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Jarulf

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A friend and I have had a discussion about BRP's suitability for playing Conan. He likes BRP but thinks it is much too deadly for the type of heroics Conan gets into and prefers D&D for this. I don't really have an opinion as I haven't read that many of the stories, just pointed out that with double hitpoints, Hero Points, perhaps some Super Powers to beef up the PCs and mook rules you could at least make the characters a lot more robust.

I've also seen comments that the perfect system for Conan would be Mongoose RuneQuest 2 (and presumably the forthcoming RQ6) so why these different views? Apart from system loyalty, why is this? Do people read the stories differently, see the fights differently, view the comics, the movies or the stories as more important?

I'm just curious about people's experiences and views, mostly out of idle curiosity.

EDIT: And let's just assume that when I say BRP, I mean D100 in general.

Edited by jarulf
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Do people read the stories differently, see the fights differently, view the comics, the movies or the stories as more important?
Yes - I think that Conan now has so much baggage attached that people read what they want from it. Also, when you get people's opinions on the internet, you can almost never establish what their credentials are - so some people have only read the comics and say 'Conan must be this!', while others have read the stories only (like me) and say 'Conan must be that'. All I can say is that I read the original Howard stories in the recent re-releases (without the influence of other authors) and I found the stories to be fairly gritty. Certainly, Conan was often getting wounded in various locations, I personally don't see a need for mook rules - I don't really remember him mowing down enemies willy-nilly - instead I think he ran when overwhelmed by numbers - but honestly I'm not sure I remember anymore - when I read the stories I wasn't thinking about how to model them in a game.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many people want to play Conan himself - and so think the system needs to model invincible characters. Others, like me, want to play Hyboria, but not Conan himself, and so don't think any such thing is needed. From my perspective, Conan was in no way invincible - he got wounded regularly in specific locations, he ran away so he could fight again another day, he was crucified once, he lost the love of his life, he was outwitted by his enemies from time to time - from the original stories, anyway, you felt like shit could stick to him - but he always fought his way back. BRP/RQ can model that just fine, IMO - and usually does.

"Tell me what you found, not what you lost" Mesopotamian proverb

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A friend and I have had a discussion about BRP's suitability for playing Conan. He likes BRP but thinks it is much too deadly for the type of heroics Conan gets into and prefers D&D for this. I don't really have an opinion as I haven't read that many of the stories, just pointed out that with double hitpoints, Hero Points, perhaps some Super Powers to beef up the PCs and mook rules you could at least make the characters a lot more robust.

Easily.

I've also seen comments that the perfect system for Conan would be Mongoose RuneQuest 2 (and presumably the forthcoming RQ6) so why these different views? Apart from system loyalty, why is this? Do people read the stories differently, see the fights differently, view the comics, the movies or the stories as more important?

S&S, Conan in particular, was part of my mindset when Loz and I worked on MRQ2. I had hoped that Mongoose would relaunch their Conan license using the new rules, and save for Paradox it would have happened. In RQ6 the trend will continue and in fact will more strongly support the S&S genre.

Why do some people think that d100 systems are too deadly for the genre? Well, there's a number of reasons, but the following are what spring to mind:

1) They come from a history of playing combat heavy games, where scenarios are based around sequential conflicts, each of which unerringly ends with death.

2) They are used to surviving combat by the aid of potent and easily garnered magic.

3) They haven't read the original R.E.Howard stories, or their memories of them have been submerged by pastiches and poor movies.

4) They forget that Conan is a literary character and is fated to survive the slings and arrows of all the dangers he faces.

d100 games are perfect for the genre because:

1) You can actually parry attacks.

2) You can swiftly defeat foes with one or two blows, without needing to use specifically designed mooks.

3) You can be a combat god by simply having a far higher skill than opponents.

4) Yet you can be defeated by superior numbers of very inferior foes.

5) You can replicate the fact that combat is scary and few of the book's protagonists ever use it as the first option to resolve conflict.

6) You are encouraged (and have skills available) to talk or trick your way out of conflict.

7) You can be a athletic, stealthy, educated warrior without breaking the limits of a character class or castrating a 'build'.

8) You can wear armour and have it work in the way it works in the stories (Conan loves his mail and plate)

9) With MRQ2/RQ6 at least, you can easily replicate all the shield bashing, disarming, leaping and so on which happen in the dynamic prose without penalising you own chance to hit.

10) Also with MRQ2/RQ6 you can defeat an opponent easily without needing to injure them, such as the innumerable times Conan is bashed over the head and rendered unconscious.

11) Hero Points, DI or its equivalent can help character survival.

