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ZEITGEIST The Flint Irregulars, whose portraits you may have seen


We just finished up our group's (mostly) annual week-long D&D get-together. Our progress slowed down again this year, as one of the players moved to another time zone and the overlap gives us significantly less time to work with during our weekly online sessions. We're going to try to figure out a workaround so that we can keep things moving, since everyone seemed to have a lot of fun this week.

Headed for Bole

The party set off for Bole to pursue the leads on the various fey titans. Arriving unannounced, they went to the local Constabulary and met with the Chief Inspector, who was prickly enough that the party concluded their celebrity had potentially become a hindrance in this case. But they were at least able to get a little intelligence about the immediate threats, and learn that the local druidic sect was preparing runes of repulsion to try and keep the titans at bay. Vesta and Reginald studied with the druid Ochran to learn the runes, but nobody caught on that the druid was a spy and that the runes were in fact reversed, and would draw titans toward the city. While the druids and RHC set up runes of "repulsion" around Bole, the party headed east to track down the Ash Wolf, judging that the possibility of Bole burning down presented the most imminent threat.

The Ash Wolf

They reached a village threatened by encroaching flames. Reginald helped dig some firebreaks, but the party concluded that the village would be best served by them moving quickly to locate and placate the Ash Wolf, so they left almost immediately. It wasn't hard for them to track down the Ash Wolf, who demanded blood in recompense for her dead cub. (The adventure describes the Ash Wolf as male, but the original Player's Guide and setting guide describe her as female; since I'd previously told the players she was female, I stuck with that.)

They examined the cub's body, but weren't able to make much of it, except that they detected the planar energy of Av. Unexpected. Searching for where the Ash Wolf told them she had found the body, they recognized that something was getting them turned around, but they could still detect Av energy. After some investigation and experimentation, they recalled that Av had traits of reflection and dream, and realized that if they looked in the right direction through mirrors, they could see a huge ring of fire that was otherwise undetectable. Inside the ring, they found a ziggurat seemingly made entirely of brass, with fiery worms patrolling its perimeter. They made it to the entrance and made contact with the salamander folk guarding it. There was a brief exchange to get them to use writing, since Vesta had an item that would allow translation between their languages, but only if written down.

This presented an interesting wrinkle when they met Kuyler, the salamander sultan, and Liese, his bound efreet. As Vesta explained the need to communicate by writing, Kuyler said something they didn't understand, and Liese told them that Kuyler had just Wished for her to allow them all to understand one another, because he couldn't read -- and by the way, she would very much like to be free of him.

With this knowledge, they asked Kuyler many questions about him, his rule, and his domain, and entertained him as best they could. It did seem like they might come to an arrangement, but Viveen and Vesta could not countenance slavery, and demanded the release of the efreet. Since Kuyler would never compromise on this, there was a fight, and they defeated the salamanters, killing Kuyler. They found a portal to Jiese in the ziggurat, which Liese agreed to close as soon as her duty to Kuyler expired one month from his death, in exchange for her freedom.

They took the sultan's body back to the Ash Wolf, and explained what happened. The Ash Wolf accepted this repayment, and her pack ate Kuyler's body. She warned Risur to stay away from her new den, but agreed to aid the nation in battle sometime within the next year.

The Father of Thunder

The party returned to Bole, where the Chief Inspector was surprised and pleased to hear of their successes. They considered their knowledge of the Father of Thunder, and took some time to teleport to Slate and both report to the King in person and obtain the rarest, finest spirits they could, through Reginald's uncle (a purveyor for the palace) and Vesta's Vekeshi Mystic contacts. Then they returned to Bole and quickly set off to locate the Father of Thunder. Keep in mind that unlike most parties, they don't have the monarch with them! Viveen is the heir to the throne, but very much desires for Aodhan to live a long time yet. So if it did come to a fight, they were expecting to need to run away and request the King's aid. (He would have come with them earlier, to Dame Jillian's dismay, but they didn't ask.)

The "repulsion" runes were set surrounding Bole. They found the herd with relative ease west of the city, and set up their own group of "attraction" runes to try and lure the herd to them. Then Vesta took Viveen and teleported onto the Father of Thunder's back -- who needs the Wild Hunt, who in this game weren't even in the Waking at this point, when you've got Fourmyle Jaunts and can bring a +1? They saluted the titan, prompting blasts of lightning from the sky whenever either of them spoke. But they persisted, managed to both hold on and stay conscious, and said they had brought an offering of fine spirits, if he would only head toward their companions on the ridge. The titan gobbled up their offering in an instant, but when the herd reached the "attaction" runes -- in fact, repulsion runes -- they immediately turned and headed toward the "repulsion" runes around Bole.

