Mars Beckons

Michael O. Varhola

Just as when John Carter looked up at Mars, gleaming in the night sky, and was thereby drawn up to it in the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, so too are many of us as gamers drawn to the red planet. I have not spoken to a single gamer I know, in fact, who is not planning on seeing the film John Carter when or soon after it opens in theaters at the end of this week.

Over the years, any number of publishers have released games, sourcebooks, and other materials either explictly tying in with the works of Burroughs or clearly influenced by them. On of the most prominent of those currently active is certain Adamant Entertainment, which has numerous products available for its Savage Worlds-system Mars: The Roleplaying Game of Planetary Romance available on DriveThruRPG!

Ulisses Spiele publishes one of the most longstanding RPGs set on the red planet, its venerable Space 1889 (which was originally published by Game Designers' Workshop in 1988 and subsequently by Heliograph Incorporated). While it is not explictly set on ERB's Barsoom, this early "steampunk" game clearly draws inspiration from it in many ways.

Skirmisher has not been absent from this inclination toward the red planet that Burroughs called "Barsoom" and our own Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars: Shadows of a Dying World, has long been a bestseller on DriveThruRPG. A number of our authors have also been inspired by the idea of Mars as an milieu for adventure, and these include Derek Holland, who is currently developing a "Mutant Future in Space" setting that includes a number of tributes to the works of ERB.

This fascination with Mars goes back to the very dawn of modern wargaming and was shared by H.G. Wells, who wrote about some of the first literary invaders from the red planet in his wonderful War of the Worlds. And yes, as many diehard gamers know, Wells was indeed a gamer, and acquired the title "Father of Modern Wargaming" as a result of his authorship of the books Floor Games in 1911 and Little Wars in 1913 (both of which Skirmisher has reprinted, with forewords by James Dunnigan and Gary Gygax, respectively).

So, enjoy the books, enjoy the film, and, by all means, enjoy the games inspired by and based on them!