[ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co.


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
And he's still alive.
Rumdoom's not death obsessed in that way. His branch of eschatology (which he developed himself) is focused on dishing out 'good endings' to those who will have a 'bad ending' if Rumdoom doesn't intervene. But he responds very positively to anyone who believes in something. Even if they happen to believe in something he disagrees with.

If you hadn't said otherwise with your aside, I would've assumed that Gupta was specifically not gestalting with Oscan (because blurring your psyche with even a well-behaved sociopath has got to be unnerving to say the least), and just trying, on her own, to answer "What would literally the worst person do in this situation?" and perhaps somewhat overshooting the mark. :p
She wasn't gestalting, but 'acting' Oscan. I just happen to think Oscan would be a little more subtle than that. These Ob officers have such interesting, fleshed-out personalities, but the opportunity to genuinely interact with them is minimal.

I should add that because of Xambria's past, she is 'trained' in gestalt. She can therefore help the others in gestalt attempts, which makes their mission a little bit less dangerous.


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 17 (140) - Part Two: The Grand Design

Opening Statement

Once again, I'm not going to reproduce Nicodemus' speech, or the presentations of each faction, or anything that took the form of 'read-aloud' text.

A bold opening statement is made by Nicodemus, to a round of applause from the assembly. The Ob’s plan is fully detailed by Han Jierre, before the groups separate to hear from individual faction representatives.

During his speech, Han speaks of the founding of the conspiracy, and makes gestures to an empty chair that has been reserved symbolically for Kasvarina Varal, as a mark of respect by Cula Ravjahani. (“Many of us have made sacrifices in pursuit of this goal,” Han says.) But when Leon looks at the chair, he is shocked to see Lavanya sitting there, looking calmly at the stage!

Alarmed, he double-checks, and it appears that no on else can see her. Shortly before the groups disperse, Lavanya calmly rises and saunters from the main hall. Leon (as Xavier) follows. The guards here are very deferential towards the Malice Lands knight. He pretends he’s going to the toilet and follows Lavanya through a lounge in into a very long storage chamber. She turns and asks him why he is following her. Leon pretends to be Xavier, but she says she knows who he really is because ‘no one else can see me in this form’. He tries to ask her more questions but she says, ‘speak to Erskine Haffkruger’ before she disappears.

This is not what Lavanya really said. This is what I told Leon’s player at the table (and by implication, what he reported to the others). I sent him an email with what Lavanya really said, with an injunction not to tell anyone.

Back in the main hall, as the officers begin to leave, the rest of the unit deals with everything they have learned so far. Uru asks if anyone else thinks they may be on the wrong side. Xambria picks up this theme and talks animatedly about the ‘Grand Design’, seeming particularly excited by the Ob’s archeological discoveries. But Korrigan and Matunaaga remain staunch in their instinctive opposition to the Obscurati’s plan (as does Leon when he returns). For now, though, they agree to try to steer the Ob in the right direction, in case that turns out to be the best they can do!

The group circulates through the different faction representatives:
• The Arboretum. Order nature so it can spread and be controlled like industry. Presented by Reed Macbannin outdoors next to the garden. (Matunaaga slyly suggests supporting this faction to gain support from the fey, who may be destroyed when their plane is removed. When Erskine is namedropped by Macbannin, Leon looks to see how he reacts. Turns out he’s looking back at Leon!)
• Colossus. Grant ourselves godlike powers to fix problems as they arise. Presented by Catherine Romana in the chapel. (The unit agrees that this plan is the most selfish.)
• Miller’s Pyre. Increase empathy, reduce hypocrisy. Increase goodness and justice. Presented by Cula Ravjahani in the library. (Conversely, Miller’s Pyre attracts support from the unit as the preferred ‘fallback option’. Concern about opening the world up to invasion, though.)
• Panarchists. Grant individuals “super-powers,” making governments unnecessary. Presented by Han Jierre in the trophy room.
• Watchmakers. Eliminate free will and design a thousand-year destiny of prosperity for the world. Presented by Amielle Latimer in the dance hall. (Leon points out the weakness in Watchmaker is that the ghost council will survive it and will not be ‘reprogrammed for morality’ as other mortals will. Uru likes the idea of a clockwork universe.)

During the ‘crossover’ period between sessions three and four, Haffkruger disappears. During the fifth session, when their group is hearing about the Watchmaker faction from Amielle Latimer, she is informed that there has been a murder. Latimer jokes that things like this happen when people don’t act according to the script! The group investigates and learns that the victim is Erskine Haffkruger.

I suddenly decided, mid-session, to have Macbannin’s first victim be Haffkruger. I didn’t have time to think through the ramifications of this. The only real downside is that it means three of the party’s immediate retinue will ‘get got’ (if you include Vitus Sigismund). So I’m wondering if Macbannin should kill Zoltan and Baden before he gets round to Quital. Maybe Zoltan could disappear shortly after the preliminary vote? Any suggestions for cool circumstances for his murder? Could he be pushed off the lighthouse, after speaking to Nicodemus? Or is four murders too many?

Haffkruger was found stabbed in the cold storage room. A white serpent statuette had been placed in his lap. ‘Xavier Sangria’ insists on seeing the body. This is the second death associated with his group and he is rightfully concerned! Korrigan and Xambria examine the body and the murder scene. They establish that Haffkruger died from a necrotic injury. His ear had been nicked, and there is milk on his beard. (Leon recognises these ingredients from the Bonds of Forced Faith ritual they used to protect Nevard Sechim on Cauldron Hill.) The white serpent symbol is associated with the Voice of Rot. Xambria uses a trick she learned from Malthusius, reading the room to determine that Erskine entered alone and died alone.

Back in the lounge areas, while concern over the murder is evident, talk eventually returns to the Grand Design. The portal planes have been opened up. (The unit decides not to explore them personally, for fear of disrupting gestalt.) Excitement is evident. There will be an initial vote later. Meanwhile, with security and further investigation left to Vicemi Terio and the Ghost Council, Nicodemus has decided to speak to each Ob officer one at a time…

End of session.

The preliminary vote will be handled on-line before the next session. I will also send my players a heavily edited text taken from the ‘Villainous Conspiracy’ thread that all the DM’s contributed to a few years ago, so the players can read how the debate rages to and fro without playing it out at the table. They will of course be free to join in with that debate and try to influence how it proceeds.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
My work here is done!
It certainly is!

It is a huge strength of the campaign that the 'villains' have good intentions. In fairness, Uru's comment was more of a wisecrack than a philosophical comment. But to my surprise, Korrigan's player (out of character in an email exchange) asked the others if any of them had considered switching sides. I know Xambria's player - very much in-character - is fascinated by the Ob's archaeological discoveries and has asked several of the others if they would consider, at the very least, not interfering with what the Ob has planned if the convocation goes the right way. But Leon, Matunaaga and Korrigan (in-character, so far) have all said they fear that the risks are too great.

What do you think about the fourth murder idea, @RangerWickett?

(Scratch that last question, I found the info on ending the ritual!)
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By the way, since you brought him up, what was the deal with Malthusius? I seem to recall (and like the time to dig through the archives to confirm) that he got himself killed after he beat Roland's Bluff with his +Yes to Sense Motive. And they were eventually able to find his new incarnation Uriel (?), though perhaps not soon enough to have his memories from his Malthusius lifetime persist that way Roland's seem to. Since then he's been hanging out in the Gidim-Foe village in the mountains, yes? What I can't recall is whether, either in or out of character, Malthusius was able to pass along the Shocking Revelation about Roland. And is Malthusius's player playing someone else or is he away from the game because life?


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
By the way, since you brought him up, what was the deal with Malthusius? I seem to recall (and like the time to dig through the archives to confirm) that he got himself killed after he beat Roland's Bluff with his +Yes to Sense Motive. And they were eventually able to find his new incarnation Uriel (?), though perhaps not soon enough to have his memories from his Malthusius lifetime persist that way Roland's seem to. Since then he's been hanging out in the Gidim-Foe village in the mountains, yes? What I can't recall is whether, either in or out of character, Malthusius was able to pass along the Shocking Revelation about Roland. And is Malthusius's player playing someone else or is he away from the game because life?
All of your recollections about Malthusius/Uriel are spot on. But no - he wasn't able to pass on the shocking revelation - that was the whole point of having him murdered! So the player knows, but he can't tell anyone. Uriel was unable to retrieve Malthusius' memories because he is his third reincarnation (the previous two having been offed by Stanfield's assassins). Uriel will retrieve the memories of all of Malthusius' incarnations during adventure 8, using the Arc of Reida, so he will be able to deliver the Shocking Revelation himself.

Meantime, his player was supposed to be playing Conquo/Xambria, until he accidentally got Conquo killed - which came as a shock to us all. At which point I decided to have Xambria leap out and inhabit a duplicant, to give him someone to play until Uriel is required. The player likes making new builds and tinkering so it was nice for him to change up. (Throughout the orignal campaign, as Malthusius was not an official member of the unit, he would play guest characters during the buffer adventures: Oolsholeel the sea elf druid; Sly Marbo the hare hengeyokai, etc.)

We all miss Conquo though. Sniff.
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... he is his third reincarnation (the previous two having been offed by Stanfield's assassins)...
I think I'd forgotten about those two because I got the erroneous impression they'd gotten retconned away by the whole Jenny Greenteeth timey-wimey wibbly-wobbly-ness.

Uriel will retrieve the memories of all of Malthusius' incarnations during adventure 8, using the Arc of Reida,
I wonder where they'll run into Malthusius/Uriel/Wheover 1.0?

The player like making new builds and tinkering so it was nice for him to change up.
Glad someone else out there enjoys the character creation minigame.

