What makes a Conan game "Conan", in your mind?

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CRKrueger

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People didn't run with the tangent in the Gaming in Hyboria thread, so I'm asking it here. No narrative vs. traditional stuff here, if you like Marvel's Conan the best and wanna use Cortex+ MHR to play Conan, all's fair game.

What defines a "Conan" RPG?
 

Raleel

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Well, this to me smacks of a what is sword and sorcery question. So, I'll give my stock answer about it - that The Design Mechanism's Monster Island has the best definition I've seen. I posted this on big purple a bit ago.

  • Living for the Day - adventurers are in it for base and egocentric reasons. Pragmatic, immediate areas
  • No Black and White Morality - generally not nice or flawed people with lots of sins.
  • Healing is hard - people heal up during long travels or at taverns. Clashes are dangerous as a result.
  • Corrupting Power of Magic - magic is dark and dirty, and the users become corrupted by it. Magic generally takes a while, and is often deadly and terrifying.
  • Horror of the Unknown - alient beings, ruins without inhabitants, etc
  • Anthropomorphic and Xenophobic - humans almost exclusively, and anything that is not tends to be monstrous or very alien.
Specifically for Conan, though, I would make sure that the world made sure to include the Ancient World - ancient Persia, jungle kingdoms from Africa, ancient Indian kingdoms, etc. many many of the stories have remarkably few European influences. Going with this is a lot of red-lining - skipping over the travel in the middle, it's not about the journey, it's about the destination.

I think it should be deadly, but I think the PCs have an edge on luck. If I was to do Mythras terms, I would say +1 luck point, or just give everyone 3, or if the story made sense with it, group luck. They get an edge, and I think it is clear.
 

CRKrueger

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Heh, the Monster Island Sword and Sorcery points are where I was going to start as well. To expand on the magic point, one element I think is important is to, like Howard, embrace the Weird Tales of Clark Ashton Smith and HP Lovecraft and make use of them in your Conan mythology. Thog and Thaug (perhaps the same being or avatars of one) are clearly Mythos type creatures and others make their appearance. The Howard stories include elements of alien magic/science/techno-wizardry perhaps from a time before Kull.
If you do allow PC magicians (and a lot of Conan GM's won't), I think it's a good idea to never allow everything to be known and classified. Even to an ancient wizard like Pelias, or an immortal monster like Xaltotun, there should still be powers and abilities unknown.
One of the reasons I do like Mythras for Conan is the Cults & Brotherhoods rules are near-perfect for simulating the Inner Mysteries of various religions and sorcerous cults and how one moves through them attaining power. The d20 Conan game was pretty good at dealing with Hyborian Religion too, and had the same idea, even if expressed differently.
 

Raleel

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Agreed. When I was running Spider God's Bride, cults was great for various animal god cults (rat god, ape god, spider god, etc). Also was very conducive to "no, this gives you transmute poison, not transmute anything else" sorts of delineation, which I think directly helps your not allowing everything to be known or classified.
 

Spinachcat

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When I think Elric, it's Swords & Sorcery. When I think Conan, its Swords vs. Sorcery.

In a Conan game, I don't want to be glad we have a witch with us. I want to curse our current need for her magic and constantly be watchful for the trouble she's gonna draw to us from the angered gods. Magic doesn't just have a price. It also has collateral damage.
 

Sommerjon

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PCs running around in leather speedo and all wanting to be kings?
 

TristramEvans

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When I think Elric, it's Swords & Sorcery. When I think Conan, its Swords vs. Sorcery.

Thats very much my thought as well. Its casts my mind back to the early editions of Pendragon, when there was no magic system, it was just something used by the GM (I'm not suggesting Pendragon would be appropriate for Conan at all, but I think the idea of no magic user characters is something I'd find appropriate to a Conan game).
 

Raleel

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Thats very much my thought as well. Its casts my mind back to the early editions of Pendragon, when there was no magic system, it was just something used by the GM (I'm not suggesting Pendragon would be appropriate for Conan at all, but I think the idea of no magic user characters is something I'd find appropriate to a Conan game).

they are relatively rare in Conan, but they do exist. Certainly on some smaller scales. Hour of the Dragon has a couple that are allied with Conan. I can certainly see your point, however. Sorcery is generally corrupting enough you aren't seeing protagonists with it very much at all.
 

Arkansan

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For Conan gaming I'm looking for setting elements as much as play style. A particular grit to the world, cults of forgotten gods hiding away in the darkness, primitive beast men that are obvious relatives of humanity, political intrigue conducted at the point of a sword, magic that is largely a perverse force, gods who's attention you'd rather not draw etc.

Mechanically I think that you'd want players to start at a certain level of competency that is higher than in most games but progress only very slowly. I'd also say healing would need to be difficult and expensive. Magic should be incredibly dangerous and just as likely to bite the hand of its wielder. No non human player races of course.

I seems to recall that Akrasia had some house rules on his blog for Swords and Wizardry that really brought the game more inline with a sword and sorcery feel.

Grey Elf over on the OD&D proboards had a set of OD&D supplements he wrote for running Hyboria with that system. They made use of the Chainmail rules to allow for multiple levels of combat detail based on the number of combatants, I seem to recall thinking it would make it easy to run larger skirmishes as well as smaller combats.
 
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