Campaign report - updated as the game progresses

Ralph said:
I have to say that it is a very good write up of what sounds like a great campaign. I may have to steal parts of it if that's ok with you.

Go ahead, though it won't hurt if you can credit me somehow.

I particularly like the way you deal with High Cost of Living. XP for silvers spent on luxuries works much better than arbitrarily removing items, especially in a linear campaign.
Do you find that the players ever spend enough to rise a level? They do get pretty rich a few times it seems.

Well, you usually need thousands of experience points to rise a level. That would mean hundreds of gold coins spent on luxuries. They haven't got that rich yet - however, I've given them a few times enough experience to almost rise a level when they have been rich. Like being hundred or two hundred XP short, giving an option to get the level earlier by carousing a little..
I really like your story !!
In fact, I bought an Age of Conan book for my vacations but never had the will to start it. I was in a "why read stories that are not about Conan" mood... and after starting reading your report, I knew some cool things could be written without Conan as the main character !

Thx again !

warzen said:
I really like your story !!
In fact, I bought an Age of Conan book for my vacations but never had the will to start it. I was in a "why read stories that are not about Conan" mood... and after starting reading your report, I knew some cool things could be written without Conan as the main character !

Thank you...but this is not as much my story, as one done together by me and my players. This is after all a campaign report, not a fan fic tale. I've just tried to emulate Howard's style a little in the way I put things forth. My own style of writing would be different. Part 13 will come out this week - while at the same time, we will be playing session twenty-something soon. It will feature the player characters trying defend themselves against stranglers of Yajur the Red-handed hired by unknown enemies. Should be fun, very different assassin for each of the player characters.
Brilliant idea just throwing the characters into the thick of things right off. Very Conan. He starts more than a few stories as sole survivor of a wrecked army.

Please keep posting.
Sorry, I've been very busy for a while. Despite my inactivity in writing reports, the campaign has carried on quite a while. I'll try to post a new chapter today or tomorrow.
Session Thirteen: The Children of Set

The Stygian galley slid towards south, every pull of its long oars bringing it a little closer to the dark realm of fell sorcery and bestial gods. Orchards and fields of Argos started to slowly change in to fertile meadows of western Shem. Dionysos and Tyrus continued to spend their time drinking deep in the wisdom of the blind sage, while rest of the men lounged bored on the deck, day after another. Although the crew members and the captain had started acting more friendly towards the Nemedians after the battle with the black corsairs, they could still offer them little entertainment. Thothmekri spent most of his time out of sight, perhaps in contact with his dark masters through sorcerous means.

Bored and annoyed by the increasingly scorching sun, Barathus, Alcemides and Noam spent most of their time engaged in idle games of chance, petty sums of coin exchanging hands each day. Strange dreams continued to trouble Noam's nights - dreams where a baleful star shone on a blood red sky and civilizations degenerated in to ruins, where former humans reveled like animals, hunting and killing to satisfy their monstrous appetites.He dreamed as well of a city, destroyed and rebuilt three times, each time devoured by sands of a merciless desert. Under the baleful star its towers and palaces crumbled in to dust and citizens became bones bleached under the desert sun. From underneath the sands and the ruins he could hear a pounding sound, inviting and calling unto him, summoning Noam to its presence. The dreams continued, more and more demanding each night. Slowly a name echoed through the mists to his mind - Pteion the Damned, hidden in the dark lands of Stygia.

The black galley made its way southward, day after day. One evening a green glow was seen on the sea, slowly approaching the ship. The sight drove the Stygian sailors in the panic, causing a flurry of activity as men fled under the deck. Approached by the worried captain, the Nemedians were explained that the approaching glow was that of a sea demon, a vicious creature that enjoyed confusing sailors and making them run their ships aground. He told that the only way to be safe from its evil influences was to be unseen, beneath the deck until it would get bored and go away. With those parting words, the captain turned and ran in his cabin, leaving the foreigners alone on the deck, with the eerie glow slowly enveloping the water around the ship. Arguing what to do, the Nemedians decided to inspect the phenomenon further. Dionysos and Tyrus bent over the ships railing, but their sorcerous senses did not register anything. The men lowered a bucket in to the sea and lifted it up filled with water. The water in the bucket glowed as the sea around the ship, although weaker - but showed no other unusual signs.

While the others were examining the water, Alcemides sneaked in the deserted cargo hold where the sarcophagus had been taken in Messantia. Pulling back covering of the sarcophagus, the half-pict admired its rich carvings and occult decorations. It was obviously made completely from the finest jade and the snake motifs on its lid looked almost alive in the shadows of the hold. Dionysos joined Alcemides in admiring the sarcophagus, but upon seeing the face etched on to the lid the young Nemedian with Acheronian blood in his veins let out a little whimper and fled to the deck. As he was explaining to Tyrus and the rest that the ship was carrying remains of Xaltotun in its hold, Alcemides struggled with the heavy lid, finally pulling it a little aside. Peeking inside he saw a curious sight - a shriveled mummy wearing fresh, new silken clothes and upon its neck strapped a golden necklace with a huge red gem, that seemed to let out a slight glow of red light by itself.

