Tales of the Black Kingdoms: some GM tips

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Tales of the Black Kingdoms: some GM tips

Postby René » Fri Sep 16, 2005 6:19 pm

I've GMed the first two adventures a few weeks ago and I like to share my experiences with you.

The party consisted of four PC - a D&D GM and his three players, who have been persuaded by my tales about CONAN to give it a try.
I made them part of the regular crew of the Argossean vessel (all Argossean Pirates level 4), who were hired in Messantia and befriended by Captain Kalamos himself after a tough fight against Black Corsairs (played out as a prelude directly after character creation) - so they had a strong allegiance to him.
When I was preparing the adventures, I noticed several - IMO heavy - logical problems which I'll enumerate with possible solutions. Some of these were adressed in an earlier thread, but for completeness I repeat them here.

- Why doesn't Artelios care for his kidnapped daughter? She's in the hands of bestial cultists and it doesn't bother him?
My solution: She's the offspring of another guy - his wife is a priestess of a death and FERTILITY goddess, so some kind of fertility ritual resulted in getting pregnant. For the black culture this is nothing extraordinary - even something like a divine favor - but the poor Argossean Artelios sees "his" daugther only as the bastard of another guy - so he's even happy to be rid of her.

- The lion attack at p.5 is unmotivated if initiated by Jullah - the PCs haven't crossed his plans yet. So treat this attack simply as that of a frenzied beast.

- The attack of the cultists p.8/9 is similarly unlogical: the PCs haven't at this point of the story caused any problems. So I rewrote the scene: captain Kalamos is at Artelios' mansion when it gets apparent that the house is under siege by the cultists. Artelios orders Kalamos to get his sailors up the hill to break the siege. Unfortunately he is noticed when he slips out of the house and pursued. A little fight, he is wounded, but can flee, still pursued. Meets the PCs on the streets / in a tavern. The fight begins. Before he dies, he orders them to help his / their employer at his mansion.
Alternatively Kalamos simply flees from the mansion and is pursued.

- On p.11 under A6 a cultist is under the water and surprises the PCS. Why? The cultists are the predators roaming the house in search of the virgin girl. I think it doesn't make sense for him to lay in wait - although it may be a nice surprise effect to terrorize the PCs.

- On p.17 it is is said that Jhebbal Sag is angered by troubles in the distant land of Wadai - this should clearly be a link between the 1st and the 3rd adventure, but isn't mentioned anymore anywhere. So it is lost for the story: why is he angered?

- Several stat blocks are bugged. Some examples (myabe not exhausting) are
1. Eshiba has the spell Animal Ally, but nothing is said about this creature. Since Eshiba takes part in the great showdown, it would be useful to know about his animal companion.
2. Ashanata has the spell Master Words and Signs, although he is only a Scholar 6.
3. The standard Great Ape does more damage than the Guardian of the Temple, although the latter one is "perhaps the largest of the great apes".
4. The incarnation of Jullah does with his claws the same average amount of damage as the standard Great Ape.
5. Quaridan on p.67; he is a 12th level Scholar, but has 5 or 6 spells that are available only from level 12 upwards.

- In the 2nd adventure the map is vital to the plot. But can someone tell me why the priests of the cult should be so stupid to draw maps of their secret temple (their tribes have only warlike contact with their neighbours) and its secret tunnels? These priests must have been totally stupid!
These secrets are only for their fellow priests who all reside at the temple and should be introduced in its secrets personally.
The only use of such a map is to give it to adventurers from a far land! :?
So I created the following solution: a slave of the more warlike tribes, e.g. the Yaraba, is able to flee and comes during his flight upon the temple. He doesn't go in, just knows his location and its looks. When he comes to the West coast he dies from some fever, but tells his knowledge (i.e. not the interior of the temple) someone who drew the map. Via not further detailed ways Artelios gets this map.
The Scarlet Hand does not have be involved at this point of the story. Their attack at the beginning of adventure 2 is simply a raid for slaves. (The fire on p.6/7 is in my version a red hering: they are really after the Stygian galley for some reason)

- If you follow my version, you have no need to explain the presence of the well educated assassin Kophethu. Where is here the problem?
It would be an enormous coincidence if the assassin sent to hunt down the Stygian renegade would arrive in Zabhela just at exact the moment when Artelios is looking for a translator of some obscure language on a top secret map. And fortunately the assassin not only knows this language, but comes somehow into contact with the surely very secretive Artelios.

