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

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Why I think Zones are better than Grids.

Over the last weekend, I again had the opportunity to play a game that used the more traditional grid-based system. It struck me that although it added the ability to more clearly move figures around and know "exactly" where each person was, it came at the cost of time.

Each time a character moved we needed to count the squares and try and determine the exact location we wanted to be. When casting spells with an area of effect, we needed to make sure the area was going to be what we wanted and count out carefully.

All of this additional time added up, and from where I was sitting slowed combat considerably. Combat should be an exciting time in the game, full of fun rolls and descriptions. We should not be seeking to slow it down. If I had any lingering doubts about zones before, they are pretty solidly gone now.

Instead of a battlemap composed of grids, zones break the map up into areas, let's see how that works in practice.

Basic Battlemap
Battlemap with Zones

Above we have two examples of the same map (From 2 minutetable top) described spatially. One with a grid where players can place a miniature on the map and move them in 5' increments. The other has the same map described with zones, where player miniatures are simply placed within a zone.

It is important to note that I have drawn the zones on largely for illustrative purposes, you could use a basic clean map and denote the zones through narration, small markers or just a small keymap. The zones don't need to be exactly delineated. We just need to know that a character is in the "Deep Stream" or on the "Rocky Incline"

Can you do much of what I am going to talk about with grids? Yes, you could, but I think zones are a simpler and more elegant way to accomplish it.

The first thing I think zones do are speed up movement in combat. You don't need to see if an opponent is 5 or 6 squares away. If you are both in the same zone you can engage them in combat, they are close enough to do so freely. Are they one zone over? Do you have a minor action available? You can also move to engage them easily. If a PC is at the bottom of the cliff and an opponent in the stream on the top of the cliff, you can fight. You don't need to count spaces. This in and of itself is a pretty big plus in my books.

What about terrain though? Surely the moving from the base of the cliff to the top of the cliff should impart some slow down. This brings us to another excellent thing about zones. They can each be made a little differently. Moving across the cliff zone might require an Athletics/Acrobatics test to move at full speed. It might even cause damage on a failed roll simulating fall damage. Essentially when a player is on that zone they are actively climbing up the cliff.

Some examples for the above battlemap written for Conan 2d20.
  • Rocky Incline - Steep incline - D2 Athletics/Acrobatics Hindrance. Incline plus loose rocks make the going difficult.
  • Skull - Cave entrance - 2cd Cover from missile weapons.
  • Steep Path - D1 - Athletics/Acrobatics Hindrance.
  • Path - Open ground, no penalty.
  • Cliff - D3 Athletics/Acrobatics Hazard for take 2cd damage on failure.
  • Stream - Flowing stream - current is stronger than it looks - D2 for all physical tests while in the zone.
  • Deep Stream - Flowing & Deep - D2 for all physical tests and D2 Athletics/Acrobatics Hindrance.
  • Path - Open ground, no penalty.

Now we have created a battlemap that has a lot of interesting things going on. Players may wish to try and fight on the open ground of the paths, but if they need to gain entrance to the skull cave, they are going to have to fight over some hindrances or hazards to get there. As I mentioned you could, of course, do similar with a standard grid battlemap. Not only do I feel the zoned approach is easier, I feel it lends itself to wanting those details more.

Finally, they are hugely abstract, they can represent whatever size you need, a large open field might represent a larger area on the table than the trees next to it. They might be player scale, or they might be army scale. Following on the abstract nature, you don't need your zone to specifically represent an actual 1:1 scale on the table, using a set of cards like RUNEHAMMER's ICRPG Graphic Index Cards or pictures of printed areas laid on the table you can quickly lay down easily identifiable and interesting zones for your players to interact with. If you need a set-up like the above you could grab a set of 8 index cards and write the name and details of each zone and just lay them out on the table.



And because of this abstract nature and ease of creating zones with a small card, you could lay out a complex area in a very small space, eliminating the need to carry around a large battlemap, you will just need something to represent players and enemies which fit inside the cards. Examples might be small chits or 15mm figures.

