First Conan session


Ran my first Conan game last night, which went rather well. My intention is to mix home-grown adventures with pre-written scenarios. I'm planning to run the adventure from the Messantia boxed set, but first I wanted to introduce my own major villain...

The PCs are all 2nd level; Tiberias, a Bossonian Soldier, Vanko, a Zamoran Thief, and Thuul, a Hyperboarean Scholar specialising in Summoning and Hypnotism. (There's a fourth character to be introduced, but the player couldn't make it).

The PCs arrived in the city of Messantia, having met each other on the journey to the city as part of a caravan, where they bonded by fighting off bandit attacks. The were all looking for their old friend Argentio (from the Messantia scenario), who they believed to live in a mansion on the clifftops of the city.

They wandered through Messantia, looking at the sights, (Vanko did a bit of pick-pocketing as they went) then arrived at the mansion in question. As Tiberias was about to knock on the door, it burst open and a young woman ran out, with three guards behind her shouting "Stop thief!"

Tiberias was knocked over by the woman, who landed on top of him. There was a bit of a tussle, the woman escaped, Vakno "attempted" to grab her, but really stole her purse, she got a little way, but the guards were on her, and knocked her to the ground and started kicking her. Tiberias waded in and started shoving them aside to protect her, then grabbed her to stop her escaping.

Then a little old Khitan man appeared on the doorstep, and told the guards to stop. They did. Tiberias searched her and found nothing. The old man introduced himself as Master Li; the guards said they should take her to the city watch, but she escaped and ran off. During this conversation, Thuul realised that Master Li was actually a powerful sorcerer.

Master Li explained that Argentio no longer lived there; he'd fallen on hard times and gone to live in the slums of the River Prefect. The PCs thanked him and left. They found a pub and had a drink and managed to find out where Argentio lived.

In a small, dingy house, enlivened with colourful window-boxes, they found Dolcetia, Argentio's wife, and his three children. Argentio, it seemed was in hiding, but she'd heard of the PCs, and invited them to stay for the night. She sent her eldest son off with a message for Argentio, telling him that the PCs were here.

The PCs were getting ready for bed, when Tiberias discovered a ring, hidden in his clothing; it was a gold signet ring, with a coiled dragon symbol on it. Thuul immediately recognised it as rare and magical, and wanted it. Tiberias said they should return it to Master Li, so he and Thuul set off for the Khitan's residence, in the middle of the night.

Thuul wanted to persuade Tiberias that they (or rather he) should keep the ring, so he deliberately led him astray down a dark alley. But out of the darkness came a huge man-ape, who attacked Tiberias, looking for the ring. It knocked Tiberias over, and injured him, but Thuul managed to distract it, and got out his magical quartz crystal in an attempt to use his Hypnotism spell on it.

Meanwhile, back at the house Vanko was disturbed by the sound of someone sneaking in at the window. He waited at the side of the window, and managed to surprise the woman who they'd met earlier escaping from the house. She'd been looking for the ring, which she'd hidden on Argentio. When she heard they'd gone to take it back, she was horrified, telling Vanko that Master Li was an evil sorcerer. She went rushing off to look for Tiberias and Thuul.

Meanwhile, in the dark alley, the Man-Ape knocked the crystal out of Thuul's hand, and started strangling Tiberias. Thuul rushed off up the alley to get his crystal back. Tiberias, still on his back, drew his sword and poniard, and managed to get a couple of blows in on the man-ape, but it wounded him badly, until he was reeling from the damage. The creature tore his hose and got the ring from his secret pocket.

Then, while Thuul was attempting to distract it again, the man-ape changed into Master Li, and disappeared into a purple cloud of smoke, veined with gold, which rolled off up the street and out of sight. Tiberias was *very* cross.

Thuul did some first aid, and they staggered back to the house, where Vanko was sleeping soundly. Tiberias wanted to go straight to Master Li's house and get revenge, but was persuaded that he was too injured, and a night's rest would be in order.

In the morning Dolcetia gave the PCs breakfast, and said that she'd had a message saying Argentio would meet them in the local public baths at noon. Thuul and Tiberias stayed at home so that some more first aid could be done, and Vanko went out "shopping".

He was actually pick-pocketing, and he was successful twice, but on his third attempt, while trying to rob a rich merchant called Publio, he was caught, and Publio screamed for the watch. They arrived and took him away to throw him in a cell. Vanko claimed to be working for Master Li, in the hope that mentioning a rich patron would get him off the hook, but the watch just said they'd send a message do Master Li to tell him Vanko was here.

And that's where the evening ended. Vanko is in prison waiting for Master Li to get him out (or something), Tiberias has sworn revenge upon Master Li, and Thuul wants to get his hands on Li's rare magic ring. Plus, they're supposed to be meeting Argentio in a few hours.

