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Kingmaker: Sound of a Thousand Screams, Session 1, Part 1

October 4, 2019

For my DMs-only notes on changes I’ve made to this adventure, see here.

Here’s a map of Caerelia as it stands at the start of the adventure.

The rulers of Caerelia awoke one fine mid-Rova (September) morning to reports of a huge whirlpool in the middle of Lake Tuskwater. As they were currently in Caerelia’s capital, Stagfell, and as Stagfell was located on the edge of the Tuskwater, this was a concerning development! In fact, the whirlpool was only a couple of miles south of Stagfell’s harbor, where the aquatic anomaly had already swallowed one slow-moving barge.

The reports further said that the water in and around the pool had turned black, and those exposed to it contracted a virulent blinding sickness. Both the dark waters and the edges of the whirlpool appeared to be expanding.

Caerelia’s emperor and his council took the strange occurrence to be an incursion from the faerie realm, the First World. They had in fact suffered other such incursions in the past, and had long anticipated the arrival of another. And so, the kingdom’s greatest champions:

  • Emperor Satampra Zeiros, CG male human swashbuckler 12/rogue 3
  • Councilor Orseen, LN male human gnoll warpriest of Iomedae 15
  • Magister Aakif Raganus, CN male human arcanist 15
  • High Priest Kwin D’noot, CG male dwarf cleric of Cayden Cailean 15

…set forth on griffons and flying carpet to investigate the swirling, diseased waters.

Swan Lake

It didn’t take long for the affected area to come into view. As the PCs drew nearer, they noted that the whirlpool was populated – a dozen or more giant black swans swam placidly around the edges, sometimes getting pulled in but taking to the air before being sucked down. The big birds paid no heed to the humanoids and griffon above them.

On the way over, Aakif the arcanist had spontaneously prepared and cast a spell (as yet un-named) that he had developed with the aid of the kingdom’s Spymaster, ex-PC Mestinous the elven wizard, to detect planar openings. The divination had led them right to the whirlpool, though now that they were hovering over it, he couldn’t sense a single “center” of the planar passageway as he had expected. Instead he had the sensation that there were many smaller portals, all below him, and all in constant motion.

As per the adventure, the bloom’s power is bound up in the swans. Or maybe it’s bound up in the water elementals, and gets transferred to the swans when the elementals are destroyed? In any case, the players felt like they had a handle on the earlier incursions that I had introduced, which made the actual published blooms look like an evolution, possibly in response to their previous victories.

While the arcanist puzzled out the meaning of this, Orseen the gnoll warpriest grew bored and began pumping himself full of divine power. Then he leapt from his griffon and dived into the center of the whirlpool, using Fervor to invoke righteous might as he fell.

Splash!

The armored, giant gnoll was quickly pulled to the bottom by the turbulent waters. He had prayers of water breathing and freedom of movement going, so being underwater did not hamper him, but all the same he could barely see; the lake floor was enveloped in a giant cloud of swirling silt, kicked up by the churning whirlpool. And beyond that, while he could breathe the black water, it was full of disease, and he had to make several saving throws.

The warpriest poked the silt with his sword, meeting no resistance, but then – the silt poked back! A stone-hard current slammed into him, knocking him backwards, and then another rush of water hit him from behind! As Orseen gasped from the shock of the blows, he drew more of the filthy water into his lungs.

As outlined in the “prep” post for the adventure, these were a couple of Plague Bearer water elementals, instead of the stock elementals in the adventure. Aside from the additional complication of the diseases and the concealment provided by the silt cloud, they were not terribly effective. Orseen just about handled the two of them on his own without much trouble. I probably should have stuck with having 4 elementals, as in the adventure, despite their higher CR. I could have also upped the concealment afforded the elementals to 50%, given that they would presumably be near-invisible in their element. Or not? Regular air elementals aren’t naturally invisible, I suppose.

In any case, while Orseen fought the cloudy water, the others decided to follow him under the surface… just not via the whirlpool. They dived down beyond its edges, swam down to the lake bed, and then made their way towards the whirling water’s terminus. They dimly made out Orseen through the occluded water, and assisted in destroying the poorly-perceived elementals. Aakif and Satampra the swashbuckler got diseased in the process; a minor issue that would soon be remedied by the party cleric.

A Thousand Underwater Screams

When the last elemental had been destroyed, they heard “a high-pitched keening not unlike the sound of a mortally wounded rabbit or deer,” only distorted by the water. So, not like that at all, really. Glowing energy rose from the water, up towards the surface, and exploded in an impressive light show. Then the swirling currents above slowed and came to rest.

When the group broke the surface, they found the whirlpool was gone, the swans had all died, and that that portion of the lake was no longer black. Orseen wanted to eat the dead birds, though Satampra advised against it, reckoning that they were as diseased as the water had been.

The giant avian corpses really weirded out the Emperor. They were ultimately brought back to Stagfell aboard the party’s folding boat, where Satampra ordered them burned (after giving in to Orseen’s pleading and letting him have one of the birds). But the First World swans were not harmed by the fire – they had resistance from the Fey template. Aakif detected strong magical auras on the corpses but didn’t know what to make of them. In the end, Satampra had the strange swans buried in a field outside of town and had guards posted over the graves. Just in case.

The swans are “trophies” of the 1st bloom, needed to enter Thousandbreaths later on. Or at least, the PCs need trophies from 3 different blooms to enter Nyrissa’s realm. So I’m glad they buried the dead birds (who have a gentle repose effect on them, as per the adventure) rather than using them in a feast, as Orseen’s player Bill had advocated for.

Next: The second bloom!

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6 Comments
  1. Pinkius permalink

    Yes, let us feast upon these discoloured birds who are clearly magical and who swam in diseased water.
    What could possibly go wrong.

  2. For Pathfinder enemies, the rule “The More the Merrier” does appear to hold true.

    • Yeah, definitely. The number of enemy actions vs. party actions is a big issue, but also expected lifespan – most foes only get 2-3 rounds of action, at best, before running out of HP or failing a SoD roll. For creatures like these elementals, that’s 1-2 slam attacks x3, or 3-6 d20 rolls. Which isn’t that many, and the low number magnifies the impact of poor or great rolls on their part.

      In this case, Orseen was fully buffed, which makes his numbers pretty ridiculous. His ability to do that used to be limited – maybe he could only cast his best buff 1/day at lower levels – but now, not so much. Not that he needs to be ready for more than 1 fight/day, these days. I guess we’ll see what happens when they enter Thousandbreaths, which is very dungeon-like. They haven’t had to deal with a dungeon full of monsters since Vordakai’s tomb, I don’t think.They avoided a lot of the fights in Armag’s tomb.

      • … and Kingmaker has had a lot of “One encounter per day” situations, you’re right.

      • Pinkius permalink

        It doesn’t help that irovetti’s dungeon also didn’t really happen. Sure they did a lot of the encounters, technically. Notable exception of the giant flame worm thing in the basement, and the double dire tigers that became a moment of awesome in our group.

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