'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 Pulp fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pulp fiction. Show all posts

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Weird West of Robert E. Howard: Old Garfield's Heart.

Continuing my look at the Weird West of Robert E. Howard I thought I would look at a few of the stories in depth. The first I have chosen is probably one of my favorites as well as being my introduction to Howard's work in this genre.

Old Garfield's Heart was first published in Weird Tales in December of 1933 and is generally labelled as a "Horror Story". I am not sure if I agree with that assessment, but I understand why it receives it. Either way it takes place shortly after the end of the Wild West, but for me falls squarely into the "Weird West" genre. The story is about an frontiersman, Old Garfield, that has lived as long as anyone can remember. The story is told through the eyes of an unnamed narrator who believe's the tales told by Old Garfield are nothing more than whims of fancy or tall tales. As I mentioned, the story takes place in a time that post-dates the Wild West by a few years, but it's central themes are from the 1870s.

As the story opens the narrator is waiting for the doctor so he can accompany him to check up on Old Garfield, and engaged in conversation with his grandfather. Despite Old Garfield's injuries, the grandfather doesn't believe he will die. We learn that the Grandfather and Old Garfield had been in a few fights together including fights with the Comanche. During one of these Old Garfield is grievously wounded and a medicine man mysteriously shows up and saves him.

The narrator travels with the doctor to check up on the mysterious Old Garfield. They find him injured, as we have been told, but he is delirious and tells us the story of how "Ghost Man" saved him and made him immortal.

After this the narrator ends up crossing paths with a local bully, Jack Kirby, over an argument about a cow that was bought. The narrator ends up nearly killing Jack, and ends up on an assault charge. The charge isn't nearly good enough for Jack. Once he has recovered he sets out to kill the narrator.

The narrator and Jack have their showdown at Old Garfield's place and we finally learn the truth.

Old Garfield's Heart is a fairly short story at about 3500 words, but in that we get action, adventure, mystery and a sprinkling of magic. The world Howard creates, through descriptions and dialogue, is almost tangible. In my opinion the amount of depth and flavor he achieved is amazing, especially given the amount of time he has to create it.

Robert E. Howard wrote a lot of fantastic stories set both in the modern world, the medieval world and worlds time has forgotten. These are all places of his imagination, perhaps well researched, but still not places he knew first hand. Stories like this are a little different, this world he has near first hand experience with. The setting is his own. The stories and tall tales from the old timers he loved to listen to. The narrator in this story could be Howard, a younger man talking to an old timer about the old days of the frontier.

If you are a fan of Howard's other characters, or if you are new to Howard in general, and are looking to try something new this is a great intro to some of his other works.

The story can be found on Gutenberg Australia at Old Garfield's Heart. I encourage you to take 10 minutes, give it a read and let me know what you think!

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

Friday, January 11, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Gibbering Darkness

Today I want to revisit a creature I came up awhile ago. The concept of this thing was a creature that would assail PCs in Conan 2d20 and cause a wound to a Character. Why would you do such a thing? Sometimes drama and tension can be increased when the PCs feel threatened and there are times when they simply don't in Conan because of how competent that they can be. A mob of these attacking in the deep ruins will generally use it's point of doom to attack first and most likely injure someone before being vanquished. I wouldn't recommend using something like this all the time, but everything in your toolbox has it's place.

The Gibbering Darkness


In the deep ruins of time immemorial there are places, rifts to some black place, where darkness seeps into our world as formless shapes, seeking the life energy of our existence like a wild predator seeks its prey.

The Gibbering Darkness is darkness made manifest, shifting shadows on the wall. Dark places in the corner of your eye. As easily as the dark is vanquished these creatures can be returned from which they came. Do not forget that like the darkness these hide things that are both physically and mentally deadly.

Many an naive adventurer has been reduced to lifeless husk, or worse a mindless husk, as unsuspecting they walked into a forgotten place and were assaulted by the dark mindless gibbering of these things.


If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Forgotten Creatures: The Dire Wolf.

The Dire Wolf


The dire wolf (Canis dirus, "fearsome dog") is an extinct species of the genus Canis. It is one of the most famous prehistoric carnivores in North America, along with its extinct competitor, the sabre-toothed cat Smilodon fatalis. The dire wolf lived in the Americas during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene epochs (125,000–9,440 years ago). The species was named in 1858, four years after the first specimen had been found. Two subspecies are recognized, these being Canis dirus guildayi and Canis dirus dirus. The dire wolf probably evolved from Armbruster's wolf (Canis armbrusteri) in North America. The largest collection of its fossils has been obtained from the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.

