Thursday, January 16, 2014

Character Highlight: Robert E Howard's Conan - Through His Career (FAE)




Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet."
- Robert E Howaard, 1932

Back in October, Mike posted a hilarious retelling of Batman's career as part of a two-player crime game. At the time, I told him it would be a blast to do the same with Conan, as I have a great love of Howard's original Conan stories. Little did I realize how difficult and time-consuming it would be, but isn't that always the case with a labor of love?

Below I sketched out our favorite adventurer from his early days in the shadowy hills of Cimmeria to his bloody ascension to the throne of Aquilonia. I decided to only use the original, published stories of REH, which one notable exception*. There are many different approaches to putting Conan's adventure in chronological order, so I went with the Dale Rippke chronology as it best fits my view of the Cimmerian, and provided narrative consistency.

I hope you enjoy it!

Conan the Cimmerian is born on a battlefield, during a fight between his tribe and Vanir raiders. He spends his youth amid the continual warfare that takes place on the mountainous northern frontiers of Cimmeria. His grandfather had taken part on raids into the Hyborian kingdoms, and his tales instill within Conan a desire to see the civilized world. At 15, was already one of his tribe's most accomplished warriors, and participated in the sack of Vanarium. Howard notes: "At Vanarium he was already a formidable antagonist, though only fifteen. He stood six feet and weighed 180 pounds, though he lacked much of having his full growth." After Vanarium, Conan's wanderlust overtakes him, and he sets out for adventure.

Here's Conan, as he leaves his homeland and starts his long career of adventure:

Conan of Cimmeria, Age 15

High ConceptPowerful Northern Barbarian Fascinated By Civilization
TroubleInexperienced With The Wider World
OtherLithe As A Panther And Strong As A Bull

Approaches
+3 Forceful
+2 Quick, Flashy
+1 Clever, Sneaky
+0 Careful

Stunts
  • Because I Do Not Fear Death, I gain a +2 to Forcefully Overcome or Attack when I have Taken A Consequence.
  • Unstoppable: Conan gains an additional minor physical consequence. 
Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO
Consequences
  • Mild (2):
  • Mild (2 - physical only):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
***

The Frost-Giants Daughter 
Minor Milestone
The last survivor of an Aesir raiding party, Conan has a supernatural encounter with the gods of the Northlands. Superstitious by nature, he adds his third free stunt:

Because I am Strong Willed, I gain a +2 to Cleverly Defend against Charms or Glamours from Supernatural Creatures.

The God in the Bowl
Minor Milestone
New to civilization, and entirely lawless, Conan attempts to loot a Numalian treasure-house, and is caught between the authorities and an ancient menace. His eyes opened to the politics of civilizations, he renames his trouble aspect: The Laws of Nature Trump The Laws Of Men

The Tower of the Elephant
Significant Milestone
More daring than skilled at thievery, Conan attempts to steal a fabled jewel from the tower of the wizard Yara in Zamoras fabled City of Thieves.Now a novice thief, Conan arrives at his first Significant Milestone. He raises his Clever approach to +2, and swaps his Flashy and Sneaky approaches.

Rogues in the House
Minor Milestone
Thrown in jail for the murder of the priest that betrayed his partner, Conan agrees to become an assassin to gain his freedom. Using the optional rule for adding aspects, he gains one here: Savage Wisdom, as his barbaric upbringing helps him see things civilized man misses.

The Hand of Nergal
Major Milestone
Conan is just about the only survivor of a battle, presumably near the city of Yaralet. He defeats a great evil, and is now an accomplished mercenary. He arrives at his first Major Milestone, renaming his high concept. Now that he's led men into battle, he swaps Sneaky and Flashy. Now fully grown, he raises his Forceful approach to +4. His experiences serve him well in combat, and he spends his new point of refresh on a new stunt.

