ZEITGEIST tragicThaumaturge's 4e Zeitgeist Campaign
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  1. #1

    tragicThaumaturge's 4e Zeitgeist Campaign

    We finally started the campaign with Bonds of Forced Faith, on the same weekend of a lunar eclipse no less! Despite this being a 4e D&D campaign we used the 5e version of the adventure because I had already printed the character sheets for that version.We began by choosing characters, but I'll save my comments on this for the end. Since there are only five players I played the mayor Roland Stanfield.

    We played through the teaser as written, there's not much room for player antics here. I did like that the mayor (whom I assigned to the player who picked the king for this part) confronted the Red Contessa valiantly and swore to avenge the fallen witch hunters.

    So, on to the adventure. The players exchanged information in the mayor’s mansion until Amielle’s arrival interrupted them. They argued about whether a tiefling should be trusted but king Lorcan didn’t want to take any chances, and decided they would move against the witches tonight. It was then that the Red Contessa summoned her blood simulacrum and gave her speech, taunted the king and destroyed the Hinc ad Aeternitatem. The king emerged onto a balcony and addressed the panicked citizens, proclaiming that for his fiftieth birthday he would take the head of the Contessa as present and free them from her reign of terror.

    When the police chief brought news that a mob had attacked Rachel Lang and her acolytes the king asked Melissa for advice, to gauge her attitude toward the people of the city. She expressed concern about their tight schedule, but told him that she would help him save the skyseer if he gave the order. The king made up his mind and asked her to help, and told Amielle that he wanted her help in this mission if he was to trust her. As a preventive measure Harkover used his black gem to block scrying for the rest of the day.

    They rode to Parity Lake where they found Husky Pete inciting a mob to attack Rachel. Immediately suspicious of the beadle, Melissa warned the group to take precautions. Amielle hung back beside the mayor, ready to shoot if the others got in trouble. The rest of the group got close and were noticed by the people. Husky Pete began shouting happily that the king had come to save them and kill the witch. Harkover stealthily cast Detect Magic and noticed the magical aura around Pete and the mob (which we ruled as being perceived only by the caster, since they are the ones detecting magic) and used Message to warn Melissa about an illusion effect on the man and an enchantment and necromancy effect on the mob. She then told the beadle that they wanted to know what had happened, but because of recent events they had to make sure he was trustworthy, and proceeded to cast Zone of Truth. Pete noticed the compulsion to speak truthfully and tried to casually walk outside the area of effect. Melissa told him to stay put and the mob, already angry and enchanted by Deliria, tried to jump to the defense of the man, but a successful intimidate check stopped them in their tracks. Noticing the rising suspicion of the heroes and realizing she had been found out, Deliria removed her hat of disguise and ordered her trolls to attack. Amielle used her readied action to pull out her musket and shoot the woman, but the ritual she had used on the citizens redirected the damage to another person, killing them.Now, I am aware that the damage should be distributed among those bonded to the caster, but I like to make things difficult for my players. So, the man dies and the other people panic, breaking free from Deliria’s enchantment.

    Battle between the heroes and the witch ensues, and the players do surprisingly well. They save against the curses and dodge the trolls’ attacks, except for two grabs: one against Melissa and one against the king. The trolls then pull them underwater in an attempt to drown them. To increase tension I changed the rules for suffocating so they would only have rounds equal to their CON modifier (so 1 round) before dropping to 0 HP. Harkover considers dropping a fireball on the trolls but decides instead to trap one using Wall of Force so the king could escape, and lowkey trying to get Melissa killed so she wouldn’t take the crown (preventing Melissa from becoming queen is one of the mage’s goals in 5e, while 4e Harkover doesn’t seem very concerned with this).
    The king escapes and uses his powers to create a bridge to land, and to create a depression toward Deliria (so water from the lake would pour into the hole and get closer to the witch). Melissa succeeds on her escape check and Tomas recites from his holy scriptures to protect Harkover, so he would be able to maintain concentration on the Wall of Force. Meanwhile Amielle stabs and shoots the other troll, doing a surprising amount of damage. Finally the mayor lands a Hold Person spell on Deliria and Harkover drags the paralyzed woman to the water and begins drowning her. Melissa and Tomas go help him, and Melissa has her stag stand on top of the woman to keep her pinned to the ground. After a while she drowns and dark magic escapes from her corpse. Tomas uses his hook necklace to redirect the magic toward him and becomes cursed, though the curse is removed soon after by a spell. Amielle kills the free troll and the rest of the group readies actions to attack the trapped one. Harkover dispels the Wall of Force and the troll is vaporized.

    After the battle Tomas punches and yells at Deliria’s corpse, casting Speak with Dead. From the dead witch the group learns about the scarecrows and Pernicity’s cabin, as well as the location of the cauldron (which they also learn is the focus for the ritual they are preparing). Additionally they learn that by destroying the cauldron they can stop the ritual. Amielle apologizes for the civilian casualties, explaining she did not know about the ritual since she arrived after Tomas and Harkover had explained how it worked. The mayor says that her help made up for it, and the king agrees, although he’ll have to visit the family to give his condolences after tonight. He asks the mayor and Melissa to accompany him when he does. Amielle lights a cigar, picks up her guns (she had dropped them during combat to pull out other, loaded ones) and starts reloading them. Finally Rachel and her acolytes reach shore and thank the king and his retinue for saving them. She offers healing magic but no one in the group had taken any damage during the battle, so they politely decline. She then tells them about her vision and here I thought for sure that they were gonna find out she was lying, since her vision was somewhat contradictory to the information Tomas had obtained from Deliria’s corpse. Fortunately (for me) they instead interpreted the vision as an omen that they were gonna fail in their quest and one of them was going to sacrifice himself to dispel the ritual.

    Since they remain adamant in their decision to attack tonight, Rachel offers to cast a ritual to protect them. They agree and she offers them a gourd, saying she needs them to shed a drop of blood inside so the protection will reach them from such a great distance. The group is suspicious, particularly Melissa, but Harkover tells them the double-bluff is unlikely (I was afraid my face would give things away so I hid behind a cup of coffee). The mage makes an Arcana check to see if Rachel’s ritual checks out and rolls low, so he thinks it’s safe. The group all give the skyseer their blood, and Tomas says that under any other circumstance he would refuse taking part in such pagan rituals, but the situation calls for it (plus, he’s been granted full indulgence by his church).

    The ride to Cauldron Hill takes the group half an hour, during which Amielle and the mayor talk about guns. He had seen her gunplay up close and expressed interest in the technology, and the player told him a bit about them, how she had crafted them and what she had named them (the musket was Bertha. He didn’t actually come up with more names for the other guns but told me he felt Amielle would have named them). Tomas offers the group his holy water and they coat their weapons with it.

    Once they reach the mountain and start climbing they leave their mounts behind, except for Melissa (I didn’t want to take one of the character’s features away from the player, plus maybe stags can climb mountains? We aren’t sure). The king comes up with the idea of using his land-shaping powers to create stairs and makes group’s ascent super easy. He also gives them an inspiring speech, granting them temporary hit points.

    As night falls Tomas lights his halo and they come upon a corpse tied to a tree. Roland recognizes it as one of the witch hunters from his last failed excursion, and tries to get close to pay respects. The others stop him and tell him it might be a trap (which it is) and convince him that the best he can do for them is make it to the summit to avenge them. They keep going, avoiding the scarecrows thanks to Harkover’s darkvision. He and Tomas then detect a supernatural chill in the air, and Harkover casts See Invisibility. He sees spirits honing in to their location, alerted by Tomas’s brilliant Halo. The godhand snuffs the light and the group begins devising plans to escape. They ask the mayor to send one of his incarnations into the forest alone, so the spirits will give chase. He does but the spirits ignore it (since the Red Contessa likes to kill him herself). The next plan they come up with is splitting up, sending Harkover alone to lure them away and then casting Dimension Door to escape quickly. However he’s the only one who can see them (I made them invisible because it’s more fun that way), so the others would inevitably stumble upon them by accident. They finally decided to try and sneak away in the darkness, but they had taken so long the DC was too high. The spirits caught up and surrounded them. A fight ensued.

