A Meet Missed

Stannis Stadium is an immense, red marble Coliseum, packed with roaring crowds. Overhead, immense 40′ high holograms replicate the gladiatorial duel going on below. The 1st Hounds squad anchors their line in the marsh, probing the advancing 3rd Light Horse…

In a luxury box above, we see Arcon 005, Jack Turner, and Leon Iococa enjoying the spacious box… but their attention wanders frequently from the action.

Leon spends a lot of time studying cameras that he placed along their entry route, keeping an eye out for disaster. Similarly, Arc stands outside the door to the box, on alert for interruption. Only Jack is in the games’ spirit; he places small bets while waiting for “Mr Johnson” to arrive.

He’s late; several matches pass uneventfully. Animals from Mumun are savaging Tacituar, when the situation changes. Leon and Arc’s preparation is for good cause; at the stair base, several members of the Praetorian Guard gather and move in a coordinated group towards the stairs leading to the team’s luxury box.

Fortunately, Jack switched the electronic signature of their luxury box with the adjacent box. Arc ducked in, stepping behind the door in the box’s bathroom doorway, so his presence outside wouldn’t give away their location.

The guard stormed up the stairs, peeling off guards to block the business level intersection, while the remaining guards continued up the stairs. Confused by the altered electronic signatures, the guard struck a more respectful pose and knocked on the adjacent luxury suite. While the Praetorian Guard spoke with the VP next door, Jack identified the service trapdoor in the floor. Leon placed a camera in the box and they fled down the maintenance ladder.

It wasn’t many rungs down the ladder before Leon heard the click of the door override through the camera relay, and watched the guards spread through the chamber, seeking the fleeing team. Eventually Leon spoke through the camera relay, asking them what was going on. They demanded to know where the senator was–they knew that whoever this was had snatched him, or was part of the distraction that led him to elude his guards. Since they’d done no such thing, the team decided to put some space between them and the pursuing Praetorians…

Arc’s trade-craft got him through the perimeter security without breaking a sweat. Leon and Jack, however, carefully worked their way through the crushing parts of the crowd, exploiting every advantage to remain unseen.

The team gathered back together in the preset subway station. Leon relayed the story of how an “Irene” had come to the office two weeks ago with “an invitation from her boss” and passed tickets to a box at today’s Gladiatorial Bouts. Obviously things hadn’t gone to plan… or it was a setup.

Jack commed Lux and had him pass along a message to the Praetorian Guard who had stormed the box where their aborted meet had taken place. They passed along Irene’s photo (from her ticket drop) and had Lux run down her home address. Leon rented a ground car that Arc drove toward her apartment, where they set up surveillance.

Sometime later, a pair of Praetorian Guards showed up to investigate Irene’s. Leon called Irene’s phone, then a second time when she didn’t answer the first time. She answered… and Leon let her know that he knew the guards were present, that they were watching. She put him on speaker, where Leon explained that they’d gone to the meet that Irene had set–and that the team had no idea who she’d represented until the guards showed up. Despite some reserve on the guards’ part, Leon pointing out that they had no need to expose themselves with the call was persuasive.

The team watched them lead Irene away for further investigation and gathered to plot their next step. Jack started calling his network of ex-military contacts; after a few “heard nothing” calls, he got through to Cosma. She’d heard some things he might be interested in…

They set a meet for an hour, then drove to arrive 45 minutes early. Leon dropped off Arc and Jack, then parked the car in a garage a few blocks away, ready to respond if called. Arc took a seat at a separate shadowed table and worked his way through a club sandwich methodically, while Jack fiddled with the camera he’d placed in the hall, keeping an eye out for Cosma.

Her information was pricier than expected, but she had a time and place for them to investigate. In the background, Lux sorted through camera feeds, finally catching a pair of men approaching… someone, probably the senator, and firing a concealed dart into the senator’s back. He stiffened; they walked him to a nearby alley where a distorted blue flash-perhaps of a taser-could just be made out.

