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Kingmaker: Prepping Blood for Blood

April 17, 2017

This post is for Kingmaker DMs and other curious parties. It’s a collection of issues I had with book 4 in the adventure path, Blood for Blood, while preparing it for my campaign, and some of the changes I made as a result. Spoilers for this adventure and the adventure path as a whole follow. Consider yourself warned!

If the “hexploration” aspect of the AP was wearing thin in the previous chapter, now it is basically dead. The map is dominated by a huge swamp that the PCs have no real reason to enter, except to complete the “inside cover” quests. Are the 10th level rulers of a kingdom really going to trudge through (or at this point, fly over) a swamp looking for slug spit for a nameless NPC? The kingdom can’t do much with marsh hexes*, so there’s not much reason to explore the area for expansion purposes, either. About the only quest that I think might be of interest to my group is Garuum’s Revenge, which sends the PCs to knock over the boggard village for Garuum from Stolen Land.

* You can build roads/highways, fisheries, and watchtowers/forts – that’s it. A fishery basically just offsets the Consumption increase of claiming the hex without ever earning back the claim cost, or the cost of building the fishery.

It’s likely that the players, or at least my players, will simply follow the breadcrumbs laid before them rather than wandering around. The basic structure of the adventure is:

  1. PC kingdom is attacked by “army” from Fort Drelev
  2. PCs go to Fort Drelev and take out the Baron, free the prisoners, liberate town
  3. PCs locate and take out Armag

Conceivably, step 3 could be completed before step 2, but the adventure assumes the players will go after the obvious threat first.

When the adventure was written, the mass combat rules didn’t exist, so that element is not present. But running the adventure now gives me the opportunity to rectify that.

The Opposition

As with Varnhold Vanishing, the players’ neighbor doesn’t seem to exist in the same realm of kingdom building that they do. There’s a town, and… that’s it. Now, Fort Drelev was not very successful, in part because their territory was crap, in part because they were pressed on all sides from the Tiger Lord barbarians and Pitax, and in part because the Baron is a greedy, vain, selfish jerk of a ruler. But given his vanity, and needing to support his lifestyle and thus the town, there should be some farms to feed everyone, at the very least. So the first issue is to figure out what Fort Drelev’s territory actually entails.

To that end, I assumed that the colony would have claimed as much farmland as possible. My players were slow to expand west of the Narlmarches, so Fort Drelev’s territory extended up to the East Sellen River and the Wyvernstone Bridge. A road was built to connect the town to Brevoy, and some of the uplands were taken as well.

To the west, Drelev’s expansion is ultimately checked by Pitax, and a push to the plains to the south probably stalled due to lack of interest or pushback from monsters in the nearby slough. An unfinished southern road that was meant to connect to the River Kingdoms stands as a testament to Drelev’s fecklessness.

Having established those initial borders, but not wanting to ditch all of the non-swamp hex encounters in the adventure, I figured that territory was lost as monsters moved in and were not dealt with. The attack from Pitax and the Tiger Lords similarly caused Unrest to go up to the point where Fort Drelev started losing hexes. That’s why some of the hexes outside the colony’s borders have improvements on them.

The Attack

The Drelev forces that attack Tatzylford in the published adventure are truly, truly pitiful. Converted into army units, they wouldn’t last one mass combat phase against the weakest of Caerelia’s cities, even absent the PCs. Therefore it’s paramount that the invading army be upgraded. This is my current plan:

  • 30 trolls (Small army, ACR 3)
  • 15 hill giants (Tiny army, ACR 3)
  • 200 Tiger Lord barbarians (human barbarian 4) with masterwork weapons & armor and ranged weapons (Large army, ACR 5)
  • 1,000 mercenaries (human warrior 3) with ranged weapons and 2 siege engines (Gargantuan army, ACR 7)
  • 13 lurkers in light (Tiny army, ACR 1)

The mercs are led by Aemon Trask, as detailed in the adventure, while the other contingents are led by unremarkable commanders. Or maybe the hill giants could be led by Munguk, or he could be among their numbers. The lurkers come from the Green Lady by way of Pitax; as tiny, almost always invisible faeries, they make perfect saboteurs that can bypass city defenses!

The basic plan is that the lurkers can fly over the walls and, thanks to their invisibility and spells, do a good deal of damage against whatever defenders are present. The trolls and barbarians are shock troops, while the mercenaries and hill giants can take down the walls and fire on the garrison. By the rules, the giants’ throw rocks ability is just a ranged attack, but it makes sense to me that it should also be able to target a settlement’s defenses as a siege engine. In this case I would count one unit of giants as a single siege engine.

In the adventure, the forces target Tatzylford – and indeed I suspect that Tatzlford only exists so a “known location” will be there for the attack in book 4 – but does that make sense for my player’s kingdom? Assuming the invaders will have to cross the Wyvernstone Bridge, there are three close targets: Tatzylford, Last Hope, and Oleg’s Gate. Of those, the first two have the weakest defenses and are connected directly to the bridge by roadways. Last Hope, not having a river to hide behind, is the softer target, so that will be the first target for the invading army.

What can the PCs do in response, once they discover that an army has crossed their border? Technically, armies can only be raised during a kingdom turn, which is a strong argument for both attacking neighbors just after a turn has ended, and for having a standing army present in your kingdom at all times. But it seems unfair that a town shouldn’t be able to raise a response to an attacking army on its doorstep. To that end I would allow town militias to be activated at any point in time, without counting towards the usual army limit. And after thinking about the numbers for a bit, I decided that the town militias would top out at 10% of the town’s total population. In my game, this is pretty easy to justify, as the players instituted a militia-training regime a long time ago.

But what the militia was absent for some reason, and a town was undefended? Or a watchtower or fort was empty? I think there would probably still be some token resistance, and count the structures as an army with 1 HP, no offense, and a DV equal to 0 + the Defense bonus of the town or fort. Such a defense could not defeat an attacking army, but it might hold a weak unit off for a day or two with some luck.

Mixing Scales

The real issue to tackle, though, is what to do when the players want to get involved personally. I’m pretty mystified that Paizo’s mass combat rules don’t even consider this possibility, aside from converting the characters into 1-man armies. An army of 1,000 soldiers is an impressive force, but is basically toast against a group of 10th level PCs. Heck, they’d be dead meat against a wizard with flygreater invisibility, and a wand of fireball.

And perhaps the 1-man army is simply the way to go. At 10th level, each PC turns into a decent army with around 10 HP, which is enough to absorb at least one round of battle. The martial characters make out poorly in this setup, as spellcasters add their highest level spell to both OM and DV and non-spellcasters get nothing, but they should still be able to contribute. Especially if they have some city walls to hide behind.

The War Campaign

Once the initial assault on the player’s kingdom is over, what then? I imagine that Drelev put everything into that strike, and when it fails, he doesn’t have much left to wage war with. The Tiger Lords are waiting for Armag to emerge from the tomb. Irovetti is not ready for a full-blown war and is keeping his remaining forces close to home.

But still, there should be some armies left to provide some opposition to the PCs’ advance. A token force at the Wyvernstone Bridge. Fort Drelev’s militia, backed up by hill giants, if the players assault the town itself instead of sneaking in individually. Small, roving bands of Tiger Lord barbarians. Some of the monster encounters could even be converted into army units if the PCs’ armies should stumble into those hexes. The aim here is to give the player armies something to roll over if the group decides to invade Drelev with conventional forces.

The Last Gasp of Gyronna

This is the last time the cult of Gyronna shows up in the AP, so it might be useful to bring back the surviving hags from Rivers Run Red as allies of the Black Sisters. Nekista Syla the Silver-Tongued was a green hag bard, and Mamuna the Wretched was a sea hag witch. If they’re with the Black Sisters, they should probably be around the same CR, so I will raise them to CR 9. That will make Nekista a 9th level bard and Mamuna a 7th level witch.

The Sisters themselves deserve some renovation. They have identical stat blocks, probably for space reasons as high level NPCs take up a lot of pages. I would leave one a cleric for the spells, and then swap out the other for another divine class: antipaladin, inquisitor, oracle, warpriest? I feel inquisitor is probably the best match for leaders of a secret murderous cult.

Alternate Builds

Blood for Blood is rather old, and it predates both the Advanced Player’s Guide and Advanced Class Guide. Some of the new classes presented in those books are, I feel, better fits for some NPCs. Baron Hannis Drelev, for one, is much better off as a swashbuckler than a fighter/rogue. He’s already a rather weak antagonist, as a martial character in a high-level Pathfinder game. But making him a swashbuckler at least gives him better damage potential and some tricks that he could conceivable pull off, assuming he doesn’t blow a save-or-die roll.

Zorek, divine guardian of the tomb, is another. The author of the adventure has said that he thought an oracle with the Battle mystery would be a better fit for Zorek than cleric. Another option is warpriest, although that reduces his maximum spell level. Oracle is, I think, a stronger choice in that the higher-level spells are probably worth more than some extra fighting power.

Finally, Armag the reborn legendary barbarian himself is, strangely, mostly a fighter. Making him a full-blown barbarian gives him greater rage and higher-end rage powers, which I think are worth more than some extra feats. You can’t get the pounce special ability with a feat. We can throw in the Invulnerable Rager archetype for some added survivability.

Planting Seeds

The last bit to consider is, how does this adventure advance the overall plot of the AP? Pitax’s role here is out in the open, which makes the PCs’ presumed agreement to attend the competition there in the next adventure an odd one. If anything, it seems that having dealt with Drelev and the Tiger Lords, the player’s next, most obvious goal would be to invade Pitax and take out the threat of Irovetti. Perhaps Pitax will have large armies waiting at its borders by the time the group overwhelms Drelev, leading to a tense stand-off until the next book.

As written, the fey presence in the slough is extremely minimal. The faeries in the invading army will serve to remind the players that the First World, or at least the Green Lady, has a strong interest in their demise. And perhaps the war would be a good opportunity to spring a fey assassin on the party. It might also be worthwhile to introduce another agent of the Green Lady looking for the thorn-wrapped sword that Ivo had been searching for, just to keep that in the players’ minds before the next chapter.

  1. Pinkius permalink

    our kingdom focused on growth, with the idea that mustering an army later would be easy enough, as such, our armies we mustered to fight pitax were 2 ACR 1 human fighter armies. This did not go well. When our PCs just fought the trolls in a brawl they got minced in short order, and we decided the mass combat army rules were a load of baloney.

    • Pinkius permalink

      or maybe that was against the trolls and instead we mustered 3 ACR 5 armies… i forget, as I said, we disregarded the rules soon after because, baloney.

    • Were you using the mass combat rules here? Because they’re not actually part of the published adventure. There’s a whole pseudo-mass combat mini-game for defending Tatzylford at the start, then nothing.

      • Pinkius permalink

        Mhmm we used mass combat defending Tatzylford I think, it was a big draw of the campaign setting initially, “build your own kingdom, amass and lead armies!”
        I’m a big RTS player so…. it didn’t live up to my vaunted expectations of “oh boy, there’s no limit on the tech tree, you could do whatever you wanted!”.
        The big problem was that the PCs didn’t really matter, outside of a bonus on rally checks, and the armies were pretty much piles of jobbers. Even swingier than regular pathfinder because you don’t get 5 characters (and if you do they’re terrible).

      • Pinkius permalink

        Basically i was expecting a mix of Majesty, AoE2 and a bit of Baldur’s Gate thrown in. and I got Baldur’s Gate where your success or failure at a certain point of the game depended on playing a round of AoE2 with a blindfold on.

  2. The mass combat system is… I want to write rudimentary, but “a mess” is probably more honest.

    • Rudimentary is a pretty good description, I think. Personally I think it’s a bit poorly thought out, although I can see the reasons for going in the direction they did. But not really addressing a lot of the ins and outs of warfare and how PCs interact with it puts a lot of work back on the DMs.

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