Sunday, 15th July, 2012, 06:38 PM #1
Rangda's Zeitgeist Campaign (SPOILERS)
My party finally finished WotBS, so we have started in on our heavily rules modified 4e Zeitgeist game.
The party is as follows:
- Savannah Lottie, Tiefling Warlord (actually using fire genasi rules but tiefling was a much more friendly reskin for the world)
- Cyrus Parnell, Human Sentinel reskinned to use technology as a power source instead of primal. His animal companion and summoned creatures (he's using druid summon powers for blacks) are all automatons.
- M. Ford Corrigan, Human Bladesinger, reskinned to use weird science (combination of magic and technology) as a power source.
- Laci Yoni, Human Knight
- Carlie Finley, Human Elementalist
- Sidde Harther, Elven Monk (not present at the first game)
Among the many rules modifications I've done, I'm using the background character generation rules from FATE. These rules create backgrounds for the characters where each party member knows some of the other members, which helps the party mesh together. Rather than start right in on Z1, I created a mini-module to run as a prologue. This occurs 6 months before the events of Z1, and is the first mission for the team.
Geoff Masarde has been kidnapped by members of the Risur Liberation League, a group of insurgants who want to ovethrow the existing government and replace it with the skyseers. They want to extract information from him about the RNS Coaltongue (which at this point is still under construction) so they can figure out how to effectively sabotage the construction. I don't plan on affiliating the RLL with Ethelyn, although the players may erroneously come to that conclusion (which will give me a red herring to send them off on wild goose chases).
I've set this up as a quickie intro to let them try out their characters and see if they want to make any changes before we start in on Zeitgeist proper. It consisted of a skill challenge (find the terrorists) and two combat encounters, a group outside the hideout and a group inside, and a trap designed as an alarm system to alert the group inside that their security has been breached. All in all a good well rounded module to throw a bit of everything at them.
They successfully manage the skill challenge, largely leaning on streetwise, dungeoneering, and perception skills to locate the hideout. Note that in my game skill challenges are significantly easier, as I've incorporated a variant of the GUMSHOE (by Pelgrane Press) investigative skills into my game. Points in investigative skills give the players (among other things) auto-successes in skill challenges assuming they can come up with a good way to use the skill. Once they use up their auto-successes, they can then spend investigative skill points to buy more auto successes. So in the 8/3 skill challenge they racked up 6 successes before even having to roll a die. (IMO this is a great way to rework skill challenges so they are not so agonizing, but it's still very much a work in progress as to which skills are active and which are investigative).
The hideout is in the city slums (of course); they decide to wait until nightfall to make their approach to give them a chance to sneak up on the guards (lounging on the building porch drinking ale). They manage to surprise them successfully and the combat goes fairly well, Ford gets pretty beaten up (he gets a high initiative roll and ends up somewhat isolated as a result). They have some slightly poor tactics which cause Cyrus & his 'animal' companion to be pinned behind Carlie in an alleyway (where they really want that order flipped), but they work through it and manage to defeat the guards without any of the them getting inside the building and tripping the alarm.
A flurry of very good stealth rolls lets the sneak team scout around the building's outer rooms only to discover they are empty, and that a choke point room has traps on all of the doors leading in. The traps are hinges that have been intentionally rusted to squeak loudly (the easy trap that the terrorists would expect to be found), and ropes tied to the inner doorknobs that lead to the supports of a shelf full of pots & pans (the real trap that they are hoping doesn't get found). If a door is opened they all crash to the ground making a loud nose that alerts the building to the fact that they have intruders (quite possibly leading to a dead Geoff). Despite setting a pretty high DC for the pot & pan trap, the party manages to pull off disabling it w/o setting it off.
Once again they manage to sneak in and get surprise on the bad guys. I've got the terrorists set up as outer guards in a hallway, the leader of the cell & his bodyguard (orc reskinned as a minotaur to look a bit more scary) in an inner office, and a lone guard up in the attic with Geoff in a makeshift cell. They do a pretty good job tactically, splitting the outer hallway guards into two groups and quickly neutralizing one of them. The minotaur worked great; I had him burst through the office door and he gave the party quite a scare even though the didn't do much (although he did soak up some attacks). Probably the best hilight for the PC's was killing the leader (rebel wizard from Z1), before he even got an action. Elementalist hit him with attack + elemental escalation + theme (Infernal Prince) damage add, then action pointed and hit him again. Pretty clean fight with only the bladesinger (again running off unsupported) getting a scare (had him down to 3 or so HP).
They ended up with 1 casualty (an unconcious terrorist got caught in an Ignition area from Carlie and I ruled that the fire zone killed him), 13 prisoners, and Geoff alive & unharmed. Delf congratulates them on a job well done & they each get 30gp in pay. Everyone seemed to enjoy their characters which was good and I've given them a thread that ties into the beginning of Z1, which we will start next week.
