'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 CONAN. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CONAN. Show all posts

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Tool Trunk Thursday: Iron Cauldron

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to the next installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! The feature where I present a piece of equipment for Conan 2d20 and its effects in a friendly card-shaped format. You can find other pieces of equipment in the Blog's Equipment Chest!

Iron Cauldron


Cauldrons made from iron are used by many different people for many different things. Anyone who needs to heat liquid over a fire in the Hyborian age is sure to have used a similar device. No matter the size, these pots are generally made from thick iron, making them heavy.

They are used widely by alchemists to more evenly distribute heat into their delicate solutions. This allows them to more efficiently use ingredients to create their enchantments.


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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Conan: Serpent War #1 (2019)

The first issue of "Serpent War" is on the shelf today! I couldn't wait to get to the store so grabbed a digital copy to read with my morning coffee.


Writer: Jim Zub
Artist: Scot Eaton: Penciler, Scott Hanna: Inker
Colorist: Frank D'armata
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Carlos Pacheo, Aneke & Frank D'armata

James Allison Sequence Artist: Vanesa R. Del Rey Colorist: Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Cover Price: $4.99
Pages: 26 of story.
Prose: Solomon Kane 1 of 4.

There are extreme Howard purists who range from not liking any of Howard's characters being done but anyone by him to more Conan centric purists who feel Conan MUST be in the Hyborian Age, anything that strays from this is bad.

Me? I consider myself a Howard purist, but to the point where I have Howard's work in one silo, and everything else in various other silos. I accept and LIKE others doing work with his characters. This work keeps them alive and keeps them in the public eye. No one expects Superman to stay in the world of his creation, but Howard's work? Hands off for many many people.

As you can expect these extreme purists have no love for these Marvel stories. Also as you can expect, I am not one of these. I was looking forward to this adventure because it not only includes Conan but also includes two other, less well known, Howard characters: Solomon Kane and Dark Agnes. Bringing two of Howard's characters to the light is a good thing, especially when one is not that well known. In short, I am happy to see Dark Agnes reborn for an audience that has probably not heard of her.

Art
I generally liked the art in this book, the big spreads introducing Agnes and Kane are great. Seeing them on the big page in a modern print comic gave me a little thrill. I also found using a different team to do the James Allison opening to be excellent. It made it stand apart from the other charcters in the story. It is an excellent use of art to tell a tale in my opinion.

Story
Apart from the addition of Moon Knight, because Howard wouldn't have known about him, this story, at least so far, isn't beyond what Howard could have written. Like most stories of this nature the first issue works to lay the ground work of what is to come and to introduce us to the characters. The most obvious of these two that need introductions are of course Kane and Agnes, but both Conan and Moon Knight are explained as well. As a Moon Knight fan who knows nothing about Conan you will have a basic foundation. As well as a Conan fan who knows nothing about Moon Knight, I have a basic idea as well.

Cover
My biggest complaint about the cover is the sword. Although it isn't a direct copy of the Atlantean sword from the 82 film it is clearly influenced by it. As much as I love the movie this sword belongs in the 82 Conan the Barbarian silo for me. With that being said the cover shows us the main characters and is in my opinion well executed.

Some of the variant covers are incredible. My favorite of these is Conan depicted with Moon Knight done by David Finch. My single complaint about it, especially since it is so bad ass, is that it only includes Conan and Moon Knight. Maybe Issues 2 will have an equally bad ass variant cover from him with Kane and Agnes?


Sword & Sorcery & Guns
Two of the characters are weilder of guns so I thought I would throw that in there as well. Although they are simply laying groundwork and introducing the characters, some of that groundwork is to introduce the threat. That threat is clearly sorcerous and weird in nature. In addition we also get scenese of the characters kicking ass and taking names, so this checks all of these boxes for me.

