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ZEITGEIST [PF] My Experience Running for Two Groups


Good morning! It's a slow day at work, and recently Ryan encountered a post I made on Reddit promoting the campaign, and asked if I'd post my experience over here. I've posted a couple questions in the past, but never any details of my games.

Spoiler Warning: This post may (does) contain Zeitgeist spoilers up to and including Book 6, Revelations from the Mouth of a Madman.

I am currently running this campaign for two groups. One group has been playing for over a year, and is currently in Book 6, and has just earned an audience with the Bruse of Ber. My second group, which I have taken to calling the Zeitgeist Initiative for purposes of being able to keep stories straight, just finished Book 1 before the holidays. My longer running group is a 4 player game that I run online via Roll20.net, and the other is a 5 player game that I run in person.

I will detail the ZI group's experience first, as it will be shorter.

The group consists of:
Twin Elven brothers, a Gunslinger/Eldritch Archer (Magus Archetype) Gunsmith, and a Fighter/Empiricist (Investigator Archetype) Vekeshi Mystic. Each player took a level of their martial class at level one, but will take their remaining levels in their chosen secondary archetype.
A Tiefling Alchemist Technolgoist.
And two Deva Oracles, one an oracle of the Occult Mystery and a Spirit Medium, and the other of the Life Mystery and an Eschatologist. While it would not be my first choice to have two Devas in a group, let alone two Oracles, both players have a difficult time building a character that they can be attached to. Since this game is so long, I encouraged each of them to build characters independently of the others, without worrying about party composition or anything like that, to try to ensure they'd come up with something they will enjoy playing long term.

Despite the odd party make up, I'm a fan of the backstories in the group. Since I was much more familiar with the world this time around, I was able to help the characters build some interesting things. The Spirit Medium is playing a character who is the fused minds of two tragedy-stricken lovers who were present at the fall of Srasama. The somewhat ironic Eschatologist Oracle of Life I found to be intriguing. The player has adopted the philosophy that, while an end to each of us and to the world is certainly inevitable, it's her duty to help ensure that each person lives their best possible life before that end comes. The Technologist is my newest player. She has played a couple of brief modules, and 1.5 books of Curse of the Crimson Throne. A tiefling who has defected to Risur to work with the advantage of magic, she has a Charisma of 5, and has been a hilarious addition to the team.

The twins left their family home in Flint years ago to pursue various minor adventures. Each eventually returned home to enlist in the Risuri military for the Fourth Yerasol War. The Vekeshi Mystic, while heading home from travels through Elfaivar, stumbled upon a pair of slavers and a captured young woman. Killing the thugs and freeing the woman, he found the rescued victim to be an eladrin woman. Moments later, a small group of Eladrin men, who had been hunting the slavers, came and whisked the woman away. This was the character's brief introduction to Asrabey Varal, and the beginning of his induction into the Vekeshi cult.

The twin brothers, when writing their backstory, wrote that their parents had been murdered while they were away at war, and their younger sister had disappeared that same night. I'm certain they intended this as a way for me to use their backstory and integrate it with the campaign, but even knowing that, I've never had such a great opportunity with so many options.

For a while, I toyed with the sister being a low-level member of an Obscurati cell. I thought it would be fun for them to try to turn her away from the conspiracy, and I could use her as a tool to leak important story-related info into the party as needed. And perhaps she might succeed in turning them.

Then I thought it might be exciting for her to be the murder victim around which book 2 is focused. It certainly seemed like a seamless fit, and it would spur on the group to give them a personal attachment to the mystery. But I decided I wanted a recurring character whose fate was not predetermined.

I have settled (thankfully, since book two will be starting in a couple of weeks) on giving her the position of a trusted lieutenant in The Family. I think this position will create plenty of drama without necessarily painting her as a foe. She will still have plenty of interaction with the party through Morgan, and the mystery about her disappearance can be slowly revealed, all while not being an integral part of the main story-line. The will first encounter her when they leave the Danoran Consulate upon completing their initial review of Nilasa's murder scene. She'll be spying on the situation for Morgan, and the party may notice her, potentially giving chase, though I plan for her to quickly and skillfully disappear. The will learn who she is upon first meeting Morgan later in the book.

Our experience with Book 1 was pretty solid over-all. Again, my familiarity with the setting and the adventure helped keep things tightly paced, and the group finished Book 1 in probably a bit under 12 total hours (we play in roughly 3 hour chunks).

With a 5 player group, the initial skill challenge felt a little bit on the easy side. The group wrapped up without drawing weapons. However, I made sure to introduce Thames Grimsley anyway, since he's a favorite of my other group.

