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3.5 GM's Closet for the CONAN RPG

Water Bob

Villager
The Conan RPG is a d20 variant set of rules meant to be used for adventures set during Conan's Hyborian Age. The game was produced by Mongoose Publishing, but it is out of print now (as Mongoose no longer holds the Conan License). Although no game is without detractors, the majority of d20 players consider the game a superior set of d20 rules. The game was produced in three editions: The first edition was simply called CONAN THE ROLEPLAYING GAME, and it was a version of the d20 3.0 rules. A second edition was published to coincided with the release of the d20 3.5 rules, and this is referred to as the Atlantean Edition. The third and last edition of the game is called the Second Edition, and it is a cleaned up, better written edition of the previous rule sets.

I thought it would be neat to have a thread for Conan GM's to post various ideas, rule tweaks, NPCs, adventure ideas, and what not--a single thread that a Conan GM can peruse and maybe find ideas for his game. That's why I started this thread.

Consider it a Conan RPG magazine of sorts, covering all sorts of topics in which a Conan GM would be interested.

I'll start, with a few ideas of my own. Feel free to add your two silvers.
 

Water Bob

Villager
-- A LOW LEVEL WORLD OF HIGH ADVENTURE --






Typically, with d20 games, there are two types of universes. The first is dynamic where the world scales with the level of the player characters. You can see this in some D&D adventures where, when playing a published adventure designed for characters level 1-3, all the town guards are 1st level Fighters and the Captain of the Guards is maybe 4th level.


Then, as the PCs gain experience and levels, an adventure designed for 4-6 level characters will have town guards at level 2 or 3, and the Captain at level 7.


The other type of universe is stagnant, where character levels remain what they are regardless of the PCs' level. Town guards are always about the same level, no matter where you go, and a Captain of the Guard of similar experience will be the same level, no matter the level of the player characters.


The Conan RPG uses this second method for the setting of the Hyborian Age. Feared Pict savages are 1st level Barbarians. And, from the point of view of a Commoner classed character, even one that is level 10, that 1st level Pict truly is something to be feared.


A GM that prefers the dynamic scaling method for his games can certainly game that way. But, I will note that keeping the Conan universe low-level (think of it like a E-10 game) will keep the grit and lethal flavor of the Hyborian Age that comes across so atmospherically in Howard's Conan stories.










What Does A Level Mean?


Half the game universe's NPCs should be in the 1st-3rd level range. For clarification, a section was added to the 2E core rulebook that provides guidelines to GMs when making decisions on character levels. See pg. 11-12 of the 2E rulebook for specifics, and look at the Human entries in the Beastiary chapter.


In sum, character levels in the Conan RPG are defined as such (from the examples given in the 2E Core Rulebook).


1st level - a novice fresh out of basic training. But also note that many NPCs are 1st level. A character can be a novice for years or even most of his life.


2nd or 3rd level - most seasoned NPCs. 50% of all NPCs are level 1-3.


4th level - a cut above. The elites. A leader of a bandit band or the fiercest warrior of a band of pirates.


8th level - legendary character. Clan chieftans. Infamous sorcerors. Army generals. Warriors of great renown.


12th level and greater - True mythical characters, as with Conan, Thoth-Amon, Thulsa Doom, Xaltotun, Akivasha.










Examples.


Where as the first edition and Atlantean Edition used few examples to illustrate this point, the Second Edition of the rules drove the point home with the afore mentioned new section describing various character levels and several new examples in the Bestiary chapter of the book.


Here are those examples:


Belit's Black Corsairs, who terrorised the Southern Coast for all those years, are 2nd level Southern Islander Pirates.


The feared Darfari Cannibals are 3rd level Black Kingdom Barbarians.


The entry for Picts reveals that they are 1st level Pictish Barbarians.


Typical Zamorian Thief? 2nd level Thief.


Typical Turanian Light Cavalryman? 2nd level Soldier.


Typical Peasant? 1st level Commoner.


Typical Merchant? 3rd level Commoner/1st level Scholar.


Typical Hyborian Socerer? 4th level Scholar.


Typical Zingaran Dancing Girl? 2nd level Temptress.


Typical City Guardsman? 2nd level Soldier.


Typical Bandit? 2nd level Borderer.


There's an example of a Sellsword, which is described as a dangerous mercenary and killer for hire. This guy is a 4th level character: 2nd level Soldier/2nd level Borderer.


Also note page 301 of 2E Conan. The majority of a kingdom's military forces are 1st level Soldiers. Lower-ranking officers are 2nd-5th level Soldiers. Higher ranking officers are usually Nobles or Noble/Soldiers multiclassed. Peasant militia are usually 1st level Commoners armed with war spears.










Commoner.


The Commoner class is meant for NPCs. You'll see it listed on page 351 of the 2E Core Rulebook. This class maxes out at level 10, uses a d4 Hit Die, is illiterate (a character must spend skill points to be able to read and write), and comes with few class perks in the way of free Feats and class abilities.


For example, a 1st level Soldier character gets maximum hit points (1st level Commoners do not get maximum--it must be rolled), uses d10 hit dice, is proficient with all simple and martial weapons, light, medium, and heavy armor, and shields. Plus, the character is given the Two-Weapon combat feat for free (in addition to other bonuses).


In contrast, the 1st level Commoner must roll his starting hit points--he does not get maximum points. He is illiterate and two skill points must be spent in order to make the character educated enough to read and write. And, proficiency is given for one simple weapon--that's a single weapon, not all weapons classed as "Simple" as with the Soldier.