As Tyrus climbed down to the hold, Alcemides was busy trying to cut off head of the corpse. The shriveled flesh proved to be surprisingly tough, making it hard for the half-pict to saw the neck with his blade. His attempts to open the golden necklace has failed, leading in to the next logical step - beheading the corpse. The eerie glow from the gem cast dark shadow across his scarred face, reflecting a manic gleam in his eyes. With great difficulty, the young sorcerer managed to convince him that beheading mummy of an ancient wizard was not the wisest of things to do. Standing by themselves on the deserted deck, with an eerie green glow casting dark shadows around them, the Nemedians engaged in a heated debate about what to do next. Alcemides urged them to seize the chance, grab the splendid necklace and escape from the ship with a boat to the coast of Shem. Dionysos and Noam were against such deeds, albeit for different reasons. The Acheronian argued that the necklace was most likely cursed - and if they'd escape with it, the Stygian priests would send terrible spells after them, making their lives short and miserable. Noam decreed that it was his destiny, as it was revealed by gods in his dreams, to go to Stygia and visit the damned city of Pteion that was calling unto him. Besides, it was obvious that he was cursed by the sorcerer his arrow had slain in Zingara and in Stygia, a land renowned for sorcery, the curse might be lifted.

The arguments flowed high and loud back and forth, as Alcemides had been captured by the beauty of the red gem. Tyrus became convinced by his arguments of great wealth within their grasp - obsessed as he was, Tyrus started to think that by possessing the gem he could use it to find more scrolls of Vathelos the Blind. Considerate as ever, Barathus tried to calm the opposing sides in vain. Wrestling ensued on the slippery deck, as Alcemides proclaimed that he would go to cut the gem for himself and Noam pounced on him, attempting to prevent him from going in the cargo hold. While the two struggled, Dionysos did his best to convince Tyrus to abandon the idea of theft. He reminded Tyrus of the deal they had done with Niccolo and that the mysterious information broker would tell them location of another set of scrolls once they passed through Messantia again on their way back to Nemedia. Thus going to Stygia was a more likely way of obtaining another part of the writings than running through the meadows of Shem with ire of the serpent priests on their heels. As Alcemides subdued Noam with a deceitful kick between the legs, he learned that he had lost his ally in the argument, the spell of the gem broken with carefully placed words that flamed the sorcerers obsession.

No longer supported by any of his companions, Alcemides finally admitted defeat. Yet still he was unable to comprehend how the other veterans could miss so obvious opportunity of great wealth within the grasp of their reach. He proclaimed that by passing on this opportunity they would miss their one and only great chance of receiving great treasures and walking out alive with them. As the ship would reach Stygia, the sarcophagus would surely be taken away to be guarded with swords and sorcery beyond their ability to penetrate. The dark lands of Stygia would surely have nothing but trouble and curses in stock for them - and the city of Pteion that Noam so foamed about would turn out to be nothing but an abandoned ruin haunted by demons of the worst kind. The half-pict swore to the others that surely this was an opportunity set before them by gods of the forests and nothing else would ever be handed to them again. Only scars and memories of horrors beyond mortal comprehension would be their rewards from the journey that they would now take on - and they would perish before blades of broadswords and tulwars in some nameless hellhole, no richer than they were at birth. Silent and grumpy, the men separated and went to sleep amidst the green glow and the words of Alcimedes ringing in their ears with a prophetic echoes.

The green glow - demon or not - had disappeared as the dawn shone on the galley again. Journey towards the serpent of the south carried onwards under the scorching sun. With every passing day, other black galley become a more and more common sight. Finally Thothmekri approached the Nemedians again, telling them that the ship would arrive at Khemi in a few days. The Stygian held a lecture at the men, informing them of the religious taboos and curious customs upheld with draconian laws. The priest recommended the Nemedians to first spend several days in the foreigners island outside the city proper before using the permits awaiting them for the first time. Trading licenses of the kind they would receive were extremely valuable in the right hands and using them lightly might well result in their deaths. Learning of the hygiene habits of Stygia, the men decided to shave as well when the sailors started to shed themselves of bodily hair two days before their expected arrival. Noam and Barathus refused to shave themselves completely bald, but others had no such objections.

