Kingmaker. Jope’s mini-quest concludes.

4 September, 2011

Yay! We have completed Jope’s mini-quest. But not without paying a terrible price.


Well, they needn’t blame me. They should simply know better than to take my advice when it comes to order of battle.

After the kobold’s victory and the rout of the goblins, we elected to rest and regain spells before tackling the drow fortress on the morrow. Rainen did a bit of a reconnoiter and noted some air defenses – spiderweb strung at intervals between a central tower and the top of the surrounding wall. FLying in was not recommended.

So our line of attack would be simple and rather a repeat of the heist on the armoury. We would not attempt the gate. Ovthen and I would saunter up to the wall invisibly, and Stone Shape a hole. I would be there just in case wee needed to get away quickly. Jope and Giacomo would then charge in, Rainen and Rainor from a bit further back. And then – well, it’s pointless planning any further than that.

Part 1 went well. We sauntered up and did a Stone Shape while Jope and Giacomo stood in plain view but out of bowshot to distract the attention of the drow. A second Stone Shape in, and still the wall was not breached all the way though. But only an inch or so remained. Ovthen began shoulder-charging the wall, but muffed it completely. So I signaled for Jope, hoping that he would get the job done. Well: he muffed it too. Eventually I dropped a Shatter on the rock, opening a crack which the boys were able to widen.

Everyone was rolling 4s or the break check.

Now … we had discussed tactics prior, and I had argued that we should not put a Spell Resistance on everyone straight away, as who knows how long it would take for us to find the central citadel and whatever matron might be in charge of it. Well, I couldn’t have been much more wrong if I had fallen out of the sky and into a “being wrong” tree, hitting each branch on the way through. Of course the drow were ready for us and expecting our attack. Of course they had prepared the spells they would need to deal with an adventuring party.

(One thing we were right about was not flying in. The air defenses were – stunning. Those spiderwebs? Some were illusionary, some were invisible and most definitely not illusiory, some were positively thrumming with evocation, necromancy, and gods knows what else. There were air-pathways through, but you would have to know exactly where to fly.)

Within a few moments, Ovthen and Rainen were Confused and we were dealing with a pack of summoned spiders – a couple of swarms, a couple of elf-sized ones, and two huge ones. I moved around behind the melee and spotted dome drow fighters taking their time to enter the fray. A little more and I saw our main enemy – a drider and priest hanging upside-down in the central tower.

But while I was doing this, things just went from bad to worse. People were being poisoned, our priest was confused, and Giacomo – poor little scalyskin – was simply cut in half by a deadly competent drow fighter. I dropped a Dispel Magic on the Confusion, and that got the priest back in the battle. I had prepared three of them – having enough Dispel Magic prepared is a mage’s second job (the first is having a Feather Fall prepared at all times). But before I could fix Rainen, he was dropped to unconsciousness.

Anyway, Jope was screaming blue murder and ordering me to shoot something, so I wasted precious seconds to cast Blur and shoot something. I missed, of course. So wasted more seconds casting Improved Invisibility and moved in to shoot the priestess and/or her drider. But – I admit it – I’m just not a good enough shot to get past drow armour. Worse, one of them saw where the shot came from and caught me with a Faerie Fire.

Switch relies on ranged-touch spells: Scorching Ray etc. With sneak attack, that’s 8d6 damage from a second-level spell. With her Sniper Goggles, it’s 8d6+16. But with a regular weapon, she just does not have the BAB to keep up. If she’d had a few Orb of … prepared, she might have acted differently. But drow spell resistance makes Scorching Ray just far too iffy.

Now … please don’t let me give you the impression that everyone else was idle. While I was bumbling about casting self-buffs and missing with my bow, Duke Jope was mowing down spiders and drow left and right. Ovthen was busy keeping people alive, and Rainor had done the same as me – but without the benefit of Invisibility circled around and approached the tower. Needless to say, he was pincushioned by the drider.

With Rainor down, and myself outlined with Faerie Fire, I ran over to Rainor and Dimension Door-ed us the hell out of there and next to Ovthen. Then I ran outside to deal with that Faerie Fire. I had a scroll of Dust of Twilight, but it causes fatigue and I didn’t want allies caught in the burst.

Anyway. When I came back in the drow were fleeing – the summoned spiders had returned to wherever it is that summoned creatures come from. Back at the central tower, the drider and rider were gone. They were simply abandoning their position. Chalk it up as a victory, if you like, but if they had continued the assault, they would have had us.

DM fiat, of course. The drow were just a shade more than we could handle – perhaps even if we hadn’t screwed the pooch with respect to tactics.

On a different note, we need to just accept that Switch isn’t that useful in combat – particularly against armoured drow – and let it go. The two useful things she did do: getting the Confusion off Ovthen and getting Rainor back to the cleric, were useful enough, I think.

Well, despite all the “freedom and sunlight”, a lot of the Kobolds – perhaps most of them – are content to stay here. Can’t blame them: particularly not their den mother. Better to rule in a pit at the bottom of a mountain than be a servant on the surface, I suppose. Particularly if you are born able to see in the dark. But many of the kobolds are indeed coming with us. And we will most certainly expand the duchy in this direction and annexe a rather nice mithril mine.

As for me: I desperately long to see colours again. Those few moments of winterscape on a mountaintop were not enough, welcome as it was to see the sky. I imagine that Jope and Rainor feel the same: I have been casting Darkvision for them every day for nearly a month now (perhaps longer), and I am certain they are heartily sick of it – even if grateful for it. The fact that it runs out every day and gives them 6 hours of absolute pitch dark perhaps reminds them that it could be worse, but also reminds them just how much they are depending on their caster. Not an easy thing for men of action like these.

(You know: seeing blood in shades of grey takes much of the horror out of death. Perhaps that’s why the drow are so savage. If they saw it run red, maybe their society would be a little different.)

Be that as it may: I’m spending a fortnight in the forest, and then a month or two replacing all the scrolls that I have used. I’ll also be sending away for some copies of certain spells that I absolutely should have had. I’d like to do up a wand or two too – a basic lesser orb spell is very effective if you know just where to aim it, has good range, and is relatively cheap. Unlike most, I don’t need to drop Fireballs or Flame Strikes to be effective.

Assuming the duchy is all right, of course. Which it won’t be.

RIP Giacomo

Songwriter and poet. Stalwart companion. Liberator of Brightflame tribe.


We shall all remember you.

Kingmaker – solving all our problems with magic, pt 2

27 August, 2011

A heist! A heist! Again I enter where and when they expect not, and take as I please. Preparation and planning, watching and waiting. Peril all around. Then swift entry and safe exit. Well done, verdant-daughter. This too, I shall remember.


Well, there was not much more up here. That light we saw is simply a cave opening, which afforded us a breathtaking panorama of the mountains. Beautiful, but not very useful. We headed back downstairs. A day or so later, we approached the foot of them. There were guards at the bottom, but we avoided them.

I forget how. It was a fairly long session.

On the way down, we had discussed tactics. All we could really do was raid the goblin armoury (we simply presumed they had one), hand out the weapons, and either attack above or set up some traps in the kobold tunnels. There’s no doubt that the goblins would be attacking within hours – as soon as someone worked out that the armoury had been looted. (The tunnels also had the benefit that the drow would find them awkward).

That left the question: where was this armoury, and how were we to loot it?

Poor Dave! I rather suspect he had it all worked out, stealthing into the goblin camp, disguising ourselves, finding where they reported to, somehow getting large numbers of weapons out. Risky, risky, risky. And that’s just not how this party rolls.

Well, presuming that the (or at least “a”) armoury was in goblin-town, the layer below that is riddled with kobold tunnels. Finding an armoury was a matter of dowsing the location with a Locate Object spell: I was looking for a large weapon rack holding a number of small sized weapons. We chalked a mark on the ceiling directly below, and I triangulated: the rack was about 30′ up.

Locate Object: You sense the direction of a well-known or clearly visualized object. You can search for general items, in which case you locate the nearest of its kind if more than one is within range.

Then Improved Invisibility, Dimension Door 30′ up, and Dimension Door 30′ back down. I always prepare two, you know, for precisely the reason that it’s wise to be able to get back out again. Well, I teleported in right on top of the weapons rack – stupid of me. But, no disaster ensued. The armoury had patrols outside and a couple of windows, but no-one inside. Couldn’t be more perfect … well, except for those pesky windows. Drat. And, of course, 30′ of stone.

Ovthen and I put our heads together. A dwarven druid, of course, can cast Stone Shape. Ovthen can prepare four of them if he goes all out. It took a moment to convince him to not even have one Flame Strike ready to go. But, if our mission was to get the weapons, then it was going to be necessary.

The plan was: I would Dimension Door Ovthen, myself, and as many Kobolds as I could take up into the armoury. I would then do a Major Image to cover what was going on inside. Ovthen would Stone Shape a tunnel down to the corridor below with a bit of a slope on it so we were not simply dropping the weapons, and so that more kobolds could climb up to help loot (we wouldn’t bother with a tunnel that would accommodate the big folk). Finally, he would use my metamagic rod and extend a Silence spell – he had three prepared. That would give us an hour. At that point he and the kobolds would empty the armoury. Finally, he would Stone Shape the floor closed and we would Dimension Door out.

Ovthen prepared 4 castings. One was to seal the hole when we were done, leaving 1 casting per 10′ of stone. A 10th level cleric can stone shape 20 cubic feet. So we are talking a tunnel 2ft by 1 ft, or 1.5 ft diameter (roughly). Enough for a kobold to shimmy up, and for small-sized weaponry and armour to be put down.

Meanwhile, the other kobolds would be trapping their tunnels in preparation for the goblin attack, and Duke Jope and General Rainor would be doing whatever it is that military commanders do (I don’t really have more detail than that). When the Goblins attacked, well, it would rather be up to the kobolds at that point.

As to the Drow: that would probably be our job.

And so Jope presented that plan to the council. Not much of a plan, really. I played a part – discussing drow tactics briefly. It seems that some of those dull history lessons stuck. Our old family friend had a point or two to contribute, as well. Unfortunately, His Lordship badly, badly – shockingly badly blundered at one point. He doesn’t know draconic nearly as well as he thinks he does, you know. We would get no help from the master of mines, but everyone else was on-side.

But, the smith was keen to get some decent weapons, and had some burly (for kobolds!) lads. With 3:1 approval from her advisors, the cheiftainess approved the plan.

Our side of it (Ovthen and I) went – really rather well. We decided not to cast the Silence first, because you can mispronounce spells that way and it was simply crucial that these spells go off as planned. Ovthen was clanky and noisy. He should have taken off his armour, but try telling a dwarf that (in fairness, we may very well have needed to gakk a goblin or two who came to get weapons). But I had my illusion up first. I think at least one goblin outside might have heard something, but I fooled him. And then – and then I had to maintain an illusion of an uninhabited but full armoury for an hour. It was … well, just you try it. An armoury which as you try to maintain that static illusion is being emptied and has kobolds running about the shop. I faltered about three quarts of an hour in – which frankly is not bad going. I did have another Major Illusion good to go so took a deep breath and cast it.

In the end, it all worked exactly as planned. Ovthen sealed the escape chute, and we got out. 30′ below, the kobolds were carrying away the last of the weapons and we followed them back. I think our friend rather enjoyed being part of a heist again. It’s a good idea to keep him sweet, you know. Nothing worse than when companions get crotchety.

The more I think about how we handled it, the more I like it. This is absolutely how an Arcane Trickster handles a big job like knocking over a vault. You are a goblin on guard duty. Boring, boring, boring. Just at the end of your watch you check the armoury one more time, and everything is gone, just plain gone, cleaned out, and not a clue as to where it went or how. That’s precisely what happens when you get rolled by an Arcane Trickster.

The battle was … a battle. The kobolds were victorious (thank Desna) but took very heavy losses. Not one in four survived. At the end, I don’t know that their new weapons and armour did them much good – it was mainly weight of numbers (more slaves than overseers).

Dave used the mass combat rules, which I think was one of the aims of the exercise. Andrew rolled for the kobolds, of course. I think he managed three 4’s out of maybe eight rolls. The battle did not go terribly well. Dave divided the army into “kobolds with gear” and “kobolds without gear”. The kobolds with gear were defeated – but it was mainly they who the goblins were attacking.

Heaps easier than attempting to use minis. We didn’t break out the minis all night, actually.

Anyway. One or two drow were overwhelemed in the battle, but there are something like a few dozen in the fortress which – I might add – is not built on top of kobold tunnels. I confess I am afraid. I will have to rely on my bow more than on my magic, I suspect, as I cannot match them spell for spell.

The next part is ours, and it may be the harder part.

Your sister,


22 August, 2011

Back to Kingmaker. Yay! We finished up last session before Dave went away with a cliffhanger.


Well, it has all turned out all right in the end. We solved all of our problems with magic, which is as it should be.

Rainor and Rainen responded to the Farie Fire spell by dropping down into the chasm. The goblins were sweeping the south border of the chasm, so I cast invisibility and extended it with my rod (I am using it to extend the darkvision spells for His Lordship and Rainor, but that leaves one zap free per day). After a bit, Rainor and Rainen came up from the cavern. Curious, because Farie Fire usually lasts for longer than that.

Anyway. I signalled them with Dancing Lights so that I could keep my invisibility. This attracted attention, of course, but (with the help of an old family friend) I had some in reserve and so cast invisibility on them both. No diving headlong into that chasm for me! We decided that rather than go to join His Lordship, we would go to the great stairs in the west and wait there. I’m not entirely sure why we decided that, but it worked out quite well.

We totally metagamed. There was stuff going on with Jope, and the party was going to have to get out and escape up the stairs. I might let Giacomo tell that story.

As it was, we arrived at the foot of the stairs. We sent back Rainen alone to pick up His Lordship, Giacomo, and Ovthen. I gave him a scroll of Reduce Person for Ovthen (hoping Giacomo would be able to cast it – it’s a simple spell really), but it was still going to be quite a load, and he was beginning to sound a little puffed. So I used a scroll of Bear’s Endurance as well to give him a bit of a lift. A clerical Restoration would have been better, but we do what we can. I must say – just as soon as we get home, I am going to shut myself in for a month and scribe scrolls day and night. Maybe a wand or two, too – my wand of Grease is just about done.

Anyway, Rainen returned with His Lordship, a kobold, and a shrunken dwarf – all four little the worse for wear. Then we began to climb the stairs.

Then strode forth Jope, hero hewn mighty ‘neath stone-roofed lightless cavern, thrall home and prison both and to kobolds made known hope of freedom, he bringer of war and true drow foe, with immortal words “They may take out lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!”. Right quickly they bore him to council grave, where within their hearts did hope and fear make battle. Though plans be set on the morrow sooner yet would foul goblin, drow-thall and kobold-bane search kobold home from east to west. So Jope did remove himself to make ready, faithful sky-wolf reuniting him with his companions, they to ascend dragon-stairs to conceal themselves for a time.
As always, Giacomo puts a slightly brighter gloss on events than strict accuracy would suggest. But Andrew’s speech – shamelessly ripped off Braveheart – cut short negotiations with the kobolds.

The council are another matter. Each member wants a shrubbery of one sort or another – each is worried about some aspect of this proposed uprising. The hatchery-mistress wants a better future for the kobolds, so that’s sorted. The smith/armsmaster wants to know where the kobolds will get their weapons from. The planner/workmaster dude needs to be convinced that we have some sort of workable plan. Hmm – tricky.

But, if Andrew wants his mini-artifact from the DM – he’ll have to come up with something It’s his mini-quest, after all. Go Andrew! We are all right behind you.

To continue:

Oh – the stairs. As you know, kobolds usually have a dragon cult of one kind or another. The stairs follow a dragon-sized shaft that goes right to the top of the mountain. Apparently their private god is long dead although he still guides them spiritually. Bless! Anyway. “Up” is as good as “away”, which is where we needed to be. And so we began climbing.

Of course, we were followed. A party of goblins, to be exact. The stairs had periodic platforms, about two hours climbing apart. These platforms service some quite old (and non-drow) machinery. An elevator system of some kind. I should make some drawings, come to think of it. In any event, once we were well above the cavern floor we laid an ambush for the goblins.

Which I totally ruined. I jumped out early and hit them with a spell that I have been wanting to try for a while (Dust of Darkness), which accomplished very little. The party attacked, and we did rather a dreadful job of cleaning up some goblins. But any fight you walk away from is a victory.

Essentially, we had forgotten how to play these characters. Switch should have cast her buffs – Blur in particular – before combat. Rainor was tanking it at the back to prevent their escape … which is not really what we pay him to do. Andrew forgot about his ring of free action and could have just walked through the greasy stairs. Etc. A two-month break will do that to you.

After the immediate problem was dealt with, we still had a mile or so of stairs to contend with. It was going to take a week to get up and back, which frankly is way too much like work for us. We discussed our options. At the end, we came up with something that could work. I would summon some riding horses with Mount, and Ovthen would enchant them with a rather nice clerical spell he called Air Walk. Ovthen’s spell would permit the mounts to simply walk up the stairs (not normally the sort of thing a horse enjoys). It might take a while, but it would be a hell of a lot quicker than doing it the hard way.

And so that’s what we did.

And our DM threw his hands up and said “Ok, it’s magic.” That’s kinda the game, after all. We turned a week-long climb of immense religious significance to the local kobolds, a trial of endurance, into a day trip.

DM-ming is like life: just as the imaginary conversations you have with people never actually turn out that way, the players always find something you didn’t think of (and ignore your most obvious hooks). The DM’s problem is that the players know their characters far better than you do. But then again: the whole point is that it’s collaborative fiction. The unexpected things that the other participants do is what it’s all about.

Another thought is that although “we solved our problems with magic”: it’s no more than what real-life technology does for us all, every day. I routinely do speeds on my scooter matched only in nature by a running cheetah or swooping hawk for minutes at a time. It’s magic.

Enough philosophising!

Getting down? Well: I do know Feather Fall, and we do have this dragon-sized vertical drop. We would have to free-fall for a while, is all. We’d need to judge it just right. I think it might be safer to build sleds and sled down the stairs, or just to go down the way we came up. Hmm – I wonder if I could adapt the Grease spell to be longer-lasting? You’d have to apply the material component directly to the object at hand, rather than conjuring it from a distance, perhaps use wax rather than butter … but it would be do-able. The key part of the spell would be

We don’t have a font for discussing the ins-and-outs of pathfinder spellcraft on wordpress, sad to say. Switch’s digression on the Grease spell gets a little technical and involves diagrams not reproducible here.

Anyway. Getting back to the story. It started to get seriously chilly as we approached the top of the stairs – no doubt at the summmit of a mountain. I crafted a wand of Endure Elements a while ago. It’s a simple spell (a basic abjuration), but when you need it, you need a lot of ’em. So a wand was the way to go (not to self: must do up a wand of Resist Energy). With that and a round “Coises! Foiled again!” from the DM, gallivanting about on mile-high mountain-tops becomes a rather different affair.

Which is where we eventually emerged.

A mile-high mountaintop plateau with an obvious dragon-cave. We had rested the night two-hours below (at the penultimate elevator-stop) and prepared for a dragon encounter. Essentially, the three of us who cast prepared some Resist Energy spells. Venturing into the cave, we encountered a dragon skeleton! But it was quite non magical and very dead. Encased in ice – a silver dragon if I am not mistaken. Interesting.

The chamber had been quite thoroughly looted, and there was old evidence of a dragon fight. No great mystery there, although one does wonder who the winner was. Behind that chamber was another chamber with some sort of mosaic. All covered in ice of course. We took quite a bit of care and spent an hour or three uncovering it. It depicted a landscape – quite clearly the mountain range we are in. And a temple of some sort with a horde of refugees heading to it. Rainor was quite taken with this. I believe he believes that that temple might be “Cloudarc Monastery”, or some such – something of interest to mystics like that monk on the island (and, I suppose, himself). I was rather interested in it from the point of view of convincing the Kobolds that there was sanctuary close by to which they cold escape.

In any event. There’s more of this complex to explore yet. If it takes the rest of the day, I can do a Tiny Hut for us to camp in.

The fabled Cloudarc (or arch) Monastery! Nothing yet for us to report back to the kobolds … but then again, we are not trying to get them to revolt in order to serve some other purpose, but because we actually are trying to free them. So it’s not a matter of tricking them into thinking we have a plan – we actually have to have one.

Fun times!

Next week – what’s in that chamber a little bit own from where we are?