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

Water Bob


Here, I am taking some text from one of Howard's Conan stories and translating the scene with combat game mechanics. The story? Beyond the Black River. The situation? Conan and his companion, Balthus, are in the Pictish Wilderness, attempting to make it to the river. The two are being tracked by Pict savages, and as the scene starts, are, indeed, ambushed.

Howard's text is written in bold.

Balthus, I'm guessing, is a 2nd level Aquilonian Borderer. The Pict warriors are 1st level barbarians, per the core rulebook. Conan is an advanced character, multiclassed as a 1 Thief/ 2 Pirate/ 2 Soldier and at least a 10th level Barbarian (at least a 15th level character), in this story as the tale takes place late in Conan's career, not too long before Conan siezes the throne of Aquilonia.

In Beyond The Black River, Howard writes:

He wheeled an ducked as a bowstring twanged. Something like a white flash of light streaked through the bushes. Balthus knew it was an arrow. Then with a tigerish bound Conan was through the bushes. Balthus caught the gleam of steel as he whirled his sword, and heard a death scream. The next instant he had broken through the bushes after the Cimmerian.

A Pict with a shattered skull lay face-down on the ground, his fingers spasmodically clawing at the grass. Half a dozen others were swarming about Conan, swords and axes lifted. They had cast away thier bows, useless at such deadly close quarters. Their lower jaws were painted white contrasting vividly with their dark faces, and the designs on their muscular breasts differed from any Balthus had ever seen.

The combat starts with a Pict ambush. The Picts have successfully tracked Balthus and Conan, and both the heroes have failed their Spot and/or Listen checks. The Picts act during the Surprise round. They get only one action. There are seven Picts. One uses the surprise to fire his bow. He was probably at the front of the Pict's tracking line. The others use their Surprise action to spread out and get into position to take the two interlopers.

The bow is fired at Conan, and at this point, both Conan and Balthus are caught flatfooted. But, Conan has a special ability as a Barbarian classed character: Uncanny Dodge. This allows 4th level and higher Barbarians to use their Dodge defence, even when the character is caught flatfooted. The first sentence from the story quote, "He wheeled an ducked as a bowstring twanged," is Conan using his Uncanny Dodge ability.

The other Picts, behind the lead bowman, do not have a clear shot at either Conan or Balthus from their positions behind the bowman. In the least, Conan and Balthus have cover from the bush, so any othe bow shots that hit will still have a 20% chance of missing, per the concealment rule. This is the most likely reason the other 1st level Picts chose to move to a better combat position rather than waste an arrow trying to hit their concealed enemies.

When the surprise round is over (The Pict bowman fires and misses; the other Picts use movement to get into combat position), initiative is thrown for the surprised characters. Conan rolls highest and acts first, even before any of the Picts. "Then with a tigerish bound Conan was through the bushes. Balthus caught the gleam of steel as he whirled his sword, and heard a death scream." Conan moves at the closest Pict, the bowman, and attacks with his sword, killing the bowman Pict with that first blow. Conan either rolled a critical hit, doing more than 20 points of damage, at which the Pict failed the Massive Damage save, or, more likely, Conan's damage was more than the Picts 1st level hit points. Note that the Pict isn't killed outright. "A Pict with a shattered skull lay face-down on the ground, his fingers spasmodically clawing at the grass." This Pict has been knocked into the negative hit point region. He'll be dead soon, but he's not quite dead yet.

The other six Pict initiative scores must all be after Conan's total but before Balthus' as when Balthus moves through the bushes to the fight on round one, he sees all six Picts surrounding Conan. "Half a dozen others were swarming about Conan, swords and axes lifted."

Conan must have been between Balthus and the Picts when the combat started. This is probably why the Pict bowman fired at Conan instead of the Aquilonian. And, Balthus is probably a short distance away from Conan because the two were conversing just before this scene started--and Balthus does not attack on round one. Balthus is probably more than 30 feet from Conan's fight because he enters the clearing, sees the dead bowman Pict, but doesn't attack. In game terms, Balthus moved 31-60 feet, as a double move action. The distances could be much shorter, too, as this is thick wilderness. Movement is halved in disagreeable terrain. Balthus probably moved 16-30 feet as his double move.

Conan may or may not have had his sword readied at the start of the scenario. If he had it in his hand, then nothing is changed. If he did not have it in his hand, he could easily pull the weapon as part of his Move action toward the Picts.

Note the part about the Picts discarding their bows: "They had cast away thier bows, useless at such deadly close quarters." In these close quarters, the Picts would open themselves up to Attacks of Opportunity from their foes, so rather than give Conan and Balthus free attacks, they've chosen to drop their bows and pull their melee weapons.

The Picts, surrounding Conan, gain two benefits. First, the flankers gain a +2 attack bonus against the Cimmerian. That will be at least two of the six Picts, but could be as many as all of them with each Pict partnering with another to form a flank. Second, the Picts also gain an attack bonus from their numerical advantage, using the Multiple Opponent's rule. The Pict directly in front of Conan gains no bonus, but the other five gain a +1 to +5 modifier to hit. This means that the flanking Pict directly behind Conan is attacking with a +7 bonus modifier.

Conan probably Parries the blows of these Picts, using his Parry AC, because his Dodge AC is penalized -2 due to being surrounded (it's harder to dodge in that circumstance).

Conan, though, is wearing armor, as indicated earlier in the story. He's wearing a mail shirt and a helmet that have been sound dampened. By the book, this gives Conan damage reduction of DR 6. Eventhough the Picts may hit, Conan is not taking much damage, if any. His armor is protecting him. In addition, Picts use primitive quality weapons, and, thus, there is a chance per successful hit that the weapon will break.

...Summary of the Combat Thus Far...

Surprise Round: Pict bowman fires at Conan as the other six move into position. Conan and Balthus are flatfooted, but Conan uses Uncanny Dodge to avoid the bowshot.

Initiative: Conan wins nish, followed by all seven of the Picts, with Balthus acting last.

Round One: Conan moves, attacks, and kills the Pict bowman. The remaining six Pict surround, flank, and attack Conan with flanking and multiple opponent bonuses. Conan either Parries or Dodges blows. Even if/when hit, Conan's armor keeps him from taking much damage. Balthus moves last, doing a double move to enter the combat clearing, seeing the downed bowman and Conan fighting the rest.

Now...we move on to Round Two.

The story is told from Balthus' point of view. Round two starts with Conan attacking one of his foes. Since the Cimmerian is not moving more than 5 feet this round, Conan can use his multiple attacks. If he's no higher than a 10th level Barbarian in this scene, he gets two attacks per round by taking a Full Round action. In addition, if he has the Cleave Feat, he may be able to take a third attack this round. Conan has a broadsword that does 1d10 damage (a Critical hit is checked on a 19 or 20, that's a 10% chance per swing). Given Conan's game stats, we can surmise that his STR score is somewhere around 22-25 in this story. That's a +6 or +7 STR bonus. Let's call it a +6 bonus, and if Conan uses the broadsword two-handed, he's doing damage of 1d10 + 9. That's a minimum of 10 points of damage. These 1st level Picts average 6 HP each. This means that, on every hit, Conan will kill his target. I tell you this to put into mechancial context the description of Conan's actions below.

It's a good assumption that Conan kills at least 2, possibly 3, Picts at the top of Round Two.

Then, most of the remaining Picts continue their fight with Conan, most either missing due to Conan's Dodge or Parry, or not damaging him as their primitive weapons strike his armor.

But, one of the Picts--probably one from Conan's rear flank--changes target and throws his axe at the new entry into the combat, Balthus.

One of them hurled his axe at Balthus and rushed afer it with lifted knife. Balthus ducked and then caught the wrist that drove the knife licking at his throat. They went to the ground together, rolling over and over. The Pict was like a wild beast, his muscles hard as steel strings.

Only the Dodge AC can be used against thrown weapons, and here we see Balthus "ducking" the hurled axe. Balthus' movement last round must have ended with just five feet between himself and one of Conan's enemies because this foe swirls away from Conan, throws his axe (which has an effective range of 10 feet before penalty), moves the five feet up to Balthus and strikes with his knife.

The Picts get two Feats at 1st level: One that all 1st level characters get and a bonus Feat for being in his race's favored class of Barbarian. This Pict must have at least a DEX 13, Point Blank Shot, and Rapid Shot. The Pict uses the Rapid Shot to throw the Axe normally, and continuing a Full Attack Action, he moves the 5 feet and makes the melee attack with the knife. The knife attack is at -2 due to Rapid Shot Feat, but the Barbarian class provides the Two Weapon Combat Feat--so there are no other penalties.

The Pict rolled a natural one on the knife attack, calling up the GUSTUD rule. This means that Balthus gets to have a special free attack against his enemy on his turn.

As Balthus' turn comes around, the GUSTUD result shows a Grapple. "Balthus ducked and then caught the wrist that drove the knife licking at his throat." Balthus is successful with the grapple and decides to perform a trip maneuver as his standard action in order to get the Pict on the ground. "They went to the ground together, rolling over and over. The Pict was like a wild beast, his muscles hard as steel strings."

