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I may have made the Stag Lord's bandits too much of a threat


I'm running Kingmaker#1 at the moment and have run into a wall I made for myself.

While the party was out exploring the Stolen Lands, I've had the bandits (specifically, the archer from the first encounter) pop in and out as periodic threats because I didn't want them to simply retreat to their fort and sit there for a month or two waiting for the PCs to arrive.

The bandits have stolen horses and other supplies from Oleg, stolen horses from the party during the night, and, in their most recent raid, kidnapped Svetlana.

The party has determined that the bandits are now too much of a threat if they managed to accomplish this and is going directly to the Stag Lord's fort. They're currently second level (with a 1st level oracle that started late) and I'd rather not TPK this early in the game.

So here's my thinking:

The PCs can have their raid, but arrange it so that the Stag Lord (and most of his lieutenants) is absent. He's gone off to a meeting with other folks (perhaps even the BBEG herself), or is out gathering supplies of his own, and has left a skeleton crew manning the fort. He's likely not even aware his crew made that attack.

Thoughts? Suggestions for a better way to fix to predicament?

In my game the reason he didn't just take Oleg's by force the second the PC's started causing trouble was because he was raiding Mivon's Northern border while they were at war with Pitax. If they haven't reached the Thorn River Camp then have them assault that and find Svetlana there.

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Your thought of the party hitting the fort while Staggy and his crew are out recruiting or something else, is pretty solid IMO. That could be a lot of fun for the pcs as well – they take the fort, defeating the skeleton crew left behind (Random bandits 1-7, or extras from the Thorne River Camp), and then are able to plan an ambush there for Stagasaurus Rex. How pissed would old Antlerhead be upon returning to his “castle” to find the doors shut? Oh how the tables can turn, its part of the magic of this AP!

Conversely, if you want to force the confrontation at the fort cosider this: There’s a lot of space between Oleg’s and the Stag Lord’s Fort, this could be used to your advantage. You could easilly put in encounters for the party to come across that would give them XP and loot to get them up at least a level. You could also have them get lost, moving them off track into the wilderness, buying you more time.

In my game (we’re also in book one) I’ve increased the footprint/holdings of the staglord to make it a bit more interesting. Instead of a ruined fort, he’s in a small castle. He’s actively been campaigning in the riverlands to call brigands to his service, and taking slaves to build up his “Kingdom”. Yeah he’s still a drunk, and hes got some nasty bastards working for him that will allow me to do dastardly things should I need to. I’ve added in a few additional camps like the thorne river camp that are surveying and working the stolen lands, and harrassing the party, as well as a number of other oddities and stragenesses for the party to discover/enjoy.

In the end, you’ve got a lot to work with in this AP – don’t be afraid to let your imagination run!

Sadly, they have. They kinda stumbled into it fairly early, actually. That's a really good idea about having folks off raiding other areas. Perhaps the PCs can find a note or something foreshadowing the troubles in store for the other colonies.

If the Stag Lord is active, then having him out doing something else is very good. He'll probably figure the fort has enough defense, especially if he leaves Akiros or Dovan in charge. If the PCs succeed against the lesser force then they still have to hold it against the Stag Lord when he comes back (or burn the place and run back to Oleg's, and then find a way to deal with the Stag Lord after all.)

Having the PCs run into a wise hunter/trapper (someone who mostly dodges the bandits but knows something about them and what they're up to) might be a good way to feed them information. Maybe he's an ex-soldier and can suggest a few things, if none of them look like they're coming up with anything.

I would probably play up how deadly the fort looks. Dug-out moat with a couple of owlbears in it. A knight in full plate armor impaled over the front gate (the bandits don't want to be loud and clanky so they don't do much.) Several sentries on watch. It isn't perfect (they could sneak up and launch flaming arrows at night, or something; the Stag Lord is rather sloppy and doesn't have a lot of preparation in place for things like that), but try and make it clear that a direct assault is a Bad Idea.

Reward them for reconaissance and clever plans (e.g., kidnapping a bandit to get information, posing as traders and buying Svetlana back.) Anything reasonably clever and well-executed they come up with ought to work.

But ultimately, the fort is supposed to be difficult even for 3rd level PCs, especially if they don't use their brains. There's some clues about things they can do if they pay attention in the module (get the Stag Lord drunk, for instance). If the Stag Lord is tougher and more active than in the module it's going to be EXTREMELY difficult. Particularly if the PCs just bull ahead.

Ultimately, if the PCs act stupidly, don't be afraid to defeat them. There are alternatives to TPK, like "You all wake up, badly wounded, chained in the basement of the fort. Through the window outside you can hear the Stag Lord arguing with Akiros about whether or not to sell you to the slavers who are coming by tomorrow." Maybe Svetlana is sent to feed them and manages to steal a key or something, maybe they manage to escape and have to restart (plus getting trailed by a few bandits should keep them on their toes all the way back to Oleg's.

Depends on what kind of game you want to play and whether or not you think the PCs are up to it. They should think of the Stag Lord as _very_ dangerous and remember their triumph over him with great glee if they are successful... but for the success to mean anything, it has to be earned by the possibility of failure. Maybe the _next_ group of PCs sent south to the Stolen Lands will try something different. If you think your group is up to "your new characters are hired by the Swordlords to deal with the very dangerous bandit threats in the Stolen Lands that wiped out the last group that was sent", you could have the basis for quite a nice continuation.

