So over on Facebook someone asked about this statement: “Burning Sands is my desert fantasy skirmish ruleset”, what about the rules make it desert fantasy and not just fantasy?
Short answer, nothing really.
But that would be overlooking two main things, I think.
The first is the look of it, now it looks like it is set in the desert, and the terrain and figures used are all deserty.
There are rules for desert worms, scorpions, swarms of beetles, hyenas and so on, sand storms and quick sand.
But that is pretty superficial to be fair.
It is aimed at supporting my figures and scenery, and was written with that desert setting in mind.
But what makes a desert setting a desert setting, and are the rules any different?
This brings me on to the second point.
What is a desert setting for me?
So when I think of desert sand and sorcery I think of Sinbad and Conan.
For me that sort of world is quite different from most fantasy in 2 main aspects, the lack of traditional fantasy races, there are no orcs and elves and goblins, it is pretty much just humans.
The magic is quite different, look at lots of the traditional fantasy games with the above mentioned races and magic is all over the shop.
Not only are there wizards, there are magical universities, shops that sell rare magical items and common place magical ones.
Heroes wander around in +3 chainmail with swords of +5 damage, packing at least 10 healing potions and a ring of resurrection.
Wizards join armies and unleash fireballs, raise armies of the dead, summon dragons, create illusions of men, open up the ground and swallow up ranks of troops, the magic is extreme, obvious, powerful and day to day.
My desert setting and thus the rules, view magic as rare and less battle magic style.
I grouped my magic into 3 distinct flavours, from the rule book:
“Sorcery can take many foul forms, but the most common are Summoning, Manipulation and Ensorcellment.
Summoning is the process of opening a rift in reality and pulling creatures or spirits from limbo into our world to do their masters bidding.
Manipulation is the controlling of natural elements and bending them to your will against nature.
Ensorcellment is the devious art of illusion and convincing someone that an illusion is real.
Typical Summoning would involve the raising of the dead, calling forth winged demons and so on.
Manipulation could vary from the mundane unlocking of manacles, making a storm appear out of nowhere, to causing castle walls to crack and crumble in minutes.
Ensorcellments are mind tricks and examples would be convincing a person that their dagger is a venomous snake, that they can not see someone, or to convincing them to hurl themselves off a cliff.”
So whilst these can be quite powerful, they are not vulgar displays of power or typical.
But importantly, magic users are rare.
The rules for summoning creatures make it hard, and if you want to summon anything of any significance you will most likely need to a group of acolytes to help, and by help, I mean sacrifice!
So I think combining the lack of traditional fantasy races with the less traditional magic system helps make the game feel less traditional fantasy and in this case more desert like as it reflects what I see as typical desert settings.
Having said that, the Chroniclers Companion does contain more traditional spells and guidelines on how to go about creating more.
So it is meant for desert as that is what I sell, the rules help nurture gaming in that setting, but the core mechanics do not prevent using the rules for any setting.