Tusk, Master of Dungeons presents Reign of Winter

Game Master Tusk the Half-Orc

Our family Reign of Winter campaign
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You have arrived in Whitethrone, and have been welcomed at the Shrine of the Everbloom...

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When a supernatural pocket of winter appears in the Border Wood near the village of Heldren, the adventurers are sent to investigate, and to find and rescue a traveling aristocrat apparently kidnapped by bandits in the wood. At the center of the winter pocket, the PCs discover the source of the unseasonable weather: a magic portal leading to the frozen land of Irrisen, far to the north. But they soon realize that the threat endangers more than just Heldren when a dying horseman comes through the portal—the Black Rider, the last survivor of Baba Yaga’s Three Riders. He charges the adventurers with finding the missing Baba Yaga to stop her rebellious daughter, Queen Elvanna, from spreading Irrisen’s eternal winter over all of Golarion.

Driven by the need to save their homeland and compelled to act by the witchcraft of the Black Rider, Billinheim, Ripley, Tallindra, and Rask cross into Irrisen through the open portal. The adventurers befriend the oppressed peasants of the village of Waldsby, but also make powerful enemies—for the White Witch who rules the region, Nazhena Vasilliovna, is also responsible for creating the winter portal in Taldor. The adventurers journey to the White Witch’s stronghold, a fortress of pure ice called the Pale Tower, and face Nazhena’s apprentice, Radosek Pavril, a skilled winter witch in his own right. Only after Radosek is defeated are the adventurers able save their hometown of Heldren and shut down the winter portal. With the portal closed, the Billinheim, Ripley, Tallindra, and Rask find themselves trapped in Irrisen, but the Black Rider’s quest points them toward the Irriseni capital city of Whitethrone, the next stop in their search for Baba Yaga.

With the help of their friend and guide, Nadya Petska, and their new intern torchbearer, “Sticks,” the party travels across Irrisen to Whitethrone, where the Black Rider said they would be able to find Baba Yaga’s infamous Dancing Hut. On the city’s outskirts, the party meets Ringierr Malenkov, the uncle of Nadya’s late husband, who is a smuggler who can help them get into the city. The adventurers need the help, as Whitethrone has been placed under martial law and is aggressively patrolled by members of Queen Elvanna’s Winter Guard, who have been warned to be on the lookout for a group of dangerous foreigners matching the party’s description. To get into the city, the adventurers must navigate Whitethrone’s Howlings district, populated and guarded by winter wolves, to obtain forged documents so they can move freely throughout the city.

Once the party infiltrates the city and manages to obtain the necessary papers, they find shelter with the underground resistance movement called the Heralds of Summer’s Return, who operate a hidden shrine to Milani in Whitethrone. There, the adventurers learn that the Dancing Hut has been shackled in place and is heavily guarded, but if they infiltrate a clock tower housing a white dragon commander of the Winter Guard, the ensuing chaos should allow them to get to the Hut.

Simple, right?


The Black Rider (from The Snows of Summer):

After the party defeated the moss troll and winter-touched sprites guarding the Heldren (Taldor) side of the Winter Portal...

A surge of wind suddenly blasts from the swirling vortex in the ring of icicles, gusting outward in a stinging spray of snow and ice. Suddenly, a gaunt horseman with curling ram’s horns and wearing coal-black armor lurches through the portal astride a black warhorse, surrounded by tendrils of cold, dark mist. The rider slumps in the saddle, a shard of blue ice jutting from his back. As rider and mount come to a halt in the snow, the horse suddenly dissipates into black smoke, and the horseman falls to the ground with a groan.

The horseman is the Black Rider, one of Baba Yaga’s Three Riders who herald her return to Irrisen every 100 years. The only one of the three to escape death at the hands of Queen Elvanna, the Black Rider fled into the snowy wilderness of Irrisen. Harried by Elvanna’s armies and mortally wounded, he came upon the winter portal and staggered through in the hope of finding someone to whom he could pass on his mission.

The Black Rider holds two of the keys that control Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut, and that would enable him (or someone else) to use the hut to track down the missing Witch Queen, but he knows that keys don’t currently work, deactivated (like all of the hut’s many keys) by Elvanna. The Rider also realizes that only his life’s blood and connection to Baba Yaga can make the keys functional again. Once he sees the aftermath of the adventurers' battle at the winter portal, the Rider makes a conscious choice to turn his task over to them so they can free Baba Yaga and spare Golarion from a new ice age—even if it means sacrificing himself to give them that opportunity.

