Conan the barbarian has a vast history of epic adventures, well beyond the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.
With the help of the Modiphius RPG and Fantasy Grounds, I crafted a story featuring new characters in Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age.
As their chronicler, let me tell you a tale of high adventure!
It all started with the Conan the barbarian role-playing game
I have some friends who are big board gamers. They wanted to get into role-playing games. I suggested the Modiphius Conan 2d20 RPG.
As this was still the time of pandemic and we all traveled a bunch, I also suggested playing on the Fantasy Grounds virtual tabletop setup.
Using the adventure, “The Red Pit,” I would lead the players on an epic adventure.
I thought it wise to playtest the adventure myself, making sure I still remembered both the 2d20 ruleset and the Fantasy Grounds interface.
This fanfiction is the result of that work.
Why write the playtest down like fanfiction?
Why the hell not?
The sun beat down hot upon the slaves working the quarry. Red dust from smashing rocks choked them as they dug for the limestone beneath.
The thuggish trustees overseeing their work withheld water merely to be cruel.
What passed for food also ran scarce, shaping the slaves — men, women, children in their teens — into cadaverous machines valued as less than human.
Welcome to life in the Red Pit of Koth.
Asthara, her ebony hair lacking its usual radiance, her swarthy skin covered in dirt, glanced at a group of male slaves working in her area. They ogled her as they would a piece of fresh meat before a starving man.
One glare from her, and they hurriedly looked back at the iron hammers in their knotted hands.
They remembered Asthara smashing the skulls of two male slaves who had tried to have their way with her. When another two male slaves joined the fray against Asthara, two other female slaves had stepped in to help.
The trustees had to pull the women off the male slaves.
The leader of the trustees, a beast of a man named Nazarus, had gotten a laugh from the women’s struggle.
Because their efforts had entertained him, he only gave each of them twenty-five lashes of his accursed whip instead of defiling them in his tent.
Asthara had later learned the other two women’s names. Kesisa claimed herself a Hyrkanian traveling through Hyboria seeking adventure. She was a few years younger than Asthara’s twenty-one years but carried herself well in a fight.
The girl also had an arrogance about her that reeked of royalty, though Kesisa made no such claim.
How noble could a Hyrkanian horsewoman be compared to the merchants and princes of Asthara’s Argos anyway?
Runi, the other woman who had aided Asthara, was older than Asthara, but not by much. Runi, too, could hold her own in a fight.
During the battle, she yelled commands to the other women as if she were an army commander. She did have that Zingarian style of enjoying the fight while taunting the enemy.
The three had linked up, watching each other’s back in the weeks since the attack. Everyone left them alone though Nazarus made a point of giving them fewer clothes than the other female slaves.
The ragged garments barely covered their breasts and waists, whereas the other women had what amounted to full-body socks with ropes for belts.
Unfortunately for those other women, they weren’t as lucky to avoid Nazarus or the trustee’s physical attentions.
Runi gritted her teeth every time she saw one of them dragged off to the trustees’ tents high above on the pit’s ground level.
Words from Kesisa kept her anger at bay, as did the crack of the whip.
Asthara could tell, though, in time, neither would contain the warrior within Runi.
Nefera was one of the unfortunates to suffer Nazarus’s sexual aggressions.
A girl much younger than even Kesisa, Nefera readily accepted her fate as a sign from Mitra. However, she saw in Asthara, Runi, and Kesisa women who could rise above their station.
In the slave tents at night, Runi would share tales of her life before the pit, when she protected princes in Zingara before another prince betrayed and exiled her.
Nefera’s eyes would brighten just a touch before Nazarus called upon her. Asthara hated to see that light so quickly extinguished.
Today, Nefera seemed particularly quiet, her slow hammering drawing the ire of a nearby trustee.
Asthara moved closer to the girl and glared at the trustee. He lowered his whip but insisted Nefera pick up her pace.
“She will make her quota,” Asthara assured him.
The trustee eyed Asthara — though never quite connecting with her eyes — before walking away.
“You shouldn’t put yourself out there for me,” Nefera said. “You’ll cross Nazarus, and he will whip you again.”
“I’ve felt his whip before,” Asthara said. “Better to spare one so young as you any further pain.”
Nefera almost smiled, but her face quickly reset to her look of doom.
The sound of hammers on stone accented by the occasional whip crack replaced the women’s words as they fell into silence.
“The girl’s troubled.”
The woman who spoke had a Zingarian accent that corrupted her Argossean. Asthara turned to see Runi moving within earshot. “What did that brute do to you?” Runi asked Nefera.
The young girl shook her head, putting her effort into her work.
Kesisa joined the group. She put her hand on Nefera’s hammer, stopping her. Nefera looked at Kesisa, saw the demand on her face. She wanted an answer.
Turning to the other women, she saw the same determination, though Runi at least held compassion too.
With a sigh, Nefera relented. “Nothing he has not done before,” she said. Then, a conspiratorial look took her expression. “It is what I heard.”
That got the other women’s attention.
“The master of the pit. The real master. He is coming. Today.”
Kesisa’s eyes narrowed. “The real master?”
“She means the bastard who owns the Red Pit,” Runi said. “Whenever the owner shows, the trustees will be extra cruel that day to make a show for the one they call master.”
Noting Runi’s disgust, Asthara asked, “You’ve been here long enough to know this?”
“I’ve been around slavers long enough to know this,” Runi replied. “But I also know this presents an opportunity.”
Asthara smiled. “I knew you Zingarians were hot-blooded but not insane!”
Kesisa glanced at Asthara, then back at Runi. “You’re not —”
Seeing the determined look on Runi’s face, she drew the two other women close and said in a whisper, “You’re insane!”
Runi pushed Kesisa, turning her away from her. “Stay at your work!”
“While you have dreams of escape?”
“We can make that dream a reality,” Asthara said as she returned to her hammering. Shards of rock fell to her feet, collecting among other jagged pieces on the ground.
Kesisa looked at Asthara as if she had lost her senses.
“At night, when the trustees remove our ankle shackles so we can ascend the ladders,” Runi said under her breath while working, “we do it.”
“With the owner here, they’ll have twice the manpower to stop us!” Kesisa said, still too amazed at her allies’ madness to resume hammering.
“Which means they would never expect an escape attempt,” Runi said. She gave Kesisa a determined glare. Kesisa shook her head and resumed hammering.
“I’d be happy just killing that bastard Nazarus,” Asthara said.
“If he gets in the way, you may taste his blood,” Runi said, “but the objective must be to escape. As many of us as can.”
Kesisa breathed heavily. She moved near Nefera. “You stay close, little one. Your pain here in the pit ends tonight.”
An expression of relief pierced Nefera’s look of doom.
To be continued…
Yeah, no Conan the barbarian himself, but hopefully you’ll warm to the new characters.
To read the remaining ten chapters of the story, subscribe to my newsletter! You know you want to know how — or if — Asthara, Runi, and Kesisa escape the Red Pit!
If you’re interested in playing the Conan 2d20 RPG, check out Modiphius.
This link will take you to info on the Fantasy Grounds VTT.
Happy gaming and/ or creating!