ZEITGEIST Player's Guide: Flint


ZEITGEIST Player's Guide: Flint

This page is a chapter in 'Books:ZEITGEIST: The Gears of Revolution Players Guide'

The city of Flint is the heart of Risur’s industrial revolution, and it is the base of operations for the PCs. Before adventure two, you and your fellow players should have at least passing familiarity with this primer, to prepare you for a murder mystery that will take you from the heights of the city’s majestic rainforest mountains to the depths of its criminal underbelly.



Population: 800,000
Head of Government: City Governor Roland Stanfield.
Key Districts: The Ayres, Bosum Strand, Central District,the Cloudwood, the Nettles, North Shore, Parity Lake, Pine Island, Stray River.
Prominent Landmarks: Cauldron Hill, Parity Lake, Stanfield Canal.

City Districts

Bosum Strand

Depending on who you ask, the name Bosum Strand comes either from the boatswains who frequented its taverns, or from the harbor’s more traditional name, which translated to bosom of the sea. In either case, the docks along the east shore of Flint Bay are the heart of the city’s trade, culture, and crime.

Hundreds of warehouses serve Flint’s merchant fleet, and dozens of bars, taverns, gambling houses, and brothels serve its dock workers. Craftsmen, artists, and money changers own shops surrounding several scattered public squares throughout the district, and the district’s mayor Griffin Stowe has strong-armed property owners along major streets to ensure that when the wealthy and influential travel the strand they are not forced to see any of the district’s uncouth underbelly. This is why, of course, the dockers make a point to perform on as many street corners and squares as possible.

The district is currently clearing out tenants and demolishing buildings for a freight rail line. The station is already under construction, and once complete it will speed delivery of raw materials and natural exports. More importantly, it let Flint share its industrial bounty with the rest of the nation. Unusually, many local druids have been recruited to speak with the spirits of the land and appease them so they will not disrupt the building process.

The Night of the Mirror Moon occurs when a blue moon (the third full moon in a season with four full moons) falls during winter. From the moment the moon shines on Flint Harbor, anyone who enters the water while holding a mirror will emerge in the Dreaming analogue of Bosum Strand. There, it is said, the docks are replaced by a glorious beach where all the fey from miles around gather for the wildest party one could ever imagine. Sometimes people fail to get back before the moon sets, while others return with magical powers, a gift or bargain from the fey. The last such Mirror Moon happened seventeen years ago, in 483 A.O.V., and the next will be in two years.

Central

The oldest and most developed district of Flint is home to its main government structures, including the city council, superior court, police headquarters, and the offices of various civil functionaries like tax collectors. Grand party halls, ornate druidic garden temples, and parks filled with monuments to old wars provide recreation and entertainment for the city’s nobility and prospering middle class, while the Orange Street commodities market and the prestigious Pardwight University are the dual hearts of Flint’s economic and academic cultures.

The district mayor Oncala Putnam recently approved construction of a grand subrail station to serve as the hub of a city-wide transportation network. Currently the Central district is often clogged with traffic from the surface rail station, since the proposed tunnel through Humble Hill in the Nettles, meant to provide an easier route to the factories of Parity Lake, has been dogged by sabotage from elements opposed to the industrialization of Risur.

Just off the coast in Flint Bay, the city governor’s mansion occupies what was once an island fortress. For the past four hundred years the aasimar Roland Stanfield has, through various incarnations and with only rare disruption, served as city governor, earning near universal respect for his wisdom and leadership.

Perhaps most importantly for the PCs, Central district is home to the local headquarters of the Royal Homeland Constabulary, headed by Lady Inspectress Margaret Saxby.

The Navras Opera House

Flint’s oldest surviving building is the Navras Opera House in the central district. Navras, a high elf who fled Elfaivar after the Great Malice, designed the opera house and laid the cornerstone with a brick he had brought from his homeland. He spent nearly two hundred years personally overseeing its construction, and was aided by no less than eight Risuri kings. When he completed the building, incongruously huge for what was at the time just a small river fort city, Navras gave the first performance by singing the dirge of Vekesh. As the audience cheered and wept at his performance, he walked off the stage and disappeared forever.

