'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

Showing posts with label AoC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AoC. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Age of Conan: Issue #1 (2019): Bêlit. "The Lost Verses"

This is the third of three new titles bearing our Cimmerian Hero's name from Marvel! Things are different this time though, even though it has Conan's name on it, it centers around other characters from his world. We start with the first woman to really capture Conan's heart: Bêlit, Queen of the Black Coast. If you are new to Conan, be sure to check out the original story featuring this savage lady, Queen of the Black Coast. So without further pre-amble I give you Marvel's Age of Conan: Bêlit.

First the people who made this issue possible, the writers, artists and letterers.
Cover: Sana Takeda
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Kate Niemczyk
Colorist: Jason Keith
Letterer: VCs Travis Lanham
I suspect this issue will be not well liked by many, but I am willing to see where the story goes.

I generally liked the cover, it gives an air of regal sureness to Bêlit that I think fits her character, but I do think it lacks a little of the savage edge I think she should have. Sana Takeda has a fairly distinctive style I would describe as beautiful ethereal and flowery, and this cover is no exception to this.

The story, in this issue, is simple enough, and lays the ground work for Bêlit to start down the road to become Queen of the Black Coast. It is not twisty and as near as I can tell isn't setting up some massive twist. It is direct, but it is setting up to develop Bêlit into the woman she becomes. With all that being said, I don't think it is the story I would have told, but then I am not sure what story I would tell for Bêlit, which I think will be the problem. This will not be the story any of you had for her either, even if you don't know what that is. Her origins were secretive and mysterious. Tini Howard has her work cut out for her here. Telling the story of one of Robert E Howard's more iconic women of the Hyborian Age is not a task I am jealous of.

Art wise, I found the issue to be well enough executed, but come across clean. It is bright and the lines are straight for the most part. This is not universally true, but it was enough that it was the main impression I took away. It would be cool if as the story progressed the art was to change and become more and more harsh as Bêlit moves closer to becoming the Pirate Queen. For now I find Kate Niemczyk's style to be a little off the mark here, which isn't to say I dislike her art, she has done some cool stuff and you should check out her work. I just don't think it is fitting perfectly for the Hyborian Age tale. I have one striking exception to this. The last panel is, in my opinion, excellent in execution and style. The coloring of Jason Keith supports the art style in that it remains pretty bright for the most part.

The last thing we need to talk about is the sword and sorcery elements of this. This isn't as strongly tropy as say the first issue of Conan the Barbarian, where we have, "Conan Fight. Conan Capture. Conan Fight Wizard.". Even without those heavy tropes the story has most the elements we need to see a S&S tale. Although again I prefer my tales to be a little heavier on the conflict side.

Alright so those are my thoughts, lets see how many skulls I think this all breaks down to.




Sword & Sorcery:

I have landed on 4 out of 5 skulls here, I have a few minor issues with things, but mostly they deal with things not fitting exactly, or not being done how I would do them. None of that make this bad per say. I am also hopeful this book may attract a slightly new demographic to Conan's world that has traditionally stayed away due to the influence both real and imagined of certain less than savory individuals. So go grab your copy of Age of Conan: Bêlit, grab your favorite wine and give it a read. I am sure I will see you all on the Internet to discuss thoughts on this issue in more detail there.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Conan Exiles. Survive, Build, Dominate. The Review.

Sometime last year Funcom released Conan Exiles into a wide beta release on Steam known as "Early Access". Drop your coin and start playing the game as is, close to a year before the official release date. See it update. See it change. Follow the development. Watch it form.

As it happened at it's original early access release many people said it was unplayable. They were mad. Some people couldn't play it due to issues with their PC, but were unable to return it, presumably it worked initially and then something changed and they were past the hours played threshold. I don't know. I didn't pick it up back then.

I *DID* pick it up at Christmas and although it certainly had some issues I enjoyed playing it. I liked the ability to create my own house and harvest the land. To grow strong. To hunt. To craft. I personally have about 160 hours into two games, one with a character at around level 50 and one around level 26. I am still exploring and finding new stuff, and at release the world will grow even larger, I have solidly got my moneys worth out of this game.

