D&D General GM's Closet for the CONAN RPG

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Water Bob


This is absolutely one of the best adaptations of the d20 3.5 rule set. It captures the atmosphere of the Hyborian Age like no other game I've played. And, although it's subtle, the game is quite different from a traditional d20 3.5 game. I've seen players and GMs who think they know d20 like the back of their hand go into this game and not realize how different it really is.

In this game, armor protects a character from damage instead of making the character harder to hit. Each weapon is given a AP value (armor piercing value) which, when combined with STR bonus, is compared to the target's AV (armor value). This allows armor to soak up some or all of the incoming damage.

A character uses two main defense types in this game. He can Dodge, which is DEX based, or he can Parry, which is STR based. Sometimes, a character will switch between the two. Sometimes, only one option may be available, as in a case where there is no real room to Dodge. Some classes are better at Dodging, and some are better at Parrying.

There are also two types of main attack types. There's your standard STR based thrash and bash, where the character attempts to shove his three foot length of sharp steel through his enemies' guts. Then, there's a more refined method, which is DEX based, called a Finesse attack, where the combatant aims for the weak points in armor, attempting strikes that avoid armor all together. A successful Finesse attack ignores the target's AV (armor value), but a Finesse attack has a harder target number to be successful. A failed Finesse attack still has a chance to become a successful normal attack, where the attacker missed avoiding armor but still landed a blow that is protected by armor.

Shields provide a bonus that increases the user's Parry defense in melee. Shields do not improve a Dodge (except versus ranged weapons, where shields provide a bonus to Dodge only).

Shields can also be used as weapons, and each and every shield in the game is provided with stats, just like a normal weapon.


If you mix all of these elements together, you can easily create a thin, city wastrel, wearing only a loin cloth and turban, carrying only a dagger, and still have this character be quite effective--even deadly--in combat. He'll most likely focus on Finesse attacks with his dagger, avoiding armor with his precise cuts, because otherwise, he has no hope of piercing a city guard's armor. This thin city urchin doesn't have armor himself, so he must rely on his Dodge defense, and he can increase his Dodge AC by class bonuses, picking certain Feats (special abilities that come with class and level), and using certain fighting styles, like Fighting Defensively. He may have a low STR, but if he has a high DEX, the bonus will apply to Finesse and Ranged attacks (like throwing daggers) as well as to his Dodge AC.

Unlike D&D, a thinly clad street urchin, wearing rags and armed with only a knife, can be quite a dangerous foe.

Plus, if the fight is not going well, the loser can always rely on grappling his foe, taking his advantage away from him (his armor and his heavy weapon), and either strangling or banging the foe's head on a rock.

In standard d20 D&D, magic makes combat interesting. In Conan, Sorcery is quite rare, and often, you can have entire adventures that feature no sorcery at all. To keep combat from becoming a boring back and forth of you hit then I hit, there are lots of combat options in the Conan RPG. This is brought to the game primarily through the use of Combat Maneuvers that any character can use as long as they character has the prerequisites for such a move. For example, if an attack is less than half a foe's Parry AC (and the foe is Parrying), then the foe can use the Riposte maneuver to where he recovers from the weak attack by attacking himself--in essence, the weak attack provides an opening for the foe to get a free attack!

If you are new to this game, I do strongly encourage the GM to read the Combat Maneuvers section over and over and implement these interesting moves into his game. Not only will the game benefit from a strong "Conan" influence by using the maneuvers, but combat will become an bloody, enjoyable highlight of the game.


Speaking of bloody, the game uses a Massive Damage rule such that any attack that delivers 20+ points of damage from a single blow requires the target to make a Fortitude save or die from the blow. This is how heads are chopped off and limbs go missing in combat.

In addition, those familiar with D&D and other d20 games will find that the damage done by weapons in this Conan RPG are higher than their counterparts in other games.

Now, if this sounds like a blood fest to you, it can be. Combat is tough in this game. It's not like D&D to where some players seek out combat and rush towards every monster and fight that they can see. Instead, in this game, successful players respect combat. The deadliness of the game encourages more use of non-lethal combat, like bare-knuckle brawls. Players should fight smarter and more tactically, using their Feats and their own strategies to knock enemies into fires or over cliff ledges instead of continuing melee.

It's a harder edged, more realistic way to play combat. And, once you get the hang of it, it is damn fun.


The game is meant to be played at the lower levels. Experience is awarded totally at the discretion of the GM. Forget all that you know of D&D formula based XP. In this game, experience is story based--in the estimation of the Game Master.

Most of the game world should be kept in the 1-10 level range. A level 1 character can be a 15 year old guardsman who just learned how to hold a sword, or it can be a 50 year old barkeep who's had to deal with drunkards, here and there, over the years (and now he's getting old and slow).