I always try to go fairly prop heavy for my games (for example we use Campaign Coins for money), so i've given them all magical ID cards that identify them as RHC members. The cards glow when the thumb is placed over the painting of the agent, providing some "proof" that they really are RHC members. Of course they can be forged and/or stolen and modified... I've also made "Top Secret" and "Eyes Only" manilla folders with my RHC logo on them; whenever the players get a mission I give them some notes on persons of interest, maps, etc. to help form a dossier for the mission. For this first mission they got the sketch of Geoff along with some of his background and a map of the city, with the rough area it was suspected where Goeff was being held.
I've attached the graphics I'm using for my current props in case anyone else wants to take advantage of them.
- EN World
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The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
Leading up to the final fight the leader of the party & wielder of the torch (paladin/ardent hybrid) had visions related to the torch and pretty much knew what had to be done. He sacrificed himself in round 1 to make himself the new heart of the world bringing the fight to the surface where Shaaladel & Aurana joined the fight as enemies while Shalosha joined as an ally. The paladin player played one of his divine aid LFR cards which gave him a Greater Aspect of the Raven Queen (custom built) monster to run for the fight.
At that point one of the biggest cans of whoop-ass I've ever seen got opened; NEVER underestimate the ability of a tuned high level D&D party to churn out damage. Despite all Leska's powers & HP, she died in 1 round. At the end of the first round of combat on the surface, Leska (1449 hp) was dead, Aurana (400 hp) was dead, and Shaaladel (1100 hp) had 27 hp left and surrendered. I think there were 8 crits or so in that 1 round. Three highly tuned strikers all with Crowns of Victory are a truly horrifying sight. Weaken aura didn't help a bit, sorcerer and barbarian had ways to turn off weakened for a round and the 3rd stirker was a ranger /w greatbow 20 squares away. Ability to shut off arcane didn't help, she was dazed after she had gone but before the sorcerer went. Utter domination didn't help as the player she hit with it (barbarian) had a "save immediately vs. dominate" magic item which downgraded utter domination to regular domination; by the time the fight got to the surface the dominate was already gone. Short of being immune to damage, I'm not sure what could have saved her. There was a lot of power at the table and combined with some very high dice rolls the gaming gods just demanded she die.
Overall the WotBS experience was a fun one for the players and myself, which is the important thing. There were some bumpy parts but the memories will be good ones.
I do have to say, however, that you all are outdoing yourselves with Zeitgeist. Now that I've finally got my hands on modules 2-4 and had a chance to look through them these first 4 modules are by far and away the best modules for any game system I've ever read. Ever. Period. I could probably nit pick some of the combats but that can be done with every module ever written. The only real quasi-complaint I've got is that they are so dense with material and complicated plots and timelines that they are a ton of work for the GM; and with our group playing every 2 weeks a lot of it might get lost in the time between sessions as memory fades.
Waghalter (Lvl 7)
You really do have to pull out all the stops to ensure the players don't get lost, but it's worth it.
So today the campaign proper starts as the party gets into The Island at the Axis of the World. The campaign starts with the party in Delf's office, receiving the news that they are going to be in charge of security for the gathering at the launch of the RNS Coaltongue. They receive a dossier that includes fact sheets on the VIP's attending as well as a map of the docks (should have included an itinerary for the event but I forget to make one). They do the basic prep and then dig into the skill challenge. They make short work of the skill challenge thanks to my investigation rules; 5 auto successes due to investigation skills leaves them having to only roll dice 3 times (in actuality 4 as Savanna failed a check). But they still breeze through. I had Thames show up after 2 rounds were completed, Cyrus & Carlie talked to Thames while the rest interrogated the dockers they had already rounded up. Carlie is a docker and had heard of Thames, and as it turned out Thames recognized Carlie (rolled a 19 on a “who is this docker” check). This helped get through what could have been an rough introduction and convinced Thames to help. He mentions Dafton at the same time a captured docker in a fit of defiance mentions “Well, you didn't get all of us!!! Oops, I shouldn't have said that...” This leaves the entire final turn to round up Dafton which they do, and with Thames they convince him to go along quietly.
The party pulls some strings and lets the dockers go in Thames' care, even though they technically broke the law by bringing weapons with them. This impresses Thames (and unimpresses the Bobby's) enough that he asks them to deliver his message, and after they agree he promises them that he owes a favor. The rest of the christening of the ship is uneventful other than Geoff coming over to greet the party (in my game he was saved from a kidnapping in a small introductory prologue to the campaign). They then meet Harkover and set sail. One bit here, a party member spends a bulls*** detector investigation point (the investigation side of insight) to notice that Sokana is an Eladrin). This draws the attention of the party towards Ethelyn and helps them a bit later on.
The party gets the tour of the ship; I have two technologists in the party so lots of questions are asked of the ships crew. My party is totally paranoid, they ask many (fairly specific) questions about what they should do if someone were to sabotage the boiler or try to use fire gems as explosives, etc. This gives them some good data which helps greatly solving the boiler puzzle as they had a rough idea what to do before that even started. They take the duchess for her nap, the hour rolls by and they go to summon her. Heading straight for the cabin they get there while Sokana is packing up the ritual supplies. After a couple of “just a minute” responses they start to get suspicious; just as they go to break the door down it opens. Sokana tries to stall them a bit to give Ethelyn time to get away, but Lacy has the bulls*** detector investigation skill and realizes she's stalling, Cyrus & Carlie get a high result on a secret perception check I roll and hear Ethelyn exiting the ship. Cyrus has his mechanical bear break the door down, observes her riding away with the faerie and that starts the fight music. Just before fight starts Cyrus is quick on his mental feet and tells the crewman who escorted them below decks “There is a fire in the engine room get help!”. It takes a round or two to sink in but he runs off to get people to help.
Sokana gets a good head start towards the engine room, and Ilton sneaks out of the room w/o a bed and gets the drop on Ford, bloodying him. But Cyrus uses his combination attack (both hit, so 2d12 + double stat) and that make short work of Ilton. (Ilton dropping so fast really hurt the saboteurs cause.) This forces Sokana to burn one set of fire sprites to try to slow the party down on the gun deck. Despite Sokana's head start and Fey Step, Carlie is right on her heels as Lacy missed a fire sprite and used her Docker encounter power to give Carlie about 8 free squares of movement. Sokana then manages to get a second batch of fire sprites off to go play in the fire dust storage (I had the engineers remove the fire wards). And she gets the fire wand into the boiler and the door rusted shut, but at heavy cost as Carlie catches her and two engineers in two Ignition areas (action point) using her Elemental Escalation as well. (That kills those engineers as they are unconscious in 2 fire zones /w fire gems on the floor.) This leaves 2 of the 3 (I added one) Engineers dead and Sokana bloodied and teetering. (Carlie hit all 3 2x, think it was about 40 damage to all 3 of the NPC's; ouch.) Reinforcements arrive and drop Sokana before she can rust the pressure relief valves shut. Meanwhile upstairs 3 fire sprites come out of the fire dust storage with casks and make a rush at Lacy, but two of the 3 attacks miss and Lacy is only bloodied.
This leads to the party trying to defuse the overloading boiler. Cyrus and Ford both spend Technology investigation points to fix the valves in one turn instead of two letting them open those quickly. Ford and Lacy carry two of the fire wards back to the fire dust storage while Savanna keeps one to give her resist 20 fire while she pries the rusted furnace door open. A 20+ STR check plus a shovel as a lever gives her an open door and broken shovel. With her resist 20 fire she is able to get the fire rod out without much difficulty, and Cyrus then takes the fire ward (Savanna is a Tiefling) and the two of them proceed to shovel enough gems out onto the floor before the boiler explodes. While all this is going on Carlie drags the prisoners out of the vicinity of the boiler so they don't die in all the fire gems.
The saboteurs are stopped without even interrupting the king's speech which goes on w/o a hitch. As the party comes up looking disheveled, Delf comes over to ask what is going on (having already noticed some crewman scurrying about because of Cyrus' fire alarm). The party explains, Delf's eyes go wide, and that ends the scene. I ruled that they were quick enough that the boiler was still semi-functional so the Coaltongue is able to limp back into port at greatly reduced speed (which is pawned off as intentional “to take in the sights” to the dignitaries on board.
As a reward for being so quick on their feet; the party gets to spend an all nighter with Harkover as he gores over what happened again and again, magically recording it all for later analysis. In the morning they get a bath, suitable attire from the palace staff, and breakfast with the king. A week goes by and the party is summoned to Delf's office...
There they meet Lya (whom Ford being a martial scientist knows by name), and get the puzzle. My group fiddles with it for 2 minutes or so before they figure out that you cannot do it unless you lift one of the colors in the air. They want to make a good impression so they spend an Arcana investigation point to figure out quickly that there is no solution. The meeting goes pretty much as scripted, for props I give them a map of the island with the cave entrance, exit, and fort marked, cards for the scrolls, and a vial of residium (salt in a test tube), and what they know of Lya (some of her bio).
They then get their requisition money. My game is heavily modified as far as item costs go (A L30 item costs L10 RAW); they each get 400gp requisition money. This lets them get 4 L2-L3 items and 1 L4-L6 item (so everyone gets one item). From memory Carlie takes Shimmering Robes; Ford takes armbands adding damage to basic attacks, Cyrus takes a tattoo (forget what it does), Lacy takes Plate that gives temp HP as a daily, Savanna takes a shield that gives temp HP as a daily. I'm also using inherent bonus rules (weapon/neck/armor pluses are based on character level and have nothing to do with magic items, which just give powers and properties) so the magic plate is +0 plate @L1 (but the temp HP is very useful for a defender).
