Revising AD&D – Finished! (Part 3)

My revision (home-brew) of AD&D is complete. I have four documents that cover changes to Ability Scores, Class & Race, Saving Throws and General Rules.

My aim was to keep as much as possible from AD&D, but include things I liked from AD&D 2. The 2nd edition dropped a race, and bunch of classes (mostly those from Unearthed Arcana and Dragon magazine). They added: Wizard Specialisation, some spells got better, initiative and surprise being a d10 was a better design, etc. (These are my opinions, you may not agree.)

TSR later went nuts adding race and class “kits” to add variety. I used a few kits in my game, and a future project may be looking at those and making a revised subset of kits that I’m happy with. My players and I weren’t keen on any kit (or anything else) that meant you earned less XP, so some of the better ideas would need rewriting to work around that in some other way.

I’ve learnt a lot about 2nd edition that I’d originally missed. When I first bought the 2nd edition Players Handbook (and DMG, revised 1995), I would have mostly read the race and class stuff, then skimmed over combat, etc. Only now, decades later, have I found rules and detail that I wasn’t aware of then. Most changes were minor, but there were some bigger ones and I’d missed some of both.

I also realised that as much as I loved Unearthed Arcana (1985), I’d missed stuff there too! My main AD&D campaign included a Cavalier and a Barbarian. The Thief-Acrobat sounded interesting, but it seemed like you lost a lot of the good stuff about a thief and were replacing it with different jumping abilities. As part of this, and also separately writing a one-off AD&D adventure that utilised the characters from the AD&D cartoon, I realised that I’d misread some parts (about what Thief abilities didn’t progress) and overlooked other detail. The tumbling abilities given are quite powerful – bonus to-hit, chance to completely evade attacks, reduce falling damage. The end effect is somewhat like a Thief-Monk.

I’ve really enjoyed going through all of this. I’ve revisited D&D history, and had a more patient & thorough read of large chunks of many rule books. I’ll be using this to rework some PC’s in a one-off game, but apart from that, I might not use it again. I don’t care… the process was both satisfying and a lot of fun!

The pdf files are up on my Resources page. Download if you are interested. I’m happy to get comments or suggestions!

Painting Battletech (Part 3)

Two of the four BattleTech mech’s are completed. I’ve been doing a little bit each evening during the week and thoroughly enjoyed painting these.

On the left is the Roadrunner RD-1R (also called an Emerald Harrier) and the right the Lament LMT-2R.

For those who may be interested:

The Roadrunner is a Clan Jade Falcon mech, 15 tons from the Late Succession War (2901-3019, and used up to 3058). It’s a fast, lightly armoured mech with two medium lasers.

The Lament is a heavy Inner Sphere mech, 65 ton created for the armed forces of the Republic of the Sphere about 3127. (Dark Age 3131-3150) Mostly used by regiments of Stone’s Brigade. This heavily armoured mech has a heavy particle projection cannon on each arm, and three medium lasers on the upper torso.

Painting Schemes:

I couldn’t find specific colours for the Jade Falcon Clan (and didn’t look too hard) but did find many other JF mech’s painted in dark green with yellow panels… worked for me!

The Lament is painted in Stone’s Brigade spec’s, specifically following that of the 52nd Shadow Division. I’m not a Battletech nut, so I’ve ignored the “fact” that this divisiion was mostly active about 50 years earlier. I like the colours! The figure had a distinct hole/dimple in the lower right leg. I tried filling this, but wasn’t entirely successful and decided to do it up as battle damage.

EDIT: Got my colour scheme and mechs confused. Shadow Division is actually ‘Word of Blake’ which should be the Gurkha. Stone’s Brigade has a bunch of designs (not red) that were possibly beyond my skill, but I still like the red and black I used.

Here’s an outside image taken which brings up the colours differently for some comparison.

If I had decals or much better freehand, it would be nice to add insignia on some of the panels, but I don’t… so this is it. Two done, two to go!

PS: Hope you like them my friend Asmodeus!

Revising AD&D – Part 2

My revision (home-brew) of AD&D has been slowly progressing in between gaming (PC and tabletop), reading and life in general. I’d thought I’d post an update because there’s been a bit of interest in my first post, and it encourages me to continue.

