[ZEITGEIST] The Continuing Adventures of Korrigan & Co.

SanjMerchant

Explorer
...

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.

...

We just retroactively planned what contingencies they would have put in place had the opportunity been afforded to them!

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You say all this like "failure to plan exit strategy" is the exception rather than the rule.

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The only downside was that it gave them an inkling that things were about to go pear-shaped...
Well, there are adventurers involved.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 19 (142) - Part Two: Blue Banquet

When two more murders were discovered the following morning, the mood of the convocation darkened even further and tensions rose considerably. Leyander Colt was distraught and sat sobbing in the west lounge. During breakfast, a fist-fight broke out between the two Beran minotaurs. Barro Bangristo, a colossus supporter, loudly accused the Panarchist faction of having a hand in Dame Constance’s murder – everyone knew that tiefling magic had caused her demise. Trevio Addaz wasn’t even a Panarchist, but his objection and counter-accusation was equally forthright, and the two soon came to blows, knocking officers and furniture to the floor and landing on poor Gran Guiscard, who had to be helped to his feet and revived with a sip of Bruce McDruid’s whiskey. ‘Xavier Sangria’ made sure he investigated both murders to keep up appearances. Xambria spent a lot of time in conversation with Gardienne du Cherage, whom she appeared to get along very well with. Otherwise, the unit laid low – things were running just a bit too smoothly:

Their combined talents had made rescuing the clergy Godhand an absolute cinch. They waited for the right moment, bluffed their way past the guards, extracted him by damaging the portal frame just as Macbannin had instructed, placed him in the absurdist web before he could react, then erased the guards’ memories on the way out. They met Macbannin in a secluded corner of the mansion and reported their success. He then handed over the heavy, head-sized explosive device that had been retrieved from the duplicant. It bore all the hallmarks of Pemberton’s handiwork. That went in the absurdist web too, and they parted company. One thing Macbannin emphasised before he left was the importance of the lighthouse. If they wanted to escape without timing things to the minute, the lighthouse would provide the means to do so, rendering the whole area coterminous with the real world. (They would also find a variety of planar oils for use in a wayfarer lantern.) His final word of advice if things went pear-shaped: “Don’t surrender. Amielle Latimer told me that Nicodemus can be ruthlessly efficient about once a century, and according to her he’s long overdue.”

All morning officers could be found huddled in small groups, horse-trading and scheming. They buzzed around the undecided like philosophical flies and were in and out of each other’s bedrooms like the players in a Danoran farce. It emerged that a rival to the M.A.P. proposal had been formulated by Catherine Romana. At lunchtime, her entrance caused a loud and angry debate to break out, which she appeared to ignore, choosing instead to feed her cat morsels from her plate. Suddenly, her magically enhanced voice rang out throughout the hall, calling for silence. Then she said:

“Who trusts anyone else here? We don’t know each other. I barely trust the people who say they’re on my side to actually vote as they claim they will. So why in the world are you trusting our gentle leader Nicodemus? He keeps hinting that all he wants is peace, that he values the ideology of some writer who’s been dead for five centuries, but I’ve known plenty of politicians.

“You can’t trust words. All you can trust is that people are afraid of losing power. We’ve gotten here because we’ve been ruthless. Let’s not pretty it up. I tell you this, if you idiots vote to give up the authority that we have earned over this world, you’ll be showing yourselves as weak. And this man, this conspiracy? It doesn’t need weak people.”

She went back to feeding her cat and the debate raged on around her, until Vicemi Terio arrived. His sinister presence caused an unnatural hush to descend, whereupon he announced that a second vote would now take place and ordered everyone into the main hall.

Security measures had been altered: The bookpin guards were gone and only ghost counsellors were now on hand as they made their way into the hall and took their seats. Perhaps the ‘escape’ of Vitus Sigismund had been noticed? The Godhand had introduced himself last night, once they had extracted him from the web and healed him up a bit. He was able to meditate and heal himself too. Soon the badly burned, foetal figure they had delivered from the prison plane was poised, focused and impassive. He waited for them to speak first. They introduced themselves and explained their situation. Vitus told them he had stumbled upon this conspiracy after the city of Vendricce was disrupted by foreign fighters four years ago. Conflict had broken out in the rail enclave, and tieflings were rumoured to have been involved. (The unit recognised this account, but kept it to themselves.) Vitus investigated, looking for evidence of demonic influence. He found instead a far more insidious, man-made plot, one he knew he could not simply fight into submission. So he arranged to take the place of one of the conspirators, Monsignor Dexlano, whose involvement caused him real offence – as did the involvement of other clergy. But his plan had failed, as they could see. The last thing he remembered was the ‘terrifying eyes of that unholy serpent’.

The unit filled him in on the nature if the convocation and the true purpose of the Obscurati. He asked for a few minutes to consider the ramifications. Then he said it was every individual’s challenge in life to improve him or herself. “The purpose of life is to prevail over adversity, and in making the world a ‘better place’, I fear that the meaning of life will be lost.” He agreed to fight alongside his rescuers if need be, and to reside within the absurdist web to avoid detection.

The web was now in Xambria’s possession. She had argued that was best, as it would be possible for her to retrieve the occupants faster than Leon: getting out her own simulacrum first and over-clocking to extract the others. Leon vacillated but eventually acquiesced.

Now the unit took their places for the second vote and listened to the speeches of the new faction leaders:

Leyander Colt took Dame Constance’s place and spoke for M.A.P. The compromise, devised by the late Dame Constance, combined Miller’s Pyre, Arboretum, and the Panarchists, while also appeasing the Trekkers, Long Now, Mortal Mind, and Sky League. It shuffled some planes about, added a few new ones, and managed to satisfy most of the needs of those groups. Crucially, it abandoned the Pyre’s Empathy focus. It also kept the Dreaming and Bleak Gate and would leave the world with no seal against extra-planar incursion.

