Friday, May 31, 2013


Worn by therns that are  members of the nobility, this is an ornamental head piece;  in the center of the circlet of gold upon the brow of Lakor proclaimed him a Holy Thern, while his companion, not thus adorned, was a lesser thern, though from his harness I gleaned that he had reached the Ninth Cycle, which is but one below that of the Holy Therns. (WM III)

  Of all the holy of holies which the thern venerates and worships none is more revered than the yellow wig which covers his bald pate, and next thereto comes the circlet of gold and the great diadem, whose scintillant rays mark the attainment of the Tenth Cycle.  (WM IV)

Thursday, May 30, 2013



“Hereditary enemies were Duhor and Amhor, but (their Jeddak) Jal Had came disguised into the city of Duhor, having heard of the great beauty of the only daughter of Kor San, Jeddak of Duhor, and when he had seen her (Valla Dia) he had determined to possess her.  Returning to Amhor, he sent ambassadors to the court of Kor San to sue for the hand of the Princess of Duhor; but Kor San, who had no son, had determined to wed his daughter to one of his own Jeds, and so the offer of Jal Had was declined.

“This so incensed the Amhorian Jeddak that he equipped a great fleet and set forth to conquer Duhor and take by force that which he could not win by honorable methods.  Duhor was at the time at war with Helium and all her forces were far afield in the south, with the exception of a small army that had been left behind to guard the city.  Jal Had, therefore, could not have selected a more propitious time for an attack.  Duhor fell, and while his troops were looting the fair city, Jal Had, with a hand picked force, sacked the palace of the JJeddak  and searched for the princess; but the Princess , Valla Dia had no mind to go back with him as Princess of Amhor”   (MM V) 

Valla Dia fled the city and was later captured by agents of Ras Thavas and had her brain transplanted into the hideous body of Xaxa, Jeddera of Phundal.  Duhor is nestled within  the snow-peaked Artolian Hills.  Located in Barsoom’s NE hemisphere, Duhor is an ally of Ptarth and entered diplomatic relations with Helium when Valla Dia married Captain Ulysses Paxton of WWI's US Army (MM XIV).

Artwork from
Michael Whelan

Wednesday, May 29, 2013



 A mighty red Martian nation located in Barsoom’s Northwest hemisphere; it has a navy of about 4,000 battleships. Their Jeddak is the cruel and unscrupulous Nutus, who is father to the cowardly Prince Astok.  A friend of Ptarth, Dusar has an uneasy truce with Helium.

 “For many years Dusar and Ptarth had been at peace with each other. Their great merchant ships plied back and forth between the larger cities of the two nations. Even now, far above the gold-shot scarlet dome of the jeddak's palace, she could see the huge bulk of a giant freighter taking its majestic way through the thin Barsoomian air toward the west and Dusar.”  (TMM I)

Miniatures from

Tuesday, May 28, 2013



“These rules are strictly fantasy. Those wargamers who lack imagination, those who don’t care for Burroughs’ Martian adventures where John Carter is groping through black pits, who feel no thrill upon reading Howard’s Conan saga, who do not enjoy the de Camp and Pratt fantasies or Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser pitting their swords against evil sorceries will not be likely to find Dungeons and Dragons to their taste. But those whose imaginations know no bounds will find that these rules are the answers to their prayers.”

E Gary Gygax, 1 Nov 1973
miniatures from

Friday, May 24, 2013


Farms upon the Red Planet are located adjacent to the Martian waterways or canals.
“There were many trees, methodically arranged, and some of them were of enormous height; there were animals in some of the enclosures, and they announced their presence by terrified squealings and snortings as they scented our queer, wild beasts and wilder human beings.”  (PM XVI)    

“The concrete buildings I had been hammering at in the early morning were occupied only by stock and farm produce, the house proper standing among a grove of enormous trees, and, like all red-Martian homes, had been raised at night some forty or fifty feet from the ground on a large round metal shaft which slid up or down within a sleeve sunk in the ground, and was operated by a tiny radium engine in the entrance hall of the building. Instead of bothering with bolts and bars for their dwellings, the red Martians simply run them up out of harm's way during the night. They also have private means for lowering or raising them from the ground without if they wish to go away and leave them   . . .   

“The water which supplies the farms of Mars is collected in immense underground reservoirs at either pole from the melting ice caps, and pumped through long conduits to the various populated centers. Along either side of these conduits, and extending their entire length, lie the cultivated districts. These are divided into tracts of about the same size, each tract being under the supervision of one or more government officers.  Instead of flooding the surface of the fields, and thus wasting immense quantities of water by evaporation, the precious liquid is carried underground through a vast network of small pipes directly to the roots of the vegetation. The crops upon Mars are always uniform, for there are no droughts, no rains, no high winds, and no insects, or destroying birds.”  (PM XXI)

Thursday, May 23, 2013



 Gathol:    This is an exceeding wealthy city state located in the NW hemisphere thought to be the oldest inhabited city upon Barsoom.  

"Your ancient history has doubtless told you that Gathol was built upon an island in Throxeus, mightiest of the five oceans of old Barsoom. As the ocean receded Gathol crept down the sides of the mountain, the summit of which was the island upon which she had been built, until today she covers the slopes from summit to base, while the bowels of the great hill are honeycombed with the galleries of her (diamond) mines. Entirely surrounding us is a great salt marsh, which protects us from invasion by land, while the rugged and ofttimes vertical topography of our mountain renders the landing of hostile airships a precarious undertaking . . .

 "Our natural barriers, while they have doubtless saved us from defeat on countless occasions, have not by any means rendered us immune from attack," he explained, "for so great is the wealth of Gathol's diamond treasury that there yet may be found those who will risk almost certain defeat in an effort to loot our unconquered city; so thus we find occasional practice in the exercise of arms; but there is more to Gathol than the mountain city. My country extends from Polodona (Equator) north ten karads and from the tenth karad west of Horz to the twentieth west, including thus a million square haads, the greater proportion of which is fine grazing land where run our great herds of thoats and zitidars.

"Surrounded as we are by predatory enemies our herdsmen must indeed be warriors or we should have no herds, and you may be assured they get plenty of fighting. Then there is our constant need of workers in the mines. The Gatholians consider themselves a race of warriors and as such prefer not to labor in the mines. The law is, however, that each male Gatholian shall give an hour a day in labor to the government. That is practically the only tax that is levied upon them. They prefer however, to furnish a substitute to perform this labor, and as our own people will not hire out for labor in the mines it has been necessary to obtain slaves, and I do not need to tell you that slaves are not won without fighting. We sell these slaves in the public market, the proceeds going, half and half, to the government and the warriors who bring them in. The purchasers are credited with the amount of labor performed by their particular slaves. At the end of a year a good slave will have performed the labor tax of his master for six years, and if slaves are plentiful he is freed and permitted to return to his own people. . . 
 “Gahan laughed. ‘We are a vain people," he admitted, good-naturedly, ‘and it is possible that we place too much value on personal appearances. We vie with one another in the splendor of our accoutrements when trapped for the observance of the lighter duties of life, though when we take the field our leather is the plainest I ever have seen worn by fighting men of Barsoom. We pride ourselves, too, upon our physical beauty, and especially upon the beauty of our women.”  (CM I)

Miniatures from

Wednesday, May 22, 2013



A skill is the ability to do something well that arises from finesse, adroitness, and experience.  There are 20 basic skills available to characters.     Not all skills are available to every character vocation, and your game master (GM) might allow or create skills not described in this chapter.

Total number of skills acquired by a character may not exceed the average of his current level and his intelligence score. All skills require time for training (about four weeks for swimming and one year for scroll) whether formal or self-taught.

A character’s skill rank in a known skill is based upon his current level within his vocation or class regardless of when he acquired the skill. Admittedly, this is not a realistic approach, but this method greatly facilitates ease and speed of play.   Skill checks and saving throws are made against a Difficulty Class (DC) whose value is determined by the GM; often  DC = 10 + current encounter level.


DC                       Description   

 8                          Easy
10                        Routine
12                             Hard                         
15                           Challenging
18                        Impressive
24                         Formidable            
30                         Preposterous
       40              Impossible              


            When rolling skill checks, ADD character’s Key Ability modifier, skill rank,  and Armor Penalty and other GM/ situational modifiers to the die result.     


To succeed with a skill throw; the result of your die throw plus skill rank plus key ability modifier must exceed the assigned DC.   


If the total is exactly equal to the assigned difficulty level, the character succeeds at the task, but with minor reservations as determined by the GM (usually you drop an item/ piece of equipment; aka evidence).  


If this total is less than the assigned difficulty class, the character fails at the attempted task without injury or negative consequences.

A newly-generated 2nd level PC selects one    (two skills iff criminal) skill allowed to his vocation.  AFTER each game session, a skill may be increased either randomly or by player choice as determined by the Experience Table (p.19).  If a character rolls a skill that he already possesses, the character may opt to be cross-trained.


 Cross trainING allows a character to select a skill not usually allowed to his class (p.45).  Skill rank is calculated in the usual manner; however, cross-trained characters roll d12 instead of d20 when determining skill resolution. To distinguish between class OR RACE skills and cross-trained skills on the character sheet use Capital and small letters, respectively.

            Certain races have an natural aptitude with certain skills as indicated on Table 6.1.  To reflect this natural or innate ability, when that character is cross-trained with the designated skill, he rolls d20 for task resolution.  One still rolls d12 for task resolution with a racial skill when making an untrained check.

            A character’s skill rank is zero for those skills in which he has received no training. Regardless of whether a skill belongs to a character’s class or racial allotment; if a character is attempting to use a skill which he is not trained with, then to determine outcome; roll d12 ADDing  appropriate Key Ability modifier, and Armor Penalty and situational modifiers to the die result, but skill rank equals zero.     


concentration:  If a character allots sufficient time (1 xat), removes his helmet, and acts in a prudent manner, roll 2d10 instead of the d20 for skill resolution.  If using a cross-trained or untrained skill, then the character would roll 2d6 instead of d12 when concentrating.  If character is injured during the same time period he is attempting a skill throw, then DC is increased by the number of hit points of damage received while attempting the task or skill.

     Red Planet has greatly simplified character generation; therefore, there are no modifiers to skill throws based upon species.  The character’s race and class determines which skills are available without the cross-training penalty (d20à d12).  There is no need for multi-classed characters or switching classes as it is easy for players to customize their player characters (PCs).
miniatures from REAPER
painted by MidwestMiniatureGuy

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Alchemy, Appraise, BeastMaster, Climb, Craft



ALCHEMY is the skill of making potions, elixirs, oils or balms that have wondrous or magical effects that duplicate spells.   It is a routine (DC 10) alchemy check to identify the nature or contents of a bottle or flask as most potions are labeled in Barsoomian hieroglyphs.  Common examples and purchase price of potions are listed in parenthesis in the table.

In order to concoct a potion, a character needs the necessary material components and access to a proper (1000-4000gc) laboratory.  The GM will tell the PC how much time is required for manufacturing a potion, elixir or balm as well as availability and cost of components.  In general, DC is based on the power of product desired.


12    for 1st level (cure light wounds, remove fear; 50gc),
15       for 2nd level  (haste, spiritual weapon; 100gc),
18  for 3rd level (cure disease, water breathing; 250gc),
21  for 4th level (negate poison, remove curse, 500gc).

  “None of us had come through the conflict unscathed, but the marvelous, healing salves of Barsoom had sufficed, overnight to make us good as new.”   (WM VI)


APPRAISE skill is used to estimate the quality, craftsmanship and value of gemstones, jewelry, artwork, furniture and ornamental items that are ‘liberated.’    If the appraising character is using a magnifying glass (3gc, ½#), he gains  +2 circumstance bonus  on the die  roll.   

It takes a DC 10 appraise skill throw to ascertain the value of prized ores or weapons.  It takes a DC 12 appraise skill to estimate the value of gems.        It takes a DC 14 appraise skill to estimate the value of utensils or jewelry.  It takes a DC 16 appraise skill to estimate the value of paintings, artwork or antique furniture. 

When determining the success of appraise skill throws, the GM (not the player) rolls the die. A successful check means the character correctly estimated the item’s value.  If the character failed his appraise skill throw, the GM informs him that he is stumped (if exotic or rare item) and covertly rolls d20 then multiplies by 10% of item’s true value and gives the PC that ‘estimate.’

A DC 10 appraise skill will recognize a   gadget but will NOT identify the nature and power of the technology or magic.  Mere appraisal of certain items (swords, shields, rings) as magical or special is sufficient in many circumstances to allow usage, as these items often require no special procedure or command words to activate or deploy. Any fool can wield many enchanted weapons, just pick up and attack; however, the PC/ NPC must appreciate the item as a valuable item before he sets aside his familiar mundane weapons, tools or implements.



Beastmaster skill is used in the capturing, training, handling, feeding and breeding of the various domesticated and wild animals found upon the Red Planet. This skill does not allow the character to parley or converse with wild or feral beasts.

“In the course of a few days my thoats were the wonder of the entire community. They would follow me like dogs, rubbing their great snouts against my body in awkward evidence of affection, and respond to my every command with an alacrity and docility which caused the Martian warriors to ascribe to me the possession of some earthly power unknown on Mars.”          (PM XIII)

The time required (3- 8 weeks) to train an animal depends on the intelligence and disposition of the beast.  Obviously, herbivores are easier to train than predators (+4 DC) and insects are to be avoided!  Animals that have been befriended can be trained for a specific task or role:

9        for           pulling or hunting,
12       for       carrying or riding,
15  for            tracking or fighting,
18  for            guarding or performing.

            “While panthans are well paid, they are also great gamblers and notorious spenders, with the result that they are almost always without funds and often reduced to strange expedients for the gaining of livelihood between engagements; a fact which gives plausibility to our possession of a trained ape.”    (MM IX)

Trained animals or beasts may execute some tricks (DC 12); such as ‘post’, ‘fetch’, ‘down’, ‘heel’, ‘sak’ or ‘attack’; however, DC is increased by one for each point of damage that the animal has received.   

My experience with Woola determined me to attempt the experiment of kindness in my treatment of my thoats. First I taught them that they could not unseat me, and even rapped them sharply between the ears to impress upon them my authority and mastery. Then, by degrees, I won their confidence in much the same manner as I had adopted countless times with my many mundane mounts. I was ever a good hand with animals, and by inclination, as well as because it brought more lasting and satisfactory results, I was always kind and humane in my dealings with the lower orders. I could take a human life, if necessary, with far less compunction than that of a poor, unreasoning, irresponsible brute.”                                (PM XIII)



CLIMB skill is used to traverse vertical or rough surfaces.  Climbing characters move at slow pace; however, possession of a climber’s kit (50gp, 5#) grants a +2 circumstance bonus.
With a successful climb check, you may ascend, descend or move sideways 1d6” per action (p.26).       A tie result implies the climber has dropped something, but has successfully moved. If character rolls a natural ‘1’, or fails a climb skill check by 10 or more, he falls (damage from falling is dN per ad fallen, where N is the character’s size score, p.3)   

DC                 Example

 9           elaborate building or ship’s rigging 
12          ruins, mountain, beanstalk, tree
15          wall of dungeon or fortress
20          brick wall or inclined cliff
  25     polished or smooth surface

 +5                   if surface is wet or slimy                    


“Martians are at best but poor climbers.  Upon the entire surface of that ancient planet I never before seen a hill or mountain that exceeded four thousand feet in height above the dead sea bottoms, and as the ascent was usually gradual, nearly to their summits they presented but few opportunities for the practice of climbing.  Nor would the Martians embraced the opportunities as might present themselves, for they could always find a circuitous root about the base of any eminence, and these roads they preferred and followed in preference to the shorter but more arduous ways.”                 (GM II)


CRAFT skill represents a variety of vocations or trades such (d12) as blacksmith, bowyer, carpenter, farmer, mason, miner, merchant, potter, shepherd, tailor, teamster, or vitner.  Craft skill is specific for the chosen occupation or trade.  There is usually no cross relevance; i.e, skill as a wood worker (carpenter) does not apply to traveling in wagons (teamster).

            Craft skill is often used in game situations where characters would like to repair or construct something.  The assigned DC is based upon the tools at hand and the scale of the desired project.  A laborer earns 1sc a day for his toil, while a character with craft skill earns 2-4 sc per 4 zode work day.

            Black pirates may substitute cross-train if they happen to acquire the Craft skill as  “it is criminal for a First Born to labour or invent.”        (GM XIII).

Artwork from
Thomas Yeates

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Disguise, Evade, Forgery

DISGUISE  skill is used to alter one’s appearance, thereby avoiding apprehension, investigation or suspicion by the local population. In order to use disguise skill, players might require some essential props.  Just like with appraise and forgery skill; for disguise attempts, the d20 result (+rank + CHA mod.) is rolled by the GM and not the player.  This makes for interesting role-playing as the players think that they have donned an adequate disguise while only the GM knows whether their ruse was actually successful.  Example disguise DCs based upon subject of impersonation are:


     8      common soldier/ panthan
    10    innocent bystander
    12    Low level government official
15    Noble or important person
    20    personally well known individual       

    -2                 Using disguise kit (20gc, 8#)
 +mod. Target’s wisdom
   +2                 Another nation or culture
   +3       if character does not know customs or mannerisms of the impersonated individual


    “By the end of the third day, the court barber - -         I could think of no other earthly appellation by which to describe him - - had wrought so remarkable a transformation in both Thuvan Dihn and myself that our own wives would never had known us. Our skins were of the same lemon color as his own, and great, black beards and mustaches had been deftly affixed to our smooth faces. The trappings of warriors of Okar aided in the deception, and for wear beyond the hothouse cities we each had suits of black and yellow striped orluk.”     (WM, IX)



EVADE skill is used when attempting to   escape, elude or avoid.  When pursued by an enemy, evade success is based upon an opposed roll, each individual’s evade result versus the opponent’s fortitude save or tracking skill throw.  When pursued, it is sometimes better to split your party.

“I tried to smile as I lied
“What, she cried, ‘are you not coming with us?’
“How may I, Dejah Thoris?  Someone most hold these fellows off for a while, and I can better escape them alone than could the three of us together.”                                                                  (PM XVII)

     Evade skill is also applied when trying to sneak past an enemy undetected or to tiptoe across a surface without being heard.   Characters that are trying to move silently will take an entire round to move the distance of a comfortable walk (6” for most characters, p.26).    The DC to move silently/ unnoticed past a kadar, beast or monster is determined by the surface that is crossed.

  8         carpet or dead sea bottom  
 10       tile, highway or new construction
 13       wet tile or older construction             
 16       loose masonry or ruins          
 20       dense foliage or gravel
 24       dry foliage     


 +2   if shoes or sandals are wet
ADD  NPC’s wisdom or beast’s will modifier
 -2        if significant wind or background noise




FORGERY skill is used to alter documents or create unique counterfeits; allowing a character and his companions to deceive or bypass governmental and bureaucratic officials.  This skill might also be used to decipher misleading documents and maps, as well as to discover forgeries presented by others.  Forged documents often require key elements such as wax seals, special paper or unique ink. It takes about 10 xats per page to forge a document.  Forgery skill throws are rolled by the game master, not the forger; as the forger assumes he did a good job.


DC for forgery skill equals reader’s intelligence score plus reader’s forgery skill rank (if applicable).  Obviously, it is difficult to forge a document in a language that you do not write (+5 to DC).  Forgery DC is also adjusted by the following circumstances:


 -2        if reader unfamiliar w/ document type
 -2        if reader casually inspects document
+2        if reader knows ‘source’ penmanship
+2        if forger using acquired language
+3        if document missing key features       


“I found a dispatch blank in the cabin

and wrote the  following order:


‘Dator Torith:

 Return these two slaves at once to Shador                                                                                                         Yersted’ 


            “That will be the simpler way to return,’   I said, smiling, as I handed the forged order to the boy.  ‘Come, we shall see now how well it works.”  (GM XII)