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Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red, Session 21, Part 2

April 14, 2015

gold-box-stinking-cloudWith kingdom Unrest at an all-time high of 6, the PCs elected stay at home and try to repair their relations with their subjects, instead of going off on some cool adventures. Neither I nor the kingdom rules give any benefit for staying in the kingdom any longer than needed, so it’s a nice touch that they decided to do that. And I suppose that the players are aware that if they did run off while the kingdom was falling apart, it would just be one more complaint of the NPCs that they would have to listen to.

So we fast-forwarded to the next kingdom turn, which starts with a Stability check that either reduces or increases Unrest. Even with their current Unrest penalty, the group still had a good chance to pass the check and lower Unrest by 1. Instead, they rolled poorly, and Unrest went up to 7! Within the game world, word that one of Caerelia’s land-owning families was fond of killing and torturing their peasants started to spread and, in the current climate, fanned the flames of anarchy.

The party’s plan for pacifying the populace was to rebuild the Stag Lord’s fort into a proper castle, which would lower Unrest by 4. But they didn’t have enough BP to afford the reconstruction, and so they decided to conserve their resources until the next turn. And they did manage to pass their Economics check, giving them more than enough to rebuild the fort by the following month.

I also had reports from the council and the PC’s underlings prepared. I had written up such reports a few times in the past, but gradually stopped doing them. They’re a lot of work for me to write, and I was running out of new things to say with them. After the situation with Grigori, however, I felt that the reports would be a good way to explain to the players exactly why the NPC members of the council were upset with them. In any case, the reports are included at the end of this post.

Caerelia after month 18:

Size: 15; Cities: 3; Control DC: 38

Economy: +37; Loyalty: +28; Stability: +36

Unrest: 7; Treasury: 46 BP; Consumption: 3 BP/turn; Income: +7 BPs/turn

Baby Swap v2.0

But meanwhile, on the dark and gritty streets of Stagfell… babies were once again being stolen and replaced with changelings! The midwife responsible for the previous bout of baby-napping had never been caught, and the council immediately suspected her or some of her Gyronna-worshiping friends of the crime. They confiscated the changeling babies once more, and began to look for suspects.

From what they knew about the kind of people who are attracted to Gyronna and who might have had the opportunity to make the swap, they were able to identify a dozen women. They were all rounded up and brought to the jail for questioning. None admitted to the crime, or to following the goddess of hags. Simon the cleric hit upon the idea of having the suspects step and spit on a symbol of Gyronna that they had lying around, and all of the women did so. The cult is prohibited nearly everywhere in Golarion, so I had to assume that members are allowed to act as if they are not in the cult in order to avoid detection. Nevertheless, Satampra the swashbuckler detected that one of the women hesitated, and only disrespected the unholy symbol with some reluctance.

The suspects were released, but unbeknownst to them they were being tailed by the Spymaster’s people. After a few days, one of the spies followed the reluctant defiler to a barn on the edge of town. Several other women came to the barn, stayed inside for hours, and then left. That, the party reasoned, must be the meeting place for the local cult of Gyronna!

Simon had some of his “agents” – orphaned children taken in by his church – investigate the barn under the guise of playing in it, but they didn’t find anything. It looked just like an empty, unused barn to them. So the council decided to wait until the cult met again. Several days later, a rider came to the fort to report that it looked like the women were heading for the barn, and the PCs sprang into action! They promptly rode out to the barn with Marshal Pelagia and some of her officers.

Cue the Fart Jokes

Once they arrived, Pelagia and her officers spread out around the barn while the others dismounted and headed inside. Everyone failed to notice the tripwire just inside the door, and thus the cult was alerted to their arrival and had time to prepare. A quick search of the barn revealed a concealed trapdoor, with dim light and the sound of chanting rising through cracks in the boards. Satampra threw open the trapdoor and, sword in hand, leapt down the hole… and immediately started choking and wheezing as a summoned dretch breathed forth a noxious, stinking cloud which rapidly enveloped him and everyone else standing up above. Summon monster III, y’all. The cloud’s DC is low, but stick it in a chokepoint and eventually most everyone will fail their saving throw. As we’re about to see.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. To account for the higher number of PCs in my group, I had added an anti-paladin of Gyronna to the encounter, and to account for their higher levels – the original encounter was meant for 4th level PCs, and my group was 6th level at this point – I also added a level of cleric to the cult’s leader, Malgorzata Niska. I had adjusted the cleric’s spell list and feats, giving her the “madness” channel energy variant and feats to make her channel better (selective targeting, higher DC, swift action). The 5th level anti-paladin, a new NPC named Katarina Nekula, wielded an earth breaker and was buffed with enlarge person (potion), rage (Malgorzata), and bless (ditto).

Satampra, Iofur the druid, and Mestinous the elven wizard all failed their saving throws against the demon’s stinking cloud. Satampra stumbled deeper into the cellar, while the two spellcasters that were still on the ground level ran out of the cloud and to the other side of the barn. Simon chanted a quick prayer before following the other casters out of the cloud. Boliden the barbarian and Breen the monk held their breaths as they followed their emperor down into the basement.

Malgorzata, priestess of Gyronna and leader of the cult, spoke an unholy prayer of her own, which neatly canceled out the effects of Simon’s spell – leaving one less effect for me to track! The priestess’ enlarged and enraged bodyguard stepped forward with her flaming hammer and swung at both Boliden and Breen as they emerged from the stinking cloud. The other cultists in the room also attacked the men that had invaded their profane space with their ceremonial knives.

Breen managed to dodge many of Katarina’s hammer blows while taking out the other cultists with non-lethal kicks and punches. Boliden scored a critical hit on the anti-paladin, but it failed to drop her, and she responded with a critical channeled smite of her own. The barbarian went down, and Simon headed back into the cloud to provide some healing. Unfortunately, he failed his saving throw and was rendered useless for several rounds.

Satampra recovered from his retching in time to stab a few cultists, kill the dretch, and advance on Malgorzata, who had summoned a spiritual weapon to keep him at bay. The stinking cloud finally dissipated, but Iofur, Mestinous, and Simon were still unable to act. And Breen’s luck ran out as Katarina’s flaming maul started to bash away at the monk’s hit points. Between dry heaves, Simon started screaming for help, hoping against hope that Pelagia and the marshals outside would hear him and come to their rescue.

But instead, Mestinous recovered from the effects of the cloud, jumped down into the cellar, and started throwing fireballs (over the protestations of Breen, who didn’t want the cultists he had subdued to be killed). Katarina the anti-paladin was badly burned and collapsed from her wounds. Malgorzata actually had a resist energy (fire) prayer protecting her, but that didn’t do her much good when Satampra ran her through with his blade. Simon was able to heal Boliden, and Iofur eventually regained his composure (his player was present, but I had rolled the maximum duration for the stinking cloud’s effect on him, which took the druid out of the entire battle).

In the charred remnants of the underground room, they found a crude altar to Gyronna, topped by a fist-sized gemstone. Such stones were rumored to be the eyes of Gyronna, and to disturb them or their altar was to invite the curse of the hag goddess. The adventurers considered the possibility, and then destroyed the altar without heed for the consequences.

The group also found a shallow grave that contained the remains of the three human babies that had been stolen. Part of Satampra’s deal with the Owl Prince was that the faeries would not accept any more human babies from the hags. And so the cult had sacrificed the babes, all of them male, to their evil deity.

The council emerged from the barn into the crisp, clean night air of early Spring, bruised battered and covered in dirt and blood and soot. They were victorious over the enemies of their kingdom once more, but there was no celebration to be had. Not this time.

Next: the witness returns!


Council Reports for Pharast, 4712 AR (March, Turn 18)

Grand Diplomat Vendelin Fodorov

My lords, I am full of sorrow that you did not come to me or the rest of the council with the situation with the demagogue. Mestinous, am I not your father-in-law? Did I not mourn when your companion Travaris, also my son-in-law, died? Am I not family? I came here to help Caerelia, in part to restore my own family’s fortunes, yes, but also to lend my wisdom and experience to this endeavor. How can I do that if you don’t even ask for it? For that matter, how can I be effective as a diplomat if you continue to drag my name, and your own, through the muck? Please, let us right this ship, if we can, and avoid any more self-inflicted mishaps going forward. I implore you.

Magister Silva Zareen

So, that chamber. The one under the fort’s basement? That someone broke into without our knowing? Around the time that the changeling babies vanished? So, the room is definitely older than the fort. The wall writings are in Aklo, which is a pretty obscure language. I took etchings of the text and the images to Jhod and the Beldame, and searched through the Scrolls of Gyronna. After all of that, I guess I can say the room maybe held this flute from the First World? I’m not sure. Aklo is used by some fae, I think. But not the friendly ones.

I found this old legend that some huge monster from the First World slumbers in this region. Talonquake. The flute is supposed to wake it up and allow the musician to control the beast. I found some hints in the Scrolls that maybe the flute is the reason that the abbey was built on this hill in the first place. But this thing hasn’t been seen in centuries. So maybe it’s not even real? Maybe the flute isn’t even real. Maybe they broke into the chamber and found it empty. Or if it is all real, do you just blow into the flute and it wakes the creature up? Do you have to play some specific tune? There’s a lot we don’t know. I’ll keep looking into it.

Marshal Pelagia Medyved

I understand that this Grigori was dangerous and had to be dealt with. However, the manner in which it was dealt with was the hallmark of a tyrant, not a true king. Your actions have only strengthened Grigori’s slanders in the people’s minds – that you are thugs of low birth who are not fit to rule.

Perhaps this is the punishment of the gods. We have elevated one who has no divine right to rule above those who do have such a birthright.

If you wish to retain the support of House Medyved, there must be some reform. These matters cannot continue to be hidden from the council. We are partners in this just as much as you.

Royal Enforcer Ianomara

It’s not what I would have done, but maybe there were no good solutions. I saw Grigori speak, and he had me hating myself by the end of it. He was a poisoned dagger pointed right at our heart, and you were right to have him eliminated. Still… next time, how about you allow me to conduct the interrogation? It’s a task that I excel at.