We all miss Conquo though. Sniff.
That we do. :raises glass:


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 17 Interim - The Preliminary Vote

We dealt with this via email so we could come back to our second convocation session with the initial vote in the bag. I decided to alter the vote numbers to make the count a little closer, for dramaturgical purposes. But I forgot to alter the later count (or estimate) made by Dame Constance Baden, so I hope the players aren't keeping track! Here is a bunch of 'readaloud' text from the adventure that I simply sent my players. Apologies for cribbing this straight from the adventure. Note that I had already sent out details of each of the portals from the gallery, as the players visited the gallery but did not interact with the portals for fear of disturbing their hosts and being forced into a contest! (They are a cautious bunch. Understandable under the circumstances.)

Into the Night
The conspirators discuss, then cast a preliminary vote, all the while conscious of the murder that has just taken place.

The mood of the convocation has turned wary. Some theories are bandied around, including that a spy has infiltrated them, that this is some sort of mind game by Nicodemus, or that someone’s trying to kill people who would vote for a different faction. (Everyone was fairly sure Erskine would vote Arboretum.) Amielle Latimer jokingly suggests it could be 'the ghost pirates', and eagerly tells the story of how a crew all perished atthe hands of the clergy when their ship was set ablaze just off Mutravir Island. (Some say you can still hear their screams...)

Most people gather in the trophy room or the dance hall to
have large group discussions, with a few people getting up
the courage to go in small groups to visit the Portal Gallery.

All the while, Nicodemus is peeling officers away one by one and talking to them. (Some of you go now; the rest, along with any remaining officers will be seen after the initial vote. We'll deal with this in-session, obvs.)

Preliminary Vote.
At midnight, Nicodemus asks everyone to gather again in the Main Hall. Erected on stage is a metal plate with the names of the five factions painted on it, as well as “Other.” Beside it is another plate with small magnets tags, each of which has the name of one of the Obscurati officers.

Erskine's magnet has been placed on Arboretum, to discourage any further shenanigans.

Nicodemus asks people to file through, pick up their named magnet, and cast a vote. He reminds them this is just preliminary, and that tomorrow night everyone will be able to cast a new vote, and that other proposals might be added between now and then.


The players voted Miller's Pyre as a bloc of six, with Rumdoom (as Kiov Hetman) abstaining, on the basis of 'insufficient evidence'. He was encouraged to revisit the portal gallery. Rumdoom did this in order to draw out staunch advocates of different factions - making himself a target for their advances.

Everyone is asked to vote, even if they just vote Other. Nicodemus goes first, placing his magnet on Miller’s Pyre. Vicemi Terio goes next, telekinetically placing the twenty-five magnets for himself and the majority of the Ghost Council on Other. He explains that after the final vote, the Ghost Council will endorse whichever faction has the most votes.

Including your votes, the result is:

* The Arboretum. 4 votes.
* Colossus. 12 votes.
* Miller’s Pyre. 14 votes.
* Panarchists. 7 votes.
* Watchmakers. 5 votes.
* Other. 8 votes, plus 25 ghosts.

The “Other” votes are cast by the representatives of the minor factions.
(This is when discussion of those factions really hots up.)

Dining on Ashes
After the vote, people go back to various conversation spots to keep on politicking and debating. One proposal that starts to gather a fair bit of support is a compromise—designed by Dame Constance Baden—called MAP. It mixes elements of Miller’s Pyre, Arboretum, and Panarchists, as well as Long Now, Trekkers, and Sky League. Dame Constance estimates they can get 24 votes easily, and if it gets the Ghost Council and Vicemi that’s 49 out of the necessary 57.

Unfortunately, those in the Colossus and Watchmaker factions are strongly opposed to Miller’s Pyre, and shrug off accusations that they’re just worried they’ll end up with less power in the new world order.

I'll post the debate email later, along with an interesting email exchange between my players.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Interestingly, my players never considered what voting as a bloc might look like, and neither did I until now. Is it likely that anyone in the Ob leadership will notice this? Particularly since they know how ruthless Oscan is...
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I'd totally have someone pull Oscan aside and be all, seriously dude, either you're f***ing with us, or you have some super f***ed up way you're intending to abuse that new system. What is it? Some sort of 'use empathy as a new way to torment people'?


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Me: Okay, so I'm assuming you are all voting Miller's Pyre. Correct?

Matunaaga/Bruce McDruid: That's the way my vote is going. Haven't had a chance to look at the minor parties yet but I'm assuming we are expected to vote for 1 of the 5 main factions?

Me:Yes. For now. The minor parties come about over the next 24-hours and try to form alliances with the major factions. So you can favour one of those too if you like, but that won't matter for the first vote (unless you're wholly devoted to one of the minor factions and vote 'other').

Uru/Gran Guiscard: My host wants the clockwork world but I think Miller's Pyre is the least bad option.

Me: Lol. Your host doesn't have a say in matter. He's completely unconscious. When you're in gestalt, you're 'raiding' his mind for memories and thoughts, but as he was unaware of what was happening recently, it's not possible for him to have formed an opinion. Maybe Uru is simply expressing his own subconscious fascination for all things clockwork? (I was laughing here because this is the third time I've explained this to the player.)

Rumdoom/Kiov HetmanCan I cast a no vote? Or simply abstain? As a scientist, I simply don't believe sufficient evidence has been presented.... (in best patronising, sciencey-boffin-nerd voice)

Me: The 'Humble Hook' faction maintains that the world should be left as it is. And of course you can abstain. In fact, doing so would make Kiov Hetman the focus of alot of attempts to sway him, particularly if he cited 'lack of evidence'. He would be encouraged to try the planar portals, where the evidence can be seen... Speaking of which... (I sent out the planar portal descriptions at this point.)

Rumdoom/ Kiov Hetman: Kiov will abstain. In doing so he will attempt to get the best overall approximation of who is voting for what whilst he is busy being canvassed for his vote.

Korrigan/Ken Don: Well, I think the idea we discussed at the table was to vote for the faction which would have potentially the least impact on the world should we fail to stop the Ob entirely. Miller's Pyre does seem to be such faction, although opening up the world otherworldly invasions may still be disastrous. Who knows what's out there (from the character's point of view).

If a public debate arises Ken would argue that while everything else seems fine, he does not see why the plane that blocks outside access should be removed. Keeping to Ken's character Korrigan would also stand against the destruction of bleak gate and by extension feywild. Ken's view is that these worlds should be put to good use (especially bleak gate and undead).

If opportunity arises Korrigan may also engage Cula Ravjahani in a more private discussion about the Miller's philosophy and see if he can sway her opinion about the whole Ob operation.

"The White Tongue. Rumors suggest that an unknown number of
Obscurati members have made a pact with the fey titan known as
the Voice of Rot, which seeks to gain power by letting the world

We def need to look into this in relation to the recent murder.

BTW, just for the sake of interest - is anyone tempted to join with the Ob to build a better world? :)

Matunaaga/McDruid: Not at the cost of possibly unleashing an army of tooth-anuses* onto the world. Can you imagine the amount of loo roll and dental floss one would need to fight that battle?

Leon/Xavier Sangria: I would be interested if:

1. I thought they could achieve what they planned without unforeseen consequences. Currently they don't have a good track record on that front
2. They were being upfront with what is happening, we know there are deeper levels to this conspiracy.
3. There were less 3rd party's throwing a spanner in the works. Currently we have the dragon sending bombs, God-hands sending spy's,the voice of rot killing people, the thought eaters sitting outside the world waiting and I think the unseen court is involved somehow. There are other I'm sure (demons would like to re-gain access, The Deep Ones?)

Korrigan/Don: Owww, you didn't even mention a certain RHC squad. Haven't they had at least a moderate success in putting spanners in Ob's gears? :p

Uru/Guiscard: Let's Court the moderate minor faction and go for Miller's Pyre as the moderate faction. Keep an eye out for any cabals trying to rig the vote.

If this conversation goes any further over the weekend, I will add to it. I was expecting some input from Xambria at least, but her player was busy during the week. (Or perhaps keeping his powder dry.)

*This was the players' delightful nickname for gidim worm maws.
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I'd totally have someone pull Oscan aside and be all, seriously dude, either you're f***ing with us, or you have some super f***ed up way you're intending to abuse that new system. What is it? Some sort of 'use empathy as a new way to torment people'?
Was it ever canonically established which way the hosts would vote in the absence of crazy mind control magic?

Sent from my SM-G900V using EN World mobile app


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Villainous Conspiracy Debate

After the preliminary vote, I sent my players edited highlights from the 'villainous conspiracy' thread elsewhere on these boards. I knew I would not want to try to enact this debate at the table, and it seemed a shame to waste this rich background material. Sending it written form gave the players the option to choose their own level of involvement, and read or not read the debate. Apologies to those whose contributions were purloined. Note also that I was too lazy to remove Leyander Colt from the text, so he's now an extra body at the convocation!

Pro Miller’s Pyre

"Brethren," he begins, "my name is Leyander Colt and I speak on behalf Lady Kasvarina Varal in her absence. I needn't remind you that our people are a long-lived race, and many of us alive today still remember the pain and death caused by the Great Malice centuries ago. An entire race of people brought to its knees by a single horrific act spurred by xenophobia and intolerance. With the power we will soon command, one of our goals should be to make sure nothing so devastating ever happens to anybody in this world again. And the key to achieving this is to eliminate the baseless fears and misunderstandings of the myriad peoples of Lanjyr."

Leyander taps his cane again as he continues. "You have heard the members of other factions speak of their own plans to change the world: industrialize nature's bounty, grant godlike powers either to the elite or to the laymen, even eliminate free will entirely. We know not what horrific consequences such drastic changes to our cosmology might render. Better, then, to take a gentle hand with our ministrations. I say to you, we need not shake the very core of the multiverse to find peace in our time. All we need is to allow everybody to clearly see the viewpoints of one another, to truly understand where a person is coming from. Elf, human, beggar, king, Danoran, Risuri--in the end, we are none of us so different from one another.

