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ZEITGEIST Adv5 about to go off the rails


So, last week, we had the throwdown inside the heart of the Bleak Gate facility. Party went in with Asrabey and Grappa, and used the vents to go through the VIP suites (and thus collect Oddcog's toys, and Kasavarina herself) before going into the main fight.

The gunsmith (theme PrC using PF rules) used hyperbeam to make short work of Leon Quital. :-( Most of the mooks and prototypes were too far out of position to really influence the fight. The rest of the party nova'd Kell and Norm. (And the Ekossigan thread has been tied up before now, so no drama there.) It was almost a cakewalk, and I had to fudge some justification for Borne to go berserk and dig his way out.

After he did, I had Varals bamf out, but despite my best efforts, Grappa survived, and is with the party. So we ended the session with Borne sitting on top of Cauldron Hill, marveling at the setting sun, as the party is flying Grappa up to him (now under their magical compulsion because trust has been frayed a bit), under directions to talk Borne down, or otherwise solve the problem for them.

Doesn't help the fact that the party's technologist is having a pity party on our Discord about how he's neutered and useless and how he should be being "awesome" right now, and able to do something to take out the collosus. (He's literally asked where the off switch is.)

Also, FWIW, it's still two days before the Peace Conference, so the Danorian delegation isn't in town yet.

During session wrap-up, when I tried to suggest they coordinate plans with the King and Lee, they balked, claiming that they had to act with extreme urgency, and had no time to head down to the Aurum, and had to save Flint NOW and blow up Borne NOW, before he comes down the hill. They seem rather determined to this end, and get emotionally frustrated if I put up roadblocks to the end. (See: the technologist's mood.) Somehow they've gotten into their minds that Borne getting down the hill at all is a "lose" condition for the campaign.

They have a good relationship with Captain Dale, and he's known to be somewhat nearby, so maybe I can leverage him somehow.

And while they realize that the whole "we're building the collosus to kill the fae titans to protect the king" thing is a lie, they've also come to believe that it's likely close to the truth, and are trying to figure out if they can/should summon a fae titan (though I've done nothing in my campaign so far to suggest how that might be done). But it does make me worry that they might balk if the King tries to send Borne to the Dreaming ("no! that's playing into their hands!").

Anyway, that's where I'm at. Fun times!

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Sorry to hear it.

Short idea? Grappa talking angers Borne and he swats at the golem, then goes into rage when he realizes he killed his father.

Borne then goes stumbling around. Whatever the party tries doesn't work. Make it less frustrating by, as GM, explicitly shifting into a more montage narration, making it clear that individual actions are insignificant against the Colossus.

Maybe even just tell the players that this isn't the end of the adventure. Moderate their expectations.

Andrew Moreton

My players wanted to blow up Bourne but a few engineering skill checks revealed that nothing available to them even the Alchemical bomb of DOOM could penetrate that magically reinforced adamanatine skin. So they cannot kill it all that can be done is let it rampage through Flint killing tens of thousands and wrecking the nations economy or send it elsewhere. Instead they used all their ingenuity to work out ways of confusing and leading the collossus so it killed no one while being dealt with
My extreme back up plan was a weird accident with its which oil power plant pushes it into the Bleak gate which is functionally the same as putting it in the dreaming.

Sometimes low level characters cannot win your players need to learn. I did not let my players fight Leone because if I had I would have dug out the full stats from when he is able to fight a team of much higher level characters in a fair fight and used them , which would have resulted in the party fleeing or being TPK'd.

Particularly iin long campaigns like this it is sometimes necessary to establish that some things are too dangerous to fight now. In some respects being able to beat Asraby in book 1 sets too high an expectation of being able to beat dangerous opponents. However players need to learn when a team of 6th and 7th level (pathfinder) characters takes on a CR 14+ Opponent they die. If they ignore the warning signs.

If all else fails stats for a damaged collossus are in book 13 let it wipe out the party , if you are generous have some npcs stabilise them after they hit 0 hp. Then in the next campaign they will know they are not invincible.


I'll edit in a longer post later when I'm free. For now my advice is that this is a good opportunity to let your players behind the screen and to learn about what rails zeit does and does not have. Some of act 2s key flaws involve Borne, and a hasty decision now will complicate things for you later, big time.

Edit: okay, longer post.

Book 5: Borne activates and is banished to the Dreaming where no one can touch him. Leone """"dies"""" along with Grappa.
Book 6: The party finds Tinker to learn about Borne. Tinker tells them that Grappa has been in touch.
Book 7: Leone is alive, and Grappa is in his mind. The party arrests Leone and they and Grappa work together to infiltrate an Ob meeting.
Book 8: The party finds Kasvarina to use her to control Borne. It doesn't work, they get banished to the Dreaming, Nic seizes Borne.
Book 9: Nic uses Borne to do the Axis Ritual.

There are three major issues with this plot. First; finding Tinker leads to very little about Borne that is useful. Second; finding Kasvarina does very little to help control Borne. Third; having to DM-ex-machina Grappa and Leone into """"death"""" is clumsy.

My suggestions for you;
  • Don't let them blow up Borne. It will require you to re-write party motivations in Act 2. Emphasize how Borne isn't just some robot, he is a fully-formed fully-complete giant-android. There is no 'off button'. Perhaps show them a little of his Book 13 stats, his defences and HP. Although do note that his Book 13 stats are 'enhanced' and he should technically be weaker in Book 5.
  • When the King gives his 'banish Borne to the Dreaming' plan, emphasize how doing so will make Borne off-limits to everyone. The Ob can't touch him, and neither can the fey- what with the tech sickness. Maybe a fey titan could pick a fight with him, but certainly not control him.
  • Let the players behind the DM screen. Tell them that Borne is a crucial part of this AP and is a crucial part of the Ob's grand plan. Tell them that Act 2 is about learning more about him and trying to control him. Tell them that Borne getting banished to the Dreaming is a win condition, not a lose condition. If you think your party would react well, perhaps tell them generally about the issues I have highlighted above, how Borne's handling in this AP can be clumsy, and how the party might have to metagame a little so as not to break the plot. There is a lot of fantastic stuff in this AP, sometimes you have to act in a certain way with the bad so you can enjoy the good.
  • Perhaps encourage the party to go on ahead. If the party can link up with the King, they can use fireworks to lure Borne down to the harbor as safely as possible, so no-one gets hurt. Borne is fast, but he also has no reason to be hasty, he's just exploring.
  • Grappa captured + mindcontrolled and Leone dead... that's a touch more complicated. You may very well be best off writing off Grappa and Leone. Instead, have Tinker talk about an Ob operative he knew from his time in the facility, and have the PCs track down that operative. The operative can be original or pre-existing. The operative has an interest in mind-swaps which still leads them to Knutpara.
If you wanna talk more about it, maybe PM me and we'll hook up over Discord.
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We did the thing!

They quickly flew Grappa to safety (argh!) and went about taunting Borne. He stumbled, and slid down the hill, wrecking all manner of mountainside in the process. I wasn't entirely sure where MacBannon's Manor / Captain Dale's Base was located, but I decided that in the ensuing avalanche that structure was destroyed.

The party then lured Borne through Bosum Strand, goading him to only step on the warehouses (rather than the tenements), and eventually out to sea. (They were certain they needed to save the runes on the bridges for something.)

Once out to sea, the Battle of Flint Bay commenced. The party instructed the Freux Rouge to keep her distance, which she dutifully did. The naval combat needed some adjustment on the fly, but the following ended working pretty well:
  • Borne gets 3 actions per round (where "rotate 90 degrees" would count as an action)
  • Every 4 strikes against Borne denies him one action, as it knocks him slightly off balance, and he needs to recover
  • (Thus 12 strikes in a round would effectively stun him)
Because Borne's command check is so low, and the Coaltongue has such great stats, this worked out quite well. One odd/helpful thing was that we used the 'chop' rules as written, and that destroyed all but one of the spare ships in the Risuri Navy. Yikes!

After 5 rounds, Borne was unable to flee (or get to the Coaltongue behind him) and bamf'd into the Dreaming.

We ended session on the Coaltongue, discussing how to deal with the politics of this. The party quickly flew Grappa back in, dropped him in front of Harkover Lee, and demanded him to remove the gaes. I fudged a roll and said he failed. However, the party will of course ask him to try again tomorrow, and of course he would want to agree to this, given the potential intel to be had. Also, given how I've established Lee is the most powerful arcanist in the world (and out of game I know he'll eventually be revealed as the legendary hex eater), there's no way I can avoid him succeeding in breaking the gaes.

I don't see a good way out of this pickle, and it seems like I'm going to have to do the big reveal at the start of next session. Arg.

However, to focus on the positive: we had a greatly enjoyable last session of adv5 doing the anti-Borne stuff with no weird OOG drama! Thank you, forum-friends!


Also, given how I've established Lee is the most powerful arcanist in the world (and out of game I know he'll eventually be revealed as the legendary hex eater), there's no way I can avoid him succeeding in breaking the gaes.
I'm not sure about PF stats, but in 4e Kasvarina is 4 levels higher than Harkover, IIRC. More importantly, her almost demigodly status as anclave matriarch allows her to break through the "soft cap" of 20th level, which is impossible to basically everyone else before adventure 10.


