'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

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Conan the Barbarian: Issue #6 (2019) "The Sole Survivor"

After a slight break Conan is BACK with issue 6 of The Barbarian! This time out story is in Turan, one of my favorite settings!


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

Cover Price: $3.99

Another great cover from Esar Ribic on the front of this book. Even if you are not a fan of the book itself, the covers have been glorious. Unlike Savage Sword they generally tie into the story a little. This one does tie in, but it's on the over-arching Crimson Witch story line. I would have loved a glorious cover depicting Turan, I'll count it as a missed opportunity in my books.

More of Mahmud Asrar's Conan colored by Matthew Wilson cover these pages of Barbarian. I feel Conan is little more wiry and perhaps younger than in a few of the other books drawn by Mahmud, although I can't put my finger on why exactly. Don't take that to mean he is drawn small, he is still an impressive force of nature, and I still quite enjoy Mahmud's take on our Cimmerian hero.

There are a couple of things that I would have loved to have seen in this issue that aren't present, one is on Mr. Asrar's side and one is on Jason Aaron's side. They are both setting related. Although Mamhud did an excellent job with the dressing for Turan, but he missed an aspect that would have added a lot for me personally.

When they are camped out in yurts, we get a few shots of them from outside and inside and the internal structure is that of a light, square, framework. Yurts are built with a lattice work not unlike a folding wooden baby gate. Now it's possible he has a much stronger knowledge of these mobile homes than I give him credit for and has opted for a very early implementation of them. I do think that would be an incorrect assumption about Turan though.

The second problem is Jason Aaron's use of the term "Great Commander". What a great time to use a cool Persian-esque title to add flavor to the story. He uses king as well, but I feel like using a term like Great Commander, is 90% the way to giving it the flavor of Turan.

With all that being said, I did like this issue. I recognize I am pulling straws with the couple of points I bring up about the setting, but as I said this is one of my favorite settings as it and Hyrkania mirror some of my real life interests. This issue is full of Conan crushing his enemies and being an exceptional war leader. This is a definite plus.

The issue ends tieing back into the overarching story of the Crimson Witch and her quest to take Conan's warrior infused blood. However in the main narrative this story does lack any real sorcery, even if it does have plenty of swords and at least one awesome Conan being Conan moment.

I am still enjoying the story and the art in this title and I look forward to more of it!

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


My rating this month is 4 out of 5 Skulls of My Enemies!

Another solid issue and story about the Cimmerian. Loving the one-shot nature of these stories and how much they are managing to fit into a few short pages.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

The Calgary Expo. "GMing at the Con"

Wikipedia says the Calgary Expo is the second largest convention of its kind in Canada. Hosting famous celebrities from movies and TV through to the Comics industry. Last year saw an attendance of 95,000 people. The Expo as it turns out has a bit more to it than celebrities, and this year saw significant growth in the tabletop gaming area.

I have been attending the Expo for a few years, but it wasn’t really on my radar until they brought together the cast of Aliens. The Alien films, especially the first two, are among my favorites of all time and hold a special place in my heart, so I was excited to see the event. Since then I have attended every year.

The last couple of years I have had the opportunity to do a little more than just attend and walk around. Last year the medieval group I was part of did a significant demo encampment and some rattan and rapier fighting. This year I was able to GM some games of Conan 2d20, which unsurprisingly is what this post is about.

Back in the beginning of 2018 Modiphius announced they were going to do a JCoM RPG. I was excited about this as I am a fan of the world that Edgar Rice Burroughs had created. With it announced I joined a bunch of Facebook groups. As it happened one of the members, Vic Ster on facebook, was from Calgary.

Some time passed and Vic asked me if I wanted to GM CONAN 2d20 at a local convention, “The RPG Alliance”. My initial feeling was anxiety and in no way did I want to sit down with complete strangers and play some RPGs. My second feeling was that I could do it. That I should do it. This was something outside of my comfort zone and for that reason alone I should try. So I agreed to GM a game of Conan.

I made a few contacts at this convention. Vic the main organizer, Chris, Brent, Jeff and Matt. As it turns out Matt is the Tabletop organizer for the Calgary Expo. Matt asked if we would be interested in doing some games at the Expo. Brent, Vic and Myself all decided to go for it running Conan, John Carter and Star Trek. Brent has a blog post about his experience.

John Carter
Conan
Star Trek


So with that lengthy pre-amble let’s get into my experience doing this. I wasn’t an official Expo volunteer, just an attendee who volunteered his time to bring some Conan to the world. This was mainly due to the time commitment required, as I felt it would cut too much into the Expo. The games I ran were still officially listed on the website at certain times. For an attendee it wouldn’t have been clear that a few of us were less official volunteers.

Prior to the Expo, Matt was well organized and kept us in the loop as much as he was able. I would have preferred to know what was happening earlier than I knew, but that wasn’t something he had control over. Once everything was finalized he let us know and answered any questions we had promptly. On the days of the event he was there and excited and had a great go go go attitude! It was great to see and I am pretty sure that kind of pace might have killed me.

