Two days of quick overland travel brought our intrepid adventurers to their destination, a cave whose outside was clearly marked with discarded feathers of a size that no normal creature could produce. Steeling themselves, the party traveled inside, examining their surroundings carefully as they went. The cave entrance led them into a decent-sized cavern recessed in the hillside, several varieties of fungus growing all over the walls and floor. The further they got inside, the easier it was to make out their surroundings, and they quickly identified three exits from their cavern– a narrow passage to the right, a slightly wider one to the left, and dead ahead the cavern narrowed into a descending tunnel to open up again at the bottom.
As they advanced, Elysia the Ranger caught a glimpse of movement– from the plant life! She quickly shouted a warning to her comrades, alerting them to the danger just moments before three of them sprang to life, large mushroom-shaped Violet Fungi! The fight began with a bang as Noruas the Gunslinger let loose with her musket, tearing into two of the fungus and splattering plant matter everywhere; the loud retort of her firearm did not go unnoticed however, as the noise attracted the attention of a group of large spiders from the left, and a shambling mound from the right! Gavriil the Arcanist was slightly surprised by the arrival of the Shambling Mound, who appeared from the smaller crevice beside him. Fortunately he was able to dodge its grasping vines, and not long after that another shot from Noruas blew the mound to salad. This destruction turned out not to end the threat, as from the creature a large swarm of centipedes poured fourth from the corpse!
In the meantime, Elysia and Eneko the Bard/Cavalier were taking care of the spiders coming at the group, aided by Elysia’s wolf companion Tyr. As they were dispatching the last of them though, they were startled by the growl-hoots of the massive owlbear, barreling out of the darkness from the downwards-sloping tunnel! The creature rushed itself into Elysia, lashing out with a winged arm and grabbing her, pulling her into a tight owlbear-hug! The half-elf, for her part, was delighted, hacking at the creature with her handaxe and not even attempting to escape its clutches! As Gavriil began searing the swarm of centipedes with his magical fire, Eneko attempted a daring rescue of his Ranger friend, but had little effect upon the massive creature, taking a blow upon his head that nearly dazed him!
Fortunately for the group, Noruas turned her attention to the monster, and let loose with two massive blasts of her musket, tearing first one, then a two holes into the creature’s side, and finally felling the beast, which fell forward and nearly crushed Eneko and Elysia. With the owlbear defeated, it didn’t take long to mop up the centipedes, whose attention quickly diverted from the living to the dead owlbear (much to Noruas’ concern, as she was planning on skinning the owlbear for a pelt!). The Arcanist joined the Gunslinger in skinning the monster, while the rest of the party continued to explore the cavern. Not much of interest was found until the duo reached the back of the cave, where they discovered a slightly smaller owlbear corpse, and behind a rock, a small owlbear chick! Elysia used her ranger spells to speak with the chick, learning that it was looking for its mother, and had quite the fierce personality!
Though it seemed to like Elysia, Eneko stepped in quickly, handling it quite masterfully as he calmed the creature down and saved the Ranger from needing to befriend a member of her hated foes (favored enemy: magical beasts). This wasn’t the only thing that the party found in that cave however; a troll corpse, reasonably fresh yet highly decayed, sat near the second dead owlbear. Upon its body was found a ring seemingly comprised of woven strands of green thread, and when this was reported to Gavriil, the man immediately grew excited, as it was constructed almost identically to the ring which he had taken from the Stag Lord yet never been able to properly identify! Fortunately for him, this new ring was easier to identify, and he discovered that it was in fact a cursed ring of bestial friendship, having the effect of cursing the creatures it is used upon to turn upon the ring’s wielder and viciously maul them before being driven to seek out civilization in order to destroy it.
Additionally, with the inspiration of this discovery, Gavriil was able to discover more about his original ring, the first bit of information he’d gleaned! He was positively delighted to learn that the Stag Lord’s ring functioned as both a Ring of Spell Storing, and when paired with the owlbear ring, acted as a Ring of Friend Shield as well! Armed with this knowledge, and laden with both an owlbear pelt and a decomposing troll head, the group began the tjourney back to their capital of Elbat Dnuor. A few days later brought them to the city’s ruined wall, where they began a parade through the streets showing off their conquests!
The next few weeks were spent recovering from the attack upon the city, with the party taking up their administrative duties and working paperwork. The leaders were greatly displeased to learn of the costs that their armies had incurred; the salaries for the remaining soldiers, death benefits for grieving widows, and the cost of maintaining and resupplying the forces came closer to bankrupting them than they would have liked. Thankfully, the supplies found in Hargulka’s stronghold helped to offset the debt, and they were still able to afford the rebuilding of the Shrine to Nethys in the meantime.
Additional cause for celebration was incurred when the kingdom claimed two more hexes to the west of the capital, pushing the kingdom size to 21, making Tolemac a Duchy and naming Eneko a Duke! The final matters of state that the group attended to were the naming and establishing of two new holidays; one to commemorate the founding of their kingdom in Desnus, and one to remember the party’s victory against the trolls and owlbear in Lamashan. As the group was finishing their paperwork for the month, they were met with the news that a small village of 20 or so people had sprung up along the Skunk River in one of the areas they had just claimed, slightly south-east of Tatzlford! Fortunately enough, the villagers were happy to live within Tolemac’s borders and made sure to send an extra BP of tax collections to the treasury that month. With that, the session came to a close, along with the events of the second book in the adventure path, Rivers Run Red!
Tolemac, year two, month six:
Size: 21 Cities: 1 Control DC: 42
Loyalty: 36 Stability: 35 Economy: 40
Unrest: 0 BP: 26 Consumption: 0 (-1)
Holidays: 12 per year Promotion: Standard Taxation: Light
Players, do not read!
There we have it, Rivers Run Red has come to a close! I’m hoping to fill the next two sessions with some filler content to allow time to pass and several kingdom turns to go by, and have a few things ready to throw at the players in the meantime. One thing I’ve decided to do, in order to give some foreshadowing, is have Irovetti (the big bad guy from book five) king of Pitax invite the PC’s to send representatives to his yearly festival in order to win fame and glory for their kingdom. Establishing this early will, hopefully, make the world feel more continuous when they are invited to personally attend the festival later. In the next year and a half of in-game time, Tatzlford will also fold itself into the kingdom, adding a second city for the PC’s to manage; before that happens however they have been obligated to establish a town for the priests of Erastil around the Temple of the Elk. Since they disbanded each of their armies, their consumption has been reduced down to normal levels, and with that I do believe they’ll be able to more properly produce income for growth.
In all, I’m pretty happy with the events of Rivers Run Red. I feel the players had a blast in dealing with Hargulka (comments were made about the fun of the dinner party with the Sootscale Kobolds, especially), and when the owlbear attacked the town and destroyed two buildings that aligned to two of the player’s gods (Nethys for Gavriil, and Brigh for Noruas), it gave a pretty immersive feeling of loss to the event, moreso than wanton destruction (even though their selection for destruction had been random; sometimes things just work out perfectly). I think the only weak spot of the book for our group was when I mangled up the army of trolls who attacked the kingdom and were beaten back without the mass combat rules; other than that it seemed quite entertaining for both myself and the players!