Point of View: Upon first glance, a 1st level Pict Barbarian doesn't seem all that scary. But, a GM should look at the 1st level Pict from the point of view of a Commoner of any level. From that vantage point, the Pict savage is certainly something to be feared.


GM Advice: When considering the power of any character level in the Conan RPG, always consider that level from the point of view of a Commoner classed NPC.
 
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Water Bob

Villager
Third Party Conan RPG Supplements

99% of all supplements written for the Conan RPG were published by Mongoose. But, not all know that Misfit Studios created three OGL supplements designed to be used specifically with this game (as opposed to D&D barbarians). I highly recommend all three. Click on the link above to view them.
 

Water Bob

Villager
Product List



Here's a complete product list for those GM's searching for books to play this incredible game.



CORE RULEBOOKS

MGP7701 Conan - The Roleplaying Game (also the Atlantean Edition)
MGP7707 Game Master's Screen
MGP7711 Conan - The Roleplaying Game (Pocket Edition of the Atlantean Edition)
MGP7800 Conan - The Roleplaying Game Rulebook (2nd Edition)





GAME SUPPLEMENTS

MGP7702 The Scrolls of Skelos
MGP7703 The Road of Kings
MGP7704 Pirate Isles
MGP7705 Across The Thunder River
MGP7706 The Free Companies
MGP7710 Aquilonia - The Flower of the West
MGP7713 Hyboria's Fiercest: Barbarians, Borderers and Nomads
MGP7714 Tales of the Black Kingdoms
MGP7715 Hyboria's Finest: Nobles, Scholars and Soldiers
MGP7717 Hyboria's Fallen: Pirates, Thieves and Temptresses
MGP7721 Tito's Trading Post
MGP7722 Stygia - The Serpent of the South
MGP7723 Faith and Fervour
MGP7724 Ruins of Hyboria
MGP7725 Argos and Zingara
MGP7728 Shem - Gateway to the South
MGP7729 The Conan Compendium
MGP7802 Return to the Road of Kings
MGP7803 Bestiary of the Hyborian Age
MGP7805 Secrets of Skelos
MGP7808 Player's Guide to the Hyborian Age
MGP7811 Cimmeria
MGP7812 Cities of Hyboria
MGP7813 Khitai
MGP7816 The Warrior's Companion
MGP7817 Catacombs of Hyboria





ADVENTURES

MGP5598 The Coming of Hanuman
MGP5599 The Black Stones of Kovag-Re
MGP7716 Heretics of Tarantia
MGP7718 The Lurking Terror of Nahab
MGP7719 Tower of the Elephant
MGP7727 Reavers of the Vilayet
MGP7807 Adventures in the Hyborian Age
MGP7809 Trial of Blood
MGP7815 Betrayer of Asgard





BOXED SETS

MGP7708 Shadizar - City of Wickeness
MGP7709 Messantia - City of Riches





FREE STUFF

Missing item numbers above were assigned to projects that were not completed or canceled at the time Mongoose lost the Conan license. For example, MGP7818 Empires of the Hyborian Age was given to Conan RPG fans as a free download (the Mongoose link no longer works or I would have had it here for you). Most of MGP7819 Thief's Companion was published in Mongoose's free gaming magazine called Signs & Portents.

If you look at the Mongoose site, under the "Other Roleplaying Games" forum, you'll see a sticky that lists all of the material for the Conan RPG published in S&P. I highly recommend that the serious Conan GM download all of this material (and it is a lot, too--almost 500 pages worth of Conan goodness) from the various issues to use in your game.

MGP7720 To Save A Kingdom, which is a large introductory adventure, is published, in its entirety, in S&P. MGP7716 Heretics of Tarantia, which is an adventure that Mongoose published for sale, was eventually also wholly printed in S&P (under the different title: Faith & Blood). A ton of free stuff you will find in S&P, from adventure locations (many from the Conan stories), to NPCs, equipment, game discussion, and other supplementary material.
 
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Water Bob

Villager
Threshold of Darkness

This is a multi-part adventure, written by Eric Rodriguez and Vincent Delarge, that appeared in a magazine called Ancible. The mag now has this adventure downloadable for free. Go to the Ancible download page and download issues #2-#5 to get the entire adventure.
 
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Water Bob

Villager
CONAN RPG resouces out in the big void



There are a few web sites out there in the ether with some home grown Conan adventures on them. You'll have to use your Google-fu. For example, there's stuff on Thulsa's site. Some of these are full adventures that you can download for free. Some of these are conversions of classic 1st edition AD&D adventures where you still need the original adventure, but Thulsa provides the Conan-ization. And, some of these Thulsa charges (worth it--he writes good swords & sorcery adventures) for--they're not specifically for the Hyborian Age, but they're close enough that you can customize them for your game without too much fuss. You can buy the pdf or a hard copy through Lulu (which is what I prefer). The Spider God's Brideis a great bargain, providing you 10 adventures, from level 1-10. If you buy it (recommended), then be sure to download Thulsa's free Conan RPG conversion document he wrote for converting that compilation of adventure to the Conan RPG.

Besides Thulsa's page, keep on Googling. You'll find stuff like Skull's Conan Cult.

Scribd.com is a good place to look for homegrown Conan RPG stuff. In just writing this post for you, I found The Isle of Smoking Peaks, This Article, and this Cult. I'm sure there's more if I kept looking (and if you do, post it here so that the rest of us can benefit!).

The Snow-Haired Woman is available from RPG Now.

Conan author Vincent Darlage maintains THIS SITE and THIS SITE.

You might find useful information on blogs, too, like this one.

Please post in this thread anything that you think other Conan GM's would like to see.
 

