[CONAN] A Game In Argos

I'm starting a new Conan campaign, this one the exact opposite of my last. I'm going to focus on a large city and thieves this time instead of the wilderness and barbarians. Messantia is the city. I figured I'd get some use out of the boxed set. My plan is to set up a sandbox, plop my players into it, and just see what they do. No epic storyline this time. Just old school gaming--players allowed to roam free. Let's see what they do.

Here are some quick notes about Argos, Argosseans, and Messantia that I've taken to help me role play the place. In no particular order...



Women, in Argos, typically live under their father's rule until they are married, and then they live under their husband's rule.

Arranged marriages are common, though less so with peasants (since there is little or no dowry). Aristocratic women are almost always subjected to an arrange marriage.

Argossean tend to be docile and subservient, though there are always exceptions.

There is little social mobility in Argos, unless through marriage or the accumulation of wealth. To become noble, a person must show three generations of wealth. This is called the Three Fathers Rule.

Rarely do people from different social status socialize--remember how Argosseans feel about their Reputation.

Social status is usually lost if a person loses his wealth. Bankrupt Argosseans sometimes become gladitaors, as the galditorial games are not usually fought to the death.

Mitra - The majority of Argosseans worship the Hyborian god, Mitra. Remember the priest from the Age of Conan game in Tortage. He was a priest of Mitra.

Worshippers believe Mitra to be The One True God. There are no other gods in the pantheon, and Mitrans look upon all others as false gods.

Mitra is worshipped throughout the Hyborian lands, not just in Argos.

Tolerance - The cities and coastal area of Argos is very cosmopolitan, and there is quite a tolerance for other religions (which is typically not true in kingdoms where Mitra is the dominate religion). The farther one gets from the sea, the more intolerant the locals become of faiths other than that of Mitra.

Bel - Bel is a Shemite god. He is the god of thieves. He is quite popular in Argos, worshipped by smugglers, thieves, pirates, and fences. The most popular symbol of Bel is an eagle carrying a bolt of lightning in its claws, symbolizing that Bel can steal the power even from other gods.

It's interesting the priest of Bel are not weak. Typically, the priests of this god are converted from former pirates or thieves or soldiers. Most priests of Bel are quite good in one-on-one combat.

Some priests of Bel, called the Asu, are herbalists and healers. They sometimes move among the poor, providing their healing talents for free. What a great way to recruit believers!

The Guardians - There are several "armies" in Argos. The high nobles maintain their own armies, and the king maintains his standing army. Any one army is small compared to that of other Hyborian nations, but together, the united armies of Argos would field a force that is tens of thousands strong.

The Guardians are the only nation-wide force in the kingdom. They are chosen by lot from the populace to serve the kingdom for several years--a type of draft or conscription. There are 700-800 Guardians in and around Messantia, with like numbers around the other major cities and along the border.

The King will also hire mercenary armies in times of conflict, as Argos is a rich nation.

The biggest power of the kingdom, though, is its standing navy. Argos is rarely attacked by its neighbors not because of the ground armies but because attackers fear retalliation by sea (and trade embargoes). The Argossean navy is the most powerful in the known world.

Coastal Freemen - All Argossean coastal freemen are required to receive some level of military training, and, provided they have no dependants and are not business owners, to spend two years as soldiers or sailors. This is not a requirement of non-coastal Argossean Freemen.

Social Standing - Social status in Argos is relative to wealth. Typically, these are the social ranks, from highest to lowest. Rank and status in this kingdom means quite a bit. It's definitely who you know, here.

1. King
2. Nobles of merchant houses and interior fiefs.
3. Wealthy merchants and ship captains.
4. Coastal Free Men.
5. Laborers, peasants, and serfs.
6. Gladiators and slaves.

Clothing - Argos has a warm climate, typically, so linen, cotton, and light wool are used for most garments. White or muted colors. Not flashy at all.

Men usually wear a robe that is knotted in the front, with a cape slung over the shoulders. Some robes look a bit like today's bath robes. The cape is a status symbol. It is usually of heavier, better material. Those that can afford it have it heavily embroidered. This cape is called a tebenna.

Women wear long tunics that hang to their feet. This is usually made of light material, pleated, and decorated along the edges. A shawl of heavier material is worn, and this can be colorful (like the men's cape).

Footwear: Typically high sandals, ankle boots, or shoes with upward curving toes.

Hats: Country folk and those from the interior usually wear hats. The coastal people don't, except for nobles, who can have quite elaborate hats.

Status clothing: Besides what I note above, the wealthy are usually easy to spot because of their dress. They tend to dress more splendidly than common folk. Materials, like silk, are used. They wealthy also wear jewelry.

Hair - Men typically have short hair. Beards and moustaches are not uncommon, but there's plenty of clean shaven men, too. Probably goes with their culture tendency towards being clean.

Women wear their hair long--at least to the shoulder. Long hair will be knotted sometimes in fantastic designs among the more wealthy. It is not uncommon to see a woman with items interlaced in her hair--flowers, jewelry, and other glittery things.

Tile is a common food available almost anywhere (like a taco in Mexico). It is fried fish wrapped in flat bread, served with a relish of olives and peppers. Sounds good!

Gladiators: Gladitorial games are very popular. Slaves and prisoners are forced to fight. But, interestingly enough, the condemned are not allowed to be Gladiators. Instead, condemned men are put to death in imaginitive and horrible ways.

Nobles will sometimes solve disputes through a gladitorial game.

Clean: Argossean culture emphasizes being clean. Probably goes with their thought that dirtiness leads to sickness. Also, makes sense with their outlook on Reputation.

Slaves - Argos is a heavy slave-trading kingdom, not only to support the gladitorial games in the various cities. Slaves can be sorted into three types: Labor, Pleasure, and Sport. Women and children slaves are preferred.

Herbalists - Herbal remedies are common.

Healers - Healers are considered public servants. They are not called "doctors". They have low social status. Some surgeons exist, but they are somewhat hard to find.


Argosseans do not judge themselves. Their esteem comes from what others think of them. A person's Reputation is very important to an Argossean.

Here's the interesting part: The Reputation is only important if other people see the actions of the person. When people are not looking, then an Argossean may not act the same way.

This reminds me of women who cheat on their husbands. They don't want their friends thinking that they are a *****. A friend catching them would be devestating. But, as long as nobody knows, they proceed to do what they wouldn't if everybody knew about it.

So, yeah, an Argossean will **** over a person--but only if that action won't hurt him in the eyes of the people he thinks matters.

If nobody is looking, then an Argossean will do whatever he wants.

If the right people are looking--the ones that effect an Argossean's Reputation--then the Argossean will act in a way that the onlookers would approve.

I imagine that an Argossean who tithes a large sum of coin to the Church would not do it anonymously. The Argossean would make sure that the people who define his Repuation would all find out about how generous the Argossean had been.

Interesting people.


The cities in Argos are quite liberal. Most anything goes (but the Reputation aspect of Argossean culture keeps them in line most of the time). Outside the cities, the people are fairly friendly, and the kingdom as a whole is pretty peaceful, as far as these things go. It's bad for business to go otherwise, and the large merchant Houses strive to keep business good.

The feudal lords in the kingdom are quite powerful, and many people outside the great cities consider themselves members of their lord's Barony or Duchy first and citizen of Argos second. Most all Argosseans outside the cities owe allegiance to their noble lord. And order of preference would be: Lord, Family, then the Kingdom of Argos.


Argosseans believe that excess leads to illness. Drinking too much or eating too much leads to a unhealthy body, they believe. And, large, even obese people are looked down upon because of this. Argosseans are typically quite fit. They care too much what their neighbor thinks of them.


Argos is on the southern edge of the Hyborian lands, south of Zingara. See the Barachan Isles off the coast of Zingara? This is where Tortage is located.

There are no less than sixteen major ports along the coast, of which Messantia is the largest, a city of 35,000 people. Arguably, Argos is the major sea power in the Known World. But, the sea isn't the kindom's only source of trade. Note how the Khorotas River runs south, to Messantia, after touching the heartland of the Hyborian kingdoms. (Think a huge river, like the Nile or the Mississippi.) Either it, or other major rivers that merge into it, touch Brythunia, Nemedia, Aquilonia, and Ophir.

Notice the Road of Kings. It starts, north out of Messantia, through Zingara, into Aquilonia, then Nemedia, through a pass in the Karpash Mountains into Corinthia, past the South Karpash Mountains into Zamora near the borders of Koth and Khauran, into the Great Eastern Desert and the city state of Zamboula, into Turan, ending at that kingdom's capital of Aghrapur. This--the most major or trade routes in the known world--touches almost every major trading nation in the world. Between the Road of Kings, the Khorotas River, and the coast on the Western Ocean, it seems that great Mitra himself blessed Argos with the world's trade. Ophir may be the richest kingdom in the Known World, due to its gold mines, and Aquilonia may be the most powerful, due to its standing army, but Argos is king of mercantilism.

The chief competitor on the seas are the privateers of Zingara. The city states of Shem are not united enough to become a peer of Argos on the seas. The ships of Stygia are too few. And, although feared, the Black Corsairs of the Black Kingdoms pale in comparison to the combined might of the pirates of the Barachan Islands.

Argossean sailors primarily setteled the Barachans, and the Pirates of the Red Hand, though, indeed pirates, have a soft spot for home. Argossean vessels are typically ignored by the Barachan Pirates (who prefer to focus on Zingara's fleet), and Argos turns a welcoming hand to the Barachans when in Argossean ports. In Messantia, Barachans openly make port and do business with their cargoes.

What a wonderful place, eh, for a thief to ply his trade!

- Geography & Politics at a Glance -

Besides the means of natural trade, Argos is blessed with items to export. The Kingdom is littered with forests, providing wood for ships. North and west of the Khorotas, Argos is fairly flat, fertile, and pastoral. Several farms and orchards dot the landscape. The Oak forest that separates Argos from Zingara is said to be ghoul infested. But, that is one of Argos' few internal problems as the kingdom rarely sees civil uprisings.

South and east of the Khorotas, the land becomes more hilly, with low mountains on the border with Shem and Ophir. The land is arid and part desert near the coast (and you can see this in the recent Conan movie when Conan leaves on horseback through the wastland dotted by ruins).

Politically, Argos is ruled by a loose King. King Milos has his palace in the port city of Messantia. The kingdom is ruled by a tight feudal system where the Dukes and Counts and Barons rule their territories with little interference from the King. Most territories even mint their own money, and although a kingdom, the system used seems to be more of a republic where the various territories have banded together for mutual protection and trade.

Over the centuries, the true power in the kingdom resides in the hands of the fabulously wealth merchant Houses. The Houses control the nobles, and the nobles control the land. In many cases, the Houses are the nobles. But, this system works well in that there is no profit in civil war. The Houses may backstab each other, employ assassins, and use poisonous toxins, but all-out internal war is unheard of in Argos. It hurts the economy as a whole, and everybody loses.

Thus, there is no real standing army in Argos. Each of the Houses and nobles have their own armies for the areas that they control. King Milos employs a Royal Guard, but this unit is small compared to the armies of most kingdoms. Mercenaries are employed when needed. And, when things heat up with Zingara, an Argossean unit of mercenaries called the Guardians will guard the north and western border with Zingara. This unit is bolstered by conscription from all of the territories and is said to be loyal to the crown rather to any House or noble faction.

The Argosseans were originally a Hyborian people, though they have intermarried with many other races, particularly the Zingarans (think Spanish) and to a lesser extent the Shemites (think Middle Easteners).

Most Argosseans are stocky and short. They make superb sailors, traders, and pirates. Renegade Argossean sailors have colonised the Baracha Islands (where Tortage sits), turning them into one of the greatest havens for piracy in all the seas.


Argos is a country of wo contrasting cultures. All the seaports are cosmopolitan, with the capital, Messantia, being the most open-minded of all, while the inland provinces are filled with farmers, craftsmen and laborers who are friendly enough but wary of strangers.