    The spirits won the initiative and attacked the heroes, mostly missing. Only one managed to hit Amielle, dealing cold damage, which was halved because of Rachel’s ritual. This served to remove any ounce of suspicion from the players about Rachel’s true intentions, which made the reveal later all the better. As soon as the players got to attack they destroyed the spirits, since their weapons had been anointed with Tomas’s holy water. Before more spirits could show up the group absconded, succeeding the stealth check.

    After a while they reached Pernicity’s hut and managed to sneak up on her. They saw the fey dragging prisoners to the stakes and throwing charred corpses into a pile, upon which the witch rested inside a flying cauldron. They knew attacking her would kill innocents, and since there was no water around they concluded they had to push her off the cliff, since that would get her far enough from her bonded victims before gravity killed her. They devised a plan.

    They would wait for the fey to tie the prisoners to the stakes, so the forest would conceal them from the witch’s line of sight. Then Roland would cast Spider Climb on Harkover, who had the highest stealth and strength of the group. While they were distracted tying the prisoners Harkover would climb along the face of the 1000-ft high cliff and stand just below the fey. Then the king would shoot an arrow from his bow, silencing the creature, and Harkover would pull it and throw it off the cliff. This way, if the creature survived the arrow it would fall to its death, and if it died from the arrow its corpse would not attract attention, since the others might think it had simply gone elsewhere. Meanwhile Amielle would ready herself to shoot one of the other fey (who was guarding one of the cages) as soon as the group was discovered. Tomas and Melissa stayed by the king’s side to protect him. Good planning allowed the players to take out 5 of the 8 fey and prevent them from lighting the prisoners on fire. The sixth and last fey beside the cliff managed to spot Harkover and sounded an alarm with minor illusion, which caused Amielle to shoot one of the other fey with her readied action. They rolled initiative.

    The fey went first and the one near the cage moved toward Harkover. The other one, who was already next to the mage, tried to push him away from the cliff using a fire and wind spell, but the man was immune to the fire damage and resisted the push with a Strength save. Since everyone else was too far away Pernicity went for the easy kill, flying toward Harkover (but staying above the rock of the cliff) and casting Dispel Magic on the mage, which ended the Spider Climb and caused him to fall. He quickly cast Feather Fall to slow his descent. Pernicity ordered her zombies to action, and the horde began shambling toward the group. The king used his land-shaping powers to create a protrusion of rock from the face of the cliff, so Harkover would land not too far down. He also created some convenient stairs for the mage to climb back up, and rushed toward the zombies. Amielle followed him, while Tomas ran a staggering 100 feet toward where Harkover had fallen and punched the fey with his bonus action. Melissa then moved toward Pernicity and cast Command, ordering her to throw herself over the edge (we play in spanish and the player said “lánzate”, which means “throw yourself”, so the command did obey the one-word limitation. Also, since she was in a flying cauldron that wouldn’t actually fall even if she moved over the edge, I allowed it). Immediately after Harkover (whose player consistently rolled 5 or less on his initiative check) cast Dispel Magic of the flying cauldron using a 5th-level spell slot (they didn’t want to take any chances). Long story short, they killed her in a single round. I kept the zombies alive afterwards in hopes of putting some additional pressure on the group, but two grenades and a fireball afterward there were hardly any zombies left.

    Everyone still had all their HP, but combat resources were running low so the group decided to take a short rest to refresh some of their powers. They freed the prisoners from the cages and untied them from the stakes. The king used his powers to build more rooms for the cabin so all the prisoners had a place to stay for the night while the group finished their quest. A few prisoners offered to accompany them and the king sought the mayor’s counsel. Roland told him that, thought maybe useful, the men would certainly die in the confrontation with the Contessa, so they turned down their offer.

    After an hour the group resumed their ascent. The wind picked up and the air was filled with the howl of beasts and spirits, which threatened to demoralize them. Tomas recited from the holy book of Triegenes so the group would focus on the prayers and not on the snarls and howls, giving everyone advantage of their Wisdom saves and helping them stay sane.

