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Tuesday, 21st August, 2012, 04:54 PM #1
Gallant (Lvl 3)
[Zeitgeist] Chronicles of Unit 42
I started a new Zeitgeist campaign with some of my friends on Sunday. As a few other people around here have done, I started with a "Session 0", set about two years before Island at the Axis of the World, to kind of get the players into the world and used to their character. It went really well! And I think they all really like the setting so far.
The PCs were:
- Casimiro del Garra - Razorclaw Shifter monk/shaman, fey beast tamer (young owlbear, Rosalina)
- Gareth Carter - Human swordmage, Yerasol war veteran
- Reginald Battersea - Human artificer
- Victor Bays - Human wizard, meerkat familiar (Daisy)
Our first session was based on their first case as members of the RHC. They met Stover Delft early on a Fire Day (Friday) morning, at a small apartment in the Lake district, which Delft told them was Geoff Massarde's. The tiefling has been kidnapped, and Unit 42's number was drawn to handle the new case. Delft needs them to get the engineer back, or the king's new project will be put in real danger of completion.
When they arrived, his desk had been gone through, and there were papers everywhere. A trail of bloody footprints had walked from the bedroom (in the back of the apartment) to the desk and then back.
When they went into the apartment, they found more clues. There was a busted in window and a puddle of blood underneath it. The footprints they saw looked like they had walked through this puddle. Another set of footprints were on top of the bed, these were made in mud, not in blood, though there was a splatter of blood on the clean white sheets. The mud itself was a dark blue color, which they recognized as from the bayou on the other side of the city.
Next to the bed was a pistol, which had recently been shot off, a dagger, which was bloody, and a shirt, rumpled on the floor.
They learned, after talking to some of the neighbors, that a gunshot had gone off about 2:15 in the morning. A few minutes later, someone reported seeing a male half-orc and a female elf leaving the apartment, carrying a tiefling body and a halfling body.
The PCs deduced (correctly), that three people had broken into the apartment, and Massarde had shot one of them (the halfling) before he was subdued and taken by the other two, who then went through his desk and stole some papers about something called the Coaltongue.
They asked around, worked their way across the bay to Pine Island, and learned the half-orc's name was Benjamin, and the elf's name was probably Edrea, who was an elf Benjamin had taken a liking to and started following her around.
They tracked Benjamin down to a shop near the docks and combat ensued. Benjamin spent most of the combat trying to run away, but with Casimiro's young owlbear and spirit companion, and Victor's controller abilities, he had a hard time, and ended up sending the owlbear back to the Dreaming before finally going down.
On his body they found a note from Edrea about their rendezvous with the Unseen Court, and that they were supposed to deliver Massarde and his blueprints at 7 in the morning, about 20 minutes away!
They ran to the rendezvouz spot, took a boat out to some of the underdocks (something I added), and defeated Edrea just before her Unseen Court contacts showed up to claim the tiefling. As they rowed away, they looked back and saw an eladrin with a lion shield and a flaming sword standing where they were just a few minutes ago, looking very angry.
It was a great time, and we're all looking forward to starting the campaign proper next Sunday!
In case anyone is curious about the campaign, we have an Obsidian Portal page set up: Here.
Also, for our own amusement, we've decided to record each session and set them up on my friends' podcast webpage, so if you wanted to listen to some of it (it is almost four hours long, so I understand most people wouldn't want to devote that much time to listening to someone else's game), you can hear that: Here.
The setting is great, and a treat to DM.
Monday, 27th August, 2012, 04:34 PM #2
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Played through the first act of Axis yesterday with my group. It played, surprisingly, close to script. I think my guys are still trying to figure out that they can play "outside" their powers, if that makes sense? They enjoyed meeting a lot of the NPCs, I think. Especially, surprisingly enough, the technician on the Coaltongue - Fitzcairn? The artificer bonded with him right away, and learned a lot about the brand from him, which is really the only reason they figured out this challenge. They were down to just about ten rounds left before they finished. I was sweating it out, trying to drop hints without telling them what to do. I think it was a lot more stressful for me than it was for them.
Also, they HATED Sokana. All the minor actions she got were driving them crazy. It was great. They incapacitated her instead of killing her, so I'm hoping to find a way to work her back in at some point.
Almost exactly a year after rescuing Geoff Massarde from Edrea, and saving him from being handed over to the Unseen Court, the tiefling put the finishing touches on his biggest project – the R.N.S. Coaltongue – and determined it was ready for its maiden voyage. He alerted the king, and the king had his second-in-command Minister Harkover Lee arrange for a party on board the ship for all of the dignitaries he could muster where he would christen the ship and make a big announcement that would shape the future of the nation of Risur.
