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

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

DOTAR SOJAT! John Carter of Mars RPG by Modiphius!

On Thursday my pledge for John Carter of Mars RPG arrived. Pretty exciting! I first wrote about this back in January 2018 when Modiphius announced this would be a thing. Since then those of us who are backers have watched this come together, seeing initial pdfs and pictures of miniatures. For me a good kickstarter maintains excitement for the product even after the kickstarter is complete. Modiphius has done a pretty good job with this with Conan and continues this with John Carter(JCoM), being plugged into the community and sending regular updates.

I did not get an all in pledge, but I did get what I thought was a pretty good approximation of that, DOTAR SOJAT, gave me all the books, miniatures, dice etc. Pretty much everything. Basically I got everything except for the fancy leather bound versions of the book, notebook and the dice bag; nice to haves, but not necessities.

This is the first of two shipments for my pledge. As you can see on the right, the expected delivery was July 2018, and it is now Feb 2019. The pledge fulfillment is late, but it's not several years late, certainly well within my expectations on hitting delivery date targets. The second shipment is supposed to ship late 2019, but mid 2020 would be more likely in my experience. Only time will tell! I also ordered a set of the airship tiles so I could play with miniatures but use less crafted terrain, and well.....Airships....

I am almost sure most of you are here to look at pictures and hear my thoughts on the physical products. To that end I took a lot of pictures and have spent some time with the physical products, although I have not assembled the miniatures.

The Packaging.

We will start with what I see when I open the box. Lots of packaging, not as cool as what I got with Monolith's Claustrophobia, but it appears sufficient to get the product shipped to my door in one piece, after looking through it all, I would say it was successful.

In the Box.

After removing the air packs we can see all of the goodies a little more clearly. Well the dice and miniatures anyhow, there is so many of these the books remain unseen, hidden, below the horde of Barsoom!

Dice.

Lots and lots of dice. 15 d20s and 18 combat dice that will assuredly be pressed into service for Conan as well!

The dice are clean and easy to read with the combat dice eliminating having numbers on them as well to clarify what is damage and what is not. I approve. D6s are the most common dice out there, we really don't need to press our special dice into service to roll as a d6.

Blister Packs.

The resin miniatures are all packed in sealed blister packs. A few are in blister packs that are not sealed, but they were secure for me and had not popped open in transit. Inside the figures are all in small ziploc bags preventing them from moving around freely within the blister.

Miniatures.

Resin figures are a little new to me so I wanted to check them out when I got them. The casts look nice, although there is a little flashing. I think I might actually prefer big obvious flashing like this to a tiny small occasional amount I generally miss till I am painting.

The material is grey and has a little flex in it, not something like Bones, but not rigid either. They will look bad ass painted.

White Ape.

Another shot of one of the miniatures showing the detail of the figures.

Notebook.

Next up are a few photos from the notebook. It has a great cover, elastic closure and integrated cloth bookmark. It's actually pretty similar in size and function to what I currently use. It does have a few JCoM specific pages though.

Notebook Cont.

A shot of the interior of the book showing it's integrated character sheet.

Notebook Cont.

My quick look showed most of the other pages to be blank lined pages with a few grid pages in there as well.

Toolkit

A shot of the interior of the book showing it's integrated character sheet.

Toolkit Cont.

The Conan Toolkit was a great resource and I expect nothing less from this, although I've not had time to go over it in detail..

Screen

Second half of the toolkit package. I am not a big user of screens, but this one looks like a great selection of reference materials, that I of course didn't take a photo of.

Slipcase

A lovely, robust, slipcase to hold the core book and the campign book with your more conventionally formatted books.

Clipcase cont.

The two books inside the slipcase.

Core Book

Quick shot inside the core book. The pages in these books feel thinner and more glossy than what we see in the Conan books. Hopefully that doesn't translate into page tears in the future.

Campaign Book

Easily my favorite of the two covers. Love it.

Campaign Book

Interior shot of some of the bad guys. I would have preferred cool art for these, but I don't hate the miniature images either.

Campaign Book

Double interior cover map of Barsoom. Pretty cool interior art.

Ship Tiles

I wasn't sure what to expect here. I have heard the Star Trek tiles are scaled a little small, and I didn't get any of the Conan tiles. In the end size and art wise these turned out pretty excellent.

Ship Tile Warpage

The only down side is once removed from their shrink wrap they immediately took a slight warp. I live in a dry climate and it's the middle of winter and a cold snap. Slightly dissapointing, but I doubt it will be a long term issue.

Overall it is a cool set of books and accessories from a loved and formative work of Sci-fi. The format isn't even as bad as many people, myself included, feared. As I mentioned above I do have a few concerns, but overall the books and such look excellent and well put together.

It is something I will love having on my shelf and enjoy playing. Who doesn't want to play some good old fashioned sci-fi set on the old ideas of what Mars might have been?

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

NPCs: A Codified Approach to the Man on the Street.

In a general session of play, you as GM may have a series of NPCs that you are aware of. A cast of characters you expect your players to interact with. You have an idea about them and how the interaction will go. You have at least some idea of how the social encounter will work. This article is generally not about those cases, although it may act as a guide to flesh those characters out if you generally haven't and have trouble figuring out how you want to role play them.

This is an approach to NPCs that will hopefully help you have better social interactions between your players and the cast of characters that populate your world. Not just the few have prepared in advance but everyone the PCs encounter. They are, after all, representing people with their own lives and aspirations, even if the PCs only encounter them during a single session. I am going to present a basic framework to help you give your NPCs more life, more direction, which in turn will allow you as the GM to role play them better.

It's easy to want to boil these encounters down to a single roll of the die or an opposed test and go from there, and I won't tell you this doesn't have it's place. Instead this framework will allow you to use these rolls and give these NPCs desires to resist, or be difficult. Should the random guy on the street be as willing to help as someone the PCs have known, will bribing them be a way to get more information? I believe that simply boiling the encounter to a simple set of dice rolls is short changing a potentially rich encounter that may lead down different paths. Maybe that dancer they just tried to get information from is actually in cahoots with the villian and is laying a trap for the PCs? The possibilities!

