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You're writing up these sessions pretty quickly. Are you making them up from scratch or do you have extended notes that just need finetuning? I like it, though, so keep it coming.
BTW, this is the 15,000th post on the Curse of the Crimson Throne boards, so that calls for a little celebration! Hurrah! Hurrah!
I like what you did with the statue. Any particular reason you seem to have dropped Adaisan's transformation?
Yes, there is. I changed the daughter of Urgathoa for the statue (more or less using the same stats). I made the mini for the statue and then I decided that using it as an opponent would be fun. I also planned on using the colored basins more, but my statue only managed to land a hit once. Every time she hit someone, one of the fluids was supposed to bubble up and do ability damage. This would also involve those basins I crafted into the fight. Too bad she missed so much, often just by one.
I also wanted someone to engage the PCs to give Lady Andaisin the opportunity to cast some spells unhindered. The fact that she was air walking was supposed to help for that as well, but Sjo's successful dispel magic really made a huge difference. Still, I'm not one to deny my players an "easy" victory. They never got in any real trouble during their raid of the temple, despite its many high-level opponents. Storywise this is actually a good thing. It would have been complicated if the PCs hadn't managed to clear the entire complex in one go and had to retreat to rest up. So I'm quite happy with the outcome.
A set of double doors in the far wall is the only way to continue. Balian pushes open the passage to the inner sanctum, the heart of the temple's corruption: a high-domed chamber with six basins lining the walls, containing foul bubbling liquids in distinct blue, green, red, purple, white and brown colors. Each fills the air with its own sharp reek, creating a noxious, eye-watering bouquet. At the room's center, rising from a wide pool of crystalline water, stands a golden statue, depicting a beautiful woman with a lower body of bones. She holds a scythe in her left hand. From the far side of the pool the high priestess of Urgathoa, the haughty Lady Andaisin, greets her visitors: "And so you have finally found your way to the heart of my temple, you ignorant fools. Know that you stand in the mighty presence of the architect of your city's demise. You call this a terrible plague, while I know it as the gentle kiss of the Pallid Princess. Yet I am still prepared to show you mercy. Choose one of these colored scourges to become one with the goddess. Those who drink I shall only cripple, leaving you to enjoy the wonder of Urgathoa's gift as it quickens inside your flesh. Those who abstain are fools, not fit to house a divine offering. You may fall at my feet and I shall make your end swift!"
Puk is the first to react and rushes into the room, making his way around the pool. He leaves his friends at the entrance, who suddenly see the golden statue come to life and jump down from its stone pedestal in the middle of the pool, landing between them. The animated sculpture swings its scythe at Balian and as she connects with his flesh, the brown pool starts boiling, claiming some of the ranger's strength. Next Lady Andaisin simply steps into the air, as if walking on an invisible set of stairs. Sjo realizes that she is under the effect of an air walk spell, which will make fighting her very tricky. As he prepares an attempt to counter her flight magic, the priestess calls down a vengeful pillar of fire from her goddess, catching Quint, Sjo, Balian and Spyder in her flame strike. The Shoanti healer laughs as most of the fire glides off his skin and throws his dispel magic at the woman, sending her back down to the floor. The companions focus their attacks on the statue first, managing a few deep cuts in her golden skin. Her sharp scythe cleaves through the air with heavy swoops, missing only by a hair's breadth. Puk replies with two biting sneak attacks. Quint trips the thing with his whip, giving Balian the opportunity to finish it off. Meanwhile Sjo tries to keep Lady Andaisin busy. She easily resists his hold person and prays for another flame strike on her enemies' heads. Fortunately Balian is the only one who suffers the full effect of the unholy fire. The fight now moves to the other side of the pool, where Lady Andaisin is starting to lose the cocky grin on her face. She takes some heavy damage and, even though she succeeds at taking Puk out of the fight with a blindness spell, she is sorely pressed. She looks quite proficient with her scythe, but being outnumbered four to one, she does not stand a chance. When she carves into Balian, Spyder reacts furiously and takes her down with his ferocious bite.
A feeling of peace immediately descends upon the room. The colored fluids stop bubbling and the golden statue melts away in vile slime. So much for a well-deserved reward in pure gold, although it looks like Andaisin is wearing some valuable magical items as well. So there still is some nice loot to be divided, albeit that such treasure always comes at a price, literally: ten percent to the city's coffers. Quint gets sick just thinking about it. Still, he feels no qualms when he claims Andaisin's strength and constitution boosting girdle and hands her headband of inspired wisdom to Balian. Sjo is happy to take two powerful wands off Andaisin's dead body: a wand of remove disease and one of cure serious wounds.
Finally ... finally ... With a mixture of relief and sadness Balian tries to come to grips with what just happened. Yes, after five years he has finally found his sister; after five years he has finally tracked down the bastard who took his dear Alika from him and yes ... the foul kidnapper did not get away. But half a decade is a long time, the vicious necromancer got under her skin, he brainwashed her, changed her, molded her into his equally vicious right-hand woman. Looking at her now, as she's being bound and gagged, Balian sees nothing but hatred in her eyes. Only Spyder treats her as if nothing has changed, clinging to her side and rubbing his head against her leg. The ranger calls his dog over. The animal gives him a sad puppy look, quickly licks Alika's hand before hesitantly trotting to his master's feet.
Puk finds a key ring with a set of heavy keys next to the door in the back of the room. It opens into a small cellblock, which still holds three prisoners. One of them is dead, one unconscious and one barely alive. All three display heavy symptoms of the plague. Sjo offers the two living ones, a boy and a young woman, a lesser restoration to restore some of their stamina. The boy recognizes the healer, he is a stable boy from the Great Tower, the headquarters of the Sable Company, where Sjo used to work as well. His name is Dalvun. He explains that he and his other cellmates have been used in experiments, they were frequently made to drink foul water by Doctor Saulus, Rolth, Alika and Lady Andaisin. Most of them are dead now. Only he and Jaelle are still alive. The two survivors are told to wait in the cultists' barracks, while the unconscious enemies are locked behind bars now. Sjo tells Dalvun he will be back soon, but first he and his friends have to take care of the evil priestess.
Returning to the room with the skeletal bacchanal of Urgathoa decorating the walls, the companions now take the heavy metal door deeper into the complex. The stinging scent of chemicals greets them. A huge basin, filled to the brim with foul, murky water, dominates the center of this high-ceilinged chamber. Two sets of stairs to the left and right lead to a catwalk ten feet above the ground which stretches over the pool. Two cultists are inside, one of them stands at the back of the room in an open door. "Warn our Lady that the intruders have arrived!" he yells to someone in the room beyond, before shutting the door. The other cultist is up on the catwalk. Puk, Spyder and Sjo make quick work of the first one, while Balian storms up the stairs and engages the cultist on the overpass. His heavy blade sinks deep into the poor man's shoulder. The ranger pulls his sword free and cleaves the Urgathoan devotee in two: his legs drop down on the metal walkway, while his torso plummets in the foul water below. A fitting end for one who worships a goddess whose upper and lower body are so distinctly separated.
The companions decide not to waste any time and ignore the doors to the left and right for now, choosing to follow the shouted warning and explore the way ahead first. The door opens into a hall with four large, cylindrical glass vats, each filled with a bubbling emerald fluid that tints the chamber's light a noxious green. Within each container floats a malformed abomination - part man and part horse - a lean, leathery male body resting on a horse's hind legs and topped with a fleshless equine skull. Three of these forms drift motionless in the green bile, but the fourth still twitches. An alarmed cultist is standing next to the fourth vat and smashes the glass to pieces, spilling the vile liquid over the floor and freeing the creature within. Balian and Puk charge the man and cut him down, but are greeted by the abomination, which lowers its jaw bone, spreading its mouth wide: a swarm of corpse-bloated black flies spills forth from its beak, biting and sickening the two unfortunates. Quint and Sjo resort to combat healing to keep their mates afoot, while the daemon now starts clawing and chawing at all those within its reach. The companions lure the creature away from the corner, so they can surround it and start cutting it up one gash at a time. Their combined attacks quickly outpace the creature's offensive and a few moments later the giant harbinger of disease lies dead at their feet.
Reading your intro story about Eodred's death and Ileosa's discovery against the background of that music was actually fun. I liked it, though I also noticed the 'crown' part. It's details like this which make it a good idea to share with others on these boards, because they can notice such tiny hick-ups and warn you about them, so you don't have to invent new background stories to cover up these deviations.
I also agree with you on this point:
I really did pretty much make up those explanations for the tapestries on the fly, something of which I was quite proud of because I tend to find ad-libbing details difficult. It’s a crucial DM skill to be sure, and one that I’ve gradually become better at, but it’s definitely something that I need practice with, so when I do manage to pull something out of thin air I tend to be insufferably pleased with myself.
Since my players take a very roleplay oriented approach (which was our set-up for this campaign) they talk to a lot of people, both good and bad guys. Enemies are often captured alive and questioned, which forces me to make up all kinds of details, often ad hoc as well. My players have just cleared the temple of Urgathoa in book 2 and they have taken Doctor 'Davaulus' (renamed Dave Saulus), Rolth and Lady Andaisin alive, so they'll be interrogating them next session. I already prepared some background for the Doctor, but I'll have to work on Andaisin as well: who is she, where does she come from, what are her motives, who contacted her, what does she know about the going-ons in Korvosa ... ?
I don't mind ad-libbing, but sometimes it's hard and I feel more comfortable when I've prepared some key ideas which I can use as coat hangers for my improvisation. This is especially important so as not to make mistakes in your story that require (major) fixing afterwards. Your crown slip-up is not that hard a fix, and it even fits your take on the AP (with Ileosa being a victim) better. But one has to be careful not to make any major mistakes.
Anyway, I enjoy your version of this wonderful AP and I'd love to read more about it.
Thanks for sharing your ideas. Your take on Ileosa and all the changes you've made to accommodate that difference in character are new, but inspiring. I think it works very well. I'm definitely looking forward to reading about the changes you've made.
Apart from telling us how you've been adapting the AP so far, you might also consider sharing your future conversions. Bouncing ideas off other DMs here on the boards is actually a good way to shape those new concepts into even finer story elements. In other words, we could offer you feedback on your changes, while you might also inspire us to incorporate some of your ideas into our current campaigns.
My group is at the end of book 2 now, and after they take out the temple of Urgathoa (they're about half way through) they will embark on a 'Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale' inspired sidequest, looking for an ingredient for the cure. Although I've written out all my alterations to the entire AP already, nothing is set in stone and I can still make improvements, so your ideas would certainly be welcome.
