I've made up some statblocks for the infiltration team, to give to my players. I've added one more team member (Viktor, a dwarf ranger) and I changed Tanya from a shaman to a warlord, because my party already has a shaman with a spirit wolf companion.
-PCs succeeded in docks challenge, just scraping it. It worked very well and they enjoyed it.
-Unfortunately, by succeeding the nex tbit felt a little long as there was a LOT of exposition and not much action. PCs felt there were too many NPCs. If they had failed the challenge, this would have been a little more interesting at least. In the end I skipped the tour of the ship.
-PCs have just gone down to wake the Duchess - they heard a splash and have kicked open the door. Astonishingly, one of my PCs has just made a skill check to ask what he knows about sea-based archfey kidnapping people. Note that this is BEFORE he has spotted the archfey. He is basing this on a throwaway comment by the king (page 12): “One of the local archfey is upset I parked my ship here,” he guesses, laughing it off. “One of the burdens of kingship; the fey can really let me know when they’ve got an opinion. I always get burps that taste like fish when I sail these days. I think that he is psychic.
-I'm very excited now - this is the bit I have been waiting for; I do hope it does not end in the tpk.
Good luck. Sounds like your players are invested and paying attention. Always a great sign.
I don't think any of the groups so far has had a TPK. If you're willing to go a little Meta, you might create a scale to track the heat in the boiler, and increase it by 1 for every round of time that ticks off the countdown, so the players can see how dangerous things are getting. Maybe say there's a gauge on the boiler with a reading that goes from "Safe Temperature" to "Emergency: Evacuate Immediately" to "Engine Explosion."
Why don't you redesign it Rangerwicket? a Coaltongue 2.0. There are many of us who haven't started running the campaign yet. I am curious what it would look like after all the improvements But it bet it would be a lot of work
That's true, I'm waiting until at least half of the adventure has been released before I start running, so whenever book 6 or 7 comes out that's when I'll start getting the group going on characters. Hopefully that will not be too much longer?
I really do not think that this encounter map needs to be redesigned to make the layout slightly more realistic. I think its fine as it is. The only thing I would suggest is a bit of photo-shopping to remove the erroneous wall on the lowest deck, which can screw with the GM and players. Here's a version of the lower deck map with the offending wall removed. Other than this, the existing map is absolutely fine.
PCs saved the colatongue - actually it was pretty easy in the end. I reduced the number of rounds of countdown from 40 to 30 (since 30 rounds = exactly the length of the 3 minute anthem). At one point they were only 7 rounds from disaster, but once the enemies were defeated they stabilised the furnace (by frantically shovelling the gems out holding a fire charm each) with ease. At one point they almost gave up and started evacuating the ship. Overall I feel it went extremely well.
I used the newspaper clippings maker to make a little article after the PCs were interviewed by a journalist.
Act 2 has now begun: PCs have kitted themselves up, solved a puzzle about three towers, and are discussing the duchess' motivations on the RNS Impossible with Captain Rutgar and the Infiltration Team. Each PC has now selected one of the Infiltrators to adopt as I have explained to them that the process of swimming through the caves, sneaking into the fort and opening the sea gate is FAR too difficult for level 1 PCs.
- PCs took control of the Special Infiltration team and died instantly in the tunnel collapse. I'm not sure that giving the PCs the infiltrator stats was a good idea in hindsight - felt a bit gotcha.
- PCs took burton back to the ship after freeing him by amputating his leg. Having spotted the sharks,they seemed to want to give up at this point. I pushed and they started to make crazy plans to distract the sharks.
- Eventually they arrived at the Sea Cave encounter, which I think went really well. A few rounds of combat (which was quite crazy - I'd advise all GMs & players to read up on the errata'd swimming/treading water/ climbing rules before the combat starts as PCs begin the encounter in 10-feet of water) followed by negotiations. The PCs really liked Dupiers, and had quite a long chat. They asked if they could borrow the Air Icon(Dupiers relented) and then tried to borrow the shadow and earth icons. He gave them the shadow icon, unhappily (and only because they had killed his shadow-creature) but he kept the earth one.
- Dupiers agreed to take the PCs to meet the other miners who had fled to the refinery facility down the hill. On route they stumbled across the mass grave of the miners. Abit of investigation and shock and Dupiers was very angry. Out pops miner Pierre, the lone survivor, railing against Risur and explaining about the Dryads. He tells PCs that the Risuri army had raided the facility but that a group of refugees led by the Danori rebel commander Napoleon is hiding in the jungle - he can take them there.Napoleon is trying to make contact with another group of refugees and the Archaeological Society from the workshop down south.
- Dupiers returns to the mine and Pierre leads the PCs down to the abandoned facility, which has a Risuri rebel guard squad searching it for WMD, led by Investigator Hans Blicks. PCs decided to ambush them to capture and question them(Pierre was enthusiastic) and I decided to allow them to do this instantly with no dice rolls by losing 1 surge each, so that worked.They questioned Blicks, a loyal Risuri military man who was not forthe turning, even if the Duchess was working against the king, and would not give them the gate codes for the Fort. They found his codesheet and translated the codes anyway (I attach the codesheet), so now they know the codeword and the changeling in the party memorised his identity. They left the Risuri military men tied up (having stolen the uniforms) but unharmed.
- Pierre tried to lead them to the Danori rebel camp again, where the PCs intended to raise an army to storm the Fort/create a diversion, but then they realised it was in the opposite direction, so they decided to change their plan. After an argument about politics with Pierre, they parted ways and headed off alone to the fort.
- Encounter with reality fluctuation -this went really well. PCs terrified. Remembered about Burton saying things about a swamp and purple sky, and calling it home, so they realised that this alternate reality must be where goblins are originally from! Somehow they think the mystery of Axis is connected to Burton. Attaching a .png I made of the swamp.
- Encounter with trapped wagon.perceived the trap and avoided it carefully. Encounter with colossus going well so far except that they all rolled imitative and intend to fight it I think!
They did consider trying to hit the colossus to make it change direction and drive it into either the trapped wagon, or else Axis Fort, but it was too powerful and they were too slow. Shame. Overall the random encounters on the way to the fort were a really great touch and added a lot to the adventure - to think they only take up half a page yet are my favourite bit so far!
Here is a map of Axis Fort with all the labels removed for players, and the map I am giving them when as they first approach.
Finished Adventure 1! The module was finished and now we are about to begin Adventure 2.
Overall I feel Axis at the Centre of the World is the best module I have ever run as a DM of several decades' experience. I have no direct feedback from the players, but they all seemed to enjoy it and are looking forward to the second adventure.
I would echo other GMs observations that the combats are too easy, and recommend future GMs to increase the tension of these a little bit. Otherwise I have nothing but praise.
In the last scene, my PCs totally forgot about their Wand of Magic Missiles (provided by Massarde when they saved the coaltongue), and literally threw everything they had at the eladrin warrior (trying to execute the duchess and kidnap Nathan and flee) but everything just bounced off. Then our psion realised he had the (almost) perfect power: a daily that attacked one target then caused auto-damage to one adjacent target. So he attacked Nathan and killed Asrabey indirectly - but the outcome was that this destroyed the mind of Nathan Jierre forever, and he is now holed up in a mental asylum in Flint. The RHC were not terribly impressed and Saxby got all the credit.
I made some handouts for my players for adventure 2: