Gears of Revolution: Notes on my campaign


First Post
Paragon tier (and Watchmen) spoiler.

As good a reason as I can think of.

Young'uns these days, always expecting to win!

@Colmarr I'm loving your set up for the campaign. I'm a big fan of letting players do a lot of the leg work telling the story, and I'd love to hear more details about what questions you posed to your players for first session.

A lot of credit for the idea has to go to my old DM (now my player Mwuhaha :devil:), who came across DM Samuel's podcast and thought it was a cool way of starting a campaign.

I don't necessarily have a problem with the "in a tavern" tradition, but knowing what I know about how the AP formally starts (hint: the PCs are on duty at a very big event), I wanted to give the group a sense of history. After all, you don't get called for duty at big events if you're the rookies.

As for the questions I asked, I started by asking each player to describe their character and outline the character's public background in under a minute. Each PC also has secrets that the players themselves have made up* and I've told them that I reserve the right to make up secrets that their PCs don't know**, but we only dealt with the public stuff here.

After that, each player had the opportunity to ask the others questions about their character. For example, Tok's player asked Cassi's player whether she was involved in the Fourth Yerasol War, which led to the improv answer that she had served only as a runner, and thus admired Erik for having fought in the Fourth Company's Advance.

Then I went loosely from the list that DM Samuel posted in the thread I linked to earlier. I think I started with question 3, then segued into questions 2 and 5 as a natural flow from the answers given to question 3. As mentioned in his podcast but not the post, there are 2 rules during this Q&A:
  1. Only one person speaks at a time. There's to be no cutting others off; and
  2. You can answer a question any way you like, and can involve any other PC, but you can't give an answer that makes another PC look like a buffoon or a
The key to the whole process though is to not really care what the list says. Where relevant, or where we seemed to have hit on an interesting thread, such as why Willheim resented Erik being promoted to leader of the group, I picked at that thread until it unravelled in a satisfying way. The list was only there to prompt a new discussion where we'd reached the end of the previous one.

You'll have some players who don't want to play the game. For example, when I asked Willheim's player DM Samuel's question: "You feel that you owe one member of the party your life. Who is it, and why?" his response was to say that he didn't want to owe someone his life. But even that reluctance was productive, because it lead to the improv answer that Cassi and Erik had been present at Willheim's last death.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the approach worked. I had one player who was very keen to participate, two who were less keen but more than happy to co-operate, and two who seemed a little uncomfortable. But everyone contributed, and the end result is a party that has convincing relationships and a well-understood history before the campaign has ever really started.

Well worth the effort.

* eg. nationalistic Erik is in fact born of Danoran parents, his surname Pride being a simplified version of Prideaux. Thornt was created by a were-tiger that is currently hiding somewhere in Flint. And Cassi was transferred out of the army because she rejected the advances of a superior.

** eg. Erik's wife is expecting a child, and I am seriously contemplating having the fey take the baby in satisfaction of a promise she made to ensure Erik's safe return from the Fourth Yerasol War. I just need to figure out the timing (I may need to compress the time period between adventure 1 and 2) and think about how it will affect the campaign overall.
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First Post
[MENTION=59182]Colmarr[/MENTION] That's a great rundown of the setup, thanks! I checked out DM Samuel's stuff and I'm cooking up some props and lists of my own to use during our character creation session. My only quandry, now, is what the R.H.C. insignia looks like. [MENTION=63]RangerWickett[/MENTION] Any suggestions?


First Post
New session report posted.

Unfortunately, due to some bone-headed hardware mistakes on my part, we didn't get to start the session until about an hour later than we planned.

I had hoped to get up to and conclude The Sabotage encounter in the first session, but instead we called it a night after the PCs had had a chance to hob-nob with the dignitaries after the King's arrival in Fleet Square but before they had a chance to board the Coaltongue.

This post and the associated story hour post deals with events up to and including the Docker Brawl encounter.

