The God Box review (long, somewhat harsh)

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Re: The God Box review (long, somewhat harsh)

Postby ShirtlessOBrien » Tue Jan 08, 2019 5:41 pm

Thanks for the reply.

fougerec wrote:Yes it's a trope. A trope in a game that is clearly meant to be cinematic in nature.

Tropes are not good or bad though, they are in some sense the building blocks of a story. But this block isn't building anything. Compare it to the plane crash in, say, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. That crash (a) was earned by the previous events, it didn't happen out of the blue and (b) got Indiana and company to the village that needed rescuing which they would otherwise never have visited. It was "cinematic in nature" but also it was a vital part of the story that made sense in context, grew out of what happened before and was necessary to what was to happen in the future.

This plane crash happens for no reason, and one or two fight scenes later the PCs simply walk out of the jungle at the place they were headed for in the first place. If the crash had never happened nothing would have been different. No secrets were learned, no threats were revealed, nothing happened that mattered.

There's no indication anywhere that Quinn is that potent (quite the opposite actually based on the abilities listed as Omega Clearance in the Primer) nor is there any indication that the ID tablet is important to the plot nor that Chavez is. It's ID and a contact. Simple as that. I know my group attached absolutely no importance to them beyond just that - ID and contact name.

It was in the tweets which are canon as far as I know. Baruk Kaah dimthreaded in to kill Quinn and the President, Quinn pulled a reality shard out of his short shorts and blasted him with it, and Baruk Kaah dimthreaded out again with his tail between his legs.

Anyway, in a module like this you have a limited amount of time and headspace to establish stuff and ideally you use it to establish plot points that actually matter, rather than fake plot points that don't matter and contradict other story elements. Nothing at all would be better than the plastic chit business because nothing at all doesn't set up overt contradictions with the guns and paper diary we see later in the Living Land.

My understanding was that the plane is dropping off the PCs and then doing other things. Hard to do that without an NPC pilot. I had the PCs (other than the Tharkoldian with Sensation Supressors) black out from simple depressurization and Gs. Normal people can handle about 5gs the plane can reasonably expect to pull 6-8, more than enough to cause someone to black out without actual damage.

People blacking out from g-forces is mostly an issue with accelerating up or sideways for prolonged periods, not forwards very briefly like in a crash situation, and if the plane was high enough up for depressurisation to knock you out I don't think there could possibly be a random lakten up there. (How something the size of a pterodactyl brings down something the size and speed of a US military cargo plane and lives to squawk about it is another plot hole but I didn't have space or inclination to harp on every single weirdness with this module, just the highlights.)

As for filler; fights in Torg Eternity, especially lower powered ones, serve to let the players manipulate their cards and pick up possibilities for later encounters. Even the flight against the Lakten, properly described is tense but not dangerous. I used the thrashing of the beast to cause the plane to start to fall so there was more impetus on getting out of the plane and away before the whole thing came crashing down.

Ideally a fight scene is a chance to manipulate their cards but also serves to advance a meaningful plot in some way.

It clearly says earlier "An hour or so later the plane banks. In the far distance you see the top of the Washington Monument, lit by a full moon in the darkness." indicating it's night when the plane is flying to Washington.

Fair enough. But why would you fly over The Living Land at night, unless it's to avoid exactly what happened, a random passing dino eating the plane?

Again the rules fully support not recovering Shock "Shock is recovered immediately after a fight or other stressful situation ends unless the Game
Master feels there’s no opportunity to rest.

The examples of situations where you don't recover Shock are things like running battles or extended chases on foot. I mean, how in all the cosms is there "no opportunity to rest" when what you are doing is exactly resting, at the foot of a big tree, while eating rations?

Any GM worth the title wouldn't force the roll when there's the rations. The adventure is assuming that the PCs don't grab the rations. My group didn't. The Aylish folk didn't recognize the value of them and the Tharkoldian was busy using TK to get the group away from the falling plane.

I agree that any GM worth the title would fix a lot of things about The God Box, but that's the problem. I want to pay a professional writer so I don't have to patch and kitbash every little thing to make it make sense.

Or the PCs can There's nothing saying they can't. Nothing saying the GM can't build on this. I see many, many complaints about lack of options but IMO options don't need to be expressly laid out. If the PCs do decide to do something about it - excellent. If they don't then the GM doesn't need to carry it through.

As above. With enough work and brainstorming we can make something resembling a silk purse out of any published sow's ear but when I pay for a module I do not want to have to. As written it's just a random fight that comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere.

I think you're reading more into the two things that was even intended or even mentioned. It's ID and a contact name and nothing more. I think that had either been more important or if the plot revolved around them things would easily be derailed (which is not better than railroading and in many ways worse). I am curious as to why the name of an NPC and an ID chit would be seem to be so important to you?

"Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there."

If the things you establish in the opening scene are red herrings then there isn't really a plot to speak of. If you make a big deal out of something in the opening scene it should be because it establishes something important that will happen later.

