Actual Play – War of the River Lords (4/2/2015)

War of the River KingsGM: Dennis Jordan
Players: Regina Joyner, Karen Twelves, Adrienne Mueller, Eric Fattig, and Sean Nittner
System: Pathfinder
Adventure Path: Kingmaker

The best laid plans of wyverns and women…

Alas, we had about an hour before our game where we mapped out an elaborate plan to get our beloved Kasten back on #TeamAldoria. The plan had four main phases, each with complicated and interlocking activities. Some, but not all of these steps had backup plans, redundancies, and/or were robust enough to endure varied outcomes.

We seriously Shadowrun’d the shit out of this plan.

To our character’s great dismay (and a little to our own) we found out that as of the start of game Kasten was gone, and had in fact already been gone for a day. Asking around we determined he left after the party the previous night, entering a tent and then never coming out (presumably teleported by someone).

300x419xflangedmace.jpg.pagespeed.ic.RBZwDLuJOw-1Farewell to Pitax

Learning that we couldn’t get ahold of Kasten, and seeing that everyone else was packing up, we accepted the prize, a Rod of Lordly Might, said our goodbyes and starting heading home. Of note:

  • Our faithful and overworked spy has a name: Lapo Baldi, aka, That Poor Bastard.
  • Merrowyn met with Dizon, the dwarven Gorumite from Mivon to give her farewells and ensure that we’d meet again when we were sacking the place. She also invited Timsina from Tymon to come to Aldoria sometime and help her set up a gladiator arena.
  • Arvin, overwhelmed by accolades tried to dodge all his adoring fans. Miquela ran interference for him.
  • At the awards ceremony everyone was hung over, there were lots of speeches and standing around, Nunzio and Grigori announced some minor awards, Villamor Koth was notably not present to receive a 2nd place prize, it was a very hot day, the rod of lordly might came out on a red velvet cushion. Miquela accepted the reward eagerly and told Grigori that his body was currently rotting in an Aldorian graveyard.
  • We planned to head to Pitax to socialize there for a bit but then heard there were lots of assassins waiting for us.
  • Concerned that both Kasten and Villamor Koth’s absence might mean Pitax was going to make a military advance while we were sailing home we teleported back to The Tusk with Oliveta, Merrowny, Miquela, Elara, Kobb, Imogen, Arvin, The Twins (who finally were named Miro and Maria), and Lapo.
  • Others stayed on the boat to take the sea voyage home: Tad, Xanthia, Rudolpho, Stone Faced Killer, Domingo, and the Swordlord’s own.

Savia’s Secret

The moment we arrived Miqeula and Merrowyn, after an argument of who should talk to her, both approached Savia together to find out the truth. Which was that we never should have asked. Savia, her hand forced, admitted that Franco was not her brother, but her son. She was 13 was he was born and not at all prepared to be mother, so her parents took him in as their son instead. He didn’t know. Nobody knew except now Merrowyn, Miquela, and Edward.

Goings on in the Tusk

  • Olivetta and Imogen going dress shopping for Olivetta’s apology to Leccio.
  • Giovanni losing his mind hearing about how expensive the Rushlight Tournament was [5 Build Points, which you know could have fed the entire Swordlord’s Own for a month, or paid for magical streetlamps].
  • Miquela told Giovanni that we should throw a party for winning the Rushlight! We we’re pretty amazing.
  • Miquela warmed Leccio up for Olivetta’s apology by saying that she just likes dancing and that she really likes you!
  • Olivetta came in, wearing her nice new dress, and asked Leccio if he would like to dance with her some time. Which he would, as long as they could still pick mushrooms and research demons together. Deal!

Pit_fiendSizing up our Enemies

In another attempt to find Kasten, Olivetta cast a scrying spell and found him in some military tent, moving pieces around on a map. The image was cut off abruptly though as a powerful looking Ogre Magi came into view and then with hardly the flick of his wrist dispelled the scrying spell. Just as it ended she heard Kasten say “excellent” and realized that whatever that creature was, it was very powerful.

To the books!

Imogen researched ancient Ogre Magi and determined that this one’s name is Avinash Jurig, and incredibly powerful devil who hollowed out the body of an Ogre Magi to ride him as a fresh suit.

Olivetta took the dangerous journey to the Old Beldane who said that we should all run away. The devil, who she wouldn’t speak his name, was only here because all the other demons kicked him out of their infernal realm. He was that much of an ass.

Leccio researched father and discovered that Avinash is the original pit fiend! Good times for Aldoria!

Preparing for War

Olivetta, Merrowyn, and Savia began planning for what they imagined would be an imminent attack from Pitax.

  • We all agreed that we need to get Kasten!
  • Merrowyn splits up the Red Claw into 10 squadrons that will each patron one hex and moved them north from Fort Marcus to the form a picket line around Sellen’s Gate.
  • We also ordered the Horde to move from the Tusk to Sellen’s Gate.
Symbol of the River Kingdoms

Symbol of the River Kingdoms

Paying a visit to Gralton

Despite the impending attack, Gralton was expecting our presence, so Imogen, Elara, Olivetta, and Miquela teleported there to meet up with the Water Dancer (our ship) and do the politicking thing with Lady Dela Morgayn and her retinue. Some highlights of that visit:

  • Learning the history of Gralton, who broke away from Galt because of devil worship, which started when Chelliax took control of Galt way back when.
  • The True King sent 20,000 people on an exodus to find a new home along with 600 of his finest soldiers to guard their escape, led by Morgayn’s brother Jontas Kerathin, who was the True King’s squire. Of the 600 soldiers, only 11 made it to Galt, but all 20,000 civilians (and a few more that were born on the way) made it safe.
  • Kerathin holds the king’s sword to put in the hands of an heir that will one day reclaim Gralton.
  • Rulopho had a date! A young woman who was still much older than him. Imogen watched him closely.
  • At the party Miquela socialized with a lot of foreign dignitaries and at the end met with Lady Morgayn to discuss her chances of getting recognition at the outlaw council. The agreed that we probably had the support of Mivon, Gralton, and Tymon. That Pitax, Sevenarches, and the Protectorate of the Black Marquee would probably speak against us, and that it would come down to the uncertain votes of Lambreth, Uringen, and Daggermark. While there are other River Kingdoms, but they don’t have a significant voice at the council.
  • We discussed opening an embassy in Gralton as well!
  • Elara schmoozed with Gralton nobles.
  • Olivetta gossiped and found it was hard to keep up!
  • Imogen was once again showered with flattery by Kerathin, who she new respected more than ever. They flirted and then talked some of war, but then she departed home.

Pietro gets a Pass

Between battle planning sessions with Savia, Merrowyn checked in on Jerome to find out how Pietro had been doing. And the answer was not well. He seemed to show now aptitude for anything involving physical prowess; fighting, sneaking, building, working hard, he was bad at all of them. He did seem to show some interest in books though.

Merrowyn took him to Leccio’s lab and and asked the archivist if he could appraise Pietro. Leccio observed as he let the prisoner peruse his library and took notice of the books he picked out. The archivist would have to study with him for a while to tell Merrowyn more.

Captain_Jontas_KerathinDeparting Gralton

Cutting back to the end of the night at Gralton, our heroes departed from Gralton with a goodbye and a teleport spell:

  • Morgayn said she thought we had a good chance getting the Gralton vote at the Outlaw council.
  • Rudolpho escorted his date to her carriage…like a perfect gentleman.
  • That night, when Kerathin retired he found a sealed envelope from him from Imogen. In it she expressed her more than perfunctory interest in Kerathin and in his noble cause, and that should he ever want to stand by Aldoria, we would stand by him as well. He held onto the note for some time before placing it very carefully in his chest, on top of the sword of the true king.
  • They teleported back with Rudolpho, Domingo, Tad, Xanthia, and SFK as well.

Early Warning

Merrowyn received a letter with no recognized seal on it. “Merro, Pitax troops seen moving eastward in the North. This one is on the House. -Dario”

Yes, we had our troops (mostly) in the right position! It was time to mobilize! Merrowyn and Imogen sat on top of the castle towers reviewing a map of the region while Imogen began summon hordes of Archons (Lantern and Hound) to teleport into the various hexes and search for Pitax forces. With greater teleprotation and the extended summoning duration (13 minutes instead of 13 rounds) we were able to find all of their forces and their locations. A few of our hounds never made it back, so Imogen cast invisibility on them before sending them out, and sent them out in greater numbers. When one made it back, shredded and beaten, he exclaimed there were wyverns! Here’s the armies we spotted:

  • A medium army (100) of Wyverns
  • A huge army (500) of camouflaged soldiers with bows.
  • A gargantuan army (1000) of Tiger Lord barbarians.

Here’s what we had:

  • The Red Claw, broken into ten 10-person squadrons. As they could wildshape into animals that made the great for scouting but not a substantial force in the fight.
  • The Horde, 100 cleric/barbarians of Gorum in Sellen’s Gate, that had just been itching for a fight since the day we formed them, led by Merrowyn.
  • Arvin’s rangers, a huge army (500) of experienced rangers (6th level) already deployed in Tazzleford and Sellen’s Gate, quick to move through the Narlmarches to meet them, led by Arvin and Elara.
  • The Swordlords Own, a huge ammy (500) of experienced soldiers (6th level fighters), led by Legion Marshall Savia Sordello and Swordlord Miquela. Who only made it there because of a forced march, and arrived exhausted.
  • Clerics from all faiths (Gorum, Pharasma, Elrastil, and Abadar) joining together to aid the forces [Acting as healing potions]

Here’s what we had coming to our aid, but not there for the first battle:

  • Sootscale’s own, a gargantuan army (1000) of Kobold fighters.
  • The 2nd infantry, a large army (200) of fighter/rogues moving from Ogelton.
  • The first cavalry, our medium army (1oo) of cavalry moving from Varnhold.
  • The First Nomen Legion, a small army (50) of Centaurs, led by Xanthia, our warden of the East.
  • Potentially additional support from Sootscale (who had to mobilize his heavy infantry) and from the Nomen.

In our time of need

Knowing that war was upon us Miquela and Oliveta teleported down to Mivon to have a meeting with the Swordlords and convince them to come to their allies aid. It took some time for Ribissi to assemble them all, but when he did, they were quick to hear her plea.

Miquela reminded Mivon of their own wars with Pitax, of Irovetti’s treachery, and of what good allies we’ve been. She told them that if there was ever a time to join forces against a common foe it was now.

The swordlords rallies around three beliefs. The first group was bloodthirsty and could not wait to take up arms against Pitax again. The second group was wary that they weren’t prepared and needed more time to supply, the the third group wondered why they should extend their forces when they weren’t in any danger. It seemed more logical for Mivon to wait until both of us had bloodied our noses and then sweep in for the victory. It was cold and calculating, but that’s how Swordlords can be!

Miquella rebutted their concerns and told them that if Pitax took control of Sellen’s gate it would cut off their river trade, which would be a blow to everyone’s economy, and that if the conquered Aldoria completely they would be poised to attack Mivon from the west and the north.

Her words moved many, but the final vote came down to the Lord Mayor, who opted for a cautious measure and said that Mivon would not join us.

There was a silence in the hall, our cause was defeated… until Oromano, Ribissi’s brother in-law and the 2nd to the Lord Mayor stood up and said “you are weak old man. The time for was is now and if you’re not willing or able to lead us then someone else needs to. I challenge you!”

Within moments there were judges and advocates standing outside hastily drawn dueling circle. The two men who had for so long worked at each other’s side, were now at each other’s throats! It was quick, a few blows to size once another up, before Oramano thrust his blade deep into the chest of his long time lord. When the held each other close, something was whispered between them, which none but the two of them could hear.

Now in charge of Mivon, Oromano declared that they too would enter the field of battle and fight besides their allies in Aldoria!

Bring in the reinforcements!

As the battle raged on, here’s what the red claw detected coming from the south west going straight for Sellen’s gate:

  • A medium army (100) of trolls.
  • A colossal army (2000) of human soldiers

And here’s what Mivon was sending up the river directly to Sellens’ gate to guard it:

  • A huge army (500) of duelists and bravos.

 

The Clash of Sword and Shield – Battle of Stone Bridge

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When we took the field at the ancient stone bridge that crossed the Sellen, our forces were exhausted and outnumbered, though not by so much that we could not hold the line, we just needed to summon our our vigor and might to do so.

The Horde was the the first to go. The charged for with Greatswords in hand and spiritual greatswords swing about overhead. They send several of the more crazed members ahead with bags of holding filled with alchemical fire. And while they did manage to cause great losses to the wyvern army, they were assaulted and overwhelmed by Villamor Koth’s barbarians who outnumbered them 10 to 1. Within the first few salvos the Horde was decimated.

Arvin’s rangers, bows in hand and with avian animal companions as well were able to finish off the last of the wyverns, and turn their attention to the similarly equipped Cat’s Paw Marauders, who they matched numbers with but neither force could muster sufficient advantage over the other and minimal losses were taken.

The Swordlords own, exhausted from their forced march [-2 OM and DV] did their best to simply hold off against the barbarian onslaught. Shields raised high and fighting defensively, they hardly blunted the Tiger Lord’s assault but they did manage to hold their own and though there were many losses, many of those were tended to by the clerics who came to our aid [Yay, healing potions]. The Swordlords Own held the line until night fell and the forces of both Pitax and Aldoria were forced to leave the field of battle.

Quotes

At 13 I had the motherly instincts of a Blade Barrier spell! – Savia Sordello

What Rocked

The moment everyone but Merrowyn was concerned about Pitax invaded and she was totally confident that Savia would keep the kingdom safe, and then finding out that Miquela had suspicion Savia wasn’t actually Franco’s sister…and that she had told everyone but Merrowyn. That was as an awesome moment of betrayal.

The Horde dying like they should, for a glorious purpose of killing wyverns!

Savia told Merrowyn all these things about being a good general. That she needed to treat troops like assets to be traded and lost to achieve a goal. It took Savia 10 years to learn that lesson, Merrowyn had to to it in 10 hours. She told her that a general can’t always be a leader, sometimes they need to stay in the back to direct. There are times to be a hero, and there are times to trade glory for victory. That took her 20 years to learn and Merrowyn would have to learn it… oh wait, nevermind, the war is here, she’s got no time. Go, go, go!

I loved those scenes (they felt like the most serious anywho had ever taken Merrowyn as the general) but what I particularly love about them is that right after Merrowyn led an army to their total destruction. Everyone but her, Dizon (who had rushed up from Mivon to join them), and Rudolpho (who kept up in the fight until he ran out of spells and barely survived) were destroyed. I’m really looking forward to playing out her feeling of being an imposter and a failure, as well as wanting personal revenge. All the wrong things for a general to feel.

Savia’s secret was cool. I hated that we did it, I felt like an asshole, but I was really glad that we had someone who just had personal shit, and that is all it was. Not betrayal or switching sides, or anything else, just skeletons on their closet.

Despite my frustration with the adventure path (I feel like the tournament was pointless, see below) I’m very excited to try out the mass combat more and see what war is like. We’ve been itching to do it for a while and while I’d really have liked about 6 more kingdom turns to build up our armies, I think we got a few tricks up our sleeve, that we can play. This ties into Merrowyn’s emotional state. I as a player have some ideas that I think are good, but Merrowyn is way too irrational right now to consider them. It’ll be fun to see how it plays out!

What could have improved

We were a little crushed that approaching Kasten was just out of the question. And then more so when we found out he was with the fucking Balrog! So we had these ideas, and they all have to go on the back burner, and by the time they come up, there is a good chance they will be moot. It’s every Shadowrunner’s nightmare experience. You make all the plans to get the nuke out of the complex and when you arrive at the complex all kitted out for infiltration, you find out the nuke has been moved and you don’t know where it is. And it’s like fuck, back to the drawing board.

I think it’s bad adventure design on the part of the AP, but I can’t tell what the point of the Rushlight was. I mean we do kind of the dream thing PCs in RPGs do which is compete is this big tournament and win it, but what came out of it? Assassins in Pitax. Armies coming to our house? A prize that nobody cares about? It might turn into something more down the line, like additional glory and accolades that will help us on the Outlaw council, but it’s hard to say. It feels mostly like it was meant to show what a shit heel Irovetti is, and I get that, he’s really a dick, but does the aventure need to spend that much time teaching us he’s a dick? I just remember feeling so excited that we won the tournament and then so let down afterward. Everyone leaves, nobody gives a shit about the rod, and oh, by the way, here’s our armies in your face.

This was our first encounter with the mass combat system, and there were several things that came up:

  • The system is very swingy. Because there aren’t very many rolls made each one made a big difference. We only had 3 “rounds” of combat, so each army roll 3-4 times (4 if they had ranged weapons), so there was a lot of wiff opportunity. In that we rolled two 1s which really hurt, especially because they came at the beginning. Pathfinder combat normally gets around this by virtue of the number of dice rolls. Sure, you’ll get your good and bad rolls, but they even out because you make some many of them. Where there are only a few, each roll matters a lot.
  • The role of the general was pretty inconsequential to the mechanics. Dennis gave me a Profession (Soldier) roll that I allows us to detect a very slight terrain advantage [+1 DV] but after that it was really up to the armies. That may very well be intentional, but I was wondering where clever tactics, risky gambits, and inspirational speeches would come in. So far as I can tell, the don’t have a place within the mass combat rules, but I think we can probably add them in anyway.
  • Adrienne was rightfully loosing her mind sitting by and watching all of this happen. Imogen, as she was designed is literally a one woman army.  Between the hordes of flying electric dinosaurs she can summon, the cloudkill spells, the circle of death spells, and the teleprotation she can do, there was no reason for her not to be wrecking faces during the fight. There are rules for statting up one person armies and when we quickly built her in hero labs we could see that at she would be formidable, but we didn’t do that to the end of the session, so she never entered the fray. Also, on the army scale, she’d have very few hit points, so there is a good chance she’d be killed in a round or two. Still, she really wanted to be out there and it was a shame that she couldn’t. I also know Dennis has some plans to let her use her stuff next session, so I imagine this will be more than made up for.