At the start of his career, a player has three Fate Points. These Fate Points are extremely precious, since they can save a character’s life. You can achieve this by opting to be ‘left for dead’ rather than killed outright.
Fate Points have other uses as well; but saving your life is definitely the most crucial, so it is recommended that you always keep one or two Fate Points reserved for that purpose alone. Of course, the angle might be perfect for a Mighty Blow (see below) instead, even if that leaves one desperately short of Fate Points; that is a decision the player must make. Magical resurrection is so scarce as to be almost unattainable in Conan the Roleplaying Game, though a character who has a major task left unfulfilled or a loved one to protect from imminent peril has a chance of making a brief return as a ghost. Despite this, it is usually best to simply not die.
There are seven standard uses for Fate Points: Left for Dead, Mighty Blow, Parry or Dodge, Reroll, Resist Terror, Repentance and Destiny. The Games Master may allow other uses, so check with him before play.
Left for Dead: In Conan the Roleplaying Game, characters become unconscious when reduced to –1 hit points and die when reduced to –10 or fewer hit points. See Chapter 8: Combat. However, when a character’s hit points reach –10 or less by any means, he may spend one Fate Point to avoid being killed outright. He is instead ‘left for dead.’
A character who is Left for Dead appears dead upon casual examination, though he still has a chance of recovering, particularly if attended quickly by a character with the Heal skill. If he is healed of at least one point of damage within one hour of being Left for Dead, he is considered to be stable and at –9 hit points. If he is not healed, he must make a Fortitude saving throw (DC 20) after one hour. If successful, he stabilises himself and is at –9 hit points. If he fails, he is finally and irrevocably dead, whether he has any Fate Points left or not.
A character who dies through Constitution loss may also save himself by using Left for Dead; in such a case, the effect that was damaging his Constitution stops when he has a Constitution score of one point. Left for Dead cannot be used against effects that leave no possibility whatsoever of the character surviving, such as draw forth the heart.
Mighty Blow: Rather than rolling the damage dice on any successful hit or damaging magical attack, a player can elect to declare a Mighty Blow at the cost of one Fate Point. A Mighty Blow always deals the maximum possible damage. This includes any bonus damage, such as that rolled for sneak attacks. A primitive or standard quality melee weapon always shatters irreparably when used to deliver a Mighty Blow. Even an Akbitanan weapon used to deliver a Mighty Blow has a 50% chance of snapping in two, though if it does, it is usually be possible to use the broken blade as an improvised weapon. It will not be completely destroyed.
Parry or Dodge: A player may spend a Fate Point to parry or dodge normally for one round, even in circumstances where he would normally be unable to dodge or parry (such as when blinded or taken by surprise). The player gets a +5 luck bonus to his Parry or Dodge score for the round in question.
Reroll: A player can reroll one failed attack roll, skill check or saving throw that he just made. The Fate Point must be spent immediately after rolling the dice, and the player is bound by the result of the second roll – he cannot reroll again by any means.
Resist Terror: A player can spend a Fate Point to ignore the Terror of the Unknown instead of making his Willpower saving throw.
Repentance: A player can spend one or more Fate Points to leave behind his old, evil life and make an effort to start afresh. Each Fate Point spent in this way removes one point of Corruption.
Destiny: A player can at any time spend one or more Fate Points, with the agreement of the Games Master, to alter the world in some minor way. Essentially, this allows the player to have some input into the story, over and above the actions of his character.
This change must be one that is plausible, minor and not overwhelmingly beneficial to the Player Characters. It may well assist them to accomplish their goals but they must still accomplish those goals by their own strength and wits, not simply by spending Fate Points!
For example, a character captured by the law and imprisoned might spend a Fate Point to have a chance at escape, such as a comrade or slave-girl smuggling him a dagger or a guard becoming drunk on duty, or the discovery of a loose chunk of granite with which to smash open his ankle-chain. He may not, however, have his escape handed to him on a plate, such as by a sorcerer magically putting all the guards to sleep and bursting his door open.
Another option for this use of a Fate Point is to alter a character in some minor way by revealing a new facet of his past. This might include knowing a language that he did not know before, which proves useful in his current situation or having a contact in the area from his previous dealings in the region.
