Sword & Sorcery Heroic Roleplaying – Part 5: Classic Heroines

Join me once more as we return to an age of high adventure!

In Parts One and Two of our Cortex Plus Sword & Sorcery hack, we looked at modifying Marvel Heroic Roleplaying character creation for the Sword & Sorcery genre. We also provided classic sample characters (part three) and threats (part four) in previous articles on a Cortex Plus Sword and Sorcery hack using Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.

Now, in Part Five, let’s look at some classic female heroes.

The annals of Sword & Sorcery fiction are full of mighty warriors and cunning rogues, unparalleled swordsmen and black-hearted magicians—most of whom are male. Blame, if you wish, the short-sightedness of a group of predominately male authors, or the narrow sense of their publishers with regard to potential readers, but female leads in Sword & Sorcery fiction are vastly fewer in number than they ought to be. It is all the more remarkable, therefore, to discover that the first fantasy swordswoman in the genre was created by C. L. Moore (a female author concealing her gender behind her initials) in 1934. Both author and character were women ahead of their times. So we begin with the first:

Jirel of Joiry

Cover art from Black God's Kiss

Cover art from Black God’s Kiss

(from Black God’s Kiss, Black God’s Shadow, Jirel Meets Magic, The Dark Land, Quest of the Starstone, and Hellsgarde by Catherine Lucille Moore)

Means
Steel d10 Guile d6 Lore d8

Distinctions
Arrogant
Passionate
Tough

Power Sets

Wanderer of Realms Unknown
Fortitude d8    Warrior’s Fury d10
SFX: Enraged. Step up or double Warrior’s Fury for one action. Afterward, put the highest-rolling die into the Doom pool.
SFX: Experience of Sorcery. Step up or double Fortitude for any reaction to a sorcerous action. Afterward, place your highest rolling die in the Doom pool.
Limit: Exhausted. Shutdown any Wanderer of Realms Unknown power and gain 1 PP. Recover power by activating an opportunity or during a Transition Scene.

Panoply of Joiry
Sword d8    Plate Mail d8    War-horse d8
SFX: Dangerous. Add a d6 to your dice pool for an attack action, and step down the largest die in the pool by -1. Step up Physical Stress inflicted by +1.
Limit: Gear. Shutdown any Panoply of Joiry power and gain 1 PP. Take an action vs. the Doom pool to recover gear.

Careers: Noble d8, Soldier d8

Milestones

The Burden of Rulership
1 XP – When you make a decision, taking into account its effect upon your subjects.
3 XP – When you send those under your command into danger.
10XP – When you accept personal danger, harm, or loss in order to protect your subjects or your lands.

Vengeance and Regret
1 XP – When you declare bloody vengeance in response to an outrage against your person or your lands.
3 XP – When you exact vengeance upon someone who has wronged you, or when you restrain your impulse to do so.
10XP – When you see the long-term results of your revenge and perform an act of reparation or contrition, or when you see the long-term results of your restraint and act to remedy them.

Jirel is the ruler of Joiry, a feudal demesne in Medieval France. In plate mail, with her close-cropped red hair, she has been mistaken more than once for a man – not the least because of her skill with a sword and her commanding manner. The men of Joiry follow their liege into battle without hesitation, and battle holds no fear for her. Only in her various encounters with the unnatural and magical has she known the icy grip of fear, but even then her willpower—and sometimes her fury—carry her through.


 

When Sword & Sorcery fiction experienced a brief resurgence in the 1970s, there were a number of female protagonists, both swordswomen and sorcerers. For this article, I have chosen one of the most unique from that era:

Tomoe Gozen

Tomoe GozenMeans
Steel d10 Guile d6 Lore d8

Distinctions
Ronin
Resurrected and Repentant
Walking the Road to Hell

Power Sets

Ronin’s Belongings
Katana d8 Wakizashi d6 Naginata d10 Longbow d8 Samurai Armor d8
SFX: Area Attack. Target multiple opponents. For every additional target, add d6 to your pool and keep +1 Effect die.
SFX: Dangerous. Add a d6 to your dice pool for an attack action, and step down the largest die in the pool by -1. Step up Physical Stress inflicted by +1.
SFX: Daisho. Use both Katana and Wakizashi in an action or reaction.
SFX: Warrior Worth a Thousand. On a successful reaction against a close combat action, convert your opponent’s effect die into a Ronin’s Belongings stunt. If your opponent’s action succeeds, spend 1 PP to use this SFX.
Limit: Gear. Shutdown any Ronin’s Belongings power and gain 1 PP. Take an action vs. the Doom pool to recover gear.

