Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Conan: The Hand of Nergal

Written by Timothy Truman and art by Tomas Giorello, the
Written by Timothy Truman and art by Tomas Giorello, the barbarian's collection travels in this sixth volume have some pros and cons.

For one, it ties up some old business. It also has Tomas Giorello as the full time artists here and he provides some great visuals.

On the other hand, while I like the story well enough, some of it felt kind of "m'eh". And this isn't a bash on the guys doing the work but I've been reading Conan comics for years and Ernie Chan and John Buscema left a huge void for anyone to fill and with the numerous Savage Sword of Conan reprints, even the color art here may not be enough to compete with that old school goodness.

Anyway, in terms of some of the ideas that are good for yanking into any campaign...

1. Recognize talent. Often times players are fighting just to survive but here Conan sneaks past some guards and knocks out the largest of them in order to sit by a warm fire and have some food. Instead of having the soldiers attack him, the commander rewards him for his abilities.

2. The Old Switch: During some battles, a young female magician thief who has come to warn Conan of a great darkness following him is wearing a Princesses robe. She is then mistaken for that princess.

3. Saving Throws. One of the things that was kind of m'eh to me in terms of the story was this ultimate bad ass that looks and people and they crumble before him. Works on everyone. Conan just kinda kills him. It was very anti-climactic. Still, when you have monsters in the game that have an all or nothing effect, be prepared for the players to always make those rolls and at the same time, be prepared for them to fail it. Nothing kills a game quicker faster than a bunch of bad rolls because you didn't plan on the whole party failing their saving throws versus the basilisk glare. I know that in the old computer game Baldur's Gate that was a section that was VERY annoying when all of the sudden you've got a whole party of stone and didn't even know what happened.

4. Swap out the Appearance. The things Conan battles look to be chaos spawn from the Warhammer world but are more or less, animated skeletons or zombies. Still, the art of Tomas Girello brings such vivid features to life that it makes the appearance at least more impressive. Don't have the things that party fights be dictated solely on the standard. Switch them up even if you don't change a thing in the stats.

5. Reminders: Conan is battling an elder evil in this volume when the place starts going up in flames. This ties back to using the environment to spice things up when possible. Maybe every round the players have to make a save or take some minor fire damage or worry about some of the treasure they're there to save? Another bit is Conan gets a good whipping put on him so that the enemy actually thinks he's dead. Well, the book is called "Conan' so yeah, he does survive that and like any true adventurer, quickly recovers and sets back off on the road of victory. Sometimes if the enemy isn't specifically out to murder the players, like they're just guards on a caravan or something, maybe the enemy passes them by while they focus on their real mission?

Conan continues to have some impressive visuals but story wise here I think they were trying to tie up too much material and 'open' up new material for the next volume. Sometimes in these collections it works better than others.