Thursday, September 3, 2015

HMS Apollyon - Player Introduction from Player Guide

The gates of the Bleeding Gaol opened, and the stiffness from your cramped confinement, the chaffing from the fetters and the psychic scars of darkness and uncertainty has finally left you over the last day or two.  Now there is only the Rustgates and the near certainty of a bad death.

You were born and raised among the stews and fleshpots of the Cannery, Pickbone Square, The Pool or even the Sun Rookery, but that hardly matters now.  Likewise, the pleasures and pains of the life you lived there are all just memories - that you were the shift leader on the can line, or the fastest scrivener in the factor house is as immaterial as if you were the worst copyist in the Queen’s Scriptorium or a lay-about Vory thug who never managed to savvy The Code.  Whatever you were is stripped away by the brand of ‘flotsam’ on your right wrist, and whatever you did to get here matters little.  Even guilt and innocence are unimportant, as only social status offers survival in Sterntown: access to food, protection from arbitrary violence, the freedom to move about town, availability of shelter, and the right to purchase proper supplies and equipment all depend on who you know and who finds you useful.  Even if you once were, you sentence means that you must again prove your value to self-interested and capricious judges.  You are an exile, a criminal, and outcast so  it’s your lot to live the rest of your days in the festering favelas and dense scaffold slums of the Rustgate, where you can either die or  find a thin accommodation with survival by pulling treasures from the haunted hull.


The Rustgates - almost accurate map of street level
The Rustgates are a small, even more densely populated area of the already cramped Stern.  Like all “decks” of the Apollyon they consist of a series of 100’ tall vaults of green-black orichalcum – unworkable “ship metal” formed by the long lost technology of the builders before the great marooning.  Unlike some other areas of the vessel, the Rustgate (and most of Sterntown) contain few orderly sublevels and whatever cabins, gangways and working spaces they once held have been ripped out, their stone, steel and wood repurposed to build a sprawl of scaffolding, balconies, poorly ventilated tenements, storefront shrines, bars, burlesque houses, gambling dens, fighting pits, noodle shops and flop houses. 

While at the deck level there is some semblance of a street, only on the “Golden Way” running in front of the great Gilded Exile Burlesque House do these streets reach from the metal of the lowest deck to the buttresses of the ceiling.  The majority of the space within the vault that makes up the Rustgates is tangle of buildings, shacks and scaffolding piled atop each other, forming a crazy web of shanties and hovels above the more prosaic buildings below.  
The principal industries of the Rustgates are vice and scavenging from the hull, and the powers of Sterntown profit from it anarchy and hidden order as the Rustgates provide an influx of treasure and raw materials from the rest of the hull that Sterntown’s industry and luxury both depend on, while also offering a productive way to dispose of citizens who defy, disrupt, question or inconvenience them.

The population of the Rustgates is truly made up of the vessel’s lowest and unluckiest.  Factorial workers maimed by machinery and cast out of the grim, tidy tenements of neighborhoods like Pickbone Square, and every other variety of madman, cripple and urchin.  Gangs of feral urchins (widely believed to be cannibal) nest high above the streets in the blower ducts and descend to rob, kill and run confidence games on the slightly less impoverished  denizens of the Rustgate’s lower levels.  Scavenging, trading in scavenged goods, and sybaritic entertainment are the only jobs within the Gates, and except for those too far gone to injury, madness or addicition the community’s leaders expect everyone in the Gates to work or starve.  The Gates principle factions control all life, and a longtime resident who offends the gangster “block captain”, the Steward thug,  or even the street preacher of Lyriss, may suddenly find themselves going hungry as even the stand where they’ve bought kelp and dried fish for ten years turns them away.  Only the three public fountains, great stone pools surrounded by chipped, hull-plundered statuary, whose faces have been re-carved many times to honor entire lineages of Uptown philanthropists are open to all and provide clean water and a sort of watering hole sanctuary to all. 

