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Long Term Campaigns

Having recently come out of a long term Conan game, here are some simple house rules I adopted for the sake of good game pacing so PCs don’t become overly powerful and Talent-heavy until late in the game.

CHARACTER GENERATION
Use the ‘Shadows of the Past’ generation method and then give the players 2100 xp to spend after they have done that. It makes for decent enough characters who are not already overly accomplished and who have to strive, survive and succeed in your game before they start making it look easy.

I don’t know what everyone’s Hyborian Age tends to be like, but I put a caveat in that if a character has no skill in Melee or Parry they must spend to get to at least lvl. 1 Expertise and Focus in these with this 2100 xp.

TALENTS
Make the XP costs for these a cumulative 200 per level of the Talent - so a starting ‘top of the tree’ Talent costs 200, the next one down 400, then 600, etc.

Do not have XP reduction for Focus. This really does get silly in very focussed character builds and allows characters to gallop to the end of Talent trees VERY early in the game if they so choose - making non-ultra-specialists feel cheated by comparison.

Make every Talent require a Focus in the parent Skill equal to it’s level in the tree. This means even basic Talents require 1 Focus. This makes Focus mean something other than ‘crit range’ - it is after all described as being the basis for '“secret techniques” in the Skill. For Talents beyond 5 steps in a tree - just keep the prerequisite at 5.

MONEY
Good lord - completely revise the gold costs of most things. 5 mules buys you a top of the line warship, and a dagger costs the same as a full-on broadsword. This does not make for a sensible campaign…

BROKEN & ODD WEAPONS
NEVER allow a weapon to have Hidden and multiple levels of Unforgiving or Vicious. The top end of the Stealth Talents become a way of guaranteeing ridiculous damage output with the likes of a Seax that would make even a Forest Dragon weep from the blows.

For the sake of historical accuracy (with the purpose of the Katar being useful vs. armour) and the game balance issue with Seaxs and assassination, I revised the two weapons to have these stats so as not to make daggers and other short melee weapons obsolete;

Katar - 3[CD] damage, Reach 1, Parrying & Piercing 1​

Seax - 3[CD]damage, Reach 1, Parrying & Unforgiving 2

Please feel free to adopt and/or comment. These have stood up to a lengthy playtest and will help if you are seeing as I did, tool much disparity in long campaigns between combat wombats and less focussed individuals or other one-trick-pony characters.

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Thanks for sharing your experiences. I will take some of this into consideration.

Haven`t played Conan yet, but at the moment I study the rules. Based on that I am completely with you.
Do you have your Homebrew changes in a handy document? Would you like to share it?

If yes, thanks in advance. :slight_smile:

Your adjustment to xp cost is the way it is supposed to be though I do agree that the xp reduction leads to drastically quick gaining of powers so for an extended campaign it can lead to ridiculously powerful characters very early on. Especially if the players are power gamers. The idea that you need a focus on top of the existing requirements seems to make leveling any talent prohibitively expensive.

I 100% agree that the gold costs of things is way out of whack. I am constantly tweaking that

I also 100% agree with your take on the Katar and the Seax. Aside from the fact that they are regional weapons you’d have to go where they are to obtain, if you throw even one enemy wielding one your pcs will never use a dagger again.

I’ve been running a campaign for a year and a half now and while we’ve had to tweak a few things here or there for the most part we play the game as rules as written and we haven’t run into too many problems. Two of my players are power gamers and that has lead to me having to scale the enemies a little to keep things challenging for them but for us the storytelling in the game is more important that the combat (it is fun but is over so quickly) that we don’t run into too many problems with combat beasts. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts! There are definitely some added challenges to long term campaigns.

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My campaign has been going on for some while. Would have been useful to have this advice back when I started, but it is too late to turn back the clock now. I do agree with the ‘Shadows of the Past’ rule, and the mandatory focus for moving down the talent tree as well as the increase in cost for talents. I did scale back the xp gains though so they’re not making huge amounts of gains per session.

Despite that I’m grateful that my group aren’t power gamers and overall I’ve been able to present solid challenges to the group, because we used standard character gen. Also my players spend xp on their characters with decisions based off of how there characters develop as the story progresses, and not out of a desire to game the system with op character.

Edit:

I have a few questions I would like to know.

How many sessions did your campaign last? Average session length?

What was the total xp across all sessions by the end of the camaign?

