Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red Session Twenty-Eight

Having taken their time to get the Medyved side of the story last session, our valiant heroes devoted their investigations in the direction of the house Lodovka.  Taking the short trip down the street, the party’s first look at the front gate of the Lodovkan villa was one filled with about a dozen angry citizens, shouting insults and jeers towards the villa walls.  The commotion was apparently constant enough that six city guards had been posted at the gate to keep the rabble back.  Gavriil the Arcanist engaged one in a discussion, trying to use logic and reason to convince the man that he was doing more to harm than good to the investigation by ‘demanding’ lord Tawno Lodovka be arrested merely on the unproven suspicions of lady Kerri Medyved.  Duke Eneko the Bard/Cavalier attempted to explain to the man that he was breaking the law by causing a disturbance, and he could have the man arrested.  Finally Noruas the Gunslinger got everyone’s attention, and told them that if they didn’t clear out she would start shooting, which seemed to get their attention enough to disperse the crowd.

Once inside, the PC’s were greeted by a seated lord Tawno Lodovka, who beckoned them over to speak.  “I’m glad that you’re here, perhaps you will be able to finally clear my name and allow me out of this blasted confinement I’ve been party to for the past three days!”  Tawno began.  Lord Tawno turned out to be rather cooperative with the party, eager to turn his house over to the party for a search, anything to ‘help clear my name, since after all I am completely innocent!’  Gavriil and Eneko questioned the lord, while Noruas and Elysia the Ranger took it upon themselves to search the villa for any evidence.

Lord Tawno had much to tell the party– yes, he and Lord Davud were staunch opponents of each other in the political realm; yes, he was quite displeased with Davud over his insistence that the Lodovkan trade deal to utilize the lakes near the Gronzi forest for fishing be denied; no, he wasn’t certain who would want to frame him for the murder; yes, he did have an alibi for the night, he was playing cards with his three close friends at their place.  More and more questions came in, and more and more answers were had.  Eventually, topics ranged into more political matters, which the PC’s were very interested to hear about.  Lord Tawno spoke about his political rivals in houses Medyved, Garess, and Orlovsky, as well as how alliances were shifting quickly between his house and his allies, the Lebedas and Surtovas.  After a careless comment, Gavriil quickly followed up to learn more information– and was rewarded by Tawno informing the Grand Diplomat of his suspicion that the reason Davud was blocking the trade deal was because he was afraid of having outsider eyes too close to his family lands.  To add to this, he brought up a rumor that he’d come across– that the Medyveds were moving men and materiel north, towards the lands of House Orlovsky!

In the meantime, Noruas and Elysia were getting along fine.  Indeed, the pair had, while searching the second floor, found a hidden safe behind a painting.  Inside were several business ledgers and accounting papers, as well as a letter from Lord Kozek Lodovka, the head of House Lodovka!  Noruas took a quick look at the letter, which seemed to be urging Tawno to change Davud’s mind about the trading rights deal– “It must go through.  Change Davud’s mind at *any* cost, lest we fall into ruin.”  Elysia’s examination of the stack of papers revealed that House Lodovka as a whole was failing financially, many of the individual families practically penniless, quite the tragedy for a people who are used to extravagance.

This information was secondary however compared to the next discovery that was made; while searching through Lord Tawno’s quarters nothing special was found, yet a search of his wife, Lady Odette’s, bedchambers revealed a hidden knife underneath her mattress, dried blood still upon the blade!  Noruas and Elysia took a look around the room with fresh eyes, noticing a large window with vines growing under it.  It was determined that the vines underneath had indeed been disturbed– as though someone had been climbing up and down the wall.  With this new evidence, Lady Odette was questioned– discreetly, and without mentioning that they found the blade in her room.  Her alibi for the night was that she was feeling unwell, and turned in early for the night, sleeping soundly until the morning.

Deciding to confront Lord Tawno about this, they once again questioned him about who would have anything to gain by framing his wife– for they didn’t believe that she was the culprit after speaking with her, claiming no knowledge of her husband’s business and seeming in general to be more of a delicate woman, not so inclined to murderous fantasies.  Lord Tawno of course was outraged that someone would attempt to frame his wife; he shouted some harsh words regarding any who would wish her harm before being calmed down.

The investigation continued– the group decided to go this time to the villa courtyard, to see if they could gather any more evidence from the area near Lady Odette’s window.  The ground near the window didn’t offer many clues– after a bit of poking around, all they were able to discover was a single partial footprint.  However, while they were searching, they did take note of the gardener nearby, who was nervously trimming a topiary crab.  Calling him over to ask him questions, he became increasingly nervous, and even managed to muddle up their sole remaining footprint ‘by accident.’  Wondering if something was up, Noruas stared at the man hard– he had heavily tanned skin, dark brown hair tied up in a ponytail, and was about middle-aged– then asked him straight up, “did you kill Davud Medyved?”  His stammered protestations didn’t fool her or anyone else present, and a moment later, he tried to run for it!

He made it to the villa wall, up and over, before Gavriil Dimensional-Stepped next to him and brought him to the ground, where he cowered for a time before spilling his story.  Yes, he had killed Lord Davud, but the man deserved it!  He didn’t appreciate fine art, and the gardener had been paid to do the deed anyways!  The PC’s harked upon this note– who had paid him?  How much?  Where was the money now?  A brief description of the man– of medium height, a haughty look, red hair– followed, along with a name:  Lucas.  Lucas had met Rangrim Ungart the gardener in his home a week and a half ago, giving him a sack of two thousand gold coins in order to commit the act of murder, seeming to already know of Ungart’s distaste for the lord.  Ungart knew of the secret way into the Medyved villa, as he’d once worked for Lord Davud until being fired for his ‘ugly topiaries.’  With this knowledge, he was to sneak into the villa and murder the lord, before escaping and being told to hide the weapon in Lady Odette’s quarters.  The gold he’d been paid was still hidden in his tool shack out back, which Gavriil quickly recovered.