The Framework

I see us needing to have a few known things to really flesh out the NPCs: What do they want? What is their disposition towards the players and what motivates the them? Certainly you can answer more questions about them, but I think knowing these three simple things will allow you to really add some realism to these people.

The Disposition of the NPC

If we accept the NPCs disposition is separate from their personality or charisma, then we must define it. Mechanically I see a scale, in the middle I see someone who is neutral, who just doesn't care. They might help. They might not. For this I think a simple social test at a basic difficulty is a fine way to determine if the NPC will be somewhat helpful or disinterested. I don't see this as an outward showing by the NPC towards the players, simply a concept of how easily they can be swayed.

As we move away from the middle of the scale we get the two basic dispositions you might encounter: positive and negative. One end of the scale is an NPC who thinks of the PCs as good friends and is willing to help them, go out of the way for them, maybe even endanger themselves. On the other end is an NPC who is openly hostile or rude to the PCs. Someone who hates them and who might become something more to them in an antagonistic way in the future.

I would probably leave the far ends of the scales alone for random NPCs unless the PCs have had numerous positive or negative dealings with the NPC.

What does the NPC want?

What the NPC wants can have a direct impact on their disposition. If they want to steal or cause harm to the PCs they are more likely to have a negative disposition towards the PCs. Is the NPC someone who wants something from the players? Is he a merchant looking to sell, or perhaps someone who needs something recovered? Or do they just want to be left alone to go about their business, that is probably the case of the neutrally disposed NPC.

Knowing what the NPC wants is something we should determine first and from there we can use this to determine a more accurate disposition for the NPC.

The Motivation of the NPC

The thing that motivates the NPC is something a player can use to change her disposition in their favor making social encounters easier? Is it money? Money is probably a motivator for a lot of people and is the easiest one for the players to figure out. Bribing someone with cash can be the easiest way to change there disposition towards a character. Of course there is probably a few people out there that will see an attempted bribe as an insult and may move disposition away from the players.

Maybe something else motivates them though, which could make things more interesting: family, friends, trinkets, food, jewels. You can use these to help flesh out the NPC. If the NPC is motivated by jewels, perhaps she is adorned in several of them, or mentions them in conversation. Likewise someone motivated by fine wine, might be overweight, or have a winejug with them. These small details might be picked up by the players making observation tests to determine more information about the NPC.

The NPCs motivation might not be something useful at all. The motivation of someone not motivated by money, who will do anything for their family, might not be useful to the players, unless they can determine that and are willing to do something....unsavory.

Quick Random NPC Tables

Now that we have a framework to build NPCs from, sometimes when the players encounter someone, or force and encounter with someone you will need to determine something about that NPC beyond basic stats. A few quick tables and a roll of a few D6 can generate this quickly and easily.

You can of course simply pick how you want the NPC to act, or build their framework however you want, but we all like rolling dice.

What do they want?
1 - Left alone (+)
2 - Left alone (-)
3 - Help finding something (+)
4 - Help finding someone (+)
5 - Rob the PCs (-)
6 - Lure the PCs into a trap(--)
Disposition
1 - Negative
2 - Negative
3 - Neutral
4 - Neutral
5 - Positive
6 - Positive
Motivated by Money?
1 - No
2 - Yes
3 - Yes
4 - Yes, but expensive
5 - Yes, but expensive
6 - Expensive and insulted by low offers
Other Motivation
1 - None
2 - None
3 - Delicacies
4 - Jewels
5 - Trinkets
6 - Family

So we roll 4d6 and consult the tables to describe the social aspects of the NPC. You will not that under the column, "What do they want?" each entry has a (+) or a (-) on it. Each + or minus will shift the disposition one direction, one step. So a (+) would move a hostile disposition to neutral and likewise a (--) would move a positive disposition to a negative one.

Lets see this idea in action

Your players are on a mission to rescue the king's beautiful daughter, the Princess of Zamora. They haven't simply ridden out to the evil Wizard's mountain as you expected, instead they have decided to hit the local tavern and see if they can glean any information from the tavern goers.

You are not really prepared for this, but as a good GM you have a set of generic human stats just in case, but of course these are not all generic people. The party warrior approaches someone at the bar and engages them in conversation........You as the GM, quickly roll 4d6.....and roll: 4,4,5,6. Suddenly the random generic tavern goer is someone in need of help, perhaps his own kin has been taken by the wizard, or maybe a more mundane kidnapping, either way as the PCs approach he sees warriors and maybe hope in finding his lost friend or family. He will react positively to the PCs, at least initially, although he *IS* motivated by money, he is expensive, but can also be swayed by family.

Now we have more than just a block of stats, now we have a somewhat fleshed out NPC that we put together at the drop of a hat with a few rolls on a very basic set of tables. How many options these tables get is limited only by you imagination and the world the NPC lives in.

Until Next Time. Keep it Weird!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Momentum Dials for Conan 2d20!

In a short continuation from my last blog post I am working to increase the cool factor of my Conan 2d20 game. On top of that, one of the things I have never really enjoyed is how we track momentum for players at the table. Up to this point we have used glass tokens controlled by me, which work ok but generally end up with me forgetting to put some away or something similar.

Moving to having the players track their momentum means I only need to remember to double check remaining momentum with the players for transfer into the group pool. It will also prevent that random momentum token that is sitting on the table.

Having players track their own momentum isn't new, but I wanted something besides dice to do it with. So I again turned to The Game Crafter to build some cool custom components for my game to track momentum.



So, these are what I came up with. Overall I am pretty happy with them, although they are a little larger than I had anticipated, I had "X-wing Maneuver Dials" in my head, these are much larger at 2.5 x 2.5 in". Either way I think these will be a cool way for the players to track their momentum as well as add that extra cool factor!

These were designed for momentum tracking, but could really be used to track any number from 0-9 in any fantasy game.

The dials are available here if you want your own set. Momentum Dials

Until next time! Keep it weird!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Conan 2d20: Chase Trials.

Recently we talked about a mechanic to bring extended tests into Conan 2d20. We named this the Trial. Today we are going to extend this a little further using what amounts to Trial struggle, or the Chase Trial

We saw a Trial denoted like this, "10-D2", where D2 was the difficulty and 10 was the total momentum that needed to be generated to complete the extended test. The Chase Trial will work essentially the same way. One side will be given the Trial, and the other side a simple difficulty rating.

