Tag: Rivers Run Red

Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red Sessions Twenty-Nine and Thirty

Sorry guys– once again it’s been quite a month, and we’ve only gotten two sessions out in the last four weeks.  So…here’s our recap!

 

After the resolution of the murder situation back in Elbat Dnuor, the party headed out west yet again towards the Hooktongue Slough– there was still the unresolved map location that Noruas the Gunslinger found on her father’s map of the Stolen Lands!  A few days of travel brought them to the aforementioned area south of Lake Hooktongue, where a bit of exploration brought them to their destination!  The party moved closer to the cave, taking a look at the area– several broken-down wagons, some overturned, were littered around the entrance of this area.  Noises were issuing from the cave mouth in a language that only Gavriil the Arcanist and Eneko the Cavalier/Bard could understand– they were speaking Giant!  While the first three party members began to approach the cave, Elysia the Ranger decided to hang back with her wolf Tyr, keeping her distance and remaining suspicious.

A shouted greeting from Noruas drew attention from inside; a moment later, a large Hill Giant, similar in size and stature to the Gunslinger’s friend Munduk, emerged from the darkness.  Noruas attempted to make nice to it– with Gavriil translating– and offered the Hill Giant some of her mead.  The giant, for his part, took the mead– and then decided that playing nice was no longer any fun, and took a swipe at her!  A fight was on, and many more hill giants emerged from the cave in short order!  One of them was almost two feet taller than the others, with a wicked-looking spiked club that he swung about wildly, charging into the fray with a wild roaring shout of glee!  While the party began dismantling their foes, this Hill Giant Chieftan rushed up to the three party members clumped together and grabbed Duke Eneko– then proceeded to use the Bard as a bludgeon to smash into the rest of the party!

After a few rounds of ‘smash the Bard,’ the chieftan was shot down, though not before Eneko was smashed into a bloody unconscious pulp.  Not long after that, the Hill Giants were defeated, with one running away after deciding that the fight wasn’t worth the gain.  The group managed to salvage several interesting items off of the chieftan, including a magical black dragonhide armor, and the insides of their cave was littered with goods and supplies that could be taken back to the kingdom and sold for three BP!

With that fight settled, and no clue as to why its location was marked on the map, the party set off to the south once again, in order to map more of the Slough.  A few days later, and they came across a patch of interesting lilies– which were identified as being the rare and valuable Azure Lily!  Five of them grew in a patch, and Gavriil, being the upstart gardener that he is, made it his mission to carefully uproot and prepare these plants for transport back to the capital, where he would attempt to replant them to grow more!  Noruas also prepared some special ingredients from what she could find around her in order to preserve some of the lilies for alchemical purposes, in order to sell them for gold.

Unfortunately, Gavriil wasn’t fully brushed up on his knowledge of the plants– as he quickly learned, even the slightest disturbance of their petals would send a cloud of dangerous pollen into the air!  Though the first lily’s pollen was mostly avoided, and the second sent him into coughing fits for a few minutes before he recovered, the third lily he attempted to carefully uproot sent a spray of pollen directly into his face!  An instinctive inhalation quickly caused issues, as he felt his body begin to stiffen up– fortunately for the Arcanist, Eneko was able to save the day by focusing Gavriil’s attention upon the Bard’s words, giving him an inner strength and allowing a re-roll of the saving throw.  After that however, it was determined that perhaps Noruas would do better at excavating the flowers, to give Gavriil a break.  As it turned out, Noruas didn’t fare much better; the next flower spat pollen into her face which she shrugged off, while she lost her balance taking care of the final lily and fell face-first into the plant, crushing it!  (let’s hear it for natural ones!)  Fortunately, even though she got a face-full of pollen, she refrained from breathing it in, sticking her head in a nearby pool of stagnant water to wash it away.

With that fiasco over with, the party set out once again, slowly making their way back towards the capital in order to plant the three transplanted plants they had remaining.  The course they set took them through much uncharted territory, with the plan being that they could explore new ground while also moving back home!  A few days later the group had a new encounter, this time with none other than….BOG MUMMIES!

