Following up on their initiative to make for Oleg’s Trading Post, the party set out on the morning of the seventh of Pharast. Arriving upon horseback to their destination, the party was greeted by the sight of a small number of tents pitched in the courtyard, courtesy of Kesten Garess and his soldiers– as well as the heads of the previously dispatched bandits upon spikes mounted on the walls. Championed by Gavriil the Arcanist, the party entered the main building to speak to Oleg. Upon entering, they were greeted with a new sight– a board with several notices tacked upon it, odd jobs for which rewards could be earned. An old retired trapper was offering a finely crafted longbow and magical arrows to the person responsible for bringing down the boar Tuskgutter. Oleg was offering a reward of a thousand gold for whomever returned Svetlana’s stolen ring. Kesten Garess wished for the return, dead or alive, of the bandit Falgrim Sneeg, who had previously wronged him and was wanted for crimes in Brevoy. The Swordlords of Restov wished for the bandit presence in the Stolen Lands to be reduced, while the mayor of Restov had placed a value on calming the recently agitated Kobold tribes of the Kamelands.
After some discussion with Oleg, Gavriil and Eneko the Bard convinced Oleg to take Gregor, the not-so-bright bandit who promised he would do his best to reform and become an ‘inspectable’ tradesman, to work hard at the trading post as a way of repenting of his banditry. With a clause tossed in there about killing the man if he was seen to be untrustworthy, of course. After this business was concluded, Gavriil set about attempting to repair some of the old broken-down catapults on Oleg’s walls, while Eneko conducted some trade business with Oleg. Oleg also divulged to the group that a second group of bandits had attacked his home just two days previous, but were beaten off by Kesten and his men. After a time, the party was approached by a man in clerical vestments, who introduced himself as Jhod Kavken, a priest of Erastil. Jhod asked of the group to be on the watch for what he called the Lost Temple of the Elk, an old place of worship where Erastil was once revered, but which had been lost to time. Jhod promised the party that if they were to find this temple, defeat the guardian he had seen in a vision, and escorted him to the location to restore the site, then he would provide them with whatever divine blessings he was granted by Erastil for no further donation to the church than their aid.
Concluding their business at the trading post, the group departed Oleg’s in order to search for the moonradishes which Svetlana wished in order to make her husband’s favorite stew. Knowing that the radish patch was somewhere south of the trading post, the group were able to make it into the Narlmarsh forest by the end of the day. It was late that night, with Eneko on watch, when he was beset by a sudden bout of drowsiness…the next thing he knew, he was being woken up by Noruas the Gunslinger, who had the next watch. What Eneko was not aware of was his new facial features– a crudely drawn charcoal mustache and black circles around his eyes, difficult for Noruas to spy in the night against his dark skin. Yet she did see…and decided to let him suffer for his failure at keeping watch, and did not inform him of his misfortune. It was not long in the morning, after a few snickers from the rest of the party, that the Bard learned of his markings and hastily made away with them. Upon breaking camp, Elysia the Ranger began to mount her horse but found that her saddle, buckled firmly a moment before, had suddenly come loose! Dumped upon the ground, Elysia frowned and began piecing together what was happening. After careful thought, Gavriil was able to share with the party that he thought the tricks to have been played upon them by the Fey of the woods, and suggested that they break camp with haste after he left a small offering of gold with a note for those who were responsible.
The rest of the day was spent exploring the forest, which was uneventful until close to evening. It was at this time that Elysia heard jabbering from ahead, and was able to make out several high-pitched voices speaking in Draconic. Alerting the party, she was able to lead the group closer to the voices, until they were able to make out the shape of several Kobolds laying around in a radish patch, with piles of deep blue radishes laying about next to them and the evidence of a feast upon their lips. Though appearing somewhat bloated on food, the group were constantly yapping to each other to ferociously defend their piles of berries, threatening to take those of their companions for themselves. It was also Elysia who, unfortunately, alerted these Kobolds to her presence by stepping on a nearby twig, sending the tiny dragon-like men into a frenzy of yammering and yipping which only Eneko and Elysia were able to understand.
And thus began a process of translation and negotiation: Gavriil and Noruas were interested in negotiating with the Kobolds for a basket of radishes, which the small draconids refused to share; Elysia and Eneko however saw the Kobolds as more of a threat, known to have been attacking travelers and hunters in the area and deserving of death. Ultimately, a possible trade was established for the future, as the Kobolds expressed their desire for tasty spider corpses or the heads of their enemies, the Mites. However, the party had only parts of a spider on them, two fangs secured by Noruas after their fight two days previous. In a moment of slightly ill-thought negotiating, Eneko traded their spider fangs for a single moonradish, which was all that they were able to wrangle out of the Kobolds that day. Resolving to leave them be for the moment, the group left the Kobolds alive and finished their exploration for the day, camping just on the edge of the forest. With the single radish, Gavriil decided to attempt to make it take root so as to possibly produce more one day.
