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Modiphia - Issue #1
by Brandon P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/24/2017 12:11:37

I really loved the article about using zbrush called "Sculpting Carter". I can't wait for the next issue.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Modiphia - Issue #1
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Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2017 12:49:05

I'm GMing a once-weekly lunch hour game for 4 players. We have one new player who has only played Pathfinder. The rest are old-timers, D&D, West End d6, Savage World, Call of Cthulhu, FATE, etc. I’m using "The Red Pit" from the JToE PDF as the intro scenario and am blending into "Vultrues of Shem" as the main story.

A good system hampered by a bloated rulebook.

Pros:

  • Fast - Did char gen in a one hour session. We've gotten through "The Red Pit" in about 3 hours, with a lttle trimming on my side. To my mind, this is a good thing for a combat-centric scenario. Unarmored opponents go down quickly. Armor adds a bit of enjoyable complexity, but since aimed shots only cost two momentum, a good fighter can take them out fairly quickly by attacking weak points.
  • Perilous - PCs fear taking damage, but not so much as to paralyse them. The fast recovery of Vigour encourages them to take risks, the threat of Harm keeps them from being over bold. Once they realized they could take a turn to recover vigour, we got some fun pacing as they tag teamed an opponent.
  • Simple - My experienced players found it a breeze and my less experienced player grasped it quickly. One player had a hard time believing in "roll under" for about two sessions. I like the balance of Expertise (ability to succeed) vs Focus (ability to critical).The d6 damage mechanic seems complex, but does yield interesting results. Certainly having the custom dice would make it easier.
  • Momentum - popular with players. They enjoy making decisions about when and how to spend it. Momentum is a great way for non-combat players to contribute to the fight, or vice-a-versa in social settings. Assistance rule is simple and rewarding. Our barbarian often glowers threateningly when our Shaman makes the main Persuade roll.
  • Consistent - Basic rules apply across combat, social, and skill tests. Short but broad skill set.
  • Art - High quality and thematic. Doesn’t embarrass me in front of female players.

Middling:

  • Social/Mental Combat - a great idea but I have yet to figure out how to play it out. It may be that Resolve is too high, or that Vigor and Resolve need to be combined into one stat. It doesn't pay for a party to attack a single opponent with both Physical and Mental attacks. Luckily the non-combatants can generate momentum.
    • Details - some combat rules are best ignored in large battles. Reach is a cool concept and might play well in a duel, but we ignore it. Ranged rules make ammo counting seem like an essential part of the game, then you realize almost all the weapons have the Volley attribute which nixes the need to count.
  • Talents - these are really the meat of char gen. I rely on the players to keep track of what they can do, which is fine, but knowing all the talents for opponents is a burden on the GM, especially given the organization of the book.
  • Reactions - Dodge/Parry etc. - not quite sure how this plays out yet. Most of the players have a talent that gives them one free Reaction, when they remember to use it. Some characters choose to take the blows instead of spending Doom, which is fine.
  • Balance - The suggested NPC to player ratios are too high in my opinion, but maybe I’m a softie
  • Doom has some good uses. Some reviewers complain that the GM amasses a pile of Doom. I did not have that problem, but spent it quickly on taking initiative and dodging. I did try to reduce the NPC dodging as it drew that combat out longer than I wanted. I didn’t hate it, I can see it working OK in most cases.
  • Char gen involves creating story elements, which I think is great, but I’d prefer a FATE style pow-wow than the menu of tropes the game provides.
  • Magic - haven’t tried it, may not be dangerous enough to really fit into Howard’s world. On the other hand players get cranky if they can’t have a little magic themselves.

Cons:

  • Book is wordy and hard to navigate. Seriously, I think this is a major flaw. Statements are constantly reiterated. Essential information is buried in paragraphs of fluff, or scattered in separate sections and side bars. Charts are broken up with fluff text. This disguises what is, at it's essence, a nice, simple system. What is needed is a per-topic summary with relevant charts in once place. This is so badly needed I think it should be included in the PDF retroactively. Example - What can I do with my Momentum? Covered in 3 sections, one with a summary chart, the others with fluff text. Why not one or two charts I can hand to my players? How do I heal? Scattered in two or three talent descriptions and buried inside a multi-page section on “Damage and Recovery.” Also a side bar on Fatigue in the Skills and Talents section. Please, a single page could summarize all this information in one place.
  • Gazeteer is cute but the “stories” are dull and lacking useful information. I use the Hyboria wiki instead.
  • Above also applies the the "Vultures of Shem" scenario and the contents of JTotE scenario book. Maps and pictures are pretty but useless and are on the same page as GM only text, making them hard to share with players. Plot summary and character stats are scattered in sections and never summarized. How hard is it to climb the cliff in Red Pit? Scattered over several pages.

I compare this game favorably to FFG Star Wars, which I believe one of the designers worked on. Lots of the same ideas but with simpler bookkeeping and an eye on the end result.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
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Coriolis Atlas Compendium
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/06/2017 10:17:46

Introducing some of the places the party might visit within the Third Horizon, the first part of this book is suitable for both players and GMs. The descriptions focus on the main planet of each system covered, and on one city on that planet. The GM's part contains an overview of the history of the Third Horizon, a good look at who actually built the Portals that enable interstellar travel and provides a system for creating systems and planets of your own.

We then dive directly into the first section. Six systems are described: Algol, Mira, Dabaran, Sandaal, Zalos, and Odacon. For each, there is plenty of flavour text describing what sort of things you are likely to find on a visit - although somewhat more hard-hitting than the average tourist brochure... even the Rough Guides don't tell you where the slave market is in a place where slavery is prohibited! On a more pleasant note there are festivals, interesting sights to see and places to visit, as well as notes on the current political scene and other opportunities. Continuing the themes presented in the core rulebook, this section presents rich and strange worlds that prove fascinating in their own right, even before you consider the plots that have brought you there.