The games all ran with same day sign ups. This wasn’t an issue on Friday, I had my 4 players and ran an excellent game with Chris, Trevor, Emily and Donny. They were an awesome crew to journey into the Hyborian Age with. They all had smiles when we were done and it warmed my heart a little to have such great feedback, it is a great reason to try out GMing at something like this.

That game was slated to start at 3 and so had several hours to pick up people. On Sunday the game was slated to run at 11am, about an hour after the show opened. We had more trouble filling in slots this time, but Vic had showed up and played as well as one of the other games volunteers, Troy. Despite almost not having any players the game was still fun, everyone had a great attitude again and the game had a completely different outcome!

Looking back at the Sunday game I wonder if it would have been better to advertise it as a short 2 hour intro session for people new to Conan and the Father of Sword and Sorcery, and start it a little later. If this was the single largest issue I needed to iron out though, I am doing well. Indeed I did come away with an overall very positive experience from running these games.



Vic & I in discussion over.....something.

Modiphius was extremely supportive of us in this whole endeavor as well. Vic reached out and they sent us 2 copies of each of the books (Conan, John Carter & Star Trek core books). One was given away to a player and the other was entered into the Expo library for future use and posterity. Troy was the lucky winner at our table!

Handing out the Conan 2d20 Core book to Troy!
Overall it was an enjoyable experience, even if I would do Sunday a little different. It is an awesome thing to be able to sit down with strangers and put smiles on their faces and have a great time. As well I love this opportunity to extol the virtues of Robert E Howard, and his characters. Too many people do not know his name, which is a damn shame.

If this is something you have considered doing in the past but have never done, I would recommend giving it a shot. It is a good way to meet some new people with similar interests. It is a great way to give back to your local community as well. So go out and have some fun!

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Friday, May 3, 2019

Action Momentum Spends in Conan 2d20: The Card Deck!

One of the things I always have trouble with when explaining Conan 2d20 is the Momentum Spends. Ok, not so much trouble explaining them, but trouble getting players familiar with them, and what they can do with that momentum.

I have a reference sheet I have used at conventions, but it is a lot of information in a small space.

So I have decided to try a deck of cards. Each player gets a card with a name, cost and basic description. Using this they will hopefully tie together some epic uses of the spends, and more importantly, be aware of them. I am including one of the cards below so you can see what I have in mind.



If you think this might be useful, I have a .PDF with the most common spends on it for players. You can find that here.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Savage Avengers: Issue #1 (2019)

May 1st is here! That means we are taking a look at the new offering from Marvel, "SAVAGE AVENGERS", Billed as a team up of Marvel's deadliest heroes.

A lot of fans will hate this before it is even looked at. They will derisively make comments about Marvel. They will complain they don't care! That they just want to make money!

I am not one of those fans. I am curious about this book. I think it could be a lot of fun. So lets take a look at what I actually thought after reading it!


Writer: Gerry Duggan
Artist: Mike Deodato
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VCs Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: David Finch & Frank D'Armata

Cover Price: $4.99cad for 31 pages of story.

I bought my digital copy through Comixology and got something called "The Director's Cut", which includes pages with Variant covers, a script and a side by side of the pages both colored and B&W. All in all, with cover and credits the book is 138 pages long in this digital format. Well worth the price, I would love them to do more digital books this way!

The cover of Savage Avengers, although not directly related to the story inside is a good depiction of this team up. The art is solid and as a first cover I think it works pretty well to draw the audience into the book.

This story arc is going to be a little grander than what we might be used to with a Conan story but for Conan's part in this issue we have another straight forward S&S tale, with some more barbaric heroes mixed in. The story moves at a fairly healthy clip having more fight panels than not, which is good for this type of book in my opinion. This issue also introduces us to the bad guys and their evil plot.

Conan himself is depicted in his basic superhero fur outfit, nothing new here. I'd prefer something different, but the fur is signature and iconic, so I understand it's use. The other heroes depicted in the book are likewise shown in their signature outfits. We are shown him as a capable warrior, cleaving and chopping, but are shown little else about him. I hope in coming issues they establish him as the well rounded man he is. My single biggest fear is people new to the character will see nothing beyond the barbarian exterior and think him a simple character.


In general I like the art in the book, although perhaps not my favorite depiction of our Cimmerian hero, I think it is a pretty good one. The color is good with panels depicting a wide variety of environments from sunset through to night and rain. Being able to directly compare the B&W to the color really shows off how much atmosphere is added due to the environmental colors. I think Frank Martin did a great job here.

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


And with that, this issue is going to get 3.5 skulls full of wine for Conan!

A 3.5 rating is getting pretty low for how I rate these, but don't let that hold you back. My metrics are geared towards sword & sorcery, and although this definitely has elements of it, it is an area this book will most likely get lower ratings in. That doesn't make it bad. That doesn't make it less fun. Just different than what we are generally looking at with a Conan comic. I am looking forward to the next issue to see how this story unfolds and to see how the team is brought together.

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