Help needed with sorcerer too powerful

By Crom I need your help please. I just starting mastering Conan 2D20 and have a player with 14 in sorcery, focus 3 or 4, and 2 spells: Astral Wandering and Dismember. I don’t mind powerful characters as long as I can boost the challenge they face, but that’s really annoying. He almost always succeeds and use his spell to scout virtually all dangerous places before they explore it. Although dismember does not make a huge amount of damage, if there’s Momentum on the table, it does and it can ruin a lot of interesting situations (like the Vanir thiefs trying to get back the horn at the beginning of Betrayer of Asgard, we lost the whole chase with one spell and a few momentum). It’s no fun.
So how can I limit this?

  1. I see no sorcery points nor a similar concept that would force him to save his spells. Could fatigue be used?
  2. Complications are not a deterrent and I don’t like the idea an unlikely but devastating accident (self dismembering or being lost in the ether).
  3. Making it difficult in practice, such as making spells noisy, smelling, imposing chanting or gesticulation
  4. Of course if he casts spells in public and too often people will find out and he’ll run into trouble but that’s also making the gamemastering more complicated-

What shall I do please?


  1. It’s not that sort of game.

  2. If you don’t like the idea of him accidentally dismembering himself then you honestly shouldn’t have a PC sorcerer. Magic in Conan is dark, dangerous and corrupting. It’s not D&D.

  3. Yes, absolutely. Magic is hard.

  4. It’s not hard. He casts a spell, gets captured and then hanged or burned at the stake.

It really sounds like no one is willing to play up how dangerous sorcery is meant to be. Personally I don’t think it should be a PC option but that’s just me.

Thanks for the comment. What I don’t like about relying on complications is the lack of graduation. All goes well until it goes really bad. By the way I never GMed D&D and that’s why I went for Conan for a vibrant fantasy game.

What about the visibily of magic?

judging by the orignal Howard stories, at it’s base not very visible as it’s first and foremost and exercice in raw willpower, forcing your will over the world’s natural order. Now if you want to get better chances, that’s where the chainting and dancing (to help focussing your will), fancy magical toys (to channel/shape the power) and sacrifices (to provide you with more raw power) comes in.

In rule terms that’s not explicitely precised - except sacrifices - but it should translate as extra dies or momentum points or lowered difficulties. The more obvious, grandiose and impressive, the bigger the bonus.

If your sorcer clads himself in bizarre graments dug out from some forgoetten Acheronian tomb, makes a frenzied hours-long dance while screaming otherwordly incantations at the top of his lungs while slicing slave’s throat wholesale before topping up his cremony with a king’s virging daughter, he deserves a hefty bonus (and an awfull lot of attention but well, nothing risked, nothing gained…)

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Is it possible to start introducing encounters that have ‘anti-magic’ protection? Something that ups the difficulty of the player’s tasks, or outright makes scouting impossible?

Great response, thank you! This approach would indeed be suited for large spells. Should we assume that the sorcerer inherently requires some time to warm up , sorcery essentially not being instantaneous? For example, in a scenario where a valuable item is stolen, leading to a captivating chase, my sorcerer instantly casted dismemberment, amd abruptly ended the pursuit, leaving no opportunity for escape. Could it be more plausible for spellcasting to involve a preparatory phase and if skipped, necessitate additional successes? During this phase, should there be a restriction on actions, particularly complex ones?

That’s an insightful observation, but escalating magical confrontations could lead to an undesirable arms race of magic, which contradicts the intent for sorcery to be a rare element. An alternative might be enhancing the general populace’s ability to sense when magic is at play. This heightened awareness would likely be more pronounced in priests, with their perception sharpening in proportion to their power. Even some ordinary individuals might possess an innate sensitivity, unable to pinpoint the specifics of the magical activity or its origin, yet feeling uneasy or even paranoid. Given the setting in Asgard, within the “Betrayer of Asgard” scenario, and considering the sorcerer hails from the distant lands of Kush, his distinctive appearance could inadvertently draw suspicion. This dynamic adds a layer of intrigue, as the community’s growing apprehension could single him out as a figure of interest. What do you think?

Note that Dismember is not selective with its extra damage. If the spell kills a target then everyone in Close range (friends, enemies, the caster!) takes damage, with no defence possible. It can really wreck a party if you are not careful. If the sorcerer casts it at longer range then the difficulty goes up.

If complications are not a deterrent then grab a magic complication table from another game, or write your own.

Now for the scouting part of astral wandering, my comment as a gm is this is great!. I wish my D&D players would use things like scouting and observation and preperation and research, instead of just charging in and complaining when they get injured.

I suggest encouraging the spell’s use, only rarely having it fail, and using the failure to emphasise some theme or element of the adventure. For example, have a temple to some dark god warded against astral travel. Hopefully the players will take this as a sign that there is something particularly bad there, and feel satisfied because their sorcerer’s magic (even though it failed) still allowed them to prepare for a nasty fight.

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In one game in which I was - for once - a player, a sorcerer PC used Dismember on a rather lame opponent with the effect that ALL other PCs, except mine (who was a sneaky one and in a different zone at that time) ended up with 2 Trauma. It was the Vicious 2 that did cause the enormous damage, that everyone in the zone got 5+ damage in one hit and fell to 0 Resolve, so 2 Trauma.
That was in the first half hour of the game session. And as Trauma affects all mental skill tests, that sucked quite a bit - it even made any Counsel attempt to treat the Trauma at +2 Difficulty, so some Fortune points went down the drain, too.

And all that for an opponent who could just as easily be killed by an arrow.

And lucky for the sorcerer not to be in the same zone as the gruesome death happened, as the sorcerer is not protected from any adverse effects any spell might have. Not at all. So in the same zone, the sorcerer would have taken the mental damage, too - but probably be tougher in the Resolve department, so probably avoiding the Trauma.

I think, players who take Dismember as the only sorcery spell that could directly deal damage (not true: Haunt the Mind is just as deadly, actually), are approaching Conan sorcery from a D&D-like mindset, where most spells are only about dealing damage.
In Conan, dealing damage is best and moste efficiently done, by sword or axe wielding people - and using Enslave, they could be your opponents, now useful pawns, too.