This is an issue but reality is weird. Things often transform at speed of plot. I don't think that's likely to change, so it's up to GMs to do things how we need to.

I am fine with things happening at the speed of plot as long as it's not too egregiously obvious. For example a lot of people criticised the most recent season of Game of Thrones because it established a sense of scale and time to travel in earlier seasons, with people taking many days and episodes and incidents to get anywhere, but then at the end of the last season people appeared to be doing intercontinental teleports at the speed of plot. One item in a pile of rubble mysteriously surviving for weeks, fine, one dude hiding out in the jungle not going crazy for days, sure. But thirty-odd people all packing high-teach heat and talking normally months into the invasion, when the sole bloody reason they didn't send the army to go bring them in was because by the time they got to the survivors the army would be unable to shoot their weapons or comprehend a chain of command? That's way past my willing suspension of disbelief. That's a plot hole doing a dance right in front of you.

Assuming the GM read it ahead of time then it's easy enough to play up this behavior. This is like the third time Billy has shown up in our game and each time he's always super keen to inoculate the PCs before and after the go into a cosm.

It's still a Chekov's Gun that never fires, in a module that is full of them. The occasional red herring or bit of local colour is fine as part of a balanced diet with lots of solid plotting, but not as a substitute for a plot and that is how it is appearing here.

There's no indication that Rec Pakken is involved until much later (after the fight in Chicago), at this point the sidebar indicates that the trees are connected to Heketon so I used that. So Heketon reroutes that portal (because why would it want another High Lord to gain more power) and also sends the PCs to the same place. Start laying the seeds that the Darkness Devices are sentient and have their own agendas. The portal in Merritika isn't controlled by a darkness device and when Malacryx gets to the one in Chicago Rec Pakken is aware and in control.

We know Baruk Kaah and Malacryx planned the heist out with the goal of sticking Lanala in a box, the PCs get told about it by an NPC who witnessed it. Since by default I assume Baruk is packin' Pakken at any given time, that means Pakken was there when they made the plans and if the big dumb spear wasn't even paying enough attention to that conversation to pick up on the fact that it would be important and helpful to box up Lanala there's no hope for it.

Making Heketon the entity messing with the portals works for me, and that was how I was planning to fix it if I did run something based on this module. It would also be a great reason to move the infodump vision scene from the beginning of Act Five to the start of Act Two to convey the plot and establish some stakes. Heketon actually has a reason to mess with Malacryx, a reason to infodump on the PCs, and a reason to send the PCs after Malacryx. It also makes a hell of a lot more sense Heketon rerouting the PCs to a convenient spot where they can find allies and a reality shard than Rek Pakken doing it. You should write modules professionally. :D

There's no indication that she intended to go to Merritika. There's no indication that the trip there is part of her plan. She doesn't do anything there other than try to find a way out. The portal she finds takes her to Chicago and the first thing she does is find the Dimthread Tree to get to Mexico (again) with the assistance of Rec Pakken. At no point is there an indication that she didn't try to just portal from Washington to Mexico...just things didn't go her way. Why walk to Chicago when there's no indication that the portal isn't going to work? She has no foreknowledge (unless the GM is metagaming and playing her with access to information she does not have)

That makes a bit more sense of the module but if it isn't conveyed to the players somehow then it still makes the plot seem nonsensical with hindsight. It still doesn't solve the problems of why Rec Pakken didn't just dimthread Malacryx home immediately, nor of why Heketon would drop everyone into The Land Below instead of into the middle of a weretiger jamboree in Orrorsh or something.

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Re: The God Box review (long, somewhat harsh)

Postby ShirtlessOBrien » Tue Jan 08, 2019 5:52 pm

Kuildeous wrote:Thanks for that review. Certainly truthful about it being harsh, but I get why you wrote this.

You're right that it doesn't really seem to matter if the plane makes it or not, so I think when I do run this, I'll plan on the plane making it. Now if the players decide to play a Dino Attack… Or even the Deep Mist (which causes a dinosaur to crash into the plane)… Or any other cosm card that adds complications, then I may switch to the lakten attack.

That seems like an excellent way to run it.

I think that Colonel Chavez's death is a handy reference for how dangerous the war is. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a plot point tied to this, but I wouldn't expect one either. I think here you might be too harsh since I feel this is good background effects, though your suggestions of duplicity does add more drama. I may use your dying hardpoint idea for the holdouts. That hasn't been explored much, and I like the plot elements of hardpoints forming and dying in the wild.

As I think I said to someone earlier, bits of local colour like an officer dying are fine if they are the sprinkles on top of a solid plot, but there is no solid plot here.

I appreciate the opportunity to talk this out and provide some suggestions. I personally feel that you could've provided many of the suggestions without the underlying snark, but you already know this isn't going to be a popular post and you're not trying to win popularity points.

Point taken, and if this module had been brought to me my a keeno writing their first home game I would have been a lot more gentle. I have different standards for something people paid good money for that is supposed to be a professional-quality product.