That is correct. You need two consecutive saves to beat the disease. Its relatively high DC and most commoners' low Fortitude bonus means you need two good roll in a row.
A successful heal check adds +4 to the save, but that's it. A spell to remove the disease requires a caster level check, again no small feat for anyone but the few highpriests in the city. In other words, it is hard to get someone better and there is no guarantee your efforts will bear fruit.
Before the companions lies what looks like the entry hall to the secret hide-out underneath the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden. The hall sits empty and seems recently redecorated with murals of skeletons feasting among the dead and diseased citizens of Korvosa. The paintings are crudely done and have already been damaged by water seepage from the surrounding rocks. Simple wooden doors lead in every direction, each bearing a painted scythe-wielding skeleton.
Puk and Balian sneak in and listen at the doors. They only pick up something at the one on the right-hand side: people snoring inside! Fantastic! So they still have the element of surprise on their side. The urban ranger and the rogue quietly open the door and find four of the queen's physicians asleep in a small storage room. They waste no time and murder the men in their sleep. Quint is content to learn that his principled friend Sjo has no qualms about these merciless assassination tactics, after all, the physicians' guilt has been clearly established. This is swift and clean justice!
The companions now try the left door in the entry hall, which leads to a cloakroom. Two big wardrobes hold several dark leather robes, high boots, wide-brimmed hats and beaked plague masks. Sjo also discovers some potions of cure moderate wounds and a bag with 23 black onyx gems, worth 50 GP each, stuck away behind the robes. There is another door in this room which again reveals the sound of people sleeping on the other side. Quint, who is still wearing the avian mask and leather coat as a disguise, walks in first to find a room filled with cots: there are no less than ten physicians resting in here. As Balian and Puk sneak inside to quietly end these bastards' lives, one of the sleepers stirs and sits up. Quint walks over and tries to set his mind at ease with some casual conversation while his friends slip into position to strike the man down in his bed. The plan works, but the noise seems to have awoken another doctor. Again the companions act fast and kill him before he can raise the alarm. The rest of the sleeping doctors are put to the sword as well.
The companions continue their exploration by returning to the central axis of the hide-out. They discover a chamber with a dozen skeletons lining the walls. Their bony fingers claw in the air and the empty sockets in their skulls stare at the intruders with nightmarish determination. Sjo immediately reaches for his mace, but then he sees that the bones do not move. It seems like some twisted mind set them on display here in a tableau mort, to remind all the living that they will one day die and their remains might be called upon to serve the Pallid Princess. Urgathoans certainly have a weird concept of art, no wonder they have to hide it under the ground. A heavy, metal door leads deeper into the complex, probably to the temple itself, but the companions leave it for now, deciding to veer off to the right first because they hear voices coming from that side.
Balian picks up an agitated voice through the door. "I tell you again, I'm sorry for disturbing your rest, but there were some fierce-looking guys snooping around upstairs. I know you want to be informed of anything suspicious happening; they were talking about about investigating this place before they suddenly made off, spilling some sorry excuse of having made a mistake. I didn't trust them one bit, but that Gray Maiden officer seemed to believe them and let them go. I discussed it with Sordek upstairs and we finally decided it best to inform you. Better to be safe than sorry, right?"
Quint decides to go in first again, making use of his disguise. Swinging open the door he walks into another bedroom with six people, all awake and fully dressed: doctor Saulus, a masked physician, two cultists in a breastplate carrying a scythe, a pale and skinny man, with a blotchy and scarred face, and a dark-haired woman. Quint immediately recognizes the gaunt individual as Rolth, the necromancer, the villain they have been trying to track down for ages. The woman in his company must be the lady who took away all those girls from Gaedran Lamm; the girls they discovered later in the mass grave underneath Lost End, where they had been used as guinea pigs for the plague. The bard still feels sick thinking about it. Still, the black-haired lady looks quite young herself, certainly no older than sixteen or seventeen. In fact, she looks familiar as well ... By the gods, could it be? Is Rolth's black-haired accomplice Balian's sister Alika? Quint tries to swallow down the shock that clumps his throat and tries to catch his bearings as Saulus addresses him: "So, any news from upstairs? Did you see those men again that Geoff here told us about?"
"Uhmm, no sir, all's quiet, nothing to report", Quint replies.
"Well, we might as well check it out, we're up anyway", Saulus responds as he signals the two cultists to lead the way. While Quint slips deeper into the room to the woman's side, the first cultist walks out of the room, only to be surprised by Balian and Puk, who promptly cut him down. Geoff, the physician who came down to warn Saulus, quickly quaffs a vial and peeks around the corner to see who just killed his cultist buddy. "You see, I told you, it's them, it's them!" he cries.
Quint sticks to his role and grabs the lady's arm: "By the gods, intruders! Do you have a weapon for me, Alika?" In spite of his desire to see it otherwise, the black-haired woman responds to the name Alika. "Here, take one of my daggers."
Balian, who rushes in with Puk to finish the other cultist, picks up the name as well, realizing that he is now facing his sister. He immediately tries to reason with her: "Alika, it's me, Balian, your brother. We've come to free you!"
"Huh, my brother to the rescue? After five years? You're nothing but a coward and traitor, and a fool! I have found my true purpose in the service of Urgathoa! Now face her and my wrath!"
Meanwhile Saulus and Rolth retreat to the far end of the room and cast defensive spells, as Sjo appears in the door opening and throws his new spell on them, fireball! Spyder also springs into the chamber, but when he recognizes Alika's scent, he starts wagging his tail. The masked physician pulls out another vial and flings it at Balian: it explodes in a burst of flames. Quint uses his disguise one final time in this combat, to take position at Rolth's side. Then the bard pulls out his sword and hacks away at the necromancer. His blade hits the skin as if it was stone. Darn, he just cast stoneskin! Doctor Saulus mutters the words of another spell, trying to slow Balian, Puk, Spyder and Sjo, but the magic only takes on the dog and the halfling. Alika also moves over and viciously cuts at the slowed rogue, proving to have similar skills in combat with her sneak attack. Rolth realizes the threat the 'physician' at his side poses and steps back, flinging two scorching rays at the disguised bard. Now it is Quint's turn to smile, because he has an effective magical defense of his own: his ring of fire resistance absorbs the burning damage. Sjo charges to the bard's side and engages Saulus: his heavy mace hits the doctor hard! Balian's greatsword swings even harder on the physician who tries to escape his reach to do another spell, but the ranger steps up and kills him with one clean stroke. Next he joins his friends in the corner to fight the two powerful mages. His hatred guides his blade at the necromancer, but his anger clouds his combat savvy and he misses the foul caster. Doctor Saulus clearly feels outmatched and tries to swing the balance in his favor by casting improved invisibility on himself. Sjo and Quint hear him running off and chase after him. Sjo throws a sheet of fire in front of him and the flames of his burning hands reveal the shape of Saulus. Quint snatches some dust of appearance from his pocket and blows it in the same direction, breaking the doctor's concealing magic. Still, doctor 'Devils' proves worthy of his nickname when he steps back and calls down the fires of hell! A mighty fireball turns the room into an inferno, but when the licking flames burn out, only Puk and Alika have been badly hurt. Quint and Sjo dodge most of the blaze and their protection from fire wards them from most of the remaining damage.
The odds are now clearly in favor of the companions: Balian controls his rage and hits down Rolth with the flat side of his blade. Quint and Sjo mock Saulus's feeble attempts at hurting them and cut off his escape route? With Balian's help they knock out the doctor as well.
Now only Alika remains. Sjo freezes her in place with a hold person, giving Balian the chance to disarm and bind her before she can move again. So, how does this work? How do you talk to your sister after she has tried to kill you? Especially when you're out of practice with the concepts of brotherly love as Balian is ...
I'd say that is about spot on.
I also perform a single reading for each character. The readings are quite hard, though, I use an excel sheet with all the card and their meaning to make the reading go a bit smoother. Someone posted it on these boards somewhere and I translated it to my language.
If you find the readings too complex to perform a single reading for every PC, I would advise you to draw a single card for each PC rather than do a group reading. This way you keep the personal reading for each player, which is fun for them.
The companions wait fifteen minutes before returning to the warehouse. It looks like two Korvosan Guards are now patrolling the building on the outside. Quint, Puk and Balian wait for them to pass, before climbing up the wall to the roof. They make their way over the rooftop to the front of the building, above the office of Doctor Saulus. Puk keeps watch while Balian quietly pries away some of the wooden boards that cover the top of the building. A few moments later Quint and Puk slips into the doctor's workplace. Quint summons some light and goes over the writings on the desk. He puts the plague plan from Lost End next to them and compares the handwriting. There is no mistake: the same curls on the l's, the same 'dots' (or rather small lines) on the i's, and the same slant to the letters. In a drawer the bard also discovers a document that discusses the immunity to the plague in a certain part of the Varisian population, despite various attempts and experiments to get them sick. Then Quint's eye falls on a document with the doctor's name on it. Some letters stand out in the dim light Dave Saulus, D-V-L-S, doctor Devils, of course!
The office connects to the smaller upstairs sick ward, in which the patients weren't really sick, as Balian discovered earlier on. These must be the immune Varisian guinea pigs on which Saulus has been experimenting. Puk listens and hears one man walking around in the room. Balian joins his friends and draws his greatsword, while Quint signals to him that the enemy has to be taken alive.
Puk pushes the handle down and clicks the door open, before slipping back in the dark corner. From inside the small sick ward he hears footsteps coming closer. A masked doctor stands off against the light in the background as he pushes open the door and peers into the dark of the office. Quint surprises the man with a cacophonous call, while Balian jumps up and hits him hard on the head with the pommel of his sword. The physician drops to the floor, unconscious. The patients in the room beyond do not react to this disturbance, they have obviously been drugged.
The companions carry out the doctor, rejoin Sjo and make for the old fishery with their unconscious prisoner. They strip him of his clothes and discover a lot of strange vials and even a formula book in his leather coat. So, this man is an alchemist who uses chemistry to do his magic. Sjo throws a bucket of water in the man's face to wake him up, alchemy for beginners, lesson one.
At first the prisoner will only give up his name, Lennerd Brand. For the rest he feigns innocence. "We're here to help the people, that's all."
"Not a lot of help you are, then. I only saw dead leaving the hospital. Aren't you supposed to cure the sick? Well, I guess that is not what good old doctor Devils prescribes, is it?" Sjo spits.
"I can't help it that those people are just too far gone to be saved. We do our best. It's not like doctor Devils can perform miracles ... eh ... doctor Saulus, I mean."