Rabulias

Adventurer
For example, MGP7818 Empires of the Hyborian Age was given to Conan RPG fans as a free download (the Mongoose link no longer works or I would have had it here for you).
The following link to Mongoose's site still works:

http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/pdf/conanempires.zip

Most of MGP7819 Thief's Companion was published in Mongoose's free gaming magazine called Signs & Portents.
Do you know what issue(s) contained these excerpts?
 

Water Bob

Villager
The following link to Mongoose's site still works:

http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/pdf/conanempires.zip
That's awesome. Thanks for posting that.


Do you know what issue(s) contained these excerpts?
Matt at Mongoose said that most of the book was republished in S&P. I can only guess at which articles were originally in the Thieves book. I'm sure of The Dagger in S&P 81 and New Armour in S&P 83. I think Gambling in S&P 85 was originally meant for the Thieves book, and maybe The Underhanded Side of Sorcery in S&P 78. I think, possibly, the Barachan Isles article, too, in S&P 81, but I'm not sure.

That's my best guess, and I'm thinking that the Thieves book was not as complete as Empires at the time Mongoose stopped publishing Conan material or Matt would have released it whole like he did with Empires.
 

Water Bob

Villager
The War of Tarim


What do you need when you are creating an exciting tale of the Hyborian Age for your characters to explore? You need a plot. Exciting locales and situations. Interesting foes and NPCs.

Well, if you think about it, you can get all of that in the various Conan tales. All you have to do, as GM, is pick a story you like and slap some game stats on things as needed. You can pick your favorite Conan short story or novel, your favorite pastiche, even a story from the various Conan comics.

That last is especially suited for gaming in that, with the story, characters, and situations, you also get visualizations that can inspire your game.

When I read through the War of Tarim story arc in Marvel's Chronicles of Conan, I never stopped thinking of how that story would make for a grand, epic Hyborian Age adventure for my players.

The War of Tarim story arc starts The Chronicles of Conan vol. 3 and ends in vol. 4. It's set around the Vilayet sea. A Hyrkanian city-state, called Makkalet on the eastern shores of the Vilayet has stolen the living god (the holy object of the Tarim religion) from Aghapur. Yildz is still king of Turan, and he sends a massed army to besiege Makkalet, led by the crown prince himself, Yezdigerd. The players, of course, will become embroiled in this cluster-joined, topsy-turvey, twisty-misty story.

This tale has it all--scheming sorcerers and priests, insight into the religion of Turan, opportunities to use one of the mass battle combat systems from the game, maybe even a chance to use the sea-battle system from the game, backstabbing NPCs, and even an opportunity to bring Red Sonja (you may want to replace her with another PC or NPC) into your campaign.

Use each tale in this story arc as its own separate adventure. Put them together, and you've got your campaign.

Thusly:

Episode I: Hawks From The Sea, in which the players become embroiled in this mess. The assault on Makkalet as begun!

Episode II: The Black Hound of Vengeance, in which the players make an enemy of the crown prince of Turan!

Episode III: Monster of the Monoliths, in which the players switch sides in the battle! But, only to be used by the other side!

Episode IV: The Shadow of the Vulture, where the players are hunted by the most feared bounty hunter of all the surrounding territories of the Vilayet.

Episode V: The Song of Red Sonja, in which the players make an ally of the red haird sword master....or, do they?

Episode VI: The Mirrors of Kharam-Akkad, in which the players learn that part of this tale stretches back to the time of Kull!

Episode VII: The Hour of the Griffin, in which the players learn about their part in destiny.
 
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Water Bob

Villager
Images







We live in a great time for roleplaying as images that will inspire ideas in the GM and provide clarity and detail for your players while the game progresses are just a few Google keyboard taps away.

Take the above, for example. Could you come up with a scenario based on this image?







Or, how about statting out a new monster based on this image. You describe it, then show this pic to your players as the thing charges them.







This is a concept drawing of Tarantia for the Age of Conan MMO, but it could easily serve as another city of the Hyborian Age or maybe the entrance to the mountain keep of Yadda-Yadda.







"You've naturally assumed that the creature in front of you is human by its overall shape. But, as you pass, you get a look under the cowl...."







The knight approaches you, blade bare. "Traveller, I said that this road was closed. Turn back. Now."







The merchant hands you a strange contraption. You've heard of the weapon but never actually seen one--much less touched one--afore now. You remember that it is called a crossbow. "It is a bow, m'lord," the merchant whispers, "One where you need not pull or knock. You simply aim and squeeze. And this bolt..." You see the merchant pointing to a miniture arrow, "...will fly at your target as if a giant had thrown it."
 

Water Bob

Villager
CONSTITUTION




When creating characters using the default method of 4d6, drop lowest, arrange to taste, we sometimes get on a bad rolling streak and end up with some lower than average scores. For example, I just rolled up a Cimmerian for my game, and I ended up with these totals: 14, 8, 14, 13, 11, 8. I actually ended up with a pretty interesting character (I'll post him later in the thread), but when designing him, I had some challenges.

Cimmerians are one of the few races to feature attribute modifications. They gain +2 STR but suffer +2 INT. Given this, I statted my character like this:

STR 14 +2 racial = 16
DEX 14
CON 8
INT 13 -2 racial = 11
WIS 11
CHR 7

Why'd I put the low number, with the -1 modifier, to represent the character's CON? I did this for a number of reasons. As a Barbarian, STR and DEX are quite important for his fighting and defensive skills. WIS is important to cover important skills, like Surivial. And INT is important to provide the character with skill points.

