ZEITGEIST Party Motivations in Books 7-9: Why do they fight?
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  1. #1

    Party Motivations in Books 7-9: Why do they fight?

    My group are two sessions into Schism, and we're running into problems. I'm not here to discuss most of them- 'how can you debate planes without listing their full stats and just going by aspects', 'how can you take a faction from a forum thread and then swap out half its planes', 'why is the Ob and the party only now going after Kasvarina', 'why do you say the party can influence the convocation but then MAP is always put in place in Act 3'.

    Instead I'm going to ask for help concerning problems with the end of Schism, and leading into the next two books.

    Why, at the end of Schism, should the party oppose the Ob?
    Come the end of the convocation, the Ob's grand design will be MAP- a fairly utopian configuration. Why should the party fight against the Ob against such a config? 'To stop any change happening at all'? Yet Axis Island is basically impregnable (and attacking it requires skipping book 8 which isn't workable).

    What does the party gain from winning book #8?
    The party isn't going to win control of Borne. Perhaps that's metagaming, but it's true. They'll win Kasvarina's allegiance- yet there are few concrete rewards from this I can promise. My Schism question also applies.

    Why, in The Last Starry Sky, should the party oppose Stanfield?
    Here's the biggest sticking point. Per the Grand Design, the lighthouses provide stabilization for the Axis Ritual. The Stanfield lighthouse goes into detail- the lighthouse is blasting out MAP energies so the transition is easier.

    But... the *book* treats the lighthouse like it's blasting out mental enslavement energies.

    But as he dies, the governor reveals what the party may have already deduced: that his ritual is just one of many, and while Risur might be safe, the rest of the world is now loyal to the Obscurati
    No it isn't, per newspaper articles in Book 10 the rest of the world is very much still independent.

    Most importantly, she tells them that Stanfield is going to perform a ritual tomorrow night in Flint, but if it can be disrupted they can protect Risur at least.
    The lighthouse is stabilizing Risur, as was made plain in Schism, when the party learnt about the Grand Design.

    ...multiple sources have said Governor Stanfield is about to perform a ritual for the Obscurati. The obvious mission now is to get to Flint and stop him, and omens suggest tomorrow night might be the last night in the world.
    Why is it the obvious mission? Solely because 'Stanfield is evil and doing something presumably evil so we'd better stop him'?



    However, if they sit and wait and refuse to press ahead, Stanfield will finish, causing everyone in the nationexcept for a few high-level or strong-willed individualsto hold off on fighting until they give talking a chance. The party will find themselves without allies and possibly bereft of some of their powers.
    So what? Per Act 3 this is going to be disadvantages on both sides. Certainly no advantages for Stanfield, aside from the PCs losing a few allies.

    I realize there's a natural answer for this. "Stanfield and Nic are bad people, so it's good to fight them." But if they're bound to win- or the PCs are bound to fail- and their configuration is utopic, why should the party still fight?
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  2. #2
    There are notes on changing later adventures with the players switching to support the Ob.
    Why should the party oppose the Ob
    1) See above if they really don't want to
    2) The Ob has demonstrated a ruthless and somewhat evil approach to implementing their plans, do you trust them to actually make things better and to do so without murdering large numbers of people to achieve their goals. The ob seem very much to be of the you can't make an omellette without breaking a few eggs school. My players have commented on several occasions that they regulary see signs of good goals and even good people among the Ob but the Ob seems to practice ruthless policies with a reckless disregard for life,
    2) From what I recall the final plans for the Ob leave the world open to interplanar invasion which is in itself a good reason to oppose it.
    3) DO the Ob have a right to impose their world view upon everyone else in the world without asking them
    4) Do you trust the Ob not to mess up the ritual? I would not and oh look they do mess it up

    What does the party gain from book 8
    1)Kasavarina , if nothing else one less 20th level sorceror/eldritch knight to fight in book 13 is a good thing, Nicodemus, Bourne and the airship are already a real threat
    2) Knowledge they learn most of the origins and purposes of the OB , this in itself will be facinating for my players
    3) My players will uncover the ties of one of their number to the Kasavarina
    4) If they pay attention they can pretty much break the ob protection against Divination which would be very nice to do
    If your players really expect concrete rewards 2 artifact weapons , a tank and a pile of loot are not bad. My players will really like the tanks machine guns for their steam mecha. Really cunning players could come up with all sorts of antimagic protections from looting the ruins although I can think of ways of preventing that,

