'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

Monday, September 30, 2019

Conan 2d20: Zones and Ranged Weapons. Do they even make sense??

Without a doubt, the ideas behind ranged weapons in Conan 2d20 feel odd to many people, and flat out make no sense to many others. In most RPGs and wargames ranged weapons generally gain damage and range as they become more powerful. There is little reason to use a lower-end bow when you can use something bigger and better. In D&D 5e we can compare two missile weapons: the hand crossbow and the heavy crossbow.

Name Damage Range
Crossbow, hand 1d6 piercing 30/120
Crossbow, heavy 1d10 piercing 100/400


Here we have two similar weapons, but the heavier one shoots much further and packs a larger punch. Both have a basic range and a long-range, but the heavy crossbow has little to no disadvantages, why would you ever pick the hand crossbow?

This increase in specs between ranged weapons to differentiate which is the superior weapon is a common idea we see in wargames and RPGs. It isn't specifically what we see in Conan 2d20 though. In Conan 2d20, the weapons change range based on where they should be used. There may be places you want to use one bow over the other. Let's take a look at the stats between two different bows in Conan.

Name Damage Range Special
Hyrkanian Horse Bow 3 Combat Dice Close Volley
Shemite Bow 3 Combat Dice Long Volley, Piercing 1


These bows are practicaly identical, with the shemite bow being long range and doing slightly more damage, but in the thick of battle, with enemies closing in fast? The short Hyrkanian Bow is going to be the superior weapon. But why does Conan do this? We will start with a basic idea: within an action scene in Conan, generally, a hero is going to be able to hit someone with a ranged weapon. Even in the above D&D example, the hand crossbow can shoot 20 squares, in most areas that range is not going to be the issue. More often, the line of sight will be the limiting factor, not the weapon's range. So if we decide the weapon's range itself isn't the issue at hand, we can forget about it for right now.

Let us talk about the idea of skill vs weapon. We take two archers and we place them on an archery range. Each shoots arrows at identical targets. Each is equally skilled. One uses a Shemite Bow and one a Hyrkanian Horse Bow. They should both be able to do about as well on our target. Neither is rushed, neither has outside forces acting on them, it is simply a test of skill. An average difficulty test if you will.


Still, we see ranges listed in Conan, even though we just decided that, pretty much, anything you can see is going to be in range. Instead of describing how far a bow can shoot, these ranges describe where the bow will be its most effective. It is used to describe a short bow being more effective in the thick of combat and a longbow working better at targets that are further away.
  • Close range: Shooting within the zone. The archer and their target are constantly moving, constantly looking for openings. The archer needs to have a nimble weapon and one that can shoot fast in order to get the shot off when they need to.
  • Medium Range: Shooting into the next zone. It is possible the archer and the target are in motion within their zones, moving for position against others in their zone, but we can generally assume that since the target and the shooter are further away, the shooter has a little more time to aim and isn't as hampered by the size of the weapon.
  • Long Range: Shooting two zones away. The distance starts to be a factor at these ranges, and weapons that excel at close ranges become more difficult to use accurately.

Reasons For Effective Ranges
The Hyrkanian Horsebow. Listed as Close-range, we have a bow that excels at close combat. It is small and can be fired quickly, but the short limbs tend to make it a little less accurate compared to it's larger brethren, this is magnified by the high pace within an action scene. Shooting out to the longer ranges simply takes a more skilled archer, especially under the pressure of combat.
The Shemite bow. Listed as Long-range, the bow is huge and stable upon release allowing its missiles to land more accurately at longer ranges, but up close in the thick of the action, its size simply gets in the way and makes it harder to shoot.


Mechanically this is represented by a bow having no difficulty modifier added to the skill test at its optimal range, and a +1 is added to it as we move away from that optimal range, in either direction. So at Close Range (In the same zone) the Hyrkanian Horsebow is going to shoot at a difficulty of 1 (assuming a base difficulty of 1), while the Long Range Shemite bow is going to suffer a +2 to the skill test, Long -> Medium -> Close, making it a difficulty of 3. If there are environmental concerns like rain or darkness, it just makes everything more difficult.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Conan the Barbarian: Issue #9 (2019) , "The God Below"

Wednesday and another Conan the Barbarian to read. So let's make some coffee and get down to what I thought of this issue.


Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Esar Ribic

Cover Price: $3.99

Esad's cover hints at what we might find within the pages, although not why we might find it there. The covers on these issues continue to be great at what they do, whet our appetites for the story within the pages. As always his covers are first-rate, although I think this is one of the weaker covers he has done for the series.

Asrar's work is again excellent, especially on the large panels, and there are more than a few in this issue, these combined with Wilson's colors make some truly excellent images. If I had to echo any concern for the art within the pages it would be that the small panels are a little simple, especially when held up against the full or double-page spreads, although they still clearly get their point across.

Story-wise, this issue has its share of Conan kicking ass, both with and without a sword. It also contains plenty of the weird within its pages, which we have lacked in recent issues. There is however at least one spot where the story kind of jumps and we see a consequence without a reason, and I always find it a little jarring. This wasn't something that affected the overall story, just made me go back and make sure I hadn't missed anything. I also had an issue with one of the opponents Conan has to fight within its pages, I wonder if anyone else will pick it up as well? The ending of the story probably won't come as any great surprise, but this is pulp action and adventure, not the great twisting passages of a dark thriller.

