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Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 11, Part 2

The combined forces of Caerelia and the Great Houses Medyved and Orlovsky (with an assist from the Swordlords of Restov) had won the field! They now laid siege to New Stetven, capital of Brevoy, but unfortunately they did not have the means to immediately take the city, and winter was upon them. The players hoped to put an end to a protracted engagement by capturing or killing the enemy leader, Regent Noleksi Surtova. Hindering their plans was a lack of reliable intelligence on his whereabouts and his defenses. Fortunately, a stranger had just presented himself to them with an offer of aid against the Regent!

The hooded stranger introduced himself as Skala, and claimed that he too wanted to topple Surtova’s rule of the kingdom, though he would not say why. “I don’t want to reveal too much. There are eyes and ears everywhere, and my family would be made to suffer were my presence here become known!” Skala’s real identity was:

  • Aakif “Skala” Stone, male human arcanist 11

the newest PC, played by a new player, Dan. Aakif/Skala had basically the same backstory as the group’s first cleric, Travaris Stone, though Travaris got eaten by a big plant before his story could go anywhere. In any case, Skala’s introduction to the group ended up being a bit awkward, for while he had some useful info for the group, as a stranger showing up at the commanders’ tent he was naturally greeted with suspicion. And out of fear for his family, he absolutely refused to give them any information about himself.

Issues of trust aside, what exactly was he offering, Satampra the swashbuckler wanted to know? As it happened, Skala said he knew of a secret entrance to the palace dungeons, and could transport a small group there with magic. The council thought that could be very useful for getting to the Regent… or it could be an obvious trap! The rulers and generals debated whether to trust him for a bit, with General Kraston Medyved stating it was worth taking a chance on the stranger, while General Dranzen Orlovsky figured he was an agent of the Surtovas and wanted him thrown out. Eventually they all decided to turn it over to the gods: when Remesio the cleric could regain spells, he would ask for some prayers of divination to determine Skala’s trustworthiness. And that divine guidance indicated that they would do well to believe the man.

Skulduggery

And so the arcanist huddled with Satampra and Remesio, and spoke an arcane word of power: teleport. Then his player, Dan, rolled a mishap! The group was instantly transported a few hundred feet to the northwest. Oops! It was an embarrassing moment for the newcomer, but he assured the others that he could easily recover from that minor error. He spoke the word again, and teleported the group to… just outside of the Emperor’s Palace in Salar’s Rest, way down south in Caerelia! Oops! Skala hung his head, took a deep breath, and tried again. This time, they appeared at the base of a wall at the back of the Regent’s Ruby Palace. Success! (Remember, kids, keep on trying whenever you fail – spell slots permitting, of course) After locating the trigger for a secret escape route and opening the passageway, the trio descended into the palace dungeons.

While Satampra set about acquiring a jailer disguise from an unsuspecting jailer, Skala’s player Dan asked if his character knew of any high value political prisoners here in the dungeon. He rolled a respectable Knowledge (local) check, so I came up with Sezal Orlovsky, a demagogue who was thrown down here some years ago for fomenting rebellion against the throne. By the time he & Remesio had located Sezal’s cell, the swashbuckler had returned with the keys. Sezal was given some water, a 5-second summary of the current situation, his freedom, and directions for escaping. In return, the skeletal man promised to start stirring up trouble against the Surtovas once he was safely away.

Satampra crept up out of the dungeons, looking to exchange his jailer disguise for that of a palace guard. After doing so, and hiding the bodies, he & Remesio changed into their snazzy new uniforms. Skala had a ring of chameleon power and slippers of spider climbing, and thus didn’t feel the need to dress up.

Their first destination was the throne room, but it was obvious that they would not be able to gain entry; the Regent was meeting with his advisers. Instead they aimed for the Regent’s apartments. Satampra bluffed their way into that area of the palace with the story of chasing a scullery maid who was secretly a spy for the rebels. Then they picked a quiet, unobserved spot to stand guard, where they could be reasonably sure the Regent would pass through on his way to his chambers.

Literally a Kidnapping

Time passed. The Regent’s wife, Elanna Lebeda Surtova, strode by with her attendants, coming from the direction of her rooms. Some more time passed. Then the PCs heard a larger group coming towards them and the residence. The approaching party turned the corner, revealing Regent Noleski Surtova, his guards, and his advisers! Satampra instantly recognized an armored knight in the group as the champion that had so recently slain him, and the champion recognized the swashbuckler in turn! The fight was on!