During watch that night, it was Eneko’s great misfortune to be awake once again when misfortune struck. Hearing a rustling in the bushes, the Bard was instantly alert, and was thus privy to the sound of a deep growling coming from the bushes…and growing louder, closer! With a yell, possibly of fear, Eneko awoke the rest of the group just in time for all of them to see the terror which emerged from the underbrush…a small, nose-twitching bunny. After vainly attempting to explain himself to the group, the rest of his companions returned to bed while the Bard sang out a lullaby to the Fey creature he assumed was nearby, playing a prank on him. The session ended with the fire dying low and the soft tones of Eneko traveling over the nearby forest, a lovely ending to the evening of adventure.
PLAYERS, DO NOT READ!
No random encounters this time around, but the session was also about an hour shorter than we’d previously been playing. As such, the players made only two days in-game time, spending about half the session at Oleg’s, and the majority of the rest talking with the Kobolds. The bounty board that was posted at the Trading Post proved to have more quests and wanted posters upon it than I had originally thought there would be available for them to see, but all the conditions were right to reveal to them the majority of the quests provided by the book, and I did hold one or two of them back for the next time they visit even. As it was, two of my players noted at the end of the session that the bounty board seemed interesting, and because we use Roll20 for our games and I had prepared these quests on handouts that could be sent to the players for later viewing, it worked out rather nicely.
After some thought, I decided that bandits would begin assaulting Oleg’s fortress in greater numbers as time continued to pass– something like every 1d8+2 days, give or take. For the moment Kesten and his men are enough to hold them off, but Kressle, the leader of the group of bandits camped out at the Thorn River (so far yet to be discovered by our PC’s) is receiving a supply of men from the Stag Lord’s main base (spoiler alert: the Stag Lord is a thing, and in fact is the big boss of the area!) to help put down this threat to the bandit authority in the Stolen Lands. If at any point the PC’s happen to leave a bandit alive to escape (as one previously had attempted to do) and Kressle is to learn of the party’s existence, groups of ten bandits will start heading out and searching the area for the party– and gods help them if they’re found!
So the Kobold encounter– the book says that these Kobolds will defend their radishes and view the approaching party as hostile, but that seemed a bit too aggressive of an encounter for my party’s taste– knowing them, I figured that at the very least they’d want to try talking to the Kobolds *before* murdering them, though I went into the encounter fully expecting there to be bloodshed. As it turned out the group was evenly split on how to deal with the Kobolds, and thus began one of the most fun RP encounters I have had thus far (though being only three sessions into the campaign probably helped that along). I got to do funny voices for the bragging Kobolds, who were quite insistent that the payment for their radishes should be a thousand gold coins for each of them, or the heads of every mite in the Kamelands, or all the spiders they could eat; additionally they began fighting amongst themselves when Eneko asked them how many travelers they had killed, as each Kobold attempted to top the number that the last had spoken– resulting in an evolution of fifty, three hundred, one billion, and *all* of the travelers. Remarkably, this admission to enjoying the violence they committed did not change the minds of the Gunslinger or Arcanist, as both were still set upon getting those radishes without a fight. So, even though we didn’t have a fight, they did say that they’d come back later.
Through their encounter with these Kobolds, the PC’s were able to learn about the old sycamore tree which housed the Mites somewhere to the south of the radish patch, as well as the existence of Chief Sootscale, leader of the Kameland’s Kobold tribe. I’m enjoying the fact that the party is learning more about the area that they’re soon to explore, giving them some anticipation as to what they will eventually encounter while still leaving plenty of surprises to go.
Finally, we’ll talk about the Fey pranksters. As the party made their first foray into the forests of the Stolen Lands, it was time that they encounters the two prankster Fey who live in the trees! This pair of Fey, a Grig and a Fairy Dragon, follow the party around and amuse themselves by playing pranks, attempting to one-up each other every day. Taking ideas from this thread on the Paizo forums, I executed a small number of the suggested pranks, looking forward to the chance to get more of them in. I was a bit surprised at how quickly Gavriil’s player, Sarah, picked up on the idea that someone might be messing with them after only two pranks, immediately asking if there was a knowledge check to be made in order to give an idea of what was going on. Being successful in this check (silly Arcane caster classes and their high Intelligence!), it was learned that they were Fey and they’d get easily befriended by leaving some gifts for them.
Gavriil was able to make a Diplomacy check to attempt to befriend the two Fey, but did not roll anywhere near high enough unfortunately, while Eneko after offering up his song to the creatures was easily able to make the check, and won’t be plagued by these pranks again. I’m looking forward to picking some choice pranks out for my players in the coming sessions!