Now enough with my ramblings. I didn't write the lines above out of some misanthropic mood, but with the intent to help my fellow GMs to avoid some inconsistencies in the plot and so to improve their game - and to help making a top RPG even better than it already is.

I hope I was a little help.

P.S.: The D&D GM owns now a bundle of CONAN products and his players are reading some well knwon delrey books... :wink:
The ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme figthing man of the earth. (REH, Wings in the night)
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Postby slaughterj » Fri Sep 16, 2005 8:04 pm

Wow. Only comment (with having knowledge of the book, bought it but haven't much looked at it), the coincidental timing of the assassin showing up, etc. is the way Conan stories often work. E.g., Tower of the Elephant, other thief just happens to be there with useful info for Conan, etc. etc.
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Postby toothill man » Sat Sep 17, 2005 4:05 pm

thank you for the help :twisted:
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Postby René » Tue Sep 27, 2005 7:25 am

slaughterj wrote:Wow. Only comment (with having knowledge of the book, bought it but haven't much looked at it), the coincidental timing of the assassin showing up, etc. is the way Conan stories often work. E.g., Tower of the Elephant, other thief just happens to be there with useful info for Conan, etc. etc.
Sure, coincidence is an essential part of good storytelling: without it there wolud be few surprises and nothing like fate.
But like everything, coincidence can be overused: in Tower of the Elephant the conicdence is thar two thieves go at the same time for the same target - improbable, but possible.
Look on the other hand at the second adventure of TotBK and count the coincidencies - it's just not believable and is - IMO - a substitution for a logical designed plot.
I'm looking for such things because I want to give my players a realistic setting and as few deus ex machina - elements as possible.

BTW: Even REH overuses sometimes coincidencies. Read Treasures of Tartary (again available in a collection with this title or via used book stores where I bought it) and you'll find seven (!) vital coincidencies in less than 30 pages - take one coincidence out and the whole plot is dead.
In the words of Horatius: sometimes even Homer sleeps... :wink:
The ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme figthing man of the earth. (REH, Wings in the night)
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Re: Tales of the Black Kingdoms: some GM tips

Postby Trodax » Tue Sep 27, 2005 4:03 pm

I have just started preparing for running TotBK in the near future, your notes are very helpful René. Thanks!
René wrote:The party consisted of four PC - a D&D GM and his three players, who have been persuaded by my tales about CONAN to give it a try.
I made them part of the regular crew of the Argossean vessel (all Argossean Pirates level 4), who were hired in Messantia and befriended by Captain Kalamos himself after a tough fight against Black Corsairs (played out as a prelude directly after character creation) - so they had a strong allegiance to him.
I will also probably have four players (possibly only three), and have planned to start them off at 4th level. How did your PCs stand up to the challenges of the adventures, was the power-level OK? Some of the encounters seem pretty tough.

I'm also thinking about using an attack by Black Corsairs to get the chance to introduce the Captain. Any advice on that scene?
René wrote:- The lion attack at p.5 is unmotivated if initiated by Jullah - the PCs haven't crossed his plans yet. So treat this attack simply as that of a frenzied beast.
I agree, just a random encounter to get things started works for me. Also, I will probably not have Tarethis be the damsel in distress here, perhaps some poor slavegirl that no one cares about rescuing. Having Tarethis show up here seems like yet another coincidence to me.
René wrote:- The attack of the cultists p.8/9 is similarly unlogical: the PCs haven't at this point of the story caused any problems. So I rewrote the scene: captain Kalamos is at Artelios' mansion when it gets apparent that the house is under siege by the cultists. Artelios orders Kalamos to get his sailors up the hill to break the siege. Unfortunately he is noticed when he slips out of the house and pursued. A little fight, he is wounded, but can flee, still pursued. Meets the PCs on the streets / in a tavern. The fight begins. Before he dies, he orders them to help his / their employer at his mansion.
Alternatively Kalamos simply flees from the mansion and is pursued.
Great! Will use your version. Did you still have him holding on to the map?
René wrote:- Several stat blocks are bugged.

