The Hyborian Age is awash with colourful and unique cultures and civilisations both alien and yet strangely familiar. The peoples of Conan’s world, from the hardy men of Nordheim’s glacial wastes to the desert-dwelling peoples of Hyrkania and the ebon-skinned tribes hidden amid the verdant jungles of the Black Kingdoms, have learned to adapt to their different homelands. Each has overcome the challenges of geography and environment to become master of its own lands.

A great variety of humans people the land during the Hyborian Age and there is a still greater variety of cultures. Though Conan the Roleplaying Game does not include any non-human races as player Characters, it does present several variant human races. These are not intended to directly emulate or stereotype any real-world peoples or nations. They are presented only to simulate the various cultures and peoples described by Robert E. Howard in the Conan stories.

Many of the human races of Hyboria are categorised by particular stereotypes. As such, many have a favoured class (see page 14) and some advantages and qualities that make them distinct from other cultures and races.

This entry provides only a brief overview of the races. As they are all essentially human, little description is needed and much can be inferred from the various special abilities and attributes of the different races. However, it is recommended race selection be made in conjunction with reading the Gazetteer. It is not necessary to read the chapter in its entirety, and indeed the Games Master may wish to restrict players from viewing some of the less well-known regions, but it is certainly useful to read the main entry for the region from which the character hails.

Major and Minor Races of the Hyborian Age

Major Races Associated Variant Races Nations
Cimmerian Cimmerian
Himelian Tribesman Wazuli, Kosala
Hyborian Argossean or Barachan, Bossonian, Gunderman, Hyperborean, Khauran, Tauran, Aquilonian, Nemedian, Ophirian
Hyrkanian or Turanian Turan, Hyrkania
Khitan Khitan
Kushite or Northern Black Kingdom Tribesman Chaga, Ghanata, Kush, Black Kingdoms, Punt
Nordheimer Vanaheim, Asgard
Pict Pict
Shemite Pelishtim, Meadow Shemite
Southern Islander or Southern Black Kingdom Tribesman Darfari, Southern Isles, Black Kingdoms
Stygian Stygian
Vendhyan Vendhyan
Zamorian Zamoran
Zingaran Zingaran

Variant Races

Several of the major races include variations for specific regions. For example, the Shemites are generally renowned for their mastery of the desert. However, the Meadow Shemites actually live a pastoral life in their great Meadow Cities and so use the Meadow Shemite variant. Note that variant races are not usually given such detailed descriptions as their major races, since in most cases their culture, religion and names will be similar or identical to those of the major race. If you want to play a Meadow Shemite, you have all the bonuses and penalties of being a Shemite plus all the bonuses and penalties of being a Meadow Shemite.

Important Note: Variant races use all of the base race bonuses and penalties in addition to their own, except when specified otherwise in the descriptions. However, when variant races specify favoured or restricted classes that differ from those of the major race, these variant race classes supersede those given for the major race.

The Dominance of the Hyborian Kingdoms

As might be expected from a game set in “The Hyborian Age”, the dominant people throughout the western lands are the Hyborians. In most Conan the Roleplaying Game campaigns, the majority of the player Characters will either be Hyborians or from among the peoples living closest to the Hyborian kingdoms; that is, the Cimmerians, Shemites, Zamorians and Zingarans. However, the rules certainly do not preclude characters from other realms and the occasional Hyrkanian archer, Stygian sorcerer or corsair of the Southern Islands can enhance any campaign, even those set deep in the civilised Hyborian kingdoms of Aquilonia and Nemedia. Adventurers in the Hyborian age travel around a great deal. Conan himself, though a Cimmerian by birth, visits more or less every country in the world during the course of his adventures. Some Games Masters may prefer to start their _Conan the Roleplaying Game _campaigns far from the Hyborian lands, in distant Vendhya or beyond the great Southern Desert of the Black Kingdoms. This can be a rewarding new take on the Conan mythos.

Thus, a Games Master may choose to restrict certain character races from play, depending on his plans for the campaign. For example, if a Games Master has a detailed campaign set in and around the Himelian mountains based around inter-tribal raids and the barbaric politics of the region, he may require all the characters to be Himelian tribesmen. Alternatively, he may need only one character to be a Himelian, so as to have at least some local connection, with the rest being exiles or wanderers from other lands. In most cases, it should be possible to allow a more or less free choice of race at the character generation stage, due to the aforementioned tendency of adventurers to wander. The Conan stories often feature mercenary or bandit groups comprising rag-tag bands of freelancers from all over the world. Certain organisations are almost invariably diverse, including pirate bands, Kozaks and Free Companies. See Chapter 11: Gazetteer for more information about such bands, as well as more on the various places and people of the Hyborian Age.

Peoples of the Hyborian Age

Native rogues were the dominant element – darkskinned, dark-eyed Zamorians, with daggers at their girdles and guile in their hearts. But there were wolves of half a dozen outland nations there as well. There was a giant Hyperborean renegade, taciturn, dangerous, with a broadsword strapped to his great gaunt frame – for men wore steel openly in the Maul. There was a Shemitish counterfeiter, with his hook nose and curled blue -black beard. There was a bold-eyed Brythunian wench, sitting on the knee of a tawnyhaired Gunderman – a wandering mercenary soldier, a deserter from some defeated army.

