Kingmaker: The Plague

The Plague of Darkness by Gustave Dore

The Kingmaker Campaign I am running has finished book five of the Adventure Path. Looking back at some of my older posts here at The Iron Tavern it looks like we started book five in mid-December. Given the holiday schedule, not too bad to be moving into book six by early February.

The players have now waged mass combat against a threat to their kingdom which they handily turned aside. In addition they made an attack on a city that they believe were behind the attacks.

The most notable event during the siege was the druid unleashing the bubonic plague upon the city just prior to their infiltration. That ran its course for longer than they would have liked with some rather significant casualties within the city and even some spreading to the countryside around the city in question.

As the GM I tried to play out the effects of the plague in a manner that made it have significant consequences without being mean about it. So I looked over the disease in question and figured out the DC needed to avoid contracting it and the necessary number of saves to cure. It had a pretty respectable DC, which didn’t seem like it would bode well for the common folks in the city with a DC that high and the need to have two consecutive saves to cure it.

Another player with much more of a math mind than me helped me make some very rough, ballpark statistics on an appropriate percentage of death amongst the people that contracted the plague. For our approximations we split the types of people into commoners and experts, elite commoners and experts and warriors and then elite warriors. With a generic fort save modifier for each of those groups in mind the player in the group worked up his math magic and came back with some numbers.

First the very rough numbers on how many people would contract the disease if exposed to it.

  • Commoner: 16 in 20
  • Elite Commoner: 14 in 20
  • Expert: 16 in 20
  • Elite Expert: 14 in 20
  • Warrior: 14 in 20
  • Elite Warrior 12 in 20

Already it looks like the plague will spread pretty quickly. Next was to figure out about how many folks would die of the plague and if they were not receiving much if any aid – magical or otherwise. Those very rough numbers came out looking like this:

  • Commoner/ Expert: 40.96%
  • Elite Commoner/ Expert: 16.807 %
  • Warriors: 11.7649%
  • Elite Warriors: 2.79936%

Not a good day to be a commoner or expert!

It obviously did not take long for the characters to realize the gravity of the situation. Once they realized the plague was starting to spread and quickly they sent much aid to the city in question. They actually reacted pretty well. They had wands of remove disease sent, anti-plague medicine and boosted the ranks of healers in the city rather significantly. This was all in addition to a quarantine of the entire city enforced by the armies they happened to have around it.

So next up my math minded friend made some assumptions about the amount of healing and aid available and came up with a much improved death rate when factoring in the assistance.

  • Commoner/ Expert: 24.01 %
  • Elite Commoner/ Expert: 7.776%%
  • Warriors: 1.5625%
  • Elite Warriors: .16384%

While the commoners are still having a rough time of it, their odds of survival definitely increased.

Those numbers are all very, very rough and in a rather large ballpark. There were many variables we did not fully account for and possibly overlooked. But they sufficed for a quick work-up to help establish the large ballpark to play in.

Tomorrow night we make the transition from book five to book six. We typically handle kingdom activities on a set of message boards I maintain for the group. So many months have gone by in kingdom time, buildings and walls have been rebuilt and the kingdom treasury is nearly overflowing with wealth due to the magic item economy.

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Week In Review: 12/18/2011

The last week got away from me and I missed getting out a post here at The Iron Tavern. I have had several things keeping me busy and I will put some of the related ones up here for a week in review post!

Kingmaker Transition

My weekly gaming group just transitioned into Book Five of the Kingmaker Adventure Path. I always find blending the transition from one installment to another takes a bit more work in my game preparation. Without some additional preparation it seems a little rough going from one book to another. I am not sure why this is; it really shouldn’t be any different than any other transition in the campaign.

Our most recent session found them investigating some disgruntled pixies in the forest who had a rather unusual surprise for them, then to the Kingdom of Pitax to partake in a festival there, followed by an attack on their own kingdom by some unknown armies at this time. The session went well and it feels good to have the Kingmaker campaign back on track again!

Pathfinder Beginner Box

This week was also IronPup’s birthday. He received the Pathfinder Beginner Box for it and was quite excited to unwrap it. He spent this week writing up his character. He will be going with a Dwarven Wizard for the first session. He worked through most of it on his own and I sat down to help him get his information transferred to a character sheet yesterday. Later this afternoon we will be running through the first adventure in the set. He is looking forward to it. This initial session will be part of the actual play review I write up for The Iron Tavern.