We're now ready for Round Three.

...What happened in Round Two...

Conan acted first, using a Full Attack, taking two or three swings, probably killing two or three Picts.

All but one of the remaining Picts, two or three, continue to attack Conan using full actions and, possibly, Two Weapon Combat.

One Pict turns from Conan to engage Balthus, using his Rapid Shot Feat to throw his axe, then, continuing a full action, stepping 5 feet to engage the Aquilonian in melee combat with his knife. The Pict rolls a natural one on the knife attack, giving Balthus a special GUSTUD attack, which turns out to be a grapple.

Balthus, acting last, takes his Grapple against the Pict, then, after its success, uses his normal action to trip his foe. The two fall to the ground.

I'll leave you here, in the middle of this fight. I could go on, but I've only described about half of the fight. Later, the story reads, "The knife broke on Conan's mail," which demonstrates rule that primitive weapons which hit but are completely ineffective against metal armored foes will break with the strike--when the armor's DR reduces the primitive weapon's damage to zero.

The story also describes Conan's fight, as Balthus looks at him. "Conan bestroke two of his attackers, shorn half asunder by that terrible broadsword." This shows Conan using a Full Combat Action, making two attacks with that broadsword, and killing one foe with each blow--nearly tearing the Picts in half! That quite accounts for the mis-match of Conan's level, strength, power, and abilities against these first level Picts.
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Water Bob


If you are interested in reading the full story that I used in the example above, all of Howard's Conan stories are now in the Public Domain. You can read that story, and many other original Conan stories, HERE


Water Bob


Check out the Rapid Shot Feat on pg. 136 of the 2E rulebook. You'll see that it requires the Point Blank Shot Feat and DEX 13 or higher. The Feat is meant to be used with bows, allowing an archer to fire a second arrow before the first has landed. Most, if not all, of the ranged weapon feats are meant to be used with thrown weapons as well as bows (and usually crossbows, too).

I suggest that you, as GM, take a broad understanding of the Rapid Shot Feat, allowing the use of other weapons besides bows. Follow the Feat rules to the letter, just allow weapons like axes and throwing knives to be used as well as bows--as long as that weapon is "at hand". A weapon that is at hand is either specifically in the character's hand or is easily drawn. If a character can combine a move action with the draw, per the normal rule, then the weapon is at hand.

If you take this stance on this Feat, then actions are possible as I described in the combat scene above. See how the Pict uses the Feat to hurl his axe at Balthus, then moves five feet (allowable with a Full Action) to engage Balthus with his knife? That's possible due to the wider interpretation of this Feat. All standard rules for handedness and such apply, and, per the Feat, the knife attack is made at a -2 penalty. Plus, the Feat requires a Full Action, so movement will never be more than five feet.

In my game, I stretch the definition of the feat even farther. I have a character that carries a javelin quiver on his back. Many times, he'll walk around with a javelin and a spear, one in each hand. He'll throw the javelin, then fight melee with the spear. When he knows he's going to do a ranged attack, he'll carry a javelin in each hand, using the Feat to make two javelin attacks instead of one*. The javelins have to be at hand, and I do consider one, easy to get, in his javelin quiver as at hand--but this is usually a non-issue as the player will prep the Feat use by making sure a weapon is in each hand before he attacks.

I would not allow this Feat to apply to a crossbow because there's no way to easily and quickly re-cock a crossbow. But, I would allow the Feat to be used if a character was fighting with a sword, either one handed or two handed, and the character wanted to quickly toss a throwing knife from his belt. If the character were using a shield, I'd rule that the throwing knife was not at hand as the character could not easily throw the knife. And, if the knife were sticking out the top of his boot, I would not consider it at hand unless the character started the round crouching, hands close to the knife hilt.

This is just one of those tweaks--is it really a tweak, or an interpretation--that makes the game better, imo.

*He can do this normally, with the Two Weapon Feat. Using the Rapid Shot Feat, he throws three javelins in rapid succession: the first two under the Two Weapon Feat and the third under the Rapid Shot Feat. Think of it as a kind of Cleave action for thrown weapons.
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Water Bob


First level characters and characters with a low hit point total should ignore this fighting style at their own peril. The Fighting Defensively rule is listed on pgs. 184 and 187 of the 2E core rulebook. Basically, this style allows you to take a penalty on the attack throw to gain a bonus to defence. You take a -4 on your attack and gain a +2 to your AC. And, you can use this fighting style with either Dodge or Parry defense.

You can combine the Defensive Fighting Style with the Combat Expertise Feat, if you can overcome the additional attack penalties you set for yourself using that Feat.

You might not, at first, think that a +2 bonus to Defense is a lot to be hooping and hollering about, but consider this: The +2 modifier gives you double the benefit of the Dodge or Parry Feats, and it's like getting both of those together, double the benefit, at one time--and you don't have to have a 13+ DEX and STR to use it.

The +2 defence modifier is akin to getting the benefit of a DEX score that is two FOUR points higher than what you have AND a STR score that is FOUR points higher than what you have, with regards to your defence.

Fighting Defensively is almost as good as getting the Combat Expertise Feat for free, at first level.

It's a 10% improvement to your defence, for EVERY incoming blow, every time you use the fighting style.

Consider a 1st level Barbarian character. He has to be a 3rd level character in order to gain a +2 Dodge benefit, and he has to be a 6th level Barbarian in order to get a +2 Parry benefit.

So, do you think taking a -4 on your attack is worth gaining the +2 to your AC? I think it's a bargain, especially when a single blow can kill your character without scoreing a Critical Hit or Massive Damage.

You'll have to decide on this for yourself.

Let's look a little more at defence.

If you character gets into trouble, don't forget the Total Defence rule, pg. 185 of Conan 2E, and look at the Withdraw rule on pg. 187. Remember that Aid Another (pg. 204) can be used to give a character +2 Defense. You might be able to use the Intimidate skill to strike fear into your foe and keep him from attacking you (though it is unlikely unless the character is truly fearsome). And, a good old trusty shield can do wonders for your Parry AC: Consider fighting defensively with a targe gives the character +5 to Parry AC, and this can be raised higher if the Combat Expertise Feat is used.

Consider the partial armor rules in the Barbaric Warrior supplement for characters who have high Dodge ACs. A few pieces of armor will not count against the character as if he is wearing armor, but he can still get a small benefit. And, the light armors do not impede DEX modifiers. You might be able to wear armor that is quite heavy and restrictive without penalty to your Dodge AC if your DEX bonus is not higher than the armor's Max DEX rating. Remember that helms provide a minimum +1 to DR.

It's usually a good thing to wear some sort of armor. A simple quilted jerking will provide DR 3. That's better than nothing. Your max DEX bonus is +7. And, the jerkin has no Armor Check penalty for Swimming or other skill uses.

Using the NPC I posted earlier in the thread, Cian McDowd, notice how I interpolated some armors that do not exist in the rules. Here, I'll post that section of Cian's stats:

Bracers = DR 1
Bracers + Helm = DR 2 (As pictured above)

Mantle = DR 2
Mantle + Helm = DR 3

Winter Clothing = DR 3 (+7 Max DEX)
Winter Clothing + Helm = DR 4 (+7 Max DEX)

Mail Hauberk = DR 6 (+3 Max DEX, -4 Armor Check Penalty)
Mail Hauberk + Helm = DR 7 (+3 Max DEX, -4 Armor Check Penalty)

And, in the character's equipment section, I write this:

Bound up in this winter kit, Cian wears the equivalent armor of a Quilted Jerkin, but Cian will store various articles in Stormhoof's saddlebags (and thus, removing the armor protection) as his comfort level allows. The mantle, alone, though will serve as some protection. Protection derived from clothing does not stack with actual armor pieces. See the Armor section in the stat block above.

I used the partial armor rules from Barbaric Warrior, the standard armor types in the core rulebook, and good old common sense to come up with some protection for the character when wearing this mantle (big, thick, Cimmerian cloak) or when he is wrapped up in winter clothing.

Don't be too generous with this. Notice I made winter clothing equivalent to a Quilted Jerkin from the core rulebook, and the Mantle alone is only DR 2. But, it's something. That -1 damage point per hit, and very occasional zero damage, does add up.

Even More Thoughts on Defense.

The Barbaric Warrior supplement also includes some good, new Feats. Look at the various armor focus and specialization Feats. These can provide extra protection. You can also use the rules in the core rulebook, Tito's Trading Post, The Warrior's Companion, and the Barbaric Warrior supplement to improve armor in many ways.

One Feat in particular, from this book, to point out, is the Defensive Warrior Feat. It requires a Base Attack Bonus of +2 (and DEX 13+), so you can't get it at 1st level. But, it may be a desireable choice once you level up and earn a new Feat, usually at 3rd level. Or, if your GM allows, you can save a Feat slot at 1st level then get this Feat at level 2 as your BAB becomes +2 (as allowed by character class--Note that the less combat oriented classes reach BAB +2 at level 3).

What this Feat will do for you is allow you to Fight Defensively with the attack penalty halved. You fight at -2 instead of -4, but you still benefit from a +2 Defence.

