ZEITGEIST Deathwyrm's Zeitgeist Campaign - Clockwork Eclipse
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  1. #1

    Deathwyrm's Zeitgeist Campaign - Clockwork Eclipse

    Hey yo. A few months ago, I picked up a couple PDFs of the Zeitgeist adventure path and dug it a whole lot. Some of the big set piece action scenes were absolutely bonkers but written smartly enough that it makes sense why all this weird stuff is happening. Naturally, I bought the 3 enormous hardcovers and what a mighty strain they put on my shelves alongside other monumentally sized tomes like Slumbering Tsar and Northlands Saga.

    Having finished up running Rise of the Runelords for one of my groups of players, we were looking for something fantasy but less traditional. I never really enjoyed big steampunk things, but the gritty industrialized fantasy nature of the old Thief trilogy of games made me want to give this a shot. Recently we had finished part one, Island at the Axis of the World and everyone's enjoying the heck out of it.

    So long story short, I made a thread to showboat about how good it's been, and if I have any questions about things that don't make sense I can trust in a decent community of gamers to flesh things out.

    So far, the only thing's I really changed were three points. First, Leveling Up happens at story appropriate moments. Rise of the Runelords had a very fast paced advancement system. The players requested that things get slowed down a bit, so they can adjust to the changes the character's receive. Which also leads to point two, which is more one-off sessions where they can handle one shot cases before diving back into the main plot. I reskinned a few Society Scenarios to pad out the length at the start. Third, I structured the game to have kind of a syndicated TV show feel. Sessions begin in media res with the group handling something in Flint, then I play the series' theme song (Kevin Macloud - Industrial Revolution, if anyone wants to YouTube it) and the players describe what they're doing in the opening montage, then we get to the meat of the session. So far they've loved it.

    I think that's everything so far for set up. Onto the characters.... the intrepid investigators of Task Force: Berling (apparently it's a reference? I didn't get it though)

    Detective Adolf Goodwyne - Lawful Neutral Human Investigator: Once a rural boy with a bright mind, he came to Flint to refine his intellect and joined the Royal Homeland Constabulary seeing it as the best outlet to do some good. After his deductions resulted in the apprehension of the Stray River Strangler, he was given a promotion and tasked to put together a capable team of specialists. Naturally, first he knew of another brilliant man that would be an asset...

    Dr Grigori Basch - Lawful Neutral Human Mesmerist: Only child in a wealthy family, Dr Basch attended some of the finest schools but his morbid interest in the psychology of the criminal mind made his recruitment to the RHC only natural. Obsessed with craniology, he often requests to measure people's heads... which can be off-putting to many. Some accuse what he does as spellcasting, but he doesn't believe in relying on such superstitious nonsense. What they call "spells" are simply advanced psychological techniques with scientific explanations. Hearing that his colleague Det. Goodwyne is putting together a crack team, he felt he knew just the right "man of the people" to help them do the dirty work that scholars just can't...

    Constable Mikkel Orel - Neutral Good Human Gunslinger (Docker) - Having spent years as a general labourer in the many shipping companies around Flint, Mikkel had no patience for the shady illegal nonsense he saw as putting added pressure on an already overworked populace, and he was able to back it up with his gun when necessary. He joined the RHC as a way of helping to get at those shadowy organizations that extort and bully the common person. Of course he accepted Dr Basch's invitation to join the new Task Force, provided that his new duties doesn't take away from his cause. That said, if it's some muscle they're looking for... there's someone at his Wednesday night tavern gambling circle that would fit the bill...

    Constable Threm - Neutral Good Human Swashbuckler - Once a capable recruit of the RHC, Threm was able to get results through a bizarre combination of brash bravado and just plain dumb luck. Those results keep him in the agency's good graces but his drinking and gambling habits always keeps him a close shave away from "turn in your badge, you're a loose cannon". He was excited when Mikkel approached him for this new team, and he reassured his recreational drug provider would make for a good addition...