Sounds like you handled a tricky spot quite well. Congratulations.

I believe that Book 5 has a thing where if the party capture Lorcan Kell and bring him to Harkover, the Principal Minister is unable to break the geas on him. ...or perhaps I'm getting confused with another GM's game.

Definitely don't let them break the geas, at least until book 7.

Andrew Moreton

As others have said the Geas is unbreakable , outside normal rules if necessary, I had it placed by Kasavarina which scared my PC's by demonstrating that she was a more Powerful spellcaster than Harkover who they thought was one of the most powerful in the world , certainly the best in the Kingdom (Athrylla and Kasavarina are both more powerful in the campaign as written , and the pc's would never have heard of them).
To make your life easier with Grappa send an Ob assassin while they are busy elsewhere and kill him, make that assassin someone they can fight and kill later. Or have the Geas kill him when he tries too hard to break it, I would build that into my secrecy geas.
They discover then that afraid that something like this would happen he had copied himself into Leon who some how survived the collapse or got raised and is now in Crissilyr and you are back on track.

Your alternative to getting back to being closer to track is to rewrite the entire rest of the campaign which wastes all that money and needs a lot of time so do not break the Geas, Kill Grappa so your pc's stop trying to break the Geas

I generally don't like strongarming players to make their efforts automatically fail. But it would be hilarious if they have Harkover do an epic ritual to break the geas, and the moment Grappa starts to spill the beans, a second hidden spell kills him.

Andrew Moreton

Mechanically in Pathfinder I would blame it on a Wish spell cast by Kasavarina if I had to use mechanics, Harkover can't cast 9th level spells so it would be magic beyond him. My modified version of Kasavarina gets up to 18 levels of Sorceror casting so Wish is available. Alternativly if you want mechanics the ritual rules from the Occult book could easily be used to produce this sort of effect in a way Harkover could not break. Making Harkover a skilled magician is already quite difficult mechanically he is not an old enough sorceror to get great power that way , so he has to be a high level wizard or Sorceror as well as a dragon and that is a rare and powerful thing in the rules, or if you boost his age to give him the sorcery he is physically far too powerful for the occasions on which he can use his draconic abilities in books 9 and 13.
In general though I don't see this as strongarming the players , they are dealing with a ruthless group which at the moment has access to people and magics much more powerful than them so they should ocasionally encounter a situation that the Ob has prepared for and be unnable to overcome those preperations. If the Ob are not scary and powerful early on the players will not have a proper respect and fear of them. I know that as late as the end of book 8 my players are aware that the Ob's most powerful people are much more capable then them and are worried about the risk of fighting Nic or the Ghost council again , they know that Kasavarina at full power would be a TPK if they fought her as they have a character sheet for her


I was operating under the assumption that all the "big players" were at the same (max) level:
  • Harkover Lee
  • King Aodhan
  • Leon Quital
  • Asrabey Varal
  • Kasavarina
  • Nicodemus??
  • Grandis Komanov
  • Pemberton
Which roughly comes out to CL 15 for everybody. (Though if you parse the exact stats (in PF), some things are weird; for example, 'varina is a gish, Lee is mostly racial HD with just 3 class levels, and Nic's build is so weird that the devs put a note in the statblock to that end. And I'm just speculating on Komanov and Pemberton, who aren't statted out prior to the Great Eclipse.)

The only things in the entire world that are more powerful than "the 15 cap" are the fey titans, as they are effectively gods. Oh, and Borne. (Though neither titans nor Borne got that way through class levels.)

I see a few routes forward with dealing with Grappa:
1) something about the gaes prevented the transfer of the information from his old body into his new body; the protected data literally died with his fleshly body and never made it into his C3PO body
2) something about the gaes interacts with his circuitry such that attempting to access that data will cause a failsafe to activate, which would kill Grappa. This then becomes a problem to solve (vaguely like that one subplot in Rise of Skywalker). Maybe Tinker Oddcog could help with this?
3) just let him spill the beans, and reward the players. I'm not sure how it really hurts the campaign to let this information out early. From what I understand, everything Grappa knows gets revealed at ObCon in adv7. I wouldn't reveal Axis Island, of course, but the general plan of "I educated him on planar stuff so we could reprogram the stars" seems fair to reveal at this point. It doesn't knock adv6 or adv7 off course .... but I'm sure there's an angle I haven't thought through yet....

The challenges you have are

a) making sure it feels meaningful to go after Tinker, and

b) keeping in the path of the party sneaking into, as you call it, ObCon.

