[Let’s Study: Conan] Part 7: GM Chapters and Review

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Today we’re tackling the last parts of the Conan book, with a quick glance at the remaining chapters!

The Hyborean World

This is the dense setting chapter that talks about the world that Conan inhabits. Remember when I said way back at the start of this series that the RPG book is probably the most extensive treatment of Robert E. Howard’s worldbuilding? Well, that shines through in this chapter.

Each of the regions in The Hyborean World is given exhaustive treatment, with a discussion of geography, cultures, the people, customs and conflicts of each. Needless to say each of these is also filled to the brim with plot hooks and adventure ideas that could launch a ton of campaigns. GMs can zoom in and have a solid series of adventures around a given region like Aquilonia, for example, or do the Conan thing and go whole hog on a travelling campaign where the characters find themselves in new and exotic locales in every adventure.


This chapter is where the book breaks character to address the GM directly. In it, they relay the tasks and duties of a GM, and try to convey as many tips and tricks as possible to emulate the pulse-pounding thrills and chills of Conan’s pulp adventures.

In addition, there is also a long section talking about Momentum and Doom, and how to best use these resources to manage pacing and tension in a game.

Perhaps the most interesting section in this chapter is what happens between adventures. Whenever the characters aren’t off slaying creatures and escaping mummified sorceror-kings, they’re busy living their lives. This is tackled with mechanics for Upkeep and Carousing. This isn’t just simple task of wine and wenches, but an opportunity to engage in traditionally downtime activities like meeting with a patron, engaging in trade or gambling. These then become a source of adventure seeds and misadventures, giving the players a sense of the passage of time while engaging in (mostly) non-sword swingy pursuits.

Vultures of Shem

This is the introductory adventure found in the Conan RPG. It’s a brisk adventure that kicks off in a very pulp-y fashion, but to avoid spoilers I’ll refrain from talking about it in much detail. Needless to say, it starts with quite an opening, and depending on the decisions that the characters take they’ll run into all sorts of interesting (and despicable) characters, and have more than a few run-ins with the supernatural. It’s very appropriate given the source material and a great way to re-orient players away from the habits and expectations of other Fantasy games.

Heroes of the Age

This is the Kickstarter Backer character chapter, and they present a wide range of interesting characters that can be tossed into any Conan campaign. While whether or not they’re good is largely a matter of taste, many of them are pretty interesting, and I can spot a few that would make for interesting encounters in my campaigns. (If you’re the kickstarter backer who wrote up Hast, well done!)


Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of set off to become the definitive Conan RPG. While many have tried before them, Modiphius has managed to pull off this claim, coming up with a game that contains what could be best described as the very essence of Conan’s adventures.

Art & Layout

The artwork in the book is phenomenal, and well used, each one conveying the manic vibrance and urgency of Conan’s pulp adventures. While there was still a few instances of a naked lady being sacrificed in an altar, most of the other artwork showed sensibly-dressed women in situations of empowerment and adventure.

The layout is crisp and clean, and made reading the book a lot more pleasant. Callout boxes with and tables were used with consistency and an eye towards clarity, and even with the textured printer-unfriendly version, the background didn’t interfere with the ability to clearly read the text.

As a PDF product, the entire thing was bookmarked and searchable and quite snappy on my laptop (though perhaps a little less so on my mobile phone.)


Modiphius’ 2d20 House System feels like a perfect fit for Conan’s adventures, and the genius of the Momentum and Doom mechanics lie in their ability to affect the mood of the game and amplify tension.

Combat is crunchy, but every rule exists to support the fiction. Conan isn’t a place where combat is heroic. It’s visceral, practical and fraught with danger. Even if the player characters are meant to be exceptional individuals, there’s never a sense of an encounter being a cakewalk since the GM is always waiting in the wings with Doom in hand.


Would I recommend Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of to others? By all means, yes. If you’ve never played a different kind of Fantasy RPG, then you owe yourself to try this game.

If you’ve ever enjoyed Conan in any iteration, from the movies, the cartoon, the videogames or the stories then you owe yourself to try this game.

I’ve always had a strong preference for games whose rules are structured to promote a given feel and mood while simulating the “physics” of the fiction. The Conan RPG does this in a stellar fashion, with a crunchy set of mechanics that emulate the world of savage adventure inhabited by Conan in a way that I imagine will be very, very difficult to outdo.

The Conan RPG is now available for purchase in PDF format from DriveThruRPG for $24.99

[Let’s Study: Conan] Part 6: Encounters


After taking a peek at Sorcery, we’ll be going over the various threats and monsters that players can expect to run into in the Conan RPG.

