Thelsikar’s Ambition: The Hills Have Ettins

The Hills Have Ettins is the second to the last adventure in the Thelsikar’s Ambition campaign arc.  As such, I wanted it to have a strong climax and wrap up a storyline which started with the first adventure, the presence of Black Fang in the Sandpoint Hinterlands.

Here are the notes I have so far:

It’s a wilderness adventure, with set-piece areas instead of rooms.  It’s inspired in part by “Fortress of the Stone Giants”, part of Rise of the Runelords.   I’m thinking a pack of Goblins with class levels, a band of Orc mercenaries from Urglin with class levels, a patrol of Red Raider Hobgoblin mercenary veterans for the Easy encounters.  For the Average encounters, three families of Kreeg Ogre Degenerates with class levels (see Classic Monsters Revisited in the Ogre chapter) and a Camouflaged Spiked Pit Trap (CR 8).  For the Challenging encounters, a mated pair of Rocs (with nest nearby, one at a time,3-5 eggs for treasure) and an Air Elemental (Greater) summoned by Thelsikar (Summon Monster VII).  For the boss encounter, Black Fang (Young Adult Advanced Black Dragon).

If they try to push on into the mountains after defeating Black Fang, they’re getting into Giant territory.  There is a group of three Stone Giants allied with Thelsikar ready for them.  This is CR 11.  They had better be prepared or better be ready to run.  The kid gloves are coming off for my adventure design.  They had better learn about the area they’re adventuring in before going in.

*- All creatures allied with Thelsikar wear a badge with the Lamashtu demonic rune on it.  The exception is the Red Raider Hobgoblins who wear red armor and Orc mercenaries from Urglin.  They are Black Sun tribe and wear armor with an eclipsed sun painted on it.  They are based in Urglin.

The adventure is set in the Fogscar Mountains north of Sandpoint.  It starts with news of a coming raid by a Goblin tribe on Galduria, Erevel’s small town.  Some members of the faculty of the Twilight Academy have scried it and sent a message to their former student.  That’s the pack of Goblins I first described.  They are the remnants of the Thistletop Goblins.

The player characters did not engage the Thistletop Goblins since I didn’t use that part of Burnt Offerings from Rise of the Runelords for inspiration.  Instead, an insane Nualia screwed up the ritual she was performing and was unable to release the Barghest trapped under Thistletop.  The magical backlash damaged the chapel to Lamashtu and killed most of the Thistletop Goblins.  Nualia booked it for Magnimar, where the  Skinsaw Cultists took her in.  This will allow me to use material from The Skinsaw Murders should the player characters go looking for Nualia in Magnimar.  The Skinsaw Cultists are in alliance of convenience with Thelsikar’s Cult.  *spoiler*  Instead of being loyal to Karzoug, Xanesha is one of Thelsikar’s growing cadre of lieutenants.

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Thelsikar’s Ambition: Scrags from the Sea

This post is about the next adventure in the Thelsikar’s Ambition campaign arc.  I got a request from one of the players to do an adventure based on an island off the coast of Sandpoint called Grubber’s Hermitage.  It’s an isolated, insular fishing village, so it gave me a Stephen King-style horror vibe.  The opening of the adventure is a single-encounter sea voyage.  I didn’t want the adventuring party to bog down on getting there.  I wanted them to get to the cool adventure setting quickly.  It’s my first real attempt at outlining an urban adventure.  I’m using a simplified template, with buildings instead of rooms for adventure locations.

There are two Major Downtime events before the actual plot gets rolling.  In one, I decided to try to role-play a damsel-in-distress of sorts.  I had been told at a game store I went to in the Nineties that I didn’t know how to role-play female characters.  My problem was that I saw characters as characters, first, their gender second.  *meh*  And the second event is a tie-in to the city of Magnimar, with a reference to the activities of one of the NPCs there, Harpy.  I want to use more Magnimar setting material, so I’m weaving it into my adventure outlines.

As part of the plot, I have a random wilderness road encounter table in case the player characters want to travel to Magnimar.  That’s a new element for me.

When the players follow the adventure plot hook and I doubt they’ll avoid it, they will have a patron for this adventure.  He’s a cleric of Abadar I created to help facilitate Magnimar and Sandpoint region plot lines.  He’s willing to cover the expenses for traveling to and from the island by ship as well as hiring four porters to haul any loot they find.  I don’t think mules take sea voyages if they can help it.

Here’s the description of Grubber’s Hermitage as it is approached by boat:

The player characters will probably approach the island by rowboat from the cutter.  The fishing village on Grubber’s Hermitage is a small, sullen gray village squatting on the shore of the island.  In between the various buildings are three small, mean hovels which are so pathetic there is nothing interesting about them.  There are clouds of scavenger birds flying above the island.  They have no game effect.   They are a manifestation of Gozreh’s wrath at the destruction on the island.  Other than their cries and the flapping of their wings, the island is eerily quiet.

There is a broken-down dock which is barely functional.  A rowboat could be tied to it.  It leads to the shore.

From there, I describe the various non-housing building in the village.  So far, each one is teeming with an angry aquatic Troll, a Scrag.  The back story is that Thelsikar, in one of his bonkers schemes to take over Varisia, made contact with a family of Scrags and convinced them to invade the island.  That’s right.  What does Thelsikar do every night?  The same thing he does every night, Pinky.  Try to take over the world!

The climax of the adventure is a boss fight with a shape-changed Ogre Mage that had conned the Scrags into believing that it was a grossly powerful Scrag who would lead them to more food and more loot.  Just the kind of dirt-bag who’d be willing to cut a deal with a happy little maniac like Thelsikar.

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Thelsikar’s Ambition: Black Dragons

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I made a slight mistake when I created Black Fang’s background for my campaign.  I didn’t know as much about Varisia as I do now.  I placed Black Fang’s mother in the Mushfens, thinking it’d be a good place because it’s a massive swamp.  I didn’t learn until recently from the Pathfinder Wiki that Black Dragons avoid the Mushfens because of their enslavement by the empire of Thassilon.

Oops.

Then again, she’s an 801 year old Ancient Black Dragon.  How does that joke go?  She lives anywhere she wants to.  🙂

Placing her there is also an experiment for me.  Before I did that, many of the encounters I’ve written were Easy for the party’s APL, because I was getting the hang of challenging them without killing characters off.  This time the encounter is far above their APL.  Their current APL is 6.  She’s CR 16.  It is possible to find out about her through the appropriate Knowledge skill rolls.  If they try to go after her with their current strength, they’ll get curb-stomped.  This is a callback to the early days of First Edition AD & D, where a Wilderness encounter could be too tough for a party and they had better learn to run.

My players have been good about not treating every encounter as a combat encounter.  They have been willing to talk to creatures whose presence was non-hostile.  I don’t think Black Fang’s mother would be considered non-hostile.  They might be able to talk their way out of an encounter with her, but I don’t know what would happen until the encounter actually takes place.

Image Via publicdomainpictures.net

Image Credit:  Piotr Siedlecki

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