Player's Guide to the Hyborian Age by Vincent N. Delarge

Wow. If there were ever a sterling example of how to write a great game book, this is it. Of the three Conan RPG book reviews I've written on this forum, this supplement is the one with the most useful material (and least wasted pages) on a per page basis.

I'm trying to find something wrong with this book, and the only thing I can come up with is that Vincent spent a single page on the introduction telling us what was in the book. I dislike these types of introductions because they're a waste of space. I mean, there's a table of contents, and I'll soon know what each chapter is about. I don't need the author of the book to waste a page or two summarizing what I'm going to read. Heck, I'd rather have a cool illustration put on that page, or maybe a useful map, rather than it be spent on a summarization introduction (though an introduction that is full of useful info not listed in the rest of the book is welcome).

Since so many Conan RPG books have them, I can only assume that Mongoose requires the intros. So having included it is probably not even Vincent's fault. Even so, he's a smart writer and kept it to one page without going over.

The only other section of the book that doesn't thrill me is a couple of pages that discusses a change in power in a kingdom--as when/if the PC's take control of a kingdom the way Conan has in the stories. There's some helpful information here, but the article sure wouldn't be missed if it were replaced with something very useful to a game.

Even here, though, Vincent keeps the article to four pages.

As I said, he's a smart writer.

Let's talk about what makes the book rock--which is the entire rest of the book. This thing is full of helpful information and GM tools that will keep me returning to this book over and over again throughout my Conan campaigns.

First up, there's a very intriguing section on developing backgrounds for characters. It features lots of charts with results that get the old brainstormer going. It's a vat of creative juices. Not only is this a superb section for players to use in creating backgrounds for their characters, but it is also a gem for the GM to use when creating memorable NPCs. And, since stories are centered around characters, its even a tool for the GM to use in creating his universe.

For example, let's say you're designing a major bad-guy NPC for your game and roll up that he prefers clothing in foreign styles. Well, that could apply to just the NPC, or the GM could think it out more and decide that the NPC dresses like the rest of the population. So, why then, does the population like foreign styles? And which foreign styles?

Were they once conquered by a nearby kingdom and now long for the days when that was true?

Is it that the NPC has a vice like grip on the population, and they follow him, even in the way he dresses?

Maybe it's just a local fad--something that is popular at the moment. The GM could turn this into the hook to get the players in the area. Let them hear that these types of clothes are commanding high prices, and instead of risking their lives going after a rumored pirate's hoard, the PCs can take it easy a bit by making a trading run into the area.

Do you see all that--that I've written above? That all came from one die roll on one chart in this book.

Yes, this book is a creative fountain.

The background section widens into an interesting section that discusses the character's ability stats and what they can translate to in reality. I love this sort of stuff. It makes the numbers really "mean" something, and it helps the players get a real grasp on the stats.

For example, if the character's DEX score is higher than his CON score, and his CON score is higher than his STR score, then the character is most likely built on a hardy, dextrous, but skinny frame. He probably looks more like a tall, long swimmer or basketball player than he does a gymnast or a weightlifter.

With this type of character, Vincent suggests giving the guy a +1 bonus to any Escape Artist checks but a -1 penalty to STR checks to avoid a Bull Rush or Overrun.

This example shows you one of the things I love about Vincent's writing. He not only gives it to you with the text, but he also shows you how to implement what he's tallking about in the game with mechanics. I've noticed that most other Mongoose Conan authors don't do that. Here, we understand that certain stats might make a certain body shape (at the player's option, of course), but also some little tweaks to the game that makes that choice come alive mechanically. All of Vincent's writings through his various books are sprinkled with this type of thing.

With the mental stats, Vincent really gets pretty deep. I like that. He mentions that Conan's personality is probably a Dominator/Competitor. The book explains what that means.

As a player, or a GM setting up a personality with an NPC, one can arrange stats to get a desired result. Or, the stats can be randomly placed or used as rolled, then checked in the book to see what kind of personality might be appropriate for that type of stat combination.

Or, it can be ignored all together.

It's a damn interesting chapter, though, with lots of revisiting potential i the future. Entire families can be created using what Vincent has put in this book.

The next section of the book is also excellent. Vincent discusses variant races that can be used for characters in the game. In this section, too, you will see the first of several charts that shows you where to locate similar information in other Conan RPG books.

Excellent resource.

The equipment section that Delarge includes is distinguished in that he spends more time than most describing cutlure specific gear. That's very useful to the roleplayer. He's also got several optional starting equipment packages to choose from, based on race.

There is a section on new Feats, Skills, and Combat Maneuvers. And, I always love it when Conan authors take skills from the Core rulebook and show you how to use them in unexpected ways. In this regard, Vincent doesn't disappoint.

There's a naming chart section in this book--to flesh out the few suggested names given in the Core rulebook, and these are separated by race.

There's a section that focusses on Noble classed chracters which discusses Title conventions in the Hyborian Age.

One section that had potential to be wasted space is a couple of pages on "Roleplaying Tips". But, again, Vincent does an excellent job of providing useful information. USE YOUR FATE POINTS! He recommends. Don't "save" them. He also suggests to put at least a 12 in your INT score, if you can arrange by taste, explaining how important skills are in this game. Again, Vincent is a smart writer. He kept this section to only two pages--he got in, told us some useful stuff, then got out.

That's why he's a fan favorite.

The book gives us some new spells, for the sorcery lovers. There's a nice section on roleplaying particular types of characters, called "Hyborian Age Voices". And, God bless him, Vincent even provides an Index.

Folks, you can't go wrong with this book. Just about every page of it is useful, and it's one of those works you will use over and over again, as you create characters for your game.

This one is a definite buy.
VincentDarlage said:
Thank you.

You bet. :D

But, I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it. I calls 'em likes I's sees 'em. You did a fantastic job on that book. Just about every page provides useful game material.
Supplement Four said:
But, I wouldn't have said it if I didn't mean it. I calls 'em likes I's sees 'em. You did a fantastic job on that book. Just about every page provides useful game material.

I'm glad you think so. It's not as perfect as I would like, though. Be careful with the feat "Explosive Power." I was intending to cut that from the book because I think it is broken, but I forgot (it didn't work out well in my own playtests). I don't allow that feat in my campaigns. You might want to disallow it in yours, too.
Vincent. Question.

Pg. 6 of the Guide. There are two entries where the high score is Charisma on Table 2A.

Is there a process for selecting which one to use? Or, do you just read both "Charismatic" and "Dominator" to decide which one to use?
Supplement Four said:
Vincent. Question.

Pg. 6 of the Guide. There are two entries where the high score is Charisma on Table 2A.

Is there a process for selecting which one to use? Or, do you just read both "Charismatic" and "Dominator" to decide which one to use?

Correct. Basically there are two ways to use charisma, in terms of personality. You either charm them (diplomacy) or dominate them (intimidate) in varying degrees.
explosive power turned a nord barbarian in one of my campaigns into a fearless wrecking ball of destruction. he has a high strength, uses a 2-handed axe with all the power attack feats, and then the explosive power. insane. he was wasting npc's twice his level. he started wearing no armor ever just so he could "make it more fair." This happened to be in a game that I was a player in for once. the dm told me about this thread and i wasn't surprised that Vince said he regrets this feat lol. i mean a 6th level dude is dishing out 60pts of damage like its his job.
strategos14 said:
explosive power turned a nord barbarian in one of my campaigns into a fearless wrecking ball of destruction.

People ask why I use the default dicing system and charge Fate Points to re-arrange throws to taste when generating a character. One of the hidden costs with many PC with uber stats are Feats like Explosive Power. It requires a STR 17 and BAB +5.

In my game, STR 17 doesn't grow on trees, so the Feat is fine. Only a gifted few would be able to meet the requirements.

OTHO, though, having studied the Feat for the first time, you're right. That one needs to be tamed a bit. I think making the Critical Ranger bigger would do the trick instead of making Criticals automatic on a successful hit.