The Three Riders of Baba Yaga typically bear a frightening, or at least otherworldly, facade, the better to unnerve and intimidate those they meet. This sinister appearance is an illusion, however, a product of the magic robes granted to them by Baba Yaga that functions as disguise self. To hopefully put the party at ease, the Black Rider drops the facade and appears in his true form, that of an old human man, exhausted, pale from blood loss, and close to death.

The Black Rider is dying; nothing the adventurers do can heal him or save him, and he is aware of that fact. What is already done cannot be reversed. He calls to the adventurers, claiming to have knowledge of great import to share with them. The Rider tells the party who he is and all he knows—the source of the winter portal, the existence of the other portals appearing throughout Golarion, Elvanna’s betrayal of Baba Yaga, and her plans to spread Irrisen’s permanent winter over the whole world. If the party questions him, his most likely answers follow.

Who are you? “Once, I was called Illarion Matveius. Now I am known as Black Midnight. I am Baba Yaga’s Black Rider, harbinger of the Witch Queen’s return.”

Who did to this to you? “The servants of Queen Elvanna, ruler of Irrisen and betrayer of her own mother.”

Why were you attacked? “Something has happened to Baba Yaga. Every hundred years, she returns to Irrisen to place a new daughter on the throne. But Queen Elvanna has other plans, it seems. Baba Yaga has not appeared as planned, and Elvanna intends to slay everyone loyal to her mother. She hunted down those of us who would herald Baba Yaga’s return and slew my associates. I am the last of the Three Riders and a threat to Elvanna’s plans.”

What are Elvanna’s plans? “To take Baba Yaga’s place, and claim all of Golarion as her personal kingdom. Irrisen is a land of endless winter, created by Baba Yaga’s magic. Elvanna seeks to cover the entire world in ice and snow, using portals like this one.”

How do we close the portal? “You can find its source in the Pale Tower, on the other side, but this portal is but one of many. Through them, Elvanna will spread a new ice age across your world, consuming it for all eternity. Closing this portal might save your kingdom, but Golarion would still be doomed.”

What can we do to stop this from happening? “You must find Baba Yaga. Only Baba Yaga can defeat Elvanna. Only the Queen of Witches can undo what her daughter has done.”

How do we find Baba Yaga? “You must use her Dancing Hut to follow her. The hut is a powerful artifact that can cross great distances, even travel between worlds. If you can control the hut, it can take you to Baba Yaga.”

Where is the Dancing Hut? “Elvanna stole the hut and put it on display in Irrisen’s capital, Whitethrone, as a symbol of her power. You must go through the portal to Irrisen and find the Dancing Hut.”

How do we control the hut? “The hut has many keys—objects attuned to the hut—that can take it almost anywhere. I managed to secure two of these keys, but Elvanna stole their power to prevent anyone from using the hut to find her mother. Once they are reactivated, placing the keys in the hut’s cauldron will retrace Baba Yaga’s path.”

Knowing his time is running out, the Rider explains that he’s no longer capable of carrying out the mission assigned to him—finding and rescuing Baba Yaga—so he must pass the task on to the PCs. He produces the two keys to the Dancing Hut—a lock of white hair from a frost giant’s beard and a plague doctor’s mask. These two items appear perfectly normal and mundane in every way, but they are the literal keys to take the Dancing Hut to a new destination in search of Baba Yaga. Elvanna has drained the keys of their power, but the Rider has the power to reactivate them, if the adventurers will accept the mantle of responsibility. When he has said his piece, the Black Rider slits his own throat, bathing the two keys in his life’s blood. This empowers the keys, but kills the Rider, and there is no way to save him through normal means. As he expires, his magic robes melt away like ice in a fire, leaving behind the body of an old man dressed in a simple black tunic. By accepting the mantle of the Black Rider, the adventurers granted new capabilities, but also bound by a powerful geas-like effect, compelling them to seek out Baba Yaga and ensure her return to Irrisen.

Encounters so far in Book 2:

Let me know if you need more details to refresh your memory about any of these encounters or the people you met.

