'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

Corrupt Cliffs

Corrupt Cliffs
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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?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

RPG Accessories. Tokens, Trackers and Coins! Oh My!

Tabletop roleplaying games need very little in the way of supplies to play; Some dice, Some paper and a pen or pencil. Of course you need a set of rules as well. Apart from that though? Nothing.

BUT! There is always a but. Sometimes accessories can help take your game from cool to COOL. Most players like rolling dice. The physical aspect of touching and using an object adds to the fun. This idea can be applied to many other things we need to track!

Many of these accessories can be made. DM Scotty has some videos on building things like this. Things like little quivers to track arrows instead of erasing 10 and writing 9 can be simple and add another element of fun to the game.

Some games have a set number of Hero points, Bennies, Fortune or similar mechanic that could also benefit from this idea. Having a player toss in a coin of some description is more fun than just changing that number of the page.

If you are busy like me, sometimes you don't have time to craft everything, or sometimes you just need so many tokens it's just not feasible to craft them.

Below is a list of things that I have found on aliexpress, amazon and a few other places where you can simply drop some cash and grab your supplies. I personally use a far number of these in my Conan 2d20 games. Remember, AliExpress will generally be less expensive, but you will need to wait longer for shipping.

Skull Beads! White! - AliExrpess
Black! - Amazon.ca
Flat Beads! White Acrylic - AliExpress
Transparent glass cabochon - Amazon.ca
Plastic chips AliExpress
Coins! Plastic Pirate Coins - AliExpress
Fortune Coins - AliExpress
Fortune Coins - Amazon.ca
Metal Phoenix beads - AlieExpress
Bowls for your Tokens AliExpress
Wound Trackers AliExpress

Hopefully you will find something you can find useful, or it sparks your imagination!

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?

Monday, April 23, 2018

Conan 2d20 Momentum Spend - Wrecked Weapon Trope.

They stopped short. Conan faced them, not a naked man roused mazed and unarmed out of deep sleep to be butchered like a sheep, but a barbarian wide- awake and at bay, partly armored, and with his long sword in his hand.

"In, rogues!" yelled the outlaw. "He is one to twenty and he has no helmet!"

True; there had been lack of time to don the heavy plumed casque, or to lace in place the side-plates of the cuirass, nor was there now time to snatch the great shield from the wall. Still, Conan was better protected than any of his foes except Volmana and Gromel, who were in full armor.

The king glared, puzzled as to their identity. Ascalante he did not know; he could not see through the closed vizors of the armored conspirators, and Rinaldo had pulled his slouch cap down above his eyes. But there was no time for surmise. With a yell that rang to the roof, the killers flooded into the room, Gromel first. He came like a charging bull, head down, sword low for the disembowelling thrust. Conan sprang to meet him, and all his tigerish strength went into the arm that swung the sword. In a whistling arc the great blade flashed through the air and crashed on the Bossonian's helmet. Blade and casque shivered together and Gromel rolled lifeless on the floor. Conan bounded back, still gripping the broken hilt.

The Phoenix on the Sword
-Robert E Howard

One of the most iconic occurences in a final battle is a weapon being broken. Troy, Willow and the '82 Conan film all feature this prominently.

In Willow, Mad Martigan, after becoming his heroic self, charges General Kael who easily parries the blow, redirecting it into the wooden structure of the fortress, where it becomes lodged. With a deliberate blow Kael shatters Martigan's sword leaving him on the ground without a weapon. It is a tense moment.

In front of Troy two heroes do battle; Achilles and Hector. As they fight back and forth, Achilles swings his shield and snaps the spear of Hector. Hector retreats and throws his useless weapon aside. Achilles seeing a moment of weakness presses in for the kill. Hector defends himself with skill and prowess as death comes for him. The onslaught continues and Hector is unable to draw his sword during the exchange. Finally Achilles thrusts at Hector who redirects the blow to the ground. In the next instant Hector snaps the spear of Achilles like a twig.

And of course in the '82 Conan film Conan and Rexor in their final battle clash sword on sword. Finally Conan is victorious as the gleaming Atlantean blade slices through the sword crafter by his father and continues through to mortally wound Rexor.

As we see above, Howard himself employed this in the very first Conan story. It is a dramatic, cool and powerful piece of story telling, and as such I believe it deserves a place in this fantastic role playing game.