Catherine Romana unveiled the Colossal Congress. Based on Livia Hatsfield’s research into Risur’s rites of rulership, this proposal granted the powers of the Colossus proposal to the Obscurati initially, but required each member to undertake a ritual of affirmation every year. Each member of this colossus congress would have a geographic region where he would need the approval of at least half the residents. The Ob would still be able to solve issues with their mighty powers, but the people could reject leaders they no longer approve of. This proposal satisfied the Weapon-Mongers and the Economists, both of whom favoured the inherent competition.

Finally, Amielle Latimer spoke for the re-tuned Watchmaker Watchmen (although she seemed to know that she had already lost, filling her speech with self-deprecating humour to that effect). This novel proposal brought in a new habitable world where the Ob leadership, allies, and descendants could live with free will, able to watch over the real world which would have had its free will removed per the Watchmaker proposal. It would be possible to reopen the seal and restore free will if something went wrong, but doing so would be such an ordeal that it could not be undertaken lightly. This proposal pleased Aegis, since it protected both worlds from extra-planar incursion.

After these final speeches were delivered, Nicodemus took to the stage one again, cigarette in hand: “We all have different ideals,” he said, “but before we vote I want you to understand what led me to found our organization and pursue this long, grand work. It wasn’t a desire to gain power myself, or to punish those who had abused their power. I started down this path because I’d seen that intellect, wisdom, and good intentions were feeble weapons in the face of propaganda and fear.

“The problem with this world is that the dreamers and poets are blind to its real face. It’s easy to mock as childish those who grow upset when the world isn’t ‘fair’. The habit of accepting injustice as the way of the world has become too familiar, and while I shed my innocence long ago, I never fooled myself into thinking it is good that I’ve had to do these foul things.

“I do think any of these proposals would result in a materially better world. And I will support whichever wins, as will the Ghost Council. But only one of them will make a world good enough to balance out the evil we’ll create to get there.”

Then the officers began to vote. Amielle Latimer was pleasantly surprised by a welcome, albeit futile, surge in support for Watchmaker Watchmen, as Ken Don, Gran Guiscard and Xambria Meredith switched their votes. Bruce McDruid and Oscan Ligurio stuck with M.A.P. Kiov Hetman stubbornly abstained, and Xavier Sangria joined him. Perhaps these changes were out of a desire to sow more dissent, or throw off suspicion, or maybe to prevent the clear victory of a proposal they all secretly supported? Still, despite some success for Colossal Congress the narrow winner was nonetheless the relatively benign M.A.P – by 21 votes to 19. (‘Xavier’ sighed and whispered, “By the end of all this maybe I will join the Ob. Again…”)

With the votes in, a slight hubbub arose, but nothing like the vicious arguments that had raged previously. Han Jierre and Bert Facie both rose and, with a nod to Nicodemus, excused themselves. Nicodemus asked Vicemi to verify the final count, then bestowed a charismatic smile upon the assembly and thanked everyone for participating in one of the greatest moments in history. He was truly glad, he said, that everyone felt comfortable voting with their conscience, and he hoped that that they could all work together moving forward.

As he spoke, the gas lamps around the hall started to turn a soothing blue…
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 19 (142) - Part Three: Splinter Cell

They immediately recognised the pacifying effect from Knutpara – all save Matunaaga who had sat out that mission. Thus fortified, they were able to shrug off its effects – all save Matunaaga whose passivity went unnoticed at first; and Rumdoom, who was duly snapped out of it by a subtle pinch from Uru. All of them had the presence of mind to feign passivity despite a growing sense of alarm.

Nicodemus cast his gaze around the room and appeared satisfied. He then asked all those who had voted for Colossal Congress to remain in the main hall, while everyone else accompanied him into the grand foyer. Everyone complied happily. Outside, they found the ghost council swarm waiting for them: a sprawling mass of what must have been a hundred or more people before their wills became subsumed in the collective.

When the doors to the main hall were closed, Vicemi told Nicodemus that he had sent the other councillors to secure the premises. “The palace is sealed and the council is ready.”

Nicodemus turned to those who came out with him and said, “Those inside would ruin this world if they were allowed to come into power. In my five centuries I’ve seen plenty of monarchs and oligarchs just like them who have lashed out when their authority and dominance is threatened. I don’t like what we have to do now, but the most efficient way to avert this threat is to strike now. This small dishonourable deed will be balanced by ages of greater prosperity for all of civilization. I need your support in this decision.”

Amielle and Macbannin remained impassive, but the rest of the officers in the crowd began to nod assent. Soon two dozen people, speaking sombrely and reasonably, urged Nicodemus to do what must be done. All except Ken Don. “I foresaw that it might come to this,” he said. “Is there really no other way?”

“None,” said Nicodemus, with leaden finality. “We can’t release those monsters into the wild. Having lost their chance at power, they would betray us. Do I have your consent?”

Korrigan did not respond, and Nicodemus took that as a yes. With a nod, he sent the ghost council swarm groaning over, around and through the assembled officers, and through the walls and doors of the main hall. The ensuing silence was more disturbing than screams.

Cula Ravjahani was now champing at the bit, her pretence at beatitude abandoned. “With your permission,” she said to Nicodemus. “I would enjoy putting paid to their kind.” Nicodemus nodded again and Cula drew a fiery blade that snapped and lashed like a whip, as she turned and marched through the doors into the execution chamber. Vicemi gestured and he, Amielle Latimer, and a reluctant Macbannin followed suit.

As they went, Gupta sought to make sense of all this. Long ago, she had discovered her unique capacity to Stare in Wonder – to absorb the unique nature of a situation or place and spot things – insights, secrets, aspects – too oblique for others to see. She focused her gaze on Nicodemus, but could not help taking in the whole room. Oddly, she found herself drawn to Xambria, and understood in that moment that her friend was struggling to suppress her host – a conflict situation that they had all trained for. But Xambria had no need to suppress her host, as Livia Hatsfield was on their side. Despite her confusion, Gupta reached out and spoke a few reassuring words, to help calm whatever turmoil was underway, but as she did so, Xambria took several halting steps forward and cried out:

“Oh, god, please beware! She means to betray you!”

