Mostly True to Howard

If you start a new pen-and-paper campaign, it is important to get a sense of what sort of world you will be in. A good question for your new GM is what fictional world his most resembles. James Bond can walk into the villain’s lair with a tuxedo, small arms, and his wits; in a gritty realism campaign, that is suicide. Is this the sort of world that encourages the heroic charge or kills the first man to show his head above the trenches? High magic and epic adventures, or carefully ration your stock of potions?

My favorite example is the classic wall of fire. If you run through it, will you (a) shrug it off and crash into the cowardly wizard behind, setting him ablaze as you cleave him in two (in slow motion, with blood spray); (b) take a level-appropriate amount of damage, slightly softening you up before the big fight; (c) slip harmlessly through the gap in the jets of flame that you keenly identified; or (d) be instantly incinerated down to your skeleton, you idiot, why did you run into a giant wall of magic hellfire?

In the world of Conan the Barbarian, muscle beats magic. (This is by reputation; I have not read much of the original.) Spells are time-consuming, difficult and, easy to disrupt. If the wizard begins chanting as you enter his chamber, you will probably have time to dispatch his bodyguard, clear any obstacles, flex your mighty pectorals, and plant a large blade in his chest before he finishes his spell. Tying up your victims for sacrifice is popular when battlefield magic can get you killed.

Please see this Age of Conan spellweaving video. Explanation here. Yes, that person is spending more than two minutes straight spellweaving, with a few fun debuffs that leave him vulnerable the whole time. The special effects build in impressiveness as the magic reaches its crescendo. You can imagine the dark wizard summoning his forces of fang or flame about him, calling together eldritch power with a look that vacillates between triumph and terror as the hero catches his eye and rushes across the field of battle. The air becomes hazy and palpably vibrates. Our hero briefly contemplates throwing his axe before committing to the charge, weapon held high, ready to slash the wizard from throat to hip. Will the villain cry the last word of his spell, turning the blood in our champion’s veins to fire, or will he simply cry as he chokes on his own blood?

: Zubon

5 thoughts on “Mostly True to Howard”

  1. I’m not sure that spell weaving is in the game yet since the only caster I’ve played is the Herald of Xolti who mostly breaths fire while weilding a giant 2 handed sword. Now that’s what I call a mage!

    In my experience the casters have a slight advantage in PvP since they seem to have a lot of spells with knockback components. Knockbacks take around 5 seconds to recover from in the game and some high dps classes can do a lot of damage within that time. Then again casters don’t have a lot of hitpoints so the muscle bound warrior types can just brute force their way to a win sometimes.

  2. Also of note…the damage output of the casters makes up for the lack of armor…as it should be…

    Another note on the Spellweave is the fact that right now the thought of sieges with well placed spell weavers, being protected by Priests and Tanks, oh so yummy fun…

    Now,if they could just get their act together at Funcom and start fixed the myriad number of issues…this game could be a major contender…but, updates and fixes are going too slow…

    My month is running out, and I have really been a supporter…but, us supporters can only take so much bad decision making…

    Here is hoping Howards world does not turn into Telon!

  3. You forgot the all-time classic: (e) scream in despair after your lightly singed body breaches the pyrokinetic barrier, only to plummet into a ravine.

  4. Updates and fixes for AoC are coming in at a neck-breaking speed of two substantial patches per week. Anyone who feels disappointed some features of the game are currently lacking are well advised to slow down the leveling pace a tad and chew the scenery.

    I like mountain climbing, myself.

    Zubon, very interesting observations and recommendations regarding tabletop RPGs. I’d like to add that I think it’s important for the game’s designer to make some choices in that regard too and communicate it clearly to the players. Leaving it up to the GM to decide, when the rules are clearly written to support a very specific theme only, is likely to sow discord in the group.

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