'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

Corrupt Cliffs

Corrupt Cliffs
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Showing posts with label Rules. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Rules. Show all posts

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Modern Age: Print Edition.

Over the past few weeks I have been delving into the new Expanse RPG by Green Ronin Publishing. When it was Kickstarted we learned it would be based on Green Ronin's Modern AGE, a ruleset for modern adventures based on their AGE system.

I wanted to pick up the rules and looked at the PDF on drivethrurpg, but ultimately I ended up ordering directly from Green Ronin in order to get a copy of the printed rules. For me PDFs have a place but to learn and read a system, very little beats a physical book.

My copy of the physical rules showed up yesterday and I wanted to share my initial thoughts of the book itself and in the coming weeks maybe delve a little deeper into my thoughts on the system itself since it is what the Expanse is based upon.

So first up is the volume itself. Looks good, nice cover, hardback edition of the rules. Nothing to complain about here, a solid first impression of the book.

Despite being shipped with a large amount of packing material in an undamaged box far larger than the book, I still had a little damage due to shipping from somewhere along the line.

Not ideal but not a deal breaker for me. One of the hazards of ordering on-line. I will note the game was shipped from Alliance Distributors, not from Green Ronin itself.

It's possible I could launch a complaint and maybe even get a new book, but this one works and the damage is so minor to me that pursuing that line is a waste of my time.

These next two images are just a couple of quick screenshots from the interior of the book. Nothing new for me here as I have seen the pdf. However I will say the paper seems high quality. It doesn't feel cheap. However the binding leaves me uncertain, some places in the book it feels tight and in others loose. That is to say I can lay the book open on some pages and not on others. I am not sure it will fall apart, it just gives me a little pause.

Art wise I like it but don't love it. I love some of it, but not all of it. They do list twelve interior artists so it's possible I just like some of their skills more than others. I believe this is simply a personal preference. It is well executed and in full color. Nothing to complain about.

Throughout the book are a series of color coding geared to take the game through it's three flavors: Gritty, Pulpy and Cinematic. I think it is a nice way to lay out these options that is clear, concise and immediately tells the reader that this is a place where we can change the overall feel for the game. Even with the color coding each entry is clearly labelled as to what it represents.

This page is detailing character advancement over the course of the game based on these three styles of play, but there are also entries on how damage is applied etc.

The book has a two page index which appears to be comprehensive, although I have not used it so I can't actually confirm how comprehensive it is at this time. Either way it is better than not having an index at all, a direction some publishers have chosen.
Finally we have a few pages of character sheets and quick reference and initiative sheets for players and NPCs. The character sheet is plain and maybe a little unimaginative, but for a generic system that makes some sense. It is ALSO easy to ready and reference.

To better understand my opinions of the book I have summarized it over a few metrics, scored out of 5.

  • First impression: 85%. Good solid book.
  • Book quality: 85%. High quality paper, good cover. I am not 100% convinced of the binding.
  • Organization: 90%. I like how it is organized. It seems clear. It has an index.
  • Art: 80% The art is good, but for me, not mind blowing.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Expanse RPG. The Churn.

Kenzo: It must be nice, having everything figured out like that.
Amos: Ain’t nothing to do with me: we’re just caught in the Churn, that’s all.
Kenzo: I have no idea what you just said.
Amos: This boss I used to work for in Baltimore, he called it the Churn. When the rules of the game change.
Kenzo: What game?
Amos: The only game. Survival. When the jungle tears itself down and builds itself into something new. Guys like you and me, we end up dead. Doesn’t really mean anything. Or, if we happen to live through it, well that doesn’t mean anything either.

We got another Expanse Extra yesterday. That is a new mechanic from the RPG that isn't in the quick start. This time the Churn is detailed. This is a mechanic to simulate things going from bad to worse. It will add tension and consequence to the adventure. For me it is similar but different to the role Doom plays in Conan 2d20.

In 2d20, doom stands as a pile that gets added to when various things occur. The GM can then spend that to make bad guys more powerful, introduce more bad guys or just in general make things hard on the players. It is a mechanic designed to simulate the flow of Robert E Howard's epic tales of Conan.

The Churn, although implemented differently, is essentially a mechanic with the same goal in terms of the flow of the story. Things are going well for the players, they have this in the bag. Suddenly the rules change on them and what was easy now becomes difficult.

In it's essence "The Churn" is a running total, when characters do certain things a point is added to that total. When it reaches 10 there is a chance a Minor Stage 1 Churn event happens. If it doesn't happen, the total will increase. When it reaches 20 a Major Stage 2 Churn event may occur. If no event is triggered it continues to increase until it reaches 30, here we have a chance of an Epic Stage 3 Churn event. As you can see each time we get to 10, we check for an event, the level of event increases as the multiple of 10 increases. If you get to 10 points in stage 3, an Epic Stage 3 event occurs. No matter when the pool is triggered it resets to 0.

My first impression is that the Stage 1 events are a little weak IMHO, more choice here would be great. However since I haven't played I don't actually know how fast these things will get generated and it might happen several times in an encounter, and if that is the case it is probably fine.

Either way I am a fan of this style of mechanic. The fact that accumulating The Churn means something bad is going to happen may add enough tension all on it's own to make players a little squirrely.

Be sure to check out my other articles on the Expanse RPG!

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Expanse RPG. Let's Get Advanced!

Continuing my look at the quickstart rules for the Expanse RPG, I wanted to circle back and look at skill tests. Like many games the skill test is the core of the game, anything a character wants to do, of consequence, is generally resolved with a skill test roll by the player.

