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Experienced GM, New to Conan

I have read the Conan book and bought Barbarian, Skelos, Mercenary and Thief. I come from a crunchy background of games like Rolemaster, Gurps and such.

I am a completist and wonder if I should have all the other add on’s before I get my group playing Conan.

My group is a complete mix. One is a power gamer, one enjoys roleplaying, but is a barbarian at heart and the other is a bit of a dimwit and likes to jump around in skills and tends to follow the story and change his character as the story goes.

Where should I start? Should I play the opening scenario, what pitfalls should I watch for and any thoughts on a specific area to start the campaign in.

My players know Conan, but not the specific Howard only Conan.

All feedback will be appreciated and thank you in advance for any help.


Hi! I’m also new to Conan 2d20. Perhaps the community here can educate us together.

I can tell you how it’s going for me. I have exactly two players, which I think is manageable. I expect three might be ideal. We had a Session 0, in which we generated characters together. We did it entirely randomly, because we all enjoy that. I was hoping that some character direction would come out of that process. It sort of did. After character creation I improvised a flimsy scenario through which the characters might meet, and we began to pull on the rules a bit.

For Session 1 I introduced the episodic mode of play. I announced that six months had passed and narrated broad strokes leading up to the opening scene. My adventure was something I adapted from Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Charnel God.” It went pretty well.

The adventure was the source of my greatest anxiety. We three gamers are a bit old school. I’m not used to cutting out the boring parts, and I’m still resistant to minimizing opportunities in which PCs might leave the adventure. For this reason I’m too wary of using the published adventures, which seem to make many assumptions about what the PCs will or will not do. So I trusted myself and my players: I put them in an opening situation, and I was aware of what was happening elsewhere and what NPCs were doing, a bit like old school play.

After this I introduced Downtime activities and Carousing. It went well.

I’m still getting my head around if I enjoy full GM autonomy or not. In other words, I’m not sure yet if Doom constrains or frees me as a GM. I think I’ll use it almost exclusively as an NPC resource and most everything else I’ll just do (i.e. terrain effects and NPC reinforcements won’t require Doom).

Here’s my campaign journal if this is any use to you.


HI there, both of you. Gandalf970, I’d say you definitely don’t need to have all the supplements before you jump in! I’ve been GMing 2d20 for only about six months and have run about six adventures, so I’m still kind of new to it close to you in experience so far and I’d suggest the sooner you get used to the basics the better.
Once you get your head around the very basics, including how Momentum and Doom work, the wole thing stats to come to life. To that end, I think there’s a lot to be said for just having a ‘dummy run’ of a couple of player vs player combats to get used to the system, or layers vs some minions.
I’d say powergaming is something to watch out for in tis system, as they can quickly become overpowered, but at the same time, not very useful in anyting other than a fight - so a scenarion where other skills are necessary can be a good way of reminding them of what a ‘rounded’ character looks like. I tend to enjoy both playing and GMing for characters with a cohesive back story and interesting mix of abilities that reflect that.
The Free RPG Day adventure Pit of Kutallu was how I introduced a couple of players to the system (literally ran it with 2 PCs) and it worked really well without committing anyone to a whole campaign. I also ran the Quick Start adventure, set in the Bossonean Marches, wich is a great way to get used to the combat, as its one quick combat after another, with a few skill checks for stealth and observation etc thrown in.
I recently ran the adventure in the book, Vultures of Shem (also influenced by the Charnel God, by the way). It is more complex than the two I just mentioned and you’ll need to get your head around the map aswell (errata) but its worth running. Good intro into Shem/Khauran etc. We enjoyed all of those adventures, but that one was possibly the most exciting. Not, however, necessarily suitable for two players, Gebir…
There are a couple of adventures on the Forum, too, one of which I wrote for a newish group so it isin’t too challenging.
I also recommend the Jewelled thrones of the Earth supplement. Although there are some frustrating errata in there, too (like maps don’t always match keys, etc) its worth using as it can save you a ton of time and gives you a good feel for a how a game should run and what you do and don’t need to include.
Genir, i also found it tricky to let go of running the ‘between’ bits. And actually, you don’t have to. But I’ve enoyed doing so. My time is precious and I can distill our gaming sessions down to the bits the players love instead of including meh stuff. And it gives you freedom, because you can make sure you get to the adventure you invested time in planning and keep the pace of play cracking along. Which you want, because teh Momentum mechanic, once you get used to it, is awesome.
Hope that’s helpful.

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I have a group of six players and we just had our twelfth session last night. I just have the core book, players book and the Horrors book. The campaign has been only in Zingara so far.


I expect I’ll likewise be using only the Core Book, and I ordered a Player’s Guide for the table.

I kind of had the impression that those other books are useful if a GM has in mind a specific focus for the game—such as a campaign set entirely in Zingara, for example! :grin: I love the Heist generator in Conan the Thief.

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I used wikipedia for Zingara background and have made alot of stuff up for my campaign.

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I appreciate all the feedback. Thanks Ghastenbor, great insight. I like the journey book Gebir, great stuff.

Is this episodic gaming? Is there not a need for building a strong base of operations and knowing the NPC’s in the village or such?

Stokar, since that GM’s entire campaign is in Zingara, might be doing it the way you describe, which seems to me to be the traditional way of roleplaying. I would do it that way, too, if I were using one of the Conan settings books. But one of my main attractions to this game is the specific emulation of the pacing of Howard’s short stories: adventures are taken one at a time, with lots of time passing in between (I’m going to use Downtime to reflect six months up to a year, and the PCs will age accordingly). In one adventure, the PCs might be caravan guards in Shem; then, one year later, they might be pirates in the Barachan Isles; then, another year later, they find themselves as courtiers in Aquilonia. I’m going to use Carousing, after each adventure, as inspiration for how to knit together these disparate tales.

At least for my group as it is now, this is a radically different way of roleplaying. Just before starting this campaign, I was running a homebrewed Swords & Wizardry game in just the manner you describe. The change created some anxiety for me: I’m still not sure if my players will appreciate or enjoy this new mode. But the first session went all right!

Check out the Angry DM on this issue.
I don’t know if you’ve read him, but if not you definitely should here:

Read down to the bit about a Plate of Meatballs.
A very brief summary is this: meatballs represent a style of play where each session is a separate adventure and doesn’t connect to anything. A plate of sausages is a style where every two to three adventures are linked to each other, but are separate from others. Of course, sausages can come in strings, linked to each other… And sometimes, you get a plate of spaghetti, with a lot of separate plots going on at once.

Read it. Its brilliant, hilarious and extremely useful.


the Pit of Kuthallu is an awesome intro adventure!



What I get out of this, of course, is that I’m going to run Conan as a plate of meatballs, with a backstoried, connective noodle between each one. The Conan Carousing table is curious, in that PCs have the option of exploring their Carousing activities either singly or as a group. With the former (even with the latter), it becomes necessary for the group to innovate some fictive reason for the PCs to come back together for the next adventure.

AngryDM seems to find Character Bonds—what he calls the Glue—even more important than Structure, for an ongoing campaign. And this, it appears, he details in a later article. Conan 2d20 seems to implement every innovative rpg mechanic and feature other than Bonds. Curious. Has anyone innovated a Bonds feature for Conan or other 2d20 games?

I’m trying to map the way I play traditional D&D—what I (and others) call a sandbox or “emergent play”—to AngryDM’s plate of pasta. I usually start PCs in their favorite tavern in their town. Outside are two adventure sites and a mega dungeon. And I have random encounter tables for everywhere. Then I say—as I get used to saying at the beginning of every subsequent session—“What do you want to do?”

The other potential I foresee with Meatball play (this really is a ridiculous metaphor :yum:) with Conan is the possibility for multiple GMs. My most fun in middle school and the beginning of high school was Champions. We all had our heroes and villains. When we sat down to play, someone would volunteer to GM, we’d roll to see if anyone’s Hunters or Dependent NPCs or whatever were expected to show, and we’d get to it.

Similarly, at least one of my two players right now has the chops to GM Conan. Since adventures are discrete, and since Carousing can be done independently, and since the setting is fairly static, I don’t see why we all can’t take turns GMing and playing.

