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Sunday, 31st July, 2011, 03:46 PM #1
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Campaign Notes: MapTool and Google+ Hangouts
Edited in: I'll add links to files and documents that other DMs may find useful to the start of this post.
Digging for Lies MapTool campaign file (maps through the first 2 acts).
I mentioned Zeitgeist to a few of my friends in passing. I recently ran the first act of Shadows of Mirahan for them live, and they really seemed to enjoy it. Since we don't live in the same area, though, live gaming is a rarity. When I mentioned Zeitgeist, they were all really interested! So we tested out Google+ hangouts and I figured out how to import images into MapTool, adjust the grid size, and host a server.
First, a bit about the PCs, in the players' own words:
Her parents wanted a boy. Raised in the middle of nowhere, but pretty much ignored. Went to the Battalion outside of Flint for Martial Scientist training. A little too cynical and uncouth, she wound up in the RHC after graduation.
Thesis Title - Further Analysis of the Use and Effectivity of Natural Terrain as an Aid Against a Superior Force
Reginald Nigel Whitecliff
Reginald is an extremely affable, socially adept member of a minor noble family. At 18 his family got him a position as a functionary of some type in a colonial outpost (or if colonial outposts don't exist, a diplomatic position in some farflung, India-like country). While there, he rose through the ranks of service, and as time wore on he developed an appreciation for the local culture that his fellow functionaries disdained, though he was charming enough that this disdain didn't extend to him as well. Nonetheless, he was seen as having gone tropo, adopting native dress, eating native foods, learning the native languages, and so forth. When it was necessary to send a party to negotiate with the local nobility of a neighboring city state, he was chosen as a member of the party because of his facility with the natives (and also out of concern that he would spread his enthusiasm for the local culture to the new batch of functionaries, a core of whom had begun to look up to him).
While en route to the city state, their party was set upon, with the members either being killed or captured. Reginald himself was thought killed, and his body was left in the jungle to rot. He was only *mostly* dead, however, and was nursed back to health by a sadhu who lived in the part of the jungle where the attack took place. The sadhu, himself a psion, recognized that Reginald himself possessed psionic potential, and trained him, unlocking his abilities through a combination of hallucinogens and meditative techniques. Both of them were startled when Reginald's abilities to communicate with the dead were awoken, and it was his contact with the spirits of his fellow countrymen who had been slain in the raid that reminded him of his responsibilities as a servant of the crown (this is after a number of years had passed). He said farewell to the sadhu and set out to track down the bandits who had attacked his party, using his now-developed abilities to capture the bandits that survived and bring them to justice. This task complete, he decided that it was time to return home.
Once there, however, he was restless, unsatisfied with the bureaucratic work that the crown put him to. Seeking a life that can put his particular talents to use, he makes contact with the HRC, which quickly recruits him.
Viveen was born in Risur, in the Weftlands. Her goliath ancestors were taken as slaves during an invasion from Ber long ago, and ended up staying on as indentured servants and then sharecroppers. A curious and inquisitive youth, Viveen had no real interest in farming. With few other options open to her, she joined the army and served in the Fourth Yerasol War.
The wars taught Viveen that she had a talent for hitting people with a large hammer, but also that the army's methods lacked a certain finesse. She didn't mind fighting, although it wasn't her favorite thing, but she preferred it to be better directed and for a clearer purpose than most campaigns she participated in. During this time she also met and talked to a wide range of people, including an old ship's captain who told her stories about once seeing a book written in the language of the gods. Something in the story spoke to her, and woke a force inside her she didn't know existed.
Whenever possible, Viveen began to research all that was known about the divine language. Finally, she thought she understood how one letter should look, and scribed it on her maul. In her next battle, she swung at an enemy and was almost blinded herself by the burst of fire that erupted when the blow fell.
After she discovered that the divine alphabet was real, and that she could use it if she learned it, Viveen left the army as soon as she could. Battlefields are no place for study, and she suspected that to truly pursue this field she would need the freedom to explore old temple sites, visit libraries, perhaps seek out the site where Srasama died! Returning to Risur, Viveen finds herself accorded a level of respect she is unaccustomed to. Apparently, killing for your country trumped being subhuman. Since this makes continuing her studies easier, Viveen accepts it, as well as a position in the RHC.
Viveen sees herself as sort of a divine archeologist. The RHC is a good match: the investigations interest her, she is skilled in healing and with a weapon; but her free time is devoted to seeking out traces of runes and putting them together. She does not worship any god, and would be surprised by the suggestion. She believes she is merely using the power of the runes, and has not considered what may be allowing her to channel it.
Vesta migrated to Risur (and Flint) young enough that he may as well be a local. He learned the history and plight of his people in general through the recollections of his older brothers, but his heritage and why his family had relocated weren't topics ever broached.
He grew up in Parity Lake and has seen how it's changed for the worse for the average working class people. Not that factory work held much interest to such a bright young man. He drifted a bit in his youth without a clear path forward.
The RHC offered the opportunity for him to get out of his old life and focus his talents towards what seem to be worthy goals.
He was recruited by a Constable who later died in the line of duty. Vesta, quite shaken by his friend's death, took a leave of absence, but eventually returned to the RHC with renewed dedication to keeping the streets safe.
He has a reputation for keeping meticulous case files, and is generally amenable to a night out with the boys, though he rarely has more than a pint.
Last edited by Ajar; Saturday, 8th June, 2013 at 08:38 PM.Zeitgeist DM.
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Sunday, 31st July, 2011, 10:54 PM #2
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Our first session was yesterday. I'd prepped Act 1 of Island at the Axis of the World, figuring that if we did get all the way through the Coaltongue sabotage, it would be a good place to stop.
We set up our Google+ hangout and made sure all our sound stuff was OK. I know there are other chat options -- Ventrilo, TeamSpeak, WotC's VTT, etc. But I've found that when playing with my friends, video chat makes it much more fun than audio chat. When I introduced Assisstant Chief Inspector Delft by peering into the camera through an oversized brass magnifying glass, my players all burst out laughing. At that point, I was pretty sure that we were going to have a good time. For good measure, I sucked loudly on a mint to simulate chewing tobacco.
A couple of players still needed to install MapTool, since I'd only confirmed to them that my hosting worked properly the night before. No problem; I used the time to set up the map of Lanjyr as one of the campaign maps. I had the Act 1 maps -- Docks and Coaltongue -- plus Flint and Lanjyr. When I was reading the Intro text, I suggested that they look at the maps of Lanjyr and/or Flint, which I think helped get them in the right mindset.
I was a little nervous going into the Docks challenge, but it actually worked out very well. I don't directly expose skill challenges, so I didn't explain the mechanics to them, only the situation. They took to it very well, with a Viveen and Murdok climbing up onto the rooftops to better survey the crowd, while Vesta and Reginald mingled, trying to pick out potential troublemakers from the crowd. Due to a number of failed Perception checks, it turned out to be a close thing, with two of the dockers closing in on Reginald and Vesta as Reginald tried to Intimidate Coulton into thinking the crowd was full of plainclothes officers. But he succeeded, and Coulton's nervous glances gave Dafton away.
Hearing Reginald entreating Coulton and the dockers to stand down, Thames sidled up to Viveen and Murdok as they made their way back through the crowd to join up with Reginald and Vesta. He explained himself to them quickly, since the constables appeared to be interested in defusing the situation. They did manage to talk the dockers down, and Murdok's successful Stealth check allowed him to follow them back to their hideout. That information was passed on to the regular police.
Meanwhile, Thames entreated Reginald and Vesta to take the dockers' cause up with the governor -- something Vesta was more than happy to agree to. After cautioning that they didn't know the governor personally, Reginald said he would at the very least pass the message as far up the chain as he could.
