View Full Version : Conan - A Vexed Legacy and Sea Horrors

2010-08-27, 05:27 AM
Hello, I need some advice / brainstorming for ideas for my next Conan (D20 2nd edition) adventure.

Rodriguez (Zingaran Pirate 3 / Thief 4) and Nina (Brythunian Thief 3 / Temptress 3 / Barbarian 1) arrive back in Messantia (Argos) after a long journey along the coast and through the jungles of Kush and beyond. Maybe there'll be a third character (warrior type) but I'm not sure.

Map: http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/pdf/conanhyboriamap.jpg

There are two big plot points:

1) Rodriguez is the illegitimate son of a disgraced Zingaran Noble. But somehow he is now the principal heir and becomes involved in some intrigues and political power plays in Zingara (which is perpetually on the verge of civil war). In the end, what he might inherit is at best his father's debts and disgraced status and they'll have to flee to Tortage (Barachan Isles) where they have friends among the pirates.

2) Meanwhile, the Stygian Scholar Amenmesse - the old nemesis of the adventuring duo (especially Nina) - returns from the sea / grave as a grotesque half man / half tentacle monster. They thought he was dead after Nina kicked him overboard during a fight with a huge malignant Kraken while they fled from a small island deep in the western ocean.

He returns at the head of an army of deep ones and sea zombies that threatens to devastate the coast of Zingara and beyond. Of course, the Barachan Isles are right in his path to the coast.

How could he be stopped ? Maybe through a voodoo ritual or by taking away e.g. his MacGuffin of sea monster control (like Pirates of the Caribbean) ?

I need some ideas how to structure and flesh things out in both plot points.

2010-08-27, 05:57 AM
Why would Rodriguez want to inherit a bunch of debts, especially if he's a bastard? Creditors might come after him if they hear he has money, but if he's not been acknowledged, raised, or named as heir by his father, they'd have little legal ground. If he happens to be filthy rich from adventuring and pirating, the creditors might still try it.

A better way to develop this (but one that might detract from your plans) would be to offer Rodriguez a chance to essentially buy the name clean. He'd have to get proof of his legacy (find the midwife or his mother or someone who worked for his father and was responsible for hiding or looking after him or keeping his mother from making a fuss, whatever), and pay off the debts in order to clean the name and inherit it.

Note that noble titles aren't just a name. In feudal societies, a title means you own land. However, there's two main ways to own it, and the difference is essential. If the land is held as a fief, you don't actually own it - it's "on loan" from the person who enfeoffed you, and can be taken back with only some trouble. Each heir has to be confirmed and re-enfeoffed, even if only implicitly by not objecting to the inheritance.

If, however, the land is held allodially, it actually belongs to you, and not someone above you. Regardless of your title (which will usually, but not nearly always, somewhat reflect the size of your holdings and the amount of people enfeoffed to you), the land is yours, and no one can take it - except that they can, especially when you die without a legitimate heir. A bunch of people would immediately turn up with claims. The king and nearby nobles, especially the more powerful ones, would all claim the land as theirs based on law or some ancient and obscure claim of ownership. If there's a widow or a daughter, everyone would be trying to marry them to claim the land. (If a daughter is already married, there is an heir - the husband.)

So, the details matter, and Rodriguez' motivation is unclear. If you want to drive him to the Barachan Isles (although it hardly seems essential - the rest of the plot can progress regardless of whether he's on the isles or the Zingaran coast - maybe make his father's holdings a coastal fort and a small fishing port), you could let him turn up to stake his claim, but then have him driven off by rival claimants and have an old ally offer him a safe hideout on the Isles.

This sounds like a classic, and it seems like you've got pretty much all you need. A mysterious horde of deep ones (I have The Three Deaths of Conan here somewhere) and sea zombies strikes the Isles and the coast. Not an all-out invasion, of course - play up the horror. First they're clambering up on ships at port at night, then abducting people near the docks on misty nights, and soon holding entire cities in terror of going out at night. They only come up from the water after dark, so no one can chase them down. The populations of entire villages go missing overnight, only to join the hordes of the water-swollen shambling dead.

