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Kingmaker: Intermission #4, Session 2, Part 2

Orseen the gnoll warpriest, reduced to a weakened, animalistic state by his inability to complete the geas/quest placed upon him, looked at the thorn-wrapped sword that was being offered to him. He snatched it out of Satampra the swashbuckler’s hands and cradled the weapon in his paws, feeling a glimmer of his old self return as he held the blade.

“We’ve talked it over, and you can bring that to the Green Lady,” Satampra told his champion. It wasn’t a lie, strictly speaking. The sword was a fake, yes, but Satampra never actually said that it was the real Briar…

A year or so back, the PCs had created some replicas of Briar as part of their plan to keep the sword out of fey hands. Now they were giving one of the copies to Orseen, hoping that as long as he thought he was fulfilling the objective of his compulsion, the penalties he had incurred would go away. As the warpriest’s Intelligence was currently 1 and his Wisdom was not much better, he had no chance of seeing through the ruse.

The gnoll was released from his dungeon cell and taken outside, where the group’s flying carpet awaited. They would fly west with him for a day to demonstrate that they were making progress towards his quest. And when the penalties from the compulsion had worn off after 24 hours, they would teleport the rest of the way over to the Castle of Knives. From there, the PCs hoped to sneak into Nyrissa’s realm and gather some intelligence about what laid within.

What could go wrong?

Game Over, Man

After appearing outside the front gates of the Castle of Knives, Aakif gave everyone spells of flying (except for Orseen, who activated his ebony fly figurine) and invisibility. The unseen group rose into the air and floated over the walls surrounding the Green Lady’s domain.

They could tell they were in Nyrissa’s realm almost instantly. Before, the area inside the walls mostly trees, with the bare bones of a ruin in the center. But now they saw a black lake nearby, and beyond that an area of ice and snow, and the great black bird’s spire past that. Further on they could barely make out features that they knew of from the book Zuddiger’s Picnic.

However, they had not gotten far when their presence had been detected! The Green Lady herself suddenly appeared in the air before them, beautiful and terrible to behold! But this time, everyone made their saving throw against being blinded by the sight of her.

Despite the invisibility spells, Nyrissa looked right at Orseen and motioned for him to approach. “I see you have finally brought my sword to me. Come closer, my champion. Present your weapon to your Queen.” The warpriest spurred his unliving mount forward. When he was within reach of the Queen, he extended his arm to hand over what he thought was Briar, but then hesitated. His immense greed for the weapon warred with the magical enchantment placed upon him, and he struggled to both give the sword to his mistress and to maintain his deathgrip upon its hilt.

Unfortunately, his delay gave Nyrissa time to examine the blade and realize its true provenance. “You- you seek to trick ME?!” she swore incredulously. The fey queen jabbed an angry finger in the gnoll’s face. “DIE, BETRAYER!” she screamed. And he did, after taking 180 points of damage from her finger of death.

“Time to go!” yelled Aakif the arcanist. He swooped in to snatch Orseen’s body and the fly figurine and then teleported them out of the area. Satampra threw a useless dagger at Nyrissa to break his invisibility, allowing Kwin the dwarven cleric to see and grab him before uttering a word of recall.

Orseen was soon brought back to life, though it was extra-expensive as raise dead couldn’t be used (owing to his dying from a death effect). And it looked as if the theory of ending the geas through death proved correct, as he appeared to be free of the compulsion to deliver Briar to the Green Lady after he was restored to life.

After the warpriest was back in fighting shape, the party returned to Castle of Knives, only to discover that its walls once again contained an empty ruin lying amidst the ancient trees.

Anecdotes Are Not Data

Satampra immediately set the scholars of the kingdom towards determining the period of Thousandbreath’s visits to Golarion. The researchers didn’t have much information to work with, though – just this visit and stories and legends from the past. Eventually they reported, as a rough estimate, that the worlds aligned thrice every 40-50 years, though there were significant outliers. And while detailed astrological information was recorded for the day and time that the portal opened, that was just one data point; nothing could be sensibly extrapolated from it.

Years passed. Caerelia prospered as a vital trading hub between the River Kingdoms and the splinters of Brevoy (as well as Numeria and Iobaria). The rulers settled down and continued their individual pursuits when they could. Though there were no further incursions from the First World, the council knew it was only a matter of time, and did what they could to prepare for the day.

