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Name: Novid Morradi
Race: human, male
Classes/levels: fighter 10
Adventure: Shifting Sands
Location: in the Sphinx
Catalyst: Banshee Wail is really hard!
The Gory Details: The damage on a failed save was nearly double his total hp.

Raise Dead next day, and he's nearly all back.

Novid was the fighter I'd mentioned earlier, who had been protected by his absence at games-- Death said, "today!"

Name: Jes
Race: half-elf
Classes/levels: bard (dervish dancer) 10
Adventure: Shifting Sands
Location: in the Sphinx
Catalyst: full attack at this level is brutal
The Gory Details: She danced too close to the fire, er, monster, and got ginsu'd.

Breath of Life FTW, and she's fine now.

Wow. Well done.

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Not a campaign, but a convention one-shot. I had prepared for the PCs to defend a spot against an attack. I'd set it up as a fortified building for them, plenty of ammo and warning. The bad guys had sent a disguised scout, but the players figured him out, and followed him back to the bad guys' home base, a train station.

The PCs said, "screw defending, let's go attack them!" It was about halfway through the 4-hour session, so I called for a bathroom break while I thought about it. When I'd gotten back, they'd flipped over my battlemat and drawn the outline of a train station on it.

So we played it out.

They survived and broke up the bad guy gang.

Note: Now, 5 of the 7 PCs in our group have been killed.

*The cleric has been very careful about staying out of fights.

*The fighter's been super-lucky. That, and our group has a table rule that a PC can't be killed if the player isn't at the table (unless it's a TPK).

Not me this time!

Name: Jes
Race: half-elf
Classes/levels: bard (dervish dancer) 7
Adventure: Shifting Sands
Location: hills in Parched Dunes
Catalyst: getting too close before the casters could cast Grease or Freedom of Movement
The Gory Details: She danced too close to the fire, er, monster, and failed one anti-swallow CMD too many. Gulp. She had one round to cut herself out before the crush damage knocked her completely below negative Con.

My 3rd death averted by DM fiat

Name: Ostog Snorrison (me)
Race: human (Ulfen, raised in Varisia)
Classes/levels: wizard (evoker) 7
Adventure: Shifting Sands
Location: hills near Crook River
Catalyst: animus of a spellcaster
The Gory Details: We were suspicious even before we'd left Tephu, and always travelled in large groups for safety when making preparations for our desert journey, or stayed in secure places in Wati.
Shortly after we got off the boat up the Crooked River, a sphinx flew down, which was rapidly defeated. When a band of hostiles rode up on their camels, we swerved to take action. In the first round that the badniks were in range, my wizard used his Spectral Hand + Elemental Touch to zap their spellcaster. This drew his attention, and he started targeting my wizard with spells. After that first successful touch attack, I couldn't roll above a 5 to hit all night, and I was in trouble, even though I made a record two saves in a row! After a minor attack, I failed a save vs. lightning bolt, and was 1 below my negative Con total.

BUT, the GM didn't want to kill another PC so far from where we could find a replacement (I do have Ostog's little sister ready as a next PC), so the damage was retconned by 2 points. Fortunately, one of our bards, even blinded, was adjacent to me on the ground after the lightning bolt, and got a Cure spell in before I had to roll to stabilize at -8.

I copied the pictures of most NPCs from the Kingmaker PDFs and printed them onto cards myself. I think that helped some of the players keep track of who's who.

I'm trying to make sure I understand the details.

A wand of a 1st level spell costs 750gp, so crafting it costs 375gp in materials.

If a wizard earns 4 Magic capital, he would pay 200gp for it, plus the time spent. Those 4 Magic equate to 400gp of crafting costs.

So, one can work up 4 Magic, paying 200gp, and use that for a wand that would be 750gp on the open market?

Name: Sallah (again)
Race: human (Garundi)
Classes/levels: paladin of Pharasma 6

Adventure: Shifting Sands
Location: Vault of Hidden Wisdom
Catalyst: bad die rolls (again)
The Gory Details: Two clockwork guardians with polearms = lots of damage scored if they roll critical hits. Yup, that's what happened.

Note that this was only a few days after his previous death, so Sallah and Amestri were carrying a negative level apiece, and Ostog was down 3 negative levels, so he was staying in Wati for a while.

We had a metagame discussion about the recent deadliness of this: 5 PC deaths in 3 sessions. We have 7 PCs, so the GM has been keeping our experience level down one from the recommended levels. I guess we see what can result from that, but we agreed to keep things the way they are. We finished the Tephu libraries with most of the party at 7th level, since we were down to 5 active PCs. We will wait 3 weeks before embarking on the next phase, so that we can shake off the last negative levels.

One of the joys of city adventuring could be the multiple plots coming at them?

You could delay one of these two until after all or most of the research elements are done?

Name: Ostog Snorrison (me)
Race: human (Ulfen, raised in Varisia)
Classes/levels: wizard (evoker) 6

Name: Amestri
Race: human (Kheleshite)
Classes/levels: bard (archaeologist) 6

Name: Sallah
Race: human (Garundi)
Classes/levels: paladin of Pharasma 6

Adventure: Shifting Sands
Location: streets of Tephu
Catalyst: mistakes and bad die rolls
The Gory Details: Our party of 7 got jumped in a street market by 3 assassins, whose Stealth rolls smoked our Perceptions, so they got a surprise round.
* Ostog rolled under the assassins' death attack.
* Amestri rolled under the assassins' death attack.
* Sallah rolled over the assassins' death attack, but then lost initiative and two of them flanked him, so their sneak attack damage combined to drive him into negative hit points. Our Oracle throws some healing to him, bringing him back to positive, but Sallah then blows any chance to be ignored by attacking from prone, while still lying between two assassins. On round 2, they kill him again, this time for sure.