One good use of Destiny is when the players are at a dead end in an adventure. Perhaps they have missed some crucial clue or failed to puzzle out where to go next. A single Fate Point in this case is usually enough for the Games Master to offer some kind of in-game hint. Preferably, this will not be so blatant as to have a friendly Non-Player Character give the Player Characters the answer outright but, instead, might be something more along the lines of the background information often given out in Conan stories. For example, a lotus-dream could reveal a vision of the past history of creatures and places crucial to the plot; or an ancient scroll could be uncovered that, with a Decipher Script check and a bit of logic, could provide a hint as to where to look next.
The Games Master will be more likely to accept proposed uses of Destiny which could plausibly relate to a character’s own future destiny, as reflected by his goals. For example, in the story Black Colossus, Conan is offered the position of commander of a nation’s armies and given a fine suit of plate armour as an indication of his position. Everyone around observes a regal quality about him which they had not seen before. This is a deliberate foreshadowing of his destiny to one day be King of Aquilonia. Had Conan’s player always made it clear that his ambition was to one day be king, the Games Master might allow him to be made commander for just one Fate Point, since it would allow that very foreshadowing.
Generally speaking, deciding what is moral and what immoral is up to the individual. However, certain dark, corrupting forces can turn humans into cowed slaves or gibbering madmen. Holding to a code of honour, however primitive, is one way by which heroes can avoid such a fate.
The most common codes of honour are given over the page. At the Games Master’s discretion, variant codes of honour may be permitted but it is strongly recommended that they be based on those given here. For example, the Games Master may agree with a player that a variant barbaric code of honour is better suited to the Vanir character he wishes to play, given that the standard barbaric code of honour is based more on Cimmerian morality.
However, there should be no ‘thief code of honour’ or ‘pirate code of honour.’ As portrayed in the Conan stories, most such characters are inherently without honour, though they may occasionally feign honour for their own purposes. Any who do have a code of honour have retained a civilised or barbaric code from their earlier lives but they are in the minority and most lose even that honour sooner or later. Conan is a rarity, a barbarian so strong-willed he upholds his honour even when among the most treacherous and amoral rogues and corsairs.
Any character can begin the game with a code of honour at no cost. Any character with a code of honour gains a +3 morale bonus on all Will saving throws, rising to +6 if the Will saving throw is against Corruption. Furthermore, he gains a +2 bonus to Reputation.
However, living by any code of honour requires certain restrictions on what the character can and cannot do and breaking a code of honour usually means the loss of its benefits forever. A character with a code of honour gains an extraordinary ability to resist torture or intimidation represented by a +10 bonus to his checks if a failure might imply breaking his code.
This is Conan’s style of morality, such as it is. The barbaric code of honour is common only in lands with harsh climates, such as Cimmeria, Vanaheim and Asgard in the north and Ghulistan in the east. It is also found among some of the Shemites and Kozaks who live in the great deserts that stretch over many of the southern and eastern lands.
Here even strangers are given hospitality and fallen foes are extended mercy if they ask for it, since it is recognised that humanity must to some extent work together against the bitter cold or suffocating heat. Barbarian tribes who have a relatively easy time of it, such as the Picts in their lush forests, do not usually have a need for a code of honour, for their environment is not sufficiently deadly as to be their most dangerous enemy. It could be argued that the presence of a code of honour is what separates a barbarian from a mere savage.
A character with a barbaric code of honour will:
A character with a barbaric code of honour will not:
This is the code of honour practiced by most knights and nobles from the civilised lands. Some civilised warriors, soldiers and mercenaries also practice this code of honour.
A character with a civilised code of honour will:
A character with a civilised code of honour will not:
A character with a chivalrous code of honour will:
A character with a chivalrous code of honour will not:
Although they wander far to make their way as ‘sellswords,’ many mercenaries live by a code of honour. Ruthless but not without principles, these mercenaries are highly sought after and renowned for always fulfilling their contracts to the letter.
A character with a mercenary code of honour will:
A character with a mercenary code of honour will not:
Any character who voluntarily breaks his code of honour immediately loses its benefits. The character may regain his code of honour if he seeks out a priest who can provide atonement, so long as he worships the same gods as that priest and the priest has a code of honour of his own. The priest will set the character a task which must be fulfilled before full atonement can take place.
