Instant Campaign Starter



(no relation to the Conan story of the same name)

Here is the *insanely* detailed set-up to my first Conan game, which takes a group of Meadow Shemite mercenaries to Zamboula, joining up with some Hyrkanian nomads along the way. Naturally, as is my nature, I over-prepared. It's a bit of a railroad, with little up to the player's choice to decide until they arrive in Zamboula. It does capture the episodic nature of Conan, IMO, however, and gives a good intro to the major geographical features of Shem and the adjacent lands. Plus, it forces the players in a specific direction so there's no messy stumbling about in the beginning.

This campaign assumes several things have happened: The Yoggites
(Darfari) have revolted and fled the city and are now disrupting trade around Zamboula. King Yezdigerd of Turan has ordered the Satrap of Zamboula, His Excellency, Jehungir Khan, to eliminate the Yoggite trade menace. The Khan has thus sent forth word to the surrounding lands that he is hiring a huge mercenary force, and is paying well (with Yezdigerd's coin). There is more to it than that, however... to be revealed later.


You sit in your father’s house with your cousin, Talouf, getting drunk, as he relates the
story of his misadventures to the north.

“Still planning to seek your fame in Koth, cousin?” Talouf says, draining his drinking
jack and wringing the overspill from his blue-black beard with a wry grin. “Well, Ive just
come back from there, and there is no work to be had among our famed archers to the
north. King Strabonus demands only the finest, the magnificent bastard, but what can you
expect? He steals away our best and brightest. Some say tis but a ruse to keep Shem
weak, others to keep them from going to his enemies in Khoraja or Khauran. Me, I say
it’s to keep his unruly barons on their toes, and mayhap to make civil war! Mark my
words, Shemite feathers will fly and decorate many a baron’s backside, come that day.
After, Koth will march against its former satellites, consolidate its grip, and then there
will be war, real war, and real profit to be made by the Sons of Shem.”

“As for me, I’m bound for ivory domed Zamboula---if you can believe that, and Bel take
me for a liar if I’m not---aye; if I can make my way past our feuding eastern brothers. I
heard from a fat Turanian merchant in Khorshemish that the Satrap’s hiring men to root
out some thrice be-damned horde of desert savages plaguing his southland, probably on
orders from Aghrapur, for I hear the Satrap---he’s the governor---does nothing except
when commanded by King Yezdigerd himself.” Pfheh! Talouf spits, then continues, “A
city’s either free or it’s not, I mislike this idea of protectorates and subjugation in all but
name. If this keeps up, our eastern brothers will be warring with no kingdom, but an

“What’s that cousin? Yoggites, I think the savages are called, but they’ll die just as quick
as if their name was Set himself! Why don’t you join me? You could stand to get out and
stretch your legs a bit and see the world. Might give you the experience you need to get
the nod from the Kothians. At any rate, I’m off with Enosh and Elohar, Gilzem and
Gomer to seek our fortune in the east. May Anu speed our feet! If my offer doesn’t tempt
you, cousin, I’ll wish you well, and see you when I return to Eruk a rich man with a
plump wife and fine Akbitanan steel strapped to my belt. Ishtar keep you.”

Talouf makes the obligatory gesture associated with the religious phrase, rises unsteadily
to his feet, and grins drunkenly as you rise and catch his arm, which he clasps with vigor.
“So, cousin! We rise as one! Tis a good omen. You’ll join me, then? Excellent! Come;
we must sacrifice a bull to Anu to bring us luck crossing the desert.”

After learning from your cousin, Talouf, that there was no work to be had except for
hard-bitten veterans among the Shemitish archers of King Strabonus of Koth, you stated
your intention to follow him into Zamboula. Along the way, you stopped in Akbitana to
press your face against the display of fine Akbitanan steel in longing, knowing you could
not afford it, and picked up a dozen more would-be adventurers down on their luck. All
vowed they would return with wealth enough to buy up an entire army’s worth of such
near-magical steel when their adventure was done and the Yoggite thorn was pulled from
the paw of Zamboula.

Passing the Mountains of Fire, Talouf leans over to you and laughs, “The mountains be
not so active as the last time I passed this way as a boy. I take it for a good sign. I was
right to sacrifice the biggest and strongest bull our coin could buy. Anu speeds our
journey and keeps us safe from heat and flame!”

Reacting to your inevitable question, your cousin responds, “South? You don’t want to go
there. Ghastly desert as far as the eye can see, haunted pyramids, and worse. If you can
get past the Ilbars hillmen, I hear there are even kingdoms ruled by black men---Kush, I
think they call it, and---Ishtar preserve us---they are cannibals!” Talouf spits and makes
the Shemite sign of warding evil, then continues, “?No; you don’t want to go down there,
cousin. To the southwest lies Stygia, with all her foul sorcery---poison for the soul---filthy
Set worshipping fiends, one and all. To the southeast, the slaver city of
Khawarism---never share a cup with a Khawarasami, cousin, or you’ll wake up in a coffle
come morning. No; there’s no profit in going south! But come, we ride to make our
fortune in Zamboula, and I shall buy you all a cup of Ghazan wine when we get there!”

In the town of Akhlat, you had a lucky roll of the dice, there followed an exchange of
fierce words with a Zuagir nomad---the poor man seemed convinced all Meadow
Shemites were dice-cheaters spawned by jackals until you and your cousins put him
a-right. A boot planted in his backside and the knowledge that his mother was a diseased
camel seemed to get him out the door peaceably enough. Again, you asked what was
south, and all present in the tavern made a warning sign against evil. “Kuthchemes lies
south, stranger,” said the bar man, “And you’ll not want to be going there, for it’s as
fiend-haunted a ruin as any to be found north of Stygia herself! They say a powerful
sorcerer is buried there, I won’t say his name aloud, for fear of waking him. You’ll do far
better in Zamboula, where men are men and die like any other. But sorcerers, Set take
them, don’t die like men! I hear they can live forever, with their demons and ghouls.” At
this point, one of the mercenaries in your band suggested the bar man’s wife might be just
such a wart-faced ghoul for scaring the life out of him when she poked her head out of the
kitchen. With that, you, your cousins, friends, and all, were forcibly ejected from the
premises, never to return.
INSERT ANY ADDITIONAL PCS or NPCs joining the party in the tavern, as fellow adventurers who are journeying to Zamboula in search of employ in the Satrap's forces. For example, IMC, I had two down on their luck Hyrkanian nomads (other PCs) offer to guide the Shemites across the desert. The nomads witnessed the dice cheating and insult hurling in the tavern and warn the Shemites they will need their help, as the nomad is related to the Zuagir chief and will come seekng vengeance with friends as soon as they depart Akhlat. Plus, the Shemites have no desert experience or Survival skill, and may get lost, if not ambushed first... The Hyrkanians say they can confuse any trackers so to avoid the Zuagir or bandits hoping to trail them for an easy looting in the desert.

