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Today at 06:00:02 am by GnomeStew News | Views: 2 | Comments: 0

Player Intent

Player Intent

A famous quote from German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke is, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” The way of saying almost the same thing in role playing games is, “No game master plan survives contact with the players’ actions.” This means the players will be throwing curve balls to the GM with […]
Source: Player Intent
February 22, 2017, 09:00:03 am by GnomeStew News | Views: 4 | Comments: 0

The Components of Romance

The Components of Romance

I think romance is a wonderful part of storytelling that we see in just about every form of media. Thing is, in RPGs I feel it often gets the short end of the stick. Why is this? First, I think we’re uncomfortable having romantic moments with our friends in games. It can feel weird, strange, […]
Source: The Components of Romance
February 22, 2017, 02:01:13 am by DriveThruRPG | Views: 2 | Comments: 0

Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the Earth

Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the EarthPublisher: Modiphius
Rating: 4
**Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the Earth** consists of seven separate adventures, each a different part of Conan's world. To reflect how the Conan stories were written, the adventures encourage the reader to run the adventures back in forth in time, and, of course, like any roleplaying game, mix and match the adventures with other gamemaster ideas. Of course, the regular rules assume the adventurers have spent months carousing between adventures, so it's not difficult for the players to find themselves in one part of the world at one time, and another the next. Each adventure should take several gaming sessions.

**Devils Under Green Stairs** finds the players stumbling across the forgotten city-palace of Zukundu, where a trio of degenerate tribes have an uneasy peace that becomes bloody war. I would say that the adventure is intermediate in difficulty, with the gamemaster having to manage various intelligent (though vengeful) NPCs. The adventure is on the linear side, mostly assuming the adventurers follow a specific plotline in the adventure.

In the **Pact of Xiabalba**, the players set sail and are engulfed by a terrible storm from nowhere. They find themselves shipwrecked on a mysterious island, with the only survival leads inward as the party searches for water. There, they will hear the sounds of ever-distant war drums, meet soldiers with crests of a severed head, and a ship marooned in the middle of the forest. The adventure is linear, until a point when the players and game master can create their own epic struggle, leading to the climax of the story. The adventure has NPCs, including an experience sailor, haunted by events in his past, whom dramatic players may enjoy playing as PC's.

In **Caves of the Dero**, our heroes descend into supposedly abandoned mines to find more than reputed treasure. Tales of diabolic sorceries lead to a horrible creation. The adventure felt a little on the dungeoncrawly side, no surprise since Conan is an influence on generic fantasy adventures. This adventure serves as a good model of a "logical" dungeon lair.

**The Ghost of Thunder River** begins with a prologue where the players play Pict NPCs, who discover the horror behind the adventure. The next scene has the players as their own characters in an outpost woefully unable to cope with the rising attacks by the Picts. As the characters find out about captives taken by the Picts, they must decide between following the garrison commander's order to not help them, lead a rescue, or find the mysterious man now leading these different Pict tribes.

In **The Thousand Eyes of Aumag-Bel**, our heroes find themselves in a tavern after carousing, only to meet a group of armored men demanding, "Give us the amulet! Give it to us and Aumag-Bel shall let you live!" Aumag-Bel rules the city, and, assuming the PCs defeat the guards, soon find themselves on a chase through the market after losing their amulet to the thief-children, tracking them down to the Den of the Black Lotus. (If the PCs recover the amulet, a substitute sacrifice has been captured and the heroes must rescue her!) A downward tunnel from the den into the depths continues the twisted descent hinted at from the den.

"Will they die as slaves under the brutal summer sun, or break out and triumph, fleeing themselves from dreadful bondage?" **The Red Pit** starts our poor heroes as slaves in a mining pit, swinging into a revolt and escape. This pit escape is well-detailed and makes a fine epic battle, complete with mighty a'ghama beast. This adventure can be used in other game worlds, since it's not too Conan-specific.

In **The Seethers in Darkness**, the party has been hired by a scholar to find a lost city in the middle of a desert. A desert storm separates him from the party. Woeful to the heroes, the scholar is successful. This adventure is linear but doesn't feel like a railroad, as the players follow the scholar into the dark. This adventure is basically a series of planned encounters (almost a dungeoncrawl), but with quite a bit of Conan atmosphere. I highly recommend it over the Quickstart adventure.

The last chapter is **Seeds of Glory**. This chapter is advice for the gamemaster and players in creating -- or not creating -- a campaign for the gaming group. Different suggested outlines for campaigns are provided, as well as a suggestion that, since Conan's stories took place at different times during his life, so can adventure sessions. The chapter also mentions how Conan himself could appear, if desired, without overshadowing an adventure. Finally, the chapter ends with ten or so adventure seeds a gamemaster could develop.

I think the only concern I have about these adventures is, along with the core book adventure, that many of them involve the players pressing forward in dark passages, or encountering the climax of a ritual. Almost all of them have encounters with forbidden sorcery or lost civilizations. (Speaking of lost civilizations, maybe Modiphius could release a campaign where the party gradually learns about a lost civilization, instead of descending right into it.) Perhaps these adventures are better played a breaks between the more conventional generic fantasy adventures, much like the stories of Conan were in his life. Some adventures add fiddly little instructions a gamemaster is supposed to follow (eg. a series of die rolls to see how many enemies show up) that the gamemaster can ignore. I also recommend that the gamemaster run a few combats to familiarize himself with the enemies in the adventures and the game system. Most of them are human and intelligent, though pretty willing to put cause ahead of safety.

Finally, I usually recommend, for adventures, the PDF over book, including Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the Earth. You will only need one chapter at a game session, and can write in the margins for game notes. If you print out the PDF one-sided, you can cut out pictures and text as handouts to players. Some NPCs make fine player characters, and these can be made into handouts as well. Save yourself some money and lighten that load in your pack!
Source: Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the Earth
February 21, 2017, 07:01:02 pm by DriveThruRPG | Views: 4 | Comments: 0

Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book

Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core bookPublisher: Modiphius
Rating: 5
This massive and beautiful work brings the world of Conan the Barbarian back to our role-playing tables with all the impact that Conan himself has... richly illustrated and replete with detail to help you bring the Hyborian World to life. The foreword by lead developer Jason Durall tells us why: it's been written by people who really know and love the Conan stories and have been inspired by them in their role-playing for a long time before this project (or even previous Conan RPGs existed). Durall feels a kinship with Robert E. Howard, having grown up in a similar small town and escaped into fantasy, whilst I feel a kinship with Durall, having discovered Conan as a youngster and swept him into my role-playing, working this wonderful setting up for use with whatever ruleset was to hand at the time.

Interspersed with quotes from original Conan stories, the Introduction continues this theme of a desire to create a role-playing game that is true to the original stories, working hand-in-hand with them to build setting and game mechanics that will recreate the epic feel, the excitement of Conan himself striding forwards, sword in hand. We then move on to Chapter 1: Getting Started, which deals with the basics of what role-playing is all about and what you need to play.

Next, Chapter 2: Characters starts in on character creation (although those in a hurry can scurry to the back of the book where some pre-generated ones await those who don't want to work through the process to create their own). To make your own, there is a ten-step process. It's an interesting mix of random results and personal choice, and rather neatly it states that if you have a clear concept in mind, go right ahead and pick the options that work best for what you want to play. There's also a quick version of the process that is completely random, as well. If you want to follow the full sequence, you start by deciding on your character's homeland. This gives him a talent and a native language. Next, sort out your Attributes (which are Agility, Awareness, Brawn, Coordination, Intelligence, Personality, and Willpower). There's a rather complex system to decide which of these he's best at, you may need a scratch pad to work it all out, but it combines choice and chance rather well. Next decide on Caste or social class, which determines two more talents, a skill and a story. Most people are born to their caste but there are exceptions. Story is used to build background, with snippets of your past life being used to pose questions that help develop a sense of who he is and how he came to be that way. Plenty of examples are there to help you on your way. This is followed by archetypes, again you pick (or roll for) one and gain the associated skills, talents and equipment for your character. In effect, archetype tells you what your character does. Then it gets interesting as you need to determine his nature - or why he does what he does. Step 7 of the process determines what education he got, if any. This is followed by the intriguing 'war story' - war is everywhere and however sheltered, it is unlikely to have passed your character by completely. Step 9 involves various finishing touches and Step 10 leads you through the final calculations necessary.

There's a lot to take aboard in this chapter: take your time and you'll be rewarded with very realistic and personalised characters. When all of this is done, you can settle down to determine what he's actually like - and you'd better give him a name! (There's a selection of typical names by homeland for both males and females if you're stuck.) As mentioned above, there's a quick random method of character creation as well, also ideas for alternate methods if a particular focus or style of game is preferred. These need to be discussed with the GM and if used, should be used by the whole party to maintain balance. The next chapter - Chapter 3: Skills and Talents - provides all the background details and examples of use for the various choices you will be making, then Chapter 4: Rules lays out how you turn this character-sheet full of numbers into a representation of what your character can actually do, centred around the concept of task resolution.

In the Rules chapter, we find out about the dice required - d20s and d6s - along with the notation used to show how many of what dice you should roll when and a note about the special custom dice Modiphius are marketing for this game. This is more for visual effect than anything else, regular dice will do just fine. A skills test is only needed when the character is distracted or threatened, or when there are consequences for failure - the rest of the time, you can assume success. When you do need to resolve a task, attributes as well as specific skills come into play - as always, it sounds more complex on paper than it is once you start playing and get used to it! However there are additional complexities due to how hard the task is of itself and whatever else is going on: this is stuff the GM needs to understand to set a target number for a roll. There's plenty of explanation and examples to help, though. In addition, there is an interesting mechanic called Momentum - a kind of cumulative effect that if you do well at one roll, you gain extra points to add to it or a subsequent success - your character is on a bit of a roll, so to speak. This is balanced by the GM's Doom points, which are used to throw a spanner in the works.