An irreligious character or one who cannot find a suitable priest may attempt to right a wrong himself somehow. The Games Master will always be the judge of how much needs to be done in this case before the code of honour can be regained but generally it should be at least as much of a challenge as a task set by a priest.
A character’s allegiance can take the form of loyalty to a person, an organisation, a belief system or a nation. In general, a character can discard an allegiance at any time but may only gain a new allegiance after attaining a new level.
However, a character who also has a code of honour (see above) may gain a new allegiance at any time, subject to the Games Master’s veto. This reflects the inherent trustworthiness of a character with a code of honour. Characters with codes of honour may also find it difficult to discard their allegiances without losing their honour, though, so they should select allegiances with care.
Having an allegiance implies having sufficient intelligence and wisdom to make a moral or ethical choice. As a result, a character must have Intelligence and Wisdom scores of three or higher in order to select allegiances.
Allegiances include but are not limited to the following:
Person or Group: This includes a leader or superior, a family, a group of linked individuals such as a band of adventurers or a discrete unit within a larger organisation, such as members of the character’s watch on a ship or individuals for whose safety the character is responsible.
Organisation: This may be a secret society, a caravan train, a pirate ship or brotherhood, a local temple, a city, a guild, a mercenary company, an employer or an otherwise established authority.
Nation: This may or may not be the nation in which the hero currently resides. It may be where the individual was born or where the hero resides after emigrating to a new home.
Religion: This is always a particular faith or religion, though it need not necessarily be limited to one god. For example, a Pictish shaman is more likely to have allegiance to all the multitudinous deities and obscure spirits of his pantheon, rather than to just one particular entity. Conversely, most sorcerers make pacts with specific demons or dark gods.
An allegiance can create an empathic bond with others of the same allegiance. With the Games Master’s permission, the character gains a +2 circumstance bonus on Charisma- based skill checks when dealing with someone of the same allegiance, so long as the character concerned has had some interaction with the other character, allowing the connections to be discovered and thus bring the bonus into play.
Almost all characters in the Hyborian Age are capable of being corrupted if they face sufficiently severe challenges to their integrity. Indeed, many begin with no integrity whatsoever and seem to seek out self-corruption. Even those with stringent codes of honour may fall from their principled stance, usually without any hope of regaining it.
This is because the worldview portrayed in the Conan stories is essentially bleak. There are no cosmic forces for ‘Good.’ Even the supposedly good gods, such as Mitra, may be no more than creations of the priesthood. The only good is that which can be found in a few human beings of high moral standing, though even they are far scarcer than the self-serving or actively evil humans who make up the majority of ordinary people and great heroes and villains alike.
On the other hand, ‘Evil’ exists in a very real and concrete manner. Dark forces are always afoot. The foul sorcerous knowledge of evil priests and the vile demons they conjure up are far more powerful than any magics or defensive prayers to which their supposedly ‘Good’ counterparts might have access. Many folk who might otherwise be moral take the first steps on the road to damnation when they realise that even if they behave virtuously, there is no paradise in the next life, no guarantee of salvation; they might as well take what they can here and now.
Corruption is a more serious problem for magicians and other scholars than for most characters. Scholars’ research typically causes them to make more saving throws against corruption than most adventurers; moreover, even those who successfully avoid being corrupted have a tendency to grow madder and madder as they gain more and more unnatural knowledge.
Any time a character comes into contact with a demon, evil god or an unusually powerful and corrupt sorcerer, except in the context of actively attacking it or fleeing from it in terror, he must make a corruption saving throw. This is essentially a Will saving throw.
Certain magical artefacts and sorcerous practices can also force corruption saving throws. All corruption saving throws are made against a DC set by the entity, sorcerer or object’s magic attack roll. A character’s current Corruption is applied as a circumstance penalty to all corruption saving throws. Once you start on the steady slope towards corruption, it becomes more and more difficult to stop.
A character who successfully saves against corruption usually need not make another saving throw due to the presence of the same creature on the same day. However, if the character has close, peaceful contact with the creature, the Games Master may call for another corruption saving throw every hour.
Each time he fails a Corruption saving throw, a character gains one point of Corruption. There are further effects that will not be immediately obvious to the character: these are given on page 402 in the Campaigns section.
