D&D 5E Existentialist Sword and Sorcery

Remathilis

Legend
Remember...
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Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
FWIW I always took the Gloranthan view that it's the Bronze Age, most people don't travel much, and every group's myths make them look good, so Conan's Cimmerians are convinced the Stygians are evil snake-worshippers, while the Stygians are convinced that the Cimmerians are a bunch of barbarians who don't understand their religious ceremonies. We're reading Conan's account--we don't get to read Thoth-Amon the Second's chronicles about how his dad, a brilliant and learned priest of Set who was loved very much by all three of his wives, was assaulted by a hairy barbarian...

And if you read history, everyone hates the neighbors, because there's always some plot of land that's belonged to the other group lots of times and you think you own and have fought lots of wars over, not to mention that three generations ago they came over and killed your great-granddad (of course, four generations ago, your great-great-granddad came over and killed a bunch of them, but he's a great war hero, that was a defensive war, and we'll brook no dirtying of his good name...)

Was that Howard's view? Of course not, dude was writing for a European-American audience in the 1930s.

What would Howard think, if resurrected from essential salts? We can't know, but my money is on... "Y'all are still making stories about that guy I made up to pay the bills? Awesome! Hey, can I get royalties?"
 
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Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
FWIW I always took the Gloranthan view that it's the Bronze Age, most people don't travel much, and every group's myths make them look good, so Conan's Cimmerians are convinced the Stygians are evil snake-worshippers, while the Stygians are convinced that the Cimmerians are a bunch of barbarians who don't understand their religious ceremonies. We're reading Conan's account--we don't get to read Thoth-Amon the Second's chronicles about how his dad, a brilliant and learned priest of Set who was loved very much by all three of his wives, was assaulted by a hairy barbarian...

And if you read history, everyone hates the neighbors, because there's always some plot of land that's belonged to the other group lots of times and you think you own and have fought lots of wars over, not to mention that three generations ago they came over and killed your great-granddad (of course, four generations ago, your great-great-granddad came over and killed a bunch of them, but he's a great war hero, that was a defensive war, and we'll brook no dirtying of his good name...)

Was that Howard's view? Of course not, dude was writing for a European-American audience in the 1930s.

What would Howard think, if resurrected from essential salts? We can't know, but my money is on... "Y'all are still making stories about that guy I made up to pay the bills? Awesome! Hey, can I get royalties?"
Not... exactly...

Hyborian-Age-of-Conan-the-Barbarian-map.jpg


The Conan Stories are actually set during the late Pleistocene Epoch, just before the glaciers melted and the seas rose 300ft. The entirety of it is set in Africa with Cimmerian Irishmen living in what would be modern day Algeria and Libya. Meanwhile Vendhaya, his clear India allegory as a major subcontinent, needs to travel up to Pathenia which is essentially his "Land of the Lost". Sometime after the "Rise of the Sons of Arias" there's a great upheaval that changes the entire face of the world, in the same way Kull's Thurian Age ended with the "Oceans Drinking Atlantis"

We know it's set during the Pleistocene because a Roman Soldier in one of his later, lesser, works specifically references Aquilonia as having existed "10,000 years ago", and that story was set around 100AD.

So not Bronze Age, which is good since Conan solved the Riddle of Steel... But also Conan doesn't tell the story. It's either an explicit narrator in some stories (Inspiring Mako's character for the 1984 movie) or an implicit narrator/omniscient entity, with the latter being more common across the stories.
 

Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
Not... exactly...

Hyborian-Age-of-Conan-the-Barbarian-map.jpg


The Conan Stories are actually set during the late Pleistocene Epoch, just before the glaciers melted and the seas rose 300ft. The entirety of it is set in Africa with Cimmerian Irishmen living in what would be modern day Algeria and Libya. Meanwhile Vendhaya, his clear India allegory as a major subcontinent, needs to travel up to Pathenia which is essentially his "Land of the Lost". Sometime after the "Rise of the Sons of Arias" there's a great upheaval that changes the entire face of the world, in the same way Kull's Thurian Age ended with the "Oceans Drinking Atlantis"

We know it's set during the Pleistocene because a Roman Soldier in one of his later, lesser, works specifically references Aquilonia as having existed "10,000 years ago", and that story was set around 100AD.

So not Bronze Age, which is good since Conan solved the Riddle of Steel... But also Conan doesn't tell the story. It's either an explicit narrator in some stories (Inspiring Mako's character for the 1984 movie) or an implicit narrator/omniscient entity, with the latter being more common across the stories.

Haha...defeated by someone with better knowledge of the source material! (Is the Riddle of Steel in the original stories, or is that Milius' interpolation?)

