Type: OGL d20 Campaign Setting
Company: Mongoose Publishing
Writer: Ian Sturrock
Retail Price: $ 49.95
First ImpressionThe book is thick, the cover is lovely, and the overall design of the book is perfect. The page borders feature half-naked women, demons, snakes, and skulls -- very appropriate for a Conan book. This particular campaign setting is written under the Open Gaming License, not just the d20 License. What's that mean? It means that this is one of the few OGL books that does not require the use of the 3rd Edition Core Rulebooks published by Wizards of the Coast. You can pick up this book and you won't need any other books in order to play the game. Although familiarity with the 3rd Edition Core Rulebooks would be beneficial.
This book is primarily intended for gamers that are either interested in, or familiar with, the Hyborean Age and the world of Conan the Cimmerian. However, the book provides so much detailed information that someone without a functional knowledge of the setting could quickly become quite knowledged on the subject. Also, due to the nature of the rules, they could, with modifications, be used for any pulp sword & sorcery style setting you can think of.
The Introduction & OverviewThe intro to the book is a fairly interesting, if short, overview of the world of Robert E. Howard's Conan. It goes over the general themes and feel of the Hyborean world, without bothering with too much detail (which will show up later in the book). It's a short chapter and then comes the Overview chapter. This chapter explains roleplaying, what to expect from a Conan game, the role of players and the GM (Game Master), and so on. This chapter also includes all the necessary rules for generating ability scores, carrying capacity, movement, breaking objects, and things of that sort. Very basic chapter usually excluded in a d20 product. But this product, since it doesn't require the Core Books by Wizards of the Coast, needs to repeat these rules.
RacesThe next chapter covers the 'races' of the Hyborean Age. There's a lot of new material here, but it should be noted first and foremost that there are no true "races" besides Human. So instead of Human, Elf, Dwarf, Half-Orc, and so on -- we have a chapter full of different human cultures and their respective game statistics. This is handled very much the same as a race is handled in standard D&D.
Some new additions to the rules include a new rule for favoured classes, prohibited classes, and background skills. Background skills are just that - racial skills that you gain free ranks in to start the game. Favoured classes are changed from standard D&D in that, you are no longer penalized for multiclassing. Instead, you are encourage to stick to your favoured class via feats. If you remain in your favoured class, you get free bonus feats every so often. It's a nice feature. Prohibited classes are just that - classes not normally accessible to a member of that culture, unless it somehow becomes appropriate in game. For example, Cimmerians are prohibited from becoming Pirates, Nomads, Nobles, and Scholars. But at the very least, Conan eventually becomes both a Pirate and a Noble.
The races available in this product are: Cimmerian, Himelian Tribesman, Wazuli, Hyborian, Argossean/Barachan, Bossonian, Gunderman, Hyperborean, Tauran, Hyrkanian/Turanian, Khitan, Kushite/Northern Black Kingdom Tribesman, Chaga, Ghanata, Nordheimer, Pict, Shemite, Meadow Shemite, Pelishtim, Southern Islander/Southern Black Kingdom Tribesman, Darfari, Stygian, Vendhyan, Zamorian, and Zingaran.
As is clear - there are plenty of choices.