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Kingmaker: Intermission #1, Session 3

October 21, 2015

As a rare treat, Boliden’s player was actually able to make it to a session! Naturally, it turned out to be a session with no combat. 🙂

But while the others were recapping what’s been going on to him, they made the connection between the thorn-wrapped sword that the Staglord and Ivo were/are searching for, and the thorn-wrapped sword from Boliden’s and Mestinous’ ring-bearing dreams. That led to some talk about maybe going and finding the blade first, before attacking Ivo or raiding his estate. I tried to give them some encouragement for breaking into his home now by letting them know Ivo would almost certainly be staying in New Stetven for a week or more for the celebrations, but they didn’t bite. Instead, they started hitting up the capital’s libraries, looking for information on the weapon. And here’s where I regret not doing my homework on its past!

Roll Library Use

After several days, the only scrap of information turned up by their investigation was a reference to a book titled Zuddiger’s Picnic. More searching didn’t turn up anything, so they paid a sage to do some more research and send them a report. Then they left for Caerelia.

But first, they stopped off in Restov to drop off Satampra the swashbuckler’s date, the Swordlord Jamandi Aldori. And since they were in town, they decided to hit up the libraries there, as well. Mestinous the elven wizard found a brief note concerning the book’s author, Zuddiger, an artist who apparently went insane while working on Picnic, or soon thereafter. The book itself was regarded as the work of a madman, and banned in many places. Actual copies were hard to procure as a result.

But persistence pays off! Mestinous managed to track down an imprint of one of the book’s woodcut illustrations, and a few days later managed to find a copy of the complete work! At this time, I wasn’t committed to any particular outcome – if they found the book or information about it, great, and if they didn’t, no big deal – so I had been happy to set high DCs for the Knowledge checks that they were making, and was ok with them failing most of them. Successes were rewarded with tidbits, but Mestinous managed a really great check, so I decided to just give them the whole thing. I fired up my laptop and let them look at my favorite of the fan-made Picnic books. It would have been better to have it printed out ahead of time, but I was flying by the seat of my pants at this point.

After reading it, they tried in vain to identify any landmarks from the story that they could use to determine where the book’s events might have taken place. Mestinous posited that the narrative’s bizarre geography and architecture, as well as the sudden weather shifts, indicated another plane of existence, and the First World seemed like a reasonable fit. Some more successful Knowledge checks placed the gateway that protagonist walks through at the beginning of the story as perhaps being the gates around the Castle of Knives, a ruin located in the Thousand Voices Forest, far to the west. Book 5 notes that the castle is “one of the most notorious ruins” in the forest, so it didn’t seem out of line that it might be recognized. Also, I wanted to reward the players for actually sinking skill points into Knowledge (geography).

Mestinous also picked up a scroll of summon monster V in Restov, which he can’t scribe yet, but he is very much looking forward to being able to.

With their business in Brevoy concluded, they headed back to Stagfell for a kingdom turn. The road heading west from their captial was extended to the site of their new settlement that was under construction in the Narlmarches, and they retroactively built the housing for their squatters that they meant to build a couple of turns ago.

The group also decided to dig up the Stag Lord’s remains so that Remesio the cleric could conduct a speak with dead prayer upon them. The Stag Lord failed its save, and a remnant of his spirit entered the dirt-encrusted skull to answer some questions: “where is the thorn-wrapped sword that you were searching for?” (“Don’t knooooww”), “where do you think the sword is?” (“The Stolen Laaaands”), and “why do you think it’s here in the Stolen Lands?” (“My Lady tooooold me so”) Satisfied, they threw his bones back into his grave and had it covered up again.

The Varnhold Famishing

While the PCs debated plans to attack Ivo or to procure the thorny sword, the rest of the council had other, more govern-y, matters on their mind. Months ago, Baron Maegar Varn’s daughter, Sojana Varn, came to them seeking to define a common border between Caerelia and Varnhold, the colony to the east. The Varns were already fighting a war against the Nomen centaurs, and didn’t want to come into conflict with Caerelia as well. But the council had largely ignored the matter.

OURS_mapVery well, said the adventurer kings, this calls for a road trip! They grabbed their Grand Diplomat and traveled east, aiming for the pass through the Tors. On the other side lay the town of Varnhold, capital of… Varnhold, I guess? Not great with the names there, Baron Varn. Prior to leaving, they had looked at their maps and figured that Caerelia should get everything up to the mountains, since the peaks made such a great natural border. However, as they rode toward those very same mountains, they were surprised to find that Varnhold had already claimed the foothills on “their” side in their quest for usable farmland. In fact, there was only a single empty hex between the two’s borders!

The pass, too, had been claimed, and there was even a watchtower sitting on the other side of the Crooked River that wound its way through the mountains.

Rivers Run Red 29aA rider was sent ahead to notify the Varnhold leadership that Caerelia’s leaders had arrived on an unscheduled visit. When the group reached town, they were greeted by Sojana Varn and a few other minor dignitaries. Later on, they had dinner with the Baron and his advisors, and talked about the centaurs, the trolls, their borders, and the marital status of Satampra and Aurelius the fighter. It appeared that the Baron was looking for a good match for his daughter, and Aurelius was open to the idea. Satampra still held out hope that someday Jamandi would be his Empress.

Unfortunately, the one man they had wanted to talk to – Akiros Ismort, Varnhold’s General and former lieutenant to the Stag Lord – was out in the field. An offer was made to take the Caerelians out to see him on the morrow, which was accepted. The Varns were hoping to convince their visitors to contribute military aid to their war against the centaurs, while the PCs really just wanted to ask Akiros about the sword.

Back to the Front

Rivers Run Red 29bAfter some riding around for a couple of days, the party found the Varnhold war camp several miles into the Dunsward, the plains that the Nomen centaurs called their home. General Akiros greeted them warmly, and invited them to his command tent. There they discussed the difficulties of battling a fast, mobile enemy in the open plains, and one that had no fixed towns or settlements to threaten. The centaurs could run circles around conventional forces, which is a large part of why they’ve been a thorn in Restov’s side for so long. He entreated the visiting dignitaries for troops, particularly calvary and knights, that he could use to circle the opposing forces and chase them down. Given that it was Lamashan (October), they wouldn’t even need the troops until the spring, so there was plenty of time. The players casually agreed to supply aid, and indicated that they would be willing to join the battle themselves. Nomen, your days are numbered.

Over dinner, they asked about the sword. Akiros said it was something that the Stag Lord talked about when he was drunk, which was often. He would say that his Green Lady desired it, but he knew not where to find it. The Lady was a mysterious figure that no one but the Stag Lord ever saw, and Akiros thought her an alcohol-fueled delusion.

caerelia-turn26The players camped with the soldiers that night, and in the morning, Akiros took them to a small hillock and passed around a spyglass. From that vantage point, they could see one of the Nomen’s current camps. It was large! Thus impressed by the size of the opposition, the council members renewed their promise of troops for next spring, and began the long journey home.

Satampra was eager to do another kingdom turn as soon as they got back. He wanted to claim as much territory to the east as possible, before Varnhold could put down stakes there. For this turn, they claimed the Nettle’s Crossing hex and the hex east of the Sootscale kobolds. Farms were also built on the new land. Now, Caerelia and Varnhold shared a common border.

With their remaining funds, the council upgraded Stagfell’s barracks into a garrison. They were focused on preparations for fulfilling their promise for troops for the war against the centaurs.

stagfell-turn26Caerelia after month 26:

Size: 18; Cities: 4; Control DC: 42

Economy: +47; Loyalty: +32; Stability: +44

Unrest: 0; Treasury: 28 BP; Consumption: 1 BP/turn; Income: +7 BPs/turn


Next: keeping up with the joneses!

