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!

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red Session Twenty-Four

Twas but a short session, this past one, which kicked off with a Kingdom turn for the month of Kuthona.  The kingdom’s treasury was doing pretty good– enough so that they claimed three new hexes, including the Abandoned Keep which previously housed several Fey creatures, and the Lizardfolk isle.  Additionally, they constructed a Foundry on the east side of the capital by the dump to satisfy promises made to the priests of Brigh.  The foundry was instrumental in boosting the kingdom’s economy, allowing them to refine the gunpowder and gold that they were mining from their territory.  Of course, not everything was sunshine and roses– its dirt and smoke hung over the city and caused a bit of unrest with the populace, but they learned to be happy after further protection was given to them in the form of the newly rebuilt western wall.

During the council meeting that week, Tolemac’s rulers were visited by one of the priests of Brigh, a Kobold who was quite excited to show the group what he had brought them.  After being introduced, he stood himself up on a chair and began his presentation.  He showed the leaders a small rectangular box, with a gemstone set into the top left corner, and a hatch in the back of the box to allow for access to the inside.  The Kobold inventor proudly introduced the clergy’s latest divine inspiration, which he called the ‘auto-painter.’  Its inaugural usage was there and then, as the Kobold shooed the leaders close in to each other before depressing a button on the top of the box, sending a bright glaring flare out of the gemstone!  A few moments later, a slot opened up from the bottom, and a freshly painted piece of parchment was dispensed from the inside, showing a perfect likeness of the high council!

The group was highly impressed; the box was enchanted with a special spell to allow it to be used by anybody at all, no magical training required– all they had to do was point and click!  The downsides, the inventor explained, was that after it dispensed each picture, it needed to be reloaded from the hatch in the back with specially prepared parchment.  The process of preparing the parchment was quite involved though, and so would need to be made by the priests of Brigh.  Maia Prang, the kingdom’s treasurer, was quite happy to hear this– exclusivity!  Quite the marketable product, and she promised to meet with the Kobold afterwards to discuss further economic potential of their invention.

Jamandi Aldori, the kingdom’s Warden in charge of city security, was happy to report in the meantime that a recent sting operation had managed to bring down a black market fish-smuggling ring that had been operating in Elbat Dnuor for a couple months by then, following the partial destruction of the city by the massive Owlbear’s attack.  Though the PC’s had been mostly unaware of this issue, they were nevertheless happy to hear that the problem had been solved, and saw an increase in their kingdom’s stability and a decrease in local crime as a reward.  Finally, with all of their administrative duties brought to an end, the party was ready to head out and figure out what was happening to those merchant caravans.

Elysia the Ranger led the charge, leading the way along the trade route which he had been provided as part of the bounty board’s information.  The trade route left Elbat Dnuor to the east, crossing over the local bridge that spanned the Shrike river and ending up in the hills outside of Tolemac.  From there, they went south along the lake and then followed the Gudrin river until they came to the ford.  South from there, eventually cutting back west to the Mud Bowl, where the caravan would often pick up fungus and other medicinal herbs.  Thus far the party had no signs of conflict or danger, and so they continued onward.  Eventually, the trail led them into the Narlmarches, the route now taking a beeline towards the old Dwarven stronghold that Hargulka had used as his base of operations.

As they were traveling along following the rough trail in the forest, the group was surprised when suddenly, a tall man with a confident air about him appeared in front of them!  Coming to a halt, Gavriil the Arcanist greeted the man with a cheerful hello.  The man greeted the party with words of his own:  “Welcome to my forest.  If you wish to live, you will give me your valuables.”  This, of course, was met with scoffing, Eneko the Cavalier/Bard stepping forward to inform the man “I don’t believe you know who you are dealing with.”  The man didn’t seem to care when informed, and again told them, “This is your last chance.  Surrender your valuables, and you may flee with your lives.”  Duke Eneko, not one to suffer fools, launched into a tirade of reasons why the man should flee for his life now, before he was ended.  At about the same time, Gavriil decided that he would attempt to Detect Magic in the area, and as he was registering an aura of illusion was present, the man gave a sigh, nonplussed by the duke’s attempt to intimidate him.  A second later….a green dragon materialized in front of the party!

Even as Gavriil shouted out the presence of an illusion, Noruas swung her rifle around, sighting down upon the man standing in front of them and firing a full volley into him!  She was quite pleased to see that it was a critical hit– and much less pleased to see that her shots blasted through him apparently doing no harm, instead splintering a tree somewhere beyond him.  Realizing that the dragon wasn’t the illusion, her next three shots landed in the dragon’s hide, causing it to roar in pain and outrage!  The rest of the group scrambled into action, with Elysia firing a set of arrows into the creature which pierced its wings, while Gavriil managed to Haste the entire party.  The dragon, for its part, gave another roar of fury, and then opened its maw, unleashing an impressively large spew of acid which managed to soak through every single one of the party, Elysia’s animal companion Tyr, and Eneko’s horse Taz.  Noruas managed to avoid the entirety of the blast by throwing herself out of the way just in time, but the rest were not as lucky.  The majority of the rest were able to dodge some of the green liquid, but Gavriil, at the extreme edge of the blast, was caught full-on and drenched in acid, instantly dropping to one hit-point.

