Red Sonja Unconquered (Conan part 2)

RS1 “Red Sonja Unconquered” is a 1986 TSR AD&D module designed for 4 Characters 10th to 14th level.

I’m not going to give specific module detail, except where I’ve changed or left stuff out of my rewrite. The adventure’s best point is a great story idea. (Basically, being in the middle of a lot of bandit raids, and trying to locate a person/location to recover a item without being sure what the truth behind everything happening really is.) It starts really well, but is let down by being extremely linear (though it often suggests that its offering the players choices when it really isn’t) and the final scene is essentially two pages of text where nothing the players do (or have previously done) is likely to have any impact on the conclusion. Overall, I think it’s a good adventure module, with a bunch of potential problems. I’d have to actually play it as written to see if everything worked out or fell apart.

There’s lots of boxed text to be read to the players (too much), nearly always preceded by “read the following to the PCs”. (I think DM’s understand what boxed text is for!) A lot of the DM information is overblown – too much description or unnecessary background information. A lot could have been simplified or condensed without loss of anything important. For example, giving the GM the name, family background and accidental death of a corpse isn’t something the players are ever going to be able to know, so why mention it. The properties of some leaves (if you pick and brewed them) aren’t likely to be a concern for players searching a burial ground for a particular crypt either.

The module does a good job setting up the background of Hyboria for the DM and players, and has a lot to say about the possibility of extending the module into a campaign. 3-4 pages of useful info. It also has a fantastic eight-page fold-out map of Hyboria. (It’s such a pity I have a PDF.)

It’s designed to be run with the four characters included: Red Sonja (11th Fighter), Galon (14th Fighter, 4th Thief), Kynon (11th Fighter, 6th Thief) and Achmal (10th Magic-User, 4th Illusionist). Why is Red Sonja lower level than everyone else? She has a very high Dexterity, Intelligence and Charisma, and more HP’s than the others but lower Strength and Con.

Disappointingly, the character “sheets” provided only list Class Levels, Ability Scores and HPs, with a brief background description. The Magic-user has a list of memorised spells and two minor magic items, but only Sonja is actually given any equipment. One of the magic items can be used 5/day: Roll 1d6, on 1-2 causes 1 HP damage, 3-6 heals 1 HP. Apart from this, their only method of healing is 5-9 HP’s from a nights rest. (No Clerics in this world.) I think the biggest problem anyone actually playing these characters would have is staying alive. I’ve sure the lack of healing was forgotten when many of the encounters (that can’t be avoided) were written. They do all get a bunch of Luck Points that can be use to gain extra attacks, or automatically hit. I’m also amused to note that Red Sonja is pictured four times in her typical chain-mail bikini, but listed as wearing leather armour.

The adventure is broken into three main sections, the first being the best. It gives a little bit of background and throws the players straight into a fight. They then learn a bit more about what’s going on, and are led (or forced) to encounter the modules first main NPC, who can become an ally or enemy for the rest of the adventure. (He uses heaps of remarkable magical abilities during the module, and only one actually matches a spell he has memorised!) There are essentially three ways this section ends. These differences come up again in main parts of the adventure, but appear to have been overlooked in some encounters. The writer also seems to have missed the fact that one of these possibilities should mean the final events of the module should actually occur at least a day prior to the players themselves arriving at the relevant location, and finding that their actions in section two and three were completely irrelevant. This is something I’ve rewritten heavily.

The second part of the adventure has an encounter with a succubus who automatically drains 1 level from all three male characters. Combat can occur to drive it off on the second night, but it can’t be hit by non-magical weapons. (Here go the fate points.) The next major event is the players being captured by an army, which they can resist or try to escape. They are roped and chained, but somehow Sonja gets to keep her sword just so she can challenge one of the commanders soldiers to a duel when he has her escorted to his tent. They either get to escape or suddenly the army becomes their allies. If allies, the players get some more background to push them in the right direction. The army itself will not be a part of the final part of the adventure. Good ideas in much of this, but not well structured. Introducing some healing for making friends with the army would have been a good idea.

The final section is well detailed. It introduces a few minor NPC’s that are mostly irrelevant, and could have been simpler. There are a couple of encounters that serve only to weaken the players. Then you have the final encounter, where depending on how wounded everyone is, should either result in a total party kill, the sudden death of the magic-user/illusionist opponent (if players win initiative and save against his nastier spells) or rolls into the aforementioned set piece finish where the players win by default.

My rewrite simplifies all the text, drops some unimportant encounters and locations, and tries to focus dialogue on what’s important. I’m putting my adventure, PC character sheets and spell descriptions onto my resources page. You should be able to run my one session adventure with just a copy of the d20 Players Handbook. You shouldn’t need the d20 Conan Rulebook. If you have the original module you won’t have to improvise maps.

That’s my rant/semi-review of an old module. If you are one of my regular players, feel free to download the characters, but please don’t read the adventure!

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