Part 1: Journey to Whitethrone

Threat from the Skies: Raven swarms They’ll put your eye out!
Gremlins’ Curse: winter-touched jinkins Spoiled the food!
The Wood-Wife’s Plight: Sylgja (huldra sorcerer), Finngarth (dominated human fighter), mindslaver mold AHHHHHHHH!
Little Boy Lost: boreal wolves Tallindra versus ALL THE WOLVES
Pocket of Summer: Megaloceros Giant elk in the pasture! Where did it come from? Where will it go? We'll never know!
Haunted Village: children of Ulsgaard (haunt), huevucas Haunted children and the ghosts of a couple of really bad clerics of Desna. Like, the worst.
Ellsprin (Besieged Cottage): quicklings, twigjack Tiny fae speedsters are also the worst.
Nazhena’s Hunters: Winter Guard falconers, Norgrimm (winter wolf) PUNCH A WOLF! PUNCH A WOLF!
Troll Bridge: freshwater merrows Oh, you don’t want to pay a toll? Ummm, never mind. We’ll just go.
The Fishcamps (rescue of Ringeirr Malenkov, uncle of Nadya’s late husband): Marcian Enarxion, Borger and Whunk (ogres) Try to say “Marcian Enarxion” 10 times fast.

Part 2: The Howlings
The Howlings Gate: Greta (winter wolf guard) Greta asks Rask on a date, because he’s wearing the rimepelt and masquerading as a winter wolf. Awkward!
The Back-Alley Boys: snow goblin warriors and Grindtooth (snow goblin alchemist) Blue snow goblins are no different than green Varisian goblins. Jerks.
Mirror Man Creepy!
Food Delivery Surprise! There’s a gnome in your wheelbarrow full of fish!
Wages of Sin: Yargin and Scrobe (winter wolves) Attention, drunk winter wolves! We’re here to kill you and take all your stuff!
The Hunt: Korgin (winter wolf, chasing an escaped slave) Yeah, no. How about instead, we kill you and your former slave takes all your stuff and gives it to the Heralds of Summer’s Return (who give the party a percentage)?
Winter Guard Patrol: ice trolls (avoiding them) Run away! Mortin, open the damn door!
Mortin the Forger He may be a coward, but he does nice work.
Checkpoint: Mirror Men Kill ‘em quick, before they see our faces!

Beginning Part Three: The Dragon of Whitethrone:

The city of Whitethrone is the capital of both Irrisen and the province of Thronehold. Situated on the northern shore of Glacier Lake, it is home to a diverse population of Jadwiga, Ulfen, dwarves, fey, gnomes, ice trolls, snow goblins, and winter wolves, though most of the Ulfen, dwarves, and gnomes are little more than slaves, occupying a much lower position on the social ladder beneath the Jadwiga and the city’s more monstrous denizens. Queen Elvanna’s eldest daughter, Princess Cassisoche, rules Whitethrone, and with Elvanna’s attention focused on her ritual to spread eternal winter over all of Golarion, Cassisoche is currently running most of Irrisen in her mother’s stead with the help of the Jadwiga Elvanna.

Martial law has recently been declared in the city, making it even more dangerous than usual for foreigners to venture outside of the relatively safe Merchants’ Quarter. Patrols of Elvanna’s mirror men and the Winter Guard are everywhere, and moving through the city without proper credentials can be a death sentence. Nevertheless, trade goes on as it always does, and those with official papers (or forged ones) can still move around the city, provided they watch their step and take care not to attract attention to themselves.


Once the PCs have made it out of the Howlings and into the city of Whitethrone proper, Ringeirr guides the PCs southward to the district called the Floes, where many of the city’s elite Jadwiga live. Ringeirr heads for a small communal bathhouse catering to well-connected Ulfen just east of the Water Palace. After a knowing nod to the bathhouse attendant, Ringeirr leads the PCs downstairs and into the subterranean service tunnels connecting many of the nearby bathhouses, then through a hidden door into the secret shrine of Milani.

Created by druid members of the Heralds of Summer’s Return many years ago, the Shrine of the Everbloom occupies a secret underground sub-level beneath the Hidden Gardens. Heated by the hot springs of the Floes, the shrine itself is not very big, but there are living quarters for up to a dozen people, usually occupied by fugitives the Heralds help smuggle into or out of the city. There are no mirrors anywhere in the complex.

Ringeirr introduces the PCs to Solveig Ayrdahl, the cleric of Milani who leads Whitethrone’s cell of the Heralds of Summer’s Return. Solveig is detailed fully in the NPC appendix on page 56. Ringeirr encourages the PCs to tell Solveig their story, and once she learns that the PCs plan to overthrow Queen Elvanna, she agrees to help them.