And then, in mid-Lamashan (October) of 4725, some 15 years after the kingdom’s founding, the Emperor of Caerelia woke to news that a whirlpool of dark, diseased water had suddenly appeared in Lake Tuskwater, about a league south of the Stagfell docks. The first of ten blooms had arrived.

Next: black swan!

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Kingmaker: Intermission #4, Session 2, Part 1

Attempts to use sending to get more information from Feywatch, the outpost next to the Castle of Knives in the Thousand Voices forest, went unanswered. The PCs quickly gathered and buffed, and then teleported over to the small town.

It looked… different… than it had the last time the rulers had visited. The place was empty of people and wildly overgrown, as if it had been abandoned for decades, if not centuries. Aakif the arcanist’s first thought was that some great amount of time had passed in just this locale, but Satampra the swashbuckler and Orseen the gnoll warpriest shook their heads. “We’ve seen this before,” said the swashbuckler.

Varnhold,” spat the gnoll.

They wandered about for a while, looking for clues as to the townsfolk’s whereabouts. Much like Varnhold, it appeared that everyone had dropped whatever they had been doing and left town, only this time very little time had passed since their disappearance. The group started to head down the road out of town and towards the gate of the Castle of Knives, reasonably assuming that their people must have gone in that direction. But they had not gotten far when they chanced upon the most beautiful woman imaginable! She was walking down the overgrown lane towards them, flowers and plants springing up from where her feet touched the ground. It was her: the Green Lady, Nyrissa, the Mistress of Whispers and the Queen of Forgotten Time; the almighty faerie queen who claimed the Stolen Lands as her own.

My intention here was for the players to finally meet Nyrissa, interact with her, and learn some of her capabilities rather than never seeing her until the final scene of the adventure. I thought a great deal about how to play her, how she would regard and respond to the PCs in preparation for this session. But that all went out the window pretty quickly thanks to the irreverence of Bill, Orseen’s player.

Aakif, Satampra, and Kwin the dwarven cleric all failed their Fortitude saves and were struck blind by the sight of the Lady – their minds erased the woman’s appearance from their memories and refused to see anything more to protect them from being further overwhelmed. Orseen was the only one to make his saving throw.

“Hey!” called out the gnoll champion. “Are you the Green Lady?” He wagged his tail.

Nyrissa frowned at this commoner’s familiarity with her, and the warpriest was momentarily crushed with the thought that this beauteous creature was unhappy with him. “I am a Queen of the First World,” she replied, “and will be addressed as such by the likes of you.

“Orseen, what is happening?! Oh gods,” moaned the other PCs. Aakif, who had crafted a Circlet of Mindsight for himself during the downtime, moved quickly to gather together the blind.

“So I had this great thought!” continued the humanoid puppy, instantly forgetting the Queen’s warning. “What if we give you the sword, you know the one, Briar, and you give us the Stolen Lands? It’s win-win!” This was an idea that Bill had come up with in the wake of being ordered to give up the sword – a way to get “his” weapon back and end the impending crisis in one fell swoop.

Nyrissa’s frown turned into a snarl. “You dare talk to me as an equal?! …wait.” Her demeanor shifted from angry to quizzical in an instant. “I know you. You swore to bring me the sword to me.” She eyed the warpriest’s greatsword, which was clearly not what she was looking for. “Why have you not kept your word?

“I haven’t yet,” replied Orseen. “But I’ll give it to you, as soon as you agree to give us these lands in exchange!”

You will bring the sword Briar to me now, faithless cur, and with no further delays.” And with those words the Queen of Forgotten Time placed a geas/quest on the gnoll.

At that point, Aakif had heard enough and teleported the group back to Stagfell.

So I missed this in quickly reading over Nyrissa’s spells, but geas/quest has a 10 minute casting time. And for good reason, because there’s no save and if you’re prevented from performing the quest you soon take a -12 penalty to all attributes. Oops. Well, I reasoned that Orseen’s previous dream-pledge to Nyrissa had created a bond between the two, that allowed her to place him under that effect much more quickly than normal.

