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

Water Bob

Conan-izing Standard D&D Adventures

I'm better at editing than I am creating, and I can be inspired by the oddest things. When I started my campaign set in Cimmeria, focussing on a clan of Cimmerian Barbarians, I spotted a low-cost copy of a 3.5 D&D scenario called Scourge of the Howling Horde. Here's how I set about "Conan-izing" the adventure.

First off, I look at the adventure as a suggestion, not something that is cut in stone. It is meant to be change, twisted, and warped, especially since I'm using it as a starting point for a game with a different flavor. It is a base from which I will grow the actual encounters.

I like low level D&D modules because there are less fantasy elements that I have to throw away. No matter what level of Conan game I'm converting for, the low level D&D module is easier to convert than any higher level fair. Scourge is an introductory adventure meant for new 3.5 D&D GMs and 1st level characters.

From the start, I liked the opening encounter with the attack on the overturned cart. Instead of a halfling merchant with elven guards, these became on old woman and orphan Cimmerian children returning to the homestead from the big village festival of summer. The attacking goblin raiders became 1st level Barbarians from a rival clan--a clan that shares a blood fued with the PC's clan. I also cut down the number of enemies from 3 to 2 to accommodate my two (at the time) 1st level Barbarian PCs. I didn't want to kill them on their first big combat encounter.


Then, I let my imagination take over. It didn't work out as it played out, but I had hopes of turning one of the Grath (the attacking Cimmerian clan--the bad guys) into a recurring nemesis. Too bad for him, my PCs made sure that he did not escape from the incident.

As the PCs approached the massacre of the children and their care taker (In true Conan gritty style, I had one of the kid's decapitated head swinging from the upturned wagon's wheel, the child's hair used to tie it to a spoke. And, the old woman was staked out on the ground with primitive javelins used to staple her hands to the ground.), two of the attackers were still among the dead and dying, doing their wretched deeds.

I was inspired by a pic on pg. 61 of Hyboria's Fiercest. I thought it would be exciting to have a chase take place among the branches of these fantastically large trees, with these limbs that actually grow into the limbs of the tree next to it, makeing a criss-crossed network of limbs, high off the ground. A Cimmerian, I deemed, could move for miles up in the branches of a copse of these types of trees. Though not as big, things like this actually exist on Earth today, so I didn't think it to fantastic for the Hyborian Age, and, in fact, thought it an excellent setting to remind my players that they were gaming in Earth's prehistorical past. I liked the "adventure" and pulpy "Sword & Sorcery" feel of it. Thus, Cimmerian Thicket Trees were born, and the scene at the wagon led to a heroic jump from a cliff into these amazing, branch-locked trees.

Next, I pulled out my trusty Beastiary of the Hyborian Age and chose a new monster for my PCs to encounter. I was intrigued by the Chakan and decided, in true Hyborian Age style, that they were the result of Cimmerians who never clawed their way back up from beastiality after the cataclysm. They were proto-Cimmerians, and the PC's villagers somehow knew this concept. They used the Chakans a boogey men to scare children at night, but the clan council respected the Chakan lands as that clan's territory. Though there was no contact with them, the PC's clan treated the Chakans as just another hostile clan. The Chakan territory became the Blood River Basin, a forbidden area near the PCs clanholme.

And, just to add some more pulpy Swords & Sorcery atmosphere to the area, I created a mystery where time is not constant for every person's point of view. During the chase among the branches of the thicket trees, on of the PCs fell off, to the ground. The other PC went to the central trunk and climbed down to the ground. But, it took him three days to follow the limb out to where his clansman had fallen. It was strange. He walked normally, but his senses told him he moved very little. Actually, from his perspective, the limb of the tree was unimaginably long--3 days he walked to find its end!

By that time, a Chalkan tribe had captured the fallen PC, who, in turn, traded the PC to the bad guys. I had the Chalkans display a mix of animal-like and cave-man-ish actions, keeping them in line with the many non-developed beasts that Conan has encountered (such as Thak, the ape-man). I had the bad guys trading with them. And, it wasn't until later that the PCs realized that the Chalkans seemed to be unaffected by the sorcerous time bending that occurs in thier lands. Maybe, it was speculated, the time bending has retarded the Chalkan's evolution into modern humans.

Long story short, and a few game sessions later, the one PC had rescued the other, and the two were afoot in search of the bad guys' lair.