Skala let loose a Persistent glitterdust while standing on the ceiling, which momentarily blinded the entire opposing group. Satampra rushed forward to strike at the Regent, doing around 35 damage – not enough to take him out. Then the enemy went, and as many in the entourage stumbled about blindly, one wizardly-looking fellow reached out and managed to grab hold of Noleski. He then used a teleport spell of his own to remove himself and the Regent from the hall.

The PCs’ plans for capturing the Regent had been foiled, but it wasn’t a total loss – there was still some revenge to be had! Remesio called forth a flame strike, which killed everyone still in the area save for the champion. And then Skala created an acid pit under said champion, which was basically the end of that NPC.

But the group wanted to be certain! More guards started to arrive, and the swashbuckler held them off while Skala used a barrage of magic missiles on the champion until he slumped down into the acid at the bottom of the pit. Then they ran off, hasted, to the Regent’s chambers, where they stuffed all the papers from his desk into their bag of holding. Then they snatched a toddler from her nanny (the Regent’s youngest child) and Remesio teleported them all back to the camp outside the walls.

Next: trouble with Tiger Lords!

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Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 11, Part 1

Unfortunately, Orseen the warpriest’s player was absent for this session. This was a bit awkward, as we had ended the previous session with him defending the capital of Caerelia from attackers, all by his lonesome. But as it happened, his absence allowed us to conduct the battle for New Stetven without having to worry about switching back and forth between players. And yes, I was prepared for the battle, and yes it did finally happen!

Bodies Fill the Fields I See

The rebel army units were previously listed here. The forces protecting New Stetven consisted of:

  • a massive group of peasants, two Colossal armies of human commoner 1’s; ACR 7 each
  • lots of archers, a Gargantuan army of human commoner 1/warrior 1’s with ranged weapons; ACR 6
  • footsoldiers from Lebeda, Garess, and Surtova, a Huge army of human fighter 5’s; ACR 8
  • The Golushkin Defenders, a Large army of dwarf fighter 5’s with improved armor; ACR 6
  • The Crown Knights of Issia, a Large army of human cavalier 5’s with mounts; ACR 6
  • The Wizards of the Veil, a Medium army of human wizard 3’s; ACR 2
  • mercenaries from the Technic League, a Medium army of human magus 4’s; ACR 3
  • summoned Servitors of Abadar, a Small army of Resolute 2-Headed* Metallic (silver) hippogriffs; ACR 4
  • and a single Brevoy champion, a Fine army of a human fighter 10 with magic arms & armor, mounted on a hippogriff; ACR 1

* I couldn’t find a template for adding heads to monsters in Pathfinder so I just figured that giving an extra bite attack to a monster that already had one was a +1 CR deal.

Regarding the Servitors of Abadar, I wanted some unusual forces in play – this is D&D, after all! And given that the capital of a powerful nation was being assaulted, I reasoned they had some significant magical resources available to them. I pictured them as two-headed griffons made from living silver or gold instead of flesh. Throwing on templates is especially easy when the creatures are just being used for mass combat, as the one bit that really matters is the final CR, and not their individual stats.

The knights, wizards, Technic League mercs, metallic 2-headed griffons, and the champion were held in reserve. Everyone else was dug in and gained +2 DV from trenches and palisades that had been hastily formed to protect the line. Additionally, many of the defenders were using Cautious or Defensive strategies to maximize their defense. If the battle dragged out, that was fine. Time was ultimately on their side; the capital was effectively immune to being starved out thanks to Lake Reykal, and the winter weather – should it ever arrive – would impact the attackers more than the defenders.

How could one possibly run a battle this big? There were 13 units on the players’ side, and 10 on the DM side. That’s a lot of rolling and adding and subtracting. Which I have to say is another mark against the mass combat rules. An army unit tops out at 2,000 soldiers, which makes really big armies cumbersome to do battle with. And the way the units are structured around class/race combos encourages one to have all sorts of different units on the board.  You can convert characters or monsters to armies rather quickly, which is good, and a one-on-one or few-on-few battle isn’t too time consuming, which is also good if your group is not too interested in tactical combat (as mine is not, sadly), but having this many parties involved would really slow the game down. And yet I didn’t feel it reasonable to abstract away details of the units any more than the system already does; I wanted to prominently feature both the scale of the conflict as well as the identities of the different factions. So how to resolve the battle?

