'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

Friday, May 11, 2018

It Came From the OuterDark. Thursday May 10, 2018

I used to do a YouTube segment on Fridays, but time has become tighter and I find myself unable to get those done, even as live streams. I thought I might be able to convert it to a regular segment on my blog instead.

The basic idea of this segment was a rundown of the things in gaming and popular culture that I came across that I thought were interesting and fit into my niche.

SALES!

The first thing I wanted to talk about is the sale for may over at DriveThruRPG. Billed as the MAY D&D sale a quick look shows that it encompasses more than just D&D. I picked out a couple of titles that I either own, have heard good things about or just thought they looked interesting!

Four Against The Darkness
This rules light solo or cooperative game pits you, as a party of four adventures, against a randomly generated dungeon. All you need is a pencil, some graph paper and a 2 six sided dice! I just picked this up so look for a detailed review soon.
Song of Blades and Heroes
A rules light wargame system. Easy to learn and fun to play. A go to set of rules for easy skirmish level gaming. Highly recommend.
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Second Edition)
One of the premier set of rules for swords & sorcery settings. Clearly influenced by Conan and other entries in the genre. I have never played this system but have hard many good things about it and it maintains a 5 star rating on DriveThruRPG. Certainly on my long list of things to check out!
Remarkable Inns & Their Drinks
This is another one I have not picked up, but has certainly caught my eye. Taverns are quite central to the fantasy RPG genre and a few of Conan's tales certainly start there. This Gold Seller on Drivethru looks like a great way to pick up some quick tavern ideas!

KICKSTARTER!

My Kickstarter radar has been fairly quiet lately. Zombicide: invader was my last backed project. I actually have nothing waiting for completion, all my money has been taken. I suspect this is a good thing even if it seems weird.

Modiphius launched the pledge manager for John Carter this week as well. If you are a backer and didn't see the message you should check your spam bins and contact Modiphius!
NOTE: There is an issue with the shipping costs so the pledgemanager is currently frozen.

One kickstarter that has crossed my path is Hellboy. A 1-4 player co-op boardgame playable in about an hour and a half. The teaser video doesn't go a whole lot into mechanics, but it looks like I might be a fun addition.

I suspect many of you are Hellboy fans, and if so this is probably a game that you will want to add to your collection, and has already received nearly 1.8 million CAD in pledges.

It comes with a lot of miniatures which is awesome if you like that sort of thing (and we all know I do!). The pledge is about $165cad and looks to get you well over 100 little plastic men! Head on over to check it out soon, there is only about 14 days left in the campaign.

VIDEO GAMES!

I don't play a lot of games, so you won't see much here from me. With that caveat I am excited to see Conan Exiles go from early access to full retail launch. There are of course a lot of people who dislike it for various reasons and these people, as always, are incredibly loud. However reviews from 3rd parties are positive and I have talked with actual players who believe it is a good game and fun! Check out my own review!

Speaking of EXILES, I also picked up my collector's edition yesterday. Although I don't think this collector's edition is as nice as the one they did for Age of Conan, it does have some cool stuff in it and I am glad I have picked it up, even if I would have preferred a form factor that would have allowed for full sized books.

That is it for this week, I hope to return to this on a weekly basis depending on what content sifts across my internet presence. If you found something interesting this week drop me a comment below so the reader of the blog can check it out!

Until next time. KEEP IT WEIRD.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Conan Exiles. Survive, Build, Dominate. The Review.

Sometime last year Funcom released Conan Exiles into a wide beta release on Steam known as "Early Access". Drop your coin and start playing the game as is, close to a year before the official release date. See it update. See it change. Follow the development. Watch it form.

As it happened at it's original early access release many people said it was unplayable. They were mad. Some people couldn't play it due to issues with their PC, but were unable to return it, presumably it worked initially and then something changed and they were past the hours played threshold. I don't know. I didn't pick it up back then.

I *DID* pick it up at Christmas and although it certainly had some issues I enjoyed playing it. I liked the ability to create my own house and harvest the land. To grow strong. To hunt. To craft. I personally have about 160 hours into two games, one with a character at around level 50 and one around level 26. I am still exploring and finding new stuff, and at release the world will grow even larger, I have solidly got my moneys worth out of this game.

Let's rewind, just in case you are unfamiliar with this game. This is Funcom's latest offering to the Conan Franchise. It is an open world survival game that can be played solo or on servers of various sizes ranging from about 10 to 40. You start with nothing and you must, as they say,
Survive. Build. Dominate.