Now most problems GMs have when replicating Conanesque games using d100 games comes down to scaling of enemies, arenas of conflict and pacing. Read through most of the tales and you'll see several trends:

1) Most foes are far inferior to the main characters in terms of skill. The core protagonists have a reputation for deadliness which Conan himself often uses to intimidate his foes, preventing a fight from even starting, or quickly breaking the morale of enemies once combat is joined. Such matters are up to the GM to impose and (save for being outclassed) are system agnostic.

2) Not all the conflict, challenge or drama hinges on swinging a sword. Conan often uses his charm to turn potential foes over to his side. He uses diplomacy to finagle himself into positions of rank. He uses seduction to ensure promotion or survival. And those aspects proliferate the stories. He also uses his intellect to think his way around problems such as using tricks to fool priests, stealth to bypass unnecessary combat, knowledge of languages to seek out treasures, his athletic skills to flee from opponents - and lets face it, he runs an awful lot.

3) Pacing is perhaps the most important aspect. Conan stories hardly ever revolve about a sequence of fights every half hour. He's not cleaning out dungeons or committing total genocide (well, save for unwittingly killing the odd unique monster). Days can pass between combats, there is lots of travel, carousing, flight, rabble rousing and so on between each conflict. So GMs shouldn't need to rely on healing magic to keep on propping up the PCs between encounters. If he finds the party getting too injured he should cut back on the number of fights, reduce the threat of the opponents and make sure the majority of combats (save perhaps for the climax of the scenario) are fought with the intent of capturing rather than killing the characters. After all, most of Conan's foes want to interrogate, torture or sacrifice him later on.

For me d100 systems are the perfect and logical fit for the gritty, dangerous Hyborian world. I don't want to play superhuman or uber heroic Conanesque games. I want one where I don't care if my barbarian dies, provided he dies well...

"I seek not beyond death. It may be the blackness averred by the Nemedian skeptics, or Crom's realm of ice and cloud, or the snowy plains and vaulted halls of the Nordheimer's Valhalla. I know not, nor do I care. Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content."

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Well that pretty much sums it up, you don't always get such a detailed response from one of the game's authors.

BRP works great for sword n sorcery, check out the Settings chapter in the BRP rulebook for genre builds. It has the suggested options for particular setting types, and Sword n Sorcery genre would sit somewhere between the suggested optional rules for the Ancient Setting and Dark Ages settings I think, very similar to how AH RQ3 used to be played. This 'tactile' flavour to the combat was continued when Mongoose took over the franchise, and is portrayed very well by their editions as well, perhaps even more so, as MRQ2 really captures that 'sword and sandal' feel to melee combat, much more than any other game I have played. Highly recommended.

The D100 system has always been considered a great fit for a Hyborian game, and if you pick up MRQ2's 'Lhankmar' book there is alot of setting ideas that can be used almost 'as is' with Hyborian trappings, that magic in particular is very sword n sorcery and fits Hyborian magic down to a tee.

I have played Hyboria briefly using RQ3/MRQ2 with the MRQ2 Lhankmar book, and also bought the Mongoose CONAN 'Road of Kings' which is 90% narrative description on the lands and cultures of Hyboria, as well as Mongoose CONAN "Faith and Fervour' for info on the cults. The cult write-ups are mainly narrative, and the game stats are very easily adapted to RQ style cults with a minimal of ease, they are written up very similarly to how you see Cults in RQ. The game went well, and I felt that it really captured the essence of Hyboria. It was gritty and all of the NPC companions died, with the PCs barely escaping. Very much in the flavour of Conan's early career as a Thief/Rogue/Sellsword. If I had more time I may return to GM the Hyboria setting, but my current campaign is Third Age Glorantha and that's working well for the current troupe.

As far as playing a more heroic and pulpy character like Conan himself, MRQ2 has some good 'Mooks' rules which you can use to get this pulp flavour. I prefer to play the game gritty, but it can do pulp quite good as well.

If you want mileage on a generic system I would go with core BRP with the suggested setting options, but if you're primarily after sword n sorcery itself I'ld strongly recommend either MRQ2 or Mongoose 'Legend'. It's specialised for this genre, so the combat runs well, and its less prep work required for a GM in some ways.

Remember that RQ6 is likely to come out later this year as well. A great time ahead for sword'n'sorcery role players!

Edited by Mankcam

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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I guess with the multitude of Conan iteration the perception of what a Conan game should be like might be skewed a bit but for me if D&D does a fantasy style well, it is certainly not Conan.

I agree with Pete on all account and regarding point 9 and 10 I would add that it is also true for BRP with the caveat that the mechanic for it is different (Techniques) and is found in another supplement (Dragon Lines). Dragon Lines also has great "lesser foes" guidelines to help the GM replicate the feel heroes mowing down masses of nameless/unimportant enemies.

