'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

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

Friday, March 1, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Hyborian Fossa

Welcome back to another installment of Friday's Forgotten Fiends! Custom monsters for your RPG table feature stat blocks for Conan 2d20 and Dungeons and Dragons 5e as well as paper 28mm miniatures and VTT tokens!

The group of men moved deeper into the jungle, a short while earlier they had spotted the first signs of the ruined city. Now they searched deeper into the jungles of the Black Kingdom seeking an entrance to this mythical place. Ruined stones emerged from the emerald colored foliage, serving as a kind of marker for the party of Stygians. Finally they stood on ancient flagstones, a road, leading between two ruined pillars and into the jungle.

Following this ancient road they came to a small clearing in the jungle and beyond lay an intact marble building, all but invisible in the dense foliage. The largest man of the group excitedly pointed at the low structure, "Come! The treasure awaits!", and move carelessly into the clearing before the building.

Before anyone could react the jungle around the clearing moved and in an instant several large, long, sleek, almost feline beasts sprang into the opening, their eyes and teeth flashing at what they clearly saw as prey. The big man, slowly drew his sword slowly, not making any sudden moves. As the blade barely cleared it's sheath the first of the beasts pounced, as if sensing the intent of the man. It's teeth and claws flashed in the sunlight as the sword as brought up barely fending off the first of these creatures, as the second one leaped onto his back sinking its teeth into his shoulder.......

You will have to bear with me for a moment as I discuss something pretty non-Hyborian age. Many years ago I watched a little movie called Madagascar. In it the bad guys are the FOSSA, something I had never heard of. I just assumed I was supposed to know about what they were trying to represent. As it turns out Madagascar is just a place with animals that don't exist elsewhere, it is something called "megadiverse", and I had no idea what these creatures were.

70% of species that inhabit these islands are totally unique in the world. Its great richness of biodiversity goes from lemurs, mongoose, chameleons, bats, foxes... Additionally, during the last decade 40 mammals, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles, 42 invertebrates and 385 new plants were discovered within its territory.

Fast forward to now and I am looking for new and interesting creatures that once populated our world to be thrown in as savage beasts of the Hyborian Age. The fossa as depicted in that fun romp of a movie is fairly small at about 2.5 feet long and 20lbs, and so interesting but maybe not exactly what I am looking for. Now the Cryptoprocta Spelea is more what we are looking for, or at least more evidence for larger animals. This Giant Fossa is closer to 3.5 feet long, weighing in at twice that of it's smaller relative at about 40lbs.

Despite the depictions in the movie the modern fossa is generally thought of as solitary, although they have been observed to cooperate and share kills, which would make them a *LOT* more interesting. Going along with that our new species will be even larger, more like cougar sized and they will hunt in packs, so don't set these individually on your players!

These cat like predators are potentially awesome foes for your sword and sorcery game, realistic and less well known than other creatures such as sabertooth tigers.

Ok enough preamble and talk of children's cartoons.......Welcome to an Age Undreamed Of......

Cryptoprocta Hyborius. The Hyborian Fossa.

Conan 2d20

D&D 5e

VTT Tokens

Paper Minis!

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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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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.

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

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Conan: Issue #1 (2019) "The Weird of the Crimson Witch"

January 2nd 2019! I trust everyone had an excellent holiday season! Today will be back to work for a lot of us, myself included. At least today there is a bright point.

That's right! Today MARVEL publishes there first title of the newly re-acquired Conan license from Dark Horse. I have been excited for this since it was announced, not because I dislike Dark Horse, but because Marvel and the History of the Barbarian in this modern age go hand in hand. I have been waiting to see what the company that gave us the Savage Sword of Conan would give us.

So I got up this morning, made coffee and eggs and fired up Comixology and had a read.

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Mahmud Asrar
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Esar Ribic

I've seen the cover and I've seen some of Asrar's work over on Instagram, which I encourage you to go and check out.

I enjoyed all of the art in the book; the cover is great and the interior art is excellent. I have seen some reviewers make comment about weird arm angles and such, but I didn't have anything jump out at me. I even went back through looking for it and couldn't find anything seriously bad that jumped out at me.

I had a moment of doubt early on, that perhaps these guys didn't know their stuff. During a fight Conan says he prays to Crom. I thought to myself, "Yes Conan says Crom quite a bit in the comics, but as a curse more than praying. We all know Crom doesn't listen and it's better to not call his gaze upon you. So having a panel where Conan says he prays to Crom, left me uncertain. It is quickly followed by this panel:

YES! I am in. One of my favorite panels from the book. Great. As much as the cover and interior art are important for a comic book, without a story it isn't going to be much of a comic. There has been fear by a certain subset of the community that believe Marvel will be politically correct in their new iterations of Conan, so far this is absolutely not the case. This is a good Conan yarn, complete with fighting, women, wine and sorcery. I won't go into great detail about the actual story because I don't want to ruin it for you.

What I will say is that I liked it. The story has lots of action and I feel it moved pretty well. There are several nods to the '82 film, even if they were unintentional, and it ended with a cliff hanger and left me wanting more.




Sword & Sorcery:

4.5 out of 5 Skulls of My Enemies!

Bring on Issue #2!

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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

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(--)
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

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
Unsuccessful Test/
No Skill Test

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

Immediate Spend Regular Spend
Bought with Doom?

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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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?

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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If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

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