Played 100% as intended you start crucified naked in the desert. Everything you have known has been taken from you; family, money, pride. Once you define your character you are cut down and set free into the Exiled Lands. You start, quite literally, with nothing.

As you progress through the game you gather resources, make clothing, armor, houses, weapons, fortresses and any number of things to help decorate. If you are so inclined you can even go out and find other settlements, and take their men and women to be broken on your wheels of pain so they become your thralls. These thralls will work for you defending and crafting, sometimes their skill at crafting far surpasses yours.


So Conan Exiles. Let's take a quick look at what it is, and what it isn't.

  • Is this Robert E. Howard's Conan? In a short response. No it is not purely REH's Conan. It takes flavor from the stories by REH as well as the pastiches, comics and movies that came after. They all add to the overall flavor of the game.
  • Will we get to explore earth during the Hyborian Age? In a word, no. You like the other Exiles are trapped in a land where humanity once waged war against some forgotten race. Presumably it exists somewhere on earth, but is now cut off any only used to dump prisoners.
  • Do I get to play Conan? No. You get to play a random Exile from a country of your choice who worships a deity of your choice.
  • Does it feel like a Conan game? For me, it does. I won't pretend it's a perfect game, or a perfect representation of what I think Conan is or represents. For me the survival aspect is enjoyable and the flavor from Howard and others that defines the Hyborian Age adds a lot for me. I just enjoy seeing things like "Stygian Banner" or "Dafari Drums" on my screen.
  • Civilization vs Barbarism? This is something I struggle with a little. It feels like we are trying to build a civilization vs remaining strong and barbaric. In reality civilization isn't defined by the technology we build it is defined by society and the laws we create. This game in many ways feels like it showcases this. You removed from your civilization and dropped back to barbarism.
  • Survival? Besides the hostile creatures and other exiles out to end your life, the environment itself is harsh. There are a few main elements that need to conquered to ensure survival: food, water, shelter and temperature.
    • Water: You must secure water and food or you will die. Wander into places that are very hot, or wear clothing that is too warm? Your thirst will increase, and when you run out of water. You will die.
    • Food: As you progress through the world you will grow hungry. If you do not eat, or eat the wrong things, you will die. Find animals, hunt them and cook them to maintain a healthy hunger level. Food will also allow you to regenerate your vitality.
    • Temperature: Being too hot or too cold will negatively affect you as well. Wearing heavy clothing in the sun, or just being out in the desert too long will result in you needing more water, and if you run out, you die. Likewise being in the north without wearing clothing will result in frostbite and death.
    • Shelter: Shelter can also help regulate temperature, but it also serves to protect you from the sandstorm that ravages the lands. Getting caught in this will cut a man or woman to ribbons....and you will die.

Although the game has no quests of the variety: Find NPC, Talk to NPC, Retrieve 20 wolf pelts, it does have a journey system which functions both as a tutorial and then later as a guide and a direction system. Doing what is suggests will take you into dungeons and out across the vast expanses of the Exiled lands. For me, at least, this is a superior system. I was never a fan of the general quest concept in MMORPGs. This world is an open sandbox, you can go anywhere, anytime for any reason; provided you are strong enough.

My initial impressions of this when I picked it up in Early Access were good, I enjoyed it. The last major update improved the game immensly. I was watching a stream just yesterday by a new player who had never played in early access and after a few days playing his impressions of the game were glowing. If you are looking for a beautifully immersive game with a story that will lead you along and be amazing, I suspect the new God of War might be up your alley. If you are seeking an immersive game that allows you to go and do what you want, build your fortress, take slaves and try and survive in a brutal world, crafting your own story, then 100% check out Conan Exiles.

On Steam I have played for 169 hours. I am still going strong and with the new areas opening...............

4 out 5 Skulls of My Enemies!
*Just a word of warning: This game is violent. This game features killing humans in gruesome ways. This game features nudity. This game features slavery.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: The Nemesis.

Welcome back to the blog everyone! I hope your weekend was full of friends and good times. My last few posts have focused on the adversaries, minions and toughened opponents, in the Conan 2d20 rpg. Today we are going to wrap up the final one of these classes; The Nemesis. What is a nemesis? Well the following quote gives us a little insight. No, it's not from Conan, in fact it's not even from Robert E Howard, but I think you will recognize it either way.


Do you know what "nemesis" means?

A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent. Personified in this case by an 'orrible ****... me.
  • Bricktop,
    Snatch, 2000


A great line by a very bad man. It defines "nemesis" for us. In the Conan 2d20 RPG these are the personification of powerful entities. The nemesis class is the most capable class of foe your characters will face. They will present their largest challenge.

