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49th Session - 13/06/17

Characters: Alexander, Rodrigo, Rubin, Ilyana

02/04/13: Barely able to draw breath following their fight with the fae hunting party, the Blades ride hard into the darkening Narlmarches to rescue the unicorn foal Efyllia. Only Lord Felix and Jacobi remain behind to aid the injured unicorns against any lingering attackers.

The chase is arduous, and though they dispatch many of the hunt - including one brave buckawn who bites Genghis - the others escape while the Blades are slowed by a sorcerous forlarren. When it looks like all hope is lost, Rodrigo spies a white hart through the brambles at the heart of the forest. They follow it under the moonlight, losing all track of where they are, until they emerge into the Spring dawn.

The forlarren in Horns is called Raewyn, but I reused from the Dancing Lady's Ball, with a spot of inspiration from the Daily Bestiary. One of the key things in Pathfinder is just how hard it is to get to the First World. Gate is the only spell that can do it, which is very high level, and even then imprecise. Horns makes it a little easy to get there and back for my tastes, and so I made Jekra into one of those rare beings who can find the weak spots and open them up. Why else would the other fae put up with something as repulsive as a fae/devil hybrid?

The White Hart is from Creature Catalog V in Dragon #343, here repurposed as a servant of Erastil. Why did Old One Eye think it important enough to send aid and punch a hole from Golarion into the First World? Who knows. Maybe Rodrigo had been extra good. Maybe Erastil likes unicorns. It doesn't matter, it was a cool moment.

03/04/13: No sooner have they realised that they are in the First World than the blades are attacked again by the forlarren, whom they now recognise from the Dancing Lady's spring ball two years prior.

Only the pleading of a fawn named Cyollus saves the half-fiend's life, and they leave him bound and looted, hurrying after the escaping hunt.

I say "attacked", but all the spells that Jekra could cast were designed to subdue, not kill. Hideous Laughter, Irresistible Dance, etc. I think I planned to have the Cyollus be Jekra's on & off lover, but I forgot about the NPC after this so it never came to anything. He did explain to the PCs what exactly a forlarren is though, and the turmoil that such a creature has to live with.

So the The loot bit is important here. Jekra kept his dead mother's desiccated hand on a cord around his neck, with a fine ring on one finger. Ilayan took both hand and ring.

As they progress, the day passes as seasons; in Summer they negotiate with a cranky bear and partake in some nectar; in Autumn Alexander is called a "lantern bearer" by oversized twigjacks who seem intimidated by this. Finally, in Winter they find the remaining members of the hunt atop a frozen waterfall. After some low blows at the top of the icy drop the Blades cut down their foes and challenge the master of the hunt atop his giant goat mount. After a VERY close fight they finally bring him down and rescue Efyllia from a stone altar, fleeing back to Spring before whoever the hunt were due to meet arrives. There they discover that there is no way back to Golarion open to them, and after sleeping for a time in the endless morning they decide to ask the bear for advice. The best he can suggest is to find the Witchmarket for such information, though he does direct them out of the valley.

I cannot for the life of me recall why Alexander was the 'lantern bearer', when it was Rodrigo who was marked by the Lantern King.

Horns has some great set pieces though. The fight at the top of the frozen waterfall was one of them. The buckawns had almost no chance of beating Alexander's AC, and little chance of beating his CMB - unaided. When they ganged up on him and started herding him back with assist attacks he realised what was going on just as they were about to force him over the edge, and the look on the player's face was great. Sadly (for me) the buckawn who made the Bull Rush rolled very badly, and even with the bonuses he'd racked up it came to nowt.

The Wild Hunt's goal in all of this was the ritual sacrifice of Efyllia to empower Nyrissa in her efforts to capture the Stolen Lands. The details of all this weren't revealed to the PCs, but they were aware that someone else was behind the buckawn's actions.

48th Session - 30/05/17

Characters: Alexander, Rodrigo, Rubin, Ilyana, Felix

Kuthona 4712: The bounty on oozes is collected as Zot, Fiona and others purge as many of the strange creatures as they can, and the farmers start to return to their homes. Maegar Varn announces his wedding the following Spring.

Zot and Fiona are again from Red Dragon Inn.

Maegar's wedding was for political purposes and to secure an heir for Varnhold.

Abadius 4713: The winter is harsh, and food shortages plague Vloda, but the forward thinking of the Lords allows them to weather the storm.

Food Shortage Kingdom Event! If only the players had built granaries and had very large BP surpluses to see them through.... wait, they totally did.

Calistril 4713: Alexander invites Jana Aldori to Maegar Varn's wedding, a move supported by Rodrigo and Viviana Albercroft. Jana accepts. Noble villas are completed in Vloda city, and Alexander and Ilyana move into them; Rubin remains on her island, Felix in the castle, and Rodrigo spends most of his time in Nettle's Crossing.

So the Brevic Sword Lords invested BP in Vloda, with the conditions of having a Sword Lord in a position of authority - Alexander is the General - and keeping an eye on those dogs in Mivon. Queue Alexander romancing a Mivonese Sword Lord, and deciding to unite the two groups. The rest of the players fully support this, but how well do you think that is going to go down in Restov?

25/03/13: Maegar Varn's wedding. Most of the council of Vloda attends; Alexander brings Jana, and presents Maegar with a masterwork longsword as a gift. Jana's attendance causes outrage amongst most of the Swordlords, though Maegar is mostly amused. Despite the efforts of the Lords of Vloda, Jana gets challenged to several duels and is defeated in all of them.

It doesn't go down well at all.

They are all asked about their views on events in Brevoy; Felix and Ilyana endeavour to give non-answers, Alexander sings the praises of House Medvyed no matter what, Rodrigo does the same for Erastil, and Rubin outright refuses to talk to anyone about it. Over the next few weeks, half of Alexander's dueling students leave Vloda and return to Restov in disgust.

Rubin has bad Charisma and virtually no Diplomacy, so staying quiet is generally a good move for her. I, as a DM, admired the groups efforts to bring peace to the Sword Lords. And they were clever enough to say that all they'd agreed to was keeping an eye on the Mivonese. So technically they had kept their word. But the spirit was clearly broken, and there had to be repercussions. The Restov Sword Lords didn't want Vloda to ally with Mivon, they wanted Vloda to humiliate Mivon. All of this came with a minor penalty to Vloda's accumulated BPs, but since they had a large surplus it wasn't really felt.

The wedding was otherwise brief. I just put it in to make the Vanishing & Maegar's death that much more of a gut punch when the time comes.

01/04/13: Back in Vloda, the Lords receive bird-carried message from Tiressia that a guardian of the forest named Myvenwy is in urgent need of their aid, being pursued by First World hunters. Spurred on by her impassioned plea they race across the land, and at sundown find a clearing of which dryad spoke, where they meet the unicorn Myvenwy. They have barely had a chance to greet her before blaring horns signal the arrival of the band hunting her mate Hilzarun. The Blades meet the cruel troupe of worg-mounted buckawns and their fey wolf allies. While they are defeated, Hilzarun has terrible news - the hunters have taken their foal, Efyllia.

Sidequest! Time for Horns of the Hunted. As ever, I've adapted this to meet my purposes, but it's a solid adventure. The fey wolves make for a fun fight. They certainly creeped the hell out of Felix, when one pinned him and told him which organs it was going to eat while he was alive. Eyes topped the list. Creepy things.

47th Session - 16/05/17

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Rubin, Ilyana

Rova 4712: After some debate, Löef the Leprechaun is released without charge, on the condition that he swears never to steal from Vloda again.

There was a bit of debate about this, but it was decided that they'd rather have Vloda be somewhere that would work with the fae, rather than war with them.

Lamashan 4712: With the absence of Lem now sorely felt, Lily Teskerton becomes de facto spymaster for the Lords. Meanwhile, the petrified remains of the cockatrice victims found in the Kamelands are brought to Vloda, and Zedrak begins to research ways to undo the damage.

"There was something we meant to do...."

04/11/12: With local events in order, the Blades resume their exploration of the southernmost reaches of their land, on the border of Mivon. The land here is somewhat less wild, though far from harmless. Near Hargulka's fort they find evidence of trappers from Mivon venturing closer than they would have dared before; Rodrigo leaves the coins of Vloda scattered near campsites.

Again, to remind people who controls the land.

While exploring the deep woods, the Blades spy Wisps dancing in the trees; what follows is a lesson in the ingenuity and cruelty of the strange creatures, as their lightning-fueled attacks have been used to rile up and empower a Shambling Mound, to which the Blades are lured. The fight is theirs, but not easily. However, with the aid of Rodrigo's lantern they manage to at long last kill the wisps, an act which until now has seemed nigh impossible.

Since wisps can turn invisible at will, and fly ridiculously fast, I've always had them bug out before they took enough lethal damage. Finally being able to wipe out a few did a lot for party morale.

Late in Neth work finally commences on the locks along the Shrike; the start of this is overseen by the Lords directly. While doing so, Felix is drawn to a stone circle hidden behind a powerful fae illusion that the others initially cannot see. After some investigation, they determine that it represents a three-way war between the First World, the Plane of Shadow and Golarion - possibly the Fellnight about which they have heard rumours. Estam, the druid who accompanied Ilyana Saban to Vloda, decides to set up camp by the circle, both to investigate further and to protect it. Rodrigo also oversees the mounting of barrage drops on the Nettle's Crossing bridge, in case of hostile forces sailing downriver. The farmlands around lake Candlemere report more and more oozes creeping from the water, and following an incident with a highly inflammable specimen a bounty is taken out on them.

The locks were part of the agreement the Lords made with a Restovian trading house back as part of their funding. Exactly how you build water locks around waterfalls I'm not sure, but everyone was happy to say that they could hire engineers and spellcasters to make it work.

Fae-blooded Felix is the only Lord capable of noticing the Stone Circles which will become important in Fellnight Queen.

A Gunpowder Ooze is a nasty trick to play on players. This was the result of a Monster Attack Kingdom Event, as ever rolled in advance and repurposed to fit the setting. This is one of my favourite tactics - give the players more threats than they can handle, and let them prioritize. That way, when something dangerous happens later it's not without warning. It keeps up the escalating threat levels that D&D needs to survive, without seeming arbitrary. In this case, the players are treating the symptom, not the the cause of the ooze problem.

By the end of the cold, dreary month, the former keep of the Dancing Lady has been claimed and fortified, acquiring - after some argument - the moniker Castle Quickstep. In Vloda proper, shrines are erected to Abadar and Gorum, while some of the more affluent citizens demand better housing, and work commences on something suitable. The Roc of Talon Peak is spotted, and Ilyana spends a lot of time travelling to catch sight of it.

Ilyana really, really liked the Roc. Eventually she had spent so much time with it that I let a bond form, and the Roc became a unit that could be used in the Mass Combat rules.

Kuthona 4712: A road is finally completed through the boggy land to the statue of Erastil, completing the pilgrimage route.

While pilgrimages have been ongoing for a long time in-game, it was now a lot safer and more pleasant to undertake.

46th Session - 02/05/17

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Rubin, Ilyana

10/08/12: The Blades return to the south, and continue their explorations along the Little Sellen. They uncover little except the local bears - thankfully of regular proportions - but do spend time with the local farmers, waiting out another storm.

15/08/12: The Blades locate the home of Clan Gnurka, falling victim to some simple but vicious traps as they approach. They meet with Chief Gnurka, and after some diplomacy they agree to terms of peace for any of their citizens who should venture close while recognising the clan's holdings. They also discover that Tartuk attempted to take control of this tribe too, after being driven out from the Sootscales, but the Chief drove him out when this became obvious. The Lords leave, returning to Vloda for founding day.

20/08/12: Founding Day is a rousing success, with libations and parades! Shortly to be followed by more exploration.

Founding Day being the celebration of the day Vloda was founded, of course.

10/09/12: While back in Vloda, the lords are informed of a haunting presence in their gold mine, which terrifies the miners and makes off with the ore. They lay in wait in the mine for several days, before finally setting a trap which lures out the ghost - actually an illusion-crafting leprechaun.

Total Scooby-Doo plot here. I think the trap was making a show of reopening the mine, after figuring that the 'haunting' stopped when the mining stopped.

15/09/12: After a brief pursuit, bribing his dog and threatening to burn down his house, they capture the larcenous fae, named Löef, and retrieve the gold. Upon dragging him gagged to the prison in Vloda, they let him speak and he announces that he answers to the Shadow King, a fae of some standing who resides in the east of the Kamelands.

Löef was quite fun to play. He had been stealing gold - and other things - with a low-tier bag of holding, and was living nearby in another extradimensional property of some type. I honestly can't remember what right now. One of those bigger-on-the-inside jobs. The players catching Löef was never in question, this just turned into one of those "how far do we go" scenarios. With Löef barricaded inside his house, and his immense shaggy guard dog easily won over by the talents of a Druid and a Ranger armed with some jerky, all he could really do was refuse to come out. The players were aware that just smashing their way in was a bit of an escalation, so some back and forth threats were made.

It transpires that the mine has uncovered several more of the wardstones that keep the Fellnight locked away, and some of them have even been taken beyond the borders by fortune-seeking miners. Löef was tasked with preventing this; the gold was just a perk.

The buildup to Realm of the Fellnight Queen continues! The Faengard is slipping away. The Lords made it a crime to steal or even traffic in artifacts without permission from them, but some of the damage is already done. Löef reveals that the Shadow King's whole reason for being in the Stolen Lands is to make sure that the Fellnight stays locked up, which will be important in a few sessions.

45th Session - 25/04/17

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Rubin

Erastus 4712: The Northrople Expedition returns from exploring the mountains of the Nomen Heights, east of the Greenbelt. The trip to Lake Silverstep has spotted tiny, mud figures like those controlled by Ruben, as well as Roc inhabiting the mountain range.

Rubin is a fan of her URL mud buddies. She never uses them in the game, but for fluff descriptions they're all over the place on her island. The Roc needed advance reference, because how silly would it be to have a bird that big flying around and have no-one notice it until the PCs reach Talon Peak?

17/07/12: Emerald Saban, heir to Lord Felix, is born. There is much rejoicing. News is delivered to Restov & House Medvyed, Varnhold & Fort Drelev, Mivon & Houses Branlyn and Talland, and the Dragonscale Throne. Many gifts are delivered, notably a dueling sword from Maegar Varn. The Old Beldamme makes the trip from her home, and Reuben asks her about the Eldest. She warns them that Count Ranalc is not to be trifled with, nor is his spawn within the Fellnight prison. She also warns Felix that his fae heritage, claiming the title of lord and now securing his position with an heir have had repercussions. The other fae rulers of the land now regard him as an upstart claiming to be one of them; the Gorse Queen, the River King and the Shadow King most notably. Brownies move into Felix's manor and start cleaning up.

Have I mentioned how much I love it that the Fae-blood PC wound up being the Ruler? I love it so much.

The fae rulers. The Gorse Queen is referenced in one or two entries on the Daily Bestiary, which is an incredible resource for any DM. The River King is from the module Wrath of the River King. The Shadow King is the sample Leprechaun from Fey Revisited. I wanted to reinforce that there were lots of fae floating around, far below the tier of the Eldest but still of serious consideration. We'll see more from each of them as we go on.

The Statue of Erastil in the Narlmarches is claimed by Vloda, to secure a safe route for pilgrims, and a safe road is finally opened to Oleg's Trading Post, now repurposed as a watchtower for the northern borders. Defences are built around Tatzlford to secure it against the orcs, boggards or other raiders of the Hooktounge Slough.

I was beginning to worry that Tatzlford would be too highly defended for the attack at the Start of Book 4 here. More on that later.

Arodus 4713: The Blades efforts to explore the southernmost reaches of the Greenbelt are curtailed by a message from Nettle's Crossing requesting help with an infestation of bees in the bridge. Upon arrival, the Blades find out that the bees are unusually massive - indeed, giant. Thanks to some forward planning on the part of Rubin and Alexander, the Lords slowly clear the hive-filled bridge over the course of the night of 06/08/12. No cause can be found for the infestation, but Genghis thoroughly enjoys some honey.

Sidequest! The Buzz in the Bridge, by John Simcoe, is a fun adventure from Dungeon #110. Giant bees build a hive inside a covered bridge in a halfling bridge. The PCs have to clear it out without trashing the bridge, with the queen as the final boss. That's it. It's presented as a lvl 3 adventure; I buffed the bees a little, but not too much. Sometimes it's fun to let the PCs be badass. As I mentioned in another thread, about an hour before the game I remembered that URL Repel Vermin is a thing and sent a text to Rubin's player asking her to forget the spell existed for the night. She was game.

This is one fun, silly dungeon which came with a long, miniature scale map printed in the issue. The group's animal companions getting distracted and licking the walls was a good source of amusement. Where exactly the giant bees came from was not explained, and since it's a D&D world the players had a certain assumption on 'these things just happen'. But for me it was a recurrence of insect-themed threats, which tie to the Mites beneath the old Sycamore, then to the Mites serving the Fellnight Queen, and eventually to the living swarm in Book 6 that is the Wriggling Man. That Nettle's Crossing has apiaries and makes mead was just a bonus.

Ilyana's player was very disappointed to discover that there wasn't going to be any way to 'tame' the giant bees and bump the town's honey production through the roof. She even had a logo ready for the pots, depicting a giant bee carrying away a screaming halfling.

On a visual note, Nettle's Crossing being a mixed halfling/human settlement was fun to think through. Most buildings are double story, with the ground floor being built to accommodate humans or halflings, and the upper floor to a cozy halfling scale.

44th Session - 18/04/17

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Rubin

Pharast 4712: With the Bear dead, peace returns to Vloda and work commences on repairing the damage caused. The Devil Box is passed to Zedrak for safe storage, and Lumby is given a room in Lord Felix's manor - a situation that his wife is not massively impressed by.

Remember that Lumby is a freakishly huge (4'6"), idiotic kobold.

Rodrigo's research into the Devil Box itself turns up little of interest, but he identifies the chain devil as Kyton; a type of fiend known for inhabiting the Plane of Shadow as much as Hell.

This is the first hint that the Stolen Lands are close to more planes than just the First World.

Tatzlford joins Vloda, to much rejoicing on all sides. When inroads are made along the Skunk River to allow safe passage to the Temple of the Elk, the Blades pay a visit to Garuum the boggard. With the aid of a Tongues spell, he proves much more amenable, becoming a citizen of Vloda and paying his taxes, while revealing a few details about the Boggard Priest-Kings of the Hooktongue Slough. Rodrigo is able to heal his crippled hand, earning a friend for life.

Garuum is a bit of a jerk, being a Boggard, but when the PCs heal him and offer him sanctuary he gives them the gems he had squirreled away, which is worth many, many years of taxes.

The pier into the Tuskwater is finally completed late in the month, as the last of the thawing waters swell the lake, creating pools in the gulleys on the rugged western shore. At around about the same time, Rubin attempts to Scry on the ring taken from Eirikk Rezke's corpse. She is instantly blinded by the gaze of a pair of beautiful violet eyes, and a wall of thorns explodes from her scrying pool. After she is extricated and Genghis is calmed, the ring is taken and destroyed. Dr. Van Tan, now Vloda's most successful alchemist, is able to restore the druid's sight.

Thankfully Rubin's player told me she was planning this in the previous session, so I had a bit of time to come up with a result. A Wall of Thorns spell & blindness seemed like a suitable response - threatening but in no way lethal.

At the end of the month, Rodrigo marries Viviana Albercroft, following a whirlwind romance. They have two ceremonies; one in the Temple of the Elk, the other in Nettle's Crossing - and Rodrigo's intent for simplicity is utterly scuppered by friends and wellwishers. Most notably, he receives an enchanted lantern from a nameless fey source, capable of revealing shapeshifted creatures.

This is a Moonlight Lantern, reskinned with a golden sun motif. It comes with a note attached that it will calm Rodrigo's worried dreams, since he instantly uses it on himself to determine if he is or is not Rodrigo - something that's been worrying him since the Dancing Lady's Ball. He is. He doesn't know it, but this is a gift from the Leannansidhe, who I decided was herself a follower of the Lantern King. The Lantern itself was once a vessel possessed by that Eldest.

