Inspectre's Curse of the Crimson Throne Alterations (Spoilers!)

Curse of the Crimson Throne

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Alternate Title: How I Learned to Stop Caring and Break the AP

Hello everyone!

Long-time lurker, first time poster here.
I got roped into DMing a Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign a little over a year ago.

It's been a number of firsts for me, between first-time DMing Pathfinder (and indeed, playing Pathfinder other than a few one-shots and putting together a couple Pathfinder characters from the SRD for fun) and first-time running a published AP (I've tended to DM homebrew games prior).

Needless to say, I've made some mistakes and had some struggles, but I've got a pretty good group and CotCT pretty much deserves its reputation as one of Paizo's best APs. In short, running CotCT for the past year plus has been a whole lot of FUN.

All of the well-deserved praise aside, however, there's always ways to tailor a pre-written AP to better fit the party and just add more fun stuff! One way I've done this is to voraciously comb through this entire wonderful sub-forum and absorb all of the ideas and passion put forth in 1,000+ threads talking about CotCT and what various DMs have tweaked or added. I've incorporated some of those ideas into my own game (thanks everyone!) and been inspired by others to come up with my own vaguely original material (okay, so mostly I just slapped some fresh paint on other stuff that I stole).

I would like to pay some of that back now by posting my own contributions to the Curse of the Crimson Throne AP, in the hopes that some other prospective DM will be inspired by one or another of my mad ramblings. Also appeal to my own vanity by talking about all the horrible things I've inflicted on my poor, poor players for your entertainment - but mostly to inspire new DMs to this AP how to inflict new and sometimes bizarre sorts of suffering on their players!

As such, consider this thread a combination campaign journal, CotCT discussion, DM Planning/Asking for Advice/Feedback (currently in Book 3, Escape from Old Korvosa), and place for me to store my mad ramblings on the CotCT adventure path. Feel free to comment on or steal for your own game anything that you like!

It should go without saying that there will be heavy spoilers in this thread. Since I'm also thinking about weaving some modules into the AP as well, I will try to keep a list here of all the content that you should be prepared to be spoiled on at some point. That being said, I've also gone pretty far afield from the AP as written, so this is also probably not the place to be if you want to find out how the AP is supposed to go. Right then, I think that covers things, so let’s move on to the game itself.

Potential Spoilers Ahead for:
Curse of the Crimson Throne AP (Books 1-6) Plus Guide to Korvosa
Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale
The Harrowing
Academy of Secrets

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So, as I mentioned above, I made some significant alterations to the AP. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I derailed the intended course of the AP from the first session, and continued to drive it in some other direction until the path as written was just a dim shape on the horizon. The bones of the AP are still very much there (Book One deals with the anarchy following King Eodred’s death, Book Two is still the Blood Veil plague, etc.) as are the characters. But I also made some pretty significant changes to important characters and events to redirect the AP more in the direction that I wanted it to go.

What was my goal in taking what was a pretty well-written, laid out AP, plus or minus the departure from Korvosa for Books 4 & 5 and the somewhat lackluster revolution in Book 6? Well, other than the fact that I can’t leave well enough alone, I had several specific goals in mind.

Central Conceit:

First and most important, I wanted to change the central villain from Ileosa to Kazavon. This is not to say that Ileosa is lacking as a villain – she’s certainly one of the better written and integrated into the campaign villains of all the APs. As cliché as it may be, I simply liked the idea of an ancient evil draconic warlord living on through pieces of his body and attempting to come back to life BETTER.

This could have been done with minimal changes probably to Ileosa herself, but having moderately evil bad girl being controlled by super evil bad guy was not as compelling to me as a relatively decent person being steadily and inevitably corrupted into a monster by Kazavon’s presence. That, and I was also inspired by a “Redeeming Ileosa” thread I saw on these boards, so I wanted to make saving Ileosa from herself/Kazavon into a potential goal for the party. Obviously, as written Ileosa is a thoroughly vile and evil person with Kazavon, and a rather petty and evil person without him. So, since a fairly key part of motivating my players to even consider saving Ileosa instead of just muderhoboing her is getting them to *like* her, that requires additional chances to interact with her and for her to be fairly likeable.

This turned out to be easier than it sounds – she doesn’t need to be a saint, just more neutral, less selfish and racist, and have a somewhat more passive role at the start of the AP. Thus, Ileosa is not responsible for the death of her husband, King Eodred, nor is she responsible for the Blood Veil Plague. Rather, those are the tragedies that Ileosa is confronted with at the beginning of the AP, and those serve as the catalyst for the players to become her friends, and for Kazavon to use as fuel to start twisting Ileosa into his image. Now that my game is in Book Three, and the players are well ingratiated with their new queen, Kazavon’s influence is rapidly growing and now the central conflict is how to counter that influence – exactly as planned. Well, more or less as planned, anyway.

Of course, those changes open up a new can of worms, namely if Ileosa is not responsible for Eodred’s murder, then who is? Well, since the intent is for Ileosa to grow into her role as super villain under Kazavon’s horrific tutelage, that simply means that the villains of the first half of the AP simply have to step up to fill in the gap.

In short, there was a conspiracy between Bahor and Andaisin to gain control of the Crimson Throne through a puppet on the throne. At first, they had intended for the puppet to be Eodred, and set Ileosa, Andaisin’s street rat protégé from Cheliax, up as the strings they would use. But their plan backfired when Eodred and Ileosa actually fell in love with each other. So they came up with a new plan – kill Eodred, leaving his inexperienced, easily controlled queen on the throne where Andaisin as Ileosa’s mentor and surrogate mother could bend her to suit Bahor’s whims. Andaisin wanted to keep her own hands clean of regicide, so she acquired some accomplices of her own – Venster, Eodred’s tiefling brother who did the actual poisoning (as written in the AP), and a washed-up adventurer turned crime lord with the connections necessary to acquire the poison – Gaedren Lamm. Suffice to say, each person’s plans backfire as their chosen minions make a mess of things by trying to turn the situation to their own advantage, and the PCs get involved to make a mess of everything.

Which leads me to the second conceit of my game – after the build-up that he got in the Player’s Guide to CotCT, I knew that I just *had* to give Gaedren Lamm a bigger part than the weak old man that the players curbstomp as their very first actions within the AP! So instead I made him Andaisin’s chief accomplice in the murder of Eodred, receiving significant resources in return for his assistance. Andaisin’s plan goes awry, however, when Gaedren decides that he’d rather burn out than fade away as he had been doing over the past twenty years, and launches a campaign of anarchy across the city in the wake of Eodred’s death, using the resources Andaisin had given him as payment. This meant that taking him down was considerably more involved, and lasted for the first half of Book One.

Much like Gaedren Lamm, I also wanted the Order of the Nail Hellknights to have a larger role in the course of the AP rather than fading away after the first couple encounters of Book One! They therefore were a reappearing menace as they assisted Korvosa in restoring order with brutal efficiency, even if their methods were intended to accomplish the same goal as the PCs – restore peace to Korvosa and mount Gaedren Lamm’s head on a pike. I also decided that I wanted something more exotic than straight fighters, and so I instead gave them all levels in the Magus class instead. This made them quite frightening at the start of the game, as the veteran Hellknkights (the ones stomping around in breastplates with fiendish designs), had at least 7 levels in Magus (when a Magus can cast in Medium Armor). When one of my players wanted to make a Hellknight character, I leapt at the opportunity, and therefore the Hellknights have grown to have a bigger role in the campaign than even previously planned.

Having the PCs gradually become Ileosa’s friends and confidants over the first couple books also gave me the opportunity to introduce a number of the villains that appear in the second half – Togomor & Cinnabar in particular. This was particularly important, as like Ileosa, I wanted these major villainous NPCs to be seen as people, rather than the Pathfinder equivalent of Darth Maul who only show up at their designated time to die in five minutes of screen time. With the party becoming close with the queen, it was relatively easy to integrate them as fellow important people coming to orbit around Ileosa’s growing influence.

Finally, as I was aware that I would be modifying and adding on material to the AP, and APs tend to have a fairly narrow margin of XP before going out of whack (too much XP and the party becomes overleveled for the challenges), I decided to run the campaign on the Slow XP track. I could have just eyeballed the level-ups and done away with XP entirely, but I like XP as a reward for success (not necessary just for killing things) and since I was just starting out DMing for what was essentially a new group of strangers, I didn’t want to rock the boat more than I already was. So having it on the Slow track for XP gave me room to pad on extra content, award XP for non-combat related things (roleplaying, solving problems, whatever), and tack on a few extra creatures here and there to up the challenge (because except for “that one darn fight” per book, AP fights tend to be a little anemic and too easily steamrolled by a competent party). It’s actually worked surprisingly well up to this point, although now that we’re getting into the mid-levels as of Book Three, the leveling up for the party has definitely slowed down. Part of that may be due to a lot more of the game being roleplaying than dungeon crawling though – I imagine once they start wading into House Arkona their XP will skyrocket. Or they’ll be dead thanks to the swarms of high-CR opponents in there, in which case they won’t need the XP! Win-win!

I think that covers the basics of where I started the AP from, what I set out to accomplish, and why. Future posts will go more into a chronological recap of the campaign, with commentary of what I changed for a given scene, why, and how it turned out. I may give some mechanics talk of what build I used for which NPC, but I probably won’t post detailed stat blocks as some others have done. Mostly because I’m still a bit of a newbie DM as far as Pathfinder is concerned, and thus my builds are quite possibly terrible/just wrong due to a rules mistake. And I only tend to finish them as far as necessary for combat – I can’t stand assigning skill points and the like.

Hi Inspectre

Thanks for sharing your ideas. Your take on Ileosa and all the changes you've made to accommodate that difference in character are new, but inspiring. I think it works very well. I'm definitely looking forward to reading about the changes you've made.

Apart from telling us how you've been adapting the AP so far, you might also consider sharing your future conversions. Bouncing ideas off other DMs here on the boards is actually a good way to shape those new concepts into even finer story elements. In other words, we could offer you feedback on your changes, while you might also inspire us to incorporate some of your ideas into our current campaigns.

My group is at the end of book 2 now, and after they take out the temple of Urgathoa (they're about half way through) they will embark on a 'Conquest of Bloodsworn Vale' inspired sidequest, looking for an ingredient for the cure. Although I've written out all my alterations to the entire AP already, nothing is set in stone and I can still make improvements, so your ideas would certainly be welcome.

Radiant Oath

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Inspectre, ol' buddy! Welcome, you magnificent bastard! :D

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MrVergee – Thank you! And yes, absolutely I’d love to use this board as a place to refine some of my wackier ideas for the future. But I suspect that I should try to catch up to the where the game is currently so that there is some frame of reference for everyone. My version has drifted substantially from the AP as written, and since Book Three has started . . . well . . . let’s just say that it’s going increasingly off the rails completely. And I’m loving every moment of it!

Archpaladin Zousha – Hey old friend! I thought I had seen you posting around here some time ago. How did your own run of CotCT go?

So, let’s begin the actual recap. First, a little more background on the prep and planning that I did before the game actually started. Obviously, I didn’t have everything planned out in triplicate, particularly as I wasn’t positive this game was going to last - although after making the investment of buying several books of the AP, I certainly hoped it would! One of the things that I wanted to do was open each book of the AP with an introductory scene. I enjoy writing (ugh, is there anything worse than a DM who thinks he’s a writer!?) and I thought it would be a good way to give my players an idea of what was going on outside of their immediate surroundings/preview some of what was coming up in the next book.

Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to write up the Book One intro (what with having to prepare for the game with pretty much only two weeks or so from the time I agreed to host the first session). In a way this also worked out as it separated the events at Castle Korvosa from the party, allowing them to focus solely on their fated-to-be-foiled revenge on Gaedren Lamm. I did write up an abbreviated version of the scene as the dream one of the PCs had near the beginning of Book Three (more on that later).

I also found a musical theme to include as part of this scene, as I *love* tying musical themes into characters and events wherever possible. I’ve found it really adds something to the game, and I myself have a lot of fun trying to hunt down the perfect theme for a given character or situation. This particular theme, meant for the Book One intro, went on to become Queen Ileosa’s personal theme (at least up through the first three books).

Book One Intro Theme:

I’m not sure what Paizo’s policy is on posting links to Youtube, so I’m not going to post a link to the song directly. Nonetheless, if you want to give a listen, it’s Rising Force by R. Armando Morabito featuring Tina Guo. I thought that the mounting beat gave a menacing undertone, and the chanting near the end added an additional “ritual” component to it that was appropriate for Kazavon imbedding himself in Ileosa’s psyche. The first time my players heard it (later on in the game when they finally came face to face with Ileosa), they were convinced that she was some sort of devil. In other words, it was the perfect theme! :D

Here is an summarized version of that scene.

Book One Intro:

In a bedroom in Castle Korvsa, one both ornately appointed and gloomily decorated, a man lies on his deathbed. It was the final night of king Eodred II’s life. But he did not die alone – kneeling beside the bed was his lovely young queen, Ileosa Arabasti. Eyes bloodshot and red with tears, the king’s wife was still lovely to his fading sight. Desperately, she clings to Eodred’s withered right hand as if she could hold him to this life.

“Stay with me . . .”

She begs, and the king manages a weak turn of his head in response. He manages to wheeze out, his voice thin and gurgling.

"I am . . . afraid . . . I cannot. Forgive me."

With the last of his strength, the king reaches under his shirt with his free hand, and produces a long iron key which he presses into Ileosa’s hands.

“The burden . . . is now yours . . . to bear . . .”

The king's last word breaks off into a gurgle, and after a few last moments of desperate struggle for life, he surrenders to the inevitable, and dies. Ileosa clutches the key and nods in acceptance of the king's last request, and then collapses into grief.

The next day, Ileosa ventures into the depths of Castle Korvosa, lantern in one hand and the key Eodred gave her in the other. She is alone, with not even Sabrina with her as she did not know what it was that she would find down here. She comes at last to a heavily barred door, which opens at a turn of Eodred’s key – beyond is the castle treasury. Mounds of coins sit about the floor in roughly organized piles, and more than one magical item sits on stands and figurine mannequins.

Ileosa spends the next few minutes walking around the treasury, a mixture of wonder and confusion on her face - it's clear she doesn't understand what Eodred was so worried about. Where was the burden of having access to Korvosa's royal treasury? And then something catches her eye - there, in the back corner - some sort of glint of light, or discoloration of the stone? Something seems to tip her off, for she regards the back corner anxiously for a moment, and then gathers her resolve and walks directly towards that corner.

A moment spent searching reveals a keyhole disguised with a false stone cover, which Ileosa lifts aside, and after a moment’s thought inserts the key she had used to open the treasury. The key slides in, and then pops back out as a secret panel slides aside, prompting Ileosa to jump back in fright as the grinding of the stone and sudden gust of wind coming from beyond sound momentarily like a scream.

The room beyond is small, but lit with some sort of eerie glow that seems to have no obvious source. Dominating the middle of the room is a pedestal surrounded by a double ring of runes etched into the stone. Sitting on the pedestal is a large golden box, bound by chains and with a heavy lock.

Ileosa takes an uncertain step into the room, and then another, her eyes focused on the box as if hypnotized. She looks around - looks at the runes, looks at the box, then at the runes again. Checks over her shoulder, and seems to be considering whether or not to leave. Then she looks down at the key still in her hands, and clearly makes a decision as she sets the lantern down in the doorway as if to jam it open should the door try to slide shut behind her and walks towards the box, key held out in front of her like a ward.

The key slides into the lock just as easily as it has in all the other locks before now and with a sharp turn of Ileosa’s hand, the chest is unlocked. There is a loud hiss, and a cacophony of clattering metal as the chains fall off of the box. Of its own accord, the box opens - inside is a blinding glow, even stronger than what had been filling the room until now - and a jagged crown of metal and bone.

Her courage finally failing her, Ileosa turns to run, but is frozen in place as the light within the box twists and LEAPS towards her. it surrounds her, and she is lifted off of her feet, her body spasming uncontrollably as the light forces its way into her through her eyes, ears, and nose. She opens her mouth to scream, and the light pours down her throat.

And then just as abruptly, the light snaps off, and ileosa drops to the floor, one arm flailing into the box as she falls, and sending it clattered down off the pedestal, the crown tumbling out to land beside her. Ileosa lies on the floor, comatose for an uncertain period of time. Then finally, she stirs. She looks around in confusion, and then spots the crown lying on the floor next to her.

"Everything will be alright."

She murmurs to herself, as she reaches out, picks up the crown, and places it firmly down onto her head. Then she gets up, closes the secret door behind her, pockets the key, and strides out of the treasury with a much greater confidence than when she first entered.

I made one mistake here with my script for what happened at Castle Korvosa during the opening of Book One – the Crown of Fangs was not, by the book, actually completed yet. Instead, it was just the Fangs that Ileosa found, which she forges into a crown at the start of Book Three. I didn’t realize this until reviewing the opening of Book Three . . . but I figured out a pretty darn good explanation for where the crown came from. Which I will cover in a much later post. If you’re curious now, here’s a simplified version for you.

Origin of the Crown of Fangs:

Queen Domina, Eodred’s mother and one of Korvosa’s most popular rulers in history, had the Crown of Fangs forged. She met her end under mysterious and unfortunate circumstances (an all-consuming fire swept through Castle Korvosa) before she could put the newly forged crown on, however.

Although it was not until later that I codified the central theme or conflict of each of the first three books, I would say that the central one for Book One was “Confronting Anarchy”. All sorts of chaos came to befall the city in the wake of Eodred’s death, and it would be the PCs who would confront it and eventually put an end to it. This would take on various forms, but at least for the first half, Gaedrem Lamm would be front-and-center as the chief instigator of this city-wide anarchy.

So, even from the start of the game, I knew that Gaedren would have a major role to play in Book One. While I considered alternate openings (including the one MrVergee was planning to use with the players starting as children under Gaedren’s tutelage), I decided to keep the start simple and mostly by-the-book, save that Gaedren would not be present at the fishery the night of the PCs’ assault. Essentially, Zellara had the right idea, and the party would eventually bring down Gaedren Lamm, but Fate had other ideas in mind than a final confrontation on this first night of the game.

We are playing the game online using Maptools, so I spent much of my two weeks of available prep time reviewing the AP’s first book, plotting out the beginnings of my modifications to the game, and creating the Fishery in Maptools and updating the stat blocks for Pathfinder (as well as upgrading the opposition just a tiny bit).

Unfortunately I had a lot of difficulty in properly scaling the map to match Maptool’s gridlines – I suspect due to not having a full-version of Adobe Acrobat that can properly modify the size ratios of the map pics. This was fine by me anyway, as I’ve found a lot of the maps to be too small to my taste – perhaps it’s just my experiences with 4E D&D, but I like having more expansive maps where there is room to maneuver. So I tend to tack a couple extra 5’ squares in here and there to ensure that players and enemies have enough room to maneuver, except in situations where the quarters are supposed to be tight and claustrophobic.

The rest of the time I spent familiarizing myself with the Harrow cards. I did create a custom series of draws for the Harrow to use after the party recovered Zellara’s Harrow deck in order to foreshadow the death of the king and the city’s plunge into anarchy. *BUT*, for the first set of draws that happened at Zellara’s house to bring the party together, I wanted to do it on the fly, and that meant having an idea of what each card represented when drawn for a given alignment.

Time went by quickly, and all too soon it was time for our first session. While not perfect, I would say that it worked out pretty well. Next post will cover the assault on the Fishery, which took up two entire sessions. A recurring theme of this game is that, due to only communicating by text (and that’s the way we like it, particularly as I have a fairly crap microphone so VoIP wasn’t a good option for us), is that I tend to overestimate how quickly we move through content. Which is good for me, as it tends to take me awhile to prepare the next batch of content to play through, so I can stretch things out a bit for an extra week when I need to do so.

Radiant Oath

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Inspectre wrote:
Archpaladin Zousha – Hey old friend! I thought I had seen you posting around here some time ago. How did your own run of CotCT go? did a run of it. It was only in the hypothetical. <.<

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So, before launching into a recap of the first session, let’s introduce the starting party!

Ichihara – Aasimar Summoner (Kicked out of the Acadame thanks to Lamm’s meddling). Unfortunately Ichihara was only around for the first session before the player flaked out, so I don’t remember much of her beyond the race and class.
Vaz’em – Catfolk Ninja (Boss’s son was kidnapped by Lamm. Vaz’em needs to get him back quick – or else!) The consummate professional, Vaz’em is not quite aloof, but definitely guarded around others and always careful to watch his own back.
Alice – Dhampir Oracle (Takes the shape of a young girl, whose “Mommy” was taken away – i.e. killed – by Lamm). Pretty much a creepy child whose innocent posture is just a veneer over the much-older-in-reality cunning manipulator.
Oliver – Human Fighter (Oliver used to work for Lamm in the very same fishery . . . until Lamm sold him into slavery overseas. Oliver’s been fighting to survive, and fighting his way back to Korvosa to get his revenge ever since.) Oliver is pretty much just . . . an uncouth a*&@%@*.

First Session:

As I mentioned before, this was a completely new group, and I was still a bit anxious about rocking the boat due to not having much familiarity with Pathfinder. Therefore I kept the opening scenes largely the same as provided in the AP.

Having found a mysterious Harrow card in their belongings one day, each character is offered the chance to take their revenge against Gaedren Lamm. The only catch is that they need to come to 3 Lancet Street in order meet the benefactor of this opportunity. The group meets each other in a small map labeled Lancet Street with much further fanfare. They banter back and forth a little bit, establishing their characters. Oliver is quick to establish his status as the group’s jerk, mocking Alice and wondering out loud what a child though she was doing here. Eventually they decided to just get this over with if it meant putting Lamm’s head on a pike, and enter Zellara’s abode.

Again I pretty much use the situation out of the book for Zellara’s home, describing it as in the AP as a small, homely residence with a large empty table awaiting them, and the three tapestries hanging in the background. As typical of players, they latch onto the tapestries as something of interest, so I ad-lib some Knowledge checks to try to determine what each one represents. I set them at escalating DCs for each subsequent tapestry . . . I believe the first one was DC 15, then DC 20, and then finally DC 25. They managed to make the checks for the first two (drat, my plan to get the players to stop asking questions I had no ready answer for foiled!).

So, remembering some of the details from Book One’s article on Varisians, I ad-libbed that the tapestry of the heart juggling beast was an ancient depiction of Desna, one of the patron goddesses of Varisians. At the time of their death, Desna would attempt to juggle their heart – if they had lived a free life on the road as was typical of the nomadic Varisian culture, then it would be easy for her to juggle. If, on the other hand, they had allowed their heart to become heavy with the burdens of life, tied down to a single location all their days, then the heart would fall from her grasp, and reveal that person as unworthy of the Varisian afterlife.

Next, the tapestry of the angels dancing on the mountaintop was a depiction of the angels said to have led the Varisians out of their ancient homeland where they had been enslaved, starting out a new lives for themselves as free wanderers and travelers.

The last tapestry of the skeletal figure in the mists I did not have to explain since they did not make the crazy-hard DC 25 check, but if they had made it I would have explained that it was a depiction of the tyrant who had enslaved the Varisians in the first place. I’m *not* sure if that was Kazavon, and even if I had decided it had been, I likely would have held off on dropping his name this early in the AP. But it was tempting to re-write Golarion history (of which I knew virtually nothing about at this point) such that Kazavon was pretty much responsible for a whole lot of awful things, including enslaving the Varisians before they escaped his grasp hundreds of years ago.

I really did pretty much make up those explanations for the tapestries on the fly, something of which I was quite proud of because I tend to find ad-libbing details difficult. It’s a crucial DM skill to be sure, and one that I’ve gradually become better at, but it’s definitely something that I need practice with, so when I do manage to pull something out of thin air I tend to be insufferably pleased with myself. Fortunately, the ab-libbed details seemed to satisfy my players’ curiosity, and shortly thereafter they sat down and I introduced Zellara.

Again, I played her fairly close to the book, and fortunately while my players may have had some minor doubts about her, they were all pretty much willing to play along to get the AP started. If they had been suspicious and started to pry, I likely would have done as the sidebar suggested and reveal Zellara’s status as a ghost to them. As it was, her already-dead condition got saved to be a surprise at the end of the fishery.

In the interests of proving the party’s meeting was ordained by Fate, Zellara offered to do a Harrow reading as she typically did for her clients – this one free of charge, of course. First came the Choosing, with each player picking a card. Unable to purchase a PDF of Paizo’s Harrow deck, I instead made my own Harrow cards from various pictures that I felt were appropriate or simply amusing (as an example, wanting to use a wedding cake top as the image for the Marriage card, I found a picture where someone had done a set of cake top figures in the form of Harry and Draco from Harry Potter. Given the abundance of slash fan fiction involving the two, I found this to be hilarious. My players were more confused than amused when the Marriage card finally got drawn in Book Two, but that’s life sometimes – my sense of humor doesn’t always translate well.)

Vaz’em drew the Locksmith (Bonus vs. Gaedren – appropriate!), Oliver drew the Rabbit Prince, Alice drew the Crows, and Ichihara drew the Demon’s Lantern (a hint at her future fate, perhaps?). Following this, as I had practiced Zellara drew a random set of Harrow cards (I used dice to simulate the rolls, and had set up a complex table macro in Maptools to roll the dice, consult the necessary tables, and sit down the exact card for me). The cards that they drew for the past were The Eclipse, The Foreign Merchant, and the Locksmith. For the present: The Owl, The Betrayal, and the Liar. And finally, for the future, The Midwife, The Dance, and the Publican. As I was ad-libbing again, I can’t quite remember what I said for each, although I drew the cards one and a time and had Zellara give some interpretation of what she thought it meant. Apparently I did a good job with the ad-libbing as several people thought the Harrow reading was pretty cool.

I also used this opportunity to tell them about the Harrow points and their potential uses within this Book. No one was particularly impressed with the bonuses, particularly given that they only had a few uses of them (a generous three points in total based on the cards that I drew). I wasn’t particularly satisfied with the Harrow points (and still am not), but as of yet I have not come up with an interesting way to recharge them to grant more points, nor offer more appealing bonuses and interesting uses for them. One day, for the second half of the AP, perhaps.

In any event, with the Harrow complete and directions to Lamm’s hideout, the party set out – but not before one final interruption. Just for fun, I had decided ahead of time that should the Foreign Merchant card be drawn during the Harrow reading, a literal mysterious merchant from . . . somewhere . . . would appear to the party shortly thereafter to peddle his wares. Basically, think of the merchant guy from Resident Evil 4 and you’ve got the guy that walked up to the party just after they left Zellara’s house. At the time, I wasn’t sure who or what this guy actually was, although I’m pretty sure I have an idea now.

Of course, I had neglected to roll up a list of items that said merchant had on stock – essentially I was going to play him like his own miniature city with his own set of magic items that would change over time. So when the players asked what he had, I had to pay him as coy, and that he could procure for them whatever they desired – for a price. Being that these guys were level 1 adventurers, just one step up from bums, they didn’t have any money to offer the merchant either, and so negotiations came to a swift close.

But before he left, the merchant did give them each a Harrow card – of the Foreign Merchant, fittingly enough, with a lecture that should they require his services, they merely needed to destroy the card. Vaz’em and Alice, being greedy, asked for two cards, which the merchant was happy to provide. To this day, no one has used a single card to summon the merchant – I think they’ve forgotten all about them. Hilariously though, he *keeps* coming up in the totally random Harrow draws that I do in at the start of each book, so after each one he shows up when they go outside after the Harrow to greet them with a hearty “Welcome!” *throws open coat*

And so, finally, we come to the Old Fishery, Lair of Gaedren Lamm, former adventurer, crime boss, and all-around dirt bag. The group is fairly efficient about their night-time approach, sending Vaz’em around to scout out all of the possible entrances into the building. Not liking the fact that there was, between the front door, side entrances, and loading bay four separate entrances/exits to the fishery, Vaz’em spiked closed all except the front door. Despite everyone inside the building still being up, the ninja rolls well on his disable device checks to jam the doors, *and* his stealth checks to wedge the doors closed without making too much noise. While he is doing this, Vaz’em also overhears an argument taking place between several people – Yargin chewing out a couple extra thugs that Gaedren hired without telling him (my extra muscle for the Fishery).

Confident that Gaedren won’t escape out the back now while they go in through the front (having not seen more than a glimpse of the old wrecked ship out in the back, nor the water entrance to Gaedren’s lair below the fishery), the party groups up, and Oliver kicks open the front door. This *does* make a fair bit of noise, leading Yargin who was in the upper fishery room next door to throw open the door to see what was going on. This also reveals the three thugs he was arguing with, and old Bloo crawls out from under the desk to growl and raise his mangy hackles. Oliver recognizes the old dog from his days at the Fishery, and tries to sweet talk it (basically by saying “Hey boy, I’m going to enjoy killing you” in a fake-sweet tone). The dog doesn’t buy it, Yargin doesn’t like what he’s seeing, and swiftly orders Bloo and the “useless” thugs Gaedren had sent him to attack.

Pushing into the entry room past Bloo, Oliver blocked the thugs from effectively engaging the rest of the party. Pinchered between Vaz’em and Oliver, Bloo went down pretty much immediately. Poor old doggy. :( Yargin tosses several acidic bombs at Oliver, but kept hitting the doorway and showering his own lackeys in acid. Unable to effectively engage (i.e. stab them in the back for Sneak Attack), Vaz’em pretty much hung back for the rest of the fight and guarded the other doors, while Alice kept using Murderous Command to get the thugs to hit each other, and Ichihara spammed Summon Monster to drown the Fishery’s inhabitants in an unceasing flood of celestial dogs ($#@#!@$ summoners!).

Yargin pretty much took that as his cue to get out of there and warn Gaedren (who had slipped out to move up into the big leagues without telling his old lackey – y’d think the trio of thugs he sent would have been enough of a hint, Yargin, sheesh!) The celestial dogs nipping at his heels.

Through the chutes leading down into the lower level of the fishery, the group could see a cackling half-orc (Giggles the fighter) rousing the children who worked and slept in the Fishery to battle. He managed to get all of the brats awake and armed in record time (pretty much just the first couple rounds of combat while they dealt with the thugs), but kept failing to convince the frightened children to actually attack. (Failed his intimidate check two rounds in a row). At this point, I ruled that Giggles lost his patience, and the second failure ended with him summarily executing a nearby child, dashing the boy to the floor with his flail. It was quite a dark and brutal moment that seemed to strike a chord with my players, who got the message that this was going to be a dark campaign. Given what follows, it was indeed a pretty good indication of what exactly they were getting themselves into, and just what awful excuses for human beings they were dealing with.

Following the execution of their fellow worker, the children (Hookshanks hidden amongst them), rallied for battle and began taking up defensive positions on the lower level, armed with their pitchforks. Some also began moving up the stairs that wind around the right side of the fishery to get to the door that led to the entry room (that, unbeknowist to them, Vaz’em was guarding and in fact had spiked shut.)

It was at this point that Oliver, whose player had been setting up macros during the game, made some sort of mistake in his latest macro that checked a property that didn’t exist or something, that caused a cascading error that ultimately crashed the maptools session. There was more than a bit of panic as I feared that this would contaminate the entire campaign file, forcing me to redo all of my work thus far (it was a pretty serious error that wouldn’t go away, just kept popping up, searching for that non-existent token property).

It was, however, a good place for us to stop for our first session, while I tried to fix this error in the interim. Ultimately, I was able to fix the problem, and we were able to pick up right where we left off next week without any further issues.

Foreign Merchant’s Identity:

It’s Venster Arabasti, having managed to somehow convince one god or another to send him back to Korvosa in this form to grant limited aid to the future heroes that might yet save his city from Kazavon’s machinations. Gods being gods though, he’s been sent back in the form of a mysterious merchant, who has to sell the players the gear that they might need, and can’t possibly reveal his true nature nor warn them of what’s really going on. Video game logic at its finest, don’t think too hard about it! ;)

Thugs and Bloo:

As mentioned above, the thugs were extra muscle Gaedren had hired to guard the Fishery while he was away making other arrangements for his all-out revolution following the king’s death. They were nothing special, just level 1 Warriors with clubs, a couple throwing daggers, and leather armor.

Bloo I rebuilt as a mastiff dog, which gave him a Trip attack on landing a bite, and bumped him up to CR 1/2. The thugs were likewise counted as CR 1/2, although I didn’t realize at the time NPC classes were 2 CR less than their level, rather than 1 CR less if they were using PC classes. Oh well, some free XP on the Slow track wasn’t that big of a deal.


Yargin was the first NPC/monster I gave a fairly extensive re-write to. I will admit that I very much despise the use of Expert/Noble/Commoner classes to artificially inflate an NPC’s CR, particularly when the benefits for those NPC classes are almost non-existent, and NPCs already have a hard enough time dealing with PCs because they’re built along the exact same lines without any of the compensating abilities that monsters tend to get.

So, that being said, and given his stated love for acid attacks, I made Yargin a Level 2 Alchemist with the Acid Bomb discovery. This meant that his bombs did 1d6+2 Acid, with another 1d6 Acid coming the following round on anyone that he lands a direct hit on. He also had some useful extracts, including a CLW and an Expeditious Retreat prepared.

Due to a variety of reasons, none of Yargin’s bombs actually managed to land a direct hit on a PC, so he managed to accomplish very little. All the same, I would caution future DMs to be careful if they go the Alchemist 2 Acid Bomb Discovery route. If Yargin does hit someone, they’re effectively eating 2d6+2 Acid damage, which at level 1 if you roll high is enough to drop someone. Not kill them most likely, but drop them which can quickly steamroll into more fallen PCs. Due to the bombs being touch attacks, even the reasonably decent AC of your front-line won’t help them. Since he was the “boss” of the Fishery in the absence of Gaedren, and I wanted a tougher game, I was fine with this risk.

But you should be ready to start pulling your punches immediately if he drops a PC or two in the very first fight of the AP – getting a TPK on the first fight is likely to put your game’s future in serious jeopardy. Maybe even put some CLW potions in the money cabinet if you don’t have a healer in your party – which mine did not as Alice was purely a CC oracle and refused to heal, likely due to some trauma involving being forced to play a healbot at some point.)

Like with the thugs, I was still set on 3.5s way of calculating NPC CR, so Yargin was billed as a CR 2 rather than the CR 1 he should have been. Given his potential to obliterate the party in a horrid rain of acid bombs they could do little about save pray that he rolled low on his touch attacks - or happen to have a summoner to conjure up an instant army of b+~$@%*@ to distract him - perhaps he is better listed as CR 2 anyway.

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Reading your intro story about Eodred's death and Ileosa's discovery against the background of that music was actually fun. I liked it, though I also noticed the 'crown' part. It's details like this which make it a good idea to share with others on these boards, because they can notice such tiny hick-ups and warn you about them, so you don't have to invent new background stories to cover up these deviations.

I also agree with you on this point:

Inspectre wrote:
I really did pretty much make up those explanations for the tapestries on the fly, something of which I was quite proud of because I tend to find ad-libbing details difficult. It’s a crucial DM skill to be sure, and one that I’ve gradually become better at, but it’s definitely something that I need practice with, so when I do manage to pull something out of thin air I tend to be insufferably pleased with myself.

Since my players take a very roleplay oriented approach (which was our set-up for this campaign) they talk to a lot of people, both good and bad guys. Enemies are often captured alive and questioned, which forces me to make up all kinds of details, often ad hoc as well. My players have just cleared the temple of Urgathoa in book 2 and they have taken Doctor 'Davaulus' (renamed Dave Saulus), Rolth and Lady Andaisin alive, so they'll be interrogating them next session. I already prepared some background for the Doctor, but I'll have to work on Andaisin as well: who is she, where does she come from, what are her motives, who contacted her, what does she know about the going-ons in Korvosa ... ?

I don't mind ad-libbing, but sometimes it's hard and I feel more comfortable when I've prepared some key ideas which I can use as coat hangers for my improvisation. This is especially important so as not to make mistakes in your story that require (major) fixing afterwards. Your crown slip-up is not that hard a fix, and it even fits your take on the AP (with Ileosa being a victim) better. But one has to be careful not to make any major mistakes.

Anyway, I enjoy your version of this wonderful AP and I'd love to read more about it.

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Agreed that having key details worked out ahead of time is very important, and can really help with defining other less important details that you have to make up on the fly. You can always just make up what the villain’s favorite color is if questioned by the party, and whether you manage to come up with something cool and fitting or just spit out anything to keep things moving, it doesn’t matter that much so long as you say something. But when they ask him/her why they’re doing villainous things, you pretty much better know, and know how you can use that explanation to either further detail the character or move the plot forward. And that those important details don’t contradict each other.

I’ve gotten pretty good at writing myself out of any corners I inevitably end up putting myself into, partially because I tend to plan things out in advance (and often have alternate plans sketched out in my head too, such as “well, the players will most likely agree to help this NPC, but if they don’t then the next day a different NPC that like they better will offer them gold to go investigate this incident over here, which will tie back in and get them on track again”). I generally try to have things make logical sense (to my deranged mind), so if there’s a “problem” or a detail that I don’t know (for example – who did the actual forging of the crown anyway?), my mind tends to gnaw on it like a bone over the week until inspiration finally strikes.

Going back to the crown thing, while I differed from the AP as written, I had certainly already done that a fair bit. For my version of the AP, having the crown already made worked out much better. Both in making Ileosa more of a victim of Kazavon than an instigator of Korvosa’s misfortunes, but also from a characterization perspective as the players never saw her *without* the crown perched on her head. Since Kazavon was the ultimate villain, making sure he was “in frame” from the very beginning was important.

I also didn’t have to figure out what she had been doing with the Fangs until the crown was made – like, was Ileosa just carrying the Fangs around in her pockets before making the crown as-written? Who made the crown – it’s an artifact, even with the Fangs provided a majority of the power just handwaving that it was a circlet of metal with slots to slide the Fangs into makes it seem . . . less. I suppose Ileosa, under some sort of instinctual commands from Kazavon, could have smelted and hammered out the crown herself (haha, maybe that’s why it’s so jagged and awful looking, she did a terrible job on it!)

But I digress – the point is, there are unanswered questions that would need to be filled in about the crown regardless, for my own information if nothing else. And having the crown already forged opened the door for another avenue for my twisted brain to go down, bolting another interesting wrinkle into the game further along in the future (Book Three, where the wheels really have started to come off the whole enterprise).

But I really do to get back to recapping – we’ve played every single week since I started the game (originally there was going to be another game we switched back and forth with, but when Ichihara’s player disappeared, so too did the game that he was running every other week, so my workload suddenly doubled). So we’ve got a little over fifty more sessions to cover before we’re up to the present!

Session Two:

I forgot to mention that before going into the Fishery in the first session, there had been some talk of barring all of the doors and simply burning the whole place down around Lamm’s ears. There I was quick to bring in the laws of Korvosa from the Guide to Korvosa, which helpfully points out that Arson is pretty much a worse crime than murder, due to the danger of fire spreading in the city. The Great Fire that nearly burned down all of Korvosa near the city’s founding was likely the start of this extreme crackdown on arsonists. Being told that they were likely to be hunted down through the streets like dogs and tortured to death put a pretty quick damper on that plan, and so they went for the frontal assault.

So, with the other weekly game that I was switching back and forth with suddenly gone, I was left scrambling a bit to fill the gap since everyone except Ichihara was present. Since I still had the rest of the Fishery already prepared, I thought why not have a session anyway, even if it wasn’t “my week”. As it turned out, this was to be the start of a new weekly game!

So, we picked back up where we started, with Giggles having rallied the children, most of which were milling down in the lower level but with a few coming at the party through the eastern part of the fishery. Yargin continues his flight from the endless swarm of dogs that I had NPC Ichihara continue to spam summon, and Oliver wipes out the last of the hired thugs. Shouting that he was going down below to alert Gaedren, Yargin climbs down through the hole in the floor to a waiting boat. One of the summoned dogs jumps down after him, but since he’d already moved the boat the dog landed in the water. An instant later, the jigsaw shark that had been circling the area struck, biting the dog in half and sending it back to where it came from. As such, Yargin escaped – for now (as planned – while he was present at the initial fight on the top level, it was always the plan that he bugged out if the players didn’t quickly drop him, fleeing down to the lower level to serve as the fishery’s “boss” in Gaedren’s place.)

The handful of Ichihara’s remaining dogs continue to filter down the stairs to the lower level, where the children screamed and then flung themselves forward in desperation. -3 To-Hit and effectively 1d2 of damage isn’t much of a threat to a summoned creature with something like AC 15 and 8 HP. Being an NPC now, and using summoned creatures anyway, I played things cruel here, with the dogs mercilessly tearing the children apart, killing at least one of them. As the children surged around the stairs to attack the dogs, they didn’t leave a spot for Giggles to stand and also engage (tactical “error” on my part there). So Giggles wasted his next round making room for himself by killing another child and stepping in to take the boy’s place on the front-line, something he would eventually come to regret.

Meanwhile, the children came to the door between the eastern half of the fishery and the entry room, only to find the door barred by another of Vaz’em’s spikes. They still had the second doorway that led through an additional room though, so a round later that door burst open as another “child” came through (Hookshanks). Surprised at seeing Vaz’em standing right there, Hookshanks did his best intimidated child impression, and dropped his pitchfork and made as if to kneel down to surrender (Bluff check). The following round, he pulled out his hidden kukri and tried to shank Vaz’em, but poor rolls doomed the rogue. Moving back to help, Oli and Vaz’em quickly surrounded the gnome, and he was cut down almost immediately.

Giggles joined him bleeding out on the floor shortly thereafter, as Alice hit him with a Murderous Command, and with a shout that he was coming for Hookshanks, the half-orc moved away from the dog that he was fighting. The dog’s AoO was enough damage after the beating Giggles had already taken, and the half-orc went down. The last of the children surrendered shortly thereafter, and were allowed to flee into the night while the party considered their next move.

Just dropping down through the hole after Yargin wasn’t a favored move, as they could see the shark still circling, disappointed that the dog had winked out of existence before the shark could actually enjoy its meal. Weighed down by his heavy armor, even Oliver was not eager to go for a swim in shark-infested waters. So that meant leaving the building and going back around the outside of the building along the slippery walkway to the sunk hulk of the Kraken’s Folly (also known as the HMS Spider Bite in my notes).

Everyone managed to get down the walkway by moving slowly and crossing one at a time (to my disappointment). Seeing the walkway below, Oliver risked the jump and crashed down onto the lower walkway from above by jumping down – just barely avoiding smashing down through the timbers and giving the shark a new meal. It continued circling nearby, and Oliver kept a wary eye of it.

The rest of the party not wanting to take the risk of jumping down (and the Non-lethal damage that would follow if they failed the Acrobatics check), the rest of the party decided to go investigate the boat and hope there was a way down to the walkway – there certainly was a walkway leading right up to the side of the hulk. When they reached the boat, Alice stepped onto the boat first – the front half of the boat, where the deck was too weak to support any medium creature’s weight. While technically a child, I treated Alice as an adult Medium creature in all other aspects, and thus she counted as heavy enough in my book to crash through the deck into the hold of the ship. Angry chittering came from all around her as the four Small-sized (another upgrade) spiders living in the hold swarmed her.

Not wanting to take 1d6 falling damage from crashing through the deck either, Vaz’em entered the cabin hoping to find a way down. He found that alright, but also the man-sized Medium drain spider waiting for him, along with the desiccated carcass of another child (who went out there to hide his savings of a few copper, and promptly found out why no one went out to the old boat). From there an epic battle of misses began – the Small spiders couldn’t break through Alice’s high AC more than once the entire fight, and she fought defensively with a scalpel while Ichihara began doing her one job – summoning more dogs into the hold.

Vaz’em wasn’t faring nearly as well against the medium spider, as the spider got a lucky hit in that nearly dropped him, and Vaz’em was unable to flank and so had to deal 1d4 damage with his claws, gradually whittling the spider down. He eventually managed to win that duel, and went downstairs to help Alice. Attracted by the sounds of battle coming from the ship, Oliver went over and, unable to find the hidden door due to low Perception, just made his own by smashing through the weakened side of the ship, allowing him to join the tail end of the fight. The drain spiders fought on valiantly to defend their home, but ultimately due to poor To-Hit bonuses, they were ground beneath the party’s heel and crushed.

Aware of the door at the other end of the walkway, the party steeled themselves for the final confrontation, and went in. They found Yargin laboring desperately to unlock a heavy metal chest on the far side of Gogglegut’s pool. He got a needle laced with centipede poison jammed into his finger for his trouble. Seeing the rest of the party, Yargin got up to his feet and revealed what the party could already see for themselves – Gaedren Lamm wasn’t here, having already left earlier that night.

With his boss having already fled, still somewhat wounded, and with only one or two bombs left, Yargin was much less eager to fight. What followed was a brief interrogation as Vaz’em and Oliver skirted around the pool and demanded to know what Yargin knew about Lamm’s whereabouts. All Yargin really knew was that Gaedren had been talking about suddenly having a “big break” and that he was going to be “moving up in the world at last”. Intimidated by Oliver, Yargin strayed dangerously close to the edge of the pool, and I had him make a Reflex save to keep his footing. He failed, resulting him plunging down into the pool . . . which woke up Gobblegut. The alchemist’s wild thrashing in the water and desperate cries for help only attracted the crocodile’s attention further, and the party was disinclined to help one of Lamm’s lackeys.

Gobblegut quickly snapped his jaws shut on the alchemist, and there was little Yargin could do to break its grip. With a last cry of “Damn you all!” Yargin pulled out an acid bomb and blasted down of them, before Gobblegut dragged him beneath the surface for the final time. That also meant that they didn’t get any of the loot on Yargin, but considering said loot was basically a few gold and a half-charged wand of Acid Splash, they weren’t missing much.

Turning their attention to the chest and Gaedren’s room for further clues as to his whereabouts, Vaz’em opened up the chest while the others looked around. They found the cache of wealth has given in the AP, including a vial of a new drug, Shudder.

Similar to Shiver, but glowing yellow instead of blue, the drug was supposed to be a lead-in to one of Gaedren’s new businesses, drug dealing. Only instead of competing with Devargo for the Shiver trade, Gaedren developed a newer, more potent form of the drug as an attempt to continue spreading chaos through the city. I never got around to detailing Shudder much as the party never really investigated that plot point further, but the idea was that Gaedren was taking normal Shiver, mixing in the blood/poison of pseudodragons and imps into it, and somehow creating an unstable alchemical formula that could actually give normal people magical powers – nothing more than a spontaneous spell slot of Level 1-3 (randomly determined), or grant an additional spell slot if the person was already a spell caster (Gaedren was marketing Shudder heavily towards the Acadame’s population of bored magical students and facility, who were rich enough to afford it). The drawback was that it dealt pretty heavy Wisdom and Con damage, and pretty much caused the person taking it to go berserk, in a manner not dissimilar to the worst effects of “bath salts” in the real world. Given that they know had magical powers to go along with their frenzied insanity, one can see how chaos could quickly be spread with this drug. Unfortunately as I said, this plot point never really got developed much further.

I also had a few ideas about backstories for the other jewelry items that the group found amongst Gaedren’s stash. The biggest one was probably the seashell pendent of Shelyn, which I had idly considered belonged to a female acolyte that Gaedren had kidnapped in order to get access to robes and priest gear in order to disguise some of his men as Shelyn-worshipping acolytes. This female acolyte that he kidnapped was in turn given over to his former adventuring buddy and good old friend Rolth, who tortured and broke her until she was the insane sorcerer-rogue known as Jostilina. Even less of this came of the pendent than the vial of Shudder I added, so I ultimately dropped this idea altogether. It was only a passing idea I had, of which I have many, that ultimately are judged not worth it and tossed onto the heap.

And, of course, they found the royal pendant. It was by far worth more than anything else in the set, and marked with the royal insignia of Korvosa, it was pretty easy for them to tell that they wouldn’t be able to just hock this on the street. They therefore wisely decided to keep it . . . but for whatever reason they kept it in their back pocket rather than trying to return it to Castle Korvosa for a reward. I guess as a “get out of jail free” card, which hilariously was what Gaedren Lamm was keeping it for in the book. In my game, he had a different reason for having the pendant, which I will describe in another spoiler below.

Finally, they found one last addition in the stash that I added in – a thick, detailed ledger written in code. Gaedren Lamm’s secret ledger, within which he recorded all of his dealings. The party could see that he had gotten a very large cash infusion recently (Andaisin’s support), but not who gave it to him, and what Gaedren was doing with it. In order to track down what he was up to now, the party needed to find someone who could help them crack the code (Vaz’em could maybe do it with enough time and high rolls, but that would likely take weeks without the aid of a specialist). This would lead to the next part of the game, where seeking answers from the ledger would lead them to the doorstep of an unlikely ally – Devargo Bravasi.

They also found the hatbox covered with flies, and despite Zellara suddenly appearing out of thin air to screech a warning not to open the box, she was too late. The lid came off, revealing Zellara’s head, crudely preserved and with the mouth stitched open as if gasping in shock. (I let the players make their own determinations on why Gaedren had persevered the head in such a way – the consensus was that he was a sick, sick man.) Now outed as a ghost, Zellara explained her fate to the group, who took it with more of an indifferent shrug than anything.

With Gaedren having fled, and the Fishery looted, the party was ready to leave but uncertain where to go next. Zellara, also confused at this mysterious turn of events as the cards had told her Gaedren would be here (a reference to me turning the AP’s first conflict on its head), did another Harrow reading. This one was the pre-made one that I had constructed, of the Tangled Briar (ancient evil), the Tyrant (another reference to Kazavon, but also Andaisin’s domination over Ileosa), and the Snakebite (the poisoning of Eodred) as the past. The present was the Courtesan (another reference to Andaisin’s involvement in kicking off the AP), the Cyclone (the disaster and turmoil of Eodred’s illness and death), and then the Empty Throne (Eodred’s death.) And finally, the party got a slight peek at what awaited them for the rest of the AP, as the future draw was The Uprising (the anarchy of Book One), the Sickness (Blood Veil plague of Book Two), and the Fiend (the diabolical invasion of Korvosa that came with Ileosa’s deal with the devils in later books).

While the party pondered these grave portents, outside the sounds of rioting and shouting finally reached their ears. “The King is dead! Down with the Whore Queen!” And we ended the second session on that note, with the party needing to get out of there before someone decided to take revenge on Lamm themselves, by burning down the old Fishery with them still inside it.

At this point the PCs had earned 1,500 XP, which on the Slow track was enough to take them *halfway* to level 2. The following two sessions would take them the rest of the way up to level 2.

The Spiders:

Again to make things a little more challenging, a upped each of the spiders a size category, the tiny ones in the hold up to Small, and the Small one up in the cabin up to Medium. They still weren’t much of a threat, although certainly Vaz’em was getting worried after the Medium spider landed a hit or two. Unless your party splits up like mine did (only with even worse luck), or is a bunch of low HP, low AC squishies, they probably can handle the bump in difficulty. Although the attrition of these fights may be starting to wear down your PCs to dangerously low levels – it doesn’t take more than a hit or two to seriously injure a level 1, even on a 1d4 of damage, after all.

The Pendant:

In the AP, Gaedren basically just finds the pendant somehow, and keeps it as a “get out of jail free” card. The PCs are expected to find the pendant, think of a reward, and then go turn it in for said reward and get to meet Ileosa briefly for the first time before they are shoo’d off to go meet Kroft.

I had planned for them to be rewarded if they had returned the pendant, but the reason for Gaedren having it was completely different. Not liking the fact the pendant was pretty much just there as a macguffin to get the PCs to go to the castle, I gave the pendant a purpose.

Namely, Ileosa had appointed Andaisin as the Ambassador from Cheliax (as they both hailed from there originally, and while she couldn’t claim the throne herself Andaisin still wanted a position of power, which Ileosa could get for her as queen). I really, really hate throw-away characters, and Ambassador Whats-His-Face from Cheliax is name dropped once, when the players go to get evidence to shut up him from Devargo Bravarsi, after which he is never mentioned again, not even once in the entire AP. I hated that, so he spontaneously combusted and was deleted from all existence, replaced with Andaisin as the ambassador, and with Lamm’s ledger taking the place of what the party needs to go to Devargo for, rather than some naughty letters.

As an additional gift, Ileosa had given Andaisin the pendant. When bringing Gaedren on-board to help assassinate Eodred, he had wisely demanded insurance from Andaisin. She gave him the pendant, begrudgingly, figuring she could also take it off his cold, dead corpse before he could reveal that he had it. The pendant was one of a kind, there was no doubt that it was the same one Ileosa had given Andaisin, and thus it would have been solid proof that she and Gaedren were in league together. Of course, Andaisin could always claim that Gaedren had stolen it, but returning it to Ileosa was intended to be the catalyst for her suspicions to develop against Andaisin, and gradually grow into a violent schism from her former mentor, which would lead to Andaisin unleashing the plague in Book Two out of spite.

Since the players never returned the pendant to the castle (until much later), this plot point never really developed, until one day it finally did, when the PCs finally met Ileosa during her coronation, and led to an almost immediate explosion in the relationship between Andaisin and Ileosa.

This is awesomely cool. Wanting to hear more! I was considering making a thread about best campaign derails, but hadn't thought of a GM doing it on purpose! Will go make the thread, and then link it here by edit (or below if I run out of time).

Edit: Here's the new thread.

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UnArcaneElection - Thanks for the praise and publicity! I'm used to writing my own plots as I've done almost nothing but homebrew before this, so I wasn't able to help myself from mixing up the AP's set story to suit my own whims. Which is not to say that the AP is bad - as I mentioned at the start, it's actually pretty good (certainly better than some of the other APs which have some pretty glaring issues that DMs have to make real effort to pave over). If you don't have time or the desire to do your own arrangement of the AP, there's absolutely nothing wrong with running it as written - professional products like the APs are made so that people can buy them and host a game with all the hard work done already.

For me I've made the time, and like some sort of mad chef, once I have an idea for the game I can't help *NOT* putting it in. So with the good framework that CotCT provides, I mixed it up with some ideas of my own, and came up with some similar but much different. For the first two books, while things are shuffled around, they largely follow the same plot of the AP. Come Book Three though . . . gosh, I've added in a *lot* of my own personal flair. Enough that we've yet to really get into the meat of the book, which is the Emperor of Old Korvosa and the Arkonas. Partly that's due to there being a lot of individual scenes that take a lot longer to play out than I plan for, and partly that's due to all the padding I've put into the front part of Book Three before they even get into Old Korvosa.

But we still have a lot of ground to cover before getting to Book Three, so let's recap the third session, when I start getting more comfortable with having to run a game of CotCT every week (obviously I don't *have* to, but DMing is something I really enjoy - it's hard to stop myself).

So, my players had Lamm’s ledger of dirty deeds, but no way to translate it and no other leads on Gaedren’s whereabouts other than that he was up to something big. Before they could continue chasing after Lamm, however, they had to deal with the city crumbling into anarchy all around them. Unable to stay at the Fishery for the night after I made it clear that other people seeking revenge against Lamm might come and burn the place down, failing to take the long view of what happens to arsonists, the group decided they needed to find another safe place to sleep.

Zellara’s house seemed the most reasonable place, and given the chaos in the city, no one thankfully really wanted to split up and try their luck alone. So as a group, the party set out from the fishery back the way they had traveled, only now the city was actually dangerous. In effect, I turned the route back to Zellara’s House into an outdoor dungeon of sorts, with several planned encounters set up along the way. I used the ones given in Part Two of Book One as templates for the encounters, mixing the ones given in the book with some of my own.

In total, I created nine “simple” encounters, splitting them up amongst three distinct routes back to Zellara’s house from the Fishery – along the docks, through back streets, or down the main thoroughfares of the city. Each one had relatively simple encounters for the first couple, and concluded with a slightly larger “boss” fight. After fighting through the fishery, your group may be a little too worn down to have another three encounters in them, particularly given the more difficult nature of the “boss” capstone encounter. It worked alright for my group, but first level is all about whether the monsters roll high enough to hit you – misses cause 0 damage, after all!

Anyway, prepping nine separate encounters in a week was a fair bit of work, but most were pretty simple and I managed to slap something together for each of them. In the end, while they were free to adjust how they traveled after each encounter (going from Docks for one encounter, to Back Streets for the second, and then to Docks/Back Streets/Main Streets for the third), they ended up choosing to just follow along the Docks for the entire journey. I’ll detail my plans for the other two routes, Back Streets, and Main Streets, below after the session recap.

Session Three:

First up as the party walked along the docks was the sight of a wing of Sable Company Marines flying overhead, back towards the castle. One of the griffons was badly injured, however, wavering from its position in the flight and dripping a steady stream of blood down onto the street below. Suddenly, the griffon went into a dive, collapsing in mid-flight down into the water! This was the same griffon that crashed down into the street in the book’s scene-setting text, killing both beast and rider, but here I wanted a more interesting outcome.

The griffon was obviously dead, sinking beneath the waves of the Jeggare River, but the rider bobbed up to the surface, injured and bleeding, but still alive. The man weakly began to swim towards shore while the party watched, but it was clear he was in trouble. That trouble came to a head when the group spotted a dark fin cutting through the water towards the man . . . a fin that appeared very familiar to the group – was it the same shark as the one that had been circling beneath the fishery? Was it following them? The answer that question is in a spoiler below, but for now the challenge was less dealing with the shark and more getting the man ashore before the shark got to him.

Not sure if Ichihara would have been able to summon a water-creature at level 1 that could have dragged the marine to shore, but for now as a mostly useless NPC she just stayed in the back with her arms folded. Deciding to help the marine, Oliver threw him a rope, and he and Vaz’em both started making Strength checks to drag the man ashore once he grabbed hold of the rope. It was a little tense, but ultimately I had made the distance buffer between man and shark great enough that they were able to pull him ashore well before the shark got to him.

Once ashore, then they had to deal with the fact that the man was badly injured – he had been shot with a crossbow of some sort, and while the shaft had been snapped off, the head of the bolt was still inside him, and by Vaz’em’s estimation, the bolt was poisoned. The man would bleed out quickly without immediate medical attention, more than a simple CLW potion could provide. Heal checks were rolled, and this section was a little more tense as each failure caused a small amount of damage to the marine as the bolt was shifted around inside him without successfully extracting it. Ultimately though, the party managed with Aid Another and high rolls to successfully extract the bolt and save the man’s life (no one had Heal trained).

Essentially, rather than a combat encounter this was a “skill challenge” to use 4E terminology – a problem that needed to be solved through the use of skills rather than hitting things in the face. Unless they had hopped out into the water to drag the marine to shore (something Oliver was again unwilling to do given his heavy armor), they were in little danger here, but saving the marine had some rewards.

First, they succeeded so they got full XP for the encounter. Second, as the marine stirred he talked to them for a few minutes, explaining that he had been flying down to make an arrest when he got ambushed. As the riots started, the marine (who I named Sabin when asked what his name was) had flown down to investigate the robbery of a warehouse near the Midpoint part of the Shingles. The marine found an old man matching Gaedren Lamm’s description getting into a cart piled high with goods (alchemical reagents and the like), but when he ordered the man to surrender, crossbow bolts flew from the windows of nearby buildings, striking his griffon several times. Sabin also got a bolt, obviously, and he got out of there before the ambushers could reload. He was going to track the cart by air as it began to pull away into the city, but then the riots went into full swing and he had to get back to his wing of marines to return to the castle. Unfortunately, that’s when he and his mount started to get sick – resulting in the crash a few minutes later as the party witnessed. Unfortunately this information on Lamm’s whereabouts wasn’t very useful for them to act on, but it did confirm that the old criminal was up to something big.

Finally, another marine on a fresh griffon came by to pick up his fallen comrade, having witnessed the crash but unable to immediately swing back around to save him. On a whim, I named this other marine Edgar (several of the players quickly picked up that these were the names of the brothers Sabin and Edgar from Final Fantasy VI – hurray for someone getting my sometimes obscure references!). Edgar pulled Sabin up onto his griffon, and the two took to the air after extending an invitation to go to Citadel Volyshenek if they needed a safe place to sleep. Being that the citadel was the base of the city guards and the current group was, honestly, only a few steps up from criminal scum like Gaedren, they politely declined. Nonetheless, since he was headed back to safety and treatment at the citadel, Sabin left behind his two CLW potions, which were both gladly accepted by Oliver and Vaz’em, who downed them quickly (Alice still unable and unwilling to cast healing spells).

The group then continued on down the docks, but it wasn’t long before they ran into another problem. A group of fishermen were hastily docking their boats and securing them along a nearby pier when two dark forms suddenly rose from the water and leapt at them – Reefclaws, here to take their revenge upon these despoilers of their home! The four fishermen were divided up into two separate groups, and thus while they each only had to deal with one Reefclaw, unprepared for the beast’s sudden attack many of them were swiftly cut down by the dual claw snapping action. Foolishly, the party decided to help out the despoilers of the river, given that the fishermen were definitely on the losing side despite jabbing at the creatures with their long spears. Again, the low To-Hit bonuses of the Reefclaws meant that most of their attacks whiffed, and the party managed to drop them in fairly short order (the Reefclaws also spent most of their time viciously attacking the fishermen anyway, who were much easier to hit).

The sole survivor of the fishermen thanked the party for their assistance, and pulling another name out of my hat, he was known as “Fishguts” Jim. As is sometimes the case with random irrelevant NPCs, the party took a liking to Fishguts, and helped him cut off the claws of the reefclaws (a local delicacy, as Fishguts explained) before tossing the rest of their bodies back into the water. A familiar shark fin cut through the water shortly thereafter, enjoying a feast of reefclaw flesh. The party wished Fishguts well, and then went on their way.
And so we came to our final encounter of the night, as the group came upon a large boat, used as cheap apartments by the most desperate of the city, set ablaze and threatening to spread fire to the rest of the docks. Fishermen and laborers struggled to cut the ship free from its moorings, but the wheel had been jammed, causing the rudder to turn the ship into the pier instead of away! Someone needed to get onto the boat and turn the wheel so that the ship would drift away into the river, before the whole pier ignited. And of course, there were plenty of citizens still trapped on the boat by the flames, screaming for help.

Again, being a boat on the water, Oliver wasn’t particularly keen on helping, and neither were Vaz’em and Alice – particularly when they saw a familiar fin cutting through the water around the boat - but eventually after a little encouragement and NPC pleading, they agreed to be big damn heroes for once. Alice used Create Water to put out patches of fire that were blocking the way (although she couldn’t cast fast enough to put out *all* the fire patches, as they began to multiply and spread across the deck of the ship towards them). Vaz’em and Oliver pulled a couple people who had been trapped by the flames to safety, and then they heard screaming from downstairs – someone’s child was still down in the apartments below decks.

Momentarily abandoning their plan to steer the ship away from the docks and then jump off before the ship could float out into the river and they had to swim back, the party went down below to find several more people trapped by flames . . . and the source of the trouble. Morgan, a fellow student from the Acadamae that Ichihara recognized, was down below, incinerating the boat from the inside out with blasts of flame, while screaming that they had to destroy everything to save everyone from HIM (Kazavon). The wizard was obviously out of his mind (the results of taking some of Gaedren Lamm’s Shudder), and so the party decided to put him down in self-defense.

He started casting a powerful summoning spell . . . . that was thankfully disrupted by Oliver’s charge. If the spell had been completed, Morgan would have summoned a small Fire elemental (as Summon Monster II, granted by the Shudder running through his veins). The elemental would have likely kicked the party’s collective behinds, so it was a good thing Morgan didn’t get the chance to summon it. On his next turn, the mage screamed and began casting another spell – not defensively (he was too out of it to do such a thing) which provoking an AoO from Oliver, who cut the wizard down. Good thing too, otherwise everyone in a 15’ cone would have enjoyed a 3d4 Burning Hands from Morgan’s boosted caster level. Again, he probably should have been only a CR 2, but I still calculated him as CR 3 going off of the old 3.5 system of NPC levels = CR rating. Given how nasty Morgan could be as a third-level wizard, despite the WIS & CON penalties he had (and the fact he was a wizard with only burning hands and summon monster II readied, with no defensive spells up or acumen to cast spells defensively), I didn’t mind giving out the extra XP. While ultimately fairly uneventful, Morgan could have quickly killed the party between a fire elemental buddy and a 3d4 Burning Hands spell. So I was glad that he just died in rather short order.

And with that, the party returned to Zellara’s House, and collapsed into slumber while their city burned around them. In the morning, the group awoke to find Ichihara gone, although the NPC summoner hadn’t gone far – they found her in the alley outside, dead, having taken the vial of Shiver and Shudder that they had found in Gaedren’s stash and consuming them, dying from the Shudder overdose before managing to get very far. A fairly lame death, but I tend to waste little time in disposing of any former PCs that become NPCs.

And with that, that was the end of the third session. Next session, Vaz’em would go visit a fence he knew to dispose of all the goods they found in Gaedren’s stash that they were willing to part with, and to see who could help them decipher his ledger.

Back Streets:

If the group had traveled through the back streets, hoping to avoid the worst of the riots, they would escape the crowds but find no less danger present. First, they would encounter a group of six angry thugs harassing a young man – the encounter with Amin Jalento as given in the book. They probably would have been able to easily scare the thugs off, but if not, a close-quarters fight would have broken out in the ten foot wide alleyway. Between Oliver tanking, Alice making them hit each other, and Ichihara summoning a couple more dogs, I doubt it would have been a big problem even with the thugs’ superior numbers.

Next up was another encounter given on the list of potential random encounters – a single obnoxious imp, irritated at the sudden noise and light. He escaped into the back alley for some quiet, but that doesn’t mean the sight of a group of people passing by unaware of him wouldn’t tickle his obnoxious little s&$! bone, and convince him to attack. Imps can be pretty difficult to deal with at low levels due to their invisibility, Suggestion, and DR, but as a 4-on-1 I was fairly confident the party could have handled it. If not, a flight of pseudodragons could have always come along to chase the little monster off.

The final encounter would have been the party coming across a growing crowd of people, listening to a rabble rouser trying to recruit from the city’s incensed and riled up commoners. Recruiting for Lamm’s Liberators, a revolutionary army that was poised to overthrow the nobility and throw the Whore Queen out of Castle Korvosa. Bold claims to be sure, and further evidence that Gaedren was aggressively taking steps to throw the city even deeper into anarchy. It would have been up to the party whether or not they intervened to shut this loud mouth up, and it would have been quite the fight if they had tried (given the depths of hatred Oliver had for Lamm, I imagine the rabble-rouser wouldn’t have gotten past “Lamm” before fighting for his life).

In addition to the rabble rouser (Bard 1), he had two thug guards standing in front of the soap box (again Warrior 1s in leather armor with clubs), two more thugs standing amongst the crowd as more discrete security, and a sniper (Rogue 1) waiting in a nearby alleyway as a lookout in case the guards showed up. So that’s a Bard 1, Rogue 1, and 4 x Warrior 1 versus the party – quite possibly a difficult fight.

I’m pretty sure that I gave the Bard a bunch of nasty low-level spells, including the much dreaded Sleep – although given the decent crowd of commoners standing around at the time, it likely wouldn’t have been as devastating as it could be. The Bard also would have spent the first round using his Inspire Courage, which at level 1 is a Standard action. Which could still be nasty in buffing the rest of the gang’s To_Hit bonuses, but most players would probably prefer to deal with a +1 To-Hit for the bad guys than “make a Will save or get Coup-De-Graced”.

The other two end fights were similarly nasty, with Morgan the 3rd level pyro wizard, and a similarly nasty big single opponent for the Main Streets route, so here I wanted something different, hence the swarm of low-level opponents. If things had started going bad, I likely would have had the guards come in to break up the crowd, or maybe even a Hellknight descending out of the night sky, spraying magic missiles everywhere.

Main Streets:

The first encounter would have been a merchant pleading for help, as his store of alchemical adventuring gear was being ranshacked by a group of six monkey goblins. I loved the description for these little guys with their prehensile tails and knack for getting trouble, so given that there’s no standard “monstrous races” fights in Crimson Throne I imported these guys. They would have been more of a nuisance than a threat, hopping around and pulling things off of the shelves to throw, either back and forth to each other (a nearby character could intercept the throw with a DC 12 Reflex save), or throw at the PCs directly. I set up a simple table of six alchemical items that would randomly be chosen from each time the goblin tried to make an attack. Alchemist’s Fire, Acid, Thunderstones, and Tanglefoot Bags were all on the list but also Antitoxin and points of CLW (the potions would indeed heal if they hit the PC). So obviously there was a chance that the players could get hurt here, but also healed and the greatest chance that nothing of import happened (anti-toxin, thunderstones, and tanglefoot bags don’t do any damage). So mostly just a flavorful, low damage encounter against a bunch of obnoxious monkey-goblin-things hopping around and just generally being a nuisance before fleeing/surrendering).

