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Conan party
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Benedict



Joined: 22 Jan 2006
Posts: 256

PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 3:20 pm    Post subject: Conan party Reply with quote

Know, o prince, that the other Conan thread has been taken over by talk of Amazon's international shipping options and no longer discusses ideas for the adventuring party.

The idea of playing a group associated with an exiled noble seems to be gaining some traction, so perhaps we should try to develop it. Bearing in mind that we might come up with a completely different, better idea.

I think the things we have to consider are
  1. Where is the noble from
  2. How is everyone else in the party related to the noble and to each other
  3. Why is the noble exiled and how is this going to lead to cool adventures

So addressing the third point, here are some ideas:
  1. The noble's lands have been usurped and the noble is on the run from the usurper's assassins
  2. The noble is the younger son and there is bad blood between him and his older brother

For the second point Angus, suggested that
  1. One of the party members could be a 'hostage' in the old Medieval sense. Maybe the noble is from an Aquilonian province bordering Cimmeria and the hostage is a prince from a Cimmerian tribe.

Which leads to point one:
  1. An Aquilonian province
  2. Something much larger and more impressive, such as all of Ophir

Any more ideas?
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Mikeythorn



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
Posts: 364
Location: Wellington

PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In line with the Conan stories, I think it would be appropriate for the game to begin with the noble and his retinue riding hard for the border with assassins/the law in hot pursuit. Whatever coup or rebellion has occured has happened within the last few hours.
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Angus



Joined: 23 Jul 2006
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Wed Jul 26, 2006 5:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was contemplating it last night - how about this for a back-story.

The to-be-exiled noble has recently inherited the duchy. He was the only son, and has no issue. The second-in-line for the title who is an uncle or cousin or something has framed him for the murder of the king, with the aid of his despicable mentor who wanted the king dead (the death of said nobles father was dubiously unexpected also).

So the noble, who was supposed to be killed as well as framed, has with a few trusted retainers run off to barbarian lands to seek shelter with some uncivilized tribe who owes his family a big favour, but owes no favours to the kingdom he's come from. His enemies have pursued him, and his party, joined by a barbarian or two, must take flight!
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Benedict



Joined: 22 Jan 2006
Posts: 256

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was wondering if it might be interesting if the noble was exiled because he did something wrong. Perhaps he tried to usurp the title from someone else.
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Angus



Joined: 23 Jul 2006
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 10:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It would be. It would depend upon how the player of the noble wanted to run his character I guess.

I'd prefer the party to be on the side of the forces of good though. I think having an inner moral drive to fight against the forces of evil is a great reason to battle monsters and evil sorcerors.

Ophir sounds like an appropriate place to start if we're going to open with political scheming of some sort.
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Luke
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Joined: 24 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I apologise if my posts are considered interrupting (let me know and I will stop posting).

Benedict wrote:
I was wondering if it might be interesting if the noble was exiled because he did something wrong. Perhaps he tried to usurp the title from someone else.


Wouldn't this all be perspective? I mean who is the rightful heir depends on the winner. So the moral reasons behind the exile could be ambiguous and depend on which person you wanted to side with.

Angus wrote:
It would be. It would depend upon how the player of the noble wanted to run his character I guess.

I'd prefer the party to be on the side of the forces of good though. I think having an inner moral drive to fight against the forces of evil is a great reason to battle monsters and evil sorcerors.


Though I agree with Angus' comments, "altuism" is not really in genre. It is more at home in Heroic Fantasy. Sword and Sorcery has a lot of moral ambiguity and its heroes tend to be people with as much dark as light in them. Conan is a great example.

So why do S&S characters go on adventures? Well this is a little more complex than in Heroic Fantasy but this complexity can add a lot to the game. I would look at the following things:

1. By playing an episodic structure it will be a lot easier for the GM to motivate the group. The first scene should propel the group into the adventure.

2. Each PC should have personal reasons that should be considered. S&S is all about exploring the ambiguity and perspective. So in the mind of the Noble, he should think he is good and righteous but it is not an opinion held by everyone.

3. If you want a overarching driving motivation, look at codes of honour. They are commonly used in Conan and supported by the rules. Better eyt is when you have several codes of honour working at once and sometimes in conflict. The Noble's Chivalric Code, the Barbarian's Barabaric Code and the Pirate's Pirate Code.

