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ZEITGEIST [Spoilers] Sometimes the players go all in for their backstory


I have one player who goes deeper than most into creating the backstory for his character. As our War of the Burning Sky campaign comes to a close, we are starting to prepare for Zeitgeist, and I received a "small" document so I could plan on how to integrate his character into the story. ;)

I got his permission to share it, and I thought some of you might enjoy it. :)

"My proper title is Brother Niccolo Petrelli, Third Order Justicar of the Holy Fraternity of Triegenes, and duly appointed officer of the Royal Homeland Constabulary of Risur... but for simplicity's sake, you may call me Nico."

FULL NAME: Niccolo "Nico" Petrelli (NEE-koh-loh peh-TREH-lee)
RACE: Human
CLASS: Paladin (Vengeance?)
THEME: Skyseer
ALIGNMENT: Lawful Good
AGE: 24-ish?

HISTORY: Nico was something of a troublemaker as a child. As a result, when regular schooling proved ineffective, he was sent to a national boarding school run by the Clergy. There, given a strict code of behavior and a highly structured life, he thrived, becoming a star pupil. Upon graduation, he served the church in both humanitarian missions and ceremonial guard duty, before receiving a commission as a Paladin, a holy knight of the church.

He served his first year (Level 1) in Crysillyr, bringing justice to the wicked and lawless. Then, he was given a mission to travel to Risur, to spread the influence of the Clergy oversea. This was likely due to his familiarity with their language (Primordial), having learnt it from an early age from his mother.

In Risur, Nico first worked (Level 2) as a Freelance Peacekeeping Agent (i.e. Bounty Hunter). There, he begun to experience firsthand the wonders that his mother taught him as a child, and he begins to tentatively explore the ways of the Skyseers, attempting to interpret them as an extension of his existing connection to the divine. The strong dichotomy between the Clergy's position on fey (the spawn of demons) and how they're viewed in traditional Risuri society has begun to make him question the "absoluteness" of his faith.

Soon, his actions drew the attention of the Risuri Royal Homeland Constabulatory. Offered a position as an officer of the nation, he gladly accepted, seeing it as a means to further the right and proper cause of his holy commission to bring law and justice to the world, while helping his newfound homeland to thrive in peace and prosperity.

FUTURE DEVELOPMENT: Prolonged exposure to the culture of Risur may continue to erode Nico's faith in the church, and cause him to explore more of his Risuri heritage. This could eventually lead him down a number of different paths:
  • He may seek to embrace the teachings of the Skyseers, where he would become an Applied Astronomist.
  • Nico might also direct his attention towards the Fey themselves, where he may adopt a Fey Patron, and begin to train as a Warlock (probably embracing the Pact of the Talisman, thanks to the gift given him by his mother).
  • In a less drastic mechanical (but not narrative) change, Nico may forswear his Paladin Oath of Vengeance, and instead adopt the more Fey-friendly Oath of the Ancients.
Either path could be dangerous, marking him as an apostate of the church, having turned away from their teachings. He may yet find a center ground between them all, embracing his beliefs of the gods and the planes alongside, rather than in opposition to, a deeper understanding of the Fey.