The incredible density of life in the Rustgates allows about eight thousand residents to be crammed into a space that is about two city blocks square, but built up in an overlapping mass of stories and half stories as high as a ten story building.  Like almost all of Sterntown it is lit only by artificial light, mostly by dim bluish gas lamps fueled by decaying waste piped from processing centers on the level above.  Private light sources are common as well, from the stub of tallow candles used by the beggars and addicts to light their pleading faces to the strings and bouquets of gay multi-colored glow kelp bulbs that advertise even the dingiest dive bar or knocking shop.

The Golden Way, the short ‘U’ shaped street that runs from the Rust Gate fortifications past the Gilded Exile Burlesque House and to the gates of the Bleeding Gaol is the most brightly lit, busiest and safest spot in the Rust Gates. Uniformed and relatively polite Steward gendarmes patrol the Golden Way’s starboard arm, while clusters of nattily, even foppishly, dressed syndicators openly bearing advanced weaponry such as block magazine rifles and drum feed, self-cocking arbalests.  The street is lined on all sides by theaters, gin palaces and fancy brothels and designed to appeal to both the most successful of scavengers and the wealthy Passengers who flock to its ‘seedy delights’.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cult of the Leviathan - Clerical Spell List

The Leviathan is a great spirit of the deep seas, and its worshipers are mostly drawn from those aboard the Apollyon who work in or with the seas.  Dedicants of the Leviathan are welcome amongst the crews of Sterntown’s fishing fleet, as their powers can control and compel sea life, brings home full nets and chasing off predators or other dangers. 

The Religion itself is less popular amongst crew in other walks of life, part of this is its alien history, as the religion is based on the superstitions of the most primitive of the Frogling bands who joined with Boss Wug to protect Sterntown, but greater distrust stems from the secrecy of the cult.  The Leviathan’s robed Dedicants, in gauzy purple, blood stained red and stiff rimed white, are the cults’ only public presence, as its worshipers conceal both their membership and rank within the circles of the cult from outsiders and even each other.  Once a season the cult shows its growing numbers, with a parade and free feast, featuring enormous quantities of sea food distributed to all from colorful floats by large gangs of masked and silent cultists amidst the banging of huge gongs and trumpeting horns.

The Cult of the Leviathan is a mystery religion, its worshipers paying, primarily in gold, for entry into deeper and more powerful mysteries of the submerged god and meeting in small anonymous covens, each served by a rotating group of Dedicants. Even Dedicants do not break the secrecy of the cult, and while worshipers of the Leviathan know their fellows by hidden signs, concealed tattoos and veiled references, it is unclear if these markers of membership are universal, or themselves limited by circle and the unknown designs of the cult’s hierophant.
Penetrating the Mysteries and Gaining Power

The Disciples of the Leviathan practice a form of Esoteric divine magic, superficially and mechanically identical to the houngans of the Ship Spirits, but where Ship Spirit clerics curry favor and trade promises with a wide variety of kindred local spirits, the Dedicants appeal to various avatars of the Leviathan’s singular presence.  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Revoca Canton Map

Of late I've been playing in a Hill Canton's game run by Kris of the blog and Hydra Collective fame.  It's a fun setting, quite solidly fantasy, but with a similar level of gonzo as ASE, though obviously without the science fantasy.  As a long established setting there's a lot of accumulated fluff, which is both good and bad, but, thankfully my character, an Eld exile named Tizzird (yes that's a terrible joke) isn't expected to understand things like human religions and political factions.  By the time Tizzird dies from his companion's dislike, his door obsession (all but one of my spell came up door related: hold portal, knock and wizard lock), the hard bigotry against murderous space elves, or his own dangerously violent philosophy (the True Eldish Hedonics (or T.E.H. - he needs to start offering TEH talks)

Hill Cantons has been providing these perfectly functional hex maps of the Revoca Canton, where the current game is being played.  I kind of hate hex maps as player aides, though they are quite useful in there way.  Anyway starting last game and finishing yesterday I drew up this map as a better looking player map for the Revoca Canton.

