'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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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Leg Trap

Dog brothers, Sword sisters the minor cataclysm continues its relentless attack against humanity. Even if our physical world is not changed, that which we hold in our hearts and minds, surely will be. I hope everyone is doing well and being as creative as they can be in this time of strife. Stay strong. Stay Healthy. Keep it Weird.

Leg Trap



The ability to hunt animals in a passive way when foraging for food, allowing the hunter to attend to other things can mean the difference between life and death in the harsh wilderness of the Hyborian Age. These traps can be used to set up a trap line and gather food while a shelter is being built, or fire made.

These are simple devices that can be found across the world in various forms. The consist of a pressure plate and two spring loaded jaws that close violently around the leg of anything unlucky enough to step into their deadly grip.

An alternate use for these devices is to provide a level of security around a camp at night acting as a way to slow unwanted guests and alert the camp. Generally these devices require a D2 observation test to see, but this might be more difficult if the players take the time to disguise it. If someone is unlucky enough to step into one of these they suffer 3cd, Vicious 1, Grapple 3 damage. If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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Monday, April 27, 2020

Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells: Let's Make a Character

One of the things that attracted me to "Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells" was its simplicity. Simple is good, especially when attracting new people to a game and genre. It allows us to jump in easily and not need to be constantly explaining rules and such to the players.

I am looking to use pre-gens for my one-shot I thought it would be good to go over the basics parts of the game. Character creation is a simple 5 step process, although I might add a step 0 or 1.5. I will explain as we go.

Step 1: Roll your 4 attributes.
We roll 3d6 in the order the attributes appear. No rolling 4 and keeping 3. No picking your order. Just a straight up 3d6 roll in attribute order.
  • Physique: 9
  • Agility: 11
  • Intellect: 12
  • Willpower: 10

Step 1.5: The character idea.
Most games I have played list this as a step, get an idea of a character you want to play in your mind. I would sometimes place this as step 0, but since our rolls are in order, it might be better to see what we get before coming up with the idea. It will do no good to want to play a Conan the Barbarian type character if you roll 5 on Physique and 8 on Agility. It is of course 100% fine to come up with this ideas as you go, with that character gaining life and depth with each decision you make.

For us we have two pretty decent stats in Agility and Intellect, or at least this is where our best stats are, lets see how this plays out for us.

Step 2: Choose an Archetype.
Based on our stats the best Archetype for us is going to be a Specialist. The thief, the rogue, the trickster.

Each archetype will give us our base type of HD and Luck dice as well as our special abilities.

Step 3: Choose a Vocation
This is the most open ended part of character creation. There isn't a list, you must simply decide what your character is based on the Archetype. Anytime you do an action related to your vocation you gain a positive die. If you are a Knight and need to test to ride a horse, you could gain a positive die here. If you are a thief and need to open a lock or find a trap, again you could gain a positive die.

This is perhaps the step that Step 1.5 relates to the most. For us we know we have a Specialist who is smarter than they are agile. Something like a rogue or thief would probably be ideal for this character.

Step 4: Determining a complication
This section presents some interesting ideas as well as some potential challenges, it deals with things the GM might use to make someones life difficult during the course of the game and includes addiction. Clearly if you do not know your players it might be best to stay away from that particular category when making this roll. It might be worthwhile having your players look through these and give them the option of "X"ing any particular category out that they personally feel uncomfortable with. This is a game and we are all at the table to have fun.

That being said my 2d6 roll for our character is 1.4, or Debt to a Crime Lord. This ties in nicely to our concept of a thief character.

Step 5: Buy Equipment Everyone starts with a basic set of clothes and a weapon appropriate to their vocation. For us that most likely means a short sword, which is a small weapon that does 1d4 damage. Beyond this everyone starts with 3d6x10 silver coins. Our roll gives us 90sc. Like many games we get a coinage multiplier, 90sc = 9gp or 900cc.

The first thing we will buy is some decent armor. Medium armor costs 50sc, leaving us with 40 for everything else....
  1. Medium Armor - 50sc
  2. Backpack - 2sc
  3. Torches(5) - 1cc
  4. Waterskin - 5cc
  5. Rations(7) - 7cc
  6. rope, 50' - 5cc
  7. Grappling hook - 1sc
  8. Flint & Steel - 2cc
  9. Thieves Tools - 30sc
Total 50+2+(1+5+7+5+2)+1sc+30sc=85sc

Not too bad. Pretty good load out for a fairly average roll.
But wait? What about encumbrance? It is super simple. You can carry a number of items equal to your Physique score without penalty. Beyond that we start getting penalized and we can carry a maximum of the Physique score x2. So we can carry 9 items. Bags and packs do not count towards this limit.

Finalize Your Character
So now we simply need to come up with a name, description and roll some Hit Points.

We got a 7 on our d8 hit die roll, which is pretty good! I can see a potential issue to this as an unmodified roll, a PC rolling 1 hit point isn't going to be much fun for most people. Although I don't think this is something unique to Sharp Swords.

For a name I popped over here and used the random name generator here: https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/hyborian-names.php, and came up with 'Talma'.

Finally we need to write this all onto a character sheet, and below we see the completed character sheet.


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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Mystic Pendant

Finally the warmth of spring have opened and forced the gods of the north from my lands once again. New life is everywhere, it is a glorious time! I hope today's delve into the tool trunk finds everyone well.

Mystic Pendant



People hold on to their beliefs to keep the darkness at bay. It often doesn’t matter if their beliefs are real or not, only that they give hope. That simple belief or trust that a pendant represents for the character is, at times, enough to bolster their courage as they face off against the horrors that lurk in the darkness of the Hyborian Age. If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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Monday, April 20, 2020

Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells: Intro & Quick Reference

Recently a member of the Conan Gaming Group, over on facebook, posted some materials to play a custom game of Monolith's Conan board game based around the 90s Cartoon, "Conan The Adventurer". I immediately chuckled and started to think of running an RPG scenario based on the cartoon.

