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ZEITGEIST Squirmonkey's Zeitgeist Campaign

squirmonke

Villager
Hello all! I heard you enjoy hearing tales from Zeitgeist campaigns, so I thought I'd share mine. We're nearing the end of Adventure 2 now, so I'll just give a summary of what's happened up to this point, and any particularly fun moments we had on our way.

First, let's get to know the team!

Gai Oromae
Gai (pronounced guy) is a half-elf Martial Scientist Paladin of Vengeance / Warlock of the Hexblade. A native of a Risuri held Yerasol Isle, Gai grew up interacting with the soldiers posted in the archepelago. A precocious boy, he was known for his skill at chess, and getting into fights with soldiers much larger than himself. As he became a teenager, he began to hear a strange whisper, as if the ocean had teeth that could grind out words. It encouraged him to kill animals, to spend time in graveyards, and offer food and even bodies to the water. He did all he could to ignore, and drown out the voice, and finally it stopped. As an adult, Gai attended the prestigious Battalion Academy, where he studied to become a Risuri Paladin of the Ancients. But in his last year, the Fourth Yerasol War began, and in a tragic failure by the Risuri forces, Gai's home island was captured by Danor and its inhabitants slaughtered. He rushed home to see if anything remained, and nothing did. He called out to that voice which had long haunted him and begged for power. And though no voice answered, there was power, and a pact was sealed. Gai returned the the Battalion and finished his training, but rather than swear to the Ancients, he swore an Oath of Vengeance against Danor. He enlisted immediately, and served as a sailor, naval officer, and tactician in that war. When the war ended, Gai was frustrated, he wanted to keep fighting, but now there was a ceasefire, and Danoran influence over Risur was growing. He joined the RHC to keep up the fight and to root out Danoran influence and espionage wherever it might seep into his country.

Tim Schnibbins
Tim is a halfling Eschatologist Rogue Thief. A local Flinter, he worked menial jobs in the factories much of his life, until one day he was unceremoniously and suddenly fired. In his frustration, he attended a talk by Vlendam Heid, and quickly fell in love with the Eschatologist philosophy, feeling that it might have helped him prepare for his dismissal at the factory. Tim doesn't take things too seriously, and has always had something of a drinking and gambling habit, but he also makes a habit of petty theft. Not necessarily because he needs what he steals, but because it gives him a sense of power and control, and perhaps a feeling that he can add some justice to an increasingly inequal world. Tim's views on Eschatology are a little weird, he approaches it in an almost OCD kind of way, if he kills someone for instance he insists on doing it with a clean knife and making sure their body lands gently on the ground. One day, Tim was caught stealing by an RHC agent, Serena, who had been a friend of his in their youth (and once a burglar herself), but she'd gotten out of the life much sooner. She let him go, but encouraged him to put his skills to more productive use. At this point Tim realized that his thieving ways were at odds with his belief in Eschatology, after all, it comes with such great risk of an unexpected ending if one is caught. He is now a reformed thief and joined the RHC in an attempt to help fix a society that he feels is being polluted by the influence of an industrialism which doesn't care what endings befall the workers it chews up.

Rickard Strassor
Rickard (or Rick, as he prefers to be called) is a Human Docker Abjuration Wizard. Rick has worked the docks in flint for almost 25 years. He's well known, and well liked on the docks. He's also well read, and is a fierce advocate (and evangelist) of Millerite philosophy. Rick was raised in a family of Wizards who fled persecution in Crisillyir after his father was killed by a mid-ranking member of the Clergy over a disagreement over a minor piece of doctrine. He prefers to keep his magic a secret from those he works with on the docks, but keeps in practice by using it for repairs or minor conveniences in his day to day work. Rick is generally soft spoken but can often be found outside working hours in a pub drunkenly rambling about class struggle, or trying to recruit for a union. Rick has gained a great fondness for the country that took him and his family in and gave them a second chance. Eventually, frustrated with his inability to affect serious political change from the streets, Rick joined the RHC in the hopes that he could use the power and influence he might gain there to put Millerite ideals into practice. Because of this, he remains at odds with his longtime frenemy Thames Grimesly, who sees him as a sellout for taking a cushy RHC job in an attempt to "change things from the inside".

