Age of Conan - OD&D game Sessions Fifteen to Seventeen and general ponderings

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I haven't posted any session updates for Age of Conan for the past couple sessions--this is party out of laziness, partly due to the fact that I am now professionally ghost-writing blogs for Detroit-area law firms (which leaves precious little time for the writing I'd actually like to be doing), and partly because there's just not a lot to report. Sessions have been short lately, and honestly, the entire first section of Mongoose's Betrayer of Asgard is, well, rather slow.

Essentially, the game flashed back to the period when the group stole the drinking horn from the Vanir, which they impressively managed to do without drawing a sword, and then flashed forward again to them being buried under a mountain of snow. They were dug out by giant wolves, which they had to battle while also suffering from exhaustion and frostbite. They then continued on their journey, and decided to take a dangerous road through Snow Devil Pass, rumored to be haunted by, well, snow devils, rather than face the probability of a large group of Vanir warriors awaiting them at Shieldbreak Pass, the border between Vanaheim and Asgard and the site of dozens of battles between the two nations.

They figured they had a better chance of sneaking through Snow Devil Pass and decided to risk the legendary monsters therein. They avoided a frost giant and made it into the pass, where they did battle with several snow devils and came upon an ancient and half-plundered Acheronian tomb. They took rubbings from a blasted seal in hopes that Merhotep could later translate the inscription thereupon, and eventually escaped back into Asgard.

This brings me to one of my biggest problems with pre-published adventures for the Conan RPG.  In three sessions, in a very small portion of Vanaheim, they encountered:
  • Dire wolves
  • Frost giants
  • Snow devils (giant carnivorous apes) - and a tribe of them, at that
  • Vanir warriors
Maybe it's just me, but that's a veritable zoo of creatures for the Hyborian Age. Conan himself rarely fought more than one or two supernatural creatures in a story--and then there would be perhaps a single creature, not dozens. Hell, the Second Edition of Mongoose's Conan core rulebook even says this in its advice on running a Hyborian Age game. Then they publish books that are so full of nonhuman monsters that they may as well be D&D books.

It's partially my fault as a DM. It would've been better had I cut out two of the three varieties of unnatural creature above. The Snow devils alone would've made fine adversaries to replace both the wolves and the frost giants.  Something I'll have to ponder in the future.

Which leads me to two other things. Firstly, combat in OD&D using the Chainmail rules is wildly skewed towards whoever wins initiative. This comes from the factor of having multiple attacks--a 4th-level fighter gets to hit his enemy 4 times, dealing up to 4d6 damage. I am considering modifying the combat cycle so that it functions in "passes," as a result. This would mean that everyone attacks once, then those who have a second attack go again, followed by those who have a third, etc., instead of everyone making all of their attacks at one time. This would better represent a back-and-forth ebb and flow of combat. It could also present a new potential use for Fate Points--"all out attack"--which would see characters able to spend a Fate Point to make all of their attacks at once.

My group has in general elected to sideline the "Troop Type" system, feeling it's better to just have a single combat system, though a few of them have suggested we hang onto the Fantasy Combat system, as it's very similar functionally to the Man to Man system, and is rather evocative of the change in feel between normal and fantastic combat. So we'll see about that.

The second point I wanted to address is summoning spells. As it stands in the Age of Conan booklets I am using the standard D&D Summon Monster I  through VII tables in Supplement I. As Merhotep's player pointed out a few weeks ago, this could see him summoning harpies or normal rogues with swords...neither of which really makes sense for any sorcerer worth his salt in the Hyborian Age. So I completely re-vamped the summoning tables, using as my resources the Mongoose Bestiary of the Hyborian Age, the AD&D Deities and Demigods with the Cthulhu Mythos, the AD&D Monster Manual II, Call of Cthulhu d20, and in one instance Geoff McKinney's Carcosa. I'll post the new 4-page tables and information, but alas you'd need all of those books to make use of them. I stuck largely to creatures that were explicitly Outsiders and Demons/Devils, or creatures that were so creepy and unnatural that they could be seen as such (People of the Dark and giant scorpions being two examples). There's a lot of Cthulhu mythos stuff in there like Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath, but I think that's appropriate to Conan.

I wanted to post more, but need to get showered and ready for Thanksgiving day.  Hopefully more later tonight.


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