I honestly can see running just Acts 1 and 5 and saving the other Acts for storytelling that doesn't rush the Storm Knights to the conclusion. I would like to explore more of flooded Chicago and the Rec Stalek cult. And of course there are all manner of fun stories to tell about Merritika. It wouldn't be the first time I tear apart an adventure to make side quests into main quests.

I agree completely, it's not that all of the ideas in The God Box are terrible ideas, it's that the story structure connecting and presenting them is godawful. Malacryx and her handmaidens are solid villains, and if you heard about them first and fought a single handmaiden second and then "oh dear God she has a dozen more like that first handmaiden" third and finally you punch on with Malacryx on a rickety bridge over an erupting volcano in a plane that is about to crash into an Aerosmith concert or something that would be awesome. But instead you never see one scale of them until the very last scene where Malacryx is basically reduced to an exploding prop. The Empire of the Pyrian Fire Tamers is a great villainous organisation but you barely get to see them before the empire falls in a cut scene. There are good ideas here but squeezed into The God Box they don't have any room to breathe.

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Re: The God Box review (long, somewhat harsh)

Postby ShirtlessOBrien » Tue Jan 08, 2019 5:58 pm

agarrett wrote: The question of player agency throughout is harder to solve, and will probably require scene-by-scene work. Any thoughts on that?

That's too big a question for me this morning. I think Malacryx and The God Box are strong ideas but to make them work you'd need at least one Act or adventure before The God Box proper to introduce the players to the Gold Suns and Malacryx, and ideally Thrakmoss too, then establish before it happens that The God Box exists and whoever controls The God Box is going to decide the cosmic future of The Living Land, and then a clear motivation is established and you can chase that MacGuffin Raiders of the Lost Ark style indefinitely while everyone else chases it too.

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Re: The God Box review (long, somewhat harsh)

Postby fougerec » Tue Jan 08, 2019 7:12 pm

ShirtlessOBrien wrote:That's too big a question for me this morning. I think Malacryx and The God Box are strong ideas but to make them work you'd need at least one Act or adventure before The God Box proper to introduce the players to the Gold Suns and Malacryx, and ideally Thrakmoss too, then establish before it happens that The God Box exists and whoever controls The God Box is going to decide the cosmic future of The Living Land, and then a clear motivation is established and you can chase that MacGuffin Raiders of the Lost Ark style indefinitely while everyone else chases it too.

Clear motivation is very different for different groups. My group went after Billy because I had seeded him into a previous adventure via a Connection card. As for the Gold Suns, my players came up with the idea right away that these Edeinos were different due to their use of bows and the (slightly) worked gold jewelry rather than tribal paints. While both are technically available at the normal Tech Axiom I made sure to take pains to describe the fact that these two things were nothing they had ever seen before. Obviously something is up with these folks and that one who took their friend has information...voila the chase is on.

I don't see any need to introduce Thrakmoss any sooner than necessary. It's enough for my players to have the slightest of inklings that something is afoot, I don't need to go "aha! This is a major player!" Leaving some mystery lets them fill in the blanks. Do they need to know what the God Box does at this point? Nope, that's not their main goal. For them it's enough that some powerful Edeinos with close ties to Kaah has a magical doohickey and that can't be good no matter what it does. Whether it captures a god or merely provides extra possibility energy...doesn't matter. The enemy wants it bad so the heroes are on board with stopping that.

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Re: The God Box review (long, somewhat harsh)

Postby ShirtlessOBrien » Tue Jan 08, 2019 11:28 pm

My sense of storytelling is that it works better to first establish that there are Gold Sun Edeinos who are cool, then introduce the twist, Malacryx and her followers who are definitely not cool and obviously will try to take over and do bad things.

Similarly I think the most satisfying ending for a campaign about The God Box is the PCs nicking it and using it to box a God in the style of Ghostbusters. That should at least be possible, as I see it. So you need a dark and evil God to box and Rec Stalek is the obvious candidate, but to get to Rec Stalek you should work your way up to it with zombie Dinos and White Spears and a Z-Rex and then finally Thrakmoss and an avatar of Rec Stalek. So there’s a sort of hierarchy of enemy pieces I would want to get into play in ascending order, and I wouldn’t want to cram too much of into any one Act.

Then once you’ve got those pieces in place you drop the existence of The God Box into the mix, which obviously everyone wants because everyone has a God they want boxed, and shenanigans will logically ensue.

I think someone else somewhere on these forums already raised the idea of boxing up a Darkness Device, and that would be equally awesome or more so. Currently as far as I know the canon includes no way of getting over on a Darkness Device but the High Lords are virtually indestructible as long as they have one and since I think an endgame goal for PCs should definitely be to biff a High Lord in the snoot some way of putting them out of action is a good thing for a campaign. It might also be a neat bit of foreshadowing as well as a plot convenience that the reason DDs will not try to dimthread The God Box from place to place is because they are scared of it. (Obviously The God Box would have to be an Akashan weapon or something in this scenario but that is fine by me.)

