Monday, May 14, 2018

Rise of the Runelords Recap # 45 [RPG]

[17 Kuthona 4707 continued]

After the violent suppression of the ogre raid on the farmhouse, the adventurers cross the river to secure the scene.  Kozen utters some healing magic to revive the unconscious landowner, and he thanks the adventurers profusely, expressing surprise that ogres would strike this far south.  The farmer, Jonas, exchanges pleasantries and local gossip would Tillia.  Kang whispers to the others that they should ask for a reward, but the decision is instead made to continue on.

Another hour’s march north reveals a tiny thorp located on a rocky promontory overlooking a large lake.  “Turtleback Ferry, I presume,” says one of the adventurers, but Tillia laughs and shakes her head.  “That’s Pendaka!  Turtleback Ferry is on the far side of the lake and is much larger.”  The adventurers discuss whether to press on, but the cold, rain, and approaching darkness convince them a night’s rest in Pendaka would be wise.  Standing in the middle of a cluster of small houses, the only building of any size in Pendaka is a large inn and trading post called the Walleyed Wife.  Tillia notes that they’re in time to catch the last ferry across Claybottom Lake, but the others have had enough of boat travel, so she makes the last leg of the journey alone while the others get rooms for the night.  They leave Briza’s body (shrouded in a bedroll) and the unconscious Captain Othlo in the stables. A heavyset man named Olam Keecher, covered in flour and berry juice, treats the travellers to his “famous” cranberry turtle egg pies while lamenting the lack of trade along the Skull River in recent months.  The adventurers manage to purchase a few supplies from Olam and then turn in for the night as the cold wind wails outside.  Shalelu, true to fashion, sets up her own campsite away from the settlement.

[18 Kuthona 4707]

Over breakfast, Kang and Goragar ask Olam if he’s heard any interesting rumours lately.  He says that a fishing boat was torn in half last week in the middle of Claybottom Lake by Ol’ Pinkeye, and that if the constant rain doesn’t let up soon, Claybottom Lake and the Skull River could flood their banks like they did one time years ago.  Olam is pleased to hear that the adventurers plan to discover what happened to the Order of the Black Arrows, since the rangers were a steady source of custom for the inn.

After several hours walking, the adventurers finally reach the end of a journey that started over two weeks prior: Turtleback Ferry, a small village of about 30 buildings perched on the north shore of Claybottom Lake.  Peopled primarily by farmers, hunters, and trappers, the rural village can be seen to sport a small trading post, an inn, a tavern, a smithy, a small one-room schoolhouse (Tillia’s), and a temple to Erastil.  Few residents are out on the streets even though it’s early afternoon and, although not unfriendly, they look gloomy and hurry to get out of the unceasing rain.  The adventurers decide their first order of business is to see that Briza receives a respectful burial, so they walk to the temple. 

Father Maelin Shreed is both the spiritual
and political leader of Turtleback Ferry.
 Inside, they find the local priest (and, as it turns out, mayor), Father Maelin Shreed, talking with a rather unusual figure: a goblin wearing clean, well-maintained clothing who speaks with a middle-class accent!  Kang draws an explosive, but halts as Father Shreed welcomes the visitors and introduces the goblin as “Sir Roderick, a brave knight.”  Father Shreed explains that “Sir Roderick” is something of a local hero.  When told by the adventurers that they’ve been sent from Magnimar to investigate the loss of contact with Fort Rannick, Father Shreed is relieved and explains that he’s been struggling to keep Sir Roderick from setting out to solve the matter all by himself.  Sir Roderick prepares tea for everyone and explains with a dignified bearing that he desires to be a duly-deputized law enforcer someday, and that, although Turtleback Ferry has no organized constabulary, he plans to set a sterling example.  Artemis invites Sir Roderick to come with them to Fort Rannick and, despite Kang’s repeated provocations, Sir Roderick agrees.  With a plan to leave first-thing in the morning, the adventurers go on to explain to Father Shreed what happened to their fallen companion, and he promises to quickly organize a service at dusk.

Outside, with a few hours to spare, Goragar asks what should be done with the captive Captain Othlo.  As the nearest jail is back in Ilsurian, the decision is made to let fate deal with the obsessed halfling.  Goragar pushes the bound figure off his horse and into the mud before riding away.  The visitors, along with Sir Roderick, visit the schoolhouse to tell Tillia about the service for Briza.  She promises to attend.  A visit is made to the local smithy, Irontooth’s Metal Goods, a business named after the forged metallic false teeth worn by “Irontooth” Jorveni.  Jorveni reluctantly turns down an offer to purchase a beautiful suit of  mithral breastplate (seized from Othlo), and the adventurers get the first hint that there’s a real limit to how much wealth a small community like Turtleback Ferry has to offer.  When asked by Artemis whether he’s able to defend himself, Sir Roderick brings forth an unusual object composed of twin metal barrels with a wooden stock: a type of alchemical-driven projectile launcher called a “musket.”  Kang is impressed at seeing what he calls a “veritable explosion machine,” while Artemis is dismissive—“clunky, loud, and very easy to see.”  Later, at the local general store, Kang persuades an old maid named Wenda Leenee to part with a healthy part of her life savings in order to buy a rare bottle of wine.  Artemis notices some unusual items on the dusty shelves, and realizes some of them are enchanted—something Wenda explains as the clever purchases of her “dearly departed”.

The Sihedron was a rune of major occult significance
 in the ancient empire of Thassilon.
During their errands around town, Artemis saw a resident bending over a water trough and noticed a surprising tattoo on the man’s calf: the Sihedron rune!  Rather than confront the man immediately, Artemis decided to wait and try to find the man later.  In the late afternoon, the adventurers decide to have a drink prior to the funeral.  At a tavern called Bottom Ups, they see the two halfling proprietors (a husband and wife named Yads and Berthandy Kesker) partaking in what the locals know to be a regular habit: a heated argument that involves hurled expletives and hurled bottles!  After the fight ends (as it always does) in apologetic hugs, Artemis asks Berthandy if she knows of anyone with a seven-pointed star tattoo.  Berthandy suddenly pulls her sleeve down and looks nervous as she explains that she’s never heard of such a thing.

The funeral for Briza takes place at the local graveyard, and is attended by dozens of locals as word has spread of the warrior’s sacrifice on a mission to help the village.  Maelin gives a short but heartfelt eulogy, while Kang says that Briza taught him humility, wisdom, and patience.  Tillia tries to speak but sobs keep her from being understood.  After Briza’s remains are lowered into place and the service concludes, several residents offer to help the newcomers in any way they can.  Artemis asks for, and receives, good directions to Fort Rannick.

That night, Artemis accepts Father Shreed’s invitation to stay at the temple, while the others walk to a nearby inn called The Turtle’s Parlor.  The innkeeper, Cesten Orlandi, is clearly in a foul mood and tries to make up for weeks of vacancies by punishing the travellers with an exorbitant rate for rooms.  Sir Roderick, who has walked with the adventurers to make sure they’re taken care of, intervenes and negotiates something somewhat more reasonable.  Kozen is refused entry because of her dog Taz, as the spiteful innkeeper seems to derive perverse pleasure in turning away the very customers he so desperately needs!  Fortunately, Sir Roderick offers to let Kozen stay at his home (a converted outhouse) despite his innate fear of dogs.

[19 Kuthona 4707]

Before dawn, a dense fog rolls into town, shrouding creatures and objects that are more than a few feet away in a swirling gray mist.  When he awakes, Sir Roderick exclaims to Kozen that it’s far too dangerous to leave for Fort Rannick in such conditions.  When the adventurers regroup, Artemis says that, as someone reliant with a ranged weapon himself, he shares Sir Roderick’s concerns, but that every day they delay is another day that lives are in danger without the protection of the Order of the Black Arrow rangers.  Artemis notes that his own cousin, Fillias, is one of the rangers and could need help.  Sir Roderick seeks the advice of Father Shreed, who tells the goblin to trust his own instincts but that, in such fog, travel could actually be safer because threats could pass right by the adventurers like ships in the night.  Sir Roderick is persuaded, and even reluctantly accedes to riding on a horse in order to emulate the common practice of noble knights.

Shalelu rejoins the group as they follow the road north, expressing surprise and distaste to discover that a goblin is in their company.  After about an hour’s journey, the adventurers come to an old wooden bridge and cross over to the west bank of the river, which borders the notorious forest of Kreegwood.  Artemis hears the sound of a large cat yowling in pain in the nearby woods, and shares what he’s heard with the others.  As they talk about what to do, they hear the sound of dogs barking in the same direction, and an off-key voice singing “going to eat some kittens today, going to eat them in a stew in every way.”  The adventurers discuss the matter backwards and forward, until they hear the sound of a large cat fighting with the dogs and the grunts of battle.  Deciding that it was probably just a hunter, the adventurers decide to continue following the road north.  Two hours later, they see the promised sign indicating the direction of Fort Rannick.
Director's Commentary (May 13, 2018)

My usual random weather generator wasn't needed for this part of the adventure, as the AP was very clear what was on the forecast day in and day out: rain.  The idea is to foreshadow the rising levels of the river and the eventual flooding of Turtleback Ferry when the damn partially bursts.  I thought it was really effective, and helped lend a gloomy atmosphere to the area.

The replacement character for the player who ran Briza is introduced in this session: a goblin gunslinger named Sir Roderick.  Sir Roderick was definitely very different than a normal goblin in Golarion and in the character I can see some of the concerns about the inclusion of goblins as Core races in Pathfinder Second Edition--that is, how far can you stretch "the norm" before it undermines the setting?  Still, Sir Roderick was a fun character.  As we'll see, also an effective character because firearms target Touch AC--so, like Kang, he almost never missed.  Rise of the Runelords was definitely not designed with alchemists or gunslingers in mind, because the vast majority of creatures have high AC only because of their natural armor bonuses, which are bypassed by touch weapons.

I had fun role-playing the NPCs in Turtleback Ferry.  It was challenging because so little information is given about them compared to those in Sandpoint.  But I gave Father Maelin a Russian accent, had Wenda be a senile old lady, and had Cesten be a bitter self-sabotager.  It's always good to have some opportunities to stretch one's creative muscles even in the middle of a planned adventure.

The stuff about hearing the animal in distress while the PCs were crossing the bridge was actually the hook to the main first part of the chapter, where the PCs come across a homestead of ogre-kin (depraved, deformed hillbillies) named the Grauls who have imprisoned a trio of survivors of Fort Rannick.  The PCs didn't bite (probably because the players assumed it was just another random encounter), which meant all that prep work went for naught!  I had to scramble to get Fort Rannick ready before the next session.  It's too bad, as there were some great (and memorable) encounters, traps, and monsters in the Graul house.  Not having the Fort Rannick survivors also rendered the Shalelu/step-father subplot kaput.  On the other hand, I was happy not to have to run a trio of friendly NPCs in every battle.

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