I still think the point about the characters being ancient provincials holds. :)
 

ART!

Deluxe Unhuman
I don't have anything to add just now, other than to say that I've struggled with how to run a S&S-toned D&D 5E game for a while now, for a gaming group that doesn't want things to get too dark, serious, or existential - at least not often. Every time I try to come up with a description of what a S&S game would be about, I can't quite find a way to make it sound appealing to them. Which is fine - I don't need to run a S&S game - but it's a conundrum, so I'm finding the conversation here very interesting.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
Haha...defeated by someone with better knowledge of the source material! (Is the Riddle of Steel in the original stories, or is that Milius' interpolation?)

I still think the point about the characters being ancient provincials holds. :)
Riddle of Steel is a materialistic answer to a consistent philosophical question Conan is asked, or asks himself, through the books. Which is the value of a man, no matter what his strength or skill or efforts, compared to the steel he holds which might last far longer, be reformed to task, and thoughtlessly, willlessly, perform great and terrible deeds.

Granted, this question is never directly posed in this manner, but it's posed.

And the answer is just as existential as the OP discusses: Man, like Steel, is reforged. We are not one person from cradle to grave, but dozens of people to countless others. Conan the Barbarian. the Destroyer. The Pirate. The King. Like the steel he is reforged into something new each time. Sometimes by his will, sometimes by the will of others.

In the Movie the Riddle is a bit different, but the answer is the same.

Conan's Father explains that Steel is dependable. It does not betray you. It is ever at your side and is what you need it to be. While Thulsa Doom takes the opposite position. Flesh is stronger because what is steel without the hand that wields it, and a conqueror may become a God when he realizes that truth.

Conan's brutal answer is a synthesis that lays the lie of both sides bare. That a man with a will and steel can accomplish great and terrible deeds. That we are not inflexible steel or commandable flesh, as if there were some great difference in which you can trust. His father's sword was wielded against him, as was his love for Valeria, and neither destroyed him.

Only reforged him.

And with the shattered remnant of his father's blade, he killed Thulsa Doom. But a lot of people forget that after he tosses the head down the grand staircase, he holds out his father's sword and lets it fall, too. He is discarding both the argument of Flesh and Steel in that moment.

As far as ancient and provincial goes: Sure. Could be. And maybe all the magic and demons are made up, too, with an unreliable narrator. But the story loses a lot once you apply that perspective to it, I find. Better to just take it as it is. Accept that Conan, and his predecessor Kull, were powerful individuals who did great and terrible things and -fought- against great and terrible evils.

More fun that way.

Also of note: The southernmost portion of Aquilonia is Poitain, a French inspired region with knights in shining armor. And they had a LOT of animosity toward the Picts (Native Americans) to the West and the Zingarans (Spanish Sailors) to the South. Because anchoring any aspect of Conan's existence into a single time period of Earth would imply there was, y'know... logic to Howard's weirdness. Add in the Aliens, spaceships, elder gods, and the "Strange Sciences" of the snake-people who existed before the Dinosaurs...

Yeah. Just weird!
 
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Blue Orange

Gone to Texas
I disagree with your interpretation of the Conan movie--Milius was one of Hollywood's few right-wingers, was probably making a statement about hippies with Thulsa Doom, and opens the movie with that quote from Nietzsche about what doesn't kill you making you stronger--but there's enough poetry in your description you really ought to turn it into a novel or at least a novella.

I'd argue Howard was doing the same thing Tolkien was, using place names reminiscent of the actual locations to give a sense of familiarity (Shemites=Semitic).
 

I disagree with your interpretation of the Conan movie--Milius was one of Hollywood's few right-wingers, was probably making a statement about hippies with Thulsa Doom, and opens the movie with that quote from Nietzsche about what doesn't kill you making you stronger--but there's enough poetry in your description you really ought to turn it into a novel or at least a novella.

I won't pretend to know what Milius was going for. I have seen a number of interviews and always find him a little hard to decipher at times because it feels like he is playing a character sometimes. But I think Conan is one of the most beautiful fantasy movies ever made. In terms of Thusla Doom, I always tended to see that group more as bikers, but I can definitely see counter culture stuff in the cult that he starts when Conan finally meets him again (but I think he is going more for a Manson family counter culture than flowers and hippies). I think with stuff like that, it is sometimes hard to know is the person making a statement about those things, or drawing on them as imagery because they are familiar and you will instantly understand what Thusla Doom is doing when has this cult around him and tells the girl to come into his arms. But it is also a love story, so I don't know. It is an interesting thought though when you compare it to Dirty Harry (which he also worked on the script for---and that is a film that deals with the darker side of the counter culture).
 

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