"Empathy. Expression. Logic. With just a few subtle changes, we can eliminate the need for fighting, the desire for war. Word and thoughts will win the day, not guns and magic. And within our plans, there is still room for expansion--to bolster our defenses against potential extraplanar incursions, or to allow extra enjoyment of our newfound propensity for expression. Perhaps even the opportunity to bring easy flight to the landbound peoples of the world. When the time comes to vote, I urge you to consider the tenets espoused by Miller's Pyre."

Leyander grins and inclines his head. "I would be happy to debate any of you further on the merits of our vision for the future.”

Pro Watchmaker

Miller's doctrine... really? What's in man's mind? Emotion and logic don't make up for morals. You could end up with very bad things, emotionally shared and enforced by logic. There's no safeguard against evil in your plan. Your plan is a tool to easily convert people, but you don't say who will convert them! And worse, you open the world to extra-planar influence!

Did I say "devils"? The true, courageous way is the Watchmakers. We will make sure we take the right path. We will make sure everyone takes the right path. We might not have another chance to put things right.

Pro Miller’s Pyre

Leyander raises an eyebrow at the Watchman's argument. "Ah, yes? 'We' will make sure everybody follows the right path. Who are these few 'we' who get to decide which path is the right path? You desire to enforce morality by eliminating free will, but whose morality, I ask? Is it the morality of the Clergy? The Danorans? The Risuri? What makes one person's or people's 'goodness' better than another's? Instead of seeking to understand the differences that make us unique, you wish to make us all conform to a stale, mechanical sameness. The world would be populated with naught but mindless automatons!"

The elf raps his cane on the floor. "Our ability to think for ourselves and to reason is the thing that separates man from machine. The thing that makes us unique and vibrant. You would rob us of our very souls!" Leyander lets the silence hang in the air for a few moments, then continues. "As for your other point, you fear the chance of extra-planar assault. If we listened to you and abandoned our free will, what then would happen should devils, to use your example, chose to invade our plane of existence? Does your thousand-year plan have contingencies for such an occurrence, or would the whole system fall to pieces without the ability to adapt and react to outside threats?

"Under Miller's Pyre, with increased understanding and communication, the varied peoples of Lanjyr could easily come together and unite against a common external threat. Think of what powers we could muster with all of us working side by side. And it might not even have to come to that, if we use the extra planar space to bolster the new multiverse with the protections those of the Aegis desire."

Leyander adjusts his spectacles and turns to address the Panarchists. "I would like to remind you all of a simple maxim. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. What, then, follows when everybody possesses absolute power? You claim you wish to infuse the individual with defensive abilities, but what you will get is bands of super-powered men and women doing whatever they want with no checks to their powers. Instead of preserving civilization, it will lead to its collapse!"

Anti Panarchist

This is the essential flaw at the heart of Panarchism: if everybody is afforded the same level of power - defensive or otherwise - then power structures will inevitably form, perhaps on different lines to our current world, but their formation is an inevitability. How else is power among equals derived? Through systems of government. The assumption that, if everyone is equal, equality will reign forgets the simple fact that here and now everyone is equal and that it is structures of government that create inequality in the first place.

Pro Colossus

I vote for a mix of Arboretum, Colossus, and Moral Mind. There is a threefold agenda with this conspiracy, and it is all humanist:

Industry is the greatest creation of humanity (used in the widest possible sense). It is proof that by working together as a well-organized whole, with each doing their part, welfare can be produced for the many. Industry will, in due time, eliminate want, thereby eliminating imbalance of resources (of all kinds), and the need to acquire them "the hard way". The only thing that cannot be produced in a factory (metaphorically speaking) is the freedom to enjoy the fruits of industry: freedom of body as well as of mind, with a much greater emphasis on the latter, since it is harder to acquire.

Nature is a powerful force, perhaps the most powerful force in existence. If humanity wishes to be free, the wilds must be tamed. If humanity wishes to prosper, the earth they inhabit must supply the means. Never must the capricious forces of wind or water, fire or earthquake be allowed to lay waste towns by their whims. Never must a human child starve so an animal can live. Never, in a thousand years, must the incomprehensible fey be able to withhold an ounce of what might be useful to a human, or empowered to actively withhold that which is needed to produce universal welfare. Fey are not part of humanity. They are humanity's adversary (potentially, at least) in the inevitable struggle over complete control of nature.

The Colossus is the solution to the fey problem as well as the freedom desideratum. The fey court is powerful, the fey titans unpredictable and possibly near deific in their potency. If (when) war over nature comes, the Colossus is humanity's answer to the fey titan's prowess. Nothing will stand against it. Humanity will rule supreme.

When industry has reached the stage where it can create a virtual god, belief in the power of industry to do whatever is needed will be rendered an incontrovertible truth. Having created their own god, humanity will be freed from the necessity to seek for other higher powers out there: god is that which humans' hands are capable of creating. In essence, humanity itself is the Demiurge, and gods are merely that which humanity wills into being. This simple fact is that which frees us all.

In creating a god-like being, humanity (or at least that part of it which built the Colossus) has left the ties of superstition and religion far, far behind. It is now possible to demonstrate in the clearest terms the utter lack of necessity for other belief systems besides the enlightened mind of creative humanity. After the feys' demise, even the most ignorant of humans will be forced to open their eyes.

With industrial welfare and freedom from extraneous powers and so-called gods comes that mixture of spare time and unbounded roaming of the mind which allows for education, self-awareness, perfection of the individual, and the striving for new and greater things. That is the goal of the conspiracy. However, such lofty goals require wading through the mud, and the blood, for an extended period of time. It will be worth it, but a struggle will come first that will shatter the spheres as we know them, and leave countless dead. Such is the price of great endeavours.

Pro Watchmaker

We is us, the Obscurati. Who else?

We will define what is good.

Miller's Pyre will ease unity. As i said, it's a tool to convert people.
But what ideology will unite them?
You don't adress this.
You just hope it will lead to good endings...

And your example, dear Leyander, is faulty:
The interplanar barriers won't be weakened, so an assault is ruled out. Not something we have to take into consideration.
But for example sake, let's say it happens...devils assaulting our world.
A world where everyone has an ideology that opposes them.
People they won't be able to seduce or sway with logic.
It's in our plan that the devils will have to fight the whole world.
And for what?
A place where, if they stay too long, they might have their ethos changed for goodness?

Our burden and duty is to make sure we will succeed in creating a better place.
The Watchmaker's plans are drastic, but that's what is needed to succeed.
A thousand years where everyone will have to be good. No choice. Soulless.
Our tabula rasa.
Then free will.

Pro Miller’s Pyre

"'Then free will', he says. Just like that. One thousand years of dictatorship, then... this." He gestures expansively to indicate the whole world. "I did not forgo my lifelong vow of pacifism for a such a bizarre admixture of arrogance and apathy. I have shed blood for the greater good, and would curse myself for all eternity if this is what I turned out to be fighting for. No one man, or group of men, should consider themselves wise enough to set in stone what is 'good' for all humanity.Since the earliest days of history, men have thought they were 'right', and sought to impose their version of goodness on others. That is how Elfaivar came to be destroyed, and the Great Malice swept through northern Lanjyr; that is how the clergy comes to hold sway and indoctrinate millions of ignorant people. This, my friends, is what we have been fighting against! And worse still, having doomed the forgotten future to this slavery, it is then proposed that we relinquish our grip and pray that a world that has been forced to be 'good' will choose to continue to do so.

"No, Miller's Pyre does not seek to impose an ideology on the world. That is its very strength, not a weakness. Our 'hope' is much stronger than the hopes of the Watchmakers, because it is founded on empathy which will not fade in a thousand years. You starve your brother and you feel his pangs; you slay your neighbour and you sense his fear, and grieve along with his loved ones. Perhaps there will be those who enjoy such sensations, or even grow inured to them. But the brotherhood of man will be ever more strongly united against such evil, psychopathic individuals.

"And remember: we have a spare plane. If inter-planar security is your principal concern, vote for Miller's Pyre and Aegis."

Pro Sky League

“The Pyre, while a noble ideal, is fundamentally flawed.” The cutting voice seems at odds with the speaker, a rotund woman with soft features.

“Jiese, the plane of fire, carries the aspect of Cunning. It is this aspect that drives the gears of industry -- the gears of revolution! The Pyre would replace Cunning with Expression, enhancing our understanding of others’ motivations. Combined with their other changes, it would be far easier for groups of sentient beings to come to consensus.

“As I said, a noble ideal! But what of the cost? The loss of Cunning means the loss of progress, invention, technology. Consensus would lead to stagnation! Perhaps this would suit some within the Watchmakers: a form of social utopia where everyone agrees with everyone else, and no new ideas are promulgated. I doubt this is what the Pyre’s advocates intend, and perhaps it is an extreme vision, but we cannot risk the loss of industry! That would bind us forever to the earth, forgoing the possibilities of flight, or of planar travel. While replacing Apet as the Pyre plans would bring us closer to other planes, the preservation of Nem would still prevent us from exploring what lies beyond.

“I see many unfamiliar faces here, a sign that our group’s distributed structure is an effective one. I am Dame Constance Baden, scholar and scientist, and I speak for the Sky League. We in the Sky League have allied ourselves with the Trekkers, those who wish to voyage beyond the realms currently known to us. We stand ready to throw our weight behind a major faction that welcomes our ideals.

“Jiese must be preserved: on this, I think all factions that favour progress and industry over stagnant isolation can agree. Further, tampering with Reida is too great a risk. We are willing to partner with factions that will leave both Jiese and Reida untouched.

“The planes that must be replaced are Avilona and Nem. Avilona’s Calm trait discourages progress, and replacing it would finally unshackle Jiese’s Cunning! Moreover, associating Calm with the Plane of Air prevents flight, grounding us and forcing us to travel by boat or train. But if this Calm trait is replaced, there is an opportunity to craft great vessels that will carry us to the skies!

“I have designed just such a vessel. I call it... the ZEPPELIN!

“A functioning model has been constructed, and even as I speak now it is floating above the ground of our pocket plane. Please observe it at your leisure.

“Meanwhile, Nem locks us away from the world. Imagine what lands we might find beyond the seals? What we might learn? Naturally, there are risks, but eternal isolation would be a far greater threat to our civilization. With proper defences, the risks of extraplanar invasion can be mitigated. And we need not become the world’s overlords, as Colossus suggests – with Cunning unshackled, our technology would be our defence! Some of you may have heard of the strange beasts sighted at the Kaybeau Exposition in Flint. How could such creatures hope to stand against the ZEPPELIN?

“We would also support replacing Urim, Apet and Mavisha, but this is not essential. Mavisha’s Mystery trait is an impediment to progress, but it is less severe than Calm. Teleportation magic is also less important in a land where flight is possible. And finally, Apet’s distance property could be part of a reasonable defence against extraplanar invasion once Nem is replaced.

“If the Pyre, Colossus, Arboretum, or Panarchists are willing to revise their plans to accommodate us, we will gladly assist with the planar alignment calculations.”

Panarchist Concession to Sky League

As a supporter to the Panarchist Cause I have to say that i find interesting to see that wonderful flying machine made! so i will support the sky league. Conquering the sky will be the ultimate form of freedom and we, the Panarchist believe above all on freedom.

I'm making a call on my friends of the Miller Pyre to stop the plans of the Watchmakers and join our group in search of a future with no Gods, No Countries, No Kings. Just living beings freely deciding how to rule their lives!

Miller’s Pyre point out they also have a spare plane…

Miller's Pyre is the most readily able to accommodate your needs, as our plan has a spare plane. Consider it done. If your vote goes for the Pyre, I would certainly vote for the Sky League - that was, in fact my original plan!


My heartily thanks to all of you discussing about our grand plan.

It has been refeshing, and the support gathered to the Watchmaker's plan has given us voice and weight.

But then, what else?

People are now reviewing the smaller trends, among which the popular Moral Mind.
To those supporting this cause, i will say this:
Do you really think that rationality will make a better world?
Moral is about what you believe in and/or what you think, take the belief out of the picture, you will still be left with some bad apples, thinking bad apples.
I still remember when the name for this cause was the Mortal Mind, and that was far more accurate.

Still, not bad per se. But if you support the Mortal Mind as your only plan for the future, you are only promoting your hate against faith.
I say that means you don't mind about the future,
I say this is not a moral choice, despite the name.

The Long Now is popular too.
And I do understand your plan. There is high hope that long term thinking will lead to more responsible behaviors.
Not my choice, but a very good one.

IF you want to support other ideas, consider beauty and wonder.
Art is creation, walking hand in hand with science and morality to define what we are as living beings.
Many of those creations are beautiful expressions of our longings, our lives, our souls.
And wonder is pure glee, making you more alive than ever.
Flying, whatever the means, would be without doubts truly wonderful.
Those are subtle nudges promoting a more vibrant world.
You'll find those two supporting the Bards and the Sky League.

About the Sky League, a few words of warning:
I heard some people, claiming the Sky League would like nothing more than to lead sky ships to other worlds, putting down the barriers that protected us from far planes.
They are eager to trade votes, even with Miller's doctrine they are rebuking.
Those highly ethical people don't speak for the whole Sky League. As a whole, the Sky League just want to be able to fly.

Panarchist response

"To the Watchmakers, I say that I see little use for flight in a world without free will. The essence of the alliance between our faction of Sky Leaguers and Trekkers is liberty! How can an explorer function without free will? How can they respond to the wonders they find on their travels, if they cannot make decisions for themselves?"

“Miller’s Pyre claim they can accommodate you. But it isn't so simple. The careful replacement of Avilona and Jiese with a binary world is the key to your plan, and we will not countenance the loss of Jiese. More would be required than simply giving your spare plane the trait of Flight. Recalculation of your planar alignments would be necessary to determine if your binary alignment can be accomplished with Nem rather than with Jiese."

"However, the Panarchists could potentially accomodate us more easily. An additional realignment would be needed, but it would not replace any of their existing realignments. To work with the Panarchists, we would ask that they add Avilona to their existing plan, replacing it with a full-fledged Plane of Air carrying the aspect of Flight. Some might argue that with teleportation freely available, flight would be unnecessary, but I must disagree. We believe that flight is necessary in order to reach distant worlds and planes, even with teleportation."

Watchmaker (draft found in lounge and circulated amid gossip)

To our esteemed Nicodemus,

I have been discussing, at your request, with my fellow Watchmakers possible alliances to reach a consensus.
I'm afraid we will fail you.

First, according to the planes we intend to meddle with, we are fully compatible only with...the Pyre.
But performing both plans at the same time, while it does suit the watchmakers, won't be popular amongst Miller followers. They have something against the length of time and the lack of free will.
Still, we will talk to them about this.
(consider it done, dear followers of Miller reading those lines: a watchmaker/Miller's pyre plan is possible at the same time!)

And I cannot consider any other merging, as the watchmaker's plan is so precise that the slightest deviation on the plane aspects might prove fatal.

Then, it's obviously too early for most of the Obscurati to consider such a drastic move as the thousand years plan, but we have time.
Speaking for myself, I will support factions whose agenda will allow a change of path to be made in the future, such as Arboretum and Colossus.
Millers' Pyre environment won't allow something like the secret Obscurati, and the Panarchists will rigidify the world beyond any hope of change with their soul-binding contracts.

Yours sincerely,


“MAP!” (This proposal begins to circulate late in the evening, so part-way through our next session. But rather than hand it out for read it out then, I thought it best to include it.)

Dame Constance Baden, who has been writing rapidly in a tidy hand ever since sitting down, finally sets down her stylus and rises again.

"As I look and listen to you, fellow planners and dreamers, I see many common traits: conviction, passion, logic, cunning, understanding. These traits, while common to us all, are emphasized most by the plans of the Pyre, the Arboretum, and the Panarchists. Unfortunately, overtures for alliance between these factions have thus far been unsuccessful, as each side does not wish to become secondary to the other.

"But as the debate continued, I saw a possible path foward to a truly different future: a future where pointless deaths are a thing of the past, a future where debates such as this one could flourish, a future that would encourage the progress of industry and exploration.

"To reach this future, I propose the following: instead of replacing or realigning two or three planes, let us incorporate the best ideas of the various factions into a single GRAND DESIGN! Each of us would need to sacrifice elements of our desires, but the combined whole would be greater than the sum of its parts.

"Jiese, the plane of Fire with its Cunning trait, would remain untouched. This is a sacrifice for the Pyre, but is essential to preserving and continuing the tremendous progress Lanjyr's nations have made in recent years. However, the Pyre's Expression trait can be achieved by other means. I will return to this shortly.

"Avilona, the plane of Air with its Calm trait, would be replaced as per the Pyre's plan, with one half of a new binary plane. It would carry the Speech trait, fostering debates such as this one. This is essential to a vibrant society and complementary to the goal of progress.

"Av, the plane of Life, would be replaced as with the Arboretum's plan. Its traits of Reflection and Dream would be replaced with Craft and Artifice. But this can be done without severing the Dreaming and the Bleak Gate! Craft and Artifice would foster progress, both of industry and of agriculture. The Arboretum's goal of plentiful harvests for all is the foundation of a vibrant society.

"Mavisha, the plane of Water, would be replaced. This was not part of the plans of any faction, but my calculations suggest that a new plane of Water could be aligned to support the Panarchists' desired Healing trait. It would function slightly differently: it would confer lesser resistance to physical injury than the Panarchists seek, but would empower the blood of all living beings with resistance against poison and disease. Imagine the lives that would be saved! Mavisha's current Mystery trait has no beneficial properties, while the Healing trait will save countless lives. When combined with the primacy of logic and reason in the new society, it will substantially improve the lot of the individual.

"Urim, the plane of Earth, would be replaced according to the current plans of Miller's Pyre, with a new plane carrying a Logic trait. All factions should support the goal of emphasizing logic and reason in the new world!

"Apet, the Distant Plane, would be replaced according to the current plans of both the Panarchists and the Colossus: with a new plane carrying the trait of Empowerment. In the new alignment, this plane would remain distant and be weaker than the Colossus and Panarchists would prefer, but still far superior to what the fey are able to do in our world today -- and available to everyone. The importance of individuals and their need for governments will be greatly reduced. It is possible that some will still choose to create governing bodies, but these choices will stem from logic and reason, not from bloodlines or wealth. The Pyre must sacrifice its Empathy trait, but the primacy of reasoned discourse in this new society will still lead to a more empathetic and caring world, even without the mild empathic powers this trait would have conferred.

"Now we come to Reida, the plane of Time. I initially balked at making changes to this plane. Tampering with it does carry some risk, which is why I cannot support the Watchmakers' radical changes. But a subtler change is possible! The new plane of Time will be a binary pair with the new plane of Air, and will carry an Expression trait. Shifting from the Pyre's plan to have Expression associated with the plane of Fire allows us to incorporate the goals of the Long Now: with Expression governed by Time, people will inherently frame their positions with heed to the future. This is only right and proper in a knowledge-driven, rational society.

"As with the Pyre's plan, this binary pairing will allow a demiplane to be added. A small body in orbit around the Distant Plane will be given the trait of Flight. As the new Distant Plane will carry a trait of Empowerment, the Flight trait of the new plane will be strong enough to allow for the crafting of zeppelins and the exploration of worlds beyond our own.