The next encounter would be a good deal more serious, as the party would encounter a rioting mob coming down the street towards them. Before the mob could get too close, however, a Fireball spell streaks down out of the sky, obliterating all but a few stragglers on the outskirts of the crowd. A hellknight would descend from the sky, here to re-establish order by choking the city on its own blood. He’d slaughter several more people with magic missiles and other lesser spells, and then as the final survivors flee for their lives down an alleyway, the Hellknight would summon one or two Fiendish wolves to go chase them down before disappearing back into the night sky. The party could choose to keep walking and leave the poor citizens to be run down by the wolves, or interfere and have to fight the wolves (the Hellknight was already gone and would not be coming back, but certainly the PCs wouldn’t know that and I’d be sure to play up the possibility of him coming back at any moment). Technically, Summon Monster is not on the Magus spell list, so I’d have to either jury-rig something like a wand, or just hand-wave it and say due to their role as suppressing and mastering devils, the magus class for these Hellknights did allow the use of Summon Monster (if used to summon Fiendish creatures or devils, anyway).

The last and final encounter of the Main Streets would be as given in the book – an otyugh, bursting up through a manhole in the street to devour anyone it could in the chaos. Like recommended in the book, I would have had help coming for the PCs in the form of Grau and two city guardsmen. Currently too busy dealing with the riots, Grau is currently sober – an opportunity to present himself as an effective guardsman worth saving to contrast with the obnoxious and depressed drunkard he becomes the next time the PCs see him. With his two-handed sword cutting big chunks off of the Otyugh, it’s unlikely to last long, and will focus the majority of its attention on him after Grau and the guards show up after a round or two of the PCs having to fight this thing alone.

In my experience, the Otyugh is over CR’d, as a group of level 4 PCs pretty much can curbstomp these things all day (that’s certainly what happened later in the game, as you will see). Nonetheless, against a party of level 1 it can probably be a decently overwhelming opponent if it doesn’t roll terribly. Hence the guardsmen and Grau coming up soon after the party is forced into conflict with the beast.

The Shark:

To amuse myself and to up the party’s level of paranoia, I did have the same shark, or at least what appeared to be the same shark, follow them along the docks from encounter to encounter after avoiding it at the Fishery. They were definitely unsettled by the creature’s persistence, and after these sessions I decided it would be amusing to have the creature make one final appearance much later in Book Two– as Skinshear, Yvicca the sea hag druid’s animal companion.

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Onward to the fourth session, where-in we jump ahead to Part Five of Book One, albeit with a hearty injection of my own deranged ideas!

Session Four:

So the group wakes up the next day to find that Korvosa hasn’t (thankfully) burned itself down while they were sleeping. Still, smoke hangs in the air over the city, and the streets are largely deserted save for desperate people staggering home and hoping to forget all about the last night’s events.

Vaz’em, being an assassin (largely in name only, although he has some safe houses and contacts around the city that I okay’d him having) and member of the Cerulean Society (my addition, given that the Society is the only “official” underworld guild in Korvosa), had a fence that he trusted enough to sell the goods from Gaedren’s stash that the party was okay with selling. Hopefully, the fence would also know who they could contact to get Lamm’s ledger deciphered. Not *quite* trusting Vaz’em yet, and more importantly with the streets still dangerous, Alice and Oliver went along for the trip.

The fence’s place of business was a short distance outside of the Goldmarket of Korvosa, essentially the central marketplace/bazaar for the city. As they headed down there, they saw that martial law had been declared, with several barricades set up at major intersections as the city guard struggled to restore order to the city. At the Goldmarket, they discovered an even less pleasant new reality in Korvosa – public executions. There in the middle of Korvosa’s largest market, a Hellknight had taken it upon himself to pronounce sentence on those citizens he had caught engaging in rioting and looting the night before.

Since they had missed any encounter with the Hellknights the night before, this was their first meeting and I intended to leave an intimidating impression. I gave the (roughly correct) description that if the city guard were the police, and the Sable Marines the army, then the Hellknights were Korvosa’s special forces. While they were technically a mercenary unit, the Hellknights tended to serve the city’s nobility and only the city’s nobility, but did not answer to anyone. It’s hard to say whether the new Queen Ileosa asked them to come into the city to help restore order or if Lictor DeVries had simply ordered it under his own authority (although my Ileosa certainly didn’t like how the Hellknights decided to enforce rule of law during the riots, even if she had been responsible for having them come in to restore order).

Adorned with a breastplate decorated with leering demonic faces and with a fully obscuring faceplate, the Hellknight was certainly a menacing sight as he held his court in the middle of one of the Goldmarket’s intersections. Accusing the bound men before him guilty of rioting and looting during the previous night’s chaos, the Hellknight announced to all watching that the sentence was death. He then cut one of the men free and pressed a longsword into the man’s hands, while he made another of the prisoners kneel, placing his head on an already-blood smeared crate. The intent was clear – the guilty would be forced to execute each other, before the Hellknight finished off the last one personally.

Whether out of disgust or bravery, the condemned looter refused to be the Hellknight’s executioner – at which point the Hellknight tore the sword out of the man’s hands and disemboweled him slowly, letting him collapse into a bloody mess in the street. The Hellknight turned to carry on the grisly work, when suddenly the crowd parted as a cloaked figure burst in sight – Blackjack!

The hero of Korvosa’s common man, Blackjack confronted the Hellknight and with a cry of “You have failed this city!” plastered the Hellknight with a Tanglefoot bag. (I had just gotten into watching Arrow at this point, and the hero’s tagline of “Person’s name, you have failed this city!” seemed very appropriate for a campaign set almost entirely in a city going to Hell (almost very literally). While the Hellknight roared in indignation and tried to rip himself free of the gooey strands, Blackjack cut the men free and told them to come with him if they wanted to live.

The party, for whatever reason, took an instant disliking to Blackjack – a surprising reaction, but one that I’ve certainly had fun with over the rest of the game thus far. So Alice, being Alice, decided to hit one of the freed looters with Murderous Command, and being a level 1 Commoner, he naturally failed his Will save and tried to punch his would-be rescuer (and also failed at that, because, level 1 Commoner). This confused Blackjack for a moment, which allowed the Hellknight enough time to cast a spell.

Not that familiar with Pathfinder at this point, I had thought that Magus were more like the fighter/wizard of 3.5 – which is to say, they used spells to bolster their physical attacks. As the player of my Hellknight PC later taught me, no, this was not how it was done (instead the thing to do was to spam Shocking Grasp with a high-crit weapon over and over again :-p ) but at the time I didn’t know any better. So the Hellknight simply cast Magic Missile, since he was still currently immobilized by the Tanglefoot Bag. That required a Concentration check, which being 7th level and with the Combat Casting Feat, gave him something like a +13 to the check – easily enough to cast a first level spell with the moderate roll he got. My players, upon seeing that Concentration check bonus, pretty much jointly shat a brick – and for good reason.

They had been debating amongst themselves whether or not they should interfere before Blackjack came in and did it for them (possibly the source of their initial hate for Blackjack there, him coming in and stealing their thunder). Since they were almost but *not quite* to level 2 yet, picking a fight with a 7th level Magus would have gone very badly for them, to say the least (for once I was glad for their customary caution/paranoia). If a fight had started, I probably would have just had Blackjack step in and save them like he had just saved the looters, so I wasn’t too worried about the outcome of three level 1s spitting in a CR6 caster/fighter’s eye. But seeing that concentration check pretty much confirmed to my players that staying out of it was the right thing to do.

Anyway, the Hellknight made his concentration check easily, and magic missiles blasted Blackjack and the looter that had just tried to punch him. Looter went down, Blackjack stayed up and continued to run away with the remaining freed prisoners. As they disappeared into an alleyway, the Hellknight finally burst free of the Tanglefoot bag, cast Fly, and shot up into the air to track them (obviously, this being Blackjack, the Hellknight was unsuccessful in finding him).

With that drama now out of the way, the group proceeded on down a side street, and from there into a back alley, and from there into the establishment of Jansen “Jitters” Varkosin (no relation to the Vancaskerkins). It was pretty clear why Jansen had the nickname “Jitters” as he was nervous and fidgety throughout the party’s entire visit. Nonetheless, he was more than happy to do business with his old “friend” Vaz’em, and offered reasonably fair prices for the items from Gaedren’s stash (I tried to do it by the book with competing Appraise/Bluff/Sense Motive roles but it ended up being a lot of busywork for minimal gain).

Then the party really got down to business, as Vaz’em showed Jansen the ledger. When he learned that the ledger was Gaedren Lamm’s, he quite rightfully freaked out and asked the party to take it somewhere else, as he wanted no part of that! Lamm was waging all-out war on everyone, including in the underworld it seemed, and while no one knew how the two-bit crook had gotten so many resources so quickly, he was certainly not one you wanted to cross now if you wanted to keep breathing. Or if you were a PC, in which case you pretty much whole-heartedly embraced the idea of “certain death” as a matter of course. Jansen was helpful in that he did point them in the right direction to someone who might be able to help them – Devargo Barvasi, the self-styled king of spiders who made his home in Eel’s End. Word on the street was that Devargo and Gaedren were at war over control of the Shiver trade in the city (not that Gaedren wasn’t pretty much at war with everyone at this point – the fate of an anarchist).

The last request they had for Jansen was to see what he could find out about the royal pendant they had found (I think – I remember there was some inquiry they wanted him to check on, as they paid him a second visit in the following session). But for now, with little else to go on, the party proceeded to Eel’s End to check in on the King of Spiders, and see if he might be able and willing to help them bury Gaedren Lamm.

Setting up all of Eel’s End, with its five separate boats and associated NPCs, was a challenge to do in a single week, but I managed to put a map together and get all of the necessary tokens put together, just in case the visit turned hostile. Players are always full of surprises, but with only Oliver, Vaz’em, and Alice now making up the party, I was really hoping that they didn’t manage to piss Devargo off enough that he decided to feed them to the spiders. 3 Level 1 PCs vs. Devargo (level 4), the dozen or so level 2 warriors he had around as enforcers, the half dozen thugs he was entertaining (level 1 warriors yet again!), Chittersnap the Ettercap, the 4 dream spiders, and the ogre spider (which I replaced with a Large Drain spider, or a “Tunnelweb Terror” as they called them in the Guide to Korvosa) would have certainly been a TPK. Particularly as I planned, if it came to that, for the Large spider and Ettercap, with their pretty decent CMBs, to spend the entire fight grappling people until they managed to Pin them, at which point they’d tie them up in webs and eat the Dream spiders gnaw them into a catatonia from which they would never awake. It very nearly came to that.

So the players get to Eel’s End, and find despite the chaos last night and the martial law imposed today, that Eel’s End was still bustling with visitors, and everything was surprisingly well organized for a den of crime. A number of men in chainmail walked around with clubs – Devargo’s security force – while several others stood guard at the walkways leading up to the largest ship of the five tethered at the docks – an old warship named, fittingly enough, the Eel’s End.

For a while the group debated how to get in to see Devargo – certainly they didn’t have an invitation to see him, and this was not the sort of place you just demanded to see the boss without risking a beating or worse. Vaz’em and Oliver thought that maybe getting in with one of the other boat owners would let them get in to see Devargo – Oliver was certainly willing to go check out the House of Clouds brothel boat – when Alice decided on the direct approach.

She walked right up to the guards on duty, and announced that she was here to see Devargo her daddy because it was his birthday. The guards were pretty confused about this, but Alice was convincing enough and insistent enough that rather than throw her out or laugh her off one of the guards went to see what Devargo thought of this. When he came back, he came back with about four more guards, and he reported that Devargo would be seeing them now. It was pretty clear that this was not a request.

The group was all escorted into Devargo’s office, and made to stand in front of his throne (overtop of the trap door leading down into spider land – or Alice at least given how small the trapdoor is, with Vaz’em and Oliver right behind her at the edge of it). Devargo, annoyed at the interruption but intrigued, asked them what they were doing here.

At which point, Alice *continued* the deception that she was Devargo’s daughter. To Devargo. Suffice to say, the king of spider’s patience grew very thin very fast, and they were pretty much one more comment away from Devargo pushing the button and sending Alice down to feed the spiders. I very well might have just had Alice get eaten, and Devargo continue on with his conversation with Oliver and Vaz’em as if nothing had happened. But fortunately Vaz’em & Oliver spoke up at that point, revealing that they were here because they had heard Devargo was at war with Gaedren Lamm, someone that they hated just as much. Even better, they were here with something Devargo might find very useful – Gaedren Lamm’s ledger.

Instantly, they had Devargo’s full attention, although he was still a little suspicious that this wasn’t some sort of trick, either an attempt to scam him or Gaedren Lamm setting him up somehow. They went back and forth a little bit, arguing, and gradually increasing Devargo’s disposition towards them up from Unfriendly. In the end, all the party wanted was for Devargo to decode the ledger, and let them in on what he found so that they could go and take care of Lamm for him, pretty much free of charge (they all hated Lamm that much).

This suited Devargo just fine, but he wasn’t quite convinced yet that the group was tough enough to help him take out Gaedren. So he suggested that the group play a game of Knivesies to show him their moves. Never one to turn down a fight, Oliver volunteered, and soon enough he found himself up on a table with one of the hopeful thugs named Billy, one set of hands tied together and with a knife between them, and a bunch of gold coins scattered on the table. The rest of the party asked if they could place some bets, to which Devargo was amenable, netting the party a couple hundred gold if Oliver won. Billy wins initiative and manages to get ahold of the knife. Oliver tries to disarm him of the knife, and gets stabbed for his trouble (as he had taken his armor off to play, his AC wasn’t so great anymore). But Oliver ultimately manages to get control of the knife, although Billy refuses to give up and manages to land a punch before Oliver finally manages to stab Billy enough to drop him (nobody even tried to go for the coins).

The guards patched Billy up before he bled to death, and there was plenty of cheers for Oliver – except from Devargo who was a little annoyed he lost a bit of gold on the bet, but not enough to sour his mood now that he had Lamm’s ledger in hand. Still only level 1 and having gotten stabbed and pummeled, Oliver wasn’t feeling so good at this point.

The last topic of the conversation with Devargo then turned to the emaciated, sick pseudodragon sitting in a birdcage beside Devargo’s throne. Majenko had been some Acadamae brat’s familiar who got in too deep in depth from gambling, so Devargo took the pseudodragon in payment. He had since been taunting Majenko and forcing him to fight spiders. Despite his condition, Majenko was still capable of delivering some snarky comments now and again throughout their conversation, causing Devargo to stop and promise the pseudodragon that he was going to die a slow, miserable death.

Alice, for whatever reason, decided that she liked the idea of having Majenko as her own familiar (perhaps it was the promise of Majenko serving them for a year and a day if they got him out of here alive). She offered to buy the pseudodragon off of Devargo’s hands, as money was surely more valuable than watching the little beast continue to mock him before it finally died. Devargo wasn’t entirely convinced, but they ultimately got Devargo down to 500 gold for Majenko. They didn’t have the 5,000 gold that Kroft was supposed to give them, and so I thought that 500 gold was reasonable – it was still basically Alice’s entire cut from Gaedren’s stash. Even so, Alice was happy to make the deal, and Devargo reluctantly freed the pseudragon.

And just when the two groups were about to part ways, the entire ship shudders and lists ever so slightly to one side. Everyone immediately goes on high alert as Devargo announces that they’re under attack – and he’s not wrong. Believing that the attack was coming from the hold of the ship, beneath the waterline where the Eel’s End rested on its pilings, Devargo led the way down into the bilges. The party followed him and two of his security guards down, as it seemed likely that the attack was being conducted by more of Lamm’s lackeys. Still in bad shape from the Knivesies game, Oliver wasn’t particularly eager to go into battle.

Sensing this and having a rare altruistic moment given that Oliver had proven himself, Devargo offered him the potion of CMW that he had on him that Oliver chugged without a moment’s hesitation – Devargo kept his potion of Invisibility (Alice not having any healing spells was really starting to be a pain).

Getting down into the bilges, the party discovered the source of the ship’s shaking – something was punching holes in the hull, disconnecting the ship from its pilings (which would cause the vessel to sink down into the river). Also standing around waiting for the group was an old friend of Oliver’s – another of Lamm’s Little Lambs all grown up – Dodger.

(Yes, amused by the vague similarities to Oliver Twist, even though Oliver’s player claimed his PC was not based on that movie, I nonetheless took that and made a grown-up form of the Artful Dodger character.)

Dodger taunted Devargo that this was the result of opposing Gaedren Lamm. Oliver called Dodger out, asking him how he could still be serving Lamm. Dodger’s only response is that he had his reasons for still following Lamm despite the man being a monster (and Dodger did have his reasons for serving Lamm no matter how distasteful).

At this point, the discussion was over, and with a last warning not to challenge Lamm further, Dodger dove through a hole in the hull and swam away. A few moments later, and the source of the ship’s destruction rose up out of the water – a pair of Small Water Elementals and a Medium one. As elementals, they were immune to Sneak Attack damage, but not immune to Alice’s Murderous Commands. With Devargo and his two somewhat incompetent guards (they slipped off the rope leading down into the bilges to crash into an embarrassing heap at the bottom) as help, the elementals didn’t last long.

This was rather disappointing, as I had planned the fight to involve a lot of moving around. The medium elemental would bust up through the floors, creating spots where the water would come pouring in. This would cause the nearby squares to fill up with water, giving the elementals there +4 bonus to-hit and damage if you are standing in water. The party could counter this by manning the bilge pumps to suck out some of the water, clearing some of the squares. If the elementals succeeding filling all of the squares around the three pilings that the ship was resting on (essentially smashing all of the bits of the hull attached to them), the ship would sink and it would be every man of himself.

But instead what happened was the medium elemental spent all of its time smashing holes in the floor uselessly, while Alice made one elemental punch the other one, and everyone else hacked away at them (even without sneak attack, 1d4 damage adds up quickly when you only have a few HD). So no bilge pumping nor really any maneuvering was necessary. Oh well, they all can’t be winners – at least no one got sucked out by one of the elemental’s vortex power out into the river, where they might well have drowned (a perpetual fear of Oliver in his heavy armor).

Once the elementals were wiped out and the Eel’s End saved from sinking into the river, Devargo thanked them for their help and told the party that he’d be looking into Lamm’s ledger. Until that was done, they should go get some rest – Devargo would contact them when he had something for them. And thus ended the fourth session, with the party finally hitting level 2.

Inspectre wrote:
{. . .} Technically, Summon Monster is not on the Magus spell list, so I’d have to either jury-rig something like a wand, or just hand-wave it and say due to their role as suppressing and mastering devils, the magus class for these Hellknights did allow the use of Summon Monster (if used to summon Fiendish creatures or devils, anyway). {. . .}

Since you're having the Hellknights be Magi instead of using either type of Hellknight prestige class (technically, neither Magus nor either type of Hellknight prestige class was even near release when Curse of the Crimson Throne was written), feel free to make one or more Hellknight archetypes of base classes. (Which is probably a good idea anyway -- actually surprised that Paizo hasn't done anything like this themselves, except that Paladin's Oath Against Chaos sort of comes close.) This would be especially good for replacing the arcane version of the Hellknight Signifer, since Arcane Armor Training is kind of a trap (it hoses your Swift Action economy, even after the 5th level of the prestige class changes it to an Immediate Action, which doesn't help as much as it sounds like).

Inspectre wrote:
{. . .} Not that familiar with Pathfinder at this point, I had thought that Magus were more like the fighter/wizard of 3.5 – which is to say, they used spells to bolster their physical attacks. As the player of my Hellknight PC later taught me, no, this was not how it was done (instead the thing to do was to spam Shocking Grasp with a high-crit weapon over and over again :-p ) but at the time I didn’t know any better. {. . .}

What?! The killjoy . . . :-) You can make your Hellknight Magus work however you want. You could even make the Hellknight Magus archetype trade out some Spell Combat features in favor of better self-buffing, better use of two-handed weapons, earlier access to Medium and Heavy Armor, and addition of the Summon Monster series of spells(*) -- in fact, I'd like to see a Magus archetype that does this, now that the recent SLA FAQ has nerfed most Eldritch Knight builds nearly to death (although I'd also like to be able to use it or at least a variety of it independently of being a Hellknight).

(*)Although due to 2/3 spellcasting progression, Summon Monster would fall behind on a Magus unless you did some kind of cheese like the Summoner spell list does. Alternatively, you could the Hellknight Magus archetype actually be a Magus-Summoner hybrid class.

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Yeah, I suppose creating a Hellknight archetype for Magus would be the way to go – that could be a lot of fun. I’m not sure I have the game designer chops to make something that would be absolutely broken though (why yes, it gets full spell progression, full BAB, *and* can summon devils as a free action!). Considering I have a PC now who is playing a Hellknight, making a special class archetype just for him might also smack a little of favoritism. That doesn’t stop me from making an “NPC-only” archetype I suppose, and in a way that’s sort of what I’ve done since if I want someone to do something and I can’t find a way to do it within the rules, I just do it and worry about it later.

Nothing ridiculous, just stuff like “how does Dodger summon a bunch of water elementals when he doesn’t have Summon Monster? Well, there’s those Elemental Gems on the wondrous item table, but they only ever summon Large water elementals . . . and at CR 5 one of those alone would eat the party. Okay, whatever, he’s got some custom made “lesser elemental gems” that summon Medium and Small elementals.”

I had also stipulated no third-party content at the start of the campaign, as I didn’t want to have to try to cherry pick what was good third-party content and what was over the top crazy stuff (which 3.5 was rife with). It’s a pity the alternate class guide wasn’t out yet, as I would have built Dodger as a Brawler (I made him a Fighter/Monk to make him similar but different to Oliver).

So, after hitting second level, Vaz’em and Alice both took a level in their existing classes (no surprises there), while Oliver took a level in cavalier. Specifically, the Houndmaster cavalier archetype, giving him access to a dog – and thus Trevor was brought into the party. As only a 1st level animal companion, Trevor was not particularly impressive, but with only three players any extra help was definitely welcome. So our party for the next two sessions was:

Alice – Level 2 Dhampir Oracle
Vaz’em – Level 2 Catfolk Ninja
Oliver – Level 1 Fighter/Level 1 Cavalier Human
Trevor – Level 1 Animal Companion Hound

Session Five:

After resting and leveling up, the party decided to start the next day by visiting Jansen the fence again. What they found waiting for them there instead was an empty, blood-splattered front office. Sensing a trap, the party moved to leave but it was already too late. The door to the back of the building opened, and out stepped several city guardsmen, including Sergeant Grau (I elected to make him a drunkard only when he was off-duty, as his way of coping with the stress).

Grau explained that the guard was here to investigate the murder of Jansen “Jitters” Vankosin, after someone walked in to find a savaged corpse instead of a fence. He then asked the party how they knew the deceased, and if one of them might happen to be “Vaz’em”. *That* put them on the defensive, and they resorted to the usual “well what do you want with this Vaz’em?” before identifying who Vaz’em was. Grau revealed that they had found a message on Jansen’s body from Gaedren Lamm, demanding that Vaz’em come meet him at a well-known intersection in Old Korvosa, tonight, if Boule ever wanted to see his son again.

At that point while the party weren’t suspects in Jansen’s murder, Grau still wanted to take them in to meet with Field Marshal Kroft, given their apparent conflict with Gaedren Lamm. The party, not willing to start a fight with the city guard on top of Gaedren Lamm, reluctantly agreed to go to Citadel Volyshenek with Grau and the other guards.

Arriving at the citadel, the group saw Sabin the Sable Company Marine that they saved after the Fishery, who waved but otherwise didn’t approach the group. In relatively short order, the party found their way into the office of Field Marshall Kroft. A tired looking woman (Kroft hadn’t slept at all since the riots broke out several days ago, using castings of Lesser Restoration to remove her fatigue so she could continue functioning), Kroft is guarded but friendly, and quite interested when she learns that the party would be meeting with Gaedren Lamm tonight.

She reveals that Lamm seems to be organizing a full-blown peasant revolution, gathering an army of criminals and less-fortunates, in an attempt to enflame the riots further and topple the government entirely. As a result, the city guard was very interested in arresting him, ironic given that until Eodred’s death the guard largely considered Gaedren Lamm too small of a player in Korvosa’s underworld to be worth the effort. And now that he was a would-be revolutionary, Lamm had gone to ground and the city guard could not locate him. This meeting with the party, therefore, was the city guard’s best chance to bring him to justice. Of course, with Boule’s son as a hostage, Vaz’em wasn’t particularly eager for the city guard to get involved and bungle the meeting as Gaedren would undoubtedly kill Boule’s son if that happened.

So begrudgingly Kroft agreed to allow the party to go to the meeting alone, while they had several units of city guardsmen standing by several city blocks away to move in once the party got Boule’s son back and it was time to take Gaedren Lamm down. After that, it was time to wait for nightfall, and the meeting with Gaedren Lamm.

Arriving at the designated intersection that night, the party was greeted by several thugs. A moment later on a balcony of a nearby building, Gaedren Lamm appeared. The party bristled at the sight of their nemesis, insults were thrown back and forth, and Gaedren proved himself to be as much of a horrid man as his reputation suggested (he managed to creep even Alice out, apparently). The party started planning how to get up to him (unfortunately, he was jjjjjjust out of range of Alice’s Murderous Command), while Gaedren explained why he had called this meeting.

He was annoyed at the party’s persistence in getting in his way, but he recognized talent when he saw it. So, he wanted the party to do a job for him in return for Boule’s son. He wasn’t particularly bothered about the loss of his ledger, as his plans would already have come to fruition by the time it could be deciphered. If the party didn’t agree to do his job, however, Gaedren would kill Boule’s son and then leave Vaz’em to explain to Boule why his son had to die. To demonstrate this, he had Dodger drag Boule’s son out onto the balcony alongside him, threatening to break the boy’s neck right then and there.

Oliver again called out to Dodger, voicing his doubts that Dodger would kill a child. Dodger again insisted that Oliver didn’t understand, and that Dodger would do whatever he had to do for Lamm. It was pretty clear at this point that the party was never going to agree to any sort of deal, nor work any sort of job, for Gaedren Lamm so I went to the next part of the scene.

With a cry of “Gaedren Lamm, you have failed this city!” Blackjack appeared atop a nearby building, snapping off a shot from a hand crossbow that hit Gaedren high in the shoulder. With a curse, Gaedren fled after calling out to his men to kill them all. Dodger followed, dragging Boule’s son along with him. Again, the party wasn’t happy to see Blackjack, Oliver yelling several insults as the legendary vigilante leapt down from the nearby building, crashing through a window into the building that Gaedren had just ducked into. Sounds of fighting and cries of alarm came from within as Blackjack dealt with Gaedren’s men inside, while the party dealt with the thugs outside. From a nearby alleyway, another two thugs emerged with a pair of hunting dogs that they sic’d on the party.

Despite being badly outnumbered, once again the party demonstrated its effectiveness. Trevor, Oliver, and Vaz’em tore through the low-level thugs whenever they got into melee with one, and Alice kept several of them tied up attacking each other with Murderous Command. There were also a couple rogue snipers that took sneak attack shots from hiding in the building Gaedren had disappeared into, but they didn’t manage to land their shots and Alice used Murderous Command to get them to hop out of the window to join the melee below (Murderous Command stipulates that it has to be a melee attack, so the ranged snipers had to hop down to try to punch one of the thugs, leaving them completely vulnerable to the melee terrors of Vaz’em and Oliver).

Alice also used something new – Speak with Animals, to communicate with the attack dogs and convince them that the thugs who had starved and abused them would make a better snack than the heavily armored party, and after a couple good Diplomacy rolls, the dogs had to agree that yeah, working for the party sounded like a better idea. So they turned on their former masters, and the party got two more dogs to follow them around alongside Trevor (with only three people, I was trying to be fairly lenient).

The swirling fight finally began to draw to a close, and Oliver kicked down the front door to find that several more thugs were inside, all dead from Blackjack’s rapier and hand crossbow. Of Blackjack, Gaedren, and Dodger, there was no sign – they had all slipped out a back entrance during the fight outside. Continuing to follow the most likely path that Lamm could have taken, the party quickly came to a sewer grate that had been pried open – Lamm had escaped into the sewers, and from there he could now be anywhere. Annoyed that the old man had given them the slip, the party saw no other option than to return home and await what happened next. And thus ended the fifth session.

The next session would bring various issues stemming from party dynamics to a head, and very nearly spelled the end of this game.

Hey thanks for posting your game! I'm really fleshing out some of the minor villains of the game.

Keep it coming!

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As you wish, Olondir! Here's the recap for the sixth session, and the one that nearly ended my game before it barely got off the ground.

Session Six:

The next morning, the party woke up and headed to Citadel Volyshenek to see if Kroft had gotten any new leads on Gaedren’s whereabouts or if they had found Boule’s son floating in the river. On the way there, they were accosted by several duster-wearing men, led by a tattoo-covered Shaoti man. These were members of the Dusters, a street gang so-named for the leather dusters that they tended to favor as armor and fashion wear (armored coat medium armor). The Shaoti man was their nominal leader, Kynndor Thok, who blocked the street and called Vaz’em out.

It seemed that Boule had learned of Vaz’em’s failure to protect his son, and worse yet, had a chance to save him but refused to make a deal with Lamm. As a result, Boule had put a price on Vaz’em’s head, and Kynndor and his Dusters were here to collect. (Actually, as per the Guide to Korvosa, the Dusters only thought they were being led by Kynndor – the real brains was his lover Marlessa.) Kynndor wanted to take Vaz’em in alive for the reward, but well . . . Boule said nothing but his friends, and there was still a pretty big reward for bringing Vaz’em in dead.

The result was pretty inevitable – Alice’s dogs and Trevor swarmed the two men Kynndor had brought with him, and even his rage-boosted willpower was no match for Alice’s Murderous Commands. Kynndor really should have brought more than two guys with him, and that error cost him his life. The party left him lying in the street after taking his masterwork greataxe and golden tribal medallion.

They arrived a little later at Citadel Volyshenek, and were shown right in to see Kroft. They were just in time to meet Ishani, who was there for Kroft’s every-eight-hours dose of Lesser Restoration to keep going. The cleric of Abadar chatted with the party for a few minutes, but sadly was unable to heal them of the injuries they had sustained the night before and from Kynndor’s gang. Abadar insisting on payment for services rendered and all that. That objection swiftly disappeared after Kroft told Ishani to add it onto her tab with the Church, and the cleric immediately healed Oliver of his wounds (again, trying to make healing available now and again for the party since Alice wasn’t).

Unfortunately, the field marshal had nothing else to offer the group – Lamm had once again disappeared. Although Sergeant Grau did have something to give them when he stepped in a few moments later – a letter slipped into his pocket while he was at the bar last night. The letter was addressed to Oliver, and folded up with the letter were several tickets to the latest “death play” at Exemplary Execrables, a showing being held tonight.

Oliver offered to take Kroft to see the show, earning a snort from the field marshal as she expressed doubt that the death play would actually happen if anyone saw her there. Apparently the proprietor, Pilts Swastel, was suspected of being complicit in the disappearances of several actresses who performed in his death plays, but Kroft had no hard evidence of actual foul play as yet. Still, the shows were full of depravity, which might interest someone like Oliver and the rest of his companions, but offered only disgust for Kroft. Another time, then.

And so that night, the party went into Old Korvosa to see Pilts’ latest play. And seated next to them by sheer coincidence, surprise surprise, was Dodger. Apparently Gaedren Lamm had season tickets to all of Pilts’ productions, but was too busy plotting how to destroy the city to attend any recent shows. Dodger kindly took those tickets off of his hands so that they could meet discretely. While the play went on, I had Dodger confess that Oliver was right, killing Boule’s child was too much for him even despite his obligations to Lamm. But Dodger couldn’t back out of his deal with Lamm just yet, although that didn’t stop him from leaking the location of Boule’s child to the party.

He was being held in a residence in the Shingles, a twisting network of high-rise apartments in Old Korvosa not far from here. Lamm had a dozen of his men guarding the boy, with orders to kill him if they caught sight of any guardsmen or the party approaching the residence. There was no way for the party to get to Boule’s son without being spotted first – even Vaz’em wasn’t good enough to slip past all of the guards to get in and get out.

There was, however, a way to get there unseen – an old abandoned alchemy workshop had a rooftop access that was directly next to the building where Boule’s son was being held. If they could get up through the building, they could exit directly next to the building, rush it, and get Boule’s son before his guards knew what was happening. The only catch was that the building had been abandoned for a reason – something had happened there that caused the building to be sealed up. Dodger didn’t know what was in there now, but there had to be a reason why no one had ever moved back in – so the party should be on their guard.

Furthermore, to actually get *into* the workshop, since it was boarded up from the outside, and so close to where the boy was being held that they’d be seen entering, they’d have to enter it from the sewers. Supposedly there was a large sewer grate connected to the building, likely so that the workshop could dump any excess waste chemicals whenever they wanted. Dodger didn’t know the exact path through the sewers to get to the workshop, but he hoped the party could find their way there if they had a decent starting location. Dodger recommended the basement of the Sticky Mermaid, a local dive bar in Old Korvosa relatively close to the area. The patrons there had a drinking game where they would have a few of the local disgusting brews, and then venture down into the sewers to see if they came back in one piece. In other words, Oliver’s kind of place.

And with that, Pitls’ play reached its gory, horrifying conclusion, and Dodger said that it was time for him to get out of there before people started paying attention on how was there, instead of the atrocity being committed below. The party wasted little time in going to the Sticky Mermaid, and from there down into the sewers. It took them a little while to navigate the sewers, but Dodger was right – in this area the sewers were relatively straightforward with only a few twists and turns, and they eventually found the grate leading up into the abandoned alchemy lab.

They climbed up into the middle of the lab to find that the entire place had been seemingly dissolved – all that remained were shattered glass vials covering the floor. Oh, and a swarm of alchemical ooze globules that skittered forward from the shadows, looking for its next meal.

And this is where the session went pear-shaped. Vaz’em couldn’t sneak attack the thing both because it was an ooze and a swarm (more or less intended as I wanted to give them something to fight that he couldn’t just fillet). Alice couldn’t make it kill itself with Murderous Command, nor attempt to diplomacy or bluff it since it didn’t have a mind. It was Oliver’s time to shine, as he brought out Kynndor’s masterwork greataxe and went to town on it, alongside all three of the dogs.

Unfortunately natural attacks cause the ooze to get in free damage, and pretty swiftly both of Alice’s new attack dogs were down and Trevor was backing away whimpering with one hit point. Being basically a one-trick pony, Alice couldn’t do anything, and refused to even try stabbing at it with a scalpel or throwing rocks at it. Vaz’em, meanwhile, after learning that his claws would only hurt himself, backed off and ran for the stairs leading up to the second floor and the roof access. Unfortunately, the stairs had collapsed, and so Vaz’em would need to make a reasonably difficult Acrobatics check to jump up and catch himself on the remaining bit of the stairs hanging down from the second floor. After some quick calculations, Alice determined that she could not possibly make the jump between her shortened height and her armor, and went full on tilt.

