I haven’t had a chance to sit down and really read this, just post it. I’m in the midst of some house mini-reno’s ( fixes ? ) maybe detailing is the best word. Anyways, here it is., I’ll catch up with it at lunch 🙂 – Jeff
“With scarcely a parting glance I turned my eyes again toward Mars, lifted my hands toward his lurid rays, and waited…”
– John Carter, Gods of Mars
We were hoping to launch the John Carter of Mars Kickstarter this week but over the past days have been beset by gradually worsening technicalities in the strange indefatigable world of ‘broadband’ which has caused mayhem and consternation with work schedules and attempts to get final elements of this very important journey ready. After discussions with the Edgar Rice Burroughs Estate we have agreed it makes sense not to push ahead and instead delay until the new year dawns upon us. In fact we will launch by Tuesday 9th January at the latest. We will be running until early February so you have plenty of time to join in.
Of course it would be remiss of me not to at least come bearing some gifts for the festive season and so in this very mail I enclose tantalising morsels that I now feel able to share. First we’ll discuss the journey ahead and what you can expect from the Kickstarter, then an overview of the contents and the three era’s of play you can partake in to wet your appetite for our return to Barsoom.
John Carter of Mars – Adventures on The Dying World of Barsoom is a planetary romance tabletop role-playing game. We’ve created it in under license and with the cooperation of the estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs, author of the original Barsoom novels and with the guidance of Scott Tracy Griffin one of the leading scholars of his works to ensure utmost authenticity. Using a pulp-action inspired lite variant of Modiphius’ 2d20 system called Momentum, John Carter of Mars allows players to take the role of various adventurers and heroes as they travel, battle, and romance their way across the a wondrous and dangerous world known to its natives as Barsoom. Play as John Carter, the princess Dejah Thoris, the fearsome Thark Tars Tarkas or you can create your own new heroes from a wide variety of options.
Included in this book are:
An overview of Burrough’s Barsoom and its peoples, perfect to introduce new players to the wondrous world of John Carter of Mars.
Detailed chapters on technology, creatures, and various cultures.
A new skillless Talent focused variation of the 2d20 system, including a step by step character generation system designed to make heroes from a variety of backgrounds and concepts. Choose a wide variety of characters such as a dashing Red Martian duelist, a brilliant First Born scientist, a savage Beastmaster, a courageous airship officer, a disciplined assassin, or even Earthborn characters, so players can follow in the bounding footsteps of John Carter himself!
A detailed Narrator’s section with information on how to run genre and setting appropriate games and campaigns, including information about the great secrets of Barsoom.
Three eras of play based on the adventures of John Carter himself. Play during the early days of Dotar Sojat, adventure during the time when Carter was a Prince of Helium and in the years after when he was believed dead, or fight alongside Carter and his allies during the later Jeddak of Jeddaks era.
An introductory adventure, the Mind Merchants of Mars, to get players and Narrators started on their adventures.
“I do not believe that I am made of the stuff which constitutes heroes, because, in all of the hundreds of instances that my voluntary acts have placed me face to face with death, I cannot recall a single one where any alternative step to that I took occurred to me until many hours later.” – John Carter, Princess of Mars
Let’s introduce our heroes once again, John Carter, Dejah Thoris, Tars Tarkas and ever faithful calot Woola have been brought to life in intimate detail by the wondrous sculptors and will be cast in a high definition resin in a 32mm scale (or you might call this ‘heroic 28mm scale’). We will be showing off 3D prints of these minaitures in January during the Kickstarter and comparing them to other figures to give you an idea of how they will look. Yes Tars Tarkas and Woola really are big miniatures!
We will be unlocking numerous sets of these with titles such as Heroes of Helium, Zodangan Fighting Crew and Helium Fighting Crew, Thark Warband, or Beasts of Barsoom, and whilst they are not required to play the roleplaying game we will be creating instructions under the name ‘John Carter – Swords of Mars’ to play battles with them across the airships and ruins of Barsoom. If you’re not a fan of the roleplaying genre you will be able to just pledge for the miniatures themselves.
Here’s a peak at one of the Tharks and the White Ape – you’ll notice all our miniatures have custom resin scenic bases rather than basic plastic ones. We believe this added value really makes them stand out for you.
“As I gazed upon it I felt a spell of overpowering fascination – it was Mars, the god of war, and for me, the fighting man, it had always held the power of irresistible enchantment.”
– John Carter, A Princess of Mars
The John Carter of Mars Kickstarter is going to offer you many ways (and prices) to explore Barsoom and help us fund the stunning range of products – from a simple PDF of the core book, to the print and PDF of the book to a collectors slip case or starter set including a set of some beautiful Helium dice and an epic Gamesmaster Screen. The book is being laid out in stunning landscape format which allows us to create extra long landscape artworks bringing Barsoom to life in vivid detail. Produced in our European print house which is renowned for it’s excellent hardback binding quality we can assure you of a truly beautiful book to last the ages. The Collectors slip case is designed in portrait format so you can store your book upright if desired.
