Originally posted by Brianna Heine on the other (now defunct) version of this site.
First off let me apologize for posting this so late. I was sick last week and just didn’t have the capacity to focus on reading and writing.
Many readers of my previous post, understanding that I planned on tackling the topic of systems in this one, suggested a fair number of resources that might assist me in choosing an appropriate system. That being said I really didn’t have all that much time to read everything I wanted to get to. Instead I read reviews and forums on these games and did my best to get a working knowledge of them. It turns out that a lot of developers have already been influenced by the Hyborian Age.
Barbarians of Lemuria, based on Lin Carter’s Thongor Series; which in itself is a tribute to Howard and Burroughs, would seem like an almost perfect choice. It meets 3 to 4 of the 5 criteria I’m looking for. Complex characters, little-to- no armor, Mortality, and magic… sort of. Magic in Howard’s stories isn’t memorized or rote. It’s very free-form. In Phoenix on the Sword Thoth-Amon just scoops up a handful of blood, rubs it on his magic ring (more on that in a later post), and whispers foul words of power until a baboon-like shadowbeast appears to do his bidding. I doubt he just had that “memorized” in case he needed a spectral assassin that day. This is very much in line with the rules system. The only real issue is that there is no drawback to using magic. Magic users in the Hyborian age are… twisted. There’s just something wrong with them. This game doesn’t feel that way.
Pendragon, a game setting based in the tales of Arthurian romance, seems to be an unlikely choice. I first checked out some forums and the consensus seemed to be that this game was perfectly suited to accomplish the task it was designed for; adventures in the high-medieval age of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Personally, when I picture King Arthur I see Shining Knights, Chivalry, and Champagne. When I picture Conan it seems a bit… grittier. Conan didn’t quest, he marauded. Now I haven’t actually had the opportunity to read the rules yet but the Personal traits and passions seem like they might fit into a Hyborian setting. I’ll save judgment on this one until later.
Carcosa is perhaps the trippiest campaign setting I’ve ever seen. It’s like Hyboria and Metropolis (1927 film) were merged together and the Cthulhu mythos was let loose to terrorize the inhabitants. I think they filmed the movie Zardoz there. On the topic of rules and settings this is definitely gritty. It has that “you’re probably going to die today” feel which meets one of my prerequisites. Magic is also seems evil which is a plus. Since the setting already introduces the concept of varied Human races we have a third condition met. However if you use Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules you lose complex characters and little-to-no armor. Let’s keep looking.
Savage Worlds intrigued me as soon as John brought it to my attention. One of the first things I noticed was the full-page spread of The Savage World of Solomon Kane. Since we’re talking Conan and both characters were written by Howard our search might be over. Character Creation is certainly versatile enough that you’re not pigeonholed into just being a “fighter” or “thief.” Armor serves a purpose but I get the impression that it isn’t required to survive. Racial Variation is covered but some work needs to be done to first create each race from limited source material (Howard’s short stories weren’t very detailed) and second leave each race feeling unique and appropriate to the setting. The Setting Rules let you set the lethality of the game. The only drawback is that the magic system just doesn’t seem right.
Wow! I still haven’t talked d20 yet. I think I’ll save that for next time. Thanks for reading.