[Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

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[Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Havard »

I know that many don't like thee idea of an RPG based on a single character, whether it be Indiana Jones, John Carter, Buck Rogers, Conan, James Bond etc. However, when exploring a concept like this, I think it is better to set the main character aside and explore the universe of that character and see what that setting has to offer for an RPG campaign. I think this also needs to be the approach of a Tarzan based RPG. I read somewhere that the Tarzan comics and movies lost their appeal because Africa is no longer the place of mystery and unknown creatures that it was then Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the stories. We will see if the upcoming Tarzan movie will do anything about that.

But Tarzan's universe is not really limited to Africa, is it?

Locations visited by Tarzan
  • Africa
  • Early 20th Century Britain
  • Pellucidar
  • Barsoom aka John Carter's Mars
  • City of Opa
Greater Edgar Rice Burroughs Universe
  • Amtor (Venus) from the Venus Series
  • Caspak (Antarctica) from The Land that Time Forgot
  • The Moon - Moon Maid Series


What other realms and races does Tarzan encounter on his adventures?

If going for a more generic pulp campaign, is there more that can be raided from the Tarzan stories than the concept of a jungle hero?

-Havard

Edit: Included info from other posters in this thread.
Last edited by Havard on Mon Jun 27, 2016 2:38 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Big Mac »

I saw a Tarzan movie where he was brought back to the UK and told that he was an upper class dude who owned a ton of stuff...or something like that. I'm not sure if that's in the novels, or if they changed the story.

But, I would have thought that the appeal of a Tarzan RPG would be to make characters similar to Tarzan, who are able to communicate with apes and other animals. I can see how you can have solo-play as Tarzan himself (like in the Endless Quest roleplaying books) but I'm not sure what sort of options (other than Tarzan-clone) you can have in a game set in the Tarzan universe.

And if you pull Tarzan himself, out of the story, do you have anything other than an African setting where some white explorers have arrived? Does anyone ever want to roleplay some of the apes that were in the Tarzan stories?
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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by night_druid »

Look at the works of the author, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Looks like he did several series:

* A series about Venus called the Venus Series (or Amtor, as the natives call it).

* The Land that Time Forgot (basically Antarctica); natives call it Caspak.

* The Moon Maid series, where the moon is inhabited.

The works of Jules Vern probably wouldn't be out of place, either.
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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by The Dark »

Big Mac wrote:I saw a Tarzan movie where he was brought back to the UK and told that he was an upper class dude who owned a ton of stuff...or something like that. I'm not sure if that's in the novels, or if they changed the story.
It's from the eleventh Tarzan novel, Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, where it's revealed that he's John Clayton, Viscount Greystoke.
And if you pull Tarzan himself, out of the story, do you have anything other than an African setting where some white explorers have arrived? Does anyone ever want to roleplay some of the apes that were in the Tarzan stories?
There's the Waziri tribe, which becomes loyal to Lord Greystoke after he saves them from ivory traders and cannibals, and live on his plantation in British East Africa. They accompany him on an expedition to Pellucidar in 1929 and help fight Communists in the 30s.

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by hihama »

In one of the later books Tarzan is in Sumatra during the Second World War. Then there was one story which happened on an island with Mayan ruins, don't remember anymore was it in Pacific or somewhere else.

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Big Mac »

night_druid wrote:Look at the works of the author, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Looks like he did several series:

* A series about Venus called the Venus Series (or Amtor, as the natives call it).

* The Land that Time Forgot (basically Antarctica); natives call it Caspak.

* The Moon Maid series, where the moon is inhabited.

The works of Jules Vern probably wouldn't be out of place, either.
The Wikipedia article for Pirates of Venus confims that Amtar/Venus has the same Kalkar race that is found in The Moon Maid. It looks like The Moon Maid started off as a Russian-based story, called Under the Red Flag, but Edgar Rice Burrows's publisher talked him into rebooting the story and making it about space-communists trying to take over the Earth.

I can't see a connection with those two stories and Caspak/Antarctica. Or a connection with either of the three and Barsoom, Tarzan and Pellucidar. But given that Edgar Rice Burrows wrote several crossovers, it wouldn't have surprised me if he had not tied up a few more of these locations, if he had lived longer.

