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My gut tells me to go killer.
Manny Goblin has a good point, though. Maybe this is an occasion for some NPC (Varn? Drelev?) to show up, help them stave off defeat, and extract some Big Reward that will hurt the PCs somewhere else (land, resources, marriage alliance, propaganda).
Only my 2nd post here, the group's been pretty good at avoiding death.
My group finally cleared the outside areas and crashed The Thousand Breaths back into the main world, and entered the House at the Edge of Time. For reasons, I moved the zomok to the courtyard and put the Wriggling Man at the top of the tower. The party took down the zomok easily, but the wizard took a lot of work. Half the party worked up from the inside, accidentally exploring the lower floors of the north wing, while half flew/d-doored to the top of the tower.
After a long running battle, they cornered the Wriggling Man in the 2nd floor hallway. Some of the party pushed past him while the fighters whaled on him. That's when the barb-tongued wyverns reached into the hallway and dragged the oracle into their room. The centaur went to the rescue, followed by the rest of the party after the Wriggling Man's collapse. The cavalier was staggered by wyvern #1, the barbarian got grappled and rent (but still full of hp) by #2. The centaur skald raced past #1, hoping to establish a flank, as well as do some damage himself. He took AoO damage from the stinger on his way around (failed poison save), then the cavalier missed his one attack. Thinking he had time before finishing the cavalier, #1 turned about and lashed the centaur, who failed another poison save. Between lost Con and hp damage, he went all the way past 0 hp and negative Con to dead-dead.
The happy ending: their warpriest (Cohort to the cavalier) raced around #1 to hit the centaur with Breath of Life. Using the Blessing of Fervor's ability to stand as a free action, no AoO, the skald immediately killed the amazed wyvern.
I like it. My biggest beef with the whole AP is the lack of involvement with Brevoy and its politics. I added some, but never as much as I might have liked. I understand my players were less interested in the politics, anyway.
On the other hand, once it becomes known to the PCs that the neighboring realm is a sad-sack kind of place, might they be more interested in checking it out once all communications ceases?
Or, the PCs could be involved before-hand, trying to prop up their less-lucky neighbor.
I did something similar, trying to use the kobolds' mini-realm around their starting hex as a way for me to experiment and/or practice with the kingdom rules, and they quickly went into the same death-spiral you describe. I shelved the project until later, and never got back to it.
After that, I hand-waved Varnhold in a similar way to Philip's. I also crossed up some of the modules, moving Vordakai and his tomb to the island in Candlemere Lake, and Armag's tomb to the mountains where Vordakai was. Thus Armag's horde of Old Believers depopulated Varnhold.
I'm certain it will work, I was curious what others have seen.
The only difficulty is that I had estimated the campaign would be ending after the December session, now I think it will go at least one session longer.
My group agreed to an alliance that turned into a vassalage agreement, but I don't think the silver mine was exploited. Somewhere about 5th level, the cavalier and barbarian, both chauvinistic humans, went off on their own and exterminated the Sootscales. They didn't tell anyone about it.
My group has generally been one that cuts to the heart of the matter in this AP: they wanted to go straight for Stag Lord's keep, the troll lair, etc.
Yet, as we entered the Thousandbreaths last night, they opted to follow Zuddiger's progress instead, essentially going to each and every encounter area.
Have any other GMs seen this?
As a background element for the whole AP, the group leader has been tracking her mother, an adventurer long lost in the Stolen Lands, one who had been seeking Briar a generation before. At this point, she's convinced that mom was using Picnic as a guide, so that's what she is doing.
I've been cutting out most exploration and wilderness encounters, too, since somewhere in Book 3. The PCs could just easily handle whatever comes at them, and it was just a waste of time.
Using the 6-player conversions has made things more challenging, my only PC death so far was among those trolls. I've made them sweat a few other times, though.
Interesting question: my group is only a little ahead of yours (Blooms started). Zuddiger's Picnic has them confused, they wonder if they are "supposed" to give the sword to Nyrissa.
I'd say give up all the information you can-- it's not doing the players any good sitting in your pocket.
As for form, I have no suggestions right now.
That would be a good intro for Lily Teskertin, too.
Pennywit, that kind of two-step is just how the Soviets used to do it: sacrificing a weaker (or less well-placed) agent in favor of a stronger one.
Kesten, IMO. He's someone who wants something that could be granted by Natala, and the timing of his arrival works perfectly. He could try to employ Oleg or Svetlana as additional informants, or use one or more of his guardsmen, too.
This is what I did. Rezbin IMC was a retainer of the Lodovka family, sent out as part of the 50 BP start-up fund, and intended to merge with the PCs' kingdom all along.
I'd go with the knowledge of the trials, at least some hints.
Some barbarian followers, including allied priests, warpriests, skalds, or druids would also be appropriate, fellow believers in his destiny.