Conan of Cimmeria, Age 19

High ConceptResourceful Northern Barbarian Mercenary
Trouble:  The Laws of Nature Trump The Laws Of Men
OtherLithe As A Panther And Strong As A Bull, Savage Wisdom

Approaches
+4 Forceful
+2 Quick, Flashy, Clever
+1 Sneaky
+0 Careful

Stunts
  • Because I Do Not Fear Death, I gain a +2 to Forcefully Overcome or Attack when I have Taken A Consequence.
  • Unstoppable: Conan gains an additional minor physical consequence. 
  • Because I am Strong Willed, I gain a +2 to Cleverly Defend against Charms or Glamours from Supernatural Creatures.
  • Because I have honed my Combat Instincts, once per exchange, when an opponent tries to Create An Advantage during combat, I may Spend a Fate Point to invoke it to my own benefit first.
Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO
Consequences
  • Mild (2):
  • Mild (2 - physical only):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
***

Shadows in the Moonlight/Iron Shadows in the Moon
Minor Milestone
Conan and a girl named Olivia are trapped a midst a trinity of perils on a devil-haunted island in the Vilayet Sea. Conan is captured and escapes from a band of pirates. As a result, he swaps two of his approaches, moving Sneaky to +2 and Quick to +1.

Black Colossus
Minor Milestone
Conan is chosen by Queen Yasmela (with the urging of Mitra) to lead her countrys defense against the high-powered sorcery of the resurrected Thugra Khotan of Kuthchemes. Here we add the second optional aspect, to reflect his growing prowess as a leader: Mount And Follow Me To Hell!

Queen of the Black Coast
Significant Milestone
Conan joins the she-pirate Bêlit and her crew of Black Corsairs aboard her ship, the Tigress. Conan becomes known along the Black Coast as Amra, the Lion. Bêlit is the love of his life and that life is good. Together they sack the Black Coast city of Abombi and burn the Stygian Fleet in its harbor at Khemi. After spending much time as the leader of a pirate crew, Conan is coming into his own as a commander.

He raises his Flashy approach to +3. In addition, spends one refresh to add a new stunt: Because I am a Natural Leader, I gain +2 to Flashily Create An Advantage when directing groups of people in combat. The advantage created may be tagged by minion groups.

The Slithering Shadow
Minor Milestone
Fleeing southward into the desert, Conan and Natala discover the time-lost city of Xuthal and must deal with its demonic deity. After the close brush with death, Conan moves Sneaky to +0 and Careful to +1.

A Witch Shall Be Born
Major Milestone
Khaurans Queen Taramis is overthrown by her sorceress sister and Conan is nailed to a cross to die. He is rescued by Olgerd Vladislav, who has left the kozaki and has become the chief of the Zuagir, a band of desert tribesmen. Seven months later, Conan deposes Olgerd, rallies the Khauranians to revolt, and retakes the kingdom, restoring Taramis to her throne. He decides to remain as the chief of the Zuagir.

At this major milestone, Conan gains one refresh, but does not spend it on a stunt, and he raises his Clever approach to +3.

Conan of Cimmeria, Age 26


High ConceptResourceful Northern Barbarian Mercenary
Trouble:  The Laws of Nature Trump The Laws Of Men
OtherLithe As A Panther And Strong As A Bull, Savage Wisdom, Mount And Follow Me To Hell!

Approaches
+4 Forceful
+3 Flashy, Clever
+2 Careful
+1 Quick
+0 Sneaky

Stunts
  • Because I Do Not Fear Death, I gain a +2 to Forcefully Overcome or Attack when I have Taken A Consequence.
  • Unstoppable: Conan gains an additional minor physical consequence. 
  • Because I am Strong Willed, I gain a +2 to Cleverly Defend against Charms or Glamours from Supernatural Creatures.
  • Because I am a Natural Leader, I gain +2 to Flashily Create An Advantage when directing groups of people in combat. The advantage created may be tagged by minion groups.
  • Because I have honed my Combat Instincts, once per exchange, when an opponent tries to Create An Advantage during combat, I may Spend a Fate Point to invoke it to my own benefit first.
Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO
Consequences
  • Mild (2):
  • Mild (2 - physical only):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
***

The Devil in Iron
Minor Milestone
Conan is caught between the Turanians and a diabolism from the earths dawn on the isle of Xapur and defeats the forces of Jelal Khan. Once again tricked, Conan moves Careful to +3 and Clever to +2.

The People of the Black Circle
Minor Milestone
Conan kidnaps Yasmina, the Devi of Vendhya, in an attempt to ransom the release of his Afghulis. He loses her to the sorceries of the Black Seers of Mount Yimsha and is compelled to join forces with his old enemy, Kerim Shah, to attempt a rescue.
Conan then swaps the aspect Savage Wisdom for I Couldn't Save Bêlit But I Can Save You

Shadows in Zamboula
Significant Milestone
After a brush with the Darfari cannibal cult, Conan rescues Zamboulas satrap from the magic of the priest of Hanuman, steals the satraps ring, and indulges in a bit of vengeance before taking his leave of the city. Conan raises his Clever approach to +3 at this Significant Milestone.

The Vale of Lost Women
Minor Milestone
Conan breaks a truce during a war council for the sake of a woman, finding himself in a mysterious valley populated by women and a demon.
Conan makes no changes here.

The Pool of the Black One
Major Milestone
Conan is picked up by the Wastrel, a ship of buccaneers led by the Zingaran renegade, Zaporavo. Conan joins the Fellowship of Freebooters as a member of the crew. On a trip deep into the empty Western Sea, Zaporavo discovers a mysterious island. Conan conspires to kill him while ashore, but quickly runs afoul of the ancient evil that abides there. After escaping, he takes up command of the buccaneers.

At this Major Milestone, Conan raises Sneaky to +1 due to all the stealthy activities he's been involved with of late and gains a refresh. 

Conan of Cimmeria, Age 32

High ConceptResourceful Northern Barbarian Mercenary
Trouble:  The Laws of Nature Trump The Laws Of Men
OtherLithe As A Panther And Strong As A BullI Couldn't Save Bêlit But I Can Save YouMount And Follow Me To Hell!

Approaches
+4 Forceful
+3 Flashy, Careful
+2 Clever
+1 Quick, Sneaky

Stunts
  • Because I Do Not Fear Death, I gain a +2 to Forcefully Overcome or Attack when I have Taken A Consequence.
  • Unstoppable: Conan gains an additional minor physical consequence. 
  • Because I am Strong Willed, I gain a +2 to Cleverly Defend against Charms or Glamours from Supernatural Creatures.
  • Because I am a Natural Leader, I gain +2 to Flashily Create An Advantage when directing groups of people in combat. The advantage created may be tagged by minion groups.
  • Because I have honed my Combat Instincts, once per exchange, when an opponent tries to Create An Advantage during combat, I may Spend a Fate Point to invoke it to my own benefit first.
Refresh: 4
Stress: OOO
Consequences
  • Mild (2):
  • Mild (2 - physical only):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
***

Beyond the Black River
Minor Milestone
The escape of Zogar Sag sets off a string of events that end in a Pictish war to retake Conajohara. Learning that the Picts are coming, Conan escapes in time give warning to the province. Having narrowly escaped pursuing Picts, he switches Sneaky with Careful.

The Black Stranger
Minor Milestone
After a chase of several hundred miles, Conan manages to shake the pursuit of the Eagle Picts. He holes up in a hidden cave and discovers within the fabulous treasure trove of the legendary pirate, Tranicos. After regaining his strength, he travels west to the ocean shore, only to discover a rendezvous of notable rogues at the stockade of a Zingaran exile. He deals himself into the meeting in an effort to return to the Main as a pirate. All of his planning goes to hell when the Picts attack the stockade. Conan makes no changes here.

Red Nails
Significant Milestone
Barely escaping a rampaging dragon, Conan and Valeria discover the forgotten city of Xuchotl and become involved in a decades-long feud. Having spent years witnessing 'enlightened' men destroy themselves trying to obtain power, he begins to understand the civilized mind. He raises his Clever approach to +3 and once again swaps Sneaky and Careful.

The Servants of Bit-Yakin / Jewels of Gwahlur
Minor Milestone
Conan learns that the treasure, the Teeth of Gwahlur, are hidden in the ancient ruins of Alkmeenon. He surreptitiously travels there and becomes embroiled in a rivals confidence game. Conan puts his mastery of languages to good use while in Kesh, so he replaces one aspect with another. 
I Couldn't Save Bêlit But I Can Save You is replaced by, I've Heard Many Tongues Over The Years.

*Conan the Liberator
Major Milestone
Conan and his friends arrive in Messantia. There they muster an army and battle their way east, through Aquilonia's province of Poitain, and on to Tarantia, where Conan takes the crown of Aquilonia.

Note: this is the only Howard story I've included that was not one he finished and published in his lifetime. This story was written by L. Sprague de Camp in 1979, but fills a crucial role in maintaining the narrative chronology, as it relates the tale of Conan becoming king.

Here Conan changes his High Concept, renames his trouble aspect, and raises Flashy to +4, to reflect his new role as king. He gains another point of refresh, which he spends on a new stunt reflecting both how he came to power and his connections in the underworld.

Conan of Cimmeria, Age 40

High ConceptBarbarian King Of Aquilonia
Trouble:  All Men Deserve A Just Ruler
OtherLithe As A Panther and Strong As A Bull I've Heard Many Tongues Over The YearsMount And Follow Me To Hell!

Approaches
+4 Forceful, Flashy
+3 Careful, Clever
+1 Quick, Sneaky

Stunts
  • Because I Do Not Fear Death, I gain a +2 to Forcefully Overcome or Attack when I have Taken A Consequence.
  • Unstoppable: Conan gains an additional minor physical consequence. 
  • Because I am Strong Willed, I gain a +2 to Cleverly Defend against Charms or Glamours from Supernatural Creatures.
  • Because I am a Natural Leader, I gain +2 to Flashily Create An Advantage when directing groups of people in combat. The advantage created may be tagged by minion groups.
  • Because I have honed my Combat Instincts, once per exchange, when an opponent tries to Create An Advantage during combat, I may Spend a Fate Point to invoke it to my own benefit first.
  • As I became King By My Own Hand, I gain a +2 to Cleverly Overcome when investigating corruption or sedition in my kingdom.
Refresh: 4
Stress: OOO
Consequences
  • Mild (2):
  • Mild (2 - physical only):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
***

The Phoenix on the Sword
Minor Milestone
The first major threat to Conans rule is an assassination attempt by the Rebel Four. With the help of the Gods he sniffs out the conspiracy before it is too late, and barely survives.
Conan replaces an aspect with a new one: Mitra's Blessing.

The Scarlet Citadel
Minor Milestone
Conan is captured, during his first foreign war, by Amalrus of Ophir and Strabonus of Koth. He is imprisoned in the Scarlet Citadel and escapes with the help of his fellow inmate, the Kothic sorcerer Pelias. He then goes on to defeat his enemies soundly in a large battle.
A lifetime of combat begins to take its toll on his body, and he switches Forceful with Clever.

The Hour of the Dragon
Significant Milestone
A plan to reshape the face of western Hyboria is hatched with the resurrection of an ancient sorcerer, Xaltotun of Acheron. This conspiracy usurps the throne of Nemedia and even manages to depose Conan through black magic. Conan escapes with the aid of Zenobia, a clever salve girl, and embarks on a quest to find the heart of his kingdom and reclaims his throne. He marries Zenobia, and rules over what he believes to be a content kingdom, but the fires of adventure still burn in his heart.

At this Significant Milestone he changes an aspect, and increases Flashy to +5.

Conan of Cimmeria, Age 45

High ConceptBarbarian King Of Aquilonia
Trouble:  All Men Deserve A Just Ruler
Other: None Are As Shrewd As Queen Zenobia, I've Heard Many Tongues Over The YearsMount And Follow Me To Hell!

Approaches
+5 Flashy
+4 Clever
+3 Careful, Forceful
+1 Quick, Sneaky

Stunts
  • Because I Do Not Fear Death, I gain a +2 to Forcefully Overcome or Attack when I have Taken A Consequence.
  • Unstoppable: Conan gains an additional minor physical consequence. 
  • Because I am Strong Willed, I gain a +2 to Cleverly Defend against Charms or Glamours from Supernatural Creatures.
  • Because I am a Natural Leader, I gain +2 to Flashily Create An Advantage when directing groups of people in combat. The advantage created may be tagged by minion groups.
  • Because I have honed my Combat Instincts, once per exchange, when an opponent tries to Create An Advantage during combat, I may Spend a Fate Point to invoke it to my own benefit first.
  • Because I Have Known Many Gods, I gain a +2 to Forcefully or Carefully Defend against beings who are not of this world.
  • As I became King By My Own Hand, I gain a +2 to Cleverly Overcome when investigating corruption or sedition in my kingdom.
Refresh: 4
Stress: OOO
Consequences
  • Mild (2):
  • Mild (2 - physical only):
  • Moderate (4):
  • Severe (6):
***