Other spells


I'm just starting up a Conan campaign and I'm fairly certain that one of my players (who wants to play a Scholar) will want to have far more elemental spells than are included in the Conan rules.

My question is whether more "D&D" type spells like Magic Missile, Fireball and Lightning Bolt are appropriate for a Conan setting?

I've not read any actual Conan novels (though that is something that is going to change) so I'm not sure if I'm about to loose a load of the flavour of the campaign world by creating more "D&D" like spells.

What do people think?

Thanks for any help.

First up: I'm no Howard expert by any means.

I think, though, that the kinds of spells you are talking about would be fine as long as they do not become a standard, easy to use, fire-and-forget kind of effect.

A scholar casting even just one fireball, if it is done in most combats, would be antithetical to the the Conan style, if for no other reason than it turns magic into simple damage dice.

If such spells are cast rarely (side effects or unpredictable, potentially dangerous results are possible methods of achieving this), or take multiple rounds to prepare, they would be more suitable.
Thanks for your answer Sable - you've given me an interesting idea here.

Simple and regular fire and forget damage spells will obviously be out of character with the Conan world but if they are hard to cast and done right they could work. I'm think more along the lines of Ars Magica here - a lightning bolt is only castable outdoors during a storm and a fireball takes three rounds to prepare.

Some other limits on the spells to stop the game turning into a regular D&D game sounds a good idea.

Thanks again,

I would strongly recommend against it. If you want your scholars to throw flames around let them use alchemy. That's what its for, in a mechanical and storytelling sense.

In the Hyborian Age sorcery is VILE. It is the invocation of pure evil and soul-drinking hunger from the Outer Darkness to twist the world and enslave the souls of men. Even relatively 'innocent' spells like those from the Nature Magic style ravage the world rather than make allies with it. The wise woman and the priest of Asura in "The Hour of the Dragon", arguably the only even half-way sane magicains Conan encounters, barely use magic at all, least it corrupt their otherwise pure intentions.

My own rule of thumb when writing magic for Conan is: If it doesn't require a fairly ugly sacrifice at some point, or demand a high price from the user, then it needs more revisions.

Current Status: Pondering dragons
What skalvar said. Leave the "blast" spells for D&D and Diablo.

Also, visit your nearest used bookstore ASAP and spend a buck on a thin Conan paperback. It'll probably have three to six short stories, each of which will take less time to read than your players will take to make a character. It doesn't matter what order you read the novels in, or even what order you read the short stories in.

Look for the novels which credit Robert E. Howard prominently. They'll probably also have some De Camp and/or Carter stories mixed in.

If you want a full length novel, find "The Hour of the Dragon". It'll still be a quick read compared to today's bloated fantasy novels.
When you and your players read the stories, you'll become excited by what Howardian magic is, and stop wanting what it's not. If you have more than $1, get the Del Rey The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian.
Thanks for all the advice people - I shall indeed restrict any PC Scholars to spells in keeping with the world and encourage them to investigate alchemy further.

I'm also buying up several Conan novels at the moment so that should ensure that I reflect the "personality" of the Conan setting.

Thanks again,

Mahatatain said:
I've not read any actual Conan novels (though that is something that is going to change) so I'm not sure if I'm about to loose a load of the flavour of the campaign world by creating more "D&D" like spells.

Like the others here, I do reccomend that you pick up the new paperback editions of the stories. They will help you establish the feel and reality of your game.

Also, you may want to think about picking up The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane. Howard was rather consistant about the magic in his stories and these will give you some additional material to create spells with.
Another good resource is to crib the spells from d20 Call of Cuthulu. Not all of them are appropriate and they will still need to be tweaked a little bit but at least they will be much closer in flavor than most of the other d20 material out there.

Hope that helps.
argo said:
Another good resource is to crib the spells from d20 Call of Cuthulu. Not all of them are appropriate and they will still need to be tweaked a little bit but at least they will be much closer in flavor than most of the other d20 material out there.

Hope that helps.

