'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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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Tool Trunk Thursday: Spy Glass

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to the next installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! The feature where I present a piece of equipment for Conan 2d20 and its effects in a friendly card-shaped format. You can find other pieces of equipment in the Blog's Equipment Chest!

The Spyglass



The spyglass is a rare, and expensive, piece of equipment most commonly found onboard ships. These finely crafted objects are most commonly made from a telescoping metal tube terminated by two glass lenses created by the most skilled artisans. These components work together to bring objects at a distance into view.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Barbaric Future: A Timeline.

As I started fleshing out the world, I thought a rough timeline would come in handy.

The Timeline

  • 2020 - The Modern Era
    The modern era continues much as it has and technology continues to improve. Humanity reaches for the stars. Stress between people based on differences continues to ebb and flow. Nothing is ever solved. Climate change continues and weather patterns become more intense. Global temperatures continue to rise, and we get to a place where they will continue to rise despite our inputs into the environment. Sea level begins its gradual climb.

  • 2200 - Global War
    The stresses of the modern world finally come to a head, for the next 100 years the world is locked in an all-out war fought between the communist factions and the capitalist factions; dictatorships vs democracies. The war is fought largely through conventional means, but some nuclear weapons are used against targets of extreme importance. Total armageddon is avoided, but large areas of the world are laid bare and unlivable.

    Global temperature rise comes to a standstill due to the layer of dust thrown into the atmosphere by the small scale nuclear war.

  • 2300 - A Thousand Years of Conflict
    When the war ends, the conflict doesn't. Nothing between the nations is resolved, they are all simply broken and scattered into component nations. For 1000 years mankind remains trapped in small nations and kingdoms, the shattered remnants of their former glory. For 1000 years war keeps these nations small and technological advancement down.

    After 1000 years, the dust from the wars has largely subsided and the temperature begins to rise again. The sea levels have steadily climbed over this time period as well. As more and more dust came out of the atmosphere the temperature rise steadily grew faster until the sea level had risen some 100 meters.

  • 3300 - Resource Peace
    The small nations begin to band together, their governments forming together to rebuild semblances of their former selves. Resources are largely exhausted and humanity is forced into an uneasy peace.

  • 4300 - Rise of the Corporations
    With resources largely depleted the governments do what they can to hold their nations together. The corporations grow steadily in power. They still hold the means to production

  • 4400 - Corporate States
    With the corporate states holding the means to production within each new nation, the interm governments are quickly replaced by the corporate bodies that control everything within the borders. Nations become CorpStates.

  • 4500 - Rebirth of Tech
    CorpStates trade with each other to exist. What one has, the other needs. The human population is a ghost of its former self and the resources that fueled humanity are gone. Still despite this, and built on the back on the old world, tech has increased. Its level within the CorpStates has outgrown the old world. Breakthroughs in computers and energy systems have pulled humanity back to a place of greatness.

  • 5000 - Barbaric Future
    2500 years of conflict and climate disaster have rendered the memory of the old world a fairy tale to most of humanity, only a few who have kept or who have found old records know of its existence. Humanity lives mostly within the cities of the CorpStates but a few live in the broken shell of the old world. The people living in the cities live behind walls with their lives controlled and monitored by the Corporations. Although personal weapons and armor are allowed for personal defense, the equivalent of modern firearms and greater is tightly controlled. The occasional person may wield a crossbow, but even those archaic ranged weapons are frowned upon.

    Cities that fell during the climate upheavals left places of shelter and life for those strong enough to take it. Much of these places have fallen into complete disrepair and are overgrown with life, only those who know to look can really see. To survive in these places humanity formed into tribes not dissimilar to the dark ages. Major differences being their access to high tech weapons and equipment as they trade with the CorpStates or live off of their spent garbage.

    In the wastes beyond civilization lie mutants and radiation zones. Beasts mutated from what was there before and the twisted remains of humanity. Despite these dangers, the wastes hold much of the technology of the old world. These places were once the libraries and strongholds of the old world. Targets of the nuclear strikes hoping to break the backs of some long-forgotten enemy.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Things that made my game better!