That only leaves CON and CHR, both of which are quite useful to the character. But, if I put the "8" in CON, I knew I could make up for the -1 HP penalty by giving the character the Toughness Feat. With that Feat, it's as if the character had no penalty at all. And CON only governs the Concentration skill, which I think this barbarian can live without.

Now, CON is also important to the Fort Save, which is used when Massive Damage is applied. I didn't do it, but for the character's second Feat (bonus Feat at 1st level for favored racial class), a player might consider the Great Fortitude Feat.

Later on, the character may improve CON at 4th level and again at 6th as the character's stats improve normally.

The point being: If you've got a few low scores to assign when creating a character, you might consider putting one of them into CON (as low as "8") then side-stepping the CON penalty to hit points by using the Toughness Feat.
 

Water Bob

Villager
NPC


Morghun Clanson
3rd level Barbarian

Sex: Male
Age: 22
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 183 lbs.
Handedness: Right

STR: 16 (+3)
DEX: 14 (+2)
CON: 8 (-1)
INT: 11
WIS: 11
CHA: 7 (-2)

HP: 17
Fate: 3 (if used as a player character)
XP: 3,000

Parry: AC 14
Dodge: AC 14

Initiative: +4
Fort: +2
Ref: +4
Will: +4

BAB: +3
Melee: +6
Finesse: +4
Ranged: +4

Code of Honor: Barbarian

LANGUAGES: Cimmerian (native), Nordheimer, Aqualonian, Pictish, Hyperborean, Nemedian. (This character is not literate in any of these languages.)

PROFECIENCY FEATS: Simple Weapon Proficiency (All), Martial Weapon Proficiency (All), Armor Proficiency (Light), Armor Proficiency (Medium), Shield Proficiency.

BARBARIAN FEATS: Track, Two-Weapon Combat, Endurance.

1st LEVEL FEAT: Toughness.
1ST LEVEL RACIAL BONUS FEAT: Power Attack.
3RD LEVEL FEAT: Two-Handed Power Stroke*.

*This feat is found in The Barbaric Warrior supplement. It requires STR 15+ and Power Attack, and the benefit it brings to the character is that it allows double STR bonus applied to damage when using two-handed weapons (normally, 1.5 times STR bonus is used).

ABILITIES: Versatility, Bite Sword, Crimson Mist, Trap Sense.

24 class skill points: 4 - Climb, 6 - Listen, 4 - Move Silently, 4 - Survival, 6 - Intimidate

CLASS SKILLS

+11 Climb
+2/+4 Hide w/ bonus in native terrain
+6/+8 Listen w/ bonus in native terrain

+8/+10 Move Silently w/ bonus in native terrain
+6/+8 Survival w/ bonus in native terrain
-2/+0 Spot w/ bonus in native terrain

-2/-4 Bluff w/ penalty if verball based
+0 Craft (Herbal)
+0 Craft (Brewer)

-2 Handle Animal
+10 Intimidate
+3 Jump

-2 Perform
+0 Profession
+3 Swim

+2 Ride
+0 Craft (Jeweler)
+0 Craft (Tattooer)

+0 Craft (Etcher)



CROSS-CLASS SKILLS

+2 Slight of Hand
+0 Sense Motive
+0 Search

+2 Open Lock
-4 Diplomacy
+2 Knowledge (Local - Blue Foxlands of Cimmeria)

+0 Appraise
+2 Balance
-1 Concentration

+0 Craft (Alchemy)
+0 Decipher Script
+0 Disable Device

-2 Disguise
+2 Escape Artist
+0 Forgery

-2 Gather Information
+0 Heal
+2 Use Rope

+2 Tumble
+0 Knowledge (various Knowledge skills)



CLOTHING: Wears a billowy Cimmerian leine and a deer skin vest to cover his chest and soft leather trews for his legs. On his feet, he wears soft leather knee-high, wool lined, boots. Loin cloth. Thin rope belt for the loin cloth; a waist belt for the trews; and a wide, outer-belt over his leine at the waist. He wears a thin-metal hoop earring made of non-valuable metal in his left ear, and on this hoop slides two teeth--one from a wolf and one from a human. On his weapon hand, he wears a ring made of lacquered tree vine.

EQUIPMENT: Cimmerian Mantle on his shoulders. A belt pouch, empty a the moment, is attached to the wide belt that covers his leine. Also attached to this belt is a leather scabbard for his Cimmerian Dirk**. In his hands, he carries Stake, a giant war spear custom made for him by his clan's chief and weaponsmith, Finn Duncohr.

**This weapon can be found in The Dagger article of S&P issue 81.

Stake is a high quality weapon and thus receives the +1 bonus to both Armor Piercing and Hardness of the standard war spear. This is a heavy, massive weapon made of lacquered and fired Cimmerian oak hardwood. Steel coverings ornament the shaft at intervals, used as an extra step to protect the wood when deflecting blade blows. The entire weapon is decorated in Cimmerian spiral etching.



DESCRIPTION & BACKGROUND: Morghun is a tall, somewhat lanky (but well muscled) Cimmerian. He's got long, rough-cut black hair that he usually wears loose, bangs down in his eyes. The first thing you will notice about him are the swirling blue tatoos that decorate the entire right side of his face, from his forehead, down his cheek, past his chin, onto his neck and right shoulder. These tatoos are of the knotted, flowing designs popular among Cimmerians. If you look closer, you will see that he is blind in his right eye. A white, clouded orb stares back at you. The tattoos cover the multiple scars of some animal attack that must have mauled him in his youth. If Morghun grimmaces at you, you'll see that he's missing a front tooth.