We’re also working with an artisan in Spain who will be creating a very limited edition bespoke, handmade real leather bound version of the core book for those who want the ultimate memories of Barsoom. It will feature engraved metal corners, martian red page edges, a metal closure and the icon for the Jeddak of Jeddaks impressed in to the cover in gold. Add to that an A1 (841 x 594mm) engraved and aged real leather map of Barsoom will complete a truly deluxe experience.
The Momentum system is a streamlined version of the 2d20 system used in other games such as Conan, Infinity, Mutant Chronicles and Star Trek Adventures. It focuses entirely on the abilities of the characters you play by allowing characters to build talents out of whole cloth and eschewing granular details that just aren’t important in describing the ultra-competent characters of Barsoom.
Characters in Momentum are described by 6 attributes that combine to form the Target numbers of all tests. There are no skills. If you’re a talented scientist then you will have a Talent that describes how you use science. It might be that you make discoveries after hours of painstaking research or perhaps your best leaps of intuition only happen when under fire, however you relate to the activity is custom described for your character.
The Momentum system cuts down on the descriptive terms such as status effects and weapon qualities. Once you understand how to do a skill test and have chosen how you want talents to describe your character you’re ready to go and there’s an entire chapter of example talents for you to choose, reword, combine and ignore as you see fit.
Here is an excerpt from the book which describes the three era’s of play in John Carter of Mars. We’ll be styling the Kickstarter somewhat after this, our launch will be under the theme of Dotar Sojat where we unlock our main goal and the first fruits of our success, then as we progress through January we’ll reach the era of the Prince of Helium and you can expect some special unlocks and news, then finally as we race for the finish the Jeddak of Jeddaks era will see us through to the end with some exciting final developments!
ERAS of Play
The races of Barsoom live for centuries and lead lives that require them to focus on the present instead of dwelling on past events or future possibilities. Months or even years may pass between significant events, during which time things do not change much. This is illustrated in Burroughs’ work, as Carter and other characters often spend long periods of time between events detailed in the novels. Even during some stories weeks, months, or even a year or more will be done away with in a few lines of text, with time passing in leaps and bounds before returning to some crisis or significant action. In a John Carter of Mars campaign, similarly long periods of time may pass and it is of limited utility to adhere to a strict timeline. It will often be important to know the general political landscape and where things lie in relation to certain events, but exact time-keeping and strict timelines are less vital than in some settings.
Despite this, there are significant periods, events, and developments in the Barsoom novels. Most of these revolve around the actions of John Carter and his allies. Depending on exactly when a campaign, adventure, or game session is set, certain kingdoms may be rising or falling. Certain figures may be alive, dead (or believed so), unborn, or even off planet. Certain races, customs, and beliefs are very different based on which general era of Carter’s time on Barsoom the action is set.
John Carter of Mars addresses these temporal changes not with a strict timeline, but with three distinct eras of play. These eras are named for Carter himself and relate to various events in the Barsoom novels. These eras are:
Named for Carter’s name among the Tharks, this era begins around the time John Carter arrives on Barsoom at the beginning of A Princess of Mars and covers the majority of the first book, when he lives with the Tharks, meets Dejah Thoris, and has his earliest adventures on Mars.
During this period, many nations of Barsoom are in constant conflict even while the various races are in frequent conflict. Helium, Zodanga, and other Red Martian Kingdoms are regularly in conflict with each other as are the Green Martians and Red Martians. The First Born and Okar are mostly unknown save for the occasional raid or covert action, and those who know of them believe the First Born “Black Pirates” come from the Martian moons. Belief in the Barsoomian afterlife, the Valley Dor, and the River Iss are nigh-universal, with only the First Born and Holy Therns knowing these tales are manufactured to manipulate and misdirect.
During this time John Carter is relatively unknown outside a handful of groups such as the Tharks and their soon-to-be Jeddak, Tars Tarkas. The Earthborn hero has had little impact on Barsoomian culture or traditions at this time. Because Carter is mostly a stranger during this time, most of what holds true for this era also applies for some time before Carter’s arrival. Thus, while this era begins technically in 1866 with Carter’s arrival on Barsoom and lasts only about a year, events and information relevant to this period can be used for games set before this time as well.
