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!

Conan RPG (d20 Mongoose)

Conan, the Roleplaying Game‘ is a 2003 game based on the d20 Open Game License (WotC). Considering how much I’ve liked Conan stuff since high school (movies, books and occasional comics) I’m really surprised that I didn’t know this came out at the time, because I would have bought it.

In 2017, Modiphius released a 2d20 RPG called “(Robert E. Howard’s) Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of”. Last year during lock-down, I stumbled on some free Modiphius PDF’s – an adventure and a set of Quickstar Rules (also with an adventure). I read little more than the intro, then got sidetracked looking into earlier editions of Conan games – TSR (1985) and Mongoose. Of course, then I didn’t really read anything and forgot about them. (Like lots of other RPG stuff I collect!) With a new Covid lock-down here over the last few weeks, I started looking at the Conan material I had…

The TSR one looked interesting because it is skill based, not an AD&D version. (They did release some AD&D Conan modules.) Hmmm… compare your skill with the opposing skill/opponents skill on the “Resolution Table”, roll d% and if your result is in the red zone you are successful, other colours apply penalties, some things make column shifts… sorry I’ve lost interest.

Mongoose: I have an Atlantean edition (essentially a second print of 1st edition) rulebook PDF and I was hooked right from the initial part of the book. (I haven’t got to the Modiphius stuff at all.)

This is great… I started reading the intro, got into races, classes, etc and I’ve now spend almost all my free time in the last two weeks reading the rulebook, and playing around with characters and adventure ideas.

This came out about the same time as 3.5 but it makes a lot more of the system than I would have expected for the time. It’s both a setting and a game. There’s heaps of background straight from R.E. Howard’s books and notes (likely also influenced by the later writers who did Conan too) covering cultures, countries, religion, & history. They released lots of additional books that covered specific countries/cultures in more detail too, but what’s in the main rulebook is more than enough to set things up for a campaign. There are culture specific feats, a magic system based on Power Points (not “Vancian” like TSR/WotC), and a combat system that shifts away from the norm.

Cultures: Everyone is human, and there is no “Common” language. There are 14 ethnicities (with 12 variants) and they all have specific racial bonuses and penalties. This could be a Stat adjustment (Cimmerians get +2 Str, -2 Int), a racial bonus to certain skills, a bonus in certain terrain, attack or damage bonus with a particular weapon, etc. All have favoured classes (you gain bonus feats based on how many class levels), and many also have background skills that grant ranks.

Classes: There are eight main classes for PC’s – Barbarian, Borderer, Noble, Nomad, Pirate, Soldier, Scholar, Thief. There is no Cleric or Monk. Multi-classing is encouraged. Both Borderer and Nomad could be considered variant Rangers. The Noble is somewhere between Paladin and Bard – wealthy, combat skills, no magic but lots of influence styled abilities. Scholars can either gain bonus skill points/feats, or learn Sorcery. The different class abilities are quite varied from standard d20.

Combat: No touch/flat-footed AC. Most PC’s will have a Base AC of 10, and then you have Dodge and Parry Defence. All classes get slightly difference Defence bonuses as they level. Dodge Defence is AC 10 + Dexterity bonus, while Parry Defence uses your Strength bonus. Shields add to parry vs melee attacks, and dodge vs missiles. The players chooses which type of defence he is using against incoming attacks before the dice are rolled to determine a hit. Armour does not apply to Defence, it only grants Damage Reduction to lessen damage taken from blows. Most weapons have an armour penetration value (to which you usually add Str bonus) to see if you reduce the DR of your targets armour. There’s also a finesse fighting option where the player uses Dex not Str on the attack roll and tries to bypass DR entirely. There are extra Combat Manoeuvres (like Bulls Charge, Cats Parry, Devastating Sweep, Pantherish Twist, etc) that require a particular ability score, Base Attack value, or feat to be able to use them.

Magic: Conan is a very low-magic setting. Almost no potions, scrolls, wands, etc (so no cure light wounds for healing). There is magic around, but most comes with a cost, or is in the hands of people who won’t be sharing it with you. Power corrupts, literally. Contact with demons, evil deities and powerful sorcerers can grant corruption points that make you emotionally detached, and likely insane to varying degrees. There are Priests (of the uncaring Gods) but mostly they don’t use sorcery. I feel that Scholars using magic are a little under-powered, as they gain very few spells as they progress, even if they can choose what they cast and how often. They gain more skill points (8 + Int bonus) than a Sorcerer or Wizard, so they will have a heap of good skills.

The lack of easy healing makes the biggest difference to this type of D&D game. The affect of ‘rest’ and the Healing skill have been amplified, but finding ways to avoid combat is often preferable to actual fighting, unless PC’s have all invested in slow, heavy armour. Fate Points can help with this too (avoiding death, get maximum damage on a blow, defence bonus, etc), but most characters start with 3 and you only gain 1-2 each adventure.


I’ve spent just over a week making up 7 characters based on the Schwarzenegger movies and converting a AD&D Red Sonja module to use as a one-session adventure. The adventure is done; I just need to get a proper character sheet finalised for each PC. I’d be willing to run a short Conan campaign, but it’s hard enough getting the time now to run my Pathfinder campaign. We’ve already taken a break from a Gamma World campaign, and a mate’s Pathfinder game that I’m player in. It would be great to be able to get together twice a week and both run and play in a game, but I can’t see that happening unless I retire and/or find a new gaming group.

I’m going to put both the character sheets and adventure into my Gaming Resources page in case anyone is interested. The adventure would be easy to convert to standard d20 or Pathfinder.