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What is is about Stormbringer?

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There's also something to be said for the quality of the adventures that came out for Stormbringer right out the gate.  There was nothing comparable on the roleplaying market at that time. 

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On 5/1/2018 at 2:52 AM, seneschal said:

See?  Elfquest would never generate this sort of passionate discussion despite having Leetah on the cover and its own Marvel Comics adaptation.

Yes the world is in a very sad state. Give me Leetah anyday 😋

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I think StormBringer is the reason why RuneQuest was never a big hit in France. It was translated before RQ, and its simplicity was more in accordance with french taste. It became a standard in the late 80s here, and both it and HawkMoon were very popular. HawkMoon even had a second edition, based on Elric! rules.

As for myself, StormBringer was my first encounter with BRP, and the first RPG rules ouside (A)D&D I read. The way it handled experience, without classes or levels, was a refreshing change for me. :)

Its major issue was how weak the characters were, with ridiculously low skill starting values. Unless, of course, you had the chance to roll a Melnibonean, whose INT and POW ensured they were sorcerers, and their skills were way ahead of other characters.

I didn't like Elric!, which was too close to Call of Cthulhu to my tastes. I didn't like neither the fixed skills base values nor the minor magic. I would have prefered a new version of StormBringer, with better skill values.

 

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On 5/2/2018 at 6:38 AM, Mugen said:

I think StormBringer is the reason why RuneQuest was never a big hit in France. It was translated before RQ, and its simplicity was more in accordance with french taste. It became a standard in the late 80s here, and both it and HawkMoon were very popular. HawkMoon even had a second edition, based on Elric! rules.

As for myself, StormBringer was my first encounter with BRP, and the first RPG rules ouside (A)D&D I read. The way it handled experience, without classes or levels, was a refreshing change for me. :)

Its major issue was how weak the characters were, with ridiculously low skill starting values. Unless, of course, you had the chance to roll a Melnibonean, whose INT and POW ensured they were sorcerers, and their skills were way ahead of other characters.

I didn't like Elric!, which was too close to Call of Cthulhu to my tastes. I didn't like neither the fixed skills base values nor the minor magic. I would have prefered a new version of StormBringer, with better skill values.

 

Well, I don't consider the 1st Edition Stormbringe!r to be so bad and actually about the same as a starting (A)D&D game.  The percentages to hit line up well with AD&D numbers, with Warriors having a 50+% chance to hit with their primary weapon (same chance as a 1st level Fighter to hit AC10 in AD&D) and the "lesser" combat classes all have 30% or better chance to hit with at least one weapon.  Yes, you have to deal with armor subtracting damage rather than hit chance, but IMO that is just a wash.  Yes, the Beggar class was a bit lame, but either we simply ignored any "Beggar" rolls or nobody rolled them....as many games as we did of Stormbringer!, I'm betting it was probably the former.  The downside to the system was that there was no way to start an advanced game easily because there is no level system to automatically upgrade everything. 

This was good and bad (or if you prefer, a strength and weakness) of the BRP version of a d100 game.  It was just different if you want to put it that way.  In some ways it beat the crap out of the Fighter in gleaming magic armor & shield laughingly slaughtering hordes of low level stuff because they cannot touch him, but it other ways it was annoying because a random crit could take down an experience character quickly.

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On 4/28/2018 at 12:24 PM, seneschal said:

After perusing the threads, other than the Big Two (Runequest and Call of Cthulhu) Stormbringer/Elric! seems to get the most love of all the BRP iterations, even forming the basis for other versions of the game.  What makes Stormbringer special in a way that other out-of-print products, say Ringworld and Superworld, aren't?

(I mean, with the latter two your character could one-punch that giant cave troll and sent it drifting off into space!)  :D

It's probably a combination of things. First off, as we all know, it's based on Moorcock's Elric/Eternal Champion series, so it going to get something of a following just for that. Secondly, it is also the game that had gotten the third best support from Chaosium. 

 

There might also be something in the fact that, according to Moorcock, there are certain sexual overtones to the series, and RPGs, especially in the 80 were played mostly by adolescent and college age males. 

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On 5/7/2018 at 8:59 PM, Algesan said:

Well, I don't consider the 1st Edition Stormbringe!r to be so bad and actually about the same as a starting (A)D&D game.  The percentages to hit line up well with AD&D numbers, with Warriors having a 50+% chance to hit with their primary weapon (same chance as a 1st level Fighter to hit AC10 in AD&D) and the "lesser" combat classes all have 30% or better chance to hit with at least one weapon.  Yes, you have to deal with armor subtracting damage rather than hit chance, but IMO that is just a wash.  Yes, the Beggar class was a bit lame, but either we simply ignored any "Beggar" rolls or nobody rolled them....as many games as we did of Stormbringer!, I'm betting it was probably the former.  The downside to the system was that there was no way to start an advanced game easily because there is no level system to automatically upgrade everything. 

You're talking about trained skills here, but most skills on the character sheet remained equal to their category bonus, with 2 or 3 having an extra 10%.

And, even the so-called "trained" skills were rarely above 50%.

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The major problems I had with 1st edition were the Tunnels & Trolls-esque one-sidedness to it. If somebody knew sorcery, he'd pretty much completely outclassed anybody else. 1E Demon items were sooooo overpowered. Even a middling sorcery could produce a demon weapon with  a +4D6 or better damage bonus, and demon armor was all but impregnable to normal weapons. 

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The German translation of Stormbringer (I think it was first edition) was really my first contact with any BRP game (CoC followed shortly thereafter), and it also introduced me to the workds of Michael Moordock, so I guess I can't be thankful enough to this game. Rules-wise, it was an eye-opener, since until than, I had only been familiar with games where you level up, like MERP or the old German The Dark Eye. The idea that you didn't increase your hit points and that everything was "learning by doing" (and often failing) was such a big thing for me that I remember that moment of sheer incredulity even now, close to thirty years later, like it was yesterday.

So, Stormbringer has a special place in my heart, even though I have to admit that I actually didn't like it that much. A lot of that was down to one player, who was also our GM most of the time, and who always had to play the arrogant badass types - in MERP, he played a Dark Numenoan, in AD&D 2nd, he was a Drow, and of course, in Stormbringer, he had to be a Melnibonean. (I kind of remember that we rolled for races, but I think he still ended up with a Melnibonean; or he was actually game-mastering and just had a Melnibonean NPC accompanying us as stand-in.) Anyway, I experienced Stormbringer as a game that catered to this very annoying aspect of his playing stile to the extreme. (I have to say that, apart from that, he was actually a great GM in many ways. But he also had a lot of authority in our group, and that made it difficult to challenge him on his often toxic PC/NPC choices.)

So I ended up labelling Stormbringer as "one of these games for mean people" in my head. However, I played it years later with a different GM and noticed just how much I really liked the system and setting. If you leave out the high-powered nonsense, at least for PCs, it's just simple, gritty and fast in a way that RuneQuest could never quite be. Kind of the "quick and dirty" RuneQuest. I feel like OpenQuest does a pretty good job at replacing that for me, but Stormbringer really got me there. And yeah, Moorcock. I love his writing (sloppy as it might be), his ideas (overwrought as their execution might often be), his strong moral compass (reading Moorcock closely, you'll notice that he never revels in the darkness and violence of his worlds, but depicts them as a fundamental tragedy), and the role he played and still playes for the sf/fantasy community. I hadn't even heard his name before picking up Stormbringer, and he really changed the way I look at sf and fantasy.

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On 5/10/2018 at 6:09 AM, Atgxtg said:

The major problems I had with 1st edition were the Tunnels & Trolls-esque one-sidedness to it. If somebody knew sorcery, he'd pretty much completely outclassed anybody else. 1E Demon items were sooooo overpowered. Even a middling sorcery could produce a demon weapon with  a +4D6 or better damage bonus, and demon armor was all but impregnable to normal weapons. 

 

I liked the totally random characters and the deadly combat. Any group of PCs, if they lived long at all, would end up missing limbs, fingers and toes. The random characters -- well I can see how you might feel ripped off if you have a Nadsokorian beggar while someone else is a Pan Tangian or Melnibonean anything. However I did like the sense of being given a character with only a bit of choice and having to play that character, instead of min-maxing and futzing around with points to 'build' your ultimate Cool character. (Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has something of the same vibe.)

