We’re excited to announce Autarch’s seventh Kickstarter project: a pair of role-playing game supplements supporting heroic and pulp fantasy gaming with new classes, magic types, spells, monsters, and more! Read on for details on the Heroic Fantasy Handbook™ and the Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu Setting Sourcebook™.
HEROIC FANTASY HANDBOOK
The Heroic Fantasy Handbook is a rules supplement that brings the flavor of heroic fantasy to your favorite role-playing game. It will be released as a 160+ page 8.5" x 11" softbound book with full color cover and black & white interior art.
What do we mean by “heroic fantasy flavor”? It’s the flavor that J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert E. Howard have in common, once you remove what’s different. Tolkien and Howard are usually considered opposites – high fantasy versus swords & sorcery, British versus American, literary versus pulp, and so on. But if they are opposites, they are opposite faces of the same coin, and that coin is heroic fantasy. Their worlds have more in common with each other, and with those of luminaries such as E.R. Burroughs, Clark Ashton Smith, H.P. Lovecraft, and Michael Moorcock, than with any of their contemporary epigones. Heroic fantasy is set in a world like our own world, one that might even be our world, in its distant past or far future. Its heroes, though men and women of extraordinary talent and drive, have none of the “super-powers” now common in contemporary fantasy (especially games). They do not typically teleport, fly, shoot fire, or raise the dead. Magic in heroic fantasy is more subtle and nuanced than in contemporary fantasy. It works with what is, rather than creating what is not. A magician cannot teleport straight to his friend’s distant castle, though his whispered dreams might reach his friend across the black gulfs of space. A magician will not fling magic missiles, but he might call down lightning from a storm, or capsize a boat with a wave. Working magic might require lengthy ceremonies, terrible sacrifices, or the power of primeval places. And those who use magic risk corruption. Even the wisest can lose their mind, body, and soul if they tamper with dark magic. That’s heroic fantasy.
Cleaving away decades worth of detritus of assumptions and expectations about how characters heal, fight, and adventure - how magic works - what spells do - and more, the Heroic Fantasy Handbook offers a fresh way to play with familiar D20 fantasy mechanics. The Heroic Fantasy Handbook is designed for use with the Adventurer Conqueror King System™ (ACKS™) but is readily compatible with other fantasy role-playing games built on the same core rules. In the Heroic Fantasy Handbook you get:
- An entirely new magic system, eldritch magic, designed to capture the flavor of heroic fantasy. Subtle but powerful, eldritch magic brings a new arsenal of effects into your game. Low-level eldritch casters can infuriate their foes, summon minor demons from the Outer Darkness, or call wolves from the forest. High-level eldritch wizards can call giant eagles from distant mountain lairs, lead foes into madness through corrupting dreams, or unleash the hounds of hell to hunt down their enemies. But eldritch magic carries risks, not the least of which is corruption and madness from the black arts.
- A new way of creating magical effects, ceremonial magic, for worlds where not every magic-user casts spells in a round. With ceremonial magic, characters can perform lengthy ceremonies from a variety of traditions ranging from the chthonic to the liturgical to the shamanic. Using traditional implements, trinkets, and talismans, and drawing on power found in reagents, blood sacrifice, faithful cultists, or places of magical potence, the ceremonialist can work miracles – or suffer the terrible consequences of failure.
- A new way of casting spells, spellsinging, that allows characters to spontaneously weave together new spells on the fly. Use spellsinging to represent the fluid arts of the elves, the psionic powers of a dying race, or the weaving of words of power by island wizards.
- Over 155 new spells designed for use by eldritch casters, ceremonialists, and spellsingers. Forget comic-book teleportation and fireballs. If you walk the dark path, be ready to madden your foes with dark whisper, torture them body and soul with iron maiden or even yank out their bones and animate their flensed skeleton as your minion with fillet and serve. If you crave elemental power, get ready to transform rain into acid with rain of vitriol, raze your enemy’s walls with sunder structure, or even call down a starfall from the heavenly firmament.
