'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 REH. Show all posts
Showing posts with label REH. Show all posts

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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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Age of Conan: Issue #1 (2019): Bêlit. "The Lost Verses"

This is the third of three new titles bearing our Cimmerian Hero's name from Marvel! Things are different this time though, even though it has Conan's name on it, it centers around other characters from his world. We start with the first woman to really capture Conan's heart: Bêlit, Queen of the Black Coast. If you are new to Conan, be sure to check out the original story featuring this savage lady, Queen of the Black Coast. So without further pre-amble I give you Marvel's Age of Conan: Bêlit.


First the people who made this issue possible, the writers, artists and letterers.
Cover: Sana Takeda
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Kate Niemczyk
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: VCs Travis Lanham
I suspect this issue will be not well liked by many, but I am willing to see where the story goes.

I generally liked the cover, it gives an air of regal sureness to Bêlit that I think fits her character, but I do think it lacks a little of the savage edge I think she should have. Sana Takeda has a fairly distinctive style I would describe as beautiful ethereal and flowery, and this cover is no exception to this.

The story, in this issue, is simple enough, and lays the ground work for Bêlit to start down the road to become Queen of the Black Coast. It is not twisty and as near as I can tell isn't setting up some massive twist. It is direct, but it is setting up to develop Bêlit into the woman she becomes. With all that being said, I don't think it is the story I would have told, but then I am not sure what story I would tell for Bêlit, which I think will be the problem. This will not be the story any of you had for her either, even if you don't know what that is. Her origins were secretive and mysterious. Tini Howard has her work cut out for her here. Telling the story of one of Robert E Howard's more iconic women of the Hyborian Age is not a task I am jealous of.

Art wise, I found the issue to be well enough executed, but come across clean. It is bright and the lines are straight for the most part. This is not universally true, but it was enough that it was the main impression I took away. It would be cool if as the story progressed the art was to change and become more and more harsh as Bêlit moves closer to becoming the Pirate Queen. For now I find Kate Niemczyk's style to be a little off the mark here, which isn't to say I dislike her art, she has done some cool stuff and you should check out her work. I just don't think it is fitting perfectly for the Hyborian Age tale. I have one striking exception to this. The last panel is, in my opinion, excellent in execution and style. The coloring of Jason Keith supports the art style in that it remains pretty bright for the most part.

The last thing we need to talk about is the sword and sorcery elements of this. This isn't as strongly tropy as say the first issue of Conan the Barbarian, where we have, "Conan Fight. Conan Capture. Conan Fight Wizard.". Even without those heavy tropes the story has most the elements we need to see a S&S tale. Although again I prefer my tales to be a little heavier on the conflict side.

Alright so those are my thoughts, lets see how many skulls I think this all breaks down to.

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


I have landed on 4 out of 5 skulls here, I have a few minor issues with things, but mostly they deal with things not fitting exactly, or not being done how I would do them. None of that make this bad per say. I am also hopeful this book may attract a slightly new demographic to Conan's world that has traditionally stayed away due to the influence both real and imagined of certain less than savory individuals. So go grab your copy of Age of Conan: Bêlit, grab your favorite wine and give it a read. I am sure I will see you all on the Internet to discuss thoughts on this issue in more detail there.

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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

Savage Sword of Conan: Issue #1 (2019)

Back with another Conan day and another spoiler free review! February 13th and the debut issue of the new Savage Sword of Conan! We have seen a few images here and there from this book and I can tell you I am excited to read it!


Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Ron Garney
Colorist: Richard Isanove
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Alex Ross

You can of course check out Gerry Duggan, Ron Garney and Alex Ross on Twitter. You can find Alex, Ron and Gerry on Instagram as well! Go and give them some social media love!

Well, where to start? Lots of talk about Crom and lack of caring. That is a good thing. The story starts with things going from bad to worse for Conan which, at the end of the day is a great start for this series and feels proper.

The art by Garney is different from the Barbarian art. I'd call it looser, less precise, more raw...maybe even more SAVAGE. I think it will be a good match for this story. The coloring is excellent, with the line work supporting it more like a painting in a lot of panels vs colored in comic panels. I am definitely a fan of the style.

The story is good, if so far not that deep. It has potential to get there and foreshadows the future for our Cimmerian hero. One of the things I liked about things was the rise and fall....and fall...and fall of Conan's fortune.

The cover is great. Conan looks like Conan. He is locked in combat with undead pirates! Axe overhead to crush his foes while he grips one by the neck. The cover is evocative of action and full of little details.

This comic feels like sword and sorcery, monsters in line with REHs creations, nothing completely over the top, no magic missiles, no fireballs. It feels like we are getting a good low fantasy setting with this series.

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


Well, I am just gonna go ahead and rate this a solid 5 out of 5 Skulls of my Enemies!

Overall I clearly liked the start of this new offering from Marvel, I feel we have the beginnings of a new adventure, and that new adventure is supported very well by not only the style of art that Garney is producing but also by the colouring being added by Isanove. We have a strong first issue and I am very much looking forward to seeing where things go.

I don't think this is a perfect issue despite my 5/5 rating, there are a few story issues that gave me pause, but most of them are all REH Conan knowledge based that the average fan might not even recognize. Heck, I would have to been double check them to be sure, but they are not so blatant to really pull me out of the story.

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