Realizing they'd been betrayed, Bela immediately begain using his Fourmyle Jaunts every 5 minutes (he and Vesta are both teleportation-centric characters who, like Lauren Cyneburg, get to teleport per-encounter) to head for Bole as quickly as possible. They concluded that they had, basically, this afternoon to prepare for either one hell of a party, or the city getting flattened by the herd. Reginald sent a consciousness fragment as high into the air as it can travel in 5 minutes before Fourmyle Jaunting directly back to Bole and then immediately Sent to the King to come to Bole to potentially battle the Father of Thunder. Then, after informing the Chief Inspector of the betrayal, he headed to the Theater District to recruit some musicians and talk to the distilleries about using up their stock in the defense of the city.

Once Aodhan arrived, Reginald set about working with the King to create an impromptu aqueduct from the city's distilleries in the Theater District to a low-lying area outside the city, intending to create a lake of booze.

Bela reached some outlying villages on his way back to Bole, and instructed them to get out of the way of the oncoming herd. Once he reached the "repulsion" rune perimeter, he set about realigning the runes to direct them toward Reginald's planned booze lake (location communicated via Sending).

Vesta and Viveen were eventually thrown off the Father of Thunder's back, so Vesta used his contingency teleport to get them to the ground and then set about Jaunting them back to Bole.

Having recruited some slightly dubious musicians with his best sales pitch, Reginald realized he had an ace up his sleeve: he offered them the chance to perform as Rock Rackus' backing band. He Sent to Rock to come play for the Father of Thunder, and Rock was totally up for it -- it would be a LEGENDARY show.

While hastily assembled, the plan was coming together. The herd reached the lake, and Rock and his new band started up their classic, We Had a Threesome, with the lyrics cleverly modified to include many more than three hooved, quadrapedal participants. Enthused, the Father of Thunder began drinking, and an absolute banger of a party got into full swing.

Hours upon hours later, exhausted, with the liquor lake completely drained, the Father of Thunder declared this to have been be one hell of a party. Aodhan side-eyed Viveen and let her know that he suspected he might be able to take on this titan in its drunken, weakened state. But the Father of Thunder stumbled into the woods, pulled a hill over himself, and went to sleep. While the nation didn't gain any new promises from this titan, the quadrapted party / orgy will certainly produce a bounty of magically-enhanced livestock among those participants that consented to be impregnated. (Yes, even the males. It works. It's magic!)

Granny Allswell

While Chief Inspector couldn't help a facepalm at how hastily the plan had to be concocted, she did at least respect the execution, and appreciated that the Theater District was still standing -- at least for now. She said that they hadn't been able to track down the traitor druid, but would definitely put up wanted posters.

The party headed for the Anthras Mountains to try to track down Granny Allswell. Reaching the mining town Favela, they found some 300 citizens assembled at the docks. A ripple passed through the crowd as the King stepped onto the docks, with murmurs that they might be saved now that the King and the Heroes of the Realm had arrived. After a quick speech to the assembled, they headed to "City Hall" -- expressing obvious disdain at the name "Oremongers" for a brothel -- to confer with the putative town leader, Katlin. Bela spotted Ochran peeking at them through a second floor window, before he quickly closed the curtain. Inside, Katlin related the situation, but when asked about her brother Ochran, admitted that he had recently arrived to stay with her. Nobody detected her duplicity, so she agreed to let the King and party speak with him, and while they went upstairs, she quietly fled.

Ochran realized that the jig was up and turned into an air elemental, but the party and the King quickly knocked him out, and Bela questioned him with Rending Fear (which compels truthful answers). Ochran admitted that he served the Voice of Rot, but that he hadn't heard from his master since the Great Eclipse, and was only working in ways he believed would be in his master's interest. He also confirmed that his sister also served the fey titan. The party stuffed him in the Absurdist Web to deal with later, since without Mage Cuffs, there wasn't a way to effectively restrain him outside of a city with sealed holding cells.

Bela took some time to lure a few gremlins into conversation. They cordially invited him to come to the mines, because as the possessor of Granny's Boon, surely he was the tall person she had been looking for. They also complained about searching for children but being unable to find any.