The Bog Mummies turned out to be much more of a challenge for our party than I thought they would be, and came close to giving us a TPK– the closest that they’ve been since fighting the army of trolls all by themselves a few months back.  Three of the four party members were paralyzed upon the reveal of the bog mummies, who rose from the swamp water to ambush the group!  Only Eneko managed to make his save, and thus spent two rounds attempting to not die while his friends were constantly slammed into by the mummies.  Gavriil was the first to fall, going into the negatives on the last round of his paralyzation; Eneko followed quickly after, and the remaining two characters snapped out of their fear in time to grab their companions and ride them out of the mass of undead!  Noruas swooped down to take Gavriil’s body up with her, but Elysia found herself struggling to lift Eneko, and had to receive help from her companion Tyr in order to get him into the saddle.  This caused Tyr to be stuck back with the mummies for a time, with naught but Eneko’s horse Taz for support!

The PC’s rallied then, with the mummies slowly shambling after the horses and attempting to slay the two animal companions.  Potions and magic were used to get everyone back up on their feet, and Noruas was hit with Greater Invisibility– Gavriil’s latest spell that allowed the Gunslinger to fire with near impunity at their enemies!  This turned the tide, and soon the party was victorious; even the wolf Tyr and the horse Taz managed to come out alive, though Taz did go into the negatives for a time.  The party gave a collective sigh of relief at defeating these foes, and made sure to travel a good distance away from that location before making camp for the night.  During their rest however, all were beset by a sickness caused from prolonged contact with the mummies earlier; fortunately enough, all but Elysia and Taz the horse managed to shrug off the fever, causing the two of them to take Constitution and Charisma damage.  It was time to move on…back towards the capital!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Players, do not read!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for hanging around with me guys– I know it’s been awhile.  New job and conflicting schedules has led to a lack of games and a lack of time for writing, but things should settle down here soon.  That being said– I made some mistakes!

The two caves that I had told the party they found on Noruas’ map were supposed to be one filled with Hill Giants and one filled with Chuul, based upon two encounter locations on the map.  But then…I mixed the two of them up, and when the PC’s arrived south of the lake I brought out the hill giant encounter!  Alas, but hey, I can just swap their locations and no one will know.  And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a ton of fun swinging a PC around as a bludgeon– that was an impressive set of feats that the Hill Giant Chieftan comes with!

If you’ve run the two combat encounters that the group encountered in these two sessions, you might realize that I bumped it up a bit– or at least, you should realize I did so with the Hill Giants.  I ended up slightly increasing the number of hill giants (but kept them at range throwing rocks, so really they didn’t do too much) and placed the Hill Giant Chieftan in the fight to make it more interesting, and that seemed to go pretty well.  With the Bog Mummies (neat variants that are resistant to fire), I upped the number to seven mummies, and then buffed their paralyzing aura by ruling that the DC to resist the aura increased by one with each mummy that would affect the player.  Turns out these mummies were really good at hiding, and the party rolled pretty bad on their Perception checks, and so when they were surprised almost all of the mummies were within range.  So…three paralyzed party members, who became laughably easy to hit with the mummies that then swarmed.  It was nice to see the group rally the way they did though– a bad start but eventually overcoming the dangers.

One final note– I had an enormous laugh at the end of the session.  The Mummy Rot disease took just the ranger and the horse, but on the horse I rolled a six for Charisma damage.  Eneko helpfully informed me that the poor horse was down to zero Charisma, which places it unconscious!  Elysia the ranger piped up at that point, “Help!  I’m ugly and I can’t get up!”  Noting the ridiculous nature of having become so uncharismatic that you just fall asleep 😛

Thanks for reading guys, and hopefully we’ll be back soon with another session, in which I fully expect to get into book three finally!

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Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red Session Twenty-Eight

Having taken their time to get the Medyved side of the story last session, our valiant heroes devoted their investigations in the direction of the house Lodovka.  Taking the short trip down the street, the party’s first look at the front gate of the Lodovkan villa was one filled with about a dozen angry citizens, shouting insults and jeers towards the villa walls.  The commotion was apparently constant enough that six city guards had been posted at the gate to keep the rabble back.  Gavriil the Arcanist engaged one in a discussion, trying to use logic and reason to convince the man that he was doing more to harm than good to the investigation by ‘demanding’ lord Tawno Lodovka be arrested merely on the unproven suspicions of lady Kerri Medyved.  Duke Eneko the Bard/Cavalier attempted to explain to the man that he was breaking the law by causing a disturbance, and he could have the man arrested.  Finally Noruas the Gunslinger got everyone’s attention, and told them that if they didn’t clear out she would start shooting, which seemed to get their attention enough to disperse the crowd.