In two days, the galley approached the river Styx and the dark city of Khemi. The spires and palaces of the inner city loomed against the morning sky in the distance and behind them the Nemedians could see the vague shapes of huge pyramids, somewhere in the desert further away. The sea carried strange and exotic noises and smells from the city that was both familiar and alien in appearance and spirit. Raised as they have been to believe that Set was a demon of worst kind and the Stygians some form of human monsters, the seemingly mundanity of the people working on the fields and fishing on the sea challenged their prejudices. Yet still strange obelisks and huge statues of bestial, threatening gods could be seen looming among the buildings of the Stygian city. The galleon rowed its way to a military harbor, where dozens of black ships both similar and larger were moored underneath dark bulwarks. A group of muscular black slaves guided by half a dozen acolytes of Set were waiting as the ship slowly docked. As the slaves entered the ship and headed down to the cargo hold, Thothmekri approached the Nemedians with one of the acolytes. The young priest of Set handed two papyrus scrolls to the Hyborians while Thothmekri explained that they were the trading permits he had promised them. He told that a boat would take them to Tortoise Island, a place of residence for foreigners with no permit to enter the city itself. From there on the men would be on their own, but they could send word for him at the House of Healing inside the city if they wished.

The Nemedians bid their farewells to Thothmekri, making their way on a boat where a naked slave waited to take them to the island. As the slave rowed the boat towards the island, the Nemedians saw the muscular slaves carry the jade sarcophagus away from the ship, perhaps to disappear inside one of the many pyramids that had surely swallowed many wonders like it during their long existence. Soon enough they had again land underneath their feet, as they wandered the narrow alleys of Tortoise Island. Dirty, half-naked mercenaries slumbered in shadows under the scorching sun that seemed to threaten to burn Hyborian skin to cinders.Eventually the Nemedians found their way to the best inn they could find on the island - a dirty place called the Yellow Rose. The men spent a few days just relaxing after the long journey and getting to know the local regulars. They were a ragged bunch from across the Hyborian nations and further away - mercenaries and cutthroats from north, a tomb robber from Shadizar and a strange Shemite dressed as a Darfar, with empty eye sockets but acting as he could see and a huge, sweating and panting wolf always at his feet.

Making plans and discussing their options the Nemedians soon found out that the trading season was only beginning. Caravans with silk and lotus would start to arrive to Khemi in a week or two, leaving them with nothing to do. Unwilling or unable to stay idle, the wanderers came up with a plan - to seek their fortune in the swamps nearby in the form of black lotus. After all, how dangerous could a flower be? Surely the chilling tales of its dangers were merely tales spun by those who wished others to stay away from their sources of the fabled drug. Dionysos speculated that by drying the lotus in to powder they could make a fortune if they could take it all the way to Nemedia - perhaps hidden inside crates of silk. In a few days they had hired a Stygian lotus guide to take them to places where black lotus was to be found.

In the evening before their departure to their trip, Noam and Alcemides learned that the eyeless Shemite was a mad storyteller known as Tawil At'Umr. He had been part of a mercenary company on the southern border of Stygia and went missing a few years ago after the mercenaries had been attacked by Darfars. All his companions had thought that he had died, but the man had suddenly appeared in Khemi half a year ago, blind but yet somehow able to act as if seeing and accompanied by a wolf. Ever since he had claimed that he had been enlightened by a goddess and given knowledge of things past and present. The madman spread forth insane tales for anyone willing to listen - and held those interested in some sort of spell, for they never left without leaving enough coin to pay for his room and food. Intrigued, Noam approached the blind man and asked if he knew anything about Pteion.

Smiling knowingly, the eyeless Shemite started telling a story of ancient times when the serpent kin of Valusia called the world their own. He told of their rites to appease the Old Serpent and strange, alien cities built in distant and hard to reach places. With a singing, powerful voice he told of how Atlantis was taken by the waves and how the blood of Atlantis clashed with the blood of Valusia. A baleful star shone upon red sky as the serpent people were struck down and their realm cast in to forgotten ruins and whispered legends. The city of Pteion, as it was called, was cursed and devoured by the sands of the deserts, waiting for another time. The new time came with the people who built the realm of Old Stygia and the sands of the desert parted, revealing Pteion again. The city was rebuilt and populated, new buildings constructed over the warrens of ages long gone. Yet again the red sky came and the baleful star watched down with merciless eyes as Pteion again fell and the sands devoured it again, cursed for the second time. Then came the ancestors of the Stygians, conquering the Old Stygians and fleeing some dire catastrophe far east. The sands of the desert parted and for the third time, Pteion was built under the naked sky. Yet still what had passed would come again and the baleful star appeared on the sky, cursing the city for the third time. Now it again slept under the sands, Pteion the Thrice-Cursed, Pteion the Damned, a relic of times far older than what men could remember.