They set sail on the RNS Coaltongue, pick up the primary team, and reach Axis Island. The scripted accident happens (everyone was expecting it; this part sort of annoyed my party a bit as it was so obvious that it was coming), they free Burton and head into the cavern. They manage to get in a bit of exploring the cavern before Nicolas spots them, starts raving, and the fight music starts. Yet again the dice gods hate Ford, as the Shadow Stalker picks him for its chew toy, but its attacks all miss. The fight ends up being pretty lopsided for the party, Nicolas gets a couple of good shots in with his pistol but the elementals don't do much other than die. Highlights for the party are Cyrus holding two earth elementals at bay with his pet mechanical bear (I added a 2nd earth elemental), and Carlie taking poor Nicolas from full hp to almost dead in one shot (Elemental Escalation on a fire bolt did 34 damage and his full hp + his bloodied value is 36). Had she managed the 36 in one shot I've have ruled that they wouldn't have been able to knock him out. But they did knock him and and once they woke him up they convinced him they weren't actually with Ethelyn's rebels; he tells them what he knows has happened and leads them to the surface. Burton stays behind with Nicolas, as much for Nicolas' benefit as Burton's. The party makes the trek to the fortress, detecting and skipping the trap, bypassing the patrol, and having their other-wordly experience.
The game session ends with the party at the keep...
Next game is 3 weeks out giving us all plenty of time to forget what happened (and a chance to take some of gideonpepys' advice).
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
I'm now imagining sprinkling residuum on some French Fries.
I apparently need to look at the elementalist sorcerer. Seriously, 34 damage at 1st level?
Elemental Bolt 1d12 + CHA (4) + CON (3)
Fire elementalist: +1d6 (to bolt only)
Superior (Incendiary) dagger: +2
Elemental Escalation (Elementalist damage add): +1d10
So 1d12 + 1d10 + 1d6 + 9 = 24.5 average, 37 maximum. Obviously that max won't get hit that often but with a good dice roll the damage gets pretty big. Worse the party has a resourceful presence Warlord; that is +5 damage when you spend an action point and attack with the action. So if that attack came via an AP the numbers bump to 29.5 / 42.
Honesty having done a damage analysis on several of the essential strikers, some of the other classes can top this against a single target. The ugly part of Sorcerer is that they can do their damage to areas, and if you let the monsters cluster that can make encounters evaporate in a hurry.
Finally had another session today after a 3 week layoff. Not much in the way of plot advancement today as the “defend the gate mechanism” scene took most of the session. Because my party is classic old school kick-the-door-down-and-kill-the-bad-guys types, I opted to run this scene as the 3 combat encounters rather than a skill challenge. That ate up most of the night.
The session starts with the party outside the keep wall, ready to enter. A brief recap of what has previously occurred (made much easier by these write ups) gets everyone up to speed quickly. Thanks to whoever suggested the idea of a recap at the start of each session! Ford reads a Passwall scroll, the party gets lucky not having a random patrol right in front of the hole as it materializes, and in they go. Despite having characters with 1 and -1 stealth skills, the party manages to make their way to the water edge with only 3 failures, avoiding any contact with guards or patrols. (Note that we use the LFR cards in our game and the “That'll Do” cards allowing a retroactive take 10 on a skill check make a huge difference here.) Along the way the party comes across the prisoners in the stable, but decide they would rather leave that alone and not trigger a keep-wide alarm with them so far from their primary objective (wise decision). The party does come up with the idea to use a water breathing scroll for an easy stealth approach to the lighthouse. This also gives them the advantage of being able to get a good look at the area without exposing themselves. A die roll of an 18 on a perception check reveals the wizard in the 2nd floor of the lighthouse, and they stay to watch the patrol patterns of the guards. Looking at the battle map, they see no good place to come out of the water, as coming out by the ship still requires you to come up the ramp which makes the lighthouse effectively ~200 feet away. instead they decide they want to come up on the seawall and approach from that direction. I allow this going with the general description of gas lights ever 60' with small patches of darkness between. They pick a patch 3 lanterns away from the battle map, giving them plenty of room to avoid being spotted on the ascent to the wall at the cost of possibly being detected in the lantern light. They do, however, come up with a reasonably cunning plan for that.