Nephiroth Sepet
Nephiroth (or Neph, as he prefers to be called) is a Human Gunsmith Fighter Champion. Neph started his career as a high-end gunsmith with Latimer Industries, one of the leading manufacturers of firearms in Flint. (We had this player play as Amielle in the prologue, which was fun). Though he enjoyed his work there, when he witnessed the guns he created being used for crime, he began to wonder if he should be doing more to serve his country. He joined the RHC to ensure that the weapons created by this new industrial revolution would be used responsibly and represented well to the masses. Neph particularly enjoys the security work that the RHC does, and feels at home as a protector or bodyguard. As the only Lawful member of his RHC law enforcement team, Neph is often in conflict with his teammates more fast-and-loose style of executing the laws of Risur. Still, he accepts his role as the voice of the law in the party, and is careful never to let his morals slip when he is on the job.

Raven Talon
Raven is a Half Elf Spirit Medium Bard of Glamour slash teenage party-girl detective. Raven is a young self-styled detective who has always had a fascination with the mysterious, and a healthy appreciation for a good party. When she was younger, Raven suffered from a congenital heart defect which as a child caused her serious health problems. Eventually, her heart failed, and though healers were able to save her life, she remained trapped in a coma, stuck between life and death. A foreign surgeon named von Recklinghousen happened to be in Flint at the time, and took her case as an opportunity to advance the science. He was able to repair her heart, but by the time she awoke, he'd moved on. Ever since then, Raven has had a strange connection to death, hearing the whispering of spirits that she passes by. While many would find this troubling, Raven appreciates its value, as does the RHC. She joined the RHC because it provided her the best avenue to work on her detective skills, and she appreciates the money and the challenge.

Martin Volz
Martin is a Deva Skyseer Druid of Dreams. Martin is a Deva, and remembers very little of his past, indeed he is only a few years into his current incarnation. He was last reborn in the wilderness of Crisillyir, with no recollection of why he'd gone there in the first place. Whatever the reason though, nobody must have known he was there, because nobody came looking for him. He was found by a local circle of druids, who found he had a great affinity for the stars. When he looked up at them, he saw visions which told him that his home and destiny were in Flint, in the RHC. He travelled there and studied the stars further with local druids, eventually joining the RHC to participate in his unknown fate. Martin is quite reserved, but has a great interest in the stars and planes and fey. He feels the plight of the fey and their allies in Flint, but disagrees with the tactics of Gale and her ilk. He hopes that he'll have the opportunity to find a way for the fey and industrialists to live together in peace.



In my next post, I'll recap adventure 1 and give some highlights!
 
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squirmonke

Villager
Okay, Adventure One.

This one went mostly how you'd expect, but we got to know a lot of the characters better. Here's some highlights:

We defused the docker situation before getting on the boat without much trouble. My players didn't seem to resonate much with this skill challenge, so I'm going to be more careful with when I present challenges like this in the future

Raven and Tim became fast friends as the "go with the flow" faction of the party, while the rest of them were a bit more uptight/on-duty/responsible during several parts of the adventure

We were able to save the Coaltongue when Gai had the idea to detonate a barrel of firedust to break open the furnace. It's a good thing we did, because the party didn't realize what was happening in time to save the fire wards in the magazine. We blew a bit of a hole in the ship, but not one big enough to sink a ship of this size. Sokana Rell died in the fight, but Raven was able to get answers out of her anyway.

We had a great conversation on a dirty/polluted beach back in Flint where the King chatted one on one with the members of the party. This went really well, and I think most of the players came out of it feeling like the king was both wise and kind. (Amidst the players there was a bit of "Oh boy, the king's a good person, no way he survives this adventure")

We're playing by Roll20, so we weren't able to put Lya's puzzle out for them to play with, but I did have fun doing her french accent (Rick's player made my day by saying the accents made the Danorans seem foreign and mysterious), and one of the players was able to see through the puzzle with a good intelligence roll.