Bad Puppy

Once back home, the Emperor immediately called for priests or potions or something to restore his sight! And the others as well, of course! While the servants were scurrying around, Orseen got really close to Satampra. “So, here’s the thing,” the gnoll explained to his liege, “I really need your half of the key to the chest to the thing that leads to the sword. The Green Lady is totally going to bargain with us once I show it to her. Oh, and I’ll need the password,” he said, looking at Aakif, “and where to find the chest,” he pointed at Kwin, not that the blinded dwarf could see Orseen’s furry finger. “Then we can wrap this whole thing up!”

The others tried to convince Orseen that he was under the Lady’s spell, but he refused to believe them. And when Satampra declined to give up his half of the key, the gnoll started getting pushy and aggressive. So Aakif summoned a cloak of dreams and stood next to the warpriest until Orseen failed a save and fell asleep.

The gnoll came to in the dungeon. “Sorry, buddy,” Satampra told him, “but we gotta lock you up until we can get this curse off of you.”

Once Aakif had diagnosed the warpriest as having been geas‘d, the party struggled with what to do next. There wasn’t really any way around a geas/quest short of some very powerful spells, and Orseen would just waste away if he stayed locked up. The arcanist was capable of casting limited wish, the lowest level spell needed to undo the compulsion, but he didn’t know the spell and didn’t have access to a scroll. Someone floated the idea that killing the gnoll and then raising him might end the effect, but Aakif was not so certain it would work. Bereft of options, they resolved to bring Orseen to the Owl Prince to see if he had the power to remove Nyrissa’s enchantment.

Meanwhile, the council was panicking. The Green Lady had arrived! Their doom was nigh! But… no doom arrived, save for the missing inhabitants of Feywatch. No further First World incursions appeared, and no other towns or hexes came under attack.

However, as rumors of the Feywatch Vanishing spread, those living in and around the Thousand Voices forest fled the region before they, too, disappeared. Pitax, still recovering from the war, became inundated with refugees, and the council rushed to supply aid and fortify the city. But still, no attack came.

Owl’s Well That Ends Well

The Owl Prince was unable to restore Orseen, but he did indicate that Nyrissa’s quest was only possible while the connection between Thousandbreaths and the Castle of Knives remained open. Once the way between worlds was closed, the power of the compulsion would slowly fade, and Orseen would eventually return to normal.

But that wasn’t soon enough for the PCs. They had been trying to reach Thousandbreaths for a year, and now it was right on their doorstep! However, they’d be foolish to go in without their meatshield champion, or with him in his current state.

And so, the day after their meeting with the Owl Prince, Satampra presented the caged warpriest with his heart’s desire: the thorn-wrapped sword known as Briar.

Next: a visit with the Queen!

Kingmaker: Intermission #4, Session 1, Part 2

“The sword, Briar,” said the faerie Owl Prince, his hand outstretched. “Kindly hand it over, and I will consider our business concluded.”

Orseen the gnoll warpriest, the current and very possessive holder of said sword, shrank back in horror. “NO!” he yelled, eyes wide with fear. He quickly shrugged off the custom-made scabbard and harness that held the blade and clutched it tightly to his body before turning his best puppy-gnoll eyes on Satampra the swashbuckler.

The Emperor of Caerelia sighed. He and the others knew the thorn-wrapped sword was important, but not how or why. Certainly it was greatly desired by Nyrissa, aka the Green Lady, a powerful faerie who had searched for the weapon for countless years.

“Do you intend to give it to the Green Lady?” he asked of the Prince. While the Owl Prince had been friendly towards and been willing to aid the kingdom in the past, they did not know where his true loyalties were, or really understand faerie politics at all.

“Hmm,” mused the fey lord, hiding his hand back beneath his feathered cloak. “An interesting proposition. But no. I’ve no desire to defy the will of the Eldest, who hid Briar from Queen Nyrissa so long ago. In fact, I had considered giving it back to them, that they might hide it again.”

“My Lord, if I may ask, to what end?” inquired Aakif the arcanist.

“I might gain a token of esteem from those above my station. But it is hard to say. The Eldest are fickle, and much time has passed since they first sequestered Briar. I know not what they would do with it now; perhaps their feelings towards the Queen of Forgotten Time have changed.”

