ZEITGEIST Question about starting Zeitgeist

hirou

Explorer
While we're at it, could you elaborate
the "extra" vision for Vekeshi mistique? The one with dog-headed healer of Srasama.
 

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Adventure nine, climax, stars fall from the sky. One strikes the building the PCs are fighting Stanfield in, demolishes it, and remains as a glowing ember on the ground. Stanfield reincarnates as a rakshasa, taunts party, and is seemingly invulnerable because magic isn't working right. But you can kill him with the falling star.

It's a dog-faced god because some gods just have dog faces.
 


jacktannery

Explorer
While we are on the subject: What about this one from Cauldron Hill (adv 2)

You sit in a field of grass, the night sky overhead, the planets hanging huge and low. Breeze whips the grass across your skin, and a tiger stalks you, somewhere out in the dark. A light flares overhead, an old blue star called Mishados, and it begins to drift downward. Not to the horizon, but toward the earth. Then other stars rattle, like grains of sand shaken loose from a wet glass, and their descent turns to a plummet, turns to a streaking rain of light. They fall in all directions, but you know where Mishados will fall, and you know you must catch it.

By the way in Digging for Lies now and loving every second. Thank you so much!
 


Elfshire

First Post
Two more questions since we're on the topic of mystical divinations:

1) Why does Nevard's vision refer to Luc as "a trumpeter"? I don't get the connection/symbolism.

2) In chapter 5, Ekossigan's poem is a bit vague, correct me if I wander astray in my interpretation:

When spring returns to winter,
> Okay, Ekossigan's coming. It's going to snow.

The cauldron births a spark.
> Cauldron Hill releases Borne.

The steel betrays the vintner,
> Borne attacks one of its creators, Leone, who enjoys wine as showcased in Chapter 2.

The silver spuns the arc.
> No idea on this one. Best guess is it's a clever turn of phrase for "things don't go as planned," a reference to the silver arc of Reida. Unclear if this would be a common euphemism in Risur/Lanjyr, or if Ekossigan made it up off the top of his head.

The fire-bride's dissension: / Dismissed by green-adorned.
> King Aodhan (who wears green) is largely ignoring his fiance Lya's involvement in the conspiracy in the aim of making sure the peace talks go well. After all, just because she's into something sketchy doesn't mean all of Danor is.

The wheel-woven dead man
> Grappa, who is currently inhabiting a golem body made of cogs and gears.

Shall wake the cauldron-born.
> Borne's emergence is triggered by Grappa's arrival in the Bleak Gate facility.
 

skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
The fire-bride's dissension: / Dismissed by green-adorned.
> King Aodhan (who wears green) is largely ignoring his fiance Lya's involvement in the conspiracy in the aim of making sure the peace talks go well. After all, just because she's into something sketchy doesn't mean all of Danor is..

I read that as referring to Kasvarina (bride of the fiery Asrabey) dissenting from the Ob, but the Ekossigan's band of green-adorned faeriefolk not caring and making their own attack plans.

but I could see yours as well...
 

Two more questions since we're on the topic of mystical divinations:

1) Why does Nevard's vision refer to Luc as "a trumpeter"? I don't get the connection/symbolism.

That's not Luc. It's Nicodemus, a charismatic speaker. He gets on stage in act 8 and lights a lantern that makes everyone loyal. (Then he tries to kill them.)

2) In chapter 5, Ekossigan's poem is a bit vague, correct me if I wander astray in my interpretation:

When spring returns to winter,
The cauldron births a spark.
The steel betrays the vintner,
The silver spuns the arc.

> No idea on this one. Best guess is it's a clever turn of phrase for "things don't go as planned," a reference to the silver arc of Reida. Unclear if this would be a common euphemism in Risur/Lanjyr, or if Ekossigan made it up off the top of his head.

It's the sliver spurns the arc, but basically yes, it's a reference to Reida's lost arc, and how it's a symbol for unpredictability.

The fire-bride's dissension: / Dismissed by green-adorned.
The wheel-woven dead man / Shall wake the cauldron-born.

Yeah, that's all spot on.
 


Arcaneshield

Explorer
Hi guys, I've noticed a lot of you running the adventure, and that's awesome. I'm on adventure 1 and I'm having difficulty deciphering the Coaltongue map. Namely, how does someone get from the 3rd floor to the boiler room? There are clearly marked 'up/down' stairs for each of the floors except the last two, the third only having 'up', not 'down'.
 

skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
Hi guys, I've noticed a lot of you running the adventure, and that's awesome. I'm on adventure 1 and I'm having difficulty deciphering the Coaltongue map. Namely, how does someone get from the 3rd floor to the boiler room? There are clearly marked 'up/down' stairs for each of the floors except the last two, the third only having 'up', not 'down'.

In the original deck plans, there are two ladders forward (right next to the door to the storage room), two ladders midship, leading down from the large grated area, and two aft, right in front of the stacks, that lead down right on top of the boiler. There are no stairs.

In the updated deck plans, there are all kinds of stairs.
 


skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
I think those came from Admiral o' the High Seas and/or the five-adventure compilation that just came out. I don't know if they got added into the Axis Island pdf.
 



*wobbles a bit* It's a very simplified system for quick resolution. Firing forward, you have the brand. Firing other directions and you have a mix of cannons and spells flung by mages drawing from the capacitor.

I've played ship combat rulesets like in Rogue Trader, where there's lot of precision in different weapons, defenses, and damaged locations, but I felt like most D&D/PF groups would prefer "ship combat that leads to melee" rather than just ship-to-ship. So I didn't want the ship-to-ship to take too long, since melee combat already lasts a while.
 

jacktannery

Explorer
Update on our game http://www.rpol.net/game.cgi?gi=54669&date=1415240543

Dying Skyseer
-After dealing with the Smugglers Night encounters the team regroup and spend a long time deciding what to do next. Their main concern is taking down Kell, but they have a lot of loose ends to tie up at this stage so things take time and lots of contacts are tapped.
-One of the PCs makes a formal complain to Saxby about their team using torture on the smugglers, so Saxby sighs and agrees to call in the Viscount Inspector but is pretty pissed off.
-Old Faith encounter. Encounter goes well, PCs get letters but Leone kidnaps Doctor and PCs manage to flee with Gale's help; but PCs are seriously pissed off by Leone and feel their agency has been hijacked. This led to a stop in our game and the players critiqued the modules, here's a sample below from the OOC 2014 thread posts 810-845.

My point is not that I'm surprised about it -- I clearly got the memo we shouldn't fight this guy (as for Ekko and Rose, they wouldn't care even if they knew his stats up front I suppose). I'm fine with the outcome given the Nat 1 Stealth.

In terms of discussing the point as a whole, I mean mostly that it is extremely subjective trying to convey by language something's relative power level, and I may have acted differently if Quinsel perhaps understood the signals you were trying to convey, which I as the player didn't interpret in the same way. I'm not sure whether that's good or bad.

If you asked me what I thought his level was, I would have gone with 8 to 10 tops, likely 7: The barring of the doors was quite possibly "module fiat" written into the module. We've seen "module fiat" repeatedly. It almost certainly is fiat, I doubt there's a full stat block power "Bar Door; Encounter Power; Leone bars one cave entrance using conveniently-present bars of iron. Breaking these is a DC 16 strength check." If it's written at all, it's probably a sentence stating matter-of-fact that he blocks the door, and it's a DC 16 strength check.

That inherently is why I can't judge what kind of "weight" the action should hold. I admit it is a problem of 4e that you can't represent by its rules things like this. But because of that, I personally have no reference point for what it means to block a door in that fashion. Maybe in the module it says "because of his epic mastery and control over metal, Leone can do this kind of crazy thing not covered by the rules" but we didn't read that part.

*Is* Leone blocking the door really much different than a DC 16 Hold Portal ritual that either I or Ekko might perform for instance? Would I have known if I made an Arcana check? (Real question)


Compare Leone here to Adventure 1, where the "paragon" Eladrin fire assassin blew up boats left and right off camera. Even Paragon attack powers wouldn't account for that unless he hit all the firepowder stores -- that was more module fiat, but the point was pretty straightforward, "that guy blows up entire ships."

Then when we fought him (Asrabey?), he was tough but not invincible. It was written into the module that he was now "hurt" by the time we meet him. (Though I generally question having much higher level NPCs written into adversarial roles when combat is an option and warranted by the situation, and egged-on by the NPC, as it was then).

