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ZEITGEIST A post-Zeitgeist campaign (spoilers for Zeitgeist, Saltmarsh, PotA, Avernus, and now War of the Burning Sky)

skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
I just realized that we have a Tortle and a Kenku in the group, who are clearly avatars of Bhoior and Av. If I can just figure out how to shoehorn the other two into being connected to two other planets, I’ve got the makings of an epic finale where the characters have to sacrifice themselves to become the planets. Maybe to become the planets again...
 

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skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
So, there's not a lot to report. We've been playing weekly and they are through the first adventure of Ghosts of Saltmarsh and working on some of the GoS and Dragon of Icespire Peak mini-quests. They've acquired two new members: a Lizardfolk, and a Yuan-Ti. The existing members convinced the new members to make Ber-compatible races.

The Yuan-ti player really wanted to bring the snake god Dendar from Forgotten Realms along as his Warlock patron, even after multiple attempts to get him to switch to the Voice of Rot, so he wrote up a backstory about living in a ziggurat full of VoR worshippers and being disgusted with them not accepting the true snake-death god. So he'd become a sort of snake-death-cult Mormon, trying to win convertees to his fancy new religion.

They got a ship at the end of the first GoS adventure and now we are using the Acquisitions Incorporated rules to set it up as an import business, making weekly trips to Seobriga and bringing back exotic items from the home country.

They got a mission to help a guy survey a mine. The mine was full of wererats. Instead of killing them, they negotiated to have them hired by the mine company and began proceedings to give them a union.

There's a young black dragon cruising about the island, clearly from an egg that was kept safe during the time when dragons were "extinct."

He's made a base on top of the ziggurat from Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. That ziggurat is probably connected to one of the new planets. They're big fans of Sargon of Uggat, whose father was cup-bearer to Ur-Zababa, so it might be to his world. We'll see if they pursue that.

Sid Minos may end up getting dragged to hell.. oh wait, there's no hell... well, there's Jiese. It'll be a nice stand in. The Golden Legion of Gear the Shimmering has set up camp there for the time being. Some of their old PCs are replacing major players from Descent into Avernus. Gear, of course, was a Zeitgeist PC who got replaced by an evil reflection in the Golden Legion's headquarters in the Gyre and has now taken them over. They've heard about this already from a "friendly" imp who's been following them around since they killed his master.

My intention is that the reason we've backtracked in technology somewhat (in addition to me not wanting to have to do a ton of conversion to bring technology to 20th-century levels) is that the infestation on Jiese has somehow corrupted its connection to the world. Probably so the devils can keep all the tech to themselves and have awesome Mad Max infernal engine chases. Two of our players are big Wasteland Weekend aficionados. I need to get them to Jiese.

Current plan is to just sort of see what they want to do out of my huge collection of 5e material, but keep leaving connections to Zeitgeist. Somewhere after 10th level they'll have to deal with the big cosmic stuff, which is currently very wibbly and waiting to see what they actually do. :)

This past week they almost died clearing out a Kuo-Toa infestation of a local ranch. The Kuo-Toa were displaced by the dragon. The dragon is sitting on a ziggurat.
 

skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
Alright, it's been a summer of almost-weekly sessions, and we have finally arrived at some nice Zeitgeist-shaped hooks.

The group has expanded to six, adding: Hassstur, a lizardfolk ranger, and Iohannes, a Yuan-Ti Warlock.

Hassstur's player played IronPeak and TitanFist in the Zeitgeist game, both Goliath tanks. (I seem to recall one was a Barbarian and one was a Fighter. They were linked by some mystical tattoos that caused them to be able to swap bodies or something. The player made a whole secret backstory and then never shared it with anyone.) TitanFist supplanted Strahd as the Dreadlord of Arrovia and IronPeak became king of Risur.
In our previous game, this player played Harann, a Dragonborn-then-Deva Warlord-then-Invoker who got possessed by Amyria, who was basically a horcrux of Bahamut in the 4e Scales of War campaign. Harann made it into Zeitgeist as the Clergy god of Air.

