'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 Rules. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rules. 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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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.
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, January 18, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Jungle Crawler

Friday is here and that means another fiend from a time immemorial! Today I am going to introduce you to a giant creepy crawly, something that should make at least one of your players dread the fact they ever entered that jungle.

The Jungle Crawler

In the wild places across the world forgotten by man. In places that grow lush with life, deep jungles and dark forests, things grow large. Things that time has turned it's back on and allowed to thrive against natures best judgement. In these places dragons roam. But in these places things creep and crawl with hundreds of legs, dripping poison and death.

Today I introduce you to the Jungle Crawler, a giant centipede. Will it's pincers slice through your players armor, or will it's venomous tail inject it's death into them? Perhaps their incessant chittering drive your players mad as these things invade their camp in the night?

Here is is The Jungle Crawler in a toughened and minion variety, may they strike terror into your players.

I am also include a couple of tokens that you should be able to resize and use in your favorite VTT. Tokens created with Token Tool 2.0!

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Gibbering Darkness

Today I want to revisit a creature I came up awhile ago. The concept of this thing was a creature that would assail PCs in Conan 2d20 and cause a wound to a Character. Why would you do such a thing? Sometimes drama and tension can be increased when the PCs feel threatened and there are times when they simply don't in Conan because of how competent that they can be. A mob of these attacking in the deep ruins will generally use it's point of doom to attack first and most likely injure someone before being vanquished. I wouldn't recommend using something like this all the time, but everything in your toolbox has it's place.

The Gibbering Darkness

In the deep ruins of time immemorial there are places, rifts to some black place, where darkness seeps into our world as formless shapes, seeking the life energy of our existence like a wild predator seeks its prey.

The Gibbering Darkness is darkness made manifest, shifting shadows on the wall. Dark places in the corner of your eye. As easily as the dark is vanquished these creatures can be returned from which they came. Do not forget that like the darkness these hide things that are both physically and mentally deadly.

Many an naive adventurer has been reduced to lifeless husk, or worse a mindless husk, as unsuspecting they walked into a forgotten place and were assaulted by the dark mindless gibbering of these things.

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Thursday, December 20, 2018

Forgotten Creatures: The Dire Wolf.

The Dire Wolf

The dire wolf (Canis dirus, "fearsome dog") is an extinct species of the genus Canis. It is one of the most famous prehistoric carnivores in North America, along with its extinct competitor, the sabre-toothed cat Smilodon fatalis. The dire wolf lived in the Americas during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene epochs (125,000–9,440 years ago). The species was named in 1858, four years after the first specimen had been found. Two subspecies are recognized, these being Canis dirus guildayi and Canis dirus dirus. The dire wolf probably evolved from Armbruster's wolf (Canis armbrusteri) in North America. The largest collection of its fossils has been obtained from the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, December 8). Dire wolf. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:56, December 20, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dire_wolf&oldid=872741641

We often see creatures taken out of time to populate the Hyborian Age. In Red Nails the dragon Conan defeats is described more like a dinosaur than the modern concept of a dragon. The core rulebook for the new 2d20 lists the Sabre-tooth cat, while the new release, "Horrors of the Hyborian Age", list creatures like cave bears and dire rhinoceros.

In actuality the size of the dire wolf and a regular wolf isn't that great, but this is the Hyborian age, so I think they should be scaled up to match the time.

Actual comparison of average sizes
Hyborian Age Sized

Canis Dirus (‬dire Wolf‭) Darren Pepper

So I give to you my take on the dire wolf. A giant version of the wolves found within the pages of 2d20. This version is tougher, and can deal more damage than it's smaller cousins. It is simply more bad ass. Perhaps packs of these roam the frozen north of Nordheim or the vast steppe of Hyrkania. Either way a pack of these stalking your players should be enough to give them quite a challenge. I have included two versions of the dire wolf, a toughened version and the Alpha Dire Wolf.

I'll make note that I haven't had time to actually play test these yet, as I am building them for an upcoming adventure. If you do use them I would love to get feedback from how they worked out at your table. As always I love hearing from everyone, so if you have any feedback please drop me a note!

Until Next Time. Keep it Weird!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Modern Age: Making a Character.

Now that we've had a quick look at the print edition of Modern Age, I thought I would go a little more in depth into various parts of the rulebook. Starting off this series: Characters.

Without characters the players would have no real ability to interact with the world and without that our story is going to suffer. It makes sense to start our look at these rules with character generation.

As most RPGs characters are defined by a list of attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, Intelligence, Constitution and Charisma....No wait that's D&D, a game I haven't really played in close to 25 years. Although I admit to a few pathfinder sessions. It's funny to me that I can still recall the attributes from that game. These are of course NOT the attributes used in Modern Age. Modern Age uses the following attributes to define a character

  • Accuracy - Aim, precision, ability to use ranged weapons.
  • Communication - Social skills, personal interactions.
  • Constitution - Health and fortitude.
  • Dexterity - Hand-eye coordination, reaction time.
  • Fighting - Close combat/melee weapons.
  • Intelligence - Reasoning, memory, problem solving.
  • Perception - Ability to use the characters senses, how observant they are.
  • Strength - How strong the character is.
  • Willpower - Self control, discipline.

