Text and maps by Vincent N. Darlage, who notes that "L. Sprague de Camp renamed the city as Mero, so Games Masters and Players familiar with the Ace/Lancer collection Conan the Cimmerian will be more familiar with that name. Robert E. Howard called the city Shumballa in his original text; in the interests of remaining as true to Howard as possible, the city's name is restored to Shumballa for purposes of Conan the Roleplaying Game. Mero, of course, is the name of the capital of historic Kush; Games Masters wanting a more historic-sounding game may want to use L. Sprague de Camp's idea and rename the city as he did."

"Looking over the parapet, he saw below him the silent streets of the inner city of Shumballa, the palaces and gardens, and the great square, into which, at an instant's notice, a thousand black horsemen could ride, from the courts of adjoining barracks. Looking further, he saw the great bronze gates, and beyond them, the outer city that men called Punt, to distinguish it from El Shebbeh, the inner city. Shumballa stood in the midst of a great plain, of rolling grass lands that stretched to the horizon, broken only by occasional low hills. A narrow, deep river, meandering across the grass lands, touched the straggling edges of the city. El Shebbeh was separated from Punt by a tall and massive wall, which enclosed the palaces of the ruling caste, descendants of those Stygians who centuries ago had come southward to hack out a black empire, and to mix their proud blood with the blood of their dusky subjects. El Shebbeh was well laid out, with regular streets and squares, stone buildings and gardens; Punt was a sprawling wilderness of mud huts, the streets straggled into squares that were squares in name only. The black people of Kush, the Gallahs, the original inhabitants of the country, lived in Punt; none but the ruling caste, the Chagas, dwelt in El Shebbeh, except for their servants, and the black horsemen who served as their guardsmen." -- Robert E. Howard: "The Snout in the Dark"

Shumballa is the capital of Kush, a city founded by Stygian adventurers, carved out by sword, cunning and sorcery. It is built next to a narrow river on a grassy plain in Kush. The Chaga accrue fabulous wealth by controlling the movement of trade goods through the kingdom. In exchange for Stygian grain, Shumballa sends ivory, incense, hides, carnelian, gold and slaves north to Stygia.

City Wall of El-Shebbeh

Shumballa was founded by Stygians and controlled by a viceroy, ensuring the loyalty of local tribes by forcing the children of chieftains to serve as pages in the court at Luxur. Officials, priests, military personnel, merchants and artisans settled the city and they brought Set and his cult with him. Eventually Stygian control faltered and Kush became self-governing. The Stygian elite, now known as the Chaga, retain control.

Fortifications and Military Strength

Black spearmen are the strength of Shumballa's army. It is usually commanded by a Gallah who has sworn Allegiance to the Chaga king. 390 of these spearmen are in the outer city, serving as police and army, at any one time. A thousand mounted guardsmen are also stationed in Shumballa's inner city, serving mostly as royal and noble guards. The army and guards are almost all Gallah barbarians and soldiers. The captain of these units is usually given a crimson silk and gold worked harness.

The inner city, El Shebbeh, is protected by a tall, thick wall with great bronze gates.

Average Royal Guardsman of Shumballa: Medium Humanoid (Gallah Soldier 3); Hit Dice: 3d10+3 (20 hp); Initiative: +3 (+2 Dex, +1 Reflex); Speed: 30 ft.; Dodge Defence: 13 (+1 level, +2 Dex); Parry Defence: 17 (+2 level, +2 Str, +3 leather targe); DR: 5 (+5 scale corselet); Base Attack Bonus/Grapple: +3/+5; Attack: War Spear +6 melee or melee finesse; Damage: War Spear 1d10+3 / x3 /AP 4; Special Attacks: Formation Combat (light cavalry); Special Qualities: Kushite traits, illiterate, +1 to damage with spears ; Space/Reach: 5 ft. (1)/5 ft. (1); Saves: Fort +4, Ref +3, Will +0; Abilities: Str 15, Dex 14, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 8, Cha 10; Skills: Climb +5, Hide +6*, Intimidate +6, Jump +5, Listen +1*, Move Silently +6*, Ride +8, Spot +4*, Survival +6*; Feats: Mounted Combat, Ride-by Attack, Trample, Weapon Focus (war spear); Reputation: 3 (Cruel); Leadership: -; Code of Honour: None; Allegiances: Royal Family; Possessions: Sandals, silk and gold harness (scale corselet), war spear, leather shield (targe); * includes +2 circumstance bonus for being in a hot environment


Two Peoples: Kush is separated into two peoples, the Gallah and the Chaga. The Gallah are the original inhabitants of Kush and are by far the most numerous. The minority Chaga are the ruling caste, descended from conquering Stygian adventurers. The Gallah people are described by Robert E. Howard as being ebon giants, so they are taller than the standard Kushite and dark brown in colour. The Chaga are even taller than their subjects and lighter in colour, although they are darker than their dusky Stygian ancestors. The Chagas and the Gallahs live in a state of constant tension that seems always on the brink of snapping into open conflict.