The scene on the Coaltongue was a fun experience. The Charisma 5 Tiefling in the midst of Flint nobility will certainly have some tangible consequences later on. However, the party was naturally very suspicious of the Dutchess. They were willing to escort her to a room, but left the Gunslinger on guard duty. This essentially made it very difficult for the two women to plan, or secretly get down the engine room. Eventually, the group busted in the door after the Dutchess and her handmaiden refused to come on deck for the ceremony, just in time to see the Dutchess flee with the help of an archfey. The handmaid and the halfling assassin harried the party, and the handmaid managed to slip through and get to bottom deck. A wild chase ensued, and with some clever work, the team managed to save the ship.

My group is full of stupid smarty pants, and solved Lya's puzzle in less than 60 seconds. I almost built props. I'm glad I didn't.

On Axis Island, things essentially went as planned. The party was forced to take on the job of infiltrators. They located the three Golden Icons (the Tiefling snagged the Icon of Avilona, and after a brief description before the mining foreman's ambush, she chose to take a leap of faith, which flew her across the small chasm to the cave mouth; it was all rather exciting). They encountered a few of the island's mysteries on the way to the fortress. A Dutchess patrol gave them some minor trouble, but the party pushed through. The lighthouse was a great encounter. I added some numbers to the mini-game encounter, even though the numbers given are for a 5-player group. It turned out quite well. The tension was high and the pressure kept up to the last round.

In the tower, the party (well, the Vekeshi Mystic) convinced Asrabey to leave empty handed, though he made sure they understood in no uncertain terms that they owed him big time. They charged into the room without waiting for the conversation to take place between the NPCs, but I think I still managed to give them the gist of things to come.

For Book 2, in addition to introducing the twins' sister as an additional NPC, I also have a big white board with magnets and some string, with NPC portraits printed out. I'm looking forward to the players creating a murder board a la X Cop Show.

OG Zeitgeist Group

This group consists of 4 players.
A half-orc pyro-Kineticist Skyseer (naturally quite attuned to Jiese).
A human Occultist Spirit Medium.
A dwarven Gunslinger/Fighter Gunsmith.
A human Ranger Martial Scientist.

The backstories here are fairly generic. Knowing much less about the world, it was much more difficult for us to create specific ties to the world like I could for the second group. This team has become a stalwart and loyal group of agents in service to their King. Each has a unique personality, but before the events of Book 1, their stories are shrouded in mystery...

Book 1 took nearly twice as long to complete as for my ZI group. The material was new, the world was new, and I was still fairly new to GMing. So it took some time.

The team came to blows with a couple of the dockers at the beginning, but with the help of Thames Grimsley, they were able to keep the hubub to a minimum. I don't recall exactly, but I seem to remember this fight happened due to player/character personality, rather than failure of the dice. The Coaltongue encounter went basically by the book. It was lengthy, but engaging. This group took a much longer time with solve Lya's puzzle. If memory serves, one of them convinced himself it was impossible, and that's the answer they stuck with. I could be wrong. It's been like 1.5 years or something now.

Axis Island was a good romp, going basically the same as with my recent group. Not a lot of room for deviation when they feel they're on a timeline. The ending was a bit dramatic. Asrabey tried to escape with Nathan as a prisoner. He knocked out a couple of the players and then fled. The others gave chase, and a handfull of King's soldiers joined them. The soldiers shot a good couple dozen arrows at the fleeing dreadnaught. As fate would have it, one of them rolled a 20. Asrabey fell, releasing Nathan, and dropped over a wall into the ocean. He resurfaces in a later adventure, to the party's surprise.

My overall impression of The Island at the Axis of the World is that it's probably the best opening book to an adventure I've ever run or played. It's succinct, exciting, and has an excellent variety of challenges. It introduces the world and some of the major themes of the story very smoothly. Some of the best moments with either group so far has been the surprise and confusion at temporarily finding themselves on a different planet while trudging across the island.

Book 2 was a bit of a challenge for me as a newish GM. For this, more than any other adventure I'd encountered before, it was imperative that I be familiar with the entire book from day 1. I had to make myself my own murder board go keep track of the large variety of NPCs and their relationships.

Getting over that hurdle, though, proves to be well worth the effort. The various threads of investigation come together really well at the end. Leone becomes a mysterious and interesting villain, the PCs begin to form alliances and lasting relationships, and with a Skyseer in the party, Sechim's end was a solid emotional scene.

The finale was not a particularly interesting fight, and fixing the machine felt a little too similar to repairing the Coaltongue. Part of this may have been my fault. The impact of the whole scene certainly could have been better, had I not forgotten entirely about the occasional earthquake that should be striking Flint during the book.

