Having secured Trytor for the night, the party rested at the ford and set out again the next morning. Gavriil, the Human Arcanist, gave their bandit charge a good talking-to as they set off, building upon Eneko’s previous conversations the night before and resulting in a sort of understanding: Trytor works for the party for three months, and then he’s free to go. Though he remained somewhat sullen about the deal, he did accept it, giving the party yet another redeemed bandit companion! While this talk was being had, Eneko the Human Bard-turned-Cavalier
From the ford, the party explored south, enjoying the slightly warmer-than-usual temperatures and scenery, making their way to the Stag Lord’s Fort. Their camp was made without having found their target yet, and during the night, Gavriil was on watch when the strangest thing happened! He spotted just beyond the campfire a glowing blue ball of light! Nudging Elyssia the Half-Elf Ranger awake, the Arcanist began following the light…which was quickly moving away from the campsite! As Gavriil moved along further, he thought back to his education and what the light could possibly be…after a few moments, he identified (quite handily for him) the light as a Will’o Wisp, a creature that lures unsuspecting travelers away from their friends, never to be seen again…
After following for a bit, with the newly awoken Noruas the Gunslinger trailing him and Eneko trailing her, Gavriil decided that it was likely best to go back so as not to leave Elyssia, who fully believed the rest to be crazy for walking off into the night like that, alone at the fire. Returning to bed, the rest of the night was uneventful.
By noon the next day, the party stumbled upon the sight of the Stag Lord’s Fort! Standing on top of a small hill, the old decrepit stone tower was surrounded by a wooden palisade. The area surrounding it was mostly barren of terrain features, with only a few small boulders littering the hillsides to the east, west, and south of the fort. To the north, a thirty-foot wide hard-packed path led up to the front gate, extending about three hundred feet out to where the vegetation and scrub brush picked back up. Inside the palisade, three watchtowers rose above the walls to provide the bandits inside with an overlook of their surroundings.
The party decided to settle into a makeshift camp for a few hours, while Noruas began brewing the poison which they planned to slip into the bottles for the Stag Lord. After a good four hours of poison-brewing, spending almost all of the rest of their day in their makeshift campsite, they had finally poisoned the entirety of their case of wine. Deciding that someone should stay back and keep an eye upon the reluctant Trytor, who expressed no interest in returning to the fort. Noruas elected to remain behind, and the rest set off with the crate of wine on horseback.
Following the path to the gate, the party was challenged by a man on the northern watchtower. Fortunately, they knew the correct response to his challenge, “By the bloody bones of saint Gilmorg, who wants to know?” and were accepted into the fort. There, they were met with a well-spoken man (contrary to most of their bandit encounters previously) who identified himself as Akiros Ismort, inquiring as to what business these fine men had with the Stag Lord? A crate of wine for the bandit leader, the party responded! Oh excellent, and the rest of the tribute from your group of bandits, Akiros asked? Eneko quickly stepped in to say that because they had an errand to perform, they came ahead of the rest with the Stag Lord’s liquor, and the remainder of the tribute payment would come upon the morrow! Akiros accepted this, and called inside the ruined tower for one of the other bandits, Kench, to come give the horses some feed while he delivered the wine to the Stag Lord.
Kench, not the brightest of bandits, began a short shuffling of horses into the nearby converted stable area, using his best problem-solving skills to shove as many horses into the area as he could…unfortunately, he seemed to forget that there were riders upon these horses still, and overall was not terribly successful in his mission. Gavriil quickly took it upon himself to otherwise occupy the brain-damaged bandit, showing him minor acts of magic to distract the man, and soon Akiros returned with a pouch of gold as a token of the Stag Lord’s appreciation of their gift. The party then inquired as to if they could speak with the bandit Falgrim Sneeg– a man that Kesten Garess of Restov had posted a bounty for some days ago. Akiros summoned the man forth, and retreated back inside, informing the group that they were dismissed when their business with Sneeg was concluded.
Speaking with Sneeg, he was ‘informed’ that his old foe Kesten Garess was searching the Kamelands for him, and Sneeg’s reaction was completely nonplussed. Without bothering to thank the party, he turned as though to leave…and Gavriil attempted to Daze the man, hoping to somehow secure him and secret him out of the fort. Unfortunately for the Arcanist, the bandit resisted the powerful magics, and whirled around to confront the person who would so attempt to cast magic upon him! Luckily, Gavriil was able to talk him down by demonstrating that he was only attempting a little trick for the amusement of Kench, who had continued to be delighted by the Sparks that Gavriil was creating. Still a little angry, Sneeg retreated once more, this time unopposed.
Unwilling to admit full defeat, the party decided upon a new plan: They would leave the fort, yet take Kench and the horses with them! A bit of smooth-talking and a bluff check later, Kench was traveling with the group back to their campsite, the watchtower guards having been convinced that the extra horses were being used to help haul the next day’s load. Arriving back at their makeshift camp, Trytor was slightly exasperated to see the new companion that the party had picked up, trying to explain to them what an idiot this guy was…his arguments didn’t seem to stick. The group moved their camp a bit further away from the Stag Lord’s fort, then bedded down for the night.
Once again that night, this time when Noruas was on watch, the strange glowing light appeared in the air a distance away from the campfire. Noruas, not foolish enough to run after it blindly, kept an eye on it but otherwise left the creature alone. Gavriil, who also brought Kench on watch with him, had to restrain the bandit lest he wander off in pursuit of the Will’o Wisp. Wishing dearly that he could follow the creature and find out what exactly it was that happened to people who went towards the light, Gavriil resigned himself to wait for exploration of this mystery until after their charge of reformed bandits had been delivered back to Oleg’s.
