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Thursday, 1st March, 2012, 12:19 AM #41
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Here's the email I sent them with the reveal. I had them do History checks at a very hard DC to be able to identify the handwriting, but Vesta got a 30.
The papers describe a gruesome ritual for turning great cats --
specifically, jaguars -- into witchoil-fueled servitors.
Each cat must first be sedated, then flayed and drained of blood. Once
the blood is drained, the heart is removed, and replaced with a
witchoil vessel. A collar is then attached. The collars allow the
jaguars to be controlled once the ritual is completed: anyone grasping
the collar and saying the word "obey" can then command the beast. An
amulet is also implanted, which allows the jaguar to phase between the
material world and the Bleak Gate.
Once these preparations are done, a ritual is performed to infuse the
witchoil into the jaguars. If the ritual fails, the witchoil vessel
can be quickly destroyed, killing the creature instantly. If the
ritual succeeds, then a metal chest plate is to be attached over the
front of the jaguar's rib cage to protect the witchoil vessel. A note
of caution in the instructions specifies that those performing the
ritual are to "take the same precautions you would at the manor
There's a checklist attached to one of the cages that summarizes the
steps; each has been checked off. There are also detailed sketches of
each step, including how the chest plate is screwed into the bones of
the rib cage.
Something tickles the back of Vesta's mind. Maybe he's seen this
writing somewhere before...
...yes. In the office of Mayor Reed Macbannin, at the base of Cauldron
Hill, he'd glanced at the mayor's desk. A letter, signed by the Mayor
and likely written by him as well, matches the handwriting on these
- EN World
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Thursday, 1st March, 2012, 03:25 AM #42
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Short session tonight. They interrogated one of the techs at the warehouse, but didn't learn much -- their intimidate checks were terrible, so the tech was kind of cavalier. He did let on that he was a graduate student and that this project was being conducted under the purview of the Risuri military.
Then the techs faded away. The PCs sent the golem remains and the alchemical equipment back to HQ on a flatbed wagon. The wagon also brought them a letter from Dr Barnaby Camp, asking them to deal with an enclosed letter from Dr von Recklinghausen, in which von Recklingausen asks for help arranging passage out of the country. The PCs asked if the carriage driver could inform Stover Delft that he needed to come see the warehouse.
Shortly after the wagon was dispatched, Gale arrived. She was very troubled by the description of what had happened, and by the witchoil itself. She visibly recoiled from it, and told the constables that it reeked of the Bleak Gate, and that it had been created in part using living souls. The PCs didn't tell her about the potential military connection or about Macbannin, though. In exchange for being shown the warehouse and witchoil, Gale let them know that she'd done a little more checking into Nilasa's dealings, and uncovered the names of the two ships involved in the smuggling exchange that was supposed to be happening that evening.
Gale left just before Delft arrived. The PCs explained what they'd found, which led to another Delft explosion: "Why do your investigations always have to get POLITICAL?!?" After a Delft double facepalm, the PCs explained what they'd learned, and Delft said he'd take some of the papers back to RHC HQ and have the handwriting validated, then obtain a warrant to search the mansion of Mayor Macbannin if it was confirmed to be his handwriting. He also said that this information would have to go to the Lady Inspectress.
After updating Delft, the constables headed to Dawn Square. They looked around enough to pick up some friendly groups -- Thames Grimsley's dockers, and various PC contacts -- in the crowd. They were also suspicious of the wagons, but just then, Nevard started his speech. I ended the session just as the flayed jaguars emerged from the wagons and attacked, a perfect DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN.
We're playing again next week. Nothing much to report for my fellow Zeitgeist DMs here, since this session was pure RP. I always have a blast playing Gale and Delft, but the halfling tech the constables interrogated was also pretty fun this time around.
Friday, 6th April, 2012, 03:18 AM #43
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Phew! Back in the saddle again after a month that involved a lot of travel on the part of my players, and a lot of Mass Effect 3 being played by me.
Even though my PCs are only level 3 (they levelled up yesterday, so I'm holding off on levelling them again just yet) and there are only 4 of them, I left the Dawn Square encounter alone in terms of balance. Since they'd recovered so much info by saving all of the documents at the warehouse, the encounter ended up being quite fair. Nevard was hit once and taken down to 8 HP, but after that the PCs were able to successfully control the jaguars and turn them against each other/the skeletons or remove the chest plates and destroy the witchoil vials.
After saving Nevard and most of his druids, the PCs talked to Nevard and listened to his visions. They took notes, but I'm going to send them an email since there was a lot of content.
Their next stop was back at RHC HQ, to check in with a clerk and ask them to look into the registration of the Silvo under Captain Deorn Feldman -- whether this was a legitimately registered vessel, and if so, if it had a listed berth. Question: Would either of those things be the case? I'm guessing it would be a registered vessel, but listed as a private berth, since the smugglers' wharf seems to be secluded. They do still have the House Elf lead they could follow, as well.
After HQ, they headed to Pardwright University to talk to Lynn Kindleton. With a letter of their own from the Doctor, forwarded by Dr Camp, Kindleton accepted the PCs as legitimate. Initially she simply wanted to set up a private meeting with the doctor, but the PCs offered her the use of an RHC safe house for this purpose. Unbeknownst to them, of course, Kindleton will be captured by Kell's crew, and therefore won't show up at the safe house.
I'm thinking Creed contracted Kindleton's surveillance to Kell's crew, so the PCs' visit to Kindleton triggers the Theatre of Scoundrels sequence, where the PCs are contacted by one of Kell's agents, who tries to lure them into a trap. I figure that will happen on Day 5, but the PCs will already be pretty busy on Day 5, since Delft is already working on a warrant for Macbannin's arrest! Things are coming to a head...
Thursday, 10th May, 2012, 01:02 PM #44
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Finally had another session last night, but it was shortened when one player's internet died and she couldn't get back online to join the hangout.
For other online DMs, there's a new plugin for Google+ called Tabletop Forge that integrates basic tabletop RPG functionality into Google+ hangouts. It's still in development, so it isn't quite ready for prime time, but we tested it in a different game over the weekend and it worked reasonably well. Image upload for maps, grid overlay and snap to grid, token import, etc. For Zeitgeist, we're sticking with MapTool for now, since I've already set up the next few maps, but we may switch after Tabletop Forge gets a little further along. Having the hangout and map integrated in one window is really nice.
The session itself was fairly short, all RP. The constables returned to HQ, where a clerk was waiting with information for them about the registration of the Silvo and Grifoni. Both vessels had legitimate registration, but the Silvo had just surrendered its listed berth as of the day before, and the Grifoni was not scheduled to dock in the immediate future. This definitely raised the constables' suspicions.
They went to talk to Vesta's brother Nornan, who has been involved in Thames Grimsley's unionization efforts. Nornan knew that some dockers moonlighted as loaders for smugglers, but couldn't point them to anyone specific. He did, however, know who the House Elf was -- "You mean, that gnome who does magic shows for kids?" Between Nornan's info and a bit of asking around, they were able to get the location of Waryeye's Apothecary.
They returned to the central district to pick up their shiny new steam cutter, and took it across the bay to Pine Island. There, they went to one of Murgard's preferred watering holes -- Murgard being a fellow veteran and friend of Viveen's. When asked if he knew anything about smugglers, Murgard cursed. "Damn piranhas." His preferred shrimping grounds in the north of Pine Island had been decimated by a bunch of yahoos with a private wharf who regularly dump raw meat into the water to feed the meat-eating fish. He was pretty sure they were smugglers, since they were generally active at night, but wasn't sure if they were who the constables were looking for.
After this, the constables decided to approach Blander, posing as interested buyers. Reginald has a psychic ability that lets him create a facsimile of a small object, so he plans to create a fake astral diamond to convince Blander that they're serious about buying wands.
That was when we lost Vesta's player, so we stopped. Now I have a week to decide how Blander will respond, based on Reginald's bluff check!
Thursday, 17th May, 2012, 03:03 AM #45
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Reginald successfully bluffed Blander into thinking he was replacing Nilasa in their scheme! So Blander and Danisca agreed to proceed as originally planned, with Blander and Reginald going to the rendezvous with the smugglers. Meanwhile, the other constables hid their boat offshore and waited for the smugglers to depart, then followed them to the meetup.
They waited for the Silvo to dock with the Grifoni, and timed their stealthy approach to give Reginald about five minutes with the Silvo and Grifoni tied together -- just enough time to perhaps get some introductions.
We left off just as this was about to start, so next week will be the smuggler encounter. My group has gone about things in a pretty unique way, so I've been enjoying how things have worked out with them meeting Gale days before meeting Blander and Danisca.
Thursday, 24th May, 2012, 03:51 AM #46
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
On the Grifoni, Reginald participated in the meet & greet with the smugglers. When Captain Feldman had his crew produce a hefty chest filled with platinum, Reginald pulled an illusory pouch out of his jacket with a slit in the bottom, then pretended to look shocked as though his precious astral diamonds had been pilfered. The smugglers were fooled, but Captain Bandia kept her cool and quickly began coordinating a search.
However, just then the smugglers noticed the constables' steam cutter headed toward them at full speed! It slammed into the Grifoni, and the hulls ground together, but neither ship was holed. Several smugglers were knocked overboard! The constables clambered up onto the Grifoni and ordered the smugglers to surrender, but Captain Bandia pointed out their numbers advantage, and the smugglers attacked.
The battle was fairly short, but quite a lot of fun for everyone. Captain Bandia swung across the deck with her whip, which the players loved, but she was quickly dispatched. Still, her men fought on for a while longer, trying to blast the constables with magic wands. Sadly, they mostly failed, but one stray fire blast did set the Grifoni's centre sail on fire. Captain Feldman didn't connect with a single attack before going down, although not for lack of trying -- he just had terrible rolls.
Partway through the battle, Blander and one of the Silvo's crew began hauling the platinum back toward their ship. At that point, Reginald finally revealed his treachery, telekinetically pushing Blander into the drink. Blander responded by teleporting to the deck of the Silvo, then pushing Reginald into the drink!
With both captains down, though, the constables intimidated the Silvo crew into standing down and turning over Blander, and intimidated the Grifoni crew into surrendering. In exchange for Blander, the constables released the Silvo, and we ended the session with their steam cutter (unnamed so far!) and the Grifoni headed back toward port.
There were no ramming rules! I had the steam cutter's captain, Murdok, make a Command check vs the Grifoni's Fort. On a hit, they rolled Xd12 damage, where X is equal to the captain's Command score (5 in this case), and the damage was dealt to both boats (subject to their resistance, of course). If the damage took off 1/4 of a boat's HP after resistance, then the boat was holed above the waterline and couldn't accelerate beyond tactical speed. If the boat was bloodied in one hit, it was holed below the waterline and began to sink.
Murdok rolled 21 on 5d12, so the Grifoni and their steam cutter were unaffected, beyond the Grifoni crew being jolted and some of them getting knocked into the sea.
At the start of the encounter, Blander signalled Danisca, who would then have contacted Gale. Right now, I'm thinking Danisca relays Blander's location to Gale, then Gale intercepts the PCs on their way back to port, gets a read on the situation, and then requests that they release Blander, since Reginald had convinced him that he was working for Gale.
Thursday, 24th May, 2012, 04:09 PM #47
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
Sorry for not including ramming rules. My understanding of naval mechanics suggested that a ship the PCs' size wouldn't have enough force to cause any noteworthy damage to another vessel. But we definitely will have ramming rules in the full system in Admiral o' the High Seas.
Tuesday, 29th May, 2012, 03:57 AM #48
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
Yeah, you actually mention that in the adventure text, but figured I'd at least give them a chance at it. With the Grifoni's HP, it was unlikely that it would be holed, and it didn't end up happening.
When they were deliberating the ramming, we determined that they had saved the Water Breathing scrolls they got in adventure one, which will come up in the audit in the future.
A long session today!
After today's session, I reread gideonpeys' account of his PCs' battle with Macbannin, and saw that he had made Macbannin an elite for a party of 6. I'm wondering if I should have made Macbannin an elite, then cut most of the staff minions; my party dropped Macbannin before he even got to act. The biggest threat to them was actually the staff minions, since their flat 10 damage was a significant chunk of a PC's HP at level 4.
The witchoil sinkholes didn't really threaten anyone. The battle mostly happened on the south side of the roundabout portion of the garden, and the sinkholes occur along a diagonal that's well south of that area. Plus, I rolled the same number several times. Just for fun, when I rolled the same number a third time, I had new sinkholes appear in every area adjacent to the triggering geyser. But even then, no one was ever touched by the sinkholes/geysers. A couple of staffers had to move on their turn to avoid them, but that was all.
I think this is the only encounter that I'd modify if I was going to run it over again. I'd cut down on the staffers, make Macbannin an elite, and have witchoil spread out from the sinkholes somehow once they're formed, rather than keeping the witchoil on a strict diagonal.
With Creed fleeing, carrying an unconscious Macbannin, the constables' next move is definitely to try and track them. I should have just had him steal their carriage, but I didn't think of it, so I figure Creed hauled Macbannin to their stables, then rode away on horseback.
I don't think the flayed jaguars should be able to track Macbannin. Undead aren't really known for their sense of smell, are they?
So the PCs will be able to track the horse away from the mansion with a good Nature check, but once it gets into the city all Creed has to do is turn onto a cobbled street and the PCs will be reduced to Streetwise checks to find out where they went.