The mystery, for now, seemed to be solved– though not in the long-term.  The party took some time to discuss what they found, but also made sure to inform Lord Tawno of their discovery of the murderer.  Some discussion was made wondering if this ‘Lucas’ was also involved somehow in the assassination attempt on Eneko’s life two years ago, but no conclusions were able to be formed.  With that handled, Chief Sootscale was contacted in order to prepare an execution for the morning, for the penalty for murder in Tolemac is death.  With much fanfare and at the first light of dawn, Chief Sootscale led a grand spectacle at the gallows, listing off the crimes of the accused before a hooded Munduk the Hill Giant (now befriended and working with Noruas’ mother as a smith at her shop) was instructed to bring the axe down, ending Gardener Ungart’s life.  Gavriil made sure to arrange transportation for the body back to the undead hillside, so that he could later raise the man into undeath to serve the army.

The session ended out with a kingdom turn, finishing with Tolemac having endured for two years and eleven months!  The new settlement of Ruhtra was expanded upon, gaining housing and an inn for its inhabitants along with a monument to Brigh!

 

 

 

 

Players, do not read!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My, how I do love a good murder mystery investigation!  I was extremely pleased how this turned out, and only a few things went a bit sideways.  I was a little disappointed that Elysia’s player wasn’t able to make the session, but we did continue on– it’s our policy to run if at least three of the four players are present.  Through the entire investigation, the only thing that really and truly threw me off was when Noruas’ player inquired about the wealth of the Medyveds, and then why they could not simply resurrect Lord Davud.  To be honest, this had not even occurred to me while I was crafting the scenario, and it took me a few moments to figure out a decent answer.  Thankfully Gavriil’s player spoke up and offered a suggestion– ‘perhaps he had a DNR?’  which I kind of latched on to.  Thus Kerri Medyved informed the party that it was Davud’s wish when he died to remain in paradise with Erastil, and not to be dragged back into the world by powerful magics.

So before I go any further, I am going to go ahead and post below all of the notes that I crafted up about this encounter, which came together about two hours before last session:

 

Lord Davud Medvyed & Lady Kerri Medyved; Sir Eldon Medyved

Lord Tawno Lodovka & Lady Odette Lodovka; Rangrim Ungart, gardner

Urgent:  Lord Davud Medyved has been murdered.  Wife suspects Lord Tawno Lodovka. Possible diplomatic situation.  Needed back in the capital immediately. Elysia currently in charge.  

Sir Davud Medyved has been found murdered in his home!  Lady Kerri Medyved is understandably distraught, and absolutely convinced that Tawno Lodovka is responsible for the crime!  

Tawno and Davud had both been pushing heavily in political affairs back home; Davud Medyved had been busily blocking all advances from house Lodovka to gain fishing rights to the lakes along the Gronzi Forest.  Medyved claims that these lakes would be spoiled by the fisheries that Lodovka would build, while Lodovka asserted that this new land held the salvation of their dwindling economy, and were willing to pay handsomely for the rights.  

Tawno Lodovka suspects that Davud was unwilling to relinquish the land due to the close eyes which would be upon their territory.

Tawno believes that he is being set up by someone, though for what purpose he does not know.  Tawno’s alibi for the night of the murder is a late night game of cards with three of his closest friends.  Tawno’s hair is short and dark-brown.  

Lady Odette Lodovka suggests that the party look into Kerri’s activities of late with Lord Davud’s younger brother Sir Eldon Medyved.

Odette claims little knowledge of the disputes between her husband and Davud, as she makes it a point to stay out of his family’s politics.  

Odette’s alibi for the night of the murder is that she went to bed early that night feeling unwell, and slept soundly through to the morning.  

Odette’s hair is a dull red color.  

Lady Kerri Medyved denies any claims of extracurricular relationships outside of her marriage.

Kerri blames Tawno for her husband’s death, claiming that while she knew he was a cutthroat negotiator, she hadn’t thought it would become literal.  

Kerri’s alibi for the night of the murder was visiting the Desnan observatory, which can be confirmed by several of the priests of Desna.  The constellations were quite beautiful that night.

Lady Kerri’s hair is long and dark brown.   

Sir Eldon Medyved denies any claims of extracurricular relationships with Kerri, but when put under pressure will relent, and say that they had been meeting for months now, their love blossoming like the late spring rose.

Eldon seems to hold no great sense of loss of his brother’s life, claiming that Davud was always looking down on him for his lesser status.  

Eldon’s alibi for the night of the murder was that he was out drinking the entire night in the Silver Knight Inn.  

Eldon’s hair is short and light blonde, similar to his brother Davud.  

Eldon’s alibi, several drinking buddies at the Silver Knight, will say that he was with them all night.  Then one will correct him, saying that no, wait, he ducked out for about half an hour at one point to use the privy.  When he came back he was sweating and looked pale, like he’d just thrown up.

The privy out back has its door turned away from the doors and windows of the inn.  It would be easy enough for someone to sneak out unnoticed.

Medyved servants will share gossip both of Kerri’s loyalty and disloyalty to her husband; one will say that she thinks Kerri has some innate magical sorcery powers that she never lets anyone else see.  

Lodovka servants will share gossip that there’s been talks of house Medyved assembling troops back home in Stoneclimb to march north towards Skywatch to claim more territory.  

CLUES:

Jamandi has cordoned off the Medyved villa since the night of the murder, in order to preserve any evidence.  Arkanus has done some preliminary investigations, and come up with little. A long strand of dark brown hair was found at the scene of the crime.