"Haha, you stupid Urgathoan scum, nothing like a slip of the tongue to get to the truth", Sjo smiles as he burns the man in the leg with his power over fire. "Now spill the beans or suffer the consequences of your lies!"
"Here's the truth for you, you ignorant fool! Urgathoa's wrath will burn you all!" the doctor now scream madly.
"The only one who'll be burning with Urgathoa is you. Tell me, do you also dance around on skeletal legs in the afterlife when you're an Urgathoa hugger?" Sjo mocks.
"Just know that I'll be using these legs to dance on your eternally tortured soul. I give my life willingly to the Pallid Princess! She'll reserve a place of honor in her realm when I arrive after all we've achieved in this backwater city. Seldom has the queen of disease been served so well! Our success here will be the stuff of legends!" the doctor laughs.
"Tell us about your plans!"
"Never, I'll die before helping you."
"Well, I wouldn't say you'd have to die, that would be terribly inconvenient for both of us. Wouldn't you rather tell me all about the glory of Urgathoa right now?" Quint intervenes as he spins his verbal web of fascination again. The glare in the doctor's eyes tells him he is successful. "Now, if I can be so bold as to make a suggestion, why don't you tell me what you know about Doctor Devil's plans."
This time Quint's suggestion takes hold and the captured physician confesses: "Well, we arrived on that ship, the Delivery, but we got off before we reached the city, all except Rois. He was chosen as Urgathoa's champion, to sink the boat in the river mouth. We made it to shore and revealed ourselves a couple of days later as the 'doctors' who were supposed to fight the plague. We had to pretend that someone from Cheliax had teleported us in, you know, to explain how we got here so fast."
"And who are you working for?"
"I don't know, we get our orders from Doctor Devils and ... Lady Andaisin." The tone in the man's voice betrays that he is in awe of Urgathoa's highpriest.
"And where is she right now? Where are all of the doctor, actually?" Quint asks.
"There is a secret basement below the warehouse, if you switch a lever in the lift, it can take you down to our new temple! They say that this underground complex was used for smuggling in the past. The former owner of the building was none too happy when he had to give it up, Arkomer or something he was called. Anyway, that's where my brothers and sisters are, as is Lady Andaisin."
"And what are you doing to those patients, especially the Varisian ones on the first floor?"
"It turns out that some Varisians are immune, we've been trying to find out how to get them sick, but nothing has worked so far. They are probably too stupid to realize that they should get sick, huhu, even rats know better", Lennerd replies with a cocky smile on his face as he stares at Balian. "Like that dimwit with the big sword, looks as stupid, but also as healthy as a horse."
Balian can't control himself and smacks the man in the head: "That will wipe that smirk of your face!" Unfortunately his aggressive action snaps the doctor out of Quint's suggestion. As it sinks in that he just gave away so many secrets, the man's face turns bitter. "What foul trickery did you throw over me? You will get no more answers out of me! Urgathoa damn you all to eternal hunger!"
"We have all we need from you, mister Brand. We'll be sure to tell your friends how cooperative you were. I'm sure they'll appreciate it", Sjo nods. "We'll be back for you later." At that Puk saps the man on the head, knocking him out again.
With only two to three hours left before sunrise, the companions know that they have to act quickly. Come morning, the physicians in the Hospice will discover that Saulus' office was broken into and that one of their own is missing. It will not be hard to link this break-in to the pseudodragon 'heroes' who were hanging around the backdoor earlier tonight. If they don't act immediately, the companions might have red Mantis assassins on their tails tomorrow. If there is still some element of surprise left, it is now!
Quint puts on the doctor's coat, hat and mask to make him look like one of the physicians. Sjo no longer objects to breaking the royal decree on this point, obviously the doctors are guilty of a worse crime: spreading the disease purposefully. The four heroes return to the warehouse. If they can bypass the ground floor, they will not have to face any innocent Korvosan guards or Gray Maidens. Not unless some of them are down in the underground temple as well, but then they won't be able to claim innocence anymore. Using the hole in the roof, the companions get back to the office on the first floor. Across from the sick room is the wooden elevator. Puk examines it and finds the switch that the doctor told them about. Pulling the ropes ever so quietly, Balian slowly descends the platform into the basement.
The way off the platform is blocked by a door. Puk listens at it but hears nothing. Time for some serious action! Then he pushes the door open.
The young heroes of Korvosa keep an eye on the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden for the rest of the day. In the evening all the doctors who have been patrolling the city return. While the guards accompanying them leave after a few minutes for their barracks, the physicians themselves do not come out of the warehouse again. So they must have their own sleeping quarters in the building, possibly in the backroom, which the companions haven't seen yet. Most doctors also bring some new patients with them, who will probably occupy the beds of the dozen cadavers that are carried off by body carters before the sun sets. However, no patient has left the Hospice alive or cured today.
The companions wait for darkness before attempting to break in. Their goal is to get Puk into Doctor Saulus' office to compare his handwriting to the plague plan notes they found in Lost End. The huge backdoor to the Hospice is unguarded. Puk puts his keen ear to the wood and hears nothing on the other side. If a dozen doctors are staying in there, they must either be very quiet or already fast asleep. The halfling also fails to see any light coming through the cracks of the door. He feels quite comfortable that there is no one in there, at least not awake. The door is barred, so Quint uses his magic bell to open it. When no reaction comes to the bar dropping on the ground, Puk looks inside: this backroom is an unlit loading bay that is filled with empty crates, containers and barrels, the remnants of the Arkona venture that occupied this building in the past. Two curtains lead to the main hall. Puk slips in the backroom and peeks under the heavy drapes into the sick ward. There are two doctors left to look after the patients and a pair of Korvosan guards plus three Gray Maidens to provide security. The halfling informs his friends outside. Quint hopes that things in the ward will get even quieter (and hopefully even less crowded) in the middle of the night, so the young men decide to come back after midnight.
7 Erastus 4708
The companions return after a couple of hours. The backdoor is still open, so Puk slips back into the loading area. The number of guards and doctors in the sick ward hasn't changed, but the two doctors are no longer among the patients' beds, they have taken a seat at a table in the back instead. Damn, now they are effectively blocking Puk's path to the stairs! The halfling quietly calls over Quint, who might be able to draw the physicians back into the main area with a ghost sound spell. Unfortunately, the bard stumbles into one of the crates in the unlit loading bay: "THUCK!". He does not hesitate and quickly runs out again, pushing the door shut behind him. Puk tries to hide behind a container as one of the Gray Maidens pulls away the curtain and peers into the backroom. Lighting her way with a flickering torch, she walks over to Puk's hiding place and discovers the little rogue in the corner with a sheepish smile on his face.
"Who are you? Get out of there!" the woman orders. Puk stands up and shrugs, but then jumps between the lady's legs and bolts for the backdoor, which his friends open from the outside. The Gray Maiden pursues him and suddenly finds herself facing four men instead of one.
"We are the pseudodragons, heroes of the city, and we're here on official business", Quint tries.
"Official business my ass! ALARM! I'm giving you one chance only, lay down your arms, NOW!" the woman cries as she holds out her blade threateningly. She quickly gets the company of her two colleagues, the two Korvosan guards and one plague doctor. One of the other Gray Maidens is clearly an officer, who immediately takes command. Quint and Sjo pull out Kroft's charter and wave it in her face, claiming they are here to examine potential treason by the queen's physicians.
"If you are sent by the Guard, you are under our orders as well, since we are in charge of all military forces in the city now", the officer throws back.
"Well, we're not actually with the Guard as such, so we're not really taking orders from anyone, but we are on the same side", Quint replies. "You see, I know that you are loyal to her majesty, the magnificent Ileosa. But I fear that both her majesty and you are being misled by darker forces, forces we should actually fight together." Resorting to his powers of bardic persuasion Quint tries to fascinate the commander and the Gray Maiden who discovered Puk with his words. He is obviously successful, as she relaxes her stance and seems prepared to listen to him. "Maybe I might even suggest that you help us", Quint tries, attempting to pull the officer further in his charming ploy, but she resists his wiles now. Puk, Sjo and Balian feel the tension dropping and take advantage of the moment to bid the mesmerized guards goodnight, slipping away around the corner.
Realizing that he will not be able to get this Gray Maiden to cooperate with his plans, Quint changes his tactics now. "I guess it was all just an innocent mistake, I see that now", Quint continues, activating his innocence spell to boost his bluff. "We were clearly mistaken, I apologize for disrupting you. You're doing an excellent job, by the way, keep up the good work! I'm sorry again for the misunderstanding, I'll just take my leave now." The bard slowly walks backwards to the corner of the warehouse while sweet talking the guards. Then he slips around the building as well, leaving the stupefied security at the backdoor. That was close!
This was the first time in my long roleplaying career that I actually saw the bardic powers of persuasion being put to full use. We usually have a bard in our parties who makes ample use of skill in diplomacy, but every time we've also written down those special powers of fascinate and suggestion on our character sheets, which look great on paper but never actually make it to play. To see them being used with such effectiveness in what should ended in a combat situation, was fantastic. Okay, the commander made her save against the suggestion, but then Quint followed with a 46 (natural 20 plus innocence spell bonus) on his bluff, to diffuse the situation and make his escape. Good times!
BTW, this was my version of the Shingle chase. Trinia only made it halfway through, though, but having the chase and its obstacles visually in front of you was a big plus for me.
Some more details:
PUK, CG Male Halfling rogue 6 (swashbuckler)
Sneak Attack (Ex) If you can catch an opponent when he is unable to defend himself effectively from your attack, you can strike a vital spot for extra damage. Your attack deals 3d6 points of extra damage.
Fast-Talker You had a knack at getting yourself into trouble as a child, and as a result developed a silver tongue at an early age. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Bluff checks, and Bluff is always a class skill for you.
I've been experimenting with the Magic set editor to make my own cards. It's fun. I really like the option of adding campaign-related special cards to the 'Risk' game for storytelling flavor. I would like to playtest this version of the Battle for Korvosa and see how it plays out. It will be years in real time before my players get to the final installment of the AP, so I have more than enough time to try it out.
I have some questions/remarks:
If gone over your rules, I'm not a game board player, although I know Risk and this seems like a Risk plus game. It certainly fascinates me.
I suppose you actually played it, how did it turn out for you? Was it balanced? Did your players manage to get the upper hand?
I have two questions for now:
BALIAN, CG Male Human ranger 6 (urban ranger)
Trained actor You trained as a child to be an actor. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Perform (act) and Perform (act) is always a class skill for you. You also gain a free skill point in Perform (act).
