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David Thomas
Gamer, 80's Punk, Lifelong Conan Fan, & Pulp Hero
Gamer, 80's Punk, Lifelong Conan Fan, & Pulp Hero

David's posts

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The Song of Lost Lanora, 2d20 RPG adventure

I updated my Song of Lost Lanora adventure to the final Core rules of the Modiphius 2d20 Conan RPG.

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For a basic threaten attack (steely glare) against an animal/beast, would you still use Persuade or would you use Animal Handling?

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Finished some more miniatures.
Skull piles, golden sarcophagus (not entirely finished), Cheeta (Tarzan's chimp), Vanir swordswoman (or Red Sonya), Brythunian archer, Bossonian archer, Cimmerian.

Going to really dig into the Monolith Conan minis next.
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GM Toolkit booklet looks like a decent set of GM advice. I've hit the point after almost 40 years of gaming that I can hardly read any more GM advice, not because I'm so awesome, but because I have read so many of these, but this advice seems pretty good. I like the Doom and Momentum advice, even though it would have been great to have even more concrete examples. I like the example use of Momentum, as it sort of hits on the questions I was asking last week. It would have been great to just have this whole section be advice about Doom and Momentum.

The random tables are always useful, and I'm really happy to see all the charts in the back.

Question for the design crew. Why do all the examples of play use generic PC's? It would add so much flavor to have the examples of play use Conan and friends.

As a not entirely related side note, I would love to see versions of RPG books offered that are "Expert" books, giving a newbie free rundown of the rules. Something along the line of the Savage Worlds Explorer's Editions. 

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Charles Dixon’s Conan the Barbarian
Rambling Conan Blog, pt.84

I’ve recently reread all of Charles Dixon’s Savage Sword of Conan work. As a teen, Dixon (and Ernie Chan) were my second favorite Conan pairing, right after Roy Thomas and Big John Buscema. After all the mediocre to terrible Dark Horse stuff I’d been wading in recently, I needed an old school illustrated Conan fix. It didn’t hurt that Amazon had most of the collections at half price for a week or two. So how was the return to Charles Dixon’s interpretation of the Hyborian Age? Well, let me tell you of the days of somewhat decent adventure…

Charles Dixon’s Conan is a bad ass, that’s for certain. However, Dixon misses the mark on Conan’s personality and the personality of the Age. It’s the thing that Roy Thomas did so wonderfully, he brought Conan to life in a world of high adventure. Dixon’s Conan has the moody and dangerous traits down pretty well, but he misses the gigantic mirth by a long shot. Dixon’s Conan exists in a realistic but bland world, where people and places from the various nations don’t really stand out from one another. Conan, for the most part, grumbles his way through one adventure after another, without seeming to be enjoying life very much. It reminds me a lot of De Camp and Carter’s Conan the soldier of Turan stories.

I talk a lot about “Conan moments” on this blog, and I’m going to talk about them here again. Those are the bits of Conan stories that stand out from most other S&S heroes, and really make your barbaric heart soar. Conan strangling Baal-pteor the strangler. Conan finding his way through a maze by following Zenobia’s faint perfume scent. Those defining moments where Conan succeeds where any civilized person would fail. Roy Thomas understood them well. Charles Dixon has Conan do a lot of cool things, but none of it feels like Conan moments. It just feels like another day on the job. Conan doesn’t seem awesome because he is uncivilized and barbaric, he’s just a bad ass. This one little point makes all the difference for me.

This isn’t all to say that there are not some very good stories in the Charles Dixon run. The Waiting Doom is a fantastic Conan story, which also features Marvel’s Red Sonya. A series of stories which have Conan as a gladiator, and then a general, are top notch. I’d still take a chance on a Dixon story over almost any Dark Horse story any day. However, there are also some real stinkers. I’m not overly fond of Dixon’s Pictish frontier run, where he really wanted Aquilonians to be Romans. There are also several other stories where Conan tolerates humiliation and degrading captivity a little too well. He also allows some friends and lovers to be killed right in front of him without as much wrathful vengeance as should be seen from our vengeful Cimmerian. This is after all the man who splits a judge’s skull in the courtroom, and who feeds an innkeeper to cannibals in the Howard stories.

Let me also take a moment here to note that I’m no longer as much of a fan of the art of Ernie Chan & crew as I once was. Again, peoples of various nations are generic looking. Conan often seems stiff, rather than the supple pantherish barbarian. It just lacks Buscema’s ability to bring almost any scene to vivid life. Buscema’s art had a naturalness to it, and his Conan exudes savageness and personality.