    Dr Teko Brinolt - Neutral Good Tiefling Alchemist (Chirurgeon) - Originally a resident of Danor, the last war put a sour taste in his mouth, so he and his family fled to Risur where it would be presumably safer for them. Unfortunately his wife and children didn't survive the journey. Originally he wanted to open a physician's practice in Flint, but with little money to his name the best he could find was being a chemical consultant to the RHC as well as crafting non-addictive recreational drugs to keep rent paid. Joining the Task Force of course meant he would have to join the RHC properly, and they made it crystal clear that side dealing of illegal substances wouldn't be simply ignored like before. To help him stay on the narrow path of the law, he asked his cousin to join as well...

    Cysgod Awyr - Neutral Good Aasimar (Plumekith) Ninja - Due to severe family debts, Cysgod spent many years as a saboteur in the West Breland Market Consortium's smuggling channels. Until one day a job went bad and the RHC busted a specific warehouse they were working through. The young Cysgod was apprehended, but for his skills he was allowed a clean break if he puts his shadowy skills to use for the government. He was hesitant at first, but accepted and settled in, even reconnecting with his cousin Dr Brinolt. He was hesitant to join the new Task Force, stating "you know I work alone", but he's slowly coming to find this group like an extended family. Of course, he's always on the lookout in case the Consortium returns looking for their lost agent.

    That should do for a first posting. The team was put together through the natural movie trope of "getting the team together", which took about the first 1/3rd of the session. With that done, the "pilot episode" began. Something to do with the launch of a new naval vessel called the Coaltongue.
    XP gideonpepys, RangerWickett gave XP for this post

  2. #2
    Having wrapped up character creation, a quick scene was ran in which CST Goodwyne was commended by Assistant Inspector Delft for wrapping up the Stray River Strangler, and with a new assignment that just came across his desk, the newly promoted detective was given command of a new group.

    Their first task? Crowd control at the ceremonial launch of the new RNS Coaltongue. The party divided in half, some to collaborate with the city guard (called the Bluecoats from here on, after a description of their uniform seemed to really stick with them) to canvass the growing group. Mikkel Oren checked with some of his other docker allies to determine if there were any troublemakers likely to cause a scene, which lead them to speak with Thames Grimsley. After a lengthy discussion regarding workers rights and the purpose of peaceful protest demonstrations. Content that they were on the same side, Thames gave up the names of four likely troublemakers and asked that they be stopped before they escalate the situation beyond repair. After some careful undercover infiltration, each of the four were grabbed and liberal uses of alchemical glue made sure the procession happened without incident.

    Pleased well enough with the results, the Task Force was given notice that they were welcome aboard the Coaltongue to continue ensuring security. They did some slight awkward mingling with many of the major NPCs, and it wasn't until the sabotage began that they realized that they probably should have been taking notes on who these people were.

    Once the boiler exploded, the Task Force was quick to groan "of course it was going to blow up" and descend into the ship to find the perpetrators.

    I changed up the encounter a bit. Half of the team ended up dividing up to deal with the actual fallout of the sabotage, engaging in a series of Skill Challenges to either repair the damages done or just keep it from exploding and killing everyone. The other half engaged in a Chase scene to apprehend the culprits.

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    It wasn't easy for the PCs, and very generous amounts of teamwork were required in order to patch up the destruction and to catch the escaping saboteurs. In the end, they did succeed and champagne was opened... because they aren't going to let a little thing like explosions get in the way of a good launch party.

    Overall? Players were thrilled with how things went down. The NPCs were very detailed and they liked how each represented a different complicated facet of a rapidly evolving society. The people they apprehended had very realistic motivations. They looked forward eagerly to the next episode.
    XP RangerWickett gave XP for this post

  3. #3
    After the devious happenings aboard the Coaltongue, I ran a couple sessions of one shot "case of the week" sessions. In the past, we found that a lot of modules seem to be in a rush to get to the next exciting bit (Rise of the Runelords) or doesn't take the time to establish a connection to the location before it's in peril (Curse of the Crimson Throne), so we wanted to slow down leveling and in true serial crime tv style, have a couple of stand alone cases. One involved a serial killer who used convoluted traps (I was rewatching the Saw series while reading Grimtooth Trap books), the other involved a double-cross in a smuggling outfit when a cursed artifact was sent to mess up one group who wanted to back out of the deal. The group took to it well, because it gave them time to traverse the streets of Flint and encounter locations that would come up later.