Argos is a noted trading nation of sharp-eyed, silk-clad merchants, not all of whom remain strictly within the law--smuggling and piracy are often tolerated. The law is said to be lax, although occasionally an example is made of foreigners.

Argos is regarded as a proud and avaricious kingdom. The racial mixture with the Zingarans is more extensive than with the Shemites. Argos and Zingara have an ancient feud that works itself out in their attempts to be the dominant sea nation. Zingaran pirates raid the coast of Argos, just as the Argosseans and the Barachans raid Zingara.

Argos allies itself with many City States in Shem, from time to time.


Like most Hyborian kingdoms, Argos' main god is Mitra (remember the Mitran priest in Tortage?). However, its nature as a cosmopolitan trading nation means that pockets of worship of the Shemite and Kothic gods are also tolerated.
Illiterate - Most of the subjects in the rural parts of the nation cannot read or write. Where, as, with the coastal people, literacy is quite comon. In interior Argos, written contracts count for little, but a man's word is his bond. Oaths are taken more seriously than any formal law.

A person's reputation is as real as a castle but vastly more important. A castle can be rebuilt, but a wounded reputation may never reclaim its original height.

Mitran Education - The priests of Mitra are know to educate the poor. This is the primary way the interior citizens learn to read and write--those that can.

Interior Poor - The vast majority of the Argosseans in the interior of the nation are quite poor, living a subsistence level existence. Typically, these are serfs living and working their lord's land.

Tight Fisted - Argosseans typically take great pride in their nation, wealth, art, infrastructure, and architecture. But, their civic pride ends at their coin purses. There are no charities in Argos, no orphanages, and beggars receive most of their alms from people of other lands.

Tithes of Bel - It is common practice, though, for the followers of Bel to pay a tithe of 1sp per character level, per month, to the local priest of Bel.

Mitra - Mitra demands that worshippers stand upright before him instead of prostrating themselves. And, the god does not require either man or beast as a sacrifice. He is a god of rights and justice. Most kingdoms that adopt his worship have some sort of minimal human rights that applies to even the lowliest of peasants. The religion empowers people to battle oppression and seek out true justice. Mercy and forgiveness are preached.

Some believe that last part (mercy and forgiveness on the battlefield) sparked the code of Chivalry among the Hyborians.

Honest, hard work, rather than soldiering or raiding, are venerated.

Mitran Temples - are typically plain--not flashy at all. Clean, and simple. Practical.
More on Women - Some Argossean women find their way into professions normally reserved for men. Women outnumber men in Argos. Many who do this learn the trade from their father or from their husband, carrying on after his death. It's a bit easier for women to do this in Argos than in other Hyborian nations. And, its easier to do this in the interior of Argos rather than in the cosmoplitan coastal region.

Women, although rarely becoming masters, are expected to take arms and defend the family is necessary. Thus, many women are taught the use of weapons.

Marriage is typically the most important event in a woman's life, whether to her or to her family.

Thieves - Argosseans have high regard for property laws, which makes sense given their need for Reputation (Look how BIG my house is!). And, Argossean culture has a dogmatic adherence to fair pay for fair work. Thus, they consider theft a terrible sin.

This does not carry to mercantile canniness where a merchant masters a deal that is pratically theft. Nor does it extend to smuggling, which has a long and storied history in Messantia. This attitude is directed at the more common forms of theft: burglary, robbery, mugging, banditry, shoplifting, pocket-picking, purse-snatching, and the like.

Yes, these things happen, especially in the rough parts of cities, but the majority of Argossean thieves (who have grown up in the Argossean culture) tend to be assassins, confidence artists, embezzlers, forgers, smugglers, and kidnappers.

Also interesting is that Argosseans tend to turn a blind eye piracy but not to banditry.

Cities - Major cities in Argos use sewers to avoid disease. Underground water pipes, along with pressure boxes, are used. Aqueducts are also used. There is also a form of under-floor heating in the winter months using heated water run through pipes. Argossean architecture features pillars and arches.

Upper class housing usually features an open area in the center with the house surrounding it. This courtyard is called a "harbor". Rooms lead off from it. Houses are typically single story and use stone for the foundation, with frames of wood and clay plastering on the walls.