Massarde only had one request. He wanted the constables that rescued him, Unit 42, to work security, as a way to say thank you to them for their help. The king was more than happy to grant that request, and the party was planned for a spring Star Day evening.
The constables of Unit 42 were given a simple assignment: watch the first check point, and don’t let anyone across the bridge to the docks that would disrupt the king’s special day. With the number of people in town for the occasion, as well as the regular denizens of Flint, this would be no easy task, but RHC officers are trained for this sort of thing. They set up at the first check point and got to work.
After a bit of investigation, Gareth Carter learned that a man named Dafton was working the crowd. Dafton was an old war acquaintance of Carter, and the swordmage new that if the docker was here, he was ready to start something. He gave a description of Dafton and his closest associates to his partners and some local police, and they quickly rounded up two of them and convinced them this plan was not worth their time.
But, they never saw Dafton until Thames Grimsley, another docker, pointed him out to them as he was crossing the bridge. The constables went in to action, and were able to round up some local police to help them surround Dafton and his remaining ally, on the bridge. They outnumbered and outsmarted him, and Dafton knew he was beaten. He complied, and let the officers escort him away peaceably.
Grimsley thanked the constables for handling the situation so well, and asked them to give a message to Governor Stanfield about workers rights and pay.
As the dignitaries started showing up, Unit 42 got a chance to do some high-level mingling. They met Captain Rutger Smith of the R.N.S. Impossible – a real treat for constable Carter. And Casimiro del Garra was reunited with an old friend from Ber, who introduced him to the king’s sister, Duchess Evelyn of Shale. The duchess graciously asked him to escort her down to a room where she could take a quick nap before the party began, and del Garra happily led her and her handmaiden downstairs.
Meanwhile, constable Reginald Battersea struck up a conversation with a young technician named Fitzcairn, who gushed as he described the ship and all of its intricacies. He was especially excited to talk about the capacitor and the brand on the main deck, and how, even though it was not fully calibrated, it was completely operational. Battersea took note of that before they began their official tour of the Coaltongue.
Along with Massarde, who was eager to spend more time with his rescuers, Unit 42 was shown the entire ship, and were interested in spending extra time in the boiler room, making sure everything was working properly. Battersea took extra care to learn how everything could be sabotaged, to make sure he was able to do his job properly.
After the tour, they went back up to the top to start the party. The band got warmed up, the halfling chef brought out tray after tray of food (to which the king laughed about and complained of indigestion), and even Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft seemed to be enjoying himself.
Just before the band began to play, Delft asked the constables to get the duchess from her nap. It wouldn’t do to have the king’s sister, already a vocal detractor from his progressive, technological plans, absent at an even such as this. So, they headed back down to check on her.
When they knocked on the door, all they heard in return was the handmaiden telling them they needed a few more minutes. They waited for a minute and knocked again. Again, the handmaiden told them to wait and del Garra heard a window open inside the room. Constable Carter lost patience and started trying to knock the door down. At this moment, the Risuri national anthem began playing on the main deck above them.
Before they knew it, the handmaiden had teleported past them and ran downstairs toward the boiler, leaving fire sprites in her wake to block the constables’ pursuit. The halfling chef ran around the corner, dagger in hand, to block their other path, and the handmaiden made it to the furnace, threw in her amber rod, and latched it shut, then directed the engineers to start shutting off the release valves.
The constables made quick work of the sprites and the halfling, but it took them a few rounds to get downstairs, and when they did they had their hands full with the engineers’ huge wrenches and the handmaiden’s spellcasting. They had a hard time focusing on fixing the boiler during combat.
As the boiler room started to fill with a searing steam and the constables were wearing down with fatigue, Battersea had the idea to redirect the energy into the capacitor and fire off the brand up top. Victor Bays finished off the last engineer and he and Battersea ran as fast as they could to the main deck, where the anthem was still playing, picked up Massarde to help them calibrate the brand, and, after del Garra and Carter bought them a few seconds by reopening the release valves, they fired off the brand, giving everyone on deck quite a show at the end of the anthem.
Delft was beside himself, but after Massarde explained what had happened, and the constables revealed the duchess’s betrayal, the king spoke up for them, and thanked them just before making his big announcement – he would be married to a representative from the nation of Danor.
