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Kirth Gersen's page

23,062 posts (23,807 including aliases). 8 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist. 12 aliases.


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John Kretzer wrote:
Second one hint: mmm...kinda of a cop buddy movie

If it's any one other than "48 Hours," you're banned from the thread!

Kirth Gersen wrote:

"Who's Mondo Man?"

"Just some guy. Don't worry about it."

Hint 1: Features cameos by Frankie Avalon and Buck Dharma.

Hint 2: Check "best stoner movies" lists.

DmRrostarr wrote:
Its under Great Old One subtype

Which does not appear to be linked in the PRD.

Thanks for the info!

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Hama wrote:
I don't have a problem with anglo-saxon, germanic or gaelic facial structure. Been to France and Germany and England. Just Hungaro-finnish for some reason.

Interestingly, Finno-Uralic populations tend to have the highest % Neanderthal DNA (4-5%, as opposed to general 2-3% for Caucasians), so there might actually be some atavistic reason for that.

Modern sub-Saharan Africans have 0% except through non-African ancestry, so I guess Freehold is more human than either you or I.

Modern Asians and especially Pacific Islanders have some 3-5% Denisovian DNA (another archaic non-Homo sapiens sapiens population).

M Goblin Beer Snob 1/Freethinker 3

The leucrotta continue to wreak havoc in the front ranks, although you can see several leucrotta corpses on the ground: evidence of Lord Fenrift's work, no doubt.

A tall woman in scaled armor hefts a gratsword and dashes one of the luecrottas to the ground with it, then quickly stabs it while it's down. Someone leans over and says, "That's Dame Kayla Ellistil! Didn't know she was on this trip!"

The winged lion loops around for another pass in the air; several archers shoot at it, but they're not shooting in tandem and accomplish little.

M Goblin Beer Snob 1/Freethinker 3

OK, for those planning to participate, by Monday please have at least a working character! Backstory beyond a couple of words (district, profession, family if important) is optional. (Tombrose and Jym are (and have been) ready!)

If this isn't do-able, please let me know and we'll collectively decide how long to postpone.

Can anyone tell me what this does? It's listed in the PRD for all the Great Old Ones, but there's no link or description for it.

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How many trans people have been killed in Houston during the last, say, ten years, for using the "wrong" restroom? I'm not saying it's unimportant, but if the answer is "zero," I wonder if it isn't wiser to focus efforts on, say, general public education and advancement of rights overall, or on mental health care as needed for transition, suicide prevention, etc.

Of course, from my point of view, the need for gender-segregated bathrooms, locker rooms, etc. is both antiquated and absurd -- but 99.9999% of the U.S. violently disagrees with me on that, so my opinions aren't really worth much in the grand scheme of things.

Before long, Jak and Skjorn are out in the Gulf of the Winds, sailing for the main sea lane leading from Bailan City to Hylore. Skjorn's half-sister prays for good winds for them, and his half-brother handles the rigging and so on, while singing sad songs and lusty ballads. On reaching the sea-lane, they cut back and forth across it, scanning the horizon for the Flying Tiger's flag.

Unfortunately, they also catch the attention of a pair of sea-drakes, aquatic dragons nearly 15 feet long, that emerge up out of the sea and actually fly above the ship, strafing the deck with balls of lightning that strike and glow like St. Elmo's fire. As Skjorn attempts to fend them off with his bow, the Flying Tiger comes into view, moving quickly under full sail. Skjorn's crew maneuvers closer; Jak launches bolts of fire from Skellem's wand, catching the sails on fire and igniting the deck, slowing the bullion ship's progress. Skjorn rams their quarry head-on, and the dragons, seeing the skurrying prey on the deck, begin carrying off people there, still emitting ball lightning -- each ball drifts around the deck, killing a number of sailors.

Jack and Skjorn quickly board; avoiding the dragons, they go belowdecks and slaughter everyone there after a horrific fight. Then they allow the ship to sink, after disentangling their vessel from the wreckage. Charting the location carefully, they return to Hylore, striving to arrive there before the loan comes due.

Hama wrote:

Not the Bulgarians I met :D

Although, since we are all Slavs...maybe my perception is skewed.

In parts of Bulgaria, a lot of the people have a lot of Turkish blood from way back. Turkish + Slavic seems like a pretty good mix, at least from my point of view. (I tend to find most Romanians and Hungarians to be generally... unappealing to look at.)