What I ended up doing was conducting the battle ahead of time, sans the contribution of the PCs, and keeping track of the state of all the units at the start of each round and the effect that each unit had that round. I put it all on a spreadsheet and printed it out to reference during the session. Then, only Satampra the swashbuckler and Remesio the cleric actually had to roll, and if they impacted the battle by removing a unit I could easily adjust the flow of events going forward. Setting that up took some time, but it ended up working well, allowing us to concentrate on the player’s actions and painting the overall picture without getting bogged down in endless die rolls.

I also cut up colored index cards into squares with the name of each unit on one side and its stats on the other. That way I could show the disposition of the various forces to the players and move them around as events unfolded.

The Slaughter Never Ends

And what a battle it was! The Caerelian Immortals Too unit led the charge, absorbing arrows and spells as they closed the distance. They and the other foot soldiers stormed the defensive line while the skirmishers emerged from the forest to hit the eastern flank. Remesio reasoned that the enemy wizards were the primary threat and started calling down holy fire onto their position. Satampra had decided to go solo this time rather than lead an army, and was fighting on the front lines, side-by-side with his men.

But the dug-in defenders were extremely hard to dislodge – large army size + a defensive bonus + the Defensive strategy made their DV sky-high. They couldn’t do much damage, but that’s what the ranged and mounted troops were for. When Satampra realized he had very little chance of soloing a couple thousand peasants, he rode over to the west flank, where the Armored Saints were fighting the Issian cavalry and dwarven fighters, to pitch in there.

Remesio ended up scattering the enemy wizards ahead of schedule, but otherwise the battle played out as I had already determined. In the very eventful round 3, the wizards were destroyed, the silver and gold griffons of Abadar were banished by the Skywatch Spellguard, and the Brevoy champion killed Satampra (I rolled the “commander survival” check after Satampra’s “unit” was defeated, and it came up “killed” – hey, war is a dangerous business!). In round 4, the peasants holding the eastern flank were smashed by the elite skirmishers on that side of the battle. In round 5, the foot soldiers that were anchoring the defense routed under pressure from multiple sides, but not before the Immortals Too were decimated in the final assault (that army name has become rather ironic!).

As the sun began to set over Lake Reykal, the loyalist line could take no more and broke. The rebel forces swarmed over the defensive positions to strike down as many fleeing peasants and soldiers as they could. The remaining defenders fled to the safety of the city walls, where the rush of attackers was halted and turned back by archers. As night fell, the rebels gathered their casualties and then camped at a safe distance from the walls.

Satampra, it turned out, was only “mostly dead,” as Remesio raised and restored him as soon as the cleric was able to. The weary Emperor joined the generals as they discussed their position: the land route to New Stetven was theirs, but they could not so easily blockade the lake. And they did not have the siege weapons to take down the walls, although those could be built, given time. But the rebels were far from home, and provisioning their forces into the winter would be difficult.

The players started discussing ways to get into the palace to take out Regent Surtova directly. As they hashed out various possibilities, a mysterious cloaked visitor arrived at their command tent. “My name is Skala,” he told the assembled leaders, “and I hear that you need a way into the Regent’s Ruby Palace…”

Next: kidnapping!

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 10, Part 2

In the cold, clear light of dawn, rebel forces arrayed themselves for an assault against the entrenched loyalists that were guarding the capital city of Brevoy. Orders were issued as the sun peaked over the horizon. Horns blared, and were answered by opposing peals from across the field. The ranks of warriors standing before the rulers of Caerelia raised their shields and began their march into battle.

Put On the Red Light

As it happened, I wasn’t quite ready for the big battle yet. We were planning on meeting and interviewing three potential recruits for the group over the course of the session, and I didn’t want these prospective players to see us playing out a potentially not-so-exciting mass combat and get the wrong idea about the game. But I was still prepared for some action, as I had dormant plot thread that I intended to bring back to the fore.