BUT before we get around to generating your alter-egos physical and mental abilities lets do one thing first, which is actually listed as step 1 of character creation in the rule book. The first thing we need is a basic concept. Having an idea of the campaign you are going to play in will be an important thing to know. If your adventures are set in the south American jungle, choosing a street wise private eye is probably not your best choice.

Knowing the group is going to play a group trying to rid the city of crime in a gritty 70s/80s type cop show, we will choose that street wise private investigator as our basic idea for our character.

Now that we have our basic idea we can determine our stats. The base method of determining this is to roll 3d6 in order and consult a table. This will generate a stat from -2 to 4. It also include the ability to swap any two rolls to more closely meet the character as he or she develops. They include two other methods, one is random and one is a point build system. I am in favor of point build systems in a lot of cases. I like the idea of allowing a player to build the character they like and want to play.

Using the standard method of rolling 3d6 in order we come up with the following for stats.
  • Accuracy - 2
  • Communication - 0
  • Constitution - 2
  • Dexterity - 3
  • Fighting - 0
  • Intelligence - 1
  • Perception - 2
  • Strength - 2
  • Willpower - 2

Once we have the attributes figured out we figure out our characters social class, background. These are a few simple rolls or choices and will give the character a random bonus as well as an increase to an attribute, a focus and a talent.

My rolls for my class and background roll out as follows....
Social class: Outsider
Background: Bohemian
Background Bonus: Acrobatics

Bohemian grants +1 Communication, One of two different focuses, keeping our character in mind we will choose Communication (Performance) and one of two talents. We will again choose Performance. Our roll of Acrobatics grants us that as a focus.
  • Communication - 1, Performance
  • Dexterity - 3, Acrobatics
Talents: Performance.

The next step we are going to complete is the characters profession. Again it is a simple roll or a choice. The profession will give you another focus and another talent as well as the characters base health and resource score.

For a profession we roll Survivalist.
This grants us another focus. We will choose Accuracy (Pistols)
And another Talent. We choose Tactical Awareness.
Our base health, as this is a physical profession is 20+Con, or 22.
  • Accuracy - 2, Pistols
Talents: Performance, Tactical Awareness.

Once we have our abilities, background, social class and profession we need to determine what drives the character. As the rest of the steps this is a pretty simple set of rolls and will give you a description of the things that drive your character as well as a quality and a downfall. You will also gain a new Talent and the ability to improve something, from a list of 3 things.

Our characters drive is Builder. You are someone who wants to create something lasting. A foundation, community etc. How you get it? That is less important.
We again get another Talent and we will choose "Maker".
We also get an improvement. Right now our Resource score is 0, so we will move that to 2
At this time now that we have a better understanding of our character we can swap out two abilities, but I think ours are looking ok, so we will leave them as is.
  • Resources - 2
Talents: Performance, Tactical Awareness, Maker.

Equipment in the game is a basic set of starting equipment your character might actually have. Is she a PI? She might have a low budget office, cell and computer. Maybe a pistol. The game lists starting equipment as clothing, equipment and weapons in line with the character. It is in general a pretty open thing that will need to be discussed with the GM. Money in this game is handled in a very abstract way, so you won't be buying 50 feet of rope and deducting 10gp from your character sheet.

A basic set of equipment that fits our character and current abilities.
Equipment: Basic simple clothing and tie. Pistol. Cell phone. Older cool car.

We have a few more stats to figure out which are just simple derived stats based on a base + ability. ie Health is determined by your profession and now we learn your health is that base + your characters Con. We determine health, defense, toughness and speed this way.

Our final derived stats look like this:
  • Health - 22
  • Defense - 13
  • Toughness - 2
  • Speed - 13

The penultimate step in character creation is a little more abstract. Determining a few goals as well as relationships and strengths of those relationships. Did someone save your life? Would you take a bullet for someone? Does someone have to die? The number of these is determined by your characters communication skill.

  • Goals: He's seen too much crime in his life. All he wants to do is to take down as many bad guys as possible.
  • Goals: Form a group of men and women that can act outside the law to take down criminals and others.
  • Relationships: Close relationship with a detective on the police force.
  • Ties: This will be some ideas about how this character knows the other PCs in his group.

Finally name and describe your character. Figure out who he or she is exactly. Once that is complete you have your first character for Modern Age.

Name: Jim
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 189lbs
Age: 31

And finally the completed character. Overall I found the system easy to learn and follow along with. I hope you have a better understanding of how a build might look.

