Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Savage Evening with Solomon Kane

Last night was game night at All Things Fun, and I was ready to run the next session of my Paragons of Waterdeep campaign. However, a couple of my players couldn't make it. The campaign is in a critical spot at the moment, so I felt it would be unfair for half the group to not be in on the action. So, luckily, Player Bill had brought some goodies: some of his Savage Worlds books.

Now, both Bill and Player Jamie are big into Savage Worlds, and have played it a lot. So they were able to school me pretty well. I've been trying to read up on the system, but I feel like this old dog can't learn new game systems very easily just by reading the books. I have to learn by playing, it seems. Anyway, I've been dying to learn how to play Savage Worlds, as the guys have been talking about it a lot since we all started gaming together.

Bill's big into the Solomon Kane setting. I've read some things about the setting, and I checked out the recent Del Rey collection of Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane stories a while back. The setting has interested me, and I was able to look past the racism eventually (it seemed even more prevalent than in the Conan stories). I've always liked the time period of the late 1600's/early 1700's. Throw in some of the supernatural, and I'm in!

Jamie and I created some characters, and Bill agreed to run us through a quick adventure. It was a bit of an adjustment to get into a skill-based game, versus a class-based game like C&C. And then there's the whole point-buy system versus rolling up stats, etc. But it was pretty cool, with attributes and skill ability being represented by different dice (d4 up through d12). It was pretty interesting to use some of the other dice more often, but a bit strange to not be rolling a d20 at all!

I created a brash and arrogant English swordsman named Benedict Zane. I took what's called a Hindrance with regard to arrogance, as well as a delusion Hindrance. Thus, not only is he a braggart, but Benedict also believes he gets advice and wisdom from the voice of St. George, that only he can hear (he sort of keeps this to himself, however).

Jamie created a magician-type of character by the name of Nicholas Margrave (I think that's the name). He has an Italian man-servant (whose name escapes me at the moment), and they are apparently on the run from a vengeful Italian merchant family. Our characters, of course, bumped into each other in an inn (some things never change), and we proceeded to head out into the night across some desolate English moors! There we encountered some wolves, who we fought off successfully.

It was all-in-all a great night! I was glad to finally get into Savage Worlds to see what all the fuss was about. I was pleasantly surprised with the system, and I am definitely interested in Bill running some more Solomon Kane when we need to take a break (or are forced to take a break) from my campaign.


  1. Glad you enjoyed Savage Worlds and Solomon Kane. Great game. It makes my heart sad, though, that everyone seems to feel obligated to address the supposed "Racism" in Howard's fiction.

    Robert E. Howard was not a racist for his day and age. Indeed, his attitudes for the 1930's were quite liberal. Many pulp writers created caricatures of foreign cultures for their fiction, and even Howard's "savage blacks" tend to be viewed as more inherently honorable and worthy than civilized white folk. Note that despite the caricature of tribal culture that N'Longa represents, he becomes Kane's fastest and most loyal ally.

    Howard's caricatures are rather of barbaric cultures vs. civilized cultures, not of races and skin tones.

  2. Jason: thanks for your words on the subject of Howard's "racism." I hope I didn't make you too upset when I perpetuated the racism "angle" ;-)

    In all seriousness, I am indeed aware of the fact that it was not really the overt racism that we tend to think of in our current time.

    Again, thanks for the clarification, and know that I knew the difference, and it was a lack of clarity on my part in my post.

    However, as indirect as the "racism" of that era may be, it's still something of a culture shock at first. I think you can agree with that? It was that first exposure to the material to which I was referring, as I'm a product of my time as much as Howard was a product of his. So there's a bit of dissonance at first blush, but upon reading deeper into the fiction, you come to discover the subtle differences that you have pointed out.

    Thanks again.

  3. No worries and I hope my comment didn't come out as too harsh. Honestly, I never saw any racism in Howard's writing until someone else told me it was there and I started looking for it...but then I have always approached fiction from the angle of the period in which it was written so I do tend to be blind to a lot of that.

  4. Mark Finn wrote a marvellous essay on the subject of Howard and race which he recently put online, which mentions Kane and N'Longa:

    It can be jarring to first-time Howard readers, but it's something that can be found in many works from the early 20th Century, from Burroughs to Conan Doyle to Christie to Conrad. It's all a matter of context.