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I didn't mind the random characters and deadly combat, it was just that sorcery in Stormbringer 1E was so powerful that there wasn't much you could do about it if you didn't have access to it. 

And the feel of it wasn't quite right for the setting either. If you were going to go into sorcery in the game you really should go deep and get all the demon items you can. That's very different from the Elric stories where most characters who had demon items ususally had one. In game terms there is no reason why Elric would not have demon armor. 

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On 4/29/2018 at 2:38 AM, Joerg said:

Let me put it this way - reading a Moorcock novel led one of the most gorgeous women I ever met to initiate a conversation with me while on Inish More of the Aran Isles in 1990 and a very enjoyable evening in the pub. I haven't had any such moments reading any other genre literature in the public since.

!!!

I clearly needed to read a better class of Moorcock !

 

(or not, as I'm ridiculously happy with the woman I wound up with -- met her at a gaming-table 40some years ago)

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1 hour ago, Atgxtg said:

I didn't mind the random characters and deadly combat, it was just that sorcery in Stormbringer 1E was so powerful that there wasn't much you could do about it if you didn't have access to it. 

And the feel of it wasn't quite right for the setting either. If you were going to go into sorcery in the game you really should go deep and get all the demon items you can. That's very different from the Elric stories where most characters who had demon items ususally had one. In game terms there is no reason why Elric would not have demon armor. 

 

That's true. The demon weapons and armour were more accessible than in the stories. Elric (via his Ruby Throne bloodline) had various historical pacts with demons and elementals but they didn't get bound to weapons and armour. Stormbringer, arguably the most powerful 'bound demon' was never really under anyone's control.

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There are some magical weapons and armor, but there is no single clue as being demons. In some stories, runes are inscribed on weapons. I remember Rackhir's bow with the Rune of Law (or Justice). Stormbringer is "the Black Sword" an entity of its own in the Multiverse realm.

 

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2 hours ago, el_octogono said:

There are some magical weapons and armor, but there is no single clue as being demons. In some stories, runes are inscribed on weapons. I remember Rackhir's bow with the Rune of Law (or Justice). Stormbringer is "the Black Sword" an entity of its own in the Multiverse realm.

 

Yes there is- Strombringer! The Lords of Chaos are also considered to be demons, so there is some overlap. There were also a couple of throwaway lines in the stories that could go either way. This was still in the Conan mold, where magic/sorcery was bad

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9 hours ago, Questbird said:

That's true. The demon weapons and armour were more accessible than in the stories. Elric (via his Ruby Throne bloodline) had various historical pacts with demons and elementals but they didn't get bound to weapons and armour. Stormbringer, arguably the most powerful 'bound demon' was never really under anyone's control.

I think the problem is that in game terms, summoning costs next to nothing (either materially or spiritually)but gives a very powerful servant or item. I suspect that Ken St. Andre is probably the culprit. Stormbringer 1E looks a bit like T&T in some respects. 

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3 hours ago, el_octogono said:

There are some magical weapons and armor, but there is no single clue as being demons. In some stories, runes are inscribed on weapons. I remember Rackhir's bow with the Rune of Law (or Justice). Stormbringer is "the Black Sword" an entity of its own in the Multiverse realm.

No, he isn't. There are siblings of his, like Mournblade.

At the end, after Elric kills himself using Stormbringer, the sword gives up that shape and emerges as a demon, too.

The whole "demonic beings summoned into items" magic by Ken St. Andre was derived from that unraveling of this weapon, I think.

Stephen Brust's Jhereg saga set in Dragaera has a similar way of making a greater demon weapon, with lesser Morganti (demon) blades being a common choice for assassinating the many highly skilled immortal (unaging) sorcerers in that setting, and a small selection of greater demon weapons fighting in the greater struggle for that world.

Now that's a setting I would like to see in a similar format as Stormbringer.

Edited by Joerg

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18 minutes ago, Joerg said:

Stephen Brust's Jhereg saga set in Dragaera has a similar way of making a greater demon weapon, with lesser Morganti (demon) blades being a common choice for assassinating the many highly skilled immortal (unaging) sorcerers in that setting, and a small selection of greater demon weapons fighting in the greater struggle for that world.

Now that's a setting I would like to see in a similar format as Stormbringer.

