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ZEITGEIST Just starting Zeitgeist: Need some advice on player's factions

Hey guys, long time lurker first time poster.

First of all, Zeitgeist has been my white whale for the longest time, I fell in absolute love with it years ago and have been dreaming of finding the right group to play it with. Well, I think I finally have and I really don't want to screw it up for this crew haha. (if you're in Ash's group and you somehow stumbled across this - look away!)

My question is about factions/groups. I've introduced some new mechanics that play off of the prestige mechanic in the book, where players can perform favours and ask for favours during downtime (factions also give various bonuses per level of prestige); I really want them to be engaged and immersed in their faction of choice.

Each of my player's factions so far:

The Family - this player wanted to start off as a close relative of a local crime family (kind of a Michael Corleone figure), so I thought what better than to morph The Family in Flint as being their crime group.

Vekeshi Mystics - this player chose the Mystic theme, and I wanted them to be involved deeply in the Mystic community of Flint. So far, I've sent them a message from The Stag, and I'm planning on fleshing out the other mystics in the city, and have them ask for favours from the player, maybe give them some hidden goals.

Tinkerer's Guild - this player chose the Technologist theme, and they're really invested in being able to craft new technologies, so I set up a guild that their 'creator' is a part of. I'm planning on giving them contracts and acccess to different inventions. They're also playing a warforged, is there anything I should be aware of when working with warforged in this setting? So far, I've branded it as a Danor creation during the war.

The last player chose to play a Deva, and this is really where I need help. This player gave me some vague memories/dreams they have of their previous lives, but otherwise they wanted to be completely forgetful of all their past incarnations. I want to slowly weave this player into the Kasvarina/Unseen Court faction. I don't know how to do this well though, would it be outrageous and completely plot-breaking to have them be Kasvarina's brother/son or something like that?

Anyway, I'm just looking for general advice/inspiration on juggling all these groups, and weaving them into the campaign as we get going.

On a side note, they're about to set off for Axis Island, and I expanded this mission to include the optional part about exploring the island. They have 2 days on the island, and they have to find a Danor engineer; I marked out some other locations they can visit on the island too. They can visit other mines to get the other icons (I changed it so that Dupiers only has the shadow icon, and the others are still in the other mines), abandoned facilities (I'll probably put some enemy soldiers here and some Danor technologies they can uncover), the ruined temple (not sure what to place here yet), they can try and find Danoran hideouts in the mountains and jungles to rendevous with an engineer. Any tips for managing these changes?

Thank you to Ryan for an absolutely wonderful adventure!
 

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skotothalamos

formerly roadtoad
Spoilers ahead, obviously. I'll hide them in case someone randomly wanders in.

Family connection is perfect for that character. Make sure it still has its roots in Crisillyir for a few minor plot connections.

I had my Vekeshi characters (in three campaigns) meet the Old Stag before the adventure begins, and then put Admiral Morris Dawkins at the Coaltongue launch so they could recognize him if they were paying attention. A mission of minor sabotage against Danoran factories could make for some interesting complications in adventure 2.

The Ob is building a colossus and there are smaller test versions of him that are first seen in adventure 5 (but clearly exist before they're seen). The warforged character could be one of these, perhaps seeded into the RHC through Saxby, secretly recording their investigations for her. Of course, the player should not know this. A cover story of being a Danoran "exchange student" could work.

Kasvarina goes off the deep end after Nicodemus arranges for her last child to die in the year 100-and-something. She survived the Great Malice I think because she was polymorphed at the time, but she maybe caught a shard of Srasama and became a deva, but no one knew it? Then she dies, Kasvarina goes all-in on the Obscurati, and then the daughter reincarnates with no knowledge of who she was. If you don't want a gender-swapping deva, I think it breaks nothing to have that daughter be a son. Some of the Diaspora memories include those children, and it could be fun to have those particular memories spawn from the PC instead of Kasvarina. I can say from experience that making Diaspora about a PC is super rewarding.

That ruined temple should have some connection to the Ancient Orc civilization. Maybe the pictographs could include a Ziggurat or the plan of the Axis Seal ritual or an old map of the continent before the Sealing ritual shattered it in two. It could also be fun to have an orc ghost yelling in the Ancient tongue scare them off after they've been poking around for too long. Then, once someone learns Ancient in adventure 3, they might use that orc ghost as a resource for Axis Seal knowledge.
 

Re: Axis Island stuff.

Small note, if you do have the party encounter an ancient orc. They wouldn't call it the "Axis Seal." It would be something like "Toteth's Ritual." When they performed the ritual, Axis Island wasn't an island.

Re: deva

I like the idea skothothalamos (that is much harder to type than your previous screen name) presented. Just be careful you consider the timeline of that character and where Kasvarina was, and ponder how their paths might have crossed, or not crossed, after the Great Malice. You might help set up the eventual revelation for Kasvarina that Nicodemus is a betraying bastard by, like, having the deva - whether he was a brother or son or other relation to Kas - be seen as a complication by Nicodemus. So since he couldn't kill a deva permanently, maybe he tossed the deva somewhere: perhaps the Crypta Hereticarum, so in adventure 4 the PC can stumble across other prisoners who knew him.

Re: warforged.

When I first playtested the adventures, the whole idea of Pemberton Industries came around because a player wanted to be a warforged, and I realized I didn't have any real big-name industrialists who were inventing magical technology. In adventure 6, Pemberton has some constructs building a railroad, and some other stuff you might want to read about if you haven't gotten that far ahead.

Good luck, RegularPerson15. Please keep us up to date of how your game's going.
 


Thanks so much for the advice!

Man the fact that I have to dive into Kasvarinas time line to account for a moment that will probably only happen in like 2 years if we keep playing this, is why I have always been so excited about this campaign. It just feels so dense!

I will basically follow both your suggestions as close as I can. Will definitely keep updating!
 

Thought I'd update you all on how it's going.

Firstly, I'd like to introduce the constables of C-Squad of the RHC. I made some ID badges for each of them, so I'll throw those in too.

First we have a warforged Artificer Technologist, named Archaic Intelligence Guardian, or AIG for short. He was constructed as a war automaton in Danor prior to the last war by a gnome inventor, who then smuggled him into Risur during the war and used Risuran magic to infuse him with sentience. After the war ended, AIG felt bereft of purpose in civilian life and joined the RHC.

RHC Badge AIG.png


There's Dapper Daniel, a half-elf bladesinging wizard Vekeshi Mystic. He was brought up in Slate in an aristocratic background and is the black sheep of his family; his brother died in the war, prompting him to re-evaluate his dilettante lifestyle. He was mentored by a Mystic (I think it might be the Stag himself, though I'm not sure how to work this in properly) and after going through the initiation, joined the RHC. I'm intending him to tie him deeply into the mystics, and also work his noble family in somehow (maybe his father is part of the obscurati?).

RHC Badge Dapper.png


Snow is a Deva ranger gunsmith. He reincarnated in Flint a few years ago without any memory of his previous lives, just faint dreams of a crying woman (intending this to be Kasvarina), an enormous fire and other traces (by the way, how does reincarnation work exactly? do Devas just appear somewhere else when they die?). This is the trickiest character to work with, since they'll be tied so directly with the plot.

RHC Badge Snow.png


Finally, we have Gambit O'Hara, a halfling rogue Martial Scientist. He is a first-generation immigrant from Crissilyir, who came to Risur with the O'Hara crime family. I'm intending the O'Hara's to basically take up the role of The Family in Flint, so instead of Morgan Cippiano, we'll have his uncle, Morgan O'Hara. After a few years working for his uncle, he chose to walk away from a life of crime, alienating himself from his family in the process.

RHC Badge Gambit.png
 

I like to throw in an 'opening cutscene' when I open a session every now and then, like the cold open of a TV show. I opened the campaign with a scene that described an orc appearing through a portal in the middle of a sea in a raging storm and doing some cool magic. This is Toteth, and in later cutscenes, I'll very roughly describe the second sealing that the Ancients did. I know this might be a little spoiler-y, but I want to give the players access to some of the cool history and detail of the setting, and I'll be using these cutscenes to do so.

The players then came to during a psychological examination by the RHC doctor, we went over some introductions, and I had a fun ink blot test set up.

After some bonding time, I described a few months passing with lots of paperwork and minutiae, until Delft calls them in for the King's Arrival mission.

This mission went pretty by the book, they managed to find all the Dockers and stop the ship from exploding, though I had improv the mechanics of the Sokana fight a bit, since they became obsessed with removing the fire gem from the ship's furnace and couldn't really think of anything else to try. On a sidenote, I have struggled mightily with this encounter both of the times I've ran it now, lots of moving parts in this one.

This took two sessions. In the third session, I gave them some downtime, and they all spent it in various ways, interacting with their city contacts. Delft called them back early though, to attend a meeting with Lya Jierre. I should mention here that I've fleshed out the other squads in the Flint RHC, currently there are two more squads of 4 constables each in the RHC. I've described the A-team as being out on a super secret, super dangerous, long-term mission (no idea what this mission is! I'll need to come up with something), but B-Team is in residence. I decided to replace the Slate infiltrator team from the book with the Flint RHC B-team, since I wanted to give some personal attachment. I'm really glad I did this, it was really good fun as the players bonded with B-team and had some fun rivalries back and forth - there's an ongoing 50 gold bet between B-team and C-team (the player's squad), for who can get the duchess first.

After the meeting and laying out the Axis Island infiltration mission, they spent a bit of time getting everything ready and then set off with B-Team aboard the Impossible.

I changed the opening of this mission a little bit. The B-Team still headed out first and then the sea cave collapsed, leaving behind only one of B-teams constables with a broken leg, but rather than killing the other constables outright, I decided to have them be mysteriously teleported instead. Of course the players don't know this yet. I'm planning on having them show up during the Sea Gate battle, having been dumped on another part of the island and having made their way to the fortress.

The players saved their fellow constable from the trapped rock, and then pretty quickly managed to talk down Nicolas Dupiers. They then set out to find a Danoran engineer (I used the optional portion of the book, and gave them 1 more day but no location on where to use the passwall scroll).

I made the Axis Island map into a bit of a miniature hex-crawl, with some additional random encounters along the road and in the wilderness. They chose to follow the road at first, and ran into an encounter I had created, where a group of Duchess friendly soldiers were on their way back to the fortress with a wagon full of critical supplies. They decided to ambush the wagon, and managed to do so pretty efficiently, taking all the uniforms and the wagon and the horse (whom they've dubbed Proud Mary).

They then rolled up into the closest village to see if they could scrounge up more clues about where the Danorans might be hiding, and came upon a few captured Danorans being tortured for information by the Duchess's forces. After a pretty tough fight, they killed them all, and freed the Danorans, who promptly lead them back to their hidden encampment.

That's where we left off the last session! After 6 sessions, we've all had a lot of fun so far. In future sessions, I'll probably be giving them direct access to the engineer immediately, allowing them to make immediate headway for the fortress; I had mapped out some additional encounters on the island (the ruined temple, an abandoned facility, mines with more of the icons), but I don't want to drag this book out too long.
 

MrsMongoose

Villager
For the Deva and where/when they show up again after "dying"... (emphasis mine)
Players' Guide (so a player can have this knowledge about generic Devas, but possibly not individuals), under:
"Deva.
Devas were those people—mostly human—who were present at the de-feat of the goddess Srasama. The divine energy released by her death granted them a sliver of immortality, and now whenever they die they reincarnate into a fully-grown adult form, reappearing within a few days somewhere generally three miles from where they died.
A reincarnated deva has vague recollections of her previous life, and often will easily connect with the people and places of her former life if given the chance. But she might just as easily find herself adopting a new life and training in new skills. Even then, though, sometimes she will have flashes of one of her former lives"
 


For the Deva and where/when they show up again after "dying"... (emphasis mine)
Players' Guide (so a player can have this knowledge about generic Devas, but possibly not individuals), under:
"Deva.
Devas were those people—mostly human—who were present at the de-feat of the goddess Srasama. The divine energy released by her death granted them a sliver of immortality, and now whenever they die they reincarnate into a fully-grown adult form, reappearing within a few days somewhere generally three miles from where they died.
A reincarnated deva has vague recollections of her previous life, and often will easily connect with the people and places of her former life if given the chance. But she might just as easily find herself adopting a new life and training in new skills. Even then, though, sometimes she will have flashes of one of her former lives"
Thank you, that's very helpful!

My current plans are shifting around a lot, I'm still unsure how to treat my Deva player. I think what I'm going to start settling on is that he was the bethroed of Dala, Kasvarina's daughter, and died in the aftermath of her death in the form of Srasama's avatar, and reappeared. Things that I still need to figure out:

  • what has he been doing for the past 500 years?
  • what was so traumatic about his most recent death that he awoke naked in the snow with none of his memories?

From my understanding, she is dead dead right? She didn't reincarnate? And Kasvarina's other daughter is dead permanently too right? Someone above mentioned that her daughter had reincarnated as a Deva but I couldn't find out where that happens in the book, and was confused...or were they just talking about what I could change in the book?
 

What are the PCs' thoughts so far about the weird stuff on Axis Island? Did they engage with Captain Smith about philosophy at all?
They are very weirded out, and are constantly making sure they have iron and gold on them to avoid more of the 'planar fluctuations' I described.

They haven't met the leaking golem yet, that should be today's session actually.

Oh man, I can't believe I have to admit to the man who wrote this adventure that I completely forgot to have Captain Smith to talk about his philosophy :cry:. I'll have another shot at that when he shows up after the opening the sea gate.
 

MrsMongoose

Villager
Thank you, that's very helpful!

My current plans are shifting around a lot, I'm still unsure how to treat my Deva player. I think what I'm going to start settling on is that he was the bethroed of Dala, Kasvarina's daughter, and died in the aftermath of her death in the form of Srasama's avatar, and reappeared. Things that I still need to figure out:

  • what has he been doing for the past 500 years?
  • what was so traumatic about his most recent death that he awoke naked in the snow with none of his memories?

From my understanding, she is dead dead right? She didn't reincarnate? And Kasvarina's other daughter is dead permanently too right? Someone above mentioned that her daughter had reincarnated as a Deva but I couldn't find out where that happens in the book, and was confused...or were they just talking about what I could change in the book?
Launga is definitely permanently dead (unless you pull shenanigans), as she died around 400 years ago.

Dala was (unbeknownst to me), my character (Nevla), and she didn't come back Deva either, she had weird dreams about stuff mostly. However, her powers were tied to the Gyre in a strange way... (the Cleric archetype where you worship a "dead" god...)
 

arkwright

Explorer
This golem art might be handy.

Launga was murdered in 111 AOV by the dragon Rilego, as part of a betrayal of Kasvarina set up by the Eladrin matriarch Latika and the soldier Sor Daeron, which matriarch Athrylla Valanar suspected but did not stop.

Dala died in 0 AOV after she was turned into Srasama by the Clergy and killed by their soldiers, triggering the Great Malice.

In Book 12, the party encounters the ghost of Dala, and is given the opportunity to bring back to life all/most of the Eladrin women killed by the Great Malice.

Too many options for what your deva could have been doing all this time for me to advise much. Though I'd note that chances are Kasvarina would try to recruit them to her Vekeshi/Ob plans. Also, there is a clique of eschatologist deva in Methia led by Lady Emselle d'Grise, maybe your deva fell in with them for a while. The party can encounter them in Book 8.
 

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I beg for forgiveness, though rest assured I did not read anything spoiler, just looked for possible factions.

I accept punishment if deemed fit.
 
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Lylandra

Adventurer
hmm... as an idea:


  • The Deva PC doesn't know what killed Dala
  • He never gave up searching for answers
  • Kasvarina kept him at a distance, but then eventually let him join the OBs, but kept Dala's fate a secret
  • He found out some of their plans, maybe even what happened to Dala (via Hand of Miller?), tried to nope out and was killed
  • The OB tried to find his reincarnation, but couldn't due to "someone" or "something" interfering
  • That something caused him to be cut off from his memories
  • Tadaa, nice plot for adventure 8. Just gently push him to use the Arc of Reida ;)
 

Sessions 6, 7 & 8:

From where they last left off, the players found a Danoran engineer at the encampment, who agreed to accompany them to the fortress to help them infiltrate. During the dawn of the next day, I had the leaking golem encounter (thanks for that art @arkwright!). They were thinking about taking some potshots but decided to leave it, since it was heading away to the west. I described to the resident psychic rogue how they heard multiple voices and minds from the golem and the oil, and they took a sample of it for future study.

At the fortress, there was a ton of amusing chaos, they were quite split on what they wanted to do. They were really worried that if they went straight to open the sea gate, the duchess would kill Nathan Jierre, so they decided to try and rescue him first by deceiving their way into the central keep. They rolled high enough that they really should have been able to get in (they were all disguised as rebel guards), but I knew that the moment the duchess spotted them, she would've recognized them and thrown them in jail/killed them, so I basically just reminded them that this was an inevitablity for their plan. I feel bad about this in retrospect though, I really should have just let them go forward with their plan to talk to the duchess and then get thrown in the makeshift brig till they got freed by Risuri forces or something. Ah well!

They instead went for the sea gate, and this encounter was really fun. The initial sneaking in was very splinter cell, and then I described the waves of enemy forces just crashing in on them (to the tune of Thunderstruck!). Just as they were about to get overwhelmed, I had Squad B (the initial infiltration group that had went missing during the sea cave-in) reappear; and together they managed to hold it long enough for the first ships to appear.

After some rest and the reappearance of Captain Smith, they were interrupted by the appearance of Asrabey who did his anime jumps into the fortress. There was some confusion on what to do next, but at the prompting of an assigned sergeant, they went over to the makeshift brig to talk to the danorans, from whom they got a key to the room of the central keep. This is of course when Asrabey reappears and throws his orb; since the book described iron nails beginning to float, I also included that our resident warforged was slightly beginning to float as well (the others started to grab onto his massive limbs!).

The players all ran through and got past the hedge maze quick enough (Gillie Dhu recognized them as friendly forces from their previous excursion into the inner keep, and just let them pass). They made their way to the roof, where they began to hear the conversation between Asrabey and the Duchess. When the conversation got to the topic of Kasvarina, I described a memory of pain and fire engulfing Snow (the player who is playing a Deva, who I intend to have been the betrothed of Kasvarina's daughter), I also showed the players Kasvarina's portrait as Snow remembered her face but nothing else.

They interrupted the conversation once Asrabey started to threaten Nathan Jierre, and a fight pretty quickly broke out, since they got the sense that there was no chance Asrabey would let Nathan go. Some freaking how, they actually managed to kill Asrabey. Two of them went down, but between some insanely high rolls and the shadow elemental that appeared from the Icon of Nem, they JUST managed to get enough damage to kill him.

The main thing I need to think about after all this is what are the consequences for them killing Asrabey? Here's what immediately comes to mind:
  • it was the shadow's strength drain that dealt the final blow. As per the text of the attack: "If a non-evil Humanoid dies from this Attack, a new shadow rises from the corpse 1d4 hours later." So maybe Asrabey returns as some kind of shadow creature at some point?
  • They will definitely take a loss of reputation from the unseen court because of this. Maybe they will demand a trial in the Dreaming for the constables? could be a possible side mission down the line
Session 8 ended with a nice epilogue, a level-up, and the proud declaration of "End of Book One!" to much applause.

Next session we'll pick back up with some downtime activities, and then the beginning of the murder mystery.
 

MrsMongoose

Villager
Since your guys are technically FBI/Interpol-alogues, players have the elective to not do lethal damage, if they want a guy for questioning... tis could apply to the summoned/allied NPCs too?

Why not have Asrabey have been faking death, and/or the body disappear in a swirl of leaves, like some sort of mislead/glamour effect? He could still come back and grudgingly respect the party's strength, but not be as initially friendly (basically give him a point more STR and say he was feigning weakness)
Or have his (mostly dead) body briefly fall through to Bleak Gate, then fade back in again "healed a bit", somehow (could be interesting given his Heel Turn later...)
 

arkwright

Explorer
Glad you're enjoying the AP. Asrabey is a pretty significant character, if possible it would be good to go 'ah but he isn't really dead.' That said, raising him as a shadow-creature could work, if it makes him weaker and more evil or perhaps more humble. I might quickly summarize some of the things he does, if you weren't already aware.
  • Gives the PCs an important Unseen Court mission in Book 5
  • Helps the PCs raid the Ob Cauldron Hill facility in Book 5
  • Is revealed to be one of Kasvarina's husbands and spirits her away to Elfaivar at the end of Book 5
  • Turns on the party and betrays an ally to become an archfey and fight them in Book 10
Since Asrabey is far from a straight villain, your party will probably be cool with you finding a way for Asrabey to live. If you want to kill him off, then consequences... mmm.
  • The Unseen Court will be very unhappy with their best minion being killed. Sure, they might make noises demanding extradition or something, but they could also very well cover it up out of embarrassment and a desire to avoid looking weak to their Hedgehog Court rivals.
  • Kasvarina's old Elfaivaran vekeshi radicals will probably be quite annoyed and might send an assassin or a troublemaker.
 

Since your guys are technically FBI/Interpol-alogues, players have the elective to not do lethal damage, if they want a guy for questioning... tis could apply to the summoned/allied NPCs too?

Why not have Asrabey have been faking death, and/or the body disappear in a swirl of leaves, like some sort of mislead/glamour effect? He could still come back and grudgingly respect the party's strength, but not be as initially friendly (basically give him a point more STR and say he was feigning weakness)
Or have his (mostly dead) body briefly fall through to Bleak Gate, then fade back in again "healed a bit", somehow (could be interesting given his Heel Turn later...)
In the future, I am definitely going to emphasize that. But by the system, ranged attacks aren't possible to elect to do non-lethal damage and I initially wanted to stick by this; but maybe I can hand-wave this?

I do think that I'm going to rule that a shadow-y version of Asrabey falls into the Bleak Gate, and his real body disintegrates basically. I'm hoping that this shadow version will do the job for his remaining role in the adventure (a role that I did not realize was so prominent, my god, or I would've handled this differently!).
 

Glad you're enjoying the AP. Asrabey is a pretty significant character, if possible it would be good to go 'ah but he isn't really dead.' That said, raising him as a shadow-creature could work, if it makes him weaker and more evil or perhaps more humble. I might quickly summarize some of the things he does, if you weren't already aware.
  • Gives the PCs an important Unseen Court mission in Book 5
  • Helps the PCs raid the Ob Cauldron Hill facility in Book 5
  • Is revealed to be one of Kasvarina's husbands and spirits her away to Elfaivar at the end of Book 5
  • Turns on the party and betrays an ally to become an archfey and fight them in Book 10
Since Asrabey is far from a straight villain, your party will probably be cool with you finding a way for Asrabey to live. If you want to kill him off, then consequences... mmm.
  • The Unseen Court will be very unhappy with their best minion being killed. Sure, they might make noises demanding extradition or something, but they could also very well cover it up out of embarrassment and a desire to avoid looking weak to their Hedgehog Court rivals.
  • Kasvarina's old Elfaivaran vekeshi radicals will probably be quite annoyed and might send an assassin or a troublemaker.
Jeez, he has a way more prominent role throughout the adventure than I thought! I should've dealt with this differently I think, just ruled he was unconscious, but I don't want to retcon too much.

I think I'm going to go with your idea of shadow-Asrabay being a bit more humble/weaker, and hopefully that will serve his role in the future books.

I'm still a little confused on the structure of the Unseen Court/the Dreaming. From what I've gathered, the Dreaming is basically analogus to a nation, and the Unseen Court are analogues to like a parliament within the Dreaming, is that right?

I was thinking that in the next session, King Aodhan or someone would bring it up that there's been a severe diplomatic incident as a result of their actions, and that the Unseen Court have been demanding their extradition (like you said), and then down the line have some other consequences.
 

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