Burning Swords and Sorcery
The Setting (overview):
A thick fog shrouds the city. It chokes the narrow, winding alleyways and conceals its less-savory denizens. Yellow torchlight suddenly spills through a doorway as a muscular man with a thick beard is shoved violently into the street. He lands hard on the cobbles. The tavern door slams behind him and merriment is visible through the small, greasy window. He stands and brushes off excrement from the gutter, then weaves drunkenly down the street. He is a hero, returning victorious from the war in the north. His pockets are heavy with plundered gems. He’ll be found in the morning, floating face-down in a canal. Brute strength will get you only so far in the city. People who live here know that to survive – to thrive – you need sharp wits, good connections, and a bit of coin in your pocket. If nothing else, you need to have a very, very light tread.
The Setting (Particulars): Urban landscape
Historical Inspirations: Ancient Rome, Italian City States, Seville.
Fictional Inspirations: Lankhmar, Ankh-Morpork
Government: Could be a Senate or a Patrician class. Power is held by guild leadership, rich merchants, crime bosses, and religious authorities. Intrigue, bribes and assassinations are common. Be careful who you trust.
Economy: Major port city, very prosperous – ships arrive from all over the world. Anything you can imagine – silk, spices, wine, exotic animals – anything can be bought or sold in the city. (Economic disparity within city, gangs hold power outside wealthy districts).
Architecture: A magnificent marble structure dominates the skyline, its gleaming dome visible for miles. Surrounding it are the tall stone mansions of wealthy families, interspersed with banks and trading houses. Tenement housing lies beyond that, separated from the affluent neighborhoods by nothing more than a faint air of desperation. Washing lines zig-zag between the houses, clothing hung three or even four stories above the narrow cobblestone streets and alleys. If you follow those streets – and your nose – you reach the wharf. It’s lined with warehouses and rotting slums, and the stench of fish and unwashed bodies is overwhelming (many opportunities in the city for losing someone, ambushes, rooftop chases; city is built on ruins of older civilizations; rumors of catacombs beneath city).
Military: Mercenary army – Geography makes city difficult to invade – the city is surrounded by the sea to the west and south, a steep mountain range to the north, and a swampy marsh (full of snakes, stinging insects, and wise hermits) to the east.
Religion: Many religions, all competing for the souls of the undecided (the Street of the Gods is one of the busiest streets in the city).
Genre: Swords and Sorcery
Personal conflict rather than saving world
- Often just about staying alive, making money
- Benevolence directed at friends
No absolute good or evil
- Protagonists may not be noble
– Gods are evil or absent
- Winner tends to be experienced or skilled, not necessarily good
Sorcery very dangerous, corrupting
- More likely to be used by villains than characters
- Elves could be used to represent Melniboneans
S&S in a Nutshell