'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

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Tool Trunk Thursday: Oil Flasks

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to the next installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! The feature where I present a piece of equipment for Conan 2d20 and its effects in a friendly card-shaped format. You can find other pieces of equipment in the Blog's Equipment Chest!

Oil Flasks


Flasks of oil come in many forms from skins of leather to vials of glass. It's uses can not be understated to the keen adventurer. It can be used to slow an enemy, by making the floors slippery or perhaps it's ability to burn is more up your alley? Either way I am sure these flasks will come in handy to those wise enough to carry them.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Episode 89: Desert Ruins!

Welcome back! I recently decided to do full terrain at conventions, and because of this, I found myself in need of a few new desert ruin pieces. I decided I should video the build and put out a youtube video for it!


I have provided a table of contents to take you to the pertinent locations in the video you may be interested in.
The ruins will be built from XPS and based on MDF board.

Needed:
  • MDF Base (1/4")
  • XPS Foam
  • PVA GLue.
  • Hot Glue.
  • Sand.
  • Various colors of brown from dark to light.
  • Black paint.
  • Gloss varnish.
  • You will also need Sculptamold,
I mentioned a few other things that I used at the convention that I thought people might be interested in as well.

18" Lazy Susan for Ultimate Dungeon Terrain
Amazon Fire HD 10

These last three links take you to Amazon, which gives me a small commission on each sale, helping to support the blog.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Persuade & Social Encounters in Conan 2d20

I often have players try and talk there way out of a situation. In one game the characters had been shipwrecked and a band of beach scavengers showed up with the intention of taking what was theirs and killing anyone in their way, the solution, "We should talk to them." In another example I had a group of players come across a barricaded path guarded by some Khitan warriors, they wanted to talk their way past the guards. It is almost like no one has seen 1984's Conan the Destroyer, which I only bring up because of the line enjoyed by Matt John over at Rogues in the House Podcast...


ENOUGH TALK!



Still despite that, it is an RPG and the characters have social skills like "Society" and "Persuade". This article is going be about a simple mechanic you can use to help control how a social encounter might play out using these skills. Keep in mind this is a mechanic for a time when a social encounter is appropriate, you probably don't want players to be able to negotiate with the skeletons that populate your tombs.

In the past when this has come up I have made it into a struggle and a single roll; either they convince them or they don't. It has the advantage of being simple, but it has the disadvantage of resolving something of importance in a very very simple way, which can take the spotlight away from players who excel in social skills, and while the struggle isn't slow to resolve, it isn't as fast as a single die roll.

For me, the heart of how the social encounter will go is going to be based on two factors; how open the NPC is to listen to the PCs and how easily their mind can be swayed once they are listening. A friend is going to be willing to listen a lot easier than the bandit leader attacking you, but it is possible your friend will be harder to sway than that bandit leader. With the system, I have in mind and momentum spends you still might be able to convince a friend to help you quicker than an openly hostile opponent.

Likely to Listen?

This is how difficult the actual negotiation is, and so it makes perfect sense to make this into the difficulty of the skill test, running from close friends to hostile enemies we can set up a simple difficulty chart.
  • D0 - Good Friends
  • D1 - Friendly
  • D2 - Neutral
  • D3 - Dislike
  • D4 - Veiled Hostility
  • D5 - Outright Hostile

This gives us a place to work from that we can apply to the social encounters the players find themselves involved in. You can either make note of them beforehand or implement them on the fly. Like all difficulties, feel free to modify these as you see fit by other factors. Are the PC and NPCs Good Friends, but the PCs failed to do something for them? Move the difficulty up 1 or 2 notches. Perhaps the NPC is generally neutral towards the party, but they have a high level of renown in the area, you can move the difficulty to 1.

Success and Failure: If the social test is successful, simply determine momentum and move on to resolving the effect, "Are they Swayed" of the roll in part 2 of the test. However, if they fail to move the difficulty of the test up by 1 notch. If they fail at D4 or D5, the test is an outright failure.

Complications: The simplest complication for these sorts of encounters is putting your foot in your mouth or offending the person you are talking to. Keeping in mind a complication is about 2 doom we have a few simple options.
  1. Increase the difficulty one step.
  2. Reduce the generated momentum by two.
  3. If the test was D3 and there was a failure with the complication, make the test an outright failure.

Are they Swayed

This part of the mechanic centers around convincing the NPC once they have heard what was said. It might take several rounds of convincing to get them on board, but anytime during that negotiation, we might see that NPC stop listening and have the communication break down. The easiest way to work this is with a "hit point" or "effort" system, which will require a point pool for the NPC to resist with and a way for the PC to whittle away at that pool.