That didn’t sound like Xambria, but Hatsfield. All eyes were now upon her. There was an evident struggle for control, as her expressions twitched and spasmed. Suddenly, she was calm again, and turned to face the unit, who were clustered in the base of a horseshoe formation that had formed in front of Nicodemus.

“That is not true,” she said, firmly. “My intention was to attempt to win you round, but it is true that I cannot allow you to leave this place and betray this visionary scheme. Surely you must now see that we are on the wrong side, and have been all along? My sole misgiving was the direction of this conclave, and this has been resolved.” She gestured in the direction of the main hall, to the slaughter of Colossal Congress, as if it were a perfectly reasonable solution. Then she took a few more steps away.

“Nicodemus, we spoke last night of the fate of hypothetical spies and you assured me that they would not come to harm, if they forswore their oaths to King Aodhan and took up an Obscurati ring. My name is Professor Xambria Meredith, and with me are Marshal Korrigan and his RHC unit, whom you thought dead. I came here as a spy but have grown to understand that your Grand Design is a masterstroke that will save the world from itself. I did not wish to betray my fellow officers, and hope that it will not come to that. I hope you will grant them the opportunity to speak for themselves and persuade them as you have persuaded me.” While she spoke, she subtly gestured to the pouch, wherein she kept the absurdist web, as a reminder to the unit that their situation was a hopeless one.

Nicodemus paused for a moment to take everything in, though his eyes narrowed menacingly. Gupta filled the silence with another of her tricks, and Asked the Question of Xambria: “What about that gidim creature that possessed you? Have you abandoned your precious aegis?” Despite Xambria’s proud, precise intellect Gupta knew just exactly what to say to breach her defences, and Xambria was suddenly wracked with indecision, unable to act.

As a body, the unit sprang into action (all save Matunaaga who remained pacified). Uru and Gupta were both poised to spring upon Xambria, when Leon drew the absurdist web from his own pocket! Xambria gawped helplessly and wondered how this reverse had come about. “Rumdoom,” Leon suggested, “one of Hetman’s towers, please.” Then he held the web aloft and said, “Meteku”. At that, the web disintegrated and everything that had been stored within was instantly released: the unit’s bodies; a few miscellaneous objects nobody recognised; Benedict Pemberton’s bomb; a cricket that gave a chirrup and hopped away; and Vitus Sigismund, who leapt to his feet and stood poised for action.

Rumdoom responded to Leon’s request by risking gestalt with Kiov Hetman. Successful, he fished out the knowledge of his host’s magical tower defence spell and cast it immediately. The unit was surrounded by a translucent field, impenetrable to outside attack.

Nicodemus stood poised too, on the verge of action. But Korrigan gave him pause. He began in deliberately measured tones to say that this was all just a misunderstanding and that they should take a step back, avoid any actions that they would come to regret. Meanwhile, Uru took possession of his own body, breaking the ritual chain of beads around his neck. Suddenly free, and aware of his surroundings for the first time in days, Gran Guiscard gave a horrified, high-pitched scream and ran about the chamber like a headless chicken. Leon snatched the beads from round the necks of Gupta and Matunaaga; the abrupt transition caused the pacification of Matunaaga to end, and both he and Gupta scrambled to their feet.

Outside the tower effect, Livia took advantage of Xambria’s confusion. “Get out of my head you bitch!” she screamed, and succeeded in expelling Xambria’s spirit. Then she stumbled towards the unit, towards the protection of the tower.

Nicodemus decided he wasn’t in the mood to parley. “To me!” he commanded, and four ghost councillors appeared in the air around him. Then he said, “Xavier, you pledged your unwavering loyalty to me last night. I’d like to prove it, please. Kill Hetman.”

Leon was unable to stop himself: He stood, drew Xavier’s blade and swung it with all his might at Kiov’s neck. Luckily, Rumdoom was alert to the threat and managed to avoid the blow, but Nicodemus had now proved himself too dangerous to trifle with:

Uru armed the bomb, and then unveiled a new modification to Little Jack, his spidery clockwork companion: the metal casing on its back sprang open and a pair of wings was revealed. Little Jack buzzed into the air, carrying the bomb, flew in an arc close enough to Nicodemus, and dropped it. It landed heavily and rolled a few feet, still ticking. Little Jack turned in mid-air and flew straight back into the defensive field. Nicodemus looked at the bomb, then looked back at the unit, and took a slow, steady step back. Just a single step.

Not wishing to cause mass murder, Korrigan used his commanding presence to order the pacified Ob officers to leave the room at once. They obeyed, fleeing in all directions. Gran Guiscard, Bruce McDruid and Oscan Ligurio went with them.

The bomb went off. The fiery blast enveloped the tower shield for an instant. When it dissipated, the ghost councillors were gone, but Nicodemus was still standing. A grin – more of a sneer – spread from ear to ear, he clenched his fists, and prepared to charge into combat. Then a confused and angry expression crossed his face, and the heavily accented voice of Andre von Recklinghausen issued from his mouth. “No! These people are not yours to harm!” Nicodemus gave a furious cry of anger and frustration. “Oh, for goodness’ sake!” he shouted, in his own voice now, “I thought we’d sorted all this out!” Then he muttered a strange word – the command word for a contingency that teleported him away in an instant.

In the sudden, brief stillness that followed Korrigan felt a surge of satisfaction from the Humble Hook. It was very glad it had chosen him, and glad to have abandoned Nicodemus.

End of Session.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
That betrayal was unexpected. Nice. Was that a player's idea?
I'm glad you liked it. I myself enjoyed a frisson of schadenfreude when I came up with it. My wife wondered aloud why I kept cackling and rubbing my hands together in glee.

My players didn't see it coming either. Particularly since, during the session when he was supposed to be attempting to persuade the others to join him, Xambria's player was absent. But that had the unintended and welcome effect of distancing her from the others even further. The rationale now is that she knew only too well that persuasion was a lost cause.

It wasn't the player's idea, no. He was at the mercy of DM fiat, as I still regard Xambria as an NPC/magic item. (It's not my fault he keeps getting his characters killed!) But he had helped a great deal by always playing Xambria as an impatient, somewhat emotionless intellectual. Just the sort of person who could put sentiment to one side in pursuit of a philosophical goal.

