'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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Monday, September 30, 2019

Conan 2d20: Zones and Ranged Weapons. Do they even make sense??

Without a doubt, the ideas behind ranged weapons in Conan 2d20 feel odd to many people, and flat out make no sense to many others. In most RPGs and wargames ranged weapons generally gain damage and range as they become more powerful. There is little reason to use a lower-end bow when you can use something bigger and better. In D&D 5e we can compare two missile weapons: the hand crossbow and the heavy crossbow.

Name Damage Range
Crossbow, hand 1d6 piercing 30/120
Crossbow, heavy 1d10 piercing 100/400


Here we have two similar weapons, but the heavier one shoots much further and packs a larger punch. Both have a basic range and a long-range, but the heavy crossbow has little to no disadvantages, why would you ever pick the hand crossbow?

This increase in specs between ranged weapons to differentiate which is the superior weapon is a common idea we see in wargames and RPGs. It isn't specifically what we see in Conan 2d20 though. In Conan 2d20, the weapons change range based on where they should be used. There may be places you want to use one bow over the other. Let's take a look at the stats between two different bows in Conan.

Name Damage Range Special
Hyrkanian Horse Bow 3 Combat Dice Close Volley
Shemite Bow 3 Combat Dice Long Volley, Piercing 1


These bows are practicaly identical, with the shemite bow being long range and doing slightly more damage, but in the thick of battle, with enemies closing in fast? The short Hyrkanian Bow is going to be the superior weapon. But why does Conan do this? We will start with a basic idea: within an action scene in Conan, generally, a hero is going to be able to hit someone with a ranged weapon. Even in the above D&D example, the hand crossbow can shoot 20 squares, in most areas that range is not going to be the issue. More often, the line of sight will be the limiting factor, not the weapon's range. So if we decide the weapon's range itself isn't the issue at hand, we can forget about it for right now.

Let us talk about the idea of skill vs weapon. We take two archers and we place them on an archery range. Each shoots arrows at identical targets. Each is equally skilled. One uses a Shemite Bow and one a Hyrkanian Horse Bow. They should both be able to do about as well on our target. Neither is rushed, neither has outside forces acting on them, it is simply a test of skill. An average difficulty test if you will.


Still, we see ranges listed in Conan, even though we just decided that, pretty much, anything you can see is going to be in range. Instead of describing how far a bow can shoot, these ranges describe where the bow will be its most effective. It is used to describe a short bow being more effective in the thick of combat and a longbow working better at targets that are further away.
  • Close range: Shooting within the zone. The archer and their target are constantly moving, constantly looking for openings. The archer needs to have a nimble weapon and one that can shoot fast in order to get the shot off when they need to.
  • Medium Range: Shooting into the next zone. It is possible the archer and the target are in motion within their zones, moving for position against others in their zone, but we can generally assume that since the target and the shooter are further away, the shooter has a little more time to aim and isn't as hampered by the size of the weapon.
  • Long Range: Shooting two zones away. The distance starts to be a factor at these ranges, and weapons that excel at close ranges become more difficult to use accurately.

Reasons For Effective Ranges
The Hyrkanian Horsebow. Listed as Close-range, we have a bow that excels at close combat. It is small and can be fired quickly, but the short limbs tend to make it a little less accurate compared to it's larger brethren, this is magnified by the high pace within an action scene. Shooting out to the longer ranges simply takes a more skilled archer, especially under the pressure of combat.
The Shemite bow. Listed as Long-range, the bow is huge and stable upon release allowing its missiles to land more accurately at longer ranges, but up close in the thick of the action, its size simply gets in the way and makes it harder to shoot.


Mechanically this is represented by a bow having no difficulty modifier added to the skill test at its optimal range, and a +1 is added to it as we move away from that optimal range, in either direction. So at Close Range (In the same zone) the Hyrkanian Horsebow is going to shoot at a difficulty of 1 (assuming a base difficulty of 1), while the Long Range Shemite bow is going to suffer a +2 to the skill test, Long -> Medium -> Close, making it a difficulty of 3. If there are environmental concerns like rain or darkness, it just makes everything more difficult.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Conan the Barbarian: Issue #9 (2019) , "The God Below"

Wednesday and another Conan the Barbarian to read. So let's make some coffee and get down to what I thought of this issue.


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

Cover Price: $3.99

Esad's cover hints at what we might find within the pages, although not why we might find it there. The covers on these issues continue to be great at what they do, whet our appetites for the story within the pages. As always his covers are first-rate, although I think this is one of the weaker covers he has done for the series.

Asrar's work is again excellent, especially on the large panels, and there are more than a few in this issue, these combined with Wilson's colors make some truly excellent images. If I had to echo any concern for the art within the pages it would be that the small panels are a little simple, especially when held up against the full or double-page spreads, although they still clearly get their point across.

Story-wise, this issue has its share of Conan kicking ass, both with and without a sword. It also contains plenty of the weird within its pages, which we have lacked in recent issues. There is however at least one spot where the story kind of jumps and we see a consequence without a reason, and I always find it a little jarring. This wasn't something that affected the overall story, just made me go back and make sure I hadn't missed anything. I also had an issue with one of the opponents Conan has to fight within its pages, I wonder if anyone else will pick it up as well? The ending of the story probably won't come as any great surprise, but this is pulp action and adventure, not the great twisting passages of a dark thriller.