The remaining PCs are able to kill the assassins after several rounds, and the three dead folks are raised. This is when we notice the limitation on Restoration spells, meaning we cannot recover all of the negative levels for another week. That also meant Ostog still had a negative level from the previous death, only 2 days before. Our 6th level wizard is carrying around 3 negative levels, and really only has 13 hp! He started to stay home from the next round of library research.

Professor Dumbledore said there'd be days like this....

Name: Ostog Snorrison (me)
Race: human (Ulfen, raised in Varisia)
Classes/levels: wizard 6
Adventure: Shifting Sands
Location: The Dark Depository
Catalyst: opening his fool mouth
The Gory Details: It seems that announcing, "Hey, guys, I found something," at the wrong time triggers a nasty spell glyph. 54 damage vs a 28-hit point wizard = no more wizard. Good thing I have Pharasman phriends. There is discussion about him having picked up Nethysite leanings after he's raised. Since I've been playing him a bit like Tony Stark (chasing booze & staying out late at night with bards), he might turn a bit more serious?

I altered his backstory, so the PCs at least knew who he was. IMC, there had been a {Brevoy} civil war less than 10 years ago, and he and Stag Lord had fought on the losing side. He had been the lord of the land just off the map, north of the Drelevs, and his widow ruled in his place.

The PCs recognized both of them, I think after they had killed them. I don't think they ever revealed to Lady Marstenka what happened to her late husband and son.

Name: Amestri
Race: Human
Classes/levels: Archeologist Bard
Location: Sanctum of the Erudite Eye, scythe trap
Catalyst: curiosity and/or really hot dice by the GM
The Gory Details: Amestri is our lock-picker, trap-disarmer, and all-around curious person, the first into everything. She's learned about letting the armored folk go first into a room, though, having been knocked out a few times. This time, it was a trap she'd already disarmed as we were entering the Sanctum. She was trying to disarm it again, or re-arm it behind us, I forget which. Her player rolled poorly, and the GM rolled a critical hit, completely killing her in one swing.
*** That was ruled a Bad Dream, and Never Happened. ***

Name: Khismia
Race: Human
Classes/levels: Shaman 5
Adventure: Empty Graves
Location: Observatory
Catalyst: overconfidence, incomplete planning
The Gory Details: The half-orc/ghast barbarian is frozen in place (Halt Undead) while the rest of the party defeats the crypt thing in the next room. Khismia offers to Fireball the ghast (releasing it from the spell if it doesn't kill it outright), and the wizard (me) suggests, "Use Burning Hands instead, so the fighter & paladin can be right in her face when my spell is released."
The coordination fell through, so that the armored guys weren't in position or readied to engage the barbarian when the new fight kicked off. Khismia was too slow to get out of her way, and two rounds of full-attack wiped her out.
We got her Raised, though, so it wasn't too bad. Certainly gave us something to discuss over the supper break in the game.

With a position like that, she HAS to go for the long game, whether or not she was doing it before!

Build up her own power base, get other members of the Council on her side, and undermine the defenses as much as possible. Place trusted friends in command of some of the army units, so they will flip sides to Pitax whenever the River War kicks off.

Come to think of it, she should make sure she makes it back to the Capitol before the PCs do, when Pitax makes its move as the PC ruler is at the Games. Oh, even better, she shouldn't be at the Games at all-- a well-timed illness (or pregnancy!)-- real or magically faked-- could keep her at home, able to seize control when the ruler is offed.

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Yes, I've tossed papers across the room in frustration at myself. I quite often make a plan of sequential events, and then forget to execute at least half of the steps and/or jump to some other idea. IOW, I'm easily flustered.

Have them and still run them annually at convention. What's the question?

Hope you weren't in a hurry, I don't check these forums often.

Tinalles: Missing Mom was one of the Lovelies in the Misbegotten Troll's cages, I statted her as a half-elven sorceror, and she provided some guidance in Nyrissa's castle. Again, I really should have worked her into Evindra's place.

Mom's diaries and maps of most of the Stolen Lands were given to the Baroness about Book 3, and an updated journal was found during the war in Book 5. I also printed off "Zuddiger's Picnic", and presented that with the first book. I shamelessly stole from someone else on this board: "your mother used to read this to you at night".

Mom & Dad had explored the Stolen Lands before their marriage. Dad was a Brevic warrior, secretly looking for Ovnirbane on behalf of the Tsar, Mom was looking for Briar for some elves who were never named, but let him believe she was looking for Ovnirbane, too. Sometime after the birth of the PC (Dad's 2nd marriage, by the way), Mom went exploring again and never came home.

FWIW, two more of my players gave me backstory, so I was able to give them in-game links to NPCs and/or information that was useful during play.

Eyelessgame, that's REALLY cool, the way that worked out for you all.

My ruler was a human woman who had given me the background of a mother with suspected elven heritage and had disappeared into the Stolen Lands when the PC was a little girl. I was sorely tempted to rework Evindra into her missing mother, but it seemed too pat and I was afraid of rewriting the timeline and missing another connection.