Hama wrote:
Serbian girls are either gold diggers who base their looks on trashy 80s porn stars, crazy to the bone or taken. So no luck there

Just head southeast a bit down the Danube -- most Bulgarian women are smoking hot, and I really like their sense of humor there, too.

Honestly, I think most magic items are overpriced except when it comes to skill boosts, and those I think are woefully underpriced in PF -- I'd personally maybe even increase them by a factor of 5 or even 10. But the rule in 3.5/PF seems to be that "skills don't really matter," so keeping them cheap is probably fine for a standard game.

M Goblin Beer Snob 1/Freethinker 3

Nice shots! Three thrown darts, three hits, and the lion roars in pain.

Rogue should be great at skills and stealth, but in Pathfinder, spells are better for both of those things than are skills. So I would totally give the rogue bard casting. But with a very focused list, and I wouldn't call it spellcasting; I'd call them "skill tricks," make them (Ex), and have them usable at will but you'd need to pass a related skill check to use them (DC maybe 10 + 4 x spell level).

Then you'd keep your Stealth skill maxed out because you'd need it to become invisibile. And you'd keep your Climb skill up so that you'd be able to spider climb. And so on. You'd have a whole array of things you could do with your skills, that were level-appropriate and that didn't get you upstaged by your teammates at every turn. And you could do them all day, if need be.

Meeting the others, Skjorn says, "I think we need to be quick now. Jak, please go to this address" (scribbles on paper), "and tell the two half-elves there that we need them. They're my half-siblings, so no worries on that account. Have them get my ship ready and meet us there. Lydia, Dirk said something about ordering the bank to extend the loan. That seems slightly awkward to me -- can you find out what he was talking about? Let Jak and I know when we get back, hopefully in a couple of days."

Jak stutters, "Your ship?"

"Well, technically the Guild's, but I doubt they know I've been using it, and probably haven't confiscated it yet. But, yeah, we can't be pirates without a ship."


"Trust me."

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As GM, I set up the bad guys and scenario, strictly according to the rules we're playing by, and I run them as impartially as possible. Very occasionally I might get called on to resolve a rules issue, but that's pretty rare during play -- my players are usually very exprienced and highly rules-savvy.

What I don't do is force my storyline onto the players, or artificially give them breaks, or artificially blunt their successes. Sometimes the adventure goes in a totally different direction than I expected -- in fact, when it does so is when I find DMing to be the most rewarding. Sometimes a BBEG will go down like a chump because the PCs legitimately outmaneuver him, or just get lucky. I applaud them when this happens. Sometimes they get in over their heads and the whole party gets wiped out. I urge them to roll up new characters.

Sometimes they'll disagree with a rule. Before the next session begins, I ask them to discuss it and vote on it -- and I abstain except in the case of a tie.

Outside, Skjorn cracks his knuckles. "Now we're getting somewhere. Obviously he's been planning this move for some time, and it seems like this 'Yi-Juan' person is his silent partner. I think it's time for a meeting with Dirk Thrandarl -- it's only fair to tell him I'm coming."

Lydia and Jak both protest the wisdom of this decision, but they cannot sway him. Skjorn explains that he has enough friends at the Guild headquarters that he'll be in no real danger there.

Arriving, he shows his certificates and demands an appointment with the Guildmaster, expecting to be put on a waiting list. Somehow his message is relayed, and the answer comes back in minutes: "He'll see you now, sir."

Dirk Thrandarl proves to be a very athletic-looking Northwinder, human, with red hair and a short red beard much like Skjorn's. He has great personal magnetism, and wears a heavy flail at his belt -- an unusual weapon for a landlubber, but more common as a shipboard "fighting iron." He shakes Skjorn's hand firmly, then motions for him to sit. "No hard feelings, I trust? Rhenquist's ability to lead had been slipping for years; he'd been missing opportunities best seized. I had to let you go until I knew where you stood, but I could use a lieutenant as able as yourself."

Skjorn smiles. "Actually, I'd insist on being an equal Guildmaster. You and I own the same number of shares, after all."

Thrandarl's eyes narrow, and he says, flatly, "Impossible. But just to settle it, let's have a contest." Motioning to a pair of crossbows in a display case -- beautiful masterwork hunting weapons from Wilden County in Northwind -- he says, "Let's shoot some pheasant. At, say, a 1% interest per bird. Assuming you have all of Rhenquist's shares and no one else's -- and I think that's all you have -- you'll need to beat me by 7 birds. Shall we release a dozen, to keep things interesting?"

Skjorn, knowing he's potentially in over his head, attempts a bluff. "Six birds total will be enough," he replies.

