Saturday, December 3, 2011

Conan the Barbarian 2011

While I rarely get to the movies, having Netflix and RedBox does allow me to occasionally pick up some of the more modern releases. I'm not going to talk about Conan the Barbarian 2011 version in terms of a review, just what might be useful for those looking for Appendix N style inspiration.

1. A brief history of the character. Conan has gone through many incarnations ranging from his origins in the pulps to Fazetta's covers renewal and Marvel Comics to Dark Horse Comics with the movie, television show and cartoons in the middle. It's not an intensely detailed section or anything of that nature, but it does showcase how an idea can change and grow and become something different.

2. A brief history of Robert E. Howard. I know little of the man and a little more of his now that I've watched the special. I note this in terms of inspiration because Howard would interview older people and they lived through some things back then. As some of my inner city friends, they had "for realzies" experiences like taming the west, the civil war, and slavery. Not the type of sex slave trade we have going on now mind you, but actual legal ownership of people. It helped inform him of various bits of foreign lore not native to the shores and expanded his horizons quite a bit there.

3. Visuals. While Conan the Barbarian may have some script/pacing/action sequence issues for some, there are some great vistas that can be used for fire up the imagination. One of my favorites is the walking fortress that is pulled along by some odd eight elephants. It also serves as a battering ram.

4. Monsters. There are not a lot of monsters in the movie. Really, I only get two real monsters. The first are what I'd call Sand Stalkers. Summoned by a witch, these creatures look like muscular humans with skin too tight the color of sand. The only exception here would be their eyes which appear startling human. They wield weapons of hard sand that can be used in melee or thrown. They appear fragile, being smashed to pieces through falls that wouldn't even stun a normal person. They can be pretty simple in game terms as in 4e, something like a Minion status would work well with one good hit providing shattering them. The second would be the Dweller. In infiltrating a fortress, Conan is chest deep in the sewage. His friend, a prince of thieves, is pulled under by a tentacle. Conan saves him. This tentacle turns out is only one of many that is brought out by sacrificing people to it. The creature isn't ever really dealt with. In this instance, it serves more as a trap or an obstacle to overcome. This might be resolved either by making it a constant effect like a Evard's Black Tentacles, or an ongoing attack, or an ability check. Most game systems are versatile enough to handle a variety of methods to prevent similar encounters from being exactly the same.

5. Unique Looks and Weapons. This is one I've mentioned numerous times. The main villain has his own goofy version of a double bladed sword that reminds me of some funky 90's remix of the three blade sword from the ancient times of the 70's-80's. Many of the henchman we are first introduced to are very unique looking either with special weapons, tribal tattoos or massive frames and scars or other distinguishing marks that make them stand out. for the most part, they pose no threat to the main character, but viewers are able to instantly recognize them and this provides a quick intro to them that doesn't have to be anything other than a visual. Robert Jordan was actually pretty good with this, not even bothering to name some of those who fought Conan outside of their physical traits. This is true for the main character as well as his daughter who has a very unique hair style and a set of rings that covers her fingers and acts as a set of claws as well.

6. Enjoy it for what its worth. Too often you might get  caught up in a game thinking of ways to pile on the action, pile on the threat, pile on the meaning. sometimes you might just need to take a step back and bring out some minions and let the dice roll. Beer and pretzels games have been part of the game from the start and not every game will roll the way you as a GM or even as a player want. Try to recognize the situation you find yourself in and see if its something you can enjoy for what it.