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Kegluneq's Rise of the Runelords Campaign


Rise of the Runelords

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Cards Subscriber

Well, since the campaign has progressed quite a ways and I have been diligently taking notes, how about I add my log for my current Rise of the Runelords campaign for people to pick through/condemn/enjoy?

First, a tremendous thank you to everyone who has already contributed to these boards: the resources available here made the entire experience that much better. Maps, pictures, ideas, errata, etc. I had two relative newcomers to Pathfinder and tabletop gaming in general for this campaign, so it was all of tremendous help.

Second, I will post the current log in blocks so I can provide some commentary and feedback. At this time, the group is nearing the end of Fortress of the Stone Giants, though there was plenty of additional material here and there. Some of this material and commentary may be of use to someone else. I'm glad to pass that help along.

Third, this campaign started large, with a pool of eight players and characters, and then reality and careers and a few player disagreements helped narrow down the pool of players to the five players I have now. Though there were a number of somewhat tense moments as I was afraid that I had inadvertently broken my gaming club, the experiences eventually helped form the very competent and very well coordinated team that remains. I have never in my life seen such teamwork in a tabletop game, and it has been a real pleasure and privilege to DM for this crew.

Fourth, my game is relatively treasure light, but I also had two major house rules that helped round this out. Players started at level two and fifteen point buy, but were awarded Prestige Points (no relation to PFS Prestige Points) at certain intervals for them to improve their characters in lieu of treasure handouts. This proved to be popular, as the standard point buy led to hard decisions and sacrifices but the promise of additional points later encouraged people to avoid min-maxing for pure power. I also built my own campaign trait lists (with the help of materials posted to these boards) to encourage connections between characters. I'll post both systems and relevant house rules here behind the spoiler tag, and I will post other house rules as we go.

House Rules and Setting Tweaks:

  • A strict and explicit division was made between 'Lower Varisia' and 'Upper Varisia', with Lower Varisia consisting of Magnimar and Korvosa and their surrounding environs while Upper Varisia is the unknown and dangerous Storval Plateau. I made it clear that there were a lot of ruins that had been resettled and explored in Lower Varisia but that Upper Varisia was still a land of barbarians, strange creatures and giants.
  • At start, all characters are Level 2 with a 15 point buy for ability scores. Also 300 gp for gear and equipment.
  • Because I favor skills, everyone receives an additional two skill ranks per level. This was mostly to let people actually get knowledge skills or things they would like to flesh out their characters. Probably the most popular house rule by far.
  • Core and Advanced Player's Guide allowed.  The Summoner class is prohibited (due primarily to new players and a desire to avoid anything overly complicated).
  • The "Leadership" feat is prohibited. More than half the group had just finished an evil campaign in Greyhawk where the leadership feat and undead minions began to overwhelm things by the end. For character equality, the feat was banned and followers could only be hired or persuaded along, with no promise of plot-immunity.
  • "Rope Trick" spell is prohibited. For that matter, so are bags of holding and other extra-dimensional spaces. Conceptually, I loathe such things, and I often felt such spells made encounters, travel and events far simpler than they ought to be. The net result was that demiplanes and spaces, like the one that Karzoug survived in all these years, remain mysterious and highly conditional magic, and everyone seems happier for it.
  • Improving Ability Scores with Prestige Points (PrP)
    For current ability scores ≤10, 1 PrP improves the ability score by 1
    For current ability scores ≤14, 2 PrP improves the ability score by 1
    For current ability scores ≤18, 4 PrP improves the ability score by 1
    For current ability scores ≤22, 6 PrP improves the ability score by 1
  • Skill Ranks: 1 PrP buys one additional skill rank in any skill.
  • Feats: 5 PrP buys one additional feat.
  • As a good rule of thumb, no character could have more than 2*Level Prestige Points. And dying meant losing half of your prestige points. It gave rolling up a new character a little teeth. Just remember to increase the CR of appropriate encounters by one to reflect higher stats.

Fifth, and finally, a special thank you to the players. You've got a hard road ahead. I wish you the best of luck, because I'm not pulling any punches.

Alright ... introductions out of the way, let's get to the prologue. And, in case it wasn't obvious, this campaign log WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. Seriously, this product is years old now, you have no excuse for reading this if you don't want spoilers.

---

Prologue:

Session 1:
Our saga began with the crew of Captain Johne, a swiftly assembled expedition of warriors, scholars and guides lured with the promise of high pay to sail along the Lost Coast and venture inland, to the heart of Varisia, to document the ruins and wonders of ancient Thassilon for the Pathfinder Society.  Each hand was promised no less than 15 platinum pieces for their service on a sixth month voyage, and though Captain Johne revealed little about himself his charismatic demeanor was sufficient to assuage most doubts.

The ship traveled first to Windsong Abbey, a campus of temples and shrines high upon the cliffs of the Lost Coast, where Johne sought to reference the libraries and reliquaries prior to departure.  However, even such a simple task brought danger: while Johne and his red-skinned companion Nolt went ashore, a black-sailed ship, the Father's Bones, beset the crew during an evening storm.  With fire and magic, the expedition sent dozens to their watery grave and repelled the marauders, even as both ships tossed violently about.  But Captain Johne did not return, and upon investigation, his friend, Abbot Karne, Priest of Gozreh, told that he had been beset by dark figures upon his departure from the Abbey's walls.  The only clue as to his whereabouts was a message, carried by crow: "I have taken refuge in the islands of Grubber's Hermitage."

Suspicions grew after the captain's disappearance.  A half-elf cleric called Agrissa was revealed to be a worshipper of Lamashtu, the mother of monsters, the cold sellsword Dannik her drugged and bewitched confederate in leading the black ship to them.  Wary of traps and eager to purge their crew of the assassins in their midst, the expedition stopped first in the town of Sandpoint, home to more than a few of their number and the nearest port to their rocky island destination.  From the wagging tongues at the Hagfish and the Rusty Dragon, a name was finally attached to their attackers: Effram Lomak.

Commentary:
I wanted something exciting to kick things off, and I also wanted to give everyone a chance to figure out the Pathfinder rules. It wasn't clear at the time who would stay with the game out of this larger group, so I devised this prologue which has been tied into and around the larger adventure.

The Cast of Characters at this point consisted of:

Vig Bright-Thought (NG Halfling Alchemist 2)
Traits: Thassilonian Scholar, Caretaker
Jestil Bright-Thought (NG Halfling Rogue-Poisoner 2)
Traits:  Riddleport Fast-Talker, Dirty Fighter

The brothers Bright-Thought (or is it Brightthought?) are from farther north along the coast, in the vicinity of Riddleport.  Well meaning halflings, the both of them, Vig took more closely after their parents and became an herbalist and alchemist of some talent.  Jestil's talents were less legal and quite a bit more rambunctious, though he payed attention enough when he was young to determine what was toxic, what was poisonous, and what one should never feed to the dog.  Inseparable, the pair have set out in search of adventure, fortune, rare sights and a chance to meet new people.  And should Vig run across more Thassilonian runes and ruins to study or Jestil find a magical trinket or twenty, so much the better!

Dornic Daystone (LG Dwarf Cleric 2)
Traits: Child of the Temple, Starchild

A dwarven orphan, Dornic fell into the care of Father Ezakien Tobyn, Priest of Desna, at a very young age.  He grew up at the Sandpoint Temple, alongside another orphan, Father Tobyn's adopted aasimar daughter Nualia, and quickly learned all his adopted father had to teach him.  Though of a wandering disposition and beloved by Desna, he felt the call of Sarenrae, the Dawnflower, who brings warmth and radiance to all souls who allow her in.  Patient, compassionate, and always reliable, Dornic grew up in the shadow of his angelic step-sister.  When the old temple burned down five years ago, however, both father Tobyn and Nualia perished.  After burying Tobyn's remains and consigning Nualia's ashes to the wind, the dwarf set out to see more of the world, returning now with scimitar in hand and a righteous heart.

Esper (LG Chelish Monk 2)
Traits: Religious Pilgrimage, Fencer

Esper received training with the Guardians of Windsong Abbey.  The most common sort of Guardian is a forth or fifth child of a noble family, an orphan half-breed, or an ascetic searching for a life change, and young Esper was no different in this regard.  However, there comes a time when every child of the temple is turned from the walls, sent on a pilgrimage to find their faith and inner peace, and learn truths that cannot be found in scrolls and sermons.  In her time away, she has become quite the innovator with the sword, taking lessons where she can find them and giving lessons when they are deserved.

Glub Deverin (N Half-Ogre Barbarian 2)
Traits: Sandpoint Nobility (Deverin), Dirty Fighter

Glub is the shame of the otherwise well regarded Deverin family.  The circumstances of his birth are never spoken of, and he himself was raised, for the most part, in the field or in the basement, always away from the public eye.  His mother, Cara, cared for him and shielded him from persecution, even at cost to herself.  Prodigiously strong but slow of wit, it took every trick of schooling to teach him letters, and he paid for his own tutoring by dragging the plow and stirring enormous vats of barley and hops.  When old enough, the family sent him away, eager to be free of the damage he left in his wake.  His return, the expedition having been cut short, is less than they could have hoped, and unless he can be reigned in, managed and controlled by good people, the vicious brute may yet meet an unfortunate end.

Hakak Abakak Esq. (LN Half-Orc Sorcerer 2)
Traits: Ulfen Subtlety, Rune Theorist

Abakak, a barrister of Korvosan origins, has had peculiar magic since the hale and hearty days of his youth.  Captain Johne took him on after witnessing his silver-tongued cunning, and as the man had more than a little experience finding things of value in ruins already picked clean by thousands of years of scavenging Hakak seemed like an ideal match for the expedition.  Far from a northern brute or a savage of Belkzen, Abakak brings Inner Sea sensibilities to the distant frontier and lives by stern and profit-motivated principles.

Hanko (CN Chellish Ranger 2)
Traits: Lone Wolf, Dirty Fighter

An outdoorsman, guide, and hunter known across many villages and the crews of more than a few ships.  When he was young, a pilgrim on his way to the Swallowtail Festival at Sandpoint found him at the side of the road and saved him from death.  Today, he is a marksman of surpassing talent, with a practiced understanding of the landscape and a fondness for remaining unseen.  Self-reliant almost to a fault, he prefers never to fight head on and never to trust authorities to have his best interests at heart.

