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I agree that a Vudra AP is somewhere on the horizon, but you might be right, it could be too soon. Still, you never know ...
Lord Snow wrote:
I moved things around a bit such that in order to be accepted as a Shoanti, each character had to pass a trail - each one from a different tribe. So instead of having to do X after Y after Z my players could choose in which order to visit the different tribes and pass their trials, which made the adventure feel more open. I also expanded on the dungeon crawl with the Havero, and switched out the one with the red render with a head on base assault against a stone giant colony to retrieve a sacred totem pole.
Those changes are actually quite nifty to tackle the problems of this module. First of all you got rid of the X-Y-Z order. But I especially like your take on the stone giant colony. One of my problems with the quests in the book was that they felt so non-Shoanti. A quest to retrieve a sacred Shoanti totem totally fixes that problem. I like it!
The wererats’ leader, Girrigz (or however that’s spelt) was completely insane and driven only by his hatred of humans.
Lol, for once you spell a name correctly and then you doubt yourself ... Okay, I'm exaggerating slightly, but - yes - Girrigz is the way to write his name.
I'm still having fun reading, keep it coming.
Very intriguing, Cesare, keep it coming. I love all the twists and changes you've made to the story and I'm looking forward to reading about the expansions you've made to the game.
On your restriction to human as a race:
I also have three humans in my group. I restricted race choice as well, since I started the AP when the PCs were still children in Lamm's lambs. Obviously I needed races that would still be adolescents five years prior to the start of the actual campaign, so long-living races like elves or dwarves were out. Moreover, since Korvosa's population counts 90 % humans, it was the logical choice to push for human. I left some other races open as well, but I rewarded the choice for human further by giving them a free skill point in a knowledge skill each level (on top of the human's extra free skill point). My character creation guide also included tips on which classes would fit my version of the AP and which wouldn't. Finally, I supplied some sort of skill ranking, listing which skills would be useful and which would be less so (e.g., we're going heavy on the roleplay, so social skills were a plus). A fourth player joined the campaign as we launched into the actual AP; he's playing a halfling.
There actually is a picture of Maidrayne Vox on page 30 of the Castles of the Inner Sea campaign setting, which is shown on her wiki as well. She looks very centaury, I'm afraid.
I've used several other modules to complement my campaign:
I do regret that The House on Hook Street will only appear in October, as I'll be starting Escape from Old Korvosa shortly and this scenario might make a nice addition to that adventure ... but I can't put my campaign on hold for five months waiting for the module. Too bad ...
10 Erastus 4708
On this radiant Sunday morning Sjo attends a service at the temple of the sun goddess, Sarenrae. Meanwhile Balian hangs around the Gray Maiden barracks on Eastshore. With Maiden guards at the gate, on the walls and in the towers of the walled complex, the ranger does not risk a look inside, but he clearly hears the sound of military training inside, even on a Sunday. The ranger makes a quick stop at Thief Camp as well: Cadabrani's men have been widening their search for Alika to the whole of Midland, but they have come up blank. Balian asks them to continue their efforts and pays the crimelord for another day.
While Quint spends one more day in the stables, Puk keeps an eye on the castle. No one goes shopping today, but at 11 o'clock a coach arrives with Archbanker Darb Tuttle and a handful of Abadarian guards. The highpriest of Abadar stays in the castle for about an hour and a half. Asking around, the halfling gathers that Tuttle comes here regularly, at least once a week. Actually, he has been doing so for years, even dating back to before Eodred met Ileosa. In the afternoon Puk follows up on Sirtane Leroung's progress. She claims to be close to a solution, but she is missing a crucial ingredient: blood cap mushrooms. This very rare fungus only grows in the Bloodsworn Vale. Puk agrees to travel there and gather toadstools for her.
At home the halfling brings his friends up to speed on their new quest. They search the books in the library for more information on the Bloodsworn Vale. Nestled between the lofty peaks of the Mindspin Mountains, the valley lies on an ancient road connecting Korvosa to Nirmathas. This once well-worn path used to serve as an overland route between the empire of Cheliax and its remote colonies in the north. The trail, however, fell into disuse after the death of Aroden and the ensuing civil war, during which Molthune and Nirmathas declared independence. The state of animosity between these fledgling countries and the old empire saw an end to merchants using this route for trade. A century of neglect has erased the road and allowed the woods and monsters to reclaim the vale.
The Bloodsworn Vale is named for the bloody battles that were fought there during the Everwar, Cheliax's war of expansion. It was the site of a large, months-long struggle in 4396 - over three centuries ago - between the Chelaxian army led by Field Marshal Korvosa and the defending Shoanti natives. Fields of blood-red roses are said to mark the graves of the many Shoanti barbarians and Chelaxian soldiers who laid down their lives in the conflict.
Balian actually knows the valley, as he travelled through it after he freed himself from slave duty in Cheliax and returned to Korvosa. Since he had served as a galley slave for over four years, the ranger swore not to travel north aboard a vessel, but rather on foot, thus choosing this forgotten itinerary. He remembers that the eerie sounds and morbid atmosphere of the vale greatly troubled him, but somehow he managed to get through undisturbed without running into any of the cruel monsters or hungry predators that supposedly hunt the place.
11-15 Erastus 4708
The next morning the companions prepare to travel to the Bloodsworn Vale. They buy supplies and warn the field marshal of their impending absence. A one-way trip should take five days, two days to reach the Mindspin Mountains and three more to traverse the treacherous mountain passes before arriving in the notorious valley. Balian visits Batista Cadabrani and pays him 1,000 gold to keep the search for Alika going while he's away. Quint will join his friends on this wilderness trip as well, so he has to make up an excuse to have Marcus miss his new job at the stables: he tells master Jacob that he's come down with the plague.
The first two days go smoothly and the companions reach the mountain range without difficulty. The old pass proves harder to travel; the heroes are forced to lead their horses by the bit. The road was once wide enough to allow for wagons, but now it is overgrown with weed and bushes or blocked by numerous landslides that no one has cleared in a hundred years.
9 Erastus 4708
Quint gets two rooms at an inn, one in his own name and the one next to it as Marcus. This place will serve as his place of operations during his undercover mission. This means he will have to miss out on the commune session, though. Puk, Sjo and Balian attend the morning service in the Cathedral of Pharasma. Afterwards they meet up with Archbishop d'Bear for the divination attempt.
"As I told your friend Sjo yesterday, you have come to the right place to ask your questions. Pharasma shepherds our world's recently-departed souls to their final reward. All have to stand before her throne in the Boneyard, to be judged. She alone decides where each of us will spend eternity. As goddess of life and death, she already foresees what our ultimate fate will be, which is why she is also the mother of prophecy. Still, she accepts that we all have room to shape our own destiny, which is why she reserves her ultimate judgement until we finally stand in front of her.
