'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG overview: Tasks and Difficulties

In my previous Conan 2d20 article we talked about skill checks and how they work. Today I want to go over what they represent in more detail, really understanding these and what the represent is pivotal to getting your head around what this system is trying to do.
  • Task - A task is anything a player is trying to accomplish: steal an apple, attack a skeleton, sail a ship etc.
  • Difficulty - How hard is it for the player to complete this task?

Conan 2d20 uses a system of 6 values to define how hard a task is to accomplish.
  • A difficulty 0 rating is a Simple task, nothing of any consequence, we don't even need to roll any dice to succeed!
  • A difficulty 1 rating is an Average task, and if we roll our 2d20 we have a pretty good chance of accomplishing this.
  • A difficulty 2 rating is Challenging. This is something that is hard for the player to accomplish, but not out of the realm of a standard person.
  • A difficulty 3 rating is Daunting. This is a hard task. If you are not trained in this skill, you are going to fail. If you are trained, you are going to need a little luck.
  • A difficulty 4 task is Dire. Think of this as a VERY hard thing to do. You are going to fail unless you are trained and get VERY lucky.
  • Finally the Difficulty 5 task is Epic. Don't bother. You will need the gods with you to complete this task.
Attributes for humans range from 6 - 12, with average being an 8. This means an average, untrained human, has around a 60% chance of successfully completing a D1 task. This jumps to about 70% with a little training

It is possible to gain 2 successes on every roll of a d20 if you are trained in a skill, so you could roll up to 4 successes on 2d20, the base roll in the game.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/13894106014 (CC)
For example:
Conal is faced off against a wolf growling at him, it's jaws are slavering as it anticipates it's dinner. The night is inky black with only a sliver of light coming from what is left of the day. To make matters worse the rain has become harder as the storm grows ever more violent.

Attacking the Wolf is an average difficulty, or D1. However it is raining and dark, moving it from a D1 to a D3.

Lets examine this with two versions of Conal; the Merchant and the Warrior.
  • Merchant Conal has no training in combat and so the player can only roll a maximum of 2 successes.
    With a roar the wolf leaps forward and lands on the helpless merchant, Conal falls into the muck as the wolf tears at his flesh, ending his business permanently.

  • Warrior Conal has training in combat and so the player can roll a maximum of 4 successes.
    With a roar the wolf leaps at Conal who raises his shield just in time, and sends the wolf off in another direction. In a flashing moment the wolf twists and is back on it's feet. Lightning flashes in the darkness, it's light reflected onto Conal's sword. The two circle each other warily.

The next segment of this series will talk about Doom and Momentum. These are probably the most controversial part of Conan 2d20, and understanding the above ideas will help to lay the foundation for how these two mechanics work.

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?


  1. LostsanityreturnedApril 15, 2019 at 10:55 PM

    In my experience epic difficulty tasks aren't that hard to succeed at, someone with 12 in an ability and 3 skill 3 focus is going to be able to manage it, mkre easily when you throw fortune or talents into the mix.