SAVAGE BORN: Sorcerer & Sword in Action (Part One – An Accidental Beginning)

Savage Born Map

Savage Born Map

A couple of years ago I played a six session game of Sorcerer & Sword with my friends Colin and Jesse. Here’s how it went down:

Heading down to a local convention, I was hoping to get in some Sword & Sorcerer. I’d been reading Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master and some Clark Ashton Smith, which looped me back into some Conan stories I hadn’t read yet. So I was hungry.

However, I couldn’t figure out the setting or tone. And tone is really what you’re looking for to pitch to the players for Sorcerer & Sword. As the GM, you want to pitch the lightest setting you can to the Players, letting the focus of the social, creative act be set around the Players making their Characters

I wanted something like Howard’s Hyborea — and even toyed with the idea of just saying, “Fuck it… we’re playing in Hyborea. Conan is somewhere else.” But it didn’t want the onus of having someone else creating hanging over me.

Then I thought of using the setting for Earthdawn — a setting I clearly love, but I found the rules too much. But the weird fantasy is there with the Horrors. The Passions could be Demons using the Angel rules from Sorcerer’s Soul. But, again, I’d be dealing with big, detailed already-built setting. And so much of Sorcerer & Sword is in starting with the characters defining the situation and growing the setting form that.

Then, driving down to the convention I was struck with the notion of orcs — savage and bold. They seemed to tap into the energy of sword and sorcery if we took them completely out of high fantasy and made them not pawns in someone else’s story but the focus of the story. No Tolkien — they would be creatures, weird creatures, made creatures. Weird fantasy incarnate.

I saw them in an vast woods like primitive Germany. So then I immediately thought of something like the Roman Empire invading those woods. And then I thought of troll vikings to the north…. and then I stopped myself. Because I probably already had too much! The setting should be kept simple. So stopped thinking and drew a map shown above.

I was drawing it at the table while Colin was setting up his Apocalypse World game and we were waiting for other players. He was like, “Hey… what’s that?” And, well… he was all in after that.

Later, when many of the story gamers were hanging out I pitched the idea of playing a Sorcerer & Sword game some time during the convention to Jesse and he was in too.

But then, the next day I bumped into Colin and he explained that he and Jesse had decided that I was actually going to run a full on series of sessions for them. I said sure! We made an appointment to make characters during lunch on Sunday during the convention.


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