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ZEITGEIST The chronicles of Team Big-hearted And Determined (B.A.D.)

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(Also, I make calendar reminders for everything I have to do, even if I'm planning to do it later the same day.)

Sage advice. The calendar reminder for my Zeitgeist game is one-hour off for about 1/3 of the year, due to daylight savings (which half of my players experience). I must be getting old, because I'm too stubborn to fix it.


Our mini-adventure was intended for a one shot, but we played it in 1-2 hour bursts due to players failing IRL fortitude and will saves.

Exploration Extreme - Live at Nalaam (Part 1)

It is the year of 501 After Our Victory. Unbeknownst to most of the party, a superstar team of Risuri spies are currently infiltrating a conspiratorial conference in another plane. But that is the least of your worries. Instead, their adventure takes place in the libertarian paradise of Nalaam, sitting high atop the Penance Peaks. The independent city state sits between the borders of Drakr, a nation of philosophical doomsayers, and Chrysillir, a nation under the iron grip of the Clergy. In the streets of Nalaam, the decadent playground, money and mana flow freely. Under the rule of a cabal of powerful wizards, the infamous den of inequities harbour many crimes and cruelties the rest of the world forbids. Only criminals who cause damage are expected to repay their dues in equivalent coin. And unfortunately, each member of the party committed a crime they could not afford.

Things have moved quickly. Only fifteen minutes ago, the party was collected from their cells. Now, they find themselves escorted by a patrol of guards through Nalaam’s arena, guided by a long-haired, suited up man whose face you are yet to glimpse. The walls around them occasionally shift, redirecting their route to ever increasing altitudes. Eventually, the suited man turns, revealing a skeleton visage instead of a face to address the crew:


Please welcome our criminal crew:
Ulek Draugak. A half-orc two-handed fighter with The Family Man trait. The softly spoken blacksmith (with a gentle New Zealand accent) got himself involved with the wrong crowd to help his blood relatives. Played by someone outside of the regular crew.
Ziz. A goblin alchemist (trap breaker/winged marauder) with The Doctor trait. She's a med school dropout who was banned for her enthusiastic but unsafe work practices (like experimenting with volatile concoctions to cauterise wounds) and decided to put her chemistry training to use elsewhere. She'll cheerfully heal her companions just as readily as she'll blow stuff up. Despite her abysmal wisdom, she's intelligent enough to aim bombs away from the companions she's trying to keep alive. Played by Ella's player.
Lam. The lammergeier/giant vulture animal companion/unwilling accomplice of Ziz. Ziz "liberated" (stole) Lam from a rich collector of exotic animals. He'd probably be quite happy if someone liberated him again and put him in a wildlife sanctuary or something, but as it is he was raised in captivity and doesn't really know any better or how to survive in the wild. Ziz believes Lam is a brave volunteer prepared to sacrifice all in the name of medical science, but really he's just a very obedient but confused bird who's inhaled too many alchemical fumes. Also played by Ella's player.
Simon. A blue skinned alchemist kobold with The Arsonist trait. Earlier this season, Simon assisted an elite squad of Risuri constables in tracking down a man that could move metal with only his mind. For his services, they brought him and his fellows a suit. Simon loves fire (previously fed Angharad nachos reduced to ash) and is teased relentlessly by other kobolds. The party took a liking to him, and Panda's player decided to play him in this adventure. Unbeknownst to the player, Simon is here on a mission from his spymaster.
Lorenz. A blue haired gnome bard with The Thief trait. He grew up with kobolds before travelling the world to steal from magic stores, until he was finally arrested in Nalaam. He's played by Angharad's player, who despises both gnomes and bards.

The skeleton's teeth chattered: “Zo! Will see you now” He tilted his top hat towards a now-parted wall, which revealed a viewing suite that sits atop the arena.


Wizards worked their arcane magics atop the bloodied snow that layers the arena floor. To the party's left and right, thousands of seats were being filled by commoners and travelers of every class. Directly ahead, the wall of the arena were open to only a ledge, giving a clear view of the Penance Peaks.

Now, to the contents of the suite. Most occupants were undead, hovering on the edges of the suite, setting up luxurious furniture, refreshments, browsing clipboards, chatting, or sipping refreshments. Only three occupants sat: Dallatonna Elzarro, the party's lawyer, and Lord Kulp, master of the arena, politely listened to the story of the other occupant, some creature who looks sickly only in skin-tone.


“And of course, production insurance did not cover decapitation!”, the undead creature laughed, “That was the last time our associate producer requested the service constructs to ‘get ahead’”. Dallatonna looked deeply concerned, before politely laughing alongside her cackling host.

The skeleton accompanying the party then introduced the sitting undead creature as Zo!, the most famous undead in all of Nalaam.

“Yes. Yes! You’re everything I was hoping for,” exclaimed the undead showman while looking over the new arrivals. “Oh Dallatonna, you’ve truly outdone yourself. They’re so exciting, so energized, so—”
“—alive?” finished a ghast woman wearing well-tailored clothing as she looked up from her clipboard. Zo! frowned at the blunt observation and tried to respond, but Dallatonna intervened: “My clients, no doubt this is all happening a little fast, so let me explain. Under exceptional circumstance, I have negotiated your release with the leadership of Nalaam. They will pay your debts to the city, but there is a catch.”

Zo! visibly bounced in his seat with excitement as Lord Kulp spoke: “You will be required to explore the depths of Nalaam. Our city is not founded on solid mountain, no. There are tunnels that run deep, littered with solidified crystals of mana. But investigations into the deepest tunnels have revealed strange, mishappen bodies and tremors. We want someone to investigate.”

The skeletal mogul waved his hands. “Oh, but Lord Kulp, we couldn’t just send a single crew. No, Nalaam’s greatest triumph deserves far more production value.” He hopped up from his chair and gazes out at the Arena, now drooped in shadow by the setting sun. He paced and gesticulated: “Imagine: underdogs from the streets of Nalaam, the mysterious depths, untold secrets, limitless adventure—all broadcast before a live audience in our greatest production yet!” He spun to look back at the group, his lipless mouth smiled gleefully. “Exploration Extreme! Live at Nalaam!”

The ghast with the clipboard clapped politely before interjecting. “To translate, you’re scheduled to explore part of Nalaam’s underground accompanied by a professional tele-illusionist crew and production team. You will find exciting things and be thoroughly entertaining. Any questions?”

Zo! laughed, “Always straight to the point. Please meet the associate producer, Wazasha Kevir.”

The party asked a few questions, before Zo! ushered them to makeup. After donning more-beautiful faces and some last-minute bartering with a skeleton merchant, Zo! returned.

Everyone rolled a charisma check, to see who appealed most to the skeleton mogul Zo!. Lorenz out from everyone else and led away for a private chat. Apparently he’s a very stylish, highly charismatic gnome kobold and it might improve the profit margins of the show if he were to showcase a sponsoring company’s gear. He received two options:
  1. The Drakran weapon company, Scorched Earth (slogan: "Why end the fight when you can end the world?"), has offered a weapon augment that increases the first damage dealt each turn by +1d6
  2. The Malice Lands boutique fashion label, Clashwear (slogan: "Dress to impress"), offered a variety of accessories that increase AC by +2 if the wearer has moved in the last round.
Lorenz naturally, chose the stylish choice of Clashwear.

The party were escorted to an impromptu portal chamber and introduced to the production team. Accompanying the party on their adventure was: Wazasha Kevir and her underling ghasts to produce the show, several skeletons with magical crystals that transmit instructions to the arena illusionists, and two six-legged metal constructs, one of which held a tray of appetizers for the party.