What am I actually doing? I loved AD&D, and “Unearthed Arcana” is one of my favourite books. Second edition sorted out spells quite nicely (and added specialist Magic-Users) to my delight, but dumped almost all the early class additions from Dragon Magazine and UA. My group was already using some of the extra classes and we simply kept using them. My “revision” is primarily aimed at keeping all the race and class detail from 1st edition, but also drawing on some of the rules from 2nd edition to complement or simplify the stuff that complicated by the writing style of the first PH and DMG. I’m also drawing on my knowledge of later versions that helped balance out some of the stuff that hindered the early versions or that people simply ignored or reworked themselves.

I started by listing all the important info from the AD&D Players Handbook, Unearthed Arcana, and some notes from the DMG and Tome of Magic. Then I went through the second edition rulebooks for the same detail, and worked out what I felt was best, and made notes of any related gaming rules that I wanted to keep or change. I’m now at the point of compiling all my notes into proper tables and forms to put into booklet form.

Races: Dwarves (Hill, Mountain), Elves (High, Grey, Wood), Gnomes (Deep, Forest, Rock), Halflings (Hairfeet, Stout, Tallfellow), Half-Elves, Half-Orcs (which were dropped from 2nd), and Humans. In all cases I’ve kept the basics of the race abilities from 1st, with % rolls rather than x in 6 (or 8, 12, etc) and stat bonuses more based on 2nd edition. Humans get some enhancements to make them more playable.

Classes: Cleric, Druid, Fighter (Archer, Barbarian, Cavalier, Paladin, Ranger), Magic-User, Monk, Thief, Acrobat, Bard. (Archer & Monk are from Dragon, Bard based on both Dragon & 2nd Ed.) I’ve greatly simplified the Ability Score requirements, and many of the XP tables are from 2nd Edn. Class abilities are also % based, with any class that has a thief (or acrobat) ability getting bonuses and/or penalties (from race, dexterity, armor) in the same way a thief does. I’m thinking of using 2nd edition’s level caps. I’ve got a basic weapon proficiency system for the cleric that is based on their deities favoured weapon instead of the blunt weapons only of AD&D. Magic Users allow Specialist, Elemental and Wild Mages (AD&D Tome of Magic, 2nd Edn PH and PO: Spells & Magic.) My rangers will start with 2d8 HD, and gain both limited Clerical and MU spells.

Ability Scores: Since 9-12 is average (mean) of the 3d6 stat roll, my aim was to have penalties for <8, and bonuses for 13+. (AD&D didn’t give a bonus until a stat was 15+) In most cases I’ve compressed the 3-8 results and stretched out the bonuses given at higher stat’s. I’ve made small changes to the INT and WIS tables, with a max spell level castable for both clerics and MUs, and removed maximum spells learnt for MUs.

Surprise and Initiative use a d10 (2nd), searching (secret doors, etc) uses a custom % roll. Spells are likely based out of the 2nd edition PH, using schools and domains.

I’m working through each class now listing the XP tables, abilities, restrictions and so on. It’s still a work in progress but getting closer to something playable.

Tabletop Games for the “holidays”.

Not much painting over the last few weeks. Lots of writing, reading and playing board games!

My work has only been closed on public holidays, but that’s still given me two long weekends with chances to catch up with friends and do stuff at home. My wife and I spent one week playing Kingdom Builder (2011+), and another playing Alhambra (2003+). Both of these are great games where its hard to be sure of who’s winning till the end, and every game plays very differently. Sadly to say, when it’s just the two of us, she wins about 3 of 4 games! When we have played these with 3+ players, wins are more evenly distributed.

For the New Years weekend I dug up some of my older board games: RISK Lord of the Rings (2003, Trilogy addition), The Lonely Mountain (1984) and Talisman (1985, 2nd Edn). I think she’s played Talisman with a larger group of us once before, but not the others.

We set up RISK yesterday and ran one long game. Long, because I’d completely forgotten all the rules and so both of us were learning. Turns mostly became a case of each of us assembling one or two concentrations of forces and claimed a lot of territory, then losing parts of it when the other player did the same thing. Our biggest mistake was not defending some areas enough and over-extending our forces in attacks. My wife got a slight advantage in territories (individual areas) early on, and then regions (a group of territories) which gave her more reinforcements. I realised about halfway through that I wasn’t likely to fight my way back.