The biggest obstacle towards tying them all up, would seem to be that some of them seem to be tied to different parts of the real-world timeline. But I'm not sure exactly where they would all fit onto a single unified Burrows timeline. :?
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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Havard »

Big Mac wrote:I saw a Tarzan movie where he was brought back to the UK and told that he was an upper class dude who owned a ton of stuff...or something like that. I'm not sure if that's in the novels, or if they changed the story.
Yes, I believe the Lord Greystoke stuff is very much canon in the stories. I suppose I could list Britain or simply the "civilized world" as a place for Tarzan RPG campaigns to visit, though it would likely serve more as a backdrop location rather than the main focus of the campaigns.
But, I would have thought that the appeal of a Tarzan RPG would be to make characters similar to Tarzan, who are able to communicate with apes and other animals. I can see how you can have solo-play as Tarzan himself (like in the Endless Quest roleplaying books) but I'm not sure what sort of options (other than Tarzan-clone) you can have in a game set in the Tarzan universe.
Well, we are getting close to discussing what a Tarzan RPG should be about which is the focus of this thread, but I agree with you that it makes sense to have wild animals be an important part of such an RPG. I can think of three ways an RPG coud handle this. 1) I like how later Tarzan movies tended to get a slightly environmentalist message where the villains would often trap animals or kill them for sports etc. If you want something like this in the RPG, there could be a rule that protecting animals, freeing them from captivity etc would gain you an XP bonus. 2) Archetypes and classes. While I think a wide range of early 20th C professions and tropes could be open to campaigns in this setting, I think that you could have Jungle Lord be a class. This means Tarzan is not the only person to have been raised by animals and become their protector. Tarzan is unique in the stories, but he could still be the most powerful character of such a role in an RPG, while allowing to have others mimick his abilities. Intelligent Ape characters could also be a viable class, especially if given abilities that make them cool in the game. 3) Have animal mastery be a kind of "magic system" of the RPG. Animals are more intelligent in the Tarzan universe than in the real world. Perhaps Jungle Lord characters and even others as well can learn to befriend animals and call upon their aid. This could be an ability that improves as the characters gain more experience, allowing for different types of animals to be called upon, or even hordes of animals.
And if you pull Tarzan himself, out of the story, do you have anything other than an African setting where some white explorers have arrived?


Well as we see others posting in this thread, there are many other cool locations in Tarzan's Universe. You could run a game with a group of European explorers, perhaps accompanied by a few African warriors exploring the jungles of Africa, but later moving on to Pellucidar or even ending up on Barsoom in a campaign that doesn't involve Tarzan-like characters at all. That is the beauty of RPGs though that you can take the setting and do things with it that are very different from what the author imagined. Assuming that is what they players are interested in of course.
Does anyone ever want to roleplay some of the apes that were in the Tarzan stories?
I mentioned this above, but if apes are viable characters in the game you need to do things to make them an interesting class. The "Animal Mastery" ability I mentioned above could easily be an area where ape characters are as talented as human Jungle Lords. Perhaps it should be added something about PC apes being particularly intelligent. PC Gorillas would also have the advantage of being physically powerful if they would even be allowed as PCs. Their big disadvantage is their inability to communicate with humans. I like how the Star Wars RPG handled Wookie characters in that they would have at least one human friend who could act as an interpreter. As long as that character was in the same room as the Wookie, the player of the Wookie could speak normally. The same could be done with an Ape character. There is an RPG called Terra Primata using the Unisystem that is designed specifically for ape based campaigns (from "Planet of the Apes" to "Congo" type scenaros).


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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by ripvanwormer »

Havard wrote: Tarzan is unique in the stories, but he could still be the most powerful character of such a role in an RPG, while allowing to have others mimick his abilities.
There's also his son, Korak.

Other prominent places in the setting include the lost city of Opar. PCs might hail from there.

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Havard »

ripvanwormer wrote:There's also his son, Korak.
Good point about Jack aka Korak. There is already a presedence by ERB that others can have similar abilities to Tarzan then.
Other prominent places in the setting include the lost city of Opar. PCs might hail from there.
Ah yes, I was reading about Opar the Wikipedia. A city with Ape human crossbreeds resulting in perfectly human formed females and brutish apelike males. It does seem like a rather evil place, but I suppose that PCs (either male or female) could be opposing queen La's rule?

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by apotheot »

There was also a long running radio drama based on Tarzan's adventures. You are able to find some of these online through ^ahem^ various means... Some of the stories may have fit Marvel Comic's Ka-zar better but, oh well. Also some of the dialogue is a remnant of a bygone era and may be unsuitable to today's sensibilities. I listened to many of them several years back when I had to do a lot of cross-country traveling, now I wish i had more of them as I am pulling inspiration for Malatra stuff.

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by night_druid »

Big Mac wrote:I can't see a connection with those two stories and Caspak/Antarctica. Or a connection with either of the three and Barsoom, Tarzan and Pellucidar. But given that Edgar Rice Burrows wrote several crossovers, it wouldn't have surprised me if he had not tied up a few more of these locations, if he had lived longer.
I would assume all are part of the same grander universe, given his taste for cross-over :)
The biggest obstacle towards tying them all up, would seem to be that some of them seem to be tied to different parts of the real-world timeline. But I'm not sure exactly where they would all fit onto a single unified Burrows timeline. :?
Well, were I to create a game from Edgar's universe, I would just use the books to build the universe, and then pick a particular timeline and go from there.
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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Havard »

night_druid wrote:
Big Mac wrote:I can't see a connection with those two stories and Caspak/Antarctica. Or a connection with either of the three and Barsoom, Tarzan and Pellucidar. But given that Edgar Rice Burrows wrote several crossovers, it wouldn't have surprised me if he had not tied up a few more of these locations, if he had lived longer.
I would assume all are part of the same grander universe, given his taste for cross-over :)
I like the idea of combining all the ERB settings into a greater universe. It does seem like he was thinking about them in those terms too.

