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Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red, Session 17, Part 1

January 25, 2015

Power Nap

gandalf_swordThe armies arrayed against Caerelia are crushing Mestinous’ compatriots beneath their vastly superior numbers. His companions cry out for help before they are overwhelmed, but the elven wizard quickly gauges the odds and sees no hope of success. He retreats to higher ground, using his summoned minions to screen while blasting those foes that get too close with his wands.

At the hilltop, Mestinous summons more elemental beings to protect himself, and then proceeds to cut loose. Arcane energies are channeled through his slim elven blade, resulting in explosions that rip the enemy formations apart. Balls of fire chase down those that would do him harm. Sheets of flame spring up from the ground, surrounding his foes and cooking them within their armor. Burning meteors plummet from the sky and crash into the earth, scattering dirt and broken bodies where they land.

And yet, still they come. There is seemingly no end to their numbers or their tenacity. But the wizard knows that there is an end to his spellpower, and he can see it fast approaching. Fear starts to clutch at the corners of his brain. Will I be overwhelmed? Is this the end?

And then she suddenly appears by the elf’s side, the most beautiful and perfect elf woman in existence, clad in green dragonscale armor and wielding a mystic staff of power. She looks at Mestinous with eyes filled with desire, and gifts him with an all-too-brief smile that restores his spirit. Then she turns to the fight, and summons walls of thorns and blasts of hurricane winds to beat back the encroaching enemies.

Mestinous looks down at his sword and is not surprised to see that it has changed into an altogether different weapon. The blade that he now holds is covered in blazing sigils and wrapped in thorns. The thorns wind all the way past the grip, where they tear into the wizard’s palm, and down to the pommel. But he takes no heed of the pain. He feels spells that he had already expended rush back into his mind, along with newer, even more powerful magics. His brain is bursting with arcane power beyond his wildest dreams.

Standing back to back with his paramour, Mestinous faces those intent on destroying him and channels his newfound power through this strange new sword. Streams of flame erupt from the blade, rendering the nearest ranks of foes down to bones and ash. Fiery beings are gated in from other worlds and tear through the soldiers with burning claws. The ground rips open and boiling magma pours out to disintegrate all it touches. Soon their dominance over the field of battle is complete, and the remnants of the opposing forces flee.

Atop his hill, surrounded by smoke and flames and bodies and blood, Mestinous pulls his savior close and kisses her lustily. She kisses him back and, it turn, playfully bites at his neck and ear. Into his ear she whispers, “The sword! Find the sword and its power will-”

-and Mestinous awoke with a start, as he always did when the dream reached that point. Over the summer, these visions of lust and power had only continued and intensified. He now saw this stunning elven woman out of the corner of his eye as he walked around Stagfell. His wife, Tamara, seemed ugly and boring to him in comparison. Even his magic, which used to bring him so much joy, seemed beneath him when measured against the power that he wielded in the fantasy. Mestinous held up his hand and examined the magic ring on his finger, as he had done so many times these past few months. It was woven from the green hair of a faerie, bound in impossibly delicate gold wire, and appeared to hold nothing more than a minor enchantment of protection. But it was clearly so much more. Boliden the barbarian had worn the ring beforehand, and had given it to Mestinous in order to determine if it was the source of the Tiger Lord’s very similar hallucinations. And before Boliden, the bandit leader known as the Stag Lord had worn it. The Stag Lord had been a drunk… was he driven into a bottle by the effects of the ring? Was it cursed in some manner?

As he did almost every morning after having one of the dreams, Mestinous contemplated taking off the ring. His fingers hovered near it, ready to pluck it off of his other hand. But then he decided against it. More research was warranted, he reasoned. Besides, when he imagined life without it, it seemed so unbearably gray and drab.

Catching Up

The group had run several kingdom turns in a row as they sought to get their kingdom of Caerelia back on its feet again. At the end of the previous session, I had teased them with the savage slaughter of livestock and townsfolk. But when we started this session, I remembered that there were a few notes that I wanted to hit during the party’s downtime, such as Mestinous’ continued dreams.

Note #2 was the arrival in Stagfell of exorcists, crusaders, and undead hunters in service to the goddess Pharasma. The council’s seat of power – the Stag Lord’s fort – sits upon a hill that is infested with a never-ending stream of zombies. When the means to lay the zombies to rest was revealed to be rather horrifying, the local priests of Pharasma were granted to leave to summon those who might be able to find an alternate solution. Now some of those servants of the Lady of Graves had begun to arrive, and spent much of their time trying to destroy or exorcise the cursed spirits within the hill. I’m not sure where this development is going, if anywhere, but in the meantime I can annoy the PCs with 24/7 chanting and incense outside their bedroom windows. 😀

Note #3 was a diplomatic visit by Sojana Varn, daughter of Baron Maegar Varn, ruler of Varnhold, which is their neighbor to the east. Sojana informed the council that Varnhold was only able to expand westwards into the Kamelands (that is, towards Caerelia), because of the centaur resistance in the Nomen Heights. As a result she wanted to open up negotiations to divvy up the territory between Varnhold and Caerelia. She also hoped that the two fiefdoms could build a road between their capitals in order to foster communication and trade. Finally, she requested aid for the war effort to wipe out the centaurs, but the rulers declined to offer any help.

Werewolf in Stagfell

With all of that out of the way, it was time to get back to those slaughtered townsfolk! The party examined the bodies of a serving girl from one of Stagfell’s inns, who was killed while walking home the previous night; and a young sheepherder who was killed two nights past. Both looked as if they were killed by a beast, and their bodies were partially eaten. Next they visited the site where the girl was killed, and Boliden was able to find the tracks of the animal that killed her – a large wolf or warg, he thought. He followed the tracks to a nearby copse of trees, where they disappeared. The barbarian was stumped, until he noticed a set of barefoot human tracks leaving the copse, but not entering. A werewolf!