The good

The docker brawl turned out to be a much more exciting combat than I expected. My group were distinctly unimpressive in the Crowd Security skill challenge (see "The Ugly" below) and failed to identify even one of the dockers before the crowd began to pass through the checkpoint.

Because I was playing through Maptool, I didn't want to use the rather plain King's Arrival map for the encounter, and instead used this map to represent Royal Square. The PC's checkpoint was at the northern edge of the map. Rather than have the dockers pass through and the PCs fight them on the bridge, I had Grimsley point out the troublemakers just before they could get through.

That led to a confrontation, with Erik failing a diplomacy check and then Cassi trying intimidation. If she had beaten a hard DC, I planned to stand down the dockers, but she didn't quite get there. Plus, I'd coded all the MapTool tokens and I knew my players liked a fair whack of biff in their D&D, so why not get things rolling?

I had originally thought this encounter would be too easy; four dockers versus 5 completely fresh PCs, but as it turned out the party monk Willheim was down before we were even halfway through the first round. Be aware that 2 brutes on a striker can get very messy very fast.

In fact, the dockers rolled so well and the PCs so poorly that at approximately round 3 I realised that I could very well have a TPK on my hands. All 4 dockers were still standing. Tok had used both his majestic words, Willheim had gone down but gotten back up again, and Erik was down for the count (but stable).

At that point (which coincided nicely with the first docker becoming bloodied and drawing his blade) I decided to throw Thames into the mix on the side of the PCs.

Erik hadn't been particularly nice to the grizzled sailor, but I didn't want the encounter to prove too taxing on the PCs, and I had already established Grimsley as somewhat of a sympathetic character. Hopefully having him help the PCs twice will add some depth and sympathy to the dockers faction.

The bad

I think the skill challenge went poorly, but I attribute that almost entirely to my failing to properly consider the steps in the canvassing of the crowd. Specifically, I forgot that there was a step between "look for someone" and "hey, there's Coulton!".

Without the intermediary step (identifying groups of likely suspects), I found myself in the difficult narrative position of having PCs succeeding at checks and not knowing what to describe to them. It should have been as simple as saying "you see a group of war veterans clustered around a tree. They seem to be discussing something in whispered tones", but instead I fretted over how to advance the challenge without actually putting Coulton & Co squarely in the frame.

Even so, there were some positives. It reinforced my opinion that Thornt's player is the most lateral thinker the group has. It was him that suggested that Tok scan for magic auras and that Thornt was watching the skies for signs of Gale's weather magic (also proving that he had read the player's guide. Yay!)

It also brought to the fore very early in the campaign exactly where the party's strengths and weaknesses lie. They're quite well-equipped for Perception, Streetwise and Bluff, but less so with Diplomacy.

The ugly

Unfortunately, as feared, the group never really looked like succeeding at the Crowd Security Skill challenge. They ended up with 5 of the needed 8 successes, although there were 4 checks between 15 and 17 that could easily have turned failure into success if the check DCs had been lower.

I think 8 successes at DC18 from 15 rolls is simply too high a bar for a first level party (at least for a level 1 challenge).

Having said that, I decided before the session started that at least until the end of Island at the Axis of the World, I'm going to run the mechanics of the AP as-written. I won't be altering encounters, enemies or skill DCs. I want to give RangerWickett's version a good chance before I turn my novice DMing skills to altering anything. It'll also give luck a chance to even itself out.

The Summary

Despite the failure at the skill challenge and the near-fatal brawl, everyone seemed to be having a good time, which bodes well for things to come.

The tone of the campaign is evident from the very first encounter, which is very impressive feat of adventure design.

I'll post more about session 1 in the next few days.


First Post
Excellent rundown. I'm particularly interested in the skill challenge thoughts. My take on skill challenges is that I still love them, but I suck at running them. Part of this has to do with my players (they tend to just grab the dice and roll rather than describe their actions) and part of it is me struggling with describing the unfolding scene and laying it out in a natural way that is both descriptive (i.e. letting them know they are in a challenge and what needs to be done) and immersive (i.e. not saying "Okay this is a SC you can use x, y, and z skills.")

One side thought on the fight, you mentioned you were worried about a tpk. Personally, I think this fight was a perfect example of "failure not having to be a tpk". Although the dockers are obviously criminals to an extent, they are not exactly bad people either. Beating five RHC officers into unconsciousness is one thing, killing them quite another. Beating them gets them tossed in the slammer for a while. Killing them may well mean they never see the light of day again. So, just some food for thought on how we as DMs can potentially avoid the tpk while still having a really bad failure on the PCs part.

Of course, now that I write that I've written that I realize you were probably way ahead of me on this regard, but hopefully it will help others.

One question I have since you are using map tools is how is the roleplay aspect? I've always been hesitant to try to run online for fear that either the actual mechanical gameplay gets bogged down or that the roleplay would get lost in the data streams.

Edit to add: Thornt surely was deserving of at least a +2 bonus to checks for having actually read the player's guide. :)


First Post
This sounds like a great first adventure. I too feel like these DC 18 checks are a bit steep, but I'm intrigued to see what others think about them as well. I too want the investigation to focus more on roleplaying than actual checks. Hopefully, I can use the notes you've left here to flavor my session. Thanks a bunch for the notes.


First Post
Of course, now that I write that I've written that I realize you were probably way ahead of me on this regard, but hopefully it will help others.

It hadn't quite gotten to the stage where I needed to give too much thought as to how to deal with it. If it had gotten that far, I would likely have gotten the Flint police involved and broken up the brawl. After all, there were lots of them standing nearby at the checkpoint and they're not about to stand by why some dockers murder members of the RHC.

I didn't go down the "we're not going to murder someone" route for the dockers because - at the end of the day - they specifically pull knives when the combat goes against them. That's a pretty clear indicator of motive in my book.

It also helps to have Coulton & Co ready to be instant villains if I need some later in the campaign. Who's to say that there aren't officers in the RHC who will let a prisoner go in return for cash? Or that there aren't advocates out there that are skilled enough to achieve it? Or - perhaps best of all - that Margaret Saxby won't order them released (to extract vengeance from the PCs that imprisoned them) once she realises that the PCs are closing in on secrets she would prefer remained uninvestigated?

Now that I've thought of that, I think Coulton & Co might make emotionally potent (but mechanically ineffective) bodyguards for Saxby when the showdown ultimately comes...

One question I have since you are using map tools is how is the roleplay aspect? I've always been hesitant to try to run online for fear that either the actual mechanical gameplay gets bogged down or that the roleplay would get lost in the data streams.

The mechanical gameplay certainly doesn't get lost. In fact, because of the framework I use (Rumble v5.1.3), virtually all of the mechanical stuff is handled for us, including auto-deducting ongoing damage, starting and ending EOYNT effects, prompting for saving throws etc.

As for the roleplay aspect, I haven't noticed that big a change from when I was a face-to-face DM. Players that want to roleplay still will. Players that don't won't.

You do need to be careful that the players aren't missing something because of not having anything other than aural cues. Normally they'd be able to see who you're looking at. They'd see your body language and they'd hear the tone of your voice. Some of that can get lost online even with VOIP software (we use Ventrillo), so you need to be careful of it.

Edit to add: Thornt surely was deserving of at least a +2 bonus to checks for having actually read the player's guide. :)

Funny you mention it.

The day of the session, I sent the whole group an email: "For those of you keen to dwell on something ahead of time, you may wish to ponder who would want to disrupt the launching of the newly-commissioned warship RNS Coaltongue."

I was planning on giving the party a +2 on their history roll for each of RangerWickett's four groups that they came up with on their own. Unfortunately for them, everyone jumped to the conclusion that it was Danor who'd be doing the dirty deed. :)


First Post
Good point about the knives and dockers. They will make for good insta-villains. Glad to hear that going online doesn't detract that much from it, may be something I consider one of these days should my groups become hard enough to come by.


First Post
Story hour updated. The updates are still for Session 1, and cover the period after the docker brawl, but just before the PCs board the Coaltongue, which is where we ended our session.

A significant number of NPCs are introduced in this part of the adventure, and it gives an opportunity for players to interract with the movers and shakers of Risuri society, even if only in a superficial way.

Even for those players who aren't into this sort of scene, I like the message it sends: this is an adventure path where NPCs will matter. There's no one here who is standing around with a proverbial question mark over their head. I'm trying to reinforce that sense of richness by literally highlighting the NPCs in the story hour thread. Ideally, I'd like my players to begin wondering just how those NPCs are going to become relevant further into the AP, but if nothing else, hopefully it will help them to remember who is who.

The good

I'm not sure whether it was intentional that Sokana Rell is the only attractive female among the cast of NPCs at the launch of the Coaltongue, but if it was then it's a masterstroke. Two of my players immediately took a schoolboy-like shine to her.
It's lucky we play online, because I don't think I could have hidden my devilish glee face-to-face. I can't wait to see how they react when she turns out to be a saboteur

The bad

I think there might be a few too many NPCs in this section. RangerWickett voiced some concerns earlier on that there was too much of an infodump. When reading through the adventure, I disagreed. But having now played through it, I think my opinion has changed.

The NPCs are intriguing characters. Every single one of them has a secret or a personality quirk that makes them fun to read. But introducing them to the PCs all at once can easily become didactic.

If your group is likely to be bored by this sort of thing, I would say that Rutger Smith and Geoff Massarde are the most expendable of the PCs in this section. Smith is of course introduced in Act 2, so you don't really need him here, and according to the NPC roster on page 2, you might not need to physically introduce Massarde at all. If push came to shove, you could possibly even leave out Governor Stanfield.

For my group, I included all of the NPCs. I think they handled it well, and I suspect some of them are keeping notes of who's who. That's pleasing and shows that they're interested in engaging with the AP rather than just trotting from combat to combat.

The ugly

Nothing really to report here, except a query.

I've decided that the halfling chef on the docks is actually Ilton (the halfling assassin) in disguise. It's not clear from the text whether that was RangerWickett's intention, but it struck me just before the session began that it might be more than coincidence that there's a halfling chef wandering around on the docks just before a halfling assassin appears on the Coaltongue. After all, chefs are handy with knives, right?

Hopefully, Ilton's duplicity will couple nicely with Sokana's betrayal to give the PCs a sense that Zeitgeist is going to be more than a vanilla D&D campaign.
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If something bad happens on a ship (or train, or plane), always blame the cook first.

I agree Massarde and Rutger could be ditched. I kinda figured a typical game wouldn't need to feature them at that point, but that if the players wanted to chat with random folks, the DM could use them as needed. They don't really do anything in the scene unless the PCs go talk to them.

And I'm amused that the PCs are trying to pick up the sexy saboteur.
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First Post
I don't have time for a full recap or to update the story hour tonight, but wanted to pop in and say [MENTION=63]RangerWickett[/MENTION], take a bow.

You know a story's a good one when you get players to swear.

When Thornt looked out the aft window on the Coaltongue and saw the Duchess sinking beneath the waves with Beshela and her kraken mount, a certain four-letter f word was loudly exclaimed by one of the other players.

I don't think they saw that coming at all. :D


First Post
Story hour updated.

Another enjoyable session, again split about 50:50 between roleplaying (with the NPCs aboard the coaltongue) and combat (the saboteurs).

I'm pleased to say that I don't think my players even considered the possibility that the Duchess would be involved in any nefarious activities that might occur. They certainly didn't pay any particular attention to her above and beyond the other NPCs who were onboard. In fact, other than the dignitaries that I specifically put in their faces, they didn't proactively seek out anyone other than Governor Stanfield.

