I've never made a secret of my love for post-apocalyptic RPGs. Maybe it's a product of growing up during the Cold War or maybe it has to do with my melancholy, pessimistic attitudes generally, I don't know. Whatever it is, I find something incredibly powerful and evocative about The End of the World as We Know It.
I've also never made a secret of my love-hate relationship with Michael Moorcock, a conflict that has only become more acute as I've gotten older and read more of his non-fiction works. Consequently, though I find much to enjoy in his stories of Elric of Melniboné, there's always this nagging feeling at the back of my brain that prevents me from enjoying them unreservedly.
For whatever reason, though, I don't have this problem with Moorcock's Hawkmoon books. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but I suspect a good part of it is that they're -- at least nominally -- post-apocalyptic tales, taking place in the "Tragic Millennium" of 54th century Earth. Chaosium's 1986 game, Hawkmoon, provides rules for roleplaying in this setting. The game is written by someone called Kerie Campbell-Robson ("also by Sandy Petersen"), a writer who's otherwise unknown to me, though she (I am assuming the author is a woman) also contributed to The Shattered Isle, the one and only supplement to Hawkmoon, published in 1987.
Hawkmoon is a peculiar product. Though playable as a stand-alone RPG, it nevertheless feels more like a supplement to the excellent Stormbringer. Throughout the text, there are numerous references to using the Tragic Millennium as an alternate setting for Stormbringer, including guidelines for converting characters between the two games. Likewise, there's a fair bit of artwork recycled from Stormbringer and its supplements, which only contributes to the sense that Hawkmoon isn't really its own game but rather an adjunct to its "big brother." If I were to guess, I suspect that Hawkmoon was a labor of love by its author, submitted to Chaosium unsolicited, who were impressed enough with it that, after some minimal polishing by also-author Sandy Petersen, released the game to see how it might do. Judging from its lack of support and relative obscurity, I'm guessing that it never did very well.
And that's too bad. Make no mistake: Hawkmoon is decidedly inferior to Stormbringer in almost every way. The rules are sketchy in many places -- mutations and mass combat come immediately to mind -- and there's more space than necessary spent on recounting the events of the Hawkmoon novels. Yet, there's still something very compelling about this game and I regularly find myself opening up its box and paging through its booklets. The Tragic Millennium is a unique creation: a medieval/early modern society built amidst the ruins of a high-tech world that cleverly blurs the lines between fantasy and science fiction. Moorcock doesn't provide a lot of information on the world in his stories and the RPG doesn't add much more -- just enough to intrigue and inspire, as all good RPG settings ought to do.
Now, I've never actually played Hawkmoon. I only acquired a copy of it comparatively recently and I won't deny that, while I regularly skim its pages, I've not felt a strong urge to play it, as I do with, say, Stormbringer or RuneQuest. I wish I could put my finger on just why that is. Ironically, it might be because I like the Hawkmoon stories that I find it harder to work up interest in the RPG than I do with Stormbringer, since my feelings about the Elric tales are decidedly more mixed. Or it might be that, as I said above, Hawkmoon feels like a "half-game," neither a mere supplement to its predecessor nor a complete RPG in its own right. I really wish I understood my ambivalence toward it. I want to want to play it, if you get my meaning, but something prevents my doing so and it baffles me.