Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

We talk about Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea role-playing game, by Jeffrey Talanian. But we need some help so we enlist our friend, and big fan of the game, Tim Deschene!

From Hyperborea.TV:

“Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is sword-and-sorcery role-playing at its pinnacle. Now in its second edition, AS&SH™ has been expanded to include new classes, new spells, new monsters, new magic items, and more! It also includes a new, full colour map, an introductory town and adventure, as well as hundreds of new illustrations!

This game’s milieux are inspired by the fantastic literature of Robert Ervin Howard, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. Game rules and conventions are informed by the original 1974 fantasy wargame and miniatures campaign rules as conceived by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.”


  • Sean and Tim talk about our Jeffs.

Random Encounter

I got a question for you guys. I have a group of new players. But I’m trying not to railroad the group. I am hoping to show them the freedom they can have in this RPG. But they’ve come on to a situation where they made a decision, which I feel could cause a TPK. How do you guide the players to not make a fubar? Without telling them they need to do something different then they are doing right now? I am not sure if I just did not explain all the possibilities well enough? Or they thought what the hell let’s go for it?

Reply to comment here

First, I think you did a great job. Better than I would have.

And of course, having said that, here come my comments…

As far as tracking which monster has how many HPs, if it’s a flurried and hurried combat, I do tend to let them be random, unless someone makes a point of focusing fire. Both ways, from the monster attacks and the party ones. In my experience, it keeps people from getting TOO bogged down, just swing and go. Also, if you feel the combat is going one way or the other, you can spread damage, or focus it instead of random, to help the flow of the game. I’m not going to fudge die rolls, but I think this can help from one side being cleanly wiped.

But I think over all you straight up nailed it. That encounter was built to suck HPs. And it did.

Reply to comment here

Do useless player characters exist?

If so, is it the player’s fault, GM’s fault, or the system’s fault?

Is it a player’s job to build a viable character for a setting? The GM’s job to communicate what classes/skills will be relevant and which will not; or modify encounters to fit the characters? The system’s job to make sure irrelevant characters can’t be built? A little bit of everything?

How often do you think players who claim their character is “useless” actually have viable characters and just aren’t playing to their strengths? Or perhaps another player has a game-breaking build and hogs the spotlight.

As a GM, I have had players mention to me that they believed their character wasn’t good for adventuring. I’ve resolved it a few ways. One player felt left out because their low perception meant they would miss things their companions caught. I told them they should visit a doctor next session and gave them glasses that would give them a boost to any checks using sight, which got them what they wanted with an in-game explanation. Another time, I had a player that built a tank of a character with high unarmed skills but felt that he couldn’t dish out enough damage because everyone else had guns (duh, of course guns hit harder than fists). For that player, I just let them re-spec their character by moving their skill points around. How would you have handled these situations? I’ll bet one of you would have just said “tough luck”.

As a player, I built two characters in Call of Cthulhu to play through Masks of Nyarlathotep and felt that both of them were pretty useless even though they were interesting characters. One was a British Pilot with a storied past and the other was a NYU Adjunct Professor. However, due to there being 70+ skills and having never played the game, by the end of the first act I felt like I misspent my points at creation on useless skills (namely science ones for the professor, like meteorology). I wish either the GM or the book had stepped in and said “Listen, unless you’re fighting the Weather God, don’t take this skill because you’ll never use it”. Should my GM have protested or is Call of Cthulhu a bad system with too many skills? Because I know it wasn’t my fault I ended up with useless characters.

Looking for input from @Fafhrd and @sean on this one.

Reply to comment here

Spook408 on the forums wants to know about rules that encourage role-play

What are the best rule mechanics to encourage role playing?

As I posted on another thread I’ve wanted to play the Genesys system to see how their narrative dice system works?
Champions had ideas like disadvantages.

Fate has Aspects

Then there are all the bennies/inspiration/Fate points sort of encouragements.

Certain settings do this with tailored rules. The Bond game had the seduction skill broken up by steps like the Look, Opening Line, etc.

That’s about all I can come up with, but there must be more right?

Die Roll

  • Astonishing Swordsman and Scorers of Hyperborea (pdf)  (book)
  • Hyperborea.TV, – official site of Astonishing Swordsman and Scorers of Hyperborea.
  • Clark Ashton Smith (amazon)

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About the Author
The 'S' of Gaming and BS podcast. Besides producing and hosting the show, Sean enjoys long walks on the beach, running rpg's, and killing player...characters.