This is a fairly easy thing to plug into a game that has a system in it like Momentum. Knowing how well an attack or parry was executed allows us to decide to add cool moves and flavor into our combat. Looking through the combat momentum spends we find one called Disarm. It costs 2 or 3 momentum to disarm someone you are engaged with. This seemed like a pretty solid place to start building the Weapon Break momentum spend.

Clearly we want this to be a more expensive spend than disarm, as it has far greater ramifications. My initial thoughts have involved adding 1 momentum to the spend raising it from 2-3 to 3-4 AND also making it only a CHANCE of breaking the weapon.

Weapon Break3-4+The attacker may attempt to break one melee weapon being weilded by the target.
This costs 3 points of Momentum if the target is holding the weapon in one hand
or 4 points of Momentum if the weapon is braced or held in two hands.
The attacker then rolls 2cd. On a roll of 2 effects, the weapon is shattered.
On a roll of 2 numbers the weapon is knocked away. Any roll of a blank
indicates that the attempt has failed.
The attacker may spend 2 additional momentum to reduce the 2cd roll a to 1cd roll.

WAIT! There is more! In ALL of the scenes I talk about above that broken weapon is used to end the fight or used to end the quest. Clealry, even though they are broken they are still effective weapons, Conan has rules for improvised weapons, but I think we can do better than that. My initial thought is the weapon simply become broken and stats are reduced. For a guideline on this I am thinking reach is reduced by 1. If reach becomes 0 it is completely useless. Damage dice are reduced to 3cd or lowered by 1, whichever is lower. And then we remove the effects "Intense", "Grappling", "Knockdown" and "Fearsome".

For example:
Conal is wielding a broadsword (Unb, Rch2, 5cd, Parrying) against Thokuh, Captain of the "Serpent of Set". Conal swings his steel in a deadly arc, but Thokuh deftly redirects the blow into the ground, and with a quick action drops his weight against the flat of the blade snapping it in two. Conal dances back, his broken broadsword in his hand (1H, Rch1, 3cd, Parrying). Thokuh laughs and moves in swiftly bringing his cutlass down in a flashing heavy blow. Conal barely blocks the blow catching the cutlass on his broken sword, before pressing past Thokuh's guard and driving the broken blade hard into the fat stomach of Thokuh."

What do you think? Is this a worthy mechanic and something you might try in this form or another? Think I am crazy? Let me know!

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?

Friday, April 20, 2018



We are going to steer away from Conan for a minute and give a quick shout out to Runehammer Games! When I came back to gaming a few short years ago there was a group of youtube channels devoted to RPGs. I liked quite a few of those channels but one of the channels I came across and started following was Drunkens & Dragons(now Runehammer), it spoke to me at a slightly different level.

The presenter was engaging and didn't take himself too seriously, most of all he looked like he was having a BLAST. He had videos on crafting, but as well, he had videos on theory and ways to make your game more fun. Although he played D&D he obviously wasn't tied to the system.

As I and others watched we got to know more about Hankerin' Ferinale. He did a few drawing streams, he talked about getting people to draw. He was and IS always encouraging and giving back to the community through his YouTube channel and his podcast. He talked about quick props drawn on index cards. Something I still use to this day when I need to hand my players an object. Sharpies and Index cards are awesome. This idea led to his first set of pre-drawn index cards that can be used to generate story ideas, or as location representations or as general props. (Hey Hankerin' we could use some cards for some sort of pulpy swords on mars game......)

And then finally he released his version of an RPG. His codified thoughts on playing a fun game. ICRPG was here officially.

ICRPG is light on rules and heavy on fun. There is an active google+ group as well as many many online games showing the mechanics of how the system works, as well as a quickstart guide available for FREE! I admit I have little time to game and it's been chiefly focused on 2d20, and haven't had time to do more than read the rules, which I like. Even if you never played it the advice in the book makes it worth the price alone.

He has continued to work on and expand ICRPG, Volume 2 and Volume 3 of index cards have been released. VTT assets have been added to the ICRPG core pack. He has released ICRPG Worlds which details three settings: Sci-Fi(Warp Shell), Fantasy(Alfheim) and a Weird West(Ghost Mountain). Just recently he even released a system agnostic set of characters with complete art called Heroes of the Hammer.

And now he has released ICRPG 2E. I haven't even had a chance to look through this book yet, but I wanted to post something about this awesome independent creator. Today we drink to your continued success!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: Doom & Momentum.

