Adventures of the Dread Sea
Setting the Mood
Setting the Mood
Beasts and Barbarians is explicitly a Sword and Sorcery game. Its setting, The Dread Sea Dominions is quite different from the standard high fantasy worlds. The following key elements will help establish the mood of the game.
Bare-chested heroes and scantily clad heroines fighting ugly, multi-eyed monsters! Beasts and Barbarians is a game that falls squarely into the pulp genre, complete with larger than life heroes. It should be visual and colorful.
Pulp worlds and characters tend to be magnificent filled with great dangers and equally great rewards. Heroes don’t explore a small goblin cave to find 12 copper coins. Instead, they venture through an ancient, moss covered temple, where frog-shaped worshippers of a forgotten god guard a gold idol big enough to pay the ransom of a king! It can be worth 10 thousand Moons or more. You’ll lose it any in the brothels and bars of the Dread Sea Dominions (see the rules about Savings).
The Dread Sea is a harsh world. Incapacitated heroes will quickly find themselves sold into slavery. Treachery is not unheard of, nor is being stripped of everything you own.
Despite the apparently common presence of the supernatural, it is always mysterious and terrifying. The Dread Sea Dominions are not lands where you buy a magical sword from the local smith. Magic is present, but it is hidden, rarely fully understood, and most importantly, it must not be trusted. Even a skilled sorcerer must feel shivers down his spine as he summons an otherworldly creature. Most people, while aware of magic, mistrust its practitioners. Relics (permanent magic items) are rare and are usually not the beneficial swords of power and useful wands of typical fantasy games. Most magical objects are unique and come with their own risks and prices for wielding them.
Not Only Combat: Chases
Fighting monsters is important in Sword and Sorcery, but it is not the end all be all of the game. There are a lot of other interesting things to do, while remaining focused on the action. Think of action movies: the actual fighting scenes are only a small part of the story, but the heroes are pursued by enemies, risking their life running at breakneck speed on unstable bridges, trying to get away from impossible-to-beat creatures, or chasing elusive acrobat thieves across the city’s rooftops.
Savage Worlds (Core Book pp 82-83) has an excellent chase system that we will use to spice up the action and provide an adrenaline rush.
Not Only Combat: Exploration
Many places the heroes will visit are extremely dangerous: temples full of traps, deep jungles, merciless deserts, haunted forests, and so on. Exploring and understanding them can be an adventure itself and sometimes finding water and food in a desolate place or avoiding a lethal trap with skill and brains is more rewarding than bashing monsters with sword and bow.
Not Only Combat: Interaction
The world doesn’t only include people who kill (or need to be killed) and people who sell (or steal) weapons. The heroes will meet interesting personalities in their adventures. These characters have their own motivations and feelings. For example, a prince who hires the heroes to stop a bandit lord will not be happy at all if, when the group comes back with the severed head of the outlaw, he discovers that the bandit chief is in truth his son, bewitched by evil magic. He might condemn the heroes to death, creating an unsuspected twist in the adventure.
Swords and Sorcery personalities (both PC and NPC) tend to be excessive: an evil tyrant is extremely evil, a charming courtesan is incredibly fascinating, a vengeful warrior is obsessively vindictive. With this in mind, character backgrounds will play an important role in the development of the story. As will your characters’ interactions with the personalities you meet across the Dread Sea Dominions.
Combat! Combat! Combat!
When combat breaks out, it must be interesting—cinematic even. Combat should not happen in an empty, colorless space. In order to facilitate this, we should all commit to the idea.
- Describe their actions in heroic detail.
- Invent cool (but appropriate) props for tricks
- Attempt multi-actions. Take the penalty for the possibility of heroic success (remember your bennies)
- Describe the action in cinematic fashion
- Provide props in scenes
- Encourage heroic actions by giving out bennies
Also remember that not every combat must be won, and not all victories come from pure strength in battle. Some monsters have immunities the heroes must discover, or must be tricked in some way to be overcome.