'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

Showing posts with label Conan 2d20. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Conan 2d20. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Narrative Terrain Decks.

At the beginning of the year I played a game of Primeval THULE via the Genesys system. During this game we had to make a daring escape, which involved cards drawn and skill checks made. That day is the direct inspiration for these terrain decks.

I worked on the idea and tried it for the first time at the Calgary Expo during my two Conan 2d20 games. The prototype, as you can see, isn't nearly as polished as the current offering. The decks changed from the basic idea to the current idea between day 1 and day 2 at the convention. Those cards would eventually become the "Weird Wood" deck. Since then I have created a desert deck, a cave deck, a passageway deck and a cliff climb. The cliff climb was my second attempt at a deck and I used to for my home players scaling a cliff, where they had a standard room encounter before finding their way into a set of caves which used another cave deck.

But why these decks over a more normal exploration system with a grid or a hex map? The two biggest reasons are player engagement and prep time.

Often some players are left in the back and don't get to contribute as much as the others, sometimes they roll less dice and this often can translate to less fun for them. The second reason is prep time and these cards require almost none. At most you might need a list of monster stats that players may or may not end up fighting in the dark passages or twisted forest.

The Decks

Generally the decks contain about 36 cards in total. 5 of these are the reference cards and the remaining cards are split between terrain and encounters.

  • Reference Cards - Basic instructions, sample monster ideas, sample cards.
  • Terrain Cards - Each card shows a picture of terrain as well as a skill.
  • Encounter Cards - Each card shows a skill or fight that must be overcome before continuing.


An Introduction to the Cards

Terrain Card
  1. Picture of the area the players are crossing. Strictly aesthetic.
  2. A good place to place a chit or a d6 to record the difficulty of the card.
  3. The default skill a player can use to cross the area. Use the cards base difficulty.
  4. When using another skill, add this modifier to the difficulty before making the test.

Encounter Card: Obstable
  1. Description of the obstacle and skill used to pass it.
  2. Difficulty of the skill check.
  3. Cost of skipping the skill check in doom.
  4. Damage a player suffers for failing the skill check.

Encounter Card: Fight
  1. Description of where the fight takes place.
  2. Base difficulty for physical attacks in the area.

Using the Decks

Step 1: Set aside the reference cards and split the deck into encounter and terrain decks. Determine the total momentum required to proceed through the terrain, this should be 1 per player at minimum.
Step 2: Shuffle the decks and place them in a convenient place.
Step 3: Draw a Terrain card and place it face-up on the table. Place a D6 or similar in the corner showing the "1", to symbolize a D1 skill test.
Step 4: A player either attempts the skill test listed on the card or chooses another skill test at a +1 or +2 difficulty modifier, depending on the card.
Step 5: Whichever skill the player uses, they must be able to narratively describe how it helps the party move through the card.
Step 6: Assuming success, place a momentum marker on the successful card. Place another terrain card above the first and increase the D6 by 1. ie a 1 becomes a 2. Any excess momentum can be stored in the pool as normal.
Step 7: Repeat the process increasing the difficulty until enough momentum is generated to move the players through the terrain. Each terrain card must be attempted by a new player until everyone has gone, then the process repeats.
Step 8: On a failure draw an encounter card and place the card beside the failed terrain card.
Sept 9: On a skill encounter each player individually attempts to succeed and move past the obstacle. On failure, they can pay the listed doom, or take the listed damage.
Step 10: On a fight encounter describe the terrain listed on the card and the base difficulty the players face. Run a simple combat encounter.
Step 11: Once the encounter card is complete place a new terrain card above it and reset the difficulty counter to 1, repeat steps 3-11 until the players are through the terrain.

NOTE: I don't specifically mention what to do with a complication. I believe they should be open-ended and make things interesting. That being said a simple idea is to draw an encounter card and have the player that rolled the complication resolve it, or the group if you get a monster card. Once complete place the next terrain card down and do not reset the difficulty counter.
*NOTE: The trek through the terrain should be viewed as a single scene giving the players no downtime. They should be weakened and haggard when they come out...iF they come out.

A Sample Play Through

We will assume our party of 4 adventurers need to find something within a dark and twisting forest. We set the number of successes they need to 4, one for each player.

