[Zeitgeist] Bonds of Forced Faith tonight


Wish me luck! After a 3 year hiatus, I'm jumping back into Zeitgeist. Or, I'm at least going to play the Bonds of Forced Faith oneshot tonight. (Or, twoshot, as my group can be kinda slow, and we only have 3 hours, so I figure it'll take two weeks.)

Anyway, my group is a mix of folks who had played in my campaign (which flamed out at the end of book 4), and some new blood who really don't know anything about the setting/plot (other than it's "steampunk and magic with lots of investigation"; and BoFF isn't really any of that).

I'm still trying to figure out if I should censor the spoilery bits in Stanfield's backstory, or hand it out as-is.

Besides that, any tips for tonight?

We're running Pathfinder, and I've printed out all the NPC stat blocks separately, and printed out the rules for the more obscure Witch spells.

Still haven't figured out music yet. Been thinking maybe Night on Bald Mountain, Hall of the Mountain King, and maybe some tracks from FFVIII that don't sound too techno.

My handicapping so far is this:
- every fight seems pretty easy or weaksauce, until you get to the last fight
- the last fight looks to be ridiculously difficult if you approach it heads-on (and then still fairly difficult if you figure out the tricks)
- Amielle's character looks quite a bit weaker than the rest, and worried her player might not have fun (context: the guy playing her has already declared that she's the great-grandmother to his campaign-PC, should we start the campaign back up again; so he's invested in her being awesome) I'm considering giving her the Deadly Aim feat, as a crutch
- rationing the break curse spells seems to be an essential metagame strategy in the Pathfinder version (that's oddly not an issue in the 4e version)
- I'm assuming the Green Knight's mount can scramble up steep mountainsides, or else get dismissed/resummoned, so that it's usable in the final encounter
- there doesn't seem to be many opportunities for the Godhand to use his unique "possess the evil" ability ... I'm thinking of letting him apply that to the serpent-maned-lion at least
- the mod is quite bloody, the horror/squick factor is a lot higher than in the campaign ... if the MPAA were involved, I'd expect it to get an R rating. I might have to tone down some parts for one of my players

Anyway, any other handicaps or tips from folks that have run this adventure before? Would love to hear them! I'm banking on having a good night, and using this to get my group back into the main campaign.

Wish me luck!
Edit: Sh**, I just realized you were doing this tonight. I would have posted faster if I knew there was a short timeline.

Oh FF8's witchery can be great.

The album Successor had a bunch of recompositions of the soundtrack using actual instruments. Maybe you'll like:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYd8Fm0RBa4 - String quartet version of the opening theme of FF8.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4r482LmQDM4 - A sacrifice, maybe to play as the group sees the Contessa's message at the beginning, or when they start to ascend the mountain.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pm1OiFwmxQ - Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec with chimes, woodwinds, and strings. Could work as travel/exploration music, or maybe as an overture. It's a little jazzy, though.

FF7 has the somewhat spooky 'Anxious Hearts,' which shifts into seemingly innocent - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1eG_IXr6Dw

Oh wait, what am I doing? Use the soundtrack of Bloodborne.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKk6XqcmB4Q - Omen, an opening theme.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A75Bhbhm0Os - The Night Unfurls, for something a bit less ostentatious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaoyKECQnPw - The Hunter, for a fight. Maybe the spooks on the side of the mountain.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94n3p5ziADs - Blood Starved Beast, great for the finale. Probably fun to pair with Night on Bald Mountain for the finale.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHGCE3UWKy0 - Terror, a slower paced fight, like the first battle.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BihcP_GduOk - Amygdala, another good horror battle.

Really, there's just a lot of good combat tracks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tf-sLzzPiAU - Moonlit Melody for something between battles.

As for the fights, they're really more intended to be puzzles, because each time the witch has bystanders or prisoners to which she's bonded, and I assume most parties will want to reduce collateral damage. I will say, I probably did a better job designing it for 4e and then 5e's conversion, since when we did the PF version I wasn't as savvy to that system. I honestly would have just brute-forced in cool stuff that aren't normally legal character builds. But sure, give her Deadly Aim.


Good luck, waiting for results. In my run, I made Stanfield an NPC (mostly due to his uncertain status in main campaign - the party is so sure of his betrayal since adventure 1 that I'm inclined to do otherwise, somehow) and gave Lee character sheet to a party member who's obsessed with dragons and suspected Lee since his reading of player's guide. He had quite a laught at Str25 and "your minions can resurrect you" line.



Unfortunately, it wasn't that great of a time, sad to say.

Only had four folks: King, Green Knight, Stanfield, and Amielle. To make up for the (perceived) power-deficit, I gave the King the "Bounty of the Land" ability Aodhan has in adv9, and gave Harkover's 6 scrolls to Stanfield and said only the loremaster incarnation could use them.

The players of the King & Green Knight were new to the setting of Zeitgeist and had to get an info-dump before session. Stanfield was played by the same player as our Dwarven Eschatologist Cleric. Amielle by our Technologist Rogue. (Our Skyseer had to call in sick right before session.)

The teaser was very thematic, but the PCs figured out a bit too strongly that they weren't "supposed" to do anything, and so roleplay was minimal during that part. Though they all said afterward they liked the scene.

The opening was likewise stiff. For some reason, the players were pretty cagey about sharing anything on the backside of their character sheets, and I had to do some to some forceful oversharing from the Godhand (as NPC who was not otherwised used in the module) to get anyone to open up. Unfortunately this just deepened the sense of "the first halfhour of this module is just the GM talking." Once Contessa's simulacrum showed up, the King was offended and used his landmastery to splatter it before she could finish.

One of the things they did do was write down their "kill list" on the whiteboard, of the three known witches (Deliria, Pernicity, Contessa).

The party then prettymuch just settled on "well, nothing much to do except go the mountain now", and once again, I had to voice-of-NPC have Harkover chime in that enchanted villagers probably means there's a witch afoot. Then the party got very excited that they could mark one off the kill list, and beat feet for Superfund Lake (as they called Parity Lake in the main campaign :p). The RP between the Green Knight and Husky Pete got pretty good, as that player really took to his "impress the King that I'm fit to rule" objective. The King's ability to know everyone's name was used to great effect to disperse the crowd ("Jake, what are you doing here? go home to your family, they need you"). Eventually it came to blows, and the first half of the combat was pretty exciting. A highlight was when the troll smacked Amielle and she counter-smacked him with hellfire. Also, the first time we got the witness "the Stanfield gang up", which was just fun to see on our whiteboard. Sadly, the party saved against all the witch's best spells (peacebond, bestow curse, etc), so there was no lasting impact to the party.

After some townsfolk died, and the party started to figure out the meta around the Bond, they fell upon the strategy of "let's grapple the witch." When the Green Knight revealed he had a net - and that the net was made of gold - the vets crooned "GOLD IS AMAZING IN THIS SETTING" and decried that it was the McGuffin - and that it therefore was the way to solve this, and every other combat with a witch. Well, the combat then devolved into a Pathfinder-grapple-off, which, is not a fun way to have a combat. Anyway, eventually they drowned her, while entangled in the net.

The King used the combination of knows-your-name and bounty-of-the-land to play savior, and called each wounded townsfolk over by name, and layed hands on them, and healed them. (Between that scene, and his natural fast healing, I failed to make sense of Rachel Lang's ploy to heal the King. He should be healing her!)

Next they entreated with Rachel Lang, and that went off as perfectly as you could hope. She shared the vision, Aimielle rebuffed her, the King didn't know who to believe, but eventually decided he had to save the citizens who were burning tonight. Rachel made the offer of the Bond, the King was unsure, but eventually the party agreed (I even got Knight's Stag's blood in the pot). They left none the wiser.

They talked about the King "earthbending an escalator up the side of the mountain", but I put some limiters on that ability to avoid silliness. Between Rachel's wards and some awesome stealth checks, the PvE aspect of the climb was a non-issue. Honestly, it didn't seem very well-designed. What's the point of hitting the King with 1 or 2 d6s of stumbling damage if he has Fast Healing 10? And if any other character can't climb well, then there's a wand of CLW in the party. The mechanics didn't really add up.

Anyway, Amielle was scouting, and came across the slaughter that happened in the teaser, and Contessa animated from their blood, etc., and that was a pretty cool solo for her. But then once the PCs realized they were being hunted by unclean spirits, Stanfield went all multiple-man, and had each of his incarnations assisting other party members on Stealth and Perception (he's pretty good at each), and made the next section of the module very easy, and the unclean spirit encounter was easily skipped.