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


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

After the last few issues lacked anything overtly weird and I was beginning to wonder if they remembered this was Sword & SORCERY, but this one is centered around the "Weird", and it was nice to see. Despite a few weak places in the story, I liked it overall and it felt like a pretty good one-shot, even if it could have used another couple of pages to help tie things together in a smoother fashion.

I think this issue is worth taking a look at, even if you have not read the last few issues.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Barbaric Future. A Role Playing Setting.



There are a few things in my mind that make Conan, Conan. These things need to be there or we are simply going to get barbarians with laser swords, and that is not the aim of this project.

There are two things that I believe absolutely need to be involved in this setting.

  • Barbarism vs Civilization
  • Rise and fall, cyclical nature of the rise and fall of society and civilization

Cyclical Nature and the Hyborian Essay

Robert E Howard wrote a short essay titled, "The Hyborian Age". In it, he outlines his world. The rise and fall of civilizations, cataclysms, the migration of the people and the evolution and devolution of mankind. It ends with Howard telling us that the people that populate the world today can trace their origins far older than they know, back to the Hyborian Age.

The ancient Sumerians had no connection with the western race. They were a mixed people, of Hyrkanian and Shemitish bloods, who were not taken with the conquerors in their retreat. Many tribes of Shem escaped that captivity, and from pure-blooded Shemites, or Shemites mixed with Hyborian or Nordic blood, were descended the Arabs, Israelites, and other straighter-featured Semites. The Canaanites, or Alpine Semites, traced their descent from Shemitish ancestors mixed with the Kushites settled among them by their Hyrkanian masters; the Elamites were a typical race of this type. The short, thick-limbed Etruscans, base of the Roman race, were descendants of a people of mixed Stygian, Hyrkanian and Pictish strains, and originally lived in the ancient kingdom of Koth. The Hyrkanians, retreating to the eastern shores of the continent, evolved into the tribes later known as Tatars, Huns, Mongols and Turks.

The origins of other races of the modern world may be similarly traced; in almost every case, older far than they realize, their history stretches back into the mists of the forgotten Hyborian age...


The Hyborian Age
-Robert E. Howard


Barbarism vs Civilization

It is well known that Howard had no love for modern civilization. He saw it as broken and corrupt and felt a kinship to those who came before. He had a special affinity for the medieval Irish, and so it is no surprise that Conan was his ultimate hero in many ways. Several of his writings talk about the evils of boomtowns. How the rise of civilization and money where he lived bred corruption and evil deeds.

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

Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.
-Robert E. Howard

Tower of the Elephant


Barbaric Future

So with these two basic tenants in mind, I present the initial stages of the world I imagine...

Thousands of years into the future the initiative of humanity has continued to carry the species forward. Technology has continued to progress, new ideas in genetics, energy, materials, and computing have formed new weapons, new armor and in some cases new people. Despite the massive abilities and technological advances of mankind, we largely remain confined to our world. We have lifted ourselves into orbit and explored much of our solar system through drones and a few manned missions, but Earth remains our home and efficient space travel still eludes us.

War remains a reality and several massive conflicts have been engaged in between then and now. Some conventional, some small scale nuclear.

Our world has seen the rise of capitalism and the formation of great corporations. It has also seen the governments of nations fall and these new centers of power rise to fill the void. Now the world is dotted by the Corporate States, rife with corruption and greed. Each maintains a stranglehold on their populations through information censorship and military power. They lie in the temperate zones of the Earth, places less likely to be touched by disaster or rising sea levels. Places untouched by radiation and devastation of ancient nuclear conflict.

In the places abandoned by the Corporate States live tribes of humans. These people live a more primitive and savage life, sometimes using the discarded junk from the Corporate States, sometimes living in the skeletons of long-abandoned cities, using older technology and still others existing alongside nature.

In the wildest places, the far frozen places, the places rife with disease, the irradiated places, live others who have reverted to a more bestial state, over uncounted generations, they have devolved into a beast that is more ape than man, still clever and cunning and still able to use primitive weapons.



Corporate States

With a basic idea we can go forward and flesh out our three zones of humanity with a few key points about each area.

  • Very high tech. AI, Robots etc.
  • Clean.
  • State controlled.
  • Isolated.
  • Crime & Corruption.
  • Cybernetics.
  • Genetic enhancement.
  • Fusion power.
  • Projectile & Beam weapons are outlawed.


Tribes of the Free

  • Generally lower technology.
  • Almost post apocalyptic in some places.
  • Savages, Barbarians and Canibals.
  • Primitive religions.
  • Knowledge of the old worlds. Libraries of books, paper and digital.
  • Solar, wind, hydro power.
  • Ruins.


Savage Wastes

  • Potential high radiation.
  • Mutant humans.
  • Mutant beasts.
  • Ruins.
  • Lost technologies.