Conan has a mental damage track that might work for this, resolve and trauma. Generally, we see this damage track in regards to actually trying to scare away or mentally break the opponent, or simulate the effects of fear and is soaked by courage. I don't think it is the perfect fit for what we are trying to accomplish. We also don't have a great "weapon" to use to try and convince the NPC. We aren't trying to Steely Glare them into seeing our side of things and convince them we are correct. This is supposed to be a social encounter and not a scare the pants off of the local b├╝rgermeister.

I think the Willpower attribute will work well for this number, which sits around 7-10 in most humans. Adding a simple modifier based on how easily swayed they are will let us make the NPC a little more interesting.
  • Easy to sway - -1/2 willpower attribute
  • Default - Willpower attribute
  • Difficult to sway - +1/2 willpower attribute

With that in mind, we still need a way to bring that value to 0 and convince them to buy into the social encounter. Give the players 1 combat die for each level of FOCUS they have in their social ability (generally Persuade or Society) and use the following momentum spends as a guideline.
  • 1M - add 1 to the combat die roll - repeatable
  • 1M - Re-roll any number of combat dice
  • 2M - Reduce the difficulty of the test by 1

Example

Example 1
Balor is trying to convince the local sheriff to let his friends go. They were captured and locked up after a night of drinking. You could of course just do a 100% roleplay if that suits your group better, but if you want to work it mechanically it might go something like this.....
Balor says, "Ah come on man, they didn't mean any harm to the village, they were just blowing off steam after all the horrors they have seen defending this place!"
The sherrif looks Balor up and down and says.....
GM - Balor, make a D2 Persuade test, he dislikes you and your crew, but will be neutral due to the aid you have rendered the village.
Balor - Ok my Persuade TN is 8 with a focus of 1. I will roll 3d20, and give you a point of doom....

Balor - 4,14 and 12...So 1 success. The Sherrif looks at Balor up and down and says, "no harm? they burned down the blacksmith and caused considerable damage to the tavern. You may have defended the village, but perhaps we would have been in better shape with the creatures of the dark!"
"Balor replies with, "Ah come on, you know that isn't true! It was only a little fire!"
GM - Ok, if you continue the difficulty will now be at D3. Do you want to continue?
Balor - I roll 4d20, and give you 2 more doom.....

Balor - 6,2,9 & 13! for 4 successes! and 1 momentum!
GM - Great! roll 2 combat dice for your persuade focus!
Balor - OK.....

Balor - I roll a 1, and a 2 for 3 points. I want to add 1 more point with the momentum bringing the total to 4!
GM - ok. The Sherif is easily swayed so he only had 4 points.
The sheriff shrugs, "Trouble follows your party around, but we do appreciate what you have done for us..", and tosses the keys to Balor.

Example 2
Ismene is working to try and sell some stolen goods, she is locked into negotiations with a local kothian fence she knows.
"Come on! This is the finest Stygian gold, This statue has to be worth more than a measly 3 bags of gold, how about 5? ", Ismene smiles slyly.
The fence looks at the statue and then at Ismene and says.....
GM - Ismene, make a D1 Persuade test, he is neutral towards you but knows of your skills, so we will treat him as friendly.
Ismene - I will give you 2 doom and roll 4d20.....

Ismene - 2, 17 and 2 20s...... GM - Ok, roll a combat die equal to your persuade focus.
Ismene - OK, I have a focus of 1, I roll..
Ismene - 2!
GM - Ok, you reduce is resistance to moving to your price by 2 points leaving him with 4!
The fence looks at the statue and then at Ismene and says, "The statue is truly of great quality, but I am just can't give you 5 bags of gold."
GM - But you rolled 2 complications.....
GM - During the negotiations, you mention the words "cursed temple" and "dangerous Stygian sorcery" one too many times...
GM - Negotiations are now at D3 as the Kothian fence becomes less certain he even wants this potentially cursed item and is growing untrustful of your intentions.

And so Ismene could continue the encounter attempting to get more money for the Stygian gold she has stolen or cut her losses and take the original gold offered....

Summary

This gives you a way to walk through social encounters in a fair and even manner, and may even convince a few of your players to spend a few points on persuade for reasons beyond simply striking at your opponents. As you can see in the examples it gives us a quick way to mechanically guide the narration between the players and the NPCs.