In many games that boils down to non-combat characters doing their shining moment in a roll or two, leaving combat characters rolling a lot and being more engaged in that way within the game engine. Although conflict is a very important part of RPGs and narratives it can leave some characters out in the cold so to speak.

When RuneHammer Games released ICRPG he included an effort system. You could assign 10 effort points to a task, say translating runes, your party member with the ability to translate could now be a more active part. Now it wasn't a roll with a pass/fail, now it was a matter of time before the runes could be deciphered. Adding in combat with this added even more tension. It is a cool mechanic and it was the first time I had personally encountered it's use.

Wait? Why are we talking about RuneHammer? I thought this was about "The Expanse RPG"? The Expanse has a similar system called "Advanced Tests". These are generally described as more advanced test. In this case the GM is going to assign a TN as well a success threshold. When a player rolls for their character and succeeds the drama die is added to a running total, and once that total meets or exceeds that success threshold the test is successful. Of course each attempt at the test consumes time and perhaps resources depending on the test.

ok. Lets take a look at this in action!


Intelligence: 2
Focus: Technology

Deep in Ceres station Noelle and her crew are attempting to hack into a computer system. The right information can make you wealthy.

Things haven't gone well for our heroes though and they are pinned down at the access node by Star Helix operatives. Reinforcements are most certainly on the way. As it turns out Noelle is a bit of a whiz with computers and they decide to attempt the hack despite the presence of the security officers and their guns.

The GM has set this encounter to allow the Players to escape if they desire. For every round they stay an additional D4 guards take up position firing on the players, to a max of 5 operatives. We will assume Star Helix has enough man power to essentially keep throwing low level operatives at them.

The GM sets the computer system hack as an Advanced test with a Threshold of 10, and a TN of 13.

Round 1:
Noelle gets to work attempting to bypass the security system while her crew and Star Helix exchange fire. Her players rolls 1,4,(4) = 9 + 2 Int + 2 focus = 13 = SUCCESS! 4 is added to the running total.
The remainder of the round is her crew and Star Helix rolling and attempting to kill each other. Some of her crew take damage, and one or two SH operatives are dropped.

Round 2:
The crew calls back as the desperately hold off SH, "HOW MUCH LONGER!!??"
Noelle, while working as fast as she can yells back, "I'm in! Almost there!!". Her players makes another roll to work on the system. This time her roll is 3,6,(1) = 10 + 2 Int + 2 focus = 14 = SUCCESS! 1 is added to the running total.
Noelle curses under her breath as ICE work to stop her attempts at access in the main database. Star Helix continues their onslaught as more guards turn up to help capture the renegades.

Round 3:
A Star Helix officer gets a bead on Noelle and fires at her, the bullet glances off the bulk head just to the right of her head, her fortune holds as she continues to work against the computer. This time her roll is 2,1,(6) = 9 + 2 Int + 2 Focus = 13 = SUCCESS! 6 is added to the running total, brining it to 10. Noelle lets out a whoop as she successfully breaks into the system. The gun battle continues, Star Helix continues shooting, their bullets finally finding their marks as the luck of Noelle's crew begins to run out.

Hopefully, if you haven't used a system like this, you can see how it can engage a non-combat character more thoroughly into the game beyond the simple roll to pass/fail their key skill. I think the concept can make the game a lot more fun for everyone and allow a cooler and more interesting skill test interaction.

Be sure to check out my other articles on the Expanse RPG!

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Expanse RPG. Fortune favors the bold!

In my last installment I had the beginning of a small combat. It involved Noelle firing her pistol at Frank, she was successful and in fact bought a vicious blow and did an extra 1d6 damage. Still at the end, our narration concluded with her only grazing his shoulder.

Lets talk about why. All systems I have played have some method of mitigating damage, or recording how much punishment a character can take. The most basic idea of this is hit points. Conan 2d20 uses Stress and Harm in tandem to track the same thing. The Expanse is no different.

In the Expanse RPG each character has "Fortune". This is a measure of how fortunate they are, how much luck they have etc. Fortune can be spent to reduce damage taken or it can be spent to modify the dice. Pressing the luck and fortune of the character to succeed now for a possibly nefarious outcome later.

The pre-gens in the quick start have fortune scores of 15 or 20. In between adventures characters will be able to re-generate some fortune after an encounter (1d6 + Con + Level).

Ok, but how does fortune equate to damage received or punishment taken?
Once a hit is scored a player subtracts their toughness and armor from the total, the quick start rules have pre-gens with toughness from 0 - 2. Once we have the total damage done the remaining damage can mitigated through the spending of fortune on a 1-1 basis. If there is remaining damage then the players can take a wounded or injured condition. This removes another 1d6 damage per condition. If after this reduction, damage remains then the character is removed from the encounter and another condition is applied in line with the type of attack, generally dying or unconscious.

As we mentioned a player can spend fortune to modify a die roll. On the regular die a player can spend the value they want to make the die that number. ie you roll a 1, if you want the number 4, you spend 4 fortune points. If you are spending them on the drama die that value is doubled. So that same 4 now costs 8, but gives you more stunt points, so it is a trade off. Of course spending points here reduces how lucky you might be when staring down the barrel of a large caliber pistol.

Humans in this are actually pretty susceptible to damage. They can be lucky, sure, but in the end when that luck runs out it's not going to go well for them.

Lets take another look at Noelle and Frank.


Accuracy: 1
Focus: Pistols
Defense: 10+Dex
Toughness: 1
Fortune: 20
Weapon: Pistol, 2d6+1


Dexterity: 1
Focus: Knife Fighting
Defense: 10+Dex
Toughness: 2
Fortune: 15
Weapon: Dagger, 1d6+3

Noelle draws her pistol and fires it down the dark corridor at her enemy!