IMC, I used a different world, in which "Brevoy" hadn't lost its ruling family, but the current Tsar had usurped the throne while the PCs were still teens. The heir to the losing side was "Irrovetti" who didn't have a kingdom, instead a refugee movement that was growing strength by incorporating monsters and elves. The Stag Lord, his bandits, and his father were also members of this low-level rebellion. Varn, Drelev, and one of the PCs' fathers were the new Tsar's allies, so they got the charters to expand the kingdom and hunt down rebels.

I added two minor noble houses at the edge of the map who had ties to both camps, and another one at Restov. The widowed ruler of one made for an interesting foil for the PC ruler, as well as a window into happenings in "Brevoy".

Book 5 was an invasion by "Irrovetti", with several pitched battles. I moved the Castle of Hundred Doors to the Tsar's palace, which "Irrovetti" had seized in a sudden move, chasing out the new Tsar. Since 2 of the PCs had lived in the castle (as teenage hostages/fosterlings), they knew some of the secret places and the general layout.

I could have ended the campaign here at the end of Book 5, with the ruling PC perhaps claiming the Tsar's throne for herself, but it was agreed out of game that we didn't want to add the whole kingdom to the ruling part of the game, and to continue into Book 6.

Am I correct in reading that the effect of the ring is NOT passed on by the Spectral Hand's touch attacks?


Yep, smushing together books 3-5 is exactly what I did. Here is the link to my summary.

Combining the War and Blood shouldn't be hard, maybe you could have the invading army be Armag's, not Irrovetti's. You might want to scale up/down some CRs, of course.

I suggest:
- Move the Midnight Joust to Drelev's town, with everyone invited in. No betrayal at this time.
- Run the Battle of Tatzylford, but maybe Drelev isn't behind it, point directly to Armag.
- IMC, Drelev was secretly allied with Irrovetti, and lured the PCs into his castle, then tried to assassinate them at night. (Lady Drelev successfully pled ignorance.)
- Irrovetti then invades, and the PCs fight their way to his castle. My group also didn't really like the battle rules, so some fights were bypassed/handwaved while the PCs did commando-like stuff. If Armag is the big bad, maybe you don't need to do Pitax, or its siege happens earlier in the war, and King Armag is defeated at his final bolthole in the hills?
- Whiterose Abbey might be skipped, just make sure to tell the PCs about Briar before they get to Pitax castle.

An option that I considered, but didn't adopt: why have /2/ magic intelligent swords lying about? Combine them however you like, and play up Armag I's anti-fey history so that his sword is the one that will kill the next invasion.

Another option I considered is to drop Book 6 (and Briar) entirely. This is supposed to be about building a Kingdom after all. Once that realm is built up to where it can defeat an invasion by its neighbor, what more need is there to play on?

Nope. With at least two of those criteria listed, he should have been adopted by my group's cavalier, but he faded into obscurity in my game.

If he wants to be Ruler, he might become a rival to the new ruler?

Change what you need to change to make it work: as said, it's plot-essential. If it were me, I'd lose the cross-alignment penalty-- maybe the sword is neutral or lawful after all.

I kicked around setting up Shackled City in a Caribbean or South Pacific pulp-era setting. My old loves of Space:1889 and Star Frontiers popped up, too.

I also thought about the first third of Savage Tide as a Cold War-era setting, also Caribbean or South Pacific.

The Serpent Hunters, now having finished the Tomb of Akhentepi

Most are natives of Osirion:
Sallah, paladin of Pharasma (undead scourge), human male
Hadiya min-Albadhu, cleric of Pharasma, half-orc female
Khismia, shaman, human female- a street orphan of Wati
Jes, bard (dervish dancer), elven female
Novid Morradi, fighter, human male

Two are from abroad,
Amestri, bard (archaeologist), Keleshite female
Ostog Snorrison, wizard (admixture-evoker), Ulfen male

Late to the discussion, but my idea would be to delay any of Happs' attacks on Oleg's until after the PCs are around. Have his first appearance while the PCs are out exploring, not just before the game starts.

As for how to get them back to Oleg's often, I agree with the suggestions to enforce encumbrance and food consumption.

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As it happened- We started playing our monthly game in December 2012, and took 46 sessions to finish. The players enjoyed the many one-off encounters of the “hexploration” stages, although they wanted to beeline straight for the Stag Lord as soon as possible. Both Stag Lord and his father had been backers of the losing Tsar, and were now seeking to rebuild in the name of his daughter Danika. At my gentle prodding, the party instead took the time to overcome the mites and Tartuk, and ally with the kobolds. One of Viktor’s missing brothers (a.k.a. Akiros) was easily convinced to defect from the Stag Lord. With a temporary alliance with the kobolds, they all stormed the fort.

Yulianna took up the role of the new Baroness, centered on the former Stag Lord’s fort. Jana took over the Councilor role (played more like a prime minister in this group). We added things from Ultimate Campaign when it became available. Yulianna married a scion of the Papanovich merchant clan after she took over Tuskwater Keep, one that had been pioneers in the failed caravan trade. Consort Mikhail was played as a fighter cohort, with every feat that could be used as a bodyguard for his wife and baroness.

For the 2d book, I added the Hargulka’s Kingdom & War threads; the announcement of the first battles came at the new Baroness’ wedding feast. The early mass-combat battles were rather deadly for the realm’s armies at the small level, something that dogged us all campaign long. The group’s final assault on Hargulka’s caves led to the deaths of both Vriska and Petra’s winter-wolf companion. Having allies among the temples can be useful, though, as well as being a potential heir to the legacy of Armag the Terrible, and Vriska was raised, in theory making her a solid candidate for “Twice Born”.

Also here, I adjusted the Dancing Lady and companion as scouts for Nyrissa, and one of them thought Yulianna looked familiar—perhaps one had met her missing mother? Rigg gave the group fits in the combat, and a table argument about the Dancing Lady’s seemingly “invincible powers” left a bad taste around the table, despite the fact that she was defeated in 2 rounds. Vesket and his lizardmen (reskinned as gnolls to fit the climate better) went down like chumps.

One of the immediate goals of the Yulianna-Jana team was to re-open solid trade routes off the map to the west. Jana had been the lone survivor of the last of the (pre-game) caravans. They bent every effort to bring that part of the map under control. After driving their way along the Shrike River, the party worked on investigating the mysterious lights seen on Candelmere Island. This is where I swapped in Vordakai’s tomb, rather than later.

I started merging books with 3 & 4: Drelev was now the one who started the Rushlight Tournament (a.k.a. “Vos-Olympics”), hoping to celebrate his family’s success at colonizing. His brother-in-law—a foreign trained wizard—brought the concept from overseas, so it was a novelty at best, perhaps a dangerous foreign innovation. This was the best opportunity to have the PCs meet their neighboring Houses. Several of the non-competing PCs and NPCs were used to make Diplomacy contests with the neighbors: surprisingly, Lord Drelev and the Barthelski family (Restov) emerged as new allies to the PCs, while Lady Marstenka remained hostile. It was a fun session for all, even though they only won the joust. Varn’s team won the overall prize.

Soon, Lord Varn tried to take on the mantle of Armag the Terrible, seeking his lost tomb in the mountains. Some of his ogre mercenaries got restless and struck at Yulianna’s lands, thus the fight at Tatzylford (moved to the other side of the players’ realm). The hunt for Armag’s Tomb agitated the temple and tribal factions that wanted to back Vriska for the holder of the title, as well as the Tsar, who didn’t want anyone to hold such a powerful weapon in his not-so-stable realm. Varn’s potential coup ended with two battles and a dungeon-delve, and the sword recovered. The Tsar was so pleased, he let Vriska keep Ovnirbaane and Varnhold and raised Yulianna to Countess, with authority over Vriskagrad, Drelev, and the neighboring Marstenka and Teskertinov houses. Also in here, the goddess Karesha granted her oracle a new winter wolf companion.

Yulianna’s father, an old warrior, retired about this time to his youngest (and most successful!) daughter’s house. Dad became their General, displacing (Akiros) to another post. Yulianna was able to read the writings her missing mother had left behind. These included a copy of Zuddiger’s Picnic (one of the wonderful prints found on this board) and maps of parts of the area. Apparently, both her parents had been seeking a magical sword when they adventured decades ago—father thought it was only Ovnirbaane, mother was looking for Briar (more foreshadowing, of course).

Book 4 and 5 were also merged a bit. The centaurs were now up north of Drelevgrad, agitated about something, and the new vassals Drelev and Marstenka made it clear that they expected the Countess to Do Something About It. She made peaceful contact with the centaurs, though the games/contests here were less popular with the players than I imagined. Varin, a centaur skald, joined the party as something of an ambassador.
The centaurs were angry about humans messing about in the old elven abbey that they were trying to keep a secret. The abbey, of course, was Whiterose, IMC an ancient elven order dedicated to keeping the undead and other horrors of the Shadow World out of Cerilia. Evindra had been there before the elves built their abbey, and she had kept the secret of Briar even from them. The human invaders that had angered the centaurs turned out to be warriors with elven arms, loyal to the late Tsar and his daughter Danika, who now had Briar.

After this, the Countess and her retinue stopped over at Drelevgrad on their way home. Unknown to them, Drelev had begun secret negotiations with the former Tsar’s daughter Danika, plotting an invasion from the elven lands with Nyrissa’s backing. Neither Drelev nor I had been expecting the PCs to visit here as the invasion was approaching, but the moment seemed opportune: the fight at Drelev Keep was a midnight betrayal. This attempted assassination went poorly: Lord Drelev and his mistress (also in on the plot) were slain, and his wizard brother-in-law got away. Lady Drelev claimed to have been held prisoner by the ambitious trio and made it stick. She retained her life and her lands, though Petra remained VERY suspicious to the end.

The centaurs sent a message that the hostile giants at Drelev Keep were only the first part of a massed invasion. Since I knew my players were always up for some old-fashioned combat, I inserted here most of the old AD&D module G1 “Steading of the hill giant chieftain”. They marched out and merrily bashed their way through the giants. Lady Drelev’s brother the wizard was found here and killed, along with some bodyguards from Danika.

By now, Danika’s armies were marching out from the Thousandbreaths forest (having been armed by the secretive elves at the behest of the isolationist queen). An elite unit, flying ahead on wyverns, seized the castle, though not the Tsar—Yulianna’s warnings were not totally in vain. Our heroes had already mobilized their armies after the attempted coup at Drelevgrad, so several field battles took place north of there. The bulk of Danika’s army, however, bypassed the Stolen Lands and marched to the Tsar’s capital, perhaps aided by disloyal houses in the realm.