The acoustic design of the performance hall somehow captures magical power from song, or from the emotional reactions of the audience. Impresarios who coordinate performance almost always hire spellcasting bards to harness this energy and craft a magic item as a memento of the show. In the three hundred years since the Navras Opera House opened, most of these items have found their ways into private collections, but a rare few have become famous, such as the Hurricane Violin, which commemorated the Fable of Seaquen and later banished a sea monster that threatened Flint Harbor in 417 A.O.V.

Cloudwood

The eastern outskirts of Flint are dominated by towering mountains, their peaks constantly shrouded in clouds that feed lush rainforests and verdant streams. The steep highlands are sparsely populated, but numerous plantations and small farms fill the flatter terrain near the coast. Few city folk venture out to these lands, believing that here the veil between the real world and the Dreaming is thin. Local myths include countless tales of farmers, travelers, and juvenile miscreants who wander into the foggy woods and suffer wretched fates at the hands of capricious fey.

While most who live in Cloudwood consider it common courtesy to share a bowl of milk or plates of sliced fruit with unseen nightly visitors, the district’s new mayor, Doyle Idylls, has forbidden district employees from engaging in the old tradition. Mayor Idylls shares his office with the local police branch, and he recently had salt baked into bricks around its base in order to keep away curious fey. Soon thereafter, the building developed a gopher problem.

Though criminals in Flint tend to make the Nettles their first stop when on the run from the law, those who really need to lay low find the wild rainforests of Cloudwood ideal. The most rural areas of the district are practically independent thorps and hamlets, many of which are sympathetic to desperate outsiders. Until recently they reaped rewards from collaborating with at least three gangs which operated out of the forest, but some a player in the area has somehow managed to get the gangs to call off their attacks.

Somewhere in the high misty mountains hides Hana “Gale” Soliogn, a high elf who fled to Risur after she escaped the rich Danoran family who had kept her as a trophy for over a century. Upon leaving the dead magic zone of Danor, Soliogn discovered an exceedingly rare talent for innately controlling winds and weather, which earned her the name Gale. She enjoyed a brief celebrity upon arriving in Flint a year ago, but almost immediately withdrew into the wilderness and began recruiting followers among those opposed to the influx of industry. Law enforcement officials believe she’s trying to punish Danor by proxy, and in the past several months hundreds of acts of sabotage on factories and steamships have been linked to her. In one incident, Gale was caught in the act of trying to assassinate a sleeping industrialist, but she managed to fly away and avoid capture.

The Nettles

Cauldron HillCauldron Hill
A small spur of the mountains of the Cloudwood cuts into the heart of Flint, and for most of the city’s history these hills were home to druidic rituals, or simply let romantics witness wondrous vistas of the beaches from on high. Their traditional name came from an old commander of the Flint fort, who saw them as a thorny barrier against attack from the north.

But then in 346 A.O.V. a coven of witches took residence upon a jagged mountain at the range’s edge, which ever since has been called Cauldron Hill. For decades they terrorized the city, sending goblins and specters to abduct people for sacrificial rites, then hiding in the veil between this world and the Bleak Gate whenever any tried to assault them. Eventually the witches were defeated when King Lorcan allied with a Crisillyiri godhand and led an assault during a lunar eclipse. Ever since, the peak of Cauldron Hill has been rife with haunting and spirit activity, and one of the key tasks of the district mayor has been to keep daring fools from ascending the mountain and coming down possessed.

