Conan RPG 2nd Edition: The Roleplaying Game (Conan Series) Hardcover – 20 Feb 2008
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The 2nd Edition rules have been well-clarified and many contentions and confusing aspects of the Atlantean Edition have been cleared up. The classes, races and some of the mechanics have also gotten a new facelift, but the entire rules as is are 99% compatible with the vast amount of material that are out for the game, so that's a major plus.
As has been mentioned in another review, the Temptress class is now included in the core classes in the main rule system, and she has gotten a well thought out revision as well. Notably, in place of where the former temptress would have gotten Sneak Attack, the temptress in 2nd Ed now has various levels of Secret Art; With Secret Art, you choose between Politics (which allows you to choose Noble-eseque skills), Sneak Attack (which deals with Sneak Attack as well as allows some addition rules for distraction in melee), or Sorcery (which allows some access to sorcery spells, advanced spells, and special rules to gain power points)
Speaking of sorcery, some of those rules have been revamped, clarified and improved as well.
Overall, especially now that the binding issue is resolved, I applaud the second edition of the ruleset. It's much more concise and user-friendly. And unlike some of the other reviewers, I like the clean black and white layout and graphics. An excellent book!
First, the game is entirely contained within the covers of this book. There are no fleshed out scenarios included, but a creative GM will either have scenarios to adapt from other game systems or be ready to create their own. The book is player manual, DM guide and monster manual all in one. All you need to add is people, character sheets (available for free download at time of writing from Mongoose's website) and dice and you're good to go. You can't get much better value than that (and usually don't).
That said, there are a couple of things that I find work against a five star evaluation.
The only color you'll find between the covers is on the endpapers, where there are identical maps of the Conan World (one version of it, anyway: a different one is used in Return to the Road of Kings). If you live for the color pages of other D20 games, you'll be initially disappointed in that.
The game could use a better index, but is by no means unique in that.
The pages listing feats, skills and spells could have used a page index column too. Especially the spells, where the alphabetical order of the spell title is not the order in which they appear in the book.
The first time you go through a character generation you'll need to pay close attention to the rules and not dodge about using "previous system knowledge", as the various racial and class-based tweaks to the basic human template can be lost if assumptions are made, and as in anything can be tedious to fix after the fact. I'm not sure anything could be done to streamline the character generation process though. Once you've done a few characters it sorts itself out in your head and becomes a non-issue.
I find the illustrated borders on every page to be a waste of space. If nothing else the page count could be reduced by restricting these borders to special pages such as chapter openings and filling the resulting white-space with text. Not only that, I think that Mongoose might be inadvertently restricting their market in the USA by the PG13 nature of the drawings. Although I agree they are squarely in the Conan mold, I've actually overheard female gamers here in NY say they are put off buying the game by the drawings.
On the plus side, the pages are not glossy and are of reasonably heavy gauge paper. Other RPG games have thinner glossy pages that hold color well (no color means no need of course) but the pages can be fragile. Some rulebook pages tear very easily and I've had a spot eaten through a PM page by a drop of moisture. That won't happen with this book.
All in all I think this book represents phenomenal value for money.
Conan & the Tower of the Elephant (Conan RPG) A nice adventure drawn from a Conan story.
I was not a big fan of the OGL, D&D 3 and 3.5, but the Conan RPG blew me away.
One of the main attractions is that the Conan RPG book is complete. You can play the entire game from the one book.
Here is the application of my gaming criteria to the Conan RPG.
GO/NO GO criterion
* Complexity: some strategy (decisions should matter), but not too many rules (should be able to learn ALL the rules within an hour). The Conan RPG is moderately complex. You might not understand all of the subtle bits, but you can surely learn all that you need to know during the first session.
* Balanced: any side can win, no single strategy dominates (related directly to re-playability). In the case of an RPG, every class/background has its own pros and cons. The Conan RPG does favor barbarians, but if it did not then something would wrong!
* Chance: some chance (a newbie should have a shot against a grand master of the game), but not so much that skill is irrelevant (the grand master should still win the vast majority of the time). I like games where daring is rewarded, but comes at some substantial risk. In the case of an RPG this translates into the ability of a junior character being able to occasionally succeed against a higher level adversary. Much of the action in this game is adjudicated through the results of dice throws. The Conan RPG has criticals and fumbles and meets this criteria.
* Clarity: it should be obvious who is winning each turn, and rules should not allow for large interpretation. Games that routinely involve rules fights or long discussions about who won after the game is over are bad, bad, bad for me. The Conan RPG is well written and has clearly taken advantage of nearly a decade of experiences and revisions to the OGL. There were very few times when the rules were ambiguous.
* Reasonable Time: this is a criteria that varies by stage of life; now days I can only spare 3-4 hours at a time, and shorter (2 hours or less) games are better. There are plenty of supplements out there on the market, and you could definitely run one of the pre-gen adventures in under hour hours.
* Social: games that allow for multiple players and enable conversation are best for me. Almost always a plus for RPGs, and Conan the RPG is no exception.
* Unique/interesting Mechanic: games that approach things using a unique rule are better for me than ones that use a universal mechanic. Conan the RPG gets high marks in this area. There are special rules for corruption, fame, etc. that really add appropriate flavor to the game. Bravo!
* Inform: games that teach me something are more fun than games that don't. This is not a heady game. While there are descriptions of some Robert Howard creatures that I was unaware of, there are not whole sections of new information as there were let's say in the original AD&D DMG.
* Rewards Throughout: little victories within the game is a better approach than all or nothing at the end, but best is a combination of little rewards with bigger rewards. Conan the RPG lets the character gain in levels, in fame, in money, etc. This is another high mark for Conan the RPG.
All in all, this is an RPG that should be added to the serious gamer's shelf.
Amongst the new features this 2nd edition has is the Temptress template, the review and re-explained sorcery chapter, the religion and cults information (on how the different Hyborian gods are worshipped according to nation and culture), alliegance and reputation rules revisited, better explained combat, etc. Always keeping faithful to Howard's vision of Conan and the Hyborian world.
After browsing the book and reading the first chapter you'll realize that the lack of art inside is not missed at all, since the contents make up for this, after all you're looking for a rpg, not an art book.
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