Lord Kulp spoke an elfish phrase ("the best revenge is to live"), in a last minute check of Vekesh mystics in the party. If there is a mystic, he would have liked to warn them of the dangers of Marblemaw. Fortunately, the party did not recognise the language. The party entered the portal, which teleported them deep below Nalaam. A tunnel with embedded crystals leads deeper into the earth. Before beginning the exploration, Wazasha offered to show the party the introduction reel to tonight's show. They gladly accept, and she activated her arm-brace to project a small three-dimensional audiovisual illusion:

Zo! spoke with great enthusiasm and showmanship: "Welcome citizens and visitors of Nalaam to tonight's entertainment! I'll be your host for tonight's evening, Zo! You may recognise me from the tele-illusionist hits: The Hydra Needs Six Wives"

The illusions coalesced to a depiction of a woman standing in a swamp. Two hydra heads emerged from the water. They then lunged down, latch onto the woman, and fight over her.

Zo! continued: "Dance Mummies"

The illusions shifted two a mummified mother and daughter, both in wigs, blush, and fake eyelashes. The mother scolded: "You better score perfect tens, or I'm breaking your last canopic jar." The illusions cut to a scene of a snake, crane, and sphinx raising cards with a 10, 10, and 9 printed on them, respectively. The shattering of clay is heard 'off-screen'.

Zo! announced: "The Real Housewights of Sid Minos"

The illusions formed a pale-skinned undead abomination, who speaks directly to the tele-illusion crystal: "Of course I'm going to that skinny ghoul's dinner! Without me, they'd have nothing to talk about."

"And who could forget the show that had dwarves from Drakr travelling to Nalaam to wed the objects of their desire..."

The illusions shifted to reveal a heartfelt scene of a church, filled with a large audience, a dwarven groom and a beautifully-dressed bridge, obscured by a veil-

Zo! introduced the last show of the reel: "I now pronounce you husband and knife!"

-the dwarven groom pulls back the veil to reveal the barrel of an upright rifle. The pair begin to passionately make out.

The crowd of Nalaam cheered in excitement, many recalling the tele-illusionist masterpieces of Zo! The undead mogul liplessly smiles, convinced that tonight's show will double the size of his superyatch. "And now" he spoke quietly, with great anticipation, "let me introduce you to tonight's underdogs..."

The illusions shifted to reveal Ulek, repeatedly hammering a glowing blade. The illusion shook, as if the ground was rumbling. Stoically, the half-orc continues his work as the 'camera' zooms out slowly.

Zo continues: "He forged his legendary blade from the thousand of weapons of his conquered foes. He went too far for his family and now he's going further. Give it up for the bold, the strong,..."

The camera zooms out enough to reveal Ulek is not in a workshop, but atop a volcano. Ulek holds out the blade with thick gloves over the crevice, and the volcano erupts, leaving the illusioned Ulek shirtless.

"...the steamy, Ulek!"


The crowd roared with wolf whistles and applause, before Zo! continued: "This dream team has flown the world, providing alchemical cures that has the hierarchs blushing. There's no substance they won't steal, no experiment they won't preform. Meet the Queen without a spleen: Doctor Ziz and her assistant Lam!"

Applause bellowed through the arena at the illusions of a figure atop a majestic bird, raining needles from the sky.

"Off the coast of Sid Minos lays the Crypta Heriticarum, the Vault of Heresies. Only one has raided it, evaded its traps, and returned with more treasure than a lich can use in their unlifetime. Give it up for the radiant, the daring, the swift: Lorenz!"

Similarly, applause echoes at the illusion of an Indiana-Jones sequence of a gnome darting through elaborate traps to score an artifact.

"Now, we've all heard of the scaled flame, the daunting ashbringer, who picks buildings to the bone. Meet the kobold responsible for burning a collective area the size of Elfaivar. Tonight, he'll set more than just your hearts alight, give it up for Simon!"

A final applause booms out at the illusions of a kobold standing triumphantly atop a flaming building as it topples towards the audience. Many darted from their seat to avoid the collapse.

Wazasha deactivates her arm brace, rolling her eyes. Much of the party bicker about the untruth of their introductions, but Ziz is thrilled to be called a Queen...the details of course, do not count.

The party begin heading down the tunnel, light dramatically by the production crew. Occasionally, the ground shakes with tremors. Eventually the party reached a thin metal strip that outlined the cross-section of the tunnel. Simon deduced that this must mark a threshold beyond Nalaam, for no crystallized mana can be seen ahead. Corroborating his hypothesis, Simon threw a crystal from the wall behind him ahead, which promptly disintegrated. They cross this metallic threshold and continue into the depths.

Unbeknownst to the party, this metallic strip marks the threshold between Lanjyr and the Marblemaw's actively-projected demi-plane, which currently holds his favourite world: a demi-plane of demonocracy era dwarves that worship him as a god. The dwarves of this world know this threshold to be the membrane, and are forbidden to cross it.

As the party continue into the crystal-less tunnel, they find something strange cemented into the walls...misshapen bodies. Some dangle from the ceilings and others grasp from the walls and floor. These are not pale undead creatures, but are red in colour. The party spent a great deal of time poking them before moving further into the deep, gruesome arteries of Marblemaw's masterpiece...


Sorry for the delay, too many research proposals to write.

Exploration Extreme - Live at Nalaam (Part 2)

After exploring the tunnels for some time, Wazasha, the ghastly associate producer, stopped the crew. She commanded one of the constructs to unfold into a private booth, allowing for her to interview a member of the party one-on-one. She roped in Ziz, asking her some pointed questions about her companions. Namely, did she trust them? In a very goblin manner, Ziz promptly confessed that she trusts herself the most, and her unrelenting prowess. Wazasha wrapped up her interview, and commanded the booth to re-assemble itself back into a walking spider-legged construct.

The booth allows for an opportunity to garner fan favour and establish characters as celebrities. In the Starfinder analogue of this adventure, the authors emphasise the need to get each player to consent, in case characters start naughty word-talking other characters. All of my players were on board with this idea, but none went too overboard with insulting each other. Throughout the adventure, I took notes on: what players said in the booth, what drama they created/resolved, what risks they undertook, and what words they spoke. I used this information at the adventure's conclusion, to emphasise the reputation each celebrity had created.

The party continued down the tunnels. Occasionally, a tremor would shake the walls, and a reddened body would dislodge itself from the ceiling. Eventually, the party entered a rather strange room. 100 x 100 x 100 feet, this perfectly cube room was lined with the decor of the tunnels before it: smoothed, rock walls embedded with red, misshapen bodies. Ziz took off on her companion, Lam, to scout the room. Meanwhile, Ulik drew his blade and advanced slowly with Lorenz and Simon. Another tremor shook the tunnel, and soon Ulik felt something warm slide down the side of his cheek. It was blood. The bodies lodged in the room began to flex and convulse. Many could not dislodge themselves, but some heads started flapping their elongated ears. Unbeknownst to the party, Marblewmaw's demi-plane defences were re-writing the plane, trying to generate threats that would dispose of intruders. Lacking the energy of Urim, the best the plane could offer for now were a few floating heads, flying desperately with their ears. The party rolled initiative.


Ulik charges with huge swings whilst blushing (he's camera shy). The alchemists threw their bombs. The bard...barded. The heads chirped in an ancient language, Draconic, some of which the party happened to know. In between biting the party, the heads declared the party "confounds", screaming of "critical errors" and "violated protocol". As if this was not chaotic enough, a convulsing arm of a corpse dislodged itself, changing it's shape to become eel-like, an manifesting a greatsword from the very rock of the walls. The fight became even more bloody, as the party fought not only heads, but a very disturbing and deadly electric eel.


Throughout combat, the party were given the option to take wild risks by rolling disadvantage on attacks. If successful, the party would earn even more of a reputation. This did not have any mechanical effects, but of course, the players tried their luck. Ziz especially failed to prove her prowess, earning her the reputation of a prideful fool. Still, she was loved by fans.

