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ZEITGEIST Tet's Zeitgeist Campaign

Adigard

Villager
My players, GTFO. I doubt you know about this forum, but just in case. Angelhelm, Dimitri, Erabare, Les Aalmoste, and Therinzino... find something else to read please.

This is less of a ‘help, what now’ post, and more of putting thoughts together and explaining my group’s path in adventure 1. There’s a conundrum at the end, but first off, wonderful adventure path from RangerWickett and co, and thanks for always chiming in on these threads! I’ve gleaned a TON of detail from reading your posts. Ditto with Arkwright and Zeitvice. You both really helped flesh out the campaign world tremendously. Definitely looking forward to the new book in a few months. Took a while to chew through the full AP / Zeitvice / a few hundred forums posts… but I think I’ve got a pretty decent grasp on events. We started with 5 and currently have 4 players. Might pick up another player in a few weeks, but I’m enjoying 4 (but it gets iffy if anyone is MIA). It’s an online game through D&D 5e / Fantasy Grounds / Discord, so not quite as open as in-person, nor as insanely detailed as play-by-post. We're running weekly sessions that are two hours long, so things are slow going... but having a blast with the AP.

The first module was mostly played straight. I wanted a better way to tie the module into the AP, so a member of Nathan’s family ‘let’ him find hints that Danor was building powerful weapons on Axis Island, he warned the duchess and got her a key to the teleport circle. I expect they'll be some geas-trickery there so the player's can't delve too deeply into that plot point (they're treating it a bit like a red-herring, ha!). I introduced Nilasa Hume & the threat of Heward’s factory getting firebombed early, and one of the PC’s contacts mentioned the wand smuggling operation. Those two will develop once they return to Flint. Hopefully Adventure 2 doesn't feel as scattershot that way.

I did not kill the other team. Delft told them back in Flint the 2nd team would follow and help out, but that Lya had given the missions to the PCs, so they needed to do their bit. They also knew they needed to find the right spot to use the Passwall scroll (find a Danoran engineer). The other team followed them into the sea cave and were separated when the rocks fell. I gave the party 24 hours on the island before they needed to open the sea gate, so they tried to recruit some Danoran’s after meeting Nicolas. They saw a few sites, had a running fight with a massive golem which accidentally led them straight into a fight with a Duchess patrol (party and patrol fled, that Golem is nasty). They met up with the other team outside the Fort, where the other constables had discovered where to place Passwall (the player’s did a pretty bad job there). The other team decided they had to trap the teleport circle so the Duchess couldn't bring in reinforcements, and were knocked out by the existing trap while trying to disarm it. Gave them a chance to shine / took them out of the picture / and let the player's feel like things really hung on what they did.

The players had a serious love / hate relationship with Nicolas Dupiers. They went from wanting to break his legs at the end of the Genius Loci encounter to… as they left the island asking him to “help them mend ties with the Danoran’s on the island”. Lt. Hessar Marseine hopefully taught one of my players that laughing at other’s misfortune can seriously bite you in the rear… the player ended up apologizing for being so rude to a wounded POW after the Lt. goaded them into it. My players delivered their first coupe de grace to Gillie Dhu… I gave him his 4e ability for his melee hits to push players through hedges (wounded players do NOT like being split up and attacked while racing through a maze).

Amazingly, the player’s actually let the Asrabey conversation run through almost to completion (the Duchess never got her last paragraph out). They hid behind the door until Asrabey threatened the Duchess, but snuck in so everyone could keep talking (quite polite!). They toppled the telescope on Asrabey (seriously, the earlier versions are worth a read) who put his shield into play which scared the hell out of my players. One player took a death grip on the Lion-headed shield and decided to snap mage cuffs on it (I let them know that wasn’t how it worked… but rule of cool-wise it was clever enough I had it shut it down). They got the shield away from him, which lowered his AC enough they could actually land hits (OOC they knew plate armor meant his AC was high). Two players fell, Asrabey killed the Duchess, and one player decided to use their Hat of Disguise to look like Nathan and convinced Nathan to run away. Asrabey followed, took Nathan from the player (he never lost line of sight, so wasn’t confused), and the player shot / downed Asrabey as he ran towards the teleport circle.

The players (in their opinion) succeeded wildly and failed pretty drastically. The Duchess was dead, they had Nathan who they felt was pretty worthless, and a wounded Asrabey in cuffs. They had an hour+ long discussion once Asrabey fell and they got everyone stabilized. At first they were convinced it was a plot from the King to kill the Duchess, then they figured it must have been a ploy from someone in the King’s circle since the King wouldn't try to kill his sister, I doubt they’ll realize it was all Nathan's family anytime soon.

Rather than turning the island back over to Lya they decided to task Nicolas (they really loved that old guy) with telling Lya what happened while they fled the island with one player disguised as the Duchess, and Nathan and Asrabey in custody. They buried the Duchess on the island (convinced if people believed the Duchess was still alive it’d confuse whoever was pulling the strings in Risur).

They tried to question Asrabey on the boat ride home, who let them know he was married to Kasvarina who been MIA for a decade+, and he re-iterated why he killed the Duchess but I think they conflated his hunt for his wife & killing the Duchess, so will have to re-explain in the next session (It was getting really late). They really hated Asrabey at the end, but knew he was an ambassador and couldn’t seriously threaten him. They ID’ed all of his magic items knowing they’d have to return them in Flint, but couldn’t make head nor tails out of his sword (I will add Srasama’s other swords into the AP as we go along).

Onto my actual question! Sorry for the insanely long-winded post, and thanks to anyone still reading 😊

The players hid the Duchess'es body in a hastily-dug grave on Axis Island (eugh), put both Nathan and Asrabey on the ship that was waiting to take them back to Flint after the rest of the navy evacuated the island. They did their level best to avoid any real conversation with the Risur Navy once the Duchess fell... They did not meet with Lya / learn that she was to marry the King / have Lya wish Nathan well and hope that she could meet him again at the wedding. The player with the hat of disguise did wander around as the Duchess enough that the navy believes she’s still alive… but that should all fall apart almost immediately. The higher-ranking officials in Risur will probably be scrying Axis Island to ensure the handover went as planned (they’re trying to stop a war, after all). What -should- happen sorta robs the players of their agency. Someone should sending them after a day or two telling them to free Asrabey. A retinue of the King will likely meet them on the docks, wish Asrabey well, and Saxby (introducing her early) will chew them out for causing a diplomatic faux paus and screwing everything up. Just… not sure I want to rob the players of what they’re trying to do (as silly as it will likely be). I can't imagine word won't get out that the Duchess has died before they make it back to Flint.

Anyone still reading, thanks again! I robbed blind a few fellow forum-posters newspaper clippings (thanks, and sorry Meigeall and others), and re-tooled them slightly for my party. Also made a Coaltongue guest list (all of which my players pretty much ignored). Since most are cribbed / robbed from others, feel free to use any of them if you like. I'll likely keep making / stealing newspaper bits going forward, and will try to post them as we continue.
 

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If you want to keep the players from feeling stuff happened without their input while they're in transit, well, it's pretty easy to announce now that divination magic doesn't work well on Axis Island, and scrying will constantly flip to show other locations, sometimes even impossible places. Even sending magic to and from tends to fail. So 1) this keeps info from getting back to Risur before the PCs, since the Impossible is the fastest ship in the fleet, and 2) this establishes in advance that the party can't do scry-spying on Axis Island when they later on realize it's important.

My brief thought on how to go forward would be that as they approach Flint, Captain Smith or the other team can tell them that he received a sending from Harkover Lee, and that he reported what he knew in 25 words: "Island liberated, constables returned before hand off to Danor, Duchess unaccounted for, Elfaivaran warrior Asrabey in custody, constables accompanied by Nathan Jierre. Heading for Flint."

He got a second sending, saying that Lee tried to scry on the Duchess but Axis Island interference just showed him random locations. He told Captain Smith that the constables will debrief the king when they reach Flint.

One of the locations Lee saw was a shallow grave, but he had no way to know the Duchess was dead.

