Welcome to another installment of “Let’s Read Hell’s Rebels!” You can find links to the whole series in its project page. This time we’ll go through Part 2 of its first adventure. It’s titled “Rebuilding the Ravens”.
“Adventure Path” style modules have a reputation for being extremely railroady. Part 1 certainly lives up to that, since it consists of a series of tightly scripted scenes and two back-to-back dungeons where the PCs have no real alternative other than delve right in.
In Part 2, however, we leave the rails behind for a bit! It starts by stating that the PCs plus Rexus and Laria are the group best-positioned to offer organized opposition to Barzilai Thrune in the whole of Kintargo. It goes to show how thorough the guy was in killing everyone else, I guess, since right now our heroes have a snowball’s chance in Hell of taking him down. Before they can have a shot at The Barzilai, they need to expand the newborn Silver Ravens into a proper rebel army and consolidate support for their position.
The PCs are expected to engage with the custom rebellion rules at this point, which means this part of the adventure will play out over multiple weeks of game time and will largely consist of PC-initiated actions and their consequences as they focus on recruiting agents and gaining supporters. The book lists several special events and missions that will happen or become available while the PCs do this. By the end of the first adventure, the Silver Ravens should become a substantial movement with broad support among the oppressed of Kintargo, and should be ready to move out of Laria’s basement and into a more permanent base.
A Spy Among Us
The events mostly concern Blosodriette, the imp the party has unwittingly brought from the Fair Fortune Livery along with the documents they recovered there. She will hang around the hideout either invisible or transformed into a rat or spider. Her goal is to be set free without being banished back to Hell, and she begins sabotaging the rebels in an attempt to either convince the PCs to let her go or to attract attention from outside allies who can free her.
The GM is free to come up with clues and setbacks caused by the imp. Events in the book go from structural sabotage to mind-controlling an otherwise innocent NPC into betraying the group to the dottari. The PCs can thwart her in several ways: finding the contract and ripping it up will send the imp back to Hell, as will spotting the invisible devil and defeating her in combat. If a PC happens to belong to the Sarini noble lineage, they can actually command Blosodriette and turn her to their service, since the contract binds her to that lineage.
It’s probably best if these events are interspersed with the special missions the book describes later, and/or with the normal turns of the rebellion management mini-game. Solving each one gives the party a XP award, as does defeating the imp. Of course, the party might end up finding the imp quite soon, and all of this will be moot if they already dealt with her back at the Livery. Defeating the devil early awards the party XP for any events that hadn’t occurred yet; the party was successful in preventing them, after all.
There’s another unrelated event here that provides a bit of foreshadowing about the Rose of Kintargo, an NPC who appears in the second adventure. Foreshadowing is all this is, but I suppose it’s possible for a frustrated party to link this to the imp’s sabotage instead. It’s something to watch out for.
Blosodriette should be built as a Wizard with the Shapeshifting, Suggestion and False Memory spells, plus any pre-requisites and other spells the GM deems suitably annoying (like summoning swarms of rats). In her natural form, she’s SM -3. Her advantages include Flight (Winged) and switchable Invisibility as an advantage rather than as a spell, since she can keep it up for a very long time. Her disadvantages include Sadism and an Obsession with being freed from her contract, as well as any vulnerabilities common to demons and devils in your game.
These are “special missions” which occur outside the rebellion management rules. They’re numbered, but can happen in any order as decided by the PCs.
Mission 1: Decode the Documents
Decoding the documents requires skills with Linguistics and fluency in Celestial, Elven and Strix. Rexus has all of this and will take 7 weeks to do the job by himself, but PCs who also meet the prerequisites can try to help shorten this time. Finishing the job in 4 weeks or less is worth bonus XP, and regardless of the time it takes the party will get a permanent bonus to all Silver Raven organization stats from the tactical information contained in there. They’ll also learn a lot about the history of the original group.
Since this is a long-running thing, the PCs can obviously engage in other activities or missions while it goes on.
Mission 2: Investigate the Fires
A lot of places connected to dissident characters and organizations burned down in the Night of Ashes, and the PCs can look into those fires if they are so inclined. The only site that will yield something of value are the ruins of the Silver Star, Shensen’s shop, which has a hidden stash of potions and scrolls which wasn’t damaged by the fire. More substantial clues as to what happened at these locations will be found elsewhere.
Mission 3: Prisoners of Salt
Freeing the high-profile prisoners from Kintargo Castle might be more than what the group can handle at this point, but that’s not the only place where prisoners are being held. A group of rogues and mercenaries friendly to Laria is being held prisoner at the Salix Salt Works, and they would make a good addition to the Silver Ravens. They’re guarded by a group of thugs hired by Thrune.
The book provides a keyed map of the area, but this will be mostly just a big brawl. There’s a total of eight CCG Thugs led by a dwarf fighter named Kessrin, but only half of the group is on guard duty at any one time, with the other half asleep in an outbuilding. Our hypothetical party should have no trouble at all moping the floor with these doofuses, particularly if they strike at night. Rescuing the prisoners allows the PCs to recruit them to the Ravens.
We already discussed the CCG Thugs in Part 1. Kessrin should be built as a well-armored dwarf Squire with a few extra points of ST, Overconfidence, and the Throwing skill. He wields a mace and shield, and has a couple of alchemical grenades. The original uses Tanglefoot Bags, but the GM might want to employ something more devious like poisons or sleep potions.
Mission 4: Murders In the Nursery
Remember how I talked about Golarion having more horror elements than your typical D&D setting? We’ll get to see some of them here.