This Feat is a great choice for someone who is going to attempt to gain benefit of the Defensive Fighting combat style for a long period of time. Lightly armored characters should look hard at this Feat. Look for ways, like the Weapon Focus Feat, to offset the attack penalty.

For Example, take a 3rd level Zamorian Thief, wearing a quilted jerkin (DR 3) and billowy silk shirt and pantaloons atop soft leather shoes, with a decent DEX, can be quite a hard target to damage. Give him a 16 DEX. Pick Combat Expertise for his first level feat, Dodge as his first level bonus feat, and Defensive Warrior as his third level feat, and you've got a character that has....

Dodge AC 15 as his base Dodge.

Dodge AC 17 if the Defensive Warrior Feat is used (with -2 attacks)

Dodge AC 18 to AC 22 using the Combat Expertise Feat (wth -3 to -7 attacks).

And all of this with DR 3 armor when a blow does land. Trade out the Dodge Feat for the Weapon Focus Feat, and you will decrease the attack penalties by one above--Dodge AC 16 with a -1 attack and an option via the Combat Expertise Feat to up defence by 1-5 points, ain't a bad thing at all.

EDIT: I almost forgot! If you really get into trouble, you can blow a Fate Point and get a +5 to Parry or Dodge AC (your option) for the round. This is a luck bonus, and you can take this IN ADDITION to any of the various defence strategies I discuss above.

Blow the Fate Point for this use and combine it with Total Defense, and those two options alone gain your character a +9 to his normal defense. With Fighting Defensively, it's a +6 to AC proposition. This is a save-your-character's-arse maneuver--when one combat round stands between you and life or death.
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Water Bob


I've had another thought on this...

I've switched over to Pathfinder as I started running games for my kids (& this expanded to a larger group including their friends) and needed a more PG than PG-13/R game. If there were ever an opportunity (in my dreams, I know) for someone to get the Conan license & merge the Mongoose Conan RPG onto a Pathfinder framework to gain the PF improvements (skill points, favored class benefits, Advanced Race Guide, character class archetypes) I'd have my swords-n-sorcery heartbreaker.

Continuing what I said above about GMing the Conan RPG in a "PG" style, you might consider using the Chronicles of Conan comic as your source material. These were originally published by Marvel back in the 70's, and they manage to capture the Hyborian Age, in a "PG" fashion, quite well.

I enjoy reading them, even at my old age (shsssh! Don't tell anyone!). Book 2 is better than Book 1, and starting with Book 3, the quality is really there (I found parts of Book 1 an effort to get through, but I read it to learn the beginning).

These books are a gold mine for your game. They'll give you characters, situations, and stories--maybe even act as visuals for your game. All you have to do, as GM, is apply stats to them. They're ready-made adventures! Just add water--I mean, stats!

And...they're all suitable for your kids as you allow them to live out Conan's adventures. Remember Marvel's target audience.

This could be a wonderful way to go. Your kids get to experience Conan, and you get the pleasure of adapting the comics to the game (I enjoy that kind of stuff).

Just a thought, for you.


The other option is to just keep your Pathfinder rules but play during the Hyborian Age. Still get the Chronicles of Conan trade paperback, but apply your Pathfinder rules to the adventures you create instead of using the Mongoose Conan rules.

You might want to look at some of the links I posted earlier in the thread that show other d20 game versions adapted to the Hyborian Age.
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Water Bob


Armor can be hot and restrictive, and the game illustrates this mechanically in a couple of ways. The Max DEX Bonus column on the armor chart can penalize the Dodge AC of a character. Tito's Trading Post, pg. 41, provides an optional fatigue rule for some armors when worn a long time. The tweak I am discussing in this post is designed for GMs who want to give the decision to wear armor--especially heavy armor--a little more weight.

In real life, people did not always wear the heaviest armor because (a) they could not afford it, but also because (b) the armor is restrictive, uncomfortable, heavy, and not something you'd want to wear every day like a suit of clothes.

This tweak is meant to increase the trade off between mobility and armor protection.

But, before I discuss the tweak, let me say that I think the Conan RPG does a fine job already of making that distinction. If you look at the Armor Table and the Max DEX Bonus column, the table is pretty forgiving for light, flexible armor and pretty restrictive for the heavier armors. The rule is pretty good, as it is, especially if you add in the optional fatigue rule from Tito'd Trading Post--since we're playing a heroic sword & sorcery game.

But, let's consider the average human, with a DEX 10 or DEX 11. There is no real difference to whatever type of armor he wears. Using the tweak that I discuss in this post, EVERY character will be effected by the choice to wear armor or not, and a preference may be given to the lighter, more flexible armors.

Here's how the tweak works: Simply consider the Max DEX Bonus column on the armor chart to referr to the character's DEX bonus AND his character level Dodge bonus. This is just another way to customize the game to your taste, and using this tweak, players will definitely have more of a decision about wearing armor when it is available to their characters.

For example, take the 3rd level NPC that I posted earlier in the thread:

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

If we use the rules by the book, wearing armor is a no brainer because this character is not affected. Let's put him in some very restrictive heavy armor: plate mail. This character can Dodge just as well as he can in plate armor as he can when just wearing a loin cloth. In fact, all characters with a DEX as high as DEX 15 are not restricted at all when wearing Plate Armor.

This obvious break in logic is what this tweak will fix in your game.

Using the tweak, Morghun cannot add more than +2 to his Dodge AC when wearing the Plate Armor, which means, he'll never be higher than Dodge AC 12 and will have to rely on his ability to Parry blows rather than Dodge them.

Doesn't that sound more realistic? The armor is heavy, and thus, he's not as able to skirt arrows that fly at him as he is when he's just wearing a loin cloth. Heavy armor makes the character more of a sitting duck--a tank, basically.

I mean, Plate Armor weights 55 lbs.! It makes sense, doesn't it, that if you wear it, you cannot Dodge as effectively?

I think so.

Water Bob

A Question Asked of Me About the Armor Tweak above...

Question: Can this armor penalty be mitigated by superior strength of the wearer?

Yes and no...in a round about way.

In this game, there are two defense styles: Dodge and Parry. Dodge is Dexterity based and Parry is Strength based. A character's level (his experience) gives him bonuses to either, but the bonus is not necessarily the same.

In a melee combat, a player can choose to defend himself against blows by either dodging or parrying his foe's swings. But, there are certain types of attacks that can only be dodged--those would be missile/arrow/bolt attacks, thrown weapon attacks, and sorcerous touch attacks.

Thus, using the tweak above, a character wearing heavy armor would not be as able to dodge out of the way of an incoming arrow or a hurled axe. But, if a character is hit, the armor still has its full protection ability--this is not changed with the tweak. In some cases, a character wearing heavy plate armor will be easier to hit, but the arrows will most likely bounce off the armor, do no damage to the character--this depends on the bow and the strength of the archer (and the total damage done after the hit).

Here's the basic answer to the question: With the Dodge AC impaired as suggested with the tweak, characters will rely more on their Parry defense. Thus, stronger characters will choose heavier armor, while weaker, but more agile characters, will choose lighter armor or no armor at all.

EDIT: I should note that I do not use this tweak in my game. I write it here simply as an optional rule for GMs who like the idea.
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Water Bob


You'll never look at City Guardsmen armed with Pikes the same way again....

There are a few reach weapons listed in the core rulebook: War Spear, Staff, and Pike. Whips and Lances are also considered reach weapons. There may be others available in your game from supplemental sources or weapons that you've added yourself. Lances usually have a penalty associated with them if used on foot in melee. The Whip has a 15' reach instead of the usual 10' distance. Pikes have a reach of 20' only. And, the Staff is unique among reach weapons in that it can be used effectively at both standard melee range of 5' and reach range of 10'.

Look at the Fighting On The Run rule on page 184 of the 2E Core rulebook. This rule allows you to move, attack, and then move again, as long as you're making a melee attack, and as long as you don't move more than your Speed rating. Although the rule is there, it is not used much in combat because a character using the rule still provokes an attack of opportunity when leaving a threatened square.

If you use a reach weapon and make use of your move correctly, you can move close to a target, make a melee attack from 10 feet away, then retreat some distance. If you do this correctly, you can achieve two advantages on the battlefield.

1. After your attack and movement, it is easy to set yourself up so that your enemy has to come through your threatened square in order to attack you in normal melee. This means that he will provoke an attack of opportunity, and you will gain a second, free attack on your foe before he attacks you.

2. Furthermore, if, after your attack, you move more than five feet away from your opponent, your attacker will have to use his movement to engage you in melee. This means you will have robbed your opponent of any Full Actions--which means, your enemy will only get one attack on you even if he is capable of more than one attack (by level or by holding a second weapon).

This Reach fighting style is particularly effective against foes who use a weapon in each hand or high level foes who gain additional attacks due to character level. Combat Reflexes is a good feat to consider if you are going to use the reach fighting style often as you can often position yourself in combat to attack many foes some distance from you (of course, a high DEX is desireable as well).