    Why oppose stansfield
    He is a traitor carrying out an Ob Ritual and as such needs stopping and bringing to justice , combined with his repeated betrayal of the pc's that is pretty much enough motivation. He also is involved in the plan to kill the king which makes it High Treason and as senior law enfoecement officials arresting or executing him for his crimes is the pc's job even if they do not now include the monarch.
    The Ob ritual does seem to smooth the control of the Ob over the other nations , from now on the Ob control every other nation , openly which is a huge step up from before . Unless the pc's go to heroic lengths to change that, the reason they do not control Risur is a combination of the independent monarch and his links to the land and the people and thier failure in flint . If they pc's had not kept an independent momarch and stopped the ritual then they Ob could have brought all nations under their control. Also the pc's should not be fully aware of the axis seal ritual at this point beleiving the entire Ob plan to be implemented via the lanterns and so expect stopping the lantern ritual to be even more important than it is .

    I think that my group will have no problem being motivated to do as the plot expects , unless they join the Ob which I think is about a 10% chance or less due to the Ob's evil methods. Nic's purge at the end of 7 will not help their trust of the Ob and its leadership
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  3. #3

    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)

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    The Ob talks about how nice it would be to make omelets from free-range chickens, but when a couple chickens start pecking at each other, Nicodemus decides to hack off their beaks and throw them in cages.

    At the end of adventure 7, if the party reveals itself and asks to join the Ob, Nic would be suspicious.He doesn't really need their help, and he has little reason to trust them. If the PCs are convincing, you might have him ask them to help murder the other side of the schism to show their loyalty. Afterward, if he trusts them, he'd send them (perhaps with some loyal minion of his reporting in regularly) to track down Kasvarina.

    Then in adventure 8, the real point is giving the player's context, and foregrounding a lot of historical stuff, so Nicodemus goes from "the guy we met twice who is in charge of the bad guys" to "that guy we personally have witnessed do kill people and be a hypocrite." From a standpoint of "How do we stop the villains," yeah, it doesn't accomplish too much. From a storytelling perspective, I think it's critical to making the climax satisfying.

    And for adventure 9, yeah, the PCs could sit on their hands and hope Stanfield's ritual doesn't do anything bad. But that is supposed to be a bad idea. Maybe I didn't write clearly enough why that's bad, but the intention is that the Axis Seal slowly suffuses the world with the energies of the new planes, gradually altering stuff. The lanterns impose the change near instantaneously. If you don't stop Stanfield's ritual, then Risur collectively goes, "Ohhh, right, things have changed and we should no longer trust our old rulers. Stanfield says he's with this Obscurati that changed the world? Well, I agree that this change is a good one. Stanfield, you have persuaded me. I shall resist the PCs, and they shall find very few allies."
    XP Andrew Moreton, hirou, Tizbiz gave XP for this post

  4. #4
    Andrew, Ranger, I appreciate your thoughts- yet per the books, you're wrong on a few points.

    Book 7

    -I appreciate that the party could just join the Ob- but that would require significant alterations and DIY to books 8 and 9 so we'd like to avoid that if at all possible. Same for any assault-Axis-Island shenanigans.

    -The Ob are indeed evil. It's just that their plan is both utopian and inevitable; so that would seem to make it more difficult for the party to want to oppose them.

    -Is interplanar invasion in and of itself worth opposing a utopian reconfig? My players don't think so. Plus, in the end, it doesn't really matter- in the Gyre, having Apet and Nem is likely no protection.

    -They might not have the right but if it's both inevitable and utopian, how much struggle is it worth?

    -Trusting them not to mess it up is just more cause to join with them, though.

    Book 8

    -Yet Kasvarina doesn't show up in book 8. I suppose I could pretend she was going to show up, though that seems a little weak.

    -Insight and history is valuable, but it's not the objective of the main mission- 'stop the Ob'.

    -Breaking their divination protection doesn't seem as valuble after they've seen all Ob officers at the convocation. Plus my players are easily hitting the DC to break through.

    -Loot is an alright reward. I just suspect it will feel paltry if the party starts the book with 'your mission is X!' and then even though they succeed, they fail to accomplish X.

    Book 9


    -He is a traitor, yet if you look closer at the lighthouse and realize its function, all he's doing is stabilizing and protecting Risur. He's not involved in Romana's plan to kill the king. He might be deceiving the Risuri military, but that might even be heroic when the alternative is sitting quiet in a basement and letting the city be damaged by the reconfig.