Medyved villa has a secret chamber found by twisting the sword on a set of armor in an upstairs hallway.  Can be found with a Knowledge(Architecture) check DC22, or a Perception check DC32. Inside this chamber can be found several business papers in Davud Medyved’s handwriting detailing shady dealings in the fish smuggling ring which Jamandi had put down several months before, and a passage down through the walls which exits through a portion of the villa wall.  

Medyved villa a secret desk drawer can be found in Lady Kerri’s bedroom with a Perception check DC20; this drawer is full of love letters to and from Eldon dating back a year and a half.  Yes, they are steamy.

Searching the Lodovka villa will reveal a bloodied knife with a DC15 Perception check in Lady Odette’s bedroom, hidden underneath the mattress.  

Odette’s room has a wide bay window, underneath of which a thick layer of vines cling to the stonework, winding down into the gardens.  

Checking the ground underneath, a single bootprint can be found in the mud.  This print cannot be traced back to anyone, nor can any tracks be made out from there due to time and use.  The gardener is a bit past middle age, dark brown hair tied up in a ponytail in the back, and says that he doesn’t spend much attention on the vines on that side of the villa.  

In the Lodovka villa, the PC’s can also find with a Perception check DC19 a secret safe behind a portrait of Lord Kozek Lodovka.  The safe can be opened with a Disable Device check DC25. Inside can be found papers detailing just how dire house Lodovka’s finances are in; they are almost penniless due to a decreased demand in exports and a poor farming season in the north, and a letter sent from Lord Kozek himself states that the house needs to turn Davud’s mind at *any* cost, lest they fall into complete ruin.  

Rangrim Ungart was hired by a red-haired individual who went by ‘Lucas’ to murder Davud; he was only so happy to after Medyved fired him from his old job at the house due to ‘what can only be described as an ugly assortment of topiaries.’  Rangrim was paid a sum of two thousand gold coins, which he has hidden away in his gardener’s shack out back.

House Lodovka’s crest is a green-shelled crab climbing from the blue waters toward the gray band of shore surmounted  by a gray tower-keep in the center, against a backdrop of  black.  Their house  motto is “The Waters, Our Fields.”

House Medvyed’s crest is a black bear, rampant against a red field, with a spread of black antlers above the bear’s head. Its motto is “Endurance Overcomes All.”

 

 

 

 

So yes, I kept to many of the notes I had made, but I also altered some.  I decided to have Lady Kerri not allow Jamandi inside to make even a preliminary investigation, and as such I sent an e-mail to Elysia’s player before the previous session to give her the background on what she found so that she could relay information to the party.  Lady Odette never cast aspersions towards Lady Kerri’s married life, but I hardly needed to have her do so after the party had so nicely latched onto that idea.  So on and so forth, but the basics were all there.  I found myself delighted every time the party thought to look at something else that I’d prepared for as part of their investigation, and it felt so completely rewarding as a GM to see my work pay off.

When I crafted the scenario, it started off a bit weird.  As I mentioned in a previous comment, I needed something to get the PC’s back into the capital to meet up with Elysia.  Looking through my upcoming pre-rolled kingdom events I noticed the Feud event, with feuding nobles, and decided to take it a step further, and incorporate into this story one of my player’s backgrounds.  Gavriil’s backstory, to be precise:  Very little had come of his own story since fundraising for the kingdom.  Now, two years in-game after that event, was the perfect time to do something!

For those who are not familiar with someone else’s character’s background, Gavriil is the bastard child of Lord Poul Orlovsky, lead of Brevoy’s House Orlovsky.  Though he grew up with his mother working in a magic shop in Skywatch, Gavriil bore a striking resemblance to his father and others of his house, enough so that he was visual reminder of embarrassment for his father, who wanted nothing to do with him.  During fundraising efforts in Restov, Gavriil’s uncle had come to offer financial support to various groups, and upon finding the Arcanist there, he made it perfectly clear that their house had no interest in aiding the group.

Fast forward– political situation in Rostland is deteriorating.  The houses are backstabbing each other, everyone wants more power, and the Surtovas are trying to cement their rule.  Houses are roughly politically aligned in these ways:  Houses Garess, Orlovsky, and Medyved; opposed by houses Surtova, Lebeda, and Lodovka.  The battle lines are roughly drawn as such, but as Lord Tawno informed everyone, “political alliances are shifting; those who were your allies today may be your enemies tomorrow.”  So a story started to emerge for me– House Orlovsky wanted to do *something* to destabilize the PC’s kingdom, even if it was only a minor scandal that would bring them embarrassment.  Even better if it could further their own ambitions; rumors were that House Medyved were preparing to occupy some of Orlovsky’s land ‘to keep it safe from brigands and bandits.’

And so a complex story got woven– House Lodovka, known for their fishing exports, were low on money and needed to make a proper deal with Medyved to get some better fishing grounds.  Medyved is resisting, and so we have a tension between the two houses whose villas are in the party’s kingdom.  This gives individuals some interesting motives for murder.  Medyved doesn’t want Lodovkans nearby or else the jig is up on their troop movements; Lodovka needs this deal to work or else they go bankrupt.  Orlovsky is on the fringe, already wise to some of Medyved’s treachery, and looking to politically maneuver events in their favor.  A dead martyr on the Medyved’s side throws the two houses into conflict, possibly eating up a significant portion of time and resources that Medyved would otherwise be putting towards their land grab at Orlovsky.  All of that to say, it’s a right fine mess that the PC’s have just been placed into, and they don’t know the half of what is going on!

On the micro-side of the mystery, I began by figuring out the key players– Lord Davud, Lady Kerri, and her husband’s brother Sir Eldon for the Medyveds; Lord Tawno and Lady Odette for the Lodovkans.  Once I had established that, I knew already that none of them were the perpetrators of the crime, but I wanted each to have something that would make them look at least partially guilty.  I gave everyone alibis, either weak or strong; many got motives such as opposition in politics, or a hidden love affair; means was also provided in the form of secret passages and planted weapons.  It wasn’t until I had established most of this that I tried to figure out who was actually paid off to do the deed.  I settled on the gardener about the time I decided upon the clue of the bootprint in the mud underneath Odette’s door.  I gave him a secret and non-apparent motive for wanting to do it, and the means were easy enough when combined with that motive.  I decided that if confronted, he would essentially give everything up, not being the type for intrigue.

With all of the bits and pieces and clues set out for the PC’s to discover and put together however they wished, I was ready– and had a ton of fun with it all!  I really enjoyed hearing the party spitball theories back and forth.  One of the first was when Noruas’s player had the idea to ask about a happy marriage for Lady Odette and latching on to the idea, exactly what I hoped would happen, as it was a red herring– true but irrelevant to the murder.  I realized eventually I’d made a mistake by giving Lady Kerri long dark brown hair like the one found in Davud’s bedroom….there’s no reason for Lady Kerri’s hair not to be there being his wife, it didn’t really put any more or less suspicion on her.  I should have had her hair be a different color/length.

After everything had settled down and they’d found the gardener, there were talks about this Lucas fellow, and I was absolutely delighted when Eneko’s player asked, “Hey, the Lucas guy has red hair– is he related to Gavriil?”  A subtle little clue that I’d left for the party, because yes, Lucas is part of the Orlovskys and thus related to Gavriil, and the Orlovskys have red hair in this game– well spotted!  During the talks with Lord Tawno, Gavriil made several concerned notes saying that he believed it was possible that they were all dancing to someone else’s strings on the political board of another country, which tickled me pink– I think this mystery really got them involved and invested in the politics of their kingdom and nearby Rostland!  It’s a good way to set the stage for Rostland’s eventual descent into chaos, and I figure it might lend itself well to a plot point for Eneko and Gavriil’s backstories in the future.

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Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red Session Twenty-Seven

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand we’re back!  Sorry for the long delay guys, life took me away from the gaming table for a few weeks, but we’re back now and ready to go!  So, where we left off last time….

 

The Spirit Naga, having failed to properly charm Eneko the Bard/Cavalier, hissed in frustration and barely managed to bring about a Mirror Image spell before Noruas the Gunslinger let go with a full volley from her double-barreled musket!  The magical images took most of the shots, but a few bullets found their way into the snake-creature’s hide, drawing blood and sounds of pain!  The Naga’s response was a blast of intense cold which managed to catch the entire party, though Taz, Eneko’s horse, was able to avoid all of the damage while his rider took a facefull of icicles.

A few spells and bullets were thrown back and forth, before the Spirit Naga, heavily wounded and with all mirror images having been dispelled, pressed by Eneko in melee combat….uttered some syllables, made a weird head gesture, and disappeared!  Gavriil the Arcanist threw a spell into the area which seemed to find no target, and the group decided that perhaps the creature had run away.  It didn’t take long however for its presence to be seen, as Gavriil, who was taking a few moments to prepare Glitterdust just in case, almost lost concentration to a bout of horrendous laughter!  His companions, realizing what was happening, began to take measures against an invisible foe– attempting to find tracks, dragging a rope in an area around their friend, and other such things.

As Gavriil was finishing his preparations, he felt a sickly touch upon his shoulder– whirling with his quarterstaff outreached, he attempted to find by chance the invisible Spirit Naga, but his staff met with naught but air.  In the meantime, he felt rather queasy…as if a poison had seeped into his veins!  A weakness overcame him as he took a point of Constitution damage, staggering for a moment before continuing on.  The Poison spell that had afflicted the Arcanist continued its way through the man’s body, with Gavriil managing to fight off the effects on occasion, and in the end left him with five Con damage.  With that immediate threat taken care of, Gavriil set about trying to find the location of this creature, using Detect Magic to see if he couldn’t find where this invisible Naga was standing.  He detected three magical auras within the branches and detritus of the Scar around the end of the river, but then struck gold to the south– an illusion spell was present!

Gavriil immediately cast out Glitterdust, which poofed out in the air and descended to outline the serpentine form of their foe, who hissed in frustration at them, thrashing its head to shake the particles away from its eyes!  Noruas opened up again, noting that the naga now had a slight blue glow around it, and missing her first shot before her gun jammed!  Eneko spurred Taz forward to distract her, while the Naga sent out a blue ray of energy out to Noruas, which drained away the magical buffs Gavriil had built upon her.  Gavriil was not deterred, and graced the Gunslinger with a cat’s natural ability once more, allowing Noruas to put an end to the Spirit Naga’s hissing words the next time she opened her mouth to taunt the party…the battle was over!

Loot was found and identified, then distributed, before the group found a place for camp that night.  During the night, Gavriil had some restless sleep; towards the end of his rest, his mind provided him with a dream of a shadowy figure backlit in a bright green light, only the vague outline visible, and a feminine voice which floated out to him:  “Find it…find it for me….”  A moment later the dream flashed a picture of an ornate sword, thorns wrapping the green hilt with a slightly jagged red blade extending from it.  Gavriil woke then, the morning air quiet around him.  He took some time to sketch down the sword that he saw in his dream, and as the group was preparing to head out for that day’s exploration, Eneko was surprised as the image of Arkanus Taklo (the kingdom Magister)’s head appeared in the air beside him!

Urgent:  Lord Davud Medyved has been murdered.  Wife suspects Lord Tawno Lodovka. Possible diplomatic situation.  Needed back in the capital immediately. Elysia currently in charge.