Lastly and this one may be a bit of a shock, I think think the abstraction of the exact position of a character within a zone is more realistic. Unless you subscribe to the idea that 1 roll of the die is the equivalent of one blow of the sword, keeping a character in a 5'x5' square is wholly unrealistic to me. The idea that combat is moving across and around the area is much more realistic to me. "The fight between the warrior and the bear rages in front of the skull cavern, the roar of the bear pushing the warrior back as he circles to find an opening on the massive beast" is descriptive of a battle occurring in a zone where the two combatants gain and lose ground and circle for the best place to strike from.

The downside is that players are a little more generic, in D&D you might have someone that can move 4 squares and another that can move 6 squares. With a zone-based system, each player is essentially moving the same distance. For me, though this negative is a very small one and is strongly outweighed by the positives. Similarly, other aspects of the game strongly tied to a location are lost such as an area of effect or flanking.

To sum up why I think Zones are superior to grids: They can save time in combat, they lend themselves to a more descriptive and interactive environment, their abstract nature allows more freedom of scale and I think it is a more realistic interpretation of the world.

Zones meet a nice middle point between the strict theatre of the mind and players measuring exactly where their miniatures move. They can speed up combat by eliminating exactly where everyone is. They can create rich and vibrant environments that are more interesting to play in. They can be scaled to fit the table size you have with minimal fuss. Creating their physical representation can be as simple as words on a card up to a full 3d layout.

If you haven't tried zones before in your games, I encourage you to give them a shot. If your system doesn't specifically include them a rough guideline is to allow players to engage and move within a zone freely, a normal move allows movement between zones and a sprint allows movement across 2 zones. You will need to give some consideration to how you handle area effects and flanking. Maybe you won't like them, or maybe your players won't and you'll go back to the grid. But just maybe you'll enjoy this new system free of range rulers and measuring.

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Two Minute Tabletop: How to Draw Dungeon Maps.

This is an unsolicited post. This is from one gamer to the vast internet. This is an attempt to boost the signal a little. I came across Two Minute Tabletop a long while ago. I was up searching drawing and gaming videos and I came across his YouTube channel. Since then I have found him on Patreon and backed him there. If you watch any on-line games and have checked out some of RuneHammers ICRPG games, you may recognize some of these assets.


Ross creates battle maps. His maps have a cool and unique style and he has a large library of maps, tokens and assets to make more or customize your own maps. His Patreon rate is $1 per map, which is a very reasonable price for the maps he draws. I am not really here to tell you to support him, I am more here to bring him to your attention if you don't know of him.

I especially wanted to direct you to his youtube channel which has a plethora of videos on his process, including a bunch of new, "How to Draw Dungeon Maps", videos. While I was watching these yesterday I also noted the number of views was relatively low, especially compared to some of his other videos. These new videos are excellent quick guides to drawing some basic dungeon maps in his style and highly recommend them.

So if you have ever wanted to draw your own maps, and are unsure how to start. If you just need more battlemaps for your VTT or your physical table run over to his various social media locations and gain some knowledge or some sweet battlemaps!

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Friday, May 3, 2019

Action Momentum Spends in Conan 2d20: The Card Deck!

One of the things I always have trouble with when explaining Conan 2d20 is the Momentum Spends. Ok, not so much trouble explaining them, but trouble getting players familiar with them, and what they can do with that momentum.

I have a reference sheet I have used at conventions, but it is a lot of information in a small space.

So I have decided to try a deck of cards. Each player gets a card with a name, cost and basic description. Using this they will hopefully tie together some epic uses of the spends, and more importantly, be aware of them. I am including one of the cards below so you can see what I have in mind.



If you think this might be useful, I have a .PDF with the most common spends on it for players. You can find that here.

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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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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Expanse RPG: First impressions (more or less)

The e-mail came and I immediately downloaded the PDF from Green Ronin. I was anxious to see the Expanse RPG in all its glory. I had seen the quick start and Modern Age rules, both of which I liked. This was the full book though and I was excited.

