|Northern Lights over Iceland, by Harald Moltke, 1899.|
I've recently fallen down the Free Kriegsspiel rabbit hole. It's all about "playing worlds, not rules" (check out this intro to this style of play and the leftist Discord full of amazing discussion about it). It's been quite a blast so far and the main game leading me merrily down that direction is the sword & sorcery system of Blood of Pangea by Olde House Rules.
The game's default setting is PANGEA, the ur-continent of our Earth, but it lists some fictional settings that would be quite fitting. As a huge Clark Ashton Smith fan, HYPERBOREA jumped out at me. I reread the whole Hyperborean cycle, went to the Hyperborean Glossary, and set down to make a campaign outline in the vein of the Pangea overview given in the book. Here I've tried to make Hyperborea my own and present my take on it.
HYPERBOREA was supposedly located at the top of the world, but was otherwise pleasant and warm. It was said to be ruled by giant kings, and at least one modern portrayal added prehistoric life and a mysterious technology, joining civilization with the primitive.
— Blood of Pangea, p. 15
Appendix I: HYPERBOREA
They had spent the night beneath its lowermost crags, keeping a ceaseless watch, piling dead branches on their fires, and hearing on the grisly heights above them the wild and dog-like ululations of those subhuman savages, the Voormis for which the mountain was named. Also, they heard the bellowing of an alpine catoblepas pursued by the Voormis, and the mad snarling of a saber-tooth tiger assailed and dragged down; and Ralibar Vooz had deemed that these noises boded well for the morrow's hunting.
— Clark Ashton Smith, "THE SEVEN GEASES" (1933)
HYPERBOREA was located at the top of the world. Before it was overwhelmed by the advancing sheets of the Pleistocene age, Hyperborea was a warm and fertile paradise.
REALMS OF HYPERBOREA
COMMORIOM is the high built capital of Hyperborea. A white city of numberless spires of marble and granite. It is the most powerful city of its age gaining tributes from Atlantis, Mu, Tscho Vulpanomi, and Mhu Thulan.
- UZULDAROUM lays a day's journey south of Commoriom, on the fertile plains and jungles of Hyperborea. The land around Uzuldaroum is an agreeable country, full of farms and orchards and running waters and green, flowery woods. Further south, swamps and plains give way to desert.
EIGLOPHIAN MOUNTAINS are a frightful central mountain range of black, glassy walled mountains, riddles with tunnels. The four-coned mountain Voormithadreth lies at the center of this range. One prong runs south, one prong east, dissecting the contenting.
- MOUNT VOORITHADRETH is a volcanic, four peaked mountain. There is some suggestion that the peaks have extinct craters. It is riddled with volcanic tunnels in which the furtive Voormis dwell. Deeper caves lead to the dwellings of Haon-Dor and the serpent folk, while even deeper is the realm of gods.
MHU THULAN is the northern realm of Hyperborea, said to correspond with Greenland, that was one of man's first civilizations. It is composed of several provinces such as Zabdamar and Iqqua.
- CERNGOTH is a northerly, flower-girdled sea-port, on the eastern shore of the Hyperborea Sea. It features shell-shaped domed buildings among which is the golden Temple of the Seven Gods, and griffon-carved wharves. North of Cerngoth lie the bleak mountains of Zabdamar leading to Polarion.
- IQQUA is the most important city in the kingdom of Mhu Thulan. Princes and Kings rule the lands around Iqqua and the cult of Yhoundeh is centered here as well.
- OGGON-ZHAI is a spired city with a black temple to Tsathoggua, north of Iqqua.
- LEQQUAN is a city of thronged streets.
POLARION is an isle of snow inhabited by uncouth peoples. Its people are called Polarions. It appears to be very near the north pole. It is partly an ice desert as oncoming glaciers creep in valleys fertile with fern and cycad.
TCHO VULPANOMI is a semi-legendary volcanic region of the far south, probably corresponding with modern Iceland. Here a lake of boiling asphaltum beats forever at the sea. The dread volcanic mountain Achoravomas belches rivers of flame over the land. Crystals of tourmaline are found here, with diamond-sanded, ruby-graveled shores.
THULASK is a broad northern island of the Hyperborea archipelago. It's people are called Thulaskians. They have a great temple to Tsathoggua.
|Dreamy Mountainscapes, by Chih-Hung Kuo|
Hyperborean barbarians wander, and the characters may come from the above-listed regions if the judge permits. For ease of play in Blood of Pangea, each has a unique language that can be spoken (and learned) in the campaign.
