[SPOILERS AHEAD - DM ONLY] An AAR of The Brinewall Legacy with some ideas to share

Jade Regent

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So, after six months we finally brought “The Brinewall Legacy” to a conclusion. Since we made some nice additions to the base module in our campaign, we thought it would be interesting to share our experience.

First: this campaign was run with two DM's, one mostly in charge of narration and the other of supervising combat (using Combat Manager). Campaign management and preparation was always a collective job; we both had mastered campaigns singularly before, but we found that cooperation made everything smoother and often more fun, both for us and the players. Of course, this is not to say that everyone should have a co-master, it really depends on each one's Dming style; part of the reason we got along so well is because we have been a couple for 9+ years.
Second: we actually took over and “rebooted” the adventure from another group: their old DM had moved out of town, but nevertheless we were told by the players that role-playing had been handled somewhat poorly; e.g. part 2 (the journey from Sandpoint to Brinewall) was liquidated in just one evening with a couple of random encounters and a lot of fast-forward. Bearing in mind that three players out of four had already a good knowledge of Brinestump (they had previously played until the arrival to Brinewall), and since two of the players had partecipated with us in a session of “We Be Goblins”, we elected to refurbish Brinestump so as to both create something new and speed up Part One since it was already well-known to the players. Part of this speeding up involved making them start at level 2 (we do not use XP but instead tell players to level up as we see fit, they are OK with this and actually prefer it to the XP method), also allowing for some early multiclassing / dipping.

Let's introduce the party then!
Hideki Kimura (N half elf, half Tian-min slayer cleaner 1 / magus kensai bladebound 1): He grew up in Magnimar's Underbridge, before being taken as a ward by old Ishitaka Kimura, maternal uncle of Ameiko. The truth is that he is the natural-born son of late Lonjiku, and Ishitaka took him as a favour to the old man; Hideki is not aware of this (though the player is). Ishitaka died the year before and after a personal crisis with involved finding himself drunk and stranded and being rescued by Sandru, he now takes odd jobs as a caravan guard. Ameiko is the only person he considers family and he cares deeply for her.

Yoshinobu Murata (NG kitsune sorcerer 2): the son of kitsune refugees from the Forest of Spirits, he grew up in Sandpoint with his family, all of them keeping their racial identity a secret. He has been a “frenemy” of Hideki since childhood owing to the latter's bullying attitude. He also has a tiger companion named Hoshi (the player chose the Sylvan wild bloodline).

Ronin / Galu (for close friends and family) (CG catfolk slayer 2): found by Shalelu as a kitten near the murdered corpses of his parents, he was adopted and raised by the elf, with some help from Koya. As he grew up, he suffered from never meeting anyone from his race and soon developed romantic feelings (and sadly more) for his adoptive mother. This led to a rift between mother and son which had not healed by the beginning of the adventure, much to Shalelu's chagrin.

Triskelion (NG middle-aged aasimar garuda-blooded spiritualist 2): a 150-yer-old aasimar who found herself communing with her deceased son spirit after he was murdered by orcs. She spent several years researching the nature of her abilities with little results. (She is the least experienced player in the group, and opted for a PC-change by the end of the module as she didn't quite “feel” the character).

Well, the master actually had another group before, and suffered an almost-TPK: only one survived, and he was present in this new party as the sole survivor of the previous group. So Rrargh (fighter), Fevva (pyrokineticist), Azzo (rogue) and Poogh (cleric NPC) set off to recover the boss' treasure from Varka. Shenanigan ensue. The adventure was concluded after Varka's death, when Azzo made the whole ship explode along with the treasure by setting fire to the box of fireworks inside.

