Sting of the Scorpion Men – a 13th Age Glorantha One-Shot

13th Age GloranthaI’ve run this one-shot, for 4th level PCs, twice now, at UK Games Expo and at BurritoCon, and it’s been a lot of fun both times. I’m not going to claim it’s the most original plot structure going, but the combination of two of Glorantha’s iconic (but less-known than Broo) Chaos beasts, Gorps and Scorpion Men, make it a lot of fun.

One note – these aren’t the same stats for Gagix Two-Barb as are included from p422 of the 13G book – she’s not got 1000 hp. If this bothers your Gloranthan versimilitude, maybe this is a Chaos body-double for Gagix, or rule that she’s weakened by the Stone Chair Man’s enchantments.

Pregenerated characters are here, if you want. The Praxian Bison Rider uses the optional Mounted Combat rules from 13th Age Monthly that you can find here. All of them have 3 of their Background points spent, with the others to be allocated as they please.

Want a 1st level 13G one-shot? My re-imagining of Gringle’s Pawnshop is here.

Sting of the Scorpion Men

A 4th level 13G adventure


An unprovoked attack on an isolated village tells you that the poisoned Earth around Larnste’s Footprint is rising up. You will have to travel through the Fossil Woods, and evade the Chaos beasts therein, to steal Gagix Two-Barb’s sting!

The PCs begin as established adventurers – they may be Rune Lords of their cult by 4th level, and are travelling through the wilderness near the village of Stone Chair after a successful adventure. Once their, an attack by corrupted Earthbeasts leads them to investigate the Stone Chair Man, a guardian spirit, who sends them in Larnste’s Footprint to steal the sting.

If you are inserting this into an ongoing campaign, maybe the characters have been asked to travel to Stone Chair because Venkor and/or Sarooth have forseen that the enchantments that protect the village are fading, or they have dreamed of strange chaos-touched Earthbeasts attacking villagers in the area.


Sarooth the Wise is the Elder of Stone Chair. He half-expects trouble when welcoming Rune Lords to his village. Every time they come, Chaos seems to follow, and he is weary of the disturbance even as he knows he will need their help.

Venkor the Fair is Sarooth’s daughter, an Ernaldan Earth Priestess who sees to the medical needs of Stone Chair. She hates the village and that she has to stay in it, since the wards that protect it make the population healthy and well, and dreams of a more interesting assignment in Backford or Whitewall.

The Stone Chair Man is a Guardian Spirit of the Woods around Stone Chair – their influence allows the village to continue to prosper. He lives within a huge ancient stone chair in the depths of the Fossil Woods, where his Earth Beasts normally protect him. Since it was overwhelmed by chaos, he his Earth Beasts will not follow his commands, and his altar is overrun with Gorps. He appears as a ten foot tall, stick-thin man made out of stone, and his altar is a large stone chair.

Gagix Two-Barb is a vicious scorpion woman with two stingers at the end of her tail. Ensorcelled by the Stone Chair Man in this adventure, she is less of a threat than on p426 of the core book, but she is still a formidable enemy.

Scene 1 – Earth Shark Attack

The Village of Stone Chair is between Backford and Larnste’s Footprint, and is nestled precariously around the hills above Backford. A tight set of steps leads up to a small square, where preparations are underway for the heroes’ arrival.

  • The trickle of a brook and the smell of cows roasting – “More Cows!” if there is a Troll in the party – and the chatter of villagers
  • They notice Venkor the Fair looking glum, sitting outside the circle, despite Sarooth trying to introduce them
  • They ascend stairs to the flat area of Stone Chair, and can see a winding path leading into the Fossil Forest – “This way lies doom!”

The village square is laid out, a feast is upon them, and everyone is dancing and relaxing, when an earth shark attacks! They notice the earth around Venkor raises up to surround her, and she is carried away on a wave of earth.

An Earth Shark has stats as a bulette from regular 13th Age (stats available on the SRD), a L 5th-lvl wrecker. For 3 players, it is alone. Add one earthbeast (13G p301) per additional player as well.

No. of PCs Opposition
3 1 Earth Shark
4 1 Earth Shark, 1 Earthbeast
5 1 Earth Shark, 2 Earthbeasts
6 1 Earth Shark, 3 Earthbeasts


The Earth Shark and Earthbeasts burst out of the very ground beneath them, and damage the foundations of the village – describe the rumbling ground beneath their feet as they fight.

