Interesting things are going on in my Conan world.
Mongoose no longer has a separate forum for Conan. I’m not sure why it’s important to consolidate forums. As often as the Conan forum was frustrating for how oblivious people seemed to be about game balance, it was still a place that discussion occurred.
Being heavily in favor of house rules, it was a place where house rule discussions were reasonably common. Perhaps it is a good idea to remove massive damage saves from the game, though I don’t think it changes that more damage output is always better, which still means that two-handed, high Strength fighting and Sneak Attack are grossly more powerful than anything else.
I did look back at my posts to our Yahoogroup to see if I had forgotten any major areas of changes I’d like to see when we start anew. I think I only missed one.
The primary change I’d like to see is to balance the classes. I harp on this all of the time. It’s not even terribly difficult. Why shouldn’t nobles have 8 skill ranks per level? Why shouldn’t soldiers have more skill ranks than barbarians? Some argue that soldiers are the idiot grunts of the world, but that’s clearly not true. Professional soldiers of pre-history are not somehow that removed from modern soldiers in needing to be capable in a variety of areas.
Just as an example, since it blows my mind that people don’t think of it in this way, let’s say you have an average Intelligence soldier. You can max out two skills – that’s one more than one. Class skills are: Climb, Craft, Intimidate, Jump, K: Geography, K: Local, K: Rumors, Perform, Profession, Ride, and Search. Actually, this is a pretty pathetic list. What of Listen and Spot? What of Heal? What of K: Warfare? Well, the last is probably just because the RAW is kind of poor at covering metaskills like Knowledge. Anyway, I’d imagine that a flavorful (rather than minmaxy) cavalryman would max out Ride and either Intimidate or Jump, which leads to someone who doesn’t know how to do his job professionally, doesn’t know anything about where he is, can’t take care of his weapons or anything else. Sure, this list is not a list of the most essential skills in the game (again, would help if Spot were on here). In our campaigning the only crucial skills on this list are Climb and Search, with K: Geography being the next most useful. Every other class in the game gets at least twice as many skill ranks. While it may not seem like that huge a deal to get 2 more skill ranks per level, it’s kind of a huge deal to get 2 less skill ranks per level when the 4/level classes are scraping for ranks, themselves.
If I had to go with what offended me the most when I started playing it was Codes of Honor. I’ve since lost my deep and abiding hatred of the mechanic, though I’m not sure why. If you can’t stack Code of Honor’s +3 Will saves with Faith’s +2, then not everybody has to have a CoH. Still, why not? It’s money for nothing and chicks for free. Okay, somebody argued, then just have everyone take a CoH and everybody is equally benefited. My problem with this is it’s a minmax play that flies in the face of character integrity. I can’t stand things in games that you are required to have in order to compete; yes, this does apply to CCGs, but it’s not as clearly argued a lot of the time. The concept of a Code of Honor is quite appropriate, but the benefits are so outlandish – 50% better than Iron Will, which you have to use a feat slot for – that even someone with a lobotomy would always start with one. Also, as much as the book likes to say that there will be no pirate’s code of honor or thieves’ code of honor or whatever, the fact is that there are exactly such insipid codes.
Racial imbalances are trickier. I recommended a change in the favored class rules ages ago and my suggestion hasn’t changed, surprisingly. But, that’s only one feature. I like Shemites thematically, but they get shafted by something that sounds kind of minor at first, -1 saves. It’s just a simple bullet point among a host of others that sound pretty decent if unspectacular. Without any drawback, Shemite would be a stronger race in the game mechanically. But, that simple line has huge mechanical impact. Maybe we make more saves than most, especially Reflex saves, but as you progress up in levels, saves become the primary rolls in the game. Actually, most folks don’t seem to get their Conan characters up above 12th level, so our high level adventures are even more save happy. Meanwhile, other than all classes favored, the Hyborian benefits don’t sound like that much hotness, but it’s all upside and what may be lost in magnitude of power is made up for in versatility.
Initial skill ranks is an annoyance that only compounds the problem of differing classes getting differing skill ranks per level. My house rule that I used for NPCs I created was to give everyone 20 + 1 level of class and either 1 level of Int bonus or normal Int bonus. That Int is strongest in the beginning and gets less and less relevant is a problem, but one I don’t know an easy fix for.
Speaking of attributes, there are, of course, imbalances, with Strength being far too useful of the physical and Int having a strange life cycle. Where all other attributes add increased value over time, except arguably Charisma for some characters, Int’s increases are nowhere near as important as its starting value. My personal hierarchy? Int (starting), Str, Con, Wis, Dex, Cha with the first two being far more important than the others, though there are some differences when playing certain character types, especially a scholar. Still, Strength is so useful for noncombat effects, like carrying unconscious party members, that it’s always desirable, nevermind that sometimes scholars have to fight physically, too, and doing more damage is always superior.
So, why be concerned with house rules now? We have started a new campaign. While I don’t see it being necessary to put a lot of thought into how to do things differently now that we have learned so much from our 6 year-old campaign, as the real measure of enjoyment is enjoyment, not doing things “right”, at the same time, I wonder if we will end up regretting not having planned a bit more.
My perception is that the new campaign will function much like the old, mechanics aside. It doesn’t have to, of course. Maybe this time around the party will have a reason to adventure together after it gets past initial difficulties. Maybe this time around the party will be more motivated, make fewer bad decisions, use better tactics, release fewer demons upon the world. Not that these bother me overmuch, really, the only thing that ever drove me nuts was party motivation. What are we trying to achieve? Why?
It would be a good role-playing stretch for me to play a character who cared about material things, but it’s not likely to happen. I just don’t understand treasurehunting as a goal. I suppose that intellectual curiosity can work similarly to treasurehunting. But, I’ve seen in our Conan play how different it can be. There was the one adventure where we were running for our lives and some of the party stopped to check out a cave. A cave. What’s interesting about a cave? Buried treasure? Sorry, I’m not playing Terrance or Phillip. While I could see checking things out if we weren’t fleeing from overwhelming force, the motivation of “there might be treasure” was absurdly flimsy. To be fair, it’s not so much the fact that it was a cave, even if a cave is intrinsically less interesting than ruins, a temple, green stone city, or whatever. It was that we had a goal and ignored it. The two times I got truly pissed at our antics both had to do with the party completely ignoring the obvious goal. If you don’t care about the story, might as well just spend the time setting up scenarios on the battlemap and doing nothing but fighting. That’s not without merit, but it’s a different experience.
Our old campaign isn’t done yet. I keep suggesting that we focus on it as my concern is that the enthusiasm that comes with newness will lead to a dearth of enthusiasm for finishing up the old. We’ve talked on a number of occasions about rebooting, but in those cases, we weren’t close to the finish line. We are halfway or so to 18th level and getting close to our archenemy and the end of the world. I figure about six more sessions and we can resolve things while having played 20th level characters.
It’s so much easier not to have to juggle multiple storylines and an extra set of characters. We already have problems with people remembering what happened in the previous session. And, none of us fully utilize our characters’ abilities. Closure, tis a good thing.