Once the battles had stabilized her own realm, Yulianna led her intrepid band straight to the Castle of a Hundred Doors. Both she and her husband had (separately) explored the castle in their teenage years, and knew of a secret exit, so they entered the castle from under the river. During a long skirmish (3 sessions) throughout the building, the monsters that were guarding Danika and her many loyal guards were defeated, and finally Viktor killed her in her underground hideout. The sword Briar was recovered and given to Yulianna’s consort Mikhail.
Not even a month later, the Blooms began. It didn’t take long at all for the group to decide on carrying the conflict straight to Nyrissa.

It took 3 sessions to enter the faerie realm, defeat the creatures outside, crash the Castle back into the real world, and crush Nyrissa’s allies. The appearance of the Jabberwock and the revelation of Briar’s Vorpal abilities was the happy surprise that I had hoped for all along. Years ago, my wife had memorized the poem, and often picked up our infant sons with “come to my arms, my beamish boy…”. The recitation that followed was an intended highlight of the whole campaign.

Bashing through Nyrissa’s Realm and House took a few sessions, including one when the Misbegotten Troll came looking for them. He didn’t put up much of a fight, but his tigers killed Varin (Breath of Life to the rescue) and nearly got Yulianna. One of his “lovelies” turned out to be Yulianna’s long-missing mother! Of course, she became a valuable source of information on Nyrissa and the power of Briar, as well as a sometime spellcaster.

Some memorable moments in the castle include a very long running chase of the Wriggling Man, the blinding of Viktor by a nymph at the same time as Phomandala petrified Yulianna during a long battle; and a big fight with the many shadowy beasts in the main hall.

The final fight with Nyrissa was also a long one, though her spells were less effective than one hoped, her high Armor Class kept the warriors from doing much damage. Petra was killed (and quickly raised) before she went down. By strange coincidence, Nyrissa was unable to Concentrate for ANY of her cure spells, nearly all of them rolled 1s.

All in all, this was really fun: a tale of war and blood, family, magic, betrayal, and intrigue. Thanks again to Paizo and the authors for writing and publishing Kingmaker.

Thanks also to all here on the forum for inspiration, discussion, and suggestions, especially Dudemeister, Pennywit, and RedCelt0.

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We have just concluded our Kingmaker campaign, four years of fun. It’s taken us 46 sessions, nearly monthly, starting in December 2012 and wrapping up on New Year’s Eve, 2016.

It started with my friends buying Book 1 for my birthday in 2010. They all knew that the political-themed Birthright setting was my favorite, and thought Kingmaker might be right up my alley. By the time the AP was all in my hands, two players were concocting characters with me via email, and I was scribbling notes for conversion to that setting. I had plenty of time to work on it, as we were deep into Savage Tide. This gave me plenty of time to analyze the AP and its component sections, decide how and where to fit it into my campaign world, and discuss character backgrounds with my player group. Reading these discussion boards was very helpful, especially the development of the 6-play variant, as I usually had 6 players.

Weaknesses- Like others here, Nyrissa didn’t seem foreshadowed enough to me, nor the links from the First World to this one. On the other hand, given that my players wanted to go straight after the fairies right away, the lack of portals worked out. When I neared the end of Book 5, it occurred to me that I could make a good case that Pitax’s invasion could have been a very good campaign climax by itself—if one considers the kingdom as a player character, then the ultimate achievement of that state should be its winning a war for survival.

I was also very disappointed with the absence of contact with the neighboring realms; the player characters’ realm seemed to be in a vacuum most of the time. Varn and Drelev were barely named in the early books, and then they popped up only when it was time for them to disappear or be confronted. Likewise Irrovetti and his “famous” games, that only shows up years into the campaign. The incipient civil war in Brevoy dissolved from the background, and that seemed an especial fault to me.

Irrovetti’s Games were another thing that seemed to come out of the blue: if they were so famous, why wouldn’t the characters know about them before Book 5? It seemed a great place to play out some of that intrigue.

At various times, I toyed with the ideas of dropping books 3 and 6. The former as a “distraction“ from the main story, the latter as my group has an aversion to high-level play. This would be our third AP and high-level fatigue seems to set in for us after 12th level. This turned out not to be the case, as they wanted to play more.

Adjustments- I spent a lot of the nearly 2 years before we started playing by altering names and links between people and events in order to better fit my setting.

WIthin the Birthright setting, I needed a location on the map that seemed similar to the Stolen Lands: unclaimed space, adjacent to a country that was politically divided and a potential crossover point for a faerie kingdom. Within the Vos region, I found the Mistmoor (unclaimed space, believed to be haunted), near to both Rovninodensk (coming out of a civil war) and Tuar Annwn (elven realm that had magically sealed itself from humans centuries ago). To make the Stolen Lands maps match the Mistmoor, I rotated everything 90 degrees clockwise, so that their explorations were directed west instead of south. Pitax disappeared as a kingdom and city, becoming an outpost village of Drelev, rather than an already-developed city and country. The forests to the north were now Tuar Annwn, and Nyrissa became a mythical queen who had ruled the Mistmoor in the prehistoric past. The city map and the war plot were recycled later.

In the Birthright setting, the Vos are a human culture that resembles historical Slavic flavor, a tribal-warrior mentality, and the early medieval era. Vos culture celebrates martial power (embodied in the god Belinik) and animal cunning (embodied in goddess Karesha), holding them as distinctly male and female aspects. Arcane magic is practically forbidden, and relations with elves or other outsiders are typically hostile.