Overall Thoughts
When they announce stories like this I am always hopeful, but always unsure. Jim Zub has been on social media talking about this for a while, but the proof is in the pudding as they say. I think the whole team has done a great job on this book right down to the Howard underpinnings across the whole thing. Using James Allison, a perhaps even MORE obscure character as the glue to hold this all together is pretty brilliant, and it puts more of the James Allison tales on my reading list, right after I finish "Chessmen of Mars" by Burroughs.

Overall recommendation: Go pick this up.

My rating this month is 4.5 out of 5 Skulls of My Enemies!



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Thursday, November 21, 2019

Tool Trunk Thursday: Wine

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to the next installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! The feature where I present a piece of equipment for Conan 2d20 and its effects in a friendly card-shaped format. You can find other pieces of equipment in the Blog's Equipment Chest!

Wine


Some of the finest vineyards of the Hyborian Age are found in the Kingdom of Aquilonia, likewise some of the best wine comes from this mighty Kingdom. Sharing a fine bottle of this exquisite drink is surely to loosen even the most stalwart tongue.


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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Tool Trunk Thursday: Fine Scales

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to the next installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! The feature where I present a piece of equipment for Conan 2d20 and its effects in a friendly card-shaped format. You can find other pieces of equipment in the Blog's Equipment Chest!

Fine Scales


Mixing unstable reagants together is a delicate and precise science. Get the ratios wrong and your carefully crafted explosive or blinding powder doesn't work. Alchemists are experts at this, but even the greatest of them can use some help. This beautifuly balanced set of scales from the trade masters of Zingara are sure to help any alchemist get those proportions correct to allow their pyrotechnic wizardy to entertain or.............

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Thursday, November 7, 2019

Tool Trunk Thursday: Black Arrows

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to the next installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! The feature where I present a piece of equipment for Conan 2d20 and its effects in a friendly card-shaped format. You can find other pieces of equipment in the Blog's Equipment Chest!

Black Arrows


Occasionally stars fall from the heavens, and while most are undiscovered a few are found and the materials used by expert blacksmiths. This is one such case. Arrows forged from some material that fell from the heavens, perhaps from the outer dark itself. Whatever its origins the load of arrows it has created is sure to grant an edge in battle to the warrior using them.

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Monday, November 4, 2019

What I Learned in a Year: RPG Conventions & PDF Rules

Introduction

One year ago I sat down at a table with 5 strangers, a place way outside of my comfort zone and GMed a game of "Robert E Howard's Conan". I was unsure of what this was going to be or if I would be any good at it. It turned out to be a pretty positive experience and since that time I have gotten to know a few of the people who played in my game. Some because we have continued to GM together at RPG Alliance events, and some because we have talked about game ideas and mechanics a lot since then. That was 2018, I dipped my toes into running a game at a convention.

Since that time we decided we should run RPG Alliance Con again in 2019. It was decided it should be bigger and better but remain a one-day event. It moved to a two-game day on Sunday and remained at Dickens Pub. Some of the GMs involved ran a series of RPG games over the summer at various locations such as Eastridge Sports Cards & Games, Zero Issue Brewing and the now-defunct Titan's Vault. We also ran a few games at the Calgary Expo early in the year and had a definitive presence at FallCon 2019 as the Rpg Alliance.

The convention this year was split into a morning and afternoon program, which was really more of an afternoon and evening program, running 11:30am-3:30pm and 4pm-8pm. We had sold tickets through tabletop.events, and ticket sales at the door as well. My game had seen good pre-sales with 3 of 5 seats being taken up, and the remaining 2 being filling by day of sales. The end result was a solid table of 5 people who had never played Conan before, including one gentleman who had never played an RPG before. If there was a single daunting aspect to my game, that was it. Being someone's first foray into RPGs and wanting to be a fun and positive experience for them.