Mirela Zannelli (CG Half-Elf Bard 2)
Traits: Festival Folk, Fencer

Half-elf by way of a Mierani Forest village, half-Varisian by her mother, Mirela has traveled and made coin at festivals, carnivals, religious events and caravans all her life.  No matter the city, village or thorpe, she has learned the local legends, danced in the local taverns, or traveled the local roads.  In all that time, she's relied on a sturdy whip and opportunistic rapier to see her through trouble, and leapt at the chance to make easy money on Captain Johne's ship.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Cards Subscriber

Session 2:
Resolved, the crew carried out their attack in parts: under cover of night, the expedition first found the Father's Bones at anchor, stole aboard to kill the watchmen, and then lit the vessel aflame while the rest of it's crew remained barricaded down below.  Rowing ashore, the crew found Effram waiting in ambush, the best of his heavily armed crew in tow, but overcame them with numbers and guile while the large-eyed, pallid skinned inhabitants of the island fled to safety.  Lomak pleaded for his life, revealing himself to be a landed noble of the great city of Magnimar and demanding the justice of the city's court, and so was taken prisoner.  Captain Johne, however, was nowhere to be found.  Only a scroll told of his passage: upon reading, the golden letters leapt from the page to form an image of the Captain.

"You who read this, plot to kill me.  I know traitors even hide among my crew.  But I will not be stopped.  Know the price for opposing a Lord of Thassilon," Johne's apparition had said.  The cyclopean giant that rose from the depths to sink the tiny island spoke volumes of Johne's arcane power, and the calculated way in which the Captain disposed of his crew tells something of the extent of his wrath.  Nevertheless, careful preparation permitted the crew's swift escape as the island sank below the sea, and the distantly anchored ship endured the resulting whirlpool.

The expedition over, they returned to Sandpoint, to consider their next move.

Session 3:
With the Swallowtail Festival -- a holy day of Desna, a Varisian goddess of dreams, wanderers, the stars and fortune -- only a week away, the crew opted to stay and spend some of their money.  The sneak, Jestil Bright-Thought, eventually opened the expedition's warchest, uncovering a small fortune of 650 Korvosan platinum crowns, which, at the counsel of Hakak Abakak, Esq., was placed into a collective fund.  Most of the crew was persuaded to remain on, forming a company around the ship.  Spending from the fund would be decided by a board, who would become the company's leadership.  For the time being, the fortunes of the crew were well secured.

A number of side projects were embarked upon.  A messenger was sent to Magnimar to summon a judge to collect and try Captain Lomak and the monster-worshiping Agrissa.  Hakak sent his own message as well, demanding extradition for the captain so he could be tried in Korvosa under Korvosan Maritime Law.  Mirella performed in the streets, making a few silvers.  Jestil pawned some loot from the battles at sea to commission local blacksmith Das Korvut to make him a dagger of quality steel sized for his diminutive hands.  Glub visited his family, found out that his parents were presently at the Deverin townhouse in Magnimar, and found temporary work at the Two Knight brewery with his cousin Gavin.  Hanko drank.  Dornic visited Father Zantus.

Two nights after their arrival, Glub, Hakak, Mirella, Hanko and Dornic happened upon a tremendous brawl underway in the town's pre-eminent drinking hole, the Hagfish, and opted to investigate.  Within the devestated tavern they found more than a few unconscious people and a group of Sczarni brigands locked in battle with a local trapper and a friend.  Siding with the outnumbered, the group summoned the watch and halted the violence with some force of their own, but not before Hosk, the stablemaster, and Glub Deverin, the half-ogre, drew lethal weapons and killed two of the men.  

A tribunal was hastily assembled from local notables, though Hakak managed to halt the tribunal, deferring the matter until a proper Justice arrived from Magnimar.  The trapper was "Old Buck" Buckryn, town drunk and a legendary brawler, and in exchange for a small payment from the town's coffers the party agreed to visit Buckryn's cabin near the fens to find why the trapper was afraid to return home and collect whatever money and valuables they could find to cover Buck's court expenses.  They found the place ransacked, a shouting goblin of the Licktoad tribe still within, and when they tried to leave were confronted by the wife who'd left Old Buck years ago.  She offered to help get him out of trouble, but the party found themselves ambushed by more licktoad goblins on the path out of the swamp.  Buck's wife attacked, but was felled by a spell.  The party elected to turn her over to the watch to determine her involvement with the goblins.  Meanwhile, Hakak took the captured warchief of the licktoads, Sarnax Greathacker, under his wing, putting his faith in the belief that all sentient races deserve rights under the law and have within them the potential to become contributing members of civilization.

The rest of the party was somewhat less comfortable with this notion, and by the end of the night Sheriff Hemlock had come to put the goblin in a cell, where he could be watched more closely.

Commentary:
Even this far back, Vig, Jestil and Esper were having trouble making it to games, and in retrospect their eventual departure from the game seems obvious even here in the introduction. I drew out the prologue by an additional session because we wanted everyone together for the Swallowtail festival and the kick off of Chapter 1.

Starting at level two was important as well, since just about everyone agreed that level one really stinks. You're vulnerable, you're miserable, you don't feel especially heroic, and the grit content is a little high. At level two, the fighter types could survive a hit, and casters had more than a spell or two.

Session two marked the first time Hakak's player shouted 'taste the rainbow!' when casting color spray. It became a recurring gag. Old Buck was also built as a level five drunken brawler barbarian, made of hit points and capable of raging forever in the busted up tavern, and even so he suffered mightily and nearly died. The magic sword Runethirst, Lomak's ancient Thassilonian +1 Flaming Greatsword, started taking on a bad reputation, and in the hands of a well built barbarian it went a long way toward destabilizing future encounters. Lomak had even tried to throw the thing away into the sea before surrendering, but Glub had swam after it and claimed it as his own.

Player conflict can be a funny thing, emerging here once again in the familiar form of the Prisoner Dilemma. Namely what to do with prisoners when they surrender. Hakak's player, who liked to describe himself as 'half-orc Abraham Lincoln', spoke at this point of 'the Half-Orc's Burden' to civilize wicked an evil races and thereby prove that it was nurture, not nature, that defined a monster. Jestil and Mirella were decidedly more interested in just killing the damn goblins. Compromise was slow and acrimonious in its arrival, and neither side was entirely pleased to budge. Glub's player also began to be a slight issue. Delighting in the chaos he could cause by playing a half-wit with prodigious strength, he nearly ground the game to a halt with his law-breaking.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Cards Subscriber

Commentary:
What you are seeing are emailed updates and recaps exactly as they were written out for the players. And you may notice an error or two. For instance, I used the current year for Golarion, 4711 AR, rather than the canonical year for the events of Rise of the Runelords, 4707 AR, purely by error. Rather than try to correct it, I ran with it and shrugged. There are also bits of plot exposition here that I did not want to waste time covering in game. This had ... variable results, as some players loved it and read everything while others never bothered and had no idea what was happening.

The party absolutely would not trust Aldern. Aldern flirted with Mirella, so Mirella's player was all smiles and happiness, but everyone else immediately distrusted him. I promise I didn't make him out to be anything other than a little strange. Similarly, the trope-savvy among the group immediately decided Nualia could not be dead. Because they had not recovered a body. I improvised by saying they had recovered a burnt arm, but that only made them more determined. Thus, even though she did not get much facetime, she was a somewhat memorable villain.

I also rejoiced in the calls for a proper justice, because it meant introducing Ironbriar a little earlier, a suggestion I had liberally pilfered from another campaign log here. It worked well, too. They thought he was a good ally that barely tolerated them because he was lawful and stuff. Heh.

This is probably a good time to post the list of campaign traits I used. Note that my traits provide a larger bonus for less common or less used skills, and that the PCs actually played to these traits rather strongly. Dornic's player just picked one at random, and from it sprung his entire back-story and his personal involvement with the plot. Glub's player picked Sandpoint Nobility and so with one minor choice gave me an excuse to not have the half-ogre executed by the law. They're awesome, and all campaigns should have a well thought out list of them.

Quote:


Traits
These traits are meant to establish ties to Sandpoint and/or Captain Johne's crew. They are tailored to the campaign path and balanced against the sorts of challenges expected down the road. Furthermore, they are intended to facilitate the creation of character backgrounds; the finer details are negotiable. Choose one Trait from each list.

I: Campaign Traits

Child of the Temple:
After the untimely demise of your parents, you fell into the care of Father Ezakian Tobyn and grew up in the old temple. He was a stern but fair father, who always taught you listen patiently to be understanding of others. Especially your foster sibling, another child that Tobyn found and named Nualia. But while you were ordinary, she was an Aasimar, angelic and beautiful, ever the center of attention and superstition no matter how she tried to hide. Five years ago, you were away when the temple caught fire, killing both Father Tobyn and Nualia. Cruelly, suspicion fell on you, the overshadowed child, and for the good of all you took your leave of the village. Perhaps the Swallowtail festival and the new Cathedral will change things, but it's a bittersweet homecoming. Benefit: You gain a +2 Trait bonus on Sense Motive, and Sense Motive is always a class skill for you.

Country born:
You come from the rural region around Sandpoint, where you were raised in an environment of rustic tradition, honest, hard work. The Swallowtail Festival is about the only thing even remotely interesting (and not at the same time life-threatening), so there is no force in the world that would keep you from getting there. Your toil-filled childhood has granted you reserves of endurance. Benefit: Once per day, when an effect would normally leave you fatigued or exhausted, you may ignore the fatigue or exhaustion effect. This ability activates the first time you are affected by fatigue or exhaustion in a day (you cannot save it to apply it to a specific effect).

Festival Folk
Gods need petitioners, farmers need entertainments, nobles need consciences and celebrations need celebrants. Varisian performers such as yourself make a living traveling from place to place, trading metal goods or news, a short play or a musical number, and no stage is more welcoming than the Sandpoint Theater. Its larger-than-life owner, Cyrdak Drokkus, invites your family back at least twice a year to help put on plays, run stalls, make merry and fill the pews. It's a colorful profession and a strange life, to be sure, but one that has put you in contact with the most interesting people: Captain Johne, Magnimar Nobles, Korvosan Royalty, even Bandit Kings. Benefit: Gain a +2 trait bonus to Diplomacy when gathering information and Perform actions.

Hunter of Legends:
Captain Johne brought you aboard his ship as a guide because of your passion for hunting the gigantic creatures that stalk Varisia's landscape. With the Captain's passing, you have heard stories about the Sandpoint Devil, a legendary creature that stalks the Sandpoint area, and decided to learn more. Going to the Swallowtail Festival, with most locals busy getting their tongues loosened by alcohol, is your best chance to find out if the creature is real. Benefit: Your experience in fighting big creatures grants you a +2 trait bonus to damage rolls against creatures of size large or larger.

Korvosan Imperialist:
You grew up in Korvosa, former colony to the empire of Cheliax. You've been brought up to believe that it is Korvosa's mandate to rule Varisia, and do not tolerate anyone to question that right. You decided to see for yourself the backwards cultures of western Varisia by visiting the Swallowtail Festival in Sandpoint. Your breeding has prepared you for giving orders and having them obeyed. Benefit: You gain a +2 trait bonus on Intimidate, and Intimidate is always a class skill for you.

Lone Wolf:
You led a lonely childhood and were forced to fend for yourself. Your earliest memory is being found and rescued by a Desnan pilgrim on his way to the Swallowtail Festival. Ever since, you visit the festival every year to show your respect. Benefit: Your past has made you resilient. Whenever you are dying, your chance of stabilizing is 50%. Additionally, if your hit points fall to a negative amount equal to your Constitution score or lower, you may endure a single round before dying. If your allies cannot heal you before your next action, you succumb to death as normal.

Magnimaran Diplomat:
You hail from Magnimar, City of Monuments, which is known for its open-mindedness and acceptance of a variety of races and cultures. You decided to visit Sandpoint during the Swallowtail Festival to see some more of these cultures, or maybe just in order to celebrate. Benefit: Because of your tolerant upbringing, you gain a +2 trait bonus on Diplomacy, and Diplomacy is always a class skill for you.

Religious Pilgrimage:
The Gods are said to give visions and wisdom to the faithful and humble. You have traveled far to see the opening of Sandpoint's new cathedral, and you have a worthy sacrifice for the dedication. In the past, this piety has always delivered, often in strange ways. Hopefully, this time will be no different. Benefit: Your little rituals and prayers produce luck, at least for you. Once per session, you may re-roll a single skill check, accepting the better result.

Riddleport Fast Talker:
You spent your early life in Riddleport, City of Cyphers, a former pirate port and still home to more than its fair share of dangerous criminals. You learned that in order to survive, you need a quick tongue, but found other uses for it. You decided to visit the Swallowtail Festival in Sandpoint, whether because you want to celebrate without watching your back all the time for once, or because those hillbillies are easy pickings. Benefit: You gain a +2 trait bonus on Bluff and Bluff is always a class skill for you.

Sandpoint Nobility:
You are a younger sibling from one of the four founding families of Sandpoint, the target of rumors and rumor-mills, thoroughly informed and connected throughout the community. Attending the Swallowtail Festival is absolutely mandatory in order to preserve your reputation in town. Or essential to ruining your family's reputation, if such is your relationship with your family. Benefit: You gain a +2 trait bonus on Knowledge: Local checks and Knowledge: Local is always a class skill for you. Additionally, you've been well-trained to follow in the family trade and gain a +2 trait bonus on appropriate Profession checks.
Deverin. Profession: Farmer and Profession: Brewer.
Kaijitsu. Profession: Glassblower and Profession: Innkeeper.
Scarnetti. Profession: Architect and Profession: Woodcutter.
Valdemar. Profession: Sailor and Profession: Shipwright.

Shoanti Totem Spirit:
Your tribal totem spirit favors you. Your tribal shaman has decided that because of this favor, you are best suited to serve as an observer for the interlopers in lower Varisia, and sent you to the Swallowtail Festival in Sandpoint to learn about their traditions. Benefit: The totemic favour grants you a benefit depending on your clan:
Lyrune-Quah (Moon Clan): You gain a +1 trait bonus to Perception and Perception is a class skill for you.
Shadde-Quah (Axe Clan): If you have the rage ability, it lasts for one additional round.
Shriikirri-Quah (Hawk Clan): You gain a +2 trait bonus on Initiative checks.
Shundar-Quah (Spire Clan): You gain a +1 bonus on Fortitude saves.
Sklar-Quah (Sun Clan): You gain a +1 bonus on Acrobatics checks, and Acrobatics is always a class skill for you.
Skoan-Quah (Skull Clan): You gain a +2 trait bonus on weapon damage against undead.
Tamiir-Quah (Wind Clan): Your base land speed increases by 5 feet. This counts as a trait bonus.

Thassilonian Scholar:
You have always been fascinated by the magnificent ruins that dot the landscape of Varisia, and sought to know all you could about the lost civilization that built such wonders. Information is scarce, but your scholarly determination earned you a place in the crew of the late Captain Johne. Stranded now in Sandpoint, you have opportunity to study the great Lighthouse and consult with the local sage, Brodert Quink, a noted, if controversial, expert on Thassilonian matters. Benefit: You gain a +2 trait bonus to Linguistics and Knowledge: History for questions related to Thassilon. Both skills are always considered class skills for you.

Ulfen Subtlety:
Before signing on with Captain Johne, you spent a few years plying the waves of the Varisian Coast aboard a longship, learning the finer points of extortion and calculated violence from your fellow oarsmen. As it turns out, the Ulfen art of affable aggression has a wide variety of uses. Captain Johne found that he liked having someone of your discretion aboard for those uncomfortable moments when the law of the sea needed to take effect. Benefit: You gain a +4 trait bonus on Bluff checks to keep others from noticing your aggressive actions.

Varisian Legacy:
The magic of your homeland is in your blood. You were told by a Varisian soothsayer that this magic is linked to the ancient monuments that dot the landscape, and that if you want to learn more, you should visit the Swallowtail Festival in Sandpoint. Benefit: Select a school of magic except divination. If you take the Spell Focus feat for that school, you cast spells of this school at +1 caster level. In addition, you can cast a single cantrip as a spell-like ability a number of times per day equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum 1/day, caster level equals Hit Dice, save DC is Charisma- based).
Abjuration: Resistance.
Conjuration: Acid splash.
Enchantment: Daze.
Evocation: Dancing lights.
Illusion: Ghost sound.
Necromancy: Touch of fatigue.
Transmutation: Mage hand.

II: General Traits

Caretaker
As the child of an herbalist or an assistant in a temple infirmary, you often had to assist in tending to the sick and wounded. It's a skill that earns respect, especially in the dangerous wilderness. Benefit: You gain a +1 trait bonus on Heal checks, and Heal is always a class skill for you.

Dangerously Curious
You have always been intrigued by magic, possibly because you were the child of a magician or priest. You often snuck into your parent’s laboratory or shrine to tinker with spell components and magic devices, and often caused quite a bit of damage and headaches for your parent as a result. Benefit: You gain a +1 bonus on Use Magic Device checks, and Use Magic Device is always a class skill for you.

Dirty Fighter
You wouldn’t have lived to make it out of childhood without the aid of a sibling, friend, or companion on whom you could always count to distract your enemies long enough to do a little bit more damage than normal. That companion may be another PC or an NPC (who may even be recently departed from your side). Benefit: When you hit a foe you are flanking, you gain a +2 trait bonus to damage rolls.

Fencer
You trained long hours as a youth with blades, either taking lessons in the genteel art of fencing from tutors paid for by your parents or by being taken under the wing of a disenfranchised fencer who may have turned to a life of crime. Benefit: You gain a +1 trait bonus on attack of opportunity attack rolls made with daggers, swords, and similar bladed weapons.

Foxglove Relatives
You are related to the wealthy Foxglove family of Magnimar and Korvosa, the same Foxgloves who own the dilapidated manor a short ways down the coast. Last you heard it had finally been restored and another relative was living there. Interacting with such aloof relatives has often been a bore, but it has given you ample opportunity to hone your social graces. Benefit: You gain a +2 trait bonus to Knowledge: Nobility checks and Appraise Checks. Both skills are class skills for you.

Ghost Sight
When you were younger you suffered a brush with death. Perhaps you were almost killed by a wight, close to dying from a grievous wound, or actually died and were raised. Since then you have not been the same. You can see beyond the veil, able to see ghost and spirits and detect the taint of the undead. Benefit: You receive a +2 trait bonus to Perception checks when trying to locate undead, and can attempt to locate ethereal undead (though they are still considered merely invisible, +20 to Stealth).

Giant Heritage
When you were a child, you heard rumors that there was a bit of giant somewhere in your heritage. You have always been a little on the tall side. well-proportioned, athletic, with an affinity for physical skills, but apart from that it's probably nothing but rumors and legend. Benefit: You receive a +2 trait bonus to Climb and Swim checks. Both skills are class skills for you.

Highland Charge
Time in the Velashu Highlands or the Storval Planteau has hardened your legs and honed your balance and momentum. Like the Shoanti barbarians, you have learned to charge down a steep grade at speed. Benefit: You may run or charge downhill on a steep slope (moving up to your base speed) without making an Acrobatics check to avoid stumbling. However, if you travel farther than this distance, the normal rules for steep slopes apply.

History of Heresy
Civilization in the West is a precarious thing, often heavily reliant on religious authorities, and you were raised with heretical views that have made it difficult for you to be openly accepted. As a result, you have turned your back on religious teachings and ungrateful gods. Benefit: As long as you do not possess any levels in a class that grants divine spellcasting power, you gain a +1 trait bonus on all saving throws made against divine spells.

Mercenary Years
In Magnimar, Korvosa, Kaer Maga and the dozens of roads crisscrossing the Varisian frontier, you have put in years of mercenary work. You have worn armor as long as you can remember, and you’ve grown used to moving and resting in armor with relative grace. Benefit: When you wear armor of any sort, reduce that suit’s armor check penalty by 1, to a minimum check penalty of 0.

Militia Veteran
Your first job was serving in a civilian militia in your home town. Skills learned while daily drilling and protecting your fellow townsfolk gave you special insight into military life. Benefit: Select one of the following skills: Profession (soldier), Ride, or Survival. You gain a +2 trait bonus on that skill, and it is always a class skill for you.

Rune Theorist
The Thassilonian ruins that dot Varisia are notable for the flowing rune script that covers so many fallen pillars and walls, and you've dotted your body with examples of these runes in an effort to gain some of the arcane power of old Thassilon. Sandpoint's Old Light and other nearby ruins present a perfect opportunity to mine the past for still more runes, and the more you puzzle over them the more they make a strange sort of sense. Benefit: You gain a +2 trait bonus on Spellcraft checks. This bonus increases to +3 when identifying Thassilonian magic.

Sczarni Debt
Criminals may not make the best friends – let alone insular ethnic criminals such as the Varisian Sczarni family – but a debt is a debt, and you have earned yourself a respectable debt. Because you did the Sczarni a great favor when last you crossed paths, your name has been circulated among all the gangs and wagons of the family. They'll come to your aid and honor the debt. Benefit: Gain a +4 trait bonus to Diplomacy checks with the Sczarni family and associated criminal elements.

Starchild
Desna sensed your love of travel and promised you would always be able to find your way home. You can automatically determine where true north is. Benefit: You can automatically determine where true north is. You gain a +4 trait bonus on Survival checks to avoid becoming lost.

Vengeful Urges
Five years ago, just a short while before the Sandpoint Fire, an eccentric by the name of Jervis Stoot was Sandpoint's finest artisan. He carved astounding likenesses of birds on everything in sight – always for pleasure, never for money. But after fifteen years living on the cliff north of the Old Light by himself, Stoot became touched in the head and embarked on a spree of twenty-six gruesome murders with his hatchets and carving knives, forever becoming “the Chopper” in the eyes of history. How unfortunate for you, then, that Stoot happened to be your relative. The people of Sandpoint went to great lengths to see to your needs in the intervening years, but you've never been able to escape their fear that the Chopper's madness might run in the family. Benefit: The villagers aren't wholly wrong. There's an uneasy rage that rests just beneath your skin, begging for release. You gain a +4 trait bonus on Sleight of Hand checks to conceal a weapon on your person and checks to draw it without being noticed. You may conceal any single-handed or light weapon in this way.

Chapter 1:
Still, Sandpoint had seen its share of rough years, and troubles loomed.  Five years ago, the town had what locals still call "The Late Unpleasantness".  First, a murderer claimed the lives of twenty-five people in a month.  After the town's sheriff, Casp Avertin, died at the murderer's hand, his deputy, Belor Hemlock, finally tracked the man down by his bloody footsteps and cut him down.  Jervis Stoot, a harmless woodcarver and carpenter, is now remembered as "the Chopper" in Sandpoint.  There was not much time to grieve, however, as only a month later a fire burned through the north end of the town, taking with it the old White Deer Inn, the North Coast Stables, three homes and, worst of all, the Sandpoint temple. Beloved Priest of Desna, Father Ezakien Tobyn, and his beautiful adopted daughter Nualia, perished in the flames.

The events were enough to bind the town together.  The four families and the Sandpoint Merchant League opened their coffers, and benefactors from Magnimar sent still more aid.  A great cathedral was envisioned, to stand where the old temple stood.  Something to put Sandpoint on the map as a modern city, instead of a town huddling in the shadow of the Old Light.  The small town already has a theater, a garrison, a town hall: why should it not come into its own now, springing from the ashes of adversity?  In five short years, a flurry of contractors, ships, and even the occasional sorcerer came to assemble the structure.  Many more people, even from as far away as Magnimar, Riddleport and Korvosa, have come now to join in the festival.  Much is riding on this success.

---

Session 4:

Toilday, 20 Rova (September), Year 4711 AR

  • The day of the Autumnal Equinox, and so the day of the Swallowtail Festival.  Sandpoint swelled through the morning hours with a last rush of visitors arriving from the hinterlands, and the festival came underway to the joy and profit of many. Vendors sold wares, travelers and landed aristocrats emptied their pockets of silver and gold, and the Company of the Old Light mingled with the whole of the town.

  • The Bight-Thought Brothers sold medicines, diluting them down and making such preposterous claims even the most jaded Korvosan Captain felt tempted to sample their wares.  Indeed, most felt remarkably refreshed from the Bright-Thought admixture of juices, herbs and magic, though the more remarkable bedroom benefits that Jestil reported were sadly ... absent.

  • Glub was permitted to wander the festival with an escort, and conducted himself in a remarkably peaceable and aware fashion.  Something that made a strong impression on the community prepared to try him for manslaughter only days prior.

  • The goblin Sarnax Greathacker was escorted by Hakak Abakak and shown the great wonder of civilization: fireworks. Indeed, the half-orc was so devoted to his task of civilizing the Licktoad warchief that he even persuaded the Goblin to labor at serving lunch and collecting plates for a short while.  Some festival-goers actually believed the leashed and chaperoned goblin to be an attraction, and tossed money to the pair.

  • Mirella took to one of the minstrel stages and performed for the visiting nobility, making quite a bit of money with her music and dance.  Sandpoint's most colorful citizen, the theater-owner and former adventurer Cydrak Drokkus hounded her to perform with his troupe throughout the week before finally being distracted by other matters.

  • Hanko drank and enjoyed the sights.

  • Dornic helped with the opening of the Cathedral and spoke of Sarenrae for those who wished to hear.

  • At noon, the Cathedral was consecrated and opened at last with a speech from Father Zantus. Suddenly, a mob of goblins revealed themselves, and the fairgrounds were lit aflame.  The Company of the Old Light quickly took action, drawing steel to fight the goblin menace and put out the fires.

  • With the others occupied, Dornic and Mirella pursued the retreating goblins down Church Street all the way to the wall.  Their speed was vital, for a nobleman was trapped against the wall and surely would have died without their timely aid.  As the last warchief scrambled away and the last goblin dog was put to the sword, Aldern Foxglove thanked his rescuers.  "You have my eternal gratitude, for I know not what would have happened if you had not arrived."

  • During the chaos, Vig Bright-Thought had found a goblin-torch and, succumbing to his more disorderly inclinations, opted to race down the road to engage in a spot of petty arson of his own.  The Pillbug's Pantry survived this destruction, though with some significant damage, but Vig and Jestil would not stand to have competition in the alchemical trade, let alone from so devious looking a character as "Pillbug" Podiker.  During the night, they returned, secreted themselves within, and uncovered Podiker's mushroom garden and supply of poisons. They vowed to return, a scheme brewing in their thoughts.

  • It was found that half the goblins had entered via a pair of ladders left in place for them at the town wall near the boneyard, while the other half had been rolled into the town the night before and hidden in wagons. Three goblins were taken prisoner and questioned at length, but their feeble minds only recalled that a “longshanks” of non-specific description had persuaded the warchiefs of four of the nearby tribes to take part in the raid.

    Wealsday, 21 Rova (September), 4711

  • The night and day following the Swallowtail Festival, the Company took efforts to follow the trail of the attackers to their point of origin, but the goblins had vanished into the hills and woods. It was determined that the horse and wagon were obtained locally from somewhere in the hinterlands, and that a local must have schemed to grant the goblins entrance past the town pallisade.

  • Belor Hemlock formally deputized the Company to help safeguard the town from any further raids or unpleasantness. Justice Ironbriar, it seemed, had become trapped on the road by goblins and worse, and the Sheriff and men of the watch were needed to help escort him the rest of the way down the road.

  • Hakak Abakak spent time making himself a god in the eyes of the goblin prisoners, released now into his care by Sheriff Hemlock. Over the day and the next day, they came to be persuaded that they were members of Abakak's “tribe”, the Bitegnashers. How long the sorcerer-barrister of Korvosa can keep his growing flock of psychopaths in order remains to be seen.

  • In the evening, Aldern Foxglove treated the Company to a great feast at the Rusty Dragon. Ameiko Kaijitsu, the inkeeper and a former adventurer, offered her insights into local problems. Hanko, however, was approached by Shayliss Vinder, daughter of Ven Vinder the owner of Sandpoint's general store. He quickly succumbed to her more … amorous intentions, only to be caught by Ven Vinder himself. The following day, various members of the Company did their best to calm Vinder and get him to withdraw his sanction. Eventually, Dornic managed to appeal to the man's religious convictions, and provided that Hanko spends a month at the Cathedral hearing the teachings of Erastil and praying for absolution he will consider the matter closed. Shayliss, for her part, seems unrepentant.

    Oathsday, 22 Rova, 4711

  • Foxglove took half the party boar hunting to show his further gratitude. After much questioning (and still more sense motive scores), it was generally decided that despite his strangeness Aldern was genuinely grateful, somewhat taken with the heroes who saved his life, and a touch haunted ... but ultimately not the culprit behind the raid. He offered his own insights on matters, suggesting that in his experience it is always best to seek out the unpleasant past.

  • Following up on this suggestion, the Company investigated the events of five years ago, the “Recent Unpleasantness.” The Old Light provided a few clues as to the nature of Ancient Thassilon. Chopper's Island had the ruins of the murderer's house, and within the basement the Company experienced a haunt. When the whispering ghost was forced to rest once more and the taint cleansed, the remains of Simon Korvut were returned to his father.

  • The journals of Jervis Stoot, the Chopper, were buried beneath the floor-boards of the basement with his first victims. They revealed a sudden shift in Stoot's demeanor, a time just before he snapped where he was filled with rage and fury at all who wronged him. The cause of this wrath seems external, imposed on him.

    Next Time,
    Fireday, 23 Rova, 4711

  • Dornic recalls most details about the fire, but there remain a few things that remain to be uncovered. And there were more than a few other things afoot when the troubles started yet unknown.

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