The dragon took off into the air, flapping its massive wings and soaring up a hundred feet in height, floating above the party.  A few more shots from the group caused the dragon extreme pain and damage, and Noruas even managed a hit that blew off one of the dragon’s hind legs!  Realizing the reality of its situation, the creature shouted back upon the wind to the party that it would return….and began to fly off, heading away over the hills and placing a steeply rising cliff in between himself and the party.  The group had only seconds to respond, to figure out something to try and finish off the dragon; Gavriil’s Fireball spell seemed not to effect it, and none of the rest of the group could get a good line of sight upon the dragon as it retreated.  Elysia, thinking quickly, took one of her last few Tree Feather Tokens out of her pouch and threw it hard into the ground, sending a tree sprouting up in front of her!  Making her reflex save, she grabbed ahold of the growing plant and swung herself up into a stable position at the top of the tree, which grew just high enough to give her an angle upon the retreating dragon.

With a careful breath, Elysia drew back her bow, Eneko below her offering her words of courage and inspiration.  She sighted down the shaft, adjusted for the immense distance….and loosed.  The arrow flew true, arcing over three hundred feet to strike the dragon just right, and sending it crashing down into the forest below…dead!  The party cheered, Elysia offering a brief grin before dropping down to the ground.  With the foe defeated, the group began scaling (or floating, in the case of Gavriil) the cliff between them and the dragon’s corpse.  Reaching the top, they made their way towards where the creature fell, the Ranger spotting along the way a small cave.  Diverting to investigate, the party found inside a large treasure horde, filled with glittering coins and gems, as well as some old wagons filled with various goods and supplies, possibly once having been bound to or from the capital.

Among the items found was a beautiful set of Green Dragonhide Armor, a potion of Resist Acid, a ring of Improved Climbing, and Mistmail.  Most of these items were found along with the skeletons of two humanoids….perhaps previous adventurers who had attempted to stop the dragon?

The session came to an early close as the party decided upon the best way to return the harvested dragon parts and treasure hoard to their capital, with a decision eventually being made to take the most of the best and most valuable parts of the dragon’s corpse along with them, and to send caravans back to the location to collect the rest of the hoard.  Elysia also made a promise to be sure to educate the citizens of Elbat Dnuor on just what exactly a Tatzlwyrm looks like– for what they faced most assuredly had not been one!

 

 

 

Players, do not read!

 

 

 

 

 

Okay– lets talk balance.  No, better yet– lets talk challenge.  I’m much more interested in challenge, than I am in balance.  This should be evident by the way I’ve altered the Pathfinder rules to favor the player’s ability to customize/power up (such as changing proficiencies to a skill-point investment instead of a feat investment).  Thing is…I’m having a difficult time giving the party encounters that challenge them, without completely overwhelming them.  I’m all for the encounter that they can breeze through without a problem– let them have their moments of greatness every now and then, give them the feeling that they are important in the world!  But then when they must face off against the truly terrible things in this world– such as a troll king, or the mother of all owlbears, or an enormous Roc, or a Green Dragon– I want them to feel….challenged.  Like these things are great accomplishments.

In the fight with the green dragon, the dragon was able to get *one* attack.  It was the second to last in initiative order, so it took a bit of damage from the party first– but then it got off its nasty breath weapon for about 40 points of acid to everyone (very nice of them to have placed themselves on the map in a nice grouping, Gavriil actually moved away on his turn but ended up just in range of the cone), and flew up up and away to place it into range penalties for the archers.  Interestingly, because the majority of this party deals ranged damage, that really didn’t do too much to stopping them from hitting him, and instead made me regret that he had taken off, because when his next turn came around he wouldn’t be able to make a full-round attack spread out across each of the PC’s.  That, of course, turned out to be entirely pointless anyways– but the time his second turn came around, there would be no way that he’d survive another round of combat.  So….he ran away, live to fight another day.  The terrain that I had set up for the area had been designed as such that if the dragon wanted to, it could have grabbed one of the PC’s and flown it up on top of the cliffs to split them off from the party.  That wasn’t able to happen, but it did provide decent visual cover from the party to shield it from their attacks as it ran away.

I will say one thing about this encounter:  I loved how it ended.  It was really short, the dragon only hit the party once, and overall it didn’t give that feeling of amazing and overwhelming power that I wanted it to– but man, did he die in a cinematic fashion!  After it took its turn to fly away, I straight up told the players– ‘okay, he’s 300 feet away, 100 feet in the air, and he’s broken line of sight because of the 40 foot tall cliffs.  If anyone has anything they can do at all to try and stop him, this is your one and only chance before he gets away.’  After a bit of pondering, Elysia’s player asked me, ‘do I have enough time to throw down one of my Tree Feather Tokens?’  I had to grin at that, and so the tree sprouted.  Elysia got a Reflex save to grab on, and an Acrobatics check to get a good stable spot to fire from, and something like a -6 or -8 on range penalties for the 300 foot shot…but with an extra bit of boost from a Bardic spell to add 2d4 to the attack roll, she *just* met the dragon’s AC.  One hit…down.  It was pretty awesome.