Wikipedia contributors. (2018, December 8). Dire wolf. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:56, December 20, 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dire_wolf&oldid=872741641

We often see creatures taken out of time to populate the Hyborian Age. In Red Nails the dragon Conan defeats is described more like a dinosaur than the modern concept of a dragon. The core rulebook for the new 2d20 lists the Sabre-tooth cat, while the new release, "Horrors of the Hyborian Age", list creatures like cave bears and dire rhinoceros.

In actuality the size of the dire wolf and a regular wolf isn't that great, but this is the Hyborian age, so I think they should be scaled up to match the time.

Actual comparison of average sizes
Hyborian Age Sized

Canis Dirus (‬dire Wolf‭) Darren Pepper
http://www.prehistoric-wildlife.com/species/c/canis-dirus-dire-wolf.html

So I give to you my take on the dire wolf. A giant version of the wolves found within the pages of 2d20. This version is tougher, and can deal more damage than it's smaller cousins. It is simply more bad ass. Perhaps packs of these roam the frozen north of Nordheim or the vast steppe of Hyrkania. Either way a pack of these stalking your players should be enough to give them quite a challenge. I have included two versions of the dire wolf, a toughened version and the Alpha Dire Wolf.


I'll make note that I haven't had time to actually play test these yet, as I am building them for an upcoming adventure. If you do use them I would love to get feedback from how they worked out at your table. As always I love hearing from everyone, so if you have any feedback please drop me a note!

Until Next Time. 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!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Momentum in Conan 2d20! A Basic Guide to Spending Momentum in the Hyborian Age!

As we have discussed in this article on momentum, Momentum is a measure of success and a way to see that things are going in favor of the party. The mechanics around it have had questions raised about how and when it can be spent. This largely comes from the term "Immediate", and the two sources of momentum, personal and pool. We, myself included, have read far too much into how this works. The following is how I understand momentum within the Conan 2d20 rules and up until this morning, I would have described it differently.

Let's start with a few basic definitions.
  • Generated Momentum - Momentum generated from a successful test.
  • Pool Momentum - Momentum stored from another players successful test.
  • Immediate Spend - Can be used at anytime. You do not need to have had a successful skill test to use this spend.
  • Regular Spend - Spent after a successful skill test.

What kind of momentum can we spend on a given test?

Immediate Spend Regular Spend
Generated
Momentum
X
X
Pool
Momentum
X
X

Yes that is right. Momentum is momentum and can be used interchangeably. The real difference in these two types of spends is WHEN you can use them, and that may limit where the momentum comes from.

Immediate Spend Regular Spend
Successful Test
X
X
Unsuccessful Test/
No Skill Test
X


There is one more distinction between Immediate Spends and Regular Spends.

Immediate Spend Regular Spend
Bought with Doom?
YES
NO


For Example: Immediate Spend, No Skill Test
The group has stored 3 momentum in the pool and Dianan wants to roll more than 2 dice to attack the skeleton opposing her. Dianan at this time has not made a skill test, and so the only spends available to her are Immediate Spends. Dianan doesn't have any Generated Momentum because she hasn't rolled any dice yet. She can pull from the group pool using the "Create Opportunity" momentum spend which is an Immediate Spend.

For Example: Immediate Spend, Unsuccessful Skill Test
The group has stored 6 momentum in the pool. Dianan attacks the skeleton nearest her but misses! Her vigor is sitting at 2 and so she decides to use the Second Wind momentum spend, which is listed as an Immediate Spend. Again she is unable to use any Generated Momentum, simple because her attack failed and she has none. She can still spend all 6 points of Pool Momentum.

For Example: Immediate Spend, Successful Skill Test
The group has stored 1 momentum in the pool. Dianan continues her attack on the skeleton! She hits it and does enough damage to destroy it, in addition she has 2 points of Generated Momentum from the attack. She decides to use a Swift Action spend with her Generated Momentum. Her second attack she decides to roll an additional D20 using the Immediate Spend, Create Opportunity, with the last point of Pool Momentum
NOTE: She could have used the 1 point of Pool Momentum + 1 point of Generated Momentum for the Swift Action, and the last point of Generated Momentum for the Create Opportunity spend.