    -Yet here's the thing- the Ob ritual does *not* smooth the control of the Ob over other nations, or at least not immediately and enormously. The book 10 newspaper articles are clear- all nations (except Danor) are very much still independent and indifferent to the Ob. Shantus slaps down some Ob coups, Drakr is mired in nihilistic eschatology. Thus there is no real 'penalty' for if Stanfield wins.

    -You say the PCs shouldn't be fully aware of the Axis Seal Ritual, but per what the book specifically says they should learn at Schism, they know *everything*- that Borne is required, that there's a great seal of gold, that the lighthouses are a stabilizing influence. All they don't know is the icons and the location- and even then, the book expects canny players to figure it out. I genuinely don't see how a party can be hoodwinked into thinking Stanfield is running the main ritual when there isn't a three-hundred-foot colossus helping him.

    Ranger

    -I am grateful you put in a 'PCs join the Ob' track. Though part of my 'why should the party fight the Ob' extends to Risur- 'why should Risur fight the party if they join the Ob'.

    -I do think book 8 will do a good ob at fully introducing the party to Nic, and realizing just how much of a dick he is. I just worry it might not make it reasonable to fight him.

    -You say that was your intention, Ranger, yet per what I say above- the start of book 10 *doesn't* have all the nations in thrall to the Ob. They're still alive and kicking- even though their lighthouses *worked*. Sure, they're open to the idea of working with the Ob, but it isn't until Book 13 that the party has the entire world utterly dominated.

    My solutions

    It seems good to not go an entire massive post of complaining without offering a few solutions.

    Book 7

    There's one possibility and it's one I really quite like. I let my party choose their own configuration, and sway the majority of the Convocation towards it- but Nic refuses, and enforces MAP; because it's based on *him* and his teachings. He does this because for all his words about humility and understanding, he's a prideful bastard, and doesn't want a new world that isn't at least partially gruonded in his ideals.

    The trouble with this is that MAP is utopian- and is it really worth fighting for one utopia over another? Thus I'm considering altering MAP a tiny amount to make it more objectionable.

    Another possibility is that Nic will take the convocation's vote (after killing Colossus), but will insist on also adding a mental control ritual to the reconfig.

    Book 8

    I'm still a touch unsure what to do about Book 8. The best answer does seem to be offering a concrete, tangible reward for acquriing Kasvarina's allegiance. Have her mess with the ritual so it doesn't cause as much bother.

    Book 9

    Simple idea- the Ob are really, really, really worried about the Fey Titans. They're pretty sure they're all going to rise up- and they might unite. So, two-stage plan. First, Catherine Romana becomes Queen. Secondly, Stanfield uses domination energies- funnelled from around Risur through the Flint lighthouse- to control the wills of all Risuri. As the King's power is based on the peoples' belief, controlling their will means the King will have enough power to oppose even all the fey titans put together.

    This is pretty easily tied in with the Voice; they think he's asleep.

    Quick ending note

    Zeit is the best AP I've ever seen. But I don't think you'll take offence if I say it could have used a few more editing passes.
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  5. #5

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    Having run these adventures already, I experienced none of the motivation issues you are concerned about.

    My players loved the shades of grey reveal in Schism, but nontheless continued to oppose the Ob because of their methods (and concerns about gidim invasion). Nicodemus' purge served to confirm their determination to stop him.

    The players may not gain anything from 'winning' Diaspora, but they don't know that from the outset. The allegiance of Kasvarina is pretty major in my campaign. The writers couldn't tie her to anything huge because they don't know which way things are going to go, but you can do what you want with her after #8.

    As far as #9 goes, my players were roleplaying loyal servants of Risur, which is under attack. Stanfield's treachery was sufficient to drive the climax (particularly since I had been at pains to make it personal).

    I think your amendations are just fine. In an AP this ambitious there are bound to be some things that don't gel, sit right with you, or deserve a tweak along the way (for example, I agree with your point about the nebulous purpose of Stanfield's ritual). But I would argue that a lack of PC motivation isn't one of them.
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by arkwright View Post
    Andrew, Ranger, I appreciate your thoughts- yet per the books, you're wrong on a few points.
    I think everyone will have some disagreements a lot depends on your group and their approach and we are all different.
    In this case you are getting a comprehensive set of answers as I am off work recovering from surgery and have a lot of time available
    Quote Originally Posted by arkwright View Post
    Book 7