Despite the camera crew obstructing the battlefield to get the best angle of the fight, the party persevered and complete combat with no causalities. Whilst inspecting the bloody aftermath, a group of dwarves emerged from the other end of the room. They are headed by an armour-clad woman, who introduces herself in Dwarven as Mawmaster Toma Vorobeva. Around her neck hanged two necklages: one of a rocky jawbone (unholy symbol of Marblemaw) and the other of a preserved finger threaded with a nail. She is accompanied by two scouts, an elderly 'cyptogrpaher' Kolsto who charts the ever-shifting tunnels, and Daximus the Sceptic.


The Mawmaster informs the party that they are intruders to Marblemaw's domain. Yet, she claimed, Arsha-Hish the Marblemaw is all powerful, so their presence must be desired by her master. Daximus disagreed, claiming all evidence indicated Marblemaw has long-since forgotten his followers. The Mawmaster wondered how Daximus the Sceptic could be so doubtful of their god.

The Mawmaster informed the party that the tunnels are ever shifting, and this passage is new. When asked about the red bodies, the Mawmaster told the party that her demonic lord carves sentries to protect her people, the citizens of Pulstov. But of late, the bodies have begun misshapen, the living sentries have become weak, and the tunnels have become more erratic.

It begins to click for the party. They soon realise that the dwarves infront of them somehow believe the Demonocracy is alive and well, and that their master founded the city of Pulstov in the cradle of the Nothern Drakr mountains to shelter them from the ongoing war with the Clergy. The Mawmaster refuses to believe that the Demonocracy fell, and offers to escort the party to her city to meet her lord. Cryptographer Kolsto identifies the safest passage, and the party continue.

Before leaving the cube room, Wazasha interviewed Ulik in the booth. The gentle-hearted half orc had little insults to issue to his companions, claiming that his mother said "you always catch more flies with honey". Wazasha finds this incredibly infuriating, and tries pressing Ulik on any discomforts. He eventually confesses he's prone to becoming hangry, and come to think of it, he was a little bit peckish. After exiting the booth, Wazasha 'accidently' trips the construct carrying the remaining trays of antipastos. Lorenz accused Ziz of not attending medical school. Tension was heating up.

En route to Pulstov, the party are met with middling and inconsequential threats. The corpses that lined the wall would occasionally limply grasp at the party, strange weather would harrow some tunnels, such as a blinding rainbow, and corpses would speak in Draconic, decrying a "critical error". The Mawmaster religiously echoed the phrase whilst solemnly bowing her head, seemingly oblivious to the meaning of the words. Eventually, the party find some branches of tunnels would lead to a dark void of nothingness. The Mawmaster titles this the "marbled breath", an increasing occurrence in the tunneled wilds. She found it strange that the breath had made it's way so close to the city. Unbeknownst to the party, the 'marbled breath' is void created by the demi-plane converting the latent energy of material to energy. Since the connection to Urim has been servered, only the outer parts of the demi-plane were converted to energy. Now that the party have arrived, the demi-plane has accelerated the energy conversion, in order to create new defenders to dispose of the intruders. Pulstov was already doomed, but now it's doom is approaching quickly.

As the party traversed the final tunnel, Lorenz apologised for accusing Ziz of not attending medical school. Ziz snapped, claiming she did go, but they "just weren't ready for my genius!" Their bickering is interrupted by another dwarf jogging towards the party. The dwarf, a messenger from Pulstov, spoke with desperation. The marbled breath has grown and swallowed the entire eastern district. The Mawmaster commanded the party to move quickly. They soon emerged from the tunnels into a city cradled on snowy peaks. Currently, the weather is a storm of wild rain and lightning, as the demi-plane is devolving into chaos. Incongruent with the current weather, flaming rocks of brimstome have seemed to just struck down buildings prior to the crew's arrival. The marbled breath has swallowed half the city. The dwarves wonder how Marblemaw allowed this to happen, the party and production crew wonder how a city with an open sky could exist under Nalaam, and Zo! wonders if he'll ever top this production. With everyone in shock, there has never been an better opportunity to cut to an ad break.

Sorry for the delay, too many research proposals to write.
Welcome back! What's the research?

I am very tempted to do a reality TV dungeon myself now. The closest that I've had was a game where we were all lizard folk, sent on a mission by the general manager of our cities sports team to acquire the blessing of a volcano God by sacrificing humans in order to ensure that the hot tub of our sports team was the perfect temperature before the big match.

We discovered an affairs plot by mindflayers to pirate the signal that we use to broadcast our sporting events, and we stole one of their relay stations to make sure they could not violate lizard folk copyright.


What's the research
I'll be vague to accommodate whatever research plans go through. I study belief and social change, with a special interest in conspiracy theory belief. I'll let you know more about the research once the ball is rolling!

I am very tempted to do a reality TV dungeon myself now.

Do it! It is incredibly fun. Especially if you can find some way to rope in live footage/commentary. One thing I would do differently is have the audience members vote for the contents of a 'care package' to be teleported on site. Alternatively, the audience could decide on a monster to be unleashed on the party. Or an adorable animal companion.

You were very well-mannered to simply disrupt the relay instead of using it for your own nefarious deeds. Think of all the sporting events you could subtly rig and profit. Soon, that god-blessed hot tub could be yours.

Exploration Extreme - Live at Nalaam (Part 3, The Finale)

The city of Pulstov was dying. For centuries, screams of Marblemaw's sacrifices could be heard from the un-roofed central spire of the city. But for 50,000 forgefires (Pulstov's metric for days), the spire was silent. Now, the screams echo meekly from the marbled breath that encompasses most city districts. One remains, standing tall above the shadows: the church district. The party followed Mawmaster Toma to the infernal halls that have defied the shadow. But the church was not spared from the judgement above. Brimstone had rained from the sky, blocking the temple's entrance. The mountain itself threatened to crack open, rupturing the church's foundation with massive fissures. Lightning crackled overhead, illuminating the few dozen dwarf survivors gathered before the church and the few hundred fallen citizens and sentinels, the lifeless flesh once imbued with Marblemaw's power. As the party arrived, the survivors took a knee in front of their Mawmaster, desperate for answers. She explained that if anyone had answers, it would be the Radomil the Marbletongue, he who speaks for the Marblemaw. Unfortunately, the Marbletongue was trapped inside of his church.

One of the survivors, a dwarven engineer, highlighted the three options for infiltrating the church: moving the boulder, scaling the building and entering through the roof, or entering a fissure and climbing into the church. Wazasha instructed the party that the audience will vote on each option, but the party may always go their own way. She opened her holographic wristband, projecting a count of spectator votes for each option. As the dwarf explained the hazards of each approach, the votes for that approach surged. Entering the fissure won the popular vote, and the party followed suit.

Before climbing into the fissure, Wazasha pulled Lorenz into the booth. Like Ulek, Lorenz was difficult to stir up. He also genuinely seemed to believe he was a kobold (as he was raised by such). Despite not earning many fans in the booth, Lorenz attained his fame by impressive acts, such as speaking the language of the dwarves and skipping with the steamy Ulek.

Next, the party descended into the fissure. At the bottom of the descent pooled strange, viscous liquid. This was the spacetime of the demi-plane becoming liquified into a malleable form. Upon contact, roughly half the party began to move and talk quickly, as if under the effects of haste. Some other members moved and talked slowly. The players had great fun roleplaying this. The production crew followed the party by professionally rappelling down the fissure. They did the same when the party ascended the figure into the temple. As the party climbed, the time-distortion effects wore off.


In the blood-lit temple, rain poured through the destroyed roof. Ziz scraped blood off a nearby alter (...for science). Meanwhile, Lorenz opened the northern double doors. The bard quickly found Marbletongue, trapped under a fallen beam, groaning for help. Ulek and Lorenz free the dwarf, who immediately scolds them: "You did not bargain for my life. You must be some demon-forsaken do-gooders." The half-orc responded sadly: "I would have just accepted a thank you."