The dangling thread from earlier in this chapter was the Baroness Pavetta Stroon-Drelev, Baron Hannis Drelev’s wife. The players had kidnapped her from her home after fighting off her brother, the invoker Imeckus Stroon. She had thereafter been a “guest” at the castle in Stagfell, never allowed outside the bounds of forbiddance wards put in place by Remesio the cleric. The players had kept expecting Imeckus to return to free her – hence the anti-teleport spells – but I had not yet pulled that trigger.

During that time, I figured that Imeckus had attempted to scry on and teleport to his sister, and been rebuffed by forbiddance. Then after he had spent some time looking for holes in the defenses and came up short, he started working on alternate plans. If he was going to take on the heroes who had defeated a massive fey owlbear and an ancient cyclopean lich, he reasoned that he would need allies. And luckily for him, Caerelia did not lack in enemies for him to ally with!

Regent Noleski Surtova was glad to coordinate with Imeckus’ planned assault, on the condition that the invoker also free the imprisoned Baron Jaroslav Kruskel, a personal friend of Brevoy’s ruler. King Irovetti of Pitax (and Fort Drelev, come to think of it) lent Imeckus his deadly wererat servant Gaetane (taken from book 5), and also put the wizard in touch with some First Worlders who were keen to hurt the upstart kingdom. From those faeries, Imeckus recruited a lampad assassin known as The Weeper.

When the rebel forces signaled their attack on New Stetven, word was immediately sent to the Regent, who had the information transmitted to Imeckus via sending: Caerelia’s champions were engaged in battle, and were not present to defend their city. Imeckus then teleported into Baron Jaroslav’s un-warded dungeon cell with Gaetane, The Weeper, and two disposable knights (I used the Pitax Warden stats from book 5). After freeing and arming the Baron, they broke out of the cell and proceeded to murder their way up to where the invoker’s sister was being held.

But some in the attack party had their own motivations for being there. The Weeper moved quickly to Mestinous the elven wizard’s laboratory, where she grievously wounded the elf and stole the two green hair rings that he wore around his neck. Mestinous naturally fled the scene – it’s what he does – and had cast a hasty sending of his own to alert the PCs at the battle of New Stetven.

I’ll Send an S.O.S.

None of which was known to the players! They were watching the lines of their troops advance into a hail of arrows as the wizard’s voice popped into Satampra the swashbuckler’s head. “Stagfell under attack! I’m hurt! Send help!” The surprised Emperor responded that they would send aid and went to deliver the news to Remesio and Orseen the warpriest.

My expectation was that they would either ignore the call and focus on the battle – in which case I wasn’t sure what I would have done, honestly, but it didn’t strike me as likely – or all teleport home to fight off the invaders. Instead, they threw me for a bit of a loop when they started asking if Remesio could teleport someone without going along himself. And after looking at the spell, it seemed like it was possible. So they sent Orseen to check it out on his own while Remesio and Satampra stayed at the battle. So, unbeknownst to his player, the level 11 warpriest was going to be facing a CR 11 invoker, a CR 12 lycanthrope ranger, and a CR 11 fey assassin. That probably wouldn’t go too well for him! But on the other hand, Orseen was fully buffed and he is rather powerful in that state. And he didn’t necessarily have to face the attackers all at once.

He Walks Unhindered

They sent Orseen to the throne room, but there were no attackers there. And so the giant armored warrior, infused with divine power and carrying a blazing greatsword, strode out into the keep proper and searched for righteous battle! He soon came across the Pitax wardens fighting some Caerelian guards. The warpriest charged into battle, and slew the wardens in a couple of rounds.

Then he was shot with a deadly arrow, fired by Gaetane the wererat ranger! Orseen moved to close the distance between them, and the wererat – not being so great in melee – ran away and hid. As the holy warrior searched for his prey, he heard zacks and zaps from elsewhere in the castle, and headed towards the sounds.

Orseen turned a corner and found his way blocked by a wall of fire! No problem, he cast protection from energy on himself and walked through. Past that was a wall of electricity! (created by one of the invoker’s specialization abilities) A dispel magic took care of that. Down the hall he saw scorched and blackened walls, dead guards, and a woman on her knees, facing away from him, weeping and sobbing uncontrollably. He tromped up behind her, a feeling of unease coming over him as he did so, and bent down to put a hand on her shoulder. At which point she turned, smoothly drawing a thin blade as she did so, and stabbed the warpriest between his plates of armor!