Gai and Neph got really into the conversation with Captain Smith on their way to Axis Island, discussing under what circumstances the Duchess's actions might have been ethically or morally justified. They concluded that while such circumstances could be theorized about, they very likely didn't exist in this case, and as such the Duchess's actions are not justified.

The party was clearly shaken by the death of the infiltration team, and it gave them a somewhat paranoid attitude towards Axis Island as a whole.

The fight in the mines was especially fun on Roll20 because we were able to use the vision system to simulate darkness in the caves. Only two member of the party (Gai and Raven) have Darkvision, so there was a lot of calling information back and forth to each other, casting spells for light, and generally using light related tactics my party hasn't gotten to see much in DnD

Martin took particular interest in the white stone column and the golden icons. He was particularly curious about the pillar, and how it seemed not to be natural, but to have been slotted into the stone in this place a long long time ago.

The party got strangely obsessed with the idea of digging up the mass grave outside the mines. They never did it, but they talked about it a lot.

Rick and Raven had the clever idea to use Disguise Self to make themselves appear to be in uniform as the Duchess' soldiers, and they escorted the rest of the party into the fort as "prisoners". This worked well, and helped them get to the sea gate without much issue.

We ran defending the sea-gate tower as combat rather than a skill challenge. I adjusted the enemy numbers pretty heavily from the ones recommended. This was a blast, we set up barricades and traps, Tim made really good use of some caltrops, Gai was an impassible barrier in a chokepoint. The party has a lot of ranged damage (Neph really shined in this fight), so we had fun pot-shotting tons of dudes as they were trying to climb up the inhospitable path the PCs had left for them. I added some extra Pseudodragons to this fight as well, and had them use their considerable fly speeds to get on the back lines and harass the ranged characters, so we had some fun melee too.

The PCs really pissed off the Danorans in the jail and decided it would be best to leave them in the jail until the fort was returned to Danoran control.

Most of the party was hesitant to follow Asrabey through the immurement, but Gai rushed ahead and the rest followed, not wanting to leave him alone.

The party was able to talk Gillie Dhu down, which I was fine with, since the looks on some faces made it seem like they weren't really looking forward to the labyrinth fight.

After listening in on Asrabey's conversation with Ethelyn and Nathan, the standoff was fantastic. Through negotiation and brinksmanship, they got Asrabey to agree to let them have the Duchess (on the condition that they communicate to the King that the Court demands her death), but Asrabey wanted to keep Nathan. Most of the party was ready to take that deal, but Neph felt it wasn't good enough and attacked. The fight was very one-sided, the party had enough heals though to withstand him for a couple rounds, but wasn't able to hurt him. He reminded them that there is no shame in surrender, and much of the party surrendered, but Neph kept fighting. I had Asrabey give him a line like "You are an honorable warrior, it's a shame you're saddled with such cowardly companions. I'd prefer not to have to kill you, and out of respect for your courage you may have one of the prisoners, your pick". Neph was not happy with this deal, but realized that he probably wasn't going to get better and couldn't win the fight. He chose to keep Nathan, and we had a fun shock-and-awe moment when Asrabey acknowledged this decision and then beheaded Ethelyn on the spot and walked away.

I forgot that Raven could speak to the dead, so she just chatted Ethelyn up and learned a lot about the vision she'd been given, and her relationship with Nathan and Axis Island.

When Lya returned to the island, the party wanted to keep exploring the island and find out what Danor was doing here. They realized (to their frustration) though that once they signed the documents, Lya was going to make them leave the island. They asked for extra time to show the documents to a lawyer, and I had Lya go kinda hardline on them here ("You may have ze remaining three hours to do whatever you need, but I must insist zese documents are signed by ze deadline"). In that time, Raven and Tim slipped out of the fort to go exploring, and found a strange factory hidden in the woods guarded by massive golems that sounded to Raven like screams. They decided not to get too close, out of a fear that detection would make the diplomatic part of this mission more difficult.

And that's pretty much how Adventure 1 went! Next time I post, it'll be to talk about Adventure 2.