The RPG is broken out into 3 basic sections: Players section, A Guide to the Expanse, and the Gamemaster's Sections The RPG opens with the new novella by James SA Corey and then rolls right into the rules and character creation, tech, ships and eventually a section on the world of the Expanse, detailing Mars, Earth and the Belt.

Some of the art I love, some of it I am luke warm too, but overall the book looks good and I was anxious to find some time to dig deeper into it.

It's hard for me to have a strong first impression of a .pdf file, as much as I see them as a useful way to get content to us, for me they are still not that physical book. So initially? It is what I expected after seeing Modern Age and the Expanse quick start. I can not wait to have a physical copy.

Intro & Rules

I did spent a little time with it to get a better idea of what exactly this book looked like. Many RPGs have flavor text and may even open with a small blurb about the world. The Expanse starts with a short story written by James SA Corey for the RPG. So we are already starting off plenty strong with a full piece of prose from the authors of this beloved series.

Once we get past the story we are whisked into the basic rules of how things work. How characters make skill tests, what a stunt die is and does. It is not a complicated system and it might be a good middle ground between something overly simple and something overly crunchy. I haven't had time to play yet though, so time will tell.

Character Creation

After the basic rules we are introduced to character creation which is laid out in a nice 10 step process. I find that creating characters can sometimes be a little convoluted for a new player. As a new character playing Pathfinder for the first time, I didn't find it super easy. As a new player to Conan 2d20, I would level the same criticism of it. In comparison John Carter was a simple character building system and I suspect this will be similar, as the builds in Modern Age were not difficult.

After the basics of character creation have been talking about our next chapter is the list of talents and traits players can take to customize their characters beyond their basic stats.

Tech and Equipment

And then we are onto Tech and Equipment. What sci-fi game is complete without advanced technology? Generally anything we see in the Expanse is probably going to be something we recognize in our modern world, from hand terminals to space ships. They provide a fairly comprehensive list of traits and ideas to build most any tech you might want. Here we have weapons lists and armor lists including the impressive Martian power armor.

The section includes dealing with income and lifestyle. We get a section on how this system deals with a characters basic upkeep based on their income level from character creation.

I would have liked to have seen more rules on cybernetics and similar. I know this isn't a cyberpunk game, but we see basic implants in the books, perhaps we will see this in a later expansion, as I do not think we see them until later in the books. The same can be said about drugs, specifically combat drugs, but again, perhaps we will see something more specific later.

Encounters

The next section talks about different types of encounters and breaks them into 2 chief areas: Action, Exploration and Social. Each of these sections includes rules and stunt lists that you have access to if you manage to roll stunt points.

Action encounters include melee combat, chases and vehicles. It lists various forms of stunts such as grappling stunts and gun stunts, and continues to list various special things you can do for vehicles and chases.

Exploration encounters has stunts for general exploration and infiltration. It contains ideas and stunts for general exploration and investigations as well as detailing how to use hazards with the scenarios.

Social encounters lists ideas about how NPCs may react to characters through "Attitude", and as always continues into a list of things you may get to spend stunt points on. An example of a social stunt might all a player to read the room and get a general feel for who has what attitude toward the players.

Finally the section ends with interludes, small pieces of narrative downtime where the players can accomplish goals. These can be between adventures or during ship transits. Any time there is an extended period where there is no action.

Starships & Space Travel

The final part of this section centers around spaceships and spaceflight. It opens with a basic lesson on real orbits and transits between bodies, but if you really want to get a good handle on how all this works you should go grab a copy of "Kerbal Space Program."

Once we get through our primer we talk about ships and their attributes and qualities. They do not provide a cost for a ship based on the understanding that even the smallest of these are not things a normal person just owns.

Finally we round out the section with ship encounters, combat and how to spend Stunt Points. I wrote an article on starship combat during the quickstarter. I can't tell you nothing has changed, but it looks similar enough that it is worth checking out if you are interested in how it runs.

Setting Information

Leaving the rules behind for a little while we enter into the section called, "Guide to the Expanse". This section details the current state of the system with sections describing Earth, Mars, the Belt and the Outer Planets. It looks to be a comprehensive guide on not only the planets, but on the people as well.

