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Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of


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slygeek

Villager
By Crom! Its about time! - Terrific RPG made by professionals and fans alike, but falls just shy of perfection due to its choice of system (5 star rating)

Having been part of the Kickstarter, I've been reading, reviewing and play-testing this product for quite some time. I've also been waiting three years for it since it was first announced. So this is a very exciting day for me. And for anyone who is a fan of Conan and Howard's writings.

I enjoyed the d20 (D&D 3.5 clone) version of Conan, in fact its my favorite adaptation of the d20 rules. It was the first time players really had to rely on their wits and their mundane (often damaged) gear. Even a loin cloth saved one of our PC's life one time as he was suffocating from smoke inhalation. That's because the game was so brutal and those maneuvers like "To the Hilt" really drove it home. Enter the 2d20 version by Modiphius. Which in many ways is a much higher quality product, a better and funner adaptation but in the end still falls slightly short of perfection because it remains yet another clone.

From the beautiful art (just look at that front cover!), to the colors, fonts and graphics. Modiphius' Conan aims to please. Personally I would of gone a more fluid and "artistic" approach and less "boxy" approach at times but analytical players will appreciate the style I am sure.The authors make no less effort either at honoring Robert E Howard, and you can tell it was fans of the original books that poured their love into this game.


First I'd like to point out that I am absolutely in love with the 2d20 system, you can see Jay Little's influence in this system by the versatility and story-telling focus "Momentum" "Doom" and "Fortune" bring to the table. It very much reminds me of the Star Wars RPG line by Fantasy Flight Games which pushes this collaborative story-telling genre. Which is a huge relief from d20, which makes zero effort to enforce this. Its a smooth system that runs well. You can easily improvise combat maneuvers due to momentum, the 2d20 allows for more of a bell curve then standard d20 and the numbers don't scale out of control at higher "experience". Its a roll-under AND pool-based system in one. Very clever and I love it. I also like the attributes and how they effect various aspects of the game. You can't make a character that relies solely on one attribute in this game! Whatever you choose to sacrifice, you will feel it when way or another.

That being said, its the 2d20 system that also prevents Conan Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of, to achieve a true five star rating (I would give it a 4.5). Simply because in the end, it still feels like a clone. Had the game been designed with its own unique system aimed specifically at Sword & Sorcery (systems like The Riddle of Steel and Blade of the Iron Throne come to mind), I think it could have been even better. You can sense shoe-horning into the genre at times. Although this is even more painfully obvious if you've played Mutant Chronicles which in fact the game the 2d20 system was really made for. Its a great clone, and I think Modiphius did all they could to adapt it, and beautifully they did. But its still an adaptation and thus falls ever so slightly short of games like The One Ring RPG and Star Wars Edge of the Empire, whom were designed ground-up for those settings.

Ironically, its this choice of mainstream tried-and-tested system that may also spring this game forward. Because no huge risks are taken (the unique combat style of The One Ring RPG comes to mind), you can be sure the game will be enjoyed by the masses. Whereas games like Riddle of Steel and Blade of the Iron Throne remain a niche thing.

My only gripe with the game is the Character Creation process which can be a tad tricky the first time through. You can easily mess up if you miss-read something and at times have to go back and forth between steps. But Modiphius has made an app to facilitate this process. But I still like that it tries to make Character Creation more organic, you can more of a sense of evolving your character rather then just choosing a race and class.

But this is nit-picking folks. Great game for any RPG or Conan fan.
 
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Tush Hog

First Post
5 out of 5 rating for Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of

I've GM'd a handful of sessions and our group has loved it! The character creation process can be chosen as you go, but my group has gotten a lot of enjoyment out of random generation. Combat is fast and brutal. The Doom, Momentum and Fortune mechanics really help drive the story in fascinating and unexpected ways. It makes the game just as enjoyable for the GM as for the player.

