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ZEITGEIST Deathwyrm's Zeitgeist Campaign - Clockwork Eclipse

Good luck with the online gaming, congrats on the inspired mannequin prop, and thanks for the refresher on the party.

And yeah, Pathfinder combat gets kinda crusty at mid- to high-level. I ran a campaign up to 17th level, and eventually got good enough at winging the minutiae that I radically simplified my statblocks. Foes were basically labeled one-rounders, three-rounders, or bosses, and I'd often pre-write specifically what interesting dramatic things they'd do each round, caring more about memorability - and about creating interesting dilemmas for the PCs - than about whether it was 'correct' according to the rules.
 

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Deathwyrm

Explorer
Full agreement there. I'm sure most systems get really weird and unwieldly around the high level mark. Not only are the PCs sitting on what could be average-to-large amounts of wealth, they're probably also more established in the setting with allies and other NPCs. The entire system of GMing gets a lot more abstract in order to keep things interesting.

Usually by the time one of my groups reaches a higher level and challenges start to become trivial, I contact a couple military friends I have who play a ton of Warhammer 40k and delight in the gritty mechanics of tactics. I give them the stat blocks, what the likely environment is, and any relevant information.

"Okay, here's a sheet for a level 20 halfling wizard. You also get this dragon, couple of storm giants, some other minions too. The party should be 25% wounded by the time they reach your sanctum. You've beeing scrying on them for months, so you know these are their most used spells and tactics."

Odds are very likely I'm going to do the same thing with this campaign once it truly gets to reach those absurd regions of broken-physics and superheroish capabilities.
 

Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
Making a good fight is a challange sometime, but my group and I enjoy the high level fights. My players optimise well above the base assumptions for any module I have used so I always redesign encounters with different stats to increase the threat. A particular challange in this campaign is that a lot of fights are one offs which lets the pc's Nova so you need even stronger threats.

If it is useful to you I can probably provide Hero Labs files or PDF's of many of the later encounters with my upgrades.
 

Deathwyrm

Explorer
I have aimed for that as well. Fewer encounters, but allow the players to explode all their awesome abilities all over the place. Makes for more memorable encounters. Plus, modules are really kind of loose guidelines. No two parties will tackle it the same way.

In the coming months, I'd be curious to see the PDFs of what you drew up. The party is hitting their combat capability stride. They had their buttocks whomped repeatedly in the Ziggurat of Apet so long ago, but these days they can handle 5 large mobs with CR 12 NPCs as a "moderate" challenge.

Good thing hitting them right in the ethics and philosophy bypasses all challenge ratings and equipment.
 

Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
Let me know which encounters you are interested in and I'll track down what I have and put them in a shared folder people can access on Google Drive. At the moment I have stuff for books 6-9 , and will add the later stuff as I get to it.
Some of the particularly weird npc's did not get a formal rewrite as fitting them into Hero Labs was too much pain , they just got pencil notes (Nicodemus and Tinker Oddcog spring to Mind)
 

Deathwyrm

Explorer
I'd be curious to see regarding book 6, since that's what I'm doing the most prep for at current.

The current thing I'm working on is the replacement to the railroad challenge mini-game. Not getting rid of the railway race entirely, but instead of allocating resources and stuff, more dealing with the myriad problems involved with such an ambitious project.

That, and as soon as I read that they are being sent somewhere to help with building a railway... I immediately thought "I need to totally rip off The Ghost and the Darkness here". Probably a couple advanced dusk kamadans with some weird abilities.

Odds are I'm going to remix the Keepers of Cheshimox thing into kind of a The 13th Warrior style story, with lots of misdirection about what the true nature of the assailants are.
 

Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
I used the minigame but more to frame the problem for the players, in practice their schemes and problem solving won them the competion and the minigame just formalised it.
As my players ended up with a pre-emptive attack on the Keepers of Cheshimox and beefed them up enough so that they were dangerous in a stand up fight against the pc's . I believe I put a Lich in charge and some sort of Eskimo Skeleton creature.
Ripping of the Ghost and the Darkness does sound like a good idea , bit not one I thought of, the dusk Kamadans look a bit weak but they are smart enough for a few levels of Barbarian on top of the advanced template , or maybe Rogue if they are going to ambush a lot.
Otherwise I boosted Lya and her henchmen, Pembertons daughter and boosted some of the Gnolls . I will look for the files tommorrow.
 

Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
My files for book 6 are in
10RegLsCLOxLCSYqctgBoEc10VmuKk2K2

The stats for Pemberton are there just in case I decided on a TPK for fun
Let me know if the link works I seem to have problems with it but it is hard to tell for me. Linking to the folder does not work, so I will try something else tommorrow
 
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Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
Thanks Hirou. I assumed it was a mistake by me and would have wasted time looking for it

https:// drive.google.com/open?id=10RegLsCLOxLCSYqctgBoEc10Vmu Kk2K2

If you take out the spaces at the beggining and before Kk2k2 the link works.
 

