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Pete Whalley

Has Destrucity!
Validated User
I'm fascinated with the concept and the ideas of Barsoom and other such sword & planet worlds. Thing is, I've never read any of Burroughs, Moorcock's or Kline's stories, I just know of them.

I'll get round to rectifying this at some point of course. I therefore know very little about the particulars of the S&P genre, but there is something utterly captivating amid the talk of albino ape empires, nekkid princesses and two fisted earthmen roaming the red planet being big damn heroes.

I'd love to run a game in the genre, and I know that Adamant have a Savage Worlds setting coming out that should fit the bill. I've heard mutterings about Space:1889 and a couple of other takes aswell...what's the deal there?

What would be spiffy is a quick overview, an explanation perhaps of what sword & planet gaming is all about. The impression I have is of a sword & sorcery/pulp hybrid with weird science, giant monsters, ancient mysteries and square jawed heroes...help me out if you would folks.


30-50 feral hogs
Validated User
Sounds about right to me. My current PC in Cartoon Action Hour is Dejah Thoris, proud warrior struggling to revive her people's ancient knightly order. She rides into battle on her ten-legged battle whumph, brandishing a vibrosword in one hand while she blasts away with a raygun in the other. She'll turn in her shipmates for minor criminal activity, then help them escape because honor demands she uphold the law and defend her allies. She's also wearing something close to Princess Leia's slavegirl outfit. It's a very loose translation of Barsoomian culture at best--but playing fast and loose with details fits S&P's sensibilities anyway. Don't worry about accuracy, just get to the action! I should add that CAH's no-death policy won't fit everyone's expectations of the genre, but they fit mine given that the heroes are pretty much guaranteed to survive in the source material. The main key is to get something fast and rules-light, and have fun.


Robert Saint John

Validated User
I'd love to run a game in the genre, and I know that Adamant have a Savage Worlds setting coming out that should fit the bill.
It does, it's out and it's really quite good. The setting of MARS is similar to Barsoom, but a setting of its own that melds original concepts with Barsoom, Planet of the Apes, HG Wells and more. It's well-statted and full of great adventure ideas and player and GM guidance. You could easily use it to play strictly to Barsoom, but since you're drawn to the concept more than the specifics of ERB's creation, you should just take it as it is and play the heck out of it. From a gaming perspective, I think it's the perfect introduction to planetary romance. Especially as after browsing through it, you probably won't be able to resist (re)reading the classics from which it's inspired.

Dr. 3

Simian Psychiatrist
Validated User
Planetary Romance is swashbuckling and melodramatic. Cliffhangers come often.

Villians tend to be pure evil and heroes are pure virtue. Princesses are beautiful and virtuous, but difficult for manly heroes to understand. Lower classes who are suitable mates for heroes tend to turn out to have been hidden nobility all along.

Elegant swords are better ways of fighting than guns. Killing is the appropriate way to deal with villians so long as its done chivalrously. Near nudity is better than armor. Technology tends to be primitive except for super-science.

Focusing on the intellect alone probably leads to bad thing and evolution toward an inhuman (monstrous) form.

Enlightened monarchy or some utopianist meritocracy (that winds up looking like an enlightened monarchy) is the best governmental form, and typically on a city-state level.

In other words, think of adventure fiction at the end of the 19th/beginning of the 20th Century like Prisoner of Zenda, Captain Blood, perhaps even Zorro. Put it in a science fictional locale with an alien ecology, and spice it up with evil wizards with fantastic super-science.

Note, that some later stuff that might be termed "sword and planet" (like the Stark stories of Leigh Brackett, REH's Almuric, or Robeson's Paragaea, or pastiches of Brackett (Lin Carter and one Moorcock short story) don't neccessarily keep all the above Burroughsian tropes, but that will get you through 80-90% of stuff in the genre.

Pete Whalley

Has Destrucity!
Validated User
OK, that all sounds right up my alley.

I've got a half formed idea for a game where the PCs are earthmen transported via mysterious means to Mars for some planetary romance adventure, but with an Adam Strange riff that sees them hopping back and forth between Earth and the red planet.

That way I can mix and match sword & planet with pulp adventure. A sort of blending of Barsoom, Pellucidar and Fu Manchu basically. Sounds like I'm on the right track...


Social Justice Dragon
Validated User
Adam Strange is a comics version of planetary romance. Also, you could do a whole lot worse than to read a recent example - Paragaea: A Planetary Romance by Chris Roberson, which has the great virtue of being a modern take on a rip-roaring pulpy planetary romance, which is fairly close to also being hard SF (the only obvious impossibilities other than the gates between worlds are force fields and the fact that I don't think (but am admittedly not certain, and I doubt anyone is) that the largest flying dinosaurs could not have carried riders - also, perhaps those beasts were bred to carry riders.


Force 5 Wrongnado
Validated User
And, if you get your hands on the Burroughs books, you can read, like, 2 an hour, so it won't take you long to download 'em into your brain.


Registered User
Validated User
It may not be exactly what you're looking for, but Karl Schroeder writes what amounts to modern, hard-science-fiction Planetary Romance. Virga in particular is a very strange, very fun take on it, being an Earth-sized bubble of air full of free-floating rocks and water pools, and most use of electricity suppressed by a kind of superscience energy field to stop the Singularity lurking outside. Basically it's a huge excuse for sky-pirates.

Old Geezer

Active member
What Mock said. The Barsoom books are total brain-candy.

Take the Conan stories, put them in Barsoom instead of the Hyborian Age, give Conan the ability to leap thirty feet, change the makeup on the bad guys...

I mean, there are even real honest to Gary Gygax dungeon adventures in the Barsoom books.


Registered User
Validated User
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 2 (the comic, dear god not the movie) is a great pastiche of lots of pulp Mars stories. It opens with Burroughs' Martians fighting HG Wells Martians, and expands from there...
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