If you have been following me for awhile you might have heard me say that I am pretty new to this gaming scene, or more accurately, newly returned. I played AD&D and Red Box D&D back in the 80s followed by Palladium games and finally wargames before I quite in my early 20s to pursue playing in the SCA. Fast forward approximately 20 years, and in my 40s I found myself picking up the torch again and delving back into the depths of the dungeon. Initially coming back to 15mm sci-fi and finally back into the RPG fold with the release of Modiphius's Conan 2d20 system.

Shortly before the release, I made the decision to stop thinking about running a game and I got some friends together and I started GMing a Conan Game. We ran that game monthly for about 2 years, wrapping up the 25th session last week and deciding to move on to John Carter of Mars

In those two years I started over as a new GM with little relevant experience and went forward. Not only have I GMed Conan for the home Group, but I have also GMed Conan at 3 conventions in the last year, with plans on doing another of these games at the end of the month. In addition to GMing I have tried given back to the community through my small youtube channel and blog, where I have numerous tutorials on basic terrain and playing Conan 2d20.

This article is aimed at that new GM that is nervous or unsure about jumping into the ring of running games. My advice is to do it. The only way to get better is to run games. Do not worry though, you aren't alone. The wealth of information out there for the new GM is mindboggling, which brings us to the reason I am writing this article. Who did I find useful? What tools did I find that elevated my game?

Advice

The easiest and least expensive place to find decent advice on running the game is Youtube, and the following list are my favorite channels for GM advice. There are a lot of good RPG channels out there, especially terrain channels, but for actual game advice, these guys have a lot of excellent content
  • RuneHammer - One of the best. Great videos on encounter design and basic ideas.
  • Matthew Colville - Another indosposable individual on the internet with a great series called, "Running the Game".
  • Dungeon Craft - Relatively new to Youtube, a gentleman with some exceptional ideas on streamlining and making your game better.
  • How to be a Great Game Master - Another series on how to GM well, with several companion series on How to be a Great Player.

I have also put out a little cash here and there and bought a few books from Drivethru to help me along.

Tools

  • Index Cards from RuneHammer - A series of black and white cards that can be used for locations or inspiration.
  • Okum Arts - A wonderful set of printable heros and villians for almost any setting.
  • Printable Heroes - IMHO, one of the best paper-mini collections of D&D/Fantasy monsters
  • Black Scroll Games - one of the best collections of tiles both virtual and real.

Other Things

  • Community - Both virtual and real. People to bounce ideas off of, and get feed back from. Online groups can be excessivley toxis at times, so take your time to lurk and see if the group is correct for you.
  • Give Back - Write some articles, make some content. Put your ideas out there and take the feedback you get and make yourself and your ideas better.
  • Try again - If you feel you failed. Try again. Talk to your group. See what they might like and don't like about your games.
  • Play - Find some games to play in. Don't just GM. Take what you like from games you play in and make it yours.

If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy! If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram! Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today! If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog! (the drivethrurpg.com links in this post are all affiliate links, thank you for your support!) Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Tool Trunk Thursday: Lodestone

Welcome Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters to a new feature on the blog! Each Thursday I am going to present a piece of equipment for your 2d20 game! To start we will be focusing on Conan 2d20, but down the road, I am sure we'll see some items from the dying world of Barsoom as well! In general, the aim is to include items that aren't found in the core book or the expansions but to also give a direct use for each of the items as well.

It should be no secret by now that I like cards and find them useful at the table, and so it should be no surprise that these pieces of equipment are formatted for use as cards. The images should all be the correct aspect ratios for creating poker sized cards for each of these items.

As this is the first post I will start with the card with a legend on it. Each of the icons should be fairly self-explanatory, but just-in-case they are not I thought it would be a useful image to include with the post.


Without further pre-amble I give you the first item for Tool Trunk Thursday!

The Lodestone


These naturally magnetic rocks can be used for navigation much like the legendary Sun Stone from the Nordheimer lands, although it has the advantage of not needing to be outdoors and in view of the sun to do it. It has the disadvantage of being thrown off its bearing when close to other sources of magnetism as one might find in an alchmeical lab.

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Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

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

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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