SPYDER, dog companion level 6, N Medium animal
QUINTILIAN, CG Male Human bard 6 (court bard)
Bardic Performance You can use this ability for 17 rounds per day.
Trained actor You trained as a child to be an actor. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Perform (act) and Perform (act) is always a class skill for you. You also gain a free skill point in Perform (act).
SHAOBAN (SJO), LN Male Human oracle 6
Clouded Vision Your eyes are obscured, making it difficult for you to see.
Trained actor You trained as a child to be an actor. You gain a +1 trait bonus on Perform (act) and Perform (act) is always a class skill for you. You also gain a free skill point in Perform (act).
6 Erastus 4708
With Madam Nesia in charge of the household things run a lot smoother (and cleaner) at the villa. At breakfast the companions go over their plans for the day. They want to investigate the queen's physicians, to see how far the corruption has spread.
They head over to the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden, the warehouse that was turned into the physicians' headquarters. Just as the arrive, they see a patrol with a pair of doctors leaving. Quint casts a detect magic and notices that both doctors are wearing an enchanted mask. Next the heroes go inside, where they are promptly stopped at the front desk by a burly nurse. The woman is wearing leather gloves and a cloth in front of her mouth. "Get in line!" she shouts, pointing to the six sick people who are already here. A closed door behind the desk provides entry to the main hall, but a Korvosan guard blocks the way.
Quint demands to see Doctor Dave Saulus, but the nurse refuses to let him through, until Sjo pulls out the Field Marshal's charter and bullies the woman into agreeing. She leads the companions through the doorway into the warehouse's vast interior which has been converted into one gigantic sick ward. The stench of alcohol and sickness chokes each breath. Rows of stained cots cram the floor, every bed filled with its own pitiful story: men and women of all walks are groaning as the final stages of the plague consume them. The ceiling of the room is nearly 30 feet high, though a series of catwalks span the room at 20 feet. Four dark robed doctors hover amid the sick, their avian masks giving them an unnerving resemblance to crows waiting to be fed. Quint spots magic in each of the facial covers. Four Korvosan guards and one Gray Maiden walk the floor, while three more Gray Maidens patrol the catwalks above.
The nurse takes the visitors to a staircase in the back and precedes them to the fist floor. There is a second smaller sick room upstairs, in which one of the masked doctors immediately reacts badly to the companions' arrival. Nurse Brunhilde tries to calm the man's protest and urges him to let the guests see Doctor Saulus. During this brief conversation Quint notices that the sick in here are all of Varisian stock, while the doctors are all wearing magic masks again. Puk spots a leather strap bound to a patient's wrist: these poor wretches have been tied down, possibly for their own safety, but the halfling still feels bad about it. Balian gives one patient a quick look-over and is surprised to see that the man shows no signs of the plague, although he looks sedated. The ranger decides to keep quiet about it for now, but he will definitely have to inform his friends of this later.
Before the protesting physician can utter more objections, Sjo storms through to the back and bursts into the office of doctor Saulus. This time even the head physician is wearing an avian beak over his nose, which again radiates magic. The companions demand that the doctor gives them an update, but the proud Chelaxian seems very displeased at their sudden arrival and is very curt in his answers. He sees no reason to give any explanation to these annoying upstarts and quickly shows them the door. Puk wants to compare the doctor's handwriting to the plague plan from Lost End and makes an attempt to snatch one of the papers on the table unnoticed. He fails miserably at it, angering the doctor even more, who has the intruders escorted out immediately.
The companions contemplate what to do next: Quint wants to kidnap some doctors and force them to talk, but Sjo objects as the recent plague charter explicitly forbids attacking or impersonating the doctors or the Gray Maidens. The lawful healer wants more evidence to legitimize acting against the queen's agents. It might be best to wait for nightfall and sends in Puk to gather more clues. Next the heroes gear up for further adventure by selling off their loot and buying three more wands of cure light wounds. Quint also goes to the library to do research on the Red Mantis, the doctors from Cheliax and Lady Andaisin. He finds no reference to an official medical guild in Cheliax, making him wonder where Ileosa recruited her physicians from. There is no information on Lady Andaisin either, which does not come as a big surprise, since most of the church of Urgathoa consists of underground cults. It makes sense that the names of their high priests remain shrouded in mystery.
Another secret organization is the Red Mantis, on which Quint finds only general data. The assassins of the order wear red and black armor with a helmet shaped like a mantis head. It is said that no wall is thick enough, no bodyguard tough enough or no safehouse well enough hidden to keep the Red Mantis from their prey. They take little notice of social or political status, seeing all marks as equal if the client pays the right price. They do refuse, however, to take contracts on rightful monarchs, out of respect for their patron deity, Achaekek, who views monarchs as the earthly parallel of gods. They demand high payment, either in the form of gold or the promise of future collaboration and, once struck, they never go back on a deal. Contacting them is tricky as there are no direct channels to reach them. They is no mention of them ever having been in Korvosa.
The flesh golem roars as it closes in for the attack. The companions are ready for it, though, having read Rotlh's notes. None of them has an adamantine weapon, so they expect to have trouble getting through its thick hide. They do have a very important advantage, however, fire and ice! Sjo can enhance his strikes with flames and Quint's weapon crackles with frost. Both types of magic are supposed to slow the creature.
The companions decide to draw the golem into the entrance cave, where they will be able to surround it. Sjo casts a burning hands on it, while he and his friends get into position. The creature follows in slow motion. Quint also prepares by boosting Balian, Sjo and himself with heroism and Puk sneaks behind the assailant, sneaking through the shadows. The stitched man finally manages to start hostilities, but his first swing goes high and misses Balian completely. The heroes now encircle the creature and strike from all sides, discovering that its resistance to non-adamantine weapons is not as tough as they expected. Instead of the dreaded encounter to the death, the companions find themselves within the grasp of an easy victory. Sure, the golem manages to score a couple of hits, but since fire of ice keep it slowed, it does not pose much of a threat. A few breaths later it topples to the floor. Quint can't get over how easy this was, considering how complicated and expensive it is to create such a being.
The heroes explore the caves further. The tunnel that smells of sea air leads to a huge cave where docks have been built. One big ship could possibly moor here, although it would be treacherous to navigate the water outside the cliffs. It would definitely take an experienced captain to get a vessel into this cave. Along the walls are some left-over supplies, as well as empty barrels and crates. A small prison to the side holds numerous dead rats.
That leaves only one tunnel, one that reeks of death. With their cloaks in front of their mouths the companions go down the corridor. There is one narrow room at the end that serves as a waste pit filled with hundreds of decaying rodents and a fair number of rotting human corpses. Balian fears that his sister might be one of them, so, despite the overwhelmingly sickening stench, he wants to examine the bodies closer. There turn out to be eleven children here, all girls ... so the lambs that Rolth and the dark-haired lady bought from Gaedran Lamm were sacrificed as guinea pigs! The thought alone leaves the companions foaming at the mouth with anger. Eight corpses are adults, six of which were female as well. Only two had black hair, like Balian's sister, but these two were too old to be Alika. Still, this cruelty will have to be avenged!
The companions use what is left of the day to make their way back to the Graul hunting lodge, where they spend the night in the barn once again.
Level up: level 6!
5 Erastus 4708
The companions rise early in the morning and fire their horses on to take them home as fast as possible. They reach the city as the last light slips across the horizon. When they approach Korvosa, they notice two columns of smokes rising from the city: one in the south and another one, more diffused, in the north. Sjo asks a city guard about them. Apparently the number of deaths has increased so much that the Gray District has taken to burning the corpses, explaining the smoke in the south. The fires in the north have another source, though. Since the situation in Old Korvosa has turned so bad, orders have been issued to quarantine the entire district. All the bridges over the Narrows of Saint Alika are being torched, leaving only the one stone bridge, that will be guarded by the Gray Maidens, who will also patrol the shore line to make sure no one sneaks across.
The companions decide to look into the situation later tonight. They have been wondering who to trust with the information they gathered in Lost End. Field Marshal Cressida Kroft seems like an obvious choice, but they fear that she will feel obliged to inform the Castle. The queen is still an unclear factor: is she behind this evil or is she an innocent victim? Her behavior at Trinia's trial certainly does not speak to her defense. So that leaves Vencarlo Orisini: the fencing master is definitely on the same side as the companions and his connection to Blackjack, the caped crusader, might prove valuable. Since Vencarlo lives in Old Korvosa, the companions will be able to check out the situation in the north of the city at the same time.
First the four young friends head to their villa, to freshen up and have dinner. Madam Nesia and the kids look healthy and they even have a guest: Meep Gildenglare, the old seamstress, is there again. She has taken the liberty of dressing the three boys in smart blue liveries, complete with the pseudodragon symbol and all. Nesia has been doing well, although she admits to sudden bursts of headache from time to time. She still cannot remember anything about her past.
After a heartening dinner the companions trek across the city to the stone bridge off Mainshore Boulevard in North Point into Old Korvosa. Upon arriving there, they stumble upon a battlefield. Four score of Gray Maidens have defended the bridge from angry citizens demanding to leave Old Korvosa. At least a hundred of them lie dead on the other bank of the Narrows. It quickly becomes clear that the Queen's guard will not allow anyone across, even if they bear the official seal from Field Marshal Kroft. So informing Vencarlo has suddenly become impossible, unless the heroes try to slip across unnoticed. They decide against it, at least for tonight; too much blood have been spilt already to risk another incident.
The companions explore the rest of the upper floor. One bedroom - the size of the bed suggests that this once belonged to a child - was possibly used by Rolth. There are stains of blood on the table and decaying leftover pieces of flesh and hair on the floor. A bloody saw, needle and thread complete the picture of a necromancer's tools for golem crafting. Four other rooms show signs of occupation, a simple bedroom, a portrait gallery with two bedrolls and two master suites. The latter are quite clean: the four-poster bed in one has fresh sheets and smells almost sweet, while the king-sized double bed in the other room has been tidily made up. The drawer in a cabinet holds two very interesting letters.
Dear doctor Devils
We hear you are the man we need, a gentleman-killer who does not strike with physical weapons, but who resorts to more insidious devices like poison and germs. What we need is something between those two: we're looking for a poison that has the symptoms of an ordinary disease, but that cannot be treated with disease fighting magic. The clinical picture has to be realistic enough to make everyone believe that the victim is just ill, while the outcome - let's be very clear about this - has to be fatal! Deliver this and we will make you rich. There might even be more in store for you if you prove successful.