Remember that the standard people in the game world are classed as Commoners. A 1st level Soldier is quite a tough individual when compared to a higher level Commoner. So, don't always think of 1st level characters as "beginners" even though some are.

On the other hand, your chiefs and kings and legendary figures are level 10. Those characters who grow into myth, like Thulsa Doom, Thoght Amon, Red Sonja, King Kull, and Conan himself, are characters in the 11-20 range.

The second edition (only in this edition) features a section that gives the GM an idea of each of the character levels. Further examples are given in the Beastiary where foes like savage Picts or Belit's Black Corsairs are shown to be in the 1-3 level range. Again, compare that to a Commoner, and those (what you think of as low) levels present quite a frightening foe that fits Howard's stories.

Armor and weapons can be damaged in this game, and often are. A character will spend time and money having these items repaired after engagements.

There are tons of ways to customize characters. You might want to specialize in fighting with a bill, for example, which allows you to Trip your foes, then gain a bonus as you slice at them while they are on the ground, at your feet.

Multiclassing is easy--mostly at the agreement of your GM--giving you lots of ways to combine abilities and bonuses to make all sorts of characters beyond the six basic classes.

I could go on and on about this game. There's lots I haven't mentioned. But, I think I've shown you enough to show you that (A) this is a much different game than standard D&D even though the Conan RPG looks like D&D on the surface with its d20 attack roll thrown against AC, character classes, and other D&D standards.


There are lots of little rules in the game that create for the game a gritty, Hyborian Age atmosphere. For example, there's the Weapon Length rule that gives an advantage to the bigger, heavier, longer weapons. So, if you are a Nemedian that is scouting the snows of Vanaheim, and you come across a massive, snarling Vanir brandishing a two handed war sword. You pull your short sword and prepare to do battle with this monster that rose from the ice, and you'll find that your Parry AC suffers a -2 penalty (because it is damn hard to parry that big-arsed sword with your little gladiator weapon), and the Vanir gets a +2 bonus to his Parry AC when you strike him. This may encourage you to switch to the Dodge defense, and try to jump out of the way of the Vanir's swings instead of parrying them with your sword. The Vanir, though, will certain take advantage of his weapon and use it to parry your meager blows.

There's the Weapon Breakage rule, too, to where if your attack is exactly equal to your foe's Parry AC, then the attack is considered to be a successful Sunder attack against the foe's weapon. You roll damage against the weapon, possibly destroying it, rather than rolling damage against your foe.

The game is just bloody amazing!


Lastly, the classes are different from what you are used to. There is no "mage" class. Sorcery is done by those who learn how to do it. Although there is a "thief" class, anyone who steals is a thief, regardless of their class. Conan never earned more than 1st level as a Thief class, yet he became a master thief in Zamora.

Classes in this game are weak when compared to D&D. You can combine classes to make all sorts of specialized characters. There is no "cleric" class, either. Those that become cult leaders and leaders of churches come from varied backgrounds.

So, what are the basic classes?

NPCs are typically of the Commoner class. This is used for your standard, average person. You can make a farmer, a beggar, a tavern wench, a bar keep, a street urchin--whatever you need. Commoners range in level from 1-10.

PCs are typically of the six basic classes, or some combination there of (but there are also some prestige classes and other classes that show up in supplements.).

Temptress: This is a new class added to Second Edition. The temptress is typically female, and she uses her sexual attraction to manipulate others to do her bidding. We're talking about Lady MacBeth, here. Or, a tavern whore who has smitten a frequent city guardsman. Temptresses often know some Sorcery but practice it secretly.

Scholar: This is a learned person. He may be a traditional "scholar" who knows a lot about a particular subject, like the Royal Lineage or Lost Languages. In game terms, the the character focuses on Knowledge skills. Of all the classes, Scholars make the best Sorcerers because of their Knowledge backgrounds. They get bonuses to that effect. Scholars also make good clerics and priests and cult leaders, for the same reason. But, also, Scholars make good characters of any type that specializes in any type of skill. A Scholar can be created to be a master merchant, or a master weaponsmith, or whatever, by taking advantage of the class' skill bonuses.

Noble: This is a person of higher standing and usually a person of some means. Often, this class is used to create leader types. Obviously, a King or a Prince can easily be created from this class. But, also, think of a young noble among the cavalry guardsmen, or maybe the leader of the thieves den. A captain of a ship. A high priest of the national religion of Mitra. The leader of a mercenary company. All of these can be of the noble class or created by multi-classing the noble class with another class.

Thief: This is one of the most used classes in the game. A background that can be adjusted to your traditional thief is easy to creat using this class--a character that can hide in shadows, pick locks, do backstabs, etc. But, you don't have to create your thief along that route. You can customize him any way that you see fit. The Thief class gets the least amount of Feats in the game, but it, by far (rivals that of a Scholar!), gets the most amount of Skill Points and has the biggest selection of class skills. Where the Scholar is usually not combat based, the Thief does have some combat capabilities, backed up by high bonuses among the selected skills.

