Orbius Ex Machina


Shackled City Adventure Path


Is it just me, or does something about the beholder's "rescue" of Terrem at the end of Life's Bazaar not feel right? I am about to start running SCAP for a group of experienced players, and every time I read this encounter I feel it should be different. Would Vhalantru really want to draw attention to the specialness of Terrem, even in this very low-risk way? He's a cunning creature, and in my opinion he'd rescue all 4, just to keep Terrem from becoming an object of interest to the party - information can be hard to control, after all, especially with people as naturally nosy and talkative as adventurers.
My idea is to have Vhalantru beam in in HALF ELF form to perform the rescue, with Thifirane staying out of sight. Vhalantru will have met some of the party at least, as all new adventurers entering my Cauldron have to register with the authorities. The law requires them to do so if they cast spells or want to wear medium or heavy armour around town (which my lot will - they're power-gamers to the core). I figure Vhalantru volunteers for this "irksome" public duty so he can keep a handle on all new adventurers.
He will only show up at all if the party looks like they won't be able to rescue Terrem, and if he does he helps kill or at least overpower Kazmojen and Pyllrak (as has been suggested in other threads, Kazmojen has become expendable). When the battle is over he explains that he had heard the party were trying to rescue the kidnapped orphans, and as he is keenly interested in seeing them rescued he had taken the liberty of following them with an arcane eye when he found out they had gone underground. He praises the bravery of the group, and says doesn't want to take any credit for the rescue - he says it is not widely known he has spellcasting ability, and he wants it to stay that way. He tells the party he will leave them to bring the children home and will himself supplement their reward from the Temple of St Cuthbert.
This seems to me to be in tune with Vhalantru's style - keeping his potential enemies close and engaging in several potentially useful kinds of misdirection, while enduring his real target - Terrem - is recovered without becoming conspicuous. Any thoughts?


No, letting the players see a beholder at low levels is too cool.

The way I played it (can't remember now if it is the way the adventure wants it to be), is that Orbius doesn't know about the PCs. He's looking for Terrem on his own and just happens to arrive the same time the PCs do.

If he knows about the PCs, what you say all makes sense.


I'm with Todd. Do NOT pass up the chance to have your level 2-3 PCs come face to face with a beholder.


I ran the adventure for very experienced players, and they thought that encounter was very cool, because it was so unexpected by them to have second level characters run into a beholder. One player spent the whole encounter staring at the beholder in total concentration trying to make his Will save to disbelieve!


Yeah, my players thought it was cool, too, but I was worried about the same thing.

You could have Kazmojen be the one with the mark. When the players kill him, the beholder could show up and take his body.

Dedekind


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Oh, the screams of horror and disbelief when I popped that mini on the table!! >:)

Don't deprive yourself of that. Fun trumps Logic.

~Q~


OK guys - you got me with the cool factor, which I hadn't actually considered. You're right - the party'll freak when he shows up. Thanks for your input.


What i want to know is if any party actually tied to attack the Beholder? I considered it seriously when he showed up in our game. I didn't as it seemed like suicide.


PsychoticWarrior wrote:
What i want to know is if any party actually tied to attack the Beholder? I considered it seriously when he showed up in our game. I didn't as it seemed like suicide.

Mine did. Most of them are experienced players too, but they played their characters as the fearless and foolhardy bunch they are. Rather than stick to a rigid turn-based melee here, I tried to make things a little more cinematic. Here's that part of the write-up I did for the session, starting right after the beholder says “Come Terrem, you will be safe with me.”:

Baker says “No Terrem, don’t go!” Mott shouts something and draws his bow. Fortuna, standing closest to the creature, notices a shimmer to its right and shouts this out. Baker and Ruphus fearlessly – perhaps foolishly – charge the monstrosity. Enzo pulls out a smokestick and moves up, hoping to expose an invisible presence where Fortuna indicated the shimmer to be. Brianna tries to determine if what she is witnessing is real, or some sort of illusion created by the spell-caster who disappeared earlier ((that being the durzagon, who turned invisible and fled at the beginning of the melee with Kaz)).

Several of the creature's smaller eyes turn towards the party. Ruphus is suddenly terrified beyond words, and he drops his weapon, turns, and flees out of the room. Baker shakes off some kind of magical effect and continues to charge forward ((Charm Person)). Mott looses an arrow, but from one of the eyes a green beam shoots forth and the arrow is turned to dust in mid-air. Baker feels another wave of magic wash over him, but stubbornly resists its effects ((Charm Monster)). Fortuna shoots at the shimmer, but her bolt merely crashes into the wall behind. The creature has now floated over right next to children, who are all screaming in fear. Just as Enzo’s smokestick begins to billow forth and barely reveal an invisible shape, it disappears, along with the huge floating creature and one of the children.

(Yes, I know beholders can only aim 3 eye rays in any one direction per round, but I forgot about that in the heat of things, and since he wasn't out to kill the party anyway it wasn't that important in this case).


My group just played this scene in our last session. The party was able to get a surprise round against Kazmojen & Co, and they were sure that the durzagon was a necromancer (it's amazing how players can react to the mention of a bone chest), so they focused several of their attacks on him (they actually prevented him from escaping).