Is Livia getting promoted to PC?
No. (Although I will need to decide exactly what to do with her assuming she survives.) The player will, at long last, be getting his original character back - in a manner of speaking: Uriel, Malthusius' third reincarnation (after the others were murdered by Stanfield's assassins) has had enough of hiding out in the Hidden Valley and is determined to take the risk of exposure and tag along for adventure #8. (In particular because he receives odd premonitions of the future, one of which has hinted that the unit will soon be in possession of an item that can help him to access the memories of his previous incarnations...)
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 20 (143) - Part One: The Ghost Council Swarm

  • In the aftermath of the bomb’s explosion, the unit hastily exchanged ideas. Yes, they had spent over an hour with Macbannin going through what to do in the event of an emergency, but here was living proof of the maxim that no plan survives contact with the enemy.
  • It was decided they should try to access the lighthouse from outside rather than head through the main hall. Those who had not been freed from their hosts were returned to their own bodies. Kiov Hetman, Xavier Sangreal and Ken Don stood perplexed and dazed.
  • Korrigan used his sending stone to contact Captain Rutger Smith aboard the Impossible: They would require extraction imminently. (Thank goodness they had had the forethought to leave the second stone with Smith…)
  • They had talked for too long: drawn by the sound of the explosion, Vicemi Terio arrived in the Grand Foyer and, with a disapproving groan, surveyed the scene before him. His eyes blazed brightly. Two ghost councillors glided in to hover alongside him. They were followed by Macbannin.
  • “There is a stray spirit in this hall,” said one councillor. Was it Xambria?
  • Summoned by Vicemi, the ghost council swarm appeared, moving with deliberate menace. Vicemi said, “Destroy those you do not recognise.” The swarm swept forward and attacked en masse, draining the life-force of everyone they touched. Ordinary weapons were no use against them, and most other forms of attack did a lot less damage than normal. Vitus Sigismund proved his worth: his radiant fists caused the swarm to groan and quail and his divine aura warded off their attacks. It was now clear why the council had been afraid of him.
  • Leon, Uru and Livia were already moving to the front door, but they found it was secured and were unable to open it from this side.
  • Standing firm alongside Vitus Sigmisund, covering the others’ retreat, Korrigan dragged Ken Don to his feet and urged him, Hetman and Xavier to “follow us”. But the Malice Lands knight was having none of it; he had made up his mind who to trust. “You, I don’t recognise,” he said and swung his sword at Korrigan. Korrigan caught it in his huge stone hand, wrenched it from his grip and threw it clattering to the floor. “This is some serious :):):):),” he said. “You’d better do as I say or you’ll die here.” Xavier backed away slowly, then turned on his heels and ran.
  • Through his connection to Jiese, Korrigan absorbed the energy of the ghosts’ attacks and turned it back upon them.
  • Gupta scrutinised Vicemi, searching for an advantage of some kind. Vicemi raised a hand and magically attacked an invisible form. They heard Xambria scream. Then Macbannin raised his hand and attacked Vicemi. Vicemi gave a wordless cry of anger and attacked back. They alternately disappeared, reappeared to attack and disappeared again, before Vicemi closed on Macbannin and the two of them vanished entirely, wreathed in magical coils.
  • Matunaaga used his Icon of Apet to become insubstantial, then ran across the foyer and straight through the front door. There was chaos outside – frightened officers, noises and shouting, a carriage racing by. He thought he could hear Han Jierre yelling orders in the distance. But all of that took a back seat to the shape that loomed in front of him: a shadowlisk on guard outside the main doors. He turned on his heels and ran straight back through into the foyer again! “Don’t go that way,” he said. Still insubstantial, he tried to run through the ghost council swarm, but found himself ducking, weaving and dodging their grasping necrotic hands – the swarm was insubstantial too! He emerged unscathed on the other side and dashed through the closed doors into the main hall, just as Cula Ravajhani kicked them open to come back through.
  • Cula did not notice Matunaaga as he dashed through her, focused as she was on the chaotic melee in front of her. She had her whip-like blade in one hand, a glowing wand in the other. She fired three flaming missiles at the newcomers, setting Rumdoom and Gupta on fire, and then raised her sword for battle. Korrigan absorbed the fire missile and fired it back at Cula. “You have betrayed the ideals of Miller’s philosophy,” he told her bluntly. This was a de facto challenge, and Korrigan’s words were so forceful they carried the weight of a clergy paladin.
  • With the doors to the main hall now open, Leon turned and opened a fey wormhole from the barred front door to just by the stage – as far as he could see. Livia jumped through, and Uru went through carried by Little Jack. Between them they opened all the doors through to the lighthouse and Leon opened a second wormhole, right by the exit of the first, that would take his allies (and anyone else following them), into the base of the lighthouse in an instant.
  • Rumdoom was dominated by one of the ghost councillors, but Korrigan used Glaucia’s bracers to free him. Then Rumdoom clutched at his reserve weapon, the hammer Kvarti had made for him and used it to put out the fires on him and Gupta. Then he retreated towards the wormhole alongside Vitus Sigismund and Gupta - who had both been fending off the ghost swarm, when it suddenly retreated before their onslaught.
  • Matunaaga had only a moment to take in the scene in the main hall. So many dead officers! He caught sight of a few he recognised: Ramos Zoltan; Oort Magus; Glaz du Sang Magi – all slumped, horrified and open-mouthed. From Leon’s vantage as he passed through, he noticed that Catherine Romana wasn’t there, but near where she had been sitting was the corpse of a dire tiger.
  • Matunaaga turned away from the scene of execution, and attacked Cula Ravjahani. She attacked back, forgetting Korrigan’s challenge, and was felled by the radiant power that punished her defiance. Matunaaga took her blade and followed Leon, Uru and Livia towards the lighthouse.
  • Not wishing to engage the ghost councillors that the swarm had left behind, Korrigan sent the bemused Ken Don and Kiov Hetman stumbling through the wormhole, waited until everyone else was clear and then followed.
  • Uru had already sent Winkin, Blinkin and Nod ahead to bring down the service elevators. Everyone piled in. (Cue musak.)
  • Their slow, steady trip upward was interrupted only by a return sending from Captain Smith: there were hostile ships in the area which he had been at pains to steer clear of until now. They needed to know that the Impossible’s approach to and depature from Mutravir would not go uncontested…
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Session 20 (143) - Part Two: Panicked Evacuation