Games like 2d20 can be mechanically heavy at times, especially if all you do is roll the dice and apply the results. These games really shine when you narrate and work together as a group to not simply roll and apply, but roll, apply AND use your results to guide your narration.

If you thought this was interesting drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts. Is this something you would use? What would you change? Do you think the social struggle is already enough to accomplish this? Let me know.

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Thursday, October 24, 2019

Tool Trunk Thursday: Torches

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to the next installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! The feature where I present a piece of equipment for Conan 2d20 and its effects in a friendly card-shaped format. You can find other pieces of equipment in the Blog's Equipment Chest!

Torches



Torches are as common to an adventurer as food and water. A length of wood wrapped in oil-soaked rags ignited to keep the darkness at bay. Although these are not the most reliable ways to illuminate the darkness or the most portable, they make up for it in cost.

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Tool Trunk Thursday: Spy Glass

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to the next installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! The feature where I present a piece of equipment for Conan 2d20 and its effects in a friendly card-shaped format. You can find other pieces of equipment in the Blog's Equipment Chest!

The Spyglass



The spyglass is a rare, and expensive, piece of equipment most commonly found onboard ships. These finely crafted objects are most commonly made from a telescoping metal tube terminated by two glass lenses created by the most skilled artisans. These components work together to bring objects at a distance into view.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Barbaric Future: A Timeline.

As I started fleshing out the world, I thought a rough timeline would come in handy.

The Timeline

  • 2020 - The Modern Era
    The modern era continues much as it has and technology continues to improve. Humanity reaches for the stars. Stress between people based on differences continues to ebb and flow. Nothing is ever solved. Climate change continues and weather patterns become more intense. Global temperatures continue to rise, and we get to a place where they will continue to rise despite our inputs into the environment. Sea level begins its gradual climb.

  • 2200 - Global War
    The stresses of the modern world finally come to a head, for the next 100 years the world is locked in an all-out war fought between the communist factions and the capitalist factions; dictatorships vs democracies. The war is fought largely through conventional means, but some nuclear weapons are used against targets of extreme importance. Total armageddon is avoided, but large areas of the world are laid bare and unlivable.

    Global temperature rise comes to a standstill due to the layer of dust thrown into the atmosphere by the small scale nuclear war.

  • 2300 - A Thousand Years of Conflict
    When the war ends, the conflict doesn't. Nothing between the nations is resolved, they are all simply broken and scattered into component nations. For 1000 years mankind remains trapped in small nations and kingdoms, the shattered remnants of their former glory. For 1000 years war keeps these nations small and technological advancement down.

    After 1000 years, the dust from the wars has largely subsided and the temperature begins to rise again. The sea levels have steadily climbed over this time period as well. As more and more dust came out of the atmosphere the temperature rise steadily grew faster until the sea level had risen some 100 meters.

  • 3300 - Resource Peace
    The small nations begin to band together, their governments forming together to rebuild semblances of their former selves. Resources are largely exhausted and humanity is forced into an uneasy peace.

  • 4300 - Rise of the Corporations
    With resources largely depleted the governments do what they can to hold their nations together. The corporations grow steadily in power. They still hold the means to production

  • 4400 - Corporate States
    With the corporate states holding the means to production within each new nation, the interm governments are quickly replaced by the corporate bodies that control everything within the borders. Nations become CorpStates.

  • 4500 - Rebirth of Tech
    CorpStates trade with each other to exist. What one has, the other needs. The human population is a ghost of its former self and the resources that fueled humanity are gone. Still despite this, and built on the back on the old world, tech has increased. Its level within the CorpStates has outgrown the old world. Breakthroughs in computers and energy systems have pulled humanity back to a place of greatness.

  • 5000 - Barbaric Future
    2500 years of conflict and climate disaster have rendered the memory of the old world a fairy tale to most of humanity, only a few who have kept or who have found old records know of its existence. Humanity lives mostly within the cities of the CorpStates but a few live in the broken shell of the old world. The people living in the cities live behind walls with their lives controlled and monitored by the Corporations. Although personal weapons and armor are allowed for personal defense, the equivalent of modern firearms and greater is tightly controlled. The occasional person may wield a crossbow, but even those archaic ranged weapons are frowned upon.

    Cities that fell during the climate upheavals left places of shelter and life for those strong enough to take it. Much of these places have fallen into complete disrepair and are overgrown with life, only those who know to look can really see. To survive in these places humanity formed into tribes not dissimilar to the dark ages. Major differences being their access to high tech weapons and equipment as they trade with the CorpStates or live off of their spent garbage.