    Then the word came in that a crisis is happening, and they have an audience with Lya Jierre, the Minister of Outsiders. They were presented with the Three Towers puzzle and solved it pretty readily by taking the connections into three dimensions. One of the good agents, gunslinger Mikkel Oren, attempted to lay down some charming sedutions, to which she replied with a mixture of humouring and annoyance. Oren took it as a "maybe we'll go on a fancy date once all this business is done" cue and they got to the matter at hand. Exposition was laid down regarding the traitorous Duchess and her intent to spark an incident between the two nations.

    As they set out on the R.N.S. Impossible, they were given some guidance on how to reach the fortress, and they formulated their own plans while ruminating "Isn't this well above our paygrade? Killers are no problem, but I mean, if we fail its war. And that's on us." So for much of the trip they kept to their cabin for "strategic planning" purposes but also spent much of it getting high.

    Finding a good opportunity to infiltrate the island via the Sea Cave, their stealth was ruined almost immediately and a hard battle was fought in the mine. It was a particularly thrilling conflict as it was difficult to reach Foreman Dupiers. Many "He has the high ground, Jedi logic insists we are doomed" quips were had.

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    Diagram A: Vertical fights suck when you're the one on the bottom.

    The laying down indicated swimming.

    Having made their way out, they took note of the Icons that were left there. Seeing them as strange and potentially important, the agents held onto them and continued across the island to the protected fortress. Ambushing one patrolling group of guards, they diplomatically explained the situation to them. That the situation is going to escalate. At worst, it's war and no one wins. But cooperate, and they'll see about getting the treason charges dropped.

    So they were able to make it into the fortress by pretending to be part of the patrol, delayed by reality fluctuations that made things really weird for them. "You get used to that" assured the duchess' guards.

    Inside the fortress, the PCs took their time in gathering information on where the Duchess was hiding, where the Danorans were being kept, and how best to create a distraction so that the Sea Gate can be opened. Once they had the information they required, they set a couple buildings on fire and created a small panic which would allow them to release the prisoners captive in the stable-brig and hopefully distract enough people to allow the gate to be opened.

    What came next was one heck of a battle.

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    Diagram B: First wave of the Duchess' forces arrive.

    Guards-a-plenty quickly found out what the ruse was and descended upon the party. Thankfully, sneak attack clobberings, caltrops placed at critical choke points, and a lot of sudden improvisation won out like 25 rounds later. Highlights include the arrangement of unconscious/dying bodies to create more difficult terrain, reloading cannons to fire upon the base itself, and every PC spending at least a couple of rounds in negative hit points. It was a close one.

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    Diagram C: Don't be on the business end of a firearms crit. It leaves a mess.

    But ultimately, the gate was opened and reinforcements made quick work of the remaining resistance. Many had the tactical mind to know when the battle for the gate was lost and offered a surrender.

    Much of the rest of the session went as scripted. The Hedge Maze presented a frustration for the players (a couple of them have bad memories of the labyrinth levels of Rappan Athuk and their phase minotaurs), but when Asrabey Varel showed up they were quick to press Gillie that they're here to make sure the Duchess doesn't get killed and an accord was struck to reach her as fast as possible.

    The standoff between Duchess Ethelyn and Asrabey was intense. Both parties were pretty battered and broken. Based on what Asrabey was saying in the scripted dialogue, the PCs assessed that he's not the enemy here either, and probably is like them.... soldiers just doing their orders. After half an hour of diplomacy, Asrabey agreed to relinquish Ethelyn to the PCs provided she is seen to proper justice for her crimes, and in return some day Asrabey would call on them for a favor and the PCs can not refuse it. They swore this over a blood oath that had no mechanical effects and is mainly symbolic, but the PCs believe strongly in so they feel indebted.