The Chase

Those being chased will be given a Trial they will need to complete to escape, ie 15-D1. In order to escape their pursuers they must complete the Trial. Those chasing will make their own skill roll, and as in a struggle the total momentum available will be the difference between the two.

Those escaping can, of course, use any momentum left to work through the Trial, while those giving chase can use their momentum to undo whatever headway the escapees have made.

How Far?

If we assume an accumulated momentum on this Trial of 0 is equivalent to the parties being in the same zone then we can take this a step further and introduce zones and ranged weapons into the mix. Perhaps an accumulated momentum of 1 or 2 indicates the two parties are at medium range and an accumulated momentum of 3 or 4 indicates long range.

How many momentum is indicated by range will largely by the GMs call. A short chase across a grassland might mean 3 momentum still indicates close range, while a long chase through the narrow streets of the Maul might indicate only 1 momentum is medium range and beyond that you lose line of sight on your opponents.

Test Difficulty

Generally, start the difficulty at 1 and add to it based on the environment. The total momentum required will vary based on the number of players, how capable they are, and how much they are willing to risk. If the player leading the challenge is unwilling to use Doom to gain additional dice, the players may flounder, especially if their base difficulty is 2 or higher.

  • Escape through a well known, lit city. Base difficulty = D1.
  • Escape through a known darkened city. +1 Difficulty = D2.
  • Escape through an unknown, darkened city. +2 Difficulty = D3.


Here are a few quick samples illustrating this as an idea.
Quick escape through known darkened streets - 10-D2 Survival/Stealth vs D2 Observation/Survival
Quick escape through unknown darkened streets - 10-D3 Survival/Stealth vs D2 Observation/Survival
Prolonged Escape through known daylight streets - 15-D1 Survival/Stealth vs D1 Observation/Survival
Chasing a cart on horseback along a forested road - 10-D2 Animal Handling vs D1 Animal Handling

The night is dark and a thick mist has descended upon the city. Two men stand outside a money house, while a third crouches and works the lock with slender tools that glint occasionally in whatever light is available. The standing men are both of native stock, Nemedia, while the third is clearly Zamoran. The Nemedians scan the area and one speaks, "Hurry up."

"Almost there.....", replies the Zamoran, his voice trailing off in concentration.

With a click the door opens and a quick sly smile jumps across the Zamoran's face. Just as quickly the smile vanishes as men in clanking armor and the livery of the Numalian town guard step from the shadows and utter a single command, "HALT!"

The three companions look at each other and with a small nod that only their years together allowed them to understand. They bolted off into the night, the guardsmen in pursuit!

Round 1
Momentum Pool: 2
Doom Pool: 13

GM: Ok! You escape into the fairly familiar streets of the city with the guards hot on your tail. Your difficulty in evading the guard is 10-D2 Stealth or Survival, and they are at a D2 to catch up to you.
Nemedian1: I have a 15/3 Survival rating so I will take the lead.
Nemedian2: I assist with my 13/2 observation helping to pick the safest path through the darkness.
Zamoran: I will assist with my Stealth 12/2 skill, helping us stay as silent as possible.
GM: Ok Roll!
Nemedian1: I roll 4 dice, buying 1 with momentum. 15, 1, 2 and 12 for 6 successes and 4 momentum!
Nemedian2: I roll my assistance die! I roll a 2 adding 2 more success!
Zamoran: I roll 1 die as well. I get a 4. That is 1 more success!
GM: Your total momentum for the struggle is 7!
GM: Ok. The Squad of guards rolls. 3 for the Sgt with an observation of 9/1 and 4 more for the rest of his unit also at 9/1
GM: 10,9,1,13,17,4 and 15 for 4 Successes and 2 momentum vs your total momentum of 7
GM: You manage to put some ground ground between you and them. Your total momentum for the escape is at 5/10.

Round 2
Momentum Pool: 0
Doom Pool: 12

Nemedian1: I roll 3 dice! a 3, 14 and a 10, for 4 successes and 2 momentum!
Nemedian2: I also roll assistance 1d20 against my observation again! I get a 1! 2 more successes!
Zamoran: I assist with my stealth again rolling my 1d20! 12 for 1 successes.
GM: Your total momentum for the struggle is 5!
GM: The sergeant buys 3 dice with doom and the rest of the squad rolls 4, for a total of 9d20 all at 9/1.
GM: 3,10,19,11,20,7,13,13,10 for a total of 2 successes and 0 momentum, PLUS a complication!
GM: Your total momentum for this Trial is now at 10!

The three men race into the familiar streets of the city, the night and mist work in their favor as they quickly slip away from the guardsmen that were laying in wait to catch these three thieves.......


Until Next Time

If you have any ideas or thoughts about this as a simple system to mechanically run chases, let me know. Feel free to drop a comment or check me out on YouTube .

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

Friday, October 26, 2018

Naval Combat in the Hyborian Age: Conan 2d20, an overview and example.

It was just at sunrise when the lookout shouted a warning. Around the long point of an island off the starboard bow glided a long lethal shape, a slender serpentine galley, with a raised deck that ran from stem to stern. Forty oars on each side drove her swiftly through the water, and the low rail swarmed with naked blacks that chanted and clashed spears on oval shields. From the masthead floated a long crimson pennon.
Queen of the Black Coast
-Robert E. Howard

Overview

Like many things in Conan 2d20, small details are ignored to bring big action and quick resolution. We generally don't count arrows and we don't concern ourselves with exactly how many coins of gold we find. Naval combat works like this, scaling up regular combat to the high seas. Allowing us to resolve the epic ship battles of the open water in only a few rounds.

This is not a wargame by any stretch of the imagination. It is a high level abstraction of ship combat that allows PCs to still be central to the action. Like combat at a man to man level we have familiar ideas like zones, soak, stress(structure) and harm(breaks). Despite these similarities a man's weapon isn't going to cause damage to a ship, but flaming arrows, ramming and siege weapons can all batter and destroy a ship sending it to the depths.