Yeah, there seem to be a lot of mistakes in the NPC writeups. I will probably go through them and correct, not because its vital for the adventure to function, but because I'm a bit anal about this type of thing. :)
René wrote:- In the 2nd adventure the map is vital to the plot. But can someone tell me why the priests of the cult should be so stupid to draw maps of their secret temple (their tribes have only warlike contact with their neighbours) and its secret tunnels? These priests must have been totally stupid!
I understood the map to give more a geographical overview, with the location of the temple marked, in which case it isn't really all that "secret". Don't have the book here right now, but are the secret passageways really marked on it? (Perhaps the way to find Azags tomb is on the map?)

Your version is good to though, I'll have to think this over.
René wrote:- If you follow my version, you have no need to explain the presence of the well educated assassin Kophethu. Where is here the problem?
It would be an enormous coincidence if the assassin sent to hunt down the Stygian renegade would arrive in Zabhela just at exact the moment when Artelios is looking for a translator of some obscure language on a top secret map. And fortunately the assassin not only knows this language, but comes somehow into contact with the surely very secretive Artelios.
I agree, I don't like the way Kophethu shows up either. Did you exlude him completely from your adventure?

I think the idea of a stygian assassin out to take down the rogue general is cool, though. I'd like to include him in some way, got any ideas? Perhaps he can be an anonymous member of the caravan (travelling towards Atlaia) who escapes along with the PCs, or something.

Again, thanks for your ideas and advice!
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spoilers

Postby MadDog » Wed Sep 28, 2005 2:42 am

We had a bit of fun when we met the stygian friend of Artelios. We immediately assumed he was a scholar. Being a scholar and a stygian we almost started a betting pool to see when he would try and betray us. I think we almost decided to kill him immediately upon this assumption. We were quite surprised to find he was mostly thief. : )

Never trust a Styigan.

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Re: Tales of the Black Kingdoms: some GM tips

Postby Oly » Wed Sep 28, 2005 9:34 am

I've run the first adventure from TotBK and I'm getting ready to run the second.....
Trodax wrote:I will also probably have four players (possibly only three), and have planned to start them off at 4th level. How did your PCs stand up to the challenges of the adventures, was the power-level OK? Some of the encounters seem pretty tough.
I was playing with three characters at level 3 and they just about managed the encounters after I toned them down just a touch, they usually ended a big battle with one or two players down or nearly so. For example the cultists didn't try lots of grapples and just relied on numbers to try and crush the players, I also didn't have the scholars exploding at every opportunity. The former I did to make it a bit easier, the latter I did as I just didn't like the idea of it.
Trodax wrote:I'm also thinking about using an attack by Black Corsairs to get the chance to introduce the Captain. Any advice on that scene?
I took a different approach with this, I've been using a device of having a narrator tell the tales of the characters. I had the narrator explain in his tale that the players were taken on as mercenaries on the Captains ship. I'd made it quite clear to the players when I proposed running the game that I would hop them around the world as I saw fit and start them in the middle of things. I personally find that in keeping with the stories and it's an approach that the rulebook seems to recommend too. It's not for everyone though and it's not how I usually run my games, it's working for me at the moment though.

Likewise with the second adventure I'll have the narrator give a story as to how the players agreed to guard Artelios' caravan and how they were attacked and imprisoned.
Trodax wrote:I will probably not have Tarethis be the damsel in distress here, perhaps some poor slave girl that no one cares about rescuing. Having Tarethis show up here seems like yet another coincidence to me.
I went with that coincidence. One of the characters acted the unexpected gentleman with her and when she went to reward him he refused, I've now had her start to become romantically interested in him to which he responded. It gives me another hook that Artelios can use later, I can have him agreeing to their marriage if I need some leverage.
René wrote:The attack of the cultists p.8/9 is similarly unlogical
Yes it is and I agree with Rene's suggestion about this, the cultists are really after the Captain and the players just "happen" to be around when they catch up with him.

One thing I did do with the ambush that spooked my players was to have it happen around an ancient stone obelisk (which I think might be the suggested setting) and to have dozens of baboons silently watching from the rooftops. They spent a lot of the rest of the adventure looking out for them again and I think it lent more to the "animals disturbed" theme that was meant to be affecting the lion.
Trodax wrote:Did you still have him holding on to the map?
I did, my gentlemanly player then gave the map right back to Artelios when he asked about it!
Trodax wrote:I understood the map to give more a geographical overview, with the location of the temple marked, in which case it isn't really all that "secret".
I'm not too sure how to handle the map right now. I have considered that it will make some reference to Azag's tomb and that it contains a certain script that can only be read when paired with a script carved at various points in the tomb. Thus certain clues can only be read when the party gets there, it removes any temptation to bump off the Stygian if he's made to spill the beans about what's on the map.
Trodax wrote:I think the idea of a stygian assassin out to take down the rogue general is cool
Me too, I might well just stick with him being employed by Artelios though I do agree that it's yet another coincidence.