Trading Season - Tied to coastal merchant shipping, starts in late spring and ends in early fall. Some Stygian ports are temporarily open to Argossean trading ships during this season.
So....what are the forum's thoughts on the Argossean written language? What does it look like? How can I describe it in a game?

Obviously, it's a Hyborian tongue. According to the RPG, it is related to the languages used in Nemedia, Brythunia, Ophir, Corinthia, Hyperborea, Koth, Zingara, and Aquilonia--all the Hyborian kingdoms.

My first thought was to use a pseudo-ancient Greek look for my descriptions:


And use pseudo-Latin to represent the basis of the Hyborians.
I am thinking of including a lightly powered Thieves Guild in Messantia that will be at odds with the PCs. Almost every profession has a guild--why not a secret one, devoted to thieves, patterned after the major guilds? I'm sure, with Messantia's sordid history, that there must have been a society of smugglers for hundreds of years.

But, then again, Argosseans do not look kindly at traditional thieves. The people of Argos take their wealth seriously, and they believe in a fair day's wage for a fair day's work, and all that.

So, I'm thinking of a thieves guild that is not that powerful, but trying to make its mark among the night crawlers. And...maybe they've just made an agreement with the Red Hand? This would give the Thieves Guild some new found strength.

I know little about the Red Hand at this point. I think it was Iron Shadows in the Moon that they were mentioned. And, that was on the Vilayet.

Does the Red Hand operate in the Western Ocean? I remember them in Tortage in the Age of Conan online game.

If not, then maybe they're trying to establish a presence on this coast?

Questions, questions.
Wine - Argos produces fine wines that compete with some of the best vinyards in the world.

Slaves - The average Argossean cannot afford slaves. They can't afford to feed them. So, Argosseans have large families to take care of all the work. The merchant and noble Houses consider slavery a necessity, though. The number of slaves a person has can be bragging rights among the upper class.

The Law is that slaves cannot be killed unless the slave has tried to escape. A recaptured escaped slave is usually branded as such.

Gladiators - They are part of the lowest strata of society in Argos as they are slaves, but in many ways, they are treated better than other types of slaves. Since they are investments, they are given three high protein and high fat meals per day. Their medical care is on par with the wealthy. Some of them are allowed to win purses in competitions. Not all fights are fights to the death--in fact, many fights are not fatal. They are allowed to have relationships with women (even become married), and they are allowed to have children. Some can win their freedom by winning the Wooden Sword.

Gladiators are the sports stars of Argossean culture. It's not uncommon for young people to hang out at the gladitaor schools, taking lessons from the gladiators. Argossean women pay to share their beds with them.

Some Free Citizens become gladitors for a number of reasons: as a means of paying debt, for example.

Female gladiators are sometimes seen. They can be pitted against dwarves and midgets in comical games, or against other females in more brutal games. Against males, females typically fight two-on-one, or the female will fight from the back of a chariot.

Police - Messantia employs a police force called, simply, The Patrol. They move in groups of two or four, normally. The uniform is brown boots and breeches, a pale blue sleeved coat under a leather jerkin on which is emblazoned the wave and coin emblem of Messantia, above a number of stripes which indicate the Patrolman's rank. A leather cap completes the uniform. Typically, Patolmen are armed well armed with poinard and broadsword. They also carry manacles and copper whistles.

Royal Guard - The Patrol loses some of its best men to the higher pay and greater priviledges of the Royal Guards. They wear breastplates and scale hauberks with steel caps. Most of them are quite experienced (4-6 level Soldiers). The Elite of the Royal Guard are the King's Hand--the King's personal body guards.

Military - The Argosseans depend on the feudal system to field an army. King Milo, with as little as one day's warning, can fild an army of 5,000 to 10,000 men by gathering his bannermen.

Guardians - Are the small Argossean army charged with guarding the borders of the kingdom. Around 500 troops can be mustered at the important defensive points. Messantia has about 700-800 Guardians in and around the city.

Navy - The Argossean Navy is 500 ships strong, 200 of which are large warships. On any given day, Messantia will boast as many as 20 warships, ready to defend the capital.
Law - Argossean law is complex because of the multiple jurisdictions.

