ZEITGEIST [ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co.


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
I am starting a new thread to pick up from previous posts in 'Our Party', which gives a profile of each character in the group, and details Sessions 0-1.

In this session, the strengths of the party generation method we employed really came to the fore. In our previous three-year campaign I had noticed how the rest of the players tended to defer to Tom (who plays unit leader Marshal Baldrey Korrigan) when making important decisions. Tom is a level-headed, methodical player with a thoughtful approach to the game. I asked him if he would be interested in playing the actual party leader and suggested that he choose the tactical warlord.

Given the rationale of RHC membership that links the party together, I decided to ask the rest of the players to consider themselves (and their builds) as applying for a job. (This was in addition to the keyword element discussed in the first post of the Our Party thread.) Build-wise, each player needed to ensure that they had a good basic attack and that they were second-to-none at their rolls; the best that Korrigan could choose for his hand-picked unit.

It was great to see how the combination of role, player and mechanics has forged a genuine leader in Tom (who was previously reluctant to take on that responsibility). Marshal Korrigan is the perfect leader - very serious, moral and level-headed. The other players defer to him frequently (and compete to gain the extra basic attack each round by ensuring they are in position).

Here we have a bullet-point account of what happened in Session 2:
  • In Stover Delft's office, the Danoran Minister for Outsiders, a young tiefling named Lya Jierre, presents the unit with a puzzle. Impressed by the speed with which they identify that the problem has no solution, she agrees that they are up to the job Delft has recommended them for:
  • Duchess Ethelyn of Shale has invaded Axis Island, a Danoran stronghold in the Yerasol archipelago. Because Korrigan, Uru and Leon know the island - and because the unit were the last to interact with the Duchess - they have been assigned to accompany a Risuri naval task force with the intention of recapturing the island and handing it back to Danor. If everything goes according to plan, their role will be purely advisory and diplomatic.
  • Boarding the RNS Impossible, the unit makes good speed for the rendezvous, discussing philosophy along the way with Captain Rutger Smith.
  • They meet the infiltration team (Tanya, Letmas, Seven-foot Dan and Burton) whom they are to follow into action. The plan is to sneak onto the island through a sea cave leading to some mines. From the mines they must make their way on foot to the fortress and open the sea gates, giving the naval task force access.
  • Tragedy strikes in the form of a schism, and the infiltration team are killed. The unit sends the sole survivor (Burton) back to the Impossible with El Perro, and enter the sea cave themselves.
  • In a mine at the end of the cave tunnel they encounter Nicolas Dupiers, a hysterical Danoran mine foreman. They subdue him and his elemental minions.
  • Nicolas' strange powers are derived from three ancient golden icons that have been discovered in the mine. The unit appropriate the icons and persuade Dupiers to guide them. They call in El Perro.
  • At the entrance to the mine they find evidence of a massacre. Many Danorans have died at the hands of the Duchess' fey allies.
  • On the way to the sea fortress the unit encounter (and avoid) a headless iron golem, leaking a strange black fluid. They also come across a hidden site revealed by the golem's rampage. Leon expresses some interest in the place, but the unit simply mark it on the map and move on, prioritizing their primary mission.
  • They reach the sea fortress and prepare to infiltrate it.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 2 post-match analysis

Lya Jierre went down very well with the group. They liked her. (I can do a very elegant - and I daresay faintly alluring - French accent, it turns out, and presented Lya as both poised and equally admiring of the group due to their actions on the Coaltongue and immediate solving of the Three Towers puzzle. Turns out players love compliments!)

They also loved the infiltration team - particularly when I intimated that they would get to play the team later in that session. (I didn't actually say this, just rifled through some sheets for their stats while describing them.)

The philosophical debate with Rutger Smith was fun too: Malthusius (who is still not officially part of the unit) was a professor of philosophy and history at Pardwright University, called in as a consultant by the police and RHC on so many occasions that he eventually joined the RHC as an inspector 10 years ago. His player is enjoying the erudite detective role and has been at pains to develop the personal philosophy of his character (based on the teachings of Triegenes).

Rumdoom - our eschatologist dwarf - has become something of a tragicomic mascot for the group with his zealous pursuit of 'good endings'. It helps that his player - without any prompting from me - decided during character generation that Rumdoom was terrified of water and of boats (which have featured heavily in every session...) He spent his first RHC stipend on a Floating Shield! He too joined in the debate with Smith.

Anyway... the players were shocked and taken aback when the infiltration team died (heh heh heh) and nervous about taking their place. The watery schism that caused the rockslide also had a strange effect on Marshal Korrigan whose rocky form (caused by an earth-schism on Axis Island during the last Yerasol war) began to periodically soften and react to this new influence. (More of which later.)

The encounter with Dupiers was disappointing on one level. Or rather, it disappointed me because I had such high hopes for it. The group didn't utilize the space as much as I had hoped and Dupiers dropped pretty quickly. Great bit of roleplaying here, though: Uru (our pacific-island fey assassin - a reskinned, halfling-sized drow with filed-down teeth and bat-like ears) hopped up to the top platform and - assuming Dupiers was a 'wizard' thanks to his elemental mastery began to stitch up the unconscious Danoran's mouth to stop him casting spells. Oh, how we laughed! Korrigan intervened just a little too late, so Dupiers had to conduct negotiations (when brought back to consciousness) through one side of his mouth!
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 3

Not much to report here: Action took up most of the session. They made no attempt to sneak to the lighthouse, choosing to bluff their way past any guards they encountered. The presence of a Danoran in their number, (party member Leon Veilleux, not Dupiers, who they dumped back at the mine) and their RHC uniforms, were capitalised on by the 'spokespersons' of the group, Leon and Marshal Korrigan. They were ready for action, and so was I, but kept acing bluff check after bluff check.

Session 3

  • Using a Passwall ritual, the unit gain access to the interior of the Fortress, and make their way to the sea wall.
  • Finding the lighthouse area well-guarded, they cast a waterbreathing ritual and sent Uru, El Perro and Korrigan ahead to gain the advantage of surprise by approaching from the sea.
  • An air elemental bound to Uru through the force of his Icon of Avilona steadied a rope for him at the foot of lighthouse.
  • Malthusius set off Pyrotechnics, alerting the Risuri fleet of their impending success, and simultaneously giving the signal for the attack.
  • The unit swiftly dispatched the lighthouse defenders; so swiftly, indeed, that Rumdoom complained.
  • Uru opened the sea gate and disabled the mechanism.
  • The unit then defended the lighthouse with traps and barricades as wave after wave of enemies crashed against it. They held out for ten minutes, whereupon the Risuri strike force swept into the harbour. Ships wizards, druids and riflemen swept the seawall clean of rebels and thousands of marines followed on transport ships. They secured the outer perimeter, and began constructing siege engines as the Duchess' troops fell back to the keep.
  • Korrigan did not wish to rest, insisting upon honouring their promise to Lya Jierre, but received assurances that her cousin Nathan would be unharmed.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 3 post-match analysis

The players' cohesion as a unit really paid off here. The lighthouse encounter was dealt with very professionally. (I love it when a plan comes together.) Uru has the water walking ritual, so he and half the team took the seaward route to the base of the tower, handing a rope to the air elemental and surprising the guards on the wall. They stayed focused on the task in hand and got the gate open quickly.

Defending the Lighthouse was great fun too. We used the abstract rules as we have just come from the climax of a paragon tier game in which the players were controlling whole armies, so mass combat - while not something we normally eschew - wasn't an attractive prospect.

The players loved it.

I sent in an extra wave of rebel soldiers just before the Risuri ships arrived in the harbour, to make them sweat. But they were swept off the wall by loyalist artillery before they could breach the lighthouse.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 4

Session 4

  • The unit's recuperation was interrupted by an explosion on a Risuri ship, that presaged the arrival of an eladrin dreadnought: a fiery warrior who cut a swathe through the invading forces, dashed up one of the siege towers, killing all who opposed him, and leaped over the outer wall, dispatching dozens of the Duchess' soldiers too.
  • An hour later - once the outer wall was breeched and the rebel forces had withdrawn to the inner wall - the unit was called to a makeshift brig where many captured Danorans had been imprisoned. They did not find Nathan Jierre among the many tieflings there, but they did secure the co-operation of a belligerent Danoran officer, learning how to approach the tower-observatory at the centre of the keep through either the sewerage system, or via the roof.
  • Before they could pursue any of this, the 'fire monster' appeared again, darting over the rooftops. He used a powerful immurement to breach the inner walls and sped inside. With only seconds to spare, the unit followed, as the immurement failed and the wall closed behind them.
  • The central tower was defended by a labyrinth of hedges. The fire-warrior had simply dashed across the top, setting light to the maze as he went. The unit could not follow so easily, and besides, their way was barred by the creator of the maze: a fey entity named Gillie Dhu, and his twig sprite allies.
  • The unit defeated these creatures and found their way through the maze to the tower.
  • Within, they found that the eladrin - an ancient fey warrior named Asrabey Varal - had cut down the Duchess' advisors and bodyguards and now stood over the badly injured Duchess. Cowering in a corner was Nathan Jierre.
  • Before they were spotted, they learned that the Unseen Court had dispatched Asrabey to prove they had nothing to do with the Duchess' treachery by killing her themselves!
  • The unit could not allow that to happen. Despite the apparently suicidal risk, they threw themselves at Asrabey.
  • A quick but bloody battle followed. Many of the unit were felled. The decisive moment came when Rumdoom stood toe-to-toe with the eladrin, facing a 'good ending' at last. Faced with this prospect, and aided perhaps by the strange nature of Axis island, he found himself transported, not to another world, but to the icy end of this world. The intense cold damaged him and all those around him. Thankfully, though, Asrabey was now on his last legs, and this was enough to drop him.
Here, for the first time, we see some of the alterations I made to each encounter alluded to in the session report. I have a six-person party, and the characters are beefed up with an extra at-will and a DM bonus apiece. (More of which some other time.)

The Ghillie Dhu encounter needed some more oomph as a result, so I placed two non-evil twig blights (or 'twig sprites') in the maze.

Other simple changes from earlier in the adventure included allowing Sokana Rell to summon several waves of fire sprites instead of one; adding an extra rebel soldier to the lighthouse encounter - fairly basic stuff.

The highlight of this part of this adventure was definitely the encounter with Asrabey. I opted to use the level 20 version, knowing that my players would relish the challenge (and the frisson of fear). What I could never have predicted was that Uru (our gremlin-like assassin) would score a critical on his first hit - easily enough to drop Asrabey! Fortunately, one of the other players reminded us that if the hit would not be enough to strike ordinarily, then a natural 20 is just a normal blow. Still, Asrabey was reduced to single figures in an instant! (Or he would have been had I not known my party and left him with just a few more hit points to compensate for numbers.)

From then on, it was no holds barred: Asrabey dropped party members left, right and centre, although both Korrigan and Malthusius had luckily saved dailies that left him close to dropping point.

The most dramatic moment came when Rumdoom Kagan was the only character left standing. Up to that point we had played it that he had not yet developed the 'Icy End of the Earth' power; that it was not a matter of simply becoming an eschatologist and - hey presto! - the power was yours. The power (and several of the other thematic powers in the campaign) is more of a one-off; a Triegenes-like manifestation of the will of the individual - and an accidental one to boot. This decision was taken during character generation when the player said he loved the theme but wanted the power to manifest spontaneously. I confidently predicted that he would know when best to use it and... lo and behold, the one-to-one stand-off with Asrabey was just the moment Rumdoom had been waiting for.

It was a beautiful moment. Especially when the player portrayed Rumdoom as terrified and shaken as a result of this discovery, despite his victory over the eladrin.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 5

Session 5

  • It transpired that Nathan Jierre himself had given the Duchess access to the Danoran fort, providing codes to a teleportation circle within the walls. He had done so because he realised the Danorans were creating secret weapons on the island, and hoped (naively) that the Duchess would use this information diplomatically.
  • He begged the unit for asylum, which they granted.
  • Left alone with Malthusius, the Duchess challenged him to defend his actions, while at the same time explaining hers. She held fast to a prophecy that predicted the fall of Risur, and was convinced that the Danorans would destroy the nation she loved, and the Unseen Court.
  • Meanwhile, the rest of the unit used what little time they had left to retrace their steps through the jungle - in the company of the brutally honest (and somewhat negative) Sergeant Glassman and his troop of allied solders - to the strange building they had seen on their way here.
  • They fought off some hungry ankhegs and went inside. This turned out to be very place where the mortally wounded Leon had been nursed back to health by a beautiful eladrin woman during the fourth Yerasol war. There were signs of a struggle within and the woman was nowhere to be found. What they did find was a huge apelike construct: a marriage of technology and fey magic, which they brought back to the fortress and shipped back to Flint.
  • The Danoran ship Lux Profectusque steamed into harbour. Lya Jierre disembarked, flanked by strange bodyguards. She thanked the team, reclaimed the island, and invited them to her wedding in a year's time. For she was the very Danoran woman who King Aodhan intended to marry!
  • Mission accomplished.

Despite being exhausted from their many battles, the unit was particularly anxious to return to the strange location revealed by the rampaging golem in session 2. This was linked to Leon's background:

Leon's story is that he was forced to flee his erstwhile allies having mutinied against his own general, a ruthless fanatic known as Le Corbeau - infamous among the Risuri for his ability to sow terror in their ranks. In fact, Leon is 'Le Corbeau', who managed to kill his mutinous underling, discovering in the process that political enemies in Danor wanted him dead. Having escaped, he was then subject to a terrible bombardment by his own side and left for dead.

When he came round - his left side horribly mutiliated and scarred by fires even a tiefling could not resist - he found that he had been nursed back to health by an eladrin woman, who had been hiding out on Axis Island for years.

'Leon' reacted badly to this turn of events, such was his hatred of the fey and eladrin in particular. So he attacked and seriously wounded his rescuer before escaping once again.

Since then, Leon has had a huge change of heart, repenting of his ruthless ways and seeking to make amends for past misdeeds (beginning with his fey pact, and seeking - without success so far - to join the Vekeshi Mystics).

It was a great surprise to him, and his player, to find the 'bunker' where the eladrin woman healed him, and even more concerning when the rest of the party insisted on returning to examine it. It was a surprise to me too. I placed it there as a point of interest to be returned to later in the campaign - assuming they went back to Axis Island at some point. I figured the party would be too bruised, and without time to rest, they wouldn't risk it.

I figured without Malthusius, who has a ritual to share out healing surges, and sacrificed his own so the party could explore, while he remained behind to talk ethics with the Duchess (another fantastic player-driven episode in which the Duchess caused the old deva to question his loyalties).

So the group struck out for the structure they had seen: an ancient underground complex built by the prehistoric folk who created the Axis Seal. Even the ankhegs I put in their way didn't stop them. And so Leon was forced to confront his past much earlier than I'd anticipated, and the group got their hands on the golem the eladrin woman was building to defend her. (It is now safely in the RHC vaults, its half-completed 'heart' around Uru's neck.)

The reasoning behind this may become clear later. I'm not sure...
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Why, thank you, Colmarr. You might then be gratified to learn that you are at least in part responsible for some of these roleplaying moments, thanks to the 'Session 0' idea you posted, and which I adopted ahead of this campaign. Having the players respond to a Q&A session really helped round out their personalities.

What's more: having established that Korrigan was a family man with a young wife, and that his condition was causing strain on their relationship and preventing her from conceiving, I 'borrowed' your idea about the fey taking the baby in its entirety. Korrigan's wife announced that she was pregnant at the end of Island at the Axis of the World. But she has begun to act very strangely ever since: baking salt into the bricks of their house; buying a wrought iron cot; mumbling ritual wards - that kind of thing. So far, Korrigan can't make head nor tail of it. Anyway - thanks for that superbly malicious idea!

I am also encouraging players to roleplay using the Benny system borrowed from Savage Worlds. If a player plays their character well, entertainingly, or imaginatively - in particular, if they embody their keyword, which was a descriptive element I added to character-generation along with race and class - they earn a Benny.

Bennies are the sort of bonus players love. They allow them to bend the rules. If they want to be really boring they can use them to reroll a miss, avoid damage that might drop them, stabilize when dying, that sort of thing. But they can also be used to alter the game rules temporarily (within reason) or insert a story element of their choosing into the game.

To maintain balance, I can earn Bennies too, and Benny distribution is entirely democratic. Players can award one to each other, and to me.

Best example of their use so far: creepy little Uru decided to spend one to ensure that a sinister nursery rhyme he taught to the kids in the Nettles caught on in the area. The rhyme encourages children to bring their stories to Little Jack (the ghost of a dead child who is one of Uru's contacts).
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Before continuing with our session reports, I should just add that my players and I unanimously agreed that Island at the Axis of the World is by far the most grandiose, exciting and surprising Level One adventure that any of us have ever played. (Is that enough superlatives? Have I made my point?)

What was particularly good was the way in which the adventure was structured to allow suspension of disbelief: it never felt like the players were being cut a break because they were only level one. There were enough close shaves with high level opponents (such as the Duchess and Asrabey) that it seemed like they were really out of their depth at points.

The near-TPK (or the sheer magnitude of the stakes) in the very first tactical encounter was an equally nice touch.

Kudos to RangerWickett, Morrus and the rest of the ENPublishing team for enabling such lively and imaginative sessions.

Bear in mind: we were coming fresh from a beloved 3-year campaign in Monte Cook's Ptolus. A hard act to follow! But now a dim and distant memory as the players truly embody their new characters and explore the world of Zeitgeist.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Sesssion 6

The 'bug hunt' referenced at the start of this session report was the first of a series of buffer encounters/mini-adventures designed to tide us over before the release of Zeitgeist #2.

Very simply, the unit was called to deal with a rampaging ogre that had come unusually close to farmland and ended up eating more than just a couple of sheep, plus a farmhand or two. Korrigan & Co. duly attended and tracked the 'ogre' to its lair, only to discover that they were in fact dealing with a troll.

Trolls in my campaign regenerate properly - like, 30 hp a round in heroic tier - so they had a bit of trouble. But it was really just an exercise in using their powers, and the terrain, to overcome a much more powerful adversary.

Anyway, here's the report:

Session 6

  • Following the sample 'bug hunt' last week (in which the unit tackled an ogre that turned out to be a troll), this week featured a sample investigation.
  • Malthusius received information from Bishop Antonescu of the Clergy that a spate of gangland murders in Parity Lake were linked to an individual named Kelson, a halfling who operated out of the Lucky Gnome tavern.
  • The Inspector handed this information over to the Parity Lake police, who made a hash of the arrest, leading to a near-riot and Kelson's escape.
  • The Unit was tasked with assisting Malthusius to track down and apprehend Kelson. Lady Margaret Saxby - Chief of the RHC - would be very pleased if the Constabulary succeeded where the local police had quite publicly failed.
  • El Perro discovered from his Bosum Strand contacts that ordinary people had defended Kelson (despite having little love for his gang) because they were seen as 'local': some other gangs were now said to be in the pockets of foreigners.
  • Korrigan established that Kelson's gang (the River Rats) might actually be the victims of gangland murders. Nevertheless, they were linked to a string of burglaries, blackmail cases, long cons and murders. Kelson's number was up. But he needed to be brought back to stand trial, not hunted down like an animal - justice must be seen to be done.
  • Uru learned from a strange pixie friend that the River Rats had not gone to ground in the Nettles.
  • Malthusius established that Kelson had family down the Stray River. But then the trail went cold.
  • Many days later, Leon picked up a random lead and was able to establish exactly where Kelson was hiding out.
  • The unit requisitioned a river boat and approached the hideout, with El Perro and Uru preventing escape from the rear.
  • They apprehended Kelson and a number of his accomplices, and established that the foreign gang were Crisillyiris, known only as 'the семья'.

Here I set up a very simple investigation, ripping enemy stats from Threats to the Nentir Vale. The adventure was designed to introduce the Family (I used the Russian term to surprise Korrigan's Player who is Lithuanian) and familiarise the party with Flint.

You'll note that I rewarded all of the players who had sent me details of their contacts with juicy tidbits of info. This worked a treat, as many more contributions were forthcoming over the next week or so.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 7

Another buffer session. I put this one together in response to a facetious request from Uru's player for a 'Halloween themed' adventure.

This immediately put me in mind of the first 'module' I ever ran, back in 1980: TSR UK's debut The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, which ticked several boxes:

1. It features a Haunted House.
2. Just like in Scooby Doo the house is a front for criminals.
3. The second half of the adventure involves boats. And we all know how much Rumdoom loves boats!

Malthusius, the deva investigator, wasn't a part of this mission, as he is not a unit member, so his player watched on happily, content to play a cameo in the following session.

Session 7

  • The unit left Flint to track down Inspector Bruce, a veteran RHC man who had gone missing a few weeks ago.
  • Arriving in the sleepy coastal town of Saltmarsh, they established that he went to investigate the Wyce House, once owned by a long-dead alchemist and rumoured to be haunted.
  • Taking some nice sandwiches, courtesy of a local inn-keeper and merchant, the unit went to investigate the house.
  • They found it in disrepair, infested with vermin, and with tell-tale signs of a faked haunting: animated monkey hands; magic mouth rituals. Rumdoom fell victim to yellow mold and filth fever.
  • Upstairs, they came across the bound and gagged form of one Ned Shakeshaft, a local rogue who had been knocked unconscious while exploring the place. He suspected it was being used by smugglers as a base of operations.
  • In the cellar they discovered the corpse of Inspector Bruce.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 8

  • Inspector Bruce's corpse turned out to be infested with rot grubs - as did the unit's sandwiches! Ned Shakeshaft scarpered as the rest of our intrepid adventurers dealt with swarms of these hideous creatures - and the animated 'rot grub zombie' that poor Bruce had now become.
  • In the chaos, they missed the cracking of a secret door to the rear of the cellar. This door led into a large, quite homely barracks. An alternative flight of stairs led back up through a hatch in the floor of the very room by which they had first entered the house. (Clearly, the smugglers were now avoiding the rot grubs.)
  • The unit explored and found a private chamber belonging to a magic-user of some kind.
  • They also came across a barred door. Beyond lay skeletons and secret door into the alchemist's laboratory. Here they found many items that had been turned to gold; a book on the Philosopher's Stone; and a strange stone in the skeletal hand of the alchemist.
  • Another secret door in the main barracks led to natural caverns. There they were attacked by the smugglers, their illusionist leader and his hypnotised gnoll guards.
  • Korrigan was dropped from behind by the garrote-wielding Ned, who shouted a warning to the smugglers. He also dropped El Perro, and was about to make good his escape when Rumdoom and Uru felled him (ably assisted by Leon).
  • The group rested to recoup their strength, only to find that the rest of the smugglers had scarpered, leaving their contraband (bolts of silk and barrels of liquor) behind them.
Two nice touches here, even if I do say so myself: the comely landlord's daughter had filled their sandwiches with rot grubs, which reacted to the infested corpse of Bruce by burrowing out of their backpacks and straight into their backs (heh heh heh).

And Ned Shakeshaft (played in cameo by Malthusius' player) turned out to be a plant who tried to kill the party. Their usual suspicions were allayed only by the fact that he had been generated by another player, who took great delight in trying to kill his fellow party members.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 9

This was the last buffer session before the release of the second adventure.

  • The unit returned to Saltmarsh and arrested the treacherous Tambor Dannorman, proprietor of the Merry Mermaid. His daughter was exonerated, but two members of the town council were implicated in the smuggling operation and duly placed under arrest.
  • The following day a citizen reported a local fisherman who was behaving strangely - purchasing unusually large amounts of supplies and attempting to buy ritual reagents. The unit realised he was hypnotised and, in the company of several Customs & Excise officers, followed him to a secluded cove where the illusionist Sanbalet was hiding out with the remnants of his gang. They readily surrendered.
  • Sanbalet agreed to give the unit all the information they needed to capture the ocean-bound side of the operation, in return for lenience and the undertaking to take his own brother, Punketah - ship's mage on the Sky Ghost - alive. The ship would not be returning to Saltmarsh for over a month, so the unit returned to Flint.
  • A month later accompanied by brothers Tom and Will Stoutly, two Customs officers - and with another such officer signaling the Sky Ghost from the Wyce House - the unit stole aboard the Sky Ghost and tangled with Captain Sigurd 'Snake Eyes', a Crissilyri pirate, and his crew.
  • The battle was hard-fought as the captain and his men were fierce. Also on board - and prepared to aid its defence - were three drunken lizardfolk who had been lolling in hammocks before the sounds of combat roused them.
  • When Sigurd finally fell - and with the lizardfolk's pseudodragon pet enchanted by Leon's spirit companion - Korrigan was able to enjoin the rest of the smugglers to surrender.
  • They found a captive merman in a brig just off the bilges.
Again, Malthusius' player took on companion characters. This session was a lovely excuse for a nice, big fight before Zeitgeist #2. (I knew the opening sessions of that adventure would most likely be combat free.)

My rationale for the characters remaining at 2nd level was that a person needs to accrue experience in intense bursts, while these buffer adventures were spread over three months. I rewarded the players with story elements and minor treasure, and gave them the stipend from the start of Dying Skyseer halfway through.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

One of the cleverest suggestions in the Players' Guide is that each player should generate two contacts in Flint. I wasn't sure how well this would work, but decided to really let my players rip on it, and grant them more than just two contacts if they could be bothered to generate them.

Though I had to push and cajole to encourage them to cooperate, since beginning Skyseer I have discovered that the contacts serve to connect the players to the game world in a very profound way. Often they describe the way they interact with these individuals, which makes the whole thing very immersive.

In case you don't know the party, the first post in this thread gives a quick rundown on them:

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On the XP topic, I wouldn't worry too much about having to explain it. The adventures as written don't have quite the expected '10 encounters per level' of default 4e. So a few extra encounters outside the core adventures works fine, methinks.

Very cool stuff. And I need to try working Bennies into my game.


First Post
Why, thank you, Colmarr. You might then be gratified to learn that you are at least in part responsible for some of these roleplaying moments, thanks to the 'Session 0' idea you posted.

Thank you, but a canvas-maker has no right to claim credit for a painting, especially since I borrowed the canvas from DM Samuel.

I am also encouraging players to roleplay using the Benny system borrowed from Savage Worlds. If a player plays their character well, entertainingly, or imaginatively - in particular, if they embody their keyword, which was a descriptive element I added to character-generation along with race and class - they earn a Benny.

Inspired by this idea, I proposed bennies to my players, and the overwhelming response I received was that they were concerned I would use my bennies against them... /sigh

Still, we're going to use them and see how it goes.


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Thought it was about time I added to my previous (unfinished) post about contacts. My fears that players wouldn't co-operate were soon assuaged (so no need to fret, N'Raac! ;)) when I received a number of detailed emails on the subject - particularly after the first couple of players benefited from having their contacts play a role in our buffer sessions.

We had already fleshed out each character with close family, places of residence and that sort of thing and in some cases they helped to provide contacts too.

Leon, for example, the Danoran warlock, was holed up in the bayou when he was caught and recruited. He was living in a brothel run by Lilly - another tiefling with a troubled background. Leon was heavily scarred on his right side by a Danoran bombardment during the Yerasol War; Lilly is covered in self-inflicted knife-wounds. Lilly loves Leon, but he is too besotted with the memory of the eladrin maiden who healed him to truly love her back.

Lilly is a fantastic contact, and her brothel serves as a crossroads for the seedier elements of Pine Island.

Leon also knows Adele, a spirited tiefling orphan whose parents were killed during an anti-Danoran riot many years ago. She survived on her own by running errands, petty larceny, and by collecting and selling hallucinogenic mushrooms. Leon first met her through Lilly (who buys her shrooms). Adele has recently become involved with higher level drug smuggling.

His other contacts are Xat - an elderly dwarven loan shark. Ex Kell Guilder. Here's the player's email about him:

Xat grew up on Pine Island and is well known (if not well-liked) in the area and was hired as muscle in his younger days. He eventually become a loan shark and has been operating for many years, in the last few decades he has been depending on hired help for collections. Recently he has expanding into money laundering. Leon first met Xat shortly after his arrival in Flint, short on money Leon borrowed money to set himself up. After the loan was paid Leon briefly worked for Xat collecting debts. Xat is merciless when it comes to collecting money owed but he is honest and straight forward.
They respect and trust each other on a professional level but each knows they are far too ruthless to be close.
Physical description:
Tall for a dwarf, Xat was once quite well built but now looks pudgy; the only remaining signs of his violent past are the scars on his knuckles. Xat wears loose fitting silk and favours dark green colours.

Leon rounded out his contacts with the Vekeshi Mystics of Flint. (He didn't take that as his theme, but is interested in them politically. Needless to say they are wary of a Danoran tiefling, no matter that he is a fey pact warlock.) I also fleshed out the entity from whence he derives his fey powers - a creature named Avagdu that dwells in the marshes and bends many local fey to its will. Avagdu derives its own power from the Voice of Rot. I figure that Leon may be able to call on Avagdu for aid when it comes to lore related to the waterways of the locale.
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First Post
Thought it was about time I added to my previous (unfinished) email about contacts. My fears that players wouldn't co-operate were soon assuaged (so no need to fret, N'Raac! ;)) when I received a number of detailed emails on the subject - particularly after the first couple of players benefited from having their contacts play a role in our buffer sessions.

Showcasing that these will be a plus rather than a minus never hurts, does it?


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Uru's contacts

Uru's contacts next. (I was umming and erring about how much detail to go into with all this, but it occured to me that other DMs could use the contacts from other groups as additonal NPCs in their campaign. You can never have enough of those, IMHO!)

Uru is our party mascot: Imagine a black-skinned goblin with bat-like ears, huge, feline, amber eyes and sharp teeth, and you're on the right track. He is fascinated by modern technology, which he has a knack with, despite his low intelligence. (We've all met gifted car mechanics who never trouble MENSA, right?)

In the seven years since Korrigan brought him back from Yerasol, Uru has found a home in the Nettles - specifically in the ramshackle toyshop of Tinker Jack - a reclusive old gnome who fears the outside world. His son Caleb died of the fever some years past and now he hides out in the clutter of his shop.

Uru's player wrote:

'Why I was a young man then, not past my tenth year. We never did go down that road, and I still won't. That was near twenty years ago now, and I am telling you boy, you don't want to either. Your Ma swore she saw his boy's face in the window last night, but that could of been anyone. 'The little Tinker' never been much more harm than a few tricks. Sometimes a spirit gets mean though so I'll have to get a priest if it persist, much as I hate to.'

Little Tinker (or Little Jack, even though his name was Caleb) lives on in ghost form, making friends with the spirits of other dead children, and causing mischief throughout the vicinity. He collects stories and tells them to Uru. Recently, he has been found crying because he 'has no friends anymore'. Neither he nor Uru realise this is because of the barrels of gloomoil secreted throughout the factories of Flint...

Then there is Searil Shortankard - a small, winged fey whose spirit is being slowly poisoned by industrial pollution. He coughs and splutters when he talks, 'always seems to be chilly and is slowly coming to resemble a piece of charcoal'. Searil is a travelling salesman. But he sells very strange things:

"Items like the last tears of a women shed over her lover's grave, or the only toy of an orphan. He goes around collecting from those who are selling, and selling to those who are buying. Always in a hurry, and cleaning his soot covered watch. Say what you will, no one has ever declined his offers, and he pays in stranger currency than gold."

Uru just sold him Nilasa Hume's eyelashes (as the Lashes of the Victim of an Unsolved Murder) in return for information on the whereabouts of Von Recklinghausen.

Finally, there is Miss Fortune, whose details where sent to me in a pdf (attached). View attachment Uru Contact.pdf (I've set him straight on the spelling of Parity Lake.)

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