Although it is not dated, the second letter was clearly written later:
Dear doctor Devils
You have truly served us well. Our new assignment will undoubtedly be more up your alley. We want you to infect Korvosa with the plague. We'll send over high priestess Andaisin of Urgathoa to aid you in this task. She'll be carrying the disease in living form. Accompany her to your 'new home', an abandoned villa on the south coast of the Bay of Korvosa. There you'll be able to work in peace. Lady Andaisin will give you the details on how to proceed from there.
Both letters have been signed with a red symbol that looks like a big letter 'N'. Quint wonders if it's some kind of rune, but then he notices that the mark actually consists of two insectoid legs: the symbol of the Red Mantis, a group of very accomplished and tenacious assassins for hire who worship the mantis god Achaekek! The bard has never heard of any of these dreaded slayers operating in Korvosa, just like he never picked up any rumors of a secret sect of Urgathoa 'lovers'. The name 'Andaisin' does not sound familiar either, but if she's a highpriest who can cast geas, she must be very dangerous indeed.
The portrait gallery was also used to sleep in, as there are two bedrolls on the floor. The ground is also covered in wood chips, the result of someone carving wood. One of the bedrolls holds a couple of half-finished dolls. Balian feels himself choking as he looks at little works of art: his sister used to make dolls like these, although these models show a greater mastery of the craft - which would be expected after five years. One of the puppets depicts a boy, holding the hand of a smaller girl; there is a puppy at his feet ... Could it be? Is his sister Alika still being held by Rolth? Oh, how he will let that stinking necromancer pay!
There are more rooms in the attic, probably servants' quarters of old, where at least a dozen people spent their nights until a few weeks ago.
Next the heroes descend to the basement level. The large kitchen and partially stocked pantry indicate that at least two dozen people were in the manor recently, although nothing suggests that they are still here now. There is another bedroom, the former kitchen staff's quarters, with four bunk beds that have also been used, bringing the total of used beds above thirty. A dusty wine cellar holds no more drinkable bottles, but Puk does discover a crack in the corner of one of the wine racks, which hides a pair of hinges. The racks swings forward, revealing a hidden compartment with a chest, thickly covered in dust. So whoever made this place their home for a couple of weeks did not unearth this Porphyria secret! The coffer contains 1,500 gold sails, a minor ring of fire resistance and a pouch with dust of appearance.
The room underneath the dining room also looks out over the bay through glass-stained windows, as it is situated in the cliff side. It houses a laboratory that has seen extensive use over the last months. All kinds of glassware, jars and pottery cover the workbenches, as well as several iron cages with dead rats, which fill the workshop with the foul odor of death and decay. Strapped to a chair is the rotting corpse of a man; although decomposition is well on its way, Balian can still make out signs of the plague on the cadaver. The far workbench holds a number of beak-shaped plague masks, identical to the physician's masks which the queen's doctors in Korvosa wear. Quint's knowledge of the arcane reveals that these were supposed to be enchanted with resistance to the plague. The leftover notes and materials suggest that some actually were, but those are not here anymore. Sjo and Quint wonder if the queen's physicians have been infiltrated with agents from Urgathoa. They should be easy to pick out: their masks will radiate magic.
As suspected, Sjo finds another staircase that winds all the way down to the sea level. It leads to a cave with two exits. The one to the right smells of the ocean, so the companions choose to go that way. A menacing grunt sounds from the dark ahead as a hideous monster composed of different body parts sewn together with thick string looms into view. So here is Rolth's pet!
The companions take the rest of the day to recover from their ordeal at the hands of the Graul family. They consider burning down the hunting lodge, but despite the horror that the ogrekin brought to the place, it is a decent and sturdily built edifice. In the end the heroes decide to spare the building and burn the corpses outside on a large funeral pyre instead. Dernal, the satyr they saved, and Quint's horse seem to have withstood the worse of the trauma. The goat-legged man leaves for the forest to rejoin his kin, nodding his head in gratitude one last time and Quint's riding animal seeks comfort among his three brothers.
4 Erastus 4708
You might recognize Lost End, the abandoned Porphyria manor, as my version of Foxglove Manor, a.k.a. Misgivings, from Rise of the Runelords' second installment The Skinsaw Murders. I always loved that building and since we'll never get round to playing RotR anyway, I used it for my Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign, just like I did with the Graul homestead.
The journey to Lost End takes just under three hours. The smell of the sea air and the cry of seagulls are the first signs that the companions are nearing their destination. Perched high above the ocean, on the edge of the cliffs, rests a stately manor house. Strong winds tear at the structure that looks poised for a suicide leap. That the manor clings to the top of the rocks is remarkable, as its far side hangs over a sheer drop down to the ocean below, a fall of over three hundred feet. The roof sags in several places and mold and mildew cake the walls. The house is crooked, its chimneys rise from various points among the rooftops, leaning like old men against the storm.
Four grinning gargoyles guard the front door and come to life when the companions approach. The demonic statues spread their stony wings and swoop down on the visitors. The heroes organize their defenses well and focus their attacks on one creature at a time, making short work of their enemies and minimizing the damage they take themselves. Since they have burned through every potion and wand that provides healing, they have to be careful with their resources, as only Sjo's and Quint's spells can cure wounds now.
The front door is barred from the inside, but the Key-Lock Killer's bell easily takes care of that obstacle. The entrance hall is large and runs through to another room at the end of the house, from where colored light streams in through beautiful stained-glass windows. A twelve-foot long monster towers over the visitors as they enter: its leathery wings spread out menacingly. The creature has the body of a giant lion, though its feline head is flanked by two more heads - a dragon's and a horned goat's - marking it as a chimera. The heroes draw their weapons before realizing that this fabled beast is not moving. It is a stuffed animal, a magnificent trophy from a long forgotten battle. The entrance hall sports other trophies along its walls, the heads of bears, boars and giant deer mounted on wooden display plaques. A lion's pelt covers the floor leading to the dining room in the back. A curving flight of stairs to the right winds up to the upper floor, and several doors provide entry to other rooms, their frames carved with scenes from the forest, the animals that inhabit the wilds and the hunters that chase them down. The house is definitely dirty, but the mold staining the floor, walls and ceiling does not carry the damp smell of decay that fifty years of degeneration should, suggesting that the place was aired not too long ago. Still, there are no signs of life anywhere now. The dining room in the back holds a large mahogany table. The cups and plates on it also show signs of recent use, no more than a couple of weeks ago. The stained glass in the windows is still intact and looks like excellent craftsmanship, but the colored glass blocks most of what would have been a breathtaking view of the Bay of Korvosa.
The companions make their way through the rest of the ground floor, including a dusty lounge and a ruined music room. The once-magnificent chandelier lies smashed on the floor, although the organ in the corner survived the crash. Still, half a century of disuse has not been kind on the instrument, which only produces false notes. The drawing room and library are cleaner and have obviously seen more use recently. The heroes discover notes on how to construct a flesh golem, including the creature's strengths and 'weaknesses'. The instructions also list the magic required to bring such a golem to life, with hard to find spells like geas and limited wish. The first would apparently be provided by someone called Andaisin, while the latter would come from a scroll. Quint suspects that these scribblings belonged to Rolth, the necromancer who took Balian's sister five years ago.
Sjo rummages through more molded novels that are left on the bookshelves and some papers on the desk. He finds a document entitled the plague plan, that details the procedure on how to approach the Korvosa with the Delivery. All passengers would leave the ship aboard rowing boats and make for the south of the city, while one person, named 'Rois', would stay on board and navigate the vessel into the mouth of the Jeggare River, where he would release the diseased rats, sink the boat and burn the evidence. The author of the note clearly had little respect for the suicide navigator, as he mocks the man for a fool.
On the upper floor of Lost End the heroes discover a shrine to Urgathoa in the room above the dining room. Four skeletal warriors guard the unholy altar. They throw themselves at the intruders, but like the gargoyles at the front door, they go down relatively easily, though not without delivering some vicious cuts with their rusted blades. Sjo heals his friends after the fight, but decides against patching up Spyder. The labrador sustained some gaping wounds and curing him would drain too many resources, so the companions leave the dog to guard the front door instead. The focal point in the improvised shrine is a statue of Urgathoa in front of the stained glass windows. Closer inspection reveals that this idol is actually a stone bust of a woman, named 'Lady Ulrika Porphyria', to which a skeletal lower body and arms were added.
I'll be inserting Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale after book 2. The heroes have to travel to the Vale to get an ingrediënt for the cure that an allied professor is cooking up. The module is 3.5 as well, just like CotCT, but the valley borders on Korvosa, so you could easily fit it in with some modification. It is also level appropriate for this point in the campaign: level 6.
After they have recovered from the fierce battle with Mammy Graul and her undead ogre spouse, the companions search the rest of the homestead. With Puk still blinded and Balian still weakened by Mammy's necromantic magic, they proceed cautiously. The horrifying experience continues as they discover a dining room where the chairs are crowned with skulls and stretches with humanoid leather and a kitchen that has eyes and animal heads boiling in a stew. The stench of decaying flesh and excrement hangs thick throughout the building, accompanied by buzzing hosts of bloated flies. The young heroes confront one more hillbilly in the backroom. Although his frame clearly suggests that he is full-grown, the childish look in his eyes betrays his simple mindset. The hairless, malformed ogrekin smiles naively through his wide mouth of ragged teeth before he realizes that the men entering are intruders. He drops the humanoid baby skulls he was playing with and roars aggressively, flailing about wildly with his arms. Still, four adversaries and a dog prove too much of a challenge and he goes down easily. Quint draws back in horror as he examines the crude paintings in blood of grinning devils and dismembered animals on the walls, thinking of his horse that is still missing. Sjo ponders over the baby skulls: their grotesque shape makes him wonder whether these were ogrekin babies. Since all of Mammy Graul's children they have encountered so far were male, these small crania might be all that remains of her female offspring, toys for her sons. The upper floor proves less of a horror, housing one filthy bedroom and a junk-littered attic.