The Marbletongue was insulted by the presence of forbidden outsiders. He yelled that the intruders must be vanquished. Then, a nearby blood well began to gurgle. The party turned in fear as a monstrosity pulled itself from the depths below. A sentinel of two torsos stitched together emerged and reached for the party. Then, it barely managed to grown with it's two eyeless heads "I...was....an....optional...encounter..." before falling flat, lifeless.

At this point, Mawmaster Toma and her crew manage to enter the church. Marbletongue is furious at Toma. He claimed disaster had befallen Pulstov because the Mawmaster hesitated to sacrifice the cursed-eyed Timur. The Marbletongue explains that there is a tradition of sacrificing the 5% of children born with white eyes, long ago decreed by the Marblemaw. In truth, these are children who rolled a natural 20 on their will save to see through the demi-planes illusory nature. Marblemaw knew such children would likely disrupt his experimental demi-plane, so ordered them killed. The Mawmaster birthed such an atrocity, Timur, but hesitated to sacrifice him. Initially, she had hoped for redemption, and sent her son to study under the Marbletongue. Timur proved too deviant, scalding Pulstov and its master, so she eventually did sacrifice him devotion to her demonic patron. She still wears Timur's preserved finger as an amulet as a reminder of her faith. The Mawmaster is in despair, if she has wronged the Mawmaster, why must he punish his devout followers? Daximus the Sceptic piped up claiming that all of this is consistent with the underlying truth that the Marblemaw has no power. Lorenz jumped in, telling the Marbletongue he knows nothing, he's just a tongue! Ulek, Ziz, and Lam sit on a nearby beam, whilst the adults argue. The Marbletongue scolded Daximus, and claimed the problem was that Pulstov was not devout enough. It was time for another sacrifice to prove Pulstov's devotion, and who better than the forbidden intruders? The party took issue with this. With an excellent diplomacy roll and several successful aid another actions, Lorenz convinced the surviving dwarves that the Marbletongue should be sacrificed instead. As the head cleric was dragged off to the sacrificial blood well, the Mawmaster spoke somberly: if anyone had offended the Marblemaw then it was her, and she wished to confront her god and ask why he’d done what he had to Pulstov. She asked us the party come with her. The party jumped into a pool of blood - along with gagged and bound Radomil, the Mawmaster, Daximus the Sceptic (who expects to find nothing), and a production crew.

The party emerged in a dark, bloodstained tunnel. Wazasha quickly pulls Simon into the booth, who presented himself rather modestly. He seemed unphased by Lorenz's teasing, much to Wazasha's disappointment. Then, the party set off down the tunnel, as Lam sprayed blood with every flap of his wings. Deeper in the tunnel the party find large scratch marks and scorched portions of the walls. Here, Toma's antipaladin powers begin to fade with her faith. In truth, the demi-plane is collapsing and can no longer sustain the divine powers of Marblemaw's followers.

The keep is strange, lacking the furniture and decadence expected from a demonic lord. Along the walls are platforms at various heights. A pile of dwarven bones lay scattered along the walls, accompanied by empty chests and other corpses, human? Once armed with swords and shields, these skeletons each have a finger draped in melted gold (Ob agents with golden rings). Perhaps the most pressing detail is the headless dragon skeleton.

A sickly dwarf with white eyes emerged on a platform 30 feet above the ground. His hand, which misses a finger, clutched a staff of simple copper, topped with a complex orb of marble plates that shift, back-lit by some supernatural light originating from its center. This orb is a key to controlling the demi-plane, though the dwarf that wields it does not know it's full power. When the dwarf finally spoke, he spoke with the voice of a choir: "You are no dwarves".

“I saw this world for what it is. Not material, but magical. Have you not seen it’s strangeness? This world once made sense, but it has turned on itself. It is failing, no longer sustained by the magic that once flowed from beneath it. The breath, the beautiful breath, repurposes the remnant life, but repurposing is wasteful, and it is only a matter before the breath comes for us all. I know it, for I have steered its direction. I enjoyed my watch from this keep, the occasional scream as a child is plunged back into the dark void from which it was plucked. And for some time, I thought I would be the last creature consumed. But now, you 'confounds' have carved a way out for me. And I will trace it out of this world, through the forbidden membrane, and to the true world that awaits!”

Timur stretches his arms to the heavens, and the screams of dwarves can be heard outside. Suddenly, a skeletal object behind Timur lurches forward, scooping him up. It is the skull of a dragon, with a jaw made of solid, black stone. Accompanying the dwarf are two identical versions of Timur, each armed with an identical staff that they point in your direction. The skull veers downwards, flying unnaturally in the air, and the dwarven bones near the party begin to stir.

“Come, mother and her friends. Do not look so grim! There is one demonic teaching I understood well: that the body should be of stone. Fear not, my heart is not soft with forgiveness. I have rejoiced in my mother’s paralytic suffering as the breath encompassed all. The slow clasp on the throat of the city. Just as you, mother, tortured me for years, sending me to train under the Marbletongue. Fear not! Fear not mother! Your demise will be quick!”


Timur has legitimately cloned himself with the power of the demi-plane, and has reversed life to allow the deceased dragon skull to fly and breathe flame, and the dead sacrifices to resurrect and fight for him. Though, the magic is costly, the demi-plane is being drained of its last reserves, like a sponge wrung out for the last drop of water. The laws of physics are failing, and each round I rolled a 1d10 to see what strange effect occurred. Here is the table for the interested. For this combat, Ulek and Ziz swapped bodies, the party became confused, and winds picked up. Throughout the combat, screams could be heard from outside the keep, as Pulstov was being torn apart for all the latent energy it had.

The end of time. Roll a 1d10, if the result is:
1. Two PCs switch bodies for one round
2. A cloud of daggers rains from the sky (2d6 reflex save DC 13 for half). Target: everyone.
3. Time slows down, everyone (including enemies) are staggered
4. Gravity is shifted either north/south/east/west (1d4), everyone moves 30 feet in that direction. 1d6 damage if hitting a wall.
5. Butterflies heavily obscure a 30 foot area (as per obscuring mist)
6. Everyone changes size, either enlarged or reduced
7. Lighting (2d6 reflex DC 15 for half) reigns down in 25% of areas (1d4). If struck, metallic weapons deal an addition 1d6 electricity damage
8. Will save on one random person, else they become confused (DC 15). New save each round.
9. Wind surrounds each person, giving a +4 AC to ranged attacks
10. A burst of speed affects one PC, giving them haste for one round

Some crew was lost as collateral damage, but all the dwarves survived. Simon finished off the last Timur with a stylish explosion. Then, the shadow that had swallowed the city began swallowing the room keep too. There was nowhere or time to run. Wazasha screamed at her crew to continue filming, Ulek spoke heavily "I love you, mum", and Ziz turns to her animal companion and quietly speaks in Goblin "You're a good bird, Lam. Thanks." The darkness covered the party and then turned into something else: a stone room with many numbered orbs. One particular orb on a pedestal in front of us. A monotone, emotionless voice (robotic, in modern terms) began speaking. It described the end of the simulation the party had been in, how long it had been running for, and problems encountered along the way. Apparently it failed because of a lack of mana to power it. It was begun in -900 Before Our Victory by a dragon who built its lair beneath the Penance Peaks and created its own experimental demiplanes, each with a particular scenario playing out within.