  • They arrived at the top of the lighthouse to find ghost councillors and arcane marksmen waiting for them.
  • Leon teleported both Uru and Vitus into their midst. Uru killed a marksman and hid behind his body before the others even realised he was there. Gupta and Matunaaga took out the other two marksmen.
  • Vitus attacked the councillors with his radiant fists and they flew away and began to try to dominate their foes from a distance.
  • By the time Rumdoom arrived, there was no one left to fight!
  • All of the sudden, the ghost council swarm returned, spiralling around the tower like a moaning streamer. It began grabbing at the unit in an attempt to fling them off the lighthouse.
  • Leon and Livia made their way inside where they found the lighthouse mechanism and vial upon vial of valuable planar oils. Leon regretted that they no longer had the absurdist web. (Lavanya had given him a copy of it during their brief conversation. She had also told him to give this copy to whoever asked for it, without question or objection.) Livia took out the copy from her belt pouch where Xambria had put it. “Will this work?” she asked. “I doubt it,” said Leon. But they tried it and it did! Leon began to fiddle with the lighthouse levers, while Livia collected oils.
  • Outside, the ghost council swarm succeeded in grabbing Vitus, whirling him around the tower, and draining him. Vitus kicked himself free, but fell down on to the roof where he was only just able to stop himself from sliding off altogether. When he regained his wits, he tried scaling the lighthouse, but found the going very difficult.
  • By now Uru was inside the lighthouse, helping Leon and Livia. Little Jack loaded more and more oils into the web; Uru aided Leon to figure out if they had got the lighthouse settings right. (It was all well and good for Macbannin to tell them it was simple, but it was difficult to see from their vantage which setting was on, which was off, and which was ‘coterminous’…)
  • Gupta asked the swarm, “Can you remember each of your names?” The swarm moaned stupidly and ceased its attacks. The others were able to cause it to disperse again before it regained its wits.
  • Leon announced that he and Uru had sorted the lighthouse. Uru broke the mechanism for good measure. Leon created a wormhole from the lighthouse balcony to the edge of the roof, just above the entrance. As and when they were able to break away, the unit began to pass through it. Matunaaga took out another ghost councillor, then leapt off the balcony and flew down. Vitus simply ran across the roof. Korrigan kept his cool and ordered Ken Don, Kiov Hetman and Rumdoom through the wormhole.
  • Below, Leon saw a shadowlisk and more ghost councillors. He hoped to evade notice, but they saw him. The shadowlisk hissed menacingly and clambered up the wall of the mansion, smashing its claws through the windows and the plaster façade. Just as it drew close and was about to bring to bear its baleful gaze, a troop of marksmen led by Amielle Latimer arrived in the garden below. They took aim and fired a volley at the beast. It cried in pain, recoiled and withdrew. Amielle gestured at them to flee.
  • Leon created another wormhole as far down the switchback road to the sea as he could manage. The others began to move through it, shrugging off the dominance of the councillors.
  • Still up on the lighthouse, Korrigan transformed into a Bolt of Avilona and fired himself through both wormholes.
  • Leon created another wormhole as soon as he was through, and in this way they created shortcut after short cut on their way down towards the quay. There they could see lights, boats pulling away from the wharf, vague shapes scrambling aboard other vessels.
  • They were one, maybe two more wormholes away from the shore when Leon found his line of sight blocked by a sudden bank of magical fog. Worse still, his latest wormhole winked out of existence, dispelled, leaving Rumdoom, Vitus, Livia and Korrigan (with Don and Hetman in tow) stuck further up the trail.
  • Beyond the fog, Leon, Uru, Gupta and Matunaaga heard a mechanical clanking. Gliding through it came Vicemi Terio, a bleak golem and three book-pin guards. Vicemi said, “There has been too much talking already. Please do me this one favour: do not surrender. Give me the pleasure of killing you.” As he spoke, the ghost council swarm reappeared in an ever-decreasing circle all around them.
  • Back up the trail, a shadowlisk slithered through the last wormhole, guided by four ghost councillors.
  • Out to sea they heard the rumble of cannon, as the RNS Impossible fought its way through the Obscurati blockade…

End of Session.
 
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SanjMerchant

Explorer
I find myself wishing there was fan art of these characters: I have a specific idea of what Gupta looks like, though I can't quite describe it, beyond sort of a vague description of Indian/Anglo mixed heritage person of rather slight build.

Leon, to me, is literally just the Criminal Background art from the D&D 5E PHB. Like, outfit and everything.

Korrigan is, I dunno, a pretty archetypal leading man; Chris Pine-ish, but a bit older. Shatner back in the 60's is close, but I picture Korrigan's look as a touch less polished. Basically, that Hollywood "we spent hours and hours designing makeup to make him look like he doesn't care about his looks beyond regular shaving and haircuts."

Uru keeps coming through to me as a black-scaled kobold, I think because he reminds me of a kobold character from another campaign journal I read long ago (yes, I know that's wrong, and something out of Gremlins is probably closer to the mark, but... :shrug: )

Matunaaga is very vague in my head, beyond being very, very lithe and having a sort of Ambiguously Brown thing going. Though sometimes it's more like something Eastern European-ish.

Uriel is pretty typical of the official Deva art: all long robes, odd skin colors, and inscrutable expressions (and a shaved/hairless head for some reason). Malthusius, on the other hand was a bespectacled kindly grandpa/absent-minded professor type (leaning more towards the former). I have an especially clear mental image of his mix of shock and dread as he realized the Horrible Truth about Roland.