4. Howard is very clear as to what his "agenda" is, in the Conan stories. He uses this to form a structure by which the reader can quickly decide who what is good and what is evil. "Good" things in Conan include barbarians, men relying on their own skill, honour. "Bad" things in Conan are often the antithesis of these such as civilisation, magic (being a cheap way to power relying on nonhuman entities), compromise. If you adopt these ideas then it may help the GM and players to create their own set of values that will replace a higher sense of good and evil.

Ultimately, Conan and S&S is about real people struggling to overcome great odds and defeating real evil i.e. the corruption we all face. They do it for reasons we understand, not because we are secure in knowing that they are good people (no Frodos here Smile ).

So where does that leave the noble? Well what about having him being the rightful heir. Due to his strong sense of honour, he relied too much on his "right" to the position and not enough on maintaining the power to keep it. He was subsequently ousted by a less legitimate claim from a powerful noble and found several supporters quickly jumped sides. Now he is on the run, struggling to understand why the usurper did what he did and beginning to realise that the world may not work in the same honourable ways he does. Sounds like the start of an interesting moral journey and will provide some great thematic stuff.
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Benedict



Joined: 22 Jan 2006
Posts: 256

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I thought the moral questionableness might concern you Angus. I did actually suggest it because I thought the moral ambiguity would be interesting. However, I may be coming round to your point of view, notwithstanding Luke's comments.

I was sceptical of your idea of playing moralistic characters because I didn't think it would be appropriate for the genre. However, I do think that the sword and sorcery genre does encourage excess and one of those excesses could be excessive moralism.

So how's this for an idea (which I thought before your suggestion Luke, and I do like yours). The noble is exiled because of a failed coup, but he attempted the coup because the person he was trying to overthrow (let's say it was his uncle) needed to be overthrown. My idea is that the uncle was trying to resurrect the ancient evil sorcerous empire of Acheron. I think that is appropriately over the top for the genre.
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Mikeythorn



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
Posts: 364
Location: Wellington

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think all these thoughts can be reconciled. Yes, the Uncle may have been an evil sorcerer (or in the thrall of an evil sorcerer) - but there should still be difficult moral choices that the party will face. There may well be hundreds of good, loyal countrymen who follow the Uncle unaware of his actions. The party may be hunted down by good law-abiding people (perhaps even friends and family members) who think that the PC noble is the evil one for attempting a coup. What will the party do when these people catch up with them and attack? Will they draw their weapons against them?

All great stuff for getting the moral juices flowing. Although, perhaps I should shut up and save these ideas for the, ummm, actual adventures.
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Luke
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Joined: 24 Jan 2006
Posts: 2697

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Benedict wrote:
I thought the moral questionableness might concern you Angus. I did actually suggest it because I thought the moral ambiguity would be interesting. However, I may be coming round to your point of view, notwithstanding Luke's comments.


It is over to you guys Smile However, these morality issues are one of the biggest factors that seperates Sword & Sorcery from the more dominant Heroic Fantasy genre. As a result, you may find the game slip into this mould if you go down that road.
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Mikeythorn



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
Posts: 364
Location: Wellington

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 11:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PS - I think Luke has also pointed to one quite neat thing that Angus and Ben might not be aware of. The "Codes of Honour" in Conan seem an excellent way to allow players to have that inner moral drive - but they will also introduce some moral ambiguities into the game. If PCs have different Codes of Honour (or some have none), then there will eventually be situations in which one player will see something as good, and another will see it as evil.
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Mikeythorn



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
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Location: Wellington

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is possibly also worth thinking a little about what we have come from. Both Tatters of the King and Stormbringer have been games where any agenda the players might have had are subsumed by forces beyond their control. In both, the PCs have been impelled to abandon everything in a quest to save the world from terrible evil and haven't (really) had any choice in the matter.

If it is going to be something different, Conan should therefore involve much more free will on the part of the players. The problem is that we as players have been historically pretty bad at setting agendas. When left to our own devices we tend to - well - do nothing but get caught up in petty little revenge plots (memories of Merryweather Happytune the bard and Drevan the thief leap to mind).