As it is, Thrandarl kills three of the birds to Skjorn's two, and the last one gets away. Ruefully, Skjorn hands over his loss, disturbed by the accuracy of Thrandarl's marksmanship.

"My offer of a lieutenancy stands," says Dirk.

"As to that, what happens in a week when you can't repay the loan? The whole guild collapses. I'll just found my own, and I think I can build it faster than you took over this one."

At this, Thrandarl smiles openly in his beard. "Then I'll just call a meeting and extend the loan. But that won't be necessary: the Flying Tiger will be back before then, carrying a million silver. Good day, Skjorn."

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Back when I was single, the only people who ever hit on me were gay guys.
Unfortunately for me and for them, I'm not.
C'est la vie.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Remember that +2 to CR means, literally, that the monster is twice as powerful (i.e., represents an equal threat as two identical monsters without that ability). It would take a seriously awesome special attack to do that.

Skjorn advances Lydia the remainder of his ready money and requests that she buy any Guild shares that are available -- but discreetly, so as not to drive up the prices.

Two days later, Jak has a new friend at the aquarium, and Skjorn now owns 15% of the Shipping Guild, in the form of bearer certificates. The three proceed to the Palladium Bank branch, to keep their appointment with Nils Brinkjen -- who proves to be a city gnome dressed in a conservative gray suit, looking incongruous without a peaked cap.

"Mr. Brinkjen, thank you for meeting with us. My client is a representative of the Hylore Guild of Shippers, Traders, and Longshoremen, here to inquire as to the status of their loan."

Th gnome looks at Skjorn critically, ignoring the bearer cerificates he presents. "That information of course must remain confidential, except to the majority shareholder."

Skjorn, gambling that Thrandarl could not possibly hold 51%, sneers. "There isn't one. The Guildmaster himself has, what, 40% maximum?"

Lydia makes a series of gestures, then stares at the banker. "I strongly suggest you tell my client what he wishes to know." (This is a serious breach of the law; the use of mind-affecting spells is banned throughout Aviona. However, outright lying is a major violation of elven social protocols, and Lydia feels that, in this case, commission of a felony is the lesser offense.)

Glassy-eyed, the gnome replies, "According to the last records in our possession, the Guildmaster has only 22%. Someone named Yi-Juan has another 31%, and 15% is owned by an entity listed only as "Uncle Wu." The former Guildmaster also had 15%, which I see is now in your possession. The remaining 17% of shares are outstanding. As to the loan, it comes due in one week."

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Having spent nearly a decade in Houston, it does not surprise me in the least that local politicians and churches would squander this much time, money, and effort in what appears to ultimately be a squabble over who gets to use which restrooms.

Gaining access to the tank will be simple, but what to do about Molly is less so. Skjorn admits that he can swim in his marvellous elf-wrought plate armor, but prefers not to fight a giant octopus using nothing more than a dagger, if it can be helped. Jak, as a kindly monk, doesn't want to hurt the octopus at all, and asks Lydia, with disarming bluntness, "Can't you just make it be friends with us?"

She admits that she doesn't know any spells that will do that, or that will enable them to hold their breaths long enough to dig up the box. Skjorn says that won't be a problem; he immediately proceeds to an independent trader he knows, and after a series of questions, purchases three scrolls. Returning with them, he enumerates: "This spell will allow a person to breathe underwater; this one will enable better swimming; and this one makes monsters more friendly. I propose that you copy them into your spellbooks or whatever medium you people use. For the cost of the labor involved in casting them, you end up with three new spells in your collection."

Lydia nods. "That's more than fair," she agrees.

Don't forget that skill-boosting items in PF are stoooooopid cheap.
1,250 gp for a +5 competence bonus? Once you're past very low levels, that's a better deal than burning a feat on it.

M Goblin Beer Snob 1/Freethinker 3

With its tail volley spent, the thing is slow to follow up. Everyone else can act as they see fit (or roll initiative and go in that order if your prefer).

Jed's arrow misses, and he curses softly.

Tony Cotterill wrote:
Why would you buy the book boots when you can build better ones for the same cost?

Sadly, Pathfinder is still stuck in the 3rd edition "We're not too sure of our pricing rules, so everything comes down to DM discretion" when it comes to custom items. In short, you're not allowed to build custom items unless you play a long and tiresome game of Mother-May-I and convince the DM to allow it. And because the function-impaired boots are already in the rulebook, most DMs will make you use them.