    -I appreciate that the party could just join the Ob- but that would require significant alterations and DIY to books 8 and 9 so we'd like to avoid that if at all possible. Same for any assault-Axis-Island shenanigans.
    I agree it will be a lot of work, I don't expect to need it for all of the many reasons plus I know my group. I don't worry too much about an assault on Axis island as they won't have time. They won't be ready before they recover Kasavarina and then the whole faerie thing will circumvent any plans , plus I am not sure they will realise how critical Axis island is . I know they will think it important but they should not know enough about the details of the Ob rituals to know that the Lighthouses are secondary and that the Island is everything. I expect that only the Tier 1 Ob and the golden cell tasked with the ritual on Axis island actually know that so most of the people at the convocation in book 7 know nothing about the details of implementing the plan and are only aware it changes the planes and will use the lanterns. The ob seem to be good at comparmentalising information and this strikes me as a big secret worth limiting.
    Quote Originally Posted by arkwright View Post
    -The Ob are indeed evil. It's just that their plan is both utopian and inevitable; so that would seem to make it more difficult for the party to want to oppose them.

    -Is interplanar invasion in and of itself worth opposing a utopian reconfig? My players don't think so. Plus, in the end, it doesn't really matter- in the Gyre, having Apet and Nem is likely no protection.
    Because a plan is their vision of utopian is no reason to let someone enforce it. Even if Utopian in vision the execution may not be . The communist vision is a form of utopia but implementation always seems to leave a few million dead , Nic is that sort of Utopian anyone not conforming to his vision will need to be 're-educated' or eliminated to protect the majority and the future. This is enougth to oppose it plus of course some characters and players may not like the details of his Utopia.
    Inevieitable How so? The players will strive and hope to prevent it , so why should it seem ineveitable. Yes the plot as structured makes it impractiable to allow the players to stop the ritual but they don't know that. (As an aside if through brilliance or madness my players actually reach axis island and try to stop the ritual the results of their efforts will be the Gyre , I may then retroactivly reveal that the Voice of Rot has been messing with their heads to cause this since book 3). I don't think the plan is ineveitable and my pc's certainly won't.

    Extraplanar invasion different vewpoints the Shimmering legion and the Gidim are both Exisential world shatterring threats maintaining a planar config which has prevented them for at lest 5000 years sounds good to me. I have made the threat of the legion more personal to my players as it is lead by one of the pc's from theIR Way of the Wicked campaign and they fear that the rest of those terrible evil masterminds lurk in the planes beyond along maybe with the FROG!
    The Gyre actually seems a perfect defense against planar invasion only what is in the Gyre can get you and anyway the Gyre will eat your home long before a really good invasion can occure. Of course the players home does not actually reach the Gyre unless they fail and before it does the Gidim have already launched one attack and the legion may be planning its attack. In any case the Gyre is a result of a failed ritual the players should have no warning or expectation of it only the Voice of Rot is aware of this threat and welcomes it. Nic would deny any possibility of his ritual failing only treachery and reactionary sabotage could be a problem and he will prevent that (or not actually)

    Quote Originally Posted by arkwright View Post
    -They might not have the right but if it's both inevitable and utopian, how much struggle is it worth?

    -Trusting them not to mess it up is just more cause to join with them, though.
    See above and if it is right to resist than any degree of struggle is right. I do agree that if your players mistakenly buy into the Ob plan helping them to prevent a mistake is a good idea until they fall victim to the first purge.
    Quote Originally Posted by arkwright View Post
    Book 8

    -Yet Kasvarina doesn't show up in book 8. I suppose I could pretend she was going to show up, though that seems a little weak.
    Not sure what you mean she shows up a lot in book 8, which one did you mean I suspect a typo.
    Quote Originally Posted by arkwright View Post
    -Insight and history is valuable, but it's not the objective of the main mission- 'stop the Ob'.

    -Breaking their divination protection doesn't seem as valuble after they've seen all Ob officers at the convocation. Plus my players are easily hitting the DC to break through.
    Know your enemy , at the start of book 8 the players still do not know about the details of the Ob and so seek out Kasavarina to learn its secrets and possibly use her to control the Colossus . They do in fact learn a lot and that will be the key to bringing down Nic to me and I think my group this will be valuable. Seperatly as I liked book 8 and my players gave me the openings I have invested them with personal interests in Kasavarina beyond their natural curiosity and this investigation will have a lot of meaning to them ,I understand not all groups will but I find that the structure of the AP naturally works well with an Eladrin Vekeshi preferably female who is interested in Kasavarina so I influenced my players so one was created although that was not difficult as the idea appealed to one of them. Sadly no Urban Empath and the Starseer is an NPC but the Vekeshi was the most important.
    If you have an optimised party like I do all DC's in APs and the NPC's are not up to facing the PC's so I increase all DC's and opponent to create the appropriate level of threat. This is not a flaw of this AP but pretty much all AP's.
    Quote Originally Posted by arkwright View Post
    -Loot is an alright reward. I just suspect it will feel paltry if the party starts the book with 'your mission is X!' and then even though they succeed, they fail to accomplish X.