I think having some kind of moral framework is therefore important. Otherwise the story is going to achieve Brownian motion at best, and sporadic bursts of completely inconsistent behaviour at worst. Something needs to guide the players and the story in a consistent direction - and I think some kind of moral code would be really helpful (along with whatever metaplot the players and the GM might develop).
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Benedict



Joined: 22 Jan 2006
Posts: 256

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Luke wrote:
It is over to you guys Smile However, these morality issues are one of the biggest factors that seperates Sword & Sorcery from the more dominant Heroic Fantasy genre. As a result, you may find the game slip into this mould if you go down that road.


We certainly won't be avoiding morality issues and your comments have been very interesting. I definitely agree that sword and sorcery naturally has a lot of moral ambiguity. I am not sure I agree that altruism is entirely out of genre however. Even if there are no examples of good-aligned (if you'll pardon the expression) characters in S&S literature (though I am tempted to suggest Elric who at least had a conscience), there are good people in the Hyborian Age who will try to do what they believe to be good deeds.

And as Mike said, it would be very good if we had a motivation, and doing good would be a great motivation. In the past we have had some pretty frustrating parties full of choatic-neutral types who often seem to be asking themselves "what am I even doing in this adventure?"
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Luke
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Joined: 24 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Benedict wrote:
I am not sure I agree that altruism is entirely out of genre however. Even if there are no examples of good-aligned (if you'll pardon the expression) characters in S&S literature (though I am tempted to suggest Elric who at least had a conscience), there are good people in the Hyborian Age who will try to do what they believe to be good deeds.


I agree. I just think you need to kept clearly in mind the difference between caring for a hero because he is "good" from caring for heroes because of reasons you agree with. Elric is a great example of a character who you care for but does a lot of atrocious things. Conan is the same. I would hesitate to call either altruistic but I agree that you do care for them mostly for their very human faults (rage, conscience, doubt, confidence). A lot of modern fantasy allows the reader to assume that if they care for someone, they must also be good. It is certainly a simpler approach for the reader.

It is important to note that in S&S there is a clear line between the protagonist and antagonist (often more so than in heroic fantasy with definite ideas of good and evil). In no Conan story are the sides ever in doubt. However, in Star Wars, there are criminals with hearts of gold (Han Solo) and villains who are deemable (Darth Vader). It is just that the line is not based on good and evil but more complex ideas (and IMO generally interesting concepts).

Benedict wrote:
And as Mike said, it would be very good if we had a motivation, and doing good would be a great motivation. In the past we have had some pretty frustrating parties full of choatic-neutral types who often seem to be asking themselves "what am I even doing in this adventure?"


I agree with this and I use this in a fair few RPGs myself Smile Just be careful not to use it to avoid the issue of motivation. This will likely turn Conan into D&D.
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Mikeythorn



Joined: 20 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What I would like to see is for the characters to have an ultimate aim, and a moral code which will sometimes make achieving that ultimate aim more difficult. Regaining a throne might be the aim, and the characters might be confronted with having to choose between a) getting closer to that aim and breaking their moral code, or b) getting further away from that aim and remaining true to their moral compasses. What I would like to see is a party that, when faced with those choices, will choose option b). I don't think that is something that we do often enough (outside of occasional moments in Pendragon).

PS Hey Ben, you might want to start another thread. This one appears to have been threadjacked again (in a good way!). Embarassed
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Last edited by Mikeythorn on Thu Jul 27, 2006 5:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Angus



Joined: 23 Jul 2006
Posts: 28

PostPosted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
I'd prefer the party to be on the side of the forces of good though. I think having an inner moral drive to fight against the forces of evil is a great reason to battle monsters and evil sorcerors.


You guys have run and run with that statement.

Moral ambiguity - fabulous
Inner drive - fabulous

Obviously our party will Hack, so it's not going to be full of gentle do-gooders.

As Ben mentioned I'd just love to avoid having our usual party of CN types who're just in it for the loot and the XP (and herbal remedies and fanzines). I think this talk of having a party with moral drive is pretty crucial to having a party theme. And I pretty much agree 100% with what has been outlined above.

Now how do we get the others to agree. Cam didn't seem that keen, and the others as usually non-comittal.



I do also really want us to have some sort of leadership structure. Especially in combat we should really be punished for dithering and arguing and procrastinating over our actions as we always do.
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