Still smiling, the storyteller looked Noam in to eyes with his empty eye-sockets and told that the fourth appearance and the fourth cursing of Pteion would soon come to pass. The baleful star would once more gaze upon the world and the horrors and wonders of the old world would be again unburied. He told that the Nemedians would find Pteion if the city wanted them to come to it - old roads would appear from the desert sand and they would find their way in to the city. Yet to visit the damned city would mean to become damned or enlightened themselves - and most men, weak of will and faint of heart, would die shaking and with a froth of madness at their lips if they experienced the glory of Pteion at full. One by one all the Nemedians had arrived at the table to listen to the powerful story and one by one they left, leaving silver at the blind storyteller. Night came dark, cold and sudden. Noam slept uneasily and in his dreams, a baleful star gazed down from a blood-red sky.
Very good stuff, Majestic. I'm really enjoying it. Your adventures are interesting and entertaining, but what really sets you apart is your delivery. You're a great story teller. You simply must continue posting your session journals. If not, the rest of us are going to unite and hunt you down. ;)

Me personally as a gm, I'm good at creating excellent stories, as well as excellent characters (NPCs). My biggest shortcoming is, at best, I'm a mediocre story teller. I believe the great gms of the world are great story tellers. I wish I had that knack. Earlier in the thread, atmosphere was mentioned. The atmosphere you portray in these campaign reports is fantastic. I've had a few moments in my game where the atmosphere was breathtaking, but unfortunately those moments do not happen nearly as often as I would like. After reading this, my new area of focus as a gm is I'm going to try harder to set the atmosphere and tell a better story. The latter being as opposed to having a better story to tell. I never have problems finding good stories, it's the telling of them where in lies the biggest opportunity for improvement.

Just curious, how long are your sessions typically?
I absolutely agre; Majesic YOU CAN TELL A STORY.
Your ancesters nordic skalds who brightened up the long scandinavian winters with their tales of heroic deeds around a viking longhouse fire.
Ehm, thank you for all the praise, though I'm not sure if I really deserve it. I'm afraid the campaign report perhaps gives a better impression about the quality of the campaign than what it really is.

As a GM, I don't really count story telling as my main strength. Rather, I'm good at building interesting plots and NPCs. My weakness is playing those NPCs well enough - often things associated with the plot and the environment take over and I leave NPCs with too little attention. Thus I tend to be best at scenes with little NPC interaction. I've gamemastered some one-shots at cons with other GMs, with shared responsibilities so that s/he has taken care of NPCs and I've taken care of the plot and envinronments. That has worked quite well. Unfortunately, having a campaign with two GMs would be rather hard to arrange - hope I'll have opportunity to do that some day.

The campaign report now lags almost year behind the game.. guess I should try to find time and motivation to sit down and try to catch it.

Style said:
Just curious, how long are your sessions typically?

Hmm, that varies. In this Conan campaign we don't have any agreed-on play dates. We just play when I feel like it and schedules of most players happen to fit together. Usually this means we play twice a month on the average. At weekdays we usually being around 5 PM and end after midnight, sometimes dragging on at 2 AM or such. When we happen to play at weekend, we might start around 2 PM or such and still play pretty late. I guess on the average, the sessions are six to eight hours with one or two hours of not game-related chat and such on the top, especially as someone is always late.
Majestic7 said:
I've gamemastered some one-shots at cons with other GMs, with shared responsibilities so that s/he has taken care of NPCs and I've taken care of the plot and envinronments. That has worked quite well.

That's pretty intriguing. I bet that could work out real well with the right person.

Majestic7 said:
I guess on the average, the sessions are six to eight hours with one or two hours of not game-related chat and such on the top, especially as someone is always late.
OK, I don't feel so bad then. My sessions are only 2.5 to 3 hours. Most of your sessions would take me 2 sessions to complete, sometimes 3. I was starting to get paranoid that I was running things too slowly, but I figured you had to be playing significantly longer than me.

We try to play weekly, but inevitably things come up and it ends up being more like 1 every 2 weeks, or 2 every 3 weeks.
The campaign has migrated to Obsidian Portal, as I haven't had much interest in these forums anymore.

If you are interested in the game, check over there. Players are now partially responsible for writing session journal. The campaign page is currently undergoing rapid updating cycle.

ps. It would be nice to have a sticky post with links to various campaign journals etc. They can be a source of inspiration for many new GMs for both plots and NPCs.
No interest in the forums anymore? Did we tick you off? :(

Cool on another Conan wiki on Obsidian Portal! We're up to 8 now!!! :D
Just bumping up the thread to say the page on Obsidian Portal is pretty much finished. It now features most of the important NPCs and the adventure log has been illustrated. New adventure entries and character biographies will be added etc, but there's a lot more flesh on bones now than when I first put up the link on here.

Feel free to leave comments, suggestions, questions and insane ramblings inspired by the King in Yellow here or at the Obsidian Portal.