I’m back after a bunch of real life requirements of my time over the holiday weekend. I hope everyone had a nice, few, quiet days without me. Today, I want to talk about my most recent experience in playing the Conan RPG from Modiphius with with home group–my family. I was really looking forward to this and it did not disappoint. That’s not to say there were no stumbling blocks either. The challenges, however, were minor and the time spent playing was fun. So, let’s get right into talking about Carousing in Conan.
Why is Carousing in Conan Important
A number of games, like Blades in the Dark by John Harper, have come out recently with a defined set of rules for how to handle downtime and between adventuring sessions. The 2d20 version of Conan has also done the same. Here, we are given a separate system for dealing with our intrepid explorers between those more exciting adventures. However, this additional system makes it so that time between adventures can be more exciting. It makes it so that going back to town and recuperating means more than replenishing weapons, buying potions, and getting blitzed at the local tavern.
There are methods built into the Carousing system for players to gain and lose wealth through gambling. Consider throwing in the thieving rules here as well. They can try and find improved gear. They can pay for rumors. Then, there are also Events that can occur, which can lead to further the story.
The rules don’t include a lot of mechanics. They are relatively straightforward. There are a handful of tables that can be rolled upon, such as to determine events that occur while in town. These events can be handled in a story format, but also lead to the next adventure. It’s actually relatively simple, but there are a lot of options to consider.
How Did Our First Conan Carousing Experience Go?
I mentioned earlier that there were a few stumbling blocks to overcome. There were relatively minor, though. Also, they came from playing with younger, less experienced players. Remember, this is a game I am playing with my family, as mentioned in previous liveplay reports. So, when given carte blanche on what they want to do, my kids looked more to me to tell them what happened. My daughter was convinced she would “explore the palace,” although she didn’t have any specific goals in mind. Even when prompted with various options, she wanted me to tell her what would happen rather than provide her own suggestions for the story. That’s okay, though. Yes, I would’ve liked to hear more about what she wanted to do through this, but I have no problem with providing the story for her. In fact, this is probably a good sign that she’s having fun playing and putting her faith in me as a GM to continue providing that fun.
One of the cool things about Carousing in Conan is that it provides a lot of story seeds and options. I had four players, each doing their own thing. This required me keeping track of four different side quests, each of which generated their own seeds. It was a bonus that each player got their own individual time to shine, developing their character a bit further and letting the other players (and GM) get to know their character a little better.
Because of the numerous story seeds planted for further adventure, it caused a bit of analysis paralysis for the group when they came back together near the end figuring out what their next move would be. On the upside, for me, there were definitely things they were interested in and things they showed no interest in. Now, I made notes of each of these potential stories so that I can move them along as needed for their to be a living, breathing campaign world. Some things will remain for another time. Some will be dealt with. Others will change and mutate as the heroes’ attention is focused elsewhere.
One of the downsides is getting the player characters to work together as a cohesive unit. Currently, one is in jail and the others are wondering why they should waste their time getting her out. One wants to run off and learn more from this secretive blood cult. Another wants to murder the cult. They all have their own drives and they haven’t found that reason they really want to work together yet. I’m being a little hamfisted in not having something that applies to everyone–or, at least what does, doesn’t apply to each of them as much as individual other stories. Luckily, they’re being good sports and working together because they want to play the game together.
One thing I would definitely recommend having handy during/after Carousing in Conan is the GM Toolkit from Modiphius. There are a lot of tools and tables in here that are going to help you create the adventure as your players make various choices. Their choices will not always (read often) align with pre-published adventures. The toolkit helps you creating things on the fly, however, never impeding the speed of the adventure. Take notes like I did, because you never know when a discarded story seed may come in handy, or loop into another. As GMs, we can only do so much to keep our players together. Their needs to be a bit of effort and acceptance on their part as well.