Simulation #20,553
Dwarven Followers of Arsha-Hish: A Study into the Religious Fervour
Circa: -900 Before Our Victory
Simulation demi-plane initiated t minus 300 years.
Status: Simulation terminating.
ALERT: ERROR! Immediate repair required. Link to earth mana reservoir severed. Repairs required to sustain simulation. Error logged at t minus 137 years.
ALERT: ERROR! Recycling protocols enacted. Dissolve low priority experimental features to sustain core aspects.
ISSUE! Administrator last logged in 100 years ago. Issue logged at t minus 37 years.
NOTICE! Administrator log in at t minus 3 years.
ERROR! External influence detected. Confounding variables threaten experimental validity. Error logged at t minus 4 hours.
ERROR! Control measures enacted. Error logged at t minus 4 hours.
ERROR! Experiment unsustainable. Recycling protocols have cascaded. Magical reservoir levels critical. Experiment will be terminated in approximately three years. Error logged at t minus 3 hours.
ERROR! Magical reservoir levels channelled at above-average levels. Experiment unsustainable. Termination of demi-plane initiated. Ejection imminent!

Ziz triumphantly declared: "I knew it was fake!"
Ulek questioned: "What's a simulation?"
To which Lorenz responded, "A type of story, bro."
Ziz added "An experiment!"

Wazasha commanded the party to gather for one final, triumphant shot before she sternly declared: “and that’s a wrap!” Her skeleton crew take a few final shots of the scenery, before they packed their equipment. Wazasha asked aloud, “How about we hear how they’re wrapping up the event in the arena?” She activated her magical armband, which played the live audio feed of Zo!, who shouted excitedly: "What a discovery! What a destination! What a band of unlikely heroes! What could lie deeper in the Penance Peaks? Find out on the next episode of Exploration Extreme! when our heroes return to—"
"What?" shouted the party's lawyer Dallatonna with alarm from near Zo!’s microphone. "That was not part of our deal, Zo! You can’t just add a sequel when we haven’t—"
Zo!’s voice insistently cut back in. “Ha ha! And now a word from our sponsors!”

A booming add for Scorched Earth blared out of Wazasha’s armband before she deactivated the device, rolled her eyes, and commented that “With all of these advertisements, you have surely paid back your debt to Nalaam.” She then ordered her team to retrace their steps. The party venture back through a wide chasm, filled with hundreds of shelves housing marbled orbs. A few dismayed dwarves accompany them, unsure of what awaits them. Toma gulped as she crosses the metallic membrane. Eventually, the party make their way back to the portal. They exchange a look with the dwarves, who have turned to face their now-evaporated homeland. They then turned back to the portal, took a breath, and stepped through.

A montage of scenes briefly shows that the party enjoyed temporary fame in Nalaam for a few weeks before the public eye turned elsewhere. Ziz’s fame was of the negative kind: people staying far away from the explosive, erratic medic. Once fading into obscurity, Ziz was once again on the lam, both figuratively and literally.

If this was a movie, the final montage shot would end in a burst of white light. Then, after a few seconds, the white light fades. In this scene, Simon sat, idly stirring his bowl of ashes and spaghetti. He managed to curl a thick, red strand of spaghetti around his fork, a surprising find given he cooks his pasta without water. A distant voice echoed in his head, indecipherable, but slowly getting louder and clearer. The voice, now loud and clear, shook Simon out of his own head. "Agent Simon, do uncurl my whisker. It is not very professional of you."

Simon immediately dropped his fork, and looked down at his ashes to find the head of his spymaster, El Extraño. "Excellent work, Simon. You executed my plan just as intended. I had long suspected the scientist dragon below this city had been slain. Another failed tyrant toppled. Unfortunately, the disturbance of a magical reservoirs suggests the ziggurat of Urim below Nalaam has been tampered with, likely by the Obscurati. Do not be impressed, Simon. The melted rings on the human skeletons within the keep demonstrate the Obscurati were successful in their to destroy the ziggurat’s keeper, though incurred causalities. As for missions, Simon, your next will be overseas. Have you heard the Clergy tale of Jonah?"

The scene fades to black.

(Simon will make a return appearance in Adventure 10, after infiltrating Axis Island via an undead whale.)

I had a class in college eighteen years ago any conspiracies and paranoia. I recall thinking how quaint it was, how fringe. It was such a different time. I don't think we even mentioned the Internet once.

My favorite conspiracy theory was, I think, Chilean, involving some rural villages that believed that American doctors were vampires who would suck out fat from the locals that they were treating and then would take it to Americans and injected into the Americans. How else could Americans be so healthy, looking and fat?


I can't believe it's been over six months since I've posted a recap from our actual Zeitgeist game. Let's dive into the convocation, shall we?

First, I'm a shameless thief, so I'll cough up my inspiration. I loved Deathwyrm's idea of playing recordings of Ob speeches.

I was too selfish to give up Nic's speech, but I subcontracted Han's planar primer and the major faction speeches to different friends. I also wrote a small speech for each minor faction, and friend's sent me recordings for those too. I had two friends eerily sing the Voice of Rot's nursery rhyme, so I could play it to creep out my players. I also had Romana's voice actor come back and record a short speech that silences the room right before the second vote.

Here are the speeches for the minor factions, if you're interested.

“Listen ye bunyips. I have a proposition, one that will have you froth at the mouth for excitement, adventure, or perhaps as a symptom of an alien contagion. For the plane of Apet is a fickle warden, keeping us at bay from the infinite cosmos. What if we could explore the skies? What if we could conquer the distant lands and reap their bounty! I am Bruse McDruid, and for the last decade I have sailed explored the seas of Lanjyr. And now, I wish to explore the sky. I, representative of The Trekkers, propose we throw out the planes preventing planar transportation and replace these with literally anything else. We don’t care what.”

“Shut up! Your brain has been poisoned by all that dialect. Had you a mind between your two ears, you'd know there is plenty we do agree on; for instance, that the Clergy has no place in our new world.

"Religious conviction lead to the great malice, it lead to bombings in the city of Flint, it leads to countless despicable acts in Crisillyir every day. We have all revolted against it, but none of us have made it our cause like I have. The Mortal Mind seeks to completely remove the feeling of religious awe from the world. It causes nothing but harm, it's only sound contribution to society has been in the form of the arts - all, which have been tainted by the aforementioned conviction. I'm not even a representative of the Bards - though, perhaps Mr. Praesidia and I can discuss an arrangement later - but even their vision of imbuing talent and appreciation to the arts and entertainment would be more than sufficient to replace whatever contributions have been made in that department."

“Oh yes, I have heard the proposal of Mr Willimarkanova, and I must say, it is hard for me to support the hatred of something that has been intrinsic to the collective humanity. The divine reverence of the soul need not be directed towards the heavens. It is the beauty of our world that makes life worth living. Consider a world where society places art on the pedestal of science and economics. Consider beauty and wonder walking hand-in-hand with industry. The expression of the worker will be both profitable and wonderful. The fires of productivity refined by pure glee. We at the bard faction wish for every major proposal to consider infusing their world with expressions of longing and love."

“My home nation of Danor has prospered not from war, but from defence. In its humble beginnings, Danor was wracked by plague and ill-faith, but we persisted. Four wars with Risur, but we persisted. And now, we are one of the strongest nations of Lanjyr. Why tinker with an old, traditional recipe that has succeeded for hundreds of generations. The current planes prevent invasion from other worlds, and it has worked well so far. My Aegis plan insists that if the current planesof Space and Death—which are the source of that protection—are changed, that some other defenses be put in their place.”

“Let me ask you fellow friends, collaborators, and conspirators: why are we gathered here today? To change the world? No, no. You are here to change your world. You are here to profit. Be that morally or materially, you are here to indulge your vices, yes? The planes linked to our world imbue it with energy, but it is the common man who imbues it with MONEY. And why is it that few economic schemes succeed in this world? Why is it that the unwashed worker is so poorly discerning in their consumption and purchases? Because the logic of exchange is fickle, unpredictable, and distasteful. My economic proposal will give people stronger sense of the value of things and a more intuitive grasp of economics. Then, workers will engage passionately in their crafts and rationally in their consumption. Support my proposal and you will support a more utilitarian world, where the profits of industry will be reaped by the intelligent.”