Moving on to the GM's section, we begin with an overview of history with a particular focus on the Third Horizon's troubled relationship with the First and Second Horizons... something that has been mostly forgotten by the denizens of the Third Horizon. The First Horizon is Earth (Terra), the Second Horizon is the first round of colonies and ended up dominated by a bunch of Mystics. Both Horizons viewed the Third Horizon as a good source of natural resources, a view that inevitably leads to trouble when the people living there decide that they are being exploited! The odd spelling mistake (that a good proof-read ought to have caught) doesn't detract from the sweep of history that takes us through several thousand years of strife right up to the present day in a few short pages.

Next we hear about the Portal Builders, or Predecessors as they are sometimes known. Nobody's quite sure who or what they were, just that they departed a good time ago but left a lot of interesting stuff behind. We read of some of these wonders, and of the theories and opinions that have grown up around them. All is still left quite open and vague: a neat move in that should the GM decide that the party is going to discover something about the Portal Builders, he is free to invent it for himself.

A system for creating new worlds comes next. The Third Horizon is a big place, and most of the worlds and systems in it are unknown... so here's the chance to come up with your own locations, stamp your own mark on the universe. There are thirty-six known systems, but even those - if you've flipped through the relevant portions of the core rulebook - have not been described in any detail apart from a few, so there's plenty of scope. (The records might be incorrect as well...) Gas giants, asteroid belts and those rocky planets that you might be able to actually land and walk upon are all covered here, as well as advice as to how to weave the bare bones into a coherent story, describing your new place as somewhere the party might want to visit.

The final two sections consist of ideas for creating missions based on the group concept underpinning the party and notes on travel. The 'mission generator' doesn't produce adventures for you, but it does get your mental wheels turning in appropriate directions - useful if you are struggling to come up with an idea. As the tables are based around the group concept you're using, it's quite hard to get inappropriate reults. By the time you have worked through the process (rolling on various tables) ideas ought to be beginning to spawn - you may well have come up with one before you complete the process, so don't worry, just put the dice away and get writing! Finally, the Travel suggestion is packed with ideas to make travel more interesting (the party may disagree).

Overall, this has the feel of 'Stuff we would have put in the core rules but ran out of space for', which as the core rulebook is almost 400 pages long is quite understandable. It's all useful stuff and fits well with what has already been presented, well worth adding to your game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis Atlas Compendium
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Coriolis - The Third Horizon core book
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/04/2017 13:50:43

This massive tome, lushly illustrated, hurls you headfirst into a game billed as the Arabian Nights in space. Mixing myths with starships, exotic cultures and interstellar travel, storytelling and technology, it puts an exciting spin on science-fiction and provides a setting that just calls out to be explored!

First up, we learn that this is a new version of a previous game, co-produced by Free League Publishing and Modiphius, and using a modified version of the latter's Mutant: Year Zero game mechanics. Free League Publishing, interestingly, were fans of the original game who started off by writing supplements for it. Then it's on to the first part of the book: RULES. Chapter 1: Introduction lays out in broad sweeps what the game is about (this is identical to the overview in the Quickstart Set) and explains the setting as being the Third Horizon, commonly just 'the Horizon', which consists of 36 star systems joined through space and time by mystic portals. The Horizon of today is a melting pot of different cultures, peoples and factions.

Now we are excited about visiting the Horizon, Chapter 2: Characters provides us with the tools to create characters with which to go there. As characters are assumed to be part of a group (with a spaceship) it is recommended that the group of players get together to create their characters, beginning with choosing your group concept from Agents, Mercenaries, Free Traders, Pilgrims and Explorers. There's advice on the sort of roles that need filling in each concept, as well as variations around the core theme: Pilgrims, for example, may not be particularly religious, the concept would fit itinerent workers or even travelling entertainers just as well. You will also need a Patron and a Nemesis...

Next we get down to individual characters. You start off by coming up with a background and a homeworld as well as a personal concept. Based on upbringing - Plebian (ordinary planet-dwelling folk), Stationary (raised on a space station) or Priviliged (the elite and wealthy) - you get varying points to spend on attributes and skills. There are two types of skills - general ones that everyone has a chance at and advanced ones in which you need at least some training - and five skill levels from novice to master. Each skill is associated with an ability, as the task resolution system (explained later on in the book) requires the rolling of a number of d6 based on the sum of the appropriate skill and its associated ability... and hoping for lots of sixes! There are other things to work out here as well, including which Icon - the local deities - you were born under. Just about everyone believes, at least a little, in their power. There are also some beautiful pages illustrating each character concept and providing further options to enhance and personalise your character. The next two chapters cover Skills and Talents - tricks, cheats and abilities that give you an edge over others - in great detail and show you how they are used.

Characters done, we move on to how they use the rules, and what they have to help them. So there are chapters on Combat, Weapons & Equipment, and Spaceships & Star Travel. Well-resourced and with plenty of examples, the whole system is quite easy to pick up yet elegantly powerful in what it allows your character to actually do. Task resolution is performed by adding up the points in the appropriate attribute and skill for the thing you're attempting and rolling that number of d6s - a single six means you've just managed it, three of them means you've done well, a critical success. The skill descriptions explain what all that means in terms of using that skill. If you don't get any sixes at all, you've failed and the GM needs to come up with some consequence of failure. When everything looks really bleak, you can always pray to the Icons. This pious act allows the re-rolling of all dice that didn't come up with a six. However, praying has its own dangers - every time you do, the GM gets a 'darkness point' from the religion's devil figure, the Darkness Between the Stars, these can be used against the party in a variety of ways. Combat is dangerous, think carefully - if you have the opportunity - before participating in a brawl. It's a turn-based system, with initiative established at the beginning of a fight by each participant rolling a d6, highest goes first... you can choose to lower your initiative by waiting to see what others do, but you are then stuck with a lower initiative for the whole combat. Various actions may be underaken in your turn, and a whole range of options are discussed. Associated matters like injury and healing are included and there's a delightful critical injury table for those who like to get more graphical than mere points of damage. We also find out how to fight with star ships, and about the vast array of equipment and weapons that are available.