The sorcerer-monster could set up a base on a small island in the Barachan Isles, controlling the horde from there, and clues lead the PCs there - the first place that was attacked, maybe, or some strange lights and sounds at night, unearthly howling carrying over the crash of waves, great shapes moving across the stormy sky at night in the direction of the island, and so on.

I'd leave options open, and develop a few avenues in preparation. A ritual sounds fine - some kind of banishment or offensive magic to weaken his connection to the sea or whatever demon or monster changed him. The PCs would have to find a sea witch, on or near the Isles or on the Zingaran coast.

You could do two McGuffins - one is the sorcerer's magic amulet or enchanted conch of evil or glowing filmy orb embedded in his chest, and one is a magical object the sea-witch or another magician tells them of that they could use to weaken him. Destroy the one or obtain the other.

And lastly, in true Conan tradition, there's cutting the *%!#er up with a blade! It should be a tough fight, obviously, but still doable with luck and a fate point or two.

Seems straightforward enough: first Rodriguez' plot, then Nina's. Both get to participate fully in each, but both also get spotlight time. First Rodriguez tries to reclaim his heritage and fails or succeeds, and then the assault comes and they eventually realize who they're up against. (Use some familiar mannerism or clue to hint at the truth - maybe Amenmesse even sends a direct message in the form of, say, a deep one abduction attempt on Nina.)

2010-08-29, 06:59 AM
Thanks, those are some good ideas.

Why would Rodriguez want to inherit a bunch of debts, especially if he's a bastard?

People might tell him the truth initially, especially if ...

If he happens to be filthy rich from adventuring and pirating, the creditors might still try it.

... he still has some riches from his last adventure. The Conan RPG suggests that the adventurers should always be dead broke from high living at the start of a new adventure but that might not seem necessary now if his money can be used that way in the plot.

A better way to develop this (but one that might detract from your plans) would be to offer Rodriguez a chance to essentially buy the name clean. He'd have to get proof of his legacy (find the midwife or his mother or someone who worked for his father and was responsible for hiding or looking after him or keeping his mother from making a fuss, whatever), and pay off the debts in order to clean the name and inherit it.

Rodriguez' player made it clear that he has no real interest in cleaning his / his father's name / and becoming a noble - people might try to force him though. He relishes his life as a pirate.

stealth bump

Hmm, does anyone else have some advice ? Especially for the first part.

2010-08-29, 10:21 AM
It seems simple enough, going by your response: Rodriguez arrives in Zingara and gets mobbed by creditors with thugs who won't take no for an answer, and has to run to the Barachan Isles to get away from them. Maybe come up with something he needs to do in Zingara while ducking the thugs - get a McGuffin, meet an NPC, learn a secret, kill some enemy...

2010-08-29, 10:10 PM
Hmm ...

1.) Rodriguez is sought out by a powerful noble let's call him Aedan slated to inherit his father's title shortly after his death. The thing is, Aedan's brother is contesting the inheritance. While Rodriguez's father was disgraced, it is rumoured that he kept extensive files on a number of his counterparts and had evidence that Aedan's brother was, in fact, a bastard begat by another noble entirely. The only way Aedan can determine this is through the records kept by Rodriguez's father, which unfortunately have been seized by the king as part of an investigation into his financial misdealings.

Rodriguez could get them if he assumed is title; although this comes with significant debts, Aedan promises Rodriguez that he will compensate him heavily. Unfortunately, the brother catches wind of this scheme and sends assassins to kill Rodriguez at the royal palace.

Eventually, Rodriguez succeeds and gets access to his father's records. Unfortunately, it's determined that Aedan, not his brother, is the bastard in question, and now he hasn't a cent to give Rodriguez.

2) The big question is, what transformed Amenmesse into a monster? It's in one of the later Conan books, but there is in fact an underwater temple close to the Barachan Isles that was once home to a monster that Conan defeated. A sorceror tried to forge a mystical connection to the temple and was accidentally transformed into a tentacled monstrosity much like the one you described. Conan was coerced by the sorceror into retreiving a portion of the "Nautilus" in order to use in his ritual. Why not do the same for Amenmesse?

Here's my suggestion: a ship filled with panicked pirates comes to dock at the Isles, telling of horrors emerging from the sea not far from the Barachan Isles. One of the compatriots of your PCs, concerned over the threat, goes to investigate what's going on and invites the PCs along.