    With this peaceful resolution, the island was officially given back to Lya Jierre who let slip to the group about her engagement to the king of Risur. PCs immediately looked at Mikkel "Friend-Zoned Casanova" Oren for his spectacularly failed but ambitious seduction attempt. Accolades were given to the task force as they did accomplish the task set for them.

    The season ended with the PCs at their favorite hang out, the Broken Oar Tavern. Many of the people were thrilled with the celebrity gossip of the king getting married. But at the corner table, the PCs sat and drank. They felt more united than before, like a true team, for having endured a harrowing assignment that forced them to rely on each other more than before. Yet at the same time, why didn't it feel like the victory they were told they were? They remembered some of the words said, that "something was seen" which prompted Duchess Ethelyn to act the way she did. That Minister Lya Jierre seemed almost too enthusiastic to have the island back, at the time of her announced betrothal. Something was obviously happening above their statuses.... but they felt like nothing could be done at that time. So on into the night they drank, reflecting on what had happened and to be more aware of who can be trusted, and perhaps how far they're willing to go outside the law in order to serve the country they are so partial too now.

    Overall thoughts on the module? Really good, really well done. The players were impressed that even at such an early level into an adventuring career, this wasn't a "kill rats in a basement" trope. They felt like their actions had consequences and enormous stakes. The NPCs were very fleshed out, so that their actions seemed to entirely make sense even if their motivations were unknown. This wasn't a simple "good vs evil" story. Everyone had very good reasons to believe their actions were justified, if regrettable. By the end of it, the characters and the players understood that a lot of was going on and they were in for something big. As far as a DM goes.... constantly reading and doing prep work will pay off. There's a lot of little things that went into this and made it really fleshed out. So that when the PCs do something unexpected, it's not really deviating off any rails. There's goals and objectives, and a sandbox for them to achieve that in. Excellently well written stuff.

    So far, we're a couple sessions into Season 2. I started things off with a few more cases of the week (the trap killer again, and dealing with a local gang trying to blackmail the city police), but in September we're going to get into the meat of the overplot with The Dying Skyseer. Now that they're more "experienced" and know that this isn't something brutish adventuring acts of force can resolve... I'm very enthused to see where this goes.
    XP Tormyr, RangerWickett gave XP for this post

  4. #4
    With one serial killer still on the loose, and a pair of daughters reunited after their kidnappings... there was barely time for a good breakfast before word came in that a body was found at the Danor Consulate and the team would need to rally fast in order to find what clues they can regarding the unusual circumstances before the scene gets too contaminated.

    Overall, of the three trails of leads that they could take... the party divided to try and take all three at once, including recruiting assistance and calling in favors with the local police to support their following of leads. At the Consulate itself, Det. Goodwyne and Con. Oren looked around the scene and quickly determined a few points of flaws in LeBrix's story... but they thought it best not to dig into that just yet until they had more to go on. Meanwhile, the rest of the team combed over Nilasa's body (poorly due to cursed dice) and interviewed the staff and crowd, learning of a mysterious person who grabbed stuff from the body and fled, as well as the drugged sweets that were brought in. With enough to start on, the team set out to try and solve what exactly happened that required such extensive cover up.

    Cst. Oren and Dr. Basch headed to the Thinking Man's tavern to follow up on Nilasa's background connections. The patrons were very closed off at first, but Cst. Oren did flex a bit of his reputation as a Docker sympathizer and willingly engaged in a civil debate about "legitimate authority" and the value of a persons trust in the law, and the trust the law should put in its people as well. In return, there was some good works spoken about Nilasa and reference made to her past cohorts and their incarceration. By this time, the investigative pair decided to regroup back with the main party... but their allies in the local police were recruited to try and go speak with the ex-allies on the Reformatory, in exchange for favours and an added donation fund for bribes or whatever needed.

