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ZEITGEIST One shots and side quests.

Crispy120286

Explorer
Hey all, I'm curious as to if there are any side quests one could run in the Zeitgeist universe. Wasnt there supposed to be an addons for the campaign for this sort of thing? What could a DM use as a session zero or just side missions in between the various adventures. I've been looking for modules and one shots but I havent really found many that could work well.
 
I am avoiding adding much in the way of Sidequests because my last campaign got massively extended by using a lot of other AP's and stuff.
However having taken a break after adventure 5 I want to ease them back in a bit before starting adventure 6 so I am going with a sidequest in the Risuri Elfaivar colonies where there have been some recent attacks on settlers and hunting parties and a confrontation with the Rajputs from the local Eladrin settlement. So the king is sending a top team of RHC agents who have links to the Eladrin to find out what is going on and stop the trouble, if that means fighting Eladrin, or arresting some of his people who have intruded into areas the Eladrin cares about, or negotiating a proper treaty he wants to stop the fighting.
I have this caused by a group of undead Eladrin lead by a cursed Rakshasha who was an Eladrin Necromancer who tried to use necromancy to bring back the dead Eladrin women, and failed his blaphemous use of magic tieing in to the remains of Ssramma's power and cursing him as a Rakshasha and his followers as Ghouls, they have a skilled illusionist and after being woken from their sleep by a team of Ob Archeologists disturbing their temple tomb they are trying to drive the humans from their lands by starting a war.

Not many prepublished adventures which I think would fit. Although once you hit they Gyre you can go crazy adding interesting worlds
 
We had some ideas for side quests. The idea was to have a series of vignettes called Vagabond of the Mirror Moon which would have a framing narrative of Rock Rackus claiming responsibility for all the heroic stuff the PCs end up doing in those side quests. But the campaign took 5 years to finish instead of 3, and I figured we had enough content already.

But name an area and a gimmick, and I'm sure we could brainstorm something pretty quickly.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
We had some ideas for side quests. The idea was to have a series of vignettes called Vagabond of the Mirror Moon which would have a framing narrative of Rock Rackus claiming responsibility for all the heroic stuff the PCs end up doing in those side quests. But the campaign took 5 years to finish instead of 3, and I figured we had enough content already.

But name an area and a gimmick, and I'm sure we could brainstorm something pretty quickly.
Sentosa, Akela Sathi (Lonely Companion). Themes are "elf brothel, wat do?" and a serious examination of the ramifications of the Akela Sathi system on eladrin society, relationships, marriages, family structures, child-raising, and expectations on both men and women.

Your move.

My own GM actually ran a significantly detailed side quest on this exact topic that spanned a large degree of homebrew content. I would like to see what others would do with the absurd subject handled in a serious fashion.
 

Crispy120286

Explorer
I'm thinking of a session 0 scenario. What would rookie just hired constables do? Not your typical police officer grunt work. But something they could do before the campaign even starts and mostly things they could do in Risur itself inbetween the modules.
 
Well there is the raggedman serial killer who gets mentioned a lot in act 1 but never gets resolved, have them investigate him in the later acts. Scenario 1 is really an intro, but you could have them at level 1 dealing with some bandits in the mistwoods or something, problem is until they get a few levels under their belt they can't really take on organised crime or really competent criminals.
Otherwise look at what their affiliations are and see if you can play up the Stargazer or Veteran (or whatever angle) and have a crime involved with that affiliation(maybe someone is murdering veterans, maybe some veterans are murdering danorans, or maybe some small town sherriff pushed the last veteran of Eagle team 2 too much and now a 9th level Barbarian is rampaging through the woods and someone has to bring this decorated war hero in-- particularly if your players have just annoyed someone important)
 
Sentosa, Akela Sathi (Lonely Companion). Themes are "elf brothel, wat do?" and a serious examination of the ramifications of the Akela Sathi system on eladrin society, relationships, marriages, family structures, child-raising, and expectations on both men and women.

Your move.
Hm. Off the top of my head, we do a low rent Handmaid's Tale.