Morghun is a member of the Blue Fox clan. He hails from a village at the base of the Eiglophian mountains in north-central Cimmeria. As with all warriors of his clan, he left his village at age 15 on his deasghnath (Cimmerian. Pronounced DEE-as-ga-nath). This is a ritual hunting expedition, performed alone, in which a boy leaves his clansmen and returns to them a man. This is how men become recognized as warriors in his clan.

Morghun tracked and found one of the big ice wolves in the foothills of the Eiglophians. The wolf mauled Morghun and nearly killed him, leaving him blind in his right eye and exposing his lung to the elements. But, Morghun persevered and came staggering back into the village, nearly bled to death, carrying the wolf's head.

It took almost a season for Morghun to recover. As he lied motionless, unable to move from his injuries, the cold months of the Cimmerian winter crept in and bit deeply into his chest. Spitting up blood and mucus, the wolf nearly killed him again, this time from beyond the grave.

Many believed that Morghun would never see summer. But, the lad did. Finn Duncohr, the Foxman's chieftain, declared him to be named "Clanson" as Morghun had displayed the ultimate qualtiy to which all Cimmerians aspire: He never gave up in the face of certain defeat.

Finn, a master smith, created Stake and presented it to the new warrior. Finn knew that, with one eye, the boy would have to learn to fight from a distance. Any foe that made his way close, into Morghun's guard, would have an advantage attacking from the side of Morghun's blind eye. The war spear Stake would be used to fight foes from a distance.

GM Note: Morghun's injury is reflected in his CON score. I actually rolled his hit points, and as fate would have it, I rolled low for levels 2 and 3 (he was given maximum hit points at level 1 per the game's rule). This also supports the character's injuries and physical state.

This character has been given a special -2 circumstance modifier to Spot checks while he recieves a +2 circumstance modifier to Intimidate checks due to loss of his eye and his appearance. In addition, the skill ranks applied to Intimidate have been maxed. Also, a decision was made to max out skill ranks in the Listen skill as those with a visual handicap will usually rely on their other senses to compensate.


Morghun coughs all the time. Many times, long coughing fits will result in him spitting up blood. He does not laugh for fear of breaking out into a fit, and he has become quiet. He says little, and this boosts his intimidating bearing.

Morghun's father is a leatherworker. Morghun became an etcher, producing the fine, detail work seen on some Cimmerian weapons and leather goods. After he lost his eye, Morghun first turned to jewelry making. In his left ear dangles a metal hoop that pierces two teeth. One is from the wolf that handicapped him, the other is his own front tooth pulled out of his head by that same wolf. Where his cough and eye and face always make him think of the engagement, the earring, with the teeth constantly clinking in his ear, reminds him that the encounter with the wolf was a victory.

The ring of woven tree vine that Morghun wears on his weapon hand is the first piece of jewelry he ever produced.

In times of late, Morghun has switched occupations yet again. His one eye strains from the demands of etching and creating jewelry, but he has put the skill to use tattooing his fellow clansmen. The tattoos are the same shapes that he used to etch, just on a bigger scale.

But, he found that he could not keep food on his plate by relying on tattoos. Recently, Morghun has switched occupations yet again. Since the engagement with the wolf, Morghun has experimented with brewing different concoctions to ease his cough. This has led to him becoming a brewer. His beer is his most profitable seller though its taste and quality is indifferent at best.

Of late, Morghun has picked up a taste for gambling though he has no skill in it nor does he understand much about gaming. This is why his belt pouch is empty. When Morghun gambles, he does it for the thrill. He doesn't place a high value on coin or other valuables. If he wins a coin, he's just as likely to pierce it and turn it into a necklace with a piece of cat gut then he is to spend the money.

In sum, Morghun Clanson is a tall, forboding figure. Quiet. Leering at you with his one good eye. Scratch scars and swirling tattoos covering half his face. And, that long, obviously well made war spear in his grip.

That is, until he smiles at you, his front tooth missing, proffering a leathern jack of his latest brewed beer of questionable quality.

GM Note: Though shallow on hit points, this character can be quite offensive in battle. He will strike with Stake, doing 1d10 +6 damage if he hits. He can use Power Attack to increase damage, if necessary. And, Stake is considered a finesse weapon (with an improved Armor Piercing rating of 3), should Morghun combat heavily armored foes. At the beginning or end of his turn--whichever is appropriate--he will use his 5 foot step to increase range to 10' in order to bring Stake to bear on his opponent. Morghun rarely relies on his dirk as a weapon, using more as a general knife and hunting tool.

Although I didn't give the character any armor, I sure thought about it. I would make this a game goal. This character, gaining a chain shirt, even, would go a long way towards his surivival. Something quick and immediate might be a simple leather jerkin. Some Cimmerians tend to shun armor, though. Thus, this is what I've done with this character. I'm sure he could change his outlook, the way Conan did, once he learns more of the civilized south!
 
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Water Bob

Villager
Thoughts about the Fluidity of the Charisma Check



A character's CHR check is important, no doubt. But, think about it. The avearge human CHR score is 10. A -2 is a standard modifier. Thus, a CHR 7 really isn't that low. If someone is just below average in personal power, they'd be reflected in the game with a -2 modifier.

I bet you know a lot of people like this in your life--people, for whatever reason, that do not particulary draw others to them. Look at that old John Hughes movie, The Breakfast Club. I bet at least some of those characters have a CHR 7 with the -2 modier, certainly the "geek" and the "wierd chick". I could see "the geek" as a CHR 8 character, with a -1 modifer, and the "wierd check" with a CHR 6 or 7...a -2 modifier.

Mathematically, a -2 modifier means that the character is only 10% less likely to achieve a throw than a normal, average person.