I really wish I had pictures of what I thought each looked like.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
I find myself wishing there was fan art of these characters:
There is, if I can find the sketches.

I have a specific idea of what Gupta looks like, though I can't quite describe it, beyond sort of a vague description of Indian/Anglo mixed heritage person of rather slight build.
The slight build is right. She's actually mixed race African/Indian. Her late father looked rather like the dad from Fresh Prince. Gupta herself is short-haired and not unattractive but not as good-looking as all that. Maybe this: https://qph.ec.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-5a6618a29093e197586862cf19a5bd12-c

Leon, to me, is literally just the Criminal Background art from the D&D 5E PHB. Like, outfit and everything.
Less aggressive, more suave. A swirling, voluminous black cloak distinguishes him from 'heroic tier' when he wore more fey greens (to advertise his pursuit of adoption by the Vekeshi and the Unseen Court). Back then I didn't have a facial image of Leon because 'tiefling with facial burns' sufficed. But now I realise that he looks rather like a young Charles Dance (with red skin and horns, of course): http://images5.fanpop.com/image/photos/27900000/Charles-Dance-screens-charles-dance-27986936-640-360.jpg

Korrigan is, I dunno, a pretty archetypal leading man; Chris Pine-ish, but a bit older. Shatner back in the 60's is close, but I picture Korrigan's look as a touch less polished. Basically, that Hollywood "we spent hours and hours designing makeup to make him look like he doesn't care about his looks beyond regular shaving and haircuts."
Youre quite far wide of the mark here. Korrigan is black. Black with gold filigree. He might be played in the movie by Idris Elba, but only because he's 'current'. In my head he looks more like Harry Belafonte crossed with Hammerstein. (http://aishaadams.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/54834b6dfd63e4b2a63e76f3547f893f.jpg)

Uru keeps coming through to me as a black-scaled kobold, I think because he reminds me of a kobold character from another campaign journal I read long ago (yes, I know that's wrong, and something out of Gremlins is probably closer to the mark, but... :shrug: )
Gremlin with jet-black skin, amber eyes and sharp teeth. With goggles on. And a hat. But he often appears as a small black kid who might be Korrigan's son.

Matunaaga is very vague in my head, beyond being very, very lithe and having a sort of Ambiguously Brown thing going. Though sometimes it's more like something Eastern European-ish.
A bit like this guy - http://i.mdldb.net/cache/9vm/o/jLlKQwD1_32e1f7_m3.jpg - (Kyuzo from Seven samurai) crossed with Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye (for apparel and fighting style). Very long black hair. Quite small in stature.

Uriel is pretty typical of the official Deva art: all long robes, odd skin colors, and inscrutable expressions (and a shaved/hairless head for some reason). Malthusius, on the other hand was a bespectacled kindly grandpa/absent-minded professor type (leaning more towards the former). I have an especially clear mental image of his mix of shock and dread as he realized the Horrible Truth about Roland.
Uriel was the player's original concept for his deva: very tall (6'6"), robed and cowled, alien. But I wanted to build the 'team' around established story-telling archetypes and we hadn't got our 'sage/mentor' in place. The player began to develop the character to fit that mold and he morphed into Malthusius, a deva who enjoyed feigning the trappings of old age. Malthusius always wore red robes. He smoked a pipe and and a short white beard. Facially a bit like Kelsey Grammar.

BTW - you missed out Rumdoom. He looks a bit like this - http://assets.fightland.com/content-images/article/how-tom-hardy-prepared-to-play-charles-bronson/tom-hardy-bronson-333_vice_670.jpg - with a few extra pounds and a tall bowler hat.

I really wish I had pictures of what I thought each looked like.
Me too. I wished I could have got the Kickstarter reward to have Claudio Pozas illustrate them. I'd give my eye teeth for that!
 

SanjMerchant

Explorer
The slight build is right. She's actually mixed race African/Indian. Her late father looked rather like the dad from Fresh Prince. Gupta herself is short-haired and not unattractive but not as good-looking as all that. Maybe this: https://qph.ec.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-5a6618a29093e197586862cf19a5bd12-c
A fair bit darker than I imagined, but otherwise that's quite a close match! I think because I know so many Indian-white hybrids, myself included, that it's sort of a go-to for not-quite-Indian. (And, for the record, I meant Indian as in rajas and Bollywood and my father's ancestors, not the people my white American mother's ancestors trampled to Manifest our Destiny.)

Less aggressive, more suave. A swirling, voluminous black cloak distinguishes him from 'heroic tier' when he wore more fey greens (to advertise his pursuit of adoption by the Vekeshi and the Unseen Court). Back then I didn't have a facial image of Leon because 'tiefling with facial burns' sufficed. But now I realise that he looks rather like a young Charles Dance (with red skin and horns, of course): http://images5.fanpop.com/image/photos/27900000/Charles-Dance-screens-charles-dance-27986936-640-360.jpg
True. I guess I imagined him as being standoffish by default, but able to turn on the charm when he wanted to. I kinda forgot about the scarring, though, even before getting to the part of the plot where they were healed, as well as never being quite sure just how big the word "LIAR" was. Like, did the letters go down onto his nose and cheeks or was it just his forehead or what?

Youre quite far wide of the mark here. Korrigan is black. Black with gold filigree. He might be played in the movie by Idris Elba, but only because he's 'current'. In my head he looks more like Harry Belafonte crossed with Hammerstein. (http://aishaadams.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/54834b6dfd63e4b2a63e76f3547f893f.jpg)
And the award for Casual Yet Blatant Racism goes to... SanjMerchant! Seriously, I remember at some point figuring out I was wrong about this and correcting my mental image only to have forgotten about it and reverted to my initial impression. (Where's a good "derp" emoji when you need one?)

Gremlin with jet-black skin, amber eyes and sharp teeth. With goggles on. And a hat. But he often appears as a small black kid who might be Korrigan's son.
Yeah, that's about where I get to once I remember that I'm not reading about that little speedster from the Bug Apocalypse story.