The guide covers cultures and the language of the Belt, Belter Creole, as well as physiological changes humanity has, or is experiencing, as we evolve to match our new environments.

The guide details important stations, moons and holdings of each of the factions and I suspect upon reading it should give a great deal of insight into the overall world of the Expanse, and as well plant some wonderful story ideas.

This section also includes stats for the protagonists from the Expanse. They are sprinkled throughout the section based on what planet they call home. James and Amos being listed with Earth for example.

Running the Expanse

After the history and general Expanse fluff information we move into the meat of the book for the GM. This next section talks about GMing the game, and compromised about 30% of the book starting on page 180. It starts as all games should, assuming you know nothing. We get an overview of what a GM does and then we move on to more specifics, how to make adventures, rolling or not and being inclusive at the table.

There is a lengthy section on threats for environmental and adversaries, including a section on social adversaries. This section includes a small listing of sample opponents such as gangs and security forces as well as the creations of the proto-molecule. This section also goes over the basics of creating your NPCs as well, and gives us some guidelines on using them.

We then have a section on how we might reward PCs, both monetarily and beyond. These might include relationships, memberships in organizations or reputation.

The second section of the book rounds out with a chapter on writing a series or a campaign for your Expanse characters. It talks about how you might want to structure it and gives you some ideas to explore.

Adventure and Information Sheets

Finally we have an adventure to run to get you up and playing as quickly as possible. I haven't done anything more than quickly glance through it, as I don't generally run pre-written adventures. I will of course take a deeper look at this one and the quick start adventure to get a feel, and some ideas, before getting ready to run my first Expanse game.

The book rounds out with the typical things we would find: An index, character sheets and other tracking sheets, such as the Churn. Not much more to say here, everything we expect to see is available.

Final Thoughts

At first pass it looks like a good book that is well laid out. It is hard to tell for sure without having played it, or done much more than give it a quick read over. Right now I can tell you that this RPG will give you ~260 pages of Expanse goodness courtesy of Green Ronin and James SA Corey. If you are a fan of RPGs and the Expanse, I highly recommend you grab a copy of this in the near future when it becomes available!

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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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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Firearms in the Hyborian Age? (and some 2d20 stats)

In Marvel's first issue of SAVAGE SWORD, some keen eyed fans spotted what looked quite a LOT like a pistol on one of the pirates that had captured Conan. Unsurprisingly this set off a bit of a firestorm, culminating in some people calling the book trash without ever having read it.

Truly Robert E Howard has no firearms in his Conan tales, but The Black Stranger definitely has pirates, and I don't mean Queen of the Black Coast pirates, I mean Pirates of the Caribbean Pirates. Conan himself gets outfitted in pirate gear, and the interesting part is the gear he finds and uses, this quintessential pirate gear is old...

A man as big as himself was striding toward him over the sands, making no attempt at stealth; and the pirate's eyes widened as he stared at the close-fitting silk breeches, high flaring-topped boots, wide-skirted coat and head-gear of a hundred years ago. There was a broad cutlass in the stranger's hand and unmistakable purpose in his approach.
Black Stranger
-Robert E Howard.

Even in a more conventional story Howard describes the Barachan Pirates much like we might see in a more traditional pirate setting.

As he came into the waist the crew thronged about him: Zingarans, all of them, half naked, their gaudy silk garments splashed with tar, jewels glinting in ear-rings and dagger hilts.
Pool of the Black One
-Robert E Howard.

With characters in his stories that are clearly quite late in the medieval sphere of things, some might even say PAST medieval and into renaissance age. Looking again to The Black Stranger we see armor that 100% post-dates the introduction of fire-arms into Europe.

The taller stranger removed his morion and made a sweeping bow. His companions halted, drawing their wide cloaks about them, and behind them the sailors leaned on their oars and stared at the flag floating over the palisade.
Black Stranger
-Robert E Howard.