At many of my previous games, I attempted to bring in a pretty small kit, looking to only bring what was necessary; using tokens and tiles rather than minis and terrain. By FallCon I had given up on this idea, bought a big tote, switched to UDT(Ultimate Dungeon Terrain) by Professor Dungeon Master on Youtube, and started running pretty much a full kit. These displays of terrain and paper-minis are always a big hit with the players who love seeing all the work and attention that has gone into building the world they are playing in.

Teaching the Rules

Maybe I take a while to come to a conclusion, or maybe I am just stubborn. Either way over the last year I have attempted to highlight Conan 2d20s rules before play in a 20 minute overview. Some of these have gone better than others, but at the end of the day talking at people about rules and mechanics in a lecture setting is boring a dull. This last group didn't even get through them all before we started playing. Either way, this is lesson 1 for this post. Don't spend more than a few minutes going over mechanics. It will be far more fun to have a quick scene where the players can learn the majority of the system. So for Conan we might include a scene where the players do some fighting and other skill checks.

Take Home Message

Keep your rules intro light and engaging with your players.

Finshing on Time

Although I got through an adventure with the same format at Fall-Con, I was a little short on time for this adventure, and we failed to complete the final encounter. There were certain places where we could have cut time down, but for about 90% of the time at the table, I thought we were going to run WAY short. So here is my advice for you, especially if you are teaching the rules: If you have 4 hours, plan for a 3-hour game, or at most 4 encounters. This will give you an hour buffer that will most assuredly be filled with starting a little late, introductions and chat, rule instructions and intro encounters, and hopefully, it will leave you a little time at the end of the game to get some feedback from the players. My biggest issue with my deadlines is I haven't gotten a huge amount of feedback from players, just because we were generally playing right up till the end.

Take Home Message

A four-hour time slot really only allows for about three hours of actual gameplay.

Rules & Adventure Materials

The sheer amount of paper a game uses is mind-boggling. Between rulebooks, adventure materials, character sheets, monster information, etc, you can get swamped in paperwork. At RPG Alliance 2018, my first convention I tried to go lightweight and small with components, but still brought all the actual rulebooks I needed. As you can imagine this ended up making my bag not exactly lightweight. Over the next year, I sought to remove the weight and the rulebooks from my kit. I thought a tablet might be a useful addition, but after looking at them and talking to a friend who tried to use them, I determined they might not be for me, although the idea stayed in the back of my mind.

Game Changer

If we FFWD a little, I was still considering a tablet. Part of my issue was certainly the issue of how LARGE .pdfs loaded, anytime I tried using the CONAN book in-game to find something and to do a search I would have to wait for it to catch up with the load, and it ended up being faster to simply use the hardcopy. This was not really a hardware form factor issue or an old-school connection to physical books, it was simply a functionality issue.

Still switching out all the books for a tablet? Pretty appealing. The solution came through a conversation with Chris, a fellow GM and player in my first convention game. Chris told me about a piece of software called "XODO".

This free PDF reader was everything Adobe Reader wasn't. Documents didn't load in a linear fashion; if I went to page 300, it loaded page 300. It allowed me to set up bookmarks to places in the document and it created a useable table of contents in most circumstances. Without a doubt finding, this application solidified me into getting a tablet for my rulebooks, and so the research began.

Most people I watched and articles I read suggested we need at least a 10" tablet for books, anything smaller wasn't worth it. So I went to look into 10" tablets. These machines range anywhere from ~$100 to over $1000 depending on what you get, and although I would love one of those higher-end tablets, I just couldn't afford it.

The Rules Tablet

In the end, I ended up picking up the Amazon Fire HD 10 for $159CAD (on sale) in Canada or if you are in the US Amazon Fire HD 10 for $149USD, and I couldn't be happier with it after 6 months of using it as my go-to rules library.