Revoca Map
As my maps go, it's a simple one and it hasn't had the various post scanning treatments that I usually add, because I think it's rather incomplete (I only have the information provided to the players for this "superdense" sandbox).  I've left a lot of open space and easy to erase lines so I can modify the map in the future.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Monster Archeology - Small Humanoids

Let's give this 'lil fellow a rest

Monsters and Treasure, volume 2 of three booklets, the 1970's box set version of Dungeon & Dragon's "Monster Manual" moves on from men directly into humanoids.  There are five normal sized humanoids, and most get only a line or two of text. They are also statistically uninteresting, lacking even the armor and weapon variety of human enemies and having no real flavor beyond a progression through four classes of enemy with incrementally improving AC, HP and Attack.  As much as battling orcs and goblins is a mainstay of tabletop gaming, and the mainstream of the heroic fantasy, these creatures are totally uninteresting as presented in Monsters and Treasure.  Perhaps they are a blank template to project one's own monstrous expectations upon, but here the difference between a kobold and a goblin is a single point of AC and a hit point or two.  

Orcs, which have a very long entry and which I've discussed previously, are an exception, but otherwise these humanoid descriptions are quite devoid of interesting information.  Kobolds have only a name and some mechanical details, while the entire goblin entry is:

GOBLINS: These small monsters are described in CHAINMAIL. They see well in darkness or dim light, but when they are subjected to full daylight they subtract -1 from their attack and morale dice.  They attack dwarves on sight. Their Hit Dice must always equal at least one pip.

Composition of Force: When in their lair the "goblin king" will be found. He will fight as a Hobgoblin in all respects. He will be surrounded by a body of from 5-30 (roll five six-sided dice) guards as Hobgoblins also.

They're small monsters that don't like the light, that's about it.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

HMS Apollyon Recent Play Reports

Below are smaller play reports from the last several sessions of the HMS Apollyon game, mostly concerned with the party's efforts to explore and loot an ancient industrial node on the Port side of the vessel.  It's always nice to open up a new area, and this one is basically just a dungeon crawl with minimal relation to any overarching setting concerns.


Flashy – (passenger)
Rabut the Frogling – (battlemage)
Price – (academic sorcerer)
Lady Pillar – (officer)
Vonlumpwig – (necromancer)

A huge hatch blocks the way Port from the vault beyond the Rust Gate, the vault where far too many lives were recently lost in both infighting between Sterntown’s factions and the battle against the War Dead Minions of the still unaccounted for “Brown Surgeon”.  The area presents a great deal of resources for whatever faction controls in, and currently the undisciplined bands of the Scavenger’s Union lounge about, still ebullient from the the success of their double cross and mass murder of Thief Taker and Bevard Family forces.  Only time will tell if the Union can hold the vault (also known as “The Buried Vault”, “The New Lands” and “The Mushroom Farm”) or the hamlet in the vault beyond.  Currently the area bustles with scavenger activity as riotous drunken bands strip the former undead stronghold in the hamlet down to its deck plating, carting out huge loads of useful items and a wealth in decorative stone.

The hatch leading Port is an unknown, opening and closing on some strange schedule known only to the ship itself, it is a giant wheel of 4’ thick orichalcum, designed to stop flooding and locking into place with massive hydraulic driven bars.  The hatch has remained unlatched for several month however and was opened briefly a year or more before by a band of scavengers who reported the area beyond was some sort of storehouse or forge.  Deeming the chance of the hatch sealing again to be small, the band of scavengers once called “The Black Cloaks” seeks to explore the area beyond, expecting it to be full of plunder and rich in industrial supplies. 

With a laudable caution the scavenger gang moves beyond the great hatch and discovers only a small bare room, a few smashed crates, shredded bit of thin metal, scattered about and a large peeling mural of some sort of wrench carrying and hardhat wearing rodent painted on the Port wall.  Close examination and light dusting reveals that the mural welcomes the scavengers to “Port 5S Supply and Fabrication”.  Sternward from the entrance room is a great multi level chamber that stinks of coal and smoke.  A massive forge stands at its center, and a cautious, candle aided exploration reveals hulking industrial machines, lathes, cannon molds and workbenches fill the space.  The forge at the center still glows, but the room is simply too big and too strange to investigate thoroughly and the scavengers decide to retreat and open the door leading fore from the entrance. 