Pirate: A pirate is basically a thief that sails the mighty seas--the vast Western Ocean, and the great Vilayet Sea. Pirates are specialized thieves, who get more Feats and less skill points, where all are ocean based.

Barbarian: The Hyborian age is full of barbarians, from the Picts of the forests to the west, to the dark skinned savages of the Black Kingdoms, to the frozen north of Conan's Cimmeria, and even farther north to the lands of the Aesir and Vanir, to several dark and unexplored parts of the Known World. The barbarian listed in the core rule book is meant to create a Cimmerian barbarian, but the rules can be easily used to create any sort of non-civilized character from the Hyborian Age.

Nomad: The Nomad class is a specialized barbarian class. The class in the book is meant to create the horse nomads from the steppes of Hyrkania or the desert dwelling nomads of the south, like the Zuagir. Of course, you can create whatever type of nomad you need by customizing the rules and through your Feat picks.

Borderer: A Borderer is an interesting class--a civilized person who lives at the edge of civilization. The class focuses on those Aquilonians who are living at the edge of the Pictish Wilderness, but, of course, you can use the class to create any type of civilized character who lives in the wilds. The class is sometime compared to that of a Ranger in D&D, but it is quite different in many respects.

Soldier: Besides the Thief, the Soldier class is one of the most used in this game. Of course the Soldier class is used for town guards, mercenaries, and those who serve in the King's army. That's the focus of the class. But any character who learns how to wield a yard of steel can be classed as a Soldier. At the higher levels, Soldiers learn to work together and fight as a unit. In game terms, a group of three or more Soldiers, working together, gain bonuses for certain types of attacks and defense. It's an awesome thing to see a line of guardsmen, with these bonuses, standing side by side in a line, using long pole arms. It's the Hyborian Age version of a tank running over the civilians.

Water Bob


One of the most important setting books in the game is the one written by Vincent Darlage. This is a top notch, excellent sourcebook for your Conan game. Why? Well, I'm going to tell you about it. In general, though, the book not only informs the player about the most powerful kingdom in the Hyborian Age, but it also serves as an example of how to think and run hyborian characters from other hyborian kingdoms, and it informs, in general, about most all of the hyborian kingdoms outside of Aquilonia.

Think of this concept in the same way the descriptions of the races are presented in the core rulebook. There is one main write-up addressing hyborians. Then, some of the other hyborian races have their own entry. If you play an Argossean in the game, you start with the main hyborian information and you then temper that with the additional information specifically meant for Argosseans.

If you consider the analogy, the Aquilonia book is akin to the main hyborian race description while the book on Argos (and Zingara) is additional information that will temper what is given in the Aquilonia book.

You should also use the Aquilonian book as a starting point for hyborian kingdoms on which we have little game reference. If I were going to set a game in Hyperborea, for example, I'd use what is provided me in the Aquilonia book, consider what is written under the hyperorean race description, and I'd read the Hyperborea description in Return to the Road of Kings.


I don't like introductions in these game books. They're a waste of space. Why take up valuable pages telling me what's in each chapter when I can see what's in the book, in detail, by turning to those specific places in the text. I'd much rather use the space for a nice map, illustration, or something else that will be useful to my game.

But, I will say that the intro to this Aquilonia book is only half way useless. There is some good advice there describing why Fate Points and Languages are not specified for the various NPCs presented in the book. And, there is some very good Game Master advice about allowing player characters to become as great as they should be--greater even than Conan--and customizing their game to their own tastes.


The cover of the book shows a very attractive Quilliams painting showing King Conan leaving Tarantia, leading his troops east, probably to confront the Nemedian host.

Inside covers, front and back, show an excellent, detailed map of Aquilonia, provinces, major cities, rivers, and general terrain.

The first page of the book includes a Contents section, but I have a gripe here. The Contents are not easy to use unless you are familiar with the book. This is something that plagues many Conan RPG supplements.

It's not easy to use because the chapter titles use flowery phrases. For example, one chapter is titled, The Judgement Throne. Now, what could be included there? I don't know. I'll have to flip to that chapter and see.

The book doesn't haven an Index, either. This is something I always find useful, especially in large books (this one runs 199 pages).

There is also a tendency to bury useful game rules in text in Conan RPG supplements. That makes it easy to skip over when scanning for something specific. I'm still looking for a rule I found, somewhere in all the Mongoose Conan RPG material, that provides a bonus to Intimidate checks when wearing woad. I saw it one time, and I've never been able to look it up again. Unless my mind is playing tricks on me, I know I saw it in the rules some place when I first bought the game (I bought the entire game at one time--all supplements).

I will say that this is a good looking book, though. Scant but nice illustrations and beautiful, slick, full color paper.

