Science Fantasy?

One of my main inspirations for D&D are old issues of Heavy Metal magazine. These, mostly, European comics from the late ’70s and early ’80s often had “sword and sorcery” themes, and could be counted upon to feature decent-to-quite-amazing visual art.

As I read through some issues, a few I hadn’t looked in since they were first published, it occurred to me that the “science fantasy” elements – a neglected part of OD&D’s charm – were to be found here too.

Hargrave’s Arduin had aliens and advanced technological artifacts along with the monsters and the magic. OD&D had tables listing encounters taken from the Burroughs’ Mars books – and you can’t get more “science fantasy” than that! I had not been tempted to include these elements in my game – as such a “crazy” mixture would have been considered heretical among my friends and I when we started playing D&D – but the idea of having demonic Orcs in German-style Panzers… I have to admit that it really appealed to me.

Come on. Look at this. It’s great, isn’t it? I can just see this column of tanks crossing through some medieval-type fields on their way to an unsuspecting castle…

M.A.R. Barker’s Tekumel had plenty of alien and science fantasy elements as well. His campaign – like Arduin – featured a mix of different alien races, all occupying the same area and struggling over resources. Combining these clashing, even “outre” elements seems to me to be totally in keeping with the spirit of the original game. I’d like to see how a barbarian fighter or arch mage would respond to a Tiger II manned by Deodanths and commanded by a Type II demon.

These illustrations are taken from Richard Corben’s “Rowlf.”


6 responses to “Science Fantasy?”

  1. Lum says :

    Have you seen my Space Fantasy Castle Inhabitants Table? It’s a rework of the castle inhabitants from OD&D.

    Heavy Metal, Warren, Mobius, that stuff was risque, rare and valuable treasure when I was a kid. And unfortunately now it is again.

    You have hit the nail right on the head with this one. If I could recreate the feeling I got from reading Heavy Metal the first time for my players then I would be a very happy DM!

    Also, have you ever played Rifts?

  2. Greyhawk Knight says :

    That’s awesome. I remember reading Rwolf all those years ago but those panels are completely new to me. Seems that I completely forgot what the story was about. Maybe I should dig up those old boxes…

  3. Radnoff says :

    Now I’m interested in the story in HM. Can you give us a brief synopsis, and/or tell us what issue it appeared?

    • citycrawl says :

      The story appeared in Heavy Metal #32 (1979), #33 (1979) and #34 (1980). It also appeared in an eponymous underground comic which is pretty easy to find.

      I don’t want to ruin the story…

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