The next chapter is Action Scenes, which dives straight in with the turn sequence used in combat. There's a neat little note that if the players spend too much time deciding what to do, the GM should start adding points to his Doom pool as a warning... the bad guys getting an advantage due to their indecision! There's material about ambushes, distance, terrain, movement and much more - this is not solely about brawling although of course combat is important, and rightly so. Any RPG needs to provide this sort of excitement, even more when in a milieu such as this! In combat, each character has a range of actions they can undertake, and also can make a reaction to what someone else does. Again, there appears to be a huge amount to grasp here, but it becomes much clearer once you have run through a few combats.

Chapter 6: Equipment follows, with some interesting notes on money and on obtaining items by theft or violence if you don't fancy paying for them. You can even abstract 'earning' (if that's the right word) money from petty thievery if your character wants to spend time roaming a market or similar crowded place pilfering and picking pockets. There's a vast array of items large and small to purchase, as well as lists of armour and weapons.

Next, Chapter 7 deals with Sorcery. Most of the time in the Conan stories, sorcery is evil - or at least, those who practise it are. The GM might decide not to allow player characters to learn or use sorcery at all, or may limit it severely. Here, however, you can learn how it works. Essential for GMs, and recommended for players who have managed to persuade their GM to let them wield magic. There is a whole range of different things that you can learn and do, different kinds of magic even; and of course loads of spells and magical items.

This is followed by Chapter 8: The Hyborian World, which is a gazetteer of the setting. It makes for a fascinating read, whether or not you are already familiar with the setting from the stories (or past attempts to game here). It starts off with history, then goes region by region, repleat with quotes and illustrations. There's a sort of 'shorthand' relating each nation to which ancient Earth culture it's loosely based on... Ignore it! Treat them as fascinating places in their own right and let the alternate reality form in your mind. Articles about customs, heritage, and much more contribute to our understanding... it all makes you want to go there.

The last part of the book is aimed at the GM, with chapters on Gamemastering and Encounters as well as a full adventure to get you started. In Vultures of Shem the party comes across the aftermath of a battle between Shem and Khoraja and have to deal with far more than they bargained for... unspeakable horror, no less. When the action is over, there is no shortage of ideas for follow-up adventures, making it easy to use this adventure as a spring-board for an entire campaign.

Finally, there is a chapter on Heroes of the Age (fully-developed characters to use as enemies or allies), based on contributions from backers of the Kickstarter campaign that brought this work to your hands. Of course, if you are in a real rush to get playing, you can choose your character from amongst them. There's twenty-odd of them, so something will probably appeal. An index and a blank character sheet rounds out the set. If you buy the PDF, you get a selection of different character sheets and a big single-sheet map as well.

This is definitely a magnificent presentation of Conan's Hyborian World, all ready to adventure in. By Crom, I'll fetch my sword and sandals and go exploring!
Source: Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
February 21, 2017, 07:01:02 pm by DriveThruRPG | Views: 4 | Comments: 0

Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book

Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core bookPublisher: Modiphius
Rating: 5
**Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of** set off to become the definitive Conan RPG. While many have tried before them, Modiphius has managed to pull off this claim, coming up with a game that contains what could be best described as the very essence of Conan’s adventures.

**Art  and  Layout**

The artwork in the book is phenomenal, and well used, each one conveying the manic vibrance and urgency of Conan’s pulp adventures. While there was still a few instances of a naked lady being sacrificed in an altar, most of the other artwork showed sensibly-dressed women in situations of empowerment and adventure.

The layout is crisp and clean, and made reading the book a lot more pleasant. Callout boxes with and tables were used with consistency and an eye towards clarity, and even with the textured printer-unfriendly version, the background didn’t interfere with the ability to clearly read the text.

As a PDF product, the entire thing was bookmarked and searchable and quite snappy on my laptop (though perhaps a little less so on my mobile phone.)


Modiphius’ 2d20 House System feels like a perfect fit for Conan’s adventures, and the genius of the Momentum and Doom mechanics lie in their ability to affect the mood of the game and amplify tension.

Combat is crunchy, but every rule exists to support the fiction. Conan isn’t a place where combat is heroic. It’s visceral, practical and fraught with danger. Even if the player characters are meant to be exceptional individuals, there’s never a sense of an encounter being a cakewalk since the GM is always waiting in the wings with Doom in hand.


Would I recommend Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of to others? By all means, yes. If you’ve never played a different kind of Fantasy RPG, then you owe yourself to try this game.

If you’ve ever enjoyed Conan in any iteration, from the movies, the cartoon, the videogames or the stories then you owe yourself to try this game.

I’ve always had a strong preference for games whose rules are structured to promote a given feel and mood while simulating the “physics” of the fiction. The Conan RPG does this in a stellar fashion, with a crunchy set of mechanics that emulate the world of savage adventure inhabited by Conan in a way that I imagine will be very, very difficult to outdo.


This is the conclusion of a 7-part breakdown of the contents of the book. If you'd like to see the rest of it, please visit: https://philgamer.wordpress.com/tag/conan/
Source: Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
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