Conan the Adventurer By Modiphius, £12.99 GBP, Website
Review by Seth Stauffer
Protests calling for racial equality were making headlines when this review was written. This is important for reviewing Modiphius’ supplement Conan the Adventurer, because the book commences with a note discusing prejudice in Robert E. Howard’s stories and the game this text is an addition to.
“It is our profoundest hope that readers understand the challenges presented by evoking the Kingdoms of the South in a fashion both true to Howard and suitable for players of all types to see this is a starting point for discussion of these issues.
If we have failed in that regard, we offer our profoundest apologies and will strive to do better in the future. Though Howard was a person of his time, his Hyborian Age should be open to everyone.” (Italics added. This is an excerpt of the full statement in the book.)
Treating sensitive topics like race is difficult, but this book is an impressive addition to the Conan game line. From the get-go, this book takes readers to the Southern Kingdoms and follows Conan’s exploits throughout that particular geographic region. Additionally, it adds in character options, events unique to the area, as well as magic and a wide range of encounters that might be present for games taking place in the home of Set.
Perhaps resulting from the scrutiny this book received, there’s a sense of detachment permeating the text. At times you’re immersed in the world of Conan, but at other times it feels as if you’re purely reading a gaming supplement, with the book seeming to reference the ttrpg, rather than the original source material.
Whether or not this is a good thing is debatable, but it might be a result of the crew at Modiphius trying very hard to treat the content of Howard’s stories with a subtle hand, focusing more on the relating this book to others in the game line, rather than the stories. The result may give the sense that Howard’s famous barbarian was downplayed in an effort to avoid relying on the original stories.
Despite the challenges this book presented, Modiphius has done a great job. It is the kind of book you’d want to see as an amendment to the core rules. It provides lore, new options for players as well as gamemasters, and both distinguishes itself within the game line very well. While it never truly feels watered down, there are times where the text seems to limit Conan, and play up the Southern Kingdoms. The old tales about the Southern Kingdoms are a bit controversial in our time, but Modiphius has done an admirable job straddling the past and present of Conan with a quality book.