I thought this challenge went well. The DCs were a bit tough since my party doesn't have great Perception, but if I was running it again, I wouldn't adjust it.
At the party, the constables were amused by how quick Delft was to abandon them and set about gladhanding the bigwigs. Their Insight check came close to detecting the Duchess' duplicity (28 vs 30!), but Sokana immediately aroused their suspicions. Between Vesta and Reginald, they quickly realized that she was actually an eladrin. The constables agreed to find her a room to nap in, and after taking a full tour of the ship, they settled on the sickbay since it would allow them to spy on her from above through the small section of fine mesh grating.
The Duchess wasn't initially too thrilled with the idea of napping in the sickbay, but with Bluff checks the constables were able to sell her on it as being far enough out of the way that people getting tours of the ship wouldn't be stopping by (unlike the mage's quarters or observation room on the deck above).
Vesta and Murdok waited in the room above, Viveen waited in the engine room in case of trouble, and Reginald was a perfectly generous and courteous escort as he led Sokana and the Duchess to the sickbay. When Sokana and the Duchess began casting ritual magic shortly thereafter, they became quite concerned.
Reginald left a fragment of his consciousness on the sickbay deck and headed up to the main deck, ready to warn Harkover Lee in the event of real trouble. When the false engineers and the assassin convened in the Duchess' room, more failed Perception checks prevented Murdok and Vesta from hearing just what was said. However, Vesta's Arcana check identified the Duchess' ritual as Water Breathing, which confirmed the party's suspicions.
On the sickbay deck, the munitions guard came over to see what was going on and was immediately cut down by the halfling assassin within sight of Reginal's consciousness fragment. Realizing what was up, he immediately warned Harkover Lee that a sabotage attempt was underway, with a very high Diplomacy result. Lee immediately and discreetly began preparing an evacuation plan.
Vesta teleported through the mesh into the sickbay through the mesh and attempted to convince Sokana and the Duchess to call it off. But Sokana ensnared him and then surrounded him with fire sprites. The Duchess, seeing things well in hand, completed her Water Breathing ritual and dove out the window.
The engineers managed to make it to the sickbay. Poor Fitzcairn was horrified to learn that his supposed friends who had been ribbing him about not shoveling enough firegems were actually saboteurs who had led him astray about how many firegems could safely be added to the furnace! Viveen engaged the engineers, and while they were able to spill firegems out of the holding vessel, they didn't manage to shovel any more into the furnace.
Sokana managed to make it to the engine room and successfully threw her rod into the furnace, then tried to make her escape, leaving a wall of fire and three more fire sprites behind her. Reginald asked Geoff for his frost wand, then came down the ladders to the engine room to help Viveen, while Murdok and Vesta went into the boiler room to reopen the (non-rusted, since the engineers never made it there after revealing themselves) safety relief valves.
One of the engineers fell, but the other managed to rust the furnace door shut. The PCs were getting pretty nervous at this point, but Viveen tore the door off the furnace and Reginald managed to spot the tongs and get them to her. They extracted the rod and then threw in Geoff's wand of cold, which helped a little bit.
After closing the safety relief valves, Murdok and Vesta went back to the sickbay deck just as Sokana was trying to escape up to the gun deck and out one of the portholes in the mage's quarters. The chased her down, and even with Otherwind Stride, which I (as someone who plays a teleporty warlock hybrid) was specifically saving for this, she was still struck down and captured before she could escape.
With the immediate threat neutralized, the players quickly realized that they could use the capacitor to discharge the magical fire energy. On the main deck, the evacuation was nearly complete, but Geoff was one of the last people remaining, holding out hope that his creation could be saved. He assisted the PCs on their checks to "quick charge" the Brand, saving the ship.
With the Coaltongue safe, the PCs called the lifeboats back, and after some time to set everything up again, the party resumed. The King took them aside for a private conversation, then gave his announcement speech. The PCs took the opportunity to talk to the governor about the dockers' plight, which will earn them some credibility down the road.
Back in Flint, they returned to their normal duties. A couple of them agreed to give interviews.
To be honest, I felt slightly unprepared going into this. I just landed a new job, and I'm preparing for a crossborder move and all of the complications that go along with it. I didn't have as much time to pore over the adventure as I would have liked. I felt like I was winging it a bit during the Dock sequence, but it seemed to go okay. When the PCs picked up on the sabotage before the Duchess' cronies even had time to finish all of their preparations, I was concerned that the encounter would be a pushover, but it ended up going down pretty close to the wire -- all of the PCs went down to single digit HP at least once, and the counter got down to about 13 rounds left before they removed the rod. I'd been planning to cut one engineer from the encounter to make the XP appropriate for 4 PCs, but I ended up leaving it at 2 engineers and it still went fine. I'm not going to do that every time, but for encounters that are the only one in a given day, I'll consider leaving them alone.
Looking forward to Axis Island! I'm not sure how I'm going to handle Asrabey -- I like using his 20th level stats, but that will make it really tough for the PCs to deal with him, whether by force of arms or diplomacy. The low level stats will probably make for a cool fight, but it just doesn't feel quite right to me to make him low level on account of being tired. I'm going to have to think that one over.
The other question is line of sight in the hedge maze. I've never done LoS in MapTool and I was hoping that I wouldn't have to deal with it, but I guess I'll have to figure out how to make it work.
Most importantly, all of my players said they had a great time, and are looking forward to our next session! With my impending move, I'm not quite sure when that will be, but we're hoping to squeeze one in sometime in August.
Monday, 1st August, 2011, 03:47 AM #3
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
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You don't know how much I've been on pins and needles, waiting for someone to tell us all the details of the sabotage scene. I was dreading that a GM would pop in and say, "Yeah, all my PCs were annihilated in the explosion. Thanks a lot, guys."
Also, I just tried out Google+ hangout not an hour ago tonight. It's quite swanky. I'm glad it's working out for you.
Monday, 1st August, 2011, 05:56 AM #4
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
One of my players emailed us today saying that he's already jonesing to play again and that he had a fantastic time. So you guys are definitely doing something right! Another player replied that she's "really excited by how much is out there, waiting for us." So between the Player's Guide and all of the NPCs introduced even in Act 1 of the first adventure, you've definitely done a great job of showing how big the world is, and even how big Risur is, in terms of the narrative scope and the story space.
And of course I, as the GM, know that it only gets bigger -- way bigger -- from here! I'm cackling with glee just thinking about Asrabey, let alone everything else that comes later in the campaign!
As far as the sabotage, my PCs were really on the ball, and distrusted the Duchess from the get-go. I'd given them specific caveats every time I mentioned her distaste for Risur's new technological direction, saying that it was just a philosophical disagreement, and of course she still supported the king, etc. But I think when they first talked to Harkover Lee and then the Duchess in quick succession, and their distaste for one another became clear, that combined with the Insight check detecting Sokana's nervousness shifted them into "be prepared, just in case" mode. They also correctly interpreted the debate between Rutger and the dwarf as foreshadowing. "One little misunderstanding and it all falls apart..."
When they were able to convince the Duchess to nap in the sickbay, I was actually a little nervous, since the saboteurs wouldn't get to do much before they were discovered by the PCs spying on the Duchess. And sure enough, they didn't get to do much - no additional firegems were shoveled into the furnace, the assassin didn't make it anywhere near the munitions so the wards stayed intact -- but since the biggest factor in the countdown is Sokana throwing the rod in the furnace, it wasn't a major issue.
I wasn't sure how they would shut the engine down, since they had clearly expected the situation to be OK once they took out the saboteurs. But once I explained that the engineers had misled Fitzcairn about just how many firegems could be safely shoveled into the furnace, they took to the challenge. I gave no hints; they came up with the capacitor idea on their own, with the brilliant addition of enlisting the aid of the ship's designer.