PROS
  • Price
  • Aspect Ratio
  • Screen
CONS
  • FIRE OS
  • Speed
  • Memory

Price: Coming in at $199CAD, and often dropping to $159, it is easily on the lower end price point for a 10" tablet.
Aspect Ratio: The Fire HD 10 is a 16:10 tablet, which isn't ideal for the standard rule book. The slightly smaller display on the 16:10, hasn't been an issue for me though and having that ability to display widescreen if I need it is awesome. A second note, I find it be a little narrower than a standard 4:3 tablet due to the aspect ratio. I find this easier to hold, but I am a big guy, so you may not have the same experience. You can check out this video to see the aspect ratio differences and decide if it is a pro, con or neutral feature for you.
Screen: Although the screen is a little shiny, I haven't had an issue with it when playing. Beyond that the resolution is 1920x1200, most are 1280x800 in this price range. Color wise I have been happy with it as well.
FIRE OS: This is probably the biggest single CON the Fire has. the FIRE OS is an Amazon centric android OS. It doesn't natively have access to GOOGLE PLAY, and all apps have to come through the Amazon store. This could well be the nail in the coffin since XODO isn't on the Amazon store. Fortunately, with a little reading and following some simple instructions you can add Google Play to your Fire and run XODO no problem.
Speed: Like many low-end tablets the Fire isn't the fastest machine on the block but using XODO as the app I have no issues with the FIRE being fast enough for the purpose I picked it up for.
Memory: I sound like a broken record here, but as a low-end tablet, it only comes with 32gb of space. You can get the higher-end version of the FIRE with 64gb, but it will cost you a little more, if all you use it for is storing PDFs, 32gb is going to allow you to store 700+ 40MB PDFs. For me 32gb is plenty.

Overall this tablet has been an excellent and inexpensive addition to my arsenal of tools for the convention. It is of note that I use this at home as well for rules. It is just better.

The Reference Tablet

Beyond using the Fire for rules I generally have 3 tabs open in XODO: Rules, Adventure, and Monsters. I don't always use the tablet for the adventure, as I do sometimes write them out in a notebook, but when space is at a premium having everything in a single small tablet is quite handy. It also means you aren't sorting through a bunch of loose pages trying to find your adventure or the stats for the monster they are attacking.

Take Home Message

Tablets are incredibly useful, but you don't need the latest and greatest for it to be an effective tool.

Summary

I recommend trying to GM at a convention if you get the chance. It has been a very positive experience and I have met some great people and had some cool opportunities. Jump outside your comfort zone and be a positive part of this hobby!

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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Tool Trunk Thursday: Oil Flasks

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to the next installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! The feature where I present a piece of equipment for Conan 2d20 and its effects in a friendly card-shaped format. You can find other pieces of equipment in the Blog's Equipment Chest!

Oil Flasks


Flasks of oil come in many forms from skins of leather to vials of glass. It's uses can not be understated to the keen adventurer. It can be used to slow an enemy, by making the floors slippery or perhaps it's ability to burn is more up your alley? Either way I am sure these flasks will come in handy to those wise enough to carry them.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Episode 89: Desert Ruins!

Welcome back! I recently decided to do full terrain at conventions, and because of this, I found myself in need of a few new desert ruin pieces. I decided I should video the build and put out a youtube video for it!


I have provided a table of contents to take you to the pertinent locations in the video you may be interested in.
The ruins will be built from XPS and based on MDF board.

Needed:
  • MDF Base (1/4")
  • XPS Foam
  • PVA GLue.
  • Hot Glue.
  • Sand.
  • Various colors of brown from dark to light.
  • Black paint.
  • Gloss varnish.
  • You will also need Sculptamold,
I mentioned a few other things that I used at the convention that I thought people might be interested in as well.

18" Lazy Susan for Ultimate Dungeon Terrain
Amazon Fire HD 10

These last three links take you to Amazon, which gives me a small commission on each sale, helping to support the blog.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Persuade & Social Encounters in Conan 2d20

I often have players try and talk there way out of a situation. In one game the characters had been shipwrecked and a band of beach scavengers showed up with the intention of taking what was theirs and killing anyone in their way, the solution, "We should talk to them." In another example I had a group of players come across a barricaded path guarded by some Khitan warriors, they wanted to talk their way past the guards. It is almost like no one has seen 1984's Conan the Destroyer, which I only bring up because of the line enjoyed by Matt John over at Rogues in the House Podcast...