Lacy being the best climber in the party climbs the sea wall and drops a rope from one of the dark patches. The stealth team, Ford and Carlie, climb next (Carlie barely avoids falling into the water, she's an awful climber). Ford sneaks over to the gas lantern and then makes a stealth check to slowly fade the lantern down with nobody noticing, letting the poor stealth types avoid having to deal with the light. They repeat this process moving from darkness patch to darkness patch, going back to turn on the lanterns behind them. This way no more than 1 lantern is ever dimmed. Given the relative lack of perception on the part of the guards I figured this had a semi-reasonable chance of working long enough for them to get to the lighthouse. I left the move around stealth checks for Ford in the light at the general DC of 8 and set the DC of changing the light level to 15. Despite the 15 DC Ford makes every check but one, I hit them with 2 failures to the threat level for blowing that check as a guard notices something odd with the lights on the sea wall. This brings the alert level to Elevated; however at this point the party is at the lighthouse making it somewhat moot.
I'm feeling generous since they came up with such a good plan for an approach so I give them a trap door on the roof of the machine room next to lighthouse. This lets them sneak into that room without alerting the guards outside. I put one guard In the room but Ford sneaks up on him and takes him out. (D&D rules don't really allow it, but I told them if they could sneak next to a guard w/o the guard being aware they could do a one shot take-down as long as they don't role a 1 on the attack roll). The stealth team (Ford and Carlie) then sneak back on the roof, down the wall and stealth take-down the guard by the lantern right outside the machine room. This gives them a 2 pronged attack on the lighthouse from both doors. I figure someone would notice the missing guard outside pretty quick, but given that they'll be launching an attack in a couple of rounds that would occur first.
They get surprise on the guards in the tower, who I have playing cards at a table. Lacy, Cyrus and his mechanical bear, and Ford swarm them, Savanna moves to cover the door, and Carlie makes for the second floor to deal with the wizard. As luck would have it Carlie goes before the wizard & drake in the initiative order, so on the first non-surprise round uses Elemental Escalation on her Elemental Bolt, hitting the drake and critting the wizard. The drake takes 20 I think and the wizard takes 37 for the crit; killing the wizard and almost killing the drake (certainly making him a non-threat) without any chance for the bell to go off to sound the alarm. Ford and Lacy also beat the initiative of the guards downstairs so a good chunk of guards are down before they even get to go, making this a quick fight.
With the alarm silenced the party gets a short rest before opening the gates and signaling the fleet; they use the time they have before wave 1 to build some barricades in front of the doors to the keep. Savanna being a Yerasol Vet comes up with the boiling oil idea and heating it is easy enough with a fire sorcerer around. The plan is to use commandeered crossbows to shoot anyone that approaches while the Savanna is waits to dump oil on anyone by the front door if it gets hairy. The first wave drops pretty quickly although the party's tactics aren't so good. They just aren't all that great with the crossbows lacking a DEX character, leaving most of the dirty work to Carlie. This means that Carlie also takes most of the return fire, they take out the wave at the cost of a couple of Carlie's healing surges.
The downtime between waves is spent repairing the barricades and erasing the evidence of Carlie's fire area attacks. The party had the bright idea of trying to make it non-obvious that there was an area caster, which would encourage the attackers to cluster together making the area attacks more effective. Since space is cramped and that's what they'd be trained to do I let this work (at least until the area's started flying). They now adjust their tactics a bit, making an additional barricade outside and putting Lacy there to try to bottle the attackers up before the lighthouse, and waiting to launch attacks until the attackers get right up to the barricade. On the surface this seems like a good plan, it turns out to be a bad one. While the barricade on the 5' wide section outside means that only 1 attacker can be next to it (so it can only lose 1 point per round) it also means that the barricade can be bypassed entirely by climbing the 10' up to the area right at the lighthouse entrance. The second wave also had the bright idea of sending a separate team along the sea wall (there were so many models if I put them all in the 15' wide area they'd be stacked up like cord wood). Letting the attackers get so close means the heroes cannot kill them fast enough (in my game you need two hits to kill a minion; you really have to do this or something like this when you have at-will area attacks or minions are useless). Lacy gets swarmed as she has no support outside and drops right at the point of death. Ford and Carlie do some damage to the horde but not nearly enough; a couple of rounds of return fire leaves Ford dying and Carlie with 3 HP despite them having total cover (I rolled a lot of 14+ on those attack rolls). At this point I was staring to worry about a TPK as I had 2 dying players and 1 almost dying player out of 5, but never underestimate the resourcefulness of your players. Two leaders helped, that got people on their feet quick but used up the last of the healing words. Cyrus also bought some time to let second winds go off by basically sacrificing his mechanical bear to hold one doorway and holding the second doorway himself. Once combat was shifted to through the doorways of the first floor this greatly favored the defenders as Carlie could toss areas out there from places that were hard to shoot back at, thanks to the mechanics of area attacks. It was a close call but they managed to hold out against the wave and Lacy only failed 1 death save. I think the Warlord came in really handy here as she was able to hand her attacks to Carlie so the party got striker damage but at the same time got the Inspiring Word's, kind of the best of both worlds.
