assume you've also considered RuneQuest, one not tied to Glorantha, like RQ1/RQ2/RQ3. Along those lines I used Elric!/Stormbringer for a similar themed Atlantean-age setting, with less complexity than even RQ. In your case, the Sorcery could be reinterpreted as controlling spirits, and casting time could be extended. Use the open-ended sorcery system from The Unknown East and that handles the mystery requirement (since it has no default spells, and is limited to PC imagination and Ref interpretation).

Other options were mentioned on the S&S thread. I'd be interested in what systems you've considered, since I have about a dozen or so I've looked at for my Atlantis campaigns.