'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

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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Monday, February 25, 2019

Conan 2d20: Playing the Investigation

Most of my articles have been about how to GM certain aspect of Conan 2d20 RPG, or at most overviews of how the basic mechanics work. I haven't played as a player, but my group has run for a couple of years, playing once a month or so, and I have noticed a few things.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I really like the idea of succeeding by a measure of success vs a simply black & white success metric of many RPGs, especially d20 based systems. Unfortunately I think this idea gets forgotten outside of combat by players as there is no real chart of spends to use your momentum on when you succeed in an amazing way. As you may have guessed from the title we are going to look at how players can get the most out of an investigation.

Generally, as I have outlined in my investigation post players should be able to simply say, "I search the area" or something similar to gain the most basic clue about where they should go next.

GM: Your party enters the room to find the dead body of your contact sprawled on the floor. Furniture and belongings are strewn about as though there was a struggle.
GM: What do you do?

As the player you decide you want to search the body.

Player: I would like to search the body
GM: Ok. This will be a D1 Observation test?
Player: I roll 2d20 and gain 2 successes!
GM: Alright, you gain a point of momentum.
GM: As you search the body you find, clutched in his hand, the emblem of the royal guard, apparently torn from his attacker during the struggle.

As a player from a more traditional system with a pass/fail mechanic you will be tempted to think that is that and try and find who the emblem was torn from, but this is Conan2d20 and it contains a measure of success, you as the player rolled 2 successes, you received a point of momentum. Not only did you succeed, but you succeeded well. You could certainly drop the momentum into the group pool for the next player to use, or you could spend it right away.

Page 103-104 of the core rulebook discusses basic types of momentum spends, some of these are broken out into a series of momentum spends. For example: Improve Quality of Success is described as a an often repeatable spend that may cause extra damage, and Increase Scope of Success is described as being able to affect more targets, or increase areas of effects. Both of these we see as combat spends as well, but we shouldn't limit these to the arena of combat.

So you have searched the body but gained momentum in doing so. Why don't we use that to "Increase the Quality of Success"

Player: With my point of momentum I would like to see if there is anything else interesting about the body
GM: As your search is especially thorough, you move the body slightly and discover, scrawled in blood, the name, "Cromlach". The name was previously hidden by the way the body was laying suggesting your contact was left for dead.

Now you have even more to go on, which can be nothing but beneficial. Keep this in mind as you choose how many d20s to roll. It may well be beneficial to roll 5d20 as well as assistance dice from your party to search that body and generate as much momentum as possible so you can be sure to find every last detail you can about it.

This can also be helpful if you don't actually know what you are looking for yet. This past weekend my players did a cursory search of a room and succeeded. They found a shipping manifest for supplies that came out of a nearby city. They didn't know it was relevant and so it was glossed over and largely ignored for several hours as they tried to workout their next move.

As a player use everything in your power to let the GM help you along to the next point in the investigation or story and remember they are not at odds to you, they want you to learn what is next, they want you to continue and be successful, but they also don't want to simply hand it to you on a silver platter or railroad you down a given path.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Essence of Beyond

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 candles flickered in the circle around the old wizard. His blade was raised above him in symbolism of ritual sacrifice. The bronze bowl before him held the still warm heart of some unfortunate soul, either human or a large animal, only he knew. with his circle of power intact, his sacrifice prepared he began the chant in some long forgotten tongue taught to him by his ancient master so many years ago.

He had enemies, and he intended to summon a dark thing to do his bidding and have is revenge. He would no longer be the laughing stock in his village. He would show them all the power he possessed! After chanting for what seemed like an eternity he felt the very veil grow thin as the air around him grew cold, and in a final motion his blade struck down into the heart completing the ritual and unleashing the dark forces all around him.

He could almost hear the great tear open between our two world, as the gash opened, and he called forth his creature. Within moments a dark smoke like foot stepped through the tear, fel energy swirling and coalescing around it.