Other lands are also mentioned above such as the empire of ATLANTIS, with its sorceries and living metal, and the ancient and barbaric sea nation of MU. As I have taken up Hyperborea, I leave this to be explored and expanded by other Judges!
MONSTERS OF HYPERBOREA
Most of the monsters in Hyperborea will be nameless and forgotten abominations, unique in their form, and unknown in their terror. The following creatures are occasional threats that can be more readily introduced as characters range across Hyperborea.
NOTE: Many of the creatures in Blood of Pangea would be right at home in Hyperborea such as mastodons, pterodactyls, tyrannosaurs, snake people, and wizards.
FORMLESS SPAWN appear as formless monsters of black ichor so terrible to behold that characters seeing them have a 1 in 1d6 chance per round of fleeing in terror, although 1 MIGHT can be spent avoiding this. They often rest in basins in Tsathoggua's temples and keep the sanctuary from being defiled by nonbelievers.
Might: 5-10 Move: 30' Damage/Bonus: fear, tendrils (+3)
GREAT SLOTHS stand a massive 12' tall and posses strength beyond the mightiest human. They are rare, but sometimes seen in the jungles around of Zesh.
Might: 15 Move: 30' Damage/Bonus: 2 claws, trampling (+2)
SABRE-TOOTHED TIGERS are ferocious big cats with elongated bladelike canine teeth in their upper jaw. They stalk the Eiglophian Mountains and the northern regions.
Might: 10 Move: 50' Damage/Bonus: bite, 2 claws (+2)
VAMPIRE-BATS are common in the jungles of Zesh. These predators are dangerous and hunt in packs, attacking with great fangs. Optionally, larger ones may carry off smaller victims on a roll of 12 or more, attacking with both their fangs and razor-sharp talons.
Might: 1-4 Move: 40' Damage/Bonus: bite, fangs (+0)
VOORMIS are a degenerate semi-human race. They are umber-colored and shaggily furred, speaking with dog-like howls. Mount Voormithadreth is named after this race, who now dwell in its volcanic fissures. They fight with natural weaponry, but also employ clubs and stones, being physically quite powerful. They worship Tsathoggua.
Might: 1-10 Move: 40' Damage/Bonus: 2 claws, weaponry (+1)
Appendix II: GODS & DEMONS
You shall know Tsathoggua by his great girth and his batlike furriness and the look of a sleepy black toad which he has eternally. He will rise not from his place, even in the ravening of hunger, but will wait in divine slothfulness for the sacrifice.
— Clark Ashton Smith, "THE SEVEN GEASES" (1933)
GODS OF HYPERBOREA
Many gods are worshipped in Hyperborea (this list is just a start), and many sworn oaths have been made to the following deities:
- Hagarg Ryonis (M): wrathful goddess of reptiles; one of the seven
- Ixeera (M): cat-goddess; queen of all cats
- Karakal (C/M): lady of dreams; one of the seven
- Kathruale (M): forgotten animal god
- Leniqua (C/M): moon-god(ess) of the sea
- Lobon (M): god of warriors; one of the seven
- Nath-Horthath (M): lion-god and lord of dreams; one of the seven
- Qualk (M): kindly god of fishermen
- Shimba (C): god of shepherds and keeper of the plains
- Tamash (M): trickster god; one of the seven
- Yhoundeh (M): elk-goddess; heretic burner
- Zo-Kalar (M): god of birth and death; one of the seven
In the true pulp tradition, monstrous and alien gods exist in Hyperborea, cosmic horrors pre-dating humanity's rise from the primordial stew.
- Atlach-Nacha: spider-god of the deep caverns
- Azathoth: swilring mass from deep space
- Kthulhut: aquatic and rubbery high priest
- Rlim Shaikorth: white worm and glacial travesty
- Tsathoggua: bat-like toad from Saturn
- Ubbo-Sathla: formless protoplasmic monster
These are the GREAT REPUGNANCES, although the Judge can include yet more horrors from beyond. Like ZARBANOTH, a star-demon of ice and greed. Simply looking upon these things risks madness as described in Blood of Pangea.
Appendix III: SAMPLE CHARACTER
NAME: Ralibar Vooz GENDER: male (he/him)
CLASS: adventurer MIGHT: 10
NARRATIVE: Ralibar is a skilled huntsman, trained in the arts of trapping, wayfinding, and stealth. He rarely gets lost in the wilds. He speaks Thulan and is extremely strong...
EQUIPMENT: bronze broadsword,bronze hunting dagger one week's rations, bedroll, climbing tools
EXPERIENCE: 0 TREASURE: 2 SP