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ZEITGEIST Adventures in Elfaivar, 522 AOV

TL;DR - In last night's game I was trying to let the PCs possibly get assistance from some shady NPCs, and now the PCs want to fight Hitler.

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There's a ruined city that different factions are exploring and trying to get treasures from. We'll call them the PCs, the Spies, the Slavers, the Runaway, the Bounty Hunters, the Merchant, and the Hitler Youth. The party is looking for the Armory (the Armory of Chapon, where the archmage of the old Elfaivaran Empire is said to have created mighty magical weapons, lost now for four centuries), but any monsters they can kill are a bonus, since the river through the ruins would be speed up trade between the capital and the coast, and right now it's dangerous to travel on the river.

I planned the adventure as a sort of outdoors dungeon, with a few groups of NPCs around to suggest the broader politics of the region and to allow for social challenges. Since all the PCs are men and all fairly young, I make it clear that modern Elfaivaran culture generally would prefer them doing safe jobs, and to leave the adventuring to the women, so the PCs want to prove that they deserve equal respect.

In the first scene the party stumbles upon the Bounty Hunters (clerics from Crisillyir), who seemed surprisingly chill but dangerous to piss off. They say they're looking for a demon, and the party says they'll keep an eye out.

The PCs end up fighting some of the Slavers (mute half-elves around whom lingered the scent of burning metal).

Then a few hours later the party meets and befriends the Runaway (a functionary in the theocratic government of Crisillyir's lone remaining colony Angelus), whom they realize is the guy the Bounty Hunters want, though he doesn't seem like a demon. The PCs agree to take the Runaway to the nearby capital city where he could ask for asylum. But the party met him after lunch, and it would take a day's hike through potentially hostile jungle to reach the capital, so rather than getting stuck on the road overnight, they figure they'd do a bit more exploring and then leave in the morning.

Then they explore a ruined fortress that was still guarded by animated armor, and which they think holds the Armory. But they nearly die just fighting the front door guard (an animated suit of armor that, when destroyed, releases a wraith), so they withdraw.

On their way back to a semi-safe camp site, they spot one of the Spies (a weretiger glimpsed from afar), but when they chase her, she leads them to the camp of the Hitler Youth, but then vanishes.

The 'Hitler Youth' here are a group of a dozen young idealistic Elfaivaran warrior women who thought they'd grow up to hold positions of power among their people, but ever since millions of Elfaivaran women were miraculously resurrected twenty years ago, the culture has shifted, and now these young women don't know what the future will look like. They, like thousands of others, are swept up by dreams of reclaiming their nation from the foreign colonizers. They're here in the ruins hoping to find powerful magic, and they're very loyal to their leader (Adin Radhasi, Princess of Honor, General of the Army of the Reclamation), and they're kinda hostile to outsiders, like the Runaway.

The party decides to keep the Runaway's secret to themselves, and to try to see if they can get this cadre of warrior women to help them fight the monsters in the fort. The leader of the Hitler Youth says she is waiting by the river for a specific mission, but maybe the party could help her, and she'd help them. The party camps with them overnight. The warriors are friendly, but the PCs - in an effort to befriend the Hitler Youth's leader - realize that the woman has some delusions of grandeur. (Also, she orders one of her soldiers to seduce one of the PCs, who ends up bragging about all their secrets to try to impress her.)

When morning rolls around, they hear the approach of a short steamboat coming up the river through the ruins. This is the Merchant (a hobgoblin and his crew of sailors from Ber, who are somehow able to keep from getting attacked by monsters on the river). The Hitler Youth spring into action, laying an ambush along a bridge, threatening to attack the steamboat if they don't stop for 'inspection.' The warriors hold the crew at sword-point, start rummaging through the boat taking valuables, and begin berating the captain to explain how he can safely navigate the river.

The party at this point realizes that the Hitler Youth are maybe not the good guys.

The Merchant captain explains that there's a water spirit that lives in the river, which is bound by some ancient magic, but he speaks its language. It will protect him in exchange for a song and some friendship. The Hitler Youth are not big on 'friendship' with water spirits, and start discussing whether they can go back to their base and bring their wizard to somehow bind the water spirit. This pisses off the PC druid, who slips off and manages to call forth the water spirit, pointing out that his hobgoblin friend is being held prisoner. The water spirit (a Challenge Rating 11 marid) attacks with its 600-foot range hydro blasts.