Tinker still has knowledge of how the colossus works, but since the party won't actually fight it until adventure 13 (with maybe a small game of 'keep away from the smashy hands' at the end of 8), that's not actually useful in practice. I honestly did a less-than-ideal job making Tinker's knowledge of Borne be particularly useful.

You could do something a smidge weird, like make it so Borne's armor and joints are invulnerable, except for certain spots where bolts were placed. So if those spots are damaged, the rest of the associated body part becomes damage-able, but still pretty resilient. This would give the PCs some avenues to hurt Borne, should they want to, particularly in the adventure 8 fight. Then maybe he also knows that there's a hollow in his chest that can hold the lantern, and it's possible to reach his witchoil reservoir from there. If that's cracked, he'll power down.

For ObCon, you need a person to stand in for the now-dead Leone. Or have ghost Leone, which the lich in the glacier can still deal with, by doing some magic hoo-ha to transfer Grappa's soul into the etheric construct of Leone's ghost. Or have one of the PCs get to be Leone?


Or have one of the PCs get to be Leone?
This sounds amazing, and I have to find a way to make it work! (I've read all those "Kasavarina as PC" threads and burned with jealousy.) But this is a problem for the future. A significant problem, but a deferred one.

Right now, I need to figure out how to deal with Grappa, and get my PCs down to Ber.

I also need to figure out how to thread the needle on the fact that one of my PCs views Pemberton as his mentor and patron (he's already handing over all of Oddcog's paperwork recovered from The Facility and is receiving generous gifts in return (yay, graft!)), and would possibly be willing to defect from the RHC if Pemberton invited him into the inner circle. I considered doing a rewrite of adv6 from a pro-Pember perspective, but I couldn't quite swing it.

Flavor-wise, I also need to figure out the dramatic tension, as the PCs are convinced that, in their moment of weakness (their navy destroyed), that Danor is surely planning on taking advantage of them, and launching a conventional military invasion. To that end, they want to drum up patriotism like it's post-9/11, and convince the King that Peace was but a dream. I want to do something meaningful with that narrative tension. Just saying "over the next three months things feel patriotic, but nothing really happens, now off to Ber!" is a bit deflating.

I like the idea that "only Oddcog knows how we can damage Borne", as I sense my party is itching for a Shadows of the Colossus battle. I like the panels-reveal-weakspots idea.

Also, question for my 4th ED friends: what are Inatch's the Hex-Eater's iconic "hex eating" abilities? In PF, he's just a fire-sorcerer. I imagine he's dispelling expert or something in the original? (relevant to how I consider his ability to break the gaes)
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Andrew Moreton

One of my pc's did defect to Pemberton!
I just replaced him with a new character , the player may get to bring back his old character when the party allies with Pemberton, or not as he seems to be enjoying his new character but it will be his choice.

As writen Pemberton and other dragons were always more powerful than CR15 , Pemberton is I believe a Wyrm so is massivly deadly even without flight , but as he is off stage thats not a problem. The king is technically CR15 but the age stat modifiers mean he is very weak , which is good as it makes killing him easier in book 9.
Fairly certain even the published Kasavarina is more than CR15 , indeed she is 17th level like Athrylla . I just upgraded her and many other NPC's.
Upgrading Nic is a bit of a pain as he is so weird , I may just give him some minions when he turns up in a couple of weeks.


:sneaky: I never considered "hex eater" would be so literal. (bite attack to dispel)

Man, the 4e blocks were so much more flavorful than the PF conversion. Yikes. Not just all the amazing fluff writeup, but the actual abilities too! I really feel like I'm running this in the wrong version.

And yes, Kasavarina (in bk8) is level 17, but a gish, so CL15. Looking at Lee's bk9 stats, his racial-based abilities are at CL19, which outpaces her.

I did cut loose toward the end with the 4e statblocks. Not to disparage his work, but when Russell Torres took over the PF conversions from Thurston, I think he was less willing to try to find ways to make things work in PF mechanics, and instead went with the closest existing equivalent.

Andrew Moreton

Book 9 Harkover is a 13th level sorceror, his spell like abilities are CL19 but his sorcery spells are a mere CL13, really I consider the version in book 9 to be far too weak as a magician to fill his story role. It's the problem that draconic spell casting is linked to age catagory and if he is a good sorceror then he is also far too powerful as a dragon.
I have got around this by going with the other none standard features of creatures in this campaign and stripped him of his sorcerous talants instead letting him become a wizard who has reached 15 level. Note that as written Harkover cannot break even a stanard Geas spell as it requires remove curse (at a caster level of at least 17,) Limited wish or Wish none of which he can cast, so problem solved , No matter how your players whine Harkover cannot break the Geas in fact as written probably only Athrylla can of all published (before book 12/13) characters

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