There were a few perks from giving Rodrigo this gift. Firstly, I tied up the thread that had been concerning Rodrigo. Next, it's a useful item - the PCs have very few ways to break illusions or invisibility, so this gave them a limited resource to do just that. It also let them do a certain amount of spot-check vetting of staff and guards in Vloda, which they had been asking about. But for my evil purposes, this was a fae gift indirectly given by one of the Eldest. It'll work just fine for the PCs, right up until it suits the Lantern King for it not to. At which point the lamp will lie. I haven't played this trump yet, but I probably will at some point. I'm stealing a certain amount from the CRPG and having the Latern King and other Eldest manipulate the PCs to ensure Nyrissa's "punishment" continues.

Romance is heavy in the air, and Alexander continues his correspondence with Jana Aldori.

Jana being the Mivonese Sword Lord who challenged him a few sessions back.

Further good news comes as the cunning fishermen of Vloda figure out methods of catching the ferocious fanged eels that swim in the depths. These have become a delicacy in Restov, and now in New Stetven too.

Pretty sure that was a beneficial Kingdom Event, but I'm not sure exactly which one.


04/05/12: The Redcap Galloway arrives in Vloda, cutting down the guards who attempt to slay him and demanding an audience on behalf of Fergun. He demands reparations for the violation of hospitality by the Lords a year and a day before, or the redcaps will take it from their people. Lord Felix orders him to leave, and the Blades shortly try to follow him - to no avail. For the next week they scour the primeval forest, sending warnings to the settlers within. Rubin attempts to Scry Galloway, but to little success.

Consequences! Even though the Dancing Lady is dead, the PCs have to deal with breaking the laws of hospitality at her ball. I fudged Galloway's rolls to hide his tracks a little, since I didn't want the plot thread to end there and then. In hindsight, I should have let the players kill him and had their standing with the fae drop like a stone.

11/05/12: Word reaches the Blades that a farmer has been found kicked to death, in the hills East of the Temple. After some debate, the Blades decide to contact Fergun with regards to paying the debt, and put out word amongst the fey of the forest.

17/05/12: Galloway returns to Vloda and makes his list of iron, hide and other resources that Fergun demands. The Blades accept this in front of the townsfolk.

When they sat down and figured out how much the Redcap was asking for (I kept the amount deliberately vague, more demanding goods than cash) it was about 1 BP. They decided their subject's lives were worth this.

19/05/12: A cart overladen with the demanded supplies is delivered to the Redcaps. Fergun gives Felix a token of blood, hair and bone, and then leaves, heading East.

Felix tried to negotiate additional terms, like Fergun swearing never to set foot in Vloda's lands again, and got thoroughly slapped down. Fergun made it very clear that this was not a negotiation, it was Felix buying back the honour of him and his friends. That had a price, and if Felix wanted to negotiate it meant that the value of his honour was negotiable. The players wisely backed down. I've kept honour as a recurring, but very quiet theme in the game, and you'll see a bit more of it later.

The token was taken from Fae Revisisted, and didn't mean much except as a way of sealing the deal and being creepy.

The damage done to Vloda by the Great Bear is repaired, and more shops open to exploit the growing trade. Anza the Jay steps down as Marshal and is replaced by Akiros. Farmers and settlers move down to the fertile land surrounding Lake Candlemere and to the crossing where the Shrike and Little Sellen meet.

Sarenith 4712: The Summer begins, and the fecundity of the previous year's sacrifice finally fades beneath the stifling heat. Estam Medvyed, a Druid who came south with the Medvyed wedding party and chose to stay, finds sigil-marked stones beneath the ruined Stone Circle. The Silver Raven is sent to Istria, as the oldest being in the land. She flies from her home to report that this is the mark of Count Ranalc, an Eldest of the First World long banished. She warns the Lords to bury the wardstones, though she takes one for herself and recommends they do the same, "to keep watch".

Estam is my renamed version of the Druid Devarre from Realm of the Fellnight Queen. In that adventure, Rhoswen is held in place by a set of stones called the Faengard. I decided that keeping her imprisoned required these to exist in both the Fellnight and Golarion. They were scattered across the Stolen Lands where the world was particularly thin, such as dirty great Druidic stone circles. And when the PCs firebombed said stone circle, it started the weaking of the bonds which will lead to the Real adventure.

Why do they have Ranalc's sigil on them? Well, I think he was one of the ones responsible for banishing Rhoswen into the Fellnight for her crime of messing with the Plane of Shadow. The rest of the Eldest would have killed her, but he wanted to keep her alive.

Istria knows all of this, but doesn't think to tell the PCs, because one of her recurring character traits is not seeing things from the same point of view as any mortal.

From Mivon comes Javek of Branlyn. He presents an impassioned plea on behalf of those who suffered for so long under Hargulka's trolls, and, remembering the incident with the Redcaps, Felix takes council and decides to return a portion of the goods taken from Hargulka's Fort in the name of peace and goodwill. Javek is very thankful, and happily reports that the last of the trolls appear to have fled west.

Javek is a Cavalier who has taken it upon himself to be the voice of reason between the confrontational leader of his House and Vloda. Mostly put in for a bit of RP fun, and a useful NPC should I need one in the future.

Word from the West is that Fort Drelev continues to be beset by Orcs, Boggards and barbarian tribes. Of the final settlers - the Iron Wraiths sent to the Glenebon Uplands - nothing has been heard in months.

Periodically I have been throwing in "you hear rumours from XXX" during downtime, to keep events in Brevoy and the other River Kingdoms fresh in the players minds. And to build up the oncoming Brevic civil war, with references to snubs committed by the House leaders, and party lines being drawn.

The Mint of Vloda is completed, and the first coins produced - some of these are included in the goods sent to House Branlyn.

Why send coins down to Mivon? To get them into circulation and make sure everyone knows that Vloda is there to stay. Not just anyone can make coins you know!

43rd Session - 14/03/17

Characters: Alexander, Ilyana, Rodrigo, Rubin

01/03/12: With Felix remaining behind to maintain the peace in Vloda - and guard the Devil Box - the remaining Blades follow the tracks of the Great Bear out of town and back through the Kamelands. Spring has finally hit, and the rough hills are a mess of melting snows and churned mud - missing the beast's tracks is impossible. Late on the first day they find Akiros; barely alive and horribly wounded. Rodrigo heals him, and it appears that the former bandit has found Erastil again, regaining his Paladin status. At their command, he returns to Vloda to aid in the defence, guiding the displaced farmers the Lords have passed on the way. The Lords spend the night in the shell of a farmhouse demolished by the bear on its original path North.

I wasn't entirely sure what to do with Akiros, but I thought an Erastil Paladin would only add to my campaign. So, mounted on a stag, shooting his bow at a foe he could not hope to defeat in order to draw it away from innocents, I ruled he felt Erastil's blessing on him once again. I even tried statting him up as a multiclass Barbarian (Primal Hunter) / Paladin (Divine Hunter), since I thought that might be cool, but trying to figure out the synergies between the powers, what kind of composite bow to give him to take advantage of said powers, etc. made my eyes cross. I never completed it.

02/03/12: It becomes clear that the bear is making a direct path back to its den, and in the late afternoon that is indeed where they find it - along with the remains of its mate and a trapper band lead by the trapper Eirikk Rezke.

Eirikk, you might remember, I had previously introduced as the PCs guide to the Dancing Lady's Ball, so he wasn't a complete unknown.

After a confrontation which almost slaughters the Blades outright, a badly mauled Rubin finally downs the beast in bear-on-bear combat, hopefully putting rest to any suggestion that the recently arrived bear-obsessed bear shaman with the big bear animal companion had anything to do with the recent spate of giant bear attacks.

Rubin the Bear Shaman vs. a Giant Bear. It had to happen. There were a lot of jokes in the session about the sudden spike in bear attacks since she turned up.

Exploration of the caves reveals the presence of an ettercap living in a crude, hidden shrine to Lamashtu, marked with a debased form of Druidic. The Blades do not leave it alive for long after it attempts to garrotte Rodrigo.

As I've referenced before, in my campaign Ettercaps are the result of mutated, Lamashtu-revering Druids in the Stolen Lands. Not that the Ettercaps know it.

While examining Eirikk's corpse, Rodrigo spies a ring of animal friendship woven from green hair and gems - closer divination reveals a hidden curse however; any animal so befriended will be driven into a psychotic rage after a few minutes.

Not that it made any difference to the game or the PCs, but I made Eirikk a total dupe of Nyrissa. His goal wasn't to destroy Vloda for her, it was just to capture a really big bear, and somehow turn that into profit.

04/03/12: The Lords arrive back in Vloda with a paw from their quarry as proof of its death, to much rejoicing.

And so ends Rivers Run Red!

I swapped from owlbear to regular bear mostly due to the impact it would have on my players. An owlbear is a silly monster. I love them, but they are. A giant owlbear is a silly monster with more HP and attacks. But my players know what bears are. Bears are real, and threatening. When they visualise a bear the size of a small house, it's still got a lot of that intimidation factor, and I wanted the end of Book 2 to carry some weight.

42nd Session - 07/03/17

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Ilyana, Rodrigo, Rubin

25/02/12: The Blades continue to investigate Tallandhold, keeping lodging in the Grumpy Hagfish while the Kobolds spend like crazy. While some leads turn out to be red herrings, Maxian's Workhouse is more promising; Rodrigo's attempts to cast spells outside the establishment turns into an improvised busking session, which leads to a trip to House Talland on the pretence of employment. While Rodrigo gets brought to Heinrich Talland - the current scion of the house - to be offered a gig at his nephew's birthday, the others wind up in a rooftop battle with a black cat, swiftly revealed to be a disguised Imp.

And here's where I threw complications at the PCs. For one reason or another, they never announced their presence to anyone in Mivon. Which looks a bit odd, being as they are, the rulers of the new neighbours to the north. Rodrigo was also a decent level Bard with plenty of Perform ranks at this point, so yes, his random busking will draw a lot of attention unless he specifically holds back. Rodrigo didn't admit to his true identity when brought before Heinrich either.

Meanwhile, sneaking onto the roof of the workhouse to investigate the cat turned into a fight, which instantly drew public attention and result in the town guard turning up. The Asmodean cult panicked and locked the doors, but since the workhouse was composed of locals, and out-of-towners were running around on roofs wielding sword and sorcery, it was the PCs who got arrested. They went along with it, because thankfully my players aren't murderhobos.

With the workhouse locking down, the Blades are called before Heinrich. Alexander presents their case very well, and duels Heinrich to decide who leads the assault on the building - he wins. Backed by the town guards and Heinrich's son, they smash their way into the workhouse, overcoming a lantern-wielding imp while sloshing through lye, freeing the workers, and finally confronting Maxian, the chain devil & the final imp in the basement. The imp and Maxian are cut down, and the devil forced back into the devil box by Lumbie's terrible singing. Some brief investigation reveals Maxian as a worshipper of Asmodeus.

So, yes. Some decent Diplomacy rolls and the fact that an Imp was seen on the roof by the crowd convinced Heinrich that the workhouse should at least be investigated. But these are Sword Lords, so the glory of leading the guard had to be challenged and fought over.

In the published adventure, the cultists are wererats. But honestly that comes out of nowhere and really only serves to buff up their CR, so I dropped it. Instead a few traps were employed, liking making everyone wade through flammable chemicals while an Imp got ready to chuck a lamp at them. All very dramatic stuff.

Maxian was the owner of the workhouse, in case that wasn't clear.

That night the Blades are put up by Lord Talland, who expresses gratitude for dealing with the unexpected threat, thought suggests that informing him before they next appear in his lands would be favourable. Rodrigo is not asked to perform.

On one hand, thanks for helping us uncover a horrible cult. On the other, do not go thinking that you don't have to respect the laws of Mivon. Heinrich was treading a careful line on establishing precedence, and I made sure the players knew it.

26/02/12: Heinrich personally escorts the Blades back down to the Little Sellen and bids them farewell. Lumby stays with Felix, while Raspbit and Duke Chupo hop off at the old river crossing. After brief debate, the Devil Box remains with the Stag Lords.

The Stag Lords being what the PCs were getting nicknamed, due to both Ilyana's choice of helmet, and Rodrigo's devotion leaving Erastil motifs everywhere.

In fact, I think at this point Rodrigo was already working on Vloda's elite guards being mounted on stags. Since it was a cool image, I let them run with it.

02/03/12: When the Blades near Vloda they are met by a rider on the shore - the town has been attacked by a monstrous bear! Alexander rides ahead, to find a swathe of destruction, including his inn.

Oh yes, Alexander owned the Dying Cavalier inn as a bit of background fluff. A lot of hunting trophies, such as the Forest Drake skull, wound up there as decorations.

Kesten tells them of the arrival of an immense, berserk, banded bear from the south, which tore through their defences and seemed unstoppable until Akiros led it off a day and a half before. The Lords of Vloda call for their mounts and follow the swathe of destruction back to the south...

Aaaand here's the other reason for using this adventure to get the PCs out of the country - so the (owl)bear attack from the end of Book 2 could happen.

41st Session - 07/02/17

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Rubin, Ilyana

22/01/12: The kobolds Raspbit and Duke Chupo the Terrible - in disguise as halflings - brave the winter to approach the council. They come from the previously unencountered Gnurka tribe, who live on the southernmost edge of the Greenbelt, and bring message from Raspbit's father, the Clan Chief. They warn that a devil trapped by a sorcerer of their tribe many generations ago has been accidentally freed, and request aid in tracking both it and the long-sold ancestor of said sorcerer. Said ancestor is the freakishly large Lumbie, who was sold to Horatio Quigley's Freakshow, a traveling show in the River Kingdoms which Rodrigo knows winters in Tallandhold. Sadly, he is also the only one who can use the relic known as the Devil Box to trap the fiend once again.

Here we're calling on my collection of Dungeon Magazine again. The Devil Box by Richard Pettt featured in Dungeon #109. It had some great illustrations by Peter Berting, with flyers for a carnival as well as the oddball inhabitants. Very much worth a read. Adapting it to Kingmaker was minor. In the published adventure, the players come across a burned-out merchant wagon with the disguised kobolds nearby, only to have the kobolds actually be looking for those responsible for the attack - a shrunken Kyton and his three Imp minions - and solicit aid from the heroes. In Kingmaker, since the players were already allies of the Sootscales, the Gnurkas took a risk and contact them directly for aid.

Had I planned ahead better, I could have set up the Sootscales to take the place of the Gnurkas in the adventure, but I didn't. Of course, having more than one Kobold tribe in the Greenbelt is far from overcrowding. That place is huge, given the encounter density. I overlaid a copy of the map onto a real-world map of Ireland just to keep the players thinking in scale. It also helped to emphasize why even an "Explored" Hex can have plenty in it that you didn't see during the two days you spent wandering around it.

Raspbit & Duke Chupo come bearing a letter which is provided in the adventure as a handout, starting 'Most Honorably Pale Smooth Ones'. It's fun to read, and secured Lord Felix's desire to help the Kobolds.

23/01/12: Concerned by the prospect of an irate devil wandering their lands, the Blades and their new allies board a riverboat bound for the House Talland lands in Mivon. Ilyana sends message to the Monks of Candlemere asking for any information they might have, but unsurprisingly receives no response.

24/02/12: Late in the evening, the boat arrives near Tallandhold - just in time for the annual Shackling matchmaker festival. The Blades waste no time in visiting Quigley's Freakshow.

The tour is entertaining, and reminds them that there are still petrified wanderers in the Greenbelt around the cockatrice nest they wiped out some months before. Afterwards they come to an arrangement to buy Lumbie from Quigley, and Lord Felix seems to adopt the confused kobold. Leaving the freakshow, they notice Quigley's gatekeeper; a certain ex-bandit with a maimed left hand. He does not recognise them until they subtly reveal their identities, at which point he panics.

The gatekeeper is the brigand maimed by Granite the Horse way back in session back in the 2nd Session. The players were happy to just let him sweat here.

One of the displays is a set of petrified adventurer's heads - which may or may not be real. This reminded the players about the petrified cockatrice victims from Session #23, which was a funny moment. "Wait, weren't we supposed to do something.....?"

The Freakshow contains preserved bits of monsters, Illusions of monsters that are strange even for Pathfinder (like the Salmon Harpy) and only one or two actual monsters. The PCs are very anti-slavery, but since the monsters in question are things like Chokers, they decided not to get involved.

The Shackling festival is a fun one which requires locals to wear animal masks & has a bit of fun RP potential. Ilyana is still wearing the Stag Lord's helm, which is a weird mask in and of itself and has occasionally gotten her into trouble with NPC reactions.

Setting up for the evening in the Grumpy Hogfish Inn, the Blades lay their plans while the kobolds start spending the money bequeathed to them by their chief. Following a rumour of poisoned dogs by the river docks, our heroes explore the area during the night, but find nothing but fat black cats.

The cats are the Imps, magically disguised. The Kyton, named Zorith, has tracked down what's left of a cult of Asmodeus worshippers. They run a workhouse in Tallandhold. The Kyton is using them to keep him safe while he regains his full power - and stature, since his imprisonment has temporarily left him the size of a doll.

There's also a set of details in the adventure as to what the disguised Kobolds will get up to without direct supervision, mostly involving decadence & yelling insults at gnomes. If the PCs don't watch them, the chance of them getting found out gets higher & higher, which will likely lead to a mob.

Nathan Potter wrote:

From what I can tell, the Stag lords attacks with his bow should be as follows.

To hit: BAB: +6, Dex Mod: +4, Weapon Focus: +1, Item bonus: +1
Combined, the to Hit score should be +12/+7

Take into account Deadly Aim, and the To Hit should be +10/+5
Point-Blank-Shot if the target is within 30 ft: +11/+6 (+13/+8 against humans)

Damage should be: 1d8+ Item bonus: +3, Deadly Aim: +4, PBS: +1
Total damage with Deadly Aim and PBS is 1d8+8. 1d8+10 against humans. Add an extra 3d6 if the target is flat-footed.

Attack stats with his bow should be: +10/+5(1d8+7 / x3)

I don't have my books to hand - and honestly, I wing most stats - but I think there's a reference in there somewhere to the Stag Lord's stats reflecting him either drunk or hungover. And if the PCs should cut off his booze supply long enough for him to actually sober up, he gets bonuses to bring him up to where he should be.

40th Session - 31/01/17

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Rubin, Ilyana

A stormy Neth kicks in, and for a few days the Blades relax in Vloda. Amongst the loot taken from Hargulka's fort is a silver chalice emblazoned with the mark of House Branlyn; a minor Mivonese Sword Lord House whose land borders the Narlmarches. The Blades employ a boatsman to bring both the cup and a polite letter to their southerly neighbours.

I think the letter said something like "killed the trolls, found this, thought you might like it back".

09/11/11: Eager to be done before winter hits, the Blades begin an exploration of the northern banks of Lake Candlemere.

11/11/11: The Blades spy the remains of a riverboat dashed against the shore, and an old chest half-buried in the mud. Sadly for Alexander, this transpires to be an unusually-located mimic, and only Jacobi's strong back and some sharp shooting saves him from the thigh-deep quagmire and a sticky end.

I love mimics, but they're really creatures you have to use sparingly. I wanted to keep the mystery of Lake Candlemere going though, so one of the dopplestad's young had crawled ashore and was blending in with the ruined riverboat. To keep the fight interesting with only one foe, I set it in knee-deep river mud, limiting how many characters could get close. And once the mimic had Alexander and Granite stuck to it, ranged attacks got a lot more tricky.

12/11/11: The Lords take shelter and share tea with some of their new farmers to wait out a vicious windstorm.

14/11/11: With the weather growing ever worse, the Blades return to Vloda to wait out winter - all except for Rodrigo, who takes the long pilgrimage of Erastil while pondering several important questions.

The dopplegangers had gotten Rodrigo's player - and Rodrigo himself - to thinking.... how did he know he was Rodrigo, and not a doppleganger, or a fetch, or something like that? It's a legit concern in a fantasy game.

21/12/11: On the night of the Shelyn festival of Crystalhue, Vloda officially takes charge of Nettle's Crossing to the satisfaction of all concerned. Rodrigo meets with Viviana Albercroft during the celebrations, and finds that his affection for her is reciprocated.

Much like Tatzlford, I gave control of the tiny settlement to the PCs when they claimed the hex it was in. Rodrigo's interest in Viviana was part of his newfound devotion to Erastil, and the important of family. How could he champion Old One Eye if he didn't have a family himself? Sure, she was a cleric of a different deity, but not a hostile one.

Back in Vloda, Oleg's suggestions to invest in the local merchants is supported by the council, with new shops opening in response. A small island just offshore if given over to Rubin to maintain; she uses the Feather Token taken from Hargulka to grow an immense tree on it, and begins creating a small druidic grove. Finally, a sawmill is opened by the site of the old bandit camp on the Thorn River.

The Druids being given a tiny island in the lake was generally regarded as good by most of the settlement's population. I imagine Druids would be regarded as Bad Neighbours by virtually everyone in a Pathfinder setting.

In early Abadius, a letter is received from House Branlyn, demanding the return of all goods stolen from them by the troll bandits. The Lords of Vloda do not acquiesce, instead sending back a brief message noting the House's response to their generosity. After much debate, they do not sign off with the sixth river freedom.

No good deed goes unpunished. This was another example of throwing a decision at the PCs which wasn't that important, but both choices would have repercussions of one form or another down the line. Give their spoils to a Mivonese house of Sword Lords? It might buy friends, but it might make them look weak and quick to give in to political pressure. Don't give it back? Appear strong, but make an enemy. There was no right answer.

In contrast to this, Ilya has good news for Felix - he is to be a father. There is much rejoicing.

And here's where I did something I had never expected to do. I got use out of the Book of Erotic Fantasy. Half-Elf and human procreation, what should the kid be like? What are gestation periods like? Suddenly, this actually matters in a game!

06/01/12: Corax Tisseun approaches Ilyana and the council, concerned about the nixie Melianse and one of the workers she charmed, named Winks. He believes she still has him under her spell, and asks for aid. The Blades trudge out to the logger's camp through the snow, with Lord Felix handily winning an impromptu snowball fight. There they find that there is no more enchantment, just a lovesick logger who never really got over the charm. They talk him down slowly, and see him moved to a distant part of the forest.

There wasn't a huge amount of plot relevance to this one. I mostly wanted a chance to depict the human interest stories of the kingdom, and to demonstrate how awful Charm magic is.

As the month continues, more elaborate defences are erected around Vloda with the fresh lumber floating downriver.

I'm not really sure how to do images on here - would it be handy if I provided some kind of map to show where the settlements I'm talking about are? It will get a bit more relevant later when battles start kicking off.

39th Session - 24/01/17

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Rubin

13/10/11: After a morning resting in Tatzlford, the Blades set out to deal with the Forest Drake.

15/10/11: Not too far from Hargulka's Fort, the Blades set up a camp from which to carry out their hunting.

17/10/11: As they ride through a sparse patch of forest, the Stag Lords are surprised by the canny drake - Lord Felix is snatched from them and carried far into the sky. Only his quick, cutting wit and a handy ring of Feather Falling save him. The drake rains poison from the sky while the Blades snipe at it from the ground, but the death blow is landed by Rodrigo, who sends a firework down the beast's throat. It crashes to earth, and the way is cleared. After raiding it's den, the Blades spend the night in Hargulka's fort prior to heading home.

This fight was one of those the players still talk about. Not everyone enjoyed it as much as others though; it was at this time that Alexander the Cavalier became aware of the need to carry a ranged weapon of some sort even if you're not great at it, or else certain enemies will just stay out of range. The Drake stayed far away from the clearly dangerous adventurer-types, having secured their leader. Felix did something wonderful - he fumbled on his ring of featherfall, then insulted the Forest Drake by telling it how unlike a true dragon it was. One excellent Intimidate check later the Drake decided to drop him to his death - and in doing so allowed everyone else free reign on their ranged attacks. Even Felix got off a few while gently wafting to safety. The Drake's end came when it was struggling to escape, blinded by a Glitterdust but still managing to make it's Fly checks, with a single hp remaining - and Rodrigo got it with a Snapdragon Firework. I ruled that the startled Drake snapped at the sudden motion, and the burst went off in it's mouth. It crashed to the ground some distance off, and was promptly scavanged for parts.

19/10/11: Stopping off to pay their respects to the Old Beldamme, the Blades seems to successfully bluff her about Svetlana's death.

They did bluff her, but I wasn't going to tell them it worked. Gotta keep your players guessing.

20/10/11: Back in Vloda, the death of the self-titled King of the Forest is a cause for great celebration. A consortium of lumber workers and trappers present a collection to the Lords in thanks.

Again, the side quests fall down a bit as the game goes on. A bounty issued by the kingdom for a monster, that the rulers of the kingdom then claim? It doesn't really work. Thankfully, it's easy to repurpose 99% of stuff.

21/10/11: Lily Teskerton approaches Ilyana, to inform her that she's found out about a duo of Pathfinders recently arrived in town. Alexander meets with and questions the more senior of the two, named Durvin Gest. He reveals that they were responsible for the fire in the spider-haunted woods, seeking to burn out a sacred pit of Lamashtu. Alexander provides him with free drinks as long as any Erastil-related finds are brought to the Lords - Durvin agrees.

I always liked Lily as an NPC, but my players didn't really warm to her. I was setting her up here to replace Lem as Spymaster, now that it was obvious his player wasn't coming back to the game.

This was the smoke they spotted in the previous session. Since the PCs were now ruler-types, I thought it might be funny to show them how annoying Adventurers are. Always wandering in, stirring up problems, releasing ancient evils, etc. The Pathfinder society never came to much beyond this, I didn't want them stealing the player's thunder, but I got a giggle out of it. It also let me reinforce that the things in the land will not (mostly) just sit and wait for the PCs to come to them, and it let me put in a Lamashtu reference. She does very little in the campaign after getting brought up in the Player's Guide. I wound up deciding that Lamashtu did once have a major influence over the Stolen Land, revered by a sect of Evil Druids - inspired by the Goreclaw of Theroerrod from Book 4. This would explain a certain amount of the random, weird monsters that plague the land for no reason. And using the excellent Ecology of the Ettercap from Dragon #343 (Paul Leach & Russell Brown), those Druids had come to a bad end, being mutated into ettercaps. The remains of their order still live in the Stolen Lands, barely remembering where they came from, and making a nuisance of themselves.

23/10/11: The wagon train is prepared, and the trip to the plunder-rich troll fort begins! The Blades lead the way, but their greater speed lets them spread out and explore the land as they pass.

27/10/11: Taking a brief leave from the train, the Blades visit the pit Durvin spoke of. Rubin identifies traces of druidic script around it, long made illegible by age, but can find nothing else. While they examine the site, they spot a Barghest patrolling the woods; it doesn't even see them coming before it's ensorcelled to sleep, bound, and killed. After a bit of convincing, Lord Felix agrees not to have the fiend skinned and it's fur made into a cloak for his wife, specifically not when they're trying so hard for a child....

Again, sometimes you have to let the dice land where they want to. This was never going to be a big encounter, maybe a bit of hit & run fun with the Barghest.... but it rolled a 1 on it's Stealth check, and the PCs rolled very well on their Perception. The won Initiative, and Felix cast sleep on it before it could do anything. Then they just killed it. It was so anticlimactic that it was hilarious. My only real regret was the other players talking Felix out of making it into that cloak. Killjoys.

28/10/11: The train arrives at Hargulka's Fort. Under Jacobi's instructions loading begins, while the Lords dally about exploring the deep woods.

Jacobi's Packmaster feat; worth it's weight in gold.

31/10/11: The wagon train, now carrying everything of value, heads north again. Meanwhile, the Blades follow strange tracks through the woods to an immense deadfall - home of the elusive Hodag! After a thrilling fight they lay the strange beast to rest, and recover the enchanted head of Stas' spear from its back.

I had never heard of a Hodag prior to Kingmaker, and neither had my players. I kept it as a unique creature, notably lacking any sexual characteristics at all, and born from a bull sacrificed on a pyre. Despite it's decent stats, it suffered the same problem a lot of solo creatures do. The PCs just dogpiled it and the fight was over fast. To add a bit more spice, I decided that eventually the corpse would erupt into flame and it would be reborn, though exactly when I left undetermined.

01/11/11: The Blades meet with the wagon train just in time for a storm to howl through the Stolen Lands, forcing them to hunker down on the western shores of Lake Candlemere.

06/11/11: The train finally arrives in Vloda, and the liberated goods are quickly dispersed - with these resources the newly-settled farmlands south of the Tuskwater are officially brought under their control, and the construction of a full pier into the lake commences. Stas is overjoyed to be vindicated, and hands over the spear head to the Lords in thanks.

Stas, of course, being the drunken lumberjack who maintained the Hodag was real, while everyone else says it wasn't.

Canarr wrote:
Yeah, I'm not too sure myself how long my players are going to be interested in tracking down generic crap for alchemists or other NPCs. Leaving aside their rising personal power, aka levels, they'll be more and more occupied with governing their lands. Well, we'll have to see.

I found the best way to deal with that was to restructure it a little. The local alchemist doesn't offer a reward for someone hunting stuff down for him as much as approaches the Councillor to say that he has a theory about Resource X being of use to the kingdom. If he can get his hands on samples it will benefit everyone, and of course would pay a suitable tithe to the crown. He's aware that the Lords are currently securing that part of the forest (or wherever), and so if they should stumble across the relevant mcguffin could they bring some back? It also helps if you have buildings that can tie into this. In my kingdom, Dr. Van Tan, the Alchemist PC who wound up getting dropped early on, became the proprietor of the Alchemist Building, which kept the sidequests nicely personal. It still runs out of steam after a bit, but it helped prolong the fun.

38th Session - 17/01/17

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Ilyana, Rodrigo, Rubin

Early in Lamashan, the council continue to debate the best directions in which to take Vloda. Oleg suggests that in the near future they may wish to consider founding a mint; they are still reliant on coin baring the likeness of King Noleski, or any of the hundreds of currencies banded about the River Kingdoms. Rodrigo travels to Nettle's Crossing to meet Viviana, and is perfectly happy with the results.

08/10/11: In order to clear passage for wagons to Hargulka's fort, the Blades gear up and travel towards the orc village in the mouth of the Murque river. The Autumn is unusually hot, and falling leaves surround their travel.

The Sword Lords sending yet more treasure for killing a troll well over a hundred miles from the Brevoy border never sat that well with me, so instead I had the BP reward come from the spoils of his fort, gathered from his victims. He was much closer to Mivon and Pitax than Brevoy, so he'd been raiding them for years instead. Of course, getting it back to Vloda meant building roads, and doing so before anyone else started helping themselves to the supplies.

The orc village in question is the one occupied by lizardfolk in the books as written. I changed it to an outpost for the Slough orcs for two main reasons. Firstly, I like orcs. Secondly, after finding out that the inhabitants of the village had basically been torturing a kid (Tig Tannerson), the players were very likely to unload all their fury on those responsible. If it had been a village with families and children, this would have lead to some not-fun moments for the group. But an orc military outpost full of combatants? Fair game. D&D morality can be awkward.

09/10/11: Felix and Ilyana sneak close to the island-fort of the Orcs, scouting it carefully and deciding that a dawn approach would suit them best. That night, they hear child-like screaming from the fort; Ilyana spies a will-o-the-wisp dancing on the swampy waters, and notes how much the orc guards ignore it.

Oh my players hate Wisps so much.

10/10/11: The Blades approach the fort, ordering the Orcs to flee the land for the crime of allying with Hargulka. When the chief starts to scream for his ancestors to aid him, Felix demolishes the gates with a well-aimed fireball, and the assembled spellcasters cause the river-weeds to ensnare the inhabitants. A short but bloody battle commences, with an unusually potent wisp backing up the chief. Felix rescues a terrified child from caiman - his ordeal prompts the Blades to leave no orc alive; Alexander cuts down the chief, while Ilyana and Ghengis finish of the wisp. The child turns out to be Tig Tannersen - son of the mayors of Tatzlford - captured when he wandered too far into the forests and got lost. The orcs had been leaving him in horrible situations while the wisp fed on his fear. The village looks to have been an outpost - there are no families or children there. The strangest discovery made is that one of the orcs is not; it's a doppleganger.

I decided not to reference the missing child side-quest until the players directly interacted with the fort. Because if I'd announced it, and then it had been weeks before they found him, the implications are unpleasent.

It's been a while since the last one - 26 sessions, 14 months game-time and 6 months real-time - but the mysterious dopplgangers turn up again. It'll be another while before this one comes to a head.

11/10/11: After spending a night in the fort, the Blades leave the chief's head on a post at the gate and throw the rest of the bodies into the river. As they head north, they spy smoke to the west; Ilyana investigates and finds the nests of giant spiders they had avoided some weeks or months before have been immolated by forces unknown. She sheds few tears.

As ever, decapitation and head-spiking to intimidate their foes.

12/10/11: Arriving in Tatzlford with Tig, the Blades find their popularity swells. His parents are overjoyed, and the removal of the orc menace impresses everyone. They rest and bask in adolation for a day, before heading south for part two of their plan - the Forest Drake.

Though I haven't mentioned it much in my notes, the Forest Drake Hunt sidequest from Book 2 has been referenced a few times as "things that the locals are worried about." The PCs hadn't dedicated their time to it, until the had to run wagon trains through the forest.

Also, Celestial Badgers are kinda badass, and sometimes Orcs just suck at everything.

Canarr wrote:
Sounds like a fun final battle! Having Munguk go turncoat is a great idea - my players never made it down to the area where he was hanging out, so he didn't make an appearance in my game.

Hexploration gets less and less relevant and appealing the more the game goes on. I kept the players going with it into Book 3 without too much difficulty, by suggesting that NPCs could either miss important stuff or die. But by the time they were able to command armies it just got a bit silly. In books 4 & 5, the only reason the PCs have done it themselves is when they're hunting for something very specific.

Dramatis Personae

Svetlana's player was in love with Druids, though she has since sworn her next character will be something easy to play. So after a bit of debate it was decided that her new character was going to be her old character's mentor, who had heard word of the settlement of the Stolen Lands and decided to see it for herself. Rubin wasn't exactly the same as Svetlana though, being a Bear Shaman archetype. She was also just high enough level to cast Reincarnate, since everyone leveled up after killing Hargulka. She was accompanied by her bear companion, Genghis.

37th Session - 10/01/17

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Ilyana, Rodrigo, Rubin

20/09/11: The Blades lay Svetlana to rest; Ilyana sends a message to Vloda to ask Svetlana's teacher, recently arrived, to join them. In securing the fortress, they find generations of treasure accumulated by the trolls. Both coin and supplies are abundant, though difficult to transport. They also find maps of the Greenbelt marking their settlements, and a shard of broken mirror eerily similar to one found and discarded in the Stag Lord's keep more than a year before.

The broken mirror were scrying tools used by Nyrissa. I hadn't mentioned them during the looting of the Stag Lord's keep, because hey - back then they were random junk - but when found a second time... duhn duhn duhn! Though it never really came up, in my backstory Hargulka was not exactly an ally of Nyrissa, but she'd played the role of forest spirit and nudged him here and there to point him at the new settlement.

23/09/11: During a ferocious storm Rubin arrives. After some debate, it becomes apparent that Rubin intends to Reincarnate Svetlana to allow her to raise Masha.

So, I don't particularly like resurrection or reincarnate magic in my games. Once you can come back from the dead easily - and once PCs get going, it is easy - a huge amount of tension is lost. Death becomes another type of Hit Point. But it's baked into the system, so.... IMC Pharasma hates it. So much. A soul is born, it dies, it moves on. Anything messing with that is tampering with the divine order. One of the agreements the PCs had made with the Church of Pharasma when they were securing funding for Vloda was to ban this magic along with Necromancy. But! Masha (the changeling baby taken from the Gyrona cultists) was the ward of Svetlana. And Svetlana's player was a new mother, so OOC interests were strong.

24/09/11: The Lords all find reason to leave the fortress while Rubin creates a new body for Sevtlana, calling her back from the River of Souls and reincarnating her as a halfling. All of the Blades feel an uneasy sensation, and a taste of gravedust in their mouths. With Svetlana's body in tow, the Blades head for home. Rodrigo instructs "Roberta" in Halfling etiquette.

Yeah, everyone decided they couldn't condone it, but they weren't going to stop it. Pharasma knew though. She remembered. We also played up just how weird it would be for a half-elf to reincarnate as a halfling. Suddenly, you're tiny, weak and half-blind. And the baby you're going to look after is huge. But hey. At least she got a humanoid result.

26/09/11: The Blades arrive at Vloda, and a huge crowd gathers to mourn Svetlana. While they go to their separate homes, it comes to light that unrest is swelling in the city, with various slanders against them running rampant. Alexander and Rodrigo trace these to a bard named Grigori in the Shrunken Pony, who they remember from an unflattering (but funny) puppet show at Lord Felix's wedding. Rodrigo puts an end to his show for the night with community-building songs.

I may have poured on the guilt with the town talking about Svetlana's sacrifice here.

27/09/11: The Council meets to decide what to do about Grigori, and Anza the Jay is appointed Marshall. They decide to undermine him, hiring on local bards to assist in this. Rodrigo deals with his performances, while the others tackle his accusations against them.

Ansa is another hireling from the sourcebook I've linked a few times on here. She hadn't turned up before now, but Vloda needed a new Marshall & the PCs suggested promoting one of Svetlana's former underlings. Ansa filled the role nicely.

Grigori's influence was a running contest of skill checks, tracking successes and failures on both sides. I had intended this to run on for longer, but fate conspired against the agent of chaos. Rodrigo engaged him in one of Vloda's taverns - the Dying Cavalier, I believe, named after front-line fighter Alexander's habit of slipping into negative hitpoints - where the two had a Performance battle.

I described Grigori's current song as one mocking Felix, the Lord of Vloda, as a weak mother's boy. He rolled a 1. The crowd did not like this. Rodrigo retorted with an Erastil-themed hymn emphasising the important of familial bonds and respect for your elders. And rolled a 20. There are times when you have to give it to the players, and that was one of them!

29/09/11: Svetlana's Funeral. Velin Ristovic conducts a ceremony, before bequeathing her body to Rubin and "Roberta" to take into the wilderness. Alexander uses the funeral to speak out about the glories of Vloda, further hurting Grigori, and Rodrigo leads town in song long into the evening.

Velin Ristovic is the highest-rank Cleric of Pharasma in Vloda.

30/09/11: At the morning council meeting Kesten informs everyone that Grigor slipped away in the night, and the wardens are unable to track him down. The Council chalks this up as a success.

Lamashan begins, and work on the town hall is finally completed; work on a library commences, with Zedrack ordering tomes from Brevoy by the cartload. Lake Tuskwater is totally claimed by the young settlement, and word comes down from Nettle's Crossing of the founding of a shrine to Shelyn, goddess art, beauty, love, and music. This is attributed to Viviana Albercroft, a recently arrived cleric following Rodrigo's call for a free place for halflings.

[Troy McClure]You may recognise Viviana from such adventure modules as Realm of the Fellnight Queen.[/Troy McClure]

Rant. Druids. I hate Druids. Not thematically - I played one in a 3.5 D&D Eberron game and loved it - but mechanically. 3rd Ed & Pathfinder Druids make me cry.

They can be frontline fighters. That's pretty straightforwards, barring a bit of messing around with Combat Maneuvers. The have animal companions, so that's a second stat block with it's own attacks & tricks to keep track of. The can cast any freakin' spell in the book - in ANY Pathfinder book. That's a lot of spells, and barring a few favourites chances are they won't be that familiar with the spell, which means pausing to look it up, and the DM probably won't be that familiar either. And with a bit of prep time, a Druid can prepare an arsenal to blast a hole in virtually any challenge. They can Summon, which is yet another chunk of new statblocks, attacks & trick, and more creatures to keep track of in combat. And they can wildshape, which is yet more new forms and tricks, stat changes and AC changes and Speed changes to track, before you even get into turning into magical beasts or plants or elements. They're a nightmare.

To the credit of Svetlana/Rubin, she totally abandoned Summoning spells after a while, because they were one of the biggest time sinks. When the group already consisted of five or six PCs, plus three animal companions (Druid, Ranger & Cavalier), plus however many foes I had to throw at them keep things interesting... it was just too much. She sometimes uses them for non-combat purposes, but that's it.

The only time we've see a Summon in recent years is when Rodrigo goes up against something Capital E Evil, at which point a Hound Archon gets deployed. But it's always the same creature summoned, so he's got it's stats and tricks down.

Rant over.

36th Session - 03/01/17

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Svetlana, Ilyana

20/09/11: Following the orc attack, the Blades bolster their defences and wait out the night. After much debate, they decide that retreat is not the answer, rather choosing to push their advantage against the trolls while they have it. Rodrigo heads north to warn the farmlands about the orcs and trolls wandering the wilds, while the others gather on a grey, rain-soaked morning and approach the fort.

I think the players were getting a bit tired of fighting trolls at this point too. Despite deciding to fall back the week before, they realised that doing so was going to lead to another session or so of slow manouvering. And so they decided to strike at their foes before they had a chance to recover from the damage already inflicted - after all, they're heroes dammit!

Under the cover of foul weather, they manage to surprise their foes and a fast but brutal siege follows. The diminished trolls put up a fierce fight even as they are cut down, but the Blades persevere - even when a badly wounded Munguk loses his nerve and switches sides, almost killing Ilyana and Lord Felix before he bleeds out.

I ran Hargulka's Fort pretty much as written, only removing Kargadd when the PCs didn't go into his chamber. He could have heard the fighting and joined in, but the fight scene didn't really need anyone else.

I gave Munguk's stats to the players to control in the fighting. But is described in the book as basically cowardly, surrendering and begging if he drops to 20 hp So what happened when the trolls knocked him down that far? Why he blindsides one of the players while yelling in Giant-ish about how he tricked the stupid stunties to help his troll friends. It was a fun swing in the fight, but not one Munguk survived. Of course, if the players had managed to keep him above 20hp for the whole thing, he would have stayed (kinda) loyal and I would have had to decide what to do with him longterm. That could have been equally fun, especially once Kob Moleg and the Tuskers turn up in Book 5.

A mass of monsters are slain, including Hargulka's two-headed lieutenant Nagrundi, before the Blades stand face to face with their monstrous foe. Despite suffering horrific damage from Hargulka's semi-legendary necklace of fireballs, Alexander and a wildshaped Svetlana meet the Troll King head on, ripping into him. They finally lay him low, but at a terrible cost. His cruel morningstar staves in Svetlana's skull; the first of the Lords of Vloda to be killed.

While I fudged things a little with Rodrigo, and the entire party with the Dancing Lady, this was an awesome death. A wildshaped Druid going toe-to-toe with a troll king? That's the stuff good games are made of. While Svetlana's death doesn't exactly stick, as you'll see in the next session, it was enough to end that character's part in the game.

Canarr wrote:
Definitely an interesting development - I like the way you broke the stalemate. Well played...

Thanks Canarr!

35th Session - 13/12/16

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Svetlana

18/09/11: After a restless night's sleep, the Blades resume their siege of Hargulka's Fort. Rod identifies a inconspicuous rock outcropping as a concealed watchtower. As a bird, Svetlana scouts it out, and determines that only a single troll is holding it - and doing a poor job at that.

While Alexander and Munguk watch the pass, the other Blades creep over the top of the hill and launch flamey death into the garrison. Though the troll is immolated, two trollhounds force their way out, hurling themselves at the Blades and briefly mauling Felix before being put down. Concerned about reinforcements, Svetlana turns into a much, much bigger bird and carries the other two to safety. Felix's wounds are cleaned, and they retire to the camp to recuperate.

Like I was saying in the last post - don't make things too easy. If they players come up with a good plan, reward it. But always thrown in a complication. The players won't be talking about firebombing everything from an unassailable position after the game was over. They definitely were talking taking out a troll with their cleverness, and then getting jumped by his on-fire dogs immediately after, and how the Druid saved their bacon.

Meanwhile, a bored Munguk sneaks up to the barbican to throw in a few rocks and is instantly jumped by trolls. They roll down the hillside, and Alexander joins in the frey; together they slaughter all three of the monsters.

A Cavalier armed with a lance, doing charge damage, on a mount wearing Horseshoes of Speed, with Ride-By attack, is almost impossible to stop when up against a pure melee monster like a troll.

19/09/11: After a quiet night, Svetlana again checks out the watchtower, to find it again occupied. Alexander gets Munguk to try taunting the trolls, to no avail, and when the others approach the tower they find it now deserted. Seeing no reason to stop their slow siege, the Blades are content to wait. Until night falls, anyway...

Later, Svetlana and Felix are on watch, they see two human-sized figures approaching - Svetlana greets them with a sudden explosion of stinging nettles. This turns out to be sensible, as the orcs return fire, almost killing the druid in the resulting battle. Meanwhile, the repeated passage of Granite and Munguk has left enough of a trail to their camp for the rest of the orcs to find it, and they launch a suprise attack. Alexander and Munguk are badly hurt, but they manage to wipe out the attackers without any fatalities.

With the element of surprise thoroughly lost, and another autumn storm rapidly approaching, the Blades decide to fall back to the Sellen crossing to hole up.

And here we broke the stalemate. I'd given the players plenty of victory, having wiped out a good handful of trolls, but eventually something had to go wrong to keep the drama going. In this case, Hargulka called in favours from the Orcs I had already decided were living in the Hooktongue Slough. While I wasn't taken by the Monster Kingdom idea on these forums, the idea of Hargulka not existing in a vacuum was certainly a good one. The PCs were taken totally off-guard, having grown fairly complacent.

34th Session - 06/12/16

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Ilyana, Svetlana

13/09/11: With Munguk in tow, the Blades continue West. The giant's presence slows travel, leaving them deep in the forest when another torrential storm sweeps the Greenbelt.

14/09/11: A Shambling Mound, roused by the thunder and lightning, stumbles across the Blades. Lord Felix discovers that not everything can be solved by a lightning-based slap on the posterior. But despite this, the vegetative monstrosity is defeated, and it's sap gathered for the keen herbalist in Vloda.

A Wandering Monster, though one I was very happy to include. Partially because of the side quest in Book 2, mostly because I love Shambling Mounds as monsters. Especially when my players don't know about how lightning effects them.

15/09/11: In order to keep Munguk fed, the Blades are forced to hunt as they travel, slowing their progress to a crawl.

16/09/11: The Blades finally arrive at Hargulka's fortress in the late afternoon; a small barbican extends from the rock wall of a steep hillside, affording the trolls an excellent view if they were so inclined. Careful scouting reveals that they are, however, paying no attention whatsoever. The Blades decide to set up an ambush point and whittle the trolls who go in and out of the fort. They set up a camp in an obscure, hard to reach spot in the hills and divvy out duties. Rodrigo trades booze to Munguk for his scratching stick (wand of hideous laughter) and his conker (a single-pearl necklace of fireballs).

17/09/11: After a quiet night, the Blades spot two trolls returning from a hunt and ambush them. Against the combined power of the Stag Lords of Vloda, the monsters go down fast. Upon burning the bodies and sending a plume of smoke into the air, the trolls in the fort and several trollhounds come to investigate - they are also mostly cut down, but one troll escapes and makes it back to the fort. The Blades retire to their hidden camp, and listen to the roars of the trolls throughout the night.

This was one of thoses cases where the players were acting perfectly sensibly, and it was going to suck. Faced with a fortress full of trolls, guerrilla warfare is a very reasonable thing to go for. But if it worked too well, it turns into the same fight vs. a small number of trolls over and over, and if the trolls never actually form a meaningful challenge the players won't feel that victorious when they defeat them. But.... having the player's plans fail out of hand really kills investment in the game. It's a tricky balancing act. Between this session and the next one I had to sit down and consider what to do. I'm pretty happy with how it worked out.

33rd Session - 29/11/16

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Ilyana, Svetlana

17/08/11: Post wedding, the Blades hear word that the final Gyrona cultist has been captured in Vloda via the newly purchased Silver Raven. Their concerns assuaged, the nuptual festivites continue.

Sometimes having your own troops to delegate to can be handy.

18/08/11: The Medvyed party takes the Erastil pilgrimage. En route Estam and the Blades head to the stone circle, where their vocal and prolonged discussion of it's planned destruction clues in the Rune Golem, leading to a fight. It is destroyed by judicious use of an entire Necklace of Fireballs salvaged from the besieging goblins some months before - a cataclysm the circle itself barely survives - but not before branding Alexander with slanderous runes. Thankfully, Jhod is able to remove these, and workers from the Temple haul down the remaining dolmens. The pilgrimage continues for the next ten days, with some of the Council remaining in Vloda when they pass it, but Felix, Ilyana and Rodrigo continuing on to Nettle's Crossing and then back to the Temple. The Medvyed Party leave for Brevoy, and the council reconvenes.

The Erastil pilgrimage was - unsurprisingly - the brainchild of Rodrigo. Convert he may be, but he's still a bard. It was a triangle going from Vloda city to the Temple of the Elk, then the Erastil statue in the Narlmarches, and back to Vloda.

31/08/11: After some debate, the Gyronna cultists are publically accused of their crimes and executed.

They were beheaded, as was Vlodan policy.

08/09/11: Over-eager farmers stake a claim to the rich black mud where Tendriculos once grew, leaving Vloda to make their fortune. Vloda expands along the western shore of the Tuskwater, with the old beldamme given given a wide berth by all involved. Meanwhile, the construction of walls around the town finally kicks off, and work resumes on the town hall.

Land Rush Kingdom Event here. Following the goblin siege, the players decided that walls were going to be an absolute necessity.

10/09/11: The Council head south to deal with the Troll menace as the populace grows uneasy. Svetlana hires on a wetnurse to care for her changeling ward, named Masha (or Sonja?). Despite being nearly washed away fording the river between the two lakes, the druid still manages to steer the party clear of a den of chaotic hungry bears.

Enough random events of Trolls & having rumours around the settlement build up! Hargulka and his trolls were now established as a serious concern. And while the PCs might now be becoming badasses, they still don't want to rumble with bears.

11/09/11: The Blades cross the Little Sellen at the ruined town, spending the night there before heading west along the southernmost reaches of the Greenbelt.

This would be the Abandoned Ferry Station (U) on the Greenbelt map.

12/09/11: Along the riverside, on a misty morning, the Blades find the drunken, hungry hill giant Munguk. Felix & Svetlana approaches him, using druidic secrets to communicate, and placate him by promising him food. The rest of the day is spent hunting, gathering a truly epic amount of game.

I think the Druidic secrets were the very handy Share Language. I enjoyed playing Munguk as a dim thug. I usually let the PCs good deeds get rewarded, but from the outset I knew there was a high chance of any kindness shown to the hill giant being eventually thrown back in their faces. There was some argument between the players as to whether they should ally with him or not, with the pro-negotiation faction winning out.

13/09/11: With Munguk fed, he reveals that he's been wandering the land getting hungrier and more and more lost. He tried to join up with the trolls, but they ran him off. With some bribery, Felix talks him around to showing them where the troll fort is, and getting revenge by helping to attack it....

32nd Session - 22/11/16

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Ilyana, Svetlana

Erastus-Arodus 4711: In the preparation for Lord Felix's wedding, Vloda is a hive of activity. Work is finally completed on the hospital, and a road is constructed as far as the Sootscale mine, while bunting and tents are erected all around the Temple of the Elk.

Following a hopefully-not-portentous thunderstorm, the Blades indulge in a Stag Party; to whit, hunting stags across the Greenbelt. Hopefully portentously, Lord Felix downs their quarry with a truly impressive shot. Alexander downs his own thumb.

Considering that Felix is a Sorcerer with no bow proficiencies, he rolled really well for that result. Alexander soaked up the back luck with a Fumble.

In the long, hot Autumn, Guests begin to arrive at the Temple a few days in advance; representatives attend from each of the great Houses of Restov, though in the cases of Surtova and Orlovsky these are functionaries rather than members. The Surtovan captain notes that the King is disappointed that the Blades never contacted the Crown, either to request aid or express thanks. An invitation is extended to him should he ever care to visit.

Here reinforcing the fact that not talking to someone can be as perilous as talking to them. Also getting ready to eventually put the PCs at loggerhead with Brevoy.

The large Medyved contingent includes - amongst others - Ilya, her parents and the Erastil-venerating Druid Estam Medvyed, who mentions that Ilya is considered to be the reincarnation of one of his legendary predecessors. Rodrigo talks to Estam about the stone circle, and they decide to visit it post-wedding.

Estam will return in Realm of the Fellnight Queen

Maeghar Varn brings a small cohort from Varnhold, and in discussion mentions that Vloda may now be overtaking his own lands - constant raiding by centaurs is making any progress very difficult. There is no word at all from Fort Drelev.

This is the first time the PCs met Maeghar. I thought that The Varnhold Vanishing would be a lot more effective if they players knew their neighbours. I played Maeghar as a bit boisterous, in a heart, good-natured way, if a bit quick to fight. I used a random character creator to flesh out his personality, and my version of Maeghar wound up gay. This turned into a bit of a sad story, since he was expected to marry and have kids to secure the future of Varnhold, but everyone knew his heart really lay with Willas Gundarson.

The Cornflower arrives with a bevy of travelers from Mivon; an official representative from Mayor Raston Selline and several minor Mivonese Swordlords. For the next few days, the forest rings with the clash of steel as the rivals Aldori seek to humiliate the other in duels - all legally declared. Meanwhile, Baelforge discusses a troll attack as they sailed along the Shrike, a report which brings out many more like it from those who live further out from the new settlements.

The Cornflower returns from session 24. I'm pretty sure the PCs paid the captain to come back specifically for the wedding. It could have been any ship really, but using the same names instead of hiring generic, unnamed 'entertainers' adds a lot to a story. IMHO, of course.

Other attendees from Restov include Count Addar Arnovski, High Priest of Erastil Ezvanki Keegh, ranking priests of both Gorum and Abadar, and Rajo Chladny - Master of the House of Arcane Sparring and Felix's former headmaster. As well as this, come the leaders of Tatzlford and Nettle's Crossing and every hunter, trapper and grig within a dozen miles.

Lots and lots of names. Always keep a list of your random NPCs, kids, and recycle them.

16/08/11: The day of the wedding! The Temple is thronged with people, and the final guests turn up - King Sootscale and his guard (including Mikmek). They totally fail to grasp how weddings work, but present Felix with a spear. The ceremony is presided over by Jhod, with assistance from the various gather clerics of Erastil, and there is much rejoicing.

IIRC, King Sootscale basically congratulated Lord Felix on conquering another tribe.

Shortly after sunset, a botched attack is carried out on Fiona, Svetlana (the NPC) and Ilyana (the baby). While the attacker is driven off, both women are hurt and the Blades (less Felix, who is dancing with his bride) secure them in the Temple before heading into the woods. A very short distance later, they find a Gyronna cultist in a nearby logging camp, dead at her own hand, and a baby.

You didn't think that the wedding was going to go off without any snags, did you?

Back in the Temple, another cultist stirs up unrest, suggesting that the crew of the Cornflower are responsible for the attack and drumming up tension between those who pay tribute to Hanspur and those who don't. Baelforge holds back the crowd with pyrotechnics and it looks like things are going to get ugly before a drunken Lord Felix, who hadn't been informed of any attacks, talks the crowd down. The arrival of Alexander and Ilyana utterly quells the unrest, and guards are assigned to the Cornflower for the remainder of the night.

The Lords decision to ban Clerics of Hanspur coming back to bite them here, being an easy source of division for the cultists to exploite.

Felix returns to his nuptials while the babies are brought to the Temple. Svetlana realises that Svetlana and Fiona have been be drugged; no-one is entirely sure which baby is which. Rodrigo attempts to unravel any illusions woven over the infants, but just when he's about to give the game away Ilyana's midwife - Malgorzata Niska - attacks. She releases a curse of madness upon the Blades, attempting to escape in the confusion, but is captured by Alexander and Ilyana. Interrogation reveals three other cultists in the festivities, who are captured or hunted down, and one other back in Vloda. Zedrak unweaves the enchantments and the real baby Ilyana is determined.

Malgorzata was trying to play the long game, but when her whole plan was about to unravel I decided that a last-ditch attempt at murder and cruelty fitted the character.

17/08/16: The next morning, the Blades bid goodbye to most of their guests, the attack on the Cornflower's crew having spoiled the mood for many. Lem spots a Hanspur shrine in the Cornflower while checking for the sole remaining cultist. Drago and a few guards take the riverboat back down to Vloda to overtake word of the attack, and Ilyana sends an animal messenger with the same information.

The Cornflower of course has a tiny shrine to Hanspur in the hold - it's a river barge. Lem decided not to mention it.

Malgorzata is questioned at length. She is from the River Kingdoms, and is the only cleric in the cult. She planned to swap the baby, and then do the same with any progeny of Lord Felix. The baby was given to her by a hag named Jenny Greenteeth, and is presumably hagspawn. Jenny and Malgorzata broke into the old mine in the northern Greenbelt to retrieve the hag's old cache of hagstones; some of these are in Vloda, but Jenny herself has been distant from the cult once it got going. The cult also attempted to poison the assembled dignitaries from Brevoy, only to be thwarted by Svetlana's judicious (or paranoid) use of magic. Svetlana (that one) decides to adopts the changeling, having consulted with the assembled scholars and devotees of nature, and not gotten any conclusive answer on a nature vs. nurture debate.

So the PCs got to deal with one threat, while being aware that the larger one still loomed. The debate on what to do with the infant ran on for a while - there was never any question of not raising the child, just in how to do it. I don't like 100% evil races in my games, even with something horrific like hags. So it boils down to the individual. A changeling will be predisposed to cruelty, and if they embrace this then a later metamorphosis is inevitable. But raised in a loving environment with strong principles? Maybe not.

The Ecology of the Green Hag by F. Wesley Schneider from Dragon #125 was a great source of inspiration for this bit of the campaign too, and one I strongly recommend.

31st Session - 08/11/16

Characters: Alexander, Felix, Rodrigo, Ilyana

14/07/11: While exploring around the Abandoned Keep, it becomes clear that the Death's Head tree planted seeds in Alexander and Granite, and some emergency surgery is required to remove them.

My players aren't dumb. When two members of the group get sick right after being attacked by something which lays sees in people, they can figure it out. I made the description of the plant growing within the victim suitably unpleasant though.

15/07/11: An area of forest south of the Keep transpires to be infested with giant spiders. After some debate, its decided that it's far enough away from Vloda not to merit destruction - yet.

Again, random encounter table. The PCs all have very good sense, so they spot the knock-off Mirkwood from a good distance away and decide to leave it be for the moment.

16-18/07/11: Through torrential rain, the exploration of the Narlmarches is an unpleasant experience, though a somewhat solid trail west is discovered.

19-21/07/11: To avoid an oncoming storm, the Blades retire to Tatzlford. Most of the local trappers have done the same, and the tiny village is crowded. Corax and Ilyana trade notes about the local fae, while others are more concerned about troll sightings getting close from the south. Word spreads that there has been another Hodag sighting, but this transpires to be Stas the lumberjack again. Finally, there is some discussion about threats and shouting matches held with Garuum, who has claimed a patch of the river upstream. The Blades advise he be left in peace.

I'd never heard of a Hodag before this game, but I love them.

22/07/11: With the weather clearing, the Blades head west. That night, in the marshy forest, Ilyana spies a Will-o-the-Wisp. It attacks as soon as they approach, targeting Lord Felix, but disappears after a brief combat.

The PCs got a lot of random encounters this session. The really, really hate Wisps.

23/07/11: In an eerily-silent patch of forest, the remains of a unicorn - sans horn - are discovered. Though there is no putrefaction and no scavenger has touched the body, Ilyana determines from the leaves atop it that it has been there at least a year and a half.