In parts 1 and 2 we discussed skill checks and the general idea behind how task difficulties are defined. Today's concept is the next part of that skill check system. Right now we know we are rolling 2d20 and trying to get below a target to gain successes. We also know that the difficulty can go as high as 5, which is impossible to achieve on a 2d20 roll. So what gives? How do we get more successes?

In a lot of games you succeed or fail. For example in a basic d20 system you are rolling a single d20 and adding a bonus and trying to beat a task's difficulty check. Roll too low and you fail, roll equal to or over that number and you succeed, nice and simple. In this example Conal has +3 in his strength roll and is facing a metal gate he needs to lift. The GM decides it's not overly heavy and so says the DC for this task is 13. Conal rolls an 18, and with his bonus scores a 21! Awesome. Conal lifts the gate! Any roll from 10+ achieves the desired result.

This is where the Conan 2d20 system differs. In the above example Conal, needs to lift the gate, and the GM says it's a difficulty 1(D1) task. Conal gets lucky and rolls 4 successes, awesome! Conal easily lifts the gate, BUT Conal also gains momentum, a measure of how well Conal and his party have been succeeding and how well things are going their way! If Conal had rolled a single success, he still lifts the gate, but he would gain no momentum.

Players can use this momentum to their advantage; learning more on knowledge tests, doing more damage, re-rolling dice, taking a second action or, as you might have guessed, rolling additional dice. It can also be stored temporarily and other members can capitalize on the success of each other. The Conan 2d20 Core Book has an outline of suggested momentum spends, but being imaginative and coming up with additional spends is encouraged!

As things rise, they fall. As heroes are heroic, villains are villainous! On the GM side of the equation we see the same measure of things going well for the bad guys. As players roll 2d20+ to determine if their heroes are successful, so does the GM roll 2d20+ to see if the monsters and NPCs are successful. Like the players, rolling more successes than they need results in momentum which they can use or store. They don't store this unused momentum in a momentum pool, instead it becomes "DOOM", essentially momentum working against the players.

One of the interesting things about Conan 2d20 is the idea that a player can almost always have their heroes succeed at all but the most difficult tasks. Players have the option of allowing their heroes to be larger than life whenever they wish, even if things aren't going their way at this exact moment. Most momentum spends can be purchased by paying the GM Doom. The players wishing for their hero to be heroic can do so, at the cost of things potentially going poorer for them down the line. Think of it as a simple karma system.

I will make a quick note here that some people consider this system to be completely meta, that it is outside of the experience of the characters. To that I would say that this system directly measure the overall feeling of dread or confidence experienced by the characters in the world. All things we wish to measure in an RPG are given a metric. This is no different. This system is a measure of things going well or poorly. Capitalizing on successes or being hindered by failures. It is a measure of characters potentially trying harder in more difficult situations. It is a measure of something that is perhaps intangible, but it is still a measure of something the characters experience.

So now we have, not only, a way for our heroes to complete tasks, but a way to measure how much success they have achieved beyond the simple pass/fail concept. We also have a way for the heroics of the story to build towards a, truly action packed, pulp worthy climax.

On the next installment of this overview we are going to take a look at what happens during conflict as we take a look at The Struggle!

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?

DIY Dungeon Tiles: Elevation Blocks!

Take a look at my newest video creation over on Youtube!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG overview: Tasks and Difficulties

In my previous Conan 2d20 article we talked about skill checks and how they work. Today I want to go over what they represent in more detail, really understanding these and what the represent is pivotal to getting your head around what this system is trying to do.
  • Task - A task is anything a player is trying to accomplish: steal an apple, attack a skeleton, sail a ship etc.
  • Difficulty - How hard is it for the player to complete this task?

Conan 2d20 uses a system of 6 values to define how hard a task is to accomplish.
  • A difficulty 0 rating is a Simple task, nothing of any consequence, we don't even need to roll any dice to succeed!
  • A difficulty 1 rating is an Average task, and if we roll our 2d20 we have a pretty good chance of accomplishing this.
  • A difficulty 2 rating is Challenging. This is something that is hard for the player to accomplish, but not out of the realm of a standard person.
  • A difficulty 3 rating is Daunting. This is a hard task. If you are not trained in this skill, you are going to fail. If you are trained, you are going to need a little luck.
  • A difficulty 4 task is Dire. Think of this as a VERY hard thing to do. You are going to fail unless you are trained and get VERY lucky.
  • Finally the Difficulty 5 task is Epic. Don't bother. You will need the gods with you to complete this task.
Attributes for humans range from 6 - 12, with average being an 8. This means an average, untrained human, has around a 60% chance of successfully completing a D1 task. This jumps to about 70% with a little training

It is possible to gain 2 successes on every roll of a d20 if you are trained in a skill, so you could roll up to 4 successes on 2d20, the base roll in the game.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/13894106014 (CC)
For example:
Conal is faced off against a wolf growling at him, it's jaws are slavering as it anticipates it's dinner. The night is inky black with only a sliver of light coming from what is left of the day. To make matters worse the rain has become harder as the storm grows ever more violent.