"Last among the existing planes is Nem, the plane of Death. This plane must be replaced if we are to explore the worlds beyond what we now know. The calculations are complex, but it is possible to realign Av into the current position of Nem! Death being a reflection of life, Av would become the plane of Death, preserving its traits of Reflection and Dream. The fey would not be cut off from the Dreaming and the Bleak Gate, which would have risked angering the Fey Titans and bringing calamitous war upon us.

"We must not forget the strong support for the Mortal Mind. While this plan does not directly eliminate the possibility of irrational superstition, it does create a society where logic and reason are the prime movers. The beliefs that flourish will be those that can be supported by persuasive logical arguments. This, I hope, will be enough to satisfy followers of that faction, some of whom are fellow scientists.

"To summarize: This comprehensive realignment plan partially fullfils the desires of the Pyre, Arboretum, Panarchists, Sky League, Trekkers, Long Now, and Mortal Mind. The newly replaced and aligned planes will carry traits of Cunning, Speech, Craft/Artifice, Healing, Logic, Empowerment, Expression, Reflection/Dream, and Flight. I believe this compromise position is the best way for members of these factions to accomplish their goals, since this debate has made clear that no one group can proceed alone!

"Thank you, and I hope you will earnestly consider the framework I have presented."


I'm proposing that we replace seven of the eight current planes, by combining the proposals of the Pyre, Arboretum, and Panarchists. The planes and traits are:

Fire - Cunning (no change)

Air - Speech (Pyre)

Life - Craft, Artifice (Arboretum)

Water - Healing (Panarchists)

Earth - Logic (Pyre)

Space - Empowerment (Panarchists)

Time - Expression (Pyre)

Death - Reflection, Dream (previously Life)

New demiplane orbiting Space - Flight (Empowered)

Who gets what, and who gives up what?

Of the main factions, Miller's Pyre, Panarchists, and Arboretum all get some of what they want. Of the lesser factions, the Long Now, Trekkers, and Sky League get what they want. The Mortal Mind gets part of what they want, since logic and reason will be paramount in the new society, leaving less room for superstition and religion. In a bit more detail:

- Arboretum gets their Craft/Artifice plane, but we don't sever the Dreaming/Bleak Gate, so Macbannin won't be thrilled.

- Pyre gets 3/4 of their desired traits: Speech, Logic, Expression. They give up Empathy.

- Panarchists get 2/3 of their desired traits: Healing, Empowerment. They give up Possession. Healing goes through blood rather than straight up regeneration, so it isn't quite as powerful, but disease and poison are diminished or maybe even go away.

- Long Now gets Expression in the plane of Time, so arguments will tend toward the long view.

- Mortal Mind gets a society in which logic and reason are paramount. They give up the explicit elimination of religion, but people will inherently favour logical arguments over appeals to emotion, superstition, or faith. Religion may persist, but its importance will diminish considerably.

- Trekkers get to explore other planes. The blocks on this go away.

- Sky League gets ZEPPELINS! No way could I leave that out.

What Will Society Look Like?

Physically, people will be stronger, healthier, resistant to disease/poison, and able to teleport significant distances (but not across miles as Colossus would like). Average lifespans will be significantly longer. Individuals will be far more powerful and far less reliant on government. Any government that existed would therefore truly have to be by the consent of the governed, rather than by hereditary fiat.

Socially, people will be more logical, and will take the long view when framing their arguments. People will also be more willing to listen to the arguments of others -- speech and debate will carry more importance.

People will be far more able to engage in these sorts of intellectual and philosophical discussions because taming nature will greatly reduce the scarcity of the goods needed for people to live -- notably food. Debate will replace war, since disagreements will largely be ideological rather than territorial disputes over fertile lands, because any land that is tended will be fertile.

People will also be more mobile, and not just because they can teleport -- air travel and planar travel will be possible.

When combined, all of these effects suggest multiple vibrant societies, some governed, some ungoverned, where reasoned debate is the paramount mode of persuasion and decision-making. Coercion will be far more difficult and far less likely. People will be able to readily travel between societies, facilitating the spread of ideas.

Technological progress will continue apace, and the new, stronger, healthier workers will have a much better lot in life than they did before.

Such a robust, multicultural, technologically advanced society will be able to band together when needed -- when logic dictates -- such as in the case of an extraplanar invasion. It would also be able to develop mechanisms for controlling the stronger storms that will arise, and compensating for any changes in sea level that may occur.

What of the Obscurati?

Perhaps we will no longer be needed. But more likely, the new society will be a true meritocracy, where knowledge, reason, and skill are recognized and rewarded. This means that we in the Obscurati will naturally rise to positions of respect and influence.

Since this proposal is a mix of Miller's Pyre, Arboretum, and Panarchists, I suggest we call it the MAP for short.

A lot of Ob officers respond very positively to this suggestion. Most arboretum supporters appear to be satisfied with it, as do key panarchists.

In response, supporters of the Colossus faction hunker down and try to thrash out similar compromises. It looks set to be a long night...
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 18 (141) - Part One - Quiet Reflection

All of what follows played out in 'flashback', detailing what the players were up to in the time between Erskine Haffkruger's murder and the Preliminary Vote.

Nicodemus began interviewing each Ob officer in turn, while the debate about the direction the conspiracy should take heated up in anticipation of the preliminary vote. Xambria threw herself into the spirit of the conclave – hugely impressed by the archaeological advances the Ob had made. She barely touched base with the others, instead engaging in a series of in-depth conversations with a whole range of officers throughout the mansion. Korrigan shrugged and simply observed, “Two women in one body. What do you expect?” For his part, the unit leader noted that the singular weakness of the Obscurati – and the one that led him to have little or no faith in its ability to carry out its Grand Design, no matter how well-meaning or audacious – was its fractious composition. He doubted if all of the officers could be relied upon to support another faction if they lost.

While he circulated, Korrigan noticed a man who stood out from the rest, whose dark brown skin, traced with gold filigree, was identical to his own. He did not want to reveal himself or behave suspiciously, but was able to learn that this was Oort Magnus, a mage from Nalaam whose role in the Ob was to search for the lost temple of Urim beneath that city. How he had come to be schism-wrought remained a mystery for now.

During a quiet moment, Leon investigated the possibility of using his quick portal power to escape this place – assuming they were able to coordinate sufficiently well with the RNS Impossible. (There was also the possibility of transferring to the circle in Uru’s garden, which at certain times of the year was coterminous.) However, Leon was all the more glad of his prescience when he discovered that quick portal would not function here. Perhaps a consequence of the lighthouse lantern, or some other arcane quirk? Or perhaps a security feature the Ob had installed to deter trouble-makers? Leon also made a mental note to check on the current defences of Axis Island. He imagined the conversation with Stover Delft: “Hey, you know that war we averted all those years ago? Well we’d like to start it now, if that’s okay.”

Kiov Hetman was the first of the unit’s hosts to meet with Nicodemus. Two guards found him in the west lounge. Kiov was grateful to be rescued as he had just been roped into a conversation by Ramos Zoltan - the dwarven businessman whom Luc Jierre had met in Trekhom as he travelled the Avery Coast demonstrating his lantern. Zoltan was holding court among the rest of the Drakran delegation, smoking cigars and drinking frothy ale. He spotted Kiov nearby and explained that he was telling about the time he sent the police chief of Trekhom to a gulag after he shot Zoltan’s favourite dog. Zoltan gave the chief a dog of his own to keep him company in the gulag, and so far it had suffered a broken leg, food poisoning, burns, and a couple of beatings. Zoltan claimed this made him noble, since he could have done all these things to the chief! The other Drakrans laughed darkly at the proposal and Zoltan asked Kiov to tell them all what an ‘ass-hat’ the police chief had been. Rumdoom feared he would have to risk gestalt when he was interrupted in the nick of time.

The guards led Hetman through the main hall, into the base of the lighthouse, and up via a freight elevator to the very top. There Nicodemus gazed out at the starless sky – a lack he lamented as he drew heavily on his cigarette. He enquired after Kiov’s wellbeing, asked if he saw anything related to the murder, and then asked if Hetman has any thoughts about the Grand Design and the direction it might take. Rumdoom was deeply unimpressed by the whole thing and said as much. He objected to the ‘lack of complexity’ demonstrated in the planar portals, and the idea that one could extrapolate such effects to a whole world. When Nicodemus tried to persuade him, he found himself dealing with two dwarves in one body. At length, he gave up, glanced at his pocket watch and ‘reluctantly’ ended the interview.

Xavier Sangria was next. Nicodemus observed that he had taken a great interest in Erskine Haffkruger’s murder. ‘Xavier’ nodded and said that was the only reasonable, natural response to such an event and confirmed that he had shared all he knew with the Ghost Council. When asked about his thoughts on the Grand Design, Leon had Xavier give an enthusiastic nod and praise its boldness. “It makes me see the world in a whole new light. Are you certain of your ability to execute such a plan?” Nicodemus smiled and said that he was. He went on to reassure Xavier that earlier setbacks were not as major as they might seem to the outside observer. In return, Leon had Xavier express his unwavering support, no matter what the outcome of the vote.

When Uru set foot on the lighthouse balcony, into the ‘open air’ of the Bleak Gate, he immediately heard faint, distant sobs. He had grown accustomed to such noises in the Nettles, but was distracted by them here, seeking to pin-point their origin with Gran Guiscard’s human ears. As such, he was distracted and fumbled his way through his initial greeting and exchange of pleasantries with Nicodemus. Having realised the sobs were coming from a huge pinnacle of rock in the sea, Gran took in the Bleak scenery and asked Nicodemus if he might be allowed to go for a walk. Nicodemus said that he may, in the company of a Bookpin Guard. Gran asked if he might also take the strapping Xavier Sangria, if he was willing, so that he felt extra safe. Nicodemus agreed and said he hoped that Gran might be inspired to compose something to commemorate his stay here. Uru then shared his views on the Grand Design, laying the groundwork for his shift in opinion: He realised that anyone who knew Gran would imagine the controlling opera singer to be a natural supporter of the Watchmakers. To justify a vote for Miller’s Pyre, he expressed his initial attraction to the order and certainty of a thousand-year script, before lamenting the lack of true artistry in such a world.