I'm hoping the more open-ended nature of acts 2 and 3 will get them to start thinking a little more creatively.
Monday, 3rd September, 2012, 03:19 AM #3
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I'm glad to see someone else is taking the Unit approach. I think it gives the feeling that the RHC is a much larger entity than what is normally seen on stage. Your group sounds like a very interesting makeup too!
Tuesday, 4th September, 2012, 07:47 PM #4
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Yeah, I won't claim responsibility for it, because I've seen reference to a few other people on here that have used units, but it seemed like such a natural way to group them.
We played again on Sunday, for about six hours, and got all the way through Act Two of Axis. Working on a summary of it now, and I'll post it up here at some point this afternoon/evening.
Tuesday, 4th September, 2012, 10:47 PM #5
Gallant (Lvl 3)
OK, we played again for about six hours and got all the way through Act Two of Axis. It was a lot of fun, and the guys are really getting in to it. We had one missing player, so the whole thing was done with only three PCs (the swordmage, the artificer, and the monk/shaman).
After the incident on board the R.N.S. Coaltongue, Unit 42 of the RHC became minor celebrities in the city of Flint. Newspapers tried to get interviews, people stopped them in the streets to thank them for saving the king, and the RHC took notice of their resourcefulness.
But, there was still work to do. The Duchess had escaped, and had taken her fleet, along with all the soldiers she had that were loyal to her, and took over Axis Island, a Danor-controlled island on the edge of the Yerasol Archipelago. It was an act of war, but neither side wanted to go. So, an agreement was made. Lya Jierre, the Danoran Minister of Outsiders, gave King Aodhan and his navy, led by Captain Rutger Smith of the R.N.S. Impossible, three days to retrieve his sister and hand the island back over to Danor before she would be helpless and unable to convince the council in her homeland to not go to war against Risur.
The King summoned his most battle-tested squad of constables, Unit 23, and for backup, he sent the newly famous Unit 42, as they were the last to see the Duchess alive, and might catch something others would miss. Plus, they had proved themselves capable, and because of their interaction with Geoff Massarde, Jierre was more comfortable asking them a favor - rescue her tiefling nephew Nathan from whatever fate the Duchess might have in mind for him.
She met the unit, along with Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft, to brief them on the mission and offer her assistance, in the form of information to help them get into the fortress once they made it to the island. The briefing was rather simple. They were to join Unit 23 on the Impossible, follow them into a sea cave, in case something went wrong, and make their way across the island to the backside of the fortress. Then they would wait, while the other inspectors sneaked through the fortress, opened the sea wall and signaled the fleet to move in. Once the battle was over, they were to interrogate the Duchess and look for Nathan Jierre before handing the island back over to the Danorans.
That night, they boarded the Impossible, talked philosophy with Captain Smith (specifically that of the famous thinker William Miller), and got to know Unit 23 - Tanya the half-elf shaman, Letmas the human illusionist, Seven-Foot Dan the human fighter, and Burton the halfling rogue. Right away they hit it off with the gregarious Seven-Foot Dan and enjoyed the illusions and imitations of Letmas. A good evening was had, and the two units were even able to get a bit of shuteye before they made it to Axis Island.
As fun as Unit 23 was on board the ship, they were just as serious when it came to doing their job on the island. They were professional and efficient as they marched to the sea cave and set up their rope system to swim to the other side of the tunnel. They quickly explained that after they made it across, Burton would swim back to get the others, and dove into the freezing water.
The group waited for a few minutes, and suddenly there was a violent shake in the cavern - and earthquake. The rope that Unit 23 was trailing behind them started jerking and then went completely still. After a minute of planning, Unit 42 jumped in after and followed the rope until they came upon Burton, his leg trapped under a rock, screaming in pain about yellow frogs and purple skies. When they swam up to him, he demanded they cut off his leg and free him. Instead, they levered the rock off his leg and got him back to a safe spot before going back for the rest of his group. They found the hand of Seven-Foot Dan sticking up from under a pile of boulders, lifeless. There was no way they could have survived this cave-in.
Burton told them to go on, complete the mission, and send someone after him when the fortress was retaken. They did as he said, and went off through the tunnel.
When they emerged on the other side, they found themselves in a large cavern. There were makeshift docks built around its edges and a large column of stone rose up in the middle, displaying a large golden coin. The constables immediately decided to climb up and get a better look at the coin. As soon as Gareth Carter touched it, a shadowy figure struck him on the back of the head.