The Sending was over quickly, but the message was clear:  something had gone wrong, and it would be best if they returned.  Lord Davud Medyved was a Rostlandic noble who represented House Medyved in the group’s kingdom, and lived in a villa constructed within their capital; Lord Tawno Lodovka similarly was the representative from House Lodovka, his own villa not far from the Medyved’s.  After a bit of discussion, it was decided to head directly back to the capital, and they were able to enter through the city gates three days later, having encountered no further resistance.

Making their way straight to the Silver Knight Inn where the leadership was known to conduct their business, the party was able to find Arkanus along with Elysia the Ranger, who had remained back in the capital for the last few weeks in order to help train back up a new group of White Wolves monster-hunters.  Arkanus, happy for others to be there to handle “the half-crazed Medyved widow,” retreated back to his tower and allowed Elysia to fill the group in on the details.

The long and short of it comes down to this:  Lord Davud Medyved was last seen alive on the night of the first of Pharast.  He was busy with some work for some time, until having a servant prepare his bedchambers for him around 11.  The next morning, a second servant accessed his unlocked room to bring him breakfast, and found him dead, face-down in the bed with a wound in his back, blood pooling upon the silken sheets.  She immediately ran downstairs to inform the wife, Lady Kerri Medyved, who confiscated the three copies of the key to his room, locked the door, and refused to let anyone enter.  Elysia was allowed to enter the room only briefly to look at the scene a day later, but wasn’t able to gather much more than that before she ushered her out.  Lady Kerri was completely insistent that her husband’s murder deserved the best resources the kingdom could muster, so that “that vile Lord Tawno Lodovka can be arrested for his crime!”

Lady Kerri continued to be convinced of Lord Tawno’s guilt, causing quite a stir among the houses and the populace.  Jamandi Aldori, the kingdom’s Warden and in charge of city security, had been running ragged to ensure no riots would break out, and was quite happy to see the party return to settle this issue.  Thusly informed, the PC’s made their way to the Medyved villa to talk with Lady Kerri and gather information.

Lady Kerri, properly distraught at the death of her husband three days prior, brought them in and proceeded upstairs, to unlock the door to Davud’s bedchambers.  The party entered and began taking a look around.  Noruas and Elysia examined the body, noting that the wound appeared to be made by a short-blade weapon such as a knife or dagger, and that no defensive wounds could be found.  Eneko and Gavriil questioned Lady Kerri about her suspicions of Lord Tawno’s guilt, to which she replied “Of course he’s guilty!  Davud and Tawno have been arguing constantly for the last few months over some silly business of their families!  The Lodovkans wanted fishing rights to the Medyved lakes, but Davud is strictly against such measures, and has been using his influence to stop the deal from going through.  Tawno hated him for that!”

Elysia in the meantime was able to find a single strand of long, dark-brown hair upon the bed.  The rest of the group asked to speak with the servants who last saw and who found Lord Davud, and Lucy the morning maid was brought forth.  She gave her story, mentioned that she didn’t see the murder weapon but wasn’t really looking for it before she rushed to get Lady Kerri.  Noruas asked Lucy if Kerri and Davud’s marriage was a happy one…Lucy’s eyes darted over to Lady Kerri and back to Noruas before answering that of course it was.  Noting this look, Gavriil maneuvered Lady Kerri to take him to Davud’s study to see if they could find anything of interest there, while the rest got more information of out Lucy, who was more willing to talk without her employer around.  As it turns out, it was suspected among the servants that Lady Kerri was having a love affair with Lord Davud’s younger brother, Sir Eldon Medyved!

Gavriil in the meantime was looking around Davud’s study, and noticed something a bit off about the room.  Succeeding at a Knowledge(Engineering) check, he noted that the far right wall seemed to be a bit shorter than the dimensions of the next room would lead you to believe.  Moving up to the wall, he knocked on the wooden paneling and heard a hollow sound– something was back there!  Try as he might, Gavriil was unable to discover how to access this space without brute force, and called for his friends to come investigate.  Noruas made short work of the area, quickly finding a hidden catch on a suit of armor nearby which slid back the wood paneling to reveal a small room behind the wall!  The Gunslinger, this task completed, then decided to engage Lady Kerri in an ‘experiment’ to see if the sounds of screaming could be heard from her husband’s room in hers just down the hall– sending Lady Kerri to Davud’s room to shout for a bit, and taking her opportunity to search Kerri’s own room.

Her searching was fruitful, as she was able to find in Lady Kerri’s room a false bottom to a drawer, in which were a bundle of letters.  Quickly stashing them, she cleaned up and managed to make it to the door just as Lady Kerri walked in, asking if everything was alright.  That experiment concluded, the two made their way back to the study and the mysterious room.

Elysia and Gavriil had spent their time checking out this new room.  A bookshelf held several copies of business ledgers, while the desk on the near wall was scattered with papers.  Gavriil took a look over them, and Jamandi, who was still nearby, took the papers and scanned them over.  “Well, isn’t that interesting!”  Jamandi was able to identify several transactions as being a part of the black market fish smuggling ring which she and her guardsmen had managed to shut down a number of months previous– Lord Davud had a bit of shady business dealings going on, it seemed.

Additionally, the hidden room had a hatch next to the desk which, when opened, revealed a tiny crawl space with a descending ladder.  The Arcanist and Gunslinger decided to investigate down the ladder, finding it descended below the villa and through a tunnel before eventually leading to a second ladder, this one heading up.  At the top, a latch was present to open up a new, hidden hatch.  Clambering up and examining this new opening from the other side, the duo found themselves to be out on the street next to the villa, the passage having led to an exit in the villa’s stone wall!  On their way back, Noruas showed Gavriil the bundle of letters and the two of them examined them quickly, to find that they were steamy correspondence between Lady Kerri and Sir Eldon, confirming the romance between the two.