Oly
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Postby René » Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:09 pm

I will also probably have four players (possibly only three), and have planned to start them off at 4th level. How did your PCs stand up to the challenges of the adventures, was the power-level OK? Some of the encounters seem pretty tough.

The final fight cost two PCs her life. when they have brought down some of the cultists, one PC tried to rescue the poor girl from the tentacles.. Well, he succeeded, but only by getting the unhappy victim himself...
The second died defending the freed girl against his former comrade / the avatar of Jullah.

In the second adventure one player took the role of Artelios, their employer, the other player got Kophetu, the Stygian assassin (the other players didn't know of his real identity, but thought of him as a Stygian mercenary).

I'm also thinking about using an attack by Black Corsairs to get the chance to introduce the Captain. Any advice on that scene?

Not really, I made it fairly short, directly after character creation and before the first real session. It was intented to build an allegiance to the captain (he rescued a PC from certain death) and to give the players some impression of the savage cruelty of the Black Corsairs. The corsairs were already weakened by a former encounter with another ship and fought desperately to gain at least some plunder to come home unashamed.

I agree, just a random encounter to get things started works for me. Also, I will probably not have Tarethis be the damsel in distress here, perhaps some poor slavegirl that no one cares about rescuing. Having Tarethis show up here seems like yet another coincidence to me.

Sure, you're right here, but I maintained Tarethis, because it forms some bond between her and the players: she is the girl kidnapped a short time later and the PCs felt obliged to help her again. It was more than just "another girl to rescue".
Besides, I made the girl inviting the surviving PCs as honoured guests to some fertility ritual that is usually forbidden for non-believers (as all Hyborians are). O.K., maybe a little bit immature of me, but I thought it suitable after they have rescued the daughter of the high priestess (= her successor as high priestess). :oops:

Great! Will use your version. Did you still have him holding on to the map?

No, I eliminated the map totally from the first adventure without losing something IMO.

I understood the map to give more a geographical overview, with the location of the temple marked, in which case it isn't really all that "secret". Don't have the book here right now, but are the secret passageways really marked on it? (Perhaps the way to find Azags tomb is on the map?)

Don't have the book at hand, either, but IIRC the map gives hints how to solve the final trapdoors / puzzles, which seems very stupid to say for a priest.

I agree, I don't like the way Kophethu shows up either. Did you exlude him completely from your adventure?

I think the idea of a stygian assassin out to take down the rogue general is cool, though. I'd like to include him in some way, got any ideas? Perhaps he can be an anonymous member of the caravan (travelling towards Atlaia) who escapes along with the PCs, or something.


Like said above, one of players got him as his new character (Thief 5, no Scholar level). He joined the caravan as a mercenary, because it headed in the general direction he wanted to travel (strength through numbers).

According to his character he made away with the scepter at the end of adventure 2 (before the civil war), after having backstabbed the all too happy Artelios :twisted:

It was real fun to see how the players tried to play a role in the civil war at the end of adventure 2: when the temple was attacked they retreated down into the caverns with their allies, hotly pursued by savage & howling barbarians. They are cornered next to the immobile statue of the paralysed demon without any chance to escape. What do they do? Trying to impress the superstitious Kushites... with the fabled sword... which they drew out of the statue ... it worked: the ememies were impressed and ran ... but, you know what happens if you draw a sword out of a paralysed demon god :twisted:

Summary: Artelios backstabbed, a Stygian running wild with a powerful scepter somewhere in the Black Kingdoms, the two Argossean sailors, who survived adventure 1, killed by an ancient demon, and the same demon ruling and rebuilding his former city :twisted:

I was very pleased that you found my tipps helpful! Have fun with these scenarios!
The ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme figthing man of the earth. (REH, Wings in the night)
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Postby René » Thu Sep 29, 2005 12:16 pm

And use the baboons: great idea of Oly!