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I enjoyed this thank you.

I have typically played long running campaigns with a connected noodle(thread) and let the players go where they wish. I would make up each new area or provide shiny’s for them to chase and they would do that.

With your idea of 6 months to a year of down time, I could really bounce around and use the different books. I have never done this before in a campaign, but I think I am going to do this when we kick off the Conan campaign.

Thanks Gebir


We played our second session of Conan and my group of two players is loving this game. We played the Devils under the Green Stairs adventure from the Jeweled Thrones of the Earth adventure book.

I won’t list any spoilers, but they had a blast and got really grumpy. I had some more rules questions that came up so hopefully you can all help.

  1. They run out of vigor, do they take wounds on every hit of vigor after that or is it still five vigor to create a wound? Mental damage is wicked without courage soak, it really can put the hammer on a group of warriors as they found out.

  2. Does using a Fortune roll in combat save a player from taking a wound or a trauma?

  3. An archer volleyed and got 7 momentum. He did x amount of damage, then he used two more to get another standard action, does x amount of damage, down to 5 momentum, can he keep buying standard actions until he is out of momentum. I understand each subsequent action increases the difficulty by one, but in this case he could get up to 4 or 5 attacks.

  4. Conditions - How do you get out of conditions. Do they last the whole game? Staggered doesn’t say when it ends, nor do most of the others.

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If you take damage when out of Vigor you take one wound. if you take more than 5 damage it will be two wounds. If an attack has the Intense quality it will have 3 wounds.

No, not without a special ability though you can spend a fortune point to get vigor or resolve back. But you can do a lot of things with Fortune but you have to buy into the fortune talent tree in order to ignore a wound by spending a fortune point. Pg. 90

One character can only have 2 standard actions in a turn and the second action is at +1 difficulty.

Stun or Knockdown you can pay the game master doom per Effect rolled to ignore the effects of the condition.

Others are situational. Like burning may be a good time to try to put yourself out with an action.
pg 126 has the conditions.


Thank you Feond, I appreciate it. But it doesn’t answer my question about Staggered, does it last the entire Action Scene?

No problem. Some conditions affect the character for 1 turn or an entire scene.

Staggered characters have to pay 1 doom for a standard action and cannot perform a reaction unless spending a fortune point. So it depends if they can clear the condition. I normally make things last 1 turn unless it has the persistent quality or requires an action to change or clear the condition.

Others like burning can have the persistent quality or blind will last a number of turns until the effect is removed or maybe longer. Dazed states until condition ends so it can be more than one turn. etc

pg 126


I have been playing and running for over one year. Our group began playing about the time the Core book was available as a PDF. This is the only book you need to play but the others add additional flavor and some details (such as Skelos).

I would recommend that at least one player and the GM have read the book, particularly the Talents, Chapters 4, 5 & 7. The player and the GM can correct each other during play and you just have to jump in and know you are going to make mistakes.

One area that easily gets overlooked in the heat of Conan battle is Reach advantages or disadvantages and if an NPC or PC has lost Guard. Even after one year and four months the PC/NPC holding guard gets forgotten. If you are playing live? I would suggest you get some poker chips and set the figure on top of a determined poker chip if they loose guard. This will help you remember.

It is a great game and very fast pace once you get the hang of the mechanics.

Ran my second full session on Monday. I had a great time. I (think) my players did too (they’re always polite and complimentary, so it’s difficult to be certain).

My report is that we might have had a bit of a rule-learning breakthrough. Partway through the session, I began to think of the system as a game of cards. It definitely features GM resources vs player resources, and it reminds me, in many ways (and probably not by accident), of Monolith’s Conan board game, which is adversarial: Overlord vs Players.

So, to get my players to better understand what was at stake and what was happening, I lifted the GM screen.

What I mean is I showed them all of my NPC abilities, what I was doing and why. It seemed immensely beneficial. I think I will play the entirety of the next session with “open hands,” as well, as if we’re playing a Monolith scenario. Perhaps soon I’ll be able to put back the GM screen.