Next comes a section THE HORIZON, where a wealth of setting information is to be found. We start with Chapter 8: The Third Horizon, which is where the game is located. It is a cluster of thirty-six worlds connected by ancient portals and the use of more conventional space travel. Our study begins with the region's history and then looks at the current state of affairs and the various factions which vie for power and position. Early space explorers barely knew where they were going, but eventually one group discovered the first star portal and colonisation really took off with the First Horizon and then the Second Horizon being explored and settled. It seemed a golden age but as such things do, something went wrong... and the discovery of the Third Horizon seemed a blessing for those who wished to escape the stultifying monolithic cultures that had developed. These, the Firstcome, spread across the Third Horizon building a beautiful and tolerant culture, and bringing the worship of the Icons with them. Then the fighting began, what history has termed the Portal Wars... although there are many opinions as to why the Wars started or what they were intended to achieve. They culminated in a kind of victory for the Third Horizon, but at the price of not just the loss of an entire system but also of all portals back to the other Horizons. Now isolated, they must forge their own future.

Even within the Third Horizon, there was a bit of a dark age with little interstellar commerce or even contact. Then things were stirred up by the arrival of an ancient generation ship, colonists from the original homeworld of Al-Ardha (this is apparently the name for Earth, although on Earth it's a town in the far south of Saudi Arabia...) who had been travelling for, well, generations direct through the black, having left before the portals were even discovered. As the vessel was called the Zenith these newcomers adopted the name of Zenithians. They explored for a while wondering quite what to do, but eventually set up above the planet Kua, creating a spacestation called Coriolis as a meeting place for all the peoples of the Third Horizon. Slowly it's bringing the Third Horizon back to vibrant life.

Needless to say, there's plenty going on that threatens to destablise this fairly fragile peace. Strange Emissaries have emerged from a gas giant. People have begun developing strange new powers. One of the Emissaries has declared himself the living embodiment of an Icon, which has upset a lot of the faithful. And one planet has been attacked but nobody knows by whom, because vessels sent to investigate don't come back. So amist this maelstrom we move on to Chapter 9: Factions. Here is a wealth of detail about the main factions - perhaps your party will join one, or they may provide customers, patrons, allies or enemies as the campaign proceeds. Those who love intrigue will find it here, be it the public face of official diplomacy or more behind-the-scenes action. As if that were not enough, there are small-bit players as well, groups and organisations operating at a lower level than the factions themselves, never permanently allied to a faction... and a likely source of employment for the party. Small wars for mercenaries, trade contacts, interesting excavations for those of an archaeological bent, there's plenty here.

Next is Chapter 10: The People of the Horizon. Even the true humans are quite a diverse lot, and then there are the Humanites, despised modified humans who have been altered to perform certain tasks or survive various extremes. We read of daily life in diverse places, and how the Icons are all-pervading, with virtually everyone believing in them (or at least saying that they do) and many being devout. A discussion on culture in general is followed by notes on the Icons and what is believed about them. Oddly, belief in the Icons themselves predates the foundation of the Church of the Icons, which has codified beliefs and practices, laying out various commandments that must be obeyed... and outlawing some traditional customs. Not surprisingly, there are many schisms and factions within the faith. To add to the mix there are myths and superstitions galore, and of course the djinn.

The next three chapters introduce and describe the Coriolis station, explore the planet Kua around which it orbits and present a gazetteer of the Third Horizon. For Coriolis, there's a timeline and details of many locations aboard. Much of it sounds like a North African or Arabic souk, teeming with merchants and food stalls, where just about anything can be had for a price. Whole adventures could be run here without ever setting foot off the station. However, reading about the Kua system - or indeed the entire Third Horizon - may change your mind, there's loads to see and do there as well!

The final part of the book contains a chapter on Beasts and Djinn, which is somewhat more than a mere bestiary, and one on the Campaign. As can be imagined, this is GM territory, and players are advised to avoid these two chapters. Mysteries are explained (or suggested), and there is loads more background and flavour to aid the GM in writing adventures and running the game. The Campaign chapter is a mix of advice and game mechanics, notes on the science and art of running a game... and how to use the Dark Between the Stars to good effect as a terrifying evil force that balances the good the Icons do. There's also a mini-scenario, The Statuette of Zhar to get you started, and two 'scenario locations' that can be used in your own plots.

This is an exciting book that leaves you itching to go visit this rich and complex setting, which is reflected beautifully in the sheer visual impact of the tome. The simple elegance of the game mechanic ensures that it will not intrude but facilitate your storytelling. Overall, this promises the potential of a particularly fascinating game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis - The Third Horizon core book
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Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/02/2017 08:07:04

With lush illustrations to tantalise, this work provides an overview of the setting as well as rules information, pre-generated characters and a complete adventure to play. The Introduction sweeps you up from the outset with quick summaries of what players and the gamemaster in a role-playing game do and an outline of what characters will do: now, crewing spacecraft, exploring and carrying out missions are to be expected in any spacefaring game, unravelling secrets and plotting and scheming even... but there's mention of a space station called Coriolis and the intriguing thought that religious belief and worship are still part and parcel of most people's lives. Clearly this is a distinctive setting to explore, one where technology and myth are wound together in a manner befitting a game billed as 'the Arabian Nights in space'.

We're soon diving into history and learning about the Third Horizon, a group of thirty-six star systems linked by portals which have been colonised in two waves. Interestingly, the first arrivals (the Firstcome) set out after the second wave (the Zenithians): the original Zenith was a generation ship sent out to establish colonies, but when they arrived they found that in the meantime the folks back home had discovered an ancient portal system and got there first! The two groups still bicker, but not to the extent that others did - the people of the First Horizon tried to take over the settlements of the Second and Third Horizons but were eventually defeated in a massive war that has left its mark all over known space.

The central system in the Third Horizon is called Kua, where there's a jungle planet of the same name orbited by the Coriolis space station. Founded by the Zenithians, Coriolis is intended as a place where all the factions of the Third Horizon can meet and trade, establishing peaceful relations with each other. That's the idea, but it's not quite as peaceful as was initially intended. Strange Emissaries, from a nearby gas giant, have everyone a bit baffled as to their intentions, not helped by one of them declaring he is one of the Icons, the deities widely worshipped here. This situation is replete with opportunities for adventure... and here we are in the middle of it!

We now move on to the rules part, with Chapter 2: Skills explaining how attributes (strength, agility, wits and empathy) work together with skills (of which there are two sorts, basic ones anyone can do and advanced ones that must be learned) to enable characters to accomplish whatever it is that they want to do. Task resolution is performed by adding up the points in the appropriate attribute and skill for the thing you're attempting and rolling that number of d6s - a single six means you've just managed it, three of them means you've done well, a critical success. The skill descriptions explain what all that means in terms of using that skill. If you don't get any sixes at all, you've failed and the GM needs to come up with some consequence of failure. When everything looks really bleak, you can always pray to the Icons. This pious act allows the re-rolling of all dice that didn't come up with a six. However, praying has its own dangers - every time you do, the GM gets a 'darkness point' from the religion's devil figure, the Darkness Between the Stars, these can be used against the party in a variety of ways.

After copious details on the various skills available, we come to Chapter 3: Combat. It's dangerous, think carefully - if you have the opportunity - before participating in a brawl. It's a turn-based system, with initiative established at the beginning of a fight by each participant rolling a d6, highest goes first... you can choose to lower your initiative by waiting to see what others do, but you are then stuck with a lower initiative for the whole combat. Various actions may be underaken in your turn, and a whole range of options are discussed. Associated matters like injury and healing are included and there's a delightful critical injury table for those who like to get more graphical than mere points of damage. Naturally there are other ways to die as well as combat - fire, drowning, starvation and vacuum also feature here. A note about vehicles rounds out the chapter.

The rest of the book is devoted to the adventure - Dark Flowers - and the pre-generated characters provided for you to play it. It tells the tale of a long lost space station, a search for a fabled plant, and a scientist obsessed with completing her mission - even unto death. The backstory explains what's been going on, covering an hundred years or so, for the GM then the party is brought into the picture. They are tasked with getting into the space station and exploring it, and will be faced with a difficult decision to make. The adventure is well-resourced with everything you need to make it come to life provided in the text. It's an excellent adventure with a long slow creepy build up...

This quickstart certainly achieves the aim of picquing interest in the full game. The game mechanics are straightforward and easy to understand, and the setting is rich with promise. Put aside any thoughts of this just being Babylon 5 retooled with a bit of help from Firefly and Aliens, this is a vibrant and exciting setting in its own right, a place in which epic tales can be told.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
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Robert E. Howards CONAN Roleplaying Game Quickstart
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/22/2017 03:35:34

Still I do not understand how you can combine, in 2017, a setting so gorgeous (from a literature so strong) with a game system as childish (and outdated as a gaming concept) instead of another who prefers the story.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Robert E. Howards CONAN Roleplaying Game Quickstart
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Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
by George C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/21/2017 04:33:10

It's really good when companies release these quickstart PDFs, and this one is no dissapointment! I am looking forward to running this, although I don't see a reason it won't go flawlessly



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
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Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the Earth
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/18/2017 12:29:38

This is a collection of seven adventures for Conan, each designed to be played individually as suits, spanning the known world and providing opportunities to explore different aspects and themes. They are deliberately designed to be episodic - Howard's original Conan stories were, after all - and can be mixed up and messed about with if they don't suit your needs as presented here. The adventures are presented as seven chapters with an eighth one devoted to a collection of short adventures and plot seeds to inspire you further.

The first adventure is Devils Under Green Stars. The party has somehow got to Zukundu, a lost civilisation in the Southern Kingdoms beyond Stygia (several suggestions are provided for the exact location), where they find a high-walled city/palace covering an entire island. It looks pretty overgrown, but those venturing in will find that it's not completely abandoned! The idea is that they've found the place almost by accident, but local wildlife makes the thought of going in more palatable than being eaten where they are. Oh, and at least one of the tribes within has lots of gold. Surely that makes it all worthwhile? With warring tribes and hideous monsters, yes, this one has caught the spirit of Conan well.

On, then, to The Pact of Xiabalba, which begins with the party going about their own business at sea when a storm strikes... and ends with them fighting to escape a mysterious city that's about to be sucked back into a nightmare realm somewhere out of time and space as they know it. The city, you see, belongs to a race of Giant-Kings thought to have died out sometime in pre-history... only they are very much around, at least here. The city at first appears ruined, then a timeslip takes them into a siege...

Next up, The Caves of the Dero gives the party a treasure map and, well, you know adventurers. Given a treasure map they'll need to try and find the treasure... the quest leads them into a decidedly unstable mine. The loot may be stupendous, but is it really worth the potential cost to retrieve it?

The next adventure is The Ghost of Thunder River. This starts off in Velitrium, a border town in the Westermark in the Bossonian Marches, the buffer Aquilonia maintains between its border and Pictish territory. The Picts are proving troublesome under the leadership of a weird pale devil risen from ancient days (or so it is claimed). To introduce the backstory, the players can undertake a prelude in which they forsake their regular characters for a bunch of Picts whose hunting trip has ended up with them forming a war party who end up visiting a strange tomb... Once this segment has played out, they can resume their normal characters to start the adventure proper. The prelude can be omitted, but it does add an interesting twist and is rather more fun than just being told what happened in the past. The adventure itself begins with the party enlisting in the Velitrium militia - it's left up to you to decide how they came to be there - and helping to take the fight to the Picts... but there's something odd going on. Plienty of wilderness adventure in this one.

The Thousand Eyes of Aumag-Bel follows, beginning with the party enjoying a well-earned rest in a city when they get robbed of a specific item. Just how they came to have said item is left up to you - anything from an inheritance to loot picked up in a previous adventure will do. This leads to all sorts of fun and running battles through (and then under) the city.

This is followed by The Red Pit which starts with the party as slaves... and it's time to lead a revolt! Again, how they got to be there is left up to you, although a few ideas are provided. This one is a straight-up all-out brawl as the slaves - armed with bare fists and loincloths to start with - fight their way out of the Red Pit, an opencast mine in which they've been put to work.

The final full adventure is The Seethers in Darkness, which sees the party hired to escort a scholar on a quest for a lost ruin in the desert southwest of Zamboula. Needless to say, nobody's heard of the ruins and nothing is quite what it seems. Plenty of classic adventure here with ancient races, cities buried in the sand and other typical Conanesque themes.

Finally we have Chapter 8: Seeds of Glory. This provides a myriad of ideas about running adventures and campaigns, including suggestions for stringing the adventures presented in this book into a coherent plot starting off with The Red Pit - you don't start much lower than being a slave after all - and gathering wealth and power progressing through the other adventures. Or maybe they start off in reasonable comfort and things go badly wrong as their adventures progress... yet such a coherent story arc was not Howard's way of telling a story, even if it is more expected in a role-playing game. Many possibilities are discussed here, it will be up to you to decide how you want to use this material. The chapter ends with several paragraph-long seeds from which you can build further adventures. Who knows, maybe Conan himself will make an appearance, but remember: the player-characters are the heroes of THESE tales!

It's an excellent collection of adventures, and their episodic nature is handled well in the advice given in Chapter 8, with ample suggestions on how to use them whether or not you want them to be a bit more coherent in terms of a plotline. These are probably not adventures to just pick up and run, they will repay careful thought and planning to make your group's experience of the Hyborian World as epic and exciting as the original tales... but the spirit of Conan lives on in these pages!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the Earth
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Coriolis - The Third Horizon core book
by Robert J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/17/2017 14:02:59

Very rules light, but it has enough crunch to sink your teeth into without getting bogged down. The game, both in lore and mechanics, feels like it took the best from Mass Effect, Shadowrun, and Warhammer 40k and created a wonderful, interesting world full of crazy ideas that lend themselves well to a science-fiction world with distinct dark fairy tale aspects. This is going to be a phenomenal game for new players and veterans alike, with plenty of room for GMs to either expand on the lore and put their own spin on it, or completely divorce the mechanics from the setting and make their own universe to explore.

The game puts an emphasis on the narrative of the dice rolls, and the rules create a story that the players and GM write together. The players are treated as special - bona fide hero types, while never making them impossible to kill. Combat can be fast and dangerous, but it is only lethal if the players start to lose badly. Since killing the PCs requires a choice by buying critical hits on attack rolls, the GM can control party wipes and create intense challenges at will.

While I personally had difficulties reading the book as a PDF due to the layout, the book is absolutely GORGEOUS and really communicates the dark sci-fi fairy tale theme. A print copy of this book will be an absolute delight to own and read. While the PDF was not the easiest to read, it was by no means a problem enough to dissuade me from continuing to read or regret purchasing a PDF copy. A plain text copy of the book would be amazing for devices tablets.

Coriolis is a fantastic game with loads of potential. I highly suggest it for any gaming group. Right out of the box this is a complete, rich experience that only has room to grow. I can't wait to see what comes next for this unique, imagination-fueled game.

Happy gaming!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis - The Third Horizon core book
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Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the Earth
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/17/2017 12:45:22

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!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the Earth
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Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/16/2017 12:11:20

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!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
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Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/16/2017 02:07:02

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 & 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.)

System

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.

Conclusion

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/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Robert E. Howards CONAN Roleplaying Game Quickstart
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/14/2017 08:22:11

Opening with a brief history of Robert E. Howard's creation of Conan, interspersed with quotations from the books, this work boldly proclaims that this Conan game, unlike any of its predecessors, has been produced in collaboration with serious scholars of Howard's work and thus is closer to the original concept than any other.

Next, Chapter 2: The Hyborian Age introduces the setting, describing the nations that populate this rich setting and discussing their loose relationship with real-world history, before we move on to Chapter 3: Basic Rules. This explains enough of the game mechanics to enable you to understand the notations on the seven pre-generated characters provided, and - of course - to play the sample adventure presented here. There's a brief overview of attributes and skills, then it gets down to the detail of how they are actually used in play. This includes the concept of Complications (adverse events that happen when you roll a natural 20) and Momentum (a pool of advantage gained by achieving more successes than you need, which can be used to boost the effectiveness of what you are doing straight away or any action taken shortly thereafter... or even made available to your colleagues). The GM meanwhile accumulates Doom, to use against the party. Some examples are given to show how the system works. Cnapter 4: Action Scenes then explains how combat works. Rather confusingly (as the rest of the rules are easy to understand) a weird symbol that looks like an eagle suddenly appears, which refers to custom 'combat dice' that have been produced for this game... and are explained a few pages later. Fortunately ordinary six-sided dice will do the job just fine.

