Hither came Conan… Part 3

Originally posted by Brianna Heine on the other (now defunct) version of this site.

So it’s already been a longer post than I intended it to be. In fact with all the suggestions for systems it has become very obvious that I lack the resources to purchase every game that might work for my ultimate goal. I want to thank all of you for your suggestions. Your interest in this project is very appreciated.

So I’m going to finish this post discussing the last 2 systems I have access to.

The legend himself.

Dungeon Crawl Classics reminds me of all the reasons I loved playing RPGs.  The funnel system of character creation is my second favorite part of the game (more on the first later). However I’d want characters in the Hyborian Age to start at 1st. Conan wasn’t a Cimmerian farmer that got caught up in a quest and became a mighty adventurer. Thoth-Amon wasn’t working the bar at the local Stygian Tavern and thought that taking up black magic might be fun. Character options seem limited and without demi-humans those options are out as well but why can’t some of the races of Hyboria have their own progression without having to take a class? Armor is a necessity which means a second mark against this system. No problem with the mortality of characters however and Magic (my favorite part) seems appropriate to the Hyborian Age.

D20 is the system that I am by far most familiar with. Unfortunately my familiarity with D20 means I, all-to-well, already know it’s not going to meet more than 1 or 2 of my prerequisites. Characters certainly have access to complexity in abilities. D20 is a min/max-er’s wet dream. But as one of my players figured out his fighter with no armor quickly got chewed up and spit out in combat particularly as he passed 1st level. Racial variation could be created with little effort so I wouldn’t be worried about that. Combat in standard D20, if the DM follows all the rules for CR, is far from deadly. The game is designed for the party to win. Magic in D&D is also VERY safe. It’s a proven science. It’s commonplace. With so many variations of the rules available from “official” and fan sources I’m certain that a Conan RPG would be possible to create.

For example…

Pathfinder provides a plethora of extra feats and class skills only adding to the possibility of complexity.

Unearthed Arcana has unarmored AC options. Some alternate combat rules would make combat more lethal. There are a ton of ideas for alternate races (though most wouldn’t really work so I don’t know why I brought that up). Even some ideas on magic that would lend a hand.

John directed me to the idea presented as E6. It’s possible that Conan was just 6th level and, since almost everyone he meets is 1st, he wins just because he’s that much better than they are. However I find that concept a little boring. Conan just wins by default.

Mutants and Masterminds is a pretty versatile system as well. Character can be created virtually from the ground up. Every skill, feat, ability score, and feature hand chosen for exact effect. You can require magic to have hindrances that make them dangerous to use or unreliable. You can wear the heaviest plate armor or a loincloth and still feel protected. In reality you might just need a solid sourcebook for the Hyborian age and you’re ready to play. The only real problem I see with this is there’s no really recognizable growth for a character that doesn’t cast spells. Thoth-Amon can add a new spell every level and have something new. Conan just gets a higher attack bonus.

Mongoose’s Conan RPG is technically a contender since that’s what it’s supposedly created to do. Some of the ideas work. Specifically the  racial variations. Class options are better than the core books but Pathfinder does a better job. Since I’m not a fan of this I’ll definitely reference it for ideas but I think I can do better.

4th Edition… Uh… No. Just no.

So what it comes down to is no game offers a ready-made Conan rules system exactly the way I want it. I’d have to mod every one in some way  to be satisfied.

So that being said, and since I have far more experience with D20 (and I want to show Mongoose I can top them), I’ll choose d20 as the base system. In coming posts I’ll pick a subject that I think needs altering and discuss that. As always your thoughts are always welcome and I’m so looking forward to the discussion.

I would like to try to follow a single rule of thumb when adapting rules; If it’s too complex it’s probably wrong. I don’t know how successful that will be but let’s give it a try.

It’s time to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under our sandalled feet.

Author: John Carr

Gamer, comic guy, office drone.

15 thoughts on “Hither came Conan… Part 3”

  1. I’ve struggled with question of how to RPG Conan as well. I think your best bets are Crypts & Things and Savage Worlds. I am starting to thik SW might be best. Heck they already have a Solomon Kane setting. Also I think you need to look again at the magic systems it offers again. The version that uses backlash might be good.

  2. The rule for Backlash that I read (Arcane Background [Magic]) doesn’t feel at all like the atmosphere presented in REH’s Conan Short Stories. If there’s a different rule I just haven’t seen it. There’s a great picture on page 117 of the DCC rulebook that exemplifies how I envision using magic in the Hyborian Age. On the subject of Solomon Kane I have 2 thoughts; I don’t own the material (and I can’t afford to buy everything that might be suitable) and Solomon Kane is not Conan. The settings just feel different to me. If I ever get a copy of the rules I’ll definitely check them out.

  3. DCC would do it fine. Perhaps with a simple house rule: Unarmored characters (warriors and thieves only?) get their level as a bonus to AC.

