Monday, October 15, 2012

Swords of Mars: Basic Assumptions

Swords of Mars is a D&D campaign of alien adventure in a retro-futureversion of Mars. This is still clearly more of a fantasy world than a science fiction world, but will freely dip into the well of Sci-Fi on a regular basis. The following elements are essential to what I want to emphasize in the game:

Sword and Planet
The campaign is heavily influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars novels and the Eric John Stark stories of Leigh Brackett. Other influences include Robert E. Howard's novel Almuric, and the many Burroughs influenced authors like Otis Edelbert Klein, Edward Akers, John Norman (without the creepy BDSM subtext), Lin Carter's Ganymede and Green Star series, and Charles Gramlich's Talera series. The emphasis here is on adventure stories set on an alien world of generally low technology with some elements of science fiction. Ancient Martian ruins, decadent societies in decline, and strange lost technology will all feature prominently.

Swords of Mars assumes that the beliefs of early to mid 20th century popular science and science fiction are more or less true. Thus, the planets of the solar system are often wildly off-base from reality. Scientific advances of futuristic Terrans look more like popular magazines from the mid century, and the fields of miniaturization, computing, and even social sciences do not resemble what we know today. Instead, much of the look and feel of society is more based on late colonial Europe than on contemporary understandings of sociology, political science, anthropology and economics.

The picaresque novel (from the Spanish picaro, rogue or scoundrel) is an often satirical genre of novel that depicts the adventures of a scoundrel of low social standing who lives by his wits in a corrupt society. Such novels are marked by the fact that the scoundrels seldom truly reform, that there is little plot – adventures are told in the form of a loose narrative of loosely connected episodes – and that the characters are outsiders living on the edges of the law and society's arbitrary rules as carefree rascals.