Heart and Steel

man with a sword

“If that’s true, then answer this priest, why are we in these pits, hiding from some animal?” Conan asked “Someday, when all your civilization and science are likewise swept away, your kind will pray for a man with a sword.”

— Robert E. Howard, Rogues in the House (1934)

This quote was on my mind this morning after a particularly brutal longsword training session with Connor. He’s thirteen and a half now and beginning to be more than a handful. I’m still stronger and more experienced, but his endurance and speed are becoming a thing to be reckoned with.

A sword is an extension of one’s self, as much a part of you as the flesh and bone of your body, to be sure, but also of your will, spirit, and intelligence.

If all were to be swept away, and we were sword armed against the rising horde, I can think of no one I’d rather have at my side than Conn.

Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian

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At long last, the core rulebook for Robert E Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of by Modiphius has see the light of day, at least in pdf form. In addition, another book, Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the Earth, has been released alongside it.

As a backer, this is exciting news. We’ve been poring over chapter releases for months, with incomplete art and typographical errors. It’s nice to see it in its completed glory, even as a collection of pixels on a computer monitor.

Some of the art is uneven and I sort of wish they’d have just buried Tim Truman in money for all the interior illustrations. His work really pops in this.

The core book is strong, with in depth character creation mechanics and a rich and erudite examination of the cultures and homelands that make up Howard’s Hyborian Age.

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Jeweled Thrones is an adventure book that most gamers will find indispensable. They are compiled chiefly of thinly-veiled pastiches of actual Conan adventures which maintains the flavor if not the overt originality. I think this is a good move on Modiphus’ part. By making it hew as close to Two Gun as possible you establish the world as intended and train those less versed in Howard’s words.

Skilled Gamemasters will be able to take the reins from there.

The core book is priced at $24.99 with the adventure book coming in at only $10.99. I know some people balk at prices like these for pdfs, but believe me, this is money well spent.

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While not originally a fan of the 2d20 system, it’s grown on me and I look forward to bringing the game to our Club.

I’m also excited to see the rest of the kickstarter material to be unveiled in the months ahead. There is a wealth of source books on the way, as well as dice, tiles, maps, and more.

It’s been a long time coming, but the wait is mostly over. The time of Conan is at hand.

Robert E Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of and Jeweled Thrones of the Earth can be purchased through DriveThruRpg

All fled—all done, so lift me on the pyre

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“What is death but a traversing of eternities
and a crossing of cosmic oceans?”

Robert E. Howard
(January 22, 1906 — June 11, 1936)

I’ve said it before and many times over: no author has influenced me, not only as a writer but as a human being, more than Robert E. Howard.

Today marks the eightieth year since ol’ Two-Gun took his life in Cross Plains.

He was a giant and his candle burned bright but short. As for me, I am thankful for the words he left us and for the many more inspired by him…

Rest in Peace.

A #ConanRPG Character Sheet to tide you over

On Friday Modiphius surprised their kickstarter backers with a little taste of the Robert E. Howard’s Conan RPG.

Now we’ve already had a healthy sample via the Conan QuickStart Rules, available FREE on Drive-Thru RPG, but this was something a whole lot more —an actual chapter from the Conan Core Book.

But it wasn’t just any chapter…this was the chapter on Character Creation.

I’ve got to tell you, I think rolling up characters this weekend is the most fun I’ve ever had generating a player character. It’s well-rounded, with a lot of in-depth content that delves not only into the mental and physical aspects of the character, but their psyche as well.

This is good stuff.

Anyway, all that said and done, I decided a character record sheet was in order so I “borrowed” the stylistic elements of the recent Dungeons & Dragons 5e sheets and added some Conan Pre-Test record sheet influences.

Feel free to use it as you see fit:

ConanRPGRecordSheet

CHRS

Roll20 ’em if ya got ’em

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Roleplaying has certainly evolved over the years and, of course, online play has taken the hobby even further. I was slow to appreciating sites like roll20 and fantasy grounds, and to be honest, my preference will always be an in-person tabletop experience, but I am coming around.

The biggest advantage is being able to play with friends that are not hometown adjacent. We’ve two Oak Hill Dungeons & Dragons Club members who live out of State: Mike in Louisiana and Steve in Illinois.

Steve makes it to our monthly game sessions at the Odd Fellows Lodge, but I acknowledge that it’s a hardship for him. Mike comes up a couple of times a year, for which we are all grateful.

Roll20 is a fantastic alternative to gathering around the table. It affords these far-flung friends a place in the game, but it also adds those Club members who live upwards of thirty minutes away a chance to relax in the comfort of their homes and slay beasties in their pajamas.

A close second in the advantage stakes is maps and minis. I’m something of a Photoshop and Cartography  junkie, so being able to build custom maps and tokens and upload them to our roll20 gallery opens up a whole new arsenal to our game sessions.

Also, not lugging multiple crates to and from our Lodge is a major plus. It’s all there on my laptop, ready to go.

Roll20 also has built in player record sheets, journals, and a wealth of pre-gen tokens and encounter maps, all which can be accessed on the fly.

Add to that Modiphius’ announcement that roll20 will be supporting Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of and you can readily see why I’m finally coming to terms with our roll20 adventures.

Besides, I still get to satisfy my need for table play. Connor, my 12 year old son, is DMing for me on Wednesdays and on Fridays I DM an OHD&DC: Next Generation game with Connor, Brent’s son Kasey (13) and Brent’s nephew Jaden (11).

I will forever prefer being gathered around a table with my friends, but roll20 is a fantastic alternative that I am not only coming to terms with, but I am finally embracing.

SKELOS: THE JOURNAL OF WEIRD FICTION AND DARK FANTASY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: skelospress@gmail.com

SKELOS: THE JOURNAL OF WEIRD FICTION AND DARK FANTASY LAUNCHES KICKSTARTER ON MAY 10TH

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May 5, 2016 – Skelos Press is proud to announce the launch of its new flagship journal with a Kickstarter campaign that will begin on Tuesday May 10th. The first issue of SKELOS: THE JOURNAL OF WEIRD FICTION AND DARK FANTASY will feature a never-before-published fantasy piece by Robert E. Howard (Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane) illustrated by the legendary Mark Schultz (Xenozoic Tales, Coming of Conan, Prince Valiant). Also featured is a new sword and sorcery novelette by Keith Taylor (Bard series, Cormac Mac Art), a long-awaited sequel to his classic tale “Men from the Plain of Lir” originally published in WEIRD TALES. This story will be illustrated by the fantastic Tomás Giorello (Dark Horse King Conan). Another highlight of the issue will be a tale of dark fantasy from World Fantasy Award nominee and John W. Campbell Award nominee Scott A. Cupp.

SKELOS is edited by Mark Finn, author of the World Fantasy Award-nominated BLOOD AND THUNDER; Chris Gruber, editor of Robert E. Howard’s BOXING STORIES from the University of Nebraska Press; and Jeffrey Shanks, co-editor of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated UNIQUE LEGACY OF WEIRD TALES.

Editor Mark Finn stated, “I’m excited to be part of the editorial staff for this journal. We are finding and publishing material that we love to read, and read about. There’s a long-standing tradition to weird fiction, and we think we can contribute something new and exciting to it.”

The first issue will contain short fiction from such talented writers as Charles Gramlich, Dave Hardy, Jason Ray Carney, Ethan Nahte, Matt Sullivan, and Scott Hannan; a fully illustrated adaptation of Grettir and the Draugr from the Icelandic sagas by Samuel Dillon; weird verse by Frank Coffman, Pat Calhoun, Kenneth Bykerk, and Jason Hardy; Insightful essays by Nicole Emmelhainz, Karen Kohoutek, and Jeffrey Shanks; reviews by Charles Hoffman, Bobby Derie, Keith West, Todd Vick, Paul McNamee, Brian Murphy, Deuce Richardson, and Josh Adkins; and with illustrations by Mark Schultz, Tomás Giorello, Samuel Dillon, and David Cullen.

The Kickstarter campaign will run until June 10 and the issue will begin shipping in late June with an ebook version available at the same time. More information can found at the Skelos Press Facebook page – www.facebook.com/skelospress – or you can follow the project on Twitter @SkelosPress.

Conan! by E. Gary Gygax

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It is no secret that Gary Gygax was a huge fan of Robert E. Howard’s Conan. Reading this article, and subsequent ones as well, such as his review of the John Milius/Arnold Schwarzenegger film, you really get a sense of what an inspiration Howard’s Conan was to the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.

I found TSR and Mongoose’s attempts at a Conan RPG to be largely unfortunate. Both had things I liked, but ultimately they failed to capture the spirit of the source material.

I know that some of my fondest gaming experiences have come from loosely attempting to ape Howard’s style and reproduce it at the gaming table.

I’ve gotten away from that of late.

Dungeons & Dragons, at its core, was able to hew close to Howard story-wise, but it was the actual combat that always fell short.

Here’s to hoping Modiphius’ take scratches that itch. The 2d20 system seems to allow for the sort of kinetic, immersive combat that a Conan game needs, and with an impressive array of Howard scholars on board to steer the ship in the right direction, this just might be the perfect marriage of roleplay and combat that we’ve been looking for.

Time will, of course tell…

If you have trouble reading the above Dragon Magazine excerpt, here’s a pdf to peruse: Gygax Conan