I had them in the city and on the jungle trip. + some other disturbed animals, like a big snake gliding around and around the same tree all the time; birds singing through all the night: nothing threatening, but it made the PCs wondering what was going on, and created an uneasy atmosphere.
The ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme figthing man of the earth. (REH, Wings in the night)
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Postby Trodax » Thu Sep 29, 2005 4:44 pm

René wrote:No, I eliminated the map totally from the first adventure without losing something IMO.
Oh, I see. Did you just make up some other business that made Captain Kalamos travel to Artelios then?
I like this actually, might remove the map myself, and then just have Artelios hire the PCs for an expedition in adventure two.
René wrote:Summary: Artelios backstabbed, a Stygian running wild with a powerful scepter somewhere in the Black Kingdoms, the two Argossean sailors, who survived adventure 1, killed by an ancient demon, and the same demon ruling and rebuilding his former city :twisted:
Sounds like an awesome ending! Will you be running the third and final adventure as well (with new characters I guess...)?
René wrote:And use the baboons: great idea of Oly!
Will definitely do so. The baboons are a great idea; for some reason there is just something freakishly scary about those damned creatures...
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Postby René » Thu Sep 29, 2005 8:11 pm

Oh, I see. Did you just make up some other business that made Captain Kalamos travel to Artelios then?

I made Artelios the owner of ths ship and the employer of the captain (and the crew, of course). The ship was on a normal trading tour Argos - Kush, no special mission regarding a map. The captain was simply reporting to Artelios.
Because they are the crew members, there is a good reason for Artelios to send the captain out of the besieged compound: his task is to get the crew to break the siege.
One thing I realized during the game: the PCs witnessed the cruelty of the Black Corsairs in the prelude and felt now the obligation to rescue a fellow Argossean, who is additionally their employer, from similarly savage blacks barbarians. They didn't ask for a reward at all, but acted simply out of some racial solidarity (to speak with REHs words).

Sounds like an awesome ending! Will you be running the third and final adventure as well (with new characters I guess...)?

No, I won't. 1st, because I think adventure 3 is the weakest of the collection. 2nd, because the scenarios served only as introduction for a D&D group - and they are already converted.
It's possible I'll run the trilogy in the future with my own gaming group. Maybe something exotic like a Stygian Noble / Scholar with his retainers looking for the Stygian renegade and finding something much more promising in the magic scepter. But I'll wait for the upcoming Shem and Stygia supplements, so I can create some more adventures from this region with rich background...
The ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme figthing man of the earth. (REH, Wings in the night)
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Postby René » Tue Oct 11, 2005 8:03 am

Thought about the trilogy and especially the 3rd adventure a little bit.
What I don't like is that in all three scenarios you have a sorcerer and demons (1st: priests & avatar of Julllah, 2nd: Stygian dabbler & demon statue, 3rd: Zamorian scholar & demon in the tunnels + summoned demons in the final battle).
Some nice variation may be to alter the sorcerer in scenario 3 into an Iranistani Noble woman who was driven from the royal court because she was an intriguing she-devil, but was detected before having success with her treachery.
She fled with her husband and some devoted retainers to Kush and found finally asylum with the ruling barbarian king (can't remember the name, sorry). There she seduced the poor guy and made him her thrall, he slew her husband (he was a weakling in her eyes).
She made herself the power behind the throne and built in the course of a few years the Scarlet Ring. When she heard about the magic scepter, she was very eager to lay hands on it, because she sees her rule as not so stable.
The final fight has some Iransistani retainers and / or Vendhyan thugs instead of the summoned demons. The demon in the tunnels could be substituted e.g. by the Shambling Boar Thing (correct name?) from SoS.
Like said above it's maybe a nice variation from the stereotype to have a non-magical arch villain.
If the Seductress class book hit the shelves, she will be the ideal candidate.
When I thought about this, I had the white queen from Henry Rider Haggard's SHE in mind.
The ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme figthing man of the earth. (REH, Wings in the night)
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Postby Trodax » Tue Oct 11, 2005 2:40 pm

René wrote:Thought about the trilogy and especially the 3rd adventure a little bit.
What I don't like is that in all three scenarios you have a sorcerer and demons (1st: priests & avatar of Julllah, 2nd: Stygian dabbler & demon statue, 3rd: Zamorian scholar & demon in the tunnels + summoned demons in the final battle).
You're sort of right I guess... I don't really have a problem with the scenarios in that respect, though; I think they are pretty diverse (haven't run them yet, so this is just based on reading them).

