Actual Play – The Price of Peace (5/30/2015)

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

Not all was well in our hometown. During our time talking to the Lord Mayor, we couldn’t help but notice that the Swordlords were calling their banners, gathering their forces, and preparing for something. More guards were on every doorstep and the whole city was filled with an air of tension.

But they weren’t doing anything.

Merrowyn noticed that no preparations were made for travel. No caravans packed, no horses mounted with gear, no forces on the move. They weren’t planning to attack. But also, no additional guards on the walls, no scouts in the fields. They also weren’t planning to defend the city….

Miqueua noticed that all social activities had come to a halt. No weddings, social duels, ship chchristening. etc. All the things that keep the swordlords from killing each other had stopped.

Olivetta sensed that the ancestors came back to Rostland with her. They were upset that the other houses (the ancestors of the other houses) wouldn’t come out to play with them.

Elara was at an outdoor cafe and heard some swordlords complaining and offhandedly remarked that the Lord Mayor Sellmus lost his son (sounded like he was abducted). Listening to what gossip there was, we found there were more abductions as well. Triplets form houe Amato (three darlings of the house). The Lord Mayor’s son. An attempted Strozi kidnapping where they all died in the process. House Vilani lost the head of the house’s wife.

Putting our Heads Together

Using a Telepathic Bond to prevent scrying (get it, putting our heads together, get it?) we put all this information together. If Rostland is arming up, but not preparing to fight an outsider, and all the social events that keep swordlords from killing each other in the street have stopped… they are about to implode on each other. Fucking King Noleski is pitting the swordlords against each other. Between threats and kidnappings from some houses, and showing favoritism to others, the whole city felt on the brink of self destruction.

So, what to do now. We need to rescue the hostages, that’s for sure, but we can’t leave the city like this. We need to suture this wound before it bleeds out, and we need to do it now. Before we leave for the children.

Of other note: We want to go to war with both Brevoy (once the hostages are saved) and Pitax, but right now both of those options are right out. Brevoy has our family members and Pitax has an army ten times larger than ours. They probably can’t dedicate all their forces to fighting us, lest Mivon decide to break it’s treaty with them and invade from the south, but they still have more than enough to crush any force we would send against them. So, on both fronts we wait.  Much to Merrowyn’s displeasure.

The Plan for Reunification

We’ll have a duel. A big public event. That should appease folks for a while. Our first idea was to stage one between ourselves. Merrowyn and Miquela could wear their hats of disguise, appear to be foreign swordlords and fight in the street. Once we brought the idea up to Domingo though, he pointed out that nobody cares about two no-name duelists stabbing each other in the street. To make it big, it has to be personal.

What duel could we stage that would get people’s blood hot? How about the anger of a spurned lover? Miquela vs. Luca, Swordlord of Aldoria, mother of Staggio’s children (Staggio, remember is Luca’s brother) vs. childhood romance Luca, who is now married to an Issian, the woman who initially tore them apart. It’s perfect!

Domingo loves the plan. We all love the plan. Kobb thinks it’s a terrible idea.

Queue Mission Impossible Music

Merrowyn knows the streets of Rostland like the back of her hand. Muddy, scraped, and illegible. But it was still good enough that with some asking around she found out that Luca would be attending a horse race in a day. It’s pretty pathetic by Rostladic standards, but we work with what we’ve got. Luca would be surrounded by guards, but that’s just fine, the bigger the audience, the better.

Domingo meanwhile coaches Miquela on the delicate art of challenging someone to a duel. Insult them enough they want to fight you, but not so much they want to kill you. He suggests she ignore his wife, pretend like she isn’t even there. That she call him a coward for staying in Rostland while his brother fights in the north. He’s really ballsy actually, and keeps goading her to be more and more ostentatious. It occurs to us that Domingo didn’t forgo adventuring because he wasn’t brave enough, he just doesn’t like getting dirty.

Miquela attended the races dressed in furs and jewels (thanks to the Rod of Splendor) and sat in front of Luca and his wife. Beside her was a placard, visibly holding the seat for Staggio. Who of course, is off in Gods-know-where Issia burning castles to the ground. Miquela waited until should could find the smallest slight, when Luca’s wife tells a story, and tells her them to stop their constant “chattering”. She follows by Insulting Luca for being here at a race while his brother was fighting the war. It takes a little work but eventually Luca is incensed and accepts her challenge. A duel will be fought in the dueling grounds three days from now!

Preparations for the Fight

Olivetta teleports Merrowyn goes to Kobb, where she:

  • Tells him about the fight and their intent. He thinks it’s a bad idea because most likely Noleski will use it as an opportunity to assassinate her.
  • She gives him two magical rings that have obvious effects (Arcane Signets and Rat Fangs) to ferret out the “rings”. She also asks about Kasten maybe having the rings.
  • Tells Kobb we’re going to get the hostages so call on the cavalry.

Kobb in turn:

  • Sends us back with some extra security (one of Jerome’s informants named Kaloss, a killer, and a propagandist).
  • Tells Merrowyn and Olivetta that when the Lord Mayor came and told us he had to cut ties, Kobb had a report that the Surtov’s knew what was going on and Kobb thinks there is a spy in Sellmus’s court.
  • Gives her his written reports. One of Arvin’s pepole encounter a wounded elf in the deep Narlmarshes. Some unknown Elf society. They are different than normal elves. Xenophobic.
Going down!
Going down!

Back in Rostland

Milosh and Esmerelda Zingarosh (Playwrights hired by Sellmus) invite Olivetta to lunch. They are a little skeptical of Olivetta being a playwright. They wonder why she’s working on it, because she has “direct connection” with the source material. Holding them at bay is difficult however as they say they need total access to the source material to get it right. Something about “creative license” or some other such nonsense.

Icarus, perched on the Aldori homestead, draws a ton of attention from the people, who begin offering him cheese and bread – hurled from a safe distance – to snack on. Elara’s presence is made pretty obvious by this, but that gives her license to, as Elara, go inspect the dueling grounds and make sure there is no tampering with them (there isn’t).

Miquela sends a ruby necklace to Luca’s wife Larissa as gift intended to insult her. The letter includes something like, I’m sure you’ll fine another good husband, after I kill this one. The response is a bland thank you note, as little a response as she can offer.

Another trip to the Tusk

Yay, thanks teleport.

Elara goes home to pick up Kiri. She has Rudolpho’s scent and may be helpful when we’re looking for him.

Merrowyn finds out her Tiger Lords and the Horde have met. Blood was shed and friends were made. The high priest of Gorum paid some bail to get the tiger lords out.

Dream Time

Olivetta has a dream conversation with Leccio. Leccio is struggling with his temper. He used to never get made and now he doesn’t know how to handle it. Leccio is annoyed that Merrowyn and Kobb are acting like such amateurs trying to ferret out the rings (First world fey magic doesn’t play by the rules).

Leccio also tells her that he discovered that Sellemus’s son Pietro is not with the others hostages. He’s in Issia somewhere, wining and dining with his “captors”.

The Night Before

Bogg asks Miquela the night before if she’s written a will. Somber but necessary. Edward will be guardian of the children and regent of the kingdom.

Finally, it’s stabbing time

Bog, Akiros, and King Nicoli Surtov all attended!

[The fight was pretty brutal. Mechanically speaking, Miquela won it because of a savage number of critical hits, she got three in the fight and all of them were debilitating. Her final attack on her round (when she was down to 4 hit points) was a “Flat Blade Thwak” (triple damage, all of it non-lethal). Thank goodness for the non-lethal part of it. She did 75 points of damage when he was down to 25 HP. Basically, this fight came down to “who won initiative?”

Of other notes. Luca didn’t start power attacking, but Miquela did. That might have made the difference but it makes sense. He was holding back at first, fighting one-handed and somewhat more defensive, she was going all out from the beginning. He also had Stoneskin cast on him before the fight and used an adamatine blade…gotta get one of those for Miquela!]

During the main event plenty of other things were going on as well. Olivetta spotted a witch in Noleski’s retinue. During the fight she attempted to hex Miquela, but Oliveta was waiting for it. She blasted her with a Feeblemind spell and sent sent the high level witch to ruin!

And while that was happening an assassin was trying to stab Olivetta with a poisoned fork, but Merrowyn who had been watching for this, caught up to him just in time to wreck great pummeling down with her cestus and send him sprawling. Poisoned fork clattering to the ground!

Elarch was our clinch however. She wildshaped into a spider, carried a strand of red thread from her own cloak, and carried stealthily made her way across the arena, into the king’s Box and deposited the thread inside his coat. Without being noticed!

Godly affairs

Before the fight Merrowyn greeted Luca as the self appointed representative of Gorum to wish him a great battle. When doing so she leaned in and whispered to him “She still carries a torch for you.” Luca responded in kind “She’s got a funny way of showing it.”

Meanwhile the high priestess of Pharasma paid Miquela a visit. Our swordlord was immediately full of piety and “oh yes, the very next thing we’re doing in The Tusk is erecting a temple of Pharasma.” There was more at play here however. The High Priest of the Church of Abadar of Rostland (as we have chosen to call it) was pressuring Pharasma to without her favor from Aldoria. Presumably, that the high priestess could decide if Miquela was slain in the duel, that her soul was not fit to return.

After the fight, the high priestess visited her again and muttered something about “that asshole things he can tell me what to do, I’ll show him…” then she cast a Heal spell on Miquela and restored her to perfect health (impressive as she was down 110 hit points). Yay…. now let’s not forget to build that temple.

Oh wait, Pharasma and Gorum hate each other and we’ll be putting their temples right next to one another, also next to the graveyard. NOTHING COULD GO WRONG.

Updating the Major

We told the Lord mayor that his son is in good condition and not in cell. We think there is a spy in his house…possibly Pietro. The Lord Mayor decided to pretend he didn’t know so as to leek mis-information to Noleski.

With the Lord Mayor and his wife present, Olivetta cast a scrying spell on the king. We found him in he privy screaming about wanting to kill them all. He was clearly enraged that Miquela won.

We could hear his sister (thankfully from outside the privy) calming him and telling him to stay the courses. They are going to isolate the swordlords and destroy them one by one. In the last moments of the spell, he says “he wants something done now.” She smiles and says she’s got something in motion.

This was all the evidence the Lord Mayor needed to see the kings intent, and it also let us know someone was in danger. We sent word to Domingo to go check on Bog, who we also knew was with Akiros. Meanwhile, we made haste to the Strozzi family holdings just in time to catch up with the assassins!

Re-cue Mission Impossible Music

Another very fun fight where we all got to show off our skills.

Elara flew overhead and spotted the small group all clad in black mesh. She cast Faeire Fire on two of them and lit them up! The others she cast hungry earth on, and sucked one of them into the churning ground.

Miquela, first arguing with the guards at the front saw the burst of flames and drank a fly potion. She flew up over the games and the into the interior courtyard to dash towards what she hoped was Luca’s new chambers.

Merrowyn was on the roofs and spotted an crossbow sniper. She was able to sneak up behind him and choke him out, but after that it was mad dash from rooftop to rooftop to take out the other three.

Oliveta descended upon the two now-revealed assassins and cast Dominate Person on one to force him to slay his companion. “Yes my dark mistress” is right!

Inside Miquela got to Luca just as assassins were throwing in flash bombs and then leaping in themselves. Luca was in bed, still recovering and mostly naked. Miqula lit up the room with a sun rod and then got to stabbing assassins. The hired thugs were tough, but they weren’t expecting an armored and ready opponent. She cut one, then another, then a third down.

Lovers Quarrel

With Larissa passed out (from fright) Luca and Miquela finally got to have their big spat, which was of course filled with lots of “I did it all for you” and “That wasn’t what I wanted!” Luca is a good guy, sad that he had to marry to keep the peace. Those two are Starbuck and Apollo.

Where do we go from here

Scrying on Pietro again Olivetta found him trapped inside a dark space. After sometime a iris of light opened above him, he gasped for air, and then started whimpering. In the light it was clear that he had been beaten. From above where the light was, came a raspy voice telling him to to shut up or it will get worse.

Using her knowledge of the arcane, Olivetta pieced together that Pietro was trapped in a bag of holding.

Bag of holding? Raspy voice? Someone else following up a lead that would find Miquela’s daughter?

Mik Mek has Pietro! Oh no!

Thoughts on this Game

This was so much fun. I had gone into it really wanting to rescue the hostages and maybe start a war or two, but this was so much better.  The political implications, the drama, the subterfuge, I’ loved it all. I’m particularly proud of thinking of the placard for Staggio at the races. That was my high point of the session.

Some parts that stand out to me in particular:

1. The duel was exciting just to watch, but it was even more awesome because we all had something to do during it. Miquela is busy dodging an adamantine blade, but we were neck deep in our own business as well. One fun bit for me was that Merrowyn didn’t even get it that Akiros stood by her because he was watching out for any kind of funny business. She just thought “yo, Mr. Paladin has my back.”

2. The assassin rescue mission was one of the few where everyone really got to show off their stuff. Usually it’s buffs from Olivetta and then direct damage from Elara, Miquela, Santiago, and Merrowyn. Here we got to see Elara and Olivetta really shine with battlefield control spells, Merrowyn’s speed made a difference on the rooftops, and Miquela benefited from us loading up on potions (Fly for the win!). Fun to shake things up.

3. I love that our world is rich enough now that we can start piecing things together from in game clues rather than knowledge rolls. Placing Mik Mik as the Pietro’s captor was possible because we know Mik Mek has done that before (with Oleg, unfortunately).

Up next…so it seems like the Aldori family has a long history of creating underground railroads to get people to safety. Merrowyn has a plan to do the same for the remaining swordlords in Restov. We’ll see if it works. And then of course, scying on Pietro again, sending a message to Mik Mek to please let him out of the bag, and then meeting up with our kobold ninja friend.

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