Iohannes's player is new to the group.

To sum up the summer:

  • They ran some smugglers out of a "haunted" house, and then captured their ship at sea (Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh).
  • They discovered an earth cult devoted to former PC Dana working underneath Saltmarsh (PotA's Tomb of Moving Stones)
  • They dealt with a necromancer building a zombie army near Saltmarsh (PotA's Necromancer's Cave)
  • They helped local mine administrator Manistrad Copperlocks expand her operation into a new mine by escorting her mine manager Don-Jon Raskin to the mine, and then negotiating with the local band of wererats to work for him (Dragon of Icespire Peak's Mountain's Toe Gold Mine)
  • They saved the Butterskull Ranch from an incursion of Kuo-Toa (DoIP's Butterskull Ranch, with orcs replaced with Kuo-Toa)
  • They dodged a young black dragon seen around the island (The titular Dragon of Icespire Peak, turned into a black dragon living atop the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan in the Drowned Forest from Saltmarsh).
  • They failed to recover a statue of Wilik (former PC god of fire) from a sunken haunted ship. (Saltmarsh's Wreck of the Marshal location, Vecna's Twist encounter)
  • They found out some Kuo-Toa had captured some fishermen and sacrificed them to an undersea statue, then got spooked when a self-proclaimed sea-god warned them to leave. (Saltmarsh's Cove Reef location, Worshipers of Koolooshidoop encounter)
  • They started up an import business with their new ship, hiring on a dozen or so sailors and various business personnel (Running a Franchise chapter of Acquisitions Incorporated). They run to Seobriga and buy Beran curiosities, then bring them back to sell in Saltmarsh, which I have placed on the southern shore of the island that holds Sid Minos. The crew makes about one run a week when the ship is not needed to support the adventurers. We did an entire session of interviewing prospective hires, which were mostly the pre-made sidekicks in the back of DoIP, though I also added in some more of my own creation. There were a few people they did not hire. One of them has started a rival business in partnership with Saltmarsh city councilmember Eda Oweland, who has also absorbed some of the story elements (and face) of Descent to Avernus's Duke Thalamra Vanthampur.
  • In an effort to help find shelters for the locals from dragon attacks, they explored the dwarven ruin of Axeholm (DoIP's Axeholm), where they discovered dozens of ghouls and a banshee. After clearing out many of the ghouls, they had to run from the banshee and regroup in the nearby town of Fattore (converted Burle from Saltmarsh). There they did some research to discover that the banshee was formerly an Eladrin adventurer who centuries ago had fallen in love with the dwarven castellan of Axeholm, even going so far as to convert her to the worship of Srasama. Together, they raided Clergy vaults in search of powerful items. They recovered the Shield of the Chained Lord (Avernus's Shield of the Hidden Lord, upgraded to an artifact with some ghoul-focused abilities), but then the Malice came. The shield cursed the Castellan to become a ghoul when she died with Srasama, but as a dwarf, her soul did not pass on with the other Eladrin women. The Eladrin's spirit manifested as a banshee due to her grief at bringing about the death of her beloved. The group discovered they could break the curse and let the lovers move on into the afterlife together if they could find and destroy the shield. They communicated with the ghoul castellan, who led them to the shield and then distracted the banshee so they could escape. The shield is a Clergy artifact made to entrap a demon. The only place to destroy it is in the forges of Sid Minos where it was created. Unbeknownst to the group, Sid Minos will suffer a catastrophe very soon and be pulled to Jiese. (Avernus's Elturel)
  • While on their way back to Axeholm, they encountered a wild-haired Eladrin named Smiler who was riding a two-wheeled infernal machine that screamed as it went. He told them about a meeting taking place at the nearby Rivergard Keep (PotA Rivergard Keep, but then I changed everything but the map) and asked for directions. After finishing up at Axeholm, they found a flyer in Fattore advertising for adventurers needed at Rivergard Keep. And that's where they stumbled upon a meeting of a secret society who has discovered that the planes are unstable and a version of the Axis Seal ritual needs to be performed with a series of magic items related to each of the eight Zeitgeist elements.

