Thread: Vorne's Zeitgeist campaign
Monday, 30th July, 2012, 06:59 PM #1
Vorne's Zeitgeist campaign
I had DMed a 4e campaign for a year and a half, meeting weekly. We had just gotten to the epic tier, when 2 of my players moved out of town. We spent months not gaming, but another out of town friend teamed up with some of the previous players and pushed me into DMing using the roll20.net VT. I had tried online gaming as a player previously and didn't enjoy the experience, but I gave in and agreed to try it.
Our last campaign I chose the system, setting and story, but this time around I wanted the players to decide what kind of game they wanted to play. We met up on the VT site, testing it out while the players and I discussed options. In the end they decided they wanted to give 4E another go, but were undecided on the type of game. The only thing they agreed on is that they wanted to RP a bit more.
It was at this point I mentioned: I do have this one adventure... The group instantly jumped on this idea. The thought of being an investigative force in D&D just galvanized the lot of them. I was surprised, but pleased because I had read the first adventure a year ago and thought it was one of the most amazing adventures I'd ever read. And it was for level 1, which usually has the most banal of adventures!
The current party:
Dorinn, Dragonborn Sorcerer. Reflavored as using special alchemical bullets in his gun instead of casting spells. RHC member.
Nyx, Gnome Artificer. RHC member.
Trip, Eladrin Swordmage. Freelance mercenary, currently on hire by the understaffed RHC.
Professor Ross Ethorp, Human Wizard. Reflavored as using technological inventions instead of casting spells. Minor noble, technology consultant.
We decided to meet every other week for roughly 4 hour sessions. I'll include the write up for our first session soon.
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The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
Huh, and entirely arcane party? That's kinda nifty.
Glad to have you on board. Sounds like it's time to update the list of ZEITGEIST campaigns that are being shared on the forum.
As promised, the first session. I decided to just throw them into the beginning of the adventure as written, eschewing the pre adventure warm up several posters have done. Ross was being created as we started, so despite the fact I had him there, he was a bit too distracted to really do anything during the skill challenge.
The skill challenge went pretty well overall. I tend to do skill challenges pretty free form, with people RPing what they want to do and me asking for rolls when/if they seem appropriate. I had one player having a hard time getting into RP (which I knew would be his challenge), so spent most of the challenge wandering through the crowd looking intimidating and seeing if anyone acted suspiciously to him. Nyx and Trip did a good job though, thinking back on which groups might be willing to cause trouble and isolating dockers and primalists who seemed riled up to question. A couple dockers got spooked off by the special attention, and "accidentally" dropping Dafton's name.
The party neatly failed here, when they cornered an aggressive Dafton in the middle of the circled crowd, but at the last moment, Nyx volunteered to address the docker concerns with the officials to try and get things worked out. The cowed Dafton thanked them sincerely and left in peace. Note, due to their dealings with him, I decided to combine Dafton and Grimsley. I didn't want to confuse them on the back of that encounter, they had already agreed to take up the issue with the authorities, and I like the idea of a former thug reforming into someone who deals more with words partially due to the party's interaction with him.
The group mingled with the nobles when they arrived, mostly observing the various factions. Ross got introduced, spending much of his time talking about the bits of tech he helped with when the Coaltingue was being built with whoever would listen. The constables were given their instructions by Delft (everyone loved his mannerisms by the way) and specifically told to keep an eye on Ross to make sure he doesn't accidentally blow the ship up by messing with anything on board (foreshadowing!)
The party split. Dorinn ushered the duchess to her room and waited at the staircase to make sure nobody came down to bother her. Trip shadowed Ross to keep him in line. Ross mingled but mostly chatted with Geoff as they discussed the ship and Geoff got drunk. Nyx gorged himself on all the tasty treats around. When he heard the king complain of indigestion, everyone immediately expected him to die of poisoning at any point. Silly players.
Trip is sent down to get the duchess so she doesn't miss the king's speech. Get handmaiden delays them until they hear a splash. Up above Ross notices smoke has stopped pourin out of the stacks. He starts downstairs, followed by Nyx with a mouthful of food (hearing the player talking with his mouth full trying to ask what was going on was quite amusing). The party below busts the door down. And the Risur national anthem begins to play as initiative is rolled. I actually played an anthem during this time to help fit the mood (the Phillipine national anthem actually). I've found my group loves sound effects so I'll be trying to find places to fit songs or effects in when I can.
