Conan II

I have based this look at the Conan rpg on the quick start rules and the Conan Free RPG Day 2017 version Pit of Kutallu.

When Michael reviewed the full rule book the overall impression I came away with was ambivalence towards the game but then Michael is not a real Conan fan. Conan was my way into RPGs in the first place.

So putting the 2d20 system aside (more about that later) how has Conan and Hyboria been treated? With the greatest respect is my impression. The books are littered with vignettes taken from Robert E. Howards original works and these set the scene and bring the setting to live. The quick start book even starts with an essay on what is canon and who Howard’s creation was taken and expanded upon.

I have read through two adventures; Pit of Kutallu, which showcases the dark Cthulhu-esque shared background of Hyboria and To Race The Thunder which is set on the very edges of Aquilonia.

I may be somewhat biased here but these adventures are written in the same style as I tend to write my own. I am not a lover of maps and room by room descriptions. These adventures describe challenges or encounters and the GM may use or ignore them as they see fit or are needed to challenge the players. There is another quality to them and this is ‘relative encounters’.

‘Relative Encounters’

In many classic published adventures; a location will be described and then you are told there are 5 guards stationed here, what they are carrying and any treasure. When the PCs roll up they meet or avoid the guards depend on their choices. These static encounters have the danger of being over powered or under powered depending on the make up of the party. We play a game based upon dice and random things happen.

All the adventure encounters in these publications use a more relative way of describing the numbers encountered such as ‘one less than the number of characters’ or ‘three times the number of characters plus two more’. It doesn’t matter how many characters are in the party, the danger level of the adventures self-regulates. I don’t know if this is a Conan ‘thing’ or just a modern adventure writing ‘thing’, either way it is excellent and I will adopt it for all my future adventures.

Another feature, this may just be because the sample I have looked at are intended to be single shot adventures, but NPCs are designated as being suitable for use as PCs. Should a player die in the game session they can take up the reins of one of these NPCs to complete the adventure. This points to the adventure being well written. It also gives the GM a free hand relating to danger. I am not a ‘killing’ GM. I do not go out of my way to stack dangers against the PCs. At the same time I like to let the dice fall where they may. I am running a game set in the Forgotten Realms right now and the party have two possible options for raising a fallen character, both of which are single use, one is a scroll and the other will be consumed when used. Giving them that ability means that my hands are free to play my monsters and NPC opponents to the best of their ability. Seeding the adventures with potential pregen characters also frees up the GM.

So, as published Conan is a 2d20 system but Modiphius also publish a d20 to 2d20 conversion document to help those moving from the Mongoose Conan game. WotC incidentally publish a D6 to d20 conversion guidelines document relating to the StarWars franchise. This means that junking the 2d20 system, the only element that I don’t like, and adopting either d20 or an OpenD6 system are viable options. My D6 bookshelf has grown to 5 books now and I like what I am reading.


So will I buy Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book? It is a relatively cheap book and certainly good value for money at nearly 500 pages. I think this is a good possibility and kills two birds with one stone, to use the cliché, I could tempt my main group of players with Conan and feed them the D6 system at the same time. So right now Conan is on my ‘I want to play’ pile.

I have been blogging about Rolemaster for the past few years. When I am not blogging I run the Rolemaster Fanzine and create adventure seeds and generic game supplements under the heading of PPM Games. You can check them out on RPGnow. My pet project is my d6 game 3Deep, now in its second edition.

12 thoughts on “Conan II”

  1. I’ve done that (use a conversion document to do a reverse-conversion) a few times.

    I’m more partial to the other kind of dice-pool system (roll n dice, and count sucesses from dice that meet/beat a target number). Shadowrun does that. As does D6 Legends (a late version of the D6 system shortly before WEG went under; they have a conversion document for classic-d6 to d6-Legends, somewhere out there on the web (I have a copy somewhere). And someone just did a Kickstarter to revive that system (khepera is the company, Mythic D6 will be the product).

    Another “counting successes” dice pool game is “ubiquity”, which I’ve only just started to dig into. Instead of target numbers, it does “count even results as a success”. For a d6, that’s identical in probability to a target number of 4…. except you can use any die you want, without having to re-think your target number for a 50/50 per die odds.

    If I had the time, I would make “generic fantasy”, “generic space opera”, and “generic post-apocalypse” versions of Ubiquity. But, even having the last week off, I couldn’t find the time to do it.

    But I still really want to see what you think of the Mutant Year Zero system.

  2. I think I failed to adequately contrast the two broad types of dice pool games.

    1) d6 classic is “roll n dice, and total the numbers rolled”.

    2) shadowrun, d6 legends, and ubiquity are “roll n dice, use some criteria for judging each individual die as a success or failure; count the successes.” (In a round about way, “siege of the citadel”, “fury of the clansmen”, and “universal miniatures battles” are also like this, but they use different color dice to reflect different target numbers, and just show a “hit” icon on some faces, and a blank on others … making it easy to count successes).

    My point was: I ‘m more of a fan of the second type than the first.

    1. The appeal of the d6 classic method as I have experienced so far is the exploding dice which means that success is always possible.

      An additional factor is that I don’t own 5 or 9 d20s. Most of my dodecahedra are 0-9 percentile dice. I have had plenty of need of d100s over the past few decades but 1d20 has been more than adequate until now!

      I will look at Mutant next. I have had great fun with Gamma World in the past and fond memories of fighting mutant chickens (Gallus Gallus 513 if I remember correctly)

  3. Ok 2d20 system. I though it was shit. It’s actually totally ok.
    Basically it’s a roll under self test system like you would do with any single d20 roll under type game. That’s it. It’s that simple. With one wrinkle you get to try for more successes in the one “toss”. Plus then there is a “horse trading” phase where the GM can take successes from a player Or the player can try to add more or bank some if they got lots.
    Now that’s not such a bad system, actually, seen in that light.

    It’s very very nearly a d20 version of the classic D100 basic Roleplaying by Chaosium with a bit of fluf. There are a LOT of Swedish RPGs which use this d100 basic Roleplaying converted to d20 scale and Swedish RPGs are TFOTM right now, right? Damn 2d20’s even got the impales and critical rule, repurposed. They are using this in the Infinity rpg and Star Trek too and guess what? It’s actually …a working totally fine system, if you play it and get used to it…it took us maybe four sessions to stop bitching and realise it’s just a fancy Pendragon.

    One of the things people often neglect when looking at Runequest etc is that it’s success based anyway/too. You have critical success, success, fail, critical fumble as categories and your often comparing the “result class”. Robin Laws, HeroQuest builds on this further giving you multiple free successes for high skill levels yet still using the success class mechanical engine… and if you look at 2d20 you can see direct gaming “DNA” percolating down into its design, with a touch of FATE and/or CortexPlus. So 2d20 is a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster build, if you look at it in those terms.

    BUT it works fine in play – the horse trading of successes can be a bit live with it or love it and it’s the bit that slows the game down a bit at first.

    Having played it in Conan I think it’s a fine fit to the setting, once you get past how ugly it looks.

    It should really have a name like X20 or D20x or something … 2d20.

    1. 2d20 is really not even a very accurate a name for the system BUT it might make people feel like “ohh I play D&D d20 system, so this must be like that…” maybe it’s a ploy to get people over the line …

      Anyway it’s just a fancy roll under with bells and whistles and it’s honestly ok to play with. The added benefit is by just giving it a chance on its own merits you avoid lots of conversion work which in my experience tends to tank games after a session or two ymmv.

      If I had my wish every game would use either, Ubiquity, Cortex+ Or the Mutant Year Zero/Coriolis, system . Amazingly good games, that get it just right for me ( also AEGS Mistborn’s system and FFGS Grimm d6 Eos Legends of Wu Lin systems as honerable mentions ).

      Note: Sandy Peterson etc from chaosium and BRP fame, built the D6 system for the original ghost busters game which went on to be used in Star Wars etc… just interesting really.
      Trudvang aka Drakar og Demoner uses the d100 re scaled to d20 it was the first game of many Swedish gamers and has had that type of subliminal influence these thing just do.

      Fun topic.

  4. The Mutant Year Zero/Coriolis system is what I am looking at next. FATE is my kryptonite. As I havesaid before if there was a spectrum of simulationist to narrative style games I am on the simulation side of centre. I come from a Rolemadter background but even RM was too simulationust for me. I house ruled it down into a much lighter game.

    It was the momentum/doom system that most turned me off but that said I have not played the game, just read what was available.

    The complications I could live with and are explained better in Pit of Kutallu than they are in the quick start book. Energy weapons use a very similar system in Spacemaster with energy cells only becoming depleted on a critical failure or fumble.

    Momentum seems to be putting the rules before the game at almost every turn. If it works well in practice then I am glad. It seems really slow to me and I can imagine a simple battle taking up an entire evening unless most of the foes are in a mob and therefore of little consequence.

    1. Peter try a Cortex+ Game like Firefly or Marvel Universe does everything FATE can but much more smoothly. Highly recommended.

  5. Just one thing: I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard Conan fan, but I like the Conan RPG by Modphius a lot. I actually gave it my Seal of Approval in my three-part review and would recommend the game to anyone. It’s an extremely well-made game.

      1. I haven’t had the chance to actually play it yet. The only 2d20 game I played so far was Star Trek during the playtest and I was having a blast. Especially the Momentum mechanic worked great and helped to keep the action going. A friend of mine has played in a Conan campaign with some of the Modiphius people and he confirmed me that the 2d20 in Conan works great as well – although combat tends to be a bit slower than he’d liked. But overall I think 2d20 works pretty well as a rules-medium system. Personally I prefer slightly lighter fare (like the above-mentioned Mutant: Year Zero system), but nevertheless I think Conan and the other 2d20 games are awesome. I wish I had more free time and opportunity to actually play them.

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