Coastal Cities: The coastal cities all have their own legal systems, customs, and laws, based on their original charters (and dense history as city-states before that), freeing them from the feudal system.

The kingdom's interior is subject to three types of jurisdictions--

Manorial Law, which is the law of the feudal system.

Temple Law, which is the law of the powerful (once almost all-powerful) Mitran church.

King's Law, which is the law of the land, as decreed by the king.

Typically, the order above is the order of relative prominence.

In the eyes of the law, some men are better than others. Laws vary based on social standing, and favor is given to higher classes.

Customs are strong with the peoples of the Interior, and sometimes these customs are at odds with the current law. Yet, the customs are the will of the people, and it is a wise ruler who keeps the populace at large happy.

Courts - Only apply to free peoples. Serfs and slaves do not use the courts--they are subject to manorial law (the decision of their lord). Trials by jury are rare (the juries are not trusted--too easily manipulated in this culture). In any case, when there are juries, they act only as advisors to the final judge (usually the lord). Punishment can be quite harsh, even for the most minor of crimes.

Executions usually begin wih a public display of torture (meant as a deterrent), such as being partially hung, then disembowelled, then castrated. Once the torture is finished, the condemed is beheaded, and his head is shoved on a pole while his limbs are cut from his dead body and sent to the places affected by the person's crime.

Prison is typically not used because upkeep is too expensive. It's cheaper to mutilate and execute someone. Sends a stronger message about breaking the law, too.

Sorcery - is outlawed by Temple Law. About three generations ago (close to 100 years), sorcerers were purged from Argos in a kingdom wide Inquisition. Today, sorcerers exist, but only in complete secrecy.
I didn't realize the full scope at first, but Argos is turning out to be the ideal place (most versatile) to base a campaign. You've got large cities on the coast, with ports, for city adventures. The interior of Argos is quite feudal, with serfs and lords--a perfect place to set traditional D&D type fair, with the land full of caves and keeps and ruins. The ruins, all about, are from ancient Archeron and the other civilizations that have lived in the same area.

There are thick forests all around the interior and the large, wide, Khorotas River. Mountains on the border with Zingara. Deserty, hilly, broken lands on the border with Shem. Even a swamp or two. All different terrains in which to set adventures.

Then, with the port, it's not that hard to have a sea-based adventure, or travel north, up the coast to adventure in the Pictish wilds or among the red-haired Vanir. Or, go south, into the city-states of Shem, or into ancient, dark Stygia, or even farther south, into the savage Black Kingdoms.

The Road of Kings starts at Messantia and travels through the heart of the Hyborian kingdoms--again, another easy path to take the game somewhere else for a while then bring it back.

Almost all types of adventure can be had here, by using Argos as a hub.
My first thought was to just plop the players down into Messantia and let them loose. As it turns out, I've got four players, and three have never played, or really read, Conan before. So, I figured I'd better modify my initial thoughts and go with something simple right at first, as a prelude to the characters reaching Messantia.

I still wanted to go with the "sandbox" flavor, but on a smaller scale. I stumbled upon the perfect adventure for my needs. Back when 3E was first published, Atlas Games, under their Penumbra banner, published a very clean, very simple little sandbox called Thieves In The Forest. Since my new Conan campaign is thief focused, it caught my eye.

As written, the scenario is extremely basic. The PCs happen upon a small village that is being harried by bandits. PC do-gooders become the champions of the town by rooting out the bandits. The adventure is basically a big map, with the town in the center, and a number of encounter locations spread out along the roads, trails, and river on the map. The PCs are let loose in this sandbox with the ultimate goal of wiping out the bandits.

OK, simple enough, but I need to Conan-ize it for my game.

So, here are my thoughts at the moment...

My players will begin the game on the road to Messantia. I'm not going to tell them that I'm starting with this prelude adventure. So, I'll need something--some type of motivation--to get the players interested in snooping around this starter-sandbox and going up against the bandits. My plan is to set up a first encounter where the PCs meet some of these thieves on the road and are robbed. I'm not going to try to kill them. The encounter, I envision to be heavy on the roleplaying and likely, but not absolutely destined, to break out into combat. I'm going to make the bandits strong with the goal of capturing the PCs. But, if the PCs fight well or get lucky, then maybe they'll wipe out these bandits.