Once inside, the PC’s were greeted by a seated lord Tawno Lodovka, who beckoned them over to speak.  “I’m glad that you’re here, perhaps you will be able to finally clear my name and allow me out of this blasted confinement I’ve been party to for the past three days!”  Tawno began.  Lord Tawno turned out to be rather cooperative with the party, eager to turn his house over to the party for a search, anything to ‘help clear my name, since after all I am completely innocent!’  Gavriil and Eneko questioned the lord, while Noruas and Elysia the Ranger took it upon themselves to search the villa for any evidence.

Lord Tawno had much to tell the party– yes, he and Lord Davud were staunch opponents of each other in the political realm; yes, he was quite displeased with Davud over his insistence that the Lodovkan trade deal to utilize the lakes near the Gronzi forest for fishing be denied; no, he wasn’t certain who would want to frame him for the murder; yes, he did have an alibi for the night, he was playing cards with his three close friends at their place.  More and more questions came in, and more and more answers were had.  Eventually, topics ranged into more political matters, which the PC’s were very interested to hear about.  Lord Tawno spoke about his political rivals in houses Medyved, Garess, and Orlovsky, as well as how alliances were shifting quickly between his house and his allies, the Lebedas and Surtovas.  After a careless comment, Gavriil quickly followed up to learn more information– and was rewarded by Tawno informing the Grand Diplomat of his suspicion that the reason Davud was blocking the trade deal was because he was afraid of having outsider eyes too close to his family lands.  To add to this, he brought up a rumor that he’d come across– that the Medyveds were moving men and materiel north, towards the lands of House Orlovsky!

In the meantime, Noruas and Elysia were getting along fine.  Indeed, the pair had, while searching the second floor, found a hidden safe behind a painting.  Inside were several business ledgers and accounting papers, as well as a letter from Lord Kozek Lodovka, the head of House Lodovka!  Noruas took a quick look at the letter, which seemed to be urging Tawno to change Davud’s mind about the trading rights deal– “It must go through.  Change Davud’s mind at *any* cost, lest we fall into ruin.”  Elysia’s examination of the stack of papers revealed that House Lodovka as a whole was failing financially, many of the individual families practically penniless, quite the tragedy for a people who are used to extravagance.

This information was secondary however compared to the next discovery that was made; while searching through Lord Tawno’s quarters nothing special was found, yet a search of his wife, Lady Odette’s, bedchambers revealed a hidden knife underneath her mattress, dried blood still upon the blade!  Noruas and Elysia took a look around the room with fresh eyes, noticing a large window with vines growing under it.  It was determined that the vines underneath had indeed been disturbed– as though someone had been climbing up and down the wall.  With this new evidence, Lady Odette was questioned– discreetly, and without mentioning that they found the blade in her room.  Her alibi for the night was that she was feeling unwell, and turned in early for the night, sleeping soundly until the morning.

Deciding to confront Lord Tawno about this, they once again questioned him about who would have anything to gain by framing his wife– for they didn’t believe that she was the culprit after speaking with her, claiming no knowledge of her husband’s business and seeming in general to be more of a delicate woman, not so inclined to murderous fantasies.  Lord Tawno of course was outraged that someone would attempt to frame his wife; he shouted some harsh words regarding any who would wish her harm before being calmed down.

The investigation continued– the group decided to go this time to the villa courtyard, to see if they could gather any more evidence from the area near Lady Odette’s window.  The ground near the window didn’t offer many clues– after a bit of poking around, all they were able to discover was a single partial footprint.  However, while they were searching, they did take note of the gardener nearby, who was nervously trimming a topiary crab.  Calling him over to ask him questions, he became increasingly nervous, and even managed to muddle up their sole remaining footprint ‘by accident.’  Wondering if something was up, Noruas stared at the man hard– he had heavily tanned skin, dark brown hair tied up in a ponytail, and was about middle-aged– then asked him straight up, “did you kill Davud Medyved?”  His stammered protestations didn’t fool her or anyone else present, and a moment later, he tried to run for it!