The combat was quite chaotic. Dorinn got knocked out in the second turn and was forgotten by the rest of the party. Sokana got her rod into the furnace, but was knocked out next to it and slowly charred to death. Steam filled the engine room as pipes were burst to relieve pressure. Ross ran up above, sounded a general alarm and rallied Geoff with some sailors to go down below to stop the boiler from bursting. Sprites ran around, disabling wards and nearly opening the bin of fire gems. It was rough, but the party, with the rallied help, got things under control.
Had a lot of fun this first run. People need to learn to work together, but that should come in time, and had a 5th player listen in and decide to join up for the next adventure. Can't wait...
Last edited by Vorne; Tuesday, 31st July, 2012 at 06:59 PM.
Last edited by Vorne; Tuesday, 31st July, 2012 at 06:56 PM. Reason: Oops double post
After several weeks of bad timing, we finally got another game in. This session introduced two new players, breaking up the Arcane symmetry we had going on:
Wu, Hengyokai Executioner
Togwin, Dwarf Monk
Togwin is an RHC member pulled off a separate case. Wu is a plant from the Family, reporting to Morgan Cippiano on the inner workings of the RHC so they have the inside scoop.
This session began with the players being reprimanded for killing all of the conspirators in the Coaltongue sabotage and wasting RHC resources in having to bring in spirit mediums to commune with the dead. I think they understood, it's just been a departure from their standard gaming style of killing everything and working it out later. They met with Lya, the new characters brought in at that meeting. They figured out the puzzle instantly, noting the rings of mana could be stacked on top of each other. Lya praised them, then got down to business. A short exposition with a few good questions later, and the party was off to the Impossible.
Whilst on the Impossible, the party was intrigued by the captain's talk of Miller's beliefs, though they mostly disagreed with him. Still, it got characters thinking. Dorinn even read the small snippet of Miller's writings at hand, and was quite interested in his life. No idea what he's thinking, but it's good to see him interacting with the world.
Meeting the crack squad who was supposed to take point was also a great moment. I took some time, fleshing out the characters, discussing the plan and showing each character's individual personalities. This made the discovery of the fact that all but one of them died a shock to the party. A little paranoia can be good for the players. Togwin's player had to leave at this point, so he remained on the ship while the rest of the party pressed on.
The group dealt with Nicholas with few issues. The player who picked up the coin was delighted with his air elemental buddy, who survived the fight intact. Tge group came close to killing Nicholas, but better heads prevailed, so they healed him, got directions for where to go, and left the mine.
The characters were quite intrigued by the golem, spending a while following and trying to direct it. They also gathered up some of its oil and the gunpowder from the dead Danorans at the mine entrance, planning to make some makeshift bombs.
This session left off with the party hiding from the Duchess's patrol, debating whether they should let them pass or if they should ambush them and steal their uniforms. We will see what they decide...
I like what I saw with this session. The party seems to be settling in, interacting more with the people and the environment around them. I have a feeling they are not going to use the stealth route to get in the keep, so I'm worried they may have issues, but we will see how that works out.
Last edited by Vorne; Friday, 24th August, 2012 at 03:11 PM.
Picking up from where we left off, the constables were hidden in the jungle, contemplating whether to ambush the Duchess' forces or to keep their presence unknown. In the end, the need for secrecy won out, and the patrol was allowed to leave unmolested. The group proceeded slowly toward the fort, until they found the wagonload of weapons the patrol left behind. The temptation proved too great, and Trip who was investigating ahead of the group tripped the trap. Luckily, they took enough time that the patrol was well out of hearing of the frosty explosion that nearly took him down. The group hid the weapons, hoping to arm Danoran refugees if they came across any during their break in.
The constables proceeded to pass wall into the fort and were doing very well with stealthily approaching the sea wall, until Nyx made an excessive amount of noise when a patrol was near. Trip ordered his air elemental ally to rush the group and sent them off chasing the elemental while the party made its escape.
Discovery of a heavily guarded warehouse roused the group's suspicions, and a combination of illusions and lies sent the guards running to protect the walls from a Danoran resurgence, the party slipped in and disabled the teleportation circle so it couldn't be used without repairing it. The fort was getting towards alert status at this stage, so the party made their way to the sea wall to try and salvage the mission before it went too far south.