On the trip back, the elven hostage, Lydia, adjusts quickly to her new situation and begins an affair with Jak -- one that is abruptly terminated the next morning when Jak wakes up as a monk, sees a strange woman in bed with him, and fails to recognize her! Skjorn smooths things over, explaining Jak's condition, and she agrees to assist them in their endeavors if it means gainful employment.

Unfortunately, when they reach Hylore, they realize that they have no real employment to offer her. At the Shipping Guild headquarters, they are barred admittance; some of the men friendly to Skjorn explain that Dirk Thrandarl has somehow established a majority bloc, called an emergency meeting of the Guild shareholders, and ousted Rhenquist as Guildmaster. Both Skjorn and Jak were expelled as members. Visiting Rhenquist at his home, they find him drinking rum punches and attempting to strum a banjo. He seems defeated, uninterested in further conflict.

"Surely he must have a weakness we can exploit?" presses Skjorn.

Rhenquist demurs. "Maybe. To buy so many votes, he would have to have spent more money than even he probably had in cash, which means large loans to continue operating in the meantime. Make him default on his loans and he'll have to sell his shares to stay afloat. The value of the remaining shares will plummet, so getting your hands on them will get easier and easier, until you have 51%. The problem is if they drop too fast and the entire Guild is simply looted to pay off the shareholders."

Skjorn nods understanding, but Jak appears uninterested and has picked up Rhenquist's guitar, eliciting horrid sounds from it. He frowns. "Somehow it seems like I should be better at this."

Lydia speaks up. "I have a contact at the Hylore branch of the Palladium Bank. If he didn't sign out the loan, he'll probably know who did, but he won't want to tell us because of client confidentiality."

Rhenquist offers, "I have some shares in the Guild myself -- enough to establish yourselves as representatives until Thrandarl dispels the ruse, anyway. But I don't have them here. Remember the Atlantis Marine Reasearch Center we founded as a tax break, and you told me I was a fool? They're in a waterproof box, buried in the mud at the bottom of the big tank. All you have to do is swim down and dig them up. If Molly hasn't gotten too big, it shouldn't be a huge problem."

"Molly?" asks Lydia.

Skjorn nods. "A giant octopus. When we bought her, she was about my size. Hopefully she hasn't grown too much..."

Kajehase wrote:
The starring actors in the Yugoslavian film Neretva includes Yul Brunner (as a Communist partisan), and Orson Wells (as a royalist leader who don't like the movie's her, Marshal Tito).

One of the movie posters for Bitka na Neretvi ("Battle of Neretva") was supposedly done by Pablo Picasso, who, it is said, demanded a case of Yugoslav wine as payment. Dunno if that's true, but if so, it's more interesting to me than Yul Brynner starring (but don't get me wrong, I am a Brynner fan).

Italian actor Franco Nero, who played the original Django, also appeared in the movie.

Here's a favorite of Mrs Gersen's and mine:

"Guy kinda reminds me of Mondo Man."
"Who's Mondo Man?"
"Just some guy. Don't worry about it."

Pretty much everyone agrees that, if you want to add interesting abilties to the cleric, the class as it is needs a big power-down first.

Most of the cleric's power lies in his 9-level spellcasting. Hit that and you hit his power proportionately. If the cleric got no spellcasting advancement at, say, 1st, 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 20th levels (cut those rows and shift the rest down to match), he'd be in essence a 7/9 caster -- back to 7 spell levels like in 1e. Keep the domain powers at 1st and 4th or 8th; fill in others (and/or bonus feats) at the other non-spellcasting levels, with domain-related capstones at 20th. Rebalance the domains against each other.

Yeah, it would be a LOT of work to write all that stuff and shuffle some of the spell levels, but if you want to redesign a class from the ground up, it takes some work.

To keep the cleric still viable compared to the Oracle, cut the latter's BAB to 1/2 and his HD to d6s. Do the same for the druid. Then all 9-level casters are at 1/2 BAB, and all 3/4 casters are at 3/4 BAB. The monk and rogue, as non-casters, could go to full BAB...

Silverado. Best line from it: "You used to ride with that guy?!"

thejeff wrote:
And really, doesn't "Come to Ferguson to administer lethal vigilante justice to black folks" count?

Not unless a specific target/date/event is being planned, then no, it doesn't. What makes a "rule of law" is that the rules are (supposedly) the same for everyone.

