Sunday, July 13, 2014

Savage Sword of Conan Volume Six

This is the last of book of the Savage Sword of Conan that I own in physical print as well as digital copy. Dark Horse did a fantastic sale not too long ago on the Savage Sword of Conan where the whole bundle was a little under $90 bones for like sixteen volumes of black and white nostalgia.

This volume, like many in the series, is a massive tome that clocks in at well over five hundred pages. Roy Thomas, Michael Fleisher and Bruce Jones are the main writers this time around, and included the Conan gold standard of artists, John Buscema, as well as Gil Kane, Ernie COlon, and one of my favorites, Ernie Chan.

This volume collects issue #61-#71 and retails for $19.99, although Amazon has it for $14.04. Those who want to see a free preview of this collection, can check out the Dark Horse website.

This volume tends to be heavy of the 'solo' stories with done in one tales. These usually pit Conan against the wizardry or military might of someone who thinks they know better than the barbarian and well, they usually don't live to regreat it. Some of my favorite bits that come through the title, tend to overlap with material I'm looking at in terms of RPG gaming right now.

For example, in one of the tales, Conan is sent to seek out the secrets of the sorcerer Tamar-Shar Khun. He is sent there because the sorcerer is supposed to "devised a means of making both crops and beasts grow swiftly to sizes most wondrous." And that's needed because the king conan is serving is in a country where famine is upon the land. That whole bit could easily be from any Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

But in terms of gaming, I'm reading the sourcebook, Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions, a sourcebook for Lamentations of the Flame Princes, and it's about wizard's domiciles. Kind of reminds me of the old bits from The Complete Wizard's Handbook back in the day. But it reminds me of it because of some of the things that Seclusium talks about, correspond to what happens in the lair of Tamar-Shar Khun. There are magic and mundane traps, guardians of supernatural and standard variety. It's a nice pace and it's done in one issue! Great stuff.

Similar but of more 'high magic' is when Conan is part of a caravan bringing gifts to the alien entity Giyune of the Three Eyes. Here is another ancient power with his own unique lair and unique aspects of the lair that can challenge even the most resourceful characters.

Another thing that occurs, is that the 'bit players' are there to essentially die in order to warn Conan of danger. For example, Zerbo is a giant of a man, but a terrible fighter. When he fails to kill Conan over jealousy, he warns Conan that the queen is after his life and shortly dies thereafter. Next up, Conan's love at the time, is also cruelly handled and dies of torture, but not before affirming what Conan already knows.

Slogans: This is one I've hit before. I've mentioned that a good battle cry is a signature for characters and is often used in super hero comics ranging from Avengers Assemble to It's Clobbering Time to the more simplistic Hulk Smash. Here though, it seems that the gods are the ones to call on. This ranges from Favors of Kilili, By The Holy Eyes of Mitra, Merciful Mother of Mitra, Loins of Ishtar, to.. well, let's just do a quick table:

1. In Crom's Name
2. Crom's Devils
3. Crom and Mitra!
4. By The bones of Crom!
5.By the bears of Crom!
6. By Crom!

Thee are probably a few more I could have grabbed but I thought those sufficient.

One of the most interesting things to me, is that the authors have no problem abandoning a storyline before it's conclusion. Conan, as a pirate leader, takes a merchant vessel's cargo, and one of the ladies of the ship, tells Conan that she knows where there is treasure to be found. Before that story goes anywhere, the crew mutinies and the ship is sunk and Conan, in the same tale, is off to an ancient tribe of immortal Amazon's. Perhaps that tale picks up later but I found it interesting. It was like the author said, "Are people enjoying this? Nah, let's move the action."

There are also some bits that Conan never learns, but that the author is kind enough to provide the reader. For example, Black Cloaks of Ophir, features two military groups, the Black Cloaks and the Iron Maiden Corps. They seeks to have power over the people like Thanus, the Hyborian who first founded Ophir. Turns out that Thanus was buried alive and became a huge ghoul, feeding off the family as they were buried in the same crypts that he was. A neat little twist to things that Conan never learns, but the reader is cued in on.

Some writers will also talk of 'killing your babies'. Find something in the setting and smashing it. Conan is responsible for the destruction of an Amazon society, and does damage to a group of man bat's society. Both are fantastic and fit into the 'weird' aspects of the sword and sorcery age, both isolated from the rest of the world by distance or special means. Both easily added to any game and just as easily destroyed.

Again, for the art and for the various bits that can easily be lifted for any role playing game, I highly recommend the Savage Sword of Conan.