When I slapped that CHR 7 on that barbarian above, it seems very appropriate, especially given the background I gave the character.

Also, remember that the six stats that defines every character in the game are, by necessity, very broad based. The CHR score reflects the characters personal power in a broad sense, on average. Certainly, the character's close friends and family members might not look at him that way. In the game, this would be reflected by circumstancial modifier (maybe a +4 or more for a close family member?).

Remember, too, the Reputation rules in the game. These rules create modifiers to a character CHR score.

So, the -2 CHR modifier for my barbarian above is really the modifier he uses with the world at large. His Reputation score could modify this inside Cimmeria. And, the GM should put circumstantial modifiers on CHR due to Attitudes toward the character (see the Diplomacy skill). Something like this would not be outside the spirit of the Diplomacy rules:

Hostile: -4 to CHR checks.
Unfriendly: -2 to CHR checks.
Indifferent: +0 to CHR checks.
Friendly: +2 to CHR checks.
Helpful: +4 to CHR checks.





So...

Let's look a little closer at the CHR 8 Barbarian I created above. Let's say that he's trying to convince Finn, his clan chieftain, about this or that, and the GM has decided to figure the outcome on Morghun's CHR throw.

-2 for base CHR score.
+4 because Finn is Friendly towards the character.
+2 cirucumstance bonus, the GM allows, because of the established relationship between Finn and Morghun
+2 Allegiance (clan) bonus
+1 bonus due to Morghun's Reputaton score.
----
+7 to the CHR throw.


That's a pretty good modifier, and it reflect the relationship between Finn and Morghun.

If this throw were being made, with, say an Aquilonian city watchman, with Morghun trying to convince the NPC to allow the barbarian entry into the town at night, the check would be much different. Maybe something like this...

-2 base CHR modifier
-2 because the guard is Unfriendly towards the character.
-4 circumstance modifier because the guard has been ordered not to open the gates past dusk.
+0 Allegiance because Morghun has not allegiance to this town or this guard.
+0 Reputation bonus because, using the Reputation rules, the distance modifier has reduced Morghun's Reputation bonus.
-----
-8 to CHR check.



CHR checks should be a fluid thing, based on the situation at hand, and the game rules allow for that (even if you don't use the modifiers I suggested for NPC attitude). The above shows two widely different probable results based on a number of factors, not just the characters base CHR modifier.

Really, looking at the modifiers, CHR 6-7 and CHR 8-9 are just below average--these are those people with quirks about them that, in general, doesn't attract others. But circumstancial modifiers can even make these characters quite persuasive, because everybody has friends and family and those that they influence.

Charles Manson would be given a low CHR stat, but within his click, his bonuses made him quite influential.
 

Water Bob

Villager
The "Average" Human


Too many times I've seen a GM or a player look at a set of character stats and think the character sub-par because the character has some negative modifiers for stats below 10.

Let's look into this a little bit closer.

I think most gamers would agree that a score of 10-11 is average, representing the average human. No where in the Conan RPG does it say such, but its easy to deduce by looking at the Attribute Modifier Table. Scores below the 10-11 mark have negative modifiers while scores above the 10-11 mark have positive modifiers.

So, a strictly average human would have three 10's and three 11's in all six of the game's designated attributes.

But, we all know, from real life experience, that people are people, and that although there is an average, we all very widely when we are measured.

As far as the game goes, I think it is fair to say that average people vary as much as 10%. Call it one standard deviation where most people fall within that range.

If my assumption is true, then the average human falls within a range of stats from 6-15. This range allows for people to be 10% (+2) better in an area than the strict norm, and it allows for people to be 10% less effective in an area from their strictly normal counterparts.

I say this because players see a 6 or an 8 in a stat, and they think the penalty is really worse than it is. Someone with an INT 6 is still an average character. He's within the range. He's the C-D and occasional F student. He's 10% less likely to achieve an intelligence based throw than the strictly average person with INT 10.

Thus, I submit to you, that the average person in the Conan RPG can have a stat as low as 6 and as high as 15 and still be considered average. Any score 16+ is considered superhuman, which any score 5- is considered sub-average.

In other words, it's quite OK for a character to have stats as low as 6. This would not represent a deformed person or a retarded person. What's represented is the natural variance in human beings.

We each have our own gifts and weaknesses.

HUMAN AVERAGE ATTRIBUTE RANGE = 6 TO 15.

Luckily, the default 4d6, drop lowest, arrange to taste method of generating stats skews characters away from the sub-average, 5- numbers. It's still possible to roll a score of 3, but it's highly unlikely (99%+ chance of rolling higher than a 3).

The next time you end up with a 7 in a stat, don't penalize your character in your mind, thinking of him as greatly handicapped. Because, he's not. The character still falls within the average zone, and if you take all of stats together, most likely he's the higher side of average--maybe with one or two superhuman attrbutes.





How far from average is your character?

To answer this, take this test. Add up the character's bonuses and penalties from his six stats. If the sum is 0, then the character is strictly average. If a positive number results, the character is above average. If a negative number results, then the character is below average.

Let's apply this test to Morghun Clanson, the NPC I posted above.

Morghun Clanson
STR: 16 (+3)
DEX: 14 (+1)
CON: 8 (-1)
INT: 11
WIS: 11
CHA: 7 (-2)


Adding up his modifiers: +3 +1 -1 +0 +0 -2 = +3.

You can say that this is an above average charater, 15% above the norm.

Looking individually at Morhun's stats, we see that his STR score is superhuman while the rest of his scores fall within the average human range.