The Hyrkanians backstory: Their tribe was slaughtered by another, and only a few escaped. These two are brothers, and the younger brother killed the enemy war chief, stealing his badge of office, an ornate jewelled (Akbitanan) dagger. They had to flee Hyrkania because the war chief's four brothers vowed revenge and must possess the dagger to rule their tribe, so the two brothers are being hunted down! This gives them a cool origin and gruesome fate to look forward to if they don't keep moving.

Here is also where I let the party purchase or barter for equipment, with many Appraise and Bluff (Haggling) checks that were fun. One PC unwittingly bought a defective battleaxe... :twisted:

Once in the desert, I had them make Survival checks and "Wandering Monster" rolls (1-2 on a 1d10). With a successful anti-tracking (Survival) roll, the Zuagir do not attack them the first night. Otherwise, they automatically pick up their trail and ambush them at midnight the second night. A dozen Zuagir (level 1 Shemite nomads, no armor, shields and scimitars) surround the camp and fire arrows in (Shemite bows) at guards, then at any who stand up, then they charge in en masse, except for the leader (the enraged Zuagir nomad from Akhlat) and two guards, who hang back and watch, firing arrows in at likely targets. The leader flees at the first sign of trouble, leaving his two men to guard his retreat. He flees to a location neaby where two more nomads and the group's camels await. They flee and eventually lose any pursuit, but may end up letting some of their excess camels go as spoils to the party.

In ivory-domed Zamboula, with its golden minarets and flapping pennants, you found
employ in the army of Jehungir Khan, Satrap of Zamboula. Ghazan wine, long an
expensive delicacy in the west, was cheap and plentiful, making Talouf breathe a sigh of
relief when fulfilling his promise to buy you all a cup. You were amazed by the barrier
between rich and poor; here, there was no middle class of merchants and artisans
common to your homeland. Despite the poverty, most people seemed happy, now that the
Yoggites were driven from the city itself. Now, you learned the problem was much worse
than you had been led to believe. Apparently, the Yoggites were slaves from far-off
Darfar, in the mythical Black Kingdoms. They comprised most of the city’s menial labor
force, and after years of allowing the crazed Yoggites to run rampant in the city after dark
to pacify them on the flesh of poor Zamboulans, they were driven out after devouring an
envoy of King Yezdigerd: sacrifice to the mad demon-god Yog, Lord of the Empty
Abodes. The Yoggites rioted when word came they were to have their religious beliefs
interefered with, and they rose up as one and fled into the desert, but not without seizing
camels, weapons and supplies. There were easily a thousand of them out there, lurking in
the desert. At first, the Satrap was pleased to be rid of them, but then it was learned the
demon worshippers were raiding caravans. Shemite and Stygian ambassadors
complained, and were eventually heard in Aghrapur when their pleas fell on Jehungir
Khan’s deaf ears. Now, King Yezdigerd of Turan has decreed death for the Yoggites and
a restoration of peaceable trade in this important vassal city-state. Jehungir Khan hears
and obeys, hiring mercenaries to do the dirty work of rooting them out while he keeps the
Royal Zamboulan Army to protect the city and a thirty mile radius around its immediate

Since mercenaries---and foreigners at that---cannot be trusted to roam about the
countryside armed to the teeth, where they could become bandits themselves and
compound the problem of the Yoggites, the Satrap has ordered officers of the Royal
Zambulan Army into the field to lead them into battle. Your commander is Jelal Agha
(Agha is apparently Hyrkanian for his military rank), a craven buffoon and rabid
anti-Shemite, if ever there was one. How he attained his high rank is widely speculated to
be due to his marriage to Jehungir Khan’s second cousin. From the first, Jelal Agha
resented his posting to supervise your rag-tag band of foreigners and set out to make your
lives miserable. Substandard food and accomodations, inferior equipment, little
intelligence on the nature and ways of the enemy, and perpetual insults were the order of
the day:

“Why everyone knows Hyrkanian bowmen are better than those of Shem! Are you truly
so stupid as to believe yourselves our betters? Ten lashes for that braggart!”

“My family owns many Shemite slave girls. I would wager you are as worthless as them
in a fight. I only pray you fools don’t run yammering like old women when the battle is



Predictably, Jelal Agha’s incompetence in the field led you to a Yoggite ambush, where
you had a splendid view of sharp-fanged savages to the front, and Jelal Agha’s fleeing
horse in back. Abandoned by that shining paragon of the Royal Zamboulan Army, you
and your men were left for dead... Using your quick thinking Shemite brains, you
managed to detach your group from the main force and fight your way clear to a narrow
canyon, which turned out to be a dead end. Once the Yoggites had had their fill of the rest
of your company, they followed you into the canyons, black eyes gleaming greedily
behind green turbans. The sons of Yog would feast well this day!

* RUN MASS BATTLE HERE: Party (+ variable number of allied NPCs if you wish, I used 10 allied NPCs + 2 PCs) vs. Yoggite Warband (Darfari Barbarian 1, unarmored, club). Allow party to set up as they wish in dead end canyon, which should have exceptional terrain features to benefit the party, such as rocky outcroppings or boulders to position archers on). I used twenty Yoggites, which were dispatched quickly without a single casualty on the party. Allow party to refine their tactics, reminding them that the Yoggite horde is still ouitside the canyon, looting, eating or worse, and it is only a matter of time before they notice their comrades are missing and investigate...

Run SECOND WAVE MASS BATTLE: This time, Yoggites are better disciplined, wearing leather jerking and using large shields, stolen from the slain mercs outside. Throw in a Darfari witch-woman (Scholar 2/lay priestess of Yog), with the curses sorcery style. Hit party with as many Lesser Ill Fortune curses as possible.

