It’s been a while since my last post on the Let’s Read Hell’s Rebels series, but the good thing about maintaining my own site is that there are no externally-imposed deadlines and a project is only over when I say it’s over! So let’s keep going!
“Turn of the Torrent” is the second adventure in the path. It expects Pathfinder characters to be 4th level when they start it, and 7th when they finish it. Since I imagine a starting Dungeon Fantasy delver is equal to a 7th level d20 character, the challenges here should still be well within the capabilities of any party that went through Adventure One.
A small recap
As always, check out the project page for links to the previous installments, but let’s summarize what happened so far. It has been 18 months, after all.
The Hell’s Rebels campaign takes place in the city of Kintargo, located in the devil-worshipping fascist nation of Cheliax. The official line is that they’re only “taking inspiration” from the extremely organized nature of the Nine Hells1, but everyone knows the truth. Kintargo in particular has always been particularly ornery about all this, having only been annexed after a long and bitter struggle. Leading that struggle were the Silver Ravens, a group of rebels who have achieved a sort of semi-legendary status in the mind of the citizens of present-day Kintargo.
Our main villain is a man named Barzilai Thrune, a narcissistic sociopath who delights in grandstanding, engendering acts of large-scale performative cruelty against minorities, and surrounding himself with equally despicable lackeys2. He found out Kintargo is an auspicious site for a ritual that could turn him into a minor god, and got himself appointed Lord Mayor of the city. After having anyone who could oppose him killed, he’s been amusing himself by making ever more absurd proclamations and otherwise oppressing his constituency. All of them will die when the ritual is done, so why worry?
The PCs get caught up in all of this and by the end of Adventure One find themselves leading the group that has the best chance of freeing Kintargo from Thrune’s grasp: the reborn Silver Ravens. In fact, they’re now big enough that their current coffee-house-basement hideout is getting a bit cramped.
Proclamation The Ninth
The adventure kicks off with Barzilai’s Ninth proclamation, which targets the Hellknight Order of the Torrent. All their assets are confiscated and their members declared outlaws. Anyone caught harboring one of them will be similarly declared a criminal.
The Hellknight orders are kinda like elite law-enforcement agencies associated with the government of Cheliax. Most Hellknights are as evil as the name implies, but until recently there was one notable exception.
The Order of the Torrent was a search-and-rescue unit based out of Kintargo, and was the only one composed mostly of Lawful Good folks. Predictably, it was also by far the smallest and less politically influent of the orders, with only 23 members total. Barzilai targets them here because he wants to gift their assets to his buddies from the Order of the Rack3. By the time the proclamation is announced his underlings have pretty much finished the Order of the Torrent off.
After this bit of exposition we get a table of rumors that mostly serves to foreshadow missions the PCs will undertake later in the adventure, with a false rumor planted in there that will make them distrust the Order of the Torrent if they believe in it. There’s also a bit about the toll for Kintargo’s main bridge being drastically increased, which is not something that would inconvenience the PCs overmuch but which will cause plenty of unrest among the citizens.
A Cousin’s Plea
Once the party is done with rumors, they’re contacted by a woman named Setrona Sabinus, current proprietor of one of Kintargo’s oldest taverns, the Tooth and Nail. She wants then to find her missing cousin Octavio, who happens to be the leader of the Torrent. He’s gone missing since the proclamation, and she imagines he might be laying low in a remote shrine located to the south of the city.
Optionally, the GM can have Setrona ask them to first look for her cousin in a sanctioned excruciation that will take place that day, since she doesn’t actually know if he’s been captured or not. Unlike the unsanctioned variety the PCs dealt with in the previous adventure, this one is conducted and guarded by actual dottari guards and Rack Hellknights (four of each).
Octavio isn’t here, but a lower-ranking member of the Torrent is. PCs can try to rouse the crowd and browbeat the guards into postponing the proceedings, or they can charge and start a fight.
This section also includes a note on how these frequent excruciations will actually bolster support for the Ravens. At some point Barzilai will realize this and stop them.
The four dottari guards wear mail suits and carry halberds and bows. The Rack armigers have plate, large shields and broadswords. Building them with the Squire template plus 25 points or so seems about right: they should be strong and skilled physical combatants.
None of the two groups will fight to the death - in fact, they’re not all that united. The dottari will perform a fighting retreat if one of them drops, and will rout if two of them fall. The knights will retreat as soon as one of them suffers a major wound. Either group will leave the other to its fate when that happens. This means even a Pathfinder party can make it out of this CR 9 encounter alive if they are lucky and focus fire on one opponent at a time. DF delvers should have quite a bit less trouble surviving the encounter, though it’s no longer the cakewalk their last excruciation was.
Shrine of Saint Senex
This is the shrine where Octavio is supposed to be hiding out. Most of it is underground, but there’s a small above-ground area inhabited by two hippie-looking oracles.
The pair is all of remains of the saint’s cult. They know Octavio is hiding underground, but the PCs must first gain their thrust. Bringing Setrona along will make this much easier. Even if the PCs manage to get a friendly reaction out of the oracles, though, they still insist the party go through the “trials” awaiting them underground to prove they are worthy.
There are two rooms in the temple’s underground. The first contains a simple puzzle, with a fight against a rope golem if the party gets it wrong. The second contains Octavio, hiding out in a crypt full of mummified drowned sailors. He’ll mistake the party for Thrune agents unless he recognizes them using the campaign’s notoriety mechanics, or unless Setrona is with them. Yes, this mini-dungeon can be entirely “solved” without a fight if the party brings Setrona along.
Octavio Sabinus is a Lawful Good Hellknight4, and he will be amenable to joining the Ravens as long as the PCs can prove to him that the group is a) capable of opposing Thrune without always resorting to violence and b) making sure his men are safe. To that end he asks the party to rescue those men from the Old Kintargo Holding House, which is detailed later in the book. He will remain hiding in the crypt until that is done, and will join the Ravens as a unique ally when the PCs complete the mission. Completing it in a subtle manner will make him even more loyal to the cause.
Analysis and Review
The paragraph above is exactly where part 1 of the adventure ends. Yes, it’s basically 90% background info and exposition. The playable part consists of an optional combat encounter which the book doesn’t recommend including and what’s essentially a one-room dungeon bookended by two friendly chats assuming the PCs do the smart thing and bring Setrona along. It could take less than half a session, start to finish.
There’s a lot more detail about the rescue mission Octavio wants the PCs to perform, but even that is only presented in part two. The general verbosity and somewhat poor organization I’ve seen in official Pathfinder adventures rears its head again.
The optional brawl against the dottari and armigers is somewhat easier for DF delvers, and would be a good bit of fun if your group is in the mood to kick some fascist ass. If they’re anxious to get on with the main story it’s best to skip the encounter, have Setrona invite herself to go with the party and get to the talk with Octavio as soon as possible.
We’ll read through Part 2 in the next post in this series.