“Enough of this meager squawking! …Now that we have quietened down, I have a question for you? Why is it always the human nations warring and bickering? Meanwhile, the dwarves sharpen their philosophy, the eladrin rebuild their empire, and the gnomes refine their gadgets. The long-lived races are blessed with an inconceivable wisdom to the minds of short-lived folk. Humans? Humans choose tiny problems that can be solved in a decade or two. What if we could dream longer, not bigger? The Long Now proposal wishes to find a Plane of Time that will make people consider a longer timespan in their decisions.”

The MAP and Blue Sky proposals were pretty much copied this thread, so I won't repeat them here:

And now, the promised recap, courtesy of Ella's player:

Session 75
Let’s get right to it, shall we? We traveled to an obscure island, met Mayor Macbannin in ghost form, watched someone get incinerated by a shadowlisk, and found ourselves on the upper floor of the Obscurati’s Bleak Gate palace: sitting in a room with six other members of the conspiracy. Chief among them were sovereign Han Jierre and the so-called “Nicodemus” - who was currently inhabiting the body of Mr Mapple.

We managed to conceal the shock of that well enough to avoid breaking cover, and the meeting proceeded smoothly. It was revealed that there are three leaders of the conspiracy: Nicodemus; Han Jierre; and Asrabey’s wife, Kasvarina. That last one… didn’t really surprise us but it was still disheartening to know we’d had one of the Obscurati’s leaders in our grasp and let her slip away.

Grappa - AKA Leone - did manage to convince the Ob that we, Team BAD, are dead though, which is nice. Especially since they’d been about to hold a workshop on how to defeat us. That’s… an odd kind of compliment I guess but still intimidating. We didn’t have much time to ponder it though, as our official Obscurati meeting schedule dictated that we find our rooms, unpack, tease Ella, and mingle with the other guests for “enlightening discussion” before the main event later that evening.

As we left the meeting, Lisandra realised that we had, in fact, met Nicodemus before: not just in Crisillyir but also at Macbannin’s mansion over a year ago, in the guise of a philosophical courier. He’d spoken of chaos and building a better world, of ending people’s suffering. A noble goal apparently bathed in bloodshed, given all the events since…

A bloody revolution that every Obscurati member present seemed willing to participate in, as they shared tales of treachery and murder in pursuit of the Obscurati’s goals. The individuals present ranged from nobility to scientists to philosophers: ambitious individuals all. It begged the question though of what, exactly, they were fighting for? How did the Obscurati intend to make a better world?

Nicodemus soon provided the answer, standing tall atop a stage as he and Han Jierre laid out a plan to move the very planets themselves: using an Ancient ritual to change the eight planes attached to ours and infuse our world with all new traits and realms of possibility!

It was… an astounding proposal. Insane even, but with every word the Ob leaders showed just how carefully they’d planned for this. Extraplanar experiments with meteorite dust had discerned the traits associated with different planes. Luc Jierre’s lanterns had been used to create stable areas of extraplanar influence. And Born the colossus had been created to move the massive golden plate protecting the Ancient ritual site so that the Ob might rewrite what our ancestors had set in stone

All they needed was the colossus… and a definitive plan. Because as it stood they had five: five plans to create a better world. Five plans that we, as supposed Ob members, were expected to vote on. A decision that would change the very heavens and life as we know it.

No pressure… right?

The first proposal was presented by Mayor Macbannin: a simple plan known as The Arboretum. In this plan nature would become completely predictable: responding perfectly to magical control to ensure bountiful harvests and preventable storms. Although at the risk of creating natural disasters and barren landscapes in any place not controlled by magic… Not to mention they’d be replacing the moon and possibly destroying the Dreaming and all the fey within.

Team BAD was… largely unimpressed by this plan, and cooled down by exploring some experimental pocket dimensions. Angharad bathed in lava, Lisandra walked forever downwards, John found the shapeshifting plane, and Ella learned to fly.

The next proposal was Colossus: a radical plan presented by the Risuri noble Catherine Romana. She explained that putting ultimate power in the hands of a few trusted Obscurati members for a limited time each month was clearly the best way forward. This would involve increased risk of extraplanar invasion by creatures such as Sijhen, more storms, lower seas, colder weather, and possible megalomaniacs getting their hands on the source of the power without accepting the drawbacks. You know… a reasonable plan.

Angharad seemed all for it but the rest of Team BAD was undecided on this one…

We went to explore the Colossus demonstration dimension and Ella briefly experienced the intoxicating feel of incredible power before Lisandra briefly broke down in an internal personality crisis and we retreated.

Third on the proposal list was Miller’s Pyre: a gentle plan presented by one of Kasvarina’s followers. The goal being to make everyone in the world an empathetic debate master so that they might talk through their problems rather than solving them with violence. Problems included storms, alien invaders, and those with the strongest opinions overshadowing others.

Overall, this plan met with some approval and we visited the demonstration portal with Ella, at least, hopeful that it could actually create a better world. That feeling ebbed sharply when she watched two malnourished men almost murder each other, and then returned hesitantly when they set aside their differences to help each other.

The fourth proposal, presented by Han Jierre, was called Panarchist. A plan to give everyone enhanced natural healing and teleportation powers so that they might better defend themselves, along with the ability to imbue their soul into objects and promises, so that property might be protected and oaths fulfilled.

This one was received fairly positively but we had no time to test it before rushing off to the final speech: the Watchmakers proposal, presented by the ghost of a Danoran gunsmith. This one, of all the proposals, was the only one to completely strike Team BAD dumb.

Amielle Latimer laid out a perfectly calculated plan to enslave every single person on the planet, turning the globe into a clockwork prison of perfect niceness for a thousand years so that our descendants might be brainwashed into good-aligned automatons. Because, obviously, being a good person isn’t something you can simply do on your own. It must be forced upon us.

While we were still recovering from that declaration, two guards approached: obviously agitated but trying to remain calm. They told us that it was fine, everything was fine, and we should remain calm, but, uh… there’d been a murder.

Naturally, all thoughts turned to Angharad, and then secondly to John. It was only on the third time round that the question really sunk in: if the undercover RHC agents hadn’t killed someone, then who had?

Find out the answer to… probably not that question, next time: on Zeitgeist!


Session 76-78
Courtesy of Lisandra's player

[Echo: ] The guests were gathered in the theater and told of the murder and precautionary measures. All guests were to speak with Nicodemus. Ella, in the body of Livia, and Nicodemus spoke on the beach. When asked what she would change about the world, Ella admitted she didn't know. Most things are interconnected, and she noted that changing one thing would be unlikely to create lasting change. All of the players immediately shipped Nic and Ella. Meanwhile, the party casts their preliminary votes. Everyone voted MAP, except for Angharad who voted colossus (the feysworn liked the idea of rulers, and became even more convinced when the proposal incorporated the rites of rulership). Team BAD learned of the minor factions, mingled in the company of villains, and explored portals. They stayed away from things that could draw attention to them, like investigating the murder or the ghostly sobbing from the rocks of the southern shore. Unfortunately, the party exchanged enough quips about paperwork and constabulary duties that it drew the attention of Pemberton. Then, as they were retiring for the night, they heard gunshots (the guards firing at targets).

BANG! A gunshot at a convocation that had just reported a guests murder. The concerned members of team bad had darted their way to the window… everyone except an overly sober Angharad, of course. Another shot rang out and sent Ella darting off to inspect, with a worried Lisandra behind her. Turns out the off-duty guardsmen were either naughty word with us, or the on-duty one lying, as he told us it was just target practice to blow off some steam and apologized for the inconvenience before escorting the guests back to their rooms for the night.

Holed up for the night, Lisandra used the fireplace to invite Ella around, requesting assistance in inspecting something she’d found; a fish hook pendant, slightly rusts and very magical. Ella made an entrance through a vent system she’d discovered and inspected the object, but was unable to identify it specifically, likening it in power to the First Blade of Srasama.