For Example: Regular Spend, Unsuccessful Skill Test
The group has stored 6 momentum in the pool. Dianan attacks the next skeleton nearest her but misses! She wants to use Swift Action to try and attack again, but since it is a Regular Spend, it requires a successful skill test. She is unable to use Swift Action.

For Example: Regular Spend, Successful Skill Test
The group has stored 1 momentum in the pool. In desperation Dianan strikes out again at the skeleton, but generates 0 momentum. Her damage fails to eliminate the skeleton and so She opts to use Swift Action, in an attempt to bash the skeleton with her shield. Since Swift Action with another weapon only costs 1 point of momentum, Dianan can use the Pool Momentum to make this Regular Spend.

I hope this quick guide helps you in your Hyborian Aged adventures! If you have questions or comments please drop them below. Maybe you disagree with this assessment of Immediate vs Regular Spends? Let me know!

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!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A comparison of Savage Worlds and the 2d20 systems.

Last year sometimes I picked up the Savage World rules. I had heard they were good, and I knew they had done the Solomon Kane RPG based on these, which I still need to pick up. Despite all I had heard I didn't know very much about it. Other games reached back far enough into my youth and young adult days that I at least had a basic understanding of general mechanics. Savage Worlds was different. So I picked it up and I took a look.

I haven't played the rules, but I generally like the idea behind them, and as it turns out the most basic mechanic isn't totally new to me. If you are not familiar with the basic concept it is this. You need to roll 4+ on a die to get a success. How good or bad you are determines the type of die you roll. In the 15mm war game world there is a game called "Tomorrow's War" which works exactly like this.

There is of course more to the game, but one of the things that really struck me about it as I read it was the similarity to Conan 2d20, or 2d20 in general. They are far from being carbon copies of each other, but certain aspects of SW remind me of 2d20. So if you have played Savage Worlds and are looking for something different, give 2d20 a try.

One quick final note, there is a kickstarter for a new edition of Savage Worlds, The Adventure Edition. This is written based around my knowledge of Savage Worlds Deluxe.

Overall Feeling

I'll first start by saying I am most familiar with the Conan iteration of 2d20, so my thoughts and opinions are going to be largely revolving around that specific 2d20 ruleset. Both rulesets provide an action centric version of game events. 2d20 might be a little more crunchy in terms of combat resolution and Savage Worlds is certainly more concerned with miniatures. Both systems abstract certain things in favor of speed, but both are written to mimic high action and adventure whether they be from a modern movie or the pulps of the 20s and 30s.

Similarities & Differences

My first reading of Savage Worlds struck me at how much similarity it had with the 2d20 system by Modiphius. Certainly not identical, but more similar than it is to something like Dungeons & Dragons. This extended beyond the feeling of the game and had roots in the mechanics of both systems.

Success by Measure - Similar

Coming back to RPGs the concept of not just succeeding at a skill test, but being able to succeed by a little or a lot intrigued me. It is one of the things I loved about Conan 2d20. I no longer simply rolled to hit, I could roll to hit and either hit or HIT. I liked the idea a lot. Reading over Savage Worlds which has an open ended exploding die mechanic, I could roll not only above that target number of 4, but I could get raises. I could succeed better based on getting a higher roll.

This idea of success by measure is critical to these games that are revolving around these very heroic characters as it allows them to get things done in an exaggerated, or larger than life, way sometimes.

Momentum - Different

The concept of momentum and doom is a pretty large difference between the two systems. In Savage Worlds getting raises have a specified result, either causing more damage, causing extra dice to be rolled or similar. In Conan 2d20 getting more success than you need results in momentum, which can in turn be spent on various effects such as more damage, armor penetration, more attacks and similar, this can even be stored in group pools to allow your friends to use it to a degree, basically it's a measure of how well things are going for you. PCs store momentum in a group pool that maxes out at 6 and NPCs simply store it in a group pool called, "DOOM".

Bad guys - Similar

The "Bad Guys" in Savage Worlds are generally in two categories: Wild Cards and Extras. Wild Cards are equivalent to a Player Character, tough and unique. The super villain in a story is going to be a Wild Card. That villain's henchmen are going to be Extras. In Conan 2d20 we have a similar idea with our NPCs being broken into Minions, Toughened and Nemesis. Extras and Wild Cards are roughly equivalent to the Minion and the Nemesis, with the Toughened falling between the two.

