Gears of Revolution: Notes on my campaign


First Post
Session 19: MacBannin's Manor (part 1)

Session Summary (part 1):

[sblock]Nevard ushered the constables to the carriage that still waited for him, and together the seven rode through the bustling streets to RHC Headquarters.

Along the way, he told the RT3 what else he had seen on Cauldron Hill:

“A woman sat on a leather couch in a waiting room, surrounded by red curtains. She held a gold coin and rolled it across the back of her fingers. A pick lay against the side of the couch. He asked her what she was waiting for, and she answered in a language he didn’t know, saying, ‘The place I’m going isn’t here yet.’

“A trumpeter carried a lantern onto the stage of a darkened theater, and the people gathered for his performance applauded, then lit lanterns of their own. The theater never got bright enough for him to see their faces.

“One man tore himself in two, and his twin selves fought over a woman, tearing her into three, who ran away. Mice skittered around them, collecting cheese fallen amid the rails of a trainyard. Then a train roared down the track past him, but it had no one driving it. In the distance it derailed, and crushed two of the women, but which of the three survived?

“A man carrying a bronze staff with three keyholes is assailed by swords and arrows and fire, but nothing kills him. He began to take off his robes, revealing tiger fur beneath them, while stars fell from the sky all around him. Then the sky was dark, and when the sun should have risen, instead a pale glowing cloud floated in the dark.

“Finally, tyrant and murderer languished in prison, hanging from twelve chains and hooks that pierced her feet, her legs, her thighs, her shoulders, her arms, and her hands. But the thirteenth hook that sealed her mouth swung loose, and it fluttered in the breeze as she whispered a map that led everywhere.”

Tok and Thornt puzzled over the visions for a while, before concluding that RT3 would not be able to resolve them in the near future. They thanked Nevard for his words, and he in turn thanked the constables for their assistance. Tok arranged for the skyseer to be treated by the RHC’s apothecaries, and then RT3 returned to the squad room.

There both Thornt and Erik found notes waiting for them, from Jimmy “the Eyes” and the Meister of the Butcher’s guild. Both contained the same information; that the dragonborn arsonists were likely to be hiding out in the southern canalside district of Bosum Strand. Jimmy’s note had an additional piece of information though; that “The Family” ( a criminal organisation with links to Crisiilyir) were also looking for the dragonborn.

RT3 reported their progress to ACI Delft, who in turn authorised an urgent stipend for them. He also provided them with a warrant to search Mayor MacBannin’s manor that he had obtained from a magistrate who owed him a few favours. He warned the constables to be sure before they went charging in; the Mayor was well-connected and accusing him of a crime without being able to prove wrongdoing would prove distinctly uncomfortable for RT3. Delft also agreed to provide RHC constables as backup for RT3’s planned raid on the arsonists.

RT3 next headed to Bosum Strand, where their enquiries quickly led them to an abandoned inn a few blocks from the west bank of the Stanfield Canal. To their surprise, the inn was little more than a burnt-out shell. Smoke still rose from the ruins, and Flint police were in attendance. The lead officer welcomed RT3’s presence, and allowed them to search the scene.

The first point of note found within was the burned corpse of the greatsword-wielding arsonist who had days earlier proved so troublesome to Thornt. From the position of his corpse, it was clear that he had been bound at the time of the fire. Thornt inspected the body, and deduced that the dragonborn had been burned alive. Looking around the inn, Kuri and Tok noticed an arcane residue on a wall, which further study revealed to be an Arcane Mark that read, “Bring Tok RHC”.

RT3 were puzzled by the message, and by who had left it. Enquiries with a nearby hobo revealed that the dragonborn had not welcomed visitors, and in fact had forcibly evicted a number of homeless people from the inn when they moved in. He had not seen anyone else enter the inn during the night.

Thornt studied the area around the inn, and his practiced eyes picked out three-toed dragonborn tracks leading away from the inn. He surmised that they were those of the other missing arsonist. The dragonborn’s tracks spoke of speed and unsteadiness, but there was no blood or other sign of a wound. The tracks ended at the canal, and even after Thornt moved up and down the canal’s bank to try to find a further trail, he could not.

Returning to the inn, RT3 conducted a thorough search of the premises. When they moved the corpse to study it further, they made a shocking discovery. Beneath the dragonborn, carved into the stone of the floor, was a double ring of runes that still glowed with the heat of the fire (pic attached).

Tok carefully prepared a scratching of the runes to take with him for later study, and then a perplexed RT3 headed back to the canal. Before heading off to confront the Mayor, they wished to further investigate the strange trail of Bleak Gate energy that ended beneath one of the canal’s bridges.[/sblock]​


More to come when the full session report is finished.