Careers: Noble d8, Soldier d6, Mercenary d6

Milestones

Repentance Is Not Redemption
1 XP – When you attempt to make amends for an evil act you once performed.
3 XP – When your recovery of Emotional stress involves the admission of your own guilt.
10XP – When you engage in battle while carrying a d12 Physical stress, accepting the possibility that death is your only true redemption.

Rootless Wanderer
1 XP – When you start a Scene in a village or other location where you have never before been.
3 XP – When you spend a Transition Scene traveling from one place to another.
10XP – When you accept a position as a Samurai retainer to a feudal Daimyo, or decline such an offer and walk away.

Tomoe Gozen was the vassal of warlord Shojiro Shigeno (and was quite probably a real historical person). In Jessica Amanda Salmonsen’s novels, Tomoe is killed fighting Shojiro Shigeno’s enemies, and resurrected by a Chinese monk. Huan, the villainous monk, holds over her a single condition for her return to life; that she turn against her former master. Under Huan’s control, Tomoe performs a series of evil acts, but eventually frees herself from his mystical power and becomes a ronin—a masterless samurai. She travels Naipon, (Salmonsen’s variation on mythical Japan) most often in the guise of a ‘strolling nun’; a member of one of the sects of Buddhist nuns who travel on pilgrimages from shrine to shrine.


To match my three male examples from earlier in this series, I wanted my third female exemplar to be a Sword & Planet protagonist. After considerable research, I present a woman who is, so far as I can determine, the only female ‘Earthperson castaway on a distant world’ in the genre. Someone needs to get to work on that…

Akilina ‘Leena’ Mikhailovna Chirikova

Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova(from Paragaea, by Chris Robertson)

Means
Steel d8 Guile d6 Lore d10

Distinctions
The Fire Won’t Take Me
Cosmonaut
Castaway

Power Sets

Survival Training
Enhanced Endurance d8 Alertness d8
SFX: Focus. If a pool includes a Survival Training power, you may replace two dice of equal size with one die +1 step larger.
SFX: Memories of Stalingrad. Spend 1 PP to ignore Stress, Trauma, or Complications inflicted by hunger, thirst, or exposure.
SFX: Scientific Explanation. Step back Mental stress received from ‘obviously supernatural’ sources.
Limit: Conscious Activation. If Stressed Out, asleep, or unconscious, shutdown Survival Training. Recover Survival Training when stress is recovered or you awaken.

Vostok 7 Emergency Kit
Makarov Semi-Automatic Pistol d8 Survival Knife d6 First Aid Supplies d8
Wire-Saw d6 Canteen & Rations d6 Signal Flares d8 ‘Forel’ survival suit d8
SFX: Dangerous. Add a d6 to your dice pool for an attack action, and step down the largest die in the pool by -1. Step up Physical Stress inflicted by +1.
SFX: Second Chance. Spend 1 PP to reroll when using any Vostok 7 Emergency Kit power.
Limit: Gear. Shutdown any Vostok 7 Emergency Kit power and gain 1 PP. Take an action vs. the Doom pool to recover gear.
Limit: Irreplaceable. Any Vostok 7 Emergency Kit power which is not recovered by the end of a scene is lost permanently.

Careers: Pilot d8, Soldier d6, Scholar d6

Milestones

Woman’s Work
1 XP – When you are ignored or discounted simply because you are a woman.
3 XP – When you exceed the accomplishments of a man in order to be considered qualified for an equal mission, or when you leverage your gender for purposes of advancement.
10XP – When you achieve greater success than a male comrade (recognized or not), or when you attain recognition for success equal to that given to a man.

The Lure of the Air
1 XP – When you talk about the joy and wonder of flying.
3 XP – When you experience flight, whether as pilot or passenger.
10XP – When you return to Earth to resume your Cosmonaut career, or when you forsake Earth for Paragaea.

Akilina Mikhailovna Chirikova was a member of the Soviet Union’s Female Cosmonaut Group, pilot of the Vostok 7 ‘Vorobyev’—‘Sparrow’—lost in the upper atmosphere shortly after launch in 1964. ‘Leena’ was presumed dead, but in fact she had been transported via mysterious super-science to another world. There, she met Balam, a deposed prince of a felinoid race, and even more surprisingly Heironymous Bonaventure, a fellow castaway from Earth and an officer of the British Navy—from the year 1808! Getting back home to report her discovery to the Soviet Union was going to be even harder than she first thought.

About DainXB

Casino Surveillance Professional, Freelance writer, RPG & Computer Gamer, Science Fiction & Fantasy Fan, Part-titanium cyborg.