Prince of Helium
This period covers a large time period in the first three Barsoom novels, A Princess of Mars, Gods of Mars, and Warlord of Mars. During this period Carter marries Dejah Thoris and becomes a Prince of Helium. Dejah lays the egg that will eventually become Cathoris, the couple’s first child. For about nine Earth years Carter has mostly undocumented adventures and experiences, during which time Helium rises to prominence and the Thark horde and other neighboring nations develop good relations with Carter’s adopted nation. At the end of this period of prosperity the atmosphere factory that supplies much of Barsoom’s breathable air malfunctions and is restarted by Carter in an act that leaves him stranded back on Earth with the world of Barsoom believing him dead.
For ten more Earth years, Carter seeks to return to his beloved wife and adopted world. During this time, his son grows to manhood and then disappears into the Valley Dor. Dejah Thoris grieves for Carter’s loss for years until she too disappears. Eventually, the Thark Jeddak Tars Tarkas journeys to the Valley Dor in time to meet Carter, who finally “dies” on Earth only to return to Barsoom. During these adventures, chronicled in Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars, Carter discovers and defeats both the Holy Therns and the First Born false goddess Issus, the main forces behind belief in a Barsoomian afterlife which in truth leads those who follow it to slavery and death. Shortly thereafter, Carter defeats the Okar Jeddak Salensus Oll and creates a great alliance of leaders of various kingdoms and races.
This era is rife for adventure and conflict, with Carter either occupied with the affairs of Helium and his family or lost and believed dead. His son Cathoris is a promising young Prince, but he quickly disappears himself. Player heroes during this time can carve out their own legends and even raise their own kingdoms without having to worry about how Carter and his fellows feel about their actions. Campaigns set early in this era may also see characters becoming early allies or followers of Carter, a valuable position as the hero becomes more well known.
During this time Carter is either a relatively well-known living figure in the regions around Helium or a great hero believed to have died saving Barsoom. The Green Martians, particularly the Tharks, are beginning to understand the value of kindness and friendship, but tension between various races and kingdoms still run high in most places. This period covers about twenty years Earth time, from 1867 to 1888. The beliefs of the Barsoomian afterlife, the Valley Dor, and the River Iss are still nigh-universal until the very end of this period, when the lies behind them are revealed and the truth begins to spread.
Jeddak of Jeddaks
This period covers the later novels in the Barsoom series, when Carter is well-established as the great unifying warlord of Mars whose allies include various kingdoms and groups of Red Martians, Green Martians, Okar, and First Born. During this time, new heroes such as Ulysses Paxton appear, and younger heroes such as Carthoris and Thuvia of Ptarth have their own grand adventures.
During this era, much of the conflict and adventure involves remote locales, hidden threats, forbidden science, and other dangers which threaten the general peace and prosperity of Helium and its many allies. Active wars are less common than smaller conflicts, but only constant vigilance and regular heroism keeps the fragile peace. The old beliefs and rivalries that once limited Barsoom are largely gone or on the decline, leaving a bright future that must be nurtured and protected.
This era is the default “modern day” for John Carter of Mars. It begins in the late 1880s by Earth’s Calendar, but extends well beyond, covering the days or World War I and later. During this time, Carter is a great hero, famous across Barsoom. His allies, children, and followers are themselves great champions and famous luminaries. This means this era can be a bit daunting for players seeking to carve out major roles and grand reputations for their own heroes, but this is balanced by the ability to interact with the characters of the Barsoom novels and the possibility of John Carter campaigns set in this time ushering in a grand new era defined by the players and their characters’ adventures.
Selecting an Era of play is one of the most important parts of creating a John Carter of Mars campaign. Advice and guidance is given later in the book to help Narrators with this task. For now, know that the Eras help divide the setting into three general but distinct time periods that determine which setting elements and characters are available for players and Narrators to interact with.
Whenever history, events, or other elements of the setting are specific to a certain Era, they will be marked with an icon corresponding to the Era where these things are relevant. For example, if an important character was only active during the Jeddak of Jeddaks era, their character description will note this. +++
I hope you enjoyed this brief foray in to the world of John Carter of Mars, ever since I first discovered the worn old novels in my grandfather’s book store I have yearned to discover more about Barsoom and those wondrous characters. We have much to unveil as we start our long journey and thank you for your continued patience.
See you in January – be ready, for the dying world of Barsoom does indeed need our help!
Chris Birch, Modiphius Entertainment
“The men of Helium have prided themselves that they have ever shown Barsoom how a nation of red men should live, now is our opportunity to show them how they should die. Let us go about our duties as though a thousand useful years still lay before us..” – Tardos Mors, A Princess of Mars
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Modiphius Entertainment is a UK-based publisher of games, novels and adventure from classic titles like Achtung! Cthulhu and Mutant Chronicles, to new roleplaying games like Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of and Star Trek Adventure. For more information please visit Modiphius.com and you can catch the very latest news on Modiphius’ Facebook page and Twitter feed.
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