Or you could get the bandits from the Camp intercept them; if their purpose is to secure the northern frontier for the Stag Lord, they'd get in a lot of trouble if the party reached the fort, so if they learn of the parties intention, they'd hunt the party down.
A night raid to kill/steal the horses and burn/poison the food would be a good start.

If the players reach the fort, maybe a party of robbers just return home, and they see the column of twenty or more riders enter the fort. If at that point they continue, they deserve to die.

Grand Lodge

Old Drake wrote:

Or you could get the bandits from the Camp intercept them; if their purpose is to secure the northern frontier for the Stag Lord, they'd get in a lot of trouble if the party reached the fort, so if they learn of the parties intention, they'd hunt the party down.

A night raid to kill/steal the horses and burn/poison the food would be a good start.

If the players reach the fort, maybe a party of robbers just return home, and they see the column of twenty or more riders enter the fort. If at that point they continue, they deserve to die.

I love the story twist. I actually had the bandits hit Oleg's while the party was gone. They ended up taking a lot of prisoners.

Here's how it all played out.

The PCs got lucky on the random encounter table and had a hunter go through their camp headed toward the bandit fort with furs to trade. (Yes, I know they could simply kill the hunter and take his stuff, but then they'd have to go get their own furs/food/etc.)

The PCs buy the furs (for 250gp) and use that as a cover to have the cavalier go up to the fort. This allows them to see what some of the inside of the fort looks like and get a little bit of intel. He even managed to sell the furs for 225gp.

The cavalier returns to the group and reports his findings. They decide to hit the fort that night (they found out the night before that they don't keep good watch at night)and try to sneak the ranger in and Svetlana out without getting caught.

The sneaking in goes well and the ranger is moving about the fort when she trips, makes a fair amount of noise and drops her light source (bandit beat her stealth check by 10). She tries (unsuccessfully) to bluff herself as one of the bandits making his way to the crapper and the bandit runs off to waken the rest of the fort. The ranger, meanwhile, signals the rest of the party that s$%~ has gone wrong and she needs to be extracted.

The rest of the party charges the front gate, but gets waylaid by the zombies in the moat. The ranger gets surrounded by the bandits and decides to escape by jumping down the well.

After dealing with the zombies, the alchemist in the group drinks his mutagen, which turns him somewhat scaly and draconic. The sorceress, after enlarging the alchemist, convinces the bandits that the alchemist is the avatar of the kobold god come to claim the woman for unspeakable rituals. This worked only because the bandits kept failing their saves against cause fear and the sorceress rolled really well on her intimidate checks.

The party was given Svetlana, told to tell the Sootscale the bandits were coming for them, and took off. The ranger eventually came out of the well about 15 minutes later only to find the bandits waiting for her. She immediately surrendered and was placed in the owlbear cage to await the return of the Stag Lord.

The way I worked it, ol' Staggy is out gathering equipment (beast bane arrows, alchemist fire, owlbear etc.) with his lieutenants and left Happs in charge. He will return in about 8 days, though, which gives the PCs plenty of time to attempt a rescue. Unfortunately, if the PCs don't rescue the ranger by then, she'll likely be interrogated, tortured, and killed. Auchs needs a new playmate, after all.

All in all, things went very well for the bandits. Yes, they lost a few zombies, but none of their people got terribly injured and they exchanged Svetlana for a PC.

Thanks for the advice from earlier. Any thoughts on what to do now?

At the moment, I'm thinking the bandits will wait a day or two after the Stag Lord gets back, then move on the kobold tribe as promised. No clue how/if the PCs are going to try to get back their comrade.

Scarab Sages

Just one in the world is Happs still alive and free? Did they fail to stop his extortion at Oleg's in the very 1st encounter?

They scared him off the first time. A few days later he came back with friends.

The PCs managed to fight them off with lots of casualties on the bandit side and the near death of a PC which allowed Happs to sneak away.

He was also at the Thorne River camp when the PCs stumbled into it. The PCs managed to kill most of the bandits there, including the chick with the hatchets whose name I can't remember, but Happs escaped once again to report to the Stag Lord after stealing horses from the party during the night.

Since then he's laid low and hasn't made much trouble. But with the Stag Lord away he decided to make a raid on Oleg's.

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

So Kressle died but Happs still lives? Why hasn't the Stag Lord killed him? He has fought & failed to defeat the PC's three times now & only survived by turning craven, leaving more capable lieutenants behind to die in his stead. Now he has lost a hostage to the Sootscales because he was too craven to stand up to them. I do not want to be him when the Stag Lord returns & it comes time to explain things.

To be fair, he was always the last one off the battlefield. There's a difference between "turning craven" and "tactical withdrawal".

The first time it was him and 3 bandits vs the PCs and the PCs made an impressive show of force, so they left.

The second time the bandits left when reinforcements for the PCs showed up. Though he did manage to steal a set of horses on his way out.

During the encounter at the River camp, the PCs got Kressle with a bomb as she was retreating. Nothing Happs could do about that and he left shortly afterward. Again after stealing the PCs horses.

Yes, he "lost" a hostage. But it was one the Stag Lord didn't know he had, and he gained one of the people killing the Stag Lord's men as a hostage instead. Even managed it without any bandit deaths this time.

Plus, there's only so much you can do when you fail two saves against "cause fear".

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