“Then why take it at all?” bluntly asked Kwin the drunk dwarven cleric.

“Consider that Queen Nyrissa has searched for the blade since before your recorded history. I have heard that she is now aware that Briar has been flushed out of hiding, and that it is in your possession. You are strong warriors, and yet you are mortal. Could you withstand the power of one who once considered herself an equal to the Eldest?”

The Prince’s query hung in the air with a weight that prevented the gathered humans from speaking.

“I judge myself much better suited to keeping Briar safe. Or, if that proves untrue, I could chance to give it back to the Eldest. And in doing so, your frail mortal lives would be spared. Until the Queen’s calamity comes to these lands, anyway.

“So. The blade, if you please.”

The Counter

“Hold up,” commanded Aakif, lost in thought. Then he hastily added a, “Please. My Lord.” The arcanist had actually spent much of the past few months thinking on the problem of protecting Briar from the Green Lady.

“My Prince, if the goal is to keep Briar out of Her hands and keep us safe, I believe that I have a way to do that. If we can bury the blade, make it so that She can’t get it, would that satisfy the terms of your request?”

The Owl Prince considered for a moment and replied, “Perhaps. I would need more information.”

Aakif looked excited. “Of course.” He began to pace, his speech picking up speed as he talked. “There is a spell, Leomund’s secret chest. Do you know of it? With it, we can hide Briar in the Astral and it would be completely irretrievable, even by the strongest known magics. Well, the strongest known mortal magics.”

“Ah, but you would need a focus,” intoned the Prince. “If the Queen obtained that, she could reach the sword. How would you protect that?”

“The token can be warded against common divinations. Yes, those wards are surmountable. What I further propose is this: a chest made of stone, filled with a powerful acid. The focus is magically suspended within. The chest needs a key and a password to be opened; without either, the magic holding the focus disappears and it is destroyed by the acid. If the chest is damaged, same thing. The key can be designed to split into two, such that having one half says nothing of the shape of the other. Satampra and Orseen, our strongest warriors, each hold one half of the key. Only I know the password, as I will have to speak it in crafting the enchantments. We build several such chests, and Kwin hides them all. He, as the strongest willed among us, knows which is the correct one and where it is located.

“It’s a four-part lock. Each one of us would need to be subjugated or compromised in order for the focus to be obtained. I believe that would keep Briar out of the Green Lady’s hands, but the sword would still be available if we needed it in the future. Unless the chest is tampered with, in which case the sword would be lost forever… But that’s an outcome that I think no one truly wants – certainly not Her.”

Orseen whimpered.

The Owl Prince gave a look of grudging respect. “Magister Aakif Raganus, I am impressed by your cleverness. Very well. If you do what you have proposed here tonight, I will consider Satampra’s debt to me discharged.

“But once again, I must urge you to leave these lands. Despite your many accomplishments, you cannot stand before one of Nyrissa’s power. To stay is to die.”

And soon after, the faeries departed, ending the audience.

Aftermath

The councilors were alarmed by the Owl Prince’s warnings, and wanted to take action to fortify the kingdom against whatever was coming, if that was even possible. Citizens were encouraged to report faerie sightings, faerie rings, or any dead magical beasts (the PCs were thinking of how previous incursions were perhaps centered on a dead unicorn and a dead silver dragon). This didn’t sit well in some quarters – Caerelia had always been a place respectful of the fey and the “old ways,” going back to its founding – but the rulers considered it a necessary measure if they were going to avoid being blindsided.

A new town was founded, Feywatch, right outside of the Castle of Knives, the spot where Nyrissa’s realm of Thousandbreaths sometimes intersected with Golarion. An elite garrison armed with cold iron weapons was stationed there, and the place was provided with scrolls of sending in case Nyrissa’s realm were to appear there again.

Time passed, and the panic over an impending invasion slowly receded. For a while, the PCs investigated rumors and stepped through faerie rings, but none of it led to Nyrissa or her realm. They tried teleporting from within the First World (after walking through a faerie ring) to parts of her realm that they had visited before, such as the frozen giant graveyard. But they found that some magic prevented them from doing so. After a few such journeys, one of which took over two months in Golarion even though they had spent just a few hours in the First World, the PCs abandoned their attempts to reach Thousandbreaths.

