[Let’s Study: Conan] Part 2 Character Creation (Long)

Posted: February 8, 2017 by pointyman2000 in Articles, Conan, Let's Study, Modiphius, Reviews, Roleplaying Games
Tags: , , ,


Not all women are helpless in Conan

Welcome back! Today we’re going to go over the broad strokes of character creation in Conan.

Each character in Conan is made up of four component parts: Attributes, Skills, Talents and Equipment. Each stage of character creation will increase one or more of these aspects, and by the time we finish, we’ll see how it all comes together to form a well-rounded character.

A fun thing to note is that there’s a ton of random table to roll on for character creation, but rolling is purely by choice. If you want to, you can just go ahead and pick from the table instead.

This is a huge post, so please check out the rest after the break:

Step One: Homeland

We begin with the character’s homeland. There’s a surprisingly intimidating table of options for Homelands in the game, however, and those unfamiliar with Robert E. Howard’s setting might find themselves overwhelmed. Thankfully each of these places are detailed in the book (and the table has the page numbers handy.)

For our adventurer, let’s make a young lady from Zamora. Zamora the Accursed, a sprawling, decaying metropolis, Zamora is a rotting tooth. In her twisting alleys and ample shadows, all manner of business goes on. Sounds like a perfect place for an enterprising young thief.

Picking Zamora gains the “Honest Corruption” Talent, and knowledge of the Zamorian language.

Honest Corruption
In a land of corrupt merchants and honest theives, you have gained a sixth sense bout those who are likely to betray you. When interacting with a non-player characer for the first time, you can make a free Average (D1) Thievery or Counsel test to gain a general feel for the trustworthiness of the non-player character.


Step Two: Attributes

Characters in Conan have seven Attributes: Agility, Awareness, Brawn, Coordination, Intelligence, Personality and Willpower.

Each of these has a rating, with higher numbers meaning greater ability. Attributes range from 6 to 12, with 8 being an average score. All characters usually begin with a starting value of 7 in every attribute. There’s an option for GMs to allow players to drop two Attributes to 6 to raise two of them to an 8.

For our example, we’ll keep it simple for now, so let’s assume our Zamoran lady thief sticks to starting with a value of 7 across all her Attributes. Next would be to determine Attribute Aspects for the character.

Attribute Aspects are composed of two Mandatory Attributes and two Optional Attributes. Checking the table, I decide to go for:

Acute and Aware – Awareness (Mandatory), Intelligence (Mandatory), Agility (Optional), Coordination (Optional)
Fast and Fit – Agility (Mandatory), Brawn (Mandatory), Coordination (Optional), Awareness (Optional)

I then pick a “best” and “worst” attribute from the four Mandatories (Awareness, Intelligence, Agility and Brawn) and increase the best by +3 and the worst by +1. The others go up by +2. Meanwhile Optional Attributes go up by +1, you only get to pick one of the Optional Attributes per Attribute Aspect to go up.

After a bit of assigning priorities, here’s what I’ve got:

Agility 10 (“best” Mandatory pick)
Awareness 9 (Mandatory pick)
Brawn 8 (“worst” Mandatory pick)
Coordination 9 (Optional pick x2)
Intelligence 9 (Mandatory pick)
Personality 7
Willpower 7

Step Three: Caste

Next up is to pick the social caste from which your character would have come from before their adventuring career. Each Caste grants two Caste Talents, one skill and a story.

A quick glance over the list and the Outcaste entry seems like a perfect fit:

Caste Talents: Embittered, Survivor
Skill Gained: Thievery (+1 Expertise / +1 Focus)

Met with disgusted eyes from even the slaves, outcasts are
the beggars and petty thieves that skulk in alleys, sifting
through rubbish for something to sell. While each nation
treats outcasts differently, none treat them well, and you
are used to hostility, or indifference at best, wherever
you go.

Step Four: Story

Picking up from your character’s Caste, you also get to pick (or roll) for you character’s story. These are suggested background elements that can be used to more effectively add detail and a sense of history to your character. If you already have an idea of your own you can bypass this and simply ask the GM to give you a trait.

Traits are elements of a character’s background that can be evoked in play and potentially allow the character to regain spent Fortune points.

A quick roll netted me this particular gem:

Food and Rough Liquor
The rabble of your shanty might not have had much, but it
was shared with cheer and many fond (if humble) memories
were made. Now this shanty is no more. What befell its
inhabitants? Did any survive?
Trait: Fond Regrets

Definitely an interesting story to work with, and fodder for GMs to toss me an NPC who might have ties to the same shanty.

Step Five: Archetype

Now that we’ve got an idea of the history (and general Attributes) of our Zamoran Lady Thief, we move on to her Archetype. Archetypes are similar to D&D Classes in the sense that they’re a packaged template of benefits. These are:

  • Career Skill: +2 Skill Focus and +2 Skill Expertise for a specific skill
  • Career Talent: One talent associated with the career skill
  • Mandatory Skills: Each of these four adds +1 to Skill Focus and +1 Skill Expertise
  • Elective Skills: Both of these each add +1 to Skill Focus and +1 Skill Expertise
  • Equipment: An assortment of appropriate gear

In addition, it’s assumed that each character has a basic suit of clothing appropriate to their culture an caste, and a traveling kit with personal effects for basic survival, grooming and personal upkeep.

