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Old 03-31-2024, 12:22 PM   #11
Johnny1A.2
 
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Default Re: Reading Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories

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Sure, but there's a question of like, what happened to the civilization the people who colonized Xuthal originally came from? Presumably they were pretty good with science too.



Yeah, I think that's a big part of it. It's a pretty central conceit of Howard's stories that civilization is highly cyclic, with civilizations collapsing, reverting all the way to savagery, even de-evolving into apes. But I do think this strains suspension of disbelief. In the real world, Egypt didn't regress to the stone age after the Bronze Age Collapse, nor did the collapse of the western half of the Roman Empire—as genuinely horrible as it was in many ways—completely wipe out all technological development that happened from 400 BC onward.
But if half of Europe had suddenly sunk into the ocean in the fifth century AD, and earthquakes had leveled much of the rest and so on, it might well have. Civilizations don't decivilize in Howard's world purely for human reasons, there are often geological and climate and other factors in play too. In Kull's age, the Valusians and their sister states were sliding into decadence, but it was the world-wide catalcysm that destroyed Atlantis that pushed them back to the Stone Age.
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Old 03-31-2024, 04:58 PM   #12
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Default Re: Reading Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories

I finished "Rogues in the House", which I've been waiting for for awhile because I heard it involved a lot of death traps—indeed the story heavily implies the house in question (belonging to a local priest, who Conan has been hired to assassinate) is absolutely full of death traps, only a few of which appear "on screen". One involves a falling portcullis, a style of trap fairly familiar to fans of tabletop RPGs. The others, however, feel more like the kind of thing you'd expect in a Bond villain's layer, having to be manually triggered. The tagline (?) for the story describes the villain as a wizard, but the main text gives no hint of the priest having any magic, instead, a character is described as realizing that "the priest must be centuries ahead of his generation, to perfect such an invention".
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Old 03-31-2024, 10:31 PM   #13
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Default Re: Reading Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories

Read "The Devil in Iron", which follows a pattern of "places of adventure" (for lack of a better term) often, in the Conan stories, being the domain of some powerful wizard or somesuch. If you squint you can kind of see an analog of classic RPG dungeons like Undermountain, but the Conan stories mostly seem to involve 1-3 serious threats to Conan, rather than giving you say 10 levels each with many rooms of challenges. Which may be the most implausible part of the stereotypical dungeon crawl. Too many monsters in one place and you'd expect them to either start working together or eating each other.
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Old 04-01-2024, 08:05 AM   #14
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Default Re: Reading Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories

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You as GM after due consideration can confront PCs with hazards created by no NPC if you want to but don't kill PCs because random dice told you there was a danger at a specific place when you checked.
Ideally, you'd do the random dice rolls for decrepitude and/or shoddy workmanship in the process of designing the adventure, so you can be prepared for it beforehand (and give an appropriate description). But my own inclination would be to largely avoid deadly traps and hazards and instead have simply inconvenient ones. This could still be a deadly one, but have it be obvious so the characters will need to spend time/effort safely circumventing it (and "inconvenient" could certainly still involve wounding the character(s), just not being instantly fatal). A fun twist is to have a trap that obviously triggers but fails to actually do anything due to having degraded over the years (a crossbow trap where the string snaps and the bolt just falls out of the hole in the wall, a pendulum trap where the blade has rusted so severely that it disintegrates while swinging (or maybe the chain snaps and the blade just clatters to the ground, etc).

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I don't really like traps all that much or environmental hazards either. Traps strains uspension of disbileif and environmental hazards risk being either nuissances where PCs _must_ make explicit to you every precaution they take or have you assume that hey are not being professional and taking any precautions. That makes for a _very_adversarial style of gamemastering and it gets very old very quickly.
You should be able to avoid the problematic bits of this by taking the route you don't list, that of assuming the PC's are being professional and taking appropriate precautions (possibly depending on their level of skill - you might roll in secret to see what they notice) without them having to constantly say "I check for traps" or whatever.
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Old 04-01-2024, 10:18 AM   #15
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Default Re: Reading Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories

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Belit definitely believed that and she actually called Conan away from the altar on some pretext so the obelisk wouldn't fall on _him_.
Yes, and it's a meme of archaeology fiction, but really:
"Yes, yes I KNOW this shack isn't really appropriate for a cult of our statue. We USED to have a grand cathedral, but one of the novices assigned to prep the sacrificial tools for the ritual last year touched the buttons on the storage chest in the wrong order and..."
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Old 04-01-2024, 05:50 PM   #16
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Default Re: Reading Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories

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Just finished "Xuthal of the Dusk" which has a number of interesting elements. While it's not the first Conan story I've read to have sci-fi elements, they're fairly pronounced here, as the story centers around a city in the middle of the desert, lit by "radium gems", and inhabited by people who do not need fields or pastures to eat, but rather "manufacture their own food out of the primal elements", which they are able to do because they are "wonderful scientists". That's the sort of thing that could be useful for explaining cities in the Underdark, though there is the question of why the tech isn't more widespread and the setting hasn't gone full Tippyverse.

There's also a couple interesting examples of common bits of dungeon architecture, though in somewhat unusual variants. There's a section of wall that actually turns out to be a door when pressed hard, concealed by a tapestry, which isn't pushed a side but rather described as having a slit that opens when someone pushes through the secret door. The secret door can also be bolted shut from the other side, which is the kind of detail that often seems to be omitted in RPGs. We also get a pit trap which, rather than simply opening when enough weight is put on it, is operated by a rope. I rather like this, given how that such a trap is probably simpler to construct.
"Red Nails" will give you a very similar experience - is Xuthal one of the post-mortem Conan novels?
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Old 04-01-2024, 06:18 PM   #17
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Default Re: Reading Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories

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Which may be the most implausible part of the stereotypical dungeon crawl. Too many monsters in one place and you'd expect them to either start working together or eating each other.
To be fair, even dungeon crawls tend to be migrating towards a smaller number of more important challenges.
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Old 04-01-2024, 08:47 PM   #18
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Default Re: Reading Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories

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"Red Nails" will give you a very similar experience - is Xuthal one of the post-mortem Conan novels?
See my query if it was the story published in Weird Tales as "The Slithering Shadow'. That took place is a lost city called "Xuthal".

<shrug> someone taking advantage of the story's loss of copyright protection may sincerely believe that they were re-instating Howard's "original" title.
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Old 04-01-2024, 11:56 PM   #19
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Default Re: Reading Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories

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See my query if it was the story published in Weird Tales as "The Slithering Shadow'. That took place is a lost city called "Xuthal".
Wikipedia would suggest that it's simply a later title change in future publications.

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"The Slithering Shadow" is the original title, but the story is also known as "Xuthal of the Dusk" in further publications.
The collection I have from 2002 still uses the title The Slithering Shadow.
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