Solveig explains that although Queen Elvanna put Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut on display in the city’s Market Square, a thick forest teeming with strange creatures sprouted up around the hut almost overnight, and the market is now completely overgrown. The Winter Guard, under the command of one of the queen’s great-great-granddaughters, a White Witch named Nazhena Vasilliovna, has cordoned off the entire Market Square. They have labored feverishly to cut down the forest, but so far they’ve only succeeded in halting the forest’s spread through the entire Merchants’ Quarter. Around the square itself, any trees cut down grow back the following morning. There’s no way to get to the hut without going through a small army, no matter how good the PCs’ forged papers might be, but Solveig has an idea.

She tells the PCs that the Heralds have made careful and tentative contact with the remains of the Iron Guard, the former military order loyal to Baba Yaga that Elvanna replaced with her own Winter Guard. Several of the Iron Guard’s commanders survived Elvanna’s purges and were driven underground, but they hunger for the chance to reclaim the city (and all of Irrisen) for its true mistress. Unsurprisingly, the Iron Guard distrusts the Heralds, but the current situation has made the two groups allies of convenience. For their part, the Heralds are no supporters of Baba Yaga, but Queen Elvanna is by far the most powerful manifestation of the White Witches’ rule, and removing from her from power would be a telling blow against Irrisen’s oppressive government.

According to Solveig, the Iron Guard is just waiting for an opportunity to launch a counterstrike against the Winter Guard, but one thing stands in their way—one of the Winter Guard’s commanders, the white dragon Logrivich. Solveig’s cell of resistance fighters is small, and they are guerillas, not trained soldiers. They survive by keeping their heads down and quietly helping the oppressed people of Whitethrone, not by engaging Elvanna’s minions in open combat. If the PCs were to remove the threat of the dragon, however, Solveig believes she could convince the Iron Guard to strike back at the Winter Guard. Such an uprising would be sure to draw troops away from the Market Square, enabling the PCs to reach the Dancing Hut with much less opposition.

Assuming the PCs agree to Solveig’s plan, she offers them shelter in the shrine for the duration of their stay in Whitethrone. The PCs can rest and recover within the small hideout, and Solveig offers them healing, if needed. They can even spend some time carefully exploring parts of Whitethrone looking for places to purchase or sell gear, so long as they keep a low profile. Before long, however, the mantle of the Black Rider should push them toward completing their quest to find Baba Yaga’s Dancing Hut.

Once the PCs are ready to face the dragon, Solveig gives them directions to the clock tower that Logrivich has claimed as his lair and warns them to prepare to fight ice trolls, many of whom occupy the tower. She offers the PCs three potions of cure light wounds and two skyrocket fireworks (Ultimate Equipment 109) to use on their mission. Once the dragon is dead, the PCs should launch one of the skyrockets from the clock tower to signal the Heralds and the Iron Guard to attack.

Lastly, Solveig has a personal request for the PCs. She confesses feeling guilty that her plan also serves a personal ulterior motive and asks their forgiveness, but she begs them to consider her proposal anyway. Solveig’s side quest is detailed below.

Side Quest
Solveig asks the PCs to rescue Bella Belvorica, a Chelish opera singer who arrived a few days before the declaration of martial law and had the bad luck to capture the dragon’s interest. “While you are in the clock tower, please try to find Miss Belvorica, wherever she may be imprisoned, and bring her here to the Shrine of the Everbloom where she will be safe. Her remarkable talent should not be collateral damage in a world so thirsty for beauty.” You get the clear impression that Solveig has a personal interest in Bella’s rescue.

UP NEXT: Selling off loot and buying new gear to prepare for the assault on Logrivitch’s clock tower. Do you test your forged papers and go to market yourselves, or ask the Heralds to do your buying and selling for you? Any other activities while you rest and recover?

Liberty's Edge

Male Half-orc Cleric of Cayden Cailean 6 | HP: 41/41 | AC 18 T 12 FF 17 | CMB: +6, CMD: 20 | F:+7, R:+4, W:+9 | Init: +5 | Perc: +3 (darkvision 60'), SM: +7 | Speed 40/30 | +1 heavy mace (2 handed) +9 (1d8+13)*, +1 heavy mace (1 handed) +7 (1d8+11)*; mwk light crossbow +6 (1d8/19-20) |*Active: Pwr Atk | Spells: lvl 3, 3+1/4; lvl 2, 4+1/5; lvl 1, 4+1/5; lvl 0, 4

Rask sits on a crate of crossbow bolts the Heralds recently "liberated" from a Cheliaxian weapons merchant and leans against the wall. He sighs contentedly and takes a long drink from a mug of warm honey mead. After a moment, Solveig's request filters through the haze of relief and contentment that has filled his head since Ringeirr brought them to the Shrine of the Everbloom.