With fears about the kingdom’s destruction in decline, the rulers came to pursue other interests. Kwin focused on expanding his brewery and concocting the most amazing booze possible. Aakif spent much of his time back on his family lands, investigating the mystery of the ghost dragon. And Satampra and Orseen would journey to the Shadow Realm, where they searched for signs of the banished Eldest known as Count Ranalc, a one-time lover of Nyrissa’s. The pair had many amazing adventures there, but proved unable to find the faerie exile.

And then, one fine day in the late spring of 4721, Stagfell received an urgent sending from Feywatch: “The fey are here! Send aid!”

Next: The Green Lady!

Torg Eternity: Character Generator, Nile Empire Update

A bit behind the times here, but the TOCG character generator for the Torg Eternity RPG has been updated with content from the recent Nile Empire Kickstarter! Also there have been bug fixes, upgrades, you name it. The latest version is v1.6 and can be downloaded for free here. For some reason my installer software doesn’t like this program, so it’s just a zip file. While the program has rudimentary summaries of the game elements, you’ll need the Nile Empire sourcebook (and the Torg Eternity core rulebook) to make the most of this character generator.

I would also like to once again highlight that the data contained within the generator can be customized to suit your home game, or even just to fill in the descriptions for perks, items, etc. with the book text. There’s some Word docs in the install directory that give some starting tips, but I am discussing the topic in much more depth in a series of posts that starts here.

While I realize that it’s been a long time since I posted an update about this particular program here, as it happens I’ve been making changes on a fairly continuous basis since that last post. If you want to keep up-to-date with this program, I encourage you to head over to Ulisses-US’s Torg Eternity forums, specifically this thread. When I make minor changes I generally post them there, and often field requests for new features there as well.

I haven’t been keeping a definite list of fixes and features for this application as I do for the Kingdom Manager, but here’s a partial list of new features since the previously posted update:

  • Added a whole suite of tools for rolling tests and damage and calculating the results. They’re under the new “Tools” menu on the main menu bar.
  • Revamped how money and acquiring items is handled after character creation ends; your character now doesn’t have to worry about tracking wealth. Added a special Requisition window for rolling to see what you can convince your bosses to lend to you for a mission.
  • Added full windows for selecting race and cosm, so you can see the details before choosing.
  • Put in up/down controls for attribute and skill inputs. The controls also work with the mouse wheel if the mouse is hovering over.
  • Attributes are actually customizable in the custom data files, to the point where you could re-create the original Torg attribute spread if you wanted to. You’d have to rewrite all of the other game data to match the new attributes, though, so truth be told this isn’t so useful to most folks. I implemented it because I was toying with adding Perception back in as an attribute as a house rule.
  • Mousing over an attribute will display the racial minimum and maximum.
  • Added a new “Encounter” export option for NPCs, which tries to provide useful summaries for, you guessed it, encounters. Well, combat encounters, anyway.
  • Improved the functionality of the text editing controls in the Add Note window.
  • Revamped how items that are typically associated with other items work (e.g. silencer, laser sight, different kinds of ammo, etc.). Now the items know which other items they’re associated with and transfer their properties over. So if you put a silencer on your pistol, the pistol will note that its damage and range are reduced.
  • When acquiring items, spells, and so forth, the application now differentiates between items that can’t be used because the character doesn’t meet the requirements, and items that are merely contradictory for the character. Contradictory items are still hidden by default, but can be added to your character without fuss.
  • The game data continues to be updated to include errata.

What’s Next

The Aysle kickstarter has already ended and I’ve actually got most of it already implemented! As soon as the books are available for sale I will publish that particular update, along with some new features.

Kingmaker: Intermission #4, Session 1, Part 1

Several months after the defeat of Pitax, a sprite fluttered into the court of Emperor Satampra Zieros of Caerelia to deliver an invitation. The Owl Prince, a local faerie lord who had assisted the PCs on several occasions, was requesting that the Emperor and his entire council to come visit at the usual place and time – just north of where the Shrike and Thorn Rivers met, at midnight, when the moon would next be waxing gibbous.

And so in the early stages of the autumn of 4720, the Emperor and his council – Councilor Orseen the gnoll, Magister Aakif Raganus, High Priest Kwin D’noot, Keeper of the Grove Iofur, Spymaster Mestinous, General Kesten Garess, Marshall Pelagia Medyved, and Grand Diplomat Vendelin Fodorov – rode out to meet the Prince (the Warden was an unnamed NPC at this point, so he or she stayed behind to guard the Empress and the royal children). They came to the hill where the faerie court would appear, and made ready. Soon the sound of approaching music reached their ears, and the Owl Prince and his retinue calmly strolled out from behind a boulder.

The Prince was seven feet tall, with purplish skin, a bald head, and wide antlers that were actually tree branches. His body was completely covered in an owl feather cloak, leaving only his head exposed. He was attended by all manner of tiny fey, who flitted about singing and playing music and pranking one another.

The First Favor

Pleasantries were exchanged and introductions made – many of the council had heard tale of the Prince but had never met him before. Finally it was time to get to business. “Why have you summoned us – all of us – at this time, o Prince?” asked Satampra the swashbuckler, who looked extra-pompous in a ridiculous-looking powdered wig that he had commissioned from Aakif the arcanist.

“Do you recall, Emperor, several passings of the seasons ago, that I performed a favor for you, and you agreed to one in return?” inquired the Owl Prince in his slow, deep voice (said event happened way back during Rivers Run Red). Satampra indicated that he did indeed remember.

“I could ask any favor of you, we agreed, with the stipulation that it could not be an evil act, nor would it involve turning over any of your offspring to us. Have I stated the terms correctly, to your understanding?”

The swashbuckler, now feeling trepidatious, replied, “More or less.”

“The time has come for me to ask you to honor our agreement. What I ask of you is this: for you, your family, and all those you care to save,” the Prince nodded his head to indicate the council, “to leave the Stolen Lands and never return.”

There was an awkward silence.

Finally someone blurted out, “Why?!?”

“Because that is the favor that I have asked? Oh very well.” The Owl Prince sighed. “Let me explain. The day draws near, when these lands will be claimed by the faerie queen that you know as the Green Lady. And when she claims this territory, the mortals living here will come to an end most unkind.

“I have grown fond of you, Emperor, over these past few seasons, and so – my wish is to see you and yours avoid such a fate. Leave these lands and do not come back – not that there will be anything to come back to, once the Green Lady’s plans are complete.”

Aakif the arcanist looked at the faerie lord quizzically. “My Lord, do you know what the Lady’s plans are, then?”

“No, not completely. But do not let that sway your thinking. It is my strong belief is that she will take the Stolen Lands from your world. How that would work exactly, or to what end, I do not know. My power and lore, though considerable, pale in comparison to the Queen’s. In any case, she has absolutely no regard for your kind, and would see you as an infestation that needed to be cleansed. To one of my station, you are akin to… treasured pets, perhaps. To the Queen of Forgotten Time, you and your people would be as vermin, if not less.”

The council circled together to confer. Satampra was unwilling to abandon his subjects to whatever fate awaited them at the hands of the Green Lady. There was talk of evacuating the entire kingdom to Brevoy and Mivon, but everyone considered such an endeavor to be impossible.

“O Great and Mighty Prince of Owls,” spoke the Emperor, “I hear your request but must, quite sorrowfully, refuse. For me to go and leave behind my subjects to face death or worse would be an act of evil, to me. As Emperor, I am responsible for their fates. So I must respectfully decline this favor, as it violates our agreement.”

The Second Favor

The Owl Prince nodded and considered the assembled humans (and dwarf, and elf) for a moment. “I thought you might feel that way. I will withdraw that request and extend another. You have recently come to possess the sword Briar, that the Green Lady has sought for countless ages.” He looked at Orseen the gnoll warpriest, who had been jealously holding onto the sword since its discovery.

“My favor is this:” A purplish hand extended from underneath the Prince’s cloak, palm up. “Give the sword to me.”


DM Aside: I had been thinking for a while now what to do with the Owl Prince’s favor. Originally I was considering that maybe when book 6 is in full swing, the Prince would call on Satampra to surrender to Nyrissa, and then be forced into battle when the PCs refused. That didn’t feel too interesting, though. Of course the players would refuse that, it’s not really a choice at all.

That led to this, the idea of calling in the favor before the blooms begin, and with the aim of “helping” the PCs. Of course they would refuse to walk away, but that refusal of the first favor puts pressure on Satampra’s player to accept the next one – and giving up a magic sword seems like not such a big deal compared to walking away from a throne.

Those who have read Sound of a Thousand Screams know that Briar is rather critical to that adventure. I honestly had no idea what the players would do here (Orseen’s player was absent, and the others weren’t nearly as attached to it), or what I would do if they did decide to give it up.


Next: Briar’s fate!

Kingmaker: War of the River Kings, Post-Mortem

Another enemy kingdom has fallen to the PCs! King Irovetti is dead, Pitax has been annexed, the mysterious thorn-wrapped sword Briar is in hand, and book 5 is concluded.

As adventures go, this one is rather ridiculous, in both good and bad ways. It spends many pages on a tournament the players would be smart to not attend, has a nonsensical assassination plot, and ends in a 1-story “palace” that has exactly one bedroom. It also suffers a bit for being very similar in structure to the previous outing.

In its favor, it has a cast of colorful characters, which goes a long way towards facilitating good gaming experiences. Certainly Irovetti and Avinash Jurrg were antagonists that my PCs loved to hate. It also embraces the gonzo D&Disms that haven’t been seen in this adventure path since the third adventure, only with Even Moar! Walking into Irovetti’s throne room was like walking into a different world for my group. Sure, they had hobnobbed with kobolds and centaurs, but this guy was friends with ogre mages, gargoyles, and weretigers! Oh my!

Let’s get down to the specifics, though.

The Rushlight Tournament

The tourney doesn’t make much sense in the context of the story. I prepped the players for it by having Irovetti befriend them and shower them with flattery beforehand, and they still knew it was a likely trap. Certainly it would be useful if the PCs were aware of the tournament before this adventure, and even better if they had participated in it, so as to make it seem more innocuous (I had meant to do that, but as with many of my intentions, I forgot). But that’s some very long-range planning, and it’s not really the issue.

#1 – Why are the rulers of a kingdom competing in tournaments when none of the other rulers are? I don’t think there’s a particularly good answer for this. Our ruler solved the issue by adopting his vigilante guise when competing, but the expectation is still rather strange. The focus of the event should be on the politics and intrigue with the other River Kingdom rulers, not the actual games. Unfortunately that’s impossible for the published adventure as the previous adventures haven’t set any of that up.

Heck, would the other rulers even attend, or would they send emissaries? Having all the lords of the River Kingdoms gathered in one place seems like a dicey proposition.

Ah, I just realized – Quintessa Maray, the Daggermark spy from Blood for Blood, should have been brought along to the tournament. She could have served as a knowledge base for the players in meeting and interacting with the other River Kingdom parties. Oh well.

#2 – The trap makes no sense, either. Irovetti lures the PCs to the tourney so that he can attack one of their towns while they’re away. When the PCs are 12th level! There’s no way they don’t have teleport, sending, or a host of other means of near-instant transportation and communication. I fixed this by having the attack unfold on two fronts – the town assault and an attack on the other Caerelians after the PCs teleported away.

Whiterose Abbey

Irovetti has this complicated plot where he plants rumors of a super-weapon in hopes of drawing the PCs to Whiterose Abbey, where an assassin awaits them. Only the assassin is a ranger, with a bunch of low-level helpers, and they have absolutely no way to prevent their targets from just leaving. No way to counter invisibility, even (aside from having Scent). Even if the PCs do stick around, the whole group is highly vulnerable to mid-range spells – Gaetane in my game got grappled by black tentacles, then inhaled a stinking cloud, and then was fireballed until dead. And there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it aside from never rolling low.

The whole plot is a tremendous amount of effort expended for a really pitiful follow-through.

The Palace of a Hundred Doors

Irovetti’s palace is very weird. It’s a giant map that has barely anything in it. It’s a palace that’s only one story tall and the vast majority of its space is taken up by tiny 5’x10′ cells. There are no bedrooms save for the king’s, which is hidden. I suppose they were just out of pages in the adventure by this point. “Here’s a map and a couple of encounters. Enjoy!”

