Steravo! A bustling, thriving trade city, the most splendid city in the whole country of Voraz, an architectural marvel – well, actually, it’s none of the above. In truth, Steravo is but a humble hamlet of forty-odd people, a backwater Southern Voraz settlement with no claim to fame. Its only distinguishing feature is the few royal knights whom the peasants have especially contracted from the local lord, so that these knights might fend off the Mistwood goblin incursions.
Our story begins when the peasants finally run out of surplus cash to keep the knights around. With the goblin threat looming, Steravo’s leaders – Father Yakov, priest of Erastil; Dormak of Rhone, retired soldier; and Lothar Melorien, reformed Neathian con man – came to a quick decision: send the hamlet’s eight most powerful heroes into the Mistwood to find the goblin hideout and stamp them out. These eight, our PCs, set off the next day, Yakov’s potions in hand.
With alchemist Isaac in the lead, they tracked their way to the goblins’ hideout, a long-ruined fort. An initial sortie against the goblins went somewhat poorly, with fighter Vladimir’s increasingly silly methods of intimidating the goblins being less than useless (in order: curse them out, rip off pants with teeth, perform helicopter with manhood – each time eliciting jeers.)
The party spread out and returned at night. Gypsy bard Simon made several goblins fall from the rampart with hideous laughter and his buffoonery, and soon the heroes were under the fort.
They fought their way through reinforcements, with one sorcerer, losing his life to a goblin sword. In the last room, a Blood of Vol cultist with a hostage surprised the group – and Vladimir surprised him right back with the ancient Cut Him In Half Instantly maneuver (known to laymen as “crit in round 1, annoying the GM”). However, 2 goblins got away …
The hostage was, of course, the sorc’s replacement. The heroes freed him and then waterboarded the one goblin they left alive, which netted them a few hidden treasures. Afterwards, they headed back to Steravo, where, having got the taste of adventure, they decided they would set off to the southwest. They hoped to find Simon’s gypsy tribe …
… and find them they did! But not until they’d accidentally stumbled upon (and skirted widely!) a heavily defended Vol fort, and done battle against man-sized spiders (where “battle” means “half the party is in webs and is increasingly vocal about spiders being such dicks, seriously, fucking spiders, can you say next favored enemy” etc.)
Having reunited Simon with the gypsies (and his true love, Etta), the party decided they would accompany Tonvo (the gypsy leader) and the others to Vlastograd, a town to the north, in the hopes of joining the Pathfinders or maybe just buying some sweet shit with their meager peasant money. Onward!
What followed was more than a month of rough travel in the gypsies’ caravan. Along the way, the party:
- defended a wayshrine from deadly stirges and spiders
- fought a curious tribe of goblins that used ritual dancing in their combat
- explored a cave occupied by vicious blue cat-like creatures (akata), culminating in a fight with the Akata Queen that killed the other sorcerer, Brynn. Isaac discovered that these creatures’ chilling-cold blood could be used alchemically, and Alphonse befriended a strange frogman-like creature called a blindheim.
At long last, the party reached Vlastograd. They received their generous payment from the gypsies and, on Tonvo’s advice, sought out Vlastograd’s Pathfinder chapterhouse in the hopes of finding work. (In my world, the PFS is similar to, but not entirely like, the Golarion PFS).
The Pathfinders were willing to let them come in as a group, but first, they had to do two things: A) perform a mission of good faith (that is, with no reward) and B) pass several tests of knowledge and skill. The party agreed, and, in a momentous decision, they named themselves The Steravo Specialists. “Steravo Soldiers” was a close second.
It was around this time that Vladimir hit upon the invention of ice cream. That will get more important later on.
The party accepted their good-faith mission: investigate a disturbance at a mining operation in the western mountains (the Prajerbans, for those keeping score). The party traveled out, defeated hideous aberrant humanoids, and, for a trophy, took home a strange “door of annihilation” hidden within the mine (nobody ever confirmed what it was, but Vladimir’s loss of a finger was convincing enough!)
The Pathfinders were more than pleased with that trophy and the party’s success; after the testing, they were all initiated as full Pathfinders and issued their eight-pointed badges.
The following four months were mainly spent on Vladimir’s slow building-up of an ice cream shop. Moonificent Ice Cream was (and is) a great success, with new flavors being added through Vivvienne (witch) and Isaac’s Alchemy checks, advertising being put up, guards and clerks and a manager for when Vladimir’s out of town, obtaining the lease and the merchant’s license from Vlastograd, purchasing a ring that would let Vladimir communicate with his employees, and reinvesting much of Vladimir’s wealth into improving the store.