As the door creaks open to reveal a narrow hallway the party is startled to meet a band of four spear and crossbow armed flying monkeys.  The magically transformed simians are clad in red rags instead of uniforms and wear poorly enameled brass buttons and copper electrical wire as decoration.  Almost immediately the monkeys start to demand money and threaten the scavengers and combat quickly commences.  Soon only once monkey survives and he is captured, but the fight has drawn additional flying monkey reinforcements and a true battle begins to rage, with the monkey flank attack blocked by a prophetic use of hold portal and several waves of crossbow and spear armed simians knocked unconscious by magic.  The monkeys pepper the scavengers with bolts and bombard them with firebombs until a new threat emerges – a hulking monkey in a welding mask carrying a flame thrower. The scavengers, out of sleep spells, target this new danger with a variety of weapons, but it is Price’s use a fire magic that saves the day, causing the monkey’s flame weapon to explode.  The detonation kills most of the monkey front line and scorches the scavengers as well, but in the rain of flaming debris and seared fur the battle ends with the surrender of several monkeys.  A truce is worked out between scavenger and monkey allowing the party to explore any area not marked with a red flame symbol and exchanging peace for information about the dangerous “clawed ones” to the Fore, God of Fire aft, and Haunted Offices Port.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Random Appearence and Clothing for HMS Apollyon Characters and NPCs

Below is a table of random clothing and affectations that players wishing to add a little mystery, back-story or description to their new HMS Apollyon characters might roll on.  It's pretty much only for humans of the scavenger class.  Passengers are always in battered suits, Flying Monkeys in uniforms or livery, Froglings often in the traditional harnesses and leggings of their moiety.  The less said about Merrowman fashion the better.

Anyhow hopefully this will provide some of my players amusement.

Feral tribal’s loincloth or untanned hull beast skins.
Impressive facial scarring, either intentional and harmonious or the sign of battle and accident.
The diaphanous fripperies of a burlesque hall performer.
1D8 front teeth replaced with prosthetics of gold or other metal and possibly decorated.
Apocalypse rags and bindings.  Stinking and dyed the same color by grime or intent
Necklaces of teeth, ears or similar savage trophies and corresponding swagger.
Threadbare robe with detachable cowl and several hidden pockets
Bald head, may be shaved, genetic or the product of chemic exposure.
Bright loose shirt and tight dungarees in the style of a Vory tough.
Fastidious in dress and grooming.  Clothing and equipment immaculate whenever possible.
Casual worker’s canvas pantaloons and white undershirt, accented by leather braces.
The cold dead eyes of a heartless murdering ruffian, may conceal kindly soul.
Horizontal Striped sweater and dungarees with too many buttons.
Collection of medals and awards worn on person, may or may not be earned.
Cannery toilers dull jumpsuit and heavy tarred boots.
Face and hands permanently marked by industrial grit that has worked itself under the skin.  
Wool or felt uniform jacket encrusted with rotting braid.
General aura of decrepitude, clothing often disheveled, eyes drooping or red, hair unkempt.
Patched, stained, torn and bedraggled fop’s/pirate’s finery.
Elaborately dyed and coifed hair, fierce mustachio or similar affectation of high style.
Worn velvet livery of vest, knickers, jacket and absurd lacey cravat.
Wears gaudy trinkets and costume jewelry in nauseating profusion.
Fisher’s sea leathers, walrus and shark with bone toggles and Frogling hexagrams
Always wears gloves:  heavy leather, gutta-percha skin or soft velvet pick one.
Brightly patterned sarong and string and shell vest.
Unexpectedly heavy-set.  Perhaps not obese, but large and bulky for race.
Thin leather catsuit, accented with too many buckles and black pigeon feather cloak.
Several novelty tattoos.  Bright colors and lack of faction symbolism mark them as a mere affect.
A good quality clerk’s tweed suit and bowler, cuffs stained with ink.
Monocle clamped firmly in eye. Sneer of cold command on lips.
Black suit/dres of fine dog wool, opera cape, mask and tall stylish hat.
One eye replaced by a magically enhanced shell or stone.  Normal vision, may glow.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fever Dreaming Marlinko - A Review

The good art starts on the cover

Vornhiem is almost universally acknowledged as a great city supplement, and it is, but the new city supplement from Hydra Press, Fever Dreaming Marilinko, set in Chris Kutalik’s Hill Cantons (what the Grand Duchy of Karameikos should have been) is an entirely different kind of great city supplement.  Where Vornheim, and the old Judge’s Guild city supplements, aspire to offer means of creating ‘a’ fantasy city, Marlinko seeks only to create ‘the’ city of Marlinko, and does so in the form of a set of adventures, personalities and factional rivalries that create a city ready for conflict and picaresque shenanigans.