Noelle has a TN of 11, Frank's dexterity + 10. She rolls 3d6 and scores 5,5,(2) for a total of 12 on the dice. +1 for her accuracy attribute and +2 for her focus in pistols bring her total score to 15!
Noelle ALSO rolled doubles. This indicates a STUNT! Noelle can now spent 2 stunt points, the number rolled on the drama die. These have to be used right away. Noelle opts to make this a vicious blow causing an additional 1d6 damage. She rolls (2d6+1) 8+1,(+1d6) 3 for a total of 12 damage.
Frank is not wearing any armor, but is pretty tough, so that damage is reduced by 2, becoming 10. Frank spends 10 fortune points, reducing his total fortune to 5.

Noelle's pistol echoes with a sharp retort! The round easily catches Frank and only by sheer fortune does he manage to avoid most of the damage, the bullet barely grazing past, leaving a bloody trail along his shoulder.......

Be sure to check out my other articles on the Expanse RPG!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Expanse RPG. A Measure of Success.

If you have followed my online RPG presence, you may be aware that one of the things I enjoy about Conan2d20 is the ability to not only succeed at a test, but to succeed by measure. That is there is more to it than just a pass/fail concept.

I believe this idea lends itself to the potential for awesome levels of creative story telling. In standard d20 when I attempt to jump a gap the GM assigns a target number, I roll my d20 and I pass or fail. In a system like 2d20 the GM assigns a difficulty, if I succeed greatly my character can use that success to fuel further actions, such as attacking an enemy right away on the other side of the gap.

Ok enough about 2d20, what does this have to do with the Expanse RPG? As I mentioned in my previous post your basic skill check is a 3d6 roll with a "drama" die. And we will start here.

Before we go on I am going to lay a caveat on this post. All I have is the quickstart rules. I haven't looked at "Modern AGE" at all, although expect it to function similarly.

The drama die, although not a direct measure of success, gives the GM and players a method to see how well or poorly they succeeded at their task. Did they barely fail or almost make it? Did their disguise fully convince those looking, or simply move them beyond notice?

If your players are trying to hack into a computer system to gain intel on the proto-molecule and roll a success, but roll a 1 on the drama dice, you as the GM might decide they have succeeded but managed to set off an alarm that will bring MCRN operatives down on them in a few turns.

The system also has another aspect that I find interesting. Stunts. These are broken out into Combat, Exploration and social depending on what task you are looking at doing. Lets take a look at the idea within a fight between two ruffians.

Accuracy: 1
Focus: Pistols
Weapon: Pistol, 2d6+1
Dexterity: 1
Focus: Knife Fighting
Defense: 10+Dex
Weapon: Dagger, 1d6+3

Noelle draws her pistol and fires it down the dark corridor at her enemy!

Noelle has a TN of 11, Frank's dexterity + 10. She rolls 3d6 and scores 5,5,(2) for a total of 12 on the dice. +1 for her accuracy attribute and +2 for her focus in pistols bring her total score to 15!
Noelle ALSO rolled doubles. This indicates a STUNT! Noelle can now spent 2 stunt points, the number rolled on the drama die. These have to be used right away. Noelle opts to make this a vicious blow causing an additional 1d6 damage. She rolls (2d6+1) 8+1,(+1d6) 3 for a total of 12 damage.

Noelle's pistol echoes with a sharp retort! The round easily catches Frank and only by sheer fortune does he manage to avoid most of the damage, the bullet barely grazing past, leaving a bloody trail along his shoulder.......

Be sure to check out my other articles on the Expanse RPG!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: The Nemesis.

Welcome back to the blog everyone! I hope your weekend was full of friends and good times. My last few posts have focused on the adversaries, minions and toughened opponents, in the Conan 2d20 rpg. Today we are going to wrap up the final one of these classes; The Nemesis. What is a nemesis? Well the following quote gives us a little insight. No, it's not from Conan, in fact it's not even from Robert E Howard, but I think you will recognize it either way.

Do you know what "nemesis" means?

A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by an 'orrible ****... me.
  • Bricktop,
    Snatch, 2000

A great line by a very bad man. It defines "nemesis" for us. In the Conan 2d20 RPG these are the personification of powerful entities. The nemesis class is the most capable class of foe your characters will face. They will present their largest challenge.

We talked about the town guard being minions and the sergeants being examples of the toughened classes. Continuing this example, the leaders of the guard, generals and the like, will be this nemesis class. Conan himself served as the leader of men in this capacity. These are the horrors in the dark, the witches, the wizards and the warriors of renown that Conan faced throughout his travels.

Ok so what does all this mean? The nemesis class is again going to have better equipment and attributes as compared to minions and toughened opponents. In addition the follow items are true of a nemesis.
  • The nemesis can suffer 5 physical and 5 mental harms.
  • The nemesis can react as per normal reaction rules.
  • The nemesis can spend 3 doom and gain a fortune point.
  • The nemesis often have a wide range of skills and abilities
  • The nemesis uses hit locations and armor just as a player does.
  • The nemesis is often leading multiple bands of foes.
  • The nemesis CAN lead a squad.
When it comes to special rules the nemesis is, in some ways, the simplest of the three classes. They work just like player characters. They become complicated in how they are played and their wide range of talents and abilities.

Now lets not get carried away here, if you drop a single nemesis down against a party of players, the nemesis will be lucky to survive a single round. These opponents become truly epic and frightening when they are leading groups of toughened or minions, forcing the players to engage their followers first.

Another thing to keep in mind is the one large difference between PCs and the nemesis. If the PCs want to buy 3 bonus dice and have no momentum, they can exchange dice for doom. If the nemesis has no doom they are unable to get bonus dice.

