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Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red, Session 6

July 31, 2014

dogs-playing-dndWe actually managed to get together for a game! Huzzah! And on top of that, we had the whole gang present for the first time in a long time. Now which die do I roll again???

When we last left our intrepid rulers, refugees were trickling into their land from the south, spreading tales of murderous trolls. Also, an infamous warg was gorging himself on the new influx of settlers and merchants. AND a notoriously large and angry turtle had chased a local fisherman away from his fishing spot.

The group was initially set on going after the trolls first, but after realizing that they were almost level 5, they thought it might be best to deal with the closer threats first…

Warg! What Are They Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

Satampra the rogue came up with a plan to disguise the group as merchants (and cargo) in order to lure the warg, known as Howl-of-the-North-Wind, into a trap. They commandeered a wagon and Satampra rigged the hitch so that he could quickly separate it from the wagon when the horses inevitably bolted. Satampra and Mestinous the elven wizard sat up front with heavy cloaks hiding their weapons. Everyone else hid under a tarp in the back.

Rivers Run Red 6aThey crossed the Shrike River and drove the wagon to the east, where Howl-of-the-North-Wind was last spotted. On their second day of combing the hills and valleys, they spied a murder of crows fighting over some bodies. The crows scattered and loudly cawed at the party in protest as they were shooed away, revealing the corpses of a man and a horse, both mostly eaten. Wolf tracks were all around.

On the man’s corpse, they found some coin and a sheaf of letters. One of them was addressed to Iofur the druid, sent by Sojana Varn, the daughter of Maegar Varn. Maegar is ruler of Varnhold, Caerelia’s neighbor to the east. Iofur and Sojana had talked at length back in Restov, and she was writing to him now to request an official visit as a representative of Varnhold.

Iofur and Salar the halfling ranger set out to track the wolves, while Travaris the cleric and Boliden the barbarian remained hidden in the wagon. As the sun began to set over the hillsides, the hunters realized they had turned into the hunted. There were several wolves coming up around both sides of the wagon.

Mestinous decided to get things started by hitting one wolf with a magic missile spell, and then shed his cloak and jumped off the wagon – only to come face-to-face with a large and imposing warg – Howl himself! Travaris leaped up and commanded Howl to “run!” Despite the beast’s rather impressive Will save (I had built him as a mythical wolf instead of a winter wolf as the 6-person conversion suggested), I rolled poorly, and the pack leader took off running. Sigh.

While the rest of the group dealt with the normal wolves in the pack, Mestinous enlarged Boliden, and Travaris blessed the party and prayed for Boliden to have bull’s strength (raising his Strength to 30). Howl came charging back, leaping at the giant barbarian, and… missed. Sigh^2. He managed to get one bite in on Satampra before dying, but a couple of flubbed die rolls at key moments really neutered my fearsome warg.

With the threat removed, the adventurers piled back into the wagon and headed home to display the beast’s corpse for all to see.

“You’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat!”

Rivers Run Red 6bNext on their hit list was Old Crackjaw, a giant cantankerous snapping turtle that had taken up residence in the eastern part of Lake Tuskwater. The council got on their boat and sailed over to the secluded pool where the fisherman had seen the turtle.

As they neared the pool, their boat shuddered and there was a terrible sound of splintering wood! Old Crackjaw was below them, and had bitten a hole in the bottom of the boat! Boliden grabbed the oars and started rowing the vessel to the nearby shore, only have the turtle snap one of the oars in half. Satampra tried to plug the hole while their nameless NPC captain attempted to sail them to safety. Mestinous and Iofur started summoning water elementals, and Salar and his thylacine companion bravely leapt into the water. Boliden soon followed.

Unfortunately, they found Crackjaw to be a dangerous foe in his own element. Their weapons slid off of his shell, and the water blunted the force of Boliden’s blows. The water elementals also had trouble hurting the turtle through its armor. I briefly considered having Crackjaw sunder Boliden’s axe, but didn’t want to bother looking up its hardness or how many hit points it had, so the turtle bit him instead. The first such hit caused the brave General to turn tail and swim for the boat. A second hit from an opportunity attack left him barely conscious.

(It was around this time, when things looked grim and morale was low, that Mestinous’ player’s girlfriend – who is not a gamer – walked into the room and said, “Did you make [Boliden’s player] big? Isn’t that what you do? You make him big and he kicks ass?” But they had not enlarged the barbarian this time. Not that it would have helped much, I don’t think)

Mestinous pulled out his special magic missile wand that the party had bought back in Restov (it shoots 5 missiles) and fired it repeatedly at the giant turtle. Crackjaw started to run out of hit points as a result, and decided to flee, but Salar connected with his opportunity attack and knocked the beast out. Victory!

Save for Satampra, the council considered the boat a lost cause, but the Baron was determined to save it. They fished the pieces out of the turtle and the water, and in the morning Travaris prayed over the boat and made it whole again. They sailed back to claim their reward, a ring of feather falling, which they spent considerable time fighting over. In the end, Travaris received the ring, and used it to jump off of one of their fort’s towers, over and over and over again. The strange sight of their High Priest repeatedly jumping off of a tower and floating to the ground was enough to gather a crowd at the base of the hill. “No wonder this place is going to the Hells,” said one onlooker to another.

Witchy Woman

With those threats taken care of, the council at last set out to track down those marauding trolls. They rode out from Stagfell on horseback, crossed the Skunk River, and headed south along the shore of Lake Tuskwater.

Rivers Run Red 6cThey didn’t find much south of the river, until they came upon a ramshackle shack, squatting atop a squat hill, surrounded by marsh. Smoke rose from the chimney, so it appeared that someone was home. The hill was surrounded by a wooden fence with an iron bell by the gate. A scarecrow with a carved pumpkin head was propped up in the yard, and another carved pumpkin sat near the hut’s closed door.

The group rang the bell, and waited. Nothing. They called out repeatedly. Nothing. The adventure said there was a 70% chance that the Old Beldame was home, and chance had dictated that she was not. So they opened the gate and started walking up the hill, with Satampra and Salar in the lead. Flames appeared in the scarecrow’s pumpkin head, and its head turned to follow their movements. This was so unnerving that several party members were frozen in place, and did not move even as the scarecrow hopped down from its perch and stiffly made its way over to Satampra. Then it began to whip the Baron with its branch-like arms! Fire also sprouted from the jack-o-lantern by the door, and it hopped over to gnaw on Salar. Instead of adding the Advanced template or HD to the scarecrow to account for having 6 PCs, I opted to include a second combatant – an animated jack-o-lantern. Economy of actions and all of that – I’d rather have more foes than a tougher single foe, if it makes sense for the encounter. It didn’t work out so great in this case, though.

Satampra went from being fascinated by the scarecrow’s gaze to being filled with fear after being lashed by its arms. Boliden was made big and started to chop up the wooden man, but it was Mestinous’ flaming sphere that really put the hurt on it. As a construct, its saves were awful and it was vulnerable to fire. Soon it was kindling.

The jack-o-lantern did absolutely nothing – I kept rolling low single digits for its attack rolls. It was so ineffective that Salar claimed he wasn’t sure that it was trying to hurt him. They quickly smashed the animated pumpkin.

With no immediate threat, Mestinous contemplated what to do with his newly summoned burning sphere. “Should I burn the hut down?” he asked the group. No… maybe we should see what’s inside first… Reluctantly, he dismissed his spell and the party investigated the house. Inside there was a cot, and shelves and tables full of alchemical and arcane equipment. Herbs and animal bones hung from the rafters. A cauldron was also suspended from the ceiling and full of a bubbling liquid. Salar tentatively sampled the cauldron’s contents, and found them to be… tasty!

Travaris recalled that they had heard a rumor about a swamp witch… how did it go again? Oh yeah: “A hag known as the Swamp Witch lives in a marsh on the northwest shore of the Tuskwater. She consorts with demons and steals children, boiling them for stew in her magic cauldron.” Salar spat. “I just ate children soup!” He started to retch. But there are no indications that children or their corpses had ever been there. “Maybe it’s just the stock for children soup,” offered Satampra.

They didn’t find much of any immediate value, although Mestinous pocketed some spell components just for the hell of it. They departed and continued to explore the area.

Towards the end of the day, they spotted an elderly woman leaning on a staff walking in the direction of the hut. They called out to her, but she did not respond, so Salar rode up on his pony and caught her attention. The woman’s skin had a greenish cast, and her white hair was long and stringy. “Eh? What do you want, boy?” she demanded of the halfling. Salar affirmed that she was the owner of the hut, and profusely apologized to her for destroying her scarecrow and pumpkin. She angrily cursed Salar and proceeded to weakly smack him with her staff.

The rest of the party rode up and asked her about demon consorting and child eating. She was horrified – why did they want to consort with demons and eat children?!? She was in service to nature spirits, not demons, and had no taste for kids. Satampra offered restitution for the loss of her guardians, but since they didn’t have any enchanted pumpkins or shadow wood, she was not terribly impressed by the offer. Ah, but what they could do was go across the lake to this particular muddy hole, and pick some black rattlecaps for her! That would help her nicely. The PCs also inquired if she knew Bokken, but she did not. “Is he the one who lives in a tree?” she asked. “That one is not right in the head.”

They rode with her back to her hovel. Concerned that she was left without any guardians, Salar graciously offered up his thylacine companion to watch over her, and she accepted. The halfling and his furry friend hugged and parted ways, and the council rode south to put an end to those damn trolls.

Next: The lights of Candlemere!

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