Deathwyrm

Explorer
Oh man, thanks @Andrew Moreton for that drive link. Super appreciative of the work you put in.

S06E01

After a few months off to readjust our lives, my players and I decided to make some lemonade to this and will be moving to a biweekly schedule instead of monthly. Might even keep it up once the world returns to normal.

So the team rushes together and gets their briefing to locate Oddcog, have a small huddle where they decide how covert they choose to be... and decide there's no reason why they need to disguise themselves to start with.

The party got pretty caught up in the protest going on, each one taking a scarf to show their support for some cause or another before eventually walking square into the ambush at Melissa Amarie's location.

Episode 1 - A Civilized Land.png

Diagram A: Wasn't the best set up, still getting used to this internet gaming thing, but overall worked solidly.

Everyone was super excited for a ninja ambush and the brawl spilled out into the streets. Before Rush could make his escape though, he became the target of a couple high roll firearms crits. Firearms in Pathfinder get nasty especially for a 9th level group that recognizes a recurring antagonist and go full nova at first sight.

Given the circumstances, the party decides that the intrepid journalist would be safest somewhere else and knows a friend where they could lay low. Not a revolutionary or anything, but a concerned citizen with an outspoken view of corrupt politics who lends editorial aid to aspiring critics.

Dr. Basch kept his backstory pretty close to unknown to the rest of the group. In it, the name "Gregori Basch" is an alias. He had to change his name because his father in Risur was a highly outspoken Voltaire-esque critic of both the Clergy and the Fey and the Risuri government's relationship with them. This lead to him making some slanderous accuasations and becoming the loser of a resulting duel, and "going into exile" in Ber. The son changed his name in order to join the RHC, causing further friction between them. They haven't seen each other in about a year, and even the last time ended tersely.

Naturally... the reliable mentor Melissa reaches out to for aid is Dr. Basch's father. The downtime setup was to juicy to ignore.

We left the session there, as I want to work out the relationship with the player of Dr. Basch before digging further into that roleplaying.
 


Deathwyrm

Explorer
You know what, the work is still pretty darn good all things considered. The original consideration for this adventure certainly lends itself well to actual table play where a lot of encounters can be done via theatre of the mind. Online has been a whole different animal because maintaining visual interest and keeping encounters clearly described is some of the most important things.

Art/Cartography budget on these adventures looks like they were spent on the right places. That kind of thing can get expensive fast, as I've learned from both finding art to commemorate dead characters in my campaigns, as well as getting maps composed for a one/two player Dark Souls-esque online-friendly adventure. The wallet can sure take a beating quick.

Given much consideration to what will be the next adventure you orchestrate?
 
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For the 5E setting book, I've got two options: a murder mystery in the renovated von Recklinghausen manor (with a mix of 'Clue' and 'Ready or Not'), and a political crisis in a remote corner of Crisillyir that's inspired by Casablanca.
 


Deathwyrm

Explorer
S06E02

The group gathered at the vineyard of Marcelo Duplantier (Dr. Basch's father) discussing students protest and the general culture of Ber so that they could get a better understanding of the political climate before moving to intervene on the trial of Brakken. Dr. Basch assumed a disguise, with the intent of being a firsthand witness with a statement contrary to the accusers... but upon seeing the circle of brimstone which compels truth... he promptly claimed "wrong courthouse" and backed out. Det. Goodwyne and Mikkel both stepped up and gave very impassioned answers about the character of Brakken and his intentions.

Upon hearing rumours of El Extraño along the Road of Monuments, the party is damn near obsessed with learning more about this secret badass. Cool title? Spymaster? No one knows what he looks like? If it wasn't for the time crunch the felt they were under, the session almost spiralled into trying to find and recruit this guy.

That time crunch came in the way of the most over the top ambush they had ever experienced in the way of enormous carnivorous lizards.

s06e02-1.png

Diagram A: Dinosaurs are really big.

The party only just barely survived, mainly through clever tactics of staying outside of the range of the lizards while Dr. Basch used every mental spell he could to panic or confuse them.

Game concluded with Mikkel taking a deep breath and saying "Okay, credit where credit is due... that was a way better ambush."
 

Deathwyrm

Explorer
Season 6 Overall

Wow, what a year. School intensifies, pandemic rages, careers implode, and one player had a kid. Despite all this, we did make it to the end of the groups encounters in Ber. Rather than a play by play, here's an overview of things.

As with previous chapters, myself and my group aren't particularly big on minigames or learning new systems while also trying to adapt to online gaming. So while a lot of care and thought was put into the impressive railroad challenge, it was not used.