With Katlin fled, the party stopped workshopping better names for the brothel. Instead, they searched City Hall, and found a map with locations marked. They investigated, and found every location devoid of metal, with any mechanical equipment destroyed. Since some of the locations were near the dam, they took a couple of mine engineers with them to the dam, finding that some equipment had been damaged. They had the engineers establish a watch on the dam, and then headed across to investigate the next marked location. Before too long, they began to hear cries of children calling for help, coming from the bottom of an elevator shaft. Bela teleported down (he has darkvision) and found a cage, with shimmering magic inside. This seemed to be the source of the sound. Back up top, Reginald identified it as an illusion. The party concluded that Katlin planted these to lure gremlins, in the hopes of tricking Granny Allswell into destroying the dam and flooding Bole.

That meant it was time to head for the mines. They made their way up to the mine shafts, finding one signposted in blood calling on readers to "come and play." They descended the elevator, waking a sleeping gremlin who moved to cut the rope, but Bela spotted him ahead of time and called out to him that they were the tall ones wanted by Granny. At the bottom of the shaft waited four unusually well-dressed gremlins, who after some cordial chatter, led them deeper into the mine through a series of traps. Upon spotting and calling out the first one, the gremlines complained that anyone wanting to see Granny needed to play the game! So the party played along and finagled ways around or through the traps, and reached Granny's cave.

They had an extended negotiation with Granny. She doesn't get out much, don't you know. Her prospective terms didn't appeal much to anyone on the Risuri side. But when told of the Voice of Rot's interference, she insisted on confirming that. Viveen assented to Granny casting a spell on her; Granny used her domination power to compel Viveen to tell her truthfully everything she knew about the Voice of Rot. Viveen was comprehensive, going all the way back to their first encounter in the High Bayou, through their fight with the Voice in the Dreaming, and up to now. Granny said she was willing to alter her terms, if Risur would bring her the tongue of the Voice of Rot within the year. The party and the King considered that to be a pretty good deal, since if they can't stop the Voice of Rot, then everyone's doomed anyway. They asked if there was anything Granny could tell them about the voice; she told them that its dominion used to be in the far north of Lanjyr, and that it had somehow lost an eye up there before migrating south to Risur's high bayou. If they could find its eye, they might be able to use it against the Voice.

They freed Granny's hostages, and stayed for a highly questionable but restorative stew. Granny tapped Bela on the head with one giant finger, telling him "well done," and granting him a bauble -- a Charm of Making -- from her ankle. Then the party returned to Favela, and the King gave a speech about how the heroes had come to new terms with Granny Allswell, and that their families and the town were saved, provided the miners were willing to sing during their shifts, and that people continued to leave offerings for gremlins, as they had always done.

With that, the party returned to Bole, met with a suitably impressed Chief Inspector there to give her the update on the situation in Favela and the White Tongue cultists, and then headed back to Flint.

Pemberton Industries

They had been checking in regularly with Pemberton, as well as with Brakken on his undead whale voyage to Axis Island. Things seemed to be going well, with Pemberton's forces gradually securing the island and investigating the ritual site -- but powerful unstable bursts of energy were keeping them at bay. Still, they were able to relay what they had been able to observe from a distance, including the collapsed, partly exploded colossus trapped beneath the partly-open Axis Seal.

This was enough to convince the party that something had defintiely gone wrong -- i.e. rather than the Gyre being an undintended consequence of the Ob's planar alignment selection, the Voice of Rot's interference caused the outcome to be different than what the Ob desired.

When the party mentioned the possibility of subduing She-Who-Writhes to open up sea travel, Pemberton suggested they might consider delaying, and that he and his daughter were working on an airship to allow those poor souls lacking wings to fly for themselves. He might, for the right price, make it available to the party for their use -- albeit with Pemberton Industries logos prominently displayed on either side! And perhaps a contract with the Risuri military to manufacture both small and large airships. With Risur's naval forces diminished in the Axis Island battle, Pemberton's view was that other nations were likely to have more available ships, and might launch an attack as soon as the seas were open.

On the other hand, with She-Who-Writhes still active, fishing would remain impossible, straining the resources of both Risur and Ber to provide for their coastal citizenry. Viveen met with Beshela in the bath, and Beshela proposed a plan to calm She-Who-Writhes enough to at least open negotiations. Viveen said she would consider it and contact Beshela again. She then consulted with the King, who said that if they follow Beshela's plan, they should go prepared to have to subdue the fey titan, and reopen the seas.

