'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, March 18, 2019

The Exploit: Conan 2d20, some thoughts.

When I read novels (ok I generally listen to them), especially Sword and Sorcery, I tend to think of how the combat scenes would play out using the Conan 2d20 RPG rules.

If the hero strikes and knocks the bad guy's axe away and then comes back for an attack, I try and fit it into the sets of skills a character might have. In that example I might decide as I read that the hero has the riposte skill, and has successfully parried with some level of momentum. This has allowed our Hero to parry the blow, disarm the opponent with a momentum spend and attack right away with riposte.

The Exploit action is described as the following.

The character takes additional time and concentration readying the next attack, seeking to find vulnerabilities in a single target’s defenses. The player nominates a target the character is able to perceive, and attempts an Average (D1) Observation test (modified for Observation tests by distance, lighting, etc.). If this succeeds, the character’s first attack before the end of the next turn gains the Piercing 2 Quality. If desired, the character may spend one Momentum from this test to add one bonus d20 to the attack’s skill test, and +1CD to the attack’s damage. This is Repeatable, but these bonus d20s count towards the normal limit of 3 bonus d20s on any skill test. The benefits of this action are only gained once per round.

First I want to establish that the exploit represents some way you have gained an advantage over your opponents, because of this it is used to represent being ambushed as well. In it's raw form you pause in the fight and look for an opening, find a pattern in the opponents guard and then "EXPLOIT" that weakness.

But what other ways can this be used by a player? There is a scene in "IMARO" where a an outlaw offers a bodyguard the chance to thrown down their arms and join them. The guard rejects the offer with derision and the comment of, "Better to die with honor than to live as an outlaw!", and then spurs his horse forward and attacks with ferocity. The blow is barely blocked.

My brain immediately went to figuring out how that could be accomplished in Conan. Bodyguard uses a minor action to speak and a standard action to attack, and that is just how the dice worked out? A successful parry, but maybe only barely? What if instead we used the exploit action? What if we look at the second part of that description, "GMs may allow characters to use skills other than observation to attempt an Exploit action".

What if the bodyguard rolls *PERSUADE* as the exploit action, is successful, and performs a swift action immediately afterwards? Now our bodyguard has spoken, caused his opponent to lose focus, falter, or similar, but be caught a little by surprise as the attack is launched. Now the attack is potentially more devastating.

Another obvious one that we started using at my table, after the thief type character discovered there was no backstab, was to exploit using stealth. The idea here is pretty straight forward, the character is using their ability to slip into shadows, and then use that momentary lapse in tracking to spring at their opponent from behind and deliver a deadly blow.

In an action scene there are plenty of different skills that can be used, play with them, figure out some cool things to do. What GM is going to say no to an Acrobatics Exploit when you say, "I want to try and tumble low and come up with my sword to catch a weak point in their defense?"

The exploit is a great catch all standard action that can be used for a multitude of different narrative effects. If you are not using it as a player, or as a GM, I encourage you to give it some thought to add even more flair to your combat encounters.

Finally I wanted to leave you with a handy reference card you can print out and give to your players to help them understand the mechanics behind the tool. It will still be up to the players to figure out how to use this to enhance the narrative of the story.

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1 comment:

  1. About the Riposte. The Players guide specifically calls out "Momentum remaining from the Parry
    Action may be carried over to this Melee attack." Page 75.

    Does this mean when you use the Riposte action that ONLY the current momentum from the Parry can be used to add d20? Or can we pull from the doom pile as normal to add up to 3d20?

    The fact that it is called out specifically about the momentum is confusing.