    Probably you are right , that was not really a very serious suggestion. Although the Artifact weapons are really neat and my Vekeshi will really appreciate another sword of Ssramma and Bat-Manuel will cackle maniaclly at the realisation his Bat Mecha can now have machine guns.
    Quote Originally Posted by arkwright View Post
    Book 9
    Quote Originally Posted by arkwright View Post

    -He is a traitor, yet if you look closer at the lighthouse and realize its function, all he's doing is stabilizing and protecting Risur. He's not involved in Romana's plan to kill the king. He might be deceiving the Risuri military, but that might even be heroic when the alternative is sitting quiet in a basement and letting the city be damaged by the reconfig.

    -Yet here's the thing- the Ob ritual does *not* smooth the control of the Ob over other nations, or at least not immediately and enormously. The book 10 newspaper articles are clear- all nations (except Danor) are very much still independent and indifferent to the Ob. Shantus slaps down some Ob coups, Drakr is mired in nihilistic eschatology. Thus there is no real 'penalty' for if Stanfield wins.
    Isn't he involved in the plot to kill the king? I assume that it is his plan as he knows the king is a block to the ineveitable flow of victory for the Ob so he will have been involved in the Ob plan to kill the King , and is only not participating because he is needed to get things done in Flint. If it helps have the assassins particularly Romana reveal this. But I have no doubt and my players will have no doubt that he is behind the assassins.

    All he is doing is protecting the city? Perhaps that is his story. He is participating in the involuntary brainwashing of his citzens 'for their own good' using a technique which will only achieve its best result if his sworn liege the King is dead. Prima facie evidence of his treason and knowledge of High Treason. The man has abandoned his sworn duty to Treason his motive is the best long term good of the people and clearly he knows better what they need and want than they do after all for the last few centuries the people of Flint and Risur have failed to improve to meet his standards.

    I think the Ob Ritual does help them establish the mindset they need to control the other nations despite local problems , the evidence is clear they are able to unite 4 nations against Risur in matter of weeks which is a truly impressive acievement . If Stansfield succeeds then almost everyone in Risur will side with the Ob leaving only a few strong willed to oppose it i,e the pc's and close allies.
    In Drakr only a mad prophet and her followers resist, people who are pretty much beyond the scope of reason the Ob consider them as much an aberration as the pc's do however they are less of a threat to the Ob's vision than an free Risur so letting them kill a lot of people before they are dealt with is a lesser evil than a free Risur the armies can deal with them later.
    The other lands all seem to be broadly united in supporting the Ob goal, killing off the gods is an unforseen side effect of the reduction in faith and a demon lord stirring the pot by giving away secrets and the events in Ber are why you should have kept the planar safeguards as the Ob has made the world more vulnerable to Gidim attack.
    [/quote]
    Quote Originally Posted by arkwright View Post
    -You say the PCs shouldn't be fully aware of the Axis Seal Ritual, but per what the book specifically says they should learn at Schism, they know *everything*- that Borne is required, that there's a great seal of gold, that the lighthouses are a stabilizing influence. All they don't know is the icons and the location- and even then, the book expects canny players to figure it out. I genuinely don't see how a party can be
    It seems I am misrembering what the players should know. I don't actually have the ap at hand to check easily here
    Quote Originally Posted by arkwright View Post
    .


    My solutions

    It seems good to not go an entire massive post of complaining without offering a few solutions.
    Your ideas sound like they will work for you. To me your plot for book 9 would require my characters switch to evil as the treason and mind control plan is something they would have enacted in Way of the Wicked although with more sex and were-tigers.

    I think the issue is that you and your group interpret the Ob;s plans and actions differently than I do and differently than the AP expects which leads to your issues . This is a natural consequence of everyone being different so I expect we will agree to disagree on many points. However the discusion is always useful in making us think about potential issues our own groups will encounter although for the next few months it is Jedi and Sith for me.
    XP RangerWickett, hirou gave XP for this post

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