Conan After-Action Report

I read the following at a Conan fansite called Argosy of Blood. I was wondering what everyone else thought about the points made by the author of the site. From what I read on the site he runs a great game and I don't think I would have been become disinterested in the style or presentation. In fact I'm stealing many of his ideas for my game.

The following was found at this website:

Conan After-Action Report

After having run 12-sessions of Conan, I offer the following critique and lessons learned.

Critique: The writing, character creation, combat rules, and magic system do an excellent job at capturing the feel of the stories. However, ...

Character creation has far too many situation-specific bonuses and penalties and exceptions such as "+2 only in the desert" or "-2 while on foot" or "..unless you possess the Gouge feat" etc.. Individually, they're okay and logical. But taken as a whole, there are a LOT of them to keep track of, and almost all are cumulative, but some only in one circumstance and others in another circumstance. It becomes unneccesarily burdomsome. Many of the feats in the sourcebooks, such as "Choke", would be better as Combat Maneuvers.

The Combat maneuvers, Finesse Attacks, and Death Save are excellent genre-appropriate additions. There are, however, some new options that are easily unbalancing. "Feint + Sneak Attack + Death Save = Instant Kill!" makes Thieves more combat effective than soldiers. Also, the Combat Maneuvers don't kick in early enough. The Finesse Attacks are still very difficult to pull off. Archery is completely ineffective against armor.

The sourcebook information is excellent and filled with lots of information. However, the main rulebook needs more generic human NPC's, city maps, and adventure ideas or hooks.

Which leads me to a big lesson learned: Start small and local. Give the players places they WANT to explore.

Conan stories are episodic, story-driven, and lead from locale to locale. Unfortunately, RPG stories don't always work like Conan stories, so some adaptation has to be made. I ran my game as a story-driven adventure with lots of travel and political intrigue, just like the Conan stories. I even adapted some Conan stories into my campaign. Unfortunately, the players, with a lone exception, had never read any Conan stories and were more accustomed to D&D locale-specific dungeon-driven games. The players just didn't care about the world or what options they had, thus their choices were random and lacked any enthusiasm.

In thinking back on old D&D games, the thing that made the players interested in the world was having a map of the local area in front of them with interesting sounding locations that made the players WANT to go there, if just to see what it was like there. "Tower of Death? Sounds cool! Let's go check it out!" Also, by starting small and staying in roughly the same place, the players get to meet and know NPCs on a recurring basis and foreign political intrigue holds no interest to the player. By travelling all the time, it's hard to meet an NPC more than once. Knowing NPC's adds incredible depth to a campaign and adds to a sense of place and increases enthusiasm for the world and its stories. Local political intrigue is much more important to the player than plots involving people they just met.

Next time, if I get to run Conan again, I'll keep it local and give the players a map of the local area. I'll keep the NPC's consistent and involve the players and their characters in local political intrigue rather than have them stumble into intrigue while travelling.


Evilschemer posted this way back when

Its interesting reading this again after so much time (almost two years). I am definetly on board with his coments about RPG's working better with a more connected narative. My first campaign was also of the "episodic tales" style and it was a lot of fun but I don't think I'd do it again. My current campaign is going to be a lot more tight both in locale and in the cast of NPC's.

He is still wrong about sneak attacks though. :wink: