Happy Valentines Day!
Not quite the most cheerful image to pop up today, but we’ll be doing a quick look at Sorcery in the world of Conan.
Most of you might know that Conan is a setting where magic is rare and dangerous, and where Sorcerers are inevitably all utterly insane. While most of this is true, what struck me was the amount of interesting detail that was spent on explaining the nature of Sorcerers in the setting.
The chapter opens with a quick discussion of the various Sorcerous Traditions in the world of Conan, ranging from Western Sorcery to Witchcraft and Shamanism. Each one has a short writeup as well as a list of various spells that are more or less well associated with these Traditions.
The Sorcerer’s Repertoire
This section is perhaps my favorite as it describes the various focuses of a Sorcerer to make it successfully in the world of Conan. It talks about the need for Wisdom to be discerning in the exercise of power to avoid madness, the worth of having skills like Animal Handling for managing summoned beasts, and even the value of having a high Presence score to make sure that you have the weight of sheer intimidation on your side… all without needing to cast a single spell yet!
Of course it does go ahead to discuss other magical arts like Alchemy and Sorcery, but the Sorcerer in Conan’s world needs to be the total package.
A large chunk of the chapter is devoted to Petty Enchantments. These are the results of using the Alchemy skill, and despite the name, there’s very little that is petty about them. As products of the rudimentary (and ill-understood) sciences of the age, ordinary people who see these will automatically consider them magical as opposed to obeying any laws of nature.
These are sorted into the following types:
- Exploding Powder
- Blinding Powder
- Burning Liquid
- Reinforced Fabric
- Lotus Pollen
Each of these is broken down into various forms of various potency based on how difficult it is to make. Exploding Powder, for example, begins as basic flash paper, which is of little damage and maybe nominal use as a distraction to strike fear on those that witness it in action. Further up the difficulty curve lie Explosives, which are far more capable in dealing horrendous damage upon their targets.
Here we go, real Sorcery is a suite of powers keyed to a Talent tree. Each talent gained unlocks more and more secrets, including Petty Enchantments. Sorcery is a path that is never taken lightly, and begins with finding a Patron, often an older mentor or some sort of supernatural agent that is willing to unlock the secrets of the supernatural for the Sorcerer. The demands that these patrons ask for is steep however, and many Sorcerer’s find the price too high to pay.
Spellcasting in Conan requires that a Sorcerer spend a Minor Action to Focus. In addition, all failed dice in a Spellcasting skill test is treated as a Complication with 20’s counting as two Complications! Furthermore every spell requires at least 1 Resolve to cast, with a host of dangerous outcomes for the Complications incurred. Needless to say spellcasting in the setting is not for the faint of heart… or sane of mind.
The spells themselves in Conan are perhaps not as numerous as in most other RPGs, but each and every one of them is flavorful and appropriate to the setting. Here’s a lovely example in time for Valentine’s Day:
I Will Take Your Heart!
Difficulty: Epic (D5), includes Dismember, Wound of Sorcery (2), and Overwhelming Agony
With this spell, you can reach out, clutch your hand, and as you do so, your target’s heart is grasped and crushed. If the attack is lethal, the heart is pulled free from its cage of muscle and bone, flying across the intervening space and landing with a hideous wet slap into your outstretched hand. This is a Close attack, 4 Combat Dice, Intense, Piercing 3, Vicious 2.
And with that we’ll end today’s entry for Let’s Study. Sorcery in Conan is brilliantly done, and has a strongly thematic component making it an excellent addition to the countless horrors of the setting.
Next up, we’ll be taking a look at Encounters and the various types of enemies to be encountered in Conan!