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Re: The God Box review (long, somewhat harsh)

Postby fougerec » Wed Jan 09, 2019 6:33 am

ShirtlessOBrien wrote:Similarly I think the most satisfying ending for a campaign about The God Box is the PCs nicking it and using it to box a God in the style of Ghostbusters. That should at least be possible, as I see it. So you need a dark and evil God to box and Rec Stalek is the obvious candidate, but to get to Rec Stalek you should work your way up to it with zombie Dinos and White Spears and a Z-Rex and then finally Thrakmoss and an avatar of Rec Stalek. So there’s a sort of hierarchy of enemy pieces I would want to get into play in ascending order, and I wouldn’t want to cram too much of into any one Act.

Then once you’ve got those pieces in place you drop the existence of The God Box into the mix, which obviously everyone wants because everyone has a God they want boxed, and shenanigans will logically ensue.

At the end it looks like the PCs still have the box so as a sequel/follow up you introduce Rec Stalek or some other god (doesn't Mobius present himself as such...). You don't need to introduce the problem before the solution, you can do the opposite to great effect.

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Re: The God Box review (long, somewhat harsh)

Postby ZorValachan » Wed Jan 09, 2019 9:34 am

I'm the one who brought up the god box being used for a darkness device. LL is not in Mexico in my setting, Azteca is. So boxing up Lanala at Chichen Itza makes no sense. Malcryx is trying to get the God box to trap Huitzilopochtli. Once the DD is in the god box, Kaah can destroy that realm. The players have the moral choice. To let a DD get trapped and a realm destroyed, and people become what ifs and Kaah become more powerful. Or to stop Kaah and let Azteca survive.

My setting also fixes the journal and canoes not decaying as that part is in the Lost Land, not the Living Land. The adventure ends up in 3 realms; Living Land, Lost Land, and Azteca.
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Re: The God Box review (long, somewhat harsh)

Postby agarrett » Fri Jan 11, 2019 3:04 pm

Some follow up here, trying to take my own advice and see what I can do to make this adventure feel better. At the moment I'm up to Act One, but figured I'd see if anyone's interested or wants to join in.

The God Box adventure feels too disjointed and railroad-y, so this is an attempt to try to fix it up. I want to keep the tour aspect, visiting many parts of the Living Land and seeing many of the conflicts going on. At the same time, the players need more agency, more control, and there needs to be a better connection between the acts.

Some of this fix-up reflects my own views of the Living Land's social and spiritual axioms. I do not follow the idea that Lanala opposes Baruk Kaah. If that were the case, he'd already be done, given the high Spirit axiom in the realm. Anyone who suspects he's not a true follower of Lanala has the obvious option of asking her. This is simply not a legitimate gripe. He follows Lanala, she supports his campaign.

For more on my meta-thoughts on this, I wrote up Living Land: Wars of Religion on the Infiniverse Exchange. It's pay what you want, and I have no problems if you just download it to read - I wanted to get that out to other fans much more than I wanted something commercial.

Within this series trying to fix up the God Box, I will avoid using perks or miracles from Infiniverse products (even my own) but would recommend them if you run this. I think the Living Land needs more and stronger miracles and perks.

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Re: The God Box review (long, somewhat harsh)

Postby agarrett » Fri Jan 11, 2019 3:10 pm

Act One

This act feels like it was written as an introduction to Torg and the Living Land. They set aside time for storm knights to introduce themselves and tell stories, and some of the scenes look like they are designed to showcase simple combats and teach players that the Living Land is primitive and has dinosaurs. While good in itself, it comes at the expense of the story holding together.

These revisions assume players already know each other and understand the Living Land. Some of it is cosmetic, changing speeches so that players have more information about what they're after from the beginning. There are also a few encounter changes that allow players to use the many abilities they have.

The first act is not opened up too much, it's still a bit of a linear railroad, but there's a little more connection to what comes later. The most important part is to get them to realize a rebel edeinos has stolen the God Box and is making her escape with it.

    A Lost World

In this scene, players receive their briefing from the Delphi Council and go through the Living Land to get to Fort Washington. Along the way they need to deal with a few hazards of the Living Land. My changes involve stronger tie-ins to the later story, giving the players a bit more choice in how they get to the Living Land, and adding the difficulty of actually getting the supplies into the Fort.

Specific breakdowns follow.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt

I don't like pulling in Quinn Sebastian all the time. I'd recommend a different agent to do the briefing, especially if the players already have another contact. I prefer Amanda Larkins. The briefing the players receive needs to change in emphasis, use something like the following.