The Dying Skyseer is a very well written, if challenging to run, murder mystery adventure. For this first group, Cillian Creed died in the church, which left the finale a with a bit less emotional pull than I think it would've had if he'd survived until then. For my second run through it, I hope to build Creed up a bit more, and ensure he makes it to the final encounter. This was the most difficult book I've ever run, but I think it's worth the hard work.

Book 3 was an enjoyable change of pace. The PCs begin to sniff out the beginnings of a larger conspiracy and get to go on a bit of a dungeon dive. I enjoyed using the internal affairs investigation to throw a bit of a wrench in the party's plans. They had been mostly faithful though, so Kell tried to frame one of them for murder, but was acquitted with only a bit of trouble. I used the opportunity for a friend who wasn't playing in the game but was interested to play a guest appearance as an investigator that reported directly to the Lord Viscount. He accompanied the PCs on a few of their adventures during the book, reporting back to Nigel Price-Hill.

Again, this being my first time through, my understanding of the history and the Ancients felt a bit rushed and fragmented, but I started to feel more comfortable with it as the book wore on. The PCs caught on fairly early that Xambria was being manipulated or possessed fiarly early on, but I managed to hide the true nature of the beast until the right moment.

The final fight at the RHC was quite exciting, in contrast to the finale of Book 2. The lives of various friends and allies being at stake certainly made it more impactful. The neat mechanics of the Gidim's magic and the reality fluctuations was really fun to toy with.

The exciting combats with some crazy monsters really made Digging for Lies a fun change to the investigative pace the game had taken until then. There was still a very healthy amount of story and background presented. At times, the background felt a little disjointed from the main story. As much information as there is, the PCs don't really learn much of it. All they really learn is that someone goes into the first Ziggurat, and aliens come out. Then they learn the people that went in are part of a larger organization.

Book 4 was on the easier side of adventures to run, but my players found it a bit of a challenge. Even with the skills of an investigator or detective, becoming a spy and going undercover doesn't come naturally to a character that isn't designed for it. Nonetheless, they put on a persona, and all did a fair or better job at roleplaying it to get the most out of a difficult situation. They got a kick out of Boone and his cursed gun. The giant hydra attack on the train was also very exciting. My party also followed the Griento and Mr. Mapple stories to their conclusions, though they managed to skip the eschatologist speech.

My personal favorite part of book 4 is Ashima Shimtu. One of my favorite NPC's in the entire campaign. My PC's were very suspicious, but eventually accepted her aid. That whole island was very cool.

At the end, the party attacked Lya and Luc before the Ob's meeting, so they didn't learn as much as they could. They killed Bree and captured Luc, basically renditioning him back to Risur where he was held prisoner on their ship through most of book 5.

Always on Time is naturally a bit railroady, but the plethora of individual stories happening on the train pretty easily take one's mind off track. Though not apparent until much later, this book acts as a nice introduction and bridge to people, places, and ideas that come up much later in the campaign. Overall a very enjoyable adventure with some cool action sequences.

Book 5 took us a long time to get through due to one of our players taking an extended break to finish his PhD. This book felt a little bit like book 2, what with so much going on all at once. However, the added mini-game mechanic with the police task force made it much much easier to handle. One of my players wasn't a big fan of taking on the personality of a second character, so I only used the "B-team" a couple of times.

The party was extremely invested in taking down Lorcan Kell at this point, so getting so many resources devoted to hunting him made them very happy. They had a couple of lucky breaks and took down both the lawyer and the Ob liason in one go. They also took down Kell, I believe, by the 4th day. It was a challenging fight to be sure. One confident PC went up into the rope trick space, forcing his allies to follow. Fighting Kell in such tight quarters was almost their doom, but they managed to pull out a win. Kell escaped, but with some solid detective work and calling in a few favors, they caught up to him before he could meet up with more Ob-peratives.

The Doomsday cultists were a lot of fun. Throwing them into the mix gave a real sense of urgency and impending disaster. I thoroughly enjoyed the encounter in the little antique shop with Kvarti across the street taking pot-shots at the PCs. My Gunsmith was able to eventually determine the shooter wasn't trying to hit them, and I/Kvarti had a good laugh at their expense. They made some lucky Knowledge rolls and smart deductions, leading them to conclude the next attack would be at the subrail station opening. Unfortunately, knowing about this ahead of time, which is not really all that difficult, makes the dwarves' set up a null point. The PCs simply got their far earlier and set up their own ambush. The Gunsmith-turned-Mad-Shootist now had a rocket launcher-revolver that made quick work of most of the doomsday cultists.