One night, at the house of the guy hosting the game(but not running it), his 2 or 3 year old daughter was giving a fistfull of dice and a big bowl to roll them in. During a lull in conversation we all hear the dice being rolled really loudly and then the little girl says "Oh.. my.. god!" and we all have a great laugh. :)
I was playing while babysitting my nephew, then about 2 years old. He picked up some dice, dropped them on the table, cried, "Aw!" and LAUGHED. I think he captured the essence of gaming.
My sympathies, as well.
My worst table? Possibly this one. Spring of 1988, I'm at college, running Twilight:2000, still one of my favorite games. (In fact, this is Allegheny College, and I had just bought the module "Allegheny Uprising"-- how cool is that!?) I recruit 2 guys (one not a gamer) with whom I'd never played with before and a friend who had played with me.
The adventure goes into the hills to quietly look for a hidden US Government supply cache, the PCs are US soldiers, just back from war-ravaged Europe.
First session of play, first encounter is with a band of suspicious local militiamen-- could be robbers, could be farmers, dunno, but shooting broke out. One of the new guys wants to ask some questions, and he starts beating on the NPCs. Then he starts figuring out exotic ways to kill them. I'm appalled, but don't intervene-- I'm no longer sure if it's shock or I'm thinking "let the player characters' actions have consequences in-game". Other new player points out that we're heading into war-crimes territory, veteran player stands up to him and declares his PC is drawing his weapon. I don't remember how, but he loses the shootout, and the player, furious, walks out of the room.
That's the end of that game. Other new player is unimpressed with the gaming hobby.
I suppose you've altered most of the encounters in the Narlmarches to represent the changes he's made? Added new ones to hexes that the PCs have already explored?
"Slugfest"-- have you considered magical (poisonous) slugs as part of the blight? Nobody likes slugs, right? Those could be useful minions in the final combat, since single-boss encounters seem to end quickly in my experience.
My group is in the final stages of Book 5-- they've met and defeated the armies of the invader and are hitting the rebellion's leadership at home. IMC, however, "Irrovetti" is the leader of a rebel faction with fey support, and "Pitax city" is the capitol of "Brevoy", seized in a coup de main by flying in on wyverns.
One of my players, way back when we were generating characters-- about 3 years ago!-- had the idea that she had been a noble daughter and had spent time in the palace as a fosterling (read: hostage) to the Tsar. The character concept was "Sansa Stark with brains". She was also very curious and had explored the many reaches of the castle (like Arya), getting caught on at least one occasion overhearing conversations.
When re-organizing sections of the Kingmaker books, I thought of setting up the seizure of "Pitax", that the House of a Thousand Doors would be the Tsar's palace, and thus she would know the ins and outs of the place. She knew about the secret entrance (but not where it was in the river, that needed outside help), and most of the other secret doors inside. Thus, the group was able to infiltrate the castle from the bottom up and have the map of the upstairs revealed to them. I did not tell them about guard posts or NPCs or their locations, so that part's still being learned.
I was very pleased that I had found another way to pay back the player who had invested the most time and effort away from the table with me to work out her character's non-mechanical elements. I've done similar bits for other players, too, this one was just the longest in coming.
There's more for her, since the same player also created a missing half-elf mother who had been an adventurer. Thus, she's picked up that "Zuddiger's Picnic" is somehow tied to her mother's disappearance, and that's linked to the green lady and the magic sword that Mom was hunting for.
Has anyone else been able to do this kind of thing? For all of my gripes about this AP, being able to look far ahead and slip in links to individual characters has been one of the things I most enjoy about GMing it.
I did something like this IMC. I'm not running on Golarion, FWIW. Instead of Irrovetti being the king of the neighboring country, she's been a behind-the-scenes rebel, hiding in the magically-shielded Thousandbreaths. Her appearance in Book 5 was a surprise invasion that passed through the Book 5 map and marched north of the PCs' kingdom, in order to assault the capitol. The players have just defeated the armies she left behind to keep them busy, and are sneaking into not-Pitax, the throne of their home kingdom.
Grigori (exiled by the PCs) and Maray did lots of groundwork for not-Irovetti, suborning several of the other noble houses to clear the way for the trolls, wyverns, and barbarians to sweep into the city.
You've got me thinking (again) about making Book 5 the ending of the campaign. They've spent all this time and effort building up their power and kingdom, having it triumph in war would seem to be the payoff.
Now I wish I had reorganized things so that the "alien-fey invasion" happened in pieces, CR-adjusted, of course, over a long time as the PCs expanded and built the kingdom. My players have wanted to strike back at the Fey invaders ever since the Dancing Lady.
OTOH, most of my players lean towards the hack & slash, so winding it up with a faerie dungeon crawl won't be such a bad thing. And I won't have wasted time & money on my Jabberwock and Nyrissa minis.
