Conan discussion


For those interested, there is currently an interesting discussion regarding the new Conan RPG on, and a thoroughly interesting discussion it is too!

Jonny Nexus

Heron said:
For those interested, there is currently an interesting discussion regarding the new Conan RPG on, and a thoroughly interesting discussion it is too!

Anyone without access to a newreader can pick up the discussion on Google Groups, here:

Jonny Nexus

Heron said:
Thanks for that, JN, much obliged.

No problem - I only skimmed the discussion, but it looked quite interesting. (I'm not quite sure how to take the apparently snappy comment along the lines of, "Oh you're the writer so I suppose you expect us to listen to you" - I think it was a joke, but I'm not entirely sure).


With the very kind permission of the original author (of the thread), the initial post (slightly edited since first posted) has been reproduced here (with apologies for poor formatting).

At the posters request, here are his details:

Douglas Bailey <>

(I hope this is all okay by Mongoose. I don't want to break any rules! I just thought that the thread was an interesting one and might warrant discussion here. I'm NOT trying to start a flamewar, people.)


I picked up Mongoose Publishing's _Conan_ OGL game at my FLGS yesterday,
and while it's not perfect, I'm interested in some of the game-system
tweaks the designers have included.

These include (mostly from memory, so incomplete and possibly not entirely

* Races: All races are actually just different human cultures, though
they're still distinguished in game terms. Characters from a given
race/culture gain "background skills": 2 ranks -- regardless of cross-class
status -- in a couple of specified skills.

* Favoured Class: Characters gain bonus feats for taking multiple levels in
their race's favoured class(es), rather than suffering penalties for taking
levels outside them. (Bonuses at levels 1/5/10.)

* Ability Score Increases: In addition to the standard single-ability
increases at levels 4/8/12/16/20, characters gain a one-point bonus to
*all* ability scores at levels 6/10/14/18.

* Hit Dice: All character classes have either d6, d8 or d10 hit dice. Hit
dice are capped at 10th level: from there on out, you get +1 hit point for
a d6 HD, +2 hit points for a d8 HD or +3 hit points for a d10 HD.

* Classes: Barbarian, Borderer [Ranger], Nomad, Noble, Pirate, Scholar,
Soldier [Fighter], Thief [Rogue].

* Class Abilities: Too many changes/new ideas to list in full, but a few
that come to mind are: making the Barbarian's rage ability (here called
"Crimson Mist") dependent on making a Will save against a terrifying foe
rather than usable at will; giving archery-using Borderers (Rangers) the
Shot On The Run feat instead of Manyshot; and giving Thieves (Rogues) the
ability to choose "sneak attack styles" with particular weapons that let
them do d8s instead of d6s for sneak attack damage.

* Codes of Honor: No alignment, but there are two specific (barbarian,
civilised) "Codes of Honor" which dictate what their practitioners will and
won't do. There are some minor-but-nice benefits for having a Code: you get
a +3 morale bonus to Will saves (doubled to +6 against Corruption saves)
and a +2 bonus to Reputation. There's also a nice interaction with
Corruption points: a Corrupt character gets a bonus (equal to his
Corruption points) to social skills when interacting with other evil
critters, but takes that same number as a penalty when interacting with a
character who possesses a Code of Honour.

* Reputation: Based on level and Cha, but affected by actions. Reputation
penalises Disguise and affects social skills (which ones dependent on the
*type* of Reputation: Brave helps Bluff and Intimidate; Honest helps Bluff,
Sense Motive and Gather Information; Coward penalises Intimidate but helps
Bluff and Gather Information, and so on). There's a table showing how your
Reputation travels: you'll have different Reputation scores in different
cities or lands. Reputation also decays: for every three months you spend
with no other change in your Reputation score, you lose a point. Gotta keep
your exploits fresh in people's minds if you want to be remembered. :)

* Money: Characters start with a "budget" which can't be kept if not spent.
(And everyone starts off too poor, like 1e AD&D.) Characters automatically
spend 50% of their wealth per week, so they always have a reason to go

* Fate Points: Like the Hero Point mechanism. You can spend a Fate Point
to: [a] get a break in the story (find a loose rock to break your chains
with, etc.); repent and lose a point of Corruption (more on this
subject later); [c] turn an attack into a Massive Blow (do max. damage on
an attack that's already hit, but you break your weapon in the process); or
[d] be Left For Dead when you reach -10 hp (stabilise at -10, seemingly
dead to inspection: if no-one comes along to heal you, you can make a Fort
save to reach -9 hp, otherwise you still die.)

