ZEITGEIST [Spoilers] Arkgeist Chronicles

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
You're right about that. I enjoyed 4e combat immensely, but always felt a bit crestfallen after major set-pieces because they would inevitable become hog-tied by mechanics.

But in terms of what you said about 'woefully underestimating the capacities of a max-level party', I think we'll share that problem.
 
Our group is generally accustomed to working with 4e, so we can handle the mechanics-heavy, grid-based, gamist combat. It is an entirely different beast from the free-wheeling, cinematic, narrative combat of a game like the Cypher System. What works for the former may not work for the latter, and vice versa; I am afraid that any 4e-specific assessments I can give will be inapplicable to a vastly different system.
 
I have only briefly looked at the final battle as my players are some time away from it. Based on my expectations of player achievement I expect Kasavarina to be on the PC's side and Nicodemus to be neutralised fairly easily by knowing who he is and either focus firing him to death or maybe re-uniting his split spirit. From what I recall that makes neutralising Bourne easy.

So I am thinking either I need to boost the Ob, or take the battle against the Voice of Rot as a climatic battle and make this one a philsophical choice as the players settle on the new world.
Option 1 Battle Royale
The Ob controlled world against the pc's
Pull out all the stops so a couple of Danoran Sky Dreadnoughts , and a Sky carrier launching wave after wave of improved dragon fliers armed with Ghost sighted missiles , controlled by a Ghost which goes incorporeal as the missile hits which should put the hurt on the Coaltongue if present or larger than human characters. A bunch of Drakr Steam tanks or maybe Giant steamsuit mecha on the ground with maybe a few heavy gun batterries. Beran shock troops Minotaur and Half giant troops armed with really big guns and steam suits as elite expendanble infantry . Crissilyan battle monks (It looks like their clerics are out of the picture) but elite monks trained to dodge gunfire hunting the pc gunmen,. Nihilist Drakran Eschatologists or Crisslyans abandoned by their faith charging in as suicide bombers to try and hurt the gods among them (the pc's)
In this case you may want to bring more pc allies to the battlefield and make it army against army with the heroes trying to block the ritual in the center of a swirling battle to the death. Pemberton crushing a Battalion of tanks beneath his claws, Gale sweeping the dragon ships from the sky with a near fatal effort all to buy the pc's time. A Fey titan sacrificing the last of its power to shatter the Drakran artillery batterries , or any other allies of the pc's you rememeber or they remember

Option 2 Philosophy
Obviously they are going to have to take Nic out of the battle but them with the overwhelming power of the pc's have Han order the battle to stop and plead with the pc's to help the Ob make a better world , this is the turn of the ages , the last chance to remake a better world . Surely they have to make the deaths which have come so far amount to something. Kasavarina also argues for what would make a better world
And the players choose and they know their actions decide the fate of more than one world, any world they don't choose is doomed to die in the Gyre. Can they abandon the dancing skeletons, the polite goblins or any of the others they have met.
Let them create Binary planatery systems , but give them concerns about how the combined influence of the worlds will turn out . Hell let them make a Jupiter with half a dozen different moons if they think they can control the planar influences from that .

I am probably going to choose based on how my players feel after saving the cities and fighting the Voice . I may go with a combination of the 2 with the players in the aftermath of victory deciding the fate of the world amidst the rubble , and to quote a great man 'Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won. '
 
I have never run across and final battle in an AP which can handle a fully optimised and battle ready team of pc's unless you attrit the hell out of them before the final battle they go Nova and hit with everything. However I have also yet to fail in rebuiding said final battle so it looked like they could lose and they had to sweat for their victories.
There are 2 big parts to the problem
1) Variable skill levels I have encountered players and GM's whose high level characters are actually fairly weak due to poor design , bad choice of abilities and spells, not using those abilities they have . I have also encountered and tend to GM for groups who push the envelope and have every advantage ready. The AP has to deal with both and the sort of GM whose group are bad on mechanics is also often weak on mechanics and so the AP has to err on providing a challange they can face , while the GM used to highly efficient characters has either learned to adapt or given in to their ineveitable victories and so hopefully can prep the encounter for them.
2) High level characters can be very different from each other and which options they have taken can turn an encounter from a cakewalk to a massacre. My team will be very light on Arcane magic which cuts out many of their options but have a nigh unkillable tank , lots of guns and a good cleric. This means that some opponents like incorporeal creatures are more of a challange for them than the average while things with massive AC from natural armour like dragons and giants are very easy to hit.
 

arkwright

Explorer
I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the final battle. Haven’t analysed it too closely myself. What specific issues have you run across?

I was thinking myself of making the ancient seal site truly huge, because it doesn’t seem big enough to me. The thing in the centre is supposed to be 300 feet across isn’t it?

Anyway, that might create more problems than it solves. But it would mean that the sky ships would fit on the ‘map’, and it would take several round to travel from stone pillar to stone pillar. Separate groups or individuals would effectively be cut off from their allies by sheer distance.

I’m also thinking of having Pemberton’s gnolls in dragon fliers supporting the Ob, because I think there need to be more bad guys!

I’d love to hear your ideas.
Heyo. Thus far all I have done is read through the encounter a few times; I have yet to actually set my mind to planning how I will actually execute it. I would note that, per the book, separate groups are explicitly meant to be cut off from their allies by sheer distance. The book advocates using distance in order to corral the players into the encounter combinations the GM thinks will be the most narratively satisfying.

I'm really not sure what advice I could offer you. My execution is going to depend on how our campaign has turned out, what my PCs are like, and on what manner of plan the players concoct. All of that is terribly different from your own campaign. I suppose all I can mention is tidbits from the Zeit books; for example, Book 6 has Tinker providing all kinds of information about fighting Borne. I imagine you could steal some ideas for the fight with him.
 
I am thinking that for our 4e group specifically, it might be best to provide an exception to the usual 4e rules for short rests, and to break up the encounter into several smaller encounters with automatic short rests in between, much like the book #3 sequence. D&D 4e works god-awfully in a battlefield with massive distances, and explicitly guiding the players through specifically-tailored encounter zones may be better than putting them through one gigantic mess of a combat.
 
For those (very few) people who actually had an interest in this thread, we have been continuing our campaign; we simply have not updated the logs. After clearing out book #12 and defeating the Voice of Rot, we have had a number of side sessions, plus eight more sessions.

Those side sessions aside, we spent two "full" sessions handling a year-long timeskip set in a fully-liberated and fully-explored Gyre. We happened to bring a copious amount of Lanjyrian NPCs along with us to the Gyre, everyone from Wolfgang von Recklinghausen to Athrylla Valanar, from Reed Macbannin's ghost to Amielle Latimer's ghost; and we had unearthed many new magics, technologies, and arcanotechnologies within this cosmic recycling center at the end of worlds. Arkwright did an amazing job of setting up quirky scenes for our characters to engage in during this year-long timeskip, and it was all custom content.

It is a little hard to explain the precise specifics and mechanisms, but we concluded the timeskip by depositing the minds and souls of our Gyre-copy PCs and NPCs into a pile of specially-prepared witchoil, and then having someone hurl that witchoil into the grinding gears of heaven. This action created a "Gyre goddess" of sorts, a rational and benevolent guiding intelligence to allow the Gyre to make more reasoned judgment calls on how to mark worlds for doom. This custom material is very silly out of context, but it makes sense under the kind of transhumanist magics of minds, souls, hiveminds, godminds, and witchoil that Arkwright had been allowing us to conduct research on.

We spent one session being reintroduced to a frozen Lanjyr, after the one-year-long time skip. Arkwright happened to edit together a frozen version of the map of Lanjyr. Our conversation with Nicodemus went somewhat off-script from how it was supposed to go in the book. This is because Arkwright allowed our party, during research in the Gyre, to discern that Jiquus had a loophole that allowed sophont undead to bypass Regulus's prescribed history. Thus, we explained the problem towards Nicodemus, who was somewhat dismayed.