    Of course, rather than let a scene like that get delegated to NPCs, I drafted a couple quick NPC guardsman sheets and still had the players roleplay it out. The party's increased reliance on off-hand NPCs may eventually develop into a couple one off sessions as "the other guys", doing things from their perspectives while their main characters are off doing important stuff. But still, the Reformatory scene went civil. Terms were set, and added clues about a "House Elf" and "Family Wharf" to the growing conspiracy board.

    Det. Goodwyne set out on the trail of the runaway doctor, figuring that this was the hottest lead and required the most action. In looking at the alleyway near the Consulate, Goodwyne determined that a battle must have occured there, but the strange oil stain was of the most interest. Following leads to where he was teaching and where he was living, the frequent mention about a mysterious and wounded "Officer Porter" seemed incredibly suspicious to the detective, and before the lead could be fully followed up on, Goodwyne decided to regroup with the others to find out what they learned so that when trouble from this Officer Porter comes they can face it as a team.

    Meanwhile, constables Awyr and Dr. Brinolt followed the lead to Heward Nevard. Dr Brinolt took the lead since as an alchemist he had the most interest interest in pluming the mind of this up and coming expert. Their talks about acids and other applied scientific interests eventually got right back onto Nilasa. At this point, for some reason the investigators got really hung up on not the papers that were taken by the disappearing doctor... but a nearby witness who claimed that a pendant was also taken off her body. Offering his help however he can, Heward directed the group towards his Skyseer uncle, especially given the recent thugs who've made intimidating threats and other odd occurances.

    The group reconvened to try and make sense of all the disparate clues, putting together a makeshift conspiracy board to figure it all out. Hearing that this Skyseer Nevard has spoken with not just the deceased Nilasa, but the ever elusive Gale, they set out to speak with the wise old man.

    The complications of travelling through the Cloudwood delayed them, much to the annoyance of the PCs. The increased amount of gang activity is known to the team, but they decided there isn't much they can do about it at present. Though there isn't a countdown clock to their investigation, they chose that the longer they delay the colder the leads would get.

    The meeting with the elder Skyseer was incredibly cordial, with most of the questions being asked by Cst. Awyr (himself an amateur Skyseer). They had a decently lengthy discussion about the march of progress and what it means for old traditions, and the value of keeping old beliefs alive even in a time that evolves too quickly to understand. Nevard promised all the aid he'd be able to give, as well as information regarding Nilasa and Gale... provided they escort him for a nocturnal mission to the top of Cauldron Hill.

    Ever since the mention of Cauldron Hill a while ago, the PCs were just itching to climb it. Being super creepy and haunted and off limits just nagged at the back of their minds, and the idea that they can go there finally thrilled them. But not before meeting with Mayor MacBannin.

    There was a brief encounter in the waiting room with Nicodemus, but the PCs largely dismissed him. "What a pretentious tool" I believe the words were. However, the meeting with the mayor went quite excellent. His enthusiastic offering of assistance in their protection against the evils of Cauldron Hill won them over, enough so that they didn't notice how his aid, Mr Creed, matched the description they kept getting of "Officer Porter" all day long.

    In fact, it went so well that it was very noted that every single NPC was subject to a barrage of Sense Motive checks.... except the mayor. He just seemed like a "loyal civic minded citizen, I'd vote for him!"

    That was where we left the session for the time being. The PCs were pretty spread thing, but they are making all the preparations they need to be in separate places at once if need be.

    So far though? They enjoy the ever living bajezus out of this story, mainly because of the suspense to how all these different plot elements will hopefully eventually make sense by the end. There wasn't much in the way of combat because none of the three leads were particularly explored in depth ,but the time was taken by the players to make every scene count and every PC had their time in the spotlight to show what they can do and what their approaches to law enforcement are.

    The next session will come close to the end of October, because I divide my weekend time between this campaign, a newly started Northlands Saga, and helping the technical set up of an upcoming Twitch-streamed Ravenloft project. However, all players are thrilled to see just how big the conspiracy board is eventually going to get.

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    Diagram A: A whole bunch of misspelled nonsense! There was a lot of chin/beard stroking and dramatically saying "But what does it mean?!"

  5. #5

    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)

    RangerWickett's Avatar

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    Jan 2002
    Decatur, GA
    Excellent. I love the little diagram of falling onto the fence.

  6. #6
    Thank you, sir. The conspiracy board is a point of pride for the players since there were so many NPCs and hidden connections going around that it was the only way things would make sense for them. Having played in a couple previous urban campaigns, they really enjoyed how in depth all the various factions and people were. That everything was so obviously connected yet it just didn't connect yet. I wasn't able to get an updated picture because the players took the chart home for "serious revisions" after the fallout of this weekend's session.

    Cauldron Hill expediton: The time spent between games was enough to make a couple of the players grow suspicious regarding Mayor Macbannin and his intentions for the group. Four of six felt that this was a good person burdened with a hard job who is doing his best to maintain order. But two, the alchemist and swashbuckler, felt something else was afoot. The Alchemist Dr. Brinolt distrusted him, saying "I prefer hard science to protect us, not his hocus pocus. Even if he means well, we shouldn't trust him." Whereas Const. Threm quickly spoke up to say "There's no more sure way to know there's a knife aimed at your back than when someone smiles that much at us."

    Having some time to pick up the esteemed Skyseer, Dr. Brinolt set to testing the blood supplied to ensure it was exactly as he said and not some kind of trick. Satisfied with the results, he only grudgingly went along with this escort mission. Meanwhile, the party ninja stayed in the company of Nevard to try and better understand the role of Skyseers in society and the nature of whether visions are to be trusted, and can they be defied or are we fated to simply endure what is seen.

    All things handled, they set out up Cauldron Hill to it's majestic heights. With ritual components in place the night long vigil began. For atmosphere, I had select parts of the Thief: Deadly Shadows soundtrack on a loop. As the myriad spirits and beasts lurked nearby, even the skeptical Dr. Brinolt kept to the safety of the blood circle trying to puzzle out its mechanics. The red curtain vision caught them most off guard, and even one player said "What kind of weird-*** Twin Peaks psychadelic bull**** is this? Can't we ever have a normal job?"

    The Man in Black appeared late into the night with the intent to disrupt the ritual. Dr. Basch, the mesmerist, made repeated attempts to either use Diplomacy or Charm Person in an effort to make him cease, but largely the battle was a daring attempt to capture/dissuade the mysterious Man in Black and reinforce any of the rituals that would keep them safe from his disruptions.

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    Bloodied and battered, the night operation was a success and Nevard was quite enthused that he placed in trust in the right people. The ninja Cysgod also received his own vision, and quite alarmed by it, remained silent for most of the trip downhill where Lt. Dale met with them for the purification ritual. The roleplaying was tense as the party grew suspicious of the helpful mayor, who was one of the only ones who knew they were up that mountain in the first place.

    But it was the start of a long day, and the party disbanded to rest after escorting Nevard safely to his henge.

    From an Out of Character perspective, up to this point this was the weirdest encounter they had. While everything else up to this point had been light on magic and supernatural dealings, this was being confronted directly with nightmares they did not know how to deal with. The growing suspicion of the mayor caused quite the internal schism as well in the group, as half of them are Lawful Neutral "letter of the law" types, and the other half are Neutral Good "spirit of the law" characters. The ongoing debate of how far they can push their investigative activities before compromising their moral code made for some good meaty roleplaying.

    There was a lot more that happened, since this was a very very long session. But so far at this time, the game was a smashing success.
    XP RangerWickett, Tormyr gave XP for this post

  7. #7

    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)

    RangerWickett's Avatar

    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Decatur, GA
    I love the 'mini' for the curtains.

  8. #8
    Haha, yeah the curtains was impromptu. Though the module says that the curtains appear inside the circle, I chose to put it just outside as a tantalizing option to leave the safety of their protected area. Which, given how claustrophobic they felt inside... I just knew SOMEONE was going to leave. And so, the swashbuckler Const. Threm did. As the creatures began to take notice of him after the vision though, he was remarkably quick to get back inside.

