A few months ago as work started on The Snake’s Heart – A Lost Age Adventure, I have to admit I was a bit at a loss. I knew I wanted a Conan-esque adventure. Something with muscles, mad magics, and monsters. And I think we achieved that. 🙂 Since releasing on 3/11, we’ve had a couple of 5 star reviews so far and a nice mention from Tenkar’s Tavern!
The pressure’s on for the follow-up!
So how do we get our Conan Mojo? By cursing Crom, of course! We’d make offerings, but Crom ignores such things and hates the weak. Must be time to man up!
That brings us back to our trifecta of Muscles, Mad Magics, and Monsters.
I can hardly think of Conan the Barbarian without thinking of the 1982 movie of the same name starring Arnold Scharzenegger in the title role. (Jason Momoa tried admirably to fill Arnold’s shoes in 2011’s version, but fell short.)
The world of Conan is filled with violence done by big, muscled men and women, mischief done by smaller people such as cutthroats and wizards, and holy rollers in league with their patron deities whomever they may be. But a primary tenet of adventures set in such a barbaric place has to be that might and a strong will can triumph. So though there may be traps, poisons, and small problems, through force of will alone a character might be able to bull their way through to the end.
Is it better to pause and consider your options now and then? Of course, but sometimes the direct approach with muscles and a big sword will do just fine.
Though the 2011 version of Conan the Barbarian failed to impress on a number of fronts, the crazy sand warriors were one of those scenes that stuck with me. The sorceress Marique (Rose McGowan) merely blew some sand and suddenly there were these insanely dexterous and dangerous assassins there to try and kill Conan. That was awesome. Maybe that was just Hollywood however…
Oslecamo over at the Giant in the Playground Forum wrote up a great summary of how weak wizards seem to be in Conan’s world… which spawned a fantastic discussion with lots of examples. It seems that summoning creatures to fight for you is a popular option, as are illusions and trickery. There do seem to be exceptions to the rule where certain wizards seem to live forever and have lots of toys to augment their abilities.
But there is that “mad” part… I’m a fan of the Raistlin school of wizardry where eventually there’s a cost for everything. If you consort with demons, you’re likely going to let some of that darkness in. And like certain celebrities believing everything they read about them, I think sociopaths and psychopaths are just more likely to believe their own hype. The fact that they make fantastic villains is just a lovely side effect.
Ultimately, though Conan does eliminate more than a few wizards in his day, I think playing with forces from beyond our own world is a good way to drive you a little batty over time.
Finally, there’s the “other” things that fight in Conan’s world… the monsters. Over at Conan.com there’s a great thread about “Monsters in the Hyborian Age” that lists a ton of great examples.
One reply breaks the broad category of “monsters” into Beasts, Abominations, and Aliens – and I think that works beautifully.
- Giant snakes, lions, and apes – those are Beasts. I think that certain forms of plant life might fall into this category as well – constricting vines and flowers, giant fly traps, and so on.
- Abominations are created through magic or science (just another form of wizardry, really). So anything increased in size or ferocity like giant spiders or undead might show up here.
- Lastly you have Aliens. Some in that thread argue that the Frost Giants fit here and I have to agree. So does the alien from The Tower and the Elephant. And the myriad demons, devils, and old gods waiting to conquer the world…
I think if we manage to work in these three elements into each of the Lost Age adventures, we’ll keep moving in the Robert E. Howard direction. And if we stray into Lovecraft territory now and then, so be it. 🙂