When they recover, Sarooth is beside himself. Not only is village under threat, but Venkor, his daughter, has been carried away. He pleads with the PCs to travel to the Stone Chair Man to see what can be done – he is sure that something must be up with the protective wards that keep the village safe.

Scene 2 – Journey to the Stone Chair Man

They need to travel through the Fossil Woods to speak to the Stone Chair Man, an ancient shaman.

  • The path is well-trodden at first, but gets more loose and overgrown
  • Soon wood and trees begin to show signs of stone, and soon it is like walking down the corridor of a cathedral of stone – the noises quieten, and they can hear nothing but an eerie silence – and the occasional odd squelch
  • Soon a brash, acid scent – not unlike fresh vomit – hits their senses – and an appropriate Background check will reveal that this is a sign of Gorps in the area.
  • The Stone Chair man is in a vast Stone Chair in the centre of a circular clearing – but they can see a huge mass of ooze atop it, tentacles going into and out of the ground as they watch.

They must defeat a Gorp to rescue the Stone Chair Man – for 3-4 players, this is a single Earth-Killer Gorp (13G p265) ; for more PCs, add additional Gorps (13G p264). Use the toxic terrain special feature – when a non-Chaos creature rolls a 1 or 2 they take damage equal to their level.

No. of PCs Opposition
3 1 Earth-Killer Gorp
4 1 Earth-Killer Gorp, plus on the 2nd round an additional 2 Gorp spawn and attack
5 1 Earth-Killer Gorp plus 2 Gorp (from each Arm)
6 1 Earth-Killer Gorp plus 2 Gorp (from each Arm)


Scene 3 – Speaking to the Stone Chair Man

Once the Gorp are defeated and the Stone Chair Man awakens, he tells them of a curse on the Fossil Woods, that the natural order of things has broken down and the Foulblood Forest has infested them. He tells them that the source of the infection is deep within Larnste’s footprint, and the Scorpionmen leader Gagix must be behind this. He tells them that the only way he can lift the curse is by hitting Gagix where it hurts – and asks that they bring him the sting from the end of one of her scorpion tails. With this in his possession, he can cure the poison that is infecting the Fossil Woods and the village. He can help them, too – he can use his magics to send the scorpion men into a deep sleep, which should allow the PCs to creep up on them.

He pleads with them to go, and if they agree, they feel a shifting in their perceptions as they enter the Hero Lands. They can see Larnste’s huge foot in the clouds above – and he bids them set off straight away!

Scene 4 – Into Foulblood Forest

This is a montage scene (explained here, or in the 13th Age GM’s kit), accompanied by the spirit of the Stone Chair man. They emerge eventually into the Scorpion Man ruins, and can find Gagix and her inner circle of guards at the top of a ziggurat in the centre of the scorpion men city. Stealing the sting will be easy – but it will wake up her and her guards, if not the entire city!

The initial scene (for the GM to narrate) is that the Fossil Woods end abruptly, at the edge of Larnste’s footprint – with a sheer cliff leading into fogged grasslands below. You think you can just make off the towers of the Scorpion Man towns in the distance, but there are no ways down the cliff as far as you can see – what little goat tracks you can see disappear into the distance.

As the final scene, have the players sneak into the city, which is crawling with scorpion men. Resolve the final obstacle by seeing the Stone Chair Man’s face above them, and Larnste’s foot falling, sending all the inhabitants into a deep sleep. They can ascend the steps to the palace and find Gagix softly sleeping.

Scene 5 – Steal the Sting

Within the Scorpion Man Palace:

  • There is a thick aroma of spices and strange meats, and smoke and dust are everywhere. Pools of poison dot the bare sandstone grouns.
  • There is a light snoring all around. Gagix is fast asleep, on either side of her rest her champions.
  • Tied up in cane cages around the scorpionmen are a group of villagers, including Venkar. If the fight is going badly for the PCs, allow Venkar to help – maybe she casts some healing magic on an injured PC, or she summons an Earthbeast to distract one of the Scorpionmen.
  • Assuming the PCs attempt to either kill her or cut off her stinger, she will still awaken, along with her immediate bodyguards. Who else will fight them depends on the opposition table
No. of PCs Opposition
3 Gagix and a ScorpionMan Bruiser
4 Gagix, a Bruiser, and a Warrior
5 Gagix, a Bruiser, and a Shaman
6 Gagix, a Bruiser, a Warrior and a Shaman


Gagix is a Scorpion Man Bruiser for the purposes of this fight – except that her ranged attack is the Shaman power. All scorpion men have the nastier specials

The Bruiser is Mesh, and old, aged Scorpionman whith countless scars across his bare torso. The Warrior is Flex, a youth not older than his teens who wears bright red armour. The shaman is a female Scorpionman, who carries a strange glowing staff.

