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ZEITGEIST The Planes of the Obscurati, A List and A Question

Echolocation

Explorer
Hey Everyone,

My party is well and truly deep into Book 7 of the Adventure Path, and we are having a blast. Initially, I had hoped my party would not be too invested in the exact planes identified by the Obscurati. However, a few players wanted access to a list. Firstly, my question: is this a good idea? I am worried my players will get bogged down in the specifics, as there are many planes the Obscurati have access to. On one hand, I don't want to coerce my players into making verdicts on proposals when they feel like they want more access to information. On the other hand, I worry that providing this information will take away from the enjoyment of the game, as I could easily see them spending hours drudging through the list.

And now for a list. Arkwright has previously provided a stellar (in many senses of the word) list of planes accessible to the Obscurati:

However, the use of gyre planes made it undesirable for my purposes. Firstly, for the technical reasons RW pointed out about the Ob being unaware of the gyre; and secondly, because I did not want to spoil the gyre planes before adventure 12. So, I made up my own list of planes inspired by information from books #7, #10, and #13:


I filled in a few gaps and add a couple of new planes. Some gaps include adding Av to the colossus congress proposal (I assumed this was required to use the pseudo-rites to rulership) and making up some planes for the arboretum and colossus proposals. Also, I changed the MAP proposal to closely reflect Nic's first attempt at the Ancient's seal. Lastly, I have used a different name for the ghost moon. In my game, Nic will rename the plane once Dame Constance Baden is murdered in a public display of mourning and respect.

I think the list is comprehensive, but of course, if anyone spots any mistakes, please let me know.
 

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arkwright

Explorer
As stated in that thread, my justification for the Ob using Gyre planes is speed-of-light delay. The Ob are using asteroids of far-off planes they are magically studying, not realising that those planes have actually been Gyred already. Perfectly fine that you want to go in a different direction, not wanting to spoil the Book 12 planes is a very legit reason. Though I would think the players might enjoy getting to visit the planes they talked about five books previous.

Consider adding a column to state whether each plane is a moon or not, as that can factor into arrangements. Also, adding filters so players can see only the Time planes or only the Arboretum planes may be good. Make sure to add empty columns for when the PCs suggest their own configurations or configuration changes.

How does this list sit in the context of the later plot of your game? Is Nic still going to institute MAP in the end of Act 2? Will your players be sore that they never actually get the chance to use the Axis Ritual with these planes, and instead have to use it with the Gyre planes from Book 12? Unless they simply repeat the ritual in the postgame.

I think the biggest issue with your spreadsheet is that the only information on each plane is its one-word trait. This doesn't properly convey the unique and usually-very-specific effects each plane has. Like the traits in my plane list, and like the Act 3 plane list, you may want to flesh each out. 'Avilona- flight is strongly inhibited.' If I am a player working solely off of this list, I will have no idea what each plane does. 'Cunning = technology works well? What?'

If you are concerned about players getting stuck, you could perhaps cut down on the number of planes and the number of proposals. Cut it down to only Miller's Pyre, Colossus and Watchmakers, with later proposals altering only one or two planes in each. New minor factions could only care about a single plane each, eager to slot it into either of the three configurations.

On a final note- if all this discussion isn't to your taste, and you're keeping it that MAP will be put in place, then it may be worth just telling your players straight-up 'you don't need to know the full plane list because the ritual/configuration doesn't matter. Just focus on how the argument reveals information about the Ob, and how you can use arguments to move people between factions and recruit them as RHC assets.'
 

Echolocation

Explorer
As stated in that thread, my justification for the Ob using Gyre planes is speed-of-light delay. The Ob are using asteroids of far-off planes they are magically studying, not realising that those planes have actually been Gyred already. Perfectly fine that you want to go in a different direction, not wanting to spoil the Book 12 planes is a very legit reason. Though I would think the players might enjoy getting to visit the planes they talked about five books previous.

I should have been clearer. I like your reasoning, I've just opted for a different route (see my response about the MAP proposal).