During a typical campaign of Conan the Roleplaying Game, characters will amass fewer tangible rewards for their efforts (such as gold, land and magical items) than characters in most fantasy settings. They are more likely to flee a country after an adventure than receive a land grant, unless perhaps at high levels they seize control of an entire nation as Conan himself did.
Gold, if they ever gain it, will slip through their fingers in the taverns, gaming-houses and bordellos of the nearest city within a matter of a few weeks. Magical items are few and far between; unless a character is a sorcerer, he would be well advised to steer clear of these items, for most come with a price few would be prepared to pay.
Adventurers in the Hyborean Age must rely on their own skills over and above expensive equipment or magical weaponry. Their experience and combat prowess are paramount, though their reputation can also be of enormous benefit.
A character’s reputation, though, is always with him, even when he is a penniless wanderer or a captured prisoner. For example, in the Conan novel The Hour of the Dragon, Conan is able to use his reputation as a chief of the black corsairs to cause a slave revolt, allowing him to defeat an entire shipload of Argossean sailors.
The following rules provide a mechanic to reflect the effects of reputation in day-to-day situations. These rules should never be regarded as a substitute for roleplaying but can make minor encounters run much more smoothly. Reputation works a little like the Charisma ability score. It helps characters influence situations through the use of skills such as Bluff, Intimidate and Gather Information, as well as helping them recruit mercenaries and followers.
The nature of a character’s Reputation affects the way it may be used. For example, a lowly Zamboulan street thug known for his bloodthirsty behaviour is likely to get a very different response when negotiating with another thief than with a virtuous priest of Mitra.
In addition, this section permits characters to cultivate different Reputations in several different cities or nations. For example, King Conan is loved in Aquilonia for deposing the old, repressive dynasty and ruling wisely and justly, yet among the black corsairs he is Amra, the lion, the most bloodthirsty and successful pirate leader they have ever had.
While Reputation works much like an ability score, it rises and falls frequently, often after each scenario a character completes.
The Reputation score measures how well known a character is among the general population of a region or town. A high Reputation means that many people have heard impressive things about the character, such as tales of his exploits in escaping the law or his theft of a heavily guarded and incredibly expensive artefact. A low Reputation shows that either few people have heard of the character’s exploits or that they have heard terrible things about him, such as his propensity to murder innocents at whim or his defeat at the hands of a lone peasant.
However, Reputation is not always an honest assessment of a character’s skills or exploits. As word travels of his accomplishments, some bending of the truth takes place as rumour builds upon rumour. Despite this, unless someone deliberately spreads misleading lies, a character’s Reputation is largely based on his actual actions.
A character’s base Reputation score equals his character level plus his Charisma modifier, though it can never drop below one. Thus, each time a character gains a level, his Reputation usually goes up by one, though a low level character with a negative Charisma modifier may have to work hard before his Reputation can increase above one. A character’s Base Reputation score never changes.
Reputation must have a descriptor. The descriptor is a phrase or word that denotes the qualities the Reputation describes. For example, a character may be known as “Honourable” “Wise” or a “Dependable” Reputations may also be more evocative, such as “Honey-tongued Merchant” or “Mythic Warrior”.
Actions a character undertakes also modify his Reputation. Defeating enemies, overthrowing tyrants, slaying evil sorcerers and completing other difficult or heroic tasks all help boost a character’s Reputation. On the other hand, a character who temporarily retires from adventuring or who departs to a distant city for many years loses Reputation. Truly legendary characters’ stories may continue to live on as popular songs and myths but the exploits of most fade with time.
A character may choose one deed per level that adds to his Reputation. This deed is rated from +1 to +5, and is added to his total Reputation score. Dealing with bandits might only be only a +1 deed, while slaying the king of Aquilonia and seizing the throne is definitely worth +5. In general, the level of deeds a character is capable of is proportional to his level – beginning characters will only get +1 Reputation per level on average, while a 10th level character might do a deed worth of a +3 or even +4 ranking. (As a rule of thumb, divide a character’s level by four to get the measure of their average deeds.) The more famous a deed is, the more Reputation it gives. Finding the lost Gem of the Prophets will win a character no renown if no-one knows he has it.