Attacking the Wolf is an average difficulty, or D1. However it is raining and dark, moving it from a D1 to a D3.

Lets examine this with two versions of Conal; the Merchant and the Warrior.
  • Merchant Conal has no training in combat and so the player can only roll a maximum of 2 successes.
    With a roar the wolf leaps forward and lands on the helpless merchant, Conal falls into the muck as the wolf tears at his flesh, ending his business permanently.

  • Warrior Conal has training in combat and so the player can roll a maximum of 4 successes.
    With a roar the wolf leaps at Conal who raises his shield just in time, and sends the wolf off in another direction. In a flashing moment the wolf twists and is back on it's feet. Lightning flashes in the darkness, it's light reflected onto Conal's sword. The two circle each other warily.

The next segment of this series will talk about Doom and Momentum. These are probably the most controversial part of Conan 2d20, and understanding the above ideas will help to lay the foundation for how these two mechanics work.

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 16, 2018

Lost In Space 2018: A Netflix Original

It is a good time to be fan of Sci-fi or Fantasy. It seems everyday a new network or streaming service is releasing or announcing something. The Expanse, Season 3 aired on April 11th and on April 13th Netflix's Lost In Space was added to my streaming list. I have watched 3 or 4 episodes of the show at the time I am writing this. I am going to try and avoid spoilers, so will be talking in a very generalized kind of way about the show itself vs specific instances in the show.

The show so far has chronicled the Robinson family on a deep space colonization mission. They have crashed on an unknown planet and have to survive the new world. Each episode has had some major calamity to solve or get past, placing the family on the brink of failure and death. The story is told through present day situation and flashbacks helping us learn who the characters are and what motivates them.

The show is, in my opinion, not as intelligent as The Expanse. It seems every episode has had something that has made no sense to me, based on the world they have shown us. I like this franchise and wanted this to be a great show, so I don't really feel like I am out to find problems and analyze it to death. Hopefully as the show progressed and the writers found their way it begins to become more internally consistent.

The storyline and characters, though sharing the same names as the original, deviate a fair bit from the original story. That is the details of the original story, the broad brushtrokes of the show remain the same. Comparing the smaller details to the movie, I think the movie does a better job incorporating these into the story as compared to the original TV show. Is that a good thing? That is for you to decide.

That isn't to say I am not enjoying the show. I am, I think it's a fun, albiet, fairly light entry into sci-fi TV. The effects are generally good and imaginative. The Iconic ship is again redesigned, although it reminds me more of the '98 movie than the Jupiter 2 from the series. The characters are being developed and are portrayed in a decent enough manner. I will continue to watch it for now and will probably revist a few episodes of the original series, which I have not watched in, probably, 30 years. I am also planning on revisting the movie as well.

So if you are looking for something light and enjoyable, I would say give this show a chance. The general feeling on the Internet has been positive. You might like it.

Lost In Space 2018 gets......
3 out 5 Skulls of My Enemies!

Check out my review of the Expanse!

Don't forget to follow the blog for more Reviews, RPGs and Wargames!

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Expanse: Season 3 (and the show in general).

This is of course largely a gaming blog, and aimed at the pulp genre of the early part of the last century. How futuristic sounding is that? That being said we take ideas and inspiration from everywhere and there is a lot of good content out there these days. Despite my feeling that more and more people simply do not read books, we have a plethora of authors out there writing and creating worlds.

The Expanse is, IMHO, some of the content that you should be consuming on the sci-fi level. Written by James S.A. Corey, the series tells the story of humanity in the near future. Earth, Mars and the Belt working to survive at odds with each other. This post is about the TV show running on SYFY, but I think you should pick up the Expanse novels as well, and the first three are on sale AND on Amazon Prime right now!