This shows the board after seven turns at the main turning point. My wife (Yellow) has reinforced her troops and is about to sweep straight down through Rhovian (yellow area on right) and take 1/2 of Mordor. With only minor reinforcements for me (and lots for her) from here on, the game only lasted about four more turns.

We swapped sides for another game today, and had a very similar game. I only held her off in Eastern Gondor for an extra turn before being wiped out.

This is quite fun, with the LotR cards adding movie stuff into the game to give bonus reinforcements, or affect battles, and scoring. I’m hoping for a three player game next weekend, which should be very different. Tonight we play Talisman.

There are 400+ figures for the game, which is far too many to paint. They are also smaller than my usual 25-30mm figures, and not so detailed. I did decide to paint the shield tokens – each represents a leader. (Gives bonus to a dice roll.) Elven shields for the good armies, and orc shields for the evil armies. All were single colour plastic tokens, that will stand out a lot more on the board now that they are painted. It was easy to miss the detail on the front (particularly on the elf shields) when they were plain colours.

A new project – Revising AD&D

I really don’t need to start a new project… I’m part-way through writing three different one-off adventures, would like to get a few more miniatures painted before the end of the year, and have a back-log of TV series and movies to watch.

Why AD&D? Why now, after two decades of playing 3rd, 3.5 and PF?

Over the last year or two I’ve read a lot of blog & forum posts about playing AD&D and how people still play or used to play the game. What rules they followed, what they ignored, how they interpreted some stuff that wasn’t straight forward, and what they changed… The original AD&D Players Handbook and DMG were really badly written, and/or edited. You needed both books to understand how spells and combat worked. You had to look all over the books to check how different parts of races, classes, combat, encounters, etc all worked. You really had to read a lot to get a thorough knowledge of the game, which still left you with questions. Looking for detail on how something worked meant you found a rule for something else you hadn’t seen before. You got used to doing certain things without realising the rule was something slightly different than what you thought it was, played using weapon speeds, or encumbrance, and then gave up when it all got complex, and so on.  Stuff on player races in the Monster Manual was different from the Race info in the PH. Gygax himself was answering questions, giving explanations and errata for the rest of his life!

Just recently I’ve been reading “How to read the AD&D Rulesbooks” series by ‘Cave of the Dice Chucker. His look at how to play the game comes down to some simply ideas:

1 – If it’s not clear in a table, or concise paragraph of text – ignore it.

2 – If it defies common sense – use common sense.

3 – If its too complex, impractical, or irrelevant – ignore it.

There’s lots of stuff in AD&D that everyone complained about – demi-human level limits, unbalanced classes, weak humans, different rules for the same types of abilities… It WAS a mess – but we all enjoyed it anyway. I played and ran AD&D all through High School and University, and beyond. (About two decades… yes, I’m that old!) We took a break from AD&D (1st and 2nd) and played some other games. I finished putting together a whole bunch of tables of ability scores, races, experience, saving throws, non-weapon proficiencies, weapons, armour and general equipment… and then 3rd edition came out, and I started up a new campaign using that. We really haven’t gone back.

Over the last 1-2 years of Covid, I’ve worked on a heap of one-off adventures using many different game systems, I’ve done an adventure using AD&D (based on the AD&D cartoon), and written part of another based on 2nd edition. I really liked going back through the books. It got me to finally revise the saving throw table that I’d been planning to do forever.

My most recent reading has found me remembering all the little tweaks that I’ve considered over the years… adjustments to the ability score tables, simplifying class Stat requirements, converting all the different race and class abilities to a standard form, etc.

Consider surprise… it’s a basic, very simple rule, isn’t it: PC’s are surprised, and surprise opponents 2 in 6.

Then you recall that Elves & Halflings can potentially surprise opponents 4 in 6. A Ranger surprises 3 in 6, and is only surprised on a 1. A Monk is only surprised 32% of the time at 2nd level, and 2% less each level afterwards. Gray Dwarfs surprise others 3 in 6, and are only surprised 1 in 10. Deep gnome PCs surprise others 9 in 10, and are only surprised 1 in 12 chance. We won’t look at the monsters!

I want to start expanding my AD&D booklet, revising Ability Scores, Races, and Classes and abilities. Then likely look at surprise, initiative, and weapon & non-weapon proficiency. I want to include some of the things that 2nd edition introduced, use 2nd edition spell descriptions, etc. I want to rewrite Dual-class for Humans, and give Humans something to raise them up compared to demi-humans and all their racial abilities. This will be fun, as well as exploring a game that I’ve forgotten a lot of.