Here, I returned to the D&D module. I figured that Cimmeria had a lot of caves and crevices. And, I also thought that most of these would lack worked stone. So, I put the two together, making another mystery for my PC's. Who worked the stone of this cavern in ancient times?


The cave, in the adventure, is described as "The Howling Cave". It turns out that the wind blows through the corridors making this unearthly howl. I thought that was cool, so I kept it.

But, I threw out most of the fantastical elements and creatures featured in the adventure. The goblins and bugbear all became Grath warriors. I threw out the Dire Weasle but kept the guard dog. The Giant Spider I kept thinking that, if the PCs were captured, they'd be stripped of down to their loin cloths and thrown into its lair. This seemed very "Conan" to me, thinking of the giant snake in the '82 movie and the spider featured in The Tower of the Elephant. The Lesser Gray Ooze and the Shrieker, I threw out, but the Hobgloblin Wizard became a Hyperborean dabbler while the elite hobgloblins became Hyperborean soldiers. This added a new twist for the players--where did these foreigners come from? Why are they here?

The black dragon became a semi-major part of the plot. I turned the thing into a demon, more man-like with reptillian features including a snake's head. Instead of squirting acid, this thing would spit out gobs of thick, sticky mucus that would slowly start to disolve anything it landed upon. The demon is intelligent and sorcerous, and it ended up conjuring a thick, red mist that contained these man-sized whirlwinds. These small tornadoes would have arcs of electricity running through them, and when they attacked, they would simply charge their targets, running through and past their prey. This would disolve the whirlwind (only to be reformed at a different point in the red mist) but damage the target with electrical energy as it passed. They were impossible to fight, but a smart PC could take out all of the mist by destroying (probably with fire) the mist's source--the dead Hyperborean dabbler that the demon had killed in order to use his body for the dark component needed for this spell.

The demon could also raise the slain in the traditional Hyperborean style, so as the PCs would kill their foes, they'd eventually see the same foes, still suffering from their previous fatal wounds, shambling towards the PCs, controlled by the demon.

This led to a Hollywood style escape from the cavern, through the red mist, dodging the slow moving whirlwinds (though some could fire lightning bolts at the PCs), the cavern crumbling and falling down around them, with a group of those that they had already killed scrambling after them.

From here on out, the adventure was totally taken out of my imagination based on the situation as it had played out. I never did use the encounter with the shaman or the town of Barrow's Edge (though I did use many of the character names provided in the adventure). Maybe I'll find a use for that stuff later in the campaign.

The last part of the adventure developed into an overland chase into a new area I created called the Cracked Lands. It's an extremely rough section of the Eiglophian foothills with lots of rocks, uneven ground, and skree. On top of this, I brought in Cimmeria's dangerous weather and had a storm hit the PCs worthy of a Gulf Coast hurricane.

The PCs evaded the demon in the storm and survived a flash flood. They fought Cimmerian Mantids (Beastiary pg. 46) and made their way through the Cracked Lands until they found the Diamondrun River, which would lead them north and home.

Along this path, they encountered a long lost friend--an NPC that I had planted into the story at the beginning, citing that he had left the group some 10 years before, struck with wanderlust. I wanted an NPC like this in the village--someone that could dazzle them with tales of adventures in the civilized lands.

After a final, climatic encounter with the demon and his Risen Dead (Beastiary pg. 88), I ended up with the PCs returning to the village some two weeks later, with the NPC that I wanted in the village, and the PCs hailed as heroes.

The demon, after the defeat of his Risen Dead (the PC came across what they thought was a battlefield but ended up seeing the bodies rise from the river and shore), flew off into the horizon--and I can happily use the demon, now, as a recurring bad guy.

And, all of this sprang from the base of an introductory D&D adventure.

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Water Bob

Hidden Soldier Bonus

One of the fantastic aspects of the Conan RPG are the various Combat Maneuvers. I like how they are presented so much better than the generic, one-size-fits-all method provided in Pathfinder.

I want to draw your attention to the Riposte maneuver described on pg. 210 of the 2E rulebook. This is a powerful combat maneuver that is triggered anytime an opponent rolls so low that his total is less than half of your Parry Defense. When this happens, you get an attack of opportunity against your foe!

For example, if your Total Parry Defense is AC 18, then you get a free attack against your foe (provided you haven't used up your allotment of AoO's for the round) every time his attack roll results in a total of 9 or less.

The rub here is that you have to be fairly high level (for this game) to use the Combat Maneuver. You need a Base Parry bonus of +4.