The party and the King are still weighing their options here, but at the very least they planned a series of national festivals and fairs in towns and cities across Risur, with Rock Rackus touring his new songs about his legendary party with the Father of Thunder, and all manner of arts and crafts. The idea is to give the people whose livelihoods have been disrupted something to do, while spreading the word of the party and the government's successes in dealing with most of the active fey titans. Food supplies and stipends can be given to coastal citizens who would normally depend on seafood, although how long the nation can sustain this isn't yet clear.

Finally, they consulted (indirectly) with El Extraño, who gave them some intelligence on goings on further afield -- Nicodemus had announced himself in Danor, inviting world leaders to a(nother) conclave; there had been an apparent purge of dissent among leadership in Crisillyr; and Drakr seemed to have taken the impending end of the world in stride. The party also suspected that the cult of Granadis Komanov would be emboldened by the Great Eclipse, which might complicate their efforts to (probably) fly north in Pemberton's airship and search for the Voice of Rot's eye.

What's next?

I've been thinking about how to give some mechanical heft to the tradeoff of dealing with or not dealing with She-Who-Writhes without forcing them into either ruling the nation or doing a boring mechanical simulation of Risur's economy. This is, after all, meant to be heroic escapism -- that seems to be what my players want, at least. They emphatically do not want to get into the nuts and bolts of running the country, and I don't really want to develop and operate a system for managing that, anyway. Especially not when they're finally in epic tier after all this time, and we can focus on the climactic sequences with titans, demigods, and actual gods.

But with all of the non-combat challenges facing the party in Act 3, I decided to spend some time thinking about how to manage their sometimes diffuse effects without bogging the whole game down with nation-building. I was looking at the DC by level table one night and I noticed that choosing 2 difficulty grades (say, Medium & Hard DCs) allows for 3 outcome categories, which maps perfectly to the resolution mechanic in Forged in the Dark games. That meant I could use clocks, and maybe some other FitD mechanics, more or less as written. I think this will work really well for the modular and sometimes nonlinear nature of Act 3.

At a macro level, I'm thinking roughly the following clocks:
  • Doom: the world has one year before the it falls into a black hole and everything is destroyed, unless someone can figure out how to stop it. Ticks up over time.
  • Risur collapse: Risur has many pressures on it, which they've been working to alleviate. Every major threat they resolve removes a segment, but unresolved threats (such as She-Who-Writhes, if they leave her alone) fill segments over time.
  • Ber collapse: Ber is a staunch ally, but has fewer resources and technology than Risur; they can directly and indirectly help their ally (or not) in various ways.
  • Various hidden clocks: tracking the progress of the Ob, Komanov, etc, all of whom have varying (and sometimes conflicting) objectives. I may reveal these clock states whenever the party does something that gets them intel on a given faction.
  • Various research clocks for their ongoing efforts; for example, Reginald has funded a research lab to investigate how witchoil might be undone without destroying the souls trapped within.
I used clocks throughout the fey titan sequences to determine when each titan was satisfied with what was offered, and found it a very effective way to convey how things were going. I think macro clocks for Act 3 will also make it easier for the players to keep track of competing priorities and decide what they want to do next.

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Neat. How transparent were the clock mechanics to the PCs?

I recall when writing and editing adventures 10 and 11, I wanted to keep the pressure up somehow, but I kinda didn't have any robust way to guarantee that, since player options vary so much at epic level. Luckily I think most GMs who get this far are pretty elite and can figure out what works for their players.

(Apologies for Oremongers.)


I introduced clocks after the Great Eclipse, figuring that it was a good opportunity to introduce new mechanics. I also floated using a modified version of the 13th Age escalation die, but they didn't like how I wanted to scale faster, and scale damage as well as attack bonuses. I may bring up using the normal die, just to avoid scenarios against high HP solos where the party novas in round 1 and then by round 6 they're swinging and missing with At-Wills and finishing the battle is a grind.

Anyway, since I'd already introduced the mechanic, it worked well in the fey titan sequences. I didn't fully reveal them, only saying things like "it's half full" when they accomplished an important step, or warning that the threat clock, which would trigger confrontation, was ticking up. But I think for macro clocks like the Doom, Risur, and Ber clocks, I'll make those fully transparent so that they have some idea of how they want to trade off their various priorities. Maybe they can leave She-Who-Writhes alone for a time, with the Risur clock low for the moment, and save themselves needing to deal with opposing fleets. Of course, I'll have to square that with Asrabey's intervention, but I think I can work that out since the PCs are likely to stay in frequent contact with Beshela, and will be quite interested to hear that he's offering his "help." (They've never liked him and find his recent absences quite suspicious.)