The Tower of the Elephant

Racial Descriptions

Each race has a paragraph or two of introductory description, then some notes on culture, religion and typical character names. The entry for religion should be read in conjunction with the entry for religion under the character class chosen by the player before a god or goddess (if any) is selected from those presented in Chapter 11: Religion in the Hyborian Age. The names section gives names drawn directly from the Conan stories and includes suggestions for similar names. The culture section describes the races’ cultures briefly and includes for further reference the realworld cultures (if any) on which Howard based them.

Background Skills

Each major race or variant race gains three or four Background Skills, as defined in this section. For each Background Skill in a racial Background Skill listing, a character of that race gains two ranks of the appropriate skill, whether or not it would usually be a class skill for him. Everyone gets Knowledge (local to represent the appropriate general knowledge picked up during a character’s childhood.

For example, as a Southern Islander, Abaku gains the following Background Skills: Perform (dance), Profession (sailor) and Survival. He is a 1st level thief. Although Perform (dance) and Profession are thief class skills, Survival is not. Despite this, Abaku has two ranks in each of Perform (dance), Profession (sailor) and Survival before he allocates his starting skill points.

Note that some races have bonuses to certain skills as well as having them as background skills. For example, a Pelishtim Shemite has a +2 circumstance bonus to Knowledge (arcana) skill checks and also has Knowledge (arcana) as a background skill, so a starting character from this race would have two ranks in Knowledge (arcana) as well as a +2 circumstance bonus to uses of the skill.

Favoured Classes

In Conan the Roleplaying Game, each race has one or more favoured classes. Favoured classes grant bonus feats. A character who gains levels in the favoured class for his race gains one bonus feat at 1st level in that class, one at 5th level and one at 10th level. Note that it is always the character’s class level that is considered for purposes of favoured class bonus feats, not his total character level.

For example, Garm is a [[{Pict|Pictish]] barbarian. At 1st level he gains a bonus feat for belonging to his race’s favoured class. Some time later, he also learns the ways of a shaman and becomes a 3rd level barbarian/2nd level scholar (Pictish shaman). Though he is now a 5th level character, he does not gain another favoured class bonus feat until he achieves 5th level in the barbarian class.

For races with two or more favoured classes, add a character’s level in the favoured classes together to determine his favoured class level.

For example, Ankh-af-na-Khonsu is a Stygian noble. At 1st level he gains a bonus feat for being of his race’s favoured class. Some time later he takes initiation into the priesthood of Set and learns sorcery, so that he becomes a 3rd level noble/2nd level scholar (priest of Set). Note that scholar is another favoured class for Stygians. Ankh-af-na-Khonsu adds the two class levels together to determine his favoured class level, which is 5th level. This allows him to gain another bonus feat.

Prohibited Classes

Certain races never produce members of a particular class, at least at low levels. Any class listed as a prohibited class for a particular race may never be selected as the initial, 1st level class for a character of that race. At the Games Master’s discretion, a character may later be permitted to gain levels in a prohibited class, so long as he has sufficient opportunity.

For example, Cimmerians never produce characters of the Noble, Scholar, Pirate or Nomad classes. Cimmerian chieftains are simply high-level barbarians and as a land-locked nation with no steppes or deserts, Cimmeria does not have the terrain to allow for either piracy or nomadic life. Likewise, there can be no Cimmerian scholars because there is no formalised system of teaching in Cimmeria; the country does not even have the shamans and primitive priests that might be expected in other barbaric nations, because Cimmerian gods are not worshipped. However, a Cimmerian who travels to other lands and has an opportunity to learn the skills of the appropriate profession may one day gain levels in these prohibited classes, just as Conan began as a barbarian and thief but later sailed with pirates, rode with nomads and even became a noble of Aquilonia.


Each race has one or two Automatic Languages and several Bonus Languages listed at the end of the race entry. Every character learns the Automatic Language or Languages for his race and may select a number of racial bonus languages, which he also knows, equal to his Intelligence modifier.

In addition, the Player Characters have the Pidgin ability. Those traveling the roads of Hyboria and the merchants and innkeepers who cater to them have learned to get by with a mish mash of gestures and loan words from as far as Turan, Shem and Argos. The pidgin tongue is not formalized, nor is it the same from nation to nation, or even town to town. It is, however, easy to learn and has an extensive vocabulary of insults, threats, haggling terms and words for all manner of unholy activities. There are limitations to Pidgin: it only allows communication with those who are use to deal with strangers. Because of the limited vocabulary, all verbal Bluff and Diplomacy checks are at -2. The hodge podge nature of Pidging also lends itself to misunderstandings. A 1 on any Diplomacy or Bluff roll leads to a misunderstanding which requires a Diplomacy check DC25. A failed test lowers the attitude of those involved by 1 per 5 points of failure.

Literacy is rare in the Hyborian Age. Scholars and Nobles learn their letters, unless the race description specifies otherwise.

Bonus Feats

Some races allow players to select bonus feats. Unless otherwise specified, when selecting these ignore any prerequisite that requires a minimum of +1 in any given area. For example, the Dodge feat ordinarily requires a minimum Dex of 13 and a Dodge bonus of +1.

When selected as a racial bonus feat, it requires only a minimum Dex of 13. Similarly, the Hexer feat requires the Curses sorcery style and a magic attack bonus of +1; when selected as a racial bonus feat, it requires only the Curses sorcery style.


Hyborian Roads Astenodar