Actual Play – Heavy is the head… (1/12/2014)

PathfinderCoreCoverGM: Dennis Jordan
Players: Regina Joyner, Karen Twelves, and Sean Nittner
System: Pathfinder
Adventure Path: Kingmaker

Damn, this session was a bitch. Problems at every turn, often ones that we didn’t have the solution for.  This session could have been called, “Help me Toti Aldori, your my only hope”. Mia couldn’t make this session and it felt like at every turn we were like “oh, if Toti were here she could do this”. We got through it, but it was rough.

Breathing life into our Kingdom

We started the game doing some setting building, with each of us contributing a detail first of the castle and then of the town itself. Here’s the bits we added.

  • A rear sally port, currently empty except for a stack of hay in the corner. Where Merrowyn goes to both meet Cobb (if he has to come to the castle) and to get busy with Marcus.
  • The “throne” room without a throne, just a dais with a comfortable chair where a throne will some day go. Leading up to the room is a long hallway where the leaders can display their various trophies. To the side are ante chambers with long tables where meetings can be held.
  • The courtyard is simple but attractive. Filled with goats.

For Tusk itself we added these details.

  • At the town hall there is a stump of a large tree that was cut down so the building could be built in it’s place. The stump remains and those would would petition officials stand on it to make their claims. Someone in the night carved into the stump a title that has stuck “The Bitching Post”.
  • Our bank is the “First bank of the Tusk” run by Giuseppe Aldori a middle aged and incredibly fastidious man that frustrates himself trying to get everything perfect. Our coin has the bear crest of house Aldori on the front and “Triumph through Adversity” written in Talden on the back.

Picking up where we left off

After triumphantly slaying Howl of the North last session, we continued our (so far fruitless) search for the boy Tyg.

Exploring J5

mungukWe entered the steep hills to the south and soon found ourselves in a north-south traversing ravine. During camp we heard a horrible crashing sound, followed by others. Something big was making a lot of noise. As we thought to look closer, a giant rock soared overhead and crashed into nothing in particular.

When we traced the source back we saw a lumbering giant, clearly drunk, throwing a fit! He was distressed and angry. Munguk (the giant) felt like an encounter that screamed “diplomacy” but we just couldn’t fathom a way to make it work. None of us spoke giant and this was one of those cases were, for once, we were able to prepare for the battle in advance and fight on our own terms.

So, instead of trying to figure out what ailed him, we added swords and spells to the list of ailments. He hit hard (bringing the raging Merrowyn to 1 hit point) but we took him down, and walked off with his loot. And some crazy loot it was:

  • Hide Armor (large)
  • Masterwork Greatclub (large)
  • Three boots of different sizes (small, medium, and large)
  • A wooden bowl and spoon
  • Dwarf Jerky
  • A partially eaten pickled sheep’s head
  • A bent grappling hook
  • A battered (but functional) spyglass
  • Wand of Hideous Laughter (10 charges) that looked like driftwood
  • Necklace of fireballs Type 2, with a single 4d6 Fireball remaining.

I love the stuff they come up with this game. That wooden bowl is totally going to be a serving platter in The Tusk, and the greatclub is going on our wall.

Traveling through I4

Heading back to The Tusk we spotted three elk drinking from the Tustkwater Late. While we briefly considered elk stew, we decided that the chosen animal of Erastil should probably not be harmed. Instead Merrowyn had the brilliant idea of trying to herd them back to The Tusk with us to keep as royal elk.

Yeah… twenty minutes of screaming, kicking, and falling in the mud later, three very smug elk wandered off as Merrowyn chased them with her greatsword.

H5 – No luck with the swamp witch

The heading sums it up. We went to the Swamp Witch’s hovel, saw smoke (albiet blue and sickly) coming from the chimney and tried to get her attention. She wouldn’t answer our calls. Of course when we entered the Scarecrow hopped off his stand and came to block the way. We even tried having Elara take the form an Eagle and fly onto her room and peck at it. No dice.  She wasn’t coming out.

G4 – Fishing Stories

We found Arvin the ranger, sure enough, by a stream fishing. He was glad to see us and soon talked our ear off about fish…like he does.

When we showed him the shell of that took off that mean old turtle, he was elated, and happily gave us the ring of feather falling he had promised. Miquela had fun with that one, jumping off whatever she could.

We tried to get more information out of him about Tyg (he had been looking himself but not spotted the boy), the swamp witch (he could only tell us that the only person she ever liked was Aldo), and connecting up with hunters and trappers in the area (he suggested finding a respected ranger named Rombalard). After sharing a meal, and mining Arvin for information, we set off.

GrigoriHome sweet…WTF?!?

Literally as we walked through the gates into the tusk, we were instantly accosted by an angry crowd. Or rather we spotted an angry crowd, and when they spotted us, the rabble-rouser that was exciting them directed his furor at us, and at the shoddy jobs we had done as leaders. While Miquela tried to speak to him, he cut her off at every pass.

Finally, frustrated that everything we said was turned back on us, we eventually retreated to the castle, and angry (but not quite rioting) crowd at our back.

[Dennis turned to me and said, “Sean, add 4 unrest to your kingdom”. Ouch]

As soon as we had a moment we check with all the other leaders to find out who this guy was and what his problem was. Edward (our Warden) told us he just showed up after we left and started aggravating people. He would have locked him up but he hasn’t committed a crime. Cobb (our Spymaster) said much the same, but offered to off him if that’s what we wanted. Thanks Cobb, you’re a sweetheart. Both reported that he was never without a crowd around him, even when he returned to his room in the inn at night.

We wanted to speak him privately so we sent Edward and Marcus to bring him to the castle. When the returned some time later with black eyes and split lips we gathered that it didn’t go so well. He turned the people against the guards and they had to either give up or start killing our citizens.

Deciding that if he was fighting dirty, we would have to as well (or at least Miquela agreed after much insisting from Merrowyn) we arranged to clear out the inn at night (helps when your mother runs the place) and then pay him a visit. We caught him snoring, with the wainwright’s wife in his bed. We delivered her to her husband’s doorstep and hauled him (gagged) back to the castle.

Interrogating Grigori

Once inside the castle, with only Marcus, Edward, Miquela, Merrowyn, and Elara as his audience, we started by talking at him (while he was still gagged). Miqeula told him that we both wanted the same thing, for people to live and prosper in Aldoria. Unless of case he didn’t want that, and then we had a problem.

As soon as the gag was removed, he took the predictable route of calling us all tyrants and saying that we were oppressing him. We first started with diplomacy. Miquela did as well as she possibly could (A hero point and lots of help) and still couldn’t get him to crack.  When diplomacy failed, I stepped in with rage. Merrowyn rolling intimidate while raging, being aided by threats from others and spending a hero point as well, is a terrifying thing (total: 41). Grigori’s bowels got the better of him and his desire to live betrayed his professionalism.

He couldn’t tell us much useful, only that he had been hired by an agent to sow discord in our kingdom. It didn’t really give us any leads as to who was trying to hurt us, but it did give us grounds to try him for treason!

merrowyn_cropMerrowyn’s Rage

Merrowyn really, really, really wanted to be the advocate that fought to prosecute him. He had hired an advocate Sergio Duval to defend him, and she was sure that she could take him. She was so excited to do it…until Edward said that she shouldn’t. Law shouldn’t be executed with rage and passion, but instead with calm determination. He convinced Miquela and after that Merrowny was out, stuck on the sidelines.

She hated it. She hated being robbed of her moment of glory. She hated standing there useless while someone else fought her battles. She hated that the someone else happened to be he pompous as hell Domingo. She hated that others didn’t believe in her. That her temper had backfired on her. That in everyone’s eyes that mattered she was still a child. It didn’t matter that she was the “General of Aldoria”, she wasn’t respected. What she hated most was that they were probably all right.

The duel proceeded according to Aldori law. The advocates each stated their claim to the judge, who agreed that they were worth of dueling. The faced each other with nothing but leather armor and their own dueling swords. All magical items, except their swords, were confiscated, and they fought until Domingo had to kill Sergio in order to win (and presumably not die himself).

Miquela, who has presided over the event, dispensed her justice and Grigori was executed by Edward’s hand. Merrowyn watched from up top a wall, drinking herself stupid with Marcus who was wise enough to not say a word. The only he did do was make a “huh” noise when he saw Edward behead Grigori as swiftly as he’d have put on shoes. Apparently the apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree.

Grigori’s Loot

Once killed, we also totally took all his stuff. Like you do.

  • Potion of Cure Light Wounds (5)
  • Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (5)
  • Potion of Undetectable Alignment (5) x3
  • Scroll of Scare (5)
  • Scroll of Soundburst (5)
  • 20 x Silver Caltrops
  • Chain Shirt +1
  • MW Buclker
  • Rapier +1
  • MW Shortbow

Besides the healing potions and caltrops, everything went into the sell pile.

Matters of State

While in The Tusk, we had several other matters of state to attend to. Merrowyn missed a few of these due to her three day drunken bender, but Miquela and Elara handled all these things well.

Roy Resnick (Aldo Resnick’s son we found out) asked for permission to establish a settlement in the Narlmarshes, into a region we had not explored, and independent of Aldoria. After some discussion we agree to allow him to do so, with a few provisions.

  • First we were going to explore the area and make sure it was safe.
  • We would aid them in there settlement, offering supplies and man power (a few build points)
  • Once we expanded that far, their settlement could be annexed into Aldoria

hedgehog-11979-1600x900In order to read the map we took off Munguk we asked around for someone who spoke giant. It took several days but eventually we got word that the person to talk to was Leccio. So we put out word that his knowledge would be welcome and rewarded. When he did show up, it was all that the court could do not to barrel over laughing. Leccio is a hedgehog. Awakened by a druid long ago to prove some kind of point (which backfired horribly on the Druid) he has since gone about studying everything he can, with a particular interest in siege artillery!

Leccio was a delightful fellow and he asked if he could have a job in our castle. We made him Magister. Right on the spot. He was delighted, as was Tad (who wanted out the job since the start)!

Aldo arrived. He was delighted that we had killed Howl of the North, happy that his son was here, but absolutely, positively, would not, under any circumstances go anywhere near the swamp witch. She was bad news who gave him a lifetime of pain and he didn’t want to go through that again. He suggested that we stay clear of her… which we might very well do. He rewarded us as promised with:

  • +1 Animal Bane arrows (2)
  • +1 Dragon Bane arrows (2)
  • +1 Fey Bane arrows (2)
  • +1 Giant Bane arrows (2)
  • +1 Undead Bane arrows (2)
  • +1 Magical Beast Bane arrows (2)

Metal-cestus-transparentDuring their stay, Merrowyn commissioned a few items, specifically for dealing with their fey and werewolf infestations.

  • Masterwork Cold Iron short short sword
  • Mithral (imported from Rostov) cestus

Back on the Road

 G4 – Searching for Tyg, finding Gnomes!

Traveling near the Skunk River on our way out west, we heard the commotion of people in trouble. When we crested the hill we discovered a caravan of gnomes in distress. Their wagons and ponies were nearly swept up by the river.

Elara and Merrowyn dove in the water, while Miquela got the horses ready to start pulling. We free’d the ponies from the wagons and the pulled the wagons to shore. A few parcels were lost but everyone was safe and we saved the day. Hooray, we’re heroes.

JubilostOr maybe not. When we introduced ourselves and asked what they were doing, we almost immediately got contradictory answers. Their leader Jubilost Narthropple said they had been attacked by kobolds trying to ford the river, but his workers were clearly upset about something more. When we asked them, the tried to silence them, to the point were we eventually had to muzzle him to hear their story. They were map makers, but they had taken particular interests in things that didn’t seem quite right.

We looked at the maps and saw the were general except where they concerned Aldori, in which case the were incredibly detailed! When we interrogated him and discovered (from his wayfinder, ooh la la) that he was a pathfinder. Also, that he has been hired by someone in Daggermark (the largest of the River Kingdoms, know for it’s assassins guild and poisoner’s guild) to draw maps of Aldoria!

First treason then espionage! Who are these people that have such a hate on for us? Rulers of Daggermark? Issian’s hiring people indirectly to hide their affiliation? Someone else all together?

We bound him, took his possessions, and told him we would try him for espionage, after we finished clearing the path for Roy and his people. This spy was well equipped:

  • Wayfinder
  • Amethyst Pyramid Ioun Stone
  • Alchemist Fire x2
  • Antitoxin
  • Caltrops
  • Thunderstone
  • Potion of Cure Light Wounds (5) x 3
  • Potion of Expeditions Retreat (5)
  • Chain Shirt +1 (small)
  • Light Crossbow +1 (small)
  • MW Cold Iron Heavy Pick (small)
  • Feather Token (Swan Boat) x2
  • Sunrod x 3

 NixieF4 – Heavy woods with heavy woes

We heard shouting ahead and entered a clearing filled with lumberjacks surrounding a pond. In the pond was a small female fey, exposing only her head above the surface. On the edges of the pond were two of the men holding axes against their brothers, charmed by the fey.

We tried to settle the peace and figure out what the creature wanted. She was infuriated that her kin (the trees) had been cut down and she was going to take back from those that had taken from her. We tried to negotiate peacefully but both sides wanted mutually exclusive goals. We were ready to give into the nixie’s terms if she’d let the men free, but she wouldn’t do that until we brought her back her own brothers. We scoured our resources but could find no way to magically create two tree, nor would she be patient enough to wait for them to grow.

Eventually we were forced to act. The lumberjacks, while we were negotiating snuck up on their charmed brothers and tried to jump them. A fight broke out and we killed the nixie dead. Fey bane arrows, a squid grappling her, and a Cold Iron Fey Bane Sword rolling a critical hit meant she was over in hurry.

We felt pretty terrible about it. She was just defending her home, which we took by force. In squid form Elara took her body to the bottom of the pond and laid her to rest in her home. She also found there a half a dozen corpses. We felt less bad then, but still, wished we had some other solution. Sad or not, we took all her stuff.

  • Wand of Grease (29 charges)
  • Light Crossbow
  • Short Sword
  • Ring of Protection +1
  • Bandages of Rapid Recovery
  • Boots of the Cat

Korax and the other lumberjacks were happy that they were all free. We just wanted to put it behind us.

XP Rewarded

3,270. New total: 24,726.

6th level. Woot!

Future planning for our Kingdom Building Phases

Previously I had wanted to expand, but given the huge unrest hit we just got, I have a new plan. We’re hurting on Unrest and Stability. To address those I say we do:

Month 13

  • Upkeep Phase
    • Roll well and hopefully reduce unrest. (-1 unrest)
    • Send our royal enforcer to quiet rabble-rousers. (-1 unrest)
    • Trolls! [+2 Unrest]
    • Consumption (just gotta pay it) [-2BP]
    • Pay House Aldori [-2BP]
  • Edict Phase
    • Terrain Improvement – Build a Watchtower on D6 (our gold mine) (+1 Stability, +2 Defense, -1 unrest) [-12BP]
    • Terrain Improvement – Build a Farm on D6 (-2 Consumption) [-4BP]
    • Building – Build a Barracks (half cost) in The Tusk (+2 Defense, +1 Law, -1 unrest) [-3BP]
    • Building – upgrade the Shrine of Erastil to a Temple (+2 Loyalty, +2 Stability, -2 unrest) [-24BP]
    • Let Giovanni lose his mind because we’ve drained the coffers, but we’re back down to 0 unrest, in time for our
  • Income Phase
    • Roll (1d20+40)/3 +5 BP added to the coffers. We can only fail this roll on a natural 1, and for that we’ve got hero points to spend for a reroll!
  • Event Phase
    • Hope the world doesn’t end. 

Quote of the game

“We can’t take you anywhere twice, unless it’s back to apologize” – Miquela, speaking of Merrowyn

Thoughts on this game

This was the total, “If only we had Toti” game. When facing Grigori we wanted someone who could Entrall the audience, or who could dispel his magic, or who could silence him, or could cast Eagle’s Splendor on of us to talk to him, or who could cast Zone of Truth… or Detect Evil… Sigh. Every turn.

In lesser degrees it kept happening. With Jubilost I wish she could have cast Zone of Truth. With Munguk, she could have read her Comprehend Languages scroll to speak to him. With the nixie she could have cast Dispel Magic to free the charmed lumberjacks. Even without her spells, when people were really upset what we wanted was our councilor to find out what was ailing them.

Somewhat related, Kingmaker has a lot of problems without obvious solutions. I like that, but I dislike that it isn’t obvious how you go about finding what those solutions should be. Here’s some examples:

  • For two sessions we’ve been running around trying to find a kidnapped boy with no leads whatsoever (except the first one which gave us a hex to start from). No NPC or exploration has given us any information except that he’s not here.
  • Grigori had us out classed at every turn. We decided to be “above” the law and drag him into a private meeting simply because we couldn’t think of any other way to do it. It was an ugly solution, but for the life of me I can’t think of a better one.
  • There is a serial killer in our town, we’ve possibly pieced together that they may be an assassin from Daggermark (this is speculation still) but even if that is true, the notion of travelling to Daggermark to figure out who is sending all this pain our way is foreboding. We’re working on the scale of clearing out one hex at a time. At our rate Daggermark is a lifetime away.
  • We similarly have no leads on werewolves, a secret cult (or secret society), or our spy. We’ve got some hunches, but nothing real leads to track down. The one person we do have, Jubilost, seems unlikely to give us more information.
  • The Nixie wanted something we just couldn’t give, fully grown trees. I’m sure there was a way we could have done it (finding a higher level druid perhaps) but nothing we had on us. Perhaps the lesson the module wants to teach is don’t try to solve every problem immediately, come back when you’re prepared. But had we done that, two innocent men would be dead.

I don’t want to bitch, as I’m loving the game, but once I’ve played it, I’m totally going to read the adventure path to trying and figure out what they hell the writers though the PCs would do.

We had some genuine frustration this game over the Grigori event. Dennis was pretty compassionate and told us that everyone hates Grigori, but man, did we feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think our choices were fair, maybe not Lawful Good fair, but certainly at least Chaotic Good fair. Heh!

As a player I did have my hopes up about fighting a duel. I was really confident that Merrowyn could do it. She gets sneak attacks on a charge, and even if that didn’t work, she could feint, roll back (so as to avoid a full attack) and then hammer home a nasty sneak attack in person. From a distance she could do a dazzling display to demoralize, and as soon as she did do a sneak attack, she’d land a brutal beating to sicken. Between her raw output of damage, various debuffs, impressive acrobatics, and general versatility, I was pretty sure she could take most duelists her level.

That said, I know that sitting around while one player gets to act and everyone else waits can be boring and frustrating, so I don’t begrudge anyone for allowing an NPC to step in (and thus not have the dice rolled). I’d just like to see how I can do.