Conan D20 - Atlantean Edition
I'm glad to say that I'm very pleased with the Atlantean Edition, since it fixed alot of the typos and mistakes. I won't be going into what changed, just know alot of it did.. yet there is still *some* things that they fixed/changed yet again and its posted on mongoosepublishing.com. But really its nothing to get worried over though, because they did fix alot of the essential items in the book with this edition. Conan's world is one of sword and sorcery more then it is high fantasy. You dont see civlizations of elves, gnomes, dwarves, and so forth, but you still find lich lords, vampires, zombies, ape men, dragons, and etc. Basically this review will be short but sweet, touching on the main points of the game. It should be mentioned also that I'm not a follower of Howard even though I have read a couple of his comics, movies, and such that are based on Conan, so this is coming from a person that is trying to look at this objectively without much background. I'll be avoiding any history and just looking at this as a game. Dont get me wrong, I do like his writings from what I've read, just haven't read much of it.
The art in the Conan D20 book is fantastic in my opinion, alot better then alot of books out there. Inside the book itself drips of the feeling of conan with alot of the pictures, not all of them, but alot of them. Put it this way, there is no white page in the conan book except the back of the first and last page, even the standard page color has a parchment feeling to it. In the front cover and back cover is the map of Hyboria, which in my opinion is a very high quality map. It shows the nations, large cities, and along with mountains, forests, rivers, and oceans with nice detail. Along with adding more Conan "feeling" to the game is the nice artwork done on the weapons that are used in the game, from what I can tell almost all of them have the color of blood on them. In all, I think they they did a superb job with this book, alot of style involved which sets it apart. All of the clipart in the book is well done, *some* of it has a cartoony feeling to it but still fits well with the book.
Final Thoughts: I'm glad they put alot of effort into the way the book looks, I'm one of those people that like a combination of good artwork with good content.
Character creation still sticks with the traditional D&D 3/3.5 idealogy, you roll up stats, pick your race, pick your class, then your items (manually purchasing or class packages), and your pretty much set to start off adventuring. The races that you can be are all human, but there is huge of them to pick from, plus an additional few variants to pick from also. Each race have special benefits that may include stat +'s and -'s, special skills, and etc which add to your character customization. Along with customizing your character to greater lengths, there is a fine selection of feats to pick from. Some of the feats are in the traditional D&D books, but there are a fairly large amount that are in the Conan book only. Some of these feats include Horde, which allows you to gather a horde army if your a nomad or barbarian, Crushing Grip which allows you to crush another's head.. arm.. , and many other fun feats to add to your character down the road. I would go on with the feats, but I should just say that they are really creatively done and worth the purchase.
Final Thoughts: Even though alot of it is similar to traditional D&D, it still has its unique feel to it as well as nice changes.
I can say that I'm really enjoying the combat mechanic's so far. In traditional D&D, a character has a armor class (AC) which is what is determined if the enemy hits them or not and vice versa. Which to me is a nice and fast way in doing it, but never really provided that "Cinematic" feel to it. In Conan, the AC rating as you know it has been basically removed (Even though everyone still has their "base" AC), because of this characters are now allowed to parry and dodge as they see fit, adding more of a cinematic feeling to the game. Parrying is based on pretty much your strength, as dodging is based on your dexterity. Armor is now used as damage reduction, which I've always thought is a nice way in doing it. But what about those that can't bash past a person's armor? Well, there are feats that allow you to basically "go around" armor, as well as using the armor piercing feature of weapons. Aside from that, I've always considered this a cross between D&D's character setup mixed with Warhammer's (WFRP) combat system sort of, which basically took the best out of both worlds, in my opinion. Fate points are another nice feature in the game which can be used for several different things. The first main thing they are used for is if your character is "Left for Dead", which in my mind always comes the myth that cats have 9 lives, if you know what I mean. Other then that they can be used to make influences in the game as well as adding to a roll of relative importance. Since alot of weapons have been up'ed damage-wise, its a very nice feature to have. Especially since later down the road you as well as your enemies will have abilities that can lop your head clean off, as well as other abilities that can make combat extremely deadly. So it gives you that little "insurance" that you may very well need, especially for those reckless types out there. The last thing I'd like to touch on is the free combat manuevers that players can perform as long as they meet the requirements. Remember when I said that a player can lop off another players head? Well, yes its true there is a free manuever out there that allows you to do it as long as you meet the requirements of doing so (Like the base attack number and etc) but also basically leaves you wide open and this is only really useful against a single opponent at a time. With that, there are several other free ones like the Desperate Stab for instance, which allows you take take a combat action "before" combat has been started, but watch out though, it has a chance of leaving you wide open.
Final Thoughts: The combat system is very nice, just a bit more crunchy then normal. But anyone used to playing WFRP would have an easy time adapting in my opinion, at least to some of the combat features. Put it this way, I'd rather take an extra minute of crunching, then not crunching and having no cinematic feeling to it.
The magic system is a bit more brutal, yet a bit more harsh in my opinion. The basics are is that power points are used to cast spells. The Scholar class is the only class in the game that is magically driven, so to speak. They start with 4 points, + WIS modifier, + bonuses for class level. In this game, there is the ability to gain even more points then what you currently can carry, through this is the use of sacrificing, possibly orgies, and other fun stuff to gain more power. But, sometimes power comes at a price, mess up on a strong spell and consequences may happen, like you may have just be burned out, to causing earthquakes and thunderstorms for 1d6 miles around you, or have the spell open a rift in which a demon comes and rips your soul from your body. Not to mention, casting spells can make your character obsessed, insane, and so forth. Being a wizard, mage, witch, or whatever you want to call yourself while being a scholar is a tricky business, and not to be taken lightly. Also it should be mentioned that there are a fair amount of good spells to be used in the book, alot of them unique to the conan setting. The spells in the book can range from small to extremely brutal, such as the spell called Black Plague, which can cause hundreds or even thousands to die miserably. Of course that spell isn't the easiest one to cast in the world, and I'm glad that is so. More spells can seen in the Scrolls of Skelos supplement book.
Final Thoughts: I think the magic system is a very good one and reflects the feeling of how a dark and brutal world should be, there is alot of dark and bloody magic out there. The only downside, it seems like scholars are casting less then in traditional D&D games since it feels like they have less power points to use. But.. the spells they do cast can be very brutal, so in the end I think it evens out.
I think the game does a good job at reflecting how the Conan world should be, bloody cinematic combat, brutal spells, and the such. Although, I'm hoping for official prestige classes which might come in handy later in a persons game, yet it does say that multi-classing isn't penalized and isn't looked down upon, infact its actually encouraged which is something I like. In all, I like the combat system much more then all the other traditional D&D style games out there, also with that I like the fact that there is alot of debth to this game which is included in the book, the whole book to me feels full of meat and style.