Hello, I noticed that the character creation process doesn't seem to automate some things - when dragging backgrounds, races, and classes to the sheet the attributes do not update. As well, at the equipment stage it says to use the equipment package or gold listed in a class description, but I do not see that in the compendium documents. I may be mistaken or lost, so any advice is greatly appreciated! Thank you!
I agree that mobility is a big draw. My party once faced two NPC monks alongside a minor boss. In the first round, the monks used ki rush to close 80 feet in 1 action, did flurry of blows, and backed off 40 feet. The party's fighter was a dwarf, and even with sudden charge, it was hard to close the distance around the various bits of difficult terrain. If he did close and get an attack off, they could then flurry on their turn, and back off 80 feet.
Another grey area is what DC to use with multiple variants of the same creature that have very different levels. Technically speaking, it's easier to know that baby red dragons can breathe fire than to know the same thing about adult red dragons!
I house rule using the DC of the lowest level version to get the "family" info.
Session 29, Vordakai's Tomb Part 2 (9 - 10 am, Rova 4721)
Returning to the main path, the heroes find a large spiral staircase leading upwards. It leads to a feasthall - where the corpses of a dozen or so Varnholder lie, all with the brains removed. The room is guarded by more traps and zombies, which the heroes easily overcome. When Voldea pauses to pray for the souls of the slain, she realises that the room is spiritually silent - not at all what she'd expect from the site of gruesome murders. She suspects that the souls of these people have been consumed or trapped, as otherwise their ghosts should haunt this spot.
While Voldea prays, Marcus scouts out and finds another illusion hiding a secret door. The doorway leads into another cave, with old tar pits that have long gone cold and formed strange crystals. This cave is also trapped with a spell that creates a cloud of acid - and just after Mourgrym, Voldea and Marcus dive out of the cloud, an animated crystal emerges from the cloud. The strange being appears to be of little danger initially - until it splits in two after being attacked, and begins swallowing and enveloping people. Tamlane and Fraxinus are held back by the cloud of acid, and aren't able to help much, but thankfully the three are able to prevail.
As they rest up to heal after the fight, Fraxinus sees an invisible scrying sensor appear in the room. He waves at the sensor, and the heroes make ready for battle. A few moments later, heavy footsteps are heard coming down the stairwell leading into the room. Two zombie cyclopes march in - led by a third cyclopes, the dread Vordakai himself.
A great battle is fought in the tar crystal cave, with Vordakai largely invisible and aerial, but the heroes still able to fight him. He's brought close to defeat - and then uses Dimension Door to escape! The heroes defeat the remaining zombies, and charge upstairs, figuring he must have fled to his sanctum. It's well guarded, with layered illusions, walls of stone and locked door, but not well guarded enough to hold them back.
They break through, and interrupt his Teleport spell. The lich goes down fighting, casting his remaining spells with an aim to kill. He fails, and falls soon after. Once slain, his body disintegrates into dust, leaving just his magical items intact - and the glowing crystal that was in place of his eye. Fraxinus and Voldea are able to identify the crystal as the Oculus of Abaddon, a powerful divinatory artifact attuned to the realm of Abaddon.
As they mention this to the others, Marcus hears a voice echoing in his mind. It's the dryad, ordering him to bring the Oculus to her. There's a weight behind her words, and Marcus finds himself thinking this is a wonderful idea. He tries to convince the others, but they're not totally sold. As they continue to explore Vordakai's sanctum, Fraxinus's Detect Magic tells him that a very powerful enchantment effect lies upon Marcus. Marcus agrees to let the rest of the group attempt to remove the spell - while he doesn't understand what's happened, he trusts his allies to ensure he's free of enchantments. They succeed, and the enchantment upon him is broken. As he removes the necklace that symbolises his connection to the dryad, she screams out a final 'No!'. The heroes decide to return home via the Nome, Varnhold and Nivatka's Crossing to consult their allies before stepping into the dryad's lands (i.e. their lands) with the Oculus.
They also find the trapped Varnholders, who are held within hundreds of soul jars, their bodies and souls imprisoned. Xamat is still with them, and between him, Mourgrym and their Bag of Holding, they're just about able to devise a plan to carry all the jars outside. The Varnholders will be released when the jars are broken, but they decide it's better to do that in Varnhold than in the depths of Vordakai's lair.
Session 26, Among the Nome (Arodus 4721)
They head off to explore some more the Varn lands, and see if they can find any of Varn's people. In the logging camp to the north, they find a note from a logger placed prominently on the overseer's table. It explains that he stayed behind while the other went to the celebrations at Varnhold. When they failed to return, he headed to Varnhold, but seeing the place abandoned, decided to flee to his kin in Restov. The found a similar story in one of the farmholdings on the Nome Plains, with only a note left behind. Jamandi then sent word back to them, via Abbot Bresmus of Nivatka's Crossing. Both Jamandi and Bresmus are very concerned by their tidings, but the Swordlord has no time or troops to spare. Abbot Bresmus offers them what help he can.
Heading south, the heroes decide to contact the Nome centaurs. Figuring that riding over the plains may take some time, they light a signal fire on a hill at the edge of the plains. A day or so later, a small group of centaurs arrive. They approach cautiously, but their leader Danara agrees to take them back to speak with the rest of the tribe.
The tribe's current encampment is a day or so further into the plains. They are welcomed - but not warmly, and many of the centaurs send them harsh looks. Their leader Karana listens to the news from Varnhold, and consults with the tribe's priest, Zulf. Neither Karana or Zulf know much about the cyclopes or the ancient histories of their folk - but they could take them to meet the mystical leaders of the collected Nome tribes. Karana is reluctant to do so, citing a treacherous attack by Taldan forces in similar circumstances a few centuries ago. While she thinks on the matter, she suggests that they can earn favour by fixing a problem created by the Varnholders recently. One of the their mines has caused the waters of a local river to become foul and stinking. The heroes agree to her suggestion.
They head forth to find the polluted stream, accompanied by Karana's son Xamat. He was scouting the area and first found the polluted water - and reports that he saw and felt strange presences as he headed up the river, before deciding to return home to report. When the heroes reach the river, it's clear that there's something magical at work here as well - the water is fouler and blacker than has any right to be, especially given the small size of the Varnling mines. Upriver, they find the cause - a nuckelavee, a type of fey drawn into he Material World by polluted waters, which then further degrades and pollutes them. They face off against the strange being, and are able to defeat it - as they do so, Tamlane's relic ring surges forth, and cleansing rain washes the area mostly clear. They remain behind for another day to remove the small landslide from a spoil heap that caused the original 'natural' pollution, not wanting the nuckelavee to return in their absence.
Xamat heads back to his tribe to report on their success, and the heroes briefly reconnoitre to the south, finding yet another suspected portal to the First World, part of the same chain that leads off to the north-west across their lands. They then head home - taking advantage of Fraxinus's new Shadow Walk spell to massively reduce the duration of their journey, albeit by detouring into the Shadow Plane itself.
At home, things are well, though some unrest has spread in the wake of the news about Varnhold, and as a consequence of stretching their military so thin. To the north, the Rostlandic forces suffer another massive defeat, leaving them on the verge of surrender. However, House Lebeda are finally unified under a new ruler (Marcus's aunt has decided to retire to an abbey of Pharasma under a vow of silence). While officially neutral in the matter, the council agrees to send Lady Vellara and her spies north to help the Rostlandic forces in their darkest hour.
Session 28, Vordakai's Tomb Part 1 (7 - 9am, Rova 4721)
The massive door way is unsurprisingly locked, though Marcus is able to get through with a bit of time and patience. Another set of doors lie within, and the heroes are relived to see a more normal room open up afterwards. More zombie cyclopes guard the first chamber, but they are defeated - not before one of them manages to drive Marcus to unconsciousness. Pushing onwards, the interior of the tomb is vast and ancient, decorated with faded murals, time-worn tombs, and statues celebrating Charon and the forces of Abaddon. The rooms are set at different levels, with steep flights of stairs connecting the chambers and corridors, seemingly at random.
One chamber has a secret doorway in the southern face, which reveals more stairs up blocked by a portcullis. At that moment, more portcullises crash down to block the remaining exits, more zombie cyclopes emerge from hidden chambers, and jellyfish-infested river water begins to gush in at an alarming rate. Thankfully, Mourgrym is right by the presumed exit and is able to force the portcullis open and hold it there while his allies withdraw. Seeing no reason to hang about, they press on up a flight of stairs.
The stairs lead up for some distance. Pushing on, they find a room with daemon guards - two ceustodaemons and one piscodaemon. A hard fight emergees, with the daemon's making good use of their teleport abilities to target the weaker members of the party. Tamlane banishes a barely-wounded ceustodaemon, which ensures an easy victory after that.
The daemons had been summoned to guard Xamat, the captured centaur. He's overjoyed to see the heroes, and tells them of his capture and threats from the cyclopean lich himself. The heroes heal him as best they can, and they press on, with Xamat taking up Marcus's shortbow to help out. Xamat was imprisoned in the chambers next to a vast temple to Charon, a dark and eerir place. More vaults lie nearby, filled with ancient tombs and grave goods.
There's also a passage into a natural cave, filled with bubbling pits of tar. The tar has destroyed some of the raised walkways, meaning the passage across the room requires a certain amount of jumping. This is made harder by the swarm of wraiths that inhabit the cave - especially when the dread commander rips his minions into shreds to flay the heroes souls from their bodies. Two human zombies also join the fray, determined to push the heroes off the walkway and into the deadly tar pits. Fraxinus falls off, and ends up sitting out the last part of the battle within his own resilient sphere. As they fight the zombies, Voldea recognises them - they're Maegar Varn and Cephal Lorentus, slain and reanimated to serve Vordakai. After they defeat the undead (and get Fraxinus out of his bubble), the dead zombies are placed within their bag of holding in the hope that they can perhaps be raised from the dead at a later date.
Once more, they press on...
Session 27, Finding the Path (Rova 4721)
To help reduce the burden of defending two places, a road to Varnhold is built, driving through the hills towards the Varn Pass. This makes coordinating the military efforts much simpler, and along with extra recruitment and training, goes a long way towards reassuring the citizenry that the barony's leaders have things well in hand. A small core of discontent people remains unconvinced, but short of external manipulation or something going wrong, all is well.
During that month, the Followers of the Elk share some of their maps of the northern Narlmarches with the barony, and also the route towards the easternmost edge of Drelev's holding.
The dryad also makes contact with Marcus via his dreams - she lost track of him when he went beyond the barony's borders to investigate Varnhold and meet the Nome, and grew worried. She enhances the powers of her gift to him, allowing him to draw upon some of the power of the land to enhance his rulership.
The heroes also recieve a message from Abbot Bresmus of Nivatka's Crossing, saying that he has consulted with Pharasma and has information for them. They travel north at full speed (i.e. via the Shadow Plane, where they have a brief meeting with the shadow giant huntress, and agree to pay tribute if they pass through the giant's lands again). Nivatka's Crossing shows signs of the war that still rages across Brevoy - there are sick and wounded, and many people praying for the souls of their loved ones.
Abbot Bresmus tells the heroes that he consulted with Pharasma to learn more of the fate of the Varnholders. Their souls have not passed before the Lady of Graves for judgement, and Pharasma told him that the souls are trapped. He suspects the forces of Abaddon may be at work, especially given Voldea's vision in Varnhold. The trade and use of souls is common in Abaddon, and utterly abhorrent to Pharasma (and most other folks). Bresmus warns the heroes that a town's worth of souls is an incredibly valuable resource, either to sell to daemons, or to enhance one's own power.
While in Nivatka's Crossing, news arrives from the battlefield - at long last, the Rostlandic forces are victorious! Helena Lebeda led her unified house into battle for the first time in the conflict, and it gave her side a decisive victory. There's still a long way to go for Rostlandic independence, but if the battle had been lost, the war would have been lost with it.
The heroes then travel to meet with the Nome elders. Xamat meets them, and takes them to his mother Karana's tribe, for the long journey across the plains. Karana introduces them to the Speakers for the Sun, Moon and Stars (Mishkar, Evaren, and Kirya), the high priests of the Nome. The Speakers listen to the heroes story, and then reveal some of the ancient history of their people.
In the south of the Nome lands lies Olah-Kakanket, the Valley of the Dead, where the graves of the ancient cyclopes lie. Beyond that valley lies a path, to the lair of the daemon known as the Vordakai, a figure of terrible evil that slumbers eternally. The Nome guard his tomb, and conduct a great ritual each year to hide and obscure his tomb, making it impossible for anyone to find it.
This year, the ritual was conducted slightly later than it should have been, in large part due to the conflicts with Varnhold. The timing lies up exactly with when Willas Gunderson's notes describe him finding an ancient cyclopean complex and retrieving the ring.
Furthermore, Fraxinus recognises the word Vordakai. It's not a daemonic title, but the name of a cyclopean wizard who became a lich. His evil was such that his kin struck him down and entombed him, not long before the cyclopean empire fell into daemon worship and their own destruction.
The Speakers tell the heroes that the ritual will last for 1 year, until early next summer. They can conduct another ritual at the winter solstice, which will allow the heroes to join with the ritual and see what it hides. The heroes are very concerned about this plan, as they do not think it wise to leave a lich three months to conduct whatever plan he's working towards. Over several days, they work to convince the Nome that it's better to break the ritual, even though this may alert Vordakai. The heroes will strike forth as soon as the illusion is lifted, giving him little time to prepare.
Over this time, they also communicate with Abbot Bresmus, who tells all that he knows about lichs, and says that he will start calling upon the followers of Pharasma to assemble, in case the heroes fail at their mission.
Shortly before they leave for the ritual site, Karana approaches them. Her son Xamat has headed off to investigate the Valley of the Dead, after being inspired by the heroes victory against the nuckelavee. She asks them to watch for her son, clearly worried that the young man has got himself into deep trouble.
They then travel to the ritual site. Fraxinus tries to alter the ritual in more subtle ways, so that they do not alert Vordakai, but his efforts fail. They work with the Speakers to unravel the existing ritual, and then cast it again - this time, including the heroes in those who's vision is unclouded.
Knowing that Vordakai will have noticed this, the rush off towards the Valley of the Dead. En route, Marcus finally realises that one of the ravens that inhabits the plains is following them - and carefully staying just outside of the range of detect magic and other spells. Figuring that this could be a familiar, the heroes attempt to capture the bird. Instead, it flies into their midst, and explodes into a massive wave of necrotic energy, nearly killing both Tamlane and Augustus.
The Valley of the Dead is eerie and uncanny, with the tombs of the ancient cyclopes lying tumbled and ruined across the landscape. A path leads out of the valley, a narrow passage through the mountain. As the heroes ascend, they notice centaur tracks - perhaps Xamat made it this far?
The pass is guarded by a zombie cyclops. As the heroes battle against the undead monster, a terrible spirit known as a soul-eater swoops out of the darkness, calling out Fraxinus's name. They are able to defeat the spirit, and realise that Vordakai must have summoned the spirit to specifically target their wizard. They press on again, hoping to reach Vordakai's tomb the next day.
Session 25, The Varnhold Vanishing (Erastus 4721)
Heading within the town, it's entirely empty except for a few abandoned pets and carrion crows and ravens, which feast on the remains of penned up livestock. The town is decorated with bunting and tents are set up upon the common, presumably in preparation for the celebration that called the guards back from the border tower. Within the Red Cat inn, they find two very protective guard dogs, who drive Marcus back. Tamlane calms the dogs, and just within the inn dorr, they find the corpse of a sprrigan - a type of unfriendly and uncivilised fey - apparently slain by the guard dogs.
They proceed towards the bailey that surrounds Varn Fort. The gates are sealed, and Gus spies more spriggans within. Once again, Mourgrym scales the walls to open the gate from within, but he's soon spotted by the spriggans. A fight ensues, which ranges across the bailey yard and within the fort, with various people climbing walls, growing wings and performing other great deeds. In the end, the spriggans are easily routed. A captive confirms the heroes' theory - the spriggans are opportunists, who found the town empty and decided to occupy the fort.
A search of the fort reveals a detailed map of the Varn lands (far smaller than their own barony, due to Varn's refusal to accept any help in establishing his barony), and records that explain that everyone in the small barony was within the town to celebrate the anniversary of its founding. There's no sign of anyone, and the rooms which the spriggans have left alone are in perfect order, with no sign of a struggle or a rushed abandonment. There's also a copy of a treaty signed with the local centaur tribe, the Nome, though its clear from later notes that the treaty was broken and conflict broke out with the Nome (though it's not possible to determine precisely what happened to bring this about).
Within Cephal's rooms (secured by a lock spell against the spriggans), they find one slight clue - a sketch of a strange ring. Cephal's notes claim it's a centaur arm-ring, but Fraxinus instantly recognises it as a cyclopean finger-ring, dating from shortly before the decline of their ancient empire. The notes state that the Pathfinder Willas Gunderson found the ring, but there's no sign of the ring itself.
The heroes recall meeting with Willas in Tuskglen a few months ago, and his goal of travelling into the mountains to explore cyclopean ruins. An investigation of the inn finds Willas's room - and a far more detailed set of notes. The bard was writing a report to the Pathfinder Society, and those he had not finished it, the numerous partially completed drafts make the story fairly clear. Willas had a copy of an ancient cyclopean map, pointing towards a hoard of treasure (Fraxinus realises that Willas had mistranslated this part of the map - it actually is a warning against entering a dangerous place; when the cyclopean empire fell into the worship of Abaddon, their language changed such that warning signs become invitational and alluring) within the Tors of Levines. The map also shows part of a ritual magical effect that was laid upon the 'treasure', though without the rest of the map, it's hard to say what the ritual was meant to do.
Willas headed up the Little Sellen river, and found this ancient tomb, where he recovered the ring. Realising that a fell presence lay over the area, he fled, passing through a pass to the eastern side of the mountains. The details of what he faced are unclear - but it was something bad enough to worry the experienced bard. Upon arrival at Varnhold, he presented the ring, and decided not to correct Cephal's mistake regarding its providence - having little desire for the Varnholders to poke further into this matter. The final part of notes explain that he had (or was planning too; the partially completed reports make it hard to determine what he had done instead of what he'd planned to do) spoken with the local centaur tribes to discover if they knew anything of his findings.
Worried about the strange disappearance of every living soul in Varnhold, the heroes decide to consult with the Nome and see if they can shed any light on these ominous events.
Session 22, Arguments & Debates (Calistril & Pharast 4721)
The circle here is even more broken down than the one on the plains, and is built against the sheer edge of a cliff. It's guarded by tendriculouses, strange plant-like beings that are drawn to places that lie between the Material World and the First World. After defeating the hungry plants, another fey reveals themselves - a blodeuwedd, who acts as guardian of this place. The fey sardonically congratulates them on their victory, and talks about the portal that lies here. he guards the portal, using his illusion magic to disguise the cave entrance. He also reveals that the portal leads to a fey road or trod, which can offer faster travel to other places on the Material Plane, albeit via a more dangerous route. The heroes discuss what they can do to help secure the portal here, and Fraxinus makes a note to ask the wizards at Jatembe's Gift to start researching.
When they reach home, they help to deal with the cattle rustlers. They are mostly men and women from Rostland, who've wandered south to raid while their lord's attentions are focused on the upcoming civil war. The adult cattle thieves are hanged, except for one woman who convinces Voldea of her sincere desire to repent (Kressel is sent to the shrine of Sarenrae in Restov).
The miners of the barony also present the council with a demand for better pay and conditions, arguing that their tough work deserves better recompense. The council doesn't agree to their demands, but does agree to build better accommodation and facilities
Pharast: The heroes decide to scout out some more of the Narlmarches around their newly claimed stronghold of Forgeheart. The forest itself is largely uneventful for them (just a few owlbears, wild boars, and such like), but they do manage to find the western edge of the forest. Stretching out before them is the flat expanse of the Hooktongue Slough.
Back home, Lady Vellara returns from Pitax and gives them some much needed information about that kingdom's affairs. Upon her return, Dolgrin Wildhammer (their treasurer, and high priest of Abadar in Greenhaven) accuses her of hiring Red Mantis assassins to murder the bard Grigori. Lady Vellara half-heartedly denies his allegations, but is clearly more amused by the allegations than anything else. Her attempt to prove her innocence by swearing an oath of truthfulness by Calistria only serve to further infuriate Dolgrin, and he walks out of the council.
Marcus and Tamlane spend some time soothing Dolgrin's ruffled feathers, and promise to make Vellara (and all the other councillors) swear to have no dealings with assassins going forwards. They also (with Fraxinus's help) manage to persuade Vellara to agree, in part playing on her ability to carry on needling Dolgrin if they both remain on the council. Finally, Voldea officiates a Sarenrite ceremony, and the matter is hopefully resolved.
As it's spring, the Erastil worshippers at the Temple of the Elk arrange a festival to celebrate the first crop planting. It gets off to an inauspicious start when the dehorned corpse of a unicorn is found near the festival grounds. The heroes investigate, with Marcus talking to the trees while Voldea communes with the divine spirits of the area. Voldea sees a vision of fey wild hunt chasing the unicorn, with worg-mounted hunters worrying the great beast, while a larger and more dangerous huntsmaster urges them, his frost-clad weapon at the ready. The trees provide fewer specific details, but a nearby hawthorn complains about the frost touching one of its limbs early that morning, even though there was no frost that night.
Session 24, War in Brevoy (Desnus - Erastus 4721)
When they return back from their journey through the forest, they find out that the Brevic civil war has finally begun. Marcus's distant cousin Helena was engaged to Noleski Surtova (the ruler of House Surtova, who dreams of claiming the vacant throne), but has eloped with Serena Aldori. Helena raises the ancient banner of Rostland, calling upon her allies to help reclaim the independence from the Issian overlords. Helena's mother (Serenna Lebeda) is outraged by her daughter's actions, and stays true to her alliance with House Surtova - splitting House Lebeda in twon, as many of the house answer Helena's call instead. The Mivonese once again request permission to start moving their troops through Greenhaven, as they march north to support their ancestral home's fight. Not seeing much choice (and very much aligned with the Rostlandic independance movement), the barony agrees.
Sarenith: Sarenrae's holy day is celebrated in the new capital of Thornmouth, and spirits are greatly raised when the clouds clear at the ceremony's conclusion, bathing Voldea and the other celebrants in bright summer light. Things are fairly quiet in the barony this month, though the war to the north has already affected their trade routes.
The war doesn't go well for the Rostlandic forces, who suffer a major early defeat. Neither Helena or Serenna is able to claim the upper hand in House Lebeda's internal battles. Baron Harl Drelev and his son and heir Histol are slain in battle, leaving a young untested cousin in charge of the house - not the best leadership for a house beset by enemies!
Erastus: The war continues poorly for Rostland, though Helena Lebeda is able to secure more control of her house from her mother. The new ruler of House Drevel, a young woman named Lyane, proves herself to a strong and capable leader - though whether strong and capable enough remains to be seen.
Everything is quiet in Greenhaven until late in the month. Fraxinus often communicates with Cephal Lorentus in the neighbouring barony of Varnhold via the dream message spell. This time, the spell fails to deliver - meaning that the normally punctual Cephal has failed to go to sleep. Somewhat concerned, Fraxinus sends another message to Varn's quartermaster Quarren - but that too isn't delivered. By now, the trade caravan from Varnhold that was expected this month is also overdue.
The heroes prepare for another expedition, and send their scouts towards Varn Pass while they follow afterwards. Fraxinus sends many other dream messages to Maegar Varn and his followers, but not a single one is delivered.
Varn Pass is guarded by a single tower of ancient construction, reclaim by Maegar Varn to protect his borders. It's been abandoned, though the heroes' investigation reveals that it's been packed up in good order. The commander's logbook records that the small garrison was returning to Varnhold for a celebration of some kind, and expected to return almost immediately afterwards.
Wtih their scouts remaining behind to hold the tower, the heroes press on into Varn lands. Varnhold itself is just a day's travel away, though even from a few miles away the absence of any smoke plumes from fireplaces is obvious.
Session 23, A Rescue Mission (Gozran 4721)
They find her mate (Hilzarun) still alive, though entangled in thorny brambles that tether him to the ground. He explains that fey hunters attacked, and carried off their child, the young Efyllia. Two trails lead from the clearing - the unicorns head down one, and the heroes the other.
They make good speed through the forest, using their skills and spells to keep track of the trail and keep pace with the hunters. The trail leads them to another forest glade, where a portal shimmers in the air. There are three small fey mounted on wolves just ahead of them. The heroes manage to cut down two of the hunters, but the third one flees.
The portal leads through to a part of the First World called the Realm of Seasons, and their path begins springtime. A satyr named Cyollus speaks with them, intrigued by Marcus's music and dramatic recounting of their mission. He tells them that two hunters compete for the favour of a dark fey queen, and that the one they peruse makes his home in the wintery hills that lie ahead. Cyollus travels with them, offering to be their guide for a while.