Religion: The ruling class of Kush worship Set, while the common masses of Gallah worship Jullah in opposition to Set. The Chaga have modified their Set worship somewhat over the centuries from the original Stygian ceremonies, mixing in doses of witchcraft, shamanism and Gallah superstition into the faith. The temple to Apedemak (see Conan: Faith & Fervour) has largely fallen into disuse.

Administration and Power Centers

Ruler: According to an untitled synopsis by Robert E. Howard, Kush is ruled by a mad, degenerate king (Arrakkamani). He is slothful and dissipated. He is easily controlled. (Note: In L. Sprague de Camp's revision, the King of Kush was killed in a battle with Stygians and his sister Tananda rules in his stead, holding onto an uneasy throne by killing any nobles who displease her. Howard's original material has the king alive but mad.) The Gallahs strongly resent Chaga rule. The crown of Kush passes along matriarchal lines - the queen mother selects among her children the one most fit to rule. If that king should die, the crown passes to a brother (or sister). It only passes from father to son when there are no siblings left. If there are no siblings or children, the nobles select a ruler.

Tananda: Tananda is the sister of the king. She is beautiful, cruel and sensual. She is also the real power behind the throne, wielding much influence over her mad brother. Note that in L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter's revision and completion of Howard's original outline they made Tananda the Queen of Kush.

Nobles: The nobles of Shumballa command wealth in the name of the king. Tuthmes is a rebellious nobleman of royal blood featured in a story fragment and outline written by Robert E. Howard. Afari is a noble who frequents the court of the king, allied to Tuthmes.

Sorcerers and Witchdoctors: Muru is a Kordafan sorcerer allied to Tuthmes. Ageera (also spelled Agara) is a fanatical Gallah witch-finder. He holds a lot of sway over the Gallah people. He despises the King, Tananda and the Chaga nobles, believing a Gallah should rule Kush.

Priests: The priests of Set and the rival priests of Jullah vie for power in Shumballa. The priests of Set do not have as much power in Shumballa as they have in Stygia. This was established long ago when a king of Kush was ordered by the priests to kill himself for some shame but the king had the priests executed instead. Thereafter, the priests merely advise the monarchy and never try to order the monarchy about.

Layout of Shumballa

The city contains a thickly walled inner city named El Shebbeh, where the Chaga live and rule, and an outer city called Punt (not to be confused with the nation of Punt) where the Gallahs dwell in subjugation. The streets of Punt are filthy and chaotic, a veritable shanty-town. In contrast, El Shebbeh is clean and organised, a civilised city. The two sections of the city are connected through the great wall via enormous bronze gates.

Districts of Shumballa: Shumballa is segregated into sprawling wards and districts to separate the city into manageable social units and neighbourhoods. People in these wards and districts know each other, vouch for each other, celebrate with each other and work with each other. People native to a particular ward with Knowledge (local) of at least one rank know everyone else in the ward, so Reputation bonuses always apply when a character is in his home ward and dealing with other natives of that same ward. Most ward or district information is based on the acre, which is 43,560 square feet or a roughly 210 feet by 210 feet square. Structures in each district can include pavilions, stalls, barns, sheds, houses, wells, fountains, temples, civic buildings, coffee shops, barracks, cemeteries, cisterns, coliseums, corrals, granaries, inns, libraries, mills, offices, plazas, shops, stables, taverns, tenements, theatres, warehouses and workshops.

El Shebbeh: El Shebbeh is well laid out, with regular streets and squares, stone buildings and gardens. None but the ruling caste, the Chagas, dwell in El Shebbeh, except for their servants, and the black horsemen who served as their guardsmen. The homes and palaces of this area is relatively civilised, with tapestries, silk-covered couches, carpets and jugs of wine.

  • The Grand Palace: The Grand Palace of the King has a garden full of fruit trees.
  • The Red Tower: The Red Tower is a donjon, the gaol of Shumballa.
  • The Temple Complex: Designed in Stygian fashion, the temple complex features two immense towers flanking the entryway. Once through the entry, one can see the massive front of the House of Two Eyes with its vast towers. Beyond the House of Two Eyes is a long narrow court with a shadowy altar with an apish god squatting atop it. The altar is on top of a flight of stairs. Several gates and towers later, one reaches the High Altar where offerings to Set may be made. Along one wall is the Hall of Foreign Tribute, and the other wall features the homes of the priests. At the far end of the enclosure is the menacing and awesome Sanctuary Temple. A floorplan of the Sanctuary Temple can be found in Conan: Stygia Serpent of the South.
  • Barracks: The barracks are small enclosures featuring stables, a well and a place for soldiers to barrack and live. The actual barracks also has a small enclosed court.
  • Noble Palaces & Estates: Built around regular squares, the nobles have large houses with many rooms. While a Turanian would not find these buildings any sort of real palace, compared to the thatch huts of the Gallah, these large homes are lavish indeed. Most of the homes have a roof with a small garden or tree on top.
  • Caravanserai: The caravanserai are for foreign traders who come to Shumballa to trade with the Chaga.
  • Bazaar: The L-shaped bazaar district is where the craftsmen and shopkeepers of El Shebbeh do business and live.