In 1st edition, clerics got no spells at 1st level; their progression started at 2nd. That 1-level lag would be enough of an entry cost to justify two domain powers and channeling at 1st level, and some additional cool domain powers or domain-related bonus feats along the way. You could also give them back heavy armor proficiency, to help with survivability at 1st level.

M Goblin Beer Snob 1/Freethinker 3

As Kelgan and Jaegr focus on the leaping monsters, Wyvurn, still near the rear of the column, cries, "INCOMING!" As you turn, you see a lion-like shape swooping down from air on enormous batlike wings; it unleashes a volley of iron spikes:

Roll to target randomly: 1=Caspian, 2=Jaegr, 3=Kelgan, 4=Wyvurn, 5=Jed, 6=other
1d6 ⇒ 11d6 ⇒ 31d6 ⇒ 21d6 ⇒ 5

Attacks: 1d20 + 8 ⇒ (18) + 8 = 261d20 + 8 ⇒ (13) + 8 = 211d20 + 8 ⇒ (6) + 8 = 141d20 + 8 ⇒ (9) + 8 = 17
Damage: 1d6 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 91d6 + 5 ⇒ (6) + 5 = 111d6 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 91d6 + 5 ⇒ (4) + 5 = 9

Caspian takes a nasty wound (9 damage), but the others are unscathed thanks to their armor.

Skellem grins, his smile a rictus, and makes a quick jerking movement; a wand suddenly appears in his hand, as if by magic. It emits a searing blast of fire that catches Skjorn flat-footed; any normal man would have been instantly reduced to ash. To Skellem's dismay, it takes more than that to kill a fighter of Skjorn's prowess; the northman somehow twists aside, his armor taking the worst of the blast. The blonde elf begins to cast a spell; Jak, with full command of his sorcerous arts, counterspells it almost by reflex. Skjorn begins a terrible dance with Skellem, the latter feinting and discharging his weapon, while the former seeks to close distance. Eventually Skellem miscalculates; a moment later he has been cut down.

His elven assistant, seeing how things are, promptly surrenders to Jak.

As they watch, Skellem's features flow into a featureless gray mask; Jak recognizes him as a Doppelganger, able to take the shape of many men and women. "You were right, Skjorn," he says. "He was a pirate and a drug smuggler... and a businessman, and probably the chief of police as well."

The elf denies any complicity in illegal doings. "Production of potions is entirely legal here," she explains. "Their end disposition was outside of my scope of responsibilities; I tracked incoming materials outlay against production costs, oversaw production, and calculated acceptable loss ratios."

Skjorn nods absently. "Relax, we're not going to kill you. After all, you're a valuable hostage, as we return to Aviona."

Freehold DM wrote:
no statute of limitations on murder. Hence the hoods and secrecy.

I think a number of states do have a statute of limitations for "conspiracy to commit murder," though, which is what you'd need to get the whole organization tagged. Not sure if MO is one of them.

M Goblin Beer Snob 1/Freethinker 3

Kelgan is drawing a blank. As he moves up towards the front of the column, though, he hears shouting, and as he appraches the head he sees slingers firing at three deer-like shapes, hornless, but agile and apparently very aggressive. As he watches, one of them bites one of the soldiers, inflicting a terrible wound, before leaping away.

thejeff wrote:
they don't, as far as I know, commit terrorist acts in pursuit of their goals. Which was essentially the Klan's reason for being.

I'm not a lawyer, but it seems to me that basic rule of law would dictate that you can't just say, "Yeah, all those guys are totally terrorists" because of stuff specific members did in the past that lies beyond the statute of limitations. You'd need a current sting operation with evidence the group, as an organization, is planning specific acts of terrorism or is providing material support for same. If you can do that, then, yeah, they're a terrorist organization. Until then, you can't just declare them one just because they're bigoted, odious curs who brag about wanting to commit violent acts.

Insignium wrote:
anyone here that could point me to a place to find a group for kirthfinder?

If you're in western PA I might be able to help you out... otherwise, the Gamer Connection forum might be the way to go.

Re: Leadership, for multiple creatures, I've long been thinking about using the encounter level rules (+2 CR per doubling of numbers), rather than purchasing each of a horde of grunts separately. That way, your 128 CR 1/3 warriors would cost CR 11 (CR 1 for the first quartet + 2^5 for additional numbers), rather than CR 42.67 (=128/3). That way we could scale the CR potential in a more linear manner, rather than quadratically.

Arrius wrote:
have not ruled its use so far, but can this Level 2 Illusionist use the Silent Image spell he chose to replicate Minor Shadow Evocation (replicate Evocation cantrips, with 10% real if disbelieved)?

