[CONAN] Thieves World!

I'm well into the second Thieves World anthology. If you haven't read them, they are excellent reads. It's a shared world with different authors borrowing characters from each other, telling amazing tales.

Like the Hyborian Age, it's a low magic world, with spurts of high sorcery. It's an all-human (or mostly human--later on, there is a race that might not be human, but also may be, that comes to Sanctuary) universe. It's got a "fantasy ancient Roman" vibe to parts of it. Other parts seem traditional Western Fantasy with a Tolkien vibe.

I think it provides excellent material to steal for a game in the Hyborian Age. There have been two RPGs created for it, both with scant adventures. But, both having good stuff to transport to a Conan game, especially a city based Conan game--say, out on the dark roads of Corinthia.

The original Thieves World anthology series runs 12 books. Plus, there are several side novels written in the universe. And,there was an aborted revival of the series a few years ago that spawned three books.
Do you know what I love about Thieves World? It's the interesting story universe, yes. It's the introduction to several interesting authors, yes. It's the great, gritty fantasy stories, of course.

But, mostly, its that the protagonists of these stories are not always your typical heroes. Sure, there's Hans Shadowspawn, the thief that wears many knifes. There's the ex-gladiator, Jubal, who runs the crime syndicate. There's the Hellhounds, the elite soldiers who serve as the elite bodyguards to the Prince. There's Enas Yorl, the ultra-powerful mage who is cursed to constantly change shape, sex and even species. There's Tempus, the soldier cursed to everylasting life. And, there's Molin Torchholder, High Priest of Vashanka and arguably one of the most powerful men in the city.

Yes, those are all the types of characters that you would expect in a swords & sorcery series (Thieves World is more S&S than pure fantasy, me thinks).

But, yeah, ALSO...also there's people like Dubro, a simple blacksmith. And his wife, Illyra, the gypsy-like fortune-teller. They serve as protagonists in stories, too. There's Hakiem, the storyteller, and Campen Varra, a bard. There's Kurd, the vivsectionist. And Lalo, the painter. One-thumb, the bartender.

And, in the story I'm reading right now. The protagonist is Masha, a midwife. A simple woman who delivers babies, pulls teeth, manufactures false teeth, and cuts hair. She's worried about money, like most of us are. She's got two daughters, an invalid mother, and a good-for-nothing drunk husband. If she makes no coin, the family starves.

She's such an interesting character. At one time, her family held a higher station. Her father was a merchant. But now, she services the people that used to be her neighbors.

She walks at night, back home after a job, through the roughest part of the city, where she lives. She keeps the cloak's hood pulled tight over her head. She has torch, but she dare not light it. She doesn't want to draw attention to herself, as those that lurk in the darkness will rob her just for the clothes on her back, rape her, kill her, or even do worse than that.

It's both interesting and refreshing to explore a tale in the lives of a "Commoner" classed character.

There's another story--and I can't remember the names--about a boy, coming of age, who is ashamed of his father, a simple fisherman on the dock. It's a story about a son and a father. And, it's just as awesome a read--maybe even more interesting--than the story about the raid on Jubal's criminal compound outside of town.

Great stories, about heroes...and about common, regular folk.


I love this story. It's about a simple scribe who comes into contact with a magical scroll.


Another favorite story. A simple couple scratching out a living in the town. Dubro is a smith. His wife, Illyra, is a fortune teller. Some say that she has the true sight. As the story starts, Illyra is reading her own fortune and sees a card, the Face of Chaos. Right then, the horn on Dubro's anvil--the anvil that has been in his family for generations--breaks off. The city is at the edge of a desert. Where will they get another anvil?

Such a simple premise, leading to a very interesting story.


A favorite author spins a traditional, but enjoyable, tale. Cappen Verra is a bard. A lover of women. Jamie The Red is his friend--a red haired firey type, prone to get in your face and answer with his blade. Verra's problem is that his love (of the moment), Danliss, has disappeared in the new temple (that we saw built in Lynn Abbey's story). His friend, Jamie, says, "Well, let's go get the lass!"

SHADOWSPAWN by Andrew Offutt

The introduction of one of my favorite characters! Thieves World is a shared universe, written by many authors. It's so interesting--and it adds so much depth--to read the characters from different angles. In one story, Hans Shadowspawn is your typical, anti-hero fantasy thief. In another, you see a different point of view--a young man, with doubts, not totally sure of himself, trying to give off an impression.

In this story, Hans gets a job working for the Prince!


Ah, another cool character is introduced. Jubal. He's the ex-gladiator who has built a syndicate in the town. I really like this story as it shows you not only his point of view on the town, but also that of those "little people" who get caught in between the business of the day.

BLOOD BROTHERS by Joe Haldeman

It's a story of One-Thumb, the barkeep at the Vulgar Unicorn. This story has some repercussions on the town that lasts a while and is mentioned in other tales.

MYRTIS by Christine DeWees

A story about whores! I love how this story shows what power the whores really do have in the town--and what power that they don't have.

THE SECRET OF THE BLUE STAR by Marion Zimmer Bradley

This story introduces Lythande, a Blue Star Mage. These practitioners of the art are bound by a secret that no one else should ever learn. When I first read this story and learned of Lythande's secret, it blew my mind. What a twist!
I already thought of this setting and have even bought some books from Green Ronin Publishing (Sanctuary and the 2 modules) + 1 module from Fasa.
I even intend to put Sanctuary directly on the Argos-Zingara border, where the river divides both nations. It would be a highly disputed town by both.

The book's anthologies are quite difficult to find, however.
I forgot to mention that the river forming the boundaries between Argos and Zingara is none other than the Thunder River.

In fact Sanctuary (the main city where Thieves World's adventures happen) is a great setting because it is not a big city nor is it a small village. It is a strategically located, medium-size town which is sufficient to entertain the dissensions between both nations without any of them wanting to risk a full pledge war. There is thus a stalemate with the town changing side every 10 years or so.

Sanctuary is thus located at the mouth of the River and the lost city of Barakus (see the Necromancer Games / Frog God Games campaign book) is located somewhere in the North.

This is definitely an excellent location to start a campaign.