In short, she literally turned around, and left, going back down into the sewers with Majenko to go off and see if she could re-unite him with his pseudodragon family. Meanwhile, Vaz’em tried to get up onto the second floor while Oliver valiantly battled the ooze – it took him a couple tries, but he made it, and from there pulled out a short bow and started shooting at the ooze. It wasn’t much, but at least Vaz’em was trying to be helpful instead of throwing a temper tantrum.

Unfortunately, Oliver failed a few critical saves versus the Nausea, and the greataxe had taken so much damage from the ooze’s acid that it was broken and basically useless. Oliver fell, and began to be consumed by the ooze. And here I made a DM judgement call. This ooze fight, while difficult, wasn’t supposed to be deadly, and it probably wouldn’t have if the three of them had fought as a team instead of Alice abandoning the party to go do her own thing. So despite the ooze having about 10 HP left, and Oliver supposed to be taking ongoing damage from its effect, when Vaz’em hit the ooze swarm with his last arrow, dealing 3 damage, I said that it died. And the ongoing damage against Oliver stopped, saving him from going to negative Con and dying.

Searching through the wreckage of the lab, Vaz’em found several potions that were still intact (the treasure I had rolled up for the ooze – ironically most of them turned out to be CLW from the random table). And with those he managed to get Oliver back up.

Alice, meanwhile, continue to go off on her own side adventure. Through the dangerous sewers. Alone. At this point, I was admittedly rather pissed off, and though this would be a good time for a lesson in what happens when you split the party. I asked her to roll checks to see if she found her way back – she managed not to get lost. So then I asked her whether she really was going up into the Shingles, alone, to see if she could find Majenko’s family. She was, and so I had her deal with the set-piece encounter I had come up with for when the party eventually did go looking for the pseudodragons (since that had been on their to-do list, just bumped down on the party’s priorities list with this whole business with Boule’s son).

Alice got jumped by a single choker, which should have grabbed hold of her with its grab attack, and since you can’t cast while grabbed by chokers (they grab you by the throat, it’s a special ability of theirs), she would have been done. It missed. Won initiative, full attacked, missed with both claws. At this point Alice asked what would happen if she cast Murderous Command on it while it was alone, and did cast it. As it turned out, this particular Choker did have an ally nearby, and grabbed blindly at its shoulder after it failed its Will save. It missed, but then the invisible Imp riding on its shoulder (having made allies with the choker due to all the pseudodragons around), decided enough was enough.

It cast its Suggestion, saying that it suggested Alice just stand there and twiddle her thumbs. An unreasonable suggestion perhaps, but she failed her will save against the suggestion, and so I ruled that it happened. Alice stood there, the choker eventually got a good grip on her neck, and carried her off into the night along with Majenko. The end.

Perhaps I could have handled that situation better, I admit, but Alice’s player hadn’t been fitting in very well with the group and had done some pretty boneheaded things. Abandoning the party to their deaths to wander off alone was the final straw. The player, understandably, also wasn’t happy with this outcome, and announced that they were quitting the game. And so, this session ended on a pretty big down note, with Alice gone (dead), Oliver just barely alive thanks to the CLW potions, and the two of them still needing to go rescue Boule’s son by dealing with all of Lamm’s babysitters.

Which left me running a game for only two people, which considering they were a fighter/cavalier and a ninja, was rather untenable. At this point I could have simply given up, but I had been looking for recruits to fill Ichihara’s space anyway . . . this just gave me incentive to move along on it faster. To my surprise, I was able find two new players who were able and interested in playing on Maptools during our chosen time slot (with the shift of the start time back an hour to accommodate for them living on the West Coast). And they were ready to play on the following week – my game was saved! And we have all been happily playing together for the past year now. 

The Dusters:

The garden variety Duster gang-member I statted up as a Warrior 1, Rogue 1. With their heavy coats they weren’t very good at sneaking around, but those could be taken off pretty easily, and the sneak attack added to their damage. Kynndor instead was a Barbarian 1, Rogue 1. While they could dish out a lot of damage if they piled on someone, with Oliver’s pet Trevor and Alice’s new two best canine friends (and her Murderous Command), the fight was over pretty quickly.

Sadly, while I had always intended for Marlessa to get her revenge for killing Kynndor at some point, I never got the chance as Boule called off the hit and the party had enough on their plates at the time. I suppose I could always bring her in now into Book Three, as part of the Emperor of Old Korvosa’s gang, but since I never actually introduced Marlessa it’s not like her existence is going to add much.

The Ooze:

The ooze was an alchemical ooze swarm (choleric flavor, I believe) so it was a fairly nasty CR 2, but given what the three of them had dealt with before I didn’t expect it to be quite so brutal. I had also included several sections of the room that were “booby trapped” with alchemical fire – unbroken vials that could have been stepped on and thus broken open and detonated. The idea was that these were traps the party may have triggered by stepping in the wrong place – or to lure the ooze over to them before stepping on them deliberately. Unfortunately, I made the traps too hidden amongst all the broken glass – the party never triggered one of them, and so weren’t even aware of their existence or that picking up the vials to use them against the ooze was an option. I should have made that, and the ability to run around and kite it to death with arrow fire more clearly a tactical option rather than trying to brute force it down with Oliver hitting it with a greataxe. Oh well, learn from your failures.

Prepping my own CotCT campaign now. This is fantastic stuff!

Well Inspectre

You're writing up these sessions pretty quickly. Are you making them up from scratch or do you have extended notes that just need finetuning? I like it, though, so keep it coming.

BTW, this is the 15,000th post on the Curse of the Crimson Throne boards, so that calls for a little celebration! Hurrah! Hurrah!

Ouch -- good luck at getting an improved party composition (maybe this has already happened in stuff I haven't seen yet).

More thoughts on Hellknight Magi:

This is really needed if the Hellknights are going to have Magi in them. The Hellknight Signifer prestige class requires Arcane Armor Training for arcane casters, which is a useless feat for Magi. Also, while at least it doesn't hit Magi with reduced spellcasting progression, it still only gives them (with their already reduced spellcasting progression) the same class features as it gives 9/9 spellcasters (with continuation of their 9/9 spellcasting progression). This is a problem that most spellcasting prestige classes have with anything other than 9/9 spellcasting base classes.

It's too late now that you have a Hellknight PC (what class(es), by the way?), but for setting up a new campaign (or at least in a campaign before you get a Hellknight PC) you could put up the Hellknight Magus archetype beforehand, and run it by the messageboards for balance checking.

I'd take a shot at making the archetype, but it's 02:22 now, and I have been known to edit things on a level with the ACG/ACO at this time (they must have been working late a lot on these), so I'll hold off for now . . .

By the way, a cursory look suggest to me that a lot of 3rd party stuff (not all of it) is fairly brokenly overpowered today as well as in D&D 3.5 times, even making most of the balance bloopers in the ACG/ACO look pretty tame by comparison (and many of those are brokenly underpowered, or don't work, or just don't make sense, although they have a significant number of overpowered bloopers among them, such as Mutation Warrior replacing Armor Training 1 at level 3 with Mutagen at level 1).

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Well, I have the old Maptools campaign files (I saved each session off separately), and the XP/Treasure write-ups on a forum board I gave the players access to. So I know roughly what encounters they did each session. The rest of it is pure memory, which is why I may be forgetting a few details here and there and mostly leaving stuff basic in its description (what they did, where they went, and why).

I had a bunch of free time over the weekend to write these recaps up. Now that we're in the work-week again, updates are going to slow wwaaaayyy down. :(

And Mutation Warrior getting Mutagen instead of Armor Training!? Wow . . . I mean, compared to the stuff casters get that's still not that bad, but it definitely blows anything else Fighters get out of the water! +2 to the physical stat of my choice at level 1? Yes please!

Oh yeah, speaking of forgetting things, I forgot to describe Pilts' "play" in one of my side-bar notes.

The Death Play:

So, I really should have used this as an opportunity to have Pilts' showcasing some of Salvator Scream's work, something like "The Tyrant" play, with some guy playing a nameless tyrant (Kazavon?) stomping around stage torturing and killing Varisian actors. Buuuuuttt I didn't think of it.

Instead, I just made up something to showcase how low-brow Pilt's idea of entertainment was. The play featured a serial killer from a hundred years ago that Blackjack ultimately killed off. The killer's name was actually a mockery of Blackjack, as he went by the name "Creepjack". The play featured a Varisian woman walking home through the dark Korvosan streets one night, when suddenly a cloaked man leapt out at her with a cry of 'It is I, Creepjack!" (Oliver really liked that someone else was mocking Blackjack) Cue cheesy chase around the stage, and after catching his victim, Creepjack stripped the actress and paraded her nude around the stage. Finally, to bring the show to its conclusion, with a cry of "That's the show, folks!" Creepjack hurled the woman down into a pit on-stage, which was full of ghouls. Live, actual ghouls that swiftly tore the woman to pieces, but the crowd couldn't see anything except blood flying up and screams, so it was plausible that it was all fake . . . right? Oliver was a little less enthusiastic about seeing Pilts' work after that.

^Ouch -- sure you didn't want to save that for Council of Thieves?

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Heh, ironically enough when we were choosing which AP to play, it came down to Council of Thieves or Curse of the Crimson Throne. Reading reviews for both AP sets pretty quickly revealed that CotCT was the superior AP, despite being 3.5 instead of Pathfinder (though to be fair, CoT was also their first PF AP, so some rockiness should be expected). Like I said, I was sorry later that I didn’t have something from Salvator Scream or another of Kazavon’s mind junkies, but the play was more of a background element and something to suggest that Pilts was a bad dude. He’d fit right in within Cheliax given that Death Play Opera from CoT though!

So, as I said last time, I managed to amazingly enough find two new players within the week so that next session we were back up to four players! Oliver and Vaz’em stayed on of course, and were joined by two people also hunting Lamm, sent by Kroft (pretty sure it was Kroft – she knew where to send them to meet up with Oliver & Vaz’em through DM magic :-p ).

Lora – Halfling Bard 2. Local bar performer, with a lingering Shiver addiction that only got addressed after she got a bad batch from Gaedren Lamm and nearly died from it. Been clean since, and has been hunting the bastard to pass the time when she’s not performing.

Rholand – Human Oracle (of Life) 2 – Rholand was a worshipper of Qi Zhong and local healer whose doors were open to everyone. After earning Gaedren’s ire, he was exposed to a poison that nearly killed him, and left him partially blind. Despite his status as a healer, he has been looking for Lamm to bring him to justice.

Session Seven:

We open the session with Vaz’em reviving Oliver with some found CLW points that he discovered amongst the wreckage. They also found a few other potions of various types, none of them immediately useful. They are just starting to figure out what they can do now to rescue Boule’s son with just the two of them when the grate in the floor opens again and a Halfling and blind man come crawling out. After brief introductions and learning that they all had a mutual friend in Kroft and a mutual enemy in Lamm (and the typical “I sense an aura of PC about this person. I am cool hanging out with him/her”.), the four of them reached an agreement that saving Boule’s son was in all of their best interests.

No longer threatened by a giant mass of ooze globules, it was a relatively trivial matter for the group to get up the broken stairs to the second floor (Vaz’em jumped back up and lowered a rope, I think). Once they were all there, the group clustered around the door leading to the outside and had Vaz’em open it a crack to peer through.

Vaz’em saw that there were a number of open roofs beyond the door, connected to each other by a network of rope ladders and wooden beams laid between roofs: the Shingles. More importantly, he saw a number of guards that Dodger had warned him and Oliver about, and that the rooftop shack where Boule’s son was presumably still being held was on the next door roof. In between them and there, however, was a single guard on their roof, standing at the edge and looking down at the passerby below on the street, and clearly debating whether he should try spitting on them as they passed below him for fun.

There was a bit of a debate on whether or not Vaz’em should try to sneak out and push the man off of the roof completely, but with low STR (12) and a ninja’s BAB (+1 at level 2), they decided not to take the risk in return for a potentially hilarious falling death. Instead Vaz’em simply slipped out the door, ninja-ran over to the guard before he knew what was happening, and introduced his claws to the back of the man’s skull. Being the by-now stereotypical level 1 warrior thug that Gaedren had been hiring, having a catfolk’s claws introduced to the back of his skull proved fatal to the man, leaving the way (momentarily) clear.

The rest of the party took the man’s death as their cue to run towards the shack, going for the bumrush strategy before anyone knew what was going on. Cries of alarm from the other guard posts nearby started going up, and it quickly became clear that the party was going to have a lot of company visiting them shortly. Spread all out over the map in all directions with some fairly hefty distances between the guards and the shack (i.e. several rounds of movement for some, one round of movement for the closest), it would take time for the rest of lamm’s men to get to the party. As such, their focus was entirely on the shack for the moment.

Oliver kicked open the locked but rather shoddy door to the shack as soon as he arrived, revealing Boule’s son tied spreadeagle , blindfolded, and gagged to a ratty bed, while two more thugs kept watch at a small card table a few feet away, playing a game of cards to pass the time. Having rushed the shack, the party got a surprise round on the two guards inside, allowing Oliver to get inside before they could react. The fight was short but brutal, the one guard lunging forward to attempt to block the door while the other drew a dagger and moved to slit the child’s throat. Fortunately Oliver was there before the man could complete the dastardly deed, running him through as he turned to the boy (AoO from an attempted Coup De Grace while Oliver was adjacent). The other guard fell a moment later, and seeing the guards closing in from all directions, the group did what PCs naturally do when they have a choke point – pile up on the far side and wait for the mobs to funnel themselves into reach.

In other words, the entire party crammed themselves into the tiny shack, Oliver and Trevor taking up defensive positions at the doorway while Vaz’em pulled out his shortbow, Lora started playing, and Rholand freed the child (and in later rounds tended to the groups’ wounds with Channels). The handful of thugs piled up around the doorway trying to get in, not able to do much to Oliver and landing only one or two light hits on Trevor. Meanwhile, the two rogue snipers who had also been on guard duty ran up and hid around the side of the shack, trying to lean around the corner and plink off shots through the doorway – to rather little effect given the penalties due to the swirling melee around the doorway, and Oliver’s fairly high AC. Although I seem to recall the archers getting in a lucky arrow or two earlier in the fight, dropping Oliver to low HP (or so his player tells me), which also contributed to the “let’s hide in the shack” plan.

At some point, the fight’s greatest threat revealed itself as a Rabble Rouser (Bard 1) appeared on a slightly higher rooftop overlooking the shack, started rallying the men (Inspire Courage, huzzah), and dropped down to cast Sleep – Oliver made his Will save, but I think a couple thugs that also got caught in the area failed and dropped at Oliver’s feet. The rest of them all got blasted by a Color Spray from Lora, and it was all pretty downhill for Lamm’s men from there. The party switched to the offensive then, with Vaz’em leaving the safety of the shack to start sneak attacking the remaining thugs from the rear, while Oliver and Trevor steadily ground down what was left from the front. With their front line dissolving, the rogues were forced into melee (always a bad place to be as a rogue), and were swiftly cut down as well. The rabble rouser, knowing a dog when he sees it, chose this point to turn and run away across the rooftops before the party could cleave through the last of his men, vowing revenge over his shoulder and silently praying that Lamm didn’t kill him when he reported this failure (spoiler alert: Lamm butchered the man, slowly and painfully).

All told, nine of Lamm’s thugs and two of his snipers laid dead amidst the rooftops, and one of his rabble rousers driven off. The party collected themselves, picked their way down from the Shingles, and had a message sent to Boule that they had recovered his son. A meeting on neutral ground was arranged for later that day, and father and son were reunited. Grateful for the return of his son, Boule was willing to admit that Vaz’em cleaned up his own mess, and so the hit placed against him was called off – he was under the protection of the Cerulean Society once more.

Furthermore, Boule revealed that Lamm had been using his son to pressure him into getting the Cerulean Society into pulling a job for him – robbing the Bank of Abadar. The idea was completely laughable – as the central bank of Korvosa and as worshippers of the god of commerce, the Bank of Abadar took its security *very* seriously. No one had managed to break into the Banks vaults in its centuries of operation, but Lamm was insistent and with his son Boule would have been forced to make a good faith attempt, condemning whoever he sent to failure and arrest. But now that his son had been rescued, Lamm’s leverage was gone, and Boule didn’t have to worry about that anymore.

As a final parting gift, while due to his status as Society guildmaster it wouldn’t be appropriate to reward the party for fixing an issue they caused in the first place (by Vaz’em’s mistake that allowed Lamm to kidnap Boule’s son), he could tell them that there was an old cache of his equipment in a warehouse down by the docks. Nobody would miss it if someone just happened to find it and make off with the goods *wink wink nudge nudge*.

Taking the guildmaster’s advice to go spelunking in this old warehouse, the group finds the cache of gear, which is well laid out and continues a number of items that each member of the party would find useful (one for each of them, how convenient!). There’s also some potions (also one for each party member), and some coins of various denominations that they are able to split up. Lagging a bit behind wealth by level at this point (since they hadn’t turned in the queen’s medallion for the sizable reward, nor gotten any jobs from Kroft as yet), this cache helped catch them back up.

The session ended with them being approached by a messenger who said that he had been hired to ask the party to come to the Three Rings tavern, a high-scale establishment in Northpoint, for a meeting. Cautious as to random strangers wanting to meet with them, the party’s curiosity is nonetheless piqued enough to go to the tavern at the designated time. They find a well-dressed man waiting for them, who introduces himself as Adonis Kreed. Kreed represents an interested party who believes that they may have come into something belonging to her – a royal necklace, given to Kreed’s employer as a gift. They were too embarrassed to publically search for it, as the theft of the necklace would be a scandalous incident for Kreed’s employer, hence why he was here in her stead. In return for the necklace, Kreed offered a thousand gold reward, presuming that they could be discrete about the deal.

Here I had expected greed to win out over caution, but Vaz’em still liked the idea of having it as a get-out-of-jail-free card, and everyone thought that this Kreed fellow was sketchy as Hell, to say the least. So ultimately they decided to refuse Kreed’s offer. The man was understandably incensed at being rebuffed, and stormed out saying that it seemed the necklace would be bought with steel, rather than silver, in that case. (An empty threat as it turned out, as the party was too busy with Lamm for the next sessions for me to slip in a team of assassins sent by Kreed to get the necklace back from them. Oh well!)
And thus ended the seventh session of the game, and the first of what would prove to be a game that lasted until now, and hopefully will last until the end of the AP or beyond!

Rooftop Fight:

This fight was a bit of a success and a failure. With such a large area and all the guards spread out, I had originally intended for the party to move from walkway to walkway, blocking off each avenue of attack in turn, rather than cowering inside of the shack. It was a good strategic move on their part though, and one inspired by the collective “oh s@$$!” moment when they saw all of the guards running towards them (staggered by distance, but still coming their way). It definitely scared the new players seeing a dozen men coming for them at level 2, so that part of the fight was definitely a hit.

Adonis Kreed:

An original character, Kreed is essentially Andaisin’s dirty deeds lawyer and problem solver. He is a member of the Red Mantis, as that organization initially at the start of the AP works for Arkona and thus for Andaisin. I had always intended on doing more with Kreed and having him suddenly pull out a hidden blade to shiv someone, proving that the slimeball lawyer was much more dangerous than he appeared, but the opportunity never materialized. Much like Adonis going and hiring Marlessa and the rest of the Dusters to go kill the party despite Boule calling off the hit in order to regain the necklace. Oh well, it's not like the party has ever wanted for things to do or people trying to kill them.

^Even without reading the spoiler, I wouldn't have trusted Adonis Kreed either.

Hiding in a shack is a double-edged sword: Yes, you have a good choke, but you can't retreat if things go really sour.

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Yeah, he was meant to be shady as hell, but given that the party was fairly cash strapped up to this point due to not doing anything with Kroft or the queen, I thought they might go for it. They did really consider it for a little while, but ultimately caution and pragmatism won out over greed. I was overall quite pleased that they held onto the necklace – and the only real proof they had of Andaisin’s involvement with Lamm (even if they had no idea who Andaisin was, or that Lamm even really had a benefactor beyond he somehow got a hole of a *lot* of money in a hurry, and thus able to fund his revolution).

And now for Session Eight, where-in we get back onto the path as written! For all of one session, anyway.

Session Eight:

So, this session began with the party having just successfully rescued Boule’s son, gotten rewarded for it, and having pissed off some mysterious man who knew they had the necklace, wanted to pay them a lot of money for it on behalf of some noble lady, and threatened them when they refused to deal.

It seemed likely that Kroft may have some more information for them, and certainly checking in on the sleep-deprived captain of the guard seemed like a good idea. On their way to the citadel, however, they ran into a messenger sent by Devargo – he had found something interesting in the parts of Lamm’s ledger he had cracked thus far and wanted to see them. Now.

Essentially, here was a choice for them of what they wanted to do this session – they could go see what Devargo’s lead from Lamm’s ledger was, or they could go see if poor Kroft needed any more help. Despite being a group of rather shady characters themselves, the party decided the drug dealer they didn’t really like could wait, and that they should help the nice overworked guard captain lady (whom Oliver was trying – rather unsuccessfully – to woo).

This was a very good opportunity for me to weave some of the AP’s pre-existing material back into game, and so when the party reported in to Kroft they learned that the guard was having problems with deserters. Worse yet, Kroft was starting to suspect that Lamm had several guardsmen in his pocket, as an inside man was the only logical explanation for how he managed to keep slipping away from the guard so easily. The most likely suspect was a Lieutenant Verik Vancaskerkin who had recently deserted from the guard with several others under mysterious circumstances. Kroft was fairly sure Verik was dirty and had received payments from Lamm, but even if he wasn’t she could hardly ignore an officer deserting and taking a number of men along with him.

So Kroft hired the party to go sort Verik out, as the last thing the citizenry needed was to see guardmen fighting other guardsmen in the street, which is what would happen if Kroft sent men in to arrest Verik (or worse, he’d convince them to desert too). Nonetheless, while Kroft wanted this issue resolved, she also wanted answers as to why Verik deserted – which mean if the party brought Verik back in alive to explain they’d get effectively double the reward (as written in the AP). That was pretty much all the incentive that they needed, and so our band of protagonists set out for All the World’s Meat butchery (they got the joke of “All the World Is Meat” fairly quickly, although they didn’t learn the why of the joke until a little later).

They did some initial scouting of the place as usual, with Vaz’em circling around the building to look for alternate entrances. He found some windows on the second-floor of the building, but given the not-so-great climbing skills of the rest of the party who wasn’t a human/cat furry freak of nature, they decided to just go with the direct approach. Direct approach in this case pretty much meaning entering the front room, and talking with the two Cow Hammer boys there just long enough to get into position to hop the counter and commence with the violence. (There may have been some banter before the violence, but I can’t recall a whole lot of investigation beyond “they’re in there, they’re selling meat, let’s go kick their asses and get paid”).

The guardsmen, being foes with actual armor, a first for the party, actually gives them a bit of pause. It certainly doesn’t change the inevitable beatdown that awaits the Cow Hammer Boys, but it’s definitely something new as one of the guardsman holds the doorway leading deeper in while the second one runs for the back, screaming bloody murder. The first guard then attempts to make a fighting retreat, but doesn’t make it very far before he is cut down.

The party sees the other guard at the end of the narrow hallway beyond the entry room, and move in to stop him before he can actually alert anyone with his cries of alarm. A forlorn hope that is, as the door leading from the hallway into the butchery proper swings open to reveal another man in a guards uniform, leveling a crossbow at the group. The fight continues, and just as Oliver, Trevor, and Vaz’em are starting to push into the butchery room, a fourth guard appears from the side doorway that connects to the meat curing room, flanking the party and coming out right on top of Rholand. Throughout this fight the guards are yelling suggestions and orders back and forth to each other, including the classic “That guy in the back is the healer! GET HIM!” after Rholand channeled to keep the party on its feet.

Finally, Verik makes an appearance at the top of the stairway, using his Precise Shot feat to great effect as he shoots Oliver in the back a couple times over the next several rounds. With a strength-bonus compound bow and magical arrows, this hurts quite a bit. He isn’t able to get a good shot at the rest of the party standing further back up the hallway, and after the last of his men falls Verik retreats back upstairs, preparing to make his final stand. Actually, Baldrago is dropped to exactly 0, making him disabled instead of dying (this is important later).

Rather than indulging him, the party decides to take a few minutes to heal up, have Rholand stabilize and tie up the defeated guardsmen, and explore the rest of the downstairs so they don’t get hit from behind again by any more Cow Hammer Boys who are hiding and biding their time instead of joining the initial fight. They discover the boars and wisely decide to leave them alone (I had wanted to release them during the fight for even more chaos, but unfortunately all of the Cow Hammer Boys were too busy fighting for their lives to risk them trying to press a pair of ornery pigs into service as warbeasts). Vaz’em also went down through the grate in the butchery into the disgusting sewer drain , finding the three reefclaws munching on all the slop and excess bits cast down from above – including what appeared to be human bones. The ninja wisely decided to leave the three beasties to their meal, having seen little else of value except a passage leading deeper into the sewers past the three skittish but not immediately aggressive reefclaws.

Of course, the most important thing that the party found downstairs was explicit evidence of the Cow Hammer Boy’s side job – the half chopped up body of a man hanging from a hog like any other animal to be slaughtered, and the bloodied form of another man that they were still in the process of “tenderizing”. A man that the party recognized, in fact – Vaz’em and Oliver’s good old friend Fishguts Jim (the fisherman who ran afoul of the reefclaws in session two). They cut him down and patched him up, learning that the other man was named Fishguts Joe, although I don’t think they ever found out why Fishguts Jim was getting worked over as they never asked that particular question. Likely it was due to the fact that they were all too busy getting worked up over the cannibalism business that the Cow Hammer Boys were running, killing people, butchering them, and then putting their meat out front to give away. Lora was especially upset at this revelation (not sure why the Halfling bard was especially disgusted by this act), and advocated killing all of the guards at once for this. She was thankfully outvoted, although it was certainly a near thing.

Particularly after, upon being questioned about this, Baldrago who (being disabled at 0 HP) confessed to pretty much everything, including that they had hidden their pouch of ill-gotten gains beneath the trough for the pigs, which the party was welcome to in return for letting them go (again trying to lure the party into battle with the hated oinkers, but no dice – even PCs don’t want to anger the bacon). Having learned about the Cow Hammer Boys’ side business, and with proof, and not interested at all in taking Baldrago’s deal of letting him escape justice for what he did, the party left the four guards tied up while they went upstairs to confront Verik with this information. It was a rather short confrontation, as upon learning what his men had been doing, Verik’s will to fight collapsed entirely. He had suspected that they were doing some illicit behind his back, but certainly nothing like promoting cannibalism! Lora, still rather offended by this atrocity, wasn’t about to accept ignorance as an excuse and very nearly stabbed Verik with her rapier, having to be physically held back by Rholand from restarting the fight (or more likely, injuring or killing Verik where he stood as he was rather contrite at this point).

Questioned about his motivations, Verik revealed that he had indeed taken money from Lamm, but only as a way to go undercover within Lamm’s organization. Verik was also aware that there were corrupt members of the city guard, and thus he had decided to do this all on his own (well, with some suggestions from Melyia aka Vimanda Arkona, but nobody extracted her involvement out of him). He actually suspected Kroft of being dirty, which drew some incredulous stares from the group. Nonetheless, in the interests of getting this all sorted out, the party was willing to take Verik before Kroft so that he could attempt to explain why he deserted, and offer whatever proof he had of his good intentions to go undercover. Unfortunately, Verik was bad at undercover work, as he had no evidence of his innocence in taking Lamm’s money solely to go undercover rather than just taking it, nor did he have a lot of useful information to provide on Lamm’s organization beyond that he was planning something big with the next day or two, and that Lamm wanted as many city guards recruited for the job as possible (okay, he was *really* bad at undercover work).

Satisfied that they had explored the butchery thoroughly, they took Verik’s gear (including the ornate silver dagger he had on him . . . hmmm . . . . that could be useful, especially since it detected as magical . . . Rholand ended up taking the dagger as a back-up weapon/just in case of lycanthropes). Coming back downstairs, they found only three unconscious guards waiting for them – Baldrago had managed to get his feet untied while they were all upstairs with Verik, and had run off. Which is pretty much where we ended the session, as they were preparing to leave for the trip back to Citadel Volyshenek with their prisoners, and wandering just where exactly Baldrago had gotten off to, and how he had run off so fast.

(Since they had left the disabled and tied-up but still very conscious Baldrago alone, I decided that he managed to get away and just sort of DM hand-waved his escape. What can I say, Lamm needed a buddy to join him on the reoccurring villains list. :p The players grumbled a little, but it wasn’t too big of a deal in the end . . . and his escape most certainly came back to bite him in the ass a few sessions later, so it’s all good.

Devargo’s Mission:

If the party had gone to visit Devargo instead, he would have sent them to investigate one of Lamm’s shiver businesses. Apparently there was a place near to the Jittery Quill, an upscale café favored by the students of the Acadamae, where the kids could go to get Shiver – and if they were feeling really adventurous (read: suicidal) they could also get Gaedren Lamm’s new Shudder drug as well. The place was just a heavily-fortified door in the wall of an alleyway, with a rapid-shot/rapid reload crossbow user behind it with orders to shoot anyone he didn’t like. Past that, there was an entrance down into the sewers, which if followed, would eventually lead to a small underground complex where the Shudder (and Shiver) was being produced – a small Thassilon lab originally used by Sorshen (one of dozens of such complexes scattered throughout the underground Vaults beneath Korvosa) now converted into a drug lab by Gaedren. As it turns out, this got recycled to be Lamm’s final hideout a number of sessions later, so I still got the chance to use the map, more or less. :D

This is pretty cool. Did they take a shot at the delayed mission later?

One of these days when I don't have to go in to work or can actually get home from work significantly before midnight, I will have to make a stab at a Hellknight Magus(*) archetype.

(*)Hellblade? (Although I am debating whether to save that for a Lawful Evil Paladin/Antipaladin alternate class.)

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They did not, as they ultimately decided that working for the captain of the city guard was better than helping out an a+&@#!@ drug dealer. Considering they were destined to go on to make friends with the queen, this party is quite the group of social climbers!

If you wanna keep the “X” blade idea, what about Infernal Blade? Or Infernal Knight or something similar?

So, as nice as it was to wrap up the first half of Book One or so (minus killing Gaedren Lamm and giving the queen her necklace back, anyway), off Path we go again!

Session Nine:

Starting back at All the World’s Meat, the party had to figure out how to cart their prisoners back to the Citadel. They still found a cart used for deliveries around the side and used that, loading the still-unconscious guards and Verik into it, and hauled them all off to Citadel Volyshenek. The guardsmen they handed off to be locked up, while they escorted Verik as promised to meet with Kroft to explain himself.

They arrived to find that Kroft had two new visitors, a dashing middle-aged man and a man in the uniform of the Sable Marines. These were Vencarlo Orsini, head of a fencing academy in Old Korvosa and an old friend of Kroft’s (who was attempting to convince her to take a day off and get some sleep), and Marcus Endrin, Commander of the Sable Marines (who was attempting to convince Kroft to join him in trying to curb the Hellknights’ enthusiasm for wanton slaughter of anyone and everyone caught breaking the law). Kroft’s position with Endrin, while she agreed with him that they were going too far with public summary executions, was that they needed the Hellknights to keep the city from tearing itself apart, and more pointedly, that there was very little either of them could do to stop the Hellknights. Which was true – if the Hellknights had wanted to, they very easily could just slaughter the strained city guard and Sable Marines, and declare themselves the new overlords of Korvosa. Thus far they *hadn’t* done that, but the idea might pop into DeVries head if he got too much pushback. Exasperated that Kroft didn’t share his gung-ho nature for kicking the Hellknights out and that Ileosa’s rule was unlikely to last long if she didn’t even have the spine to bring the Hellknights to heel, Marcus left.

Which left Vencarlo free to do his bit next, of convincing Kroft to take a day off before she simply collapsed from repressed exhaustion. At first Oliver was a little annoyed at this potential competitor for Kroft’s affections, but Vencarlo’s gregarious nature and willingness to laugh at Oliver’s jokes and join in on double-teaming Kroft with snark (and just with snark, get your minds out of the gutter people!) quickly won Oliver over. And yes, given Oliver’s deep dislike for Blackjack, the irony of this was not lost on me, believe me.

Kroft was less than pleased to have two comedians cracking jokes at her on zero sleep for the past week, so she eventually threw Vencarlo out. Before he left, Vencarlo complimented Lora on her local performances, and that he hoped to catch another one soon *kiss on the hand*. So, Vencarlo’s first impression on the party was mostly positive – exactly as intended, although you can never tell whether people will be amused or annoyed at a particular NPC. Thus far, the NPC being helpful and having a sense of humor seems to do wonders for my players’ impression of them, even if they really are an a+%#$~~ (to others. Being a jerk to the PCs tends to earn you a spot on their “to-kill” list :-p )

To be fair to Kroft though, she did have a lot on her plate besides sleep deprivation. There was Lamm’s inside man in the guards, his next planned attack that was apparently supposed to take place sometime tomorrow, and a few days after that, the public coronation of Queen Ileosa, which would mark her official installation as the new ruler of Korvosa. The ceremony itself would be largely open only to the nobility and necessary guards, but she would be making a public appearance afterwards to speak to the assembled commoner masses – a perfect opportunity for Lamm if he wanted to cause even more chaos by removing Korvosa’s last legitimate ruler (with Ileosa’s death, the nobility would have to select a new ruler from amongst themselves, a prospect that could very well lead to civil war). And to top it all off, one of the Hellknights who had been out on patrol last night went missing - and DeVries, commander of the Hellknights, very well might decide to tear the city apart to find out what happened to him. Which was another reason why Marcus Endrin had stopped by, in an effort to come up with a game plan if the Hellknights decided the loss of one of their knights meant it was open season for all of Korvosa. (Summary of game plan at this point: grab your ankles and kiss your butt good-bye.)

With her two guests finally out of the way, it was time for Kroft to see what Verik had to say for himself. As mentioned in last sesions’s write-up, Verik did a pretty awful job at defending himself or even offering useful information from his time undercover, even with pressure from Oliver that this was his one best and only chance to save his ass. Kroft was unimpressed, and regrettably sentenced him to being stripped of his standing within the guard, sentenced to temporary confinement beneath the Longacre Building while awaiting trial, on the charges of dereliction of duty, and accessory charges of murder and cannibalism. All the same, that did rule Verik out as *the* inside man, since apparently Verk’s desertion largely stemmed from Kroft suspecting him of being dirty, and vice versa.

