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Dealing with powerful PCs

/because “mowing down dozens of enemies” -type game seemed to me more like Conan of the comics than Conan of the REH stories)/

Agree with the above completely. It is the one major game design decision that I dislike about the game. If I GM another Conan 2d20 game, I’m going to give your ideas a try.


I also agree. REH Conan was a total headbanger for sure, and could face many enemies at once, but the “endless barrage of nameless mobs” was derived mostly from artwork I feel like. Cool artwork, but not from REH era

Anyway so then I have yet another question - why not just increase stats on minions, toughened, and nemisis? They’re silly low in a lot of areas. Is that not an easy fix?


Perhaps for Nemesis level but for minions the lower stats balance with the mob rules quite effectively. It makes them a threat while still being easy to take out. Even if they have a target number of 7, a group of 5 minions is a viable threat to a PC much of the time.

Exactly, Minion mobs are supposed to be dangerous on the attack due to sheer numbers, but weak on the defense (no Reactions at all).
If you raise the stats of Minion characters, mobs become VERY deadly for Player Characters.

My last game my group of 5 minions got 5 Momentum (Doom), which they immediately used to call in backup…


That’s the way I do it and it has served me well. I usually don’t ramp up the minions since they are meant to be cannon fodder, but I definitely do put more skill ranks and attributes and even talents on the Toughened and Nemesis opponents.
You need to be careful with that, however, since they then fast approach PC levels, and the players won’t feel special if you give the NPCs too much stat bonuses.

I’m really careful with the calling in backup rules, because I feel that is one area where, if you overdo it, the players will start starving you of doom. So I really only do that when there is a convenient reason why more NPCs might be nearby.

My players, by and large, don’t give me doom. I need to earn it the old fashioned way, so it is a pretty precious resource. Calling in minions in this case served two purposes - showcased that they were raiding a bad guy lair and also made enough of a speed bump for the bad guy to finish his summoning of the big bad thing. It also helps that it was all doom the first group earned so it felt justified to have the narrative shift slightly after such a big win for the minions.

That is less my concern, as my players tend to generate Doom all the time.
But for my the plausibility of the game world can easily shatter, of you let yet another mob of Minions simply “spawn” out of thin air.

I usually think about how many NPCs of which type would plausibly be positioned at which locations in a certain building, fortress, etc. And this is the maximum number the PCs may ever encounter there - so any “spawning” would deduct from this, depleting another area of their inhabitants - as the Minions have to come from somewhere.

Conan PCs tend to mow through hordes of Minions in no time at all. That is fine as long as it doesn’t get to break any suspension of disbelief (the good old Bard’s Tale with a small room and 4x 99 Berserkers comes to mind).

If I generate lots of Doom by lucky dice rolls for a mob of Minions, I usually keep them for Doom spends of more worthy opponents, or to inflict problems like Disarm on the PCs - so normal Momentum spends in combat.

Doom is such an essential resource that is much more entertaining if spend to activate Doom spends - and yes, some Minions have them, too. So the reinforcement spend is one of the rarer used spends for my games.


Agree with the “spawn out of thin air” issue. It really bothers me. One fairly common issue I’ve seen in games, although it is RAW, is using fortune points to make useful items appear in the scene. That grates on me for some reason… Any advantages or disadvantages from momentum, doom, or fortune points should be explainable under the current scene conditions imo. Otherwise, I prefer they only be used to enhance or diminish success through the game mechanics.

If the player can come up with a good narration how this item just lies around here, that is fine.
As a GM you can always veto this introducing of facts that are not fitting to the situation or are overpowered.

From the core book:

Influence the Story. A player may spend a Fortune point to introduce a fact or add a detail to the current scene. Such story declarations can have both narrative and mechanical effects. Story declarations should be plausible, and the gamemaster has the final say over whether or not a suggested fact or detail is valid. The gamemaster may also declare that particularly large or significant declarations may cost more than one point of Fortune.

It isn’t an issue when I GM.

What are your thoughts on Mutations, as well as the “guidance for handling monsters and
creatures in your Conan games” from the Horrors book?

I find the Horrors of the Hyborian Age book one of the most useful Conan supplements.
Especially the - weirdly named - “Mutations” section, which is no more and no less than a monster workshop, allowing you to modify or even build from scratch creatures, animals and abominations alike.

This toolkit gets a lot of use in my game preparations. So I recommend it for the sheer variety which it allows in making your own, unique creatures.

The “guidance” part I actually haven’t noticed - that means, I didn’t find much of guidance or advice for handling monsters in this book. After all, it is a kind of creatures catalog plus modification toolkit. - Advice how and when to use the material within, how to stage challenging encounters for mid or high XP parties etc. I couldn’t find.

But nevertheless, it is a very good tool for dealing with powerful PCs if you put your time in game preparations towards modifying “standard creatures” into something more of a challenge for your group.

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I think it was in our very first playing, one character ended up with a “butt dagger” that he came to rely on quite a bit! Or maybe I abused disarm to a greater degree than I should have . . . :thinking: In any case, it made frequent appearances through his play.

Just spitballing some thoughts that came to me while reading the thread. Some we already do , some I’m going to try, some ideas came from others (here or elsewhere) that I may steal etc…

  • Create characters using Shadows of the Past rules instead

  • Or if you allow the Ancient Bloodline talent, then the trade-off is their very epicness attracts the forces of doom/fate/destiny/evil/whatever. Every time they use a skill associated with that attribute(s) they also have to pay 1 Doom for each point over 12 their attribute is (rolling resistance and you have a Brawn of 14? Cool, but the GM gains 2 Doom etc…). This Doom is to be used specifically against that character.

  • Or maybe don’t allow Attributes+Skills to have a target number above 17 (maybe even less? I believe they changed this in John Carter and Star Trek to cap TNs at 16 to avoid this issue. I say do it here too). Maybe Player can either roll with the chance to fail on 18/19/20s, or reduce the Difficulty by one step for each # over 17. If difficulty is reduced to D0 then they cannot fail or complicate, but also also cannot generate any momentum from the roll.

  • Take away the PC Initiative advantage. (Ala Barbarians of Lemuria) PCs roll against Awareness or Intelligence (whichever is lower) Roll: Complication = You go dead last plus cannot take action during the first round (only reactions). Failure = You act last after all enemies. 1 Success = You act before Minions/Mobs, but after Toughs/Squads/Nemeses. 2 Success = You act after Nemeses/Horrors, but before toughs/minions/Mobs/Squads. 3+ Success = you Act before all enemies. Burn 1 Momentum/Doom to move up a tier (e.g. Failure > Success) PC’s acting in the same segment take their turns lowest to highest. Keep that order for the entire encounter (other than GM/PCs burning Momentum/Doom to change initiative). Yes it will take longer to set initiative, but I bet will be faster overall since you eliminate PC’s taking forever to decide who acts when on their turn. (Although I’d say every 30 seconds they take costs them a Doom anyway). I love this initiative system in BoL and was already planning on using this rule before reading this thread.

  • Play as it’s actually written on page 118. Combat Momentum spends are only available to a character generating 1 or more Momentum in Combat. If they generate at least 1 Momentum then they can spend as much as they want (generated + any in the pool). If they don’t generate any, then they can’t use any (even from the pool). Already do this as this is how we read the rules to be. The decision to Create Opportunity/Buy Dice is far more important/interesting to hedge your bets on generating at least 1 Momentum.

  • Or even more strict. Only Momentum generated during the Combat roll itself can be used for Momentum Spends. (None from the Pool at all). There are a bunch of tutorials and vids out there that actually teach the game this way, so I’d imagine a ton of people already do play this way and it probably helps tone down the power creep with more Momentum spent on dice and less piling up the combat Momentum Spends

  • I also think someone already said this above, but make it so Bonus Momentum can’t go into the Pool at all. Use it up right then or lose it. If I remember right Modiohius even said to play this way in another topic (or one of the newer games has it as a rule? Can’t remember)

  • Enforce the optional rule that a player has to describe how they’re taking advantage of team momentum to use it from the pool. Actually it doesn’t help, but we love this rule. Describe how you’re awesome to be awesome.

  • Make additional Minions 1 Doom per 3 to bring in (rather than 1:1). Toughs 1 Doom each instead of 2.