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First Post
Session 19: MacBannin's Manor (part 2)

Session Summary (part 2):

[sblock]Another casting of the Detect Planar Energy ritual that Gale had given them confirmed that the trail of energy – already fading and weak - ended abruptly beneath the 6th bridge of the Stanfield canal. RT3 checked to make sure they weren’t being observed and then set to work inspecting the bridge. The surface and sides of the structure seemed mundane, so their investigation turned to the underside of the bridge itself.

When the constables called from the canal bank to a puntsman travelling the river, they were surprised when he recognised them as “the constables who saved that docker from Kell”. Evidently word of their good deed was already spreading through the marine classes of the city. The puntsman was more than happy to help, taking his barge under the bridge and holding it steady while the constables inspected the structure above. They found three rusted iron bars, covered in runes of transformation, embedded in the mortar of the bridge, and removed them.

Tok noted where the bars had been found and in which order, then the puntsman returned RT3 to the bank. He refused compensation for his aid – and the crate of merchandise that had fallen overboard with Erik during the search – but RT3 insisted in handing him some coin for his trouble. After the puntsman moved off, the investigators made their way around the base of Cauldron Hill and started up toward’s MacBannin’s manor.

The guards on station at the manor’s impressive gates initially refused RT3 entrance, but Tok’s smooth words gave them pause, and when Xaresti grabbed one of them through the bars and smashed his face against the aged iron, any pretence of refusal faded away. The guards swung the gate open and admitted the investigators, advising that Mayor MacBannin was in his garden shed.

Tok and Xaresti immediately headed off to stall the Mayor, while the remainder of the squad headed into the manor to execute their search warrant. Although a curmudgeonly matron provided unco-operative, a kitchen boys was much more easily bribed and willingly led the investigators directly to Mr Creed’s quarters. Inside they found a stain on the bedclothes – a strange (but by now familiar) mix of oil and blood – and a rapier and sheathe at the end of the bed.

MacBannin emerged from his shed just as Tok and Xaresti arrived, and quickly shut the door before they could look inside. The changeling and the half-elf stalled as long as they could, but MacBannin was not to be delayed. The accomplished politician could tell that something was up. He arrived – with both investigators in tow – at Creed’s room just as RT3 were emerging from it.

MacBannin was at first incredulous and then furious. His verbal admonitions failed to sway Erik, and when MacBannin resisted the sergeant’s attempts to detain him (correctly pointing out that the warrant was to search his manor, not to arrest him) the Yerasol veteran clapped him in handcuffs.

At that exact moment, the ground beneath the manor began to rumble and the entire manor shook on its foundations. RT3 scrambled through the upper hallway and reached the landing just as the house split in half. The back half of the house surged several feat into the air, and RT3 hastily jumped down onto the stairway and scrambled out the front door just as the earth surged again and the ground beneath the rear half of the manor collapsed ten feet. The back of the structure creaked for a second and then collapsed completely. As RT3 and the mayor dusted themselves off, the hiss of fluid under pressure came from within the damaged structure, followed by the horrified screams of dozens of workers. A moment later the wretched stench of burnt oil wafted through the garden in a thin, visible fog, and flowers began to wilt.

MacBannin called to the gardeners and house-servants nearby, “Kill them! Kill them all!” and his staff responded willingly. RT3 found themselves besieged by a score of attackers wielding improvised weapons with practiced efficiency. MacBannin’s hands were cuffed behind his back and he was surrounded by constables, but even so the mayor managed to weave arcane wards around his allies; threatening to turn aside RT3’s blows. In return, RT3 focused their attention on Reed MacBannin himself. Even a long-standing mage such as the mayor could not withstand their assault, and soon he lay unconscious in the garden as the combat raged around him.

First Kuri and then Tok and Thornt suffered nasty gashes from hurled hoes and half-bricks, but as the earth continued to rumble and the constables whittled down their foes, the remaining staff’s morale broke and they fled through the gates down towards the nettles. The last opponent ran not for the gate but for the shed, but Xaresti caught him just as he was opening the door. The plate mail-burdened paladin slammed the man into the structure, and he sagged to the ground.

