Friday, March 9, 2012

Warlord of a Red Planet

Disney and Andrew Stanton's film version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter opens in theatres today.  

It is well known that Burroughs' Martian stories were a significant influence on the feel of early Dungeons & Dragons. In 1974 TSR even published a set of rules compatible with, but not officially a part of, the D&D game called Warriors of Mars. This book was in publication for only a finite time due to a cease and desist order form the Burroughs estate shortly after being released. This copyright dispute is likely the reason why the Sword & Planet aspects of pulp fantasy account for such as small part of the tabletop roleplaying material published to date. 

If only the following quote from Gygax had made it from the first edition of D&D into AD&D and the massively popular D&D Basic boxed sets and their successors.

"Those wargamers who lack imagination, those who don't care for Burroughs' Martian adventures where John Carter is groping through black pits.. will not be likely to find DUNGEONS and DRAGONS to their taste."

So its no wonder, though no one has seemed to notice as far as I can tell, that Paizo has decided to release its new Campaign Setting supplement "Distant Worlds" just in time to coincide with the release of John Carter in Theatres. In Paizo's "Inner Sea World Guide" the section on other worlds, that describe the solar system that the Pathfinder setting's world of Golarion rests in, makes mention of a world called Akiton the Red that "is a planet of immense deserts, tortuous mountains, and rugged badlands. The denizens of Akiton are known primarily for their violence." 
In the product description at Paizo's online store you are invited to "fight beside the four-armed giants of Akiton".

The World Guide description of Akiton was enough to get the idea of where they were going with this world and where its influence came from but the Distant Worlds description and cover art pretty much dispel any confusion as to what that influence is. If you are a Pathfinder fan and a fan of Burroughs' martian stories it looks like Paizo has your book.

If OD&D is your game or some other OSR type version of D&D you might be interested in Warriors of Mars by "Doc". This appears to be a set of house rules inspired by the TSR game mentioned above but made more compatible with OD&D.

Whatever your taste, it looks like John Carter's star, or planet if you prefer, is on the rise once more. Pretty good for a story originally published, almost exactly one-hundred years ago under the pen name of Norman Bean, as Under the Moons of Mars.