Welcome back to Let’s Read Hell’s Rebels! This post will cover Part 2 of the second adventure, Turn of the Torrent. Part 1 had the PCs meet with former Torrent Hellknight Octavio Sabinus, who promised to join the Silver Ravens should the PCs rescue his knights from the Old Kintargo Holding House.
Part 2 covers that rescue mission and several other events that happen in the neighborhood of Old Kintargo. According to the book, its inhabitants are both the most distrustful of outsiders and the most likely to join the rebellion when properly inspired, since they have a long tradition of defying Chelish rule in small ways.
Like in the first adventure, the missions are numbered but can be completed in any order.
But First, Some Setup
In a remarkable display of slavish adherence to its adventure outline template, the book literally ends its Part 1 while the party is mid-conversation with Octavio Sabinus. You then need to go through two pages of background info and optional events in the Part 2 before returning to the details of what Sabinus wants the PCs to do. While the scene on Part 1 does include a page reference to these details, it’s still a bit of an awkward read.
Anyway, Part 2 begins by recommending that the PCs make the Tooth and Nail tavern a temporary staging area, since all its events happen in the same neighborhood. It describes some tavern games that are common there, as well as an NPC they can meet who is actually Part 3’s main villain in disguise.
Then it describes Proclamation the Tenth, where The Barzilai outlaws the works of several poets and writers whose works mock House Thrune. Three of them are long dead, but one is “The Poison Pen of Kintargo”, an NPC who will become relevant in Mission 2. If one of the PCs is also a poet or writer, their name should also be on this list, which is the bit I found really interesting.
Optional Encounter: Being Followed
This optional encounter is where Thrune hires a mercenary detective to follow the PCs around and report on their movements. Tayacet Tiora is the sort who claims to ignore politics in favor of getting the job done, but the book says she will slowly come to realize Barzilai is bad business all around in future adventures. Any encounters the PCs might have with her here are stated to be mere foreshadowing for her appearance in future adventures, and she could be left out entirely.
That’s likely for the best, to be honest. Tiora might look cool, but the PCs won’t take kindly to being followed by an agent of the enemy and will be even more frustrated when she makes her scripted escape.
Mission 1: Rescue at the Holding House
And here we are, picking up on the Octavio conversation as if the intervening pages didn’t exist.
When discussing the details of this mission, Octavio Sabinus will give them his prized mithral short sword, explaining it belonged to his mother. Showing the sword to his knights and repeating that bit of info should serve as proof of the PC’s allegiance, and help secure their cooperation. The sword itself should also be useful against any devils they run into.
The Holding House is not the most secure prison in the city, but it’s still locked down pretty tight. While the adventure describes the place in sufficient detail for the PCs to make a frontal assault or attempt a sneaking mission, Octavio’s suggestion of showing up with forged prisoner transfer documents is the plan with the biggest chance of success here.
The book lists the requirements for forging the papers, and details an NPC forger the group can hire if none of them are very skilled at it. Opposition here consists of a total of eight dottari guards with the same stats as the one encountered in Part 1, plus their slightly weird commander Warden Sabo. More guards will show up at regular intervals if a fight breaks out.
Good forgeries and some fast-talking should get them past all of these people and into the cells, which contain three of the four knights they’re supposed to rescue. The fourth is currently being tortured by the scalpel devil.
Oh, I didn’t mention the scalpel devil? It’s like a chain devil, but covered in scalpels instead and with a host of powers to detect lies. It’s in a soundproof room deep within the prison, and even if the party tricks the guards they will still likely end up fighting it to get the last prisoner out. The guards don’t like this thing a whole lot, and won’t be in a rush to enter the soundproof room or to ask the PCs how they got its latest victim out alive. Therefore, it’s entirely possible a particularly convincing party will talk their way into the devil’s cell, kill it, and talk their way out with all four prisoners in tow.
Getting the knights out without killing a single human guard is worth XP as if the party had defeated the lot in combat.
Mission 2: The Poison Pen of Kintargo
The quest giver here is Cassius Sargaeta, a captain in the Chelish navy. Not being a Kintargo native, he’s confined to his ship by Proclamation 8. Sargaeta hasn’t left town yet because his lover Marquel Aulorian (noble scion and secretly the Poison Pen of Kintargo) is under house arrest and likely being sought by Thrune agents for criticizing the government in his writings. Sargaeta wants the PCs to deliver a letter to Marquel and bring him to the ship.
The PCs learn this on a meeting with the captain, after being invited into the ship by his first mate, a sassy half-elf gunslinger. Now, it’s quite likely the PCs will be slow to trust members of the friggin’ Chelish Navy, so a good amount of this section’s text is dedicated to what happens if they don’t agree to see him.
The Aulorian estate is defended by human guards who are less beefy than the dottari, and by a three-headed hellhound. As usual, discretion is advised unless the PCs want their notoriety increased.
Reuniting the two lovers will net the Silver Ravens a substantial reward: the captain asks one of the PCs to drop a porcelain teacup on the floor, and provides the Ravens with favors equal in number to the resulting shards. That’s a fancy way of saying 1d10, but the book also suggests getting an actual (cheap!) cup and getting a player to drop it for extra effect.
It seems to me the whole deal is meant to come off as dubious until the very end. Sargaeta is described as a “Chelish patriot” who is unhappy with Barzilai specifically but not his government in general. His first mate is cheerfully unpleasant, and he keeps a halfling slave as a maidservant (the adventure doesn’t spell that last bit out, but Lem’s backstory is very clear that the Chelish love enslaving halflings).
Despite all this, getting the Poison Pen to safety is a good thing for the rebellion, and the 1d10 favors gained as a reward are really valuable. Sargaeta will agree to anything short of open treason, which means he will lend his crew for covert actions, provide discreet transport to the Ravens, deliver a lump sum of money, and so on. If using the scene as written, the best thing to do would be to play up the gray morality of the situation. GMs who are uncomfortable with that or who don’t believe their players would take on the mission as written could replace Sargaeta with a more sympathetic foreign captain.
Mission 3: On the Slasher’s Trail
The text of this mission begins with a brief bout of exposition on the Temple Hill Slasher, a serial killer who plagued Kintargo a few decades ago and whose killings are still part of the local folklore. In other words, a fairly obvious Jack the Ripper expy. The main difference here is that the Slasher was eventually caught. Only it seems like the killings have started again, using the exactly same MO.
The rumor table at the start of adventure includes some entries dealing with this new Slasher, and they pay off on Mission 3. The PCs are contacted by a tiefling tailor named Hetamon Haace, who reveals he’s the leader of the Rose of Kintargo: a cult of Milani1 worshippers who’s been laying extremely low as of late. As is often the case with these NPCs, he’s fully aware of any Silver Ravens exploits the group hasn’t taken pains to conceal.
Haace feels compelled to ask the Ravens’ help because a member of his own group has been killed by the new Slasher. He wants their help in tracking the murderer down and will offer the services of the Rose in return. This will mostly consist in helping keep the heat off the Ravens’ backs, but they will rise up and help the fight more directly when the time comes. There’s also a pair of free boots of levitation in it for the party.
The procedure for tracking down the murderer is laid down in detail: speak with dead to interrogate the latest victim, and several skill checks to interpret the provided clues. Getting too many of these wrong is a serious concern here, since it will mostly shut down the investigation. The book suggests having the Slasher try to kill a friendly NPC after a few days if this happens, and have the victim escape to provide any missing details to the group. I suggest simply providing those details during the initial investigation to avoid killing the group’s momentum.
From a description of the suspect’s appearance, attire and the smell of a specific kind of grease that hangs about him, the book says it’s possible to deduce he’s a tinkerer who rents a shop at a sort of co-working space for cog-mongers called Vespam Artisans. The place’s owner is fairly sympathetic to the Ravens and will promptly reveal the suspect’s name (Varl Wex) and where he lives.
Wex has a room at a tenement house. Depending on how the PCs handled the investigation up to this point, he will be either away from home when they arrive or waiting in ambush.
The story here is that Wex came across a sentient magic kukri used by the original Slasher, and was brainwashed by the weapon into becoming a serial killer himself. The weapon in question and a whole lot of other incriminating evidence are hidden in a secret room in the apartment. If Wex is out, he will arrive during the investigation and either try to bluff his way to the hidey-hole to retrieve the weapon, or attack at once if the PCs already found it. If he’s lying in ambush, he will strike from the secret room and try to pick off the PCs one at a time until he’s found out. Wex will fight to the death, though he might retreat to set up sneak attacks.
Eliminating Wex is already a service to the city at large and will get the Rose of Kintargo on the PC’s side. They also have several options on how to dispose of the body and evidence! The most interesting one is to turn them over to the authorities, which will immensely bolster the Ravens’ reputation and force Barzilai to publicly thank the PCs for their service to preserve appearances. They can also turn them over to a neutral party who will get the credit for the deed if they don’t want the exposure, but hey, go big or go home!
Similarly, they can hand the evil knife to one of the remaining legal “good” temples in Kintargo and get a reward equal to its monetary value, or turn it over to a sensible neutral party like Tiora and get half that value. Either of these will get the artifact safely destroyed. Any other solutions carry the risk that the weapon will make its way back to the murder cult who originally created it, and cause future trouble for the PCs.
Wex is statted up as a level 10 fighter/rogue, built to stack bleed effects on his targets, which benefit from the effects of his evil weapon (see below). A GURPS conversion should probably start from the Assassin or Thief templates, with around 50-75 extra points spent on making him deadly with a kukri: Weapon Master (Knives), higher ST, higher skill, and Targeted Attacks to the neck or femoral arteries if your campaign uses that level of detail.
The evil kukri is named Balgorrah, and contains the soul of a murder cult priest. It causes greater than normal bleeding and gives the wielder temporary HP equal to the amount of bleeding it caused. It also tries to compel the wielder to become a serial killer.
The GURPS version should be Fine, Balanced and Ornate (+1), and enchanted with Weaken Blood and Steal Vitality. It should also have an IQ score and an Energy Reserve which it can use to power its own enchantments.
Analysis and Review
Part 2 ends right after describing the three missions above. The only mission that’s really required for moving the plot forward is Mission 1, but Mission 2 rewards the PCs with such a valuable strategic resource that I would strongly consider replacing Captain Sargaeta with a more obviously sympathetic NPC if your group would be disinclined to trust him as written.
Mission 3 seems to be mostly there as filler to give the PCs enough XP to hit level 6 in time for the adventure’s finale, but it’s interesting enough on its own merits that I would still keep it in my version of the adventure.
Our next article will look at Part 3, which ends this adventure with a big dungeon raid.
Golarion’s Chaotic Good goddess of rebellion. ↩