Exploring Modiphius

I have started to look at Mutant Year Zero as part of my following up on the suggestions I was given. The WEG d6 games are contenders but I can feel my house ruling fingers twitching, on the other hand my WEG bookshelf has already grown to 5 books.

The first impression was so great that I blogged about it own on my Rolemaster blog holding it up as an example of how things should be done.

I have tendency to treat games like the ‘net as a whole and surfing from one thing to another. MYZ is a Modiphius game. I was looking at the MYZ starter book, which I will get to eventually, and I started to look into Modiphius. From there I discovered they had created the Conan game. If any of you read my blogs you will know that it was Conan and the Conan books that got me into role playing games in the first place. I could not resist taking a look at their Conan game.

As Conan is based upon the 2d20 system rather than the MYZ d66 variant, this continues my ‘coming out’ tour as I look beyond d100 systems.

So I want to split this in two halves. Firstly, my impression of the 2d20 system. The second half will be about the Modiphius treatment of Conan.


I freely admit that I have only read the rules and not played this system but, to put it bluntly, this looks dreadful!

The basic idea of roll under the target number is fine, the idea of focus giving you a variable chance of a critical success is fine but from there on in is all down hill.

Bean Counting

This system is using a pool called Momentum. Points of momentum can be spent to gain additional 1d20s to improve your chances of success. The more dice you roll and the more of those that are under your target number the more successes you get, if you get more successes than you need then you pay the unused successes back into the momentum pool. If you get more critical successes then you can pay them back into the momentum pool as well. Every turn the pool loses one point of momentum and it has maximum level of 6 points.

That already sounds too complicated to me but it get worse. If you don’t have enough points of momentum you can buy points by spending Doom points. Doom points are just like momentum points but controlled by the GM. The basic idea is that yes you can buy an extra 1d20 but it will come back to bite you later. More about that later!

So we have Momentum points and Doom points and now we have yet another type of bean, these are Fortune points. Fortune points are exactly like Momentum points but better, they give you an automatic success rather than an die roll.

Now I would normally think that rolling under your skill target number would mean you have succeeded but not in this game. Success isn’t enough, well sometimes it is but not always. Where other games would probably vary the target number up or down depending on the difficulty of a task, this system demands multiple successes from no successes to 5 successes. So a skill that doesn’t need any successful rolls to complete, supposedly, still needs to be rolled. I can almost stomach that, I guess it allows you to test for critical successes and failures but to be honest if the success is automatic barring randomly bad dice rolls why are you making the character even both rolling? I am thinking role play not roll play!

This game actually has a mechanic that penalises players that take time to plan their strategy! If the longer the players take in planning the more Doom points the GM gets to throw against them. It even tells you to tell the players that they are getting a time penalty!

Critical Failure

So now we come to critical failures. This is actual example from the rules “For example, the Pictish warrior Dakeyah might successfully use Ranged Weapons to shoot an enemy with his bow, but on his test, his player rolls a 20. The arrow strikes the target, but the gamemaster might declare that Dakeyah’s quiver is now empty of arrows, and he must find more arrows, or seek other means of killing his foes.” So did the arrows evaporate? Did he go out this morning and forget to put any arrows in his quiver? I am sorry but if a player had 20 arrows in his quiver and he shoots 3 then he has 17 arrows left in my opinion.

In other examples the number of Doom points are used to alter the players reality for no good reason except to use up the Doom points.

As a GM I am perfectly capable of making up challenges for the players and making them logical and if the players confound my plans then good on them, that is one of the great things about table top games. I get as long as I need as GM to prepare these challenges and the players are put on the spot and have to solve them and they will.

Zoning Out

Movement and distance are measured using a system of ill-defined ‘zones’ of no specific size. Characters may move freely around their current zone without penalty. The rules state quite clearly that zones can be any size and distance is not important. Except it then goes on with additional rules about how if zones are too close together then additional empty zones can be put between zones to make them further apart. I am sorry but if distance is not important then don’t then make up additional rules to make that decision fit. In a game all about action and combat then distance is going to be important at some points.

Imagine your character staggers into a room, he has a punctured lung, a sprained ankle and the knee of his other leg has recently taken a direct hit from a great big hammer. On the opposite side of the room steps forward the champion of a Pictish tribe. He fresh and ready. Between you on the ground is a dagger, the only weapon between you. Who would you expect to get to the weapon first?

Yep, you got it, the PC. Why? Because in this system the PCs always win the initiative and move first. With the zones of movement a crippled PC can move, grab the weapon and attack before the champion facing him or her can even get to act!


So lets say you do want to hit someone. Each attack now has to go through 10 dice rolls, calculations or table look ups to be resolved. 10!

I said at the beginning of this that I have not actually played this game and the reason is that I don’t think I could bring myself to even try. I think I would be embarrassed to have to explain the rules to my players.

Next time I will ignore the rules and look at the actual theme and content of the game. Conan!