An eladrin husband and wife couple set up a 'forward operating base' near a colony town, where eladrin who want to attack and harass the foreigners can rest and supply. They persuade some patriotic eladrin women to come help set up the base, but then the wife - who is 'old fashioned' and looking to be lord of her own domain - strongarms the women into serving as sacred prostitutes. She keeps their personal belongings locked up and basically forces them to be indentured servants, justifying her cruelty by saying that she did her duty the same way a century ago, and the soldiers going to take revenge on the foreigners need this.

There are a couple women who buy into this and help keep the others under control. A few times men figured out that this is monstrous and either pressed back against the 'ruling couple,' or tried to sneak off and get help, but the couple's enforcers have killed all of them, and now the couple is more discerning about whom they trust with which women.

The PCs get wind of this when a Clergy priest is kidnapped and dragged back to the outpost to be ritually tortured. He was thrown into a cell, and one of the enslaved women tended to him and whispered to him that she was a prisoner too. Then a storm happened to roll in, and the enforcers weren't able to hear him as he cast sending to report what he'd seen.

You can nest the narrative with a couple more layers. Perhaps the people he contacted reach out to the PCs, and they have lurid ideas of how the culture must work. But they don't know where the outpost is, so the PCs have to go to a nearby small enclave which is nominally neutral, where they can maybe help with some standard 'slay the monster that's threatening the villagers so one of them will trust you' plot beat. An eladrin woman warily agrees to be guide for them, because her husband went to that outpost and never came back. She had been an ananta paudha for four years until she became pregnant and decided the father would make a good husband, so she left the service early.

It's uncommon for married eladrin men to keep going on combat missions, since usually it's over-eager young guys trying to earn a reputation for bravery, and nowadays the margins are less razor thin on whether their culture will survive, so many eladrin men are glad to settle down and have a normal life, though they're ready to take up arms in defense. Her husband went to the outpost for . . . some complex reason -- maybe they had a fight and he felt bad for losing his temper, or maybe one of his wife's aunts went to the outpost and he was undertaking the arduous journey to reach it because he wanted to check to make sure they were safe.

In the 'normal' enclave, the tradition of ananta paudha is falling out of favor. After all, the population has reached pretty much reached sexual parity, especially the younger generations. If anything, there's a cultural pressure for young men to go throw themselves into danger, and to protect women, so the youngest eladrin actually skew female. The role is more sacred now than practical, and in any civilized enclave it is meant only to be consensual.

They might even learn about the legal background of the couple that went to go found the outpost. Maybe they had trouble having a child of their own, so they tried to adopt, but got into trouble by refusing to raise an orphaned boy. It seems they only wanted girls, and hoped to groom them to be ananta paudha in order to get social status through their kids.

The mom who wants to find her husband leaves her kid with relatives, gears up, and leads the PCs into the woods. They are refused entrance, attacked if they rest anywhere nearby, and when the PCs finally do get in, the couple who runs the place realize the jig is up, set fire to the compound to cover their tracks, and flee.

That's the rough first draft.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
That is not a bad first draft, but it raises a few points about eladrin culture that I am still a touch confused on.

Firstly, it does not seem like Vekeshi's philosophy has actually filtered into the eladrin all that much. The player's guide and even book #8 make a big fuss about how Vekeshi is so culturally important and the message of "The best revenge is to live and endure" has spread far and wide, but we also hear a lot about radical eladrin terrorists who are going around killing people.

Secondly, even the Vekeshi themselves seem to completely disregard their own "the best revenge is to live and endure" philosophy by personally going out and righting wrongs by... killing people. That seems like the exact opposite of the Vekeshi philosophy.

Thirdly, what is this about the eladrin population having reached sexual parity between males and females? I thought it was a huge deal to be an eladrin woman, because they were supposedly rare; how can it be that there are roughly equal amounts of men and women? I thought that Sentosa's mostly-equalized ratio was an exception, not a rule.

Fourthly, how does the eladrin enclave system actually work? The edgestones only really seem to apply to Sentosa; they are not mentioned at all in the case of Ushanti. Do all of the eladrin enclaves use edgestones to create a demiplane metaphysically "in between" the Waking and the Dreaming?

Fifthly, how does selection for the Akela Sathi system even work? It seems to be voluntary, but Kasvarina's backlash against it makes it sound more like compulsory rape, and you seem to suggest that there are some cases wherein ananta paudha are press-ganged into the role against their will. Does it vary on an enclave-to-enclave basis?
 
Think about it this way. Christ preaches to love your enemy and to forgive those who hurt you. But lots of folks in the Irish Republican Army murdered folks and yet saw themselves as defenders of Catholicism.

Vekesh's philosophy was how the majority of eladrin survivors found the strength to carry on and not go on a bloody rampage of revenge, but instead try to rebuild. But a vengeance cult did crop up, and they came up with their own twisted take on Vekesh's philosophy, which is how they'd seduce aggrieved eladrin into joining. "Oh sure, Vekesh says that we should be peaceful and outlast them, but obviously we can't outlast them if they keep killing us. So we have to kill some of them. Vekesh knew that most eladrin were broken by the Great Malice, and were unfit to fight. You're special. You're strong enough to keep fighting. Here, we'll teach you."

Over time they shifted from direct retribution against those responsible (similar to, like, Israeli Nazi hunters) to targeting people who they think are hostile to eladrin, and then - especially the cult cells that grew up in foreign places like Flint - to weirdly re-distorting the philosophy to be about protecting the innocent of any race from the predations of the powerful.

Most eladrin are wary of the mystics, because they pervert Vekesh's teachings, and because their violence brings blowback. But sometimes you can really use the help of one of those crazy bad-asses, and they're still nominally on your side, and you grew up with them before they went and got radicalized. It's messy.

Outside Elfaivar, you mostly only run into male eladrin - usually expatriates or actual Vekeshi mystics who think they're doing good work by killing bad people. But inside Elfaivar, in the enclaves, it's been five hundred years, and so lots of the eladrin who were around for the Great Malice are dying of old age. The younger generations were always born with the usual 50% male, 50% female, and finally the population of people born after the Great Malice has nearly caught up with the population of male survivors.

Every enclave has some way to stay hidden or protect itself. I honestly don't recall whether I intended for all of them to be halfway between the real world and the Dreaming, but I think the biggest ones probably did.

Kasvarina's anger was because, well, it's sex work. It's nominally consensual sex work, but throughout history most sex work has be coercive. She hasn't grown up in the enclave and had the concept normalized, so her only context is to think of it as prostitution and of women being subservient. And it's certainly more transactional than the way things worked when the practice was first implemented. Not every enclave works the same way, though.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
I never once thought that Elfaivar itself has achieved sexual parity by this point. Is there some sort of stigma concerning female eladrin traveling overseas? Do people outside of Elfaivar know that Elfaivar itself has achieved sexual parity?

You seem to be confirming that there is a difference between "Vekeshi" and "Vekeshi mystics." I think one source of confusion is that the books themselves use the two terms interchangeably, even when they are supposed to mean different things. So I take it, then, that the vast majority of eladrin are Vekeshi, but only a small portion are Vekeshi mystics, and out of those Vekeshi mystics, there are the radical traditionalists and the moderate modern mystics?

Does that mean that Kasvarina, pre-amnesia, was a Vekeshi mystic of the radical traditionalist variety?
 
Pre-amnesia, Kasvarina was aware the Vekeshi mystics were useful and that by playing to their biases she could get rivals and enemies around the world killed while keeping her hands clean.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
But why was Kasvarina not, herself, a Vekeshi mystic of the radical extremist variety? It does not seem incompatible with her Obscurati leanings.

Is Cula Ravjahani, for example, not a Vekeshi mystic, and also Kasvarina's second-in-command? Is Cula a Vekeshi mystic of the radical extremist variety, or of the more modern moderate variety?
 

Lylandra

Explorer
Sentosa, Akela Sathi (Lonely Companion). Themes are "elf brothel, wat do?" and a serious examination of the ramifications of the Akela Sathi system on eladrin society, relationships, marriages, family structures, child-raising, and expectations on both men and women.

Your move.

My own GM actually ran a significantly detailed side quest on this exact topic that spanned a large degree of homebrew content. I would like to see what others would do with the absurd subject handled in a serious fashion.
My GM and I did most of our brainstorming for Elfaivar when I had only the PHB avaliable (he gave me some additional infos), so he went with the Akela Sathi being a Sentosa-only institution and my character knew nothing about this tradition.

From the little that was known about Eladrin history, we deduced that Elfaivar must have been governed in a decentralized way with lots of local rulers and customs and a governing circle, the Ramandamandala, sitting in Bharata (it was called an Empire after all and I'm thinking in terms of the HRE or feudal Japan).

The development after the Malice fitted into this narrative with Lords warring and the whole empire falling apart, each region falling into chaos and trying to find a way out. One way, the PHB suggested, was Lords who tried to capture brides in order to become or stay powerful, and this destructive, oppressive way ultimately failed. I dubbed this narrative as "the mad Kings' era", a scary bedtime story to be told to little girls when they didn't behave.

The other, more successful path, was the founding of Enclaves centered around a surviving woman, who would be known as a Matriarch. I tried to find an explanation about how or why this would have been more successful, and came to the conclusion that it was 1) less destructive, as it was founded on growth and not on violence, and 2) that it basically made the Matriarch the "property" of the whole enclave instead of one power hungry guy. It was more of a bargain: she was given power and the position to lead, while she also provided hope for her people.

Combine this with far less people and the tradition of having a tradition of decentralized government one could easily understand why the enclaves would develop very divergently as every Matriarch had her own idea of what was best for her community.

But back to the Mad Kings. My GM took this hook to develop one lunatic King who managed to fly under the radar for quite a while, made some deal with a surviving devil of the Golden Legion and started an "empire" of his own. From what I know so far, it seems as if he used the pact to infuse several of his troops with fiendish blood and developed a strict hierarchy where he would give brides (captures, but maybe also some of his descendants) to his most loyal subjects. Hana Soliogn (Gale) is actually one of this King's descendants, so... that's where my character learned from his existence. Point is, he is aggressively trying to expand his territory, threatening Kellandia and the surrounding enclaves. So rallying them all and trying to mobilize a defense alliance had been one subplot that's been spanning half of the campaign by now.

Regarding family structure and sexuality in the enclaves, well, that's an interesting topic in my opinion (and I hope this text doesn't turn out to be essay-length when I am finished). As a first disclaimer, we (supposed westerners) tend to see fantasy societies and even other cultures through a modern-day, westernized eye. So we also tend to think that some conclusions are the only logical ones or that a society "of course" would develop in a certain way. I actively tried to shut that out when I thought about Eladrin society. I first tried to make a few assumptions:

- Eladrin society would have probably been egalitarian before the Malice. There is no historical hint that one gender was dominant, on the contrary: Kasvarina had been a wife, a soldier, and a successful single-parent mom of two girls who turned out to play important roles. The Ramandamandala also consisted of Lords and Ladies.

- Eladrin once were Elves who became fey due to their meddling with the Dreaming. It may be a bit of a fantasy stereotype, but I imagine fey to be less anxious when it comes to expressing their sexuality. And they'd probably be more likely to experiment as well. (I'm not even starting with the 5e Eladrin, who came much later, who can sometimes also switch their physical sex if they want to)

- Eladrin families most likely included one momogamous couple, even if we don't know whether they mated for life. (Kasvarina married Pillai)

Now the Malice struck, leaving only a few surviving women. And of course the question on how to survive and repopulize would arise in the Enclaves. Women who had been married to a man would most likely try to reunite with their husband in case he had survived the war. They'd try to have kids, sure, and the emphasis would be on having daughters to multiply, even if sons (who at least added up) would be seen as a blessing, too. In this scenario, I guess, very few couples would have allowed other men into their relationship. But we can only guess on how their daughter would find and choose their partners.

Lesbian or Bisexual women who had been partnered with a woman might have felt pressured to have kids and therefore sexual encounters with men. But there is no reason why they would threaten their society's peace by choosing only one partner. The Ananta Paudha philosophy of "serving" their community could have arisen from here with the Matriarch declaring all men to be eligible partners. The concept of fatherhood would be abandoned very soon in such an enclave, and, depending on the success of the concept, her daughters could continue "free love", leading to a community much alike "modern" matrilineal societies.

The same could be said about enclaves centered around a Matriarch who was single. Here, I assumed a lot of choices, but all lead to kind of abandoning fatherhood as a concept as seeing a child as someone calling a kid "my child" would easily lead to jealousy and strife in the enclave. Instead, children were offspring of the Matriarch, and all of the enclave looked after them. When her own daughters became mothers, they also became their primary progenitor. Here, I envisioned that some enclaves could develop several pathways: Ranging from young women running away with one man they love to women using polyandry but not fully developed partnerless reprodution to Matriarchs who saw all men (minus their brothers and sons) of their society as potential mates.

All of these societies would follow a matrilineal tradition, such as children derive kinship from their mother, staying with her and her society until they came of age to seek partners (and some, eventually, founding enclaves) of their own. And yes, jealousy or being shamed for one's sexual activity would probably be shunned upon. After all, women with an active sex life meant more children for the Enclave. Which could in turn mean that women might feel or be pressured to have partners, and have daughters. Which would make life reeeeally tough for asexual women.

Sexuality for male Eladrin would be a tough topic, but I'd think that the rate of bisexual men was much higher than in humans, so quite a few would simply resort to homosexual love. I also envisioned that violating a woman's sexual autonomy would be among the highest crimes against society as a whole (see my idea on the Matriarch as being "property of the whole enclave"), so violators would be punished harshly (most likely exile, but maybe even death).

I can also envision that young Eladrin men interested in women would, at first, try everything to get their attention, including said reckless displays of heroism. Which might be against the advice of their caregivers who saw them as valuable signs of hope (at least more valuable than the aging men of the surviving generation). Same could happen with eladrin veterans desperate for a female partner, even if many lacked the fire of youth.

Regarding Kasvarina's reaction: I saw her rage sparked by the same notion that made my character sick (well, she got a wholly different background and even accepting "randomly" born children made her confused). That the men had the "right" to have one sexual encounter once per year. Because that would mean they could ultimately demand sex. I didn't even think about Kas remembering prostitution as women serving men (it was an egalitarian society with no history of patriarchy), but as "people" (maybe even slaves) serving needy Eladrin.
 
Because she didn't believe that ideology. She knew it was valuable to have people who did have those views, but she was more of a 'run a global conspiracy that will hurt a lot of people for (what I see as) the greater good,' whereas Vekeshi mysticism is motivated a lot more by grievance and vengeance. She didn't, y'know, create the mystics, but she was willing to use them.

Kinda like Putin and the Russians using social media deception to mobilize and amplify the hostility of white nationalists and radical militias. Putin doesn't care about black people, but he knows that a bunch of violent racists could cause division in the US, and every bit of chaos deflects attention away from the stuff he's doing.

As for Cula, here's her bio:

Cula has served as an aide to Kasvarina Varal for over a century, but only a few years ago was recruited into the Obscurati. While Kasvarina directs policy, Cula undertakes missions, leading groups of Vekeshi mystics on raids or assassinations. Now that her mistress has disappeared, Cula has been forced to keep control of the many threads she controlled. She maintains a perpetual expression of kindness which is not hard to tell is fake, though it keeps her from showing exactly what emotion she’s really feeling. That emotion is usually disdain. In Kasvarina, Cula saw a woman truly devoted to fairly helping who suffer from the vices of others, and she finds few of the Obscurati officers live up to that ideal. While her opinion of Kasvarina glosses over some of her darker misdeeds, Cula is nevertheless motivated to help the weak, and to ensure the cruel fall. At the convocation she represents the Miller’s Pyre faction.
By the time the convocation was being planned, Kasvarina created a proposal called Miller's Pyre not because she agreed with it, but because she wanted Nicodemus to pay attention and know that she understood that his best intentions would turn to ash. Cula, as suggested by the above bio, had a view of Kasvarina as a sincerely good person, but she wasn't. Cula was 'second in command' only in the sense that she oversaw and ran objectives among the eladrin in Elfaivar. She wasn't privy to the whole scheme. Kasvarina used her.

But yeah, Cula was more moderate as Vekeshi mystics go. She was cutthroat enough to see the value of using the more radical mystics, but wouldn't have agreed with Kasvarina's full philosophy.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
Essentially, what you are saying is that Kasvarina Varal was, pre-amnesia, the de facto unifier of many eladrin enclaves and pushed them towards the more radical and traditionalist side of Vekeshi mysticism, while not being a Vekeshi mystic herself. Presumably, people never figured out that Kasvarina herself was not a Vekeshi mystic.

Is this correct?
 
My take on Indian culture is somewhat inspired by Indian Hindu culture , although dropping the caste system and filtered though my ignorance and confusion with so many other sources.
So they have a Male and Female god at the center of their faith with a mixture of Avatars and children of these main gods and a few strangers thrown in to fill out the pantheon. The main female god Ssramma is of course dead , her partner the tripartite Farmer, Warrior and Thunder god Daval who has retreated from the world somewhat in grief after his wife's death. I decided that original Eladrin culture was somewhat Matriarchal, and had somewhat of a Female gender preference with about 2-1 Female Male ration.
From both the Fey and Indian influences I went with a more sexually free culture than the more typical western culture which makes up most of the rest of the world, I also have gone with their gods being powerful Fey demigods living in this world and its neighboring planes unlike the gods of the Clergy from their distant and disconnected planes, which also made the death of Ssramma both more disastrous and more permenant .

The combination of their Matriarchy and native gods gives rise to much of the tension with Crissilyr and the clergy which at various times has been more of a patriarchy.

I have also gone with Eladrin being very long lived , so the malice at 500 years ago is really not all that long ago ,with Eladrin easily living to be a thousand or so and maybe even immortal fading away into the Dreaming as they age. The pc Eladrin in my campaign not really being fully up to date on her racial culture having visited an Eladrin enclave for the first time in the last session.

The Eladrin empire was a series of independent principalities ruled with various degree's of control by an Imperial family who grew in strength when outsiders threatened and reduced in strength during times of peace. The Eladrin empire embraced the dreaming to a degree no other culture does with Fey living and working among the eladrin and the borders between the realms being weaker. The death of Ssraaama and nearly 2/3 of the population broke this with only a few centers of population (the enclaves) maintaining their ties to the dreaming and many of the Fey fleeing deeper into the dreaming to avoid the consequences of Ssraama's fall. Many of the Male Eladrin died in futile attacks on the Crisslyians , but in doing so helped break the power of the clergy and leave its current rather notional occupation of Elfaivar.

I had Vekeshi vengeance more tied to the mainstream of Eladrin culture with Living being the best revenge central but the attacks on enemies of their people in their lands also being an ingrained tradition to keep the clergy and other threats away. Amongst other people the mystics just moved the definition of threat to meet something their culture needed although as a group they are always hostile to the clergy.
Thinking now a Vekeshi crime syndicate with a strong hostility to the familias may have been something interesting to introduce but I think I have missed my chance
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
Another thing that confuses me is the part where eladrin are fey, but the adventure path never, ever actually acknowledges this.

Are they originally from the Dreaming? How does that work?
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
What do "ancestors" and "closely affiliated with the Dreaming" actually mean in this context? How does it affect their fey status, and what does it mean for their present-day relation with, say, the Dreaming and the Unseen Court?

Does the Unseen Court even exist outside of Dreaming Risur? Is the Unseen Court essentially a global government for the Dreaming, worldwide, or at least Dreaming-Lanjyr-wide?
 

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