The Morion is a distinctive Spanish helmet, so Zingaran in the Hyborian Age, and certainly it we shouldn't use our world as an exact mirror to the Hyborian Age, but the fact remains that Howard took what he liked to make his stories cool, to make his stories sell. If there was ever a place and time where the rule of cool holds true it is the Hyborian Age and the world of Conan.

Moving away from pirates and armor technology for a moment I want to move towards alchemy in the Hyborian Age.

The horde had halted. From the extreme wing rushed a chariot, the naked charioteer lashing the steeds like a madman; the other occupant was a tall figure whose robe floated spectrally on the wind. He held in his arms a great vessel of gold and from it poured a thin stream that sparkled in the sunlight. Across the whole front of the desert horde the chariot swept, and behind its thundering wheels was left, like the wake behind a ship, a long thin powdery line that glittered in the sands like the phosphorescent track of a serpent.

"That's Natohk!" swore Amalric. "What hellish seed is he sowing?"

The charging knights had not checked their headlong pace. Another fifty paces and they would crash into the uneven Kushite ranks, which stood motionless, spears lifted. Now the foremost knights had reached the thin line that glittered across the sands. They did not heed that crawling menace. But as the steel-shod hoofs of the horses struck it, it was as when steel strikes flint—but with more terrible result. A terrific explosion rocked the desert, which seemed to split apart along the strewn line with an awful burst of white flame.
Black Colussus
-Robert E Howard.

And again in Hour of the Dragon we have this,

His hand dipped into his robe and came out with something shining – a glistening sphere. This he threw suddenly at Conan. The Cimmerian contemptuously struck it aside with his sword—at the instant of contact there was a sharp explosion, a flare of white, blinding flame, and Conan pitched senseless to the ground.
Hour of the Dragon
-Robert E Howard.

Clearly the Hyborian Age has the ability to produce explosive powders and the like. In both of these examples it is used by the hands of ancient Sorcerers, so I am not suggesting you can roll into your Aquilonian corner store and buy it, but I am suggesting such things existed to men who knew about it.

So now we have a pretty strong case for technology in the Hyborian Age higher than what was in use when firearms were introduced into Europe. We can simply take this as proof that Howard would gladly pull what was cool and within setting for his stories, if we go that way we need to go no further and realize simple firearms and pirates are pretty common place, and it's probably not that big a stretch to imagine Howard employing it.

Alternatively we can try and explain it via what we see in the Hyborian Age. They had the metal working technology to build 17th century armor, surely they could make a basic gun barrel. We also have proof of explosive and burning powders in the stories. Without any direct evidence of firearms, it's really not a great leap to believe something like a simple matchlock pistol might have existed.

In either scenario we really need to ask ourselves, "Are simple firearms really a complete impossibility in the Hyborian Age?"

Some of you will categorically deny this as a possibility, and that is fine. For those of you I can convinced that these things might exist in fairly small quantities as an interesting weapon, I give to you....

THE MATCHLOCK PISTOL


A ranged weapon for the Conan 2d20 RPG by Modiphius


Name Range Damage Size Qualities Availability Cost Encumbrance
Matchlock Pistol
C
6cd
2H
Piercing 2
Fearsome 2, Intense, Slow
5
15
3


Slow: This weapon requires the player to remain stationary and use a minor action to load before firing.

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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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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, January 28, 2019

Conan 2d20: Narrative Combat Spends

One of the great parts of Conan and 2d20 is succeeding by measure. The ability to not just succeed but succeed WELL is a narrative gold mine! The base rules have a table of momentum spends for action scenes on pg. 118. A more experienced player with the system will probably be able to look at that table and come up with narrative descriptions for each action and use them to craft a description of their attack. But what about that player with less experience, or one that is shy and has trouble coming up with those things? Below that table is a line that states, "These are in addition to the normal uses of momentum and any others that the players or game master create for themselves."

Like many things in 2d20 they have left it open for us as the players to build upon what they have already done, and so we come to what this article is about: Descriptive combat spends, things like spinning sword slashes, kicks to the chest, shoulder checks and the list goes on and on. So pull up a chair, watch some sword & sorcery movies and read some sword & sorcery books, and lets make up some cool moves for your players to plug into their combat encounters.