A small fight broke out which saw the constables defeat the shadow elemental and a small earth elemental while a man fired his pistol from far above (and Gareth learned that the coin allowed him to jump around the room with ease), but as soon as the elementals were destroyed, the man, who introduced himself as Nicolas Dupiers, surrendered and tossed his gun down.
He explained that he was the mine foreman and when the Duchess's forces made their way onto the island, he hid here with two other coins so nobody would get them. The constables took the two other coins from him and divided them among themselves (Carter ended up with a coin that gave him resistance, Casimiro del Garra with a coin that gave him darkvision, and Reginald Battersea with the coin that let him jump easily). Dupiers told them how to leave, and wished them luck taking down the Duchess.
They came out of the mine on the opposite side of the mountains from the fortress and slowly made their way over. This is when they started to experience the truly strange effects of the island. Flame gouts, wandering colossi, and mystery swamps filled with yellow frogs all caused them consternation, but none deterred them from their mission.
They made it to the back of the fortress and used passwall to get in. From there, del Garra scouted out a path for the others to follow, and they slowly made their way to the harbor (after passing a building with a teleportation circle), where they swam across to the lighthouse to see how they would get up and open up the seagate. When they got there, it was heavily guarded by a mage and several soldiers. They opted for a rather bold approach and started with a surprise round from the water. Battersea used his jumping abilities to fly around the wall and Carter was nigh invulnerable with the resistance he had, and the fight was pretty quickly over. They set the seawall to open, and then prepared to defend the tower.
Two waves came at them. The first was easily dispatched by igniting a few barrels of firedust, which Battersea had strategically placed across the wall. The other wave was much more difficult.
While Carter held a bottleneck, Battersea and del Garra took shots from above. In the end, the attackers were able to get past Carter, but not long enough to close the seagate, and though both del Garra and Battersea were knocked down during the fight, they both got back up and Unit 42 held down the lighthouse long enough for the fleet to breach the seawall.
They loved the other group of constables. They had a real fun time "breaking stuff" with Seven Foot Dan, and we have a guy in our group who fancies himself an impersonator, so he concluded his character was as well, and did some voices with Letmas for a bit (I, btw, am terrible with voices).
They also loved the icons, and have already decided to request them back. They will be disappointed to learn they don't work off the island, but really, the earth icon made the swordmage nearly indestructible. With resist 5 and an AC as high as he has, he basically held down the lighthouse on his own.
I made a fun model for the lighthouse encounters. I'll try and get some photos up before too long. Maybe later this evening.
Wednesday, 5th September, 2012, 02:17 AM #6
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
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ø Block RangerWickett
The first adventure was designed to seem daunting but have a lot of help for the PCs, like the earth icon.
I'd love to see the model.
Sunday, 6th January, 2013, 05:09 PM #7
A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)
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ø Block RangerWickett
When they get to the Voice of Rot, clarify that they'll be tracking the latent Apet energy on the visitor from Gidim, not energy from Gidim itself, because they haven't actually been to Gidim. That way they can track Apet energy all through Flint, but eventually the Gidim finds the seal and is able to cleanse itself of Apet energy, making it so you cannot trace it any farther.
My players got a bit irked because Xambria didn't register as a Gidim, because they thought they were tracking Gidim energy, not Apet energy.
Monday, 7th January, 2013, 05:27 PM #8
Defender (Lvl 8)
Tip 1 - Make sure you understand the rainbow bridge puzzle room. I thought I did, but it turned out I didn't...
Tip 2 - Make the final poison flood trap as dangerous as you can. There's a lovely deus ex machina moment that will hand any dead players' asses back to them at the end of the encounter and make them feel all creepy and conflicted about being indebted to a rotting serpent.
Tip 3 - While a bit of confusion can add to the fun, Stover Delft is always a useful tool to get the players back on track if they go awry. He was able to steer my players right on two occasions during Digging for Lies:
First of all, they were obsessed with trailing Apet energy, to the exclusion of all else and for some bizarre reason did not think the lead to the second sunken ziggurat was strong enough. Their intention was to focus their efforts in Flint, looking for more obvious trails, until Delft intervened and pointed out that a second ziggurat might unleash yet more aliens!
Secondly, they completely missed the clue at the bottom of Caius Bergeron's letter to Finona Duvall. It took a debriefing session at the end of the adventure to draw their collective attention to that one. (It was actually quite gratifying. They could see that the best lead was in front of them the whole time.)
Tip 4 - Pretend that the Gala of the Ancients encounter is the final encounter of the adventure. (I metagamed here, and referred to it as 'the final encounter' by 'accident'. So sue me.) If the players believe that clever play has helped Xambria to shake off her possession, even better. (This goes some way to explain why the battle is much easier than they expected.) Also, you can beef up the fight with more thoughtforms, only to have them fly/scuttle away when Xambria 'defeats' Sijhen. The reason for all this, is of course that you want them to be off their guard and bring Xambria to RHC HQ without thinking. (Doesn't help that at least one NPC has died in those cells already; my players wanted to take Xambria elsewhere, until one of them suggested that quarantining the alien was a priority.)
Tip 5 - The Thing from Beyond is nasty! Your players will likely have exhausted their resources by this point. Mine almost suffered a TPK - one character died, two were unconscious and swallowed and the remaining two were bloodied. A lucky crit from the party warlock saved the day, but just a couple of rounds more and things would have been very different. (This warning is particularly important if you follow the suggestion to beef up the Gala fight. Felt a bit bad about that dead player for a couple of seconds...)
Monday, 7th January, 2013, 08:24 PM #9
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Eh, a little death might be good for my group. :P
These are very helpful. I've used Delft similarly during Skyseer several times, so that should be a natural enough use for him. They trust him almost exclusively these days, so that's good. I'm glad to have someone they can trust completely, as they are a rather suspicious lot.
Monday, 11th February, 2013, 04:18 PM #10
Gallant (Lvl 3)
Just a reminder of my group:
Gareth Carter - Human male swordmage, Yerasol War Veteran
Reginald Battersea - Human male artificer
Victor Bays - Human male wizard
Casimiro del Garra - Longtooth Shifter male Monk/ shaman
So, we left off last time with the characters triggering the final two traps. They saw the undead around them come back to life, and the waters start roaring toward them from the fake seal room. They realized almost immediately how dangerous this was - but they still took their sweet time trying to get out.
They spent almost three rounds fighting off undead before they decided to run, by which point the water was already knee deep around them - which made running even more difficult. They ran back the way they had come, through the room with the illusory floor, which they had deactivated, so instead I threw a few of the floating orbs at them in this room, along with the mummies. Again, they fought instead of running, and since they were terrified of the crushing earth trap, they tried to run around the other way, and ended up trapped between the floating orbs and the three ancient orc mummies.
Only through a crafty use of a daily did Gareth Carter survive, and he was only able to carry one teammate out - and Reginald Battersea was in his path to escape. He had to leave the other two behind. Casimiro del Garra and Victor Bays were killed inside the Ziggurat of Apet.
So, Carter hustled out of the Ziggurat, and found himself surrounded by undead, and immediately began climbing up the Ziggurat. Once he got to the top, he fed a potion to his wounded ally, and they began preparing for the worst. This is when the Voice of Rot showed up, fought off the undead, and gave the two remaining members of Unit 42 his charge.
After he was finished, the flood washed the bodies of their companions out of the Ziggurat, and they slowly came back to life, feeling a little bit "slimy", as Victor's player put it.
The Voice of Rot told them finally that they had more to learn from the Ziggurat, and slunk back into the swamp. They decided to try and take an extended rest outside the Ziggurat - which I let them do, before heading back in. The insubstantial stuff is very frustrating for them, so I wanted to make sure they learned how to fight against the thoughtform, if nothing else - plus, I spent a bit of time preparing the puzzle in that room, and wanted them to try it out.
Carter led the way to the rainbow puzzle room, and they stepped inside to get a good view of it, which is when we called the session for the night. Next time, they will start right there.
- Interestingly, I think the players of the characters who died were a little disappointed when they were risen from the dead. They both described it as feeling a bit "slimy", which I told them was appropriate, given the circumstances of their resurrections, and the entity who had granted them new life. They are servants of the Voice of Rot now, and they'll have to deal with that for the time being.
- During the fight out of the Ziggurat, they were extremely frustrated. It was good for them, though. They were challenged a lot more in this sequence than they are used to, and it forced them to think through their actions differently.
- Afterward, however, all they talked about was ways they could have done it differently, and more successfully, which is very good! It meant they realized that, even though it was a very difficult challenge, it wasn't completely unfair (though, it was pretty unfair, and is kind of designed as a death trap).
- The moment when they were trapped between the orbs and the mummies, in a tiny hallway, with no healing left, and the water crashing down over them, was one of the best moments of the campaign so far. The fact that two of them actually made it out alive was even better. So good.
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