Maybe my meeting that NPC colored the situation: It seemed improbable by comparison that people stronger than him, the several-hundred-year-old Elite Eladrin Enforcer sent from the Feywild on a special mission, would suddenly appear out of nowhere.


As far as "signals" though, keep in mind we had been "chasing" Asrabey for almost the entirety of the adventure, and witnessed many instances of him doing crazy-off-the-wall epic stuff. Foreshadowing by the bucket.

He blew up a couple of boats with all hands on deck, teleported almost a mile or something, demonstrated powerful attack magic (or magic weapons) repeatedly as he cut his way through dozens of NPC soldiers ahead of us, whipped out a clearly-epic magic item that let us all walk through dimensions for a little while, was recognized by face and name by the Duchess who was the "mastermind" of the adventure (and she was scared of him) -- Asrabey got a real drum roll introduction.

This guy Leone shows up unannounced after we drive off what we've up to this point assumed was the Big Bad (or the Big Bad's right-hand man).

Unannounced at least to me -- I recall nothing suggesting his existence before this point. He comes riding in a carriage drawn by what looks like Phantom Steeds (another ritual, relatively easy, though presumably his were undead ghosts and also in the realm of "module fiat"), surrounded by ghost-mooks we just killed several of.

Quinsel still has no idea who he is after he gives his name and tries a History check to place the personage. From a story standpoint, sure he is some guy that was hiding in the shadows, but "I've never heard of you" is not the reaction expected from most near-epic entities.

The part about stripping Adarun of all his metal and throwing it at him was kind of a "WTF?" moment, but not enough for me to discount it as more than a "He's an NPC, a wizard did it" explanation. Partially the fact that he kept hiding after that also suggested maybe that wasn't a thing he could really do "at will." What I do know is that he can move some metal folding chairs around at will ... uh, handy? Honestly a level 1 Mage Hand could practically pull off the same stunt.

It got dark strangely, but that was not explained as being related to Leone. Still not sure what happened, just a planar shift?

So the evidence (I feel) I had to this point was that "He's a powerful new enemy NPC guy maybe related to the next adventure. We're already beat up, so let's not start another fight now if we can help it."

If the metal manipulation was intended to convey his epic power, speaking as a player that didn't work for me. Not nearly impressive or foreshadowed enough.


Here is what would have communicated it to me:

1. If he had led with the "All metal (including his big carriages) fly around in the air in a shrapnel tornado menacingly and he doesn't break a sweat, and if we enter the area take 5d10 damage and get knocked prone"

2. "You recognize his family crest from some obscure book -- rumors speak of an unfathomably powerful nethermancer many hundreds of years old originally out of Crissilyir. He is said to live in a personal fiefdom he rules with a magical iron fist. Not even the Crissilyir Clergy can refuse his demands. Harkover Lee used to be his apprentice." (Only slight exaggeration.)

3. One or more of his underlings "offends" him in some way, so he blows their heads up quite spectacularly to serve as an example. Then maybe reanimates them as zombies, and blows their heads up again. Spectacularly.

4. A statement "You are observing what is at least a level 20 magical effect that he can perform at will." This method is simplest and most direct I feel. It instantaneously speaks to me directly as a player saying "Here Be Dragons." EDIT: There is no room in that statement for my "Player Ego" to misconstrue.

Another Player
Some thoughts on this encounter, and the adventure in general. In general, D&D isn't set up up to handle big level spreads. 4E is worse than most because of how tightly coupled the attack and damage math is. I don't know what the stats of the guys in the Temple were, but for me that was a really good example of an 'Oh :):):):)!' encounter, with tough skirmishers and artillery in unfavorable terrain, and a boss that is at our level is tough and deadly, but doable. I'd guess the Bleak Gate Killer is maybe a Level 6 Solo, which with some buddies makes for a scary encounter.

After that, the encounter with Leone is not well placed. This might be down to DMing styles, but narratively we deserve a clean win at this point. We've traced a bunch of obscure leads, saved the day a couple of times, gotten our hands dirty working for a crime lord, beat up a more powerful NPC who yanked our chains back at the start of the adventure, and finally rescued an important witness and the documents. We've worked hard and played smart. Having some god-like NPC show up without even a chance to savor our victory, trap us, and threaten our lives and the evidence that could solve this case, is just cheap.