In some superficial way Fever Dreaming Marlinko resembles the classic B-Series Module “The Veiled Society”, in that it presents a series of small urban adventures focused around the factions within an urban environment.  Marlinko is far better than Veiled Society in that it is not overly proud of its cleverness (nor does it’s cleverness consist of gimmicky cut-out buildings), and it takes the time to make a city that isn’t simply a dull pastiche of fantasy cities.  Marlinko does follow Veiled Society’s lead in making the city a place for adventure far more than it is place for resupply, investment or carousing between adventures, focused on faction conflict that offers opportunity and danger,  but it does so without the B-series stalwart’s dependence on a railroad, or mechanics that force certain outcomes.  

Mr. Kutalik is a good Game Master (I speak from one experience playing in Marlinko with a one handed elderly thief who really didn’t appreciate the murder-hobo nature of the standard adventure, but his written material is uniformly excellent) of the “OSR” or perhaps “open-world” variety: focused on player driven narrative, emergent world-building, random setting enhancing events and the creation of a game world that offers a wealth of potential adventures without any pre-judgment of character and player ability, goals or morality.  Fever Dreaming Marlinko is a worthy product of this mindset, and written with this style of play in mind - there are no overarching plots, but rather plots aplenty, fomented by a variety of factions and ripe for player character participation, and best none are pressing.  This lack of a pressing timeline and the abundance of other potential adventure hooks are what separate Marlinko from a city themed adventure and allow it to be a city supplement, in that these hooks, complications, NPCs and small adventures await multiple visits and returns by the players.  

Memorable NPC Art
Fever Dreaming Marlinko is a setting book in many ways, it lays out the city of Marlinko, a small walled city that acts as a cantonal capital for one of the Hill Cantons and is relatively near to the Ursine Dunes (of Hydra Collective’s recent project).  There is little historical detail in the product, and none of the sort of history and setting backstory that one finds in many older gazetteer style game books.  This isn’t to say that Marlinko  lacks backstory, only that it’s lightly sketched in the basic setting material and only really comes out through random encounters rumors and detail.

  Each of the quarters takes its general feel and purpose from its god: a wealthy enclave (where the characters can frequent bathhouses or engage in tiger wrestling matches), a business district, an industrial slum and the residential district.  Each district has its own important NPCs (usually faction leaders), random encounters and carousing table.  These features, which link well together with rumors, chance meetings and carousing events naturally leading to encounters with, grudges against and commissions from the city’s various important NPCs and ultimately into one of the two smaller adventure locales in Marlinko or out into one of the Hill Canton’s other published (or soon to be published adventures).  All of this detail is very flavorful, eclectically so in the charming, off-kilter quasi Slavic weird-fantasy way that seems the mark of Hill Cantons products. Wizards all have a bit of the insane and preposterous rather than a grave bathos about them, and the random encounters tend to be less dangerous and more charmingly absurd (pedants potentially about theology arguing with an escaped, drugged tiger) but with potential cascades of consequences (killing the sleepy tiger will lead to making an enemy of its owner who runs a tiger wrestling dome).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Monster Archaeology II - Nomads, Pirates, Cavemen & Mermen


In an earlier post I considered some the first half of the 1st and longest entry in the 1970’s Whitebox edition of Dungeons & Dragons from the perspective of bestiary as implied setting and with an emphasis on how I would model these foes in my own Fallen Empire setting.  Monsters & Treasure contains several other types of “Men” as adversaries, all in large numbers and all more or less fitting into two mechanical categories the “Bandit” model for an average combatant and the “Berserker” category for exceptionally dangerous types.  It’s noteworthy that the real deadliness of these “Berserkers” is far greater under the original Chainmail rules in that they receive a huge bonus (or extra dice – it’s unclear to me) when fighting normal soldiers.  A band of berserkers can tear through a normal Chainmail unit. This ability is less when facing adventurers, but the danger of a +2 bonus in Original Dungeons and Dragons is not to be underestimated.  There are also cavemen, but cavemen are strange, something distinctly outside the rest of the "men" entries.  Reading this list of human foes I also suspect that the miniatures available to Gygax were a major influence.