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Water Bob


The first chapter is rather long, so I won't cover it all in this one post. I'll break it up, not only to make it more easily read but also because I probably won't read it in one sitting.

The introduction to the chapter is extremely useful to a GM. There, it describes the look of the various people that make up the Kingdom of Aquilonia. The people don't all look alike. Aquilonia has grown throughout the centuries by annexing neighboring kingdoms. This rich description gives the GM details to work with in describing NPCs. I love this kind of stuff. In the hands of a good GM, this little section of the book will see your players recognizing ethnicity on sight. They'll be able to tell a Gunderman from a Bossonian, and a Tauran from someone from Poitain.


Normally, I'd flip over this section. Like the above, this kind of detail helps the GM describe the gameworld in vivid color. But, I have two problems with this pretty detailed section. This first issue is that there are no pictures. Sure, we can do some homework and look up what a houppelande looks like, but I would sure prefer some sample pictures of Aquilonian characters in the book.

My second issue is far larger, though. The author takes the point of view that the Hyborians of Conan's time wear clothes very similar to Dark Age and Middle Age Europe. Men wear hose and have plumed hats. Those of the upper class have curled and scented hair, drawn back with a cloth of silver band. This may very well be Robert Howard's intent, and many argue that his text backs up this point. But, I prefer the unique look that has grown up around Conan in the book cover illustrations, the comics, the movies, and the video games. The Age of Conan MMO excels with that superior Conan atmosphere that I'm talking about. I don't picture Conan's world the same as Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. There's more of an ancient Roman or ancient Greek atmosphere to it, mixed with a big helping hand of fantasy.

Look at the pictures I've chose to show in this thread. Each, to me, has a Conan vibe--and that feel is a lot different than your standard Western Middle Ages based fantasy world.


Still, the Clothing section is a good part of the chapter in that is shows how different characters dress, depending on ethnic background and social station.

Water Bob



The next two sections of the chapter cover Honor and Allegiance. This is good stuff. It's for roleplayers. There's the rules in the game for those two aspects of a character. A Conan game doesn't have to be all blood and guts. There's a real deep rolepaying aspect that runs through the rules, mainly through these two mechanics.

You can ignore them, and play the game without touching much on this aspect of the rules. Or, you can invite them in, let them feed your roleplaying soul. Imbibe them. Exude them. And, make your Conan game a rich roleplaying experience, using a character's Code of Honor, his Allegiance (if any), Reputation, and his Charisma score (and any particular Feats).


This section is too long, imo. I do think it is a needed section, but do we have to spend all that space on marriage? How useful is that going to be in a game? How often will marriage come up in a Conan adventure? Several of the Conan supplements cover this, and I just don't know why. It's almost wasted pages, if you ask me.

We do need to know about a female's place within Aquilonian society. That stuff helps the GM roleplay the NPCs. But, this book spends three whole pages on marriage!


Both good sections with short, to the point, info about these topics in Aquilonia.


This is an excellent section that speaks to the Guilds in Aquilonia. There is a nice chart showing a multitude of urban occupations that the GM will find helpful in a number of ways. In my game, I was creating a mid-sized city from scratch, and I used this chart to help me create NPCs and populate the business and districts and such.

This section can be quite helpful if your players decide to become citizens for a bit and set up a shop. The core rules are helpful through the Craft and Profession skills, and this section provides the structure for how the guilds are structured.

In one of my games, my players were warriors in a village, but I set up the entire village with all the NPCs. We would sometimes have sessions of pure roleplay as the PC ran a smithy. That was fun! We do that, then have the main PCs involved in some mystery or thriller that would take them away on adventure while the other NPCs (family) ran the smithy off camera while the PCs took care of business.

If you've ever had your PCs set up a keep for themselves, then you get the idea of what running a shop is all about.


Another useful section. Includes a sub-section on bandits. There are notes on creating a Bandit character. And, this section presents a simple method for dicing a haggling encounter. Sometimes, you'll want to roleplay this out, and when you do, then you should certainly do that. But, a good GM keeps his thumb on the pulse of his game. He knows when a bargaining moment between player and NPC Merchant will be fun, and when another one will just bog the game down. The rules here for Bargaining are to be used when you just want to dice and go. Diplomacy, Intimidate, Sense Motive, and Profession skills are used.

There is some excellent advice in this section for the GM to consider when the players decide that their characters are going to sell their loot.


This long section is fantastic stuff for the GM. It covers all the various rungs on the social standing ladder, including laborers, peasants, serfs, yeomen, cottages, free townsfolk, outcasts, bandits, and the aristocracy. Social mobility is also referenced.


I like this section a lot too. I find it very useful. This is three and a half pages describing how time is seen among the Aquilonians. Using this in your game will really bring it to life, as the seasons come and go. You'll know the holidays and what the farmers are doing at that particular time of year. It's damn good stuff that helps the GM create a living, breathing world.

