Review: Modiphius Entertainment – The Exiles Sourcebook (Conan)

The Exiles Sourcebook
The Exiles Sourcebook is a supplement for the pulp fantasy Conan, written by Richard August, Jason Brick, Danielle DeLisle, Jason Durall, Benn Graybeaton, Tyler Omichinski, Matthew John, and Adam Thompson and published by Modiphius Entertainment.
By Stephen Reuille

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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. I now have the privilege to review my second Conan RPG release, that being Conan the Exiles Sourcebook. 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 with my disclaimer out of the way, let’s see what the book is all about.

Conan the Exiles weighs in at 112 pages with an index at the end just like Conan the Scout. The book is broken down into seven chapters. It is important to note this book brings information about the Conan Exiles video game to the Modiphius RPG line. I must note that beside a few advertising videos, I know nothing about that product. I will be reviewing the book just based on the content, not its connection or accuracy to the video game.

After a quick introduction with an overview of the books contents, we start with chapter one containing new character creation information. This section adds four Archetypes, the Exile, Forgotten, Shaper, and Wasteland Priest. Like the additions in The Scout, the Archetypes do a good job of promoting the theme of the book but I wonder if they are needed. The Archetypes are very simplistic. It seems a Gamemaster or player could create these with a little thought without this book. There are no new rules and they tell the reader to refer to the Core Rulebook. That being said, I enjoyed the new backgrounds in this book. Some of these new backgrounds include Prisoner of War, An Evil Plot and Failed Coup among others. All of these new backgrounds require a “sacrifice”. Not only does the character get a bonus but also negatives to their stats. There is a reason you have been exiled and I liked this little rule addition to show a character’s previous scars. The chapter continues with new Talents, about 30 of them. Most center around surviving in the harsh lands the character finds themselves in or creation of items to help you survive. There are descriptions and the resource costs for creating tools, weapons, clothing, buildings and more.

The second chapter describes the physical locations of the Exiled Lands. It states the Exiled Lands are haphazard in their construction. Sometimes the land does not make sense as the biology of land placement may not be tied to natural ecology. Most likely the product of being from a video game, but I am not sure. Of the places described, some were interesting. I particularly liked the Dawn Gate and the Summoning Place. The chapter lacked excitement however. As I was reading it, I got more of an impression of reading a travelogue. There was a good description of the places, I assume sites in the video game as most of the time it appeared they were describing a location seen on a screen. The locations were not alive and did not do much to inspire creativity for me. If I had an idea for a Conan adventure already I may have been able to choose one of the locations in the book to place my adventure but the sites did not inspire adventure creation in me like The Scout sourcebook did. Sure these are interesting sites but why would the characters explore them? They have to because they are exiles? Where is the hook? I needed more.

The third chapter was all about new gods and magic in the Exiled Lands. There are 6 new gods for the players to worship or fear in the book. The chapter also adds to chapter one by adding Talents for adherents to the gods and rules for constructing temples to the various gods and the benefits they give you. The last part of this chapter describes the rules for summoning avatars, powerful tools of the gods. Many of the Talents and temple information is good for players. Any Gamemaster will need to read the avatar rules carefully however and decide if they want this power in the hands of the players or just NPCs. To me, the ability to summon avatars is out of place in a setting about survival but you may get more mileage out of it.

Chapter four starts with ideas to make survival games more exciting and continues the idea of gathering Resources/Foraging talked about in the Gear section. To me it seems like a way to put the video game concept of “Farming” more heavily into the RPG. I am not sure if that would be my focus in a Conan game with sword wielding barbarians and vile sorcerers. However, this book is trying to create an atmosphere of the survival game so I understand why it is included. The second big addition to the Conan RPG in this chapter are rules for the Hexcrawl style of play. Not only a discussion of this style but tables for adding information about what can be found in a Hex like Resources, environment, weather, adversaries and more. A good way to come up with a night’s adventure.

As we get into chapter five we find new rules for creating settlements from scratch. There is discussion on creating new settlements but also finding, stealing and claiming settlements like any good barbarian. The chapter has rules for creating more buildings that can modify the abilities of your settlement, payments and upkeep of your settlement, and morale and loyalty issues. There are also tables for random events that can affect your settlement in a positive or negative way. Lastly there are rules for followers tied to the settlement. A good example of followers is the Sorcerer. If the group has a Sorcerer follower, they have an upkeep cost but will cast one spell a season to assist the group’s efforts. I can see a game in the game of players picking and choosing the buildings and followers to create the best combination. I cannot shake the image of an 8 bit barbarian digging with his sword and a garden appears, then a house, then a temple and so on.

Chapter six starts with adversaries. Most of them seem to be standard video game creatures and for people who played The Exiles game they may find them more interesting than I did. However, Tyros the Deathbringer and the Witch Queen had good write ups and I can see them being featured in many games. It makes me wonder if these characters had big roles in the video game.

The second half of the chapter was far more to my liking. This section introduces rules for mass combat. The rules included are for using siege weapons, how to govern sieges and mass battles. I specifically enjoyed the discussion about making battles intriguing, interesting ways to guide players and characters through these battles and making them the stars. This section could be a useful read for RPGs beyond Conan.

The last chapter discusses the differences in running an Exiles game and other games for Conan. It stresses the fight for survival but also that the characters cannot just create settlements and call it good. Players will need to be proactive. And if you have not guessed it, an Exiles game involves more bookkeeping as the players will need to have records for their characters, where they are at on creation of items and settlements and the state of the settlement in general. Players will need to be aware of this extra buy in before the campaign starts.

Before my conclusion I would like to mention the layout. The book has a better layout than The Scout. I thought that book could have had less chapters and information bundled together better. This book knows what it wants, is concise and well developed. I would have liked to see more original art in the book and not stills from the video game, even if the pictures are from the video game the book is based on. Maybe they could have used the concept sketches in the book.

So should The Exiles be left in the wastes? As a player I did not see much in this book to make me throw down the cash. Anything a player needs could be easily acquired in a quick borrow from the Gamemaster. That being said, should the Gamemaster purchase The Exiles? To be honest this book will not be for everyone. People interested in the video game may find interest in this book. However those same people could take the core book and memories of the video game and create a great campaign. I believe where this book shines is in the sections that are not tied to the video game, ideas on Hexcrawls, the settlement creation and mass battle rules. I can see taking those rules from this book and combining them with the Kingdom rules from The Scout and creating an amazing sword and sorcery meets Game of Thrones campaign. If something like that interests you and your players, this book is a must have. All in all, I give this book 2 and a half bandit heads out of 5. It will not be for everyone but those interested in some of its rules will have a resource they go back to again and again. Kind of like a much loved video game.

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