* Feats: Some nice new ones I haven't seen before. Steely Gaze lets you
make a combat Intimidate check (to demoralise your foe) as a free action
instead of a standard action. Menacing Aura (which requires Steely Gaze and
about level 15) lets you make such a check as a free action against *any*
foe who comes within 15 feet of you. Fighting-Madness is the barbarian rage
ability, here available to anyone. Also feats for sorcery: Ritual Sacrifice
and the like, used to increase the harvest of Power Points from a victim
(see Sorcery, below).

* Dodging and Parry: Dodging and shields add to Defence Value (=AC). Dodge
and Parry are used separately: you can use either one against most attacks,
but not both. Character classes have "Base Dodge" and "Base Parry" bonuses
by level as well as Base Attack (soldiers are better at parrying, for
instance, while pirates are better at dodging... and scholars are equally
lousy at both). You can't parry ranged weapons (though your shield will
help you dodge them). If you haven't got at least one empty square adjacent
to you, you suffer a -2 dodge penalty. There's no touch AC: you just *have*
to use dodge against touch attacks.

* Armour: Armour gives (fixed) DR rather than affecting the hit roll. Helms
add +1 or +2 DR, but heavier helms give a penalty to Listen/Spot rolls.
Weapons have Armour Piercing values: if your weapon AP plus your Str bonus
(if applicable) equals or exceeds the target's armour DR, the DR only
counts at half strength. A hit that gets 20 points of damage past armour
reduces that armour's DR by 1d4: this can be repaired if caught before the
armour is reduced to DR 0.

* Finesse: There is no Weapon Finesse feat: all finesse weapons are marked
on the weapon table. Finesse attacks use the Armour Piercing mechanism, but
you don't add your Str bonus, so you're unlikely to get half DR... but any
finesse attack with a margin of success equal to or greater than the
defender's DR bypasses that DR *entirely*. Finesse attacks don't damage armour.

* Weapons: Heavier weapons do slightly more damage than in D&D. A light
mace or basic axe does 1d8; a heavy mace, battleaxe or broadsword does
1d10; a war (bastard) sword does 1d12; and a greatsword does 2d10. So it's
a little easier to get through DR than in straight D&D, though the general
absence of magical weapons -- see below -- makes it harder to accumulate
truly hefty damage scores.

* Multiple Opponents: When a character is attacked by multiple opponents in
the same round, each opponent after the first gets a cumulative +1
circumstance bonus to attack rolls. (The example is a character with his
back to a wall being attacked by five opponents. The first attacks at
normal Atk bonus, the second at Atk+1, the third at Atk+2, and so on.) This
bonus stacks with the normal flanking bonus, if that's also applicable.

* Combat Manoeuvres: Mostly based upon specific passages from the Howard
stories, these are like feats, but don't require any feat slots to use: if
you meet the prerequisites, you can use the manoeuvre. Some of them (Low
Charge) are just handy variants on standard combat actions; a couple
(Decapitating Slash, Desperate Stab) are one-shot fight-enders if they
work, though these have very tough prerequisites. Most of the manoeuvres
are more like Human Shield, which lets you use a grappled foe to parry
with, or Pantherish Twist, which lets you force flanking attackers to
attack each other instead of you. These are fun and feel *very* Conan to
me: Pantherish Twist even has a supporting quote from REH.

* More Combat: The Massive Damage threshold is only 20 hp, and the save is
harder (DC 10 + 1/2 damage inflicted). Initiative addes the Reflex save
modifier as well as the Dex modifier (so Dex counts *twice*). Heavy armour
only reduces a 30 ft. speed character to 25 ft. speed. Everything else --
criticals, special manoeuvres, action types, AoOs, etc. -- works pretty
much as in D&D v3.5.

* Sorcery: Power Point-based magic system (the only magic system in the
game: priests, shamans and sorcerers all draw upon the same sources). Nine
schools of magic (Counterspells, Curses, Divination, Hypnotism, Nature
Magic, Necromancy, Oriental Magic, Prestidigitation, Summonings), with only
a few (fairly powerful by D&D standards) spells listed for each school. No
healing magic to speak of. (There's another book, _The Scrolls of Skelos_,
due out at some point: that's supposed to offer more spells and magical
traditions. Maybe healing will be in there?) The only class that gets
sorcery "built-in" is the Scholar, and even they have the option to take
non-magic bonus feats instead. But there's a Dabbler feat that lets *any*
character gain a little sorcerous knowledge and a few spells from one of
three schools.