Sandru invites the PCs and NPCs (except for Shalelu) for dinner at the Rusty Dragon after returning from his latest journey; the caravan was attacked by goblins near Brinestump, one of his drivers (and close friend) died and the rest, including the deceased driver's brother, elected to take a break from caravaning for the time being (that is, we eliminated the “Varisian driver brothers” from the picture, to introduce new and hopefully more interesting NPCs).
We elaborated that the goblins from before, after the ship explosion, became motivated by Poogh to take over their village (Azzo had rolled disgustingly high Bluff and Stealth checks and convinced Poogh that he (Azzo) was Zarongel, while speaking hidden in some bushes). Once in control, they instituted a theocracy based on fire, Fevva and Poogh gained apprentices and Rrargh was made the new king, though his Int score of 6 meant that Azzo was pretty much in control. Thanks to their new fire mastery, they defeated the undead raid on the village, though with heavy losses.
Back to the Rusty Dragon: the PCs smell a challenge and promptly accept it, albeit Hideki is a little reluctant. They head for Brinestump and rescue Walthus from the faceless stalker, have a little misadventure involving an unstable bridge, and finally decide to set camp in the outskirts of the swamp after locating the village's position. After a night encounter with the sinspawn, the next day they head for the village, finding the goblin's still celebrating their pyrrhus victory against the undead. Thanks to Yoshi casting Color Spray, the goblins are too easily defeated, and Rrargh, Poogh and Azzo escaped; however Fevva stays and fights to the death.
Here comes another little modification: we decided to give Whispering Shrike a more decisive role in the campaign by making it a (wakizashi) blackblade. The time spent in the hands of the undead Tsutamu has taken its toll on the sword's ego and now it leans dangerously on the evil side, though still loyal to the Amatatsus, in a way. After the battle with the goblins, the swords subtly calls out to Hideki, who finds Tsutamu's corpse still clutching the weapon. It will later become Hideki's blackblade.
So, this is how we refurbished this encounter and shortened Part 1 at the same time.

After leveling up, the PCs find the parchment Whispering Shrike and present it to Ameiko who after some thinking decides to employ Sandru's caravan to reach Brinewall. With Sandru and Shalelu manning two wagons, they hire a third driver: Terry (CN human commoner 1 / rogue 1), a former Chelish carpenter with a shady past. With all set, they embark on their journey north.
The players had used the caravan rules in their previous playthrough and didn't quite like them. We didn't either, so the journey was handled mostly by narration and the encounters (all quite programmed, random encounters are so Final Fantasy) were played out the old way.
We put a lot of effort in describing the first few days of travel, even when nothing particularly relevant happened: this helped the players to get the feel of how their journey was like, and also allowed for quite a lot of interaction among the PCs and between PCs and NPCs.
After they passed an inn located near Windsong, we ran the first event, something we read on these boards: an encounter with the cannibals who captured Sandu's and Ameiko's party years before and killed Sandru's brother. We changed the cannibals to bugbears because cannibals are too much Texas Chainsaw Massacre and bugbears are a more sound choice. For this, they enlisted the help of an old half-elf monk named Hodat (LG old half-elf monk sensei 2 /ninja 1) who is journeying on foot to reach the land of his Samsaran father and discover if he too can be reborn.
After defeating the bugbears and bringing some closure to Ameiko and Sandru, the caravan passes Galduria and Wolf's Ear. On the 8th day of travel, they set camp in Churlwood and encounter some mockingfeys followed by dinner time by some fauns; the party shares some quality cider and good stories by the campfire, and when the faun and mockingfeys leave, they bestow a gift upon the party: one of their flutes (acts as a Lesser Rod of Heightened Spells, caster must succeed a DC 15 Perform check or the spell is cast as normal). Furthermore, one of the mockingfeys got attached to Triskelion and decided to follow the caravan, acting as a “mascot”. All the players enjoyed the encounter very much even if it was purely role-play.
We ran a small module called “The Scorpion and the Frog” from Flaming Crab Games when the party arrived at the Velashu River north of Riddleport, after a night encounter with two manticores. We planted a tiny village to justify the presence of a ferry boat and rebuilt the Scorpion as Alchemist 6 / Expert 2. It turned out to be a quite challenging encounter and Hideki risked his life to save Ameiko. In the end though they made it to the other side of the river, only to discover that a child had hid in one of the wagons: Nate (N young commoner 1), a former slave in Riddleport who ran away from his cruel master. Not willing to go back nor to abandon the boy, the party reluctantly employed him in the caravan.
The final event involved an encounter with a “damsel in distress” named Yvette (CN human mesmerist 3 / slayer 1), actually a con artist associated with a band of Nolander brigands led by Istas (LE middle-aged human psychic 5), a disfigured Shoanti woman exiled as a child for being a witch. Yvette scams the party into believing that she was kidnapped from an Ulfen caravan and abused by the brigands, but in truth she communicated to Istas the position of the caravan, using a Ring of Comminuque; they intend to simply rob the caravan. Their plan however is foiled when Yoshi and Ronin search for the brigands in the nearby woods, capturing two of them and bringing them back to the caravan. To save her men, Istas is forced to attack before nightfall, and the brigands (Istas, Yvette, six other brigands and a dumbed-down hill giant named Turnip and pet to Yvette) are defeated. Istas, Yvette and a third common brigand survive the attack and are captured.
After this, the party loots the brigands' hideout to find a fourth wagon and two horses. Before departing again, they offer the survivors to either join the caravan or be freed with no weapon and their hands tied. The evening before, Istas had struck a conversation with Triskelion, and despite the difference in alignment they both had become interested in each other's powers. So Istas elected to stay, along with Yvette (who is Istas' sort of adopted daughter) and a Shoanti brigand, unquestionably loyal to Istas. Istas' own cruel sense of honor makes her feel and act as a defeated warrior, her life in the hands of those who bested her.