For the 3rd wave I gave them their encounters and ability to spend AP/second winds back but did not let them heal up; I felt it would be a bit brutal without that. Of course this wave was also substantially larger. That said the party tactics were much better this time and they decimated this wave while remaining relatively unscathed. The let the attackers come right up to the (repaired) barriers and take them down. At this point Lacy poured the boiling oil down on the doorway. I made her make an attack roll to see how well she placed it and she rolled a 15, I let that kill 5 minions and bloody two soldiers that were at the main door. Attackers had poured into the machine room as it was easier to swarm that way but Cyrus held the door and kept them penned in in the machine room. Carlie used an action point to drop two area attacks in there, one with her damage add; which was ugly, even with needing two hits to kill a minion that dropped and bloodied a bunch, killed one drake, almost killed the second drake, and yet again one shot killed the wizard (note to self, every monster must have > 25 hp from now on). I thought this wave might kill a PC but they tore right through it with excellent tactics and fortuitous dice rolling (none of their attacks that mattered missed while the few monster attacks that mattered did).
They mop up the remnants of the last attackers just as the fleet pulls in to the harbor, turns broadsides to shore and opens up with cannon/archers/gunners at any other rebels pushing towards the lighthouse. Score one for the good guys. At this point the party heads to the Impossible to report in. They make their report, get a half hour or so to rest while the army establishes a beach head, and are then requested to head to the front lines so they can be present when the duchess is captured. This is when to witness the devastation that is Asrabey Varal as he single handedly sinks a ship. My players having just come off of completing WotBS, are greatly perturbed to see what they perceive to be an epic level bad guy (we're not tall enough for that ride!). Fortunately for them they don't have to, at least for now. They investigate the wreckage of the ship, they have appropriate investigative skills so I give them the DC 12 information for free, they spend Arcana & History IP to get the appropriate DC 19 info. Thus forewarned they decide to head to the prison they saw earlier and see if they can get anything useful from the prisoners, and maybe with some luck find Nathan. The army has by now captured the prison and is trying to figure out what to do with the prisoners, and promptly dumps this in the PC's lap when they show up. Lacy spends her bull**** detector IP point to get a read on Marseine, which allows her to figure out how he needs to be dealt with. Since an IP got spent in this scene I don't bother asking for die rolls as long as they give him what he wants, which they do. He and ~25 other Danoran's arm up to attack the rebels (they'll probably attack the Risuri too eventually but the plan is to be long gone before it would get to that point). Armed with the key to the keep and the map of the sewers. They head towards the keep and once again encounter the Asrabey Tasmanian devil as he invokes the Immurement. At this point nobody is real happy about the thought of playing with him but despite this they press on, taking advantage of the Immurement to head through the inner wall. They are rather surprised to find a hedge maze where their intel indicates there is no such thing but rationalize this as the fey doing something since they saw Ethelyn riding away from the Coaltongue on the back of one of the archfey.. Right on cue they come across Gillie Dhu furiously beating out flames with his shillelagh, he gets in his soliloquy that “None shall pass!!!”, and disappears into the hedge maze. The session ends with the party standing at edge of the maze, giving them two weeks to ponder the wonders of Asrabey and Gillie...
 I know RangerWicket was somewhat surprised by these damage numbers but they really aren't that hard to get. Most essentials classes can crack 25 @L1 with their reds if they get lucky. Carlie's red gives her 1d12+1d10+1d6+9 or 2d10+9 depending on which green she uses (and that second number is an area); Cyrus' double attack can do 2d12+12 if both attacks hit, Ford with Bladesong up can do 1d8+12, even Lacy as a defender can do 2d10+4 with her red. So if you give monsters < 25 hp there is a very real chance they get one shot'ed.
Getting ready to start Z2 this weekend, thought other GM's might like a copy of my swag file for the module. This has all of the props mentioned in the module but not provided, along with sanitized info packets on all of the major NPC's the party will encounter.
The session starts with the party standing outside the hedge maze. They decide that the easiest way to get in and get Gillie to come out and play is to set the maze on fire (having a fire elementalist makes this particularly easy). Sure enough both work and this encounter ends up being pretty easy. The damage Gillie takes from the hedge maze really works against him here (area attacks can just set too much on fire too fast).
The party heads inside the tower and manages to come upon the duchess and Asrabey in the middle of their argument without being heard and listen in. Upon being discovered, Ford spends a Diplomacy IP to talk to Asrabey rather than fight. They ponder his terms of "I leave and take Nathan with me" and decide they'd rather fight him and maybe die than get on Lya's bad side and potentially cause an international incident by letting Asrabey get away with Nathan. I ran using the L20 version of Asrabey, but in my game I'm trying to fudge out the half level add from all the math so I lowered his defenses and attack bonus (but left his high damage). This allowed the players to hit him with moderate dice rolls (13-15) but left the problem of soaking up his damage output. It was a bit tight but they took him down. Lacy and Savanna had both taken Shields of Protection as their magic items from the requisition money, and the resist 10 all effect x2 is what tipped the scales in their favor (that and 2 leaders).