Because my party strategizes fairly well, I felt that having the beholder appear mid combat would shake things up. So, I had rolled initiative for "Orbius" at the beginning of the first full round of combat, and its turn came 2nd in the round. Perfect.

With a flash and a woosh of sound, Orbius appeared. As soon as the beholder mini went down on the table, there were gasps from all around the table, and everyone picked it up to get a closer look. Orbius spoke his bit, hitting Terrem with the Charm Person ray so the boy didn't freak. I continued in rounds to keep the pressure on. After all, Prickles wasn't about to break off the attack because of a little distraction!

Most of the group decided there was nothing they could do about the beholder, but one of my players, who does a fabulous job of portraying a near-half-wit half-giant, decided that his character would act. As the boy passed by the half-giant, he reached out and grappled the boy (making his check without any problem), holding him close.

The half-giant was at the bottom of the initiative order, so Orbius' action came two turns later. Sleep. Telekinesis. Flash and disappear. Of course, no one made their spellcraft rolls to figure out that it was a sleep ray, so the rest of the party just saw the half-giant crumple and go down.

At the same time, the howler got a solid bite on the rogue, who was also punctured by three quills, sending her into negative territory. Kazmojen was prone from having been greased. Hobgoblins were pouring into the room from the direction of the cellblock. Lots was going on. Everyone loved the session, and the beholder mini made more rounds of the table following the battle's conclusion. It was *so* worth picking that mini up on eBay...


My players attempted to out bid orbius for the child, and lost of course then completely forgot about the beholder until the next time I put the mini (homemade) on the table when they slew Vahalantru. The look on there face when they made the connection to the very first adventure was priceless, but not near as priceless when he came floating down the street at the beginning of Assylum. My 19th lvl PC's were really scarred for there lives, and rightly so.

One key I will recommend is that unless the PC's dig into Vahalantru's background never let his first name slip, especially to experienced players.

Liberty's Edge

ibramthefish wrote:
OK guys - you got me with the cool factor, which I hadn't actually considered. You're right - the party'll freak when he shows up. Thanks for your input.

This is not to say that Orbius cant attempt to rescue all four children so as not to lead suspicion to Terrem specifically,

Perhaps Orbius explains it to Kaz and the present PCs that he warned the half-troll "NOT to enslave children. He has some morals afterall and enslaving children is just wrong"

Robert


Robert Brambley wrote:
ibramthefish wrote:
OK guys - you got me with the cool factor, which I hadn't actually considered. You're right - the party'll freak when he shows up. Thanks for your input.

This is not to say that Orbius cant attempt to rescue all four children so as not to lead suspicion to Terrem specifically,

This is the way I intend to go with it. I am nervous about having TOO much attention focused on Terrem. Especially because I intend to take another suggestion from these boards,and have the beholder in his human guise adopt Terrem later on.


I have half-decided that Terrem will not be returned to the orphanage, because the Cagewrights will not accept any more risk to their precious shackleborn. They have, after all, got 11 others in the Fiery Sanctum already by this point, and he will be beyond the PCs' reach.
This will, of course, draw a great deal of attention to him, but if that motivates the PCs to try researching the reason why, so much the better. I am pretty confident that I can plausibly control the information flow until the right time, while providing an early mystery to draw the players in (really, the same sort of mystery as the scenario as written creates).
One of my PCs grew up in the orphanage, and is likely to have met Terrem as an infant.


Hiya.

When we played it, we kinda just shrugged our shoulders and waited. A beholder appearing when we are level 4 or so basically completely shattered our sense of disbelief and generally just annoyed us as players. All our characters just sat there, looked at him and said "Yeah? Well, do whatever you want. Say what you have to say then get your ass outta here. We don't care. It's not like we can do anything to stop you, so whatever." We waited for the GM to read whatever it was he was saying (we totally ignored it; pointless....if the writers were gonna throw a beholder in a level 4 module, they were obviously not above the 'adamantine railroad from hell' method of plot development, so anythning important would be revield to us later anyway).

Sorry, but no. This encounter sucked. It wasn't exciting. It wasn't scary. It wasn't even entertaining. It was just annoying. When we heard Vlantrus fist name was "Orbius" we all groaned out loud. Couldn't be more obvious if the GM slapped down a beholder mini and said "This is the Beholder", then picked it up, put it back down and said, "This is Orbius".

Sorry for the harsh words and criticizm, but the whole Shackled City just didn't do it for us on faaaar to many levels.


The Vhalantru encounter is pretty tricky, exactly due to the reasons mentioned earlier in this thread. It is either extremely cool or, as pming so elloquently puts it "the adamantine railroad from hell" Use it as written only if you know your PCs will enjoy it.

There are a few simple alterations to the encounter that make more believable. Have Vhalantru show up earlier (perhaps as the PCs break down the door), or have him be present at the auction. In this case, Vhalantru ordered Kazmojen to kidnap Terrem, or perhaps even ordered all the kidnappings as a cover for the few shackleborn that also disappeared during 'life's bazaar'.


pming wrote:
This encounter sucked. It wasn't exciting. It wasn't scary. It wasn't even entertaining. It was just annoying.