ENOUGH TALK!



Still despite that, it is an RPG and the characters have social skills like "Society" and "Persuade". This article is going be about a simple mechanic you can use to help control how a social encounter might play out using these skills. Keep in mind this is a mechanic for a time when a social encounter is appropriate, you probably don't want players to be able to negotiate with the skeletons that populate your tombs.

In the past when this has come up I have made it into a struggle and a single roll; either they convince them or they don't. It has the advantage of being simple, but it has the disadvantage of resolving something of importance in a very very simple way, which can take the spotlight away from players who excel in social skills, and while the struggle isn't slow to resolve, it isn't as fast as a single die roll.

For me, the heart of how the social encounter will go is going to be based on two factors; how open the NPC is to listen to the PCs and how easily their mind can be swayed once they are listening. A friend is going to be willing to listen a lot easier than the bandit leader attacking you, but it is possible your friend will be harder to sway than that bandit leader. With the system, I have in mind and momentum spends you still might be able to convince a friend to help you quicker than an openly hostile opponent.

Likely to Listen?

This is how difficult the actual negotiation is, and so it makes perfect sense to make this into the difficulty of the skill test, running from close friends to hostile enemies we can set up a simple difficulty chart.
  • D0 - Good Friends
  • D1 - Friendly
  • D2 - Neutral
  • D3 - Dislike
  • D4 - Veiled Hostility
  • D5 - Outright Hostile

This gives us a place to work from that we can apply to the social encounters the players find themselves involved in. You can either make note of them beforehand or implement them on the fly. Like all difficulties, feel free to modify these as you see fit by other factors. Are the PC and NPCs Good Friends, but the PCs failed to do something for them? Move the difficulty up 1 or 2 notches. Perhaps the NPC is generally neutral towards the party, but they have a high level of renown in the area, you can move the difficulty to 1.

Success and Failure: If the social test is successful, simply determine momentum and move on to resolving the effect, "Are they Swayed" of the roll in part 2 of the test. However, if they fail to move the difficulty of the test up by 1 notch. If they fail at D4 or D5, the test is an outright failure.

Complications: The simplest complication for these sorts of encounters is putting your foot in your mouth or offending the person you are talking to. Keeping in mind a complication is about 2 doom we have a few simple options.
  1. Increase the difficulty one step.
  2. Reduce the generated momentum by two.
  3. If the test was D3 and there was a failure with the complication, make the test an outright failure.

Are they Swayed

This part of the mechanic centers around convincing the NPC once they have heard what was said. It might take several rounds of convincing to get them on board, but anytime during that negotiation, we might see that NPC stop listening and have the communication break down. The easiest way to work this is with a "hit point" or "effort" system, which will require a point pool for the NPC to resist with and a way for the PC to whittle away at that pool.

Conan has a mental damage track that might work for this, resolve and trauma. Generally, we see this damage track in regards to actually trying to scare away or mentally break the opponent, or simulate the effects of fear and is soaked by courage. I don't think it is the perfect fit for what we are trying to accomplish. We also don't have a great "weapon" to use to try and convince the NPC. We aren't trying to Steely Glare them into seeing our side of things and convince them we are correct. This is supposed to be a social encounter and not a scare the pants off of the local b├╝rgermeister.