"Welcome to the USS Theodore Roosevelt. I'm Amanda Larkins and I'll be your handler for this mission. Officially, this is a rescue and resupply run. You're going in to the ruins of DC, which we're still holding by the way, and our reality still rules there. It's one heck of a hardpoint. We have supplies for you to bring in there; it's not just a cover story. They need ammo and medicine, and we have it. You'll also be going on rescue missions. There are lots of small communities holding on in the area, and we want them out of the Living Land before they transform or the lizards get to 'em. I don't have much more info on them now, you'll get that from Colonel Chavez on site.

"OK, I've been calling that the official reason, which probably tells you there's another reason I want you in the area, and you'd be right. The lizards have been making serious runs at the Smithsonian. Sure, there's probably artifacts in there that are supporting our reality, but there are lots of other hardpoints in DC. No, we think they're after something, but we don't know what. Whatever it is, if they want it that bad, we want it out of the area.
"No raiding the museum, though. Sorry. Director's orders. He's sure there are artifacts there holding up our reality, and we're not to move 'em. If you can show the lizzies really are after something and figure out what it is, you have authorization to take it and bring it back here, but only if you meet both conditions.

"We can airdrop you or bring you in by sea. Any preference?"

The supplies for Fort Washington are packed in bright plastic so they're harder to lose, and secured to a sled in case anything goes wrong. The sled and supplies weigh over a thousand pounds, and will require at least two people to pull. It has wheels for solid ground and runners for swamps, but it will not be easy, so the closer you get to your goal the better. The Council has experience with the Living Land, and are trying to maximize their chances of getting the supplies to their goal.

Entering the Living Land by air is generally preferable since you can get much closer to your target. The agent should try to emphasize that. If players do choose to go by plane, the plane suffers a Lakten attack as in the module. However, it is possible that Storm Knights have the air vehicles skill. Anyone who does can try to take over from the pilot. Allow a challenging (DN 12) air vehicles check to avoid the Lakten. On a success, the flight resumes and they air drop right into Fort Washington. If they fail, allow the Storm Knight another challenging air vehicles test to land safely. On a success, they bring the plane down and do not have to fight the entangled Lakten. If they fail that test, or no one has any piloting skills, run the encounter as written.

If the players go in by sea, or the plane lands outside of DC, they will have to pull the sled. It's heavy and slow going, but in either case will just take a full day's travel.

The Gospog Field

The gospog field should be a bigger deal than it appeared in the original module. If players flew in safely, they will skip this part, only encountering it if they had to make the trek. This version is a bit more difficult than the original, and it will be references again in Scene Three, when the edeinos attack Fort Washington.

If players have not encountered gospog or a gospog field before, emphasize the strangeness and horror of vines growing from and twisting through the dead bodies. If players have seen it before, emphasize that this is close to Fort Washington and was not included in any of your briefing material - this is a serious threat. However, there are far more of the creatures here than you can deal with.

Discourage players from rummaging through their sled. They would have to cut open the containers and do not know how things are packed. If they insist, improvise.

Moving through the field without alerting the gospog is a dramatic skill resolution, but the survival difficulty is 14 if the players are hauling the supplies - the big sled hampers them from moving easily among the bodies. If the gospog begin swarming, there will be 2 gospog/ Storm Knight, but an equal number arrive each turn - this is a field, the storm knights will be overwhelmed eventually. The gospog will attack the Storm Knights in groups of 4, generally doing an all-out attack. To all intents and purposes, there are in infinite number of gospog. Players can outdistance them easily if they run, but they cannot run with the supplies.

When players arrive in DC, Major Chandler will work as in the original, but will also want to know where the supplies are if they players don't have them - he'll want to recover them. If players tell him about the gospog field, use the following:

"What? That close to us. How did our scouts miss that? Those bloody things are getting way too aggressive, I don't know if... Don't repeat this. I'll get one of our special teams out there once we've got your ammo. I think there's some firebombs in there, and it that doesn't work, well... We'll do something else."

    Search and Recovery

In this scene, the Storm Knights meet and interact with several NPC's whose rescue is intended to drive them through the majority of the adventure. They also go out on a mission to rescue people in the Living Land, and again are supposed to form attachments to drive them through the adventure. The revised version puts a bit more emphasis on defeating the villains, so we introduce Malacryx's forces here, and also show some intra-edeinos conflict.

Escort Duty

Major Chandler's speech to the storm knights needs a few additions to remind them of the main threat from the edeinos. Try something like the following:

"Right. Your Delphi Council sent you here to help bring in refugees, so let's get to it. We still get a few each day, though God only knows how they get through the jungle and the lizards.

"Not sure how, but there are still some whole communities out there. My soldiers forget what a gun is if I send them out scouting, but these folks have lived out there for three months now. Go figure. I hear you expect to survive out there, and I'm not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
"Standing orders say we don't forcibly move anyone, so if they don't want to come, you've got to let them stay where they are. With Lizzie getting anxious out there, I don't give them much chance, and we keep trying to convince HQ that some of these folks are joining the enemy. So far, the orders stand. You want to press the issue a bit, I won't complain, but that part's up to you. They're still Americans; don't kill them.

"And don't bring back the ones who've already changed. That goes bad.

"You'll be going to Temple Hill, the Henson Creek Manor complex. It's down the Potomac and then inland a bit. We've got a boat for you that's already survived two trips out there without falling apart, so we're hoping it'll do a third. Just keep a close eye out. We've seen lots of lizard movement the last week. There's something big going on. Ready to go?"

Hansen Creek Manor

When the players make it to Temple Hill, they find several of the residents badly injured. There have been three edeinos raids over the last week. If players ask for details, they will say that two of the raids involved the edeinos with the red dye on their face, and that's where the injuries came from. The most recent raid had lizards with yellow dye on their backs, and they slaughtered anyone they caught.

A Bigger Boat

This encounter is almost a complete rewrite, and is the main center of this scene now.

On returning to the boat, the players find there are edeinos present. To let the fight scale, assume there are 3 edeinos / Storm Knight, and half as many velociraptors. If players ask, but only if they ask, tell them the attackers are Redjaws. The edeinos are hunting for slaves, they aren't here for a fight. Once they identify the Storm Knights, they'll using Grasping Vines to hold them in place while they abduct the civilians. For ranged combatants, they will bless another edeinos, who will use a called shot to try to disarm their foes.

Once the attackers have captured their first civilian, a new edeinos bursts onto the scene, this one with gold on its back, a Goldsun. She is one of Malacryx's Handmaidens, and rips apart the civilian being carried away. Half of the Redjaws will work to block her from taking further civilians, giving the Storm Knights an edge to get away.

What's going on: The Handmaiden, under Malacryx's orders, is slaughtering humans to try to bring the "cowards behind the walls" out into the jungle. The Redjaws, under their orders, are gathering up slaves to fight or work. They are all under Kaah's Holy War, and are not to attack each other (though they'll ignore that order under many circumstances, at the moment they're keeping it.) Neither of them speaks the other's language (I have the clans speak different languages given their low social axiom.) If the players speak either clan's language or have another way around it, or you prefer to ignore language problems, use something like the following:

Handmaiden: "Stop coddling these apes. They're dead already. You ruin us by bringing them inside the circle, and if it weren't for Blessed Kaah's orders I would rip you into shreds and eat your hearts."

Redjaws: "Stay away, Goldsun. Your people are weak in Lanala's eyes. It's easy to pretend strength when we aren't allowed to fight you. Go back to your lands and conquer there like the Great Saar told you to."

The Handmaiden will not attack the storm knights, she's here for slaughter. As long as at least 4 Redjaws can interfere, she will be able to kill one civilian every 3 rounds. If there are fewer, she will kill one every round, and if there are none interfering, she can kill two per round. If the Redjaws run off, when half of them have been killed, she will retreat as well. She'll also retreat if she takes 2 or more wounds.

Everything Here Wants to Eat You

As the fight with the edeinos has been ramped up, the dinosaur attack on the boat ride back would be an anticlimax. Skip it unless the players had a particularly easy time with the edeinos. Or run it quickly just to remind them that the jungle is dangerous even without their main foes.

    The Dimthread Tree

In this scene, Fort Washington is attacked, the God Box stolen, and some hostages taken. The players set out after the hostages, and follow them through the black box of the dimthread tree. In the revision, the attack gets bigger play and tries to show that both sides are competent. The Storm Knights will start to interact with their opponent's forces, and the God Box maguffin gets earlier play.

Tall Tales

This scene starts with an interlude back at Fort Washington. It feels light to me, but is reasonable enough. I'd recommend shifting the focus of medical attention to the new refugees, rather than the Storm Knights.

During the dinner talk, the major should find some time to emphasize that the ongoing edeinos attacks they've suffered have shifted in the last few weeks. There are stronger lizards, and strong strike teams have focused more on the Smithsonian. This would also be a good point to bring up that edeinos military tactics are quite good - they don't do logistics, so moving from point to point is slower than a modern equivalent, but during a fight they feint, retreat, surround, and use terrain to excellent advantage. Living Land social axiom is roughly equivalent to ancient Sumeria, and all these military tactics were standard fare in their wars. Do not downgrade the edeinos.

Too Good to be True

When the battle starts, use the following for Major Chandler:

"Battle stations, everyone. You," pointing to the Storm Knights, "hold here." He goes to get a radio report of the situation, then says, "There's a big assault. I want you to head to the Castle. They've been after it enough that this could be a way to draw us out. Bring the refugees with you, they'll be safer if you get them inside." He will go to his station without taking time for any questions.

Depending what happened with the gospog field in scene one, he'll add:

If the players never encountered the field: "The brought truckloads of those dang gospog. This is going to be tough. You should... No. Stick with the plan. Get to the Castle."

If the players encountered the field but abandoned the supplies there: "This is what they wanted those gospog you told us about for. Wish we'd had time to clear them out. Keep to the plan. I want you over at the castle."