This is when I (as a player) think I really started to lose interest in this AP. We were told that the Isle of Dread was a close-held family secret, but apparently everyone in the city was invited to go along (?). Then, our DM resorted to my NPC being framed for a murder, and the expedition seemed to come out of nowhere.
As an immediate successor (same PCs), or dynastic successor (you're playing the descendants of the KM PCs)? Giantslayer is one of the potential next APs for my rotating-GM group, I'd be really interested in the latter.
Mine have been pretty cautious in claiming hexes, keeping the chance for failure on checks as low as possible. They left Varnhold to a vassal PC, and are probably going to leave Drelevgrad to the widowed Lady Dreleva (again, as a vassal).
Since I'm running in a different world, I require a one-day magical ceremony for each hex claimed, the ruler needs to be in the hex for the whole day. I didn't need to detail it, the players just accepted that at face value.
Well done to many of the above! I readily admit I am weak at portraying NPCs, whether generated by me or not. Still, this one has had at least some impact.
Lady Kira Yurievna Marstenka: She rules the land just north of the junction of Maps 1 & 3, plus a few hexes including the Wyvernstone Bridge. I borrowed the names and personalities of the neighboring minor houses from the "Chronicle Starter", a sourcebook for the Song of Ice & Fire RPG.
IMC, a Brevoy civil war happened when the players were children; the Tsar won his rebellion. The Stag Lord and his father fought on the losing side, and disappeared with the rebel leaders. Book 1 is part of their comeback attempt. Nugrah is the former Lord Marstenko, but neither he nor his son used that name when they establish the Stag Fort, hoping they can quietly garner support in their former lands without revealing the connection. The players figured this out, but they still haven't revealed this to the widow. In turn, she hasn't missed her "late", abusive, husband or son at all, spending her time with their surviving daughter. She had, after all, backed the Tsar in the war, and her daughter was (secretly) really his, conceived when he was a rebel in hiding.
She hasn't been friendly to the PCs or their other new neighbor, Drelev. In fact, since my group was slow to explore or annex any of the hexes in the Narlmarch Forest, she went ahead and grabbed some of them for herself. As the players more or less ignored Jhod Kavken and Kesten Garess, they drifted into her service, now Jhod runs the renewed Elk Temple for her.
Once the players found out about her advances, they started seeing her as a dangerous rival, and snagged hexes in the forest as fast as possible. They suspected her of sending Grigori the rabble-rouser against them, and of assisting other problems they've had. They complained to the Tsar that she had encroached on their charter, but he did not back them up. That made them more suspicious, of course.
I ran the Rushlight Tournament out of order, with Drelev as the host. At the games, the non-competing PCs split up to work the diplomatic circuit. The Oracle rolled a 1 when trying to get close Lady Marstenka, so things went from bad to worse.
When Drelev started making his moves, she aligned with him. She married her daughter to one of Drelev's allies (D'oh! I should have made it Imeckus Stroon!), which ended with an unhappy separation just before the events of BfB (Another D'oh! I could have used her in the warning role of Kisandra after all). The alliance served Lady M. poorly, when she was imprisoned under Fort Drelev (I wrote out Kisandra, and Numestiv joined Drelev). The players were quite shocked when they found out she was in that dungeon.
As it stands now (start of the War), they've successfully worked lots of personal diplomacy to win her over (if only they'd started sooner...), it's the widow Dreleva that now has them concerned and suspicious!
I started with xp, but moved away from it a few levels ago. Since I am running a lot of chunks out of order, for me it's been a matter of, "Do they need to be x level or x+1 to take on this bit", or "Can I up/down-grade the encounters here to meet their levels?"
Right now, they are levelling between sessions to 12th (I hope they will all be done by dice-on-the-table time tomorrow), and I intend to hold them there for a few sessions, before they head on to Irrovetti's palace.
I don't think so. I made some modifications to the battlefield rules, adding a map that can be maneuvered across.
I think most of the fights will be played now like suggested in Heroes of Battle, or as in Tatzylford. They do know that I reserve the right to have at least one more "real" battle, which I think will be with one or more of the Pitax Regiments and the wyverns.
IMC, the party has taken temporary control of Drelevgrad and neutralized the Tiger Lords, so we're heading out of Book 4 and into 5.
My players have signalled to me that they prefer the personal action of their PCs to fighting battles using the Mass Combat system, so I am looking for ways to play to that desire. One that I've thought of is that they might sneak up on some of Pitax's army units, and do a Pearl Harbor-style strike to take out leaders and disorganize one of the smaller armies. Like the hill giants.
I've dusted off good ol' G1, Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, and am making conversions. So far, I think I will:
Depends on how you interpret inheritance and succession. Off-hand, I'd say Lady Dreleva has the best claim, and if the players won't back her up, she will go to the Swordlords to seek aid in reclaiming her land. While she's at it, she may complain about the sudden offing of her late husband, without trial, by a party that had no jurisdiction over her family's lands.