26/07/11: Arriving back in the Temple of the Elk, the Blades call on Tyg-Titter-Tut, remembering that she mentioned a unicorn briefly in passing the previous Summer. Clearly terrified, all the grig can tell them is that something from the First World killed it, and in such a way that the aura of death has prevented even scavengers or rot from touching the corpse. The Blades learn that the Stolen Lands are a place where the barrier between Golarion and the First World are thin. Meanwhile, Svetlana Leveton announces that she has named her daughter Ilyana - after Ilyana, just to confuse matters.

The unicorn is one of the first, biggest clues of the overall threat for the campaign. I really played this up. The reason there are so many monsters in the Stolen Lands, and that no-one has ever held it? Things creep through from the First World. It's as good an excuse as any.

So the NPC who shares a name with one of the PCs names her daughter after another PC. This won't confuse things :)

28/07/11: The Blades arrive back in Vloda, and begin to make preparations for a royal wedding. Concerned about the Cult of Gyronna, Alexander hires Fiona to guard Svetlana and her child. On behalf of Vloda, the Council purchases a Silver Raven Figurine of Wondrous Power from the Temple to act as an emergency messenger for the fiefdom. All work on the Town Hall is suspended to allow a marital home to be completed for Lord Felix & his bride.

I'm really fond of Slugfest Games' Red Dragon Inn series. When I found that they had released a teaser PDF for a series of Pathfinder sourcebooks, I had to use it. So Fiona the Volatile was hiredd on as a guard. I wish that more had been produced.

30th Session - 01/11/16

Characters: Alexander, Svetlana, Rodrigo, Ilyana

24/06/11: Taking a break from their explorations, the Blades head back to Vloda, where Lem comes down with a terrible case of Halfling Mumps, or "Humps".

Sadly, that's the last session that Lem's player made it to. He did in fact have mumps, for real, and by the time he got over them his work shifts had changed and the game wasn't viable for him anymore. It was a real shame.

26/06/11: The Blades arrive in Vloda, and spend some time devoted to their duties to the growing town. A wooden palisade is ordered to be built around the Temple of the Elk to protect it's inhabitants.

The City Walls, mentioned previously.

01/07/11: Calum Sellemius, younger brother of the Lord Mayor of Restov, arrives in town with his household in tow, as per the agreement when the Blades took funding for the Mayor, and builds himself a proper townhouse. Vloda expands to the drained and abandoned Sootscale Caverns, to the upset of a few opportunists who had been trying the same thing, and re-open the silver mine. Work commences on a Town Hall for Vloda.

Calum's arrival was the result of a Wealthy Immigrant result on Kingdom Events, again used to tie into the ongoing plot. His arrival and building of a Mansion actually put Lord Felix's nose out of joint. After all, he was the Lord, and he was only living in a Mansion himself. The nerve! Since Felix's player is the one responsible for maintaining the plat map of Vloda city, he purposefully put the Mansion in such a way that Calum wouldn't have free lots to ever upgrade it to a Noble Villa.... I love it when players get this invested.

Calum himself never did much of importance in the plot, just serving as the occasional voice of Restov or a reminder that the PCs were being watched.

03/07/11: Archerfeast! Celebrations are held for the completion of the Temple of the Elk, while the usual festivities occur down in Vloda. Rodrigo donates part of the mithral he received from Istria to have an arrow forged for the Protector of the year after the archery contests.

Interestingly, this was not something I had planned. Rodrigo's player read up about Erastil and spotted the Holy Days, and when they were approaching announced that they would hold celebrations. The other players followed suit with their own deities. I was chuffed - when they were coming up with cool stuff themselves, it meant I didn't have to.

08/07/11: The Blades leave Vloda to resume their explorations.

11/07/11: By the shore of the Murque, remains of a small boggard settlement are found. It has been recently destroyed, seemingly by the Forest Drake, though Orc footprints are found too.

Foreshadowing! Even back then, I knew I wanted to work the Throne of Iuz scenario in eventually.

12/07/11: Without much difficulty the Blades find the grove of the Death's Head Tree. After fighting the horrendous plant, they go to great lengths to find and destroy any of its seeds - especially when they have to be dug out of bite wounds on Ilyana and Rodrigo. Tiressia travels to meet them, and promises to inform them of any threats or news she hears from the forest as a sign of gratitude.

I used the Death's Head Tree stats from Creature Collection V in Dragon 339 here. I have the White Wolf Ravenloft monster book with them, but I seem to remember the writeup in Dragon being preferable for some reason. The Death's Head Tree is weird - an immobile, low-grade sentient (Int 3) plant monster, which grows fruit resembling moaning human heads. The heads can bite, and when ripe break off and float around for a while looking for victims. The tree grows best when watered with or rooted in blood. The heads can spit seeds, or implant them with a bite, to gestate within a living host. It's horrible. I think I used this rather than the Scythe Tree because of it's immobility. A Scythe Tree is basically just another monster that happens to be a tree. The Death's Head Tree is a plant that happens to be a monster. Weird is good.

13/07/11: The exploration continues, with Granite and Alexander looking peaky...

Spoiler - the PCs didn't find all the seeds.

29th Session - 18/10/16

Characters: Lem, Alexander, Felix, Svetlana, Rodrigo, Ilyana

12/06/11: Bearing Letham's body into the Marches, Rodrigo sees a good omen - a wandering herd of Elk follow them for some distance.

The Random Encounter Table told me that Erastil was not displeased with the tough choice Rodrigo had to make, so who was I to argue?

13/06/11: Letham is buried by the statue. All through the land, the Blades see signs that the ritual has enlivened both flora and fauna, and rampant growth is everywhere.

14/06/11: The Blades return to the Temple; Jhod is unimpressed with Rod's actions, and Rob tries to seek solace in prayer. Funds are diverted to construct defences around the Temple in case any more dangers come from the deep woods.

The Temple had been counting as a settlement with a single building, and Rodrigo's player wanted to keep it that way, tied to nature. But he backed down and agreed with Jhod's demand that it be kept safe for the trappers and loggers who were now staying there sometimes, alongside the occasional pilgrim.

16/06/11: Arriving back in Vlolda, and after much debate, Lem gives Lily Teskerton the elven statue retrieved from the Abandoned Keep.

Inside-cover Sidequest completed!

17/06/11: Lily shows her favour by passing on the Horseshoes of Speed once owned by her father, a Cavalier of the Order of the Shield. Deciding that he might need a more combat capable mount, Felix buys a combat-trained horse named Hobs.

18/06/11: Heading into the West to continue exploring their new land, the Blades soon come across the expedition of Jubilost Narthropple under attack by Twigjacks as they attempt to ford the Skunk River. The fey are driven off and the wagon saved, and Jubilost trades details of his exploration. Specifically that he is looking for a dwarven citadel somewhere in the Greenbelt, but he can shed light on the location of the Forest Drake, the Orc village, a source of haunting music in the woods, and a wandering hill giant to the south.

I really wish I could go back and portray Jubilost as he is in the computer game version of Kingmaker. As it is, he provided some useful info to the group but was a bit forgettable. He's mostly served me by occasionally sending back reports on areas I want to PCs to look into. I replaced the kobolds of the original encounter with Twigjacks because a: the players were getting really fond of Kobolds, and b: it seemed a good follow-through from Evor the Mighty at the Dancing Lady's Ball.

20/06/11: While following the Skunk, our Heroes find a standoff between one of the town's logging camps - owned by one Corax Tisseun - and a nixie named Melianse. After debate concerning some trees cut down beside one of Melianse's favourite pools, the Blades talk both sides down from violence and come to a tentative arrangement.

This one was tricky to put across. Most of my players would be very sympathetic to preserving natural beauty, and they want their Kingdom to be the kind of place they'd want to live. On the other hand, Vloda needs timber to survive. So the argument became about arrogance. Corax could harvest trees anywhere, but the coach trees are especially fine. Melianse is a river fae and so has no particular bond to trees, but thought they looked lovely. In the end the trees were left, Corax moved on grumbling a bit but placated by the rulers, and the nixie agreed not to Charm anyone.

As an aside, I take the general view in most fantasy games that magic is at best distrusted, and Charm spells are utterly loathed by most people. Using one is a good way to get driven out of town, or hung. I also informed the PCs at the start of the campaign that standard practice in courts and other places of high standing across Golarion is for guards to attack anyone who even starts chanting or wiggling their fingers in the air. It's the equivalent of pulling a gun out and waving it around in court, or in parliament, or wherever. Unless the local ruler has specifically just said that you are allowed to cast a spell, trying to do so is probably a death sentence. I left it up to the PCs to consider how they wanted to implement this, and they ordered their guards to follow standard practice.

22/06/11: In the deepest woods, the source of the haunting music transpires to be the dryad Tiressia and her satyr-lover Falchos. Tiressia beseeches them to help her against the monstrous Death's Head Tree which has grown in her glade to the south, and they agree to help. Tiressia congratulates them on dealing with the Dancing Lady, but reveals that Fergun the Redcap has sworn to take his pay from them, having been dismissed without it for letting them escape from the party.

In Kingmaker it's a Scythe Tree, but I love the Death's Head Tree from Ravenloft so that's what I used instead.

23/06/16: The Blades slowly head south, mapping the woods as best the can while they go.

pennywit wrote:
The players actually considered not going to the Spring Feast at all, but decided to go when they concluded that declining an invitation from the fey could be more dangerous than accepting.

Exactly the issue I had! I was quite glad that they decided to confer with the Old Beldamme and I could steer them a little.

28th Session - 04/10/16

Characters: Lem, Alexander, Felix, Svetlana, Rodrigo

01/06/11: Rodrigo, Alexander and Lem take a tour of the Kamelands, retrieving the Decanter from the Silver Mine through clever use of a water elemental.

The Cursed Decanter of Endless Water cast Sleep on anyone hit by the water, so of course the Kobolds weren't able to turn it off and it flooded their home. I did not consider that the PCs would instantly start trying to come up for practical uses for it, which was really dumb of me. I believe it eventually found use as a sedative in Vloda's hospital.

06/06/11: The Decanter is dropped off at the Temple of the Elk until a purpose can be found for it.

07/06/11: Bardiu flies into Vloda bearing a sack of mithril and a shale dagger for the settlement's new champion, bearing word from Istria about how pleased she is to see all honorifics relating to strong, unyielding stone. Felix and Svetlana are as polite as they can be.

Bardiu is the giant owl companion of Istria from Cold Mountain. Yay for the vanity of the Fae. The group started naming their medals after a horse who just so happened to be named after a type of stone, and the Earth Fae assumes that this is a reverence for all things mineral. The PCs had the presence of mind to go along with this instantly.

08/06/11: The wandering councilors visit Nettle's Crossing and are duly impressed with the completed covered bridge across the Shrike.

As I referenced in my thread about adapting other adventures, the bridge will become relevant down the line a bit.

09/06/11: Word comes to Vloda that a couple of youths from the Temple have stirred up something in the woods while trying to hunt goblins for the bounty. They Blades hurry north; it transpires that they youths - Bron and Letham stumbled upon a stone circle in the woods near the source of the Skunk. Something attacked them, mortally wounding Letham, and Bron barely got back to the Temple with his friend's body. The creature is still hunting the forest. Felix, Rodrigo and Jhod try to comfort Letham's family.

Here's another adventure I lifted from the pages of Dungeon magazine. In this case it's James Lafond Sutter's The Automatic Hound from issue 148. Short version - clueless youngsters accidentally start a ritual involving the Beastlands but flee without finishing it, and an eternally-resurrecting creature called a Runehound keeps hunting them down. I replaced the Beastlands with the First World, and it plays very nicely. The two teenagers, looking to become adventurers, wander into the stone circle at the wrong time of year when the Runehound is active. It attacks and killed Letham; the next step of the ritual is placing his body on the altar at the centre of the circle. Doing so will ensure bounty and health for the land, fueled by the First World. All the single-minded Runehound can do is try to complete the ritual.

10/06/11: The Blades try to track the Runehound, but are ambushed by it. Alexander gores it, and it's essence disperses west. Following Bron's directions, they easily find the stone circle. A recently-risen Rune Golem stands guard over all. After the Runehound reforms at sundown and attacks again, Svetlana deduces that the creature is part of a fertility rite for the land - one that they will need Letham's body to complete. Rodrgio and Jacobi return to the Temple to try talk to Jhod, en route catching - but not holding - the attention of Malofgothromarazon the faerie dragon.

The Runehound is a funky looking foe, appearing like a headless, hairless wolf, it's slimy skin covered in runes, with an snake-like neck rising from the centre of it's back and capped with an eyeless maw. When killed, it boils away into smoke which flies back to the stone circle and reforms at sunset. At which point it starts the hunt again.

The Rune Golem is from Creature Collection V in Dragon 343, by Wolfgang Baur. It's not in the published adventure, I just loved the artwork for it so much that I've wanted to use one for years. They look a little bit like Leshys do in Witcher 3. If you can find a copy of the magazine, I recommend checking it out. They're made of hardwood and bone, emblazoned with runes, and used by Druids to guard sacred sites. In this case, the stone circle. This one had been buried for a very long time, and slowly became active once the Runehound woke up.

Malofgothromarazon was a random encounter, a bored faerie dragon spying on the PCs, which ultimately didn't go anywhere. I do like the name though.

11/06/11: Rodrigo and Jhod agree to use Letham's body, talking his deeply unhappy family around to it, after giving him a suitable funeral. Needing another person to help transport the litter, Rodrigo gets Bron to help him. The Runehound appears at sundown again, this time running off towards the Temple before the Blades can stop it.

This was a tough one for Rodrigo and Brother Jhod. Letham was a devout Erastil worshiper, and using his remains as a sacrifice was pretty bad. But Erastil is also a practical deity, so in the end Rodrigo's player figured that if it was the only option, they had to take it.

12/06/11: The Runehound approaches Rodrigo's camp, and he obscures it's presence from Bron using his Stonemist Cloak and loud prayers. It drags the body away, and Jacobi and Bron return to the Temple talking about the "miracle" and the white stag they certainly saw. Rodrigo returns to the circle, beating the Runehound, and late in the morning when it arrives, Svetlana completes the ritual. The Runehound disappears, and a wave of life-giving energy washes over the Greenbelt. A Spirit of the Wild escapes alongside this energy, and the Blades must cut it down - aided by the Rune Golem. Rodrigo decides that Letham's body would be best buried by the statue of Erastil down by the Narlmarches.

There was a bit of black humour here. When Rodrigo figured that the Runehound was close, and having decided that they needed to complete the ceremony anyway, he decided it was easier to just let it take the body. But he didn't want Bron upset by seeing it, hence his deception. Of course, he assumed that the Runehound would puff the body into smoke.... not slowly drag it through miles of dense woodland. His ongoing loud prayers had the other players laughing guiltly, especially when he actually bet the Runehound back to the stone circle. The villagers were told that the body had been taken by Erastil, and Rodrigo spent a while doing penance for that lie.

The Spirit of the Wild is an every-changing chaos beastie in the adventure, capable of slightly changing it's stats each turn as it grows and discards tentacles, limbs, antennae or chitin. It's a First World ambush predator taking advantage of the portal for some easy prey - it thinks. Since it wasn't supposed to come through, but the PCs had been suitably respectful, I had the menacing Rune Golem give them a hand in the fight.

As a reward for completing the ritual, and just to make the PCs feel a bit uncomfortable, I had the wave of power make everything within fifty or sixty miles grow remarkably well for the next year, for a temporary +2 Economy. And since they were at the epicentre, all the PCs got a permanent +1 Con. And all it took was the sacrifice of a sentient being once per year. Unsurprisingly, they elected never to tell anyone about this, or to ever repeat the ritual.

Canarr wrote:

Very nice developments! Well done! Always an exciting read here.

I really regret not checking out the Kingmaker forums before running the AP - I missed out on some quality foreshadowing, and some excellent add-on ideas. Ah, well.

Don't feel too bad - I read loads on here, and I'm still hitting things I wish I'd managed to include years back.

Don't know if I've already recommended it, but there's a podcast by Sugar-fuelled Gamers out there that runs through a modified version of Kingmaker. It has a lot of great features, but the developments around Malgorzata Niska and her cult are my absolute favorite. It's just phenomenal.

I think you did, but I had forgotten about it and not checked. I'll have to take a listen now.

pennywit wrote:
It's always a thrill to see people use the Spring Feast content. I remember putting that together, and I remember running my players through it.

How did it play out for you? As I said, I'm still a little disappointed that my players were so cautious about the whole thing, though I understand entirely why they were.

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27th Session - 27/09/16

Characters: Lem, Alexander, Felix, Ilyana, Rodrigo

05/05/11: After resting in the Keep to recover their strength, the Blades catch up with Ilyana and the rescued locals in the forest. Brother Obren follows the Murque back down to Candlemere, the kobolds branch off to make their own way, and the other survivors think better of heading to Vloda when they hear of the plague. En route to Vloda they encounter Crazy Bokken's brother, unfortunately only recognising him as such after he has offered them tea, poisoned them and tried to gut Lord Felix. After killing him and telling his puma to f%$% off, they continue to the Old Beldamme's hut. They find it dark, and the scarecrow discomfortingly restless.

Boken's Brother isn't much of an encounter. What mostly had me scratching my head was where he had gotten so many magic items - a +1 whip, +1 leather armour and a ring of protection +1. That's a lot for a crazy hermit. I added a druidic touch to him. He wasn't a druid, but had somehow found a cache of relics from some who had once occupied the Stolen Lands, and tried to become one himself. His campsite was marked out by crude reproductions of random druidic glyphs, that kind of thing. This gave me a happy explanation in case the players asked, but also did groundwork for evidence of previous cultures that had lived in the land. I'll write more about the druids later, but I had fun with them as a background element for a long time.

06/05/11: In Vloda, sickness is spreading like wildfire. Velin Ristovic - the ranking cleric of Pharisma - and Brother Jhod are attempting to halt it, but it will require the efforts of the entire council to overcome the malady. Johd and Oleg argue over Oleg's decision to send the heavily-pregnant Svetlana to the Temple of the Elk, and risk spreading the plague.

12/05/11: The efforts to control the outbreak go well, but at a secret council meeting, Velin presents the council with disturbing news. The source of the plague has been found; a mutilated body was left in a cistern used by one of the inns, and with it a stone carved with the eye of Gyronna. The Council swear the guardsman who found it to secrecy, and decide not to tell the town about the cult - for now. The stone itself is smashed.

And this is why you roll up Kingdom Events in advance, because what appears to be a random event can tie into the ongoing plot so nicely. In this case, I wanted to really build up the Cult of Gyrona event from Book 2 before it came to a head. A plague seemed a very Gyrona-suitable way of hurting the town.

Swearing the guardsman to silence was one of those things that had a lot of back & forth between the players. On one hand, they did not want to start a literal witch hunt in the town, especially since those characteristically beholden to Gyrona are vulnerable members of society in the first place. On the other hand, if word got out that they knew but didn't tell people, it could definitely hurt their standing. They made their call.

By the end of the month, the sickness is eradicated, and Vloda is shaken but still stands firm. In an effort to restore some of the stability lost, a small court is opened to hear civil cases among the populace. And following a snotty letter from House Garess, a mine is opened to exploit the gold in the northern plains. Felix presents Rodrigo with the "shale medal" for bravery in risking his life to save them from the Fey.

Garess were reminding the PCs that they had provided venture capital in exchange for mineral trade with the new kingdom. As the kingdom hadn't built any mines, they were getting annoyed.

The Shale Medal followed in the vein of the Granite Medal, mentioned back in session 16. You get the Granite Medal (posthumously) if you gave your life for Vloda. You get the Shale Medal for risking your life. The mineral theme was strong.

22/05/11: The Blades visit the abandoned mine in the nearby forests, only to discover that someone else opened it months before. The Will o'the Wisp is absent, as is the trace of magic that Rodrigo sensed the year before; several recently-emptied crates are all that remain. Felix heads out of town into the countryside before examining the gift he received from the Dancing Lady, discovering that it is a cursed Bag of Tricks. They inform Bokken of his brother's death. He is glad to hear it. They visit the Old Beldamme, annoyed that she didn't tell them what to expect at the ball. In her defence, she tells them that this was the first time the Dancing Lady had the audacity to capture locals and feed on them at a party. She also warns them of another habit of the Cult of Gyronna - the abduction and replacement of children.