If party survives, you have two options: If they are not all dying or unconscious, have the Zuagir show up on the cliffs overhead, congratulate them, and say that although they are marked for death, the Zuagir will not move against them this day, as the Hand of Ishtar favors them too heavily and anyone who fights that well deserves to savor their victory. Party can then return to Zamboula or flee. I will post more on the "Return to Zamboula" option later (running it tonight).

If the party is pretty well getting wiped out, or you feel like moving on, you can run this scenario instead:


At the moment of your defeat, the Yoggites were taken by surprise. A great howl went up
from them as mysterious Shemite bows rained death from above, and so the sons of Yog
were deprived their feast, cast back cursing and wailing in rage, pain and hunger.

“Anu, Adonis and Ishtar be praised!” rang out the cry of the surviving Shemites, “We are
saved, for our brothers would not abandon us in our time of need!”

You looked to your benefactors grim faces as they came upon you, and the cheer went out
of your group. Zuagir nomads! Too many to fight, they quickly surrounded and disarmed
you. You recognized the sore loser from the tavern in Akhlat among them. His smile was
warmed not by feelings of brotherhood, but of revenge! The nomad explained:

“We came upon you city-bred jackal-spawn just in time, it seems! We are no friends to
you of the western meadows, nor are we allies to Yoggote devils!” He spits emphatically
at the name of his enemy. “We of the Zuagir are the true Sons of Shem, living as our
ancestors did, taking what we want and going where we will. But I am surprised to see
such city-state soft-breds as yourselves so far from home! I was of a mind to leave you to
the Yoggite scum, but no Shemite can abandon another to so cruel a fate. And the way
that wine-soaked Zamboulan fop abandoned you, as I’ve seen him to do to others before,
I found it in my heart to take pity on you, such as you are.”

“But do not congratulate yourselves on your fortune, for the mercy of the Zuagir is not the
mercy of civilized men. We shall give you the death of one who has transgressed against
a Zuagir chief, for I have not forgotten your rough treatment and cheating ways in Akhlat!
Think then, upon the error of your devious western ways, and know that I, Akkhirom, of
the Akkhirim Zuagir, hope you meet our gods with the same stoicness you showed before
the Yoggite host!”

Pleas for mercy fell on deaf ears. You were taken out into the desert and staked upon the
ground, there to meet your doom under the punishing rays of the sun. One last favor did
Akkhirom of the Akkhirim do you, ere he and his Zuagir band departed, and that was to
place a warding marker, a strangely marked totem, between you.

“You are curious about the totem? It is the least I could do, for a Yoggite’s belly is never
full, no matter how much man-flesh he eats. Such is the gift and curse of the Empty One
Yog! Without the totem, which is afeared by them, and rightly so, the evil dogs would
come slinking by, surely to devour you. The totem marks you as lepers and accursed, and
no cannibal cherishes flesh of the tainted. I see the relief writ large upon your faces,
brothers. Are the Akkhirim not merciful? Now you may meet the sky-gods of our people
in peace, stretched out before them in humble acceptance. I shall think of you tenderly
when I am in my tent tonight, belly full, water-gorged, and caressing the softness of my
women! ...Come, Akkhirim! We ride!”

You lay there in disbelief, cursing your ill luck, and knowing that Talouf should have
found an even larger, more beautiful bull to sacrifice before the bronze idol of Anu in
Eruk. If you never saw thrice-cursed Yoggites, Zamboulans or Zuagir again, t’would be
too soon! The Zuagir chief gave you one last wave, then rode out of sight, his rough
laughter fading in the distance. Against the ropes you struggled in vain. Heat and thirst
came upon you swiftly, and you despaired of any surcease from your suffering, praying at
least for a quick death, but resigned to your awful fate, as was the way of your people.
There would be no plump wives, rich plunder or Akbitanan steel now for the remaining
Sons of Shem. At least the Yoggites would not have you...


Then the vultures came, circling overhead, and a pair of mangy jackals sniffed at your
heels. So it would not be the Yoggites after all, but scavengers that feasted upon your
flesh! Through cracked lips you cursed your ill luck, but no human voice came from your
parched throat, only the dusty croak of a dying animal. The jackals looked at each other,
then at you. They licked their lips, sat and waited, tongues lolling, as the sun began its
slow descent over the Kezankian Mountains to the west. Suddenly, the jackals leaped up,
and ran in terror. A great leopard of the desert came bounding in, eyes aflame with fury...
or was it fear? You turned your head with great effort, just in time to see two strange
arrows sticking our from its side. You heard the distant rumble of hooves as the great cat
collapsed by your head, thrashed, and lay still.

A strange man appeared, though he paid no notice to you. He wore odd green garments
embroidered with gold and a headdress of alternating horizontal bands of green and gold,
fastened together across his brow by a rearing serpent of gold. His skin was dusky with a
hue you had not seen before; his eyes piercing, his face vulpine, but not unhandsomely so,
only dangerous. His movements were smooth, predatory, his bearing regal as he went up
to the great cat, ignoring you completely, to inspect his prize. He turned his head and
called out something over his shoulder in triumph. The language was completely alien to
your ears, and you thought you knew most of the neighboring kingdom’s tongues. The
strange dark man was answered by a female, in the same tongue, her bemusement
apparent even through her incomprehensible words. The man stood up, seeming annoyed.
A brief argument ensued, but tones stayed friendly as near as you could tell. The man,
responding to another male voice from beyond your field of vision, suddenly looked
down at you, then at the totem. Startled, he leapt away, cursing prodigiously. Female
laughter followed him, serving to make him angry for appearing foolish in front of the
woman, whomever she was.

Cautiously, the man ventured closer as two huge blacks stripped to the waist came
forward and dragged the cat away. The man towered over you in contempt, hands on his
hips imperiously, frowning. He tried to hold converse with you in a new language, but
you did not know it either. This displeased the man further. He looked about to kick you
in your ribs when the woman appeared. She was of the same race as the man, and similar
enough of feature to be his kin. Her beauty was exotic. Her dress, if anything, was even
more elaborate and out of place than the man’s. She smiled, but it felt mocking, not born
of true friendship. The smile never touched her eyes, which, like her brother’s, were hard
and black of pupil, though you thought it a trick of the light at the time.

“You... are Shemite, yes?” she knelt down by your side and spoke quietly. She gave you
some little water, enough to wet your lips and choke out a reply. “How came you by this
fate?” You answered, truthfully, and she nodded. The man seemed to be following the
conversation now, but was not interested. He kept looking at the setting sun with
impatience. She waved him away with a few words in their native language. She laughed
at the worried look in your eye, and put a cool, soft hand on your forehead to reassure
you. “My brother is Pshat-Emun. He mistook you for lepers, then for Iranistanni.” She
laughed again, shaking her head, and then by way of explanation: “The Iranistanni are
rare this far north. I am Khafra-Zati, sister to Pshat-Emun. We are nobles of House Nafir
in Stygia.”

“Stygians!” cursed one of your survivors, “we are doomed! Better to let the Yoggites take

The woman appeared to be amused. “Surely you would welcome a Stygian rescue than
not at all? We have not untied you and could leave you, if you wish. We would not want
to... interfere with your wish, if it is to die.”

You reassured her such was not your wish, though you would gladly meet death when
your time was up, and would not bewail your fate if she were to leave you here to rot, for
such is the not the way of the Sons of Shem! “Indeed, it is not. I did not mean to give...
offense. If you would be free, you have but to ask. Against my brother’s wishes, I would
even go so far as to allow you to camp with us tonight, and share our food and water.
That is... if you are not afraid.”

You vigorously assured her by all your gods that the Sons of Shem feared no woman,
Stygian or not. She nodded, and rising, turned away, calling out to her party. “Free them,”
she said, this time for your benefit by speaking in her strangely accented Shemite,
“tonight, they are honored guests of House Nafir.” A curse went up from her brother, the
man she had named Pshat-Emun, and he stalked over to you, murder in his eyes. They
held some few heated words in their tongue, then he departed once more, glaring daggers
at you as he went. The two huge blacks came over and cut your bonds, eyeing you
suspiciously, though they said not one word betwee them.

“Mutes,” Khafra-Zati explained, “The Kushites make far better slaves than their cousins,
the Darfari. But then you know that. Yoggites!” she cursed prettily, “Uncivilized brutes!
Speaking of civilized, by your accent I ajudge you to be of the Meadow Shemites, far
west of here. Is that no so?”

You assured her she was correct. “Eruk,” you agreed, “I am of Eruk, near the Kothic
Escarpment, between Asgalun and Akbitana.”

“Just so. I have a head for languages, and accents, though there are so many, it seems I am
always running into more I do not yet know. The Meadow Shemites produce excellent
soldiers, unlike their nomadic kin to the east. And Akbitanan steel is a legend, even so far
south as Sukhmet, from where I hail.” Her eyes scanned you, noticing your lack of
equipment. The Zuagir had taken everything from you but your loinclothes. “Perhaps
your hand shall know the grip of Akbitanan steel again some day, Shemite.”

You asked her about the argument with her brother, then, to get your mind away from
regret about losing your weapons, armor and equipment.

“Pshat-Emun thinks you are too troublesome and may slit out throats if we take you in,
for he says you look more like bandits than warriors. When we came upon you, we were
hunting a wonderful golden leopard for sport. We of Stygia---or at least of the ruling
caste,” she quickly corrected herself, “---know a great deal of archery, perhaps almost as
much as the Shemites or Hyrkanians. Archery has long fascinated my brother and I, and
we were contesting to see whose bow would bring the beast down.”

You remembered that there were two arrows (each with different colored feathers)
sticking out from the leopard, either of which could have been the killing blow.

“T’was my arrow brought the leopard down, but my brother contests the fact. Normally, I
would be sorely vexed at such unchivalrous behavior, but in light of your sorry state, I
have conceded the point to my brother, and admitted t’was his arrow killed the beast.
Now he cannot refuse my request to free you or welcome you into our camp,” she
winked, “but t’will not stop him complaining about it, the great glory-hogging oaf!”

Any thoughts (if any you had) of waylaying the Stygian siblings was quashed when you
saw how many armed Stygians they had, all fresh and watching you like hawks, not to
mention the two huge blacks with tulwars that constantly bodyguarded them. Despite the
display of might, their hospitality was not lacking, and you were soon discovered that the
two were sorcerers. This revelation went over poorly among the survivors, some of whom
repeated that you would have all been better off being eaten by the Yoggites. Your hosts
smiled knowingly at the insult, having seen many such reactions before in their travels.

“I will not deny that sorcery has an evil reputation among barbarians,” Pshat-Emun said,
“only in the truly advanced civilizations of Stygia, Vendhya and distant Khitai, is our art
accepted and embraced.” You could instantly read the minds of the survivors, as they
marked those countries down in their minds as places best avoided. The wizard
continued, unperturbed, and seeming to enjoy the fear radiating from his guests.
“However, you have nothing... to fear... from us. Had we wished it, you would be roasting
in the eternal fires of Arallu now, over some demon-god’s spit, or lost in the
unfathomable gulfs of the Outer Dark, where all manner of nightmares form, flow... and

Khafra-Zati smirked at this last, a deliberate reference to the Yoggites and the fate they
spared you from, and now boldly challenged they could return you to, only a thousand
times worse, with a wave of their hands, if they wished. The words had the desired effect
on your men, who shifted uncomfortably and cast their gaze down, muttering and making
warding signs.

“My sister and I are done with Zamboula; the sorcerers we went there to find have fled to
Zamora, taking their secrets with them. We are now bound for Yezud, and its
spider-haunted towers of mystery. We go there to discuss matters of... mutual importance
between the high priest of Zath and our master in Stygia. I hear the temple’s dancing girls
are a sight not to be missed, a rare and wondrous beauty out of all those fit for men to
judge in this world.” Here he paused for effect; mention of beautiful dancing girls had the
predictable effect of renewing their guest’s flagging vigor, almost making them forget
about the giant spiders and hideous sacrifices said to be seen daily in the Zathian temples
of Yezud. “From there, if our sorcerous quarry continues to elude us, we will go to hunt
man-ape in the northeastern Kezankians, for I hear they are fierce and possessed of a
singular cunning. They should provide excellent sport, and I would pay handsomely if
one were to be captured alive... for training. I would not be entirely averse to you brave
men... accompanying us on our expedition.”

This offer caused immediate discussion, greed warring with a natural aversion to
remaining in the presence of these strange folk for so long. No man of his right mind was
anxious to see sorcery, nor fight subhuman degenerates---each famous for possessing the
strength of ten men---on their home ground. The Stygian grew bored by the bickering and
stood up. He made some arcane gesture and seemed to grow larger, more imposing, as the
shadows in the tent deepened. His eyes blazed. “The servants of Set do not suffer fools
gladly!” Pshat-Emun spat, in a voice that resembled a thousand hissing serpents. “You
have offended me by refusing my request. Tomorrow, there will be a contest between us
to satisfy my honor. I am both master archer and master of magic; I wish to pit my talents
against one of your number, for I would see if Shemitish archery is stronger than my own.
I have a Shemitish bow purchased just for such a display; it, and twenty arrows, are a gift
to he who agrees to the contest. Who among you dares meet the challenge of

Khafra-Zati said nothing, but stood and smiled at you, and this time the smile held in her

“There will be another reward, regardless of the outcome,” the sorcerer continued, after
receiving a less than subtle nudge in the ribs from his sister, “...just so you do not think
me an ungrateful host. If I am bested, I will agree to take you to Shahpur, in southern
Turan, so you do not die upon the desert. I would see my guests live to spread tales of
Stygian... hospitality among the unbelieving. It means but a day or two out of our greater
journey, and there you may provision and disport yourselves as you see fit, though I doubt
you will receive much for those loin cloths you wear from the merchants in the bazaar.
The Shemetish bow, however, might bring the lot of you just enough to get by on for a
few days until you find work.”

Your men began murmuring disagreeably at this sudden realization that they would be
abandoned so rudely in a foreign land. “If you were to agree to accompany us so far as
Arenjun, then we might---” and here brother and sister exchanged meaningful glances,
“---see fit to re-equip you, at least in some small capacity. The alternative, should you
refuse, is of course less pleasant, but you seem like stout young lads and will no doubt
find suitable employment as... Shahpurian laborers or mine workers should you escape
the slave gang coffles.”

The men discussed their options heatedly. “I won’t end up in chains!” “We’ll all end up
chained on an altar if we stay with this Set worshippers!” “I’ll take my chances in
Shahpur!” “Arenjun is not so far, and we can always find honorable work guarding
caravans, after we deliver these sorcerers to their destination!” “They only want us along
in case the Kezankian hillmen attack in numbers; don’t want to dirty their Stygian short
swords on filthy tribesmen! That way, the losses will be ours!”
Whoah! Man, I wish I was a player in your campaign IC,...I may have to "appropriate" some of your ideas.... :D
Thanks for the praise. Here's the next installment of optional encounter

The party proceeds to Arenjun, in Zamora, perhaps being ambushed en route by Kezankian hillmen (to keep things lively), where the Stygians stop to meet with the sorcerer-priest Yara in the Elephant Tower. The Stygians are true to their word, and allow the PCs to depart, or remain in their service, putting them up at an inn with their troops. Either way, the GM then has the option of running The Elephant Tower scenario located at or some other of his choosing. If the PCs are discovered to have been involved in any funny business at Yara's Tower, the Stygians will be forced to kill them, unless Yara himself was destroyed (the Stygians will demand any sorcerous booty stolen from Yara's Tower).

During this stay in Arenjun, Khafra-Zati will again send for the PC who intrigued her in the desert to warm her bed. Failure to answer the summons makes her brother happy, but will make her a mortal enemy of the character, and she will try to arrange his messy death (if that takes down the rest of the PCs, that's fine with her). Answering the summons has the reverse effect (it is her brother, Psat-Emun, who becomes the mortal enemy with the same deadly agenda). Said messy death will be deferred until during the man-ape expedition, if the PCs remain unsuspecting in the Stygians employ; otherwise, assassins may be hired to "soften them up" before the Stygians attack in earnest. If either Stygian is threatened, hurt or killed by the PCs, their sibling becomes enraged and comes to their sibling's defense or to avenge them. There is really no way to win in this situation, but clever PCs may find a way, if they can eliminate their mortal enemy without the sibling finding out.

The Stygians remain in consultation with Yara on some private mystical matters (between the Black Ring and Yara) for the better part of a week, then depart. Their destination is either on the trail of the fleeing sorcerers (if the PCs have remained in their service and Gathered Information on it), or else to Yezud to meet briefly with the high priest and then off to the mountains to hunt man-ape. Capturing a man-ape, they travel onward to meet with Nabonidus The Red Priest (from REH's Rogues in the House) in Corinthia, where they gift the creature to him in exchange for some sorcerous knowledge and additional funds to cover their travel expenses.

Next: RETURN TO ZAMBOULA (assuming the PCs return to Zamboula vs. getting staked and baked in the desert by the Zuagir and picked up by the Stygian siblings).

Here is what happens if the PCs succeed in their battle against the Yoggites (as long as a few are left standing).

There is a resounding clash of steel against steel from above. From the top of the canyon, you see the Zuagir nomads clanging their scimitars against their shields in rousing applause for your bravery. The applause dies down as you stare up in disbelief, and one of the nomads (you ajudge it to be the one from Akhlat who accused you of dice-cheating and led the ambush on you in the desert) raises his bow to fire upon you, but the leader raises his arm and blocks the shot, shaking his head. The leader makes the symbol of the Hand of Ishtar to you, then gives a signal to his men, who back off respectfully until they are out of sight from the cliff edge.

Note (I'm making this up as a plot device, not finding it in any Conan book): The Hand of Ishtar is a sign of respect given from one Shemite warrior to another in recognition of a supreme victory. It is not given lightly. It is a sign that the warriors are invincible, that the hand of Ishtar favors them so heavily that to strike against them would be blasphemy. Shemite tradition demands that victors of a fabulous battle deserve to savor that victory, at least for 24 hours (actual times vary, but 24 hrs. is universally agreed upon as the minimum by east and west), and should not be molested or hindered by any Shemite, friend or foe. The Shemite PCs should take it that the Zuagir will not move against them for at least 24 hours.

The next day, smart PCs (those who wish to return to Zamboula, anyway) will collect up to 194 Yoggite ears from the battlefield. These ears are worth 5 cp (.5 sp) apiece payable as bounty from the Satrap.

