Interview: Greg Lambert On His Pulpy ‘The Doom That Came To Astreas’
by Anton Kromoff
Welcome to the table.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Greg Lambert, creator of the Astreas setting and the newest adventure offering “The Chronicles of Aeres: The Doom that Came to Astreas”
Anton: Hello, Greg and thank you for taking the time to sit down to talk. Before we dive too deep into this brilliant tome with open-world exploration that has a structured campaign folded in, let’s learn a little bit more about you. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Greg: I’m the creator of a high fantasy adventure series for D&D 5E, The Chronicles of Aeres. My co-author Frank Mills is responsible for almost everything technical, like editing, graphic design, and our videos; we self-publish most of our stuff. I’m a guy who, like many of you in the gaming world, has been obsessed with fantasy my whole life! For better or worse, I’m stuck in the past. I love nostalgic, old-school fantasy and sci-fi: books, games, comics, TV, and movies. Everything I do as an RPG writer is informed by that nostalgia.
Anton: How long have you been in the tabletop role-playing game community?
Greg: I’ve been playing since around 1997 with AD&D 2nd Edition, but I haven’t really been involved in the wider tabletop roleplaying world until just a few years ago.
Anton: Kull, Conan, and Lovecraft are easily seen as inspirations for this project. Can you talk to us a little bit about what inspired you to create the Aeres setting?
Greg: Aeres was our homebrew campaign setting when we played in high school, way back in the 90s. At the time, we were slavishly devoted to Tolkien, and our fantasy world was heavily influenced by Middle-Earth, especially the Silmarillion. Fast-forward 20 years later to when we started playing D&D again with 5th Edition. We weren’t really satisfied with any of Wizards of the Coast’s setting books, so we decided to resurrect Aeres for our campaign.
We quickly realized that there were lots of other players like us, people looking in vain for something with that old-school flavor for 5E. So we Kickstarted our setting to help answer that! “Astreas” is actually a continent within the greater “Aeres” realm. If Aeres is Tolkien and Brian Jacques, then we felt we’d be missing something if we didn’t also have a setting influenced by Robert E. Howard and Lovecraft.
Anton: The Doom that Came to Astreas itself feels very nostalgic to me, like the dime store novels I would get from the used book store as a kid. It has a lot of Conan, “Lost World” sort of vibes. Was this something that you pulled inspiration from?
Greg: Definitely. We wanted the whole book to have a pulpy, “weird fiction” kind of vibe, but with a touch of the high fantasy we’re known for. A lot of that feeling comes from Sam Cleggett’s artwork, which permeates the book (he did the cover art as well). He’s an old-school guy influenced by the classics.
Anton: Can you tell us a little bit about the four new kingdoms we will find in this book?
Greg: For centuries, a human empire called Atrathos ruled the continent. The Atrathians were conquerors who sailed from the west in a past age, seeking treasure.
They discovered Astreas, which was an uninhabited island, and they quickly colonized it; they built huge, Roman-like palaces across the land. There were several distinct kingdoms among the Atrathians: the sweltering jungle kingdom of Elusius in the south, which belonged to a mysterious magic-wielding tribe; the kingdom of Keras-Thul, a warrior state that dominated the northern lands from mountain fortresses; and the “kingdom” of Strythe, which was a loose coalition of barbaric tribes who ruled the fertile plains at the heart of Astreas. All of these kingdoms have fallen into ruin and decay thanks to the curse of this land.
Anton: Now can you talk a little bit about the four new playable races?
Greg: The Atrathians are human warriors who will seem familiar to any Robert E. Howard fans out there. They have the feel of barbarians meshed with Vikings, and they have abilities to match.
The Atrathians are the “anchor” of the whole setting. The other races of Astreas were once human tribes who were cursed into bestial forms.
The Orinvir were the centurions of the kingdom of Keras-Thul; now they’re eagle-winged masters of the sky who see themselves as arbiters of law in a land thrust into chaos.
The Froskvir were once the jungle-dwelling Elusians; now their kingdom is a festering swamp, and they’ve been cursed with frog-like forms to match. They cling desperately to the last vestiges of their kingdom.
Lastly, the Sliskvir, who were once the plainsfolk of Strythe, now rule the wasteland as vicious, saurian, raptor-like creatures; they relish instinct and the thrill of combat.
Each race of Astreas was designed with unique and thematic abilities that offer advantages in specific environments. Having one of each in a party would make the group well-suited for tackling the adventure’s challenges.
Anton: Of those, which is your favorite and why?
Greg: I have a soft spot for the Sliskvir, the raptor-like race. I think players will enjoy the challenge of roleplaying such a bloodthirsty, inhuman character; it’s definitely a change of pace from the norm. Plus dinosaurs are cool.
Anton: What if any new projects can you talk about coming on the horizon?
Greg: We have lots in the works for D&D. Our next book is a small splatbook about the Wilderkind, the Redwall-inspired animal folk of Aeres. It’s really an expansion on some of the races from our first book. Rules for the OSR will be included in that one.
After the Wilderkind, we’re working on our next adventure module, a storybook-like narrative adventure influenced by Robin Hood and other classic tales. Focusing on the minstrel Trevor Finn and his merry troupe, we plan to include a new bard subclass in addition to lots of new quest hooks and lore. Also, we’re lining up a short Halloween adventure later in the year with a folk horror feel.
Outside of D&D, our next major book is going to be a kaiju/giant monster combat RPG, influenced by all of the genre’s tropes. The rules for that are being developed from the ground up; we’re leaning towards a d100 system.
Anton: Who is out there doing things that excite you in the tabletop role playing game space?
Greg: The 3rd edition of Hyperborea by North Wind Adventures is awesome, one of the best AD&D-based series out there right now, glad they’re continuously updating it. Also, Mark Rein-Hagen, creator of Vampire the Masquerade, just launched a cool looking KickStarter for an OSR-like fantasy RPG called Badlander (part of his Lostlorn series).
I like what he’s doing with that one, a good spin on 5E. Also I wanted to shout out some smaller indie creators: The Basic Expert (Jon Torres,) who recently released a fun and simple western RPG called Cowpunchers, and The Scrying Dutchman (Viktor Gorchev,) who’s working on an extensive set of “modern” rules for 5E.
Anton: Before we go can you please tell our readers where they can follow you and keep up with all your current projects?
Greg: Our Twitter @AeresChronicles is where I post the most updates, but you can also check us out at www.thechroniclesofaeres.com, or search for Aeres on DriveThruRPG. Look for us on Youtube as well, where we have a lot of trailers and lore videos.
Thank you so much and we look forward to seeing what wonders you come out with next!
Until next time, may your lands always be strange!