This was the mine from way back in session 2, a random fluff description while hexploring, with a random encounter of a Will-o'-Wisp. I had already decided that I wanted to beef up the presence of both Green Hags & the Cult of Gyrona, to eventually culminate with the Gnurly Witch. I've loved Green Hags since F. Wesley Schneider's excellent Ecology article from Dragon #331. I also wanted to feature a coven, inspired by the exceptionally nasty Sisters Mindefisk from Ravenloft. I decided that it would be interesting if the PCs ever explored the mine and found an ancient chest cached away, with a hagstone and Gyrona relics within - left there in case the hags ever had to come back and carry out their patron's wishes. Had the PCs gone back to the mine faster they would have found this. As it was, time ticked on and a Hag came back first, cracking the mine open and claiming her relics before calling on Malgorzata Niska and her coven.

26/05/11: Mikmek and a few kobolds inform Vloda that they have claimed the Old Sycamore as their new home, since the silver mine is now flooded by the cursed Decanter of Endless Water gifted to them by the Dancing Lady.

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26th Session - 20/09/16

Characters: Lem, Alexander, Felix, Svetlana, Rodrigo, plus special guest PC Jacobi!

Rodrigo's player controlled Jacobi for the start of this session iirc, while the regular character's fate was unknown.

03/05/11: The Blades are lost deep in the primeval forest of the Narlmarches, when Eirikk arrives with Lem in tow. The halfling comes with dire news; sickness is spreading through Vloda at a terrifying rate. The church of Pharisma have been dealing with it, but the absence of leadership is hurting their efforts. Ilyana takes the rescued captives, the kobolds and brother Obren and heads back to town. Eirikk sets out west, happy to get away from both plague and fairy forts. The remaining Blades try to find the Keep, but wander through the dense, pitch-black forest for hours before exhaustion forces them to stop, sleeping fitfully until dawn.

The sickness was a Kingdom Building event. Again, rolled for well in advance.

04/05/11: Under the light of day, Jacobi and Svetlana find their own tracks, following them back to the Keep. Granite and Alexander are horrendously injured when the portcullis lands on them, and the impossibly fast Rigg Gargadilly leads the Blades a merry chase around the courtyard until Alexander finally swats him.

After a brief and unpleasant tangle with an assassin vine, the Blades enter the central tower, still a marvel of ancient elven architecture. Lem overcomes the fae magic defending the place, and they ascend the stairs to the boudoir of the Dancing Lady - where they spy an unconscious Rodrigo. The Baobahn Sidhe demands the return of her quarries, rightfully hunted. The Blades refuse. All bar Felix and Alexander are entranced by her dance, and even Alexander falls sway to her bewitching oration, attempting to prevent Felix from attacking her. A brutal fight ensues - the Lord of Vloda striks at the twisting fae with lighting, while her very touch opens bleeding wounds across his skin. Felix falls, but at the last second Rodrigo awakens and heals him, granting the sorcerer one last shot to finish off his foe - he makes good use of it! Her spells broken, the Dancing Lady issues a dying curse against Felix, but his will is also fae and not easily cowed.

As a lot of other people have noted, the Dancing Lady encounter can easily turn into a TPK. The spellcasters duel between herself and Felix was all the more epic for everyone else being down though, especially with the Charmed Alexander trying to subdue his friend. Rodrigo's last-second save was a bit of a deus ex machina, but everyone dying like this wouldn't have been a satisfying end to the game. Plus I didn't give them the victory, just added a second participant to the fight. If they'd still lost.... well, I would have dealt with it.

The freed heroes waste no time in scouring the tower, finding a variety of treasures. Alexander decapitates the Dancing Lady, not being entirely sure which legends regarding vampires are true or not.

Again, decapitation. It becomes a theme.

Finishing a sweep of the Keep, Svetlana enters the remaining locked tower by herself. Sadly, this is the home of Teorlian, and she is almost killed before Jacobi and Alexander smash down the door to rescue her.

Never split the party. To make things worse, Svetlana's player frequently sings that song.

Rodrigo's miraculous recovery was totally unexplained here, all he knew was that he woke up healed, and with a flute that gave him a bonus to his Perform rolls. It was the Leaninsidhe who rescued him, being impressed with the music he had made earlier in the evening, but she'd left him with the Baobhan sith. Since Leaninsidhe can drain the life out of people who accept their gifts, it seemed like something that would have promise down the line. The Leaninsidhe is a servant of the Lantern King, with a vested interest in keeping Nyrissa's curse ongoing, and I wanted to bring the influence of the Eldest a bit more into the game. The intention was, as ever, to do this early and reveal it later, suggesting that the PCs have been manipulated from the start and getting them angry enough to go up against the Eldest.

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25th Session - 13/09/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Alexander, Ilyana, Felix, Svetlana

25/04/11: Lord Felix is found hiding from his mother in Riverbend, a tiny hamlet upriver of Vloda along the Thorn. He has been taken in by Frederick and Ellesandra, the local millers. Lem was also looking after him, but is now nowhere to be seen, having disappeared along with 30 pieces of silver.... After some debate, the Blades decide to find out more about the Dancing Lady. Ilyana sends a messenger asking Perlivash and Tyg-Titter-Tut to meet her at the Temple of the Elk in a few days, then the assembled council - less Rodrigo - visit the Old Beldamme. She reveals that she has also been invited, and it's probably wiser to go than to snub the fae. In Vloda, Rodrigo investigates a villager who has seemingly had his teeth pulled out while he slept.

I can't remember why I said Felix was in hiding - I think that the player was late to the game. Riverbend is the starting point for Wrath of the River King, and I wanted to set that one up long in advance. Felix becoming friends with the miller and his wife was a handy way to do that, but I presented it as a silly aside so that no-one thought too much of it.

The poor villager was the victim of tooth fairies who will turn up at the ball.

26/04/11: Ilyana sends another messenger to tell the Tyg-Titter-Tut she won't be making their engagement, and the council get measured for suitable clothes to attend a ball.

28/04/11: The Council writes to the House of Arcane Sparring and House Medvyed to ask for ways to ward off fey influnces.

My players often take a scattershot approach to information gathering, asking everyone they can possibly think of. Probably becase I'm a great believe in making the necessary information available to them, and then screwing them if they don't think to get it.

29/04/11: Eirikk Rezke, a trapper and animal tamer, is hired to bring the Blades to the Elven Keep as quickly as possible, due to his familiarity with the Narlmarches. He asks a high price, but is bargained down.

You may recognise Eirikk as the beast-handler who awakens the great (owl)bear at the end of book 2. Like most NPCs, I wanted to reference him before he became a plot point.

30/04/11: The Blades leave Vloda, heading West.

03/05/11: Delivering them to near the Keep, Eirikk beats a hasty retreat and the Council approach at sunset. They find themselves in a fey ball, protected by the rules of hospitality. In attendance are;

Teorlian, a strange elf (actually a grimstalker), seemingly the Steward of the Keep.

Rigg Gargadilly, the quickling who delivered the invitation.

A satyr maestro and his accompanying flutists.

A Leaninsidhe who buys the music of one of the aforementioned flutists, and takes to Rodrigo.

Goarge, a talking vulture.

Tula the Skinner, a horrendous, skin-stealing monster who takes a shine to Lord Felix.

High Charisma can be a curse.

Jekra, a spurned forlarren.

Jekra becomes a recurring NPC, so you'll see him again.

A platoon of twigjacks led by Evor the Mighty.

Fergun the Redcap, plus two lackeys, running security.

A mess of enslaved Brownies, serving food and drink.

A cloud of Tooth Fairies attending to tasks unknown.

The Old Beldamme.

King Sootscale and Mikmek.

Hargulka, the Troll King.

I played Hargulka as huge, menacing and mostly silent, watching everything with tiny piggy eyes.

Brother Obren of the Monks of Candlemere, looking well and truly out of his depth.

Brother Obren is a doppelgänger, but this does not come up. This is the first encounter any of the PCs have with the Monks of Candlemere, so he tells them that they are an isolationist order, almost all of whom have taken an oath of silence. Obren maintains that he has not, because someone occasionally has to interact with outsiders.

A Mockingfey which follow Alexander and Ilyana around.

Several lovely topiaries.

Over the course of the night, Alexander feeds Goarge, who destroys Tula's discarded skin and then loses a duel to the Skin Stealer. Rodrigo plays his flute admirably, winning much applause. Jekra is revealed to be half-devil, and thus the lowest of the low amongst the fae. Teorlian issues gifts, including an odd, moving bag to Lord Felix, an amphora to King Sootscale, and a flute to Hargulka. Hargulka leaves shortly thereafter. As the night comes to a head, six terrified captives are dragged out by a fae named Springheel Jack; two are certainly known in Vloda, one is an orc, and one is Roman the wildman, last seen in the northern Narlmarches the previous year. The Dancing Lady appears, and it becomes obvious that these captives are her feast. As the Blades try to decide what to do, Roman's fear overcomes him and he undergoes a bone-wrenching transformation, revealing that he is indeed a werewolf. In the ensuing chaos, Svetlana sends Khan to aid the Dancing Lady, while Rodrigo and Ilyana try to get the human captives out of the Keep. Alexander distracts Fergun, while Rodrigo uses his cloak to obscure their escape. I cannot remember what kind of magic cloak Rodrigo had back then. I think it was generated fog? I'll have to check. Svetlana enchants most of their mounts to allow them to gallop through the woods unhindered, and Felix traps the pursuing topiaries and redcaps with judicious use of his fey magics. Through the pitch-black forest they ride, stopping only when they are safe - and only then to realise that they are one short. Rodrigo's stag refuses to run into the night, and Fergun comes for him. Rodrigo pushes his captive to safety, but the Redcaps scythe tears him from his saddle, leaving him a bloody mess on the forest floor....

I was a bit disappointed that the players were super-cautious during this encounter - they were paranoid about the fae tricking them, so they tried to avoid even conversation as much as possible. Because of this, when the Dancing Lady brought out her feast, they couldn't think of any options other than violence. I had been hoping they'd come up with something like a gamble or a bet instead, but it didn't happen. While they didn't exactly start the fight, they did steal from their host and force their way out the door, and this would come back to haunt them.

Rodrigo technically died here. He failed his ride checks to get his mount to follow the others, then got cut down when the Redcap rolled really well. It wasn't a very satisfactory ending to a character, especially since no-one else saw him fall, so I had a chat with the player after the game. He was perfectly happy to let things stand, since it was his own choices and actions that led to the death, but he was also game for any other plot fun that came up.

The party itself is a brilliant addition to the AP though. The Keep has some interesting foes, but all they really do in the book is fight. Throwing a ball in gives so much more to do with them.

Roman the Werewolf hasn't been seen since this adventure. I think I might use his voice as one of those in Thousandbreaths come Book 6.

24th Session - 06/09/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Alexander, Ilyana, Felix, Svetlana

17/04/11: As the exploration of the Kamelands continues, the Blades come to the shore of the Tuskwater and the sporing place of Tendriculos. They are quite pleased to note that the fungal horror does not seem to be regrowing, but nor are there any more black rattlecaps. North along the shore, Svetlana find a small stone shrine to Gozrah, which she takes as a good omen.

More fluff. I really should link whichever thread I found those tables in.

18-19/04/11: The exploration is ongoing, somewhat hampered by torrential Spring showers.

20/04/11: While getting drenched to their skins, the Blades find the lair of the wyvern which has claimed this land. The beast is asleep - at first - and despite a brief and bloodthirsty battle ensues. Janya hamstrings the dragon-kin and Granite crushes it's skull, but not before Alexander is almost fatally poisoned. Amidst the remains of the wyvern's victims, Rodrigo uncovers a wondrous cloak.

When I roll the same wandering monster twice in a row, it's time to use it.

I nabbed a copy of the Paizo Critial Hit/Fumble decks early on, to allow for the above hamstringing comment. They're brilliant and I heartily recommend them to anyone playing Pathfinder.

21/04/11: The land east of the Tuskwater now reasonably detailed, the Blades return to Vloda. A River Kingdoms barge, the Cornflower, sits offshore, with sounds of revelry echoing over the town. Ilyana is approached by Anando, who informs her that three Sword Lords from Mivon (Jana Aldori, Vaclava & Geoffry) came with the barge and are being entertained by Kait Saban - on Felix's purse. A meeting is arranged with the Sword Lords for the next morning.

A first meeting with the neighbours to the south! The Cornflower will turn up again as window-dressing for a lot of scenes. Again, I stole it from the fiction in the back of the AP books. It's not quite a travelling circus, more like a riverboat casino. Favoured by travelling entertainers and such, but also bringing paying passengers around the Kingdoms.

22/04/11: At the meeting, to which Kait is not invited, the Sword Lords are revealed to be of very minor standing. Nonetheless Jana Aldori challenges Alexander. He accepts, and easily beats her in front of the assembled crowds of Vloda that afternoon, but gives her adequate respect as a worthy foe. Rodrigo discovers that the Cornflower has hired on a pyromancer named Baelforge to see them past the oozes polluting Lake Candlemere. The Blades give the captain a greeting to carry back down to the Mayor of Mivon, Raston Selline.

Again I reminded the PCs that there was something up with Candlemere, and again I kept them so distracted that they didn't do anything about it. But they could have prioritized things differently, that choice was theirs.

I had hoped that the Mivonese Sword Lords would get some good licks in, but that wasn't the case due to some spectacular rolling on Alexander's part. Sometimes you gotta run with the random.

24/04/11: The Cornflower departs, Alexander having spent some time chatting with Jana. As it goes, a message arrives for Lord Felix, inviting him to the Spring Feast of the Dancing Lady on the next New Moon.

Jana was becoming a romantic interest for Alexander. This wasn't a plan on my part, I rolled up the three Sword Lords randomly, gender included, but it was something Alexander's player pursued.

The Spring Feast is of course taken from pennywit's Spring Feast thread, which is a fantastic repurposing of the Forgotten Keep encounter.

Sunderstone wrote:

What an awesome read! I was up last night late before stumbling into this thread, I have to head to work but consider this dotted .

Thanks :)

You're more than welcome, I'm glad people are enjoying it! Ask away if you've any questions. I'm trying to make it as easy to follow as possible for readers who aren't, y'know, me.

Canarr wrote:
A lot of that, yes. My players do tend towards negotiation when they believe they're talking to someone who might appreciate it, so I'm kinda hopeful for these orcs. I'm also veering away from "all orcs are CE always" so there is actually some room for discussions.

That's pretty much why I dropped alignments tbh. Thankfully my players are now mid-30s to early-40s, so we've almost all gotten through the murderhobo stage of gaming. Especially for something like this.

Canarr wrote:
But I'll need to get through the end of Book 2 first - we've managed to kill Hargulka, after a few solid Mass Combat battles against goblins, orcs, and trolls. Now, the heroes just need to finish the owl bear - and decide how to deal with a few hundred orc civilians...

The age-old problem of D&D and it's ilk - are there 'evil' races, or are you just being racist? My players have hit something similar in books 4 & 5 with the Orc tribe I put in the southern Narlmarches. They're a brutal, might-makes-right society, who make raiding a way of life. But they're also willing to negotiate with a stronger force, and once someone is willing to sit down and talk it's very hard to argue for the extermination of their species.

23rd Session - 30/08/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Alexander, Ilyana, Felix[i]

[i]08/04/11: Within the Lonely Barrow, the Blades fall foul of the restless wight, eager to spill the blood of all who enter his tomb. The battle is brief but bloody, with the nameless warrior sapping the life from Alexander before Felix immolates his withered remains. His vicious, broken sword transpires to be Fey Bane, and the heroes gather the large collection of armaments with which he was buried to bring back to the guards of Vloda. They style of rune and architecture match that of Gloym, and a notable fresco depicts warriors fighting a savage cyclops. They spent the night in the now-empty mound, sleeping the sleep of the dead....

Ominous foreshadowing! The players kept declaring that they were donating loot to their armies. When mass combat finally became a thing in Book 5, I gave them a bunch of free BPs to buy upgrades for their armies because of this.

09/04/11: Continuing their exploration south into the tall grasses of the Kamelands, the Blades come across a nested pair of cockatrice and several petrified victims. A few of these may still be capable of saving, and their location is duly noted.

And duly forgotten about - it's three in-game years before the PCs remember this for long enough to actually do something about it.

Cockatrice are not particularly tough foes, but hiding them in 5' tall grasses through which the PCs are riding through made for a fun, quick fight.

10/04/11: After a day of exploration, our heroes cross the Gudrin and spend the night in Gloym, regaling them with tales of the Lonely Barrow, and winning much acclaim.

11/04/11: Fording the Little Sellen at Glyom, the Blades map it's southern banks as the spring heat rises. They are highly surprised by the discovery of a bear cave along the river, inhabited by two ursines of truly epic proportions, deep in hibernation. Despite Ilyana's curiosity, they leave well enough alone.

More foreshadowing! I like Owlbears, but my players are not quite so enamoured, so the immense one that attacks the capital got turned into a regular, Kaiju-scale bear.

12/04/11: Where the Shrike and the Little Sellen meet, cascading down into the River Kingdoms, the remains of an old ferry town are found, with signs of bandit, mite and kobold occupation over the years - though currently deserted.

More random hex fluff rolls, but I gave the players some cheap buildings if they decided to build there.

13/04/11: The Blades return to Gloym, to find that the bears are the subject of local legend, seemingly going decades without awakening.

14/04/11: The exploration of the northern banks of the Little Sellen gets underway, though come nightfall the Blades are once again driven back to Gloym by a ferocious Spring storms boiling down from the Nomen Heights.

15/04/11: Most of the day is spent huddled with the people of Gloym, hoping the roof holds.

16/04/11: Under the clear, post-storm skies the exploration is resumed, only briefly being halted by an azure wyvern coasting through the air far, far above....

And random hex encounter, when the game night was drawing to an end and I didn't want to start another fight. Look, there's other monsters out there!

22nd Session - 09/08/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Svetlana, Alexander, Ilyana, Lem, Felix - Plus special guest Yarrick[i]

[i]19/03/11: Recovering from the siege, the council of Vloda are hard at work tending to the wounded and trying to maintain order in the town. However, due to their bold leadership, the casualties are very few, and they are hailed by all. Ilya departs for Brevoy, highly pleased by what she has seen of her husband-to-be, leaving Yarrick behind to guard Felix. The next several days are spent getting the town back in order, sending messages to and from the farmsteads, and declaring a bounty on goblins. Rodrigo visits the bridge being constructed at Nettles' Crossing, finding it progressing nicely and being worked on by both halflings and humans, with a sideline developing in beekeeping. In light of the attack, it is decided that the town needs a hospital, and under the auspice of the church of Pharasma, construction starts on a suitable building.

I started using the rules from Ultimate Rulership here, having new buildings take time and a monthly BP cost instead of appearing all at once. It was great at first, but eventually the extra bookkeeping made my eyes bleed and I went back to the basic rules. There are a lot of awesome things in that book though, I highly recommend it.

25/03/11: Kait Saban arrives, swiftly annoying the Blades and bending her son's ear. Anando is assigned to keep an eye on her, and insure that she cannot spend too much on the Lord's credit.

Lord Felix's mother. She's actually very talented at diplomacy and negotiating when it's to her own betterment, she just drives him bananas.

26/03/11: A minor disturbance kicks off in the still-tense town, as the Sootscale kobolds put in their first public appearance. A small band, led by Mikmek, arrive to aid in the Goblin attack that Rog altered them to. Despite their lateness, their presence is still valuable - silver has been uncovered in their snarl. After an angry crowd is talked down some discussion of trade is made. Of Tartuk there is still no sign, but the Sootscales have spread the word as much as they can.

The Sootscales were not within the borders of Vloda at this point, but they'd made rough treaties.

06/04/11: Desperate to get away from his mother, Lord Felix leads the Blades east, to investigate the rumours from Gloym of a wight-haunted barrow buried in the hills.