You see, tieflings face a lot of racial prejudice in Cheliax, even in Kintargo. I find this a bit surprising in a nation that generally considers everything devil-related to be just swell. Perhaps the justification for this is in a setting book I don’t have. Most of Kintargo’s tieflings live in a decrepit slum nicknamed “The Devil’s Nursery”, and the harassment they face when they try to move out makes it very difficult for them to do so.
Thrune made their lives even worse by not only imprisoning the most effective advocate for their civil rights during the Night of Ashes, but having a witch in his employ conduct an horrific ritual in the Nursery that summoned a pack of eight tooth fairies (the Hellboy kind, not the children’s story kind). The fey roam around the slums every few days, killing people and taking their teeth. It’s causing a panic that may erupt into a riot if nothing is done about it. If the PCs help here, they’ll earn many supporters from among Kintargo’s downtrodden.
This mission is a meaty investigative scenario - all the PCs know at the start is that people are getting killed in the slums. This might require interviewing reluctant witnesses, examining a body before the locals can cremate it, or even having one of the PCs act as bait for the killers by wandering the streets alone at night.
The fairies fight to the death once they’re cornered in their lair, which is also where the PCs can find the remains of the ritual that summoned the fairies here, which include the body of a child. Treating it with respect and solving the case earns them extra supporters in the coming weeks.
A GM who wants to really focus on the investigation here might break out the rules from GURPS Monster Hunters, which cover the “identify the monster and find it” part pretty well. Social skills would be useful for interviewing witnesses, Diagnosis for examining the bodies, and Hidden Lore (Faeries) to idenfity the culprits and their weaknesses.
Pathfinder Tooth Fairies are pixy-sized fey (SM -6) who wield magical pliers that attack like SM 0 magical knives and give them the ability to pull out someone’s teeth mid-fight. They also have a paralytic bite, and explode into nauseating glitter when they die. The eight fairies in this encounter can give a party who relies exclusively on physical attacks some unexpected trouble!
As for our party, this would mostly be Lem’s and Meririel’s show until they managed to confront the fairies, in my estimation. Fighting them might be tricky unless Lem can get off a Mass Daze or Mass Sleep spell, or Kyra can set them on fire.
Mission 5: Crackdown at Clenchjaw’s
Clenchjaw’s was a fairly unremarkable bar until recently. Now it’s becoming a hotbed of anti-government sentment as well as the stage for huge, nightly brawls. Its owner used to keep a lid on this stuff, but he’s been passing out early each night for some weird reason. PCs can get involved here while looking for recruits.
PCs who look hang around the bar long enough will eventually find out the cause of the increased chaos is Vendalfek, a fairy dragon! He moved here after the other bar he lived in was burned in the Night of Ashes, and has been using his illusion powers to make Clenchjaw’s rowdier to stave off his boredom. This in turn attracted more dissidents to the place.
Vendalfek can be convinced to stop his shenanigans peacefully, and some skilled diplomacy might convince him to join the rebellion as a special ally. Outright invinting him to live on their base will have the same result. Failing to resolve the situation will eventually cause the bar to be raided, which will cost the Ravens some supporters.
Vendalfek should be based on the Shoulder Dragon template on p. 27 of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 5: Allies, with the addition of some spellcasting ability focused on illusion. He makes a good spy, being basically a less powerful but also less ethically questionable version of Blosodriette the imp.
Mission 6: An Unsanctioned Excruciation
This section goes on a bit about “excruciations”, which are public torture and humilation sessions the Chelish government likes to punish its dissidents and criminals with. Barzilai’s preferred method is “doghousing”, in which the victim is forced to share a space with two large angry dogs for days and choose between fighting them for food or starving. No official excruciations are scheduled during this adventure, but the ever punchable members of the Chelish Citizen’s Group have decided to perform a few of their own.
This is an event that should happen once the Silver Ravens have gained a fair bit of notoriety. The CCG captures a friendly NPC who isn’t a member of the Ravens, perhaps someone who helped the PCs during Mission 4 or 5, and stages a doghousing in Aria Park. The PCs should get wind of this fairly quickly once it happens, since it’s not exactly a discreet event. It’s up to them whether and when to stage a rescue, but waiting too long will obviously prove lethal for the victim.
Fighting the four CCG thugs and their two big angry dogs would be a literal walk in the part for our brave delvers. Doing so in a public fashion increases the Ravens’ notoriety, but I personally think it’s worth it. The dottari show up a few minutes after a fight breaks out, but by them the party will be long gone.
Mission 7: Threat of the Red Jills
The Red Jills are a small but violent gang of thieves who are taking advantage of the current chaos to prey on the citizens of Kintargo. They leave the dottari and the CCG alone, so Thrune lets them keep operating to keep the population afraid. As such, making them stop will benefit the Ravens.
Recruiting the Jills as allies isn’t possible: they’re led by Scarplume, a strix with a particularly fierce hatred of humans. Tracking the Jills down to their abandoned orphanage hideout will lead to a big fight.
Once again the investigation rules from Action or Monster Hunters would do a good job here! Streetwise and Area Knowledge (Kintargo) would be particularly important for finding the hideout.
Strix are winged humanoids, and their stats should be basically like a human’s aside from the Flight (Winged) advantage. Scarplume is a sorcerer whose spell list can be summed up as “All The Fire”, which means she can be statted up as either a Fire Elementalist or a DF Sorcerer with lots of burning Innate Attacks. She has Intolerance (Humans) and a host of other sociopathic disadvantages. The rest of the Jills should be built using the Cutpurse or Skirmisher templates from DF 15, and should all be non-human.
That’s it for part 2 of the book! Part 3 contains a substantial dungeon delve, but doesn’t necessarily happen after all of the events here: the timing for that is entirely up to the PCs, so they might end up having to deal with the stuff here even into the second adventure.