***Side note/question for Ryan - Speaking of the Mad Shootist, the rocket launcher ability of the prestige class seems a little bit exploitable. As written, since a rocket takes a standard action to load, my gunslinger just loads his blaster revolver with the 5 rockets at the beginning of the day, and is able to consequently fire multiple rockets per round via iterative attacks. Is this intentional, or should it be a standard action to load AND fire each rocket? So far I've been letting it slide because of the way it is written. I also figure that it'll be super powerful for now, but will taper off in a few levels, and some of their foes will just learn to spread out... The prestige class over all feels very strong.

The Fey lord storyline was also fun. Showing off the power of Asrabey, and the cool abilities of the Fey was quite neat. I added a Cold Rider, a CR8 fey-fella, in one of the larger orphange rooms. I think he was a nice addition. Unfortunately, the party imprisoned Gale after meeting with her and she was forced to attack them. Therefore, they had no saving grace against falling from the tree. However, they managed to defeat Ekossigan without any extra casualties.

The biggest drawback I had during this book was the timeline of the peace summit. Since the party preformed well, it was all I could do to convince them to follow each of the three threads to their end before entering the Bleak Gate. Since the King wants answers before the summit, however, they were invested in heading in before Lya and Han arrive. (Also, god damnit, I just realized Han and Lya///Han and Leia. I've been pronouncing Lya as Lie-ah instead of Lay-ah, and didn't make the connection...) Anyway, they finished the three theads, and jumped into the Bleak Gate. As such, no new encounter with Lya was had, and the Danoran delegation returned to Danor without setting foot in Flint.

The Bleak Gate complex was a fair amount of fun. My party went in through the lake entrance. The golem fight was cool, but mostly trivialized with the presence of Asrabey. In the main hangar, it was much more interesting. The PCs used an eversmoking bottle (bane of GMs everywhere) for cover from the dark slayers. I threw in a Myrmidon Robot (http://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/constructs/robot/robot-myrmidon/) as the real challenge since Kell was dead. I basically flavored it as a powerful prototype robot being inhabited by the ghost of Bree. It was definitely a challenge, but they managed.

During the last few days, I'd dropped hints that someone was in town looking for them, and after Borne was banished to the Dreaming, they receive word from Morgan that Ottavia is in town and wants to talk to them. I basically played her as being a bit in love with Luc, and claimed neither of them new what Luc's work was being used for (which is basically true, though hard to believe). She negotiated Luc's release, promising that she and him would disappear for good. I used Morgan to set up this meeting to hint at the relationship between the Clergy and the Family.

Cauldron Born is a great ending to the first arc of the campaign. The party finally figures out what the Ob has been up to in Flint, and sort of manage to stop them (even though Leone and Borne both escape). The pacing, and the assumption that most parties will successfully find a way into the Bleak Gate before the summit is a bit disappointing. The dinner scene has the potential to be really great, but I don't really see it happening unless the party really screws up, or the GM forces it somewhat inorganically. Running this game online means I use the maps in the PDF documents. In book 5, the subrail map that I can lift and put on Roll20 includes all of the traps and such. I ended up drawing the map by hand, which is a shame, because the artwork on the maps is always quite good.

We are now a few sessions into book 6. The courtroom scene was a hit. It was fun for the PCs to see the workings of a different society. The T-rex fight was pretty intense, though the giant goat stampede didn't really accomplish much besides slowing me down with all of the token management.

Getting to the Maze, I enjoyed this encounter, but at least one of my players absolutely hated it. The party ended up being split due to the nature of the teleportation traps. As such, a couple of players got well ahead of the other two, and ended up being the only ones fighting the bears. The other two spent the whole time carefully catching up. Perhaps I, as GM, should have thrown some bears in from a different direction or something, or had some other menace. But I didn't want to make the encounter challenging, so much as just a hindrance to their goals. One of the players that took the careful path through, however, felt extremely bored for the duration of the encounter. I personally felt that it was at least in part due to his own meta-gaming, and that if he'd roll-played a bit more, the encounter could have been a little more dramatic. But, for instance, he never even checked the traps his companions fell into. He just assumed they got teleported away and then did nothing about it. I don't know, I'm a bit conflicted. Perhaps when I run it a second time, I'll try throwing something in from the other end.

***Bonus Side Adventure, Ber Necessities

As I mentioned, one of my players took a break for a couple months, putting my OG game on hold. So instead of doing nothing, the other three players and one of their SOs played a home-brew 7 week campaign during the break. I wanted to dive into the world of Zeitgeist a little more, and gave them a few options for ideas I had. They elected to go on an adventure into Ber and explore the history of the dragon tyrants.