I will cover the meeting in my next post.
 

skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
The group arrived at Rivergard Keep, where they spotted musket-wielding guards in House Oweland livery. Realizing that the guards of their main business competitor probably would know who they are, they took some time to apply mundane and magical disguises, and then approached the keep, flashing the "Adventurers Wanted" flyer they had found in Fattore. The somewhat confused gate guards ("oh, that's today?") led them to the keep's chapel to wait for someone important to deal with them.

Sam's disguise had been to wildshape into a cat, so he wandered the grounds and scouted while the others stayed in the chapel. Igbrin made a duplicate (Trickery Cleric) and sent the duplicate to ask for a bathroom, to have a second scout.

Sam stumbled upon a meeting happening in a ground-floor room of a tower. He hopped in the window and watched for a while, mostly out of sight. He saw Don-Jon Raskin leading the meeting. He also saw the eladrin Smiler, the human Eda Oweland, and a man in ornate plate armor standing watch. The group seemed to be meeting to go over their plans and report on their individual progress.

Don-Jon said he was looking for "the shield" among local dwarven ruins, but had not found anything yet.
Smiler said his search for "the sword" had run into trouble when most of his Defilers had been lost to rivals. He was currently seeking replacements.
Oweland said that her divinations had led her to a puzzlebox with something unknown inside. She had one of her sons working on cracking it.
The armored man said that he knew where to find the trident, but needed to find some competent adventurers to help out.
A man Sam couldn't see said he needed to perform a ritual to try to get "the axe," but more research was needed.
A strange voice that seemed to appear inside Sam's head and sometimes sounded like it was being played backwards stated that it had tracked "the orrery" to a crash site in the Parete Peaks (on the Sid Minos isle) and he believed that once recovered, it would lead to "the heart of Sijhen."
Then Don-Jon reminded everyone that they still needed to discover and recover two more items to complete their mission.

As they wrapped up, Sam had a good look at Don-Jon's corkboard, and memorized it as quickly as he could.

Here's what they conveniently stumbled in on:

I was putting all of their planets from the end of Zeitgeist into a spreadsheet to track the various elements in the new solar system in an effort to find out how to make the solar system "wrong." Then it occured to me: There are 8 planet spots, and 8 elements. Each slot is expected to take one element, but every planet brings a secondary element along with. I felt that a properly-balanced system would also balance the secondary elements, so that there was one primary and secondary of each element. Instead, the system they build has like 6 planets with secondary time energy, and only two with fire at all, including Jiese. Not only had they unbalanced the system with 14 planets, but there is an uneven amount of elemental energy being channeled into the system. This lack of balance will destabilize the system within a generation, tearing it apart. (which will be soon represented by the ripping out of Sid Minos from reality).

Benedict Pemberton has noticed this and formed a new Illuminati to re-do the Axis Seal ritual. The members he has so far are Rock Rackus (whose life has been prolonged by being encased in a suit of power armor), Smiler, Eda Oweland, Vlendam Heid, and a white slaad (who was a primary npc in our pre-zeitgeist campaign. He enabled time travel and helped the group about as much as he hindered them. The group named him "Q.") And himself, in a new human form, that of Don-Jon Raskin, so I didn't give up the whole thing immediately.

They don't have access to a giant mech to lift the seal, so they're going to cheat a bit. The old Ob palace off the coast of Vendricce has fallen to ruins, and the various planar paintings stored in the basement have started to bleed into reality (creating the DoomVault from Dead in Thay). They need to find elementally-charged powerful magic items (Artifact or Legendary) and take them to the basement to infuse them with planar energy, making them into new planar icons. Once that's done, they will use some teleport or time shenanigans to re-do the ritual. Haven't worked that part out yet, but it might involve Q taking them to when their Zeitgeist PCs were fighting Nicodemus. Or they might be able to do the ritual there in the Ob basement. I'll sort that out later.