However, here’s the kicker:  When preparing the encounter, I wanted to see what I could do with this CR10 dragon to make it a challenge for the party, where it wouldn’t straight up die as soon as it was spotted.  We began with an Invisibility spell and an illusion, to give the group a nice surprise when a dragon appeared in their midst.  I also love that they fell for my trick– first thought was that the dragon was an illusion, had me chuckling for a little bit!  The next thing I did to prepare the dragon was to give him some new feats– Hover, Flyby attack, things like that.  Hover, by the way, is pretty awesome because it lets you kick up a cloud of dust that gives concealment– thought that’d be pretty nice to use to block up lines of sight for the archers.  After that we gave the interesting terrain of the nearby cliffs so that the dragon could draw one or two of the PC’s up there to engage while the rest attempted to catch up.  Finally…I increased its hit-points to 200.

And wouldn’t you know it, I let that sucker stay alive after he ran out of hit points before his second turn.  When the dust settled and Elysia’s arrow hit him, the final damage total would have left that dragon at -138 hit points, meaning the party had dealt a total damage of 338…within two rounds of combat.  That was about 200 hit points more than the typical CR10 green dragon is supposed to have anyways, give or take.  And the party is level seven– a CR10, even a single creature, should be quite the challenge!

So what is the cause of this imbalance and inability to properly challenge the party?  I hate to say it, but I’m going to place the blame pretty much on the Gunslinger class.  At this level, our friendly Musket Master has a +5 dex bonus which is being added to damage rolls with rifles (a standard for the class which is gained at level five), a double-barreled musket she built to allow for extra shots, reloading is a free action (combination of a feat, a Musket Master archetype feature, and special ammunition), and to top it all off the musket’s crit modifier is x4!  This is going to be quite something else now that she’s taken a new level in Barbarian– I’ve heard that her Barbarian archetype that she chose will give her a bonus to Dex while raging, giving a bigger bonus to AC, to-hit bonus, and damage on top of that.  And honestly, the thing is…pretty much none of that is because of my homebrewed rules for the game.

This is leading me to the conclusion that either Paizo just didn’t put enough thought into this class, or that there’s something that I’m missing.  The firearms hit touch AC, so all the large and impressive enemies that should be a threat to the party get hit on pretty much anything but a one; the multiple shots takes out the foes quickly; and to top it all off the high dexterity lends to higher initiatives which often results in Noruas taking her turn before the foes.  These factors have led to some interesting enemy tactics in the past– hordes of small enemies with few hit points will die in one shot, but if I have enough of them they can’t all be killed in one round; creatures who grapple the party instead of attack with physical blows; even just going as far as to add huge amounts of HP to their targets.  The adventure itself has lent itself only a single enemy thus far who has proven to be a reasonably level-appropriate challenge for the Gunslinger and the party as a whole:  the Quickling in the Dancing Lady’s keep.  His high dexterity gave him a naturally high touch AC, and added on top of that was his blur chance when he was moving quickly enough.  Of course, as soon as he slipped up and lost the blur chance, he was obliterated in one go….

So what will I do about this?  I don’t like throwing targets with naturally enormous pools of hit-points at the party; doing that usually means that the creature is way above average party level, and its damage potential means that it might kill a PC with one or two hits– more deadly than I want.  Throwing enormous amounts of enemies at the party also has its drawbacks, specifically in the time it takes to run a combat encounter, but it does mean that *everyone* in the fight will get the chance to feel effective, which is another disadvantage of the one really big and powerful enemy– if he’s got a huge number of hit points, I don’t want the rest of the party to feel like they aren’t affecting it with their 15 and 20 points of damage per hit.  Adding HP to an average party level creature has had moderate success, but again I brush with troubles of other PC’s not feeling as effective.

I suppose the conclusions I’m led to are twofold:  One, I will have to modify the heck out of a bunch of encounters moving forward.  In the past I’ve utilized the community-made six-player conversion guide for Kingmaker, but now that seems to be less useful as a quick fix, and more of a possible starting point to bring things in, take things out, and adjust.  I’m thinking of trying to include more creatures or NPC’s with a dexterous build, and more fully utilizing terrain and environment in encounters to give the party different things to deal with other than just the enemies.

Conclusion two is that I may need to hold some kind of group discussion about the gunslinger class.  When starting games, my first inclination is to let players create the characters they want, and to let them be pretty awesome.  After running this game for eleven months, I’m trying to find what gives the whole group the most fun– so if none of the party have any issues with the challenge or lack thereof which they’ve experienced thus far, perhaps I don’t really need to do anything other than what I’ve been doing.  But it would be decent to talk about it with everyone, especially with Noruas’s player to see her take on the situation.  If the party thinks it’s for the best to change the class, I’m not really certain what we could change to make a major difference.  Perhaps making the firearms hitting regular AC instead of touch AC, or removing the dex bonus to damage on the firearms?  Both of those seem like they almost rob the class of what makes it special though…so I’m not convinced that would be the right way to go yet.  Anyways, those are my thoughts on what we’ve got going on there– if you’ve got any suggestions, feel free to mention them in the comments!