In non-chronological order



Has anyone here tried running their Conan games in a non-chronilogical order, such as the original stories were written? The use of levels in D20 seems well suited to moving PCs back in time to earlier parts of their career.

Recognising the limitations of an RPG, I don't think advancing into the future would be such a good idea as players would need to create PCs of high levels. However, I am currently thinking of going back in time to fill in some gaps between episodes. Specifically, our group will have played 3 episodes and just reached 3rd level. I am then considering running a episode set between episode 1 and 2, where the PCs were still 1st level. The PCs (off their own bat) have alluded to events that happened in this time. Also, due to a common theme playing out the earlier events as episode 4 after episode 3 will actually make the overall drama of the story better.

Going to an earlier episode, each player will simply grab out their Level 1 PC sheet. The only change will be Fate Points, which given they are a dramatic tool should be able to continue in a non-linear fashion.

Anyway, just an interesting thought.
We've talked about it.

Inherent problem:

Player: Okay, I'm now 2nd level, and I know I'm alive when I'm 5th level, so I know I won't die during this adventure, no matter what I do.


The character can't die, they just stabilize at -10 HP and eventually recover. That's fine. We all know Conan won't die when we read a story, right?

But there are fates worse than death! The character is captured and imprisoned, possibly even crucified or sentenced to death, thrown to a lion pit, etc., only to be saved at the last moment by a friendly NPC who now requires a favor in the future, say, around 5th level. The villain that captured them now wants revenge and will now return, etc.

Or the PC is sold into slavery for a few months. Skip ahead and role-play the break-out. The player may try unbelievably brave or foolhardy stunts because he knows he can't die, but even though he might think he has nothing to lose, you can pull out the rescue angle above.

Or the PC loses an important item, one that must now be recovered at 5th level.
Evilschemer said:
We've talked about it.

Inherent problem:

Player: Okay, I'm now 2nd level, and I know I'm alive when I'm 5th level, so I know I won't die during this adventure, no matter what I do.

I thought about this and alternative fates are one solution.

However, my solution lies in Fate points. In general, I have found that true death in Conan is rare as, though PCs have "died" on a number of occasions, the use of Fate Points keeps them coming back. I think this is very cool as it promotes a pulpier style of play (rather than always being cautious).

My idea is to make Fate Points a meta/drama tool. When we go back in time, each PC will regress to their earlier level, but retain their current Fate Point totals. If a PC spends Fate Points in the "flashback" scenario, it is gone and they don't get it back when we move forward again. In that sense, if a PC "dies" in the flashback scenario, they must spend a Fate point which penalises them as if they were playing the games in order.

If they don't have a Fate Point to spend, then I probably will make it 1 Fate Point in lieu which negates the first Fate Point rewarded in future scenarios.

This should work a treat.

Given the fact that Fate Points are essentially a dramatic tool that distinguishes "heroes" from nobodies, it makes sense that it be a metagame tool that is dramatically consistent but not necessarily temporally consistent.
Evilschemer said:
Inherent problem:

Player: Okay, I'm now 2nd level, and I know I'm alive when I'm 5th level, so I know I won't die during this adventure, no matter what I do.

This is true for all the out of sequence Conan stories as well. In general players in rpg expect to not die regularily anyway, so as long as they don't go out of there way to abuse it this isn't much of a problem. You can always use the threat of prison, lost fate points or permanent (previously unrealized!) afflictions, but really that shouldn't be necessary.

Another tack is to have flashbacks with different characters. I've also had success with players thinking their characters died (without actually telling them so!), only to have them come back later. This might be rough if players are really attached to their characters, but it's fun when it works.
This seems to be an excellent idea, suiting the easy come easy go attitude of wealth in Conan. This will definatly be something I'll come back to during my campaign.

Especially useful when the PC's get too high and mighty, with their high level characters, throw them into a situation with their lower level character. Something that would be easy for the current heroes but terrifying for the inexperianced characters... :wink:
Excellent idea ! Being a fan of the stories , one of the appeals of Conan is the way Mongoose have made an RPG that reflects the conventions of the fiction . As long as you have players that won't abuse not being able to die , It would work really well , especially the idea of " humbling " players who are used to high level play .
If they abuse their apparent immortality , kill them off and either have the story be a dream of one of the PC's ( cheesy , but they might rein themselves in as if it wasn't real , they wouldn't gain from it eg. clues from this session which wouldn't have occured to them until they viewed the events in retrospect , hence running this session further on in the campaign ) or it could be a story one of their enemies is putting about claiming they died , which could lead to all sorts of problems later eg. " You can't be him , I heard he died ! Hey this guy's trying to pass himself off as X... " cue reputation loss in their current location unless they can prove otherwise .
If your players are already coming up with backstories for their PC's it sounds like they're commited enough to the game not to abuse it . This would make an excellent S&P article as they seem to expand on the basics of the game ( solo play etc. ) , I'd be interested in reading more on this style of play . Sorry for the rambling post , but good idea !
Another amusing side effect is that it allows me to explain how certain items were lost between episodes as per the Conan rules. For example, in Episode 1 my PCs stole 2 horses. In Episode 2 they had no horses. When asked how they were lost I off the cuff said "they fell down a ravine". However, it was that comment followed by the PCs IC reactions that sparked the idea for the flashback Episode 4 :D
Doing this had never occured to me , but I'm definitely going to try it out now , the minor logistical problems aren't too hard to deal with and it sounds too much fun not to . While it brings the style of play even closer to the novels , it's also a good way to get around new players to Conan resenting their stuff going missing between sessions . Just wait until you come up with the bridging story and run it as a flashback . I'm interested in seeing what the other forum users think of this .
I actually set up my campaign in this format when the game was first released.

Initially I set up the players at 1st level, then asked them to complete characters to levels 3, 5, 7 and 9 to give them an indication of what may be aspired to. This was also a great gaming aid as it gave the players a sense of Saga in their gaming rather than straightforward play.

I then structured the adventures, as I saw fit depending upon my own mood, occaisionally springing some surprises on the players.

"Tonight we will be using the 7th level characters. What ! yes I know that you were rotting in a cell, but you did get out. Whats that? How? Well you'll find out some day."

"Yes, thats right you have lost the tip of your finger you really should have been more careful when- oh, don't worry you'll find out all right someday."

"Yes, it does say married, only one child thats right! Dont look at me like that, you're the one thats done it. What do you mean you dont remember who she was, thats strangely reminiscent of your father's behaviour too if I remember correctly. Yes, I would be worried too."

"No, nothing has apparently happened to you. Why are you looking at me like that, jees dont be so paranoid!"

In some respects this keeps the players on their toes and makes them desperate to know how this chain of events came into being.

On the down side it requires a lot of paperwork.

It was great fun though!