"I'm sorry, ma'am." The burly half-orc digs a finger into one ear to make sure it isn't plugged up. "I know you said something about the Iron Guard and the Winter Guard and whatnot, but did you just ask us to save a fair maiden who is being kept prisoner in a tower by a terrible dragon?" He turns to Billinheim. "That's what she said, isn't it?"

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CG Male Human (Varisian) Ranger 6 | HP 62/62 | AC 21 T 13 FF 19 | CMB +9, CMD 22 | F: +6, R: +7, W: +4 | Init: +2 | Perc: +11, SM: +4 | Speed 20ft | +1 Longsword/Handaxe: +8/+3 (1d8+4/19-20), +8/+3 (1d6+1/x3) | Spells: lead blades, magic fang | Active conditions: None.

Billenheim chuckles. "I believe she did." He sits on another crate, sharpening one of his longswords. A pile of his weapons sits at his feet: another longsword, two daggers, one silver and jeweled and one cold iron, a composite longbow, a composite shortbow, a handaxe, a throwing axe, a warhammer, and a shield. He waves a hand and says, "I think I'm pretty much good when it comes to gear. I... probably should sell some of this stuff, really."

Liberty's Edge

Male Half-orc Cleric of Cayden Cailean 6 | HP: 41/41 | AC 18 T 12 FF 17 | CMB: +6, CMD: 20 | F:+7, R:+4, W:+9 | Init: +5 | Perc: +3 (darkvision 60'), SM: +7 | Speed 40/30 | +1 heavy mace (2 handed) +9 (1d8+13)*, +1 heavy mace (1 handed) +7 (1d8+11)*; mwk light crossbow +6 (1d8/19-20) |*Active: Pwr Atk | Spells: lvl 3, 3+1/4; lvl 2, 4+1/5; lvl 1, 4+1/5; lvl 0, 4

Rask raises an eyebrow. "I get wanting to have a backup weapon or three, but I don't think I've ever seen someone carry a backup bow before. And if I did, I'd expect it to be Tallindra."

CG Male Human (Varisian) Ranger 6 | HP 62/62 | AC 21 T 13 FF 19 | CMB +9, CMD 22 | F: +6, R: +7, W: +4 | Init: +2 | Perc: +11, SM: +4 | Speed 20ft | +1 Longsword/Handaxe: +8/+3 (1d8+4/19-20), +8/+3 (1d6+1/x3) | Spells: lead blades, magic fang | Active conditions: None.

"Yeah..." Billenheim nods. He tosses the shortbow and the cold iron dagger into a pile to the side. "Those, I can sell. Or if anyone else wants them, they can take them."

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One global pandemic later, we return to play-by-post as our heroes have fought their way through the forces besieging the Skyfire Mandate stronghold of Spurhorn, hoping to find allies - and one of the next pair of keys to the Dancing Hut - among the defenders, the formidable Dragon Legion.

I will add a couple of more detailed summaries over the next few weeks, and then (once characters are updated) we’ll be ready to move to PbP when Ripley’s player goes back to campus (either later this summer, or in the fall).

NG Orc Hydrokineticist 10 | HP 130/130 | AC 26 T 14 FF 25 | CMB +9, CMD 25 | F: +15, R: +11, W: +7 | Init: +1 | Perc: +13 (+2 sight), SM: +1 | Speed 30ft | +1 Keen Falchion: +12/+5 (2d4+13+2d6 cold/15-20), Large: +11/+4 (2d6+13+2d6 cold/15-20) | Burn: 0/10 (Cold resistance x2 burn, +1 blast attack/+2 dam max 3, at least 3: +2 str/con) | Active conditions: None.

"So the planets are on... disks? And they spin around the sun? What makes them move?"

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TN Wolf | HP 94/94 | AC 23 T 13 FF 19 | CMB +12, CMD 28 | F: +11, R: +9, W: +4 (+4 vs. ench) | Init: +3 | Perc: +6, SM: +1 | Speed 50ft | Bite: +11/+6 (2d6+17+trip/x2) | a very good boy :D | Active conditions: None.


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