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I'm pretty much handwaving the provision point stuff going in to Book 2. You collect more than enough provisions during the course of Book 1. Supplementing it with livestock, hunting/foraging had my group breaking even on provision points, and more often than not, building up a surplus.
After moving into the Trog caves, the group has unlimited fresh water and the mushrooms provide a significant buffer for your provisions. The people of Phaendar are industrious and inventive. It's what they're known for and the reason the market festival happens there in the first place - they are the most skilled craftspeople in the region.
Keeping that in mind, every time my PCs leave the caves to explore and adventure in the forest, the villagers are building up the settlement "offscreen". So when my party returned from raiding Camp Red Jaw, they found the villagers had tilled a section of the clearing outside and planted a garden, set up racks for curing meat and drying mushrooms, set traps (the PCs had disarmed and recovered the bear traps at Keloch's cabin) in the nearby woods, and so on.
I'm also going to start using the Militia rules in Book 2 and see how that goes. This could allow the PCs to use the militia to trade with local settlements for non-perishables and luxury goods (among other things) from places like Crystalhurst and beyond.
My group is now officially, fully in to Book 2 content. Got our militia up and running. The PCs are now officers in their rank 2 militia: The Gobstoppers.
After a good amount of logistics, including buying and selling with Novvi and the other NPCs, the PCs finally set out for some adventuring. Their main goals are keeping the area around Misthome secure and making contact with the Rangers. All they know now is the limited info Aubrin has to share: she briefly trained at Ristin, but like all new recruits, she was blindfolded to keep the location secret. All she can tell them is it's "somewhere north of here, I think".
The PCs come across the first pair of owlbears about a day's journey from Misthome harassing who else but our porcine hero Gashmaw. The PCs manage to literally wrassle and hog tie the pig before making short work of the owlbears. After managing to recover the ring from Gashmaw's tusk, and calming the enraged animal, they discover the owlbears' trail leading in an oddly straight line leading back to the north.
We'll pick up there next time, most likely leading to the trapped logger encounter.
My group is now officially, fully in to Book 2 content. ...
There can be a big gobbo-gap in Book 2 with focus on the fey then trolls (except for encounter C) before getting back to the Ironfang Legion at Trevalay. I seeded a lot of patrol trails that the party could follow, until they hit rocky ground or another encounter to help lead them to other areas. Damage to the forest caused by the hobgoblins helped make encounter E not look like an isolated act and also tied in to encounter G. If I had my time again I might have added more signs of fungus and pre-blight as a foreshadow to book 5.Treating it more as a hunting exercise - flipped from Book 1 - with the party now hunting the hobgoblins helped ramp up the excitement for Trevalay, especially after arriving too late to deal with hobgoblins at Ristin and Nunder. The party felt they now finally had the chance to do a major strike back for Fangwood, not just for the Phaenderites (as they got at Camp Red Jaw).
The hobgoblins throughout Book 2 are also going to be noticeably more comfortable in the Fangwood thanks to Jang's forest wisdom and knowledge of the terrain (despite the notable exception at Ristin). Vardalel the elven logger will tell the PCs how he had a bird's eye view of the Ironfang forest prowlers expertly ambushing a group of rangers near his tree.
My plan is to have astute PCs notice animals watching them throughout Book 2, increasing in frequency as they near Trevalay. Animal servants/messengers of Parthuk and Jang.
So, while the PCs have a big chance to strike a serious blow to the Legion, they are also finally getting noticed in a more significant way by Ironfang leadership. The failure of Scarvinious and Red Jaw could be written off as a bungled operation by a single officer, embarrassing but not strategically significant. I suspect taking down Trevalay, Jang, and the dragon would put the PCs on Azaersi's radar for the first time.
(And that's where the medium and gunslinger from the back of the book come in... >:D)
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PCs arrived at Fort Ristin and made their entrance to the Revel. After a failed diplomacy, a decent intimidate, and an incredible bluff check, they managed to convince the two korred guards stationed at the hole in the wall that they had been personally invited (they knew Halk's name from a previous encounter with korreds in the Fangwood).
They enter and see the debauched scene in the courtyard. Before they can decide what to do next, the doors to the balcony bust open and Halk himself staggers drunkenly to the railing and blows a horn. He declares a new cask opened up along with a new hobgoblin to raucous cheering. A few moments later, the door to the northwest tower opens and several redcaps drag out a hobgoblin and toss him onto the packed dirt where he starts to feebly crawl away. The korreds swarm him like sharks, bashing him with their clubs. Moments later, the hapless hob is strung upside down with his throat slit, dousing a boulder with its lifeblood. Halk gives a hearty guffaw and orders the revel to continue.
At this point he notices the PCs standing near the wine cart. He squints at them blearily from the upper balcony, saying he doesn't remember inviting them, but concedes that he doesn't remember a lot of things since the Revel began. He mutters to himself, confused and staggers back inside, slamming the door.
I'm mentally going to have a hard time with the fey captured fort. We REALLY recently played council of thieves, which also has a bunch of red cap fey and attackers. Feels real... Boring to repeat. Not sure what I'll do once this becomes my party's objective. Maybe just a complete overhaul of the fey there. My PCs will be about...5-6 level when they get to this one,I believe.
Ristin seems like a great opportunity to really create distinctions between the different Fey. Redcaps vs. korreds vs. leprechaun. None of them trust each other, but they all want to keep the party going for one reason or another. I'm planning to lean in to the weirdness and try to foster an unsettling vibe in the fort. Besides all the bloodthirsty Fey, you also have a spooky ghost and Billie's bizarre experiments.
It also kinda hammers home the point of how important the rangers are to the Chernasardo region even without the Ironfang Legion bearing down. Even in the best of times,the rangers are the last line of defense between the civilized world and debauched fey madness.
I think it also helps to view Ristin as a powder keg ready to blow and the PCs are the spark.
The redcaps are panicking because they killed all the hobgoblins, and their leader is ready to enact a coup on Halk at her first chance.
Other Fey are lurking around hoping to curry favor with the First Drinker.
The leprechauns are even more motivated by liquor than the korreds, and only want to drink. But they are too cowardly to openly defy Halk, and enlist the PCs to do their dirty work.
Bristle Billie is apparently too unpredictable and dangerous even for other Fey, and his obscene experiments have the less severely inebriated fey on edge.
And most of them think Halk will reward them in one way or another for killing or capturing the PCs.