As usual, you’ll arrive on the northern edge of the area. The entire area map has been revealed previously, and most of the loot and random beasties should have been cleared out by now, hopefully leaving little to distract you from the new encounters.
Deal With the Greedy Merchant
Follow the road that winds through the center of the area until you find some Hungry Peasants who are facing off with a merchant named Tigni Jusmert. Talk to the merchant to witness the exchange, where the peasants will accuse the merchant of predatorily marking up the prices of his desperately-needed wares. When you get a chance to speak, pick the dialogue option “What is all the commotion at the bridge? Where have all those people come from?” to learn that the Stag Lord - or more likely, an impostor calling himself such - is charging for passage over the bridge. Peasants who can’t pay have subsequently been stranded, at the mercy of somewhat less violent thieves like Tigni.
Let’s stay focused on this price-gouging merchant, first, then you can see to this so-called Stag Lord. Pick the dialogue option “Your prices are three times higher than those of other merchants!”, which he’ll pass off as simple supply and demand. This leads to a more diverse array of dialogue options to resolve the situation.
The [Neutral] option washes your hands of the situation entirely, offering no gain for yourself and no relief for the hungry peasants. Picking the [Lawful Neutral] option will compel Tigni to pay you the “taxes” he owes you - a sum of 512 GP. If you pick the [Neutral Good] option and succeed at a subsequent [Diplomacy 24] check you’ll shame Tigni into lowering his prices and will earn an experience reward for your efforts. You’ll get the same consequences by picking the [Chaotic Neutral] option and passing the attendant [Intimidate 18] check. Finally - and most lucratively - if you choose the [Neutral Evil] option and pass an [Intimidate 18] check you’ll scare Tigni into lowering his prices and paying you 512 GP.
|Reward: For shaking Tigni down for taxes|
|Reward: For convincing Tigni to lower his prices|
|300 XP, lower prices|
|Reward: For threatening Tigni into compliance|
|300 XP, 512 GP, lower prices|
Note: If you have Tristian in your party, he’ll step up should you fail your skill check, and succeed at chastising Tigni into changing his ways, however momentarily.
After dealing with Tigni, peruse his (hopefully now reasonably-priced wares), although he probably doesn’t have much of interest to seasoned adventurers such as yourself. Continue off-road to the south to find his wagon, on which you can find a chest [Perception 22] which you can unlock [Trickery 22] to find a Shock Dagger +1.
While this Stag Lord impostor is concerning, let’s focus on the troubles north of the Gudrin River for now. Not like the bandits on the bridge are leaving their lucrative post any time soon, anyway. Make your way northeast from the hungry peasants to find a Fugitive Girl standing near some cliffs. Chat with the sobbing woman and ask what troubles her to hear about how she was robbed by a “forest monster”. Strange is the forest monster who is interested in grandmother’s pearls, and her intent to spend them to gain passage across the bridge is yet another reminder of problems yet to be resolved. Exhaust her dialogue options, being sure to say “Describe this forest monster.”, which you can identify with a successful [Knowledge (World) 18] check. This starts the quest Elederian Pearls.
That done, you need merely track down this beast and recover the pearls. Simple enough, right? Head west, then north around some rocks, then turn east to find a Goblin Prince. What, exactly, qualifies him as royalty? Whatever, talk to the runt and ask “Are you alone here?” to learn that other goblins are about the area looking for a “greatbeast”. Good to know. More to the task at hand, ask about the stolen beads he’s wearing, then either pick the [Neutral Good] option and forfeit a unit of Camping Supplies and Rations, pass a [Bluff 10] check, or an [Intimidate 22] check ([Neutral Evil]) to get the beads without a fight. Alternatively you can pass an [Intimidate 22] check without asking him about the beads to scare the goblin off, gaining the beads in the process. Should all that fail, you can simply kill him and take the Pearl Necklace by force.
However you manage it, once you have the pearls return to the Fugitive Girl and give her back her pearls. If you wish to be petty and evil, you can pick the [Chaotic Evil] response to keep the pearls, but there’s little benefit in terms of experience or wealth for doing so. Alternatively you can pick the [Diplomacy 28] response to try and convince her to remain in your lands, hopefully in the process securing a loyal citizen willing to speak for your good nature, should you be in need of such support. If you’re unable or unwilling to do either of those options, you can simply pick the [Lawful Good] dialogue option to hand over the pearls, after which the woman will lament handing them over to the bandits on the bridge. You can follow this up with a [Neutral Good] option to also provide the money she needs, leaving you 200 GP poorer.
|Reward: For keeping the pearls|
|Reward: For convincing the woman to stay in your lands|
|Reward: For giving back the pearls|
Battle the Greatbeast
From where the Fugitive Woman stood, venture east until you hit some rocks, at which continue east along the northern side of these rocks - down south lurks the Crag Linnorm, and while you’re stronger now than you were when you first explored this area, you’re likely not strong enough for that. Continue east and you’ll find the lair of the “greatbeast”, which is being pestered by some goblins. The greatbeast - an Owlbear - once roused isn’t in the best of moods, and it’s at this point one must wonder if the goblin population is kept in check largely due to their fascination with monsters.
Naturally, when the greatbeast stirs the goblins will flee, luring the Owlbear back to you in the process. Cut the beast down for some easy experience, then return to the bridge the area is named after.
Fake Stag Lord
Cross the bridge and about halfway across you’ll find an Old Man. This place seems absolutely littered with peasants in need of aid these days. Ignore him for now, as his quest requires you to go hunting around on the southern side of the bridge, and before you bother with that, you should really deal with this bandit business.
Speaking of which, as you reach the end of the bridge you’ll be accosted by a bandit. He’ll quickly recognize you, however, and given the fate of the bandits who have crossed thus far, decides not to press you for cash. Feel free to question him as you wish to hear their excuses and justifications for their little operation. Ultimately, though, you’ll make little headway with these goons - if you want results, you’ll need to talk to this Stag Lord impostor.
To that end, finish crossing the bridge and turn east to find a camp, which is now well-populated with bandits, including a “Fake Stag Lord” character. Talk to the Fake Stag Lord and you’ll quickly identify him as the shoddy impostor he is - he couldn’t even bother to get a halfway decent outfit! Identify yourself and accuse him of being the fraud he is, after which you’ll get a variety of moral choices (paired with skill checks) to choose from.
Pick the [Chaotic Good] option and pass an [Intimidate 22] check to convince the “Stag Lord” it might be best for his health if he give up the charade and never let you hear of him again. If you fail, the emboldened impostor will attack. A [Neutral] option (with an accompanying [Diplomacy 28] check) plays out much the same way. The [Lawful Evil] response (provided you also pass an [Intimidate 22] check) will scare the phony Stag Lord into leaving as well as secure you the 2,137 GP he’s stolen from your subjects thus far. Finally, if you pick the [Neutral Evil] response and also pass a [Diplomacy 17] check, you’ll recruit this so-called Stag Lord to tax the bridge for you. As long as you’re getting a cut, right? This will get you the more modest reward of 500 GP.
Should you recruit the “Stag Lord”, you can talk to him again and renege on your earlier deal by picking the [Neutral] or [Lawful Evil] response, which have the same results as the ones listed above.
|Reward: For evicting the Fake Stag Lord from your lands|
|Reward: For threatening the Fake Stag Lord and taking his money|
|600 XP, 2,137 GP|
|Reward: For recruiting the Fake Stag Lord|
|600 XP, 500 GP|
If you fail a check - or if you just don’t care to parley and pick the [Attack] option - a fight will ensue. There are numerous bandits, and you’ll do yourself a great service if you arrange your party tactically ahead of time. Surround the Fake Stag Lord and keep the unarmored bandit with a crossbow on his back within reach, as both are spellcasters, and will make your life hell if you let them. Place your squishy characters to the north of the Fake Stag Lord, behind the log, which is a fairly safe place for them to operate. With this planning, and perhaps Bless, Prayer, Haste and Stoneskin, the fight should be pretty easy to win, just be wary of another bandit spellcaster that prowls to the west, and the rogues who can deal heavy damage with sneak attacks.
Either way, when you’re done, loot a chest to the east [Trickery 15] to score 100 GP and some cheese (yum!)
With the Stag Lord dealt with, return to the bridge (one way or another) return to the bridge to find the Old Man patiently waiting for you. Talk to him and sure enough, this sickly old man will ask you to find him some black berries that grow along the coast. You can question him further if you’d like to know more about his travels. It’s an unfortunately familiar tale by now - peasants afraid of the disease fleeing the lands of an incompetent baron(ess). Your rapport with the common folk could use some work. This starts the quest Second Breath.
Make your way south along the bridge, then on the road beyond until you hit the area transition at the southern edge of the area. From here, turn west and move around a rock formation. On the northwestern edge of this rock formation you’ll find the bushes upon which the black berries you’re after grow; just be wary of a Poisonous Hydra to the west. Not that you shouldn’t kill the beast - you should, the experience more than justifies the trouble - but you need not do so now if you’re not ready.
Save your game, then approach the bush the berries are on and note the [Lore (Nature) 20] check that’s automatically made when you approach. Be sure to pass this check, as it’ll vastly expand your options for resolving this quest. Pass or fail, grab the Black Berries, then return to the Old Man on the bridge. Talk to him and if you didn’t succeed at the aforementioned check, he’ll eat the berries and reveal that he wasn’t seeking a cure - he was seeking a more dignified death.
|Reward: For giving the Old Man some Black Berries|
While the experience reward for resolving the quest by being duped by the old man is satisfactory enough, you’ll be able to pursue other options if you noticed the berries were poisonous. Tell him as much, and if you still want to allow him to kill himself, pick the [Neutral] option, to get the same ending being ignorant of the berry’s nature would have achieved. Picking the [Chaotic Neutral] response achieves nothing but reducing the man to begging for them, while the [Chaotic Evil] action will give him the death he wants, although perhaps not as painlessly as he wanted it.
The [Lawful Good] option is the most lucrative, both immediately and in the short-term. Having a direct beneficiary of your benevolence in Tuskdale might be of value in the near future…
|Reward: For sending the Old Man to see Jhod in Tuskdale|
Now, to finish up this area cross the bridge again to reach the southern shore, then head west to reach the Poisonous Hydra. If you didn’t kill it before, do so now. Either use spells like Delay Poison to protect yourself, or simply keep an eye out for the icon that signifies a breath attack is imminent and retreat.
Once it’s dead head north to find a path leading down to the shore, where you’ll encounter several goblins, including a pair of Goblin Horseslayers, a Goblin Sneak, and a Goblin Eagle Eye.
Finally, make your way back to where the Poisonous Hydra was and climb the flat rocks to the west. If you already came here, you won’t be bothered by any checks, but if you’ve neglected this area before, you’ll need to pass an [Athletics 23] check to climb up. Again, if you already were here and hence dealt with the owlbears you’ll have little to do but collect loot, otherwise kill the owlbears as a prerequisite. Once they’re dead, loot a corpse to find a Jagged Key and a Dirty Notebook which mentions a “Ghost Stone” area. Might be worth looking into later, but it’s pretty far afield (southeast of Lake Silverstep Village), making it an adventure for another day. Of more immediate concern - it’s time to return to Tuskdale and see about this disease…