Will my RPG group play it with my rules… who knows! I’m doing it for me, because it’s caught my interest again.

A new Stargate RPG

I’m a Stargate fan. I could say more about that and watching Sci-Fi on TV, but it would be a whole new blog-post of its own. There’s a new Stargate RPG just out, at least the PDF is, but printed rule-books are meant to be available for pickup at Gen-Con mid Sept. Here, on the other side of the world, I’m just hoping they start mailing at the same time.

I’ll assume you know what Stargate is. If you are reading this, I’d say there’s a good chance you have either watched the movie, or one of the TV series that followed it later.

History: Here’s some background on the game. (There’s already heaps of websites that could give you background on Stargate itself.)

This isn’t the first Stargate RPG. Back in 2003, Alderac Entertainment Group produced “Stargate SG-1 RPG” based on d20 & their Spycraft game. (Licensed from MGM) They also came out with a bunch of supplements and overall I think it looks pretty good. I’d love a printed copy now, but I’m not interested in spending over $100 getting a second-hand book from the USA/UK.

In mid-2019, Wyvern Gaming announced they would be developing a “Stargate RPG” with MGM. A closed beta playtest began in Oct 2019, followed by a public beta started in March 2020. Covid pushed most of their plans back six months, and they’re Kickstarter ran in October 2020. This was very well supported. I’d noted what they were doing late 2019, but missed the Kickstarter itself and got in as a late backer at the start of 2021.

Development:

The original game sounds like it was intended to be set away from Earth with players representing alien races helping the SGC fight against the Goa’uld – with no Humans! People quickly raised the point that a game based on Stargate SG-1 should allow Tau’ri (Human) characters. Thankfully, they agreed and altered their plans.

The last set of Beta rules available was Jun 2020, and little appears to have changed between that and the newly released pre-printed rulebook PDF. This PDF seems to have most spelling/grammar errors fixed and some cosmetic changes, but little or no change to the rules. The Stargate forums (on Wyvern’s site) have had considerable debate on character classes, abilities, weapons (particularly ranges), but I feel most of it hasn’t been taken into account. (Maybe their Discord channel was better with feedback?)

We now have the “Stargate SG-1 RPG” (“based on Stargate SG-1” – Really, I’d never have worked that out myself!) The game is set during Series 6 of the SG-1 TV series, and centres on the SG-P, “Phoenix” site, based away from Earth to recruit, train and send out teams through a Stargate to essentially do what the SG teams did in the series, and fight the Goa’uld. The game rules only cover material from those first six SG-1 series. I feel there may not be anything further. There’s been a lot of fuss and delay to this point, though much of that could have been Covid related rather than difficulties with MGM approval. (Wyvern also seems to have gone annoyingly quiet on how things are going with the final stage of the kickstarter, but is heavily advertising pre-order retail sales. This has also coincided with Amazon buying MGM.) If the game sells well in retail, it’s possible Wyvern could release a supplement (or more than one) to cover later SG-1 series, or even Atlantis or Universe. There’s definitely interest in an expansion of PC races and equipment. Failing that, it’s pretty easy for a GM to create material that adds to the official book – there’s already house rules on classes, etc.

Game Rules:

Based on 5th Edition D&D, this looks pretty good! I’d been going over bits of the Beta rules and reading the forums and started feeling a bit let down – especially when I’d been reading over some of the d20 version. Last month I got the full release PDF and I’ve been getting happier the more I read. I decided to make up a single-session adventure with the characters from SG-1, plus a few extras to round out character choices. I haven’t played 5th edition, nor have my players. I looked over stuff when Wizards were developing it, and have a copy of the SRD, but never really read through a lot of it. So, mostly I’m learning how the system works by making characters and reading the Stargate rules. I’m certain we’ll have a lot of fun with this, partly because it’s somewhat different from our other games.

Five races/species – Tau’ri (Humans), Aturen, Jaffa, Tok’ra and Unas. Six classes – Diplomat, Engineer, Medic, Scientist, Scout, Soldier. Each race has a “base” version, and a second variant, except for Humans who get two variants (Abydonians, Tollans). You get two origins that offer stat increases, skill proficiencies or bonuses with certain skills/weapons/environments, etc.