For the purposes of this thread, I have edited my original post to list the locations Tarzan has specifically visited and the other realms created by ERB in two separate lists.

Speaking of more tangiental places, I came across Khokarsa, an ancient empire (BC 12.000) with ties to Tarzan's city of Opar. It even seems like the creator of Khokarsa, Philip José Farmer, assumed his main protagonist to be a time travelling Tarzan, using diffferent names in different books. I had never heard of this series before I started digging into Tarzan lore just now. :)


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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by apotheot »

This topic is getting to me. Was just at Walmart and saw the complete 1st season Tarzan cartoon for $5 and couldn't resist.

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Pseudonymz »

Resurrecting an oldish thread in case it's helpful...

First, the Africa of the Tarzan books is rather more exotic than the one in the movies. It includes a bunch of hidden cities (inhabited by descendants of lost Atlanteans, Romans, Crusaders, and so on) as well as various weird human sub races (tiny men, ape men, etc). (Opar, incidentally, isn't really a separate setting - it's just a lost Atlantean colony in a remote part of Africa.)

Personally, though, I find the connections to the wider Burroughs universe more interesting than the oddities of Tarzanian Earth. Most of Burroughs' books are actually linked through a character called Jason Gridley. Gridley invents a form of radio (the "Gridley Wave") which allows him to communicate with both the surface explorers of the Hollow Earth (in Tanar of Pellucidar) and Ulysses Paxton (the second Earthman to reach Mars / Barsoom, who is in touch with Gridley in the prequel to A Fighting Man of Mars). He also visits Pellucidar himself, along with Tarzan, in Tarzan at the Earth's Core. Finally, Gridley appears in the first chapter of Pirates of Venus, before the protagonist (Carson Napier) leaves Earth for Mars in an experimental rocket. Unfortunately, Napier forgets to allow for the gravitational influence of the Moon (!), and ends up on Venus / Amtor, where he becomes the hero of another series of books.

So Gridley links Barsoom, Amtor, Pellucidar and Tarzan's Earth. There is also a connection to Sasoom (Jupiter), whose inhabitants abduct John Carter from Barsoom in the novella Skeleton Men of Jupiter. All of these stories are set in a single continuity stretching from the 1860s in which A Princess of Mars begins to the 1940s of the last Tarzan stories, with most of the action occurring at the time Burroughs wrote them. (Burroughs' major characters are generally unaffected by aging for one reason or another, or at least very long lived.) The Moon Maid series is also part of this universe (it opens with the establishment of official radio communication between Earth and John Carter on Mars) but takes place in a future history of the Earth and Moon which runs from the late twentieth century to the mid twenty-fifth. It could certainly be used as a source for what the Moon is like at the time the other stories are set, though.

(While there are stories in which Tarzan visits Mars, I don't think any of them were actually written by Burroughs [as opposed to being unauthorized fan fiction or comics authorized by the estate].)

Two much more obscure novels (the Ruritanian romance The Mad King and the cave man story The Eternal Lover) are also connected to the Tarzan series by the Custer siblings, who are guests of Tarzan at his African estate in the second book.

Other major Burroughs settings (e.g. the lost Antarctic land of Caspak featured in the series starting with The Land That Time Forgot, or the interstellar location of Beyond the Farthest Star) aren't linked as far as I know, though that may just be because Burroughs never got around to connecting them. Certainly the Caspak stories aren't incompatible in any obvious way, though some of Burroughs' other novels are (e.g. The Lost Continent, which is set in a Europe reduced to barbarism by a First World War That Never Ended, and thus in a different continuity to basically everything he wrote after 1918).

Somebody suggested using Verne (or other contemporary authors?) to fill out a Tarzan setting. Personally I'd avoid Verne, who tends to focus on mechanical gadgets and would be rulers of the world in a way that strikes me as quite different to Burroughs' swashbuckling romanticism, superscientific rays and weird exotica. I think you could certainly lift material from Burroughs' imitators though, e.g. Otis Adelbert Kline (who wrote his own Venus and Mars stories), Ralph Milne Farley (responsible for The Radio Man and sequels), or maybe Ray Cummings (author of a series about a subatomic microcosmos beginning with The Girl in the Golden Atom).