If your PCs are able to survive off of their built up momentum then the nemesis is going to be considerably weaker than one who has a fat pile of doom to draw from. This is something to keep in mind as players roll complications, if you are low on doom, it might be better to stockpile the complications till the final confrontation. Also keep in mind that any generated momentum by the nemesis can be stored as doom if it's not use right away.

The nemesis is a powerful entity in it's own right, but for it to really shine, it will need strategy and support. As always I love to hear comments and feedback, ideas and errata. As we go forward I wonder what else would be useful to go over? Till next time, KEEP IT WEIRD!

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: The Lowly Minion.

Our last overview talked about armor and protection, basically how to reduce the amount of damage a weapon does to you. This time I wanted to talk about NPCs and Monsters; creatures from the outerdark and loathsome pirates. Conan 2d20 has 3 classes of creatures: minion, toughened and nemesis. I had intended on covering all three of these in this article, but I have decided to start with the minion, as they have a few special rules and specific place in the game.

First, when I say minion I don't mean the little yellow guys from "Despicable Me", although they would certainly fit into this category. Minions are the low skilled henchmen, townfolk, small creatures and any number of other things. The key aspect to these is they are fodder. They do not stand against the characters in any real way. They are in general throngs to be cut down with bloody swaths of a sword. They are the 100s of soldiers in movies and books that pose no real threat to our heros.

I can hear you say, "Why do they need their own post if they are just fodder?" The answer to that is a rule in the game that allows a character to lend a d20 in assistance to another during a skill test, but we will get to that in a bit.

Lets go over the special rules for the basic minion.
  • Minions, unlike characters, can suffer a single HARM before being killed or driven off. So doing a blow that inflicts 5 stress, or dropping a stress value to zero ends the life of the minion.
  • Minions can not parry, dodge or actively defend. They are not allowed to react.
  • Minions roll a single d20 for their skill tests (including attacks.)
  • Minions do not use hit locations.

As you can see they are weak, can't defend themselves and don't roll many dice. There is an exception to this, and THIS is why I felt they needed their own entry. The Mob

Up to five identical minions can form together into a mob. Due to that assistance rule I mentioned earlier the mob attacks as a single entity and so rolls 1d20 for the lead minion +1d20 for each remaining member of the mob. So a Mob with 5 total members would roll a base of 5d20, 1d20 for the leader and +4d20 for the four remaining minions in the mob.

It is important to remember there is nothing stopping the GM from buying +3d20 worth of additional dice for that lead minion, giving the lead minion 4d20, with the mob contributing another 4d20, bringing the die total rolled for that mob to 8d20. Despite this massive roll of the dice, the mob only gains a single attack and it can be parried, dodged or resisted like any other single attack.

As you can already see we have written a fair bit about this simple and easy to kill part of Conan 2d20 and we have one more thing to talk about when they are arrayed as a mob. How do we apply damage? Damage is applied to the first member of the mob until a harm is caused. Any remaining damage is passed to the next member of the mob until a harm is caused. This cascade continues until the mob is dead, or we run out of damage. Soak is subtracted once at the start. Lets wrap this up with a couple of examples.

For example: Single Minion,
Conal is faced off against a single town guard (Vigor: 5 soak: 1). The guard is classified as a minion.
Conal rolls 2d20+2d20 from momentum, and scored 3 successes on a D1 attack leaving him with 2 momentum
Conal rolls damage and does 8 points of damage and uses his momentum to penetrate the guards armor. The guard now tales 8 points of vigor stress, which causes a wound eliminating the minion, nice and quick and simple.

For example: The Mob,
Now Conal is faced off against a mob of 5 town guards (Vigor: 5 soak: 1)
Round 1: Using the same situation as above, Conal causes 8 points of damage and negates the armor on the guard. The first guard takes 5 points of stress damage and receives a wound, eliminating him. The remaining 3 points of Vigor go to the next guard reducing his total to 2.
Next the mob attacks, but now with only 4 members, the GM opts to buy 2 addition dice for the lead minion giving him 3d20+3d20 assistance dice. The attack succeeds and generates 4 momentum, but Conal's parry also succeeds and generates 4 momentum. The guards attack is barely turned aside.
Round 2: Conal feeling pressured by the mob decides to try and end this, and buys 3 additional dice. He scored 3 points of momentum and rolls 7 damage, using momentum to defeat the armor he does 2 points to the damaged guard reducing his vigor to zero, removing him from play. The remaining 5 points of damage is applied to the next guard, causing yet another wound and removing a second guard from play. Conal spends 2 points of momentum for a swift action and strikes again. This time he succeeds but only gains a single point of momentum. Luckily he rolls 10 damage! Using the single point of momentum his sword slices past the armor of the remaining guards. 5 damage to the first eliminates it, followed by the remaining 5 damage being applied to the last guard, also killing it.

I intend on doing two more articles on toughened and nemesis over the next few days, and as a companion piece I will get some sort of combat demo up on youtube. Until next time, drop me a comment and don't forget to keep it WEIRD!

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: Protection.

In our last installment we talked about damage, today I want to talk briefly about protection from damage. In other systems, like D&D, characters, NPCs & monsters all have a designated armor class we roll against to determine if the hit is successful and damage is applied. This AC is generally derived from armor, shields, dexterity and skills.

As we saw in Conan 2d20, hitting an opponent is either a skill test or a struggle, armor is not part of that equation. In Conan 2d20 we have several types of protection, but all work more or less in the same way. As you may have guessed we broadly have two forms of protection; physical and mental. Each type of protection consists of two basic types, fixed and variable. Whether these are fixed or variable, mental or physical they are all collectively known as "Soak".