In the end, I recommend the Charles Dixon Conan stories over most of the other comic book Conan out there, but that’s mostly because what is out there isn’t very good. If you have any Roy Thomas’ Conan, especially if paired with Buscema, that you haven’t read yet, definitely read that first. Dixon is a possible second to Thomas, but the gap between them is a large abyss.

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Will we get the final Thief preview this week?

Also, any chance of Barbarian, Mercenary, or Skelos this week?

Will Skelos have more Petty Enchantment's, and spell Momentum spends/examples?
Also, Sorcerer equipment/gear, like the Thief book?
More Horrors, undead, etc.?

Is that where actual Sorcerer archetypes will be?

Finally, would it be possible to include a cheat sheet (similar to the one I made) to compile all the bits of learning and using sorcery into one place?
(Since there are so many questions about Sorcery)

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Robert E Howard’s letter to P. Schuyler Miller
Rambling Conan Blog, pt.83

While I had several ideas for a blog post this week, I’m short on time due to it being a holiday week. I was originally going to write about the Hyborian Age Essay (and the origin of the Vanir and AEsir), but I’ll save that for next week or so. This week I’m going to point everyone towards Robert E Howard’s letter to P. Schuyler Miller.

I normally don’t care much for looking into an author’s letters and notes. The reason being that I often make notes myself and then dump half the material or change my ideas before writing an actual story or RPG adventure. To me, the story is all. What appears in the stories, the books, of any author is what takes precedence over everything else. That’s the most important and vivid look at the author’s worlds, because it’s the one they were willing to share as complete to the audience.

That said, there are a few of Robert E Howard’s writings that are supplementary to the Conan stories that I incorporate into my viewpoints. One is the Hyborian Age essay. Howard didn’t follow this 100%, but it’s a great framework for the Hyborian Age overall. Another are the five unfinished Conan story fragments and outlines. I really love these and wrote a series about them on this blog. Last is the Miller letter. It gives insight into Conan and the Hyborian Age, which doesn’t contradict anything in the stories. One of the places you can find the text of this letter is in the back of the Del Rey collection The Conquering Sword of Conan.

The letter was a reply to two fans who wrote to Howard after putting together a chronology of Conan’s career (thus far) and having an attempt at a map of the Hyborian Age. Howard replied not only with a letter, but with a map based on his original. This letter was written shortly before Howard’s death.

One of the main bits of interest to come out of this letter is the chronology of the Conan stories, which according to the letter, Howard mostly agreed upon, and made a few corrections. Unfortunately, this becomes very unhelpful in the end. Before the chronology was officially published, L. Sprague de Camp got his hands all over it (of course he did), and added things. Also, Red Nails had not been published at the time of the outline, and Red Nails holds clues to other stories placement in a chronology that could not possibly have been taken into account. There were other Conan stories that were never published during Howard’s lifetime, and they are also not on the original chronology. Finally, and most important, the stories themselves at times contradict this timeline.

So, if we can’t take the chronology at face value, what good did come from this letter? Well, we learn that Howard felt that the middle parts of the continent, the Hyborian nations, the upper West coast, and the East to Turan and the Vilayet were inflexible and had to conform somewhat to known ideas and boundaries. He felt that the East, including Khitai and beyond, and the South were fair game for whatever he could come up with, as they were as mystical to the Hyborian nations as most of Africa and Asia were mysteries to the early European nations. He goes into detail about how a Hyborian would ignorantly view the South.

He also describes his ideas for Conan in his later years. He mentions that he doesn’t know what Conan’s eventual fate was, but that Conan travelled far and wide as King, even to America and the isles off the American coast. Howard also says that Conan probably had to go on the attack as King eventually, and perhaps conquered a “world-wide empire.” (This contradicts the Hyborian Age essay a bit, but who cares. The essay is contradicted in other ways by other existing Conan stories as well.)

Finally, the letter gives us some insight into Conan’s youth, before the first stories. His grandfather and Vanarium are mentioned, as well as his captivity by the Hyperboreans and his journey south. We learn that Zamora is an “absolute despotism where differing political opinions were not tolerated.” Howard confirms that Conan did indeed return to Cimmeria from time to time, apparently once after his stint as a Thief, although we never see this in the stories. (This also makes a chronology messy, and I often disregard it.) He confirms that Conan is about 17 in the Tower of the Elephant, and about 40 when he takes the crown.

Overall, the letter is a great read for a Conan fan, if all too short. While it opens as many mysteries as it solves, it well worth looking up.

Have a good Easter all, may Ishtar grant you bounty!

Seems like the day for questions!
I've got another for +Jason Durall who I think is writing Barbarian.

Will there be a Talent for berserkers?

Follow up question! Are the new Talents seen on the Conan character in Thief gained from Nationality and Caste? Will there be different ones from each country covered in Barbarian? (I ask because I like them a lot)
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