Name: Jim
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 189lbs
Age: 31
Early middle age, shabby clothing,
dark slightly curly hair.
  • Health - 22
  • Defense - 13
  • Toughness - 2
  • Speed - 13
  • Accuracy - 2, Pistols
  • Communication - 1, Performance
  • Constitution - 2
  • Dexterity - 3, Acrobatics
  • Fighting - 0
  • Intelligence - 1
  • Perception - 2
  • Strength - 2
  • Willpower - 2
Resources: 2
Clothing, tie
Cell phone.
Older cool car.
Talents: Performance, Tactical Awareness, Maker.
  • Goals: He's seen too much crime in his life. All he wants to do is to take down as many bad guys as possible.
  • Goals: Form a group of men and women that can act outside the law to take down criminals and others.
  • Relationships: Close relationship with a detective on the police force.
  • Ties: This will be some ideas about how this character knows the other PCs in his group.
WeaponAttack BonusDamageROF/RNG/CAP/RELOAD
SA Handgun+42d6 -B-W-SA/55yrd/5 cap/minor

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Modern Age: Print Edition.

Over the past few weeks I have been delving into the new Expanse RPG by Green Ronin Publishing. When it was Kickstarted we learned it would be based on Green Ronin's Modern AGE, a ruleset for modern adventures based on their AGE system.

I wanted to pick up the rules and looked at the PDF on drivethrurpg, but ultimately I ended up ordering directly from Green Ronin in order to get a copy of the printed rules. For me PDFs have a place but to learn and read a system, very little beats a physical book.

My copy of the physical rules showed up yesterday and I wanted to share my initial thoughts of the book itself and in the coming weeks maybe delve a little deeper into my thoughts on the system itself since it is what the Expanse is based upon.

So first up is the volume itself. Looks good, nice cover, hardback edition of the rules. Nothing to complain about here, a solid first impression of the book.

Despite being shipped with a large amount of packing material in an undamaged box far larger than the book, I still had a little damage due to shipping from somewhere along the line.

Not ideal but not a deal breaker for me. One of the hazards of ordering on-line. I will note the game was shipped from Alliance Distributors, not from Green Ronin itself.

It's possible I could launch a complaint and maybe even get a new book, but this one works and the damage is so minor to me that pursuing that line is a waste of my time.

These next two images are just a couple of quick screenshots from the interior of the book. Nothing new for me here as I have seen the pdf. However I will say the paper seems high quality. It doesn't feel cheap. However the binding leaves me uncertain, some places in the book it feels tight and in others loose. That is to say I can lay the book open on some pages and not on others. I am not sure it will fall apart, it just gives me a little pause.

Art wise I like it but don't love it. I love some of it, but not all of it. They do list twelve interior artists so it's possible I just like some of their skills more than others. I believe this is simply a personal preference. It is well executed and in full color. Nothing to complain about.

Throughout the book are a series of color coding geared to take the game through it's three flavors: Gritty, Pulpy and Cinematic. I think it is a nice way to lay out these options that is clear, concise and immediately tells the reader that this is a place where we can change the overall feel for the game. Even with the color coding each entry is clearly labelled as to what it represents.

This page is detailing character advancement over the course of the game based on these three styles of play, but there are also entries on how damage is applied etc.

The book has a two page index which appears to be comprehensive, although I have not used it so I can't actually confirm how comprehensive it is at this time. Either way it is better than not having an index at all, a direction some publishers have chosen.
Finally we have a few pages of character sheets and quick reference and initiative sheets for players and NPCs. The character sheet is plain and maybe a little unimaginative, but for a generic system that makes some sense. It is ALSO easy to ready and reference.

To better understand my opinions of the book I have summarized it over a few metrics, scored out of 5.

  • First impression: 85%. Good solid book.
  • Book quality: 85%. High quality paper, good cover. I am not 100% convinced of the binding.
  • Organization: 90%. I like how it is organized. It seems clear. It has an index.
  • Art: 80% The art is good, but for me, not mind blowing.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Expanse RPG. The Churn.

Kenzo: It must be nice, having everything figured out like that.
Amos: Ain’t nothing to do with me: we’re just caught in the Churn, that’s all.
Kenzo: I have no idea what you just said.
Amos: This boss I used to work for in Baltimore, he called it the Churn. When the rules of the game change.
Kenzo: What game?
Amos: The only game. Survival. When the jungle tears itself down and builds itself into something new. Guys like you and me, we end up dead. Doesn’t really mean anything. Or, if we happen to live through it, well that doesn’t mean anything either.

We got another Expanse Extra yesterday. That is a new mechanic from the RPG that isn't in the quick start. This time the Churn is detailed. This is a mechanic to simulate things going from bad to worse. It will add tension and consequence to the adventure. For me it is similar but different to the role Doom plays in Conan 2d20.

In 2d20, doom stands as a pile that gets added to when various things occur. The GM can then spend that to make bad guys more powerful, introduce more bad guys or just in general make things hard on the players. It is a mechanic designed to simulate the flow of Robert E Howard's epic tales of Conan.

The Churn, although implemented differently, is essentially a mechanic with the same goal in terms of the flow of the story. Things are going well for the players, they have this in the bag. Suddenly the rules change on them and what was easy now becomes difficult.

