Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Conan: Rogues in the House by Timothy Truman, Cary Nord and Tomas Giorello

Conan's adventures by Dark Horse comics continue in this, volume 5 of the collected single issues of the series. Written by Timothy Truman this time around with art chores still handled, at least in part by Cary Nord, who does the cover, the series continues to provide a quick sword and sorcery fix for those who prefer a visual run of their material.

In looking at what elements bring conflict and potential adventure, there are a number of elements to put into a check box.

1. Relationships. Conan's ladylove Jiara is a bit tired of the low life living and when a suitor of apparent means and manners comes to woo her, she quickly throws her former comrades to them in exchange for a life of comfort. Of course nothing ever goes as planned but this brings into focus the need to keep characters around the players that can involve them in future adventures.

2. Failure is not the end. Through the series, in both the originals and in various forms of media, Conan is often captured. This in and of itself is something that players often don't like due to the lose of control of their character. However, it can be used to launch new adventures. In this volume, Conan is released from jail in order to hunt down 'The Red Priest'. In other series, such as in the Theft of Swords, when the main characters there are captured, they are put on a new mission in exchange for their freedom and their lives. By putting the game back into play from failure, the GM can keep the continuity of the campaign going while allowing the events to have played out.

In the Shackled City campaign I'm playing in right now, the group recently lost a fight. No one died in the actual fight itself but we were all down and unconscious. The GM decided that one of the players that wasn't there in person that night came in and saved us at the last minute. At first I was a little annoyed at that 'break' in the game but the more I thought about it, the more I thought, "You know, it's probably for the best." A few of the other players had been suffering from some numerous character deaths and didn't want to make another character, a few others were okay with it either way it went, and in the end, the game wasn't hurt by the incident and it fits well into the old movies "fade into black" followed by "to be continued!".

3. Gonzo. By this I mean having a variety of weird elements. In the case of Conan mind you, Robert E. Howard tried a bit to throw in some pseudo science into the game where a lot of the 'elder' beings were aliens who'd fallen into decadence. In this book, the Red Priest's home is host to numerous traps that can be activated through various manners and some of them are almost science-fiction in nature. If it's good enough for Robert, it's good enough for you. Don't be afraid to throw some odd elements into the campaign from time to time.

4.Apes! Gorillas! Monster Men! I've read a bit of Conan through the years. I don't know if it was Howard's initial intent or what but between the old Conan #100 where his lady love there is killed by a carnivorous winged ape, also of a decadent race mind you, or Thak, the monstrous semi-man ape here, as well as others I'm sure I missed, it seems there are a lot of ape potential in the series. This might be more of the 'near' man bit but unfortunately, it's a niche well filled in most fantasy games. Bringing to light the savage and the civilized, the morale and the unfit into contrast is not always an easy thing, especially in traditional D&D games where there are alignments with monsters hard coded to fit those elements but bringing those characteristics to the game can provide more than combat to the game.

Rogues in the House is well told and provides the reader some great visuals and while the classic confrontation between Conan and Thak isn't necessarily up with the iconic image from Fazetta, it gets the job done.