I imagine a lot of parties didn't fight the fey titans because each one has particular desires that can be satisfied, which probably seems like the path of least resistance. Even though many groups (including mine) will have previously fought the Voice of Rot, I think this adventure does enough to build up the titans as major threats that even big damn heroes will think twice about rolling initiative just for the hell of it. Also, groups engaged with the setting (like mine) are invested in the future of Risur, and understand that part of what got Risur this far has been agreements with and boons offered by the titans, whether through negotiation, subterfuge, or force.


Once Brakken reached Axis Island, his Beran contingent were able to reestablish the teleportation circle link with Risur, which got the party to Axis Island without having to deal with She-Who-Writhes (yet).

Pemberton welcomed them to the current HQ of Pemberton Industries, and offered refreshments while they discussed the situation. Pemberton and Pardo shared what they'd been able to glean about the site and the ritual. The party pitched Pemberton on a more formal alliance, where Axis Island would become a Risuri protectorate, extending the monarch's dominion over the island and enabling Risur to both defend it and the King to begin modifying the terrain to help stabilize the ritual site.

"There's a problem with that plan," replied Pemberton, "which is that I am no one's vassal. But I do have a business proposal for you all."

He and Terakalir had been building an airship, and he was willing to give it to the party in exchange for certain considerations:
  • Branding rights, ensuring the name of Pemberton Industries would be prominently displayed on the airship and other hardware provided to Risur
  • Contracts with Risur's military for future airships and the aforementioned other hardware
  • A guarantee that if Risur manages to redo the Axis Seal ritual and change the nature of reality, that they will not remove the power of flight
  • A guarantee of noninterference with wherever Pemberton might choose to establish his domain, in return for which Pemberton would guarantee that said domain not be taken from Risur or Ber
Then Pemberton showed off his steam-powered roadcars, which the group (the party, Pemberton, Pardo, and Brakken) took the to survey the ritual site, where they spent considerable time surveying the scene and discussing the state of the world with Pemberton. They concluded that the ritual had been sabotaged, likely by agents of the Voice of Rot. Then they tried to get the Axis Seal closed by using a shrink ray on Borne. While the shrink ray did briefly work on the unpowered colossus, Borne simply slid further under the seal. They also discussed the golden icons, recalling the one they had found here on their very first mission (sans Bela) and taking stock of which ones they had access too. Pardo described what they knew about the ritual itself, including the location of the only known copy in a Crisillyri vault.

After some hours studying the site, they took the roadcars back toward Pemberton HQ. But when they came to an Ob construction site at a fork in the road, this time there was a headless witchoil golem stomping around. Pemberton asked if they'd be so kind as to deal with it, and we kicked off the encounter pretty much as written. The roadcar rules gave us exactly the 2 Fast 2 Furious vibes I was looking for from the fight, with cars drifting around construction equipment, enemies, and allies alike to keep casters away from the golem and the hivemind. Brakken and Reginald probed the hivemind to try and learn the locations of its constituents. The first 2/3 or so of the battle were fast and punchy, but things sagged a little bit toward the end, so I'm going to revisit my plan to start using the Escalation Die from 13th Age to help conclude the boring bit (I do also wrap up battles that are definitively won without playing the whole thing out, of course, but I think the Escalation Die will help a lot). I'm just going to use the die as-is, no extra damage scaling.

The party's plan is to take Pemberton's airship, skip the Forward Symposium entirely, and head north to try and get their hands on the Voice of Rot's eye, then try to figure out how to get a copy of the ritual. And of course they need to either collect or learn how to create more golden idols for the ritual itself.

I may have Brakken go to the Forward Symposium, just so they get some intel from it.

Given that She-Who-Writhes still controls the seas, Danor / the Ob won't be sending what remains of their physical fleet to Axis Island. But their ships that were sunk had some ghost Ob on them, including Lya Jierre, who is now on her way to Axis Island at the helm of a ghostly warship. So I'm still going to have the airship escape scene where Pemberton will be unleashed to battle the Ob's nascent ghost fleet, because we've waited all this time to see the Steel Lord take wing and I'm definitely not skipping that.

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