Tobold's Blog
Thursday, March 17, 2016
Zeitgeist: The Dying Skyseer - Session 03

In the previous session the constables had intervened in a battle between bandits and thieves, killing everybody but Morena, the bandit leader's wife who had been kidnapped by the thieves. In this session they continued their way through the Cloudwood and reached the camp of the dying skyseer Nevard. Nevard confirmed that he knew Gale, the "eco-terrorist" that the constables were looking for, and that he could arrange a meeting. However he wanted the group to do something for him first: Take him to the top of Cauldron Hill to watch the stars at night.

Cauldron Hill is the highest point in the city of Flint, but also a haunted location. At the top of the hill the connection to the parallel world of Shadowfell is strong, and a coven of witches used that fact long ago to terrorize Flint and hide in Shadowfell when somebody came after them. Finally they were vanquished, but Cauldron Hill remains full of dangerous dark magic, and the mayor of the Nettles quarter in which the hill is located is always a powerful mage skilled in the defense against the dark arts. Fortunately for the group their invoker Eldion had worked in the past for Mayor Reed Macbannin, so there was some chance that they could get a permit to climb the hill.

But first the group held a lively discussion on what to tell their superiors about their progress in the case. James, with his background as second generation constable, wanted to report everything and just follow orders. Eldion, the politician, was a lot more skeptical about whether their bosses had told them everything and whether Gale was really culpable of everything she is accused of; so he wanted to not tell their bosses about the potential meeting with Gale, to keep his options open in case he didn't believe her to be guilty. In the end they told their boss that they wanted to do this favor for Nevard to get "information about" Gale, without going into details. Their boss, Stover Delft, was okay with that, and commended them for having killed the bandit leader. He also was very interested in the criminal contacts of Nilasa, and asked that after helping Nevard the constables should look into where Nilasa apparently bought illegal goods for the terrorists.

On visiting the manor of Mayor Macbannin, a haughty butler made the constables wait while the mayor was still receiving a courier. Then the courier came out of the manor, smoked a cigarette and chatted a bit with the group before the butler called them in. Mayor Macbannin immediately recognized and welcomed Eldion, telling him that he had taken an interest in his career since Eldion left the Mayor's service to advance his political career with a stint in the constabulary. While he normally didn't let anybody visit Cauldron Hill, in this case the Mayor was willing to make an exception for Eldion, as that would make great training in fighting against dark magic. He even hinted that he was looking for a successor one day, and Eldion might just be the right candidate.

So the group got a carriage and went back to Nevard. A shaman in Nevard's entourage used a scroll of dubious origin on the group which shared their health with Nevard; that allowed the old man to travel in spite of his frailty, and even protected him against damage at the cost of the health of the constables. Back again at the Mayor's manor, Macbannin instructed them how to keep safe against the dark magic of Cauldron Hill: They had to wear special iron amulets to prevent being cursed, and he provided them with four kegs of goat's blood with which to make a ring of blood around their camp. The shadow monsters that were likely to come over from the Shadowfell to Cauldron Hill at night usually weren't very bright and would follow a trail of blood in the hope to find a wounded animal, even if that trail led them in an endless circle. However the constables were warned that this protection wasn't perfect; they needed to keep still and hide the light of their fire with stones.

As it was getting late and the encounter on Cauldron Hill risked to take some time, we ended the session at this point.


Question Tobold. Do you try to telegraph choices that would benefit your players or do you present the options and leave it completely up to them to choose what to pick without any hints as to what might be he "best" choice?
A dying man wants to go "Stargazing" at a site of powerful dark magics? Did none of them question this even slightly? Still, it is not as though they've linked their health to his in a way that would allow him to drain their vitals to fuel any incantations.

Do you try to telegraph choices that would benefit your players or do you present the options and leave it completely up to them to choose what to pick without any hints as to what might be he "best" choice?

I don't telegraph the best choice. I even try not to present distinct choices, but rather just the situation. For example I never told the players that in the fight against the bandits and the thieves they had the option to take sides.

It is the great feature of the Zeitgeist campaign that there are rarely simplistic good vs. evil choices, which is why I removed alignment from the campaign. It isn't "the chaotic evil necromancer threatens the lawful good townspeople", but rather "the eco-terrorist threatens the industrialists", with full information about how the industrialists treat their workers badly. It's grey vs. grey instead of black vs. white, and the players need to make more mature choices than in usual fantasy worlds.
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