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!
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!