If the players encountered the field and got supplies to Fort Washington: "Hah. They've got some of those gospog on the attack, but not near as many as they'd have liked, I bet. Good job, and thanks. Now get to the Castle."

Battle in the Gardens

To scale the fight with the chameleon scouts, have two and a half per storm knight, plus the one reality rated optant. Their job is to delay any reinforcements from reaching the castle while Malacryx gets the artifact. These scouts are Gold Suns, if players ask (again, only say so if they ask.)
In their first surprise round, they will use grasping vines - keep in mind the storm knights are flat footed for this attack. The optant will cast strike on his spear and attack, while the rest will look for ranged combatants and gang up on them, while leaving enough room that the melee combatants cannot get to them.

After the first round, a flare gun goes off from the Castle, indicating they are under attack. If any storm knight tries to head to the castle, the chameleon scouts will begin attacking the civilians. If players go to the Castle anyway, no more than half of the chameleon scouts will follow, but the storm knights will face two Handmaidens guarding the entrance, with several slaughtered soldiers inside.

Five rounds after the signal flare went up, Scouts and Handmaidens will try to break off, when a tree outside the Castle catches on fire (Malacryx's signal.) For all the Goldsun forces, their main purpose in this battle is to delay the storm knights, and then to escape. If players are content to eliminate them, they can use Shape Plant to give themselves cover and defense. Tricks and intimidation can be used to stymie players so they can't do what they need to get into the castle, and so on. When they are trying to escape, they will leave people behind. They know what Malacryx carries is much more important than any one of them.

Bread Crumbs

Major Chandler is unnecessarily cryptic here, and Baruk Kaah's involvement is needless and counterproductive to the end goal. The entire speech might not be needed, since players might go right to the chase, which is fine. If not, change Major Chandler's speech to something more like the following:

"Lizzie's on the run, but they made a royal mess of the Castle. They could have done a lot worse if they were just trying to destroy stuff, but it looks like they wanted aomething specific. They got it, and that might be bad enough. Reports are it's a Mayan artifact from the First Nations collection, religious artifact called the God Box. No idea what they mean to do with it, but if they want it that bad, I want it back.

"They also took some of our people, maybe hostages. Again, our reports say they were being carried off alive. Try to bring them back too. I'd send my men, but too many would go Tarzan in a fight. You're my best bet. The longer you wait, the harder it'll be."

The Swamp

Malacryx has a head start, but players can try to catch up, and that's what this portion is all about.

First, if players get a good tracking success or a standard evidence analysis after any tracking success, they will know they are chasing a party of 20-25 edeinos with about 5 human prisoners. Let the party know that they will have multiple opportunities to reduce Malacryx's party size, which will make a difference in the end. She will not be able to get reinforcements. I'd let her start with about 6 handmaidens per storm knight - way too much to handle now, but not so much if they whittle them down.

Following the edeinos is fairly easy until players hit the swamp, at which point they go to a Dramatic Skill Resolution. If it takes longer than 5 rounds to get through the swamp, their opponents can make a clean escape. This is a hybrid DSR/chase, in that only one person needs to complete the first step, but then each storm knight must complete the remaining steps individually.

A: Tracking 12. Only one player needs to make this step. Find the trail the edeinos left through the swamp.

B: Survival 12. All players must make this (and see Leeches, below.) Make your way through the swamp without getting stuck in the mud.

C: Strength 10. All players must make this. Swim through a deep portion of the swamp.

D: Survival 12. The round the first player makes this, any players who have not completed it will be delayed by 1 round / step for the next bit. Hurry out of the swamp and try to make up some time.

Possible Setback: In item the storm knight carries (GM's choice) has been snagged or dropped in the swamp if the storm knight fails this step. The player has the option of repeating the step or losing the item (like Law of Decay, but without any possibilities.)

Complication: A snake or other small, poisonous creature is nearby and you must avoid it. On a failure, you're infected and stymied until receiving standard First Aid.

Critical Failure: Lost. Between the mist and mud, you lose track of both the enemy trail and others in the party and must find them, starting over from step A.

Leeches: Beginning in step B, the first storm knight to fail any test will encounter the leech swarm from the original encounter. Unlike the original encounter, there are no edeinos hunting nearby - that was too much of a distraction from hunting Malacryx.

The Dimthread Tree

This encounter gets a bigger rework, as this is one of the earliest points to encounter your actual enemy. Assuming the party succeeded on their DSR, they arrive while Malacryx and half of her handmaidens are still present. Two of them hold captive humans from the base, but Billy is not among them (he's already gone through.) Should anyone understand the Gold Sun language, Malacryx says:

"Crumbling Bone and Dust! Stormers! We don't have time for this. Follow me as quickly as you can, and break the portal behind us. Glorious Kaah will forgive us when we give him this gift."