Ep 1. Find Your Berings
Yes, I named every session using a Ber pun. They keep getting better, so stay tuned.

I set this mini story during the fall of the last Dragon Tyrants of Ber. The PCs were 8th level characters, hunters in service to Inatch the Hex Eater. The game opens with a tournament to earn Inatch's favor, the reward of which is the honor of a quest. The PCs are informed that the only real rival to Inatch's power at the time, Imry, Lady of Steel, has been hunting for the Tyrant's Eye, a powerful and deadly artifact. He charges the PCs with finding it first. The party interrogates a gnoll prisoner to learn that Imry has sent search parties into the Anthras Mountains looking for a tribe of half-giants who may know the secret hiding place of the Tyrant's Eye.

Ep 2. Beried Secrets

The party encounters a group of humans on their way to the Anthras Mountains. They claim to be archaeologists, but are in fact agents of King Boyle of Risur, a scouting party for his army. But they manage to keep their identities secret. The party reaches the mountains, and with the help of a strange gnome, are pointed in the right direction. She tells them they should abandon their quest, for Risur's army gathers, and they have a chance to strike a blow by killing their general before they advance. The party believes this to be a trick, and press on to the Half-Giant tribe...

Ep 3. Tyrant's Beron

Here, the party arrives at the cave to find the gnolls have gotten there first, killing dozens of half-giants. They reach the inner-sanctum just in time to save the tribe's leader, but not before a powerful ogre sorcerer disappears with the tribe's ancient text. After the fight, the leader, who styles himself a baron and a keeper of ancient secrets, tells the party he does indeed know where the Eye is. The legends of old, and the book that was stolen by the ogre, tell false stories to protect its resting place. The barons of this tribe pass down the true secret from one to the next. The Baron charges the party with protecting the location from Imry's forces, imbuing them with a magical rune to help them on their journey.

Ep 4. Berfaced Liars

The party travels back into Ber. They have a long journey ahead, but since Imry's forces now have false information, they are confident of success. As they travel, they happen upon a small hamlet that has recently been attacked. The locals claim a force of Risuri men raided their village for supplies, and released their heard of megafauna by way of distraction. The party tracks them down, and slaughter the Risuri scouts. Returning with the megafauna herd, the party stays for dinner, meeting a strange fellow from Crisillyir. The man calls himself Will and smokes heavily of leaf-of-nicodemus. He debates with the party on philosophical topics, eventually inviting them to meet him in Cherage should they ever have interest in building a better world. That night, they meet a strange invisible man wearing a top hat banded in copper, who offers to teleport them to their final destination in exchange for a small favor...

Ep 5. Faerie's Bergain
Yup, this is my favorte of the puns.

Copperhat takes the party to the moon. They serve as Copperhats champion in an arena battle, then get to meet the sovereign fey court of the moon, led by a mysterious fey creature that identifies itself as "the child of the Lovers, the Dreamers, the Maiden and the Hunter (the four stages of the moon)." The fey converses for some time with the party, and asks if they will return at the next full moon, when the sovereign will host a debate between them and the man named Will, for the sovereign is curious to see whose argument holds up better. The party agrees, 'cause they want to get the hell off of the creepy moon.

Ep 6. The Gifts of Our Forebers

The party navigates a dangerous dungeon built by the Ancients, with each room presenting a danger themed for its associated planet. At the end, the party fight off a couple of powerful defenders, and walk away with a powerful artifact, which they've elected to bring to Inatch.

Leaving the dungeon, they find themselves surrounded by the ogre and nearly a hundred gnolls. They unleash the power of the Eye, and slaughter the lot of them. It is hilarious.

Ep 7. Dinos and Dragons and Bers, Oh My!
I mean, what else could it be?

The party returns to Inatch, only to find his town under siege. The party unleashes the eye once again, murdering thousands of soldiers on both sides. They confront and defeat Imry, Lady of Steel, though her husband, Lord Gradiax, is nowhere to be seen... As Inatch comes to congratulate them on the field of battle, a new army approaches. This one of men. King Boyle and his most powerful allies teleport to the hilltop on which the party and Inatch stand. A fight ensues. It is rigged. Though the party is level 11 (I sped up the process, for the sake of fun), their foes are NPCs with class levels ranging from 13-16. The party almost kills one of their foes. King Boyle defeats Inatch, appearing to kill him. The King's allies slaughter the party one and all. The last thing they see is a strange figure fleeing the battle with an orb covered in runed cloth...

This was a fun diversion and a cool way to explore some extra Zeitgeist Lore.