That might be an artifact of coming out of a campaign based heavily on WotC modules (most recently Revenge of the Giants) and their limited cast of interesting NPCs, and ordinarily I might lament it, but it certainly worked in my favour here.

They became instantly suspicious when Sokana wouldn't open the door to the observation cabin, but even then they thought they would discover the duchess as a victim. When Thornt looked out the window and saw Ethelyn sinking beneath the waves, the shock among the other players was priceless.

I know Erik's player is already hooked. He told me today that he's really excited by the way the adventure has already established so many factions for the PCs to interract with (the Unseen Court and its adherents, the RHC, the crown, the dockers, the city government).

Unfortunately, but the time the saboteurs were down, it was almost 1 am and we needed to call the session before the boiler malfunction was resolved. I got an email from Erik's player the next day saying that he had figured out that they needed to fire off the brand. I'm not sure whether they would have figured that out if I hadn't called the session early but instead kept the pressure on them.

They have 15 rounds until the boiler goes catastrophic, and I think it's safe to say that they'll be able to calibrate the brand in that time (with or without Massarde's help). So, RangerWickett needn't worry about this particular group. Unless they're mind-numbingly unlucky, they won't be dying in an inferno.

The good

The multi-location design of the Coaltongue worked very well to spread the PCs out and allow Sokana to reach the boiler with the amber rod. Cassi and Thornt spent a few rounds fighting Ilton and Tok and Willheim spend a few chasing down the magazine-bound sprite. By the time everyone turned their attention back to Sokana, she had done what she needed to do.

The bad

I'm glad they did allow themselves to be spread out like that, because if they had focused solely on Sokana like I feared they would then it could have been a very short chase. If I weren't using Maptool and desperate to use the great battlemaps that [MENTION=8701]d20Monkey[/MENTION] has prepared, I might have made most (if not all) of the lower decks mesh rather than wood. Just so Sokana had more opportunity to teleport down closer to the boiler.

I was a bit dismayed to realise that Sokana has no melee powers after she disposes of the amber rod in the boiler. While techically the Amber Rod power doesn't require her to be holding the item, I'm not the sort of DM to overlook common sense issues like that.

It also felt a bit odd for her only ranged at-will (Searing Barrier) to be a wall spell, but it turned out to be pretty useful once the PCs clustered in front of the firegem bin.

The ugly

While I generally agree with EN Publishing's decision not to mark monster positions on the battle map, the absence of them caused issues for me.

I started the combat with the engineers in the main room of the Engine deck waiting for Sokana. The tactics for the encounter state that the engineers' first action during the fight is to disable the boiler relief valves. Only after she turned up did I realise that there's a wall between the relief valves and the area where the engineers had started. In order for them to get there, they would have needed to climb to the berth deck (meeting the onrushing PCs head on) and then back down into the engine room.

The one engineer who tried it died in less than a round and I was forced to use the other solely as melee support for Sokana.

If I had my druthers, I would probably start at least one of the engineers in the engine room at the aft of the ship and have him emerge behind the PCs after they chase Sokana past. Of course, if I'd done that with both engineers, the PCs might have only 5 rounds left on the countdown instead of 15 and I might be looking at an early end to the campaign after all.

I never realized it until you just mentioned it, but it does look like there's a wall there, just aft of the engine furnace. Those are supposed to be marking where the sirens are (they're pipes that go up to different decks and whistle an alarm when the pressure is too high). But it's supposed to be an open deck.

I'll see if we can 'shop the image to fix that.


colmarr said:
I was a bit dismayed to realise that Sokana has no melee powers after she disposes of the amber rod in the boiler. While techically the Amber Rod power doesn't require her to be holding the item, I'm not the sort of DM to overlook common sense issues like that.

I treated the loss of the amber rod like the loss of a magical implement, and just gave her a modest attack penalty. That seemed to work OK.

I never realized it until you just mentioned it, but it does look like there's a wall there, just aft of the engine furnace. Those are supposed to be marking where the sirens are (they're pipes that go up to different decks and whistle an alarm when the pressure is too high). But it's supposed to be an open deck.

I'll see if we can 'shop the image to fix that.
Having it as a wall actually worked well for me, but the way I ran it, the safety relief valves had been shut but not rusted when the encounter began.


First Post
Session 3

I've had to abandon the story hour for time reasons (I severely underestimated how long it would take to fully narrate a campaign), so I'll replace it here with some point form notes on the major events of each session.

Session summary

Aware that the boiler was on a course for a catastrophic explosion and realising that they needed to fire the brand, RT3 split up to apply their respective talents.

Willheim rushed to the main deck (getting there in a single round), and Erik followed.

Tok followed the maze of pipes and found the pressure release valves in another room, venting some excess heat from the furnace.

Thornt rushed to the magazine and grabbed the fire charm that the fire sprite had ripped from the ceiling. Then he returned to the engine room. He sensed the primal magic there. After first trying (and failing) to absorb it, he managed to redirect it toward the capacitor.

Cassi applied her hammer hook to the furnace door, but struggled to get it open. Eventually Thornt joined her and they managed to prize the door open, only to fall back before the heat within. Thornt tossed the charm into the blaze. The flames dimmed a little, but then the charm was consumed.

Tok and Willheim managed to convince a sozzled Geoff Massarde to accompany them, but only after members of the crowd overheard them say that the boiler was oveheating and was going to explode. Panic erupted and principal minister Lee made preparations to teleport the king to safety.

While Erik, Willheim and Massarde made their way belowdecks, Tok made his way upwards. Seeing the crowd out of control, the swaggering changeling managed to convince many that they were going to be special guests at a test-firing of the brand. He chivvied crew into lining chairs near the bow for the guests, and his confidence and calm proved infectious.

Erik grabbed a shovel from beside the boiler and reached into the open doorway to retreive Sokana's amber rod. The flames steal the breath from his lungs, and he drops dangerously close to death before someone pulls him clear.

Massarde guided the remaining investigators in the necessary steps to calibrate the brand, then the weapon is fired. The heat of the boiler dissipates immediately, and a massive beam of fire vaporises a spot in the ocean 100ft in front of the Coaltongue.

In the aftermath, the party resumes and Principal Minister Lee and King Aodhan find time to speak with the investigators privately. They both thank RT3 for their good work, although they are clearly shocked that the Duchess was involved.

Later, the king announces his plans to seek peace with Danor, and that a peace conference has been arranged for one years' time. He also announces his intention to marry a Danoran. Some members of the crowd (Erik included) and none too happy.

A weeks passes with RT3 mopping up after the incident and filling in paperwork. Then they are summoned to Assistant Chief Inspector Delft's office. On the way, they cross paths with Office head Margaret Saxby. She congratulates them on their work on the Coaltongue. "You did us proud on that ship. Please don't embarrass us in the next 5 minutes".

In Delft's office, he introduced RT3 to Lya Jierre, the Danoran Minister for Outsiders. Tok knows from her clothing and surname that Lya is a member of the ruling Danoran Jierre dynasty.

Lya tested RT3 with a puzzle, which they solve with only a little fuss. Satisfied (but not overly impressed) with their performance Jierre, begins to tell RT3 about a situation on Axis Island.

The good

Despite Erik's player realising at the end of last session that they needed to fire the brand, the countdown still proved exciting. We continued to play round-by-round and I didn't tell the players how long they had left. A drunk and initially uncooperative Massarde added to the tension.

As it was, the PCs had about 30 rounds left on the clock after Erik pulled the amber rod from the furnace (and fell unconscious). If he hadn't, if Tok hadn't found and opened both relief valves, and if Thornt hadn't thought to grab one of the fire wards, I believe they would have had about 4 rounds to make the 3 Arcane, Nature and Religion checks necessary to calibrate the brand. That's a pretty tight deadline for TPK, and the tension was just right here.

