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AS&SH 2E Ready Reference Sheets
by Steven S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/06/2018 22:49:27

This review is hard to write for me, I enjoy the AS&SH system to death and have been eagerly awaiting the official reference sheets for some time. But I am let down, first some caveats I have had an unofficial ref sheet for sometime that has almost every table this pdf does in only 4 pages and I am using that as a comparison. There are 16 pages in this reference doc and a hyperlinked table of contents, most pages have either one big table or one to three tables on each page, each page is interspersed with art from the book or new art. My problems are simple If I am using these sheets on a tablet or computer it's a solid 4 stars its hyperlinked and quick to find. My problem is that I am not using online I had planned to print it out and 16 pages? Seriously it's cumbersome to carry and use at the table. Jeff dedicates a page and a half to the time of day the sunsets, I've been trying to rack my brain and think how useful this could possibly be even the most serious old school time keeping this is some serious bloat. If you only plan to use it online or on a tablet/pc grab it but if you plan to print this for the table I recommend elsewhere.

tldr: 4 stars pdf tablet or pc use 1 star print 2 star total

[2 of 5 Stars!]
AS&SH 2E Ready Reference Sheets
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Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by TIMOTHY D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/23/2018 22:13:07

I adore this game. It does something that other retroclones don't, which is to refer back to some of the fiction which inspired D&D instead of just referencing some earlier edition. If you long for an old school game, but want better editing, tighter rules, and an evocative sword and sorcery setting, AS&SH is for you.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
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Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by Scott S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/13/2018 18:30:11


I am a huge fan of the game Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea (ASSH). I had liked the game before, but put it on the shelf for a bit right when I started going back to school again. I figured that GURPS is a game for engineers, and why shouldn’t I be playing a game for engineers? In that brief time I became reacquainted with the GURPS Vorkosigan Saga, and even started reading the Vorkosigan books. The best of the GURPS books will always inspire you to take a look through the source material. I tried to start a campaign using their superlative GURPS Discworld rules, but decided to wait for Dungeon Fantasy…and I waited…and I waited.

It’s probably a good thing that I waited for that boxed set to release. Calculus was definitely getting harder, and Chemistry was becoming more and more of a bear. The time commitments for both developing a campaign using GURPS, and reacquainting myself with GURPS, were not going to be there. I won’t even go into how surreal time management gets when my reserve drill commitments come into play.

In that time of waiting, the kickstarter for Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea paid off! The books arrived! I had forgotten that I had ordered two of them and was gobsmacked when they arrived! Now, I thought that a second edition of this game was completely unnecessary. The original was contained in two coil bound books, with the most evocative art I had seen in an OSR book. These books were digest sized, but the newer books were not. This book took everything about the original and turned it up to eleven! I was wrong. The presentation, and the minor corrections were more than worth the kickstarter. This single book took all of my GURPS books off the shelf. It is that good! The art design. The homage to the works of Robert E. Howard, Moorcock, Clark Ashton Smith, and Lovecraft are brilliant! This is the game that I have always wanted to play. It sits on my shelf, with its own line of adventures and Barrowmaze. This is my favorite game and book ever!

However, there are two other products that I would like to write about today. I’m somewhat reluctant to, given the vociferous reputations of both of the authors, but each of these works is superlative in their own way. I’ve been struggling, wanting to write this piece for months because these other two books are just that good, Zak Sabbath’s Maze of the Blue Medusa and RPGPundit’s Lion & Dragon.

I already have a favorite game, and I have neither the time nor the money to invest in further games. At this point, I hope to earn enough as an engineer to pay off my student loans and keep my wife from having to become a hooker. I was reading, when I came across a best of list. Maze of the Blue Medusa was listed as the best of the best. My opinion differs from the blog author’s in many ways. For instance, I enjoy the ASSH adventures, while he seems to hate them. But I had been looking at this product for a while, and with this recommendation I decided to purchase it. Lion & Dragon has just been released, and while it looked interesting, I couldn’t afford it. However, given the apparent snowflake reaction to pundit and the various shenanigans that rpgnow and onebookshelf seemed to engage in to drive his sales down, required something more than words from me. I purchased the book. I do not care for bullying.

So what are my thoughts?

Zak Sabbath has been pushing the envelope graphically ever since Vornheim was released. A Red & Pleasant Land pushed these boundaries even further. Maze of the Blue Medusa is his finest work so far. Graphically, I wonder if he is pushing the limits of what can be placed into a book. Now I say this, not having a physical copy of the book. My feeling is that just as much care went into the making of the book as the pdf. As much as I love my copy of ASSH, my feeling is that I would love Maze just as well. These products catch the eye, spark the imagination, and aren’t just a window into the mind of an author but enable any dungeon master to follow them and run the same kind of campaign just as effectively.

As an admission, I am not Zak’s audience. I have no desire to run an Alice in Wonderland type game. My stuff is much more mundane and much less gonzo. I prefer Greg Gillespie’s Barrowmaze, primarily because I like tons of undead running about. Barrowmaze is the ultimate in what I feel would be a standard dungeon. It’s only flaw might be in that it is not organized as a series of levels, but is one huge level. I understand this dungeon and could easily run it. Most megadungeons have trouble with their organization. The Dungeon of the Mad Archmage never grabbed me. The organizational aids for Dwimmermount, took a huge book and made it even more intimidating. Everything would be changing all of the time, renedering the original book moot at some point. Stonehell is interesting, if a bit staid. Maze of the Blue Medusa is something else altogether. It is a complete package of a wild and gonzo dungeon that anyone can run.

Zak and Patrick Stuart have taken this conceit and created a dungeon with deadly encounters, moral quandaries, allies, enemies, consequences for decisions, and they have organized it so flawlessly that anyone could run it. They have created a dungeon that any party can encounter. If you are low level, you can survive, if you keep your wits about you. Choice matters here.

I have never encountered any product that is organized as robustly as this one! If you only have the money to buy one OSR dungeon get this one! Even if you don’t want to run a gonzo dungeon, the hand holding and organization here will help you with your home game. This isn’t some guy bragging about their home campaign with a product so huge that you won’t know where to start. It is bigger than itself! Read it! Be sparked! And run something!

Lion & Dragon is much more down to earth. This is what Pundit’s Dark Albion should have been. By that, I mean that these are the rules that should have been in the book. No system notes from the campaign, no conversion notes from Fantastic Heroes and Witchery. These were good things, but they pale in comparison to the rules in this slim book. This is a medieval authentic OSR rules set. One that is true to the material, and that does a wonderful job of preserving player agency. For example, at each level you can either roll twice for your level benefit, or you can choose once from the table. Which will it be? The choice is the player’s.

Where Zak hits you, like that first time I saw the Warhammer 40k Rogue Trader preview in White Dwarf magazine, with a tightly packaged surprise of something that you never thought you would be able to run on your own, Pundit gives you an overflowing box of ideas that just keep leaking all over the place. Dark Albion has multiple small dungeons that you can place anywhere in your home campaign. They fit into the Dark Albion campaign very well, but they are almost modular in that they can be dropped into your campaign almost at will. His scenario The Child Eaters is one of the simplest and nastiest scenarios I have come across. This isn’t some fake cosmic horror, but down to earth terror that explains just why Dark Albion’s society is the way that it is. Cults of Chaos is designed for Dark Albion, but can put chaos as a horror front and center in your campaign in ways that Games Workshop hasn’t done in years! This is great stuff!

If I have twenty, then I’m getting ASSH. That game will not disappoint you. If I have ten for an adventure, then I’d get Blue Medusa. It may not have exactly what you want, but it can show you the way to get there. Afterwards, if I had some more money, I’d pick up Dark Albion. It’s not gonna exactly fit into my ASSH campaign, but it has enough adventure bits in there to more than make it worth my while. Most especially, it provides the background for Cults of Chaos which will fit into ASSH.

Talanian bears watching because of the overall excellence of the entire package in ASSH. Zak bears watching because his envelope pushing is going to go beyond the printed page at some point. My guess, is that he will come up with something that is going to redefine what can be done with a pdf in the near future. If I had the money, I would pick up whatever he had to offer in print. Those will be utterly fantastic books. Pundit…I would like to see him strike off on his own and form his own company. His products have always been playtested to death, but graphically the execution hasn’t always been there. Arrows of Indra was a brilliant OSR imagining of ancient India, but the art and design just wasn’t there. Dark Albion and Lion & Dragon are dramatically better. The maps alone are just amazing!

As a caveat, I have run ASSH. I have not had a chance to run either Blue Medusa or Lion & Dragon, so I would advise you to take my words with a grain of salt. All three of these products come with my highest recommendation. They will serve to take you places that you never imagined going. All of them will spark your imagination, and have been skillfully designed for ease of play at your table.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by Zach P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/20/2017 13:19:57

Crawling for Coppers

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is a game by Jeff Talanian of North Wind Adventures. "A Role Playing Game of Swords, Sorcery, and Weird Fantasy", AS&SH is a retroclone somewhat resembling 1e but with significant changes, and including the built in setting of Hyperborea, which is heavily influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and many other great authors of weird fiction. I've been running the game for my group for a handful of sessions now and decided to write up a review with my thoughts so far. This is fairly long, as necessary for a book this size, looking at the Kickstarter fulfillment and then each section of the book, so if you want the quick version: I love it, 5/5, etc.

The Kickstarter The second edition of AS&SH was funded through a Kickstarter in October 2016, with fulfillment scheduled for August 2017. I backed the Kickstarter at the pdf level initially, but upgraded to the physical book once I'd gotten the chance to play a game at NTRPG con last June. The completed pdfs were sent to backers in September, with physical rewards going out at the beginning of October, and fulfillment completing early December. Jeff hand numbered and signed each of the books that went out. In the world of Kickstarters, completing 100% of fulfillment within a few months of projected delivery is a huge win. I also have to praise Jeff for his communication throughout the process. His updates were timely and he seemed to track everything very well. He allowed me to upgrade my pledge after the initial backer kits had gone out, and I moved just prior to shipment, and there was no issue getting the book to me. Also, the book arrived very safely bubble wrapped. Plenty of folks have been sharing their pictures on the AS&SH G+ community, and the quality of the shipment has been consistently praised.

