Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Dark Secret

I have a dark secret.  A dark, terrible secret the will brand me a heretic and blasphemer in some corners of the Webs.  Even though this blog is obscure and has few followers, I'm sure word will get out about my transgression.  But it is time.

One of my favorite Conan stories was not written by Robert E. Howard.  There, I said it.  The story in question is "The Thing in the Crypt" by L. Sprague De Camp and Lin Carter.  It was originally meant to be a Thongor story by Carter but was adapted to the Hyborean Age for the Lancer/Ace Conan paperback series.

I originally read the Conan stories in the early 1980's in the Ace paperback edition, as many fantasy enthusiasts my age did.  As I have written before I didn't (or couldn't) distinguish between the Howard pieces and those written by or modified by others.  I didn't have a very refined literary palate and, truth be told, I still don't.  I enjoyed some stories and enjoyed others less so.  I didn't matter who wrote them, only that I enjoyed them.

"The Thing in the Crypt" is one of the small handful of stories that stuck with me through the 30-some years since I first read the paperbacks.  Two of the others are "Beyond the Black River" and "The Tower of the Elephant", both classic Howard stories.  But I've never been able to shake the image of the "Thing" coming to life, the dry rustle of the bones, the thrill of horror that Conan felt.  And thus, it is one of my favorite stories.

So I mention this for two reasons.  One, to relieve myself of the secret burden I've been carrying all these years.  And two, because I am going to blatantly rip it off for the Hyborian Age Barbarians of Lemuria game I am preparing for my son.  It will be the basis for the second scenario I will run him through.

The first scenario will be a not so blatant rip off of "The Tower of the Elephant."  I have done this before quite brazenly but now my son has read the original stories so I will have to disguise it fairly heavily.  The character he will be playing is a thief/assassin from Zamora.  I will start the scenario with the minion of a wizard hiring him to steal an amulet that a rival has stolen from him.  Instead of a tower, the target will live in a mansion with an extensive basement and sub-basement.  There will be guards, servants and unnatural creatures to trick, avoid or slay.  And as he is about to grasp the amulet (if he survives), the wizard appears do defend his property.  If he wins the battle he will be in for a surprise.  It turns out that his employer was actually the brother of the target.  As a game, they would hire thieves to attempt to rob each other.  It simultaneously tests the security of their abodes and sates their sadistic blood lust.  So he will have to kill another sorcerer or run.  If he runs he will gain the Hunted flaw.  It's not a good thing to irk a wizard.

So, for the second scenario, "The Thing in the Crypt" rip off, the character will be captured by slavers after he flees the city.  The scenario will start either with his escape or in media res with the slavers and/or wolves chasing him.  He will only have a piece of chain to fight with.  The chase will lead to the tomb entrance and he will be forced to take a stand or enter the tomb.  When he enters, a little exploration, the sword, the battle against the crypt thing.  Then he has to face whatever is outside.  The best part is that my son has never read the pastiches.  Though in other games I have run every damn skeleton seems to come to live.

All in all I anticipate great fun.


  1. Awesome. I do the same. Plus I mix in the best of the DYI press modules so it is one massive black fantasy stew!

  2. That is a fantastic!! A good story is a good story, and if it inspires some better adventures? That's a win baby!

  3. I agree about "Thing in the Crypt"--one of the better Conan tales, even if it's pastiche. Very much a favorite.