That left only a couple remaining potential suspects as the inside man had to be a high-ranking officer within the guard, and Verik was just ruled out, and Kroft knew that she was not dirty (growing ever increasingly irritable and irrational from lack of sleep, but not dirty). The two remaining most likely suspects therefore were a Lieutenant Rastin, and a Sergeant Grau – yes, the same Sergeant Grau who they met at Jansen’s apartment office, and who led them to meeting Kroft in the first place. A search of Grau’s footlocker in the barracks revealed some highly suspicious pouches full of coin, while Lieutenant Rastin’s was completely clean – what are the odds (pretty good if Grau was being framed). Although they were old friends, Kroft couldn’t let this go without further investigation, and asked the party to retrieve the good sergeant for questioning in return for some more gold (although only a little less than half what they got for bringing Verik in). With a note of disgust, Kroft told them that they could likely find him at the nearby tavern of Bailer’s Retreat. (Just because you’re dealing with everything by becoming a workaholic Kroft, doesn’t mean you get to look down your nose at everyone who just becomes regular alcoholics instead, geez).

As they were being escorted out of the citadel by Kroft, they were accosted by Vencarlo, who had gotten past the guardsmen by insisting that he had an urgent matter to discuss with the Field Marshall. As if already expecting what was coming, Kroft asks him to explain with an annoyed “What?”. At which point Vencarlo produced a bouquet of flowers with a flourish and offered them to her, with a comment that he just wanted see her smile again. Kroft nearly brained him with the flowers right there in the hallway, but instead chose to slap the bouquet out of his hands with an exasperated sigh, and march back into her office and slam the door shut behind her. Vencarlo’s willingness to push his luck in harassing the Field Marshall further for the sake of humor and goodwill, which ineffective in convincing Kroft to take a day off, did increase his standing further in the party’s eyes.

So when he turned to them to mention that Grau was an old student and friend of his (as was Kroft, actually), the party listened. Vencarlo was certain that Grau was not guilty despite appearances, and asked the party to help him if they could. The party wasn’t willing to get on Kroft’s bad side by refusing to bring the sergeant in, but they agreed at least not to beat the poor bastard to within an inch of his life and drag him back to the citadel unconscious as they had done with Verik’s men. It would have to do.

They went to the Bailer’s Retreat to find Grau in the midst of his nightly ritual of getting completely smashed drunk once his shift was over. He confused Oliver for someone named Neffi (as per the book on his encounter during Part Two), which wasn’t as helpful as one might think in convincing Grau to come quickly with them back to Citadel Volyshenek (he wanted to have a couple more drinks with his old friend Neffi first). Eventually they managed to break through the haze of alcohol to tell him that he was under suspicion of being in Lamm’s pocket, and he needed to come with them to defend his innocence. *That* seemed to sober the sergeant up a little, and while he was still in a pathetic state he did accompany them peaceably back to the citadel. Easiest 400 gold the party ever made.

Like Verik before him, Grau was pretty terrible at defending himself, although it’s rather hard to do that when you’re barely able to remain standing. While Kroft’s heart was softened a bit, her stance remained the same – with nothing that could clear Grau’s name, she had to lock him up in Longacre along with Verik. The sobbing, babbling sergeant was dragged from the room by several guardsmen to be taken to the prison beneath Korvosa’s center for justice, and with little ease that the party could do now that it was the middle of the night, they retired to await the fruition of Lamm’s plans.

They didn’t have to wait long, as early the next morning a guardsman was sent by Kroft to fetch the party. They had caught several thieves attempting to break into the Bank of Abadar, almost too easily given that these were inexperienced thugs more accustomed to smash and grabs than the highly-skilled thieves Boule would have sent. But the Bank had never been Lamm’s true objective, that was just a distraction. Instead a group of heavily-armed men had stormed the Longacre Building itself, and had taken control of it along with a great number of hostages, among them quite possibly Chief Arbiter Zenobia Zenderholm who was presiding over several trials today. The city guard was surrounding the building now in order to put it under siege, and Kroft could really use their help in breaking into the building undetected, and liberating the hostages before Lamm’s men could kill them all.

And that was where we concluded the session, with the party having leveled up to Level Three the night before, due to the hefty XP that I awarded for them spending pretty much the entire session just roleplaying rather than cracking heads. They would need the extra level in liberating the Longacre Building, because here at last Lamm was playing out the beginning of his endgame.


One change that I did make to Vencarlo was that he lost his entire hand during his duel with Sabrina, rather than just two fingers. He had the hand replaced with a wooden prosthetic of course, but it was noted by the party upon first meeting him that the fingers within the glove of that hand were unmoving.

This actually saved Vencarlo from suspicion of being Blackjack later, as Blackjack clearly used both hands to fight (sword in one hand and hand crossbow in the other). Here, I cheated by going with one of the ideas on these boards that Vencarlo got some sort of golem hand grafted on as a prosthetic. In my campaign, this was a result of the toy maker Giotorri paying off his debts to Blackjack for sparing his life after catching him thieving, and helping him turn legitimate by starting a (albeit not especially profitable) toy shop. Giotorri carved a wooden manikin hand for Blackjack, and then animated it with the magic similar to what he used to create his “daughters”, which would allow it to function almost as good as a real hand. Blackjack could even turn the hand on and off at will with a command word, allowing him to present himself as Vencarlo, the poor fencing instructor with only one real hand and a prosthetic, and Blackjack, the duel-wielding fighter of justice.

Sometimes, the little details that players notice is something important and gives them precious insight, and sometimes the little details (like noticing a fake hand) are just red-herrings that the DM puts there to throw you off the scent!

Vencarlo and the City Guards Kids:

So, not all of the details of this have come to light I don’t think, and I’m not sure if the players care enough to go nosing around for the rest of the details, nor does it really matter. But as DM, I like having an explanation for everything that’s happened, is happening, and will happen, and why. So I have come up with the following changes for the tumultuous four-way relationship knot between Vencarlo and his former three students – Kroft, Sabrina, and Grau. Hold onto your heads, because this is going to get complicated fast.

As I saw mentioned on the boards here at one point, Sabrina and Kroft were both members of the guard in their youth. In fact, they were essentially best friends growing up, an inseparable pair and formidable partners after they both joined the city guard. Both caught the eye of Vencarlo Orsini, and so along with another one of their Varisian friends who followed them into the city guard (Grau Saldado), they all three became his students.

Vencarlo saw Grau as a potential heir to Blackjack, given his skill and willingness to bend the law when necessary, something which the more straight-laced Sabrina and Kroft lacked. He was infatuated with Sabrina, which (as mentioned in the AP) slowly developed into love, or at least an amorous desire. The dynamic between student and teacher was one ripe with the potential for abuse, and for all his faults Vencarlo was a very good and honorable man (even if he had his own code of justice). So he kept those feelings suppressed, and simply remained Sabrina’s teacher.

He never saw Kroft in that same way, however, because he instead saw her more as his own daughter. This is due to the fact that, which hopefully I will get a chance to reveal to the players and Kroft at some point, that Kroft’s Chelish father was Blackjack before Vencarlo. Long ago, he caught a young Vencarlo Orsini attempting to start a life of thievery, and instead of turning him over to the guard took a chance and made Vencarlo his pupil instead. That was a kindness Vencarlo never forgot, and so after Kroft’s father passed on, Vencarlo assumed the mantle of Blackjack, and kept an eye on his bastard daughter, Cressida Kroft.

So that was what Vencarlo was getting out of all this.

Grau was largely along for the ride, dragged along behind on the coattails of Sabrain and Kroft, as he had always followed them along since they were kids playing in the neighborhood. This was, of course, because Grau had long ago fallen in love with Sabrina, but he never worked up the courage to tell her about his feelings because Grau was perpetually lacking in self-confidence. So he kept putting that revelation off, and off, and off, until he felt that he had made something of himself worthy of Sabrina’s attentions.

That was what Grau was getting out of all this.

Kroft was ambitious, starting out in Vencarlo’s tutelage as a young woman with a chip on her shoulder against the world that saw her as nothing more than a half-breed Varisian bastard whore. So despite her low station at birth, she was determined to make something of herself, and show the world just what a half-breed Varisian was capable of. Vencarlo knocked some of the rough edges off, but he never managed to break Kroft’s strong belief in the rule of law and doing everything by the book. After all, if she couldn’t beat the world at its own rigged game by playing by its rules, her victory would be a hollow one. Learning from Vencarlo was just another feather in the growing collection adorning her cap, and she would take advantage of every opportunity to propel herself to as high of a station within the city as she could manage. And, just to complete the quadrangle, I could certainly see a younger, brasher (and in modern-day Kroft’s estimation, stupider) Cressida developing a crush on her suave mentor, who was one of the first people in a position of power that didn’t underestimate or belittle her.

That was what Kroft was getting out of all this.

Also being a low-born Varisian, Sabrina shared Kroft’s ambition and desire to make something of herself so she could rub it in the faces of all the Chelishs who always lorded their birth-right over her. But like Grau, she also had a secret desire, one that would make this tangled love quadrangle complete. She was in love with Kroft – not that she would ever admit that to anyone, including herself. But what started as a chance friendship as children grew into a bond that was almost as strong as sisterhood, and then into something . . . else as Sabrina reached adulthood.

Discovering that you have romantic feelings for an old friend is awkward enough, but it’s even worse when combined with the discovery that your sexual orientation is not the societal norm. My depiction of Sabrina is of the strong, silent-type, the woman carved from stone whose expression is always a faint glower, and it’s a rare occurrence that she says more than a few words. But that doesn’t mean she is incapable of emotion, simply that she’s very private with them and internalizes it all, resulting in her perhaps feeling those emotions even more keenly than normal despite not showing anything on the surface.

So like the rest of them in this mess, Sabrina doesn’t tell Kroft how she feels. She is so terrified of rejection by her oldest and closest friend that she suppresses those feelings to the point that she’s barely even aware of them. That those occasional idle thoughts of what it would be like to kiss Kroft and other such things are wrong, that it would be an unforgivable mistake that Kroft would never let her forget about. So Sabrina suppresses those thoughts . . . and she suppresses those thoughts . . . and she suppresses those thoughts, to the point that Sabrina’s fear of rejection unwittingly becomes fact of rejection. And that certainty that Kroft would reject her (as, being closest friends, Kroft had already confided in Sabrina her interests in various men, including their teacher Vencarlo) given that her own sexual orientation was different became like acid, eating away at the foundations of their friendship.

So Sabrina started to view Kroft as a rival – it was a friendly rivalry at first, the sort of competition that might spring up between friends. But gradually it grew more serious as Sabrina started to put up a wall between herself and Kroft, so that she would be protected from the inevitable rejection. Studying under Vencarlo was a good way to sharpen her skills, and Sabrina started to develop a peculiar thrill at earning Vencarlo’s congratulations over Kroft whenever they dueled or practiced together.

And that was what Sabrina was getting out of all this.

So there you go, your stereotypical multi-way love quadrangle thing with all the typical soap opera melodrama, just waiting to explode. But with everyone refusing to bare their souls to each other, things may have gone on the way they were for quite some longer bit of time than it did. However, the city was not involved in this tangle of relationships, and it moved on without consideration of what the consequences of its actions to that tangle might be.

The old Field Marshall of Korvosa retired several years ago, before the start of the campaign. As was typical for the position, rather than being a matter of simply sliding in the next nobleman’s son looking for some quick prestige, the position of Field Marshall was determined by merit alone, and the successor was chosen from the ranks of the city guard. With one additional, racist stipulation (a trademark of the city’s Chelish heritage) – the Field Marshall of Korvosa always had to be Chelish – Varisians and Shaoti need not apply.

The top two contenders for the position were, to no one’s surprise, Sabrina and Cressida. And here-in was the problem for the selection committee – neither of them was full-blooded Chelish. They could have passed both of them over, particularly as racism wasn’t the only foible of Korvosa’s citizens (thanks to Korvosa’s Chelish heritage, an undercurrent of misogynism was also present – thanks for nothing, Asmodeus!) But neither were there many other candidates that could have done the job of Field Marshall well, and the city guard was important enough that no one wanted to be responsible for putting someone in who later bungled the job and threw Korvosa into chaos. So eventually they made a compromise – as Cressida Kroft was half Varisian, half Chelish they were willing to say that was still good enough to meet the “must be Chelish” criteria for Field Marshall. Sabrina, unfortunately, was full-blooded Varisian and thus could never be Field Marshall, even though she was actually slightly better of a guardsman than Kroft.

The confirmation that the city would *never* budge from its racist policies was not unexpected but was disheartening to Sabrina, but the fact that Kroft was chosen over her, and likely only because of her half-Chelish heritage, was the final break in their relationship. There was a huge fight between Kroft and Sabrina, as Sabrina demanded to settle this between her and Kroft with a duel, and Grau and Vencarlo both got dragged into it.

A whole bunch of these hidden secrets came spilling out in the process in the ugliest manner possible – Sabrina guessing that since Vencarlo was taking Kroft’s side, they must be screwing, since she knew Kroft has had a crush on Vencarlo for years! No, that’s not true, actually, Vencarlo had feelings for Sabrina, not Kroft! Vencarlo had feelings for Sabrina? Grau, he had feelings for Sabrina too – how could Vencarlo have feelings for one of his students like that, shouldn’t there be some sort of rule against that!? Sabrina didn’t care that either Vencalro or Grau had feelings for her, because she was gay!

About the only secret that *didn’t* come out was Sabrina’s feelings for Kroft, and given her anger towards Kroft over this whole Field Marshall situation, no one ever suspected it.

In the end, Sabrina’s demand to have a duel with Kroft was met with a counter-offer from Vencarlo to duel with him instead. This was Vencarlo’s last attempt to salvage the situation by showing Sabrina how ridiculous this whole situation was, and give her a chance to vent some of her anger, and to atone for his own failings in letting this situation happen in the first place. Unfortunately, Vencarlo’s defensive posture during the duel only incensed Sabrina further, particularly as she thought he wasn’t taking her seriously. So putting her entire weight behind her next swing, Sabrina actually cleaved through Vencarlo’s rapier when he attempted to parry yet again, her blade continuing on to bite deeply into his wrist. The broken tip of Vencarlo’s rapier flew off and cut across Sabrina’s face at the same time, leaving her with her own scar from the duel – although certainly Vencarlo got the worst of it, as his hand ultimately had to be amputated (it was effectively hanging onto his arm by only a few strands of flesh anyway).

And that was pretty much the end of all their friendships. Sabrina quit the guard the next day, eventually finding a place as the new Queen Ileosa’s personal bodyguard. Grau stayed on, but he was distant from both Kroft and Vencarlo, blaming not only them but himself for what happened. Kroft was busy with her new duties as Field Marshall, and losing her best friend over getting the position made things even more difficult – so she handled it by throwing herself into her work (once a workaholic, always a workaholic). Vencarlo, despite his smoke-screen of good humor, was devastated by the sudden loss of all three of his best students and the loss of his hand. Although he eventually managed to replace the hand, he was unable to repair the relationships – only Kroft eventually came back around to be a friend, although even their relationship was not as it was.

Sabrina went on to let go of her love for Kroft without even needing to reveal it and confront the consequences. Largely due to the fact that she found a new target for her secret admirations – Eodred’s new queen that Sabrina now spent all of her time guarding. But Sabrina learned the wrong lessons from the falling out with Kroft. Instead of revealing her affection so that it could either be returned and rejected, allowing Sabrina to eventually accept that and move on, she kept her growing feelings for Ileosa as hidden behind as impasse of a mask as ever. But instead of fearing rejection to the point of coming to despise the subject of her unrequited love, Sabrina internalized the potential flaws in such a relationship. She was a Varisian b*&+&, hired only out of pity so that she could one day die in place of the glorious queen from Cheliax. She put Ileosa up on an unattainable pedestal, so that she would never dare to reveal or confront her hidden desires, and instead blindly served her job as Ileosa’s bodyguard because Ileosa was the only thing that mattered – she was nothing.

And wow, after reading all that I just wrote, I think Sabrina might earn the reward for most tragic character in the AP. Going from one unrequited love to another, both of them not only unlikely to return Sabrina’s affections if they knew of them, but both Kroft and Ileosa so completely oblivious of how Sabrina felt for them that the thought she might be in love with them never even occurs. And that’s just what happened before the AP started – given what’s already happened to Sabrina in the game and what’s designated to happen . . . I really feel bad for her. Assuming my players don’t just muderhobo her and be done with it on their way to “Ileosa” because they’re just as oblivious at present to her feelings as everyone else is, I may need to figure out a way for them to get her a happy ending. Maybe she and Laori could – no Inspectre, that way lies bad slash fiction, and you are better than that!

Nice little (well, rather large, I'd say) background for Vencarlo, Kroft, Merrin and Grau.

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Heh, yeah, might be easier to put it all in an organizational chart. Though most of it is already given in the AP, minus Sabrina x Kroft and Kroft x Vencarlo. Although Kroft and Vencarlo as written strike me as very good, very old friends who probably thought about it at one point, and decided to just remain friends.

Okay, I think I’m going to just start linking music to the Youtube vids I used for theme music, and if the moderators think that’s a violation of forum policy they can let me know and I’ll remove them (or remove them themselves) with my apologies.

Theme Music for Longacre Invasion – Zenobia’s Grave from OCRemix of Ogre Battle

So last session our party leveled up to level three. There weren’t really any surprises there though.

Vaz’em – Catfolk Level 3 Ninja
Oliver – Human Level 1 Cavalier/Level 2 Fighter
Lora – Halfling Level 3 Bard
Rholand – Human Level 3 Oracle (of Life)

Session Ten:

Arriving at the Longacre Building at the end of last session to find it already cordoned off, they got a basic briefing of what was currently known from Kroft. There were witnesses who say they saw a man matching Gaedren Lamm’s description walking into the Longacre Building just before it was taken over by his men. Accompanying him was Dodger, and another unidentified man who was described as having soulless eyes, the sort of man who had done very bad things and had very bad things done to him in return.

While the city guard had managed to surround the building, between the defensive positions that Lamm’s men had taken up within the building and the potential hostages, including Chief Arbiter Zenderholm, they had not yet managed to breach the building. Rather than going in with the entire guard and risking more casualties, Kroft wanted to send in a small group to infiltrate the building and hit Lamm’s men from behind, securing the hostages while the city guard keep the rest of Lamm’s men occupied. Naturally, she thought of the party for this task.

The only thing that didn’t make much sense at this point was why Lamm had decided to direct the attack on the Longacre building personally. There were no underground exits from the building, and the city guard had the place surrounded: there was no way for Lamm to escape, no matter how many city guards and officials he ultimately took down with him. But standing out here wasn’t going to result in any answers, so the party got to work.

Rather than a frontal assault on the front entrance which was heavily defended (as the first wave of city guardsmen learned when they were cut down by heavy machine gun crossbow fire), the party wisely decided to infiltrate the back entrance commonly used by the staff. Unfortunately, no one knew what surprises Lamm’s men had set up back there, so Kroft urged caution.

With a key that Kroft had given them, they managed to unlock the gate in the security fence that surrounded the back of the Longacre building. Aware that crossbow bolts could begin raining down on them at any time from the second-story windows overhead, the party moved in on the nearby door leading into the building, Vaz’em in the lead. He checked the door for booby traps and discovered that there was some sort of liquid that had been poured out by the door – a small amount of it had flowed through underneath the door to the outside. There wasn’t much they could do about that particular trap though, so with Oliver standing on one side of the door and Vaz’em on the other, Vaz’em unlocked it and Oliver kicked it open.

A twindertwig that had been tied to the bottom of the door dragged itself along the floor, igniting, which in turn ignited the liquid covering the floor and surrounding area in a fiery explosion! (Explosive Oil Trap). Vaz’em and Oliver both managed to save, but took a little bit of fire damage from the burst – thankfully they had not been standing directly in front of the door where the worst of the flames was. Unfortunately, the fire continued to burn, blocking the doorway for several rounds while shouts of alarm came from within the room beyond the door. Not scared of a little fire (once I confirmed that it would only be a couple D6 of fire damage), Oliver charges through the flames to engage Lamm’s men.

He found two goblins set up behind the little security kiosk that was built into the wall just past the doorway – used by the staff to check in upon entering the building. Now only dead guardsmen and the hired mercenary goblins were manning it. Hiding out of sight from the doorway around the corner of the kiosk was a familiar face – their old corrupt guardsman friend Baldrago, who had escaped them at All the World’s Meat. Baldrago was useless as always, as I believe he ate a Color Spray from Lora (and failed), but the two goblins (Alchemist 1s) within the kiosk hurled fire bombs through the window and added to the fire damage Oliver had already taken from the doorway trap. Eventually Baldrago was taken down again, Oliver kicked in the door to the kiosk, and the two goblins were cut down after hurling another set of fire bombs at point-blank range.

Once again the party tied up the corrupt guardsman while Rholand healed up their wounds, and then they woke up Baldrago to get some answers. Realizing he was in a bad way here, having been caught by the party for a second time, Baldrago made them an offer – he would tell them everything he knew in exchange for his life. The party begrudgingly agreed, and they learned that Lamm was here to free some sort of dangerous prisoner who had been locked up a number of years ago. Worse, the soulless-eyed man accompanying Lamm was the Hellknight Xerxes, who had deserted, not been killed or kidnapped. *That* certainly put the party in a dour mood, and they realized that they needed to hurry if they were going to catch him before he had yet another dangerous criminal at his side.

But before they left . . . Lora had some unfinished business with Baldrago. Namely, she pulled out her rapier and tried to coup-de-grace him. I say tried because the guard passed his Fort save. Outraged, Baldrago tried to struggle out of his bonds, so Lora stabbed him again. And then a third and final time before Baldrago actually failed his Fort save and died (although the damage Lora was doing would have also dropped him eventually). It was a rather horrific and yet darkly comedic scene, as the angry Halfling woman had to take several attempts at stabbing a man in the throat before he finally expired – note to self, never trust a small-sized character to serve as an effective executioner! (I guess Lora *really* didn’t like cannibals, as we passed it off that Lora did it deliberately, stabbing Baldrago in several places that were not immediately fatal before finally running him through the heart.)

Moving into the connecting hallway beyond the entry security room, the party was immediately assaulted by a Shaoti man and his two pet hunting dogs. The dogs were little more than a hallway-blocking nuisance, but the Shaoti man’s arrows were rather painful when they landed, especially against Oliver (Ranger with Favored enemy Human). The dogs were ultimately cut down and the Shaoti man, without his screening force to keep the melee-based party off of him, sued for mercy. He was just a mercenary, and had no quarrel with the party or the people of Korvosa. When asked who had hired him, the man replied “Lamb”, and that was pretty much Oliver needed to hear – the man had to die. Or as he put it “Burn in Hell!” after the mercenary revealed he was working for Lamm. (The group was rather bloodthirsty that night). They managed to cut down the Shaoti, and hearing the sounds of pounding coming from down the hallway, proceeded in that direction. (This was a very good thing, as I had only prepared the back door fights, and the front door fight, with nothing else in between in the immense Longacre Building).

Passing a number of closed doors and stepped over the bodies of several dead guardsmen and Longacre clerks, the party burst into the next room to find several more men in guard uniforms attempting to break down a door. With them was Lieutenant Rastin, the REAL traitor within the city guard. They were trying to break into Chief Arbiter Zenderholm’s barricaded office, and were nearly through the door by the time the party showed up to ruin their plans.

The battle was brutal, as Rastin was immensely strong and wielded an axe and light mace together, meaning that he could put up a rather nasty amount of damage on a full-attack. Worse still, shortly after the battle was joined the nearby door leading into the main courtroom was flung open – a group of Lamm’s men had set up in there with the hostages – the room the fight was taking place in was the back room between the courtroom and Zenderholm’s office. Joining the fight from the courtroom was a man wielding a ranseur, another goblin bomber, and another rabble rouser (Bard 1).

Before the rest of the men in the courtroom could flood in, however, the skylight over the courtroom shattered inward with a crash as a cloaked figure leapt down to the cheers of the hostages – Blackjack had arrived! The party was much less enthusiastic than the hostages, as even with Blackjack keeping the rest of the thugs occupied in the courtroom, they saw it as him coming in to steal their glory yet again. Eventually Rastin and the corrupt guards fell, but the ranseur-wielder was much harder to take down. Largely because he was a cheesy trip-build, so he kept knocking Oliver and Vaz’em off of their feet every time they tried to get into melee with him.

Due to time constraints, we had to end the session in the middle of the fight, although there was little doubt that while obnoxious, the polearm wielder and his goblin bomber friend would eventually go down.

The Front Door:

The front door fight would have been rather ugly, as the front steps leading up to the Longacre building were wide open, save for the dead guards pincushioned with bolts. At the top of the stairs there was a large statue of Field Marshall Korvosa, which they could have used to hide behind to catch their breath. And chat up a badly wounded guardsman that was the sole survivor of the initial attempt to retake the building, taking shelter behind the statue. Inside the front doors was a security chokepoint designed to funnel people entering the building through a security search. The party would have been able to climb over the barriers, but between the goblin bomber and two rapid shot/rapid reload crossbowmen, along with two – not one! – of the polearm trippers, that would have been a difficult proposition.

There was also a bit of Schrodinger’s Baldrago, as regardless of whether they went in through the front or the back, they would have encountered the corrupt guardsman fighting alongside Lamm’s men. Giving only the illusion of choice is usually not a good thing, but in this case I definitely wanted to make sure that the party got a chance to take their revenge upon the guardsman who escaped from their clutches two sessions ago. Lora certainly didn’t disappoint with her repeated – and eventually successful – attempts to execute him.

I notice that you spell some names differently, like Citadel Volyshenek, Sabrina (Merrin) or the Shaoti instead of Volshyenek, Sabina or the Shoanti. Moreover, you seem consistent in this spelling; so I wonder, is that a conscious choice or does it stem from an early misspelling that you stuck to?

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Heh, yeah, Citadel Volshyenek was definitely due to me never being able to spell it the same way twice. Sabrina and the Shaoti were definitely accidental misspellings that I just kept doing so they stuck. I will admit that I’m not the best with names. Or spelling, for that matter. ><

Session Eleven:

Starting the session with the end of the fight we had at Session Ten, the party quickly finished up with the polearm wielder. He definitely gave the party fits though with his constant stepping away after tripping people, only to trip them again on his turn after they stood back up (provoking an AoO from the polearm user). I’m pretty sure this little a+~*+@% was the reason behind Oliver taking Step Up with his next feat. At one point Vaz’em went completely on tilt and just rushed at the guy – no ninja vanishing trick, nothing – just ran straight at him. So of course the guy just tripped Vaz’em with his AoO. As a sadistic DM, he definitely did good work in giving me an evil laugh.

Meanwhile, the goblin alchemist (who was basically out of bombs anyway), got slaughtered by Blackjack, as well as the Rabble Rouser when he tried to run away (a real habit with these Rabble Rouser guys – run the hell away after all your allies are killed). With the danger past, Chief Arbiter Zenderholm stepped out of her office, along with several guards and her clerk who had taken shelter with her. The stern elderly arbiter thanked them specifically for their timely assistance, taking some of the sting out of Blackjack arriving to save the day.

They also finally got to meet and speak with the folk hero of Korvosa, even if it was mostly just sneering at him. He agreed to escort Zenderholm and the hostages (who had been locked in the courtroom’s cage for holding prisoners awaiting sentencing) out of the building, and then come back and help the guards finish securing Longacre by hitting Lamm’s men at the front door from behind. Meanwhile, the party needed to continue chasing after Lamm down into the Deathhead vault, the maximum security prison beneath Longacre where the worst criminals of Korvosa were held. Several of the hostages had seen him and his escorts heading in that direction, so it seemed likely that’s where he was.

With the fate of the hostages settled (Hurrah Blackjack, you’ve saved us all again! *DM snicker* ), the party descended into the Vault. And promptly encountered several guards of a cleric of Pharasma battling Lamm’s rearguard – a number of clerks and guards that he had re-animated as zombies (through a scroll of Animate Dead, or I guess Create Undead in Pathfinder since Animate Dead only gets you one zombie/skeleton per casting. Maybe he had a wand or something, I dunno. :p )

Between the cleric’s Channel Energy and Rholand’s, they put the zombies down in fairly short order. The cleric introduced herself as Kira Fateweaver, and immediately outed herself as a Blackjack fangirl when she practically squee’d upon being informed that Blackjack was in the building. Oliver quickly attempted to put a stop to that by feeding her various rumors that he heard about the famous hero – stupid childish things like Blackjack was impotent, he was a cannibal, etc. The depths of Oliver’s dislike for Blackjack was really quite hilarious.

With the way out of the building clear, the party had Kira and the handful of battered guards retreat back up the stairs to the ground floor, and from there out through the back entrance to escape to safety. They would handle Lamm, who was presumably now in the high-security wing of the Vault (conveniently just to the north of their present location). The party pressed on to the north, and immediately found Lamm at the end of the prison hallway, only a single locked cell door (one of those security gates blocking off sections of the cells from each other) and a sizable bunch (eight) zombies standing between them. Verik and Grau were also present – Grau still in a cell, and Verik released and given a weapon by Lamm (taking his money had its advantages). There was also a woman with the group, released from another of the cells – Dodger’s sister, Laressa. (This was the reason that Dodger was serving Lamm, in return for breaking his sister out of Longacre).

While the party dealt with the zombies, Lamm was working on picking open the lock to yet another cell. He got finished just as the party got done with the zombies, releasing a haggard bearded man that Xerxes, the traitor hellknight embraced and saluted as “Brother”. This was Darius, a gunslinger outlaw that had been arrested several years ago for assassinating several government officials with his black powder firearm. And it was this knowledge of gunpowder that led Lamm to risk a direct assault on Longacre to free him – getting the loyalty of a full-blown Hellknight was just a major bonus.

With the zombies down by the locked cell door left to deal with, the party was still unable to reach Gaedren Lamm. No longer focused on picking locks, Lamm was free to taunt the party with their failure to catch him yet again, prompting Oliver to scream in futile rage (apparently similar to Keanu Reeves in Point Break, firing his pistol uselessly into the air as Kurt Russel gets away, according to Oliver’s player). It was here that Verik made his attempt to redeem himself, slashing at Lamm, only to be swiftly struck down by Xerxes. Grau also made his move, reaching through the bars to grab Darius, trying to prevent the group from moving to the north and escaping. Grau was also cut down by Xerxes, and the two unfortunate guardsmen collapsed to the floor, bleeding out while Lamm and the others escaped to the room to the north . . . which should have been a dead-end.

Vaz’em finally managing to get the cell door’s lock picked, the group surges through, only briefly pausing to stabilize Verik and Grau. They smashed through the door into the next room to find that it was not a dead-end after all – a Halfling-sized blue man was standing at the mouth of a secret door, waving Lamm and his flunkies through. Yes, this was one of the derro, which as rumored in the Guide to Korvosa, had secret ways into the Deathhead Vault that no one could discover (shielded from Detect Secret Doors . . . somehow). It was here that Lamm delivered his final taunts, and did a little house cleaning in the process, as Xerxes grabbed hold of Laressa, holding a blade to her throat while Lamm asked Dodger if he thought that Lamm really wouldn’t figure out that it was Dodger who had led the party to Boule’s son. That betrayal was going to cost Dodger, how much exactly Lamm wasn’t sure yet, but if he wanted to ensure his sister’s head didn’t come to own a spot on Lamm’s wall, Dodger would have to stay behind and kill the party (or die in the attempt). Xerxes cast a Haste spell, and then the group disappeared through the secret door as the derro slid it shut, leaving the party alone in the room with Dodger, who immediately attacked.

Dodger Fight Music – SOLDIER from Crisis Core

As they fought, Dodger explained that Laressa had been locked up for a crime that Dodger himself committed, his sister taking the blame to save him. Dodger’s guilt over his sister’s sacrifice had been chewing on him for a long time now, and when Lamm offered him the chance to break into Longacre and free her Dodger didn’t have much choice in the matter. And now he had even less choice in the matter since now Lamm had his sister, and while it was a forlorn hope that Lamm wasn’t going to do something horrible at Laressa, if Dodger didn’t kill the party then there absolutely was no chance she would live.

As I mentioned earlier, the alternate class guide wouldn’t come out for several more months at this point, so I had no idea about the Brawler, as Dodger would probably have been a good choice for that class. Instead, I made him a mix of Monk and Unarmored Fighter archetype, with a few helpful buffs from Xerxes – in addition to the Haste that he was currently enjoying, Dodger also had an Ablative Barrier spell from the Hellknight, which reduced some of the damage that he took to Non-Lethal. One of the Unarmored Fighter’s benefits is to have damage reduction towards Non-Lethal damage. It wasn’t much (like 2 damage), but every little bit helped, particularly as Dodger fought the group in the doorway and so it was difficult for Vaz’em to get around and Sneak Attack away. He spent most of his Ki points on Flurrying, which when combined with Haste and Flurry of Blows, meant that he was attacking like 4 times a round. He tried to use Stunning Fist a couple times (he only had like 2 or 3 uses of it), but he missed with the Stunning Fist attacks. 

After several rounds of fighting, Oliver finally managed to convince Dodger that he didn’t have to do this alone – the party could help him save his sister from Lamm, but only if Dodger helped them in return. Slowly, Dodger lowered his guard, and out of options besides die uselessly beneath Longacre, surrendered to the party.

Unlike the others that the party had interrogated thus far, Dodger was as close to Lamm’s inner circle as it got, since the old criminal didn’t actually trust anyone. He knew that Lamm had some sort of financial backer, but didn’t know who. He also explained what the royal necklace that Lamm had was all about – insurance against that backer in case of a double-cross. He also explained who Darius was, and that Lamm was planning on using Darius’s knowledge of gunpowder to build a bomb to blow up the queen at her coronation (which, given the powers of the Crown of Fangs, Ileosa was effectively immortal but Lamm couldn’t know that). Finally, and most importantly, Dodger knew where Lamm’s safe house of choice was, and where he would likely be returning to now. They would have to hurry to get there before Lamm could clear the safe house out, but they might have some time as Lamm had prepared the area to serve as Darius’s workshop, so he couldn’t clear out of there immediately on the off-chance that the party captured Dodger and made him talk (or, y’know, convincing him to finally turn against the old monster that he hated like Oliver, but had to serve to get his sister out of Longacre).

They could have killed Dodger then and there, or at least turned him over to the city guard, but apparently being Oliver’s old childhood friend who came through Lamm’s hell together with him covered for a multitude of sins. They disguised Dodger and got him out of Longacre, so that he could in turn lead them on to find Lamm. Upstairs, the last of Lamm’s men were cut down by the guard and Blackjack, and the crisis came to an end. The party was rewarded and thanked again by Chief Arbiter Zenderholm, who gifted the party with an Aegis of Shielding (a nice consumable magic item that gave bonuses to Saves, and would heal the bearer when they hit 0 HP – at the cost of crumbling away). Kroft also gave the party a hefty reward for saving the hostages and securing the building – 2,000 GP which finally started to get them close to parity with their expected wealth-by-level.

