Actual Play – In Defense of Tazzleford (12/20/2014)

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

Christmas gaming found us in good spirits with plenty of presents to share, good food to eat, and good spirits to drink! Dennis make as mean Manhattan. Only bummer was that our Mia has flown south for the winter and now lives in Culver City. We might manage to do a remote session over Google Hangouts sometime, but it wasn’t in the cards this day.

What just happened

We ended the last session with an urgent summons from Tazzleford. But we rewound the clock to first play out our last small council meeting.

Cobb walked up, not disguised, not in the shadows, just sauntered up and kicked his legs up on the table. “I might as well come to the council meetings now, everyone knows I’m the spymaster.” A snide comment may have been made about how few disguises actually work with one arm as well.

Here was the low down:

  • DoppleSvet got a lot of information from us. For the few meetings that she didn’t attend, she probably heard about from those who did. She was trusted implicitly. The hardest thing to know is when she had been replaced? Was there ever a real Svetlana? Oh probably, I mean what use would it be to have a spy married to Oleg. But after that? Was it really her who first came to the Tusk and charmed Edward into telling us we should make her the lord mayor? Was it really her when she had an affair with Franco? Cobb had all these concerns as well…and how could we know now.
  • The warring with the Issian continues, and Staggio had led a small band of 30 up north to cause all kinds of trouble, including burning castles to the ground (or so we suspect it’s him). Cobb is due to report back with the size of the Issian forces committed to the battle. but even that information may be misleading. Since the outbreak is considered “personal” right now only the Royal Army has of Brevoy has been engaged, but were we to add our forces to the mix, more armies from the north would undoubtedly join as well and it could escalate for a while.
  • Cobb also pointed out that wars are expensive and that while he had largely be self sustaining up till now if we wanted more out of him we needed to give him an income source. Either 5BP/turn or establishing a black market. Neither choice made Miquela feel good at all.
  • After the meeting Cobb asked Miqeuela and Merrowyn to stay behind a bit longer and told us he had bad news. He presented a small wooded box. The inside designed to hold four identical rings, but only one of them was currently present. He told us that one of his best, most reliable men had found the box, put on the finger, and then “changed”. It was very subtle at first, but his loyalty was replaced by a kind of indiscriminate apathy. He hadn’t suddenly become a pawn of our enemies, but he was different. Also the ring turned invisible once it was on and he believes has some compulsion effect that makes the wearer not want to admit they are wearing it or to remove it.

Four Rings to Rule Them All

Great, just great. That DoppleSvet has distributed three of the four rings and we don’t know on who. We suspect that she first gave one to Svetlana before replacing her, and also offered one to Franco who refused it. But other than it previously being on a dead woman and not being on Captain Franco’s finger, we had no idea where the other three rings were. Shit…how much as Giovanni changed since the abduction? He had been grown fat and obsessed with money, now he was getting back in shape and talking about huge expenses as simple the “cost of doing business.”  What about Tad, with his new “friend” Xamanthe Silverfire? He had never shown interest in anyone by Miqeula before. Was this just him finally getting over a many year crush or had he changed. What about X, Y, and Z?

We decided that Leccio couldn’t possibly be affected by the ring. He died and his body was reincarnated. Also he was one of the targets of the attack. And finally how would they have gotten a hedgehog to wear a ring in the first place? So we went to him first. He was…perplexed. Some of the markings on it looked somewhat familiar, but only in the sense that they were old, arcane, very rare, and possibly of fey origin. Leccio reasoned that Olivetta had joined us too late to have been a target for the rings so we added her to our now growing secret (six people now knew about it, which Merrowyn thought was five people too many for it to be a secret).

Olivetta’s first instinct was to have her put it on and then have there rest of us do tests on her. You know detecting her alignment, and such. She was prepared to be pinned down and have her finger removed in necessary (as was the case with Cobb’s man) to test it. Yeah…not going to happen, but props for her dedication. Olivetta and Leccio both performed several divination into the ring to discover that it was indeed magical, but that the magic was more subtle than they were used to, and not of either divine or arcane origin. Perhaps something of the fey.

Well that left us nice an paranoid. but we had other more pressing matters to attend to, like an urgent summons to Tazzleford!

Defense of Tazzleford

An exhausted messenger came with a hastily written notice form Roy Resnick (Lord Mayor of Tazzleford). Roy just learned that an army was marching on Tazzleford from the west of the slough. He requested immediate aid. We rode out with haste. Why, in retrospect, did we not lead an army with us is totally beyond me.

When we arrived Roy told us that a young woman had just arrived in town and collapsed. She claimed to have hidden away with an army and then broke away from the them in the night. She ran a head but the were close behind.

We talked to the woman who said she as Cassandra Numesti, the name of a minor swordlord house. She told us her father Terrion Numesti, a man we had met at the founding of our kingdom and that we knew worked for Lord Drulev, had been imprissioned and that an arm was on its way, and that Drulev defeated the Tiger Lords but was then defeated by then, but now he led them. Woah, woah, woah. Slow down a bit there Cassie.

A short history lesson.

Lord Drulev was granted one of the four charters to claim territory in the stolen lands. We met way back in And we shall call this land Our Land (Over a year ago in real time, thanks AP reports for helping us remember shit). Back then we thought his name was Drevoy. Drevoy, Drulev, whatever, he’s still an ass hat. His schtick seemed to be to tell everyone else he was better than then and conquer any who disagreed. That’s what we already knew. Here’s new stuff.

The story as Cassandra told it was that operation Drulev worked for a while. Her father Terrion Numesti was one of his fellow rulers and although Terrion did not approve of Drulev’s approach, he supported him. After a great many fights they were able to defeat the Tiger Lords and push them back out of the Hooktongue region.

The victory did not last long, however, as soon the Tiger Lords returned, this time bolstered by armies from Pitax. Man, what is it with Pitax! The reinforced Tiger Lords took the city by force. Terrion urged Drulev to surrender but he was too arrogant. When he finally did bend knee to them, the Tiger Lords had sacked his town. They asked for hostages and Drulev offered up Terrion’s daughter Cassandra. Terrion refused and for this he was put into a dungeon cell! Cassandra fled from Drulev, disguised herself and hid among the soldiers. It did not matter over much. her sister was given as hostage in stead.

After capitulating something strange happened, Drulev was put back in power (of sorts) and given Tiger Lords to lead. Now drunk with power (as if he hadn’t been before) and hatred of the Swordlord Miquela Aldori, he sent his new forces of Tiger Lords and Mercenaries in the employ of Pitax eastward to attack Tazzleford.

conan_the_barbarianAnd then they were upon us

Merrowyn sent a raven to the Tusk to summon The Horde but it wasn’t fast enough. Arvin and his scouts reported seeing troops move through the trees outside of town. We didn’t have days, we had hours!

In that time we secured what we could. The bridge was fortified so that archers could safely fire from it. Barricades were built up to fill the wholes in the wall that were missing. Traps were set where holes couldn’t be plugged. We also each contributed something based on our own expertise. Merrowny rallied the soldiers (Profession: Soldier). Miquela took a small force into the forest to ambush them (Stealth). Olivetta rounded up all the wildstock and sent them out making as much noise as she could feinting an attack (Bluff). Elara circled the skies as an eagle and reported back information about their movements (Perception).

I’ve been preparing to use the Mass Combat rules for a while (and a few levels, thank you very much +18 Profession: Soldier). What I didn’t know is how we’d handle this rag tag militia that we had rounded up in Tazzleford. The answer was not with the mass combat rules, but with a mini version of them, the battle rules. Each round each side attacks (using the armies offensive modifier) scores a point if they hit. At the end of three rounds, the side with the most points wins.

The first round the barbarians rushed us and missed the roll by one point. Every other attack succeeded (In fact I rolled natural 20s on the first two battle rolls, but there are no critical hit mechanics for mass combat). End result was a narrow victory 3 to 2. The Barbarians were cut off from the mercenary archers and each group was made short work of. Just when we thought it was time to clean up the mess though, the second wave came crashing out. A dozen trolls led by a an Ogre Mage!

Ogre_mageA tough fight

Our spellcasters didn’t have the luxury of staying back in this one, the trolls charged forward and targeted them. But just before they did, the Ogre Mage strafed by and hit us all with a cone of cold. Ouch! It killed many of the soldiers on the field and messed up the rest of us (it’s a curse than I can never seem to make my reflex saves, especially against the big damage effects that would be awesome to avoid!).

Miquela dropped a necklace of fireballs on the trolls as they rushed forward, Elara followed up with a Fire Snake. Both would have earned the attention of six trolls, but Elara was flying high in the skies. So instead they went for Oliveta. Oh noes!

The trolls were bad news. Each of them were tearing us up with their claws and bites and rends. The Ogre Mage was even worse. He fought smart, targeting the dumb rogue/barbarian with charm monster spells, and targeting squishy casters with vital strike longbow shots and trolls!

We all got pretty chewed up. Game mechanics-wise, Tad, Olivetta, and Merrowyn were all in single digit hit points, which was a pretty scary place for a raging barbarian when I realized that if I hit 0 hit points, that meant a dead Merrowyn. Any of us could have bit it really since the damage per blow was hefty. Miquela was better off because she had been chugging healing potions like a fiend, and Elara was mostly untouched due to being in eagle form and flying above the fight.

Prisoners of War

After the Troll/Ogre fight wrapped up, so did the Battle (TM) and we all got to see what was left of Tazzleford. Suprirsingly it hadn’t been wrecked too horribly. We kept our defenses somewhat in tact and though many were injured only the cone of cold spell caused insta-death to the townspeople and luckily that was mostly focused on us!

The barbarians fought until death, but the mercenaries were smart enough to retreat (those that could) or surrender (those that couldn’t). There is a mercenary code we learned of, that when a merc is captured you offer to ransom them back to their company and you treat them reasonably (no torture). This came up because threats of violence to get information was Merrowyn’s first thought. Luckily one of the prisoners was pretty happy to talk. We learned this:

  • Fort Drulev has been a pot ready to boil since the Tiger Lords arrived. Everyone was itching for a fight, so sending the soldiers out to fight was necessary. Everyone wanted to get the hell out of there!
  • Drulev really hates Miquela. Personally. Derogatory comments about her proclivities and the fortune handed to her spew freely from his foul mouth.
  •  The leader of the Tiger Lords Armaug took the hostages from Drulev but is now on a great quest to find a great ancestor.
  • Drulev has a 2nd in command, Aman Trask, who made the deal with the Ogre Mage and Trolls.
  • Trask is also the the one who cemented Drulev’s relationship with the Tiger Lords.
  • The mercenary’s company was the Red Tails, who are about 500 strong. They have a contract with Pitax for the next six months that they aren’t going to break.
  • Pitax hires all sorts, including monsters to form their armies

We sent two letters to the red tail company. One that offered ransom for the prisoners we had and another asking if the were interested in working for Aldoria once their contract was up!

A Great Feast

We celebrated the victory that night and planned to head back to the Tusk in the morning to meet with our small council and decide what to do in response to Drulev’s attack on Tazzleford.

The more “in touch with the people” of us however realized there was a certain expectation for us to make right what others had done wrong. Cassandra’s father and sister were still hostages, and we had just been attacked. The people didn’t want a small council deliberation, they wanted a “Pick up the lone magical club and beat a lich to dust with it” heroes they had heard about. Oh yeah, we’re professional murderers, it’s sometimes easy to forget that when you’re ruling a country.

So we sent our letters, called off the Horde, and headed out to Fort Drulev, making as much of a straight line as we could.

Kaer_Maga_nagaA going away present form the Narl

We didn’t have to go through much more of the forest, but before we got out we each ate a few lightning bolts (damn, I’ve got to improve my reflex save!) On either side of us were dark naga coming out of the woods. Oliveta cast Feeblemind on one of them which turned it from a dangerous spellcaster to a dangerous large poisonous snake. Not sure which is worse!

This was another tougher than expected fight. The Naga were very hard to hit and each round they doled out some pretty ferocious attacks (magic or otherwise).

After defeating them (we did kill them dead in the end), we tracked their trail back to their lair and found a group of just traumatized folks. An ork, a halfling, a dwarf, and several humans all working fearful that the naga would return. It took a long time to get through to them but eventually we convinced the ork, who all the others looked to for guidance, to go to Tazzleford where they would be taken care of.  Or at least we hope they agreed, they really didn’t say much. After that we got to the looting:

  • Masterwork Buckler
  • Quarterstaff +1
  • Potion of Shrink
  • 600 GP of mundane items
  • Scroll of Dispel Magic (CL 5)
  • Scroll of Fire Trap (CL 5)
  • Feather Token (Anchor)
  • 743 gold pieces
  • 749 GP in gems\

Kind of a motley trove, but we’ll take it. That’s a few more thousand into savings.

A site of desecration

Just before we broke out of the Narlmarshes we came upon a small pond. Before we got there we noticed that all noises had stopped. No animals were in the area, no leaves rustling in the wind. This was a place of stillness. Of death. As we got closer we saw a horse lying dead at the edge of the pond. Closer inspection revealed that it wasn’t a horse but a unicorn with it’s horn broken off. The pond and infact everything in the area was stagnating and rotting from the corruption that emanated from the fallen creature.

Oliveta cast speak with dead and we asked it questions to find out what had happened.

  • What killed you? Purist Beauty Corrup
  • ted (we could hear the capitalization in front of every word)
  • How can we put you to rest? Return my horn.
  • How can we protect ourselves against your attacker? True Love

Another mystery to add to our list…for another time. Remorsefully we left the clearing, now on the look out for a unicorn horn as well as EVERYTHING else.

Travel through the Hooktongue

We broke out of the dense forest for a brief reprieve of plains before diving right into a many league wide swamp.

Crocodiles, dinosaurs, sinkholes, dragonflies the size of men, you name it, this bog’s got it. Too wet to really walk on, to shallow to put a boat on, we just had to wade through the fucker. And wade we did all the way until Lake Hooktgonue where we ended the session.

Thoughts on this game

We’ve got so many different’ things going on, I had to make a spreadsheet to prioritize them all. This is sorted by everyone’s priority except the unicorns horn, which I just added now after writing the AP report and remembering it.  There are 18 items on the list now and I’m sure I forgot something.

A few personal thoughts. I realize Merrowyn is kind of a broken record sometimes. She’s very predictable, so I’ve elected to start writing out some Burning Wheel style beliefs (as well as emailing Dennis to see if he’s like to incorporate a belief system to reward Hero Points for people pursuing their goals. Here’s the first draft of what Merrowyn’ would look like:

  • Noleski has kidnapped our children; I’ll recruit the Red Tail mercenary company to bolster our forces for the impending war with him.
  • Drulev has insulted my swordlord; I’ll make him eat his words. Literally.
  • Terrion Numesti rots in a cell for honoring his daughter’s freedom; We’ll free him from that bondage.

Right now they look pretty much like I want to do the “plot” things, but in my experience that’s how beliefs usually start. And then, in play the start becoming more personal. I’d like to see what other people are looking for and see if I can riff off those. In particular I’d like to hear Elara’s goals as I do so love our often very different outlooks on the world.

Related, at the beginning of the session Dennis asked us to write down three things we’d like to see more of: Something that had already come up in the game, something about our character, and something about another character. I’m curious/excited to see how those make it into our next sessions.