Or, like the Finness Attack, make the attack roll much harder.
i agree with the stat thing to a point. in our games though, fate points don't grow on trees. the guys i play with take it seriously enough so i don't have to worry TOO much about min-maxing and uber gaming. plus i don't want a player already down on his character before he even starts playing. for instance, the last character i rolled up was a nemedian noble/soldier. what i pictured was a guy with high chr, low wis, and slightly above average physical abilities but nothing standoutish. I basically ended up with that more or less and so I was happy. Plus, i feel that great stats aren't that big a deal after a few levels like they are in low levels. and say it my nemedian ended up with a 14 chr, i wouldn't have been happy because it would have messed up how i wanted to roleplay him. however certain too powerful feats like "explosive power" can really take a high stat in strength and make it go way outa hand.
What if Explosive Power simply lowered your critical threat range by a point? If you needed a 19-20 for a Critical Threat, then the feat gave you an extra 5% at an 18-19-20.

That, with the Feats other restrictions, might work and keep it from being overpowered.

Maybe there's already a Feat like that?

A second idea would be use up some of the attacker's hit points when Explosive Power is used. Use the Feat as written, except that the attacker uses up half of his hit points (min of 10 points) to fatigue from all the energy he put into the blow.

Kinda like a Bee sting, except the PC lives.
all i know is my group now knows that Vince disapproves of the feat he himself made so i doubt it will come up again. meaning i can't see anyone taking it again. if they do, i may just have to stalk Vince on here to ask for a revision lol
strategos14 said:
all i know is my group now knows that Vince disapproves of the feat he himself made so i doubt it will come up again. meaning i can't see anyone taking it again. if they do, i may just have to stalk Vince on here to ask for a revision lol

When did Vincent disapprove of it?
scroll up this thread. he said he was going to remove it from the book. that is broken and didn't test well. he doesn't allow it in his games.
Supplement Four said:
When did Vincent disapprove of it?

You can find a more direct disapproval way back in the forums when the first Road of Kings was released. The feat was included in that book, and it was supposed to have been cut out. When I had a chance to revisit those feats for the Player's Guide, I had intended to remove Explosive Power... but didn't. No reason other than just forgetting to highlight it and press 'delete.'

Anyway, if you want an official errata statement from the author - that feat is broken and should not be allowed in games.
Explosive Power pretty much gurrantees that, everytime you hit, you're doing critical damage--at least twice your damage.

You really don't think it's a tincy-weency bit overpowered? :shock:
Why did your scholar get two defensive blasts?
I follow that he burned through 24 power points, but in the rules, are you then allowed to burn down 9 power points you don't have for a second DB?
BlackNiall, have you thought that the very powerful DB for sorcerers may be due to the fact that they really aren't that impressive on the offense?

Not every class has to be EQUAL. some are much more advantaged than others in many respects; the classic example is the Noble and temptress, overall, these two classes suck booty unless you are amongst people in an urban campaign.
Nialldubh said:
I truly not think there is any balance power for Warrior types, the Power Attack is dangerous Feat, but only if it hits, I remark on it negatives, not many other Feats that place a negative on those that pick it, not many Warriors want PA, uneless they want Cleave.

Try using Power Attack with a two-handed weapon (or a one-handed weapon in two hands)... it is brutal.

Nialldubh said:
Also, it must be that everyone who get a Warrior, walks about town in Full Plate, I also not happy with rules on armour, why do we see Conan running around in a loincloth or silk breeches, why because it warm, he would keel over from heat exhaustion, a Soldier in to desert in Scale hauberk should be in for a difficult time, I know they get a -4 to Fortitude, but is that enough ???

In many (if not most) of the stories Conan wore armour.

Nialldubh said:
1: Versitility, it not bad, but unless Barbarian more concerned about picking up benches made of silver all the time, it not really that helpful, most Barbarians have their Broadsword, spear and dagger with them, al the time?

Because that way barbarians don't have to waste a feat to be able to wield a warsword or greatsword or special bows proficiently. It isn't just for benches.

Nialldubh said:
7: DR, hmmmm, 1 pts.... if a big Demon hits me for 30 pts of damage, 1DR is not making me cry out, "Ya Cannie hurt me, ya bam!"

Which comes in handy when wearing armour because it makes the armour more effective. 1 point can make a lot of difference when dealing with Armour Piercing and/or massive damage thresholds.