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

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
A word on Saaladoor

Until a couple of weeks ago, I ran two games a week. Sadly, this state of affairs (though sustainable for the last four years) is no longer tenable, though for all the best of reasons. I simply don't have time to devote to two games.

Having switched from one campaign to Zeitgeist back in June, it was only natural that I maintain that game and let the other go once it had run its course. But there was one player in the second game who deserved to be offered a place in Zeitgeist, as my longest-serving and most consistent player. I knew he was going to come on board from September, so began seeding references to his character back then.

Now Saaladoor Saan - flamboyant member of Jered Lawman's Band, Docker and one of Nilasa Hume's many suitors - has joined the group. He is a bravura warlord, a terrible show-off and a womaniser.

Though he has already proved his worth in combat, his depitusation by Stover Delft came as a surprise to everyone. But Stover is not being as uncharacteristically impetuous as the unit believes: Saaladoor is in fact an undercover RHC agent who has been working to get close to Gale (however unsuccessfully) for some time.

We haven't worked out a full background yet. The player just wanted to try out a character concept he'd been working on, so Saaladoor is a cameo role: he'll leave Flint at the end of the Dying Skyseer and turn up throughout the campaign in a variety of disguises. (A Risuri noble in Ber; even a female pirate captain.) At the moment, even we don't know who he really is. Once Saaladoor is out of the picture, the player will be introducing his full-time character.

Saaladoor kept the groups spirits raised on Cauldron Hill with his song about the absent El Perro, 'The Man Who Shot Too Soon'. This led to the suggestion that he be called 'El Prematuro' from now on.

That's the thing about dick jokes. You wait for one for ages, and then three come along at once.
 

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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 15

Session 15


  • The unit made their way down Cauldron Hill with Nevard, all save Uru picking their way blindly through the dark.
  • Uru used his cage full of hummingbirds to distract a dangerous spirit and the group arrived at Macbannin's manor unharmed.
  • There was chaos and confusion at the manor, as the mayor had forgotten to inform the military about the ascent: Lieutenant Dale and his men had arrived to deal with whatever threat had caused lights to be seen on the hilltop.
  • Nevard was met by some of his followers who took him back to his henge to sleep. He asked the unit to look into their 'fiery vision', so they were unable to receive purification from Macbannin.
  • With Lt. Dale and his unit accompanying them, and word sent to both Heward Sechim and El Perro, the unit made haste for Sechim's Alakhest & Etchings. There they found two extremely powerful dragonborn brothers - Valando and Eberardo (and their human accomplices) - about to burn the factory to the ground. The unit prevented this from happening, and put the dragonborn to flight, but not before taking a serious beating.
  • Some remained in the factory overnight, where they were well received by a grateful Heward.
  • Korrigan and other returned to RHC HQ where they found a letter from Monsigneur Morgan Cippiano, inviting them for coffee...
  • After a rest, it was too late to meet with the Monsigneur, so the group met up at the HQ and argued about what to do next.
  • They prioritised the capture of the dragonborn brothers, for whom they had an address.
  • All of the unit was an attendance, save for Saaladoor who had gone to the Thinking Man. There he learned that Nevard and his allies in the Dockers union had begun spreading word of a huge public address Nevard would make in Dawn Square at noon the following day. (Stover Delft asked the unit to provide security.)
  • The unit, accompanied by Elwin Shears, a watery wizard recommended by Isaac, went to the brothers' hideout. There they found a fireball trap and little else.
  • On returning to HQ, they discovered that Lynn Kindleton had vanished, following a Kell Guilder into the Nettles. She had left a half-burnt letter from Von Recklinghausen saying that he feared he would be betrayed by his supposed bodyguards.
  • Uru kept an eye on Dawn Square overnight, while the others prepared to meet with Cippiano, and possibly approach Kell.
  • To his surprise, Uru was contacted by Searil Shortankard: Rumours had spread of a Doctor hiding out in a disused Clergy church in the Nettles.
  • Dropping their plans, the unit rushed to apprehend Von Recklinghausen...
Pacing was everything this session: A race down the hill to Heward's Factory and a fight with the dragonborn brothers; followed by the agonisingly slow aftermath in which the players argued about what to do next. Then they were teased by the impromptu 'encounter' I added when they tracked the brothers to their boobytrapped lair. This was followed by the announcement of Nevard's rally and disappearance of Lynn Kindleton (kidnapped by the Kell Guild).

Just when they were feeling totally frustrated, a seed sown by one of the players several sessions ago bore fruit and their contact (a strange, fey travelling salesman) bought rumours of the good doctor - just in time for the end of the session!

As the players were barely scathed by the spirits on the mountain, I toughened up the arsonists, added four more, and caused the carriage to explode at an awkward moment. For the first time in the campaign (since the skewed fight against Asrabey), the party had their asses handed to them, and might have been TPKed had the brothers not prioritized flight. This is good because it made them very nervous about approaching them later...

