This 'preview booklet' aims, according to the Introduction, to show some of the approach, some of the art, and some of the material in the forthcoming Tales of Gor RPG. The author begins by describing how he first encountered the Gorean Chronicles series of books by John Norman, and how he was swept up by the vividly-described world and the epic adventures contained therein. He also touches on the - to some people - thorny problem: these tales are most emphatically NOT politically correct, what with female slaves kept for 'pleasure' purposes... Anyway, despite the books falling out of favour, at least with some, during the 1980s and 1990s at the height of political correctness, the Internet brought about a resurgence of interest as those who did enjoy the world were able to share and revel in it. But through all this time, there was no official role-playing game... until now.
There's a short note on what role-playing is, and mention that despite the lack of an offical Gor game, plenty of people have role-played the setting using whichever ruleset they fancy, or going freeform. Then there's an attempt to define the genre, basically science-fantasy with pulp elements of planetary romance and a level of explicit sexuality that beat Fifty Shades of Grey by half a century and many more books. This provides scope for exciting adventures on an alien world, shaping the destinies of entire civilisations at the point of a sword... and you can make your game as erotic or not as you wish, downplaying or focussing upon such aspects as pleases your group of players.
The ruleset chosen for Tales of Gor is a modification of the D6 System, which had its origins in the original Star Wars RPG from West End Games. A short example of play, then there's details of how a character who was a member of the Caste of Scribes might be created. The Scribes are the intellectuals of Gor, anything from historians to accountants and record-keepers.
Next comes a discussion of the sort of adventures and campaigns that might be played out on Gor. There are two factions - both agents of alien races - vying for power, and characters could be in the service of either the Priest-Kings or the Kurii. Human beings, too, seek power for themselves and with the land made up of many city-states there's ample scope for attempts to gain power within one city, or for rivalry between cities to boil over into war. If brawling is not your thing, there are opportunites for trade and exploration, gladatorial fights and tarn races. A party might be formed from members of a clan (extended family), a group of merchants or mercenaries or perhaps outlaws and pirates have greater appeal. Plenty of opportunities here.
Finally, there's an example of a Gorean creature, the kaiila - a predatory mammalian riding animal. Throughout, there are vivid sketches from Michael Manning, lead artist on the project, whose bold black and white work - somewhere between a woodcut and a comicbook style - fits the subject matter well. (I look forwards to seeing how he envisions a sleen!)
Now I know the Gorean Chronicles very well, and for those readers who do, this work should give a good preview of the game. If you have no knowledge of Gor, it does at least give you some of the flavour although the rather uneasy skirting around its non-PC nature might be offputting to some. Put plainly, on Gor slavery, particularly of females, is institutionalised. It is probably not possible to completely ignore this fact, but if it is something that makes you uncomfortable that's no reason to stay away entirely: just play down that aspect of the world and concentrate on its richly-developed setting, the intrigue and the swordplay. The broad sweep of the setting with various cultures ranging from the Wagon People of the great plains to dwellers in the frozen north and the jungles of the south is not really brought out, perhaps a tall order in but 17 pages, but maybe a bit less time bothering about Gor being non-PC and describing more of what it is would give an even better picture.
Return to Tales of Gor RPG Preview page.
Reviewed: 18 March 2017