You can only take 5 levels in one class (specialising), after that all your “Mission Points” go to buying feats. Essentially, even class abilities are feats, and all feats have a cost in Mission Points. After 5th, your level is determined by how many points you have spent. If you know what you are doing, you can be “classless” right from the beginning. They have an interesting system for ‘encounters’ that uses a blend of actual role-playing with skill checks for what they term: Convince, Diplomatic, Infiltration, Interrogation, R&D, and Traversal. The GM sets a DC and Threshold (the number of successes required) to succeed. Players describe their “approach” and use ‘Determination Points’ to make rolls. This occurs in rounds until the PC’s achieve threshold, or no one can (or does) contribute more DP, and fail. I’m still getting my head round how this works, but the DP’s are a bit like wagering with poker chips, and you can get them back during the process.

It comes together pretty well. Trying to put together specific characters from the TV series has been a challenge, but I think I’ve got PC’s who represent the characters reasonably well and will be fun to play.

The downsides to the game:

I haven’t finished reading everything, and I’m still learning the game (and 5th ed) but I am disappointed. Particularly, that with all the time spent on play testing and feedback, there isn’t MORE available in the game. Also I’m surprised that considering how this is all based on SG-1, they didn’t draw more from the series itself instead of defining their own ‘canon’.

Potential Improvements:

  1. Races/Species: Aturen are a pointy-eared non-violent species invented by Wyvern (on the forum someone called them ‘space-elves’). While the rules mention 7 planets that SG-1 contacted with humans, only two of them are given specific race traits to use as PC’s. I would have like more options for Humans, and a few more alien races – actually from the series. Serrikan (a reptilian race from Hebridan, Season 6) are mentioned as an NPC race, as are the near human Ilempri (Season 3). I’m sure I’ll write my own rules for Player race versions.
  2. Origins: Players choose two, each from a different category – Biome (16 options), Background (25) or Racial (6). It’s a pity that the racial set has only one possible choice for all but Jaffa (and you have to be a pacifist for the Aturen one). At least three choices each here would have been much better. The backgrounds list is great, and I’m tempted to house rule both choices can be made from here if you’re human.
  3. Equipment: There’s lots of different weapon types listed, and a nice set of weapon ‘upgrades’, but the list of weapons itself isn’t remarkable. Equipment is fairly basic, and probably enough, but the Goa’uld technology that they give rules for is buried in the last chapter with the Goa’uld/Jaffa and not in the Equipment chapter. Again, I’m sure there will be people drawing up lists of more equipment/weapons to use, or I can just go to D20 Modern for inspiration.

Overall, the Kickstarter isn’t much behind schedule (about 5 months) and has been better than almost every other Kickstarter I’ve been part of (in regards communication and delays) except Zombicide. I haven’t funded many projects, but thankfully none have fallen through, although one was much much worse than this… <cough… CurseoftheLostMemories… cough>. I’m looking forward to my book in October. <curses seafreight> Anyone else a backer, or been play testing the game?

This has also given me the idea of using these rules for a one-off Battlestar Galactic session!

Red Sonja Unconquered (Conan part 2)

RS1 “Red Sonja Unconquered” is a 1986 TSR AD&D module designed for 4 Characters 10th to 14th level.

I’m not going to give specific module detail, except where I’ve changed or left stuff out of my rewrite. The adventure’s best point is a great story idea. (Basically, being in the middle of a lot of bandit raids, and trying to locate a person/location to recover a item without being sure what the truth behind everything happening really is.) It starts really well, but is let down by being extremely linear (though it often suggests that its offering the players choices when it really isn’t) and the final scene is essentially two pages of text where nothing the players do (or have previously done) is likely to have any impact on the conclusion. Overall, I think it’s a good adventure module, with a bunch of potential problems. I’d have to actually play it as written to see if everything worked out or fell apart.

There’s lots of boxed text to be read to the players (too much), nearly always preceded by “read the following to the PCs”. (I think DM’s understand what boxed text is for!) A lot of the DM information is overblown – too much description or unnecessary background information. A lot could have been simplified or condensed without loss of anything important. For example, giving the GM the name, family background and accidental death of a corpse isn’t something the players are ever going to be able to know, so why mention it. The properties of some leaves (if you pick and brewed them) aren’t likely to be a concern for players searching a burial ground for a particular crypt either.