A good start to the campaign, I think!
Thanks for posting - I enjoyed reading about your adventure. It sure has alot of magic in it. Definitely a good start to an adventure. Splitting the party up can be hard to GM but it looks like you handled it very well.

An excellent start for a campaign. Great story and great narration.

It prooves two things though:
- sorcerer PCs can't do much at low levels
- in a Sword & sorcery setting it is very difficult for a small group to survive.
Good first adventure, thanks for posting. I and other GMs have also been posting our adventures on this forum (I just updated group's adventure before reading yours). Keep up the good work.
Strom said:
Thanks for posting - I enjoyed reading about your adventure. It sure has alot of magic in it. Definitely a good start to an adventure. Splitting the party up can be hard to GM but it looks like you handled it very well.

I enjoy splitting the party -- but then I have the sort of players who are prepared to ignore what their characters know about things happening elsewhere, so I don't have to take them off into another room. It means I get to leave one bunch on a cliffhanger, and switch to the other bunch, then back. In the case above, I was actually running the two different events within the same combat rounds.

But, thinking about it, I've been running an RPG almost every week for 20 years, so I should be pretty good at it by now! :D
Episode Two

[Warning: Spoilers for "Vengeance of the Golden Skull", the adventure in the Messantia Boxed Set]

The session began with Vanko (the Zamoran thief) arrested for attempting to cut the purse of the merchant Publio. He was stripped of his belongings and then driven with other felons in an iron cage through the streets of Messantia, while people threw rotten fruit at him. While this was going on, one of Dolcetia's son's saw him and ran back to Dolcetia's house to let Tiberias (the Bossonian archer) and Thuum (the Hyperborean sorcerer) know he'd been arrested; they immediately rushed off to see what was going on.

Vanko was taken to the Magistrate's Court, where he was brought before a judge. The only witness was his victim, Publio, who, it soon became apparent, was on friendly terms with the judge. There were also some hecklers in the public gallery [ably ad-libbed by the other players].

Vanko was accused of purse-cutting, which he denied, claiming that he'd seen someone *else* trying to steal Pulbio's purse, and got out his knife to defend the merchant. The judge didn't believe him.

Publio then made matters worse; he told the judge that Vanko claimed he worked for the Khitan merchant Master Li (which is true, he did!). It seemed unlikely that Master Li, who was Publio's next door neighbour, would be sending out minions to rob him. He and Master Li were on good terms, he said. Maybe, he suggested, Vanko had actually been trying to *assassinate* him, on behalf of a third party who wanted to frame Master Li.

At this point, Master Li arrived, puzzled that he'd been called out for the arrest of a minion he didn't know he had. On recognising Vanko, he said that they'd met briefly while Vanko was supposedly looking for Argentio at Master Li's house. Master Li suggested that Vanko was, in fact, working for Argentio to discredit him. Vanko kept trying to defend himself, but only dug himself in deeper.

Eventually, the judge decided there wasn't enough evidence to permit a murder charge, but that he would have to be punished for his thieving. He was sentenced to be branded on the ball of the thumb with an "M" for Malefactor [this is not a punishment from the Messantia book, but a practice which was done in my home city's castle in the 16th century -- the equipment is still at the back of the (still-in-use) courtroom], and given 50 lashes.

Meanwhile, Tiberias and Thuum had arrived in the city square to find a crowd gathering to watch the punishments. There was a scaffold set up, and branding iron and brazier, and lashing post; and a large woman in armour with a hood over her head; the executioner. [This was, in fact, the fourth PC; a large, muscular, plain-featured and not terrifically bright swordswoman from Khauran, called Primula -- though the other players didn't know this yet!]

Vanko was dragged up onto the platform by two burly guards, and his hand fixed in the apparatus which would hold it still for branding. Primula was warming up the branding iron, when she realised that the person in front of her was her old friend Vanko. Not being terrifically bright, she was at somewhat of a loss, especially since this was her first time as executioner. She then had the bright idea (!?) of only putting the branding iron in the cooler parts of the fire, so it wouldn't hurt so much. Still, it did hurt like hell, and did brand Vanko's hand. But being rather flustered, Primula managed to hold the branding iron upside down, so he now has a "W" on his hand.

The other two guards then tied Vanko's hands above his head to the whipping post, while Primula got the cat-o-nine-tails. She told Vanko she was very sorry, but if she helped him escape, she'd lose her job, and it was a good job. But then she had another bright (!?) idea. She would pretend to torment him with her sword, and "accidentally" cut him free. "On the count of two!" she told him.

On the count of one, she gave him a good whack with a whip. "Well," she explained to a rather pissed off Vanko, "I might never get another chance to do that!" On the count of two, she gave the pretence of attempting to cut his ear off for the delight of the crowd (who had been getting rather restive at the slow pace of events). Her hand "slipped", and she cut his
ropes. Immediately he was off into the crowd, with Primula in hot pursuit, shouting "Stop, thief!" and the stunned guards (who knew Primula was stupid but hadn't realised she was *that* stupid!) in pursuit of both of them. Tiberias rushed over and got in the way of the guards a bit (in a non-incriminating way), and the crowd, delighted at this entertaining turn of events, closed in around the escapees so they could get away.

Eventually, the party regrouped at Dolcetia's house, where Vanko introduced the others to Primula. The swordswoman was sad. "I've done it again, haven't I? Lost another job. I'd only had it a fortnight. Do you think if I went and apologised, they'd let me have it back?" Everyone looked at her, open-mouthed.

The party then realised it was time to meet their friend Argentio at the public baths. Off they went, and found he had a curtained off section of the baths to himself for a private meeting. All the characters took their clothes off and got in the water, except for the Hyborian sorcerer Thuum, who doesn't believe in effete southern practices such as bathing.

Argentio listened to their trials and tribulations, shaking his head ruefully, then told them his own troubles. He'd found evidence that an organisation called the Order of the Golden Skull, which had links with the merchant House Pompilius, was planning to assassinate the king of Argos. It seemed like the Order was onto him, so he was hiding out. He hoped his
friends would be able to foil the plot.

But before he was able to say more, one of the attractive female bath attendants stabbed him to death, and the rest of the attendants began attacking the characters. An epic fight ensued, with the naked PCs attempting to get to their weapons, and much pushing and falling in the water. Eventually most of the attendants were either dead or unconscious. The last one fled from the bathhouse into the foyer, screaming that they were being murdered. Thuum rushed after her, only to come face to face with a burly bouncer. He managed to get his crystal out and hold the thug with his hypnotic gaze, while calling to the rest of the characters for help.

The rest of the characters were busy questioning the attendants, however, having discovered that they each had a small skull tattoo on their shoulder. Primula found a scroll among Argenio's clothing which revealed that the assassination of the king was to take place in
two days.

Eventually, Primula heard Thuum calling and went out to see what was wrong. He made a sarcastic remark about how his master had taught him to have enough patience to watch a glacier move. Primula failed to understand the sarcasm, and went back to report to the other characters that Thuum was reminiscing about his days in Hyperborea.

At that moment, two of the city Patrolmen entered, having been sent by the escaping cultist. Everyone began talking at once about what was going on; Vanko took this opportunity to slip out of the back. They were starting to believe that maybe the characters *had* been attacked by the bath attendants rather than vice versa, when one of them recognised Primula as the colleague who had made such a mess of the flogging earlier. She claimed that she'd chased Vanko into this bathhouse, and that it was only the attack by the attendants which had prevented her catching him. "Give me 24 hours, please! I'll catch him for you!"

They agreed [well, it's one of those traditional cop show tropes!] and left, leaving the PCs to lick their wounds and head back to tell Dolcetia that her husband was dead.

They got to back to her house to find her being menaced by two thugs, who were looking for the scroll that the characters had found. One of them was quickly dealt with, while the other escaped. The characters suggested that Dolcetia was no longer safe in Messantia, and that it would perhaps be safest for all of them to leave. But Dolcetia wanted the characters to stay and revenge her husband's death, and prevent the king's assassination. She offered them 100 gold pieces each to do this, 50 now, and 50 when they'd completed the job. In the meanwhile, she would go and stay with friends in Zabhela in the Black Kingdoms. She'd
organise passage on a ship for the characters, when they'd finished the job. [This is a lead-in to the Tales of the Black Kingdoms adventures].

Vanko went out and did a bit more pickpocketing (he's not so much a thief as a kleptomaniac!). and the game ended with the characters looking for somewhere to stay, away from Dolcetia's now dangerous house, and with the intention of investigating House Pompilius. Revenge on Master Li, they've decided, will have to wait.[/b]
carandol said:
Episode Two
....But then she had another bright (!?) idea. She would pretend to torment him with her sword, and "accidentally" cut him free. "On the count of two!" she told him.
I love how your whole adventure turned out, but especially the part with Primula helping Vanko to escape. Did you ever see an old (1968) western movie called "Bandolero" starring Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin & Raquel Welch? Stewart plays a rogue who rides into a town as the hangman, sets up the noose around Dean Martin's character and in an act where he seems to momentarily let down his guard, Martin & the other criminals 'slip the noose' and manage to escape. :)

Anyway, I also like how you wrote your ending, tying it in with the Tales of the Black Kingdoms adventure next. Mine tend to be more episodic, with a subdued underlying plotline, but I like how you worked yours out this way. Thanks for the post.