  4. “Conan wasn’t a Cimmerian farmer that got caught up in a quest and became a mighty adventurer. Thoth-Amon wasn’t working the bar at the local Stygian Tavern and thought that taking up black magic might be fun.”

    Conan: 75 Mercenary or 88 Soldier
    Toth-Amon: 04 Astrologer, 84 Scribe, or custom starting occupation Sage/Scholar.

    No love for WFRP? Used ones are only $13.05 in amazon :p

    1. My issue isn’t really with the background, it’s with the funnel. I can’t see Conan or Belit or Pelias the Sorcerer stumbling around a dungeon, with 12 of their friends in tow, and they were just the lucky ones to walk out the other end. These are larger-than-life characters destined for greatness, not humble commoners plucked from hum-drum lives and forced into a threatening situation.

      And I have no problem with WFRP. So many readers suggested so many sources I just couldn’t look at and review them all. I kind of want to move on to a new subject and leave systems behind.

      In fact, because of all the suggestions, I think I might want to eventually mod EVERY RPG into a Conan RPG.

    1. I checked this out. I’m dissatisfied with the magic system. Unfortunately that’s been a recurring theme with this project. I don’t think I’ll ever be happy.

  5. Wasn’t Conan the Mercenary (the sole) survivor of the battle in the beginning of the Daughter of the Frost Giant? Wasn’t that a funnel moment that made Conan the hero instead of Artug the Aesir soldier?

    Funnels don’t need to be dungeons, but I wouldn’t mind taking mob of zeroes as a player or judge to some locations similar to the Tower of the Elephant (combat, skills, magic, and meeting a member from a species where everyone could potentially be a patrons). :p

  6. I suppose that if the Frost Giant’s Daughter was Conan’s first adventure and every other player lost all of their funnel characters leaving Conan the lone survivor sure that works. It also could have been a Savage worlds game and Conan’s henchmen all died along with the entire party. Or the DM, running a d20 game for a single player, just set up the scene for dramatic effect.

    Aquilonian commoners were running around the streets and rioting when they thought King Conan was dead. I can imagine a number of them survived the city guards attempts to quell the mob. I can imagine some of the City guards performed admirably and deserve elevation to higher rank. Those could be funnel moments too. What I can’t imagine is Kevin, the local butcher, deciding to Raid the Elephant’s Tower after that because he thinks it would be fun.

    We could debate all day on funnel moments and it wouldn’t change the fact that Bob the baker and Phil the gardener don’t belong in a Hyborian age game. At least not as adventurers. It just doesn’t work for me. Maybe it does for you but Conan was never 0 level. Ever.

  7. So I know you’ve set a course you are interested in pursuing, and I’m very interested in seeing how it develops. By all means, please continue to develop your D20 Conan game, as I am sure it will be excellent.

    That said, I feel like I’ve got to add my two cents on the DCC front:

    1) The Funnel — Thought I find the funnel, and the overall experience of 0-level play, to be an incredibly fun aspect of DCC, at the end of the day DCC is just another iteration of the D&D rules that takes influence from the classic TSR line along with later editions and wraps it up in an awesome package. I would therefore say that the Funnel and 0-level play is in no way necessary for use of the DCC rules. I believe that DCC would still be a wonderful system for a game that starts at 1st level and even uses 4d6, drop low, assign as desired. Players would just need to choose a background occupation from a custom Hyborian Age list so that skill checks can be handled.

    2) Races — I have, to my own surprise, really come to love that DCC is a “race as class” game and see a lot of benefit in style that it brings to the table. That being said, I only think it works when race means “not human,” as the whole point is distinguishing the the fantastic nature of said races. In the case of a Conan take on DCC, I think it would fit perfectly reasonable to write up human racial backgrounds with attribute adjustments and other special features a la AD&D. Since every character should have some sort of racial adjustments in this scenario, I can’t see it being game breaking in any way.

    3) Armor — After you wrote the first post, you inspired me to share an idea on the G+ DCC community that unarmored warriors get to add their deed die to AC along with attack and damage (and in addition to the actual deed). Hex Ox may be right that Kev H may have had the idea first; not sure. Either way, I think it’s a simple and effective solution to the “loincloth warrior” problem.

  8. Armor – give each class a standard “AC”, unrelated to anything besides their class. Armor can be worn or not worn as a player wishes and as circumstances dictate. Then, if they are unarmored and an enemy misses them, describe it as being their reflexes, blocking with a weapon, luck, whatever. If they are wearing armor and an enemy misses them, describe it as the helmet, breastplate or whatever taking the hit and saving them from a lethal blow. Simple, and it’s what Howard seemed to do… Conan survived attacks regardless, it’s just the description of how he did so that changed.

    Alignments – Civilized and Barbaric might work well.

  9. I’m going to be exploring equipment very soon but your idea for armorless characters is right in line with the prevailing opinion so far.

    And Barbaric / Civilized seems like an appropriate way to colorfully describe Chaotic / Lawful. I like it.

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