The module does a good job setting up the background of Hyboria for the DM and players, and has a lot to say about the possibility of extending the module into a campaign. 3-4 pages of useful info. It also has a fantastic eight-page fold-out map of Hyboria. (It’s such a pity I have a PDF.)

It’s designed to be run with the four characters included: Red Sonja (11th Fighter), Galon (14th Fighter, 4th Thief), Kynon (11th Fighter, 6th Thief) and Achmal (10th Magic-User, 4th Illusionist). Why is Red Sonja lower level than everyone else? She has a very high Dexterity, Intelligence and Charisma, and more HP’s than the others but lower Strength and Con.

Disappointingly, the character “sheets” provided only list Class Levels, Ability Scores and HPs, with a brief background description. The Magic-user has a list of memorised spells and two minor magic items, but only Sonja is actually given any equipment. One of the magic items can be used 5/day: Roll 1d6, on 1-2 causes 1 HP damage, 3-6 heals 1 HP. Apart from this, their only method of healing is 5-9 HP’s from a nights rest. (No Clerics in this world.) I think the biggest problem anyone actually playing these characters would have is staying alive. I’ve sure the lack of healing was forgotten when many of the encounters (that can’t be avoided) were written. They do all get a bunch of Luck Points that can be use to gain extra attacks, or automatically hit. I’m also amused to note that Red Sonja is pictured four times in her typical chain-mail bikini, but listed as wearing leather armour.

The adventure is broken into three main sections, the first being the best. It gives a little bit of background and throws the players straight into a fight. They then learn a bit more about what’s going on, and are led (or forced) to encounter the modules first main NPC, who can become an ally or enemy for the rest of the adventure. (He uses heaps of remarkable magical abilities during the module, and only one actually matches a spell he has memorised!) There are essentially three ways this section ends. These differences come up again in main parts of the adventure, but appear to have been overlooked in some encounters. The writer also seems to have missed the fact that one of these possibilities should mean the final events of the module should actually occur at least a day prior to the players themselves arriving at the relevant location, and finding that their actions in section two and three were completely irrelevant. This is something I’ve rewritten heavily.

The second part of the adventure has an encounter with a succubus who automatically drains 1 level from all three male characters. Combat can occur to drive it off on the second night, but it can’t be hit by non-magical weapons. (Here go the fate points.) The next major event is the players being captured by an army, which they can resist or try to escape. They are roped and chained, but somehow Sonja gets to keep her sword just so she can challenge one of the commanders soldiers to a duel when he has her escorted to his tent. They either get to escape or suddenly the army becomes their allies. If allies, the players get some more background to push them in the right direction. The army itself will not be a part of the final part of the adventure. Good ideas in much of this, but not well structured. Introducing some healing for making friends with the army would have been a good idea.

The final section is well detailed. It introduces a few minor NPC’s that are mostly irrelevant, and could have been simpler. There are a couple of encounters that serve only to weaken the players. Then you have the final encounter, where depending on how wounded everyone is, should either result in a total party kill, the sudden death of the magic-user/illusionist opponent (if players win initiative and save against his nastier spells) or rolls into the aforementioned set piece finish where the players win by default.

My rewrite simplifies all the text, drops some unimportant encounters and locations, and tries to focus dialogue on what’s important. I’m putting my adventure, PC character sheets and spell descriptions onto my resources page. You should be able to run my one session adventure with just a copy of the d20 Players Handbook. You shouldn’t need the d20 Conan Rulebook. If you have the original module you won’t have to improvise maps.

That’s my rant/semi-review of an old module. If you are one of my regular players, feel free to download the characters, but please don’t read the adventure!

Conan RPG (d20 Mongoose)

Conan, the Roleplaying Game‘ is a 2003 game based on the d20 Open Game License (WotC). Considering how much I’ve liked Conan stuff since high school (movies, books and occasional comics) I’m really surprised that I didn’t know this came out at the time, because I would have bought it.

In 2017, Modiphius released a 2d20 RPG called “(Robert E. Howard’s) Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of”. Last year during lock-down, I stumbled on some free Modiphius PDF’s – an adventure and a set of Quickstar Rules (also with an adventure). I read little more than the intro, then got sidetracked looking into earlier editions of Conan games – TSR (1985) and Mongoose. Of course, then I didn’t really read anything and forgot about them. (Like lots of other RPG stuff I collect!) With a new Covid lock-down here over the last few weeks, I started looking at the Conan material I had…

The TSR one looked interesting because it is skill based, not an AD&D version. (They did release some AD&D Conan modules.) Hmmm… compare your skill with the opposing skill/opponents skill on the “Resolution Table”, roll d% and if your result is in the red zone you are successful, other colours apply penalties, some things make column shifts… sorry I’ve lost interest.

Mongoose: I have an Atlantean edition (essentially a second print of 1st edition) rulebook PDF and I was hooked right from the initial part of the book. (I haven’t got to the Modiphius stuff at all.)

This is great… I started reading the intro, got into races, classes, etc and I’ve now spend almost all my free time in the last two weeks reading the rulebook, and playing around with characters and adventure ideas.

This came out about the same time as 3.5 but it makes a lot more of the system than I would have expected for the time. It’s both a setting and a game. There’s heaps of background straight from R.E. Howard’s books and notes (likely also influenced by the later writers who did Conan too) covering cultures, countries, religion, & history. They released lots of additional books that covered specific countries/cultures in more detail too, but what’s in the main rulebook is more than enough to set things up for a campaign. There are culture specific feats, a magic system based on Power Points (not “Vancian” like TSR/WotC), and a combat system that shifts away from the norm.

Cultures: Everyone is human, and there is no “Common” language. There are 14 ethnicities (with 12 variants) and they all have specific racial bonuses and penalties. This could be a Stat adjustment (Cimmerians get +2 Str, -2 Int), a racial bonus to certain skills, a bonus in certain terrain, attack or damage bonus with a particular weapon, etc. All have favoured classes (you gain bonus feats based on how many class levels), and many also have background skills that grant ranks.

Classes: There are eight main classes for PC’s – Barbarian, Borderer, Noble, Nomad, Pirate, Soldier, Scholar, Thief. There is no Cleric or Monk. Multi-classing is encouraged. Both Borderer and Nomad could be considered variant Rangers. The Noble is somewhere between Paladin and Bard – wealthy, combat skills, no magic but lots of influence styled abilities. Scholars can either gain bonus skill points/feats, or learn Sorcery. The different class abilities are quite varied from standard d20.

Combat: No touch/flat-footed AC. Most PC’s will have a Base AC of 10, and then you have Dodge and Parry Defence. All classes get slightly difference Defence bonuses as they level. Dodge Defence is AC 10 + Dexterity bonus, while Parry Defence uses your Strength bonus. Shields add to parry vs melee attacks, and dodge vs missiles. The players chooses which type of defence he is using against incoming attacks before the dice are rolled to determine a hit. Armour does not apply to Defence, it only grants Damage Reduction to lessen damage taken from blows. Most weapons have an armour penetration value (to which you usually add Str bonus) to see if you reduce the DR of your targets armour. There’s also a finesse fighting option where the player uses Dex not Str on the attack roll and tries to bypass DR entirely. There are extra Combat Manoeuvres (like Bulls Charge, Cats Parry, Devastating Sweep, Pantherish Twist, etc) that require a particular ability score, Base Attack value, or feat to be able to use them.

Magic: Conan is a very low-magic setting. Almost no potions, scrolls, wands, etc (so no cure light wounds for healing). There is magic around, but most comes with a cost, or is in the hands of people who won’t be sharing it with you. Power corrupts, literally. Contact with demons, evil deities and powerful sorcerers can grant corruption points that make you emotionally detached, and likely insane to varying degrees. There are Priests (of the uncaring Gods) but mostly they don’t use sorcery. I feel that Scholars using magic are a little under-powered, as they gain very few spells as they progress, even if they can choose what they cast and how often. They gain more skill points (8 + Int bonus) than a Sorcerer or Wizard, so they will have a heap of good skills.

The lack of easy healing makes the biggest difference to this type of D&D game. The affect of ‘rest’ and the Healing skill have been amplified, but finding ways to avoid combat is often preferable to actual fighting, unless PC’s have all invested in slow, heavy armour. Fate Points can help with this too (avoiding death, get maximum damage on a blow, defence bonus, etc), but most characters start with 3 and you only gain 1-2 each adventure.