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Water Bob


The entire second chapter is devoted to helping players create specific Aquilonian characters and Game Masters create NPCs. Advice is given for Attalusians, Bossonians, Central Aquilonians, Gundermen, Poitainians, and the Tauran, plus those Aquilonians who live in the Westermarck.

Each section covers skill and feat selection, social class notes, Honor and Allegiance notes, and class guidelines for each type of character. Note that this is a 1st edition book, so the Temptress class is not covered (as that class became official with the 2nd edition core rules). But, there is so much information provided that it should not be hard for a GM to figure the conditions required and barred from a Temptress classed character.

This is an extremely useful chapter. Character rules in the core rulebook are necessarily somewhat generic. This chapter helps you customize a character to fit a particular type of Aquilonian citizen.

I'd even go so far as to say GMs might want to use these guidelines in conjuction with the core rulebook in order to make customized Aquilonian characters. If there is a conflict in the rules, I would say that this chapter supersedes any rule from the core rulebook. This chapter is specific where as the core rulebook is more generic.


Water Bob


The third chapter is useful, devoted as it is to the Aquilonian military. There are notes on how big the kingdom's military is as a whole and what type of units are used by the Aquilonians.

This chapter can be useful to a GM in a number of ways, from informing the GM on how to describe troops as NPCs to how to describe a large host when the PCs encounter the army. There are lots of notes for building certain types of character types, useful to the GM in creating NPCs and to players for PCs. Much of the information in the chapter can be transplanted for use by PCs who are members of mercenary groups. And, some of the notes can be easily used in a normal adventure based campaign--useful to anyone who participates in combat.

The chapter is also useful for a GM who wants to run a large scale battle, whether he's using some rules for this or just describing the battle in the background of the PC's actions.


Describes the units used by the Aquilonian military and provides notes for characters. Includes suggestions for Soldier class combat formation choices.


This is a neat section that describes the day-to-day life of a soldier. Notes, as an example, include suggestions like using Perform (guard mount) for inspection checks, or, if a character has Craft (Cooking) or Profession (Cook), he will usually make slightly more money because good cooks are very popular among the troops. There's stuff on Allegiance, down time, respect of rank, hunting, etc.


These shorter sections contain useful info. The Signals section is neat, giving certain commands used in the military and discussing oliphants. The Aftermath section addresses characters getting injured and then healed on the battlefield, the chance for disease and such. The GM can take some of this info and use it in his non-military game, if he wishes. The Women section discusses the Aquilonian point of view of the fairer sex participating in war.


These are all excellent sections that go into detail about each subject. There is a fantastic section on caring for horses that a GM can use in any game where the PCs have mounts. Too often, horses are treated like cars that never need gas and never break down in RPGs. They're used to get the PCs from one point on the map to another, and that's it. This excellent section brings rules to the long term use of horses, and PCs may be encouraged to develop skills to help them care for their mounts.

There's another part of this section of the book that addresses care of equipment. I like this kind of detail. From a GM's point of view, it forces PCs to spend money on upkeep and encourages them to spend skill points on skills that will help them maintain their gear.


No chapter on the Aquilonian military wouldn't be complete without some discussion of these two famous elite units.


Water Bob


Skill points are a scarce resource, and understandably, players will use them to improve their character's effectiveness in the game. Usually, we're talking about improving the character's combat ability. A player will sometimes place a few points in a skill just for roleplaying purposes, but in most cases, it has been my experience, that players won't put any significant (or any at all) points into a skill like Craft (Cooking). Players often see that as a waste of valuable points.

The reason players aren't keen to improve skills like that is because that point expenditure leads to no real mechanical benefit in the game. I mean, so what if a character can cook. The player would rather have those skill points put to better use in his Spot skill, or his Listen skill, or any of the other skills that are often used in combat or otherwise very useful in the game.

There's nothing wrong with this type of play. I'm not bad-lipping that style of gaming. What I am doing with this post is trying to point out an alternative style of play. And, that is to say that if a GM wants to make the more mundane skills useful to players in his game, then he must find ways in the game to make that skill use important. That sounds like I'm not making sense, but follow me here.

I've used a rule like this before in my games, and it works great. Allow a Craft (Cooking) checking each time a meal is made. If a certain DC is met (set by the GM), then the person has created an excellent meal. Allow the cook to create a floating +1 Morale Bonus to any skill check the character makes before his next meal.

This is a nice little perk players can pick up by using the skill. All of a sudden, Craft (Cooking) ain't such a bad little skill to keep throwing skill points into, here and there.

A GM needs to decide about his rule, here. You don't want to make it too powerful. And, at the same time, you don't want to want to implement the rule but not draw the player's desire to use it because they don't see the benefit worth the expenditure of valuable skill points.