Next: the big battle! for reals this time!

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 10, Part 1

In the month of Neth (November) of the year 4718, great armies from Caerelia and the Houses Medyved and Orlovsky converged on the Brevoy village of Greenhill. Many of the townsfolk had fled north to the capital as word of the armies’ approach reached them, leaving slim pickings in provisions and loot for the invading soldiers when they arrived. The generals of the armies – Boliden of Caerelia, Kraston of House Medyved, and Dranzen of House Orlovsky – were met in the newly abandoned town by Satampra, the Emperor of Caerlia, Remesio, its High Priest, and Orseen, the… big guy with a sword. After months of talk and preparation, the battle for Brevoy’s throne was about to begin in earnest.

The Great House forces consisted of:

  • The combined peasant levies, a Colossal army of human commoner 1’s; ACR 7
  • A unit of archers, a Huge army of human commoner 1/warrior 1’s with ranged weapons; ACR 4
  • Footsoldiers in service to the Houses, a Large army of human fighter 5’s; ACR 6
  • Some light cavalry, a Huge army of human warrior 1’s with mounts; ACR 5
  • The Gronzi Greenwardens, a Large army of human ranger 5’s with ranged weapons and mounts; ACR 6
  • The Skywatch Spellguard, a Large army of human wizard 5’s with hippogriff mounts; ACR 6

While the Caerelians contributed:

  • The Emperor’s Guard, a Huge army of human fighter 5’s; ACR 8
  • The Immortals Too, a Colossal army of human fighter 1’s; ACR 9
  • The Grand Magus Order, a Large army of human magus 3’s with mounts; ACR 4
  • The Armored Saints, a Medium army of human cleric 5’s with mounts; ACR 4
  • The PCs; ACR 3 each

The PCs, having come directly from a scouting and sabotage mission against the loyalist armies, reported what they had learned to the generals. After surveying the map and the disposition of their opposition, General Kraston proposed a flanking maneuver, where the bulk of their forces engaged the enemy from the front while the more mobile units worked their way through the forest and hills to strike from the other side. General Dranzen vigorously disagreed; he steadfastly maintained that they needed every warm body for the frontal assault if they were going to break the fortified enemy line.

Satampra the swashbuckler thought this was all a bit premature as he examined the map. The fort and bridge on the East Sellen River caught his eye in particular; he was wondering if the enemy had a flanking maneuver of their own planned. He suggested that they take the flying carpet out there to scope out the area, which would also give Remesio the cleric the ability to swap out his prayers for enough stone shapes to possibly destroy the bridge. The Brevoy generals were not enthused with the idea. In this part of the world, winter was already well underway and it was already a miracle that they had not had to deal with any serious weather. Delaying the attack by even a day or two could be disastrous! But the Emperor convinced them to grudgingly go along with the plan.

New Stetven Bridge is Falling Down

The aerial reconnaissance trip took an entire day, but it did reveal that there was indeed a sizable army at the East Sellen fort. The carpetiers then did a flyby of the forces outside the capital on the way back, where they saw the cold, hungry troops digging trenches in the frozen earth. The dirt excavated from the ground was being used to build berms. This activity probably had already been going on when the players infiltrated the army camps, but I had not thought of it at the time! The scouts also witnessed clerics of Abadar using their divine powers to conjure food for the soldiers.

After returning from the trip, Satampra had a plan! He sided with General Kraston Medyved’s idea of a flanking maneuver, but wanted to bring everything else to the river fort first. Once they had eliminated the threat to their backside, they would march on the capital. General Dranzen Orlovsky was not pleased with being overruled, but in the end he relented.

The march to the fort was uneventful. The sheer size of the rebel army was so intimidating that the loyalist troops garrisoned there (elite swordsmen from House Lebeda) abandoned their post and fled across the bridge before they could be encircled. The rebel army followed onto the bridge, but only far enough to give Remesio the cover he needed to get to work! With four prayers of stone shape, affecting 84 cubic feet of rock, and an assist from some siege engineers, he was able to collapse a significant span of the bridge and render it impassable. Then the rebels turned to the capital.

Next: attack!