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


My rating this month is 4 out of 5 Skulls of My Enemies!

After the last few issues lacked anything overtly weird and I was beginning to wonder if they remembered this was Sword & SORCERY, but this one is centered around the "Weird", and it was nice to see. Despite a few weak places in the story, I liked it overall and it felt like a pretty good one-shot, even if it could have used another couple of pages to help tie things together in a smoother fashion.

I think this issue is worth taking a look at, even if you have not read the last few issues.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Barbaric Future. A Role Playing Setting.



There are a few things in my mind that make Conan, Conan. These things need to be there or we are simply going to get barbarians with laser swords, and that is not the aim of this project.

There are two things that I believe absolutely need to be involved in this setting.

  • Barbarism vs Civilization
  • Rise and fall, cyclical nature of the rise and fall of society and civilization

Cyclical Nature and the Hyborian Essay

Robert E Howard wrote a short essay titled, "The Hyborian Age". In it, he outlines his world. The rise and fall of civilizations, cataclysms, the migration of the people and the evolution and devolution of mankind. It ends with Howard telling us that the people that populate the world today can trace their origins far older than they know, back to the Hyborian Age.

The ancient Sumerians had no connection with the western race. They were a mixed people, of Hyrkanian and Shemitish bloods, who were not taken with the conquerors in their retreat. Many tribes of Shem escaped that captivity, and from pure-blooded Shemites, or Shemites mixed with Hyborian or Nordic blood, were descended the Arabs, Israelites, and other straighter-featured Semites. The Canaanites, or Alpine Semites, traced their descent from Shemitish ancestors mixed with the Kushites settled among them by their Hyrkanian masters; the Elamites were a typical race of this type. The short, thick-limbed Etruscans, base of the Roman race, were descendants of a people of mixed Stygian, Hyrkanian and Pictish strains, and originally lived in the ancient kingdom of Koth. The Hyrkanians, retreating to the eastern shores of the continent, evolved into the tribes later known as Tatars, Huns, Mongols and Turks.

The origins of other races of the modern world may be similarly traced; in almost every case, older far than they realize, their history stretches back into the mists of the forgotten Hyborian age...


The Hyborian Age
-Robert E. Howard


Barbarism vs Civilization

It is well known that Howard had no love for modern civilization. He saw it as broken and corrupt and felt a kinship to those who came before. He had a special affinity for the medieval Irish, and so it is no surprise that Conan was his ultimate hero in many ways. Several of his writings talk about the evils of boomtowns. How the rise of civilization and money where he lived bred corruption and evil deeds.

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

Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.
-Robert E. Howard

Tower of the Elephant


Barbaric Future

So with these two basic tenants in mind, I present the initial stages of the world I imagine...

Thousands of years into the future the initiative of humanity has continued to carry the species forward. Technology has continued to progress, new ideas in genetics, energy, materials, and computing have formed new weapons, new armor and in some cases new people. Despite the massive abilities and technological advances of mankind, we largely remain confined to our world. We have lifted ourselves into orbit and explored much of our solar system through drones and a few manned missions, but Earth remains our home and efficient space travel still eludes us.

War remains a reality and several massive conflicts have been engaged in between then and now. Some conventional, some small scale nuclear.

Our world has seen the rise of capitalism and the formation of great corporations. It has also seen the governments of nations fall and these new centers of power rise to fill the void. Now the world is dotted by the Corporate States, rife with corruption and greed. Each maintains a stranglehold on their populations through information censorship and military power. They lie in the temperate zones of the Earth, places less likely to be touched by disaster or rising sea levels. Places untouched by radiation and devastation of ancient nuclear conflict.

In the places abandoned by the Corporate States live tribes of humans. These people live a more primitive and savage life, sometimes using the discarded junk from the Corporate States, sometimes living in the skeletons of long-abandoned cities, using older technology and still others existing alongside nature.

In the wildest places, the far frozen places, the places rife with disease, the irradiated places, live others who have reverted to a more bestial state, over uncounted generations, they have devolved into a beast that is more ape than man, still clever and cunning and still able to use primitive weapons.



Corporate States

With a basic idea we can go forward and flesh out our three zones of humanity with a few key points about each area.

  • Very high tech. AI, Robots etc.
  • Clean.
  • State controlled.
  • Isolated.
  • Crime & Corruption.
  • Cybernetics.
  • Genetic enhancement.
  • Fusion power.
  • Projectile & Beam weapons are outlawed.


Tribes of the Free

  • Generally lower technology.
  • Almost post apocalyptic in some places.
  • Savages, Barbarians and Canibals.
  • Primitive religions.
  • Knowledge of the old worlds. Libraries of books, paper and digital.
  • Solar, wind, hydro power.
  • Ruins.


Savage Wastes

  • Potential high radiation.
  • Mutant humans.
  • Mutant beasts.
  • Ruins.
  • Lost technologies.


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