  • RUDORI BRIGHTLEAF: Nico's Uncle, the brother of Jenissa. A (low-level) ranger, Rudori and his EXTENSIVE family live in the Cloudwood district of Flint, where he works as a woodsman and farmer. Jovial and kind, he readily welcomes all visitors and generously shares both food and lodging with those who need it. He has promised his sister to watch over Nico as he can, and is always urging his nephew to come and visit more often. Rudori is a very humble and grounded man, respected in the Cloudwood community. He may have knowledge connected to neighboring farms or the woods itself.
  • TALA BRIGHTLEAF nee STILLBROOK, Wife of Rudori, Nico's aunt by marriage. A (low-level) druid and Skyseer, and childhood friend of Jenissa. Tala helps to maintain the family farm, along with her NUMEROUS children. A little less boisterous than her husband, she is nevertheless welcoming to all who come to visit... and she's probably pregnant with the next kid. Tala has some low-level connections to the more supernatural happenings within the Cloudwood, and has worked to foster a good relationship with the resident Fey of the area.
  • "CONTACT," chaplain of local Temple of the Great Church. Part diplomat, part priest, this older Dwarf (probably a low-level Cleric) serves as a center to Nico's faith in Risur. With his help, Nico is able to complete any holy rites or ceremonies "needed" for his continued service to the Clergy. He might help re-center Nico in moments of doubt, provide him with direction and guidance from his homeland... or have his own motivations. This Dwarf Cleric would have similarly grown up and trained among the Clergy, before being sent to serve as a priest in Drakr (where he would be seen as a more friendly face, given his race). However, during his service there, , he would have learned a great deal about the Eschatology movement, and eventually (secretly) become an adherent. Ever a troublemaker who wouldn't enforce the strict mandates of the church (instead being a kinder and gentler religious figure), he was moved to a lower post in Crysillyr, where he eventually met - and now mentors - Nico. One thought is that this Dwarf Cleric could represent a "backup" character, should something unfortunate happen to Nico.
IMMEDIATE FAMILY (whom live in Crysillyr)
  • JENISSA PETRELLI nee BRIGHTLEAF, Nico's mother. A druid and Skyseer from Risur. Formerly a Risuri ambassador to Crysillyr, she fell in love with a Crysilli businessman, requiring her to resign her post (as her relationship would represent a significant conflict of interest). While she currently has no official standing among either nation, she does maintain friendships within the government of both countries, and might have some favors she can call in. Jenissa is a druid and a skyseer. Both traits are seen as mildly seditious in Crysillyr; her prior diplomatic connections (and her impeccably clean criminal record) keeps her out of trouble with the government. While she respects the authority of the Great Church, and its beliefs, she does not personally adhere to them. Jenissa taught her children the fundamental tenets of the Skyseers, through nursery rhymes, bedtime stories, and the like. Before he left Crysillyr, she gave Nico a small heirloom talisman/amulet made of Ironwood, a remarkably resilient substance. This wooden locket is etched with druidic symbols of power (that few outside Risur would understand), and can open to reveal a small portrait of his family, drawn on thin parchment and carefully folded. Presumably, it is non-magical by itself, though its etchings make it suitable as a druidic magical focus.
  • FRANCESCO PETRELLI, Nico's father. A Merchant, Businessman, and Entrepreneur from Crysillyr. His dealings brought him into contact with government officials, both foreign and domestic. He met, fell in love with, courted, and eventually married Jenissa Brightleaf of Risur. Like his wife, he respects the power and authority of the Clergy, but does not prescribe to their beliefs. Rather, he dislikes the bureaucracy that they represent, but keeps his opinions to himself, lest he find the Clergy's eye upon himself and his family. It is POSSIBLE that Francesco has connections to "The Family," the underworld criminal organization that only exists in rumor. If it is true, he has kept any such involvement a secret from at least Nico, if not his entire family. It is up to the DM how to quantify his attachment to The Family; it could be incidental or extensive, eager or reluctant, voluntary or otherwise.
  • MARIA PETRELLI, Nico's sister (age ~22). Nico's younger sister is a mature, bright, and talented student of her father's business, and has begun working in the same trade. It is assumed by almost everyone who knows the Petrelli family, that she will one day assume control of the family business. She's clever and ambitious, always wanting to prove her own worth. Maria might also be involved with "The Family," either in that she's being groomed for eventual induction, or that she's already a junior member.
  • ANTONIO PETRELLI, Nico's brother (age ~14). Antonio is your typical idiot teenager. He wants to be a hero like his big brother, and successful like his sister, but doesn't have the same drive or conviction to accomplish those goals. While athletically talented, he's mostly unaccomplished and average in school.
  • "RIVAL," rival paladin/cleric/etc from Crysillyr. A contemporary of Nico, this individual would be someone that he trained and learned alongside. They would have been comrades and rivals, attempting to one-up each other along the way (I like to think of it as competing to be "holier than thou"). This person probably received their holy commission at roughly the same time as Nico, but the two were sent on different paths. They could be male or female, at GM discretion. This individual could prove to be either an ally or an enemy to either Nico (or the entire group), however the world would have taken them along their journey. If Nico strays from the faith, and news of that gets back to the homeland, the rival might be dispatched to bring him home. If the Clergy has a nefarious plot underway, the Rival may be part of it. If the rival is female, she could also represent a romance that never really started (given their professions). There are multiple possibilities to play with.
  • "TEACHER," a Cleric and/or Paladin of the Great Church of Crysillyr This individual would be one of Nico's trusted advisors from the Clergy, an influential teacher who helped set Nico (and perhaps Nico's Rival) on their path. Nico would trust them implicitly, a fact that could be used against Nico and his allies. This individual may be kind and caring, or stern and forceful, at GM discretion. Similarly, their motives might be either benevolent or malicious, as the plot requires. This is a character that might only appear if the party travels overseas to Crysillyr.

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Good stuff. Here's a few things they may want to think about;
  • Crisillyir has its own Dreaming with (presumably) its own fey, much like the rest of the world
  • Nico may have been trained at the military colleges of Sid Minos, and delved the mysterious catacombs a little
  • There is a long-abandoned Clergy church in Flint, per Book 2
  • Given the modus operandi of the Family, the Flint patriarch is likely very well known in the city's Clergy community
  • It may be good to work together to come up with some concrete teachings and ideologies for the Clergy, to help drive philosophical debate and personal conflict. In particular, look for the list of Clergy vices/virtues found in the expanded Book 4 dungeon.
  • For 'Rival', consider the godhand who has a small role in Book 7 and Book 11.
  • Also, godhands are a thing
  • For 'Teacher', consider the prominent female clericist in Book 4. Alternatively, Savina Tullius, who was Risuri and is now prominent Clergy.
  • The Clergy have a very different understanding of the stars/planes than the Skyseers
  • Would be good for Nico to have an opinion on Elfaivar, Elfaivarans, the Elfaivaran slave trade and the Great Malice, as those are some of the most prominent elements in the entire AP. Even starting in Book 2, with Gale.
  • In my opinion, the AP should show Risur to be more fey-interested. Fey politics and celebrities should fill Risuri newspapers. I would put this down to fey politics and public figures not being established until later books. Consider emphasizing how much the fey matter to Risur and Flint and tie in direct figures from the Unseen Court and the like to help drive Nico's relationship with them.
  • As Cloudwood denizens, Nico's family probably have opinions on Flint's industrialization
  • Also: Nevard Sechim, Cloudwood bandits.
Basically, it's some good independent work, though for my personal tastes I would suggest more tie-ins with direct AP and world material. Gotta avoid establishing something about the world in the independent work that is contradicted by the AP later. I'm sure you were probably going to do a little of that anyway, Tormyr.


Yeah, this is just a first draft with information gleaned from the player's guide. We will shape it to hit major story points. Thanks for all of the ideas!

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