Miscellany: Conan - the Roleplaying Game
"Sword and sorcery" yarns of any origin practically beg to be adapted into RPGs, so it makes sense that Mongoose has coalesced the writing of Robert E. Howard into "Conan: The Roleplaying Game." Using the Open Gaming License (think d20 in drag), the Conan RPG allows players to explore the Hyborean Age with characters ripped straight out of Howard's stories (or in some cases, the further adventures described by people like Robert Jordan and John Milius).
The main combat change from straight 3.5E D&D is that wearing armor absorbs damage but doesn't make you harder to hit. This has consequences that ripple all across the board, eventually culminating in two new base bonuses, "Base Parry Bonus" and "Base Dodge Bonus." I find that the bonuses to hit and defense can get unnecessarily complicated in the Conan RPG, but at least they're trying to be different.
The races and classes are all pretty true to the original Conan stories as written by Howard. You can be a swashbuckling pirate, a stuffy noble, or even a nomad. It does feel more like a "reskinning" of D&D than a totally new RPG - which is fair, I suppose, considering how much D&D took from Conan in the first place. The asking price of the hardcover, full-color "Atlantean Edition" of the game manual is $50, but you can get a pocket trade paperback edition for $20.
I bought the expensive edition because frankly, the rules don't deviate much from standard D&D, except for perhaps the Sorcery system (which has echoes, appropriately enough, of the system from "Call of Cthulhu," a game based on H.P. Lovecraft, who was a friend of Howard's). Thus, just buying the rules without any of the pizazz might disappoint. For people sick of encountering kobolds and playing the same old rangers, druids, and paladins, the Conan RPG is a nice change of pace that should be easy to pick up.