Swords & Sorcery


The Sword-And-Sorcery website explains that this sub-genre of fantasy literature has four ingredients that set it apart from other genres: the environment, the protagonists, the obstacles, and story structure.
  • The Environment: Sword-and-sorcery fiction takes place in lands different from our own, where technology is relatively primitive, allowing the protagonists to overcome their martial obstacles face-to-face. Magic works, but seldom at the behest of the heroes. More often sorcery is just one more obstacle used against them and is usually wielded by villains or monsters. The landscape is exotic; either a different world, or far corners of our own.
  • The Protagonists: The heroes live by their cunning or brawn, frequently both. They are usually strangers or outcasts, rebels imposing their own justice on the wilds or the strange and decadent civilizations which they encounter. They are usually commoners or barbarians; should they hail from the higher ranks of society then they are discredited, disinherited, or come from the lower ranks of nobility (the lowest of the high).
  • Obstacles: Sword-and-sorcery’s protagonists must best fantastic dangers, monstrous horrors, and dark sorcery to earn riches, astonishing treasure, the love of dazzling members of the opposite sex, or the right to live another day.
  • Structure: Most important of all, sword-and-sorcery moves at a headlong pace and overflows with action and thrilling adventure.
Being me, I prefer to look at gaming through a cinematic or televisual lens and so I've compiled my own Appendix N of influences and inspirations (and, yes, I know some of these - e.g. Lord Of The Rings - are more 'high fantasy', but just go with me here!).

Primary Style & Atmosphere (television & cinema):
  • Hawk The Slayer
  • Lord Of The Rings
  • Adventure Time
  • Game Of Thrones
  • Robin Of Sherwood (1984-86)
  • Merlin 
  • Ironclad
  • Legend Of The Seeker
Literary (& Comic Book) Influences:
  • Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser (Fritz Leiber)
  • Gerin The Fox (Eric Iverson aka Harry Turtledove)
  • Conan The Barbarian (Robert E Howard et al)
  • Red Sonja (various)
  • Legend (David Gemmell)
  • Thieves World (anthology)
  • A Song Of Ice And Fire (George RR Martin)
  • John Carter Of Mars (Edgar Rice Burroughs - and various pastiches)
  • Zothique (Clark Ashton Smith)
  • Elric (Michael Moorcock)
  • Army Of Darkness (various)
  • Sovereign (Chris Roberson)
  • Xena: Warrior Princess (various)
  • Dagar The Invincible (Donald Glut) 
  • New Gods (Jack Kirby) 
Secondary Cinematic & TV Influences:
  • Ray Harryhausen's Sinbad movies
  • Clash Of The Titans (original)
  • Jason And The Argonauts
  • Conan The Barbarian (all iterations)
  • Black Death
  • Excalibur
  • Your Highness
  • Deathstalker
  • Beastmaster
  • Sword And The Sorcerer
  • Warrior And The Sorceress
  • Ator The Fighting Eagle
  • The Scorpion King
  • Various Robin Hood movies 
  • Pillars Of The Earth
  • Season Of The Witch
  • In The Name Of The King
  • The Messenger
  • The 13th Warrior
  • Xena: Warrior Princess
  • The Sword Of Xanten
  • Kingdom Of Heaven
  • Labyrinth
  • The Dark Crystal
  • Arrowstorm films (MythicaOrc Wars; Dawn Of The Dragonslayer; The Crown & The Dragon)
  • Countless monster/horror movies
By no means a definitive list, this - hopefully - gives an idea of what sort of "rough-and-ready" experience the player-characters will find themselves facing. They might end up saving the world, but probably only by accident!
 

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