Last night I ran my Conan Adventures in an Age Undreamed of campaign. It is the first time that I had my expansion books and the Games Master (GM) screen. I was keen to give it all a run as I had not really sat down and looked at it closely so it was all exciting and new. The GM Screen is my focus in this post and soon I will be letting loose a review of the Book of Skelos as well as the Jeweled Throne of the Earth adventure book too. The GM screen comes with a neat little booklet called the GM Toolkit so I will review that here too!
GM screens have come a long way. They always used to be flimsy cardboard things that just were not built to last! The last two I have opened (Fragged Empire and this one) are quality events. They are thick, solid cardboard with glorious artwork on the player side. The tables on this particular chart are well printed and very clear to their use. I am not going to talk too much about the usefulness of each included element because that is really personal taste. The one thing I had hoped to see though was not there. That was the Fields of Expertise skills listed next to the statistics they are governed by. I am slowly becoming familiar with these but it does slow my game down.
There are a bunch of charts on there that I will likely not use, a bunch that I will be always referring to. There is also a few gems on the screen that I looked at and laughed thinking I would never use that turned into gems in the rough at last nights game. For example, the players hired a guide to find a lost city after carousing last night and wanted to know what payment she required. She lives in a very uncivilized town so I thought gold was not what she would want so I went to the Treasure Values table and picked something off it;
I want a fine dress – like the women wear in the Northern countries!
Later they asked her to extend the contract and I followed suit again – so much flavour from a brilliant little chart.
The toolkit is a 28-page softcover booklet that comes with the GM screen. It is focussed on one task, and that is to help the GM come up with adventures. Pulp fiction styled adventures – similar to those of Robert E. Howard! I have not used it fully as intended as yet because I am running one of the adventures from another supplement. How it works though is offering up a lot of random charts and a set structure to put them together into a collated adventure. They give an example at the back of the book and it does look to work really well. I so far have used the toolkit in the carousing entries. Some of the randomized charts in the toolkit really helped me fill in blanks for the players. Secret societies, nationalities of patrons and other goodness.
Adventure Building Example
Let me give it a go. They even have a randomization chart for the title so let us start there. I roll a dice and my title will be The Entity in the Location. First thing I do is check to see if I keep “The” at the beginning and the die roll says no. I roll on the random charts for entity and location and come up with the final title. Dweller in the Cavern is the final result!
The Opening Scene
I roll for my opening scene and it can be either in a searing back alley or a claustrophobic desert. I love the idea of a claustrophobic desert. Sandstone peaks crawling over the scene like waves. They close in on the characters and loose sand is blown up these channels during dust storms. Very Conan already – and not too hard to jump onward to a cavern. More random rolls tell me the characters are there with a group of indifferent porters. Obviously, they are searching for something already. They have equipment that needs to be carried on this expedition. More rolls tell me the players became involved when they were delivered an anonymous letter that detailed the cure to a strange malady. Maybe someone from their past suffers from this illness and so they set out to find the cure.
Where does the plot go from this start?
The toolkit now moves to build more detail to the adventure via random rolls. The sender of the letter may be altruistic or are they seeking something? The toolkit tells me the plot surrounds recovering an otherworldly relic. The motivation for this is vengeance! So intriguing – I love these charts. Who is the antagonist of this adventure? Let us see, another roll tells us that they are an aggressive tyrannical overlord. Perhaps this item was stolen from them? Another table tells me that the antagonist is seeking to find a sorcerer tome from a concealed tome. More than likely this is the location of the Dweller in the Cavern!
What stands in the way?
The toolkit has to provide points of contention for the adventure. The players must face obstacles in their path. The rolls tell me that some of these obstacles will come from civil unrest in the area. Perhaps there are rebels in the vicinity or other opportunistic treasure hunters hated by the locals. Also, the twist to the plot is that the only way to bring down the antagonist is by finding them the sorcerer tome that he seeks and using its power against him. Trying to keep it a little more general I roll only one goal for the players though I could roll one for each player. They are to scout this artefact, an incorruptible otherworldly device. Perhaps not even the sorcerer tome but another device located in the same place. This could tie back to the cure for the illness of friends.
Where will the player’s visit?
I have a bunch of material that has kind of writing itself. I need to provide some further locations for this to occur and the toolkit offers me tables. Beyond the claustrophobic desert, the adventure promises a visit to a ruined warship! How cool is that! It is so going to be in the desert. Perhaps that is how the Dweller in the Cavern arrived here. Then on to the ruins of a sanatorium. Nothing at all creepy about that! Then finally travelling on to an enigmatic ancient site in Mount Yimsha! Home to cultists and straight from the works of Howard himself. This promises to be an epic adventure. All I have to do is now sit down and fill in the blanks the toolkit leaves for an exciting adventure!
I specifically decided not to critique the contents of the GM side of the screen. Of course, the things I hate will be loved by others. It is too hard a job to please everyone with a screen. I will add my own charts over the bits I feel are unneeded. The screen itself is beautiful and solid. I am trying to work out a way to keep my doom pool in a place players can see and I can access because of it but I will find a way. The toolkit included is brilliant. On reading their example I thought in practice it would likely produce gibberish. The example above though proves otherwise. I did not reroll any of the dice for the adventure to form. I may in fact even make the Dweller in the Cavern at a later date more fully. It got me excited! I strongly recommend these items to any GM of Conan Adventures in an Age Undreamed of. You will not be disappointed – keep rolling!