He made it to the villa wall, up and over, before Gavriil Dimensional-Stepped next to him and brought him to the ground, where he cowered for a time before spilling his story.  Yes, he had killed Lord Davud, but the man deserved it!  He didn’t appreciate fine art, and the gardener had been paid to do the deed anyways!  The PC’s harked upon this note– who had paid him?  How much?  Where was the money now?  A brief description of the man– of medium height, a haughty look, red hair– followed, along with a name:  Lucas.  Lucas had met Rangrim Ungart the gardener in his home a week and a half ago, giving him a sack of two thousand gold coins in order to commit the act of murder, seeming to already know of Ungart’s distaste for the lord.  Ungart knew of the secret way into the Medyved villa, as he’d once worked for Lord Davud until being fired for his ‘ugly topiaries.’  With this knowledge, he was to sneak into the villa and murder the lord, before escaping and being told to hide the weapon in Lady Odette’s quarters.  The gold he’d been paid was still hidden in his tool shack out back, which Gavriil quickly recovered.

The mystery, for now, seemed to be solved– though not in the long-term.  The party took some time to discuss what they found, but also made sure to inform Lord Tawno of their discovery of the murderer.  Some discussion was made wondering if this ‘Lucas’ was also involved somehow in the assassination attempt on Eneko’s life two years ago, but no conclusions were able to be formed.  With that handled, Chief Sootscale was contacted in order to prepare an execution for the morning, for the penalty for murder in Tolemac is death.  With much fanfare and at the first light of dawn, Chief Sootscale led a grand spectacle at the gallows, listing off the crimes of the accused before a hooded Munduk the Hill Giant (now befriended and working with Noruas’ mother as a smith at her shop) was instructed to bring the axe down, ending Gardener Ungart’s life.  Gavriil made sure to arrange transportation for the body back to the undead hillside, so that he could later raise the man into undeath to serve the army.

The session ended out with a kingdom turn, finishing with Tolemac having endured for two years and eleven months!  The new settlement of Ruhtra was expanded upon, gaining housing and an inn for its inhabitants along with a monument to Brigh!

 

 

 

 

Players, do not read!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My, how I do love a good murder mystery investigation!  I was extremely pleased how this turned out, and only a few things went a bit sideways.  I was a little disappointed that Elysia’s player wasn’t able to make the session, but we did continue on– it’s our policy to run if at least three of the four players are present.  Through the entire investigation, the only thing that really and truly threw me off was when Noruas’ player inquired about the wealth of the Medyveds, and then why they could not simply resurrect Lord Davud.  To be honest, this had not even occurred to me while I was crafting the scenario, and it took me a few moments to figure out a decent answer.  Thankfully Gavriil’s player spoke up and offered a suggestion– ‘perhaps he had a DNR?’  which I kind of latched on to.  Thus Kerri Medyved informed the party that it was Davud’s wish when he died to remain in paradise with Erastil, and not to be dragged back into the world by powerful magics.

So before I go any further, I am going to go ahead and post below all of the notes that I crafted up about this encounter, which came together about two hours before last session:

 

Lord Davud Medvyed & Lady Kerri Medyved; Sir Eldon Medyved

Lord Tawno Lodovka & Lady Odette Lodovka; Rangrim Ungart, gardner

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.  

Sir Davud Medyved has been found murdered in his home!  Lady Kerri Medyved is understandably distraught, and absolutely convinced that Tawno Lodovka is responsible for the crime!  

Tawno and Davud had both been pushing heavily in political affairs back home; Davud Medyved had been busily blocking all advances from house Lodovka to gain fishing rights to the lakes along the Gronzi Forest.  Medyved claims that these lakes would be spoiled by the fisheries that Lodovka would build, while Lodovka asserted that this new land held the salvation of their dwindling economy, and were willing to pay handsomely for the rights.  

Tawno Lodovka suspects that Davud was unwilling to relinquish the land due to the close eyes which would be upon their territory.

Tawno believes that he is being set up by someone, though for what purpose he does not know.  Tawno’s alibi for the night of the murder is a late night game of cards with three of his closest friends.  Tawno’s hair is short and dark-brown.  