Punt: Punt is the squalid outer city of Shumballa where the Gallah live in thatched huts of brick or interwoven slivers of split palm wood. Punt is a sprawling wilderness of streets straggled into squares that are squares in name only. This area of Shumballa is relatively barbaric and violent.

"Giant black men squatted in the doorways of their thatched huts, or lolled on the ground in their shade. Black women went up and down the streets with water-gourds or baskets of food on their heads. Children played or fought in the dust, laughing or squalling shrilly. In the squares the black folk chaffered and bargained over plantains, beer and hammered brass ornaments. Smiths crouched over tiny charcoal fires, laboriously beating out spear blades. The hot sun beat down on all, the sweat, mirth, anger, nakedness and squalor of the black people." -- Robert E. Howard: "The Snout in the Dark"

Outer City of Shumballa
  • Devil-Devil House: The devil-devil house is the temple of Jullah. It is a house of mud and rough-hewn beams, larger than its neighbours. A cluster of skulls is set above the wide doorway.
  • The Temple to Apedemak: This temple, erected to bring the Gallah into a more Stygian style of worship is mostly ignored by the Gallah, although a few who wish to get on the good side of the Chaga may make a show of leaving an offering within.

Necropolis: Outside of Shumballa is a necropolis complete with pyramids where the kings and nobles of Shumballa are buried in an imitation of the pyramids of Stygia. The pyramids here are thinner than the ones in Stygia, made with isosceles triangles instead of equilateral.

  • Incomplete Pyramid: Along the back row is a partially completed pyramid being constructed for the present king and his sister. His older brother is already interred within.
  • Marked Out Areas: There are a few areas that are marked out as spaces for future pyramids. Workers are flattening the area so work can begin.


Chaga names are more Stygian in nature. Chaga characters could blend a name from the Stygian name table (see Conan: Stygia - Serpent of the South) with one of the Kushite names below or just take a Stygian name.

Female Kushite Names: Abeba, Aberash, Abrihet, Adanech, Adina, Alem, Alitash, Amara, Amira, Asrat, Ayana, Ayana, Ayana, Azmera, Azmera, Berhane, Buzayue, Chara, Derartu, Desta, Desta, Enkutatash, Eskadar, Fana, Fannah, Gete, Haddas, Kifle, Kirsay, Latifa, Luam, Makda, Makeda, Meskerum, Meteke, Miniya, Misgana, Nishan, Qwara, Seble, Seble, Selam, Selamawit, Semira, Sisay, Tabari, Tananda, Tenagne, Tesfanish, Tigist, Timnit, Tsega, Wagaye, Walasma, Wub, Wub, Yenee, Yeshi, Zahabu, Zauditu, Zawditu, Zena, Zufan.

Male Kushite Names: Abeba, Ademe, Afari, Afework, Agerra, Ajaga, Alem, Alemayue, Alemu, Amanuel, Amare, Amboola, Ashanafe, Asmare, Assefa, Belay, Benyam, Bombaata, Desta, Ephrem, Ghe'le, Girma, Girmachew, Hagos, Haile, Iyasu, Jima, Kinfe, Lela, Lemma, Makannen, Meconin, Menelik, Meseret, Qwara, Ras, Russom , Selassie, Selassiee, Seyoum, Shakeb, Shemales, Shubba, Shukeli, Shumetie, Takalin, Tamirat, Tariku, Taye, Tegene, Teodros, Tes, Tesfaye, Tewelde, Tiruneh, Wondweson.

  • Maps: City of Shumballa, El Shebbeh, Grand Palace, Barracks
  • Population: 13,000 (79% Gallah, 9% Chaga, 5% Other Kushite, 3% Other North Black Kingdom, 2% Other Southern Black Kingdom, 1% Stygian, 1% Other)
  • Size: Large City
  • Average Population Density: 188 adults per acre
  • Average Number of Structures: 106 buildings per acre (approx. 7,640 buildings total)
  • Wealth Limit: 400,000 silver coins
  • Ready Cash: 260,000,000 silver coins
  • Government: Monarchy
  • Income for the Monarch: 650,000 silver coins per year
  • Religion: Set and Jullah, as well as other Stygian and Kushite gods
  • Imports: Grain from Stygia, slaves from Stygia and the Southern Black Kingdoms
  • Exports: Ivory, incense, hides, carnelian, gold and slaves
  • Code of Honour: Civilised among the Chaga, Barbaric among the Gallah