Friday, December 13, 2013

1980 Sword and Sorcery Cult Classic ~ Hawk The Slayer For Your Old School Sword And Sorcery Campaign

There are films that I've taken a huge amount of heat for from so called film buffs. We're about to talk on one of those. A film that is considered a cult classic. Way,way, back in the early 1980's I encountered Hawk The Slayer on VHS. Everything I kinda love about 80's cheesy sword and sorcery is in Hawk.  In college I wore out a VHS tape of Hawk and pretty much based(stole) ideas from the film to run a successful OD&D campaign. 

The Plot according to wiki: 
The wicked Voltan kills his own father when the latter refuses to turn over the magic of the "last elven mindstone". Before the old man dies, he bequeaths a great sword with a pommel shaped like a human hand to his other son, Hawk. The hand comes to life and grasps the mindstone. The sword is now imbued with magical powers and can respond to Hawk's mental commands. Hawk then vows to avenge his father by killing Voltan.
Voltan's evil touches the whole countryside. Some time later, a man named Ranulf arrives at a remote convent. Ranulf tells the nuns that he survived Voltan's attack on his people, which resulted in the brutal deaths of women and children. Ranulf was seriously injured in the attack. The nuns nurse him back to health, but his hand cannot be saved. Voltan appears at the convent and kidnaps the Abbess, demanding a large sum of gold as a ransom. The High Abbot sends Ranulf to find someone who might help.
Hawk discovers Ranulf with the help of a local sorceress, a woman whom he defended from an accusation of witchcraft. Ranulf has been captured by brigands, but Hawk rescues him. Ranulf convinces Hawk to rescue the Abbess. After a long and dangerous journey, Hawk locates his old friends: Gort, a dour giant who wields a mighty mallet; Crow, an elf of few words who wields a deadly bow; and Baldin, a wisecracking dwarf, skilled with a whip. The five men arrive at the convent, protecting the nuns and devising a way to lure Voltan into a trap. They use their combined skills to steal gold from a slave trader with which to pay the ransom.
Hawk doubts that Voltan will free the Abbess after the ransom is paid. He explains that Voltan treacherously murdered Hawk's wife, Eliane. Hawk and his friends decide to rescue the Abbess, but they fail. Hawk kills Voltan's son Drogo, who had previously assaulted the convent. Enraged, Voltan confronts the heroes in a final battle at the convent. A rogue nun helps Voltan capture the heroes; Voltan repays her by murdering her. With the help of the sorceress, the heroes escape, but the dwarf is mortally wounded.
In the subsequent battle, Hawk exacts his revenge on Voltan and the Abbess is rescued. An evil entity decides that Voltan will be restored to life to carry out further evil. Heeding the sorceress' advice, Hawk and Gort travel south to continue their battle against evil.
Behind The Scenes of Hawk 

Jack Palance really owned Voltan and was great in the role. I love to watch him chew up the scenes as the vile villian. Each and every minute I expected him to go off on some underling or minion. The fact that he was getting a complete screw job by the powers of darkness always seemed like an added bonus. 

Possible Sequals and Dangling Plot Hooks


Time and again there were possible reports of sequels and spin offs and such. The first of these appeared in Cinefantisque magazine. 
According to wiki : 
A possible sequel was referred to in the US Magazine Cinefantastique (Fall 1980 Issue). The director is quoted as saying "...I'll be going on a trip looking for locations for the next one. Whether ITC does it or not, we will be making HAWK - THE DESTROYER in February [1981]'. The film was not made.
Hawk The Hunter was annouced a few years ago but so far as I know no much came of it. Too bad I was really looking forward to seeing this get off the ground. 

 There are three possible connection points in the film : 
The gathering of wizards that the sorcerss speak about in the film. 

The patron that Hawk and Gort speak of. 
The return of Voltan himself by the powers of darkness. 

 Hawk The Hunter I'm sure might have picked another route entirely. 

Using Hawk The Slayer For 

Your Old School Sword and Sorcery Campaign 
The world of Hawk The Slayer is a pseudo European sword and sorcery world that borders a strange middle ground style of world. The power of church binds the world of Hawk but this is world where sorcerers and witches also hold sway. The movie still has quite a strong cult following today. 

The Elves of Hawk's world are a dying people and almost seem to have more then a passing touch of the Fey about them. The world of the fey also seems to ripple through Hawk. There are also dwarves, hill giants, and more. Mythic creatures are rare in this wold even though the realms of the other are traveled by Hawk and company.
I've always loved how Hawk gathers his party. Nevermind the whole 'you meet up in a tavern' nonsense. Your sorcerss sends you to the side of each of your party and they join you giving a bit of  exposion along with their appearance.
Make no mistake that this is a 'B' film but its a very well loved 'B' film. Its been getting quite a bit more attention from the  OSR over the last couple of years. 

Ten Reasons to Use Hawk The Slayer As Source Material
For Your Old School Sword And Sorcery Campaign 

  1. There is a lot of room to situate your own adventures within the world of Hawk. I simply looked at one of Voltan's dangling plot hooks and ran with it. Its really that easy. 
  2. The fact is that even though there are Dwarves, Elves, The Mind Sword, etc. this is actually a pretty low magic world. There is evidence of several mythological facets that are starting to really die out in the world of Hawk. 
  3. Every weird trope is used in Arduin and several of the magic items are even statted up already within the pages of Dave Hargrave's world. 
  4. Even though the movie is well known there are several factors that were never used in the movie that are actually available in the script. A very though DM could download the original script and go from there . 
  5. There's a lot of history between the party of Hawk and using the original characters from the movie to do your own spin off campaign based on that history is very easy and kinda interesting. Case in point is actually Crow. We get very little about his people, his own background, and family. Could there be some hooks lying in the background of this mysterious but well loved Elf? There are hints that the Elves here have extensive relations with the royal houses and humans of this world. 
  6. The powers of darkness here seem to be on the rise and the pseudo Christian style church is taking on the chin. Voltan seems almost like a Johnny come lately villain. Were there others who paved the way of his man's darkness and with him out of the way are there others waiting to take his place and spark a war with his return from the weird hell of this cult classic? 
  7. Voltan's son spoke of the instiblity that his rule created in the surrounding kingdoms could Hawk's vaccum from the throne create the perfect opportunity for one of these upstart kingdoms to move into the void. 
  8. Heroes certainly seem to be in short supply. A band of characters getting embroiled in the local affairs might be just thething to jump start some of the populace. 
  9. There are rumors and myths dropped throughout the movie about other treasures, relics, artifacts,etc. This seems like the perfect hitch to get a party of cut throats together to go exploring a dungeon in the world of Hawk! 
  10. What about the disappearance of Hawk himself? Could a party of PC's be needed to find the just and rightful ruler of this world? Where has the hero of the downtrodden gone? 


  1. For years the folks playing dwarves in my game played them as lewd, drunken womanizers, with atrocious diets, surely Hawk the Slayer inspired them.

  2. Surely they must have been!
    In my campaigns, there was a propensity of dwarven fighters to use whips and have half giant best friends. I believe there might have been simultaneous design going on my friend!
    Thanjs for the comments and more to come!
    Hawk for ever!

  3. I love Hawk the Slayer! It's an outstanding example of "so good it's bad" movies. We watched it over and over. There were machine gun crossbows in our games for a while because of this movie.

  4. Er... "so bad it's good" movie.

    Typist needs caffeine badly.

  5. Fractal Bat ~ We had 'machine gun' crossbows as well. I think that Arduin has rules for 'em I believe.
    Hawk is definitely one that got quite a bit of replay at our table over the years.
    Who couldn't use more caffeine especially this holiday season.