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Kingmaker: War of the River Kings, Post-Mortem

August 12, 2019

Another enemy kingdom has fallen to the PCs! King Irovetti is dead, Pitax has been annexed, the mysterious thorn-wrapped sword Briar is in hand, and book 5 is concluded.

As adventures go, this one is rather ridiculous, in both good and bad ways. It spends many pages on a tournament the players would be smart to not attend, has a nonsensical assassination plot, and ends in a 1-story “palace” that has exactly one bedroom. It also suffers a bit for being very similar in structure to the previous outing.

In its favor, it has a cast of colorful characters, which goes a long way towards facilitating good gaming experiences. Certainly Irovetti and Avinash Jurrg were antagonists that my PCs loved to hate. It also embraces the gonzo D&Disms that haven’t been seen in this adventure path since the third adventure, only with Even Moar! Walking into Irovetti’s throne room was like walking into a different world for my group. Sure, they had hobnobbed with kobolds and centaurs, but this guy was friends with ogre mages, gargoyles, and weretigers! Oh my!

Let’s get down to the specifics, though.

The Rushlight Tournament

The tourney doesn’t make much sense in the context of the story. I prepped the players for it by having Irovetti befriend them and shower them with flattery beforehand, and they still knew it was a likely trap. Certainly it would be useful if the PCs were aware of the tournament before this adventure, and even better if they had participated in it, so as to make it seem more innocuous (I had meant to do that, but as with many of my intentions, I forgot). But that’s some very long-range planning, and it’s not really the issue.

#1 – Why are the rulers of a kingdom competing in tournaments when none of the other rulers are? I don’t think there’s a particularly good answer for this. Our ruler solved the issue by adopting his vigilante guise when competing, but the expectation is still rather strange. The focus of the event should be on the politics and intrigue with the other River Kingdom rulers, not the actual games. Unfortunately that’s impossible for the published adventure as the previous adventures haven’t set any of that up.

Heck, would the other rulers even attend, or would they send emissaries? Having all the lords of the River Kingdoms gathered in one place seems like a dicey proposition.

Ah, I just realized – Quintessa Maray, the Daggermark spy from Blood for Blood, should have been brought along to the tournament. She could have served as a knowledge base for the players in meeting and interacting with the other River Kingdom parties. Oh well.

#2 – The trap makes no sense, either. Irovetti lures the PCs to the tourney so that he can attack one of their towns while they’re away. When the PCs are 12th level! There’s no way they don’t have teleport, sending, or a host of other means of near-instant transportation and communication. I fixed this by having the attack unfold on two fronts – the town assault and an attack on the other Caerelians after the PCs teleported away.

Whiterose Abbey

Irovetti has this complicated plot where he plants rumors of a super-weapon in hopes of drawing the PCs to Whiterose Abbey, where an assassin awaits them. Only the assassin is a ranger, with a bunch of low-level helpers, and they have absolutely no way to prevent their targets from just leaving. No way to counter invisibility, even (aside from having Scent). Even if the PCs do stick around, the whole group is highly vulnerable to mid-range spells – Gaetane in my game got grappled by black tentacles, then inhaled a stinking cloud, and then was fireballed until dead. And there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it aside from never rolling low.

The whole plot is a tremendous amount of effort expended for a really pitiful follow-through.

The Palace of a Hundred Doors

Irovetti’s palace is very weird. It’s a giant map that has barely anything in it. It’s a palace that’s only one story tall and the vast majority of its space is taken up by tiny 5’x10′ cells. There are no bedrooms save for the king’s, which is hidden. I suppose they were just out of pages in the adventure by this point. “Here’s a map and a couple of encounters. Enjoy!”

Coming Up

I asked the players what goals they had for their characters and the kingdom, assuming that there would be several years of peace. I got some interesting answers! At some point though, Nyrissa’s plan will be put into motion, and Caerelia will never be the same again!

Next: a favor for the fey!

  1. My players have dodged a lot of this, by simply declaring war on Irovetti before getting any Rushlight invitations. A bit primaturely probably, but they decided to go for it.

    PS: I agree. Teleportation/Sending is just too good – especially in an actual kingdom. So of course the PCs will have made sure to have access to such magics.

  2. I’m running Kingmaker for the first time starting this weekend, your blog has been incredibly helpful! I love your changes and adaptions, I’ll probably be cribbing a lot for my own game. I’ve blitzed through all your posts in like three weeks haha.

    Probably a silly question, if you had a few important bits of advice to give a GM running it for the first time what would they be? 😛

    • Ditch the kingdom management rules, sadly.

      Also don’t try to do too much. That I feel is a common pitfall of sandboxes (Or it has been for me anyway).

      Also be sure to breathe life into the antagonists, without going crazy (see previous point). The adventures don’t have space to detail how they’d respond to the PCs’ actions but don’t take that to mean that the NPCs should do nothing. Have them plot and scheme and fight back.

      Otherwise I would point to the postmortem posts I did for each adventure.

      • Ditch them completely? That’s a shame :/ Did they drag it down too much, or? I remember you saying during Varnhold Vanishing that it got a bit rote since everything was so easy, so maybe keeping them in the early stages and slowly phasing them out as the kingdom can handle itself would work?

      • We’re using the Kingdom Manager so they haven’t dragged things down, really. It’s just a bad mini-game for reasons previously outlined. You could phase it out but you do kind of need it if you’re fielding armies, in that the treasury and consumption puts a limit on what the players can do.

    • Also, ask your players what they are looking for in the campaign. The AP as written has no politics, which they might be expecting, given the concept. Find out what they want to experience and tailor the AP to that, because it can be played lots of different ways.

  3. How much have you editied the adventure overall to make sense in the running of each session?

    • Sorry, to make sense of what? I don’t quite understand what you’re asking.

      The changes will be apparent to those who have read the adventure. I’ve also outlined what my plans were before the adventure began, right here.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Kingmaker: War of the River Kings, Session 13, Part 2 | Daddy DM
  2. summer Update III – Rosecrown
  3. Kingmaker: Prepping Sound of a Thousand Screams, Part 1 | Daddy DM

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