Maybe this guy can lead those nomad raiders?

Nomads are an uninteresting addition to the list of monsters in Monsters & Treasure, and like Buccaneers and Pirates seem to be a way of placing bandits on different terrain encounter tables.  Nomads of course are horse focused bandits riding out of the desert or plains. Nothing especially interesting, just another element of Gygax’s “Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge” (look it up) approach to monster taxonomy that focus on the weapon mixes of identical enemy units with a wargammer’s specificity. 

Though when thinking about the earliest editions of Dungeons and Dragons and their monster lists it’s worthwhile to remember that the game was envisioned as a variety of fantastical miniature battle and at the time of the White Box fantasy miniatures were hard to come by. Miniatures for Arabian riders, Mongols and bandit types were likely far easier to find, or already at hand.  This lack of fantasy miniatures is taken to its amusing peak in the December 1975 Strategic Review (issue 5) article “Sturmgeschutz and Sorcery” where Gygax provides a plan report and conversion rules for a game involving a WWII German patrol encountering the monstrous retinue of an evil wizard.  Nomads and the general focus on ‘men’ and humanoid monsters as enemies in the White Box are likely the result of this lack of monster models.

However, this isn’t to say that humans shouldn’t be a common enemy in contemporary games.  Most fantasy table top game settings present humanity as very common in the game world, with cities, empires and villages, while monsters skulk in ruins or crouch in the hinterlands.  With the number of humans in game worlds, and their evident power to keep their lands mostly free of monsters it makes sense that a large number of encounters in the wilderness will be with bands of armed men. I personally don’t find that making these encounters fit with stereotyped historical models is especially useful.  Just as not every mob of Berserkers needs to be Norse raider rip offs, not every Nomad has to mesh with Arab or Turkic/Mongol models.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Making a Beast - Making Large Monsters More Effective

One of the things I’ve noticed in running and playing classic tabletop games for some time is how ineffective large dangerous ‘monsters’ are.  Fantastical beasts such as Owlbears and even Dragons are often less dangerous to adventurers under the older dungeons and Dragons rules then a pack of humanoids or bandits. 

HMS Apollyon Diabolic Abomination - A "Starfish" - Beast Candidate
I remember worrying one time about a ‘brown bear’ encounter being the first encounter by a new party in ASE.  There were four adventurers against a bear with 4 HD or so and a couple of dangerous attacks.  I figured it’d be a fairly tough fight.  It took two rounds before 20 odd HP of bear was being skinned and the choice cuts buried to take back to town. The party was smart, they peppered the innocent beast with arrows and bolts while it was standing near its lair and growling – displaying deadly claws (just as the ‘mildly hostile’ roll on the reaction die suggested it might), and then the adventurers charged in to surround the poor injured thing and cut it down before it could attack.  This sort of tactics and results might make sense for big mundane animals like a bear, it’s pretty much how are ancestors hunted the things after all (also with dogs, but that’s a murder hobo staple as well), but it seems awfully anti-climactic for mythical beasts of legend to go down in a couple of rounds, mobbed under by a pack of bec de corbin wielding hoodlums.

The ravening power of an enraged mythological beast should be a near unstoppable torrent of violence and ferocity, and even with group tactics the creature should be dangerous, faster, stronger and more tenacious then any normal creature and especially the sentients that have invaded its territory.  It don’t want the giant dangerous creatures my players face to feel like stacks of HP to be whittled down, I want them to be frightening and worthy of respect, requiring cunning to overcome commensurate with the wealth in magical hides, teeth bones and meat that they provide.