For most character classes, +4 base Parry is attained at level 8. For the Barbarian and Temptress classes, it's level 11. But, for the Soldier....

The Soldier class is the only class to obtain a +4 base Parry at level 6, long before any of the other classes.

Thus the Riposte, really, is a hidden Soldier class benefit.

Water Bob

Razor's Edge

Razor's Edge is an often overlooked rule that a player can rely upon in this often magic-less game. Where, in standard D&D, bonuses are obtained usually through the use of magic, in this game, bonuses are derrived by less magical, more realisic ways.

The Razor's Edge rule can be found in the Free Companies or Tito's Trading Post books under the description of the Sharpening Stone or Sharpening Wheel. What the rule says is that, if a character takes the time to hone his blade with a fine grained stone, over an hour's time, smothing over nicks in the blade, then the weapon is given a "razor's edge". In order to obtain the razor's edge, a DC 20 Craft (weaponsmith) skill check must be passed, one roll per hour honing the weapon. If successful, the razor's edge provides a +1 Critical Threat range for the weapon. The razor's edge is lost after it's first hit in combat.

For example, Critical Threat Range on a Broadsword is 19-20. But if the honed with a whet stone for an hour, and the check is passed, the broadsword is considered to have a razor's edge and a Critical Threat Range of 18-20 until the weapon's first hit is made in combat.

- Variant -

I think the rule, as written, is fair. I like the rule because it encourages characters to carry a sharpening stone and gives them a real in-game benefit to using the stone correctly. This rule also rewards those characters with ranks in weaponsmithing (that sometimes go wasted as the character adventures away from the forge). When dealing with large armed forces, the rule can apply to large numbers of troops, making a Sharpening Wheel an important piece of support equipment.

A variant to this rule would be to allow the razor's edge to remain on the weapon until the first Critical Threat Check is made or the combat ends. Thus, if a combat encounter ensues, and no Critical Threat Checks are made with the weapon, it is not longer considered to have a razor's edge. Or, if a check is made to see if a Critical Hit has been scored, the razor's edge expires with that first Critical Check, regardless of its success.

Water Bob

Healer's Balm and Healer's Pitch

Most characters in the Conan RPG will never benefit from a healing spell or potion. Sorcerous healing is near non-existant. Therefore, any aid in recovering character hit points is usually quite important to players.

The Barbaric Treasures supplement provides two herbalistic means as aids in healing. Healer's Balm is an herbal blend that is spread over wounds to reduce scarring and promote natural healing. It's a type paste used as a Hyborian Age equivalent to a band-aid. Mechanically, the balm allows the character to heal 1 extra hit point per day of natural healing.

Healer's Pitch is used more immediately on bleeding wounds. This thick, sticky, herbal substance seals wounds and promotes blood clotting. In game terms, Healer's Pitch provides a +4 circumstance bonus to Heal check used to stabilize dying characters.

Don't forget that characters with bonus skill points gained from INT 12+ scores are allowed to put those points into a cross-class skill as if the skill were a class skill. Thus, many highly intelligent characters can improve the Heal skill as though it were a class skill.

Also remember that Healing Kits provide a +2 bonus to all Heal checks, thus a character with a healing kit and Healer's Pitch would gain a +6 bonus to any Heal check made to stabilize a downed comrade.

From the chapter on Herbs & Poisons in Tito's Trading Post, we see that Acacia can be used to cure 1d4 points of damage to an injured character, regardless of how the character was damaged. Other, more specific herbal cures, can be found in that chapter. In my game, I've speculated that the Acacia juice* acts quickly as a pain killer. It can be injested or used as a topical on wounds.

*This is actually based on real life Acacia Trees and ancient medicine techniques.


Luckily, the acacia tree grows in many regions of the world, especially in modern day Africa.

The 1d4 points regained from Acacia, plus the points regained from the Short Term Care use of the Heal skill can negate a significant amount of damage after each combat encounter. Take the sample character Morghun Clanson that I posted upthread. A successful Short Term Care check will return 2 points, plus an average of 2 points due to the Acacia, results in 4 points being returned to the characer (a range of 3-6 points). This is about 25%--one quarter--of the character's total hit points, even with the -1 CON penalty.

In D&D terms, this is the equivalent of an average Cure Light Wounds spell, except that in the Conan game, a character can use Short Term Care after every combat engagment and Acacia for as long as the supply holds out (in other words, you're not limited by the priest's allotment of D&D spells).