Next comes the adventure itself, To Race the Thunder. This sets the party amidst a Pictish uprising on the banks of the Thunder River near Fort Tuscelan, with plenty of opportunities to brawl as they flee to safety. Both Picts and the local wildlife will be after them as they race to warn the Fort and other settlers... and to save their own skins! It's no walk in the park, with a tough pitched battle and encounter with a Pictish shaman as a finale.

The adventure provides a bit of excitement and some good exercise (not just for the sword arm!), and should give your group a feel of the sort of action they can expect when playing this game. It does capture the rougher, more combat-oriented aspects of Conan well and bodes well for the full game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Robert E. Howards CONAN Roleplaying Game Quickstart
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Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks - Steampunk RPG - FREE PREVIEW
by Henrik E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/13/2017 01:19:41

Although I haven't tried it yet it looks refreshing and very well produced. And I love the cute drawings.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cogs, Cakes & Swordsticks  - Steampunk RPG - FREE PREVIEW
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Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/11/2017 21:05:33

Before mentioning the core mechanics, I'd like to first say that if you're an old-school "GM is God" or "Benevolent Dictator" GM, then you'll want to know that the Mophidius 2d20 RPG system uses a currency mechanic of Momentum and Fortune for players and Doom for the GM to add cinematic effects to the game. This currency mechanic can be house-ruled away from the core "roll dice to make a skill check" mechanics. Myself, I'm fine with it, since I prefer to throw challenges at the players, and let the system worry about game balance.

Skill Checks: Otherwise, Conan uses the commonly seen skill check of making a die roll versus a target number. Characters have Attributes, Skill Expertise, and Skill Focus. Attributes are inherent abilities, and are Agility, Awareness, Brawn (Strength), Coordination, Intelligence, Personality (Charisma), and Willpower. Skills represent specialized training, and each skill is tied to a particular Attribute. When a character makes a skill test, they roll 2d20. Each result equal to or below the character's Attribute plus Skill Expertise is a success. However, if they also roll equal to or less than their Skill Focus, they receive two successes instead. Before making a roll, the game master assigns a difficulty level, typically D1, to determine how many successes needed. If two characters are in opposition to each other, they are considered to be in a Struggle. Both make a skill check against a Difficulty, with the character passing the Difficuty check and making the most successes being the winner. Interestingly, attacks, by default, are at a D1, but, if the defender chooses to give the gamemaster a Doom point, he may choose a Defend Reaction (such as Parry against a Melee attack, Acrobatics against a Ranged attack) and make it into a Struggle.

Cinematic Rules: While many roleplaying games rely entirely upon the game master to make the encounter entertaining, Conan has specific rules for cinematic play. Experienced game masters who enjoy the freedom to "wing it" during a game might not like these rules. New game masters and those who prefer more framework for introducing new elements can now rely upon the game system to be fair and him to not seem arbitrary as he makes an encounter more challenging. Returning to the skill check, a low roll means success, so, if any dice the player rolls is a 20, then the game master can add a Complication for each 20 -- even if the roll otherwise succeeded. For example, a player using his bow may hit his target, but may find himself now out of arrows. Momentum is a currency players can use to add advantageous cinematic effects. For each success greater than the Difficulty, a player gains a point of Momentum. They can spend it on various actions, or placed in a shared pool for later use during the round. Desired Effects indlude adding +1 damage, disarming an opponent, or adding an addtional d20 to a skill test. Since a character starts with 2d20, even the most skilled character will only have two success (three if they make their Skill Focus). Characters may roll additional dice by spending Momentum, generating Doom points for the gamemaster, spending Fortune, or working together as Teamwork. A player character begins with three points of Fortune, and is awarded them for reaching milestones and other in-game accomplishments. They may be spent on a Bonus Die with an automatic roll of a one (hence up to two successes if they have a Skill Focus of at least one), a Bonus Action, etc. A character cannot roll more than three additional dice, except through Teamwork. With Teamwork, additional characters can work together as a team. Each player describes how he is assisting the leader (and doesn't have to use the same skill as the character he is assisting) and rolls one d20. If the leader scores at least one success on his roll, then any successes generated by the assistants are added to the leader's total.

Action Scenes: Any conflict is presented as an Action scene. Action scenes are divided into rounds. The length of a round depends on the encounter. Rounds may last a few seconds in intense combat, or minutes for a village raid. Each round, a character can take a single Standard Action (eg. an attack), a single Minor Action (such as running across a room or another action that does not require a skill test), and any number of Free Actions (eg. dropping a weapon). Additionally, Reactions are special actions characters can take, turning a skill test into a Struggle. Reactions include a Defend (when the defender doesn't want the attacker to use the default difficulty of one), Protect (when a character attempts to defend an ally from an attack), and Retaliate (a melee attack when an enemy attempts to make a non-attack skill test). A character (including NPC) may perform several Reactions, but the first cost a point of Doom, second two points, etc. (The gamemaster gains Doom points to the gamemaster's Doom pool for their characters, while the gamemaster pays Doom points from his Doom pool for NPCs). Players, being the heroes, usually go first, but the gamemaster can spend Doom to allow an NPCs to immediately take their turns. Surprise is treated as a Struggle, and players can still spend Fortune or add Doom if they do not succeed. Rather than a grid, the location of each character is abstracted into zones, as defined by the gamemaster. The game uses five broad range categories (Reach, Close, Medium, Long and Extreme). (Reach is defined as within an arm's reach, while Close is the character's current zone.) Each zone has various zone effects (eg. moving out of an enemy's Reach requires a Withdraw Action as a Standard Action, or risks a Retailate Reaction from the enemy), including terrain tests, which may require a Standard Action as a skill test. Terrain tests are divided into Obstacles, Hindrances, Hazards, and Cover.