Creature Categories

The RPG has five different categories for the encounters that the GM can throw at his players:

  • Minions – The most frequently encountered opponents, Minions fight with the normal rules, but do not have hit locations. They only roll 1d20 on tests and Stress equal to half the associate attribute, rounded down. They may not attempt Reactions or sacrifice armor or shields to ignore wounds. New Minions can be added to a scene by spending one Doom per Minion as long as there is a logical and plausible reason for reinforcements to show up.
  • Toughened – Are the category of a serious threat. Exceptional individuals among various lesser creatures tend to fall under this category. Toughened creatures act and fight with the same rules as player characters.
  • Nemesis – This is the most powerful category, representing “boss” type characters. These fight with the same rules as player characters, with multiple Harms and the ability to sacrifice armor and shields to ignore wounds.
  • Horrors – This category of encounter represents creatures called to being with a Summon a Horror spell.
  • Undead – This category represents creatures summoned by Raise Up The Dead spell.


Like the cultists in our Combat example, many adversaries work in groups. These are defined as either Mobs or Squads. Mobs are a disorganized rabble, while Squads are usually lead by a Toughened or otherwise exceptional leader.

Special Abilities

Creatures being what they are, possess a host of special abilities that allow them to exhibit immunities to certain types of damage, carry their own personal stash of Doom, cause characters to suffer mental damage upon seeing them, or even have alternate modes of movement, such as flight.

A Host of Horrors

As this point, the book offers a dizzying array of threats and opponents for our heroes. These range form mortal threats like Cultists and Savages, to Wild Beasts, Monsters and Horrors from Beyond. Finally, the list ends with a quick rundown of Characters of Renown, including the stats for celebrated characters such as Conan the Barbarian, Belit, Queen of the Black Coast, Valeria of the Red Brotherhood and Thoth-Amon of the Ring.

The Conan RPG has a huge selection of threats (as it should!) and any GM worth his salt will find something of use here. Each of the creatures presented could be the seed of a new adventure, and with a little elbow grease, anyone can come up with encounters here that feel like they were ripped from the pages of Robert E. Howard’s pulp stories!

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at Game Mastering Conan the RPG, and we’ll wrap up this Let’s Study series with a review of the game now that we’ve had a chance to go through all of it.

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

[Let’s Study: Conan] Part 5 Sorcery

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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.

Petty Enchantments

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
  • Upas-Glass
  • Reinforced Fabric
  • Talisman
  • 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!

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

[Let’s Study: Conan] Part 4a Combat Example: Sadiya vs Cultists


Welcome back!

We’ve spent quite a bit of time poring over the rules for Combat, so it’s time for us to start putting it into a bit of practice.

For the purpose of this example, we’ll be using Sadiya, our sample character from part 2 as she confronts a mob of Cultists in a forest at night. But before that we’ll have to go over a few quick rules again, just for the Cultists in question.

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[Let’s Study: Conan] Part 4 Combat

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I don’t think it’s possible for us to run a Conan RPG without having at least a little combat in it. Okay, a lot of combat. But you get what I mean, right?

Anyway, now that we’re familiar with the rules, and we have a sample character let’s jump in with both feet on the combat rules for Conan.

It’s another long one so check out the whole article after the break:

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[Let’s Study: Conan] Part 3 The Rules


Today we delve deeper into the mechanic that make Conan tick. Conan uses Modiphius’ proprietary 2d20 system, which it shares with the upcoming Infinity and John Carter of Mars RPGs.

Let’s get started, shall we?


We’ll be using two types of dice for Conan: the twenty-sided die (d20) and a six-sided die (d6). D20’s are rolled most often to determine whether or not a skill test succeeds. Sometimes, a d20 is also rolled to determine hit locations, but we’ll get to that when we talk about combat. The d6 on the other hand is used to roll Combat Dice, which is usually for the purposes of determining damage and special effects.

Combat Dice

This bit can be a little tricky, so I’ll cheat and show you the chart they use in the book to make it clearer:

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When you are asked to roll Combat Dice (or as abbreviated in the game, a Phoenix Symbol) read the values according to the table. Results of 1 and 2 count as their respective number in terms of damage, while results of 3 and 4 are disregarded. 5 and 6 on the other hand count as 1 damage plus an Effect.

These Effects trigger other things related to the damage dealing weapon or spell or circumstance. Some weapons deal further damage, or cause the target to fall over, or be stunned. It’s a neat little system that opens up a huge amount of neat tactical choices and ways to make weapons interesting, but we’ll get to that when we tackle combat.

Skill Tests

Now we go back to the d20’s. In Conan, when characters attempt to perform a task under duress, they roll a skill test. By default, they roll 2d20 and try to roll equal to or below a Target Number (TN) on each die to score a success. This TN is the sum of their Attribute and the Expertise rating of the Skill being tested.

For example:

Our Zamoran Thief Sadiya is attempting an Acrobatics Skill Test. Her TN would be the sum of her Agility Attribute (10) + her Expertise in Acrobatics (4), or 14.  Assuming a Difficulty of 1 (D1) meaning, that we only need 1 success to pass the skill test, we roll 2d20 and try to get as low as possible. We get an 18 and a 5, scoring the one success we need to pass the test!


As mentioned in the example above, some tests are harder than others. While most tests are at an average Difficulty of 1, others may require 2 or even 3 or more successes!

But how are you supposed to score more than 2 successes on just 2d20? Turns out, there’s a lot of ways, but more on that later, because there’s one more thing about Skill Tests.