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 9, Part 2

Satampra the swashbuckler declined to even ask why his companions were dressed (or as undressed) as they were. Instead, he threw the sack with the stolen guard uniforms at them, and asked what was going on with the bound and gagged servant. Remesio the cleric and Orseen the warpriest explained that she had surprised them while they were… passing the time, and that they then had to capture her and tie her up, lest she warn anyone that enemy agents were loose in the city. The reality was that I had sprung the maid on them in order to give the players something to do while Satampra sulked around. And because their antics were getting a little weird by that point…

The swashbuckler sighed. “Do I have to do everything around here?” Then Mr. Social Skills got down to the business of intimidating the poor woman into silence. Her fear probably wouldn’t last that long, he figured, but it would last long enough for them to conclude their business in New Stetven and be gone.

With that handled, the group suited up in the stolen guard officer outfits and started searching the streets of Brevoy’s capital. They soon had identified two promising targets for sabotage: the docks, where ships were being built to support the upcoming battle, and the city’s food stores, which were being held in a well-guarded garrison. They decided to tackle the food supply first, in the evening, after Remesio had had a chance to change his spells during happy hour.

I Know You Planned It

First they visited public wells located near the garrison in question. At each one, the cleric surreptitiously used a prayer of stone shape to seal them shut. With that accomplished, everyone got into position and prepared to execute the plan. Orseen waited on the flying carpet above the building, while Mr. Social pulled rank on the outside guards in order to get himself and Remesio inside.

The hope was to reach the food and burn it, but the interior was as heavily guarded as the exterior. So the two fake officers went on the attack! Satampra drew his blade and started stabbing and slashing, and Remesio summoned a wall of stone to block off the one escape route that wasn’t being covered by a master duelist. As the swashbuckler parried and riposted, the cleric started summoning medium-sized fire elementals – 5 in one round (lucky roll) and 3 on the next. Using tongues, he told them to seek out the sacks and barrels of human food and burn them! Burn it all! Mwahahahah! Once the elementals were loosed, Remesio used his dimension hop ability to take himself and Satampra up to Orseen and the carpet. And they flew away as the garrison burned.

Next up was the docks! While archers shot at the flying carpetiers, the characters bombed the ships with oil, torches, alchemist fires, and a couple of flame strikes. At this point, I figured that some high-level response was warranted, and attacked them with a high-level invisible wizard. A lightning bolt shocked them all, since they were all clustered on the carpet, and then a fireball exploded on top of them as they hurriedly made their escape. Satampra, who has evasion, miraculously came away unharmed after swinging under the carpet and using it for cover.

I’m Out, And I’m Gone

With their acts of sabotage complete, the satisfied adventurers set out to meet up with their armies.

Perhaps not-so-shockingly, this session was entirely improvised. I wasn’t really prepared to run the actual siege, so when the players started talking about wanting to undermine the enemy forces before the battle, I ran with that idea. Afterwards, they wanted to know what the effects of their actions would be, and I figured that there were a few possibilities. First, the destruction of supplies would deprive the loyalist armies of a unit of clerics, who were now pressed into conjuring food for the army and city. Second, the morale of the loyalist army units would suffer. And third, I was planning on having a unit of ship-born archers present at the battle, but the players effectively took that out. So they removed 2 units from the battle and lowered the enemy’s overall morale. Not bad for a couple of days’ work.

Next: the siege of New Stetven!

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 9, Part 1

With the meeting at Wightwood concluded, the rulers of Caerelia contemplated what to do next. They could fly or teleport home and personally lead their armies north to hook up with their allies… OR they could delegate that rather boring task and then run off to do some damage on their own! It should come as little surprise which choice they made. A prayer of sending transmitted orders to General Boliden to bring the Caerelian forces into Brevoy. Then the players contemplated what sort of fun they could get into.

A scry-and-fry of Regent Noleski Surtova was contemplated, but the last time they had tried a similar tactic, it had not go so well. And the Regent was probably better protected than Baron Kruskel had been! So that plan was discarded.

Next, the idea of screwing with the loyalist armies before the battle came up. But they didn’t really know what the disposition of the Surtova forces was, and so they resolved to go gather some intelligence before deciding what to do. They hopped on their flying carpet and headed west, towards the Brevoy capital of New Stetven.

