November 21, 2013

There’s No Place Like Hyborea

“In between the time that the oceans drank Atlantis, and the rise of the Sons of Aryas, there was an age undreamed …”


Yup, it’s that unforgettable intro to Robert E. Howard’s setting for his Conan yarns, and for gamers of my age, you probably hear it in your skull to the accented declamatory tones of good old Mako, may he rest in peace.

And yes, there’s no place like it – because there was never a place called Hyboria or Hyborea. Ever so often I run across a reference to the setting as ‘the world of Hyboria,’ which I usually take as proof that the writer is below the age of forty. No such thing.

There’s a Hyborian race in the setting, a Hyborian tongue, and by virtue of their spreading so far and creating a network of powerful kingdoms in the north and west of the continent, the age has been named after them. The setting is the Hyborian Age – an age, not a place, because the world of Conan the Cimmerian is none other than our own.

Howard’s setting his yarns in this ‘black hole of history’ gives the stories an added cachet for me. It’s not just the added feel of realism. It’s that feeling that you’re reaching back into a past that no one remembers straight, but still echoes in in the known world, for Howard based all his races and nations (loosely) on real-world history. It’s tales like Red Nails or The Slithering Shadow that make you wonder what may still lie undiscovered beneath the jungles of Africa or the Amazon Basin, or make me nostalgic for the days when I’d spend weeks lost in the works of Charles Berlitz and Erich von Daniken.

Now I’m really getting nostalgic … wonder when I can run a Hyborian Age game on G+? Looks like next year’s the earliest, what with this last quarter of 2013 being taken up by my new studio’s growing pains ….

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