Your answers will be a good benchmark for me to compare to in comparison to where my campaign is currently at.

If anyone else wishes to pitch in feel free! The more data the better!

I had run several one shots for Conan on conventions and also finished a campaign, where I combined several of the published adventures together with homebrew material for a sand-box like experience. The details on the campaign:
Playtime: ~7 months
Sessions: 32, 4-5h per session
XP in the end: 7000; average 218.75xp per session.

I have used the normal character generation option, as we had zero experience in long play and wanted to go along with it. None of the options were used. No random events in the carousing phase as suggested in the book, because it was campaign play and the events between session were tailored according to the story. The upkeep was used properly.

In the end, I had powerful characters that were rolling over most of the encounters (social and combat) and had some challenges but to do that I had to increase the difficulties of the checks from time to time. The default enemies were joke and each NPC had to be adjusted here or there to be more interesting.

After that game, I can say that the default character generation is fantastic for short-term games. The characters are more than capable, don’t feel like puny 1st level fighters or mages in D&D and provide solid experience and options during play.

The main problem was the cost of talents vs increasing focus/expertise. Players quickly bumped the talents to compensate for the slowly increasing focus/expertise. I like the idea to link the talents and their position in the three with the focus, as it makes sense - you get better in something by practicing and soon you discover some tools of the trade.

For long-term campaign, I will either reduce the XP flow or as suggested - use the “Shadows of the Past” to have more slow-paced growth where characters really develop over the course of the story, and not sudden burst in the first few chapters.

My average session is 6-8 hours twice a month and my campaign has been going on for a year and half.

The highest we’ve gotten xp wise is 4500 (About 4 sessions ago there was a TPK due to one of the party members setting off a massive explosion in a coal mine… with the party inside.

My initial party comprised of three heavy rpers and a power gamer. Two of the rpers left for personal reasons and have been replaced by a fairly new rper, a highly experienced rper and a power gamer. What I’ve found as far as xp is that as long as the challenges are varied and not just combat oriented the xp gains aren’t overly bad with the suggested 200xp plus 50 xp as a bonus for MVP. One limitation that I put on my players is that there has to be a story reason for any xp spend they make. It helps with immersion and it also prevents excessive spends just to chase down power gaming friendly trees.

The story ties towards progression is a great idea. I do recommend it for all GM’s to use in their campaign. It is the main reason experienced based progression is superior to level based progression (ala D&D). Characters grow more organically based off of the way the story develops, and it is a mechanical way that allows players to get more invested in their characters. Also helps break that power gamer mindset that some players may have too much of in RPGs.

As per my initial post. I am 13 sessions in and the group has a total of 2130xp. The first session I gave out no xp since it was meant as an intro/learning experience on the rules. Also my downtime sessions yield low xp returns since they are rp heavy and the characters don’t really face a real threat. I gave out 50xp for one of those downtime sessions once. Looks like I’ll be getting around the same area as Valyar xp wise if my campaign last as many sessions as his.

My sessions tend to be 3-4 hours long.

I have one breakout character who is a threat in melee, but overall he is manageable if I throw enemies with piercing weapons at him and add a couple of doom spends (has armor 3 and shield 2, that’s a lot of soak!). Also, I can always break out some ranged enemies with terrain advantage to challenge him.

Thanks for the info guys!

Requiring story ties for progress has lead to some great conversations about how things have gone as well as encouraged my players to talk to me about things they want to progress towards so I can offer possibilities for them to pursue their interests in game. It has also lead to some of my players straight up calling out others who have been focusing more on the power gaming side of things, which is always fun.

Has anyome come up with a better price list for items yet?

I wonder if the game would benefit from scrapping the xp point system and using a version of the milestone system that Star Trek uses.

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A viable alternative is to switch out Gold as a possession for Purchasing as a skill test, where your Gold becomes the equivalent of Expertise. You add it to a Purchasing skill and make a test to see if you can acquire the item (difficulty determined by the GM).
Perhaps in this case, Difficulties could be exteneded beyond the usual range to 10 and the normal limit of five dice could also be lifted?
It would also benefit from a Talent tree.

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I’m just starting CONAN 2D20, and I’m also concerned with the power-creep.
I totally understand that the central characters of the story (ie: PCs) are meant to last longer due to the story focus - I have played Fate Core rpg many times, and it has a similar idea.
I have ran the first session - The Pit of Kutallu - it is a simple intro scenario that has lots of flavour.