The greatest achievement of the previous district mayor was constructing a highway across Humble Hill to make travel across the city easier, but in the past few decades the district, even the base of Cauldron Hill itself, have grown thick with slum housing, as more and more people flock to Flint hoping to find work in the factories. The broad switchbacks of the highway are cluttered with shacks, often with two or three families sharing the same building. Poorly crafted houses cling to the sides of slopes, and they have become a nightmare for local police to patrol, giving a whole new connotation to the name “The Nettles.”

The current district mayor Reed Macbannin has been unable to halt the new arrivals, and he hasn’t been helped by the common prejudice that the factory workers are prone to crime, laziness, and general mayhem. Despite this, he has managed to earn passing respect from the people of his district; few are trusted with the stewardship of Cauldron Hill, and he has leveraged his office to get city tax money for the poorest of the poor.

North Shore

The sun rises through the mists of Cloudwood, banishing the night with pale purple clouds dashed by the golden gleam of dawn. Fresh sea breezes sweep the gloomy haze of soot away from pristine beaches, letting clear daylight fall upon gently crashing waves. The day wanes, and the sky explodes with crimson and vermilion as the sun sets behind the twin peaks of Great Horned Mountain. Night drapes a starry curtain across the world, and still the waves gently lap upon the North Shore.

Home to the most beautiful urban beaches in all of Lanjyr, Flint’s North Shore district prides itself on its appearance, despite being so close to the polluted Parity Lake. Demand for beachside property has pushed out all but the wealthiest land-owners, those who can afford to hire druids to pray for favorable winds to keep the smoke at bay, and armies of cleaning crews to scrub their walls and streets when the druids fail.

Of course with wealth comes corruption and temptation. Young girls end up dead in alleys. Criminals stage daring robberies of villas protected by curses. Destitute nobles, dragged down from their towers by the machinations of rivals, stumble into strangely-scented shops they’d never seen before, and find offers they cannot refuse.

The district mayor, Aaron Choir, serves the interests of the wealthy, and is petitioning to build a wall between North Shore and Parity Lake to keep out undesirables. Likewise, police violently deter the occasional protest that crops up outside the Danoran consulate, which sits a few blocks inland from the shore. Mayor Choir is careful, though, not to appear too friendly with the unpopular Danorans, no matter how much they pay him in kick-backs.

Parity Lake

When Flint first began building factories, this inland lake fed by runoff from the Nettles was chosen by the city governor Roland Stanfield. A massive construction project widened and deepened a natural river that ran from the lake to the harbor in Bosum Strand, providing easy transit of manufactured goods out of—and coal or heating oil into—the district. Homes of fishermen on the lake were demolished, while new flophouses and stacked tenements were erected for the waves of people who came from around the country seeking work in the new factories. Wealth poured into the city’s coffers, and into the pockets of those canny enough to lease their land here, rather than sell it.

During the Fourth Yerasol War seven years ago, factories in Parity Lake mass-produced firearms, cannons, and other weapons, and a lumber mill transformed logs from the Cloudwood into components for shipyards in Bosum Strand. New factories sprang up to create armor for men and ships, and soon even steam engines were being churned out to retrofit Risur’s fleet.

The war effort transformed Parity Lake from a booming collective of new businesses to a crowded, foul-smelling, soot-choked warren, overcrowded with the children of now second-generation factory workers, surrounding a pool that every day more resembles sludge than water.

The police manage to keep crime down through heavy-handed measures; the district’s mayor Rosa Gohins has publicly stated that the safety and stability of the factories are more important than the moral of the factory workers. In the past few months a spate of fires have struck around the district, which authorities suspect to be arson, possibly tied to the fey terrorist known as Gale (see The Cloudwood, above). The fires have precisely targeted individual homes and businesses related to local industrialists, but despite their minimal collateral damage, people in the district fear an inferno if one goes out of control.

More dreaded, however, is a killer known as the Ragman, who is said to stalk dark alleys near the canals and drag young men into the sewers. He has been tied to at least six disappearances in the past year, but so far law enforcement have taken few steps to catch him. Strange occult symbols scrawled on the undersides of bridges that cross the canal have provoked suspicions that the Ragman might be retribution from the long dead witches of Cauldron Hill.

Pine Island

Though the ground of most of Flint’s coast is rocky and hilly, the western coast of the bay has a strange sprawling bayou surrounding dozens of short granite hill-islands. Pine Island takes its name from the aquatic pine trees that anchor the bits of dry land throughout the bayou, though the hills are mostly grassy ranchland. Not as well known or developed as the bustling east coast, this district nevertheless plays a significant role in the city’s business.

While Bosum Strand handles industrial and textile trade, Pine Island handles agricultural trade, servicing hundreds of plantations in its soggy lowlands and small ranches in its western hills. The main docks on Flint Bay are practically a floating city of wooden bridges and stone anchors, which has slowly grown away from the silt of the bayou to better serve deep-water merchant ships. Further inland, complicated streets, connected by ferries and bridges, weave between islands ranging from the size of a single house to a small neighborhood.

Criminals ply the waters of the bayous in shallow boats, often parking ships of smuggled drugs, magic, or women just off shore, then taking circuitous routes through the flooded forests in order to bypass dock authorities. While most dockside businesses are legitimate, deeper in the bayou you can find gambling houses, brothels, and opium dens. Pacts with local fey who are angry with the spinning gears on the other side of the bay help these criminal establishments hide from law enforcement, all for the low price of just a few newborns a year.

Farther west, where there are no longer even the occasional outcroppings of hills, the Battalion academy trains elite soldiers and martial scientists in the ways of war, with an emphasis on wilderness survival and the best techniques of intimidation against an occupying force. The district’s mayor, Roger Pepper, is a graduate. Many of the Battalion’s teachers served in the Yerasol Wars and various skirmishes, and the common fishermen of Pine Island say some of them brought back strange spirits from those distant islands. Recent folk tales tell of pale fish-scaled men who steal fowl and livestock each month during the neap tide.

Stray River

The cluster of businesses and homes where Stray River empties into the bay is the closest thing to a typical Risuri city one can find in Flint. The Stray River district has well-tended streets, quaint two-story brick houses, and enjoys easy prosperity as the place most visitors to the city stay. The district is also home of some of the oldest mills in Risur, powered by small canals that loop off the main river to avoid disrupting water traffic.

One strange attraction of the district is the Penny Pyre. Originally it was a small blackened pit, where a mage’s accident caused copper to burn as easily as wood, but last far longer. When the effect persisted, it became a fixture of the district’s festivals. Various copper sculptures are designed by the districts artisans and placed atop the pit to burn over the course of hours or days. On normal occasions, people will occasionally toss a spare copper coin into the pyre for good luck. The royal mint has tried to end the practice, but the district’s mayor, Chrystine Robinson, defends the tradition, saying more coins are lost in dirt than tossed in the pyre.

The Ayres

North of the city lie a clear island chain and several satellite islands. Many of these are merely rocky sandbars with a few trees, but a few larger islands serve as remote villas for the city’s wealthiest. Nobles hold many family estates here, though one island is owned by a man new to his money: Guy Goodson, who swindled his initial wealth from a dozen naïve villages, and invested early in Flint’s industrial boom. Today he owns dozens of factories in Parity Lake, and regularly dines with his noble neighbors, who delight in the small steamboat he uses to visit them.

Since technically The Ayres is considered part of North Shore, it does not have its own district mayor. In practice, law and government officials never bothers the nobles on their islands unless an equally wealthy or powerful individual lodges a complaint.

Royal Homeland Constabulary

The Zeitgeist adventure path assumes the PCs will begin as agents of the Royal Homeland Constabulary. RHC constables are law enforcement officers tasked with protecting Risur from serious threats, usually in the form of foreign plots, magically-equipped criminals, and various supernatural foes everyday police are not equipped to deal with.

Authority and the Law

RHC HeadquartersRHC Headquarters
Constables are invested with the authority of the king, and so are granted great leeway in their pursuit of justice and safety. While normal police must acquire warrants before they can search a building, RHC constables are trusted to not abuse their authority, and so can act as swiftly as needed. However, they are required to fill out proper paperwork and give testimony justifying their actions. A constable who uses his power for personal gain—or to harass anyone of political clout without good reason—will find himself penalized, demoted, and possibly even in prison.

Constables are expected to take suspects alive whenever possible. Do note that the game rules allow characters to choose to subdue an enemy rather than kill it when it’s reduced to 0 hit points. Execution is a likely punishment if a trial deems a suspect to be an enduring threat, though some criminals with political value might be kept under special house arrest, as long as they do not actively pursue plots against Risur.

Every constable has access to binding ropes as well as handcuffs (albeit not quite as advanced as the modern variety). Most handcuffs include gold wire or thread, which can be tied off after the cuffs are closed to prevent creatures from teleporting while wearing them. In special cases, mage-cuffs can be requisitioned.

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Constables can usually hand over arrested suspects to the police, though the RHC headquarters in Flint does have specially prepared cells to handle more dangerous criminals. These cells are all lined with enchantments similar to those of mage-cuffs, and are surrounded by rings of gold and bricks baked with salt and other warding agents. When needed, even more specialized items can be used, such as chains that can hold incorporeal entities or prevent shapechanging, hoods that block gaze attacks, and sigils to nullify innate elemental threats like flaming elementals.

When it comes to interrogations, this is not a modern police force. Characters who choose to be enlightened and use less-violent approaches can often get what they need with less hassle, but threats and actual violence are common tools when trying to make suspects talk,and most superiors won’t bat an eye as long as no one is seriously injured or dies.

The Military

The Battalion school of war in the bayous of Pine Island trains hundreds of future officers every year, and works in connection with various district forts throughout the city, as well as naval bases on an island near the mouth of Flint Harbor. Flint still remembers a few naval skirmishes that threatened shipping eight years ago, and so the military maintains a constant watch for possible threats. Normally, though, they will not respond unless a district mayor or the city governor himself calls on them.

While few individual soldiers have magical training, the military has acquired over the years a wide variety of enchanted weapons and defenses. Perhaps foremost among these, every soldier stationed in The Nettles district fort is given an amulet to ward them against supernatural influence, should they be called upon to face a reawakening of the eldritch horrors that reigned over Cauldron Hill during the time of the witches.

Traveling Between Districts

Flint is a sprawling city, and often the party’s investigations will take them across it and back in the course of a single day. In general, by making use of carriages it takes a half hour to move from the heart of one district to the heart of an adjacent one. Walking can double this time.

Crossing Flint harbor or reaching one of The Ayres is usually an hour-long affair by sailboat, or half an hour if you know a friendly steamboat captain. Moving through the maze of rookeries in the Nettles can take hours, and it’s always faster to just go around than go over. Few paved roads lead to the Cloudwood, which makes carriages unsuitable, and one could spend hours or days roaming the mountains to the east or bayous to the west.

Once the subrail lines are completed, it should be possible to move between Central and either Bosum Strand or Stray River in as few as ten minutes. And if ever the route under the Nettles can overcome sabotage, it could shave nearly an hour off the time to go around the troublesome hills.

Before Adventure Two

The second ZEITGEIST adventure, The Dying Skyseer, takes place in the city of Flint, as do parts of other adventures. To help players learn about the city, after the end of Adventure One and before the start of Adventure Two, the GM should ask each player to pick two districts and come up with a contact his or her character has in each district.

This contact could be a friend or family member, a criminal informant, an ex-girlfriend, a merchant whose shop you frequent, a minor noble who owes you a favor, a religious figure, or many other options. These NPCs help connect the PCs to the city, and will come in handy as they investigate a murder mystery and other threats.

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