Attacks: Conan has three methods of attacking a target: Melee, Ranged, and Threaten. After choosing a target, the attacker chooses a weapon (Melee and Ranged), or a method of scaring the target (Threaten). If the target chooses a Defense Reaction (paying or gaining Doom points), there is a Struggle. Otherwise, it's an Average (D1) test. If the attacker succeeds, he rolls a number of six-sided Combat Dice for Combat Damage. 1-2 causes that much damage. A 5-6 causes one damage and triggers an effect, such as Piercing or Vicious. The defender rolls a number of six-sided Combat Dice, depending on armor, Courage, cover, morale, etc., as Soak. The difference is damage, taken against the defender's Stress. If a defender takes over five damage or has his Stress reduced to zero, the defender takes a point of Harm. In less abstract terms, a Physical Damage Type would cause Stress against the target's Vigor, and Harm against his Wounds, while a Mental Damage Type would cause Stress against the target's Resolve, and Harm against his Trauma. Wounds cause an increase in difficulty for Agility, Brawn, and Coordination tests by one, while Trauma increases the difficulty of Awareness, Intelligence, Personality, and Willpower tests by one. Characters suffering four points of Wounds or Trauma become incapaciated, only able to take actions by spending Fortune. Minor NPCs generally become incapaciated or flee after one or two points of Harm. Momentum (extra successes beyond the requirement to pass a difficulty check) generated in combat can be used to additional effects, such as Bonus Damage, Confidence (additional Morale Soak), Disarm, Penetration (ignore an amount of Soak equal to twice the Momentum spent), Re-roll Damage, Second Wind (recover Vigor or Resolve), Secondary Target (another target within Reach takes half damage), Swift Action (gain an additional Standard Action with a penalty), and Withdraw (leave the Reach of an enemy without triggering a Retailate Reaction).

The Conan RPG, then, has quite a bit of "crunch" and attempts to cover every cinematic action you could have in an RPG. I've only touched upon typical combat, and the game system uses Momentum and Doom to allow players and the gamemaster to add effects to combat. Additionally, the gamemaster will spend Doom to add more challenges to the players, such as spending more Doom to select a more lethal hazard in an adventure. At this point, it's probably best to download the free Quickstart and see if the game system works with your gaming group.

Character Generation: Returning back to the core book, Character Generation is more than selecting abilities and skills. Character background is heavily emphasized, and various skills are dependent on background. The first step in character generation is determining the character's Homeland (randomly or by choice), so a character with a Homeland of Nemedia speaks the Nemedian as his Language, and has the Talent of Cosmopolitan (able to speak with other characters with the Cosmopolitan Talent; several Homelands have the Cosmopolitan Talent). Generating Attributes starts with an optional modification then randomly selects which Attributes the player next modify. The player then selects or randomly rolls their Caste, which grants two caste talents (prior background knowledge), one skill (which may be further trained), a story, and Social Standing. The skill gained adds +1 Skill Experience and +1 Skill Focus to the designated skill. For example, a Warrior Caste has Sentry and Subject as Caste Talents, Parry as a Skill, a story, and Social Standing of 1. Social Standing may have an effect on Command, Society, and Persuade tests, allowing the gamemaster to adjust the Difficulty. Stories add additional background, are randomly rolled or selected, and grant a Trait. For example, a Warrior's story may be that of "Idle Hours Guarding Cold Wars", which has the Hedonous Trait (thanks to many hours of boredom). (By bringing a Trait into play as a Complication, a player may gain a Fortune point.) Next, a player rolls or selects his Archetype. Archetypes include Archer, Barbarian, Mercenary, Noble Warrior, Pirate, Priest, and Witch/Shaman. Archetypes grant a Career Skill, Career Talent, Mandatory Skills, Elective Skills, and Equipment. For example, a Shaman has a Career Skill of +2 Skill Expertise and +2 Skill Focus in the Persuade Skill, Career Talent of Force of Presence, Mandatory Skills of +1 Experience and +1 Focus to Alchemy, Counsel, Healing and Lore, and Elective Skills of two of Animal Handling, Sorcery, or Thievery. Equipment inlcude a toughened leather jacket (Armor 1: Torso/Arms), Healer's Kit, Alchemist's Kit, etc. Then the player selects or rolls for Nature, which comes with an Attribute Improvement (+1 to a single Attribute), Mandatory Skills (+1 Skill Expertise and +1 Skill Focus to three skills), Elective Skills (+1 Skill Expertise and +1 Skill Focus to two skills of a player's choice), and a new Talent, typically associated with one of the received skills. Skills consist of a Talent Tree, in which a Talent may be a prerequisite for another Talent, and Talents can have Ranks by being taken multiple times. While Skills are used for 2d20 rolls, Talents are special abilities. The Agile Acrobatic Talent, for example, allows you to re-roll a d20 when attempting an Acrobatic test. After Nature is Education, which, again, is picked or rolled, and provides mandatory and elective skills, as well as a talent. Then, the player rolls or selects a War Story, such as "Survived a Massacre", which improves specific skills, and lets the player create the background. Character creation continues with Finishing Touches, in which the player chooses various increases in his Attributes, Skills, and Talent, as well as a Language, Fortune Points, Personal Belongings, and a Weapon. Finally, with Final Calculations, the player determines his Vigor, Resolve, starting Gold, and Damage Bonuses. The character generation chapter also has a summary table to create or roll up a character, as well as alternate character creation limitations, for less heroic characters, or characters that are part of a group.