Ship Positions & Roles

Crew Assignment - One or more crew members on a ship assigned to the same task. If the crew assignment is larger than one, then one of the crew assignment is designated as the leader and the others as support. For example a PC might be the leader on a crew assignment that commands the ship and have a number of NPCs to assist in the role.

A ship is split into various positions that describe the functions a ship might perform during its turn: Commander, Helmsman, Lookout, Marine and Piper. Each of these positions has a selection of actions they can perform; marines can try and grapple the enemy ship or fire flaming arrows at it, Commanders can attempt to coordinate actions or assign command crew.

Each crew assignment is able to complete one action in a ship's turn. In order for a ship to complete one of these actions in a turn, it must have a crew assignment to complete the skill test associated with it. For marines to shoot flaming arrows there must be one or more marines assigned to attempt a ranged weapons test.

Each position can only have one crew assignment associated with it. You can't have two command crews and perform two coordinate actions in a turn. The only position this is different, is the marine crew. You can have as many marine crew assignments as you have men for.

This is a list of the positions, what they do, and the number of crew assignments they can have.
  • Commander - Generally giving orders and coordinating. Adding momentum to the pool and moving crewmen around if needed. 1 crew assignment.
  • Helmsman - Making movement decisions and sailing tests to avoid shallows, reefs and debris. 1 crew assignment.
  • Lookout - Watching and adding momentum to movement and helping to coordinate attacks. 1 crew assignment.
  • Marines - Boarding, Firing arrows (Normal and flame), firing siege equipment. 1+ crew assignment.
  • Piper - Coordination of the rowers. Adding momentum to movement. 1 crew assignment.
Large ships will generally have enough crew to create larger crew assignments and be more effective. Smaller ships will have less effective crew assignments, or in the case of very small vessels, not enough crew to fill all the roles, causing them to not be able to perform an action from each position during a turn.


The term "Crew Assignment" is one of my own creation to help clarify the positions on a ship. Conan the Pirate talks about crew (generally the PCs) and Support crew. However support crew are a part of the rules that could use a little bit of clarity. I play them based on my idea of the crew assignment and assistance rules; the leader rolls their dice and the support crew roll their dice. If the leader is successful then the support successes are added in. If I was GMing a party of six adventurers on a sailing vessel and they had managed to scare up 20 crew members, they might organize their vessel something like this.
  • Commander - PC1 - 2 crew - Command rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 2d20 assistance dice from the crew.
  • Helmsman - PC2 - 3 crew - Helmsman rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 3d20 assistance dice from the crew.
  • Lookout - PC3 - 3 crew - Lookout rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 3d20 assistance dice from the crew.
  • Marines - PC4 - 4 crew (Squad with PC) - Marine rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 4d20 assistance dice from the crew.
  • Marines - PC5 - 4 crew (Squad with PC) - Marine rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 4d20 assistance dice from the crew.
  • Marines - PC6 - 4 crew (Squad with PC) - Marine rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 4d20 assistance dice from the crew.

Reactions

Although the rules state a single action per crew assignment, it lists actions as a Standard Action and as a Reaction. This is another area I feel the rules could use a little work, but it we assume a scaled up version of normal combat, in which players receive a single standard action and can still perform reactions, we can reasonably make the same assumption here. We can of course make the same assumption on the cost of these reactions being 1 doom for the first, 2 for the second etc.

The Ships

As I mentioned combat is essentially scaled up from standard melee combat. Each ship is given basic specifications, some matter for combat and some do not. The ones we care the most about are as follows.
  • Structure - Stress of the ship.
  • Breaks - How many breaks it takes to destroy/sink/incapacitate the ship.
  • Soak - How much armor the ship has.
  • Maneuver - How nimble a ship is, grants bonus d20s on sailing tests.
  • Qualities - Some of these are general concepts and don't lend themselves to combat, others allow combat centric abilities like quicker moves, or easier ramming.

Damage

Ships can suffer from a few types of damage. Ramming, flaming arrows and siege weapons can all cause physical damage that can sink the vessel. Boarding and regular arrows generally cause non-lethal damage, and again the rules are a little loose here, so use your best judgement on how many crew are actually killed if the ship takes several non-lethal breaks.

Final Thoughts

As a set of rules these could use a little more polish. There is a large portion of gamers that want to play RAW and some things just don't make sense as they are written. Others require more of a leap of faith than some are willing to make. If you can get past that, then you can easily use this as a framework to play out high level narrative combats on the high seas, while allowing each PC to handle a specific action on a ship.

An Example

In the example to follow we will break it down in depth and split each ship turn up into the crew positions. Our example will illustrate a battle between a Merchant Cog named "The Promise of Ishtar" being attack by a Pirate Caravel named "The Fury of Set". Below are the specifications for the two ships. You will see that the "Fury of Set" has a maneuver of 1, and so will gain +1d20 to sailing tests. It is also listed as agile which means it can move an additional zone with any movement action it takes.

Also take note that the "Promise of Ishtar" is a much heavier ship with more structure and breaks than the caravel has.

To further help in our example, we will call the "Promise of Ishtar" the PC vessel and the "Fury of Set" the NPC vessel. Further we will assume all crew positions have an acting leader, who is at least toughened, to give each ship equal actions during a turn. We will also assume play has been in sessions for awhile and the players have 3 momentum in their pool while the GM has 15 doom accumulated.

Fury of Set

Class: Caravel Sailing Range: 14 Days Maneuver: 1
Soak: 2 Structure: 6 Breaks: 3
Crew: 20
Qualities: Agile, Shallow Draft, Ship
Stowage: 100

Promise of Ishtar

Class: Cog Sailing Range: 8 Days Maneuver: 0
Soak: 2 Structure: 10 Breaks: 4
Crew:10
Qualities: Deep Draft, Ship
Stowage: --

Here I have laid out the crew assignments for the various ship positions. As well as the skill Target Number(TN) and Focus(FC) we are most likely to need in this scenario.