We talked about the town guard being minions and the sergeants being examples of the toughened classes. Continuing this example, the leaders of the guard, generals and the like, will be this nemesis class. Conan himself served as the leader of men in this capacity. These are the horrors in the dark, the witches, the wizards and the warriors of renown that Conan faced throughout his travels.

Ok so what does all this mean? The nemesis class is again going to have better equipment and attributes as compared to minions and toughened opponents. In addition the follow items are true of a nemesis.
  • The nemesis can suffer 5 physical and 5 mental harms.
  • The nemesis can react as per normal reaction rules.
  • The nemesis can spend 3 doom and gain a fortune point.
  • The nemesis often have a wide range of skills and abilities
  • The nemesis uses hit locations and armor just as a player does.
  • The nemesis is often leading multiple bands of foes.
  • The nemesis CAN lead a squad.
When it comes to special rules the nemesis is, in some ways, the simplest of the three classes. They work just like player characters. They become complicated in how they are played and their wide range of talents and abilities.

Now lets not get carried away here, if you drop a single nemesis down against a party of players, the nemesis will be lucky to survive a single round. These opponents become truly epic and frightening when they are leading groups of toughened or minions, forcing the players to engage their followers first.

Another thing to keep in mind is the one large difference between PCs and the nemesis. If the PCs want to buy 3 bonus dice and have no momentum, they can exchange dice for doom. If the nemesis has no doom they are unable to get bonus dice.

If your PCs are able to survive off of their built up momentum then the nemesis is going to be considerably weaker than one who has a fat pile of doom to draw from. This is something to keep in mind as players roll complications, if you are low on doom, it might be better to stockpile the complications till the final confrontation. Also keep in mind that any generated momentum by the nemesis can be stored as doom if it's not use right away.

The nemesis is a powerful entity in it's own right, but for it to really shine, it will need strategy and support. As always I love to hear comments and feedback, ideas and errata. As we go forward I wonder what else would be useful to go over? Till next time, KEEP IT WEIRD!

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Friday, May 4, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: The Toughened Opponent.

We started this discussion with minions, but now I want to move on to the second of our opponent classifications; the toughened opponent. These opponents have the potential to cause some real challenges for your players in the form of more fully realized NPCs and creatures.

These adversaries represent opponents who are better skilled and probably better equipped. If you think of a militia or town guard as minions, then their sergeants are going to represent toughened foes.

Rules wise they work pretty much like a character does with a few exceptions.

  • They roll 2d20 for skill tests, and can gain up to 3 bonus d20s.
  • They are able to parry, dodge and react.
  • They are able to sacrifice shields to prevent a wound.
  • They are NOT able to sacrifice other forms of armor.
  • They do not have hit locations.
  • They can suffer two of the same type of harm before being eliminated.

A special note for the GM based on my play experience. Although toughened opponents can survive better than minions, many characters have weapons or skills that bestow the INTENSE ability, which causes a second wound if a first is caused. For toughened opponents it means that can easily be dropped in a single hit, just like a minion.

Optional House Rule,
If you follow Modiphius at all they recently launched a kickstarter for John Carter of Mars using the 2d20 system, or a variant of it called 2d20 lite. In this they introduce what is essentially a modified toughened opponent. These opponents don't necessarily have the ability to only take 2 harms before being removed. They have a rating which specifies how many harms they can take. Consider how much more effective your toughened opponents will be if they have a third wound? Now when fighting against an INTENSE weapon or skill they will need to have all of their stress dropped to 0 in a round to have them removed from the board.

Remember though with 2 harms the toughened opponent will be at +2 difficulty and so not very effective at much.... besides giving his buddies time to maneuver.

Last time we also talked about The Mob, a loose group of sword fodder without much combat organization. We can remove one of those five minions and replace it with a toughened opponent, to increase it's overall effectiveness. The Squad represents a unit of opponents led by a better trained and equipped leader. It can contain up to 4 identical minions and 1 toughened opponent. When you roll skill tests for the group it is important to have a set of dice assigned to the toughened leader as their skills and expertise will likely be better than the minions they lead.

Remember the bonus dice granted from the minions to the toughened leader are assistance dice, and it is possible for the leader to buy 3 bonus dice bringing their total to 5 before gaining up to an additional 4 dice depending on how many minions exist in the squad.

Damaging the squad works pretty much like damaging a mob, with damage moving to the next member of the squad as minions are eliminated. The toughened leader is the last to receive damage this way. While existing within a squad, the toughened leader is unable to parry or react as they would normally do. Despite this the toughened leader can be attacked directly by using a called shot momentum spend.