I also agree with Mankcam that while BRP gives you more customization power, MRQ2/Legend/RQ6 ia already very well geared toward that specific playstyle.

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Interesting replies guys, and I think Pete pretty much summed it all up.

Thinking about it a little, I suspect one of the main issues is the one mentioned by Thalaba; that people want to play Conan himself. Or someone just like him and as Pete says he is meant to be invincible. That doesn't translate well into any RPG of course.

Now, I just need to find someone on-line who wants to GM MRQ2 Hyboria for me, this has wetted my appetite. :)

And perhaps I should read a few of the stories.

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Thinking about it a little, I suspect one of the main issues is the one mentioned by Thalaba; that people want to play Conan himself. Or someone just like him and as Pete says he is meant to be invincible. That doesn't translate well into any RPG of course.

Actually it is pretty easily done if after creating very competent characters, players and GM stick to the few last rules that Pete listed in his reply. We once played a very Conan like game in GURPS, which is very gritty as well as a system, and the one fatality in the whole campaign was when I chose to fight in a very dificult situation. I should have flew.

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He likes BRP but thinks it is much too deadly for the type of heroics Conan gets into and prefers D&D for this.

In my view this would reduce Conan and similar characters of heroic fiction to

invincible combat monsters, which would ignore approximately 90 % of the ac-

tual content of almost all of such stories. As for Conan, he rather often only

wins very narrowly (otherwise the stories would be extremely boring), and he

uses his well developed social skills at least as often as his combat skills. In

my view a d100 system would be fine for a Conan game precisely because of

this, as in my view D&D (at least D&D 4) has a tendency to treat characters

as fighting machines and to handle their social skills and relations not so well.

In other words, if you want to play "the whole Conan story", a d100 system

is a very good choice, D&D would in my view only be better if you were only

interested in the hack & slash scenes of the stories.

"Mind like parachute, function only when open."

(Charlie Chan)

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I've said it elsewhere and before, but RuneQuest + CoC = Hyperboria. Bronze Age (or Iron Age) warriors, gritty combat, weird and scary monsters that heroes can run from without feeling like jerks. Personally, I prefer combat to be more cinematic but in the Conan stories once blades are drawn, somebody's going to get hurt.

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I am getting a bit confused with all the talk about Hyperboria :7. As far as I know Hyperboria is a Greek Myth and Hyboria is R.E Howards world.

To make matters worse, then there's 'Hyperborea' as well, a region within Howard's 'Hyboria' ;)

" Sure it's fun, but it is also well known that a D20 roll and an AC is no match against a hefty swing of a D100% and a D20 Hit Location Table!"

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I am getting a bit confused with all the talk about Hyperboria. :7

As far as I know Hyperboria is a Greek Myth and Hyboria is R.E Howards world. Even though Hyboria is probably a transliteration of Hyperboria made by Howard.

Hyper-boria is the most energetic portion of Hyboria. Unfortunately, Conan stopped taking his medicine ....

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IMHO, Elric (either Chaosium or Mongoose) + Cthulhu will get you what you need for good REH Conan styled gaming. The Chaosium version handles S&S very well, with skills above 100% to allow for more critical hits, and instead of hit locations, you have Major Wounds. Allegiance and Sanity can be tied, or even just yank the Corruption stuff from Mongoose's Conan. MRQII's Elric stuff works well too, as sorcery is a bit more risky, and pacts with demons and such play a larger role.

Ian

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I agree on every point even though I feel that the BRP book is more than enough to tailor for your taste. I would just say that go with the system that suites your group the best. The only thing I disagree on is using Major Wounds instead of Hit Locations. It's not Conan (or S&S for that matter) if you can't behead people. >:>

Edited by Chorpa
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With HP calculated as (CON+SIZ)/2, an average NPC will have 10 - 13 HP. A critical hit can easily do more than that, and with the right roll on the Major Wound table (i.e. any MW that affects the head), it is easy enough to state that a decapitation has occurred.

Yes but you can't aim for it. ;D

All I it comes down too is a matter of taste. I would never trade away the Hit Locations since it gives the gritty combat I love. If I wanna give the players a fighting chance for some heroics I'll just let them use the Total Hit Point rule combined with Hit Locations. I have run single shot adventures without Hit Locations and it works perfectly, but I just prefer Hit Locations myself since there is something so poetic about chopped of limbs flying around in fountains of blood. ;D

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With Conan, I think you absolutely need Hit Locations, precisely for the chopping off of limbs. I like the idea of "I hit the left arm and chop it off" rather than "I've done well, what do I do, I chop something off, where have I hit".

If you are so weedy that a sword can chop your limbs off then you are cannon fodder for Conan and the other proper barbarians.