The last thing he saw was a claw of smoke and a mouth filled with row after row of gleaming white teeth. The chamber was filled with the protests and then screams of the wizard as the dark thing took it's price for his desires. When it had had it's fill of his flesh the thing stood and left the chamber, off to do what it was summoned to do. Behind it the great portal slowly stitched itself back together, and in a moment all that remained was the wizard's body as it was slowly consumed by the remnants of the dark energy that game through with the beast. In moments what can only be described as the Essence of Beyond remained, hungry and angry.

These blobs of malignant energy are the remnants of dark sorcery gone wrong, a merger of the one who summoned forth the magic, and the magic itself. They are a manifestation of the outer dark made physical in our world. Typically found on old places of power such as a ruined temple or ancient sunken city, these things feed on our world, and especially on the life forms in our world. These being simple manifestations of power have coalesced into semi-sentient and hostile creatures. Although having no magic themselves, and being relatively easily vanquished, their very nature can make them difficult to pin down and strike, and in that process many warriors have fallen to these.

Conan 2d20

D&D 5e

VTT Tokens

Paper Minis!

And finally paper minis!


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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Conan 2d20 Character Sheet that is a form fillable pdf.

A little while ago I built a character sheet that was cleaner and listed the skills alphabetically. I have now added form fillable fields to the .PDF file. It has a few auto calculate fields, so if you notice anything weird, please let me know.

2d20 Character Sheet



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Monday, February 11, 2019

Conan 2d20: Magic in the Hyborian Age

I will start this by saying that I haven't played D&D in many years, but as it is probably the most played game out there I will be bringing it up as a comparison to how magic works in most RPGs vs how magic works in Conan 2d20.

In D&D you get a long list of spells you can choose from and from that list you can choose what you want to cast for a given day. For an example we have a first level wizard with an INT of 17 (+3). The wizard has 6 spells in her spell book. At level one, she will be able to create a spell list for the day that contains 4 spells from her book. She may then cast any of those 4 spells twice, since a level 1 wizard only has two level one spell slots.

The spells you get to cast have any number of effects: Lightning bolts, fireballs, magic missiles, shields, summoning monsters, etc. They are the stuff of high fantasy, flashy displays of mystical energy.

The magic in Conan is much more subdued and although there is certainly spells that can be used offensively, we aren't going to be throwing magical fireballs at each other. Where D&D gives you a large number of spells to choose from, Conan gives you a smaller number of spells, probably a single spell when you start. I tend to think of these as spell blocks though because although they have a single name, they each have ways to build on the effects. In D&D terms you might not have magic missile and lightning bolt as two spells, they might simply be called, "Magic Bolt". D&D would need a way to channel more energy into the spell, maybe expending 2 spell slots to increase the effect of the bolt from a mere zap to a full fledged lightning bolt.

In the movies we see magic akin to what we might find in the Hyborian Age in the first Conan The Barbarian movie as well as the magic wielded by Merlin in the similarly aged "Excalibur". The magic in these films is very real, and yet often quite subtle. You again aren't seeming glowing hands and the like.

One of the other major differences is the loss of resolve, ie mental hit points, from spell casting in Conan. You could cause yourself to go insane if you cast too many spells without any rest. It lends a much darker and more sinister air to the forces you try and wield in the Hyborian Age.

With all that I am simply trying to set out the ground work for magic in 2d20 for those who are new to it. It is different. That doesn't make it bad. Today we are going to cover the basic ideas behind how casting works mechanically and how it can work for the narrative. There are a few other concerns around a character with knowledge in Sorcery, but that is for another time.

Call Your Dragon to Weave a Mist.....

