Actual Play – The kid we couldn’t save (3/23/2014)

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

Sadness, Mia couldn’t make the game. You know, pesky weddings around the corner and all. Still, we persevered (in some cases only barely).

A lot happened in the game. Cultists were killed, as were trolls and lizardmen. Some kingdom problems were resolved, while new ones cropped up. The signature moment however was right at the end, when the daughters of Aldori realized they failed their people.

Changes in the Kingdom

Edward was really losing his mind trying to keep order. All the mayoral candidates died in the Owlbear attack and he just doesn’t have the temper. It got so bad he decked a citizen who was decrying the kingdom on the bitching post. He then took himself to town hall an fine himself 2cp for disturbing the peace.

Kestin was urging Miquela to hire an army, even a small army, to protect the gates from invaders. Merrowyn initially protested as it would mean her actually having to do her job as general, but agreed that had one been present the city would have fared better. We all agreed that after we build up the resources we would hire a small army to station at The Tusk.

Reports from Oleg’s Trading post (a letter from Svetlana) came in that the place is a mad house. It needs to have a settlement established pronto. Great, one more thing to spend money on. Luca’s younger brother Stagio Strozzi was a firebrand that had gotten on the wrong side of the law in Brevoy and so had been living at The Tusk while things cooled down. A fierce nationalist and skilled duelist, we offered him a job in helping our kingdom, go take charge of things

Domingo approached Miquela in private and asked for 50,000 gold to aid the family. Even for a kingdom, that is a lot of money (generously translated to only 10 build points). He told her that she needed to give the money to Merrowyn and not ask questions. Reluctantly, and after much prying, she relented. Merrowyn received the money from Domingo (with no explanation as to where from) and was told it was for The Silent Brotherhood (Cobb’s “Family”). The payment was to make the thieves guild separate from the ties with House Rogarvia. Merrowny tried to get a bit more out of it (specifically buying favor for house Aldori) but the deal had been made already. It was that or wait for the hammer to come down on uncle bog (whose gout is getting worse, by the way). 

While in Restov, Merrowyn sold most of the loot they had aquired and purchased several enchanted items for her and her sisters. She also spoke with the priests of Gorum (during some of her training with them) and found out that to be authorized to build a temple of Gorum in the The Tusk she’d have to be willing to defend it from wave after wave of attacks from priests of Gorum, to prove that the warriors of the area were worthy. Fun times. Items purchased:

Purchase: Cost Recipient
Hat of Disguise 1800 Toti
Metamagic Rod: Extend 3000 Toti
Merrowyn Retrain Feats (Training cost) 600 Merrowyn
Aegis of Recovery 1500 Miquela
Enchant Dragonscale Armor and Shield (+1 Each) 2000 Elara
Lesser Elemental Metamagic Rod 3000 Elara
Adamantite Armor Spikes 3030 Merrowyn
Quick Runner’s Shirts (1 for all) 4000 All
Cloak of Resistance +2 4000 Merrowyn


The Sootscale clan is beginning to chafe against their neighbors. There were some altercations with a farmer along a river “trespassing” on Sootscale land. Our local officials were able to quell the offended parties anger (thanks to a stability check) but tension keeps growing. It’s going to take more than a Dragon Rug to keep the peace in the future. Also, there may be anywhere between 200-1000 kobolds in that mine by now. Yikes, that gets a little scary.

Adventure Time

On of the smaller branches of the Aldori family had a daughter, Idori Volpe. She was a girl always getting in trouble because she fell for every story she heard. Very irresponsible. She was the name dropped in Merrowyn’s pocket with just the words “we’re sure”. A little bit of back story here. Cobb’s men had been searching for both a serial killer and the cult of Gyronna. When then got to talking one night they realized the victims were the same women as the suspected members of the cult! They were also worried that the leader of the cult was an influential citizen and might be someone we knew. Merrowyn told him in no uncertain terms that he was to look for but not lay a hand on any member of house Aldori he suspected of being a cultist. Once confirmed, he was to report the name to her…and so he had.

The daughters Aldori found their sister in Strozzi park (the first time Miquela had entered it, and she was aghast to find that there was a glen there that was a perfect recreation of a secluded spot she shared with Luca in their youth). We came down on Idori like a ton of unsubtle bricks. “So, we hear you’ve got some new friends… they are cultists, tell us all about them!” It may have been a tad more delicate than that, but only a tad.

Idori had no clue about any cult but she had met some new friends at the tavern and they seemed very like minded. Men were all no good scoundrels who deserved whatever misfortunes they got, or that was the party line. Using the Hat of Disguise so that Merrowyn could impersonate Idori, and with Elara in the form of house cat (hello +24 stealth) following after them, and then Miquela following Elara from even further behind, we planned a undercover operation to find the cult leader.

By hook or by crook, it worked. The hook was Miquela ran into Mik Mek along the way…and realized that he had been our secret royal enforcer all along! Of course, how could we have been so blind! The crook was that as much as Merrowyn convinced the girls that she was one of them, she let her guard down a little. She actually enjoyed talking to the girls (which was pretty much the opposite of who she normally is) and when she entered the circle with a permanent “detect good” spell (Merrowyn is chaotic good) and started to glow, she didn’t realize anything was up until the cult leader, Goody Niska (the Tusk’s beloved midwife) placed her hand upon Merrowyn and cast Slay Living. Fun!

Malgorzata Niska
Malgorzata Niska

Our Hardest Fight Yet

Fighting a bunch of evil clerics is rough. Even rougher without a cleric of our own. They have abilities like channeling negative energy to hurt everyone, then channel smite, destruction, and rage domains to do all kinds of extra damage. Oof, they tore us up. It really didn’t help that I was also rolling terribly the whole fight. I rolled a 1 on my charge attack, spent an action point to reroll the die and got another 1. In fact, I used up all of my action points and all my healing potions in that fight just to stay alive. Peachy!

Miquela rocked it though. Since the clerics weren’t moving around all that much (wanted to stay in their unhallowed ground) she was chopping things up nicely with her two blades.

Elara was also a constant source of stability in the fight, dropping her flaming sphere and lighting bolts, and then following up with more healing when it was needed…oh was it needed.

Mik Mek, with his ninja vanishing trick (yes Mik Mek is our Royal Enforcer and a ninja) and shortbow sneak attacks of death made up for all the damage Merrowyn wasn’t doing. He dropped three or four of the junior priestesses. Aww, and I was really getting to like Trixie.


After the mess was over, we let the barn burn down and called it a tragic accident, never revealing that Goody Niska was actually a super evil horrible cult leader. Before doing that however, we looted the hell out of her and found:

  • Potion of Eagle’s Splendor (CL7)
  • 3 Potions of Cure Serious Wounds (CL7)
  • Potion of Gaseous Form (CL7)
  • Hag’s Shabble – Hella evil, but I think we have a place for it.
  • Holy symbol of Gyronna (melt it down)
  • Cat’s Eye Chrysoberyl (rumored that Gyronna herself can scry through them)
  • Cloak of Resistance +2
  • Keen Dager +2
  • Ring of Fire Resistance, Minor
  • Ring of Protection +1

One last errand in the Tusk

Quite happy about solving two of our kingdoms problems in one blow, the daughters intended to head south to investigate these Lizardmen that Rombalard told us about. But first, we remembered the braided hair rings with the fine engraved silver band in the middle of it.

Leccio, our ever friendly and helpful hedgehog sage took to examining them for us. He recognized the inscriptions has having been written in the First Age but could not decipher their meaning without more study. He cast some spells to unravel the mystery of the rings, and earned a fireball for his efforts. The inscriptions had been trapped to explode upon inspection. Not only was Leccio a bit burnt, his lab damaged, but the rings themselves were also destroyed.

4e_trollsTroll Time

Heading south to find the Lizardmen we caught sight of a half dozen trolls in the distance, hiding (poorly) behind rocks and trees, hoping to ambush unwary travelers. They just weren’t expecting Elara “eagle eyes” Aldori to come along. Having spotted them a large distance off we had time to prepare with spell and bow. Elara cast Bull Strenth on both of us while we start raining arrows down the the trolls. That go their attention. They tried to charge forward but before they could get to us were caught in Elara’s entangle spell! We kept peppering them with arrows, flaming spheres an lightning bolts. By the time they got to us, we had wheedled down their numbers and then finished them off once our melee combatants Merrowyn and Sergio could be effective.

Go team Aldori!

We kept one of them alive (the one that thought surrendering was a good idea) to interrogate him. We didn’t get much useful information except that the name of their leader is Hargulka, a troll warlord. Go Miquela for learning giant!

LizardmenI4 – Lizardman Island

In the delta waters as lake candlemere feeds into the murque river is a small island. From the shore we could see it and tell it was walled but that was all. Elara in the form of a bird flew over to scout it and found that several dozen lizardmen lived there, sharing many small huts, shielded behind a crudely built wall.

We decided (foolishly) to try and use diplomacy with them. First they were all bluster “We’re allied with the Trolls!” but then we realized the don’t speak giant and trolls don’t speak draconic, so that was a line of crap. We pressed harder and eventually they let us in (we sailed up in our styling swan boat, TYVM).

Inside though, it was all a trap. Once we came to the center of an open area, the “king” Veska called all his forces to attack. Bad plan, Mr. King. Elara changed form into a brown bear, Miquela used her blades of amazing speed, and after dispatching the king, Merrowny made a dazzling display, pronouncing Miqeula their new “Queen” and they the could all down down to her or lose their heads.

The fled.

We looted.

  • Potion of Cure Serious Wounds CL7)
  • 3 Citrines (worth 50gp each)
  • Large Leather Armor +1
  • Large Keen Trident +1
  • 2 gold Armbands (100gp each)
  • Choral Crown with lapis lazuli (500gp)
  • Malachite statue of a dragon (200gp)
  • Furs (300gp)
  • Animals skins (300gp)
  • 694 gold in loose coin
  • Masterwork cold iron longspear
  • Feather Token – Swan Boat
  • Ring of Swimming

Tragedy strikes

We also found the body of a small boy, clearly tortured for days if not weeks before he was killed. We had found Tig Tannerson.

“No! No! This is not right!” Elara bellowed. With a torch she lit fire to the lizardmen’s wooden palisade. “We will not stand for this. We see another lizardman and they are dead!”  Regina out of character noted that this was the tipping point for Elara. Forget about protecting nature, that never works. She is now first and formost an Aldori!

XP Rewards

We had missed out on XP for session 9, so we did the combined XP of session 9 and 10, putting us right at 35,001 XP. 7th level!

Thoughts on this game

There is a visceral reaction I get (and a lot of people have) in response to violence against children. It’s not something I can’t handle, but I certainly don’t like it, and I like even less being powerless to stop it. I’m really, really curious how a group was supposed to find the lizardmen in time to stop them from killing Tig. The moment we heard that he was missing we went searching for him. We searched every hex we passed until we arrived back at the Tusk and found it on fire. After that we got pretty damn distracted killing owlbears and taking care of kingdom affairs, but I don’t think any of that mattered. He was already long dead by then.

This is kind of an ongoing issue I have with Kingmaker. As much as I love exploring, the whole game feels like a giant fog of war. We’re constantly walking into situations unprepared and our efforts to do reconnaissance are high risk, low yield. Generally speaking when we send someone else to get information, it comes in at a snail’s pace (examples: sending out spymaster to research the cult/serial killer), when we try to infiltrate it ends in violence we’re unprepared for (Stag Lord’s keep, Lizardmen holding, Goody Niska, etc). Other times asking people in the know (Aldo, Rombalard, Arvin) they give us short term leads (Tazzleworms over there, A mean old turtle over here) but nothing comprehensive.

Net result is that we’re never prepared for the disasters at hand and our characters look like idiots. On the flip side though our characters, which aren’t even all that optimized, are insanely deadly, so given even a few rounds to prepare, we make many challenges trivial. That’s also tied into resource allocation. The Kingmaker default is one fight per day, so in every fight we can afford to throw every spell and once per day ability at it.

I see the conundrum. Let us get prepared and we’re likely to breeze through the challenges. Increase the difficulty of the challenges and we’ll only survive if we’re perfectly prepared. Attempt to enforce more conservative resource management means more fights per day, which means less happening in the game and, perhaps ironically, less exploration.

Either way, screw those fucking lizard fuckers. Yeah, I know it was a will-o-wisp, but our characters never learned that.

Plans for next game:

  • Offer the Hag’s Shabble to the swamp witch as a peace offering.
  • Talk to Sootscale and find out what he’s up to and why the fighting keeps going on
  • Kingdom turns: settle Oleg’s Trading post, build cheap structures to improve our kingdom stats (Shrine to Gorum, yeah, yeah?)
  • Kill some fucking trolls.
  • Raise and army out of nothin

8 thoughts on “Actual Play – The kid we couldn’t save (3/23/2014)”

  1. So I love reading these AP posts as I am very interested in the Kingmaker concept (if not the system). After reading your thoughts on the game, I had an idea of how I, as GM, would resolve at least some of those issues. When you send someone out to scout for you or gather information for you, those characters could be handed to the players as short-term characters to play. Since I am sure that Kingmaker is designed to have all the cool stuff discovered or overcome by the characters, none of your minions will likely really help you much. But if you play them, then you still get the fun of exploring or overcoming an obstacle. It allows for the characters to be given real assistance and not take away the fun of the game. It also allows for dealing with more than one problem at a time. A last benefit is that obstacles or challenges that are too easy to pose any difficulty to the primary characters but that are still a problem for the “kingdom”, can still be a fun challenge as the characters dealing with them are lower level.

    1. I think in Pathfinder, people would have knee jerk reactions against playing anyone but their own character because the game is so based on XP and treasure that spending time doing something that doesn’t advance your character is anathema.

      In another system that is less advancement focused though, I think this would be a fantastic idea.

      1. Easily resolved. Quest XP. The characters earn xp equal to the xp earned by the npc played. As any good leader will tell you…. you live or die by the success or failure of your subordinates. Also, treasure could be gathered as well and given to the royalty. Just a thought.

    2. Also, that anyone besides me still reads these AP posts still blows me away. I’m delighted that they are useful.

  2. As for the dead kid, I agree with you. Such a thing makes sense in the game if it is there to help set up a villain as a true bad guy. It is a great way to make the players really hate someone (as we see in your game). I am not sure, story-wise though, if that is what was intended or if it was just happenstance. Are the lizardmen supposed to be the big villains? Probably not. Anyway, just my thoughts.

    1. Sadly I doubt it. This was a side quest not a major story arc.

      But in our group that doesn’t matter too much. We’re still going to have mad hate for the lizardmen even if they are meant as throw away villains. And if we find out that it was the will-o-wisp all along, we’ll have made hate for it. (Though frankly, will-o-wisp as villain isn’t nearly as interesting to me to interact with as lizardmen).

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