I think the Willpower attribute will work well for this number, which sits around 7-10 in most humans. Adding a simple modifier based on how easily swayed they are will let us make the NPC a little more interesting.
  • Easy to sway - -1/2 willpower attribute
  • Default - Willpower attribute
  • Difficult to sway - +1/2 willpower attribute

With that in mind, we still need a way to bring that value to 0 and convince them to buy into the social encounter. Give the players 1 combat die for each level of FOCUS they have in their social ability (generally Persuade or Society) and use the following momentum spends as a guideline.
  • 1M - add 1 to the combat die roll - repeatable
  • 1M - Re-roll any number of combat dice
  • 2M - Reduce the difficulty of the test by 1

Example

Example 1
Balor is trying to convince the local sheriff to let his friends go. They were captured and locked up after a night of drinking. You could of course just do a 100% roleplay if that suits your group better, but if you want to work it mechanically it might go something like this.....
Balor says, "Ah come on man, they didn't mean any harm to the village, they were just blowing off steam after all the horrors they have seen defending this place!"
The sherrif looks Balor up and down and says.....
GM - Balor, make a D2 Persuade test, he dislikes you and your crew, but will be neutral due to the aid you have rendered the village.
Balor - Ok my Persuade TN is 8 with a focus of 1. I will roll 3d20, and give you a point of doom....

Balor - 4,14 and 12...So 1 success. The Sherrif looks at Balor up and down and says, "no harm? they burned down the blacksmith and caused considerable damage to the tavern. You may have defended the village, but perhaps we would have been in better shape with the creatures of the dark!"
"Balor replies with, "Ah come on, you know that isn't true! It was only a little fire!"
GM - Ok, if you continue the difficulty will now be at D3. Do you want to continue?
Balor - I roll 4d20, and give you 2 more doom.....

Balor - 6,2,9 & 13! for 4 successes! and 1 momentum!
GM - Great! roll 2 combat dice for your persuade focus!
Balor - OK.....

Balor - I roll a 1, and a 2 for 3 points. I want to add 1 more point with the momentum bringing the total to 4!
GM - ok. The Sherif is easily swayed so he only had 4 points.
The sheriff shrugs, "Trouble follows your party around, but we do appreciate what you have done for us..", and tosses the keys to Balor.

Example 2
Ismene is working to try and sell some stolen goods, she is locked into negotiations with a local kothian fence she knows.
"Come on! This is the finest Stygian gold, This statue has to be worth more than a measly 3 bags of gold, how about 5? ", Ismene smiles slyly.
The fence looks at the statue and then at Ismene and says.....
GM - Ismene, make a D1 Persuade test, he is neutral towards you but knows of your skills, so we will treat him as friendly.
Ismene - I will give you 2 doom and roll 4d20.....

Ismene - 2, 17 and 2 20s...... GM - Ok, roll a combat die equal to your persuade focus.
Ismene - OK, I have a focus of 1, I roll..
Ismene - 2!
GM - Ok, you reduce is resistance to moving to your price by 2 points leaving him with 4!
The fence looks at the statue and then at Ismene and says, "The statue is truly of great quality, but I am just can't give you 5 bags of gold."
GM - But you rolled 2 complications.....
GM - During the negotiations, you mention the words "cursed temple" and "dangerous Stygian sorcery" one too many times...
GM - Negotiations are now at D3 as the Kothian fence becomes less certain he even wants this potentially cursed item and is growing untrustful of your intentions.

And so Ismene could continue the encounter attempting to get more money for the Stygian gold she has stolen or cut her losses and take the original gold offered....

Summary

This gives you a way to walk through social encounters in a fair and even manner, and may even convince a few of your players to spend a few points on persuade for reasons beyond simply striking at your opponents. As you can see in the examples it gives us a quick way to mechanically guide the narration between the players and the NPCs.

Games like 2d20 can be mechanically heavy at times, especially if all you do is roll the dice and apply the results. These games really shine when you narrate and work together as a group to not simply roll and apply, but roll, apply AND use your results to guide your narration.

If you thought this was interesting drop me a comment and let me know your thoughts. Is this something you would use? What would you change? Do you think the social struggle is already enough to accomplish this? Let me know.

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