One problem that comes up with Reach fighting is that you draw attacks of opportunity when you move away from a foe after he has attacked you. There are a few ways to combat this problem, though. For example, you can use the Fighting Defensively rule when pulling away from your foe (taking a -4 penalty on your attack). That will give you a +2 to defense when your foe takes his attack of opportunity on you.

Another thing you can do is try to attack every other round. In between, when your foe is just 5 feet from you, use your turn to Withdraw. If your foes keeps up the pressure by pressing you, he'll rob you of your second attack (you won't get your standard attack because your foe will move into base-to-base contact before it is your next turn, but you will get your attack of opportunity on him when he moves out of your threatened space). But, if he doesn't immediately press the fight, then you've got him and can peform as I describe above. You'll get two attacks on him--your standard attack plus an attack of opportunity when he decides to attack you again.

Depending on the weapon you use, having a high Tumble skill will allow you to tumble out of any attacks of opportunity that you provoke from your enemy.

Of course, any Feats that improve your defense, like Dodge, Parry, and Light-Footed, are also helpful for a Reach fighter.

A Gunderman Pike Fighter, with the Gunderland Pike-And-Shield Fighting Feat can be quite a deadly animal using this fighting style.

It's easy to see, too, that the Reach fighting style is vulnerable to missile or thrown weapon attacks.

Sometimes, the 5 foot step is all you need to set up the double attack that I mention above. See the example below.

Let's look at an example.

Ragnar the Aesir wields a war spear against a Vanir raider. We start the round with the two fighters in base-to-base contact. Ragnar cannot attack at this range, so he moves back 5 feet, putting his foe now at 10' distant. Ragnar attacks with the war spear, then, using the Fighting On The Run rule, Ragnar moves the rest of his movement, which is 10 more feet (because he's can only move half Speed when he Tumbles). This would normally provoke an attack of opportunity, moving away from the foe like this, but Ragnar makes his Tumble check.

Now, Ragnar has attacked and has ended the round 20 feet from his foe. This robs Ragnar's foe from making Full Attacks because the foe has to move 15 feet in order to engage Ragnar. So, at most, Ragnar's foe will get one attack on Ragnar next round. And, the foe will be subject to Ragnar's attack of opportunity when the foe moves past Ragnar's threatened space into close quarters in order to attack Ragnar. Thus, Ragnar gets two attacks on his foe this round while his foe can only take one attack.

Reach Fighting--

1. A reach weapon is mandatory.

2. A high DEX is desireable.

3. High Tumble skill or some other method of defeating Attacks of Opportunity (bonuses to defense) is desireable.

4. Combat Reflexes is desireable in order to perform more attacks of opportunity on your foes.

Gunderman Pike Fighter

Consider a 2nd level Gunderman Soldier. This character is allotted 4 Feats (1st level Feat, 1st level bonus Soldier Feat, 1st level Favored Class Feat, and 2nd level Soldier bonus Feat). Pick Combat Reflexes, if his DEX bonus is higher than +0, Gunderland Pike-And-Shield Fighting, Parry, and either Weapon Focus (+1 Pike attack), or Skill Focus (+3 Tumble), or Acrobatic (+2 Tumble, +2 Jump).

Use Hyborian Adaptability to make Tumble a class skill for this Soldier. This adds another +2 Tumble. Make sure to max out Tumble ranks with skill points.

GM's consider customizing Hyborian Weapon Familiarity for this character to be he Gunderman Pike instead of the greatsword.

Equip this character with a large shield, the Gunderman Pike shown on pg. 5 of Hyboria's Fiercest, and light armor* plus steel cap.

*It's imperative that light armor is used that does not impede the character's Speed rating. When tumbling to avoid attacks of opportunity, Speed is cut in half, and at least 15 feet of movement is needed each round in order to position the pike 20 feet away from the foe--Pikes are effective at a reach of 20 feet only. Also, the armor check penalty applies to the Tumble check, so you'll want to minimize the penalty by using light armor. Add a helmet to increase armor DR by +1.

When creating such a character, you'll want a high STR rating for attack, damage, penetration, and the Parry defense. You'll also want a high DEX to support Tumble and Combat Reflexes. A high INT is useful for the skill points as Soldiers do not get many, and we want to max out the Tumble skill.

This character combats his foe's attacks of opportunity through the use of the Tumble skill and a high Parry AC. He uses a large shield, which is +3 Parry in this case, and the Parry Feat gives him a +4 Parry, plus another +1 Parry for his 2nd Level Soldier bonus. This gives him a total +5 Parry in addition to his STR modifier. And, he benefits from DR 4-6, if he is hit, depending on which light armor he uses. His Tumble skill is improved by skill points, DEX bonus, and possibly either the Skill Focus (+3 Tumble) or Acrobatic (+2 Tumble) feat. In addition, his Hyborian Adaptability gives him another +2 Tumble, for a possible +5 Tumble above skill points and DEX bonus.

Weapon Focus gives the character +1 attack with the Pike, on top of his STR modifier, and the Gunderman Pike from Hyboria's Fiercest features higher damage and higher Armor Pierceing capability than the standard pike listed in the core rule book.


In the not-so-great Conan The Destroyer film, the scene where the party meets Zula shows her using her staff as both a Reach and Melee weapon. In the film Centurion, the character Etain uses a war spear, which has a 10 foot reach.

If you have a weapon with a reach of 15+ feet, you won't have to take advantage of the Fighting On The Run rule. Just keep your enemy in the target zone, and backup after he engages you in melee, avoiding the attack of opportunity that you create when you do so. This will always set up the attack of opportunity. Thus, with a Pike, keep the target 20 foot distant. You attack at 20 foot, then on your foe's action, he will have to leave the Pike's threatened space to approach you in melee, thus you get a second attack--the attack of opportunity when he leaves your threatened square. After he attacks, do what you an to avoid his attack of opportunity and move back so that your foe is again 20 foot from you, then attack normally....and repeat. Doing this will consistently give you an extra attack against your foe (unless he, too, is able to avoid attacks of opportunity) and rob your foe from gaining extra attacks due to a second weapon or from high level.

Imagine, if you will, a phalanx of soldiers, three abreast, guarding the drawbridge in front of the players. Consider them all 3rd level Soldiers. Gundermen, not unlike the 2nd level pikeman I mention above. They each have the Skirmisher Formation ability, which gives all three of them +1 defence on top of the other bonuses I describe above. THIS will make your players respect pike phalanxes. Think of the number of attacks of opportunity that will happen!

To beef up the phalanx line, add another row. The soldiers behind the first row can either attack normally through the first line, doubling the attacks and creating another row of threatened squares from which to make attacks of opportunity. Or, you can have the second row of Soldiers use the Aid Another rule to give the first rank either an additional +2 to defense or a +2 on their attacks!

Also remember, in addition to everything I've said, the Multiple Opponent's rule may also be utilized if your phalanx out numbers their target. This will give them an additional to-hit bonus.

Looking at it this way, Pikemen and their phalanxes are certainly a battle technique to be feared!

2nd EDIT:

Also, don't forget the Weapon Length rule on pg. 174 of the core 2E rulebook. This can mean an additional +2 Parry AC for the wielder of the two-handed weapon and a -2 Parry AC for anyone fighting him using a light weapon (or a -1 Parry AC for a foe using a one-handed weapon).

The Gunderland Pike is still a two-handed weapon even though the Gunderland Pike-And-Shield Fighting Feat allows the weapon to be used one-handed, thus it counts as a two-handed weapon when using the Weapon Length rule.
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Water Bob


This is a fan-made adventure set during the Hyborian Age, but it does not use the Mongoose Conan RPG rules. Instead, the adventure is written using the Barbarians of Lemuria rule set, and there is a BRP conversion at the end of the document. GMs wanting to use this scenario with the Conan RPG rules need only add their own stats. Click on the title above to see the adventure.

Here are a couple other Conan scenarios from the same source, using the BoL rule set.

The Homecoming of Count Inchiostro

Ghosts of Archeron

THIS PAGE is the source of the three adventure above and features some other BoL downloads.
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Water Bob


In my game, the players aren't playing typical adventurers. They're playing clansmen, all villagers in the same Cimmerian clan. And, as such, the characters must be warriors, of course. All Cimmerians are warriors. But, they also must scratch out a living among their peers. They've got to play their part among the other NPC villagers.

To this end, all the PCs in my game have professions. You may or may not have reasons to have professions in your game. But, from my point of view, this is what roleplaying is all about. I wanted this campaign to be a bit different form the standard mercenary existence of the usual rpg adventurer.

Some of my players have tried to marry their character's professions with skills that they can use in the game. One player plays a hunter, and as such, he keeps his Move Silently, Hide, and Survival skills maxed out. Another player plays a smith--a weapon smith. In game, this character, when he's around the forge and not adventuring, playing through one of my tales, can repair weapons that have been sundered or even make new ones for himself or the other PCs. He's also the one the party turns to if they need to evaluate the worth of any weapons that they find during the adventure. A third player plays a trapper, and thus he sometimes uses his Craft (Trapmaking) skill to set traps in an adventure situation.