The Journal of Corbrum Blackstone, Pine Forge Township

I was ill company for days after riding away from Hammer Mine. There I faced another problem that demanded high resolve to resist the foul demon’s blandishments… and again my pace slackened, my feet drifted away from challenging the possessed miner. Once again I fled to seek the support of my boon companions, my fellow Dogs… without them, the town surely would have wallowed in filth unending. Without their efforts, the town would have neglected the children, continued to believe the heretical tale of the mine in end days, and turned their eyes from the King’s commands. The King is well served by Rusty and Dominicus. I must test my heart, my resolve, to see if the King and ancients have judged me truly fit to bear his word in this sinful world.

[A few months passed, largely uneventfully… now it is the edge of winter.]

Nestled against a mountain, surrounded by well exploited woods and mines, lies the prosperous township of Pine Forge. The town is large–one of the largest in the territories–and crowded with outsiders. As we rode into town, idly drifting snow fell ever more steadily…

We were met by one of our training class, Rusty’s friend Tobias. He led us to the Steward’s house, where we huddled against the cold and listened to Tobias and the Steward explain the problems of the town. Most vexing was the presence of Territorial Authority soldiers–currently a squad of six men–idle and prone to drunkenness. Just last night two soldiers made untoward advances on Sister Althea. Steward Wiley was describing his efforts to navigate the town through rapids secular and religious, when a shot rang out.

We all rushed to the door, hurriedly catching up our coats against the winter chill. The Steward led us unerringly to an inn… outside of which we found a tense gathering, A half dozen men, well armed–clearly the soldiers of whom we’d heard such ill tales–stood tense and well armed, liquor rolling off their panting tongues. Also already present was the sheriff, Brother Henry. One of the soldiers stood stunned, pistol dangling from his hand, glumly staring down at the red stained snow. One of ours, a boy of the faith, lay dead at his feet. Churned snow spoke of a large melee and several folk fled, spurred to flight by that fatal shot.

Rusty and I tangled with Sheriff Henry, who officiously claimed the shooting was a territorial matter–his jurisdiction, not the King’s. His voice burned with sour whiskey; ours rang with the King’s righteousness. Alcohol fueled his stubbornness, but we reminded him of his place–and ours. His shame shone through and his obstinacy collapsed. Steward Wiley led the sozzled sheriff home, to bed.

Domincus spoke with the leader of the soldiers, while I chimed in with a few apt quotes from the Book of Life… and other books the soldier was familiar with. Our discussion turned to the topic of responsibility and ultimate responsibility for our fallen Brother Jackson. Corporal John spoke passionately but fairly for his men; we continued to address him with respect and steadily earned his. Finally his wicked tongue was quelled–not of defense of his men, but of his reflexive slurs and insults of the King.

As our conversation reached a newly respectful silence, the murderous soldier named himself as Private Alex. He admitted to slaying Brother Jackson, though he claimed that it was in defense of his own person–and defense of his fellow soldiers, including the lecherous Private Boone. Reluctantly, the soldiers turned Alex over to our care, and we promised to protect him from hot handed justice.

With that resolved, we sprang into action. Our fellow Dog, Tobias, took charge of Private Alex, leading him to the Steward’s house where he was already encamped. Rusty squared his shoulders and stormed into the den of evil and spirits, ready to wrestle with the speakeasy’s proprietor. I ran to get the mortician, to address poor Brother Jackson’s battered and bloody body. It could do no good to leave his form steaming in the snow.

Rusty’s confrontation with the proprietor, Daniel, was sharp. Daniel was aggrieved by his ill-treatment by the faithful, and not just in this town. (Though he did not confess it, he burned with hatred after being driven from Bridal Falls City itself months ago… at Corbrum’s hands.) The King must have been strong with Rusty; his words persuaded that shriveled devil that continuing to serve liquor after it brought about murder would be foolish. With grave reluctance, he locked his liquor cabinet and handed the key to the King’s Watchdog. Ah, if only I could have seen that moment!

Meanwhile, I reached the mortician, who was in conversation with Steward Wiley and a brother of the fallen boy Jackson. I reined in my urgent feelings and fell into step with the solemn procession.

As I trudged back, Dominicus and Rusty spoke with the soldier, Boone, whose advances had provoked the altercation. His tale was one of a frank attraction to Althea, which she eagerly returned. His voice was steady with truth… both on that subject, and when he described Althea’s brother Jackson and a group of local toughs who seized him and drug him outside to beat him while he was too drunk to offer a solid defense. Fortunately (to his mind), his fellow soldiers rushed to his aid, then the scuffle became heated… and Alex’s gun slew one of his attackers.

The swiftly falling snow, backed by bitter wind, chased everyone to bed once we had brother Jackson loaded up for the mortician. Rusty would shelter in the Steward’s already full house (with private Alex and Tobias already lodged), while Domincus and I went unto Brother Ezikia’s home for a night’s rest. The King’s guidance rings in that decision to rest ourselves under his roof…

We were tired from our day’s ride, a day made long and weary by the senseless murder of Brother Jackson. We thanked Brother Ezikia for his family’s hospitality and soon slumbered. While we slept, the town was not idle… but we, as yet, had no way of knowing.

We broke our fast with Ezikia and his family. Ezikia stands at the right hand of the Steward, a swift rise for a man in his early 20s. He burned with passion and disgust for “outsiders”. (I can still hear the sneer and malign twist of his mouth as he spat the word.) Ezikia’s rhetoric was passionate; outsiders were filth who had been presented with strong examples of true faith by our community. If they persisted in their willful neglect of the King… he had no patience for them, no tolerance.

The territorial authority has long passed through Pine Forge; for years, they were little enough a disturbance. That changed when Daniel arrived and opened a distillery. The bad example of outsiders has led even faithful men, like Sheriff Henry, to indulge in forbidden spirits. Now, complained Ezikia, the Sheriff sides against the faith.

We turned the conversation to the altercation the night before at the speakeasy. He turned evasive, protective, when we asked who had been present beside Brother Jackson so we could speak with them. The names spilled out–Newton, Obidiah, and Jackson. His face twisted as I spoke; he heard the taint of eastern education as I deployed my words. Then revelation forced his hand; “I saw Virgil too,” he said, to a quiet prompt from Dominicus.

Aha! We readied ourselves to find out his role in the confrontation when a knock at the door interrupted. The Steward stood framed in the door, his words compelling our attention: “Brother Tobias was caught in the act of smashing the inn’s liquor.” Fortunately, he continued, Tobias didn’t resist when the soldiers rushed down the stairs to investigate the disturbance. “He’s been hauled off to the jail,” he said, so we three Dogs joined him, walking briskly.

The Sheriff, somewhat surly as a result of his tipple the night before, did not want to allow us to speak with Tobias. He barred the way with his body, backed by soldiers who idled about the jail, clearly anticipating our interference. We spoke, at first calmly, with the Sheriff. He pushed Rusty, but Dominicus clamped his powerful hand on the Sheriff’s shoulder before they could give into the call of violence. While Dominicus held the Sheriff, I walked through the soldiers and into the jail. Dominicus and Rusty soon followed, while the Steward remained outside to straighten the Sheriff and counsel him on navigating the demands of faith and world.

Tobias… his tale is sad. He awoke filled with a passion. He urgently drew on his clothes, abandoned his charge Private Alex, swiped a key from slumbering Rusty, broke into the inn and began smashing liquor. We spoke quietly, so our voices would not carry, as we sought to divine whose voice urged him to his reckless act. After probing questions, his doubt made itself manifest and he realized that the passion had been his, not the King’s. “Rusty, you helped me find the King before…” he cried out. At Rusty’s hidden sign, Dominicus and I fled that scene of broken searching, leaving two Servants of the King to wrestle with faith.

Dominicus and I made haste toward Obidiah and Althea’s house. There, we felt, we would better understand the root of yesterday’s tragedy… but we were too late. When we arrived, their sister told us that Ezikia had come by just after breakfast and gathered them to visit the Steward’s. Dominicus and I blanched; Private Alex had been abandoned there while Tobias smashed liquor bottles–the soldier we’d pledged to protect was undefended. We broke into a jog…

The vigilantes didn’t expect us to come at a run. At my appearance, Newton was startled from his watch and ran to cry warning to his compatriots. He slid across the smooth floor boards of the Steward’s entry hall and pivoted to shut fast the door behind him… but I lowered my shoulder and slammed into the closing door, throwing it back open. Only a step behind was Dominicus, charged with the King’s fury.

Even the mildest of men would have been sickened by the bloody wreck that had been made of Private Alex. Obidiah clutched him under his arms, steadying him for Ezikia’s blows. And worse than blows; Ezikia had a pistol in his hand, its handle slicked with blood. Dominicus and I commanded him to stop in the King’s name, but he was unheeding; the pistol flipped, the bloody grip coming to rest in his hand, ready to fire. “Leave this place,” I commanded him, but his hand was unwavering, the pistol leveled at Alex. “After we take out the trash,” he said, and fired at the private.

Dominicus cowed Ezikia’s followers; first Newton dropped his hands to his side, then Virgil slid out the open door. Sister Aletha rushed forward to cast her body between Ezikia and his target–her bravery bought us time. Obidiah could not be dissuaded, but he fell to a savage punch that I unleashed, toppling him to the floor. Ezikia was unable to breach Althea’s selfless guard of the soldier; unwilling to shoot her or us, he eventually surrendered. Althea turned to treat the fallen soldier while we secured that once faithful man, Ezikia. He was unbalanced by his hatred of others: of outsiders, of the faithless. Of his neighbors.

The remainder took a great deal of discussion with many people. In the end, we allowed the soldiers to take Private Alex with them; Ezikia had taken vengeance’s cloak and delivered a punishment that would have been death had the King wished it. Steward Wiley was dismayed that his student Ezikia’s passion had been in service to hatred. As faint salve, he could count his guidance of Sheriff Henry back to the faith as a success.

The soliders also took Ezikia with them, back to their fort, where he would face a trial for the attempted murder of Private Alex.

Rusty counseled Tobias; they rode together back to Bridal Falls.

Dominicus and I set off for Bridal Falls a day later, delayed to escort one called to be a Dog. In her selfless defense of Private Alex, Dominicus and I saw the spark of the King; we asked Sister Althea to come and learn from the teachers and ancients at the temple. In her shines the spark of justice, her compassion true even when staring down the barrel of her mentor’s bloody pistol. We hope that she will join the King’s Watchdogs and bring her gifts to the faithful. Amen.

Session 2.1: Kingmaker, Lamashan (Harvest Season)

After a summer of hard work, exploring the terrain between their township and the Brevoy (in particular Oleg’s Trading Post) and the founding of Hillsdale, our heroes were in a town meeting when a local tanner approached the council and told of goblins–and their kidnapping of his son.

We return to the action already in progress. Our heroes are:

Bryan is our fearless GM
Marc plays our warrior Stannis, skilled with a bow. Did you see that shot?
Hudson plays Sonja, who fights with savage fury, hewing foes with a greatsword
Brian plays Ambario, whose mastery of armor cements his bold advances
I play Arndor, a sorcerer with a fey talent for hypnosis
Paul played Egg Shen, a monk of unusual disposition from distant eastern lands. He’s taking a break for now.

As the game resumed, the PCs told the tanner that they’d investigate his son’s disappearance. As he’d reached us late in the day, we decided to set off in the morning. That night we gathered gear and arranged for the council to handle matters while we were away. Egg Shen decided to remain behind and continue keeping the town free from spies.

We set off first thing in the morning, shortly before dawn. We rode with the tanner to his rough cottage at the forest’s edge, stabled the horses, and continued on to the clearing where his son had been taken. Time had ravaged the site; it took hours of searching to find a trail that didn’t immediately fade into a game trail. Finally, Stannis found painted rocks marked with goblin runes. We followed the faint trail that led from that point; as we expected, it headed south. We followed the trail for what little daylight remained, then set up camp.
Continue reading “Session 2.1: Kingmaker, Lamashan (Harvest Season)”

Quagg Ktk’tok: Star Wars Edge of the Empire

Years ago, young V’shtok was known among his people as a healer. He was proud to earn a name so young; he underestimated how much of his rise was due to family influence. V’shtok was hunting in the mists when he came across a wounded elder, Ak’okkta. Pride and impulse encouraged him to treat the elder, alone, without supplies–a critical mistake. Ak’okkta never recovered use of his arm.

V’shtok fled his homeworld, abandoned his name in humiliation, and studied starships. His skill with machines is often mentioned, but claiming the name he deserves for his skill might expose his past. He burns to be named once again; merely “Gand” is bitter, choking him on memory.

Worse, last month he crossed paths with Forr Zybysh, a cousin, who invoked his old name with clicking contempt. Zybysh used the name in every sentence… and promised to “introduce” V’shtok to the community, destroying his newly built life with childhood’s shadow.

Quagg Ktk’tok agreed to do “a little favor” for Zybysh–if Zybysh would travel on without destroying “Gand’s” hard won reputation. The gleam in Zybysh’s compound eyes promises that more favors will follow…

A Snow Start to Roleplaying in 2014

Both of my game groups aren’t roleplaying much right now, though the Tuesday night group is getting together regularly (and we’re playing fun board games most weeks).

In January, I got a chance to play in Clay’s Dungeon World game. It’s an interesting system that I’ve wanted to try since I read its sister games (Apocalypse World and Monster Hearts), and Clay did a great job. He had a huge table, which made things a little trickier… but it served as a great platform, from which he recruited a group for recurring (instead of one-off) play.

Also in January, I ran the first half of a Fate Accelerated game–a holiday special. The players were Santa’s Elves, escorting their charges home on the Polar Express, when a blizzard and wolves and terrible things broke out. Fortunately, the elves managed to rally the kids and fight off the first assaults using ingenuity and Christmas presents.

On Tuesday, we returned and completed the adventure. Our brave elves used their steam and cocoa to melt snow from the tracks, summoned the reindeer to create an attack force, and stormed Santa’s workshop to free the jolly old elf. The White Witch’s minions were defeated in droves, and the elves stormed Santa’s cottage to free the Clauses from their villainous imprisonment.

Triumph over The Staglord: Kingmaker 6

When my descendents tell the tales of ancient days, of their long ago ancestor Arndor, they will say that destiny reached out. They will remember the day that we defeated the Staglord and were confirmed as heroes.

Who is “us”? A brief reminder; it’s been a while, I know.
Bryan is our fearless GM
Marc plays our warrior Stannis, skilled with a bow
Hudson plays Sonja, who fights with savage fury, hewing foes with a great-sword
Paul plays Egg Shen, a monk of unusual disposition from distant eastern lands
Brian plays Ambario, whose mastery of armor cements his bold advances
I play Arndor, a fey-blooded sorcerer (history here)

When our tale left off, I was telling you of that fateful moment of confrontation, when the door fell and we stood mere feet away from the Staglord. His expertise was immediately obvious; before Sonja could regain her balance from hammering down the door, arrows stabbed fletching deep in her muscles—a mere hands-breadth from dropping our fierce warrior. We rushed forward, trying to close and trap the Staglord where we could engage him. He shrugged off a color spray from Arndor and retreated into the heart of his inner complex, firing arrows to dissuade our pursuit.

In the very next room we encountered Valkeri; we moved with reluctance to engage him—and he proved equally reluctant. Ambario reluctantly agreed to let him leave unmolested, if he would abandon the Staglord to our justice. He agreed, so we continued forward, keeping under cover to avoid the punishing arrows from above. We advanced, until Stannis was blindsided by a horrific beast—an owlbear! Fortunately, Arndor was able to hypnotize the beast, which distracted it while we advanced. Ambario and Sonja led the way, braving the attacks and rushing up exposed stairs toward the Staglord. The Staglord’s men interposed themselves and died. Arndor struck at the Staglord with magic missiles, prompting the Staglord to launch his own deadly missiles back at Arndor, but distracting him from the advance of the other heroes.

The Staglord retreated along a narrow wall, interposing his bandit defenders and refusing to engage with Ambario and Sonja. Egg forced his hand by scuttling over the roof and coming from an oblique angle, forcing his retreat into the tower. Egg pursued, but was hammered back by the Staglord’s deadly arrows; he had to bide while reinforcements caught up.

After a lengthy duel that traced across most of the first and second levels of the fort, the Staglord was finally caught between Egg (who went a long way around to come up behind the retreating Staglord), Sonja and Ambario (who pushed the Staglord into a steady retreat), while Stannis and Arndor peppered the mighty bandit leader with arrows. It took a long time, but finally the Staglord’s retreat led him stumbling back into Egg. He fell to fists and swords, and we shouted our victory to the heavens.

== ==

The Staglord’s remaining followers took advantage of our lengthy duel with their leader to flee the fort. We began searching the fort thoroughly, but found little treasure. It took two days before Arndor stumbled on a secret door leading from the kitchen down to a dungeon of a kind. Their treasury was here, as was a trapped shapeshifter, who attacked Stannis at the first opportunity. (Perhaps because Stannis had taken the Staglord’s bow as his own, and the prisoner recognized that weapon?)

We stuffed the most valuable goods in our pockets and packs, then gathered up the Staglord’s body to commit to the river at Davek’s crossing. As we left the foul keep, we burned it behind us—we knew how terrible that keep would prove in the hands of foes. It lay too far from Oleg’s to keep reliably as our own outpost. So it burned as we headed north, bearing the fallen Staglord, who we unceremoniously tossed in the river. Avenged, Davek has abandoned haunting the old ferry crossing.

== ==

The reception at Oleg’s was joyous. It must have been a week before we could stand, so hard had we celebrated our victory. But danger and adventure called us to action once more; we headed toward the Skunk River, where rumors placed the tazzlewurm. Along the way we encountered a troglodyte and his pet, Sluurg. Sonja impetuously slew Sluurg, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to slay the pitiful troglodyte who owned the beast; Arndor called images from the trees that distracted him until we were out of sight—but not earshot, as we heard him loudly mourn his lost pet.

The Skunk’s sulfurous waters made the next day of travel unpleasant, but we found the tazzlewurm on the beach. Sonja lept the river and engaged; the rest of us had to rush a circuitous route to the ford to aid our impulsive companion, who was shocked when a mate answered the bellows of the first wurm. Fortunately, Stannis was able to help Sonja whittle down her foe, while Egg Shen raced ahead and cut off the second wurm. He couldn’t hold out long alone, but was swiftly joined by Ambario; together they defeated the mate.

That was the last of our foes as merely wandering adventurers… though we did come across a strange unicorn, hornless and lying dead—though otherwise unmarked. We took our trophies from the tazzlewurms and our tale of the Unicorn back to Oleg’s. We caught our breath and prepared for the next disaster.

== ==

What came next was no disaster; a message arrived from Brevoy. A message from the Swordlords of Restov praised our deeds and confirmed us as stewards of a new town—a new city. Wealth was pledged, as was help and assistance in establishing our first settlements. A well practiced team of people were sent south to try their luck and join the founding of our outpost. But where to locate it?

We asked those more familiar with the area; Svetlana and Oleg, our friend the priest Jhod, and others for advice. After much debate, we decided that along the Tuskwater made good sense as a location. Over the next month we cursed having burned down the old monastery/castle, though the curse seemed to have burned away at the same time as the support beams.

In short order the fledgling town of Hillsdale, overlooking the Tuskwater, began taking form. The locals pitched in and helped us to establish the lines of our town; houses popped up, along with a mill, the beginnings of a garrison (using much of the old castle’s stone) and more. Oleg turned his attention to running the town’s finances; Arndor got lost in tuning the leylines to power the region’s magic, Ambario heads the council, Sonja’s our general, Egg is keeping an eye on the shady elements, Stannis keeps the bandits down, while Svetlana makes sure that all opinions are heard.

In the last few months, a kernel of order has begun stretching from Hillsdale, back north towards Brevoy. Farmers are turning their attention to the land, while we keep an eye on the lake and rivers and watch our humble town find its feet. It’s growing quickly; mile long walls are being erected as defense against the wilderness, but leaving ample space for the town to develop within the protected area.

== ==

Our council meeting on the town green was nearing its end yesterday, when a worn man who has long lived at the forest edge addressed us. The man’s son—a simple boy—has gone missing. His absence was marked by a peculiar cloth, one that Oleg recognized from the bad times 25 years ago. That was a time of war, a time of goblins pushing out of the forest and raiding as they wished.

As Oleg laid out the meaning of this ominous cloth with its simple stitching, we felt the renewed call of adventure. We agreed to help the man track his missing son. Though we are pessimistic, given the time that has passed and the tales of goblin cruelty, we do not give in to despair. We will recover the boy and restore him to his family. And we will return with more certain knowledge of the forest that lies only a double dozen miles from our young town, knowledge of the creatures that dwell within. Our fledgling city seems to lie in the path of marauding goblins. In the morning we set off with our reluctant guide, to find a missing son, and to learn of the storm that we must secure our city against.

Kingmaker Resources

Kingmaker Player’s Guide (pdf)

http://atuan.com/city-map-toolkit/ A City Mapping Toolkit (downloadable file; build images w/ HTML editing)

Kingdom Record Sheet (open office)

Kingdom Building Log (excel)

Kingdom Builder Q&A thread on Piazo’s forums.
Kingdom Building Guide with the steps of an upkeep turn. (Reference sheet)

Kingmaker Session 5

The cast of characters:
Bryan is our fearless GM
Brian plays Ambario, whose mastery of armor cements his bold advances
I play Arndor, a fey-blooded sorcerer (history here)
Marc plays our warrior Stannis, skilled with a bow
Hudson plays Sonja, who fights with savage fury, hewing foes with a great-sword
Paul normally plays Egg Shen, a monk from distant eastern lands, but he was out this week

Hours of travel after our encounter with the Owlbear, we neared the fortress of the Staglord. From our side, a single road approached the blasted waste that stretched hundreds of feet from the walls; the monastery’s curse clear in the barren soil.

As we studied and debated approaches to the wooden walls, we were suddenly interrupted by a high voice. Perlavish, as he introduced himself, was revealed to be a pseudo-dragon–about cat sized with large wings. He told us that he’d been sent by his friend, Tig, with important information.

  • That empty land is more than burned or cleared; it’s cursed to the soil.
  • The Staglord can somehow see the Fey
  • Falgrim Sneed was leading a group of more than 20 bandits against Oleg’s Trading Post!

We asked Perlavish to help the fort, but his courage wasn’t up to it. It was clear that they had quite a jump on us–riding at a gallop probably wouldn’t be quick enough to warn the fort. We convinced him to carry a note invisibly to Erastil’s priest. He reluctantly agreed. Arndor broke out his mother’s writing tools and dashed a quick warning to the fort’s defenders.

We decide to halt our own raid; we hoped to move fast enough to catch the bandit force between the soldier’s at Oleg’s and our own blades, as a bloody vice. But fate denied us that chance; unknown to us, the bandits struck only shortly after Perlavish delivered the warning to the priest. That notice was all it took for the soldiers to turn the ambush into a rout; a half dozen or more bandits died, and the rest retreated to the comfort of the Thorn River Camp.

We pushed our steeds and arrived the day after the bandits had retreated to their camp. Egg Shen scouted at twilight; a keen eared guard heard something and directed a search in Egg Shen’s direction. But Egg Shen successfully returned to us, unheard… leaving them wondering if they’d jumped at shadows.

On Egg’s report, we decided that a leisurely meal would give them time to relax after their scare. After our meal and full dark’s fall, we struck. Their camp was divided by the Thorn; we struck hard at the guards on our bank, firing arrows at the shadowy forms in the distance. Many arrows were wasted on both sides, with only stray arrows finding targets. In large part that was due to Egg Shen’s bold leap onto the firing platform, which forced the last archers on our side of the river to drop their bows and draw swords. They swirled in combat for almost a minute, while the rest of the battle developed.

Something like a half a minute after our arrows had first announced our attack, Falgrim successfully rallied a few of his men for a charge across the river. Ambario and Sonja were pleased to crash into their rush, drawing them into darkness. Hypnosis took a few foes out of the fight temporarily; the heroes pressed their advantage, and Falgrim fell to Ambario’s deadly blade. The few remaining foes fled; in the distance one fell as Stannis dropped two arrows at extreme range into his back.

We returned with Falgrim’s corpse and loot from his men. For our deeds, a masterwork longsword is being crafted for Stannis, while Sonja’s masterwork blade is much larger. We rearmed and set off first thing in the morning, south, hoping to catch fleeing bandits. Instead, we crossed wandering mites; who fell to our charge, led by Stannis who wants to see the foul beasts eliminated. Another day’s travel and we approached the Staglord’s keep.

Ambario decided on some bold research. He strode down to the blasted lands, then left the safety of the road. 20′, no attack, but a few steps further and suddenly zombies burst from the soil. Egg Shen rushed to the rescue, while Stannis contributed deadly arrows to the mix, and the other heroes contributed less useful archery. The fourth zombie fell in a heap of dust and our heroes waited to see the response. They didn’t have long to wait; again, dusty zombies burst from the ground, attempting to encircle Egg Shen and Ambario. Flashes of magic light blasted the zombies as Arndor unleashed his newly mastered magic missiles down to complement Stannis’s deadly archery. Now that the had good information, Ambario and Egg Shen cautiously retreated toward the road, downing zombies steadily. When the last zombie fell, no new one leapt up to fill its place. The road is the only safe route through.

Over the next two days, the heroes studied the fort and recovered from their wounds. A ladder was roughly hewn in preparation for the upcoming assault. When the second night fell, the heroes crept together to the edge of the light. From there, Egg Shen trusted his stealth, carrying the ladder forward. A guard caught Egg Shen in the attempt; Egg converted his creep to a rush, throwing the ladder against the gate and scrambling ably up. The other heroes rushed up behind him, and were amazed when Egg Shen leaped from the wall to the neighboring tower and engaged the defenders. Stannis’s arrows proved deadly against the bandit archers, screening the other heroes as they climbed over the palisade and dropped to the silent street below.

Between them, Egg Shen and Stannis took care of the ready defenders, while the raiders (Ambario, Sonja, and Arndor) scuttled around the solid walls and found a pair of doors in a short hall behind a wooden portcullis. Feeling time was of the essence, Sonja hewed at the great boards with her greatsword; the first respondent was hypnotized by Arndor after his puzzled question, “What are you doing?”

Sonja’s sword battered away, the gate shuddered under each powerful blow. As it rocked and rattled, a guard appeared at the other door. No, not a guard at all… the powerful smell and bulk were a clue, but the great horned helm marked this foe as the Staglord himself!

(cliffhanger ending!)