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Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red, Session 3

May 7, 2014

admiral-ackbar

It was the start of Neth (November) and the air was crisp and cool. Winter would be upon Caerelia soon, and Iofur the druid was busy ensuring the fledgling kingdom’s food supplies. Meanwhile, Salar the halfling ranger had come down with a serious illness, and was bed-ridden for a few weeks. (i.e. both players were not able to make this session) The remaining leaders decided to get the whole rulership thing out of the way first, before they got back to the fun stuff.

They claimed the river crossing upstream from the capital of Stagfell, and ordered the construction of roads and farms in that region. In the capital, they built a shrine to Pharasma, fulfilling part of their obligation to the church. They were also approached by Loy and Latricia Rezbin, well-to-do merchants who wanted to found a settlement at the ford that a trio of tatzylwyrms had once called home (before they were slain by the PCs). They were asking for aid in getting their new colony of Tatzylford up and running, and in return promised to join Caerelia when its borders reached the town. The leaders were unusually generous, giving the Rezbins 3 BP to start their venture. Originally this would have been a “plague” event, but I replaced it with the Rezbins’ plea as per the instructions in the adventure.

They also heard rumors of a green dragon somewhere in the Narlmarches.

Caerelia after month 2:

Size: 3; Cities: 1; Control DC: 24

Economy: +17; Loyalty: +13; Stability: +18

Unrest: 0; BP: 35; Consumption: 3

No Place Like Gnome

Rivers Run Red 2aWith that out of the way, the 4 remaining PCs struck out west, following the Skunk River upstream. Soon the trees became thicker, and they found themselves passing out of the Kamelands and into the Narlmarches.

Shortly after entering the forest, they heard a great commotion ahead of them. A cart with 2 ponies attached was stuck in the middle of the Skunk River, and was in danger of being swept away by the current! Many gnomes rushed and swam about in a panic, trying to get it unstuck before disaster struck, while the lead gnome shouted conflicting orders from atop a large rock. Satampra the rogue called out if they needed help, and while most of the gnomes cried, “yes!” their leader said, “No! We can handle this on our own!” So they sat and smugly watched the river tug at the cart as the gnomes alternatively begged them to help and begged their boss to let them help.

Mestinous the elven wizard couldn’t stand the begging and swam out to the wagon. He managed to get the ponies unfastened so that they could swim to shore, and tried to figure out how he could possibly move the loaded cart. His actions shamed the others into acting, and they too swam out. With scant time remaining, they tried pushing the cart out of the river, to no effect. Then Boliden the barbarian got angry, and rolled a 20 on his Strength check, and pretty much pushed the cart to shore on his own. Unfortunately, Travaris the cleric lost his footing and started to get swept away, but Boliden dove back in, swam after him, and pulled him to safety.

The gnomes cheered! Their leader introduced himself as Jubilost Narthropple, a wealthy explorer and mapmaker. They had been attacked by kobolds, and while they had fought off the little buggers, the ponies got scared and dragged the cart into the river. While Jubilost was grateful, he wasn’t fawning, and that annoyed Satampra and Travaris, who wanted nothing more to do with him. Satampra was also bothered when Jubilost revealed that he was looking for an ancient dwarven outpost, because Satampra felt that whatever loot was in the outpost was rightfully the party’s. But Mestinous persisted in trying to make nice – someone had to, without Salar there – and they got him to agree to sell them his maps for 4,000 gp. Well, that was a non-starter as well. Eventually they got him to talk a bit about some of his past adventures, particularly the haunted Candlemere Tower, and they got him to trade the location of the tower for the location of the hidden Temple of the Elk. And so, the groups parted on decent terms, and the rulers finished exploring the area.

Fey-Friendly

Rivers Run Red 2bThey continued west, still following the river deeper into the forest. In mid-morning, they came upon an altercation between some woodsmen and a nixie, a small water faerie. The loggers had felled several coachwood trees that had lived next to the nixie’s pool for several centuries. In her anger, the nixie had charmed a couple of the men and was holding them hostage. The leader of the loggers, a man named Corax, wanted his men back along with the lumber they had harvested. The two sides were close to attacking one another when the party arrived.

Mestinous once again stepped forward and tried to play peace-maker. Corax wanted his men freed, and either wanted the lumber, or the location of another coachwood grove that was not home to any “damnable faeries!” The nixie didn’t want the humans to take the wood, and also wanted her trees restored. The group wasn’t sure how that was possible, and the nixie didn’t know either, but she said there was a dryad – a tree spirit – who lived to the west; perhaps she could help with that. The group didn’t know about any other coachwood groves, but they thought that the dryad could help with that, too. And so they promptly set out west, asking the two to hold tight until they got back.

After a few hours, they found the dryad’s tree, and the dryad herself – a beautiful woman wearing clothes made from autumn leaves – was kneeling beside it, sobbing. When they asked what was wrong, she told them of an malignant tree-monster to the southeast that consumed all life and relished the taste of dryads. She feared for the life of her tree, and thus for her own life, but was not able to leave her tree behind. If they could slay the tree for her, she would shower them with rewards. The party asked her if she could also re-grow the nixie’s trees, and she said that she could. But not until the evil scythe tree was no more.

And then Travaris dropped all pretense of being Chaotic Good, his supposed alignment. I’ve played with this player in a few campaigns now, and his characters don’t change much in personality. As a result, when he came to this game with a CG cleric, I was skeptical. And several times I’ve told him that torture, burning down people’s houses, and similar acts were not really the actions of a “good” person in D&D-land. After hearing of the dryad’s plight, his first thought was to kill a few birds with one tree: namely, to tell the loggers that there’s a coachwood grove where the scythe tree is. Let the tree kill them all, and then finish the tree off. I told him to just go ahead and change his alignment to CN, which incidentally meant every character present for the session was Chaotic Neutral (Mestinous was originally TN, but decided to change to CN around the time the kingdom stuff got underway). Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The rest of the group was down with that plan, although they worried about the consequences of any of the woodsmen not getting eaten by the scythe tree. But they set that aside and rode back to the nixie’s pool. They explained that there was a coachwood grove to the southwest and offered to lead the men there. They also promised the nixie that they would restore her trees once they returned. She released the charmed loggers from her spell, and the large group set off to find some wood.

War Crimes and Misdemeanors

Rivers Run Red 2cAfter a few more hours, sunset was approaching, and their environs took on a more sinister tone. The plants and trees were warped and withered, and there was a faint whiff of decay in the air. Corax wondered aloud how there could be a healthy grove nearby, but Satampra said, trust us, you will get what you want. But when they finally came to a large clearing dominated by a foul-looking tree and littered with bones, Corax knew that it was all a trick. He pointed his crossbow at Satampra and yelled out, “What is your game, villain?!” Satampra shrugged and said that they were just going where the dryad said to go, but before Corax could respond, the tree came to life. Three blade-like branches swooped down, swiftly killing three of the woodsmen! And what had looked like a long vertical scar in the tree opened up, revealing a toothy maw! “It’s a trap!” Corax cried, his eyes filled with terror.

Corax spun and sunk a crossbow bolt deep into the trunk of the tree, and his men rushed forward with their axes, eager to cut it down. But another was killed as they ran forward, and their axes had little effect on the monstrous plant. Satampra and Boliden chucked vials of alchemist’s fire at the thing, while Mestinous summoned a flaming sphere. The tree burned, but continued to lash out, cutting the loggers down like they were grass.

Seeing the terrible toll that the scythe tree was inflicting on his men, Corax called for a retreat, and he and his one remaining compatriot started to run away… until Travaris spoke a prayer of holding and paralyzed Corax before he could get away. The rest of the group focused their efforts on the tree, with Mestinous enlarging the barbarian and using his new wand of uber-magic missile, while Satampra went through his supply of alchemical fire. The giant barbarian hacked at the tree with his greataxe, trading blows with the thing until it eventually fell.

But meanwhile, Travaris had run over to Corax, presumably to coup de grace him, when the man broke free of the hold person prayer. Before Corax could act, however, Mestinous summoned a pit beneath him. Corax jumped out of the way, but then Travaris pushed him in, and he fell. On his next turn, he quickly climbed out, vowing to rip out Travaris’ throat as he topped the pit’s edge. Boliden rushed up and wounded Corax with his axe while Satampra dithered – he didn’t really want to kill the guy, but didn’t see another way out of the unfortunate situation. That’s when I said, “This is probably how war crimes happen,” although Boliden’s player later likened it more to a Fargo-type situation, where selfish deeds spiral out of control.

Corax drew his axe and chopped Travaris before he was brought down by Boliden and Mestinous, who had run up to unleash a couple of burning hands spells. Once Corax went down, the group chased after the remaining woodsman, who had fled deeper into the forest. They found him not too far off, out of breath and unaware of what had happened to his boss. They spun him a bullshit story of how brave Corax had died fighting the evil tree, and Satampra quickly rode back to the scene of the crime(s) to make it look like that is what had happened. The logger, desperate to make some sense of the horror he had just witnessed, bought their tall tale and followed Boliden back to the bone-strewn clearing.

“My friends,” the woodsman lamented, “These brave men. They deserve a proper burial. How am I to carry all of their bodies back home?” “Now I feel awful,” remarked Boliden’s player in response. There were 8 bodies to move, and the group, now feeling some small bit of remorse for their part in the slaughter, offered to build stretchers or a sled for the bodies, and also offered to have their horses drag the corpses back to civilization. Travaris additionally gave the man 200 gp for burials and money for the widows and children. The logger glumly thanked them for all of their help, not realizing that what happened had pretty much been their plan all along. Well, the group had actually hoped that all of the loggers would get killed…

A search of the clearing turned up some coins, gems, a silver ring, and a dark robe. The robe was magic, and Mestinous quickly said, “I like robes! I put it on!” Once he had donned it, he could suddenly see that it was embroidered with skeletons and zombies. He was intrigued! He started to examine the robe in earnest, at which point he noticed that it was really… itchy. Like it was full of fleas or something. Soon he realized that although the robe looked like a robe of bones, it was actually a cursed robe of vermin. While he wore it – and he couldn’t take it off – it would disrupt his actions and his spellcasting. Mestinous’ player wasn’t thrilled but, he said, “That’s D&D for you!”

Next: the trek home.

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10 Comments
  1. Pinkius permalink

    Ah, Edgar wasn’t with the party while exploring the scythe tree hex. But he had a sort of mexican hold off with the loggers and neiad. Edgar doesn’t like Fae, they glued him to his bedroll once, and as a martial character he strongly opposes mind-control, but he’s lawful and these loggers clearly didn’t get permission for their logging from the area’s residents. At the time Edgar was the Ruler of the kingdom, and nobody else in the party appeared interested in solving the dispute for him.

    So what he did, was pull out his bow and state the next person to piss him off was getting shot. Corax took offense, and thus was the first to get shot at, I say AT because Edgar whiffed the attack roll, twice.

    Then Corax ordered his men to fight us while he fell back to drink some buffing potions.

    This was short lived because Edgar was still using mounted combat, and rode all the way around the small army of loggers, to nonlethal Corax with his MELEE weapon, which A) is much more likely to hit because he had focus and a +4 or 5 strength mod at the time. and B) got a damage bonus from challenge.

    Edgar then demanded his surrender, and Corax decided he didn’t want to die, which was a first! (maybe second, does a single bandit count?) Normally when Edgar threatened people they fought to the death. Then we settled down the neiad, I forget how, and the fae offered to watch the area for us.

    Of course then Corax went back to town and stirred up trouble with the help of a foreign bard, so it wasn’t all roses.

    • Ah, good old Grigori the bard… He will show up in year 2, probably. Can’t wait for that one. I like the idea of him using NPCs the party had wronged in the past. Perhaps he will track down the remaining woodsman and deduce what really happened on that chilly November day!

      • Pinkius permalink

        He was bad mouthing us in a bar, but our kingdom was/is lawful good, so punching him in the mouth would have been looked down upon. So instead I drafted myself a warrant, went to the inn he was staying at, dug through his possessions for incriminating evidence and brought him before a court.

      • Pinkius permalink

        PS. I was the court

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