[CONAN] GM's Closet



I've tried to use this in the game several ways. I've spoken about this several times before. Here is how I've come to use it, and I think this is the best way to use Demoralize Other in your games.

First, make a simple change. The description says that Demoralize Other can only be used on a target that is threatened in melee combat. It's a standard action to attempt Demoralize Other. Not many players are going to give up an attack for the entire round in order to attempt to demoralize their opponent.

I suggest that you change the range to 30 foot. That's the range of evil eye. It's also within Charge Range. In making that one change, you make the use of Demoralize Other very useful to your players.

Take this scene from the 1982 version of Conan The Barbarian....


Skip that video to about 2:38. Valeria has just ended a combat round by killing one of the new guards. She spins around to face two more in her way, and she looks at them and slaps her hand on her bloody sword blade.

Obviously, Valeria has initiative, and the foes are less than 30 feet away.

Valeria uses her standard action to Demoralize her foe. She wins the toss, so the enemy is demoralized until just before their second action (all through this action to just before they get to move again).

The GM, playing the guards, has the NPCs hesitate (wait action).

Valeria then uses the Combat Maneuver, Use The Battlefield, with her Tumble skill, to kick off the wall and come down on one of the foes. She moves about 20 feet, tumbles off the wall, and comes down with an attack. She gets +2 attack because of the successful Use The Battlefield tumble, and the foes are -2 to attack her--because they are demoralized.

The Re-Try wording of the Intimidate skill is a bit confusing, but what it means is this: You can keep attempting to use your Intimidate skill every round until your foe is successful in ignoring you. Then, the foe auto-wins any Intimidate attempt.

So, you've got to roll every time you use it. And, it is a standard action every time that you use it. If you ever fail to use it, then your foe can no longer be intimidated by you in that way.

Example, you do what Valeria did. You successfully use Demoralize Other on round one. On round two, you attack, using Use The Battlefield, which is a free action--you can combine it with other actions, like the Move/Tumble that Valeria does, coming down with your attack (and the +2 bonus).

Round three, you attempt Demoralize Other again, but your foe wins the toss. You are unsuccessful.

Now, you're done using that particular use of Intimidate on that particular foe at this time.

I would definitely allow a bonus in the Demoralize Other attempt (a +1 or +2 modifier) if the character attempting to Intimidate is wearing some fierce war paint or some hideous great helm (and so on, etc).

from Savage Sword of Conan: The Cult of Koga Thun

Here's some ideas to develop and use in your Conan game. As it says above, these are from, and inspired by, the new Marvel comic.

Flesh Shell: Conan fights a monster. It's a large snake man--basically, a serpent with arms ending in shoulders and a head. But, when Conan first encounters them, they look like normal men.

This isn't explained in the story, except for the shell (which is too small and not shaped to fit the serpent men), so I imagine this to be some sort of illusion magic where the material component is the flesh--a sack--of a human body (or several human bodies sewn together). The magic must be in allowing the illusion to work, so that the snake men look like humans. The flesh shell is real, being a component, and the serpent men must exit the shell in order to move freely.

You could further limit this spell by making the flesh deteriorate slowly, to where new flesh must be obtained and prepared every two or three days or so.


Dust: In the story, Conan finds a finely carved, rich looking cask--a box. It is locked. Conan steals the box and breaks the lock only to find it filled with a fine, sand-like grit. This is a dust that, when inhaled, made Conan see visions.

In truth, the visions are a map to some long forgotten Valusian treasure. The treasure map is now in Conan's brain. Where he looks, he sees symbols--runes--floating in the air, like eye spots when one looks at the sun too long.

Following the symbols will lead the person with the map to the treasure.

The sorcerer in the story, Koga Thun, cast a spell to make the map come to him. Conan comes, and Thun realizes that Conan--and his vision--is the map.

That's pretty cool.

You could do other foreshadowing things with dust like this. Maybe even use the dust (a special type of grave dust?) for different purposes?

Thrall Poison: Koga Thun has a tattoo of a writhing snake on his forarm, with the head pointing to his wrist.

Use 1: He grabs one of Conan's friends by the wrist. The snake comes alive and strikes the held hand, biting it. Poison is delivered.

Over a short time--hours, it seems--where the person was struck turns dark green and scaly, like a snake. Soon, Thun can speak to the affected from a distance, straight into the person's mind. Taunting him. Making him promises if he will do Thun's bidding.

At some point, the the poison encapsulates the entire arm of the victim and then starts on the head. They eyes turn as serpents, and now Thun can see out of the affected's eyes.

Eventually, the person will become a thrall. Thun can control the person by giving him the willpower to act on his own. Or, he can have the thrall stand blankly and do only the mechanical things Thun tells him to do.

In one scene, Thun is trying to convince Conan's friend to betray the barbarian, and when this is refused, Thun uses other thralls like voodoo dolls. Thun slashes the throat of a thrall, and Conan's friend feels the horrible pain in h is throat. That sort of thing.

In order to see out of the thralls eyes and communicate with the affected, Thun uses a large bowl (made of copper? brass? gold?) filled with water. In the water, Thun sees his visions.

Some thralls act like devoted followers, like stormtroopers. They're on their own, not in contact with Thun (or, are they?), operating on their own. These men are humanoid, but their entire bodies are scaly, like a snake's. They have sharp ridges on their bald heads.


