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We Finally Finished!

ltclnlbrain

First Post
Hey guys, Russell here. I'm the guy who did the Pathfinder conversion for about half the ZEITGEIST adventures. Well, after six long years of on and off sessions, my group has finally finished the campaign!

The PCs were as follows:
Will Hawkins, human cavalier/rogue (Yerasol veteran)
Mariah Colt, half-elf fighter/wizard (spellslinger)/eldritch knight/mad shootist (gunsmith)
Oliver James, half-elf bard (court bard) (Vekeshi mystic)
Piotr, dwarf druid (martial scientist)
Alwyn Glau, human sorcerer (undead bloodline) (eschatologist, and the spawn of the Voice of Rot)

Here's a brief dramatic recap of the last two sessions:

Racing to stop Nicodemus' scorched earth contingency, the heroes of Risur rushed to Flint, where they met up with a few stalwart individuals who had managed to escape the citywide hivemind. Lantern towers across the city bathed the streets in the cold brown light of Ratios, suppressing emotions and keeping the populace placated. Our heroes moved to recalibrate the lanterns' planar energy at the refinery, but were confronted by a hivemind-empowered Harkover Lee, a.k.a. the dragon Inacht the Hex-Eater. The fierce fight claimed two lives, but they managed to subdue Harkover and prevent all of Flint from being consumed by the fires of Jiese! A few quick reincarnations later, and all were whole again.

Using Benedict Pemberton's duplicant technology, the party then simultaneously appeared in the other capital cities of the world to avert catastrophe! In Elfaivar, Oliver and Gale broke the siege of the eladrin enclave of Sentosa. In Crisillyir, Alwyn assassinated Arch Secula Degaspare before she could tear her subjects' souls from their bodies. In Trekhom, Mariah Colt successfully sniped the Drakran Chancellor before she could reach her bunker and start the detonation sequence. In Ber, Piotr killed Bruse Shantus and stopped him from executing hundreds of gnolls and goblins and provoking a citywide riot with the energies of Illocus. (Aiding the druid in the fight was the legendary eladrin dreadnought Sor Daeron and his apprentice, former railroad tycoon-turned-vigilante Damata Griento.) And in Cherage, Will found empathy with the demon lord Ashima-Shimtu, who at long last claimed responsibility for her past transgressions and found the freedom she desperately sought.

Back in the Gyre, on the diminished disc of Reida, our heroes battled the Voice of Rot for the fate of the world's past, present, and future! The fierce fight saw the ultimate destruction of the fey titan of death. After a brief moment to steel themselves, the constant constables piloted headlong into the crushing teeth of the Gyre. Their emotional links to their loved ones and their determination to make a change preserved their essences as they merged with their other halves back in the real world, just in time to arrive on Axis Island and stop Nicodemus' final ritual!

Empowered by the sacrament of apotheosis, the Obscurati mastermind repaired Borne and set him to task of lifting the massive pillars out of the ground so that he could link new planes that would ensure a thousand-year reign of predetermined actions in which Nicodemus would reign as a god! Our heroes boarded the armored zeppelin Revolution to deal with the Ob's top brass. Oliver rescued Kasvarina; Alwyn possessed Lya Jierre to prematurely end her duel with Will; and Mariah assassinated Sovereign Han Jierre!

Then, it was a battle of ideology as Kasvarina and the heroes appealed to Borne's sense of right and wrong to stand up to his "father." The intense debate finally pushed Nicodemus over the edge, and he lost his cool and showed his true colors. Having achieved the moral victory, the reflection of William Miller from the Gyre merged with Nicodemus, temporarily seizing control and lowering his defenses to allow a fatal blow. One heavy stomp of Borne's foot, and at long last, Nicodemus was no more.

Our heroes then completed the ritual on their own terms, binding their chosen beneficial planes. Borne replaced the Axis Seal, and for the first time in months, the sun rose.

The world is now much the same as it was before. Jiese allows for continued technological advances. The islands of Lanjyr still hide secrets, thanks to Mavisha. The twin reflections of the Dreaming and the Bleak Gate exist due to the life energies of Av. Apet influence over space still keeps extraplanar threats at bay.

But the air plane of Caeloon makes people more resilient in the face of tragedy. The earth energies of Amrou grant greater protections against supernatural threats. Ascetia's influence means people are more aware of history and more appreciative of all that has come before them. And the living are more altruistic, while the dead can now look forward to an eternal revel in Iratha Ket.

A new president has been elected in Danor. Bruse Cavallo rules in Ber. The Family have taken over the governance of Crissilyir. And King Aodhan still reigns in Risur, with Will Hawkins the heir to the throne. Thanks to Oliver James, all of the eladrin women killed during the Great Malice have been restored to life, including Kasvarina's daughter Dala. Mariah Colt gave birth to the son of the Father of Thunder, a half-elf with the spirit of a titan who is no doubt destined for greatness. Her technological advancements have become standard issue among the Risuri military. Piotr has turned his focus to hunting down strange new alien creatures that have begun to appear in the world. And Alwyn disappeared into the depths of the High Bayou, where something colossal has begun to stir...

The new age of the world is ripe for adventure, but after six long years of trials and tribulations, our constant constables have earned a well-deserved rest.

After the campaign, I asked the players which NPCs were their favorite. They replied, in no particular order: Rock Rackus, Lorcan Kell, King Aodhan ("total badass"), "Iceberg Lich", Cillian Creed ("that mustached serial killer"), Xambria Meredith (who was in Mariah's head for half the campaign), Sijhen, Lya Jierre (who survived the entire campaign), Tinker Oddcog, and El Extrano.

Some of their favorite moments: fighting Sijhen in the subrail station, the entirety of "Always on Time," stopping the dwarven terrorists and defusing their bomb, dismantling Lorcan Kell's criminal empire and bringing him to justice, the showdown in Pemberton's secret volcano lair, infiltrating the Obscurati convocation, the weretiger village in Elfaivar, facing Nicodemus and Borne atop the crumbling tower in Methia, saving the king from assassination, stopping the angels from killing Ashima-Shimtu, fighting the volcano in Alais Primos, and Iratah Ket ("Happy Mexican Musical Afterlife.") Also, one player really enjoyed the crabs with tiny golden crowns on Mavisha. :)

Overall, everybody agreed that this has been the greatest adventure path we have ever played through. High praises to Ryan, Thursty, and everybody else who helped make this the pinnacle of our gaming experiences. I would write a formal review if I hadn't been involved in the development, but as a GM, I cannot recommend ZEITGEIST highly enough!

If you have any questions about our experience or how certain things played out, feel free to ask me! :D
 

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efreund

Explorer
Overly simplistic question for such an epic writeup: why did your party choose to keep Mavisha? Did you feel there was real decision-making and hemming-and-hawing over which planes to bind, or was it pretty obvious to go with the old stuff, plus just fill the gaps with some attractive low-hanging fruit?

OK, here's maybe a more in-depth question: how did you adjudicate the the "appealing to Borne" and "push Nic over the edge"? Put another way, how could they have done it differently and you would have had that particular avenue fail?

How "hard" was the final encounter, mechanically? I get the gist from your writeup that they stomped the Revolution pretty easily.
 

ltclnlbrain

First Post
They debated for about an hour and a half about which planes to align with. Jiese, Av, and Apet were a lock from the start. They didn't want to lose any of their technological advancements, and they respected the pact Risur had with the fey of the Dreaming. Plus, they didn't want to risk any extraplanar incursions like the Gidim or the Golden Legion--they were happy being an isolationist world again. I think they settled on Mavisha because they were worried what altering water would do to change the landscape and ecosystems of Lanjyr--they decided to go back to the status quo with that one.

When they got to the final battle, they knew they couldn't attack Nic directly without harming innocents thanks to the sacrament, so they made a beeline for the Revolution. Mariah started off with several buffs. Oliver used song of discord and confusion to make most of the crew attack each other, while Will and Piotr landed on the deck to engage in melee (Piotr had wildshaped into a Huge fire elemental). Alwyn first tried casting spells at the colossus, but quickly realized that its defenses were too strong, so he turned towards cleaning up the crew.

After a round or two, Lya Jierre emerged to duel with Will. Both were pretty evenly matched, and after a few rounds of narrow misses, Alwyn used possession to take over Lya and take her out of the fight. Meanwhile, Han had been directing barrages of gunfire at Piotr, dropping him to single digit HP at one point. Will, Alwyn, and Mariah all focused on taking Han down, and he fell after a round or two.

So overall, challenging tactically but only one PC was in danger of dying.

Oliver moved onto the bridge, where another song of discord neutralized Dr. von Recklinghausen and the remaining crews. Freeing Kasvarina, everybody teleported over to Borne's shoulders to plea for the colossus to realize Nic's trickery. By this point, the party could easily hit Diplomacy DCs in the 60s, so I had them roll a few for show but mostly based the results on their roleplay. They were very good at picking apart Nic's arguments and showing the fallacies in his logic. The odds were stacked in their favor too: they had fully restored Kasvarina's memories in adventure 8, and refused to use the sacrament of apotheosis themselves so they had the moral high ground. Plus while Nic kept throwing occasional attacks at them during the debate, they never once tried to fight back. So eventually, Nic had enough and went on the rant that is scripted in the adventure, then tried to attack Kasvarina, which was the deciding factor.
 

Hm. So they didn't engage the ritual at all during the battle? Maybe I assumed people would and didn't provide enough incentives. Well, as long as your group enjoyed it, I suppose it's fine, but I was really excited about being able to alter the environment mid-combat.

You mentioned they went to Mavisha. Did they interact with the savants? How'd that go?

Do you have a sense of what in particular made them think King Aodhan was a bad-ass?

What was the biggest surprise they gave you, or craziest departure from what we assumed with the adventure text? Any times they felt like they failed?

Any scenes that really fell flat or played badly? It could help fix them in the 5e conversion.

Was the fight with the Voice of Rot an interesting challenge? Battles with solo monsters run the risk of being too static, or just a slog against a huge mess of hit points.

How did the players feel about the "split up in duplicants" scene?

Okay, I'll stop for now. :)

Congratulations! What comes next?
 

ltclnlbrain

First Post
They were going to start trying to engage with the ritual when Borne got to the Earth pillar, but by then everybody had cleaned up on the Revolution and they all joined together for the debate against Nicodemus.

On Mavisha, they fought and defeated the savant at the waxy tower. They crossed to Shabboath, got a good look at the sunless sea, went "hell no," and just destroyed the bridge connecting the planes and left the remaining savants alone.

They thought King Aodhan was a badass for the raid against Danor before he was king, for embodying the ideals of Risur, and for banishing Borne to the Dreaming in adventure 5. The party was keen on "for king and country."

The biggest surprise was probably their teamwork and tactics. They all took several teamwork feats, most notably Stealth Synergy. With everybody having max ranks in Stealth, they were able to bypass or ambush a lot of the encounters. Also, they saved the king in adventure 9 and refused to kill Lya Jierre, no matter how many times she broke out of prison and came back to attack them.

They did feel like they failed a few times--the biggest ones I can recall are not being able to rescue Andrei von Recklinghausen from Nicodemus' possession in adventuer 8, and not being able to stop the godhand from throwing himself into the lava and summoning the dragon in adventure 11.

The players were heavily invested in the plot, campaign themes, and NPCs, so there's not a lot that fell flat. I'm wracking my brains, but I can't think of any one scene that was disappointing--high praise indeed!

The Voice of Rot fight was kind of underwhelming, mainly due to ridiculous amounts of damage from Mariah's bullets and some failed saves against Alwyn's disintegrate. I had to give him double the amount of hit points just to keep him going for a few rounds, and Rock Rackus didn't get to "save" them (which they would have seen as deus ex machina and hated anyway).

They liked the simultaneous nature of the scenes, and each player got a great spotlight. Just by happenstance, they each picked the perfect situation to make best use of their skills.

Next is finishing up Hell's Vengeance (we are halfway through adventure 3) and then more new APs from there! :D
 
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Ajar

Explorer
Congrats on doing the conversion and on finishing your run! My group is finally on Schism after 5+ years so I think we're going to take a bit longer than you did.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
[MENTION=12882]ltclnlbrain[/MENTION]: Congratulations on your fine finish. I hope to get there myself one day, but life keeps getting in the way. (I may have rebooted my campaign, but my wife is expecting our second child in July, so there's a (positive) stumbling block right there.) Big, general question if you don't mind:

Any major, stand-out bits of advice for GMs for any part of the campaign? (Although I'm selfishly focused on adventure #6 onwards.) Any parts you got to where you thought "I wish I'd foreshadowed that earlier?" Or where the players threw you a massive curveball? Or where the 'through-line' of the AP wasn't apparent to the group? Anything that springs to mind as a major stumbling block, basically. (It's a novelty for me to have DM's ahead of me. For three years I was in the lead, and now I'm way behind!)
 

SanjMerchant

Explorer
One wonders if the Bleak Gate is quite so bleak anymore? I mean, yes, technically, it's attached to Av, but I always thought maybe it was so bleak because Nem is pretty darn bleak. I understand it would quickly get way too complicated for an actual game, but I do, on a raw theory level, like the idea that the planes have different effects depending both on what slot you put them in and (if you want to go really overly-complicated) what other planes are also in the mix.

(Also, gideopepys, I'm really enjoying reading your campaign thread; I've just gotten as far as your group descending into the Vault of Heresies and taking literal Deals with [a] Devil in bulk. ); )
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
(Also, gideopepys, I'm really enjoying reading your campaign thread; I've just gotten as far as your group descending into the Vault of Heresies and taking literal Deals with [a] Devil in bulk. ); )

Thanks, SanjMerchant. It's very nice to hear that someone enjoys reading the thread, although it always surprises me (pleasantly) that folks who come late to it have the stamina to read the whole thing! Funnily enough, I ended up reading the whole thing myself just before we rebooted the campaign, so I got to enjoy it too. (I'd forgotten about half of what happened, I reckon.)
 

SanjMerchant

Explorer
Thanks, SanjMerchant. It's very nice to hear that someone enjoys reading the thread, although it always surprises me (pleasantly) that folks who come late to it have the stamina to read the whole thing! Funnily enough, I ended up reading the whole thing myself just before we rebooted the campaign, so I got to enjoy it too. (I'd forgotten about half of what happened, I reckon.)
Well, I'll confess there's a little bit of wistfulness involved on my part: I've only attempted to run Zeitgeist once, via play-by-post, and that fell through before they even boarded the Coaltongue! We did try to resuscitate it a while later, but by then we'd lost two of the players, and they happened to be the two I was most interested in seeing run the gamut.

(I've thought of trying again, but because I and so many people I know are all Terribly Busy New Yorkers, and play-by-post has, in my experience never been maintainable, I'm somewhat at a loss.)

Sent from my SM-G900V using EN World mobile app
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Well, I'll confess there's a little bit of wistfulness involved on my part: I've only attempted to run Zeitgeist once, via play-by-post, and that fell through before they even boarded the Coaltongue! We did try to resuscitate it a while later, but by then we'd lost two of the players, and they happened to be the two I was most interested in seeing run the gamut.

(I've thought of trying again, but because I and so many people I know are all Terribly Busy New Yorkers, and play-by-post has, in my experience never been maintainable, I'm somewhat at a loss.)

Sent from my SM-G900V using EN World mobile app

I can't claim to have suffered that level of frustration, but the three year gap came about for similar reasons, as we lost two key players. The good news is we regained them again, but for how long I don't know. The collapse of the campaign the first time round was actually kind of painful because of how much time and effort we'd put in, so I'm hoping we don't suffer the same fate twice.

We must all look to ltclnlbrain for guidance and inspiration!
 

I don't know how people do Play-by-Post with actual D&D 4e or Pathfinder mechanics. It's just so damned slow.

I actually did a pseudo PbP when first writing adventures 1 and 2 to playtest them, but it was completely mechanic free. The players said, "I'm this class, and this is my schtick," and I narrated and they roleplayed. When a combat was possible, I let them decide how to start it, then just wrote an action scene that made them all look cool, perhaps pausing partway through to see if they had any comments or goals. The idea was to make sure the investigation and pacing made sense, since I was confident in my ability to balance fights, but still iffy on the mystery stuff. It took weeks, but I compare that to people spending months on half of one adventure, and I don't think I could ever play a standard PbP.
 

SanjMerchant

Explorer
I don't know how people do Play-by-Post with actual D&D 4e or Pathfinder mechanics. It's just so damned slow.

I actually did a pseudo PbP when first writing adventures 1 and 2 to playtest them, but it was completely mechanic free. The players said, "I'm this class, and this is my schtick," and I narrated and they roleplayed. When a combat was possible, I let them decide how to start it, then just wrote an action scene that made them all look cool, perhaps pausing partway through to see if they had any comments or goals. The idea was to make sure the investigation and pacing made sense, since I was confident in my ability to balance fights, but still iffy on the mystery stuff. It took weeks, but I compare that to people spending months on half of one adventure, and I don't think I could ever play a standard PbP.

Yeah, the opening skill challenged translated especially poorly into that format. Ironically, they'd all but finished it* when Thanksgiving killed what little momentum we'd built up, but it was awkward, and I don't know how I would've handled future episodes where it can make a big difference if/when the players interrupt a major set-piece type thing (rescuing Isobel in Nalaam, like, all of Diaspora (which I think hadn't come out yet when we started?)