That leaves one more area to explore: the basement. The stairs lead down to a small hallway with three doors. The door on the right draws Balian's attention, as he hears the scraping sound of someone sharpening a weapon and the frightened whinnying of a horse. Puk attempts to push the door open, but finds it bolted from the other side, alarming the creatures in the room of the heroes' arrival. Quint quickly pulls the key-lock killer's magic bell from his pack and rings it, making the bolt pop free. The room reeks of rot and old blood. Piles of gore-spattered skin lie heaped on the floor. Quint's horse has been tied down to a large table, its legs are broken and it looks in bad shape, but still alive. A fierce-looking ogrekin towers over the table; hair grows lopsided from the right side of his head rather than atop his brow, but his left side reveals a more gruesome abomination: a second half-formed head grows from the back of his neck. It lacks the intelligent glare of the main head, though, and limits itself to grunting and drooling. The ogrekin orders two ratlike dogs to attack and roars out a threat in a language none of the heroes understand, although Quint recognizes it as Giant, the tongue used by ogres. In the other corner of the room, behind a second table, is Mammy Graul, who's shrieking encouragements at her son in Giant as well. Whatever she is yelling, it does not sound cordial, although Quint can make out that she calls the two-headed savage 'Hucker'.
The heroes rush across the room and engage the creatures. Sjo focuses on the corpulent necromancer, noticing that most of the burns he inflicted earlier have been healed. His mace skitters off her layers of fat, but at least his presence menaces her enough to make her fizzle the spell she tries to cast. Puk stumbles forward blindly until he faces Hucker and one of the dogs. The luck of halflings protects him once more from the brute's deadly swing: the large metal hook tears into the ground instead of the unsighted rogue. At Quint's urging the halfling takes on a more defensive stance, since his puny attacks will not give the enemies more than a few scratches anyway. Meanwhile Balian and Spyder take out the second dog, but the ranger's decreased strength proves to be quite a handicap. Quint tries to support his friends by snapping around his whip and tripping Mammy and her son. The obese necromancer finds herself cornered by Sjo and resorts to her wand of magic missiles, fearing to lose more spells in melee. Even though she can fire only two force bolts at the Shoanti at a time, her continued efforts wear him down and finally force him to step back to heal himself.
In the meantime the other heroes focus their attacks on the big ogrekin. Quint and Balian inflict several deep cuts, but the brute retaliates, dealing a mighty blow to Quint and hitting down Spyder. Balian presses the attack and finally finishes off Hucker with a critical strike. Sjo no longer has the magic to outheal Mammy and hits the floor as well. Once he ratdog has been taken care of, Mammy is the only adversary left. Hatred burns in her eyes as she keeps on firing magic missiles at Puk now, who is next to lose consciousness. Balian now hits his greatsword into the fat monster's flesh, but it's Quint frosty shortsword that delivers the final blow and ends this horrific conflict.
The bard has just enough magic left to get Sjo and Puk back to their feet. Every potion, wand or spell that can provide healing has been depleted. Apart from Balian, who sustained no wounds in this last fight, all other heroes are barely alive. Getting some rest is a necessity, but first the companions make sure there are no more enemies about. Fortunately there aren't. As they search the rest of the basement, they find two more junk rooms and one large filthy prison that also serves as the building's cesspit. Manacled to the far wall is a strange man with goat-like legs and horns, a satyr. He is not conscious, although he is still breathing. His right arm has been chopped off, leaving only a bloody stump. This must have been the 'treat' Mammy Graul was chewing on when the heroes first surprised her. The companions free the faun and take him outside, where Sjo and Balian bind his wounds. The exhausted young adventurers spend the night in the barn at the side of their horses.
3 Erastus 4708
The companions take the rest of the day to recuperate and heal their wounds. Fortunately, Mammy Graul was smart enough to keep around at least one bottled cure to her own blinding magic in the form of a potion of remove blindness, which repairs Puk's sight, while Sjo's magic gives Balian his strength back. Quint's horse is healed of its broken legs and the heroes carefully bring back the satyr to consciousness. He is traumatized by this horrid experience, but Quint's kind words and music restore enough sanity so he can communicate. His name is Dernal, a satyr who lives here in the wilds. When he realizes that the threat has ended, he asks his rescuers if they have found his emerald necklace. This prompts a closer search of the lodge which reveals a secret cache in Hucker's basement room. A treasure chest holds some money and jewelry, as well as a pair of magical bracers of lesser archery.
Hi Mister Fluffykins
Welcome to the Curse of the Crimson Throne crew. You picked a fantastic adventure path to run. These boards are filled with tips, answers to questions and advice.
First of all, you should read through the complete AP to get a clear scope of what the adventure is about and the Guide to Korvosa to get to know the city. It is a big plus for the campaign if you manage to create a bond with the city.
I'll put in some links here that might be helpful for starting the campaign:
Of course, these are just a handful of links, there is so much more to be found in the messageboard hoard.
Apart from that, I would also like to recommend you read some campaign journals on this AP. One that I really like and that was a big inspiration for my campaign is Moonbeam's CotCT. I've also been writing my own journal, which might prove helpful as well.
Most of all, good luck and have fun!
Your idea to continue the campaign should work.
As for the NPCs, Rolth is the only one who definitely hails from Korvosa, Dr. Davaulus is not from the city and Lady Andaisin, well ... I can't really say. In my campaign she is from somewhere else as well. So it would make sense that Dr. Davaulus, Lady Andaisin and their allies just get paid for their services and leave. Rolth on the other hand stays and is a perfect candidate to reappear at Pilts' Palace, as you suggested yourself. Other people have done that before by giving him a family tie to Pilts (maybe Rolth is his brother, father, uncle or something).
Well, if your players are attached to their characters, there are other ways of continuing the campaign:
THIS ANSWER CONTAINS SPOILERS!
Well, the death toll will be higher because of the PCs' failed mission, but there are other ways to stop the plague. The most logical solution would be this: your party invaded the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden and must certainly have stirred up things in the sick ward and the experimentation ward. If they did, it is likely that patients got out of the hospice and reported on the abuse there. This would lead to the queen having to intervene. She could tell her 'allies' that they reached the goal for which she hired them, so they can leave now. Consequently she could have her Gray Maidens storm the hospice and close it down (making her the hero in the eyes of the public).
Anyway, if you make a new party, I'd advise you to tie in your new characters to the campaign. Some ideas on the top of my head:
I haven't read the last 2 adventures yet - is there something else I'll need to account for if the Queen's plan to purge the sick of Korvosa goes off mostly as planned? Should we just start a new campaign?
You should definitely read up on the last two installments. Number six is actually more important to you now, because it discusses the queen and her schemes. Number five is just the quest for a sword in an undead castle, it has less impact on or information about the city plotline.
Some simple fixes:
When Paizo released its Rise of the Runelords anniversary edition in a wonderful hardcover version, they got many of their fans dreaming of another similar projects. The topic has come up a few times on these boards, as in this thread, and it turns out that Curse of the Crimson Throne is one of the favorites for such a make-over.
Understanding that we are speaking purely hypothetically, if such a conversion was ever made, which changes would you like to see to the adventure path apart from a 3.5 to Pathfinder Roleplaying Game rules update?
Looking at the cadaver of the brown bear that the ogrekin's hunting dogs took down, Balian realizes it has a nice, thick pelt that would make an excellent rug for his bedroom. With Puk's aid he starts skinning the magnificent animal, while Sjo tries his hand at preparing a juicy bear steak. When the companions finally return to the road where they left their horses, they are surprised to find their mounts missing. Fortunately whoever took them did not bother about hiding his tracks, so Balian easily picks up a trail. About an hour down the road the heroes discover two wooden buildings off the road, next to a clearing in the wood.
Puk sneaks closer to scout ahead. The two sagging buildings look like a worn down hunting lodge and barn. Windows have been boarded over and moss and fungus grow on the shaded sides of the decrepit structures. The halfling also spots a tangled field of corn and other diseased plants growing in the clearing. An eight-foot tall brute is working the ground with a vicious iron hook. His grotesquely deformed head resembles a giant pumpkin: a huge mass of tumors and overgrown bone gives his head a lopsided look. Numerous crows fill the air above him. Puk circles the lodge, sticking to the trees, and makes his way around the building to the barn. Upon approaching that building he quickly makes out the frightened whinnying of horses, cruel chuckles of more brutes and savage snarls of dogs inside.
The halfling gathers his friends and together they stealthily crawl up to front of the barn. Puk throws open the doors and the companions look upon an unpleasant scene. Three ogrekin and two skinny, naked dogs are torturing three awkwardly bound horses. Puk's riding animal seems to be taking the worst punishment and shows various cut and bite marks. Balian's and Sjo's mount are here as well, but there is no immediate sign of Quint's ride. Balian storms in, charging an ugly ogrekin who has two forearms growing from his right elbow. Quint swirls his whip around the crooked stumpy legs of an exceptionally short hillbilly and pulls him to the ground, so Puk can stab him in a weak spot while he's down. Meanwhile Sjo realizes that the third of the brothers in the barn is huge, even in his eyes, standing over eight and a half feet tall. This giant has a somewhat 'normal' face, although his eyes are very big and his skin is pale as the full moon. Balian wields his weapon to great efficiency, taking out one of the dogs and the short-legged brother in one mighty sweep. He next faces the wrath of the two remaining brothers, who hit him hard with their bare hands. Meanwhile the pumpkin-headed ogrekin who was working the field outside, has rushed to his brothers' aid. He throws himself on Sjo, dangerously whirling around his vicious iron hook. Balian and Puk take out another opponent: the tall hulk falls dead at their feet. The last of the three torturers smashes the ranger in return with his twin forearms, but Quint understand that fourth, pumpkin-headed brother is the biggest threat, as he is clearly more experienced in battles and packs a ferocious punch. The bard spellbinds the ugly brute with a successful cacophonous call, causing a sickening head-ache to surge through his tumorous brain, taking away his ability to fight. The creature retreats to the door and flees the scene. In the meantime the companions finish off the last opposition in the barn, before chasing after the ogrekin who is fleeing around the barn. The heroes manage to corner him and - even though he regains control of his actions and dishes out some damage to Spyder - he succumbs quickly to superior numbers.
With Quint's horse still missing, the companions decide to tackle the main house next. This decaying hunting lodge slumps drunkenly at the edge of the clearing. Rickety stairs crawl up to a porch covered by a huge eave which is supported by heavy pillars of pine. These timbers have crude carvings of manticores impaling children and wolves ripping apart women. The simple decorations look like a child's work, but the depictions grow more gruesome from one picture to the next. A large rocking chair of lashed wood and bone sways erratically in the breeze at the far end of the porch under a vast menagerie of wind chimes, all composed of humanoid and animal bones. The windows have been boarded up with thick timbers, although it is unclear whether this is to keep intruders out or to keep unspeakable horrors in. A host of ants marches happily away, many the size of a grown man's thumbnail. A moth as big as a shovel-head clings to the porch ceiling, watching the party with alienating eyes. The scent of bad meat, urine, sweat and decay wafts from between the cracks.