Exhausted, the party went home to rest up. Tomorrow, they would meet up with Dodger and go down into the sewers, and the Vaults that lay beneath those, to invade Lamm’s most secretive safe house, and FINISH THIS. (Actually, as I mentioned before I just used the map for Devargo’s Shiver lab – I wasn’t expecting Lamm to actually use that as his final stand safe house, but I had put some work into that map. Seemed a shame for it to go to waste. :p )

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And at last we come to the climatic final (or is it? *DM grin) confrontation between Gaedren Lamm and the party. I had debated Lamm clearing out of his latest hideout before the party arrived so that we could have my original plan for their final battle – on the back of a wagon loaded down with explosives as it raced down the road towards Castle Korvosa – but I decided eventually *not* to do that. The party had taken great pains to chase Lamm down, only for him to slip away time and time again (arguably by DM Fiat each time). So I decided that they should be rewarded for their persistence and in trusting Dodger – so they would catch Lamm just before he was finished packing up the black powder explosives, and the final fight would take place there in the midst of his appropriated Thassilon laboratory lair. That didn’t mean that Lamm was going to go down without a fight though.

Session Twelve:

The next morning the party assembled, met up with Dodger, and headed down into the sewers as quickly as they could. Thanks to Dodger, they had advance information on the hideout, and thus had a choice of approaches – they could go through the “front” that was guarded by a single guy and his pet rats, or through the “side” that was guarded by a pet otyugh. The party decided to tackle the front (Dodger and thus the party unaware of the guard’s true nature, hehehehehehe).

The dark depths of the Vaults were not a friendly place that someone explored on a lark, and I did what I could to provide a suitable dark, menacing atmosphere to the place. At one point, I rolled a twenty-something on a random encounter roll – I had been rolling for random encounters at points as the party moved through the beleaguered city, with a mental note that on a ten or lower they ran into some sort of trouble – looters, thugs sent by Lamm, whatever.) The roll of twenty wasn’t close enough to have an actual encounter, nor did I want to spend the time on some wandering monster, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t use it. After the roll was revealed, I described a loud roar coming from the darkness beyond their light sources down a side tunnel. Dodger screamed at them to “RUN!”, and the party listened, the group narrowly avoiding an encounter with something . . . unpleasant. Not sure what I would have done if they had gone charging TOWARDS the roar (players do some truly stupid things sometimes), but I would have either pulled out a rather unpleasant CR 4 or 5 biggie monster, or perhaps, would simply have their lights reveal nothing . . . and then the roar would come again from the opposite direction. *DM grin*

Regardless, they made it safely to the doorway to Lamm’s hideout . . . finding several piles of filthy hay scattered in the corners of a room, with a ragged man sitting in a chair reading by candlelight. The door guard had been informed that Dodger wasn’t to be trusted, so attempts to bluff their way past the guard pretty much went nowhere. Commanding his friends to attack, the man drew a short sword as a half dozen dire rats burst out from the filthy straw to surround the party and attack from all directions! This thug was a member of the Rat Teat’s gang, mercenary allies of Lamm’s, and for those of you who have read the Guide to Korvosa you know what the Rat Teat’s gang is known for – wererats.

What followed was a pretty grueling fight, as the wererat’s DR/10 silver pretty much meant that he could shrug off anything that the party could throw at him outside of Vaz’em’s sneak attacks . . . which still only did damage in the single-digits. The wererat also had a hilarious tendency to crit with his bite attacks, forcing Vaz’em to make double Fort saves on several occasions, one to avoid Filth Fever, and the other to avoid Lycanthropy (surely a horrible fate for a Catfolk, to be turned into a wererat). Vaz’em made all of his saves vs. the Lycanthropy . . . but failed the save against Filth Fever. Sadly, the onset time of the disease that I rolled was 3 days, so it would be a while before that caused him problems).

Eventually though, they managed to splat all of the rats, and kill the guard. After pausing a moment to heal up, Oliver kicked open the door to the hideout, and engaged the last of Lamm’s Liberators – desperately packing explosives from the numerous work benches set up around the room into several barrels next to a side entrance (beyond which was a cart and a wide tunnel eventually leading up to the surface). It was pretty much a who’s-who of Lamm’s men, as I threw in pretty much one of everything that the party had fought thus far – a Rabble Rouser, a goblin bomber, a pole-arm tripper, and a rogue sniper. As the sniper and the rabble rouser were up on a small dias right next to the door – the door that the party broke in through – neither of those lasted very long.

As the polearm tripper and an arbalester (the rapid-firing crossbow guys that the party had never gotten the misfortune to meet yet) moved into position, one of the other side doors exploded open as Devargo and several of his enforcers crashed through. The remainder of Lamm’s men went to block their way, and so we had two simultaneous fights going at roughly the same time, the party versus the last of the above-mentioned opponents, while Devargo and his men chopped through a horde of thugs and lesser opponents.

The fight didn’t take all that long in-game, but by the end we were getting close to the end of the session. Despite failing to stop Devargo, Lamm’s men had managed to cut down the last of his men, leaving the drug kingpin standing alone with the party. Devargo explained that he had followed an entry on the ledger to this place, and was here for Lamm’s head. He had lost most of his men to a pet otyugh that Lamm had guarding the side entrance though, but he was still willing to help fight alongside the party, and that they could split the proceeds from this place 50-50. Seeing as how Devargo was alone by himself, the party decided that an even split was not acceptable. Instead, Devargo would get nothing, but he would get to keep his life. Despite this, Devargo was not intimidated, and announced that he would leave Lamm to them, then, and just leave now. The party was fine with that, having pretty much now told the drug lord to sod off to his face. As Devargo left, the last door at the back of the door swung open, revealing the old devil Gaedren Lamm himself, a dripping boarding pike swung over one shoulder, and his pet croc Gobblegut as his side. Annoyed but not surprised at the party’s arrival, Lamm had spent the past several rounds that the party spent fighting through the last of his men (and arguing with Devargo) buffing up. He was past his prime, but it was nothing that a bunch of performance enhancers (read, a whole bunch of potions) couldn’t fix. In the room behind him, Laressa screamed through her gag, as she was tied up to a barrel of gun powder. With a long tail of gunpowder leading away from it. That Gaedren had lit before coming out to confront the party.

We concluded the night with a brief round of pre-battle smack talk back and forth between Lamm and the party. Rholand, in a move that would ultimately prove to be a (somewhat comedic) pattern with him, torn off his blindfold to reveal his cloudy eyes that had been damaged by Lamm’s poison. He delivered a grand speech that he had been waiting for a long time to avenge himself on Lamm for what he had done, and that Lamm would suffer a similar fate. It was supposed to be a dramatic, defining moment for Rholand, but of course Lamm being Lamm, his only response was an unimpressed “Meh”.

And thus the stage was set for the dramatic, final confrontation between Gaedren Lamm and our designated heroes. For next time! Same maptools time, same maptools channel!

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As I mentioned at the start of this, one of my goals was for Gaedren Lamm to be a significantly more impressive villain than a crippled old man that the party killed as its very first act within the AP. He had served that purpose admirably well, ensuring that the party remained together as they hunted him down, rather than splitting up after killing him and ending the AP before it even got a chance to begin (which was the logical conclusion to a group of total strangers meeting up to kill someone). But now, at last, it was time for him to die. As it turned out, he wouldn’t be going to Hell alone this day.

Session Thirteen, Final Destination:

With all the prep work pretty much already taken care of last session, we launched right into the final fight against Gaedren Lamm this session. Initiatives were rolled, with Gaedren going first, after Dodger. Dodger was understandably concerned about this sister tied-up next to a barrel of gunpowder, and shouted that he would go for her while they dealt with Lamm.

The fuse Lamm had set would take roughly five rounds to burn, giving someone that long to get in there and stamp out the fuse. I had considered some sort of complicated scheme for the fuse where it burned through a maze-like pattern towards the barrel, closing in on the barrel from several different directions while the party fought Lamm in the middle of the room, but ultimately I elected for a simple fuse burning down in the background of the fight.

Having been looking for a theme for my first of many big bad villains, I knew what to use as soon as I heard it. WARNING – a single F-bomb is present in the song at around the 1 minute mark.

Theme Music – Gaedren Lamm Fight, Anarchy by KMFDM

Throwing on that music as Lamm’s turn came up, I had him order Gobblegut to block the door while he unslung his polearm from his shoulder, some sort of liquid dripping from the tip. As she was conveniently close by within reach (he’d have preferred Rholand but Rholand was smartly too far away), and Lamm knew of her former addiction to Shiver, Lamm lunged forward at Lora. And he rolled a critical. And confirmed it. Which was really, REALLY bad news for Lora as boarding pikes carried a x3 critical multiplier. And Lamm had chosen to use Power Attack on his opening swing, which since he was at +6 BAB and using the boarding pike two-handed, meant a +6 modifier to damage. Lora immediately dropped to negative HP as the Shudder-coated tip of Lamm’s boarding pike pierced all the way through her chest. And then I remembered that he had Sneak Attack, and as it was the start of the first round, Lora was still flat-footed. Lora went from full HP to negative CON instantly, skewered like a fish by Lamm’s pike. The old bastard laughed as he lifted the Halfling off of her feet, and threw her broken body against one of the nearby workbenches.

Despite that impressive (though unfortunate) opener, the rest of the fight did not go nearly as well for Lamm. Vaz’em, as was fated by Zellara’s cards, was the Locksmith and the one destined to defeat Gaedren Lamm. As such, he got a +2 bonus to his attacks, and that was definitely not a good thing for Lamm as Vaz’em went invisible and then appeared behind him, tearing into him. Oliver and Trevor also rushed forward to avenge Lora, biting and slashing. Lamm was quickly forced on the defensive, and although a power-attack boosted swing with a spiked gauntlet tore open Vaz’em side when he provoked an AoO to re-position, the catfolk ninja kept tearing into his back while Oliver and Trevor continued to provide flanking.

Dodger, meanwhile, was not having any luck at all with Gobblegut, who managed to get a solid bite on the unfortunate fighter/monk from an AoO, and Dodger could not break the thing’s toothy grip as it did repeated Deathrolls, ripping Dodger’s health total up pretty good and keeping him from getting to his sister.

Realizing that his time was growing short, Lamm drew a potion from his belt and quaffed it, disappearing from sight. There was a mutual groan from the party as they assumed that he was rabbiting . . . yet again. I let them assume that, while in actuality I decided that Lamm had had enough of this interlopers. While invisible he would spend a round drinking his potion of Cure Serious Wounds, and then he would move into position and try the same trick on Rholand as he did on Lora, stabbing the party’s cleric through the back while Vaz’em and Oliver raced to save Laressa. It didn’t quite work out that way, as we all made a realization on the following round: as a dog, Trevor had scent. And thus while Lamm was invisible, he could still detect the degenerate criminal mastermind – and while he had moved away invisibly, he had not managed to get quite far enough away.

Barking excitedly, Trevor moved in on an empty spot around the nearest workbench, and bite at the thin air. Cursing loudly, Lamm re-appeared as he stabbed his pike deeply into Trevor’s shoulder, wounding but not killing Oliver’s pet. The party swarmed over him yet again, and this time there was no escape as Rholand came in from the opposite side to box Lamm in completely. He lasted another round or so, and then as he dropped into the single-digit HP, it finally happened. Oliver stepped up and delivered a savage critical hit of his own, his cutlass severing through the old man’s neck to send his head tumbling from his shoulders. It would go on to be a thing for Oliver, where he would end a number of fights with villains by running up and getting a critical hit on the last blow to finish them.

After Lamm’s headless body crumbled to the ground, they turned their attention on Gobblegut, swiftly killing the beast and saving Dodger. They managed to get in and put the fuse out with a round or two to spare for Laressa, saving her as well. From there, the rest of the session was nothing but clean-up, as the party explored the rest of Lamm’s hideout and collected everything they could for a potential Raise Dead for Lora. Ultimately, given the cost involved – a Raise Dead and two Restorations, Lora’s player decided not to come back from the dead, and that the party should let sleeping halflings lie (in the ground).

Dodger also decided that now was probably a good time for him to go and take care of his traumatized sister. In a rare display of generosity, the party gave him a cut from the sizable stack of money they found in Lamm’s packed up belongings that he was about to carry with him out of the hideout – start-up money for Dodger and his sister to go and live a peaceful life on the straight and narrow. Dodger was touched, and he left the party with his sister as a friend.

Among Lamm’s belongings, they found various magical gear (+1 Ring of Protection, +1 Boarding Pike, a couple wands (including a wand of sanctuary that Lamm had used in Longacre, preventing the party from even shooting arrows as he fled – see Oliver firing uselessly into the air with a scream of rage, similar to Point Break). They also found about 160 platinum pieces (minus Dodger’s cut), the last of Lamm’s wealth granted to him by Andaisin. Combined with some jewelry they also found on his body, the expensive alchemical gear used to create the gunpowder, the gunpowder itself which Kroft was quite happy to pay them handsomely for so that it could be destroyed, and some other stuff, the party came away with quite a haul of good loot. The party also found one last thing of note on Lamm’s body – a letter, written in elegant script (that the party identified as written by someone from Cheliax given the word choice and spelling of certain words), discussing their arrangement to kill Eodred and admonishing Lamm *not* to kill Ileosa. Further proof of Andaisin’s involvement in Eodred’s murder, in other words.

The rest of the session was spent exploring the rest of the hideout, where they found the cart that Lamm was going to use to transport the prepared barrels of gunpower, and the route that Devargo’s men took to get here. In that room, they found the drug lab where Shudder was prepared – a horrifying room where Dream Spiders, Imps, and Pseudodragons were all caged, to be fed into a blade barrier-esque device of Thassilon origin that would render the bodies into a slurry that was then pumped through pipes into the next room.

Breaking into this room, they found a stark-raving mad man tied to a chair – an experiment that the derro advisor Lamm had was conducting on the effects of sustained exposure to Shudder. They released the man, at which point he managed to scrawl on the floor “City will burn. City will rot.” Over and over and over again. (The man was having Shudder-induced visions of the future, and of Kazavon rising to burn all of Korvosa to ash. Obviously the city will burn line referred to the current rioting sponsored by Lamm, with the second line referring to the upcoming plague Andaisin would unleash.) They eventually helped the man out, by knocking him unconscious and dragging him out. Of the derro who had done this, there was no sign, as the creature had crawled into some of the pipes overhead during the fighting, emerged out by the dead otyugh, and merrily went on his insane way.

The party freed the pseudodragons, and after the imp tried to Suggestion Oliver opening the cage so it could escape, they party left it there to rot. The dream spiders they decided to sell to Devargo, and as an additional conciliary gesture, threw in Gaedren Lamm’s severed head. His body Vaz’em disposed of, in several pieces in several places, thereby ensuring that he could not ever be resurrected. And so the party thought that they had seen the last of Gaedren Lamm (spoiler alert: they hadn’t).

But there was one last, troubling detail. Xerxes and Darius had not been there at Lamm’s hideout. Presumably they were off hiding from the Hellknights and doing some catching up with each other, but they were still out there. And it seemed likely that they would be making an attempt on Queen Ileosa’s life at her coronation, even without Lamm’s influence.

And so we prepared to segue into the next part, and arguably the real AP, on the following session.

Lora’s Fate:

That crit was really unfortunate, as I don’t like *actually* killing PCs (making them piss themselves in fear for their PC lives, yes, but actually kill them, no. They can’t suffer much once they’re dead, after all.) Still, Lamm’s planned fate for Lora might not have been much better, as his pike had been coated with Shudder. Being a Shiver derivative, Lora would have taken penalties to her Fort save to resist the poison/drug, and thus most likely would have gone completely berserk (treated as a Confusion effect) for the fight as she was bombarded with visions of Kazavon rising and destroying Korvosa, much like the derro victim they found after the fight). That would have given me a nice chance to foreshadow some of the doom coming up to threaten Korvosa directly to one of the PCs, but instead she had to die. Given that it was against the big bad of the campaign thus far instead of some random mook, it was a good death. It also gave Gaedren Lamm the distinction of being the first enemy to put a PC down for good, which was also nice given his BBEG status.

Gaedren Lamm:

For those curious about builds, here’s a rough sketch of Gaedren.

I ripped out his Expert levels and replaced them with Ranger levels, so he was a Ranger 4/Rogue 3. I gave him a 20 point-buy so that he was the equal of the PCs, arranged the stats to match what I thought an adventuring rogue would have, and then applied the Age penalties – which put his STR down to exactly normal at 10, and his con at 9. I gave him Max HP, since he would be fighting alone, was an NPC, and an important boss.

Gobblegut, obviously, was his animal companion. He took the two-handed weapon Range style giving him Power Attack, Favored Enemy Human, and Urban Specialization to give a boost to his initiative. I also gave him Combat Expertise so that he could switch back and forth between aggressive (Power Attack) and defensive (Combat Expertise) stances – he ended up using Combat Expertise quite a bit, for all the good that it did him.

I took the Sneak Maneuver rogue talent, and then dumped the rest of his feats into getting Greater Dirty Trick and Improved Feint. The idea was that he could feint, and then do some sort of dirty trick to show how much of a dirty, unfair fighter the old man was. Don’t think he ever got the time to use that, so it was a bit of a waste unfortunately.

As he is noted in the AP for being unable to wear armor anymore, I decided to honor that, but gave him a Wand of Mage Armor so that he could UMD some protection for himself as needed.

While the party was fighting his men in the main room of the hideout, I had him apply the following buffs to himself – Mage Armor, Barkskin +2, Bull’s Strength (to boost his STR back up to its natural 14), cast Lead Blades as his only known Ranger spell to boost his Boarding Pike up to base 2d6 damage, and apply Shudder to its tip. He then lit the fuse on Laressa’s bomb, and marched out with Gobblegut to meet his fate.

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Very compelling story so far. I'M a bit confused about Lamm's motives, though. Why was he doing all of this again?

In my campaign the chaos in book one is the result of Glorio Arkona's actions. Using a number of bardic rabble-rousers, the nobleman undermined the young queen's authority until the PCs managed to restore it by thwarting his plans and boosting the queen's popularity in the city. The PCs still don't know that Arkona was behind it all, but when they'll meet him again in book 3, he'll tell them he was right all along in opposing the queen - and that actually the PCs were wrong in defending her. He'll offer to cooperate, but he doesn't really need the party, even fears they might spoil his future plans (to become king) and he's still mad at them for their earlier interference, so he'll make up an excuse to send them into his labyrinth to die. Should they survive, they might prove valuable as allies after all ... (A little sidenote, in my campaign Glorio Arkona is the real Arkona and not the imposer from Vudra, thus his claim for the throne as the head of one of Korvosa's most prominent families is actually justified.)

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Very nice use of Arkona - I like that he was involved in all the chaos of Book One!

In a way, the party is opposing Arkona's plans here as well, as "Glorio" is the ringleader of the conspiracy to take control of the Crimson Throne. (Still using Bahor and his sister in my game - that DR is really going to come in handy given how much damage the party can put out now!) He doesn't really want to actually be the one sitting on the Crimson Throne though, between the limelight drawing too much attention to himself/making himself a target and the curse - which I described as literally every ruler of Korvosa dying of unnatural causes at some point or another - do they ever explain if it's an actual curse or just perpetual bad luck somewhere? So Glorio would prefer to be the power behind the throne, or at least the holder of an important position within the government, like say . . . seneschal. He never really cared for Eodred either, as his mother Domina took credit for a lot of economic boons that Glorio himself brought to Korvosa (as he saw it).

So, he went and found a means to hopefully control Eodred by installing a queen that he could control, and use to influence Eodred's decisions. He found Andaisin, a grifter from Cheliax who had various underworld ties (through her cult of Urgathoa). Andaisin in turn picked up a homeless street rat girl - Ileosa - from one of Cheliax's bustling cities, and educated her and molded her into the perfect seduction artist. Yes, this means that Ileosa was not actually a noblewoman from Cheliax, something that could severely undermine her authority if it ever got out (I think my players forgot about this aspect of her character).

Ultimately, the plan may have failed - Ileosa could have failed to catch Eodred's eye, or simply been one of his many conquests. But she accomplished it - Eodred fell head over heels for her. They were married, and Eodred even got rid of his ever-changing harem. Although neither Eodred or Ileosa were good, somehow they seemed to bring out the best in each other, and they loved each other deeply. It made Andaisin furious.

Ileosa was supposed to seduce Eodred and get him to listen to whatever thoughts Andaisin (and through her, Glorio) put into Ileosa's head. But while Ileosa managed to get Andaisin into the position of Ambassador to Cheliax (after the old ambassador died in an "accident"), she made the cardinal mistake of the grifter - she fell for the mark (Eodred). So between Ileosa not always listening to Andaisin's orders because it would hurt the city/Eodred, and actually loving him instead of just coldly manipulating him. Andaisin was also starting to get jealous - she had this creepy surrogate mother/lover thing going with Ileosa, with pet names (Ily & Andy) among other things.

So Andaisin reported to Glorio that their plan wasn't working. So they came up with Plan B - kill Eodred, and get his naïve queen that Andaisin still had some influence over, to start listening to her mentor again. Removing Senaschal Neolandus also would give an empty position in the government that could be filled by Glorio, giving them even more control over Ileosa and the government. (That part of the plan didn't go all that well, as Neolandus briefly escaped before random chance - Salvator Scream urging Neolandus to seek shelter with House Arkona - brought Neolandus back into Glorio's clutches.)

So Andaisin and Glorio (with his other co-conspirators among the nobility) plotted to kill Eodred. They realized early on that they needed a scapegoat, someone that they could pin the murder on. So they found Gaedren Lamm, a past his prime adventurer turned down-on-his-luck criminal, so provide them with the poison used to kill Eodred, and ultimately serve as the man they would pin the crime on. Gaedren also had the job of sewing as much chaos in the city following Eodred's death as possible, so Andaisin gave him the necessary funding to start a new organization - Lamm's Liberators - to spread anarchy and be the big bad boogeyman that the city could rally against in the wake of Eodred's death. Lamm's actions would also put immediate pressure on Ileosa, and she would naturally turn back to ask her mentor (Andaisin) for advice on what to do.

And here is where Lamm went off script. He knew that he was going to get screwed over by Andaisin (his only point of contact with the conspiracy) in the end. And he'd never liked the nobility, not after Domina screwed him and his adventuring party after they traveled to Scarwall for her (bringing back some of the metal from the walls to forge the Crown of Fangs). So they could all burn - Lamm wouldn't just spread anarchy to give the new queen an immediate crisis to solve - he would topple the whole damn government! Let Andaisin and her own backers rule over a broken, burned out city after Ileosa died and the whole city crumbled into civil war.

And then the PCs came along and screwed that all up. Andaisin was the next to face their wrath. Glorio has escaped . . . thus far, but they certainly *don't* like him, and I could see them putting him down by the end of Book Three. Or trying to.

Sorry I got behind for several days . . . hard weeks at work, and not yet done with taxes.

It's going to be really interesting to compare this to the Curse of the Crimson Throne PbP I have been following. Apart from Lamm being only a 2-bit (although especially cruel) crook there, some other things must obviously be different.

How close is the Campaign Journal you are posting here to being caught up with the campaign in progress?

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Heh heh heh – we’re not even close to being caught up at this point. I’m posting session fourteen right now. This coming week we’ll be holding session fifty-nine. Book One and Book Two have each taken twenty-one sessions exactly to get through (I was really happy they lined up like that). Book Three looks like it’ll be taking considerably longer, given that we’ve not actually started Book Three itself yet (darn self-made content bloat!). As I said though, Book Three is where the game completely goes off the AP’s rails. It remains to be seen whether it will crash and burn.

Lamm warped the first half (actually probably closer to two-thirds) of Book One around himself, so that part is pretty different from your normal CotCT AP I’d imagine. Devargo’s role is similar (source of information) but different target (Lamm instead of some random NPC that is name dropped once and then never again despite being the ambassador from Korvosa’s parent empire). Some of the characters have different motivations or personalities, but otherwise fulfill basically the same roles. Blackjack showed up much earlier as I didn’t want the players going “who is THIS a%&&%&@, and why is he stealing OUR limelight!?” at Trinia’s execution (instead I had him show up to steal the spotlight early and often, ahahahah!) Ileosa not being the evil mastermind behind everything from day one is also obviously a big departure, although that doesn’t have a lot of impact in Book One (and indeed, it’s entirely possible for the players to think she’s just a poor NPC in over her head until they start stumbling over all the closet skeletons she’s left lying around). Speaking of Ileosa . . . it’s finally time.

Session Fourteen:

Lamm was dead, his Liberators arrested or dead, but with Xerxes and his criminal brother still loose the danger to the queen had not yet passed. Which meant that Kroft could still not take a day off, as Ileosa’s coronation was only a day away now. And despite the danger posed by the potential assassins, Korvosa’s new queen was *not* interested in pushing the ceremony back or making it private (like, say, inside of a fortified bunker deep underground). So Kroft continued doing her job, despite barely being able to see with her bloodshot eyes and just about on the point of hallucinating.

Vencarlo and the party’s attempts to insist on her taking at least a nap so she wasn’t completely useless for tomorrow fell on deaf ears – Kroft’s usual stubbornness only magnified by her exhaustion. There was some brief but serious talk about jumping her right there in her office and knocking her out – an effort that Vencarlo would have supported, and that they might have been able to pull off given Kroft’s exhaustion. Then again, given that she had eight+ levels on them, that could have still ended badly – and there would have been Hell to pay when she finally woke up.

So the party left Kroft continue to literally work herself to death, and agreed when she asked if they would be willing to accompany her tomorrow to the coronation to serve as auxiliary guards. They had seen Xerxes and Darius both first-hand, and given their skill and persistence in dealing with Lamm, Kroft figured that the party had earned it. They were to report back to her office the next day for the necessary papers that would identify them as auxiliary guardsmen for the duration of the coronation (given our group’s . . . colorful history, no one was particularly enthusiastic about taking up Kroft’s standing offer of full time employment).

They came back early the next morning to Kroft’s office, only to hear no response when they knocked. Concerned that something may have happened to her, the party forced the lock and went inside . . . to find Vencarlo struggling to lower Kroft – still in her plate mail armor – onto the cot that she kept in the back of her office. Sheepishly, the old fencer said that this was not what it looked like, but that he had taken it upon himself to make Kroft get some sleep (via a surprise chloroform rag to the face)– with all the guards there would be around the queen she’d be fine! Given the group’s opinions on Kroft desperately needing to sleep, this renegade action by Vencarlo was met with quite a bit of approval, although they were all pretty sure he was going to get it when Kroft woke up. Until then, Kroft had finished and signed the party’s letters of introduction before Vencarlo ganked her, so they were all free to travel to the coronation together – given his status as a celebrity fencer, Vencarlo basically had carte blanche to attend any ceremony held by the city’s nobility.

The party arrived at the castle’s gates shortly before the ceremony, to find an irate Hellknight armiger arguing with the guards. Apparently he had been dispatched as a representative of the Order of the Nail to liaison with the guards (i.e. b*$~* work) while the “real” Hellknights continued to hunt for Xerxes, and a few flew overhead to provide aerial support in the event anything happened at the coronation.

I determined that there were basically three kinds of Hellknights – the officers who ran the Order, the Hellknights who were members who had proven themselves in single-combat with a devil – which I believe was a prerequisite for the prestige class – and then everybody else was an armiger. Class level had nothing to do with it really – when you felt you were ready, you got put in a pit with a devil that was roughly equal in power to you (it was technically legal to kill a Lemure on your first day, but generally frowned upon as your new peers would still think little of you), and if you killed it then you were officially inducted into the Order as a Hellknight. Until then, you were basically a nobody recruit.

This particular armiger was Cid Donary, Lora’s replacement PC and new DM butt monkey (although given the damage Cid puts out on a crit he could certainly give back what he ended up taking from my monsters). Having already seen what the Hellknights’ version of keeping the peace was, the party bristled a bit at the idea of hanging out with this guy at the coronation but were very amused to see the Hellknight having a hard time with “the law”. Vencarlo, not especially caring for the Hellknights either but hating bureaucracy even more, vouched for Cid saying that the Hellknight armiger was “with him”.

That led to the last sticking point of getting in to attend the coronation – all guests were to surrender their weapons at the gate. The DM plan here was for Vencarlo to smuggle a bunch of his own weapons in through a Bag of Holding stuffed in his jacket, which he would then produce at the appointed time for violence. But my players, being a least slightly clever, pointed out to the guards that they had been sent by Kroft to serve as auxiliary guards, and thus needed to keep their weapons. Cid was also a Hellknight, sent to serve as their representative to the guards. I couldn’t fault the logic in that, so I let them keep their weapons and simply had Vencarlo hand over his rapier.

Once inside, the party quickly found itself in the lush garden that had been cultivated within one of the castle courtyards, complete with hedge maze. Many noblemen and ladies were mingling about, while several musicians played in the background and servers carried trays of food and goblets of wine – it very much had the air of a party rather than a solemn occasion. Oliver got lost in the hedge maze (a joke from the player, given that the “maze” wasn’t particularly large or intricate), while the others walked about, keeping an eye out for the would-be assassins. As Vencarlo was known by many of the nobles present, heads of various households kept walking up to the group to say hello. I had pretty much the head out every House in Korvosa present, along with the head of each major church (Ornher Reebs - Asmodeus, Darb Tuttle - Abadar, Keppira D’Bear – Pharsma). Toff Ornelos was also off by himself, sitting on a bench and munching away on the food by himself (nobody really liked the Acadamae or its Headmaster).

Of the bunch present, the ones I can remember the party interacting with was Ausio Carrowyn and his wife, who stopped by to invite Vencarlo to a party that they would be throwing in a couple weeks. Vencarlo was gracious, but not entirely thrilled about it – the Carrowyns were the stereotypical empty-headed nobles. They were eventually driven off from the group by Glorio Arkona, who made some comment about “useless people” after they were out of earshot. Glorio was accompanied by his own wife, Melyia who was apparently quite smashed (Cid’s player claimed that she hit on him at this point – I can’t remember if she did or not, but it certainly seems possible). Naturally, the drunken wife bit was just an act, as lips are looser around someone who “probably” won’t remember it the next morning, but everyone including the PCs took Melyia’s condition at face value. Rholand also briefly got involved in a religious debate between all of the assembled archclerics, although that discussion was cut short by the arrival of a beautiful Varisian woman in plate armor, with a faint scar tracing her cheek – Sabrina Merrin. Vencarlo and his former pupil exchanged nods of respect, Vencarlo asking Sabrina how her face was, and Sabrina asking him how his hand was (still a bit of a b!%%+, that Sabrina). Immediately following Sabrina’s entrance, and after a brief scan of the garden by her to ensure security was to her satisfaction, Sabrina announced her royal majesty, Queen Ileosa Arabasti.

And I put on Ileosa’s theme music for the first time, which was the first theme music that I listed in this thread. Here it is again: [ur=]Rising Force by R. Armando Morabito[/url]. As I mentioned previously, that got the players good and intimidated. :D

But before the queen got more than a few feet into the garden, several of the musicians stopped playing. Nearby, Rholand immediately picked up on this and dashed forward, tackling one of the two musicians (actually ran up and grappled, catching Xerxes by surprise, but whatever). That left his brother Darius, however, to smash open his instrument and do what Lamm had broken him out of prison to accomplish. (I took some liberties here with Xerxes and his brother getting inside – assume they used Alter Self and Minor Image – or which one can do sound – in order to disguise themselves as musicians. :-p )

Darius & Xerxes Fight Theme - Take Out the Gunman by Chevelle

From the depths of his shattered instrument Darius pulled out a cobbled together blunderbuss (his gunslinger inherited weapon that only he knew how to use) and leveled it at the queen only a few feet away. Sabrina managed to react in time to lunge forward and push Ileosa away, shielding the queen with her own body as Darius fired. The blast took Sabrina directly in the face, leaving it a bloody ruin as she collapsed in a heap – Ileosa and Vencarlo both screamed in rage. Xerxes threw off Rholand, and that was the surprise round over.

The following round Xerxes would retrieve his greatsword (yeah, still following the “fighter that has spells to self-buff pre-fight” idea of Magus rather than dual-wielding spell and sword) and cast Haste, while Darius reloaded. Vencarlo produced a rapier from a bag of holding in his jacket, and everybody drew swords and bumrushed Xerxes.

With a full-status Hellknight present (Magus 7 i.e. CR 6) and an experienced gunslinger (Gunslinger 5 i.e. CR 4), I expected this to be a pretty difficult fight. Which was why I had Vencarlo along, figuring if the party was getting too badly mauled I’d have him drag Xerxes off for a duel while they focused on finishing off Darius. That’s not what happened here. Through action economy and the fact that Xerxes and Darius each took two rounds to do anything (Darius to reload, Xerxes to cast a spell and then attack) they both got swarmed down in record time. I was quite impressed and more than a little horrified at the brutal efficiency the party displayed in this fight.

Xerxes got off a Shocking Grasp spell, and I figured Oliver was in for a world of hurt . . . Xerxes missed with his sword, so the spell didn’t get a chance to go off and deal something ridiculous – 5d6 Shocking Grasp plus 2d6+STR Greatsword would have been painful. Vaz’em meanwhile was ripping chunks out of his HP, and although Cid didn’t get a ridiculous Shocking Grasp crit, he did have a lot better luck getting them to hit.

A group of Hellknights arrived a round or two into the fight, sending off a barrage of magic missiles at Xerxes, which were all deflected by his Shield spell. And then Oliver sent Xerxes to join Lamm in Hell in the same fashion – cutlass crit to the neck, off with his head! Darius managed to get one unimpressive blunderbuss blast off at the party, and then he too was taken out.

Just before the attack started, Xerxes had cast Minor Image to summon up an illusion of Gaedren Lamm, which through DM magic had been programmed to deliver a speech to the assembled nobility. Lamm had intended to deliver it personally, but he was dead, and his illusionary clone fared little better as Oliver charged it near the start of the fight and swiped at it, dispelling the illusion via interacting with it. However, before it winked out, Lamm confessed to being the one who killed the king, but he wasn’t the one who delivered the poison. Instead, the poison had been administered by a girl named Trinia Sabor, at the behest of a third-party who had also hired Lamm to do the deed (Andaisin in reality, but the illusion’s implication was that Queen Ileosa had hired them to do the murdering).

As the fight was going on, Ileosa worked up her courage to get in close to Sabrina, and hit her with a Cure Light Wounds. After the battle was finished, Sabrina was carried out of the garden and back into the castle to heal. Actually, despite Rholand checking her before she was carried off, and confirming that she should recover, Sabrina died from her injuries later that night. Ileosa, guided by instinctual urgings from the Crown of Fangs, dribbled some of her blood into Sabrina’s open mouth, and this brought her back to life. The effect was similar to a Raise Dead spell, with one grim caveat – Sabrina’s soul was now bound to Kazavon’s home of Scarwall, which I intend to make more of a Silent-Hill esque place of horrors (more than it already is). When she died next, her soul would go there for an eternity of torment, rather than the after-life.

Obviously if we were going by mechanics, a single shotgun blast would have barely injured Sabrina (being a high-level cavalier), let alone killed her. So I took some artistic liberties here, to explain why Sabrina’s face looks like it went through a shredder in Book Six, and to set up some drama for the future (Sabrina’s soul being bound to Scarwall).

Finally, Ileosa returned to the garden without Sabrina, Xerxes and Darius’s bodies were carried off by the Hellknights, and we got down to the actual coronation. But when offered the official crown of Korvosa by Darb Tuttle, Ileosa refused to put it on her head. She already had a crown (pointing at the Crown of Fangs already perched on her head), and wanted nothing from the self-serving nobles of this city. She then proceeded to go on a bit of a rant against the nobility, and since I was making it up as I went along unfortunately I don’t have any copies to share with all of you. But basically it was a slap in the face to all of them, and a promise that Ileosa would be doing things *very* differently from her husband, as evidenced by refusing his crown. The fallout from the city’s queen openly spitting in the face of its nobility would be a matter for another day, however. The speech did earn Ileosa some favor with the party though – as Oliver’s player put it, Ileosa is metal – she wearing a crown of jagged metal and bone and doesn’t give any effs).

Having seen the party’s bravery in defending her first-hand, Ileosa asked them to be her escorts/bodyguards, and to personally stand with her on the balcony overlooking the crowd as she went onto the castle’s ramparts to present herself to the dense crowd that had gathered to catch a glimpse of their new queen.

Afterwards, they met one other important person – the ambassador to Cheliax, Andaisin. She had an aura of . . . wrongness about her, scaring off even Trevor (who loved to run up to new NPCs and sniff their butts) despite appearing to a beautiful if pale woman. She was obviously close friends with Ileosa, as they two had pet names for each other “Andy” and “Ily”. When Ileosa remarked that she was surprised that Andaisin wasn’t wearing her gift, a fancy necklace that had been in the hands of Korvosa’s rulers for many years, the light-bulb finally went off over the party’s head. After Andaisin left (and made a few comments disparaging the party as uncouth thugs, which had little effect on swaying Ileosa given they had just saved her life), the party presented the necklace and the elegantly-penned letter they found on Lamm to Ileosa.

Rather than letting matters between Ileosa and her treacherous mentor slowly come to a boil as I had originally planned, given how far into Book One we were, I decided to bring forth the confrontation immediately. Vaz’em followed invisibly, ninja tricking and hiding behind curtains, as Ileosa went to the throne room and sent word for Andaisin to join her there, so there was an explanation for how the party was aware of what transpired next. Even though technically, as the confrontation was the Book Two intro, the players would have gotten to read it and been aware out of character – now they simply knew it in-character as well.

As a reward for saving the queen and standing with her on the balcony, the party became slightly well-known within the city, and got some Influence points to spend (although they never used them).

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And here is what Vaz'em saw/The Book Two intro. I think it works very well to show my version of Ileosa and how she thinks (before Kazavon completely breaks her mind, anyway).

Theme Music - Sea of Atlas by R. Armando Morabito

Book Two Intro:

As she waited alone for her old friend and mentor to respond to her summons, Ileosa struggled to maintain control over the rising maelstrom in her mind. She tried forcing herself to sit in her husband’s chair, the much maligned Crimson Throne. It was just an uncomfortable chair with inadequate padding – it was the person sitting in it who made it what it was, and that man had passed from this world several weeks ago. Ileosa drummed her fingers against the throne’s armrests until they ached and she was forced to stop.

Then she got up and paced back and forth in front of the throne, walking in between the two massive stained glass windows that dominated the walls on each side of the throne. The throne room was lined with such windows, each a mural depicting one of Korvosa’s previous rulers. On Ileosa’s left was Eodred – the first Eodred Arabasti, the man who became Korvosa’s first king after Cheliax abandoned its former colony. On Ileosa’s right was Queen Domina Arabasti, her Eodred’s mother, who claimed the Crimson Throne in a similar manner to Ileosa – the death of her husband.

Apparently there had been persistent rumors that the blade that claimed the life of Eodred’s father had been hired by Domina. Those same voices also had said that her rule won’t last more than a year, but The Mithril Queen went on to rule Korvosa for nearly twenty years. Moreover, she was one of Korvosa’s most beloved rulers, for it was under her firm hand that Korvosa grew from a floundering colony into a thriving city, the Jewel of Varisia. Ileosa wished to emulate her, or at least her success, but Domina was known by another name in quieter circles – the Infernal Queen.

There were as many dark rumors about Domina as there were historical facts, including that she took literal devils into her bed. Eodred never confirmed any of those rumors, but he did say that she was a cold, hard woman – worthy of her title of The Mithril Queen. Ileosa never got to meet Domina, as a fire broke out one night under mysterious circumstances and consumed the royal bed chambers – perhaps the devils coming to reclaim their Infernal Queen.

Gazing up into the unyielding eyes of Domina’s likeness now decorating one wall of her former throne room, Ileosa can tell that Domina would not have liked her. Despite both coming to Korvosa from Cheliax, despite facing the same challenges of rule, Domina would never have approved of her son’s wife. Less than half Eodred’s age, Ileosa knew what her nickname was in the backrooms of Korvosa – the Whore Queen. Even now Ileosa felt as if Domina’s eyes were boring into her soul from the afterlife via her stained glass image. Disapproving of her. Judging her. Whore Queen.

The thought of it filled Ileosa with rage, and she decided to have the image of Domina removed, to be replaced with one of Eodred II, Domina’s son and Ileosa’s husband. She was about to start looking around for something that she could use to start the demolition process herself when the double doors at the end of the room boomed open. Lady Andaisin, Ambassador of Cheliax, and Ileosa’s mentor strode in a moment later, still looking unhappy that Ileosa had chosen to rightly ignore her advice about those uncouth thugs-for-hire. Good.

“I hope that you enjoyed your little tantrum in front of the city’s elite today, because tomorrow you’re going to have to go apologize to all of them.”

Andaisin snapped, earning a disdainful sneer from Ileosa – it took all of her self-control not to fling herself forward and wrap her hands around the old hag’s neck. Instead she dug her nails into her palm as she walked up to her former mentor, reaching her other hand into the pocket of her dress.

“I did not call you here for your advice. I came here to tell you that I know.”

“Know what? I’m not in the mood for guessing games, Ily.”

“I. Know.”

Ileosa repeated, producing the necklace that she gave Andaisin upon her being appointed Cheliax’s ambassador to Korvosa and flinging it directly into her face. The woman flinched and staggered back, letting the piece of jewelry clatter to the floor in front of her. She hid her surprise well, but Ileosa knew her old friend well enough to see the slight narrowing of the eyes – her only tell. Even so, Andaisin still attempted to brazen it out with a lie.

“Oh! You found the necklace! I had feared it would be lost forever after some bold thief broke into my residence and made off with it! Did those crass thugs you so fancy find it somewhere?”

“Do we really need to do this? Do I really need to say the words, “Andy”? They found it on Gaedren Lamm, the man you hired to murder my husband! To murder ME! What was it? Payment? Or insurance so that you couldn’t do the same to him after the deed was done!?”

Ileosa growled, her voice growing louder as she started to lose control of her temper. Seeing that feigning innocence wasn’t working, Andaisin tried indignation next.

“After all that I’ve done for you, you think that I am capable of such a thing!? And you’re basing this all on . . . what? The insinuations of a couple low-born street toughs and a robbery that I never reported to you out of embarrassment? What would I have to gain from murdering you, anyway?”

“Oh, I know *exactly* what you’re capable of, what I can’t figure out is why! I have given you everything that you’ve asked for, and more! Why? Why couldn’t you let me have my little bit of happiness!?”

The two were alone in the room, Ileosa having dismissed her guards with orders to remain outside so that she might have a private confrontation with Andaisin. That might have been a mistake, for just like the viper that she was, Andaisin suddenly went cold, and struck. One hand flashed out to seize Ileosa’s right wrist, while the other came up to clamp down around her throat just under her chin. Choked into silence, Ileosa could only listen as Andaisin pulled her close and hissed into her ear.

“You want to know why, you stupid little whore? Because you just answered your own question! That crown of yours, that you didn’t even earn, has gone to your head. You’ve forgotten your place in our little relationship, and needed a reminder that *I* am the master. And you? You’re just some lucky piece of cheap flesh that I scooped out of the gutter to make into a lady. A queen. But you were too stupid to just lie on your back and do your part, weren’t you?”

Andaisin laughed in her face, her breath fetid and vile – proof that her corruption had grown from the inside out.

“No, you had to go and commit the cardinal sin of the grifter – you fell for the mark! So *that’s* why Eodred had to die. And that’s why even though I may have hired Gaedren Lamm to do the deed, neither of us killed your precious husband. YOU killed him.”

Her point made, Andaisin released her grip on Ileosa’s throat, and switched to gripping her on the left shoulder instead. Andaisin dug her fingers into Ileosa’s shoulder like talons, and as the queen winced Andaisin applied steady pressure downward, continuing her monologue.

“Lamm may have overstepped his bounds a bit, but I wasn’t sure that you could be re-educated. That you were worth the trouble – thanks to you, I have other avenues to power now. So I’m going to give you one last chance to show that you understand your place now. Am I going to have to make you be the next victim of the Curse of the Crimson Throne? Or are you going to show me what I taught you . . . and fall to your knees, little whore?”

“N-no . . . s-stop . . .”

Ileosa wheezed, her legs buckling under Andaisin’s relentless grip. Rage and grief battled against years of carefully bred fear, and just when it seemed that fear would win out, something gave a little push in the opposite direction. And Ileosa snapped.

In one smooth motion that almost looked as if Ileosa had practiced it, she suddenly dropped to one knee, throwing Andaisin off-balance, while swinging her left hand up and around in a haymaker punch that caught Andaisin directly in the eye. The head of Ileosa’s former mentor snapped to one side from the blow, and the left shoulder of Ileosa’s dress was torn open as Andaisin tried and failed to maintain her grip. Unable to maintain her balance, Andaisin tumbled to the floor, hard, and lay sprawled there for several long seconds, either stunned by the blow itself or Ileosa’s audacity.

When she finally regained the presence of mind to scramble back up to her feet with a feral snarl, Ileosa had already regained her footing and was waiting. Andaisin stood back up to be confronted with the point of the concealed rapier Ileosa had acquired from the castle’s treasury for her personal protection after this latest assassination attempt. Faced with this latest surprised from her former pupil, Andaisin was forced to relent. Relaxing her fingers from their clawed positions, Andaisin spread her hands wide, out from her body in a gesture of surrender. Ileosa extended the point of her rapier to the hollow of Andaisin’s throat in response, and then a little further, drawing a bead of blood that rapidly froze to the tip of the magical rapier.

“I should kill you right here and now for what you’ve done.”

Ileosa hissed, and Andaisin’s only defense was a confident smile.

“Then do it.”

She rasped, careful not to speak too loudly, and push her own throat even deeper onto the rapier.

“But know that if you do it will mean war with Cheliax. I’m their ambassador, thanks to you, remember? You may have survived pissing in the face of the nobility this once, but how will they react when they learn you’ve managed to start a war with their homeland? You won’t last a day.”

Though she may have overcome her fear of her mentor and master, Ileosa found it much more difficult to overcome her fear of what her old homeland would do once word that their ambassador had been murdered in cold blood got out. But that did not mean Ileosa was left without moves, as cunning insight swept over her.

“We’ll see how long it takes Cheliax to revoke your status after they learn that you murdered a king. That’s exactly how long you have left to live. Guards!”

But though Ileosa was rapidly developing the skills, cunning, and will to rule, she was still at heart an inexperienced young girl. So when she called for the guards, her eyes reflexively went to the doors to see if they had heard and were going to respond to her summons. And that moment of distraction was all that Andaisin needed.

Slapping the rapier away from her throat, Andaisin turned and ran – not towards Ileosa or the doors booming open again as the guards outside rushed in, but towards the stained glass window to her right – Eodred I’s window. With a running leap, Andaisin smashed through it, jagged shards of shattered glass cutting her deeply in several places. Then she passed the rest of the way out through the window, but rather than dropping out of sight she simply kept running, held up by the air itself as firmly as if it were solid ground.

When she got a dozen paces away, Andaisin turned back, muttering a prayer that caused the worst of her wounds to seal back closed. She affixed Ileosa with a gaze of pure hatred as she shouted.

“I started with your husband, but now I will murder your city! As you sit upon your cursed throne surrounded by its bloated carcass, I want you to remember, Whore Queen, that this is all because of YOU!”

Then the guards on the walls outside finally noticed the intruder floating above them, and sent a hail of crossbow bolts flying up at her. Andaisin turned them all aside with another spell, a wall of wind that sent every bolt tumbling out of the sky harmlessly. She gave one last final glare back inside at Ileosa, and then turned and ran before the guards could reload, vanishing into the distance. No doubt to return to her residence to snatch up whatever items of value were there, and then depart to some hidden lair. But as Andaisin promised, Ileosa was sure that she – and by extension, all of Korvosa – had not yet seen the last of her. And through firsthand knowledge, Ileosa knew that her wrath would be swift and terrible.

I'm really charmed by the way you portray Ileosa. I also think you improved the motivation behind what happens in Seven Days to the Grave. I can also appreciate the dramatic scene when Andaisin hurls herself through the window, too bad it was Eodred I and not Domina ...

^Spoilers are for a reason, you know . . .

This is really awesome. Inspectre has just earned my vote change for PbP for Paizo to make a hard cover of from Second Darkness to Curse of the Crimson Throne.

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Yeah, I debated whether I should have her crash through Eodred I or Domina. I ultimately decided to go for the namesake rather than the family tree. I also made one mistake in the write-up I see – at one point I referred to Domina’s husband as Eodred’s father – should be father-in-law. Eodred and his half-brother Venster were both young adults by the time Domina arrived in Korvosa and married the then-king of Korvosa (I believe that was King Chandris). I’ve made a point that everyone who sat upon the Crimson Throne 1) died of unnatural causes & 2) could not sire an heir *after* taking the throne. Not sure yet how I will tie that into Kazavon’s presence beneath Castle Korvosa, or even if I will, but it’s been an idea that I’ve been toying with.

The basic seed of the idea is that an ancestor of Field Marshall Korvosa got involved in killing Kazavon the last time around, resulting in Kazavon putting a limmorn-level death curse upon the Korvosa family line that when the last member of said family died, Kazavon would be reborn. Essentially, the royal line of Korvosa is a way to cheat that curse, by inducting each new king or queen into the Korvosa family line, and thus continuing the family line even though biological heirs could no longer be sired.

The reason for this idea is that in Book Six, Ileosa would learn of this caveat to Kazavon’s curse through her connection to him, and as a last desperate gambit to keep him contained she would seek immortality through the Everdawn Pool. Unable to die through injuries thanks to the Crown, and now unable to die through old age, Ileosa would trap Kazavon’s soul within her own body. Not a fool-proof plan, especially given that Kazavon will have all but broken Ileosa completely by then, but ensuring that she was entombed within the Sunken Queen for all time might be able to keep Kazavon locked away forever. Of course, the price for that “permanent” solution to Kazavon results in the death of every person within Korvosa, so I doubt the PCs would go along with it. Thus Ileosa essentially will side with Kazavon against the PCs in order to enact her own plan to stop him, as she knows with her death he’ll still be reborn, rather than just standing there and letting them gut her with Serithiel to stop this madness.

I’m not sure that I’m going to use this plot point yet as it still feels a little rocky to me. Although it does sound like something my supervillain Kazavon would do as an additional contingency. “If all my relics are brought back together, I am reborn. If someone puts on one of my relics and I manage to take that person over completely, I am reborn. If the family line of Korvosa dies out, I am reborn. No matter what happens, I am reborn. Over and over again, until it finally sticks.”

Fortunately, presenting Kazavon as anything more than a vague but deeply menacing background threat is still for the future, even as my group continues to wade through my version of Book Three.

And that UnArcaneElection - I don't know what to say . . . but cool! :D I would say that it depends on what you want from a hardcover edition. If it was more of a "give Paizo a second chance at writing the AP by patching in a few holes here and there", I could see why Second Darkness would get the nod. From what I've read of it, it has some interesting set pieces, but was maligned by the player base largely for the disconnect between Books 1/2 & the rest of the AP, and for some really boneheaded moves on the part of the elves later on.

But Curse of the Crimson Throne doesn't really need those re-writes, and the NPCs are all strong enough that you can really play around with them, as I did here obviously.

Session Fifteen:

So, even after saving the queen, taking part in her coronation by serving essentially as Sabrina’s replacements, and exposing Andaisin’s treachery, the group learns that this crazy day is not quite done yet. After Vaz’em comes back to report to the group what he witnessed occur between Ileosa and Andaisin, the party gets a summons from the queen.

Ileosa is still a bit shaken up from her confrontation with Andaisin, although it’s safe to say that it’s more rage than fear that she’s currently suffering from (yay, emotional manipulation by the Crown). With Andaisin out of her reach for now, it was time to turn her attention to other matters. Specifically, locating the woman responsible for Eodred’s murder (according to Gaedren Lamm, but it’s not like an illusion of him would have any reason to lie, right?). Ileosa wanted answers from Trinia Sabor personally, as she had seen the young painter come into the castle to visit Eodred on several occasions just before his death – visits which were always kept private from Ileosa.

She also would prefer to avoid yet another riot that the Hellknights would end up putting down via bloody violence (even Ileosa didn’t much care for their methods, as it turns out, but since they saw her as a weak queen DeVries didn’t much care what she thought of his efforts to keep order). So Ileosa asked the party to go forth, find the girl, and then bring her back quietly to the castle so that she could face justice rather than a public lynching or worse.

In reality, inflamed by jealousy over suspected adultery between Eodred & Trinia, and still wanting to lash out from grief at anyone she thought responsible for Eodred’s death, Ileosa wanted to personally mutilate and torture Trinia Sabor to death. Kazavon whispering ever so faintly into her mind and stoking those emotions to a murderous pitch was the primary source of these desires naturally, but my players didn’t pick up on that or Ileosa’s deadly ulterior motives in getting Trinia back to the castle.

Ileosa wasn’t the only one with murder on her mind, however. As the party left the castle, Lictor Severs “Boneclaw” DeVries, Commandant of the Order of the Nail, personally flew down from the sky. He complimented Armiger Cid on dispatching the traitor Xerxes, and informed him that Cid would be on detached duty for now, representing the Hellknights to Queen Ileosa. It was hard to say whether this was meant to be an honor, or more b~$%*work given what DeVries thought of Korvosa’s new queen. Either way, the last thing DeVries wanted was for Cid to help in the search for Trinia Sabor, and that if he found her, he was to summarily dispense justice in the most agonizing manner possible – make her beg for death before cutting out her heart, essentially. That put Cid in a rather uncomfortable position, as now he had to choose between following the queen’s orders of bringing Trinia in alive (so Ileosa could be the one to kill her), and DeVries’s order to kill Trinia on-sight. Fortunately, Cid thought that his boss was a complete a+$*$#+, so other than some justified fears that if DeVries found out Cid disobeyed his orders he would have Cid killed in the most agonizing manner possible instead, Cid was okay with bringing Trinia back alive.

The group also met back up with Vencarlo on the way out, who urged mercy for the girl if at all possible. He, at least, hadn’t bought illusion Lamm’s testimony that Trinia was the one who poisoned Eodred, at the behest of “someone with the most to gain” (i.e. Ileosa herself). He was also willing to accompany them, but that plan got turned on its head when a very pissed-off Field Marshall Cressida Kroft came marching up to the gates with a half-dozen equally stern-looking guardsmen. She immediately placed Vencarlo under arrest for assaulting the Field Marshall of Korvosa – and of course Vencarlo couldn’t pass up the chance for more snark (joking that Kroft only needed to ask if she wanted you in chains is *not* helping your case, Vencarlo!). Rholand and the others tried to plead Vencarlo’s case right there, and Kroft was clearly feeling a little better from her couple hours of sleep. She relented, but only a little, in that Vencarlo was allowed to accompany the party on their mission to find Trinia but that Vencarlo had to report to Citadel Volyshenek immediately thereafter. Kroft also asked the party to go arrest Trinia quickly and quietly, before she fell victim to mob justice – and gave them what information she had on the girl’s whereabouts within the Shingles.

From there the group set out, and as the city was once again in a bit of chaos between the coronation and the reveal of who (supposedly) murdered Eodred, it was time for some more random encounter rolls! Once again I got a 20-something, which was close but no cigar – I described the party as encountering a violent mob, but Vencarlo stepped forward and managed to talk them all down, as several people in the mob recognized him as the famous fencing teacher, who had instructed several of their children and/or friends’ children, and that he and anyone with him must be alright!

Rolling their eyes at being saved from a bunch of angry peasants, the party pressed on to Trinia’s flat. They found Fishguts Jim pacing back and forth in front of the building, a hand-axe in his hands as he clearly was trying to work up the courage to do something terrible. Naturally, he too was here for Trinia, but with a much different purpose in mind – the party managed to talk the poor man out of his half-baked revenge plan, and sent him on his merry way.

From there, they began questioning the folk milling around on the stairs outside the building, including an old man who said that the king got what was coming for him, and that Lamm’s Liberators would rise again. This earned him a swift punch in the mouth from Oliver, his hatred of Lamm continuing on even after he cut off the man’s head, and things probably would have gone downhill for the old geezer if Rholand had stuck his nose in and pulled Oliver away. Eventually they managed to convince a heavy-set woman that it was in Trinia’s best interests to come with them rather than the Hellknights, and they were directed up to her apartment directly.

At which point they knocked politely while Vaz’em slipped around to the back of the apartment to attempt to peer in a window. A young voice called out that she would be there to answer the door in a moment, but she had to get dressed first. The party patiently waited, until Vaz’em saw a lithe girl slip out through the window he was watching and hop across to the next roof. He shouted an alarm, the group smashed the door in to find a shrieking, half-naked illusion of Trinia attempting to put its clothes on (a momentary distraction for Oliver), and then the rooftop chase through the Shingles was on.

As most of the skills that had been listed were all merged together, mostly *all* of them in Acrobatics, I did a bunch of modifications to the chase. The basic mechanics were the same though – auto pass one tile, pass one skill to move two tiles, pass both skills to move three tiles. The party, including Vencarlo, gamely did their best to chase Trinia across the rooftops – at one point, Rholand got aggressive and tried for the two skill checks, and failed both resulting in him plummeting to the ground below. He still managed to keep up reasonably well from down on the ground though, thanks to the daily use of his Runner’s Shirt that he had gotten from Boule’s cache. Oliver at one point got fed up with Trinia running away and blasting the party with magic (harmlessly stuff such as Daze & Hideous Laughter, but it was still annoying), and started shooting arrows at her. Most bounced off her armor or hit the nearby rooftops, but at least one shaft found purchase in her flesh, eliciting a scream from the poor girl. Eventually Vencarlo managed to catch up with her long enough to trip her up, and from there the rest of the party, right behind him, dog-piled on top of her.

There was some interrogation of Trinia after they got her calmed down, at which point they learned that yes, she was there at the castle, but she had been hired by Eodred to do a painting. It was kept secret from Ileosa because Eodred intended it to be a surprise gift to her, to celebrate their anniversary. She had nothing to do with his poisoning, although she did remember a strange-looking, creepy man coming in to visit several times which she was painting – Eodred told her to pay the man no mind, as it was only Venster, who was there to play games with Eodred. Trinia also revealed that at one point, she had lost one of her vials of paint, which she had set aside anyway as it smelled terrible and was clear instead of an actual color. It went missing after the visit to the castle that day – Trinia had just assumed it slipped out of her bag (Venster had pick-pocketed it, as it was poison from Lamm that he used Trinia to smuggle in to the treacherous half-brother).

Thus, while Trinia was *technically* guilty of helping assassinate Eodred, it was not due to any intent on her part, she was simply yet another unwitting pawn used by Andaisin, Lamm, and the other members of the conspiracy. Through Trinia’s descriptions, Rholand also managed to identify the poison as Reaper’s Kiss, a slow poison that required physical contact – so *someone* had dosed Eodred with the poison over the month leading up to his death.

Armed with this knowledge, and despite Trinia’s frantic pleading to let her go and absolutely *not* to take her before Ileosa because Trinia was sure the queen would kill her, the party returned to Castle Korvosa. Vencarlo parted ways with the group on the way there, going to Citadel Volyshenek as he had promised Kroft – he didn’t seem overly worried that he would be staying there for long. Perhaps the fencer’s departure from the group was a sign that its luck was about to turn, as suddenly from beneath the street, a wild otyugh appeared, bursting up through the street! And promptly demonstrating while otyughs make such terrible CR4s, as the party gutted it within a round or so of combat, Cid Shocking Grasping it to death with minimal effort.

The last obstacle that the party faced on the way back into Castle Korvosa would prove to be more formidable, however, as Lictor DeVries once again made an appearance, barring the party’s way. Fortunately, the Commandant did not recognize Trinia, and thus Cid was able to fast talk his way past DeVries with various half-truths, until the Commandant flew off again. And then the party brought Trinia before Ileosa, and learned that oh yeah, beneath that calm exterior Ileosa was in a rather murderous rage (their first hint being Ileosa drawing her rapier with shrieks of “whore!” and marching towards Trinia as the young painter shrank back in terror.) They quickly figured out that Ileosa was under the impression that Trinia had been sleeping with Eodred, although their initial attempts to get that through the haze of her rage didn’t quite take.

Here, Rholand stepped up, blocking the queen’s path. Incensed, Ileosa commanded him to get out of her way, instinctively activating the crown’s Dominate Person ability in her rage. And here I learned that spells cast by items, even artifact items, have pathetically low save DCs. Rholand made the save (barely), thus starting a pattern of him standing up to Ileosa and just generally being a stubborn badass in social situations. His persistence eventually paid off, and after Ileosa realized that Eodred had been keeping Trinia’s visits secret because she was working on a surprise gift to her from Eodred, her rage collapsed despite Kazavon’s urgings. Ileosa and Trinia weren’t exactly friends still, but Ileosa’s disposition towards the young painter was considerably improved from that moment forward.

Nonetheless, the painter was still an accessory to Eodred’s murder, and even if Ileosa and the party knew the truth, Trinia was still public enemy number one to everyone else. Especially the Hellknights. So it was determined that she would still be imprisoned within Castle Korovsa for now, where she could be kept safe. Unfortunately, things were not going to be quite that easy as the party would learn the following session, as the citizenry of Korvosa had been whipped up into a frenzy now that they had a face with which to associate with Eodred’s murder. And it wasn’t Gaedren Lamm’s face . . . it was Trinia Sabor’s.

Excerpt from Session Fifteen:
Inspectre wrote:
{. . .} Specifically, locating the woman responsible for Eodred’s murder (according to Gaedren Lamm, but it’s not like an illusion of him would have any reason to lie, right?). {. . .}

This reminds me of a Homer Simpson quote prefixing a statement he makes with great certainty about Jocks and Nerds: "If movies and television have not lied to me . . .".

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I neglected to mention that the party leveled up to level four after catching that dastardly murderess of kings, Trinia Sabor! Rholand, thinking at the time that he would be going into mystic theurge eventually (yes, I know. Oracle and Sorceror already delay their next spell level. Mystic theurge gives you a ton of spells to use, but since you need three levels in each you’re delaying your spell casting by several levels. And APs stop at around level 15, before mystic theurge can really reach the height of its power. I know. *Never* delay your spell levels as a caster, yes, I know. Rholand was planning on doing it anyway.) Everyone else pretty much just kept on doing what they were doing.

Vaz’em – Catfolk Ninja 4
Oliver – Human Fighter 3/Cavalier 1 (or 2/2, can’t remember)
Cid – Human Magus 4
Rholand – Human Oracle (of Life) 3/Sorceror (Dreamspun) 1

Session Sixteen:

So, the party had killed their nemesis, saved the queen, and caught a woman everyone thought had murdered the King. What was there left for them to accomplish? Well, quite a lot as it turned out.

I don’t quite remember the order of events, as most of the roleplaying scenes in the following couple sessions sort of all blend together. Also, my notes have failed me, as all I have is an accounting of XP from the combat of the following sessions. Nonetheless, as we were nearing the end of Book One, much of the following sessions were focused around clearing out Book One’s singular large and capstone dungeon – the Dead Warrens. It took most of the next several sessions because, after watching the new party (I say new as Cid was a newcomer, but obviously the others were old hands at all this, Oliver and Vaz’em especially) tear through Xerxes and Darius, and the CR 4 otyugh, I wanted the Dead Warrens to provide a bit of a challenge. And a bit of a kick in the teeth that things just got real, as Rolth was not going to be the push-over that Lamm was (even though they wouldn’t fight him until the end of Book Two, I wanted the message loud and clear that Rolth was not to be trifled with). I may have overdone it . . . a bit . . . with the upgrades, but it certainly proved challenging!

But before we come to the Dead Warrens, we had a whole bunch of chatting with NPCs to get out of the way. First up was going to see the queen on the morning following Trinia’s capture. They found Queen Ileosa in her throne room, along with Sabrina Merrin (up and about but now wearing a metal face mask shaped in her former likeness) consulting quietly with a man who apparently was a doctor as he was prescribing a treatment of Laudanum (an extract of opium dissolved in water) to help suppress the terrible nightmares that Ileosa was enduring each night. This piqued the party’s interest, and Rholand spoke briefly with the man about his qualifications and theories regarding Ileosa’s condition. The man, of course, was Dr. Davaulus, the Queen’s personal physician that she had been brought with her from Cheliax (and if she had thought about it, Davaulus had been introduced to her by Andaisin . . .).

Now as a very brief history lesson, Laudanum was an actual drug used fairly heavily in the 19th century as a cure-all for all sorts of maladies. Being from the opium poppy, of course, it proved to be highly addictive and eventually was phased out. Nonetheless, in the quasi-medieval society that D&D favors (although with gunpowder and some alchemical drug concoctions like Shiver Early Renaissance might be a better fit) there should be nothing seemingly sinister about the doctor prescribing the highly addictive drug. Except of course given Davaulus’s connection to Andaisin, there very much was something sinister going on here as Davaulus was trying to get Ileosa addicted and then drive her crazy by tainting future doses of the Laudanum. Rholand nipped this potential issue of a drug-addled queen (on top of Kazavon-addled) by recommending against the use of the drug after Davaulus left, although it was up to Ileosa. Rholand’s doubts were enough for Ileosa to continue suffering through the nightmares.

That also led to some gentle questioning about these nightmares that Ileosa was having. She was reluctant to talk about it at first, but as I’ve mentioned before, Rholand can be both stubborn and persuasive when he wants to be. Ileosa revealed that she had been having nightmares of Eodred inflicting horrific torture – and unspeakably worse things – to her in her dreams. Every night since his death (and Ileosa put the Crown of Fangs on). Worse, she had begun to physically injure herself during the course of these dreams . . . although all of her wounds seemed to be healing unusually quickly.

*That* really piqued Rholand’s curiosity, and he expressed interest in examining the queen to provide a second opinion from Davaulus’s diagnosis. The idea of anyone outside of Davaulus (or Eodred) seeing the queen naked was ridiculous, but as a DM I try to say “yes” to player ideas rather than dismissing them out of hand, and Rholand aced the Diplomacy roll that I asked for, so . . .

Ileosa had Rholand follow her and her guards to her bedchambers, and after dismissing all of the guards save Sabrina who remained in the room, stripped naked and permitted Rholand to have his examination. Yes, he managed to talk Ileosa out of her dress on only about their third or fourth meeting (although it went no further than that – for now). Sometimes I think I may be a little too lenient on my players and their crazy ideas.

Nonetheless, this got some information out to the players. Ileosa was in perfect health, unusually perfect in fact (getting a +6 bonus to your Con score from having an artifact perched on your head will do that for you), although she was steadily amassing a collection of scars on her body. She even demonstrated this bizarre regeneration to Rholand, cutting open her palm with a knife and holding it up for Rholand to see while counting down. By the time she finished counting down from five, the cut on her palm was completely healed, although it left behind a jagged scar there.

Having seen it in action, Rholand wasn’t able to determine the exact cause of this miraculous healing, but it was clear that it was magical in nature, and that there was something in the magic that was causing it to heal imperfectly, leaving behind scars (Kazavon really liked His vessels being as marred on the outside as they were on the inside). Ultimately Rholand was flummoxed by Ileosa’s condition despite his knowledge as a healer, but now that he was aware of it he could at least start looking for answers (which would have to wait a while given all the other stuff the party had to deal with).

Since Sabrina was also present, Rholand also asked if he could examine her injuries as well while Ileosa got dressed again. After a moment’s hesitation, she removed her mask, revealing a once-beautiful face that was now quite marred by deep, wide scars (see her picture in Book Six for details). Although it looked like (thanks to Ileosa reviving Sabrina with her blood) Sabrina had largely made a full recovery thanks to magical healing – unfortunately there was little such healing could do about her ruined face. This was why I had the shotgun blast from Darius take her out a few sessions ago, as they are not specific as to how she got them in the AP (one might assume Ileosa liked to play with knives . . .). Rholand nonetheless prayed over the scars and anointed them with a bit of cleansing oils before Sabrina put her mask back on. And then the three of them returned to the rest of the group so that they could return to the business at hand.

The business at hand was that Ileosa had decided to put Trinia Sabor on trial after all. While she agreed that Trinia was innocent of deliberate wrong-doing, she was nonetheless the means by which Lamm smuggled poison into the castle, which was then put to use by someone else within the castle. Ileosa had a few suspicions as to who that person might be, especially after the group asked about Venster thanks to Trinia’s comments about a strange man coming to visit Eodred. Ileosa was even more hesitant to talk about Venster than her nightmares as he was Eodred’s secret not hers, but given that he might be the true murderer (he was, as written in the AP), and since she had already exposed herself to Rholand’s scrutiny (sorry, couldn’t resist) Ileosa talked.

She revealed that Venster was Eodred’s half-brother, and a tiefling which explained why he was kept hidden away in the castle. Birthing a demonspawned baby would have brought shame to Domina, as it would have confirmed that the rumors of her taking fiends into her bed. Domina hadn’t done that, but the tainted blood of demons and devils could linger for generations, manifesting only occasionally. She could have disposed of Venster quietly back in Cheliax, but despite the risk had nonetheless kept him to raise as her own, though it meant that Venster would forever be kept in the shadows. Clearly, Venster had been rather pissed off about his brother always basking in the limelight of society. The fact that he hadn’t been seen in days was not unusual, but was suspicious given his potential role in Eodred’s death.