07/04/11: While traversing jagged canyons, our heroes follow hoofed tracks to the lair of an aged leucrotta calling itself "Piotr". After some debate, they decide to leave the elderly monster be. That night their camp is attacked by hedgehogs. Perfectly normal hedgehogs though, so this doesn't really inconvenience anyone.

The leucrotta who turned up in the fiction at the back of the Kingmaker books inspired this. I never really got to do much with Piotr, the opportunity never presented itself. The PCs let him live since I described him as ancient, half-blind and trembling with weakness. Maybe I'll find a way to use him in Book 6.

I honestly cannot remember where the hedgehogs bit came from. I think some of them tried to steal rations from one of the PCs.

08/04/11: After some more exploration, they uncover the lonely barrow, picking their way in through the opening exposed by ancient subsidence. Alexander is chewed on by bats before Svetlana and Ilyana coax the chiropterans out. Within the tomb the Blades fall victim to a strength-sapping howling wind, shortly followed by a column of fire, before being attacked by the skeletal remains of the barrow's occupants.

21st Session - 02/08/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Svetlana, Alexander, Ilyana, Lem, Felix - Plus special guest Yarrick

Yarrick is a good friend of mine who moved abroad a few years ago, and was back in the country for a few weeks. So he hopped into the game playing one of Ilya's bodyguards.

14/03/11: Lem continues to keep his ear to the ground in Vloda, hearing of an expedition of gnomes who recently passed through on a mission to map the Stolen Lands, and of the highly-profitable Corax logging camp.

Again, much better to have the players know of local NPCs before they run into them in the wild - in this case, the Narthorple Expedition.

15/03/11: At Ilya's request, the Blades take a trip to the Temple of the Elk. Now a small tent-town, consisting of workers and those who provide for them, the biggest problem is Grigs stealing from the tap room.

16/03/11: Svetlana manages to track down Perlivash and Tyg-Titter-Tut. With their aid, they make a deal between the workers and the Grigs. The Grigs will act as foragers and watchmen for the settlement, and will in turn be paid in beer and song. Almost everyone on both sides is happy, and Ilya is highly impressed.

18/03/11: As the Blades near Vloda, their horses and dogs go crazy. Ilyana and Svetlana identify goblins, and a hurried return is made to the fledgling town. With the aid of Ansa, they determine that there are two armies moving to surround the town - the populace is divided between the under-construction castle, and the jail & buildings surrounding it. Rod send elk riders up to farms to the north to evacuate, and to the Sootscales and the bridge-building halflings of Nettle's Crossing. The goblins attack at twilight. By the prison, Ilyana intercepts the vulture riders (who get a LOT of botches) while Lem and Yarrik lead rooftop archers, and Alexander deals with the goblins who break the barricades. Lem and Yarrik finally finish off the chieftain while Alexander organises bucket-chains to deal with fires the goblins started. In the castle, Felix and the others hold off a second warband, raining flame, arrows and sorcery upon them from the walls.

Within the walls of the castle, Kesten holds a pack of goblin dogs back from the villagers, while Zedrak the Abjurer literally holds the gates.

Pathfinder Goblins are too cool to not fit into the game somehow. I'd read a lot of the threads on Hargulka's Monster Kingdom at this point, and while it didn't directly appeal to me there was a lot of inspiration there. While Hargulka didn't make alliances with other races, he did drive a goblin tribe living near his lair against the interlopers into "his" domain. Hargulka himself was also being spurred on by Nyrissa, not that this will come to light for a long time.

The siege was quite dynamic, with the PCs separated around the settlement fighting off different waves of foes. Most of the PCs had NPC backups, and I just used the success or failure of the PC attacks to decide how well their support was doing. The Stag Lord's keep had become a castle at this point, where all the non-combatant population had been crammed. Without wanting to dilute the players being the heroes, I had NPCs get off-screen awesome to show that they PCs weren't surrounded by incompetents. When Lord Felix came down to find a bleeding Kesten surrounded by dead Goblin Dogs, and an exhausted Zedrak holding the fragments of a ruined castle gate together with Abjuration magic & keeping the worst of the attack away from a bunch of kids, none of the PCs felt robbed, and they built up a history with the NPCs.

The players also made really good tactical choices and I rewarded that with minimal casualties and damage to their city, so I gave them a +2 Loyalty as a reward.

Other than goblins being fun, the main purpose of this siege was to get the players thinking of Vloda as a place, instead of a stat block. Even the settlement grid is pretty abstract. This was the first time the PCs ran down streets between buildings they had placed, scaled walls and jumped from one to the other. It made Vloda much more real. Instead of the players asking me where things were, or what were good defensive points, they were able to look at their own map and make references to the defences they had put in place to control the battle. At this point I started coming up with a lot of minor plots which required the players to travel to specific buildings, or meet people in a tavern they had named, and so on.

20th Session - 26/07/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Svetlana, Alexander, Ilyana, Felix

26/02/11: As the Blades continue to explore the Kamelands, having send Lem to intercept the local priest of Pharasma, a rainstorm sweeps over the hills. Amidst the swollen rivers and hammering rain, a wandering troll is drawn to their campfire; it is dispatched, but the efforts required to incinerate it's remains are intense.

The PCs had sent a message back to Vloda requesting the aid of the settlement's priest against the Wendigo, but defeated the monster before he arrived. When Lem's player missed this game, it seemed like an easy reason for him not being around.

27/02/11: Reaching the edge of Lake Tuskwater, Ilyana and Svetlana find Crackjaw's cove, and with a bit of work the turtle menace is dispatched.


28/02/11: While crossing the Shrike, the Blades find themselves ambushed by a pack of hungry brush thylacines, but some careful spellcraft and charging drives off the predators.

01/03/11: Spring officially begins as the Blades return to Vloda. Arven is presented with Crackjaw's shell, and duly hands over his magic ring - which turns out to be enchanted with Feather Fall. The town is bustling, and with Felix's bride-to-be on her way, preparations are made - hiring Anando Veresisi, a recent halfling immigrant, to serve as his steward. The council disagree over money, with the Church of Pharasma pleading the necessity of a hospital, Oleg arguing for more incentive for merchants, Zedrak demanding a school, and Kesten urging the founding of a barracks to get a proper armed force in place. Jhod sends word from the Temple that the rough settlement around it is now almost complete, with several workmen setting up permanent residences there. Several vineyards are established around the growing town.

Anando is the second use of the Hirelings free supplement. Anando won his way into the Felix's heart by acting as a buffer between him and his mother. Which made his eventual betrayal all the more of a gut punch.

The Temple of the Elk became the second settlement in Vloda. The Erastil worship was strong in this place.

13/03/11: Without warning, a beautiful yellow flower opens all along the northern shore of the Tuskwater and up the Thorn river just as Ilva Medvyed arrives with her entourage. She is taken with Felix, and the flowers are named Ilyas in here honour. She spends several days in the settlement, before requesting a trip to the Temple of the Elk.

Random Kingdom Event! That tied in so nicely. Ilya was another NPC I made with Heroes of Legend. Luckily for Felix, she transpired to be a basically decent person, in a very material way. The type who thinks she should enjoy life and not worry about anything too deeply, because they could so easily die without warning. Well, it is a D&D world. She also got a weird quirky where her family thought she was the reincarnation of a potent Druid - whether she is or not has never been answered - and occasionally odd stuff happened. I used random appearance of Ilya's Bloom as a sign that things were going well for the Kingdom from time to time after this.

19th Session - 05/07/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Svetlana, Alexander, Ilyana, Lem, Felix

13-15/02/11: Armed with the wands provided by Isstria, the Blades return to Gloym and spend two days scouring the surrounding countryside to determine the ideal ambush spot for the Bloody Beast. They discover that the inhabitants of one of the local farmsteads have become wendigo and have been preying on their neighbours; they swiftly put them to the sword, burning the remains.

Wendigo-ism being highly contagious in this adventure.

16/02/11: Using Rodrigo and a sack of rabbits as bait, they lure out the Wendigo Dire Wolverine and set fire to it, the bloody battle ending with Lord Felix's legendary Bad Touch spattering it's hindquarters over a wide area. The villagers are overjoyed and while not eager to welcome an influx of "outsiders", pledge welcome and support to the rulers of Vloda. They are also presented with exquisite gems marked by Istria with her favour, delivered by her great owl.

Bad Touch is Shocking Grasp. Felix inevitably uses it when he's behind someone to get flanking, so it's frequently on the rump of larger enemies.

The gems conferred a +2 Diplomacy bonus to stone-type fae, iirc. The players could mount them however they wanted. Some put them on shields, some in rings or necklaces, etc. It was mostly a bragging rights reward.

17/02/11: Leaving the village the next day they are held up by Istria's dismissed spriggan servants, who attempt to mug them for reparations. A brief but bloody battle later and both surrender, though Alexander badly injures one even while she yields. After some debate, Felix confiscates their belongings - including more precious gems - and banishes them from the Greenbelt.

Consequences! The Culchek Spriggans are a threat in Book 3, and this was a chance to set that up. When one of the Spriggans surrendered and Alexander kept attacking - until the other PCs yelled at him - the seeds for the Spriggans loathing the PCs were sewn.

Canarr wrote:
Glad to see you brought in Cold Mountain. I've been considering that myself, but was wary of extending the already long AP by even more story. What parts did you trim off to shorten it?

Cold Mountain is very good, but like most published adventures it puts in too many loops and fights for me. I don't mind this at all, I want to be clear - I'm much happier to buy an adventure which gives me too much and then prune it down, rather than bare bones I have to spend time adding to.

Of course, I've now been running Kingmaker for over four years, and I'm only on book 5, so take my advice for 'shortening' things with a grain of salt.

Firstly I just took out a few steps for the ghost. Instead of 'big brother goes up mountain to beseech goddess to save ailing little sister, gets killed on mountainside by beasts, hunter brings back bloodied clothing, mother goes up mountain to scream at goddess, falls off mountain, ghost possesses goddess's lover', I just went 'big brother goes up mountain to beseech goddess, falls off mountain, ghost possesses goddess's lover'. Net effect is an angry ghost and possession. Might loose a little bit of nuance, but it's less info that I have to work into the narrative so the players know what's going on.

I dropped Trindon Mosely being distrustful of government and the PCs having to bump up his attitude to get the full story from him. They had a lot going on in the kingdom, and I wanted them to head off & do the adventure. So instead, he makes a beeline for them, flat out asks for help and gives them all the info he has.

The trip to Gloym was described in a bit of detail to enforce how wild and rough the frontier was. I dropped the Voonith, Owlbear & Grizzly Bear encounters totally, and just put in evidence that the moss trolls were in the area, but not as a fight. I wanted to put lots of signs of trolls into the AP early on, to build up Hargulka's presence for later on.

The bloody victim discovery stayed as written.

The people of Gloym were unfriendly, but not too hostile, and I gave Sense Motive checks right off the bat to suggest how scared they were. It's my experience that players will be more likely to help NPCs that they either like or feel sorry for. I also kept with the more slavic theme that my game had for Brevoy and the Stolen Lands, as opposed to the Native American artwork in the adventure.

I think I had the ghost be verbosely screaming a lot in the waterfall encounter, to suggest that it could be communicated with, and the PCs took the bait.

Climbing the mountain and talking to Istria went pretty much as written, with a slant the suggest she doesn't really get what's going on or why what she's doing is wrong. The villagers ancestors promised to worship her as long as she kept the mountain safe - all of a sudden one of them is possessing her lover and screaming at her, so as far as she is concerned, she is the attacked party. She had no idea there was a plague, and there wasn't much she could do about it even if she did. Her interests are in things of stone that last millennia, and her ego.

The PCs used their knowledge of the fae, buttered her up and explained the situation, and she agreed that maybe she had overreacted, and told them how to destroy the wendigo.

Rather than having the PCs hunt the wendigo, and then one of the villagers still being cursed and attacking that night, I just had the PCs encounter some infected villagers in an outlying farmstead, before they lured in the infected wolverine that was the primary vector for the curse.

I kept for the spriggans trying to mug the PCs on their way home, but that encounter took about 10 minutes from start to finish, and set things up for down the line.

18th Session - 28/06/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Svetlana, Alexander, Ilyana, Lem, Felix

11/02/11: The Blades argue with the elders of Gloym long into the night, eventually staying despite the villager's disapproval at the behest of Ganec Trom.

In case you're not familiar with Cold Mountain, it concerns a minuscule village being threatened by a Wendigo, and the Elders not wanting outside help at all. They regard the Wendigo as being a curse sent against them by a "Goddess" on the mountaintop for displeasing her. I don't want to give away the whole plot, but it's a great addition to Kingmaker.

12/02/11: The Blades start their ascent of Istria's mountain. The find a site of worship consisting of a dolmen built atop a waterfall, where Lem is attacked by a wendigo raven - before it is immolated by Svetlana - and the haunted waterfall comes close to drawing them all over the edge. Continuing upriver they find the ghost of Piotr Nizolek possessing a stromkarl nixie, and after some quick talking by Lem make peace with the restless spirit, promising to resolve his rage against the goddess. Through freezing weather, thinning air and avalanches the Blades press on, leaving their mounts behind until they discover the Valley of the Goddess, who, it transpires, is a mountain fae called an orruol. It transpires that Istria and her spriggan attendants released the curse of the wendigo when her lover, Byard, was possessed and turned on her, which itself followed Piotr's accidental death in the mountains. Our heroes talk reason into Istria, who banishes the spriggans and talks with Piotr, who is freed to enter the afterlife. Unable to control the wendigo, she presents the Blades with relics which may help in destroying it and resolves to take more care when it comes to the Ughar people.

Istria was a useful NPC. I played her as millennia old, and utterly disinterested in anything not relating to rocks or mountains, expect when her ego was flattered. So she was a good source of information on things which had happened aeons before - such as the Cyclops Empire - but very bad on details.

Her Spriggans were more malicious and frequently gave her really bad advice for dealing with mortals, leading to them getting banished when the PCs pointed this out.

17th Session - 21/06/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Svetlana, Alexander, Ilyana, Lem, Felix

The year turns, and though the winter of Abadius 4711 is a heavy one, settlers flock to Vloda and the lands surrounding it, bolstering the population to well over two thousand. Despite this, the month passes smoothly, with builders reaching the Temple of the Elk to prepare it for restoration and a shrine to Pharasma being built beside the graveyard in Vloda itself. The only bad news is for Lord Felix, who is informed by cash-on-delivery messenger that his mother will be coming to live with him once the snows thaw.

Felix's backstory included an incredibly annoying, status-hungry mother. So of course she would have to turn up. Felix was utterly incapable of dealing with her, even now he was literally forging a Kingdom, and used to hide a lot. If his player missed a session, we usually declared that Felix had disappeared somewhere to get away from her.

Calistril, however, comes thick with disturbances. Builders in the Stag Lord's keep find evidence that it was once a shrine to Gyronna - very little remains, but this is a poor omen. Vuksha, devotee of Hanspur, is spotted by Svetlana in town working on the docks, and after some debate the council have Kesten march him out of town, threatening him with imprisonment if he returns.

And the problems with Hanspur kick off. This caused Unrest, and any accident that happened on the rivers of the new kingdom was blamed on the Lords upsetting Hanspur. This was also the first reference to Gyrona, and the players would come to despise her followers.

Shortly thereafter, a letter comes from Maegar Varn concerning the arrest of Haps Bowden, who maintains that the Blades pardoned him of banditry. They send back that they did no such thing, they just exiled him. Rumours fly of elven ruins in the south of the Greenbelt, of relics containted therein, of massive hookjaw turtles and of hodags and shambling mounds. Early in the month a traveller named Trindon Mosley brings a request for aid from the Ughar villages of the souther Kamelands. The message is unclear at best, but the Blades decide to help their new neighbours and head into the melting snow on 09/02/11. The trip is tough, with raging water and troll sightings, but real worry kicks in when they find the widespread remains of the trapper Meg Maces, and Ilyana and Svetlana identify the bizarre signs as the work of nothing less than a Wendigo. They arrive in the village of Gloym on 11/02/11, to find the untrusting locals preparing to send "sacrifices" to appease Istria, the Goddess of the Mountain and call off her killing breath - the Wendigo.

The fate of Haps Bowden was a pretty small thing, with no major implications beyond deciding how the rest of the world - and the populace - saw the new Kingdom. Forgiving, vengeful... how did they want to be seen? They had banished Haps, but he was still a bandit who had preyed on the outskirts of Brevoy, and someone else caught him for it. So Maegar Varn had him hung.

Gloym and the Goddess of the Mountain come from Legendary's Cold Mountain. I pruned the adventure down a lot and set it in the very south-east of the Greenbelt... where there totally a very small mountain range. Don't ask any questions.

Canarr wrote:
I figured that was just the kind of sign Akiros would be looking for to convince him that these people might be more worthy of his service than the Stag Lord, so he surrendered. "Don't know who you people are, but if you'd rather heal an enemy than let a friend die, you have to be better than this."

How did you approach his crimes? They're pretty serious.

Kevinmcc wrote:

I have to say it is heartening to still get responses to what is now an old post.

I had a few moments where I wanted to fudge a few roles in the parties favor. But I held off. (I blame Troy from the glass cannon podcast. If you have not listened to it do yourself as favor and get it.) A few bandits made their saves and I was sure I was going to kill the witch. She survived, even though she went to 0 hp. In retrospect I'm glad I did since I feel they truly earned their victory.


PS it will be a few weeks before we play again but I will keep updating.

I'm not familiar with that podcast, but by fudging I did more mean in encounter setup than in execution. If the published encounter is going to steamroll the PCs barring some unlikely rolls, then that's worth changing. Most players will enjoy having a fighting chance, and if that goes well for them it's all the more rewarding.

I've occasionally fudged the other way though, after the big bad monster rolls it's third 1 in a fight. But that kinda ties into the above - I want the PCs to feel like epic heroes. If they smash down something that never even got a chance to scratch them, they don't generally feel tough, in my experience. They want to defeat something that can hit back.

16th Session - 14/06/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Alexander, Ilyana, Felix

18/09/10: Lem takes the badly wounded Svetlana back to Vloda to heal, while the others gather rattlecaps and return to the Old Beldamme. She accepts the mushrooms and sets to drying them for use in her teas, promising a discount on any enchanting work the Blades need doing. Again attempting to reach Lake Candlemere, our heroes continue to sail down the lakes, but as they enter the rivers joining them they disturb several oozes in the water, who attempt to mindlessly consume the boats. Pierre the boatman drags the paralysed Lord Felix to safety at the cost of his own life, being melted by a stream of acid from the protoplasmic hunters, but careful use of conjured water elementals on the part of Rodrigo slows them enough for the Blades to slice them to pieces. With Felix paralysed for several hours, the Blades return to Vloda again, and Ilyana sends an Animal Messenger to the Monks. No reply is received, but Pierre is posthumously awarded the medal of Granite, for Bravery.

Poor, brave Pierre, melted in his prime. At least he got a medal. Named after a horse.

I'm pretty sure that the Oozes in question were a Sea Scourge and a Slithering Tracker, for a nasty combo of ranged, stealth & paralysis.

I love ooze monsters. I had them originate as sloughed-off bits of the Doppelstadt, to explain why there were so many of them of so many different types. Having Lake Candlemere be known for it's Ooze problem let me put plenty into the game without the PCs questioning why I kept using the same enemy type, though honestly I suspected them to get suspicious about how the "monks" dealt with them much earlier.

The weather worsens as Lamashan falls, and with it comes disputes between the worshipers of Erastil and those of Pharasma. Both churches sponsored Vloda, but the council is clearly favouring one, say the followers of the Lady of Graves. Suck it up, say the followers of Old Dead Eye. Despite the spiritual leaders of each side attempting to defuse the situation, it takes its toll on Vloda until a graveyard is built (followed by a jail in Kuthona) and a request sent to Restov for an accredited priest of Pharasma.

Random Kingdom Event - Religious tension! One thing I learned very early on was to roll up Kingdom Events months and months in advance, so I could prepare for them and work them into my plots. Which the events were totally random, they all fed back into the story very pleasingly.