Lady Odette Lodovka suggests that the party look into Kerri’s activities of late with Lord Davud’s younger brother Sir Eldon Medyved.

Odette claims little knowledge of the disputes between her husband and Davud, as she makes it a point to stay out of his family’s politics.  

Odette’s alibi for the night of the murder is that she went to bed early that night feeling unwell, and slept soundly through to the morning.  

Odette’s hair is a dull red color.  

Lady Kerri Medyved denies any claims of extracurricular relationships outside of her marriage.

Kerri blames Tawno for her husband’s death, claiming that while she knew he was a cutthroat negotiator, she hadn’t thought it would become literal.  

Kerri’s alibi for the night of the murder was visiting the Desnan observatory, which can be confirmed by several of the priests of Desna.  The constellations were quite beautiful that night.

Lady Kerri’s hair is long and dark brown.   

Sir Eldon Medyved denies any claims of extracurricular relationships with Kerri, but when put under pressure will relent, and say that they had been meeting for months now, their love blossoming like the late spring rose.

Eldon seems to hold no great sense of loss of his brother’s life, claiming that Davud was always looking down on him for his lesser status.  

Eldon’s alibi for the night of the murder was that he was out drinking the entire night in the Silver Knight Inn.  

Eldon’s hair is short and light blonde, similar to his brother Davud.  

Eldon’s alibi, several drinking buddies at the Silver Knight, will say that he was with them all night.  Then one will correct him, saying that no, wait, he ducked out for about half an hour at one point to use the privy.  When he came back he was sweating and looked pale, like he’d just thrown up.

The privy out back has its door turned away from the doors and windows of the inn.  It would be easy enough for someone to sneak out unnoticed.

Medyved servants will share gossip both of Kerri’s loyalty and disloyalty to her husband; one will say that she thinks Kerri has some innate magical sorcery powers that she never lets anyone else see.  

Lodovka servants will share gossip that there’s been talks of house Medyved assembling troops back home in Stoneclimb to march north towards Skywatch to claim more territory.  

CLUES:

Jamandi has cordoned off the Medyved villa since the night of the murder, in order to preserve any evidence.  Arkanus has done some preliminary investigations, and come up with little. A long strand of dark brown hair was found at the scene of the crime.

Medyved villa has a secret chamber found by twisting the sword on a set of armor in an upstairs hallway.  Can be found with a Knowledge(Architecture) check DC22, or a Perception check DC32. Inside this chamber can be found several business papers in Davud Medyved’s handwriting detailing shady dealings in the fish smuggling ring which Jamandi had put down several months before, and a passage down through the walls which exits through a portion of the villa wall.  

Medyved villa a secret desk drawer can be found in Lady Kerri’s bedroom with a Perception check DC20; this drawer is full of love letters to and from Eldon dating back a year and a half.  Yes, they are steamy.

Searching the Lodovka villa will reveal a bloodied knife with a DC15 Perception check in Lady Odette’s bedroom, hidden underneath the mattress.  

Odette’s room has a wide bay window, underneath of which a thick layer of vines cling to the stonework, winding down into the gardens.  

Checking the ground underneath, a single bootprint can be found in the mud.  This print cannot be traced back to anyone, nor can any tracks be made out from there due to time and use.  The gardener is a bit past middle age, dark brown hair tied up in a ponytail in the back, and says that he doesn’t spend much attention on the vines on that side of the villa.  

In the Lodovka villa, the PC’s can also find with a Perception check DC19 a secret safe behind a portrait of Lord Kozek Lodovka.  The safe can be opened with a Disable Device check DC25. Inside can be found papers detailing just how dire house Lodovka’s finances are in; they are almost penniless due to a decreased demand in exports and a poor farming season in the north, and a letter sent from Lord Kozek himself states that the house needs to turn Davud’s mind at *any* cost, lest they fall into complete ruin.  

Rangrim Ungart was hired by a red-haired individual who went by ‘Lucas’ to murder Davud; he was only so happy to after Medyved fired him from his old job at the house due to ‘what can only be described as an ugly assortment of topiaries.’  Rangrim was paid a sum of two thousand gold coins, which he has hidden away in his gardener’s shack out back.