Wow, this was really long. Thankfully, I started this about 5 hours ago, and it made my slow day go by very quickly.

All in all, so far all of my players are loving Zeitgeist. Despite a few very minor gripes, I'm excited to lead this campaign to its conclusion not once, but twice.

I don't intend to keep updating with in-depth write-ups like some others seem to be doing. Sorry, too much extra work for me.

Have a nice day, thanks for reading, and stay warm out there!

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Your first party reminds me of a recent game I was in where two players were trying to figure out what they wanted to be, and player A started talking about things you could do as a Magus, then switched tack to ponder being a Slayer. Player B was intrigued by what he'd heard about the Magus, and a week later they both showed up with nearly identical characters, except one was an Android and the other a Human who wanted a holographic familiar.

I like the choice of making the twins' sister be in The Family. (And then I realized they're in the same family. Hm.)

The one time I tried to re-run a published campaign for a new party (The Night Below campaign for AD&D 2nd edition), it got weird keeping track of things. That was years ago, though, before I had a computer to keep easier notes.

Oh, wow, this went from a synopsis to full reviews! Cool, and thanks.

As for the Mad Shootist, I'm sorry for the ambiguous phrasing. In my head I thought of it as, "The gun has an attached rocket launcher which can hold only one rocket at a time. Once you fire it, reloading it to fire the next one is a standard action." I was probably playing a fair bit of Call of Duty then, and in those games your rocket launcher has to be reloaded after each shot. In hindsight, I realize the rest of the class has a very Samus-from-Metroid vibe, and she can fire a bunch in one go, but that wasn't my intention.

Han Jierre and Lya Jierre. Don't forget Luc.

I dig all the Ber puns. I now wish in adventure three I'd thrown in a tidbit where one of the boats Xambria tried to book passage on was filled with crates of Pemberton Industries weapons, and have one of the dockers say, "This boat is loaded for Ber."

I appreciate that you wrote this up. I honestly am amazed at the GMs who actually document each session, so it's no problem if you don't feel like regular write-ups. But please do at least pop in a year or two from now to say, "We finished!"


Han Jierre and Lya Jierre. Don't forget Luc.

Oh my god.

Thank you for the clarification on the Mad Shootist. My player will be heartbroken. I don't care though, the prestige class is still top-tier.

I will add the this tidbit to book 3, should anyone go a-lookin'.

I may update every few completed books or so, especially for my first group as we encounter new content.

It's hard to tell with Han, who's supposed to resemble Harrison Ford.

But Luc looks a lot like Mark Hamill.

And Lya is pretty spot on.



Today is update day!

Spoilers abound for books 6 and 7!

First the sad news. I was forced to disband my newer group. The availability of all five players was so limited that we met about once every 4-6 weeks. We got a couple sessions into book 2 when I called it. It was unfortunate, but that's life.

My other group is trucking along just fine, though progress has been a little slow there as well lately. During my first post, the agents were just about to meet with the Bruse.

Picking up from there, the party succeeded at the railroad challenge with the help of Pemberton's robots and some careful resource management, and calling in some favors from Risur for some extra cash flow. They quickly hunted down the nearby undead, and were able to thwart most (but not all) of Lya's subterfuge. They fared less well in the other challenge, and once Lya succeeded on her end, they did not pursue things very far with Cavallo.

The reveal that Tinker was an automaton was quite exciting. The resulting fight was a gigantic and fabulous mess. Lya and her two henchmen attempted to aid the party fend off the Bruse's attackers, but one of the agents was having absolutely none of it. He kicked Tinker's bomb over to Lya and her boys, and to avoid being killed themselves, Rush kicked the thing away. It exploded and caught the Bruse in the radius, killing him. The agent that first kicked the bomb blamed Rush for the Bruse's death and attacked Rush and Merton, killing them both as Lya helped the other agents deal with the attackers.

Lya was understandably upset, and peaced out after swearing vengeance.

The reveal of the dragon(s) was also quite exciting. The fight in the foundry was a good time. Tinker's suit and gun were quite fun. One of the agents has taken to using an eversmoking bottle (he's a pyrokineticist and so can see through the smoke), so Tera's ability to see through it as well was a handy thing to have around. In the end, Pemberton gave up Tinker to save his daughter, and the party agreed to let her live.

After winning the fight, however, Lya appeared and executed the real Tinker, surmising it would be her best revenge. She fought to the death afterwards. I'm sure she'll appear again in ghostly form soon.