Edit:
Oh also, I have a habit that my players enjoy of picking a song for super cool plot moments, boss fights, or any fight that's especially neat or setpiece-y. We used a couple pieces of music in Adventure 1 if you're curious:

For battling the assassins on the Coaltongue: For holding the seagate against the forces of the fort:
 
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Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
Sounds like fun.
Of course pretty much any hole is going to sink the Coaltongue, it has no watertight compartments on the bottom deck and pretty much none on the higher decks, and will need manual pumps or magic once the boiler floods. And that is prone to explode when wet. Coaltongue has pretty much a wooden ship layout with an iron hull a recipe sinking from the first lucky hit below the waterline or torpedo. I am a warship critic, I would not have sunk the ship just because the players made a hole in an actual game.
 



squirmonke

Villager
I'm back! We're approaching the end of Adventure Two, and I've got some time, so I thought I'd write about how Adventure 2 has gone for us so far!

Party starts with a very thorough investigation of the Danoran Consulate, and comes away with lots of leads and Raven interrogates the body, where the party is troubled to learn that Ms Hume was killed by "A monster black as night with a horribly disfigured face".

Gai hears the voice of his patron for the first time in a long time "One lies dead in a place that suits her ill. Take her hence with you when you go. Cast her into Parity Lake and she shall rot. Return her to her leader and she shall be grieved. Either and I shall be satisfied" He takes the body and stows it on the party's boat, then forgets about it and it begins to decay.

Party takes an immediate interest in the Doctor's involvement (especially Raven, who has history with him). They track him to the House of Blue Birds and into Kells territory, where the trail goes cold. They put out the word to their contacts that they're looking for him.

They visit Thinking Mans Tavern, and get themselves kicked out after Gai handcuffs Hennet and drags him into an alley for a beating, rather than play his game. Raven returns in disguise, only to get kicked out again by continuing to provide Barb with the gory details of Nilasa's death. Martin sneaks back in as a spider to listen in on the conversations, but ultimately doesn't learn much.

They get access to Nilasa's file, and don't seem interested in running down her criminal contacts, but do seem interested in visiting Heward Sechim. They speak to him, and make plans to visit Nevard in the Cloudwood the next day.

The next morning word has reached Kell that they're after the Doctor. He sends someone to meet them at RHC and extend an invitation. When they realize that the invitation is into the heart of Kell's territory, they try to negotiate for a more neutral meeting place. Kell's guy doesn't go for it, and the party decides not to attend.

The party heads for the Cloudwood, breaks up the fight with Renard Woodman, stops the carriage from tumbling over the cliff and then, after a fair bit of debate, Neph convinces the party to arrest everyone involved and bring them back to the police in the city proper.

They meet Nevard, and agree to take him up cauldron hill that very night. They visit Mayor MacBannin to get permission to do so, and outside they meet the courier Doru. Gai is impressed with Doru's civic-mindedness and encourages him to apply for a civilian administrator position at the RHC (lol).

Most of the party agrees to participate in the Bonds of Forced Faith. They do battle atop cauldron hill, which goes mostly as you'd expect. They're frustrated at the attack by the shadowy monster, but unable to do much about it.

They successfully stop the arson, but aren't able to capture the arsonists.

Delft tells them that they've received a request from Heward Sechim wondering why he hasn't received Nilasa's body yet. Gai says he's on it (and then forgets again). The party discusses with Delft the possibility of visiting Kell and going after the Doctor. Delft agrees that it's risky, but also notes that Kell doesn't have much incentive to try to randomly draw a few RHC investigators into a lethal trap. They decide to pay him a visit.

Gale's canary arrives, and they set the meeting with Gale for the next morning, fully intending to attempt to arrest her during it.

The party meets Kell (and falls for his little prank!), and agrees to stop the smuggling, though Gai insists on seeing the Doctor in good health first. This takes up much of the day, as the rest of the party awaits his return. Kell arranges for Gai to be bound and blindfolded and brought to the church, see the doctor, and be brought back.