From a design standpoint, a Level 20 Solo in 4e against a party like us will be a TPK. We'll never hit, he'll never miss, and he probably has enough movement modes that we can't even run. This doesn't mean that Leone shouldn't exist, but that if he shows up this point he should be written as a skill challenge focused on escape and survival. And for players that don't listen to reason, there should be a 'getting captured' failure condition.

I've been having a lot of fun with this game, but 'The Dying Skyseer' hasn't been as tightly plotted as Chapter I. We started with the murder of Nilasa Hume, but rapidly hit dead-ends with Recklinghausen and Officer Porter as our best leads. I don't think anything we've done could've expedited following the evidence from the scene of the crime. Heward Sechim and the problems with unsafe factories and such was fun and gave us valuable allies, but wasn't directly tied to the case. Likewise, everything with Nevard is a similar side plot. Only taking the Griffon brought us closer to resolving the case.

Right now, we have evidence of a bunch of conspiracies that threaten Flint and Risur. I'm willing to bet that the documents will reveal that the Flametongue was made using stolen Danoran material, but we didn't learn that until recently. More worrying is the Witchoil Golem people, who strike me as Dr. Mengele-style evil, and who might be linked to Mayor Macbannin, who is supposed to be protecting the city against existential threats. There's also Kell and the Family and Los Hermanos Draconis and the arson campaign, which was set in motion to cover up... something... possibly the thefts for the Coaltongue. But basically I have no idea what's going on, and that's not good.

I hope that this is constructive criticism. If there were some specific things I'd like communicated to the adventure writers, it's that I could've used a murder-related plot advancement somewhere between the first encounter with Officer Porter and the battle at the ruined temple, and that the opposition could use some fleshing out. Shadowy conspiracies are good for some things, but it seems like the forces at work behind this Danor-Risur alliance are trying to end the world, have committed numerous crimes in pursuit of ending the world, and have gotten in the player's way. We need to have an identifiable face and a way to hit them, or at least a counter-balancing opposed conspiracy. Some thoughts on this encounter, and the adventure in general. In general, D&D isn't set up up to handle big level spreads. 4E is worse than most because of how tightly coupled the attack and damage math is. I don't know what the stats of the guys in the Temple were, but for me that was a really good example of an 'Oh :):):):)!' encounter, with tough skirmishers and artillery in unfavorable terrain, and a boss that is at our level is tough and deadly, but doable. I'd guess the Bleak Gate Killer is maybe a Level 6 Solo, which with some buddies makes for a scary encounter.

After that, the encounter with Leone is not well placed. This might be down to DMing styles, but narratively we deserve a clean win at this point. We've traced a bunch of obscure leads, saved the day a couple of times, gotten our hands dirty working for a crime lord, beat up a more powerful NPC who yanked our chains back at the start of the adventure, and finally rescued an important witness and the documents. We've worked hard and played smart. Having some god-like NPC show up without even a chance to savor our victory, trap us, and threaten our lives and the evidence that could solve this case, is just cheap.

From a design standpoint, a Level 20 Solo in 4e against a party like us will be a TPK. We'll never hit, he'll never miss, and he probably has enough movement modes that we can't even run. This doesn't mean that Leone shouldn't exist, but that if he shows up this point he should be written as a skill challenge focused on escape and survival. And for players that don't listen to reason, there should be a 'getting captured' failure condition.

I've been having a lot of fun with this game, but 'The Dying Skyseer' hasn't been as tightly plotted as Chapter I. We started with the murder of Nilasa Hume, but rapidly hit dead-ends with Recklinghausen and Officer Porter as our best leads. I don't think anything we've done could've expedited following the evidence from the scene of the crime. Heward Sechim and the problems with unsafe factories and such was fun and gave us valuable allies, but wasn't directly tied to the case. Likewise, everything with Nevard is a similar side plot. Only taking the Griffon brought us closer to resolving the case.

