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Kingmaker: Spinning Backstory into Plot

October 14, 2014

Iofur the druid’s player typed up a couple of pages of backstory prior to our first session, which is way more than anyone else did. Most of it detailed Iofur’s childhood: the character’s parents were bandits in the Stolen Land, albeit peaceful ones. They used non-lethal traps, never killed anyone, and carefully picked their targets. However, one day the tables were turned, and it was they who walked into a trap while trying to ambush a travelling noble. Young Iofur ran and hid, and later made his way to his uncle Joren, who taught him the ways of the druids.

I wanted to do something with that in the game, because I want to encourage and reward that sort of creativity on the players’ part. However, for a long time I was stumped on how to turn that seed into adventure. I was stuck on the idea that the parents were taken because they had been too effective or robbed the wrong people, and non-lethal or no, as bandits they would have been executed. There’s no mystery, no drama, and no plot threads to be had there.

But I still wanted to introduce Iofur’s backstory. The group’s current trip to Restov seemed like a good opportunity to introduce the parents, partly because the party is away from home and partly because at level 5 they haven’t gotten too powerful yet. At higher levels, mysteries become harder to pull off. But I still didn’t know what the mystery was. So I sat down and started asking questions, which turned out to be a good trick to get my mind working.

Why were Iofur’s parents alive? They must have some valuable information.

Where are they now? They are captives or slaves.

Who is their captor? The noble who captured them many years ago. Maybe he’s not what he seems?

Why are they still alive? Obviously, their captor has not gotten what he needs out of them yet. Or perhaps he has, and just enjoys torturing them. Or they are bait; the captor knows that Iofur will be important some day and has held onto them to draw him out and/or blackmail him.

At this point, I looked at what I had, and thought it was serviceable, if a bit random. Then I thought to ask, can I tie this into the overall plot? And that’s when the pieces started to fall into place.

The captor is a servant of Nyrissa, the adventure path’s BBEG. One of her big goals in the Stolen Land is to locate and secure a magic weapon that was hidden by powerful fey in ages past. Many of her pawns in the region are looking for the weapon – something that I meant to highlight in the Stag Lord’s case, but I believe that I forgot about it when the time came – but it’s really important to her, and she probably has other agents tracking down leads. Iofur’s parents know something about the weapon, but they don’t know they know, if you catch my meaning. I haven’t nailed down the details yet. But whatever it is that they’ve seen, it’s enough for a vague divination-type spell to finger them.

So, the captor has the parents, and has been trying to figure out what they know and how to use that to find the weapon. But since neither the parents nor their captor know which piece of information they have is important, or how it’s important, the search is taking years. And the captor, being fey, often gets bored or frustrated and does his own thing for long stretches instead of always chasing the weapon.

Out of all of that, I created “Lord Ivo Tesarik”, a bogeyman shadowdancer 3* (CR 11), who has been posing as a human noble for the past couple of decades. He keeps Iofur’s parents as fearful pets, and will root through their memories from time to time looking for hints of the weapon, but these days he’s mostly content to live a life of luxury. In fact, he’s gotten so into his cover identity that he’s been using his impressive abilities to amass power through blackmail and fear – all in service to Nyrissa’s goals, of course. And to make things more interesting, he will be an ally of the Surtovas, current holders of Brevoy’s throne.

* I gave him class levels as an excuse to jack up his ability scores and give him NPC-level equipment. Originally I waffled on whether to make him a rogue or maybe a monk, but almost a year after I wrote this post I realized that he was a perfect candidate for the Shadowdancer prestige class. The darkness-themed abilities – especially the ability to bring one’s shadow to life (summon shadow) – had a lot of synergy with the bogeyman’s shtick.

So hopefully Ivo will serve as their next target, distracting them from the trolls and emeshing them both in the overarching plot and Brevoy politics. He’s too tough for them to fight head-to-head at the moment, but they might try to undermine him politically in some fashion, or could just try and rescue Iofur’s parents.


Lord Ivo Tesarik

CR 11, XP 12,800
Bogeyman shadowdancer 3
NE Medium fey
Init +11; Senses darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception +16
Aura deepest fear (30 ft., Will DC 27 neg)

Defense
AC 31, touch 31, flat-footed 19 (+9 deflection, +7 dex, +5 dodge) combat expertise & haste
hp 133 (17d6+3d8+60) max 186; fast healing 5 w/target affected by aura
Fort +9, Ref +20 haste, Will +14
Defensive Abilities evasion, uncanny dodge; DR 15/cold iron; SR 21

Offense
Speed 30 ft., 60 ft. haste
Melee claws +15/+15/+15 (1d8+2/19-20) combat expertise & haste

Special Attacks sneak attack +6d6, striking fear (crit or sneak attack steps up fear effect; crit causes shaken if no fear; Will DC 27 neg), fast getaway (can withdraw up to speed as move action after sneak attack)

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 10th; concentration +19)
Constant — detect thoughts (Will DC 20), tongues
At will — darkness, gaseous form, ghost sound (Will DC 18), invisibility, suggestion (Will DC 20)
3/day — crushing despair (Will DC 21), hold person (Will DC 20), invisibility, quickened phantasmal killer (Will/Fort DC 22)
1/day — nightmare (Will DC 22), silent image (Will DC 20)

Statistics
Str 14, Dex 24, Con 16, Int 13, Wis 16, Cha 29
Base Atk +10; CMB +10 combat expertise & haste; CMD 43 combat expertise & haste

Feats Combat Expertise (-3 hit/+3 AC, included), Combat Reflexes (8/round), Mobility, Spring Attack, Surprise Maneuver (+6 CMB when target could be sneak attacked)
Skills Acrobatics +20 (+32 to jump), Bluff +22, Climb +15, Diplomacy +20, Disguise +19, Escape Artist +25, Intimidate +33, Knowledge (geography) +8, Knowledge (history) +6, Knowledge (local) +8, Knowledge (nobles) +6, Perception +16, Perform (dance) +14, Sleight of Hand +20, Stealth +29, Swim +15, Use Magic Device +22
Languages Aklo, Common, Sylvan

Gear potion of cure serious wounds, potion of fly, wand of dispel magic (CL 10th, 10 charges), wand of undetectable alignment (13 charges), boots of speed, hat of disguise

Special Abilities
Deepest Fear (30 feet, DC 27) (Su) Foes ending turn in aura are shaken until out of range (Will neg).

Striking Fear (DC 27) (Su) Crit/sneak attack worsens fear 1 category (Will neg). Crit forces reroll vs aura.

Terrible Rejuvenation (Su) Gain fast healing 5 when creature in aura is affected by a fear effect.

Ivo’s Shadow

NE Medium undead (incorporeal)
Init +2; Senses darkvision 60 ft., Perception +8

Defense
AC 15, touch 15, flat-footed 12 (+2 deflection, +2 dex, +1 dodge)
hp 93 (3d8+6)
Fort +8, Ref +14, Will +12, +18 vs. channeled positive energy
Defensive Abilities incorporeal; Immune undead traits

Offense
Speed fly 40 ft. (good)
Melee incorporeal touch +12 (1d6 Strength damage)

Statistics
Str -, Dex 14, Con -, Int 6, Wis 12, Cha 15
Base Atk +10; CMB +12; CMD 17

Skills Fly +11, Perception +8, Stealth +8 (+12 dim light, +4 bright light)

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9 Comments
  1. Pinkius permalink

    15 dr should be enough, youch.
    dc 27 fear is pretty tough, especially with no paladin, when does ivo’s sneak attack activate though? Can shadow dancers flank with their shadows? Is that the whole point of shadow dancing?

    • To be honest, I never really understood what was the point of Shadowdancers, aside from a 1-level dip to get Hide in Plain Sight. 🙂 But yeah, I don’t see why you couldn’t flank with the shadow, which in this case makes a rogue-like BBEG possible. With HiPS and his Stealth, though, he doesn’t really need to flank – he can attack and use spring attack (or the fast getaway rogue talent) to hide again. The shadow can chase after the spell casters in that case. Or if he does flank and get off a full attack, that’s a potential 3d8+18d6+6 damage (if all three attacks hit – 82.5 avg), which should be enough to take out anyone that’s not the barbarian.

      The fear DC is high thanks to wonky 3e/PF math, but that just means it will cause the group trouble the first time, and the next they’ll come back with remove fear in place.

  2. Pinkius permalink

    I think you’ll be disappointed with other provided boss-like monsters in the AP though if you bust out something like this.

    • Hah, too late. 😀 See my remarks about the owlbear in the last post, which I had already beefed up compared to the published version.

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