The path leads them to a field of sunflowers, which are guarded by the flying bear named Maelarth (complete with butterfly wings). Maelarth is grumpy initially, but Tamlane is able to explain their mission and he grants them passage towards the mythical season of winter (as a bear, Maelarth doesn't entirely understand the concept). He also grants them some honeycombs from his hives, saying they'll be good cures if they run into trouble.
Across the field of sunflowers, the land rises into a forest hillside. The leaves are falling from the trees, and a chill wind whistles through the thorny branches. The heroes find themselves beset by the enchantment of the forest, and take some time to find their way through - while the trees themselves seem to attack and strike at them.
Finally, the path leads to the wintery hillside where Harakund the hunter makes his home. A battle is fought against Harakund and his remaining hunters. Though the heroes are victorious, Mourgrym's mind is taken from him by Harakund's curse - thankfully, Tamlane is able to break the curse, and restore his fellow to his right mind. At long last, they climb the final slope to rescue the unicorn child, cutting her free from her bonds.
The journey home is simpler, as winter leads directly to spring, and the portal home. Efyllia's parents are overjoyed to see her return, and offer their thanks to the heroes. Myvenwy tells them more about Harakund, and the little she knows of the queen whose favour he was competing for.
Session 21, Dance of the Shamblers (Neth 4720 - Abadius 4721)
Neth 4720: Following their great victory over Hargulka, the heroes decide to explore the route towards the Varn lands. The headed up into the hills, and managed to locate the Varn Pass, though they decided not to pass through in late autumn. While in the hills, they caught sight of a unicorn on a distant hill.
Upon their return to the barony, word reached them that a trading vessel out of Thornmouth had been found drifting abandoned, a few days after sailing past the Gudrin ferry towards Lake Silverstep. There were no signs of violence aboard the Red Rose, and the ship's cargo was intact. They decided to retrace the vessel's lasst voyage and headed up river. After a day of so, they heard a strange and beguiling song - though Marcus's song was able to ward them from its entrancement. Travelling towards the sound, they found a rusalka who'd enchanted the sailors to serve as her toys. They managed to drive the fey off, though she nearly managed to kill Fraxinus.
During this month, they also dispatched Lady Vellara to monitor events in Pitax, and secured the land towards Hargulka's former fortress.
Kuthona 4720: The heroes decided to travel tot he small village on the far side of Lake Silverstep. The headman, Darred met with them and welcomed them warmly. He thanked them for their warning about the rusalka, and told them that the villagers knew that the beast sometimes frequented the rivers nearby.
Winter was marked by bad weather, and heavy storm washed out a road near the Sootscale Mine. As part of seeing to repairs, they also invited Chief Sootscale to nominate one of his kobolds to serve on the council, and so Kib joined them soon after.
Concerned about their expansion into the wilderness of the Narlmarches, the council dispatched Jamir (their diplomat) to make contact with any nearby druids.
Abadius 4721: In the new year, Jamir reported back about rumours of a druid who lived not far to the south. The heroes headed there, an made peaceful contact with Aenora. She agreed to travel with them to investigate the Old Scyamore. They lead her to the chamber under the roots where the item had been stolen from, and she consulted with the primal spirits. They confirmed that something had been stolen, but could provide little new information beyond that. The tree would slowly wither and die, but over the course of years or decades. Aenora also gave them advice regarding the Narlmarches, and warned them about the dangers of people living in woods inhabited by dangerous creatures - and the dangers that could result if the heroes slew the monsters outright. She also told them about a ruined dwarven watchtower to the north, and another set of older ruins nearby - ruins that housed a terrible beast that had destroyed the watchtower.
Their northern farms were troubled by raids on the cattle and other herds. Due to their expansion to the south, Kesten's forces were unable to track the thieves down, and several head of cattle were made off with.
The barony also expanded sufficiently to claim the dwarven stronghold that had been Hargulka's stronghold. As they accompanied the road-building crews, one of the builders reported seeing a shambler heading up a wintry hill. Not wanting the plant creature to eat their workers, the heroes followed - and saw a most unusual sight. Atop the hill were half-a-dozen shamblers, dancing in the snow amidst a thunderstorm. They were trying to draw down the power of the storm to empower and enhance themselves. Taking heed of Aenora's words, the heroes decided to disrupt their ritual using Fraxinus's ability to cast without sound or obvious signs, but not to slay the creatures. The ritual was broken, but the shamblers were unable to find out why - and so the heroes slipped away.
At low levels, I'd stick with low and moderate encounters, with maybe a single severe boss fight. After a session or two, I'd review how that was going - if my party are tactical geniuses, then you can step up the difficulty a bit; if they're really struggling, then you probably want to dial it down.
When making these fights, avoid solo encounters, as they'll be overly difficult at low level. For your moderate fights (80XP budget) it's better to have one at-level monster (40XP) and two -2 monsters (20XP each) than one +2 monster (80XP by itself). In practise, this will tightly constrain your available monster range to level -1 to level 2 foes, with perhaps the level 3 monster being saved for a boss fight.
As the party level up, you get access to a wider range of monsters as the lower part of the table comes into play (e.g. for a level 14 party, level 10 foes make good cannon fodder). I'd still stay away from level+4 monsters, but a higher level party will have a much easier time coping with these than the level 1 party.
You can also stretch the grid using the 'grid configuration tool' in foundry. When you create a scene, the scene config menu has a section on grid configuration. There's a button with two rulers on it that brings up the tool, and you can use the arrow keys to stretch the grid. It won't work if you need a different grid size on one part of the map compared to another, but otherwise should do the trick.
Session 20, The Fall of Hargulka (Lamashan 4720)
Following their victory in the field, the heroes marched south (though not before writing wills and alters to relatives, in case things didn't go to plan). They were accompanied by Jhod and members of the Elk's Antlers, while Kesten and Kassil remained to lead their forces in mopping up the scattered remnants of the troll armies.
Upon arrival at Hagulka's Fort, they found the exterior largely empty, apart from a small group of slaves working at securing the main gate in the wooden pallisade. The heroes slew the troll guards, and the slaves told them that the remaining trolls had retreated within the fort. Hargulka's two dwarf advisors (Illasera Droskardottir, priest of Droskar, and Kavken, a fire-touched sorcerer) had come to take the slaves inside as well, and it was clear from the half-overheard scraps that some dire ritual was underway. One of the slaves also mentioned that she'd seen some of the goblins sneaking out of the fort via a hidden route, and the heroes resolved to find this entrance and use it to avoid the guards. Jhod and the other followers of Erastil remained outside to tend to the mistreated slaves.
Scouting the south side of the fortress, the heroes were able to find the hidden path relatively quickly. It led into a series of dark and musty corridors, clearly long abandoned. Deciding that speed was of the essence, the heroes marched on - and straight into a pod of yellow mould. Marcus suffered badly from the poisonous fungi, and a later patch caught Voldea and Mourgrym too. They were also attacked by some dwarven undead, but were able to overcome them with ease.
Pushing onwards, the heroes made good progress - too good almost, as they marched directly into the room where Hargulka waited without realising it. Hargulka was placed in the inner sanctum of the dwarven fortress, in what was once a holy place dedicated to Torag and his family. Now, it bore decorations of Droskar and great bonfires were lit towards the rear. The heroes could see the chained slaves near the fires, and the edge of a ritual circle - but Hargulka (who was entirely immune to the fire by now) and Illasera Droskardottir held them off for long enough for Kavken to succeed in his ritual.
Hargulka fell, slain once and for all. But as he fell, the slaves were burned alive, and a portal opened in the heart of the temple. The two dwarves fled through, heading to what appeared to be the Elemental Plane of Fire. Something started to travel through the portal from the other side - a vast and terrible magma dragon. In a last ditch attempt, the heroes managed to seal the portal shut, but not before the dragon unleashed a wave of magma breath upon them. Marcus taunted the beast, drawing fire from his allies - and then nimbly dodged out of the way, entirely unharmed by the waves of primal energy.
In the aftermath, the heroes located Hargulka's treasury and claimed its contents for their own. The treasury contained an ancient codex on crafting, as well as a large pile of gold and a partially-completed weapon rune. Additionally, Mourgrym claimed the Heart of Fire, the fire-infused necklace that Hargulka wore. Judging by the design, it had been made by Illasera, but adapted from an early dwarven work, as there were faint references to Angradd, the forge-fire (another dwarven deity).
That night, the dryad appeared in Marcus's dreams to congratulate him for their victory. He told her about the evidence from Pitax, and she promised to do what she could to renew the Old Sycamore when she awoke in spring.
Session 19, The Trolls March (Rova - Lamashan 4720)
Meanwhile, Fraxinus heads forth to scout directly upon Hargulka, accompanied by Jhod and other members of the Elk's Antlers. Fraxinus arrives there before the defeated troll army, and using his invisibility and divination spells, is able to see Hargulka's furious reaction - the troll raid has messed up his plan somehow, and he's not shy about making his displeasure felt. A few days later, the majority of the trolls march forth, led by Nagrundi and an onidoshi. Hargulka doesn't join them, and closets himself with the cleric of Droskar. Further scrying from Fraxinus reveals that the cleric is conducting a ritual deep in the bowels of the dwarven fortress - one that will render Hargulka immune to fire. Having recovered this valuable intelligence, Fraxinus and the Erastil followers rapidly move home to jointhe defense against the trolls.
The barony's scouts were able to warn Mourgrym that the troll army had split into two, one headed north of Candlemere and one headed south. The barony leaders decide to keep their army intact, to increase their chances on the field, and hope that the troll army they ignore won't inflict too much damage.
Lamashan: The first battle is fought by the fishing village on the shores of Tuskwater. The baronial army wins a solid victory, routing the trolls from the field - and the heroes manage to slay both Nagrundi and the troll druid who'd previously vexed them. Knowing that the other troll army had succesfully forded the Gudrin River and were marching on Thornmouth, the army marched rapidly to reinforce the town. They managed to beat the trolls to the town, but the second army changed tactics - the onidoshi general commanded his forces to bring down the bridge across the Shrike River, forcing the baronial armies to march some distance to the north to meet his force in the field. In the meantime, his army pillaged the land, destroying farms and road (though few civilians, thanks to the evacuations and preparations made earlier).
The next day the baronial army brought the second troll army to ground. Despite their fatigue, their army was victorious once more, with the heroes managing to slay the enemy general and his troll bodyguard. Their twin victories left many trolls still alive and wandering in small bands, but with both generals dead, the heroes hope they won't re-group into a proper fighting force.
Almost immediately, the heroes and many of their councillors marched southwards to deal with Hargulka himself.
Session 18, The Battle of Fangflower (Arodus - Rova 4720)
Jamir reported back from Mivon - there would be no help against the trolls from the south, as Mivon's attentions were focussed on Rostland. Marcus and Tamlane both wrote letters home, Marcus to enquire about the politics, and Tamlane to warn his mother to consider heading somewhere other than Rostland. Antonius (Marcus's father) wrote back, and explained that many in House Lebeda opposed their current alliance with House Surtova and the Issians.
Rova: The heroes headed back into the Narlmarches to find a route to Hargulka's stronghold. They called in on the village of lizardfolk that live to the south of Candlemere on the way. The unnamed settlement is a temporary seasonal base that the lizardfolk use to fish the lake waters during the summer months. Their chief Arasheg told the heroes that Hargulka had approached them as well, and that some of his people had chosen to join Hargulka, a faction led by Enshuk. The remaining lizardfolk will depart soon, and make way to along the rivers to their permanent homes in the south. Fraxinus spoke to them about the divinatory school he planned to establish, as the lizardfolk are keen astrologers and diviners.
On their way back, they spoke with Tiressia, who warned them that a large party of trolls had headed north. Alarmed, the heroes headed back to their lands as quickly as possible.
Their scouts had also picked up on the advancing trolls, and the heroes were able to gather a small army and meet the trolls just before they reached the rich farmlands of Greenhaven. A great battle was fought, and the forces of the barony were victorious, driving the trolls from the field and taking few losses themselves. The heroes faced off against the troll commander and a troll druid, and while the commander was slain with his troops, the druid escaped their trackers and vanished into the forest.
Upon their return home, Dolgrin had news - he'd finally managed to track down the maker's mark they'd found in the Old Scyamore, after the mites were slain. The mark was from a high quality blacksmith in Pitax...
Session 17, Candlemere (& More Troll Trouble) (Erastus - Arodus 4720)
Erastus: Worried about Tyg's mention that the troll had referred to a boggard, they paid a visit on Garuum, the lone boggard living on the Skunk River. Their visit was well timed, as a group of trolls sent by Hargulka were there to 'convince' him to join with their kingdom. The independently-minded Garuum refused, and a fight soon broke out. The heroes were victorious, and were also able to communicate with Garuum via the Staff of Divination they'd recovered from the cyclopes ruins. They explained about the growing troll threat to Garuumn, and he agreed to relocate to a suitable spot along the Thorn River - where the trolls should be unable to go, due to the presence of the Erastilian patrols between the temple and Statue of Erastil.
Next, they ventured to Thornmouth to meet up with the Pathfinder's who'd ventured to Candlemere. To no-one's great surprise, they weren't there, and so the heroes set out to investigate. The island was home to many wisps, as they expected, but they also found the corpses of two of the Pathfinders, both dead in mysterious circumstances. The first had succumbed to his wounds, and appeared to have been left behind by his compatriots - but as they were a paladin of Irori and a cleric of Nethys, this didn't make much sense, as they should have been easily able to heal him. The paladin was also dead, slain by a dagger in his back. All became clearer when they met Rismel, the surviving member of the trio. She'd fallen prey to the baleful influence of ... something ... that lurked on the other side of a portal in the ruins of the old tower at the edge of the island. Rismel was initially convinced she was hearing the holy word of Nethys, which again made little sense - the All-Seeing Eye is famed for his silence towards his worshippers. They were able to convince Rismel of this, and she threw off the curse. She was distraught to realise what she'd done, and asked their help to defeat the being on the other side of the portal. She knew it would enter the Material Plane soon, and suggested they deliberately summon it in order to slay it, rather than waiting for it to inevitably pass through at a later date.
And so the portal was opened. A strange being of baleful fire entered, which proved a tough foe. Thankfully, closing the portal weakened the being, and it was eventually defeated. Rismel left with the corpses of her fellows, hoping to return them to life and make amends. She told the heroes that she'd return soon, to take up a watchful guard over the portal site, in case anything else tried to pass through.
Their grand diplomat Jamir Cloverton was dispatched to the lands of Hans Drelev to see what was happening there. Jamir reported back later in the month that all was mostly going well, though the new Baron Drelev was concerned not only about the boggards who threaten the vital Sellen River trade route, but also a nearby tribe of barbarians. The Tiger Lords consider Drelev's lands their own, and so far, attempts to negotiate a peaceful accord have failed.
Finally, the heroes decide to explore the southern reaches of the Narlmarches to find out where Hargulka's trolls were based. Eschewing their normal careful approach of mapping, they were rewarded for their boldness when they found the trolls had established a small settlement around the old Dwarven Ruins they'd heard of. The trolls were clearing fields for their slaves (mostly humans and halflings) to work. Mourgrym was alarmed to see a dwarf walking alongside Hargulka one day - a woman wearing the holy symbol of Droskar, the outcast former apprentice of Torag.
Arodus: The month began with bad news - a series of wolf attacks on the farms and quarries south of the Gudrin River. The heroes went forth to investigate, and found the tracks of a decently-sized pack, led by a much larger beast (perhaps a warg or dire wolf). There were also tracks of a trollhound, and the heroes suspected more trollish interference in their realm. While here, they headed off to visit the nearby goblin village - and found it abandoned. The tracks led towards the Narlmarches, and there were troll tracks interspersed among the smaller goblin footprints.
Session 16, Troll Troubles (Desnus & Sarenith 4720)
Desnus: As they entered the ruined village, the ghost of the headman Wilburn approached them. He told them that something was anchoring him to his ghostly existence, and suspected in might be in a nearby well. The heroes approached cautiously, and were able to defeat the will-o-wisp and undead that guarded it. Within the well were two coins, one inscribe with the name Wilbur and the other with the name Callios. Wilbur explained that his daughter Nyta had been betrothed to one of the villagers (Dorsy) but broke the engagement off after falling in love with the dryad Callios. Dorsy was furious, and accused Callios of enchanting and stealing Nyta. Local legend said that if you wrote the name of someone you truly, deeply hated on a coin and threw it into a well, they'd be cursed - and so would you. Somehow the unassuming Dorsy had managed to create a curse powerful enough to make Wilbur a ghost, and to turn Callios into a scythe tree. Finally, the heroes placed the coins on an altar to Pharasma. The coins evaporated in the breeze, and Wilbur's ghost vanished as the call of whip-or-wills echoed through the forest. Tiressia and Falchos thanked them for their aid, and Tiressia rewarded them with a fine emerald.
Sarenith: Exploring more of the forest, the heroes paid a call on the reclusive wizard Bartholomew Delgardo. He told them that he'd moved to the Narlmarches some years ago to study the curses that seem to be so common in this area, and was fascinated to hear about the scythe tree they'd recently encountered. Bartholomew also mentioned he had a troll prisoner, and that he was studying the troll's regenerative powers. When the heroes realised he meant that he'd imprisoned and was torturing a sentient being, they persuaded the reluctant wizard to let Grisnakh the troll free. Bartholomew wasn't happy with the plan, but thought better of confronting five strangers within his own house.
On their way back home, the heroes called into The Felled Stag inn in Thornmouth and were introduced to Willas Gunderson of the Pathfinder society. Willas explained he was here to explore the local ruins, and was particularly interested in the tale of the cyclopes ruin they'd found. He also told them that 3 other pathfinders had headed to Candlemere to investigate the strange island, and suggested they meet up in Thornmouth next month to share information.
In Tuskglen, another visitor was waiting - Cephal Lorentus, the wizard who works with Maegar Varn. He'd come here to discuss matters of trade. The Varnling lands were rich in mineral resources, but poor in food. Cephal said they'd found an adamntine vein, and were hoping to have ingots ready next year. It was agreed that he'd later return to lead a food caravan back to the Varnling lands.
News also reached them about strange events happening at the Thorn Ford logging camp - loggers reported hearing one and other say things that were later denied, or objects that vanished and re-appeared. Suspecting something magical or fey in nature, the heroes paid a call on Tyg-Titter-Tut and Perlivash to ask them if they'd seen anything. Only Perlivash was there, and through sobbing tears, he revealed that a big troll had kidnapped Tyg-Titter-Tut, and was threatening to rip her legs off if Perlivash didn't play tricks on the logging camp. The heroes easily tracked the troll through the forest, and were able to rescue Tyg-Titter-Tut from the troll and his troll hounds with ease. Both fey were overjoyed to be reunited, and praised the heroes as the most awesomeliest, bestest people ever!
Oh, sorry I misread your post as talking about Foundry!
If you add a class on the front page of the character sheet, it will automatically apply your class features as you level up. You need to manually drag & drop optional class features (e.g. barbarian instinct, rogue rackets) but there's no data entry required, just dragging.
Class automation is slowly proceeding, as it's a manual process, with 1 or 2 classes added in per week (ish). Most of the core class features (rage, hunt prey etc) are already automated and so the work is now on the remaining features and all the class feats.
Alchemy continues to be a weak point. There's various work-arounds, but nothing nice and shiny. If you want to play an alchemist, I suggest asking in the Pathfinder 2 channel on the Foundry discord, as it's easier to run through the various work-around options there. The devs are aware that alchemy is a quite poorly supported, and so it will get fixed - but I can't make any promises about when.
Foundry can import from Pathbuilder or HeroLabs.
Building a PC from scratch is pretty fast too - ancestry, class, and background are all 'drag and drop', and all the features, feats, spells and items can be added by dragging onto the PC.
The only manual entry is setting your ability scores (type 16 into a box) and setting proficiencies (click on the 'untrained' button to make something 'trained' and keep on clicking to increase it further). The biggest pain with setting up a PC is for classes with specific weapon proficiencies, e.g. a rogue. You have to create a new type of weapon proficiency ("Rogue weapons") and then set the specific weapon in your inventory to use that instead of e.g. martial weapon. The system devs are looking into ways to fix this last issue.
I'm not sure if anyone's mentioned this point yet, but another feature is that development is very quick. A month ago, spontaneous spells were a pain - you had to manually edit the spells to heighten them, and the UI for tracking spell slots consisted of tiny boxes you had to type in. Today, you can heighten spells by dragging them into the correct slot, and there's buttons to use up slots and restore them all at the end of the day.
New content is also available ASAP. The Lost Omens Ancestry Guide should be in Foundry when the book goes on sale. In the interests of fairness, that will be without any automatically applied effects (e.g. if a feat gives a +1 bonus to Athletics rolls to swim, that won't be added automatically), but all of the features, feats and heritages will be there.
The only thing the Pathfinder 2 system doesn't have is artwork for the bestiaries, as Paizo's amazingly generous license doesn't cover this.
I find that it takes a about 10 seconds to add monster artwork from my pdf bestiaries, and so if you do this on an as-needed basis, it's pretty simple. There are modules in foundry that will help with applying a library of images to the entire bestiary if you want, but I've never seen the need personally.
A few more general bits of advise: there are a lot of optional modules in foundry. I'd recommend starting with no modules, and only adding them when you find yourself saying "Hmm, what's the best way to do X?". Otherwise you may find yourself overwhelmed with 30 different modules that you don't understand or need.
The foundry discord is very active and helpful, and is the best place to get support for the Pathfinder 2 implementation or general advice on how to use Foundry.
Session 15, In Which the Barony Receives Many Visitors (Gozran - Desnus)
After this, they call in on Old Beldame. She's pleased to hear that Old Crackjaw is no more, and tells them some information about sites within the Narlmarches - a haunted ruined village, and a house inhabited by a solitary wizard.
Their next stop is to visit the dryad they met before defeating the Stag Lord. She's investigated the Old Sycamore, and tells them that whatever was stolen was an artifact of some power - it was responsible for the great size of the tree, and without it, the Old Sycamore will wither and die. She's also concerned that this will affect the rest of the Greenbelt, and asks the heroes to find out who's responsible. She gives Marcus a necklace of leaves and emeralds, which will allow him to communicate with her from a distance.
They visit Bokken next, and confirm that he's doing well (or as well as he ever is). They tell him that there may be a road nearby soon, but they'll keep it a fair distance from his hut.
Returning back to Tuskglen, they pay host to Andara Gisvet of Mivon. She's come here to ostensibly discuss trading, but her real mission is to secure permission for small groups of Mivonese warriors to move north to Restov. The heroes agree, though place limits on the maximum numbers of Mivonese soldiers that can be present at any one time.
Desnus 4720: Mourgrym is pleased see many of his relatives arrive to join the growing barony. Kesten Garress also petitions the rest of the council to construct a shrine to Gorum, in addition to those already built for Abadar and Pharasma. They agree, and a shrine to Our Lord in Iron is constructed, in addition to one for Sarenrae.
While heading into the forest to explore, the heroes find troll tracks at the Skunk Ford - and tracks that are heading northwards, not south. They follow the tracks, which head towards the Sootscales mine. Wondering what scheme the Chief is up, the heroes head in. Sootscale is playing host to three trolls. The leader, a massive troll, introduces himself as Hargulka, and explains that he's here to persuade the kobolds to join with Hargulka's alliance of 'monstrous' ancestries. Hargulka promises to give the kobolds free rein to continue with their traditional way of life, but Marcus makes an eloquent counter-argument about how the barony already considers the kobolds as citizens. When Sootscale rejects Hargulka's offer, he looks displeased, but leaves without any violence. The heroes track him to the borders of their lands, and decide to start equipping their small force with alchemical items to help them if Hargulka decides to attack.
Resuming their previous course, the heroes headed into the forest. In between the Skunk and Murk Rivers, they found one of the locations Old Beldame had told them about - a ruined and haunted village. Near the village, they met a dryad named Tiressia and a satyr named Falchos. They begged the heroes to help them defeat a powerful and evil scythe tree that lived nearby, which had already nearly killed Falchos once. Tiressia explained that the scythe tree had once been a powerful dryad queen, who went mad on her wedding day and slew the villagers (the queen had been due to marry one of the villagers). The heroes reluctantly agreed, and easily defeated the corrupted tree.
However, the tree's death did not release all of the ghostly villagers, suggesting that something more complicated was afoot...
Session 14, Lamia, Peryton and a Bard, oh my! (Pharast)
As they asceded the path, they were assaulted by monstrous peryton, but the pack soon fled following the death of their leader. Within the temple itself were several priestesses of Lamashtu, and some petitioners. The priestess were revealed to be lamia, and a fierce battle was fought. In the end, the heroes were victorious!
