Questions concerning Guard, Ranged Combat & Zones, and Doom

Hi all! Very new to playing/GMing Conan, though I’ve been running other RPGs since forever. I absolutely love the 2d20 system, and for the most part, I find it relatively intuitive. A few questions came up in last night’s session though (my 3rd one GMing) so I thought I might ask them here:

  1. Guard.
    I think I understand how this works with respect to Reach etc. What I specifically wanted to know though is what happens when you are attacking someone without Guard and you both have the same Reached weapons? I.e. is there actually a penalty for not having Guard? It would seem a little weird to me if there wasn’t, however, I couldn’t find it anywhere in the rules.

  2. Missile weapons and Zones.
    I really like the idea of Zones, and I also really like how 2d20 handles ranges for missile weapons. What seems a little weird for me is that because Range and Zones are abstractions, you might be firing your Bossonian longbow (Range M) in one instance where it is objectively speaking “medium” and another where it is objectively “close”. For example, the GM determines that two decks of a ship are adjacent Zones, so I can fire my longbow onto the adjoining deck at Medium range. Let’s say objectively speaking, in the real world outside of RPGs, that might be about 15m. The next scene takes place in a tavern and the GM determines that the area behind the bar and the main room are two adjacent Zones. I would be at Medium range then still, firing from one to the other, even though objectively that might only be a few meters away. This seems to me counter intuitive, and I was hoping someone might have an elegant solution, or at least a reasonable explanation.

  3. Doom
    This has really been a vexing issue with my group. Essentially, the problem is that they can’t seem to interpret this as anything but some sort of construction designed to pit me against them. I’ve tried explaining to them that it isn’t meant to be adversarial, but they flatly refuse to buy extra Momentum with Doom, complaining that in so doing, they would only be empowering me to kill them! Consequently, they are invariably always short of Momentum, I am short of Doom, no one can afford to do heroic/interesting actions, and combat lasts FOREVER while they chip away at their foes with pitiful little nicks and scratches which lack the kind of deadly punch they might have if they had used Momentum! Death by a thousand cuts. Unless the boredom kills them first. I’ve tried explaining to them that the game was designed like this for a reason, but still they resist. Anyone have any advice?

Sorry, in retrospect, perhaps I should have broken this post up into three seperate threads. Anyway, I would be grateful for all the help I can get!




Guard partly exist to balance short weapons like daggers against long weapons like halberds. It makes halberds very useful in defense, and daggers very useful in offense when you manage to break your opponent’s guard. Backstab basically. But if the weapons have the same reach, it does not have any effect.
Although keep in mind that loosing Guard also has narrative implications: The character lost their balance or must tighten their grip around their weapon. This may open up other possibilities, like pushing the character off a cliff (for which the GM may reduce the Difficulty or even offer a bonus d20).

Missile weapons and Zones

Zones should not be measured in meters, zones should fit the terrain. In some cases this means a zone is huge, and in some cases (like in a tavern) a zone is smaller. But that is not contradictory to weapon ranges. A huge zone is usually a large outdoor area, so you can shoot or run very far. In a crowded tavern, you can’t shoot or run that far, so zones are smaller. This works well for weapons with Range C, not so much for weapons with Range M (like the longbow), where it seems counterintuitive that you can suddenly shoot better if the target is just a few meters away (but still at Medium range).


In my experience, players benefit more from Momentum than the GM benefits from Doom. Try to remind the players that it is not GM vs. players, but GM + players = amazing story. If they are reluctant to add Doom, you could try and show them that you use Doom for cool things, not just for nasty things. If they walk through a forest, summon a few wolves which are easily dispatched but are fun to fight.

Also remind them that you don’t need to wait for them to add Doom. If they enter a dangerous cave, it is totally OK for the GM to just give themselves 2 Doom, just because the scene is scary.

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Pretty sure there’s actually a penalty for not having Guard (don’t have my book with me) such as that the target is prone? The attacker should have a tangible advantage if this occurs. I think they may even get an additional D20 or difficulty is reduced?
Ranged combat
Although it feels counter-intuitive, it does make sense. Shooting through doorways and cluttered environments it harder for the shooter to position themselves for the shot and easier for the target to create narrow angles of fire, etc.
My advice is to hit them hard enough the Need the Doom. Don’t make victory inevitable without it and reward them when they use Momentum. There are also other ways of gaining Doom without the players choosing and ways to spend it ‘gradually’.

You can also increase Doom instead of creating Consequences.

Thanks everyone for the helpful advice, especially about the reminder that players benefit more from Momentum than the GM does from Doom. I realised suddenly that that is absolutely right… now I just have to find a way to sell it to my players!