Book 7 was a nice return to some investigation. The international manhunt was a pretty good time, though at this point divination powers mean a lot less footwork. The Kobold spies were an amusing aside. The party decided to attack Leone in transit, which turned out to be a mistake. Some civilians died when Leone lifted and dropped one of the inhabited train cars. But, the constables got their man and made their way north.

Fighting the frost giants was a very easy feat for my party. A pyrokineticist and a dwarven gunslinger made short work of them. The demon bears were pretty great though.

The party is now at the convocation. Nic's speech revealing his plans was a lot of fun to deliver, and was very well received. The players have been enjoying discussing the various faction plans with NPCs, and I've enjoyed making arguments for each one against players who are sometimes annoyingly intelligent people (one's an astrophysicist for god's sake). One of the players has made himself the spokesman for the Miller's Pyre faction, and almost seems willing to join the Ob if they use his plan. He has already asked me about me about making deals to switch some planets around and work with other factions. Somehow, the MAP proposal is going to come about organically, which is great. I don't think the others will go for it though. Only one murder has taken place so far, so the convocation still has a ways to go. I'm a little concerned that when Nic orders the death of the Colossus faction that the party will just... allow it to happen. But I guess I have Pemberton's toy around to spark a fight.

The players have guess at some upcoming events in the story (like travelling to different planes), but I think there are still plenty of surprises to be had.

I am very much looking forward to the upcoming books. I'm a really big fan of book 8 and I hope it plays out as well as it is written.

Great to see the write up. Sorry about your other group.

And my main co-author Thurston Hillman always loved when we made the Ob seem like good guys.


I come Bering another update to our little story. Spoilers follow for books 7-9.

My constables enjoyed their time at the Convocation, especially experimenting with the mini-dimensions. The explosive finale was suitably chaotic, and they managed to escape on their ship, equipped with the device that allows it to do a bit of plane-hopping. With a Kineticist and Mad Shootist, fights frequently feel easy to me. They basically never miss with their touch attacks, and put out incredible amounts of damage every round.

At long last we jumped into book 8. I'd been looking forward to this book for a very long time. I was excited to finally get to show the players a ton of the backstory for the campaign.

The naval engagement early on was honestly pretty funny. The party decided their best bet would be to teleport onto one of the enemy ships, only to find themselves severely out manned facing several troops on the deck of the enemy ship. They had to nope out of there quite quickly. They had equipped their ship with some powerful stealth magic/tech and slipped away. They sailed their ship up a river into Elfaivar then went over land to find Sentosa.

With a very divination-focused Occultist in my party, the ruins were scouted quickly from afar, and the party skipped most of the ruins in favor of just assaulting the illusionary Ob camp. It was a fairly fun fight with the artillery from afar. The 10-headed Lion was a fight I was looking forward to, but the party's insane damage output ended the encounter in about two rounds.

While in Sentosa, I made sure to give the party some downtime to get them to explore the ruins, which they finally did. Lots of fun stuff out there. One of my players did manage to win the fight that earned her the Arsenal, which is great. She's a ranger that does both melee and ranged combat, so it's perfect for her.

After heading out to find the Lost Arc of Reida, the players met with both parties to take stalk of the situation. During the meeting with the Clergy at Vigil Longis, my hotheaded Kineticist Skyseer got a little carried away with his moral grandstanding, and they ended up in a fight with the entire fort. They took down the paladin fairly quickly, and the remainder of the soldiers provided little challenge, and they quickly surrendered. The party sent the entire garrison packing back to Crisillyir. Minister Lee was not happy when he got the news, and chastised the party heavily for their lack of diplomatic tact. But, the party was granted entrance to the Arc of Reida's temple hiding spot. The flashback/flashforward encounters were fun.

As the party lead Kasvarina around the world, mostly with teleportation, we had a great time with the Arc and learning about the history of the Ob and the Great Malice. The realization that Kasvarina inadvertently caused the Great Malice caused quite the shock. I did feel that it was generally quite easy for Kasvarina to keep control of her mind. The final fight atop the Lance of Triegenes was pretty solid, but again, the sheer damage output ended it faster than I'd have liked. For future fights with singular powerful foes, I'm going to have to make them more dangerous by adding secondary enemies that take more than a sharp glance to take down. I'm just hesitant because I don't want add too much and kill the PCs. We'll see. I think book 9's combats will perhaps be more challenging.

Speaking of book 9, we're one session in so far. The one session I've run of the book I think may be my favorite session of Pathfinder I've ever run. I don't typically do much in the way of crazy voices, but I was resolved to change that while the players were in the Dreaming. The first interesting character they meet, the big ol caterpillar dude, was a lot of fun. I didn't really go in with a plan, but ended up with some kind of bizarre Taika Waititi-esque New Zealand accent. It was hilarious and I wish I'd recorded it. The walk-and-talk through the Unseen Court was fun as well, and then came the thing I've been looking forward to the most about this campaign for about a year.