House Lodovka’s crest is a green-shelled crab climbing from the blue waters toward the gray band of shore surmounted  by a gray tower-keep in the center, against a backdrop of  black.  Their house  motto is “The Waters, Our Fields.”

House Medvyed’s crest is a black bear, rampant against a red field, with a spread of black antlers above the bear’s head. Its motto is “Endurance Overcomes All.”

 

 

 

 

So yes, I kept to many of the notes I had made, but I also altered some.  I decided to have Lady Kerri not allow Jamandi inside to make even a preliminary investigation, and as such I sent an e-mail to Elysia’s player before the previous session to give her the background on what she found so that she could relay information to the party.  Lady Odette never cast aspersions towards Lady Kerri’s married life, but I hardly needed to have her do so after the party had so nicely latched onto that idea.  So on and so forth, but the basics were all there.  I found myself delighted every time the party thought to look at something else that I’d prepared for as part of their investigation, and it felt so completely rewarding as a GM to see my work pay off.

When I crafted the scenario, it started off a bit weird.  As I mentioned in a previous comment, I needed something to get the PC’s back into the capital to meet up with Elysia.  Looking through my upcoming pre-rolled kingdom events I noticed the Feud event, with feuding nobles, and decided to take it a step further, and incorporate into this story one of my player’s backgrounds.  Gavriil’s backstory, to be precise:  Very little had come of his own story since fundraising for the kingdom.  Now, two years in-game after that event, was the perfect time to do something!

For those who are not familiar with someone else’s character’s background, Gavriil is the bastard child of Lord Poul Orlovsky, lead of Brevoy’s House Orlovsky.  Though he grew up with his mother working in a magic shop in Skywatch, Gavriil bore a striking resemblance to his father and others of his house, enough so that he was visual reminder of embarrassment for his father, who wanted nothing to do with him.  During fundraising efforts in Restov, Gavriil’s uncle had come to offer financial support to various groups, and upon finding the Arcanist there, he made it perfectly clear that their house had no interest in aiding the group.

Fast forward– political situation in Rostland is deteriorating.  The houses are backstabbing each other, everyone wants more power, and the Surtovas are trying to cement their rule.  Houses are roughly politically aligned in these ways:  Houses Garess, Orlovsky, and Medyved; opposed by houses Surtova, Lebeda, and Lodovka.  The battle lines are roughly drawn as such, but as Lord Tawno informed everyone, “political alliances are shifting; those who were your allies today may be your enemies tomorrow.”  So a story started to emerge for me– House Orlovsky wanted to do *something* to destabilize the PC’s kingdom, even if it was only a minor scandal that would bring them embarrassment.  Even better if it could further their own ambitions; rumors were that House Medyved were preparing to occupy some of Orlovsky’s land ‘to keep it safe from brigands and bandits.’

And so a complex story got woven– House Lodovka, known for their fishing exports, were low on money and needed to make a proper deal with Medyved to get some better fishing grounds.  Medyved is resisting, and so we have a tension between the two houses whose villas are in the party’s kingdom.  This gives individuals some interesting motives for murder.  Medyved doesn’t want Lodovkans nearby or else the jig is up on their troop movements; Lodovka needs this deal to work or else they go bankrupt.  Orlovsky is on the fringe, already wise to some of Medyved’s treachery, and looking to politically maneuver events in their favor.  A dead martyr on the Medyved’s side throws the two houses into conflict, possibly eating up a significant portion of time and resources that Medyved would otherwise be putting towards their land grab at Orlovsky.  All of that to say, it’s a right fine mess that the PC’s have just been placed into, and they don’t know the half of what is going on!

On the micro-side of the mystery, I began by figuring out the key players– Lord Davud, Lady Kerri, and her husband’s brother Sir Eldon for the Medyveds; Lord Tawno and Lady Odette for the Lodovkans.  Once I had established that, I knew already that none of them were the perpetrators of the crime, but I wanted each to have something that would make them look at least partially guilty.  I gave everyone alibis, either weak or strong; many got motives such as opposition in politics, or a hidden love affair; means was also provided in the form of secret passages and planted weapons.  It wasn’t until I had established most of this that I tried to figure out who was actually paid off to do the deed.  I settled on the gardener about the time I decided upon the clue of the bootprint in the mud underneath Odette’s door.  I gave him a secret and non-apparent motive for wanting to do it, and the means were easy enough when combined with that motive.  I decided that if confronted, he would essentially give everything up, not being the type for intrigue.