Writing Contests Galore

It seems to be a busy time for writing contests! First we have Paizo’s RPG Superstar 2012. This is an annual contest that Paizo puts on and is probably the best chance an unknown freelancer has of getting noticed by Paizo. The number of entrants is rumored to be quite high and the bar for making the first cut of 32 is also quite high. I am entering the contest this year and hope to learn some things through the process by being more vested in it with an actual contest entry.

Today is also the last day of @Brainclouds‘ design a treasure vault contest. He has posted a blank treasure map with some interesting features to act as a blank canvas to design what is in that room. I have some ideas scrawled down on a print out of a map, I just need to get them written up and submitted by midnight tonight!

Basement Remodel (a.k.a. Game Room)

And finally I have been busy the past several weekends working on phase one of a basement remodel of which a portion will be used for a game room. I am not doing anything overly elaborate. First phase consists of painting the basement walls. I believe I finally have that portion wrapped up. Phase two is to clear out way too many years of computer equipment and parts along with other things accumulated over the years. Phase three will be putting up a wall to keep the utilities and storage side of the basement hidden away. Phase four will be to improve the lighting a bit to not be so industrial.

Once those phases are complete I will begin work on getting a portion of the basement ready for a gaming area. I see a decent table and comfortable chairs as must haves. I will also include an area for some easy access to minis and hang some small speakers for background music and easy sound effects. I am also planning on hanging a webcam to possibly open the door for streaming a video of the battle mat for remote players. We will see how that all works out!

Where the Week Went

That sums up where the following week went for me. With holidays approaching it is likely to be a busy next couple of weeks!

Kingmaker: The Exploration Blues

My gaming group is three sessions back from our Kingmaker hiatus I mentioned in a previous post. We have had a good start back and will be starting in on part five, War of the River Kings, of the six part Adventure Path next session. We came back from hiatus with part four of the AP, Blood for Blood, though we were already halfway through that module when we came back from the hiatus. The fact that it took three sessions to wrap up what was essentially the bulk of the exploring in that installment is the topic of this post!

We have really enjoyed the Kingmaker campaign so far. The sandbox nature of the adventure path, while trickier to GM, allows plenty of room for a GM and players to make the campaign their own. Kingdom building has been quite entertaining and it has been fun to watch the kingdom grow over the many months.

Exploration Blues

The part that I find most difficult as a GM running the adventure path is the monotony of the exploration. Exploration and the quests associated with the exploration was fun for the first two books of the adventure path. It was pretty easy to come up with varied terrain descriptions and travel. The early quests were enjoyable and provided some of the early interaction with the locals before the characters were more of a driving force.

From book three, The Varnhold Vanishing, on though it has felt like a real slowdown to me as the GM. By this point in the Kingmaker campaign I had a harder time making the descriptions of terrain and travel entertaining enough. I tried of course, but after two books worth of travel and exploration of hexes this task began to feel monotonous.

I have also found it harder to get the quests properly introduced without it feeling like a laundry list of tasks. With the kingdom growing and more interactions from the characters with their neighbors the action within the adventure path by book three was steady enough that quest introductions felt shoehorned in.

And finally, it seems that several of the quests are a much better fit for adventurers hired by the rulers of the kingdom, not the rulers themselves. Giving some of the quests out just seems silly sometimes given who the characters are within the scope of the kingdom.

What to do?

Admittedly given the exploration necessity in Kingmaker to grow the kingdom it can be difficult to handle this. The need for exploration in the campaign means we cannot drop it completely from the adventure path.

I felt exploration worked well in the first two installments of the adventure path. As noted above the adventure path was fresh, it was easier to come up with unique terrain, weather and travel descriptions and the quests helped introduce the characters to the locals.

Moving past the first two installments of the adventure path I think the number of quests given should be dropped significantly. The quests that are left should be ones that the rulers of the kingdom would have real motivation to pursue. Additionally tying some of the quests together with a related thread between them could help make them more interesting.

GM prep can certainly help some with the exploration monotony by having terrain descriptions and such at the ready. This becomes a touch burdensome after time though as I can only think of so many ways to describe a grasslands and such. Several of the hexes with encounters do have some terrain description included which helps to a degree.

In my own group I have even suggested that we could bypass some of the exploration and focus on the meat of the campaign more if they wanted to hire some adventurers to take care of the work for them. They voted this idea down, rather unanimously. So maybe I am doing a better job at running the exploration than I give myself credit for!

Take Away

Kingmaker has been a great campaign so far. The group is enjoying it and I have been fun running it. This post has focused on exploration being one of the parts of the Kingmaker adventure path that I have found more difficult to run.

Despite this complaint the adventure path of a whole is a very fun one. It gives the GM plenty of room to work in as well as the players. It takes a bit more work to run because of the sandbox nature, but the rewards are there.

How are other people’s Kingmaker campaigns going? Have you had more success or ease at running the exploration bits than I have?

Kingmaker Returns From Hiatus

Several weeks ago I mentioned in my Game Scheduling post that my gaming group had been on a hiatus from the Kingmaker Campaign I am running. I had some come up that were going to keep me from being the most reliably person for an extended period of time, especially to be in the position of running the game. It appears our last game was July 7th.

Here we are, in early November ready to bring the campaign back out of Hiatus. Schedules have calmed down a little bit and I think the group is anxious to get back to a longer term campaign again. In this post I plan to look at two things. One, what helped our group stick together during our Kingmaker hiatus and two, how I plan to bring the campaign back from hiatus four months later.

Why Our Group Made It

The primary reason I think our group survived an extended break from our long running campaign is that we’re all friends. Sure we game together and actually met through gaming for several of us. But over the years we’ve become good friends. Gaming is still our primary bond, but we long ago transcended the gamers that hang out together to gamers that are friends. This is certainly a primary reason why our group handled a break from our main campaign for the period of four months. I also think it is why we avoid a lot of the problems seen in other groups as well, but that is another topic for another post!

The other factor that really helped is our group has several people willing to actually run a game. It seems several groups out there only have one person willing to run a game. If that person is unable to run then the group simply does not play. This is certainly not an issue for our group. We have at least one other person who has no issues running a game. Between the two of us we run the majority of our group’s longer running campaigns. So even when the current GM needs a break or something comes up that limits his time, there is usually at least one GM waiting in the wings ready to step up and run for the group.

Further helping our group is that we have at least another two players who are good for running a one-shot or very short campaign arcs on a fairly limited notice. This also goes far to help keep our group gaming even in uncertain times.

For times that there is short notice or perhaps our substitute GM has something come up there is always board game night. People can still meet up at our host’s house and people can play a few board games instead of the normal RPG that was on the schedule.

All of this goes far to help keep our group together even when we have to put a longer term game on hiatus for a few months. It is also a good time to experiment a bit. During the course of this hiatus we were able to play Star Wars, Supernatural, Call of Cthulhu and I even ran the Pathfinder We Be Goblins as a one-shot when a short gap needed filled.

Bringing the Campaign Back

Four months. No serious talk about the campaign during that time and we are actually bringing it back to the table. How to pull this off successfully?

As GM of this campaign I have turned first to our group’s primary tool, our message board forums. When we first formed our group we created a set of message board forums. We use the forums between sessions for planning of the next game, who is picking up food on the way, are we ordering pizza, etc. We also use it for between session recaps, roleplaying and out of character commentary to help know what we are going to be doing the next session.

My first step has been to read back through some of the threads on the boards to get a solid feel for just where we left off. I reviewed the main message board forums and went through the private forums for each character to refresh my mind with what hooks we had working on a character by character basis.

I also took this return to the campaign to ask for feedback from the group to see what they had thought was working well for the campaign so far, what could use some improvement and so on. I believe this will help bring the campaign to a strong conclusion despite the four month hiatus. I received some valuable feedback from this process and helped get the wheels turning again in my own head. It helps focus the energy for campaign prep if you know what the group thinks is working well and what could use some more work.  (If you are curious they primarily want to see more from the politics side of things and a little more depth to some of the NPCs.)

I have also been re-reading the portion of the AP we are in to get my head back in the AP and know where they have been and which important plot points are coming up. This seems an obvious course of action, but certainly not one to be overlooked.

We were at the tail end of the 4th installment of the Kingmaker Adventure Path. It looks like our first session back will be getting back in the swing of things with some exploration, making sure the political pieces are a little more obvious as to what is happening at this point and hopefully some NPC spice sprinkled in or at the very least brought back to the surface again. The group also has some interest on getting a standing army due to some prior events.

Wrapping Up

I am looking forward to assuming the GMs seat once again and getting things rolling. I am lucky to have a great group to game with – both in being patient while I took the time I needed due to outside factors and to have had a group that can fill that gap where I could not GM. I think with some of the preparation noted above we will have a strong start back to the Kingmaker campaign and have a strong finish. I am looking forward to this Thursday!

How about others out there? Have you had a game go on long term hiatus? Were you able to successfully able to bring it back to life? Any tips or techniques you felt made the return to the campaign put on hold especially successful?