If you play this way, using professions, the above marriage idea between the profession and the skills needed to adventure is a good one. Players won't feel like they are wasting precious skill points on skills that they will never use. But, if you (the GM) want to make other types of professions attractive to your players, then you have to make those more mundane professions important in the game somehow.

For example, consider a cook. No player will want to play a cook, unless that player was just satisfying a role playing requirement. Most likely, he'd consider any skill points placed into Profession (Cook) wasted. But, you, the GM, can make this an important profession in your game. The obvious way to do this is to use the profession as a source of wealth in the game. This is Conan, not D&D, so the adventures your characters go on should rarely be sources of extreme wealth for the players. And, if the PCs ever do find a fair some on their travels, there's always the High Living rule to consider (pg. 142 2E core rulebook). Remember, Conan rarely had a lot of wealth. He lived by his sword, usually with little to clothe his back or shelter his head. So, your cook, in the game, could get most of his wealth from the inn where he cooks.

Or, maybe this cook is a mercenary. Mercenary outfits will pay a premium for soldier who can also cook.

You can take this concept and apply it to the adventuring party. If the players are paying little attention to their food, then occassionally make them roll against disease. Those that fail the roll have scurvy. Don't hinder them too much. Just make them have Fatigue for a day or two, until they've eaten a good meal or two. Or, look at the diseases available in the Across The Thunder River sourcebook.

I'm not suggesting that you bog down the game with boring details like this. What I am suggesting is that you do a little bit to spice up the game, make the cook important to the players, by creating a more interesting world to live in and explore. If no player wants to be a cook, then don't force one of them to play the part. But, if you do have a player--who maybe does like to cook in real life--find ways to make that aspect of the character important to the game.

Be creative and adjust your game in a fun way. If the whip doesn't work for you (as with the disease checks), then try the carrot. Give the PCs a bonus as long as they're eating good, home cooked meals. For example, if you don't want to mess with a roll every time the characters camp, just allow the cook to Take 10 on a cooking task. If he meets whatever difficulty you establish, allow the PCs a floating +1 modifier to any dice throw for that game day. He player can have his character can have a +1 on a single attack, or a +1 on a single damage throw, or a +1 on a save or a skill check. Whatever. It's a floating circumstance bonus to reflect the character being well fed and healthy.

Do something like this, and all of a sudden, the cook is important to the group, as he would be in real life, and the player playing the cook doesn't feel like he's wasting skill points in his profession.

If this doesn't work for you, then come up with something that does--something that fits your game. Maybe you can use the profession as a part of the story of your game. Think outside of the box. For example, a character is the main cook among the adventuring group, and the PC group is a part of a larger group of bandits. Well, in camp, everybody comes to the cook, right? They're either getting something to eat or they are trading meat that has been hunted or having some other business. People talk about their business while they are eating with their companions. So....the cook has an excellent Gather Information skill. Not only does he cook, but he's the go-to person in the entire camp for specific information. The player keeps his profession (Cook) skill up as a means to another end--because through cooking is the character's chief source of information that he sells to interested parties.

That's just one idea. I'm sure you can come up with something customized to your game. Find out what kind of profession interests the players then show the players how that profession will be useful in the game--not just as a roleplaying point, but as a source of income (the character's main source of income) and probably for some other reason. With cooking, you might want to look at the Herbalism rules and adapt some of those items to the cook. Or, you might want to find a d20 cooking supplement for generic OGL games and use it

I suggest that you look at the Barbaric Treasures supplement. It's got some nice rule suggestions for using professions in the game such as Goldsmith, Gem Cutter, Taxidermist, Butcher, Furrier, and Tanner.

The other thing to do is decide which skills will be helpful in that profession besides the profession skill. As I said above, a hunter would use Move Silently, Hide, and Survival quite a bit. A shepherd might have a high Handle Animal skill, and he might make money from selling sheared fleece or wool. A fisherman might improve his Rope Use and Swimming skills. You might want to create new synergy bonuses between the character's profession and some important skills. For example, a character with Profession (Trader) with five or more ranks might get a synergy bonus of +2 on Appraise, Bluff, and Diplomacy.

Many crafting professions can support an adventuring party through the things that they make. A leatherworker could make a good set of boots, a leather vest, or maybe a custom sheath like the one Conan used in the 1982 Conan The Barbarian movie where he could easily adjust it to carry his sword across his torso or around, on his back, or at his waist. If a character in the party wants to hide a knife his his boot so that it cannot be seen, then the leatherworker among the adventurers is the man for the job. You may want to follow the guidelines for wear and tear on clothing in Tito's Trading Post as a drain on PC's wealth. Here, a weaver or a leatherworker could help off-set those costs.

My point here: You can add professions to your game and make them much more than just an aspect of roleplaying. There are various ways to make a character's profession as important to the player as it would be in real life. Not only can a profession be the main source of income for a character, but it can also be a role-played way of supporting skills the adventurer needs to survive his adventures.

A profession can directly support adventurers during their travels. The armorsmith can make the best shields for those in the party that wants them--there are rules for improving weapons, armor, and other gear via certain professions in the game books. The herbalist can make poisons for the tips of weapons or bandages with salves that will restore a few hit points. Or, maybe you decide that the adventurers are eating so well that every character is allowed a +2 synergy bonus, once per game day, due to the superior food that the cook makes (the cook being a player character).

Looking at professions this way, your players will welcome having their characters spend skill points in the profession, because they will see a mechanical benefit in the game. They won't consider the points spent on the profession a roleplaying waste.

Also, consider a PC profession as part of your next story line. For example, you have a PC that is a gemcutter*. If so, then maybe your next adventure centers around a sorcerer that seeks a master gemcutter to do some work on a special stone....you get the idea.

*For that matter, if you've got a PC gemcutter in your group, of course you are going to let the group find uncut stones and stones that can be recut for higher value--making the group more coin when they sell or trade the gems. Simply because of this, a gem cutter can be nice to have among a PC party.

If and how you implement professions is totally up to you, but hopefully this post will give you some ideas on using the professions in the game--and your players getting even more rounded characters than they had before.
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Water Bob


Note that these rules are refined from what I posted up-thread.


1. An Unarmed Attack is: d20 + Base Attack Bonus + STR modifier. Defenders can either Dodge or Parry incoming blows.

2. If you are unarmed, and you strike at an armed foe, then you provoke an Attack of Opportunity. You do not provoke an AoO when you strike at an unarmed foe.

3. Unarmed attacks do non-lethal damage. You can do lethal damage with an unarmed strike, but to do so, you must take a -4 attack penalty.

4. You can take two Unarmed Attacks, one with each arm, if you use a Full Round Action. This is considered a two-weapon attack. For the Barbarians, there is no penalty on either attack (unless fighting an armed foe).

5. Unarmed strikes do damge equal to: 1d3 + STR mod. Unarmed strikes with your off-hand do damage equal to: 1d3 + half STR mod.

6. You cannot penetrate armor with your bare hands, therefore damage from Unarmed strikes is always reduced by a foe's full armor DR rating.

7. Unarmed characters cannot take Attacks of Opportunity.

8. Unarmed attacks can be Finesse Attacks.

9. Unarmed attacks made while grappling are made with a -4 attack penalty.

10. There are Feats to enhance just about every aspect of this game. Unarmed attacks are no different.


The standard rule in the book is aimed at making punches. The Barbaric Warrior and Barbaric Treasures supplements provide alternative unarmed strikes. I have tweaked some of these just a tad.

Punch or Elbow - These are the unarmed strikes shown in the core rulebook. They do the usual unarmed strike damage. Elbow attacks made during a grapple have a -2 attack penalty instead of the usual -4 grapple attack penalty. Punch attacks made while grappling do use the standard -4 grapple attack penalty.

Kick or Knee - These unarmed strikes do 1d4 + STR mod damage, but they also cause the attacker to suffer a -1 penalty to his Defence until his next action the following round. The Kick cannot be used on a foe while grappleing with him. The Knee attack can be used on a grappled foe, and the standard grapple attack penalty is reduced to -2.

Backhand - After a successful punch or elbow attack, the character can make a second attack using the same hand but with a +1 attack bonus. Though, the character receives a -1 defense penalty until his next round action. The backhand allows for additional attacks, but a character cannot damage his foe with more attacks than the character is normally allowed.

Backhand as a Standard Action: Make the main hand attack, then attempt the backhand with the main hand. Character is -1 Defense for one round.

Backhand as a Full Action: If main hand hits, then backhand attempt is made. Character is -1 Defense for one round.

Backhand as a Full Action: If the main and hits, then the off-hand attack is made. If the off-hand hits, then the backhand can be attempted. Character is -1 Defense for one round.

Head Butt - This unarmed strike does 1d2 + STR mod damage and scores a critical hit on 19-20, with a x3 damage multiplier on the critical. If used while grappling, the Head Butt does not suffer the normal grapple -4 attack penalty. Critical Hits with the Head Butt, in addition to normal critical damage, cause the target to make a WILLPOWER save vs. a DC 10 + half the attackers base attack bonus + STR modifier. Failure means the target is dazed one round. A dazed character cannot act normally. He can take no actions but can still Dodge and Parry normally.

