Friday, March 24, 2023

You Can't Play As Conan, But... can play as one of his companions.

Conan has plot armor. He can't die. He won't die. Ever. Unless Howard willed it, in which case, it could only happen once. The same goes for Elric, Aragorn, and any other famous heroes whose worlds people like to game in. In order to showcase this, publishers often gave these protagonists bloated stats (just look at Elric in some of Chaosium's books) when all they really had to do was put an asterisk after their name that signified -- plot armor.

Role-Playing in these worlds never really worked for me. Much of the fun in D&D is creating your own world anyway. But gaming in Hyboria, not the same without Conan, because without Conan, who cares. Hyboria is his playground. Without Conan, Stygia simply becomes Egypt. Aquilonia becomes France.

Dragonlance was the closest we came to gaming in the world of novels. And yes, we had many of the modules, but never played them, we just liked referencing the stats. What eventually happened was we took ideas, like the Towers of High Sorcery and the tree town of Solace and came up with our versions for our worlds.

It's why I never got into the Star Wars RPG by West End Games, though I bought the book, I quickly traded it to my brother for his D&D books. (Star Wars is the one thing I loved as a kid that I now legit feel is the stupidest thing around.)


You see, you will never measure up to the iconic characters. You will always feel like wannabes, like supporting crew.

So play as them.

The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian, Issue 133, Feb, 1987. Features the story, Winter of the Wolf. This was the first issue of Savage Sword I ever bought and I was hooked... for awhile at least. It was this magazine that eventually lead me to dive into Howard's original stories, which until then, I knew very little about. By 1987, Savage Sword wasn't so savage -- still pretty violent, but the nudity was gone. At the time, I had no idea how cool the earlier issues were (70s/early 80s) and I should have been exploring the Warren horror mags, but, I wasn't.

Winter of the Wolf  -- I was cautious about revisiting this story; it has a mystique in my mind and I didn't want that ruined. It held up, the mystique stays, but I did notice some errors that aren't relevant here.

Summary: Conan and some Gundermen are part of a royal hunting expedition in the winter months. It goes poorly, the nobles are killed. Conan and the others decide not to return to Aquilonia proper, as they would be blamed for the deaths, so they head on and soon they are hunted by a pack of wolves which are actually, sort of, werewolves. They seek refuge in a fort manned mostly by farmers, led by a chieftain with a wicked daughter. Stuff happens. Eventually, when everyone is drunk, the fort is overrun by wolves and of course Conan is the last man standing.

Because, he has plot armor.

D&D characters don't have plot armor. They're not supposed to anyway. (Modern story-gamers probably beg to differ. Why do they even roll dice?)

But, what if you were one of the Gundermen?

Conan will survive the Winter of the Wolf... but will you?

You wanna play in Hyboria? You're a part of Conan's saga, not yours. Take any adventure, any D&D group, insert Conan (NPC). He cannot die, but you can. If Conan's hit points reach zero, he is knocked unconscious and left for dead or captured. Maybe he escapes. Maybe you rescue him -- maybe you die trying -- such is often the case. Your goal -- to see how long you survive as a companion to the mighty Cimmerian. You could build a whole campaign centered around Conan and his many companions, but HE is the main character, not you. In the end, most of your characters will have died and Conan will have ridden off, perhaps with a bag full of jewels, alone or with a half-naked woman.

Such as it should be.

By Crom!

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Strontium Dog

We'll call her Petal.

Strontium Dog, the 2000 A.D. comic series set in the near future of the Judge Dredd universe. A world poisoned by three nuclear exchanges. A world of oppressed mutants. Dog eat dog in every sense. Space travel is a thing. Dimensional and time travel are things. Sorcery is a thing.  Aliens exist and every single one of them is every bit as bad as we are. It's violent, it's gritty and there's a touch of dark humor. A post-apocalyptic spaghetti-western where the only way a mutant can get ahead, or rather, just keep up, is by bounty hunting the worst of the worst.


Mongoose tackled Strontium Dog along with Judge Dredd as part of it's Traveller line of books. Now called 1st Edition Mongoose Traveller as they've moved on to the 2nd Edition of their version of the game.

Speaking of this...

The Mongoose Traveller 1st Edition Core Rulebook is one of the most perfect RPG rulebooks in existence. That's the black book in the picture below. 

The Mongoose Traveller 2nd Edition is also a nice book with some nice, but not altogether necessary, rules additions like -- boosts and banes, destructive damage, consolidated skills -- no more battle-dress as vacc-suit handles it all, and a new prisoner career.

The 2022 Update, on the other hand, is a complete and utter waste of money. 

An older, incomplete character sheet of mine.

The mutants in this game are supposed to be weird. Funny how stories about mutants who are supposed to be grotesque and deformed always have good-looking main characters, human looking mutants with only subtle mutations like Johnny Alpha, Durham Red, Cyclops, Jean Grey, etc. It's the surrounding cast that aren't so lucky. In this game, there's a very strong chance that your mutant will be quite bizarre. Petal, the one I just rolled up, has feathery stalks for eyes. The tables didn't exactly give me this, but as is often the case with tables, you improvise. With her eye-stalks, she can see into your soul, hypnotize you, and see dimensional rifts. Her stats ended up being average and she has no melee skills, but, she did manage to acquire the coveted jack-of-all-trades. I originally also rolled that her right leg below the knee was backwards, but when drawing, I forgot about it, so, never mind.

The mutants of Strontium Dog are discriminated against mercilessly. They are the garbage of society, forced to live in gutters and ghettos. They pay more and get less. Many have such severe mutations that they won't make it very long. Either way, short miserable lives, discrimination, and genocide are their lots in life. A few, with a modicum of skill and toughness are lucky enough to eek out a living as Strontium Dogs -- Mutant Bounty Hunters working for the Search and Destroy Department, scouring the galaxy for criminals wanted dead or alive...

A certain, ultra-woke gaming company would call this setting "problematic." 

I call it awesome.


Sunday, January 1, 2023

A Rifter's Best Friend

There's nothing more loyal than a Coalition State Dogboy... anywhere... on earth... in space... another dimension... another reality. Nowhere. Nowhere, will you match this brand of devotion. The dog. The uplifted dog. The genetically modified dog. The Dogboy.

He'll sniff out your enemies. Natural. Supernatural. Doesn't matter. His sense of smell is one million times stronger than yours. And, he just might be psychic too. So magnify those senses by another million. He knows he's just a mutt. He knows you're superior. He knows you love him. He knows all of you love him. He knows you will die for him. Because you know he will die for you. In all of this he is content.

Just let him off his leash every now and then. Let him fight for the Coalition. Let him protect mankind. Let him protect you.

It's what he does.

Welcome to 2023.


You Can't Play As Conan, But... can play as one of his companions. Conan has plot armor. He can't die. He won't die. Ever. Unless Howard willed it, in which ...