You can do this type of thing with any skill that would bring pleasure to others. For example, in a Bard like fashion, you could have a character with Perform (Singing) who will stir up hot blood amongst the band before a fight by singing a tale and war song. Use the Advantage rule from the game. If the singer is effective with his song (he bets a DC set by the GM), then all within hearing range have a +2 Morale Modifier that can be used at anytime during battle--and it can be used on combat checks as well as skill checks.

Be careful not to allow players to load up too many of these bonuses. Again, you'll want to find the sweet spot between being attractive to the player and being undesirable to the player without making the resource overpowering. Remember the rules for stacking modifiers in standard 3.5E d20. So, if a PC going into a battle receives a +1 Moral bonus from his excellent breakfast, and he receives another +2 Moral bonus during the battle, then he can only use one of the two bonuses--not both. They don't stack. If he uses the +2 Moral bonus during the fight, he doesn't later get to use the +1 Morale bonus for the food.


A GM can even use the Morale Bonus situation as a reward for getting a good night's sleep. This can encourage PCs to spend coin on better beds in which to sleep. If you've got players camping out in the wilderness in order to save money, or if you notice your players never have their characters spend the night in the high quality inn, make it worth their while, mechanically, to do so. Have a good night's sleep in a feather bed? That could be worth a +1 or +2 Morale Bonus that can be used for any throw in the next 8 hours.

With the time limit, often these rewards will time out before the player can use them. And, that's OK. It also reflects how people's energy drains throughout the day.

You could set up a situation like this: A PC spends the coin to sleep in the high quality inn and stays the night in a feather bed. He wakes up refreshed and has a +2 Morale bonus for 8 hours. That time expires, but he finally eats again, and the meal is great (a Cooking check), so now, he's got a +1 Morale bonus for 4 hours.


If you notice, there are skills like that that you can exploit in the game. If you're running a military based game, consider doing something with the Perform (Guard Mount) skill mentioned in the Aquilonia book. The text says that the skill is used to pass inspection. The Soldier who rolls highest gets to be the officer's orderly for the day, which is a coveted position. The Soldier who rolls lowest is assigned punishment duty, like digging the latrines. If it were me, I'd use the Profession (Soldier) skill because I think that skill is a tad more useful to the players.

You could do something with the Handle Animal skill, where, if the DC is met, the Moral bonus goes to the horse that maybe the PC can use too when making a Ride check. Or, maybe the horse's speed or range is increased by a small amount for a period of time--all because the horse is well taken care of with good food, brushing, resting, etc.

If you start looking at the game this way, you will find lots of opportunities to implement this type of rule. You can even use it for NPCs. Think of a tavern wench who can mesmerize a man with her dance! Allow a high roll with Perform (Dance) to have a Charm-spell like effect on the PC. Maybe have the PC roll a Willpower Save vs. a DC set by the Perform (Dance) roll.

I think it is best to use a carrot rather than a stick. For example, I like the 8 hour Morale bonus that a PC can use on any check as a reward for sleeping in a high quality bed rather than saying any PC who doesn't sleep in a high quality bed must save or be Fatigued for the rest of the day.

A talented GM can really make his game sing if he starts implementing this way of playing into his game.


Water Bob


I'm not 100% accepting of the official rules for PCs regaining Fate Points. In first edition, the rule is that the players are awarded one or two FPs at the completion of a major goal, usually at the end of an adventure. In second edition, players can use that method or they can use Foreshadowing where they write up some general instance in the game, and if what is written up comes true, FPs are awarded.

For example, Conan, at the start of The Tower of the Elephant, foreshadows, "that he will be mocked for being a barbarian." No kidding. That's straight out of the 2nd Edition Core rulebook. It's supposed to be a way that the player communicates to the GM the types of things the player would like to see in the game. This would tell the GM that the player likes the idea of his fish out of water barbarian and would like to play up that aspect of the game.

This just seems silly to me. And, I would think it boring for the players when they recognize their foreshadowing coming true in the game. "Hey, I foreshadowed that my character would meet an ally, and now we've met a new NPC. Let's asking him to join the group so that I can get my Fate Points!"

I don't like that at all.

So, I've been sticking to the first edition method.


I had a thought today about this, but it's not something I'm advocating. It's something that I'm exploring--thinking about. Fate Point awards should be rare. I think once per adventure is about right. What if the character were allowed to pay for FPs using XP?

If you want to buy an FP, then you spend a number of XP equal to the amount it takes you to gain a level. If you are a 1st level Barbarian, then it will cost 1,000 XP to gain a new Fate Point. If you are a 5th level character, then FPs cost 5,000 XP.

The game is meant to be played at the lower levels, and this House Rule would certainly encourage that to happen in the game. PCs would spend twice the amount of time in a level if they want to level and get a new FP at the same time.

Of course, this may be too stern. If it is, then we can lower the cost. Half a level?

