Musing on Conan themes in RPGs

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Great thread!

Zelata the witch/druid type was a REH creation from Hour of the Dragon. Conan’s other magic-wielding ally in the story was Hadrathus, high priest of Asura.

It's been a while since I read the stories, but was Hadrathus actually "magic wielding" himself? I seem to remember him giving Conan instructions, or maybe an object, and then Conan experienced the magic himself. But, like I said, it's been a while.

Also, there was Conan's drug-addict sorcerer friend who helped him...I thought his name was Pelas but when I just looked it up didn't get hits. So...again, it's been a long time.
 

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Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Isn’t that carousing in Shadowdark?

Same general idea (yet another reason I love Shadowdark) but I was thinking more of a sub-system, not just a single table.

Between adventures I want to be able to:
  1. Give gifts.
  2. Tell tales.
  3. Pay bards to tell your tales for you.
All of them can reap XP (or euiqvalent) with different factors going into the success of each.
 

SJB

Explorer
It's been a while since I read the stories, but was Hadrathus actually "magic wielding" himself? I seem to remember him giving Conan instructions, or maybe an object, and then Conan experienced the magic himself. But, like I said, it's been a while.

Also, there was Conan's drug-addict sorcerer friend who helped him...I thought his name was Pelas but when I just looked it up didn't get hits. So...again, it's been a long time.
Hadrathus wielded the Heart of Ahriman, which Conan had recovered from Stygia. He clearly had the knowledge and skill to manipulate the artefact, and he does claim to be working magic.

The Kothian sorcerer Conan encountered in “The Scarlet Citadel” was Pelias.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Hadrathus wielded the Heart of Ahriman, which Conan had recovered from Stygia. He clearly had the knowledge and skill to manipulate the artefact, and he does claim to be working magic.

Ah, that's right. But it's still not clear if Hadrathus is magical, or whether he just happens to know this ritual, which Conan himself could do if Hadrathus had told him. (Which raises deeper questions about the difference between casting spells and just performing rituals...)

The Kothian sorcerer Conan encountered in “The Scarlet Citadel” was Pelias.

Oh, right Pelias with an 'i'. First Conan rescued him from the demonic vine, then in a later story visited him to ask for help. Although I think the latter story was not REH.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
Ah, that's right. But it's still not clear if Hadrathus is magical, or whether he just happens to know this ritual, which Conan himself could do if Hadrathus had told him. (Which raises deeper questions about the difference between casting spells and just performing rituals...)

Using artifacts is part of the Hyborean magic and Hadrathus knowing the ritual is what makes him a spellcaster. But Hyborian Magic is also corrupting to the soul, which is the limitation on Conan using it even if he did know the ritual.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
Using artifacts is part of the Hyborean magic and Hadrathus knowing the ritual is what makes him a spellcaster.

Not sure I buy that "ritual" and "spellcasting" are synonymous in the setting. I mean, it's a valid hypothesis, but the source texts could be interpreted either way.

(And to some extent it's splitting hairs. Unless magic is something innate to few people, is 'studying magic' just learning highly precise rituals that have no margin of error? Is margin of error the difference between 'ritual' and 'spellcasting'?)

But Hyborian Magic is also corrupting to the soul, which is the limitation on Conan using it even if he did know the ritual.

For the most part that seems to be true in the fiction, but there was no evidence that Hadrathus' soul was corrupted by his ritual, which leads me to put it in a different category.

I mean, if we want to define "spellcasting" as "taking an action that triggers magic" then when Conan, running from wolves, went into the cave, found the skeleton on the throne, then took the sword, awakening the undead king, did he "perform a ritual" and thus "cast a spell" (and corrupt his soul?). I don't think so.
 

pemerton

Legend
there was Conan's drug-addict sorcerer friend who helped him...I thought his name was Pelas but when I just looked it up didn't get hits. So...again, it's been a long time.
I don't think there is any drug addiction in The Scarlet Citadel. But Conan is helped by the sorcerer Pelias, whom he frees from prison and the predation of a hell-rooted, mind-sapping plant:

"But who are you?" demanded Conan.

"Men called me Pelias."

"What!" cried the king. "Pelias the sorcerer, Tsotha-lanti's rival, who vanished from the earth ten years ago?"

"Not entirely from the earth," answered Pelias with a wry smile. "Tsotha preferred to keep me alive, in shackles more grim than rusted iron. He pent me in here with this devil-flower whose seeds drifted down through the black cosmos from Yag the Accursed, and found fertile field only in the maggot- writhing corruption that seethes on the floors of hell."​

Not necessarily the smoothest plot-weaving of all time! But it gets the job done.
 

Bill Zebub

“It’s probably Matt Mercer’s fault.”
I don't think there is any drug addiction in The Scarlet Citadel. But Conan is helped by the sorcerer Pelias, whom he frees from prison and the predation of a hell-rooted, mind-sapping plant:

"But who are you?" demanded Conan.​
"Men called me Pelias."​
"What!" cried the king. "Pelias the sorcerer, Tsotha-lanti's rival, who vanished from the earth ten years ago?"​
"Not entirely from the earth," answered Pelias with a wry smile. "Tsotha preferred to keep me alive, in shackles more grim than rusted iron. He pent me in here with this devil-flower whose seeds drifted down through the black cosmos from Yag the Accursed, and found fertile field only in the maggot- writhing corruption that seethes on the floors of hell."​

Not necessarily the smoothest plot-weaving of all time! But it gets the job done.

In a later story...but again I think it was DeCamp or somebody, not REH...Conan drops in on Pelias to ask for help, and I thought I remembered allusions to his, um, substance abuse issues. Maybe I'm totally misremembering.
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
In a later story...but again I think it was DeCamp or somebody, not REH...Conan drops in on Pelias to ask for help, and I thought I remembered allusions to his, um, substance abuse issues. Maybe I'm totally misremembering.
Return of Conan, its a De Camp story
 

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