The Folk Healer Feat, on pg. 62 of The Player's Guide, and the Skill Focus Feat on the Heal skill, from the core rulebook, are two feats that can be combined to create a potent non-sorcerous, herbal healer.

GMs should reward creative players. Inspired by the vinegar soaked hemp bandages in the Arcania computer game, I had one player in my game suggest applying acacia to a gummy, herbal base, with all of this spread onto a hemp bandage. This way, the player would have coated, medicated bandages ready to slap on a wound.

I agreed but put a 3 day time limit on the bandages, saying that the herbal base would dry out and the crushed acacia would lose its potency. This seemed fair and acted as a measure to keep the character from making hundreds of these bandages in his off-camera time.
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Water Bob

Hand-To-Hand Attacks...expanded!

The core rulebook gives us an unarmed attack. The description of the unarmed attack, on page 152 of the 2E rulebook, tells us that the unarmed attack is done with the fist. It's a punch. So, what about other types of unarmed strikes?

The Barbaric Warrior supplement expands unarmed attacks to include other forms of attack, each with pros and cons.

So, your basic punch does 1d3 +STR bonus nonlethal damage. You can change that to lethal damage if you take a -4 penalty on your attack throw. The same basic rules apply to the other unarmed attack forms.

Some of these new unarmed attacks can only be performed while grappling or while very close to the target (meaning: Inside the same square, instead of adjacent, as the enemy--which will draw an Attack of Opportunity upon entering the enemy's square). The elbow, knee, and headbutt attacks can only be used in this fashion.

But, like the punch, unarmed attacks can also be kicks or backhands. A kick does more damage than your standard punch (a kick does 1d4 +STR bonus nonlethal damage), but it also leaves the character somewhat vulnerable for a round (-1 AC until the character's next turn comes up). A backhand can ony be used after a fist attack--this is the reverse swing of a normal punch. The backhand does the same damage as a normal punch, but it is +1 attack but the figher suffers a -1 AC until his next round.

The elbow, knee, and headbutt attacks all have their pros and cons as well, but, as I said above, are usually used as grappling maneuvers (making grappling more interesting) unless the character wasn to suffer an Attack of Opportunity while moving into his target's square in order to deliver the attack.

The book also has rules for brass knuckles, spiked brass knuckles, clawed hand, plus various weapon modifications. For example, your character might want to add spikes to his armor.

Water Bob

Thoughts on Armor

Let's talk a bit about armor. The protection that some types of armor provide a character in this game will make him a formidable warrior and very hard to damage because of what he wears. Armor soaks up damage, keeping the character from losing precicous hit points, and it keeps the 20 damage point threshold for Massive Damage from happening. Armor is at the top of most player's equipment lists.

But, I encourage GMs to be stingy with armor (or with the means to obtain armor). I encourage this, first off, because it is true to the genre. Look at the Conan stories. Conan does wear armor, when he can, but in many stories, he's got very little equipment. Now, you can say that this is an aspect of the character, not the game's universe, but also look at the people that Conan fights. Many are unarmored as well, or, if they do wear armor, it's usually of the "Light" type. More armored foes are typically found wearing "Medium" armors. Conan, when he can afford it, will grab a mail shirt. And, note that he usually only wears the stuff when he knows he's going into a battle (and even then, not always).

Why is this?

It's realistic. Armor is heavy, restricting, hot, and uncomfortable. Plus, it's expensive. When do we see Conan in "Heavy" armor? We see that when cost is no object, as it was when he was armored to lead the battle in Black Colossus or later, in the massive combat scenes in the stories when Conan is king of Aquilonia.

Not too many foes in the Conan stories are described as wearing full plate armor, or even breastplates, for that matter. When such a foe does appear, the circumstances of the story (a massive battle) provides a reason for the foe to being wearing such.

A breastplate in this game is 2,000 sp. A set of plate armor is 6,500 sp. Both of those sums should be A LOT of money in your game. This isn't a game, like D&D, where characters go into a dungeon and come out with more loot than they can carry. Conan is forever coming close enough to unimaginable riches only to have the object of his larcenous desire slip through his fingers...because the gems turned into snakes...because he had to cut the heavy sack of coin from his waist to keep from drowning....because the fist-sized diamond was needed to trap the evil sorcerer. Remember the rule High Living rule from the 2E Equipment Chapter. Do what you can to keep PC's low on funds--so that they've got to save for that breastplate or maybe use their own skills to make it themselves.

