Friday, January 15, 2010

The Thurian Age Part I - An Introduction to My Take On It

Robert E. Howard is one of my favourite authors, from his well-known Conan to one-off adventure and horror stories ("Pigeons From Hell" is one of the creepiest stories I've ever read). I haven't read many of his western or oriental stories, or any of his boxing stories, I'm kind of saving those to work through at a leisurely pace. It's like Marx Brothers movies - as great as each one is to see new, it also means one less that will be new to see, and eventually you reach the end of the line and there ain't no more.

Anyway, my favourite Howard character is Kull. Solomon Kane follows closely behind, but that's another topic for another day. As mentioned, I plan to do some gaming in Kull's Thurian Age, mainly in miniature now, but I had originally started together putting together notes for RPG'ing the Thurian Age.

The background material I've compiled is running at almost 50 pages to date, and I'll post bits and pieces of interest here. I want to be clear though that this is my expansion on the Thurian Age, not a scholarly examination of the works meant to be taken as gospel. To game in this age I've needed to know information never remotely covered in the canon, so I've extrapolated as needed and as best fits my feeling for the age.

My primary sources are the stories themselves, but where I agree with them I've incorporated ideas from Dale Rippke's "Hyborian Heresies" book, some of the chat on the Conan forums (we seem to agree that the ecology was probably more ice age-like), and the finished texts from the Lancer edition of "King Kull". I recently acquired the first volume of the reprinted 1970's Kull comics, and while a lot of it is kind of 70's goofy, there are some ideas I will use, but my early readings suggest not much. I do like how they conceived the walls of the City of Wonder though.

One of my first divergences from common thought is Kull's appearance. I've never really liked him as a near-clone of Conan, and he gets a bit Prince Valiant-ish in the comics (never mind the Speedos he's wearing). As a king, I picture him in his late 30's, early 40's, pretty grizzled, maybe a bit Kirk Douglas-ish (but with those iron-thews Kull and Conan shared). He certainly doesn't have long hair, which just seems impractical.

Since I can't draw for love nor money, I found this online superhero/rpg character creator called Hero Machine 2.5, which lets us bad drawers at least do a rough impression of a character. So I pieced this together for King Kull:
Not perfect, but it fits my general idea of him. He's geared up for battle here, and skipped the scarlet and purple robes, the silver cloaks, and his crown of red-gold. He has kept his pirate earring though.

Oh, and on the subject of tigers...although I've pictured a typical modern Asian tiger here, albeit in odd colours, to me the real tigers of Atlantis were saber-toothed tigers. More on that when I do a piece on the fauna of Thuria.

So onto my mapping project...

I liked the 1970's map by Tim Kirk, even though parts were wrong (lots of discussion on the Conan forums about Thurian Age maps, for those interested). The "Hyborian Heresies" also give a good overview of where the major continents and places are in the world. So working from those basics, I've used a simple hexmapping program to start making my own game-ready maps of the Thurian Age. The Kirk map was my original basis, I gridded it up and re-drew it in the software as best can be done with hexes, and then I started moving to new territories adjacent to the original map.

So here's my map of the main Thurian continent, showing the Seven Empires (including individual baronies of Valusia). Each hex is 36 miles across, 30 miles up-down. Clicking on the map will bring up a much better view.

Directly to the east lies more of the...Eastern Empires, as well as Khari and Lemuria:

Couple of comments for anyone who studies these in detail:

  • If you're fitting these together, there's a one hex column overlap between the two maps;
  • The red lines are national or provincial (in Valusia only) borders, however, some borders are defined by rivers, so if a red border suddenly ends, assume the river continues it;
  • The Eastern Empires are actually three empires of nine nations total (3, 1, and 5);
  • Lacking a better/cooler name, I like Dale Rippke's idea that Acheron could well have been the name of the land of the Giant-Kings.

I've gotten most of the map of the lands immediately south of the Seven Empires done, including Kaa-U and the rest of (old) Acheron.

More on the nations and armies of the Thurian Age in future posts.

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