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Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red, Session 22

April 26, 2015

Heads Will Roll

paul_revere_rideAside from Satampra the swashbuckler’s little excursion to Last Hope, the party decided to cool their heels in Stagfell for another month in order to continue their efforts to placate the mob, and to supervise the reconstruction of the Stag Lord’ fort. But word of trolls lurking in the forest intensified dramatically, and the populace grew more fearful and angry.

Which is to say, we started off the next kingdom turn with yet another failed Stability check, ratcheting Caerelia’s Unrest up to 8! The situation was looking grim, and so the party turned to their Royal Enforcer, Ianomara of the Thieves’ Guild. She had previously advocated some head-chopping in order to quell the unrest, and the council now agreed. The cruel noble who had been the rationale for the previous turn’s failed Stability check was executed, and his lands and possessions seized and divvied up amongst those who had remained loyal to the crown during this trying time. While the noble was just a throw-away explanation for a failed check, it occurs to me now that I should develop the family a bit in case they decide to seek revenge. Other bad actors, of lesser station and crimes, were thrown into the dungeons as the government cracked down on corruption.

In game terms, they were making use of the special ability of the Royal Enforcer, which reduces Unrest by 1 but triggers a Loyalty check. Fail the check, and the kingdom permanently loses 1 Loyalty. And they did indeed botch the roll. The scapegoats had been sacrificed, but some wondered if they might be next.

But the kingdom was flush with BP for once, and the council sought ways to buy the love, or fear, of the populace. They built a watchtower in the Blighted Hollow hex, in order to guard against any troll incursions. That lowered Unrest to 6. They also built a fishery on the northern shore of Lake Tuskwater, in Stagfell’s hex, in order to reduce consumption – they were out of farmland, and didn’t want to claim any more hexes until they got the Unrest down. Speaking of Stagfell, the reconstruction of the Stag Lord’s fort was complete! They rebuilt the castle, which lowered Unrest to 2. And finally, they got a well-timed Justice Prevails event, which was a further -1 to Unrest.

And just like that, the crisis was over.

Caerelia after month 19:

Size: 15; Cities: 3; Control DC: 38

Economy: +39; Loyalty: +30; Stability: +39

Unrest: 1; Treasury: 17 BP; Consumption: 2 BP/turn; Income: +7 BPs/turn

Where There’s a Whip

Rivers Run Red 22aWith the populace back in hand, the PCs decided that it was time to travel back to Hargulka’s hex and scout it more thoroughly. They rode west from Stagfell into the Narlmarches, stopped at the newly-constructed watchtower for a surprise inspection, and then made a beeline for the troll’s lair.

But along the way they spied a warband of 9 trolls loping their way northward. They managed to stay out of sight and scent of the monsters, and discussed how they should handle the group. After discarding the idea of setting an ambush or trying to lead them into a trap at the watchtower, they settled on merely following the not-so-jolly green giants until an opportunity presented itself.

It was not difficult to track a gaggle of 10′ tall murder machines marching through the woods. The trolls were travelling north and a little east, and if they stayed their course they would miss the watchtower. But perhaps their aim was Stagfell? The group became worried that their city was about to come under attack.

They became more worried when the sun set and there was no sign that the trolls were stopping to camp. The party had all been in the saddle all day, and both they and their mounts were weary. But they felt that they couldn’t rest while the trolls (whom I figured maybe could handle an extended march, owing to their regeneration) were heading for their home. They unsaddled the horses, set them loose, and left behind any gear that they couldn’t easily carry so that they could continue on foot. Luckily for them, trolls are fairly slow for their size.

Rivers Run Red 22bThey followed the giants’ path throughout the night and into the morning, and were about ready to drop from exhaustion when they came to the Skunk River. It appeared that the trolls had swum (or simply walked) across, but the PCs did not want to risk such an endeavor in their current state. So they stumbled east for a few miles until they came to a bridge. On the far side was the road that connected Stagfell to Tatzylford.

Many of the companions were ready to fall over from exhaustion. Their feet were sore and bleeding. Simon the cleric did his best to heal their blisters and cuts, but his prayers could not provide them with the rest they sorely needed. And yet they still hurried back along the road as quickly as they could manage. The few travelers they encountered were questioned about any troll sightings, but there had been none. The hunters picked up their quarry’s trail again on the other side of the river, and were surprised to discover that it still headed north, away from the road. Perhaps the creatures were marching on Last Hope?

But at this point, the adventurers were too tired to continue. The majority of the group camped alongside the road, while Breen the monk and Iofur the druid continued the chase. While the pair was still on the verge of collapse, they could move faster than others (Iofur in the form of a cloud) and hoped to at least catch sight of the trolls. And after an agonizing hour, they finally found their quarry.

The Trolls Are Coming! The Trolls Are Coming!

Rivers Run Red 22cOnly they had found more than they bargained for! In this wild pocket of the Narlmarches, they spied over two dozen trolls! In their midst were three hags: a bent-back witch with a black veil covering her face, dripping with water; a green-skinned crone with tangled black hair; and a troll-like old woman with purple-blue skin and wicked claws, who wore a spiked breastplate and bore a symbol of Gyronna. It was the hag coven that was allied with Hargulka: Mamuna the Wretched (“river” hag, witch), Nekista Syla the Silvertongued (green hag, skald), and Toboura the Fervent (annis hag, cleric).