Nathan requests asylum as he doesn't want to go back to Danor. (Did the module say why? If so I missed it.) The party decides to defer on that and ask Lya if it's OK that he come. Given her pending marriage she allows it and the party has to spend a moment picking their jaws up from the ground after hearing about the marriage.
After about 2 hours of picking L2 magic items and printing (I let them do it off the Z2 clock so they had the items to start) we dive into Z2.
They get the call for to investigate the body and head out. As expected this scene showcases investigation points as they figure out far more than I expect most parties would, but at the cost of blowing most of their IP. They get all of the clues from the body and the embassy itself; they even manage a look at the 4th floor w/o escort (but wisely avoid actually going into the consul's office). Carlie distracts LeBrix by wanting to go upstairs (which he really doesn't want); this frees up Ford to get some alone time with Tia, who provides them with the records of Dr. Wolfgan's visit. They then flip the good-guy bad-guy with Ford making waves about taking Tia into HQ for questioning. Of course they have zero authority to do this but his making a fuss about it forces LeBrix to deal with him leaving Carlie with a flunky. She manages to get rid of said flunky with a 25 bluff check (rolled a 15) and off she goes upstairs to discover the office lock having been picked and the blood stains and splash pattern.
With their last IP they manage to find the signs of a fight outside and the deed but miss the blood stain.
They leave the embassy "knowing":
- Most of what LeBrix said was a lie, and that he's not really happy about lieing.
- Nilasa had a face wound, probably a slash from a claw) that was healed post-mortem
- Nilasa was shot after being impaled on the fence
- She had an empty vial, used an invisibility elixer (probaby in the vial)
- Used flight magic
- Drugged the workers with fey pepper in the chocolates
- Was bailed by Heward Sechim
- She frequented the Thinking Man's Tavern
- Probably picked the lock of the consul's office
- Had an accomplice, Dr. Wolfgang, that took whatever she stole + her pendant away, got in a fight, losing the deed to the barge.
- Either LeBrix is hiding something and can make himself look completely black, or there was anoother unmentioned party here.
- The Danorans have a barge, which is most likely up to something illegal
They've gotten Dr. Wolfgang's involvement totally wrong and taken the wrong impression of the barge deed, but it will be fun to see what they do with those. They also missed the eye witness clue about there being another person here so they aren't sure if the black shape was LeBrix or someone else.
NOTE: My party really got hung up on 4e mechanics here. The math of Nilasa flying 40' and landing on the spikes just doesn't work according to 4e rules and my party really got stuck on trying to explain how this happened using D&D combat mechanics (which of course it can't be). They really tunneled on this and I had to push them away from it. They kept trying to put it on a combat grid and explain the math away and then try to figure out why she would end her combat turn of flight over the spikes killing herself. Other GM's might want to take note of this and tell them up front to not meta here if your party is prone to such things.
At this point they split up, Savanna & Ford head to the Parity Lake police station to get a copy of Nilasa's rap sheet while Cyrus, Carlie, and Lacy calling a Flint favor to get a dragnet started for the nefarious Dr. Wolfgang. Having used 1 favor for a dragnet the fail the diplomacy check for a second favor for the rap sheet and have to cool their heels for a few hours while the "very busy" records office gets it for them. Meanwhile the dragnet doesn't find Wolfgang but it does come up with the person of interest report taking the cabbie's statement about taking someone matching his description to the House of Blue Bird.
At this point they ponder all of their leads:
- Try to get the truth from LeBrix
- Investigate the House of Blue Bird
- Investigate the Thinking Man's Tavern
- Try to find the source of the fey pepper
- Talk to Heward
- Talk to Ford & Travis.
- Look for the Wolfgang needle in the Flint haystack
Since it's 7:30pm they decide to head to the tavern for dinner, drinks and (hopefully) information. They head in as private citizens rather than law enforcement, order dinner and try to take in the lay of the land. Some investigative skills point them to Bab, Jad, and Hennet as likely people to talk to. At this point they spot Thames and invite him to the table; Carlie and Lacy are both dockers and they handled the docker situation at the king's speech really well from Thame' viewpoint (they released the dockers to Thames on his word they would cause no further trouble). So he was happy to join them and talk shop about his work trying to create the docker union, which Carlie and Lacy are genuinely supportive of.
Thames being a regular here confirms who they should talk to but warns that Babs & Nilasa were close so they have to be gentle with her, and that in general they will get a lot more here with a carrot than with a stick.