Yeah from memory, a Prone target gains 2 Soak per Effect on Cover dice, and increases the Difficulty of Ranged attacks by one step. Melee attacks, however, gain +2 Momentum against Prone targets.

But that, as far as I understand, has nothing to do with Guard, except that of course a Prone target obviously can’t have Guard. If Guard is relevant exclusively where two opponents have weapons with different Reaches, then I guess I understand why there is no extra penalty for not having Guard.


Just wanted to add my 2 cents in on ranged stuff. Well, at least provide a link to my 2 cents.

If they can’t see it for what it is, it might be a problem, and I have seen people say this a lot. I think it has more to do with a fundamental concept of how they see a GM/player interaction. But it no more exists to pit you against them than momentum exists to pit them against you.

Doom is in one sense the equivalent to the bad guys doing well, and things swinging against the players, much like momentum is for them.

On the other hand it is the players vs. themselves. Everytime they avoid something by spending doom, or gain and advantage by spending doom, all they are doing is succeeding in the short term, buying off success for something bad down the line.

You as the GM may interpret what the doom does, but it generally exists due to player actions.


My elevator sell of Doom, is in the S&S feel of ‘Balancing Scales’. The universe will spend all effort to equal the scales. The S&S tradition of the loot rich adventurer, penniless again at the start of the next, or at least no better off than normal.
Have a look at Jack Vances Dying Earth. When ever I describe it this way the players are fine with it. Even if they think its some meta-agency working to keep it so, or just how the universe works in this campaign.

You also lose the cover dice from shield when your guard as been broken

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The first two points have been covered pretty well, so I’ll just give concise answers to that.

  1. Guard only matters for the defender, and only if the attacker has a weapon with different reach.

  2. Ceilings can make shooting a bow more difficult, among other things. Try to imagine with your players why ranges are larger or smaller. What makes it easier or harder, to traverse/shoot?

  3. This is a pretty common reaction among players. When I first played FFG’s Star Wars, I had a similar reaction to the Destiny Pool (don’t give the gm Dark Side points!) and the other players patiently explained to me that I was being an idiot. This attitude can be hard to break (most of this game’s online detractors seem to hold to this belief), especially if your entire group of players thinks this way.

I would strongly advise against finding other ways to increase your Doom pool. If Doom is increasing but Momentum isn’t, this will likely only enforce your player’s erroneous beliefs concerning the game’s meta-currency.

Bring in a new player who can show the group how it works. The first time your group sees someone perform incredible and amazing Conan-style achievements by blithely throwing Doom at you, they’ll start to follow suit. Especially if you then use the Doom throw interesting obstacles at them (don’t use it to increase difficulties or do more damage until their attitude changes).

In the more likely event that you don’t have an extra player waiting to spend Doom like a drunk shopper with an open credit limit spends money on Black Friday, you’ll have to convince one of your players. Take your most reckless player aside and talk to them one on one. Tell them that you need them to spend Doom for the good of the game. Promise them fortune, promise them Fortune points, and promise them bonus xp. Just get one person to do it and the game mechanics will take care of the rest.

The way I’ve found to get my players to spend Doom (although admittedly actually Heat) is to present them with options that they want to do but can’t without spending Doom. Coupled with relatively frequent skill tests that they need to throw a fair few dice at (cue Complications) and the occasional Complication test has resulted in me having a decent Doom pool.

D1 Complication tests are a good tool in this space: 1 Doom for 3 Dice is often going to be less risky than just rolling 2 Dice and risking the Complication. This should get them considering paying Doom some of the time at least: and will build up both the Momentum and Doom pools.

Ultimately Doom is your tool to add / modify challenges for your players on the fly; players generate Momentum from overcoming challenges. But, equally, if you want to just kill your players then you can happily script an encounter (and pay no Doom for it) that is a trap designed to kill your players. That is to say you don’t need Doom to kill your players: you only need Doom to provide a mechanical structure for your adhoc changes.

There is another tool though, Fortune Points. The next time (the first time) a player risks spending Heat to complete that Heroic task because there’s simply no other way, reward them with a Fortune Point for their ‘bravery’.

Oh I like that idea a lot. Not so much bribing them per se; but rather rewarding them for heroic, Conan-style gameplay, which might only be possible by buying Doom dice! :slightly_smiling_face:

I was just reading Ancient Ruins and Cursed Cities (which is a great, useful supp, btw) and I found this:
“…it isn’t necessary to know that the archer is in Zone 3 and is firing into Zone 2 — a skilled killer isn’t going to wander out of range and then be surprised when the arrows… keep landing short.”
That’s from p99 of the hardcopy, where there is quite a useful section on interpreting zones in the ruins you can generate in that chapter. It put Zones into perspective for me and will definitely alter the way i do it and how much attention I cactually pay to them.

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