Having said that, the real heroes need a way of supercharging Hit Points, getting more armour or being very good at Dodging and Parrying. You could do it in RuneQuest as you could get spells such as Shield and Protection, but I can't see that working for Conan. Perhaps some magic items could be used to make the Heroes tougher.

HP = STR + CON is a must, as that gives a meaty fellow 36 HPs, or 12 in an important location, so it would take 24 points to incapacitate him and that's not going to happen unles you get a good impale.

Tough Skin is also a good idea, as all those years wandering around the steppes in just a loincloth must have toughened you up a bit.

Allowing attack and parry with the same weapon might help as well. After all, that's what Conan does in the films.

I can see warriors rubbing salves onto their bare skin before a battle to give them more armour - after all, why else would they fight all oiled up, muscles glistening?

Healing potions are a must, as well, just to stop the attrition of total hit point death.

I'd not have Death at 0 HPs, either. Have 0 HPs being "About to Die" and only die once you have reached your Total HPs negatively. So, someone with 36 HPs should only die once they have reached -36 HPs.

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With Conan, I think you absolutely need Hit Locations, precisely for the chopping off of limbs. I like the idea of "I hit the left arm and chop it off" rather than "I've done well, what do I do, I chop something off, where have I hit".

If you are so weedy that a sword can chop your limbs off then you are cannon fodder for Conan and the other proper barbarians.

Having said that, the real heroes need a way of supercharging Hit Points, getting more armour or being very good at Dodging and Parrying. You could do it in RuneQuest as you could get spells such as Shield and Protection, but I can't see that working for Conan. Perhaps some magic items could be used to make the Heroes tougher.

HP = STR + CON is a must, as that gives a meaty fellow 36 HPs, or 12 in an important location, so it would take 24 points to incapacitate him and that's not going to happen unles you get a good impale.

Tough Skin is also a good idea, as all those years wandering around the steppes in just a loincloth must have toughened you up a bit.

Allowing attack and parry with the same weapon might help as well. After all, that's what Conan does in the films.

I can see warriors rubbing salves onto their bare skin before a battle to give them more armour - after all, why else would they fight all oiled up, muscles glistening?

Healing potions are a must, as well, just to stop the attrition of total hit point death.

I'd not have Death at 0 HPs, either. Have 0 HPs being "About to Die" and only die once you have reached your Total HPs negatively. So, someone with 36 HPs should only die once they have reached -36 HPs.

Elric! and Stormbringer did quote well with Major Wounds. Lopping off limbs and/or incapacitating them works just fine. However, the speed up and flow of just tracking overall HP instead of hit locations and individual location HP makes more sense to me for a fast paced Conan game (in my experience, hit locations and the additional bookkeeping slowed things down as opposed to only rolling on the MW table when enough damage is done - plus the additional excitement of "Cool, I scored a crit and a Major Wound - what did I do?!")

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  • 1 month later...

...

S&S, Conan in particular, was part of my mindset when Loz and I worked on MRQ2. I had hoped that Mongoose would relaunch their Conan license using the new rules, and save for Paradox it would have happened. In RQ6 the trend will continue and in fact will more strongly support the S&S genre...

Great post. :)

Which of the magic systems to be included in RQ6 do you think would be best for a Hyborian campaign?

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Great post. :)

Which of the magic systems to be included in RQ6 do you think would be best for a Hyborian campaign?

Don't know about Pete, but I'd use Call of Cthulhu's magic system for a Conan campaign. A friend (with a little encouragement from me) ran a Hyborian campaign doing just that -- and added the lands of Oz, since we all know that Glinda's book was really the Necromnicon and the Woggle Bug was DEFINITELY a Cthulhuian critter!

Edited by MormonYoYoMan
forgot to include the word "campaign" in first sentence...Oops.

Rurik is NOT dead in MY Glorantha!

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I'd use Call of Cthulhu's magic system for a Conan campaign.

I agree entirely. Conan and the Mythos are sides of the same literary tradition. The difficulty, danger and uniqueness of magic in CoC is very similar to the way it is portrayed in the R. E. Howard Conan universe. While it should be possible for PCs to become sorcerors, I don't think a typical magic 'system' would be appropriate.

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People who think Conan is invincible are ignoring the degree of pain and injury Howard inflicted upon him.

In many stories, Conan suffered as much as he could be expected to recover from. He was crucified, had his leg almost cut off in Xuchotl, is nearly crushed to death by a demon in Xuthal, and frequently was maddened with pain and drenched in his own blood from numerous wounds.

Conan survived because REH was sellling those stories, and as Doyle had demonstrated with Sherlock Holmes, killing off your money-maker just wasn't done.

It is, as others have alluded to, a problem adapting some kinds of IP to games.

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