Carlie heads off to get Babs alone and break the news that Nilasa is dead and see if Babs could help find the scoundrels who would do such a thing to her (leaving the subject of international espionage out of the discussion). Ford and Cyrus, meanwhile try to strike up a conversation with Hennet. I decide to be a bit cruel and give Hennet a small chance to recognize the party given their 15 min of fame in the papers after Z1 and promptly roll a 16 so he indeed recognizes them (my dice like to do that). So despite their best efforts they get sucked into his philosophical game. But they are good sports and play it out which makes him at least satisfied.
Thames does bristle at the party being treated as "the man", especially Carlie and Lacy who he is thinking of more as dockers than law enforcement and has a slight outburst sticking up for them. This certainly helps, and along with some smooth talking from Carlie convinces the dockers to give what they know. The party leaves the tavern knowing that Nilasa associated with some brigands in the Cloudwood and that Nilasa was having letters written to Morgan about something most likely illegal and involving large sums of money.
They finish the day off sending an express letter off to LeBrix inviting him out for dinner tomorrow, but he declines as he is "far too busy" for the next couple of weeks.
This takes us to 2nd summer. They start the day giving Delf a status report and again split up. Cyrus and Ford head to Bosum Strand to check out the barge and also search for the fey pepper supplier in that district. Carlie, Lacy, and Savanna head to Parity Lake to talk to Heward and search that district for fey pepper. The plan is to meet up at Bosum Strand and call in a Flint favor to take a ship out to the prison boats to talk to Ford & Travis.
The barge is of course a waste of time, but they do have to get a warrant to search which costs a RHC favor to get it quick (and wastes an hour of travel time). And the search for the pepper comes up empty.
The protests at the Parity Lake really hit home for Carlie and Lacy who are much more supportive of the workers than the owners. There was mention that hanging an owner or two might teach them a valuable lesson but it was left at a comment. They meet Heward and are impressed with his factory, but don't really get much information here. They do, however, get the request to meet with Nevard to talk with Gale which gives them another thread to follow.
Next up is a trip to the prison to talk with Ford & Travis. They decide to split up and talk to them separately. Both groups balk at providing a pardon, but decide that since the visiting rights will just cost time and not a favor they will be OK putting that leg work in. I skip the skill checks as they spit up in such a way to keep appropriate investigative skills in each party so after some time they find out about the smuggling operation Nilasa is ivolved in (busy girl!) and the "house elf".
At this point they have the bright idea to head to the Pine Island docks instead of back to the Bosum Strand docks, as they haven't checked there for the fey pepper yet and it's a more efficient use of time. They ask around for the fey pepper and learn about Dansica's shop. They also ask around about the House Elf and learn about Blander. At this point it's getting rather late in the day, they decide to call it a day, get a warrant to search Dansica's shop and come back tomorrow pre-armed with the ability to do a thorough search (under the assumption that they might very well turn up some contraband at the shop).
Next morning they update Delf, call in a favor for the warrant, and head to Dansica's in separate groups. The plan is for Carlie and Lacy to go in posing as part of whatever group of Cloudwood brigands Nilasa was associated with telling Dansica that they still expect their wands. After 5 minutes if they didn't come back out the rest of the party would barge in as law enforcement, lock the place down, and use the warrant to do a thorough search. The party didn't call in a favor for back up here and they really should have.
In my game Nilasa's death made the papers, and while she wasn't mentioned by name there was a sketch so the Waryeye's knew she was dead. I couldn't find anywhere in the module where it said how much the Waryeye's know about Gale's group, so I figured with sufficient bluff this actually had a shot of working, at least for a while. Carlie promptly rolled a 1 but used an action point to reroll (house rule) flipping the 1 into an 18. A 28 bluff check easily convinced Dansica that they were on the level which tells them that the Waryeye's are dirty (at leaste Dansica is). Carlie and Lacy spend some time casing the shop and Carlie notices the gnome sized secret door and (more importantly) the holes in the ceiling for the dreaming dust trap.
They decide they'll let the 5 minutes go by to trigger the search and see what happens, having given the impression to Dansica that they are at least business associates if not allies.
The session ends here so we'll start in 2 weeks (most likely) with a fight with the Waryeye's.
Despite my group being a combat group we had no fights in all of Z2 this session, yet they still really enjoyed it (having a couple of Z1 fights in the session probably helped). All this investigation stuff is new for us, and the investigation skill rules were great for letting them find clues. Instead of flailing at high DC die rolls they are flailing at piecing together the clues, but at least for my group that is a lot more fun. It also gave them an almost overwhelming amount of information; we've got a 4x3 whiteboard in the game room which is covered in notes.
Last edited by rangda; Sunday, 26th August, 2012 at 08:21 AM.
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