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Tales of Gor RPG: Gorean Roleplaying

Tales of Gor RPG: Gorean Roleplaying

The Introduction, along with recommending that this book is used with its companion World of Gor (which provides more detailed descriptions of the setting and background to the game), confronts the fact that John Norman's Gorean Chronicles are not 'politically correct' head-on, as the author describes how he first encountered the stories and the part they played in his life. Then we hear how the growth of the Internet has ensured the survival, indeed popularity, of this setting in the face of criticism by those who cannot get off their soapboxes and enjoy a piece of fiction for what it is: someplace imaginary. You might not want to live there, but it is fun to visit... and a richer, better-imagined, coherent world it is hard to find.

Next, Scribe of Gor introduces the concepts and themes of the setting and of the game, for the two are intertwined to perfection. It provides the obligatory introduction to role-playing, a particularly good one which is fitting as one of the aims of these books is to introduce the legions of Gor fans to role-playing, as well as to provided existing role-players with a unique and intriguing setting. There are further reminders that this is a fictional setting, pure escapism, rather than a vision of how the world ought to be; and that it's only the 'professionally offended' who complain about what could be seen, if taken out of context of the setting, as rampant racism, imperialist fantasy and misogyny. If even fictional female slaves prized for their skills in the bedroom make you feel uncomfortable, it's quite simple - put this down and find a different game to play. We then are treated to a brief synopsis of the 30-odd novels that make up the Gorean Chronicles. Again, if you don't want to read the books after going through these notes, this is probably not the game for you.

This is followed by Tales of Gor, which provides a quite extensive guide to the setting (although not as detailed as World of Gor it should do for player use). It explains the various power blocs, and details how the views about the role of gender have arisen. Unfortunately, this section needs some proofreading, there are a few typos here. Here we read of Priest-Kings and Kur, and of the Steel Worlds, as well as of Gor itself. 'Civilised' Gor is dominated by city-states and we read of some of the best-known, as well as alliances, nations and other places from trackless deserts to the frozen north. Nomadic tribes and dwellers in deep jungles of the interior are also covered, before the discussion moves on to Gorean society. Here we read of the caste structure, and of clans, families, and slavery.

Now that we have a basic grounding in the setting, the next section - Silver Ship - deals with character creation. The section title refers to the ships used to transport captives from Earth to Gor - perhaps this is a good way to introduce the party to the setting, especially if they don't already know it well. It starts off by explaining the basics of the rules, so that informed choices can be made once you start creating your character. The system is Open D6. Natural abilities are measured in terms of the number of D6s you roll when using them, with any skills you have increasing the number of dice you roll. The list of skills is quite comprehensive. A couple of stand-out ones are Care - to be used when you are taking especial care over what you are doing, e.g. carrying a full vessel - and Pleasure. In a game that has Pleasure Slaves, I think we can guess what that's all about, and it is interesting to see it codified and recognised as a skill both men and women can become adept in. You can further customise your character with one to three Traits, with each conferring both advantages and disadvantages on your character. Template characters, with scope for customisation, are provided, ordered by caste.

The Will of the Priest Kings section then goes into copious details of the rules governing play, and how to use them to effect. There's a lot here but it's all fairly straightforward to grasp and will soon become natural after you've played a few times.

We then reach Game Master territory with a section called Secrets of the Nest. This talks about the different sorts of adventures you can run on Gor, and once you have decided that, there are notes on how to structure your adventure into a compelling plot. Much of this is applicable whatever you're playing. Interestingly there are some remarks about what makes for a poor GM, to help you avoid some common pitfalls particularly if you are new to GMing. There's an extensive bestiary here, too... and notes on sentient adversaries as well.

Finally, Shield and Spear covers a vast range of items, not just weapons and what little armour Goreans use (rarely more than a helmet and a shield). Appendices include more character templates, a short introductory adventure, and notes on playing online and roleplaying sexual encounters. The adventure, The Traitoress, provides some pre-generated characters and is designed to start your adventures off with the hunt for a traitoress escaping Ar after she regained her freedom from Cos (based on events in the later part of the Gorean Chronicles series).

Overall, it is a faithful yet tasteful presentation of the Gorean Chronicles in game form. If you enjoy the stories already, or like detailed and imaginative well-constructed worlds to adventure in, it is well worth a look.

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Reviewed: 18 September 2017