Xambria/Livia was called shortly before the preliminary vote, and did not have time to share the outcome of her meeting with the others. When she rejoined them in the Main Hall, she acknowledged that all was well before taking her seat.

Here we referred back to the Preliminary Vote section of last week's interim session report.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 18 (141) - Part Two - Explorations

With the initial votes cast, the convocation heated up even further. Now everyone knew each other’s position, and faction leaders began targeting those they felt they might be able to persuade: Solace Petrov, leader of the Economists was immediately wooed by Colossus leader Catherine Romana (in earshot of the snooping Oscan/Gupta); Bruce McDruid was targeted by the leader of the Weapon Master faction, the elderly ice mage Glaz du Sang Magi (whom he recognised as the commander of the Ob submersible that had engaged the Roscommon many years ago); and Xavier/Leon - after first having to listen to some outrageous and obviously false boasting from General Shane Wallisone – was then subject to the General’s ham-fisted attempts to flatter him into joining Colossus. (“Only men of action such as ourselves understand the value of true power.”)

Bert Facie cornered ‘Oscan’ and wanted to know what he was up to. Of all the officers present, he knew Oscan best and felt sure that he would vote for Colossus. So sure in fact that he had prepared a whole line of argument to win him round to Panarchist. Yet here he was, voting for Miller’s Pyre? What was he up to? What had he spotted? Did he want to be forced to be good? Gupta channelled Oscan as best she could without risking gestalt, gave a cunning grin and said she figured that some people would be less affected by exposure to the emotions of others. That would give them an advantage. She stuck to this line later, when interviewed by Nicodemus, adding that she did not think this convocation would be the end of the matter and intimating that Oscan was playing the long game. During the same encounter Gupta opened her mind in wonder at the leader of the Ob and learned that he was very old indeed. (Later, she began to feel that she in some way knew Nicodemus, but couldn’t put her finger on why.)

Han Jierre himself courted Gran Guiscard, some time before Dame Constance Baden began to circulate the M.A.P. proposal*. Han was oddly personable; not like a ruler at all, though he hoped to appeal to Gran’s patriotism, and secure Gran’s support for his Sovereign’s pet project! He suggested that Miller’s Pyre was something akin to mind control. “Mind control is perfectly acceptable to me,” said ‘Gran’. “Dominate everyone as far as I’m concerned.” Later, the M.A.P. proposal would remove the heightened empathy element from the equation altogether, and Han would gladly join forces with Dame Constance and Cula Ravjahani to fend off Colossus.

Kiov/Rumdoom ended up in a very boring conversation with Von Hastenschrieft Willimarkanova - Drakren philosopher and politician, and advocate of the Mortal Mind faction that sought to eradicate all religious, superstitious beliefs. Rumdoom didn’t much like religions either - apart from his own – but the fact that he agreed with his fellow dwarf only made the encounter even more boring.

As Bruce McDruid, Matunaaga made a point of finding out all he could about the aegis faction. He was concerned about the Obscurati’s plan to leave the world accessible and undefended from other worlds. He ran into an argument between the aegis faction representative, Dengar Kriegshaff – a human wizard from Drakr whose role in the Ob was to design weapons capable of slaying Risur’s fey titans – and Cardinal Testamenta Suchdol, a human inquisitor who represented the ‘Trekkers’, officers who wanted to open up further worlds to explore (and in Suchdol’s case convert). She was adamant that there was no threat from outside which could not be opposed by human ingenuity, might and faith. She was, after all, a demon-hunter by trade. All such threats – the Demonocracy, the Dragon Tyrants, even the titans – had been overcome in the past. This did indeed appear to be the general mood of the conspiracy: that no such planar defence was necessary. Tellingly, none of their examples featured any mention of the gidim…

Korrigan began to use his oratorical skill to bend people towards Miller’s Pyre and – even after the M.A.P. proposal began to gain traction – sought also to subtly find fault with each and every proposal, to encourage arguments between parties and heat up disagreements. He hoped that way to expose flaws in the conspiracy and hinder progress. (‘Xavier’, meanwhile, was – with equal subtlety – planting the idea that the Ob could not pull off their Grand Design at all.) Korrigan’s initial intention was to button-hole Cula Ravjahani, but once the M.A.P. proposal got going, this felt less important somehow. Still, the opportunity eventually presented itself, and he found the apparently gentle, sympathetic half-elf to be made of sterner stuff than she initially appeared. When he questioned the Pyre’s interpretation of Miller’s doctrine she grew in stature and her mood darkened. “Were Miller alive today, I am certain that he would be part of this conspiracy. For he would have learned that human beings cannot be trusted to run their own affairs. The Great Malice alone is enough to demonstrate the damage that men can do; their capacity to ‘other’ whole groups and pursue their destruction with relentless efficiency.” Once he had got the measure of her ‘Ken Don’ moved on.

While he circulated in this capacity Korrigan found time to join a conversation between Oort Magnus and three other officers. When the other officers moved on, he introduced himself as Ken Don and explained that he had been researching obscure topics for years but had not come across anything like Oort Magnus. Magnus was just a little condescending, responding that Don could not have been researching very hard: the annals of academia were filled with accounts of planeshaped individuals such as he. Though it was indeed rare – the ‘shaped’ individual had to be strong-willed and hale enough to survive whatever accidental magic caused the condition – they were nonetheless of such interest to the arcano-scientific community that they were very well documented. (He seemed irked that Ken Don had never heard of him.) Once this initial exchange was over, Magnus warmed to the topic (of himself) and happily responded to Ken Don’s enquiries as to the nature of his condition. Magnus had become thus affected when interacting with an ancient artifact. It misfired and bathed him in Urim energy, almost killing him. But he survived and now found that he was almost effortlessly able to manipulate stone through his magical powers. ‘Ken’ remarked that, now he came to think of it he remembered that reports about the colossus incident in Flint mentioned one of the Risuri officers involved had a condition somewhat similar to Oort's. The wizard said that he had heard the same, but it did not sound as if this individual’s command of Urim energy was as great as his. Nonetheless, he should have liked to examine him. Don ended their exchange by adding that, according to Leone Quital, he had recently killed the aforementioned officer, so Magnus was unlikely to get the chance. ‘Don’ went off to see if he could find Reed Macbannin or Vicemi Terio, but neither of them were involved in the debates. (The unit occasionally caught a glimpse of Vicemi, watching from a distance, but he moved away if anyone drew close. Macbannin, it seemed, had been put in charge of the Ghost Council’s investigation into the murder.)

To get away from the monotonous Willimarkanova, Kiov/Rumdoom visited the planar gallery and – after briefly checking in with Grappa and establishing that exposure to the planes was unlikely to cause contest, crisis or rejection (as long as he didn't hurt himself) – he dipped a toe in one of the portals, and enjoyed the experience so much that he ended up trying all of them. (While doing so, even Rumdoom could not overlook the irony that the most morally dubious of the ‘demo-planes’ was Miller’s Pyre, which took starved and maltreated clergy prisoners and used them to prove its efficacy.)

I described the portal planes in an email before the session. Rumdoom's exploration allowed the group to learn about the mechanical effects of each plane.

For a bit of a change of scenery Gran Guiscard and Xavier Sangria went hunting for ghosts. With a bookpin guard in tow, they wandered down to the beach where Gran, pretending some bardic magic was the source, cast the water walk ritual and crossed the glassy surface of the Bleak Sea to Cacciatrece de Nav – an enormous spire of rock that jutted up from the sea to the south of Mutravir Island. There he discovered a cave, the sobbing little ghost of a cabin boy, and the cabin boy’s remains. This had been the sole survivor of the pirate ship in Amielle Latimer’s story. The ghost pleaded with him to bring his bones back to the island, as he was frightened in the cave. Uru was only too happy to oblige and asked if in return the cabin boy would teach him a sea shanty. The little boy sang the song and Uru took his bones ashore and buried them with dignity. “Take that, Voice of Rot,” he whispered.
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 18 (141) - Part Three: The Humble Hook

The Humble Hook

It was fairly late when Ken Don was eventually summoned to meet with Nicodemus: just before midnight, and not long after the M.A.P. proposal started doing the rounds. Korrigan had just found himself in a conversation with Leyander Colt – who was unhappy that M.A.P. did not retain the emotive element of Miller’s Pyre. The old half-elf was still objecting loudly to anyone who could hear as ‘Ken Don’ was led away to the lighthouse.

During his meeting with Nicodemus, Korrigan was very careful of his approach, skilfully weaving his own views into the established worldview of Ken Don, in order that the quiet, bookish research inquisitor did not seem suddenly out of character. This caution felt necessary after Bruce McDruid’s interview in which Nicodemus noted that “except for the clergy and Kiov Hetman, every one of your group voted Miller’s Pyre. I have to say I’m surprised. Was any one of the group a driving force in that decision?” ‘Bruce’ had responded simply that he was world-weary, tired of conflict and glad to see that the Ob were – at least potentially – a force for good after all. He couldn’t really speak for the others, except that they seemed to feel the same way. And so it was that ‘Ken Don’ had to be careful not mark himself out as an instigator or faction leader of any kind.

Nicodemus responded positively to what Don had to say. He confessed that he had not had a life of his own for some time, and needed to hear the thoughts and feelings of others for fear of losing touch. Korrigan chose this moment to be frank. He ‘opened up’ to Nicodemus and shared his thoughts in real detail, saying that he did not think a majority of those who had been invited to the convocation could be trusted. Nicodemus raised an eyebrow. “Indeed? What makes you say that?” Korrigan explained that he felt he could identify a common type, the likes of whom would not take defeat in the faction votes well at all. Nicodemus nodded and asked ‘Don’ if he would agree to spend just a little more time with him. Then he called to the ghost councillor who controlled the lighthouse, grabbed four amulets, and had the lighthouse activated to shift them back into the real world. He put on one of the amulets and gave the others to ‘Don’ and the two guards. “Let’s go and see what this island is really like. I want to look at the stars.” They followed the same trail Uru and Leon had taken a few hours earlier, down to the beach.

On the way Nicodeus made small talk, asking about Don’s life, and the inquisitor gave only brief, taciturn responses. Only when the conversation ranged back to the conspiracy did Korrigan warm to his theme once again. As they walked along the beach, with the cold surf washing away their footprints, he advised Nicodemus that secrecy was not the way forward. He felt strongly that people would see the opportunity in what the Ob had discovered and that everyone should be given a chance to decide the destiny of the world, not just a handful of individuals whose morality was already in question. Nicodemus bored in on this train of Don’s thinking, but refused to be drawn on his own opinion. Korrigan reiterated his opinion that the Ob’s very secrecy was its biggest weakness, and his firm belief that the more morally dubious elements of the conspiracy could not be trusted to provide support for any faction other than the one they had chosen. Nicodemus nodded at this, as if it had confirmed something he too believed, or as if he had come to some new decision.

Eventually, their time was at an end, and Nicodemus led the way back up to the path, taking some rough-hewn steps that had been carved to make a short-cut up from the beach. Just then, Korrigan heard a singular metallic chime, as something bright fell from Nicodemus and onto the step in front of him. He stooped to pick it up. It was a rusted metal fishing hook. Neither Nicodemus nor the guards had heard or seen a thing, and before Korrigan could offer to return the object, the sense that he should not do so - that the hook was his, and wanted to remain with him - overwhelmed his mind. The thing was sentient! He pocketed it for now and determined to investigate it later.

Back in the dance hall, where the final hangers-on had gathered in the early hours of the morning, the dragonborn bard, Praesidia de Vaca – flushed with the success of her negotiations with Catherine Romana (who was busy countering M.A.P. with a counter-proposal of her own) – excitedly accosted Gran Guiscard, assured him that she had practiced every word and note of The Marriage of Achaea and Hibiscus – and insisted they perform it as a ‘finale’ to this wonderful evening. The other officers’ enthusiastic response was so encouraging that Uru felt he could not refuse. He concentrated on gestalt with Guiscard, allowing his memory of the piece to bubble to the surface of his mind. He and Praesidea finished the duet to a huge round of applause, whereupon ‘Gran’ began to sing again. This time, he gave a haunting rendition of the sea shanty he had learned from the ghostly cabin boy: a surprisingly sad song about the death of sons and fathers at sea. There was barely a dry eye in the room when he was done, and Uru could swear he had heard a deep baritone chorus of ghostly voices joining in.

Back in his room, Korrigan entered gestalt and used Ken Don’s bibliogeist power to search the Ob’s library for a reference to the hook he had found. It returned with this story:

When Triegenes passed on from his mortal shell, the prelates of the Clergy cremated his remains in a grand state funeral. As they gathered his ashes to spread across the nation’s soil, they found a small harpoon hook—the kind used by some fishers—which somehow had been caught in the living god’s body since before he achieved divinity. The priests crafted the hook into a pendant, and for over a thousand years it has been worn by the hierarchs of the faith, as a reminder that we all have humble origins. Doctrine claimed that it let its wearer learn the history and background of anyone he met, allowing the leader of the faith to deal with overly prideful enemies and heads of state. In 260 A.O.V., however, it was lost when an eladrin assassin slew that era’s hierarch and stole the pendant. Critics of the faith claim that its loss was part of a plan to steer the Clergy away from its original humble core, so that high priests could better profit from their stations.

When Korrigan focused on the object he could sense its wishes and desires. He knew that it would favour him further if he pursued diplomacy ahead of violence and won the allegiance of old foes. Conversely, it would disapprove if he (or his friends) killed an enemy without first attempting dialogue, or harmed someone for selfish reasons. The hook appeared satisfied with Korrigan’s moral outlook, in particular his adherence to the codes of Triegenes as interpreted by William Miller. (Korrigan found when he read this book – recommended to him by Ottavia Sacerdote – the book did not so much reveal truths to him, as simply confirm and codify his own pre-existing views.) What interested Korrigan most was the fact that the Humble Hook had chosen to detach itself from Nicodemus…
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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 18 (141) - Part Four: After Hours

High-Level Meeting

At that moment, the handle of his bedroom door rattled. There was a note on the floor, fixed by a paperclip. Grappa had used Quital’s magnetic powers (the rudiments of which he was just beginning to grasp) to slip the note to the unit under the door without drawing any attention to himself. It read simply, “Meeting Nic. Follow me.” Grappa was already disappearing down the long hallway, led by a bookpin guard. After some quick decision-making it was decided that Gran Guiscard and Xavier Sangria would pretend to be exploring the halls and get as close as they could. (In case of trouble, Kiov/Rumdoom jumped into the absurdist web.) Meanwhile, Gupta would enter gestalt with Oscan and pretend to be a guard, while Ken Don and Bruce McDruid followed at a greater distance. Don concealed Korrigan’s defender longsword beneath his robes, to keep tabs on his team.

The nearest end of the long corridor Grappa had taken – the hall that led to the council room – was guarded by two bookpin guards. As soon as one of them caught sight of Oscan/Gupta he said, “Hey, Bob, take over from me a minute, there’s something going on I want to see.” His partner objected at being left out. Between the three of them, they decided to sneak off and watch what was happening elsewhere in the mansion. Apparently, Amielle Latimer had offered the guards a sharp-shooting challenge. ‘Bob’ beckoned Bruce McDruid to join them and off he went. Xavier and Gran were able to sneak down the long corridor, before they came to a ghost councillor watching the far end. Gran hid. The councillor moved to intercept Xavier, who shrugged as if he had only been going for a wander and retreated before the councillor’s glare. Meanwhile Gran slipped past into the fire-lit council room and got close enough to hear the exchange of the Ob’s senior leaders:

I’ve been using this technique quite a lot lately, ever since we rebooted the campaign: writing out in script form any scene that the players cannot, or are unlikely to, interact with and alter. This ‘high-level meeting’ was a great example, and here I didn’t need to invent the dialogue, just use the text from the adventure. I gave some words to different actors to vary it up a bit, but the technique kept the group engaged more than they would have been had I tried to enact the whole thing myself. I played Vicemi. Every time he speaks, I have him do that groan that Lurch does when he answers the door. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCc-RWIp7XU

this is pretty much verbatim from the text (except for giving some of Vicemi's speech to another character to vary things up a bit) I won't repeat it here, but if other DM's fancy using the same technique, I've attached the 'script'.

Amielle’s Sharpshooting Challenge
For the third time that ‘day’ members of the unit traipsed down to the bleak beach, this time in the company of several guards. Oscan/Gupta kept his fingers crossed that the real Bob didn’t show up, but figured he could always pretend the whole thing was just a wee joke.

Down on the beach, where a few posts rose from the sand, Amielle Latimer had set up a shooting range using wine glasses and shot glasses. Her challenge to the half-dozen guards gathered about her was simple: beat me in a sharp-shooting contest and gain access to the conspiracy’s ‘secret stash’; otherwise they would have to wear the new uniforms she would provide. When they arrived, the guards were competing to see which of them would go up against her.

‘Bruce’ asked if he could join in and Amielle happily agreed. She handily beat the guards’ champion, clearly using some ghostly method to help her bullets fly true. Othwerise, her method was to shoot with two old-fashioned pistols, then reach for her rifle. Matunaaga figured he could beat her if he could only get three shots off in time and take the glasses out before her. Here was a challenge worthy of the living weapon! He focused his breathing, meditated on the teachings of the Palimpsest and let three rapid shots fly from McDruid’s six-shooter pistol. Amielle’s eyes widened as the third shot glass shattered just as she was shouldering her rifle. She nodded to Bruce in approval and congratulated him heartily. “I wish those things had been invented in my time,” she laughed.

Nonetheless, she had beaten the guards. She had stashed their ‘new uniforms’ next to one of the bars: a bunch of old-fashioned maids outfits once used by the servants of the clergy when they occupied this mansion. Laughing, the guards cajoled each other into donning the outfits, while Amielle opened up the ‘secret stash’ anyway. Fine whisky was soon being downed by everyone but her. (Matunaaga felt that McDruid was more than likely to join in, but had to risk gestalt to cope with the fiery taste.)

Things that go bump in the night

Now it was the dead of night and everyone was finally abed. Though he occupied a human host, Uru found he did not need to sleep and did not care for the physical exhaustion of Guiscard, and so it was that he was alert to the bumping, thumping sound he heard from the adjacent room: Grappa’s.

He jumped up and alerted the others, swiftly and silently unpicked the lock and opened the door to the following scene:

A ghostly form, it’s right fist clenched, crouched over Quital’s recumbent body. Interrupted, it glanced up in alarm and fright.

It was Reed Macbannin.

“Wait. Please!” he stammered. “This man is our enemy!”

End of session. Eheheh.


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Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 19 (142) - Part One: This is Hard to Explain (and that’s putting it mildly)

“Wait! Please! This man is our enemy.”