Use 2: Evidently, Thun can delivery poison that causes death. The tattoo snake can strike in either form as described in Use 1 or Use 3. I'm sure this would be a poison save.

Use 3: If Thun needs a weapon, the tattoo snake comes alive and crawls up his arm into his hand and becomes hard, like a cudgel. This reminds me of the snake arrow in the 1982 Conan film--the one that Thulsa Doom fires at Valeria.

Corruption: As covered in the game, Koga Thun seems to be changed due to dark sorcerous corruption.


And, there is a pretty cool moment, when Conan kills Thun, that the dead sorcerer bursts open, and instead of guts and bone and tissue, we see his skin acted like a big bag of snakes. Snakes burst out of Thun's torso and slither off across the ground.

Thought: Could this be a way that Thun resurrects himself? The snakes come together again? A Defensive Blast spell that resurrects when the snakes merge again?

I read this in a Thieve's World story. I thought the command trigger was cool. A character wore a magical amulet--a protect amulet. In order to activate the magic, three truths about the attacker (from which the amulet protects the wearer) must be spoken.

In the story, the wearer said, "You're beautiful. You're dangerous...and foreign here."

He feared attack by this beautiful woman, new in Sanctuary. Since what is spoken must be true, I think this could lead to some interesting moments in a game.

And, the magic item doesn't have to be about protection...

I've started reading the above, and the first thing that struck me is that this story arch is perfect to be adapted to the roleplaying game.

The backstory is that there is a prince in Argos who wants to break away with his holdings from the rest of the kingdom. You may or may not know that Argos has an unusual political structure. Argos is a kingdom with the king in Messantia. But, the royal rule is not absolute, and rule in Argos is complicated, to say the least. Much of this is covered in the Conan RPG hardback for Argos and Zingara.

The cities along the coast are quite powerful, as they are centers of trade. Though they are official part of the kingdom, often the cities act as if they were independent city states with a loose alliance with the rest of the kingdom.

The interior of Argos is ruled under typical Hyborian Feudal Law. The interior of the kingdom is broken down into Duchies and Baronies. These lords control the mines, the timber industry, and the fields that feed the rest of the kingdom.

Add to this the Merchants. Several in the Merchant's Guild are just as powerful as royalty, and they contend with the leaders of the coastal cities and the Feudal Lords of the interior.

Lastly, there is the Church of Mitra, which is weakest of these power centers listed, but still maintains a powerful grip on the kingdom.

The comic beings telling of a prince who has rebelled against the king. This could be one of the interior feudal lords, or it could be one of the leaders of one of the coastal cities wanting to go independent--officially independent--from the rest of the kingdom.

The king in Messantia puts his army to the field against the prince.

The prince has hired mercenaries, specifically, Olag's Company. Olag is a Vanirman leading a horde of international toughs. The PCs will be part of Olag's group, specifically, they are a scouting unit--a group of merc in the employ of Olag.

The story in the comic focuses on this scouting party. Red Sonja leads it. This is one of the reasons I think this comic is primed to be an adventure for the Conan RPG.

In the first issue of the story, the main body meets the Messantian army on the field, and Olag is defeated. The Vanirman is out-right killed.

You may want to play this out using the Mass Combat System or the Narrative combat system provided in The Free Companies hardback.

Or, you can just use the battle as background narration with the PC scouting party out away from the fighting, as was the case with the story in the comic.

The Scout party is charged with finding a Messantian messenger. Olag suspects that the messenger will be bringing in reinforcements from the flanks, so it is imperative that the messenger is found before he can deliver his message.

Twist #1: The messenger is discovered. This might be a good opportunity to let the tracker character in the PC group shine. But, the messenger is not an Argossean. He's a Stygian. A Stygian messenger.

Now, the group may surmise that the reinforcements are actually sorcerers. And, that should put the heebie-jeebies into the PCs, coming from this very low magic world (especially in Argos, where sorcery is outlawed).

Twist #2: The PCs hear that Olag has been defeated, and the smart thing to do is leave Argos before the Messnantian army finds them. The Stygian says--to keep his life--that he is worth coin. His Order in Stygia will pay his ransom.

Following this lead is as good as going in another direction. It leads out of Messantia, and the PCs start the game on the border with Shem.

They pass into the Meadowlands of Shem, coming to a City-State named Persemhia. It is here the Stygian says where his comrades are waiting, and that the PCs must go to the Sleeping Scorpion tavern to make contact and present the ransom.

The PCs do this, but the tavern turns out to be an ambush, where, hopefully, the PCs vanquish all of the Stygian foes.

These "twists" can be a good way for the PCs to use their Knowledge skills, for, in the comic story, Red Sonja knows that many Stygian messengers have messages scripted on their backs using blood magic. Sonja dips her blade into Stygian blood and drops it on the bare back of her captive (who is now dead). And, runes appear on the dead man's back.

Interesting, huh?

Cool starting set of encounters for a campaign?

I thought so.

The omnibus is a collection of 15 individual comics, all connected by one big, epic story.

Obviously, this can be a campaign!

You just need to put the elbow work into creating characters and changing what you need to change in order to get this to fit your group.

I think it is pretty cool.