The other people at the temple were a married couple (Alastair and Elena, of New Stetven), and a lone woman (Katrina of Mivon). Alastair and Elena were there to seek help in having a child, as a necromancer's curse had rendered them infertile. Closer questioning forced the couple to reveal the truth - the curse had been laid on them by Pharasma, for aiding a necromancer in a foul plot in New Stetven. Katrina had miscarried, and sought the aid of Lamashtu to bring her pregnancy to term, and refused to listen to any warnings about the change it would have upon the nature of her child. The heroes escorted Katrina back to the ferry across the Gudrin River, and Tamlane attempted to persuade her to move on - but to what effect he wasn't sure. Alastair and Elena were dispatched from the barony, and fled quickly. Not wanting to anger the Mother of Monsters too much, the heroes refrained from utterly destroying her temple - settling for bringing down the one of the entrance pillars to block easy access.
Back home, all was not well. A bard named Grigori had appeared in the barony, and done nothing but cause havoc, as he spoke out to criticise every decision the heroes had made. Marcus debated with him in the market square of Tuskglen, and though persuasive, the bard still held much sway. Marcus, Fraxinus and Lady Vellara held a discussion about finding (or 'finding') evidence to prove Grigori was a Pitaxi spy, and Fraxinus later broke into his room to see what he could find (nothing incriminating, as it happened). In the end, Fraxinus argued that should banish Grigori now, rather than leave him around for months to sow sedition before eventually coming to the same end. The council agreed, and Grigori was banished from the barony - though this didn't please the populace much.
Session 13, Tricksy Kobolds and Oppressed Goblins (Kuthona to Calistril)
Kuthona: Hearing the reports from the loggers, the heroes investigated the site where one of them had been found dead. he had clearly been slain (and partly eaten) by a large animal, but there was no sign of any tracks. Not wanting to leave their loggers open to further attacks, they decided to lure the beast out - Fraxinus would pretend to be a lone logger, while the rest of the group followed behind to aid him.
The plan worked! A pair of hodags, extremely rare animals, attacked the 'logger', but they were slain by the party before they retreat. The loggers were overjoyed when the bodies of the beasts were presented in the logging camp.
Abadius: Heading off to the east to explore, the heroes passed via the Old Scyamore. They were surprised to run into a group of kobolds, who told them that the 'Barony of the Sootscales' now covered this area. The rather angry party headed south to talk with Sootscale, who told them that'd he'd been inspired by their barony to form one of his own. This wasn't strictly prohibited by their earlier treaty, but was clearly against the spirit of it. The heroes headed back to consult with the council, with some voices being in favour of all-out war against the kobolds. Cooler heads won out, and they returned to talk once more.
Marcus took Sootscale to the side, and played to the chief's vanity. He'd publicly congratulate Sootscale to his people, but Sootscale would abandon his newly claimed lands. The kobolds would also get to keep some of the income from their silver mine after its added into the barony.
Carrying on their original heading, they returned to the pool where they'd met the dryad several moths previously. Marcus's music was enough to briefly stir her from her winter slumber, and they told her about the attack on the Old Scyamore, and asked if she could investigate. She told them to meet her again in the spring to talk of what she'd found. While in this area, the heroes also put the petrified victim of the cockatrices into their bag of holding, so it could come to no harm while they waited to be powerful enough to life the curse.
A message also arrived from Andara Gisvet of Mivon, asking about improving trade relations between Greenhaven and Mivon. Andara suggested she'd visit in Gozran to discuss matters. Lady Vellara pointed out that matters were hotting up in Brevoy, and this could be a prelude to asking permission to move Mivonese troops north to fight alongside the Aldori Swordlords.
Calistil: The heroes headed south, to explore the lands near their planned quarry site. Upon the hills, they found a small village of goblins, who were dominated by a powerful barghest. The first goblins they met asked their aid - while they were nominally followers of Lamashtu (praise be to the Mother of Monsters), having one of her holy children in their village was a bit much. The heroes agreed, and marched forth to face the fiend. It proved a tough opponent, but they were victorious (and also managed to avoid killing any of the goblins fighting on its side). The tribe as a whole were happy with their actions, and there was some discussion about future trade and some of the goblins coming to work in the new quarry.
The heroes returned home to good news for once. Rahdol, a local farmer, had found a decanter of endless water while ploughing his field, and was offering to sell it for half the usual price. The heroes pooled their pennies, and brought the magical item.
Session 12, Lamashan to Kuthona, Of Werewolves and Ankhravs
It tkaes a bit of effort to convince the distraught young man of the truth, and they also need to defuse an small mob that's formed, seeking justice for the two murders. It's agreed that they'll withdraw gold from the barony treasury to buy a scroll of Remove Curse, which should be able to lift Thraysil's malediction. In the meantime, he'll stay at the Temple of Elk, to keep him out of sight of the villagers.
When they travel to the Temple, Arolin the leader the Elk's Antlers, makes them an offer. The Elk's Antlers will take responsibility for protecting this part of the forest, and will effectively rule over it. They'll be vassals of the barony of Greenhaven, and will offer up military service in defense of the barony. After some discussion (and over the objections of Kesten and Fraxinus), the barony accepts Arolin's offer.
Neth: There's better news this month, as a group of former slaves arrive, led by Antar of the Bellflower Network. The barony expands along the Gudrin River, and there's a long-term plan to give the halflings a dominion of their own, like the Elk's Antlers have. In other good news, the heroes find a source of quarry-able stone in the hills nearby, giving them the final resource they need for building.
They also call upon the Pharasman clerics at Nivatka's Crossing, and the undead around the Stag Lord's Fort are finally dealt with. The small militia of Greenhaven is highly successful in their first battle, and morale rides high.
Kuthona: In the final month of the year, the heroes finish exploring around Tuskwater and Candlemere. They find the massive turtle Old Crackjaw sunning himself on a beach on the lakeshore, and also see strange ruins in the centre of Candlemere.
They also decide to deal with the ankhravs near their new village of Thornmouth (established where the Stag Lord's Fort once was). The giant insects prove formidable foes, especially the hive mother. In the end, they are victorious, and Voldea soon has a new suit of armour crafted from the hive mother's carapace
Upon their return to Tuskglen, they head up to the logging camp to use a tree feather token they found in the ankhrav nest to restore one of Melianse's felled trees. The grumpy naiad is more polite than last time, and thanks them for returning with concrete help for her. They call in on the logging camp, and find that all is not well - there are rumours of strange beasts seen nearby, and one of the loggers has just been reported missing...
Session 11, Growing a Barony (Erastus - Lamashan)
Erastus: Having settled in, the heroes make a series of social calls. Marcus discusses the tax status of the trading post with Olga (not wanting to make decision about it without her input), and they agree that it continue paying taxes to Restov. They also call upon Tyg-Titter-Tut and Perlivash, and make contact with Sora (the surly hunter who claims a portion of the forest for herself). Sora seemed less than pleased by their new barony, but the fey were much happier to hear that their friends would be living nearby.
They also travelled south, to speak with the kobolds and the mites. Chief Sootscale met with them, and various plans were discussed for future trade with the kobolds. Things went less well with the mites at the Old Sycamore - a group of armed warriors had slain all of the mites! Few traces of the attackers remained, and the biggest clue was a broken maker's mark on a spear tip. Heading into the depths of the roots below the tree, they found a small room formed within the root that the invaders had also visited. Perhaps something had been taken from there?
Arodus: The heroes continue the expansion of the barony, claiming the abandoned gold mine. They also found their first village, Tuskglen, on the site where the great boar Tuskgutter once lived. There was also bad news this month - a group of bandits had retaken the abandoned fort once claimed by the Stag Lord. The local military weren't able to deal with them, but thankfully the heroes themselves were able to take care of the matter, reclaiming the fort. They decided that permanently claiming the fort was a major priority, lest something more dangerous than half-a-dozen bandits wander in.
Jhod Kavken had been busy as well, and had arranged for some followers of Erastil to help him reconsecrate the Temple of the Stag. The Elk's Antlers are led by Arolin, a paladin of Erastil; Arolin and his followers swore to defend the temple and maintain its sanctity.
Finally, the Pharasman investigators concluded that the undead around the fort were mostly minor in power, though rather numerous. They agreed to help the barony drive the undead out.
Rova: The barony expanded further southwards along the Thorn River, and the village of Tuskglen continued to grow. The heroes headed off to explore some of the eastern hills, hoping to find a suitable site for a quarry. Instead, they found a wounded green dragon named Renuthirax outside an ancient cyclopean ruin. The dragon had been at the wrong end of a skirmish with a large and powerful black wyrm named Ilthuliak. Renuthirax stuck a bargain with them - he'd open the sealed entrance to the tomb. The heroes would venture inside and retrieve a potion he needed to cure his cursed wounds, but they could keep the rest of the cyclopes treasure. The tomb was trapped and guarded by constructs and undead, but the heroes won through. They returned the panacea potion to Renuthirax, and kept the remaining magical items and treasures for themselves. Fraxinus realised that the site was still a place of magical power, once used to strengthen the divination rituals of the cyclopes. It was possible it could be repurposed for use with more modern magics.
Returning home, the heroes were informed of a quarrel between their loggers and a forest naiad. Heading straight off, they were able to resolve matters peacefully, agreeing to leave the naiad Melianse's grove alone in the future. Melianse repeatedly pushed for reparations for the felled trees, but no firm commitments were made. Not entirely pleased, she did at least return the loggers she'd charmed into obeying her.
Lamashan: The kingdom continues its expansion southwards, reaching the river crossing. Several new farms are established, to help feed the growing population. The heroes decide to head south this month, exploring along the shores of the Tuskwater and up the river Skunk. They find a natural ford not far within the forest. On the shores of the lake, they also find an old woman named Old Beldame who lives in a small cottage. She speaks briefly with them, wishing them better luck with their barony than other settlements have had in the past. She also cautions them about Gyronna's possible reaction if they remove the undead from the Stag Lord's Fort (the fort was once a Gyronnan monastery, and the undead date back to the monastery's fall).
Returning home, Kesten has bad news - two villagers have been murdered, one two nights ago and one last night. The full moon shines tonight, making the heroes wonder if the werewolves of the Greenbelt are to blame...
Session 10, A New Beginning (Sarenith - Erastus)
Their first week or so in Restov is quiet. Lady Jamandi informs them that Tartuccio's trial will be on the 12th of Sarenith, and introduces them to Dolgrin Wildhammer, the proecuting advocate from the Church of Abadar. He spends some time interviewing each of the heroes, preparing his case against Tartuccio.
On the 8th, Tamlane and Voldea attend a holy day for Sarenrae (it's the first Sunday of Sarenith) at the small shine Sunwarden Iroh takes care of. There's a small feast, and much music and celebration.
Finally, the day of the trial dawns. The matter will be judged by Mikhael, a cleric of Dammerich, whom Jamandi has arranged to judge the matter as neutral party that Pitax will also respect. Mikhael calls upon Dammerich for clarity and insight, and listens carefully to the testimony of several witnesses, including Fraxinus, Marcus and Tamlane. In the end, he decides that Tartuccio is guilty of arson, and announces that the execution will be held at sunset. Much of the city of Restov gathers to watch Mikhael render his judgement, and behead the wayward bard.
A day or so later, Maegar Varn and his companions arrive in the city, ready for the grand presentation of charters on the 17th. With the trial out of the way, Jamandi switches focus to politics, and the heroes aremeshed into a world of intrigue and negotiation.
Many factions are interested in their new barony, and have all kinds of generous (and 'generous') offers of aid to make. They decide to begin by talking with the Church of Abadar, where Dolgrin proves himself to be a canny negotiator. Tamle and Voldea meet with Sister Beatrix of the Church of Pharasma, who also offer some aid to their new barony in return for agreements regarding outlawing necromancy and limiting taxation. She also writes a letter of introduction to the Pharasmans at Nivatka's Crossing, as they are the best placed to help deal with the undead around the Stag Lord's old fort.
Given their gold mine and lumber resources, they also make early contact with Maklash Grintwhistle of the Ancient and Worshipful Company of Goldminers, and Countess Dhava Mollarch of the Gronzi Lumber Consortium.
Maklash is quickly revealed to a be a vain and not overly clever man, and the group spend some time playing to his weaknesses (including arranging one meeting in the Church of Abadar) to get him to agree to very generous terms.
Countess Dhava is a polite and quiet woman, and Marcus realises that her main concern is to prevent Narlmarches timber competing with the wares of the Gronzi forest. As the heroes aren't planning on running the largest lumber company in the Stolen Lands, they're easily able to reach an amiable and low-key accord with Dhava.
Marcus also calls upon his cousin Lander Lebeda, son of the ruling Duchess Serenna. The two bond over old times (and a lot of wine), and Lander finally mentions that his mother doesn't want Marcus making any arrangements with House Orlovsky. As Marcus has no idea what Orlovsky might be offering, he's fairly non-committal.
On the morning of the feast, the group have recieved two invitations - one from Count Addar Karnovski (House Karnovski are a barony who were once sworn to House Rogarvia; they're very important in trade in Restov), and one from Lady Vellara, a noblewoman from Kyonin.
While Mourgrym and Tamlane focus on Maklash and Dolgrin, Marcus visits Karnovski and Voldea and Fraxinus call upon Lady Vellara. Karnovski's offer is simple - he wants to build a series of locks and weirs along the Shrike River, making it navigable for trade ships. He offers a handsome sum of resources if the group will agree, but Marcus demurs for the time-being. As a scion of Hosue Lebeda, he knows that his family are reliant on the East Sellen trade route - and Karnovski's plan would threaten the dominance of that trade route.
Lady Vellara is a noblewoman who's lived in Restov for some time. She explains (over tea and fancy cakes) to Fraxinus and Voldea that she's starting to grow bored with Restov, and fancies living in a nice little country manor, with a vineyard nearby. She'd also quite like to offer her advice to the ruling council, if there's space for her musings. When the pair relay this offer to the rest of the group, they decide to accept Vellara's offer. Based on her afternoon's discussion, she's seemed a canny political operator, and might be useful.
That evening is the grand presentation. Lord Mayor Ioseph Sellemius offers charters establishing new baronies to Hannis Drelev, Marcus Lebeda and Maegar Varn (the Iron Wraiths, who formed the fourth expedition, haven't arrived back in Restov yet...). As the group gather afterwards, Lady Vellara starts proving her worth, as she fills the group in on Karnovski's motivations (he's a notable Rostlandic agitator, and may be intending on using the new baronies to distract the Issians while Rostland readies itself for war).
Ranek Surtova is the first of the major nobility to speak with the group. His offer is simple - swear fealty to House Surtova and their regency, and in return, Surtovan forces will help defend their barony. It's clear that Drelev has already accepted this offer, but based on earlier conversations, they doubt Varn will (later on, Fraxinus lip reads a conversation between Varn and Surtova, in which Varn rudely rejects Surtova's offer).
Next to speak to them is Sereni Orlovsky, who makes a similar offer. Orlovsky won't demand fealty, but clearly want to pull the barony into their sphere of influence and out of Surtova's. Once again, the group are diplomatic about saying 'maybe'. Marcus makes a note to use both Orlovsky and Karnovki's offer to try and leverage more support from his house.
Tamlane ends up chatting briefly with Evana Garess - but it's a very brief conversation, as she walks off as soon as he mentions Kesten Garess.
They also talk briefly with the Lord Mayor, who's keen to establish trade relationships if they can build a road connecting their holdings to Restov. He also wants to clarify the legal status of Olga's Trading Post, keen to avoid any future misunderstandings or quarrels.
At that point, the Pitaxi ambassador arrives, and presents the Lord Mayor and Lady Jamandi with a large wooden box. As the Lord Major opens the box, the blood drains from his face, and Lady Jamandi comes this close to attacking the ambassador - the head of the leader of the Iron Wraiths is inside the box. The ambassador speaks in a loud voice, saying that this is a warning to Brevoy to stop interfering with Pitaxi borders. He marches out, before Jamandi's temper gets the upper hand.
The party ends not long later.
The next day, the group embark on a final round of negotiations. Marcus calls upon his family's factor Lukas, and successfully leverages the Orlovsky and Karnovski offers (that he had no intention of accepting) into getting more resources from house Lebeda, with very few conditions attached. Fraxinus returns to the Temple of the Three to talk with Dolgrin, and finally manages to make some headway in negotiations (though the group decide to stick to the initial offer of aid, as it has the fewest restrictions). Mourgrym calls upon the Shrine of Torag, and Mastercrafter Barde Stronghammer welcomes him. The church of Torag can't offer much support in comparison to Abadar or even Pharasma, but they'll do what they can. She also begins initiating Mourgrym as a cleric of Torag. Tamlane and Voldea return to the shrine of Sarenrae, where Iroh introduces them to a halfling named Antal - a representative of the Bellflower Network. Antal wants to have their barony proclaimed at a place where former halfling slaves will be welcome; no questions asked. He also talks about his vision for a independent halfling settlement, where his people could begin making their own future. The rest of the group readily agree to this offer.
That evening, Jamandi wishes them good luck, and asks if he adoptive son Kassil can accompany them, to help keep lines of communication open. Finally, they depart from Restov and return to the Stolen Lands to begin the real work.
Erastus: The new barony is founded! They decide to start work near the site where Tuskgutter once laired, as it's close to the forest, river and gold mine. In the first month, they also establish control over the Thorn River Ford, and the loggers of the Gronzi Lumber Consortium set up a small logging camp. As they establish the logging camp, they find a grove of wild apple trees that are ripe and ready to harvest, which will make next month easier.
Marcus is formally appointed leader of the barony, with Tamlane serving as chancellor, and Mourgrym as marshal. Dolgrin Wildhammer is appointed treasurer, and Kassil is made steward. Kesten serves as constable, while Lady Vellara becomes a very genteel spymaster. Fraxinus is master builder, and Voldea is high priest, bringing the faith of Sarenrae to their people. Finally, Jhod is appointed verderer, to keep a watch over the baronies farms, orchards and woods.
Session 9, Four Tatzylwyrms and a Wisp (17th Desnus - 6th Sarenith)
They next decide to head towards the Stag Lord's Fort, to check in with Kesten Garess before they head off to Restov. En route, they meet with another shambler, and this time are forced to fight the terrifying beast.
Once out on the open plains, they find an abandoned fishing village on the shores of the Tuskwater. Basking on the village beach is a massive snapping turtle - and looking at some of the wrecked boats, it looks like the beast may have been responsible for the village's abandonment.
28th Desnus: The heroes return to the Stag Lord's Fort. Kesten informs them he's going to march his men north, as their still technically ordered to protect Olga's Trading Post. Before leaving, the heroes help to put all of the valuable objects from the fort into the basement, and then cover the trap door with debris to protect it. During this stay, Kesten manages to offend Voldea by referring to Erastil as 'a peasant god' (they'd asked Kesten if he'd help guard Jhod on a journey to re-consecrate the Temple of the Elk, Kesten explained that his orders didn't include helping to recover temples of peasant gods).
29th Desnus - 2nd Sarenith: The heroes head up to visit Bokken, but do some final bits of exploration en route. They find the flowers the old man had asked about, which are indeed guarded by spiders but also by man-eating flytrap plants. They cross over the Thorn River via the rickety bridge where they'd previously encountered the will-o-wisp. It doesn't confront them then, but does attack during the night - and barely manages to escape alive from the much better prepared heroes. Finally, they deliver the fangflowers to Bokken, who offers them each one alchemical potion in return.
3rd - 6th Sarenith: The heroes travel back to Restov once more, ready for the trial of Tartuccio and Lady Jamandi's gathering.
Session 8, Back to the Temple (30th Gozran - 16th Desnus)
The next day they carried onwards, and found the strange tree depicted in the note they'd found in saddlebags of the horse slain by centipedes. Buried beneath the tree roots was a small cache of treasure, and a note. The treasure had been left by one of the bandits named Argyle who instructed the bearer to bring the goods to Garwin's Farm near Restov. where he'd meet up with a fence in tow.
They carried on towards Bokken's small hut, finding a broken stone circle on the way. A portal to somewhere (the First World perhaps?) was partly open within the centre of the circle. Not sure of what awaited them on the other side, the heroes decided to leave it be for now - though Tamlane did write a note to 'post' through, greeting whoever was on the other side. That night, he saw a Cu Sith, a fae charged with guarding the borders of the worlds briefly appear through the portal.
7th Desnus: The heroes met with Bokken, and spoke with him again about the Stag Lord and his druid. The broken man explained that the druid (named Nugrah) was his brother, and that the Stag Lord was his ill-treated son. Bokken's family had been an unpleasant and cruel one, and he seemed pleased with the news that he was the last survivor. That night, the heroes reached Olga's Trading Post and presented Olga and Svetlana with their wedding rings. Both women were very happy to have their rings back, and Jhod and Voldea arranged for a small ceremony to celebrate.
At the Trading Post, there was also a letter from Jamandi Aldori, requesting their attendance in Restov in mid-Sarenith. She also said that a cleric of Dammerich was coming to lead the trial against Tartuccio a few days earlier, if they wanted to return sooner.
8th - 16th Desnus: Deciding they had time for one final expedition, the heroes headed off once more. They explored some of the plains to the west of the Trading Post, and found an ancient cairn and an intact stone circle. They were also attacked by a pack of werewolves on the night of the full moon - while they were defeated, Mourgrym took a number of nasty bites, one of which itched and scratched furiously.
On the borders of the forest they also found a statue of Erastil, pointing into the forest. Hoping it would lead them to the Temple of the Elk, they followed a small deer trail through the woods. The next day, they found a strange glade that was touched with peace and calm and made a good night's camp there.
Finally, they reached the Temple of the Elk. Forewarned about way lay within, they were easily able to defeat the various undead guardians and lift the curse upon the temple. A pool of water in the back part of the shrine complex glowed with light as they felled the final deadly guardian, and they realised it could cure their wounds. Deciding it wouldn't hurt, Mourgrym was also washed in the water, and was relieved to notice his nasty wolf bite was finally healing properly.
The Fall of the Stag Lord (22nd - 29th Gozran)
22nd Gozran: Our heroes re-group at Olga's Trading Post, swapping stories of the various attacks and calamities they've endured. They discuss their plan of attack with Kesten Garess, who agrees to take his men southwards on the attack against the Stag Lord.
23rd Gozran - 27th Gozran: The heroes head south, to recruit Tyg-Titter-Tut and Perlivash to help spy on the bandits, and to use their fey magic to play more tricks on the nasty bigginses. They hand over the bottle of elven absinth, which the two generously share around before proceeding to get very, very drunk. The next morning, the pair are quieter than they've ever been before.
Carrying on southwards, the journey is largely uneventful as few of the inhabitants of the Greenbelt are likely to bother a dozen heavily armed and armoured warriors. They do find an old mine, lying abandoned in the hilly grasslands near the forest's edge, but decide to leave investigations until a later date.
They make it to the Sootscale Caverns, and Fraxinus draws up a legal agreement with Chief Sootscale. The agreement specifies that the kobolds will keep their mine and the lands around it, but will be a part of the new barony, and pay taxes.
28th Gozran: The mixed force of the heroes, Kesten's men and the kobolds travel south to the Stag Lord's Fort. The plan is that the heroes will open the gate shortly before dawn, and hold them open while their allies rush forwards to secure the Fort.
Fraxinus's magic helps get the advanced party inside the fort without being spotted, while Perlivash puts the watching guards to sleep. Mourgrym uses his magical belt to easily open the large wooden gate, while Marcus sneaks forward to release the Stag Lord's pet owlbear (later on, they find a collar inscribed with the name 'Beaky' around the beasts neck). Unbeknownst to Marcus, the owlbear's cage was alarmed, and so all hell breaks lose in short order, as the bandits awaken! They keep the pressure on the bandits, with Tamlane's healing powers keeping them up and running as they push onwards. Tamlane also cuts down the cleric of Norgober who serves the Stag Lord before she can do much more than awaken her master.
As they fight the Stag Lord, he whistles for his new 'pet' to come help. Fraxinus uses more illusion magic to distract the owlbear, while Marcus wrestles the Stag Lord for his bow. Another of the bandit lieutenants, a beast of a man named Auchs wades into the fray, inflicting terrifying wounds with his massive billhook. Finally, Voldea slays the Stag Lord, bringing an end to his reign of banditry! All of the bandits are slain in the fighting, and Kesten and the kobolds manage to slay Beaky (the kobolds claim the corpse as a trophy).
29th Gozran: Forewarned, the heroes delve into the locked basement underneath the ancient force, and defeat the evil druid who serves the Stag Lord. The nymph re-appears to thank them for their help - with the druid dead, she can work to lift his curse on the land.
Kesten agrees to garrison the Fort temporarily, in case any bandits return, while the heroes do more exploration of the grasslands and bring back good news to the Trading Post (including Olga and Svetlana's stolen wedding rings, which Marcus finds in the Stag Lord's treasury).
Session 6, The Bandits Strike Back
9th Gozran: Searching through Tartuccio's belongings, Fraxinus finds several used-up scrolls. Squinting at them carefully, he works out that they once contained a Summon Elemental spell and a Dream Message spell.
10th Gozran: Before leaving the Sootscale Caverns, Mikmek approaches Voldea and Tamlane asking for advice about who the tribe should worship now that Old Sharptooth is gone. Sarenrae is rejected when they explain that she doesn't like tricks and traps. Torag is briefly mooted, much to Mourgrym's disgust, but the kobolds seem keener on Cayden Cailean when Marcus brings him up.
Following on from this discussion, Chief Sootscale corners Marcus to discuss the future relationship between the kobolds and whatever barony or kingdom the heroes established. The chief is very keen to maintain his people's lands and resources, and isn't overly keen on the idea of paying taxes. He says he'll draw up some preliminary paperwork while the heroes travel back to Restov, grinning toothily at Marcus as he says this. Fraxinus makes a note to remember the legal lectures he sat through many years ago before they next return.
They travel north on the 10th, and make camp by a small pond that evening. Their prisoner attempts to escape, but doesn't get very far. He's given a stern talking to, and it appears to work, as he's otherwise quiet and compliant after this.
11th Gozran: Before breaking camp, the heroes are visited by a nymph. She begs them for help against the Stag Lord, telling them that a foul druid in the Stag Lord's service has cursed the land, and her with it. She's greatly relieved when the heroes tell her of their intentions to defeat the Stag Lord, and she promises to help them however she can.
12th - 19th Gozran: Marcus, Voldea and Tamlane head to Restov, to hand Tartuccio over to Lady Jamandi Aldori. She's initially slightly confused when they appear at her manor, but is very pleased once the situation is explained to her. Tartuccio is taken into custody, and she explains to the heroes that her investigations had concluded that he might be a Pitaxi spy.
While they're in the city, the trio do a brief spot of shopping for magic runes and catch up with some old friends. Marcus visits his cousin Gaius Aldori (nee Lebeda), and they have a 'friendly' duel, which Marcus wins. Voldea and Tamlane call into the shrine of Sarenrae, and then retire to a nearby inn with the shrine-keeper Iroh. While Voldea swaps stories with him, Tamlane catches up with the innkeeper and her husband about local goings on.
They leave Restov on the 17th of Gozran, hoping to pack at the trading post by the 22nd. En route, they meet up with two other travellers - a bard named Jamir Cloverton, and a bounty hunter called Ash. As all five are headed in the same direction, they agree to travel together.
Meanwhile, Fraxinus and Mourgrym return to the Trading Post. Fraxinus settles in to make a magic wand and some silversheen vials, and Mourgrym works with Kesten Garess's small force of troops to protect the trading post.
A wandering hunter calls in one day, named Theralyon. There's something just a bit off about him, and so Fraxinus asks Gus to follow him when he leaves. The hunter spots Gus though, and orders him to back off - and shortly after, an eagle begins swooping down. Suspecting that the hunter might be one of the Stag Lord's druids, Gus beats a hasty retreat.
Another visitor arrives at the Trading Post on the 19th - a goblin sorcerer named Spicy Gobbles, who's wandering around ever since a terribly mysterious fire burned his circus down. His welcome is initially a little wary, but he puts on a fantastic display of fire magic and showmanship in the evening.
20th Gozran: Late that night, Mourgrym and Kesten are on watch at the Trading Post, when the barn catches fire! They raise the alarm, but before a bucket chain can be formed, a trio of wargs scale the Trading Post wall and attack. The beasts are beaten back, but several of the imprisoned bandits try to escape at this point. Eventually, all the escapees are slain, and the fire is extinguished before it does any serious damage to the barn (in part thanks to Spicy's fire-retardant Grease spell). The wargs were able to scale the wall because someone had cast Spider Climb on them, but there were no tracks to be found the next day. The heroes suspected that Theralyon had been involved somehow, as druids are very capable of sneaking into places unobserved, and he could have also empowered the wargs.
21st Gozran: As they near the Trading Post, the returning group overcome a large bandit ambush on the road. The bandits have the high ground, and it's a very hard fought battle. In the end, the heroes are victorious, though two of the bandits escape. They also capture Akiros Ismort, a renegade paladin of Abadar. Granted insight by the light of Sarenrae, Akiros falls to his knees in hope of redemption, and tells them everything he knows about the Stag Lord and his forces (including his pet owlbear)...
Session 5, Kobolds, Mites and a Gnome-bold
31st Pharast - 5th Gozran: While Fraxinus remains at the Trading Post to do some crafting, the rest of the group head out. Firstly, they travel to meet Tyg-Titter-Tut and Perlivsah, and persuade them to spy on the Stag Lord for them. In return, the pair want a bottle of elven absinthe, which Olga agrees to order for them. Continuing on to the east, they meet a young hunter named Thraysil, who warns them about the local wolves and shows them a nasty wolf bite he received recently. There's a brief showdown with a grizzly bear, and then the party are reunited at Bokken's hut.
6th - 8th Gozran: The party head south, exploring as they go. Their goal is the vast sycamore tree that the local mites live in, as they intend to find out what's going on between the mites and the local kobolds (and their strange new shaman Tartuk). En route, they find an old ruined wagon, dating back decades at least. They also find and defeat a pair of cockatrices, making a note to return to restore their paralysed victim when they have magic that can lift the curse.
9th Gozran: Travelling to the Great Sycamore, a vast tree almost 200 metres tall, they come across a skirmish between the kobolds and mites. The party intervene, most notably Fraxinus, who conjures up an illusory black dragon to scare the mites away. He commands the illusion to let him pet it goodbye before it flies away, convincing the kobolds that he's the ally of a real dragon. The kobolds beg for their aid in retrieving their holy relic from the mites, a statue of their tribal god Old Sharptooth. The heroes agree, and the kobolds lead them to the mites underground lair.
Descending into the mites tunnels, which are burrowed in and around the roots of the old tree, they manage to convince the mites to return the stolen relic peacefully. None of them are sure how long the mites will uphold their agreement to stop stealing and robbing people, but they are at least able to recover the statue and a kobold prisoner without any deaths on either side.
The kobolds lead the heroes home to their warrer, which lies in an old silver mine. The relic is presented to their former chief, Sootscale, who somewhat surprises everyone by smashing the relic, and calling for the death of the usurper shaman! The party join in the fight, and are able to capture the purple-scaled Tartuk alive.
They search his belongings, and find a bag of holding. It contains gnomish clothes and an lyre that match those of the Pitaxi bard Tartuccio. There's also a variety of minor magical items, and magical formulae (including a gruesome formula for a potion that polymorphs the drinker into another species - but it requires the blood from the still-beating heart of a member of that species to work...). The heroes decide to return the capture gnome/kobold to Lady Jamandi's justice in Restov.
Session 4, Finding the Stag Lord's Fort (20th - 30th Pharast)
20th - 21st Pharast: The heroes decided to leave the temple for another day, and pressed southwards. As they left the forest and entered the open plains, they came across the terrible boar Tuskgutter that Cerenna had warned them about. Tuskgutter proved a tough foe, but was eventually defeated. The heroes took his head as a trophy to present to Cerenna, relying on the chilly weather to keep it fresh.
22nd Pharast: Following the Thorn River southwards, they next came across a rickety bridge that stretched across the river gorge. Mourgrym examined the bridge and realised that it was barely safe to cross - and probably not safe to take the horses over. As he and Fraxinus discussed repairing the bridge (a multi-day project), a will-o-wisp attacked them! It proved a formidable foe, who downed Fraxinus twice before the party retreated.
23rd Pharast: The party continue to follow the Thorn River, and come across a dead horse being eaten by some giant centipedes. After defeating the insects, they find some loose change in the horse's saddlebags and a strange drawing of a lightning-struck tree sillohetted against the sky. Not sure of the significance, they keep the note for future reference. Marcus is able to track the rider's footsteps (it looks like the horse broke a leg after being startled by the centipedes, and the thrown rider fled). They lead back northwards, and they soon find the corpse of the rider who appears to have been killed by the will o wisp. The rider is dressed as a bandit, and wears the same silver necklace as Kressle, with the a silver stag's head pendant.
24th Pharast: Finally the Thorn River leaves the narrow gorge its worn into the hills, and merges with the Shrike River. There's a crude ford where the two rivers meet, but it's guarded by two river drakes. The party decide to engage, and what looks like being a tough fight is made much easier after Mourgrym cuts down one of the drakes with a single blow. After the drakes are killed, they examine their lair, and find a Lifting Belt and some other minor bits of jewelry.
25th Pharast: Following some tracks, the party decide to remain on the left side of the river, and carry on south. They meet a group of bandits, who are easily defeated. They take another prisoner (Boris Novak), who tells them that the Stag Lord's Fort is a just a few miles to the south. Gus is dispatched to investigate, and reports that the fort is a party ruined stone fort atop a hill on a lakeside. The stone fort is encircled by a 15-foot tall wooden palisade.
27th - 30th Pharast: The heroes travel back to the Trading Post. Cerenna is there, and rewards them with a Coyote Cloak after they present her with Tuskgutter's head.
Session 3, Wild boar, and shamblers and (owl)bears
The heroes spend a short while at the Trading Post, while Fraxinus transfers the magic rune they recovered from Kressle to Voldea's shield. They debate what to do with their prisoners, and end up making Nistor (the repentant former mercenary) into another guard for the trading post, while Melnik and Gismond (who are somewhat less sincere in their surrender) into labourers. Ayles Megeson is executed by Mourgrym, not far from the spot where his brother was slain.
The group decide to explore the wild areas closest to the Trading Post. Heading due east, they meet a wandering hunter named Cerenna Moltenbrew, who turns out to be a distant cousin by marriage of Mourgrym's. She shares her camp, and tells them where the trapped glade Perlivash and Tyg Tutter Tut told them about can be found, and gives them directions to the Temple of the Elk. She tells them to be careful when the moon is full, as she's heard strange beasts howling to the moon (and gives Mourgrym a silver dagger, just in case). She also warns them of a terrible wild boar that lives far to the south, a beast that slew her husband not long ago (as well as warning them, she offers them a reward if they can bring her the beast's head).
Heading south, they find the trapped glade and mark it up more visibly so that no-one is hurt accidentally. They run into a sounder of wild boar, and not having a bandit problem to deal with, attack the beasts and defeat them.
Pushing along the eaves of the forest, they meet Perlivash again, as the faerie dragon swoops down to warn them that a bush lurking ahead is in fact a shambler. Not entirely convinced (and utterly unable to see any different about this bush) they lob some boat meat at the bush - and watch it lash out a long vine-y tendril to feed upon it. They thank Perlivash, and spend the night with him and Tyg Tutter Tut (who is once again entranced by Marcus's musical performance). They also meet another hunter, a rather unfriendly woman named Sora, who warns them off the part of the forest to the south-west, as she claims it as her own.
They head via the old bandit camp at the Thorn River, and have a moderately terrifying encounter with an owlbear (it manages to drive Tamlane to the brink of death). Not deterred, they carry on towards the heart of the forest. They uncover the ruined temple of Erastil that Jhod Kavken told them about, and realise that it's home to numerous undead. They defeat a pack of undead wolves, but decide to draw back before pressing into the interior of the shrine.
Session 2, Exploring the Narlmarches
Our heroes rest from battle, and release a prisoner that the bandits hold captive - a cleric of Erastil named Jhod Kavken. Jhod explains that he entered the forest following a vision from Erastil, tasking him with cleaning a corrupted temple that lies somewhere within the forest's depths. For now, he agrees to return to the trading post with the party, as his brush with the bandits has made him realised that he can't complete his mission alone.
The heroes also interrogate their prisoners. One (Ayles Megeson, an escaped slave from Numeria) refuses to cooperate, as his brother was one of those killed at the trading post. The other bandit (Melnik, a thug on the run from Restov) is more helpful, and explains that the other two members of the band headed out to meet with a group from the Stag Lord's fort, and lead them into camp.
The heroes wait for the new group to return, and are able to defeat them. The blessings of Sarenrae cause one of the bandit (Nistor, a former mercenary from the Mendevian crusaders) to beg for mercy, and another (Gismond, a dwarven thug) is captured before he can escape. Nistor, Gismond and Melnik give their parole to the heroes, with varying degrees of sincerity, leaving them with just Ayles to watch.