Sjo's warning that there might be traps is merrily laughed away, but when Puk walks up to the front door, a rack mounted with a series of sharpened bones suddenly swings down from between the many hanging bones. At the same time rusty saw blades spring from the cracks in the floorboards. The terrible double trap fails to hurt the lucky halfling, though, as the spikes only pierce the air above Puk's head, while the blades slides just left and right from where he's standing, cutting off no more than a few hairs from the tufts covering his ever-bare feet. The halfling chuckles at his own good fortune and slowly pushes open the door. The reception room holds a tremendous hearth in the right wall, but there is no fire burning in it, while the small rogue remembers that smoke arose from the chimney on the roof. A mangy dire bearskin rug lies before the fireplace. The animal's pained visage still snarls at whatever hunter that took its life. To the left is a huge couch, haphazardly upholstered in animal hide and humanoid flesh. Sjo recognizes a fox's head and a human-looking hand and foot in the putrid leather collection. The door on the other side of the room has a big hole in the bottom, big enough for Puk to see that the hallway behind it is clear. After having crawled through the hole, the rogue's keen ears pick up the exhausted cracking of wood. It comes from the door to his left, causing his curiosity to rear its head.
The halfling leads his friends down the hall and quietly opens the door. Next Balian storms in and faces an incredibly corpulent woman with stringy, black hair, greasily sticking to her humongous head. She wears an old stained curtain as a robe. The room reeks of sweat, but also of decay, which originates from the chamber's second occupant, a hulking ogre who did not come into view until Balian charged inside. The ranger realizes that this giant is no longer alive, although he still moves to attack the intruders. Could this be the deformed ogrekin's mother in the company of their late father, returned from the dead? It certainly seems so. Disgusted by the foul woman the ranger chokes and fails to hit her. "I don't know who you are, strangers, but you are fools for coming in here! I'll have your heads on a pike to decorate my porch! Daddy, tear them apart!" she shrieks. Balian turns to the ogre zombie and decides to attack him first. His greatsword tears through the rotting meat while Puk tumbles through the room to find an advantageous flanking position behind the undead hulk. The zombie moans and swings his heavy greatclub at Balian, but the ranger can block his strike. The fat lady rolls around in her bed - obviously the source of the creaking Puk heard earlier - and throws a heinous spell at the halfling which blinds him. With one simple incantation she has stolen the rogue most powerful weapon, his eye for weak spots. Quint recognizes the woman's threat and tries to take her out of the fight with a cacophonous call, but she resists his magic through sheer power of will. Sjo bludgeons her with his heavy mace, but cannot prevent her from draining Balian's strength with a ray of enfeeblement. The sly mage has now crippled the second damage dealer with her magic. Balian gets no time to recover, for the ogre crushes half his ribs with a devastating blow. Quint attempts another cacophonous call on the fat lady, but her will proves too powerful again. Sjo rushes to Balian's aid with a healing spell so the ranger can continue the fight, but the undead ogre hits about wildly, wounding all the companions. With Puk's and Balian's efficiency greatly reduced, it is hard for our friends to bring the giant to his knees. Both Spyder and his master go down first, before Puk can finally deliver the finishing cut. Meanwhile Sjo has resorted to firing wave upon wave of burning hands at the corpulent monster, who finds no protection from this magic among her five mirror images. When her zombie bodyguard is beaten, she decides to play it safe and whispers the words of a powerful spell that dimension doors her out of the room with a simple "poof".
1 Erastus 4708
The companions get their horses ready for the trip to Lost End and pick up their charter at Citadel Volshyenek. The Field Marshal also hands them a reward for closing Lavender's Luxury two days ago: a hefty pouch with 1,000 gold sails and some of the swindlers' equipment, a magical greatsword, mithral breastplate and cloak, which all go the Balian, and a ring of protection for Quint. Then the heroes leave the city.
The farmland makes way for a rougher terrain after a couple of hours as the road bends off to the west and crawls between the western stretches of the Mindspin Mountains that line the southern horizon and the cliffs alongside the Bay of Korvosa somewhere to the north. The sole pathway here sees infrequent passage, as only the Hellknights from Citadel Vraid travel it from time to time on their heavy warhorses, but the heroes do not encounter any of these blind enforcers of the law today. When darkness sets, they make camp and pass a restful night.
2 Erastus 4708
After a couple of hours Balian spots an overgrown path that veers off the main road to the northwest. Travel becomes slower now, as the horses have to walk through the high grass and weeds. It definitely looks as if no one has come this way for a long time.
It is almost noon when the companions pick up the muffled murmur of pain from behind the bushes. They dismount and check out the source of the noise, discovering a large wounded bear that has a bear trap around its paw. It has been pulling at the iron teeth to try and get free, but its efforts have only caused it further injury. The animal roars viciously when the adventurers approach, giving them pause. Suddenly the growls of the injured colossus are drowned by barking dogs, who are closing in fast. A few breaths later six hunting hounds burst out of the foliage and attack both the bear and the companions. Despite their fervor the dogs cannot penetrate the companions' defenses and soon start to fall prey to their weapons.
"You hurts my dogs! Rukus Graul kill you for that, he will!" The master of the hounds arrives in the wake of his pack. It is an ugly humanoid with a wide mouth and a huge misshapen finger which dangles like a hook from his right hand. Quint recognizes the creature as ogrekin, like the grotesque cabbage-headed hulk the heroes encountered in the derro warrens, an unnatural mix of humans and ogres. The lumbering hunter wields a sharp spear, but fails to hit Balian. At the same time the hounds finish off the bear and now hurl themselves on the companions. The heroes pick off the mongrels one at a time without suffering a single bite. The unfortunate half-ogre is equally unsuccessful and never scores a hit with his spear. Sjo barks at him to surrender, but he refuses. "You kill my dogs, I kill yours!" he grunts as he plunges his pike in Spyder. "Rukus not surrender, ever!" he shouts as the companions bear down on him from all sides. The next moment his dead body drops to the ground. That is how the heroes of Korvosa deal with stupid, overconfident brutes.
Using detect magic Sjo is pleasantly surprised to learn that this primitive creature was wearing a valuable girdle around his waist, a belt of giant strength, which the Shoanti healer gladly straps around his own hips.
The companions want to explore the sunken Delivery further and make their way through the hatch into its cargo hold. Swimming inside they see they are not alone: a giant octopus moves in to attack. Quint throws a cacophonous call on the bottom dweller, nauseating it and forcing it to retreat in the galley. Slowly the heroes swim towards the door, but before Sjo can close it, Balian sneaks through and swings his greatsword at the large creature. Hampered by the water, his hit loses much of its strength. Puk stabs at it as well, but as the octopus has taken up position in the corner, there is no way for him to hit its vulnerable spots, so his cuts are only minor nicks. It seems like both heavy hitters have lost their advantage in this underwater environment. When Quint's spell is about to end, the bard tries to renew it, but this time his magic is resisted and the sea creature regains control of its actions. Its tentacles lash out and all the companions suddenly find themselves in the awkward grasp of rubbery arms. Balian has to drop his blade and pulls out a simple dagger to cut at his opponent. Sjo does the same, but finds it hard to score a hit. Quint, who is usually the least effective melee fighter, is all of sudden the biggest threat as his short sword of frost pierces one of the tentacles, rendering it useless. The iron embrace of the octopus's arms slowly squeezes the life out of the heroes as they try to fight themselves free. Although they manage to cut off more tentacles, the crushing arms take their toll and both Sjo and Balian lose consciousness. Puk and Quint are near to the end as well: the halfling lashes about furiously with his small swords, scoring some extra scratches, but Quint saves the day by striking the final blow.
The companions take a few moments to heal up, before searching the cargo. There are over half a dozen big cages, the doors of which have all been opened. Each of these holds a number of dead rats, who did not die from drowning, but rather from the plague. In the lower hold the companions discover more opened cages, as well as the drowned body of a man who has an amulet of Urgathoa around his neck. There is also a ballista in here, that was used to fire the heavy shaft through the hull which caused the vessel to take on water and sink.
The companions return to the harbor, dry up and head to the citadel to report to Field Marshal Cressida Kroft. She encourages the heroes to examine the location marked on the map: the abandoned Porphyria manor Lost End. She will make a document to authorize her special task force, so the companions do not run into trouble again because they cannot prove they are working for the city. She asks them to make preparations and return tomorrow to pick up the document.
The companions spend the rest of the day getting ready for their trip. They also make sure that Tayce and Brienna have enough food to get through the next couple of days without having to leave their house and risk exposure to the plague. They do the same for Madam Nesia and the children in the villa.
Quint also dives into the villa's library and finds more information on Lost End. The country house was commissioned by Lord Chadris I of House Porphyria. This nobleman was one of the wealthiest and most prominent businessmen and aristocrats in the city in his day. He was also the direct competitor of Eodred I, who was crowned the first king of Korvosa, much to Porphyria's discontent. One of Chadris's wilder business ideas was to buy up the desolate lands on the south coast of the Bay of Korvosa and try to establish a harbor there. He never got past one small landing stage in a cave, somewhere in the fierce cliffs that line the south edge of the Bay and a large manor on top of the rocks. The waters proved too treacherous to allow for any decent harbor activity and the political struggle for power in Korvosa consumed too much of his attention, so Chadris abandoned his plans to develop the area further. The manor became the Porphyria holiday house, although it found a more permanent resident in Lady Ulrika, the wife of Chadris' son, Chadris II, and mother to Chadris III, who briefly made it to the throne of Korvosa, becoming its worst and most unpopular king to date. Lady Ulrika reportedly resided in the manor for health reasons, but the truth was that she was insane and her family locked her away in the country house to avoid embarrassment in the higher circles of the city. Since the fall of the Prophyria's, at the end of Chadris's mad reign, and their banishment to Cheliax in 4667, the manor has stood empty.
Since it is the last day of the month, Sjo pays a visit to the tax office and declares what the party made in the last month. Taxes amount to 4,819 gold sails, due to be paid over the next month.
That night Balian and Quint are awakened from their sleep by cries from Nesia's room. The girl is having a bad dream. Balian carefully wakes her up and tries to calm her down. She says she had a nightmare in which she saw the shadow of a robust man standing in a doorway. He said something to her and then closed the door, after which blood started dripping from the ceiling, slowly filling the room. As Nesia is quite shaken, Balian offers to sleep in the extra bed to watch over her.
That is a nice map, what did you use to make it?