The group stealthily approached the sea wall, and did an amazing coordinated assault, with Dorinn blowing up a nearby ship being investigated by soldiers and Wu taking out guards before anyone was the wiser. The battle raged in earnest with the soldier doing a good job of bottle necking the party on the ramp up to the lighthouse, and patrolmen with the lighthouse's wizard peppering the party with ranged attacks...until Trip used the coin to fly up and push the wizard out of the lighthouse and into harm's way. The party quickly mopped up the opposition at this point, and were celebrating their successful opening of the sea wall and signaling of the navy...until the heard the alarm bell ringing inside the fort and saw the epic stream of foes approaching.
I decided to run this encounter as kind of a hybrid between a standard combat and a skill challenge. I kept the map and moved masses of figures when they could and had the party narrate what they would do. They decided to barricade as much as possible, then most of the party went to the tower to rain as much hell down on the attackers as they could while the line Swordmage was left to hold the bottom. The party had access to amazing amounts of aoe type attacks, so the beginning wasn't too hard for them, but by the 10th round, the doors were battered in, Trip was getting overwhelmed and the group was seriously thinking about trying to leap out of the tower, but the navy sailed in, guns blazing and the tide of the battle was shifted. Risuri medics patched up the group and we decided to end on that note.
I liked the skill challenge approach of that last encounter, but I knew some people in the group wouldn't respond well to the complete abstraction of attacks, especially the aoe specialists. I think the hybrid model I used worked well enough for that. The party would likely have been knocked around a bit more had I used it as written but they still felt threatened and it worked out in the end.
Next time, we finish up the island adventure, and I get to see how they deal with Asrabey...I predict much PC pain because I'm definitely using the level 20 version.
The group, freshly saved from an army of the Duchess' supporters, rested and prepared to let the Risur forces take over the fort. They chatted with the captain of The Impossible, feeling good about their accomplishments, when tragedy struck. A fiery figure demolished a Risuri ship, leapt to the sea wall and disappeared from view. The Eladrin Trip immediately recognized him and quaking my refused to do anything in opposition to "The Dreadnaught". Ross also advocated that the party sit this one out, since anything that would bother the normally unflappable Trip must be something to be wary of (those 2 players couldn't make this session). The rest of the party, undaunted, set out to track down the figure.
Before going too far, the party was approached by a runner appraising them of a makeshift jail holding Danorans. Since they were looking for a tiefling and wanted to free the Danorans anyway (the party at this point is pretty pro-Danoran, despite understanding that their nation was recently at war with them), they were eager to visit the jail. Their political leanings worked well for them here, since they were ready to free and arm the jailed Danorans after only a cursory chat with the Danoran officer. The party was exploring their options, and finally settled on the plan of going through the sewer to get into the keep, worried that the Duchess may do something rash locked up with Lya's cousin when the Risuri forces broke through. This planning was interrupted by the return of Asrabey, the Dreadnaught.
Asrabey's arrival, cleaving through both forces confused the party, who had assumed until now he was there to rescue the duchess. He then used an immurement, ripping open the barrier between worlds and sprinting through towards the keep. The party immediately abandoned their previous plans, charging ahead in Asrabey's wake. They were stopped momentarily by the duchess' gardening guardian, but what followed was the speediest, most one sided battle I've ever run, where after 2 rounds of combat the party had cleared through the solo. Whether this is a highlight of why solos should never be solo, or if I might need to beef up future encounters to account for them I'm unsure yet, but it was surprising.
The party continued on into the breached keep, seeing further examples of the eladrin's handiwork in the charred and slashed corpses lying inside. They snuck up to the door and began to listen, but I only got one line out before they couldn't contain themselves and burst into the room to stop Asrabey from killing the Duchess. Asrabey explained how the Duchess' actions were not sanctioned by the Unseen Court and she needed to pay for her crimes. He also indicated he was taking the cowering tiefling Nathan and would kill them all if they interfered. Through some very skillful conversation, with bits of both diplomacy and intimidation, the party convinced Asrabey to leave empty handed. They promised they would tell the Risuri government that the Unseen Court needed to question Nathan, but that it was not in Asrabey's best interests to press the issue right then given his current state of affairs.
With the threats mostly neutralized, Risur packed up and left the island. The party handed the island back to Danor, meeting Lya's bodyguards for the first time, and sailed back to Risur for some nice downtime sprinkled with lots of reports...and periodic earthquakes...
