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Mythological Figures: Conan the Barbarian (5E)

WHAT IS BEST IN LIFE? Click here to find out! This week's Mythological Figure is one sure to generate a lot of discussion, as we delve into Conan the Barbabarian!






If by some strange chance you are not already familiar with this wildly popular character my first recommendation is to check out any of the Conan the Barbarian films (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), but there’s also a Conan RPG from Modiphius and a relatively recent Conan video game. I’m not going to summarize his history -- as far as I’m able to tell there are at least 13 different public domain works featuring Conan.

If you read this column for the context this just isn’t your week but for the stat junkies, behold!

Design Notes: Conan here is one of the most hotly contested character builds for fantasy RPGs. It’s opinions, @$$#%^&$, and Conan builds out here: everybody has one. At one point or another I ran across a rationale I thought was pretty good and made a comment in my working document about it. If you are the person who posted this on Facebook or elsewhere on EN World or wherever it is I saw it, thank you:

“First thing - no more than 1 level of Barbarian class. Barbarians from Hyboria aren't D&D Barbarians. You just need it to reflect that he was formidabble even without any armour. So Barbarian 1 and no more. Second thing - Ranger 1. Conan was good tracker and knew how to take care of himself in the wilderness, his favoured enemies should be humans and human-abomination hybrids. Third - Rouge 3 with Thief Roguish Archetype. He spent a lot of time as ordinary thief. Rest should go to Fighter with Champion as Martial Archetype as Conan was more interested in crushing his enemies (and seeing them driven before him) as quickly and effectively as possible.”

For his Challenge Rating I erred on the side of caution and rounded up to 9 because he’s got a ton of features, can leap like a monster, and has incredible mobility (and if you are going to cry fowl about needing a higher Strength or Constitution, drop Mobility and increase one or the other by +2).



Conan the Barbarian
Medium humanoid (human), neutral barbarian 1/ranger 1/rogue (thief) 3/fighter 11 (champion)

Armor Class
14 (hide)
Hit Points 118 (1d12+12d10+3d8+32)
Speed 40 ft.

STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
18 (+4)​
14 (+2)​
14 (+2)​
12 (+1)​
13 (+1)​
10 (+0)​

Saving Throws
Str +9, Con +7
Skills Athletics +14, Intimidation +5, Sleight of Hand +7, Stealth +12, Survival +6; disguise kit +5, thieves’ tools +5
Senses passive Perception 11
Languages Common, Thieves’ Cant
Challenge 9 (5,000 XP)

Background: Guttersnipe - Urban Knowledge. Conan and his allies (while outside of combat) move at double their normal speed when traveling between two locations in the same city.

Action Surge (1/Short Rest). Once on his turn, Conan can take an additional action on top of his regular action and a possible bonus action.

Cunning Action (1/Turn). Conan can take a bonus action to take the Dash, Disengage, Hide or Use Object action, Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, or to use thieves’ tools to disarm a trap or open a lock.

Favored Enemy. Conan has advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks to track humans and human-abomination hybrids, as well as on Intelligence checks to recall information about them.

Feat: Mobile. Conan can Dash through difficult terrain without requiring additional movement. Whenever he makes an attack against a creature, he doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks from that creature until the end of his turn.

Feat: Power Attack. When Conan makes his first melee weapon attack in a turn, he can choose to take a -5 penalty to his melee weapon attack rolls in exchange for a +10 bonus to melee weapon damage. In addition, Conan can use a bonus action to make one melee weapon attack after he uses a melee weapon to reduce a creature to 0 hit points or scores a critical hit with it. Conan can only use this feature on his turn.

Fighting Style: Great Weapon Fighting. When Conan rolls a 1 or 2 on a damage die for an attack he makes with a melee weapon that he is wielding with two hands, he can reroll the die and must use the new roll, even if the new roll is a 1 or a 2. The weapon must have the two-handed or versatile property for Conan to gain this benefit.