Card 1: Terrain Card, Difficulty 1

Balor chooses to go first. He chooses to use his Survival skill instead
The difficulty becomes 2, as this falls under the "Other" Skill.
Balor says, "As we enter the dark forest I look around and try and see an open area to lead the party into the darkness."
He rolls 1 and a 15, and gains two successes. The party moves deeper into the woods.
Card 2: Terrain Card, Difficulty 2

Dorian takes up the lead. He chooses to use his Observation skill instead
This is the cards default skill, so the difficulty remains 2.
Dorian says, "Continuing into the darkness, I try and build on the path Dorian has found by looking for the signs of animals passing this way, indicating a path to something....." Dorian also chooses to use a bonus die and so rolls 3d20 (Either through Momentum or Doom)
He rolls 11, a 12 and a 15, and gains two successes. The party moves deeper into the woods.
Card 3: Terrain Card, Difficulty 3

Sarina takes up the lead. She notes acrobatics is not her strong skill and so attempts to use her Lore skill
Lore is again a +1 difficulty since it is not the default skill.
Sarina says, "Using my knowledge of the area and how trees grow from within my vast store of natural world knowledge I take note of the moss on the trees and use it to gain a direction and guide us further into the forest."
Sarina knows this will be a hard roll and so chooses to add 2 dice to her pool, rolling 4d20
She rolls 11, a 3, an 18 and a 15, and gains three successes.
Her failed roll leads the party astray......
Card 4: Encounter Card, Cliff Climb

The party's path leads them to a sheer, scalable cliff in the forest. The only way forward is to climb....
It is a simple D1 Athletics check.
Balor, Nualla and Dorian all choose to make the check and easily scale the cliff.
Sarina being less confident in her atheletics skill, chooses to pay the doom cost to join her companions at the top.
Card 5: Terrain Card, Difficulty 1

Nualla is the last party member to contribute to finding their way through, so it is her turn.
She chooses to use her resistance skill, so the test remains at a D1
Nualla says, "As we move beyond the cliff the insects begin to increase in numbers causing us to be maddened by their constant annoyance. I manage to push through the host of insects....."
Nualla rolls a 4 and a 20. A success and a complication.....
The party gains another success but is ambushed by a group of wolves.
Card 6: Encounter Card, Monsters!

Due to Nualla's complication, the party is set upon by a group of wolves! Note that the battle takes place in a thicket making the base combat difficulty a 2.
After taking some scratches the party defeats the wolves and presses on into the darkness, sensing they must be close to their goal!
Card 7: Terrain Card, Difficulty 2

We don't reset the difficulty as the encounter card was a complication, not a failure.
As the whole party has contributed we reset and choose someone else to start again.
Sarina using her keen sense of observation, at a difficulty of 2 tries to lead them to their goal.
Sarina says, "Excitedly I point into the trees and say, "Look I can see it through that break in the trees!"
She rolls a 5 and an 11, succeeding.
Finally, after the long trek through the forest, the party emerges at their goal......

And finally we see the final layout, and which cards gave the characters their successes.



As you can see we can create a large variety of terrain maps that are engaging on a role playing level as well as on a visual level with next to no prep from the GM. If you like these you can grab a set of cards over at the Game Crafter for about $10USD. You can also get a set of counters that include numbers which can be used for difficulty markers.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

The Calgary Expo. "GMing at the Con"

Wikipedia says the Calgary Expo is the second largest convention of its kind in Canada. Hosting famous celebrities from movies and TV through to the Comics industry. Last year saw an attendance of 95,000 people. The Expo as it turns out has a bit more to it than celebrities, and this year saw significant growth in the tabletop gaming area.

I have been attending the Expo for a few years, but it wasn’t really on my radar until they brought together the cast of Aliens. The Alien films, especially the first two, are among my favorites of all time and hold a special place in my heart, so I was excited to see the event. Since then I have attended every year.

The last couple of years I have had the opportunity to do a little more than just attend and walk around. Last year the medieval group I was part of did a significant demo encampment and some rattan and rapier fighting. This year I was able to GM some games of Conan 2d20, which unsurprisingly is what this post is about.

Back in the beginning of 2018 Modiphius announced they were going to do a JCoM RPG. I was excited about this as I am a fan of the world that Edgar Rice Burroughs had created. With it announced I joined a bunch of Facebook groups. As it happened one of the members, Vic Ster on facebook, was from Calgary.

Some time passed and Vic asked me if I wanted to GM CONAN 2d20 at a local convention, “The RPG Alliance”. My initial feeling was anxiety and in no way did I want to sit down with complete strangers and play some RPGs. My second feeling was that I could do it. That I should do it. This was something outside of my comfort zone and for that reason alone I should try. So I agreed to GM a game of Conan.

I made a few contacts at this convention. Vic the main organizer, Chris, Brent, Jeff and Matt. As it turns out Matt is the Tabletop organizer for the Calgary Expo. Matt asked if we would be interested in doing some games at the Expo. Brent, Vic and Myself all decided to go for it running Conan, John Carter and Star Trek. Brent has a blog post about his experience.