In both Savage Worlds and Conan 2d20, inflicting a single wound against a Minion or an Extra removes it from play, although how those are caused is different, although I would say share a similar overall idea. As well they are less able to complete skill or trait tests. In 2d20 the Minion rolls a single d20 instead of 2d20, and in Savage Worlds the Extra doesn't get to roll a Wild Die like the Wild Cards do. Conan 2d20 allows you to group your Minions into mobs of five and then allows them to aid each other in their rolls making them more effective, but also moving things along quicker, ie if you have 10 skeletons attacking it is easier to have them attack in 2 rolls vs 10. Savage Worlds allows groups of these Extras to roll a Wild Die with their Trait Die when in a group, but makes no provisions for groups of them in combat situations.

The Nemesis and Wild Card both represent a special character, a high level named NPC or similar. They are both roughly equivalent to the player character and can both suffer more than one wound before they are removed from play. Both of them are as capable as the players in terms of the dice they roll, 2d20 in Conan and Trait + Wild in Savage Worlds.

Savage Worlds doesn't have a toughened class, but a roughly analogous idea might be an Extra that rolls Wild+Trait dice and can suffer an additional wound over an Extra.

This system of classes of bad guys allows your heroic characters to have an easier time eliminating all those pesky guards or low level monsters, just like we always see in the movies, comics and action stories.

Miniatures - different

Savage Worlds is built to be played on a tabletop with miniatures, the rules say so. Weapons ranges are provided in inches with a footnote on how to convert to real world distances. 2d20 can be used with miniatures, but doing so is a small footnote. Conan and other 2d20 systems use abstract zones, ie Irene and Frank are over by the vending machines, which Susan is guarding the exit door. Frank and Irene are in one zone and Susan is in another, how large the zones are isn't really that important mechanically to the 2d20 system. House rules wise, using miniatures in 2d20, unless you can clearly define zones on battlemaps, I find using a range rulers to be pretty helpful.

Damage and Elimination - Similar

Neither system uses hit points to track when a player or NPC is eliminated. 2d20 has a mechanic that allows a characters reduction of stress before they are wounded that superficially looks like hit points, but they are simply a measure of how long before a character is actually wounded. Savage Worlds is much more dangerous in this regard requiring only a shaken condition before a wound is inflicted. Both systems penalize characters when they are wounded making it more difficult for them to complete tasks.

In Conan players can suffer 3 wounds and remain functional, becoming unconscious at four but alive. if they suffer a fifth wound they are considered dead. in Savage Worlds Wild Cards can likewise take 3 wounds and remain functional, and at 4 they become incapacitated. However in Savage Worlds Wild Cards only ever become incapacitated, essentially anything over 3 wounds.

Good Fortune and Bennies - similar

Both systems have a limited resource that can be replenished as a reward for excellent ideas and role playing. In Savage Worlds we have Bennies and in Conan 2d20 we have Fortune. In Savage worlds players start with three bennies and can use them to re-roll trait tests. Players can also use it to remove the "shaken" status a character may suffer from. Their equivalent in Conan 2d20 is a little more robust and can be used for a multitude of things, although re-rolling skill tests is not one of them, they can be used to practically guarantee a skill tests is successful. They can also be used for other things such as getting a second action, recovering lost stress, ignoring a wound. So while not identical they are both a consumable resource that allows the PCs to accomplish extra heroic actions.

Final Thoughts

These two systems have many differences, but despite that they have a lot of similarities, which shouldn't be surprising. In general both of the systems are aiming to recreate a pulp or cinematic style of fast high action based around bad ass heroes. At present Savage Worlds is a generic system and 2d20 is not. 2d20 will need to be repurchased for each setting you decided you might want to play in, but once you learn one, the others will be simple to learn. Both systems have strengths and weaknesses, but overall I like what both can bring to the table.

Don't forget to drop a comment about your thoughts on these two systems and how they compare and contrast!


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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!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Weird West, REH Style.

All night Ghost Man did magic, callin' my ghost back from spirit-land. I remember that flight, a little. It was dark, and gray-like, and I drifted through gray mists and heard the dead wailin' past me in the mist. But Ghost Man brought me back.
Old Garfield’s Heart
-Robert E. Howard

The time is the late 1800s. The place is the western United States; the Wild West. The idea of it brings images of a dusty landscape populated with lawless men preying on the helpless, with the occasional man of character defending them. A time of gunslingers, prospectors and pioneers. It is a time of romanticized violence in the Americas. A time of barbarism vs. civilization.

