Getting my campaign started


I finally got around to finding the time to run a Conan campaign... I decided on short adventures, not necessarily connected with eachother, but with recurring characters, particularly villains. I decided that its much more true to the spirit of the Conan stories, plus I can mess with my players any way I want.

For my first adventure, I will start the PCs off in the Border Kingdom. I visualized a lost tribe of Acheronians, who managed to survive the fall of their empire. After countless generations of inbreeding, they regressed to mere apemen. But once every few centuries, the genes breed true and an Acheronian sorcerer of rare power emerges. He is worshipped like a living god by his savage relatives and presented to the demon entity they worship (its kind of like the story of Salome, where I got the inspiration from). The latest incarnation, Zaarnak, currently lives in his ancestral home, a brooding ancient castle in the Border Kingdom, together with his two concubines/bodyguards (a Pelishtim and a Khitan woman he bought in exchange for ancient secrets) and several female slaves. In the caverns underneath his castle, several members of his tribe lair...

The PCs start off in the service of one the Border Kingdom robber barons. Right after his army has been defeated and Nemedians (who had enough raids across their border) are rounding up the vanquished for execution. I think they'll hightail it out of there and deeper into the wilderness of the Border Kingdom without much effort on my part. After a little bit of getting lost they'll end up on the castle of Zaarnak. He'll be polite, take them in, feed them and even offer some of his slave girls to warm their beds (it's an all-guy party). In the mean time he'll be priming the beastmen in the caves for a big sacrifice/demon summoning/cannibal feast...

I can see this going in several different directions, all of them challenging. To help my PCs and provide them with a chance of surviving (while still be scared out of their minds) I have provided them with some armour (not much), an ally (Oxana, one of the slave girls is a thief who has not been yet completely brainwashed by Zaarnak), and opponents that are not particularly tough, even though they are numerous (the beastmen). Zaarnak and his concubines (especially them) are an entirely different matter. While though he is not a powerful enough sorcerer to pose a great threat, he has a few tricks up his sleeve and the White Lotus and Luria are determined to sacrifice themselves for their master...

Whatever may happen (worse case is a couple of fate points get burned), I plan for Zaarnak to escape (perhaps with one of his two concubines) and be a recurring villain. Oxana might join the party (who is short of a thief) and move to the next adventure, in the bleak hills of Hyperborea.

Any ideas, suggestions?
If you're hoping to creep your players out, you'll need to balance some "not quite right" moments against their host's friendly demeanor. If you can stretch the PC's visit for a few days, you'll probably get the most mileage.

A concubine serving girl that a PC sees for several days suddenly goes missing - she, like your NPC thief, wasn't a complicit thrall to the sorceror. If the PC shows concern/interest in the girl's disappearance, you've given your NPC thief an additional reason to approach the party for help (or to help them).

I'd also have other NPC visitors at the stronghold. Think of the dinner scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. They could introduce topics of discussion that are red herrings, stage-setters for future adventures, or clues to their host's true nature. "Several surrounding settlements have had people go missing in recent weeks. Has your household suffered the same?"

If the PCs try to leave prematurely, they are warned about strange beasts that have been seen in the surrounding area. It just so happens your sorcerer created the beasts and set them loose to keep enemies out and captives in. :twisted:

Perhaps a captive soldier from the same country as the victorious army from the beginning of your adventure is discovered. All of the dire warnings he tells the PCs are true, but they are unlikely to believe him b/c he was their opponent in the war/battle.

And if it were me, I'd have the sorceror try to pick the PCs off one-by-one and imprison them until all have been captured rather than try to grab them as a group.

Adding more "guests" might be the thing I needed... I planned to stretch the visit for at least a couple of days (late summer thunderstorms, lack of supplies, and weird creatures seen in the vicinity)... But the guests are a great addition. A Hyperborean mercenary throwing hints about the power of the Witchmen... Or the clothes of the Nemedian Borderer who was tracking them found in a pile at the bottom of the hill... I planned to isolate or separate the party by use of Hypnotic Suggestion and such spells... Or by throwing the two (very attractive) bodyguards at them. Knowing my players, they'll definitely want to bed them...

Thanks very much for your ideas. Very very helpful.