I've been telling my players that book 9 contains a pun that will blow them away. I've been hyping this pun up for ages, knowing full well that no pun could possibly stand up to the hype. And finally, a week and a half ago, the party makes their way to the mortuary to examine Rock's body. It took them a little while to piece together what was happening, but at long last I got to lay it on them.

"You're absolutely right. What we have here... is a SHAM-ROCK!"

I couldn't stop laughing. I genuinely had to end the session because I couldn't focus anymore.

So that's about where we're at. I'm looking forward to the chaos of Torfeld Palace in act 2 of the book. I may be adding extra monsters to many of the fights just so they don't all end in 1-2 rounds. Kineticist energy blasts and Mad Shootist force bullets don't miss much, so the best solution may just be numbers. We'll see. I'm very excited to reveal Minster Harkover Lee's secret.


I return with sad tidings. I've had to pre-maturely end my original group's campaign. Sometimes life, uhh.. doesn't find a way.

We ended less than half-way through book 10, which gives you an idea of how much we've been able to play, as my last update was in January and we were starting book 9.

Book 9 was generally quite fun, it was great to explore the weirdness of the Dreaming, and I'm actually pretty proud of how I ran it. I think I managed to make the players really feel like they were in an alternate-fairy-mirror-realm.

My party was.... very strong. Copperhat never stood a chance of escaping enough to use the web tunnels, which was a shame, but the "trial" was still a fun scene to run.

The attack on the King's Palace was suitably epic with lots of combat and lots of stress. Again, my party was offensively quite powerful, so not many of the fights feel very dangerous to them anymore, but a couple of these got close. I definitely wanted to kill the King and make a player the regent. Required a little GM fiat to make sure he died, but it worked out. Greatly enjoyed revealing Minister Lee to be Inatch the Hex Drinker, especially as this group is the one I ran through a little homebrew prequel set in Ber during the fall of the dragon tyrants (see above, "Ber Necessities").

The climax of book 9, revealing Stanfield to be a traitor and fighting him atop the fortress in Flint was one of my favorite combats in the campaign so far. Definitely handed my players their biggest challenge in a long time.

As far as book 10 goes, my players set up a council to rule Flint with a few of their favorite NPCs. One PC was quite heavily invested in Morgan Cippiano but the others wouldn't let the PC install him on the council. The party only just set out for Bole and made their way to the center of the forest fire to find a brass ziggurat infested with Salamanders. Unfortunately that is the last thing they'll do.


As far as overall feedback goes, this is far and away my favorite D&D campaign story I've encountered in my ten years playing and running TTRPGs, and I think my players generally felt the same. I think it's hard to pull of a compelling and unique conspiracy/spy story in D&D, and this really pulls it off. Pulling it off does require some railroading, but I found that the players really didn't mind.

I think the fights tend to be on the weaker side for the most part. My players were all very experienced, so that might have contributed to the feeling. I think the most glaring issue for me is Firearms. By far the most absurdly powerful PC was the Gunslinger/Fighter who took the unique firearm prestige class that gave him an insanely powerful force blaster. Pathfinder lacks easy, reasonable ways to defend against firearms, so every foe from small mooks to enormous monsters got cut down like butter between hitting touch AC and doing quite significant (often force) damage. If I were to run the campaign again, I would 100% ban the use of that prestige class. I think it gives an already powerful character a lot of extra very powerful tools that just tip it from being very strong to far far too strong.

The use of the theme feats throughout a 13 book campaign I think might be the most praise-worthy part of the whole thing. They really make the story feel unique to the players and characters in each individual campaign. I think I've mentioned before that Paizo tends to use their campaign traits as intros only, and they're quickly forgotten, which has always seemed like a shame to me. But the theme feat choices determine a lot of interesting factors throughout the entire campaign, and I love that.

Though I doubt this particular campaign will ever reconvene, hopefully someday I'll be able to start up again with a new group.

Thanks so much for the feedback.

We were nearly done with the whole AP when I started playing in my friend's Iron Gods game and realized, oh dang, lasers are pretty strong.

Did you just drop the game entirely, or did you tell the players how it could have turned out from there?

Good luck in your future gaming.


I gave one player about a page long synopsis of what follows, but the others are holding out hope we can get the team back together at some point. One of them just had a kid, and I'm about to start an intensive training course that will take up 100% of my time until April, so I don't really think it's going to work out.

Thanks for the several years of excellent D&D!

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