I had no prior experience with AS&SH, but the first edition was a box set with 2 spiral bound books about 250 pages each (players' and referees') and a black and white poster map. The second edition is a single massive 692 page book, divided into 5 volumes, and including a huge 32"x40" full color map by Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design. The map is gorgeous. I believe it was hand drawn with colored pencils. The physical book uses Smyth sewn binding, which allows it to lie flat and is very durable. The cover has a sort of matte texture that looks and feels great.

So, high marks for the Kickstarter and the quality of the physical products. The book is available for order now for $69.99. It's one of the more expensive books in the RPG world, but it is an all-in-one book - players guide, magic, referee stuff, monsters, setting overview, and a collection of handy appendices. The pdf can be picked up for only $19, which is a huge amount of content for the price.

Volume I: Swordsmen & Sorcerers The players' section starts off with the customary introduction to role-playing games and using dice. It only spends a single page on this before jumping into character creation. The standard array of attributes are here: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Attribute modifiers range from -3 to +3 at most. The physical attributes include Tests and Extraordinary Feats which can be used to quickly resolve most physical activities. A Test is a fairly reasonable activity, such as forcing open a locked door, snag a grappling hook on a ledge, or swim long distances. These are rolled on a d6 and have a 1 in 6 at worst, 5 in 6 at best chance. Extraordinary Feats are heroic actions with a much lower probability. These are d100 checks that have only a 4% chance for the average man, and at best (an 18 Strength Fighter, for example), a 40%. Extraordinary Feats provide an easy task resolution mechanic when players want to attempt something truly heroic and/or outlandish.

The selection of character classes available is an area in which AS&SH really shines. In a recent interview, Jeff Talanian discussed developing the system and it sounded like it was through creating new character classes that he really decided this needed to be its own thing, rather than being bolted onto an existing game. This certainly makes sense when looking at the classes, as all 26 of the available classes are wonderfully written to evoke the swords & sorcery feel of Hyperborea. Each class has its own progression table, attribute and alignment requirements, armor and weapon options and saving throw bonuses, and a smattering of abilities both at start and gained overtime. They all also have 9th level end game options geared towards domain play, such building strongholds and attracting troops and collecting taxes, or the druid's need to challenge elders in the hierarchy to progress further, or witch attracting apprentices which might form a coven. Ian Baggley's class illustrations especially give life to this section, with my favorite Druid example ever. Yeah, shirtless, bearded, antlered, spear raised overhead and riding a boar. No nature hippies here, folks.

While there is no multi-classing in AS&SH, the classes really cover the gamut of options most players will look for, and do so with style. The Barbarian, Berserker, and Huntsman are all familiar fighter archetypes that show up here, but each one has unique abilities that make them feel very distinct from each other and entirely at home in Hyperborea's cruel wilderness. Among the Magician subclasses, the Witch stands out as a favorite, complimented with alchemy skills starting at level 1, and yes, they do eventually get a flying broom. AS&SH also provides the best take on the Cleric I've ever seen with the Runegraver subclass. This more combat oriented class carves runes on bone, wood, or stone which can cast spells when the Runegraver spills his own blood onto them and speaks a short poem. Each of the runes available has its own symbol, name, and a poem sourced from Runic and Heroic Poems of the Old Teutonic People, Cambridge. That's gotta be one of my favorite things I've ever seen in an RPG.

Moving into Races, AS&SH jettisons all demihumans in favor of 11 distinct human races, from Amazons to Vikings. They all have a bit of history and culture described, as well as their own physique modifiers, languages (complete with varying dialects), and homelands. There is a common race and common tongue, both of which I've ignored in my campaign to good effect. My players are a mixed group - Amazon, Kelt, Kimmerian, and Viking, but there is plenty of room for racial animosity with the Picts, Ixians, and Esquimaux, and the Hyperboreans and Atlanteans feel completely alien, despite being human.

Volume I finished up with equipage, and here AS&SH is very comprehensive as well. Armor uses descending AC but also as slight damage reduction for the better armors (1-2 points at most). The weapon tables are quite large but the variety is not only cosmetic, as the weapons give a wide variety of advantages to consider, such as bonuses vs plate armor, greater reach, and damage bonuses when set against charges. If your players tire of weapon choice being largely irrelevant - or worse, one clear winner - this section should excite them. The equipage continues with standard adventuring gear, religious items (my favorite item being the crock of woad body paint), livestock, and room and board. having a good selection of stuff for the players to want to buy helps incentivize adventuring. Straight away the Ranger of our group set his sights on getting a couple war dogs in barding and saved up from his first two adventures to buy those. If the equipage selection seems overwhelming, the section ends with a standard equipment back for each of the 26 classes, so character creation needn't get bogged down in the minutiae of provisioning.

All in all, Volume I covers most everything the players need to get started. As much as I like the large AS&SH book, I'd love to see a soft cover printing of just volume I to pass around the table to players.

Volume II: Sorcery This section discusses all matters pertaining to the learning and casting of magic. Magic in AS&SH is of the standard Vancian style we all grew up with. While I've heard some people express disappointment that AS&SH didn't do something significantly different to evoke a more swords & sorcery vibe, my favorite Rambling Conan the Cimmerian Blog wrote an interesting review on AS&SH in regards to how well it runs a Conan RPG, and the section on Sorcery makes a very good argument for the magic system being a perfect fit. For me, I never had an issue with the magic system to begin with. One thing AS&SH does very well regarding sorcery is in providing examples of where its spellcasters gain their arcane knowledge from. The Necromancer gains favor from daemons and netherworldly beings, the Druid learns spiritual revelations from ancestral spirits, the Priest puts together abstract theologies, while the Shaman learns secrets from spirits of the dead and etched on ancient stone tablets. It's up to the referee to incorporate these suggestions into the game, but if done so, it takes the feel of sorcery in AS&SH a long ways from the wizard academies of high fantasy.

The other way AS&SH imparts its flavor on sorcery is through its carefully selected spell lists. There are 6 spell lists for the Magician and its subclasses, as well as a Cleric and Druid spell list. Keep in mind that the Runegraver has its own spells defined by its runes, and the Shaman chooses between Magician or Necromancer, and Cleric or Druid, when deciding which spell lists to cast from. So while you'll see many familiar, standard spells on the lists, the selection available to each class further refines the class distinctions. Witches don't throw around Magic Missiles and Fireballs, they cast Blight and Summon Daemon. Aside from the odd utility spell essentially required to be considered a wizard, every spell available to the Pyromancer involves lights, flames, and smoke. There is nothing subtle about that sorcerer.

Spell descriptions are fairly succinct, listing the level (by class), range, duration, and a brief description of the effects. I am not nearly the scholar necessary to say which spells have appeared in what other sources and which are new to AS&SH. I will say I recognize more than I don't, but there are some surprises in here for me. The Danse Macabre is a fun low level undead animation spell that I've just granted to my group's Necromancer. Black Tentacles I got to see in play at NTRPG and it positively wrecked a group of enemies. I'm not sure the total count of spells, but this section covers 70 pages and seems pretty complete to me.

Volume III: Adventure & Combat Here begins the referee's section of the tome and will likely be the hardest section to fully digest and the one filled with the most surprises. Comprehensive is a word I keep using to describe AS&SH and this section is why. This book begins with rules for hirelings and henchmen, including commoners, mercenaries, and specialists. This includes descriptions, costs, and rules for reactions, loyalty, and morale. There is a great little section on adventure preparation, from setting an itinerary and marching order to establishing caller and mapper. I'd have liked this section to be included at the end of Volume I to be player facing instead, but I appreciate its inclusion nonetheless.

Rules for all the various adventuring activities are laid out. Climbing, light sources, dealing with traps, encumbrance, time, movement in the dungeon and the wilderness, surprise, reaction checks, death and healing, all are covered in about 8 pages. It's efficient and easy to understand.

The rules for combat might take a little longer to understand, especially for newer gamers. As I said, this game uses descending AC. I started out on 2e and pretty freely mixed with 1e and Moldvay Basic in my youth, so I don't mind descending at all, but for my group of players, this is a first. There is a combat matrix in which the referee cross-references the character's fighting ability or the monster's hit dice with the roll to determine the armor class hit. In play, I keep this matrix up all the time and my players do not even check it. I've come to actually like this, as it puts a little bit of a barrier to the players' knowledge of what their opponent AC and hit dice is. It's nothing they can't work out in their heads, but they seem to largely ignore it and focus more on what's happening in the combat rather than what the numbers are, so I consider that a very positive effect of the system.

Initiative may also seem confusing at first. The game uses group initiative (rolled after declaring actions) and a two phase combat sequence. The tables in the book make this seem much more confusing than it is in play. What I've found is that this runs very fast and creates a very flexible, fluid combat round. I keep a sheet ready with participants and 2 columns representing the phase, and as they declare their actions just make a quick notation on each phase. Something like Sh|Sh for a character just firing a bow both rounds, or MV|ML for someone moving in phase 1 and attacking in phase 2. The advantage of this system is that it's extremely flexible for the players. No matter what my players have wanted to try it has been simple to adjudicate when it happens. Simpler systems often restrict players to such singular actions that their turn can feel wasted when having to navigate over terrain or use equipment, while more complex systems get bogged down in each person having such an array of actions for each round that players tend to check out in between their turns. This system really does a good job of allowing complexity but keeping everyone engaged.

Adding to the complexity of the system is a very good list of combat actions. In addition to the expected modifiers for flanking, charging, high ground, etc, AS&SH has rules for interesting stuff like arrow setting (taking a round to stab arrows into the ground increases the archer's firing rate as long as he stays stationary at his arrows), using an off-hand weapon for parrying, splintering shields with axes, and throwing an off-hand weapon ahead while charging into combat. None of the rules are complicated or require a lot of look-ups, but they give the players a lot of fun options in combat if they care for that sort of thing.

Volume II continues with rules for special damage like asphyxiation and energy drain, bouts of madness, and a table of poisons. There is advice for rewarding experience points and the cost of leveling up with and without training with a master. And then the book gets into aerial combat, waterborne expeditions (this includes a table of vessels to choose from, hazards of storms and icebergs, getting lost at sea and drowning, and naval combat), and finally gets into the domain level play missing from so many systems. There are rules for the construction and maintenance of strongholds, managing resources and taxes, and mass-scale warfare. I've never had a game run into domain play but I certainly hope my current campaign will last long enough to and I'm glad to see this game provides rules for covering that portion of play.

Volume IV: Bestiary What would an RPG be without a folio of fiends to challenge would-be heroes with? AS&SH's Bestiary includes a large variety of monsters culled from classic monster manuals, Lovecraftian Mythos, and Old Earth mythology. Monster stats are presented in concise listings with the bulk of the description given to any special abilities. Each monster has morale and treasure class listed, which is always appreciated. Illustrations are fairly frequent and range from extremely evocative to merely utilitarian.

One of the best sections is the assortment of Daemons in the book. With 7 Greater, 15 Lesser, and 6 Sublunary, ranging in hit dice from 1 to 15, there is no reason that the infernally-minded referee couldn't make daemons a ready feature of a campaign early and often. Given how many swords & sorcery tales involve encounters with daemons and their ilk, it's good to see so many options to choose from here.

Likewise, there are plenty of weird Lovecraftian horrors to choose from. Elder things, deep ones, mi-go, and shoggoths are all here. You won't find any goblins, and orcs have been reflavored as daemon-picts, appropriate for a Kimmerian barbarian to face off against. There are no dragons here. A giant draco lizard can glide on wings, while the giant komodo dragon breathes fire, but neither comes close to the super-intelligent, magical, near-deity creatures of high fantasy. There are a couple surprising inclusions, such as the owl bear and treants, that feel out of place.

The volume concludes with tables listing all of the monsters by hit dice. There are no encounter tables by dungeon level or terrain type here. Fortunately, a fan made supplement of encounter tables is available here which is quite comprehensive, including tables for every region of the map and every terrain type.

While the Bestiary is generally very good, this is the one volume in which the single massive book does not work in its favor. One of my favorite books I own is the Swords & Wizardry Monstrosities, which is about 500 pages and gives every monster entry its own page including stat block, illustration, description, and adventure hook. Something similar for AS&SH would be fantastic, particularly tying each monster to a piece of source fiction if possible. However, this book is already 692 pages, so complaining that it isn't long enough just seems ridiculous.

Volume V: Treasure While referees are motivated by having a wide assortment of devils to throw at the players, the players are most motivated by the treasures they can gain. AS&SH delivers the goods. The treasure class tables allows randomly rolling up treasure for every monster slain, every lair plundered. There are tables for generating a nice variety of gems and jewelry to keep the mundane treasures interesting. The magical treasures include all the scrolls, potions, armor, and weapons your players could ever dream of hording. While there are plenty of old standards, it spices things up with some weird technology if you like mixing those elements. This is completely optional to include but does support the more alien aspects of the setting.

This volume is 67 pages and includes everything I'd want in a treasure listing. I'm always in favor of creating new, weird, unexpected magic items, but this gives plenty to work with. The chapter is not to be skimmed too quickly though, or you'll miss Ian Baggley's homage to the classic Paladin in Hell.

Volume VI: Hyperborea Gazetteer With everything in AS&SH oozing this fantastic weird swords & sorcery feel, this book would be terribly incomplete without an overview of Hyperborea. This volume presents a world torn away from Old Earth by some long forgotten cataclysm. This flat shard now floats the the black void under a bloated red sun, spilling its seas over the edges at the Boreas. Hyperborea is as hostile a setting as I've ever read. The gods of Hyperborea are cruel and distant, a pantheon that includes Xathoqqua and Kthulhu among its most worshiped. Its calendar works on a 13 year cycle, with seasons lasting 3-4 years each. In the dead of winter, the 13th year called Nightfall, the world exists under an entire night of wintry darkness.

Tracking time in a campaign is vitally important to maintaining records and presenting meaningful decisions, and Hyperborea has its own 13 month calendar complete with moon phases, festivals, and daylight tracking. Once again, AS&SH surprises for its complete consideration for supporting long term campaigns.

The present history of Hyperborea is recorded in less than 600 years, with its ancient history being a series of cataclysms, from being ripped away from Old Earth to the Green Death which decimated the population. Today no settlement exists with more than 8000 people, and most villages are only a few hundred. The wilderness between is roaming with ferocious beasts, terrible monsters, dangerous environmental hazards, and a variety of deadly flora.

The various regions of Hyperborea are given brief overviews, most of no more than a couple paragraphs. Major settlements and significant geographical features receive additional focus. This is just enough to give each region a distinct feel and inspiration for developing, without getting bogged in minute details that can restrict a referee from making Hyperborea their own. It also works to promote a sense of wanderlust in the setting, similar to Conan's travels. I've already begun sprinkling in rumors of far off places to my players in order to inspire them to strike out from the humble village we've been adventuring around so far. I certainly hope to put AS&SH's waterborne expedition rules into play as the adventurers meander from the Crab Archipelago to Port Zangerios and off to the dreaded Isle of IX.

If you are a fan of the source material, Hyperborea offers everything you could want in a setting. It's just detailed enough to include all the right pieces, while sketches vaguely enough to allow all the freedom to make it your own.

The Appendices Five volumes of game out of the way, AS&SH then delivers 50 pages of 5 appendices. Appendix A is referee advice, which gives credit to Gygax and Arneson, tasks the referee with using this book as a tool to craft your own adventure campaign with, and implores the referee to maintain careful records of the campaign and the passage of time. All good advice.

Appendix B gives tables for randomly generating the weather. I've used this a bit and am satisfied that it provides fairly realistic feeling results. I've begun using it as a baseline for a week of weather and then relying on Blackadder's encounter tables for giving more severe weather. There are good effects listed here though for negative weather, including missile fire penalties and visibility and movement reductions.

Appendix C presents two adventuring parties at level 1, 5, and 9. The first of these are the adventurers illustrated throughout the 1st edition of AS&SH. The second party is the one illustrated on the volume covers of 2nd edition.

Appendix D and E provide a starting settlement and corresponding adventure, suitable for first level characters. The village of Swampgate is written in detail, including history, map, keyed locations, and about a dozen NPCs. The adventure involves exploring a nearby dungeon to rescue a couple missing farmers from Swampgate. I've been using the town of Swmapgate in my game. It made it easy to jump into the setting of Hyperborea with little effort and build out from there. The town has everything needed for a starting party, some rumors of goings-on, and sits on a dangerous borderland which opens the game to a variety of adventuring situations. I've not yet run the starting adventure but have read it. It includes a very nice dungeon map, also by Monkey Blood Designs. The dungeon has a few types of enemies to fight, a couple traps, lots of branching routes, and an interesting backstory. I do intend to get my play group to the dungeon soon, but am changing the hook. I don't feel like my current adventuring party would risk much to rescue some farmers. I always love it when a game includes a starting adventure though. It just makes it easier to jump in and try it out and get a sense of the sort of thing the author was going for.

Final Thoughts If you read all this, it's probably pretty obvious that I love this game. I originally backed the Kickstarter just to pilfer some ideas since it name-dropped my favorite authors, but this is a game I want to run for a very long time. It's also a game I terribly want to play in. The book is gorgeous and a fun read. Jeff has a different writing style, something kind of Gygaxian but distinctly his own. Actually, that describes the whole game. For something that is inherently derivative, a retroclone pulling inspiration for a bunch of weird fantasy fiction, it manages to come out feeling completely fresh and exciting and new. Highly recommended.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by Josh W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/09/2017 23:02:12

I'm new to AS&SH, and was immensely rewarded in purchasing this 2E tome! At over 600 pages, I feared mind-boggling circuitous rule-sets, but NOT A PAGE WASTED! The setting, classes, sub-classes, races, equipage, spells, combat systems bestiary, adventures, and more are intertwined with precision. Well done North Wind!!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by chris r. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/08/2017 15:33:44

Many people have already covered the rules impressions and the theme inspirations about this game. I won't repeat those observations here. I want to say one thing however. If you miss the old ad&d rules and want a streamlined presentation of it, this is the game to get. It has got me to switch back from 5e and convinced some of my friends as well. I think it's a strongly well thought out product for any gamer.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by Galaad A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/08/2017 14:16:58

When I saw the Kickstarter page of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2(ASSH) , what convinced me of backing it was the artwork, and mainly what is now the book cover artwork. It's like everything about the game is on it. Like a good old pulp comicbook artwork. You can write dozens of stories with just this image in mind. So I backed it for the PDF version, hoping the game would be as great as the cover.

Then, I received my PDF copy. Right from the first pages, I knew it wasn't great. It was AMAZING. A few days later I was setting up my first game with some friends, including a beginner. And it was as astonishing as expected.

First, the book itself. It's separated in 6 volumes, covering everything you can expect in a huge RPG book: rules, monsters, universe, adventures... It also includes an introductory adventure and pre-created characters. More than 600 of content. The interior artwork is overall pretty great. Since it's been made by several illustrators, you got different styles. I don't like all of them, but most of it is good, and it really helps you to feel like you're part of the weird universe of Hyperborea.

Then, the rules. It's basically AD&D, with a lot of improvements; So if you've already played it, you won't be lost. And if you haven't, it's easy to learn! Even for beginners, it's very quick to learn the basic mecanims of the game and enjoy the adventure! What I particularly like is the fact that your character is what you want him to be, from level 1. You don't have to wait for levels 6 or so to choose a specialization and finally enjoy your hero. You can pick a class, or one of the many subclasses if it matches what you want, right at character creation. And if you love spells, you'll be happy, as the book contains many, many powers for all kind of spellcasters. IN a few words: it's easy to learn, while offering a great depth for veteran players.

And finally, the universe. It's clear from the beginning, the rules are made to be played in any universe. But it'd be a shame to not play in the fantastic universe of Hyperborea. It mixes pulp with weird fantasy. Think Conan the barbarian, Masters of the universe, Call of Cthulhu and legends from our world. It opens all kind of possibilites, while offering a huge and detailled universe. Hence, you can create all kind of adventures, taking inspiration from the book or not.

The last campaign I did was a D&D4 adventure, more than 5 years ago. But thanks to ASSH, I'm going to create a new one. And it might be the best one of all! Thanks North Wind Adventures for creating one the best RPGs of these recent years!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by Jack C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/30/2017 13:38:24

I have been playing AS&SH 1E for a few years now, so 2E was a no brainer, as it adds more classes, more spells, more monsters, more magic items and tons of additional illustrations by great artists. This new edition also includes a new world map, a great little starting town (Swampgate) and an adventure (The Black Moss-Hag of Lug).

The system plays like a streamlined D&D, while the setting cranks the volume up to 11 on Robert E. Howard, HP Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith and other pulp authors while removing the Tolkien elements. It has all the great sword and sorcery, horror and weird fantasy elements that I love in my games.

If you have been waiting to try this game, wait no longer. Do it now!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by Christopher M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/29/2017 10:30:40

I am still going through the PDF but it is exactly what I wanted. More of the same and expanded. It is a succint book that is really working over time giving us way more content than the page count would indicate. New classes, New spells, New monsters the gaming is going to be good.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by Steve S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/28/2017 18:48:47

Having read through the PDF of AS&SH2E I am very pleased I backed this on Kickstarter. This game is a well-designed RPG supported by people who palpably love it. While I can't comment on the physical books as yet, the PDF is very well constructed, the text is clear, and the artwork keeps the fantastic pieces of the original boxed set and blends in top notch additions. The rules expansions fit with the original without overshadowing them, and itch to be used.

If vanilla fantasy RPGs seem stale to you, pick up AS&SH2E and one of its modules (quality adventures, all) and enjoy an evening of swords and sorcery gaming straight out of a Savage Sword of Conan zine.

Bottom line, this is worth every dollar you'll spend on it.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by Joseph K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/27/2017 09:05:49

I've been running a Hyperborea campaign for about 3 years now. I also have been running a 1st Edition AD&D game for over 9.

Hyperborea is now my preferred system to run and Jeff has made me even happier with this second edition of AS&SH. Any homebrewed changes I've used or contemplated in my 1e game is basically in Hyperborea. Heck, I don't allow monks, bards, or druids (anymore) in my 1e game. I feel no need to make such exclusions with Hyperborea.

The art is a big draw for me. It's a signal as to the mood and frame of mind the creator has. In this case, the art fits what I think of as "my kind of rpg game".

The setting is sparsely defined enough for me to fill in the gaps if I want but has enough content so that I don't have to do a lot of work to make things work together. Being a "weird tales" inspired setting amps up the gonzo factor to have things like laser pistols, lost World War 2 ranger patrols, or even biker gangs on space warping motorcycles fighting chronomancers and hounds of tindolos.

Jeff consistently takes great care to produce things that are of high quality and eminently usable and malleable to a DM's needs.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by David T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/23/2017 14:21:47

This is the best iteration of retro gaming I've seen yet. Complete old school vibe with changes and tweaks to firmly place it in a niche of it's own. As the foreward says, it could easily be titled "Weird Tales, the RPG." It really evokes the feel of Robert E Howard, HP Lovecraft, & Clark Ashton Smith. This book is also a great bargain. It's 622 pages filled with loads of character classes, weapons & gear, spells, monsters, optional combat rules, treasure, mass combat, sea combat, strongholds, a complete setting, pregens, a complete town, and a complete (and awesome) adventure! The editing and layout are great, and the rules are clear and easy to read. Grab a copy and enter a weird world of high adventure and dark horror.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by Zachary S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/23/2017 13:51:55

The first edition of AS&SH was truly a gem to find and be a part of! This 2E version takes it to another level :) More of everything that was already awesome! We've already got one game in using a few of the updates! My group of players love the setting (who wouldn't?!), and we have been truly having a blast for a few years since the first edition came out. Can't wait to get many more games in, incorporating more of the material that second edition has to offer!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by Daniel S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/17/2017 21:10:34

A great enhancement to the 1st edition. It's still the same game as before with improved art, better (and easier to read layout), new classes, new monsters, and new magic. While it has a number of additions, it remains fully compaitble with the 1st edition.

For those unfamiliar with the setting, it is inspired primarily by the works of Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborean tales, mixed in with a lot of Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, Robert E. Howard, and HP Lovecraft. It uses a much-cleaned up version of the AD&D 1st edition rules. All player characters are humans. The setting is fairly small (though much larger than the original D&D Known World), representing the legendary realm of Hyperborea. You'll find many ancient and mythical human cultures have found their way here. I've found it quite easy to port AD&D and various OSR adventures to the setting, usually with a tweak here or there.

Full review can be found on my blog at

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/17/2017 14:09:34

So many months ago it seems that the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Second Edition's kickstarter seemed to take the OSR community by storm! Well the long await is over! Last night whist I was at my weekly AS&SH game the pdf broke! It was billed as the premiere Sword & Sorcery OSR rpg during the kickstarter. So let's see if that's true and I'll be the judge of that claim! Clocking in at over six hundred & twenty two pages this is one hell of a hefty tome. But let's get the big question out of the way first for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hypborea first edition fans this second edition is fully and wholly compatible with first edition. For myself and other fans of AS&SH this is an OSR retroclone that we've been waiting for with both baited breath & some trepidation. Trepidation because its a game that hearkens back to Dungeons & Dragons whist wearing its sword & sorcery linage on its sleeves for all to see. All of the usual AS&SH humancentric racial choices are here with Hyperborean & Atlantean intact inside the PC game swell. Lets start at the top all of the usual PC core classes are there: -Fighter: a swordsman, bowman, or other warrior type