In truth, Andaisin had already disposed of Venster the night Eodred died, and had taken his body to Rolth for disposal so no one could ever raise him from the dead or use Speak with Dead on him to learn of his role or who had put him up to it (Andaisin). Like Lamm before him, Rolth decided he wanted to kept some insurance on tap, just in case, so he turned Venster into a skeleton and propped him up in a crude mockery of Korvosa’s throne room within the Dead Warrens (an extra encounter my players sadly never found  ).

So, it seemed possible, even likely, that Venster was Eodred’s murderer. But between being kept a secret from the public for all these years, and the fact that he had disappeared, Ileosa couldn’t hold him up at the guilty party. The public needed *someone* to hate, to blame, for their king’s death and if it wasn’t going to be Trinia it would be someone else – Ileosa had already heard rumors that some thought *she* had ordered Eodred killed (rumors started by Andaisin). For Korvosa to heal then, it needed to see someone punished for the crime, and Ileosa intended to offer Trinia up as a sacrificial lamb. Hopefully, through the course of a fair and public trial Trinia could be absolved of her guilt and found innocent, but until the party could find someone more guilty for Ileosa to hold up for justice (keeping Lamm alive was starting to look really good right about now – nah, who am I kidding?) Trinia would have to endure the public’s hate alone.

I’m not sure if I played up enough the general public’s *need* for someone to be punished for Eodred’s death in the spectacle of the public eye. There wasn’t enough time really to focus on what Joe Public thought of things, so some of the events at trial may have come off as Ileosa simply being insane (which she was after a fashion thanks to Kazavon) rather than trying to manipulate public opinion in her favor without actually handing Trinia over to be lynched. Oh well, the party went along with it, and in the end that’s all that really matters.

Ileosa was going to do her best to give the poor girl a fair and unbiased trial, while at the same time putting on a show for the crowds so that they believed the city’s government was strong and could be relied upon for bringing Eodred’s killers to justice. The party had for as long as the trial lasted to find another guilty party that Ileosa could hoist up instead of Trinia. And with that vague goal in mind (find another of Eodred’s killers – likely either Venster or Andaisin), the party set back out from Korvosa. They were also tasked with delivering a message to Citadel Volyshenek, to inform Field Marshall Kroft that her services in representing the Prosecution in this trial were requested by Queen Ileosa herself.

So the party traveled there first, and found Vencarlo walking out the gates of the citadel as they approached. Naturally the fencing instructor had a very good lawyer, who had threatened to petition various arbiters to secure Vencarlo’s release on bail until the time of his trial, if Kroft still was intent on pressing charges. Given the strictness of Korvosa’s laws, I imagine that assaulting the city’s Field Marshall would probably result in some combination of imprisonment, torture, and death from torture (Kazavon loved this city already) so Kroft really wasn’t planning on pursuing the actual charges. So she let Vencarlo go, with threats that she might still change her mind about bringing him up on assault charges if he didn’t stay out of her sight for the next couple days.

When the group got to Kroft’s office, they found more trouble was brewing in Korvosa beyond the fervor over Trinia Sabor. With Kroft in her office was an elderly Shaoti man, his wrinkled and tanned skin tattooed to give the appearance of a skeleton. Kroft introduced this man as Thousand Bones , of the Skoan-Quah tribe of Shaoti. Thousand Bones had come to Kroft on behalf of his people and his son, who were upset due to the fact that Thousand Bones’ grandson had been killed recently in the violence, and now the city of Korovsa could not provide the Shaoti with his body.

When asked who Thousand Bones’s grandson was, and who killed him, Kroft explained that who did it wasn’t known, but that the grandson was a local thug who had left the Skoan-Quah tribe some years ago to try and integrate with the Korvosa’s citizenry by joining the Dusters gang. His name was Kynndor Thok. The same Kynndor Thok Vaz’em and Oliver had cut down and left in the street after looting him a number of days ago, when Boule still had the hit out on Vaz’em. Yes, it was supposed to be some other Shaoti as written in the AP, but I couldn’t resist twisting things around a little bit so that their standard adventuring policy of killing anyone who crossed them bit the party in its ass.

Oliver & Vaz’em obviously did not confess to the crime, but they were certainly willing to help make it right now to avoid a war! :D Fortunately for them, Thousand Bones and his people were aware of Kynndor’s choices in life, and their consequences – they were not upset that he was dead. Rather, what angered them was solely the loss of his body – the Shaoti believed that a body needed to be burned, so that the soul could be free. Entombed within the earth, the spirit was trapped, buried to languish and suffer forever in solitude. Which apparently was what the city had done, since Kroft had tracked down a receipt that the body had been delivered to one of the mass graves in the city’s Grey District.

But it seems the body never actually got there, as they can’t find it now, and with necromancers springing up like weeds in the Grey District on account of the very soil having faint necromantic properties (mass undead outbreaks were a common but controllable occurrence in the Grey District), it certainly seemed possible necromancers had made off with the body.

Thousand Bones promised to do what he could to contain his people’s rage, but the peace could not last forever. He vowed to give the party a week to find and retrieve Kynndor’s body – and if they could not accomplish it by then, then perhaps a Shaoti war party marching into the Grey District would be more successful. Obviously Kroft wouldn’t be getting much sleep even now.

She was even less enthusiastic about serving as the Prosecution during the trial, but at least with the trial set to begin several days from now, she had some time to prepare. Ileosa’s orders were very specific, in that Kroft had to do her best to win a conviction – which if she was successful, would mean Trinia would be found guilty by the court of regicide, which would result in an execution considerably more torturous and agonizing than even the standard “death by torture” that Korvosa’s arbiters handed out to the worst criminals (probably something similar to the end of Braveheart as a warm-up).

So now the party would need to balance its time between serving as witnesses at the trial (since they were the “arresting officers” if you will) and trawling the Grey District for Kynndor Thok’s body which may or may not be ambulatory again. Fortunately, with the trial not to start for several days, that left the party with time to focus on hunting down Kynndor. Kroft recommended that they start by talking to the clerics of Pharasma that used the Grey District as their base of operations, managing the burial of the dead and ensuring the occasional undead outbreak did not threaten the entire city. There was another good question for stopping off to speak to the clerics – Vaz’em was sick.

Remember as they were breaking into Lamm’s final hideout, they had to deal with a wererat guard? A wererat guard who critical hit Vaz’em several times with his bite, resulting in Vaz’em failing a fort save versus disease, although not the one versus lycanthropy? Well, Filth Fever finally manifested, and for a ninja focused on dex, waking up to suddenly find yourself down 3 points of Dex SUCKS. Since they had time, they tried to rest for a day so that Vaz’em could recover but the disease continued to ravage him (failed fort save even with bonuses from Rholand helping with Heal). Deciding that they couldn’t waste another day letting him rest, the party went to see the clerics of Pharasma, dragging their sick catman along with them.

At the cathedral in the heart of the grey district, the party was eventually directed to the acolyte on-duty, which turned out to be Kira Nightshade, the cleric they had met in the Deathhead Vault beneath the Longacre Building. Oliver used this opportunity to plant some more horrible rumors about Blackjack in her head, although they seemed to only pique Kira’s interest in the mysterious rogue further. (It was pretty hard for Vencarlo not to punch Oliver in the mouth the one time he started making Blackjack jokes in front of him, but he managed to force a smile and laugh, as Vencarlo was easy-going enough to be able to laugh at himself – when necessary). They got some information from Kira about any recent necromancers, and learned that there was one group who seemed to be operating out of the Dead Warrens. There had been some talk about marshalling a patrol to send out to that part of the district to hunt them down, but thus far they had no luck in pinning down the exact crypt the group was hiding in.

Still, that gave the party somewhere to start, and in exchange for clearing out these necromancers for them (two quests for the price of one, yay!) the party managed to get a free Remove Disease thrown in for their friend Vaz’em. Kira was confident that the group would do this task, instead of just taking her blessing of Remove Disease and running, because if they did that, “Pharasma would cause Vaz’em’s private parts to shrivel and fall off”. Everyone but Vaz’em found this an amusing threat.

Heading into the Dead Warrens, the group eventually found a set of strange three-toed tracks (left by the derro) leading into one of the crypts. The crypt was empty, but some further Perception checks discovered the tracks leading to a back corner, where a secret door led down into some sort of catacombs. Cautiously, the party descended, right into the teeth of my first upgraded encounter. Or as I liked to call it, Fantasy Vietnam given that everything was horrible and existed only to hurt and traumatize.

I kept the monsters basically as written – six human skeletons and an owlbear skeleton, but I knew that a bunch of CR 1/2s wouldn’t even cause my level 4 group to blink. And since I wanted to show off Rolth’s skills as a necromancer a bit (and show how much of a huge jerk he was), I templated the s$$@ out of these skeletons.

The owlbear skeleton I made a Multiplying Exploding owlbear skeleton. Here I broke the rules in two places – 1) I had the skeleton go from Large->2 Medium -> 4 Small, when I believe as written they should have gone directly from Large -> 2 Small & 2) Exploding is explicitly not allowed to be combined with Multiplying. I boosted the owlbear’s CR from 2 up to 4 to compensate, but still . . . eating 13d6 of exploding damage over the course of the battle was a LITTLE much, even if it didn’t ultimately kill everyone since the 13d6 was spread out through the fight.

The human skeletons I divided into two groups – 2 I made into Mudra Dual-Crossbow wielding skeletons that effectively had Rapid Shot as each could get off two shots a round since they had two crossbows, 4 I made into Bloody skeleton warriors. I changed the Bloody Regeneration ability into taking only 1d4 rounds to revive a skeleton instead of 2d6 hours. However, I did make it so that any positive energy, whether from Rholand’s Channels or a wand of CLW would be enough to permanently kill a downed skeleton. That change came in handy later on in the AP, when the party would fight Bloody skeletons again. For now, the skeletons getting back up repeatedly until Rholand could channel to make them stay down was fairly terrifying for them.

In the end, the party stood victorious but they were battered from the experience. So battered, in fact, that they elected to retreat from the Dead Warrens for the day, given that the welcoming committee encounter was so brutal. Mission accomplished for making the Dead Warrens a difficult set of encounters! Although my players rightly wanted to strangle Rolth with his own intestines when they found him due to all the b+~*%!@% exploding skeletons. Little did they know that the worst was yet to come.

The Trinia Chase:

I forgot to include this in my “director’s cut” spoilers at the bottom of last post, so I’ll include it here. As I mentioned, with the change from 3.5 to Pathfinder, pretty much all of the skills listed in the book were boiled into Acrobatics. So I made up a bunch of my own challenges. Here’s the full list challenges and DCs for those interested in such things, and might want to steal and modify it further for their own game. Acrobatics was still very useful of course, but I generally tried to provide an alternate route on most tiles for other skills. I also to had a few challenges that could be overcome with multiple skills, or some sort of Combat Maneuver check. Here’s the tile-by-tile list.

Tile 1: Steep Roof Climb DC 10/Narrow Walkway Acrobatics 15
Tile 2: Shortcut Knowledge:Local or Perception DC 15/Jump the Gap Acrobatics DC 15
Tile 3: Crowded Street Diplomacy or Intimidate DC 15/Cluttered Roof Acrobatics or CMB: Bullrush DC 15
Tile 4: Hole in the Wall Escape Artist or Climb DC 15/Tightrope Walk Acrobatics DC 20
Tile 5: Security Checkpoint Bluff or Stealth DC 15/Long Jump Acrobatics DC 20
Tile 6: Hole in the Wall Escape Artist or Climb DC 20/Cluttered Roof Acrobatics or CMB: Bullrush DC 15
Tile 7: Very Steep Roof Climb DC 15/Shuffle Along Ledge Acrobatics DC 10
Tile 8: Well Hidden Shortcut Knowledge Local or Perception DC 20/Long Jump Acrobatics DC 20
Tile 9: Crowded Street Diplomacy or Intimidate DC 15/Steep Roof Climb DC 10
Tile 10: Security Checkpoint Bluff or Stealth DC 15/Jump the Gap Acrobatics DC 15
Tile 11: Hole in the Wall Escape Artist or Climb DC 15/Narrow Walkway Acrobatics DC 15
Tile 12: Packed Street Diplomacy or Intimidate DC 20/Cluttered Roof Acrobatics or CMB: Bullrush DC 15
Tile 13: Well Hidden Shortcut Knowledge Local or Perception DC 20/Very Steep Roof Climb DC 15
Tile 14: Narrow Walkway Acrobatics DC 15/Long Jump Acrobatics DC 20
Tile 15: Hellknights! Bluff or Stealth DC 25/Crack in the Wall Escape Artist or Climb DC 20
Tile 16: Trinia Escapes! . . . Only to be caught be Sable Marines or Fireballed by Hellknights (Flip a coin to decide ;))

They should hire you for work on Curse of the Crimson Throne Anniversary Edition . . . .

Edit: Further brief Hellknight Magus thoughts here.

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Well that’s kind of you UnArcaneElection, although I’m not sure “Uh, yeah Paizo, I kinda didn’t like your AP, so I basically rewrote the whole thing . . .” is going to be a convincing argument in my favor. I also imagine nearly slaughtering your entire party of players with over-the-top encounters is probably not a mark in my favor either. Although at least nobody important died in the end. >>

Session Seventeen:

So, properly intimidated and battered by Rolth’s skeleton welcome committee, the group retreated since, as far as they knew, they had the advantage of time – there was still about six days left before the Shaoti ran a war party into the city to hunt for Kynndor’s body, and the trial wasn’t until the day after tomorrow. So they retreated and rested – and Rolth’s own forces made preparations for the return of these meddling adventurers.

When they returned, they found the entry ossuary had been swept clean of the destroyed skeleton bones, and a message scrawled onto the floor in what appeared to be blood. “Welcome to Hell, Abventerer Skum”. Following the tunnel south, they immediately ran into two more messages “Not that way” & “This way”, attached to arrows directing them down the side tunnel to the first derro room (which had since been abandoned). They would have found another arrow in the derro room labeled “Teasure”, pointing them towards a side room of the vaults below the Dead Warrens.

Since the AP doesn’t cover what’s in those side tunnels, I did include an encounter at each exit off the map – one was the re-animated Venster and assorted undead in a mockery of Korvosa’s throne room, and the other was a Shaoti burial chamber containing a pissed off Barrow Wight. The “Teasure” sign was pointing them towards the Barrow Wight encounter, whose lair was surrounded by arrows saying “In here”. Which is what passed for a devious trap in the minds of the derro.

The group didn’t fall for the trap (yet), and ignored the arrows and continued on to the south, into the teeth of a very nasty combined encounter between the derro play room and the blood-draining room. The group encountered two derro in the operating room, along with your standard zombie that had previously been the corpse on the operating table (Vreeg had been busy), another zombie that was strangely bloated, and two swarm-host skeletons (that also exploded on death, of course) whose rib cages served as the cages for the six stirges.

The derro shrieked a greeting and then immediately attacked, one plunging the room into darkness while the other threw its daily Sound Burst into the tunnel, damaging the group but not managing too much else. Everything *but* our heroes had Darkvision and thus could see in the pitch blackness of the derro’s Darkness spell (yes, it’s not total darkness, but it does extinguish normal light, which means that when you’re in a cave without anything better than torches or Light spells, it pretty much *is* “You’re blind, sucka”). With that in mind, the party wisely beat a hasty retreat back up the tunnel, taking up defensive positions just outside the edge of darkness. They didn’t have to wait long for the first wave of undead to plunder through, along with the swarm of always-hungry stirges.

In the front of the formation, oliver and trevor got several of the nasty blood-suckers attached to them through lucky rolls on my part and unlucky AoOs. Oliver decided to continue to retreat, leaving Trevor to stand alone against the remaining undead. Unfortunately, Trevor also tried to retreat at some point without using the Withdraw action, and so ate an AoO from a zombie. That hit, dropping the poor dog. The exploding skeletons, combined with the con loss from the stirges, and the inability of anyone to reach him to heal (as the rest of the party had retreated far enough up the tunnel that the undead could move to stand over the dog’s body), ultimately resulted in the brave dog’s death. RIP Trevor.

There was one final nasty surprise waiting for the group from the undead as well. Because I knew that the party loved CON damage, and so wanted to let them Con damage while they got con damage, I made the second bloated zombie a gasbloat zombie. With Burnt Othur fumes as the gas pumped into it. When killed, the fumes filled part of the tunnel, forcing the party to retreat even further. Except Cid, who stubbornly stood in it for a couple rounds making Fort saves while he killed the rest of the undead. Crazy Hellknights.

As the last undead fell and the party started dealing with the handful of remaining stirges still attached to Oliver, the derro finally rejoined the fight. One had gone through the secret passage from the operation room to the ossuary, but at 20’ move speed, it had taken a while. The second had go west through the derro room and up and around to hit the party from the side tunnel. As the last undead fell, the two finally got there, the ossuary one blasting the party with a Sound Burst that managed to stun a couple people this time. Unfortunately it was only Vaz’em, whose weapons were attached to his hands.

While they are fairly obnoxious to deal with, derro aren’t very hardy opponents once you get into melee with them, particularly when compared to a party with three characters built around melee. As the two derro, Volo and Vello (I had a thing for giving every derro a “V” name) quickly learned. Vello got torn apart fairly quickly, but due to the narrow tunnels Volo managed to survive a little longer. Long enough, in fact, to finally land a hit with his aklys on Vaz’em. The catfolk’s eyes began to slid shut of their own accord as the Blue Whinnis that had been coating the weapon took effect and Vaz’em failed his fort save. Another gift from Vreeg, as he had distributed a dose of the poison to each of his derro subordinates.

Standing over the catfolk’s body, the derro shrieked at the party and demanded that they give him something good in return for Vaz’em’s life (it was something nonsensical, like a party I think). Oliver agreed to the derro’s terms as he stepped forward through the rest of the party, telling him that he had his party right here (in his cutlass). He made a fairly lousy bluff check, but when you have a horrific wisdom penalty like the derro do, it turned out to be *just* enough to fool the creature. Oliver got a surprise attack in, cutting the derro badly but failing to kill it. With a shriek of rage it lifted its club (Coup De Grace), leaving itself open to a second swing from Oliver. This one was enough to finish the derro . . . and might have been a crit (pretty sure this was the third “kill the bad guy” crit from Oliver. Like I said, for a while there, it was a thing).

Then the party had to deal with their sleeping ninja, who I think I eventually had Rholand be able to wake up with Heal checks and the like (I didn’t feel like having the party just sit twiddling their thumbs for an hour). Gathering up the remains of Trevor, they piled up all of the operating room’s equipment into a back corner where the swarm-hose skeletons had been standing, and burned it all as a funeral pyre. That petty destruction of the derro’s tools seemed to brighten the party’s mood a little, and they moved on to the acid & Necrophidius hallway.

Suspicious and on their guard now finally, the party didn’t like what they saw, particularly when Cid swept the area with Detect magic (meant to examine the operating room, but since the hallway was right next door I included it as well) and parts of the hallway started glowing. A quick check by Vaz’em confirmed that there was a trap in the hallway, and the party wisely avoided the main entrance to the hall and continued their search elsewhere.

Which took them into the secret tunnels that the derro had made, and that Vello and Volo had left hanging open (stupid, stupid derro). This allowed the party to approach the hallway from the north secret entrance, and completely ruin my evil trap. I had replaced the lesser Necrophidius with one regular Necrophidius, multiple acid splash traps (basically a barrage of three acid splashes, followed by several more every other roun), and four acid (exploding) skeletons at the far end. So the intent was for the party to walk in, get sandwiched between the necrophidius from the north, and the acid skeletons from the south, and just get showered in acid throughout the fight. When I let my party figure out the plan so they knew the bullet they had dodged, Cid simply said “You are a very bad bad man”. Which warmed the cockles of my cold black DM heart, I assure you.

But since the party entered from the north instead, they didn’t have to deal with the acid trap itself very much at all, and while the Necrophidius was annoyingly tough, it didn’t really daze or paralyze anyone, so the party killed it without too much difficulty, and then dealt with the acid skeletons. That exploded all over them.

The group had finally had enough of this place for one day (or rather, Rholand was almost out of channel energy again, *finally*) and so once again the group retreated. Unfortunately, with the trial starting the next day, and Oliver needing another entire day to hunt down a new pet doggie, they would have to come back to the Dead Warrens later. Giving Vreeg even more time to figure out how to make this place an unending hell for them when they finally came back for more yet again.

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Inspectre wrote:
“Uh, yeah Paizo, I kinda didn’t like your AP, so I basically rewrote the whole thing . . .”

In my book rethinking, reworking and rewriting an adventure is a sign of respect; it means you like the scenario very much, but you want to adjust it to your personal taste and the playing style of your group. There is nothing wrong with that.

That being said, you did manage to turn the deadwarrens into truly deadly warrens. I loved the markings and the signs the derro left for the PCs. It adds an element of humor, while it shows at the same time that your dungeon is dynamic, not static. Very well played, sir.

^+1 on all of this.

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Thanks for the kind words guys. 

Session Eighteen:

So after withdrawing from the Dead Warrens for the second time, the party decided to take a break as the only progress they seemed to be making in recovering Kynndor’s body was nearly adding their own to the necromancer’s collection. Not technically true as they killed two of Vreeg’s associates and made a dent in the undead infesting the place, but after wading through the hell I had designed for them I could understand the desire for a break sticking your face against the grindstone. Plus Oliver needed to find a new dog, a process that appeared took a full twenty-four hours (why he couldn’t just find some random stray and make it his hound companion right then and there I don’t know, but them’s the rules!)

So this mandatory break pretty much meant that the party would only be participating in the trial on the following day. They were aware that some of them may be called to testify, even by Kroft as witnesses against Trinia. They weren’t enthused about that, but since the queen had been making efforts to make this a fair trial they were willing to participate in order to present the truth that Trinia’s role in Eodred was as a minor, unwitting patsy at best.

They arrived at the courthouse early the next morning to find it surrounded by a dense crowd – much of Korvosa had turned out to watch the kingslayer brought to justice. This was probably a missed opportunity by me to play the city’s blind anger towards Trinia, as I certainly could have had angry groups waving signs and burning effigies of Trinia outside, even as the guard struggled valiantly to disperse them and prevent an all-out riot. Still, I think they got the idea that this was a big deal to the city at least, and that things would end violently if there was even the whiff of tampering with the trial’s outcome.

They also saw a carriage push its way through the crowd, escorted by the masked Sabrina Merrin and six other heavily armored, mounted women – the first Grey Maidens. As the party would learn a little later, the Grey Maidens were founded as a group of all-female volunteers to help Sabrina protect the queen since one bodyguard clearly wasn’t enough anymore. The queen hoped using female bodyguards would cut down on the whisperings of “Whore Queen” amongst the populace – it didn’t. Instead they simply fantasied that the queen was a lesbian and thus enjoyed surrounding herself with beautiful women. Ileosa just can’t win.

And it was indeed Ileosa inside the carriage, although the party did not get a chance to speak with her as Sabrina and her bodyguards hustled her inside the Longacre Building once she stepped out of the carriage. Pushing their way up to the doors, they followed the queen in, and were escorted into a packed main courtroom, where they had helped (*DM snicker*) Blackjack rescue all of the hostages Lamm had taken on his assault of the building. As witnesses, they had spots near the front reserved for them, and as they took their seats the party looked around to see Vencarlo and Fishguts Jim in attendance – queen Ileosa was watching from a private nobles’ balcony above. Kroft was at the prosecution bench, and there was no one currently seated at the defense table – which was rather odd as the trial started a few minutes later.

Chief Arbiter Zenobia Zenderholm, arguably the harshest but most fair-minded judge in the city, stepped out from her chambers a moment later, prompting the baliff to declare that the trial of Trinia Sabor vs. the City of Korvosa would now begin. At a word from Zenobia, the baliff went and retrieved the accused from a side room – a kindness over holding her in the open-barred cell at the front of the courtroom to await the trial’s start, saving Trinia from enduring the hatred of the assembled “audience”. Of course, as soon as the poor girl stepped out into the courtroom a loud chorus of boos and cries of “burn the witch!” went out, until Zenobia finally shouted them all down, demanding order and instructing the guards to forcibly eject anyone who spoke out of turn again. Trinia herself was shackled at the wrists and ankles, and had been gagged (a standard precaution for those known to be spellcasters, not an additional cruelty just for her). Led over to the seat of judgement set before Zenobia’s podium, the baliff helped Trinia into the chair and then handed her a chalk and slate so that she could still communicate (the baliff would read whatever she wrote).

Zenobia asked the girl if she understood the charges being brought against her, to which Trinia wrote “yes” on the chalkboard with shaking hands. It was then that Zenobia noticed Trinia lacked a defense lawyer, and despite the assurances from the accused girl that it was alright and she would defend herself, Zenobia nearly brought the trial to a halt right then and there. Zenobia turned her ire on Kroft, who said that every lawyer who had been asked to serve as the defense had outright refused, spurring Zenobia’s outrage even higher. Before the chief arbiter could declare a halt to the trial, riots from the bloodthirsty masses be damned, a voice spoke out from the crowd.

Adonis Kreed appeared at the back of the courtroom, and the party inwardly groaned as Andaisin’s lackey stepped forward. He presented his papers confirmed that he was a registered lawyer of Korvosan law, and apologized for his tardiness but a crowd had been in his way. He was willing to defend the poor girl, and while Trinia had no prior idea about Kreed’s offer, the gratitude poured from her eyes at her legal savoir (this is where I as the DM laugh really hard – AHAHAHAHAHAHAH!)

Unable to find any fault in Kreed’s offer, the court accepted him as Trinia’s defense, and the trial got underway. To make a long story short, Kroft tried to show that Trinia was guilty of bringing the poison into the castle, that she had opportunity to poison Eodred, and most likely, that she did so or at the very least provided the means to whoever did actually kill Eodred, which made Trinia a direct accessory to his murder. Kreed, meanwhile, wasn’t so much interested in defending Trinia’s innocence as he was in trying to move the focus onto who actually delivered the poison – and he hinted with no so subtle innuendo that it was Eodred’s own beloved queen Ileosa who had done the deed.

I probably could have managed this trial portion a bit better and made it a little less NPCs just quibbling over details (since spells like Zone of Truth were pretty quickly able to pick out lies – unless you had Glibness running like Kreed did, or were writing on a slate like Trinia was doing). Nonetheless, it got the point across that Kreed was there mostly just to smear the queen rather than actually defend Trinia. Again, I probably should have played up the crowd’s reaction even more as they ate up Kreed’s words, having already disliked the “Whore Queen” Ileosa to begin with despite the fact that Kreed had no actual proof. Or at least, he didn’t have any proof until he called up a Corporal Vart, one of the city guardsmen who served at Castle Korvosa. Upon being questioned, the guardsman revealed that he had found a vial that he believed was poison. And that he had found it hidden in queen Ileosa’s bedchambers (a plant by Andaisin, and more dirty guardsmen being paid off). A vial which Kreed now provided to the court has evidence of the very same vial of poison that Trinia Sabor carried into castle Korvosa that fateful day.

At that point the crowd did go nuts again, and it took Zenobia a while to once again regain control of the courtroom. Which she eventually did, and then it was the party’s turn to provide testimony. Vaz’em was called up, and I don’t recall what he spoke about although I believe it was mostly just confirming Trinia’s arrest and what the party uncovered. After Kreed’s bombshell, Rholand was brought up to speak, and he gave a brief testimony as to the poison used to kill Eodred (a slow one known as Reaper’s Kiss), and then dropped a bombshell of his own.

Zenobia had put up a Zone of Truth for each witness providing testimony, resulting in Rholand having to choose his words very carefully. Nonetheless, he went ahead and pulled out a vial of his own, claiming that it, in fact, was the real vial of poison and that Kreed’s was a fake – in not so many words as it could count as a lie and be blocked by the Zone of Truth, of course. I had no idea where the player was going with this, and neither did anyone else, since they certainly had never found the vial of poison used in Eodred’s murder. Still, if Rholand wanted to hang himself . . . Zenobia had the two vials sealed, to be delivered to the city apothecary to identify the contents and determine which was the real vial of poison that took Eodred’s life. It left Kreed sweating bullets though, especially as each of his objections to this surprise evidence was methodically shot down by both Kroft and Zenobia.

As evidenced by this theme music from Phoenix Wright (usually played when the bad guy is on the cusp of having a complete mental breakdown on the stand, a la Kreed's present condition.)

While the court awaited the results of the vials testing, Zenobia declared a recess until the following day. From there the party split up a bit, Vaz’em following Kreed while the others met back up with the queen. Ileosa was not happy at the direction Kreed had turned the trial, and she was very concerned that if Trinia was found innocent of killing Eodred then the crowd’s anger would turn onto the next most likely perpetrator – her. And Ileosa could not let that happen as it would mean more riots and more Hellknights slaughtering rioters in the streets – so unless the party could find her someone to hold up for justice for the masses (i.e. Venster), she would have no choice but to force it to be Trinia who was sacrificed to slake the bloodthirstiness of the angry masses.

Meanwhile, Vaz’em followed Kreed to a café in Old Korvosa, where he met with his employer – Andaisin. Who was quite pleased with the outcome of the trial thus far, as Ileosa was now trapped between murdering an innocent girl for “Justice”, or being branded her husband’s murderer in the public’s mind. Nonetheless, this was only a distraction from a “Phase Two” (the plague) of Andaisin’s plans, and that Kreed was just to continue making as much noise as possible while she got the last pieces ready. They then split up, and Vaz’em tailed Andaisin back to a small apartment sent in a building’s basement in Old Korvosa, although he wisely didn’t follow her any further than that.

Charged with finding someone for Ileosa to set on the pyre of justice instead of the rather innocent Trinia, the party headed back into the Dead Warrens, for lack of any leads on Venster’s whereabouts. At least they could stop the Shaoti from tearing the city apart following the outcome of Trinia’s trial.

The group returned to the Dead Warrens late that day to find another message had been left on the floor of the operating room, the last room they had cleared – “Leve or Stay Forevar”. Clearly the derro were getting annoyed at the constant interruptions. Once again having no desire to deal with the acid trapped hallway, the party went to the secret tunnels, and finding them blocked, nonetheless smashed their way through. At which point they discovered the derro had set up a welcoming party in the acid-lined hallway for them – an otyugh (which they had somehow coerced into the narrow confines of the acid hallway), three more human zombies, and the zombified remains of the two derro they had killed the previous day (never leave intact bodies behind in a necromancer’s lair, you fools!)

This time, the narrow confines of the secret tunnel worked against the party, as they were all bunched up right at the mouth of the secret tunnel/acid hallway, in reach of the otyugh. And it’s fetid breath weapon of body parts and sewage (I upgraded the otyugh to a Corpsefeaster variant, which has a Nausea-inducing breath weapon). I also provided an additional upgrade to the breath weapon (as I thought the otyugh would be fighting alone – well, okay, not alone but with only the three human zombies, not the derro ones on top), in the form that each breath would summon 1d3+1 “zombie bits”, basically mini pieces of zombified flesh that were still active enough to attack the party (a la Kynndor’s arm that Vreeg had put together).

For those of you familiar with 4E, these were essentially minions, as they only had 1 HP each and did 1d2+2 damage on a hit – just an obnoxious screen of fodder the otyugh could summon every time its breath weapon recharged. Rholand could have cleared them out easily with a single channel. They proved to be rather disappointing, although that was not really a surprise. The otyugh’s breath weapon proved a little more exciting, as both Vaz’em and Oliver were nauseated for the first two rounds of combat. Cid (currently being NPC’d by me as the player had stepped out), simply roared in fury, and began his path down the road of becoming Sir Cid the Otyughslayer (in my mind). He ran up to the otyugh, dodging its clumsy AoOs, and proceeded to cut it down in about two rounds. Single-handedly (damn useless otyughs!).

The swarm of zombies, particularly the high natural armor derro, were rather annoying to deal with, but the party eventually stomped them down after Vaz’em and Oliver recovered and they managed to lure the zombies one by one into a position vaz’em could flank from. Since they hadn’t been too badly savaged by this first fight, they opted to press onward since fighting the entire dungeon for control of the first three of so rooms of this complex was starting to get old. They also recovered Kynndor’s legs from the depths of the otyugh’s mouth, given them some much-needed progress on finally accomplishing something other than kill undead, derro, and otyughs that liked to eat undead. Unfortunately, we had to stop the session there as the trial had eaten up most of the session – and Pathfinder combats do tend to take a little while. A longer and longer while as the levels go up, as I am finding out not to my surprise (because I know how D&D works as you get higher in levels) but to my dismay nonetheless.

Nice to see that you also integrated Trinia's trial into your actual game. I think that the AP as written misses out on some nice scenes by leaving something like this out. Okay, granted, in my game the PCs were simply spectators at the trial, so their interaction was limited to observing and making perception and sense motive checks. But even so, it is an important point in the story, so I preferred to have my PCs present.

The same goes for the opening scene of book 3, with the confrontation between the queen and commander Endrin. I'm planning to have my PCs witness that as well. Key moments should be in the game if they can.

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Absolutely agree that having important scenes like Trinia trial and Endrin's execution (see what I did there? ;) ) play out in front of the PCs rather than in the background. Although if it happens in front of the PCs, you do need to take into consideration what to do if they decide to interfere, and roll with it if they somehow manage to upset the apple cart even if you do have nine different contingencies in place to prevent interference (nothing is more clever than players wanting to jump the rails).

That being said, given how the queen was attempting to use Trinia as a scapegoat for Eodred's murder in the original script, it's not unreasonable for there not to be a trial at all, and the queen just trots out Trinia (or a double if the players didn't let Ileosa get her claws on the girl) at a party to kill, closing any investigations into Eodred's death.

Obviously that could not happen in my game, as Ileosa is still a relatively decent person at the moment and the players had point-blank convinced her that Eodred was not sleeping with Trinia so Kazavon didn't have any hooks to use to get Ileosa to be a queen b#$#~. Instead, I wanted to put forth the idea that it was the masses rage over Eodred's death that was forcing someone to be burned for it, particularly with Andaisin working to whip the crowds up into a rioting frenzy again, and if it wasn't Trinia then the crowds would be coming for Ileosa. So she had to put on the dog and pony show of a trial to placate the masses, even though Andaisin managed to hijack it anyway thanks to Kreed. (My players talked about jumping him in a dark alley and making sure he never walked out of it, but his status as the *only* defense lawyer willing to defend Trinia kept them from doing such.)

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