John Carter
Conan
Star Trek


So with that lengthy pre-amble let’s get into my experience doing this. I wasn’t an official Expo volunteer, just an attendee who volunteered his time to bring some Conan to the world. This was mainly due to the time commitment required, as I felt it would cut too much into the Expo. The games I ran were still officially listed on the website at certain times. For an attendee it wouldn’t have been clear that a few of us were less official volunteers.

Prior to the Expo, Matt was well organized and kept us in the loop as much as he was able. I would have preferred to know what was happening earlier than I knew, but that wasn’t something he had control over. Once everything was finalized he let us know and answered any questions we had promptly. On the days of the event he was there and excited and had a great go go go attitude! It was great to see and I am pretty sure that kind of pace might have killed me.

The games all ran with same day sign ups. This wasn’t an issue on Friday, I had my 4 players and ran an excellent game with Chris, Trevor, Emily and Donny. They were an awesome crew to journey into the Hyborian Age with. They all had smiles when we were done and it warmed my heart a little to have such great feedback, it is a great reason to try out GMing at something like this.

That game was slated to start at 3 and so had several hours to pick up people. On Sunday the game was slated to run at 11am, about an hour after the show opened. We had more trouble filling in slots this time, but Vic had showed up and played as well as one of the other games volunteers, Troy. Despite almost not having any players the game was still fun, everyone had a great attitude again and the game had a completely different outcome!

Looking back at the Sunday game I wonder if it would have been better to advertise it as a short 2 hour intro session for people new to Conan and the Father of Sword and Sorcery, and start it a little later. If this was the single largest issue I needed to iron out though, I am doing well. Indeed I did come away with an overall very positive experience from running these games.



Vic & I in discussion over.....something.

Modiphius was extremely supportive of us in this whole endeavor as well. Vic reached out and they sent us 2 copies of each of the books (Conan, John Carter & Star Trek core books). One was given away to a player and the other was entered into the Expo library for future use and posterity. Troy was the lucky winner at our table!

Handing out the Conan 2d20 Core book to Troy!
Overall it was an enjoyable experience, even if I would do Sunday a little different. It is an awesome thing to be able to sit down with strangers and put smiles on their faces and have a great time. As well I love this opportunity to extol the virtues of Robert E Howard, and his characters. Too many people do not know his name, which is a damn shame.

If this is something you have considered doing in the past but have never done, I would recommend giving it a shot. It is a good way to meet some new people with similar interests. It is a great way to give back to your local community as well. So go out and have some fun!

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Friday, April 19, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: Giant Nassarius Snails

Welcome back to another installment of Friday's Forgotten Fiends! Custom monsters for your RPG table feature stat blocks for Conan 2d20 and Dungeons and Dragons 5e as well as paper 28mm miniatures and VTT tokens! It has been awhile since the last posting but I am back! Hopefully I can get these to be more regular again.

Awhile ago now someone posted a video on Facebook that featured a water tank and a fish body being dropped into it. As it lay there you watched as this empty tank slowly sprang to life as these tiny snails began popping out of the sand and devouring the fish. So the inspiration for the giant carnivorous snail was born and after some time, has finally come to fruition!

Conan 2d20

D&D 5e

in progress

VTT Tokens

Paper Minis!



If you would like a version on these with backs as well as fronts please check out my offering of this set on Drive Thru RPG. They are offered for the low cost of $1usd and and support is greatly appreciated. Thank you! If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp rpg gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Witch of the Screaming Woods

At the end of April 2019, I will be at the Calgary Expo GMing two games of Conan 2d20! I will run 4 players through an adventure, once on Friday and once on Sunday. If you are around and want to check out Conan 2d20 for real stop by and sign up!


The games will feature paper miniatures from Okum Arts, Kevs Lounge and Printable Heroes as well as tiles from Black Scroll Games.

Everything I will be using will be all self printed and assembled. Even if you can't play stop by the table and see what you can come up with for an ultra portable, but awesome kit!
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Monday, March 18, 2019

The Exploit: Conan 2d20, some thoughts.

When I read novels (ok I generally listen to them), especially Sword and Sorcery, I tend to think of how the combat scenes would play out using the Conan 2d20 RPG rules.

If the hero strikes and knocks the bad guy's axe away and then comes back for an attack, I try and fit it into the sets of skills a character might have. In that example I might decide as I read that the hero has the riposte skill, and has successfully parried with some level of momentum. This has allowed our Hero to parry the blow, disarm the opponent with a momentum spend and attack right away with riposte.

The Exploit action is described as the following.