    The Ongoing Investigation: Though the visions of a factory aflame haunt the mind of Cysgod, the group receives an unorthodox message from Gale willing to meet at the Bridal Veil. After reassuring that they are not there to bring her in as a person of interest, she tells them a story about strange activity happening in the Bleak Gate (which has been also interchangeably referred to as the Shadowfell by some players, or even recently as the Upside-Down for obvious reasons). Before separating to rest, the party stopped at their usual hangout the Broken Oar (a rougher environment frequented by sailors) to discuss possibilities. Which includes that the Man in Black is probably an agent from the other side who may have killed and replaced Julian LeBrix at the consulate, possibly also impersonating any number of higher ranking government officials.

    But first, there were other leads that needed to be searched such as this "House Elf", calling as many contacts as necessary to determine his identity... and with that a trip to his establishment began. In an attempt to suss out any nefarious dealings, Dr Brinolt and Det. Goodwyne donned disguises and seemed as interested patrons looking for "less than legal" ingredients for their scientific studies. While the two gnomes were distracted at the front desk, the Cysgod sneakily crept in from the roof and through a series of remarkable high rolls began rendering guards unconscious and disarming traps, in the search of illegal materials that would give them sufficient cause for a raid.

    At the front desk, Dansica was quick to see through the terrible lies of a law enforcement agent. With them quickly found out, the pair requested for cooperation in searching the premises. Their brutish methods of "suggestion" (repeated Intimidation checks) was sufficient for Dansica to guide them to the back in the hopes of her dreaming dust trap taking care of the problem. Except... it was already disarmed.

    After a quick scuffle, the pair was placed under arrest and put in separate rooms as the party attempted to turn one against the other with hackneyed "good cop, bad but somewhat incompetent cop" techniques. Still, a plea deal was struck offering directions to the general area where a man named Deorn Feldman would be making a delivery. In exchange, the gnomes would have their charges dropped and told to clean up their place as the group made further plans to go meet some smugglers at the docks.

    The original plan was for the party to take no back up, in order to remain undetected for greater ambush. Yet for some reason, they felt the best way to do so was to dock further away from the exchange location, and come from the boardwalk itself on foot. Being quickly detected, the party chose to quickly change their tactings from "Get them!" to "We're just here to talk, there's bigger fish about, if you help us with some stuff we saw nothing."

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    This originally wasn't going to be mapped out, but I had the extra time off and spare materials. It wound up being a good reinforcement that the PCs should plan this out carefully.

    So, the brave members of the task force requested to speak with the captain regarding unfortunate events in the city. They spoke their case about Nilasa's death, some kind of cover up, increased gang warring and a lot of smuggling happening which is gaining attention from their superiors not just in the city but in Slate (a Bluff), and that if they didn't want to be incriminated or brought down with any of that... then they should either vacate the city, or do something to be helpful in bringing information to light. Deorn said he'd have to talk to some people about it, but expect a reply in short time tomorrow.

    The group left the wharf kicking themselves in the butt for not really thinking too clearly about what they were getting into, but were satisfied that maybe they can get some underworld insight that they've been missing the whole time. This left them all discussing for a while about the ethics of what they're doing. The Lawful Neutral characters were intent that negotiations with criminal elements is a stupid thing and a better effort should have been put in order to bring the Family in for their smuggling. The Neutral Good characters cautioned that the investigations involve a myriad of criminal elements, and taking a "no negotiations" stance is only going to harm their efforts, especially when there's the possibility of political corruption.

    More happened, as it was a really long session. But so far, things went in directions I didn't expect them to. I do applaud their creativity in how they want to do things. One of the players has a career in law enforcement, so he's been enjoying having the ability to "do the stuff my agency would never think of or even be able to get away with".
    XP RangerWickett, Falkus gave XP for this post

  9. #9
    So, the rest of the investigations were pretty straightforward. Following up on leads and visions, there was a quick scramble to apprehend a pair of half-dragon arsonists (leading to a lot of questions of "wait, there's half-dragons around?" and "How can I become one?"), a tense standoff with the Kell Guild, and a daring rescue of the missing doctor von Recklinghausen which ultimately resulted in the party shook their fist at the "Steelshaper" who absconded from the scene in a nice carriage (for some reason the niceness of the carriage only infuriated the characters more).

    Nonetheless, after the demise of Nevard in a private gathering and imparting some last inspirational words before passing peacefully like Yoda, the party put their minds together and decided to follow up on a couple of investigators suspicions that both security chief LeBrix and Mayor Macbannin is obviously hiding something and needs to be taken in not just for answers, but possibly for their own safety. Out of duty to the city, they went to the mayor first.... and negotiations began to break down as discussions became forceful... then the glorious monologuing began and thrilling combat was engaged. At first, the PCs had no idea what to do because each time they struck the mayor it was clear the students were getting injured. But a few rounds later, the earthquakes began and the investigators went into a kind of panic about what's going on.

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    Diagram A: Sharpies were great for the eruption of a certain dangerous recurring necroliquid.

    After a complete gangpile grapplefest to restrain the mayor, he pleaded with them to at least shut down the machinery. The basement-crawl didn't take as long as I had thought it would, but it was still full of "oh holy ****" moments as the players realized the scope of what they were dealing with.

    It all culminated with an excellent duel with Cillian Creed on the walkways over the witchoil. I believe he was meant to be dealt with on the main mansion grounds, but a cool walkway battle felt thematically Star Wars-y as some of the PCs seperated to deal with the machinery even as Creed kept trying to deal with them.

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    In the end, bad guys were dead or apprehended. Tragic events were averted, and the players felt pretty good about what they had done... until the death of Macbannin inside the jail. Upon hearing of that, paranoia ramped up. There was a lot of silence before speculations about who got to him, what he was hiding, and if anyone in the capital or even the RHC could be trusted.

    Very fitting capstone to Season 2.

    Things they enjoyed was how dense the mystery became compounded. There was just so much information doled out that it was hard for them to sift through it all and get a coherent direction to go in without some serious planning. On that, it challenged them as players not just as characters. Answers were revealed, but never without more questions and even after the mystery of Nilasa's death was solved... there's still just so much clearly going on that some of the PCs downtime actions has been setting up cover identities in case the spooks come after them for knowing too much.

    From my perspective, I read these forums enough to know to read this chapter of the game is especially challenging because of the sheer volume of motives and pathways. I found it best to separate the leads along a series of flowcharts on the back of the DM screen. That certainly helped, as well as using the NPC portraits printed out on cards so I can flash that as supporting characters kept reappearing. Thankfully, having done a lot of Vampire: The Masquerade plots way back when, balancing a ton of NPCs and their constant intrigue wasn't the worst.

    With all this accomplished, Season 3 will begin with a couple stand off "case of the week" episodes. As all these adventures have happened, the PCs have been making friends and allies with a variety of local NPCs from different agencies and offering to sponsor them if they want to join the RHC eventually. Seeing that in the 4th or 5th adventure, a B-Team supports the group during a major crisis... it seems like a good opportunity for that B-Team to be the hand picked group they recruited and their first case (a pretty reworked version of Dungeon magazine's Chimes at Midnight), with the players taking up their roles. So it'll be several weeks or a couple months because the holidays are weird before the main stuff of Digging for Lies kicks off.

    All in all? Great stuff.
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  10. #10

    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)

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    Chimes at Midnight was one of the Nic Logue adventures starring Viktor Saint-Demaine? I ran a Sharn COPS game at the tail end of 3rd edition and was setting up a three-act structure where I'd use those adventures as the capstone. But the game ground to a halt over scheduling, and we never finished act two, which was to be a takedown of the monstrous mafia Daask.

    Hm, thanks for reminding me. I rather enjoyed rereading my storyhour about that one. http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthr...itive-archives

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