'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

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Conan 2d20: Narrative Combat Spends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  1. Intense says 4 but the book says 2. Am I missing something?

    1. Actually, the book doesn't have Intense as something purchasable through Momentum.

    2. Hey, thanks for the comments!

      No None of those are purchasable as momentum spends, that was the point of the whole article, ways to spend momentum beyond what is actually written. The table with Intense lists three ideas that you can generally get through Talents already, so i was aiming to make them more expensive so players without the talent could use them, but you could still get a benefit from taking the talent.