The character takes additional time and concentration readying the next attack, seeking to find vulnerabilities in a single target’s defenses. The player nominates a target the character is able to perceive, and attempts an Average (D1) Observation test (modified for Observation tests by distance, lighting, etc.). If this succeeds, the character’s first attack before the end of the next turn gains the Piercing 2 Quality. If desired, the character may spend one Momentum from this test to add one bonus d20 to the attack’s skill test, and +1CD to the attack’s damage. This is Repeatable, but these bonus d20s count towards the normal limit of 3 bonus d20s on any skill test. The benefits of this action are only gained once per round.

First I want to establish that the exploit represents some way you have gained an advantage over your opponents, because of this it is used to represent being ambushed as well. In it's raw form you pause in the fight and look for an opening, find a pattern in the opponents guard and then "EXPLOIT" that weakness.

But what other ways can this be used by a player? There is a scene in "IMARO" where a an outlaw offers a bodyguard the chance to thrown down their arms and join them. The guard rejects the offer with derision and the comment of, "Better to die with honor than to live as an outlaw!", and then spurs his horse forward and attacks with ferocity. The blow is barely blocked.

My brain immediately went to figuring out how that could be accomplished in Conan. Bodyguard uses a minor action to speak and a standard action to attack, and that is just how the dice worked out? A successful parry, but maybe only barely? What if instead we used the exploit action? What if we look at the second part of that description, "GMs may allow characters to use skills other than observation to attempt an Exploit action".

What if the bodyguard rolls *PERSUADE* as the exploit action, is successful, and performs a swift action immediately afterwards? Now our bodyguard has spoken, caused his opponent to lose focus, falter, or similar, but be caught a little by surprise as the attack is launched. Now the attack is potentially more devastating.

Another obvious one that we started using at my table, after the thief type character discovered there was no backstab, was to exploit using stealth. The idea here is pretty straight forward, the character is using their ability to slip into shadows, and then use that momentary lapse in tracking to spring at their opponent from behind and deliver a deadly blow.

In an action scene there are plenty of different skills that can be used, play with them, figure out some cool things to do. What GM is going to say no to an Acrobatics Exploit when you say, "I want to try and tumble low and come up with my sword to catch a weak point in their defense?"

The exploit is a great catch all standard action that can be used for a multitude of different narrative effects. If you are not using it as a player, or as a GM, I encourage you to give it some thought to add even more flair to your combat encounters.


Finally I wanted to leave you with a handy reference card you can print out and give to your players to help them understand the mechanics behind the tool. It will still be up to the players to figure out how to use this to enhance the narrative of the story.

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Friday, March 8, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: Dweller of Nethuns

Welcome back to another installment of Friday's Forgotten Fiends! Custom monsters for your RPG table feature stat blocks for Conan 2d20 and Dungeons and Dragons 5e as well as paper 28mm miniatures and VTT tokens!

Aindal steped through the rickety door and began his descent. The stone steps reached down into darkess, partially illuminated by the light cascading through the door. After a few steps, the door slowly creaked closed behind him, cutting off what little light there was. After a moment in the darkness his eyes began to pick out small bits of light here and there creeping into this dark chamber from boarded up windows high above him.

After another moment he drew out a torch and struck flint to steel sending hit sparks onto the waiting torch. Soon after the dancing flame revealed the huge cellar to him, although it sat below a large warehouse on the docks he was not prepared for the shere size of this place. The stairs wound down a good thirty feet into the earth. Stone and wood pushed back the earth and in some places, surely held back the ocean as well. As his eyes took in the place it was clear no one had set foot into this ancient chamber in some time. The middle held a dark pool of water, steps surrounded the opening leading down into the pool like an inverted dais, and on one side a large stone slab that could be nothing but a large altar, used for sacrifice.

As Aindal made is way around the space, shining eyes watched him from below the surface of the pool. It had been a long time since any of the humans had come down into this place. It had been forced to subsist on rats, trapped in this infernal place. Now it sensed not only food, but escape. It remained nearly motionless within the pool, waiting.

Slowly the explorations of Aindal brought him closer to the pool, and then as his the hair on his arm stood on end he paused. Something was wrong. He surveyed the room and saw nothing, and as his eyes swung back to the darkness of the pool, he stepped closer raising his torch. There he saw it a small ripple, his eyes narrowed.

