Nice to see the Conan RPG is still discussed!
I wish there were more of us!
I only have the Atlantean Edition, but the snippets about the distribution of character level in the 2E book are intriguing, since those are more or less the guidelines I have applied in my games; in particular, there have never been, nor there will ever be, 10th level commoners.
Yes, I think the game plays well that way, too. If you need an NPC, it's much easier to create a 3rd level character than it is an 8th level one. As I learn the game it gets easier and easier. I could create a Barbarian by memory, I think.
Next Sunday I am going to start a new Conan campaign after a few years of hiatus, and I have been re-reading the core book to re-acquaint myself with the material, and indeed, I still agree with what Malcadon said about the game being exceedingly convoluted.
Well, it is. That's a function of its d20 roots. D&D has always been the most complicated RPG in existence, no matter what edition or era to which you're referring. I remember back in the 80's, looking at AD&D and AD&D 2E, then looking at just about any other game of the day: my favorites were Fasa's Star Trek, WEG's Star Wars, the original Traveller, Top Secret/SI, James Bond, and a few others. ALL OF THEM are easier games to master than ANY of the D&D versions to date.
So, yes, the Conan RPG is convoluted requiring a long, long learning curve to master. I've been playing the game for over three years now, and I've still got a lot learn. In no way do I have the game mastered yet (not like I did AD&D back in the day, when I could quote you just about anything you needed to know, on the spot, without opening a book).
But, if you think about it, the complexity of the various D&D versions, and thus, Conan as well, is a blessing and a curse. It does take longer to learn, but the complexity also adds an intriguing layer to the game. In Classic Traveller, you go through the character generation process and you're done. In WEG's D6 Star Wars game, you build a character by assigning dice to your stats and skills, and you're done. Not so with d20 and Conan. There are all these neat options to explore. Gaining levels, and thus, new abilities, is....fun!
Players like going up a level and finally getting a new feat, or more skill points, more hit points, more BAB bonuses, etc, etc.
That reward aspect of the game is quite convoluted, but it also brings a neat, intriguing, addicting aspect to the game as well, where players, after gaining a new level, ponder over, "What! Am I going to do with my character now! Which combination of choices will I enjoy playing?"
Two edged sword. Frustrating and Addicting at the same time.
But this time I am not going to sweat it. I will simplify NPC creation, creating only the basic stats and giving only the feats and skills that they need for the role they play in the scenario.
Absolutely! That's exactly what I do. Did you see my post on that earlier? Only create what you need. If you need to flesh an NPC out later that you created on the spot, well, you can do that in-between games, keeping the choices you made in-game. There's no reason to developed full NPC stat blocks when the majority of that info will never be used.
Many times, I don't worry about stats at all. I just describe the character I see in my head.
"There's big, strongly built, ruffian type sitting at the table. The bangs of his deep black hair looks like it was ripped off or cut with a rock, and you guess it would be a thick, unkept mess if the man hadn't pulled the corase stuff behind his skull and tied it with a strap of leather.
"His hands are big. They lay on the table like two raw chicken carcases. A leathern jack of beer sits in front of him, but it remains untouched. In fact, you notice that the man isn't moving at all--he seems to be staring at the entrance, intent upon the thick oak door."
There you go. There's an NPC, ready to play and interact with the characters--and I haven't created a single stat for him.
If, as the game progresses, I do need stats, I'll either assign them or roll them, editing the outcome to comply with what I've already established about the character.
For example, if I do put stats on this guy, I won't be putting his lowest stat into STR. And, although I haven't played him yet, I don't think I'd put his highest stat into CHR.
But, I'll never do either until I need
stats for the character, and in game, I'll be quick about it.
I am also ditching attacks of opportunity, using simpler mechanics; same goes for the grappling rules (two pages?!?!)
What is it about Attacks of Opportunity that makes people think it is so complicated? It's very simple, really. Characters threaten the space 5 feet around them (which using non-reach weapons). For example:
Conan is in square X holding a broadsword, fighting a Pict warrior who occupies square B. If another Pict moves through ANY of the squares where Conan can attack (Conan "threatens" squares A,B, C, D, E, F, G, H), then Conan can attack them for free (an attack of opportunity).
Let's say another Pict, starting the round behind somewhere north of the C square, runs through squares C, E, and H, on Conan's right hand side, tring to attack Valeria, who is behind Conan. Technicaly, Conan is allowed THREE free attacks (AoO's), because an AoO is triggered every time a threatened square is left. So, this new Pict that is running to attack Valeria, has triggered three attacks by Conan against himself: It happens when the Pict leaves square C, when the pict leaves ssquare E, and when the pict leaves square H.
A single character can only take advantage of a limited number of AoOs in any one round. Characters can take advatage of only 1 AoO per round unless the character has a feat that says otherwise.
Thus Conan, with no Feat that increases his AoO's, can only attack the Pict that runs by him once. Since Conan has 3 opportunities, the player can choose which attack Conan does take.
The Pict moves, and Conan's player decides to attack the Picts as it leaves the last square H. Resolve that attack then resume the fight between Conan and the Pict in square B as normal.
It's pretty simple.
There are a few more technicalities, here and there, but that's the gist of it.
I am also evaluating whether to remove DR, AP etc. and return to plain old AC (DR -2 should be a good approximation to AC bonus, IMO.)
I wouldn't do that, either. I think that stuff gives Conan it flavor, separate from other d20 games and Pathfinder. I love the Combat Maneuvers as well.