In it's place were scenarios basically totally lifted from movies that represented the trials and struggles they had in ensuring the railway got built. One session had a pair of advanced dusk kamadans preying on the workers who were getting sick (The Ghost and the Darkness). Another session had the investigators dealing with rumours of a ghostly dragon on a rampage but actually turned out to be a tribe of undead lizardfolk using a big skull and trickery (The 13th Warrior).

The main focus of the chapter was on two particular themes. First, was the slow disappearance of people only to be replaced by duplicants. That idea gave some really good Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibes, and having the players occasionally revisiting the palace to see people acting.... different. It created an ongoing sense of paranoia and dread in the players as they speculated over what exactly was happening, and how this entire train building business felt like one big distraction from something greater.

The other theme was the players influence over who would end up governing Ber. The way I portrayed Bruse Shantus was more of a greedy capitalist looking to improve Ber through industrial pushes. Awarding government contracts to developers and allies which creates further conflict in the people (such as if a length of railway needs to go through a tribes ancestral grounds). To contrast that, Cavallo de Guerra held a lot of sway through his navy, and the option of backing him carried a certain weight of leading the nation towards a more military and nationalistic angle. The PCs proceeded to speak with both Shantus and Cavallo from time to time lead to entire sessions of arguing which was the better option and if there was in fact a better third way that they hadn't considered.

How do you challenge high level parties in mechanically crunchy games like Pathfinder? You punch them right in the ethics and get them arguing among themselves for hours.

Eventually, the coup happened among an attempted replicant takeover and the players chose to side with Cavallo (or at least his granddaughter) as the better option for Ber and booted Bruse Shantus out. The party absolutely did not take the opportunity to side with Lya Jierre, as the wound of killing their ally Dr Teko never healed. While it was likely that Lya could have gotten out of the situation as soon as it went hostile, the mood of the session lead me to let her die right there among the chaos. The players were so jubilant that they got her, and immediately began the cover up of what happened. That not only did they just lead a coup within a foreign nation, but they also technically assassinated a royal member of another nation.

"Guys.... did... did we just do a CIA? I don't feel so good about this suddenly."

The reveal of who Benedict Pemberton is went over impressively, and though they had a particular hatred for him before... now it's a big more mixed with fear. Especially knowing he's out there, and dragons don't take too well to having their toys broken or confiscated.

So where does that leave the party?

Reginold Dixion: The player decided to leave the group. Despite the cool scenes, he doesn't like ethics to play a part in his D&D/Pathfinder games. He also really does not enjoy good aligned games, and felt that he couldn't get along with the other characters because they're interested in upholding the law or trying to help people. The constraints of being part of a law enforcement group was eventually too much and he went elsewhere. There's no hard feelings here.

Cysgod Oren: The party aasimar ninja/skyseer got hit hard by the vision of Avilona as they came to Gradiax's island. He took it to mean that someone is directly responsible for the breaking of flight, and given how his dream was always to fly, it's personally. Flight is no longer something to aspire to, but reclaiming something that was stolen from him without even knowing it.

Dr. Basch & Mikkel Oren: Both have opted to remain in Ber for a while longer to ensure that the new regime is friendly to Risur's interests. Dr. Basch himself has stated his intentions to leave Mikkel from time to time to pursue a hunt for the exiled Bruse Shantus. A student of history, he knows that a loose end like him could ignite a civil war or kick off some kind of Napoleonic incident. Cold blooded murder for the greater good, behind Mikkel's back so that it can be entirely denied and consciences relieved.

Goodwyne: His mind is still grasping with the idea of what scale they are operating on now. It used to be so simple. A saboteur here, a serial killer there. Now they're changing the fate of nations with their activities. He was once a simple but brilliant farming boy who came to the big city to test his mind against the criminal element. Now what? He's convinced that war is surely coming, and that the world may be too big for him to try and fix. He'll still try, but the scope of things is exhausting for one man and one team to bear on their shoulders. I honestly suspect that in Season 7, he'll be VERY inclined to listen to what the Ob has to say.

That's where things are now. Action, and adventure, and intrigue. Mostly arguing about politics and philosophy though, which is the real highlight. I'm doing some prepwork on getting Schism roughly adapted to Fantasy Grounds, and after Christmas will be contacting various friends of mine to ask them to record audio of various Obscurati speeches. Rather than just a DM monologuing to the players at length, I want to edit it all together (with some background convention sounds) so that the Convocation can be as easy as "hit play, listen to a dramatic telling".

As well, one of the players have been hard at work printing off a couple ships from the Skies of Sordane kickstarter for use as the player's ship once things are safe to gather again in person.

airshop.jpg


Until that time though, I hope everyone is safe and well during the holidays. Keep on being awesome in all things.
 



Tormyr

Adventurer
As well, one of the players have been hard at work printing off a couple ships from the Skies of Sordane kickstarter for use as the player's ship once things are safe to gather again in person.
airshop-jpg.130265

"We wants it, Precious"

Wonderful writeup, and that ship looks fantastic. How many spools and hours did that take?
 

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