Nearly all of my players had become fans of “Game of Thrones”, books and/or HBO series, so I knew that had to play into that. I cast the Rovninodensk civil war in the recent past as similar to Robert’s Rebellion, and the PCs as young adults who had been children during that war. The daughter of the losing tsar had fled into the forests near the elven lands—she took over Irrovetti’s stats.

Shortly after starting, I bought the Campaign Starter book for the Song of Ice & Fire RPG, which presented personalities and details for a handful of noble families and retainers, which is what I craved. One family became the Marstenka house, placed on the “eastern” edge of the Hooktongue map; the Numesti family became her retainers. Another filled in faces and personalities for Nivatka’s Crossing (and picked up Lily Teskertin), and one for Varn’s family and retainers.

Technical things- We used one of the kingdom-tracking spreadsheets developed on the Paizo forums, which was a huge help. Our Councilor’s player saved a summary of each turn’s actions in a long Word document, so that we could look back on things. She and I would sit down before most sessions and play through however many campaign turns we needed; sometimes they would take the winters off. We briefly attempted to run Varnhold as a separate realm, but dropped it as unnecessary.

I kept a calendar for myself, pages with a series of columns: month, PC/realm activities, neighboring realm activities, random events for the kingdom, Tsar’s activities, NPC secret actions, and other events. One sheet of paper—12 fat lines—covered a campaign year. I like to roll out random events in advance, that way I could work them into plotted events as harbingers or add-ons, as needed. All my notes were kept in hanging folders in a plastic crate; important items were in a 3-ring binder. I kept track of NPCs on 4”x6” cards, often printed the pictures from the AP books on the backs. These could be updated as needed, and sorted by affiliation.

I used Epic Words as our campaign website. It tracked xps and treasure (and wealth by level), but the main feature was that I could post summaries of each game and teasers for the next one. The forum helped us plan future session dates as well as share jokes and notes about characters. Occasionally, in-character discussions happened, but my group wasn’t into that, it seems.

Combat Manager was a tremendous boon to me at running a session, as I could easily edit monsters and NPCs to fit my setting, as well as follow initiative easily. By keeping files for that on Dropbox, it didn’t matter if I was using my laptop or borrowing one from my sons, though I usually relied on keeping it on a flash drive.

Characters- My group varied from 5-6 players most of the time, with 5 characters playing all the way through, and only 5 (temporary) player character deaths. Only two of them wanted to take on the political aspects of Kingmaker, but one of them declined to have her character actually rule. Fortunately for me, one of these was my wife, and she took on the role of tracking all of the realm’s statistics. We could walk through her spreadsheet and notes on the campaign turns between sessions.

Countess Yulianna Sergeevna Lodovka- human female rogue. Her father was a younger brother of the Lodovka house, and her mother a half-elven sorcerer he met while adventuring in the Mistmoor. Mother later disappeared, presumably on a later round of adventuring into the Mistmoor. Father was a trusted ally of the new Tsar, and she grew up as a “guest” (read: noble hostage) in the castle of both old and new tsars. Her innate curiosity led her to uncover several palace secrets, but her loyalty to the new Tsar led to her placement in his colonization program.
Vitkor Kurganyev- human male cavalier. His family members were traditional mounted warriors, and he lost two brothers in the civil war while he was also a hostage in the old tsar’s castle. Viktor was always adamant in his dislike for any faerie elements, much less anyone not Vos.
Jana- human female ranger. Daughter of a peasant family, she became an apprentice to a caravan master as a teenager. She learned to make maps, and accompanied two successful roundtrips across the Mistmoor to the west, before it ended in massacre.
Vriska Araknisdottir- human female barbarian. From a tribal village, her family had a strong claim to the leadership of the Tiger Lord tribes, and descent from Armag the Terrible.
Petra- human female oracle. Also from a tribal village, Petra was raised by one of the winter witches of Karesha, living apart from the villages as nomads. Her “mother” was powerful and devout enough that she was able to have a winter wolf as a companion. When Petra felt Karesha’s call, she also received a winter wolf pup. I often had Karesha deliver warnings or foreshadowing through Petra, through forum postings before game sessions.
Yuri- human male Inquisitor. From the same tribe as Vriska, he felt the call to guide her as she took up her destiny.
Leif- human male ranger. Replacement character for Yuri.
Varin- centaur male skald. From the Nomen tribe, Varin joined the group after their alliance to the Nomens formed.

During encounters, the power of Viktor’s mounted charges was often matched by Vriska’s melee fighting. Yulianna and Jana became fast-shooting archers, peppering targets with arrows. Yuri’s player dropped out about 5th level and the character retired to the background. That player ran Leif for a while before dropping out again. Vriska’s player went off to college around 11th level. We discussed retiring her to an NPC and brought in Varin. Instead, Vriska stayed in as a partial PC, sometimes played by guest players, such as her brother or Leif/Yuri’s player.

Yulianna, Jana, and Viktor each took the Leadership feat, and so had a cohort each (2 fighters and a warpriest, respectively). Petra had a winter wolf for an animal companion. There got to be a lot of miniatures on the table after mid-levels!

Given the long-term aspects of this campaign, of the Birthright setting, and of the Game of Thrones feel that we wanted, marriages and dynasties were on option for all. Only two of the characters took advantage of this, Yulianna and Jana each married NPCs and had 2 children. The courting took up little time at the table, more by email. Most of it was more practical and political than romantic, which felt like it belonged in the game.

