Friday, March 6, 2015


I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but some really interesting info has recently been unearthed about the Known World which was originally published in Cook’s Expert Edition and which eventually became known as Mystara. Lawrence Schick (author of White Plume Mountain), who helped Moldvay create the Known World, has been kind enough to share with us a bunch of info about what the Known World looked like prior to publication. You can find the awesomeness here (with a big shout out to James Mishler):

One of the most fascinating things about this whole exercise is the inclusion of various non-human/demi-human races from literature not penned by J.R.R. Tolkien — Tharks and Kzinti, for example. The latter were meant to be a PC race and ended up in D&D as Rakasta and Tabaxi. The tharks, on the other hand, were just too strange and were always going to be a monster-type that attacked everybody. Well, as those who are familiar with my playing style, I like weird. Therefore, I am really interested in working on a campaign to take place within the Original Known World and for that I want to give players an opportunity to play a thark.

To that end, I need to start with Champions (of which I played 1st-3rd editions). I am a big fan of Champions because of the way it approaches the special effects of super-heroes. Rather than try to come up with rules to cover every type of ranged attack found in comic books, they reduced everything to mechanics. It was then the player’s job to describe these mechanics with special effects. For example, a 10d6 ranged attack could be ice, fire, laser, an elongated fist punch, chunks of rock, etc. If one takes the same approach with the demi-human classes found in the ACKS Players Companion, all kinds of goodness can be found there.

For example, here is how a basic dwarf is expressed mechanically in ACKS:

  • They require a minimum Con of 9
  • They cannot use TH swords or longbows
  • They cannot use arcane magic
  • They have a +1 to surprise rolls in a given situation (underground)
  • They speak four bonus languages
  • They can spot traps
  • They have bonuses to saving throws (+3 vs. Breath and +4 to everything else)
  • They are limited to a 13th level maximum

If one divorces these mechanics from the "special effect" of being a dwarf, it is possible to apply all of these mechanics to other non-human and demi-human races, thus allowing us to create PC classes for all kinds of races from whatever source material we want.

These mechanics, for example, could easily be used to describe tharks. The no TH swords and longbows could be explained as a cultural bias. Or, better yet, one could expand that limitation to all TH weapons, explaining that such a fighting style is inefficient with four arms. If you throw in the fact that wearing heavy armor also interferes with their fighting style, there are two available slots for bonuses to represent having four arms:

  • They can wear two shields, giving a total of +2 to AC.
  • They can use the two-weapon fighting style (which normally gives a +1 to hit) while wearing shields. This fighting style also gives them a +1 to damage.
  • For flavor, tharks could get a -1 reaction roll with all other races, but a +1 with other tharks.

Otherwise, they fight and save as fighters and can use any weapon that doesn’t require a TH fighting style.

Requirements: CON 9
Prime Requisite: STR
Hit Dice: 1d8
Damage Die: 1d8
Maximum Level: 13 
XP       Level
2500         2
5000         3
10000       4
20000       5
40000       6
800000     7
160000     8
270000     9
400000   10
530000   11
660000   12
790000   13

So, you want to play a thark in the Original Known World of B/X? There you go, compliments of the guys over at Autarch via the ACKS Players Companion.


JDsivraj said...

More tharky goodness. I was reading up on tharks lastnight.

paulgo said...

I love the separation of mechanics from "special effects" for the easy creation of PC races/classes. I could see using a stepped level system (that is, how much XP per level gain) based on number of mechanics for that class or race (or combo).

As an early Champions player, I appreciate where you are building this from. Great stuff!

Clovis Cithog said...

GREEN MARTIANS (G) are the hereditary enemies of the other races of the Red Planet. The most striking distinction of these equestrian barbarians is their massive size; intermediary arms. Adult males are typically 1.5 ads (or fourteen feet, p.3) in height.

Harnesses and weapons of green warriors are similar to that of red men, but firearms and lances have been adapted to accommodate their large hands. They are excellent swordsmen and uncanny marksmen. So adept are green Martians with the use of firearms, they can even pose a serious threat to enemy warships.

From birth, green Martians live a dour, loveless existence. Youth do not know their parents and are wards of their community. There is no true family structure; breeding is based upon practical necessities such as resources available and physical attributes. More established males are given charge over greater numbers of women and children.

“In one respect at least the Martians are a happy people; they have no lawyers.” (PM, IX). The green men are governed by tradition as much as the dictates of their leaders. There is no wealth in green Martian society as excess property is divided amongst the community. They seldom break command and are loyal and honest. A green warrior is allowed to gain status within his tribe by making kills amongst his superiors. Upon slaying his superior in fair combat, the warrior will inherit the weapons, ornaments, position and charges of the vanquished. This violent system of societal advancement does not encourage wholesale slaughter of leadership, because as authority to be gained increases; likewise, increases the rules and regulations that determine an appropriate trial by combat.

“The ideas of humor among the green men of Mars are widely at variance with our conception of incitements to merriment. The death agonies of a fellow being are, to these strange creatures, provocative of the wildest hilarity, while their chief form of commonest amusement is to inflict death on their prisoners of war in various ingenious and horrible ways.
(PM, IV)

Green Martians are almost entirely without fear and delight in combat. The five million (PM, VI) members of this equestrian race haunt the dead sea bottoms and ancient ruins of the Red Planet. They are organized into numerous belligerent tribes which are further subdivided into nomadic communities (each community consists of about 500 troopers, 250 women and 250 youths). Under a charismatic leader (PM, XXVI), temporary alliances are possible, but this is a volatile situation, because of the green

Archaeopteryx said...

'Thark' is a nationality, not a species.

FrDave said...

It is my intention to play with ideas presented in the notes that have been shared about the Known World before it became Mystara or was published in B/X. Moldvay & Schick, creators of the Known World called them Tharks. Therefore, I am going to call them Tharks.

Clovis Cithog said...

if you insist on 'Tharks'
then you must have

WARHOON: An exceedingly savage tribe of 20,000+ green Martians found in Barsoom’s SE hemisphere lead by an old and insolent Jeddak, Dak Kova. They decorate their torsos with the hands and skulls of their victims. Warhoons are notable for their semi annual gladiatorial games which are held in a sunken amphitheater. “They are a smaller horde than the Tharks, but much more ferocious. Not a day passed but that some members of the various Warhoon communities met in deadly combat. I have seen as high as eight mortal duels within a single day.” (PM XVIII)

There is also a somewhat larger tribe of Warhoons of the South ruled by Kab Kadja that shares an uneasy truce with their northern cousins; otherwise, “The various hordes of green men of Barsoom are eternally at deadly war with one another, and never, except on that single historic instance when the great Tars Tarkas of Thark gathered a hundred and fifty thousand green warriors from several hordes to march upon the doomed city of Zodanga to rescue Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, from the clutches of Than Kosis, had I seen green Martians of different hordes associated.” (GM II)