    Once they reached the summit they saw the witches dancing around a cauldron on the west plateau, while on the eastern one a group of prisoners was being guarded by two spirits. Harkover, with his 120-ft darkvision, warned the group that a lion with a mane of snakes lurked in the darkness between the plateaus. The Red Contessa was laughing and stabbing herself with a knife, and her wounds were redirected to the prisoners, who screamed in agony. Several dark fey patrolled the area, and the group decided to send the king together with the mayor to stealth-kill the creatures, silencing them as before with his bow while Roland used Mage Hand to catch the lanterns. They rolled well and managed to take out all the sentinels. Afterward they took up positions around the area and prepared for a surprise attack. Everyone rolled stealth and managed to beat the Contessa’s 14 Passive Perception.

    So, on to the assault. Harkover, Roland and Tomas stayed near the eastern plateau, ready to attack the spirits and free the prisoners. The mayor even summoned all of his incarnations and the politician applied poison to his dagger. The others snuck toward the bridge that connected the plateaus and attacked the serpent-maned lion (everyone landed their attack and the king scored two critical hits on the poor lion, so it didn’t survive). Harkover attacked the spirits to weaken them and Tomas killed them, using his powers to keep them alive under his control. We rolled initiative and the Contessa spoke her piece to the king and revealed Sister Langour’s (Rachel’s) deception. Their jaws hit to the floor! They totally didn’t expect that! Still, the king remained resolute in his decision to kill the witch and save his people, so they fought.

    The minor witches were the first to fall and the Contessa animated the standing stones and the cauldron. Rachel tried to curse the king so he wouldn’t regenerate, but Tomas redirected the curse toward him and saved against it. The animated objects attacked the heroes but they managed to dodge their attacks (they loved how silly these enemies were). One of Tomas’s dominated spirits managed to grapple the Contessa and began pulling her toward the cliff. The Contessa called down a lightning bolt which they dodged. Roland cast Hold Person on the Contessa and paralyzed her. On the following round Rachel dispeled the mayor’s magic. The spirit continued pulling the Contessa toward the cliff while the heroes battled the animated objects. The Contessa tried to curse the king with curse of the writhing cauldron, but Tomas once again took the hit and saved against the effect. King Lorcan taunted the stones, saying how pathetic and stupid they were (they had missed all their attacks due to having a rather low modifier) but immediately two of them landed a hit on him and dealt some serious damage (I love instant karma). Amielle and Melissa attacked the cauldron and managed to destroy it, ending the larger ritual. However Rachel’s ritual was still active, so Harkover began using his scrolls to dispel the effect from each member of the party, one by one. Once the spirit had pulled her close to the cliff the Contessa used one of her legendary actions to phase, freeing herself from the grab and moved toward the mayor. Using another legendary action she struck Roland and two of his incarnations with a lightning bolt, killing the politician incarnation and damaging the holy warrior and the real Roland, and leaving him with just 19 HP. Tomas wanted to help him but he had already used his reaction that round. Afterward the king struck Rachel with his claymore and left her close to death, and with a successful Persuasion check managed to convince her to switch sides. Fearing for her life, and realizing the Contessa had set the three of them (Rachel, Deliria and Pernicity) up for death, she turned on her former leader. The party still couldn’t attack her, since Melissa was still under the effect of the bond (Harkover had already dispelled the ritual from the others). The Contessa used a lightning bolt to attack the mayor again, hoping to kill him. Tomas, who had accepted Rachel’s alliance as a strategic maneuver, saw his chance to protect his allies while dealing with the witch simultaneously (and without invoking the ire of the others for killing her). He used his necklace to redirect the lightning bolt toward him and dodged it, but since it’s an area attack Rachel was targeted as well. She failed her Reflex save and died, electrocuted. The Contessa laughed and said that she deserved it for betraying her. As a note, one of the standing stones was also in the area of effect and king Lorcan’s player said he would “cut his balls off” if the stone managed to dodge a lightning bolt. Cue the 18 Reflex save and everyone realized the stone had a bigger DEX modifier than some of them.