I second using d20 Call of Cthulhu as a resource for magic AND monsters. It's a beautiful book, all the spells inflict ability score damage on the caster and/or drain XP (makes a great alternative to the actual Conan system), and the monsters are virtually all really hideous and unnatural badasses "from beyond the stars." Plus, the Old Ones like Cthulhu, Ithaqqua, Shub-Niggurath, Cthuaga, Tsathoggua, Dagon, Nyarlathotep, etc., all fit well as demon-gods of the Hyborian Age. In fact, many others use them in their Conan pastiches (John maddox Roberts and John C. Hocking come to mind). IIRC, Hocking's Conan and the Emerald Lotus (one of the very best pastiches) utilizes an elemental and Cthulhu-esque magic system. Whenever an air spell is cast, Ithaqqua is invoked, a water spell invokes Cthulhu, fire magic invokes Cthuaga...
Other posters have brought up some good points.

I still feel that spells effectively similar to things like D&D's fireball aren't necessarilly out of place (I can certainly see a powerful Hyborian sorcerer conjuring a raging inferno); but at the same time I think the blat-and-forget baggage that comes along with such a spell can definitely taint the mood, even with the best intentions.

The use of powders and dusts is a thematically appropriate stand in for these sorts of spells that I hadn't considered, however.

As to Call of Cthulhu, I am planning to convert some of the spells from the Chaosium version for Conan, as well as possibly modelling some the existing Conan d20 spells more along those lines (ie, more detailed casting requirements [spell requires an ounce of flesh that the caster must bite from his own body ... that's dark magic mood :twisted: ]). Definitely great inspiration there.

Looking through those spells recently also brought to mind what is probably the only problem I have with level-based systems (which, on the whole, I have no issue with) -- the fact that the learning of spells is harder to manage in a more organic fashion. I'm a really big fan of the Chaosium CoC spell system as ideal for a dark, ritual magic setting.
On the Call of Cthulhu topic, can I assume that most (all?) of the posters here with experience with the d20 version believe it would be a worthwhile investment if only purchased for use with Conan? Even if I already have a BRP edition?

Oh, yeah, and when I said Chaosium CoC before, I actually meant the BRP version (as opposed to the d20 version, which now that I think about it, I believe Chaosium was also involved with).
If your sorcerer wants to play with fire, it's easy -- he can summon a fire elemental, and unleash it on his foes. *They* surely won't know the difference between that and a fireball. Especially when they're dead.
Not only do the Lovecraft entities fit in the Hyborian Age, Howard's stories explicitly place them in the cosmology all his (non-comic, at least) stories share.

The CRPG makes Natohk's line of fire in "Black Colossus" a fire elemental, but it seems like an alchemical effect to me... Calling the winged demon in "The Scarlet Citadel" an air elemental also seems a strange choice. I'm not sure about dese elementals.
Thanks for all the comments people.

I have the D20 Call of Cthulhu book and using as a resource for Conan is a very good idea. As a stand alone game it's not as good as the original version of the Cthulhu rules but as a resource for Conan it has some good stuff.

Someone asked about buying it purely as a resource for Conan and I'd say it was worth it unless you already have a version of the Cthulhu rule, in which case you can simply convert whatever spell or monster you wish to use.

I shall also be checking out various novels people have suggested as that is obviously the best route to take.

I also like the idea of using a fire elemental for something like a fireball - it makes it much harder to cast but the effects are more terminal.

I would also suggest Ars Magica as another resource to everyone for interesting spells. They aren't all perfect but there are some that could be re-written for the Conan world.

Thanks again to everyone for their comments.
I have been using the D20 Call of Cthulhu as an accessory since the D20 Conan RPG first came out. The spells and psychic feats are very fitting since they both take toll on the player to use. Minor conversions are needed, but nothing difficult. There are plenty of mythos creatures to scare your players, and the insanity system even works well. I figured since Howard and Lovecraft were friends it was only fitting to merge the two. So far I have had no complaints from my players. If you are thinking about getting it, I would say go for it, you can get it off ebay for a nice price. $20 with shipping if you are patient, I've gotten one for $10 with shipping and another for $15 with shipping, all brand new.
As I read through Howard's weird stories I'm making notes about magic in them. There isn't a huge load of 'new spells', but we can infer, for instance, enslave ghost ("The Shadow Kingdom"), sleep ("The Gods of Bal-Sagoth"), and shape-shifter should not be in Oriental Magic, as it's performed by Pelias in "The Scarlet Citadel" and an African fetish-man in "The Hyena".
I heard the spells from Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed are not the flashy D&D-type: does someone on this forum own this book and can give me some info whether AU-spells would be suitable for Conan?

Thank you very much!