This blog is a bit of a spin off of my “Can It” or “Canon” series, where I delve into various aspects of Shadow World. Since it doesn’t quite fit into the “Canon” series, I’ll call it “Shadow World Review”.
Today’s topic concerns our favorite 4-legged beast: the horse, and to a lesser extent cows and cattle. Horses are sort of a given in almost every fantasy campaign, a terran creature needed to fit into existing tropes: the mounted knight etc. Cows/cattle are also a requisite, even if in the background to supply the hide for all of the leather goods also common in fantasy rpgs!
However, if you were to read the SW books, horses are not that prominent and cattle are barely mentioned. In the SWMA, horses are only mentioned 35 times and cattle twice. Of the 35 horse mentions, many are context references to steardan, pegasus or a comparison of intelligence. Only a few societies are “horse based” and reading through most of Terry’s vignettes, horses seem to be exceedingly rare. (Of course the blight that hits and decimates the horses in Emer in the Third Era also helped kill off the “horse trope”.)
Based on my use of the earlier SW books: Iron Wind, Jaiman, Tanara and my own campaigns, I’m not sure the players ever had horses! They feel more of after thought…a few thoughts:
- Early “Loremaster Series” books emphasized the demising nature of the Essence Flows. Travel was DIFFICULT and unpredictable–thus the need for Navigators. Most lands and countries were physically isolated from one another, making horses seem a bit impractical.
- Cool mounts. Terry already embraced the idea of setting unique mounts. Why bother will horses when you can add flavor to the SW setting.
- Land. Besides Emer, which has some open land and plains, SW is frequently small land masses, with diverse elevations, climates that aren’t that horse friendly.
Similarly, the appearance of “cows & cattle” are infrequent throughout Terry’s books. Leather is a common material in the RM system and SW books, but we don’t see that much focus on it’s source. Of course, leather is just hide, and SW creatures provide a lot of opportunity to source “leather”. Jengada recently blogged about this overall topic HERE, and I posted up some SW specific armors in a file via HERE.
Anyway the point of this blog was more a quasi thought experiment. Despite being tagged as a “kitchen sink” setting, SW has many unique elements. I don’t know where horses and cows fit into your use of SW, but I had to comment on it!