The simplest form of spell casting in 2d20 looks like this and is known as Casting for Effect.
  1. Resolve - Check and make sure you have enough resolve to cast the spell.
  2. Minor action - Focus action (skipping this causes complications on a 19 or 20).
  3. Standard action - Skill test against sorcery.
  4. Complications - Any failed rolls result in a complication. Rolling a complication causes 2 complications.
  5. Momentum - On a successful test send and additional momentum you have on stronger effects.
  6. Resolve - Reduce your resolve
The second form of casting is known as Testing for Consequences or sometimes called Casting for Consequence. This is not at alternate rule, but it is up to the GM to allow it on a case by case basis. Basically the idea is that the spell always goes off and you are just testing to check for it's negative effects, think of it as Casting to Determine Complications.
  1. Resolve - Check and make sure you have enough resolve to cast the spell.
  2. Difficulty - Determine the difficulty of the spell. Most start with a base of D1, and each momentum spend you add, adds a level of difficulty.
  3. Minor action - Focus action (skipping this causes complications on a 19 or 20).
  4. Standard action - Skill text against your spells difficulty.
  5. Complications - Each difference between the number of successes you roll vs the difficulty of the spell causes a complication. ie if you roll 3 successes on a D5 spell, you gain 2 complications.
  6. Complications - It is POSSIBLE that a failed skill test here still causes a complication as well. There is nothing specifically that says it doesn't.
  7. Complications - Rolling a 20 causes a complication.
  8. Momentum - Spend momentum as normal.
  9. Resolve - Reduce your resolve.

Can You Summon Demons, Wizard?

Let us take a little bit of a deeper look at the ideas presented in the book. Specifically we will start with the following passage:

From the depths of dusty tomes and the tutelage of patrons human and otherwise, the sorcerer collects incantations and recipes for spells, magical creations whose effects are immensely powerful, their histories older than the cities of men. These spells are broad strokes, guidelines by which unnatural forces can impose their will upon the natural world. The combination of spell effects and sorcerous talents comingle to form more complex results and more powerful intrusions of the Outer Dark into the world of humankind. The nature of magic in the Hyborian Age is not strictly codified, and requires the gamemaster to adjudicate on a narrative as well as mechanical basis.
-Conan 2d20, Core Book Page 173

It is fairly easy to look at the spells and mechanically cast based on what is listed. That is always an easy thing, but in my books it is a less fun way to play. These games are all about the narrative. Have a player simply cast and then pick from a list leaves a lot on the floor. Instead think of these spell blocks as a toolkit. I strongly encourage you and your players to at least have an idea of the desired effect of the spell, even if it isn't fully realized on the actual skill test. I have a couple of examples below of sorcery in use. Our examples will center around Adara, a Cimmerian shaman.

Adara looks out across the blood soaked sward, the smoking ruins of the fort and dead from both sides litter the ground around her. Her people did not start this war, the constant incursion of the southern kingdoms north to take more land, and finally in an attempt to subjugate her people started this. Finally her tribe had enough, and so her and her people drew steel and assaulted their positions.

GM: You see a large warrior cutting down your people left and right, clearly a Knight and a fearsome opponent, what do you do.
Player: Adara casts Form of a Beast. Uhhh, I roll 4 successes so that lets me succeed and spend 3 momentum. I choose Nature's Brawn, Animal Resilience and Roughen this beasts hide and I transform into a bear.
GM: Ok, Adara takes the form of her totem animal, the bear.
VS.
GM: You see a large warrior cutting down your people left and right, clearly a Knight and a fearsome opponent, what do you do.
Player: Adara summons the energies of the forest creatures, feeling the power of her totem animal flow into her she attempts to take on not just the form of the beast, but also it's strength and savagery! I roll 2 successes, and assume the form of my totem animal. Unfortunately this only gives me one point of momentum so I use that to assume the strength of the bear! GM: Ok, Adara takes the form of her totem animal, the bear.

Mechanically similar, but in my books the second one is more fun and more interesting, even though she was less successful with that test. Certainly the rules say you cast and then can use that momentum however you want, and I am not saying you should pick exactly what you want to have happen from the menu and try and cast it, but instead have an idea of the kinds of things you COULD have happen or WANT to have happen and weave that into the description of what your character is doing.

Even if you go the first route and don't have a clear idea what you are trying to accomplish with the spell, once you have chosen those effects I would strongly encourage you to work those effects into the description of what your character is doing. The spells are a GOLD MINE for narrative ideas and cool effects.

