Review: Modiphius Entertainment – Conan the Scout (Conan)

Conan the Scout
Conan the Scout is a supplement for Robert E. Howard’s Conan, written by Chris Lites, Benn Graybeaton, and Jason Durall and published by Modiphius Entertainment.
By Stephen Reuille

Learn more about Conan the Scout here
Purchase Conan the Scout here (paid link)
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When I was in my teens, I read the stories of Robert E. Howard. I was fascinated by the adventures of his characters with my favorite being Conan. His journeys spurred my imagination and helped create a lifelong roleplayer. When Modiphius came out with the Conan RPG, I was excited. I ran the Jumpstart adventure at my FLGS to promote their endeavor and now I get to review one of their latest products Conan the Scout. The copy of the product I am reviewing is a PDF. Since my background is not in PDFs however, I will not be commenting on some of the items a more tech savvy reviewer might. My review will be of the content and not the add-ons a PDF purchaser may use to increase the document’s utility. Now that my disclaimer is out of the way, let’s journey with the scout into the frontier.

Conan the Scout weights in at 112 pages with an index at the end. The book is broken down into nine chapters. I think this is too many looking at the chapter contents and layout. The prime example is the information on the Picts (a large part of the book) broken into a number of chapters, one being three pages long. I will be bundling some of these chapters in a way that seems more logical to me.

After a quick introduction with an overview of the books contents, we start with chapter one containing new character creation information. This section adds new Castes, Stories, Archetypes, Natures, Educators, and Talents. Looking over these additions there is not much that excites me here. The additions do a good job of promoting the theme of the book but I wonder if they are needed. The Archetypes, for example, are very simplistic. It seems a gamemaster or player could create these with a little thought. In a sourcebook like this I would like to see more creative Archetypes, Stories, and Natures, not such generic entries… but more on that later. The chapter ends with gear and weapons. I did like the rules on the differences of Pict weapons and think it adds some fun complexity.

The description of the frontier is in Chapter 2: Gazetter. This section is the largest chapter and my favorite of the book. The chapter includes the frontier as seen during Conan’s journeys. You will find information on the Bossonian Marshes, Westermarck, Gunderland, Pictish Wilderness, Border Kingdoms, and Zingara. This chapter was not only a good read but I found myself getting inspired with adventure ideas. Reading through, I thought of characters warring with the various nobles mentioned, aiding villagers in hunting and defense, fighting against slavers and even searching for the Wizard of the Ghost Swamp. There are also sidebars about creating a Bossonian Archer, a Ranger, and a Knight of Mitra These sidebars should have been the Archetypes in the first chapter. Fully flesh out these ideas and give me characters to create that are steeped in the theme but also the setting of the book.

The hidden gem of this chapter and the best part of the book is the border kingdom creation rules. Starting on page 42, the rules are a series of 8 lists that can be chosen from, rolled randomly, or both. There is information on rulers, population and size, unique features, issues, and more. With the ideas in this chapter and the creation system, I could see creating a unique location for my players to explore. Add to this the ideas for adventures above and chapter 3 discussing natural and unnatural events and political upheavals, a gamemaster could create many sessions of adventure.

Chapter 5 (yep, I am skipping) titled Encounters gives statistics for humans, beasts, horrors, and named gamemaster characters. This is a standard “bestiary” but well stocked. I specifically enjoyed the River Woman entry and would like a group of players to try and seek her aid. The Chapter ends with Pict statistics and some Talents for them.

The next chapter covers some information about Conan’s journeys in the frontier and stats for him as a scout which could have been covered in the introduction. The chapter after gives some good advice on the theme of a frontier campaign and what various character roles in the game could be doing there. There is also some good information for what to do between adventures and carousing.

Now for the chapters I missed and the rest of the book. A large part of the book is devoted to the Picts. They are mostly portrayed as adversaries. Another book is specifically mentioned if you want to play them as full characters. The Picts are spread out among various chapters and some of the information seems to be repeated or only partially expanded upon. This information should have been put into one chapter. I can only think it was a way to get the page count needed. That being said, one will find some good useful bits about them. The book covers ideas  on their lands, tribal structure, gods and worship, views on the afterlife and superstition, and animal cults. For crunch there are add-ons for characters referencing the animal totems of the tribes and new spells. A section on animal companion rules and Talents wrap-up the book.

When I am about done with my review, I like to talk about the art in the book. I was excited by the cover. It hearkened back to the Conan art I saw when I was young. The art in the book did not really inspire me however. Most were of scenic locations at the moment before something cool happened. If I am looking at a Conan book, even an RPG sourcebook, I expect a little more action and that is not what we get. The two location site maps in the book are well drawn but add no legend. But since I picked a favorite picture in my previous reviews, I will choose the one on the cover for Conan the Scout.

So can a book be judged by its cover? Conan the Scout is not a 5 dead bandits out of 5. The art could have inspired more and the layout could have been served by presenting the information in a more concise manner. For a gamemaster however, this is a trove of inspiration for a campaign. The details in the Gazetteer is worth the price of the book and I challenge you to read it and not want to get a group together and start cracking skulls.

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