ArmorStatic value. Reduces physical stress damage by it's value.
CoverVariable value. Reduces physical stress damage by a value rolled on combat dice.
CourageStatic value. Reduces mental stress damage by it's value.
MoraleVariable value. Reduces mental stress damage by a value rolled on combat dice.

The amount of damage armor protects against can be reduced by various things, such as momentum spends and piercing effects, or if the protection is variable, it is possible to roll no protection. Lets take a quick look at a spear vs chain armor & a shield.

For example,
SPEAR 4cd, Piercing 1 vs. Heavy Armor soak 3 & Shield shield2.
We are assuming the spearman has successfully hit the armored combatant and we are now rolling damage.
The spearmen rolls his 4 combat dice and scores: 3 damage and scores a total effect of 2 piercing.
The target has a shield with a rating of 2 and so gets to roll 2 dice and add them to his total soak, this brings his total soak to 4.
The soak of 4 is reduced to 2, due to the spears piercing effects meaning the spear scores 1 point of damage (3 damage - 2 soak = 1 damage)

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: Damage.

Many systems use a simple life counter to track how much life a character has. The most famous of these is of course Dungeons & Dragons and hit points. As your character gains experience and levels your Hit Point total gets larger. On it's surface it's simple, but what it represents is an abstraction. Your character can't actually take 100s of sword blows now, they are just more experienced in combat and their hit points represent how long they can stand in battle; stamina, avoiding blows. etc.

It is a common and popular way of tracking a characters life in combat. It is NOT what Conan 2d20 uses.
Broadly Conan 2d20 breaks damage into Mental and Physical, and then each of those into STRESS and HARM.
  • STRESS: This is determined by your characters physical attributes. Characters who are strong and trained in Resistance will have more physical stress than a weaker character. Stress represents getting tires, scrapes and small cuts in battle. It is generally refilled after a short rest.
  • HARM: ALL characters can suffer 4 harms before becoming incapacitated. A fifth wound results in death. These are actual damage. Taking physical damage increases difficulty in doing physical tasks. Likewise mental harm increase the difficulty of mental skills tests.
Ok, I am sure you are all asking, how does this all work? In it's simplest form, Stress works like HP, once they are at zero you start taking a wound. In short anytime your stress is reduced to zero or you take damage while it's at zero, you take a harm.

There is one exception to this. If you can inflict 5 points of stress in a single hit, not only does it reduce the targets stress by your damage, you also inflict a wound.

For example,
Round 1: Conal has 12 points of vigor (physical stress), and take 4 points of damage. He would have his vigor reduced to 8, but take no wounds (physical harms).
Round 2: Conal then takes another 5 points of vigor damage. His vigor is further reduced to 3, BUT he also received 5 points of stress in a single round and suffers a wound as well.
Round 3: Finally Conal receives 6 points of vigor damage. His vigor is reduced to 0 and he suffers a wound. He ALSO suffers a wound for receiving 5 or more points of stress in a single round. This blow causes 2 wounds, bringing his wound total to 3.

As characters are damaged and begin to suffer wounds they will find it becomes a quick downward spiral. If they were fighting in the dark, and a standard blow or parry was D2, physical harm quickly turns that to D3 or D4 in the space of a few turns. Things can go badly for characters VERY quickly in this system.

In up coming posts we will talk about the types of bad guys and their life expectancy.

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: The Struggle: Momentum, Not success.

Previous articles in this series: It's time to look at "The Struggle" at it's most basic this is an opposed roll. This is the mechanic we use when two entities are in direct competition with each other; Running a race, arm wrestling, tests of persuasion, as well as a myriad of uses in combat.

This mechanic is simple. I repeat, this mechanic is simple and I will do my best to not overcomplicate it. As I said. It is an opposed roll, or in other words, an opposed skill test.

So how does it work? Both entities roll their skill test and determine how much momentum each of them generated.
The entity that has the most momentum wins the struggle.

In the case of ties, the tie goes to the player, but the GM can spend a point of doom to win it in favor of the NPC or Monster. That's it in a nutshell.

There is one final mechanic that is important to the struggle. The winner has their momentum reduced by the momentum generated by the loser. It is possible for a player to win a struggle and end up with zero momentum. This means that losing a struggle, but succeeding very well at your skill test will result in your opponent's success being less successful

For example: Less Effective Success,
Scenario 1: Conal attacks a skeleton! ((Success 4 points of momentum))
Now Conal has 4 points he can use to add penetration, extra damagem re-roll dice, strike again etc.
Scenario 2 : Conal attacks a skeleton ((Success 4 points of momentum)), but the skeleton parries! ((Success, 3 points of momentum. Struggle Winner: Conal, remaining momentm 4-3 =1))
Now Conal only has 1 point of momentum, although his attack is successful it is FAR less effective.

One of the most common struggles you will come across in Conan 2d20 is the attack/defense dynamic, so we will use that as another basic example.

For example: Simple Struggle,
Conal strides forward, confident in his fighting prowess, the gladiator he faces is equally confident in his superiority. With a cry Conal strikes down at the Gladiator ((Success: 2 points of momentum)) who raises his shield and deflects the blow with ease. ((Success: 3 points of momentum. Struggle Winner: Gladiator, remaining momentum 3-2 = 1))

It is important to remember this test is a comparison of generated momentum, NOT SUCCESSES!, and because of this each side of the struggle might have different difficulties for their skill tests.