Glad you're here -- I hadn't thought that one through as thoroughly as maybe I could have, but my intent was that, at 2nd level, illusionary orcs could deal 1/20 normal damage, a silent image of a sword would deal 1/20 damage, etc. Here are the relevant abilities from the Shadowcraft Mage PrC, which I more or less turned into the KF Illusionist:

Beginning at 3rd level, a SCM is able to infuse some of her figments (see the list below) with material from the Plane of Shadow, making them partially real. The subschool of these spells changes from figment to shadow. A SCM can use the altered spell to mimic any sorcerer or wizard conjuration (summoning), conjuration (creation), or evocation spell at least one level lower than the illusion spell. The altered spell functions identically to the shadow conjuration or shadow evocation spell, except that the spell's strength equals 10% per level of the figment spell used. For example, a SCM who uses silent image to create an acid splash would deal 10% of the normal damage to a creature that succeeds on its Will save to disbelieve the shadow. If she used programmed image to mimic summon monster V, the creature would have 60% of the hit points of a normal creature of its kind, and its damage would be 60% normal against a creature that succeeds on its Will save to disbelieve. A SCM can apply shadow illusion to any of the following figment spells: silent image, minor image, major image, persistent image, programmed image.

When an SCM reaches 5th level, the strength of the effects created by her shadow conjuration, shadow evocation, greater shadow conjuration, greater shadow evocation, shades spells increases by 20%. That is, these spells are an additional 20% likely to affect disbelieving creatures and deal 20% more damage. This bonus also applies to figment spells transformed into shadow spells via (see above).

I can see that I was rather overly-ambitious in cutting word count there!

Jak says, "So, the cops confiscated the crates, and then the smugglers somehow stole them back? The police here are even more incompetent than we thought!"

Skjorn replies, "I suspect the cops ARE the smugglers, and the police here are even more corrupt than we thought. I think that fat chief sacrificed some of his own guys to make us think otherwise."

"So, we should check him out some more!"

"After we talk to Olig."

Arriving at Skellem's offices, the two claim they are there to provide an update of their investigations. They are greeted by a blonde elven woman, obviously of Avionan extraction, who introduces herself as Skellem's chief financial advisor; she accompanies them to a product testing room, where Skellem is watching some sort of industrial process. Seeing this triggers something in Jak's head, and his sorcerer personality emerges. "They're making potions," he exclaims.

Skjorn nods and shouts to Skellem, "So, are you in fact a drug manufacturer, in addition to being a pirate?"

Skjorn begins wondering why Skellem would complain so much about losses from a pirate who may not even exist -- or if he does, who doesn't seem to maintain much in the way of a fleet. He and Jak hail a water cab out to Skellem's office.

Unfotunately, the cabbie locks their cabin once they're inside, and releases some sort of poison gas into the interior. Again Skjorn's adamantine sword comes in handy, cutting through the cabin wall and the gondolier's head with equal efficiency. The water taxi is registered to the "Aldegood Cab Company," whose distinctive cabs (painted white with a blue stripe around the hull) are all over the city. Stopping at a few other cab stands and getting into Aldegood cabs has the same result as before -- resulting in more dead drivers and ruined cabins.

Shrugging resignedly, the two proceed on foot, but detour to the city administrative offices. A few discreet bribes to a minor under-clerk provides them with the information they were after: Aldegood is a fully-owned subsidiary of Skellem Enterprises. This almost seems like a clue!

On the way to Skellem's offices, they pass the train station, the "train" being a golem-like construct used to haul raw materials and goods around Aramni. Jak, curious about the thing, sneaks into the rail yard to take a closer look. There, he spots some suspiciously familiar-looking crates being loaded onto one of the cars. He and Skjorn intervene, slaying the men loading the crates, who fight in much the same manner as the thugs from the warehouse. Jak and Skjorn open some of the crates, which prove to be identical to the ones from the warehouse. Not just identical in appearance -- these are the exact same crates, as evidenced by having the same telltale damage from the warehouse fight.

Man, that's really rough. Makes me very glad I lived by myself for years before meeting the current Mrs Gersen.

Mythic Evil Lincoln wrote:
Founders, Backwoods Bastard.

Got one of those in my fridge right now. Can't wait to try it! (On looking at the label, Mrs Gersen said, "Why does this have a picture of Gandalf on the bottle?")

