'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 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?


  1. Keith, I really like this. Making it a high momentum spend, plus a chance roll is awesome... Very good idea!

    1. I get why some people were strongly opposed to the idea..... but it's such a common thing in this style of genre.

  2. I love the idea, honestly, but from a gaming standpoint, why not put the momentum into extra damage? If I have that much momentum I'm probably not facing a strong opponent, and having to make an additional roll to make that spent momentum pay off makes the option less appealing!

    1. Because everything doesn't need to maximize damage, doing cool things with the spends is part of the coolness of the system. Also if they have vigor that is 5 or less, doing 6 damage doesn't really get you any further towards your goal.

      You may have that much momentum because it's in the pool from your buddies fighting minions or toughened opponent. Who knows. In my mind it shouldn't be easy and it shouldn't be a for sure thing, as it's going permanently reduce the effectiveness of the weapon....and it could just as easily be the characters weapon being broken.

      Thanks for the comment, I hope I gave you some ideas about why and how I designed it how I did and where it might be useful or just plain fun to do.

  3. I absolutely love this idea! Great write-up!

    1. Thank you for the kind words! I hope it adds some great ideas and scenes to your game!