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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Conan 2099: The FUTURE!: An Initial idea.

Yesterday as I hopped around the internet this came across my feed...



Apparently, Marvel is looking to add a few characters to their 2099 universe in celebration of 80 years. Conan has been chosen along with a few other characters, such as The Punisher and the Fantastic Four to be full-fledged 2099 one-shots. We will then see the universe show up among regular titles as well. However, we are here to talk about the Cimmerian.

Upon seeing it I chuckled and thought of all the people who would lose their minds as Marvel completed a whole new twist on the character. That is not what this blog post is about. It is about my second thought, "I want to play this!", this would be a super fun setting for an RPG game! First I have no clue about Marvel 2099, so we will just drop that as the rosetta stone of the setting. Instead, we will use our own ideas and inspirations from my own head as well as ideas liberally inspired by other settings.

I thought it might be fun to do a series of blog posts on building this setting and the reasons for choices I might make. To start the series I figured it would be good to introduce the idea in this post and outline some questions and ideas I will fill in as I continue with the series, eventually arriving at a rule system and any other material I might need to play the system, such as setting descriptions, main antagonists, gear and equipment, etc.

Let's start with a list of ideas from the covers of the book.
  • High tech
  • Not post apocalyptic
  • Laser sword
  • flying cars
  • high tech armor or cybernetics?

Some other ideas we need to incorporate.
  • Barbarism vs Civilization
  • Magic/sorcery
  • Short tales
  • Earth
  • Why swords? Do we still use guns?

Finally where can we take some ideas from, I have brainstormed these settings and ideas myself or from online input from others.
  • Thundarr
  • He-man
  • John Carter
  • Bladerunner
  • Shadowrun
  • Starwars
  • 2099

As I go forward with this I realize I need a system to enact this idea.
  • ICRPG
  • Genesys
  • Modern Age
  • Savage Worlds


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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Age of Conan: Valeria #1

I have been away on vacation visiting the beautiful province of Newfoundland! I had intended on reading Valeria #1 and Conan: Exodus on the airplane on the way back, but that didn't happen. I did see a few reviews of Valeria #1, and while I didn't read them, the headlines lead me to believe the reviewers didn't like the book. I finally got a chance to read it on the train this morning.


Writer: Meredith Finch
Artist: Aneke
Colorist: Andy Troy
Letterer: VC's Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Jay Anacleto & Romulo Fajardo Jr.

Cover Price: $3.99cad

When they released Belit #1, many of us were keen to see new tales of the Hyborian Age focused on some of our favorite characters besides Conan. What we got was a book that was not aimed, at the generally male, core fan base. This caused many reviewers to not get it, and to give it poor reviews. In general, the book was decent and clearly aimed at a different fan base, which I think is awesome. The more the merrier! Still, I hoped Valeria #1 would be different and maybe be aimed a little closer at the core fan base, call me selfish. I wanted to enjoy reading some more conventional stories about Valeria of the Red Brotherhood! The reviews, however, pointed towards something more like what we got with Belit.

Upon reading it I admit I was a little confused. Certainly, this might appeal to a woman reading it as the main hero is a heroine, but it wasn't what we saw in Belit. Valeria is fully formed and on a quest for vengeance, and while we do get some flashbacks to her as a young girl, outlining her character and reasons for wanting what she does, it isn't a tale of her youth. Further the '82 classic film, Conan the Barbarian, likewise showed early moments from Conan's life, even if it's not the main part of the tale. In my mind, it isn't obviously pointed at one or the other demographic.

The story we get is another origin tale, revolving around how hard life is in the Hyborian Age. Death comes swiftly to those around our main character and she rises to become the warrior we see in Red Nails. Her desires pushed by a quest for vengeance. Nothing new here, but this is based on pulp literature, we aren't looking for exceptionally deep tales. I understand that we don't always need origin stories, and when Valeria first appears in Red Nails, we don't have one. These titles are allowing other authors to explore the characters and the world, which I again think is a pretty cool thing. Bringing REH to more people is awesome in general.

The interior art is done by Aneke. I admit to not being hugely familiar with the artist, but having a look on the internet I see a fair body of work including Red Sonja. I have mixed feelings about the art. Some of it is great, like the opening fight sequence, and other panels are nearly comical, such as this fight between a merchant and a pirate. Despite a few odd poses, I think there is more good than bad in this issue.

Excellent opening fight.
Less excellent fight between pirate and merchant.


The cover of the title doesn't really deal with the story at all, and so maybe I should take issue with it as I did with several Savage Sword covers. However, it is a beautifully rendered cover of Valeria, and although it isn't directly about the story, it doesn't seem out of place either. The issue has plenty of swords, some blood and lots of action. It, however, has no sorcery as of yet, so I have a hard time fitting this solidly into the Sword and Sorcery genre it is current form.

Art:

Story:

Cover:

Sword & Sorcery:


And so we fill 3.5 skulls with grog and toast this initial offering for Valeria!

This was, I believe, a decent start to the adventure. Despite a few missteps with the interior art, the story looks to be a nice pulp tale of swords and vengeance. I look forward to reading Valeria #2!

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