You have proven yourselves friends of the Lady of Graves, and as such you have deserved this favor of her. But since we are all free to shape our own lives, the Mother of Souls frowns upon divine interference, so she will bestow the honor of her insight upon you only once. I hope you came prepared, for your window of opportunity will close fast. Be ready, my friends, for you will not face the high one again until your day of judgement."
Keppira d'Bear raises her hands to the skies, takes a deep breath, closes her eyes and utters the holy words. All goes silent and it feels like the world around the companions disappears, leaving only the here and now. When the archbishop opens her eyes again, they are white and she speaks in a voice that is not her own.
"MORTALS, YOU HAVE COME TO ME FOR GUIDANCE. ASK AND I WILL ANSWER."
Sjo can't help but feel impressed and needs a little nudge from Puk to snap out of his wonderment: "Gulp ... my Lady, we are humbled in your presence ..."
"Ask the questions", Balian grumbles under his breath.
"Oh yes, my Lady, is Neolandus Kalepopolis, the seneschal of Korvosa, still alive?"
"Is he being held prisoner?"
"Are Kalepopolis and Blackjack the same person?"
"Is queen Ileosa Arvanxi a follower of Urgathoa?"
"Is the one who ordered the plague on Korvosa a member of an old Chelish noble house?"
"Is queen Ileosa involved in the murder of her husband Eodred Arabasti?"
"Are there members of the Red Mantis assassins present in Korvosa at the moment?"
"Are there Red Mantis assassins in the Castle?"
"Was the Red Mantis contacted by Ileosa or someone of her entourage?"
"Was the initiative to contact the Red Mantis taken by Ileosa?"
"Is the queen being misled by one of her advisors?"
"Are Rolth the necromancer and Balian's sister Alika still in Korvosa?"
"Did the artists Lucian Lycan, Guy Nolin and Archibald Meerwater die because of a shift in the pantheon?"
Keppira closes her eyes again, releases a deep sigh and lowers her head. When she looks up again, she is trembling. "I have not performed this ritual often," she breathes, "it is the most wonderful paradox you can imagine, to feel the wisdom of the goddess flow through your veins, but our simple mortal coils were not meant for such wonders, so it leaves me exhausted and wanting at the same time. So strange, like a drug addicted drug addiction. You must excuse me, I must rest. I hope you found what you were looking for."
Meanwhile Quint has made sure to arrive at master Jacob's at sunrise, disguised as Marcus from Old Korvosa. The head of the castle's stables puts him to work immediately, helping to muck out the horses' stalls alongside the two boys he saw here yesterday: Wade and Pip. Although Wade is the older of the two, it quickly becomes clear that Pip is the smarter one. The twelve-year old boy is very helpful and tells Quint what to do. "Cleaning up horse manure is not a difficult job, as long as you are willing to get your hands dirty", the boy teases. "Or you can just be smart about it and use a pitchfork", he laughs, while showing the newcomer how to swoop up the wet and dirty bedding while leaving the clean stuff on the floor. "All horses are different", he explains, "it gets easier once you get to know them. Just make sure to be thorough, or it'll be twice as hard to clean up tomorrow." Afterwards he also teaches Quint how to empty the wheelbarrow in a large cart. "You'll have to take that out of the city later, with Curtis", he says.
Quint really digs in and makes an excellent impression on the boy. In the meantime he learns who else works in the royal stables. Old Docus is an experienced horse trainer who hails from the breeders in Harse. His sight has diminished greatly with old age, but he knows his way around the stables blindly. He walks the animals in the yard with the aid of Billy and Bowen, twin brothers who are about Quint's age. They were hired four years ago by king Eodred himself after their father, who was a hippogriff rider in the Sable Company, lost his life in the line of duty. Quint also meets Ron again, the man who took the cook and the servant girl to the market yesterday. Ron is new at this job, since Greg, the old driver died of the plague.
When the stalls have been cleaned, Quint joins Curtis Kortval on a trip outside the city to get rid of the manure. Curtis turns out to be a hard worker, although he complains a lot. Apart from Greg, two more of his colleagues lost their battle to the plague, Matt and Kirk. Three others are still out sick, Porter, Ekkels and the only girl who works with them, master Jacob's own daughter Red Lisa. So everyone has had to step up to take over their chores. Curtis can also give Quint some insight on who works at the castle. Most of them are women, like Karina the cook and Mikki the kitchen help. There are also a number of cleaning ladies. The only male servants are Jorn, the simpleton who has to do the heavy lifting, and Scotty, the gnome handyman who's in charge of the repairs. Jacob's lads, as the stables workers are often referred to, were allowed into the castle on rare occasions, for example to celebrate a holiday with the other servants there, but they haven't been inside the palace since king Eodred took ill and died. Curtis has never met the queen's new advisor, but he knows the man's name: Togomor.
In the villa Puk tries his hand again at reading, but he quickly gets bored and heads off to the market instead to check out Hedge Wizardry, a shop that specializes in alchemy. Since he saw what alchemists like doctor Saulus or Sirtane Leroung are capable of, he's developed a bit of an interest in the matter. Phaeton Skoda, the shop owner, shows the halfling interesting goods that might be of use in his adventures, like smokesticks, sunrods or thunderstones. The small rogue is most intrigued by alchemist's fire, some kind of splash bomb, and the tanglefoot bag, which can be used to glue down people to the floor.
Afterwards the halfling swings by Sirtane Leroung's laboratory. She claims to be making good progress on the cure, but she hasn't had time to investigate the blood sample yet. She'll only be able to do that when the crisis has been conquered.
At noon Balian slips off to Thief Camp again, to get an update on the search for his sister. Mob leader Batista Cadabrani tells him that his men have been searching around Westdock , the harbor ward where the Hospice of the Blessed was located, but they have found no trace of the necromancer Rolth or his dark-haired companion. With a deep sigh and a long silence Balian expresses his malcontent at the lack of progress. Batista explains that Rolth has evaded the law for over a decade, so the ranger should not expect him to be found easily. In the end Balian puts up the money for another day and takes his leave.
After lunch Sjo, Balian and Puk head over to the Theumanexus college, where the gnome headmaster merrily greets them. Sjo gravely explains that his scrying attempt will have to be done with the utmost discretion: no one can know who he scried on or which information the results of his attempts yielded. Geezlebottle promises to keep it all a secret. Then Sjo reveals the name of the first target: Neolandus Kalepopolis, who - he assures - is still alive. Since the gnome has never met the seneschal in person, he asks for a personal item that used to belong to the man in question, to facilitate his scrying, but the companions have nothing to offer him. Slightly disappointed the gnome weaves his hand over a bowl of murky water and starts mumbling the words of a spell. Puk picks up the name Neolandus Kalepopolis in the otherwise incomprehensible string of words. After a few seconds the wizard looks up: "I feared this would happen, my attempt did not succeed, I'm sorry. Maybe the target resisted my spell or he might also be protected from this kind of magic, I don't know. In either case, it's no use trying again today, it won't work anymore. Who would you like to spend the second scrying on, good sirs?"
Balian asks him to scry on his sister Alika. Fortunately he has a personal item of hers to increase the chances of success: the little wooden dolls she made of herself and her brother as children. Geezlebottle says that this will be of great help. Again he does the incantation and this time he remains concentrated much longer, although the companions see nothing in the water. When the wizard finally opens his eyes again, he confirms that this time his attempt met with success. He saw a pretty black-haired girl, dressed in leather armor, sitting at a table with a skinny, blotchy man - clearly Rolth - and another thuglike individual. Geezlebottle's magic does not reveal any clue on her location, however. Sjo pays the small magic-user and takes his friends back to the villa.
In the evening Quint joins them as well. He gives them a full report on what he found out. The queen's advisor Togomor apparently is a professor at the Acadamae, the head of the transmutation department. If the rumors are true, he should be a quite powerful individual. Sjo also informs Quint on the scrying and commune attempts. The friends discuss the divine answers to their questions until late at night.
Meanwhile at the Castle, Quint has been watching the grand stairs leading up the pyramid. Four Gray Maidens stand guard at its foot. By half past nine the doors of a nearby building, just left of the stairs, open and a strapping young man, about Quint's age, leads out a horse and cart. He seems familiar with the animal and talks to it soothingly while staring up the stairs to a small group of people coming down. A middle-aged woman and a young girl, who looks no older than fifteen, are accompanied by four Maidens. The girl waves vigorously at the young man and allows herself to be helped on the box. She fakes having trouble getting up, so the man has to lift her. She clearly enjoys the attention. The driver also aids the other woman take a seat before he sits down himself and gently urges the horse to move. The four Gray Maiden fall in line behind the wagon and follow it to the east.
Quint pursues the wagon from a safe distance to the market. The middle-aged lady buys all kinds of supplies, enough to feed at least two dozen people easily. The merchants greet her kindly and allow her to cut in line. The goods she requires are already waiting for her and while she pays and specifies what she'll be needing tomorrow, the merchants' helpers load the merchandise in the wagon. The whole process runs very smoothly and Quint sees no opportunity to interfere without raising suspicion. He does learn the woman's name, as the merchants address her as Mrs. Karina. The young girl remains at her side at all times and while they're buying meat, the butcher hands her an extra piece of sausage and calls her Mikki. The man is obviously charmed by the lass and again she seems to welcome the attention with a warm smile.
Quint then decides to try and approach the driver while he's waiting, but the Gray Maidens step up immediately and urge him to move along. Perhaps he'll have better luck at the stables, where at least there are no annoying Maidens around.
When the shopping is done, the wagon returns to the castle, where a broad-shouldered, but simple-looking man is already waiting for it to arrive. He picks up a heavy basket and joins the four guards and the two women up the stairs to the castle. The man comes back two times more to carry up the rest. Next the driver takes the wagon back to the stables.
In the streets at the foot of the pyramid Quint addresses a woman who also looks like she's just returning from the market. She puts her basket on the ground and reaches for her keys to open the door.
"I"m sorry, ma'am, I just noticed a sweet little dog around the corner. It looked well cared for ... white, with a long fur and a face like a fox. It can't have been a stray, but its owner was not around. Maybe it slipped out of the house or something. You wouldn't happen to know who owns such a pet?"
"A white dog, you say? Sorry, I can't help you there. No one around here owns such an animal." The woman pushes her door open and reaches for her basket.
"Are you okay with the groceries, ma'am? Too bad you don't have a strong man to help you carry your things, like that fellow I just saw on the steps of the castle. He seemed like a friendly chap, though not too bright."
"Well, we can't all be queens, can we? That Jorn fellow is indeed somewhat of a simpleton, but he's a good boy. He's been working there for as long as I can remember.
"Like part of the furniture?" Quint laughs. "Do you know if they're hiring people up there? I'm actually from Old Korvosa, but ever since the quarantine I've been locked out. I can't go home and I can't do my job. It doesn't look like I'll be able to get back any time soon, so I'll have to find something to earn a living in the meantime."
"Oh no, poor boy, here ... have some of my bread."
Quint refuses to take the loaf: "That's not what I mean ma'am. I have a few coppers left, I don't need a pittance. My mum didn't raise me to be a beggar. I want to work for my money and make an honest living. Such a big castle always needs people, doesn't it?"
"Well, it's mainly women, up there. This Jorn fellow is an exception because he's been there for so long. The men work down here, in the stable with Master Jacob."
"Aha, I might give him a try, then. Thanks for the tip, ma'am. I wish you a wonderful day."
"That very kind of you, young man. I wish you the same." At that the woman goes inside.
Quint keeps an eye on the castle for the rest of the day. At two o'clock two dozen Gray Maidens arrive from the east and go up the stairs. Fifteen minutes later the same number of female warriors comes down again. Four of them relieve the sentries at the foot of the stairs, while the others leave again. Quint follows them over the High Bridge into the East Shore district, at the other side of the river. They enter a walled complex just across the water. So these are the Maidens' barracks, good to know.
Sjo is still working on finding out whether seneschal Kalepopolis is still alive. He decides to check with archbishop Keppira d'Bear herself at the temple of Pharasma to find out if she can help him. She confirms his suspicion that high level priests have an excellent spell for just such a purpose: commune. With this magic she can contact her deity and ask a number of questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. She is not surprised that brother Cedrik did not know about this spell; he was always better at keeping the books than at weaving magic, as his tragic mishap under the mortuary clearly illustrated. Keppira d'Bear is also the only priest in her church who masters this level of complexity. While she dislikes the fact that she would have to give up a spell that might cure another plague victim, she does agree that Pharasma is the prime authority on life and death. If Sjo can offer some relief for her cure-wasting guilt, she'd be willing to pray for a commune spell tomorrow. She also explains that he has to prepare his questions carefully. The magic allows her only a short time to ask about a dozen things, wasting these precious seconds to come up with new questions is not an option. Sjo freely offers one of his wands of remove disease - the one with 11 charges left - to d'Bear as compensation, which she gladly accepts.
Puk decides to dive into the villa's library. He is quite ambitious, putting one book on top of the other, he wants to make a pile as high as he is and read that! Still, looking at all those books, he realizes that he'd better start with some light reading and takes a small book on halflings in Korvosa. Perfect! Now he can find out which other famous kinsmen were here before him. It turns out that the history of famous halflings still has to be written. The book details how the Leroung family uses ships with halfling crews, who are lighter and take up less space than human sailors, so the ships can carry more goods and turn in a bigger profit. So the chronicles of the smallfolk in the city limit themselves to servants and workers. Even the most 'famous' halfling in Korvosa was once a servant. Old Orkatto, the owner of Orkatto's Feathers and Furs, used to serve a lord in Magnimar as his master of the hunt. The country squire saved his coppers well and retired to Korvosa to set up a shop in exotic pets. His caged wonders go from rainbow-plumed songbirds and snowdust badgers to emerald-back nightbelly boas and even the odd dream spider. Apparently, the shop is in South Shore, quite close to the villa.
Later that day Balian sneaks off on a private mission. He remembers the Sczarni thugs who attacked him and his friends when they were in Path's End for the first time. Back then his party was no match for these gangsters and needed Grau Soldado's help to escape, but the ranger's skill has grown considerably since that time and now he feels confident that he can handle a little trip to Thief Camp by himself. He does take Spyder along, just in case things come to blows and he needs a flanking partner. His goal is to find the Scarni's godfather, a man called Batista Cadabrani, and enlist his help in tracking down his sister Alika. Being a fellow Varisian, Balian hopes that these Sczarni will agree to sell him their services. After all, the Sczarni are notorious for standing up for Varisian rights and punishing the Chelaxians on their high horses.
Located just outside the city walls beyond Dwarfwalk Gate is the shantytown Thief Camp. Balian notices that the poor people here have not been spared from the plague: there are crosses on several doors and a dozen dead rats and people lie by the road, ready to be carried off. Balian spots a few local thugs and approaches them without showing any hesitation: "I want to meet with Batista Cadabrani. Take me to him", he calmly speaks.
The biggest gang member mocks the ranger: "And who is this little mouse in a rats' nest? It looks like you need an urgent lesson in humility!"
Balian sighs and holds his head at an angle. "I bet I can take you down without even taking my hands out of my pockets", he claims. The man fumes and reaches for his club, but Balian simply whistles for Spyder to jump at the brute. A few breaths later the man is squirming on the ground, bleeding from several bites, begging for mercy. Balian calls off his canine and repeats his request to see Cadabrani.
The ranger is guided into one of the bigger stone houses, where an older man is cutting onions at a table. He's wearing a black brimmed hat and his gaunt face sports a shade of gray stubble. Despite the sting of onion in the air his eyes show no sign of tears. "Do you like onion soup, Varisian?" he asks. "It stimulates the bowels. When you get my age, not everything runs as smoothly as you'd like anymore, just like my men in the street. They seem to be having a hard time as well keeping things in hand. Sit down and tell me why you're here."
Balian explains that his sister has disappeared and that she was last seen in the company of Rolth the necromancer. Batista concurs that this Rolth character is like an eel, slippery and repulsive at the same time. He is also extremely hard to track down. Finding someone who is with him will prove very hard. Such a service will be expensive. Batista wants 100 gold sails per day for sending his men out to look for her and an extra 1,000 gold if they locate her. The payment for the daily search has to be paid in advance. If the money stops, so does the search. Balian stipulates that Alika has to remain unharmed or consequences will be dire. He also demands a daily report. "Do not try to con me, old man, or you'll pay the price that so many have paid who tried to cross me. I'll return shortly with the money."
As Sjo controls the group's income, Balian has no personal money to speak of. Asking his Shoanti friend is not an option, since the righteous healer might not agree to hiring an underworld gang to do some shady work. Selling one of his magic items looks like the only alternative. Fortunately he has just the item: Lady Andaisin's headband of inspired wisdom. The temple of Pharasma would definitely be interested in such an item, but Balian doubts if they will be discreet about it, so he visits a merchant who will do anything to make a profit, including keeping quiet: Diederik Lodann. Lodann was the merchant-actor who played alongside the companions in The Passion of Saint Alika, portraying the seer's father. Balian secures a neat 2,000 gold sails for the headband and negotiates a buy-back option within ten days for a 10 % increase.
With two bags of 100 platinum pieces Balian returns to Batista to seal the deal. He pays the gangster his first 100 gold and expects a detailed report tomorrow of what his money has bought him. "Of course, my dear Balian, for a Varisian hero like you, we will certainly do our best", Batista smiles. Although it sounds like a compliment, Balian senses that the old man wanted him to know that he already figured out who he was in this short time span. Well, at least this proves that the man has resources to gather information, but Balian will have to watch his step around him.
Concluding that he has done enough reading for the day, Puk sets out again to check the quarantine situation of Old Korvosa. Since halflings in Korvosa are considered simple workers or servants, no one notices the small rogue, who also uses his skill to blend into the shadows to remain unseen. The Narrows of Saint Alika, as the channel of water between the mainland and Endrin Isle (the actual name of the island on which harbors the district of Old Korvosa) is called, is mostly obscured from view by sturdy city walls that line the northern coast of the mainland. The many gates in the wall, which used to lead to the 20 or so wooden bridges over the Narrows, have all been closed, and the bridges behind them burned. A score of Gray maidens man the walls.
The only 'breach' in the wall is where the stone bridge crosses the channel. The opening has been thoroughly barricaded and is also heavily guarded. Peeking over the blockade, Puk notices several skiffs in the water with even more Maidens, who are guarding both the Narrows and the mouth of the Jeggare river on the other side of the Isle. In all, the security of Endrin Island seems pretty tight. Puk counts at least five dozen Gray Maidens. The halfling also gets a glimpse of the district on the far end of the bridge. Old Korvosa looks desolate; several buildings have been vandalized or burned and no one dares to show himself so close to the deadly guards on the bridge. The most gruesome discovery is the fact that the protestors who were killed when the bridge was closed, are still on the ground Their cadavers have been left to rot. This sight makes the halfling sick to the stomach. He can only pray that his appetite returns by the time he gets back to the villa, since he left a note for the boys: "Days in Korvosa always get me hungry, mountain man scale!"
Quint spends the rest of the afternoon spying on the castle, where nothing happens until early in the evening. Three hippogryphs carrying Sable Company marines land on the castle's terrace. From his vantage point in the street Quint can't make out what they do. Half an hour later they fly off again.
When the sun starts sinking towards the horizon Quint decides to take his chances at the stables. He addresses two boys who are filling troughs with water. "I beg your pardon, friends," he says, "I'm looking for master Jacob." One of the lads runs off and quickly returns with strapping man, who looks about 45. "You wanted to see me, good sir?"
"Good evening, master Jacob. My name is Marcus. I live in Old-Korvosa, or at least I used to, before the quarantine." Quint produces a sad puppy look on his face. "I'm actually looking for a job on the mainland and some of the neighbors told me to talk to you. Could you use an extra pair of hands around the stables? Or somewhere else, I'm flexible and I'm a hard worker ... I don't ask for much ... just enough to get by, you know."
"Well, I am actually short a few hands at the moment. I lost three of my men to the plague and three more are in the hospital. I can't promise you it'll be forever, but for now I could definitely use the help. Why don't you come back tomorrow, at sunset? We'll give it a try ..."
"That would be great, sir ... or should I call you master?"
"Master Jacob is fine. I'll see you tomorrow, Marcus. Don't be late. I run a tight shift."
"I'll be there, sir ... erh, master Jacob. You can count on me." Quint makes an awkward bow and walks out. That went well. Satisfied he returns to the villa.
With a couple of days off, the PCs are free to pursue some of their personal quests. We're playing this mostly ad lib, as I've found that my players want to use every moment that is available to them. In order not to waste too many sessions on this at the gaming table and also to allow me some extra time to come up with a coherent response and check all my resources, I've decided to play out part of this by mail. The following report is the result of these mails.
Stuff about Hangman's Noose
I agree with Haladir that you could pull off this module in a ten hour session. The adventure is fantastic, it runs smoothly and while the PCs are looking for clues at the site, several NPCs get picked off one by one. Still, the encounters and fights are short and can be played at a good pace.
Two things though:
8 Erastus 4708
The next morning Sjo pays his girlfriend Larella a visit in the medic force hospital ,which is overflowing with the extra patients who were brought over from the Hospice of the Blessed Maiden. He helps out for a while, taking care of the many sick.
Quint has set his mind on infiltrating the castle as a servant and decides to stake out the place for a couple of days to get a picture of the every-day comings and goings at the palace. He dresses up as a commoner and hangs around Castle Korvosa for the rest of the day.
Meanwhile his friends head over to the temple of Pharasma to sell off some of the loot they found. Brother Cedrik, the priest they saved from the undead in the catacombs under the mortuary, is the acting accountant they have to deal with. Sjo asks him if anyone in the temple would be able to find out if a certain person has already passed through Pharasma's Boneyard or not. Cedric is no expert on the matter, but says that the Lady of Graves is not known for sharing such knowledge with mortals. Strange as it may seem, divination is much more the domain of wizards than priests, especially if you have specialists on the subject. The Acadamae definitely has an accomplished diviner, as every school of magic is taught there by an experienced professor. Of course, the Acadamae has never had an open-door policy and since the death of the king they have secluded themselves even more from Korvosan society than before. So getting in touch with this person might prove very challenging. Sjo uses some of the new funds to pay off last month's tax debts and buys two magical bucklers for Quint and himself. He also gets a potion of remove blindness for the next time Puk gets robbed of his sight. Better safe than sorry, he figures.
At the university of Korvosa, alchemist Sirtane Leroung is still working on a cure for the plague. She is very hopeful: the books and notes which the party brought her from the temple of Urgathoa, prove a big help in her research, even though they do not mention a remedy as such. She is also performing tests with the immune Varisians' blood. Puk pulls out the vial he filled with Nesia's blood last night and asks professor Leroung to take a look at that too when she has the time. He does not tell her where it comes from, though. Sirtane says that her priorities lie with the cure for now, so it may take a while before she can spare a moment, but when she does, she will be glad to examine the blood. She also refers the companions to Tepest Geezlebottle, the gnome professor and headmaster of Theumanexus College, Korvosa's smaller school of wizardry, for advice on divinations.
Puk, Sjo and Balian make a quick stop at the Citadel and ask Field Marshal Kroft to have a wanted poster made for Rolth. They agree to put up the reward money of 1,000 GP if the necromancer is brought in alive. Afterwards they head to Geezlebottle's school. The gnome wizard is no master of divination, explaining that the most efficient spell to get an answer to the question if someone is still alive, is contact other plane, but such powerful magic comes at a high risk: the wielder of this magic runs a substantial chance of losing his mind for a couple of weeks, the worst fate a magician can suffer. Moreover, Geezlebottle does not know this spell, as far as he knows, only Norva Allesain, the head of the divination ward in the Acadamae, does. The gnome does master the art of scrying, which might indirectly prove that someone is still alive. He agrees to study two of these spells for tomorrow.
Upon returning to the villa, the companions find that Madam Nesia's condition has grown worse. She is delirious, suffering from high fever and hardly aware of her surroundings. Our friends decide to summon Zellara's ghost from the Harrow deck to consult her. Maybe she can find out if the girl is cursed. The ethereal gypsy bends over the sick woman and holds her hands over her head and body, sinking into an intense trance. Her face betrays the effort it costs her and Balian is sure he sees drops of sweat dripping down her ghostly face. After what seems like an eternity Zellara gets up again, obviously exhausted. She states that she has trouble finding the poor girl's soul.
"Does that imply that she has no soul?" Quint wonders.
"There is something there," Zellara replies, "but it keeps slipping out of my reach."
Having heard stories of people who sell their souls to devils, Sjo immediately suspects the church of Asmodeus to be involved. Balian suggests to take the girl there and have the priests of the Prince of Hell look at her. It might be risky, but it seems like the most direct route to an answer. The others agree and prepare the carriage to transport Nesia across town. However, when they try to lift her from the sofa, her arm bruises badly from the slightest touch. Using the sheet on which she lying instead to carry her, the party gets her to the coach and takes her to the steps of the Archfiend's house.
Sjo knocks on the door and is met by Mallas, the highpriest's grim personal bodyguard. The stern warrior does not feel inclined to help the Shoanti who once came to the temple as an aspiring acolyte and then betrayed this 'contract' by turning his back on the Lord of Oaths. It takes some convincing until he finally agrees to let them in. The heroes gently place Nesia on the altar, which is conveniently shaped to support a person's body, and wait for highpriest Reebs to arrive. Reebs does not understand why the party brings him a sick girl, he is not the city's prime authority on healing and his contract with the medic task force - which the companions helped negotiate - has already cost him all of his healing magic for the day. Sjo explains that they are not here for his medical expertise, but rather for his extensive knowledge on the nature of souls.
When Ornher Reebs turns towards the girl Sjo detects a hint of surprise on his face, which the man quickly hides. He gives her a fairly shallow look-over while Quint explains how they found the girl in the street, devoid of any memory. Reebs looks at the companions and chuckles. "She's naught but an empty shell", he claims. "Just take a dagger and prick her with it".
Puk draws his blade and carefully sticks the point in Nesia's upper arm, where the bruises are. Blood pours profusely from the tiny wound, while the girl starts shaking badly. Her body jerks upward in a sudden, spastic motion and completely turns into blood. The fluid spatters the bystanders and falls down on the altar and floor, leaving no trace of any person: no body, no bones, no skin, nothing but blood. The companions are flabbergasted and even Ornher Reebs regards the spectacle with a shocked look in his eyes.
"Well, that is a new experience, all right," the highpriest utters, breaking the silence. It is obvious that he's never seen anything like this either. Quint's mind races to find an answer: Was Nesia ever human? Maybe she was some kind of simulacrum, a copy of someone else, although those are normally made of snow and ice, not blood. Reebs claims not to be familiar with the concept of blood clones, but supposes that it could be possible. Of course, this might mean that the original version of Nesia is still around somewhere. Puk takes a bit of the blood for later examination and the companions leave after making a contribution to the temple's coffers of 50 gold pieces - which Mallas finds insultingly low.
Before turning in for the night, the young heroes get the sole surviving plague doctor from the old fishery and hand him over into the custody of the Sable Company.
So, community manager and - judging by your drawing - a nice artist to boot ... color me impressed. It truly is an honor. It fills me with a warm feeling to know we now have a guardian angel watching over us. Congrats to Paizo for its successful boards and congrats to you for landing this wonderful responsibility.
Nice to see that you also integrated Trinia's trial into your actual game. I think that the AP as written misses out on some nice scenes by leaving something like this out. Okay, granted, in my game the PCs were simply spectators at the trial, so their interaction was limited to observing and making perception and sense motive checks. But even so, it is an important point in the story, so I preferred to have my PCs present.
The same goes for the opening scene of book 3, with the confrontation between the queen and commander Endrin. I'm planning to have my PCs witness that as well. Key moments should be in the game if they can.
“Uh, yeah Paizo, I kinda didn’t like your AP, so I basically rewrote the whole thing . . .”
In my book rethinking, reworking and rewriting an adventure is a sign of respect; it means you like the scenario very much, but you want to adjust it to your personal taste and the playing style of your group. There is nothing wrong with that.
That being said, you did manage to turn the deadwarrens into truly deadly warrens. I loved the markings and the signs the derro left for the PCs. It adds an element of humor, while it shows at the same time that your dungeon is dynamic, not static. Very well played, sir.
Well, cap'n, for someone who lives in the past like you, it shouldn't be a problem answering an ancient question, now should it? Lol, no seriously, these boards still get used by people who are playing the AP right now and who have certain questions, so there you'll find the merit in answering really old questions.
And there is also the having fun and going nuts part, of course ...
The sun is already rising over the horizon when the companions finally get home. The kids greet them enthusiastically and want to know everything that happened, but Sjo just tells them that he and his friends have completed their mission successfully and want to go to bed. The Shoanti quietly sneaks into his bedroom, where Madam Nesia is sleeping in the other bed. He noticed that her breathing is heavy and she's coughing. The tall healer puts his hand on her forehead and feels that she has a temperature. He pulls out his wand of remove disease and heals the ailing woman without waking her up. When her breathing eases, the weary warrior quickly slips between his own sheets for a couple of hours of overdue rest.
Our young friends get up in the afternoon, slightly surprised that no one came to get them out of their beds to ask them about their deeds last night. Madam Nesia is still sick, despite the fact that Sjo was sure he cured her last night. Her eyes are red and she is feverish. Sjo examines her and comes to the conclusion that she is not suffering from the plague. He wonders if she might be cursed and shares his concerns with the others.
After a hearty meal the companions head over to the temple of Sarenrae to get Puk's blindness removed. There they learn that the patients of the hospice of the Blessed Maiden are all being moved to the hospital of the medic temple task force, after the Queen's physicians have been exposed as traitors who were spreading the plague in the name of Urgathoa. Fortunately the Gray Maidens discovered this deception and took care of the problem, permanently! Quint is shocked by these rumors: so now the Gray Maidens, who were foolish enough to let themselves be tricked by the doctors, think they can steal the glory of solving the problem?!? And no one even thought it necessary to consult the true heroes about this fabricated story?!? Quint is quite upset and wants to confront the Gray Maidens, but Sjo convinces him to go to Kroft first. After all, Puk figures, if the companions want to keep a low profile, this story is the perfect cover. It wouldn't be smart to shout all over town that they are the ones who really cleared the Urgathoan temple of its cultists. Those Red Mantis assassins might still be out there and it wouldn't be wise to call too much attention to themselves, the rogue explains. Field Marshal Kroft already knows the truth, so talking to her might be smarter. Perhaps she can shed some light on the Maidens' motive behind this lie.
In the Citadel Quint first apologizes for his outburst this morning, when he accused the Field Marshal of - unknowingly - aiding the enemy. Kroft is happy that he is not angry at her anymore, but says that he was right: she feels bad about the Guard's involvement in the physicians' foul plans. When the bard asks her about the reasons why the Gray Maidens want to claim the honor of clearing the temple of Urgathoa, Kroft replies that she was not consulted in that decision either - she is never consulted anymore; she is just told what to do. If she has to guess, she would say that the Maidens feel ashamed as well for assisting the cultists in spreading the plague, so maybe they want to make up for their mistake in the eye of the public by claiming to be the saviors who solved the problem. Kroft and her guards who were present at the Hospice this morning, have been ordered to keep quiet about the true heroes' involvment.
Quint starts wondering who is behind all these evil schemes. The list of possible suspects is just too long. Is Ileosa herself evil? If she wanted the throne for herself, she could be responsible for having Eodred killed, but why would she kill off half her subjects by ordering a plague to be brought down on Korvosa? Sjo utters the possibility that she is an Urgathoa fanatic herself. Or is Sabina Merrin corrupted? As commander of the Gray Maidens she has certainly moved her own troops into a position of power. Maybe one of the noble families is involved: they killed the king, hoping his queen would prove incompetent and one of them might step up to take the empty throne. Or are the banished Porphyria's engineering a return to Korvosa and its highest seat?
According to Kroft Ileosa also has a new advisor, a wizard from the Acadamae. Is he the puppeteer who controls the queen and her entourage, possibly working in the service of the Ornelos family? And what is Selena's role in all of this? The manipulator has always claimed that the queen is evil and that she is working for someone who wants to save Korvosa. There are so many options. One thing is sure, someone in the castle has been compromised. They worked with the doctors, allowing them inside the castle and then making up some story that the physicians were teleported in from Cheliax. Still this knowledge makes reporting to the castle a risky venture. How can you figure out what goes on in the castle without being in the eye of the traitor? Field marshal Kroft says that this has always been the task of the seneschal, but with Kalepopolis gone, there is no one to keep an eye on things. She could possibly get an audience with the queen herself if she insisted, but what would be her goal? She could never find out anything about the traitor without raising suspicion. Maybe commander Endrin of the Sable Company could be of more help, since the seneschal always comes from his ranks. Moreover, the Company is not tied down by the Gray Maidens as the Korvosan Guard is and Commander Endrin has been known to question the castle's recent politics before.
The companions decide to pay the commander a visit. Sjo is still welcomed in the Great Tower with open arms and immediately gets an audience with Marcus Endrin. The commander is pleased to see the Shoanti and thanks him for saving his stable boy Dalvun last night, but he is also baffled by the Gray Maidens' claim that they cleared the Urgathoan temple. Still, just like the young heroes, he cannot tell whether this Gray Maiden lie is inspired by treachery or a feeble attempt to mask their own incompetence. Sjo comes clean and informs the commander of everything he and his friends found out over the last couple of months. He also presents the commander with the evidence they uncovered: the Red Mantis letters to Doctor Devils, ordering him to first concoct a poison for the king and then to bring down the plague on Korvosa. Endrin is definitely on the same page as his visitors. He has no love for the queen, fearing that she is the evil behind all of Korvosa's recent trouble, and even if she is not, she allows herself to be manipulated, which also makes her incompetent to rule. If only the seneschal were here to take control: he could remove the monarch from power to regain control of the city and weed out the evil at its heart. Endrin has pleaded for a new seneschal before, but his request has been countered with the uncertainty of the last seneschal's fate. Is Kalepopolis really dead or is he still alive, and if so, where is he? Quint and Sjo wonder if his fate could be determined magically? The commander encourages them to enlist the help of one of the temples and try to find out. He will also resume his efforts to see the seneschal replaced with a new Sable Company man. First he will appeal to the queen herself to install a new seneschal and if she refuses, the council of nobles could enforce it. Quint fears that a new seneschal might quickly be manipulated himself by the evil force in the castle, but the commander argues that this new seneschal could act immediately. He feels that there is enough evidence to remove the monarch from power, permanently of temporarily, to regain control of the situation. Quint doubts that this law-abiding approach will succeed, but cannot offer a better alternative. He and his friends will continue their efforts to find out more while the commander exhausts all legal ways to see order restored. The two parties agree to keep each other informed of their progress.
Lictor Pat wrote:
I have a player with a Shoanti character whose long-term goal is to lead the sklar quah. I was thinking of having Illeosa wage a war on the shoanti (I already have her committing genocide within the city since it helped get the Shoanti interested in city politics.) ... This would allow me to have my player unite the tribes after scarwall and drive her army from the plateau. Thanks in advance.
Of course, there is nothing for Ileosa on the Storval Plateau: the land is barren, the Shoanti have no cities, they are nomads who can move around easily in a seemingly endless wasteland. It is also hot and dry on the plateau, which would make traveling and fighting in full plate very difficult. So I guess sending her army to the Cinderlands can only end in disaster for the queen. This would also leave her vulnerable in Korvosa. She might be mad, but she's not stupid, so this is not the way I'd have her go.
If you want your player to unite the Shoanti tribes, I'd turn these war plans around. Although the AP as written does not elaborate on the theme, it does suggest that the Shoanti are gathering for war. I'll be using this element myself in my campaign, but in my case the PCs will have to convince the Shoanti to delay their war plans to give them the opportunity to take out the queen and retrieve the evil artifact before descending into a bloodbath. Depending on how well the PCs do that, the Shoanti will give them some extra time to end the AP before they lay waste to Korvosa (of course the 'defenseless' countryside will be the first to go, which will make a lot of innocent victims). This could be a motive for your PC to unite the tribes; you could also have the PC lead the tribes into Korvosa and to the gates of the city to threaten Ileosa. Your party could still choose to go in and follow the sixth installment of the AP, moving into the castle to take care of Ileosa without their army joining them. It is better to just cut off the head of the snake instead of sending hundreds or even thousands to their graves in an open war.
Very compelling story so far. I'M a bit confused about Lamm's motives, though. Why was he doing all of this again?
In my campaign the chaos in book one is the result of Glorio Arkona's actions. Using a number of bardic rabble-rousers, the nobleman undermined the young queen's authority until the PCs managed to restore it by thwarting his plans and boosting the queen's popularity in the city. The PCs still don't know that Arkona was behind it all, but when they'll meet him again in book 3, he'll tell them he was right all along in opposing the queen - and that actually the PCs were wrong in defending her. He'll offer to cooperate, but he doesn't really need the party, even fears they might spoil his future plans (to become king) and he's still mad at them for their earlier interference, so he'll make up an excuse to send them into his labyrinth to die. Should they survive, they might prove valuable as allies after all ... (A little sidenote, in my campaign Glorio Arkona is the real Arkona and not the imposer from Vudra, thus his claim for the throne as the head of one of Korvosa's most prominent families is actually justified.)
Jason S wrote:
I'm with you on this one, Jason, I really like it, but there's no way I'd do it myself.
Another thing I really like about this blog, is the fact that a regular group of players introduces itself. I'd like to see that more often.
The material as written names a number of noble families, but suggests that there are even more lesser houses which are not mentioned by name.
Apart from the king's house (Arabasti) there are officially five great houses: Arkona, Jeggare, Leroung, Ornelos and Zenderholm.
Other houses mentioned are Bromathan, Endrin, Carowyn, Fordyce and Jalento (and most likely Kroft, although it is never officially labeled a noble house). I'm not sure, but the Fencing Master web fiction might have some extra names as well.
This thread might also hold some information you like.
In general, the information on the noble houses is quite vague, giving you the opportunity to develop it as you see fit. In my campaign there are seven great houses (Endrin and Bromathan plus the five official ones). Carowyn, Fordyce and Jalento are the small houses. I've limited it to these. The PCs have mingled with all of them, they've been to the council at the castle with the seven great houses, they've been to parties, they've performed for the nobles, they've assisted Lady Zenderholm in a personal quest and they've saved the nobles' children at the Carowyn party. You can read all about it in my journal on these boards.
In my campaign House Arkona is not made up of raksasha's, they are the real Arkona's (although I made them tieflings to add a touch of the exotic). Glorio Arkona is behind the chaos in the first part of the AP, using some agents to incite rebellion in the streets. His objective is to prove that the queen is incapable of ruling and take her place as king of Korvosa. By the second installment the queen is in full control of the city (with the help of the PCs) and the plague keeps Arkona occupied, so his role fades to the background, until he offers the PCs the chance to cooperate in opposing the queen in adventure number three (which is still in my campaign's future). When the AP is done, I'm planning a follow-up adventure in which Glorio Arkona will try to seize the throne. He'll find a competitor in Aaron Endrin and hopefully in one of the PCs, since I'm setting one of them up to be Eodred's son.
Anyway, like you I like using the noble houses more. They do not get much prime time in the AP as written, but you can certainly find ways to involve them more. If you develop some noble plots, I would definitely like to hear about them.
The companions tie up Lady Andaisin and leave her in the room leading up to the sanctuary, with the green alchemic vats and the dead leukodaemon. Then they return to the cell block - where Rolth, Saulus and Alika are still locked up - letting the boy and girl they rescued earlier know that the priestess and her minions down here are all dead. They drag Rolth’s unconscious body to the hall with the huge basin and the catwalks and use a cure light wounds to wake him up. It takes the necromancer a while to realize who these young men are, who sarcastically address him as an old ‘friend’. It is not until they say that they used to ‘work’ for Lamm and imply that Balian is Alika’s brother, that he puts the dots together. The vile magic-user understands that his interrogators are imbued with an animosity for him that greatly surpasses their anger at him for being involved in the plague. Knowing that these men will have little patience with him, he willingly answers them when they start asking questions
About two and a half months ago Doctor Saulus sought him out in his secret den in the graveyard, Rolth confesses. He adds that he no longer uses this hideout as it was discovered during his time away from the city. He is not surprised to learn that the companions were the ones who shut the place down and killed his derro friends. Doctor Saulus - or Devils as he preferred to be called - promised Rolth to help him build his flesh golem if the necromancer took him in and allowed him to use his laboratory. Seeing an opportunity to achieve his life-long ambition, Rolth quickly agreed. When Sjo and Balian tell him that the golem was not nearly as powerful as Rolth believed, since they destroyed it very easily, a twitch of disappointment sweeps over his blotchy face.
Quint and Balian have trouble hiding their absolute disgust for their prisoner and tell him that his interrogation will determine whether he gets a quick or a long and painful death. They already butchered all the physicians and cultists in here, and they won’t hesitate to give him what he deserves either. Rolth nods and chuckles: “You may free Korvosa of the old Rolth, but it looks like there are four new Rolths ready to take his place, just as ruthless and deadly. I guess the city will be even worse off with the four of you …” Sjo grabs the necromancer by the head and pushes him in the foul water of the room’s central pool. Of course, this kind of torture only proves Rolth’s point, who no longer feels inclined to answer the companions’ questions if they will just kill him afterwards. Quint argues that the judicial system in Korvosa would only come to the same conclusion and condemn him to be hanged, seeing how he’s been wanted by the law for many years. Hanging judge Zenobia Zenderholme is famous for her harsh judgments, so someone with Rolth’s record would be judged very quickly.
“Well, if you’re so sure that the judge will hang me, you won’t mind handing me over to the law. I’ll make you a deal, I’ll tell you everything I know if you can guarantee that I will get a fair trial. As you say, I’ll die anyway, so it hardly matters to you. Give me your word and I’ll tell you, but if you want to kill me here and now, you might as well do it now, for then I won’t tell you anything.” Quint leaves it up to Balian to decide, being Alika’s brother he harbors the deepest grudge. The ranger agrees, but the deal will be off if Rolth tells even the slightest lie, he says.
After this promise Rolth continues his confession. He bought the young female lambs from Gaedran Lamm for himself, but gave them to Doctor Saulus when he needed test subjects for his experiments. He took Alika so many years ago and he somehow liked her enough to keep her alive. He did play mind games with her, constantly telling her that her brother Balian had abandoned her and that he was a coward and a traitor. He repeated this over and over until she ended up believing him and voluntarily chose to join him.
As far as Saulus is concerned, the doctor looked Rolth up in the month of Gozran because he needed a place to brew a poison. Rolth did not know Saulus before that, but was willing to help out a fellow follower of Urgathoa. Although the doctor never told him what the poison was for, Rolth figured it was for the king. He does not know who Saulus was working for or who collected the poison, though. Then Saulus got a new assignment and asked Rolth to join him in Lost End, where they were joined by Lady Andaisin and her followers. These new allies all came from Cheliax and must have used teleportation magic to get there, though Rolth claims having no knowledge of who transported them. This was where the high priestess of Urgathoa enchanted the avian masks and she and Saulus developed the plague by experimenting on a number of people, including Rolth’s girls. The necromancer himself spent most of his days constructing his flesh golem. They finally returned to Korvosa aboard the Delivery, but they abandoned ship and landed their sloops on the shores south of the city, where they set up camp. Rolth sneaked back in to the city, only to discover that his hideout had been compromised and his derro associates killed. He rejoined the Urgathoans and came to the Hospice after they acquired the place. He also claims that the Urgathoans entered the city undercover and somehow got into the castle, where they were supposedly ‘teleported’ to. This suggests that at least someone in Castle Korvosa was in on the conspiracy.
The companions tie up Rolth again and put him back in his cell. First they want to examine the three doors in the hall they used to interrogate Rolth, since they skipped those earlier. Two doors lead to storerooms, one with all kinds of trash and one with supplies. The other door opens into Andaisin’s office. Balian finds a chest with a top-notch alchemy set, while Quint and Sjo examine the many books and notes. Puk, who is still blind, has to limit himself to listening if no one else approaches. There seems to be a large collection of volumes from the Andoran Alchemical Society, as well as extended notes on the experiments that Andaisin and Saulus carried out. The scribblings are quite complicated, though, and would definitely require a trained mind to be correctly interpreted. Professor Sirtane Leroung could certainly use these in her quest for a cure. A secret door leads to a bedroom with a very luxurious bed. There is a traveling chest with woman’s clothes and a small box which holds some jewelry.
Next on the companions’ interrogation list is doctor Saulus. They head back to the cell block to get the bastard, but they are stupefied to find out that Alika and Rolth are missing, and Saulus is dead, his throat cut! Stable boy Dalvun and Jaelle, who are both resting in the bedroom that leads to the prison, have seen or heard nothing or no one. Alika’s bonds lie on the floor of her cell, as if she slipped out of them. Damn those rogues and their slippery tricks! Balian also discovers two small iron needles, part of a thieves’ toolkit, which Alika used to open the locks. Quint finds a lingering aura of conjuration magic in Rolth’s prison cell, probably pointing at some kind of teleportation magic.
The companions are very disappointed and swear never to make this mistake again. Fortunately, Lady Andaisin is still in their hands, as they kept her in another room. They drag her back into the inner sanctuary, determined to test out what effect the colored basins will have on her. Lady Andaisin, only smiles when threatened with submersion in these waters: “Urgathoa is at my side! I’ve done her proud with my work in this city, so I’ll be in her best graces when I cross over to the other side.” Sjo grabs the woman by the hair and pushes her face below the waterline of the blue liquid. In the process he gets his own hands wet as well and feels the liquid draining him. In reaction he drops the priestess to the floor, where she starts mocking him. Quint realizes that he and his friends are starting to behave irrationally, as Rolth’s words still ring in his ears: “four new Rolths ready to take my place”. Andaisin remains confident that she will be rewarded in the next life, and one of the many pleasures she will be awarded with, will be the power to create undead. She will make sure that the companions’ earthly remains will be used in such perversions. Quint gets quite angry with her while she claims she does not know who hired the Red Mantis. And even if she did, she would never tell them. Sjo also tires of her haughty behavior, she has nothing left to tell them, so he just bashes her skull.
As morning is fast approaching, the companions head back up to the hospice. They lure the last remaining doctors into the backroom and dispose of them. Next they collect the books and the survivors downstairs and simply walk out of the building, telling the remaining guards and Gray Maidens to check downstairs, leaving them behind dumbstruck. First they head to the university to give the books and notes they found to professor Sirtane Leroung, who is very happy to get this vital information. Next they want to inform the Field Marshal, but for the first time since they’ve met her, they do not find her at the Citadel, but rather at home. After waking her from her bed, they bring her up to date. Quint gets quite angry with her for allowing her Guard to be used for evil. Aiding the enemy is a grave mistake and in this case, assisting the physicians resulted in many deaths.
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!