Indomitable (1/Long Rest). Conan can reroll a saving throw that he fails but must use the new roll.

Natural Explorer: Mountains. When Conan makes an Intelligence or Wisdom check related to the forest, his proficiency bonus (+5) is doubled if he is using a skill that he’s proficient in. While traveling for an hour or more in his favored terrain, Conan gains the following benefits:

  • Difficult terrain doesn’t slow his group’s travel.
  • Conan’s group can’t become lost except by magical means.
  • Even when he is engaged in another activity while traveling (such as foraging, navigating, or tracking), Conan remains alert to danger.
  • If Conan is traveling alone, he can move stealthily at a normal pace.
  • When he forages, Conan finds twice as much food as he normally would.
  • While tracking other creatures, Conan also learns their exact number, their sizes, and how long ago they passed through the area.

Rage (2/Long Rest). On his turn, Conan can enter a rage as a bonus action. His rage lasts for 1 minute, ending early if he is knocked unconscious or if his turn ends and he hasn’t either attacked a hostile creature since his last turn or taken damage since then. Conan can also end his rage on his turn as a bonus action. While raging, he gains the following benefits.

  • Conan has advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
  • When Conan makes a melee weapon attack using Strength, he deals 2 extra damage.
  • Conan has resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.

Remarkable Athlete. Conan adds +2 to any Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution check he makes that doesn’t already use his proficiency bonus. In addition, when he makes a running long jump, the distance he can cover increases by 4 feet.

Second-Story Work. Climbing does not cost Conan extra movement. When he makes a running jump, the distance he covers increases by 2 feet (with Remarkable Athlete, 6 feet).

Second Wind (1/Short Rest). On his turn, Conan can use a bonus action to regain 1d10+11 hit points.

Sneak Attack (1/Turn). Conan deals an extra 7 (2d6) damage when he hits a target with a weapon attack and has advantage on the attack roll, or when the target is within 5 feet of an ally of Conan that isn’t incapacitated and Conan doesn’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.


ACTIONS

Multiattack. Conan attacks three times.

Greatsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6+4) slashing damage.

Dagger (4). Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d4+4) piercing damage.

Longbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8+2) piercing damage.
 
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Mike Myler

Mike Myler

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
As an example of a way to handle it, the last book published by White Wolf that went to FLGS market was Mirrors. It had a ton of interesting ideas in it. One was that you could build characters on a fixed set of build points. However, unspent points could translate into untapped potential or fortune. Thus a character like Aragorn would have pretty much spent all his points on backgrounds and skills. His abilities and destiny were pretty much set, come what may. Frodo, on the other hand, wouldn't have spent most of his points and thus has a lot of fortune on his side. Merry and Pippin spent their points on some fortune but also on untapped potential, developing warrior and leadership skills. All that said, playing either Frodo and Aragorn in a party would require some really serious player buy-in and player and GM chops, regardless of the system.

Fate is another one that handles the Disparaging front end power pretty well -- ok just repeating myself
 

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Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
Fate is another one that handles the Disparaging front end power pretty well -- ok just repeating myself

Disparate?

I've heard of FATE but never even checked it out. I agree that Martial Practices were a pretty good idea that didn't get all that explored, though, so have fun with them.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Disparate?
LOL yes my typo fingers or auto correct killed me ;)
I've heard of FATE but never even checked it out. I agree that Martial Practices were a pretty good idea that didn't get all that explored, though, so have fun with them.

To attempt a little on topic commenting - Conan might have an aspect of Barbaric that interfered and gained him fate points when he is younger and he might replace it with "A leader of men" when he gets older. Becoming less lucky and better able to well lead men.

Hobbits might have easily overlooked (which might be invoked to help an ally shoot an enemy holding you or to escape unnoticed or to interfere with your attempts to catch people's attention and so on.)
 
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Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
To attempt a little on topic commenting - Conan might have an aspect of Barbaric that interfered and gained him fate points when he is younger and he might replace it with "A leader of men" when he gets older. Becoming less lucky and better able to well lead men.

That was exactly how the premise in World of Darkness: Mirrors went.

I did something like that in my 3.5 with tons of Unearthed Arcana game. "Younger races" such as humans had Eberron-style Action Points while "elder races" (elves, dwarves, etc.) were gestalt classes (essentially two classes at the same time). It worked surprisingly well. The elder race classes seemed like they would dominate but the human ability to choose when to peak made them work surprisingly well. In addition the action economy took care of a lot of things. Sure, you've got lots of options but in a combat that lasts, say, six rounds, you can only do six things. It was less egregious than the full on version where an experienced character like Aragorn has spent all of his build points and lives on his own abilities while a less experienced one has more fortune, but it worked well.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Just for fun, a first draft of a "properly Conan" barbarian subclass...

[sblock]Path of the Survivor
In the wild, barbarians must be pragmatic and adaptable, or else be food for the carrion beasts. The most self-reliant of barbarians are sometimes said to follow the path of the survivor---although they themselves would likely scoff at labeling it a "path". In their eyes, theirs is the natural state of mortal races, and all other pursuits are civilized eccentricities. But those who would dismiss them as ignorant savages should beware, for every once in an age, these barbarians come to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth beneath their sandaled feet.

Primal Hunt
Starting when you choose this path at 3rd level, you can connect with your primal instincts not only to unleash your rage, but also to reach a state of beastlike awareness and reflexes. Some barbarians call this state "the hunt." As a bonus action, if you are not already hunting or raging, you can expend a use of your rage to begin the hunt.

While on the hunt, you gain the following benefits if you aren't wearing heavy armor:

- You have advantage on Dexterity and Wisdom checks.

- Your jump distance is doubled.

- You can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured.

- You can take the Dash, Dodge, or Hide action as a bonus action on your turn.

The hunt lasts for up to 1 hour. It ends early if you attack a creature or take damage. When it ends, you can use your reaction to enter a rage without expending another use of the feature. If you do, the first hit you score against a surprised creature during the rage is a critical hit.

When you gain this feature, you also gain an additional use of rage.

Survival Skills
Also at 3rd level, choose two of the following skills: Nature, Perception, Stealth, or Survival. You become proficient in the chosen skills.

Stronger than Steel
By 6th level, you have learned to rely only on your own strength, and to treat your gear as expendable. When you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, you can strike with such force that you shatter the weapon. Roll two additional weapon damage dice (four if the attack is a critical hit) and add them to the damage.

You can also defend yourself with enough vigor to outmatch your own armor. When you are hit by an attack, you can shatter your armor or shield to turn the attack into a miss. If you would still take half damage or other reduced effect, you instead take no damage or effect.

Once you have shattered a weapon with this feature, you can't do so again until you finish a long rest (and, of course, re-armed yourself). You can likewise shatter only one suit of armor or shield before a long rest.

Enchanted items are normally too resilient to be broken by mortal strength. However, the DM may allow you to shatter a magic weapon or suit of armor for some appropriate---and spectacular---special effect.

Barbaric Prowess
Your many talents have been honed through constant exercise. Starting at 6th level, whenever you add your proficiency bonus to an ability check, increase that bonus by half.

Cornered Beast
As the situation grows more desperate, your will to survive only grows fiercer. Starting at 10th level, If you currently have half your hit point maximum or less, add half your proficiency bonus to all saving throws, or increase your proficiency bonus by half if you are already adding it to the save. If you have 1 hit point or less, instead add your whole proficiency bonus, or double your proficiency bonus if you are already adding it.

You benefit from this feature even if you are unconscious, and can add its bonus to death saving throws.

Survival of the Fittest
By 14th level, you have proven yourself a match for all that the harsh world could throw at you---it has only made you stronger. When you suffer a critical hit from a hostile creature, or avert such a critical hit with your Stronger than Steel feature, your hit point maximum increases by 1. This increase is cumulative, up to a maximum of your Constitution bonus x half your level.

If you die, you lose all hit points from this feature. They are otherwise permanent.[/sblock]

Well I was thinking about Barbarians again today, surprise surprise, and I remembered how much I liked this.

So I had to go back and find it and make a copy for my own tweaking purposes.

With some feedback this would be really cool to see on DmsGuild.

Edit: I do apologize for the thread necro and possible increased back and forth about tangent fictional characters that may result from it.
 
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Berserker Barbarian/ Thief/ Champion in some combination.

Expertise in Survival and Athletics.

Conan doesnt need Ranger levels to be a good wilderness dude. He's a good wilderness dude due to Expertise in Survival.
 

squibbles

Explorer
Well I was thinking about Barbarians again today, surprise surprise, and I remembered how much I liked this.

So I had to go back and find it and make a copy for my own tweaking purposes.

With some feedback this would be really cool to see on DmsGuild.

Edit: I do apologize for the thread necro and possible increased back and forth about tangent fictional characters that may result from it.

I would like to express my approval of the thread necro.

Also, the quoted subclass is pretty cool, though I don't like that it gets two features at 6th level. And, in any case, Conan would be better represented by a jack of all trades feature than the "barbaric prowess" feature.

Really, it should just be a barbarian subclass with a bunch of skill buffs. And, mostly, the quoted subclass does that in a thematically suited manner.
 

Now Conan is public domain, isn't it? Does this mean any company could publish a reboot of Hyrborea setting? Original characters wouldn't be necessary. Conan RPG was a D&D setting in the past, but now it is published by Mophidius. It has got a d20 version also.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Now Conan is public domain, isn't it? Does this mean any company could publish a reboot of Hyrborea setting? Original characters wouldn't be necessary. Conan RPG was a D&D setting in the past, but now it is published by Mophidius. It has got a d20 version also.

I thought it would have to be 100 years old to become public domain. Conan was created in 1932.
 

Law from different countries can be different, I have read it is 75 years after autor's death. I don't worry about this, but I would rather to use something created by others and after I change it as I want than starting from zero when the rest know nothing about this world and History. My own version of hyborian age had got too many things from the standar D&D, like races and monsters.
 

Also, the quoted subclass is pretty cool, though I don't like that it gets two features at 6th level.
I don't either, to be honest. But the problem is that "just a bunch of skill buffs" are kind of boring. So at six the Survivor gets a skill buff as the meat and an exciting but very situational ability as the spice.

And, in any case, Conan would be better represented by a jack of all trades feature than the "barbaric prowess" feature.
Thought about it, decided that there were sufficient gaps in Conan's skillset (Arcana, Religion, etc.) to merit differentiating the subclass from a bard. I see Prowess as sort of a middle ground between JoAT and Expertise -- since he's certainly not a specialist either.

EDIT: I have since that post changed the bonus actions in Primal Hunt to a simple 10-foot move speed bonus, and the bonuses in Cornered Beast to a flat +2 and +5.
 
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Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
Berserker Barbarian/ Thief/ Champion in some combination.

Expertise in Survival and Athletics.

Conan doesnt need Ranger levels to be a good wilderness dude. He's a good wilderness dude due to Expertise in Survival.

That's how I built him, as a few levels of Barbarian, some Scout Rogue, and the rest levels Champion. This was not popular with some folks, though, but I think it really fits what he does well.
 

Jay Verkuilen

Grand Master of Artificial Flowers
Now Conan is public domain, isn't it? Does this mean any company could publish a reboot of Hyrborea setting? Original characters wouldn't be necessary. Conan RPG was a D&D setting in the past, but now it is published by Mophidius. It has got a d20 version also.

I don't know the legal status of Conan, but you could probably publish Con-Ed O'Barbrien as your satirical example and just have the class more or line up as needed. Modiphius currently publishes the Conan RPG and that should indicate who owns what.
 

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