A bit like this guy - http://i.mdldb.net/cache/9vm/o/jLlKQwD1_32e1f7_m3.jpg - (Kyuzo from Seven samurai) crossed with Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye (for apparel and fighting style). Very long black hair. Quite small in stature.
Huh. Never figured East Asian (much less specifically Japanese). I also pictured taller than the rest of the cast (with the possible exceptions of Conquo and Uriel), to further emphasize just how lean he is.

Uriel was the player's original concept for his deva: very tall (6'6"), robed and cowled, alien. But I wanted to build the 'team' around established story-telling archetypes and we hadn't got our 'sage/mentor' in place. The player began to develop the character to fit that mold and he morphed into Malthusius, a deva who enjoyed feigning the trappings of old age. Malthusius always wore red robes. He smoked a pipe and and a short white beard. Facially a bit like Kelsey Grammar.
Interesting! I don't think I pictured Mal in robes at all; I pictured something roughly like Tolkein is often pictured wearing, but perhaps taken backwards a few decades in style. Pants, at any rate.

BTW - you missed out Rumdoom. He looks a bit like this - http://assets.fightland.com/content-images/article/how-tom-hardy-prepared-to-play-charles-bronson/tom-hardy-bronson-333_vice_670.jpg - with a few extra pounds and a tall bowler hat.
That's because Rumdoom has literally turned into a cartoon character in my head since coming back from Drakr. Like, really, really exaggerated, and with more than just a few extra pounds beyond the fellow in that picture.

Me too. I wished I could have got the Kickstarter reward to have Claudio Pozas illustrate them. I'd give my eye teeth for that!
Ah, the ever elusive high-end Kickstarter rewards. :sigh:
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
A fair bit darker than I imagined, but otherwise that's quite a close match! I think because I know so many Indian-white hybrids, myself included, that it's sort of a go-to for not-quite-Indian. (And, for the record, I meant Indian as in rajas and Bollywood and my father's ancestors, not the people my white American mother's ancestors trampled to Manifest our Destiny.)
I thought that's what you meant. I'm British, so that's be default assumption for that term!

True. I guess I imagined him as being standoffish by default, but able to turn on the charm when he wanted to. I kinda forgot about the scarring, though, even before getting to the part of the plot where they were healed, as well as never being quite sure just how big the word "LIAR" was. Like, did the letters go down onto his nose and cheeks or was it just his forehead or what?
Right across the face. Whole face! Big letters. The irony is that Leon has ended up being a really stand-up guy. Shame his whole identity is a lie within a lie within a lie...

And the award for Casual Yet Blatant Racism goes to... SanjMerchant! Seriously, I remember at some point figuring out I was wrong about this and correcting my mental image only to have forgotten about it and reverted to my initial impression. (Where's a good "derp" emoji when you need one?)
Easily done. It's for that very reason that I've been at pains to mention Korrigan's ethnicity every once in a while because default archetypes are hard to shift.

Huh. Never figured East Asian (much less specifically Japanese). I also pictured taller than the rest of the cast (with the possible exceptions of Conquo and Uriel), to further emphasize just how lean he is.
Not a direct analogue necessarily. And I just realised I never really checked with the player that's what he's imagining. Same for a lot of these descriptions, really.

Interesting! I don't think I pictured Mal in robes at all; I pictured something roughly like Tolkein is often pictured wearing, but perhaps taken backwards a few decades in style. Pants, at any rate.
He had a close connection with the clergy, and dressed in a more flamboyant style than you might expect. That's why he and Cippiano got along so well.

That's because Rumdoom has literally turned into a cartoon character in my head since coming back from Drakr. Like, really, really exaggerated, and with more than just a few extra pounds beyond the fellow in that picture.
Yeah, he as cartoonish on his return. I probably missed the part where he got back to off-peak fitness in the months after Revelations. That image is way too lean, though. Probably closer to this: http://i4.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article1873474.ece/ALTERNATES/s615b/Charles-Bronson.jpg

If you've got a PayPal account, Claudio is always looking for work.
Don't tempt me! How much does he charge? (Sweats like a junkie and paces the floor.)
 
Claudio was doing work for us in bulk, so I think it was around $40 per portrait. It might be a bit more now, since that was a few years ago and he's doing work for WotC these days.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Wrapping Up for the Summer

So that’s it for the summer. Last session.

Funnily enough, my wife’s due date has been and gone with no sign of No. 2 Son, so we could have had a final session this week after all. But I thought it best to have a clean break with a nice cliff-hanger instead of keeping my fingers crossed, so we will resume our campaign with the ‘Showdown’ encounter in September.

I plan to mark the boundary between adventures 7 & 8 with Bonds of Forced Faith. Then straight into Diaspora.

Our last session flagged up some real differences between systems for me. (This isn’t a criticism. I love 4e. But the outcome of each system is very different.) In 4e, it would have taken several sessions to blow through those encounters as a series of set-piece battles, and the dynamism of movement and flight would have been missing. One of my players said he very much enjoyed the sense that the encounters were flowing with or reacting to them, and that was the feeling I was going for. We ran this sequence of encounters without minis, and kept up the pace and the flow: from the Grand Foyer, through the Main Hall, up to the Lighthouse, then across the roof to the ‘Exit blocked’ encounter (which Amielle Latimer helped the group to sidestep).

Leon’s wormhole power was a nice way to keep the entire party mobile across huge distances, as he can create a dimension door anywhere within line of sight. But it also provided a nice way for Vicemi Terio to intercept the party – using magical fog to block line of sight and then dispelling the last wormhole before half the party had gotten through it. Now only half the party will be dealing with the Showdown encounter, while the other will be pursued by ‘Exit Blocked’ (as the wormholes stay open and can be used by foes as well as friends).

We’ll use minis for this, our first set-pitched battle in months!

I have to say that our reboot of Zeitgeist has been the most fun I have ever had as a DM. It really does feel like ‘coming home’. All of my initial reservations – about the system change, and the disconnect after three long years – have proved to be unfounded. The players have slipped back into their old roles hand-to-glove, which speaks volumes for the amount of thought they put into their characters when they first generated them six years ago. Whatever effort I devote to the campaign is always rewarded at the table and I count myself lucky to have such a dedicated and imaginative bunch of players.