More than one player commented on how high-pressure it felt. Interestingly, toward the end, Tok's player commented on how the rounds were taking longer and the pace was falling. I actually think that was me more than them. As they added to the countdown, I was subconsciously taking more time with my responses.

The Lya Jierre puzzle also went down extremely well, and occupied about 20 minutes of session time. I must confess though, that I didn't use the puzzle from the adventure. I was concerned that the 3D nature of the puzzle would not sit well with our 2D virtual tabeltop (MapTool) so I replaced it with this one (but without the genre-specific intro text).

I set up a series of Intelligence Check DCs (9/12/19) to get these clues, but they didn't really need them. Willheim's player made a check (and rolled 9 so only got the clue "This is known as a continuity puzzle"), and from there they managed to work it out*. Everyone had fun with the puzzle, and they worked pretty well together to figure out the steps involved.

The bad

I would have liked to have a fully-written speech to deliver for King Aodhan. Momentous occasions deserve memorable speeches, and if I'd thought about it ahead of time I would have written one myself. Alas, I was a little lax in my preparation and didn't think of it until it was too late.

The Ugly

Nothing to report

*If you must know, the answer can be found here.


First Post
So now that you've seen the Campaign Guide, Colmarr, what do you think? Any thoughts on things you'd like to see show up later? I mean, there aren't that many folks responding, so if you say that you really really want sharks in spike-filled acid pits, I might just oblige.

At the time you asked this question, I couldn't really think of a good answer. I was (and still am) amazingly happy with being able to run such a fun adventure (and have an equally awesome-seeming AP to look forward to).

One thing that I have since realised though, is that Island features virtually no non-humanoid opponents. That does wonders for intrigue and does paint a convincing picture of a neo-industrial world, but I also feel that it might eventually get a little repetitive.

A lot of the fun of D&D can come from off-the-wall encounters with creatures like Gelatinous Cubes and Otyughs. Maybe sprinkle a few of the less 'normal' creatures through the AP in places where they don't seem overly incongruous? Some of the natural aberrations (ie. ones without obvious far realm inspiration - not necessarily beholders and gibbering mouthers) might fit in without going against the grain of the Axis Seal mythology.
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Yeah, Russ has asked me to fit in more 'monsters.' It's a tad harder in adventure 2, which all takes place in Flint, but it's possible for some weird monsters to lurk in the shadows of a city.


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Session 4

This session was delayed two weeks because Cassi's player passed away on 1 September 2011 after a long illness.

RIP Nerida.

Session Summary

In the week after the events on the Coaltongue, RT3 were kept busy with paperwork and following leads around Flint relating to the saboteurs’ activities. They were then called to Inspector Delft's office and met with him and the tiefling Lya Jierre.

Lya Jierre, the Danoran Minister for Outsiders, informed the investigators that Duchess Ethelyn and her allies had captured a Danoran outpost on Axis Island, so called because compasses spin on their axis there. Axis island houses a Danoran mining operation, some factories and an outpost.

Lya shared King Aodhan's desire for peace, and was concerned that the Duchess' actions would be used by the Danoran congress as justification to renew the war between the two nations. She had proposed (and Aodhan had accepted) that Risuri forces recapture the island from the Duchess and then voluntarily hand it back to Danor.

Jierre had two conditions: the handover had to happen in approximately 3 days time, and she wanted RT3 to ensure that no harm came to her cousin Nathan Jierre, who was working on the island. Nathan had been just a teenager during the war and she maintained he was innocent of any crime. RT3 accepted her conditions.

After Jierre left, Delft explained to his investigators that their involvement in the mission was primarily to investigate the Duchess's actions after the island was recaptured. Another team of infiltration specialists from Slate would lead the mission, although RT3 would be called on to take over if something went wrong.

After making requisitions from the RHC quartermaster, RT3 set out on the RNS Impossible that afternoon and were surprised to find it captained by Rutger Smith, the cigar-smoking amateur theologist that Erik had interacted with onboard the Coaltongue. Over a well-provisioned dinner, Smith again expounded on his admiration for Millerite theories of understanding. Erik and Thornt took a more pragmatic view of how to solve disputes.

