How Fast is Combat?

I’ve been a fan of Conan forever, having read all of Howard’s stuff plus lots of the pastiches. So I was very intrigued when I heard about this game. Been watching videos and reading about it for over a year but I was a bit leery of the 2d20 system, being an old 1st edition AD&D grognard. But its proponents argue that combat in particular is fast and cinematic. And I love the idea of the PCs starting off pretty heroically as opposed to the usual “we have to run from giant rats” phase that most low level PCs must endure. So I finally broke down and bought the GM’s toolkit and a bunch of the books tonight when CSI was having a sale.

I’d love to hear responses from players at all levels, from newbies to vets.


Realized I didn’t put the question in the post, just the title. So I’m interested in combat in particular, but the mechanics in general. They seem rather complex, but does it play faster than it reads? I have read the Quickstart rules, but not the full rulebook, as it hasn’t arrived yet.


It is up to the players and the GM really. If the rules are known well and each player has learned what their character can do (read their talents and how to use them), the combat is fast-paced. I had many sessions where we managed to have several combat encounters.

If you have player who is constantly “learning” his character, forgets what talents do and how momentum can be used, then no matter what you do it will take time each turn. GMs should prepare as well - NPCs and Monsters will have special abilities and doom spends.

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As a Conan GM who comes from AD&D 2nd Edition, I second the above. Also initially it will run slowly while you’re grasping the rules. It’s counterintuitive to everything you know from D&D. Conan focuses on the action and handwaves bookkeeping such as keeping track of arrows. Enemies are evaluated based on how important to the story they are. Mobs are dealt with in groups which certainly speeds things up. Your PCs being powerful already will cakewalk most bad guys unless you as the GM use terrain and circumstances to their detriment. It doesn’t have the tactical wargame roots of D&D so the overall feel is very different and takes getting used to. Complications spice things up immensely as well. Your players will find themselves in tricky situations not common in traditional RPGs.


Very fast combat, very easy to track as a GM as well.

If you have powergaming players you may need to adjust some things as the system imbalances fast. Shadows of the past and STA style momentum dice buying helped fix this for me (the characters are still very heroic, just with a chance of failure or injury)

The quickstart rules are heavily cut down, be warned… learning the rules the first time can feel a bit tiresome as it isn’t the best laid out rpg book I have read. Doing it with a player friend will speed up the process dramatically.

Thanks! I’ve played tons of D&D and its retroclones (like Labyrinth Lord) and I still love it, but I’ve always been a Conan fan and I’ve been looking for a fresh RPG experience. This sounds like it could well fit the bill. Hopefully I can find some experienced players locally (no one in my gaming circle has played it) or perhaps online, though I’ve never played in an online game. Guess I gotta find some chips or stones or whatever for the various pools as well. I already ordered 2 sets of the dice.

Some people complain that it is too crunchy, but they are seeking something, IMHO, that is not exactly a Conan RPG experience. I’ve never seen Howard as being about the quick resolution of combat, but rather a cool descriptive interpretation of combat.

Indeed it doesn’t play as fast as some systems. I see it as a good mix between speed of play and a level of descriptive crunch.

The system lends itself to players really narrating what is going on. Places hit, armor defeated, armor destroyed etc.

I did a comparison of 2d20 combat vs Pathfinder combat:

At the end I do a short analysis on the pros and cons of the two systems.


Yeah, I’ve actually seen that. Personally, I’m not a fan of mathfinder at all. Way too much rules and options bloat for me. As I said, ideally I’d like to play with experienced players a few times first to learn the basics, then hopefully I’ll be able to run it for others, with some tweaks as needed.

On my first read-through I thought the game was much more crunchy then it actually is. I think part of the reason is character generation is a fairly involved process. However, once you sit down to play the game you find out how fast and smooth it plays. I’ve found it to be one of my all-time favorites to GM. There is something about the system that really keeps players engaged.

Characters are much more capable at the start then most games. Something to realize as the GM is that you can stop thinking about “failure” being an obstacle (PC’s will succeed a lot), instead focus on complications (it’s amazing how many 20’s come up when rolling multiple d20’s) and Doom spends being the elements that challenge the heroes.

Look online, there are some folks around who have walked through examples and, assuming they’re still playing online, might let you go along for the ride to learn the ropes.

I ran it some last year and really enjoyed it. However, I did choose to avoid some parts of the game: No sorcery and no hit location, mostly relying on the quickstart. Also, I was willing to make judgment calls and worry about them later, which worked out.

I really felt that the game ran best with a smaller group of players, though. I think it’s really best with, say, two or three PCs, not five. Each PC is pretty capable but five were really ludicrous.

Chargen is complicated but there’s a free builder you can use or start out using one of the free adventures and the pregens. The resident powergamer did, of course, totally jack his character, so be warned—this game isn’t as balanced as, say, modern versions of low level D&D, tend to be, as others have noted.

One thing I’d very much like is a somewhat more “lite” option for Conan as I think the game is eminently suited for a more episodic kind of game, not really a traditional campaign. I think the episodic feel captures the original source material well, being they were short stories, not a modern mega-novel series. However, chargen and advancement in the game are set up more as a traditional campaign.

Oh, and the published adventures are really, really good.

I’d like to run more but don’t have the free time at the moment. I’m doing as many games as I can handle and am now doing a lot of musical accompaniment for charity shows, so I’ll probably have less going forward.