Head Butts with a helmet are made as a gauntlet unarmed attack: 1d6 + STR mod damage, critical on 20 with x2 damage, AP 1. The WILL save still applies on a critical. Foes wearing helmets benefit from full armor DR.


If you wear gauntlets, you are considered armed, though you make your attack as if you were making a Punch. The same holds true for brass knuckles or exotic weapons like the bagh nakh or the katar. You can increase damage done by like strikes through upgrading armor. For example, if you add spikes to your elbow guards, you will do more damage than the standard elbow attack--and you will be considered "armed", doing lethal damage.


This is covered in the Combat chapter, but the basics are this: Nonlethal Damage is tracked separately from Lethal Damage. As your Hit Points go down from Lethal Damage, your starting point at zero nonlethal damage goes up as you take Nonlethal Damage. When your Nonlethal Damage equals your current Hit Points, you are staggered. Staggered means that you can only take one Standard Action or one Move Action in a round (not both, as you can normally). If your Nonlethal Damage exceeds your current hit points, then you are beaten unconscious. Nonlethal Damage heals much quicker than Lethal Damage.

DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE NONLETHAL DAMAGE! A character that has 8 hit points and 11 points of Nonlethal Damage is just as unconscious and at the mercy of his foes as a character that is dying at -3 Hit Points.

I am using a House Rule to where, if you roll a natural 1 on your attack throw, you are subject to various special attacks by your foe. A chart is rolled upon. Sometimes, the result will give your foe a free unarmed attack against you during the combat. Your foe gets this unarmed attack without you getting the normal Attack of Opportunity against him. Basically, your "fumble" is that, during the combat, you opened yourself up to a punch in the face, an elbow to the chest, or maybe a knee to the groin.

SOMETIMES, NONLETHAL DAMAGE IS THE WAY TO GO! Let's say you got lucky during your foe's attack because he rolled a natural 1 that resulted in you getting a free unarmed attack on him that resulted in some serious Nonlethal Damage to the point where your foe has 12 HP left but has taken 11 points of Nonlethal Damage. In this situation, 2 more points of Nonlethal Damage will down your foe where as you have to apply 13 points of Lethal Damage to down him. In this case, it may be easier to win the fight with a quick punch, risking the usual Attack of Opportunity he will get, rather than going another two rounds of melee combat to kill him.

Water Bob


When you read the Spot and Listen skills, you'll see a pesky penalty modifier of -1 per 10 foot distance to the target. I find that modifier unwieldy in a game. I dislike having to stop and count squares.

I've found that it is much easier to use a -5 modifier at 50 feet and a -10 modifier at 100 feet. These modifiers are not as granular, but they play better.

You might want to try them out. I call this my "Five and Dime" tweak.

For me, it's easier to guage that a guard might about around 40 foot away than it is to count out the exact squares at the moment I'm going to throw his listen check. 40 foot means I don't use a modifier. 50 foot or better, I use the -5 modifier, and I keep using that until 100 foot, where the -10 modifier pops up.

Water Bob


I've got two new players joining my Cimmerian campaign. They're playing brothers, Foilloch (Foil-lock) and Huogh (Huff), born within a year apart. I'm working them into the existing story, and below is the some background I sent them.

We're big roleplayers in my game. I disslike slap-bang-let's-go backgrounds. We like characters with a lot of depth. I want to imagine real people when we play--not game pieces.

Here's what I sent my new players to give them a starting point to grow their characters.


Your mother? Her name is Nahn. She's a weaver--the best cloth maker the clan has seen. Other women will knit the basics for themselves and their families, but Nahn's stuff is superior. It lasts longer, looks better, holds a dye better, than the product of any other clansman. Weaving is a painstaking, time consuming process. Thus, there is a strong market among the clansmen for durable, well-made cloth. The few times Nahn has been with surplus, some of her wares have been traded outside the village, not only to the clansmen living in the outlying homesteads but also on the occasions when the Blue Fox make trade with other clans--which seems to be happening more and more of late.

This is how your mother has supported you your entire life. Though no person or family in the clan can be considered "wealthy", you've never not had a heavy blanket in the winter. Nahn has always traded enough to keep food in your belly. And, you've always had the finest kilts and tunics.

You remember little about your father. He died when you were quite young. What you know about him is what people have told you. He was called Deh (Day), and he was a Grath Far Hunter. Far Hunters make long journeys past the border of clan territory. They are scouts, bringing back with them not only the results of their hunt but information about herd migrations, news from other clans, and alerts of danger. The kind of men that become Far Hunters are typically solitary and taciturn but exceptional woodsmen who enjoy long periods alone in the wilderness. You've been told that your father was just such a man. When the Separation happened between the clans, Deh sided with the Foxmen. Some say he did this soley out of love--love for your mother.

It is a great love, people have said, that Deh had for Nahn. You've been told that your father loved your mother in the strongest, deepest way. He was a proud man, your father, and he could never quite accept that Nahn did not return the same type of love. Nahn cared for your father, yes. But, she never agreed to be his. Openly, she knew other men when Deh was away. There is no shame in this. It's the Cimmerian way. Nahn is an individual clansman, capable of living her own way, though when Deh was under her roof, she saw no other, out of respect for him.

You were young, and you were used to not seeing Deh for seasons at a time. For you, Deh left one morning before dawn, like he always did. It was a long time before you realized that he was never coming back.


Your father left you nothing but his spare equipment he kept in your mother's hut: a weapon and armor stand that held two hunting spears, some belts, and three or four smelly kill sacks. One morning you passed the stand and noticed both the spears were missing. Outside, you found your mother with Eanbotha. There were two other men your mother favored besides your father, Griffe, the shepherd, who died before you were born during the Separation, and Ean (EE-an, like "Ian").

Ean is a great warrior of the Separation. He helped to found the Blue Fox clan, and, indeed, Eanbotha is a Duncohr. His father is the smith that moved from the Grath village to establish your village, Seven Stones Ridge. His brother, Finn, is the clan Chieftain. And, Ean, himself, has become the War Chief for the Blue Foxmen.

At your approach, you saw your mother smile, but she said nothing. She deferred to Ean. You could always tell how much affection she had for the great War Chief, and sometimes you would wonder if she looked the same way when your father was around. You were so young, you can't remember.

Ean stood, gripping your father's spears, one in each hand. You looked at your brother as the giant of a man spoke, "Over here. C'mon. Today, you learn something."

Your mother watched as you followed Ean out in front of the hut to a space clear of trees or rock.

"You always, always carry more than one weapon," came the booming voice, and you saw Ean emphasize the weapons in each hand. "Always."

He hefted his right hand like he was testing the weapon's weight and balance, then, in a flash, he lifted the weapon over his shoulder, almost too high for you to see, and threw the spear with such force that you heard an audible crack when the spear pierced the bark of a nearby tree. "It can be a long distance weapon," he said, "With it, you can hunt and feed yourself, or you can use it for war. With a sword, you can only use it for war."

With the other spear, Ean gripped its shaft and held out his hand, letting you imagine the weapon if it was longer. "See the reach? With a long weapon, you can attack out to about ten paces. With good battlefield footwork, you can keep your foe from getting at you--not allowing him inside your guard."

The the warrior gripped the spear with both hands, tucked it close to his hip, and ran toward a tree. He held the tip low, the spear at an angle, and rammed it through the bark into the dense wood, sinking the point into the trunk by a finger length. He stepped back, the weapon sticking from the tree at the height of his knee. "With a good quality weapon, you can lodge your spear in the tree or a fence." Putting his foot over the spear point where it pierced the tree, Ean lifted himself almost three feet off the ground. "It will help you climb, jump, or see over obstacles."

After each lesson, the War Chief would look at you and your brother, pausing, making eye contact with you, searching your face to make sure that you understood his words. Cimmerians did not take war lightly. This was serious business. Quite serious.

When he tugged the spear from the tree, he calmly walked back towards you and your brother. He exaggerated his movements, leaning a lot of weight on the spear that he now used to support himself. "Your spear can be your walking stick. And, if you practice, I've known some spearmen so good that they use their spears to vault at their enemies, knocking the enemy down, gaining advantage earliest in combat, killing a prone foe before a single counter stroke is attempted. The same move I've seen by those practiced to hop over low obstacles."

Then the Cimmerian raised the spear high and shoved it into the ground in front of him. He then crouched and unraveled a strip of leather from his shin. Rising, he tied the leather to the spear's shaft. The spear stood in the ground before you, the leather strip dripping from it like a thin banner. "You can use your spear as a signal to warn your clansmen that may be following up behind you."

At this point, a sound broke from Huogh's mouth. It's the first thing either boy said since stepping out of the hut this morning. "Why not just tie the cloth onto a tree or bush?"

Eanbotha looked at Huogh sternly, without blinking, as if studying him. "Yes," yes, he said, finally smiling, "You can do that, too."

