Steam and soot darken the skies above the city of Flint, and winds sweeping across its majestic harbor blow the choking products of industrial forges into the fey rainforests that dot its knife-toothed mountains. Since the earliest ages when the people of Risur founded this city, they feared the capricious beings that hid in those fog-shrouded peaks, but now as the march of progress and the demands of national defense turn Flint into a garden for artifice and technology, the old faiths and rituals that kept the lurkers of the woods at bay are being abandoned.

The Unseen Court, the Great Hunt, and the many spirits of the land long ago conquered by Risur’s kings no longer receive tribute, but they cannot enter these new cities of steam and steel to demand their tithe. The impoverished workers who huddle in factory slums fear monsters of a different breed, shadowy children of this new urban labyrinth. Even their modern religions have no defenses against these fiends.

Times are turning. The skyseersRisur’s folk prophets since their homeland’s birth—witness omens in the starry wheels of heaven, and they warn that a new age is nigh. But what they cannot foresee, hidden beyond the steam and soot of the night sky, is the face of this coming era, the spirit of the age: the zeitgeist.

About this Player's Guide

This ZEITGEIST Players’ Guide contains materials for both players and the GM. The ZEITGEIST Campaign Guide, also freely available, includes details of all thirteen adventures in the adventure path and should only be read by the GM.

Pronunciation Guide

  • Risur. REES-ser (rhymes with “fleecer”). A native is a Risuri (rhymes with “Missouri”).
  • Crisillyir. kris-SILL-lee-ur (rhymes with “this sillier”). A native is a Crisillyiri (rhymes with “this ill eerie”).
  • Danor. DAN-nor (rhymes with “fan oar”). A native is a Danoran.
  • Drakr. DRAK-kur (rhymes with “tracker”). A native is a Drakran.
  • Elfaivar. el-FIE-vahr (rhymes with “ell five bar”). A native is an Elfaivaran.
  • Lanjyr. LAN-jeer (rhymes with “fan jeer”).
  • Yerasol. YAIR-uh-sahl (rhymes with “aerosol”).
  • Aodhan. AID-un (rhymes with “Aidan”), traditionally. Sometimes OWD-hahn (rhymes with “loud Ron”).
  • Srasama. srah-SAH-muh (rhymes with “the llama”).
A Step Away from Classic Fantasy

In the ZEITGEIST adventure path, your characters serve in the Royal Homeland Constabulary of the nation of Risur, protecting the country and its citizens from foreign threats lurking within its borders. During missions of espionage and assassination, your duty will be to root out hostile spies and pursue international conspiracies. As you learn more of your homeland’s own secrets, however, your loyalties may be tested, may even be turned, and you may find that it is you whose hand controls the gears of the turning age.

It is not necessary to read the entire Player's Guide in order to play. Anything that matters to your game will be introduced in the course of the adventures. We do suggest all players give this primer a quick read to get the gist of the setting. Then those players who want to sink their teeth into the world can read the full guide to see how ZEITGEIST stands apart from other campaign settings. If you’re interested in learning more, follow the links to the recommended pages.

Humans and the Great Nations

Humans rule three of the five great nations of the region. Their ascendance in the past two thousand years toppled a mighty high elf empire and has provoked belief in doomsday millennialism among many dwarves. The campaign begins in Risur, and every PC should have a strong loyalty to the nation, even if the character does not hail from there.

High Elves, Aasimar, and the Great Malice

Five hundred years ago the death of the high elf goddess Srasama caused nearly every elven woman to perish. Those few who survived were often claimed as trophies by human conquerors, though a handful of free matriarchs head their own family lines in the ruins of the old empire. Those interested in high elves should read the section on Elfaivar.

Mortals present at the death of the high elf goddess have continually reincarnated in the following centuries as aasimar, as if a sliver of Srasama’s divine spark has granted them a semblance of immortality. Those interested in aasimar should read the section on Crisillyir.

Tieflings, Technology, and Dead Magic

When the high elf goddess died, an entire other nation became a dead magic zone, and some in that land were marked by a curse, turning them into tieflings. In the centuries since, however, the tieflings have come to rule that nation, and in the last few decades they have begun a revolution of industry and mighty science almost as powerful as the magic they lack. Those interested in tieflings should read the section on Danor.

If you are interested in utilizing some of the new revolution’s technology for your character, particularly firearms, see the section on Equipment.

Dwarves, Doomsday, and Nihilism

The major dwarven nation is bleakly resigned to an imminent doomsday, when ancient horrors will claw free from glaciers and engulf the world in a frigid death. Adherence to duty is so ingrained in their culture, however, that the dwarves continue to toil in their forges even as they prepare for the world’s end. Those interested in dwarves should read the section on Drakr.

Savages, Primitives, and Peace

Freed from the yoke of toppled dragon tyrants, the youngest of the great nations formed from an alliance of several monstrous races which now live in an uneasy peace as their rulers seek to force the disparate peoples into the modern age. Those interested in half-dragons, halforcs, minotaurs, or other monstrous races should read the section on Ber.

Piety and the Planes

The heavens possess an undeniable hold on the world’s religions, its people, and its very structure. In Risur, skyseers believe that the movements of the night stars foretell the future and direct the fate of the world. More enlightened scholars study distant planes of elemental and temporal power to understand how the flow of their energies affects the fundamental nature of reality. The high elf people have begun to withdraw into the Dreaming, and the bishops of the high church of the Clergy invoke condemned spirits from the Bleak Gate to frighten sinners into worship.

The Astral Plane, Limbo, and Far Realm exist only as postulations, and there are countless other theories on the nature of reality. No one in this world has ever traveled to these planes, and the few beings that are summoned through the veil are only visitors, returning as soon as the spell that called them ends. Those interested in the setting’s metaphysics should read the section on Planes.

Heroic Themes

Recent products introduced the concept of character themes. The ZEITGEIST campaign setting presents themes that reinforce the heroic archetypes of the world, such as dockers, gunsmiths, and technologists. Each player should choose one Theme Feat for his or her character, preferably one unique to the world of ZEITGEIST.

An Exceptionally Brief Timeline

  • –1200 B.O.V. (Before Our Victory): King Kelland defeats the fey titans and founds Risur, the first mortal nation on the continent of Lanjyr. In the following centuries, other nations rise up throughout Lanjyr.
  • –500 B.O.V.: Triegenes the fisherman founds the Clergy in what is modern-day Danor, overthrows the demonocracy in the east, then dies and ascends to godhood.
  • –50 B.O.V.: The First Victory, a holy war between humans and elves, ends with the elves losing much territory.
  • 1 A.O.V. (After Our Victory): The Second Victory begins as an elven effort to reclaim lost lands, but ends in their decisive defeat when the elf goddess Srasama manifests physically, and is slain. Danor collapses into chaos as the nation becomes a dead magic zone. The seat of the Clergy moves to Crisillyir, which begins to colonize the devastated lands of Elfaivar. Dwarves seize control of their own nation in Drakr.
  • 300 A.O.V.: King Boyle of Risur slays the last dragon tyrant of Ber. The nation of Danor, resurgent with industry and technology, begins to contest Risur for control of the lush Yerasol Archipelago.
  • 460 A.O.V.: King Aodhan is crowned in Risur. He encourages his people to pursue industry so they can fight back against Danor. Meanwhile in Ber, Bruse Le Roye unites tribes of monstrous races into a new nation.
  • 493 A.O.V.: The Fourth Yerasol War ends; Risur loses many islands.
  • 500 A.O.V.: Present day.
What if I want traditional fantasy?

Some gamers are hesitant to introduce any technology more recent than the Renaissance to their fantasy campaigns. While the conflict between technology and traditional magic is a key component of the ZEITGEIST adventure path, it is certainly possible for the GM to retool the campaign so arcane or psionic power fill the role normally played by industry, leaving divine power to represent “tradition.”

Likewise, if you are playing ZEITGEIST in a different setting, the GM will have to decide how to adapt the geography, history, and cosmology to fit with that world. For questions like this, and any other help you’d like for your game, we encourage you to post on the EN World messageboards, where the community and the E.N. Publishing staff are always willing to help fellow gamers.