My party surprised me a bit during this mission. Their pro-Danoran stance is interesting and I'll have occasions to bring that into conversations during the next adventure. Their dealings with Asrabey were very interesting, since it was obvious he was picking a fight, and they would fold a bit, then work a different angle. In the end, I allowed them a peaceful conclusion, both because of their work at accommodating it, and to illustrate that combat isn't always the inevitable conclusion.
I'm going to be taking a hard look at upcoming combats to see if I need to tweak the challenge a bit. However, I think the beginning of the 2nd adventure will delight them, as 2 of the players indicated they were interested in playing somewhat Sherlock-like characters.
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Gille is a pretty weak solo creature, if run as is. I chose not to damage him from the fire, and really tried to take as much advantage of his maneuverability as possible. He would phase through the hedges each turn, and try and make as much ground as possible. Only one of my PCs was really able to keep up with him athletically (the monk/shaman), so it was frustrating enough for them that it felt like more of a challenge than it really was. In the end the combat lasted maybe five rounds, but it covered a lot of ground on the map, so it was pretty satisfying overall.
I wish I had let my players come to a peaceful solution with Asrabey. I feel like I pushed them into combat a bit too much. But, none of them died, and that encounter ended up being a lot of fun, but I could have run it a bit better...
Always cool to read how others are running the same adventure, but in a very different way. Thanks for the updates.
My Obsidian Portal Sites: Heroes of Westfall; Zeitgeist Chronicles
We moved on into the beginning of The Dying Skyseer this last session. This session saw the retirement of Nyx the artificer, and the introduction of Rolan the Sentinel. Rolan was brought in to the RHC due to his connections with the Druidic community, in an attempt to use every avenue in the search for the terrorist, Gale. We were missing the Monk and Wizard this time (I don't think we've ever managed to have everyone together at the same time yet).
I was going to relate all that happened but realized I would be typing a novel. Let me sum up:
Wu often split off from the rest of the party to research things his own way.
The party finds a good amount of clues throughout this investigation. They know:
Lebrix argued with an unknown man
Lebrix is lying but doesn't want to
Nilasa had wounds that were healed after her death, and the name of the cleric who did it
She provided drugged chocolates. The chocolates were obtained at the thinking man's tavern
Nilasa was out on bail, paid for by Howard Sechim
Wolfgang got something from her then fled the scene
The party asked to look at the log book of who was there, and with some sly questioning try to get out of Lebrix who he was arguing with. He indicated it was a government official, indicated which entry but refused to say more. Because its noted in the adventure that Creed left no trace, I decided to have him sign a fake name that sounded a bit outlandish just to try to make the group slightly suspicious of the name. I ended up choosing Filibuster Grann.
Wu's contacts told him not only had they never heard of Filibuster Grann, they were fairly sure no government official went by that name. Everyone else went to the hostel, learned more about the doctor and Officer Porter, and immediately tried following the trail by scent using Braden's wolf and his amazing +16 perception. They made it to the industrial district outside Kell's territory when I had the party find an iron ring where the trail goes cold.
Trip (tripping on fey pepper) went into Kell's territory. He's worked for him in the past, but Kell wouldn't see him. Trip does discover through contacts that the doctor is likely under Kell's protection. Trip also devoured all of the tainted chocolates. This won't derail things too far, they know it's fey pepper, but we may have just added drug addiction to a player character. Fun.
This was a difficult session for me. Keeping up with 2 different parties going on at once for much of the session was hectic but I was able to juggle it. The group found out a little more than I thought, and they looked down a few lines I wasn't prepared for, so I'd say definitely this is an adventure you'll have to be ready to improvise for.
I decided to introduce the iron ring early for a couple reasons. I didn't think there was enough time between the warehouse and dawn square to ponder the ring, so I wanted to give the players some time to think about them and their ramifications. If they somehow found the rings under bridges and started to get an idea how big this was I'd think it awesome. Also, I wanted a convenient excuse for Creed's trail to go cold rather than to just tell them they lost it.
Looking forward to the next session, where they will have a chance to speak with Nilasa's spirit and the party receives an invitation to meet with Kell...
The Grand Druid (Lvl 20)
Yeah, I feel the "lots of stuff going on" issue. As I edit adventure 5, which is a similar "lots of stuff happens in Flint" adventure, I'm trying to provide a clear structure for GMs with handouts that make it easier to track stuff, without getting too wordy.
Just have the drug-addicted PC hand over some magic items in exchange for a decanter of endless opium. Are there rules for drug withdrawal, officially?
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