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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Putting on my DM Hat Again with Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea

The Plan

I got the second edition book for Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea a couple weeks ago via the Kickstarter. I've had the first edition boxed set for a few years, but never got around to actually running it. This time I intend to give it a whirl.

So, after reading a lot of it, and putting together a few starting characters that'll probably see service as pregens or NPCs, I decided this morning that the way to actually make myself focus is to put out the call. Here's my initial post on G+ and Facebook:

"So I'm thinking about setting up to try running AS&SH on Roll20. Potential interest? No time picked yet, but I'd aim to have a starter scenario ready in about a week and do the schedule matching dance along the way. In person is also possible if SF Bay Area people are interested."

Given the positive initial response, I got started today on a scenario. There's now enough that I could run it in a pinch, and time to polish it a bit. Now I have to fit it onto the campaign map and flesh it out some.

Sound fun? Leave a comment. Maybe start rolling up a character. The Rules PDF is on still on Black Friday to Cyber Monday sale at

What is this Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerors of Hyberborea Game?

Imagine D&D was written without the influence of Tolkien, but heavily influenced by Weird Tales authors like Robert E. Howard and Howard Lovecraft. The setting is a pocket dimension overlaying the uttermost North, inhabited by groups descended from historical and not quite historical peoples of the Earth, Vikings who were swept off by a storm, Cthulhu cultists that crossed over in a ritual that went sideways, and the like. The rules have a lot of AD&D flavor, but PCs are assorted humans or nearly human, and not elves or dwarfs or halflings and the monsters have a similar filtering.

Getting Started

We'll go with method II for PC attributes.
Roll 3D6 for each attribute in order: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma

Then do it two more times and pick the set you like best out of the three sets.

Then you can trade points by paying down two in one attribute to bump another up one.  The range is bounded 3-18, no boosting to 19, and no percentiles on 18 for fighters.

The ranges on the attributes for bonuses and penalties is 3, 4-6, 7-8, 9-12, 13-14, 15-16, 17, 18. The bonuses are flatter than late editions of D&D, with an 18 giving +2 to melee attacks and +3 to damage, for instance.

Hit Dice for classes are pretty much what you would expect, D10s for Fighters, D4s for Magicians, D6s for Thieves, D8s for Clerics. Subclasses of each of the main four may redefine that up or down.

House Rule: Take the best of three rolls at first level, and best of two rolls at each level thereafter. 

There is a standard starting gear pack for each class and subclass. We'll go with those, or you can swap to similarly valued weapons and other gear that makes sense for your character.

This is a game with class and subclass specific EXPs for levelling, like older flavors of D&D. The level table goes up to level 12, it is unlikely the campaign will last to get close to that cap.

The classes very briefly summarized, with required stats, prime reqs, and notes,just enough to give flavor and see that you qualify (Prime requisites for EXP are in ALL CAPS):

Fighter, STR 9
Magician, INT 9
Cleric, WIS 9
Thief,  DEX 9, Rolls thief abilities on a D12, so abilities are expressed in chances in 12 of success

Subclasses have two Prime Requisites and both have to be 16+ for the bonus.

Subclasses of Fighter, all have more special rules, but base fighter gets the most weapon specialization bonuses, and extra attacks against weak mooks:
Barbarian STR 13, DEX 13, Con 13, D12 HD, a lot of wilderness and adventure related skills and abilities, No Rage. Great saves, Think Conan.
Berserker STR 15, CON 15, D12 Hd, Strong, multifaceted Rage 1/day/4 levels, dangerous to friends if still raging when enemies die, a few skills, Great saves
Cataphract STR 9, Dex 9, Wis 9, CHA 9, Mounted combat specialists, honorable heavy knights with high damage couched lance close order charge. Kinda meh dismounted for a dungeon crawl, or in the mountains, or in the swamps...
Huntsman STR 9, Dex 9, WIS 9, Cha 12, Wilderness and prey&pet animal related skills, max of Med armor
Paladin STR 9, Dex 9, Wis 9, CHA 15 Classic LG Paladin with spells at higher levels 7+
Ranger STR 9, Dex 9, Int 9, WIS 9 a lot of ranger type skills and has druid and mage type spells at upper levels 7+, sort of an X Files focus, with Lovecraftian special enemies instead of the usual ones
Warlock STR 12, INT 12 (some Wis 12), D8 HD fighter-mage hybrid, spells from 1st, any mage specialty, L or M armor

Subclasses of Magician
Cryomancer INT 9, WIS 9- cold focused, it is the demi-arctic
Pyromancer INT 9, WIS 9 - fire focus is popular when its cold 
Necromancer INT 9 WIS 9, has turn/command undead ability from 3rd level
Illusionist DEX 9, INT 9
Witch INT 9, Wis 9, CHA 12 - Spell list and witch trope skills, starting with potion brewing

Subclasses of Cleric
Druid WIS 9, CHA 12, shapechange starts at 5th
Monk Str 9, DEX 9, WIS 9, classic martial arts monk with some thief skills
Priest WIS 9, CHA 9, D4 HD more spells, less fight, no armor, few favored weapons, deity related bonuses, usually specific extra spells
Runegraver STR 9, WIS 12 Nordic flavor, Fighter-like combat ability, limited spell list, no turning, berserker minions at high level instead of the usual mix 
Shaman INT 9, WIS 12 D6 HD, shamanistic cleric/druid  plus mage/necro hybrid

Subclasses of Thief
Assassin Str 9, DEX 9, INT 9
Bard Str 9, DEX 9, Int 9, Wis 9, CHA 15 D8 HD  A few Thief skills, mez, Druid + Illusionist spells
Legerdemainist DEX 12, INT 12, Wis 12 if mage subclass requires it, Mage hybrid, pick specilization
Purloiner DEX 12, WIS 12 cleric hybrid
Scout DEX 9, INT 9, less theft, more woodsy or dungeon crawling skill focus


Amazon Women warriors are legendary; their men, not so much.
Atlantis sank under the waves and Atlanteans are now amphibious and look it
Common (after a few generations of intermixing, unclear ancestry of multiple lineages)
Hyperboreans are the tall, thin, pale, longlived indigenes, who consider all the Earth exile descendents beneath them, as snooty as other games' high elves without the pointy ears and infravision.
Ixians - Scythian, Egyptian, Persian heritage, Priests, Witches, Necromancers run society, the Stygians of this world
Kelts -still led by druids with Celtic-style society
Kimmerians, Caucusus Cimmerian derived, but with Conan Cimmerian flavor, hate Ixians, some steppe nomads, some are catacomb dwellers
Kimmeri-Kelts - barbaric hybrid race
Halfblood Picts - Bloodthirsty savages, threatening civilization, orc-like niche
Other Races - small numbers from nearly any earthly place and time, either recent arrivals or their ancestors stayed isolated

So roll up a character's attributes and choose a class it suits if you are interested in joining in.