Friday, May 26, 2017

A Swords and Sorcery Setting - Part 1

 I haven't ever really bothered with applying about Swords & Sorcery elements as setting building blocks.  Here's an attempt.  At some point the This is the World PDF may be followed by This is You, These are Your People, and This is Your Fate.  Which will contain rules for character generation, a faction/town/quest system and very short combat rules based on my HMS Apollyon rules. Don't hold your breath though.


The Sky is red at midday; light has gone out of the world, long before your unprophetic birth. In the thin light the grain grows slow, a meager harvest before the ice storms come.  Sometimes the rain is a torrent of blood or a cascade of frogs - a boon to the village, but too much salt and iron is bad the soil.

Iron is rare; the earth mined clean of useful metals so your tools and weapons are carved of bone or red oak, chipped of obsidian and jade or hammered from old soft copper.  Iron is power and steel a myth that rust in the ruins of the ancients among those lesser imperishable metals of grey or green that only grow brittle or burst into flame in the smith’s fire.

Man is no longer the ruler of this world, or presumably those that rave, sometimes blossoming with green fire in in the night sky. You are made of dirt and to dirt you will return.  Man is only a thing, among other things, Beastkind, Ghostkind and the others that hunt and creep or stride proud to seek dominion atop the ruined root-choked world.

It has been a fat generation, and there are more of the polis then the herds and crop can support, or at least there might be if the grey shivers, the raiders, and the gods are kind and overlook your people for another generation.  Thus it is no longer a crime to take your fertile flesh beyond the village palisades.  Already a mother or father, you have given your people at least a life to replace your own squandered existence. To be an explorer is still uncouth, a whispering offense, unless you return with good grey iron, trade or artifacts.

Beyond the palisades, almost a mile of traps and sharpened logs, the world to the North is ice steppe, tall dense forest to the East and West, and deserts of glassy sand to the South.   Little else is known, but lies and half-truths filter back from outlanders, traders and explorers - something must be true even from the lips of the mad.

Linked is a PDF with a bit more to help randomly generate a Swords & Sorcery Setting.


  1. I love the tables, but that setting pitch is grimdark even by grimdark standards.

    1. Yes, I suppose it is, but it's the 'barbarous majesty' flavor of Grimdark, not the 'dung ages' flavor. I find a world of mystery, wonder and ignorance far easier to distill into a few pages then one where there are a lot of known factors and factions. I also prefer Dying Earth or Post Apocolyptic settings to Colonization ones.

  2. I am right with you here (love post-apoc settings, especially cold ones), but I prefer my D&D with 14th century-style townships. This feels a bit more Gamma World....which isn't necessarily a bad thing.
    ; )

    1. You could totally make the town a 14th century township - amidst the endless wastes, under the gaze of hateful gods. It'd be a little awkward, and I sorta want to avoid adding firearms rules to this - but it's doable.

  3. Dig it!
    VERY evocative indeed.

  4. When I wrap up my high fantasy western themed 5e game I definitely want to convince my group to sign on for an OSR campaign with this kind of setting. Low fantasy with vague hints of sci-fi/post apocalyptic weirdness is my favorite thing about 70's and 80's genre fiction. Bakshi's Wizards, old Heavy Metal issues, Frazetta illustrations. Weirdly enough, Adventure Time actually hits the same notes for me albeit in a very goofy kid-friendly tone.

    I imagine "Beastkind" could reflect ancient bioengineering or mutants and "Ghostkind" to be holographic or hard light AI's and stored digital memories of ancient people. Spellcasting ability could be reimagined as an inherited carbon-based nanomachine symbiosis that only a few people have or know how to interface with anymore.

    1. I suppose you could go full science fantasy with the setting above - I've become enamored with high fantasy post apocalypse, with the collapse of an advanced magical society rather then a technological one.

      Originally I envisioned beastkind and ghostkind as pretty literally beastmen and intelligent undead - also as the demi-human PC alternatives. Currently I am writing up something for another polis in this world - Dim Carcosa (based on the Robert W. Chambers and Ambrose Bierce Carcosa) - a city entombed in glacial ice that exists by the whim of the Yellow God.

      The PCs are gladiators, illusionists, thieves and prophets of the yellow god fleeing the city's hopeless madness with the laughter of the ragged king forever in their ears.

      As always though glad to be of inspiration and of course science fantasy is a mighty fine basis for D&D.