Scene 6 – Return

They can effect their escape and return to Stone Chair with the help of the Stone Chair Man – as the rest of the city awakens and tries to avenge their leader. They return as heroes, the village saved.

Thews of Dice – more thoughts on One-Shot Conan 2d20

Way back when, I ran my first one-shot of Modiphius’ 2d20 Conan RPG. A couple of weeks ago, I ran it again, at the Furnace RPG convention. This was my own adventure and, being at a con, I felt a bit more pressure. If I’m honest, it was the game that I was least confident about – but it went really well. I’ve still not quite internalised how the system works – the way I have Fate or 13th Age. But I’m getting there, and it’s a learning process that I’m sure can help any 2d20 convention GMs.

Big Threats

I didn’t believe Conan’s encounter balancing advice – 1.5 to 2 toughened foes per PC, or swap a Toughened for 2 Minions, or 2 Toughened for a Nemesis. For one thing, within each power level, there seemed to be a big variation. The two Nemeses I was using for the game looked to vary wildly in power, from the glass cannon of the Witch to the heavily armoured death machine of the Lindorm.

With this in mind, I planned my opposition modestly. Although the PCs didn’t quite walk all over them – it was still exciting and pulpy in combat, and they were reliant on teamwork to win (more on that later) – but none of them took any meaningful damage. Note for con game prep – if none of the PCs take any damage, your opposition is not powerful enough.

I’ve learned that, despite the varying power levels of the threats, PCs can probably deal with them – mainly because…

It’s All About Teamwork and Momentum


Doom Tokens. All Rolled Up are the people to go to if you want to score a box of skulls

I said before that 2d20 is much more a game of resource management than it appears, and once the players start to get some system proficiency it is a game that encourages teamwork. After a couple of combat rounds, my players realised that they could generate and bank Momentum for the group to make the important actions effective – and the variety of Momentum spends possible mean you can overcome lots of different threats.

I was worried that the Lindorm’s massive 6 points of Armour would be a problem – I shouldn’t have been; 6 armour is Momentum points to pierce, which is fairly easy to create if a few players work together intelligently.

I’ve learned that you have much more of a safety net than it appears when balancing encounters – because it’s more about Momentum than the PC stats.

Design Easy Character Sheets

Yes, Conan character generation is fiddly – a randomish lifepath system that creates backstory and ties PCs to the setting. It’s an exciting prospect when generating a PC to play yourself – but less so when statting up six pregens for a con game. And there is a we-based version that will do all the heavy lifting for you.

The character sheet the website produces is beautiful – the game’s full colour character sheet, in fact – and it’s also not the easiest thing to use. I made my own, which while less pretty are more functional. Talents were underneath their skills, in a different colour, in the hope that players will notice their exceptions as they roll – it worked well.

I’ve learned that my approach to con character sheets – function over bling – is still valid.

Hacking Steely Glare

The one piece of rules-drift I did do was to broaden out the scope of the social conflict rules. In Conan RAW, there are a range of Displays that characters can do – social conflict options that can be used in combat to damage Resolve. Most have specific conditions – you must demonstrate sorcery the round before, or you must heft the severed head of an enemy towards your opponent – but one is always available, Steely Glare.

I ruled that a Steely Glare attack can be used for any sort of social/mental attack – be it intimidation, trickery, blather or distraction. It’s not very powerful – it’s base damage is poor, and the effects it produces aren’t brilliant – but for a Bard PC, it is very useful to be able to attack with Persuasion instead of Melee. It led to a really pulpy combat feel, with the Sage and Bard cowing opponents into fleeing in fear while the Barbarian hacked their fellows to pieces.

I’ve learned to be generous in non-violent social attacks, even in the heat of battle. Urban Jungle was a big inspiration for this – it has genuinely interesting options in combat for non-violent characters.


So, after some doubts about running Conan, and a bit of a confidence crisis with the system, I – and I hope my players – had a blast. I’m definitely putting it out as a con game again, with the learning points above in mind, and got hold of Conan The Pirate last weekend for a Seas Of Blood-style piratical one-shot.

Do you have any 2d20 tips and hints? I’ll post up the adventure I ran, Caverns of the Snow Apes, later this week when I’ve edited it, along with my pregens.