The PCs certainly feel like rollicking characters from a pulpy sword & sorcery tale, but I am worrying about how much more capable they will become as they progress - I don’t want the sessions to get too boring

I now realise that I should have gone with the ‘Shadows of the Past’ option. The characters would still feel quite powerful, but just a little less than they are now.

I can’t go back and start again, so I’m thinking of halving the suggested Experience Awards from the core book, in any effort to prolong things a bit more and shift the focus off power-gaming talent creep etc

So I’m thinking roughly 50 EXP for each PC per session, with handfuls of 10 EXP for incidental awards (no one getting more than 30 EXP. Then perhaps for the climax of the adventure they get 100 EXP (instead of 50 EXP that session)

Does this sound okay, or am I trimming things down too much?

Any other thoughts?

I like the sound of this Purchasing skill with the Gold value equal to the TN to roll under on 2D20, against the challenge levels.
I am interested in using this, so I’m woindering if you explored it further, or if anyone else has done this?

I have been in a Conan group of rotating GMs for almost a year now. We definitely have run into this OP “problem,” one especially worsened by me initially introducing a 100 xp per hour of gameplay procedure. In my defense, I had no real assurance (due to previous experiences) that this group was going to last long, and I wanted us to experience some mechanical character progression before (in my mistaken view) the group collapsed.

So, after a few months, some GMs started to feel frustrated by the relative “untouchability” of some characters, and some players became bored with their characters, feeling like there was very little left to explore. We did and considered a few things:

  • We reduced xp per session from 500 (for a five-hour session—admittedly, this already was an inflated amount based on erroneous predictions) to 300.

  • We had many discussions about how physical conflict need not be the only—not even the “main”—challenge in a Conan adventure. Investigation and persuasion can be equally challenging, even more satisfying.

  • Even so, one of our GMs committed to challenging even “high-level” characters with physical threats. We discovered that this is possible if the GM “stacks” the scenarios with what I have begun to think of as “Doom factories,” which are more than a few Nemeses in a single encounter, with Toughened lieutenants and hordes of Minions. Before long our characters are Sacrificing Armor and struggling against the death spiral resultant from multiple Wounds, our players just throwing Doom at the GM in an attempt to do just anything. It’s not my preferred mode of play: it’s sort of a grind, and I can’t believe how the Minions keep relentlessly fighting to the death, but most of the players seem to like it well enough.

With the new year, we have begun talking about starting fresh with new characters—definitely using the Shadows of the Past option. We’re also going to try alternating campaigns, one using Shadows of the Past in the Hyborian Age, one using the Kull sourcebook in the Thurian Age. The latter campaign will use traditional character generation, mostly because I think the mode of that game will feel slightly different.

It’s too late for me to reroll these characters with Shadows Of The Past option, but I think I will make that the default if we ever play any other games

I’m thinking of doing this:

  • Group is awarded 50 EXP per Chapter - typically a session of 2-4 hrs for my group, ending at pivotal break points in the adventure. Even if it takes more than a session, I will only give EXP awards at the end of the Chapter

  • Most adventures are structured in 2-5 Chapters, the majority following the 3 Chapter story arc

  • Incidental Individual EXP in 10 EXP handfuls, typically 1-3 per Chapter. It can be more if there is really outstanding gameplay (max 50EXP per Chapter)

  • Story climax gets additional group award 50 EXP

So for a 3 Chapter adventure, that would go:
Group Awards
Chapter 1 : 50 EXP
Chapter 2 : 50 EXP
Chapter 3: 50 EXP + climax 50
EXP

Individual EXP: Perhaps 10 -30 EXP per session

So a typical 3 Chapter adventure would yield around 200 - 300 EXP

Does this sound reasonable, or is it a bit harsh?

My alternative would be increasing the Group EXP to 100 EXP per Chapter, keeping everything else the same - this would yield about 350 - 450 EXP per adventure

I want to slow down power-creep, but need to find an enjoyable moderation for the players - I’m not sure which one to go with above

I also think that I will shift the emphasis on opponents as the story progresses - make most opponents Minions at the start (good for building Group Momentum Pool), then shift many of them to Toughened by mid story, just to make things feel more challenging.

I think two Nemesis in the climax Chapter sounds reasonable, one more challenging than the other

I have been playing all kinda of rpgs since my teens in the mid 1980s, so I have a feel for things. But I am new to 2D20, and want to make sure that my CONAN games don’t burn brightly at the start, only to flicker out due to boredom from declining challenges.