Well, I personally never though this encounter was intended as being scary. Exciting and entertaining, maybe depending on your players. But above all I saw it as an in-your-face way to make the players aware of the fact that there's a beholder present in the area. My players thought it was pretty exciting and entertaining, and for a long time they weren't even sure that the beholder was evil.

pming wrote:
When we heard Vlantrus fist name was "Orbius" we all groaned out loud. Couldn't be more obvious if the GM slapped down a beholder mini and said "This is the Beholder", then picked it up, put it back down and said, "This is Orbius".

Spoiler:
And that's not the only example, we have Celeste the celestial as well...

pming wrote:
Sorry for the harsh words and criticizm, but the whole Shackled City just didn't do it for us on faaaar to many levels.

Then why the interest in posting here? Just curious.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This was a fun moment for us the first time we ran through this campaign too. Orbius popped in behind the party and only about half of them saw him immediately but those who did had their jaws drop.

Seeing the looks on their friends faces made everyone else but the wizards/cleric(soon to be true necro) turn around. The groups rogue pointed over his shoulder at the beholder and then held up his hands like moose antlers on his head to try and simulate the eyes while the parties real wizards just stammered that he didn't want to turn around.

For levels after that, until they started to reach the point of having to deal with things of that power level, he stubbornly refused to believe that they had run across a beholder and stated they were just imagining things since he didn't see anything.

Liberty's Edge

pming wrote:

Hiya.

When we played it, we kinda just shrugged our shoulders and waited. A beholder appearing when we are level 4 or so basically completely shattered our sense of disbelief and generally just annoyed us as players. All our characters just sat there, looked at him and said "Yeah? Well, do whatever you want. Say what you have to say then get your ass outta here. We don't care. It's not like we can do anything to stop you, so whatever." We waited for the GM to read whatever it was he was saying (we totally ignored it; pointless....if the writers were gonna throw a beholder in a level 4 module, they were obviously not above the 'adamantine railroad from hell' method of plot development, so anythning important would be revield to us later anyway).

Sorry, but no. This encounter sucked. It wasn't exciting. It wasn't scary. It wasn't even entertaining. It was just annoying. When we heard Vlantrus fist name was "Orbius" we all groaned out loud. Couldn't be more obvious if the GM slapped down a beholder mini and said "This is the Beholder", then picked it up, put it back down and said, "This is Orbius".

Sorry for the harsh words and criticizm, but the whole Shackled City just didn't do it for us on faaaar to many levels.

wow, I guess Im blessed to have great players who arent so negative. I've known them for a while and I'm sure they'll respond with much the same enthusiasm and anxious fear that many have indicated.

as far as railroading, i dont see it at such, I see it as the fact that characters dont always encounter kobolds at first level, ogres at 3rd, trolls at 6th and giants at 9th. Where do all of these other more powerful beings hide while the PCs gain enough power to encounter them?

Just as anything else in life, there is much that can be dealt with at any given time, but there is also a good number of things that no matter how you think you're prepared, life comes at your fast and hard and you don't always have the immediate means to deal with it the way you wish you could. If PCs could do anything and everything all the time regardless, then whats the point of the game, just hand the xp and the treasure at the beginning of the game and go bowling instead.


I felt the same thing that you did on the initial read-through, but decided to go ahead with the encounter anyway, as written. It has some weak plot points, sure, but it gives the party a clue that something big is going on.

It was well worth it to see the look on my party's faces. It may have had something to do with the fact that I don't have a beholder mini, so made one out of a Jack-in-the-Box antenna ball, wire, and beads. Eh, you do what you have to.

I made it VERY short, didn't waste time on conversation, and Thirifane rolled high init on the first combat round and got 'em out of there before any conflict ensued. No fudging required, thank Cuthbert.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
pming wrote:

Hiya.

When we played it, we kinda just shrugged our shoulders and waited.

<snip>

Sorry for the harsh words and criticizm, but the whole Shackled City just didn't do it for us on faaaar to many levels.

Sorry to hear it. What a shallow game you must play in. For obstacles to always be tailored to your character level - how, um, sad.

My players are always on their toes - and that's how it should be. Not all Orcs are 1HD in my world, so a group of 4HD PC's best not be too arrogant or careless. Sometimes the way to overcome a challenge is to use your wits, not your sword - the beholder's appearance is one of those times.

One player one might ask "Heavens! A beholder! St Cuthbert save us" and fall to his knees in prayer. Another may even attempt to attack the beastie, which would result in a wave of fear, telekenisis away, or a similar non-lethal response from the Beholder.

But to have your characters simply sit back and chill, safe in the knowledge that the DM will get his exposition out of the way, tells me that you have played too long, are too jaded and forgotten what is to actually role-play a character.

Community / Forums / Archive / Paizo / Books & Magazines / Dungeon Magazine / Shackled City Adventure Path / Orbius Ex Machina All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.
Recent threads in Shackled City Adventure Path