Fortunately, Nicodemus had a (custom material) backup plan, which involved rewinding all time in the local planar system to just a few decades after the Great Malice. Unfortunately, this would render the Axis Seal inoperable, and leave the world with a rather janky and unfavorable planar configuration, including no Jiese. This plan would be very bad for the local planar system, so our PCs objected to it. Naturally, this led to the battle over in the ziggurat of Jiese.

The hivemind/gestalt domination hotspots likewise went considerably off-script. Given the way Arkwright had portrayed the entirety of Lanjyr up until this point, and the various NPCs we had grown attachments to, the "baseline" adventures to tackle hivemind/gestalt domination hotspots, as presented in book #13, would prove unsuitable. Thus, Arkwright presented more tailor-made, custom material to get us invested in liberating the world.

We had eight hivemind/gestalt domination hotspots to tackle: Alais Primos, Cherage, Flint, Nalaam, Sentosa and the Elfaivaran colonies, Seobriga, Trekhom, and the refugees of the Unseen Court. Each of these domination hotspots was ruled by a "doppelganger," not so much an actual shapeshifter, but a previously-established NPC dominated by the hivemind/gestalt and transmuted to appear as our PCs and some of our most beloved NPCs which we took to the Gyre. So, for example, my character's doppelganger was in charge of Sentosa and the Elfaivaran colonies, and was a transmogrified Betronga Sidhon.

Rather than take the book's prescribed approach of stopping the scorched earth plan by blocking communications from Flint, we took the book's alternate suggestion of picking up Andrei von Recklinghausen from Sentosa and having him pose as Nicodemus to call off the scorched earth plan. We also staged some elaborate ruse wherein our PCs were supposedly defeated and converted by the Obscurati. We strengthened the bamboozlement by subverting several key members of the ghost council. Arkwright added in the plot thread wherein Borne was the master intelligence in charge of the hiveminds/gestalts all over the world, and we used our rapport with Borne to convince him to perpetuate the ruse. We also sent many of our other allies to directly attack Axis Island, keeping Nicodemus too distracted to counteract the deception upon the Obscurati elsewhere. Thus, we gained some significant breathing room with which to liberate each city under a hivemind/gestalt domination hotspot.

Throughout these last five sessions, we have liberated Sentosa and the Elfaivaran colonies, Trekhom, Alais Primos, Seobriga, and Flint thus far. We have been tackling these as a group, rather than splitting up our PCs. All of these hotspots have been expanded considerably with custom material from Arkwright, tailoring these sequences to better fit the interactions and influence our characters have had on these great nations of Lanjyr. The sessions have been a... bumpy ride, of highly inconsistent quality, with many ups and downs, but I appreciate the effort that Arkwright has been placing into expanding the baseline content. Our GM places an extraordinary amount of effort into using MapTool maps and tokens to visually depict the state of each city and its domination, and it has been marvelous.

We are visiting Nalaam next, which has grown unusually important due to circumstances in our game. Then it is off to wherever the Unseen Court's refugees are, and then Cherage.

Of course, since our party has never had too strong a set of compunctions against mass-domination, we have not actually been freeing people from the hiveminds/gestalts. We have simply been wresting control of them from the Obscurati. We will free the people later, maybe; but for now, we are focusing on uniting the world under a hivemind/gestalt of our own and using that empowerment to take the fight to Nicodemus over in Axis Island. It is, to us, a more palatable alternative than using the Sacrament of Apotheosis; and besdies, we have already been training and grooming up a friendly hivemind-goddess of our own to take the reins of this global gestalt and serve as the new world order all on her own.

All of the above probably makes very little sense to anyone who is not already intimately familiar with our game, but it cannot be helped. We really did take a more unusual route in our campaign.
 

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