I never read the Brust books, but I kind of wish someone would do a "spiritual sucessor to Stormbringer" thing. Different setting that catches its spirit, preferrably without just copying the Chaos/Order/Balance cosmology. It would probably be hard to do, but on the other hand, there seem to be tons of Sword&Sorcery settings out there that supposedly "get" the world of Conan without depicting it outright (I'm not that much of a Robert E. Howard fan, so I wouldn't really know ...).

For some reason, I just don't really like playing in settings from literary/movie sources anymore, but I love settings that somehow get the "essence" of some source material while also doing their own thing. Like how "Ashen Stars" just gets "Star Trek", for me, but offers a different mode of play than one might expect from a Star Trek rpg. Not just filed-off serial numbers, but something that is truly in the spirit of Stormbringer, the whole package, setting and rules, and still set apart from Moorcock's universe.

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7 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Yes there is- Strombringer! The Lords of Chaos are also considered to be demons, so there is some overlap. There were also a couple of throwaway lines in the stories that could go either way. This was still in the Conan mold, where magic/sorcery was bad

 

5 hours ago, Joerg said:

No, he isn't. There are siblings of his, like Mournblade.

At the end, after Elric kills himself using Stormbringer, the sword gives up that shape and emerges as a demon, too.

The whole "demonic beings summoned into items" magic by Ken St. Andre was derived from that unraveling of this weapon, I think.

Stephen Brust's Jhereg saga set in Dragaera has a similar way of making a greater demon weapon, with lesser Morganti (demon) blades being a common choice for assassinating the many highly skilled immortal (unaging) sorcerers in that setting, and a small selection of greater demon weapons fighting in the greater struggle for that world.

Now that's a setting I would like to see in a similar format as Stormbringer.

OK, this could start a long debate... but the "Black Sword" is the weapon of the Eternal Champion. It varies from one incarnation to another. Elric has Stormbringer, Corum the Hand of Kwll, Erekose has Kanajana, and so on. It is an entity on its own, just as the Eternal Champion, the Eternal Companion. If that entity is demonic in nature, I've never read a reference. If we use demon as a broad term which may also include the Lords of Chaos, well, then it may be a demon... or maybe not!  YMMV

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43 minutes ago, el_octogono said:

 

OK, this could start a long debate... but the "Black Sword" is the weapon of the Eternal Champion. It varies from one incarnation to another. Elric has Stormbringer, Corum the Hand of Kwll, Erekose has Kanajana, and so on. It is an entity on its own, just as the Eternal Champion, the Eternal Companion. If that entity is demonic in nature, I've never read a reference. If we use demon as a broad term which may also include the Lords of Chaos, well, then it may be a demon... or maybe not!  YMMV

Try reading the The War Hound and the World's Pain. Lucifer claims to be the Black Sword. Not exactly a reliable witness, but it is a link. There are also some references in the EC saga that equate demons with Creatures of Chaos and.or supernatural entities. 

 

Does anyone have the ending of Stormbringer (the novella) handy? Just how was the Black Sword's humanoid form described?

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I've read almost every EC novel, except the Blood novels.

Quoting the end of Stormbringer:

The entity that was Stormbringer. last manifestation of Chaos which would remain with this new world as it grew, looked down on the corpse of Elric of Melniboné and smiled.
"Farewell, friend. I was a thousand times more evil than thou!"
And then it leapt from the Earth and went spearing upwards, its wild voice laughing mockery at the Cosmic Balance; filling the universe with its unholy joy.

 

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Thanks for the quote, it's been decades since I last read that book. Ironically, it was the first Elric story that I read.

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16 hours ago, el_octogono said:

OK, this could start a long debate... but the "Black Sword" is the weapon of the Eternal Champion. It varies from one incarnation to another. Elric has Stormbringer, Corum the Hand of Kwll, Erekose has Kanajana, and so on. It is an entity on its own, just as the Eternal Champion, the Eternal Companion. If that entity is demonic in nature, I've never read a reference. If we use demon as a broad term which may also include the Lords of Chaos, well, then it may be a demon... or maybe not!  YMMV

I read the two Elric trilogies as a German language omnibus edition in 1987, and followed that up with the Corum novels before I got my hands on the Stormbringer RPG in the Games Workshop edition. While the extent of the demonic integration did surprise me, I thought it fit well with the few named items I had come across. I seem to recall another meeting of several such items from the same universe in one of the other series.