A laugh came from the edge of this training ground. It was your mother. When you looked, she smiled and quickly put her hand over her mouth as if to apologize for interrupting the training. But, you could see in her eyes that she was proud of you. There stood your mother, watching her boys learn the ways of men for the first time.

Ean gave her a look that would quash an further interruption then strode over to his previous seat to pick up his huge two-handed war sword. Calmly, he walked to the tree where he had thrown the first spear, then proceeded to demolish the side of the tree in just a few strokes. Bark and wood chips exploded from the tree with his every swing. When he was done, he stood back, and you could do nothing but imagine how a man would look after enduring that onslaught. The tree is much sturdier than a man.

"Cimmerians used to favor the spear," Ean said, holding up his great sword for you and your brother to see. "But, your clansmen now have the secret of steel." He paused and took more time to look at you, then your brother, without saying another word. Then, he said, "The sword...the SWORD is a man's weapon. And a spear? A spear is no match for a good yard of steel. First, you will master the spear. Then, we will move on to other weapons until you know...YOU KNOW...that you can obliterate your opponent with anything. A rock. A tree limb. A jagged edge of a clay pot. Or, even your bare hands."

"As for now," he continued, "You don't need to obliterate your opponent's body. You don't have the strength. Not yet. You only need to down him." Pulling the spear from the tree and holding it up for both you and your brother to see, he said,
"You can kill with only a single puncture."

"Part of being a man, " Ean continued, "is taking care of yourself, your family, and your clan. Obtaining a good quality weapon is one of the first challenges of manhood."

He took one spear and placed it in your hands. Then, he did the same with the other for your brother.

"Today, you've just conquered that first challenge."

You looked at your brother, who was already staring back at you, both of you standing there with your father's weapons in your hands.

"In a few years, you will run the Ras Croi and begin the clan's training to become warriors. But, today, you start training with me. When you see twelve years, you'll be more than ready to take on the challenges that the others will be facing for the first time. So, come closer, and let me show you...."

Water Bob


What you see below are notes I've taken while reading L. Sprage de Camp's essay that originally appeared in Amra magazine and was republished with other articles in The Blade of Conan.

Mining and Metallurgy: The Hyborians know gold, silver, tin (bronze), copper, lead, and iron. Mercury can be implied. Brass, but not necessarily recognizing zinc. Ferrous metallurgy is well developed in hard iron and Akbitanan steel.

Gold and silver are used lavishly. Ores are probably extracted by mine slavery.

Leather Goods: Textiles are probably crude or expensive since so much leather is worn. Leather drinking jacks are used.

Textiles: Probably wool and possibly linen. Silk.

Glass & Vitreous Materials: The Hyborians have high technology with glass. Natural crystals are used as well.

Chemistry & Chemical Products: Beer, ale, wine. Sugar. Strong acids.

Cities & City Planning: Some cities have lighted streets at night. Rudimentary planning and zoning (Temple Districts).

There are also quite a few cities left over from former times: An entire city built like one vast house, and the cities built of a green, jade-like stone. Xapur is green but has separate builidings. Xachotl has interconnected buildings built of various colored stone. Xuthal is interconnected and green.

Monuments & Architecture: Architects know the arch and the dome. Extravagant use of marble, jet, and jade. Pyramids. Tall, cylindrical towers (150 foot).

Secret passages, sliding panels, trapdoors, and deadfalls often used.

Houses & Furniture: Solid furniture. Desks. Advanced key locks. Combination locks are known. Lighting by candles or oil lamps. Perfumes.

Xuthal and Xuchotl are lighted by radium gems and green-fire gems, which suggests a higher technology in the past (or maybe of unworldly origin).

Waterworks & Sewage: Large Hyborian cities have complete public sewers. Some private sewers as well.

Roads & Bridges: Well made stone roads. Graded dirt roads. Road maintenance probably happens often. Bridges, though, seem few and far between.

Fortification & Siegecraft: Castellated or battlemented walls is the standard. Molten lead poured on attackers. Porticullis.

Arms & Armor: Sword, mace, bill, dagger, spear, axe. The sword seems to be more common than the spear (or any other weapon).

Armor includes scale mail, ring mail, brigadine armor, chain mail, and steel plate armor. Complete, jointed suite of plate armor and knight cavalry available to the richest nations.

Defensive headgear includes: mail coif, horned helm, bronze crested helm, visored salade, basinet, burganet, and morion.

Machines & Siege Engines: Crossbow. Catapults. Ballista. Trebuchet.

Sophisticated mechanisms to operate trap doors, boobytraps, and deadfalls. Pipe organs. Natural lodestones.

Vehicles & Harness: Camel. Horse. Sturrup. Chariots.

Ships & Rigging: Galleys/Rowing + Sailing vessels. Some rowers free men, some slaves. Carracks. Galleons. Anchor chain. Topsail. Jib.

Miscellaneous Artifacts: Polished silver (or other metal) mirrors. Barrels. Candles. Coins. Water clocks. Parchment. Pen & ink.

Pure Science: Cosmology is advanced enough to realize that Earth is a planet. Optics advanced enough to make elaborate spytubes. Advanced gear technology.

Super hypnotism/mesmerism.

Superscience from the past: Tolkemec's electronic disintegrator, synethic food of the Xuthalians, luminous gems of Xuthal and Xachotl.

SUMMATION: "The Hyborian Age can be best compared to the great days of the Byzantine Empire with some features of armor and rigging from later medieval times." -- L. Sprage de Camp.

Water Bob


The Grath are one of the largest and oldest Cimmerian clans. These people inhabit the Grath Vales, a series of steep, wooded valleys in the central foothills of the Eiglophian mountains. While most Cimmerian clans are centralized on one or a few towns, a unique feature of this clan is that it is composed of several small, insular settlements spread throughout the clan's territory. Each village is made up of one-to-two, almost never three, families. There are about twenty villages in all. One of the largest Grath settlements has only eight buildings.

The Grath are extremely progressive when compared to most other Cimmerian clans. They have embraced agriculture, graduating from the usual hunter/gatherer culture. Many of the Grath clansmen are farmers, mountain goat herders, or shepherds. The Grath are known for their cloth, a major item of trade with other Cimmerian clans and the Aesir of the Eiglophian north face.

Other popular professions among the Grath are stream fisherman, mountain hunter, and river miner. The Diamondrun River runs the length of Grath territory, branching into the many valleys that are the Grath Vales. This mountain river is the clan's primary source of water, food, and wealth. The miners steal quality iron-ore, and other minerals and precious metals and gems, from the crust of their mountain home. It is said that Crom uses the mountain beneath the Grath to store his wealth, and the Grath take what they can without his notice. When the mountain shakes, though, the Grath know that Crom is looking their way.

Grathmuir is the only three-family settlement on the Diamondrun, and there lived a weaponsmith, member of the Duncohr family. The Duncohrs have been weaponsmiths, it is said, since Crom gave man the Secret of Steel.

This Duncohr smith, carrying on the tradition of his father and his father before him, was Caelis' great-grandfather.

Water Bob


The only surviving son of that Grath mastersmith was Caelis' grandfather, Fionn, who was apprenticed to his father at the Duncohr family forge in Grathmuir. Fionn was wed to Maeoral, a Cimmerian girl from Grathwold, to strengthen the alliance between the two Grath villages. She gave Fionn four* sons (in order of birth):

Finn - Today, he is called Finn Elder. Caelis' father. Master Weaponsmith. Current chieftain of the Blue Fox clan.

Dael - Master Weaponsmith. Runs the Duncohr forge with Finn Elder.

Eanbotha - Finn Elder is the Foxman Chieftain, but Ean is the Skywarrior. Ean is the Blue Fox War Chief, ruling the clan just under Finn Elder.

Eregerth - Wayward youngest son, struck with wanderlust. Has traveled the world and just recently returned to his homeland.

Before their firstborn, Finn, became Caelis' father, he witnessed trouble in Maeoral's village of Grathwold. A Grath shepherd traded a few sheep to an Aesir family for a wife. The shepherd was ridiculed and shunned by some members of the greater clan outside of Grathwold who felt the mixing of Cimmerian and Aesir blood to be an impure act that dishonored the clan. Some say that the shepherd was eventually forced out of Grathwold. Others say that the shepherd left the clan of his own choosing in order to find another home for his family. In either case, the shepherd did not leave Grathwold until his Aesir wife had a child, a little girl they named Lyme.

Finn knew little of Lyme, but he felt honor bound to offer marriage to her. No one else would. He thought that bringing her into the Duncohr family would shield her from those who would call her "half-breed". His father, Fionn, was against the marriage. But, the shepherd agreed to the union, though, knowing his road away from the clan was uncertain and most likely dangerous.

Finn married Lyme, but the scorn and labels of clan dishonor did not cease.

The Aesir bloodline has passed from her mother to Lyme to her sons, Branoc and Caelis.

Branoc favors his father, Finn. But Caelis is light haired and light eyed--his Aesir heritage showing through.

*There is a fifth son, Cael. He is Dael's twin. But, his name is not spoken, and no one in the clan acknowledges his existence.

Water Bob


Finn brought his new bride back to Grathmuir to live among his family, the Duncohrs. He was 24 years old, but Lyme had only seen 9 winters. On his honor, Finn did not know her as a woman, though, until she became one, at age 15. Her parents, the shepherd and his Aesir wife, left Grathwold eastbound, but they were never heard from again. That spring, when the snows thawed, the remains of a man and a woman were found to the east, savaged, dismembered and unrecognizable. Trackers found the prints of the horse-sized nordwolves, but it is thought that the giant wolves only fed on fresh dead bodies. Otherwise, the norders would have taken much of the meat back to their lair. The years passed, and this mystery was never solved nor were the bodies ever identified.

The taunting and abuse Finn faced from his clanmembers never subsided. Fionn had been against the marriage, but he stood by his son and the Duncohr family honor. That Fionn was a mastersmith needed by the clan as a whole kept the Duncohrs from the same fate faced by Lyme's family. There was talk that her parents were butchered by Grath once they left the safety of the clan's territory. With all that the Duncohr family received in the face of Finn's marriage to the half-Aesir, Fionn had noticed a change in the clan as a whole. His clansmen acted differently--less tolerant, more savage. Disputes between Grath villages were common and sometimes bloody. Honor had become twisted. Respect for the old ways seemed to be fading. As progressive as the clan had become, the Grath seemed to be moving backwards, as if the clan were destroying itself from within.

Fionn couldn't explain it. It was just something he knew, the reason for which could not be expressed--at least not logically. Some reasons were only deciphered by the hair that stood up at the nape of his neck. Something unnatural was afoot among his clansmen. He believed it. It was something that was inexplicable.

Each Grath village is dominated by one family. The second family is always weaker politically, known as the underfamily. Grathmuir is the only Grath village to serve as home to three Grath families, and the Duncohrs were the middle family--one of the two Grathmuir underfamilies. It is not uncommon for an underfamily to break away from its home village to start a new settlement where it can be dominate. Fionn claimed this right, and the Duncohrs followed the Diamondrun river south, out of the mountains, into the foothills of the Eiglophians. There, the Diamondrun cascades into a waterfall on a small plateau that overlooks the plains to the south. This place is known to all Grath and most other Cimmerians for it is also the place where the Seven Sacred Stones stand. These rune covered stones grow from the earth, planted in a time forgotten. They are a reminder of Crom's victory over the Titans. This plateau is known as Crom's Battleground, and it has been a traveling destination for centuries.

It is here that Fionn planted his tent, brought his forge, and relocated his family.

The Duncohrs would be the dominate family of the new Grath village called Seven Stones Ridge.

In relative short time, Fionn's forge grew from his homestead, to a few more family buildings, into what it is today. After the Separation, Seven Stones Ridge became the clanholme for the Blue Fox Clan.

Water Bob


A History of the Blue Fox Clan

The clans of Cimmeria are varied. Some are nomadic, and some are not. Some are near savages, disfiguring their bodies, enemy to all that they encounter, while other clans are more progressive, building villages and towns. The latter describes the Grath. As one of the 18 dominate Cimmerian clans, they hold the territory in north-central Cimmeria, from the valleys of the Eighlophian Mountains to the northern edge of the Hoath Plain.

One peculiarity of the Grath is that they don't congregate in one location. There is no single village designated as the clanholme. The Grath are spread out, across their territory. The landscape is dotted with one or two family villages. They act as a union of city-states (though none of the villages are large enough to be considered a "town"), but Grath loyalty is stronger to the Clan than to the immediate family. This holds the clan together. It makes them strong--their lands dense with population and protection.

Politically, the Grath act as a quasi-combination of feudal society and republic. A chief is elected by the councils of each Grath village. When that person can no longer perform in the position, he can step down or be challenged by another Clansman. But, it's not mortal combat that decides the outcome of the challenge as it was in the past. The Grath have grown sophisticated by using a democratic method, allowing the town elders (only--not the Clansmen) to vote for the new Chief. A simple majority wins. The Chief's village becomes the center of political activity for the Clan until a Chief from another village is selected, at which time politics follows the Chief to a new home.

Caelis' grandfather, Fionn, was head of the Duncohr family and ran the forge in the Grath village of Grathmuir. Fionn left this village and set out to find a location for a Duncohr-dominated village. The spot he chose is a mystical place. A circle of seven 40-45 foot, rune-covered stones marks the spot where Crom conquered a troop of seven Titans, in the time before time. Each stone is said to serve as a tombstone for each Titan. This place is referred to as the prachaun grul, in the local tongue. Here, the land is pockmarked with warrens of the Cimmerian blue fox. That is seen as a good omen.

Fionn Duncohr built his family's town on a ridge overlooking the prachaun grul. The place started as a cleared spot and two tents, one for Fionn and Maeoral, the other serving as a his smithy. But, Seven Stones Ridge grew, first into solid structures, then into a village, and finally into a town.

In truth, Seven Stones became the largest population center in the entire Clan, eventually home to almost half the Grath total population.

Nuadha (Na-whaa-tha) was the beautiful daughter of the Grath Chieftain, twenty years ago. She was very engaging, and she found her way into the hearts of the entire Clan. The Chief used his daughter as an ambassador. Nuadha would travel to the score of Grath villages, speaking with the town elders, completing Clan business at the bidding of her father. Yet, she did more. If she saw a village would not have enough meat for the upcoming winter, she would negotiate trade from a nearby village that could spare the food. Disputes were sometimes solved by her, though she had no real authority--her Clansmen finding it easier to use her word than wait for a decision from the Chief. There was talk that Nuadha would become the first female Grath Chieftain after her father aged.

Tragedy struck. Nuadha and her father went missing. They were never found. The Grath had lost their Chief and their probable next Chief. Speculation of all sorts were whispered throughout the villages. One of the strongest theories was that Nuadha had been abducted by the Nangh, a clan from the Hoath Plain. Their Chief had recently proposed an alliance between the Grath and the Nangh, suggesting that Nuadha become his wife to seal the agreement. But, he was refused. Another rumor said that Nuadha was captured by the vicious Nachta, the savage clan on Cimmeria's southwestern border. It was said that word of Nuadha's beauty had spread across the country, and the Nactha chief wanted her as a trophy.

There was even speculation that Nuadha's own father had killed her out of jealousy for her popularity among the Clan. But, this was quickly quelled, as the Chief was never found either.

The loss of Nuadha is a mystery that may never be solved. The event happened twenty years agon. But her loss had a grave effect on the clan, in an almost mysterious way. The clan began to digress. The Grath villages became fractious. People would carve a five leafed clover on their foreheads--the symbol that Nuadha used to mark her presence.

In Seven Stones, Nuadha was known by the name Xean (zean), which means "light" in the local tongue. A likeness of this symbol is nailed over the fireplace in the longhouse. Before each hunt, and before any war effort, each warrior touches Xean to gain her favor while in the wilderness away from home.

Not all Grath villages were affected equally by the loss of Nuadha and her father. But, the effect was long term and noticeable. Fionn Duncohr noticed it, and he feared that all he had built for his kin would be lost. Seven Stones had become a major trading center in the northern part of Cimmeria. It was the Duncohr family holding that he had dreamed about. News arrived one day that reported an entire Grath village had committed mass suicide. When they were found, it was seen that the villagers had stacked rocks in the village center to form a five leafed clover.

It was madness.

The Grath were falling apart. Trade with outsiders began to fade. Grath clansmen began to scar themselves to mark their suffering. And, finally, Grath began raiding other Grath villages.

It was then that Fionn decided to break away from the Grath. Seven Stones was prepared for war. It was ironic that Fionn's action--to leave the Grath and form a new clan--was the one action that helped solidify the fracturing Grath. For, all the Grath, those both insane and sane, felt that the Duncohrs were opening the door that would lead to the death of the entire Clan.

Clanwar broke out. The fighting was vicious. Fionn lost his wife, Maeoral, during the conflict. He's never forgiven his ex-brethren for that. They knew who she was.

The warriors of Seven Stones prevailed. During the fighting, the Grath began comparing the Stoners to the urro--the Cimmerian blue fox--saying how ruthless but intelligent in combat they can be. The Grath respected the Stoner tactics, as the town of Seven Stones Ridge should have been crushed by the combined warriors of the entire Grath Clan. "The luck of the urro," the Grath would say, and they began calling the Stoners the "Foxmen", referring to the blue fox.

The Duncohrs adopted the name for their new Clan that consisted mainly of Duncohr kinsmen, but those from other families as well.

Today, Seven Stones Ridge serves as the clanholme of the Blue Fox Clan. Fionn, now called Old Fionn, is aged many years. His son, Finn Elder, is Town Elder and Chieftain. Old Fionn's other son, Eanbotha, is War Chief. Today, the Blue Fox territory is shadowed by the remaining Grath, who continue to deteriorate.

Finn Elder is aging now, having seen 57 seasons. But, his three sons, Branoc, Caelis, and Thrallan, have just become warriors, to carry on the Duncohr name.

It took time, but Old Fionn accomplished what he set out to do.

The Blue Fox live. The Duncohrs live. And, prosperous times are ahead.

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