 

I’ve spent just over a week making up 7 characters based on the Schwarzenegger movies and converting a AD&D Red Sonja module to use as a one-session adventure. The adventure is done; I just need to get a proper character sheet finalised for each PC. I’d be willing to run a short Conan campaign, but it’s hard enough getting the time now to run my Pathfinder campaign. We’ve already taken a break from a Gamma World campaign, and a mate’s Pathfinder game that I’m player in. It would be great to be able to get together twice a week and both run and play in a game, but I can’t see that happening unless I retire and/or find a new gaming group.

I’m going to put both the character sheets and adventure into my Gaming Resources page in case anyone is interested. The adventure would be easy to convert to standard d20 or Pathfinder.

Painting: Space Marines (Space Crusade)

Here’s my three squads of Space Marines from the Space Crusade board game finally completed. Blood Angels (red), Imperial Fist (yellow) and Ultramarines (blue). I started painting figures from the game about two years ago, getting onto the space marines in October last year.

Each squad has three marines with bolters, one marine with a heavy weapon and a commander. The heavy weapons (assault cannon, missile launcher or plasma gun) and commanders weapons (heavy bolter, bolt pistol & power axe, or power glove & power sword) are interchangeable and I’ve had to do some careful filing to make sure they are less likely to get stuck together and break. (The ones that aren’t already broken that is.) For the images, I’ve made sure that I picked something different for each squad.

The plasma gun is meant to have a bright coppery-gold muzzle, but it looks quite yellow in the image, so I’ll go over it again tomorrow with bright bronze.

The special weapons were very fiddly to paint, and I wasn’t as concerned with spending as much time on them as I did with the marines themselves. As board game pieces, they will all go back into the game box soon. Everything in the box except for the orcs and gretchen have now been painted, and I have no intention of painting them. I started this because some of the pieces I could use in my Gamma World game (and have) and the marines deserve to be done if my friends and I ever decide to play again.

Last, but not least, here’s an orc who should have been painted back in Sept 2018 when I did orcs and goblins. He’s a bit paler than his brethren because he’s apparently been hiding with my skaven for at least a decade. The marines and the orc all qualify for Ann’s March painting challenge – Neglected but not forgotten!

Here’s a group shot of all the Space Crusade pieces that I’ve now painted.

Painting – Hero Quest “Gargoyle”

This is the last of my Hero Quest figures to see paint, having taken about 30 years. This is the “Gargoyle”, who I’d say was second-rate Balrog given the pose, whip and sword. I think in Warhammer he’s now considered a Bloodthirster.

He hasn’t been touched for perhaps a decade, and now that he’s painted he might actually see use, but not as he was originally meant for. Being completely unlike any fantasy gargoyle, I decided he’d make a good statue. Now that he’s done, he’ll fit right in as a Stone Golem. He’s also an entrant to Ann’s “Neglected but not forgotten” Painting Challenge for March.

As a statue, he’d be a nice terrain piece, and potentially a construct (animated statue). I wanted the look of an old painted statue that hadn’t seen care for a long time, and I feel I’ve right sort of look. (Particularly with the thought that it just might step off the base and attack.)

I’d previously cut away the whip and undercoated the figure when spraying something else. Yesterday I started with a base coat of grey, then painted parts with gold, silver, red and black. After a light coat of brown ink, I stuck him together – breaking the wings in the process. (The head and wings were separate pieces.) I cleaned up the wings, and stuck them on, then took some time to chip, mark and scrape at the figure. Then some more grey to colour the exposed plastic, and fade the coloured detail. The weather has been quite cool this weekend, so there was plenty of time to make sure the paint dried at each step.

Today I’ve done highlighting and basing. Just after I’d sprayed the first coat of varnish, I had the thought that when I’d broken the wings, it would have been best if I’d cut/broken a large chuck of one wing, and positioned that on the base like it had fallen down. I could still do that, but now I’m happy to have it done and want to move on to something else. I could have ‘chipped’ and ‘cracked’ the statue further, and marked the base like stone blocks too, but it’s not a show-piece and I rarely spend that much time and effort on the figures that I really like!

I did try something new with the base today. Yesterday I’d been cutting out the foam insert for a small figure case to properly put away my DungeonQuest heroes, and had read an article on painting statue minis. They’d used bits of the foam as moss. I salvaged some of mine, and tore off a couple of tiny bits. Painted green they make great foliage/moss.

The finished mini is on a 40mm square base, and is 70mm high to the sword tip.

I’m determined to finish my Space Marines next. I’d like to clear the tray before I start filling it up with skaven.