In it's essence "The Churn" is a running total, when characters do certain things a point is added to that total. When it reaches 10 there is a chance a Minor Stage 1 Churn event happens. If it doesn't happen, the total will increase. When it reaches 20 a Major Stage 2 Churn event may occur. If no event is triggered it continues to increase until it reaches 30, here we have a chance of an Epic Stage 3 Churn event. As you can see each time we get to 10, we check for an event, the level of event increases as the multiple of 10 increases. If you get to 10 points in stage 3, an Epic Stage 3 event occurs. No matter when the pool is triggered it resets to 0.

My first impression is that the Stage 1 events are a little weak IMHO, more choice here would be great. However since I haven't played I don't actually know how fast these things will get generated and it might happen several times in an encounter, and if that is the case it is probably fine.

Either way I am a fan of this style of mechanic. The fact that accumulating The Churn means something bad is going to happen may add enough tension all on it's own to make players a little squirrely.

Be sure to check out my other articles on the Expanse RPG!

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Expanse RPG. Let's Get Advanced!

Continuing my look at the quickstart rules for the Expanse RPG, I wanted to circle back and look at skill tests. Like many games the skill test is the core of the game, anything a character wants to do, of consequence, is generally resolved with a skill test roll by the player.

In many games that boils down to non-combat characters doing their shining moment in a roll or two, leaving combat characters rolling a lot and being more engaged in that way within the game engine. Although conflict is a very important part of RPGs and narratives it can leave some characters out in the cold so to speak.

When RuneHammer Games released ICRPG he included an effort system. You could assign 10 effort points to a task, say translating runes, your party member with the ability to translate could now be a more active part. Now it wasn't a roll with a pass/fail, now it was a matter of time before the runes could be deciphered. Adding in combat with this added even more tension. It is a cool mechanic and it was the first time I had personally encountered it's use.

Wait? Why are we talking about RuneHammer? I thought this was about "The Expanse RPG"? The Expanse has a similar system called "Advanced Tests". These are generally described as more advanced test. In this case the GM is going to assign a TN as well a success threshold. When a player rolls for their character and succeeds the drama die is added to a running total, and once that total meets or exceeds that success threshold the test is successful. Of course each attempt at the test consumes time and perhaps resources depending on the test.

ok. Lets take a look at this in action!


Intelligence: 2
Focus: Technology

Deep in Ceres station Noelle and her crew are attempting to hack into a computer system. The right information can make you wealthy.

Things haven't gone well for our heroes though and they are pinned down at the access node by Star Helix operatives. Reinforcements are most certainly on the way. As it turns out Noelle is a bit of a whiz with computers and they decide to attempt the hack despite the presence of the security officers and their guns.

The GM has set this encounter to allow the Players to escape if they desire. For every round they stay an additional D4 guards take up position firing on the players, to a max of 5 operatives. We will assume Star Helix has enough man power to essentially keep throwing low level operatives at them.

The GM sets the computer system hack as an Advanced test with a Threshold of 10, and a TN of 13.

Round 1:
Noelle gets to work attempting to bypass the security system while her crew and Star Helix exchange fire. Her players rolls 1,4,(4) = 9 + 2 Int + 2 focus = 13 = SUCCESS! 4 is added to the running total.
The remainder of the round is her crew and Star Helix rolling and attempting to kill each other. Some of her crew take damage, and one or two SH operatives are dropped.

Round 2:
The crew calls back as the desperately hold off SH, "HOW MUCH LONGER!!??"
Noelle, while working as fast as she can yells back, "I'm in! Almost there!!". Her players makes another roll to work on the system. This time her roll is 3,6,(1) = 10 + 2 Int + 2 focus = 14 = SUCCESS! 1 is added to the running total.
Noelle curses under her breath as ICE work to stop her attempts at access in the main database. Star Helix continues their onslaught as more guards turn up to help capture the renegades.

Round 3:
A Star Helix officer gets a bead on Noelle and fires at her, the bullet glances off the bulk head just to the right of her head, her fortune holds as she continues to work against the computer. This time her roll is 2,1,(6) = 9 + 2 Int + 2 Focus = 13 = SUCCESS! 6 is added to the running total, brining it to 10. Noelle lets out a whoop as she successfully breaks into the system. The gun battle continues, Star Helix continues shooting, their bullets finally finding their marks as the luck of Noelle's crew begins to run out.

Hopefully, if you haven't used a system like this, you can see how it can engage a non-combat character more thoroughly into the game beyond the simple roll to pass/fail their key skill. I think the concept can make the game a lot more fun for everyone and allow a cooler and more interesting skill test interaction.

Be sure to check out my other articles on the Expanse RPG!

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Expanse RPG. Fortune favors the bold!

In my last installment I had the beginning of a small combat. It involved Noelle firing her pistol at Frank, she was successful and in fact bought a vicious blow and did an extra 1d6 damage. Still at the end, our narration concluded with her only grazing his shoulder.