In this time legends were born: "Billy the Kid", "Wild Bill", "Butch Cassidy" and "Wyatt Earp" are just a few of the men who have been made into icons of this time. The places these men fought and died have become just as famous as the people themselves: "The Shootout at the OK Corral", "El Paso Gunfight", "Northfield Bank Raid" to name only a few of these events.

In the Early 21st century, over a century since men rode horses and brandished six shooters, we are still enthralled by this era. Television shows such as Hell on Wheels, Deadwood and Godless are all set in this time, while Westworld, a modern remake of a classic uses the west as a backdrop. As I write this Red Dead Redemption II has just been released, and seems to be selling well, another testament to our interest in this time period.

But what of the pulp era? Why have I chosen to talk about the Wild West? The Pulps as I generally think of them are published from about the 1900s to sometime in the 1950s. I generally narrow my scope to the 30s and earlier, simply because I am often talking about Robert E Howard and his contemporaries. If we do a search on wild west pulp magazines we turn up a cornucopia of pulp magazine covers dedicated to the Wild West, plenty of which fall into this pre-1930s era. Clearly they were popular.

As a man living in Texas, having seen the effect of boom-town America, trying to make a living selling yarns to the pulps, it should not be a surprise to anyone that Mr. Howard penned his share of western tales. Especially given his interest in the cycles of civilization.

But I didn’t write this article to talk about the Wild West, despite its interest to many people. I want to talk about a sub-genre: The Weird West. Take all the adventure the Wild West serves up and drop in fantasy and horror elements. Perhaps a secretive eastern sorcerer is up to no good, or a ghost train haunts the tracks. Maybe the outlaws have come face to face with a zombie horde?

Where men with swords in the dark ages meets the fantastic and magical we get Swords and Sorcery.
Where the six gun meets the weird we get the Weird West.

The RPGs

The RPG I know that falls, perhaps most famously, is the Savage World setting: Deadlands. There are others, most of which I am not familiar with, but I wanted to also say the ICRPG has a Weird West setting called Ghost Mountain which shouldn’t be missed.


The Inspiration

Across social media I see people asking the same question as they move into this setting, “What can I read/watch for inspiration?”. Of course watching westerns will get you into the right headspace, everything from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” all the way up to more modern westerns like Tombstone.

I wanted to give a mention to a fairly brutal film that I think fits in here nicely as both a solid western as well as a film that touches on the potentially weird aspects of the west, "Bone Tomahawk". If you haven’t seen it and are ok with fictionalized realistic violence, I recommend checking out this film.

The Stories of REH

As I am sure you have guessed by now Robert E Howard wrote a few weird west tales as well.

Most of these stories are available online or through audio book. I strongly suggest you check them out as some of the foundational work in this genre. You can find them at Project Gutenberg and then doing a search for Robert E HOWARD

Pigeons from Hell. If you are familiar with REH and the Weird West I am sure you are thinking to yourself, “What? This isn’t set in the Wild West!”. Before you think I am crazy though, this is set in the 1890s around the same time as the Wild West. Despite it dealing with magic of the south, the ideas and concepts wouldn’t be hard to find inspiration from for the Weird West.

Old Garfield’s Heart. One of my favorites. Great story about a man and First Nations magic. Lots of good ideas and ambiance in this one!

The Valley of the Lost. Robert E Howard and vanished civilizations go together like cookouts and beans. This western tale is one of an ancient civilization, blood feuds and shootouts. It is definitely worth your time.

Horror from the Mound. Another classic REH tale. This time burial mounds and ancient curses are the order of the day.

The Dead Remember. A story about magic and revenge set in 1877. Told as a series of statements by the main characters and eye witnesses to the events the story revolves around. Not surprisingly, another good one.

Beyond the Black River. Yes, it’s a Conan story, but it’s also set on a frontier and is as much a western as anything. It features a fort, scouts, the Picts, magic and dark forests. It is an excellent story that you should be able to pull a fair amount from and push into a more traditional Wild West setting.

Do you have some more ideas on what stories Robert E Howard wrote that would help readers get an idea for some Weird West adventures. Do you have any favorite Weird West games you like?

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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!