Jak and Skjorn retire for the evening. In the morning, they hire a water-taxi to take them out into the Lake, hoping to investigate Feargis Nach's pirate ship. None of the cabbies are willing to do so, but they eventually find a fisherman, Guiseppe, who agrees. After a long trip out into the Lake, they eventually come across a tall sailship, flying a flag that can only be the local version of the Jolly Roger.

Climbing on board the ship as if they are honored visitors, they are perplexed to find the deck deserted -- perhaps everyone is below? They open a hatch and move belowdecks to investigate, only to have the hatch slam shut and the hold begin filling with water -- the entire ship is an elaborate deathtrap! Finding steel reinforcement under the wooden exterior doesn't slow them down; Skjorn's adamantine sword cuts through the hull like butter, and the two swim back to Guiseppe's fishing boat, disgusted.

They return to their hotel, bathe, eat a magnificent meal (charged to Olig Skellem's account), and get some more sleep.

In the morning Guiseppe's corpse is found on the front steps of the hotel, his throat cut from ear to ear.

Although the incident leaves Jak chuckling, Skjorn is more serious: "That left us nowhere!" Jak is not so pessimistic, and reminds Skjorn that the calendar in the warhouse office had a notation of letters and numbers.
"So I copied them down."
The two examine them and eventually opt for a very simplistic interpretation: they potentially indicate a city location and a time, ostensibly for some meeting. Skjorn is openly critical of this, but Jak points out they have nothing better to do, and they head out to that location to check it out.

The supposed area is called the Shanglestrand Beach, an area directly on the shore of the lake, north of the shipping docks. There is a Shanglestrand Tavern there, advertising she-crab soup and something called "Sea-Wrack Grog." Behind the building is an area of pebbled beach and dunes, largely deserted.

Skjorn waits there, feeling foolish, while Jak remains hidden nearby. At the appointed time, a pair of tall, thin men approach, carring long iron hammers at their sides. One of them lifts his other arm, preparing to throw a small bead at Skjorn. Jak intervenes, spoiling the throw, and Skjorn reacts quickly, drawing his sword and engaging the other man, cleaving through the hammer and the man's head, and leaving the corpse for the giant crabs that are said to come up out of the lake at night.

The other man flees into the city, and Jak and Skjorn chase him down, Jak acrobatically taking to the rooftops and shouting directions to Skjorn below. Skjorn's elf-made armor does not slow him down in the slightest, and his endurance from years of training allows him to outlast his quarry.

They interrogate the man, who admits openly that he is an enforcer for Feargis Nach, the lake pirate. "I have never met him. I have never been on board his ship, anchored in the Lake six miles east of here. I receive instructions in a mailbox; I carry them out; I receive payment in the same mailbox. Tonight I will receive no payment, for I failed to break your legs with my hammer."

Skellem has a business meeting the next morning, but calls a water taxi for Jak and Skjorn, to take them to the police station; he provides a letter of introduction as well. On the way, the two get a good look at the city, which due to ground subsidence and rising sea levels, has more canals than streets. Lake Cancer is large enough to have tides, and the city is build in an arc along its northwest shore, laid out in a series of numbered districts extending inland.

The chief of police is a short, portly man who chortles when introduced to Jak and Skjorn. Rubbing his hands together, he declares, "You are in luck! Through various means, I have learned the location of the smugglers' warehouse, and my men will raid it today. Given your interest, I will reluctantly give my permission for you to accompany them -- just back stay out of the way, as I would hardly wish to have to explain what happened if you were kidnaped or injured."

Skjorn and Jak (who is a monk that day) ride with the small squad of police to the warehouse district of the city. When the police announce their presence and demand the surrender of those inside, an explosion occurs, and most of the police are disabled or killed. Skjorn draws his sword and strides inside; he is fired upon by hoodlums with crossbows, but his armor is largely proof against their efforts. A few attempt to leap out from behind crates and otherwise ambush him, ninja-style, but Skjorn's prowess as a fighter is not to be sneered at, and he slays all who come within reach. Meanwhile, Jak sneaks into the warehouse, pummels one of the thugs senseless, and nails him into a crate for safekeeping, "just in case we need him." Skjorn quickly slaughters the rest.

Inside a number of packed crates are ceramic incense censors which, when broken open in turn, prove to contain small vials of a reddish liquid that can only be the Tears of Baalzebul. Aside from these crates and a pin-up calendar featuring veiled, robed women, there is nothing of remark in the place. Jak's prisoner claims to work for the "Lords of Woe" and threatens the two with dire revenge if they do not release him; they nail him back into the crate, address it to the police headquarters, and leave it outside on the warehouse dock with enough local cash (taken from the thugs' pockets) to cover the frieght charge.