Consider adding a column to state whether each plane is a moon or not, as that can factor into arrangements

Definitely. In the list, planes with single energy aspects are moons (there are only four). Of course, I should have stated that in my first post.
Also, adding filters so players can see only the Time planes or only the Arboretum planes may be good
I thought I had configured the sheet to do this.
Make sure to add empty columns for when the PCs suggest their own configurations or configuration changes.
Will do. Obviously, I will also be deleting Nic's changes when I hand this sheet to my players.
How does this list sit in the context of the later plot of your game? Is Nic still going to institute MAP in the end of Act 2? Will your players be sore that they never actually get the chance to use the Axis Ritual with these planes, and instead have to use it with the Gyre planes from Book 12? Unless they simply repeat the ritual in the postgame.
I am tempted to have Nic make the changes that are recommended in the Ob convocation, unless it is clear the proposal that won was largely determined by my players. If they just interfered to make small, reasonable changes, I can't see Nic having a huge problem with it. I have already begun the convocation with my players, and I think they will try to combine proposals to thwart the colossus and watchmaker factions. I can see them teaming up with Dame Constance to form a conglomerate proposal. Maybe they will swap a plane or two, I'm not sure.
I think the biggest issue with your spreadsheet is that the only information on each plane is its one-word trait. This doesn't properly convey the unique and usually-very-specific effects each plane has. Like the traits in my plane list, and like the Act 3 plane list, you may want to flesh each out. 'Avilona- flight is strongly inhibited.' If I am a player working solely off of this list, I will have no idea what each plane does. 'Cunning = technology works well? What?'
That's fair. As I mentioned, I was worried about overwhelming my players with information. But you could argue this sheet doesn't provide much information at all.

Thanks for your insightful response. I'm now thinking it may be better for wait until the MAP proposal is made, and have Dame Constance have a few different options that the players can weigh in on.
 

hirou

Explorer
IMHO this strongly depends on your group and your intention. Once you place on the table concrete examples of available planets, the players will try to "solve" the problem of constructing the best possible alignment from the set given. However, this is contrary to two ideas of the adventure:
  • there are hundreds of stars in the sky and uncountable possibilities for the future
  • deciding the fate of the world among a closed group of "great philosophers" may not be the best idea from the ethical point of view.
"Axis Ritual: The Boardgame" is fun, there's no denying this. And, to play the devil's advocate, maybe you do want to put your group in such a place that they can't see the forest for the trees and become geniunely invested in Ob's design, forgetting about their original goal of stopping the conspiracy.
In my game, I did not use arkwright's list at the convocation. The party split between hard rejecting the Grand Design and proposing the mildest possible planar corrections, and this resulted in much joy overall. After the adventure was over, I've shown the plane cards after all, and particular players had fun on their own, reverse-engineering the solutions of Ob and trying to construct their own variants.
 

Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
I mostly used Arkwrights list because it saved me creating my own. However I did remove some planes from the Gyre which I did not want spoilered before my players got there. (Plane of dancing mariachi skeletons).
I was fortunate that my players did not start planar configuration designing at this point focusing on stopping the Ob from getting that far, because I had enough problems later on preventing every session in the Gyre dissolving into planar redisign 1.1, 1.11, 1.12, 1.3 etc. Instead I persuaded them that most of the discussion should occure once they had knowledge of exactly what planes were available , and it was a lot of fun. You just have to be careful that the group does not bog down on repeating the same discussions with limited information.

For each plane I found that the players needed to know at a minimum the planar energies and a short description of the planes nature , even then visiting the planes and lots of questions were needed to settle on a solid opinion of the none tangible nature of the planes. In particular the arguements over the plane of perpetual reincarnation, which elements of it were a curse and how this would change the world were epic. Sadly they decided against immortality via reincarnation. On your list for instance I think Jierre really needs more information to emphasise that without it or a simialar plane the drive for technology and science goes away

I don't think you need to indicate if something is a planet or moon. All slots in the system building are equal and can fit any plane so the moon slot around the main world is good for anything. If your players get clever and start jamming in multiple planets in each slot some will appear as moons of others but will still have a similar influence on the new reality.

If the players really like a plane the would not have access to you can always add it to the Gyre later there is room for several more planes and I found that for several elemental energies there was no real choice or urge to complicate things as there were few 'good' choices. So I added many more , one of the nice things about the Gyre is how much room there is to add new planes in the dead spaces

I also strongly implied that there were traits the Ob did not know about. Baden the Ghost moon was a clear example it apparently only has Air, it also had the 'spirit' trait and this unknown inclusion was responsible for much of the mob mind features of the new world which were unexpected by Ob theorists.
 
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arkwright

Explorer
Moon v Planet is relevant if you are going by a rule where players can swap in X planets and Y moons.

If you decide not to go with MAP in Act 3, that's fine. There are a few planes that need to be in place for Act 3. Ratios is Gidim-infested and their way onto the world, thus Ratios needs to be in the array... or you could just put the Gidim-infestation on another world. Av needs to be swapped out so that the party can travel there at the start of Book 12. Reida needs to be swapped out, that or the Voice of Rot hijacks the plane forcefully. Supposedly, Ratios is needed to explain the Ob persuading people to align against Risur, but I really don't think that tracks. Those are pretty much the only requirements, and most can be varied if you are wiling to put the work in.

I do agree with Hirou, mostly because as-written Nic institutes MAP no matter what. I would note that it is very possible for the PCs to 'ethically' decide on a new planar configuration. My own party publicised their findings and flat-out made newspaper advertisements encouraging people to pick their own configuration and send it in. It is very possible to get popular backing to pick a new configuration. Of course, you may not be interested in going down this route.
 

Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
Moon v Planet is relevant if you are going by a rule where players can swap in X planets and Y moons.
Within the current description of creating multiple planes in the same planet slot there is no difference between any of the planes. So there what is a planet and a moon is entirely semantics. As written a trivial series of skill checks lets you combine any 2 planes in any slot. You could easily produce house rules which designate some planes as 'moons' and as a result give those planes a lesser effect or something . That is something I did not consider and would have provided even more complications.
As it is a I produced an escalating series of skill checks to make mass manipulation a bit more difficult , they still did it though. I did draw the line at remaking the solar system as a Binary System or even a Kempler Rossette. If I remember correctly most slots had 2 or even 3 planes in a slot and creative use of skill boosters and dice roll fixing was needed to finish their manipulation. The important thing being to make sure the level of planar manipulation the GM and Players want is achievable with some difficulty so they have to work for their victory but can succeed , so the difficulties should be based on the player groups skills. I sat down and worked out what the best rolls the characters could get with all the boosts was and designed it so that achieving their perfect vision would push them to the edge of their abilities
For house rules there are a lot of things which could be added depending on what those house rules are.

I did implement Nic's favoured planes without the changes the pc's had persuaded the Ob to make. I did this because Nic is ALWAYS RIGHT and anyone who disagree's with him is WRONG and probably a TRAITOR to the cause. The players changes were discredited in his mind not just because they were not the way he saw things but because his enemies had helped add them and therefore there was probably a plan to destroy his PERFECT VISION. I always tried to make Nic seem reasonable up until push came to shove then his ianability to change , compromise or negotiate on signifigant matters came to the fore. If he is reasonable and compromises it reduces his viability as a villain as a reasonable world could be reached, I think it helps if the players think the Ob is close to being reasonable but when it comes down to the Wire Nic as a ghost will not bend or change and as his history shows he has never really been principled in his methods. This UNYIELDING SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS explains his movement to the watchmaker solution in the final act as he realises all these fools lack his VISION and only he can make everything right. (Capitals in Nic's mind)
 

Meigeall

Explorer
As far as giving your players a list...

Book 7 (Schism)
Section: The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Khangitche
Location 'M' Obscurati Research (page 35ish):
"Their laboratory has extensive notes on nearly 50 planes from which different meteors originated, and the effects they had on the prisoners. Their method of observation was to place a lantern outside one of the cells in Area U, light it from afar, and observe with a telescope."
 

Echolocation

Explorer
Thanks everyone for your insight and experience. I've had some time to reflect on both the Adventure Path and my own group, and have come to the following conclusions:
  • Nic will do his own thing. I think Andrew holds some good points about Nic's decision to implement his own proposal at the end of Adventure 9. After all, his fervent belief in himself and his own ideas has sustained his own existence for five centuries. Regarding the convocation, there seems to be two roads it can go down, neither of which would alter Nic's decision. The first road is something like MAP wins (I can't see players voting colossus or watchmaker), and Nic's plans roughly resemble the proposition. Alternatively, the players may alter the outcome with their own proposal (e.g., yeeting the world into the multiverse, their own planar configuration, etc.). In the case of the latter, Nic would have every reason to discount the outcome of the convocation once the player's identities are revealed.
  • For my group, a list of planes may be distracting. I can see groups where providing a list of planes would be useful. Though, for my group, after some deeper reflection, I think it may be distracting. I can't shake the hunch that my players are hoping a list of planes would solve the moral quandary of deciding a world's fate. We play Zeitgeist in the Pathfinder 1E system, which I think can draw people who are focused on details, sometimes to the detriment of a 'bigger picture'. I think I will encourage my players to build "minor factions", similar to those presented in the book, if they wish to change a proposal. Or, they may wish to work with Dame Constance to help mix-and-match the current proposals. If I change my mind, I could always reveal the list of planes to my players. As Hirou mentioned, Axis Ritual: The Boardgame is fun. But I'm not sure it's time for my specific group to play it yet.
  • For me, the convocation is very stressful! This may be showing my novice GM experience, but I've felt quite stressed running the convocation. Nic is a big deal to the AP, and I want to portray him perfectly. I want my players to feel engaged, concerned about being unmasked, and excited about the ambitions of the AP. All of this has bubbled up to me feeling paralyzed about the issues that inspired this thread.
If anyone has any comments about my conclusions, I would love to hear them.

Separate from all of this, on the matter of planets vs. moons, I think there is a difference. The Miller's Pyre proposal as written indicates that moons are 'weaker' than planes in their influence over worlds. The proposal states:
Finally, the binary pairing opens up a slot for a potential extra plane. It would need to be fairly weak—perhaps a moon rather than a full planet—but it would be possible to add some extra trait
I interpreted weak to be a more narrow range of influence, supported by the notion that the ghost moon Baden is only associated with one form of energy.
 

arkwright

Explorer
Well, it's worth looking at the physicality of the Axis Ritual, per Book 10. At the Axis Ritual site are 8 vertical pits, 5ft wide and 50ft deep. 'The Ob bent the rules a bit, and in the alcove of the shaft for the plane of space they shoved a second small icon representing Baden, the ghost moon with a Flight trait'. Is the rule that you can only bend the rules in this way for a moon?

Yes, I did similar to Andrew. Much to his own surprise, Nic found himself completely unable to support a final configuration that didn't have his/Miller's name on it. He's just that prideful. Thus for Act 3 he tries to implement MAP- but my party successfully recruited Kasvarina as a double agent in Book 8, and so she secretly swapped around a few planes.

It is worth having a good think about what you want your players to get out of the convocation/what kind of experience you want them to have. Do you want them to face an interesting moral-quandary Axis Ritual Boardgame dilemma? Do you want them to play politics, pushing factions around? Do you want them to ignore the configurations entirely and focus on gathering intel? Learn from what other GMs do, but then do whatever you think is best for your party and your campaign.

If the convocation isn't stressful, you're either a genetically engineered super-GM or not paying enough attention! Zeitgeist is arguably the most complicated and difficult to run AP ever written, and Book 7 is easily the most complicated and difficult to run book. Not even including all the writing problems I've highlighted in Zeitvice. From what I've seen, you're doing a great job at coming up with ideas and balancing your party's needs.

If you are getting stressed, consider 'lowering the GM screen' to bring your players in on your problems. Ask them what they want out of the AP, and what impact they want to make on the world. It will be tricky if you want to hold some info back, but do at least consider the option of being upfront. When I was running the book, it was at this point where I was straight-up 'look, I don't know what to do because Nic implements MAP regardless, tell me what you want to do and let's come up with a solution together.'

Feel free to ping me on discord if you'd like to chat in-person.
 

Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
I know I didn't run any part of the campaign perfectly and my players had great fun. No GM ever gets everything perfect so as long as the players are having fun its working , 30 years of GM'ing confirms this for me. So don't stress if some stuff does not go as well as you would like it to.
As to Planebuilding the Boardgame, I seem to recall that the information on how to build the world is picked up later so at the convocation they can only work with the Ob experts and make a few changes this can be used to limit them. Also their cover ideas are not planar engineers or the greatest of the Ob this too can limit what they can do. My players based on this basically just tried to edit MAP to included planar protection. At this stage their focus was on stopping the Ob not co-opting them to build the better world, philosphically they were very unsure they had the right to rebuild the world. I think the players rather than the characters suspected they would get to revisit world building later and if your game is being buried under planar design theories you can always tell the players they will get a better chance later,.

Meigall's point about the list from the glacier is something I missed/forgot. It does raise an interesting issue that the Ob has only really got limited knowledge about the planes they are using from examining small samples and lantern tests. They don't get the experience the players get in the Gyre were they see the plane and get a better feel for the unquantifiable aspects of each plane, which probably contributes to the world not being quite as they intended when the rebuild it as well as the ritual being messed up.
 

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