When the PCs move back toward Zamboula, they discover twenty-five slain Turanian light cavalry (bodies picked clean of loot, worked over by scavengers and riddled with arrows). The arrows are Zuagir. The bodies are all known as troops loyal to Jelal Agha, but who were NOT present at the Yoggite battle. One of these men WAS present, as part of Jelal's command group. He has had his stomach cut open and his entrails stuffed into his mouth; his face has been painted with the symbol of Ishtar. It is the mark of a traitor, informer or betrayer. These slain Turanians look as if they were setting up an ambush (facing the Yoggote battle) when they were ambushed.

Tracks indicate that a group of horsemen approximating the number of Jelal's command group rode this way and peaceably met this second group of horsemen, then rode for Zamboula. Camel tracks approach this area, then double back into Zuagir territory before becoming untraceable.

The Zuagir, out of respect for the divine favor Ishtar has shown the PCs, have taken out this ambush party left by Jelal Khan to slay any survivors of the battle. The Zuagir consider their duty to Ishtar's chosen of the moment (the PCs) paid in full, and will still try to kill the PCs if they come upon them again, but will be more cautious after witnessing their battle against the Yoggites.

At the Eagle Gates of Zamboula, the PCs are busy checking in with the gate guards when they notice a retainer of Jelal Agha hanging about, chatting up a red silk girl (harlot). He sudenly notices the PCs, turns ashen, and jumps up onhis horse, racing toward the military base. The PCs doubtless give chase. The retainer jumps off his horse, runs into the auditorium where Jelal is speaking to a batch of fresh new foreign mercenary recruits (same speech he gave the PCs). As the PCs enter the auditorium, they see the retainer whispering into Jelal's ear at the podium. They both look up, ashen-faced, as the PCs enter.


Jelal Agha is too stunned to speak.

If the PCs accuse Jelal of cowardice and treachery, he will counter-charge them with the same, and order them arrested. Jelal, as you may recall, is related to the Satrap by marriage. The PCs will be overwhelmed by Jelal and his retainers, but if things go badly, Jelal will call out a reward to bring the foreign mercenaries into the fight. The PCs will end up in the Satrap's dungeon, awaiting execution. Their story will fall on deaf ears, possibly making them suspect the Satrap is in cahoots with Jelal. The PCs will be visited by Baltaj the Enforcer, a high ranking priest of Hannuman the Ape God (the religion of Zamboula). Baltaj is fat, beady eyed, thoroughly unpleasant, and exceedingly verbose (think Sydney Greenstreet as Caspar Gutmann, the "Fat Man" from the "Maltese Falcon"). He proposes helping the PCs escape Zamboula IF they kill the visiting Turania architect, Gombuk the Builder, who is staying with Jelal Agha. Baltaj also emphasizes Gombuk's plans for a new temple to Erlik must be stolen and delivered unto his agent.

Baltaj promises fresh steeds and provisions at the gate and that the guards will be bribed to let them pass (give the plans to the man who will give you the mounts--no plans, no escape, as the man is the only one who can signal the guards to open the gates). Baltaj offers 100 sp per man (but will go up to 200). If the PCs haggle him up, he will add in a group of decoy riders at the gate to give the PCs a "50/50 chance" of losing any pursuit (he was going to do this anyway, but neglects to mention it, saving it as a bargaining chip if the PCs haggle). Baltaj also offers them a map of Jelal's estate, and details of the guards and other inhabitants. He mentions that Jelal has two leopards prowling in the garden of his estate at night, and offers an appropriate vial of lotus poison to deal with them, Jelal and Gombuk (6 doses). He pays half up front, when they sucessfully escape from the dungeon with the aid of bribed guards and servants.

Hannuman is the ONLY religion in Zamboula (shrines to other gods are allowed in private homes or outside the city walls). Hannuman opposes any foreign temples being built in "their" city, which King Yezdigerd is constructing despite their protests in a effort to attract Turanians to settle in Zamboula, further cementing Turan's grip. Yezdigerd also is doing this to punish Hannuman for allowing his emissary to be eaten by the Yoggites (there is some talk that the emissary was eaten by a great gray ape of Hannuman, but this is mere tongue-wagging by Turanian dogs jealous of Hannuman's influence). Hannuman hopes that the PCs well-known grudge against Jelal Agha will cover up Hannuman's involvement in the murder of Gombuk the Builder, delaying the building of the Temple of Erlik Enthroned.

Once they succeed, Baltaj will not trust the PCs to escape properly on their own from the Satrap's vengeance. He will have dispatched temple assassins in advance to an appropriate ambush point or oasis some distance from the city. They are to kill the PCs, retrieve the money, and return to Baltaj.

Baltaj himself, if sufficiently impressed by the PCs in his initial meeting, will be there to ensure their demise. Baltaj is a 6th level Scholar (Lay Priest background) with Hypnotism, Nature Magic, and Necromancy (Raise Corpse), as well as the Improved Initiative, Ritual Sacrifice and Tortured Sacrifice feats. He has a great Gray Ape as his animal ally (usually disguised in a hooded cloak and robe) and rarely is without him. Use as many temple assassins (soldiers, thieves, scholars) as you think appropriate. Baltaj will flee at the first sign of his group's defeat, using his men to cover his retreat.


If the PCs instead lie about Jelal's cowardice and treachery, praising his bravery, or saying they couldn't see his position and are glad he survived, then Jelal looks relieved and resumes his previous arrogant demeanor. He invites them into his office, where, surrounded by his heavily armed retainers, he informs them that their "ear bounty" will be paid in full the next day by the base paymaster; they can pick it up then. The Satrap will be informed of their bravery and doubtless rewarded handsomely (Jelal knows the NPCs with the party are out talking up their part in the battle to the troops and mercs outside, making a cover-up/quickie assassination of the party impossible). In the meantime, they are dismissed and free to carouse as they will.

The party will find many mercs and troops eager to buy them drinks in order to hear their tale, and trulls will flock to be with the "heroes of the canyon of doom", possibly offering freebies or discounts to snare them if they are handsome as well as brave. The PCs should use the opportunity to gather information on Jelal and the situation in Zamboula; they should have a bonus to do so as they are popular at the moment, and people friendlier than normal.