I'm sure the Risuri navy has a handful of spellcasters who can cast sending, but they're not investigators, and in any case, the Risuri military is supposed to depart and leave the island to the Danorans. So as far as any Risuri spellcasters in the navy know, the Duchess was spotted here and there, but now she's vanished. They've reported that.

So the party has a bit of time to plan what they're going to report. Do they really want to conceal the truth from the king, so that he finds out at some later point that his sister was dead and the party lied to him the whole time? Whom do they want to keep in the loop, and who in the dark? Can they trust Nathan to keep his mouth shut? Can they trust each other?

Perhaps have Asrabey mention that, since he was tasked with killing the Duchess, he intends to report that to the Unseen Court in the Dreaming. The party might figure out some way to ensure he doesn't tell the king the truth, but it depends on whether Asrabey sees the party as clever opponents or just petty liars. Like, he's got a sense of duty and honor, but it's skewed a bit so fey shenanigans are honorable if they're clever. And spreading fake rumors that the Duchess is still alive is clever. Since they beat him, Asrabey might think that the honorable thing to do is to keep their secrets, especially since if he tells his masters the truth, then they know something the king of Risur doesn't.
 
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Adigard

Villager
Ohhh, I like scryings failing on Axis Island, and that does play in nicely with future events. I wanted to give the players a chance to do their thing (whatever that is), but didn't want to rob them of that opportunity while sailing back to Flint. I will try to spin up the next set of newspaper clippings with the Duchess's fate being unknown, and how that uncertainty is leading to even more unrest in the streets of Flint.

I fear the players will try to keep the Duchess's fate hidden... but don't even see a way that could work for long. I've warned them that unless the kill both Asrabey (who won't go down easily) and Nathan they can't hold it for long, but am curious how they plan to hold it. I do agree they could easily have Nathan keep it secret (he's got his own fears), and like the idea of having Asrabey assist in the lie. I'm enjoying the players thinking someone in the King's court is the bad guy, but don't want them planning to keep the deception up for long (they do have jobs to do in Flint and the King is in Shale). Ultimately it may just be a matter of keeping the secret 'till they get distracted by events at the end of Adv 2.

Thanks for the quick reply RangerWickett!
 

arkwright

Explorer
Hey, glad to hear you're enjoying the AP and Zeitvice.

I think my advice is to improve communication. I'm sure it is very difficult to get information across in two-hour sessions, given how complicated Zeit scenarios can be. Especially if parties have hidden motives, or seemingly have hidden motives.

Establish what the party knows for a fact/can prove with skill checks (Asrabey killed the Duchess on orders of the Unseen Court to show their allegiance to Risur). Establish what the King's orders were. Ask the players what exactly they hope to achieve with their plans, and work with them to either achieve or refine that objective. I think there is a decent chance that after that conversation, the players will be willing to get the word out about the Duchess; after all, if she's loose, there's effectively civil war in Risur.
 

Adigard

Villager
Communication is definitely an issue. I've been struggling with only two hours per session. Zeit is a hefty campaign, and it's hard enough keeping players from randomly turning into murder-hobos... but on the flip side, we DO get to meet weekly.

The players have been nicely trained to recap each session, so I can make sure they're not wandering too far off the basic path. But I think they conflated Lya's 'tasks' with what was really important. That might just be a video game thing "Oh, we've been given all these tasks, obviously we have to do them all!" I've reminded them that they don't need to care what the Danoran's asked them to do, so long as the island was properly handed over they could stop another war (even if they personally skipped out on that one).

I don't think it's so much a question of hidden motives (none of the PC's backgrounds should care about the fate of the Duchess), as them suddenly being convinced some hidden enemy element inside Risur is behind this super convoluted assassination plot. It was fun at first, but once it turned into "well, we'll bury the Duchess here and pretend to be her so those plotting all this in Risur don't know Asrabey's mission succeeded..." it got sorta wonky. I'm sure after the player's have had a chance to sleep and think about it they'll decide their current plans are silly. I just didn't want to step on their ability to do wacky things with... you know... actual game-play elements. Looking forward to seeing what they come up with next regardless though, it's always the fun things player's come up with that keep things interesting.
 

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