Surprise!

They arrived after the sun had set, which revealed a sea of campfires spread across the lands south of the capital: the Surtova’s army. The PCs set down their carpet some distance away, and Satampra the swashbuckler broke out his little-used Disguise skill to made the group look like grubby mercenaries. Then they infiltrated the soldiers’ camps. Councilor Aurelius the hafling was left behind, partly because he was not equipped for a dangerous mission, and partly because we had forgotten that he had made the journey to Wightwood with the others. 😮

Remesio the cleric shared his flask liberally among the soldiers, while Satampra tried to start the rumor that the vanished royal house of Rogarvia had been rescued from the fey realm, and the true king was marching north alongside the Caerelians! He was hoping to weaken their resolve, though it was unclear how much the rank-and-file cared about a king who had been gone for a generation.

After feeling that he had planted the seeds of his story, Satampra and the others headed towards the city itself. It was on lockdown, but walls were little barrier to a cleric with the Travel domain! Remesio transported the group into the city, choosing a room in a brothel he was familiar with from their previous visit as his target. Unfortunately, that room was currently occupied! And the occupants were not pleased to have three grubby mercenaries appear suddenly in the room.

The characters fished out a couple of bags of gold and tossed them at their surprised hosts. “You didn’t see this, it didn’t happen. Go back to your business.” They exited the room and headed downstairs, where they found no warmer welcome. All the talk, drinking, and music came to a screeching halt as the filthy warriors clanked into the main room. As everyone else gawked, the proprietor quickly stomped over to the intruders and demanded that they leave immediately.

“We would love to, ” Satampra whispered in her ear. “But we require some discretion. And an inconspicuous way out.” The madam charged them one thousand gold (paid in gems) for her silence, and showed them to a back alley exit.

Taking the Piss

The city was under martial law, and they couldn’t be seen out in the open. Nor could they stay out all night, for it was late autumn and freezing outside. Satampra shed his disguise and took to the rooftops, searching for a house that was not currently occupied. Eventually he located a cozy two-story number that appeared empty, and broke in through a second-story window. He went back and told the others, and Remesio used a series of dimension hops to move himself and Orseen the warpriest into the abode.

In the morning, Satampra watched the street from their bedroom window. He saw guards, and soldiers, and officers, and women and children, and some elderly men. Every able-bodied male had probably fled or been conscripted, he assumed. As a result, if he wanted to walk around in the daytime, he would need a good disguise. He found the lady of the house’s makeup, and with that, a change of clothes, and a bent back, he was able to appear as an old man.

Once out in the streets, he waited until he saw some young officers of the watch going by, and trailed them to a barracks near the wall. When they did not immediately come back out, he went to a shop a bought a jug of oil. Why oil? Good question! Perhaps he thought he might need to set something on fire. Then he went back to the barracks and waited for a good target to appear.

Soon a lone captain of the guard emerged, and Satampra followed him to a tavern. When the officer went out back to relieve himself, the “old man” did so as well, whereupon he clobbered the captain with his jar, knocking him unconscious. As he was stealing the poor sap’s clothes, he contemplated what to do with the unconscious fellow. Reluctantly, the rogue concluded that his target could not be allowed to wake up and report that he had had his uniform stolen. And so the rogue made sure that the captain would never wake up again.

Now disguised as a captain of the watch, Satampra made his way to a different barracks, where he managed to slip in and steal some uniforms for his companions. He then quickly hurried back to the house that they were squatting in.

When he arrived, he was shocked to find Orseen and Remesio downstairs, standing next to a bound and gagged servant! Also, Orseen was naked and Remesio was wearing a dress.

Next: discovered!

Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 8, Part 2

It was pure chaos inside the feasting hall of House Biala’s small keep. On one side, the three Swordlord emisaries – Ruva, Alexi, and Callok – and assorted guards were fighting monsters made of shadow. In the back stood Lord Gurev Medyved, surrounded by his personal guard. And roughly in the middle of the room, a hole had magically appeared under the patriarch of House Orlovsky, dropping him and several of his entourage into a deep pit. And only those inside or near the edge of the pit knew that Lord Poul Orlovsky had just been stabbed!

