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ZEITGEIST Wanna playtest the next ZEITGEIST adventure?

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Death of the Author is complete and awaiting layout. You know what that means? PLAYTEST TIME!

If you would like to playtest the adventure for 3rd level D&D 5E characters, send me a PM. Some caveats:

  • time's a'pressin! you need to be able to playtest it with your gaming group pretty much immediately.
  • we'll need a playtest report from you, in as much detail as possible. We won't have a specific list of questions; we'll just need you to highlight what worked and what didn't.

Only 3 slots available, first-come first-served. Please don't message me unless you can start play now though, not in a month's time! :)
 

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reighndragon

Explorer
I'm planning to run the zeitgeist adventure path. How many spoilers are there in this adventure for my group if I'm running this for them? How much time will it take to run this adventure approximately?
 


I mean, if you ran a game that was going to run from 1989 to 1992 that deals with the collapse of the Soviet Union, this adventure would be sort of like a story set at a chess tournament in Russia in 2012.

No one would be explicitly talking about the precise plot elements of the end of the Cold War, but the mere nature of the international cast would definitely spoil a few things.
 

hirou

Explorer
I finally visited the forums kinda late... After past week of rushed deadlines I feel too burnt out to plan for my ZG campaign this weekend. I wonder if I can run this for my players without spoiling too much stuff about Eclipse. Phrases "You know yourself what your country have done!" can work, I guess. I asked my players whether they want to do this, so far there is one enthusiastic "yes", and that is at 1am Moscow time
 

Well, I'm sure it's not something you can just grab and run Friday without prep time, but I'll shoot you an email. If after reading the intro you don't think you can use it, let me know. I think I still have your email from back in 2016 when you helped proofread one of the hardcovers.
 

hirou

Explorer
Well, I'm sure it's not something you can just grab and run Friday without prep time, but I'll shoot you an email. If after reading the intro you don't think you can use it, let me know. I think I still have your email from back in 2016 when you helped proofread one of the hardcovers.
You should also have my e-mail from back in November, when I proofread this adventure ;)
 

(I thought you'd helped with that, but it wasn't showing up when I searched for you. Then I remembered that I was running out of storage space and I had deleted a bunch of email threads that had a ton of attachments. So yeah.)

I hope you like the revisions.
 

hirou

Explorer
We had slightly less time than I expected today (and only 3 players were able to participate this time), I was able to end on a dramatic scene of Pritchard's prophecy in ~6 hours. Full disclaimer:
  • I do not particularly like 5e
  • I do not have much experience running 5e games, although I'm currently playing in Tomb of annihilation campaign. The slowish pace of the game can definitely be blamed on this, at least partly.
  • Overall I'm satisfied both with the story and structure; every different combination of hunting teams in conjunction with player hooks can produce an interesting dynamic in social play. The second half, which I've yet to run, seems a bit more straightforward, but provides a good counter-part to dialogue-heavy opening.
  • We had a few minor stumbles in player generation, most of which are probably explained in the full book: expected number of players (for encounter balance; I considered adding an NPC, but I'm glad I decided against it), starting equipment (1st level packages work fine, party decided to spend some of their 3000 gp on armor; I'll try to make that bite them in the ass), languages (Primordial came into play several times during play; judging from stat-blocks it is still a language of Risur, but this is not described in the players' primer), allowed classes/races (9 tiefling variants? exotic races? satyr Danor revolutionary?!). Party settled on Risuri tiefling bard Harmonia Latimer (bonus points to player for remembering this surname before I did), dragonborn monk smuggler Ana from Malice lands and dwarven echoknight mercenary Alexiy wth split personality (all working to the glory of Arstotska of Danor). Possible problem for DM - devas in ZG seems to differ significantly from aasimars and devas in 5e. Once again, I guess they are described in the full book, but I think this adventure is supposed to be used as a standalone product?
  • Adventure seems to have a good pace of introducing NPCs. I'm mildly surprised my players were able to remember and distinguish 11 different characters in a single session, getting interested at least in some of them. The smuggler happily relapsed into malice beast organs partaking after some prodding from Marlot... I connected Maurice with backstory of Harmonia (they were dating several years ago, when he suddenly died under suspicious circumstances and did not come back - another "coop mission" with Kvarti, or a similar gig), and unexpected meeting with him at a manor hundreds of miles from home provided a healthy dose of paranoia and player involvement
  • Hunt... does not feel perfect. If I went by the book, my players would have to sit through up to 7 encounters (rolls of 20+11 Survival for one team, while another went straight for fishing), in which a) there is, randomly, none to mortal danger to PCs b) PCs have no particularly good reasons to go all out c) they can retreat to manor at any time if they feel threatened. In the end I had them roll 7 times on encounter tables and picked the most interesting variants, which resulted in three encounters - pack of mesmerizing deers, hippogriff nest, pack of cocatrices (which the party decided to avoid just in case) and "scripted" chull fishing session. To my surprise, chull died to Pritchard lightning and echoknight crits in two or three turns, nearly killing Budwati in the process, while other hunt setups were enjoyable but almost completely danger-less (I can't "feel" the difficulty curve of 5e encounters as I could with 4e, so I'm at a loss on what could be done here). I'd guess the main idea of this part of the adventure is to acquaint the party with the cast of NPCs/allow some Spycraft, and not to try and drain their hp/other reserves, so maybe just one memorable battle for each party plus several narrative ones can work the best here. Or maybe I just can't run 5e combats fast enough. Side-note: 5e monster stat blocks are terrible and I miss 4e after a single session.
  • Minor nitpick - I love slumber pony idea, but Sleep spell doesn't have save DC, it affects creatures based on their hp total. Other CR 0 malice beasts are very cure, I'll definitely plug the invisible frog into the main campaign.
  • The dinner was lively until dwarves arrived and politics/philosophy started. I'll definitely use the points outlined there in the world of the main campaign, it seems a bit lacking in part of Drakran view on things.

Please tell me if you'd prefer for the detailed descriptions to stay out of forums (or just edit out the text under spoiler tags), Morrus/Ryan. I'll send you the annotated file with minor nitpicks some time next week and hope to finish the adventure next weekend (we have 3 days of holidays here, so double-DnD session is in order). Looking forward for the full book!
 

That is some excellent feedback! Thank you. I don't have qualms with you posting properly hidden spoilers here.

The intention about the hunt was certainly to be more of an opportunity for roleplaying punctuated by intermittent encounters with strange creatures. Aside from the chuul and the possibility of running into something truly dangerous on the rise, I figured most of the encounters would take less than 5 minutes to resolve, at least if you're playing in 'theater of the mind' in person. If you were setting up battle maps and such, I can see that it would take longer.

And yeah, 5e combat is not as fun in a 'board game tactics' way as 4e, though hopefully the Remorse and fight with the killer end up being interesting.

I'll see about filling in some of the combat stat gaps, but as for the setting information, there's a limit to what we can fit in, since the adventure is already pretty hefty. I figure it doesn't break anything if a player decides to be something weird, though maybe I could fit in a brief paragraph in the ZEITGEIST Primer suggesting common tropes.

How are the players taking to the 'spycraft' mechanics?
 

MarkM

Explorer
I'm looking forward to seeing the final version of this module. I read through an earlier draft and thought it was probably the most interesting low-level module I've seen... ever. I wish I could have volunteered to playtest, but my group is just starting the full Zeitgeist adventure on Roll20.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I think one of my important questions is how you found role-playing multiple NPCs in some of the group conversation scenes.
 

hirou

Explorer
How are the players taking to the 'spycraft' mechanics?
I think it's a good compromise between mechanics and pure roleplay. Not sure about DC values, DC10 all around felt a bit too easy, but once again, I may have a poor grasp on 5e math. I'll wait until the end scenes to see how it goes.
I think one of my important questions is how you found role-playing multiple NPCs in some of the group conversation scenes.
Sidebar on p.13 with verbal mannerisms helps, although I had to modify them a bit with regards to our native language. I've struggled with the final part of the dinner, with longer mono/dialogues, and I think I'll start the next session with miniflashback to try once again and reveal a bit more info about politics/philosophy subplots. Conversations with up to 3 NPCs felt fine; I like "volley" structure, even if it's something very simple, as it helps, in turn, involving all players at the table.
 

Not sure about DC values, DC10 all around felt a bit too easy, but once again, I may have a poor grasp on 5e math.
The problem is that D&D, and most RPGs descended from it, don't have a 'social hit points' or 'spy hit points' the way they have 'combat hit points.'

If you roll poorly in a combat or use bad tactics, you'll get hit back and lose hit points. That helps you keep track of how close to losing you are. I tried to accomplish something similar with the spycraft rules, where one failed check equals peril (but an option to give up), and two failed checks equals actual failure at your task, likely with consequences.

But I too don't have a ton of experience with this model, so I erred on the side of "the PCs will probably succeed the checks." The limiting factor is not whether they succeed the checks, but the number of opportunities they have. They can't get every guest as an ally, because they don't have enough chances, so they can feel like they're making progress toward ruling out suspects. But they won't be able to rule out all the suspects before the actual climax, so there'll still be some uncertainty.

I hope that works in practice. It did in my playtest, but obviously I had a lot more time to plan and a more thorough understanding of the mystery and the NPCs.
 

skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
We got about halfway through in five hours, but my group is notoriously slow at combat and also really digs into the roleplay possibilities.

It took about 45 minutes to get through gun acquisition, spycraft rules, and introductory material. This was longer than it could be for most because my players (four out of five having played through Gears of Revolution from 2013-2017 and all of them currently playing in a 100-years-later Zeitgeist campaign) really wanted to know the setting info in detail.

Session report hidden below:

They wanted to know how big the cell was, whether it was secret or publicly known, and other details that were spawned from having played before and are probably answered in the upcoming setting sourcebook.

Once we got under way, our group of Conspirators (3 Tieflings, 1 human, 1 Dwarf) enjoyed chatting with the boat passengers and the crew, and the players really enjoyed the spooky monologue from the pilot. This may have been enhanced by Arrovia having been played by Barovia in our previous campaign during a 6-month detour into Curse of Strahd.

They interrupted Kvarti a lot at the docks, but he was able to get most of the group to come hunting with him. Our teenage Tiefling Sorcerer declined, so I left Julius behind with her at the docks to give that player a chance to do Spycraft while the others hunted. We did the Spycraft first and everyone who was going hunting wanted to try, so I let them do a round of Spycraft during the hunt. The Sorcerer made a connection with Julius by engaging him in conversation about the Ottoplismists. The Feral Tiefling Barbarian tried to make a connection with Budwati over their similar guns, but she did not take to it at all.

The hunt was helped by our Assassin surprising the Rager and then beating its initiative. It took two crits before it got a turn, and then everyone piled in and took care of it in short order. I explained Ally Actions as we headed into the fight, but no one remembered in the first round, so I had Budwati shoot & pounce at initiative 0 to remind them. They remembered her for the rest of the combat. The Angry Buck got a charge off on their Dwarf Cleric and dropped him to single digits while the rest of the group was having a bit of a laugh killing the Rager. At that point, I had Kvarti shoot the beast, then the assassin dropped it to 3 hit poitns or so and she asked Budwati to finish it off before it could attack again. Once they took care of the Rager, the Buck, and one Deer, I just had the rest of the deer scatter to get the adventure moving along, as we were 90 minutes in already.

At this point, I felt like the Sorcerer player had been left out of that fun, so when she suggested luring Julius off into the woods to, ehm, "Gain an Asset," I let her have another round of Spycraft. I then realized that with the amount of Spycraft happening, they were getting way ahead on Spycraft rounds and we felt way behind on time. Not wanting to slow down even further with more combats and also not wanting to give them too much pre-dinner Spycraft, I made the decision to axe the Fox Hunt and just let the hunters have some more Spycraft with Kvarti and Budwati. Three of them tried to interact with Kvarti while the Barbarian tried her luck with Budwati a second time, this time over beast forms, and failed even harder than before. At this point, the roleplay was painting Budwati as a bit of a jerk. The Cleric made a connection with Kvarti over being grumpy old dwarves, and the Human monk succeeded in an Inguiry roll. With Maurice not even having ben introduced yet, I told him that he noticed how Kvarti let his guard down when reminiscing about old Drakr with the cleric and so he would be able to identify when Kvarti was more at ease in future (to allow him to gain the Inquiry info when Kvarti and Maurice interacted later).

We made it to the manor at about the two-hour mark. I had both groups arrive at the same time, which led to much group speculation about what Julius and the Sorceress had been up to. I really like the way the adventure reveals new NPCs to the players one or two at a time to keep them from getting overwhelmed. Each one gets a reasonably-memorable intro scene. The only one that fell flat, frankly, was Marlot. They'd just met Pritchard and then Nargio, started to see and track interactions between the NPCs (Julius & Pritchard; Nargio & Budwati), finally made their way into the manor, met two more NPCs in quick succession, made jokes about how the butler clearly was guilty of something, and then they get left alone to poke about. The flow at that point, expecially after a lot of scripted dialogue, feels like we're done with the cut scenes and now it's time to poke about and discover where we are and then in the first room they go enter there is yet another NPC and another scripted scene. I shortcutted her intro a bit so the group could feel in control.

Instead of running the Fox Hunt, I just gave them the two hours before dinner to talk to whomever they wanted. The Cleric succeeded on an Extraction with Kvarti, revealing that Heid was the host, and also that Kvarti was disgruntled. Unable to come up with a way to make him an Asset, the Cleric moved on to the Library to poke about for the second hour. I gave him Red's book to read, with a paraphrased version of Red's story from later. The Assassin spent a couple of hours hanging out with Nargio, making a Connection and talking about geology. The Sorceress made a Connection with Pritchard and Extracted his prophecy ahed of the dinner (and also the Heid information). The Barbarian finally found someone to talk to in Margot, making a Connection. And the monk spent an hour trying to make a connection with Maurice. His natural 1 on his Connectio roll led to Maurice enlisting his aid in taking the bomb to the docks and bringing the Phlogiston up, so he'll make a handy patsy when the time comes. He then tracked down Budwati and made a connection with her over gun-fu before dinner.

At this point, we'd hit our 4-hour session time limit. I asked if we could go another hour to do the dinner scene, since I felt the boat explosion would make a more suitable cliffhanger than "soon there will be dinner with 11 NPCs." We took a 15-minute IRL food break and did the dinner scene. Everyone sat near their Connections and the volleys were lively, with everyone enjoying the exchanges and forming more opinions about the NPCs.

When the VIP team entered, everyone realized it was serious roleplay time. One player had rolled a 21 Insight for the dinner and his character noticed the call-and-response. One of the players told me it was super obvious, but the other four did not notice. After I told the 21-Insight that there was a call and response, the rest of the group said "what was it?" and the attentive player recited both lines back to me.

This group definitely enjoys philosophical debate. Moreso than their DM, sadly, so I was left a bit behind when they challenged both of the Dwarves on their beliefs. I mostly let the players engage with each other on that level and occasionally pushed the conversation forward.

When Pritchard laughed off Nargio's "Dragon" insult, after I'd played Pritchard as pompous all night, the group immediately assumed he was a dragon. They might have PTSD from missing too many dragons in human form between Zeitgeist and their current campaign (where Pemberton has finally been discovered).

We got through the prophecies and the boat explosion and ran through "Immediate Reactions," getting each PC to commit to a course of action before calling it for the night.

Having skipped the Fox Hunt, I forgot to manufacture a way for Julius to get an upstairs room, which the Sorceress player questioned me on when he went to "get his gun." I had to retcon him into having talked his way into the Mavisha room. As she was working him as an Asset, the player argued that they would be sharing the room and her guns would also be in that room, so she's now following Julius up the stairs.

The Assassin is stealthily following Maurice into the basement. The Barbarian is going with Marlot and Budwati to the docks. The Cleric went with the VIPs to the study, and the Monk is standing guard/eavesdropping outside that room.

Everyone is super excited to be back in the intrigues of the Zeitgeist world. As much as I try with my post-Zeitgeist campaign, it's clear that they're very spoiled by having played in the official content of this world for 4+ years and are craving more!

I asked the players for feedback and got two responses.

Barbarian player (who usually tunes out roleplay and resurfaces for combat): "I like the spycraft, pick who you're interacting with this hour system. With all the NPCs it gives a nice feel of trying to sift through a mystery."

Monk player (did not play previous Zeitgeist campaign): "I really enjoyed the openness of the spy-craft, and the sort of flexibility that can come with that. Mess up on a connection? well you can still snoop around or watch the situation and make you own conclusions from there."

I ran the session using FoundryVTT. The playtest map I got had Secret Doors marked on it but not room numbers. It's possible there's a better map available for VTT use that I should have asked for, but if not, it would be handy. I had to move some walls to obscure the half-S symbol in a bunch of rooms.

Running in Foundry meand I had to enter all of the NPCs and monsters into the system. I noticed some irregularities in their stat blocks when doing this:

Merlot's dagger does 1d12 damage in melee (same as her cane) but 1d4 when thrown.

Vlendam Heid's Dex is listed as 10 with a +2 mod. AC math is for a 10 Dex, so I assume the modifier is incorrect.

Jaromir Delkovich's Dex is listed as 10 with a +2 mod. AC & Dagger attack math is for a 10 Dex, so I assume the modifier is incorrect.
Jaromir Delkovich has the Persuasion skill listed in his stat block, but the bonus is just his Cha mod. Should it include proficiency and be +5? NPC/monster stat blocks don't usually include numbers for untrained skills.

Maurice Sesto's Impromptu Weaponry ability uses his Dex mod for attack and his Strength mod for damage. Further, the damage is listed as 5 (1d6), which seems like it should either be 3 (1d6) or 5 (1d10) if Strength or 6 (1d6+3) or 8 (1d10+3) if Dex.

The session is captured on Twitch if you want to eavesdrop:
our next session is scheduled for the 28th. I hope another report next Monday with the second half will be in time to help!
 

Errata and Explanation.
Marlot has a barbarian subclass (aka, a berserker archetype in LevelUp parlance) - Queen Bee Lodge - which lets her do d12 damage with light or finesse melee weapons.

The ability score row in statblocks is the most obnoxious part for me. Very fiddly to copy-paste and then tweak the numbers.

Impromptu Weaponry was supposed to be finesse or thrown weapons, so I need to tweak that.

I'll look into the maps. I thought we had player versions without the secret doors labeled. I do know that the room numbers are going to be added in book layout (perhaps at different sizes if we have different versions of the map), but one we release for VTT should have them included.

Thanks for spotting the errors.

Session Response.
Regarding conspiratorial cell identities, the short version is that Danor got hit with a bit of the post-WW1 Germany treatment: a variety of restrictions from other countries that were nervous it might try something again. There are various small local groups that chafe at these restrictions - some proud patriots who saw Danor as a beacon for progress, some mad scientists who are upset the government's no longer funding their experiments, and some, well, wannabe fascists.

I wonder if Marlot's intro's flatness is something I could fix. Maybe I could have had her in her room upstairs, and whenever a PC stumbles across her and it becomes clear there's not enough rooms for everyone, she invites them downstairs to get a snack; then once the whole party gets a few minutes to poke around and look at the manor layout, that's when the three guests outside could come in and kick off the fox hunt.

Thoughts?

I also may need to put in clarification about the fox hunt without doing actual combats. Obviously any game over VTT will take longer than face-to-face, and I haven't run enough Zoom games to get a good sense for pacing them, but my intent was for the fox hunt to be mostly roleplaying with just a bit of dice rolling, not a series of consequential fights.

I recall Elly moved, and it seems like she's not in the stream. Alas, it seems there shall be no delightful fanart. :)
 

skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
On the Fox Hunt, it's one of those situations where I know my group and that some of them will get bogged down in the minutiae of figuring out the absolute best way to do maximum damage to a 1 hp invisible frog. If it were a regular game, I'd let them wander at their own pace and see all the cool sights and weird monsters, but there was a bit of pressure to get the playtest turned around quickly.

For my group, this looks like about four sessions of adventure. I could have easily leaned into the Fox Hunt and cut either in the middle or end of it, then come back and had an entire session of manor intrigues, dinner, and maybe a the end of Act Three. Another session of monsters and discovering weird things, and then a final session back in the manor after dealing with the big spooky threat, to talk with everyone, debrief, and get back into intrigue.

The group definitely caught onto the post WWI Germany feel. It was a lot of fun seeing how the rest of the world feels about Risur for a change, though my group always seemed more sympathetic to Ber anyway (and are all playing monstrous races in the 600 AOV game). I went with the notion that their particular cell didn't have much popular support yet, but this mission could change that, to give them some strong motivation.

As far as Marlot goes, I had trouble reconciling her fascination with Malice beasts with her not wanting to go hunt down the Rager with Kvarti. I decided it was because she was more interested in snooping around the manor while Kvarti was away. Looking back, I likely would have had her snooping around the Library, possibly even knocking on walls to find secret doors. I put the room names on the map to help set the scene and talk about areas without having to constantly point. When they noticed that it was the Clue house, people started looking for secret doors, so I think it would be fun to have Marlot there as another suspicious adventuring type who's up to no good. It might also make them key on her as someone to watch for spy activities. In our specific case, I feel like that would have tied her in thematically to the group's desire to start doing PC things and poking everything to see what could be interacted with. But if there's a Fox Hunt on, that doesn't really track, so I'm not sure?

I think I would have connected to the Fox Hunt more if it were just some set pieces rather than a random monster chart. I get that it's fun to make it a competition and get the PCs to compete with each other on separate teams, but I kind of wanted something along the lines of "Whoever's with Pritchard encounters this specific thing and this is what he says about it. Give the PCs one round to attack it before it attacks one of them, and then Pritchard just blasts it with lightning and kills it if no one else has taken it down yet."

And yes, sadly, Elly is not playing with us at present. She's in our Discord and does come by to watch the stream occasionally, but the time difference is significant with half of the group 8 hours behind the UK. We hope to lure her back with all the fun we're having, but I know nothing will live up to her run as Kasvarina. I wish we had recordings of all those sessions! :'(
 

hirou

Explorer
One player fell ill and participated via Discord, and we only managed to open the final room of the basement the second session. I definitely failed as a DM this session, one-shot adventure is not supposed to last three days. Some points:
  • "The Solipsistic Art of Gamemastery" is absent from the final version (both .doc and google drive version), it was present in "nigh-final" file I proofread earlier
  • I think the fact that I only have 3 players bite me in the back somewhat. In every conversation, the ratio of about 1-1.5 NPCs per one player feels fine, but any scene with more than 2 NPCs per player becomes awkward as I struggle to refrain from monologuing and make each speaker different. If I ever get to run this again for 2-3 players, I will probably drop Budwati and merge Julius and Pritchard together (into a single Old Faith priest-prophet), effectively limiting the politics to the West side of Lanjyr.
  • Letter from Wolfgang is a very good piece of worldbuilding but feels too long to actually read. In the most cliche way of "fragmented logs", I would split it into 2 or 3 parts. Perhaps the first part (ending in cliffhanger "But my early studies were flawed.") is in Marlot's possession , who searched for information about the mansion and stumbled upon fragmented version, or on the desk in the library (as first unfinished draft of the letter). The very last "numbered list" section reads like a point-by-point instruction to players; almost all of the information within can be obtained elsewhere or even from within the same letter. I guess, the significance of three planets should be stated more clearly if this list is removed.
  • Just noticed that the planet code is listed as Apet-Nem-Urim in Wolfgang's letter, but as Apet-Nem-Reida in "On the proper Ending of Things" and later in the description of the well.
Once again, I stress that this particular report can be non-representative, as I feel that my performance was subpar. I wonder if I can tie all the loose ends and finish this somehow. So far the party is convinced that the butler did it, as his alibi seems the weakest. The curveball here is that the PC (Harmonia) was rather successful in her attempts to lure Maurice to a more peaceful way of life, so he's likely to change sides in the end scene... unless her fellow players execute him beforehand, which seems at least probable, especially after some rage-inducing drugs from Marlot.
 

skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
Just finished session 2. I had to take some shortcuts, but we wrapped it up.

Full write-up tomorrow. Summation here:

They never found Maurice, but one character did see him get dragged away; Kvarti and Julius got killed by the Res-Mors after the party abandoned them to their fates in the basement. They got all the plans (but no prototype) and successfully pinned the murder on Kvarti and Maurice.
 

skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
Alright, session two in the bag. We ended up pretty far off script, but that's par for the course around here. We finished primary game play 4 hours in and then I let the players spin different theories about what happened for an hour, giving us a total of 10 hours played over two sessions, but I easily could have used all the content in here for another two or three sessions.

Full report hidden in spoiler brackets:

We resumed in the middle of the panic after the boat explosion.

Our Assassin tailed Maurice into the basement and witnessed him being dragged off by a Vitruvian Stitcher. She then tried to disable the gaslights and caused an explosion. As a Tiefling with high Dex, she tool 3 damage. She then went snooping into the secret basement, made some amazing Stealth rolls and scouted out the hallways without touching anything, then went back upstairs. It was unclear to me on whether there would be a gaslight flare in the cellar, so I had it only happen on the two main floors, allowing her to see Maurice getting nabbed.

Our Barbarian went with Marlot and Budwati to the dock, and then joined Marlot in chasing the Res-Mors all the way back to the basement. I did things out of sequence, but it's likely that they were investigating the Immortalitorium at the same time the Assassin was outside of it. Since the Assassin had already heard nothing at the door, I kept all the monsters at bay and let them poke about until they were too spooked and had to leave. When they broke the lead pipe from the well to the Machine, I had everyone make the second wave of remorse save (since I'd already leaked Red's story when the Cleric went to the Library before dinner and I wanted something to give him for his research).

Our Sorceress went with Julius up to his room, to collect her gun as well. When the lights flared, she established a telepathic connection to Julius and then cast Detect Thoughts as he went off to Trilosa's room "to check on her." She was able to listen in to his "Oh gods, what happened here? Welp, I'd better grab these papers," thoughts so she knew he wasn't the killer (First pass of "the football"). She then successfully cast Suggestion on him, suggesting that no one would suspect the teenage tiefling girl of having stolen rocketry plans, so he had her hide them on her person (second pass of the football). Since she had already made an Asset of him, I assumed that he was also working her as an Asset, and thus wasn't too far off from an idea he might have had himself.

Our Cleric stayed with Nargio, trying to manage his PTSD by closing curtains and doors to calm him. When the lights flared, he rolled a natural 1 on his Perception to follow Nargio out and ran full speed into the wall, knocking himself out cold until the lights were out.

Our Monk hung out with the VIPs, chit-chatting with Red and eavesdropping on the other conversation, so he was there to hear Pritchard and Heid dive out the window, and he also ran with Red to the hallway to try to intercept Nargio, leaving Delkovich suspiciously alone in a room with a secret passage.

After everyone's vision came back, the three in the main floors of the house reconvened with the NPCs in the house, did a head count, realized they didn't know where Trilosa was, and went to find the body. The monk got all of the physical evidence, including (eventually) finding the secret door. As everyone was pointing fingers, the Sorceress used Thaumaturgy to make a loud bang downstairs, sending the more belligerent NPCs (Kvarti, Budwati, Julius) to investigate, while Red, Pritchard, and the two VIPs holed up in the Master bedroom, leaving the party free reign over the crime scene. They stole some of Trilosa's random papers and gave them to the Sorceress, to give to Julius when he asked for his papers back, and the Monk took the actual papers (pass #3). I asked several times if anyone was taking her satchel, but no one wanted it.

The Monk and Cleric investigated the secret level and found the hammer and book, and agreed that all signs currently pointed to Delkovich, but also feeling the signs were a bit too convenient to be true. Then the wave of remorse hit and the Monk and Sorceress were both called to the basement. The Monk handed the papers off to the Cleric (pass #4) and made a beeline for the basement.

The Assassin emerged form the basement as the Barbarian and Marlot came in the front door and the three NPCs from upstairs came to investigate the loud noise. They were still sorting out their stories and sharing information when the Monk and Cleric came out of the Conservatory and the Sorceress came down the stairs. All of the guests except Budwati went into the basement along with Kvarti and the Monk, Barbarian, and Sorceress. The Assassin went with Budwati to find Nargio, and the Cleric settled down in the Dining Room to go through the papers.

In the basement, everything went pear-shaped. The Barbarian tried to figure out the direction to the Immortalitorium, failed miserably and opened the door to the Specimen room. The keys were grabbed, the awful Specimen swarm was spawned, and two Vitruvian Stitchers emerged from the ceiling. The first Stitcher grabbed Kvarti and dragged him away, pursued by Pritchard and Julius. The Barbarian and Marlot got their rages on and fought the Specimen Swarm, but when the Barbarian went down and the Swarm tried "Transplant," everyone hated it. The Monk dragged the Barbarian out and the Sorceress got the keys off the Barbarian and closed and locked the room (I'd forgotten that there was no key for that room on the key ring). Marlot was still inside.

The Barbarian was feeling some remorse about abandoning Marlot and got the keys back from the Sorceress to rescue her. The Sorceress, having already secured the documents and seeing multiple threats to her mission being dragged off by random creatures, then headed up the stairs. The Monk, seeing another Stitcher lurking in the ceiling, agreed and joined her. The two Barbarians took care of the swarm with Marlot 4 hp away from becoming a Zombie.

Meanwhile, as the Stitcher dragged Kvarti past the door to the Immortalitorium, I checked the game clock and decided it was time for decisive action. The Res-Mors burst forth and grabbed Kvarti, dragging him screaming into the darkness. Julius and Pritchard tired to help. Both Kvarti and Julius had failed their saves and had become Traitorous. They each took the damage for a while, but when Kvarti finally broke free from the Res-Mors (having burned all of his Legendary Resistance to resist being ripped apart), I had him shoot Julius to clear his Traitorous status. This left Julius at 3 hit points. Forced with a choice between dying to the Traitorous status or hurting an ally, Julius shot Kvarti, dropping him. The Res-Mors then made short work of Julius. A horrified Pritchard had already retreated when they started shooting each other.

At this point, we were very late in the day. The group seemed happy to get out alive. I felt like the Res-Mors was sated, having taken down Kvarti. Maurice never resurfaced (he might be in that library still). They found Nargio and the bomb cellar and the notebook. I gave them a short rest / Spycraft hour, giving them the opportunity to make more Assets in case Delkovich still wanted to accuse them. Then I let the group spin theories at each other for a while so they could present something resembling a murder investigation to Heid and Delkovich. They came to the conclusion that Kvarti had planned to murder Trilosa for being a spy and frame Delkovich for it. They got almost everything except for the idea that Kvarti would want to kill Heid.

I asked the monk player if he recalled what he had done the previous week while trying to make a connection with Maurice. His reaction when he realized Maurice had used him to plant the bomb on the boat was pure gold. This was the player's first experience in an actual Zeitgeist adventure, and I know he'll remember that feeling for a long time!

Everyone had a blast. I feel bad we skipped like half the content, but now I have something to throw at them if their main characters in 601 AOV come to investigate the ruins of Manor von Recklinghausen.

Technical Issues:
I misplayed the Specimen Swarm's Take Down attack. While skimming it in the heat of battle, since it had a saving throw, I assumed that was to prevent being knocked prone. In 5e Saving Throws are generally passive responses and Skill Checks are usually active, so seeing Saving Throw made me think it was to prevent an effect of the attack. It would make more sense to me mechanically if the move/stand up Strength effect was a skill check since it takes place on the player's turn.

The Remorse's grab should have an Escape DC included, as is standard for 5e monster blocks.

I would have liked some sort of Book Location matrix, a quick Book -- Location guide to help me remember where all that content is hiding.

We never got there, but the von Recklinghausen Handout in inconsistent with the adventure text. In the adventure, it is said to be the final entry of his journal. On the handout, it says it is found in an envelope labeled "in the event of my death..."

Overall:
We had a blast. I loved running it and look forward to using it as a one-shot to introduce even more people to the Zeitgeist world. My veteran players loved all the references to original Zeitgeist and loved a return to more intrigue-style play (I'll make a note for our main campaign). My new-to-Zeitgeist player really enjoyed the amount of character development and rich world background he was finally able to see first-hand after spending a year hearing stories about our previous campaign every time I include another reference in our main game.

Everyone asked when we could do it again. :)

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