The party starts looking for the smugglers, and starts by running down the Doctor's contacts. Raven connects with Lynn Kindleton when she mentions she was a patient of the Doctor's in her youth (we had a fun moment where Prof. Kindleton takes out a biology textbook, points to a picture and goes "Wait, this is YOUR heart?"). Lynn shares the letters she received from the Doctor with them, which while informative don't lead to the smugglers.

The party spends a lot of time running down bad leads and chasing incorrect conclusions that day, but ultimately remembers that they never ran down Nilasa's criminal contacts. They agree to let her accomplices out of the estuarial reformatory in exchange for their information. They learn the name "Hosue Elf" and that the family wharf is in pine island.

Gai is reminded again about Nilasa's body, and fearing that Gale wont' want to receive it in its current state, decides to dump it in the lake. But he needs most of the party to help him sail the ship, so he comes clean to them. Some of the party are okay with what he's planning, but Neph and Tim object. Eventually, Gai convinces everyone but Neph to help him discard the body, and they all hear the troubling phrase "rot begets rot" as the body bubbles into the darkness.

They meet with Gale, and quickly recognize they have no hope of apprehending her, so don't try. They hear her theory and receive the ritual and the messenger wind.

Mistakenly believing that the shadowy figure and the Family are closely related, Martin searches all up and down the coast of pine island with Detect Planar Energies, to no avail. One of Tim's contacts knows where they can find the House elf, and they make it to his studio just half an hour before he's planning to leave for the Wharf.

The party sends Raven in alone, pretending to be his biggest fan. She convinces him to let her audition to be his assistant. This scene was HILARIOUS. A favorite exchange of mine was:
"You need an assistant and who better than me?"
"Hm... I don't think my wife would like that very much"
"Oh, your wife has nothing to worry about, I'm actually a man dressed like a woman! ... I got a 23 on my deception roll"
Raven uses an ability of hers to sneak a charm into her audition performance, and the House Elf fails his save, making him HER biggest fan for the next several hours. He offers her the assistant position, but says he really has to go now, he has some business to do. Raven asks to come with. He says sure, but we have to go convince my wife. Dansica is obviously extremely suspicious about this, and eventually tricks Raven into the Dreaming Dust trap in her lab. Raven loses her memory, and uses the messenger wind to call for help. Dansica manipulates Blander into leaving Raven behind, but the party arrives in time to follow the two to the meeting. Rather than try to recover the wands, they just take out and arrest everyone at the wharf.

The next morning they receive invites from and visit Morgan Cippiano, who says he'll help them out with something in exchange for his guys being released. He suggests that perhaps the arsonists would be a fair offer in exchange. This sparks a long debate among the party, Gai thinks they should take the deal, Martin is very opposed, saying we don't know how dangerous it is for Morgan to get his thugs back, and Rick arguing that if they can get Morgan to offer something that contributes sufficiently to the greater good, it doesn't matter how dangerous the thugs are. Ultimately, the party agreed with Rick, and declined Morgan's offer, but asked to leave it on the table in case they thought of something they wanted more than the arsonists. Morgan agreed, but warned that the deal expired if any of his men went to trial.

The party heads to Dawn Square to hear Nevard's vision, and receives word of strange goings on in the area. Martin tracks it down with Detect Planar Energies, and they follow it to the warehouse. The Golem gives them a lot of trouble, but they're mostly able to bypass it, and get to keep much of the evidence.

They rush back to Dawn Square and save the skyseer, and receive his visions. Then they meet up with Kell, and go to the Church to find the Doctor.

When they arrive, the shadowy figure attacks again! Raven dies in this fight, but she's able to be brought back by Tim's eschatologist power which lets him bring back someone who's been dead less than one round.

And that's where we are now, discussing Leone Quital's ultimatim!


Here's the music we used for the fight atop cauldron hill. It's the same music we used for the Red Contessa fight in the prologue, so that was a fun callback
 

This first big city adventure has so many different ways it can play out. I love seeing the decisions players make, especially when they antagonize potentially sympathetic NPCs like the folks at Thinking Man's. I half expect them to actually try to arrest Gale.
 

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