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What I am actually quite pleased about, is that they are using the module line to write adventures that can easily fit into one particular AP, without losing its stand-alone potential. I'd love to see more of that. Maybe even a high-level module that can be used to continue a particular campaign (or that possibly ties into several campaigns), but works just as well as a stand-alone module.
Let's say they did an adventure on finding/fighting Runelord Sorshen under the mastaba in Korvosa. This adventure could easily be linked to Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the Crimson Throne or Shattered Star. This tie-in to several APs at once could also result in better sales figures for high-level modules.
Well, I see two possible solutions:
In fact you could even leave the choice to him. Let the high priestess contact him to try and recruit him for her plans. Now your player can make up him own mind: play along with her or oppose her (in the latter case, his god will probably denounce him, forcing him to pick another patron deity).
Indeed, not a lot of information on this one yet. I just noticed that Matt Goodall is writing this thing (or at least one of the three adventures). He definitely proved his worth with the Islands of Plunder plug-ins. Those are great to use with Skull and Shackles. I'm curious to see how he tackles this one.
The only thing I find strange is this: Paizo went from 32 pages to 64 pages in its adventures, only to divide those into smaller parts again in this module. I certainly hope that the running plot is compelling enough to pull the scenarios together.
Well, when I read that, I think that my adaptation of And Madness Followed might actually work for you.
In the adventure as written, a mad bard wants to open a link between the Material plane and the Far Realm. The tool she has created to achieve that goal is a play, entitled "The King in Yellow", which she performs with three allies. During the performance they open a portal to the Far Realm which spreads its madness over the audience and turns some of them into half-Farspawn abominations.
The adventure itself has three stages:
In my version of the story I changed the Far Realm references to Kyuss and his worms. The mad bard has learned from Ilthane that Kyuss performed a ritual in a distant past that was meant to change him into a god. In his headquarters he ordered the construction of the Spire of the Long Shadows and placed a black monolith there as the central focus of his ritual. Then he sacrificed almost all his undead minions and living followers to feed the monolith and thus gain divine powers. But the sacrifice did not suffice and his plan failed, leaving him locked up in the black stone.
With Ilthane's guidance, the bard has created her own ritual in the form of a play called The King of Worms, which opens a portal to that fated past. At the end of the play the doomed portal opens and sends in a sea of worms, that transforms the audience into Kyuss undead, whose essence is shortly thereafter sucked up by the portal, slaying the newly formed undead. If the bard succeeds in sending enough energy to the past, she might be able to turn Kyuss' failed ritual into a success.
The bard did a first trial performance in her hometown in front of a small audience, which worked, but sent only a few souls through the portal. Some of the Kyuss undead survived the massacre, because they stumbled out of the theater before their essence was harvested. These undead surprised and infected some travelers the next day, so there are now about a dozen Kyuss undead wandering about town.
The bard teleported to a bigger town, Diamond Lake, for a second test the next evening, performing for some eighty people, including some acquaintances of the PCs (the governor-mayor, some mine managers, the sheriff, the garrison commander, the highpriest of Heironeous ...) and even some loved ones (such as one of the PC's mother). This time the portal was stronger and sent more souls to the monolith, but again some undead managed to escape the absorption. The bard and her allies teleported to the Free City, leaving the handful of undead to plague Diamond Lake. Lieutenant Trent sent some troops into the Emporium theater to fight the undead, but his men failed and they were turned as well.
Enter the PCs: the next day the PCs travel from the Free City to Diamond Lake, passing the mad bard's small hometown village on the way. They encounter several Kyuss undead and find 38 dead husks of former villagers in the inn, in front of a small stage. There is a poster on the wall, promoting the opening of the local bard's new play: The King of Worms. When the PCs search the bard's house, they find more clues: notes that, when puzzled together, reveal the plotline I introduced above (about Kyuss, the Spire of the Long Shadows, the monolith and the failed ritual). There is also a list of every villager of this small town, titled "Invite". All the names have been ticked. The note also says: "Probably not enough, but sufficient for a first try. Diamond Lake will be my first real test! Then onto the Free City!" Other notes include the purchase list of barkskin potion (meant to make the bard and her allies immune to the worms by boosting their natural armor), sketches of the Spire of the Long Shadows and of Ilthane. One scrap of paper has these lines: "Ilthane will be pleased. Her gift has opened my eyes. The portal to the past will feed Kyuss with innumerable souls. His time is near!"
There is also a sole survivor, a shepherdess who was late for the show because one of her sheep ran off. She hid and can tell the PCs that the bard has three allies: three men.
The PCs rush to Diamond Lake, finding out the play was already performed yesterday. The garrison is guarding the Emporium with the undead, but they are afraid to enter it after their failed attempt last night. Lieutenant Venderin is in charge now, but she's afraid to suffer the same defeat Trent did. Instead she suggests burning the place down, something which Balabar Smenk opposes. The crafty mine manager argues that several important people were inside and no one knows their fate, they might still be alive. He then asks the PCs to infiltrate the building. (Smenk mainly wants to strengthen his own position in the eyes of his fellow villagers: if the governor-mayor did not survive, Smenk hopes to take his place!)
The PCs find several Kyuss undead in the Emporium, including some infected soldiers and Emporium employees, as well as Captain Tolliver Trask, who has become a more powerful Sword of Kyuss (see Dungeon # 130 p. 86 for stats). Most of the spectators are dead, though, but were infected by worms before they truly died.
The PCs already know from the mad bard's notes that her next target is the Free City. By the time they get there and track down the evil performers, the play is already in full swing. The actors have already fascinated the entire audience and are working up to opening the portal to the past. The PCs will have to act fast to prevent this. Stats for a worm swarm that comes through the portal are in dungeon # 130 as well, on page 89. You could even have the bard turn into a worm naga upon her death, which is in the same issue, on p. 88.
Using this scenario serves several purposes: it foreshadows the Spire of Long Shadows and the Black monolith, it makes Ilthane a more active player in Kyuss' schemes and it works up the PCs' personal vendetta with Kyuss and his worms (and Ilthane as well), as their home town and loved ones were all victims of the worm god's evil.
I love the way you think. If it's not too much trouble, I'd love to hear more about these encounters.
I was rather thinking that '3 way' the word play referred to the word torrent, something with the torrent of the river, the order of the torrent and the hint at illegal downloads from torrent sites.
Anyway, I didn't chime in till now, but I'm super excited about this AP:
Really, it's all down my alley. Also thanks to James for answering so many questions already. That only adds to the excitement and anticipation.
Well, I spoke too soon. They were wanted for murder (it was actually a doppelganger who did the murder) and decided to turn themselves in. At the end of the session they were in a holding cell awaiting their fate. Perfect opportunity to get them into the next adventure . . .
I agree, a perfect opportunity to launch your PCs in an excellent adventure.
If you feel your PCs are too 'whimpy' or die too easily, you could insert an extra adventure to have them gain an extra level, so they can tackle the rest of the AP with some added power. I remember inserting an adaptation of "And madness followed" from Dungeon # 134 after "Champion's Belt". I suppose you have that issue, since it contains another chapter of Age of Worms.
I certainly understand your enthusiasm for Skeletons of Scarwall; as far as dungeon (or rather castle) crawls go, it is definitely one of the finer examples.
My group is just not that much into long crawls, and with Castle Korvosa coming up in the next chapter, it would be too much. We also invested heavily in roleplaying with many of the players on the Korvosan scene, so returning to the city faster and diving even deeper in the NPC interaction pool will fit our campaign better.
Academy of Secrets is set in Korvosa, but takes place during the Breaching Festival, which occurs on the last Sunday of Desnus. This timing might not fit your campaign (although you could just change the date) and the motivation to join in the festival can be hard to fit in as well. The module has the PCs join the competition of trying to break into the Acadamae to gain a big monetary reward. Since the PCs in Curse of the Crimson Throne have more urgent goals (stopping the BBEG) and are possibly on Korvosa's most wanted list, joining the festival could seem out of place.
That is why I changed the approach to this module.
When the PCs learn of Ileosa's infernal contract, which was forged with a contract devil in the Acadamae, they realize they have to destroy it to weaken the queen. One copy of the contract will be with Ileosa somewhere, but the other one is with the contract devil. To find him (or to find out more about him) the PCs need to infiltrate the Hall of Wards, where the Acadamae's best kept secrets are stored. As it happens, breaking into this ward is also the goal of the Breaching festival, so this allows you to insert an adapted version of the module. I broke down my version of the adventure in the following chapters:
- The PCs find out more about infernal contracts and the Acadamae through research and information gathering.
- Since the Cerulean Society, Korvosa's thieves' guild, is probably the most experienced at attempting to break into the Hall of Wards (they get a yearly invitation to join the festival), the PCs contact guildmaster Boule with the help of Glorio Arkona. He can tell them more about the way to get into the Hall of Wards, advise them on which approach best to take and he can even arrange for an inside contact.
- The Acadamae is heavily populated by imps, who are everywhere and see everything. They are the best 'alarm' imaginable. So the PCs will have to devise a way to distract the imps, by enlisting the aid of the city's pseudodragons. The PCs convince the pseudodragons of Dock Trade (see 'Guide to Korvosa', p. 24-25) to help them draw away the imps.
- The PCs infiltrate the Hall of Wards, pretty much as described in 'Academy of Secrets', but preferably without getting noticed. Inside the Hall of Wards they discover the demiplane Belzeragna, where the contract devil resides. From him they can get his copy of the infernal contract Ileosa made.
Of course the PCs will also have to find the BBEG's copy of the contract and destroy both version to take away the infernal advantages.
The Harrowing is even less obvious to insert in the story.
In my version of the story the PCs do not go to Scarwall and so they do not get a hold of Serithial to combat Ileosa. Instead the Shoanti - at the end of 'A History of Ashes' - tell the PCs to find the grave of the Shoanti shaman who helped Mandraivus defeat Kazavon and who hid the dragon's teeth in the mastaba. He should be buried somewhere in Korvosa, and when the PCs find him they have to breathe a magical flame in his bones to revive his ghost. He will be able to give them strength to fight Kazavon (or whoever is wielding his power = Ileosa). The problem is that the site of his grave has been lost to the ages, but Zellara - being a ghost - should be able to feel it out and guide the PCs to it.
When the PCs get back to Korvosa, the heavy infernal influence that has taken hold of the city, is too much for Zellara to take and she is 'swallowed' by her Harrow deck, which is actually a gateway to a demiplane, the Harrowed Realm, as described in the module 'The Harrowing'. It will take Zellara a while, but at some point she is able to contact the PCs and open the gate to the Harrowed Realm for them. The PCs enter the demiplane and manage to free Zellara from the clutches of its Harrow card residents, most notably the blue dragon Zassrion, the lord of the realm who was fashioned after the Tyrant card. Afterwards Zellara will be free to guide the heroes to the shaman's grave, which I placed in the sinkhole below the Kendall Arena.
The obvious tie between 'Curse of the Crimson Throne' and 'The Harrowing' is the Harrow deck. By making Zellara's help indispensible to fight Ileosa, the PCs have no choice but to free her, which gives me the opportunity to use this module as well. I will be adjusting the CR of the NPCs, because the adventure as written is aimed at level 9, while I'll be using it at level 12. Still 'The Harrowing' is a fantastic module, so I'm happy I found a way to include it.
Thanks, another messageboard secret uncovered.
As my group is not really into too long dungeon crawls, I also want to focus more on the rebellion and helping the city. For that purpose I will skip Scarwall completely and take the PCs back to the city instead, where they will aid in the rebellion and get ready to face Ileosa (my conversion includes both an adapted version of Academy of Secrets and The Harrowing).
I've outlined my alternative storyline in this thread. Maybe you can find some inspiration there.
After some quick healing the companions enter the tumulus into which the burly bugbear disappeared. Quint supplies some much needed light with a simple spell cast on his buckler. A tunnel leads under the hill, immediately splitting off in three directions. A quick examination of the left and right passage reveals two round rooms, where the moisture in the walls has worn away any marking that might have once adorned them. The chamber to the right is being used as a private bedroom with some hides on the ground and a makeshift shrine of old bones and skulls; the room to the left has a big hole in the ground which serves as a waste pit and toilet.
The main tunnel leads deeper into the tumulus and provides access to the ancient burial chamber, with eight alcoves lining the walls. Four bugbears are waiting for the heroes in here, one of which has taken up position on a stone table in the middle of the room. He forms the perfect target for Jasan's first arrow, which kicks off the fight. A bugbear in the back of the room seems to master some magic and reacts by casting a spell on Balian. The ranger feels his breastplate growing hotter, but Sjo's quick thinking provides the perfect 'antidote' for his scorching heated metal in the form of resist energy. Quint demoralizes the opponents with another satirical performance, while Puk jumps into the fray on top of a barrel. His tiny blade does not penetrate his adversary's armor, but the halfling has put himself in a precarious position, taking two firm hits from the bugbears that face him. Balian and his dog Spyder also charge forward, but their attacks go wide. Despite his fierce growls and sharp teeth, the canine is no match for the bugbear leader, who steps in and mercilessly hammers the dog with two main hand hits and one off-hand swing. His morningstar and light hammer drip with blood as the dog drops to the floor. This hulking creature delivers a mean punch, Sjo understands. His hold person outside the entrance on this brute was even more valuable than he realized. He tries the spell again, but this time the hairy beast resists his magic.
Meanwhile Balian draws his first blood of the fight by cleaving through the two bugbears that are pressing Puk. The halfling cannot get into an advantageous position without putting himself in even more risk and takes a defensive stand, which makes his opponents miss their attacks. In the meantime Jasan fires another arrow in the bugbear on the stone table, who just received some healing from the druid in his back. With Spyder down, Balian is now the leader's next target: the hulk steps forward and pummels the ranger twice with his morningstar, reserving his backhand swing for Quint. The creature snorts out a hysteric laugh to celebrate his success. Quint feels that it is high time to swing the momentum of the fight and decides to use another of his tricks. He pulls out his whip and lashes it around the ankles of the bugbear on the table, pulling the creature's legs out from under him. Balian interrupts its attempt to rise with a deadly strike and takes its place on the stone table, finally gaining a flank with Puk on the other bugbear. The halfling takes full advantage of this position and pulls out two vicious sneak attacks that cut the unfortunate mutt down. At last the battle seems to turn for the better. Sjo engages the druid, who pulls out a sickle that glances off the Shoanti's plate. The fire-wielding healer retorts by spewing forth a sheet of flames that scorches both enemies that are left standing. Still, the fierce bugbear leader does not give up and continues bashing Sjo and Quint. He also proves to be very hard to hit, so the fight ain't over yet. Sjo uses heroic inspiration (we use hero points) to recall a hold person, but again the towering monster resists. Next Quint also fails to trip him. Puk and Balian now flank the creature, but the halfling cannot get through its defenses. Balian fares better and cuts deeply into its flesh. The ranger continues the arc of his blade and slices through the druid as well. Despite the bleeding gash, the leader seems unimpressed and pushes the attack, wounding Balian, Puk and Quint with his whirling weapons. A second attempt by Quint to topple the bugbear champion succeeds, leaving the being prone between the bloodthirsty halfling, the fuming Shoanti and the enraged ranger. The companions exploit the opportunity to the fullest, literally hitting their enemy while he's down. Balian hacks heavily into the hulk's frame and Puk's flashing blades finally finish the brute off. The druid is helpless against superior numbers and swiftly follows his brethren to the grave.
The companions take a few moments to catch their breath. As they are healing up, two young voices call out from one of the alcoves that has been blocked by a heap of stones. Farmer Barold's sons, Vern and Sender, have been locked up there. They are overjoyed when their rescuers inform them that both their father and cow Bianca are still alive. Puk leads the search of the complex and unearths a hefty pouch with gold, while Quint discovers that the bugbear leader's studded leather is magical and Sjo finds an old Shoanti pendant around the druid's neck. The engraved runes spell Storval ekbitel nalharest, which is Shoanti for We walk the land as brothers. Other markings in the stone table identify this tomb as a Shundar-Quah grave, another of the Shoanti tribes that once roamed this country. Sjo is disgusted at the bugbear sacrilege of this holy place and asks his friends to help him remove them from the tumulus.
The companions drag the cadavers of their enemies outside and build a funeral pyre. They also take out the bugbears' supplies from the tumulus and give them to Barold, along with 100 gold sails from the loot. This small gift is a true fortune for the simple farmer, who is very grateful for the safe return of his children, his cow Bianca and the heroes' generosity. It is already a few hours past noon when the companions head back to Korvosa. Fortunately they now have horses, so they should be able to make up for the time they lost.
While Jasan takes his guests around the ranch to select his best mounts, a simple farmer woman stumbles onto the porch of his house. She looks desperate. Jasan hurries over, explaining she is his neighbor Mia, and inquires what is wrong. Mia falls into his broad arms crying and sobs that her husband Barold and her boys did not return from the field last night and are nowhere to be found. Jasan asks his wife to see to Mia and happily accepts the companions' offer to join him to Barold's farm. Trinia wants to come as well, but no one feels comfortable exposing her to potential danger, so she has to stay at the ranch.
Jasan leads his new allies to his neighbor's place, some fifteen minutes away. The farmhouse is much more modest than Blackbird Ranch, but still looks like a decent dwelling. Jasan has a quick peek around and then heads to a field down the path. "It seems like they were working the northern field", he states as he takes the companions further. While he gets off his horse to check for tracks, Puk notices a throwing spear in a nearby tree. When they move in to examine it, the companions find an unconscious man with a bloody wound to the head in the bushes. It is Barold, Jasan's neighbor. After he has received some healing, he explains that he and his two sons were surprised by four mean-looking bugbears last night. They knocked him out and left him for dead, but there is no trace of Vern and Sender, his sons, or Bianca, his cow. Jasan orders his horse to take Barold to the ranch and continues on foot, following the tracks of the bugbears into the wood, who obviously made no effort to hide their footprints.
After two hours the adventurers happen upon an open spot in the forest, backed by a rocky outcropping with a cavelike entrance. Barold whispers it is an old Shoanti tumulus, from back when the barbarians still roamed the lush lowlands and buried their dead in hillside graves, a custom they have long since abandoned as the inhospitable Cinderlands are more suited for burning the deceased than burying them.
Puk scouts ahead and spots four bugbears around a campfire in front of the tumulus entrance. A cow is tied to a tree off to the right. The companions waste no time and take the feral brutes by surprise. Puk and Balian charge the creature to the right, inflicting bloody cuts, but he still stands and returns the favor by viciously clubbing Balian with his morningstar. Sjo picks out the biggest warrior, who is wielding a morningstar in his right hand and a light hammer in his left, and casts hold person on him, freezing him in place. Then the Shoanti moves in to engage the left bugbear. Quint demoralizes the opponents with his satire while Jasan peppers the creatures with his arrows. The wounded beast facing Balian is felled with one more mighty blow and the two other bugbears get beaten, bitten and shot from various angles while getting in only minor hits themselves. As they both sink to the ground dead, their leader snaps out of his paralysis and opts for the safety of the tumulus. Despite his hulking build he is no fool, realizing that facing five opponents out in the open spells certain death.
17-19 Sarenith 4708
The next morning Quint helps Trinia into his own clothes and fixes her face and hair to make her look like him. As she will be playing a hung over bard, she will be able to keep to the background and hang her face low. Meanwhile Sjo writes a letter to Larella Semyr, his beautiful priestess girlfriend, and another missive to Field Marshal Kroft. He asks the boys to deliver the first note to the shrine of Shelyn, but keeps the second letter on his person, taking it with him as he heads for the Bloodsworn Gate with Puk, Balian, Spyder and Trinia. There is a small line of people waiting to get out of the city, and the guards do a scrutinizing job of checking everyone who leaves. When the companions are up, the soldiers visibly relax: these are the trusted heroes of the city! They chuckle at the hung over bard and easily accept Sjo's explanation that they are traveling to Heavenguard for a birthday, you know how halflings like their parties ... The Shoanti also hands the guards the letter for Kroft, asking them to deliver it to their commander since he didn't have the opportunity to inform the Field Marshal of his and his friends' absence himself. Feeling honored the guards quickly let the heroes pass. Quint has no trouble slipping through the checkpoint a couple of minutes later - as no one is looking for a single man - and meets up with his friends at the next crossroads.
The journey north takes three days, during which Trinia proves to be a spirited little girl. Despite the traumatizing experience she has been through, she is excited and thankful to have escaped with her life. She recounts with gusto how she fled with Blackjack over the rooftops of Korvosa, down small allies and even through the sewers. The caped crusader knew his way around the city well and led her unerringly to Vencarlo's fencing school in Old-Korvosa. While she waited outside in the shadows for a few minutes, Blackjack went inside to convince his friend to take in the girl. She witnessed their brief but heated discussion, before the grey-haired swordmaster invited her in and offered her his protection. He turned out to be the perfect gentleman and host, worrying over her like a father-figure.
Trinia suspects that Neolandus Kalepopolis, the missing seneschal of Castle Korvosa, is behind Blackjack's mask. His position allows him to dethrone an illegitimate or unjust monarch in times of need, but that power also makes him a target of such an individual. Trinia is convinced that Queen Ileosa is a false and dangerous snake who forced the seneschal into hiding. Since his life would be in danger if he appeared publicly, Kalepopolis had to resort to his Blackjack alter ego to fight the treacherous usurper. Being an ex-officer of the Sable Company, Neolandus Kalepopolis certainly has the skill to be the caped crusader, heck, he's probably even hiding in the Great Tower, the headquarters of the black garbed guards. That would definitely explain why commander Marcus Endrin has been so suspicious of the new queen as well ...
The young painter also unfolds that painting was not her first profession of choice. Being the daughter of a Varisian couple of traveling acrobats, she originally trained in her parents' skills at tumbling and jumping, which explains why she was so agile fleeing from the companions over the shingle rooftops. When her parents froze to death during the terrible hunger winter six years ago, she decided to quit her life on the road and focus on another talent: painting. She settled down in the poorer parts of the city and made enough to survive, although she admits that she is not very good with money. She never had a lot, but whenever she had some, she spent it quickly, not only on herself, but also on her neighbors, since there were always people around who needed it more than she did.
The companions can also witness with their own eyes that the Korvosan Guard no longer patrols the Korvosa's holdings outside the city walls, although they do not run into any of the highwaymen that are supposedly plaguing the countryside.
By the end of the third day, the travelers reach the Falcon River and take the ferry across the water. They ignore the town of Harse completely and head straight for Blackbird Ranch, some thirty minutes north of the village, off the beaten track. The horse ranch sits comfortably in the cleft of two low hills topped with copses of fir trees. A barrel-chested man, flanked by two youths, greets the companions as they approach. His bow is strung, but hangs idly over his shoulder. Still, it looks like it is within easy reach. The man's initial apprehension instantly evaporates when he learns that his friend Vencarlo sent these travelers to his doorstep and Quint hands him the fencing master's coded letter as proof. He warm-heartedly welcomes his guests into his home. Blackbird Ranch is a large place, but also houses a large family: Jasan Adriel himself, his wife Lisanna, his sons Ted, Gerald and Bruno and his daughters Mariën and Romy. The rancher takes the visitors to the basement, where he keeps a couple of spare beds and brews his own beer, which he offers freely.
Jasan informs about the situation in Korvosa and when he learns of all the recent trials and tribulations, he explains that such troubles are exactly why he chose to relocate down here and not in the city. At least here he can talk frankly without worrying about his family, because, just like Vencarlo Orisini, Jasan can be quite critical about people in charge and likes to speak his mind.
After a couple of pints the retired adventurer also talks about the past he shared with Orisini. The two of them were members of an adventuring party known as the Blackbirds. They broke up more than two decades ago over an unfortunate argument involving the rights to treasure looted from a dwarven tomb - while Jasan and Vencarlo wanted to return the weapons they recovered from the haunted grave to the dwarven offspring in Janderhoff, the others in the group wanted to keep the loot and sell it in Korvosa. The conflict came to blows and in the end Jasan and Vencarlo opted to retire from the adventuring business altogether. The remaining Blackbirds vanished without a trace in the obscure dungeons below Kaer Maga not one season later, so both the ranger and the sword master counted themselves lucky at having quit while they were alive. The two former party members have always stayed in touch, writing each other as often as possible, using the secret code they developed in their adventuring days, more out of fun than any real need to hide their messages, although it allowed them to be critical of Korvosa's government without the fear of anyone else reading about it.
Since the companions changed their plans on how to get out of the city, they never needed Vencarlo's money to set up a merchant guise, so now they offer the pouch to Trinia. The girl sees no need for the gold while she is hiding in a basement and suggests to give the money to Jasan instead. Although the ranger is pleased with his guests' generosity, he responds that he requires no payment for helping his best friend and only agrees to take the money if the companions accept riding animals in exchange. Since Jasan Adriel breeds some of the finest horses around, this sounds like a great deal, but it will have to be concluded tomorrow, as the hour has grown very late.
So how do you smuggle a wanted murderer out of the city? The best way is probably right under the noses of the guards. The first plan the companions come up with is to leave Korvosa as merchants. Rather than joining a real caravan as bodyguards and subsequently abandoning these people once they are outside the city, our friends deem it wise to impersonate traveling traders themselves. They could buy a couple of mules and get some goods they can sell in Harse, like salt, painted cloth or tools. Of course they would have to be disguised, which might cause a problem when trying to hide a Shoanti who is six and a half feet tall, a halfling, a dog and a young girl ... well, the plan might need some adjusting.
A couple of hours after sunset Puk knocks on the door of the Orisini Academy. The fencing master sees his four nightly guests inside and offers them the comfort of his living room, where they take a seat in the large sofas by the fireplace. When he calls in Trinia, the girl eyes the companions with suspicion, but Quint quickly puts her troubled mind at ease by reassuring her that he and his friends continue to believe in her innocence, a statement that Vencarlo is eager to confirm. When the bard asks Trinia why she confessed to the murder, she claims to have no memories of the fact. She remembers being taken to a cell in the Longacre building. Only hours after her imprisonment the queen herself visited her in her prison cell. That is the last thing Trinia remembers ... everything after that is a big blur, until she was thrown into another cell, somehow knowing that she had been convicted to die. The next 24 hours awaiting the execution had been the most desperate in her life.
Vencarlo Orisini asks the companions to smuggle Trinia out of Korvosa and escort her to a good friend who lives outside of the village of Harse, on a horse ranch. His name is Jasan Adriel and he and Vencarlo used to be in an adventuring company together more than twenty years ago, called the Blackbirds. The fencing master also has a coded letter for his friend, which he hands to Quint. He encourages the four heroes to act fast: as a known critic of the government Orisini is on the list of the usual suspects and Trinia remains in danger as long as she stays under his roof. Some guards already did a cursory search of his academy today and he suspects they will be back soon for a more thorough investigation. He also gives the companions 500 gold sails when he learns they will try to impersonate merchants, but still need to buy pack animals and merchandise. Before they leave Vencarlo warns the companions to be very careful: the Guard is looking everywhere for Trinia, the Sable Company controls the skies and the river and the sword master has even picked up a rumor that the accursed Hell Knights have been called back to aid in the manhunt.
The companions hide Trinia in the old fishery for the night and finally decide on a different plan to get her out of the city: they will leave as themselves, with Trinia taking the place of Quint, whom she resembles most closely physically. The bard will disguise himself as a regular John Doe and leave Korvosa on his own, meeting up with his friends outside of the city walls. To facilitate Trinia's impersonation of him, Quint hits the town heavily that night, making sure to show up in every bar that frequently hosts soldiers of the Guard, buying them drinks and getting really drunk with them, all the while complaining about Puk. Apparently his small friend wants to leave civilization tomorrow to head to the backwater halfling hole of Heavenguard for a someone's birthday. How dull is that? And of course the little bugger promised his cousin that the great Korvosan performer Quintillian would accompany him, leaving Quint no choice but to join him on this uncomfortable trek into the wilds ... The bard also picks up the general sense that most Korvosans believe Trinia to be guilty. It turns out that he and his friends certainly succeeded in restoring faith in the monarchy over the last few weeks, as people tend to trust Queen Ileosa now and share her hate for the late king's killer!
Curse of the Crimson Throne: chapter 2 - Seven Days to the Grave
16 Sarenith 4708
A visit to Field Marshal Cressida Kroft does not yield more useful information. Quint maintains his doubts concerning Trinia's trial and confession, but Kroft can only reply that the city and the Guard are using all their resources to find the escaped girl and her cloaked rescuer. The castle has spread wanted posters all over the city, offering a substantial reward for Trinia's and Blackjack's capture: 5 000 gold sails if either of them is taken alive, half that if they are dead. Information that leads to their arrest is still worth 1 000 gold pieces. This prize money is enough to sweep most people's doubts off the table, but not the companions', who return home to ponder on how to proceed. It turns out the answer is already waiting for them.
Seated in a chair of their own sitting room is Vencarlo Orisini, the fencing master. He says he has picked up rumors that the companions have serious doubts about Trinia's guilt, which he more than shares. When the adventurers confirm their position, Vencarlo entrusts them with the fact that Trinia is hiding in his academy. Blackjack brought her there after saving her from losing her head. Orisini and the mysterious daredevil have worked together on more than one occasion in the past and they trust each other in times of need. Master Orisini also spent most of last night talking to the shaken young painter and has become completely convinced of her innocence. When Quint inquires how she was made to confess, Vencarlo urges him to ask her himself, tonight after sundown. That is when he wants the companions to come to his house, to hand over Trinia so they can smuggle her out of the city. The fencing master would do it himself, but his past criticism on the government has already made him one of the usual suspects, and he does not want to risk being caught and losing Trinia in the process. He asks the heroes to take the girl to a friend, who lives outside of the village of Harse, at three days travel from Korvosa. Of course, the four friends agree to help, after all, how can they refuse a lady in need?
15 Sarenith 4708
Just like the coronation three days ago Trinia's execution takes place on the terrace of the Castle overlooking Ramp Boulevard. Once more the toast of Korvosa is in attendance, for a more macabre show this time. Quint and his friends are among these honored guests and, although they seriously doubt that justice is being served today, they don't see how they can stop the event. An impressive host of Gray Maidens stands guard, using their wall of silver shields to keep the visitors back. The streets below are filled with people as well, who have read about Trinia's crime and confession in today's edition of the Korvosa Herald. They do not seem to doubt the painter's confession and are eager to see her head drop.
Drums roll as the queen emerges from the castle, closely followed by her bodyguard shadow Sabina Merrin. Having fully accepted the mantle of monarch, Ileosa carries herself with a graceful pride, showing off her beauty in a magnificent gown of green and white silk. The icy glare in her eyes totally ignores the elite that has gathered on the terrace. In her wake follows a towering, muscular man with a hood covering his face and an enormous axe in his hand. The drums suddenly change their beat to a more ominous tune as a young manacled girl with a bag over her head is herded out of the castle. Gray Maidens deliver her to the executioner's block, before pulling away the bag to reveal a frightened woman who can barely keep back her tears. While one of the soldiers unlocks the shackles, another pulls back Trinia's hands and binds them behind her back with a leather cord. Then she forces the girl to her knees, her head looming over the block.
Ileosa walks over to the podium overlooking the crowd and addresses her subjects: "Fellow Korvosans. The past few weeks have been hard on all of us. We have suffered greatly under the sea of trouble that washed over our city. I feel your suffering, for not only have I lost a beloved husband, but with each riot, each burning home, each act of anarchy and each victim my heart bled a little more. This has been a trying time for us, yet your torment is at an end.
Before you is the cause of all this misery. Do not be deceived by her innocent nature - she is a black-hearted assassin, a seductress and a sinner, a viper amidst us all. I offer you her head as a salve against the hatred and hurt you have suffered. Her death will not rebuild Korvosa, nor will it bring back the king. Yet tomorrow will be a new dawn - a dawn over a city ready to rise from the edge of anarchy to become stronger than ever before!