One last burst of adrenaline gave the monk and druid the energy to race back to their companions. By the time they returned, Satampra the swashbuckler was fully rested thanks to his ring of sustenance. He volunteered to run all the way to Stagfell, raise the alarm, and return with reinforcements as soon as was humanly possible. There was no way they could combat that many trolls, and three hags besides, on their own and win.

It was close to evening when Satampra reached the capital. Bells rang around the town, horns were blown, and the militia was called into service. Preparations were made throughout the night, and in the morning, over one hundred of Stagfell’s citizens lined up at the western gate. They were armed with pikes or crossbows and wore boiled leather armor. It’s not much, thought Satampra, but what other option do we have? He was mounted on a fresh horse with the fearful Stag Helm upon his head, surrounded by many of the NPC council members. To his eyes, the militia looked fearful and unsure of themselves. They had been trained for battle for many months now, but to actually go forth and face man-eating giants with wicked claws and teeth? That was another matter entirely.

Satampra stood up in his stirrups and addressed the assemblage with a stirring speech that somehow managed to borrow heavily from Henry V and Braveheart, despite those works not actually existing in Golarion. Somewhere near the end he mentioned that he, their mighty Emperor, would lead the brave men and women into battle, to which the troops responded with a loud cheer. But he instantly regretted the idea – he didn’t really want be at the head of a bunch of mooks facing a band of trolls! Trolls are dangerous! As usual, his mouth had run faster than his brain.

The militia traveled west on the road until it met with the other PCs, who were rested by this time. The councilors made a brief sketch of a plan: the troops, led by Satampra, would try to draw away the troll force from the coven. The rest of the party would then ambush the hags and attempt to take them out. The hope was that the militia would tie up the trolls long enough for their leaders to be dealt with.

I was a bit stumped. The players essentially wanted to mix the mass combat and the normal combat rules. Which is a little problematic since a mass combat round doesn’t even last a fixed amount of time. We were close to the end of our session time, though, so I didn’t have to make a decision right away. So far, my thinking is thus:

  • There will be troll scouts ranging around the outskirts of their camp – probably working in pairs. The possibility of detection, and maybe even serious losses if it’s the militia that runs into them, is the first obstacle.
  • Assuming the militia makes it to the troll camp, 20 of them will rush forth to attack the humans, led by Toboura. She’s the warlike one in the coven. 6 trolls will stay behind with Mamuna and Nekista, who will start casting buff spells. I think the players assumed that all of the trolls would rush off, so the extra foes will be another obstacle.
  • As the players are now 7th level, I might add a level to the coven to make them into more worthy opponents. They only have a handful of low-level spells to rely on, along with their individual hag abilities. But this might be overkill against an unprepared party, so I have to be careful.
  • Given that most Pathfinder battles are over in 2-3 rounds, I’m going to say that individual-scale combat will be over before the first mass combat round is complete. I’m not sure how to occupy Satampra’s player during that time, though.

Next: let loose the hounds of war!

  1. Pinkius permalink

    The hags and trolls will outnumber the pcs, so you can’t rightly pass over the advantage action economy and a sturdy meatshield will give the hags… That said, you’re their DM, if Iofur and Mestinous are likely to explode the trolls before they can do anything meaningful (aside from use up a spell slot) I would bump up the cr of the hags, maybe have them cast communal protection from energy first thing, a scroll?

    • They have 4th level spells is the thing, and I know Mestinous picked up Evard’s, which is killer against melee and spellcasters. They’re also going to be executing an ambush, which will give them a big advantage. So yeah, I don’t expect the trolls will get to do much, and the hags may not, either, depending on how things go.

      • Mei Yu Lian permalink

        Hags are big and strong, with monstreous BAB. Do not confuse them with bog standard sorcerors or the like. They are likely to do much better against the black tentacles than ie. Iofur would.
        I’d strongly recommend giving their stats a once over, and perhaps calculate what the tentacles will be like, before adding another level. You don’t want to make the level 4 spell useless either, since the players will feel they’ve fought for it. At a glance, I’d guess (not having run any numbers) that the black tentacles will have a CMB around 12, meaning they would have less than 50% chance of grabbling any of the hags, and around 50% chance against any of the trolls.
        You should still have a nice hard encounter, and they will still feel they’ve won something by “outwitting” the monsters.

      • Hi Mei! Your analysis turned out to be correct. Evard’s wasn’t the game-changer that Mestinous thought (and I feared) it would be. Although part of that was that he rolled very poorly for the grapple checks.

        The game-changer turned out to be Summon Nature’s Ally IV: Tiger, instead.

  2. Pinkius permalink

    I’ve seen enough anime to know where Evard’s ends up!

    • Mei Yu Lian permalink

      “I’m not sure I’m comfortable being grappled there”?

      • Pinkius permalink

        Breen: “I need an adult?”
        Mestinous: “I am an adult”

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