As it happened, the moon was full on the previous two nights, and this night would be the end of that phase. The council rode back to Stagfell and started trying to suss out who the werewolf could be. But after a day of interviewing merchants, woodsmen, hunters, and travelers, they found no likely suspects. The book says tracking down Kundal the werewolf is a Diplomacy check against the kingdom’s Control DC, which was 31 I believe. I think that might be a little too high, especially for 4th level characters (which is the level the party is supposed to be when this encounter is run). It seems like it should be based more on the size of the town rather than the size of the kingdom. I would propose that the DC would perhaps be better set at 20 + the Danger modifier for the settlement.

In any case, the sun was setting and the rulers had no idea who or where the werewolf might be. They did know that both attacks happened just outside of Stagfell, to the north of town. Warden Kesten Garess ordered the city watch to deploy between the western wall and the Shrike river, creating a line of guards that the werewolf hopefully could not cross without being detected. People were ordered to stay indoors for the night, both in the town itself and the outlying farms and residences. Finally, the PCs were mounted and waiting, ready to respond to any reports of trouble.

A light rain and a strong wind made the watch’s task more difficult than it already was. It was cold, visibility was poor, and it was hard to hear over the blowing wind. Not everyone had gotten the message to stay indoors, and several angry citizens and travelers were turned back the way they came after being questioned by the watch. One particularly large, armed, and wild-looking Tiger Lord barbarian was stumbling towards town as if drunk. When the city guards stopped him, he gave a beastly snarl and then suddenly transformed into a fearsome man-wolf! One of the guards had the presence of mind to sound a warning blast on his horn; he only hoped that someone was able to hear it through the wind. The wolfman pulled its greataxe from its back, and slew the other watchman in one blow.

The party heard the warhorn, and spurred their mounts to race towards the sound. When they got there, the horses reared up at the sight of the creature before them. They smelled the wolf, but it was queerly mixed with the scent of human as well, and they knew not what to make of it. The adventurers quickly dismounted as the werewolf beheaded several watchmen with one mighty swing, and followed it up with an intimidating growl/glare (a rage power) against Boliden. Boliden, however, was not cowed, and roared right back at the slavering man-beast. He rolled really well, too, and actually shook up the werewolf for a round! Some dim recognition of his fellow Tiger Lord undoubtedly penetrated the savage bloodlust that controlled Kundal, and his humanity rebelled against the beast for a few scant moments.

Boliden, Satampra the swashbuckler, and Breen the monk rushed up to attack the werewolf. Simon the cleric tried a prayer of searing light, but missed, while Mestinous summoned a lantern archon. The barbarian werewolf barely seemed to feel the blows. He then swept his greataxe in a powerful arc that cut into all three of his assailants (Great Cleave!). The PCs scattered, and attempted to circle around the wolfman so as to avoid another sweep from his axe.

As it happened, Iofur the druid wasn’t there (the player and his whole family had caught the flu), and I had added several levels to Kundal since the party was level 6 instead of 4 and the group was larger than normal, and I had given him maximum hit points as I always do with important opponents who stand alone against the PCs. And still they took him out in 2-3 rounds. The combined damage of the barbarian, swashbuckler, and monk was overwhelming, even with the werewolf’s damage reduction. Kundal got off a second great cleave, and then he was pummeled into unconsciousness. He shifted back to his normal, human form, losing the stat bonuses from both his rage and his hybrid lycanthrope form, which left him with somewhere around -30 hit points. He was well and truly dead.

The council confiscated Kundal’s goods, with Boliden claiming the werewolf’s greataxe, and had the body decapitated and hauled off. In the morning, they were able to track down his room in town. Inside they found an ear belonging to one of his victims, but not much else. If he had been in town to deliver a message to his fellow Tiger Lord, Boliden, they would never know what it was…

Next: the trouble with thieves!

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10 Comments
  1. Pinkius permalink

    I can’t tell you how awesome I think it is Mestinous is acting like gandalf if he put on the One ring with that thing, it was just a +1 ring of protection for us. Is Nyrissa going to have Galadriel overtones?

    • Galadriel overtones in what way?

      Mostly the schtick with the ring is just to introduce Nyrissa to the players and one of her motivations (find the sword). I had originally meant for them to hear about how the Stag Lord was looking for a sword, also, but I dropped the ball on planting that seed. They also know that the lord who has enslaved Iofur’s parents is looking for a sword. Perhaps I can work it in with Hargulka as well (who will also have a ring). Nyrissa uses the rings to “talk” to the wearer through dreams, hoping that one of them will locate the sword for her so she can neutralize it.

      So I sorta see Nyrissa, a heartless? soulless? nymph, as embodying pure overwhelming lust: for sex, or power, or wealth, or what have you. That’s the idea behind the shape that the dreams take. I lost the files for Boliden’s dreams, but they were similar: the first was about sex, the second was about power (martial, in his case) which was facilitated by the thorn-wrapped sword. I never got around to writing up a third dream, but maybe it would be about temporal power, ruling over the Stolen Lands with Nyrissa by the dreamer’s side. Perhaps with the sword serving as a scepter.

      • Pinkius permalink

        Oh you know, “instead of a dark lord you would have a queen, not dark but beautiful and terrible as the night, all will love me and despair”
        That sorta thing

      • Hm, oh yeah. That’s an interesting idea.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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