That being said; you're idea with the Iranistani chick is also really cool!
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Postby Trodax » Fri Nov 04, 2005 2:10 pm

René, I ran Shroud Over Zabhela last week. Used a lot of your tips; ran it without the treasure map, for example. Again; thanks for all your advice!

The adventure worked quite well; it probably had even more combat and action than I had first envisioned. Actually, the final battle at the end turned into a veritable gore-fest!

PS. I forgot to use the baboons though... :cry:
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Postby René » Sat Nov 05, 2005 9:44 am

Trodax wrote:René, I ran Shroud Over Zabhela last week. Used a lot of your tips; ran it without the treasure map, for example. Again; thanks for all your advice!

The adventure worked quite well; it probably had even more combat and action than I had first envisioned. Actually, the final battle at the end turned into a veritable gore-fest!

PS. I forgot to use the baboons though... :cry:
Thanks for the flowers (a German proverb, but I think it's understandable :wink: )!

I'm very happy that my ideas helped you to get more out of the game!
The ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme figthing man of the earth. (REH, Wings in the night)
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Postby Walkurë » Wed Nov 30, 2005 7:54 pm

I just ran Shroud of Zabhella as well i used the baboons silently watching the pc's from the rooftops during the ambush being a bunch of D&D'ers the were sure the baboons would attack and flipped out that they were gone once the cultists were dispatched. real creepy. great tip made the session very meerable. got up to the point were the great ape take tarethis. we are all looking forward to continuing. not sure about the second adventure though
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Postby Strom » Sat Dec 10, 2005 11:36 pm

Just received my book of Tales of the Black Kingdoms and I'm impressed with the presentation so far. Finally all the advice and suggestions on this thread will make some sense - can't wait to start reading it.
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Postby René » Mon Dec 12, 2005 2:09 pm

René wrote:Thought about the trilogy and especially the 3rd adventure a little bit.
What I don't like is that in all three scenarios you have a sorcerer and demons (1st: priests & avatar of Julllah, 2nd: Stygian dabbler & demon statue, 3rd: Zamorian scholar & demon in the tunnels + summoned demons in the final battle).
Some nice variation may be to alter the sorcerer in scenario 3 into an Iranistani Noble woman who was driven from the royal court because she was an intriguing she-devil, but was detected before having success with her treachery.
She fled with her husband and some devoted retainers to Kush and found finally asylum with the ruling barbarian king (can't remember the name, sorry). There she seduced the poor guy and made him her thrall, he slew her husband (he was a weakling in her eyes).
She made herself the power behind the throne and built in the course of a few years the Scarlet Ring. When she heard about the magic scepter, she was very eager to lay hands on it, because she sees her rule as not so stable.
The final fight has some Iransistani retainers and / or Vendhyan thugs instead of the summoned demons. The demon in the tunnels could be substituted e.g. by the Shambling Boar Thing (correct name?) from SoS.
Like said above it's maybe a nice variation from the stereotype to have a non-magical arch villain.
If the Seductress class book hit the shelves, she will be the ideal candidate.
When I thought about this, I had the white queen from Henry Rider Haggard's SHE in mind.
Can someone of the lucky guys out there who already have a copy of Hyboria's Fallen please give a short statement how the Temptress fits as substitute for the Zamorian sorcerer in the 3rd adventure?
The ancient empires fall, the dark-skinned peoples fade and even the demons of antiquity gasp their last, but over all stands the Aryan barbarian, white-skinned, cold-eyed, dominant, the supreme figthing man of the earth. (REH, Wings in the night)
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Postby Nickbergquist » Sat May 20, 2006 8:00 am

Hi and thanks for the comments/ideas! As author, I am really enjoying the commentary and feedback I have seen on Tales. I have noticed, on occasion, that editing in the book changed the intent of some of the original module...but now for some comments:

1. The original intent of the lion encounter was to act as a coincidental event that would aid in drawing the players in to the mood of the game (through a sudden encounter) and to reflect that the beasts of the city are feeling the rage of the beast god. Tarethis was the intended target of the lion, a projection of the displeasure Jullah was feeling for not yet having received her daughter in sacrifice. The PCs were never the intended target...they just got in the way (at least in the original text). I suspect in a playtest that maybe Tarethis bought it here, or players chose to ignore the event and fled....and so the lion's targets were changed.