This same line of thought should be applied to NPCs, too. Your typical NPC should not be wearing armor. If the NPC has a reason to be in armor, then put him in some Light stuff (Medium armor if there is reason for him to be heavily armored). Reserve Heavy Armor for the bad guy at the climax to a campaign. Use it as a reward.

And, once PCs obtain good quality equipment (this goes for weapons too), don't be afraid to damage the stuff. If a foe cannot penetrate, he might try to sunder the armor rather than using a finesse attack. Don't forget page 179 of the 2E rulebook where armor damage and repair is discussed.

Be careful what you allow beginning PCs to own as they enter a campaign. Coming straight from standard 3.5 D&D, it may not even occur to you not to allow a 1st level Soldier to have a breastplate, thinking that a wealthing 1st level D&D or Pathfinder character could obtain plate mail. I think of this the same way I think of giving a 1st level D&D character a Staff of the Magi or a +5 Holy Avenger--I most likely wouldn't allow it. A breastplate should be a reward that characters strive to obtain. These are rare items for which players should have a grand appreciation.

So, we've discussed that the heavier armors should be fairly rare in a Conan game: A GM keeps them rare by limiting the PC's ability to buy them. Keep treasure low. Don't think D&D. If the PCs kill a group of bandits and find 1d6 sp in their pockets, this should NOT BE NORMAL. In fact, this should alert the PCs that these very same bandits probably just completed a pretty good theft of a merchant's strong box on a caravan. Most of your Zuagirs and Kozaki, Picts, Vanirmen, and Barrachan Pirates should be dirt poor. Maybe one of the group has 1d6 sp, but this guy is probably the leader or the one stealing from the group. Let the PCs find a gemstone here and there. Put interesting, non-money, things into foe's pockets--like teeth that the NPC collected from his enemies, or maybe an otter pelt...a piece of a deer's antler. Page 143 of the 2E Core rulebook says many countries issue coins. So be creative. If you must allow the PC to find some coin (and they should find some from time to time--just keep it fairly rare), why not desribe the rectangular copper coins with a square hold in their center that has been pierced with a string of raw hide to form a necklace around a foe's neck. That's how he keeps his money. You can say that the character found 14 square copper Nemedian drakes, and all you've really given the character is less than 2 sp worth of loot.

When away from civilized lands, don't be afraid to let your PCs barter. Conan did this all the time. "Here, I've got seven jade stones. I'll give you one for food and lodging for the week." If you look at Barbaric Treasures book, you'll see a giant list of pelts, furs, and a multitude of mundane items to use for trade. Who knows, this could lead to some extremely fun roleplaying.

Tito's Trading Post mentions that the prices for items listed in the books are base pricesfor the items where they are fairly common and supply is strong. The GM should vary these prices greatly if he deems an item short on supply or rare/exotic to the area. Factors of x5, x10, x15 or more are mentioned. Thus, finding a crossbow while trading among the Picts might be near impossible. Finding a crossbow in the markets of Zamboula might be possible, if the GM thinks a caravan carrying some has arrived, but the thing might cost 200 sp. Finding a crossbow in Belverus would be easy and cost the standard 12 sp.

As GM, always play with the prices and availability as the PCs move from place to place. It will make your game world that much more real.

Also, nickle and dime your PCs for things. Make them buy new clothing, especially if their last adventure saw them trudge through hazardous terrain in the wicked mountains, through rain and mud and rockslides. You don't have to make a big deal out of this, unless you're just in the mood to stir up a roleplaying encounter. If you feel like something like that would bog the game down, just, from time to time, have the group remove a random amount of coin for "incidentals". This will cover everything that you don't roleplay and major equipment. Or, use the High Living rule and just cut the PC's funds in half from time to time, telling the PCs how that money is used for food and lodging and clothes and new loin cloths and such.

Keep all of this in mind when the PCs encounter NPCs, too. Unless the NPC has a reason to wear armor (like guard duty), then the NPC probably won't be in armor. Guards, during their free time, won't typicaly stumble around in their armor. They'll take it off and get comfortable.

Remember the rule about sleeping in armor: pg. 155 of the 2E Core Rulebook. Fail a save and be fatigued.

Some armors can make a character fatigued, too, just by wearing the stuff for long periods of time. I think this is common sense. But, if you've got to see a rule about this, check out the optional rule on pg. 41 of Tito's Trading Post.

And, if there are going to be a lot of situations where characters who have armor aren't wearing it, the rules on pg. 157-158 of the 2E core rule book will be needed to govern how fast character can get into and out of armor when time is of the essence.

Taking all the above into account, it becomes clear that the PCs, most of the time, are going to be running into various styles of Light armor. You've got the Leather Jerkin, Mail Shirt, and Quilted Jerkin described in the 2E Core rulebook. But, look farther. You've also got other choices.

The Barbaric Warrior and Barbaric Treasures books bring you rules for mixing and matching various armor pieces withe the Piecemeal Armor Rules. Using those rules, you can have your bare chested Cimmerian come screaming through the woods, broadsword in one hand, hide shield clutched in the other, wearing horned helmet and bone shin guards--and still have this character considered to be completed unemcumbered as if he were wearing no armor but with a DR 2 (Every little bit helps--usually translates to -1 damage, every time the character is hit. It adds up.) rating for the two pieces of armor he is wearing (the shin guards and the helmet).

Look at those rules, not only for the various ways armor can be piecemealed on a character but also for the different types of armor provided.

Various articles in S&P and book bring other armor types into play. Look at the Players Guide to the Hyborian Age, Tito's Trading Post, and other various sourcebooks. The Warrior's Companion has some interesting new types.

If you've got a type of real-world armor in mind that you want to bring into the game, I suggest you look at From Stone to Steel. That book will have standard d20 stats for most types of armor known from history. You'll have to eyeball some Conan RPG-specific ratings to use the stuff in our game, but that shouldn't be too hard.

Thus, maybe you've decided that the guards employed by the Zamorian merchant wear leather jerkins. A few, the elites of the mercenary squadron, have chain mail shirts, and the Captain of the Guard wears a brigadine coat. But, once your PC Cimmerian Barbarian/Thief climbs his way into the lofty towers of the merchant's mansion and spies the barracks, these guards shouldn't be wearing any armor at all, unless they're just coming off or going on to duty. A random guard chanced in the hallway won't be wearing armor either, not unless that guard is also on duty patrolling that hallway.

This should make things more realistic; more in-line with the Conan stories and the game's universe; and more palatable for the PC Cimmerian who is wearing naught but sandles and a loin cloth.

In my game, my PCs found an amazing breastplate of the utmost quality, created in an age long since past. I made the thing an awesome discovery. The players loved it (you'd have thought I game them a +5 Holy Avenger!). But, I still hampered it. The leather straps and whatnot that helped hold the armor in place had rotted. So, the players could not use it (I only allowed them to find one breastplate!) until they got it to a qualified armor smith. At their village, there were no armorsmiths, as Cimmerian smiths are few and far between. Thus, they had to make do with what they had (I allowed a Craft Armorsmith check with a +5 to difficulty) to fix the armor, or they faced a trek south into the civilized lands of Aquilonia to find a smith to fix it for them.

My point: By keeping the item rare, I've got some very pleased, thankful players on my hands (well, one player, anyway--the one who got the breastplate). I almost got a quest out of the presentation of the armor (My players decided against the quest and ended up fixing the armor with the less talented among them in the village.) And, I've got a neat mystery injected into my story (Where did this armor come from? Who made it?)

Also remember that you can keep your PCs interested with rewards that allow them to improve their weapons and armor using the various rules in the game (see Tito's Trading Post, The Barbaric Warrior, and The Warrior's Companion, plus the relevant section in the 2E Core rulebook). This will make the players of your amorsmiths and weaponsmiths among your PCs glad that they threw precious skill points into those skills--allowing them to get tangible benefits like improving the penetration of a weapon or adding spikes to armor or a shield.

One last thought: I've seen some interesting entries on clothing. The duellist cape, from The Warrior's Companion, provides a +2 to the bluff check when attempting a feint. There are head coverings in that same book that look so fierce that the character gets a +1 bonus to Intimidate checks while wearing the hood. The Borderer's Cloak, from Barbaric Treasures, grants a +2 circumstance bonus to Hide checks.

In this tradition, my thought is to allow some heavy, thick, clothing to serve as some armor. For example, a Cimmerian wears a mantle. This is a big, thick cloak. Why not allow this cloak to serve as DR 1 armor that cannot be combined to improve DR ratings of other armor? For example, a Cimmerian wearing a mantle is consider to have DR 1 armor. The, this same Cimmerian dons a helm. Normally, this would mean DR 2 (1 for the helm and 1 for the armor of the cloak), but because of the special rule that the DR rating of the cloak cannot improve other armor, the Cimmerian still has DR 1, with or without the helm.

This will give the character a piece of equipment with a little "umph". Not all cloaks are heavy enough to be considered DR 1 in this manner. And, you're not unbalancing the game by introducing "cloak armor" since the DR ratings don't stack.

In this manner, you can highlight the goods of different regions and what not, while at the same time giving your players some "goodies" to use in the game.
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Water Bob

Demoralize Other

This option of the Intimidate skill is something that should be used FREQUENTLY by warriors of the Hyborian Age. It should be used early in a fight, and a character should be given bonuses on the throw due to the things the character does to enhance his intimidation by the way he looks.

As the rule states, the Demoralize option is a standard action, but the action can be an animalistic growl, a ferral look, or even a wild war cry in place of a demorizing sentence like, "I'm going use the coils of your innards to grease my blade."


Conan, on his assault of Thulsa Doom's stronghold, covered himself in stripes of black woad, and this gave him a +1 modifier to his Demoralize attempts.


I suggest a slight tweak to this rule. If you read it closely (pg. 107 2E Core Rulebook), it can only be used on an opponent that you threaten. In most cases, that means that you can only demoralize someone that is 5' away from you. That's not realistic, is it? I wouldn't think so. The rule seems to only allow foes to be demoralized if you are in melee with them.

The Pathfinder version of the Demoralize Other rule is written better than the one in the Conan RPG. Click on the link to view it. What's changed? First off, the range is increased from the character's threat range to 30 feet. That seems more like it. Second, the Conan version of the rule only lasts for one round. The Pathfinder version lasts for one round plus one round per 5 points by which the Intidate check exceeds the DC. The better you are at demoralizing, the longer the effect you have on your foe. That seems correct to me. Third, the Pathfinder version is much more clear than the Conan RPG rules on additional attempts at Demoralizing Opponents.

So, I suggest not only using the demoralize rule often (like, in every combat) of your games, but also exchanging the 2E Conan rule for the slightly altered one provided in Pathfinder.

And, I suggest allowing circumstance modifiers for intimidating garb that the character may wear. You'll see things in the rules that provide these modifiers, like Pict warpaint or the +1 modifier provided to Intimidate checks from wearing the warhood featured in The Warrior's Companion.

Because, if you've got a player with a character that looks like the below, the PC deserves a few bonus points to improve his demoralize check. Heck, I'd give this guy a +2.


Now, there is an optional rule that pertains to Intimidation that appears in a couple of the supplemental game books. I think the most complete version of this Intimidate option appears on page 54 of Hyboria's Fiercest. I'm going to argue against using this optional rule it diminishes the value of the CHA attribute. If this rule is used, all the player is going to do is get more mileage out of his highest attribute, no matter what it is. Charisma is, by the game's definition, the character's force of personality...his persuasiveness...his personal magnetism. Like all the attributes, CHA covers a broad spectrum of traits about the character. Charisma isn't only personal attriveness and the character's ability to lead. It's also the character's source of his non-physical presence. Look at page 11 of the 2E Core Rulebook. There is says that Charisma is used for checks that represent attempts to influence others. Therefore, I think that Charisma is the correct stat to use with the Intimidate skill. If Charisma is used to contain and control magical energies purely by one's force of personality, then, absolutely, CHA is the right choice for the Demoralize Other ability as it's a similar type of force the character is using when doing either. None of the other attributes suit the Demoralize Other ability better than CHA.

You, of course, are free to use or not use the cited optional rule as you see fit for your game.



How much of a modifier should I give to improve the Demoralize Other attempt? Use the Favorable Conditions rule from page 87 of the 2E Core Rulebook, but be careful not to award too much. If a character uses warpaint, give him a +1 to his Demoralize Other attempt. See the second picture above that shows Conan in the black woad. Some clothing, armor, and head coverings might warrant a +2 circumstance bonus. See third pic above with the warrior holding the spiked club.

What is the character doing when taking a standard action to Demoralize another? He's screaming a war cry at the top of his lungs. He's smiling at you once you've hit him so hard that you've knocked one of his teeth out. He's telling you what it's going to feel like when his cold steel pierces your gut.

Here's a classic example. Picture the warrior directly above. You see him hacking away murderously at your friend. That NPC goes down. Next round, the warrior turns toward you, pointing directly at you using that axe, your friend's book still fresh on its blade. Words eminate from behind that deathmask. "You're next," he says.

That's a standard action. That's a Demoralize Other attempt. Get creative!

Remember the 1982 version of Conan The Barbarian? Remember the assault on Thulsa Doom's stronghold? In the middle of a fight, Valeria stops to look at her foes while slapping her blade against her palm. In game terms, that's the character taking a standard action to attempt to Demoralize her foes. She must have rolled high, too, because in her case, the GM decided that she broke the morale of those 1st level warriors she was fighting because of instead of forging ahead with the fight, facing the demoralized penalties, the GM just decided to make them run.

Don't forget that a Demoralize Other attempt can effect several foes, all at the same time. Just as illustrated with the Valeria example above, there's no reason why multiple foes cannot be affected by the same Demoralize attempt.

For example, the skull-faced character pictured above slaps that bloody axe against his shield while emitting a demonic war cry. Using the Pathfinde rule, all within sight and 30 feet of this character should be subject to the Demoralize attempt.

That, right there, all of a sudden makes the sacrifice of a standard action worth the time taken to Demoralize foes. Successful demoralize attempts make the target shaken, which gives the foes a -2 on attack throws (among other effects). That -2 attack is the same as giving you +2 steps in AC. If you've got multiple foes, you are 2 steps higher in AC, effectively, against all demoralized foes.

That ain't half bad.

In standard D&D, spells like Protection From Evil and Bless provide characters with bonuses like this. Conan doesn't have those kinds of spells in the game. I think of little rules like Demoralize Other as the Conan RPG's way of replacing those types of spell effects.

Don't forget the Stealy Gaze feat. As mentioned above, most NPCs in the game will be 1-3 level. That means that most characters in the game will have 1-3 feats their entire lives. For a Pict to come screaming out of the jungble, bearing a wicked pointed spear, all decked out in warpaint, yelling at the top of its lungs, to engage you on the trail, he's charging and attempting to Demoralize you at the same time. The Stealy Gaze Feat makes the attempt a Free Action. This means that he can combine it with other actions, like the charge or even a standard attack. Think about this: Win initiative; catch your foe flatfooted; your foe is -2 attack you and is conisdered AC 10 during that first round. That sounds like a pretty good first attack to me!
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Water Bob


One varian 3.5 D&D rule that doesn't appear in the Conan rules when a character becomes clobbered. This is like a stun. See page 27 of the 3.5 DMG. Any time a character takes damage equal to half his hit points or more, the character is clobbered. When a character is clobbered, he can only take one Standard Action during the round. This only lasts for one turn. On the following round, the character returns to normal.

For example, Morghun Clanson, the 3rd level Barbarian I posted upthread, has 17 hit points. Anytime Morghun is hit with 8 or more points of damage from a single blow, he is considered clobbered. If he's hit on round 1, then he's clobbered on round 2, and back to normal on round 3.

Using this variant rule will make hit points a more important measure of a warrior's ability to take damage, since higher hit points means higher damage is needed to clobber the foe.

I haven't playtested this. I just think it's a neat idea. Maybe, the idea would be improved if the victim were given a save. A Fortitude Save vs. the total damage* of the blow might work well. This will keep the condition of being clobbered a more rare happening because not only does the character have to suffer a blow equal to or better than half his current hit points, but he'll get a save to prevent it.

As written, the rule penalizes low level characters. But, using the save, lower level characters aren't penalized near as much because the save is easily made. If you've got a 1st level Barbarian, he's got 10 hit points, if there is no CON modifier. That means any blow of 5+ points of damage will call for a Clobbered Check, but the check will hardly ever fail because a DC 5, or so, is easily made--and maybe automatically made if Fort Save bonuses are high enough.

I like the save for two more reasons: First, it adds a touch of realism to the abstract hit point system. Second, it makes it a bit easier for characters to become Clobbered as they lose hit points, reflecting the character getting tired from the combat.

*You could also go with the more usual DC of 10 + damage, but I think this would not serve the game as well, making the save harder, especially for lower level chcaracters.
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Water Bob

Damage To Specific Areas

The 3.5 DMG refers to this as a variant rule (see pg. 27), but really, it's just advice on a use of the Favorable/Unfavorable Conditions rule from page 87 of the 2E core rulebook. It's good reading. Check it out if you have access to that book. You won't use it all the time, but it will add spice to particular encounters.

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