Likely, the bandits win, and they'll take everything of value from the PCs. I'm going to roleplay the bandits in such a way, trying to get under the players' skins. I want the players to want to take vengeance on the bandits.

In other words, the key to getting the PCs to stick around is to make it personal.
There's only a handful of encounters in the adventure. One is a wereboar, but he's neutral to the PCs. He doesn't have to fight the PCs unless circumstances dictate it. I'm thinking of that witch in the '82 Conan film that seemed to be a were-something. Maybe a were-cat. I'm going to play this guy like that. He'll be neutral to the PCs. He may help them, and he may not. It just depends on how it all plays out. The PCs may never know that he is a were-something.

And, I think I'll change it from a wereboar to something a little more sexy. I think I'll just keep it mysterious and not name it. If they see the guy change, then I'll describe how he looks and let the players try to guess what he is.

The more fanciful creatures, I'll take out. There's an Ochre Jelly in the Thieves hideout. That's gone. There's some mutated Yellow Mold that I'm undecided about. I may take it out, but then again, it covers a chest--so the PCs will know that they're up against something if they try to open it. All of the magic perks, I take out. All magical armor is ignored, and magical weapons are changed to their normal counterparts. I turn magic rings into silver or brass--something the PCs can sell. I lower the amount of money the PC will get from downing foes and exploring. These Argosseans are serfs. They've got no coin, and if they've got no coin, then the bandits have little to steal from them. Treasure is lowered from 10% to nothing, depending on what makes sense. Which is why I'm considering keeping the Mold. The players will be damn hungry for treasure, and the mold presents a challenge for them.

There's a Harpy in a tree near one of the roads. I've been thinking about digging through the Conan Beastiary and trying to find something that fits the Hyborian Age a bit better, but I may keep the Harpy. I haven't fleshed it out yet, but I'm thinking that Sorcery is at work here. Sorcery is frowned upon in Argos,and in some of the cities, it's illegal. But, sorcery has returned, and evil attracts evil--so this creature from the Outer Dark has entered this world and perched in that tree. I'm still considering all of this. I like the evil begets evil aspect, though.
With the bandits, I want to add a bit more depth to them. Since three quarters of my players aren't very familiar with Conan, I'm going to bring in a reference to the recent 2011 movie. I figure that Khalar Zym was a bandit leader become warlord in these parts, then he became a "Shadow Lord". Since there's no real definition of a "Shadow Lord", I'm going to have to make it up. These are things that will be introduced here but revisited and built upon later in the campaign.

As far as the bandits go, here's what I'm thinking: When Zym was in power, he had his supporters among some of the lords in interior Argos. The County/Barony/Duchy that the players are now in (I haven't worked out all the details yet) supported Zym back at the height of his power. But, Zym fell a few years ago. The story doesn't mention a barbarian that took his life in the Skull Cave on the coast, but what everybody knows is that King Milo led a force of combined forces against Zym's army at Khor Kalba (a Acheronian ruin on the coast near the Argos/Shem border). Zym's forces broke without any leadership and spread to the four winds or were killed. And, Zym disappeared--some say that he's still out there trying to rebuild what he had (few know that Conan killed him).

For an Argossean, reputation is paramount. Those nobles closely linked with Zym felt the heat when Zym's power evaporated almost over night.

This County/Barony/Duchy where the PCs travel, somewhere north of Messantia, is broke. And that state is one of the most embarrassing among a people who put on airs. So, this particular noble came up with a plan. He created the bandit group, and through them, the noble is trying to rebuild his wealth from that of his serfs.
Gravin, the Priest, will become a Priest of Mitra. He's in the village. And, I might change his name to something like Gravino.

The Bugbear encounter I'm going to change to Borderers. They'll be hunters, living out in the wood. I might even make them poachers, hiding out from the lord's men, living off the local lord's deer and wildlife.

With Clombush the Ogre, I've got an idea. I'm going to make him a giant of a man. Big. Muscled. But, also a simpleton. He'll be retarded or just slow. He's the local lord's blood--his son. But, the lord dis-owned him, and had him taken to the woods to die. Somehow, he survived, though. He lives in a cave. The people in the town know of him. Some are afraid of him. They call him "The Ogre".

I'm also toying with two more ideas for Clombush. I'm thinking that he might be gifted with second sight, and when the PCs encounter him, I can use him to spout off some cryptic clue to their adventures ahead. Or, the other idea is to have Clombush think that he has second sight, but really it's just the fantasy of boy in a man's body. Through roleplaying, though, I'd try to sell it as if Clombush's power is real. If the players buy what I'm selling, it would be fun to just make up some random mumbo jumbo and see how the players react to it. Could be a hoot.

There's a ferret trainer and a Giant Ferret in the Thieves' Den. For some reason, I want to keep that, though I may change the type of animal. A big dire wolf might be more appropriate. I've just got this picture in my head of a man straining to pull on the leash of this salivating beast, then letting him go. The thing tears up the earth, foliage ripped to shreds, bee-lining for one of the PCs. Talk about a Demoralize Other check!

There are a few Barbarians in the adventure, but I think I'll turn them into a group of escaped slaves, hiding out away from the big cities--maybe trying to leave the kingdom. It will be interesting to see what the players do with these guys if they encounter them. Will they help them escape? Leave them alone? Or, capture them and return them to Messantia? Who knows, with this group.

The thieves are camped out in an abandoned temple to some generic Sun god--which is perfect for an old, abandoned temple to Mitra. There's a crypt with the dead priests, and a ghoul haunts the place. I think I'll keep that. I'll seal the crypt and make it so the bandits could not have entered--and if the PCs find a way in, they'll be the first in that dark, dusty, dank place in many years.

Lastly, there's another were-creature in the Thieves' hideout. He's supposed to be a visitor (though the module does not tell us much more about him). I'm thinking of this guy being the source of evil that has fallen on the place. I'm thinking he's a liason to some secret, sorcerous group--something that I can expand upon later in the campaign. He's the reason the Harpy has been attracted to this place. Maybe he's a Stygian Priest, or follower of some dark god out of Shem. Baby killer. Commits human sacrifices. Not sure where this is going, yet, but it is dark. A hook to be fleshed out later in the game.

And, that's it. Those are my conversion notes to make the adventure more appropriate for the Hyborian Age. I've got a little bit of everything in there--a nice appetizer displaying things to come. I've got some hooks for later, and many of the encounters could blow up into something very interesting depending on PC actions. Surely, there's enough combat there, too.

It hasn't gotten by me that the players may try to join the bandits instead of trying to root them out of the area (as the PCs are mostly thieves), which is why the first encounter is so important. I've got to anger the PCs against the bandits so that, through their own motivation, they seek out and destroy the bandits.

I need a contingency plan, too, in case my first encounter doesn't work. I can see the players visiting the town, then getting up the next day and traveling back down the road towards Messantia, leaving the town to its problems. I need to come up with something interesting--some encounter--giving them a second chance to consider taking out this group of bandits. Otherwise, the adventure is ignored.

I'm also thinking of placing some lead to Messantia as a reward in the game. The PCs take the bandit camp and find papers mentioning fence or an information broker in Messantia. The PCs can go into the city looking for this guy, and he'll be a recurring NPC--an ally of sorts. A contact. A person to off-load stolen goods, or someone where they can find out about choice jobs.

Or, maybe the PCs just find out about a job that the bandits were looking to hit next. I could use this to lead right into The God In The Bowl, but set in Messantia instead of Nemedia.

The weakest part of this is to get the players interested in destroying the bandits without railroading them. I want it to be the players' choice to do so. Need to think on that more.
I'm thinking of expanding on the aftermath of the fall of Khalar Zym. Maybe putting some meat onto what a "Shadow Lord" is, linking it to ancient Acheron, and expanding on the order of witches that Zym's wife and daughter belonged to.

I might plant that seed and see if my players bite on it somewhere down the line.