April 11th saw the debut of this much loved series, and I got to sit down and watch it last night on Google Play. True to form, the opening of this season was tense and full of action. The story arcs of our main characters are told and they themselves as people grow. We see some characters step up and be incredibly bad ass in their environment, while others we know to be strong be forced to take the back stage. The TV series doesn't follow the books exactly, or maybe not at all. They tell the same story. They follow roughly the same story paths, but apart from that the writers have taken the material and pulled it apart and rewoven it into an exceptional TV show with compelling on screen characters.

Do I think this is a perfect show? No, but I was looking forward to the new season. So what don't I like? Casting wise the characters have grown on me and I understand the reasoning behind not using really famous people. Having read the novels, as is often the case, the characters didn't fit how I had imagined them, sometimes strikingly in some ways. The actors have grown on me and more often than not when I am reading the novels they have supplanted my original imagined views of the characters.

Specifically in Episode 1 of Season 3, I liked it all. As I said it was tense and well executed, I don't recall any time where it was slow, we had some excellent character growth and a few revelations. As well there were a few well timed moments of levity to ease the tension. The worst single part of this show right now is that I need to wait a week till the next episode. Is this really how we watch TV now? :(

If you like Sci-fi and are not watching this, you need to. If you like Sci-fi and are reading this and think my praise of the show is misplaced because you couldn't get through the first few episodes, I urge you to try again. This show is smart and visually pleasing. The near future version of space travel and combat are well conceived in the novels and executed well on the screen.

The Expanse on TV gets a solid.....
4 out 5 Skulls of My Enemies!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Printable Miniatures. Part 2, Basing the figure.

In the first part of this series on paper miniatures I went over the various ways to get the paper miniatures with links to some kick ass guys on drivethrurpg as well as some links to a few custom tutorials. Today I want to continue this series with a short discussion on bases and the pros and cons of each type.

The easiest way to base the paper miniature is to grab a piece of foam core, put a slot in it and insert your figure. It may require a coin or similar on the bottom to give it a little heft. These are cheap, plentiful and with a little work, can look good. This isn't the method I use, but Wyloch goes over it in his video on creating the paper miniature.

The next option is also a DIY option with the caveat that it requires you to have access to a 3d printer. 3d printers can be fairly expensive, especially a genuine Prusa, however there are several models of inexpensive printer that are good for basic printing for a gamer.

I have an A-net A8 which is a decent machine, print quality wise, and gives you the ability to try getting your feet wet for not a lot of money. It is built with cheaper components which should be replaced if you are going to use it a lot though. It will be more than able to print up bases and other things that you might find at a website like thingiverse. These two links are some samples of thingiverse links you can use for basing paper miniatures. Sample 1 Sample 2

Moving away from the DIY option we start to move into some for of clip. The first and cheapest version of these is a binder clip. These are a pretty good solution being easily available, inexpensive and coming in multiple sizes and colors. I don't personally use them, and right now as I am typing this I am wondering why. The only real drawback I can see to these is they will be a little more fiddly when it comes to changing your figures over. You will have to re-insert the metal handles so you can easily open the clip to remove the figure. I think the pros may outweigh the cons here.

You can get a cheap acrylic base designed for boardgames as well. These are pretty good and give you a clear plastic base, and can be purchased in multiple colors. The downside to these is they require a fairly thick card as the clip is fairly wide. I have used these and need to use several layers of construction paper to make them work. Despite how inexpensive they are, I don't really recommend these ones unless your paper figs are quite thick.

The ones I have purchased and use the most are most similar to the binder clips, they can be found sold as "card holders". These are easy to use and replace the figure into. I have only found them in black, which is another strike against this style. The downside to these is they are among the more expensive option, that being said they are still going to run you less than $.50CAD cents each. As much as I like a lot about this style, I doubt I'll be buying more of them.

Litko makes a range of bases for paper figures, similar to the 3d printed model I talk about, these are square or circular and come with a curved slot to hold your figure. The downside to these are two fold. One, they are getting upwards in price, running about $.50CAD each. Two, I don't find litko to have especially friendly shipping options to Canada. If you are in the USA this might be a great option where they will be about $.40USD each and have better shipping options.

Over the past year of using paper miniatures in most of my games I have used several of the above purchaseable solutions. At this time I have not tried the binder clips or 3d printed models, but I think that the binder clips might be the best option being inexpensive, easy to get and in multiple colors. I have also not ordered from Litko. Another possible downside to some of these is that they represent non-standard bases sizes. I don't think it'll take much to make them work, but it's something to think about.

Now that we have our bases and figures, next week we will talk about the process I go through when I assemble these figures! Until next time, keep it weird out there!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG - The Black God.

