Black Kingdoms Questions - SPOILER ALERT

Oly

Mongoose
I'm running the adventures from the Black Kingdoms book and I've noticed a few aspects of the plot that I can't make sense of. What are other peoples opinions on these?

Also has anyone else noticed any potential "holes" or difficulties along the way?

Thanks in advance,

Oly

Beware, spoilers follow.....

The Kushite messenger
After the Pride of Messantia is burned the characters get a message that they come to Artelios' estate, the messenger leads them into an ambush. Why are the characters being ambushed? My PCs are sure to ask any survivors and I'm wondering what other peoples opinions of this are and if there's some plot point that I've missed.

My take on this is that I'll try and make it look as if the messenger is genuine and that they stumble upon the cultists hunting the captain down. Alternatively the cultists God has foreseen the characters involvement and has sent word to the chief cultist that they are to be wiped out, this does happen to fit in with why the lion also targeted them.

Where are the watch?
The text makes a point that none of the watch are coming to the aid of the Artelios family but doesn't say why.

My attempt at an explanation is that members of the cult have infiltrated the lower ranks of the watch (who are made up of Gallah) and are keeping them away from the estate.[/b]
 

René

Mongoose
Oly said:
The Kushite messenger
After the Pride of Messantia is burned the characters get a message that they come to Artelios' estate, the messenger leads them into an ambush. Why are the characters being ambushed? My PCs are sure to ask any survivors and I'm wondering what other peoples opinions of this are and if there's some plot point that I've missed.

My take on this is that I'll try and make it look as if the messenger is genuine and that they stumble upon the cultists hunting the captain down. Alternatively the cultists God has foreseen the characters involvement and has sent word to the chief cultist that they are to be wiped out, this does happen to fit in with why the lion also targeted them.

Where are the watch?
The text makes a point that none of the watch are coming to the aid of the Artelios family but doesn't say why.

My attempt at an explanation is that members of the cult have infiltrated the lower ranks of the watch (who are made up of Gallah) and are keeping them away from the estate.[/b]

I received my copy at the weekend and read through the first adventure with your problems in mind.

Messenger: I think this is just poor story-telling. The author wanted some action and threw in the cultists, although there is no reason, why they should attack the PCs.
The cultists are looking for virgins, not for Hyborian mercenaries.
Again without reason is the attack of the lion at the beginning: the lion is driven by Jullah to attack the PCs - why? I don't see any cause - with the exception of some action.

Watch: I'd say the watch fears the savage cultists.

A question from me: why are the cultists of the Soldier class? In the Black Kingdoms there are no Soldiers in the army, but Barbarians. So why should the savage followers of a bestial god be of the Soldier class? Seems more than improbable to me.

Some other points:
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.

These points may be minor and easily correctable problems, but shouldn't happen - at least not after proofreading.
 

Oly

Mongoose
Thanks for the reply Rene,

I've now run past both of those issues, the lack of the watch wasn't commented upon and they just followed the messenger although as they entered the shanty town they began to expect trouble.

I decided in my mind that Captain had been talking to Artelios about the group as being good allies if he wanted to put an expedition together. The cult decided to make sure that they wouldn't be a problem and arranged the ambush. As for how the Captain happened to be there, well who knows. I think I spooked them by having dozens of baboons sitting on the roof top silently watching so maybe they suspect a higher supernatural element to this than there was. Really the whole thing made little, if any, sense at all.

I tend to hide mechanics away from the players, they won't know that the ape doesn't do that much damage or that the cultists are "soldiers" when it would be more sensible for them to be Barbarians so they're not huge issues. I'd noticed the lack of an animal ally for Eshiba and will make one for him.

Something that I do have on my mind is that should Eshiba be able to make the rune of Jhebbal Sag to protect themselves from the Guardian of the Temple. On the one hand it makes sense so he should do it, on the other it immediately de-fangs the Guardian. Given as how the scenario is basically set up so that Eshiba must be with them at the end it seems a little strange to drop a "powerful" beast in the way as a Guardian without comment on whether the rune works on him or not.