Crew Assignments
Fury of Set Promise of Ishtar
Commander 1 Leader
3 crew
Command Skill: 9/1
1 Leader
1 crew
Command Skill: 10/2
Helmsman 1 Leader
4 crew
Sailing Skill: 9/1
1 Leader
1 crew
Sailing Skill: 12/1
Lookout 1 Leader
4 crew
Observation Skill: 10/1
1 Leader
1 crew
Observation Skill: 9/2
Marines 1 Leader
4 crew
Ranged Skill: 10/1
Command Skill: 10/1
1 Leader
1 crew
Ranged Skill: 9/1
Command Skill: 10/1
Piper
None
None

One final note before we move to the example. It will seem long as there is a lot of writing, however it is only 3.5 rounds of combat. I have also not included any descriptive text as this was designed to be a mechanical example of the rules. Of course if you have any questions or find any mistakes please drop me a line or leave a comment on the blog!


Khemi was still a day away, and as the sun began to set, the crew of the “Promise of Ishtar” prepared for another night at sea. They sailed from Messantia loaded with cargo, headed for the northern end of the Black Coast. They had travelled this route many times, past dark coves and around small islands holding mysterious ruins.

The remainder of the day was quiet in the embrace of the dying sun, only the sound of the ship’s prow plying the waves made any discernable noise. Suddenly the silence was broken by a sharp cry from the lookout as he spotted a long dark shape sliding out of one of the shallow coves. Its mast flying a brightly colored pennon, floating on the breeze. Its triangular sails unfurled and full of wind as it bore down on them with remarkable speed.

“By Mitra!” The captain cursed. “Get ready ya dogs! That be the Fury of Set!”.


Opening set-up.  "Fury of set" sailing out of the cove to attack "Promise of Ishtar".


Round 1


  • Momentum: 3
  • Doom: 15
The Fury of set is headed toward the Promise of Ishtar, but is currently at long range and running with the wind.
Players always get initiative unless the GM interrupts.

Promise of Ishtar
"Promise of Ishtar" takes damage in the shallows.

Commander: Coordinate.
  • D1 Command Test vs. 10/2. Rolls 2d20(9,17). 1 success, 0 momentum.
  • Crew support of 1 rolls 1d20(19). 0 successes, 0 momentum.
  • No momentum spent.
  • No momentum is added to the group pool.
Lookout: Heading.
  • D1 Observation Test vs 9/2. Rolls 2d20(14,14). 0 successes. Failure.
  • No momentum spent.
  • No momentum is added to the group pool.
Helmsman: Full Sail.
  • It is a deep draft ship, so the difficulty is increased by 1 step due to crossing shallow waters.
  • Move 2 zones. Z5->Z6->Z4. D2 Sailing Test vs. 12/2. Rolls 3d20(13,16,5). 1 success. Failure.
  • The ship fails to cross the shallow water and slows as it takes damage ending its turn in Z6. The hazard causes 3cd(2,5,6).
  • Promise of Ishtar suffers 2 structure damage as her soak absorbs 2 points.
  • 1 momentum spent. (+1d20) (2 left)
  • No momentum is added to the group pool.

Fury of Set
"Fury of Set" softens her prey with flaming arrows.

Commander: Coordinate.
  • D1 Command Test vs. 9/1. Rolls 3d20(1,5,10). 2 successes, 1 momentum.
  • Crew support of 3 rolls 3d20(15,19,2). 1 success, 1 momentum.
  • 1 doom is spent. (+1d20)
  • 2 doom is added to the doom pool. (16 left)
Lookout: Heading.
  • D1 Observation Test vs, 10/1. Rolls 2d20(4,15). 1 success, 0 momentum.
  • Crew support of 3 rolls 3d20(8,4,19). 2 successes, 2 momentum.
  • 0 doom is spent.
  • 2 doom is added to the doom pool. (17 left)
Marines: The ships are now in close range. Flaming Arrows.
  • "Promise of Ishtar" attempts to evade and pays 1 doom for the reaction.
  • Reaction Struggle
    • "Fury of Set" D1 Ranged attack vs 10/1. 4d20(19,16,14,4)+crew 4d20(8,18,7,13)=2 momentum.
    • "Promise of Ishtar" D1 Sailing Test vs 12/1. 5d20(8,10,16,3,14)+crew 1d20(15)=2 momentum.
    • GM spends 1 point of doom to break the tie for the NPCs.
  • Flame arrows cause 4cd(4,2,2,3) damage to the "Promise of Ishtar". 2 points are soaked.
  • She takes points of structure damage.
  • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
  • 2 doom from PCs. (1 reaction, (+1d20)(18 left)
  • 2 momentum spent. (+2d20)(0 left)

Round 2


  • Momentum: 0
  • Doom: 18

GM interrupts initiative and "The Fury of Set" goes first.

Fury of Set
"Fury of Set" grapples and pulls in her quarry!

Commander: Coordinate.
  • D1 Command Test vs. 9/1. Rolls 3d20(12,12,13). 0 successes. Failure.
  • 1 doom is spent. (+1d20)(17 left)
Lookout: Heading.
  • D1 Observation Test vs. 10/1. Rolls 4d20(17,5,15,10). 2 successes, 1 momentum.
  • Crew support adds 4d20(10,14,19,18). 1 success, 1 momentum.
  • 2 doom is spent. (+2d20)
  • 2 doom is added to the doom pool. (17 left)
Helmsman: Standard motion. Z6 close – Z6 reach.
  • D1 Sailing test vs. 9/1. Rolls 4d20(17,2,17,4). 2 successes, 1 momentum.
  • Crew support adds 4d20(8,14,6,9). 3 successes, 3 momentum.
  • 1 doom is spent. (+1d20)
  • 4 doom is added to the doom pool. (22 left)
Marines: Grapple.
  • D2 Ranged attack. "Promise of Ishtar" attempt to evade spending 1 doom.
  • Reaction Struggle
    • "Fury of Set" D2 Ranged attack vs 10/1. 5d20(10,11,8,4,4)+crew 4d20(17,6,2,4)=5 momentum.
    • "Promise of Ishtar" D1 Sailing Test vs 12/1. 5d20(4,14,11,19,2)+crew 1d20(16)=2 momentum.
    • "Fury of Set" wins the struggle with 3 momentum.
  • 3 Doom is spent. (+3d20)
  • 4 doom from PCs. (reaction, +3d20)
  • 3 doom is added to the doom pool. (26 left)

Promise of Ishtar
"Promise of Ishtar" fails to cut herself free.