Through Neth and into Kuthona, expansion is upriver along the Thorn, with farmlands being divvied out. Zedrack takes on the role of Magister from Drago, who is happy to return to a post under Kesten Garess in the town guard. The Rezbin family approach the town council about building on the site of the Tatzlwyrm Ford, in the ruined village, and are granted this right under certain conditions.

I'm not really sure what to do about explaining where everything is as the Kingdom begins to grow. This could get confusing. Is there any way to link pictures into posts on here?

15th Session - 07/06/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Svetlana, Alexander, Ilyana, Lem, Felix

It takes over two weeks for the Blades to lead their caravans from Restov, across the Nomen Heights to Olegs Trading Post, then south across the plains and hills to their destination.

After much debate, the positions of authority are assigned, with the charismatic Felix taking the title of Lord. Alexander the Cavalier becomes General, satisfying the Restov Sword Lords. Rodrigo the Bard is appointed Diplomat, Ilyana the Ranger becomes Councillor, and Svetlana the Druid becomes the Marshall. Lem the Rogue, to the surprise of no-one, is unofficially appointed Spymaster.

Felix's appointment was a treat for me. As a character, Felix was a great compromise candidate between the other strong personalities in the group, able to balance and support as needed. OOC, Felix's player suffers from a lot of anxiety, and her friends nominating her for the role was a good bost, and really gave her a lot to interact with. The social aspect of a good RPG can be very theraputic.

Oleg is easily convinced to take on the role of Treasurer, with a much more cautious Jhod becoming High Priest. Kesten Garess eagerly becomes the Warden, while his former underling Drago becomes the temporary Magister, based on his ability to resist ensorcellment.

Drago Lordslapper had no qualifications whatsoever to be Magister.... but neither did anyone else.

The new settlement of Vloda is started on the shores of Lake Tuskwater, with the hot month of Arodus spent in a buzz of activity; farms are started, fishermen explore the lake and the ground around the Stag Lord's old camp is cleared. The killer thorns burned out by Svetlana.

Naming the new settlement took almost longer than anything else in this session. I used DM's veto to shut down one or two names, which were taken from real-world sources because they were too immersion breaking. Brevoy had been protrayed in a Slavic manner, so someone looked up the word for "water" and came back with Vloda. I'm not sure of the accuracy of that translation, but it's a good, realistic name that also fits a fantasy setting, so everyone was happy with it. The Vlodan flag became a horse (Granite) stepping over churning water.

The long summer cools, and as Rova arrives the first buildings are erected and settlers track up the Thorn river, laying roads and slowly moving towards the Temple of the Elk. A family of halflings approach Rodrigo with a goal of building a new covered bridge at Nettle's Crossing, looking for his blessing. This is granted, with the caveat that agents of Lord Felix are exempt from any tolls. The wizard Zedrack arrives from Restov, clearly unhappy about being moved from his teaching post in the city down to the wilds - especially when the ruler is a dropout from the academy, and a sorcerer. But Rodrigo placates him, and the prospect of becoming Magister seems to hold some appeal.

Nettle's Crossing was a freebie for the players, in much the same way as Tatzlford will be, only much smaller in scale. I gave it to them partially to reward the Halfling Bard's work on encouraging immigration, but mostly so I could use the Buzz in the Bridge adventure from Dragon Magazine. Nettle's Crossing just seemed the best location for the bridge that scenario requires.

Zedrak was based on one of my first D&D characters when I was a kid, now portrayed as a city wizard banished to the sticks. He was an Abjurer, because I find that school of magic very interesting. It speaks a lot to the mindset of someone who will choose to focus on protection spells. He got quite popular with the group.

Rumour from the local hunters who arrive in Vloda to trade speaks of a green dragon terrorising the southern Narlmarches. The Blades decide to visit the Candlemere Monastery, and midway through the month of Rova follow along the coast of the Tuskwater. On the way they stop to see the swamp witch Akiros warned them about, discovering that while she is old and cantankerous, the Old Beldame is not actually that nasty. After a brief misunderstanding concerning the Stag Lord's Helm, she welcomes the Blades and is interested in her new neighbours from Vloda. She warns them of crazed hermits, orcs, oozes and drakes, tells them of an ancient barrow to the east and when Felix asks if there is anything she needs, requests Black Rattlecaps from the other side of the lake. The Blades continue on, discovering that Lake Candlemere is a lot bigger than they had realised, and return to Vloda to secure boats.

There's no Dragon, just the Forest Drake from Rivers Run Red. But it was enough to make Lord Felix's ears prick up, what with his "awoken by a green dragon" backstory.

Candlemere Monastery was, as I mentioned before, a Doppelganger colony. I wanted it to be there, but only in the background, for as long as possible. So whenever the PCs got too interested in it, I gave them a quiet distraction somewhere else. Not enough to actually stop them if they were determined, just enough to be subtle.

The Old Beldamme has mostly served as exposition in my game; very much in tune with the fae & the First World, but also old and isolationist.

For a long time in-game I gave Ilyana the Ranger grief over people thinking she was the Stag Lord/Lady.

The next day they sail through the Tuskwater, stopping near the thermal mud pools beyond the southern shore to collect the rattlecaps. Unfortunately an immense fungal monstrosity called Tendriculos also sleeps in the hot springs, and makes gathering them more of a chore than anticipated.

I'm pretty sure that Tendriculos ate Svetlana, but she had been holding a rope which then wound up in a tug-of-war between the plant monsters and a Summoned Infernal Pony. Rodrigo the Bard was getting very religious, but felt that summoning a hell pony to a situation in which it was very likely to be eaten was preferable to putting a celestial one in the same spot.

I'm really looking forwards to hearing what kind of a Kingdom an arcane-heavy party like this builds.

Like the others have said, some challengers will be more serious than others, especially once villains with SR start cropping up. But part of the DMs roll is to fudge things a little to ensure that while a fight might be a challenge, it's not unwinnable. Just don't let the players realise you're doing it ;)

14th Session - 31/05/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Svetlana, Alexander, Ilyana, Lem

13-15/07/10: The Blades travel for Restov, stopping in Fort Serenko and the village of Nitka's Crossing en route and hearing tales of the newly founded Varnhold. Jacobi disappears into the Restov to spend his accumulated pay.

16/07/10: The Blades meet Ioseph Sellemius, the Lord Mayor of Retov. Rod delights him with tales of their adventures in the Greenbelt and they are promised a charter recognising their claim of the land, to be formally presented in a few days.

17/07/10: The Blades go shopping. Rodrigo tries to sell local Halflings on the merits of the new community, and visits Ezvanki Keegh (Restov's high priest of Erastil).

18-20/07/10: The ceremony! In attendance are local nobles, minor scions of a few of the Houses, representatives of the Churches and Maegar Varn. Over the course of the evening and the next few days, the Blades meet with various factions to secure resources for their fledgling settlement, making some deals and discarding others. Restov itself, backed by the Swordlords, provides most of the capital, while Ioseph adds some out of his own pocket in exchange for having a man in the settlement.

Erik Freund's Venture Capital thread was a huge boon for my campaign. The players got a meagre amount of BPs from the Crown of Restov, and then got to decide who they want to get into bed with for the rest. It was also a nice opportunity to play up the tension in Brevoy & lay out which noble houses were in which power block. I knew at this stage that Brevoy was going to collapse into civil war during the campaign, and this would impact on the player's Kingdom. In the end they wound up mostly allied with the Houses that didn't support Noleski Surtova's claim to the throne.

After meeting with some of the Houses, the Blades makes deals with Houses Medvyed & Garess. The latter are interested in control over mineral imports into Brevoy, while the former want a scion of the House to marry the ruler of the fledgling nation. The Churches of Erastil and Pharasma are also approached, and give their blessing to the endeavour in the form of preaching and the emigration of dedicated followers.

Medvyed's arranged marriage worked out pretty well. I used Central Casting's old Heroes of Legend book to get personality details for the bride, who will turn up in a few sessions.

Rodrigo also spreads word through the halfling community about the prospect offered by the new holdings, and on a visit to Rajo Chladny, Master of the Academy of Arcane Sparring, secures the aid of the wizard school. The revelation that Granite is from stock bred by the mage doesn't hurt matters either.

Granite was, again, Alexander the Cavalier's steed. She was pretty damn badass. At this point in the game, it was a regular joke that the Cavalier was her assistant, responsible for drawing enemies in close enough for her to kick them to death.

The Academy of Arcane Sparring was my effort at keeping Restov's tone very solid. If the culture is all about duels and swordfighting, then even the mages could be focused on similar, martial & challenge-based applications. Rajo became a less-comedic version of Mustrum Ridcully from the Discworld books, very physically commanding and interested in animal husbandry. He's also the one who kicked Felix the Sorcerer out of school for not being magical. Felix still begrudges this.

Lem is approached by his old legitimate business friends in the Merchants Guild of the One Eyed Witch, who have an interest in running trade through the Greenbelt, to which he agrees. Alexander meets with the Swordlord Jamandi Aldori, and talks them into upping their investment, but only as long as he maintains a high profile in the settlement and keeps Mivon in check. Svetlana is approached by Irig Svenson, a Cleric of Hanspur, and makes a tentative agreement with him for support in exchange for religious freedom, but this is cut thankfully short when the Blades figure out who Hanspur is.

The rivalry between the Swordlords of Restov and Mivon would give me lots to work with over the years.

Hanspur is going to be another recurring thorn in the PCs sides. On one hand, the God of Rivers is definitely someone to keep on-side when you're founding a new River Kingdom. On the other, sometimes (not often, but sometimes) his priests will murder people by drowning. The river gives and the river takes. Svetlana, a follower of Gozreh, rolled very poorly on her Knowledge: Religion check when first approached. Rodrigo rolled much better when Svetlana presented her new ally to the group.

Finally the Blades meet with Count Addar Arnovski, a retired general with a keen interest in river transport, who owns a large amount of the Restov docks, and agree to work together to clear the Shrike and secure a path into the River Kingdoms.

This was a pretty simple deal - instead of Build Points, Addar would pay half the cost of a Docks in their main settlement if they opened a water route between it and Restov. If nothing else, it helped me steer the path of the Kingdom gently towards where I wanted it to go.

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13th Session - 24/05/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Svetlana, Alexander, Ilyana, Felix

24/06/10: In the Stag Lord's fort, the Blades start cleaning away the bodies when they uncover stairs into the store rooms below. They descend, encountering the shapeshifting Nugrah the Decrepit, whose summoned allies and wolverine claws tear through Alexander and Svetlana before Ilyana puts him down.

I really do wish that my players had gone for more of a subterfuge angle with the bandits, since the backstory of the Stag Lord (and Nugrah) is suitably tragic, but there you go. I got a chance to tell it a long time later when Rodrigo used Legend Lore to find a way to defeat Staggy's Ghost.

They stay put for the reminder of the day, and the whole of the next one, resting and taking stock of their haul – Ilyana claims the Stag Lord's helm, Svetlana takes his armour and Alexander his sword. The spoils of years of banditry lie within the keep, immovable for now, and not of tremendous value. Investigation reveals that the brambles around the
fort are carnivorous, and the heads of all the bandits bar the Stag Lord himself are put on spikes along the border. Ilyana skins Beaky, taking the makings of a fine cloak from the owlbear. Falgrim Sneeg, who had not died from his wounds, is bound, gagged and brought along to face justice in Restov, as per the request of Kesten Garess. Akiros Ismort repents his banditry and so is not hung, instead joining the Blades on their trip North.

I'd forgotten that Ilyana has an owlbear-fur cloak. I really should remind her of that.

27/06/10: After travelling along the banks of the Shrike, the Blades hurl the Stag Lord's body into the river by Nettle's bridge. The restless undead claims the remains of his murderer and disappears, leaving Alexander with his ranseur and nightmare-free nights.

[ooc]I'd totally forgotten this too. When the Stag Lord's Ghost rises (9 IC years & 3.5 OOC ones) later there was a search to find his body. As far as anyone could remember, IC or OOC, he was decapiated with the rest and the body lost when his fort was turned into a castle. It's been quite illuminating, writing these notes!

28/06/10: The Blades arrive back in Oleg's, where there was much rejoicing, involving a hearty meal, the consumption of the expense liquor taken from the Thorn River camp, and much clapping on the back. The reward for dealing with the Kobold Threat has been delivered from Restov, only adding to the celebrations. Akiros admits his past as a Paladin of Erastil to Rodrigo, who talks him into visiting the Temple of the Elk.

I toned down Akiros' crimes quite a bit. He still had an affair with a married woman, but instead of killing her when she claimed that he had raped her and then gutting her husband, I had her husband attack Akiros and the Paladin react in a rage, killing the man without thinking. My players wouldn't have been willing to forgive the first one. For a man dedicated to a deity who is overwhelmingly pro-family, an affair in itself is a massive sin. Akiros' barbarian temper just sealed the deal and sent him on a self-destructive slide that wound up in the Stag Lord's employ.

29/06/10: Kesten and Drago head back to Restov, with Sneeg in tow, to deliver word of the Stag Lord's demise to the Mayor. Our heroes enjoy baths, hangovers and some much-needed rest.

30/06/10: As Akiros has informed them of the nesting places of the predatory Tatzlwyrms, the Blades join him in heading into the Kamelands, parting ways after a few days as he leaves to talk to Brother Jhod. As Summer storms crash against the Greenbelt, the Blades explore West of the Stag Lord's Fort.

03/07/10: The Blades join Rodrigo in celebrating Archerfeast, hunting and drinking meads brought from Oleg, playing games of skill and enjoying a lull in the storms.

05/07/10: In a spider-haunted valley, fields of fangberrys are finally found, and harvested amidst much swearing.

08/07/10: Along the Skunk River, the nest of the elusive & predatory Tatzlwyrms is finally found, amidst sand islands in a ford. The three dragonkin are dispatched without too much difficulty due to careful manoeuvring on the part of the Blades. The remains of a previous explorer are found in the nest, and on the shore the ruins of an old settlement, complete with the bones of the former inhabitants. The Blades spend the night here, sheltering from the tumultuous storm before travelling north in the morning.

12/07/10: Detouring somewhat, the Blades visit Bokken, providing him with his long-sought fangberries. The alchemist makes good on his promise, making cheaper potions for them for the rest of the summer. Jacobi is presented with a birthday present of King of the Stump pieces carved from bones recovered from Tuskgutter's lair by Felix. After the short trip back to the Leveton's trading post, our heroes find Kesten waiting for them with a message from their patron, the Mayor of Restov. Their presence is requested, at their earliest convenience...

[ooc]Bokken was as pleased as Bokken can be, which isn't much.

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12th Session - 18/05/16

Characters: Rodrigo, Svetlana, Alexander, Ilyana, Felix

19/06/10: Svetlana returns to find the siege-damaged outpost, and aids Jhod in waking Ilyana. In the remains of the previous night's fight, four bandits are dead - one of whom appears to be a doppleganger - and two have fled. The Blades try to track the survivors, but find no joy on the hard summer earth.

One of my favourite third-party sourcebooks for 3rd Ed D&D was Goodman Games Complete Guide to Doppelgangers. It presents a brilliant adaptation of mimics & doppelgangers, adding the massive, hive-minded doppelstadt, adds in philosophies and religions - all great stuff. Kingmaker might be the last really big fantasy game I run for a long while. It was now or never. And that's where the Monks of Candlemere came from. I knew it was going to be a long time before this plot came to fruition, but it was one that needed a looooong buildup. Hence, a single, inexplicable doppleganger.

20/06/10: The gathered healers help Ilyana overcome the red ache, and plans are drawn up to strike against the Stag Lord. Felix buys a loyal hound from Oleg.

Felix's player loves her dogs, and this trait carried over into the game. This is one of the areas you really need to fluff it in a game like Pathfinder or D&D, because at anything other than very low levels a loyal hunting dog will just die within seconds of any combat breaking out. So except for RP purposes, both I and an enemy ignores Felix's dogs, and they in turn don't do anything except bark a lot.

21-22/06/10: The Blades ride hard to the south, crossing the Thorn where it meets the Shrike. Near dusk they are close to the waters of Lake Tuskwater, and settle down to wait for dawn.

23/06/10: Using Svetlana's magics and the descriptions gleaned from Kressel, the Blades easily find the Stag Lord's fort. They spend the day scouting around in the light woods surrounding the hilltop vigil and arguing about how to get in, an issue settled when Felix finds ancient, forgotten tunnel into the mound.

I wasn't pushed about the zombies infesting the cursed ground around the fort - there's no way for the PCs to find out why they're there, especially since the bandits have no control over them. It's a bit random and distracting. I covered it with brambles instead. Immobile but hungry, blood-drinking plant monster brambles. The kind of thing a bandit lord would encourage as a living defence around his fortress.

24/06/10: Shortly before dawn, the Blades use the passage to enter the fort. While their stealth is short-lived, the element of surprise serves them well, with the brigands spread out and unprepared. In the ensuing battle; Svetlana kills Auchs the Brute with her shillelagh, while Kahn kills Dovan. Beaky the Owlbear escapes, and is lead a merry chase by Ilyana to save Svetlana's life. The Stag Lord wakes from a drunken haze, and meets Alexander in combat, downing both cavalier and horse, and only the timely intervention of Rodrigo saves them. This allows Alexander to join with a mysterious turncoat bandit named Akiros and decapitate the Stag Lord. Felix and Ilyana take down the rampaging Beaky, leaving the Blades bloody but victorious, with a lone bandit fleeing to spread the word of their deeds.

Granite, the Paladin's mount, wishes it to be known that no Animal Companion enjoys being subject to a Reduce Animal spell and then shoved into a tiny, dark tunnel. People may have been bitten, but they deserved it.

Khan was Svetlana the Druid's animal companion.

Akiros Ismort is one of the more interesting NPCs in the Adventure Path, to me anyway. Since the PCs weren't going to have any non-combat interactions during the adventure, I decided to have him be inspired by them and join the fight against the other bandits rather than just be killed. Put it down to the hand of Erastil.

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He made one brief but memorable appearance in my campaign. Like a lot of others have suggested, I worked Realm of the Fellnight Queen into Kingmaker and made Rhoswen into the daughter of Nyrissa and Ranalc.

There was a lot of buildup to the invasion, so even though the players hadn't heard of Nyrissa at this point they were familiar with the concept of the Eldest. I had Ranalc's sigil appear on the wardings on the Golarion side of the FellNight, letting them find out a little about him. It seemed to make a kind of sense that he was behind Rhoswen's imprisonment for dabbling in forbidden shadow magic - the other Eldest would have outright killed her, so locking her up instead was his way of saving her life.

The Druid PC had found the cursed ring from Rivers Run Red, which was woven from Nyrissa's hair, and tried Scrying on it. I decided that this lead to a vision of purple eyes, blindness for looking on a Nymph, and a spontaneous Wall of Thorns around the scrying pool. When they met Rhoswen I described her purple eyes - aha, here's our hidden foe!, the players decided.

Once the adventure was over & Rhoswen had been killed, the PCs all went home to their families - and I had the mysterious Count of Nochtepose waiting for the Ruler, in his private quarters. He had a Brevoy accent, and asked lots of pointed questions about what kind of a man the Ruler was, what he was willing to do to secure the Stolen Lands, etc. Lots of loaded questions. He let the Ruler assume that he was from Brevoy without stating it. He established a bond by asking about the Rulers kids, and assuring them that he had no intention of harming them, despite turning up in his quarters in the middle of the night - after all, he had once been a father himself.

When this conversation had run dry, he got to leave, then said it was a little odd - one parent to another - that the Ruler hadn't asked him why he'd said he had once been a father. The Ruler took the bait.

Ranalc did a speech I spend quite a while preparing about how his child had grown overconfident and overreached, but when her enemies came for her then had burned her fortress, took all she owned as spoils and cut off her head. At this point the penny dropped.

Ranalc had to admit that he had no call for a blood debt with the Ruler, as Rhoswen had started the conflict. But that did not mean he bore no animosity, and that he was the master of traitors, and the Ruler did have so many, many people serving him...

And as he left he got in one last dig, which was to comment that his daughter had her mother's eyes.

They were suitable freaked out :)

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