Let's rewind, just in case you are unfamiliar with this game. This is Funcom's latest offering to the Conan Franchise. It is an open world survival game that can be played solo or on servers of various sizes ranging from about 10 to 40. You start with nothing and you must, as they say,
Survive. Build. Dominate.

Played 100% as intended you start crucified naked in the desert. Everything you have known has been taken from you; family, money, pride. Once you define your character you are cut down and set free into the Exiled Lands. You start, quite literally, with nothing.

As you progress through the game you gather resources, make clothing, armor, houses, weapons, fortresses and any number of things to help decorate. If you are so inclined you can even go out and find other settlements, and take their men and women to be broken on your wheels of pain so they become your thralls. These thralls will work for you defending and crafting, sometimes their skill at crafting far surpasses yours.

So Conan Exiles. Let's take a quick look at what it is, and what it isn't.

  • Is this Robert E. Howard's Conan? In a short response. No it is not purely REH's Conan. It takes flavor from the stories by REH as well as the pastiches, comics and movies that came after. They all add to the overall flavor of the game.
  • Will we get to explore earth during the Hyborian Age? In a word, no. You like the other Exiles are trapped in a land where humanity once waged war against some forgotten race. Presumably it exists somewhere on earth, but is now cut off any only used to dump prisoners.
  • Do I get to play Conan? No. You get to play a random Exile from a country of your choice who worships a deity of your choice.
  • Does it feel like a Conan game? For me, it does. I won't pretend it's a perfect game, or a perfect representation of what I think Conan is or represents. For me the survival aspect is enjoyable and the flavor from Howard and others that defines the Hyborian Age adds a lot for me. I just enjoy seeing things like "Stygian Banner" or "Dafari Drums" on my screen.
  • Civilization vs Barbarism? This is something I struggle with a little. It feels like we are trying to build a civilization vs remaining strong and barbaric. In reality civilization isn't defined by the technology we build it is defined by society and the laws we create. This game in many ways feels like it showcases this. You removed from your civilization and dropped back to barbarism.
  • Survival? Besides the hostile creatures and other exiles out to end your life, the environment itself is harsh. There are a few main elements that need to conquered to ensure survival: food, water, shelter and temperature.
    • Water: You must secure water and food or you will die. Wander into places that are very hot, or wear clothing that is too warm? Your thirst will increase, and when you run out of water. You will die.
    • Food: As you progress through the world you will grow hungry. If you do not eat, or eat the wrong things, you will die. Find animals, hunt them and cook them to maintain a healthy hunger level. Food will also allow you to regenerate your vitality.
    • Temperature: Being too hot or too cold will negatively affect you as well. Wearing heavy clothing in the sun, or just being out in the desert too long will result in you needing more water, and if you run out, you die. Likewise being in the north without wearing clothing will result in frostbite and death.
    • Shelter: Shelter can also help regulate temperature, but it also serves to protect you from the sandstorm that ravages the lands. Getting caught in this will cut a man or woman to ribbons....and you will die.

Although the game has no quests of the variety: Find NPC, Talk to NPC, Retrieve 20 wolf pelts, it does have a journey system which functions both as a tutorial and then later as a guide and a direction system. Doing what is suggests will take you into dungeons and out across the vast expanses of the Exiled lands. For me, at least, this is a superior system. I was never a fan of the general quest concept in MMORPGs. This world is an open sandbox, you can go anywhere, anytime for any reason; provided you are strong enough.

My initial impressions of this when I picked it up in Early Access were good, I enjoyed it. The last major update improved the game immensly. I was watching a stream just yesterday by a new player who had never played in early access and after a few days playing his impressions of the game were glowing. If you are looking for a beautifully immersive game with a story that will lead you along and be amazing, I suspect the new God of War might be up your alley. If you are seeking an immersive game that allows you to go and do what you want, build your fortress, take slaves and try and survive in a brutal world, crafting your own story, then 100% check out Conan Exiles.

On Steam I have played for 169 hours. I am still going strong and with the new areas opening...............

4 out 5 Skulls of My Enemies!
*Just a word of warning: This game is violent. This game features killing humans in gruesome ways. This game features nudity. This game features slavery.

Monday, February 5, 2018

JC: FG Extension Update.

As expected I managed to get sometime to work on the project over the weekend. I sadly squandered some of my Saturday in Age of Conan, and although I didn't stream the session I did managed to escape Tortage and begin my quest into the main world.

Even having squandered that time I managed to get a fair it done.

  • Finish inventory list.
    • Completed the core inventory list on the main screen, pulls from same source as the MORECORE inventory tab.
  • Add talent list.
    • Completed a working list that ties to the talents tab of the MORECORE sheet.
  • Add weapons list.
    • Completed the Weapons list using the 2d20 weapons class, rollable, may need a couple of tweaks, but essentially functional.
  • Create graphics for Momentum, Threat and Luck.
    • Created momentum tokens, Luck tokens and threat tokens. Will re-design the luck tokens in the future.
  • Create momentum, luck and threat counters as well as spends.
    • Added selectable tokens for luck and momentum.
    • Momentum can be On, Off, Selected or disabled.
    • Momentum can be spent by double clicking the spend button.

To Do
  • Stress boxes
  • Spend button for Luck
  • Chat messages for momentum and luck spends
  • Finish adding in the stat rollers and resolve the static anchor issues

Latest version of the Character sheet showing Inventory, Talents, weapons, Momentum and Luck.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Conan 2d20 review. How clunky is it? A comparison with Pathfinder.

I have seen a lot of posts. People often read the Conan 2d20 rules and decide without playing them that they are too clunky. They have too many fiddly bits and they are just too slow.

But are they? Does Conan 2d20 present us with a system that is actually clunkier? I aim to answer this in this post by comparing a combat through multiple systems to see how they stack up.

For simplicity our encounter will start with a lone fighter, "Conal", breaking into a dark tomb to retrieve some long forgotten treasure. In an ancient tomb he is attacked by five skeletons.

Conan Zone Layout
Pathfinder Grid Layout

-- Conan 2d20 --

Agility: 13
Melee: Ex 5, Fc 5. TN 17/5
Coordination: 10
Parry: Ex 3, Fc 3. TN 13/3
Brawn: 12, +3cd
Fortune: 3
Broadsword: R2, 5cd, parrying
Shield: R2, 3cd, 1H, parrying, Shield 2
Armor = soak 2 everywhere.
Vigor: 13
Resolve: 10
Talents: No Mercy (equivalent 3 ranks): Re-roll xCDs

Skeletons (M)
Agility: 9
Combat: 2. TN 11/2
Pitted Sword: R2, 5cd, parrying
Armor: 2
Vigor: 5
Resolve: 8
Fear: 1


Round 1

Conal goes first (Don't need to roll initiative in Conan, PCs always start unless interrupted by a GM doom spend)
Conal moves into a new zone(minor action)
Conal attacks the skeleton. (standard action)
Conal pays 3 doom into the pool and rolls 5d20. DOOM=6
Conal attacks and rolls 5d20 vs D1: 4,15,11,16,1 = 7 successes = 6 Momentum.
Conal rolls 8cd for damage: 5,2,3,4,3,2,3,5. Re-rolls 3 misses, rolls 3,4,4. tough luck. Damage = 6.
Conal spends 1 momentum for 2 points of soak ignored.
Conal does 6 vigor damage, causing a wound, destroying the skeleton.
Remaining momentum to the group pool. MOMENTUM=4
Conal approaches the first skeleton and raises his sword, striking the abomination. Although his sword blow is not devastating it slashes past a week spot in the skeletons ancient armor, through the torso reducing the bones to a broken and collapsed mess.