How well connected are the Strogons to the other 7 noble families in your Brevoy?
If Imeckus is heading back to Pitax (I missed that he came from there?), perhaps the brother & sister could team up to bring two streams of power to town to take it over for themselves. Or they could end up fighting each other for it, too.
If the Tiger Lords are still out there, and the PCs have no logical way to find out about Armag's Tomb, then by all means, have the barbarians, now led by their transformed Twice-Born, ride into town and sack it for themselves. And then ride on the PCs kingdom (with Irrovetti's blessing).
IMC, my group just did much the same thing, but they killed both Drelev and Maray, and intend to leave Lady Dreleva in charge. She managed to convince the party that she was not at all part of their plot to seize the PCs.
A wild card may be Numesti-- Kisandra may also flee to the Swordlords, or Irrovetti, to plead for aid, since the PCs didn't help her at all, and may well have gotten her father and sister executed by inaction.
If there's only going to be one encounter per day, make it a doozy. I, too, have to deal with a tricked-out Cavalier when most encounters are outdoors.
It seems that the fights that have been memorable have featured a moderate number of "big" monsters-- Hargulka and his trolls, a batch of ogres that I swapped in for the spriggans, the hill giants at Drelevgrad. The cavalier could knock down 1 with every charge, while the rest of the party had their hands full with just two more at a time.
Another alternative is lots of mooks with strong leaders, but that doesn't seem to work too well for me-- the dice don't like my bosses.
Well, certainly the Drelevs need to be invited, as the closest neighbors. Lady D will be /dreadfully/ insulted not to be invited.
The kingdoms/houses represented at the Rushlight Games are contenders for invitations as neighbors, as are the 7 major houses named for Brevoy. The ruler of Restov, too.
Mr. Grogg's idea of a child-stealing hag could have creepy/scary implications early on, if you adopt the concept (common here) that Svetlana and Oleg are expecting. One or both of them may fear/expect the same, since they likely knew Mr. & Mrs. Nettles.
In my campaign, I'm not running in the Stolen Lands, I set up the Stag Lord & company as members of the losing faction in the last civil war in "Brevoy-equivalent". They were here to try to build up power/wear down Restov's power.
I'm with you on this. I am prepping for session 30, playing monthly (almost), and while no one's lost interest, I am in fear of it happening. Our last two APs deleted the last 2+ books. As such, I am squashing books 3, 4, & 5 together, so that we can get into book 6 with momentum behind us. The war is nearly upon them, and they know it will happen.
My campaign has gone off the rails long ago, which is fine. In my sandbox, the rulers are going to do some exploring/excavating (with permission) in the hills beyond Drelev's turf. I think he should want to accompany them.
Has anyone done some role-playing with Lord Drelev? Any suggestions how to play to his strengths?
Something else I should have mentioned earlier: make a calendar. I made a simple one in Excel, 7 columns by 12 lines. The columns are labelled:
Twelve lines work for twelve months/kingdom turns in a year. I like to roll kingdom events that far out, so I can better weave a story around some of them.
I print off these at least a year ahead of the players, so I can think about how their actions will trigger NPC activity, and where plots or encounters might work out.
I use the same format for non-kingdom adventures, changing the Time column to days, and Events to Weather. I can then guesstimate how many hexes the group will be moving, and roll up random encounters and think about what conditions will be like. Twelve lines on two sides is roughly a 3-week expedition, a lot of my group's explorations in Books 1 & 2 lasted about that long.
The above have your answers.
An additional note: be aware that armies smaller than Large are really fragile. Since the attack rolls are d20-based and the result is army hp lost, a high or even a moderate roll can wipe out an army in one shot. Good for getting battles over with quickly, not good if you've invested in it and your kingdom is taking stat hits for dead armies.
I'd suggest reducing the die size if all the armies involved are not at least Large.
Updating mine. We're at the end of Book 3, with some heavy mashups between 3 & 4. All are level 10, the realm is size 80.
-Yulianna Lodovka, Rogue. Now elevated from Baroness to Countess, she rules from Tuskwater Keep (Stag Lord's old place). Her mother was an explorer, and mysteriously disappeared in the Stolen Lands when she was small. She is married to Mikhail Papanovich, oldest son of a merchant house, with 2 small children.
Two reasons I can see to keep a standing army: One is that new armies have Morale +0, and units that have won battles may increase their Morale and add Tactics. So, veteran/standing units are more capable than green ones.
Ultimate Rulership (Legendary Games) adds rules for population, and caps army size based on that (and that can be altered by edicts).
Ultimate Campaign also allows armies to be put in reserve, taking less Consumption per month. This is very popular with my players.