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Oathmark with a side of Thieves' World-cum-Traveller

How do you ready yourself for an eight-player mass battle game like Oathmark? The Scrum Club's answer is to start the day with a one-off game of Thieves' World-cum-Traveller.

Our hunger for games and camaraderie built to near bursting during the pandemic, so now the Second Saturday Scrum Club is making up for lost time by scheduling two games on the appointed date, the first at 1:00 p.m. and the main event at 4:30 (as per tradition).

The day kicked off with a smaller subset of the group gathering in Scrum Hall for Rich McKee to address what he took as a personal challenge. In a fairly recent episode of the Grognard Files dedicated to Chaosium's Thieves' World, Dirk the Dice and Blythy dismissively chortled at one particular detail in the original rules: the authors included guidelines for making Thieves' World compatible with nine (!) other contemporary RPGs, including Traveller

The gauntlet had been thrown, and Rich couldn't ignore it.

As a result, the Scrum Club spent the afternoon last Saturday landing our space craft on the planet colloquially known as Thieves' World. We weren't supposed to be there, but neither was the Zhodani agent we were sent to neutralize. We touched down in a secluded patch a few miles outside of a city called Sanctuary, and were told to go find a contact named One Thumb who had been cultivated by our intergalactic handlers. We could find One Thumb in a part of the city known as the Maze...supposedly he was the proprietor of a tavern called the Vulgar Unicorn. The catch? We couldn't bring any of our advanced technology with us and had to equip ourselves with the world's quasi-medieval tools and weapons.

Well...if you have any familiarity with Thieves' World, the game or the fiction, you should get some sense of our session's flavor. Rich did a great job of kitbashing the two milieus together, and it was a enjoyable one-off that let me check two boxes: I'm going to claim I've now played Traveller and Thieves' World, both for the first time.

Take that, Dirk!

left to right: Rich (our intrepid GM), Francesco, Jared, Jason, Steve, and Joe ensconced in Scrum Hall.


As we rolled toward 4:30, John Sears and Walt O'Hara darkened Scrum Hall's doors, Walt carrying about half of the figures we were going to need for our Oathmark mass battle.

Setting up hundreds of figures took a while, but once we were ready we divided ourselves up between the two armies, letting feigned enmities dictate who we wanted to sit next to or opposite of for the grand conflict about to unfold.

Walt had been painting Oathmark armies like an obsessed hermit throughout the pandemic, and when combined with Steve's decades-in-the-making collection of miniatures, we had two beautiful armies to play with for the night.

Here's the highly allusive narrative Steve wrote to underpin the proceedings, with references to everything from the county I live in to my wife Ellen. It was clever, and I appreciated the extra effort.

"The holdings of Ellendale are once again threatened by the forces of the Belted Way followers. A battle is surely brewing in the Plains of Montgoco. The spy’s of the Belted Way have discovered that the Silver Spring, near the Plains of Montgoco, may grant special blessing to those that bathe in its waters. The troops of the Belted Way hope to receive those gifts as the battle approaches!"

For some of us, this was our second experience with Oathmark (our first being the May gathering), but this time we were playing in a setting more in keeping with what the game's creator had in mind (that is, instead of the Hyborian Age of our previous go 'round). The opposing forces in this game were of the classical fantasy sort--undead, necromancers, and orc minions on one side facing off against humans, elves, and dwarves on the other.

As always, with eight folks in the game, trying to reconstruct any sort of narrative is beyond the scope of this post. I will say that I played a unit of heavy cavalry, dwarf 'linebreakers,' and an arch-priestess whose divine intercessions bolstered the morale and courage of the troops. I took care of a far end of the battlefield, tasked with preventing the enemy from breaking the line and making their way off my corner of the battlefield.

In the end, the forces of good prevailed, but mostly because of a lucky last-ditch charge by Jared's light cavalry into the enemy's exposed necromancer. The charge was meant as a final act of defiance, a vainglorious gesture by the much weakened cavalry unit as we appeared to be on the cusp of certain defeat. What we didn't know was that killing the necromancer meant all of the undead troops arrayed against us would collapse into bones and dust when we sent that necromancer back to oblivion. 

We were gobsmacked when more than half the opposing army was reduced to an inanimate heap on the field. That's the stuff of epic poems, right there...

So, the photos below are not in any sort of chorological order; they're presented to give you a flavor of the game and the fun we had. Most of the photos are by my adorable wife Ellen, the Scrum Club's official Combat Photographer. Any of middling quality are almost certainly taken by myself or others in the group. Trust me on this.

Ellen in action.


A mid-game shot from above.

My dwarven linebreakers squaring off in the forest against an ogre.

My heavy cavalry charged into a  group of goblin archers but then got t-boned by a unit of mummified horrors. We were outnumbered, but they were outmatched.

Rich McKee

John Sears and Rich

Steve Braun, Walt O'Hara, and John

Jared Smith

My arch-priestess.

Some dwarf champion roaming the battlefield.

I love all of the old Ral Partha skeleton giants.

Francesco and Steve

Jason Smith (Jared's brother and guest for the day's proceedings) and Francesco

Francesco and Joe Procopio


Cha-cha prowling the amassing casualties...

Closing Thoughts and Parting Shots

I'm having a grand time playing two games each second Saturday, and I am hoping we continue to do so for a good, long time.

As for Oathmark, I generally enjoy the rules, though I don't think we've really even dealt with the parts of the game that make it interesting and set it apart, specifically the kingdom formation rules and the campaign rules. From what I've read, they seem quite well thought out and fun. Not sure if everybody in the group, though, loved the basic Oathmark rules enough to want to commit to a campaign, but maybe a smaller subset of the members will want to try a mini-campaign on a day other than when the club officially meets. I'd be game!



  1. Great looking game! The old school figs still hold all their charm on that that wonderful looking table! I love it.

    1. Getting older figures on the table is definitely one of the benefits of having a club whose members all came up together in the hobby at a similar time and are now of a "certain age," as they politely say. Our club tends to share your affection for those older figures...

  2. I have played Classic Traveller and have that Thieves World set. I always wondered what they were thinking. Now I know.

    1. Turned out to be an unexpected pleasure! Rich, the GM, and many others of us in the Scrum Club, have so many rule sets we've owned but never played enough (or at all) that we're really making a concerted effort to get a lot of things on the table. The pandemic has reminded us all that life is (too) short!

  3. Lovely looking old school armies! I really enjoyed Traveller ,back when I played it,about 40 years ago! Nice to see a big old wargame, I am vaguely tempted by Oathmark, like lots of people I have got a load of unpainted citadel fantasy figures I'm sure I could get some use out of!
    Best Iain

    1. It's a fun system, but probably really shines in campaign play. Always good to hear from you, Iain. If you paint up those Citadel fantasy figures, I'd love to see them!


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