Remember how each of the skill ratings in the game are expressed in two values: Expertise and Focus? Expertise is used to determine the TN of a skill test. The Focus, on the other hand expresses which values allow for scoring 2 successes on a single die.

Going back to our example, if Sadiya’s roll had been an 18 and a 4, then the 4 would have been in her Acrobatics Skill’s Focus rating of 4 and she would have scored 2 successes instead.


Another thing to remember is that rolling a 20 is usually bad news. Rolling a 20 means that the test results in a Complication. This doesn’t mean that the test fails (that depends on the Difficulty and number of Successes generated,) only that the test has made life a little more interesting for the players. Maybe something breaks, or guards are alerted of the presence of the characters. What’s more, rolling multiple 20’s means multiple Complications, which could lead to some very interesting situations indeed!

Improving Your Odds

Now, given that there are some higher Difficulty rating in the game, 2d20 isn’t going to cut it, and relying merely on you Focus scores to carry the day is foolhardy. Thankfully the Conan RPG has multiple ways of adding more dice to your pool.

There’s a hard cap of being able to gain a maximum of 3 additional d20’s to your roll, making 5d20 the most that any one person should be able to bring to bear to a given task. You can gain these bonus dice by:

  • Create Opportunity – By spending Momentum (a concept we’ll get to next,) a player can add dice at a 1 Momentum to 1d20 conversion rate. This of course assumes that the group has Momentum to spend.
  • Adding to Doom – This particularly ominous sounding option is identical to spending Momentum, except that you don’t need a resource available. Instead, you add 1d20 to the GM’s Doom pool for each 1d20 you’d like to add to your roll.
  • Spending Fortune – Characters begin the game with Fortune Points, which are a powerful resource. For each Fortune Point spent this way, the player gets a “Pre-rolled” d20 that is assumed to have come up with a result of 1, meaning an automatic 2 Successes! However, it is important to note that Fortune points must be spent before the rest of the dice are rolled.
  • Expending Resources – Some items have a finite amount of resource available for use. Each use of a resource grants bonus d20s, but it’s important to remember that in many adventures, replenishing resources is often difficult if not impossible when in the midst of danger.
  • Assistance and Teamwork – If player characters decide to work together on a single task, the character designated as leader is the only one who can spend to gain extra dice. However, all assistants roll their own skill tests, and add their successes to the total if the leader rolls and succeeds.


A lot of games these days already have something along the lines of Action Points. Conan has two types. Fortune Points are the first, which we’ve already covered. The second, is Momentum.

Momentum is generated by scoring successes beyond the Difficulty of a task. So if our sample character Sadiya were to roll two successes on a D1 task, then the extra success would then become Momentum.

Momentum is spent to achieve different effects, improved successes, gain useful bonuses or make future actions easier for themselves of their teammates. Momentum is neat in the sense that it is always spent when it is most advantageous to you. Unlike Fortune Points that require you to declare the spend before a roll, you can spend Momentum to boost damage after your damage roll.

Saving Momentum

You’re not obligated to spend all the Momentum you gain in a task. Instead you can actually bank unspent Momentum into a group pool, which can be added to or drawn from by any character in the group. This pool caps at six points of Momentum.

At the end of each scene, or each full round in an action scene, the shared Momentum pool decreases, with 1 point of Momentum disappearing, representing the cooling of tempers, the waning of enthusiasm, loss of energy or adrenaline beginning to ebb.

Momentum Spends

Momentum can be used for any number of interesting boosts that keep the session flowing at a brisk, pulpy pace. Things that players can use Momentum on include:

  • Create Opportunity (Immediate, Repeatable) – Add an additional d20 to a future skill test, with each point of Momentum spent granting a single bonus d20.
  • Create Obstacle (Immediate, Repeatable) – A character can choose to make things more difficult for a rival, adversary or opponent. This increases the Difficulty of a single skill test by one or more steps, by spending two Momentum for each increase in the test’s difficulty.
  • Obtain Information (Repeatable) – Each point of Momentum spent can be used to ask the gamemaster a single question about the current situation, item, object, structure, creature or character present in the scene at hand. The GM must then answer truthfully, but is not obligated to give complete information.
  • Improve Quality of Success (Often Repeatable) – Momentum allows a character to succeed stylishly and to immediately capitalize upon or follow up on a success.
  • Increase Scope of Success (Often Repeatable) – With Momentum, a character can affect additional targets, increase the area affected by a successful task, or otherwise enlarge the extent of an accomplishment.
  • Reduce Time Required – The GM reduces the amount of in-game time that a task requires to complete.

Needless to say Momentum is a powerful resource, and one that I expect will go up and down a lot during a game session.

It feels like a lot, but having had some practice with the system during my attempt to run the Quickstart Adventure, I can say that the 2d20 system is actually a lot faster in play than it is in theory. Next up in our series, we’ll take on the nuances of Action Scenes, and see if we can’t throw our sample character, Sadiya into some trouble.

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

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


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:

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