Issue: 26

The Chronicles of Counter Earth
by Vanessa Payne

John Norman's Gor Series as a Fantasy wargames background

I was impressed by Steve Blease's piece in the Ragnarok 22 urging gamers to read more in order to research possible backgrounds for F/SF games. I thought I would write to pass on my own experiences which have seen me and my partner raising many varied armies for massed battles, and collecting a wide range of figures for smaller skirmish games based on an extensive range of background fictional literature.

There are many series of books which would be suitable, the Conan series being a notable example. One of the largest, most coherent and, in my opinion, the most entertaining would have to be John Norman's Gor series, set on the mythical planet of the same name. There are now twenty five books in the series offering an extensive range of backgrounds from Greek, pseudo-Medieval/Roman through Viking, Eskimo and Tuareg to Native American and African as the hero, Tarl Cabot (from Bristol - possibly one of the Bristol Mafia?) travels the planet, recruited as an agent of the alien guardians of the planet, the ant-like Priest Kings.

Through the pages of the books, Tarl experiences the clash of mighty empires, naval battles on the sea of Thassa as a commander of the largest pirate fleet of Port Kar, battles the invasion of the alien Kur and their human allies in the snowy wastes of the north, and endures many more exciting adventures.

Many of the books whilst dealing with major events such as the war between the city state of Ar and the allied cities of Cos and Tyros, still the emphasis the importance of the individual. For example, Tarl is employed to gather intelligence from the siege of Ar's Station; later, following the fall of Ar he is instrumental in beginning a guerrilla war against the Cosina occupiers. As such, the books offer something for both the large scale gamer as well as skirmish gamers and role-players.

The cultures he encounters are obviously derived from various races of Earth's history, but John Norman has undertaken extensive research to ensure accuracy in their portrayal, yet still introduced enough of Gor's unique social aspects to make them stand out from their original sources. He has also introduced a number of significant differences, the most notable being the great Tarns, eagles large enough for a warrior to ride. Various city states employ units of Tarnsmen as scouts, as a form of aerial 'light cavalry', and in many cases as shock troops employed in sieges where their ability to fly over the city's defences make them invaluable. The 15mm scale Eagle Army from Peter Pig makes an excellent basis for an army of Tarnsman and I have many in my collection.

I was introduced to the series by my boyfriend David. As a result of the considerable effort put into research of all aspects of the books we have both learned a lot from them. To summarise, they offer a range of scenarios and campaign backgrounds for all levels of the hobby and I am sure they would also be a suitable source of material for LARP groups.

For SF gamers John Norman has now embarked on the Telnarian Histories, a series which ofers a background in a similar vein, but set in a starfaring culture. Both series are compulsive bedtime reading and I would heartily recomend them both.

The Gor Saga:

  1. Tarnsman of Gor
  2. Outlaw of Gor
  3. Priest Kings of Gor
  4. Nomads of Gor
  5. Assassin of Gor
  6. Raiders of Gor
  7. Captive of Gor
  8. Hunters of Gor
  9. Marauders of Gor
  10. Tribesmen of Gor
  11. Slavegirl of Gor
  12. Beasts of Gor
  13. Explorers of Gor
  14. Fighting Slave of Gor
  15. Rogue of Gor
  16. Guardsmen of Gor
  17. Savages of Gor
  18. Blood Brother of Gor
  19. Kajira of Gor
  20. Players of Gor
  21. Mercenaries of Gor
  22. Dancer of Gor
  23. Renegades of Gor
  24. Vagabonds of Gor
  25. Magicians of Gor

The Telnarian Histories:

  1. The Chieftan
  2. The Captain
  3. The King

Ed Note: The Gor series unfortunately appears to be currently out of print in the UK. That said however, it appears to be quite easy to pick up much of the series from second hand book dealers.