Skeletons form a mob.
The remaining 4 skeletons all move to engage Conal. They form a mob giving them extra attack dice.
Skeleton mob rolls 4d20+3d20 from doom. DOOM = 3
Conal attempts to parry and rolls 5d20, buying 3 dice with momentum. MOMENTUM=1
Skeletons attack and roll 8d20 vs D1: 6,11,16,11,14,15,4,18 = 4 successes = 3 momentum.
Conal parries and rolls 5d20 vs D1: 4,16,1,11,9 = 5 successes = 4 momentum.
Conal successfully parries the mob of skeletons. MOMENTUM=2
The shambling mob approaches Conal and with only the noise of metal on bone the 4 raise and slice at Conal, with a terrific effort Conal wards off the blows, feeling as if he has gained the upper hand on this undead horde.

Round 2

MOMENTUM reduces by 1.
Conal pays 1 doom into the pool, uses 1 point of momentum and 1 fortune and rolls 5d20 against the mob of skeletons. DOOM = 4
Conal rolls 5d20 vs D1: 20,10,14,8,1 = 5 successes = 4 momentum. MOMENTUM=5. Complication. DOOM=6
Conal rolls 8cd for damage: 6,4,6,6,2,4,3,5. Re-rolls 3 misses, rolls 3,2,4. Damage=8.
Conal spends 2 momentum to increase damage to 10.
Conal spends 1 momentum for 2 points of soak ignored. MOMENTUM=2
Conal does 5 points of vigor to the first skeleton destroying it. 5 damage is carried to the next skeleton. 2 skeletons remain.
Taking advantage of the skeletons being pushed back by his parry, Conal swings a deadly arc of steal crashing through two of the skeletons reducing them to dust.
Conal spends 1 point of momentum and strikes at the remaining skeletons with his shield (Dual Wield, Swift action)
Conal kills 2 with a sword and 2 with his shield.
Conal spends 1 point on an extra die and 2 into the doom pool. DOOM=8
Conal rolls 5d20 vs D2 (D1 +1 for swift action): 11,17,1,19,14 = 5 successes = 3 momentum. MOMENTUM=4
Conal rolls 6cd for his shield. 1,3,4,3,3,5. Re-rolls 3 misses, rolls 2,3,2. Damage = 6.
Conal spends 4 Momentum to bring his damage to 5 and spends one point of doom to gain 2 points of soak being ignored.
Conal causes the other two skeletons 1 wound each.
As Conal's sword slices through two of the skeletons, he lashes out at the other two with his shield. With a terrific crash the impact reduces the remaining two skeletons do nothing more than a pile of bones and a slight haze of dust in the air

-- Pathfinder --

Human Level 1
STR: 17 +3 (attack rolls, Damage rolls)
DEX: 14 +2 (Armor class, initiative)
CON: 14 +2
HP: 12
Longsword DMG: 1d8 Crit: 19–20/×2
Chainmail AC:+6 Max Dex Bonus:+2 ACP:–5 Spell Failure: 30% move: 20 ft.
Shield, light steel: AC:+1 ACP:–1 Spell Failure: 5%
Power attack, Cleave
AC: 10+6+1+2=19

AC: 16
Hp: 4
Speed 30'
broken scimitar +0 (1d6)
Base Attack = +0
FEATS Improved initiative (+4 initiative)

Round 1

Roll for Initiative
Rolled and sorter for order
Skeleton 5: 20+4 = 24
Skeleton 2: 17+4 = 21
Skeleton 4: 10+4 = 14
Skeleton 3: 9+4 = 13
Skeleton 1: 6+4 = 10
Conal: 4+2 = 6

Skeleton 5 moves to engage Conal and rolls a d20 for his attack. Rolls 15. Conal's AC = 19.
Skeletons move to attack.