Do this check the next time you end up with some low stats thinking your character is subpar.
 

Water Bob

Villager
A Look At Massive Damage



Much ado has been made about the Massive Damage threshold in the Conan RPG. Set at a mere 20 points of damage, some have posited that the game is broken because of this.

I beg to differ.

Here's why.

First off, if your character has at least one Fate Point, failing the Massive Damage save will most likely not kill your character because you will spend your point using the Left For Dead option. This makes player characters greatly resistant to instant death by Massive Damage as long as the character still has at least one Fate Point. The use of the Fate Point in this manner does not guarrantee the character survives, but it does skew the situation in the character's favor.

Second, and contrary to what some have stated about the game, the Massive Damage threshold of 20+ points of damage is not easy to obtain without rolling a critical success (and, I think we all would agree that Massive Damage should be a possible outcome of a successful critical hit). Remember, though, even Critical Hits require a successful check.

How can I make the claim that Massive Damage is not easy to obtain?

Let's take a closer look.

Pg. 11-12 of the 2E Core Rulebook tells us that the average character is 3rd level or less. And, I've established above an average range of stats for the average human. Let's take the highest score in each category and give that character a formidable weapon, then see how easy it is for him to score Massive Damage on a foe.

This means we'll have a 3rd level character with STR 15 (+2 damage). Characters need Feats for differing reasons, but let's max out this average character's damage by giving him Power Attack.

So, we've got a Hyborian, he dominate race in the game world, and we'll make him a 3rd level Soldier with STR 15 and Power Attack as one of his Feats. We'll give him a weapon with the highest damage in the entire game: the greatsword (which Hyborians can treat as a Martial Weapon) which does damage of 1d10 + 1d8. That's a pretty strong "average" character, given the guidelines set forth in the game and what I've commented upon above.

But, I want to use this strong character to make the point.

As a 3rd level Soldier, the character can take up to a -3 on his attack in order to gain a +3 on damage.

So....

Let's assume that this character's target...

1. Was hit by our sample character, in spite of the -3 attack penalty.

2. Was not Fighting Defensively or using Total Defense, which would make the target even harder to hit.

3. Was not wearing armor (or was wearing armor that was defeated by the character's blow and allowed 20+ points of damage to penetrate past the armor).

Those three issues, right there (hitting in spite of penalties and armor protection), in part, keep the Massive Damage rule from being abused...but, let's say that our average human character (albeit on the high side of human "average") has been successful with a hit.

What is his damage?

He averages 10 points with the greatsword, +3 points for his STR, +3 points for the Power Attack bonus. This is an average of 16 points. That's not enough to trigger Massive Damage.

Let's keep looking at this, though....

Let's say that the character hits, in spite the penalties to the attack throw. And, let's say that the character rolls higher than average damage, in spite of any armor worn by the target, scoring 20 points of damage.

In order for Massive Damage to be triggered, the target still has to fail a DC 20 Fort Save (which, I'll grant you, is likely to be failed...but there's still a chance).

Even with the Fort Save failed, it is not a guarrantee that the target dies. Player Characters have Fate Points that can be used to re-roll a failed Fort Save. So a PC with Fate Points, hit with Massive damage, can have two tries at making the Fort Save, if a Fate Point is used.

Or, as I said above, the Fate Point could be used to have the character appear dead, but actually be Left For Dead.

But, even if we're talking about an NPC or a PC that is out of Fate Points, the failed Massive Damage save still does not guarrantee death. A failed Fort Save is 90% likely to leave the character dying in the -1 to -9 hit point range rather than killing him outright. Thus, given the stabilization rules, the character gains a 10% chance per point above -10 to stabilize himself. If a comrade is around to help stabilize and heal the character, his chances of survival are even greater.



So, what am I saying?

I'm saying that...

1. Penalties on the attack throw make death from Massive Damage less likely.

2. Armor makes death from Massive Damage less likely.

3. The Fort Saving throw makes death from Massive Damage less likely.

4. Fate Points make death from Massive Damage less likely.

5. Many weapons in the game are not likely to produce 20+ damage points, making death from Massive Damage less likely.

6. The Stabilization rules make death from Massive Damage less likely.

...and all a character has to do is succeed in one area. If he does, his character will not die from Massive Damage.





EDIT: Many of us are influenced by the Conan RPG's parent game, but we must remember that the two are separate games with different rules in many areas.

For example, in the tradition 3.5 D&D game, a character's weapons typically become more and more powerful as the character adventures and finds better, more powerful equipment. The character levels, and his BAB increases, but also the D&D plus on his weapons increase: He may start with a normal longsword, then find a +1 weapon. Later, he finds a +2, then a +3 weapon. Sometimes, the weapons have more powers than just increasing both attack probability and the amount of damage the weapon delivers on the character's foes.

But, in Conan, once a weapon is chosen, the damage does not increase. Sure, the character's BAB increases, but the weapon's damage and probability to hit stays the same. Feats, like Power Attack, are needed to obtain extra damage, but even this is limited by the character's BAB and provides a corresponding penalty to the attack throw.

And, besides the use of Power Attack, there is little in the game to increase damage besides the occasional increase in stats (every two levels, starting at 4th, depending on the player's choice).

Therefore, in many cases (not all), Massive Damage does not really become easier to achieve as the character levels. Special abilities are needed, like superhuman STR, exotic or hard-to-find weapons, and Feats like Power Attack, to skew a weapon's damage towards scoring Massive Damage often.

Remember that as a character levels, his BAB increases, but this only increases the chance that the character will hit. It does not increase damage. Also remember that, as characters level, their ACs for Dodge and Parry also increase, making them harder to hit...while damage remains the same.

This, given all that I've said in this post, I maintain that the Massive Damage rule in Conan is fairly balanced.
 

Water Bob

Villager
Primitive Dagger made from Deer Antler


New weapons for your game: Allow your players to create weapons, especially when the characters are in a pinch, from things that they have available in their environment. A creative use of the rules would be to take the normal weaponsmithing procedure, using the Survival skill instead of the normal associated Craft skill. Taking a deer's antler, cutting off a piece easily held, and sharpening the point would qualify as an Improvised Dagger (see pg. 144 of the 2E Rulebook, under Improvised Weapons). As such, the character would be considered non-proficient in its use (-4 attack and -1 to Parry Defense). In addition, the weapon would be considered primitive and subject to the rules on pg. 152 and 154 of the 2E core rulebook.





A true craftsman, such as a character with ranks in Craft (weaponsmith), could use the substandard materials (in this case, a deer's antler) to make primitive weapons using the normal weapon creation rules. Below is a picture of a dagger made by a weaponsmith, carved from a deer's antler. Note that although this weapon would not be considered an Improvised Weapon, it is still subject to the Primtive Weapon Quality rules.





A dagger does damage via its point. For a knife, with an edge, harder materials are needed. A similar process to the above can be used to create primitive knives in the game. Of course, these would all be considered Primitive Quality weapons, subject to those special rules.





 

Water Bob

Villager
Weapon & Equipment Availability


Pay heed to the Weapon and Armor availablity notes provided in the 2E Core Rulebook and Tito's Trading Post. Use common sense. Give different areas of your game world a flavor by the types of weapons that are available in that region. And remember that, while in standard 3.5 D&D, a player looks forward to finding new equipment (with bigger attack and damage modifiers), a similar reward system can be simulated in the Conan RPG by keeping some weapons unavailable to the PCs until they reach a certain point in the game.

You can simulate this in your game by not allowing every weapon in the game to be available at the game's outset. If there is something a player desires for his character, consider letting that character find the weapon later once the party has moved to the appropriate region--or maybe as a rare reward at the conclusion of an adventure. Remember, in the '82 Conan movie, how awed Conan was when he found the Atlantean sword?

For example, the crossbow should be a weapon found in the Hyborian kingdoms. This weapon would be too "fussy" for the Cimmerian smiths, thus, the weapon should be quite rare in Cimmeria. Likewise, the Cimmerian attitude towards bows is that the weapon is used for hunting, not for war. Thus, the vast majority of bows found in Cimmeria should be of the hunting bow type which do not provide a STR bonus.

On the other hand, the Hyrkanians are known for their bowmanship, and in certain regions of Hyrkania, the Hyrkanian Horn Bow should be readily available. In the deep regions of the Pictish Wilderness, away from Aquilonian influence, primitive weapons should be the norm. A western region of Stygia has not yet found the secret of steel, and, thus, arms its warriors with bronze and copper weapons (see the Primitive Weapon Quality rule).

Note the cost increase mentioned in Tito's Trading Post for rare items (where it says the cost can be 5, 10, or many more times the price given in the equipment lists). Also remember that coin is not used in all parts of the world. In some areas, that bearskin hunter's cloak may be more valuable than all the silver you carry in your pouch. In those places, barter is king.

Tito's Trading Post provides qualities for clothing and equipment. Consider that description and have the clothes and gear your PCs use wear out from time to time. An impromptu adventure could spring from the simple need to hunt a deer (using the Hunting Rules from the Fiercest book) and make new clothing from its skin (using the Crafting rules). The condition of a PC's gear can impact roleplaying situations and certain social checks. Don't nag and bore your players with this kind of stuff, though. Just throw it in when the reminder of the mundane would actually add some spice to the game, giving the players a different look at how their characters spend their lives in the game world.

Also, once a character gets a prized item, don't be afraid to take it away from him at some point. Items sometimes get lost while swimming. Weapons and armor can be subject to Sunder attacks, and without a smith or the proper equipment, may never get repaired. Use the weapon and armor repair rules (see the appropriate Feats, Skills, Equipment Chapter, and pg. 179 of the 2E rulebook). The quest to replace or repair a prized item can be a great push needed for a GM's adventure.

Various supplements bring new types of equipment to the game. The Warrior's Companion provides new items like Hyperborean Hide Armor and the Aquilonian Shieldknife. That book also provides rules for improving the stats of your weapons and armor. The Barbaric supplements provides excellent entries, such as piecemeal armor rules and fantastic section on mundane goods.

One of my favorite d20 (non-Conan) books is a hardback focusing (mostly) on real world equipment, called From Stone To Steel. That book is full of useful information that you could use in your Conan game. I highly recommend it, if you can still find a copy of this out of print book.




In Sum, with the right approach, the GM can make equipment an important and interesting part of the game, providing in-game rewards and making his game world seem more real, all at the same time.

In other words: Don't always reply, when one of your players says that he needs a new shield, "You went to the merchant and got a new one for 3 silvers. Let's move on." Sometimes, you'll want to do that, to keep the game moving, not allowing it to get sidetracked with the uninteresting. But, also, sometimes buying that shield can lead to the most fun encounter of the night.
 

Water Bob

Villager
The Riddle of Steel


If you can still find it, there's a fan created, seven page pdf file out there in the ether called The Riddle of Steel. It was written by Silas A. DeBoer, and it presented a well-written set of rules that expanded upon black/weapon/armor smiths. This book included rules for Forge Facilities and the like. It's well worth adding to your Conan game if you can find it somewhere. (Please post a link here if you do!)
 

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