By this time, we felt that the players had enough adventures along the way; they were still very happy because, despite taking many sessions, they really had the feel of a journey, something which lacked in their previous experience. To conclude the journey, we had Koya perform a divination with her Harrow deck for Ameiko (this idea we also got from these boards). The cards we used were The Hidden Truth (for Brinewall), The Vagabond (for the incoming journey), The Mute Hag (for the events of Night of the Frozen Shadows), The Cyclone (for The Hungry Storm), The Forge (for the alliances in Tides of Honor), The Twin (for Hideki's subplot), and obviously, The Empty Throne. We did not use the rules as written for a true Harrowing; Ameiko just had to reveal the cards one after another and Koya interpreted them.
About Hideki's subplot: by this time his sword begins to talk as they had leveled up after Istas' encounter and he reached Bladebound level 3. We are not going to say much here, suffice to say that the swords knows about Hideki true parentage, and would love to see him on the throne.
After Koya's divination, Ameiko feels sick and goes to bed. The next day, she is in her coma.
With some help from Triskelion, Istas (having the feat Third Eye), discovers the presence of a lawful spirit and the magical but harmless nature of Ameiko's coma. The players leave one of the communique rings to Sandru, while the other is kept by Hideki. During the adventure in Brinewall, Sandru occasionally uses the ring to refer the senteces said by the sleeping Ameiko - obviously in Minkai: only Hideki and Yoshi speak Minkai, so we had Sandru relay somewhat botched sentences, while the PCs had to succeed DC 15 Linguistic checks to figure out the meaning, or be left with semi-nonsensical stuff (such as "grand relative lie in abyss but not know who it does").
The party arrives in Brinewall along with Istas and Hodat (the other NPCs stays and guard the caravan). It would be useless to detail how they tackled Brinewall, suffice to say they took three days. Obviously, being the PCs a full level above what was originally intended in the module (not to mention two NPCs, one of which, Istas, very powerful) meant we had to buff all the encounters save a couple of minor ones. Here's what we changed:
- Doubled the number of corbies, and they had one Barbarian level each.
- All the troglodytes had one Warrior level, Orbakhag had two Barbarian levels
- Flatbelly had one Hunter level, and even so he died quickly as a fly along with his spider vermin companion because the party fought him alone.
- Muthildah was reworked to fight with a two-handed weapon
- Nevakali had five cleric levels and was specialized in channeling negative energy. She was by far the most dangerous enemy after Nindinzego.
- Kikonu had two extra HD and a Antipaladin Tyrant level. He went down after only two rounds thanks to Zaiobe's deception and having depleted his Dimensional Doors.
- Buttersnips had three Alchemist Vivisectionist levels, a third arm to use the crossbow without sheathing the short sword, a feat to sneak attack after crossing threatened squares; still she was a great disappointment because Yoshi incapacitated her by spamming Glitterdust, and she went down without even harming any of them.