The system hits the crunch sweet spot for me. Very basic system that is easy to grasp and modify for specific situations and with enough meat to give depth. The art is beautiful and the whole thing captures Robert E Howard's Conan better than any RPG ever has.

5 Stars.
 

marroon69

Explorer
5 out of 5 rating for Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of

Modiphius did an amazing job with this game! While Conan is the personality, Howard's world is the start. The game has a simple yet deep rule set, art from the industry leaders, a clear presentation of the material and adherence to Howard's vision. Basically, all wins in my book. The game (only the PDF so far) is well put together, well edited and an easy read. While the 2d20 rule system takes a little getting use too (I play a lot of d20 stuff) but is a refreshing change with the right amount of crunch for me. So far I am enjoying game and I am happy to exploring Howard's original ideas again.

Note: I am a huge Robert E Howard fan, so I am a little bias towards the setting and Modiphius did not disappoint.
 

Water Bob

Adventurer
1 out of 5 rating for Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of

I now own the game. There's a lot of love put into this thing. I want so much to like it. But, the game rules just kill it. The 2d20 System is a complete "pass" for me. It's a poor choice to represent the Hyborian Age. It's got a meta-game mechanic in it that should be used for games where there is some over-riding power that exists in the world, like the Force in Star Wars or Dark Symmetry in Mutant Chronicles (for which the game system was designed).

The game system is also too "gamey". It focuses the player on the dice--not on roleplaying a character. Players are too consumed with how many dice they're going to throw for a particular task, and where they're going to get that extra bonus, rather than living the life of a person during the Hyborian Age.

With a different game system, this would probably be a pretty slick game.

With the 2d20 system, it's a complete "pass" and "non-recommend" in my book.
 

Caliburn101

Explorer
5 out of 5 rating for Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of

There are so many unique things about the way in which the original swords and sorcery story of Howards Conan is well represented and simulated in Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of.

If you like the S&S subgenre and are not a dyed-in-the-wool simulationist, then you will probably find the game very interesting and entertaining. If you also love Conan and particularly Howards work, you will find it to be a delight!

I was one of the beta playtesters, and my friends and I ran many sessions actually trying to break the ruleset, but we didn't, and we didn't like the idea of tokens for fortune and doom either to begin with, but we enjoyed using them with this game. Take from that what you will, but trust me that it works very cleverly in balance with the flow of the game, a fact you can only truly understand if you actually play, which we really needed to before we understood what a mistake we had made in our initial 'grognardy' assumptions.

If you read Waterbob's review before me - trust me, he has been giving this game terrible reviews for precisely the same reason since long before it was released, so the fact he now 'owns' it is irrelevant. If you think that's overly critical, then consider that even if you don't like a systems mechanic (which is fine btw - I don't like overly meta-gamey mechanics and nevertheless found these to be entirely suitable considering the clever counterbalance of factors) the rest of the game (the background, artwork, attention to detail, lore etc.) still has to be judged alongside this and a balanced view taken for an honest review.... but no, it's a minimum mark again from Waterbob due to his only real objection.

Not fair at all really, as the lore, flavour and background stuff in this game is extremely well done and very evocative.

Combat is gritty and bloody, and the rules on intimidation and morale are the best I've ever seen. Skills make their masters as impressive as can be imagined whilst still leaving them all too mortal when things go wrong, and the sorcery rules... let's just say that it superbly reflects the dark and dangerous nature of magic in this genre even better than Call of Cthulu does (which is saying something imo...) and is more like the original stories than any rpg system has managed to represent at any time to-date - it's truly inspired work!

... and yes, I have tried every other iteration of Conan rpg and nearly all general S&S rpgs too...

Right, that aside, don't bother taking anyone's claims as golden, including mine - but do try the free ruleset on DriveThruRpg for yourself.

The vast majority of you are going to love it, I can assure you.

By the way, if you are going to Dragonmeet this year and want to play in a game before making your mind up, or just if you want to play because you already know how damn good it is, then I'll be running a double session game. I probably won't be the only one, but that doesn't matter, just try any of them and have fun...
 