On the journey, Skjorn quickly learns to tell which of Jak's personae he's dealing with on a day-to-day basis, and begins to appreciate the company of both personalities. Meanwhile, he paints his armor dull gray and takes to wearing a surcoat over it, lest he stand out as someone at home in the Elflands -- a human trader in Aramni is watched but usually not interfered with, whereas a high elf might be burned at the stake as a demon or heretic.

Thankfully, as they sail into Bailan City (capital and chief port of entry for Aramni), Jak's sorcerer persona is at the fore. When asked for their credentials, the two boldly declare themselves as businessmen and explain their trip to Betelgeuse City; Jak is properly haughty and impatient -- whereas his furtive demeanor as a monk would almost certainly have gotten the pair arrested. As it is, they are allowed in with only cursory questioning, and relayed by caravan to Betelgeuse. There, they find the Hotel Krokinole to be a grand old edifice, dating back to a century or more before the "Glorious Revolution" when the followers of Asmodeus swept in from the southeast and conquered Aramni.

They are met there by Olig Skellem, a thin, balding man with glasses, who orders Black Mountain coffee with eiderberry brandy for them (a house specialty) and tells them what he knows.

"My shipping losses across the lake are horrendous because of the pirates, so to my mind, Feargis Nach is a far greater problem than any drug smuggling could possibly be. Be that as it may, tomorrow I will introduce you to Challath Borbo, the chief of police. Perhaps he has some leads that he can share with you."

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
I don't want to play with you either if you're doing said creepy thing!

I can totally sympathize, but it doesn't in any way detract from the people who do enjoy that sort of game: your preferences are not universal.

But, "mature" content entirely aside, some people just don't like hanging around with kids. That doesn't need to make them social pariahs unless you insist on it.

Skjorn and Rhenquist become aware of a third person in the room, whom neither had previously noticed. This is Jak, an employee of Rhenquist's of dubious status; once a headstrong, domineering sorcerer, Jak is under an unusual curse, and most often believes himself to instead be a shy, humble monk of no magical ability. Occasionally he wakes up in the morning as his former self, and struggles to account for the gaps in time; more often, he wakes up as the monk and is aware of, but not overly concerned with, his lack of any memories older than a few years. Jak-the-monk makes himself useful to Rhenquist in dozens of small ways; he is stealthy and can fight well, and in this case he wants to go to Aramni. Skjorn of course volunteers to head the mission, and the two agree they will need no other backup -- "the fewer who know of this, the better."

In the morning, on the tide, they depart by ship for Aramni.

Skjorn meets with Rhenquist, and the two discuss Cadogan's proposals. Rhenquist's current position is untenable; he lacks the energy, ambition, and political clout to stave off Thrandarl's fleet, and the latter will soon control the Guild, expelling Rhenquist, unless something is done soon. Stopping the inflow of the Tears of Baalzebul would paint Rhenquist as an "honest trader," in contrast to an amoral Thrandarl, and would be a major PR coup; Rhenquist would then gradually hand over control of the Guild to Skjorn with the time thus gained.

Rhenquist still has sources of information and useful contacts. He quickly learns that the Tears are being smuggled in from Aramni, a hostile nation across the Elder Mountains. A new pass through the mountains has been opened, and the Tears are likely being smuggled in that way, explaining why ships searched in port are always free of that particular contraband. Magical analysis of the ingredients indicates that their source is likely to be the City of Betelgeuse, on the shore of Lake Cancer.

Rhenquist has an old acquaintance in Betelgeuse, a businessman named Olig Skellem, whom he calls on a magic mirror.

"Skellem, my friend! I would like to send some friends of mine to poke around a bit in your fair city, and do not want them to fall afoul of the Secret Police. Can you accommodate this?"

"Sorry, Rhenquist, I would not risk my whole business being seized as a criminal enterprise. Between bribes to the police and losses to the lake pirate, Feargis Nach, my neck is already too far out."

"A pity. I should hate for the Premier to learn of the vacation home in Autrish that I furnished for you..."

"What! The Premier?! This is blackmail!"

"No, my friend; it is business in a free market economy."

"Very well, book them in the Hotel Krokinole, and I will be pleased to meet with them to maintain appearances and make appropriate introductions. If they are uncovered as spies, though, I can do nothing for them. Is that satisfactory?"

"Eminently so!"

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