Can’t wait to start up again in the autumn.
 

gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Wrapping up for the Summer, Part 2!

Before I go, a word on Lavanya and Xambria, to clarify some of the strange goings-on during the convocation:

When Lavanya spoke to Leon at the table (in front of the other players), she simply told him to ‘speak to Erskine Haffkruger’ (which he obviously could not do, as Erskine died before he got the chance). But that was just the lie Leon told his friends, at her behest. We handled what Lavanya actually said in an email. She told him she currently inhabited Erskine in the same way he inhabited Xavier – using the same mortal possession ritual (which, she said, he had taught her). She said she was trying to help, but couldn’t tell him everything, as per usual. This time, though, she was going to let him handle the problem himself instead of intervening directly, as she had tried to do with Borne, to no avail. She told him to trust Macbannin (but this information was contained in a ‘dream bubble’ that would only burst at the right moment). Then she handed him a copy of the absurdist web and told him to give it to anyone who asked for it, and not to question them if they did so.

Unbeknownst to Leon, Lavanya also appeared to Macbannin, as he extracted Erskine Haffkruger’s soul. She told him that Korrigan’s unit were not dead, that they were here at the convocation, and that they needed his help. (She didn’t tell him who they were because Lavanya has to be careful to only nudge events in the intended direction. If she just came out and told Leon everything she knew, for example, the whole timeline would be different, and the outcome of her intervention would be impossible to predict. Both she and Leon have learned this lesson the hard way.)

I should add that I finally know who Lavanya is now, but I’m saving that revelation for later.

Meanwhile, of course, Xambria was making her own plans to switch sides. While this was DM fiat (to replace Pemberton’s intervention), the player and I worked together to figure out just exactly how Xambria would go about this and the rationale behind her actions. She has been with the unit for a long time, but never really felt herself to be a true part of the group. Her sense of loyalty was nascent at best. But she certainly had no reason to wish the unit any harm. So she began her ‘journey’ to defection by seeing if she could persuade the others round to her way of thinking. Matters were greatly simplified when her player’s workload prevented him from engaging in email exchanges with the others (targeting those he felt he might be able to persuade) and a train cancellation stopped him turning up to the next session. That meant that Xambria had become so besotted with the Obscurati Grand Design – so intellectually awe-struck – that she had completely gone native.

Once she had established that persuasion was a non-starter, she took the opportunity of her one-to-one with Nicodemus to establish that he would be ‘lenient’ with hypothetical spies. (She wanted to belive this, so she believed it. It might also have been true, under other circumstances. Who knows?) She also had to be cautious because Livia Hatfield is herself a spy. So Xambria suppressed Livia without telling the others, and during her talk with Nicodemus told him, as Livia, that she heard a rumour before leaving Slate that RHC officers were planning to infiltrate a high-level meeting. But before she investigated any further she sounded Nicodemus out on what he reaction would be. These were patriotic countrymen, and 'Livia' would not want to betray them to certain death. Nicodemus reassured her that he would give them the chance to join the Obscurati, if they were willing.

Xambria’s remaining reservation was the large number of delegates devoted to the Colossus faction. When that stumbling block was removed (albeit in a quite ruthless way), she chose that moment and revealed herself. Having taken the absurdist web from Leon, she believed that she had them imprisoned, so they would have to surrender, not die, and reconsider their loyalties over the term of their imprisonment.

It has to be said that this really was a triumph of wishful thinking over common sense (after all, it was Xambria who killed Lya Jierre, and now she plans to go cap-in-hand to the conspiracy her uncle leads…). But that’s what was going on ‘behind the scenes’ before her Judas moment.

The aim of all this was to avoid two key areas of difficulty:

1. Awkwardness when the players discover Macbannin’s murder plot. My players were intent on remaining undiscovered, and were unlikely to reveal themselves without a nudge. Interestingly, Gupta’s player (roleplaying her sense of indignation and anger towards the Ob, whose actions had caused the death of her family) blurted out a lot of information about Macbannin’s actions when challenging his morality, in such a way that it might have tipped their hand even without Lavanya’s tip-off. This created a lovely confluence of factors that helped a potentially eggy moment develop with greater ease. Leon’s sudden revelation of their true identities was equally dramatic. You should have seen the other players’ faces!

2. Pemberton’s intervention during ‘Splinter Cell’ was something I didn’t really want to use. A great twist, but one that required him to see through the players’ ruse by DM fiat. I wanted to give them the chance to stay hidden and Xambria’s betrayal worked to achieve that. Secondly, it also suggested that the players need not have gone to the lengths of using the mortal possession ritual. There was a ‘come one, come all’ feeling to the Ob convention. Having the duplicant intercepted instead reinforced just how tight Ob security was. And having Macbannin give the players the bomb also meant they an ‘ace-in-the-hole’ should they find themselves in a tight corner. (The explosion still cleared the room and set the flight encounters off.)

Xambria’s treachery really was as dramatically successful as I had hoped. The double-twist that Leon had pulled a fast one and still had the absurdist web was almost as much fun (and gave Xambria’s player a shock of his own). It was a great way of ratcheting up the tension – as we had with Macbannin’s exposure a session earlier. If we’d had to break for the summer on either of those two week, I’d have gone away happy.

Now I just need to decide what the Ob will do with Xambria, who was left behind, along with her clockwork simulacrum. Will they reward her? Make use of her? Or punish her? (Would Lya Jierre even know that it was Xambria who shot her? It was in the back of the head, after all.)

One thought I’m having is that Lya Jierre might show up in Xambria’s clockwork automaton at the end of adventure #9. Or the pair of them might be working together to defeat the unit.

Also – quick question: can eladrin have children with humans?

Anyway, that’s it for now. Might post a few idle ramblings over summer, but who knows if I’ll have time?
 
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Dragons can breed with snails in D&D. Sure, you could have half-eladrin, though it would probably require some magic (to explain why Danor doesn't have a ton), and I'd stat them as half-elves.
 

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