Commander: Coordinate.
  • D1 Command Test vs. 10/2. Rolls 2d20(7,3). 2 success, 1 momentum.
  • Crew support of 1 rolls 1d20(6). 1 successes, 1 momentum.
  • No momentum spent.
  • 2 momentum is added to the group pool. (2 left)
Lookout: Heading.
  • D1 Observation Test vs 9/2. Rolls 2d20(16,15). 0 successes. Failure.
  • No momentum spent.
  • No momentum is added to the group pool.
Helmsman: The ships are grappled and floating aimlessly within the zone.
There are no rules presented to ungrapple the ships, or at least non that I can find. You can assume it is not possible in combat or you can allow the grapples to be unhooked if a boarding action is successful. We will allow the grapples to be unhooked after a successful boarding action.
    Marines: Boarding Action. Attackers are at D0 when attacking during a grapple.
    • Command Struggle D0 vs. D1
    • Struggle
      • "Promise of Ishtar" D0 Command Test vs 9/1. 4d20(3,19,10,4)+crew 1d20(5)=3 momentum.
      • "Fury of Set" D1 Command Test vs 10/1. 5d20(7,1,4,5,12)+crew 4d20(8,10,6,19)=7 momentum.
      • "Fury of Set" wins the struggle with 4 momentum.
    • 2 momentum is spent. (+2d20) (0 left)
    • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
    • 4 doom is added to the doom pool. (27 left)

    Round 3


    • Momentum: 0
    • Doom: 27

    GM interrupts initiative and "The Fury of Set" goes first.

    Fury of Set
    Savage pirates board and kill on "Promise of Ishtar".

    Commander: Coordinate.
    • D1 Command Test vs. 9/1. Rolls 5d20(19,16,2,15,2). 2 successes, 1 momentum.
    • Crew support adds 3d20(9,17,11,3). 2 success, 2 momentum.
    • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
    • 3 doom is added to the doom pool. (26 left)
    Lookout: Heading.
    • D1 Observation Test vs. 10/1. Rolls 5d20(17,10,1,5,17). 4 successes, 3 momentum.
    • Crew support adds 4d20(9,17,11,3). 2 success, 2 momentum.
    • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
    • 5 doom is added to the doom pool. (28 left)
    Marines: Boarding Action. Attackers are at D0 when attacking during a grapple.
    • Command Struggle D0 vs. D1
    • Struggle
      • "Fury of Set" D0 Command Test vs 10/1. 5d20(11,19,9,8,6)+crew 4d20(8,2,19,19)=5 momentum.
      • "Promise of Ishtar" D1 Command Test vs 9/1. 4d20(17,15,19,8,3)+crew 1d20(8)=2 momentum.
      • "Fury of Set" wins the struggle with 3 momentum. Note this is not doom yet, but momentum generated from a test and so can be used for non-immediate spends.
    • Boarding actions cause 5cd NON-LETHAL damage.
      • Rolls 5cd(4,1,1,2,6).
      • 1 momentum to re-roll the 4 and a 1. Rolls 2cd(6,5). Total damage = 6.
      • 1 momentum to gain a penetrating attack ignoring 2 points of soak.
    • "Promise of Ishtar" takes 2 breaks. 1 for suffering more than 5 structure in a single attack and 1 for having it's structure drop below 0.
    • Note: You may wish to reduce the crew of "Promise of Ishtar" by about 1/2 as it's now suffered half of it's breaks. For this example we won't bother. You should do whatever makes narrative sense.
    • 3 doom from PCs (+3d20)
    • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
    • 1 doom is added to the doom pool. (27 left)

    Promise of Ishtar
    "Ishtar" fails to cut herself free again.

    Commander: Assign Crew.
    • D1 Command Test vs. 10/2. Rolls 2d20(17,15). 0 success. Failure.
    • No momentum spent.
    • No momentum is added to the group pool.
    Lookout: Heading.
    • D1 Observation Test vs 9/2. Rolls 4d20(5,16,15,7). 2 successes, 1 momentum.
    • Crew support adds 1d20(19). 0 success, 2 momentum.
    • No momentum spent.
    • 1 momentum is added to the group pool.
    • 2 doom from PCs. (+2d20)(28 left)
    Marines: Boarding Action. Attackers are at D0 when attacking during a grapple.
    • Command Struggle D0 vs. D1
    • Struggle
      • "Promise of Ishtar" D0 Command Test vs 9/1. 5d20(14,1,9,8,10)+crew 1d20(14)=4 momentum.
      • "Fury of Set" D1 Command Test vs 10/1. 5d20(12,16,5,5,9)+crew 4d20(6,14,7,12)=4 momentum.
      • Gm breaks the tie in favor of the "Fury of Set"
    • 1 momentum is spent. (+1d20) (0 left)
    • 2 doom from PCs. (+2d20)
    • 4 doom is spent. (+3d20, Tie Break)
    • 0 doom is added to the doom pool. (24 left)

    Round 4


    • Momentum: 0
    • Doom: 24

    GM interrupts initiative and "The Fury of Set" goes first.

    Fury of Set
    The Pirate's of Fury of Set finish the job, taking the ship.

    Commander: Coordinate.
    • D1 Command Test vs. 9/1. Rolls 2d20(19,10). 0 successes. Failure.
    • 0 doom is spent.
    • 0 doom is added to the doom pool. (23 left)
    Lookout: Heading.
    • D1 Observation Test vs. 10/1. Rolls 2d20(7,11). 1 successes, 0 momentum.
    • Crew support adds 4d20(14,19,11,3). 2 success, 1 momentum.
    • 0 doom is spent.
    • 1 doom is added to the doom pool. (24 left)
    Marines: Boarding Action. Attackers are at D0 when attacking during a grapple.
    • Command Struggle D0 vs. D1
    • Struggle
      • "Fury of Set" D0 Command Test vs 10/1. 5d20(9,1,6,15,2)+crew 4d20(19,3,16,9)=7 momentum.
      • "Promise of Ishtar" D1 Command Test vs 9/1. 5d20(3,17,19,10,2)+crew 1d20(6)=2 momentum.
      • "Fury of Set" wins the struggle with 5 momentum. Note this is not doom yet, but momentum generated from a test and so can be used for non-immediate spends.
    • Boarding actions cause 5cd NON-LETHAL damage.
      • Rolls 5cd(5,3,2,2,2).
      • Total damage = 11 structure damage - 2 soak = 9 structure damage.
    • "Promise of Ishtar" takes 2 breaks. 1 for suffering more than 5 structure in a single attack and 1 for having it's structure drop below 0.
    • 3 doom from PCs. (+3d20)
    • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
    • 5 doom is added to the doom pool. (29 left)

    "Promise of Ishtar" has now suffered 4 non-lethal breaks and so has been subdued and taken over by the "Fury of Set".

