Sword and Sorcery (Low-Magic/Low-Fantasy Campaign Settings) | New Resource for Fifth Edition

Long before gleaming suits of armor, everyday magic, and the worlds where anything is possible, there was classic fantasy or Sword & Sorcery. Conan the Barbarian, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, and to an extent, Game of Thrones all exemplify these environments. Steeped a little further into medieval history than high-fantasy counterparts, Sword & Sorcery saw a lot less magic. Those who wield magic usually symbolized decadence and corruption; more often than not, wizards, warlocks, and sorcerers were the villains in these settings. And heroes were closer to anti-heroes, often motivated by greed and self-interest than altruistic virtue.

The adventure path that takes place in BroadSword Magazine, The Secret of Forsaken Peak, is set in a Sword & Sorcery world. You’re free to play Forsaken Peak any way that you like. However, if you’d like to stay “true” to the classic feel of Sword & Sorcery, I recommend making the following changes:

Races

Humans dominate Sword & Sorcery settings. There are other races–sometimes referred to as “demihumans”–but these races tend to be the classic races such as elf, dwarf, and halfling. Tieflings, gnomes, dragonborn are unlikely options; even if they were a part of the campaign, their appearance would certainly cause fear and prejudice. Regardless, non-human races are rare in Sword & Sorcery, and often, the cultures are quite divided with very little intermingling.

Classes

Rogues, fighters, and barbarians are the most common classes in Sword & Sorcery settings. Rangers and druids may be present but are mysterious loners and uncommon. Clerics and paladins might exist, but the gods are strange, petty, and distant, and this is reflected in their cult-like practices. Bards share more in common with rogues than they do spellcasters and rarely have magic powers. Finally, while the spellcasting classes exist in Sword & Sorcery, not only are they rare, but they are feared and sometimes openly persecuted.

Magic and Magic Items

Spells are incredibly dangerous and frightening. Consider using the optional Horror Checks rule when introducing these. And magic items are nowhere near as common as they are in other settings. Something as simple as a +1 longsword could set off a war between two nations, or act as a major quest item.

Monsters and Other Dangers

The most common threats are humanoid villains, traps, and natural hazards. Oversized animals such as snakes, bears, and lions also work. And when monsters do appear, they are big, dangerous, and capable of easily defeating even the most prepared adventurers.


Next: The Secret of Forsaken Peak – The Castle of Chaos

Art by Boris Vallejo

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.