    Finally Harkover dispelled the ritual on Melissa and they saw the Contessa’s strength slipping. They fell upon her with a vengeance and Roland attacked her on the back with a sneak attack, yelling it was payback for all the lives she had taken. The woman screamed in pain and Tomas ran toward her, punching her in the face and giving her a bloody nose. Before she could use her blood to empower herself, Melissa charged and impaled her with her spear, scoring a climatic critical hit that dealt 63 damage. With her dying breath the Contessa cursed the king, causing him to vomit blood. Harkover still had one scroll of Remove Curse and tension was high as he rolled his Arcana check. The die rolled and landed on 18, ending the curse and saving the king’s life.

    As the hurricane’s intensity increased Amielle rushed to grab her guns, which lay scattered around the battlefield. Harkover called to her and she ran toward the group, managing to stay her ground despite the force of the wind. The group huddled close together and Harkover cast Wall of Force on them, creating a dome to protect them from the winds. The storm died down and the sky cleared. The red moon shone down upon the city of Flint and the group enjoyed the stunning vista. King Lorcan addressed the group, thanking them for their help. With some nostalgia he recalled his reign and said that in an hour and a half he would be king no more. Everyone was surprised to hear him say this, but he looked toward Melissa and sadi “you’ve been by my side and have fought valiantly. So I ask you: what is it that makes a king strong?” Melissa hesitated a little but finally said “it is unity. We, who hail from different countries, are reunited here, victorious, together.” The king, satisfied that his knight understood, decided to pass on the crown of Risur to her. She accepted the crown and looked toward Risur, now her own nation.

    So what can I say about the start of our new game? The players LOVED it. Seriously, we had so much fun and laughed so much my throat was sore afterwards. Everyone loved their character and Melissa’s player, who wasn’t too hot on 5e, said he had changed his mind after playing. He was also sort of backing down from the campaign but this session rekindled his interest. He is now considering scrapping his tiefling skald and making a warforged something (he’s not sure yet). Amielle’s player resented a bit that the tiefling didn’t have any spellcasting, since everyone else had crazy magical abilities, but he enjoyed how deadly and cool she was. My girlfriend, who player Tomas, enjoyed immensely being able to fight while protecting her allies, and having utility outside of combat as well. She usually doesn't like being a “tank” but enjoyed Tomas’s active participation as opposed to being just a meatshield.

    A note about Harkover’s player: He immediately latched onto Harkover Lee, intrigued by the mage's 25 Strength score (which is particularly suspicious in 5e, since scores above 20 aren't compatible with the rules) and spent the whole adventure pointing out other things that stood out to him, such as certain spells that the character shouldn't actually be able to learn. I think that character was a great fit for him, since he likes to formulate theories (plus, he's the most familiar with the 5e rules and thus the one most likely to notice these subtle details). As a note, he's the player who was making the artificer/seeker, although he is now reconsidering and exploring other options.

    During Melissa’s coronation Harkover’s player was left seething since he didn’t want her to be queen. The king added salt to the wound by saying that Harkover would now serve her as advisor, and everyone laughed when the player offered a forced grin and muttered “hooray”.

    Overall the game was a blast and everyone is looking forward to Island at the Axis of the World.
    Last edited by tragicThaumaturge; Tuesday, 22nd January, 2019 at 08:16 AM.
    XP gideonpepys, RangerWickett, hirou, Tormyr gave XP for this post

  2. #2

    Orcus on an Off-Day (Lvl 22)

    RangerWickett's Avatar

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    Jan 2002
    Decatur, GA
    Okay, first, amazingly thorough write-up. Thanks!

    Second, I'd forgotten that I wrote that Tomas has to 'berate' a corpse to speak with it.

    Third, I'm thrilled your group liked the adventure, and dang, I wish I'd thought to run this for some friends last night during the blood moon. Good luck on your campaign!
    XP tragicThaumaturge gave XP for this post

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