    Friday, October 19, 2018

    Conan 2d20. Skill Trials

    In previous articles I have talked about how success in Conan2d20 aren't simply pass/fail. There is a measure of how well a character completes a skill test; how well you attack, observe or hide. Momentum is an easy way to track this, each point you generate allows you cause more damage, do cool stunts or learn more about your environment.

    Generally failure is, however, still failure. The one place this is different is combat. If I am fighting a skeleton and I make a melee skill check to hit and I fail, the skeleton is still there. I get to try again to succeed in the next round. Compare this to your party sage trying to decipher ancient runes on the wall. If he rolls a failure, it's all over and the meaning of the writing is lost forever, beyond the abilities of our heroes. Certainly there are mechanics in games that work to address this, such as "taking 20" but most of these make the assumption that the player and their character has essentially unlimited time to solve the puzzle or make the skill check.

    Today we are going to try and address this potential issue with something I am calling a "Trial". I didn't invent this mechanic. Several other systems use it, such as ICRPG and the AGE system. (It has been noted since I published this that both the Infinty and Star Trek 2d20 RPG systems have similar mechanics.) These "Trials" also works well once it is placed alongside the "TIMER" mechanic from ICRPG. Now rolling a failure, in a time sensitive encounter, doesn't mean they will never know what it says. Now it just takes them longer to figure it out. How long it takes might be a key part of a combat encounter; can the sage get the door open before the horde of ghouls overwhelms the party?

    Some ideas for skill tests that might benefit from these "Trials" are deciphering runes, solving puzzles, exploring ruins or jungles, negotiating costs etc. It can give your non-combat characters the ability to work to complete something during combat and contribute to success of the party instead of taking the backseat.

    The Basic Idea

    The current iteration of the system is quite simple. I make a note like 10-D3, which signifies a 10 momentum D3 challenge. Succeeding at the challenge lowers the total by 1 and momentum generated goes towards solving the puzzle or being stored in the pool. When challenge momentum reaches 10 you have solved the puzzle, deciphered the runes, made it through the jungle etc.

    Probably the easiest way to track this is to pick a momentum score that is a multiple of one of the types of dice we use for general RPG play, this way you can easily use a die to track how much progress a players has made. You could even get a special set of dice that you use only for "Trials", this way players can easily tell what they are and how much work still needs to be done.

    Round 1:
    Our Sage, Altan, has come across a series of strange runes at the end of a corridor. He suspects deciphering the runes is key to opening the passage, and so sets to work.
    Player: I try and decipher the runes.
    GM: Ok it's a 5-D3 test.
    Player: I will roll 4d20 against his Lore score of 13/2 and get 8,9,15,13.
    Altan looks over the runes and begins his work to decipher them. At first he doesn't recognize anything, but finally he thinks he has a good place to start and continues to work on them.

    Round 2:
    Altan continues to work on deciphering the runes, as his work continues his fellow adventurers hold off the ongoing things in the dark, but time runs short and his friends are being to fall back.
    Player: I continue to try working on the runes.
    GM: OK, since you succeeded last time it is now a 4-D3 test.
    Player: I will roll 5d20 against his Lore score of 13/2 and I will use a Fortune for one of the dice. 10,5,17,19,1. Giving me 1 point of momentum.
    GM: The test has been reduced to a 2d3 test. Altan works hurriedly decoding and deciphering, he believes he has slightly more than half of the words figured out, but they still don't make much sense.

    Round 3:
    In the darkness, something large stalks towards the party. Four warriors standing, heaving with exhaustion. Blood and sweat drip down their bodies. Behind them, seeking the way out, an older man in robes hurriedly works, scrawling in a notebook.
    GM: Something large will be upon your party next round
    Player: I continue to work!
    GM: OK, We now have a 2-D3 test! All you need is success and a momentum! .
    Player: I will roll 5d20 again agains his Lore score of 13/2. I roll 17,10,4,4,12, giving me 4 successes!
    GM: You solve the runes! They are an ancient version of Turanian your didn't initially recognize. They tell you to how to open this passage and so you do, allowing you and your fellows to escape the coming doom.

    Lending a hand

    Assistance generally works the same as before, players can try and lend a hand by rolling an extra die and hopefully adding momentum to the pool. It was suggested another way to handle this is to allow the players to choose which skill they will roll against to offer the assistance. All they have to do is narrate their character using the skill in the scene.


    Our Heroes set out into the desert looking for a long forgotten tomb of an ancient Stygian king. All they have is a map and the setting sun.
    GM: It is going to take you 10-D2 Survival Trialto navigate the desert with the information you have. Failing a test will cause fatigue to occur. Player 1: I have the highest Survival test so I will make that as a roll.
    GM: Will anyone assist?
    Player 2: My alchemist would like to use Lore to assist to better understand the map.
    Player 3: I would like to use Observation to keep a keen eye on the horizon and make sure we are not going astray.
    Player 4: I use my counsel skill to keep everyone's spirits up, hoping the high moral will keep our heads about us.
    GM: Ok. make your rolls!
    Player 1: As lead I roll 5d20 against my Survival of 14/2. I roll 13,7,8,8,16 = Success and 3 momentum.
    Player 2: I roll my assist vs my Lore of 13/1. 10 = +1 momentum
    Player 3: My roll vs. my Observation of 12/2 is 3 = +1 momentum.
    player 4: I roll against my Counsel of 12/2. I get a 5. +1 momentum!
    GM: Your total is 7, reducing the "Trial" to a 3-D2 test on your next round.