- A set of 10 new character classes inspired by the archetypes of heroic fantasy. Comfort and console the wounded and rally the faithful as an ecclesiastic. Master the power of ancient runes and learn the wisdom of the ages as a runecaster. Unleash your charismatic ferocity as an alluring but deadly warmistress. Plumb magic so dark that no mere human could survive it as a Zaharan sorcerer.
- A set of new rules for heroic adventuring, including fate points, heroic funerals, warrior codes, critical hit tables, new special maneuvers, updates to the mechanics for thief skills, and more.
- And much, much more!
BARBARIAN CONQUERORS OF KANAHU SETTING SOURCEBOOK
The second book we’re crowdfunding, Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu (BCK) is a sword & sorcery, sword & planet, and science fantasy setting sourcebook, designed for use with the Adventurer Conqueror King System core rules and the new Heroic Fantasy Handbook, and readily adaptable to other D20 OSR fantasy games and settings. It will be released as a 144+ page 8.5" x 11" softbound book with full color cover and black & white interior art.
While the Heroic Fantasy Handbook explores the classic heroic fantasy genre, Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu embraces what might be called “barbarian fantasy” or perhaps “pulp fantasy.” Barbarian fantasy is an amalgam of three distinct but related genres. The first is sword & sorcery literature, exemplified by the likes of Howard's Conan and Moorcock's Elric. This genre counterpoises corrupt, decaying cities and empires with rough-edged barbarian upstarts. It contrasts the decadence of urban life with the vigor of those untainted by it. This might have been inspired by the fall of decadent Rome to the Germanic "barbarians"who set themselves as kings of its ruins, or even by Samson's divine-inspired exploits against the urbanized Philistines.
The second is sword & planet, exemplified by Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom, a fantastic vision of Mars. This genre explores similar themes to those of sword & sorcery but does accept certain "science fiction" elements such as alien planets, radium pistols, flying craft, and other technological wonders. Sword & planet still follows the vision of a morally-ambiguous 'outsider' protagonist, archetypically an earthling on Mars, using his might to smash the decadent villainy of the local society.
The third is science fantasy proper. This book, however, presents a "science fiction" milieu closer to a fantastic setting once the outer trappings of starships and rayguns are stripped off it. This genre is exemplified by space princesses, dashing interstellar rogues, space combat which looks suspiciously similar to WWII air combat, and a relative disregard of actual science when it conflicts with the plot. The same tropes of the barbarian fantasy genre also apply here: it is easy to envision the mighty lost-world barbarian smashing through the ranks of raygun-wielding aliens with his massive sword, answering their advanced technology with his brute strength.
With barbarian fantasy as its inspiration, Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu presents new monsters, magical items, technology, spells, classes, and variant rules, all packaged together in Kanahu, a dangerous world of pulp fantasy. Kanahu draws on the myths of the Ancient Near East and pre-Colombian Mesoamerica and blends them together into a gonzo milieu with dinosaurs, Cthulhoid creatures, giant insects, crazy sorcerers, muscled barbarians, city-states, alien visitors, and super-scientific technology. You get:
- A set of 15 new character classes from the world of Kanahu, including the scurrying roach-like bugman, the dreaded cultist, the inhuman deep one hybrid, the mighty dragon incarnate, the stealthy geckoman stalker, the savagely sorcerous lizardman witch-doctor, and the mysterious alien Nephil.
- A collection of 45 new monsters, with chthonic deep ones and shoggoth, verminous giant cockroaches and giant mantises, pack-hunting velociraptors, sinister serpentmen and scorpionmen, and mysterious alien flying saucers, robots, and more.
- A catalog of super-scientific technology ranging from weapons, armor, and vehicles to chemicals, robots and devices. Add fusion launchers, laser rapiers, force fields, hoverbikes, and war-drones to battle and bedevil your adventurers.
- A gazetteer of Kanahu, with a complete setting history; continental, regional, and city overview; and a ready-to-play sandbox with over 60 points of interest.
- And much, much more!