The ship is attacked, with nearly everyone aboard being slaughtered by the monsters. Finally, the PCs are confronted by Amenmesse. He boasts that a horde ten times the one they just fought off will be attacking the Barachan Isles, which will be the staging point for an inland invasion.

While returning to the island to warn of the danger, they are contacted by a sage or perhaps another sorceror who has foreseen the danger. He requires their assistance in tracking down the pirate who has seen the temple in question, a man who had once fallen overboard of his ship while battling Zingaran marauders, drowned and then returned to miraculous life when his body was fished back aboard by his comrades. He has nightmares of the place and is reluctant to give them information.

Finally, they do determine the location, and the sage requires a piece of the temple to sever Amenmesse's connection to his troops and to revert Amenmsse into a mindless monster. But those waters are infested with deep zombies, and such a dive will not be an easy task.

2010-08-29, 11:49 PM
My best advice is, like many have suggested, do Rodriguez's plot first. If nothing else, depending on how it ends, it might give your PCs some extra back up for the second part (either in the form of better equipment, family soldiers, money to hire mercenaries, etc.). However, my advice splits off from others here in that you should begin to lay hints of the deep ones and sea zombies beginning to attack before Rodriguez's plot reaches it's conclusion.

It SHOULD give the feel that the world isn't just going to wait passively by for the PCs to do things in order, give them another avenue of adventure if they get stumped, and more importantly puts some pressure on them to pick up the pace. Supernatural happenings are NEVER a good thing in Conan in my experience (which is just reading, sadly) and if they begin to get hints that an old nemesis has returned or that they'll be dragged into the rumors of people being abducted in the night, then they'll be all the more anxious to clear up Rodriguez's plot in the hope of more resources or just so they can skip town and pretend they never heard about it. Perhaps even slip them a bit of plot help if they do exceptionally well on Rodriguez's plot? Perhaps his father kept a few exotic treasures hidden from the debt collectors, one of which might be able to repel malignant sea spirits or some such? Not a 'Haha, I fear no sea zombie now!' kinda of plot help, but little bit to help make things a bit easier on the final push after Amenmesse.

I hope this helps, even if only a little, cause it looks like you have an amazing set-up going here. :smallsmile:

2010-08-30, 08:13 AM
@ FoE: Thanks, interesting intrigue idea with those two brothers, but I have to think about how Rodriguez' (father's) title is really something tainted ... having heavy debts on it doesn't seem bad enough ... maybe it will be Rodriguez himself through some shenanigans at the court (i.e. debauching a noblewoman / lady-in-waiting, killing Aedan or his brother ... or insulting the king ... or all of that ... at the same time !) who really ruins the title. As I said, the player has this heritage in Rodriguez' background but isn't interested in a noble's life.

The thing with the underwater temple sounds also great. But I'm not sure if the characters are really up to underwater combat. They don't have fabulous Str and Con scores and Nina is barely trained in Swim. Maybe I make it only accessible by diving (a grotto), but otherwise more dry. Maybe damp and with pools where you have to do stuff underwater for short periods of time.

Amenmesse was transformed differently => a twisted demonic intervention by the (demonic ?) Kraken or some aquatic demon lord who controlled the Kraken.

But the temple's story, location and power can be used to weaken Amenmesse's power / control over the deep ones and sea zombies. The rumours and the early encounter with Amenmesse and his sea horrors are also good, I'll probably use that.

@ Callos_DeTerran: Thanks, although it seems unlikely to get connections and money in Zingara ... maybe from scheming nobles / merchants or the seedy underworld. Anyway, the characters have some friends on the Barachan Isles ... although on their last adventures with pirate crews they were often the only survivors ... including the adventure where they last encountered Amenmesse.

Ok, I'll drop hints at the court in Zingara while the adventurers are there. Maybe some merchants tell stories of lost ships, devastated villages or from a survivor => e.g. stygian(-speaking) leader with tentacles should be enough to make the players think of Amenmesse again.

Maybe the characters indeed manage to find something in Rodriguez' inheritance that might help them against the sea horrors. Maybe I'll find something that's elegant and not to obvious / powerful.