For example, some of Conan’s deeds include:
Each deed has a type and a location associated with it. The location is simply the region where the deed is done – Tarantia, the Bossonian Marches, Purple Lotus Swamp and so forth. The type is the type of story that will be told of the deed, the impression that people will get of the character from the deeds. Common types include: Heroic, Dangerous, Mighty Sorcerer, Noble, Unholy, Rich, Treacherous, Brave, Enemy of the Picts, Friend of Aquilonia, Traitorous, Demon-Worshipper and so forth – whatever the dominant element of the character’s actions was.
A character’s social position also affects his Reputation.
A character cannot get a social standing of +5 or higher without getting a noble title, or at least pretending to have a noble title and having the wealth and finery to back up such a claim!
Both Social Standing and deeds are affected by distance. The further a character travels, the less important his title and the more remote his deeds become. A character’s Standing and all his deeds are affected by distance as follows:
A deed cannot be reduced below zero. Standing, however, can be reduced to a negative level. For example, when young Conan travels from Zamora to Cimmeria, the deed of The Tower of the Elephant is reduced by –2, so it only increases his Reputation by +1. The sullen barbarians of the north have little interest in his wild tales of magic jewels and elephantine demons. By contrast, his deed of The Frost Giant’s Daughter would be dismissed as nothing but a tall tale in the inns of spider-haunted Zamora, but would carry its full Reputation bonus in the cold north, where the name of Ymir has power.
Deeds can be forgotten over time. A deed’s Reputation bonus decreases by one after a number of years equal to the current bonus have elapsed.
So, a deed worth only +1 is forgotten after a year, while a deed worth +5 is reduced to +4 after five years, +3 after another four years, +2 after three more years, +1 after another two years.
It is finally forgotten another year after that, having lasted fifteen years in all! Only deeds are affected in this fashion.
A character’s Reputation can be a tremendous asset among mercenaries, nomads and thieves. When a character encounters a person for the first time, the character should make a Reputation check to determine if the person has heard of him.
To make a Reputation check, roll 1d20 and add the character’s Reputation score. If this matches or equals the check’s DC, the person has heard of the character. The standard DC for a Reputation check is 25. In addition, a person with skills in relation with the character’s reputation will be used as a bonus for the reputation check. It’s easier to know a famous blacksmith if you’re a blackmsith yourself.
If a person has heard of the character, his Reputation score will provide him a bonus or a malus when using the following skills: Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Perform and Gather Information. The bonus/malus gained from Reputation is based on its overall score and is shown on the table below.
Any skill used in social situations may use Reputation as a bonus/malus, so long as those who the character is trying to impress those who recognise him.
A character’s deeds affect his Reputation. Only those deeds that actually reflect what he is trying to accomplish will aid him and others may even hinder him, reducing his Reputation. For example, if a character is trying to convince a noble lord that he is trustworthy and honourable, his +5 ‘betrayed his king and code of honour by turning traitor’ will obviously be of no benefit! This means that a character may be recognised and have his reputation work against him.
At the Games Master’s discretion, the penalty to Disguise Checks in the table above is applied whenever a character disguises himself in a location where he is well known. It may be reduced if he is popularly believed to be dead or far away.
|Reputation Score||Modifier to Skill Checks||Penality to Disguise Checks|
An alias acquires its own Reputation, generated separately from a character’s true identity. When travelling under an alias, any bonuses earned to Reputation apply only to the alias’s Reputation score. If a character gains a level because of actions taken while under his alias, or if he earns the majority of the experience points he needs for a level whilst using it, his alias earns the Reputation bonus. Thus, while a character’s true personality is barely known by anyone, his alias could be the leading villain (or hero) in the city.
If a character’s alias is ever revealed, the higher of his own and his alias’s Reputation becomes his true Reputation score. In addition, he gains half of his lower score as a one-time bonus to his new Reputation, reflecting the uproar and interest surrounding the revelation of his identity. However, the character only modifies his Reputation score in this way if the general populace learns of his alias. If only a few close friends or a very limited number of people are in on the secret, his alias is secure.
Aliases work best as a roleplaying tool. The heroic outlaw who dons a disguise and struggles against a corrupt and autocratic priest, or the common thief who desperately tries to keep his activities hidden from the local lords or police are two examples of how aliases may be used. Aliases add depth to a character’s background and supply some interesting roleplaying opportunities. If a player feels an alias is appropriate to his character, he should consult with the Games Master about adopting one.