The Acts of the Lords of Rannick, XXIII

One downside to drinking substantive beer again is that I can’t really remember what happened without thinking quite hard about it. Bah, thinking. I should go back to tea.

Anyway, last night’s session had a fair amount of red herring-ing going on, but fortunately no-one got too caught up in it. Ravenmoor is an interesting and mysterious place, but Ravenmoor could have served as a distraction. However, I still though it was useful to put it in there; if nothing else it adds a little character to the settlements of Varisia and the journey. Otherwise it’d just be Townsville, Hamleton, Villageburgh, then the actual destination. I appreciate that; they give you enough interesting stuff to spin out if you want to, without making it so kewl that your players feel bad for failing to checking it out. Galduria had its gentrified air and its prestigious school of magic, Wolf’s Ear had simmering tension between different sections of the population and Ravenmoor is creepy without anything terrible happening there. That you know of…
Again, I think this is the sign of the kind of quality rpg stuff that Paizo puts out. They seem to have tried to seek a balance in detail and broad themes and have made a setting that I think can be played at all sorts of levels. You can get invested in the Golarion setting OR you can let the detail go by and you won’t get completely lost. I like games where the details are immersive and you really have to know what is going on to get by, but fuck it, sometimes you just want to kick a door down and loot the room.
The Pathfinder Society stuff seems to have more to offer to the setting-detail crowd: organised games sessions with ranked DMs (GMs, I can’t remember if D&D kept the DM title) who send in the results of the session to Pathfinder Society high command at Paizo. These are specially designed scenarios, where players take on the role of Pathfinders, typically with slightly divided loyalties. So there is a Cheliax faction, furthering the cause of the demon-aligned empire; an Andoran faction, spreading self-determination and liberty; Qadirans, seeking power through trade; Osirions, convinced that power lies through controlling ancient artifacts; and Taldor, who are Italians. Each faction has an objective for each scenario. The results of each scenario, played across all the structured game sessions are tabulated and at the end of the year the factions change slightly based on their fortunes. This influences future scenarios and future objectives in the next year of play, etc. That’s kinda cool, I liked when they did that stuff at GW and I liked when they did it in WOW: change the world a little based on who is doing well. It’s not my bag, but it is a cool idea.
Anyway, back to RotRL. The campaign is a bit more “On Rails” than subsequent Paizo releases, the campaign I want to run after this one mixes sandbox with rails fairly well, but keeps that balance of detail and playability. That isn’t to say that the choices players make in RotRL don’t matter… oh they do. Quite a lot, as it turns out. But there was a ticking clock on the players as they sought to retrieve the townsfolk captured by the Stone Giants, so sidetracks had to wait.
Raided Farmstead to the Storval Stairs.
Having dispatched the Ogre cattle rustlers at the end of the last session, the party was left to wonder what to do with this despoiled farmstead. As they did so, they were joined by Corwyn, who had been trying to catch up and was attracted by the sound of combat.
Don and Arradin set to calming down and rounding up the cattle before turning them loose in the pasture. Somewhat responsibly and using her initiative, Arradin saw to salvaging whatever meat they could from the calf that had been used as a club. It wasn’t great quality meat, but hey, it was free.
Tersplink and Kerplak were keen to start looting the farmstead, but found nothing inside but the brutalized farmer family. The ogres had obviously been here some time before they set to trying to lead the cattle away. Corwyn set to digging a few graves for the family, securing a shovel before Kerplak began gathering up all the nails and tools with long handles he could find to begin experimenting with as projectiles from his grenade launcher.

Moving on, they spied a cairn a few hours across the plain. Investigating it, they found it to be about giant-sized and fresh. Digging it out, they found a dead giant, who showed signs of having been hit by what Dagfinn somehow recognised as Manticore barbs. Tersplink also found a Wand of Pyrotechnics and Corwyn took the Giant’s good quality fur cape.

As they progressed they came across a stand of massive spreading oaks and spotted a man’s body hanging by his feet from one of the low boughs. Riding over to help him, they found him still alive, but very badly wounded and weak. At that moment a manticore sprang out from the tree and launched a volley of barbs from its tail. As surprising as that was, it wasn’t quite as surprising as all of the barbs missing Arradin and landing in the ground. I think the manticore maybe failed to land a single hit before he was very badly smote by the combined ire of the party, but mostly Albedon’s scorching rays.

Whoever is writing the Spotter's Guide To Varisian Monsters needs fired.

I suppose if you make the Spotter's Guide bad enough, no-one will ever come back to complain about it.

The man hanging from the tree was Voyan, a carpenter’s assistant from Sandpoint. He had been grabbed during the raid and shoved in a bag with two other victims and then carried off with great haste by the Stone Giants. Upon questioning, he told them of his treatment. The giants had kept them fed, not much but enough to keep them healthy. The giants seemed to delight in a particular game – placing the food in front of the captives and seeing who took it first. The captives were initially suspicious, but whenever they took food, one of the giants would make a mark on a slate. Voyan wasn’t sure, but he seemed to think the giants were wagering on who took the food first. They became very angry when anyone gave food to the children and made a rule that you could only take your own food.

After the Stone Giant party was ambushed by the manticore, and one of their number killed, the leader parlayed with the beast. So Voyan was strung up in this tree and bled while the Manticore waited, drooling, above. He did not understand the content of the discussion, it being all in Giant. The giants appeared to have taken a disliking to Voyan after quizzing everyone as to what they did in Sandpoint. The majority of people they stole were merchants, or related to merchants, but when he told them he was an assistant to a carpenter, the Stone Giants seemed disappointed and treated him poorly from then on.

After Dagfinn healed him, Voyan was seated on Corwyn’s spare horse and they continued to Ravenmoor where they hoped they’d be able to have Voyan sent back down the trade routes to Sandpoint. Ravenmoor came into sight a little before dark and they hurried to beat the sunset since they knew no-one was able to stay overnight in Ravenmoor.

The town of pretty chalets looked clean and wholesome but was not walled off from the outside. Instead it had a ring of a dozen tall wooden watchtowers that kept guard. It was from one of these towers that they were approached by a friendly young man. He welcomed to the town and encouraged them to trade, but reminded them that for their privacy, they insist that outsiders leave town at sunset. Don told them of the reason for their journey, and asked if any giants had been around Ravenmoor. The watchman told Don that an increase in giant activity had been observed and appeared to have displaced the local Shoanti tribe to the north, but that none had harassed Ravenmoor. There was something weird about the man’s demeanour that Don picked up on; a superficiality to his emotional responses. When he showed sympathy for the people of Sandpoint and expressed concern about the giant activity it was clear to Don that none of that was really bothering him at all. As they found out, everyone in Ravenmoor was like that: All shallow smiles, wholesome contentment and out of date fashion.

The party progressed into town, some to buy provisions and simple materials and others to investigate the Shrine of Saint Ignatzio. The shrine was a well maintained (actually everything in Ravenmoor is well maintained) addition to a large, seemingly undedicated temple. It was being cleaned by two middle aged men who were only too happy to recount the deeds of Saint Ignatzio, a paladin of Aroden, the now-dead patron god of humanity. They knew all the monsters he had slain and great deeds he had accomplished but the party was somewhat distracted by the presence of the Saint himself: A desiccated corpse, dressed in well-polished ceremonial armour lay in state inside the shrine. When he was viewed with a Detect Magic spell, it was revealed that a great many of his items gave off a magical aura.

Sunset came and the party made its way to edge of town as the towns folk began to congregate for their private religious ceremony. A watchman fired an arrow from the closest watchtower and the party had been told to camp no closer to the town than the arrow landed. Arrows go a really long way.

That didn’t stop Tersplink and Don from trying to get back in to town. Percy had been sent to investigate the town, but Percy reported that he had been mobbed by bats and that it was too dangerous for him to go. Tersplink cast Invisibility on himself and began sneaking into town. As soon as he did, he was located by the bats and they swirled around him, causing a lot of noise. So much so that as people left the temple, they all stopped and looked at the disturbance.

Don took a different approach and turned into a bat, allowing him to sneak into and out of the swarm. The limitation of the bat form, however, meant that he couldn’t get much of an idea of what was going on. As the people of Ravenmoor began calmly streaming towards their homes, Don secreted himself in a house and waited to see what the family did when they came home. They went to bed. Silently; not a word was spoken as six people prepared to go to bed with big dreamy faces.

Weirded out, but not threatened, the scouts returned to camp and the next morning set off for another day of plains travel. Eventually they began to approach the Storval Rise a line of cliff face that marks the end of civilised-ish Varisia and the wild Storval plateau. At places the cliff face is 1000ft high, but at the Storval Stairs, the rise is only 400ft. As they neared they spotted a Shoanti spear, driven into the ground point-first. Around the butt were tied a bundle of blue hawk feathers. No-one knew what this meant, so they carried on regardless.

Welcome to Ravenwood. We have made you pie. You like pie. Everyone likes pie. We will watch while you eat the pie, as a sign of...friendship.

The Storval Stairs are a formidable ancient feature from the long-long-ago: a set of steep and high stairs that once allowed giants access to the lower plains. Despite thousands of years, the stairs are in good condition and the surrounding buildings are still mostly standing. There are two 500ft statues on either side of the stairs. While they were once identical, the leftmost has split and shattered, but the right one is intact and shows a bald patrician figure in robes, bearing a book and a staff. Something niggled at Kerplak until he was able to put his finger in why the face of the statue seemed so familiar to him. Eventually it came to him that he recognized the man’s face from the looping recording in the lower levels of Thistletop. In the recorded projection the man thanked the recipient for their service and that their work would not be forgotten in the coming crisis. He had a commanding and authoritative air about him, but they remembered little else.

That was a long time ago now though and they had the more immediate problem of getting up the stairs. Tersplink flew ahead but saw no danger as the rest of the party tied up their horses as they made the ascent. The stairs were very steep, but a smaller set of steps had been cut into the northern side of the stairs, almost 3/4 of the way up the total of the stairs. It was tough going, but they began making their way to the top, but as Don and Arradin reached the top, four giants leapt out of their hiding place and attacked. The two to the south began pelting Tersplink with rocks while one to the north picked up a prepared canvas full of boulders and heaved it up, sending boulders cascading down the hill and Corwyn, Albedon, Kerplak and Arradin trying to dodge them.

One giant engaged Don, smacking him hard with a stalactite-club before Don set the stone club ablaze with a sneaky druid spell. The giant dropped the club and then dropped Don with a few well placed boulder projectiles. Since giants can hurl a boulder 180ft without it affecting their aim, I’ve got to imagine one being thrown 15ft away is really travelling quite fast. Don lay bleeding on the steps. Dagfinn made his way over, invisibly, and poured some potion down Don’s gaping face hole, rousing him from unconsciousness.

Tersplink was sussed as being a magic user and one of the giants held his boulders, waiting for the flying gnome to cast his spell before trying to interrupt him with a well placed throw. That totally worked, causing Tersplink’s spell to fizzle at his finger tips. He made himself useful by becoming invisible then casting Displacement on Arradin.

Arradin and Corwyn were working the northernmost giants, with the Displacement spell saving Arradin from a pretty severe pasting. She cut down one while the other waded in, still without his club. Kerplak galloped up and fired off two experimental rounds from his grenade launcher, but neither managed to make contact with a giant, so he reverted to puncturing them with crossbow bolts which works really well too.

Albedon meanwhile cut the southernmost rock-flingers with a Wall of Fire spell after sending in a Fireball. When the giants finally plucked up the courage to run through the wall, Albedon maneuvered into position like a billiards player and sent a bolt of lightning through both of them, frying the pair where they stood.

So, triumphant at the head of the Storval Stairs was where we left them; quite out of breath and inhaling burned ozone.

One Comment on “The Acts of the Lords of Rannick, XXIII

  1. I would like Albedon to visit Galduria again some adventure. He wasn’t quite himself when we visited there (pun intended). Adjusting to his new dwarf body while fixating on revenge fantasies against a certain red dragon does not make one a suitably attentive guest.