Actual Play – Babies, Blunders, and Birthrights (6/8/2014)

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

Wow, so much happened in this game. No trolls stabbed, but some hearts broken.

Tad Aldori?

Our longtime faithful servant Tad was confronted with two brutal truths.

  1. His lifelong crush Lady Miquela was pregnant. Which means she was not, like Tad, a “maiden”.
  2. She was also his cousin.

Miquela didn’t know the whole truth at the start of the session, only that her brother Edward got extremely uncomfortable when the topic of Tad’s lineage came up, and that he handled an Aldori Dueling Sword like he was, well… and an Aldori.

So she pushed, and she pushed, and eventually the damn broke. Bog admitted that he was Tad’s father, that Gloriana (the midwife and nanny to most of the Aldori children) was his mother, and that the parents that raised him and loved him were trying to protect Tad from his heritage. The same heritage that sent Donna Aldori and many others fleeing Brevoy in search of a place where they wouldn’t be persecuted for their family name.

When confronted with the truth Tad fled from it. When confronted again, he resisted. When his own father finally told him who he was, it stuck. He was given a choice to join the servants again as “just Tad” or to accept his family name. After a long time considering the choice he slept in his new bed in the Aldori family manor.

In the morning he was named Head Steward of the castle (which needs a name) and resumed his place in the kingdom. There is a distance though. He’s not as obsequious as he used to be. He performs all of his duties remarkably, but the drive to constantly go above and beyond for Miquela is gone. If asked he’ll provide her a foot massage, or a fresh lemonade, but he used to never need to be asked in the first place.

I think Tad is growing up. Hitting puberty at age 20.

Kasten’ Duress

That is a funny. It’s a play on words because his last name is Garess, which rhymes with duress, and our encounter with him was full of it.

The scene was between Merrowyn and Kasten discussing command positions. Merrowny was suggesting potential leaders and Kasten was shooting them down. His concerns were sound but in her mind not significant enough to disqualify her choices. When she turned the tables and asked who he would recommend for command, things got intense.

Kasten had helped build the kingdom. He was one of the few that was there since the beginning. He was also Marcus’s commander and it was under his watch that Marcus died. That shouldn’t matter, soldiers die and it wasn’t Kasten’s fault anyway. Merrowny didn’t see it that way though. For most people, Merrowny was a tough as nails, hothead. For Marcus though, she was a 21 year old girl who finally found someone she thought understood her. And then he was ripped away from her and nobody ever seemed to notice. Merrowyn has a lot of anger issues in general, but in this case all of her rage about Marcus’ death was focused on Kasten, and when she finally let that out, everything went to hell.

Kasten was incensed that she would let a personal matter get in the way of his well earned promotion, or that she would blame him for Marcus’s death. And then he was gone. Really, really gone.

Merrowyn tried to stop him from walking out, but he wouldn’t relent. When the realized he left, she consulted Leccio to scry on him and find where he was. When she realized he was in Restov, she asked Leccio to contact Domingo via a sending spell where she begged him to get Kasten back, offering him to be general of the Kingdom if he wanted it. When Domingo reported in the next that Kasten wouldn’t listen to him she got on a horse and rode as hard as she could for Restov. When she arrived and found she has missed him she asked around for where he went but the other soldiers wouldn’t talk to her. When she found a solider that was in the know, but wouldn’t tell her, she took him outside and beat him within an inch of his life before he told her that Kasten had joined a unit serving in Pitax, one of the River Kingdoms. He was gone and there was no getting him back.

More on this in thoughts below.

Baby Daddy Strozzi

Miquela came to give Staggio the news that she was pregnant and asked if he was wanted to be father to his child. He wasn’t quite filled with the over abundance of joy she hoped for, but he didn’t run screaming either.

Staggio made on thing really clear. All he was living for was the inevitable civil war with Issia. Even if he was going to be their father, that was, is, and will always be his first priority. Perfect, no, but it will due until the war starts. Hopefully then we’ve got an army he can lead.

What won him over in the end? He wasn’t going to let someone else claim to be the father of his child.

Official Appointments

After the clusterfuck with Kasten, and with much admonition from Edward, Miquela and Merrowyn set quickly about appointing everyone titles.

  • Svetlana, Lord Mayor of The Tusk
  • Roy Resnick, Lord Mayor of Tazzton
  • Tad Aldori, Chief Master Steward of the Castle
  • First Aldorian Heavy appointed captain Franco Sordello, lieutenant Solia, and private doesn’t-give-a-fuck-what-you-think-of-him-will-tell-it-like-it-is Delaco Farell..

There was some major concerns about Franco being a turncoat, given that the Sordellos pretty much universally despise the Aldori, but he so far he’s given us no reason to doubt his loyalty.

In a moment of weakness Merrowny came very close to trying to dupe Akiros into running the army. He said that his god whispers to him in his sleep and she nearly sent Mik Mek to sneak up on him while he slept and whisper instructions to go lead the army in Ogelton. No good would come of that deception though. He’d see through it eventually, and she would have burnt another bridge, never mind the fact that she would feel horrible about it. Yay for Lawful Evil kobolds being your moral compass.

Family Reunion

Everyone knows uncle Bog is doing worse and worse. His gout is getting the better of him and walking isn’t something he can do anymore without significant pain. He’s getting old and all the clerics in the realm can’t save him from that.

We made a big point of Miquela, Elara, and their entourage going up north to visit him and have him bless the new baby. When we arrived we got to see some amazing changes. All the money that had been sent to the family (2 Build Points per turn, for more than 25 turns) had paid off. The manor had been restored to it’s former glory. Servants and men at arms had been hired on. Several family members had opened up shops or other businesses in Restov. Perhaps most impressive, the ancient ivy covered statue in the center of the courtyard had been cleared off, cleaned, restored, and revealed to be a fountain in the likeness of Sirian Aldori (the first Aldori).

Very nice to see that our contributions have paid off and that the family is doing well. It was at the reunion that Bog told Tad he was his father. It was also where Domingo in his first recorded act of kindness, stood up for Merrowyn to Miquela, and we got to see that Domingo was also maturing.

Assassination Attempt

When we had returned to The Tusk, and when Miquela was showing quite a bit, she had to work on places to put her swords. The would no longer fit on her belt, so she had a lone short sword on her back. Don’t mention that she probably couldn’t draw it if she needed to. At least not to her face.

While in the Inn, she encountered Cobb, and he was dragging Ioria Valopi by the hair. This was the young, naive, distant relative of ours that almost got mixed up with a cult of Gyronna. We let her off the hook because she was just a kid who made a mistake, hanging around the wrong people… Or maybe she was now a full fledged priestess of Gyronna and was trying to poison the entire cities water supply with Mother’s Bane, and powerful abortifacient that would kill all the expecting mothers (and their children) in the city.

Miquela had a moment of indecision. To try her through due process (Edward was there after all) or exact justice now? Ioria made the choice easy by cursing all of them in the name of Gyronna and starting to channel negative energy. Yep, that was it, Miquela cut her down!

Afterwards Miquela and Cobb had another one of their run ins, where Cobb showed his patriotism without bowing.

The inquisitor of Abadar Brigida had been a holy pain in our asses since she arrived, but now we finally had a task for her. Go find them cultists!

Getting in bed with the enemy

Domingo was putting pressure on us to get an embassy in Restov, however that isn’t something we can do locally. An embassy in Restov is an embassy in Brevoy, and to make that work we’ve got to make nice with the Issians we plan to go to war with eventually.

Much as Domingo wanted an embassy to make his relationship official, he didn’t want us to go asking for one, he wants Brevoy to come to us. Sigh. So how to get the attention of the giant nation we’re secretly planning to war with and make them think we’re formidable but not a threat? Some ideas:

  • Pacify the Nomen Centaurs. They seem to be threatening the borders again. Making peace or giving them a good thrashing would earn us respect.
  • Clearing the Lizard folk out of the Slough would allow safer travel and trade through the River Kingdoms. A boon for all. This would serve us as well, since it would be territory we could take over without infringing on other human nations, and we hates lizardfolk for being child-torturing, oath-breaking, chicken-shit fleeing, asshats.

THAR BE DRAGONS

Reports came from the west that the great green dragon we had heard rumors of was attacking our people. Merrowyn, Elara, Akiros, and Rombilard all rode out to meet it and drive the creature off, back to the Narlmarshes from where it came.

Next up on list when we’ve got Miquela and Toti in shape to fight. Dragon slaying!

Scandal in the Tusk

One of the Kingdom events that we rolled, which was tragic but awesome, was an affair between the Lord Mayor Svetlana and the army captain Franco. It was an ugly situation. Our two most prominent deities worshiped are Erastil (god of community) and Abadar (god of civilization). They are both pretty much NOT OKAY with illicit affairs. But the rulers? We really didn’t care. They were both great people and we didn’t want to have to replace either one of them. All we wanted was to squash the scandal.

Erastil doesn’t brook divorces, but Abadar does! So we fudged the numbers, back dated a divorce between her and Oleg and told the two of them to keep it in their pants from here out. This was a tough situation with no good answers and certain to snowball into some bigger problem later, but I loved it because in the end we were making the moral choice of whether or not we cared about the affair (we didn’t) and if we were willing to skirt our own laws to preserve the status quo (which we did).

Twins!

Midwives at the ready. Tad there with cold lemonade. Everyone was prepared. Except they weren’t when not one but two babies were born!  Baby Floriana Agresese Strozzi Aldori and baby Renato Sergio Strozzi Aldori were born!

Soon after the mysterious guardian appeared Hima to watch over them. Sellemus’s “assistant”. Read: bodyguard.

Kingdom building

We played out a few more kingdom turns. Enough to grow The Tusk to 36 districts (almost a large city now), to take over Tazzleford, and to round out the pere

Troubles in Varnhold

The session ended with word from Varnhold, or rather lack there of. The Lord Mayor Sellimus told us that Varn had not reported in some time as asked if we could check in on him.

Thoughts on the game

A lot of awesome shit happened in the game, for good and ill. Our world is very alive and complex, and it’s easy to focus on one thing and let others get out of hand. Dennis does a great job of presenting the pressures of being rulers. We’re often bound by the very laws we made to serve us. We’re the ones that have to be reasonable because so many others are completely inflexible.

This has a downside though, or at least for me it did. For me a lot of it comes down to knowing where to engage the system. Without kingdom building rules you interact with each NPC and situation individually in game through role-playing. When you add the macro mechanics on kingdom building though, it abstracts a lot of the minutia of kingdom building into things like stability checks and build points. By the rules you don’t need to create specific laws for trials, you just declare you kingdom is lawful (or neutral or chaotic) and the rest is implied.  You don’t need to appoint a Lord Mayor of the city, you just build a town hall and it’s assumed someone will be put in charge. Watchtowers come with guards, armies come with officers, etc. In our game though, many of those finer points are handled in-game through our characters actions rather than based on the kingdom building rules.

The tricky part is knowing what is covered by the mechanics, and what needs to be role-played out. The kind of kingdom problems we’ve encountered have felt like going into combat and then being told that your sword breaks on the first attack because you haven’t said that you’ve been oiling at night and n0w it’s rusted and brittle. Made worse because your NPC squire is now fighting in your place because she remembered to oil her sword every night.

To be my own devil’s advocate, I know that if you followed the rules verbatim, the entire kingdom building component of the game would be totally dull and flat.  It would just be a series of die rolls and markings on a map with no personality; as bad as a game that is only combat with no role-playing.