For example: Momentum not successes,
Conal creeps through the dark crypt, the only light comes from his torch. Ahead he hears the rattle of bones and soon an undead horror emerges out of the gloom. Conal casts his torch aside as he draws sword and shield to defend himself from the fiend. The only noise from the skeleton is a slight rattle as the ancient spear it carries is leveled towards Conal. Conal springs forward swinging to his sword to move past the spear of the skeleton ((D3 attack, 3 successes, 0 momentum)), with the click of bones the skeleton easily fends aside the misaimed attack in the darkness ((D1 Parry, 2 successes, 1 momentum. Struggle Winner: Skeleton, remaining momentum 1-0 = 1))

The Struggle gives us a mechanic to directly test two entities against each other, with varying skill levels and varying levels of success. The ability to opposed the test, lose it, but still have your efforts affect the outcome is a cool idea. The Struggle is pretty quick way to handles this. As always drop me a comment and let me know what you think!

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Friday, April 20, 2018



We are going to steer away from Conan for a minute and give a quick shout out to Runehammer Games! When I came back to gaming a few short years ago there was a group of youtube channels devoted to RPGs. I liked quite a few of those channels but one of the channels I came across and started following was Drunkens & Dragons(now Runehammer), it spoke to me at a slightly different level.

The presenter was engaging and didn't take himself too seriously, most of all he looked like he was having a BLAST. He had videos on crafting, but as well, he had videos on theory and ways to make your game more fun. Although he played D&D he obviously wasn't tied to the system.

As I and others watched we got to know more about Hankerin' Ferinale. He did a few drawing streams, he talked about getting people to draw. He was and IS always encouraging and giving back to the community through his YouTube channel and his podcast. He talked about quick props drawn on index cards. Something I still use to this day when I need to hand my players an object. Sharpies and Index cards are awesome. This idea led to his first set of pre-drawn index cards that can be used to generate story ideas, or as location representations or as general props. (Hey Hankerin' we could use some cards for some sort of pulpy swords on mars game......)

And then finally he released his version of an RPG. His codified thoughts on playing a fun game. ICRPG was here officially.

ICRPG is light on rules and heavy on fun. There is an active google+ group as well as many many online games showing the mechanics of how the system works, as well as a quickstart guide available for FREE! I admit I have little time to game and it's been chiefly focused on 2d20, and haven't had time to do more than read the rules, which I like. Even if you never played it the advice in the book makes it worth the price alone.

He has continued to work on and expand ICRPG, Volume 2 and Volume 3 of index cards have been released. VTT assets have been added to the ICRPG core pack. He has released ICRPG Worlds which details three settings: Sci-Fi(Warp Shell), Fantasy(Alfheim) and a Weird West(Ghost Mountain). Just recently he even released a system agnostic set of characters with complete art called Heroes of the Hammer.

And now he has released ICRPG 2E. I haven't even had a chance to look through this book yet, but I wanted to post something about this awesome independent creator. Today we drink to your continued success!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: Doom & Momentum.

In parts 1 and 2 we discussed skill checks and the general idea behind how task difficulties are defined. Today's concept is the next part of that skill check system. Right now we know we are rolling 2d20 and trying to get below a target to gain successes. We also know that the difficulty can go as high as 5, which is impossible to achieve on a 2d20 roll. So what gives? How do we get more successes?

In a lot of games you succeed or fail. For example in a basic d20 system you are rolling a single d20 and adding a bonus and trying to beat a task's difficulty check. Roll too low and you fail, roll equal to or over that number and you succeed, nice and simple. In this example Conal has +3 in his strength roll and is facing a metal gate he needs to lift. The GM decides it's not overly heavy and so says the DC for this task is 13. Conal rolls an 18, and with his bonus scores a 21! Awesome. Conal lifts the gate! Any roll from 10+ achieves the desired result.

This is where the Conan 2d20 system differs. In the above example Conal, needs to lift the gate, and the GM says it's a difficulty 1(D1) task. Conal gets lucky and rolls 4 successes, awesome! Conal easily lifts the gate, BUT Conal also gains momentum, a measure of how well Conal and his party have been succeeding and how well things are going their way! If Conal had rolled a single success, he still lifts the gate, but he would gain no momentum.

Players can use this momentum to their advantage; learning more on knowledge tests, doing more damage, re-rolling dice, taking a second action or, as you might have guessed, rolling additional dice. It can also be stored temporarily and other members can capitalize on the success of each other. The Conan 2d20 Core Book has an outline of suggested momentum spends, but being imaginative and coming up with additional spends is encouraged!

As things rise, they fall. As heroes are heroic, villains are villainous! On the GM side of the equation we see the same measure of things going well for the bad guys. As players roll 2d20+ to determine if their heroes are successful, so does the GM roll 2d20+ to see if the monsters and NPCs are successful. Like the players, rolling more successes than they need results in momentum which they can use or store. They don't store this unused momentum in a momentum pool, instead it becomes "DOOM", essentially momentum working against the players.

One of the interesting things about Conan 2d20 is the idea that a player can almost always have their heroes succeed at all but the most difficult tasks. Players have the option of allowing their heroes to be larger than life whenever they wish, even if things aren't going their way at this exact moment. Most momentum spends can be purchased by paying the GM Doom. The players wishing for their hero to be heroic can do so, at the cost of things potentially going poorer for them down the line. Think of it as a simple karma system.

I will make a quick note here that some people consider this system to be completely meta, that it is outside of the experience of the characters. To that I would say that this system directly measure the overall feeling of dread or confidence experienced by the characters in the world. All things we wish to measure in an RPG are given a metric. This is no different. This system is a measure of things going well or poorly. Capitalizing on successes or being hindered by failures. It is a measure of characters potentially trying harder in more difficult situations. It is a measure of something that is perhaps intangible, but it is still a measure of something the characters experience.

So now we have, not only, a way for our heroes to complete tasks, but a way to measure how much success they have achieved beyond the simple pass/fail concept. We also have a way for the heroics of the story to build towards a, truly action packed, pulp worthy climax.

On the next installment of this overview we are going to take a look at what happens during conflict as we take a look at The Struggle!

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Quickly! To Barsoom!

Today Modiphius released the quickstart rules for John Carter. We get our first taste of the system.

I wanted to jot down what I see as the major differences between Conan 2d20,as I am most familiar with this system, and the mechanics in the John Carter game.

The system is the same as Conan in this.
2d20+up to 3 bonus d20s
combat dice are calculated the same, 1,2,0,0,effect,effect.

Accomplishing Tasks
The Same
Roll 2d20, buy up to 3 extras.
Roll vs 2 numbers, get under the TN = 1 success, get under the lower value = 2 successes
Opposed tests work the same. Each side rolls, if both succeed, the side with the most momentum wins.
The Differences
Skills vs attributes
Conan uses Attributes+Skills. Skills have an Expertise and a focus and these plus the attribute provide the TN and Focus to roll against. Example: Melee attack: Agility=9, Melee Ex=4, Fc=4. Melee TN=13, Fc4.
John Carter uses attributes. Each test utilizes two of the attributes. Daring+Might for example. The sum of these is the TN and the lowest of these is the target to gain a second success. Example. Daring=5, Might=6. Daring+Might test: TN=11, FC=5

Momentum, etc.
The Same
You gain one momentum for every point above your target difficulty. Task is Difficulty 2, roll 3 successes, momentum = 1
You lose one momentum at the end of each scene
You can spend momentum for various effects
The Differences
No group pool. Players are allowed to save momentum past their turn, but it is stored in a momentum pool with a maximum equal to the players lowest attribute. Players may contribute to another players momentum pool, but it can't exceed it's maximum. Doom becomes Threat
Fortune becomes Luck

The Same
The world is broken into zone vs measuring squares. Distances are therefore abstractions.
The Differences
New names for the zones
Immediate - Within arms length. (Melee)
Near - not next to, but easily reachable. (Same zone)
Away - areas apart from others either due to distance or obstacles. (Adjacent zone)
Far - Visible range (2 zones over)
Too Far - Out of visible range, beyond the ability to engage without special tech.

Action Phases
The Same
Broken into rounds and turns. Each round is composed of player turns.
Players go first in initiative. GM can interrupt for the cost of 1 threat.
The Differences
Phases are simplified. Movement, Conflict, spoken.
Movement allows moving to any point within away. Moving further costs a momentum..
Conflict actions. Generally things that require tests.
Spoken actions. Simple quips and spoken commands.
Free actions. Not listed in the quickstart, but references are made to it.

The Same
Essentially broken into stress and harm. Harms are renamed as afflictions.
Having an affliction causes a penalty on the appropriate stat.
Reducing stress to 0 = 1 affliction.
Causing 5+ points of stress in a single attack = 1 affliction.
The Differences
One additional damage category. Confusion. It's Affliction is called "Madness"
When characters take damage they look at the two attributes used in their defend reaction and choose which stress track to take the damage on. Ex. A character parries with "Cunning" and "Daring", this brings the "Confusion" and "Injury" stress tracks into play and either can take the damage.
Blacking out instead of death at 5 wounds.
Optional note that an affliction can be caused at EACH 5 stress if the GM desires

What other differences have you noticed in the rules between the various 2d20 systems and this "lite" offering? Drop me a comment below and let me know!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

My Advent on Mars

Like Conan, I came to Barsoom later in my life.  These early works of fiction eluded me.  I had certainly heard of Conan, but I head read none of the comics and NONE of Howard's writing till about 7 years ago.  I considered myself a fan of the character and the movie. 

Barsoom was different.  I have certainly heard of Tarzan, but not of Barsoom.  Maybe I saw the occasional comic cover here and there and didn't know what it was.  When they decided to make a movie, I looked into it more.  I became excited for the movie.  I *ENJOYED* the movie.  Did it have an amazing plot?  No.  Did it have a fun plot?  Sure!  Earth man on new world rescues the Princess and finds love.  What did it have?

Action.  Adventure.  Visuals.

This movie for me is visually stunning, and so the world created by ERB captured my imagination.  Hordes of inhuman, tribal, green Martians with 6 limbs doing battle against the Red human men of Barsoom.  A dying world of violence and conflict.  A world where airships glide across the skies like our ships on the ocean.  The movie showed me all of this and more. 

After the movie I immediately sought out and read the first three of ERBs books set on Barsoom.   They are of course different than the movie.  It seems obvious the writers were going for a more connected set of books starting from day 1.  They had an advantage over ERB in this respect.  They had all 3 books. 

So now I find myself a fan of John Carter of Mars.  The world captures my imagination.

I was delighted to learn Modiphius was planning a series of games centered around John Carter of Mars and I looked forward to the launch of the Kickstarter for the RPG.  The system is based around the same system as their Conan 2d20 lineup, which I am familiar with having played it for the last year and participated in the various forums for a longer time.

So come!  Join me on Barsoom and save YOUR Princess!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

John Carter of Mars: Adventures on a Dying World

"Instantly the scene changed as by magic; the foremost vessel swung broadside toward us, and bringing her guns into play returned our fire, at the same time moving parallel to our front for a short distance and then turning back with the evident intention of completing a great circle which would bring her up to position once more opposite our firing line; the other vessels followed in her wake, each one opening upon us as she swung into position. Our own fire never diminished, and I doubt if twenty-five per cent of our shots went wild. It had never been given me to see such deadly accuracy of aim, and it seemed as though a little figure on one of the craft dropped at the explosion of each bullet, while the banners and upper works dissolved in spurts of flame as the irresistible projectiles of our warriors mowed through them. "
-Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars

Modiphius is bringing another piece of classic pulp fiction to the tabletop.  This time we visit the dying world of Barsoom with it's Red and Green men.  With the constant war between peoples.  With it's Airships and hordes of Tharks.  With it's mighty cities like Helium and Zodanga.

It is currently LIVE! on Kickstarter right now!  It has more than met it's desired goal and is cruising through stretch goals.

The game uses a skill-less based 2d20lite system.  Instead of skills you will combine 2 attributes to determine the outcome of your action.  If you desire to run into melee combat with the Thark about to kill your lover, your GM will probably tell you to roll against your attributes of Daring and Might.  Daring deals with movement and Might physical combat.

Check out the cool character sheet!

I've not seen the whole system, but what I have seen I find exceptionally interesting with a lot of potential to increase narrative story telling.  I look forward to the quickstart rules arriving soon!

If you want to get in early on the community stop by the google+ group, it currently only has 14 members!

Check back often here and on youtube for updates as the kickstarter progresses and we get a chance to play the quickstart rules!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Conan 2d20 NPC Skill Map.

I was recently watching some guys playing their first Conan 2d20. The prologue section they play involves them running players using NPC stat blocks. During this time the GM would ask them to make skill checks and they would be confused as to what was what and what went where.

The NPC stat blocks, you see, list the basic attributes as normal, but then list 7 sets of expertise such as Combat, Movement etc. These are each generalized sets of Expertise and Focus for the various skills.

For example an NPC might have Agility: 9 and a Coordination: 8 listed in their attributes, and an Combat of 1 listed in their Expertise block. In order for the NPC to roll a melee attack they add the 9 from agility, where the melee skill is, and the 1 from the Combat to get a TN of 10 and a focus of 1. Likewise a ranged attack skill lives under coordination so we need to add the coordination to the combat skill to get our TN of 9 with a focus of 1.

For basic skills like Melee and Parry you get to know them pretty well and quickly, but for some of the others it can be a bit of a pain and for the first time player, it's quite the learning curve. After 11 games and constant participation on the forums it still drives me crazy.

The following 3x5 card maps these Expertise blocks to the Skills, which are then annotated with the ability score.

Need to make a survival check for the NPC? Survival belongs to the NPC fortitude Expertise block and uses awareness as an attribute.

I hope this is a helpful tool for everyone!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Conan 2d20: Thoughts on Zone Representation with Miniatures.

For those of you not familiar with the Conan 2d20 system, it uses an abstract concept of location. It uses no grids but instead action takes place within a zone of indeterminate size. A free action will allow a character or creature to move within a zone, ie move to a place where they can strike an opponent. A Minor action will allow movement to an adjacent zone and a standard action to sprint two zones.

If you have played the board game by Monolith you will have an idea of zones. In the board game Monolith has drawn the zones on the board and denoted a central point that is used within that rule system. If you are using a hand drawn map or a battlemap you could also do this.

However if you are using miniatures and props not having a grid or even measuring movement you have a potential problem, you don't necessarily want to place a zone on a modular piece of scenery, as it might change. Zones are generally defined by a piece of terrain, like a fountain, a stack of boxes, middle of a bridge, etc. What happens if you have a large area that is generally featureless? Do we call that area one single zone? You certainly could, but perhaps, despite it being barren you want it to represent distance and you don't want your heroes merely skipping across it?

I am going to suggest zone markers for this. These are going to be like the central white dots I mentioned above, and are only needed in zones that don't have an easily definable area.

A simple cavern with a well. 
Three zones are easily defined. 1: The Entrance, 2: The Well and 3: The Exit.

The above example is easy and you will often have areas like this that are easy to define. Lets take a look at a barren plateau with an entrance and an exit with some space between the two.

An empty plateau with more than three zones? 
How do we define the extra 4 zones we want on this barren surface?

The simple answer is to make them less barren. I am going to suggest some small pieces of scatter terrain placed in the middle of each of these zones. Not only will it allow you to mark zones but it will make your area look more interesting.

Some suggestions of scatter terrain
  • Pile of rocks
  • Crates
  • Minor vegetation, grass, bush, etc
  • Bones
  • Crater or cracks
  • Small patch of differing flock, ie patch of dirt or grass.
  • etc.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sorcery in Conan 2d20

Been pretty busy, so I haven't had a chance to get much gaming oriented stuff accomplished, but I will be putting together, what I hope is an, interesting process video on my last project.

Until then, I have put together a video on Sorcery and Magic within the Modiphius's 2d20 Conan System, as well as a link to a quick guideline on Sorcerous complications.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Modiphius's New 2d20 Conan System

Another video entry.  We are looking at the new roleplaying game by Modiphius as well as Conan in general.  This will probably be a 4-5 part series on the game.

Friday, March 13, 2015


As I worked on the rules and made a few changes, I started messing around with Roll20 and building a few units.

I came to the conclusion that it needs re-working, that for what I see in my brain the number of stats I have is too many.

This means some mechanics simplification and changes in ideas.  So for now my brain is chewing away on that and I am trying new ideas, some I love the idea of, but don't seem to work on paper.

In other news I have completed my first two command groups for my Dessert army.  Loosely inspired by the Fremen of Dune and largely populated with Sahadeen miniatures from Rebel Minis.

Based miniatures.

Primed and washed.

Base colors added.  Dark brown and flesh tones

Lighter brown jackets, washed with a dark umber and then dry brushed.
Command group with dessert bases.