At present, Heroic Fantasy Handbook is about 95,000 words long (143 pages) while Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu is about 70,500 words long (134 pages) plus maps. They are chock-full of awesome! But if we surpass our original funding goals, we will expand these books as follows:
BONUS GOAL #1 ($20,000) – THE SAVAGEST OF SWORDS: If we reach $20,000, we will add 2 new character classes to the Heroic Fantasy Handbook, the fearsome berserker, a shield-biting shape-changing madman of Norse myth, and the bold beastmaster, a lordly king of the jungle equally at home in B action movies and E.R. Burroughs novels. We will also add 5 new dinosaurs to Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu based on the most fearsome discoveries of recent archaeology. COMPLETED!
BONUS GOAL #2 ($25,000) – THE RAREST OF MAGIC AND MARVELS: If we reach $25,000, we will add 25 new spells and weird science items to Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu. Marvel at the mysterious magic of the Nephilim and fear the dread science of the Visitors… We will also add 25 legendary magic items to Heroic Fantasy Handbook. Leave behind your sword +1 and prepare to draw the sword of the mourning song! COMPLETED!
BONUS GOAL #3a ($27,500) – THE HUMBLEST OF HEROES I: If we reach $27,500, we will add the rules for creating bugmen and geckomen classes to an appendix of Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu. COMPLETED!
BONUS GOAL #3 ($30,000) – THE HUMBLEST OF HEROES 2: If we reach $30,000, we will add the rules for creating halfling characters to ACKS, along with two new classes, the halfling burglar and the halfling bounder. (Our lead designer’s antipathy to halflings is renowned but in truly Heroic fashion he will overcome his reluctance and add these creatures to the game.)
BONUS GOAL #4 ($40,000) – THE HIGHEST OF HEROES: If we reach $50,000, we will add a gazetteer to the Heroic Fantasy Handbook with a setting history, continent, region, and city overview, set of maps, and ready to play sandbox.
Thanks for checking out our Kickstarter for Heroic Fantasy Handbook & Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu Setting Sourcebook. Let us know if you have any questions or feedback in the Comments section. We appreciate your interest in our supplement, and hope you'll become a backer.
We leave you with this quote from the days of heroes...
As a fire raging in some mountain glen after long drought, when the dense forest is in a blaze, while the wind carries great tongues of fire in every direction, ever so furiously did Achilles rage, wielding his spear as though he were a god, and giving chase to those whom he would slay, till the dark earth ran with blood. As broad-browed oxen tread barley in a threshing-floor, leaving it bruised small under the feet of the lowing cattle, so did the horses of Achilles trample on the shields and bodies of the slain. The axle underneath and the railing that ran round his chariot were bespattered with clots of blood thrown up by the horses' hoofs, and from the tires of the wheels; but the son of Peleus pressed on to win still further glory, and his hands were red with gore. - The Iliad
Risks and challenges
This will be the seventh Kickstarter that Autarch LLC has run. All of our prior Kickstarters have funded successfully, and have delivered well-received products to our backers, including the platinum best-selling Adventurer Conqueror King System and the enormous Dwimmermount.
In our first four Kickstarters, however, we encountered substantial delays in product development and delivery, which put us well behind schedule in getting them to our backers. These delays resulted from either (a) unexpected challenges in product development; (b) complexities in fulfilling special backer rewards or bonus goals; or (c) logistical mistakes.
Having learned from past experience, we developed a new approach which we have used since:
1. The product has already been written. All of the pre-bonus text is finalized.
2. Backer rewards have been streamlined into a small number of tiers with clear-cut rewards without a large number of special cases that can complicate and confuse our logistics.
3. Bonus goals have been carefully plotted out to be delivered within our overall framework without causing delay.
Nevertheless there are two possible risks that may cause delays to this Kickstarter:
1. There are a large number of bonus goals associated with this project. The design with these goals has not been done in advance, as it can only be funded if we meet these goal levels.
2. Many of our reward tiers invite the creative input of high-level backers. The need for close collaboration with these backers means that we cannot strictly control every aspect of the design and production. We consider this a worthwhile risk to accept in order to gain their input and insights.
We are very thankful for the support to all the backers who supported us in our prior Kickstarters!
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