If you have followed along here at all you may be aware I GM at a local convention here in Calgary Alberta, the RPG Alliance, and throughout the year various GMs run monthly sessions. With the current pandemic I thought this might be a perfect time to run this game and advertise it to the convention community. In keeping with the concept of what I wanted, a light fun sword & sorcery romp, I decided to stay away from the 2d20 system, as much as I enjoy it I didn't feel it fit the Saturday morning vibe.

As I continued to look through systems I found various ideas that I thought would work out well, many took ideas from FATE or similar systems, and while I think they have some great ideas, they had a little steeper learning curve. Not because they are complex, but because they are fairly different. My desire for a fun Saturday morning vibe shifted and my rules search shifted to a rules light Sword & Sorcery setting.

Enter "Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells" from Gallant Knight Games & Old Skull Publishing from Diogo Nogueira. It is billed as a rules light rpg with old school spirit and it came recommended from one of the Conan Gaming Group members so I thought I should give it a look. At the time of writing this it was even on sale for $5cad for the PDF, hard to go wrong with that price.

After having a quick look through the shortish rules I decided this system was simple and easy to learn, everything from combat to spell casting was incredibly easy to do. For new players this would be a breeze. I will give a more full review of the system after we play our game using it as our rules, but between now and then I thought I write a few articles about the mechanics and various things I have come up with for the game. So without further pre-amble, I give you the single page quick reference sheet.


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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Portable Toolbox

The frigid snows of the north continue to assault the stronghold, but I believe the worst is done now. Surely the winter storms are over and the mental benefits of more sun and warmer weather are felt soon. But I know you are not here to listen to me ramble about the weather. So without further introduction.

Portable Toolbox



All manners of craftsmen in the Hyborian Age are called upon to make repairs away from their shops. These kits are employed by such artisans and consist of basic tools such as hammers, punches, saws, files, etc. Anyone with a modicum of skill can benefit from having a selection of tools at their disposal. Adventurers who are planning to be away from civilization for an extended period of time would do well to take a selection of tools to help with the maintenance of their equipment. If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Quill & Parchment

The mysterious Stygian plague continues to haunt the countryside, but I remain safely locked away in my stronghold. I trust my fellow warriors are likewise safe behind locked doors. Brothers and Sisters, we will defeat this scourge sent upon us. Stay strong. Stay Healthy! It is, of course, Thursday and so today we open that mysterious chest once more to see what interesting piece of equipment we might find today.

Quill & Parchment



In the beginning of humanity we told stories around campfires, eventually we sought to record these stories on the walls of our caves with paintings. As we became more sophisticated we began to look to other ways to record our ideas and stories. Writing became available and so scholars and sorcerers began to record ideas and knowledge. Certainly some of these writings can drive someone to madness, but others are more banal holding only basic information about places and things.

These nundane parchments, and the quills to make notes, are far more commonplace and can often be found for little gold to provide information about a region. It is unlikely you will find scrolls with information about Vanaheim in Argos, but scrolls about the Forest of Ghouls between Argos and Zingara will almost assuredly be available.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Setting up 2d20 on Roll20: The Combat Dice.

I have been playing around with the free Roll20 for awhile, learning how it works and what we could do with it for Conan 2d20.

Conan 2d20 and other 2d20 systems use combat dice to determine damage and weapon effects. We can, of course, simple roll a d6 and note the results but we have a way to make it a little more automated if we desire. This is accomplished via the Roll20 roll table.

The process is pretty simple, and although it is not a perfect solution, it is easy to do and can be done completely with the free version of Roll20.

Step 1: Making the Table

On the top right of Roll20 you will find the Collection Icon. Clicking on it will bring up the tab that gives us control over a lot of the automated processes; macros, decks and rollable tables. Near the bottom you will find Rollable tables. The first thing we need to do is to create a new Rollable table.



Step 2: Naming the table and adding the items

Once we have the table created, clicking on the table name that appeared when we added the new table. This will open up the new table dialog. From here rename the table to "CD" and begin adding each of the following Items: "1","2","0","0","1 + Effect","1 + Effect".



Once you have completed adding your items into the table, it should look like this. When you are happy with it. Hit "Save Changes"



Step 3: Testing the roll

Switch back to the chat dialog box and type the following roll command into chat "/roll 3t[CD]", you should get a result similar to this image. This will show you the total damage that was rolled, but you will have to manually add in any extra damage you get from effects like Vicious(Conan),Sharp(JCoM), etc.



And that is all there is to setting up a roll20 rollable table to handle your Combat Dice in roll20.

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Rune Sword

Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters, welcome to another installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! We are 3 weeks into our self imposed isolation to slow the stem of the COVID-19 virus. One of the great things about the Hyborian Age is that we can see the monsters that need slaying, although sometimes maybe our heroes might need a keen edge to do it....

Rune Sword



Before the Hyborian Kingdoms spreads across the world in the west, before the mighty kingdoms of the east, before even Stygia there were people that dwelled in these lands. Their mark upon the world is largely erased by war and cataclysm. Still, some places hold glimmers of those long forgotten kingdoms and times, ancient ruins or tombs untouched by the shifting lands. Some of these even hold rare artifacts like this, an ancient sword forged by some unearthly metal. It's edge remains sharp even after the centuries; it's balance is unlike that of the swords of the Hyborian age.

Warriors using such a weapon gain an advantage in combat over their foes, how could they not?

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Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!