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Kingmaker: Intermission #1, Session 6, Part 1

February 28, 2016

300px-centaur_07_concept_artThe rulers of Caerelia led their column of cavalry past the farms that dotted the Kamelands, through the mountain pass in the Tors, and down into the valley that held the town of Varnhold. The troops remained camped outside of the settlement as the leaders went forth to meet with their allies. The cavalry was the gift that sealed the border agreement between the two colonies, and Caerelia considered the expense a bargain.

There had been some discussion about what role the PCs were to play in the upcoming offensive against the centaurs. But after examining the logistics of going back and forth between Stagfell and the Nomen’s territory, they concluded that they would leave the campaign to Varnhold’s general, Akiros Ismort. Now that they were looking beyond their own borders, they were finding that the kingdom turns were preventing them from ranging very far from home.

Baron Maegar Varn greeted them warmly, and invited them to a feast held in their honor. Varnhold had been waging war against the Nomen centuars for several lonely years now, and they were grateful for the aid. The Baron was also interested in once again pushing his daughter Sojana as a marriage prospect for the Emperor, but Satampra politely demurred. The Caerelians spent the night in Varn’s fort, and then rode back for Stagfell in the morning.

He Pulled a Bush Sr.

Once back in their capital, we had some loose ends to catch up on. First was the magic spear that they had recovered from the Lonely Warrior’s tomb – a +2 fey-bane weapon with a broken blade. They had taken the weapon to the Old Beldame to discover what it would take to repair it, and she had an answer upon their return. After looking into what the rules for that were, and deciding that they were a little boring and a lot expensive, I settled on something that might spawn a story or two. And so the swamp witch informed the group that to repair the blade, she would need a vial of the bodily fluids of a faerie creature, along with some other supplies that would cost around 2,000 gp. Any bodily fluids, they wondered? I quickly clarified that waste products were right out, in order to avoid a descent into bathroom jokes. I then left it up to them to figure out how they were going to get what they needed.

The second item was a kingdom event that I had forgotten to run for the last turn – Smugglers! I decided that, as the kingdom was explicitly allied with the Thieves Guild of Restov, this event was prompted by a rival guild trying to move into the territory. Perhaps the guild from Mivon, their neighbor to the south, to which they had recently completed a road? They passed both of the requisite kingdom checks with ease, however, and the rival guild’s smuggling ring was shut down. It seemed that particular story seed was not going to sprout.

Finally, as a reward for building the road connecting Restov to Mivon, Mivon had wanted to enter into talks for a trade treaty with Caerelia. I had thrown that out to the players without looking too hard at international relations in the kingdom rules, and during the time between sessions I rectified that deficiency. What I found was not very encouraging. A Trade Edict would have no effect, as they didn’t meet the requirements for any of the different trade routes, and even if they did, they would not have derived any benefit from them. A Diplomatic Edict could bear fruit down the line – the initial level of exchanging embassies didn’t necessarily confer much benefit, but the next level of a mutual trade agreement would give a big boost to the player kingdom’s Economy. The problem there is that the Diplomacy DC was really high – a target number of 31 vs. their Grand Diplomat’s Diplomacy skill bonus of +13. And if you failed by 5 or more, there were serious consequences.

That seemed unduly harsh. So I reasoned that this relationship was something that the Mivonese really wanted, and figured I would give the players a +10 bonus to the roll. The bonus made success fairly likely, and a catastrophic failure rather unlikely.

Naturally, they rolled a 1 for poor Grand Diplomat Fodorov’s check. Apparently the state dinner with the baked eels was too rich for the envoy, who ended up ralphing all over Lord Mayor Raston Selline and his wife – a grave insult! The diplomatic mission was kicked out and told not to come back for at least a year, Caerelia lost a point of Fame, and Mivon’s attitude was reduced to Unfriendly (making future checks even more difficult!).

The loss of Fame was actually relevant, although the player’s didn’t know it at the time. The council was pressing Emperor Satampra to accept Sojana Varn as his wife and start producing heirs. As ruler, it was his responsibility to ensure a line of succession, especially since he didn’t have any family – his death would throw Caerelia into chaos. Satampra had his heart set on wooing the Swordlord Jamandi Aldori, though, and kept putting them off. Over the last several turns, he had been trying to convince the Swordlord to move her dueling school to Stagfell by turning the capital into the bestest city ever, and then I guess he thought he could court her once they were in the same town. As an aside, I’m not sure why he couldn’t court her while she was in Restov, which after all isn’t that far away. In any case, I had decided that she would move if the kingdom’s Fame minus its Infamy got to 5 or more. The diplomatic faux pas made it that much harder for Satampra to persuade her.