Oly
 

René

Mongoose
Oly said:
I think I spooked them by having dozens of baboons sitting on the roof top silently watching so maybe they suspect a higher supernatural element to this than there was. Really the whole thing made little, if any, sense at all.

The baboons are a good idea - I'll use it!

Oly said:
I tend to hide mechanics away from the players, they won't know that the ape doesn't do that much damage or that the cultists are "soldiers" when it would be more sensible for them to be Barbarians so they're not huge issues. I'd noticed the lack of an animal ally for Eshiba and will make one for him.

Maybe they are Soldiers to get another feat (they specialise in unarmed fighting)? My players don't know the game stats, either (2 of my 3 guys don't even know the sorcery rules - this way we try to keep mysterious things mysterious), but the illogical stats are something that shouldn't happen.

Oly said:
Something that I do have on my mind is that should Eshiba be able to make the rune of Jhebbal Sag to protect themselves from the Guardian of the Temple. On the one hand it makes sense so he should do it, on the other it immediately de-fangs the Guardian. Given as how the scenario is basically set up so that Eshiba must be with them at the end it seems a little strange to drop a "powerful" beast in the way as a Guardian without comment on whether the rune works on him or not.

Never thought about this problem - it's one more thing that shouldn't happen, or at least the module should give some advice on it!
 

René

Mongoose
Before playing these adventures it is maybe wise to check ALL NPC stats - I found another example of totally bugged stats: Quaridan on p.67; he is a 12th level Scholar, but has 5 or 6 spells that are available only from level 12 upwards.
 

Oly

Mongoose
Having been re-reading the final section of the first adventure I've been thinking of making the guardian ape immune to the rune of Jhebbal Sag. I can think of two reasons for this...

Firstly the ritual conducted by Eshiba to give the characters attack and damage bonuses could be the cause, Eshiba would warn about this saying that the ritual marks them as being enemies of the servants of the beast god. As such it will override the usual protection that the rune of Jhebbal Sag would offer.

Another potential solution is that the guardian is described as being possessed by Jullah. Thus it's not an animal in the normal sense and won't be pacified and/or released from it's "summoning" by the presence of the rune. There could be quite a nice scene where Eshiba inscribes the run on the wall of the temple saying that he can dismiss the creature, it fails, he begins to understand what the cult are up to and warns the group. Hopefully they'll begin to feel very nervous about what the chanting is up to.....

I'll probably bring the baboons back into it as well, just sitting in the trees or on the side of the cliff watching silently and intently.

I'd really like to have heard what happened in the play test.

Oly
 

René

Mongoose
Oly said:
Another potential solution is that the guardian is described as being possessed by Jullah. Thus it's not an animal in the normal sense and won't be pacified and/or released from it's "summoning" by the presence of the rune. There could be quite a nice scene where Eshiba inscribes the run on the wall of the temple saying that he can dismiss the creature, it fails, he begins to understand what the cult are up to and warns the group. Hopefully they'll begin to feel very nervous about what the chanting is up to.....

Good idea, he is classified as "Outsider".
 

René

Mongoose
After reading this thread again, I realized that there may be the impression the adventures were bad written. They aren't! In fact I appreciated the setting: Kushite jungles and steppes, the divided society (Chaga vs. Gallah), the lost Atlantis background, the primitive atmosphere of the Jullah cult and over all the deviation from the typical medieval fantasy setting.

Things I didn't like are mentioned in my posts above; another point may be that in all three adventures there are demons as opponents at the end - a little variation would have been nice, i.e. one story with only mundane enemies.
 

René

Mongoose
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.

Maybe someone here has a idea why the bestial god / demon should be angered? Because his followers are enslaved?
 

René

Mongoose
I'm going to run adventure 1 and 2 this weekend with a group totally new to CONAN: a fellow GM (D&D) asked me if I'd give a few sessions of this wonderful RPG I'm talking about all the time; they had ended their D&D campaign and are looking for something new (sick of +5 Vorpal swords and Hats of Polymorphing etc.).
I'd make them a group of Argossean sailors (Pirate 4th), so they have a strong allegiance to the captain and an indirect to their employer Artelios and his family. I hope I can give them the CONAN feeling!

Expect some kind of (short) playtest report next week!
 
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