I would be appreciative if posters here could let me know if my EXP scales sound workable, or if I have trimmed things too much

Any other advice is greatly appreciated :blush:

I can see a rationale for playing default high EXP for a Thurian Age game, just to add a sense of power, majesty, and potency to that Age

Otherwise Kull’s era will feel no different to Conan’s

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The characters that my players have made are fairly competent though I do have some archers and sorcerers that have no physical skills whatsoever. I have been doing the 100 xp per 3-4 hour session and once in a while a 25-50 xp bonus for RP or good ideas. The characters have shored up some of their earlier weaknesses and are now pretty powerful after two years. I am adding talents to some enemies now to give them a fight. (let me re-roll some of that damage with No Mercy and Blood on Steel).

Unlike dnd the Conan characters start out pretty powerful and hard to kill. If they hyper specialize for combat then don’t hold back on that social encounter or other skill that wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to have.

The Pit of Kutallu did have some tough athletics tests early on to swim to shore. It may be good to remind the characters of their Fortune Points in those situations especially when first starting. I liked that and many other adventures from Jeweled Thrones of the Earth. I mainly use those to supplement my own stories if I don’t have anything ready on my end. Haven’t used that in a while though.

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This.
If they build their one-trick pony characters who are very, very good at one thing, they will be very, very incompetent in most other things. And that is the way to challenge even very experienced Conan characters.

I use the rule of thumb of 50 XP per hour played - so in a 4 hour session about 200 XP will be awarded per player character.

Conan 2d20 suggests already giving out half the amount of XP compared to Infinity RPG or Mutant Chronicles 3, where 100 XP per hour are recommended.

As a player I find it motivating having something new to learn or improve for my character at least every other session. So at about 200 XP you can learn a new Skill at Expertise 1 or learn the root or a tier 1 Talent. That is a satisfying development of the character.

The more powerful Talents are much more costly, so you need to save XP anyway. And raising Expertise and Focus separately makes raising Skills after character creation very expensive.

Consider learning and improving a Skill your character didn’t have at character creation:
Expertise 1 - 200 XP
Focus 1 - 200 XP
Expertise 2 - 400 XP
Focus 2 - 400 XP
Expertise 3 - 600 XP
Focus 3 - 600 XP.
So a skill you could have taken at Exp 3 / Foc 3 at character creation costs 2400 XP during play.
If you get about 200 XP per session, you will need 12 sessions, that is 3 months weekly play, to raise this single skill to this level of competency.
Raising it to rank 4 or even 5 in Expertise and Focus is even more expensive.

Using my rule of thumb of 50 XP per PC per hour played works very well.

And considering the recommendation regarding the one-trick pony PCs, I have PCs in my Conan campaigns who accumulated several 1000s XP, and who can still get challenged, because you cannot be the best in every single field of expertise. And it is the easiest trick in a GM’s toolbox to challenge PCs at their weak spots.

That works, if you present varying types of challenges. If you only focus a Conan campaign on combat, the “combat monster” optimized PCs will most certainly have an easy time slaughtering every opposition you muster up. But Conan is not “combat only”, although some might play it that way.

There are more problems that you simply cannot solve by applying violence, and that have even more dire consequences than the personal injuries you might suffer from a lost fight.

I find, giving the players sufficient XP to work on their characters is important to keep things interesting for a longer running campaign, while still being aware of the player characters’ weak spots to challenge them. - So far, this worked out fine for my campaigns.

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I can easily break up most Adventures into Episode format. A short adventure may run 1-2 Episodes, and a long adventure could run 5-6 Episodes.
I think I will be aim to fit most adventures neatly into a traditional 3 Episode story arc.

Our sessions are usually about 4- 5 hours play time for my group, so we should be able to complete an Episode every session. Occasionally it may take more than one session to complete an Episode, although I will try to avoid this if possible, to keep the pace flowing. It should be not hard to do, due to the rollicking nature of this game.

I’ve decided to go with awarding around 100 EXP for every Episode played, plus incidential bonuses up to 50 EXP. The climatic Episode may earn up to an additional 50 EXP on top pf this, depending upon how it goes.

I think this will go more or less the pace that I want - if advancement becomes too sluggish it’s easier to increase the EXP awards and such.

Thanks for your advice everyone, it’s greatly appreciated!

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