This investigation done, the group had a few more people they wished to interrogate.  Lady Kerri’s alibi for the night of the murder was discussed, wherein she claimed to be out of the house visiting the observatory with the priests of Desna, something that the servants confirmed she would occasionally do.  Sir Eldon was spoken with next, who seemed little concerned about his brother’s demise, and not all *that* happy about being the one to take over his brother’s business endeavors.  He claimed that he spent the night of the murder at the Silver Knight with some drinking friends, and woke up there in the morning.  The villa’s head of security was spoken to next, who gave a breakdown of the minimal security which they provided the Medyveds, and gave the party the name of a shadowy man with a goatee who had been around the villa some months ago, whose name was never mentioned but who he once overheard as being referred to as “The Howler.”  Finally, a long questioning of the house servants found one particular maid, Mara Dyneria, who had actually observed Kerri and Eldon engaging in a scandalous romantic tryst and was paid off to keep it quiet.

While the majority of the party conducted some of these interrogations, Elysia took the opportunity to go out and check alibis.  The priests of Desna were able to confirm Lady Kerri’s location for the night, and a bartender at the Silver Knight remembered Eldon being present and pointed out one of his drinking friends who was there at the time.  Elysia found from this man that Eldon was with them all night, except for the half hour or so when he stepped out to use the privy.  When he came back, he was a little pale-faced and out of breath, like he’d been violently sick for a time.  The Ranger deduced that it was possible for Eldon to have made it from the inn to the villa and back within that time frame.  Meeting back up, the group compared notes, formed theories (the reigning one that Kerri and Eldon conspired together to kill Davud), and then resolved to move on to speaking with the Lodovkans next!

 

 

Where Good Intentions Dissolve into a Puddle of Panic

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Here. With Star Vampires. That took days to get . . . sort of mostly kind of okay. From this point, I stopped keeping track of colors, stopped shooting in progress work, and just tried to get done.

This project took . . . so . . . long.

And here’s the done deal.

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Just the monsters:

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Just the heroes:

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Lloigor . . . my nemesis:

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And another shot of the star vampires:

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Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red Session Twenty-Six

The Hooktongue Slough, filled with mud, water, and beast, is no place for adventurers!  It wasn’t long into their exploration of the bog that the party, sans Elysia the Ranger (whose player was absent and who was back in Elbat Dnuor training up White Wolves), managed to run into a large group of enormous dragonflies, who seemed quite intent on sinking their mandibles into the PC’s!  Eight in total, these dragonflies put up a good fight, even managing to avoid some of Noruas the Gunslinger’s shots with their nimble wings fluttering.  A few got a good bite into Eneko the Cavalier/Bard and Gavriil the Arcanist, before the remainder were brought down by fireballs and gunfire….and one horse.

With these dragonflies taken care of, the party decided that a good course of action would be to head north, along the edge of the swamp.  They broke out into the plains pretty quickly, moving upwards to explore to the border of Rostland to their north, from which they could see a Rostlandic watchtower in the distance.  “Hmm…if we were to build a road from here to our new settlement of Ruhtra, it would make a good emergency alert path,” mused Gavriil.  Soon they came to the East Sellen River, which Eneko informed them had once formed a large trading route from Brevoy to Mivon through the Hooktongue Slough, but which had been rendered mostly unstable in the past few years; though he knew that Baron Hannis Drelev (who settled the lands to the west of Tolemac) had made opening the trade routes up one of his goals, there’d been no news of his success or failure as yet.

Later that day, the party did encounter a Brush Thylacine, a woodlands hunter native to the area, but they were able to distract it with food while they made their getaway to safety.  The next day, they came across a very interesting feature– an impressive stone bridge crossing a gorge, with the East Sellen running through the bottom of the fissure.  What made this structure truly remarkable however, were the four carved wyvern statues at each of the four corners of the bridge, standing sixty feet tall with wings upraised.  Gavriil and Eneko took a few moments to put their heads together to see if they could recall anything about this, and while they did so Noruas, suspicious as always, carefully checked around the statues and bridge for any traps, defects, or otherwise dangerous materials.  Finding nothing, she sat back and listened to her companions spout off some lore on the bridge– 200 years old, built by Choral the Conquerer, was a marker of his border territory.

Idly, Noruas was eyeing up the statues, when suddenly the way they looked sparked something in her– she quickly rummaged through her pack, grabbing out the old worn map that was one of the last things she had left of her father.  Sure enough, there it was– a marking on her map that could be roughly called a wyvern with its wings upraised!  Some more study of her father’s map gave her some rough ideas of what was going on in the area– a number of miles to the west of where they were there was a marking that might have been a hole, or cave, or….circle.  Underneath, though Gavriil was able to discern that the words were written in an ancient dialect used by the Tiger Lord barbarians, he wasn’t able to make out their meaning.  Additionally, there was a similar marking on the map to the south, below the southern tip of Hooktongue Lake.  It was this area which the party decided to travel to– best to keep close to their borders, just in case something untoward happened.

Traveling back into the bog, the party did end up finding more life– intelligent, this time!  Noruas spotted (barely– she’s the only one with half-decent perception checks when Elysia isn’t with the group!) signs of other life, and so the group decided to move ahead cautiously, each being as sneaky as they could.  In fact, they ended up so sneaky, even the horses, that the party inadvertently snuck up on a small gathering of Boggards!  These Boggards were busy looking the other way, peeking through some bushes and furtively glancing around in front of them.  Deciding to leave the creatures alone for now– despite the one Boggard they knew personally, they did know that the majority of them were not nearly as diplomatically inclined– the party moved on, catching a glimpse of several other Boggards laying in wait not far from that spot.