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15 Comments
  1. Pinkius permalink

    Forced into fighting the Nomen; personally I’d favor pallisades and archers, as far as chasing them down, good luck. Mongols were masters of the ambush and retreating fight. Armored cavalry wouldn’t be able to catch up with them, the horses would tire from carrying so much weight.
    Magic would work well, can’t outrun magic missiles, pit traps perhaps, trap them within difficult terrain… The chinese built a wall, everyone else lost.

    • Mei Yu Lian permalink

      Settling the area (pallisades and archers) was what the romans did against another culture of mounted archers (parthians I think?) and it worked well for them.

      • Pinkius permalink

        Right, with the “everyone else lost” thing i was talking about the Mongols specifically, but the Romans definitely came up against the same tactic. You lock them out of places to run to, is the predominant strategy I think…

        Not that it will matter because in about a month’s time Varhold is going to [spoilers].

    • Forced into fighting my butt. This will be entirely a war of choice, if they get that far.

      I had planned on having a few years pass before starting book 3 (fast forwarded, of course), so this might dramatically alter how that book plays out…

      • Pinkius permalink

        Oh no, yea, they’re totally going mercenary here, I meant if my character had to fight the Nomen, assuming my character was rational and level headed.

        Our group didn’t meet the Nomen until we were investigating Varnhold, then we found out the issues and strongarmed the remnants of Varnhold into a treaty with them.

        Our kingdom was pretty lucky with events, we ended up getting quite a few petitions to join our kingdom so the GM had Varnhold cede their kingdom to us as one of them. they only had the hexes surrounding their town though so we had to build out.

  2. DMMike permalink

    This has nothing to do with your current post, but still, thought this’d probably be the least awkward place to ask;

    I have a kingdom building campaign starting at level 1, and I am wondering what you would recommend concerning the level of the NPC leaders that fill out the roles the players did not fill. It would seem weird for them to all be level 1, especially since NPCs typically don’t grow much stronger or gain many levels, but having most/many of them a (significantly) higher level than the PCs might be a bit awkward as well. What I’m thinking right now is level 2-4 should be good, where the more relevant/interesting NPCs leveling up to ~6 later on as the PCs gain some levels.

    There are plenty of awkward things starting the kingdom building at level 1, but this might be one of the most awkard ones 😛

    • Pinkius permalink

      Well, ideally it never becomes relevant, but I think the npc allies of the pcs should never be more than a level higher than they are, otherwise why are the PCs the important ones.
      That said you can always say the NPCs are doing things similar to the pcs during their offtime, except perhaps not as dangerous (maybe more dangerous if you want to provoke an intervention) to stay at a relevant level.

    • I agree with Pinkius that it probably won’t be relevant most of the time. I’ve statted up most of the NPC council members for my campaign but I don’t think I’ve ever needed them. The only time that sort of thing really came up was when the wizard put on a cursed robe and Jhod Kavken the cleric had to use remove curse (the party wasn’t able to cast it on their own at the time). Jhod starts out as 5th level in the AP, but I’m pretty sure that’s so he can help the party with removing debilitating conditions like curses until they’re strong enough to stand on their own – he’s not an adventurer and doesn’t go on expeditions with them.

      And to the extent that they need stats, the NPCs can or should have NPC classes, or a mix of PC and NPC classes, making them not so useful for combat.

  3. Pinkius permalink

    I laugh if the Varnhold kingodm was just being cheeky with the border issue and actually contains only the hexes around varnhold, and a straight line of hexes to the border so they could lay claim to as much of it as possible

  4. I forgot that they also dug up the Stag Lord to cast speak with dead on him and ask him about the sword. I’ll have to edit that in.

  5. Mei Yu Lian permalink

    I just noticed there’s a lot of shirnes clustered together in their Capital. Are they to aligned deities? a wide mix?

    • They were compelled to build those by their starting investment agreements, back in RRR session 1 or 2. They are for Erastil (Good), Pharasma, and Gozreh (both Neutral, of course). The Cayden Cailean followers wanted a brewery instead of a shrine.

      • Mei Yu Lian permalink

        Oh yes, ofcourse. I know that, silly me.

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