  • Magician: a sorcerer who memorizes arcane formulæ and casts spells
  • Cleric: an armed and armoured mystic sorcerer
  • Thief: a nimble swordsman possessed of numerous specialized skills Then instead of multi classing like AD&D or certain B/X Dungeons & Dragons editions you get subclasses of the main four and there are twenty two of them enabling players to get the pick of the Hyperborean litter: From the fighter you get:
  • Barbarian: an outland warrior possessed of feral instincts
  • Berserker: a rampaging shock trooper renowned for unbridled battle rage
  • Cataphract (Knight): an armoured horseman and warrior elite
  • Huntsman: a wilderness warrior who glories in the hunt
  • Paladin: a champion who crusades for justice and Law
  • Ranger: a borderland fighter, frontiersman, and defender
  • Warlock: a spell-weaving fighter who wields steel and sorcery interchangeably From the Magician you get:
  • Cryomancer: a sorcerer who commands the elemental power of ice
  • Illusionist: a sorcerer who evokes phantasms and manipulates shadows and light
  • Necromancer: a sorcerer who practices black magic and communicates with the dead
  • Pyromancer: a sorcerer who commands the elemental power of fire
  • Witch (Wizard): a sorcerer who brews potions, divines portents, and lays curses The Cleric has some interesting choices:
  • Druid: a mystic sorcerer empowered by ancestral, elemental, and animistic spirits
  • Monk: a warrior-priest who strives for physical and mental mastery
  • Priest: a chaplain mystic of prodigious spell-casting capacity
  • Runegraver: a mystic warrior who carves runic spells on bone, metal, stone, and wood
  • Shaman (Witch Doctor): a primal sorcerer who confers with ancestral and totem spirits And the Thief adds their own flair to the mix:
  • Assassin: a thief who specializes in murder and intrigue
  • Bard (Skald): a warrior, scholar, and weaver of enchanted lyrics and/or music
  • Legerdemainist: an adept thief who also commands the power of sorcery
  • Purloiner: a religious thief who also practices the esoteric mysticism of a cleric
  • Scout: a lightly armed explorer, intelligence gatherer, and stealth master

Now many of these character classes are making their debut in the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea in the second edition of the game. Before this they appeared in AFS OSR gaming magazine which has always worn its pulp, Weird Tales, & old school roots proudly. For AS&SH fans all of these classes has been collected, edited, and combined in one package that works with the second edition system. This means that DM's don't have to fart around with system issues straight out of the gate. So why was a second edition necessary? The layout, artwork, organization, and internalization of the games contents is where this game really shines. Divisions of sorcery,campaign & world building material even the advice is all laid out with care. So one of my friends have scoffed at the claims that the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg cleaves close to the twisted visions of HP Lovecraft & Clark Ashton Smith. Well I'm happy to report that its so much hog wash. This edition injects even more Smithian goodness into the rpg setting material. The author and his vision are well intact in AS&SH with the roots of Clark Ashton Smith's Hyperborean cycle center stage. HP Lovecraft is here sure but its really Smith's game center stage now. The monster section has borne the fruits of all kinds of metal style monsters in its blood soaked pages. I've got to say something about the demon section.

The demon section has been expanded with some brand new types with Russ Nicholson artwork thrown in. But that's the whole issue, many of the monsters from ants to zombies have been expanded upon & amped up for the Hyperborean setting. This closely ties in with the setting material being knotted back into the world setting of Hyperborea. This is a far more lived in world not defined like you get with Middle Earth or even the HP Lovecraft Dreamlands but lived in. This means that the Dungeon master has clear license to create lots of their own twists & turns in Hyperborean adventure for themselves.

The Lovecraftian little touches that get brought the fore mean that you as the reader get snatches of the world within and actually will want to play in Hyperborea. Take for example that Brown Jenkins from HP Lovecraft fame is now an option for only the wickest of sorcerers;"A brown jenkin is sent by Thaumagorga (or one of his six dæmon princes) to serve only the wickedest sorcerers. Its mandate is to encourage its master to greater deeds of depravity and Evil." Its the little touches that make this a solid addition to the AS&SH line. But there are heaping slime laden gobs of Hyperborean campaign & world building goodness. There's a ton of expanded setting material, campaign stuff, DM advice & guidance. Plus a starting adventure and campaign location. All of this I will get into sometime next week!

Whole sections of the Hyperborea world itself have been built, expanded upon, and been blown open. This also includes the incredible map included by Glynn Seal of Monkey Blood Design . Let's be honest here. This is an excellent example of a map waiting for adventurers to put their mark of violence and depravity on it. There's also a fillable pdf character sheet as well that comes with the pdf

Now how would I rake this second edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea? Well, kids lets be honest here for a moment, I've done incredibly rude things to my own home game of Hyperborea. I've twisted the world, distorted the setting, added and subtracted huge chunks of the setting, modified the system and much more. I can totally & honestly see me doing the same thing with this edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. I give the second edition of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea a solid five out of five. I only got the pdf at ten o'clock this morning and cranked this review out at three! This is 'the' game system that I personally use at my table and my players love!

Eric Fabiaschi Sword & Stitchery Blog Like this review & want to see more original content supporting AS&SH plus other OSR titles and game systems? Subscribe to

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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