The game offers ten different Archetypes to choose from: Archer, Barbarian, Mercenary, Noble Warrior, Nomad, Pirate, Priest/Priestess, Scholar, Scoundrel and Witch/Shaman.

With the concept we’ve been working with so far, Scoundrel feels like the obvious pick.

You make a living exploiting the weaknesses of others,
whether gambling, theft, or outright banditry. Survival
by wits is the only life you have ever known, and you have
gotten quite good at it, trusting in your wits, reflexes,
and lack of scruples to get you out of danger, though by
one means or another you readily find yourself back in
the thick of it.

  • Career Skill: +2 Skill Focus and +2 Skill Expertise in Acrobatics
  • Career Talent: Agile
  • Mandatory Skills: +1 to Skill Focus and +1 Skill Expertise to Athletics, Parry, Persuade, and Society
  • Elective Skills: +1 to Skill Focus and +1 Skill Expertise for Melee, Thievery
  • Equipment: A Melee weapon of choice, Heavy Clothing (Armor 1: Torso/Arms/Legs), a small chest of counterfeit goods

Step Six: Nature

Nature is partly your character’s psychology and motivations. Rules-wise, Nature grants the following:

  • Attribute Improvement: +1 to a single attribute
  • Mandatory Skills: +1 Skill Expertise and +1 Skill Focus to three skills
  • Elective Skills: +1 Skill Expertise and +1 Skill Focus to two skills of the player’s choice
  • Talent: One new talent, associated with any of the above skills.

As usual, you can either pick or roll on a table to determine your Nature. For our Zamoran, I decide to stick to the Archetype and pick “Sneaky”

Information is power, and it is best to keep others in the
dark when it comes to you. You have learned to move quietly,
speak softly, and keep your true motives to yourself.

  • Attribute Improvement: +1 to Awareness
  • Mandatory Skills: +1 Skill Expertise and +1 Skill Focus to Observation, Stealth and Thievery
  • Elective Skills: +1 Skill Expertise and +1 Skill Focus to Acrobatics, Survival
  • Talent: One new talent, associated with any of the above skills.

Step Seven: Education

Education is the next facet of the character. While not really the first thing that comes to mind when talking about Conan, Education plays an important role in a character, even if the form it takes is more about being taught skills as a slave to earn your keep.

Education bestows the following:

  • Mandatory Skills: +1 Skill Expertise and +1 Skill Focus to three skills
  • Elective Skills: +1 Skill Expertise and +1 Skill Focus to two skills of the player’s choice
  • Talent: One talent, associated with any of the above skills
  • Equipment: Some educations also grant equipment while others don’t

Given her background there was little in the way of a formal education, but given that she’s a bright enough lass, our Zamoran would likely have the following education:

On Your Own Terms
You always knew what you wanted, and sought out your
own education when it was clear it would not be offered
you. Driven, you chose your teachers carefully, and
found other means of learning when there were none
to instruct you. Even now, you follow your own path to

  • Mandatory Skills: +1 Skill Expertise and +1 Skill Focus to Acrobatics, Athletics and Stealth
  • Elective Skills: +1 Skill Expertise and +1 Skill Focus to Lore, and Survival
  • Talent: One talent, associated with any of the above skills
  • Equipment: None

Step Eight: War Story

War is an unavoidable truth in the world of Conan, and violence is often brought to bear despite not wanting any part of it. Each story bestows Skill Improvements to reflect the nature of this harrowing encounter.

For our Zamoran Thief, I’m giving her the “Survived a Massacre” War Story that bestows a +1 Expertise and Focus to Stealth and Survival. Probably something tied towards her Shanty in Step Four?

Step Nine: Finishing Touches

Almost to the end! This Phase helps us round out our Zamoran by giving free points to spend as we want.

  • Attribute Increase: Increase two of your character’s attributes by +1 OR increase one attribute by +2
  • Skill Improvement: Add +1 to Expertise and Focus to three skills of your choice, OR +2 to Expertise and Focus to one skill and +1 to another, OR Add +3 to Expertise and Focus for one skill
  • Talent: Pick an additional Talent for your character, or increase an existing talent by an additional rank.
  • Language: pick an extra language for your character, gain another language for every point of Skill Focus in Linguistics that you possess.
  • Fortune Points: Mark down 3 Fortune Points.
  • Personal Belonging and Garments: Roll or pick 2 items from a table
  • Weapons: Roll or pick  a weapon and its provenance from a table

For this customization step, our Zamoran gets:

  • Attribute Increase: +1 to Personality and Willpower. I like the idea that she has no “below average” Attributes.
  • Skill Improvement: Add +1 to Expertise and Focus to Ranged Weapons, Resistance and Thievery
  • Talent: Pick an additional Talent for your character, or increase an existing talent by an additional rank.
  • Language: pick an extra language for your character, gain another language for every point of Skill Focus in Linguistics that you possess.
  • Fortune Points: Mark down 3 Fortune Points.
  • Personal Belonging and Garments: A ring made of semiprecious stone, Clothing of a simple, undyed cloth, worn in the fashion of your people
  • Weapons: A knife ripped from the hands of a brigand you slew

Now before we go to the final Calculations, let’s take a look at what our Zamoran Thief looks like now:

Background: Zamoran
Agility 10

Awareness 10
Brawn 8
Coordination 9
Intelligence 9
Personality 8
Willpower 8

Skills: (Expertise / Focus)
Acrobatics +4/+4
Athletics +2/+2
Lore +1/+1
Melee +1/+1
Observation +1/+1
Parry +1/+1
Ranged Weapons +2/+2
Resistance +1/+1
Society +1/+1
Stealth +2/+2
Survival +2/+2
Thievery +4/+4


Prerequisite: Ranged Weapons Expertise 1
When making an attack with a ranged weapon, you may re-roll a number of damage dice equal to the number of Ranged Weapon talents (and ranks in those talents) you have acquired. You must accept the result of these re-rolls.

Agile (Career)
Prerequisite: Acrobatics Expertise 1
You may re-roll one d20 when attempting an Acrobatics test, but must accept the new result.

Embittered (Caste)
Within the borders of your homeland, reduce your Social Standing. Outcasts are at -2 Social Standing and Upkeep is reduced by -2.

Living Shadow
Prerequisite: Stealth Expertise 1
When attempting to maintain unseen or unnoticed, you gain bonus Momentum equal to your ranks in this talent.

Survivor (Caste)
When you are deprived of obvious sources of food and water, you reduce the Difficulty of Survival tests by one.

Prerequisite: Thievery Expertise 1
You may use Thievery in place of Society when dealing with criminals. When you generate at least one success on a Persuade or Lore test to relate to or interact with the criminal element, you may immediately roll one additional d20 and add the result to the skill test.

Languages: Zamoran, One other
Fortune Points: 3

Step Ten: Final Calculations

At this point we’ll quickly calculate the remaining derived statistics and other aspects of the character.

Resolve, Vigor and Gold

  • Vigor is how much physical injury a character can take before taking serious harm. This is the total of Brawn and Expertise in the Resistance Skill.
  • Resolve is the mental counterpart to Vigor, and is the total of Willpower and Expertise in the Discipline skill.
  • Starting Gold is equal to the sum of the character’s Personality attribute and Expertise in the Society skill.

Our Zamoran starts with

  • Vigor 9
  • Resolve 8
  • Gold 9

Pretty average numbers across the board, it seems.

Damage Bonuses

The higher the attributes are, the more damage they can inflict with their attacks, whether hand-to-hand, ranged or through mental means. When damage is inflicted it’s rolled with Combat Dice.

Checking the table for Damage Bonuses, our Zamoran has:

  • Melee Bonus Damage from Brawn: None
  • Ranged Bonus Damage from Awareness: 2 Combat Dice
  • Mental Bonus Damage from Personality: None

Name, Age, Personality and Appearance

Thankfully Conan does have a chart with sample names for each of the Nationalities. Checking out female names for Zamorans, I’ll settle for Sadiya. Sounds appropriate for a lady thief.

Let’s assume that her age is 18, a decent age for a woman forced to survive on her own.

Personality is something to be dictated by the player, so we’ll just say that she’s a little bit on the pessimistic side, and always has an angle to make sure she has an exit to anything.

Appearance-wise I don’t really do well with descriptions for new characters just yet, but let me pull a particular favorite from a webcomic:


Just don’t do a search for her during work hours, okay? It’s a great webcomic, but it’s very NSFW.

And we’re done!

There’s certainly a little bit of flipping back and forth when it comes to the Talents, and the whole Mandatory and Optional Attribute Picks weren’t the most intuitive means by which to relay the process, but I felt that character creation was actually painless compared to other games of similar complexity.

There’s a lot of good to be said about the way Conan’s character creation system works in that the resulting character is textured and complex and has some measure of history and motivation. You don’t just end up with some generic character, but someone with many different facets.

EDIT: I just happened to remember that Modiphius has a Web-Based Character Creation Tool that you can check out HERE.

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at the basic mechanics that power Conan, and then peek at the Talents and how they help create even more customized characters.

If you’d like to follow along with this series, The Conan RPG is now available for purchase in PDF format from DriveThruRPG for $24.99

  1. I like lifepath systems but this one seems a bit long. How much time did it take you to finish your character?

    • It feels like a lot but each phase is mostly skill rank purchases and keeping track of Talents per step. Overall it took about 15 to 20 minutes including some flipping back and forth for the Talent picks.

  2. Edward Dobbins says:

    OGlaf FTW!

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