The group settled in for the night and weird dreams were had as Team BAD and their physical hosts met in dreamscapes. Oscan dreamt of old marks, hung upside down and bleeding out. Pleasant, in his opinion, but less so Lisandra who remained in control while the Family narc dreamed on.

Xavier dreamed of the Avery Coast, but awoke to John’s presence and gained control, finding himself in a strange room, shared with a strange man, clutching at a strange rifle not his own. John regained control quickly and returned to sleep without incident.

Livia dreamed of the Royal Library, researching their vast catalogue for the Obscurati and excitedly awaiting the Convocation. She opened a book to a page that just read WAKE UP. So she did.

Angharad awoke as the original Livia, now back in control of her body found herself in a strange room, darting from her bed to grab Ella’s rapier and gain her bearings. Ella eventuall regained control and return to sleep before it was Ken’s turn to dream.

A desk in the Grand Librarium. Flickering lamplight, and a wolf howling in the distance before the man snuffed the light, muttering about disruptive ghosts and unaware as Angharad remained in control.

Within their dreams, Team Bad heard a familiar, terrifying voice speak. The Voice of Rot called out as Ken’s form dissolved into Agharad and asked for his allegiance to be pledged to the Fey Titan. Pledge your eyes, so I may see, came the request. Meeker than usual, Angharad declined, announcing he was already pledged to another.

The Voice of Rot receded with the parting words; "The rites of Old will be upheld. But your hands work my work. They are not just your own.”

To foreshadow the Voice of Rot's plot, the titan will reach out to the party every now and then to ask them to pledge themselves. Angharad refuses, having already pledged himself to the Ash Wolf. The Voice of Rot alludes to having Angharad's hands, a line that has two meanings: Angharad's hand was long-severed by Lya and Angharad uses the Absurdist's Web.

The team awoke fresh on the day of the final vote to another murder and a note from Grappa, who let them know Leone was being called to meet with Nicodemus. Lisandra tailed at a distance, pretending to be on a mission for coffee as John alerted their comrade to follow.

Ella headed past the crime scene, overhearing the guards talking about the death of Dame Constance Bayden, burnt to a crisp. Suspecting perhaps a tiefling with a royal bloodline capable of such feats, or paranoid that Team BAD was somehow responsible.

Beyond the murder, Ella and John snuck into a spare supply room as Lisandra kept watch, and Agharad took time to compose his sober self back in their quarters. The druid transformed into a rodent, climbing through the vents Ella had opened to eavesdrop on the meeting with Nicodemus.

Leone was in a meeting with the organizers; Nicodemus, Han Jierre and Vecimi. They spoke about the Colossus, Borne. Though protected from divination and impossible to track with magic, Ob reports tell of giant footprints matching appropriate description making the land in the Waking, destroying the landscape. When asked, Leone confirmed that Borne was created with the capacity to operate under water and was tasked with compiling a report on Borne’s capabilities.

It was mentioned the Ob believes Kasvarina to be in an Elven enclave in Elfaivar, located between the Waking and the Dreaming and their priority beyond the Convocation was to reclaim the Colossus.

Grappa’s voting was brought into question, those present possibly surprised that Steelshaper was taken by the Watchmaker faction. As the meeting adjourned, he was implored to consider one of the more popular ideas.

During her coffee break, Lisandra’s eavesdropping yielded more information about the previous murder as guards spoke of the victim being kept in the Ice Room, and the only visible injury to the body a small nick near his ear. Divination proving unsuccessful, suspicion turned to potential Ob members due to the protective rings.

A distant rattling down the hall caught their attention as the team reconvienced. A door handle. Grappa’s room. Becoming weaker and more sporadic. Ella sprinted off with the other close behind, yanking the door open to find Leone, hovering mid-air, choking. Failing to call on his power to manipulate metal as life was choked from him… and the ghostly figure of Reed Macbannin in the corner. Ella immediately shot off a blast of powerful magic, sending several magic missiles at the ghost and Leone’s body was flung dramatically to the floor as he gasped for air.

“Stop it at once!” Macbannin implored, “This man voted for a different faction than us. He is our common enemy.”

“His faction lost the vote, you moron!” Oscan tried to reason, “You could bloody recruit him!”

As the tense conversation with the wounded ghost continues, guards in the distance coming to investigate, Angharad tried to sift through Ken’s mind and lost control. Macbannin tried to sway Ella’s mind by casting Suggestion and failed as the guards approached the ghost floated off to the garden.

Questing ensued of both the group and Reed Macbannin who was called back up to make a statement. The ex-politician smoothed things over annoyingly well, claiming the he and Leone were old lovers fond of erotic asphyixiation and that Livia, who was MOST CERTAINLY, only capable of the level of magic her Obscurati dossier claimed she was, intervene on a misunderstanding.

Leone, reluctantly confirmed. Cover was tentatively maintained as the human guards seemed convinced (or just horrified and wanted to leave). The ghosts didn’t seem so convinced, but with the so-called misunderstanding smoothed over, the guards called the matter closed and everyone was free to go.

Ella and John stayed back with Grappa, keen to keep him safe and assist in helping him in his task of putting together an dossier while Oscan and Ken, who Angharad had regain control of, decided to keep Erskine, their forgotten +1, busy with breakfast and the conversation that accompanied.

Radical factions began to pop up over breakfast, with minority groups pitching ideas for the voting to come as Ken attempted to circulate further rumours about Aloquacious and Latimer being involved in the recent murders.

Everyone eventually gathered for lunch, including the heads of the gathering and Catherine Romana decided to take the floor, attempting to cause district in the leadership. Nicodemus seemed unphased, but Ella couldn’t help but speak up, snarking back and even suggesting that perhaps Romana was the murderer, though she seemed genuine in her denile.

And so we joined Team BAD today awaiting the final vote of the Convocation. Who will win? Who else will die? Will Reed try to blackmail Livia? Will Angharad survive the mission’s relative sobriety? Maybe we’ll find out next time, in the wacky adventures of Team BAD.
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Sorry about the previous, non-linear post. I omitted a recap of two short sessions we had, which have now been edited in.

Session 79
Courtesy of Ella's player

Infiltrating a top secret Obscurati meeting in another dimension using the bodies of unwilling Ob officers… Not the easiest of tasks to be sure, and yet - despite everything - we’d been doing surprisingly well!

Sure, someone else was running around killing Obscurati and that person wasn’t us. And yes, Macbannin knew something fishy was going on but… overall? Not bad!
…Despite our team name.

Of course, “not bad” means “far too well” in Zeitgeist, so it was time to throw a spanner in the works. Or three spanners! Because why not?

The first spanner came in the form of Angharad. Having sat through boring speech after boring meeting after not-quite-so-boring demonstration, he was ready to spice things up a little. After all, it’s not like we were there to help the Obscurati. Right, Ella?

The last round of boring speeches Angharad had endured - two of them presented by Ella and Erskine - finished with a word from Nicodemus: as the immortal Ob leader explained that… while the world might be a truly naughty word up place filled with foul people committing countless atrocities, the Obscurati’s own atrocities had a chance to fix all that! So the next - and perhaps final - round of voting was very important. A process that could determine the fate of the entire world - and eight other worlds besides!

No pressure.

Han, Nicodemus, Grappa and Erksine all voted for the MAP proposal, yet Colossus still managed to take the lead by the time Team BAD came around. Ella/Livia’s vote went to MAP, as did Lisandra/Oscan’s and John/Xavier’s. Which left MAP one vote ahead of Colossus and Angharad with the final vote in the room.

Enter Spanner #1.

Ken Don [controlled by Angharad] stepped up to the board, took his vote… and placed it with Colossus, creating a tie. Because what’s an extradimensional secret meeting to determine the fate of the world without a little chaos?

