Five Levels of Elric

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ng76

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From the 1960s onward, the writer Michael Moorcock has been writing in many different genres, but he’s probably still most known for his character Elric, and the Eternal Champion series.

The Elric stories, about the adventures of an albino sorcerer, heir to a dead kingdom, were a big change from earlier pulp fantasy stories. Elric was a anti-hero, moodier and stranger than traditional sword & sorcery protagonists.

The Elric stories were not only a big influence on fantasy, but also on RPGs. I thought I’d cover a few games designed to run Elric-style stories.

Only one of these is an official adaptation, but the other four are heavily inspired by Moorcock. This is in no way a complete list. Feel free to add any suggestions to the comments.

What makes a game suitable for Elric style settings?​

  • Morally grey – Elric was very much an anti-hero.
  • Magic items are intelligent with personalities and desires, like Stormbringer, Elric’s soul-devouring sword.
  • A multiverse, with multiple parallel worlds, and planes of existence.
  • Instead of individual Vancian spells, sorcery involves making pacts with otherworldly or infernal creatures.
  • The world is influenced by the forces of Law and Chaos.

Law & Chaos​


The alignments of the Eternal Champion world, where the universe was constantly being influenced by the forces of Law and Chaos, was a big influence on D&D. However, there is no concept of good or evil in Moorcock’s cosmology. Either Law or Chaos could be bad if taken to an extreme. The closet thing to “good” was the idea of Balance – keeping the universe stable.

Now the games:

Stormbringer / Elric​


This is the big one. It was one of the few official licensed games set in the Elric/Eternal Champion universe.

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Stormbringer uses the Basic Role Playing d100 system used by Runequest, Call of Cthulhu, and many other RPGs. There have been multiple editions of this system, some under the name Elric, up to Stormbringer 5th edition. This was the final version.

There were years of modules, sourcebooks, and adventures available for use as source material. Sadly, all versions of Stormbringer are out-of-print, but there are used copies that aren’t too uncommon. No legal PDFs are available.

The website Stormbringer is dedicated to these games. – https://stormbringerrpg.com/

If you can find a copy of this, I’d highly recommend you pick it up. Even if you don’t use the BRP system, the background material and adventures are invaluable. There are supplements for other characters in the Eternal Champion universe, like Hawkmoon or Corum.

I’ve made a fillable, cleaned-up version of the Stormbringer 5th Edition character sheet here.

Black Sword Hack


This is an adaptation of the OSR Black Hack system. Black Sword Hack uses the standard D&D stats. Players roll a d20, trying to roll below their stat to carry out actions.

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It includes rules for demonic pacts, spirit alliances, weird science, and sorcery. There’s a usage die to keep track of Doom, a resource that can be spent, but attracts attention from the forces of Law & Chaos.

There’s a section about creating a world to play in, using various tables to select options. Lots of good ideas here.

I’m a big fan of this one. It’s an OSR game, so excellent for players transitioning from D&D. The art is lovely. If I were to run a Elric-style game today, this would be my first choice.

I made a custom character sheet for this one as well. I’ve also made a cheat sheet.

Champions of Wrath and Sorrow


Champions of Wrath and Sorrow, by Scott Malthouse, is a simple 2d6 system for running weird fantasy.



It uses a basic 2d6 system, where players roll, add abilities and attributes, and try to beat a 10. The game is player

Players are Champions, each with a cursed weapon, obsessions, and a pact with a god. These are generated randomly. Characters also get points to assign to attributes and skills.

Champions start off with 3 Wounds. If they lose them all they die. Some GM advice and a short bestiary are provided.

This is the only one of these games I haven’t run yet. It looks solid enough with a lot of ideas cribbed from other games.

Surprisingly, I don’t have a character sheet for this one. I’ll get around to it eventually.

Dancers in the Dreaming City


This is a one page RPG in pamphlet form, by Micah Anderson. It’s a hack of the What’s So Cool About Outer Space system by Jared Sinclair.



The rules are simple. Each character can choose to be Lawful or Chaotic, and is assigned a Target Number. Chaotic characters have a 7, Lawful characters have a 5. Every action a character might take is classified by the GM as either Lawful or Chaotic

For actions, the player rolls 2d6. For Chaotic actions, the player must roll lower than the Target Number. For Lawful actions, they need to roll higher. Rolls can be with advantage or disadvantage.

The game includes a list of sample spells, magic items, and 2 enemies. Not bad for a one-page game.

I’m fond of this one, but it’s probably best for one-shots and short campaigns. I made a custom character sheet for Dancers here.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons​


Despite Moorcock’s influence on the system, I wouldn’t call D&D, in any version, a Elric-style game. The basic cosmology, magic system, and general tone is too different.

However, back in 1980, in the first printing of Deities & Demigods, there was a section called the Melnibonéan Mythos, listing stats for Elric and many of the people and creatures of his world.

This section didn’t appear for rights reasons in later editions, but if you can get a copy, they might be useful for running an OSR game in the world of Elric.

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If everything goes well, I will make the Ancient Dragon Empires Tripod engined hack for Moorcockian Fantasy available after Longcon.
 
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