They head back to the trading post, but take the time to explore properly. North of the bandits camp, they find a clearing with some strange radishes growing in it, and also avoid running into a shambler. Heading onto the open plains, they finally visit the reclusive alchemist Bokken, who proves to be an odd man. He claims to know nothing of the bandits, but a few minutes later, grimly tells Voldea that they should not offer mercy to the Stag Lord or his father. He also asks the heroes if they can recover some moon radishes for him (the strange vegetables they found the day before, which can only be harvested by the light of the full moon), and some fangflowers (which grow somewhere off to the south, between the forest and the lake).
As the full moon will be tomorrow, they return southwards to harvest the odd radishes. At moonrise, they enter the clearing and see the leaves of the radishes glimmering and shining. They also see four kobolds, who are also here after the radishes.... Despite Mourgrym's misgivings, they agree to share the radishes with the kobolds, and listen to their tale of woe. A rival tribe of mites (a small pixie-like fae) has stolen their holy relic (again), but this time the kobolds will march to war to recover their relic, rather than trying to steal it back. The kobolds explain they have a new shaman (Tartuk), who will lead them into open battle soon.
The heroes return once more to Bokken, who's very happy to have his moon radishes. Fraxinus offers Bokken an alchemical recipe that appears to be missing from the old man's formula book - but Bokken slams the door in his face when Fraxinus offers his acid flask recipe.
Finally, the heroes return to the trading post. A military garrison has been sent from Brevoy, and so the post is home to 5 warriors, led by Keston Garess.
Session 1, Olga's Trading Post and Thorn Ford
The group departed from Restov, and headed along the South Rostland Road. They were accompanied by Maegar Varn and his mercenary group, the Varnling Host. As the two groups travelled together, Marcus spent some time talking with Maegar's daughter Julia, while Fraxinus spent time discussing wizardry with Cephal Lorentus. That night, they arrived at the small village of Nivakta's Crossing, and spent a relaxing evening in the village's welcoming inn.
The innkeeper (Ranulf Idgeson) spoke with Marcus as he sat at the bar, asking if he'd like to hire on Ranulf's son Hans as an ostler/stable boy to manage the group's horses on the road. Ranulf explained that this son was very good with horses, but rather less good with people, and so a trip into the wilderness would be great. Marcus consulted with the others, and they met with Hans - who lived up to his father's words, being a rather quiet young man who was clearly not comfortable around people. Hans was hired on, becoming their first follower!
Ranulf also mentioned that a purple-haired gnome named Tartuccio had arrived earlier that morning, on a half-dead horse. He'd sold the horse to Ranulf, and purchased a large amount of supplies - which he placed into a bag of holding. Tartuccio then headed down river on a boat he'd conjured from a small token.
The next morning, the Varnling Host headed south, while our heroes carried on westwards. That day's travel brought them to Fort Serenko, one of the border forts. The night's accommodation was less pleasant than Nivakta's Crossing, but at least offered real beds and cooked food. The soldiers mentioned that the trading post they were headed to had sent word asking for help against bandits.
The next few days of travel were harder still. There were no villages or inns to shelter in, merely small road-side waystations that offered a roof and fireplace. Finally, they arrived at Olga's Trading Post - clearly another border fort once upon a time.
Olga Leveton and her wife Svetlana welcomed them, but there had been some confusion - the two women were expecting a military relief force to help guard the trading post against bandits. Brevic politics and bureaucracy are often disorganised, and so the group had no idea if they were the military relief force - or if the kingdom was sending a second group after them.
The Levetons explained that a group of bandits had being robbing them for the past few months, and that they turned up towards the start of each month - and that the next visit was likely to be tomorrow, or the day after. The heroes agreed to protect the trading post, and decided to wait for the bandits to enter before attacking them. As well as stealing their trade goods, the bandits had also taken Olga and Svetlana's wedding rings to try and cow the two women further.
Their attempts to hide were not entirely successful, but the combat against the bandits went rather better - they captured the leader alive, and slew the other two bandits before they could flee. The leader (Happs Byden) rapidly spilled the beans when pressured, not having any great personal courage or devotion to his fellow bandits.
Happs was second-in-command to a woman named Kressle, who led a small group of 9 or 10 bandits that operated out of a camp in the nearby Narlwood, near a ford on the Thorn River. Kressle was herself a subordinate of the Stag Lord, the overall leader of the bandits. Happs had never met the Stag Lord, and only knew vaguely where his fort was - some distance to the south, on the shores of a lake. Happs gave them detailed directions to find the game trail that led to the bandits camp.
Marcus and Tamlane both looked at the clouds above the trading post, and saw that a large storm was on the way. Not wanting to be out from cover during a late winter storm, they spent a few days waiting it out at the trading post. They hoped that Happs' delay in returning to camp would be explained as a consequence of the bad weather. While they waited, Fraxinus adapted two suits of plate armour for Voldea and Morgrym, gifts from the grateful Levetons. Olga also mentioned that a wizard in New Stetven had sent a commission to the trading post - he'd pay 75 gold for the intact corpse of a tatzlwyrm, a venomous dragon-like beast that lives in the forests nearby.
After the storm cleared, they headed off to find the game trail to the Thorn Ford camp. Tamlane was able to follow Happs' directions and find the trail, and they headed into the forest. Part way through the day, a large rustling and stomping noise was heard from the undergrowth to the left. The group dismounted, and made ready to face a mighty foe. Then, a squirrel darted from the undergrowth and the crashing noises followed it as it moved past them. Somewhat confused, they carried on...
They found a decent campsite, and made rest that night, relying on a guard rota and Tamlane's alarm spell to keep watch. In the morning, Voldea found that someone had put slugs into her boots - a very unpleasant discovery first thing in the day! With this new event, Tamlane suddenly realised that trick-loving fae could be behind this - and that they key would be to laugh along with the jokes, and offer the fae gifts to become friends. Everyone made small offering of food or alcohol, and in a short while, a faerie dragon and grig appeared. They introduced themselves as Perlivash (the dragon) and Tyg-Titter-Tut (the grig). Perlivash explained that they had followed the group, trying to make sure they weren't 'more nasty bigginses'. Once the pair were reassured that they weren't bandits, they started a game to see who could play the most tricks before being caught. They praised the group for being good sports, and wished them good luck against the mean bigginses. Perlivash also mentioned that a nearby glade in the forest was very heavily trapped by a different nasty biggins, and so they should be careful (apparently some big logs had fallen on the nasty biggins not long after, in a clearly unrelated event).
The group set off again, hoping to reach the bandit camp around midday. During the morning, they once again heard rustling noises from the undergrowth. Tyg-Titter-tut had admitted to causing the noisy squirrel of the previous day, but had also said that she didn't repeat tricks. The group once again made ready, and their caution was rewarded when a wild boar emerged from the bushes ahead. Voldea was at the front, and managed to get everyone to back off enough to avoid angering the beast.
As they approached the camp, they left the horses in Hans' care. They decided to split up - Marcus, Fraxinus and Voldea would sneak through the undergrowth, while Morgyrm and Tamlane would pretend to be travelers ripe for banditry. The plan works brilliantly, and the bandits are swiftly defeated, including their leader Kressle, who falls in battle. They capture two of the bandits, and also expect another couple of bandits to return from hunting later on that day.
Prologue, Jamandi Manor
Our heroes gather at the manor of Jamandi Aldori, one of the most powerful Swordlords in Restov. She is one of the sponsors behind a series of expeditions from Brevoy into the Stolen Lands, and has invited Marcus, Fraxinus and Morgrym to form one of the groups. Marcus invited Voldea, and she in turn suggested that Tamlane join them.
There are four expeditions headed south and southwest:
The group spend a few days in planning and provisioning, getting ready for heading off into the wilds. Jamandi outfits them with horses, tack and supplies, but no more. Both Drelev and Varn's expeditions will be accompanied by forces of mercenaries (either hired by Drelev, or Varn's own forces).
The evening before they're due to depart, Jamandi hosts a feast to bid them farewell. The Lord Mayor of Restov (Ioseph Sellemius) and a representative of the regent (Rannek Surtova, a cousin of King Noleski Surtova) are there, as well as a Pitaxi bard (Tartuccio). A pleasant evening is had by all, and Marcus, Drelev and Varn are all presented with formal charters by Jamandi Aldori.
Late that night, the group awake to the smell of smoke - the manor is on fire! They gather in the corridor outside their rooms, and Tamlane spots a fire mephit through a window, setting the great hall on fire. At that moment, a pair of armed intruders attack. They're swiftly defeated, and the group split up - Voldea, Fraxinus and Tamlane head upstairs to check on Varn and his allies, while Marcus and Morgrym head downstairs to check on Drelev.
Voldea, Fraxinus and Tamlane arrive in the nick of time, as Maeger Varn and his allies are under attack from another group of intruders. Cephal Lorentus, Varn's wizard advisor, is down on the ground next to a burning rafter, while Varn and Haelen (commander of the Varnling Host) fight off attackers. Tamlane darts forward to help Cephal, while Voldea and Fraxinus take out an archer (who flees downstairs), before helping Varn to deal with the remaining attackers. Cephal pulls out a scroll of Hydraulic Push and quenches the worst of the fire, giving them time to retrieve their belongings from the burning building.
Downstairs, Marcus and Morgrym realise the Drelev and his wife have already left their room, and that the ground floor is empty. The fleeing archer almost runs into them, and beats a rapid retreat before they can capture him. Fraxinus and Tamlane talk to Cephal about the mephit, and he confirms their suspicions that it has probably been summoned here. If they can capture the elemental, it may be persuaded to talk about the person who summoned it.
The group head towards the Great Hall, where Jamandi is busy organising a bucket chain and dealing with other groups of attackers. She reveals that she slew the mephit herself, and that the body faded almost instantly - confirming the summoning hypothesis, but leaving no chance to talk to the creature.
The fire is brought under control, and Voldea helps tend to the wounded. Thankfully, no-one has died - though the bard Tartuccio has vanished in the chaos. Rannek Surtova graciously extends an invitation to host everyone, as Jamandi's manor has been badly damaged. Jamandi is fuming over the whole affair, trying to work out who could have been behind this.
The following morning, the group finally depart Restov. The Varnling Host travel with them, as the two groups are bound the same way for the first day or so of travel.
Why not take a different level 8 class feat if this one doesn't do anything? There's several level 8 feats that seem thematically appropriate for a bear barbarian, e.g. instinctive strike or thrash. Sudden leap and Renewed Vigor also look like good feats.
It's a bit odd that the animal-specific feat doesn't do anything for your particular barbarian, but it's not the end of the world.
I do run my games in a VTT, and so can see how many rounds combat goes to very easily. 2 to 3 rounds would be at the shorter end, with 5 or 6 being typical. I end up my fights fairly promptly too - if there's one opponent left, and the whole party get to act before it, I'll wrap things up there and then rather than playing out to the dull inevitable end.
Remember, in a real fight the whole party can't attack at 100% every round. Maybe the fighter got slowed, and so only gets 1 attack. Maybe the wizard needs to focus on getting an unconscious person up before they make a recovery check. Maybe the rogue needs to run around a giant zone of greater darkness.
You might call that 'bias', but when you're making decisions about how to allocate resources, I'll take the bias of reality over the 'objective' proof of the damage dealing tool!
That might be what a white-room tool predicts, but a 2-3 round combat is very short, especially for a severe encounter! I'd say 5 to 6 rounds is more normal (this is based on actual play, not a model).
It gives your allies more time to heal you before you start making death saves.
Imagine that a dragon is going on initiative 23, and you're on initiative 22 with 1hp. The dragon critically hits, taking you straight to Dying 2.
With the rules as written, you allies have a whole round to heal you!
With your houserule, you could die if you roll poorly on your recovery check - and no-one has any chance to intervene. If you're out of hero points, and/or are already wounded, the odds get even worse.
There are few options to make tracking initiative easier in person. One is to use magnetic strips on a whiteboard, like the official initiative tracker. Or, if you use a GM screen, you can write everyone's name on a separate piece of card that you fold in half and drop over the top of the screen. You can physically adjust the order of the bits of card to reflect changes in initiative.
Both methods also make it super easy for the players to see who's coming up next, which I find helps to speed up combat.
"What do you do?" is my default question. There's no harm at all in being direct.
If the players are being overwhelmed/undecisive, I'll often chip in to repeat their options ("So, you could go north where you heard the strange noises, go back to the locked door in the 1st level, or go south where you saw the ogre patrol - or something else. What do you want to do?").
One per group. I hand mine out with a more-or-less hourly timer, and let the players decide who gets it - they normally pick whoever's spent their starting one!