Coming Up

I asked the players what goals they had for their characters and the kingdom, assuming that there would be several years of peace. I got some interesting answers! At some point though, Nyrissa’s plan will be put into motion, and Caerelia will never be the same again!

Next: a favor for the fey!

Kingmaker: War of the River Kings, Session 13, Part 2

Having not only survived but actually triumphed against Castruccio Irovetti’s nighttime raid, the PCs naturally wanted to go on the offensive. They rested as best they could, spent a long day wearing holes in the rug of their tent, stood by impatiently while the cleric regained his prayers during “happy hour,” and finally were ready to take action. The group teleported near Pitax and unfurled their flying carpet.

They flew low over the ground as they approached the city walls, then moved swiftly up and over at the point closest to the palace. They descended through a hole in the building’s roof that they had earlier disintegrated – it had not been repaired or even covered up. They stalked the halls, alert for trouble that did not come, aiming for a secret door that they knew of, that led to the balcony of the main hall.

(I don’t recall why they were so certain that Irovetti was in the throne room. I think they might have scried him)

Orseen the gnoll warpriest was the first pass through the secret door, where he was promptly stabbed by an invisible Rod of Razors and dropped into a created acid pit, courtesy of Irovetti and Engelidis the naga!

Aakif the arcanist, under the effects of fly and invisibility, thought to swoop through the doorway, but Irovetti had a permanent see invisibility spell, so the spell-slinger got stabbed with an attack of opportunity. The attack triggered Aakif’s contingency, which created numerous mirror images. For his turn, the arcanist conjured a Quickened glitterdust where he assumed the attack to have come from, and then hit the now-sparkly King of Pitax with a dimensional anchor.

Irovetti attacked again, only hitting once and hitting an image at that. Then he attempted a Quickened blindness, but Aakif saved. Engildis followed that up with a Dazing aggressive thundercloud on the wizard, but he saved again. Satampra the swashbuckler then leaped through the door, cleared the acid pit, kicked off from the banister, landed nimbly in front of the king, and stabbed him with a Vital Strike.

Aakif tossed a Dazing fireball at the naga, and… she failed her save, leaving her dazed for 3 rounds. Then he cast a Quickened true strike. Irovetti unleashed a full attack against the swashbuckler… and hit once. A Quickened suggestion aimed at the damned arcanist went nowhere as Aakif saved again.

Down in the acid pit, Orseen activated his wondrous ebony fly figurine, and had it lift him out.

Then Aakif started to pepper Irovetti with enervates. This is a really effective tactic – there’s no save, just a touch attack – and it rather sucks for the target. After trading some blows with Satampra, who was getting healed by Kwin the dwarven cleric, and having more of his spells do nothing, and accumulating more negative levels, Irovetti saw the writing on the wall and tried to flee.

Thanks to the dimensional anchor, the king couldn’t dimension door out, so he had to hoof it. Luckily, he was hasted! The party gave chase. Orseen charged on his ebony fly and tried to grapple the king, failing horribly. Engelidis came to long enough to hit the group with a chain lightning and some Dazing magic missiles. More spells flew back and forth. But it was clear that the NPCs had no chance. Aakif scored the final blow on the great King Castruccio Irovetti with a lowly barrage of magic missiles. The naga, who was not anchored, disappeared.

All’s Well That Ends Well

And that was the end of the War of the River Kings. In the morning, the rulers of Caerelia stood before the traumatized people of the city with Irovetti’s head in hand, and announced that Pitax, the kingdom, was no more. There was talk of installing their General, an elf ranger NPC who has never actually been “on-screen,” as lord of the city for no discernible reason. Perhaps they thought he deserved a promotion at the end of a successful campaign.

Pitax’s lands were annexed, or at least the hexes on the adventure’s map were. Everything south of there was claimed by Mivon, who had readily joined with their ally Caerelia in attacking Irovetti.

As the land was absorbed into Caerelia, it was discovered that Irovetti had fed an entire town to the wyverns in order to secure their aid in the war. The wyvern matriarch was found and killed, as well as several other threats lurking at the edges of the new territory.

Many years of peace and prosperity followed, and the rulers of Caerelia lived happily ever after…?

End Book 5

Next: musings on book 5.