The fact remains that there are more than one such item in the world of the Young Kingdoms, and possibly elsewhere too. While not impossible, it would be strange to have both Stormbringer and Mournblade as instances of the same weapon, with Mournblade never wielded by the Eternal Champion. Few of the other weapons were as bad-ass as either Stormbringer or Mournblade. Hard to do with an item like Jerry Cornelius's pistol, too.

22 hours ago, Jakob said:

I never read the Brust books, but I kind of wish someone would do a "spiritual sucessor to Stormbringer" thing. Different setting that catches its spirit, preferrably without just copying the Chaos/Order/Balance cosmology. It would probably be hard to do, but on the other hand, there seem to be tons of Sword&Sorcery settings out there that supposedly "get" the world of Conan without depicting it outright (I'm not that much of a Robert E. Howard fan, so I wouldn't really know ...).

For some reason, I just don't really like playing in settings from literary/movie sources anymore, but I love settings that somehow get the "essence" of some source material while also doing their own thing. Like how "Ashen Stars" just gets "Star Trek", for me, but offers a different mode of play than one might expect from a Star Trek rpg. Not just filed-off serial numbers, but something that is truly in the spirit of Stormbringer, the whole package, setting and rules, and still set apart from Moorcock's universe.

There are diluted versions of the Stormbringer concept (sorcerers conjuring up demons powering island-based naval empires) that have been included in a setting that I would call "thoughtful generic fantasy", e.g. the setting of the (German language) Midgard roleplaying game which has a period in the past of the setting which corresponds quite well to at least a Pan-Tang-like culture of powerful summoners.

Parallel universes with a time-flow somehow connected to the primary point-of-view universe, or a universe with planets that have magical connections while having distinct forms of magic aren't that seldom. The setting of Hârnmaster or the worlds of Midkemia and Kelewan are examples for different universes, while the latter is found in Brandon Sanderson's stories.

Most rpg settings borrow from more than one such inspiration, and may tie different forms of conflicts to different periods.

What would be a core component of an Elric-like setting? You seem to want to de-emphasize the Chaos-Order duality, yet retain the distasteful concepts of summonings requiring human sacrifice.

When I designed a fantasy setting as a backdrop for my RQ-Vikings-inspired RQ3 game, I created a continent with two interior seas in the center separated by a mountain chain, and I placed an empire on that divide that created artificial waterways fed by huge summoned water elementals that could cross that divide, with a summoners magic that treated their ancestors in similar ways to the elemental and demonic entities summoned from magical places. The afterlife was influenced by my understanding of Hades (the realm, not the deity) and the (Republican) Roman worship of household deities, which I tied to ancestors in the Hades-like afterlife receiving worship. These people treated deities and spirits worshipped by other cultures just like their own array of demonic entities that they would summon (with some risk to the summoner) to do their bidding.

Demons in that setting were entities from a corrosive/entropic otherworld, although that corrosion was different to the source of Chaos in that setting. Compared to Gloranthan terms, the Fourth Layer of Hell, inimical to life and leaching it (and souls), often associated with evil as the communication with these entities and their demands for manifestation on the world required the destruction of human souls, but no complete elimination like the Chaos effects that devastated Genert's Garden. There were a few other cultures using similar magical techniques, several of them also infected by Chaos (like the ogre culture that I placed next to my Hebridian-like Viking colonies using the Fomorians of Irish myth as a source for names and mythos).

This gave me an urban culture using hellenized Roman influences, with institutionalized slavery (also from prisoners of war) feeding human sacrifices keeping up their technology, with well organized infantry/marines, a fleet of demon-reinforced galleys patrolling their canals, connected natural interior waters (lakes, rivers) and formerly the two inland seas, then crushed by a charismatic syncretic religious movement which the empire opposed, but which made it to the semi-conquered barbarians in their back regardless of their persecution and a re-invigorated return to a former cross-cultural and even cross-species unity which had prevailed in the cataclysmic war preceding the empire by millennia.