*(Seriously, they'd already convinced Coulton, Mercliffe, and Iscalio to leave, had gotten the name and a description of Dafton out of them and they still had something like four or five minutes before Thames Grimsley would even show up. Just a little longer and there would've been exciting ship-blowing-upness!)
 

ltclnlbrain

First Post
Any major, stand-out bits of advice for GMs for any part of the campaign? (Although I'm selfishly focused on adventure #6 onwards.) Any parts you got to where you thought "I wish I'd foreshadowed that earlier?" Or where the players threw you a massive curveball? Or where the 'through-line' of the AP wasn't apparent to the group? Anything that springs to mind as a major stumbling block, basically. (It's a novelty for me to have DM's ahead of me. For three years I was in the lead, and now I'm way behind!)

Nothing specific comes to mind immediately. I've been playing with most of my players for 10 or more years, so they are very experienced and committed to the plot of the adventures. They always kept the through-line in sight.
 


ltclnlbrain

First Post
The only thing that I can think of that was slightly difficult to run was the final battle. So many things to keep track of--that checklist came in handy!

As for fantastic moments, I don't have time to write a long post now, but I will definitely relate some awesome stories soon! Lots to choose from! :)
 


The only thing that I can think of that was slightly difficult to run was the final battle. So many things to keep track of--that checklist came in handy!

As for fantastic moments, I don't have time to write a long post now, but I will definitely relate some awesome stories soon! Lots to choose from! :)

Russ, it's been a few months. With the benefit of hindsight, any other good or bad parts you'd like to highlight, to help other GMs who are trying to finish the whole beast?
 

ltclnlbrain

First Post
Ack, sorry! Life got very busy recently and I forgot to check back in on this thread! Let me see if I can think of some things:

Adventure 1: The last confrontation with the wounded Asrabey is very cool. My PCs didn't even think about trying to fight him, but if you have a trigger happy group, I'd suggest giving him a brooch of shielding so that they can't just automatically take him down with a magic missile. Make them earn that victory. ;)

Adventure 2: MacBannin is pretty weak as statted up. My players took him down in one round. I'd suggest beefing up his HP or giving him some magical defenses.

Adventure 3: The rainbow room in the dungeon is very complicated. My players just avoided it completely and took a different route.

Adventure 4: Perfect, don't change a thing! Just be sure you understand the NPCs' motivations and personalities and play up that RP on the train.

Adventure 5: My players loved the crimebusting minigame and the scenes with the B-team. The party managed to track down and capture Lorcan Kell before he could murder the B-team members. The intercepted his carriage when he tried to flee to the Bleak Gate facility under Cauldron Hill. I replaced him in the factory battle with an undead version of the tiefling gunslinger Boone, whom one PC had murdered during the previous adventure. (I used the stats for a pale stranger.) I ended up just narrating the final ship battle against the colossus. My party didn't really enjoy the naval rules and fighting a few random oozes after the showdown in the factory seemed a bit anticlimactic.

Adventure 6: I felt the railroad challenge was a little more complicated than it needed to be, so I handwaved portions of it. The party bard managed to charm Terakalir in the final fight and rode her around to help take down Lya and her goons, so that was fun.

Adventure 7: Really fantastic. My party loved infiltrating the Ob in disguise and the tense roleplaying that resulted from it. One player perma-died though, which kind of sucked. PCs better be careful here!

Adventure 8: My players tracked down all of the memories and fully got Kasvarina on their side. I didn't use the "no rolls higher than 30" rules in Methia. The party ended up sneaking past all of the encounters to the tower. The fight at the end is epic and awesome. One minor complaint though is that as written, Kasvarina disappears after this adventure until the very end of the campaign. It seemed a shame to have her vanish after everything they went through together, so I had her stay with the party through the beginning of adventure 10, when she went off to aid the eladrin enclaves against the Ob (which lead to her capture).

Adventure 9: Lots of good stuff here. Make sure you understand all the different moving parts of the palace fight.

Adventure 10: Pretty straightforward adventure. Didn't change anything.

Adventure 11: My players were bummed that Vitus Sigismund took such a heel turn, but that's what happens when the world breaks. They enjoyed finally taking down Sijhen.

Adventure 12: Awesome, Planescape-style shenanigans. They lured the giant undead-hating sun all the way to the mouth of the Gyre to burn the Voice of Rot. I had to triple his HP just to give him a fighting chance against the PCs, but he still went down in three rounds. Low touch AC is a death sentence against spellcasters and gunslingers.

Adventure 13: Again, make sure you use the checklist in the final encounter. It is your friend! And be prepared for whatever ridiculous 20th-level tricks your PCs can do. They're basically unstoppable at this point, but make things seem like a challenge at least.

Most importantly, have fun! :)
 

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