I can't encourage your enough to use these spell blocks as a toolkit to build excellent narrative effects around the magic we find in the Hyborian Age!

Finally some of the core book can be confusing, and should you need it we do have a Sorcery FAQ put together from the days of the Google+ group.

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Friday, February 8, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Boar of Nergal

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 shepherd lounged under a large tree. The air was warm and clear and the sun shone down bright across the meadow lands. A small flock of sheep munched happily on the green grass emitting only the occasional bleating. Arvad was happy with things, predators had been few and far between and his flock grew fat providing wool and food for his family and money for his pockets.

In an instant everything had changed, the throng of sheep broken and running in all directions as a Boar or Nergal stalked into their midst killing what would surely be more than its fat belly could eat. It seemed to be killing for sport as much as anything, a keen intelligence in its eyes as it turned and spotted Arvad. With a low growl it stalked towards the small man, sitting shocked beneath the tree.

In a smooth action Arvad took up his spear and slid to his feet slowly as the monster continued its slow methodical approach. Leveling the spear, the shepherd planted the spear at his feet as he waited for the infernal creature to come for him. The beast continued its slow approach and as it did its true size began to show itself, easily as tall as a man at the shoulders, gleaming red eyes and yellowed teeth and tusks glistened in the sun, now stained with the blood of his sheep. With a slight pause the massive head is lowered and in a flash nearly one thousand pounds of predator charged towards him. Arvad could do nothing but grip the spear tighter, aim its point, close his eyes and pray to Mitra.......

The giant pig like creatures are some long forgotten remnant of a time best left forgotten, when giant beasts ruled over the lands. They generally favor the northern plains of Shem where the pastoral lands meet the low foothills of the Mountains of Khoraja. Although these creatures are generally solitary they live in small loose knit herd-like communities, coming across one means more are almost certainly nearby. Named for the dark god of death, Nergal, these creatures, although resembling boars are actually fierce predators. It is not uncommon to see them hunt the largest game.

This beast is based on the real life animal known as the "HELL PIG", but I didn't want to simply call it that, I wanted something more... Hyborian. So I went out onto the Internet and looked up gods, I found a nice list on Xoth.net. I did perhaps make a small error in ONLY using that site as it uses all sources for the Hyborian Age, not just REH. There is nothing wrong with that, but I would prefer to use REH as a first source and pastiches as a second source.

Do not worry though, as I found a story fragment on the Internet this morning, The Hand of Nergal, which makes me cheer a little in that the name I have chosen is both fairly fitting and REH.

Don't forget to scroll all the way to the end to see a new feature I am looking to add to these to supplement the stat blocks and VTT tokens!

Alright as Matt from Rogues in the House loves to say....

"ENOUGH TALK!"

Conan 2d20

D&D 5e

VTT Tokens

Paper Minis!

And finally paper minis!


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Monday, February 4, 2019

Genesys in the Primeval Thule Setting

When I GMed a game of Conan for a group of complete strangers late last year, I was unsure of what I was getting myself into. Having recently returned to RPGs and GMing combined with my own fears about not doing a good enough job had definitely given me pause. In the end it was a very positive experience for me and I met some new people. Many of those people I met further this past weekend as we sat down to play a game of Genesys.

I have kept in touch with one of those players and have continued to discuss various RPG ideas. One of the systems he has really grown to like is, of course, Genesys. I was familiar with it as the game with the weird dice. When he said he felt it shared similar game DNA with Conan I was a little dubious, but he explained it all. After reading some more I came to a conclusion? I agree. So he went forward and set up a game of Genesys set in Primeval Thule to introduce a bunch of us who had been at "RPG ALLIANCE CON" in Calgary to the system.

Before I go on any further I have a couple of shutouts to people and I encourage you to all check out their various endeavors.
  • Rpg Alliance - Without this I wouldn't have met these people and I wouldn't have tried something new. Hope we see it become a yearly thing. Blog, Facebook.
  • Galaxy Gaming Gear- Thanks for the use of your figures and terrain as well as a little insight into your company and your goals. Website, Facebook.
  • Titan's Vault Games- Thanks to the use of the space in the store. It is great to have a place to play that we all had fairly easy access to. Website, Facebook.