I also reread gideonpeys' post about how he handled this sequence, but I don't think his solutions work for my party. I don't think Gale would make a timely appearance here, and my PCs have yet to meet Morgan Cippiano -- they'll be getting those letters later this afternoon. Cippiano's letters will probably arrive while the PCs are in the Theatre of Scoundrels.
It seems to me, though, that the adventure actually works fine if Macbannin gets away. Nicodemus can still contact him and induct him into the Obscurati. It does lose the great cell scene where the PCs find his body, though, so I'd certainly like to see them catch him.
I'll have to think it over. Anyone have any ideas?
Edit: Maybe a skill challenge chase scene if they pass their Nature check to follow the horse... along the lines of Mike Mearls' complex "Moving through Sunderham" skill challenge.
Last edited by Ajar; Tuesday, 29th May, 2012 at 04:01 AM.
Tuesday, 29th May, 2012, 05:20 AM #49
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
First off, I love how your group is taking the adventure in a really weird order. But you've got it put together well. Nice.
Second, I realize now that the text wasn't clear for the geysers. I intended for you to roll 2d20, and use one die for the latitude, one for the longitude. Not just a simple diagonal.
I worry that your party might be disgruntled that the villain got away, especially if you haven't done the attack at the Nettles church yet. I figured in designing the adventure, have Creed make an appearance on the hill and then leave before they can engage (this didn't work with my party, since we have a pixie who just sprinted in to attack; but Creed took him down and left him for dead). Then have him possibly get away in the Nettles church. But he would likely stick around to finish the party off in the laboratory.
In this case, hmm.
You could have Macbannin guide Creed to a ring of rusted iron in the Nettles, and have Macbannin pass through to some sort of Bleak Gate checkpoint the Ob have.* Then send Creed off to work with Kell, trying to lure the party to the church -- and you can have that act as the 'climax,' where they're under siege. Maybe replace Leone Quital with Macbannin, and actually encourage a fight.
Or you could just have Macbannin get away, sail to Orithea, lay low, and eventually show up at the end of adventure 4. If your players aren't expecting a big showdown, that actually works in a sort of film noir way. You solved the murder of the beautiful young woman, but the killer got away.
* My players noticed something that I hadn't considered in the adventure: where the hell did the carriages outside the Nettles church come from. They wanted to track them, and they were bitter that the shadow man had escaped again. So the next day they looked for wagon tracks, and I told them they followed a trail for a bit until it dead-ended into a rock wall. More examination uncovered a rusted metal ring set into the stone.
Wednesday, 30th May, 2012, 03:48 AM #50
Minor Trickster (Lvl 4)
The flexibility of the adventure design has served me very well when figuring out how to respond to my PCs doing things out of the "expected" order. Nicely done on your part as well.
One thing that rolling a single d20 in the mansion encounter does have going for it is that you end up getting something that looks like an actual fissure, since the sinkholes appear along a straight line. I might keep that if I was doing it again, and just move the diagonal closer to the action.
I like your ideas for what to do next. My players are frustrated with themselves for leaving Macbannin unguarded in their carriage, but cognizant of the fact that they deliberately prioritized stopping the witchoil over getting Macbannin back to HQ -- definitely the right call. So I don't think they'll be unduly put out if they can't catch him, but I'm still going to give them a shot at it.
Since they have amulets, I would think that if Creed and Macbannin flee into the Bleak Gate, and the PCs successfully track them to the entrance, they should be able to follow. I have quite a bit of Shadowfell material between my D&DI sub and Gloomwrought boxed set, planning to steal liberally from it for a setting of my own. So if it won't break future adventures if the PCs enter the Bleak Gate now, that's an option, and it could lead to a pretty cool showdown with Creed able to operate in his "native" environment.
That said, if the PCs can enter the Bleak Gate, they could theoretically blow Colossus Cell wide open. I don't think my PCs would do so, simply because they have no inkling of Colossus Cell beyond a notion that all that witchoil must be going somewhere.
I also like the option of having Macbannin show up at the Nettles church along with Creed, although that would make him a bit more bloodthirsty and less patriotic. He might have been contacted by Nicodemus in the interim, though, in which case, once part of the Ob, he would definitely see the PCs as thorns to be disposed of. Either way, assuming they escape the PCs' initial pursuit, Macbannin and Creed would like low while trying to arrange passage out of the city. Kell would then tip Creed off about the church after his meeting with the PCs on the afternoon of day 5, giving Creed and Macbannin time to get there and attempt to neutralize the PCs.
Food for thought! Thanks for the great ideas.
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