[CONAN] Conan And The Shrunken Head

Here's a little something that both might be fun and might help with my campaign.....

As you may or may not know, I'm running a campaign set during the Hyborian Age, focusing on a clan of Cimmerians, using Mongoose's Conan The Barbarian Roleplaying Game Second Edition.

I'm creating the next adventure for my crew, and it features exploration of an abandoned Witch's hut that they are going to find out in the deep, dark woods. Of course, the players will not know it's a Witch hut at first--I'm setting up a mystery. Who lives here? Why do they live all alone? What is all that stuff? Wait....I smell sorcerery!

The place is made of twisted limbs and weeds, almost as if the hut grew out of the foilage. How did the owner get that to happen? There are fetishes and trinkets all over the place. Jars with....what? Animal organs? A large tree outside has had its bark replaced with all these dead birds, tacked to the tree, full wingspan displayed.

You get the idea.

Inside, the characters are going to find a curious item: It's a shrunken head on a leather loop. A necklace. The head is about the size of an egg (the type you crack open and have for breakfast). Remember that large stone--the Serpent's Eye--that first Valeria then Conan wears around their neck in the 1982 Conan movie? That's about how big I'm thinking this head looks.

Inspection of the head shows that it is expertly carved out of wood--what type of wood, it's hard to tell--nothing from around here. These Cimmerian woodsmen would know. Exotic wood. Or, maybe it's petrified. Either way, it has a sense of extreme age about it.

As it should be, I rarely put sorcererous items into my Conan game, but with this head....I'm thinking it should be something special. Now, I don't want it to be UNIMAGINABLY POWERFUL, like the Mask of Acheron or the Heart of Ahriman. I'm thinking more like that gem in the 1982 movie--the Serpent's Eye. I always got a sense that it was imbued with some magical property--but I could never decide what.

I've got a couple of ideas for this head in my game, but I don't want to share them right now. I want to hear if you have any fresh ideas--anything that just speaks "Conan".

I'm also thinking that this might be an item that the character who finds it will keep, and possibly wear, for a long time without finding out "what it does".

As for its function, I'm thinking the sorcerous power is either someting mild that helps or hinders the character in the game (for example, a +1 or +2 to all Bluff checks--but as GM, I'll never tell the player that he's getting the bonus), or its something meant for a specific purpose (it's a key...bring it in front of a certain door, and the head utters a sentence that freaks everyone out as it opens the door).

Don't let those two ideas sway your creative process.

What do you think this head should be? What seems "right" for a Conan game?

Get creative. Use your noggin.

What's your input?
Alright this is what I am thinking.

I see the shrunken head as something out of the movie Pumpkinhead. It is used by the witch at someones request to exact revenge or for murder. I would call the shrunken head the Simulacrum of Doom.

To add to your mystery the pc's will find a small fenced off garden behind the hut. The fence can be made out of the same twisted limbs and branches as the hut. Inside the fenced off garden will be nothing but mud/clay. There will be nothing growing in the garden at all, not even weeds. The ground is forsaken and devoid of any life, including worms or bugs. Being that the pc's are tribal barbarians they would be able to tell that the desolate soil in the garden is incapable of sustaining life. The pc's will also find a couple of places in the forlorn ground that has been disturbed. Investigation reveals that something has burrowed out of the earth in these different spots. How long ago and how many of these spots is up to the gm. In one of these spots (the most recently disturbed) if the pc's dig or snoop around they will notice that the natural water moister found in the earth is actually blood....yes this forsaken garden is bad news.

In times of great distress or dire need Cimmerian Chieftains (against their better judgment and the council of their advisors/shaman) would seek out this witch in the woods to exact revenge against someone who wronged them or to dispatch of a bitter rival who threatens their rule. (I envision the chieftain to be at the end of his rope and to seek the witch out of purely selfish reasons. Maybe he covets the wife of a trusted ally and seeks her husband's death or he fears a young upstart who threatens his rule...but that is me) What other costs are involved for invoking this terrible curse is up to you. But the price to pay for this kind of evil is always high.

The ritual is relatively simply as the witch takes the Simulacrum of Doom and some blood from the requesting party and plants it in the garden. In whatever time the gm wishes (6days, 1 full moon later) the earth vomits forth a hideous beast (gm's call on the creature) that resembles the shrunken head albeit much larger and seeks and destroys the intended target of the requesting person. When the creatures is finished with its bloody task it returns to the garden where it burrows into the earth and is transformed back into the shrunken head.

The pc's would have no way of knowing this just by owning the shrunken head. But maybe through some investigation or a run in with a tribal leader who has used the witch's service before and spots the shrunken head around the pc's neck...

The Simulacrum of Doom itself can also have other properties (some kind of +1 or +2 buff) but that is up to you.

I was also thinking one of the powers of the item would be that if the wearer of the Simulacrum of Doom is killed the item will automatically summon forth the creature to hunt down the wearers murderer. So maybe the pc's are lucky they just found the head and not killed the witch while she was wearing it.

There is a lot of ways you can go with this.

I don't know it was just what I was thinking would be cool.
I'm thinking about making this a true Cimmerian relic or sorts: The Head of Duncan.

In my Cimmerian mythology, Crom gave the secret of steel to Duncan. Duncan was the first Cimmerian to create steel, using the gift that Crom gave him.

The object is his actual head--the receptical of that knowledge. It has been preserved (and shrank) by unknown sorcery. But, if a Cimmerian wears the amulet, any weapon he holds will be treated as if that weapon were equivalent to Akbitanan Steel--the best steel known to man. This means: +1 attack, +2 Armor Piercing, 1.5 x Hardness, 2 x Weapon Hit Points.

It works only through true Cimmerian blood (and sometimes works with people of mixed lineage).