[I’ve talked about Modiphius’ RPG, Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of. Fellow Black Gater Gabe Dybing and I (with some help from Martin Page) were excited to attempt a series of posts, chronicling our online campaign, but, as is often the case, real life got in the way. Here’s the first post, which talks about the game
Even though we didn’t get beyond the first encounter, I’ve remained a fan of the Conan RPG and have read much of the material (I was a Kickstarter backer). Jason Durall, who wrote an excellent entry on “Xuthal of the Dusk” for Hither Came Conan, is the Line Editor for the game (he is also Line Editor for the venerable Runequest). He was kind enough to do a Q&A for Black Gate. Read on!]
Mongoose certainly produced a LOT of content for the two editions of its 3rd Edition Conan RPG line. What impelled Modiphius to bring out a new Conan RPG? And at this particular time?
Modiphius was already partnering with Cabinet Entertainment with Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition and other properties, and when the opportunity for Conan was discussed, it was an obvious choice. To distinguish this new version, very early we made the decision that it should incorporate only REH context and new material derived from that, and be produced with deep involvement from leading REH scholars from the beginning. As for timing, it seemed right for a definitive Conan game.
(Editor – While I enjoy many of the pastiches, by various authors – some of which I discussed here – I admire their decision to work from Howard’s source material)
And it was a great bonus for the kickstarter that backers got PDFs of ALL the Mongoose Conan line. How did that come about?
Cabinet owns the rights to all part work done with the Conan IP, so they had the rights to the Mongoose catalog. We had many Kickstarters who were fans of that game, and it seemed a nice benefit to provide.
(Editor – There is some great reading and background material in the Mongoose RPG. I’ve already used content from the Shadizar box set while tinkering with an adventure. And if I ever get the time, I’ll convert “The Tower of the Elephant” to the new RPG. It really was a great bonus for backers!)
The Kickstarter (which I backed), was massively successful, raising almost ten times the goal amount. Twenty-three stretch goals were unlocked. Were you expecting that kind of success?
I try to read the Conan stories in Howard’s order (as written); rather than following a chronology, be it L. Sprague de Camp’s, William Galen Gray’s, or Dale Rippke’s. I love how we get Conan at different phases of his life, in different ‘careers.’ He’s a king, then a thief, then a mercenary, then a thief again, then a pirate, and so on.
Modiphius is putting the source books together in a way that highlights his various ‘professions’: Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Thief, Conan the Mercenary, etc.. I think it was a great choice. Why did you folks choose that method?
Very early we wanted to make the game line distinct, and also we wanted to address that each phase of Conan’s career spot lit different styles of adventure stories. The most sensible way to handle that was to deal with the core sourcebooks as backgrounds for a particular style of gameplay, but still provide game masters with enough material to allow all types of adventures.
The “Conan the…” naming convention was homage to the old Ace Books releases.
(Editor – I enjoy a lot of RPG worlds and like reading the gazetteers and world guides. But reading about Conan… I mean, we’re talking about CONAN! Even if you never played a game, reading the sourcebooks is a treat to fans of Howard’s mighty-thewed barbarian.)
The source books are fantastic reading. I enjoy just going through entries in the Gazetteer, and looking for characters from the stories as NPCs or foes. And John Kirown’s ‘cover notes’ are fun. That’s a nice tip of the hat to Howard. The writers did a nice job of delving deep into Howard’s works.
This isn’t a question, but thanks! It’s a labor of love, especially bringing the grander scope of REH works into the project.
Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of uses the 2d20 system. I’ve been playing d20 for over 30 years and I was hesitant to try a different system, but the lure of Conan was too much. Not having levels is different. And it took me awhile to get a handle on character generation, which isn’t exactly class-based, like normal d20 building.
What are the strengths of the 2d20 system?
Fast, dynamic and unpredictable combat. The Momentum/Doom mechanic really allows the players to feel heroic and to choose how they will excel, working together, and also allows the game master the ability to affect gameplay to increase tension and craft maximum thrills out of an encounter. Character development is robust and open-ended, without constraints of class or levels, and characters can develop organically based on their player’s choices. Plus, there is something hugely satisfying about building a pool of 5d20s to roll at once, and seeing Effects show up on combat dice.
I REALLY like some of the art work in the books. You gathered a fantastic group of artists.
Yes, that was a goal very early to reach outside the “gaming artist” pool and get covers and interiors from acclaimed Conan artists. Another aspect of this is art direction: we emphasize the historical grounding of the Hyborian Age with our artists, versus going in a direction that’s more comic- or RPG-like.
There’s a list of all the books coming out in waves one and two. Will there be additional books for the series, beyond those? Such as those that were unlocked stretch goals?
Yes. We’ve got a handful of books planned in Wave 4 (some of which are already manuscript-complete) and even Wave 5. Ultimately, though, our core focus is delivering the Kickstarter-backed books.
Is there anything else about the RPG you’d like to add?
Seeing the line grow and evolve has been amazing, but at the same time it’s been immensely gratifying to see the initial vision still intact, still bringing the Hyborian Age and Conan to life in a way with more fidelity than ever before. It has taken a bit longer than the overly optimistic goals announced during the Kickstarter, but that has also let us make sure that we’re releasing a high-quality product that should stand the test of time and be a worthy bearer of the Conan name.
Editor – The Core Rulebook includes everything you need to play (it’s effectively the Game Master’s Guide and the Player’s Handbook. It’s even got an introductory adventure). There’s also a free starter adventure at Modiphius’ website. If you are an RPGer, or a Conan fan, I highly recommend grabbing a copy and reading it through. I think you’ll really enjoy it!
Jason Durall combined two of his loves, role playing games, and Conan, when he became line editor for Modiphius’ marvelous Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of. He is also the line editor for Chaosium’s Runequest, as well as Basic Roleplaying.
His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017 (still making an occasional return appearance!).
He also organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series.
He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.
And he will be in the anthology of new Solar Pons stories coming this Spring.