Skeleton 2 moves forward 30'
Skeleton 4 moves and attacks Conal. Rolls a d20 and scores a 9. Not enough to beat Conal's AC.
Skeleton 3 moves up and attacks Conal as well. Skeleton 3 is opposite Skeleton 4 and so gains a +2 flanking bonus. Rolls it's 20. Gets an 8+2=10. Still fails to strike Conal.
Skeleton 1 moves forward 30'
The skeletons advance quicker than the undead should be able to. Three reach Conal with 2 close on their heals. Their sword swings are ineffectual, a combination of armor and dexterity cause all three to miss

Conal attacks Skeleton 4. Rolls his d20 and rolls 9. +4 = 13. Not enough to defeat the skeleton's AC.
Conal being pressed back by the horde of bones strikes wildly but fails to land an effective blow against the skeletons.

Round 2

Skeleton 5
Skeleton 2
Skeleton 4
Skeleton 3
Skeleton 1

Remaining 2 skeletons close.  All attack and miss.
Skeleton 5 swings at Conal! Rolls a d20. 12. not good enough.
Skeleton 2 moves and attacks Conal. Rolls a d20. 12. Not enough.
Skeleton 4 attacks Conal. d20. 16+2 flanking = 18. Not enough.
Skeleton 3 swings. D20. 7+2 flanking, misses.
Skeleton 1 moves up and swings. 4...Misses.

Conal strikes at Skeleton 4 and rolling a d20, gets a 14+4=18! A HIT!
Conal rolls 1d8 for damage and gains a +3 from attributes. He rolls a 5+3=8! A skeleton falls!
Conal using cleave strikes at Skeleton 2! He rolls a d20 and scores a 15+4 = 19! Another hit
Conal rolls a 1d8 and scores a 2, but with his +3 it becomes a 5 and a second skeleton falls.
Conal slashes out at the skeleton beside him, his blade passing easily across the bones reducing it to dust, his deadly arc continuing in a devastating attack, striking down a second skeleton

Round 3

Skeleton 5
Skeleton 3
Skeleton 1

Skeleton 5 swings out, this time enjoying a flanking bonus, and Conal is at a -2 for his AC from using Cleave.
The skeleton's D20 roll is a 16. +2 = 18, enough to hit Conal with his temporary AC of 17.
Skeleton 5 rolls a 1d6 for damage and scores a 5.
Skeleton 3 stikes next enjoying the same bonuses as his cohort. Rolls a 19. Also enough to strike Conal.
Skeleton 3 rolls a 1d6 for damage and scores a 6.
Conal has suffered 11 damage, leaving him a single hit point.
Skeleton 1 lashes out at Conal, rolling a 13 on a d20. Not enough to hit Conal, even with his -2 AC
Unbalanced by his massive attack two of the skeletons slice out with ancient steel, blood flows and Conal barely blocks the third blade from ending his life.

Conal swings at Skeleton 5. He rolls 6 on his d20, missing the Skeleton.
Conal staggers and ineffectually swings back at the undead seeking to have him join them.

Round 4

Skeleton 5
Skeleton 3
Skeleton 1

Skeleton 5 rolls a 4, +2 flanking isn't enough to strike Conal.
Skeleton 3 swings and rolls a 17. +2 = 19. Enough to hit Conal.
Skeleton 3 rolls damage. and rolls a 2. Conal only had 1 HP left and so it reduced to -1 and dying.

-- Analysis --

Number of Rounds
Conan-2d20: 2
Pathfinder: 4
Verdict: Conan resolves combat faster.

Number of d20s
Conan-2d20: 22 in 4 rolls
Pathfinder: 16 in 16 rolls
Verdict: This depends on if you like dice pools. We roll more dice in Conan. We roll more often in Pathfinder. Time wise I suspect Conan will win here as I do not think each combat roll in Conan-2d20 will take 4x the time to resolve, and there are times it will be just as fast in my experience

Damage dice
Conan-2d20: I didn't count this. You roll A LOT of damage dice.
Pathfinder: Way less dice to resolve damage
Verdict: I am going to go with Pathfinder. It's simpler to roll a single die and things can be sped up by just rolling damage with your attack die. The upside for Conan-2d20 is with it's effects you can have a lot more interesting things to happen. More damage, grappling, stunning etc.