Suddenly a fury of water, tentacles and teeth came at him, with what was clearly the intent o make him food. But as It came at him, Aindal rolled like a jungle animal and in one swift motion drew his sword in a slashing arc into the beasts side as even as his torch was knocked to the ground. With a keening howl It spun and hissed some ancient long forgotten curse at him. Now Aindal saw his attacker clearly, more fish than man, it's body adorned with spiny fins and it's arms replaced by tentacles, and it's legs like some unholy mermaid. It let out a low keening as it raised up on it's body preparing to strike. The two circled each other warily as the torch began to die, casting the room back into darkness.....


Dweller of Nethuns


The Deep Ones are creatures in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. The beings first appeared in Lovecraft's novella The Shadow Over Innsmouth (1931), but were already hinted at in the early short story "Dagon". The Deep Ones are a race of intelligent ocean-dwelling creatures, approximately human-shaped but with a fishy, froggy appearance. They regularly mate with humans along the coast, creating societies of hybrids. -- Wikipedia, Deep Ones

Being an invention of Lovecraft it is not surprising to see these show up in a Conan game based around the the works of Robert E Howard. The Conan 2d20 Core book on page 334 lists them as "Dwellers of the Deep", and I have certainly used them as is. I however thought it might be fun to morph them a little to be a different strain of Dweller that is specifically rooted to this particular incarnation of this unholy terror of the depths, Nethuns. And so I give to you the Dweller of Nethuns.

The Conan 2d20 stats are based are the dweller stats and the Dungeons and Dragons 5e stats are based around the Sahuagin, although tougher. I hope you enjoy and I would love to hear you experiences with them in either system.

Conan 2d20

D&D 5e

VTT Tokens

Paper Minis!



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Friday, March 1, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Hyborian Fossa

Welcome back to another installment of Friday's Forgotten Fiends! Custom monsters for your RPG table feature stat blocks for Conan 2d20 and Dungeons and Dragons 5e as well as paper 28mm miniatures and VTT tokens!

The group of men moved deeper into the jungle, a short while earlier they had spotted the first signs of the ruined city. Now they searched deeper into the jungles of the Black Kingdom seeking an entrance to this mythical place. Ruined stones emerged from the emerald colored foliage, serving as a kind of marker for the party of Stygians. Finally they stood on ancient flagstones, a road, leading between two ruined pillars and into the jungle.

Following this ancient road they came to a small clearing in the jungle and beyond lay an intact marble building, all but invisible in the dense foliage. The largest man of the group excitedly pointed at the low structure, "Come! The treasure awaits!", and move carelessly into the clearing before the building.

Before anyone could react the jungle around the clearing moved and in an instant several large, long, sleek, almost feline beasts sprang into the opening, their eyes and teeth flashing at what they clearly saw as prey. The big man, slowly drew his sword slowly, not making any sudden moves. As the blade barely cleared it's sheath the first of the beasts pounced, as if sensing the intent of the man. It's teeth and claws flashed in the sunlight as the sword as brought up barely fending off the first of these creatures, as the second one leaped onto his back sinking its teeth into his shoulder.......

You will have to bear with me for a moment as I discuss something pretty non-Hyborian age. Many years ago I watched a little movie called Madagascar. In it the bad guys are the FOSSA, something I had never heard of. I just assumed I was supposed to know about what they were trying to represent. As it turns out Madagascar is just a place with animals that don't exist elsewhere, it is something called "megadiverse", and I had no idea what these creatures were.

70% of species that inhabit these islands are totally unique in the world. Its great richness of biodiversity goes from lemurs, mongoose, chameleons, bats, foxes... Additionally, during the last decade 40 mammals, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles, 42 invertebrates and 385 new plants were discovered within its territory.
-https://www.activesustainability.com/environment/top-10-countries-in-biodiversity/#4

Fast forward to now and I am looking for new and interesting creatures that once populated our world to be thrown in as savage beasts of the Hyborian Age. The fossa as depicted in that fun romp of a movie is fairly small at about 2.5 feet long and 20lbs, and so interesting but maybe not exactly what I am looking for. Now the Cryptoprocta Spelea is more what we are looking for, or at least more evidence for larger animals. This Giant Fossa is closer to 3.5 feet long, weighing in at twice that of it's smaller relative at about 40lbs.

Despite the depictions in the movie the modern fossa is generally thought of as solitary, although they have been observed to cooperate and share kills, which would make them a *LOT* more interesting. Going along with that our new species will be even larger, more like cougar sized and they will hunt in packs, so don't set these individually on your players!

These cat like predators are potentially awesome foes for your sword and sorcery game, realistic and less well known than other creatures such as sabertooth tigers.

Ok enough preamble and talk of children's cartoons.......Welcome to an Age Undreamed Of......

Cryptoprocta Hyborius. The Hyborian Fossa.

Conan 2d20

D&D 5e

VTT Tokens

Paper Minis!



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