DC 20
1. Jelal Agha is seeing an Iranistanni courtesan, a rare beauty named Sosanna, who is being kept exclusive to him in a apartment on the Street of Jades in the Red Light District. He sees her twice a week with only a few bodyguards, as he must be more discreet than other men, as his wife has the ear of the Satrap.

2. Jelal Agha receives sword lessons from Master Khalid at his weapon school on the Street of Clashing Arms every other day. Jelal is reputed to be an excellent pupil.

DC 15
1. Several other foreign mercenary bands led by Jelal Agha were lost in battle recently to the Yoggites with only Jelal surviving, though they are counted as victories.

2. A thief was badly mauled by leopards trying to break into Jelal's estate two days ago while he was absent at the battle. The thief was later found dead from his wounds in an alley some distance away, though the thief's wounds seemed even greater and more savage than could have been caused by the great cats, almost as if he was torn apart. (Baltaj and his pet ape, perhaps?)

3. Jelal Agha's wife, Hafiza, is no great beauty, but she has given him two fine sons (toddler and infant).

4. High priest Hafir of Aghrapur is staying with the Satrap at his palace, here to oversee initial construction of the Temple of Erlik Enthroned. The temple's construction is opposed both by the Zamboulan nobility (of old Stygian blood) and the temple of Hannuman. Hafir has brought his famed architect, Gombuk the Builder, with him. Gombuk is staying with Jelal Agha.

5. The nobility consist of four houses, located along the Street of Serpents. They are all Set worshippers. House Thututhmes, ruled by Lord Kut-Amun, is the most powerful. The other houses are House Hak-Heru, led by Lady Nehekba, House Phandaros, led by Lord Psamitek, and House Ak-Atum, led by Lord Ekba-Erut. Lord Ekba-Erut has his cousins from Stygia visiting him. (Psat-Emun and Khafra-Zati, our competeitive siblings from LOVE, STYGIAN STYLE). The nobility want Turan out and Stygia in (replacing Hannuman with Set as principal religion); to this end, they squable bitterly over every aspect of Turanian rule, looking to humiliate, discredit and undermine the Turanian regime in Zamboula. Their mouthpiece in this is Lord Ahotep, Royal Ambassador to Zamboula, who was appointed by King Cstephon of Stygia.

6. King Yezdigerd's coin pays for the mercenary hordes in Zamboula; Turanian troops cannot be brought in greater numbers due to political instability in Turan. King Yezdigerd, known as the Usurper, slew as many of his rival heirs to the throne of the late King Yildiz as he could before seizing power, but not all of his rivals were killed. They gather support and present a menace that cannot be denied. As much as Yezdigerd longs to cement his grasp over Zamboula, he cannot make but token gestures toward completing his bloodless conquest of the protectorate.

7. The Temple of Hannuman, with its dreadful rituals and sorcery, is the only thing keeping Turan and the nobility in check. Hannuman, however, is not so much concerned with who runs the city as in maintaining their position as state religion. Because the nobility and Turanians seek to undermine their power, they wish to keep either from succeeding in their quests to assume total control over Zamboula.

Jelal will have his retainers follow the party to see and hear what they do and report back to him. Jelal's men are not particularly adept at this surveillance and the party eventually should know that Jelal is keeping his eye upon them.

Also keeping his eye upon them is our good friend discussed earlier, Baltaj the Enforcer, priest of Hannuman. He dispatches two dark-robed lay priests (Scholar 1) to keep an eye on them. If captured and threatened with violence, they know nothing except their master (whom they refuse to name) wants them followed, but if he wanted them dead, they would be dead by now and would not have sent such lowly servants as they to do the murder. Their profession can easily be discerned from their holy symbols under their robes. If released, the Hannumanites return to their temple to give their report, where they are summarily fed to the carnivorous apes by Baltaj for being caught---if they show any signs of being roughed up by the PCs. Otherwise, they keep their mouths shut about that portion of their night and the PCs see them again the next day, keeping a more respectful distance in their surveillance.

The next day, the ear bounty is paid out in full, 5 coppers an ear (only left ears are accepted to prevent fraud). Jelal's retainer (the same one who reported seeing the PCs at the Eagle Gate upon their return), disdainfully informs them that a Royal Messenger is waiting for them outside. The messenger persents them with a sealed scroll, then departs on his magnificent steed. The message informs them that the Satrap requests their presence at the palace in two days for a ceremony to commemorate their bravery in service to Turan. Afterwards, there will be a feast in their honor...

The next two days should be spent gathering more information if need be and living it up. Their "shadows" keep a respectful distance.


His Excellency, Jehungir Khan, Satrap of Zamboula receives the party in his throne room at the palace. Jelal Agha and his retainers are present as well as the Satrap's elite guard, his Stygian mistress, Nafertari (said to be a gift from King Cstephon of Stygia himself), and the fork-bearded Vizier, Farouz Balad (a wizard).

The Satrap demands a full report from the party about the battle; he nods and listens attentively, asking questions every so often. When the party finishes (if there are no glaring slip-ups, or accusations against Jelal that give the Turanians the pretext to throw them in the dungeon), the Satrap thanks them for their service, gives them each a medal (the "silver scimitar"), and says that next time, he will have to send them on "a real mission" (meaning a suicide mission). He sends them off with his attendants to be properly attired for the feast.

At the feast, the party will have the opportunity to meet members of the nobility, the priesthood of Hannuman (including Baltaj), High Priest Hafir of Erlik and Gombuk the Builder. The priests of Hannuman seem disinterested, as do the nobility, and the Turanians, for that matter. This is a sham in front of their rivals; each faction is actualy very interested in the party for thie own selfish reasons.

The only persons who express any interest in the party are High Priest Hafir of Erlik, who introduces them to his Master Architect, Gombuk the Builder. Gombuk wants to hear all about the battle, as he is considering adding a mural commemorating it in his new temple. He is primarily interested in the Turanian involvement... It may be possible for the PCs to invite themselves to dinner with Gombuk at Jelal's estate if they make a successful Diplomacy check and hold back the "details" until then.

As the PCs are about to leave, a servant approaches them and proffers a covered tray, asking if they'd like to try the roasted desert snake. The servant lifts the cover, revealing a small note. The note invites the party to meet a "friend" on the second floor of the shop of Dromo the Hideworker on the Street of Leather later that night... Anyone scanning the room will see Baltaj of Hannuman slightly incline his head in their direction and the barest hint of a smile crease his obese features.