So the point of this is to give the PCs a bunch of item quests if they want to get involved. So far, they think that they just found the villains, so this will be interesting.

The items the Illuminati are looking for:

The Shield of the Hidden Lord (Avernus)
The Sword of Zariel (Avernus)
Whelm (White Plume Mountain)
Axe of the Dwarvish Lords (DMG. I'll do something with the Lost Riders)
The Orrery of the Wandered (Acquisitions Incorporated, but I'm thinking of putting it in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks)
Stone of Golorr (renamed the Heart of Sijhen)

Still working on Life and Death items. I'm thinking the skull of the demilich of Vicemi Terio at the center of the DoomVault will make a nice death item. There's a life item in the Wildemount guide that I liked, but can't remember the name of. One of the items that levels up with its user, so I can get it to them early.

So... that's the plan. We'll see what happens.
 



skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
four months later. Mostly been playing Descent to Avernus content, with some Zeitgeist flavor.

They traveled to Saltmarsh to steal the puzzle box from the Oweland estate. In doing so, things went very pear-shaped and B'alam the Tabaxi Sorcerer made a deal with the imp Billy Raoul who had been tagging along with the group ever since they killed his previous master. Billy Raoul saved the party form being captured and B'alam got a new imp familiar. In exchange, Billy Raoul told B'alam a terrible secret: his adopted home city of Sid Minos would soon be ripped from the world and transported to Jiese, where the "New Demonocracy" had set themselves up. B'alam was not allowed to tell anyone about this or attempt to change the events, lest he forfeit his immortal soul.

They traveled to Sid Minos and destroyed the Shield of the Hidden Lord just in time to see Ashima-Ashimtu appear in the sky and inform the citizenry that their city was the century-deferred price for giving the Ritual of Apotheosis to the Clergy for the god trials. On the way, they stopped by B'alam's old mentor in the city, the Orc Wizard Gramagal. Unfortunately, B'alam couldn't contain himself and suggested that Gramagal go on a vacation. This was enough meddling to break his contract. His soul would now be the property of "Hell" when he died.

And, literally the next session, as they were escaping the High Hall Cathedral, B'alam ran off on his own and encountered a pair of hellhounds and their handler. The party had scattered in four different directions and neither healer could get to him before he perished. Suddenly, the group had a new and terrible quest: free B'alam's soul from the infernal bureaucracy of Jiese.

Conveniently, Sid Minos was already on its way there, so they made sure their ship could safely escape, collected one of their crew, a goblin gunslinger by the name of Niebla Tóxica, to assist, and sheltered in Gramagal's tower for the ride to Jiese.

Once there, they discovered that three infernal factions were fighting over the planet, and each lay claim to Sid Minos. Not wanting to support devils, demons, or fallen angels, they roused a rebellion amongst the locals and then went in search of B'alam's soul. In order to free the city from its own infernal contract, they had to delve the vaults beneath High Hall Cathedral to find the original city charter. There they also found an undead clergy hierarch interrogating a Gidim in corporeal form. They freed the Gidim and conspired with it to defeat the corrupt clergy under the Cathedral. The Gidim claimed to be a space traveler who was accustomed to flying from planet to planet, but it was now also stranded on Jiese as his own ship was crashed in the mountains outside of Sid Minos's original location. so they enlisted his aid to make a flying ship to return to their own world.

Gramagal tracked B'alam's soul to a junkyard run by a night hag named Mad Maggie, where the group discovered the wonders of infernal war machines. These war machines were fueled by soul coins, which were literally coins with souls infused in them. One of these contained B'alam's soul. Further research led them to discover that the contract for B'alam's soul was being held in a crypt for fallen paladins who were bound into service of one of the infernal factions. They infiltrated the crypt and retrieved the contract. With the contract, the soul, and the body (preserved via Gentle Repose and a Bag of Holding), they now had everything they needed to restore B'alam to life.

The Death Knight guardian of the crypt thought they were grave robbers and systematically banished all of them back home to their own plane, unwittingly providing them the escape they needed just when they had acquired their last quest item.