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lyle.spade

Adventurer
5 out of 5 rating for Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of

I am a recent convert to 2d20, having played and GM'd it with Conan and GM'd a number of times for Star Trek Adventures. The iterations of the system between the two games are different, with the core mechanics and processes the same, but the level of detail (read: crunch) considerably greater in Conan than in the more streamlined STA.

Like most gamers of my age (late 40s) I am familiar with Conan as an idea and a pair of fair-to-poor Arnold movies. I started to read some of the stories only last year, as my interest in this game grew after playing the Free RPG Day scenario. Over the last 6+ months I've read a heap of Howard's Conan stories and have a much better feel for the genre and his world in particular. Thus, I approached the gamebook from the perspective of someone more specifically familiar with Conan canon, and as someone familiar with the system.

I think it's great. The book can be divided into two parts: everything related to the system as it creates structure for the game; and everything that presents the massive background to the world. I am impressed with both. The system, while certainly a crunchier version of 2d20 than found in Star Trek Adventures, is not complicated. Yes, there are many options available to players, especially when considering how to use Momentum, and the GM has to be creative and thoughtful about spending Doom. The core mechanic is simple and extremely flexible, determining success or failure, as well as degree of either, with the added bonus of making room for complications that can happen on otherwise successful rolls. This is very similar in function to FFG's Star Wars; however, I think it accomplishes these ends in a more simplified fashion, and the menus provided for Momentum and Doom usage make using those resources at the table an easier and faster affair than I found with FFG's system. I have described the system's learning curve as being not so much steeper than d20 (for sure), but rather longer. It's not inherenly complicated - there's just more to learn in order to become truly proficient as a player, so that you can play your character to the utmost potential within the story.

The other part of the book, all the world background, serves as a primer to those who are like I was a year ago: I'd heard of Conan but had never read the source material. The background on the places, peoples, and ideas of the world is deep and broad, punctuated throughout by great art and sidebars providing commentary on Howard's ideas and other issues related to conceptualizing the world with integrity.

The book is also a complete volume for gameplay, with full character creation rules, a bestiary, all that background information I just mentioned, a detailed GM section, downtime rules, and on and on. The single volume is all you need to run the game, in full.

If you like fantasy and are interested in a change from the norms of default DnD, and are also interested in a system that provides more options - albeit requiring a little more time to reach proficiency with it - you should give this a try. Modiphius sells the PDF directly from their site, and if you are only thinking of playing it you can get the Player's Guide, in PDF, from them for about $7. That book is just over 100 pages and is a page-for-page reproducation of the entire character generation rules plus the basic player-facing rules for tasks and combat. This makes for a really low barrier to entry for this system: a GM who has the main book, and players who each just get the PG PDF. Very clever production line, I think.

May 2019 Update: After running a number of trial sessions for my home group, we decided to pick up Conan as our regular game for a while, and are loving it. Yes, the system has more moving parts than 2d20 for Star Trek Adventures, and certainly more than for 5e. It is not, however, what I would call "crunchy" in that you have to keep grinding away at it to make it work...it's more...crispy on the outside and smooth within. Silly metaphors aside, the many moving parts to combat and magic are all coherent, and the core mechanic is clear throughout. As our group has become more proficient with the rules we've realized that we're adding more of the detail rules in each session - almost as if we started with only a basic version of the rules, got that down, and progressively enriched our play with more of the full system as time has passed.

Because of the many combat options, there is great opportunity for meta discussion at the table, making combat more like a co-op board game in some ways than a traditional rpg, in which many players check out when it's someone else's turn. Momentum spends make for a fluid economy of assistance and ideas around the table, which has enhanced in-character play. What it feels like is a group of adventurers who know each other's strengths and weaknesses, which has led to more interesting action within combat, and equally novel use of skills in non-combat moments.

It's a great system, and one you can get a taste of for free from Modiphius through the Quickstart booklet.
 
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