* Power Points: Beginning scholars get (4 + Wis bonus) Power Points: this
increases slowly with level. Spell costs from 1 to 20+ PP. Casters can gain
temporary PP over their normal limit by stealing them from helpless foes,
or by ritual sacrifice (the slower and more painful the better), or through
other magical rituals with multiple celebrants. Masters can take PP (or
give them) to their linked apprentices. Characters without PP suffer Wis
damage instead if they're drained (but the drainer still gets PP from the

* Sorcerous Rules: The Rule of Success gives a sorcerer a morale bonus to
attack rolls based upon the number of foes he has killed in the previous
round. It also dictates that any spell which succeeds may be cast again the
next round at half cost. The Rule of Impermanence dictates that sorcerous
spells and constructions are destroyed when the caster dies (and probably
when he goes below 0 hp, too: there's a DC 25 Will save for each). The Rule
of Defense allows a desperate sorcerer to make a "defensive blast" as a
free action: it burns off all his Power Points and does 1d6 fire damage
(within a 10 ft. radius) per PP expended. The Rule of Obsession says that a
sorcerer who becomes obsessed with anything besides sorcery (say, love)
loses 1-3 PP permanently... unless he incorporates his obsession into
himself (say, by sacrificing his loved one), in which case he gains them
back and gets an additional 1-3 PP besides. Icky.

* Consequences of Sorcery: Dealing with evil powers gives sorcerers
Corruption points and/or madness. Corruption points affect Cha-based skills
(positively when dealing with evil/Corrupt creatures, negatively when
dealing with characters with Codes of Honor) and have other side effects:
the more Corruption a character has, the more screwed-up he'll be both
physically and mentally. If you reach 10+ points of Corruption, you're
permanently possessed by a demonic entity. There's also Runaway Magic:
certain powerful spells, if cast too often, require a Will save, with
consequences of failure running the gamut from minor burnout (temporary PP
loss) to "fate worse than death" (sorcerer is pulled into hell and
eternally damned, his body is possessed by demonic entities, and an area of
1d6 miles radius around him is devastated by magical forces, doing 20d6 to
everyone in it). Very icky.

* War of Souls: Basically a sort of magical/spiritual grapple used to drain
Power Points from an opponent. Not entirely unlike psionic combat, though
much simpler (draining PP is really the only option) and with no need for

* Magic Items: Almost none. Mostly useful for sorcerers: basically no such
thing as straightforward +n weapons or armor.

* Treasure and Wealth: Characters who find a treasure hoard worth 100,000
sp or more have to make a Will save (DC 15 + 1 for each additional 100,000
sp) or be *distracted* by the loot: for the next 2d6 rounds, they suffer a
-4 penalty to Listen/Spot/Search rolls not directly related to the
treasure. (If the treasure is cursed or otherwise magically tainted, it's a
Corruption save and characters who blow it are seriously treasure-obsessed
for an hour: they can only take moves *or* standard actions, not both, and
suffer the above penalties plus an additional -2 on attacks and
non-Appraise skill checks. They can try to save again each hour.) I think
this rule is (a) really, really funny; and (b) very true to the spirit of
the Howard stories, in which gold-lust overrules the good sense of many a

The game also includes a full gazetteer of Hyboria, stats for animals and
monsters, a poisons listing, and notes on Hyborian campaigns. The only
obvious thing missing is stats for Conan himself (and other famous
characters from the stories): it looks as if those were meant to be
included, but were instead pulled out for release in a separate supplement
(_Road of Kings_). I don't feel ripped off (it's a 352-page full-colour
book!), but this seemed like a weird choice to me.

The physical book itself is very nice: good map on the endpapers,
decent-to-fabulous art, reasonably clear layout (though I'm not crazy about
the page borders). It's not quite perfect (the header typeface isn't the
clearest, there are several minor typos, mostly of the "weforgot to
putaspace here" variety, and the character sheet design is less than
optimal), but it's still closer to a WotC book in quality than to most of
the other products I've seen by Mongoose.

I'll be interested to see how the various mechanical changes affect the
game. The obvious one is that characters get hit much more often (the Dodge
and Parry DVs are much lower than comparable D&D characters' ACs), but
damaged less often (since *everyone* has DR). I'd like to see how -- and
*if* -- this changes the feel of the game.

It's possible that some of these changes are Bad Ideas (I'm still not
certain about the Hit Die cap, in particular). But I do think this is an
excellent example of how to tweak mechanics to add flavour: the game
*feels* very much like Howard to me, and I'm looking forward to trying it.





Jonny Nexus said:
(I'm not quite sure how to take the apparently snappy comment along the lines of, "Oh you're the writer so I suppose you expect us to listen to you" - I think it was a joke, but I'm not entirely sure).
Just act like it was. That way if they really intended insult they have to come out an be utterly blint about it. Respond with a little smiley faced 'world domination' type comment that comes across as clear as possible as if you had assumed they were making a joke.

That's good advice for a lot of situations online, and advice I myself could use following a little more often, :wink: