As organized by the Mesmerized by Sirens* blog, Obscure RPG Appreciation Day is confined to RPGs published between 1975 and 1989. As much as I want to participate, the topic is out of my league. I didn’t get into RPGs until about a decade after that cut-off and it would be about another decade before I started to really accumulate games. Suffice to say, all the games I own are firmly of the “modern” advent.
|Err ... wrong game.|
|Closer ... but wait, what? The Darkness!|
Conan RPG was a short-lived affair, one boxed set and three adventure modules. Probably didn’t sell well and never had a huge publication run. Copies of this game and associated modules are a bit hard to find, as far as I can see, and expensive, definitely so last I looked. Now in truth, I don’t actually own this game, given the aforementioned uncommon availability and cost. That’s okay, there’s a retroclone for that (and this is something I can say with increasing regularity nowadays as more obscure games receive the retroclone treatment).
With the blessing of Zeb Cook himself, Mark Krawec has reimagined and restated the rules of the system (scrubbing the IP) into a retroclone engine dubbed ZeFRS (Zeb’s Fantasy Roleplaying System). Available in on site HTML, PDF download, and even RTF (Rich Text File) for your own formatting and hacking. It’s even one of the systems available with the Legends of Steel campaign setting from Evil DM Productions (other systems paired with the setting are Barbarians of Lemuria and Savage Worlds). That’s right, the system is actually utilized in a new property.
|There we go!|
With a retroclone to distribute, this relatively obscure system is far from dead, but even the retroclone is still fairly obscure. I haven’t heard much about it and it’s been out since around 2007-2008. Aside from the Legends of Steel release, it hasn’t been implemented in other products as far as I know. Even then I knew of Legends of Steel from the designer interviews discussing the Barbarians of Lemuria version.
I appreciate Mark Krawec and the other contributors to the system, with David “Zeb” Cook giving his nod or go ahead, compiling the ZeFRS so newcomers like myself can have a version of the game to try out without having to track down a print copy of the original. Having a retroclone raises the profile of games that simply don’t exist in useable (gameable) quantities after they’ve been out of print for decades.
* I highly recommend blogs like Mesmerized by Sirens, which covers the lesser known games of the hobby. For people who haven't been following tabletop RPGs since their inception, in particular the wild first two decades, it's like going through history books in the library to discover entire civilizations and historical periods I had no prior cognizance of. Some of the games covered are the definition of "lesser known, forgotten, obscure or neglected". In all likelihood, I will never lay hands on a copy of such games, thus following the exploration of such games from those who have access to them is quite educational.