As my first Conan campaign continues, I have noticed that my players (who are also new to the system, despite being veteran roleplayers) almost exclusively engage their foes by using physical attacks rather than Threaten and Displays of Power.
There are, I think, two reasons for this, one mechanical and one narrative. Would be good to hear your thoughts on both.
Reason 1: It seems mechanically optimal to physically attack people. In order to activate most Displays of Power, one usually needs to have already done some physical damage, either with a weapon such as when using Dead Man’s Stare, or with a spell such as Sorcerous Might. And once you’ve already lowered the enemy’s Vigor with such an attack, it makes little sense to switch to damaging their Resolve, which is “full”.
Reason 2: From a narrative standpoint, it’s hard to imagine how an entire combat encounter could be resolved solely with Displays. Imagine the following situation: The PCs have just run into a group of evil Nemedian mercenaries who are hunting them for bounty money.
PC 1 looks at the evil Nemedian mercenaries and [using A Mighty Name] yells “Do you not know who I am?” dealing resolve damage.
Nemedian Mercenary 1 scowls at PC 1 silently [using Steely Glare] dealing resolve damage.
PC 2 screams “Don’t screw with us!”, and, after looking around, decides to kick over a random stone column [using Impossible Feat of Might].
Nemedian Mercenary 2 waves a torch around [using Flaming Brand] and states “Do that again and I’ll burn you to ashes!”.
PC 3… scowls at them.
Mercenary 3 yells “Do you know who I am?!”.
You can see how this is getting narratively ridiculous.
Now, I understand that Displays of Power can be used to good effect mid-fight, once you’ve downed some foes, to cull the herd of remaining minions, but that implies that A) Players will always have to do some serious physical fighting, so it makes no sense to specialize only in threats, whereas it can make sense to specialize in physical attacks, B) Encounters with few foes are unlikely to feature Displays, and C) Players will almost always be in a ‘physical combat’ mindset, and remember to use Displays only occasionally.
None of this would be a problem or strike me as odd, if Threaten were some secondary mechanic meant to add flavor and sword-and-sorcery style to combat. But, given that Resolve is put on par with Vigor at a mechanical level, I would have expected Threats to feature almost as prominently as physical attacks. And yet I see no reason why they would.
Am I somehow coming at this wrong?