Just thinking out loud, here.

Water Bob







Now...how about we read the novelization of the original Conan movie!


It looks to be a small book. It clocks in at 181 pages. L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter wrote the novelization based on the screenplay by John Milius and Oliver Stone.

The prologue is similar to, but not exactly like, the famous passage from Howard's story, The Phoenix on the Sword. Then, as Chapter One begins, there is another like passage written by Kallias of Shamar. Shamar is a city in Aquilonia, and Kallias identifies himself as King Conan's chronicler. He says that what is inscribed in this book came straight from the lips of Conan himself in the later days of the king's reign.

Conan is 9 years old at the start of the tale. He and his father are high up in the Eiglophian mountains. It is bitter cold. A storm rages about. It is dark--night time.

I love the writing...

Flinging back his cloak to float like a flag against the nighted sky, the man drew from its scabbard an enormous two-handed sword, the weapon of a god.

Gives me goosebumps!

Note that the sword seems to be described as much larger than the (awesome looking) sword Conan has in the movie.

Another interesting thing is that the description goes on to show Conan's father chanting a rune spell, which strikes me as odd, since Cimmerians are so suspicious of magic. At the same time, the passage is so damn cool to read, I don't care.


Father's Sword, from the 1982 film.

Water Bob

CTB Novelization - 2

-- Wind and Fire are the children of the sky gods. Father Crom rules the earth, the heavens, and the sea.

-- Giants once dwelt in the earth. They were fashioners of wood and stone; miners of gems and gold. They fooled Crom and stole the secret of steel from him. Notice how this is all different from the movie. Crom was angered, and he smote them. The earth opened and swallowed them. These earth giants may still be alive within the deep dark bowels of the earth.

-- The first men, the Atlanteans, found the Secret, which was left on the battlefield. Atlanteans are said to be the ancestors of the Cimmerians.

-- The scene with Conan and his father, where his father tells him of steel, is longer than in the film--and done...better!

-- Conan's father is a smith (as we knew he was). His name is Nial. He had come to this clan from the Southlands.

-- The forging of steel does not seem to be widely known, at least among the Cimmerians. The secret of steel is believed lost in this dark age after the time of the Atlanteans.

Water Bob

CTB Novelization - 3

-- The Sword: the crossguard is fashioned to resemble a stag's antlers; the two-handed grip is wrapped with string made from the gut of forest tigers; the steel pommel is fashioned into the likeness of the hooves of elk.

-- The scene on the mountain ties into the creation of the sword. The chanting and mystic rite serves to render the sword invincible.

-- The attack comes at dawn. It is graphic and bloody, in the book. Even children are described in the massacre. One little girl has her throat pulled out by a war dog that chased her down. Conan wasn't fishing, as shown in the film.

-- Nial is a hell of a fighter. He takes out several of the attackers.

-- Young Conan fights with a knife, hamstringing an enemy. He fights along side his father.

-- The invaders wear bronze and iron breastplates, and leather armor. Their weapons were iron. Which is interesting. This means that steel came into more wide-spread use during Conan's lifetime.

-- Conan's mother fights with a broadsword, and she is a vixen. Her name is Maeve.

-- The enemy is a Vanir raiding party and not a mixed force (including Picts) as shown in the film.

-- Unlike in the film, the Cimmerians actually beat back the Vanir. There is a lull in the fighting. Little Conan utters a prayer to Crom, but his mother tells him that Crom does not hear his prayers.

Crom is a god of frosts and stars and storms, not of humankind.

-- The Vanir withdraw outside the village, and the archers start to pellet the Cimmerians with blankets of brass tipped arrows. The Cimmerians had created a shield-wall, and it crumbled with men dying and shafts sticking from their vitals. Then, the Vanir loosed the hounds! It's a hell of a fight! As the Cimmerians dealt with the war dogs, the Vanir archers were ordered to let fly another flight.

-- I thought the Vanir would shun the bow, as do the Cimmerians, seeing the weapon as that used by women and children, or only for hunting.

-- Nial goes down when his leg is hit by an arrow. He becomes a pin-cushion. His hand is stapled to the ground by one of the arrows. Then, the dogs get to him to finish him off. What a way to go!

Water Bob

CTB Novelization - 4

-- Rexor directs the battle from a hill across the river from the village. No mention is made yet of Thulsa Doom. Is Rexor a Vanir?

-- This strikes me as strange, too: when it was obvious that they had lost (the must have failed a Morale check based on number of casualties), the Cimmerians surrendered. All but Maeve and Conan threw their weapons at their attackers' feet.

-- Maeve is out of breath from the fighting, not standing motionless as in the film. She leans on her broadsword. Her son, Conan, stands ready, knife in hand, a cub that bites. Maeve is half naked, as this attack happened before she and the rest of the village had risen for the day. One of her breasts is exposed having fallen from its covering as she fought. She did not find modesty now.