And so, without further ado, let us usher in this new dawn with an act us justice! Off with her head!"
As the headsman slowly lifts his axe overhead, the crowd freezes in anticipation. His muscles bulge under the weight of the weapon. Quint, Balian, Sjo and Puk stand only a few yards away, disheartened but unable to interfere. Just as the executioner wants to swing down his axe, he gives a grunt and staggers. He lowers his weapon, reaching with his left hand to the small of his back, which is hidden from the spectators on the terrace. When he brings his hand to his face, the companions see that his fingers drip with blood. Puk then notices the flash of a slender dagger through the air that embeds itself in the headsman's right hand, forcing him to drop his weapon. Trinia raises her head, glancing up at the executioner who doubles over in pain, now revealing his first source of pain: a throwing dagger in his back. A scream echoes through the crowd: "By the Gods, it's Blackjack!"
From the towers of the Castle, swinging at the end of a slender crimson banner, a cloaked figure sails through the air and lands on the podium between Trinia and the axeman. As his feet touch the block where the young painter's head was meant to be separated from her body, his rapier flashes forward, slashing through the bonds on Trinia's wrists. While the girl rises to her feet, the masked crusader shouts: 'Yes indeed, Queen Ileosa! Let us usher in a new dawn with an act of justice - but true justice, not this deceit with which you try to blind Korvosa!"
Everyone stands stunned for a moment. Then several onlookers burst into action at the same time. The queen whispers something to Sabina Merrin who quickly orders her troops to seize the assailant. Quint sees no path through to crowd and yells out words of discouragement to the Gray Maidens, using bluff to disguise his satire as a warning to be cautious of this skilled killer. Being a court bard Quint can use his performance to undermine the confidence of enemies rather than bolster his friends' courage with a power called satire that replaces inspire courage. Sjo just starts bumping into the nobles to his left and right, trying to distract them, while Puk deftly slips through the crowd and the line of Gray Maiden shields, screaming to the surprised guards to guide the queen to safety. Balian climbs the battlements and leaps forward, braving the steep drop from the castle walls. As he lands in front of the podium, he clumsily brings down two female soldiers who were about the charge Blackjack and apologizes profusely, as he is only trying to help. Meanwhile the executioner has regained his bearings and picked up his axe again, threatening to strike Blackjack from behind. Yet it seems like the cloaked scoundrel has eyes in the back of his head, for he jumps over the axeman's deadly chop before he quickly grabs Trinia by the arm, ordering her to hang on. The next moment the caped crusader sails through the air again on the crimson banner with the young woman clinging to his side, first swinging back to the castle, then running over the wall to gain extra speed. As he swerves back down, he pushes off, propelling himself and his proxy to the roof of a nearby building. He glides off the tiles, but somehow manages to halt his momentum and regains his feet. Once more he looks up at the castle to see the queen flee inside. He raises his rapier in salute to the crowd on the terrace and in the streets (and possibly to the companions who aided his escape). With a swoop of his cloak he turns around and disappears with Trinia over the rooftops.
Meanwhile the Gray Maidens push back the elite visitors on the terrace, ordering them to go home and showing no respect for the station of the people in front of them. Quint makes an effort to reach the executioner, offering to heal the man's wounds, but he gets driven back with the rest of the guests. He decides not to push his luck, realizing that Trinia is safe for now, and follows the aggravated nobles and dignitaries down the steps of the great mastaba that supports Castle Korvosa.
The companions head directly to Trinia's apartment and her friend Nisha's flat to see if either of the women are there, but find both places empty, which does not come as a big surprise. The streets in the city are filled with people who are flabbergasted by the spectacle that just transpired. Most citizens question Blackjack's motives and harbor little sympathy for his reckless rescue, as formidable a feat as it may have been. It feels like rest or peace are just not in Korvosa's cards. The Gods only know what will happen next ...
By one o'clock the companions head to Castle Korvosa. They notice a lot of Gray Maiden guards, who escort them to the grand salon, more specifically to the balustrade that looks down on the stage hall where Ileosa's coronation celebration took place. The four young men are now on the balcony where the Gray Maidens presented their large numbers to the queen's guests the day before yesterday. There is a select group of witnesses in the room with them: Field Marshal Cressida Kroft and Commander Marcus Thalassinus Endrin of the Sable Company, Lords Mercival Jeggare, Valdur Bromathan IV, Glorio Arkona and Toff Ornelos. Lady Eliasia Leroung and Archbanker Darb Tuttle of Abadar complete the party. Lady Zenderholm is in the stage hall below, accompanied by two clerks, who have to meticulously record what will be said.
When the clock strikes one Ileosa enters the room below and sits down on a high-backed chair on the stage: "Honorable guests, it pains me to tell you that the rumors concerning my late husband's death ... have proven to be true. We owe the capture of his murderer to our beloved heroes", the queen says, pointing to Balian and his friends. "The girl has already confessed, but law dictates that she repeats her confession. Normally one judge and two witnesses would suffice, but I felt it wise to invite all of you here to bear witness to the horrible truth. Judge Zenderholm will be conducting today's questioning. She will use a zone of truth to ascertain herself and all of us that no lies are spoken."
At Ileosa's command Sabina Merrin leads Trinia Sabor into the room. The young painter is not shackled and willingly walks onto the stage. Judge Zenderholm calls on the power of Abadar to install the zone of truth around Trinia and starts her brief interrogation:
"Trinia Sabor, you stand accused of killing King Eodred II. Do you confess to having murdered the king?"
Trinia answers without showing any emotion: "I do, I killed the king."
The witnesses on the balcony all sigh with indignation. The companions are taken aback by Trinia's icy response, but they cannot sense that she is telling anything but the truth.
Zenobia Zenderholm continues: "Can you tell us how you murdered the king?"
"I poisoned him", Trinia plainly states, "which made him ill. But he wasn't suffering from any illness or disease, since it was poison, so curative magic did not work."
"And where did you get this poison?"
"Korvosa's black market is much bigger than you can ever hope to fight as a judge. Everything is for sale, if you know where to look. Of course, smart sellers know how to remain anonymous, so I bought the poison illegally, but I cannot tell you who I bought it from."
"And where did you buy it, then?"
"In Eel's End, in Old Korvosa."
Judge Zenderholm then asks a very important question: "Trinia Sabor, which motive did you have for murdering the king?"
Trinia remains as unemotional as before: "I wanted to become court painter, permanently, I mean, not just for one job. I had offered myself, my body to Eodred to get my wish granted. Everyone knows that his majesty has always had a weak spot for pretty girls, but he refused me. He said he loved his queen too much and did not want to betray her. So I killed him ... because I don't like being rejected."
Another shock goes through the audience on the balcony, not only for Trinia's words, but also for the detachment with which she speaks them. Meanwhile judge Zenderholm concludes: "That is horrible, Miss Sabor. May the gods have mercy on your soul. The punishment for regicide is death by beheading!"
Sjo notices that Trinia's icy facade breaks for a split second. He reads fear in her eyes and sees her hands tremble ever so slightly. Quint studies Sabina Merrin's reaction, but notices no schmuck smile or contented reaction at the painter's conviction.
Three Gray Maidens lead Trinia Sabor away, while the queen, who is obviously affected by the ordeal, excuses herself and calls an end to the meeting. As they are escorted out, Quint asks a Gray Maiden to see Trinia Sabor or Sabina Merrin, but the guard replies that her only task is to take the guests out of the castle. The bard notices she speaks in a distinct Chelish accent. As he gives air to his discontent, Lord Arkona asks him why he is such a disbeliever. Quint explains that today's performance was not in keeping with Trinia's character and he refuses to believe that such a trite excuse as "anger at being rejected" led to a kingdom in chaos. Lord Arkona agrees that Trinia's motives were quite trivial, but if true, they could have led to all that happened, trivial or not. One thing is clear though, this motive begins and ends with Trinia and hides no darker plot that threatens the monarchy, which is probably good news. Still, Quint is not convinced. He also wonders when the execution will take place. Arkona figures it won't take long, probably as early as tomorrow.
The companions realize they have an enormous problem on their hands, but there is little to nothing they can do. Trinia confessed and will be executed for it, unless they can prove her innocence. They go by the temple of Sarenrae: high priest Ezekiel Sollux examined the king when he was ill, maybe he can shed some light on the case.
The priest of the Dawnflower has already heard about Trinia's confession and even knows that her execution is set for tomorrow, as the companions already feared. He explains that he was only called in when his majesty was getting worse, maybe two weeks before his demise. Until then Archbanker Darb Tuttle had been treating the king. Nothing in the king's symptoms pointed at poison, Ezekiel claims, so the news that Trinia poisoned the late monarch came as a surprise, but it could have explained why healing magic did not help. As far as he knew, the king was suffering from an unknown, but incurable disease. Priests do have spells that enhance the natural process of getting better, he clarifies. Unfortunately there are diseases that no one recovers from, that are simply lethal. Even the strongest magic can do nothing then. He figured that this was the case with Eodred's mysterious illness. He has never heard of a poison that replicates the symptoms of leprosy, but he doesn't rule out the possibility that such a poison exists.
As there is nothing else to be done, the companions return home. Sjo makes good on his own plans and spends a few hours in Larella Semyr's lovely company at the shrine of Shelyn. His relationship with the priestess grows ever closer.
14 Sarenith 4708
At breakfast Mouse tells his masters that there is a guest at the door: Cressida Kroft has decided to pay the heroes a visit for a change, instead of having them summoned to her office in citadel Volshyenek. She is impressed with the villa, calling it a wonderful gift, but Quint and Balian claim that taxes alone on this expensive building have cost them so much that it can hardly be considered a 'gift'.
The Field Marshal has news about Trinia Sabor, the girl who was accused of having murdered the king: she has confessed to her crimes! As prescribed in the Charters of the city, she will have to repeat her confession "under the sky", in front of a judge and two witnesses. This law was installed long ago to prevent people from procuring confessions through torture: when someone admitted during questioning to having committed a crime, he had to repeat this confession outside of the prison where he was interrogated - "under the sky". If he confirmed his guilt, he was indeed found guilty, but if he withdrew his words, it became obvious that his confession had come about under duress. Custom changed this law somewhat: nowadays the suspect still has to repeat his confession to a judge and two witnesses, but it usually takes place in the courthouse as well, and not outside "under the sky", although the law is still known by this name.
Today however, Trinia will not speak to only one judge and two witnesses. Since the crime concerns regicide, more people are invited to bear witness to her confession, including the companions, since they were the ones who captured Trinia Sabor. They have to be in Castle Korvosa at one o'clock.
Quint and his friends are very worried by this news. Trinia's confession does not fit with how passionately she denied having killed the king only three days ago. When they learn that Trinia was not being held in the Longacre Building, but was transported to Castle Korvosa for "safety reasons", their concerns grow even more. They wonder if Sabina Merrin, the commander of the Gray Maidens, is somehow involved and has manipulated or forced the young painter to confess.
To find out more about the legal procedure, they swing by high judge Zenobia Zenderholm's office. Lady Zenderholm will actually be leading today's interrogation and although she carefully listens to the companions' concerns, she tries to put their worries to rest. She will be using her clerical abilities to summon a zone of truth around the suspect, which is not a watertight system since it can be fooled, but it certainly adds another level of assurance. She also claims that compulsion magic to have someone sign his own death warrant would have to be extremely strong, a simple charm person would never suffice. She also tells the heroes to take into consideration that the girl might actually be guilty: they only spoke to her once and she might have fooled them with her claim of innocence. Finally the four friends accept that they will have to trust in Zenderholm's expertise.
Quint and Sjo also look through the books they discovered in Vreeg's lair if they find any reference to the poison that was supposedly administered to the king, but they find nothing. The companions also look up Trinia's friend Nisha to check if she has not been kidnapped to force Trinia into confessing, but the tiefling stripper is still at home. Wrapped in her bed sheet she answers the door. She cannot understand why Trinia would confess to something she didn't do and blames the young men at her door for Trinia's current predicament. They convinced her that justice would triumph if she gave herself up! Nice display of justice this turns out to be!
The companions deliberate what to do with Gaekhen's body. They have found the different parts of the young Shoanti warrior's corpse in the horrible dead warrens, but it is in no shape to present to his family. They decide to carefully wrap the body parts in sheets and transport them to the temple of Pharasma. If any site in Korvosa holds a mortician who specializes in preparing the dead for viewing, it will be the Cathedral of the Lady of the Graves. Bishop d'Bear immediately agrees to help her friends and tells them to return tomorrow.
Next the heroes pay a visit to the small Shoanti encampment to inform Thousand Bones of their findings, but they learn that the old shaman is with the Field Marshal in the Citadel, so they head over there instead. Thousand Bones, his daughter-husband Fergal the Fang and his daughter-sons Arowan and Erogar are in Kroft's office. Since the tidings are so sensitive, Quint asks to speak to Thousand Bones alone, without Gaekhen's father and brothers.
The bard realizes there is no easy way to inform the old Shoanti that his grandson was cut to pieces, but he and his friends manage to weave enough subtlety and bravado into their story to break the horrible news to the grieving elder. In the end Thousand Bones appreciates what the companions have done. This whole episode has badly hurt his people's confidence in Korvosa as a community, but at least Sjo, Quint, Balian and Puk have acted as honorable allies who even showed the spark of true Shoanti warriors. The shaman pulls four small bones from the collection hanging from his clothes. He marks each of them with a small rune and hands them to the heroes. He explains that the symbol stands for nalharest, which translates as "brother of the Shoanti", the highest honor a tshamek or outsider can hope to achieve among the Shoanti. Although the four young men are strictly only brothers in Thousand Bones' tribe, displaying this nalharest trophy to other Shoanti, will be of aid when interacting with them.
When the shaman has left, Cressida Kroft awards the adventurers with a bag of 600 gold sails. Selling the scrolls and spellbook they discovered in Vreeg's chambers finally raises enough money to pay off their debts to the tax collector's office. Sjo also uses some of the gold to have a beautiful bouquet of flowers sent to Larella Semyr, the beautiful priestess of Shelyn, planning to pay her a visit tomorrow ... provided that "adventure does not come knocking at the door".
Purely out of self-interest, I'd love to read your Skull & Shackles version. I already read your teaser mini summary on the Skull & Shackles board and I liked what you did with the story. Since I've started this AP myself and I'm also into changing the story here and there to fit my fancy, I'd surely read your narrative.
You also called this your favorite, so that alone should be a good reason as well to pick this one first ...
Question, did none of the derro use their darkness SLA? When my party encountered Vreeg, they had a horrible time with him due to darkness and him flying around the room. Only the dwarf in the party could see him, but the room was too big to for him to be hit (I decided all the rooms were 15 ft high unless stated otherwise).
To be honest, I failed to look up the darkness and derro darkvision rules before the game, so I glanced quickly in the Core Rulebook at the gaming table and decided against using the spell to avoid the hassle and game slowing tactics altogether.
I had already made the opposition harder by adding more derro and raising their stats (more hp, better AC and to hit bonus). So we didn't miss the darkness to make the fights exciting, certainly not the confrontation with Vreeg, whose opening move (the fireball) was very successful (I rolled 24 damage with 5d6).
This AP could lend itself to one player if you make the right choices. The only thing you'll struggle with is book 5, which is basically a huge dungeon (or rather castle) crawl.
A paladin character might not be a bad idea: good diplomacy, some healing, good AC and decent combat abilities. I would also consider giving the character some sort of animal companion, even if he doesn't have the class ability. An animal companion will be a great help in combat, but won't get in the way of roleplaying and interaction.
I DM PC is definitely a good idea, but you should consider your options. You could go for one DM PC and stick with him/her all the time, or you could have certain NPCs join your main character on different quests, switching them from time to time. This often allows for a more personal approach to the quest(s) and gives you the opportunity to drop in the class that fits the quest best.
Mega Bloks is a toy company that produced a number of lego-like pirate ships, including some vessels from Pirates of the Carribean. Following the example of several other gamers online I have taken Mega Bloks Man-o'-war from its Pyrates line and converted it to the Wormwood. I've posted some pictures on my deviantart page.
Sjo kicks open the door and surprises four derro in what looks like a crude laboratory. One wooden tables is stacked with vials and beakers, while a second leans awkwardly on a hastily repaired leg and hold nothing but shards. Three cauldrons sit against the far wall, filled with rancid fluids. One of the derro slings a sound burst in the hall where the companions stand at the ready, while another moves in to block the entrance. A third runs to a door in the south wall, while the fourth pours a sickly green liquid on his blade. Puk and Balian quickly dispatch of the little critter in the doorway and move over to the one with the poisoned blade. They now have a clear view of the south wall, where the third derro has opened the door to release a horrible monster: a creature consisting of stitched-together body parts, most of which are partially decayed and rotting. Balian notices that its relatively 'fresh' arm is covered in Shoanti tattoos. As the monstrosity emerges, it hammers the derro in its path to kingdom come. Balian and his mates meet the golem head on. The ranger swings his blade wide, striking down the derro with the poisoned blade and hitting the golem in one swooping arc. The last surviving derro slips away in a natural tunnel at the other side of the room as the companions circle the foul-reeking golem and hit the horrid creation from every angle, taking it down before it can hurt anyone.
There is no time to recover, though, as the last derro returns, hounding a hideously deformed creature in front of him. The lumbering brute has a bloated cabbage-like face and a contorted frame, but none of the companions have ever seen such a creature before. It slams its bulging fist on little Puk, sending the rogue reeling. As the 'intruders' surround it, the creature bellows that it will take their heads to Vreeg, pummeling both Puk and Spyder with strong blows. Sjo steps in to heal his halfling friend with a powerful surge of salving energy while Balian moves between the monster and the pale-skinned dwarf. His greatsword cleaves through the deformed enemy's flesh before it embeds itself in the small derro's head, ending his annoying Undercommon rambling once and for all. The brute withstands a much harder beating and manages to slam its fist into Balian's head and break some of Quint's ribs before it goes finally down.
The companions heal up and examine the room and their slain adversaries. They find a couple of flasks with poison and a dirty chain shirt on the deformed brute's frame, which radiates light magic. Quint cleans it up with a prestidigitation and dons it, finding it a bit 'wide' around the chest, making a mental note to visit the dwarven smith Furin Ironsguts to have it fitted properly.
The tunnel ahead splits to the left and right. Weak moaning resounds from the right and when Balian and Puk examine it, they find a foul-smelling cavern, bordered on three sides by ten-foot deep pits. These pits hold decaying bodies and excrement, as well as two frightened, malnourished humans, a woman and a girl. The girl is completely apathetic, rocking to and fro with her hands clamped against her head, but the woman reacts relieved to the presence of the heroes. Tears pour down her face as she realizes her nightmare has come to an end. She says her name is Tiora and explains she was captured by some derro a couple of days ago while snooping around the graveyard. The ugly dwarves threw her in this pit with the hideous ogrekin Cabbagehead as her jailor. The little girl was here already and hasn't uttered one sane word, so Tiora has no idea who she is. She also knows that the derro's current leader is called Vreeg, a cruel little necromancer, who normally answers to a man named Rolth, who is absent at the moment. The information that this lair is Rolth's hiding place is new to the companions, but seems to fit the bill of what they knew about the man.
The heroes look through the corpses and body parts in the pits for Shoanti markings, but find nothing. They do discover a hidden cache with some gold and gems. Then they quickly escort the two women to the safety of the cathedral of Pharasma, running into two more derro on their way out, who came from a bedroom they bypassed on their way in.
The last part of the warrens contains some sort of operation room with another stitched-together body on the operating table. The patchwork creation has not been animated yet, but would stand at least seven feet tall if it rose. The head is strangely small for this massive frame and bears a distinctive scar on its left cheek, identifying it as Gaekhen's head. With one arm, both legs and the head recovered, all that is missing is the Shoanti's torso and right arm.
The companions surprise three derro in the next room, but are taken aback themselves when they see the small necromancer Vreeg in the connecting bedroom. The white-haired wizard weaves some protective magic before throwing a mighty fireball on the heroes as they are finishing off his final minions. The explosion sends Sjo to the brink of death, but luckily the healer has a slight resistance to fire, which saves him, allowing him to patch up with a cure moderate wounds spell. The necromancer lashes out desperately with his foul magic as the heroes try to take him down. He weakens Balian with a well-aimed ray of enfeeblement and next blinds him. His vampiric touch and a final sound burst almost take down Sjo again, whose frantic healing averts defeat. The side-effect of the sound burst stuns all the companions, giving Vreeg the opportunity to flee the scene, but his short legs cannot outrun the 'invaders'. Quint lashes out with his whip, tripping the fleeing derro, after which Puk expertly plunges his short sword in the prone opponent's body.
Taking their time to examine the rooms more carefully, the companions find Gaekhen's last body parts, as well as some interesting loot: a wand of mage armor, some potions and five applications of restorative ointment. There is also some gold, Vreeg's spellbook and a small library with tomes on necromancy, the art of golem crafting and diseases and plagues, which Quint wants to move to the villa. One of the books also has a couple of scrolls wedged between its pages.
Feels like something is wrong with this line in the product description: "When a rival pirate lord calls in a large amount of favors and sets a fearsome raiders of the Storm Wolf against the PCs,led by the vicious Captain Sculberd Craggs, nothing they prize is truly safe." In the book it reads "a fearsome band of raiders".
This is actually is good opportunity to tie in the start of the adventure.
When the mob gets to the docks, soldiers are waiting for them. Although the soldiers are reluctant to fight (you should make this clear) they will resort to violence if they have to. Unless the PCs can calm down the crowd, a huge fight will ensue in which many civilians and some soldiers are killed (this will also become the fight where Grau Soldado lost his men and was forced to kill Korvosans, which turned him to drinking). The PCs will be captured and taken before Field Marshal Cressida Kroft, who will give them the chance to aid her in gaining control over the city again in exchange for their freedom. This will give you a nice link to the Korvosan Guard.
If, on the other hand, the PCs can prevent the fight, one of the officers of the Guard asks them to join him to Citadel Volsheynek, to meet the Field Marshal, who could use the PCs' skills to regain control over the city.
Basically anything goes. I'd stay away from evil aligned characters, a party that is (mostly) good probably works best. Any character class should work, pick things you're comfortable with. A paladin is an excellent choice, certainly for a three person party: decent melee-tanking / great saves / some added healing / good social skills.
It really depends on how you want to run the campaign. The urban aspect allows for more roleplaying, if you take the trouble to look for it. If you want to do that, warn your players to get the right skills (and classes). If you're just going with hack-'n-slash, your players should choose appropriately.
The one thing to look for in a three person party is balance. You definitely need a healer, someone who can survive melee and someone who can deal some damage.
When I started my campaign, it looked like I was going to have three players. Since I'm putting a lot of emphasis on roleplaying and skills, I urged the players to play classes with a decent amount of (social) skills. We started off with:
The bard and oracle are good at social skills, the oracle is the healer, with the bard as support, the oracle is also a bit of a tank (high AC thanks to the heavy armor feat my player chose), the ranger is the damage dealer (two-handed) and has non-social skills that serve the campaign well. He also has a pet dog (I allowed him to take the druid rather than the ranger animal progression), which is a great way to get some extra help in combat.
Then we got a fourth player, who doubted between a paladin or a rogue. Both choices would have been excellent. He went for the rogue, great for damage and extra skills.
We do not have an arcane caster, which - I feel - is not a necessity for this campaign, but would certainly work. With just three players, you will probably be struggling a bit during the first few levels with a wizard or sorcerer, but you'll be fine after that.
Karolina Dean wrote:
Well done! And linkified:Black Magga and Kyra
Black Magga and Rune Giant
The companions quickly make their way to the Gray District, where they meet with Archbishop Keppira d'Bear in the Cathedral of Pharasma. She informs them that no Shoanti body has been brought in and refers them to a man named Elkaris, who usually transports the deceased from East Shore, Thief Camp and Trail's End.
Our friends easily trace the body carter to a pub, where some other patrons are making him pay for their drinks. Sjo buys these drunkards another round, while he leads Elkaris to a corner table for a private conversation. Apparently Elkaris is quite the simple spirit and he quickly confesses to sometimes carting off bodies to a certain corner of the Potter's Ward, "dead 'uns' no one cares about, you know. I leave them at this old statue, a fighter guy with a sword, but he has fallen over and he has no head, over by the old forgotten deadhouses at the end of Potter's Ward. When I do this, there are some gold pieces in my wheelbarrow the next morning." Elkaris is ashamed to find out that the Shoanti he brought over there, was not a loner. He does not know who takes the bodies: he was approached by a thin man years ago who offered to take the corpses of the forgotten off his hands for a nice fee . He doesn't really remember the man, as it was dark, and he has never seen him again, but even after all these years the deal still stands, because he keeps getting paid.
Balian has no problem locating the toppled statue by following Elkaris wheelbarrow trail. There he discovers tracks of small humanoids, although the footprints are much finer than Puk's sturdy halfling feet. They also bear only four toes instead of five. They could be derro, especially since they lead to the dark entrance of a partially collapsed mausoleum.
Quint summons some light and leads his friends down a set of stairs into a large room supported by four stone pillars. The ceiling arches in a dome nearly twenty feet overhead and the walls are lined with skeletons caked into the mud. Two large pits to the left and the right are filled with a large heap of bones, some of which animate and attack the intruders. One of the walking ribcages towers over six others and his beaked skull identifies the creature as a dead owlbear. Although it takes the heroes some time to dispatch of the bone assailants, since only Sjo's mace is effective at rattling these carcasses' cages, it is an easy fight.
A passageway leads off deeper into the darkness, splitting to the left and right. Following the freshest tracks on the left-hand side, Balian suddenly signals his friends to stop when he hears some voices jabbering ahead. As he pricks up his ears, he notices that the conversation has abruptly ended. Maybe the creatures heard his noisy party approaching. Sjo peeks around the corner and as set upon by five red flying insectoids with double bat-like wings. Two of them attach themselves to the Shoanti's chest and pierce his flesh with their needle-like beaks, draining some of his blood and making him feel somewhat weakened. Sjo channels a burst of flames from his hands and burns two stirges to ashes, while badly incinerating a third one. Balian jumps to his friend's aid and expertly cleaves the attached bloodsuckers in two. The last partially burned pest follows soon after.
The room ahead holds three large tables. There is a large open cage on the first, probably the stirges' nest, and a dead body on the second. From the look of the corpse's face and clothes he was a vagrant. Two of his legs and one arm have been cut off, post mortem, Sjo concludes. There are several butcher's tools on tables, both fit for Puk's size and his taller friends, and two exits on the other side of the room. Exploring the one to the right takes Quint to a foul pit of stinking cadavers. Two sniveling derro order their waste disposing otyugh ally to charge the intruders; keeping to the back of the mud island in the middle of the room. Quint retaliates with a sleep on the deformed underdark dwarves, but his magic cannot break through their innate magical resistance. Balian engages the three-legged monster, but the cramped quarters make it hard to swing his large blade efficiently. The otuygh sinks his filthy teeth in the ranger's flesh and the derro fire some poisoned bolts at the heroes. One hits Spyder, who is ordered back to make room for Quint and Sjo. Puk pulls out his staffsling and fires on the monster from the second row, but is quickly frustrated with the puny damage he inflicts and decides to tumble through the corpsefeaster's legs instead, to a flanking position on the far end of the mud island. Now he can truly hurt the creature! Quint backs up Balian's assault with healing, while Sjo vainly burns through all his charges to set his weapon aflame, hitting nothing but air. The otyugh's bite and tentacles draw blood several times before the foul beast is finally slain by Sjo's first true strike of the fight. The two derro are disposed off next without too much effort. As Quint heals his friends, Puk makes a gruesome discovery: the broken legs and hips of Gaekhen are in the pit. Sjo and Balian dig through the rotten body parts some more and are rewarded for their efforts by a few trinkets left over from the otyugh's meals: an amber necklace worth 350 GP and a potion in a metal flask. Using Zellara's deck Sjo identifies it as an elixir of vision, which makes the imbiber more perceptive. As he hates paying taxes on every small find, Balian quickly gulps down the potion and throws the flask aside. He also casts longstrider on himself, complementing the earlier heroism boost he received from his bard ally.
The companions head back to the room with the tables and take the other exit, which leads to a long corridor with hundreds of skulls in the walls. Even with all his buffs active Balian fails to notice the magical trap that has been woven in the bony heads, which spew some acid on him and his friends. Fortunately the biting liquid causes only minor damage. A closed door seems to be the only way out. Balian quietly places his ear against the wood and listens. He perceives at least three derro voices on the other side. This time they have not spotted Sjo's clattery approach, so our friends have the benefit of surprise.
even another ogrekin since a lone sculpt makes them look like inbred clones.
Which they are, of course, especially when you compare them to their trueblood fathers, the ogres, who have so many wonderful sculpts now. Someone at Paizo must be a huge ogre fan and I have to agree with Erik, Malugus Kreeg's art was awesome indeed, resulting in an impressive mini.
Erik Mona wrote:
Speaking of irresistible art, I unfortunately was not able to get a good picture of the infamous Mammy Graul in time for this set, so there's at least one more ogre in the offing before I close the book on them. That will have to await a future set. Something to look forward to!
Just for you, Erik, I've posted a little sneak peak of the Graul homestead sidetrek my PCs will be making in my Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign. Mammy Graul is a fairly easy Big Big Bertha Horrorclix conversion; you can find her here.
13 Sarenith 4708
It is already past noon when the companions get up. Sjo wants to sells a couple of valuable items no one is using: a magical short sword and rapier and a masterwork chain shirt. The dwarven smith Ironguts happily takes the merchandise off their hands and the money is immediately put towards paying off another part of the tax debt. While the companions pass by Citadel Volshyenek, adventure comes looking for them again. A soldier invites them in, saying that Field Marshal Kroft needs to talk to them a.s.a.p.
As they make their way to Kroft's room, the companions come across some of the warriors from the Shoanti delegation that is staying in the Gray District. The men do not look happy and barely acknowledge Sjo and his friends as they walk by. The Field Marshal explains what is going on: Gaekhen, the grandson of the Shoanti shaman Thousand Bones was attacked in the streets by some racist fools. He did not survive the encounter. The murderers were immediately arrested and will be put to trial, but Gaekhen's body disappeared in the commotion.
Kroft asks Thousand Bones to join them. The old shaman speaks with a deep voice, his words carefully chosen, but delivered with a barely restrained anger: "Tshamek, my people have worked hard to understand yours, yet it seems each day we see new examples of how your people work just as hard to foster old hatreds. My daughtersson is dead, beaten to death by cowards in your city street. I do not blame you, yet still Gaekhen is dead, and my son and his kin are not so forgiving as I. They wish to return to the Skoan-Quah in the Cinderlands, to join with the Sklar-Quah and rally to war against Korvosa. This would be disastrous, for both our peoples. Amends must be made.
Our ways are not as yours. If a body does not go to the fires of the gods, the smoke of a warrior’s spirit cannot rise to the Great Sky. If I could send Gaekhen’s body to the Great Sky with honor and dignity, his father and brothers would listen to me and stay their wrath—the talks of peace between my people and yours can continue. But he was not just murdered. His body has disappeared. I have spoken with the spirits, and they have revealed to me that Gaekhen’s body has been taken to a place below your boneyard.
With this knowledge, I could surely lead a group of my finest warriors into your boneyard to retrieve Gaekhen’s body, but this would be seen as an act of aggression by your people and it would violate the hospitality we have been offered by the church of Pharasma. No, it falls to your people to make amends for what has been done. Of all the Korvosans we have met, you come the closest to what we call nalharest or friends, so I ask you to bring me Gaekhen’s body, lest we be forced to recover him ourselves. And although it pains my heart to say it - we will not be gentle if it comes to this."
After his request the old shaman takes his leave. Kroft tells the companions Gaekhen was murdered in the East Shore District and she urges them to contact the church of Pharasma before they start snooping around in their graveyard.