Sorcery and Alchemy: In Conan, the concept of a sorceror isn't the guy in the second row casting fireballs. Although novices (perhaps such as player characters!) may prefer to show off and reveal their true power, more experienced and prudent sorcerors (okay, NPCs!) will prefer to hold back, creating rumors and reputations of the power, as well as allying with and controlling men of power and those they control. That being said, some sorcerors may prefer to turn to Craft and Alchemy to create Petty Enchantments, such as lotus pollen and talismans. Sorcery itself is a Skill Tree, which also includes talents only related to sorcerous knowledge, such as "Protective Superstitions", which allows you to gain one bonus Momentum per rank when in a Struggle against a spell. Sorcery itself has the prequisite of the Patreon talent, and branches into Pact -> Barter Your Soul -> Life Eternal, and Enduring -> Enchanter -> Everlasting Sorcery. Characters acquire spells through the Patreon, Pact -- and Barter Your Soul -- talents. When casting a spell, the character takes a Minor Action to Focus (particularly since the Complications are more frequent when casting spells!). He may use various items, including those which improve his social abilities, such as Persuade and Command. A spell stat block includes Difficulty, Duration, and Cost to Learn / Cost (amount of permanent Resolve to learn the spell, and amount of Resolve it takes to cast). Sorcerors can enhance their spells with Momentum spends, and some spells have Alternative Effects, such as spell reversals. Counter magic allows a sorceror who can cast the same spell to block a rival's spell with a Struggle. Not too surprisingly, with the variety of spells and petty enchantments possible, additional sourcebooks and The Book of Skelos will be available.

Equipment and Upkeep: No more tracking of copper pieces, currency is abstracted. It's still called Gold, but day-to-day expenses are covered under Upkeep. You still can't go to the local We Have Everything In Stock store and just buy what you want. The gamemaster sets a difficulty, and you can use a Society skill test (or Persuade, or even Thievery!) to locate a seller, and can use Momentum to haggle down the price, and your Renown as the seller recognizes your reputation. You typically can only attempt to obtain one of these items per Upkeep. Between adventures, besides Upkeep, players can Carouse and engage in all sorts of activities: Meet a Patron, Trade, Gamble, Engage in Rumors, Recover, Cultivate Renown, and Receive Title. At the end of their Carousing, players roll on the Carousing Events table, which ranges from seeing some grave robbers stealing from the dead, to finding a strange possession. Most of the Carousing Events feel like adventure seeds, and I wouldn't mind seeing a future supplement, of more developed encounters.

Encounters: Speaking of which, the Conan core book includes a healthy monster manual of foes for the player characters. Creature Categories are divided into Minions, Toughened, Nemesis, Horrors, and Undead (some foes have more than one category). Toughened and Nemesis creatures are mechanically similar to player characters. Minions, being more numerous and less threatening than characters, have simplified fighting rules. Enemies often come in Mobs (Minions only) and Squads (Minions lead by a Toughened creature called a Leader). The game system has rules making fighting Mobs and Squads simplified but not too abstract (eg. attacks are similar to Teamwork). Skills are condensed down into Fields of Expertise: Movement, Combat, Fortitude, Knowledge, Social, and Senses. Senses, for example, covers Insight, Observation, and Thievery. After presenting the Special Abilities creatures have, the chapter has a brief discussion of an Encounter Structure, how to design a typical challenging encounter. Creatures are divided into Mortal Foes, Wild Beasts, Monstrous Foes, Otherwordly Horrors, and Characters of Renown. I particularly appreciated the Mortal Foes section, since it provides Bandits, Bodyguards, Cultists, Guards, Pirates, Thugs, and all sorts of staple humans. Wild Beasts include domesticated animals, like Dogs and Camels, as well as foes and vermin. The Characters of Renown section has entries for Conan; Amalric of Nemedia; Astreas, Chronicler of Nemedia; Belit, Queen of the Black Coast; Valeria of the Red Brotherhood; and Thoth-Amon of the Ring.

Adventure: Vultures of Shem. The adventure opens in the aftermath of a bloody ambush of an entire army, hardly the cliched beginnings of the tavern where the party is approached by an almost random stranger or asks around for rumors. Experienced gamemasters may want to brush up on their acting skills for the uneasy soldier encounter the PCs will have. Less experienced ones or gamemasters pressed for time can modify and excise this encounter (or try the Quickstart adventure). The adventure then settles down into a more conventional dungeoncrawl against not-quite-known monsters. What I did like is how the adventure starts off distinguishing itself away from the generic fantasy adventure, and presents enough unknown (whether it be NPCs that have their own self-interests, or monsters whose seem to have a purpose) to differentiate the world of Conan. The adventure is a tad railroady (about reasonable for a premade adventure), but not obviously so, leading to a climax, which, I think, does a good job of impressing players to the world of Conan. (Oh, and if you have a player who insists on being of noble blood, they should be in for a surprise.)

Conclusion: Overall, I think the 2D20 system is a very good fit with cinematic roleplaying and the Conan universe. I started with first generation roleplaying games which tried to fit the theme and genre of a game world into its game system, and like seeing roleplaying systems which pretty much do the reverse. 2D20 still isn't far from "roll dice to hit a target number" so you should be able to still modify the system like you've been doing for other roleplaying games. The Quickstart is free to download, and contains additional content as well as makes for a player handout. I also recommend the PDF to print out the character generation chapters for the players.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
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