I recently read the first collection of Conan shorts by Robert E. Howard. It had been a noted gap in my reading. While I’m a fan of old pulp novels, especially stuff by Edgar Rice Burroughs, I’d never read any Howard. Even the better authors of that period can be a little hit or miss for me, and so I’m always a little iffy about delving into an author I’ve never read.
I feel like such a moron for waiting this long.
Conan was, quite simply, spectacular. Howard managed to completely pull me into this world. At times I felt like I’d stepped right into a Frank Frazetta painting. This isn’t to say there weren’t flaws. The handling of race and gender was pretty typical for the period, though not as bad as Lovecraft. But overall I greatly enjoyed the experience. I was fascinated to learn that Howard was a pen pal to H.P. Lovecraft, and could see places where the two worlds seemed to overlap. It was also interesting to see elements that have since appeared in D&D, especially the early iterations.
Of course, my thoughts start mulling around gaming. There’s already a Conan RPG and a d20 one at that. But what I’ve been considering is the idea I mentioned earlier about defining a setting by choosing eight classes to represent it. The martial classes look like obvious choices, since they fit in just about anywhere. You could arguably get rid of the Warlord, but otherwise I think those four classes work just fine.
An obvious inclusion would be the Warlock. Most of the magic seen in this first book seemed to revolve around unholy pacts. I’m tempted to use Barbarians, but since they made them more mystical in 4th edition with their “Primal” power source it seems like less of a good fit. But I could be wrong. The impression I’ve gotten from this book and reviews of the Conan RPG is that magic is rare and bad. So I’m disinclined to go with divine. And I’m even less inclined to allow other arcane classes, sticking with the notion of arcane ability requiring affiliation with Bad Things. Psionics seems like a good fit since it comes from the Far Realms. But since I was already mulling this around for another setting, I don’t want to lean on it too heavily. Maybe Primal, with more of a feral, non-moral wilderness approach.
Three basic martial powered classes, axing Warlord for now. Because, really, healing people through the power of pep talks just doesn’t jazz me. Don’t get me wrong. The Warlord in our regular game rocks pretty hard. But as a concept, I’m not overly thrilled. But this leaves the roster with only one leader class. And the alternatives either seem non-viable or uninteresting. If you entirely nix divine classes, that leaves Bards, Artificers, Shamans and Ardents. Bards and Artificers don’t fit with the idea of the Warlock being the definitive Arcane class for the setting. Ardents… I haven’t been sold on as a concept to begin with. Still, if I put Warlord back in the mix then what would I cut? I’ve already got Shamans on the roster.
If I use the PHB1 for the template for a good spread of characters, then the extraneous one would be Barbarians. But it seems kinda silly to remove Barbarian from a setting inspired by Conan. And it’s hard to justify removing either the Rogue or the Ranger since they embody pretty different concepts. (If pressed, though, I’d cut the Rogue and house rule Thievery into the Ranger as an alternature to Nature or Dungeoneering.) Replacing the Shaman with another leader class seems non-productive. Psions are the only controller in the roster, so that seems untouchable. Battlemind seems like it might be a weak link. It would be nice to have two defender classes, but it isn’t exactly necessary.
Anyway, thought I’d dump the ideas out there and see what other people thought. I like this idea as a whole (and have more Conan coming to me via Paperback Swap), so I’ll probably come back to it after mulling it around a little bit.