She enters the portal on the tree and it closes behind her. The handmaidens left behind - about three per knight, should be enough to overwhelm them, but the edeinos will leave at two per round. As they leave, they will throw spears to destroy the pods with captured humans in them. They'd like the last to leave to kill the last pod. The storm knights can try to block the handmaidens from leaving, protect the pods, or jump in the portal themselves. If they jump in the portal, they will be separated from the edeinos by unknown means, and arrive with the rest of their party.

Otherwise, the handmaidens should be extremely difficult to fight. They coordinate their attacks, use all-out attacks but then protect the ones who did that, and use miracles to heal themselves and each other as they are taking damage. Use intimidation or trick to leave players vulnerable so another can rip them apart. Ideally, players should feel like they would have had to run away if the handmaidens themselves were not leaving the scene.

If players have already been weakened, or were slow on the DSR, you can reduce the number of handmaidens left, but they should get to see and hear Malacryx (and not get a chance to stop her - this one is a plot hammer.) It is important that they get a sense that Malacryx's minions are tough, so they don't really want to fight the woman herself without being prepared.

If players failed their DSR, or managed to save any of the pods, they can still free the person inside. If not, this is one of their dying speeches. Change their speech to be something more like:

"Oh God, thank you. You're real, right? Not a nightmare? Please tell me you're real. That, that, that thing was draining me, tearing at my... at my soul. Really. And giving me nightmares in return. Hard to tell what really happened, and what wasn't. So much I hope never happened.

"That one that just went through, her name was Malacryx. She's a rebel, turned against her tribe because they weren't brutal enough. She's got some followers, and they're convinced what she's doing will turn all the lizards to her side and win them the war.

"Please. For the love of all that's holy, stop them. Don't let that thing get her way."

Note that the tree needs power, it must have a living being inside it to function. If the edeinos killed all of them, the Storm Knights may need to sacrifice one of themselves or use one of the rescued prisoners or people who came with them. The Nightmare Tree is Orrorshan in nature, and demands payment. That is a simple decision for this adventure, but you can remember and extract further payment next time they're in Orrorsh.

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Re: The God Box review (long, somewhat harsh)

Postby Shayd3000 » Wed Jan 23, 2019 6:49 pm

So far, we are almost done with the final battle in Act 3 and we have been having a blast. I am running this with two players, and I would say while the story may read as trite or whatever, it does indeed play well for the players. Areas that have been a problem for us or for me so far include:

  • The vine critters that do the river ambush. The writeup on them is confusing and I botched that one up but good even though I thought I was prepared.
  • It would have been nice if the module would have reminded about the Larendi showing up in the final battle with the Wasp Queen if the Storm Knights had left them unmolested
  • The sparks are supposed to be on the priests staves, but they are not there (I added them).
  • Why go gather fireproof shields if the main foes in the final battle in act 3 aren't spewing a lot of fire? My expectations for this scene would be that the priests are carrying these staves with glowing gems on them, and maybe the sparks let them throw fire or something from the staff. With a whole scene dedicated to getting protection from fire, we were expecting a lot
  • The half damage on the avatars doesn't really fit in well and really slowed things down. My group of two players has defeated two of the avatars so far, but this battle has already consumed most of one session alone! The halving of damage makes the battle drag out. Especially if the Pyrians start focusing on the avatars as well becoming pseudo allies of the Storm Knights (you know, the enemy of my enemy kind of thing). The avatars could have been made way scary without turning the fight into a slog. Epic battles are supposed to be crisp and fast and a near run thing!
  • I haven't run it yet, but while preparing for the journey through Sears Tower I kept wondering why they don't just stay in the stairwells. It took me several readings to understand its because of collapses and blockages and that they are having to make their way through floors to get to other stairwells from time to time.
  • The final battle with Malacryx is um...intense. As I've mentioned in another thread, the way it is written it is a DSR done as an opposed conflict. So, it is NOT a difficulty of 18 the unlucky Storm Knight is trying to beat, instead, the SK has to generate a value, then Malcryx gets to try and beat that value - so the SK never even knows what he is rolling against! With the million possibilities Malcryx has (well, more than enough to spend one every round) it means the SK has to try and generate a total of at least 26 every round to have an average chance of winning the contest, and he needs to do it at least 4 times! Now, this might be exciting if the other SK's could somehow help - but as already mentioned they are not even part of the battle, they are off on the side fighting a delaying action. If the radius of the storm is indeed 20 meters, then how is it the other Storm Knights aren't caught in the maelstrom as well? for thought - this is a special situation so maybe more than one knight can participate....
Other than those points, and probably a few other's I've missed we have actually really enjoyed this module. I think when playing a long adventure over many sessions, too convoluted a story gets lost. I think the stories work well being straightforward and while we as GM's or reader's of the modules might think they are railroad-like or too linear, from the players perspective things are not so clear and having clear clues or direction on where to go next is a good thing. The adventure may read as a simple mindless slog but it doesn't play that way. My players are already talking about different scenes in it, and that tells me they are having a good time and invested in the story.

“99% of failures come from people who make excuses.”
― George Washington

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