House Rules for Conan the RPG

Contributed by: Thulsa (), with additional feedback and suggestions by Turim. I use these house rules in my own campaign. These revisions fix some of the (few) problems I have with the otherwise excellent Conan the RPG by Mongoose Publishing. Each section includes a brief note explaining why I felt that a change was necessary.

Alchemical Items

Reference: Conan the RPG, Atlantean Edition, page 227; Scrolls of Skelos, page 60.

The new cost of certain alchemical items is only one-fourth of the cost specified in the rulebook. This cost reduction applies to the following items only: Acheronian Demon-Fire, Flame-Powder, Kothic Demon-Fire, Lotus Smoke, Stygian Tomb-Dust (from the Atlantean Edition); Blue Devil's Flame, Dust of Forgetfulness (from the Scrolls of Skelos).

Why? While not a problem for NPCs as they can have whatever they want, regardless of price, the prices on most of these items need to be marked down if they are to be a real option. If not, I don't think they will see much use by PC sorcerers, unless found on enemies, as the disadvantages are too restrictive. A scholar who has Craft (alchemy) +15 and who takes 10 can make 1 Blue Devil's-Flame in 3 weeks at the cost of 100 sp. But it requires a base where he can work undisturbed and an expensive lab (500+ sp). And this is maybe the most cost-effective alchemical item. The same scholar would have to spend 5 weeks and 166 sp for a single Kothic Demon-Fire (assuming take 10), which is roughly as strong as a single swing from the bardiche-wielding barbarian. It's no fun wasting 5 weeks and 166 sp only to roll a 3 when you throw the thing.

Sacrifice and Energy Drain

Reference: Conan the RPG, Atlantean Edition, page 183.

Sacrifice: Power Points gained from sacrifice are calculated using several factors (see table below), instead of being based on the victim's number of hit points only. The mechanics of the feats dealing with sacrifice are changed as follows:

  • Ritual Sacrifice: You multiply the Power Points gained from the sacrifice (see table below) by 2.
  • Tortured Sacrifice: You multiply the Power Points gained from the sacrifice by 3 (if you spend 15 minutes or more performing the sacrifice), or multiply by 4 (if you spend 1 hour or more performing the sacrifice).
  • Bleed Dry: You add +2 to the Power Points gained from the sacrifice (before applying any multipliers). Note that Bleed Dry also provides this benefit when combined with Opportunistic Sacrifice.
  • Opportunistic Sacrifice: This feat works as described in the Atlantean Edition. In other words, you gain the benefits of Ritual Sacrifice whenever you kill an opponent, regardless of whether that opponent was helpless or not.
  • If you don't have any of these feats, you can still gain Power Points by killing a helpless creature by coup de grace and dedicating its death to your gods or your own personal power. In this case, you gain only the base amount of Power Points listed on the table below, with out any multipliers from the feats.
  • The prerequisites of the feats listed above remain unchanged.
DescriptionPower Points
Victim has less than 1 HDNo PP gained from sacrifice
Victim has 1-3 HD+2
Victim has 4-6 HD+4
Victim has 7-9 HD+6
Victim has 10-12 HD+8
Victim has 13-15 HD+10
Victim has 16-18 HD+12
Victim has 19+ HD+14
Victim is common animal-1
Victim is rare animal (white bull, etc)+2
Victim is noble+2
Victim is virgin+4
During uncommon event (full moon, etc)+2
During rare event (solar eclipse, falling star, etc)+4
In special location (wizard's tower, temple, etc)+2
In unique location (sacred mountain, royal pyramid, ancient ruins, etc.)+4

Some examples:

  • Killing a helpless opponent using coup de grace, for example a captured or subdued temple guard (3HD, +2), and dedicating his death to your own personal power, without any of the sacrifice feats = 2 x 1 = 2 PP
  • Sacrificing a common animal (-1), for example a bird or snake (1HD, +2) with Bleed Dry (+2), in combat with Ritual Sacrifice (x2) = 3 x 2 = 6 PP
  • Killing an opponent in combat (Opportunistic Sacrifice), for example an experienced mercenary (7HD, +6), with Bleed Dry (+2) and Ritual Sacrifice (x2) = 8 x 2 = 16 PP
  • Sacrificing a virgin (+4) peasant girl (1HD, +2) with Ritual Sacrifice (x2), in temple (+2) = 8 x 2 = 16 PP
  • Sacrificing a commoner, for example a blacksmith (1HD, +2), without Bleed Dry (+0), Tortured Sacrifice (x4), in wizard's tower (+2) = 4 x 4 = 16 PP
  • Sacrificing a common animal (-1), for example a bird or snake (1HD, +2) with Bleed Dry (+2), Tortured Sacrifice (x4), in temple (+2), during full moon (+2) = 7 x 4 = 28 PP
  • Sacrificing a common animal (-1), for example an elephant (11HD, +8) with Bleed Dry (+2), Tortured Sacrifice (x4), in temple (+2) = 11 x 4 = 44 PP
  • Sacrificing a rare animal (+2), for example a white bull (4HD, +4) with Bleed Dry (+2), Tortured Sacrifice (x4), in temple (+2), during full moon (+2) = 12 x 4 = 48 PP
  • Sacrificing a noble (+2) virgin (+4), for example a princess of Argos (7HD, +6) with Bleed Dry (+2), Tortured Sacrifice (x4), in lost ruins of Pteion (+4), during full moon (+2) = 20 x 4 = 80 PP

Energy Drain: If you have a sorcerer helpless and under your power, you may place your hand against his skin and drain 1d4 Power Points from him as a full-round action. This is removed from his usual Power Points. Against non-sorcerers, this simply causes 1d4 points of damage to the victim, but you do not gain any Power Points.

Why? With the rules as written, Energy Drain is so much better than the other ways of gaining Power Points that nobody would really bother using anything else. It's much better to have half a dozen slaves (which you can buy for 3 sp apiece in Turan) chained in your basement and drain them regularly for PP using Energy Drain, than it is to use black lotus powder (300 sp/dose) or engage in Power Rituals (which require several hours and dozens of participants and skill ranks to be as effective).

I can see ritual sacrifice being used once in a while by a sorcerer needing lots of PP for special spells or rituals (and such ritual spells should be designed so that they "scale up" with the number of power points put into them), but I don't think it needs to be an integral part of "lesser" spellcasting. Ritually sacrificing six virgin girls to cast a simple Warrior Trance feels lame more than anything else. In any event, I don't think PPs gained from ritual sacrifice should be based solely on hit points. The new sacrifice table solves a lot of problems, such as making virgin girls more desirable than cows as sacrifices, which works well with the tone of Conan. It also explains why sorcerers would leave their lairs and travel to certain areas to perform their rituals "when the stars are right".

Terror of the Unknown

Reference: Conan the RPG, Atlantean Edition, page 313.

A failed Terror check causes the character to be shaken (-2 to attacks, saves, skills, and ability checks) for 1 minute (10 rounds). In addition, the target is stunned by fear (drops everything held, can't take actions, takes a -2 penalty to DV, and loses his Dexterity bonus to DV) for 1 round (and probably uses part of the next round to pick up dropped items). A character of less than 3rd level will swoon with terror instead; he is unconscious and helpless for 2d6 minutes. A character that has lost 50% or more of his hit points suffers a -2 penalty to the saving throw.

Note that there may be certain situations where Terror checks can be ignored, such as a when one monster meets another (for example, if a grey ape encounters a risen dead, neither makes a Terror check), or when a group feels secure due to numbers (for example, if a mercenary company of 40 soldiers encountered one or two risen dead, they should not make Terror checks; however, if the same group encounters an army of risen dead, a single colossal flying creature, or perhaps a single "zombie" that turned out to be an ancient undead-king when he singlehandedly killed a dozen men with a mighty spell, Terror checks may be called for). But the average adventuring group, with a handful of members, should typically not be allowed to skip Terror checks even if they only encounter one monster at a time.

Why? With this revision, a character above 2nd level is basically shaken instead of frightened if he fails the save. This avoids the anticlimax of having all (or most of) the fighter-types in the party flee (since they have poor Will saves) when the big bad monster of the story finally appears. The duration is changed from 3d6 rounds to 1 minute to reduce bookkeeping during combat. Also, there needs to be a rule preventing a single weak monster (such as a risen dead) from defeating an entire army of 1HD soliders due to failed Terror checks (even with a lowly DC 11 for the Terror check, on average half of the soldiers would fail the save and swoon).

The Rule of Defence

Reference: Conan the RPG, Atlantean Edition, page 185.

The following rule replaces the Defensive Blast ability.

Death Curse: Whenever a sorcerer (but not a dabbler) is targeted by a physical attack (including melee and ranged weapons, but not spells or spell-like abilities) from a creature within Close range (25 ft. + 5 ft. per two scholar levels), the sorcerer can unleash a Death Curse upon the attacking creature. This is treated as a special form of Attack of Opportunity; damage inflicted by the Death Curse is applied before the attacking creature rolls to attack the sorcerer (which means that if the Death Curse kills the attacker, the sorcerer has negated the attack). The Death Curse can also be used on the sorcerer's turn as a free action against opponents grappling the sorcerer.

To unleash the Death Curse, the sorcerer expends all his remaining Power Points and makes a magic attack roll. The target of the Death Curse suffers 1d6 points of damage for each Power Point expended. The target may attempt a Fortitude saving throw (DC set by the sorcerer's magic attack roll) for half damage.

The sorcerer can target one additional creature for every three scholar levels, but in this case, damage is spread out evenly on all targets. All additional targets must be actual allies of the original target, and such additional targets must also be within Close range of the sorcerer. For example, a 9th-level scholar with 20 Power Points could unleash a Death Curse for 20d6 points of damage on a single target (the creature that attempted to attack him), or 5d6 points of damage each to four targets (the creature that attempted to attack him, plus three allies of this creature).

Unleashing a Death Curse leaves the scholar fatigued. The Death Curse cannot be combined with Opportunistic Sacrifice or any other ability that restores Power Points to the sorcerer.

Why? The Rule of Defence found in the rulebook is too flashy for a sword and sorcery setting, and has no basis in any of the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard. Use of this ability should be a last-resort defense tactic, not an offensive fireball-like attack. Combined with Opportunistic Sacrifice, Defensive Blast is open to abuse since the blast can be used again and again.