  • Give Squads 2 Actions/turn, or Mobs 2 Actions and Squads 3. Still just as easy to hack their way through them, but more risky to defend against

  • Get rid of the 5 minions per mob rule (which is a bit silly anyway, mobs can get big), however I’d keep the max assist dice to 4 extra (total of 9dice) simply because it seems reasonable no more than 5 NPCs in a mob could really all get hits in simultaneously anyway. The extra mob size would just make it harder to chop through/Give a Tough more of a meat shield etc…

  • Difficulty Modifiers for being outnumbered without needing Doom spent. More enemies than PCs in Close Range/This Zone? Then +1 modifier per group/type as they need to be more cautious with enemies swarming about. Outnumbered by a mob = +1, Outnumbered by a Squad with a tough = +2, Outnumbered by a Squad and a Nemeses +3 etc… This should make them think twice before wading into a wall of enemies.

  • Use Doom to split a party/zone (fire? crashing pillar/stone? secret wall? whatever) to cause them to be outnumbered

  • Give enemies plenty of Morale soak when fighting on their own turf, especially if they outnumber PCs

  • Hazards & Traps. 2 combat dice damage/qualities per point of Doom rather than just 1. Make them more useful and dangerous

  • Let Nemesis use Fortune for a cost of 2 Doom instead of 3… maybe

  • This is more to do with people taking forever to decide their turn. Use the rule to not let any player take forever to optimize their turn. Give them a couple moments (whatever is fair for your group), then start to reach for a Doom token to let them know times up. If they don’t immediately make their play gain Doom, but use it specifically against that character (just like Ancient Bloodline Doom above).

  • Have your Toughs, Toughs in Squads, Nemeses use threaten attacks here and there. If they stagger the PCs need to burn Doom to even Act on their turn

  • Maybe lower XP gain for long term play. Talents are too easy to buy, maybe require an equal level of Focus to the Talents tier as a pre-requisite? (I believe I got this idea from someone on here)

Anything that lets them still slaughter foes, but it won’t be a cakewalk to take on a bunch. Anything to et them know they’ll need to hightale it almost as often as they dominate. Then again we prefer games deadly enough that it’s almost always smarter to avoid a fight and save yourself for the ones that matter as even rabble should be able to kill you if they get lucky.

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Apparently, you don’t want a Conan game to be a Conan game at all, but something quite different.

And many of your house rule suggestions take away the team work aspects of the 2d20 system, which makes this a unique game. Most other games are designed for a “everyone for themselves” mode. 2d20 with the group Momentum pool allows for better team work, to support each other. Making that harder takes away one of the unique defining aspects of the rules system.

For more deadly games where you need to avoid getting into combats, there are A LOT of other systems out there - but those are not designed to capture the Conan Sword&Sorcery feeling at all. In a Conan game, violence should always be an option, and often a very good option to solve a problem.

I disagree, not even sure where you’re getting that. Teamwork is every bit as much there. The Momentum pool is still used by all to buy dice, use normal momentum and Combat Spends. Momentum gained still goes into the pool for all. None of that changes (unless you play according to the tutorial rules I mentioned) In fact Teamwork may be even more important as the Assist action might have more meaning and the extra challenge would require them to work/fight together even more. Plus PCs would individually be less overpowered. All most of those things would do is make enemies more of a challenge to fight or give the GM a steadier flow of Doom to complicate things. But the enemies themselves are no harder to individually kill.

This entire topic is about the game being to easy. In the books Conan is epicly deadly, but hauls ■■■ away from groups of enemies unless he has to fight. He also tries to avoid fights regularly (Black Stranger starts with him running from a bunch of picts… and he’s been on the run for 100 miles. Servants of something-something he’s hiding from cultists and apemen the entire time trying to avoid a fight, the one fight he does have is against a single dude and I think later a single Ape and in both cases only because he had to. In the Black River he takes on small groups (2 or 3 maybe) with the other character, but they run and hide from the rest most of the story and when they get separated the other character dies fighting off a mob/squad on his own etc…). Even in the movies he’s never really fighting hordes of dudes and when there’s a bunch he has others with him.

Making it more of a challenge will actually make it more like the real stories, not less (less like the comics I suppose)

EDIT: To be clear I’m not saying we use all these or to ever use them all at once. These are just tweaks that might help, some just occurred to me while reading this topic, some others have come up with


I actually managed to solve this problem by now. My players have gotten much stronger than when I made my first post too.

Anyway if the enemies (minions or toughened) use group tactics it already helps a lot. Especially if their weapons have the piercing, knockdown and stun qualities.

For example even a minion with a mace can even cause a problem for a competent warrior with high armor soak and vigor. When the player character is down the others can swarm and damage the player character quite badly. Spending Doom effectively also goes a long way.