Nicodemus forestalled the imminent uproar as he commended everyone on “voting their conscience” and began speechifying over the sound of gas filling the room’s lanterns. Lisandra was the first to notice, shrugging off the effects of the soothing blue glow that was so very similar to the light she’d fallen victim to in Knutpara. Everyone else though began to feel remarkably calm.

A quick kick to Angharad’s shin disabused him of his newfound peace, and John and Ella eventually followed suit, leaving the true Ob officers in an agreeable daze as Nicodemus invited the Watchmakers and MAP supporters to follow him out of the room while the Colossus advocates stayed behind. With nothing more than paranoia and vague unease to go on, we followed his directions, leaving Angharad to hobnob with wannabe tyrants.

In the foyer, Lisandra, Ella and John found the second spanner: a giant, roiling mass of spirits comprising the Obscurati’s oft-mentioned but never-before-seen Ghost Council. A spectral monstrosity that Nicodemus very calmly proposed setting on the Colossus supporters in the theatre hall. A suggestion that nearly everyone present wholeheartedly agreed with.

Sodding Murderati.

The only exceptions were the people that weren’t even supposed to be there: undercover Team BAD.

Ella/Livia spoke up first, trying to make an eloquent case for the Obscurati not murdering half of their own people, while Lisandra frantically tried to think of a way to extricate Angharad from the potential slaughter. Seeing Ella’s pleas falling on death ears, the oracle - in her guise as ruthless murderer Oscan - stepped up to the plate and rebuked those present for advocating peace while proposing murder! Berating them for betraying the ideals of the MAP proposal so easily. With her final denouncement, she span toward the theatre hall doors and demanded to be let in. For if the Colossus advocates were going to die, then someone from the MAP proposal should stand by their bloody grand ideals and die with them!

Her ploy to get to Angharad was foiled by the third spanner in our increasingly complicated evening, as Erskine stepped forward and spoke in a horribly familiar voice: “For those who do not know me, my name is Benedict Pemberton.”

The dwarven duplicant’s chest opened, revealing a ticking bomb, as the dragon-in-dwarf’s-clothing stated that while he really hated the Ob, there were some present who he hated more: Team BAD.

And then he pointed at us. Because of course he did.

Stupid Gradiax.

Chaos ensued: Ob officers panicking, Ella trying to disable the bomb, Han Jierre vanishing, John being very confused about who to shoot, the Ghost Council floating toward the theatre hall full of blissfully unaware Colossus supporters, and Nicodemus watching it all with calm interest.

Through the theatre hall doors, Angharad heard the muffled commotion and decided to take advantage of the calming effect in his room to coerce Catherine Romana into his Absurdist’s Web. An endeavour that was going fairly well until a scream from the foyer interrupted.

For in Lisandra’s haste to get to the theatre doors, she’d stood in the way of the Ghost Council, and the ghosts had no qualms about sucking out her life force as they drifted by. The oracle didn’t back down though, enduring the energy drain as well as Nicodemus’ irritatingly calm comments with only terse replies. Their one-sided conversation was interrupted by a new voice: one coming from Nicodemus’ own mouth. A voice much more akin to that we’d heard upon first meeting Nicodemus’ current form: Mr Mapple.

The brief usurpation of his body by its true owner was enough to convince Nicodemus to leave, and with a snap of his fingers he vanished. Leaving us, a bomb, some fleeing Ob officers, and a room full of perturbed Colossus supporters. That perturbation soon turned to panic as the Ghost Council drifted through the theatre hall doors and began murdering people. Fortunately Angharad had finished ensnaring Catherine in his web and Dimension Door’d out of the room, leaving the Colossus members to their fate.

Almost simultaneously, eight Ob officers in the foyer were going up in flames, courtesy of John’s Flame Strike. The flames were intense enough to turn them to ash, as John made good on our orders to capture or kill when the opportunity presented itself.

Ella was… less than pleased though, as she suddenly found herself disabling a bomb for the benefit of nearly no one: with most of those who’d been present now dead or fled.

Angharad turned to one of the few remaining Ob - the eladrin Cula - and said “Sorry about this” as he grappled her. The Srasama follower slapped him away with burning hands though and John proceeded to fill her with bullets, while a plucky Ob officer likewise shot at Lisandra.

Drained of energy and now minus some flesh - but bonus a bullet! - Lisandra took one look at her attacker and sent him fleeing from the room with a spell.

In the midst of the flames and gunshots and screams, Ella decided she wanted none of it. No more death. No more unnecessary suffering and hate. With a final, bitter comment, she teleported through the theatre hall’s doors and out of sight.

Upon making it to those doors a few moments later, Lisandra found no sign of her friend, only an invisible barrier - as evidenced by Alloquacious the halfling slamming into it on his way out. The oracle didn’t have eyes for him though: instead searching for Ella amongst the chaos of fallen corpses, fleeing Colossus members, and writhing ghosts. She finally spotted her friend in the grasping arms of the Ghost Council: a tiny, ghostly tiefling who only gave her a brief look before stepping into the Council’s embrace.

As she vanished, so did something in Lisandra. But there was no time to consider that. No space for grief. She gave Alloquacious some curt advice to seek a vent and left him to his fate, turning back to Angharad and John’s struggle with Cula.

The eladrin had shot them both with lightning, slapped Angharad with fire hands, and stabbed the kineticist a few times, but John’s bullets were finally wearing her down, and it was with contempt that she spat: “I would sooner die to the beasts of this world than you fiends!” before teleporting away on 0 health. Probably condemning herself to a lonely death by blood loss…

With the final combatant gone, the constables found themselves in a bubble of calm - not counting the screams from the Ghost Council’s hunt. When John and Angharad questioned Lisandra on Ella's whereabouts, the spirit medium simply replied: “Ella’s already left”.

John immediately understood the morbid implication, but it took Angharad a moment longer. And when it clicked, it was only Lisandra’s reminder that dying here would prevent taking revenge later that kept the Mystic from flinging himself into the theatre.

His scream of rage echoed alongside the panicked cries of the Obscurati as he turned away, abandoning the Colossus members to their fate: unwitting actors in a theatre of death, following the unknown script of their immortal leader.

Yet the stage Team BAD find themselves upon now seems darker still: as they step from the lights of the palace into the shadows of the Bleak Gate. A place inhabited by monsters, filled with ghosts, and haunted by grief.

Will they escape from this nightmare realm? Or find themselves joining its spectral denizens?

Find out next time, on Zeitgeist.

GM Notes

Ella died! The lede is buried in this recap, but she teleported into theatre hall to save Colossus members. The ghost council took no pleasure in destroying her. The party assumes the soul of Livia and Ella was sent to Nem, as per the spell used to implant their minds into their hosts. However, the council saw use in Ella, who was ideologically predisposed to the Ob's goals. When the many hands of the council dragged Ella's soul inwards, it was for safe keeping. As the possessor of Livia and a Pardwight graduate of law, she is uniquely equipped to challenge King Aodhan for the throne. She'll return in Adventure Nine, as leader of the ghost council.

Admittedly, the ghost council was pumped up a bit. I gave it energy drain, knowing the party had several ways to outright protect themselves against negative energy and energy drain. However, Ella acted too hastily and was punished harshly for it. Out of character, the player admitted to knowing they could have prepared and survived, but that's not what she thought Ella would do in such a dire situation. Before this session, I also talked to this player about Ella's ideological alignment with the Ob. She thought the main reason Ella wouldn't join the Ob is because she trusts her friend's judgement over her own. I wouldn't normally bring a PC back as an evil character, but I think my players will enjoy it and I think it makes a huge amount of narrative sense. I'm looking forward to bringing her back and hearing (damn virtual games) my player's reactions...

Also, RIP sexy Harry Potter and Gran Guiscard. The two Ob agents who shacked up at the convocation. They had one last embrace before being incinerated by the John's pillar of fire.

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