Friday, October 15, 2010

Firearms, Cossacks, and Polish RPGs

I have been enjoying a series of posts by Jonathan Becker on firearms and D&D a little too much as of late (when one begins arguing about whether or not the cylindrical shape of a smooth-bore musket ball has an effect on the gun's accuracy, you know you have a problem).

JB's mention of Polish hussars reminded me of one of my favorite early black-powder periods the Wild West-like time period that the sprawling Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth experienced in the early to mid 17th century. With an anarchic southern borderlands and a gallant sword-playing nobility, the period was ripe for adventure stories which the Nobel prize-winning author, Henryk Sienkiewicz , captured marvelously in his three novel adventure series that begins with With Fire and Sword. I'm throwing a clip below from the 1999 film version just to see if that doesn't inspire you to want to throw in a Cossack barbarian incursion into your own campaign (ok, maybe that's just Slavophile me talking).

Which gets me to my second tangent, I've been a fascinated with a number of foreign-language role-playing games such as the French rpg based in Jack Vance's Lyonesse and all the Euro D&D spin-offs. Needless to say, I was doubly stoked to find Dzikie Pola, a game based in the very same period, which is all the more frustrating because I have not figured out a way to get a copy of the damned thing. Any ideas out there from our globe-trotting brethren? (Word on the Lyonesse game by the apparently now defunct Belgian company, Men In Cheese, will get you extra credit.)


  1. Ok, I'm hooked. Your blog is the second or third blog I've read recently with Polish war movies and I'm really digging them.

  2. I'd be interested in a pre-20th Century Polish setting. There is an interesting thread about this right now on From what I see, the material available in English is centered on Russia and the Baltics:

    GURPS: Russia
    The Novgorod Tribunal (Ars Magica)
    Mythic Russia (Firebird)
    Crusaders of the Amber Coast

    There are also some pseudo-Polands such as Warhammer's Kislev and Riddle of Steel's Rzeczpospolita.

  3. @modernhacker
    Parts of my own campaign setting are supposed to be a rough mirror to western Slavic lands (of course mixed in with serious amounts of Vance, Lovecraft, and Leiber) around the end of the 15th century. I was going to flesh out a Commonwealth equivalent land off to the East if the PCs wanted to stretch the limits of the sandbox in that direction.

    I'm with you though about wanting to see it done right for an English language audience. Perhaps that might be next project, who knows.

    Riddle of Steel incorporated some game mechanics from Dzikie Pola reputedly which I would guess is why there are Poland and Ukraine stand-ins in it's campaign world. A fiddly game but some interesting, if overly-long combat rules.

  4. I suppose I have the same sort of problem Becker has, then, as that bit about the round-shape does matter. :-/ ;D

  5. This is indeed a rich period for RPG inspirations. I love the film versions of "With Fire and Sword" and its sequel "The Deluge" (which has a great sabre duel).

    Also, Harold Lamb's series of Cossack pulp adventure novels, were set in the 17th century (Lamb was a major influence on R.E. Howard): "Journey now with the unsung grandfather of sword and sorcery in search of ancient tombs, gleaming treasure, and thrilling landscapes. Match wits with deadly swordsmen, scheming priests, and evil cults."

    Another fun Polish "D&D" film is Stara Baśń ("The Old Fairy Tale"), though its set in the 9th Century.