There was one wrinkle that I alluded to above. I have a reputation in my circle of friends and players for TPKs. The first PBeM campaign I ever ran ended in not just a TPK, but the end of the world and the death of everything but the Lovecraftian horrors that had been set free. I've had players tell me that even when I explicitly state an encounter is level-appropriate, they're still terrified because of how I frame combat.
So when Vesta teleported into the sickbay when the Duchess was still there, his player fully expected to die. And if the Duchess hadn't been finishing up her Water Breathing ritual, I would have blasted Vesta with a paragon-level Wizard encounter power. But by the time the ritual was done, Sokana had Vesta dazed and surrounded with fire sprites, so the Duchess saw no need to lend a hand. I'm a "tough, but fair" DM, I think, or at least I try to be, and if I'd had the Duchess blast Vesta in that situation I would have felt like I (as a DM) was actively trying to kill him, rather than doing what made the most sense for the character of the Duchess. So it was a bit of a near thing, but the fact that Vesta teleported in before the ritual was done made a big difference, since it took the Duchess completely out of the battle.
This is why I'm wrestling with how best to handle the Asrabey encounter. If I tell my players that this guy is a total badass way above their level, they won't expect to be able to hit him with a roll of 10 or 12. If they can, it might break their immersion a bit. But if I run him with the 20th level stats, I'm not sure how to avoid a TPK.
Edit: I'm really looking forward to seeing Vesta and Asrabey interact, though. Both because Asrabey will represent a clear connection to Vesta's heritage, and because I wonder if Vesta will develop a little crush... (as I mentioned in my other thread, Vesta is gay but not "out.")
Last edited by Ajar; Monday, 1st August, 2011 at 06:07 AM.
Monday, 1st August, 2011, 06:07 AM #5
Novice (Lvl 1)
Are you using any other Google services for your campaign? I've been using Google Docs and Calendar (and Gmail of course), so far, and really liking them.
Monday, 1st August, 2011, 06:09 AM #6
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Not yet. I do use a Google Doc in my other play-by-video-chat game, where I'm a player and the party's scribe. So I keep the quest log and the XP/loot tracker. In this game we don't seem to have needed one yet, but I was thinking I might mention it to the players as a possibility.
Monday, 1st August, 2011, 10:41 PM #7
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I won't be running ZEITGEIST for another month or two. (Finishing up a Dark Sun Campaign, thats almost 2 years old)
Asrabey is a tricky situation. If it results in combat issue will come down to if the players have blown their Daily powers with miss damage yet or not. That way even missing they can take him down. There is also some zone powers that just "do damage" with out rolling to hit. Naturally wizards will excel here.
An exceptional PC at level one might have a +9 to hit (or +10 if they went with a 20 in a stat) but still at 34 AC they still only have a 5% chance of hitting. If they have a leader that can hand out a generous +hit (think Ardent, battleborn acuity) and in addition people use action points to "assist attack" one player then you might get combat advantage and more +hit (up to +8 with assists, with +2 more for combat advantage. Its possible to stack enough bonuses to for a party to make one player to hit him on a 11 but don't count on it.
Unfortunately players have no idea on the effectiveness of aiding an allies attack would go so they are unlikely to do it. Typically with a 5 party group your looking at a chance or at least once per round of 22% with individual attacks. This means this fight can be really swingy. It will either go well or badly in a hurry if the players choose combat.
Because of "Brinksmanship," I would let the players win initative after all he is hesitant. This should give the players a chance at a lucky break if they decide to go with combat.
Wednesday, 3rd August, 2011, 12:41 AM #8
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
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In the online playtest, the party was not eager to fight Asrabey, but when he made his move, the party's hunter ranger tried to take him down. Asrabey opened up by loosing his lion shield to maul the hunter, conjuring smoke to hide in, and dropping a bunch of Risuri soldier allies with a flaming swipe.
The party's knight tried to distract Asrabey's attention but missed his attack, while a second ranger in the party missed with twin strike and the cleric missed with
god-philosophy-lasers. The party's wizard magic missiled him (damage!), and the executioner assassin, seeing how hard he was to hit, tried to move to flank with the knight. Only after the cleric went did the hunter start his turn and fall unconscious from being mauled.
On Asrabey's second turn, he plunged his sword down the top of the knight's torso, had the lion shield attack the wizard to stop the magic missiles, then moved up beside the cleric, since he was at the moment out of range of the unconscious wizard, and would provoke an OA if he ran. The cleric and second ranger whiffed with their attacks, and the wizard was mauled to unconsciousness.
And then it was our 1st level human executioner assassin's turn. She used Poisoned Dagger (which lets poison 'hit' even if the attack misses) to deliver her 'bloodroot poison' (which does 6 damage and dazes), then action pointed to Garrote Strangle (which targets Reflex).
If I recall correctly, the final attack bonus was:
+1 Ki Focus Expertise
+3 Proficiency w/garrote
+2 Combat Advantage (target dazed, also no lion shield)
+3 Action Surge
+4 Heroic Effort
Total: +18 vs. Reflex 33
She hit, did 14 damage (on top of the 6 from poison and 6 from the magic missile), and started to strangle Asrabey. She got her chest punctured for the trouble.
On Asrabey's third turn, he neatly disemboweled the insolent assassin, and couldn't call off the lion shield since he was dazed, so it just munched on the wizard. But since he was dazed, the cleric could move. Afraid of the shield, he ran and shouted a healing word to the unconscious hunter ranger.
The ranger woke up, saw his team nearly dead, and drew an iron spike he'd picked up earlier during the immurement encounter (despite having a perfectly good bow; his thinking was 'fey don't like iron'). Then he chucked the spike and used his encounter power that does damage on a miss, which was just enough to do the job. The blunt end of the spike bonked Asrabey on the back of his head, and he sagged to the ground.
Last edited by RangerWickett; Wednesday, 3rd August, 2011 at 01:08 AM.
Wednesday, 3rd August, 2011, 04:02 AM #9
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
My PCs aren't exactly optimized, and with only four of them, attack assists net +6 max. Murdok is their striker, the Scout. Her spike damage would be hitting with a melee basic (1d10+6), adding Power Strike (+1d10 once per encounter), and then hitting with Dual Weapon Strike (a secondary attack for another 1d6+6). That's 26.5 average damage if both attacks hit, which is only 0.5 shy... in this scenario, I might be generous and allow the ally assists to apply to both attack rolls.
Unfortunately, no one's got Action Surge. I think the Scout's attack bonus is +7 (+4 Dex, +2 axe proficiency, +1 expertise). With CA and three assists that's +15 vs AC, which... hits on a 19-20 instead of 20.
They do have two "damage on miss" dailies, one of which is Reginald's Telepathic Projection. If he hits, he can then compel Asrabey to attack himself, which is much more likely to take him down. But even with assists, I don't think they can get to the point where they hit on anything other than a 20.
- Delevel Asrabey a little bit -- he could be level 14 or 16 instead of 20. Still has the feel of being high level without being totally out of reach.
- Have the Duchess at 1 HP rather than 0 HP. She talks in the intro, so this isn't outlandish.
- Just cave and use the low level stats. :P
I've got a while to mull this one over, of course, since the PCs haven't even gotten to Axis Island yet. Thanks a lot for the input so far.
Edit: Oh, forgot about Intimidate vs Will for bloodied foes. Reginald's +8 Intimidate with +6 from three assists (a risk, unlike attack assists) is +14 vs 32, for a hit on 18-20. Still tough.
Last edited by Ajar; Wednesday, 3rd August, 2011 at 04:08 AM.
Wednesday, 3rd August, 2011, 04:50 AM #10
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Two more thoughts: I'd add a circumstance bonus to the Intimidate check due to how close Asrabey is to going down.
Second, I might make talking him down into a loose skill challenge, if my players decide to attempt it. Intimidate shouldn't be the only skill that matters.