OK. So lets talk basic mechanics. Like Conan 2d20, everything is based on skill rolls, and like Conan 2d20 we essentially have 5 classifications of difficulty: Easy, Average, Hard, Daunting and Formidable. It also includes 0 difficulty and an impossible difficulty. Mechanically the two systems diverge here, but maintain the same idea in terms of gaining success to completed tasks, it just handles this and what would be Momentum/doom in Conan 2d20 differently.

Celina darts down a dark side alley and pauses, the sounds of pursuit echoing down the street. Her hand grasps a small leather bag containing the goal of the evening. It had all been going so well, in and out and away into the night! Suddenly the alarm was raised and she found her self running for her life trying to escape the city guard. In an instant she decides to climb the wall next to her in an attempt to evade her pursuers.


At it's simplest Celina might have a rating of 2 for climbing the wall, granting her two dice to roll on a skill check. In Genesys you would pick up two custom eight sided dice. If her task was average difficulty you would pick up another set of custom 2d8, however they are a different color. Basically you are rolling your 2d8 vs the tasks 2d8. (Quick note: there is a d12 you get to roll on trained skills as well, but I chose to go with a super simple example).

The skill dice in Genesys show the following icons: Success, Advantage and Triumph(which does not appear on the d8).
The difficulty dice show: Failure, Threat and Despair.

Back to our example skill test, rolling the dice you come up with a total of 3 successes and 1 advantage on your skill dice. The difficulty dice come up with 0 failure and 2 threats.

VS.
I used this roller to generate my results.

To resolve the roll we cancel skill vs difficulty. Threat removes advantage and failure removes success. Doing so we see that Celina's roll is 2 successes + 1 threat, and this is where the system is really interesting in my mind. We do see this possibility in 2d20, but way way less often in the form of succeeding while rolling a complication. In Genesys it is pretty common to gain advantage or threat independently of succeeding or failing.

Celina succeeds in climbing the wall but in doing so manages to confer and advantage to her pursuers. There is a list of things advantage and disadvantage can do, including giving extra dice to your allies in the form of a custom d6. But my point isn't to give you an entire breakdown of the system, just to illustrate the basic idea.

With effort Celina scales the wall onto the roof of the building next to her and pauses in the dark as a squad of five men at arms come into the alley and look around trying to find signs of their quarry.

The guards may normally roll 2d8 as well for their skill check, but because Celina rolled that threat the GM has decided to give them an advantage die, so they roll 2d8+1d6 vs their difficulty roll.

As the guards look about the alley, Celina shifts in her hiding spot causing a small pebble to knock loose from the wall, alerting the guards to the direction she is in

VS.


The guards gain 2 successes and 1 threat as well!

The GM decides the guards see Celina as she turns to flee and begin to climb up the wall. The guards build their dice pool again, this time with an addition difficulty d6 to make their climb up the wall that much more difficult. The GM will narrate how that advantage is gained: loose walls, guards getting in each other's way or any number of other things.

Even with that level of inexperience with the system at the table I think we all had fun and enjoyed the whole system from combat to social and other tests. It is definitely a system I will look to add to my library.

The single largest entry point to this system is learning what the icons mean and how they cancel each other out, but once you are past that, the mechanic is simple and the dice do guide the narrative much as we would see in a system like Conan 2d20. The group I played with this weekend included an experienced GM, one experienced player and three people who had never played the system before. One of us had even tried the Star Wars version and had not liked it.

Having an experience GM makes things way simpler and overall I enjoyed the session and the system. It was narrative and fit decently well into the Sword & Sorcery setting that is Primeval Thule. Even if you don't have an experienced GM and the system has piqued your interested I recommend checking it out! You can get a copy at your local FLGS or at DrivethruRPG!

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