Not terribly original, quite a distance from the Stormbringer setting, but close to the magic of Stormbringer 3rd edition. In my campaign they remained slightly distant antagonists whose ruins would draw some of their more disreputable magicians digging for lost treasures or knowledge. That campaign petered out as I was finishing my studies and working on my diploma thesis, like most of my players, too, giving me much less time to do the world-building and prep-work.

Overall, the setting and its pre-history isn't that different from that of the German Midgard rpg (which switched from an earlier setting that I had expanded to play in before discovering RQ3 to its current setting without me staying informed except for a game or two with a group of former students I had met through organizing the local convention). Having just returned from such a reunion game, I did a short research to catch up with about 20 years of setting development, noticing the similarity between my RQ-based setting and their rpg setting for a hybrid class- and skill-based rpg.

It would be possible to take my premise for the canal-builder summoner culture and build a setting around it with sufficient amounts of story-hooks in mythic pre-history, leaving most of that RQ3-based standard cult magic out of the setting, although I would still want to provide an antagonistic magical system or two to provide conflict out of magical incompatibility of the cultures. It could be a magical fantasy setting without any non-abstract deities but low-level summoned ancestors receiving sacrifices. I guess I'd enjoy participating in developing such a setting, leaving the actual rpg-design to others. Just imagine a navy with ship classes like "80-souls hull" galleys... A rival school of magic might use a form of sacrifice that leaves a modicum of remaining souls in the sacrifices, using them as barely living automatons, giving them weaker demonic manifestations but a horde of spear-fodder or rowers.

The question is whether such a setting would satisfy your "Stormbringer with serial numbers and order-chaos antagonism filed off" demand. What other elements of Stormbringer would you want with this? Re-incarnating heroes with destinies (which could be done borrowing from Nephilim, too)? Eternal Champions - plural rather than singular. Maybe with a mechanic that encounters between these create flashback scenarios in other periods, with open outcome and limited impact on details of the setting. That way player characters could play recurring heroes or recurring companions (heroes being more powerful but also more railwayed, while companions being less powerful but able to break out of those rails of destiny).

I guess I'd like to play a bit in such a setting.

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@Joerg:

That actually comes retty close to what I was thinking of ... no please turn it into a flashy product that I can buy!

Midgard (the German setting) borrows a lot of Moorcockian element, but has a totally different tonality as a setting - that's why I'd actually prefer something that doesn't borrow too much Moorcock-mythology elements, but does it's own thing, but with a stormbringer flair. The whole order/chaos thing has been done to death in many contexts.

Elements that I consider vital to the Stormbringer flair:

The world is part of something bigger - a universe, multiverse, a cosmic order -, but in a tragic sense. In the end, everyone is at the mercy of that bigger cosmos This backdrop should be nearly or actually sfnal.

The big powers are decadent.

No EDO - creatures and non-humans are supposed to be original and often bizarre.

Places that are emblematic of something - Nadsokor, Tanelorn, Melniboné - they all stand more or less explicitly for certain concepts of the world or of society.

 

I actually have my own take on this as a setting. Hope I'll get around to sharing it later today.

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On 5/11/2018 at 6:41 AM, Atgxtg said:

I didn't mind the random characters and deadly combat, it was just that sorcery in Stormbringer 1E was so powerful that there wasn't much you could do about it if you didn't have access to it. 

And the feel of it wasn't quite right for the setting either. If you were going to go into sorcery in the game you really should go deep and get all the demon items you can. That's very different from the Elric stories where most characters who had demon items ususally had one. In game terms there is no reason why Elric would not have demon armor. 

In my experience, there was also a problem with the fact only Melnibonéans and Pan Tangians were the only characters with a real chance to be sorcerers : as their POW+INT was almost always sufficient to learn to summon demons, you almost saw no elementals at all.

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On 5/13/2018 at 6:29 AM, Jakob said:

Midgard (the German setting) borrows a lot of Moorcockian element, but has a totally different tonality as a setting - that's why I'd actually prefer something that doesn't borrow too much Moorcock-mythology elements, but does it's own thing, but with a stormbringer flair. The whole order/chaos thing has been done to death in many contexts.

It might be because Moorcock borrowed a lot of Germanic elements for Elric. Even the name, Elric,  is Germanic in origin. 

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