I usually placed the latter parts of pregnancy (when adventuring would seem risky) in winter when there wouldn’t be any adventuring, anyway. I think there was at least one session when Yulianna’s player was unable to attend, so I altered the timeline that her character was at home, just before or after giving birth. I didn’t dock her the xp for the session.

First, a dice story. Back in 2nd ed. days, initiative was on a d10, and rolling low was good. My wizard in a game was always really hot on initiative, never rolling high! I used one particular die (clear, with white painted numbers), origins unknown, for initiative.

After some number of games, commenting on my good fortune, I picked up this die and examined it. "Hey," I (stupidly) said aloud, "This die is numbered 0-4 twice?" No wonder my initiative was so good! I had to put the die up high on a shelf where the DM could see it, and roll with something else.

I'd like to be a powergamer sometimes, but most of my 3/3.5/PF characters aren't very effective. In Savage Tide, I tried to be an active cleric, and ended being just a healbot. I died twice. In Shackled City, my animal companion was more useful in combat, I settled for being the guy that kept the warmage from being distracted. In one shorter campaign, I think I lost 5 characters, mostly clerics, in about as many levels.

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Name: Petra
Race: human
Classes/levels: Oracle (ice) 16
Location: Castle of Knives
Catalyst: blown save
The Gory Details: New Year's Eve, the last night of the year, the last night of this 4-year campaign (long summary coming later). The party of 6 PCs, 3 14th-level cohorts, and 1 animal companion, took on the Queen.

Several rounds of a "high-level slapfight" commenced, as the fighters didn't have the stats to hit Nyrissa's AC, and she couldn't make many spells stick. Most notably, she couldn't make her concentration checks on any of her cure spells! The only ones scoring damage were the Oracle, and the Ranger (max damage on a crit with a longbow = 60 points!) UNTIL...

The spell was Prismatic Spray, and Petra got tagged with two rays, including the Poison ray, save or die. She didn't save. BUT...

the wielder of Briar was close by, and noticed the monthly True Resurrection spell. Problem solved.

Nyrissa lasted several more rounds, before the Ranger put the final arrow into her.

Doing something to jack up the Unrest is the way to go, though. I like Scrapper's idea, and encourage you to follow Pennywit's advice, too.

It depends on your group.

I tracked weather and forgot about purchasing power. I tried to enforce food, but the players didn't want to go along and I dropped it. I'd have liked to push carry-weight, but I knew the players wouldn't go along. Since I knew only one player even cared about the kingdom stuff, I knew downtime would have been a lost cause (especially since UCam came out after we were already underway).

I know when we take up our next game, I will be a player, and will track these kinds of things for myself. Carry-weight & food are a particular thing for me, probably from all my time running Twilight:2000-- survival is a key part of that game.

Not a PC death, but a brief note on a notable fight. Phomandala lasted 11 rounds last weekend, breaking the tradition at my table of powerful monsters/NPCs being defeated easily by a swarm of PCs. She was assisted by 2 of the defaced nymphs, which helped a lot.

Bonus points that both she and a nymph got to execute their "signature moves"-- one of the group's two power-fighters was blinded by beauty, and the Countess was turned to stone by the medusa's gaze.

Note to GMs for the upper floor: a nymph's Entangle and Spike Growth spells can really break up a party's movement in the rooms & halls that are already difficult terrain! ;-)

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My party did much the same with the kobolds, I had maybe a dozen(?) warriors show up. It didn't slow down my combat much.

Running a "narrative combat" like above is your best bet.

Played it twice, had a ball, then got too busy with other stuff to explore further. Like Irontruth, I've got an old mod stashed in my folder of character sheets, I think it's B3, just in case I can make something happen at a con or family gathering.

I also invested in Night Witches, a variant Powered By The Apocalypse. It's for WW2, the lone all-female night-bomber regiment in the Soviet Ari Force. The players get to deal with sexism, Stalinism, supply shortages, and somehow defeat the Germans in wooden biplanes in the dark. Haven't played or run, but I'd like to use its core elements for some kind of fighter-squadron game someday.

Misdirected Mark podcast is a big fan of PbtA, they reference it almost every week.

It's getting nastier as things build to the conclusion, these are both from last Friday night.

Name: Varin
Race: Centaur
Classes: Skald 15
Adventure: 6, Thousand Screams
Location: outside the House at the Edge of Time/Castle of Knives
Catalyst: smilodons accompanying the Misbegotten Troll

The party avoided the Troll when they passed through the Thousandbreaths and uprooted it. Last session, they tore up some of the denizens of the House, then retreated outside for some R&R. The Troll decided to follow them.

As it happened, the group's cavalier kept the troll occupied far from the group's campsite, even breaking and removing Necklace of Lovelies from him. The dire tigers gave the rest of the party all they could handle, even getting past the defensive-specialized bodyguard fighter to maul the Duchess. Varin was surrounded by 3 of them and was taken out quickly. Two rounds of 40+ damage each takes a toll, you see.

About 2 rounds later, Varin's player realized he'd forgotten about the temporary hit points he'd started with from Heroes' Feast (or some other spell effect I forget now), so he was ruled to be unconscious and only playing dead. Still, it's the 2nd time in two weeks he's been dropped, so the player was reminded he's not really a front-line fighter. This same fight saw three other PCs/NPCs dropped to very low hit points, all by the smilodons. The Troll really wasn't a factor, other than keeping the cavalier and his massive-damage lance tied up.


