Saturday, June 6, 2009

Moorcock and More

As Schick himself has pointed out, Blackrazor is heavily based on Michael Moorcock’s famous blade Stormbringer.  Actually, I believe his exact phrasing was something like “blatant rip-off.”  

Well, BR may be inspired by Stormbringer, but I see them as two very different swords, and consider them such.

For those who haven’t read Michael Moorcock’s books, his most well-known character outside of Jerry Cornelius is the albino sorcerer-emperor Elric of Melnibone, a tragic character who ends up slaying friends and lovers on his way to destroying kingdoms and (eventually) the world.  He’s one of the earliest anti-heroes found in fantasy literature, and extremely compelling. 

At least, I always found him to be.  Before actually reading Howard’s books, my associations with Conan were more of the bare-chested He-Man/Masters of the Universe image.  The idea of a skinny, pasty intellectual kicking so much ass was music to my young mind (being kind of a skinny, pasty, intellectual myself).  Plus, I find a very angsty-teenager feeling in the Elric books that appealed to me through my formative “grunge years” (15-21 or thereabouts) growing up in Seattle in the 90s.  Vampire the Masquerade only wishes it could be so dark and nihilistic as my man Elric!

Much of Elric’s power came from his sentient blade, Stormbringer. Stormbringer was a demon incarnated in the form of a black "greatsword," covered in glowing scarlet runes.  That’s as much description as is really definitive.  Sometimes wielded one-handed with shield, it is just as often described as requiring two hands to use. 

Stormbringer has the power to suck the soul (utterly slaying) any person suffering the slightest hurt from the blade.  However, since Elric tends not to do “slight hurts” (every described strike with blade seems to be a mortal wound), perhaps this power is only activated on a “killing blow.”  In exchange for the taking of souls, Stormbringer confers upon Elric tremendous strength and vitality.  However, once sated (the blade stops being hungry for souls after a few hours in battle), it ceases to confer extra power.

Stormbringer also has properties resembling a dancing sword from D&D.  Being a sentient being, on certain planes it takes a roughly humanoid shape rather than that of a blade. It is intelligent but neither talks nor communicates telepathically…instead it “moans” or “wails” and communicates with Elric via a kind of deeper/baser empathic understanding.

And that’s really the extent of it…besides the “soul sucking” ability (really not much different from a life draining sword), Stormbringer’s powers are quite a bit dissimilar from Blackrazor.  Only on a most superficial level does Stormbringer’s purpose even resemble that of Blackrazor…Stormbringer has no purpose but to serve Elric and (ultimately) Arioch, Elric’s infernal patron. Oh, yeah…and eventually help Elric destroy the world in the Final Conflict (Moorcock’s version of Armageddon).  Blackrazor’s purpose: to suck souls. No more, no less.

Interestingly enough, there were AD&D stats for Stormbringer at one time, and it was quite a bit different from the write-up of Blackrazor.  Stormbringer was present in the Melnibonean Mythos of the 1st printing of Deities and Demigods, subsequently re-called and re-issued minus the Moorcock and Lovecraft sections.  I had the chance to borrow a copy years ago and even made (un-authorized) photocopies of the relevant pages, such copies being now lost in the mists of time. 

As I recall, Stormbringer converted stolen life energy into both Strength and Constitution for Elric…there were a maximum number of (hit points? Constitution? Levels?) it could drain before becoming satiated, though the number was in the hundreds.  I do not recall if the blade conferred “experience levels” on its wielder like Blackrazor, but it DID have the dancing capability.  It also had a tremendous ego/intelligence.

All things considered, I can truly say I prefer Blackrazor to Stormbringer.  Here’s why:

  1. Limitless versus limited power
  2. Encourages berserking Hand-to-Hand combat
  3. While both names are cool, "Blackrazor" is totally badass

Regarding #1…when I do my B/X write-up of Blackrazor, its power will be slightly reduced due to B/X level restrictions…which will actually make it a bit more like Stormbringer!

Though, of course, Stormbringer had a "sister blade" in the form of Mournblade.


  1. The one thing you forgot is when Elric is holding Stormbringer it gives him a -6 AC, which I'm assuming is the sword's ability the parry attacks

  2. @ Thomas:

    That could well be. Unfortunately, I don't have my DDG here in Paraguay to review the entry.
    ; )