Great session, fantastic adventure.
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 16

  • Arriving early at RHC HQ on day 7 of their investigation - planning to meet with Morgan Cippiano for breakfast - Korrigan and Malthusius found a note from Uru telling them of Searil Shortankard's news that a doctor was hiding out in an old Clergy church in the Nettles. They dropped their plans and, with Rumdoom and Leon in tow, set off at once.
  • They arrived and found several sick and injured people waiting outside the church, which was dug out of the bedrock of Cauldron Hill. Inside, several slum dwellers were keeping the mendicants at bay. Leon paid them off and they departed.
  • The whole place was riddled with cracks, and signs of instability.
  • Leon entered the dark church, calling out for a doctor and claiming to need help. There were sounds within and a gruff voice telling him to ':):):):) off'.
  • The unit did not :):):):) off, but set about capturing the inhabitants - three kell guild thugs and Doctor Wolfgang von Recklinghausen, who had set the church with a number of cunning traps.
  • Recklinghausen was a skillful foe, a practised swordsman, with all manner of tricks up his sleeve, not to mention a magical sword, and Nilasa's Canary in a Coal Mine pendant, which granted him the ability to fly. Still, after a long fight, all of his fancy tricks couldn't save him from Rumdoom's relentless hammer.
  • But then a strange electrical field awoke him. Suddenly, he was back on his feet, and had to be dropped all over again.
  • During the fight, the unit discovered Uru - bound, gagged and beaten unconscious. His curiosity had gotten the better of him, it would seem and, though he had successfully stolen past the mendicants and the slum-dwellers, he had been caught setting up one of his clockwork toys in the chapel. Malthusius undid his bonds and tended to him.
  • With Recklinghausen cuffed, a quick search revealed precious little save for his personal effects. So Korrigan set about earning Recklinghausen's trust. In the end, having heard his side of the story and shared their own, his cuffs were removed, and the doctor agreed to hand over the bundle of documents Nilasa had died for. They were hidden at the very top of a crumbling pillar. (The whole building was unsafe, hence its abandonment.)
  • When they made to leave, the enemy struck: the Shadow Man they had seen on Cauldron Hill - Nilasa's killer and Recklinghausen's assailant - stepped out of the gloom accompanied by two nethermancers and two knife-fighters, each able to control the gloom of the chapel to some degree, all with the stench of the Bleak Gate about them.
  • Their appearance was accompanied by a terrible grinding, squealing noise, the sound of metal on stone, from the entrance beyond.
  • The Shadow Man made a beeline for Von Recklinghausen, who he quickly dropped - but again, the doctor was brought back to life by a strange jolt of electricity. So the Shadow Man used a silver syringe to inject him and knock him out. Then he phased through the wall and tried to escape with Von Recklinghausen over his shoulder.
  • Malthusius caught him with a beam of radiant light, and his shadows were stripped away, revealing a hideously scarred face. Pounded by a barrage from Leon, Uru, et al, he dropped the doctor and fled.
  • They revived Wolfgang and scouted out the exit, discovering that it had been barred by several stout steel bars which had somehow been embedded, with great force, into the bedrock. Beyond lay three shadowy carriages, only half-visible in he daylight, two of which were swiftly dispatched by their master:
  • A hunched, bearded man, with a thick head of unruly brown hair and a voluminous purple cloak now addressed the unit. He told them they had an hour to hand of Von Recklinghausen and the bundle of papers, in which case he would leave them be. After an hour, he said, the 'easy option' went away. He had a Crissilliyri accent, but was not Morgan Cippiano. The unit tried to bargain but were told firmly, 'this is not a negotiation'. He appeared able to control metal telekinetically, and drew up a metal chair and a metal platter and goblet, on which he placed some fine bromagio cheese and some expensive wine. Then he sat down to wait.
  • The unit heard him talking to a man matching the description of Officer Porter (and who now, tellingly, dripped black blood). Porter told him that 'according to Kell, there is only one way in and out of that church'. He replied, 'Go tell your boss that the situation is under control.' Porter departed.
  • The unit played for time, claiming not to have found the bundle yet. (Wolfgang, of course, was thought to be unconscious.) Meanwhile, Malthusius began the process of trying to memorise the documents.
  • The others searched for a way out, but found nothing.
  • After an hour, one carriage returned. Inside was Lynn Kindleton. The metal-master threatened to kill her unless Wolfgang and the bundle were handed over. Wolfgang did not trust the man outside, and was unwilling to trade his life for another, no matter how much he cared for her. Wisely, the unit chose not to try to persuade him, but left him to his thoughts.
  • Time ticked on, and the third carriage arrived. Barrels of firedust were unloaded and placed around the entrance. The whole place would be brought crashing down upon them if they refused to cooperate.
  • Now Wolfgang's conscience got the better of him. He handed over his malice-wrought rapier and Nilasa's canary in a coal-mine pendant, took the bundle of documents which Malthusius had done his best to memorise, and exchanged himself for Professor Kindleton.
  • The shadow carriages departed at once, and the fuse to the firedust barrels was lit.
  • The unit ran for cover as the chapel was brought down around their ears...
This session took place two weeks ago, and served as a fantastic cliffhanger before our Christmas/New Year break. I successfully convinced the players that they had missed a trick, or played out the whole encounter wrong (by intimating through Delft that they might have pursued the Recklinghausen link sooner or drawn him out of the lair). In other words, when they failed to negotiate their way out of the Chapel, and Leone lit the fuse, ending the session, they went away thinking they might have been TPKed...

(All except for El Perro and Saaladoor whose players weren't there.)

The way the investigation has proceeded is interesting: the players have not yet met Cippiano. He had been waiting now for two or three days. This is day 7 of the investigation and their plan to meet with him was interrupted by Uru's contact discovering Wolfgang. (I threw this in to reward the development of the contact, who is now one of my favourite NPCs, and also because the unit had refused to co-operate with Kell.) But they are now trapped on the morning of the Dawn Square event , which means they won't be on hand to discover the warehouse, or to provide proper security before Nevard takes to the stage. Also, today is the day that Gale should contact them, so I'm thinking of having the canary find them in the cave-in - revealing the hidden exit in the process.

During play, a nice moment came when Malthusius got to use the perfect recall power his player chose for his level 2 utility to spend an hour memorising the documents before handing them over. The character is supposed to have a photographic memory, but I don't think he ever expected it to be quite this useful. It's good to find ways to reward a player for making 'suboptimal' but flavourful choices.

One word of advice to DMs: I crossed out the name Cillian Creed in the text and wrote SHADOW MAN whereever it came up, knowing that in the heat of battle it would be all too easy to say his name and give the game away early.
 
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Colmarr

First Post
Any chance you could share the timeline you wrote, gideon?

My players are just about to start day 2 (likely by visiting the House of Blue Birds, then going to Nevard's henge) and I get the feeling I'll need to start keeping track of time soon.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
I'm quite a disorganised DM, so the timeline was no great shakes. I simply wrote out the ten days of the investigation, including static events (from crime scene to avalanche) and rough predictions (from negotiating with Kell to the rendezvous with Gale). After each session I would add what the PCs did that day (or half day) and change my predictions accordingly.

This is what it looks like now:

Day
1. Initial investigations.
2. Secondary investigations and House Elf.
3. Cloudwood Brigands and Nevard. Camp’s letter. Kindleton: Nettles.
4. Lorcan Kell. Macbannin. Smuggler’s Night.
5. Cippiano’s invite. Night on Bald Mountain; Alakhest & Arson
6. Kindleton’s letter. News of rally.
7. Doctor. Buried Alive! Dawn Square? Creepy Warehouse?
8. Cippiano? Creed’s Letter? Gale?
9. Arsonists, take two? Le Brix?
10. Macbannin Manor?

The meeting with Cippiano has moved three times so far. The 'Doctor' entry only went in when Uru employed his contact (services purchased with Nilasa's eyelashes) to scour the Nettles, once Lynn Kindleton revealed the Doctor was hiding there. Events that haven't happened yet (no matter how certain I am that they will) are followed by a question mark.

Like I said, no great shakes. But it was helpful for me to know where we were.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
A player-character departs

Three issues dominated our first session after Xmas:

1) A long-term player is leaving our group, and this was his last session. I wanted to give him a fitting send off.
2) The rest of the unit (bar one) was buried under A Weight of Stone. As this was the same day as the rally in Dawn Square, it was very unlikely that the unit would make it to the Creepy Warehouse, as they would be hard-pressed just to reach the square by noon.
3) The departing player had done a substantial amount of work providing me with contacts who had never been used.

I set about trying to kill three birds with one stone:

Rather than beginning in the dark, dusty aftermath of the explosion (as the players expected), I started with El Perro, and his reasons for not being present at RHC HQ that morning.

During the last session, I didn't know for sure if El Perro's player would have chance to join us again. (If I'd known that for sure, I would have had him used as leverage by Leone Quital instead of Lynn Kindleton and left to die in the explosion.) So, in case he needed to be 'disappeared' I had Porter comment to Quital that 'the rest of their unit has been dealt with'. (Reasoning that the conspiracy wouldn't go after the unit peacemeal.) Now I was slightly regretting that as, needless to say, El Perro had not been dealt with...

So I turned to one of his contacts - a young, widowed heiress named Rose Woodward, who lives in a lonely mansion in the Ayres, and with whom El Perro has been conducting a secret affair. He had spent the previous night with her, having responded to her unexpected invitation. Though their relationship had always been good-natured and casual, Rose was uncharacteristically needy and begged El Perro to stay with her overnight. Even when he prepared to depart the next day (the morning of the 7th and of Nevard's rally), Rose begged him to forget is duties and remain with her.

To my surprise, the player agreed! So I had Rose blanch over the breakfast table and suddenly confess: she had been told by a stranger - a dishevelled man posing as a stable-hand following a riding event with friends - to invite El Perro to her mansion and keep him there (on pain of having their affair exposed). El Perro's unexpected aquiescance filled her with guilt and, casting caution to the wind, she told him the whole story. The man had described El Perro as 'a mutual friend'. (I'm still not sure who it was - maybe Creed, trying not to have to kill too many members of the RHC?)

So El Perro reached Flint late and headed straight for Dawn Square. There, another of his contacts - a goblin peddlar named Dut who was once a slave on the same ship as El Perro - found him and reported the strange supernatural goings on throughout Parity Lake.

Meanwhile, Saaladoor Saan, the only other character to avoid the Weight of Stone, had received a message from two burly teamsters. They had been paid to deliver it to his room in a flophouse close to the Thinking Man. It contained a symbol (perhaps from the Kell Guild?) which was the equivalent of the 'black spot' in Treasure Island - a warning that his association with the authorities had been noticed and that he should leave Flint or face fatal consequences. At that moment, Jered Lawman came looking for him too, in the company of Thames Grimsley, whose presence caused the two dockers to fumble uncomfortably and depart. Together, the threesome attended Dawn Square as planned, where Saaladoor learned of the tensions in the air, and potential conflict with the police.

El Perro spotted Saaladoor, and with Dut and Jered Lawman in tow, they went to a local coffee house - a favourite hangout of 'mystical types', oddballs and mediums, a group of whom were sat around suffering from a hangover. The group used these individuals to 'triangulate' on the Creepy Warehouse, enlisting a squad of police officers to help. So when they reached the warehouse, the party consisted of:

El Perro
Saaladoor
Dut
Jered Lawman
'Captain Barnes', and his squad ('the 13s')
A second squad, rounded up by Saaladoor ('the 109ers')
The only spirit medium prepared to approach the warehouse - 'Swami Melanchol'

The names in speech marks were attributed to these characters by the players. I particularly liked the last one. The police squads consisted of six minions, and were each controlled by a single player, while Swami had no combat role, but was played to great effect by the player who named him (having demanded to be allowed to play one of the coffee-house mystics).

Because by this point I hadn't handed out stat blocks for these people, or drawn a battlemap, the players didn't suspect an encounter, and so proceeded with a singular lack of caution, despite the evident creepiness, fainting mystics, padlocked doors and engine noise. They barged into the warehouse, assailed the technicians and activated the golem (hidden behind crates at the rear of the warehouse but making enough noise to wake the dead).

The encounter began, and I handed out companion character stat blocks (and minion stat blocks to the players who drew the short straw), giving each player a few minutes to peruse them - but none to confer, as this ragtag bunch would have no idea what the other was capable of.

To make the encounter even more tough, I gave the golem 300hp (with thresholds at 200 and 100) and granted it +2 to AC and attack rolls. Also, realising that the police squad might drop quite quickly - and wanting to give the players something to do in that event - I decided that anyone killed by the golem would be raised as a 'gloom-oil zombie' - a minion that grabbed living creatures for ongoing damage. So the players got to attack each other (and even their own squads)!

Despite all my precautions, with El Perro up on the catwalk taking rifle shots, and Saaladoor clambering over the chicken-wire, the party managed to drop the technicians (with three escaping) within 4 rounds, while the rest distracted the golem. Even in its souped-up state, and as it dropped them one-by-one, by the time it got to just Saaladoor, Dut and El Perro left standing, the golem had just 30hp left.

The golem then took out poor Dut, and knocked Saaladoor back into a pile of crates, unconscious (and dying) - using one of by DM bennies to effect a push. Only El Perro was left. So far, he hadn't missed a single shot all combat, so it had been a great finale for him. But now the Stage 3 golem clambered up onto the catwalk and quickly dropped El Perro too...

As you may have guessed, this was all a bit one-sided; but the party had a chance. If they won, my Plan B was that the fleeing technicians alerted Creed who would bring reinforcements through the iron ring. Whatever - unbeknownst the party, Creed arrives just as El Perro is about to be finished off by the golem and takes him to Macbannin Manor.

There he is offered a choice - join us (the true patriots, who you have unwittingly thwarted up to now) or face the consequences. If he accepts, he returns as an assassin to take out the party in a later adventure.

To his credit, El Perro refused, so now he will return as an unwilling assassin - subject to a similar operation that created the flayed jaguars.

So the player got a great send-off, a noble end, and his character makes a guest appearance later in the campaign.
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 18

Session 18


  • Hideous flayed jaguars had been sent though portals from the Bleak Gate to kill Nevard Sechim. The unit was too far away to intercede, and despite his brave attempts to deliver a warning over the screams of the crowd, poor Nevard was killed, along with many of his followers.
  • Hacking their way through the skeletons that were also hidden in the throng, the unit eventually succeeded in dealing with the jaguars, exploiting weaknesses in their hasty contsruction - their efforts aided by Swami Melanchol who had come with Saaladoor to the square.
  • Korrigan took control of security while Malthusius arranged for Nevard's body to be taken to RHC headquarters. Then the unit went with Saaladoor to search the creepy warehouse.
  • Swami Melanchol told them that a blonde-haired man had come through the portal just as the golem was about to kill El Perro. He had ordered the golem back through the portal (with El Perro's limp body clutched in its vice-like grip), and then set about shooting every potential witness in the head: Dut, Capt Barnes, everyone. He then took the remaining evidence and left. Swami got up the courage to see if Saaladadoor was okay and discovered that he was only unconscious (hidden under an avalanche of crates).
  • The unit found instructions on how to create a flayed jaguar fixed to the chicken-wire cage with a magnet.
  • They returned to RHC HQ where Stover Delft helped co-ordinate their response, and warned them not to go home.
  • Korrigan sent a similar warning message to Leon who was at home recovering from injuries sustained in Dawn Square, at the hands of an anti-Danoran mob.
  • They sent police units to check out the factories mentioned in Le Brix' report, but these returned empty-handed.
  • Rumdoom arranged for a wealthy contact to send accountants to pore over the documents Malthusius had recreated.
  • Malthusius spoke with Nevard's spirit and heard the ful extent of his visions on Cauldron Hill.
  • Korrigan went to help his wife to the safety of her parents' house in the Ayres.
  • Uru tried to get to speak to Macbannin, who had promised him advice on the dark arts, but the mayor was busy.
  • Malthusius tried to speak to Le Brix. The following morning he caught up with him in his apartment in North Shore. Le Brix was agitated and angry, but told the unit to come back later.
  • Korrigan kept his appointment with Morgan Cippiano, who offered to help with the investigation in return for the release of the 'young and impressionable' Bendick. However, Korrigan chose not to share any details of the investigation with him, limiting his usefulness.
  • The unit followed the golden canary to meet with Gale. She told them there was hidden activity in the Bleak Gate and gave them a ritual to follow planar trails. Gale also said her attitudes had been tempered by Nevard, and that she sought an audience with Governor Stanfield. She gave the unit a messenger wind to allow them to communicate with her. Gale was convinced that Nilasa's stolen documents would point to her murderer. She was keen to help the unit track him down.
  • On the way back down the hill, Malthusius told Korrigan that they had been followed to their rendezvous by Leon. (Leon's player was absent. He is, ostensibly, a martial scholar, but unbeknownst to the others he is in fact a vekeshi mystic and I decided to have him deliver their message surreptitiously. Unfortunately for him, Malthusius' passive perception is out of control.)

I beat myself up (metaphorically) after this session because there were so many things I could have handled better on reflection. After relative simplicity of the rumble in Dawn Square, there was a plethora of threads to follow up and all sorts of repercussions. There were a couple of occasions where I felt I was stone-walling slightly, or rather, failing to respond in the positive improvisational way I try to, and simply cutting the PCs dead when they pursued avenues I didn't want them to.

For example, when Uru went to see Macbannin, I should have taken the opportunity to have Macbannin ingratiate himself and offer assistance. I'm kicking myself over that one!

And when Malthusius tried to see Le Brix, because I already had plans for him I tried to put him off with 'he's not at the Consulate' today, but Malthusius was so determined (going to his apartment, leaving a message, going back the following morning) in the end I had to at least allow him to see Le Brix just to get him to stop! For the life of me now, I can't think what I was afraid would happen, or work out why I was being such a sucky DM.

Oh well... we live and learn.

Interestingly, following the session, two of the group - playing Uru and Rumdoom - emailed me with their suspicions that Macbannin needs to be watched, despite that fact that they have yet to uncover any evidence that points firmly to him. I wish I'd had him cooperate even more wholeheartedly now.
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 19

Session 19


  • The group made its way back to Flint from the meeting with Gale and separated on the way down.
  • Saaladoor Saan was strangely subdued. (Thinking of Nilasa perhaps?) He bid the group farewell, saying he had business at the Thinking Man.
  • Rumdoom had been 'thinking' and - not wanting to disturb Korrigan and Malthusius with his suspicions - suggested to Uru that they poke around the manor of Mayor Macbannin. Uru was keen to try and meet the mayor again, and so they headed off into the Nettles.
  • Malthusius went to North Shore to speak with Le Brix. The streets of Parity Lake were full of unrest and word came of armed police firing on protestors. Malthusius came to Le Brix' apartment too late. The flat was ablaze. He did what he could to help the victims of smoke inhalation from adjoining residences. The fire had been very well contained...
  • Korrigan arrived at RHC headquarters and found the dwarven accountant, Groinly, supplied by Rumdoom's wealthy mining contact, had found some evidence that the factories LeBrix was investigating had all been bought up by the same company. Groinly would need more information, and more time, to ascertain who bought them.
  • Stover Delft arrived and chewed out Korrigan for failing to deal properly with Morgan Cippiano. Stover said that 'a investigator is only as good as his CI' and that Korrigan risked squandering the opportunity of having the head of the Family in Flint as his informant. To that end, Delft had released the family bravura in the hopes that Cippiano might return the favour.
  • Delft's anxiety was explained by the fact that he knew all about the unit's meeting with Gale, and their failure to arrest her. A fellow officer had reported them!
  • At that point, Malthusius returned to copy out more of the documents he had memorized. Leon returned, too, and Korrigan took him to one side and demanded an explanation: Why had he followed them to the rendezvous, and why had he reported them to Delft?
  • Leon confessed that he had gone to meet Gale independently with a message from the Vekeshi Mystics. He told Korrigan and Malthusius all about the mirror and its import, and that he had tried to dissuade Gale from violence against its target. Leon was desperate to be accepted by the mystics, and as a Danoran tiefling had to work hard to earn their trust.
  • But he denied reporting on the unit, and this fact was borne out by Delft, who told them that Saaladoor Saan was in fact a pseudonym for an agent who had been working to get close to Gale for the best part of two years. Saan had now departed in disgust!
  • Meanwhile, Uru and Rumdoom had succeeded in gaining an audience with Macbannin. He told them he had been performing an autopsy on one of the flayed jaguars and that it was clearly the work of an amateur trying to fake mastery of the dark arts. Otherwise, why would they have been so flawed? He suggested that the only person who could gain access to Cauldron Hill without his knowledge was Gale herself, and warned the unit not to communicate with her.
  • Nevertheless, Uru and Rumdoom (somewhat reluctantly in Uru's case) arranged for their new friend Swami Melanchol to keep an eye on the manor, with a small number of friendly spirits - playmates of Uru's ghostly contact Little Jack. Swami also gave Uru El Perro's pistol, which he had picked up in the warehouse in case he had to defend himself.
  • That night, Malthusius dreamed of Nilasa's attacker again - this time changing shape from shadow man, to officer porter, to another unknown individual... He also had a vision that something terrible was about to happen if he didn't stop it!
  • On day 9 of the investigation, Korrigan went to speak with Dozy Mendicci who told him that a certain pair of dragonborn brothers might be found trying to set fire to a certain theatre in east Parity Lake. (The owner of the theatre was said to be superstitious and had left the city after the content of Nevard's intended speech was distributed in leaflets by his followers.)
  • The unit commisioned the services of water wizard Elwin Shears, before heading off into the city to use the Detect Planar Energy ritual used by Gale to try to follow whoever had planted the witchoil barrels in the factories.
  • The trail was cold, but as they returned to the RHC, an urchin brought them a message, and led them into a barn, where they found LeBrix, who told them he had escaped the fire by jumping out of the third floor window! He was lying low for fear of more attempts on his life, and gave Uru two vendetta bullets for the dragonborn. He told the unit that he suspected some sort of large-scale smuggling operation.
  • That night, at the Theatre of Scoundrels, Korrigan and his men, ably assisted by Elwin Shears, arrested Eberardo and slew his brother Valando. Unable to get the dragonborn warrior to crack, they discovered letters on his brother that matched the handwriting in the 'you are a patriot' note handed to Korrigan.
  • Back at RHC HQ, Groinly had been joined by Dima, a fellow dwarf and RHC officer with a talent for the paper-chase. Together they had requisitioned banking records which indicated Mayor Reed Macbannin had in fact bought all of the factories in question, using a front company.
  • The unit decided it was time to pay Macbannin another visit. This time, in full force...

In contrast to last session, I was on fire this week, even if I do say so myself. But the group played well too, in particular, the interactions between Korrigan, Malthusius and Leon when they thought Leon had snitched on them to Stover Delft!

I thought the attempted murder of Le Brix was pretty cool, as was his surprise appearance later on. Must work out if there are any political ramifications from this during the trial.

Uru persisted in trying to see Macbannin, and this offered me a chance to make up for last week and present Macbannin's attempts to obfuscate the investigation. The fact that Uru's player likes Macbannin and wants to gain training from him helped a lot, as he told the mayor everything about their meeting with Gale.

Macbannin gave Uru a magic ring to protect him from scrying by Gale. As I copy and paste the session notes from my recap to the players, I did not include this, as it is my hope that Uru will forget to take it off! It is in fact an item that allows Macbannin to scry on him (obviously) and also to cast hexes on him more easily! Heheheh...
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
I had to refer back to this post -- http://www.enworld.org/forum/en-publishing/308881-our-party.html -- remember who all the PCs are. The cover story with Saladoor got me a smidgen confused. Wow, I'm amazed your game's already 6 months old.
Yes, we started playing just a week or so after the release of adventure #1. (We were about to have a lengthy summer break so I thought it would be great to whet the players' appetites.)

Saaladoor only came into the group when they went to Nevard's Henge. He was always intended as a temporary character for a new player, but we didn't make that clear to the group.

For their part, they always suspected that he was a spy for the fey terrorists, which is why it was nice to reveal the truth - that he was even more on 'their side' than they were!

This was the second-to-last session of the current adventure (unless it takes two to deal with Macbannin), so I took as my model the penultimate episode of each series of the Wire: the moment when all threads seem to be cut, a key witness is taken out, and the group feels like they are running out of ideas: Le Brix was 'murdered'; the planar trail had gone cold; they accidentally killed Valandor during the arrest, and couldn't break his brother.

I kept the tension up with Malthusius' dream that something bad would happen in the next two days, before having the paper-chase yield the key piece of evidence pointing towards Macbannin.

I'm really looking foward to our next session - in particular, trying to paint Macbannin as likable and well-intentioned even as he tries to kill the party. (My version has the same voice/accent as Billy Connolly, so that shouldn't be too hard.)
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
John Hoynes, right? Well, the sober demeanour in his picture is how he comes across, but I aimed for likability first and foremost. He is very serious when discussing his responsibilities, but demonstrates an earthy and down-to-earth sense of humour, which is the only real likeness to Mr Connolly apart from the Glaswegian accent.

Also, people trust the Scottish accent. They've proven it in polls!
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 20

A real mixed bag this session, and lots to think about for DMs:


  • The unit trudged up Cauldron Hill, bickering as they went. Half the group thought that Macbannin was the real culprit; half thought that Creed was using Macbannin.
  • Tremors shook the hill as they went.
  • On the way through an unusually empty Nettles, they came across a familiar figure. Waiting for them halfway up the hill was Agent Doran, otherwise known as Saaladoor Saan. He didn't like the idea of leaving a man behind, he said, and as the only party member to survive the Creepy Warehouse encounter had come to find out what had happened to El Perro.
  • He'd done some asking around and discovered from his spymasters that Macbannin's butler - Cillian Creed - was a veteran of espionage.
  • The unit entered the manor and met Macbannin in his gardens. Macbannin told them that Creed had left his service the day before, and offered to give them Creed's address. They mentioned evidence that implicated Macbannin and he laughed it off with a melodramatic speech.
  • Suddenly, the ground shook and half the manor collapsed.
  • Macbannin issued an order to Creed and an old servant who had shown the party into the garden revealed himself as the 'shadow man' and fled the scene. Macbannin gave orders for his staff to attack the unit.
  • A hard-fought combat ensued, but Macbannin was eventually felled.
  • The unit cuffed him and dragged him to his invisible shed.
  • Leaving Macbannin behind (!) they headed inside looking for Creed.
  • Down a flight of warded stairs they found a laboratory and tangled with some flayed jaguars that badly wounded Uru.
  • Leon got his arm sliced off by a trap; and promptly stitched back on by a captive Von Recklinghausen.
  • The party headed further down, opened a whole bunch of doors, and discovered an overflowing witchoil laboratory, guarded by none other than a zombified El Perro!
Most of what follows applies to our game only, but this first tip is much more general, I think. Because I have 6 players, I made Macbannin elite. But even if I had 5 I would be tempted to do so because the party won initative, focused fire, and reduced him to less than 30 hit points before he had even fired a shot!

Still, an elite Macbannin made this a very difficult encounter and most of the party spent at least a round or two on the ground. The curses worked a treat (with the executioner assassin picking up the doppelganger hex), but I thinned out the manor staff by having them run away or plunge into sinkholes, because the fight began to turn into a grind. (Macbannin's aura making it tough for the party to drop his allies. An unintended consequence of his increased longevity.)

Rumdoom was dropped right next to Macbannin and used a benny to fire off 'The Icy End of the Earth' from beyond the grave (or below 0hp, strictly speaking), which in turn dropped Macbannin.

My players then went on to make three idiotic mistakes:

1) They left Macbannin behind - guarded by Uru clockwork mechanism.
2) Uru dashed past two jaguars, provoking OAs and getting himself killed.
3) Leon stuck his arm into the rather obvious trap.

Mistake 2 was the most annoying because it was caused by a series of unforced errors on the player's part. This guy really is a great roleplayer with only a slender grasp on the mechanics of the game. So he builds this great character, only to waste him by provoking two OAs for absolutely no reason, when already reduced to 15hp, and continuing with the move even when warned, hoping they wouldn’t land.

Now you may think I am soft, but story must come first and the story would not be served by Uru dying because his player isn’t tactically oriented. So I ruled that he was terribly injured, but (once healed) could play on with a death penalty imposed as a warning for his rash behaviour. (He didn't even have a good reason for provoking the OAs; or even realise he was provokling them.) I'm worried I'm going to seem like a softy now. Still - Uru now has a ghostly grim reaper hovering over him at all times. If I think of a great story-driven reason to off him later in the campaign, I shall show no remorse - you just watch!

That this was followed up by the normally cautious Leon getting his arm chopped off (and promptly stitched back on) was priceless. I almost regretted the fact that there were surgery tools in the next room. Now I must think of some cool side-effect of the arm being healed by Wolfgang. Maybe it can make a basic attack on its own when the character is at 0hp? Or will be recognised as dead by the Voice of Rot?

Anyway, I am proud of the fact that the session ended with Saaladoor bursting into the reservoir and being taken down by a rifle shot from the zombified El Perro. A great cliffhanger!
 
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Falkus

Explorer
Still, an elite Macbannin made this a very difficult encounter and most of the party spent at least a round or two on the ground. The curses worked a treat (with the executioner assassin picking up the doppelganger hex), but I thinned out the manor staff by having them run away or plunge into sinkholes, because the fight began to turn into a grind. (Macbannin's aura making it tough for the party to drop his allies. An unintended consequence of his increased longevity.)
Heh, definitly different from what happened when my party encountered MacBannin; since we're using the Pathfinder system. He started off well, blinding the druid's lion; and hitting the cleric with an evil eye; but on the second round, he got hit with a hold person spell, I failed his save and he was hors de combat for the rest of the fight.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Heheh. Great minds think alike (if I do say so myself). I'd already considered that.

How would this debilitating side-effect manifest itself, I wonder?

@Falkus - It's just that kind of anticlimactic damp squib I was trying to avoid. All too common even in 4E. I once hand a group of players take out a beholder in two rounds thanks to an incredible run of crits. The players enjoyed themselves, no doubt, but my carefully crafted encounter was burst like a water balloon. Full of piss.
 

Falkus

Explorer
Fortunately, I managed to salvage the scene by giving MacBannin's servants muskets and pistols instead of improvised weapons; and the party ended up almost getting killed before taking them all down.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 20

Session 21

This session began with the characters spread around the lowest level of the lab.

  • No sooner had El Perro shot Saaladoor than the group was attacked from the stairwell by Creed, accompanied by two Kell Guilders and a Flayed Jaguar.
  • Uru began to try to fix the mechanisms and prevent a catastrophe, while his companions dealt with their foes.
  • The group realised something was wrong when Uru disobeyed an order from Korrigan to shoot Creed with his vendetta bullet.
  • Then Malthusius noticed that the golden eye ring Uru had been given by Macbannin ('to ward off scrying') had opened, revealing a real eye inside! Uru was being controlled by Macbannin from afar.
  • Rumdoom grabbed him, and Leon put out the eye with a blazing finger.
  • Once in possession of his wits, Uru blew Creeds head clean off.
  • With the rest of their foes dealt with, and El Perro overpowered, the unit split up. Some went to the surface to see if the actions performed by their comrades had any beneficial effects on the surface.
  • They found the witchoil eruptions had ceased, but the earthquakes still continued.
  • They also found Gale waiting for them. She told them Macbannin had escaped in a carriage. She had use her powers to over hear his words and knew which wharf he was headed for.
  • When Uru and the others had done all they could to stabilize the witchoil laboratory, they rushed up top and Gale flew them all down the hillside, over the devastated shanty of the Nettles, and the rootops of the city.
  • They arrived at the wharf to find sailors preparing a ship for Macbannin. They said that he had not arrived. The unit waited, but the mayor did not show.
  • Cursing the thought of having lost their man, the unit returned to RHC HQ, where Stover Delft congratulated them warmly:
  • Reed Macbannin had been delivered to the RHC, bound and gagged (with accompanying coffee press and beans).
This took up perhaps half the session. I reintroduced Gale as suggested in the Campaign Guide and also had the Family lend a hand, just to emphasise to the players how their actions earlier in the adventure had influenced the world around them.

The rest of the session consisted of a round-up of the story and its aftermath (saving the actual trial of Macbannin for later), and downtime for each member of the team:

Korrigan began to shore up his political position, having decided that he cannot be effective as a loyal servant of Risur without some sort of leverage. He also set about recruiting a replacement for El Perro.

Leon was rewarded for his service to the Vekeshi with membership pf the cult. The growing reputation of the unit also saw him approached by the Battalion.

Uru resumed work on the clockwork boy he has been building with Tinker Jack, using the witchoil he had purloined. He also discovered that his recent brush with death had seen him grow even closer to the Bleak Gate.

Rumdoom agreed to take part in a series of eschatologist fundraisers, where he would be flogged with a cat-o-ninetails until he was able to manifest the Icy End of the Earth. He hoped to use the money to pay off his substantial debts.

Malthusius was reassigned from the Gale case and appointed as liaison to the police - the Flint equivalent of 'riding the boat'. (His handling of case was not appreciated by Lady Saxby.)

Saaladoor Saan left Flint altogether.

We ended the session with the funeral of El Perro (and some very moving speeches) and the even bigger funeral of Nevard Sechim.

Shortly after the session I received three incredibly long emails from players eager to delineate exactly how their characters have responded to recent events, and talking about how they want them to develop over time. A very rewarding reponse for any DM.
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 22

Session 22


  • Leon began taking part in training sessions at the Battalion, under the auspices of Eldritch Arts instructor Colonel Sebastian Harkness.
  • Rumdoom took part in the first 'fundraising' demonstration of his Icy Ends of the Earth power, but began to suspect that he was being used by Khaled Valchek to drum up financial support for his entrepeneurial ventures.
  • Marshal Korrigan rescued his wife from her own parents! (Having taken her there when Delft suggested the team take precautions following El Perro's death, her overly-protective 'rents weren't happy for her to leave again, so Big K had to fly into her bedroom using the Canary pendant and then walk her out.)
  • Uru withdrew into Tinker Jack's workhop, shaken by recent experiences.
  • Malthusius learned that Mayor Macbannin had admitted storing dangerous quantities of gloom oil, claiming to be working on his own, for the benefit of Risur. He regretted the consequences of his actions, in particular the death of Cillian Creed 'a patriot who had paid the ultimate price'.
  • Oolsholeel - the aquatic elf the unit rescued from the bilge of the Sky Ghost - arrived in Flint with a request from the town council of Saltmarsh: they wanted help in dealing with the local lizard man tribe who were seeking to arm themselves with modern weapons. Ships had disappeared inexplicably, and townsfolk who hunted and gathered in the marshes had vanished too. Stover Delft, having been ordered by Lady Margaret Saxby to 'find Korrigan and co. something more suited to their talents' (ie. get them out of Flint and involved in something more low profile), tasked them with rooting out the rogue tribe.
  • The Unseen Court had responded too: The lizardmen had transgressed boundaries laid down by the fey decades ago, and the court had dispatched a Sidhe Lord who would join the unit on their mission when they reached Saltmarsh.
  • A recruitment drive went badly: The team met withCaji Dobre of the maustin caji - an elite cadre of warriors from the Anthras mountains who had once fought for the Kings of Risur. But Dobre (who now called himself Matunaaga) had married a local woman and settled down, and showed no interest in joining them. Next, the unit went to speak with Happy Harry, a gruff half-orc privateer who came highly recommended. But Harry proved to be entirely mercenary, and would only join the group if Leon was forced to leave. Korrigan ended the interview abruptly. Young trainees at the Battlalion turned out to be too inexperienced fro the group.
  • Short one man, the unit returned to Saltmarsh by road. They found that the Sidhe Lord had grown impatient and headed into the Hool Marshes without them. The council wanted to keep most of their militia in reserve in case the lizardmen attacked, but agreed to send the two brothers who had worked with the unit before: Corporal Tom Stoutly and Private Will Stoutly.
  • The unit took a boat to the mouth of the Dunwater, but the shallow bed made it impossible to go any further. Leaving the brothers with the boat, they headed into the Marsh, sending Uru to scout up ahead.
  • They found a clear trail of ribbons along the riverbank - left by the Sidhe Lord. This brought them to a bole where many hunting trophies - the heads of a buffalo, a babbler and a bullwug - hung in the trees. A wood woad stepped foward and announced the arrival of 'Azure Lord Blackthorn, Bramble Baron of the Crystal Henge and Third of his Name'. The unit duly bowed, and a spryte emerged. This was the Sidhe Lord who had been sent to accompany them.
  • They camped in the bole for the night, but were disturbed by giant mosquitos. Realising this was not the safest place to sleep, they headed back to the boat, using the messenger wind to contact Uru who had vanished into the swamp.
  • Following the coast, with Oolsholeel ranging ahead of their boat in dolphin form, they discovered the lizard man lair and prepared for a frontal assault.
This was the first of several 'buffer sessions' designed to keep the unit busy until the release of adventure #4. I plan to start Digging for Lies once Always on Time comes out. With a break over summer (for my wedding and 40th birthday shindig; woot!) we should be comfortably able to rely entirely on the Adventure Path for material. This was one, but not the most important, of the reasons I bought into Zeitgeist to begin with: lack of prep time. Should have waited for the AP to get going, though! I've slowed down XP rewards, so the group only levelled up once during Dying Skyseer. They'll reach level 5 before adventure #3. I've also realised that the Zeitgeist treasure distribution method allows me to have these extra adventures, dish out choice items, and leave it for the players to decide which ones they actually buy with their stipend.

There were three main parts to this session:

1) Each character (except for Uru, whose player was absent) had time to explore their own private lives. I am heartily enthused by the fact that three players independently emailed me over the last couple of weeks with character development ideas that stretched to almost essay length proportions! Clearly, they are buying into this world. Malthusius - still not an official member of the unit - has been assigned to desk duties, and his player is running the aquatic elf Oolsholeel for now. A predator druid. (Malthusius will be returning in adventure three when his investigations into fey pepper smuggling lead him to Kaja Stewart, causing him to team up with the unit once again.)

2) The recruitment process. This was fun. Saaladoor's player roleplayed all the NPCs. (Both he and I were once actors, so we're quite good at that kind of stuff. It was great to leave whole episodes entirely up to the players.) Of course, he's now playing the spryte (read: pixie) Sidhe Lord, but only for a short(ish) period. His eventual long-term character is Matunaaga, but we decided that shoehorning him in immediately would be eggy. Plus, he wanted to have some fun with this pixie beserker build in the meantime. Lord Blackthorn is designed to be a total pain in the ass: pugnacious, headstrong and utterly lacking in tact.

3) Danger at Dunwater. Part two of a series of adventures that begins with The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. I ran the latter as part of the series of buffer sessions before the release of adventure #2. I plan to run Dunwater and its sequel, The Final Enemy before moving on to adventure #3. Lizardmen feature heavily in this 'module' and seemed like the perfect choice of 'humanoid monster' for the swamps of Risur. Not sure about the sahuagin in the final part of the trilogy. I'm thinking that they may be a very rare and (until now) very distant threat - creatures that actually worship She Who Writhes in shark form. Implacable, vicious, but not evil in the truest sense.

I'm saving Macbannin's cranial implosion for a later session.

Any reason why he shouldn't pull this trick in open court?
 
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You game way too fast, man. :) But I'm glad you're able to find intermediary adventures. I might have to steal the "now you meet up with a mighty fey lord . . . who's a pixie".

I'm saving Macbannin's cranial implosion for a later session.

Any reason why he shouldn't pull this trick in open court?
Oh I like you.

I mean, it's a bit theatrical, which rationally is not what you want to do when you're running a conspiracy, but the visual concept is excellent.
 

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