5-Year Plan

With those loose ends resolved, it was off to the races! A while back, I had this idea that we would take a break before starting book 3, maybe play a short campaign of something else. And that while we were doing that, I thought we could run a few kingdom turns each time we got together during that break, with the intention of advancing the time line by a few years. I wanted to give the campaign – and the player’s work in building up the kingdom and their characters – a generational feeling, if that’s the right word. Rather than throwing adventure after adventure at them in rapid succession. When the players reached higher levels, when their kingdom spanned the Stolen Lands, I didn’t want them to still be 20-somethings who had just arrived in the Greenbelt as fresh-faced level 1s a year or two prior. I wanted their characters to put down roots, get married, start families, that sort of thing.

Anyway, that plan completely failed. While on the break, we were not able to get enough of the group together to make decisions most nights, and so we ran exactly zero kingdom turns during our time away from this game. But I am nothing if not stubborn! I figured we could run through 4-5 years’ worth of turns in this session and get on to book 3 next time. But running that many turns is going to be boring, right? And it’s not like other factions are just going to sit on their hands while all that time passes. So I had to spice up that time with some slow-boiling plots, right?

Well, because of time spent dealing with those plots, as well as kingdom events that cropped up, we only managed to get through about 12 turns, leaving… 48 to go? Yikes! I feel rather wedded to my current plan, but it doesn’t seem very workable. I don’t know how to speed things up that much. But maybe we can handle some decisions over email? I will have to come up with some kind of solution. But back to the game…

Parlay?

In the month of Sarenith (June), Satampra received a missive from the Owl Prince, a powerful fey that held court near where the Shrike and Thorn rivers converged. The message was written in golden lettering upon a supple square of bark, and it requested the Emperor’s presence at the Prince’s gathering on the next gibbous moon. When the time arrived, the rulers rode north from Stagfell under the cover of darkness, arriving at the Prince’s hillock by midnight under the moonlight. There they found the Owl Prince – tall and regal, with skin the color of dusk and two great antlers made of tree branches growing from his bald head – his court of faeries, and an envoy of… female centaurs?!

The rulers were a bit surprised, and wary. This was their first time actually seeing the horsefolk up close. Their equine bodies were large and muscular, as were the humanoid upper bodies that rose out of where a horse’s neck would normally be. They carried spears and long recurve bows, and wore leather armor/barding. To human eyes, their faces were quite bestial looking. But in other respects they appeared to be a fairly civilized folk.

The Owl Prince explained that he was merely providing a safe space for a meeting, and that anyone who violated the peace here would suffer his wrath. Then the centaur leader stepped forward and threw down a scrap of cloth. On it was the arms of a Caerelian house, one of those that had sent troops off to war in the Dunsward. “We greet you, Emperor of Caerelia, and your advisers and guards. And we wish to be clear that we know you have sent your riders to aid the Varnhold dogs in hunting and killing us in our own lands. We come here tonight with a simple request: call your men and horses home. We only seek to guard what is ours, no different than you would do if your home was invaded. Leave us be, and we will leave you be in return. We ask you, as a man of honor and nobility, to not aid Varnhold in the murder of my people and the theft of our lands.”

That prompted a great dealing of hemming and hawing from Satampra. “You made it so personal,” his player remarked to me. “I was happy to help kill them when they were just faceless savages, but now…” The Caerelians conferred among themselves, discussing their options and the ramifications of the different choices. Ultimately, they knew the answer must be “no,” but Satampra wasn’t willing to deliver that news to the centaurs’ brutish faces. And so he made like a politician and referred the matter to a committee. “We need to discuss this with the council,” he informed the horsefolk. “We will meet you back here in a month to give you our answer.”

The council, naturally, said the answer must be “no” as well. Their ties with Varnhold and Restov (also an enemy of centaurs) were too important, and friendship with the centaurs gave them what, exactly? But I guess by submitting it to the full council, the responsibility wasn’t on Satampra or the PCs. He thought the right action was to let the centaurs be, but he couldn’t do that because of the political situation. And so, a month later, they returned to the Owl Prince’s court to meet with the centaur party, and informed them that Caerelia must refuse their request. The centaurs spit on the ground, named them honorless dogs, and then angrily galloped off.

Flirting with Disaster

During this time, the players had been rapidly expanding Caerelia’s borders into the southern Kamelands, while also hoarding their resources for big-ticket items in the capital. The net effect was that the kingdom’s Control DC shot up, while the dearth of construction meant that the kingdom bonuses did not keep pace. To compound the problem, Consumption increased as well, and it was eating into the income being generated each turn. That meant that the hoarding wasn’t even very effective, and Satampra’s dreams of turning Stagfell into the shining jewel of the Riverlands kept getting delayed. Normally, the situation would have been a minor hiccup that could have been rectified in a turn or two, but this time around it set the stage for a series of unfortunate events.

The enmity between two distant branches of the same family, one from Restov and one from Mivon, erupted into a violent feud. Mivon was founded by those who fled Restov when it surrendered to what would become Brevoy, and the two cities have had a grudge against each other ever since. With relations between Caerelia and Mivon breaking down in the wake of the disastrous diplomatic mission, local tensions had heated up, and simmering grudges were now coming to a boil. The council, having some experience with Feud events, moved quickly to lock up the guilty parties and separate the families, but even so, Unrest increased.

At the same time, the Mivonese Thieves’ Guild began trying to muscle their way back into the kingdom, and were vehemently opposed by the local guild. Crime and violence were growing more obvious, and the people were not happy about it. This actually wasn’t a kingdom event. Way back at the beginning of the kingdom, the PCs had allied themselves with the Restov Thieves’ Guild, and one of the side effects was that there was now a 20% chance that the thieves’ activities would increase Unrest by 1 each turn. That generally hadn’t been an issue when the kingdom’s bonuses were good, but now that the bonuses had been weakened by rapid expansion, the situation was different. Also, I was hitting that 20% almost every turn, for a change. And so I got to use that story seed of the Mivon guild after all!

All of this was followed by a string of bad rolls. The players started failing the Stability checks at the start of each turn to bring the Unrest down, which raised it up instead. They also started failing the Economics check to collect income. Caerelia’s commerce ground to a halt, both from a loss of business with Mivon and the guild war that was spilling out into the streets, and the people were becoming very unhappy with the situation.

As the situation spiraled out of control, a charismatic citizen saw the public unrest as an opportunity for his personal aggrandizement…

Next: no one expects the Rostland inquisition!

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15 Comments
  1. Pinkius permalink

    Yes! Concerned citizens taking matters into their own hands! Perhaps the council will see fit to offer an adventurers reward to some do-gooder, and this kingdom can slide back towards Goodness. Or maybe they’re gonna get lynched, Emperor Satampra sure doesn’t seem to like making concessions!

    • Slide back to Goodness? When were they ever Good?

      Honestly, Satampra has been the only carrying the conscience of the party of late. I mean, they could have just blown off the centaurs but he was honestly conflicted about it.

      • Pinkius permalink

        Now now, I said kingdom, They set the kingdom to be NG, and Salar was a thing for, you know, a bit.
        Good on Satampra for having some conflict, when everyone in the party agrees on everything, it sure does get boring! That’d be like if Aragorn Gimli and Legolas all agreed that living in the woods was the best, women needed beards, and swords were the best weapons. I might still watch that though…
        Just ran our first session of 13th age, went pretty well

  2. Mei Yu Lian permalink

    E-mail might work for getting a few Kingdom Rounds in.
    It has for similar purposes in my group (different game), but I suspect it’s very group dependent. :-/

    Maybe a forum?

    • Going to try email, at least to cover the space between bigger events. We shall see how it goes.

  3. It’s come to my attention that the majority of the Nomen are females, and so I adjusted the text (and the image) slightly to reflect that.

    Part 2 of this session *is* coming. My writing time has been taken up by a big upgrade for the Kingdom Manager application. Thankfully I’m not really behind since we didn’t end up playing this week due to a serious illness in my family.

    • Pinkius permalink

      I thought it a shame the AP didn’t involve the centaur more… we basically saved their leaders daughter from the dungeon, and later they joined our kingdom. (we rolled a lot of “locals join your kingdom” events, like 5, varnhold had already joined)
      They gave us their ancestral bow and everything.

      • Well, they’re supposed to be a good chunk of book 3, I guess, although to be honest the adventure only devotes a couple of pages to them. There’s a fan addition out there that has the PCs trying to earn the centaurs’ trust before they spill the beans about the daughter and all that. I won’t be using it, though, because there’s no way my players are going to jump through ridiculous time-consuming hoops to earn the respect of a group of NPCs.

        Ah, here it is:
        http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2n5wq?Dudemeisters-KM3-VV-Additions-and-Changes#18

    • Mei Yu Lian permalink

      I was just about to ask about the image – so thank you for answering that 🙂

      Any luck with using email for Kingdom turns?

      • Yeah, we managed to get through a bunch of turns before we hit the next event that will require the group’s participation, so that actually worked out well.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Kingmaker: Rivers Run Red, Session 31 | Daddy DM
  2. Kingmaker: Intermission #1, Session 9, Part 1 | Daddy DM
  3. Kingmaker: Varnhold Vanishing, Session 5, Part 2 | Daddy DM
  4. Kingmaker: Varnhold Vanishing, Session 6 | Daddy DM

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