-- The Vanir raiders kneel as the commander rides towards the last two Cimmerians to brandish weapons, Conan and his mother. The Vanir chant his name.

-- Thulsa Doom appears!

Water Bob

CTB Novelization - 5

-- Thulsa Doom's helmet is jeweled. He wears serpentine mail.

-- The Cimmerian captives are taken north, into Vanaheim.

-- Rexor and Doom leave the Vanir sometime during this journey. Captives speculate that the Vanir paid the two for their services in the raid.

-- It is Spring before the Vanir reach their destination, the walled Vanir town of Thrudvang.

-- The Wheel is a grinder. It grinds grain--mainly corn--to make flour and bread. The slaves that perish are fed to the dogs.

-- Years pass with Conan on the Wheel, day in and day out.

-- Conan has a head for languages. He becomes fluent in Vannish, listening to his captors, and he picks up some Aquilonian and Nemedian from fellow captives. But, Conan remains un-lettered. He cannot write. This is applicable to the RPG, given the languages a character can speak.

-- This is neat: Sometimes the text is broken by an italicized section where King Conan speaks to his chronicler about the events being told.

-- A famine came to Thrudvang. Plague killed all the slaves died except for Conan. To the astonishment of the Vanir, the one Cimmerian could turn the Wheel, and he did so for several days until new slaves were brought to the town. Word spread wide of this deed by those who traveled to Thrudvang to have their grain milled.

-- The coins used to purchase Conan were gold, coins of a square shape. The man who purchased the barbarian seems to be Hyrkanian. He does have red, ragged hair, and a beard, but also slanted eyes and wears armor of lacquered leather. His name is Toghrul (which is a Hyrkanian name).

Water Bob


You are skilled at landing fear into the souls of your enemies. Demoralize Other is a use of the Intimidate skill.

Benefit: Demoralize Others is a standard action that can be combined with a (standard action) attack during combat. In addition, the demoralizing (shaken) effect can possibly remain in effect for a number of rounds. The demoralized character is allowed a check each round as a free action to shrug off the effect. The target rolls his modified level check against the original Intimidate throw at the start of his combat round. The shaken/demoralized effect continues if this roll is failed.

Normal: Demoralize Other is used as described under the Intimidate skill.

Water Bob


When converting a standard D&D adventure, or an adventure from most other fantasy games, for use in a Conan game, the GM will most likely dispense with most of the "drops" that are common in such things. Things like +1 daggers, rings of invisibility, cloaks of protection, and what not are either dropped from the adventure completely or converted to their mundane counterparts.

One idea that a GM can use for magical scrolls is to change them to herbal recipes. There are lots of concoctions to be found in the various Conan RPG supplements that show items that can be created with the Craft (Herbalism) or Craft (Alchemy) skills. Plus, there are other, non-Conan supplements that feature lots of usable herbalism ideas.

So, when converting a D&D adventure for use with a Conan game, a GM comes across a scroll of magic missile, he might want to consider either dropping the item all together, or making it a mundane item (like blank parchment--which is rare and can be sold...or making the scroll a note that is a clue or "pull" to another adventure), or substituting the magic missile scroll for something like a recipe for the herbal drug, Grey Desert Lotus*.

Grey Desert Lotus

This is an herbal drug, which is treated in the rules like a type of poison that has beneficial effects but requires saving throws against harmful side effects. At the GM's option, repeated use of a herbal drug could cause addiction.

Grey Desert Lotus leaves are powdered and mixed with water. The drying and powdering process is what is covered by the Craft (Herbalism) throw. Anyone can mix the powdered result with water--Herbalism skill is not needed.

Drinking this mixture will boost Strength by +2 for 1d3 hours. A DC 15 Fortitude save must be made to avoid a penalty -1 Wisdom. One hour later, another save must be made and if this save is failed, the person becomes nervous and skittish (treat as shaken).

The shaken effect will wear off with the STR bonus. Any Wisdom damage will heal naturally after the concoction dissipates in the body with the STR bonus effect.

Craft (Herbalism)
DC 20
Average Market Price: 20 sp.

*Grey Desert Lotus is something I found in the adventure anthology called The Spider-God's Bride and Other Tales of Swords and Sorcery, published by Xoth.net Publishing.

Isn't that a much more interesting item to put into your game rather than a plain old Magic Missile spell? If the players are interested, herbalism could become a major focus in your campaign.

Note, though, that herbalistic items are rarely found for sale in many parts of the Known World. Civilized and uncivilized communities, alike, view herbalism as a finger of sorcery! Thus, one who dabbles in the effects of plants may find himself outcast or even hunted by society at large. Jealous priests look upon such things as either Holy--something reserved for the most Holy of their religion--or as Evil--something that needs to be smited from the face of the Earth!

Epic Threats

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