If we want to quell the mob, I can have Athammaeus sharpen his axe. Lop off a few heads – especially those with a “divine birthright” – and the people will fall into line.

Warden Kesten Garess

I regret to report that I cannot guarantee the safety of the council here in Stagfell. If the unrest worsens, the city guard could very well turn their cloaks and join the mob. I recommend that we relocate to the countryside until the people tire of their anger and return to work.

Like the others, I am not pleased with how this matter was handled. I was born into a powerful family, but disowned by my father. I cannot say now with certainty that I still believe in the divine right of the nobility. What I can state is that, frankly, the “small council” [he indicates the 6 PCs] has not been groomed to inherit power, and it shows. Important matters must be brought before the full council. [he pounds the table for emphasis] Or there will not be a full council to clean up your messes, and you can sit here alone while your little “empire” burns down around you. That is all I have to say about the matter.

Emperor Satampra Zieros

[Tirouv Ompallios is nowhere to be found, but he did leave you a note:]

Satampra,

Apologies my friend, but the winds are blowing and it doesn’t smell so good. What I’m trying to say is, we’re downwind of a big pile of dung here, and I need to move on before I retch, or I step in the dung, or something similarly bad happens. Remember that time in Riddleport? It’s just like that, only stinkier. Anyway, I’ll probably be in Restov for a spell, so if you can get someone to muck the stables, so to speak, send word and I will be back by your side in a flash!

Your loyal servant, Tirouv Ompallios

P.S. – I borrowed your coin purse for travel expenses.

Councilor Breen Everstead

Your unnamed underling reports: My lord, the current unrest can be broken down into roughly two camps. Those settlers who hail from the Riverlands to the south, and those from Brevoy to the north.

The riverfolk hold sacred the six “River Freedoms,” the first of which is usually stated thusly: “Say what you will, I live free.” To execute a man for voicing his mind against the throne is a serious violation to such people. This group is mostly made of peasants and tradesmen.

The faith of Abadar the Judge is well regarded in Brevoy, as I’m sure you’re aware. It is especially strong among the nobility. To seize a man, take his possessions, and have him killed for having a loose tongue, without even the illusion of a trial… It has reawakened fears that the council is composed of, uhm, thieves who have no respect for the Law. The people’s words, not mine, my Lord. This faction is composed mainly of nobles and wealthy merchants.

[Lord Velim Draganov and Lady Iren Vacuna do not appear for their regular meetings with you]

General Boliden

Aeson Stalkingwolf reports: General, we have notified our vassal lords that we require soldiers, but they have been slow to respond. And that was before this most recent uproar. We can expect no levies until the nobles are brought to heel. With some luck, our enemies won’t realize how vulnerable we are at the moment and we can get this sorted.

As we have expanded deeper into the Narlmarches, there has been an increase in troll sightings. It might just be hysterics, though. Man sees shadow in the woods, says it’s a troll; that sort of thing.

Vicar Simon Wellread

Archaedius Storantus reports: With the reconstruction of the Temple of the Elk, we have earned the great respect of local followers of Erastil. It’s fortuitous timing as well, as the priests of Erastil have grave doubts about the Caerelia’s direction in other arenas. They are staying out of the fray for now, and focusing their efforts on building up the new settlement of Last Hope.

In other news, the crusaders of Pharasma that were working to exorcise the undead from the hillside have stopped their efforts for now. They say they will resume once the furor dies down. With the council’s permission, they wish to build a wall around the cursed sections of the hill, so that there can be no more accidental deaths.

Spymaster Mestinous

Malthanis reports: Not that it matters much now, I suppose, but I’ve received some background on Grigori from my contacts down south. It is said that Grigori would be hired by one River Kingdom to stir up trouble in a rival kingdom. His target would then pay him even more gold to go away. It was a kind of game that the River Kings played with each other. And quite a lucrative one for Grigori, it would seem.

My troupe will be heading out to Fort Drelev after the weather warms, in order to track down the man named by Grigori as his employer. My instinct is that this person is long gone, but we shall see what can be found.

Belgrin Ratbone reports: I’ve been trying to track down Grigori’s “witness,” but without much luck so far. Rumors about exactly what crimes the man was witness to abound – that he saw you all murder his comrades, or saw you feed his family to a monster, or saw you lay with hags or fiends or worse in the woods. Everyone claims to have heard his tale, but when I track it down it’s always hearsay. I’m beginning to doubt that the man, if he ever existed, is still in Caerelia. If he has any smarts at all, he would have fled after Grigori was arrested.

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6 Comments
  1. Pinkius permalink

    Ooouuuuuuhh that’s gotta STING, the king’s right-hand man totally flew the coop. With any luck they’ll pull together in these times of strife, and not, iunno, start listening to Ianomara or something

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red, Session 21, Part 1 | Daddy DM
  2. Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red, Session 22 | Daddy DM
  3. Kingmaker: Blood for Blood, Session 12, Part 1 | Daddy DM

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