Xaresti pulled the door open. Inside the shed, planks had been removed from the wooden floor to reveal a rusted ring set into a seemingly solid floor of stone. A woman lay dead there, clutching an armful of amulets, her body half in the ground as though the stone itself has solidified around her. Her head had been was crushed by a falling piece of the ceiling.
RT3 regrouped away from the precariously tilted manorhouse, and pondered their next move. Most were keen to move back down Cauldron Hill lest the whole area collapse in the earthquake. When Erik asked Thorn’t opinion of the danger, the druid confirmed the risk but also pointed out that if RT3 wished to investigate the shed and what MacBannin had been up to, this might be their only chance. Erik glanced wordlessly around his constables. Each seemed to be in agreement. As one, RT3 moved into the shed.[/sblock]
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I think every single game sees Macbannin getting handcuffed and then beaten down with ease. I'm honestly kind of amused by that. The 'big villain' goes down pretty easily.

Well It wasn't my case. The fight wasn't particularly difficult but the curses really scared my players. Also I rolled twice a turn to determine the aparition of the witchoil surges. I was tempted to put Creed in the fight shooting from the distance, in order to make it really challenging but that would spoil the surprise of him appearing covered in witch-oil in the reservorium followed of the animated corpse of a disappeared character.


First Post
Well It wasn't my case. The fight wasn't particularly difficult but the curses really scared my players.

Mine never had the chance to even see a curse. MacBannin's one attack roll missed because of a -5 penalty (his hands were handcuffed behind his back) and then he became target no. 1 once the players realised how troublesome his aura was going to be.


I knew that sooner or later my players were going to want to hunt down the dragonborn brothers, and decided that they presented an opportune time to insert the second of the cryptograms I have in mind for Tok. I've changed my thinking on this sidestory since I first mentioned it here, and the strange events in the inn are the first real clues the party will get as to what's going on. I plan to unravel the rest of the story through heroic tier and bring it to a conclusion in low to mid-paragon.

Tok's player has proven remarkably adept at solving the cryptograms. This one took him about 30 minutes (while we were playing!), so I'm going to step up the difficulty for later puzzles.

It felt good to include the grateful puntsman. As previously mentioned, the players took it hard when they were bested by Kell and then Leone in quick succession for seemingly no gain. This chance encounter reminded them that their actions had repercussions and good deeds can be rewarded. The players seemed to take it well, and the puntsman's goodwill was returned in kind when the constables took a collection to compensate him for his time and assistance. It's funny how nice they can be to people who like them (the puntsman) and how malign they can be with people who don't (Wilfredo Zinger and Reed MacBannin).

The fight at the manor proved challenging, but not for the reasons I expected. As mentioned above, the players never even found out about MacBannin's curses - which are deliciously evil - but they were absolutely gobsmacked by the house staff. I'm not sure I like those combatants. Although I understand the mechanical underpinning (they're lurkers and therefore need to double damage when they hit every second turn), there's a severe mental disconnect when a butler hits you with a rake for 10 points of damage. In the end I alluded to the fact that they were fighting in a much more efficient manner than would be expected of servants (ie. they were ex-military), but the whole encounter still seemed a little odd. Kind of like the whole thing was a switcheroo.

My idea was actually that Macbannin figured the authorities would be coming for him, and so he quietly replaced some of his staff with Kell-guild thugs.

I think we need some sort of website that charts how far along the various GMs are in ZEITGEIST. And, like, give your players "Achievements" for different things, like "Crushed under a colossus" or "Figured out the conspiracy early" or "Killed an alien monster with a badger."


First Post
[MENTION=63]RangerWickett[/MENTION], sorry for the late reply, but I received an email the other day about receiving xp and thought I'd come back to check things out.

My campaign unfortunately fell apart shortly after my last post, and my group hasn't played D&D since.

It was a combination of the difficulties of online gaming (especially the effort it was taking to code everything up for Maptools), the storyline I wanted to investigate not being received well by my players (the 'fey bargain' plot I proposed for Erik was rejected by the player) and group dissatisfaction with what they perceived as overwhelmingly constraining plotting. Specifically, they felt that the first few adventures unfairly resulted in them being forced to 'lose': they got in trouble for lying to Lya Jierre; Asrabey escaped; they killed the Duchess; Leone got away; Kell outfoxed them; and then MacBannin committed suicide.

That last complaint is mostly a reflection on my DMing rather than your writing, but I include it because feedback is always valuable.

I still think Zeitgeist is one of the best adventure arcs I've ever seen, and I'm disappointed I/we couldn't do it justice.


How unfortunate!

I've never played an online game, but I can imagine it's subject to some the trickiness of other online interactions - some emotional subtlety goes, and then it can be hard to get across all the nuances you want to. Not to mention it's must be extremely slow-going at times.

In any case, I'm just starting my own campaign, and I've gotta say, your notes and session summaries have been super-helpful - so thanks in any case for sharing your experience!

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