This is a collection of seven adventures for Conan, each designed to be played individually as suits, spanning the known world and providing opportunities to explore different aspects and themes. They are deliberately designed to be episodic - Howard's original Conan stories were, after all - and can be mixed up and messed about with if they don't suit your needs as presented here. The adventures are presented as seven chapters with an eighth one devoted to a collection of short adventures and plot seeds to inspire you further.
The first adventure is Devils Under Green Stars. The party has somehow got to Zukundu, a lost civilisation in the Southern Kingdoms beyond Stygia (several suggestions are provided for the exact location), where they find a high-walled city/palace covering an entire island. It looks pretty overgrown, but those venturing in will find that it's not completely abandoned! The idea is that they've found the place almost by accident, but local wildlife makes the thought of going in more palatable than being eaten where they are. Oh, and at least one of the tribes within has lots of gold. Surely that makes it all worthwhile? With warring tribes and hideous monsters, yes, this one has caught the spirit of Conan well.
On, then, to The Pact of Xiabalba, which begins with the party going about their own business at sea when a storm strikes... and ends with them fighting to escape a mysterious city that's about to be sucked back into a nightmare realm somewhere out of time and space as they know it. The city, you see, belongs to a race of Giant-Kings thought to have died out sometime in pre-history... only they are very much around, at least here. The city at first appears ruined, then a timeslip takes them into a siege...
Next up, The Caves of the Dero gives the party a treasure map and, well, you know adventurers. Given a treasure map they'll need to try and find the treasure... the quest leads them into a decidedly unstable mine. The loot may be stupendous, but is it really worth the potential cost to retrieve it?
The next adventure is The Ghost of Thunder River. This starts off in Velitrium, a border town in the Westermark in the Bossonian Marches, the buffer Aquilonia maintains between its border and Pictish territory. The Picts are proving troublesome under the leadership of a weird pale devil risen from ancient days (or so it is claimed). To introduce the backstory, the players can undertake a prelude in which they forsake their regular characters for a bunch of Picts whose hunting trip has ended up with them forming a war party who end up visiting a strange tomb... Once this segment has played out, they can resume their normal characters to start the adventure proper. The prelude can be omitted, but it does add an interesting twist and is rather more fun than just being told what happened in the past. The adventure itself begins with the party enlisting in the Velitrium militia - it's left up to you to decide how they came to be there - and helping to take the fight to the Picts... but there's something odd going on. Plienty of wilderness adventure in this one.
The Thousand Eyes of Aumag-Bel follows, beginning with the party enjoying a well-earned rest in a city when they get robbed of a specific item. Just how they came to have said item is left up to you - anything from an inheritance to loot picked up in a previous adventure will do. This leads to all sorts of fun and running battles through (and then under) the city.
This is followed by The Red Pit which starts with the party as slaves... and it's time to lead a revolt! Again, how they got to be there is left up to you, although a few ideas are provided. This one is a straight-up all-out brawl as the slaves - armed with bare fists and loincloths to start with - fight their way out of the Red Pit, an opencast mine in which they've been put to work.
The final full adventure is The Seethers in Darkness, which sees the party hired to escort a scholar on a quest for a lost ruin in the desert southwest of Zamboula. Needless to say, nobody's heard of the ruins and nothing is quite what it seems. Plenty of classic adventure here with ancient races, cities buried in the sand and other typical Conanesque themes.
Finally we have Chapter 8: Seeds of Glory. This provides a myriad of ideas about running adventures and campaigns, including suggestions for stringing the adventures presented in this book into a coherent plot starting off with The Red Pit - you don't start much lower than being a slave after all - and gathering wealth and power progressing through the other adventures. Or maybe they start off in reasonable comfort and things go badly wrong as their adventures progress... yet such a coherent story arc was not Howard's way of telling a story, even if it is more expected in a role-playing game. Many possibilities are discussed here, it will be up to you to decide how you want to use this material. The chapter ends with several paragraph-long seeds from which you can build further adventures. Who knows, maybe Conan himself will make an appearance, but remember: the player-characters are the heroes of THESE tales!
It's an excellent collection of adventures, and their episodic nature is handled well in the advice given in Chapter 8, with ample suggestions on how to use them whether or not you want them to be a bit more coherent in terms of a plotline. These are probably not adventures to just pick up and run, they will repay careful thought and planning to make your group's experience of the Hyborian World as epic and exciting as the original tales... but the spirit of Conan lives on in these pages!
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Reviewed: 18 February 2017