    In the wastes beyond civilization lie mutants and radiation zones. Beasts mutated from what was there before and the twisted remains of humanity. Despite these dangers, the wastes hold much of the technology of the old world. These places were once the libraries and strongholds of the old world. Targets of the nuclear strikes hoping to break the backs of some long-forgotten enemy.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Things that made my game better!

If you have been following me for awhile you might have heard me say that I am pretty new to this gaming scene, or more accurately, newly returned. I played AD&D and Red Box D&D back in the 80s followed by Palladium games and finally wargames before I quite in my early 20s to pursue playing in the SCA. Fast forward approximately 20 years, and in my 40s I found myself picking up the torch again and delving back into the depths of the dungeon. Initially coming back to 15mm sci-fi and finally back into the RPG fold with the release of Modiphius's Conan 2d20 system.

Shortly before the release, I made the decision to stop thinking about running a game and I got some friends together and I started GMing a Conan Game. We ran that game monthly for about 2 years, wrapping up the 25th session last week and deciding to move on to John Carter of Mars

In those two years I started over as a new GM with little relevant experience and went forward. Not only have I GMed Conan for the home Group, but I have also GMed Conan at 3 conventions in the last year, with plans on doing another of these games at the end of the month. In addition to GMing I have tried given back to the community through my small youtube channel and blog, where I have numerous tutorials on basic terrain and playing Conan 2d20.

This article is aimed at that new GM that is nervous or unsure about jumping into the ring of running games. My advice is to do it. The only way to get better is to run games. Do not worry though, you aren't alone. The wealth of information out there for the new GM is mindboggling, which brings us to the reason I am writing this article. Who did I find useful? What tools did I find that elevated my game?

Advice

The easiest and least expensive place to find decent advice on running the game is Youtube, and the following list are my favorite channels for GM advice. There are a lot of good RPG channels out there, especially terrain channels, but for actual game advice, these guys have a lot of excellent content
  • RuneHammer - One of the best. Great videos on encounter design and basic ideas.
  • Matthew Colville - Another indosposable individual on the internet with a great series called, "Running the Game".
  • Dungeon Craft - Relatively new to Youtube, a gentleman with some exceptional ideas on streamlining and making your game better.
  • How to be a Great Game Master - Another series on how to GM well, with several companion series on How to be a Great Player.

I have also put out a little cash here and there and bought a few books from Drivethru to help me along.

Tools

  • Index Cards from RuneHammer - A series of black and white cards that can be used for locations or inspiration.
  • Okum Arts - A wonderful set of printable heros and villians for almost any setting.
  • Printable Heroes - IMHO, one of the best paper-mini collections of D&D/Fantasy monsters
  • Black Scroll Games - one of the best collections of tiles both virtual and real.

Other Things

  • Community - Both virtual and real. People to bounce ideas off of, and get feed back from. Online groups can be excessivley toxis at times, so take your time to lurk and see if the group is correct for you.
  • Give Back - Write some articles, make some content. Put your ideas out there and take the feedback you get and make yourself and your ideas better.
  • Try again - If you feel you failed. Try again. Talk to your group. See what they might like and don't like about your games.
  • Play - Find some games to play in. Don't just GM. Take what you like from games you play in and make it yours.

If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy! If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram! Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog! (the drivethrurpg.com links in this post are all affiliate links, thank you for your support!) Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Tool Trunk Thursday: Lodestone

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to a new feature on the blog! Each Thursday I am going to present a piece of equipment for your 2d20 game! To start we will be focusing on Conan 2d20, but down the road, I am sure we'll see some items from the dying world of Barsoom as well! In general, the aim is to include items that aren't found in the core book or the expansions but to also give a direct use for each of the items as well.

It should be no secret by now that I like cards and find them useful at the table, and so it should be no surprise that these pieces of equipment are formatted for use as cards. The images should all be the correct aspect ratios for creating poker sized cards for each of these items.

As this is the first post I will start with the card with a legend on it. Each of the icons should be fairly self-explanatory, but just-in-case they are not I thought it would be a useful image to include with the post.


Without further pre-amble I give you the first item for Tool Trunk Thursday!

The Lodestone


These naturally magnetic rocks can be used for navigation much like the legendary Sun Stone from the Nordheimer lands, although it has the advantage of not needing to be outdoors and in view of the sun to do it. It has the disadvantage of being thrown off its bearing when close to other sources of magnetism as one might find in an alchmeical lab.

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