Right now, we have evidence of a bunch of conspiracies that threaten Flint and Risur. I'm willing to bet that the documents will reveal that the Flametongue was made using stolen Danoran material, but we didn't learn that until recently. More worrying is the Witchoil Golem people, who strike me as Dr. Mengele-style evil, and who might be linked to Mayor Macbannin, who is supposed to be protecting the city against existential threats. There's also Kell and the Family and Los Hermanos Draconis and the arson campaign, which was set in motion to cover up... something... possibly the thefts for the Coaltongue. But basically I have no idea what's going on, and that's not good.

I hope that this is constructive criticism. If there were some specific things I'd like communicated to the adventure writers, it's that I could've used a murder-related plot advancement somewhere between the first encounter with Officer Porter and the battle at the ruined temple, and that the opposition could use some fleshing out. Shadowy conspiracies are good for some things, but it seems like the forces at work behind this Danor-Risur alliance are trying to end the world, have committed numerous crimes in pursuit of ending the world, and have gotten in the player's way. We need to have an identifiable face and a way to hit them, or at least a counter-balancing opposed conspiracy.

and more
I agree. Leone showing up with no warning is like a "Rocks Fall" moment. I'm sure he existed in the writer's head all along as the mastermind, but as it is, this feels about as meaningful as an old-school random encounter (roll d% and consult the table -- oh look, the Terrasque).

It would feel a lot different if we knew this guy from the beginning and had dealt with him enough that it made sense from our perspective for him to be getting in our way.

The Nazis at the beginning of that Indiana Jones movie(s) works as a set-up -- because they get screwed later. And everyone knows who they are immediately.

It seems in this scene something like that is being attempted here, but the difference is that Indy is a character on screen 5 minutes into a movie, and we've been controlling these PCs it's happening to for a long time. Undoubtedly we are expected to stick it to Leone in the end, but that's what ... 15 levels away?

Now, it would be substantially different if Leone instead of being some random guy revealed himself as being Mayor MacBannin all along. If that's his real identity anyway, it should have been made obvious at the beginning of this encounter, so we have some stake in this person and the sense "we know where you live" and may have been more receptive to his side of the story ("Why would the mayor do such a thing" etc.).

The plot has been all over the place, like we're trying to fit three separate adventures into one unified whole within the same module (as opposed to loosely connected adventure paths). I don't think every single plot point in the campaign has to be revealed in adventure 2 -- save some for later :).

My impression is also a lot of "That lead we had ... is gone. But wait, there's something shiny over there! Let's follow it and hope it connects to something relevant!" I've thought the adventure was "over" several times now -- because there's so many different subplots involving horrendous threats to the city's wellbeing that we keep churning through, except none of them really got any resolution (yet).

Deep down I know they're all connected somehow, but even at this point it's very tenuous, almost Scooby-Doo. "The villain was the groundskeeper! You know, that person you saw for only one scene early on, and his reason for doing the crime in the way he did it still makes no sense (And where were the actual police? Why is this dog talking?)!"

Or like a game of Clue, except everybody did it, and for different reasons, and they all report to this one guy who isn't even in the mansion at all, but they don't know that fact, and they don't even think they 'did it.'

I find it kind of hard to believe that the same person/people wrote adventure 1 and adventure 2.

 If we had one (or even two) actual targets to pursue, we could let the other incidental crazyness slide more easily. Even now we're chasing shadows of shadows. If Porter or MacBannin were the Big Bad for this adventure, even if they ultimately worked for someone else (as is standard), then there'd be "a face." As it stands, now I'm thinking, "Is Porter really anybody special at all, or is he just a higher-level mook?" "Is MacBannin really a bad guy, or is he going to turn out even now to be a good guy we were sort of tricked into doubting?"

Forcefully: This adventure was a lot of fun. The GM and players are great. The underlying plot though shows weaknesses and feels railroady. I've seen much worse. But this is sort of an over-reaching plot, failure-to-meet-expectations situation.

I feel for the writer as a fellow GM -- there's the attempt to make set piece encounters that are memorable and "film-noir" drama. Ever-unfolding mysteries. Different options to solve the ultimate mystery, the players don't have to really pursue everything. But those kinds of things are just damned hard to do without a very specific group of players in mind, and will have poor showing on the "mass market."

