The Tower of Art (Tales of Gor RPG adventure) review
34 pp (£6.99)
Snapping hot on the heels of the newly released Tales of Gor RPG like a scent-frenzied tracking Sleen, is the first supplementary adventure entitled, 'The Tower of Art' that comes in both pdf and hard copy form in a reassuringly early 1970s style font.
As adventures go, it's reasonably short and aimed at introducing new players to the complex world of Gor where men are men, and women seem to like them that way. Following the timeline of the books it appears to be set in the current period of the Gorean cycle where the forces of Cos have withdrawn from their sneaky occupation of Ar and the Priest Kings have more or less fallen silent as far as humans are concerned.
I say 'appears to be' because I confess I'm not actually that familiar with the recent flurry of novels that John Norman has written since his enforced exile throughout the 1990s and much of the 2000s. My knowledge of the overall series arc is pretty much stalled at book 25 (Magicians).
The introduction mentions that the scenario will in theory be the first of a loose cycle of adventure packs in which the player characters are, for one reason or another, recruited into the service of the mysterious Priest Kings and subsequently drawn further and further into the machinations of the Priest King/Kur cold war. To my mind this has always been the spine of the Gor series, and like a lot of readers I've been frustrated in the past when John Norman went off on a long drawn out tangent, seemingly refusing to focus on the central adventure theme of his saga. Having players work for one side or another provides a good excuse for them to embark on a 'road movie' trip through the various regions of Gor, re-tracing Tarl Cabot's steps, and sampling all the best things this world has to offer. And that's what this module seems to be setting the stage for in the future.
Personally speaking my preference is always to play a misguided Kur agent, often naively oblivious to the true nature of the creatures she's serving, but obviously the author of this game likes to place his faith in the Priest Kings instead. Each to his own, but frankly I didn't get where I am today by taking orders from a group of giant ants that are rather too OCD about body hygiene. ;)
So, The Tower of Art begins with the player characters coming to the end of their journey, having been escorting an Initiate of the Priest Kings to one of their Temple Forts. Once there they happen to be in the right place at the right time to be offered work by a number of important Initiates who seem to exude a sense of urgent desperation. Put simply, there is a Cylinder tower in glorious Ar in which there resides a mysterious Golden Sphere that may or may not be more than it seems, left behind by the occupying powers of Cos during their hasty retreat. If the player characters can find their way into his cylinder, retrieve the sphere and deliver it to the Initiates, they will not only be rewarded with silver, but with the favour of the Order itself.
There are some trivial details of course that the Initiates may mention in passing – hardly worth noting of course – just some references to 'heavily guarded', 'hard to find' – but nothing that should deter such brave heroes, who naturally enough will laugh in the face of danger. Essentially then the players can choose to infiltrate the High Cylinder from the ground up, or from the air – both approaches being fraught with problems and perils, as you may imagine, and both of them being detailed in the adventure pack.
As challenges go, it resembles the classic Robert E Howard Conan story, 'The Tower of the Elephant' and this is probably no accidental thing, but rather a homage to one of the greats of pulp fiction.
Short and sweet, it's a good introduction to roleplaying Gor that can probably be played in a single session, or maybe two if your players are as verbose and prone to trivial distractions as I am. The module is rounded out by a set of additional rules for the main game, offering 'Specialities' for characters to purchase with their experience points. A Speciality is essentially a subset of a skill, so for example if you had the Bow skill (and if you did, any self respecting member of the Scarlet Caste will probably sneer at you for not using a sword instead, like a proper man would) you could buy a speciality in 'Longbow' or say, 'Mounted Archery'. This speciality then grants you a bonus 1D6 when the condition is satisfied.
Those of you who are attracted to the more risque aspects of Gor, will note that the 'Pleasure' and 'Slave Handling' skills now break down into all manner of *ahem* 'Specialities', and this must surely be the only role-playing game where you can have a speciality in 'Oral Pleasure' or 'Orgasm Control'. Granted, not much use when you're facing down a large Kur coming at you with a double handed battle axe, but then what skill really is?
Personally speaking I'd go for the 'Command Your Lessers' Speciality, but that's just me. After all, if you're a Free Woman of Gor, you're going to routinely run into your 'lessers' on a regular basis, aren't you...
Hard copy prints of the adventure can be purchased from lulu.com here: