Actual Play – So much for Varn (7/19/2014)

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

What a great session. And a long one too. Dennis is a machine. I think we played for nine hours, maybe 10! We heard rumors of evil fey, ancient magic using cyclops’, and a silver dragon. We traveled into new lands and found an entire town abandoned. We killed everything that tried to move in. A good day!

Talking about the Game

I had a few things that were starting to get under my skin revolving around our characters role in the setting and our agency. Dennis and I had been talking a bit over email, so he was prepared, but prepared or not, it isn’t easy hearing a player complaining.

I had a list of five things that I wanted to talk about. Mostly variations on a theme, but each of them I had some examples from play where I wasn’t thrilled with what had gone down. I went through all of them in a row and pointed out specific instances where I could (as I know vague discontentment is not productive at all).

You know what that fucker did? Listened. Patiently! I’ve never come to Dennis before with complaints about the game (I haven’t had a reason to) but I’ve voiced my concerns to plenty of GMs in the past and often been met with a defensive reaction. Dennis was great. He not only heard what I said but also explained from his perspective his intent in the specific instances, and offered up a lot of answers to mysteries that had left us stumped and frustrated. In Dennis’s words “I have found that sometimes you need to lift the veil from time to time and let the players see what you’re doing behind the scenes.”

We talked about the vision of the world and it’s development, as well as our characters roles in it. At the end of probably an hour long conversation I was really happy. We had all talked about what we wanted out of the game and I felt like we were going to get it. And eight hours later, I was sure of it!

PZO9033_500Side Quests Galore

As we were starting a new module (which I looked up later just to get the name of it and laughed when I realized that Varnhold being empty was kind of the point!) a ton of side quests begin with it as well:

  • Our lead in at the end of module two was “how to get on the good side of Brevoy, with you know, not actually becoming their buddies…since we plan to go to war with them just as soon as our kingdom is ready”. From all sources it sounds like the Nomen Centaur are the key. They harass merchants going in and out of brevoy and need either something to calm their anger, or if we can’t a good killing.
  • 50 yards of Giant Trap Door spider silk.  A local weaver was offering a cloak of protection (+2) if we could find her 50 yards of giant trapdoor spider silk. the silk of 10 trap door spiders should be enough. Yay, killing bugs!
  • An aristocrat of a lesser family is offering a 3,000 gp bounty to find her missing brother Tomen. She had planned to come with us to find him… but then realized it was way too dangerous!
  • Finding the missing scholar Ervil Pendrod. He had left an academy without taking a leave of absence. Whatever could be so important that he wouldn’t have told his fellow academics!?!

Rumor mill

We also heard several rumors. Some of which we really hope are true. Others, the opposite:

  • Valley to the South of Nomen Centaurs – Ghosts of them guard the place
  • Silver Dragon in the Tors of Levenies lives there but nobody has seen her for a long time.
  • Tribe of Spriggans live in the Tors – at war with the Nomen Centaurs. Their king has the Nomen Chieftess’s bow!

 Preparation for our Journey

Knowing that we were heading for Varnhold, we put several things in motion.

  • Release the army and let them roam the kingdom to guard it. Consumption goes up but we have it covered with farms.
  • Send rangers to scout the lighter forest hexes of the Narlmarshes (E3 and E4)
  • Send Rombalard to look for the Green Dragon and keep people away from it (especially Tazzleford).
  • Have Leccio contact us nightly (or as needed) with sending spells to keep us current with the goings on at The Tusk.
  • Verify with all our leaders that every position has been made official.
  • “Give” Cobb the Tavern. Let him operate it and call it his place.

The last one was particularly fun, because (with the application of some pressure from Merrowyn) it forced Cobb to greet the Swordlord on her terms and grovel (if feigning it the whole time) in front of her.

Miquela decided to greet him in her throne room, nursing the children. Yeah! Cobb endured a lot of crap to satisfy Miquela’s ego. Merrowny owes him big for that.

Suspicions of Varn

Before leaving we speculated what we’d encounter with Varn. Wondering if he had tried peace with the Centaurs or just went straight to violence. From what we knew of him in our meeting years ago, he seemed a decent enough fellow, but who knows what really happened. We went prepared to strong-arm him into letting us negotiate with the Centaurs if necessary. Turned out it wasn’t…

StygiraFun on the way there

On the way out we had some awesome encounters. At night while camping we were attacked by three Stygira, crone like hags with gems they used as eyes and and to enchant the unwary. Their claws turned people slow to stone, and their visage was horrific! So we got really stabby really fast. And that damn wolf almost took a piece out of Merrowyn’s hide when under their spell!

The fight was a fun one. They were tough, resistant to magic, and caught us off guard. They got in some licks and cast some wicket spells. Some of our guards fell during the fight, killed before they could act. Others succumbed to the slow petrification caused by their claws. Two of note survived.

Nolan the guard – Stayed in the fight the whole time and offered Merrowny a much needed flanking ally.
Cliff “Stoney” the guard – Nearly turned to stone over night but hung on until day break when the curse was broken!

They are both getting promotions when we get back!

Also, we encountered a Bull Mastadon wading through the river. We could have taken it! I could have had it’s horns. Merrowyn doesn’t get to have any fun.

The Watch are done with Waiting

We encountered the western outpost and it was in shambles. A single lieutenant was trying to keep order, but he was clearly green and did not inspire faith in his men. The soldiers, who deferred to a sergeant Vredick were a hair’s breadth away from mutiny when we got there, and when we can and provided the fresh water, food, and their first human contact in a month, all bets were off.

Originally the plan had been to pass through without causing trouble but the lieutenant made that impossible. He was going to do his job. Merrowyn put him in a choke hold and knocked him out. They left him alone in the watch tower with enough food for two weeks, a bow, and plenty of arrows. Pharasma, make his death a quick and painless one.

The other guard came with us. It was a chance for them to return home and no, you know, kill their superior officer. The swore them in to be our vassals until delivered to their lord. Yeah… that never happened.

What Varn? What Hold?

We got there and the place was deserted. Like Roanake deserted.  Food left out to rot on tables, boots left beside beds. It looks like everyone just got up in left. Exploring we ran into a wild boar that had taken up residence in a house, a swarm of ravens that were in the stables, a empty distillery, a fort inhabited by a whole mess of Spriggans, and a single clue of what had happened, someone’s scratches in the door of an inn with only the word “Nomen”.

Other clues were the wizard Ervil Pendrod books and notes, indicating that one of Varn’s men had found a jade bracelet of mystical interest. We believe after reading his notes that Penrod might have abandoned his post just for that. There was also indication of a race of Cyclops that used to enslave the Nomen. Powerful necromantic magically advanced Cyclopses! Oh my.

Cooling our Jets

We sent all the books back with some of our people to Leccio in order for him to decipher what they meant and in that time just has to wait around Varnhold until we could get some answers from him.

In that time we tracked the footprints of the inhabitants to a place outside the city where they all just stopped and miraculously vanished.

We also spotted a lone raven that seemed to be watching us. Elara took the form of an eagle and gave it chase, but clearly the raven was a powerful wizards familiar. It cast spells on Elara, including one that froze her stiff and caused her to plummet to the ground, but not before having an entire flame strike spell pass over it harmlessly. It was flying on its way to the mountains. The mountains that are rumored to have cyclops liches in them. Yikes!

Our Haul

Quite a nice one this time. Mostly from the Spriggans!

Description Qty Value Cash Value Kept by
Jade Gemstone 50 50 Sell
Opal Gemstone 100 100 Sell
Diamond Gemstone 1500 1500 Sell
Elemental Gem of Earth 2250 1125 Sell
Scrolls of Cure Serious Wounds (CL9) 3 2025 Divy
Scrolls of Remove Paralysis (CL9) 3 1350 Divy
Scroll of Restoration (CL9) 1 900 Divy
Scroll of Break Enchantment CL 9) 1 1125 Divy
Scroll of Breath of Life (CL9) 1 1125 Divy
Scroll of Raise Dead (CL9) 1 1125 Divy
Folding Boat 7200 Divy
Breastplate, MW 550 275 Sell
Morningstar +1 2308 1154 Sell
Masterwork Halberd, Small 8 2480 1240 Sell
Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds (CL7) 700 Divy
Breastplate +1 (adaptable) 4550 2275 Sell
Heavy Crossbow +1 Seeking, Large 18400 9200 Sell
Great Club, MW, Large 310 155 Sell
Bag of Holding (IV) 10000 Divy
6000 gp in coins and jewelry 6000 6000 Sell
500gp in a payroll cofffer 500 500 Sell
3500gp in gems 3500 3500 Sell
Longsword, +2 Defending with the sigil of house Varn 18330 Miquela
Wand of Spectral Hand (17 charges) 1530 765 Sell
Ring of Friend Shiled (only one of them) 0 0 Hold for now
Exquisite Darkwood and Ivory +2 Thundering Composite Longbow (+4 Str) Centaurs. 18930 Hold for Centaurs

 

Thoughts on this Game

As noted above, Dennis is an awesome GM. I started the game feeling really lackluster. I finished once again really excited to play! That’s all due to his willingness to listen and talk about the game as people and friends looking to have a good time together.

Roanoke anyone? Greg Vaughn, the lone name scratched into a door really put the nail in that coffin.

Very curious about the challenges we’re going to face in this adventure. So far they have been fun and unexpected. I look forward to learning about more of them.

Really not sure if we should try to lay claim to Varn’s holding or not. I think the jury is out till we discover if he’s alive or not.

We played for more than eight hours and I still wanted to keep going. I haven’t played that long all at once in AGES! Can’t wait for next game!