Just some paper that looks like parchment, which you can get in the store. I drew the map on it and burned it. I actually tried making a computer version first, but since I don't have any decent graphic software, it was easier to do it by hand and burn it for real (obviously a controlled fire, taking out or blackening the part I wanted to get this result). It makes for a nice prop, though.
I sometimes use the same parchment paper for other hand-outs as well, e.g. I have a translated version of
something that will turn up in a far away future:
For my copies of the Korvosa Herald I use regular white paper, since the parchment vellums are a bit more expensive.
30 Sarenith 4708
On the way to the harbor the companions pick up a copy of the Korvosa Herald. They are happy to see that their call to aid the city's medic force has made it to the front page.
Larella casts water breathing on the party before fisherman Jarend takes them out to the river bend where the ship sank. Quint spots a shadow on the bottom of the stream that looks like the wreck. He pulls out his wand of mage armor to enhance everyone's defenses, as swimming in armor is not a good idea, even with the ability to breath under water. Then the companions dive to the sunken ship, which rests some 70 feet below the water line on the bottom of the river. A moniker on the bowsprit identifies the vessel as the Delivery, the same ship that bore off necromancer Rolth almost two months ago. The strangest feature of the wreck is a big hole in the hull with a massive ballista arrow sticking through it. This hole was obviously below the water line when the boat was still afloat, and must have been the main reason why the ship sank so quickly. What is weird about the arrow, is that it sticks out of the hull instead of into it. It was fired from within! The deck is blackened by the fire that raged there before the ship went down. Especially the aft deck was badly damaged.
Balian swims for the foredeck first and kicks open a door that was swollen shut. Inside he finds a room that was converted to a shrine of Urgathoa. A crude wooden statue of an attractive, straight-haired woman with a lower body that has wasted away to bones leaves no mistake as to her identity. If this ship bore the disease that plagues Korvosa, the goddess of physical excess, disease and the undead would make for a fitting patron deity. Puk even notices Urgathoa's unholy bible, In service of Your Hunger, floating in the water. Fortunately the ink has mostly faded from the pages.
The doors the cabins in the aft deck open more easily, as they are almost burned through. The right room is a small mess hall, while the left one used to house the captain. The contents of these rooms were mostly destroyed by the flames, but the captain's quarters still hold a valuable clue. Nailed to the wall are the burned remains of a map, showing the Bay of Korvosa. One location is marked in red: Lost End, a place on the desolate south coasts of the bay, where the dangerous cliffs normally don't allow ships to moor. Quint has heard of this place before: Lost End was once the country house of the Porphyria family, a noble house that was exiled from Korvosa by King Eodred's mother, Queen Domina, after they tried to steal the crown from the Arabasti dynasty. Fortunately Chadris Porphyria's short reign was such a disaster that it paved the way for Domina to seize power for her family again. The surviving Porphyria's returned to Cheliax, where their house still held a lot of power. Perhaps the plague is their revenge or a devious way for them to facilitate their return.
Travelling through Korvosa's sewers brings back memories of the days when Sjo, Balian and Quint were still in Lamm's lambs and had to hunt for rats to feed Lamm's ever-hungry alligator Gobblegut. Only this time they are here to make peace with the rats instead of kill them. With Meep Gildenglare's pet rat Mr. Nibbles leading the way through this filthy maze the companions make good time. Even an ochre jelly that drops from the ceiling hardly slows them down. While Balian hacks the slime into ever smaller parts, Sjo finishes them off with a few burning hands spells.
When they approach the wererats' den they notice some light seeping from a man-sized crack that cuts deep across the opposite wall of the tunnel, on the other side of the muck. Balian also picks up some voices from within. The companions decide to go the diplomatic way once again and hail the inhabitants of this underground lair with loud hellos. They continue calling out for Girrigz, the wererat leader, as they approach the cleft. Balian is the first to enter a rough-hewn stone cave, wading in the small flow of sewers filth that cuts through this room. An empty table bathes in the light of a flickering brazier. The perceptive ranger spots a shadow in the far end of the room, a shape that looks like a big, walking rat. With a squeaking voice it wonders what the companions want.
"We are here to talk to Girrigz about the sick rats and people. A mutual friend asked us to check on you to make sure you are okay", Quint answers.
"What do you mean, sick people? My people, you mean? My people are sick, as are our rat brothers", the creature interjects.
"You don't know, then? The people in the city are sick as well, maybe one in four is infected by now, and many rats as well", Sjo replies. "Some citizens blame you and we just want ascertain ourselves of the fact that this hasn't gone down wrong with you?"
"Hmmrr, so the people blame us ... again, while they are the ones who are guilty! It's always the same with you people ...", a much lower-pitched voice grunts from an opening in the other end of the room.
"Are you Girrigz? Meep Gildenglare sent us", Quint inquires.
"Meep, har har, that old little turncoat human lover ... she has turned from her own, we have no interest in what she has to say", Girrigz groans back. "No, ignorant intruders, we are not responsible for this mess, on the contrary, it is all a vicious plan of your kind to decimate my folk. It is humans who set loose the diseased rats on the city, when they had that ship sink in the river bend."
Quint realizes that the wererat does not have a correct picture of the situation above ground. "Well, first of all, it is definitely not 'all the humans' who are responsible. Thousands are sick as well and hundreds have already lost their lives. I'm even infected myself. So your analysis that the humans are responsible is not accurate. But I do believe you when you say that some humans might be responsible. Sometimes there are bad people and if you can offer any insight on what happened, we'd be happy to learn about it."
"So humans are sick as well ... the irony, struck down by your own kind! But don't you have healers up there who can make the sickness go away?"
"We do, I am somewhat of a healer myself", Sjo returns. "But the plague has taken on huge proportions, so we are struggling to save just a few. Still, you have sick here as well? I can have a look at them if you want me to, although I do not master the magic to heal them."
"Well, maybe I do ... that is to say, I am in possession of a magical wand that is supposed to heal the sick, but I lack the power to activate it. Maybe you are capable of doing so?" Girrigz inquires with a friendlier voice. "I'll send one of my brothers to fetch you, follow him, but only you, big man, the rest of you will remain where they are."
The shifty ratman that Balian noticed before reappears in the north exit and waves Sjo closer. He leads the Shoanti through a smaller cave that reeks of death and decay. Hundreds of dead rats and at least seven deceased humanoids have been piled to the wall. The next room in the complex is bigger, a small fire burns in the center and lights up the features of a dangerous-looking wererat, obviously Girrigz. Four very sick wererats are lying on the floor and more lycanthropes and dire rats move in the background. Quint sees that some of them shows signs of the plague as well.
The healer examines one of the diseased creatures, he won't last another day if he receives no care. Girrigz comes closer and hands Sjo a white wand. "It should contain the magic to cure diseases." Sjo accepts the item and moves his other hand inside his pocket to reach for Zellara's deck. The fortuneteller's cards confirm that the wand does what Girrigz says. Of course, Sjo realizes, there is only a limited chance that the magic will have the desired effect. By his calculations that shouldn't even be one in two since wands are usually made at minimal caster level. Furthermore he does not know if the wererat is aware of that; so he tries to formulate it in a simpler fashion: "Your men are in bad shape, I'm afraid. I hope they are not too far gone to be cured. There, let me try it on this poor man first." Sjo activates the magic and the wererat immediately lets out a sigh of relief as his sores disappear and a healthy blush returns to his cheeks. So fortune favored the Shoanti on this first patient, but there still are three more badly diseased lycanthropes in the room. Sjo's attempts to cure these creatures meet with less success, as only one of them gets better. Sjo even retries healing the last one with a second charge, but that fails as well. "I'm afraid your brothers are too far gone", he whispers, knowing all too well that failure has nothing to do with the patient's condition, but with the strength of the wand. When Girrigz seems to accept this fact, the Shoanti is relieved, but he quickly fears that his little bluff might be pierced when Girrigz asks him to cure three other less sick wererats. Still, fortune favors the Shoanti once again as all three attempts to cure these three succeed on the first try. So his story holds.
Girrigz is now fully convinced of the companions' good intentions and invites all of them into the room to negotiate. When Sjo tells him that the magically cured are not immune to the disease and might get infected again, the wererat leader nods and suggests that it might not be a bad idea to lead the sick rats out of the city. The fierce lycanthrope looks nothing like the pied piper from the fairy-tale, but he might have the same sway over rodents and taking the infected rats out of the city would be a giant leap in fighting the plague.
Girrigz also confirms what the companions suspected already. The mysterious plague is connected to the ship that sunk in the harbor over a week ago. The wererat was alerted to the burning vessel by one of his rat friends. He went to the exit of the east tunnel to witness the ship go down, as hundreds of rats fled from the wreck. "It is customary for a boat to hold a few dozen rats, but this ship had far too many of them, many hundreds, some of whom swam to my location. That was the first time I saw the festering sores that have since then taken out half my crew. Strangely enough, there were no human survivors trying to reach the shore."
The companions decide that the wreck deserves closer inspection. Still, they were sent here with a mission as well, making sure that Girrigz does not take out his ire on the humans above. Sjo steers the conversation in this direction again, but first he wants to improve his goodwill and digs out the restorative ointment from his pack, knowing that this salve has the same chance to cure the sick as the wand did. "I might have one more trick up my sleeve to help your sick friends", he says. He applies some of the ointment on the last two sick wererats and as if by a miracle, they both work! Girrigz is very interested in the unguent and proposes to trade it for the wand. Sjo immediately sees the gain in this deal and accepts: there are only two applications of ointment left, while the wand still holds twenty charges. On the other hand, the wererat leader has no use for a wand he cannot activate, so it is a win-win situation. When the companions ask Girrigz not to seek revenge on the humans, he quickly agrees. The thought had crossed his mind, but the information and the aid the party provided him and his people sufficed to sway him. The company parts in good spirits.
That evening Sjo uses the wand to cure the children in the villa and little Brienna. He also secures a sloop for tomorrow and arranges with Larella that she will forego one cure disease spell in favor of some water breathing magic.
I'm just going to shamelessly promote my Deviantart page here with several tabletop set-ups of Curse of the Crimson Throne locations. There are links already in my journal on these boards, but for those who don't read it, here's the link to my gallery.
It includes terrain set-ups of Gaedran's Lamm's Old Fishery, Castle Korvosa, All the World's Meat, the Shingle Chase, Trinia Sabor's execution, the Carowyn villa, the wererat sewer den and Lavender's perfumery. There are also extra scenery pieces from added sidetreks, including the old courthouse from the Hangman's Noose.
I hope you enjoy it.