This causes a commotion.

One brief hostage situation later, the Hitler Youth agrees to let the hobgoblin captain go with his boat, and to take the PCs with him, but she's keeping some of the Beran crew to make sure the marid doesn't keep attacking. And they're also taking the Runaway. The PCs object, but the Hitler Youth tells them to f*** off, because they were clearly harboring a foreign agent and hiding the truth from the Army of the Reclamation, which means they cannot be trusted.

The PCs grumble and beg and barter, to no avail. Their new friend the Runaway gets taken off by the Hitler Youth, likely to be interrogated and kept in a cell for who knows how long. Now the party is en route to the capital, and the whole 'find the Armory' plot hook is gonna have to wait, because they now have a grudge, and their plan is to make allies, rescue the Runaway, and ultimately find a way to take out Hitler herself.

(To be honest, she's more Sadao Araki - the Imperial Japanese right-wing radical who politicized the military in the 1930s - rather than Hitler, but my players were not in the mood for nuance.)
 

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efreund

Explorer
...who thought they'd grow up to hold positions of power among their people, but ever since millions of Elfaivaran women were miraculously resurrected twenty years ago, the culture has shifted...
Reminds me strongly of what happened at the beginning of last week's episode of WandaVision.

Cool adventure! I love the idea of an Indiana Jones vs Nazis competition to loot the lost city in the jungle, but I hated Paizo's City of Seven Spears (per my extremely long one-star review which you can still find over on their website), which tried to do exactly that. You haven't quite gotten to the city yet, but looks like you're off to a fun start! Thanks for sharing.

(Now we just need the plottwist to reveal that the Runaway actually is a demon!)
 

This week, the party hits up the capital, meets the Mayor who takes their concerns very seriously because she figures that if there are Bounty Hunters who are a bunch of foreign priests suddenly just popping in, that means they know about an old teleportation circle in the ruins. And if they're chasing the Runaway, that means he probably teleported in too. And the last thing she wants is Hitler learning how to teleport her armies within a few miles of the capital.

The Mayor takes the party to meet the Rajput, a warrior who trains magical elephants. One PC helps the mayor draft a sternly-worded letter that offers a carrot if the Hitler Youth hand their prisoners over, and if that fails, the PCs are to be the stick. The other PCs are dubious, until they learn the elephant can control winds to deflect arrows, can stab you with its tusks from 150 feet away, and creates an aura of gravity that slows enemy charges and blocks teleportation, which will be pretty handy against a dozen women who can cast misty step once per short rest.

The Rajput ain't too shabby either: he's been defending the city for 300 years, so he's a bad-ass. He slaps a longstrider onto the elephant and they're off, hopefully to catch up before sunset. Along the way, he even offers to teach the party's druid how to fire a musket from the top of the howdah.

So it's rather tragic when, during a random encounter against a swarm of zombies, an undead wizard hits the druid with disintegrate and kills him in one shot. The GM needs to read his statblocks more clearly. But this game was never meant to be that serious, so the GM comes up with a plausible reason the player's soul immediately reincarnates into a nearby wild animal. The player chooses a tree frog, but points out he can wild shape into an ape, so he can still fire the musket.

In pursuit of the Hitler Youth and their prisoners, the party sees that they weren't the only victims of a random encounter, as one of the prisoners (an orc who was part of the Merchant's crew) was murdered by something like a giant scorpion. The Hitler Youth seem to have driven the monster off, but left the orc behind and made the rest of their prisoners keep marching. However, the orc was placed in position of repose, with a symbol of blessing on his forehead - a Clergy symbol (a fishhook drawn with ash). After a quick look around, the party finds tracks of the Bounty Hunters, who seem to be close on the heels of the elves.

So now a dilemma. The party wants to rescue the Runaway. The Hitler Youth want to interrogate the Runaway and figure out the code to a vital teleportation circle. And the Bounty Hunters claim the Runaway is a demon, so they probably will kill him. The party isn't sure they can win a straight fight against both, so what to do?

We'll find out next week. And luckily I've hinted at enough other NPCs in the area that if I need to tip the scales one way or another, I can help the party out in a bind.

Now I need to make a statblock to represent a unit of a dozen elvish warriors.
 

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