When I started writing the last adventure for our group, I had no clear goal on what I wanted to do. The players had trapped themselves in a small vault designed to contain an artifact of, perhaps, alien origin. Why they were there or how they became trapped isn't of great importance. I set out with an eight point system for writing short fiction: Stasis, Trigger, Quest, Surprise, Critical Choice, Climax, Reversal, Resolution. Armed with a basic outline I laid out the first room and then proceeded to not go very much further.

A few weeks later 'ol Hankerin' Ferinale posted a podcast on something he called "Monster Sets", basically 3 creatures connected in theme and perhaps in some other method. Translated to Conan 2d20, maybe you have a Minion type who is easy to kill, and perhaps you have a toughened opponent that can summon Minions at will, or whatever. The Nemesis is probably your boss. For a clearer idea I highly recommend you check out Hankerin' at the link above.

I wanted to try the Monster Set idea in my game. I knew my players had an aversion to statues. I had already placed several statues as creatures in the adventure but was at a loss on how to go forward. I needed to find a way to create a Monster Set around these. Fortunately for me I had just read "The Black God's Kiss" and "The Black God's Shadow" by CL Moore.

To make a long story short, Jirel, the main character retrieves a weapon to exact her revenge, which she then determines was the wrong action. In her attempt at redemption she heads back to the realm from which her weapon came from. Here she finds her victim locked in a black statue, the personification of all of his magnified sins. She releases him from this and he becomes a shade she needs to track across this unholy landscape. Meanwhile she is assaulted by the Black God and feels herself losing and becoming a statue herself, barely fighting them off. If you haven't read those stories, I do highly recommend them, there are of course links on the sidebar to Amazon so you can get copies of the stories.

But back to Conan. And so I had Statues, Shades and the Black God itself, and with this triumvirate the Monster Set was born. I wrote some custom creatures that were perhaps a little over powered, but only by a little.

The first is the Black Statue, an unholy abomination of some black material. Sin, magnified and made real. Physical forms twisted and distorted, no two the same.

The second is the Black Shade, an ethereal form of the statue. The soul trapped within the statue freed from its physical constraints. These are horrific apparitions that strike the most stalwart warrior down to a gibbering child.

I failed to used these strategically so I am not certain on how useful the ability to regen the statues is. I pretty much attacked with the Black Shades and followed up with the Black Statues.

Finally the Black God itself. The Black God can not actually be attacked by physical means. It must be present to be attacked, ie it must be engaged in combat with someone. I would allow direct mental attacks against it. As well, a player resisting successfully over two rounds will drive it off for 2cd rounds

These challenges proved exceptionally difficult for my party of five, the shades wreaking havoc on them with the mental attack they possess. I modified them a little in this post to make them a little more reasonable, but you might wish to tweak them further if you so desire.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG overview: Skill Checks.

Cover of the Modiphius Conan RPG
In an unremembered age great heroes strode across the landscape. Shining kingdoms rose from the mountains, grasslands and deserts. The greatest of these, Aquilonia, was ruled by it's mighty lion king; Conan.

The Hyborian Age was a time before ours, a time now long forgotten, wiped off the face of the earth by great cataclysms that formed our people and our continents.

It is a time of warriors and magic. Of men and monsters. It is a time of high adventure.

Conan 2d20 is an RPG by Modiphius that aims to remain as true to the original Conan stories as they can. I have been playing with a group of about 5 players once a month for about 1 1/2 years and I hope I can share some of my knowledge and experience about the game with you.

At it's heart Conan 2d20 is a simple roll under system. You roll your d20s against a target number to gain a number of successes. As the name of the system implies your base roll is 2d20. When a player wants to preform a task the GM assigns a difficulty to that task ranging from 0-5. To successfully complete that task the player must gain that number of successes or more.

For example:
Conal wishes to lift a log that has fallen across the road, preventing the parties wagon from proceeding. The GM assigns a difficulty of 2 to the task and Conal rolls his 2d20. Both of his dice come up as a success, giving him 2 successes. This equals the difficulty rating of the task and Conal moves the log out of the way.

This is the core of the game system, the full mechanics allow players to gain more d20s to make their skill rolls as well as to not only succeed but to succeed by measure, turning a success into something truly epic, but we will discuss that another day.

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?

Friday, April 6, 2018

The GMs Journal: Notebook selection.

So.... what mapping
programs are you
using for making
world and area maps?

A couple of days ago that question was posted to a local role playing group I belong to.

The standard answers all came up: Pyromancers, Inkarnate, Photoshop, Hexkit, VTT software and Campaign Cartographer. These are all useful tools, and although I suggested some of them, I don't personally use a single one of them.

I occasionally try and use the cool and fancy tools, but I never like them. I find it easier to simply grab my notebook/journal and jot down ideas and story arcs and finally flesh them out into maps and adventures. At most I sometimes organize thoughts in Google Docs. They never allow the ease of use that a simple piece of paper allows.

I like notebooks. I have always liked notebooks. I used binders in school with looseleaf paper and never liked it as much as a simple notebook. Perhaps I find the journals of the old masters inspiring. The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci being a prime example. His notebooks are as important as his masterpieces.

I don't journal, which you would think based on my above statement I might do, but I do keep a sketchbook and that directly leads into my current favored set of notebooks for GMing. I follow an artist on social media named, "Jake Parker". Aside from being a cool illustrator he has some awesome videos about creativity and projects on youtube. One of the things he has turned me on to is the Moleskin Cahier line of notebooks. My first reaction was, "Must be nice, Moleskin notebooks are expensive!", and indeed some of their line, like many other journals, are pricey. He went on to show how they were resistant to bleed through with inks and could even be used for some basic tone with paints, and the best part is that they are NOT pricey. They are quite affordable.

So I went out and bought a three pack of these to use as my next sketchbook. The three packs will run you around $20, and each notebook has 64 pages in them. They are not huge tomes, but that is also a blessing in disguise. I liked them. They were easy to use. They are small and easy to take with you. The paper isn't pure white, and so you can add white to sketches pretty easily. Finally because they are not 100s of pages long, they are easier to fill up. That act of completing one gives you a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment.

When I went out to find a new journal that had dots or grids on them I quickly started looking over at the Cahier line, which offer books in three flavours: Plain, Lined and Squared. I immediately went to Indigo (our local bookstore chain, and maybe yours) and tried to buy a set. Squared journals are apparently more difficult to find. Off to Amazon I went!

I found a set of 3 and ordered them. They took a LONG time to arrive as I did not order them directly from Amazon and ended up shipping from the UK. When they did they were smaller than I had realized (being the 5"x8.25" journals), but in the end I think I prefer this size for most GM journaling. I feel it is a good middle ground, but I think that is a personal preference.

Like the ones I use for sketching, they are small, allowing for completion and that sense of accomplishment. They are also filled with the same type of paper that resists bleed through; I use a uniball pen and write on every page, front and back. The slightly off white color will allow the addition of whites to your journal entries if you desire.

Of course these are not the only notebook on the block, and they are far from the cheapest, even if I do think they are affordable. For the most affordable notebooks, which I have used extensively in school and out, the crown has to go to Hilroy or a knockoff. These cheap coil bound books provide an inexpensive way to get a journal. They open flat and provide an easy way to remove pages. The downside, as I have always found, being the coil interfering with your hand when you are writing near the end of the page.

I have again provided links to Amazon and the tools I have mentioned in this post. These are affiliate links and purchasing through them provides me a small commission. Thank you!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Remakes! Red Sonja and Last Starfighter.

This blog is Starships and Steel because I love Sci-fi and Fantasy. Yesterday we saw two cool announcements in both of these genres.

Red Sonja

The Red Sonja remake gets a writer and a decent one at that.
Wikipedia lists the following credit to him.

check out the article at deadline for more info:

The Last Starfighter

Concept art by Matt Allsopp
This is apparently in a pretty early concept phase. A remake of this was only a matter of time. I am tentatively excited for it. Some early concept photos were released on twitter yesterday and the writer attached to the project is Gary Whitta of Rogue One.

Check out io9 for more info:

I am not going to lie, I am pretty hopeful for both of these films. I loved Last Starfighter...No. I STILL love Last Starfighter. It is an awesome film and represents a landmark use of CGI. Red Sonja, they will get my money for trying, but I am hopeful they will produce a good Sword & Sorcery movie.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Black God's Shadow by CL Moore.

Jirel of Joiry returns in this direct sequel to CL Moore's the Black God's Kiss. This time she must return to that same place she retrieved her weapon and earn her redemption. Is she worthy of redemption or will the dark claim her as one of their own?

The Black God's Shadow was published in Weird Tales in December of 1934, this time CL Moore didn't get the cover, which was given to Robert E Howard's Conan story, "A Witch Shall be Born".

One of the first things that strikes me about this story is that it is a direct sequel. In my other explorations of pulp literature, being mainly Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith and some HP Lovecraft, this is not really done. Certainly Robert E Howard also has numerous characters that span stories, and in the case of Solomon Kane we have stories following each other in a very specific chronology and we see character development along that chronology. As a direct sequel, this story is dealing with events and ideas raised in the first, and revisits some of the same settings. It is not just another story dealing with the same character later in her life.

Overall I again enjoyed CL Moore's Jirel character, and again I found her journey to pull me along with her and want to join her at it's conclusion, whatever that might be. It again strikes me that over the years more has not been done with Jirel of Joiry.

Within this story are several chase scenes. Although these scenes introduce interesting aspects to the environment she is in and do help to build on the in earthly creepy factor, there were times I felt they were a little drawn out. This flight across the same dark landscape as the first Jirel story also made me feel like more of the same at times. However even with these thoughts, I don't think these possible negatives were strong enough to take away from the story.

Despite the slightly drawn out chases and more of the same dark landscape the story moves well and has good pacing. The writing is excellent and I felt it was little more descriptive than the first Jirel story. Aspects of those chases and the descriptions of the things she faces are awesome and terrifying. I also enjoyed the overarching themes of light and dark, clearly not something new, but cool to see in early fantasy literature.

Jirel is again shown as a powerful and fiery warrior. She again seems to give little thought, or at the very least, little care to venturing from our reality to another to accomplish a task she views as correct. In "The Black God's Kiss" she is tormented by another's action and knows she must strike out and gain her vengeance. In "The Black God's Shadow" knowing her error and haunted by it she knows she must return and undo as much of her error as she can. In both of these she is willing to risk her very soul. To me she is an incredibly engaging character.

If you want to check out some of CL Moore for yourself why not click through to my Amazon affiliate link either through the sidebar or by clicking here?

Printable Miniatures. Part 1, Getting the Image.

In Part 2 we talk about basing options!

We all love miniatures, or at least I suspect you do if you are reading my blog. If you play a system that uses a lot of smaller level fodder type characters, such as a 2d20 system or Savage Worlds, you might find it hard to have 15 or 20 of a single figure type. Even for me, with the Conan board game to pull from, it can be hard to have enough bad guys.

Custom Minis from a Ghoul stock image I got from DriveThruRPG
Enter the paper miniature, sometimes refered to as flats. I first came across these when I was getting back into gaming and watching the various channels on youtube that exist. Check out Wyloch's tutorial on how to make your own.  He goes through how to make these props, step by step using images found images.  Please be respectful of copyright when you are building printable minis this way.

We also have Printable Heros over on Pateron. For a couple of bucks you can get access to the cool collection of figures he has produced. For me though, I often need something fairly specific and I am building them pretty close to the last minute. I don't have time to search the net for the image and cut and paste it, trim it up, size it and get it ready for play. Sometimes I just want to do a quick search, print out the figure and get it on my table. For this I go to DriveThruRPG.

I am sure you are all aware of DriveThruRPG. If you are not click the above link and it will take you to a wonderland of digital products, BUT back to printable miniatures.

These guys are probably my favorite shop creating printable miniatures. They are have a wonderful distinct style and he has a wide variety to fill many many different gaming roles! Get them here!
Another store that has an excellent selection of figures for use with your games. Like Okum arts there is a wide variety of figures from fantasy to sci-fi. Get them here!
The ICRPG Core set is more expensive but comes with a wealth of content, including a selection of printable miniatures for your table in Hankerin's distinctive black and white style. Get it here!
These guys have a wide selection of printable miniatures(some are even free!) as well as papercraft buildings. Get them here!
A later entry to this list, as I just found them recently is Trash Mob Minis. Like Okum Arts above these guys have an impressive collection of paper figs in a very distinctive style. I recommend checking them out!

There is a wealth of people creating these printable heros and monsters! Part 2 of the series will talk about the supplies I use to make mine, as well as some alternatives. Once we have all of our supplies together we will see about putting together some of these creations!

Until then, keep it weird!

The above post contains affiliate links, using them will give this blog a small commission on the sale.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Robert E. Howard House Archaeology

There is currently a push on GoFundMe to help fund an archeological expedition at the Howard house in Cross Plains, TX.

There is a sealed storm cellar behind the house that hasn't been opened in a very long time. They might find nothing, but they might find something cool. If you have a couple of dollars why not support the initiative?

Check out the GoFundMe page for more information!