The next few days were filled with more traveling, a bit of exploration, and resisting the urge to follow the Will’o Wisp, who seemed to be following the party and arriving each night to tempt them. The remainder of the eastern side of the Thorn river was explored, as well as the area directly to the north and east of that. Here, after some exploring, Elyssia was able to find a small crevice in the side of a hill that led twenty feet into the ground– inside of which was a vein of gold ore! The party decided to mark the location on their own personal map, but leave it off the official charter map which they would eventually return to Brevoy– it seemed greed won out over honesty there! Leaving the mine for later development, they continued northward, angling towards the radish patch where they had previously encountered Kobolds, and scavenging just enough berries to fill a single basket.
The next day, the party arrived at Oleg’s trading post, where Svetlana gave them a reward for collecting enough radishes for Oleg’s favorite soup (which he definitely enjoyed the next night), and Kesten had a sack of gold for the party from the Swordlords of Restov, whose notice of the reduction in bandit activity gave the party some more spending cash. As well, Kesten delivered to them a new charter, issued from Brevoy, claiming great riches and assistance in settling the Kamelands should the party be able to defeat the Stag Lord! The party decided to stay that night as well as the next, as they made some trades with Oleg, completed some repairs on the trading post’s defenses, and crafted some more materials.
PLAYERS, DON’T READ!
So, the players spent an entire in-game week this time around, which was a nice change in pace for me– the last few sessions had seen them taking only two, maybe three in-game days, making their progress reasonably slow. Granted, the reason it was slow was because they were discovering things…but I was still glad that they got a bit more exploration in this time around! I suppose you could say that I’m living in fear of the players not getting a sense of time passing– one of the neat things that I see about Kingmaker is that it’s a game played over not just a few weeks, but ultimately months and then years. It’s got a long time-frame, and if the players were to finish exploring the Kamelands in a month or so, I feel like it might not have felt as grand a game. That being said, they are now a good three in-game weeks into their adventure, with only nine fully-explored hexes and three mostly-explored hexes.
Now that the party has reached second level, one of the things I allow my players to do is make character changes while they’re still first level, if things aren’t going how they expected with their character concept. To that end, most of them redesigned/reworked a few things before leveling up this week, and the end result was a slightly more optimized Ranger who is a bit better at combining melee and ranged fighting; a Bard who now has a level in Cavalier in order to provide the group with a Teamwork feat (the one chosen allows all allies within 30′ of Eneko to use the Message spell amongst each other); a few different spell choices for the Arcanist; and I’ve heard that the Gunslinger further optimized her build.
The poison that Noruas created was totally and completely off-the-cuff– despite having gotten a hint last session that they wanted to poison the wine, I failed to remember to brush up on Pathfinder’s poison rules, and so just made them up as I went along. She ended up making four checks, as I figured an hour’s batch got them three bottles. The first batch was of average quality, as was the second. The third was pretty terrible, and Noruas opted to not even bother to include it in the wine (as I warned, the taste would be pretty evident and it’s not likely to have done anything useful). The fourth batch, which got a 19 on her Craft (Alchemy) check, was the best that she’d gotten– I was even nice, and didn’t make her roll a save to avoid being poisoned by her own concoction.
Essentially, this poison acts as a Constitution poison, with a frequency of once per day and a single save needed to overcome it. The Fort save DC was pretty low for the average batches (12), but I raised it up for the three bottles with the decent poison in them (16). Then I checked the Stag Lord’s saves…despite being an eighth level character at CR6, his Fortitude save is only a +4. Nevertheless, for every day after the PC’s delivered the poisoned wine, he drank a bottle and rolled a Fort save (except for the days he drank one of the three bottles that weren’t poisoned). Only one of those days did he fail the Fort save to take one Con damage, and even though there are still seven or eight bottles left, I don’t expect him to come anywhere close to dying to this poison.
So the party got into and out of the Stag Lord’s Fort alive! I was glad to hear (for their sakes) that they were going to head back to Oleg’s after the wine was delivered– I was a tiny bit afraid they would attempt to sneak back into the fort and ambush the bandits inside now that their leader might be poisoned, but that fear was for naught. While in the fort, the party got a glimpse of Akiros Ismort, the bandit who may one day turn on the Stag Lord and join the party’s side; Kench, who is described in the book as only a little brain damaged from the bandit lord hitting him one too many times but whose idiocy I played up a bit more; and they even got a good look at Fat Norry, who was summoned outside by Kench while he was so delighted at Gavriil’s use of the Spark spell. After the session, all of the players agreed that Kench was a blast to interact with, and they liked getting to see a bit into the Stag Lord’s fort for later.
And…that’s pretty well it for the moment! I’m not really sure where the group will go next– they’ve got plenty of forest and a bit of the plains left to explore before their charter is fulfilled, and even though they’ve heard of the conflict between the Mites and the Kobolds, they’ve stumbled upon neither of their dens. They bought a couple more scrolls, potions, and a bit of gear from Oleg upon returning to the trading post, and Noruas spent some time upgrading her rifle to Masterwork as is her class ability, but other than that…no clue what will come next! Still having fun, the players appear to still be having fun, so I guess I’ll just take whatever they throw at me!