The Impossible met up with the Risuri navy near Axis Island and the infiltration specialists came aboard: Seven foot Dan the fighter, Tanya the shaman, Burton the goblin rogue and Letmas the illusionist. Tanya briefed RT3 on the mission: reach the island by way of a secret sea cave at the bottom of a mine and emerge from the mine in an inland valley; journey over the northern mountains to reach the rear of the island's fortress. Breach the wall with Passwall scrolls, then make way to open the fortress' sea gates. Signal the fleet with Pyrotechnics scrolls and then hold the gate open until marines could storm the outpost.

After the briefing, the Impossible hoisted black sails and set off under cover of night. Once it reached the target cove, the infiltrators took a length of rope, cast rituals of Water Breathing on their group and RT3, and set off for the hidden sea cave. A few minutes later the rope went slack and then began jerking fitfully.

RT3 dove overboard and followed the rope, only to discover that the tunnel roof had partially collapsed. Burton's leg was pinned underneath a boulder, and the only trace of the other infiltrators was the crushed end of Seven foot Dan's spiked chain. Burton was delirious with pain and blood loss and begged RT3 to free him before sharks ate him. Almost simultaneously, Thornt noted ominous shapes circling at the edge of his sunrod's light.

Erik discovered a strangely fresh iron rod in the rubble of the tunnel and Cassi, Willheim and Erik used it to lever the boulder off Burton. Fresh blood filled the water and the goblin began muttering about a purple swamp. RT3 quickly continued up the tunnel before whatever was following them could attack.

At the end of the tunnel, they discovered a sea cave. When the lights later came up, RT3 realised that the cave was dominated by a pillar of stone that rose out of the water and platforms built into the wall. Near the bottom of the pillar, approximately 12' above the water level, a small ledge seemed to hold some form of object.

Erik and Tok chose not to reveal their light sources and moved ahead slowly to investigate the cave. Erik soon came under pistol fire from a Danoran miner positioned on platforms high overhead. Thornt fed Burton a potion of healing to stablise the goblin, and then RT3 surged forward. They quickly overwhelmed the miner and his earth elemental and shadow stalker allies, but not before Cassi, Willheim and Thornt took significant damage.

The good

I deviated from the module's script a little by putting menacing shapes in the water behind the PCs when they came across Burton pinned in the sea tunnel, but the added pressure worked wonders. The players seemed genuinely torn between their desire to save Burton and their duty to head into the cave as quickly as possible. When they did manage to free him, I was pleasantly surprised to see Thornt's player feed the little scoundrel a healing potion to ensure he would survive.

The bad

The combat with Dupiers dragged quite significantly because the PCs carefully made their way up the platforms on the western side of the sea cave.

I contemplated having the shadow stalker rush them just to have something happening, but I knew that sending it out alone would lead to taking a fusilshot in the face from Erik and then being smashed with Cassi's hammer. So it hung back for approximately 5 rounds and did little other than throw a firepowder barrel. On the bright side, Thornt seemed completely unable to make the required saving throw and took 25 damage from ongoing fire before he finally saved on 3 hp.

If I were to run the combat again, I'd put some firepowder barrels at the first ladder and have Dupier's elementals destroy them with a keg, thus setting the whole structure crumbling and forcing the PCs to sprint to stay ahead of the drop.

The ugly

I realised after the session that I never actually told the players where the weakpoint in the fortress wall is (or even that there is one). I'll need to remember to have Burton pass on that information next session.

Next session is 2 October 2011, because Thornt's and Tok's players are away for a few weeks.


Well, that was fun
Staff member
Yeah, Russ has asked me to fit in more 'monsters.' It's a tad harder in adventure 2, which all takes place in Flint, but it's possible for some weird monsters to lurk in the shadows of a city.

I remember having the same conversation for WotBS. Gamers like monsters, dammit! :D

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