Then came the battle at Pernicity's Hut. :erm: The party stealth-ambushed the fey when Pernicity was in her hut. Between judicious use of the King's silent shortbow, and the Stanfields' ability to stealth & sneak attack, they took out most of them before an alarm could be raised, or any prisoners burned. (Feedback: those CR 3 fey are way too weak for this level 10 party.) Once Pernicity did come out, first thing she did was raise the horde of zombies. One well-placed grenade from Amielle took out all but 4 of them. BANG. As Pernicity zipped around (with the veteran players calling foul that flying should be impossible in this setting), she managed to land a couple of solid spells: ill omen on the Green Knight, and bestow curse on the King. (The King did a great job RPing the giggles thereafter.) However, loremaster-Stanfield starting making targeted dispels at her flight (which, in my game, I modified to be a broomstick that she was riding; I couldn't help but use the classic imagery), and on the second try he got her, and she tumbled the ground. Then the already-somewhat-unexciting combat ground into monotony. The Green Knight and the pack of Stanfields worked together to golden-net-and-grapple her, to varying levels of success (and she got in a few scythe-hits in the meantime). While she was surrounded by that, Amielle and the King worked to help get prisoners free (I said few stragglers were injured enough that they couldn't run away on their own, so the PCs were encouraging/berating other prisoners to come back and help their fellow POWs). But that was in the background of a Pathfinder-grapple-slogfest. Pernicity has a STR of 24, and a CMD of 24. Which makes her pretty tough to pin down (literally). However, unlike normal combat, where a declining HP track gives you a sense of progress, the continuous grapple-ungrapple sequence is just like a soccer ball moving back and forth in the midfield with no strikes on goal ... and I'm no soccer fan. And neither are my players.

Eventually, I kindof gave it to them, as I could see where this was probably eventually headed, so then they hog-tied her, took their net back, and threw her off the cliff. That way she'd be more than 250ft away from any prisoners once she hit the ground, and they'd be safe. The PCs jokingly ruled that one really athletic prisoner had manged to hike all the way down the mountain during the combat, thought he was home free, and then when Pernicity hit the ground next to him, he was crushed to death by the Bond.

And then, in real life, it was late, so we stopped playing. Next week, we'll pick it back up. Hopefully our missing player will rejoin us (she'll play the Godhand most likely, who will just show up out of hammerspace). Then it's the final climb, and the final fight.

In order to keep interest up, I did give a "cut scene" as we were packing up for the night, depicting a scene at the summit where a hooded figure bows before the Contessa, and hands her a gourd. The Contessa congratulates her disciple, as she drinks from it, and the disciple pulls back her hood, revealing herself to be Rachel Lang. The party got pretty excited about that. Though some are worried the final fight will be "too tough." (An odd criticism, considering that so far, the PCs are positively smoking the adventure.)

Anyway, that's how my night went. I don't think I made any real progress on my meta-goal of "re-selling my group on why ZG is so great and thus restarting the campaign." I don't feel that Bonds of Forced Faith is at the same level of design-quality as the main adventures. A huge part of that is the reliance on the Pathfinder-grapple mechanics. But even beyond that, there's just a general lack of that awesome 'spark' that's present elsewhere in the campaign.

But the PCs on the whole really enjoyed the pregens. It kinda-sorta felt like the same philosophy as 13th Age characters (which is a very good thing). The King, the Green Knight, and Stanfields thought quite highly of their builds. Amielle had a great concept, but only being able to fire each of her guns once per combat (and then have them deal pretty low damage: rolling a 1 on a 1d12 sucks, especially when that's your only shot) put a damper on things for him. And 4x actions a round is ... powerful. All hail the loremaster with at-will CL 9 magic missile.

Until next week!
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Sorry to hear it didn't go so well. My group - sort of the same deal as yours, actually - never finished BoFF. It's a pretty challenging module to run, looking back at it, it requires a lot more normal DM work than usual for Zeitgeist. That said, I hope it's enough to spark interest in things for the group. I had 2 new players come in - one in Adventure 4, and one in 5 - that really took to things. Adventure 5 is where things definitely start picking up, in my opinion, and adventure is a tough adventure to run period.