Lets talk about why. All systems I have played have some method of mitigating damage, or recording how much punishment a character can take. The most basic idea of this is hit points. Conan 2d20 uses Stress and Harm in tandem to track the same thing. The Expanse is no different.

In the Expanse RPG each character has "Fortune". This is a measure of how fortunate they are, how much luck they have etc. Fortune can be spent to reduce damage taken or it can be spent to modify the dice. Pressing the luck and fortune of the character to succeed now for a possibly nefarious outcome later.

The pre-gens in the quick start have fortune scores of 15 or 20. In between adventures characters will be able to re-generate some fortune after an encounter (1d6 + Con + Level).

Ok, but how does fortune equate to damage received or punishment taken?
Once a hit is scored a player subtracts their toughness and armor from the total, the quick start rules have pre-gens with toughness from 0 - 2. Once we have the total damage done the remaining damage can mitigated through the spending of fortune on a 1-1 basis. If there is remaining damage then the players can take a wounded or injured condition. This removes another 1d6 damage per condition. If after this reduction, damage remains then the character is removed from the encounter and another condition is applied in line with the type of attack, generally dying or unconscious.

As we mentioned a player can spend fortune to modify a die roll. On the regular die a player can spend the value they want to make the die that number. ie you roll a 1, if you want the number 4, you spend 4 fortune points. If you are spending them on the drama die that value is doubled. So that same 4 now costs 8, but gives you more stunt points, so it is a trade off. Of course spending points here reduces how lucky you might be when staring down the barrel of a large caliber pistol.

Humans in this are actually pretty susceptible to damage. They can be lucky, sure, but in the end when that luck runs out it's not going to go well for them.

Lets take another look at Noelle and Frank.


Accuracy: 1
Focus: Pistols
Defense: 10+Dex
Toughness: 1
Fortune: 20
Weapon: Pistol, 2d6+1


Dexterity: 1
Focus: Knife Fighting
Defense: 10+Dex
Toughness: 2
Fortune: 15
Weapon: Dagger, 1d6+3

Noelle draws her pistol and fires it down the dark corridor at her enemy!

Noelle has a TN of 11, Frank's dexterity + 10. She rolls 3d6 and scores 5,5,(2) for a total of 12 on the dice. +1 for her accuracy attribute and +2 for her focus in pistols bring her total score to 15!
Noelle ALSO rolled doubles. This indicates a STUNT! Noelle can now spent 2 stunt points, the number rolled on the drama die. These have to be used right away. Noelle opts to make this a vicious blow causing an additional 1d6 damage. She rolls (2d6+1) 8+1,(+1d6) 3 for a total of 12 damage.
Frank is not wearing any armor, but is pretty tough, so that damage is reduced by 2, becoming 10. Frank spends 10 fortune points, reducing his total fortune to 5.

Noelle's pistol echoes with a sharp retort! The round easily catches Frank and only by sheer fortune does he manage to avoid most of the damage, the bullet barely grazing past, leaving a bloody trail along his shoulder.......

Be sure to check out my other articles on the Expanse RPG!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Expanse RPG. A Measure of Success.

If you have followed my online RPG presence, you may be aware that one of the things I enjoy about Conan2d20 is the ability to not only succeed at a test, but to succeed by measure. That is there is more to it than just a pass/fail concept.

I believe this idea lends itself to the potential for awesome levels of creative story telling. In standard d20 when I attempt to jump a gap the GM assigns a target number, I roll my d20 and I pass or fail. In a system like 2d20 the GM assigns a difficulty, if I succeed greatly my character can use that success to fuel further actions, such as attacking an enemy right away on the other side of the gap.

Ok enough about 2d20, what does this have to do with the Expanse RPG? As I mentioned in my previous post your basic skill check is a 3d6 roll with a "drama" die. And we will start here.

Before we go on I am going to lay a caveat on this post. All I have is the quickstart rules. I haven't looked at "Modern AGE" at all, although expect it to function similarly.

The drama die, although not a direct measure of success, gives the GM and players a method to see how well or poorly they succeeded at their task. Did they barely fail or almost make it? Did their disguise fully convince those looking, or simply move them beyond notice?

If your players are trying to hack into a computer system to gain intel on the proto-molecule and roll a success, but roll a 1 on the drama dice, you as the GM might decide they have succeeded but managed to set off an alarm that will bring MCRN operatives down on them in a few turns.

The system also has another aspect that I find interesting. Stunts. These are broken out into Combat, Exploration and social depending on what task you are looking at doing. Lets take a look at the idea within a fight between two ruffians.

Accuracy: 1
Focus: Pistols
Weapon: Pistol, 2d6+1
Dexterity: 1
Focus: Knife Fighting
Defense: 10+Dex
Weapon: Dagger, 1d6+3

Noelle draws her pistol and fires it down the dark corridor at her enemy!

