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Kingmaker: Varnhold Vanishing, Session 2, Part 2

May 31, 2016

drowning manAs Ahmrin Fiarr skipped and danced away from the drowning Satampra, playing his fiddle all the while, a tiger appeared out of nowhere and pounced on him. The fiddler was scratched up, but without cold iron claws, there wasn’t too much the animal could do to him. Fiarr slid away from its assault, only to then be struck by lightning bolts that rained down from the darkening sky. Then the ball lightnings that were floating around the battlefield suddenly converged on top of him. The Fiddler yelped in pain as he was repeatedly shocked.

Remesio the cleric rushed over to help the drowning swashbuckler, who continued to flub his saving throws and fell to the ground, coughing and gagging. Without any way to confer the ability to breathe water upon him, the cleric was left trying to push the liquid out of his body.

The grimstalker leader retreated in the face of Orseen the warpriest’s assault. The warrior-priest tried to follow, but a previously unseen assassin vine in service to the fey grabbed him. While Orseen struggled to free himself, the grimstalker returned to tear into him with claw, tooth, and horn, which left the warpriest unconscious.

An unamused Ahmrin Fiarr played a somber and portentous song, which had the effect of summoning haunting mists to envelop the doorway of the house and fill its interior. This blocked line of sight for the casters, forcing them out in the open, and also caused Mestinous the elven wizard to take Wisdom damage (on top the Dexterity damage he had already suffered from grimstalker poison) and become shaken. As Iofur ran from the house, the wizard cast fly upon himself and swooshed out of the fog. Once outside, he was subsequently stunned by a sound burst from the Fiddler. It was not a good day for the elf.

But it was an even worse day for Satampra, who stopped struggling to breathe and… died. He had failed 5 saving throws, and Remesio failed 3 Heal checks, in order for that to happen. This was the 6th PC death of the campaign, and the first that wasn’t Antony’s (2 so far) or Bill’s (the winner with 3). And the kicker was that Satampra couldn’t even be brought back thanks to the tarn linnorm death curse, which blocked all healing spells.

Despite the losses on the human side, the battle was not going well for the fey. The grimstalkers had fled or fallen and spriggan crossbow bolts from the stockade above rained down to little effect. Ahrmin stood alone, which is not a good position for a support character like a bard or skald! And so he vanished and fled. But Mestinous was having none of that. From the air, he cast a spell of see invisibility and chased the Fiddler down as the spirit ran towards the river. Before Fiarr could reach the safety of water, a fireball from on high did him in. Ahmrin Fiarr the Fiddler would stalk the rivers and waterfalls of the Nomen Heights no more.

Remesio and Iofur quickly dragged away Orseen and Satampra before the spriggans could connect with their crossbows. Orseen was healed to consciousness, and carried the dead Emperor as the group retreated back to their horses on the other side of the river. They then rode west, and did not stop until well into the night.

Take a Break

After Orseen had said his morning prayers with the dawn, he was able to remove the death curses on Satampra and Mestinous. Then Remesio read from the scroll of raise dead that they had found in the Varnhold church in order to bring the swashbuckler back to life. Satampra was grateful to be among the living once more, although he was scarred by the experience – he came back with 2 negative levels that could not be removed without time and great expense.

With everyone back among the living, the explorers rode north to the next crossing of the Kiravoy River – a bridge about 10 miles downstream. Once on the other side, they circled around to the other side of Varnhold, and Iofur began looking for signs of the townsfolk. A tree in the center of town had told him that one night, everyone came out of their house and began walking to the right of the sunrise – or southeast in tree-speak. As I am using a Varnhold that had several thousand inhabitants, instead of the hamlet presented in the adventure, this left me with a problem: How did all of the townsfolk get to where they’re going? They can’t be transported as they are in the adventure backstory – there’s too many – so I suppose they walked. And that’s a big trail to follow. Once the players picked up signs of the mass exodus, they used speak with plants to make sure they stayed on the right track. And suddenly I was confronted with the possibility that they might just follow the trail right to the end of the adventure!

varnhold vanishing session 2 map 1This is when it’s a good time as DM to call for a break in order to think things through a little. Naturally, the possibility of doing that didn’t occur to me until after the session. 😐 In retrospect, since about 2 months had passed since the vanishing, and since it was the middle of November in a northern climate, I should have just said that once the trail left inhabited areas, where there might be trampled fences and whatnot, weather and time obliterated the tracks. And that most plants were sleeping for the winter and as a result did not see anything.

But instead, I allowed them to follow the speaking-plant-trail down to the linnorm skeleton. Along the way, they saw signs of fresh centaur tracks, as the Nomen have realized that their foes have pulled back and are cautiously testing to see how far they can advance. They also spied a roc flying overheard, which thankfully passed them by. And after losing the trail and picking it up again heading south, they ran across a gigantic skeleton rising above the hills.

The bleached bones had belonged to a massive dragon-like creature. Despite being buried deep in the earth, the ribs and skull towered eerily over the landscape. Presently the low valley that contained the remains was home to birds, a variety of plant life, and a pack of woolly mammoths. The mammoths did not appreciate anyone approaching, and so the group kept their distance. From afar, Mestinous judged the skeleton to be that of a linnorm, a primeval precursor to dragon-kind.

After admiring the skeleton for a bit, they went back to the trail. But south of there, I informed them that land was barren, and they were unable to get any more information from the local flora. They hunted around a bit before heading back home for the next kingdom turn.

I feel like I goofed in that I gave them a giant arrow pointing the way to the end of the adventure. Normally this wouldn’t bother me too much, but they need a few levels first if they have any hope of survival. Or maybe that’s okay in a sandbox? If a place is too tough for your character, you leave it be until you yourself are stronger, right? However, I don’t know if that will hold up from a story standpoint, given the PCs’ urgency in wanting to discover what happened to the townsfolk. In any case, I might be able to distract them with raids from the resurgent Nomen centaurs.

Next: return to Varnhold!

  1. Isn’t your group already a good bit above the level expected for VV? I thought they were, anyway.

    I’m not sure how much I’d worry about the giant arrow, they will have to deal with the Nomen anyway, one way or another. There’s already a war on, remember?

    • VV is supposed to run from 7th to 10th level, and the group is currently 8th. So maybe the party is supposed to be 9th for the final area?

      • Pinkius permalink

        the Cyclopsi are very strong, especially the antipaladin, what’re the more melee inclined of the party striking at with to hit?
        and about what AC do they have?

      • They’re on the low side, probably, because they haven’t bothered to buy/craft items with their considerable wealth yet. Been trying to push them on that recently.

        I do wonder about the cyclopses (cyclopsi?). Flash of insight + greataxe = insta-gibbed PC 1/battle, no? That’s why I’m wary about their level – at least at 9th, the cleric will have the option of breath of life.

      • True. Somehow I was sure they’d made level 9 by now :-/

      • Pinkius permalink

        Yea, garunteed 20s on attack rolls was pretty bogus back when we fought them. Thank god they don’t count as natural twenties. I forget if they crit or not.

      • It’s the same as if the cyclops rolled a 20, so it threatens. There’s still a chance it could miss the confirm roll, but that’s generally unlikely with a 1st attack.

        Looking at the adventure again, I see they gave the cyclops battleaxes instead of their default greataxes, which is a little better, I guess. 6d6 + (3 x normal dmg bonus) vs. 9d6 + (4.5 x dmg bonus).

      • A guaranteed 20 is still a pretty scary thing though.

      • Pinkius permalink

        there is of course, nothing saying the cyclopsi can’t two-hand their battleaxes, so… yea…
        Might want to throw some filler enemies in before they get into the tomb maybe some hard hitting animals to foreshadow the cyclopsi

      • I like the Nomen-raids-idea better. They are already formally at war with the nomen, so the centaurs striking without warning makes sense.

  2. Regarding that big arrow, I was wondering if it was possibly to add a ‘Setting’ feature to the Kingdom Manager App, to allow users to costumize detail like How many people per settlement square. 250 is a lot, probably too many.per settlement square, so that would be a nice thing to be able to houserule.

    • It’s already in there! Campaign -> Settings, Kingdom -> Population 🙂

      • Awesome, thanks!
        I’d just thought of those as information, but they are editable, thank you!

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