The PCs are being followed, but these shadows, if not shaken by the PCs, will be set upon and destroyed by Hannumanite temple assassins (out of sight of the party).

At the shop, Baltaj awaits, seemingly alone and in good spirits. There is a rank scent as if a wild beast were near. Shuffling of robes and creaking of floorboards come from the next room, where the door is slightly ajar... Inside, of course, is his animal ally, the great gray ape, Dalgo, wearing robes and a hooded cloak. He waits for his master's signal (a guttural, unintelligible snarl) to bring in a chest weighted with silver: the down payment. The ape also barges in at the first hint his master is in danger.

Baltaj makes the same offer to hire the party as I described in my earlier post, but this time prefaces it by warning that Jelal has hired assassins and their next mission will be a suicide mission. Their time in Zamboula is limited. They should take their revenge on Jelal quickly, and while they're at it, why not kill Gombuk, seize the plans, and ensure they get out alive and wealthy? He offers half up front, the rest on delivery of the plans (and Gombuk's head).

The PCs may also approach the Stygian nobility after this and try to get money out of them. Any of the Stygians are interested, and will explain that they believe the Satrap and Jelal are "cooking the books" on the mercenary payroll issue. They have had an agent (thief) examine the documents at the paymaster's quarters and found them to be lacking the dirt they need. The real books, they have determined, are kept in Jelal's estate. The Satrap is already rich, but rich men always want more, and are quick to take advantage of Yezdigerd's distraction. The noble's agent met with an unfortunate accident (the leopards) and they want the party now to steal the books. They want to use the books to blackmail the Satrap into making various concessions to the nobility. They will offer 100 sp per man, up to 250 sp, and a map of Jelal's estate. They offer half up front, the rest on delivery.

The PCs now have several options to get their revenge, get paid and get out!
I haven't run this part yet, so details are a little sketchy...

For Jelal's walled estate, there are 15 guards + 2 leopards. I will use the manor map from Mike Mearl's FOLNAR'S DAGGER (AEG mini-module), omitting the exterior guardhouse and trees and placing a 10 ft. high wall around it with shards of broken pottery embedded in the top. I've altered the internal room assignments to fit.

Jelal Agha (Noble 5)
Captain of the Guards (Soldier 4)
Sergeant (Soldier 3)
13 Guards (Soldier 2, use Turanian Light Cavalry)
2 leopards (use panther stats from CONAN)

Gombuk The Builder
Hafiza Agha, wife (Noble 2)
3 Handmaidens
2 young sons (1 infant, 1 toddler)
Cooks, Scullery Maids, Pot Boy

Gombuk's room has the plans in it, spread out on the table. Gombuk must be killed or knocked out to gain the plans.

Jelal has the "real paymaster's books" hidden in a secret compartment in his bedroom, under a trapped chest (poison needle lock, DC 25). The chest can simply be moved without triggering the trap, as the chest is a decoy. Inside the chest is another set of "cooked books" (worthless to the nobles).
Very nice, IC! You have to ask Red Tulwar if he'll post this on his site, it could be a really good introduction to the Eastern intrigue and war that makes up some of the most atmospheric stories...
Ian Sturrock said:
Very nice, IC! You have to ask Red Tulwar if he'll post this on his site, it could be a really good introduction to the Eastern intrigue and war that makes up some of the most atmospheric stories...

Thanks, Ian! And thanks for the great Conan RPG! :D
Iron_Chef said:
Note (I'm making this up as a plot device, not finding it in any Conan book): The Hand of Ishtar is a sign of respect given from one Shemite warrior to another in recognition of a supreme victory. It is not given lightly. It is a sign that the warriors are invincible, that the hand of Ishtar favors them so heavily that to strike against them would be blasphemy. Shemite tradition demands that victors of a fabulous battle deserve to savor that victory, at least for 24 hours (actual times vary, but 24 hrs. is universally agreed upon as the minimum by east and west), and should not be molested or hindered by any Shemite, friend or foe. The Shemite PCs should take it that the Zuagir will not move against them for at least 24 hours.

This is excellent! Since my intro scenario also deals with Shemites and Zuagirs, I will most defintely use this.

I'd like to add this little bit of lore to my Hyborian Lore page (in the works) on my website. Do you mind?
Red Tulwar said:
Iron_Chef said:
Note (I'm making this up as a plot device, not finding it in any Conan book): The Hand of Ishtar is a sign of respect given from one Shemite warrior to another in recognition of a supreme victory. It is not given lightly. It is a sign that the warriors are invincible, that the hand of Ishtar favors them so heavily that to strike against them would be blasphemy. Shemite tradition demands that victors of a fabulous battle deserve to savor that victory, at least for 24 hours (actual times vary, but 24 hrs. is universally agreed upon as the minimum by east and west), and should not be molested or hindered by any Shemite, friend or foe. The Shemite PCs should take it that the Zuagir will not move against them for at least 24 hours.

This is excellent! Since my intro scenario also deals with Shemites and Zuagirs, I will most defintely use this.

I'd like to add this little bit of lore to my Hyborian Lore page (in the works) on my website. Do you mind?

Thanks, Red Tulwar. Feel free to add this "Hand of Ishtar" creation of mine to your Scarlet-Blades site. Love your site!

We need some low level NPC villains; on that subject, it might be helpful (as well as easier on you) to provide a low level version (2nd-3rd level) in addition to the mid/high level version of your existing villains. Most GMs will be starting off Conan campaigns at 1st level, and won't be able to use your existing NPCs until much later (at least in a fight), no matter how cool they are. And they are very cool! 8)
Excellent! Conan neophytes like myself are sure to benefit from any more campaign write ups like this.
Anonymous said:
Excellent! Conan neophytes like myself are sure to benefit from any more campaign write ups like this.

Here is another campaign option: The online journal for CONAN RPG: ROAD OF KINGS author Vincent Darlage's WAR ON THE BORDER Conan campaign. One could use it as the basis for a new Conan campaign set in the Westermarck/Pictish Wilderness along the Aquilonian border.

He's also created an REH accurate, detailed full color blow-up map of the area here: