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ZEITGEIST Homebrew World with Zeitgeist

ratzofftoya

Explorer
Hey folks, I'd like to run Zeitgeist but in more of a homebrew setting--not too much of a departure thematically, but a little more emphasis on the sorta industrial revolution stuff and maybe a bit more of a "weird/absurd" feel to the different cultures. What's the best way I knew which things I need to build into the world, which geographical constants need to be maintained, etc., short of reading every single adventure first?
 

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How developed is your homebrew world already?

Key geographical elements:

An island in a sea between two nations that have warred intermittently.

A city with a spooky mountain in one of those countries.

That country has five big biomes that can be home to slumbering titans that emerge at epic level: swamp, mountain, forest, plains, seas.

A route that makes sense for a long railroad, passing through multiple countries.

Another country (not the two warring ones, and not the ones with the long railroad) which has an island nearby with a volcano. This country should ideally border or be near the main country, and ought to be big enough that building a railroad across it would be a great feat.

Somewhere with glaciers.

Somewhere with jungle, that is the site of a former empire, now collapsed and mostly depopulated (or colonized).

That should do ya.
 


The border states were just to be realistic. Not every country is big and meaningful. Also, it provided areas for PCs if someone wanted to build a character who didn't fit with the rest of the setting, and I figured GMs could pencil in details if needed.
 

ratzofftoya

Explorer
The border states were just to be realistic. Not every country is big and meaningful. Also, it provided areas for PCs if someone wanted to build a character who didn't fit with the rest of the setting, and I figured GMs could pencil in details if needed.
Awesome. Looking at the overview, how important is it that "humans dominate three of the six great nations?"
 

It's not. The physical shape of folks doesn't really matter, though Ber loses some of its novelty if it doesn't consist of groups traditionally seen as dangerous monsters.

The philosophy and culture matters more. Risur and its ties to druids and fey. Danor and its focus on science and progress. Drakr and its doomsday fascination. Crisillyir and its faith in Triegenes's teaching that anyone can better themselves, when in achieving godhood (plus a history of locking away demons and heretical things). Ber and its concern about proving their civility to the world while maintaining their own traditions and identities. And Elfaivar being devastated by the Great Malice and yet surviving through the teachings of Vekesh.
 

ratzofftoya

Explorer
It's not. The physical shape of folks doesn't really matter, though Ber loses some of its novelty if it doesn't consist of groups traditionally seen as dangerous monsters.

The philosophy and culture matters more. Risur and its ties to druids and fey. Danor and its focus on science and progress. Drakr and its doomsday fascination. Crisillyir and its faith in Triegenes's teaching that anyone can better themselves, when in achieving godhood (plus a history of locking away demons and heretical things). Ber and its concern about proving their civility to the world while maintaining their own traditions and identities. And Elfaivar being devastated by the Great Malice and yet surviving through the teachings of Vekesh.
Awesome! Super helpful! I thought that at least Danor would need to have a bunch of Tieflings...
 

Well, the place should ideally not have magic, but the people in charge don't have to be tieflings. It just helps a bit to differentiate the different countries when you're introducing the world to the players.
 

ratzofftoya

Explorer
Well, the place should ideally not have magic, but the people in charge don't have to be tieflings. It just helps a bit to differentiate the different countries when you're introducing the world to the players.
Thanks. Very glad to be freed up in this way. Hopefully the players are sophisticated enough to conceive of nations that are defined by something other than just a common genetic ancestry...
 

MarkM

Explorer
My advice would be to read very thoroughly through all the adventures at least twice before you start homebrewing the world. I've been running campaigns only in homebrewed worlds for 20 years and started out to heavily modify this one. After some time and a lot of work, I realized this one is not only better than what I can create, it is also tied into the story in so many little ways. I've backpedaled on a number of things. I still have a lot of backstory that I've written and integrated, but it is more tweaking things or fleshing them out than big changes. I've been planning this campaign for over a year, and even after reading it multiple times I still find small things nearly every week where I'd missed or forgotten a connection. If you spend a lot of time upfront getting very, very familiar with the campaign before you start to build a world you will save yourself even more time down the road.
 

ratzofftoya

Explorer
My advice would be to read very thoroughly through all the adventures at least twice before you start homebrewing the world. I've been running campaigns only in homebrewed worlds for 20 years and started out to heavily modify this one. After some time and a lot of work, I realized this one is not only better than what I can create, it is also tied into the story in so many little ways. I've backpedaled on a number of things. I still have a lot of backstory that I've written and integrated, but it is more tweaking things or fleshing them out than big changes. I've been planning this campaign for over a year, and even after reading it multiple times I still find small things nearly every week where I'd missed or forgotten a connection. If you spend a lot of time upfront getting very, very familiar with the campaign before you start to build a world you will save yourself even more time down the road.
Yikes! I definitely understand that approach but...It's a lot of work!
 

ratzofftoya

Explorer
My advice would be to read very thoroughly through all the adventures at least twice before you start homebrewing the world. I've been running campaigns only in homebrewed worlds for 20 years and started out to heavily modify this one. After some time and a lot of work, I realized this one is not only better than what I can create, it is also tied into the story in so many little ways. I've backpedaled on a number of things. I still have a lot of backstory that I've written and integrated, but it is more tweaking things or fleshing them out than big changes. I've been planning this campaign for over a year, and even after reading it multiple times I still find small things nearly every week where I'd missed or forgotten a connection. If you spend a lot of time upfront getting very, very familiar with the campaign before you start to build a world you will save yourself even more time down the road.
I think the main things that are bothering me a bit are the genetic homogeneity of the cultures (particularly that humans are dominant--I really wanted to have a more diverse world) and the names of the characters and places. I suppose changing the landscape a bit could be helpful. Do you see any issues with changing those elements (along the lines of what @RangerWickett suggested)?
 

Well, humans are pretty diverse already, no?

Danor's humans are more pale, sort of western European, mostly brown hair, some red-haired. Drakr's humans tend to be blond, akin to Scandinavians. Crisillyir's humans resemble Mediterannean, Turkish, and north African folks. Risur's original population is darker-skinned, sort of central African, but is a big melting pot.

(There would be people resembling Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Middle Easterners, South Asians, and East Asians too, but they'd be from areas off the map.)
 
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ratzofftoya

Explorer
Well, humans are pretty diverse already, no?

Danor's humans are more pale, sort of western European, mostly brown hair, some red-haired. Drakr's humans tend to be blond, akin to Scandinavians. Crisillyir's humans resemble Mediterannean, Turkish, and north African folks. Risur's original population is darker-skinned, sort of central African, but is a big melting pot.

(There would be people resembling Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Middle Easterners, South Asians, and East Asians too, but they'd be from areas off the map.)
Of course, yeah. While I value that sort of diversity among humans in the real world, I was speaking strictly in the D&D sense. :) I know my players like worlds that are a little surreal and magical, and often times a really diverse composition can sorta serve as a proxy for that. Here’s the chief of police, an owl. And this mantis-man is the beautiful princess. In this kingdom, a magic octopus picks, at random, one child born each day to send to an island filled with monsters. Whichever children make it back compose the National Assembly. Etc. if it clashes with the setting, that’s cool—these fantastic adventures are the priority.
 

I did once run a game where the PCs were all literally plucked from the soil of a field that happened to cover a portal to Limbo, so souls kept manifesting weird bodies to be born into the material world. I was kinda saddened that we had a human, an elf, a half-elf, and another two humans. Meanwhile, their peers growing up were a talking tree, a floating head with one eye, an invisible stalker, a centaur, and so on. But when we had some player turnover, one PC made an earth elemental, and another made a vampire (which worked because, at the time, the world had no sun).

My first RPG experience was Talislanta, which bragged about having 'no elves.' There were a lot of interesting races around that world, and while a lot of them had pointed ears, the ones who lived in the forests were vicious catfolk.
 

Oh, and co-writer Thurston Hillman totally wanted to include a sentient octopus crime boss in Flint. We never got around to it.

I mean, feel free to go for it. But the advice to read ahead - even if just the overview at the start of each adventure - is a useful one. Like, in adventure 8 there's a group of weretiger-ish elves who are not integrated with the other elves in the area, and that's a source of conflict. You'd need to figure out what the shape of that conflict is in your version, if the locals aren't both groups of elves. In adventure 4, there's a family of orcs on vacation by train, and at one point they're accosted by some racists who think they're savages; if the world is much more diverse, that might land a little less believably, since what's to distinguish tusked green guys from boarfolk or elephantfolk or walrusfolk?

I'm sure you can make it work.
 

MarkM

Explorer
I have diversified the world somewhat, making Tieflings the dominant race in Danor, Dwarves more populous in Drakr, and having a larger sprinkling of all races everywhere. I know that isn't what you mean, but I think as long as you have some elves/eladrin in Risur and Elfaiver, some tieflings in Danor, some dwarves in Drakr, etc. you could diversify the population without much trouble. Changing names of places can be troublesome if you want to use the provided maps, as you'd have to photoshop in different names. I did change some names (mostly to take people out of character backstories and then sub them in for thematically similar NPCs), but there is a downside to the name changes in that you then can't use the player guides as-is. I made enough changes (mostly during a home-brewed "prequel" I ran while waiting for the primary path to come out in Roll20) that I couldn't just use the provided pdf player guides (or the one for Roll20). Instead, I have a 60-page player guide that is probably 70% identical to the one that is available for free and a Roll20 guide that is similar, but each took many hours of writing and cutting and pasting when I could have otherwise just used what is provided. I'm happy with my end project and the integration with backstories and things that happened in our prior campaign, but that is an example of what I mean when I say that making small and seemingly insignificant changes before reading everything can lead to a lot more work later.
 

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