At this time, the Pathfinders were summoned to the chapterhouse. Lady Imrizade, the youngest daughter of the noble Duchovny family, had not returned from the family’s museum after taking a recent archeological find to its sub-basement. The guards that had gone after her had also disappeared, and three days later the family was getting desperate. They contracted through the Pathfinders, and the Pathfinders picked the Steravo Specialists for the job.
The Specialists explored the sub-basement and the hidden chambers beneath, encountering:
- constructs shaped like intricately-carved columns that resisted many magic effects and destroyed Isaac’s morningstar
- one or two cases of “skeletal museum creature comes to life, attacks party”
- Mr. Brainy, who will not be detailed further
- and, finally, Imrizade herself, who was in the clutches of a hypnotic … archway? Tendrils connected her to it and forced her to fight the party; cutting the tentacles elicited telepathic laughter but, mercifully, knocked out the girl.
Having recovered Imrizade (and nearly choked out Nigel, the Duchovnys’ insufferable butler), they were promised a reward by the family in addition to the Pathfinders’ payment (with bonuses for some scrolls snagged from the library by Wolfbang, the sticky-fingered inquisitor who was a hostage all those months ago).
At this point came a few months of downtime. The item of the most note was Vladimir’s setting up of Moonificent Ice Cream, a store that quickly grew from dodgy frozen-treats shack to mighty ice-cream emporium (at time of writing, more than two game-years later, it is a three-story complex with dozens of employees).
The next job came quickly: delve into the abandoned Fort Kolek, which lies a short distance to the northwest of Vlastograd, and find a secret power source abandoned there in the Western War.
Mounted atop fresh new horses, the party journeyed to the fort; along the way, they gained the service of a lost kobold warrior in exchange for promising to lead him back to Vlastograd. Upon reaching the fort, the group surveyed the outside, with some of the members climbing the walls and examining the battlements. After breaking down the door, all but the climbers headed inside.
Once inside, the group explored around, with the following taking place:
- Meeting a spindly white construct that had evidently been built to cook food for the long-gone warriors. It delivered ominous messages and was obviously sentient.
- Fighting two apologetic battle constructs whose power supplies – small glowing crystals – proved to act as keys for certain doors in the buildling
- Discovering and exploring a hidden underground sanctum. The strange oversized armor and machinery indicated that the fortress had actually been a sanctuary for Tosdaic spies. Diaries and journals left scattered indicated that the plans to take Vlastograd had been foiled by a double agent.
- Discovering and freeing a half-elf prisoner of a temporal-stasis prison (the new player’s Monk).
- Finding the “power source,” which was actually a trapped Tosdaic spy’s soul. The group listened to his painful tale and debated what to do with him; taking the initiative and forgetting their goal, Vladimir smashed the crystal containing the man, freeing him from the torment of a botched spell.
The party, having realized too late Vlad’s intentions, returned to Vlastograd with the cooking construct in tow. Vladimir, having named the machine Tender Delicious, then decided to have it be part of his staff at Moonificent.
The party spent a couple more weeks in town, spending the money the Pathfinders had given them despite not returning with the power source (the spy information was just as valuable). Notable events included Alphonse’s purchase of 30 pounds of “moon weed” and the subsequent split of 5 pounds between Alphonse and Mr. Brainy.
Soon, Lady Duchovny sent an invitation for the party to appear at her family’s manor, for a reward to be delivered in person. Inhaj, the monk restored to time by the party, chose to purchase (in secret) clothing that would rip itself off and dance alongside the dancing wearer; the rest opted for more traditional “fancy” clothing, and set off for the manor the next day.
After Inhaj used the clothes and his Four Winds powers to light his crotch on fire and dance alongside the clothing, pissing off Nigel considerably, the party then trooped into the room where they would meet Imrizade again. Just before she came in, they got Nigel stoned with Alphonse’s weed. Did I mention it’s a particularly fast-acting variety? Much hilarity ensued in the final moments before Imrizade’s appearance, culminating in a slumber hex placed on Nigel and the stealing of the butler’s keys, followed by placing the butler in an adjoining room once Imrizade came in and was shocked at his behavior.
The rewarding of the heroes went well, with Isaac taking a fancy to Miss Duchovny herself. The other characters were quick to be his wingmen. Vladimir came out of the rewarding particularly well-off, with the Duchovnys contributing a large sum to the expansion of Moonificent Ice Cream.
At this point, we knew would have to go on hiatus. I, the GM, elected to use the time away from the game to represent a two-year fast-forward in the game; the characters went from level 3 to level 5 and had an opportunity to work on a long-term goal or plan. We’ll pick up the results of this “Jump” and the ongoing game in the next post. Stay tuned!