Reed Macbannin didn’t run, glide through the walls or floor, or attack the intruders. Instead he bluffed and blustered in panic and appeared at the same time to be distracted by something on or around Quital’s body – something that concerned him enough to split his attention between that and his untimely discovery.

“He voted for a different faction. We can’t allow them to gain control of this conspiracy, or it’s all been for naught!”

Gupta realised that this was nonsense: How could he possibly know in an instant who they all voted for? Before she could say anything, ‘Gran Guiscard’ complained, “This is most irregular. Nicodemus assured us that this sort of thing would not be allowed to happen. That there would be no resort to factional violence!”

Leon stepped into the room and dropped to his knees beside the body. Quital was dead. But where was Grappa? In response to Leon’s accusatory glance, Macbannin began to flannel again. “Believe me, this man was a monster. He didn’t deserve to live, to remain part of this conspiracy. The crimes he committed were despicable.”

Gupta had read Macbannin’s file, and without thinking said, “Aren’t you the man who charged witch oil with the souls of poor factory workers? Even children? Who almost flooded a city with the stuff?” She realised her error even as the others’ eyes fell upon her. Macbannin was about to retort, but his mouth hung open as his mind worked on something new. He squinted at ‘Oscan’ then shook his head and glanced about at the other officers, none of whom had a weapon drawn or had shouted for security.

“No. It can’t be… It isn’t true. Is it?” He struggled for momentarily words, then he said: “A woman… an eladrin woman appeared to me. When I… in the ice box with Erskine. In spirit form. She told me…” Another cautious pause, before he took the gamble and said, almost hopefully, “… she told me certain RHC officers were still alive and that they needed my help!”

There was a moment of stunned silence. Then, as if this weren’t shock enough, Leon stood up and said, “Hello, Reed. I’m Leon Veillieux. That same eladrin woman told me to trust you.”

Having taken time to don his dressing gown and slippers, Korrigan was last on the scene (apart from Xambria who had not yet returned to her room). Leon’s words were the first thing he heard. As he tried to make sense of the situation, a door opened further down the corridor, and an inquisitive Ob officer emerged – one of the cell leaders from a minor border state. “What’s all the commotion?” he asked. Korrigan calmly closed the door, leaving only himself in the corridor. “No commotion,” he said, “I was merely returning a book I had borrowed.” The officer was sceptical and said it sounded like he had been returning a whole library. Even as he worked to convince him, Korrigan realised that if some sort of truce was being agreed in the room behind him, fobbing this man off temporarily wouldn’t help. Fortunately, Gupta had the presence of mind to step out from Grappa’s room and take over, guiding the officer back to his own room and erasing his memory of the incident. Then she and Korrigan rejoined the others in what was an increasingly confused and halting exchange:

Once it was established that they really were who Leon had revealed them to be, Macbannin was visibly relieved. His situation had changed from ‘hopelessly outnumbered’ to ‘hopefully outnumbered’. His plan up to now had been to sow as much discord as possible and try to find an officer as disillusioned as he was – someone he could trust to take a message to the outside. That had seemed a vain hope indeed. But here he had found seven! Now his plan was to make sure they escaped and he would do everything he could to help.

“How do we know that we can trust you?” asked Korrigan (ignoring the uncontrolled fits of laughter from ‘Kiov Hetman’ whose player’s thoughts were somewhat anachronistic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L0YNMhRDA4).

Macbannin helplessly gestured to the crazy situation, as if that were evidence enough, pointed out that he was in the most jeopardy, then went on to say that he wished he had languished in a Risuri prison, or faced execution, instead of sacrificing himself for this. “Skyseers tell us that the world will end in fire. Eschatologists tell us that it will come to an icy end. But I can tell you if this lot aren’t stopped then the world will end in hubris.” He went on to describe his anguish when he discovered that his immoral actions had not after all been at the behest of his king, and a sense of betrayal directed at “this man” (Quital) and “a few others I could mention” (who he clearly couldn’t mention at all). Reminded of Quital, Leon asked about the fate of Grappa, whose soul had been inside him.

If a ghost could go pale, Macbannin would have done. “Grappa?!?” he exclaimed and sank down on the bed, as if he was a solid man. “The mindmaker would have been a powerful ally here.” He apologised for what had happened to Grappa (“I’m not that bothered,” said Uru, “I didn’t really like him anyway”) but was relieved to have found an explanation as to why he couldn’t find a soul to dispel (which was the puzzle that had distracted him when they arrived). They briefly discussed what might have become of Grappa’s spirit, but could not be sure. It could not have fled to the Bleak Gate, after all. It might still be here. But Grappa gave no sign of his continuing presence, and Uru couldn’t sense him.

Macbannin once again returned to excusing his recent actions, enumerating the horrible crimes of Erskine Haffkruger. The dwarven botanist had exceeded his brief to test the ability of flora and fauna to survive in various planar conditions, and progressed to experiments on human subjects. Macbannin shuddered to think of the glee with which Erskine had delineated the results. However, Macbannin was forced to confess that he was “morally sunk” himself before admitting the murder of another officer earlier that same night: Dame Constance Baden – in this case targeted not for any crimes she had committed, but because her death would cause maximum unrest – not the least because Macbannin had sought to pin her death on the Panarchists. (Yes, he did place a white serpent on Erskine for similar reasons. No, he was not the origin of that rumour, merely taking advantage of it.) But Macbannin was beyond feeling sorry for himself. Having sacrificed his scruples long ago, all that was left was for him to continue to do whatever it took to warn the world about what the Obscurati was up to.

Leon asked Macbannin why he didn’t just leave and take news to the outside world himself. Macbannin gestured to his ghostly form: “I’m bound by the radius of the lighthouse. I am also bound by oath to the ghost council. You’ve seen the senior councillors - Vicemi, Latimer, and so on: the ones who died recently and still know who they were, or have a powerful enough sense of themselves to persist after death. But you haven’t seen the ghost council swarm – a faceless conglomeration of Nicodemus’ dead allies from centuries past, each of whom lends him their power and their knowledge, but has faded over time to become nothing but a mindless shade. They are linked to him and he to them. The swarm is perhaps the most dangerous thing on this island, save for Nicodemus himself. They’ll suck the life right out of you.”

Matunaaga asked what could hurt them. Macbannin shrugged: “Not much. And any you kill will simply reincarnate after a day or so, as long as Nicodemus is still alive. I have a special hex to stop that happening, but it’s a one shot. I was saving it for…” he paused. “Never mind. I missed my chance. I’d love to use it on Vicemi, though, that cadaverous old maniac. Think about it: he must have looked like that in life.”

Matunaaga repeated his question. This time, Macbannin’s answer was a bit less defeatist: “Psychic attacks. Holy magic. They’re frightened of the prisoner - the Godhand. They wanted to kill him, but Vicemi and Nicodemus want to wait until after the convocation, when they’ve had a chance to interrogate him. For now he’s kept in a prison plane near the council room. There was a senior councillor watching him earlier, but right now I think it’s just a couple of guards.”

The unit fell to arguing about whether it was worth the risk of rescuing him. Uru wasn’t keen, even to the point of flatly contradicting Korrigan, when the idea of taking Uru’s real body out of the absurdist web was floated: Who better to rescue the Godhand unobserved? But Uru argued that his discovery – however remote – would jeopardise the whole mission. Besides, how would he get back into Guiscard without the mortal possession ritual? This prompted Leon to conduct a quick search, and retrieve four copies of the ritual Grappa had committed to scroll form just in case.

When the absurdist web was mentioned, Macbannin said he thought it would greatly concern the leadership if the Godhand vanished entirely. If he could be healed and persuaded, he would be a staunch ally if need be, although the situation would still be close to hopeless. It would certainly be too late to attempt a rescue if they were discovered!

Then Macbannin’s ghostly eyes lit up, as he hit upon something that could provide a distraction: an enormous bomb the Ob had in storage. It had been found inside a metal man that had attempted to masquerade as an officer from the Yerasol Archipelago just a few hours before the unit arrived. The ghost council had disarmed it, and Macbannin reckoned he could get hold of it without anyone noticing and hand it over to them. He could do that while they rescued the Godhand and meet them back here (or better still, somewhere less incriminating). The unit rubbed their hands with glee and all issues of trust were forgotten. Together, they eagerly discussed their exit strategy (in an episode we will gloss over, subtitled ‘Head:):):):) Brainstorm’) though Macbannin warned them not to tell him anything else they had discovered, or any RHC secrets, for fear that information could be extracted from him later.

At that moment, Xambria arrived, just in time to be brought up to speed, but too late to counsel caution.


Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Who needs roleplaying when there are explosions to be had?
Absolutely. Although in fairness to the players, the conversation with Macbannin had gone on for well over an hour by this point. And what better way of convincing someone that you're on their side than handing them an unexploded bomb?

The 'exit strategy' section was funny because it emerged that the players had no idea how they would get off the island in the event of discovery. This is one of those situations where, as DM, you have to take into account the disconnect between players and their characters (in the sense that there are some things that the character would not and could not have realistically forgotten), and in my case (in this instance) accept responsibility for your own role in that disconnect: My approach to Schism has been even more episodic/cinematic than normal. Especially after the players aced both the International Manhunt and Knutpara expedition, taking just four sessions to complete Acts One & Two. All of a sudden we were in with a shot of finishing the adventure before our two-month summer break! (When I had previously assumed we would be finishing partway through - maybe having only just reached the convocation.)

Rather than waste time on details I hand-waved the fitting room (covering that in an email) and completely skipped the planning stage so as to jump straight to the immediate aftermath of the Teaser. So when Macbannin asked how they planned to get out of there - and the group had forgotten about the communication rings and the fey portal pad - I decided not to hold it against them. We just retroactively planned what contingencies they would have put in place had the opportunity been afforded to them!

The only downside was that it gave them an inkling that things were about to go pear-shaped...