Since a beast is something that is not especially intelligent, I would like to make out thinking these monsters the real trick.  Luring them into enclosed spaces and traps for example rather than simply slugging it out with them.  Slugging it out should be very dangerous.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Thoughts on Fantasy Africa


A Current Cover of Saunders' Imaro - Pretty Swords & Sorcery
I recently had a chance to discuss 'bad fantasy novels' with a friend and he mentioned that he was interested in the Soul & Sorcery genre of fantasy, something I had no idea even existed.  Soul & Sorcery is a genre of Sword & Sorcery pulp fiction written by black authors starting in the late 1970's as an alternative to "Western" Fantasy with it's use of Celtic, Norse and Arthurian mythology as world-building tools, and also as a way to counter some of the retrograde racial attitudes and depictions found in Sword's & Sorcery - like those in Conan (which was written mostly in the eugenics obsessed 1930's).  Soul & Sorcery, or at least the Imaro stories I read, doesn't really feel, or perhaps it shouldn't really feel, like a genre of it's own - it's simply a Sword & Sorcery tale set in a mythical Africa, rather then a mythical Europe. 

Soul & Sorcery is an interesting sub-genre of fantasy in that it is both very different from standard Sword & Sorcery and very much the same.  I picked up "Imaro" by Charles R. Saunders - a collection of the first Imaro stories available for kindle and fairly cheap. Imaro seems to have been the birth of the genre, with the first Imaro story published in 1975.  Imaro the character and the stories involving him are very much a homage, reworking or retelling of Conan stories.  The title hero, Imaro, is in the Conan mold - "massively thewed" and a dangerous fighter with a somewhat gloomy outlook and tendency towards anger. Imaro battles sorcerers, their necromantic creations and dangerous animals, but the savannahs and jungles he wanders are very different then Conan's forests and icy plains.  Saunders has taken effort to make Imaro's world distinctly African, and this provides the interest in what would otherwise be fairly formulaic (though quite readable) Swords & Sorcery stories.  Imaro represents a "reskinning" (perhaps that's not the best term here) of Howard and his imitators that is pretty charming because it is different.  I also suspect Imaro is as light on historical/mythological fidelity to it's East African source material as Conan is to it's Northern European, but that's likely for the best given that Imaro is a straightforward set of stories about triumphing over evil wizards.

Imaro is set entirely in a fictitious fantasy Africa, about as closely linked to the real world as Howard's fictionalized Fantasy Europe/Hyboria, where the hero begins in a fictional Southern or Eastern African (seemingly a fictionalized fantasy Masai/Bantu/Zulu) and moves Northward though various African biomes and broadly sketched fantasy version of historical African cultures.  It is interesting to compare Saunder's fantasy Africa to Burrough's fantasy Africa, and note how much more alive Saunders' feels.  Burroughs' Africa is a set-piece jungle and occasional set-piece savannah inhabited by cookie cutter 'savages' of the noble and good or cannibal and evil variety.  Ignoring how these stereotypical depictions are a mark of the era of Burroughs writing and how this aspect of the Tarzan stories might be off-putting to modern readers, I think there's a useful lesson about world building here.  Saunders clearly had more knowledge about Africa the place and historical African peoples then Burroughs did, and it shows to his advantage in depicting a fantastic version of the place (or part of it - part of Burroughs problem is imagining an 'Africa' that is a single jungle filled expanse rather then a huge continent).  Now I'm not suggesting that Imaro can be looked at for any historical facts, any more then Conan will tell you about the Celts, but having taken the time to look at the technology and culture of the ancient peoples he is modelling his fantasy on, Saunders can add context and details that makes sense - the savannah folks are nomadic hunters and herders who live in easy to transport hide domes and value cattle greatly while the jungle people live mostly by fishing and gardening along the riverbanks and reside in conical houses of clay and thatch.  These details, seemingly pulled from historical sources, make sense and so can be readily understood without having to remember a great deal of fantastic vocabulary or world specific oddness. They are also details, and so give the reader a better understanding of Saunders' world building then Burroughs endless villages of huts built around a giant cooking pot.