    Fatigue and Despair

    If your players are exploring a deep oppressive dungeons, parching desert or big infested swamps, it might be worth while having a negative effect to an outright skill check failure. Perhaps if the party is working on a Survival Trial, rolling to navigate the desert and they fail it can be assumed they wander hopelessly and gain 1cd Fatigue, and likewise if trapped in the oppressive dark of a dungeon and they fail they gain 1cd Despair.

    Complications

    The simplest complication is to raise the difficulty of the next test by 1. But other things could occur depending on what the test is. In a dungeon? Perhaps they set off a trap. In a desert? Perhaps they encounter a snake and they take 2cd before killing it. Negotiating in a tavern? Maybe they have been pickpocketed and lose 1cd+1 gold. Another idea is, especially if they are burning through the test too fast, to extend the length of the test by 2 per complication, or some variant depending on how much you want to slow them down.

    Conclusion

    I have used this a few times and find it to be a decent way to abstract explorations without having to focus on mapping. It allows you plenty of places to use combat and encounters to spice things up. It also allows non-combat characters to participate more and at a similar level to combat characters. Going forward I have a few more articles planned that will utilize this mechanic to enhance your sessions of Conan 2d20.

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

    Friday, April 6, 2018

    The GMs Journal: Notebook selection.

    So.... what mapping
    programs are you
    using for making
    world and area maps?


    A couple of days ago that question was posted to a local role playing group I belong to.

    The standard answers all came up: Pyromancers, Inkarnate, Photoshop, Hexkit, VTT software and Campaign Cartographer. These are all useful tools, and although I suggested some of them, I don't personally use a single one of them.

    I occasionally try and use the cool and fancy tools, but I never like them. I find it easier to simply grab my notebook/journal and jot down ideas and story arcs and finally flesh them out into maps and adventures. At most I sometimes organize thoughts in Google Docs. They never allow the ease of use that a simple piece of paper allows.

    I like notebooks. I have always liked notebooks. I used binders in school with looseleaf paper and never liked it as much as a simple notebook. Perhaps I find the journals of the old masters inspiring. The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci being a prime example. His notebooks are as important as his masterpieces.

    I don't journal, which you would think based on my above statement I might do, but I do keep a sketchbook and that directly leads into my current favored set of notebooks for GMing. I follow an artist on social media named, "Jake Parker". Aside from being a cool illustrator he has some awesome videos about creativity and projects on youtube. One of the things he has turned me on to is the Moleskin Cahier line of notebooks. My first reaction was, "Must be nice, Moleskin notebooks are expensive!", and indeed some of their line, like many other journals, are pricey. He went on to show how they were resistant to bleed through with inks and could even be used for some basic tone with paints, and the best part is that they are NOT pricey. They are quite affordable.

    So I went out and bought a three pack of these to use as my next sketchbook. The three packs will run you around $20, and each notebook has 64 pages in them. They are not huge tomes, but that is also a blessing in disguise. I liked them. They were easy to use. They are small and easy to take with you. The paper isn't pure white, and so you can add white to sketches pretty easily. Finally because they are not 100s of pages long, they are easier to fill up. That act of completing one gives you a sense of accomplishment and fulfilment.

    When I went out to find a new journal that had dots or grids on them I quickly started looking over at the Cahier line, which offer books in three flavours: Plain, Lined and Squared. I immediately went to Indigo (our local bookstore chain, and maybe yours) and tried to buy a set. Squared journals are apparently more difficult to find. Off to Amazon I went!

    I found a set of 3 and ordered them. They took a LONG time to arrive as I did not order them directly from Amazon and ended up shipping from the UK. When they did they were smaller than I had realized (being the 5"x8.25" journals), but in the end I think I prefer this size for most GM journaling. I feel it is a good middle ground, but I think that is a personal preference.

    Like the ones I use for sketching, they are small, allowing for completion and that sense of accomplishment. They are also filled with the same type of paper that resists bleed through; I use a uniball pen and write on every page, front and back. The slightly off white color will allow the addition of whites to your journal entries if you desire.

    Of course these are not the only notebook on the block, and they are far from the cheapest, even if I do think they are affordable. For the most affordable notebooks, which I have used extensively in school and out, the crown has to go to Hilroy or a knockoff. These cheap coil bound books provide an inexpensive way to get a journal. They open flat and provide an easy way to remove pages. The downside, as I have always found, being the coil interfering with your hand when you are writing near the end of the page.

    I have again provided links to Amazon and the tools I have mentioned in this post. These are affiliate links and purchasing through them provides me a small commission. Thank you!

    Friday, March 30, 2018

    Conan 2d20 - Quick, cheap and easy Combat dice!

    If you are familiar with Conan 2d20 either through playing or reading about the system, one thing that stands out is it's damage system. Instead of weapons doing 1d6, 2d8, 1d10 or other combination it uses a number of combat dice to determine the damage and effectiveness of the weapon. These dice are nothing more than a fancy 1d6, and you can easily use a regular d6 to get the result.

    Modiphius does however make custom combat dice, and I have found they can make a difference. They sell these in a players dice set that will run you about $30cad and comes with 4 of these combat dice, 2d20 and a hit location die. Four combat dice is probably not going to be enough for most players, especially ones with high brawn. As mentioned above we can simply replace the missing dice with d6s.

    We do have another option. You can buy a set of inexpensive blank dice from Aliexpress or Amazon. I prefer the sets from Aliexpress, simply because I get more bang for my buck, even if shipping is a little slow. This is a link to a set of 20 16mm blank dice for about $5US, with shipping included! The size of these are the same as the combat dice, but have a slightly different shape, mirroring the dice you might find in Monolith's Conan boardgame.



    Using a regular fine point sharpie we can simply write on the values we want, following the patterns laid out by the combat dice. It is important to note that when you write on the dice, the ink from the shaprie will take a little time to dry. I have found it to be fine after about 10 seconds. Once dry it is a fairly robust addition to the die and can't be wiped off. I am sure after some use it will begin to wear out.


    One of the happy parts of these dice is a little acetone will clean the ink right off the dice face without damaging the face. Over the course of the last couple of days I have been experimenting and have cleaned the sharpie from the dice multiple times with no issues. This is a super quick way to make a multitude of combat dice at your table.