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[Shadow, Sword & Spell] In which we begin…

March 18, 2009

I have been silent when it comes to Shadow, Sword & Spell. This has now changed.

For those just joining us, Shadow, Sword & Spell is a new game James and I are working on. The game deals with fantasy, or as James recently put it:

It’s our take on the “humanistic fantasy” of the 1930s through 1960s — Howard, Leiber, Fox, Vance, Pratt, De Camp, and so on. Like Thousand Suns, it’s intended as a “tool box” game, so that each referee can use it to create his own vision of the swords-and-sorcery genre. The full game is scheduled for a Fall release, but a playable preview should be available at GenCon this August.

The first question, and it is one that I have gotten in tweets as well as email, is a simple one:

What is humanistic fantasy?

Without getting philosophical (I leave that for James to do), I am going to share what I feel is humanistic fantasy. This is a topic I have been thinking about for awhile, and it is one predating not only Shadow, Sword & Spell, but Rogue Games. It is the thinking that inspired the creation, in part, Colonial Gothic. In a nutshell, humanistic fantasy is fantasy divorce of demi-humans as playable races. In essence it is putting the emphasis on humanity, and using humanity to highlight the fantasy.

Upon reading  Howard, Leiber, Fox, Vance, Pratt, De Camp, Lovecraft and the like, the first thing you notice is that they heroes are humans. Using humans, it allows the fantasy, where it intersects with reality, stand out. Applying this to a fantasy game, taking the traditional (and not so traditional) fantasy races out of the gaming equation, it puts fantasy back into fantasy.

So why are we doing this? Genre burn out. When one plays, or works, with fantasy, there is always the desire to go all out and throw as much as you can into the soup. After awhile it is boring to have just an “elf,” or a” dwarf,” or a “goblin.” You need to have cat people, birdmen, and a every growing hodgepodge of playable races because the same old same old, is no longer fantastical.

So why humanistic fantasy? Is it our desire to be pro human? No. It is about our  desire to get back to the roots of fantasy, and allow things to be mystical again. In order to allow for the type of fantasy we want to explore — pulp fantasy — we need to strip away the trappings we are accustomed too. Doing this, allows the fantasy to stand.

So what does Shadow, Sword & Spell give you? The options to play pulp fantasy game inspired by not only Robert E. Howard, but Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft.

Yes, you read that right.

This is not going to be a “Conan Game.” Or a “Deamlands” game. It is going to be a game about tone and feeling. Horror and discovery. Lost and mystery.

It is going to be a game about fantasy.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. WBM permalink
    August 1, 2009 3:23 am

    I’m interested in the development of this game. How can I keep up with what’s happening with this? Thanks


  2. August 1, 2009 2:34 pm

    You can keep up with the development right here. 🙂

    Once GenCon is over I and James, plan on picking up the posts dealing with SS&S. Right now, we are still working on the final playtest version, and are shooting to have this done and ready for next month. Note, though we have not said much, that does not mean we are not working on it. 🙂

  3. WBM permalink
    August 1, 2009 9:32 pm

    Thanks! Are you willing to hint at the kinds of mechanics you are using?

  4. August 2, 2009 10:22 am

    It will be using the same mechanic which drives both Thousand Suns and Colonial Gothic. We have done a lot of work making sure it works for the type of fantasy we want to do.

  5. WBM permalink
    August 11, 2009 10:28 am

    I really enjoyed reading the True20 Colonial Gothic conversion, I guess I need to dig a little deeper and look at some of your other games…with their original mechanics.


  6. August 19, 2009 8:05 am

    True20 CG was very good. I am proud of what it is. There is a lot of cool stuff coming out for CG in the months to come. Look for that news in a few hours.

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