They are now scattered around the real world just in time for Christmas break. Several months passed while they were away. We will sort out everything that happened when we return in January!
 


skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
Alright, the group is back underway again. They've encountered some traveling Mind Flayers Gidim who have left the hivemind and taken up living in physical bodies. These travelers are reasonably friendly for brain eaters, but they claim to have been on the way through the system but found themselves unable to leave. The group speculates that the solar system is not providing the protective measures it once did, perhaps even trapping people from leaving, like a mini-Gyre.

I lured them into the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan and, after Zeitgeist, they could not resist a ziggurat. However, I was under-prepped for their many lore questions and the answers were less than satisfying as they expected BIG PLOT POINTS to come from exploring the ziggurat.

This week is being spent trying to mold Mesoamerican myth into a mythology for the pre-Axis Seal world. Which is fun, but has an even more interesting wrinkle.

The open-world semi-random explorations of various D&D adventures seems to have run its course with this group (they have Hidden Shrine to finish up and the anti-Sahuagin raid at the end of the main Saltmarsh plot). I talked to some of them about their engagement with the plot and I realize they are super spoiled from having played through Zeitgeist already. My ad-hoc content cannot hold a candle to @RangerWickett's intricate plotting. I figured what they needed was some War of the Burning Sky content grafted onto their post-Zeitgeist world. I discussed this with the player who dives into the lore the most, and they suggested that simply having another conflict over control of the world wouldn't feel big enough after having been to the Gyre at the end of Zeitgeist and having spent a couple of levels adventuring on Jiese this time around. We're already interplanar at 7th level, with some nautically-themed PCs and some allied Mind Flayers. I've already thought about doing some Spelljammer-style stuff to get them to travel to the various worlds of the solar system.

Now I'm considering a War of the Burning Sky plotline spread throughout the solar system.

WAR OF THE BURNING SKY SPOILERS TO FOLLOW

I'm already mashing up their two previous campaigns for this (4e Scales of War and 4e/5e Zeitgeist). I'm looking at having the various adventure locales of WotBS be different planets. Shahalesti as Av, Jiese as Ragesia (Ra-Jiese?), Caeloon as the site of the monastery of the two winds, Ascetia (in a shared orbit with Av) as Taranesti, but with the drow changed to be the returned Eladrin women who were dead for 500 years. Apet as the place where the Obelisk of infinite-range magic is being built. Trillith as the effect of wild Gidim interacting with the dreams of Bhoior the space turtle or something. It's pretty exciting but also a lot of homework to make sure I have all the right elements in place.

I still haven't completely figured out who my main belligerents are, but I have some notions. It's possible that "Coaltongue" will be Ashima-Shimtu. She's already made an impression by being behind the intro to Descent to Avernus/Jiese. That could just have been the first contact the PCs had with her system-wide war of conquest, (basically standing in for Gate Pass and the fire forest). Then I need some Vekeshi assassins to "kill" Ashima-Shimtu and have a "Leska" take contol. I'm halfway to having that be a conveniently-immortal Lya Jierre, since they never got any resolution with her in the Zeitgeist campaign and it seems pretty easy to tie in Danoran power with "Hell" and "anti-magic" themes..

It's nice that most of the pre-campaign timeline in WotBS is 100 years long, as it lets me fit all those events into the time jump from the previous game. I now need to reconcile the cosmology of both worlds, which (thanks to Toteth Topec) shouldn't be too hard but is interesting. It's pretty easy to tie the elemental dragons to the elemental planets of the same names, though my party kicked Avilona out of the system... We'll see if that's a problem later, I guess. :)


Anyway, potentially exciting developments ahead!
 
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skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
A warforged PC took over the Golden Legion at the end of Zeitgeist and was one of the factions vying for control of Jiese when they were there. She might make a good Coaltongue or Leska stand-in as well.
 

skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
Since the ancient Orcs are very Mesoamerican, I am adopting the Aztec Five Suns creation myth to represent the world before the Axis Seal Ritual. Or at least the way it was perceived by the "Aztorcs."