Finally, if you were interested in making "Tarzan like" characters who weren't actually Tarzan for an RPG you might want to look at the imitators who wrote Tarzan knock offs for the pulp magazines. This means characters like Ki-Gor, Jan of the Jungle, the original Ka-Zar and Tam, Son of the Tiger. Some of these characters even survived into (or had descendants in) the comics era, including the second Ka-Zar (of the Savage Land) and Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.


If anyone's still curious... Richard Lupoff's Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure is a pretty good summary of the stories, and has a chapter on "Tarzan's Descendants".

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Sturm »

Great summary !
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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by AllanP »

A bit of a tangent, but seeing this resurrected topic reminds of a book I read many years ago - "Tarzan Alive!" - a biography of the character by Philip Jose Farmer.

That book and Farner's biography of the pulp character Doc Savage introduced me to the Wold Newton Universe where many (and I mean many) fictional characters share common ancestries with complex family trees that link Tarzan, Doc Savage, James Bond, the Shadow et al.
Search the web for "Wold Newton Universe" to find out more.

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Cthulhudrew »

I don't know if it counts for you or not, but Tarzan made an appearance in the Worldscape series from Paizo, crossing over from Earth into the dimensional nexus known as the Worldscape where several planets (including Golarion) intersect.
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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by The Dark »

If we include comics crossovers, a 1999 comic had Tarzan team up with Batman in the 1930s, while a 1996 miniseries had him encounter the Predator. Those would allow one to tie in the DC Universe and the Alien/Predator franchise.

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Pseudonymz »

Cthulhudrew wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 2:21 am
I don't know if it counts for you or not, but Tarzan made an appearance in the Worldscape series from Paizo, crossing over from Earth into the dimensional nexus known as the Worldscape where several planets (including Golarion) intersect.
Usually - as in the post I made above - I think of the "ERBVerse" as including only the crossovers defined by Burroughs.

You can certainly take a more expansive view where you add anything authorized by the ERB estate (or for that matter authorized sequels plus good fan fiction), and I think that's fine. The reason I don't do that is that I end up including basically everything :) (So the comics series Tarzan vs Predator: At the Earth's Core brings in Predator, the Aliens versus Predator franchise adds Aliens, Aliens / Vampirella brings in Vampirella...)

Personally (if I was writing an ERBVerse RPG... which I'm not :)) I'd start by including everything Burroughs said was linked and then adding anything I thought was particularly cool and / or appropriate, whether from Burroughs, his imitators or the authorized Burroughs sequels (so definitely Caspak, and a 1930s version of the Moon seen in The Moon Maid).

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Pseudonymz »

Pseudonymz wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 9:07 am
You can certainly take a more expansive view where you add anything authorized by the ERB estate (or for that matter authorized sequels plus good fan fiction), and I think that's fine.
Actually the situation is more complicated than I'm making it sound here. Some Burroughs stories are now out of copyright, but the estate is trying to keep control of the properties by trademarking the names of characters like Tarzan and John Carter. This doesn't always work - there was definitely a period when Dynamite was publishing Tarzan and Barsoom comics which were commercial products (so not fan fiction) but weren't authorized by the estate, for example. So I guess these days you can only really make a distinction between "stuff written by Burroughs" and "everything else".

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by Princess Strega »

Here's an interesting article suggesting that ERB was influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There is plenty that can be done by combining the two [literary] universes.

https://populscience.blogspot.com/2018/ ... stake.html

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Re: [Tarzan] How big is Tarzan's Universe?

Post by BlackBat242 »

If you include Farmer's Tarzan & Tarzan-like stories - and even his "pre-history of Opar", then you could even carry it further:
Wiki wrote:Plainly, Farmer provided for further sequels which were never written. He has stated that he intended to have Hadon's son emigrate to the south in the wake of the catastrophe that would ultimately destroy the Khokarsan civilization in which the series is set, there to found the city of Kor that would afterward become the setting of H. Rider Haggard's fantasy novel She.

Yeah - Haggard's & Burroughs' worlds joined!

Now how much scope is there for an RPG?

Princess Strega wrote:
Wed May 27, 2020 6:09 pm
Here's an interesting article suggesting that ERB was influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There is plenty that can be done by combining the two [literary] universes.

https://populscience.blogspot.com/2018/ ... stake.html
The Adventure of the Peerless Peer is a 1974 adventure pastiche novel written by Philip Jose Farmer, writing as Dr. John H. Watson, about the meeting of Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan.

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Due to copyright issues, it was rewritten as The Adventure of the Three Madmen—with Mowgli from The Jungle Book replacing Tarzan—in The Grand Adventure collection (1984). It was reissued by Titan Books in 2011 (ISBN 0-857-68120-6) as part of The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series. It has the abbreviated title of The Peerless Peer.
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