The next area of the swamp which they stumbled upon was identified as The Sinking Bog, an area rife with quicksand dangers.  Fortunately for them, Noruas was able to spot each of the dangerous spots that they came across before anyone stumbled into the quicksand, and the party was none the worse for the journey.  The PC’s continued to travel south through the swamp, along the edge of Lake Hooktongue, which remained unexplored as the party had not the means of efficient water travel.  Eventually they made it to the southern edge of the lake, give or take, and began searching for whatever the map circle represented.  After a time, the party came to a long scar of assorted debris and detritus which had collected in the end of a tributary to the lake, a place pretty ugly-looking and rather strange.  As they examined the area, movement was detected, and a yellow-scaled snake-like form slithered out of a hole in the debris, uncoiling and rising up to present an almost human-like face to the group.

Gavriil whispered to his party, “Spirit Naga,” having identified the creature as being reasonably fast, with a poisonous bite, and known magical capabilities, often viewing themselves as inheritors of some kind of mysterious dark powers.  The Arcanist was nervous, wishing simply to leave when the Naga greeted them in her sibilant hiss.  Eneko, brave Bard that he is, stepped forward and attempted to Fascinate the Naga to give his companions some time to get away– “You are of the Naga people, are you not?  I’m sure you have many interesting stories of your people to tell me, hmmm?”  The Spirit Naga fixed her gaze upon Eneko, moving slowly forward towards him.  “Oh yes…we have many such stories of our people.  I would be oh so happy to…tell you….”  Her eyes flashed red for an instant, and Eneko felt his head swim, wishing nothing more than to stand there and listen to her wonderful voice….then he snapped himself out of it, shaking his head and grunting in surprise!  This served as all the confirmation that Noruas needed, and she raised her rifle just as the Naga’s form blurred and split into six figures!  The fight was on!

 

 

Session Twenty-Six Exploration

 

 

 

 

Players, do not read!

 

 

 

 

So exciting– I love that the party is exploring territory over here in the Slough, things covered in book four of the adventure path, while they’re only just heading into book three!  This is part of what drew me to Kingmaker– the ability for the players to make their own story by venturing where they wanted to, exploring and mapping these new lands and taking on whatever dangers they encountered there in doing so!  Last session they explored some of the area covered in book three and managed to miss perception checks to find two or three encounters, including a Giant Flytrap (which I decided was hibernating in the winter and would only attack if they got close to it) and a cave which would prove to be a valuable mine.  Later they missed out on a Hodag Den (from back in book two), and this session they stealthed past a Boggard ambush and successfully navigated a quicksand bog via some really good knowledge and survival rolls!

The party was plenty happy at the beginning of the session to get themselves out of the swamp and simply scout around it for the time being– until they found the stone bridge.  Each player at the beginning of the campaign gave me a bit of a background on them, and I’ve made some really rough plans on how to help incorporate that into the adventure.  So far I’ve been most successful in doing so with Elysia and Eneko– Elysia was part of the White Wolves guild, basically a band of non-magical Witchers.  They’ve now been incorporated into the kingdom, and I’ve got an outstanding plot point on why the guild was forcibly decommissioned years ago.  Eneko’s father was killed just after the disappearance of House Rogarvia, the previously ruling family of Rostland, and Eneko fully believes that it was the Surtovas, who have taken over ruling for the Rogarvians, who were responsible for his family’s death.  This has led to very biased views of the Surtovas and those who support them, and earlier actions allowed me to send an NPC ‘friend’ of his father’s to gather information for him, which we heard from not too long ago in the form of a note.

Gavriil and Noruas’ backstories have been touched upon the least thus far, and to be honest I’ve really got nothing planned moving forward for Gavriil just yet.  He was the bastard son of one of the noble houses of Rostland, pretty much despised by his father and their house, a stain upon their honor and so forth.  At the beginning of Rivers Run Red, we got to explore this relationship a little bit with the party in Restov, Gavriil’s uncle being present and giving quite the tongue-lashing to the man.  I’m uncertain where to go from here with this– but I think it should be something to do with his family, maybe the house turning diplomatic relations between Tolemac and the other noble houses in Rostland a bit sour?

In a slightly different vein, we’ve got Noruas.  Her backstory involves a life in Numeria, and a father many thought crazy who wandered off into the wilderness, one of the Gunslinger’s only momentos of his being a worn map presenting areas of the Stolen Lands.  In book one we found the gunpowder mine in the Kamelands, and to be honest I’d had nothing else planned until the party reached beyond the Slough, somewhere to the west of which they would be able to find an Adamantine mine.  Fortunately I happened to think about the map when the party reached the stone bridge– and quickly decided which kind of landmarks they’d be able to recognize.  I chose two caves– one, the tomb of Armag (pretty important in book four), with barbarian writing below it; the other, a cave to the south of the lake.  The players latched onto it quickly– initially they thought of going towards the tomb since it was directly to the west, but then changed their mind in favor of staying closer to their border so they could get back for the next kingdom turn in time.

This is fortunate, because I’ve no clue what I would have done otherwise…I need to brush up on book four yet again.  I’m also trying to think of something reasonable which might require the PC’s attention back in Tolemac for a few months, enough to tide over the time before their diplomatic meeting with Varnhold– speaking of which, I’ve yet to decide if that meeting will actually happen to strengthen ties between them before they disappear, or if the party will simply arrive to find everyone missing….