Narrative guidance
Conan-2d20: Each roll you make tells you what has occurred. How much you were successful by, if your weapon pierced armor etc.
Pathfinder: While providing some it is generally obscured by choosing a simpler resolution
Verdict: Conan, in my opinion provides the player and GM with more ideas about what is actually happening.

-- Final Thoughts --

I am not here to tell you which system is better. I simply wanted to compare two systems, one I feel is a popular game with a combat system people seem to enjoy, and the other a system that often gets a bad rap. The system in Conan reads poorly, but in actual play is a fun and interesting combat system. It is not without it's problems, but all games have some.

One of the interesting things about this comparison is seeing the hero die in Pathfinder, having this occur in Conan against enemies like this is practically unheard of. The system provides players with characters which are by all definitions, heroic.

If you have any comments, I would love to hear them!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Age of Conan: Saga of Zath

Age of Conan

Conan Exiles is approaching it's official release date. Over the last year it has gone from a game, from what I understand, significant issues, to a game that I quite enjoy. Sure it still has issues. I suspect all games do, but in the end I enjoy the survival sandbox concept with a Conan skin.

So Funcom is working hard on this new Conan game, but what of it's OTHER Conan game? Age of Conan.

If you are unfamiliar with it, Age of Conan was and *IS* a MMORPG set in the Hyborian Age. It was released WAY back in May 2008. Nearly 10 years ago. You start with a character in the Barachan Isles and the city of Tortage where you remain until you get to a high enough level and escape to the world at large. As it is 10 years old, there are less servers than there used to be. I believe only one remains. "CROM" in both PVP vs PVE. The game can be played for free giving you access to a lot of content or through a paid membership giving you certain bonuses and access to everything.

Through out your adventure you are given quests, gain experience and levels, new abilities, crafting recipes and your own guild strongholds.

Saga of Zath

Before Christmas Funcom announced that in the new year they were going to start a new server, something they called a SAGA server. We would all be given the opportunity to start fresh and play the game starting at Tortage. The original content would be in place as well as a new quest called "Saga of Kath". At the end of the saga server run, characters would be rolled back into CROM with all they had gained including marks of saga completion.

From the Saga of Zath website

The Saga Quest Shortly after washing ashore on Tortage Island, you are assigned a “Saga Quest” which tasks you with reaching various progression milestones:

  • Reach Level 20
  • Reach Level 50
  • Reach Level 80
  • Fulfill your Destiny
  • Complete a Raid via the Raid Finder*
  • Classic Raid Progression
Completing each stage of the quest awards a special vanity item or account-wide title exclusive to Saga of Zath, along with powerful loot including a Tier 4 Cloak and a Tier 6 Weapon and Necklace for your class!
* The Raid Finder will not be available at the start of Saga of Zath. Don’t worry--we’ll turn it on shortly after the launch.

January 24th saw the launch of the new Server and so I decided to return to Conan's MMORPG world and logged in last night at 8pm MST and made it to pretty close to level 12 in about 3 hours of solid game play, so I have about 8 levels to go to hit the first Zath quest goal. I hadn't played in about 2 years (Christmas 2016), but I quickly remembered the controls and got used to moving and killing.

I have never personally played a wizard class in the game, and have always stuck with combat. I love the way combate is handled, allowing you to swing at various locations and use combo moves, and get rewarded with fatality animations, such as beheading your opponent.

First Impressions

As I mentioned I played for 3 hours last night. I was able to find my way around fairly easily and remembered the basic maps and how to get to them. ie How to find my way around Tortage, How to get to the Underhalls and Whitesands.

Overall it was cool to see the game as populated as it was, even if that meant at times it was actually hard to find creatures to kill on Whitesands Island. ha ha.

As always the game is good looking, and has an amazing and epic soundtrack. It was commented from the other room while I was playing, "I wish Diablo 3 had an epic soundtrack like that." I often turn the music off in games, but in AoC, it is welcome and epic.

I will continue to play a little when I have time and see how far I get.

I will livestream my entire experience over on my YouTube channel, so come and check it out. SAGA OF ZATH