And that is pretty much it. There are a couple of small things we will take a look at next week that deal with groups (squads and mobs), but this is a good overview of the toughened opponent and how they can be used with minions to present a greater challenge for your players.

As always I love to hear comments and feedback, ideas and errata. As we go forward I wonder what else would be useful to go over? Till next time, KEEP IT WEIRD!

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: The Lowly Minion.

Our last overview talked about armor and protection, basically how to reduce the amount of damage a weapon does to you. This time I wanted to talk about NPCs and Monsters; creatures from the outerdark and loathsome pirates. Conan 2d20 has 3 classes of creatures: minion, toughened and nemesis. I had intended on covering all three of these in this article, but I have decided to start with the minion, as they have a few special rules and specific place in the game.

First, when I say minion I don't mean the little yellow guys from "Despicable Me", although they would certainly fit into this category. Minions are the low skilled henchmen, townfolk, small creatures and any number of other things. The key aspect to these is they are fodder. They do not stand against the characters in any real way. They are in general throngs to be cut down with bloody swaths of a sword. They are the 100s of soldiers in movies and books that pose no real threat to our heros.

I can hear you say, "Why do they need their own post if they are just fodder?" The answer to that is a rule in the game that allows a character to lend a d20 in assistance to another during a skill test, but we will get to that in a bit.

Lets go over the special rules for the basic minion.
  • Minions, unlike characters, can suffer a single HARM before being killed or driven off. So doing a blow that inflicts 5 stress, or dropping a stress value to zero ends the life of the minion.
  • Minions can not parry, dodge or actively defend. They are not allowed to react.
  • Minions roll a single d20 for their skill tests (including attacks.)
  • Minions do not use hit locations.

As you can see they are weak, can't defend themselves and don't roll many dice. There is an exception to this, and THIS is why I felt they needed their own entry. The Mob

Up to five identical minions can form together into a mob. Due to that assistance rule I mentioned earlier the mob attacks as a single entity and so rolls 1d20 for the lead minion +1d20 for each remaining member of the mob. So a Mob with 5 total members would roll a base of 5d20, 1d20 for the leader and +4d20 for the four remaining minions in the mob.

It is important to remember there is nothing stopping the GM from buying +3d20 worth of additional dice for that lead minion, giving the lead minion 4d20, with the mob contributing another 4d20, bringing the die total rolled for that mob to 8d20. Despite this massive roll of the dice, the mob only gains a single attack and it can be parried, dodged or resisted like any other single attack.

As you can already see we have written a fair bit about this simple and easy to kill part of Conan 2d20 and we have one more thing to talk about when they are arrayed as a mob. How do we apply damage? Damage is applied to the first member of the mob until a harm is caused. Any remaining damage is passed to the next member of the mob until a harm is caused. This cascade continues until the mob is dead, or we run out of damage. Soak is subtracted once at the start. Lets wrap this up with a couple of examples.

For example: Single Minion,
Conal is faced off against a single town guard (Vigor: 5 soak: 1). The guard is classified as a minion.
Conal rolls 2d20+2d20 from momentum, and scored 3 successes on a D1 attack leaving him with 2 momentum
Conal rolls damage and does 8 points of damage and uses his momentum to penetrate the guards armor. The guard now tales 8 points of vigor stress, which causes a wound eliminating the minion, nice and quick and simple.


For example: The Mob,
Now Conal is faced off against a mob of 5 town guards (Vigor: 5 soak: 1)
Round 1: Using the same situation as above, Conal causes 8 points of damage and negates the armor on the guard. The first guard takes 5 points of stress damage and receives a wound, eliminating him. The remaining 3 points of Vigor go to the next guard reducing his total to 2.
Next the mob attacks, but now with only 4 members, the GM opts to buy 2 addition dice for the lead minion giving him 3d20+3d20 assistance dice. The attack succeeds and generates 4 momentum, but Conal's parry also succeeds and generates 4 momentum. The guards attack is barely turned aside.
Round 2: Conal feeling pressured by the mob decides to try and end this, and buys 3 additional dice. He scored 3 points of momentum and rolls 7 damage, using momentum to defeat the armor he does 2 points to the damaged guard reducing his vigor to zero, removing him from play. The remaining 5 points of damage is applied to the next guard, causing yet another wound and removing a second guard from play. Conal spends 2 points of momentum for a swift action and strikes again. This time he succeeds but only gains a single point of momentum. Luckily he rolls 10 damage! Using the single point of momentum his sword slices past the armor of the remaining guards. 5 damage to the first eliminates it, followed by the remaining 5 damage being applied to the last guard, also killing it.