We will start with the idea of how we might build some of these from the listed momentum spends and finish off with some ideas that I have come up with that I though would add a lot of narrative depth to your combat encounters.

First up we chain 2 momentum spends together and provide a basic description of what that might actually look like. It should give you a good idea of how you can generate some cool combat narration from the provided list

Chained Momentum Spends
Description
Penetration+Penetration
2m+2m
The sword slashes wildly at the beast before it's keen point is turned and stabbed easily through it's hide.
The razor edge of the sword cuts at the Vanir warrior, finding a weak point in his chain armor
Disarm+Swift Action
2m+2m
Conal deftly kicks the shield from the guards hands before his blade slashes at him.
Called shot+Damage
2m+2m
Sven swings his mighty axes catching the hyperborean square in his unprotected neck, blood gushes from the grievous wound.

Lets take this one step further with some of Howard's own words.....

Chained Momentum Spends
Description
Break Guard+Swift Action
2m+2m
But his return spring was like that of a starving wolf. He was inside the lashing arms and driving his sword deep in the monster's belly....
-REH, Beyond the Black River.
called shot+Penetration
2m+2m
A tall corsair, bounding over the rail, was met in midair by the Cimmerian's great sword, which sheared him cleanly through the torso, so that his body fell one way and his legs another.
--REH, Queen of the Black Coast.
Penetration + Damage
2m+2m
In the interim one of his comrades lifted a broadsword with both hands and hewed through the king's left shoulder-plate, wounding the shoulder beneath. In an instant Conan's cuirass was full of blood.
--REH, Phoenix on the Sword.


Going back to that table on page 118 and our basic momentum spends, we can get an idea of the approximate power of a momentum spend. Items like Disarm and Break Guard cost about 2 points of momentum. We also see my favorite spend, "Penetration". With it we are essentially putting the weapon trait "Piercing" on weapons that do not have it. This should give us a lot of fodder to move forward. Maybe we can add grapple or knockdown to the list? Vicious? Maybe!

I would have no problem adding the following to the table.

Knockdown
2
Gain the knockdown quality on your attack.
Stun
2
Gain the Stun quality on your attack

Some qualities are represented by talents, so we need to make them more expensive for people to use them, or the talents are pointless. For exampple, Killing Strike grants an additional wound for 2 momentum and Blood on Steel provides Vicious 1 for 1 momentum.

Intense
4
If you caused a wound, you may cause another wound.
Does not stack with Killing Strike.
Vicious X
2 R
Each 2M adds 1 point of vicious.
Does not stack with Blood on Steel.
Grapple
2
Gain the grapple quality on your melee attack
Grapple is counted as unarmed


And finally I present a table taking all of these ideas into account. This table builds on what we have in the core rules, adding basic narration seeds to a few basic spends. In addition to these we have used the idea of how chained spends might look together and mixed in our new ideas to come up more creative ways to spend your momentum. I hope you enjoy this idea and it helps bring loads of colorful combat to your table.

Description
Effect
Cost
Shoulder Bash!
Stun
2
Trip and Stab
Knockown+Penetration
+1 Doom to enemies next reaction
5
Kick to the chest
Break Guard+Stun
+1 Doom to enemies next reaction
5
Stab or cut at the joint
Penetration
1R
Recover from glancing blow
Re-roll damage dice
1
Twist blade in the wound
Add Vicious X
2R
Sand in the eyes!
Break Guard
2
Swing through a deadly arc
Secondary Target
2
Pommel strike
+2 damage+Stun
4
Head butt
Stun
2
Cleave the skull
Hit Location+Intense
6
Elbow to the Face
Stun, 1cd
+1 Doom to enemies next reaction
4
Hack and slash
Spend 2m to kill 1 minion.
4
Cleave through armor
Piercing 4
2
Slash/smash/stab
the
head/leg/arm/torso
Choose hit location
2


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