So that brings us to their current encounter, three level seven PC’s facing up against a CR12 Spirit Naga Sorceress, the encounter labeled as a CR10 likely due to the fact that there’s only one of her.  I did little to change the encounter– didn’t have much time to, because I hadn’t expected them to run into her to be honest.  I did up her hit-points a little bit, and I swapped out one of her second-level spells with Mirror Image in order to give her a chance of survivability.  We’ve gone through several rounds of combat now, not documented in this post due to the fact that we didn’t finish the fight, but suffice it to say that I am thoroughly pleased with how this is turning out.  Though she took a ton of damage after her mirror images were shot down, she was able to get off a Cone of Cold that hit the entire party, failed to use her Charming Gaze on two party members…but then, oh so sneakily, she Dimension Door’ed away while at death’s door.  What followed was quite the sight, and I’ll get to it more next week, but I think the fight has definitely made an impression on the party– which is great!

So, that’s all guys….until next week!

Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red Session Twenty-Five

Having returned to the capital with their dragon parts, after distributing wealth among themselves the party prepared to head out yet again into the wilderness, to map out surrounding territory.  Before they left however, Elysia the Ranger informed her fellows that she was going to take a bit of time to venture north into Restov– the White Wolves guild had been reasonably scarce of members since the disaster that befell them during the fight against Hargulka’s trolls.  Her plan was to attempt to recruit some young hopefuls into the White Wolves to get the guild back on their feet, and so she bid goodbye for a short time to her companions, promising to be back before they needed to attend to more matters of state.

With that the PC’s left, heading eastward towards the Tors of Levienes, the mountain range that divided the Kamelands from their neighbors in Varnhold.  Being wintertime, the party was slowed slightly by the colder temperatures and harsher climate, but they were still able to make decent time.  They mapped areas out to the south of Lake Silverstep, an area which had been claimed by Varnhold, and then moved their way to the west, back towards the forest.  About two weeks into their exploration, as they were traveling through some snow-covered hills, something clicked inside the party’s heads– their surroundings weren’t idly-covered hills, but rather the bumps in the land were made by numerous furrows in the ground!

After a moment’s pause, Gavriil the Arcanist almost shrieked!  “Bulettes!  NOBODY MOVE!”  A successful knowledge check let him know what had caused these rifts in the earth– the fearsome creature sometimes known as the land-shark, sensitive to the vibrations in the earth and often willing to attack anyone in their territory.  Worse yet, they were in the middle of this territory…who knew how many bulettes could be around?  The party tossed out a few ideas, all while remaining stock-still.  Eventually, they came up with a solution:  Gavriil was able to cast several Floating Discs, two of which were enough for a single horse to be supported on.  Eneko the Bard/Cavalier coaxed each horse up onto the discs, keeping them calm as they floated gently in the air, and Noruas the Gunslinger kept her musket trained on the surrounding landscape to make sure they weren’t ambushed.

Fortunately, no bulettes were spotted during their preparations, and once Eneko got all of the horses upon their discs, the rest of the party mounted their steeds.  With a bit of tricky spellwork, Gavriil was able to manipulate the discs to slowly move the entire group across the field, all while keeping them about three feet off the ground.  After a few hours, they successfully made it out of bulette territory, undetected and in the case of Gavriil completely exhausted!

The next few days saw them exploring the territory along the border of free lands and Mivon, moving steadily westward.  With time ticking down until they would need to return to the capital, the party managed to explore their surroundings up to the western edge of the Narlmarches before they decided to return.  They made it back in town with a day to spare, finding that Elysia had arrived just a few days prior with several of her new recruits.  Matters of state were attended to, including claiming Hargulka’s Stronghold in the south to be part of the kingdom of Tolemac!  Additionally, the council were introduced to Balasar Delmirev, a falconer who was hired for the kingdom to help them raise their Roc eggs which were soon due to hatch!  After a short interview, his position was confirmed, and Gavriil showed him to the eggs.  In the meantime, one of the local priests of Erastil who had apparently drawn the short straw came in to discretely inform the council that, whenever they were ready, some small plans had been drawn up and prepared for the breaking of ground on the new settlement that was promised them around the old Temple of the Elk.  A brief presentation was made, showing that the priests had put in some thought to the matter, and then he was dismissed after receiving the promise that they had not been forgotten, and that indeed work was due to start soon.

As was their wont, the leadership of Tolemac dove right back in to their administrative duties for the month of Calistril, making good on their word to establish a new city around the Temple of the Elk.  Foundation work began, and the new settlement was christened to be Ruhtra, due to be ready for its first building by the next month!  The council was kept busy with other matters as well, as they received a letter from Varnhold– from baron Maegar Varn himself!  He seemed to respond well to the idea of close political (and possible familial) ties between their two kingdoms, and wished to invite the leaders to attend a ball in Varnhold’s capital to further discuss matters!  The PC’s discussed the letter– they were happy to attend, but didn’t want to try and make the journey during the winter lest it take too long, and they wouldn’t be able to make it back to the capital in time to perform their duties.  After looking at the calendar, they decided to write back to Maegar Varn accepting his invitation, and letting him know that they would be free to come in early Sarenith, when the paths would be clear and their back-to-back kingdom turns would coincide.

Additionally, Eneko received some personal correspondence.  A letter from ‘Sneaky Peter,’ an underworld contact he had talked to in Restov back when they were still raising funds for their kingdom.  Eneko had asked Sneaky Peter to look into his father’s death/disappearance at the hands of ‘unknown’ bandits during house Surtova’s consolidation of power in Rostland.  The trail had led him to New Stetven, the capital, and he was sad to say that he had little to report to the duke.  The last few months had been politically unstable, and had forced him to keep his head down out of contact for some time; he would remain out of contact longer, and warned Eneko to caution himself; forced were at work around the throne, and tensions in Rostland were rising.

With their duties completed, the party determined to set out again for some more exploration, with weather only slightly warmer than before.  Elysia again elected to stay behind, this time so that she could help train the White Wolf recruits up to proper standards.  The session came to a close not long after, as the group made their way out of the Narlmarches and into the Hooktongue Slough for the first time!