I intend on doing two more articles on toughened and nemesis over the next few days, and as a companion piece I will get some sort of combat demo up on youtube. Until next time, drop me a comment and don't forget to keep it WEIRD!

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: Protection.

In our last installment we talked about damage, today I want to talk briefly about protection from damage. In other systems, like D&D, characters, NPCs & monsters all have a designated armor class we roll against to determine if the hit is successful and damage is applied. This AC is generally derived from armor, shields, dexterity and skills.

As we saw in Conan 2d20, hitting an opponent is either a skill test or a struggle, armor is not part of that equation. In Conan 2d20 we have several types of protection, but all work more or less in the same way. As you may have guessed we broadly have two forms of protection; physical and mental. Each type of protection consists of two basic types, fixed and variable. Whether these are fixed or variable, mental or physical they are all collectively known as "Soak".

PHYSICAL
ArmorStatic value. Reduces physical stress damage by it's value.
CoverVariable value. Reduces physical stress damage by a value rolled on combat dice.
MENTAL
CourageStatic value. Reduces mental stress damage by it's value.
MoraleVariable value. Reduces mental stress damage by a value rolled on combat dice.

The amount of damage armor protects against can be reduced by various things, such as momentum spends and piercing effects, or if the protection is variable, it is possible to roll no protection. Lets take a quick look at a spear vs chain armor & a shield.

For example,
SPEAR 4cd, Piercing 1 vs. Heavy Armor soak 3 & Shield shield2.
We are assuming the spearman has successfully hit the armored combatant and we are now rolling damage.
The spearmen rolls his 4 combat dice and scores: 3 damage and scores a total effect of 2 piercing.
The target has a shield with a rating of 2 and so gets to roll 2 dice and add them to his total soak, this brings his total soak to 4.
The soak of 4 is reduced to 2, due to the spears piercing effects meaning the spear scores 1 point of damage (3 damage - 2 soak = 1 damage)


If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Conan 2d20 RPG Overview: Damage.

Many systems use a simple life counter to track how much life a character has. The most famous of these is of course Dungeons & Dragons and hit points. As your character gains experience and levels your Hit Point total gets larger. On it's surface it's simple, but what it represents is an abstraction. Your character can't actually take 100s of sword blows now, they are just more experienced in combat and their hit points represent how long they can stand in battle; stamina, avoiding blows. etc.

It is a common and popular way of tracking a characters life in combat. It is NOT what Conan 2d20 uses.
Broadly Conan 2d20 breaks damage into Mental and Physical, and then each of those into STRESS and HARM.
  • STRESS: This is determined by your characters physical attributes. Characters who are strong and trained in Resistance will have more physical stress than a weaker character. Stress represents getting tires, scrapes and small cuts in battle. It is generally refilled after a short rest.
  • HARM: ALL characters can suffer 4 harms before becoming incapacitated. A fifth wound results in death. These are actual damage. Taking physical damage increases difficulty in doing physical tasks. Likewise mental harm increase the difficulty of mental skills tests.
Ok, I am sure you are all asking, how does this all work? In it's simplest form, Stress works like HP, once they are at zero you start taking a wound. In short anytime your stress is reduced to zero or you take damage while it's at zero, you take a harm.

There is one exception to this. If you can inflict 5 points of stress in a single hit, not only does it reduce the targets stress by your damage, you also inflict a wound.

For example,
Round 1: Conal has 12 points of vigor (physical stress), and take 4 points of damage. He would have his vigor reduced to 8, but take no wounds (physical harms).
Round 2: Conal then takes another 5 points of vigor damage. His vigor is further reduced to 3, BUT he also received 5 points of stress in a single round and suffers a wound as well.
Round 3: Finally Conal receives 6 points of vigor damage. His vigor is reduced to 0 and he suffers a wound. He ALSO suffers a wound for receiving 5 or more points of stress in a single round. This blow causes 2 wounds, bringing his wound total to 3.

As characters are damaged and begin to suffer wounds they will find it becomes a quick downward spiral. If they were fighting in the dark, and a standard blow or parry was D2, physical harm quickly turns that to D3 or D4 in the space of a few turns. Things can go badly for characters VERY quickly in this system.

In up coming posts we will talk about the types of bad guys and their life expectancy.

If you are interested in checking out the Conan system why not head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy of either the Conan 2d20 core book or the Conan 2d20 quickstart pdf?