'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

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?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

RPG Accessories. Tokens, Trackers and Coins! Oh My!

Tabletop roleplaying games need very little in the way of supplies to play; Some dice, Some paper and a pen or pencil. Of course you need a set of rules as well. Apart from that though? Nothing.

BUT! There is always a but. Sometimes accessories can help take your game from cool to COOL. Most players like rolling dice. The physical aspect of touching and using an object adds to the fun. This idea can be applied to many other things we need to track!

Many of these accessories can be made. DM Scotty has some videos on building things like this. Things like little quivers to track arrows instead of erasing 10 and writing 9 can be simple and add another element of fun to the game.

Some games have a set number of Hero points, Bennies, Fortune or similar mechanic that could also benefit from this idea. Having a player toss in a coin of some description is more fun than just changing that number of the page.

If you are busy like me, sometimes you don't have time to craft everything, or sometimes you just need so many tokens it's just not feasible to craft them.

Below is a list of things that I have found on aliexpress, amazon and a few other places where you can simply drop some cash and grab your supplies. I personally use a far number of these in my Conan 2d20 games. Remember, AliExpress will generally be less expensive, but you will need to wait longer for shipping.

Skull Beads! White! - AliExrpess
Black! - Amazon.ca
Flat Beads! White Acrylic - AliExpress
Transparent glass cabochon - Amazon.ca
Plastic chips AliExpress
Coins! Plastic Pirate Coins - AliExpress
Fortune Coins - AliExpress
Fortune Coins - Amazon.ca
Metal Phoenix beads - AlieExpress
Bowls for your Tokens AliExpress
Wound Trackers AliExpress

Hopefully you will find something you can find useful, or it sparks your imagination!

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?

Monday, April 23, 2018

Conan 2d20 Momentum Spend - Wrecked Weapon Trope.

They stopped short. Conan faced them, not a naked man roused mazed and unarmed out of deep sleep to be butchered like a sheep, but a barbarian wide- awake and at bay, partly armored, and with his long sword in his hand.

"In, rogues!" yelled the outlaw. "He is one to twenty and he has no helmet!"

True; there had been lack of time to don the heavy plumed casque, or to lace in place the side-plates of the cuirass, nor was there now time to snatch the great shield from the wall. Still, Conan was better protected than any of his foes except Volmana and Gromel, who were in full armor.

The king glared, puzzled as to their identity. Ascalante he did not know; he could not see through the closed vizors of the armored conspirators, and Rinaldo had pulled his slouch cap down above his eyes. But there was no time for surmise. With a yell that rang to the roof, the killers flooded into the room, Gromel first. He came like a charging bull, head down, sword low for the disembowelling thrust. Conan sprang to meet him, and all his tigerish strength went into the arm that swung the sword. In a whistling arc the great blade flashed through the air and crashed on the Bossonian's helmet. Blade and casque shivered together and Gromel rolled lifeless on the floor. Conan bounded back, still gripping the broken hilt.

The Phoenix on the Sword
-Robert E Howard

One of the most iconic occurences in a final battle is a weapon being broken. Troy, Willow and the '82 Conan film all feature this prominently.

In Willow, Mad Martigan, after becoming his heroic self, charges General Kael who easily parries the blow, redirecting it into the wooden structure of the fortress, where it becomes lodged. With a deliberate blow Kael shatters Martigan's sword leaving him on the ground without a weapon. It is a tense moment.

In front of Troy two heroes do battle; Achilles and Hector. As they fight back and forth, Achilles swings his shield and snaps the spear of Hector. Hector retreats and throws his useless weapon aside. Achilles seeing a moment of weakness presses in for the kill. Hector defends himself with skill and prowess as death comes for him. The onslaught continues and Hector is unable to draw his sword during the exchange. Finally Achilles thrusts at Hector who redirects the blow to the ground. In the next instant Hector snaps the spear of Achilles like a twig.

And of course in the '82 Conan film Conan and Rexor in their final battle clash sword on sword. Finally Conan is victorious as the gleaming Atlantean blade slices through the sword crafter by his father and continues through to mortally wound Rexor.

As we see above, Howard himself employed this in the very first Conan story. It is a dramatic, cool and powerful piece of story telling, and as such I believe it deserves a place in this fantastic role playing game.

This is a fairly easy thing to plug into a game that has a system in it like Momentum. Knowing how well an attack or parry was executed allows us to decide to add cool moves and flavor into our combat. Looking through the combat momentum spends we find one called Disarm. It costs 2 or 3 momentum to disarm someone you are engaged with. This seemed like a pretty solid place to start building the Weapon Break momentum spend.

Clearly we want this to be a more expensive spend than disarm, as it has far greater ramifications. My initial thoughts have involved adding 1 momentum to the spend raising it from 2-3 to 3-4 AND also making it only a CHANCE of breaking the weapon.

Weapon Break3-4+The attacker may attempt to break one melee weapon being weilded by the target.
This costs 3 points of Momentum if the target is holding the weapon in one hand
or 4 points of Momentum if the weapon is braced or held in two hands.
The attacker then rolls 2cd. On a roll of 2 effects, the weapon is shattered.
On a roll of 2 numbers the weapon is knocked away. Any roll of a blank
indicates that the attempt has failed.
The attacker may spend 2 additional momentum to reduce the 2cd roll a to 1cd roll.

WAIT! There is more! In ALL of the scenes I talk about above that broken weapon is used to end the fight or used to end the quest. Clealry, even though they are broken they are still effective weapons, Conan has rules for improvised weapons, but I think we can do better than that. My initial thought is the weapon simply become broken and stats are reduced. For a guideline on this I am thinking reach is reduced by 1. If reach becomes 0 it is completely useless. Damage dice are reduced to 3cd or lowered by 1, whichever is lower. And then we remove the effects "Intense", "Grappling", "Knockdown" and "Fearsome".

For example:
Conal is wielding a broadsword (Unb, Rch2, 5cd, Parrying) against Thokuh, Captain of the "Serpent of Set". Conal swings his steel in a deadly arc, but Thokuh deftly redirects the blow into the ground, and with a quick action drops his weight against the flat of the blade snapping it in two. Conal dances back, his broken broadsword in his hand (1H, Rch1, 3cd, Parrying). Thokuh laughs and moves in swiftly bringing his cutlass down in a flashing heavy blow. Conal barely blocks the blow catching the cutlass on his broken sword, before pressing past Thokuh's guard and driving the broken blade hard into the fat stomach of Thokuh."

What do you think? Is this a worthy mechanic and something you might try in this form or another? Think I am crazy? Let me know!

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?

DIY Dungeon Tiles: Elevation Blocks!

Take a look at my newest video creation over on Youtube!