With all of the bits and pieces and clues set out for the PC’s to discover and put together however they wished, I was ready– and had a ton of fun with it all!  I really enjoyed hearing the party spitball theories back and forth.  One of the first was when Noruas’s player had the idea to ask about a happy marriage for Lady Odette and latching on to the idea, exactly what I hoped would happen, as it was a red herring– true but irrelevant to the murder.  I realized eventually I’d made a mistake by giving Lady Kerri long dark brown hair like the one found in Davud’s bedroom….there’s no reason for Lady Kerri’s hair not to be there being his wife, it didn’t really put any more or less suspicion on her.  I should have had her hair be a different color/length.

After everything had settled down and they’d found the gardener, there were talks about this Lucas fellow, and I was absolutely delighted when Eneko’s player asked, “Hey, the Lucas guy has red hair– is he related to Gavriil?”  A subtle little clue that I’d left for the party, because yes, Lucas is part of the Orlovskys and thus related to Gavriil, and the Orlovskys have red hair in this game– well spotted!  During the talks with Lord Tawno, Gavriil made several concerned notes saying that he believed it was possible that they were all dancing to someone else’s strings on the political board of another country, which tickled me pink– I think this mystery really got them involved and invested in the politics of their kingdom and nearby Rostland!  It’s a good way to set the stage for Rostland’s eventual descent into chaos, and I figure it might lend itself well to a plot point for Eneko and Gavriil’s backstories in the future.

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!

 

 

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!

Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red Session Twenty-Three

Having just finished managing their kingdom for the month of Lamashan, our band of intrepid adventurers made the decision to take a few days of rest, and then continue some more affairs of state.  The kingdom turn for the month of Neth was conducted, with Tolemac’s leadership rebuilding the monument to Brigh that had been destroyed in the Owlbear attack the previous month.  The rebuilding was not the only thing that happened; the diplomats that the leadership had placed in the cities ruled by House Medvyed and House Lodovka had been hard at work, and 10BP worth of relief aid arrived in the kingdom that week.  Additionally, Lord Regent Noleski Surtova, current leader of the entire country of Rostland, sent his congratulations and 2,000gp for each of the new nation’s leaders (Eneko the Bard/Cavalier, who has long been suspicious of the Surtova’s rise to power, only accepted the gold begrudgingly)!

With the capital’s affairs taken care of, the party wished to venture forth yet again, for some more exploration!  Heading south, the band ventured through the hills along the Little Sellen river, managing to find an old abandoned ferry station that crossed the river near where it meets the Shrike that flows out of Candlemere.  Further exploration the next day brought them more excitement than an abandoned building, however– Elysia the Ranger was the first to spy it, a large brown-colored humanoid, slowly walking about with a club made of bundled sticks in one hand and a large jug in the other.  Cautious but secure in their abilities, the party advanced.

Gavriil the Arcanist was first to make introductions when Eneko identified the creature as a Hill Giant.  With his magic he was able to communicate with the giant, while the Bard translated the conversation to the rest of the party.  The giant’s name was Munduk, and as it turned out he was quite inebriated, mourning his lack of alcohol and luck.  Though he didn’t take much of a liking to Gavriil, Eneko started to grow on him as he told his story about how the ‘tusks’ wouldn’t let him into their ‘thing.’  Eneko invited Munduk to come join him in his own kingdom, where he would have plenty of things to smash and lots of wolfberry wine to consume.  After mulling it over, he was convinced by Noruas the Gunslinger, who promised to forge him a mighty hammer with which to smash things!

With their new friend Munduk the Hill Giant traveling with them, the party slowed significantly.  They determined that it was in everyone’s best interests to forge the large warhammer for the giant as soon as possible, and took the rest of the day to utilize Noruas’ portable furnace in order to forge the weapon.  Thus mollified, Munduk was convinced to travel with the party to the Tors of Levienes, a mountain range to the east that the PC’s had partially explored, and in which they had found an old crumbling tower upon which a huge bird was known to make its nest.  After half a week of hard travel they arrived near the tower, not having seen the avian yet…however, upon approach to the tower, they were greeted with the sight of the huge Roc, taking flight from the top of the tower and soaring into the sky above them, letting loose a fierce cry of fury!