Zay Tonday the sorcerer cried out, “Assassin in the hole! The Lord has been stabbed!” as he cast around, looking for whoever was summoning these effects. The edge of the conjured pit was slippery, and so he moved away and readied a glitterdust should he hear another spell being cast.

He didn’t have to wait long before the chanting of arcane words reached his ears. Zay released his spell in the general vicinity of the sound, just as the room was once again plunged into night!

Luckily, Orseen the warpriest and Satampra the swashbuckler had handily dispatched the assassins outside, and were making their way back to the hall when the darkness fell. Orseen didn’t have any more prayers of daylight prepared, but he did have a dispel magic, and he now used it to banish the inky blackness once again. With the magical darkness gone, a short figure covered in glittering dust appeared, and ran for the door!

Meanwhile, Remesio the cleric jumped into the pit, where he landed atop a scrum of guards that were fighting the stabber. Hurriedly he searched the ground for Lord Orlovsky, and upon finding him, dimension hopped them both out of the room entirely. There he sacrificed some of his strongest spells to heal Lord Poul, thus rescuing him when he was just a few hit points from death. Not that death is the end for rich people in D&D land. Then he dimension hopped them back into the battle.

While the sorcerer ran after the glitterdusted enemy caster (a gnome sorcerer 7 with the shadow bloodline), Satampra jumped into the pit in order to get at Fancy Boots the assassin (a human slayer 6/assassin 6). Unfortunately, Fancy Boots used his boots of speed to parkour his way up and out of the pit! The swashbuckler sighed, and started working his way back up the side of the hole.

Outside, Zay struck the shadow caster in the back with a lightning bolt, which fried the little gnome to a crisp. Then Fancy Boots zipped past the fey sorcerer, but not before Tonday cast a spell of dominate person on him. Boots failed his saving throw, and was ordered to take off his boots and sit down on the ground.

Aaron Burr, Sir

The shadow creatures were dispatched by the others, and Fancy Boots was tied up and brought back inside. Then the questioning began. Who hired him? The Throne did, through intermediaries. Why? Boots looked puzzled at the question, but was forced to answer regardless – the assembled were traitors and rebels. They deserved no better. Who were the targets? Boots replied that the leaders of the factions were, but on Satampra’s urging he was compelled to list out exactly who was to be killed: Emperor Satampra of Caerelia, Lord Poul Orlovsky, Lord Gurev Medyved, and the Swordlords Ruva and Callok.

Of course, there were three Swordlords at the meeting, and Boots had neglected to name Alexi! Who had apparently slipped away in the confusion. Well, the PCs reasoned, at least they now knew how the assassins had learned of the secret meeting.

Boots was taken to the dungeon, where the PCs personally stood guard over him. In the morning, Lord Biala, looking much better thanks to Remesio’s prayers, sentenced the assassin to death and carried out the penalty himself, as was the custom in Medyved lands.

War Games

With all of that out of the way, the assembled parties could finally get down to business! And they were quick to do so, lest the Regent send any more trouble their way. Winter was almost upon them, and they were lucky that the snows had not fallen yet – there was time perhaps for one major offensive.

Poul Orlovsky and Gurev Medyved wanted to hit the capital of New Stetven with their combined forces as soon as possible. The Swordlords, on the other hand, said that was impossible – they were surrounded by nobles loyal to the Regent, and could not leave their city undefended. They wanted the alliance to consolidate their territory by conquering south-eastern Brevoy – the former House Rogarvia lands – so that Restov could send all of its might into battle in the spring. The Great Houses did not like that plan, for if they did not hit New Stetven now, the Sutrovas would have all winter to fortify their defenses there. Meanwhile, the PCs still had to worry about raids from Fort Drelev or the Tiger Lord barbarians.

Councilor Aurelius the halfling, who had not had much to do on this trip before now, successfully brokered a compromise. Restov’s forces would conduct raids on the surrounding loyalists, in order to keep them from defending the capital or mounting an effective assault on the city. Orlovsky, Medyved, and Caerelia would join their armies east of the capital and then meet the Regent’s might on the open field of battle. And Caerelia would leave some of its lesser armies, like the Sootscale kobolds, near the Fort Drelev border to watch for incursions. If needed, the players figured, they could teleport back in case of trouble.

And with that, the leaders shook hands and parted ways. It was time for the war to be fought in earnest.

Next: sabotage!