Name: Mikhail Papanovich
Race: human
Classes: fighter 13
Adventure: 6, Thousand Screams
Location: outside the House at the Edge of Time/Castle of Knives
Catalyst: Jabberwock's claws that catch!

Later that same session, the Jabberwock came calling. I was prepared for this, I'd bought and painted the Reaper mini 2? years ago! His fear aura and burbling led to much confusion among the party-- the cavalier was held far from the fight for a critical few rounds. Mikhail is the Duchess' husband-consort and dedicated bodyguard (all the defensive feats that could be found and a defending longsword), and the bearer of Briar. The 'wock went straight for him, in the middle of the group.

Its 2nd round of full attacking laid him out at the feet of his Lady, provoking cries of anguish! Fortunately, the barbarian recovered from her confusion long enough to zoom in and pick up Briar, while the Duchess DimDoored out of there with his corpse, over to where the oracle and warpriest stood. The oracle was nonplussed, but the warpriest was quick with a Breath of Life spell (NEVER leave home without it!), and the Duchess was spared further heartwrenching. With Briar at its full vorpal-ness, the beast went down eventually. No critical hits, though, so there was no "snicker-snack" sound effect.

This fight went 9 rounds, by the way, most exhilarating to the players.

I found this blog very useful in constructing a potential romantic-partner NPC.

Romance plots in rpgs

My group of 5 (sometimes 6) PCs had no trouble keeping up with WBL, I stopped really tracking it once they started crafting.

My gut tells me to go killer.

Manny Goblin has a good point, though. Maybe this is an occasion for some NPC (Varn? Drelev?) to show up, help them stave off defeat, and extract some Big Reward that will hurt the PCs somewhere else (land, resources, marriage alliance, propaganda).

Only my 2nd post here, the group's been pretty good at avoiding death.

Name: Varin
Race: Centaur
Classes: Skald 15
Adventure: 6, Thousand Screams
Location: House of the Edge of Time, 2nd floor
Catalyst: Wyvern at the end of a running fight

My group finally cleared the outside areas and crashed The Thousand Breaths back into the main world, and entered the House at the Edge of Time. For reasons, I moved the zomok to the courtyard and put the Wriggling Man at the top of the tower. The party took down the zomok easily, but the wizard took a lot of work. Half the party worked up from the inside, accidentally exploring the lower floors of the north wing, while half flew/d-doored to the top of the tower.

After a long running battle, they cornered the Wriggling Man in the 2nd floor hallway. Some of the party pushed past him while the fighters whaled on him. That's when the barb-tongued wyverns reached into the hallway and dragged the oracle into their room. The centaur went to the rescue, followed by the rest of the party after the Wriggling Man's collapse. The cavalier was staggered by wyvern #1, the barbarian got grappled and rent (but still full of hp) by #2. The centaur skald raced past #1, hoping to establish a flank, as well as do some damage himself. He took AoO damage from the stinger on his way around (failed poison save), then the cavalier missed his one attack. Thinking he had time before finishing the cavalier, #1 turned about and lashed the centaur, who failed another poison save. Between lost Con and hp damage, he went all the way past 0 hp and negative Con to dead-dead.

The happy ending: their warpriest (Cohort to the cavalier) raced around #1 to hit the centaur with Breath of Life. Using the Blessing of Fervor's ability to stand as a free action, no AoO, the skald immediately killed the amazed wyvern.

I like it. My biggest beef with the whole AP is the lack of involvement with Brevoy and its politics. I added some, but never as much as I might have liked. I understand my players were less interested in the politics, anyway.

On the other hand, once it becomes known to the PCs that the neighboring realm is a sad-sack kind of place, might they be more interested in checking it out once all communications ceases?

Or, the PCs could be involved before-hand, trying to prop up their less-lucky neighbor.

I did something similar, trying to use the kobolds' mini-realm around their starting hex as a way for me to experiment and/or practice with the kingdom rules, and they quickly went into the same death-spiral you describe. I shelved the project until later, and never got back to it.

After that, I hand-waved Varnhold in a similar way to Philip's. I also crossed up some of the modules, moving Vordakai and his tomb to the island in Candlemere Lake, and Armag's tomb to the mountains where Vordakai was. Thus Armag's horde of Old Believers depopulated Varnhold.

Glad to hear you had a successful run, thank you for the report. I think I'll be writing one myself about New Year's Day.

I'm certain it will work, I was curious what others have seen.

The only difficulty is that I had estimated the campaign would be ending after the December session, now I think it will go at least one session longer.

My group agreed to an alliance that turned into a vassalage agreement, but I don't think the silver mine was exploited. Somewhere about 5th level, the cavalier and barbarian, both chauvinistic humans, went off on their own and exterminated the Sootscales. They didn't tell anyone about it.

My group has generally been one that cuts to the heart of the matter in this AP: they wanted to go straight for Stag Lord's keep, the troll lair, etc.

Yet, as we entered the Thousandbreaths last night, they opted to follow Zuddiger's progress instead, essentially going to each and every encounter area.

Have any other GMs seen this?

As a background element for the whole AP, the group leader has been tracking her mother, an adventurer long lost in the Stolen Lands, one who had been seeking Briar a generation before. At this point, she's convinced that mom was using Picnic as a guide, so that's what she is doing.

I've been cutting out most exploration and wilderness encounters, too, since somewhere in Book 3. The PCs could just easily handle whatever comes at them, and it was just a waste of time.

Using the 6-player conversions has made things more challenging, my only PC death so far was among those trolls. I've made them sweat a few other times, though.

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