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Kingmaker: Stolen Land, Post-Mortem

April 1, 2014

Kingmaker 1So, book 1 of Kingmaker is over. Overall, I thought it went pretty well. I think the adventure on its own is pretty good, although there are some structural issues with the “hexplore” format, and I feel that the setting could be more dynamic. Other issues stem from using 3e/Pathfinder, which is far from my favorite iteration of D&D.

Since there were 6 PCs, I used the 6-player conversion from the Paizo Kingmaker board. Thanks to Alexander Kilcoyne for doing the hard work in writing that up. I still tweaked some things here and there, but having that foundation was a big help.

Structurally, the sandbox-y nature of the adventure means that there will generally be only one encounter a day, which then becomes trivial because the PCs can blow everything to defeat it. The players still have fun, so I guess it’s not a huge problem, but I would like random encounters (aside from ones that are way above the party’s level) to be a genuine challenge, and not just an XP pinata. I’m not sure what, if anything, I should do to address this.

The world presented is also very static, with the bandits just sitting in their fort, waiting for the PCs to come and murder them. I felt that I addressed this pretty well. The bandits tracked down and ambushed the PCs, tried to burn down Oleg’s, sent out expeditions to find the PCs, and the Stag Lord himself would have hunted them down if they hadn’t attacked the fort when they did. This is a problem in future chapters, as well. Most of the books in Kingmaker start with a bang (the bandits demanding tribute from Oleg’s, for example), and then everything after that is frozen in amber, waiting for the PCs to stumble upon them. A proper sandbox should feel more like a living, breathing, world, I think.

As far as Pathfinder goes, eh. It is what it is. Having 6 players only makes the action economy worse, unfortunately. I give all named foes maximum hit points, and they still only get 1-2 actions before dying. Maybe I should start applying the Advanced template to named foes as well…

Pitfalls

The mite lair is really tough, especially for 1st-level PCs. I didn’t quite get that when I decided to upgrade the equipment of the Advanced mites and Grabbles, and turn Grabbles into a mounted combat specialist. The PCs were actually 2nd level by the time they ran into Grabbles, but they couldn’t hit him (because I gave him armor & a shield) and they couldn’t hit the giant tick (because he could negate their hits with a Ride check). It’s easy to look at the CR guidelines and forget they’re not an exact formula; it’s the final numbers that determine the actual challenge level, not what the CR says.

DM Tip: The encounter level of every encounter in the mite lair should probably be considered to be 1 higher than what’s in the book, because of the -2 to hit for Medium-sized PCs. Unless the party is all shorties. Also, remember that the PCs are probably low level at this point, and possibly don’t have all the combat feats yet that they will need to be truly effective.

I kept losing track of background events, which is a problem I often have when running games. At the start, I forgot that Kesten and Jhod were supposed to show up at Oleg’s right after the PCs, which resulted in them spending 5 days fortifying the trading post and debating if it was safe to leave it or not to pursue the bandits. I was constantly forgetting to prank them with the faeries. And I created a new named bandit to stalk and ambush them, and then promptly forgot to do anything with him for several sessions. I need to organize a bit better so this sort of thing doesn’t happen going forward.

Hm, I guess that’s it. Not bad! I feel like this chapter, and the AP as a whole, gives a decent framework for building some great adventures. But the DM definitely needs to do some work to bring the adventure to life.

Coming Up

I was inspired by this thread on the Paizo boards to make the players get their hands dirty for their initial investment. I am guessing that they will (as players always do, in my experience) angle for maximum autonomy even if that means less Build Points. But hopefully I can get them to hitch their wagons to some outside players, which will hopefully spawn future plot seeds. I want to make the politics of running the kingdom a big part of the experience, and not just an exercise in spreadsheets and kingdom checks. And to do that, they need to have solid ties to the setting; they need political alliances and enemies.

Next: book 2 begins!

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8 Comments
  1. Pinkius permalink

    It seems like you did a great job of getting your players interested in the plot at hand, and left some nice hooks. Looking forward, I think the toughest encounters after the mite pit our party struggled with were:

    The Wight entombed just east of nettles crossing, because we weren’t prepared for negative levels.

    The Cyclops Lich + his Antipaladin champion, we had to abandon a party member to his clutches and return the next day, wherein we fought them separately (Plus a dominated party member) because our GM is nice.

    After we claimed the Lich’s horde, we became exponentially more powerful, because wealth by level.
    We don’t find money anymore

    • Ah, it sounds like your DM was using a 6 player conversion as well – the cyclops graveknight antipaladin isn’t in the adventure but seems like a popular fan addition. The graveknight + lich does look like a crazy dangerous encounter, but I have learned that I frequently underestimate what PC groups are able to handle. Like I think I’m going to slaughter them, and they destroy everything with minimal damage.

      That was pretty nice of your DM, since the lich had some brain-eating power. 🙂

      You don’t find money anymore?

      • Pinkius permalink

        Okay, so we’re in book 6 now right? Level 15, my character has 430, 314.61 gp wealth + an artifact sword

        That’s character wealth of a level 17th character. Edgar hasn’t gotten much loot in a while, and tips informants generously.

        We blame the wizard, because he crafts magic items for everyone constantly; we can sell things for half price, and then get them crafted onto our current gear for a bit extra, redo our weapon enchantments basically for free, and if we’re foolishly given gold – convert it into magic items worth twice as much.

        All it costs is time, and in Kingmaker, you have a fair bit of it, like, years.
        Because of this, we don’t find money anymore.

      • Pinkius permalink

        Don’t forget that if the npcs decided to play smart they very well COULD slaughter the party.
        Potions are effective if used properly (our gm constantly forgot about them), and when camping out the person on guard doesn’t always have a good perception score.

  2. Pinkius permalink

    By the by, have you noticed you can’t reply to a comment chain past 3?
    For example, I comment, you reply, then I reply, and there’s no option to reply further
    😕

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  1. Kingmaker: Stolen Land, Session 14, Part 2 | Daddy DM

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