For those who don't know, in this myth, a series of gods take their turns being the Sun after the world is created, and each influences the world in a different way before failing (or stepping down), causing the death of the world. Then another god sacrifices themselves to become the new sun, rinse and repeat until we reach the Fifth Sun, our current world. Except in my Zeitgeist world, we are actually in the Sixth Sun. The Fifth Sun legend tells that the world will end when all the people are eaten by sky monsters. I love how well that fits in with the Orcs building Ziggurats and making the Axis Seal to prevent outside invaders. Now the world had its first sun that is not a god, and it was in the midst of its longest age before Nicodemus and the Voice of Rot broke everything and some pesky RHC constables jammed 13 planes into 8 slots, seriously throwing off the delicate balance of elemental energies in the system. I suppose that makes the current age the Seventh Sun.

Since our five players each had a PC in a previous game who then created this new world and became Clergy gods (to be sacrificed), it also lined up perfectly to have each one be one of the gods who became the sun. I've also been aligning them with the various elements of the planets, so our old half-orc fighter with flaming battle-axe was a god of fire who now has an aspect that lives on Jiese, etc. The Clergy only managed to sacrifice the good, family-friendly aspect of him, the "human" sheriff they worshipped as a god of cities and laws. The new one leads an army of demons on infernal motorcycles in a civil war for control of Jiese, and he's not happy how mortals have been treating him. He was also the first Sun, Texcatlipoca, and probably the dragon Khor-el-Jiese. Gods with many different aspects who are worshipped in different ways by different cultures are very convenient to me here. Our dragonborn invoker became the second sun Quetzalcoatl, who was jealously killed by the first sun, but she's also Jhial-el-Avilona, whose heart was ripped out by Khor-el-jiese, and I'm sure that Aviline Heart is around here somewhere...

The current PCs have found a Ziggurat that predates the ones used to seal planets and are getting this pre-Seal knowledge, mostly by way of hallucinating that they are the aspects of their previous characters. I'm very much liking the idea that they are new aspects of those old gods, recovering divine memories, but it could also just be a good way to send messages.

After they're done with the Ziggurat, we're going to do an in-game montage of about a year, letting us do some worldbuilding and play with the setting to figure out where our world is compared to the official Zeitgeist settings of 80 and 100 years prior. If I manage to wedge into that a story about an immortal half-orc warlord with a fiery weapon on a war of conquest, well, that will work just fine...
 
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This is some fascinating worldbuilding.

I only just now peeked at the 5e conversion of WotBS's player's guide, by the way. It brought back some pleasant memories, and I rather appreciated the way various elements of the setting were converted into 5e class archetypes.
 

skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
Welp, just after this plan, the group decided they wanted to try Pathfinder 2e.

No, seriously.

So, I'm running some Pathfinder adventures to get acclimated. Wedged into this post-post-Zeitgeist homunculus of a world I have going now.

This is probably not very relevant to Zeitgeist content at the moment, but three of the new pathfinder PCs are directly related to Zeitgeist content, which is fun.

One is a half-elf Clergy apostate who was witness to the god trials in his youth and became disillusioned with the church. One is Tinker Oddcog's niece, sent to find cool gadgets for uncle Tinker. And one is literally just Lieutenant Dale, returned from a long absence in the Black Lodge Bleak Gate. First name Cooper, of course.
 

I recently read a theory and analysis of season three of Twin Peaks that makes me want to be way more artsy in some future adventure. I mean, if I did it it'd be pretty artificial since I'm not an auteur at heart, but I wonder if it's possible to get players to buy into a high concept adventure.
 

Tormyr

Adventurer
I recently read a theory and analysis of season three of Twin Peaks that makes me want to be way more artsy in some future adventure. I mean, if I did it it'd be pretty artificial since I'm not an auteur at heart, but I wonder if it's possible to get players to buy into a high concept adventure.
Wait a minute. Zeitgeist isn't a high-concept adventure?
 


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