Noelle has a TN of 11, Frank's dexterity + 10. She rolls 3d6 and scores 5,5,(2) for a total of 12 on the dice. +1 for her accuracy attribute and +2 for her focus in pistols bring her total score to 15!
Noelle ALSO rolled doubles. This indicates a STUNT! Noelle can now spent 2 stunt points, the number rolled on the drama die. These have to be used right away. Noelle opts to make this a vicious blow causing an additional 1d6 damage. She rolls (2d6+1) 8+1,(+1d6) 3 for a total of 12 damage.

Noelle's pistol echoes with a sharp retort! The round easily catches Frank and only by sheer fortune does he manage to avoid most of the damage, the bullet barely grazing past, leaving a bloody trail along his shoulder.......

Be sure to check out my other articles on the Expanse RPG!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: The Nemesis.

Welcome back to the blog everyone! I hope your weekend was full of friends and good times. My last few posts have focused on the adversaries, minions and toughened opponents, in the Conan 2d20 rpg. Today we are going to wrap up the final one of these classes; The Nemesis. What is a nemesis? Well the following quote gives us a little insight. No, it's not from Conan, in fact it's not even from Robert E Howard, but I think you will recognize it either way.

Do you know what "nemesis" means?

A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by an 'orrible ****... me.
  • Bricktop,
    Snatch, 2000

A great line by a very bad man. It defines "nemesis" for us. In the Conan 2d20 RPG these are the personification of powerful entities. The nemesis class is the most capable class of foe your characters will face. They will present their largest challenge.

We talked about the town guard being minions and the sergeants being examples of the toughened classes. Continuing this example, the leaders of the guard, generals and the like, will be this nemesis class. Conan himself served as the leader of men in this capacity. These are the horrors in the dark, the witches, the wizards and the warriors of renown that Conan faced throughout his travels.

Ok so what does all this mean? The nemesis class is again going to have better equipment and attributes as compared to minions and toughened opponents. In addition the follow items are true of a nemesis.
  • The nemesis can suffer 5 physical and 5 mental harms.
  • The nemesis can react as per normal reaction rules.
  • The nemesis can spend 3 doom and gain a fortune point.
  • The nemesis often have a wide range of skills and abilities
  • The nemesis uses hit locations and armor just as a player does.
  • The nemesis is often leading multiple bands of foes.
  • The nemesis CAN lead a squad.
When it comes to special rules the nemesis is, in some ways, the simplest of the three classes. They work just like player characters. They become complicated in how they are played and their wide range of talents and abilities.

Now lets not get carried away here, if you drop a single nemesis down against a party of players, the nemesis will be lucky to survive a single round. These opponents become truly epic and frightening when they are leading groups of toughened or minions, forcing the players to engage their followers first.

Another thing to keep in mind is the one large difference between PCs and the nemesis. If the PCs want to buy 3 bonus dice and have no momentum, they can exchange dice for doom. If the nemesis has no doom they are unable to get bonus dice.

If your PCs are able to survive off of their built up momentum then the nemesis is going to be considerably weaker than one who has a fat pile of doom to draw from. This is something to keep in mind as players roll complications, if you are low on doom, it might be better to stockpile the complications till the final confrontation. Also keep in mind that any generated momentum by the nemesis can be stored as doom if it's not use right away.

The nemesis is a powerful entity in it's own right, but for it to really shine, it will need strategy and support. As always I love to hear comments and feedback, ideas and errata. As we go forward I wonder what else would be useful to go over? Till next time, KEEP IT WEIRD!

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: The Lowly Minion.

Our last overview talked about armor and protection, basically how to reduce the amount of damage a weapon does to you. This time I wanted to talk about NPCs and Monsters; creatures from the outerdark and loathsome pirates. Conan 2d20 has 3 classes of creatures: minion, toughened and nemesis. I had intended on covering all three of these in this article, but I have decided to start with the minion, as they have a few special rules and specific place in the game.

First, when I say minion I don't mean the little yellow guys from "Despicable Me", although they would certainly fit into this category. Minions are the low skilled henchmen, townfolk, small creatures and any number of other things. The key aspect to these is they are fodder. They do not stand against the characters in any real way. They are in general throngs to be cut down with bloody swaths of a sword. They are the 100s of soldiers in movies and books that pose no real threat to our heros.

I can hear you say, "Why do they need their own post if they are just fodder?" The answer to that is a rule in the game that allows a character to lend a d20 in assistance to another during a skill test, but we will get to that in a bit.

Lets go over the special rules for the basic minion.
  • Minions, unlike characters, can suffer a single HARM before being killed or driven off. So doing a blow that inflicts 5 stress, or dropping a stress value to zero ends the life of the minion.
  • Minions can not parry, dodge or actively defend. They are not allowed to react.
  • Minions roll a single d20 for their skill tests (including attacks.)
  • Minions do not use hit locations.

As you can see they are weak, can't defend themselves and don't roll many dice. There is an exception to this, and THIS is why I felt they needed their own entry. The Mob

Up to five identical minions can form together into a mob. Due to that assistance rule I mentioned earlier the mob attacks as a single entity and so rolls 1d20 for the lead minion +1d20 for each remaining member of the mob. So a Mob with 5 total members would roll a base of 5d20, 1d20 for the leader and +4d20 for the four remaining minions in the mob.

It is important to remember there is nothing stopping the GM from buying +3d20 worth of additional dice for that lead minion, giving the lead minion 4d20, with the mob contributing another 4d20, bringing the die total rolled for that mob to 8d20. Despite this massive roll of the dice, the mob only gains a single attack and it can be parried, dodged or resisted like any other single attack.

As you can already see we have written a fair bit about this simple and easy to kill part of Conan 2d20 and we have one more thing to talk about when they are arrayed as a mob. How do we apply damage? Damage is applied to the first member of the mob until a harm is caused. Any remaining damage is passed to the next member of the mob until a harm is caused. This cascade continues until the mob is dead, or we run out of damage. Soak is subtracted once at the start. Lets wrap this up with a couple of examples.

For example: Single Minion,
Conal is faced off against a single town guard (Vigor: 5 soak: 1). The guard is classified as a minion.
Conal rolls 2d20+2d20 from momentum, and scored 3 successes on a D1 attack leaving him with 2 momentum
Conal rolls damage and does 8 points of damage and uses his momentum to penetrate the guards armor. The guard now tales 8 points of vigor stress, which causes a wound eliminating the minion, nice and quick and simple.

For example: The Mob,
Now Conal is faced off against a mob of 5 town guards (Vigor: 5 soak: 1)
Round 1: Using the same situation as above, Conal causes 8 points of damage and negates the armor on the guard. The first guard takes 5 points of stress damage and receives a wound, eliminating him. The remaining 3 points of Vigor go to the next guard reducing his total to 2.
Next the mob attacks, but now with only 4 members, the GM opts to buy 2 addition dice for the lead minion giving him 3d20+3d20 assistance dice. The attack succeeds and generates 4 momentum, but Conal's parry also succeeds and generates 4 momentum. The guards attack is barely turned aside.
Round 2: Conal feeling pressured by the mob decides to try and end this, and buys 3 additional dice. He scored 3 points of momentum and rolls 7 damage, using momentum to defeat the armor he does 2 points to the damaged guard reducing his vigor to zero, removing him from play. The remaining 5 points of damage is applied to the next guard, causing yet another wound and removing a second guard from play. Conal spends 2 points of momentum for a swift action and strikes again. This time he succeeds but only gains a single point of momentum. Luckily he rolls 10 damage! Using the single point of momentum his sword slices past the armor of the remaining guards. 5 damage to the first eliminates it, followed by the remaining 5 damage being applied to the last guard, also killing it.

I intend on doing two more articles on toughened and nemesis over the next few days, and as a companion piece I will get some sort of combat demo up on youtube. Until next time, drop me a comment and don't forget to keep it WEIRD!

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: Protection.

In our last installment we talked about damage, today I want to talk briefly about protection from damage. In other systems, like D&D, characters, NPCs & monsters all have a designated armor class we roll against to determine if the hit is successful and damage is applied. This AC is generally derived from armor, shields, dexterity and skills.

As we saw in Conan 2d20, hitting an opponent is either a skill test or a struggle, armor is not part of that equation. In Conan 2d20 we have several types of protection, but all work more or less in the same way. As you may have guessed we broadly have two forms of protection; physical and mental. Each type of protection consists of two basic types, fixed and variable. Whether these are fixed or variable, mental or physical they are all collectively known as "Soak".

ArmorStatic value. Reduces physical stress damage by it's value.
CoverVariable value. Reduces physical stress damage by a value rolled on combat dice.
CourageStatic value. Reduces mental stress damage by it's value.
MoraleVariable value. Reduces mental stress damage by a value rolled on combat dice.

The amount of damage armor protects against can be reduced by various things, such as momentum spends and piercing effects, or if the protection is variable, it is possible to roll no protection. Lets take a quick look at a spear vs chain armor & a shield.

For example,
SPEAR 4cd, Piercing 1 vs. Heavy Armor soak 3 & Shield shield2.
We are assuming the spearman has successfully hit the armored combatant and we are now rolling damage.
The spearmen rolls his 4 combat dice and scores: 3 damage and scores a total effect of 2 piercing.
The target has a shield with a rating of 2 and so gets to roll 2 dice and add them to his total soak, this brings his total soak to 4.
The soak of 4 is reduced to 2, due to the spears piercing effects meaning the spear scores 1 point of damage (3 damage - 2 soak = 1 damage)

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: Damage.

Many systems use a simple life counter to track how much life a character has. The most famous of these is of course Dungeons & Dragons and hit points. As your character gains experience and levels your Hit Point total gets larger. On it's surface it's simple, but what it represents is an abstraction. Your character can't actually take 100s of sword blows now, they are just more experienced in combat and their hit points represent how long they can stand in battle; stamina, avoiding blows. etc.

It is a common and popular way of tracking a characters life in combat. It is NOT what Conan 2d20 uses.
Broadly Conan 2d20 breaks damage into Mental and Physical, and then each of those into STRESS and HARM.
  • STRESS: This is determined by your characters physical attributes. Characters who are strong and trained in Resistance will have more physical stress than a weaker character. Stress represents getting tires, scrapes and small cuts in battle. It is generally refilled after a short rest.
  • HARM: ALL characters can suffer 4 harms before becoming incapacitated. A fifth wound results in death. These are actual damage. Taking physical damage increases difficulty in doing physical tasks. Likewise mental harm increase the difficulty of mental skills tests.
Ok, I am sure you are all asking, how does this all work? In it's simplest form, Stress works like HP, once they are at zero you start taking a wound. In short anytime your stress is reduced to zero or you take damage while it's at zero, you take a harm.

There is one exception to this. If you can inflict 5 points of stress in a single hit, not only does it reduce the targets stress by your damage, you also inflict a wound.

For example,
Round 1: Conal has 12 points of vigor (physical stress), and take 4 points of damage. He would have his vigor reduced to 8, but take no wounds (physical harms).
Round 2: Conal then takes another 5 points of vigor damage. His vigor is further reduced to 3, BUT he also received 5 points of stress in a single round and suffers a wound as well.
Round 3: Finally Conal receives 6 points of vigor damage. His vigor is reduced to 0 and he suffers a wound. He ALSO suffers a wound for receiving 5 or more points of stress in a single round. This blow causes 2 wounds, bringing his wound total to 3.

As characters are damaged and begin to suffer wounds they will find it becomes a quick downward spiral. If they were fighting in the dark, and a standard blow or parry was D2, physical harm quickly turns that to D3 or D4 in the space of a few turns. Things can go badly for characters VERY quickly in this system.

In up coming posts we will talk about the types of bad guys and their life expectancy.

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: The Struggle: Momentum, Not success.

Previous articles in this series: It's time to look at "The Struggle" at it's most basic this is an opposed roll. This is the mechanic we use when two entities are in direct competition with each other; Running a race, arm wrestling, tests of persuasion, as well as a myriad of uses in combat.

This mechanic is simple. I repeat, this mechanic is simple and I will do my best to not overcomplicate it. As I said. It is an opposed roll, or in other words, an opposed skill test.

So how does it work? Both entities roll their skill test and determine how much momentum each of them generated.
The entity that has the most momentum wins the struggle.

In the case of ties, the tie goes to the player, but the GM can spend a point of doom to win it in favor of the NPC or Monster. That's it in a nutshell.

There is one final mechanic that is important to the struggle. The winner has their momentum reduced by the momentum generated by the loser. It is possible for a player to win a struggle and end up with zero momentum. This means that losing a struggle, but succeeding very well at your skill test will result in your opponent's success being less successful

For example: Less Effective Success,
Scenario 1: Conal attacks a skeleton! ((Success 4 points of momentum))
Now Conal has 4 points he can use to add penetration, extra damagem re-roll dice, strike again etc.
Scenario 2 : Conal attacks a skeleton ((Success 4 points of momentum)), but the skeleton parries! ((Success, 3 points of momentum. Struggle Winner: Conal, remaining momentm 4-3 =1))
Now Conal only has 1 point of momentum, although his attack is successful it is FAR less effective.

One of the most common struggles you will come across in Conan 2d20 is the attack/defense dynamic, so we will use that as another basic example.

For example: Simple Struggle,
Conal strides forward, confident in his fighting prowess, the gladiator he faces is equally confident in his superiority. With a cry Conal strikes down at the Gladiator ((Success: 2 points of momentum)) who raises his shield and deflects the blow with ease. ((Success: 3 points of momentum. Struggle Winner: Gladiator, remaining momentum 3-2 = 1))

It is important to remember this test is a comparison of generated momentum, NOT SUCCESSES!, and because of this each side of the struggle might have different difficulties for their skill tests.

For example: Momentum not successes,
Conal creeps through the dark crypt, the only light comes from his torch. Ahead he hears the rattle of bones and soon an undead horror emerges out of the gloom. Conal casts his torch aside as he draws sword and shield to defend himself from the fiend. The only noise from the skeleton is a slight rattle as the ancient spear it carries is leveled towards Conal. Conal springs forward swinging to his sword to move past the spear of the skeleton ((D3 attack, 3 successes, 0 momentum)), with the click of bones the skeleton easily fends aside the misaimed attack in the darkness ((D1 Parry, 2 successes, 1 momentum. Struggle Winner: Skeleton, remaining momentum 1-0 = 1))

The Struggle gives us a mechanic to directly test two entities against each other, with varying skill levels and varying levels of success. The ability to opposed the test, lose it, but still have your efforts affect the outcome is a cool idea. The Struggle is pretty quick way to handles this. As always drop me a comment and let me know what you think!

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?