- We added a single cleric level to Nindinzego, to give him more hit points and a higher Bluff score (trickery domain), apart from that he was perfect just as he was. We employed another suggestion from the boards, having Nindinzego posing first as a Pharasmite enovy and then as an intelligent object, thanks to his Minor Image capability; the party quite fell for it, and his casting Darkness at the beginning of the encounter meant a lot of trouble for the party, as Triskelion and her phantom were the only ones with darkvision.
- Andril Kortun was buffed a bit.
- Kelda Oxgutter was rebuilt as a Skald Wardrummer 3, her backstory was left unchanged.
- Zaiobe: we found ourselves liking her very much, so we decided to have her strike a pact with the party: in exchange for her help in killing Kikonu, they were to retrieve the Pazuzu statue from the lower levels. Had the party complied, she would have thanked them and flied away, only to reappear in the next module with some other shady deals. Instead, they decided to lie to her, she smelled the truth and escaped when they attacked her, vowing to take her revenge. Surely they haven't seen the last of her, and her telepathic bond with Yoshi is still active.
- Tolo, the attic whisperer: we had him act a genuinely frightened child who only wanted to have company and playmates, he attacked only when his new “friends” refused to play with him or attempted to leave. He went down quickly but left quite an impression on the players.
Finally, Rokuro was left unchanged, but they didn't have to fight him anyway as Hideki immediately recognized him and called his name.
About the treasure chests, we tried to both aim the loot at the PCs and at the same time give some characterization to the chests: one belonged to a couple of Tengus unarmed fighters and contained: two amulets of mighty fists shaped as a yin-yang, a silversheen nine ring broadsword with a marriage vow carved on it, a Minkai-Taldane dictionary, a Minkai atlas, and the couple's travel log through the Crown of the World.
We used the Vision of Jade video posted on this board (with no audio), the players found it a very nice addition.
The second chest belonged to a Varisian occultist and contained a wand of Fox's Cunning with 11 charges, a +1 light crossbow, a book about planar races, and another book about occult powers that gives a +2 bonus on occult skill unlock checks.

After Brinewall, Istas elected to stay with Yvette and the other brigand, and try to establish a power-base in the Nolands from there. Triskelion also elected to stay with Istas to learn more about her own powers. The rest of the caravan will proceed to Karlsgard along with Kelda.
Sandru and Hideki feel very uneasy about this journey. Hideki also had a slightly different vision when opening the warding box, which unsettled him a great deal.
We still have few ideas about how to manage and refurbish the next module, we could change the miniboss Omoyani into a Nogitsune and try to involve Yoshi a bit, and give a greater role to Ukshakka rebuilding her as a druid (she had her animal companion killed when she tried to look for Ulf) and having her join the caravan along with Ulf. We also need to plan the voyage, this is still a work in progress; however the next session will probably be in late August so there's still plenty of time.

Finally, we plan to use the modules “Under Frozen Stars” and “Baleful Coven” from Legendary Games during the third module (in addition to most of the original material), an encounter with catfolk tribe on the Crown of the World to develop Ronin's character, and the Ruby Phoenix Tournament module during the fourth module (in this case cutting much of the original material from the campaign).

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