2. The opening attack by cultists does have precedent: they are trying to eliminate Artelios' allies from the Pride of Messantia; thus the captain is slain, and the cultists intend to do the same with all of the crew, including the PCs. The attack isn't aimed specifically at them....they just happened to crew on the wrong ship at the wrong time. Something which seems to be missing here is an important factoid: that Artelios and/or his wife might try to smuggle their daughter out of Zabhela via the ship. Without that detail, the attacks on the sailors and PCs do make less sense (sigh).

3. Stat Blocks: I'm very sorry! My apologies if I screwed 'em up.

4. The Map of the Second Adventure: The origins of this map were left intentionally vague. Personally, I imagined that the map was either a relic from an age long ago, in which the secrecy of the matter was less important, or a creation of an outcast from Atlaia, or a renegade perhaps...or even later treasure hunters who failed. It could have had many origins. It's important to note that the map is only supposed to be geographical, and not an actually floor plan of the temple; how to get there, but not what is inside. I ccan't find any reference in my text saying that the map was also a floorplan of the temple....but if it's there somewhere, my bad.

5. On Kophethu: The intent of Kophethu is to provide an extra plot link to the later rebellious Stygian; I also see Kophethu as having been around for sometime in Zabhela, trying to figure out how to follow his expatriate target to a land for which he can find no maps or records. At some point between adventures one and two, he figures out that this Zebhelan noble has a map to said region, and so he sets about to insinuating himself in to Artelios' trust. As mentioned elsewhere, everyone mistrusts Stygians, and so the idea of his introduction in part two was to try and slip him in as quietly as possible, without too many chances for the PCs to kill him off in the first scenario due to justified paranoia... :wink:

Okay, I am getting a little sleepy here....but great commentary, everyone! You guys come up with some great ideas, and catch plot elements/loop holes/errata I completely miss as the writer. Indeed, when running my own scnarios I tend to miss these things because I am so familiar with my method on the plot that I might overlook details a scrutinizing, objective eye would catch. Thanks again, hope you all get lots of fun out of the scenarios in Tales!
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Postby Nickbergquist » Sat May 20, 2006 8:09 am

René wrote:Thought about the trilogy and especially the 3rd adventure a little bit.
What I don't like is that in all three scenarios you have a sorcerer and demons (1st: priests & avatar of Julllah, 2nd: Stygian dabbler & demon statue, 3rd: Zamorian scholar & demon in the tunnels + summoned demons in the final battle).
Some nice variation may be to alter the sorcerer in scenario 3 into an Iranistani Noble woman who was driven from the royal court because she was an intriguing she-devil, but was detected before having success with her treachery.
She fled with her husband and some devoted retainers to Kush and found finally asylum with the ruling barbarian king (can't remember the name, sorry). There she seduced the poor guy and made him her thrall, he slew her husband (he was a weakling in her eyes).
She made herself the power behind the throne and built in the course of a few years the Scarlet Ring. When she heard about the magic scepter, she was very eager to lay hands on it, because she sees her rule as not so stable.
The final fight has some Iransistani retainers and / or Vendhyan thugs instead of the summoned demons. The demon in the tunnels could be substituted e.g. by the Shambling Boar Thing (correct name?) from SoS.
Like said above it's maybe a nice variation from the stereotype to have a non-magical arch villain.
If the Seductress class book hit the shelves, she will be the ideal candidate.
When I thought about this, I had the white queen from Henry Rider Haggard's SHE in mind.
Actually, I really like the plot/character idea you postulate. I'd probably use it in a separate adventure, with some different motives and themes, maybe in Iranistan or something, but very cool ideas nonetheless.
I also agree, SHE is a great source idea for a Hyborian game.
One problem I think I experienced as a new writer to Conan in this and my other work (Messantia) was the, "Holy cats I'm writing a Conan adventure!" mind-set....and the accompanying desire to go utterly gung-ho with cool ideas, dark sorcerous, and cthulhoid demons. Admittedly, I as a GM probably have a habit of that, anyway.....but must admit that in writing these three scenarios I imagined it being a bit like reading three Conan tales in a row; you inevitably know that there will be a monstrous thing somewhere in the tale, and possibly a devlish sorcerer....but there are most definitely some Conan tales in which Howard abstained from such, too. Ah well, when it comes to weird magic and monsters in excess, color me guilty :oops:

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