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In the last post I said it was time to finally end Turn of the Torrent, but that was a little hasty. The last post covered the big dungeon - this one is the denouement.
Clearing the Lucky Bones hideout completely and reactivating the magical pump makes the place usable as the official home base of the Silver Ravens, increasing the maximum power of the rebellion. Over the course of this adventure the PCs have also likely gained the support of the Torrent Knights, earned a number of favors from a powerful Navy captain, and caught a notorious serial killer.
Those last three goals are supposed to help cement the Silver Ravens’ reputation as heroic protectors among the people of Kintargo. Catching the Temple Hill Slasher is obviously a bit PR coup, plus I guess the contact networks of the remaining Torrent Knights and Captain Sargaeta would be pretty dilligent in spreading the good word about the PCs, making the people like them more even as Barzilai’s administration likes them less. All of this forces Barzilai to officially acknowledge the existence of the Silver Ravens, and to be diplomatic about it.
Thrune hosts an award ceremony at the Kintargo Opera House and issues a very public invitation to the PCs. During the ceremony he makes a speech praising their civic-mindedness and hands out valuable gifts.
While The Barzilai has it out of the PCs, he will not try to hurt them here, and will do his best to appear civil. The gifts are even magic items tailored to be useful to the PCs! The trick here is that the items are distinctive enough to be tracked via locate object (D&D) and Seeker (GURPS), which will likely come to bite the PCs unless they’re very crafty. Really, the best thing they can do with these “rewards” is ditch them far away from the Lucky Bones, but there’s a good chance they won’t think about the tracking angle and keep them.
And speaking of crafty, PCs who don’t try to pick a fight during the ceremony gain a XP reward for being discreet. According to the book, stabbing Thrune in front of a crow of thousands might be satisfying, but is unlikely to be productive at this point in time.
The book also says that Barzilai has completed one of the rituals necessary for becoming a genius loci not long before the public ceremony, and so is looking a bit haggard and pale. He’ll be back in top form in time for the fight against the PCs, of course.
After the ceremony, you should give the group access to the full map of the Lucky Bones basement, secret passages and all, and let them have fun turning it into a deathtrap dungeon using the resources of the Silver Ravens. The defenses they install here will be very relevant if/when Thrune discovers its location and orders his goons to mount an attack.
Going Off the Rails
The book seems to treat the award ceremony as sort of a closing cutscene in this adventure, but if you think about it a bit more there are a few things that can make it go off the rails. Here I’ll discuss these things and how to adapt if they happen.
Thing 1: Silver Who?
It could be that your PCs were so good at covering their tracks that they performed all the deeds the books consider flashy and public in a very discreet manner. Maybe they let someone else take the credit for catching the Slasher and otherwise did their utmost to prevent their Notoriety from rising. On the one hand, Thrune would know almost nothing about them. On the other, he’d have no reason to host the ceremony, preventing the “tense encounter”.
I imagine it’s actualy better for the PCs in the long run if it doesn’t happen, as the Silver Ravens should gather at least some fame and notoriety for their deeds. The people of Kintargo can’t support you if they don’t know who your are! Still, if your PCs are this committed to being stealthy ninjas, the ceremony would either not happen at all, or it would have whoever the PCs pinned their successes on as the guest of honor. This would also change a few other things down the line.
Thing 2: We’re Not Going to the Fucking Opera House.
The PCs could simply not show up to the ceremony! Even here they could do this in one of several ways, from simply ghosting Barzilai to issuing this section’s title as a public statement.
However they handle it, this is sure to have a polarizing effect on Kintargo’s citizens. People who already liked them will love this, people who already liked Thrune will hate it, and some of those who were on the fence will fall to whatever side they were closest to. Mechanically, this is an increase both in the rebellion’s number of supporters and its Notoriety score, modified by the specific response the PCs chose to give and by their actions in this adventure.
Interestingly enough, this shouldn’t have much of an impact in the future direction of the campaign. The biggest one is that PCs who didn’t attend the ceremony are sure to not be carrying Barizilai’s trap items when that becomes relevant.
Thing 3: Hi there! Prepare to Die!
What if your PCs do stab Barzilai in front of a crow of thousands? The book tries to discourage this by describing Barzilai’s entourage, which includes a dozen beefy hellknights, Kintargo’s High Priest of Asmodeus, and two very large three-headed hellhounds. This might work as a deterrent on Pathfinder, since it sends the message that “this encounter would be much higher level than your party”, but it might not be enough to dissuade a party of foolhardy Dungeon Fantasy delvers from having a go. It would likely still not be an easy battle, but hey, Barzilai is less than three feet away, he’s weakened from his sinister ritual, and if he dies anything but a natural death his master plan is foiled! Fast-Draw, behead, profit!
Should the PCs succeed in killing Barzilai Thrune here, they haven’t exactly “won” Hell’s Rebels yet. They still have a rebellion to conduct and that just got a lot harder. Kintargo will be thrown into open conflict much earlier than the books predict, as Thrune’s cronies will have the perfect excuse to go fully genocidal on the citizenry and the central Cheliax government will feel pressured to send an army to respond to this event even though they didn’t like Barzilai all that much. All of the things that needed to happen for the overall revolution to be successful now need to happen a lot faster, and likely without the help of those friendly factions that conditioned their support on the PCs not being violent hotheads.
In other words, the overall challenge level of the campaign will swiftly rise to match the level of power and audacity of a party that manages to kill Barzilai in the ceremony and get away with it. If the players aren’t confident that they have that level of badassitude, then the PC that goes up to shake Barzilai’s hand had better not be Impulsive and/or Bloodthirsty.