ZEITGEIST GM inspiration for session zero


Hi GM’s out there,

I’m preparing for my first Zeitgeist campaign, which will start in a year or so, so plenty of time to prepare.
I‘m considering a several sessions zero, one-on-one with each player.
I think half of them won't bother to read through the entire player guide, so I'll be their guide to Lanjyr.

In these sessions we will work on the character backgrounds and tying them into Zeitgeist.

I would do some montage of scenes, interactively dropping some snippets of lore, fitting with the character; maybe one of the PC's witnessed the Wild Hunt storming through Risur once.
Another fought in the Yearasol war and already met some NPC-war veterans; or one visited the Pardwight University museum of Natural History.
Maybe some memories of childhood songs (chapter ten). A debating society. A Rock Rackus concert.

Then, a RHC assessment / training session as mentioned in the Player's Guide. First this includes an obstacle course; an opportunity for all players to familiarise themselves with the rules for firearms.
Second, a questionnaire. I was thinking to ask some foreshadowing questions (like the "banana in the exhaustpipe" in Spacequest 5 StarCon Aptitude Test).
For example: "You think another RHC constable is not handing over recovered items, what would you do?"
"On a mission you witness an attempt to murder a woman. Would you intervene risking the your cover for RHC-operation, or ignore this fact and focus on your mission?"
"During wartime, an officer of the enemy approaches you with a bold plan for peace, would you arrest the man so he can be traded for an imprisoned Risur officer, or see where it leads, risking being accused of treason?"

What do you think of these ideas and do you have any suggestion for questions foreshadowing the dilemma's the party will be facing.

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Good morning.

I'd say your players not bothering to read through the player's guide is both curse and boon; on the one hand it's bad they're not invested enough for some light reading, on the other hand there are a fair few elements in the guide that don't come up in the actual AP.

You might want to do prequel missions based on what character theme your players are interested in. Yerasol Veterans get to skirmish on Axis Island, gunsmiths might shoot malice beasts from atop the Avery Coast Express, Vekeshi Mystics could pay a visit to Thistle Palace, etc.

Alternatively, just run Bonds of Forced Faith. It's set in the past, but it does a pretty good job setting up future setting elements.

I'd suggest trying to 'show, not tell'; meaning don't have the players witness something, but get them actively involved. Maybe they need to escort and assist the Great Hunt, maybe they need to protect a debate from radical criminal nihilist demagogues.

Given that you will be running in a year, I would hesitantly suggest that you should not try and increase player knowledge, but player investment. Help them build characters they really want to play, make them really want to be RHC constables by getting them invested in Flint, talk about a few of the grander set-pieces and setting concepts to get them really interested in changing the setting for the better. Easier said than done, of course.

Best of luck. Do post more questions when you have them.


What do you think of these ideas and do you have any suggestion for questions foreshadowing the dilemma's the party will be facing.

I personally like your ideas, but I think it depends on your playgroup. As arkwright suggested, run with ideas to enhance player investment. My group enjoys being invested in each other's backstories, in which case you may run a joint prequel mission. If you think your characters would become more invested by having their character's own backstory fleshed out with solo sessions, do that.

How long do you think you'll have between 'session 0s' and the beginning of the session?

As you've asked for inspiration, here's some mission I've run that you may be interested in. Of these adventures, I'd recommend running something in Flint for session zero.

Children of the Hart

: Forum contributors Gideonpepys and Colmarr

My Session Zero. An improvised group storytelling mission that takes place a few weeks before the launch of the RNS Coaltongue. An unusually emotional Assistant Inspector Stover Delft tasks the party with solving a mystery of missing children. I gave the party the conclusion of their story, then rolled them into initiative. Each player spends their turn describing how their character advances the case. The final player's contribution ends with the snippet of story I provided to the players:

The constables find themselves deep in the blooming spring forests of the Cloudwood. With every step, the ground feels softer, the air thicker, and the vegetation less lively. They have good reason to believe Curo Selku---a Fey necromancer---has taken the Children of the Hart to a ritual site in a long-forgotten marsh. All the evidence indicates he is a lone wolf, with no ties to the Unseen Court or Archfey. Although the constables do not expect tight security, they are weary of the trickery of a desperate and lonely fey...

The players then venture into the cursed Cloudwood site, and cinematically fought Curo. As the session is collaborative, I left room to adjust Curo's motives to be consistent with the players' investigation. In my mind, though, Curo was using the children's blood to perform a ritual for immortality. Although unsuccessful, it foreshadows an aspect of a particular character's backstory.

I found the session to be a gentle introduction to Flint, the duties of an RHC Constable, and their background themes. For example, one player ended up visiting Cauldron Hill. They met two guards (Dazza and Bazza). Dazza died working security aboard the Coaltongue and Bazza lives to this day, helping Captain Dale run the Nettles.

You can read about my group's experience of the session here:

A Wild Sheep Chase

: A Wild Sheep Chase

I ran this when two players could not make a session (scaled down for two level 1 PCs and adjusted for the Pathfinder system). An eladrin-turned-sheep manages to nimbly avoid all guards, bursting through the PC's office doors. Good for comedic relief.

An ulterior motive to running this was that we use the dynamic crafting ruleset for Pathfinder, but nobody intended to make a magic item crafter. Whichever side the players pick, they should get access to a powerful wizard. In my players case, they occasionally visit the permasheep Finethir Shinebright to craft bizarre magic items.

Something's Cooking

3E D&D adventure of the same name

Ran for level 2 PCs and converted to the Pathfinder system. For my game, I reskinned it to be relevant to the story. From my Children of the Hart session, one player had mentioned a merchant named Gary who trades honey in the Nettles. Pete had also gifted the players muffins of Cure Light Wounds made from Gary's bakery. The players were curious about Gary, but too tied up in the aftermath of the Coaltongue to investigate. In the downtime between book 1 and book 2, the players visited Gary, and were concerned to find his home entirely trashed.

The PCs found Gary tied to his bed, covered in what looks to be blood, tortured by a small demon. After arresting the demon (my PCs rarely deal lethal damage) they find out that this 'blood' is actually jam. After a cure light wounds spell later, Gary explains to the party that when his wife, Andolyn, left for the morning, he visited her garden shed to find interesting magical items he could use in his baking. An elemental core and a lot of dough later, Gary had created a waffle golem that now wreaks havoc in his basement. Under Gary's instruction, the party were given Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Baking Paddle) and skirmished the golem as it spouting scolding-hot honey.

Unfortunately not as beautiful as a Calzone golem, but one PC had a thing for waffles.

Crypta Heritcarum

The add-on to book 4/act 1

I'm still in the process of running this, but I'm running through the dungeon handed mentioned in the add-ons to Act 1 of the Adventure Path. This takes place in about 200 AOV, where the newly appointed godhand Gene takes a pilgrimage with a group of Clergyfolk and sellswords. Here, Gene is a reserved yet open-minded Clergyman. If the player chose a Clergyfolk, they venture with Gene for the opportunity of a promotion, and choose a 'Virtue' instead of a trait. If the player plays a sellsword, they are promised all the loot they wish to take with them, and choose a 'Vice' instead of a trait. The virtues and vices provide a small boost in certain rooms/combats.

This series of sessions will end with Constable Pete Pottinger telling it as a story to the PCs of the Adventure Path, as he cooks breakfast atop the blade of Srasama.

Diehard with Dwarves

Inspiration: Esteemed author RangerWickett

RangerWickett suggested this for a one shot. I haven't run it yet, but hope to have it written up and prepped for Christmas (before you run your session zero?). After all, Diehard is a Christmas film. Here's the blurb for it:

Congratulations! You, prestigious student of the Glazkov's Institute for Rigorous Philosophical Endeavours, have been selected for the Annual Drakran Convention for Inevitable Debate. This year's topic requires you to debate the merits or disadvantages of long term government investment in the rural areas in the face of the expected doomsday. If the intellectual appeal of the event wasn't enough to satisfy your appetite, the event will take place in one of the beautiful old castles of Bhad Rhyzhavdut.

Andrew Moreton

I think that giving at least some characters some ties in their background to the plot is something to aim for. What those are is going to depend on what the players want to play but try for something. The backgrounds I have found most useful for fitting into the plot with my players are Vekeshi Mystic -- for interest in Kasavarina and the Fey, Technologist -- for Tinker and general interest in progress and Medium -- so many dead people to talk to. I have missed having a Stargazer as there are a lot of good tie ins for them.
All of this is for helping build player investment in a long and complicated plot which is definetly worth it . Good luck and have fun running the campaign

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