Initiative was rolled, and the battle began!  Gavriil was able to buff Elysia and Noruas with his wand of Cat’s Grace that he’d previously crafted, and Eneko began an inspiring song of courage to lift his ally’s spirits.  The Roc, in the meantime, dove down from the sky, angling in towards….Tyr, Elysia’s white wolf animal companion!  It swooped down and snatched the wolf up in its talons, carrying the creature away from the ledge the party was standing upon!  Noruas lashed out with her rifle butt, and Munduk swung his own warhammer at the enormous bird, both managing to deal some damage but not anywhere near enough to stop the creature.  As it soared higher into the air and further away from them, Noruas shouldered her double-barreled musket and let loose with two full salvos!  While she was fortunate enough to hit the bird both times, the damage was so significant that it slew the Roc, sending both it and the wolf it carried plummeting towards the rocky mountainside below!

Fortunately for Elysia (and Tyr), she was saved the loss of her close friend when Gavriil was able to quickly cast a Levitate spell upon the wolf, allowing it to safely descend to the ground.  The Ranger clambered down the rocky slope towards her friend, Eneko moving to assist as the two worked to bring Tyr back to the group.  Noruas and Gavriil on the other hand focused their energies into ascending the old tower to the nest above them.  Once there, they found three Roc eggs in the huge nest, and visions of trained Rocs began to form in Gavriil’s head.  After some consideration, he determined that he had enough spell slots to cast Floating Disc, one for each egg, for a long enough time to transport them down the mountainside– though it would take almost all of his magical ability to do so.  Fortunately for the group, they had no further trouble in their travels that day, and were able to descend to the hills below the mountains without issue.

Their next goal was to head to the nearby Cockatrice den that they had found several months ago while exploring.  The original idea was to see just what they might be able to do with the creatures (tame them?  Use them for food?), but due to the possibility of them being exceedingly hostile Gavriil wished to deposit the Roc eggs somewhere safe so that he could have his spells available.  Circumventing the Cockatrice nest, they went north and stopped at one of the farms constructed near the Shrike Falls.  After a bit of convincing not to make huge omelets, the eggs were secured and the party made their way back to the nest.

A bit of experimentation and an unfortunately-made rooster sound later, the cockatrices were having none of the party’s shenanigans.  Determining that they were too wild to be tamed, and too poisonous to be food, the group picked off the creatures from range, managing to take out almost all of them before the gap between them was closed.  Fortunately for the party, no one got bitten, and thus they had no one turn to stone– a dangerous side-effect that Cockatrices often inflict.  With this threat dealt with, the party returned to the farm to collect their eggs, which were none worse for wear, and returned to the capital.  The eggs were turned in to Eleo Massim, the kingdom’s Druid Councilor, for safekeeping, and they asked her to send out advertisements seeking a master falconer in order to help them train the Rocs when they hatched, which Elysia determined would take about three months.  With those matters taken care of, the party decided to spend the next four days in their capital having some personal time, before beginning another kingdom turn at the beginning of the month of Kuthona.

During their downtime, Noruas, who brought Munduk back to her mother’s house to live with them, spent much of her time smithing new armors for herself and her friends, assisted by the hill giant who was quite happy to lend his hammer arm to her efforts.  As the session came to a close, Elysia made a note of checking the local bounty boards to see if there were any odd jobs to be completed– the White Wolves had been practically gutted in the fight with the trolls, and she thought that there might be some monster-hunting that needed taken care of.  As it turned out she was right, as she found a posting from a local merchant who was offering a reward for the individuals responsible for bringing to a halt the attacks on his caravans, traveling from Elbat Dnuor to Hargulka’s Stronghold, where they were engaged in moving supplies back and forth.  For the last week, the caravans sent south had gone missing, and the tracks found near the route suggested that Tatzlwyrms were responsible for the deeds.  With that new piece of knowledge, the session came to a close!