I suspect half of us kind of got bored with the detectivework after a while. Particularly because it never seemed to lead anywhere except to a completely separate mystery we weren't even looking for, and there was rarely the same NPC in any two scenes. This module was like an entire campaign forced into a single adventure booklet: too much too fast.

I liked the characters and their motivations, and definitely feel that the "city" is a real place with lots of stories. I just don't want to deal with 100% of the city's stories all at once.

- PCs are uncertain what to do next, so I push them into the adventure's last scene - covert ops at Macbannin's manor. They do a ton of research and split into three groups: (i) two PCs put on iron amulets, pass through metal rings with an allies' assistance, and sneak directly into the reservoir (which they have suspected exists); (ii) two PCs sneak around outside and scout grounds; (iii) 1 PC disguises himself as Kell guard/servant and sneaks into manor house. They all split up, group (i) pretend to be important visitors to the lab and speak with Marjory, Kell's girlfriend Kaja Stuart. Macbannin and his butler appear and enter the lab, there is a kerfuffle and some excitement, and the PCs win the day (with a lot of confusion from me about fixing the lab, whereby I stupidly let slip about the colossus....).

Digging for Lies
Kaybeau Arms and Technology Exposition went well. Encounter really easy as usual. PCs go first to Prof Weber, then to Caius (obviously the big bad lol!), golem crime scene (they work out it's Leone!) and finally go to Kaja/Marjory. All going well so far.
 

I'm sympathetic to your players' concerns. The Leone scene was intended to be frustration-causing, but in a motivational "we're gonna get that guy some day" sorta way. It got a lot of retooling and discussion with my players to figure out how best to present it so as not to be a railroad, but I guess in the context of the rest of the adventure it might have been too much.

I felt it was necessary to have an "inescapable death trap" show up. I mean, it's classic.

I probably could have done a better job with suggestions for adapting the adventure for different playstyles. And (edited now that I've read the PbP posts in question), I think what I should have included is a big note saying, "Once the players have figured out how to get out of this scene, let them pull it off. If they botch the execution, punish them a bit, but don't force a fight they can't win."

I think in this particular situation, a nat-1 Stealth check might have warranted the rest of the party getting out of range, but the PC who failed gets spotted and flung off the cliff by Leone, who throws a bar at him. The PC tumbles down the cliff, is knocked out, and has a couple broken bones that weaken him for the rest of the adventure. But the party is able to recover him and get away before Leone and company can get down the cliff to chase them.


I can see where your players are coming from, though, regarding the lack of resolution. During writing it, my conception of the adventure was, "You look into a lead on the Gale case, but as you investigate it you find a complicated web of mystery." The first adventure was a pilot episode of TV. This one is a novel, and so the pacing is slower, and it takes longer for any given plot thread to resolve. All adventure long you're fighting against an active enemy who is trying to thwart you. Some groups seemed fine with this -- lots of them assembled investigation boards with strings and pictures and such. But as one of your players said, it's not for everyone. And there comes a point when yeah, the players want to feel like they're winning. I imagine it's harder to tell how the group feels in a PbP.

I'm curious how your players feel about the adventure in hindsight. And I'm quite impressed you're still playing several months in; that's quite a bit of stamina for a PbP.
 
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jacktannery

Explorer
... And I'm quite impressed you're still playing several months in; that's quite a bit of stamina for a PbP.

First post was on Sun 24 Feb 2013. So that is two years actually!

I have a query. Players have just escaped from Ziggurat of Apet (Digging for Lies Act 2) and have met the Voice of Rot. It says:

'My slumber is disturbed...... Find it. Cut its flesh, then do as you please. Kill it, and it will rot. Send it home, and it will despair. Either, and I shall be appeased.'

and the module goes on to state that: 'If the party does not obey the titan’s wishes (i.e., they bloody Xambria/ Sijhen at some point), then at the end of the adventure each PC./...'

I do not understand. It seems that bloodying Sijhen is exactly what the Voice of Rot is asking the PCs to do, or killing/banishing Sijhen. Bloodying a creature is just half-way to killing it, right? Why would the Voice not want Sijhen bloodied? Especially after asking the PCs to cut its flesh?
 

Elfshire

First Post
I think that's just a case of ambiguous wording. It should say something like...

"If they do not obey the titan (who wishes them to bloody Xambria/Sijhen at some point)..."
 

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