ZEITGEIST Strength of the Puma | a campaign set at Pardwight University

efreund

Explorer
My ZG campaign has been on hiatus since the pandemic began. We were just about to start adv7, which we really want to be back in person for. So how do we keepalive interest in the campaign and setting during the long break? Wacky side adventures!

As you are probably aware, there have been two excellent "Hogwarts-but-not" fantasy modules published lately: Strixhaven (DnD 5e) and Strength of Thousands (PF 2e). I am attracted to the idea of magic-school hijinks, but I have no interest in the settings the two schools are placed in. But I do have a lot of interest in the Zeitgeist setting. The stars aligned, and the conclusion was obvious.

This week we kicked off Strength of the Puma, set in Flint in autumn of 500 AOV, ready for the start of the fall semester. (I decided to lean into the fact that the Puma was the school mascot of Pardwight U, and that students are colloquially called 'pumas'.)

In order to get some fun going on, we did lifepath character generation. The latter half, I cribbed from Paizo's Ultimate Campaign, but the first half, I had to write up myself. I'll share it with you in the next post.

What I'd like help from you, o forumites, is what to do for students' "houses" at Pardwight. I don't particularly like Strixhaven's or Strength's houses, and I'm not going to reuse Hogwarts', as wonderful as they are. I'm kinda tempted to model the houses after the fey titans, but that kinda conflicts with the "puma" thing I have going on, and since Pardwight is as much an engineering college as a magical college, that doesn't feel quite right. Any ideas?
 

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efreund

Explorer

Determine Nationality, Race, Hometown, and Birth Sign


Choose, or roll 1d20:

Then choose or roll on the appropriate race & hometown tables

1-10Risuri
11-12Danorian
13-14Drakran
15-16Crisillyiri
17-19Berian
20other


Risuri race subtable

1-8Human (black)
9-10Human (mixed race)
11-17Human (white)
18Half-Eladrin
19Halfling
20Gnome

Risuri hometown subtable​

1-5Weftlands. The western half of Risur consists of alluvial plains and rolling hills, interspersed with many rivers. This is the agricultural heart of the country. Trait access: Savannah Child (regional).
6-10Antwalk Thicket. The eastern half of Risur is thickly forested, rich in game and logging. The thicket is close to the Dreaming. Trait access: Log Roller (regional).
11-12High Bayou. In southern Risur, the foothills of the mountains form a basin in the forest that becomes a thick swampland. Trait access: River Rat (regional).
13-14Shale. A coastal city with major shipyards, and nearest city to Yerasol and Danor. Suffered terrible damage in the wars, leaving a bitter and conservative populace. Trait access: Veteran of Battle (religion) and Sea-Souled (regional).
15Bole. An inland city at a major river crossing in the Antwalk Thicket. Trait access: Log Roller (regional) and Civilized (social).
16-18Flint. The King's special economic zone on the northern coast, and home to Pardwight University. Flint (alone in Risur) boasts heavy industry and blistering economic development. Trait access: Vagabond Child (regional) and Civilized (social).
19-20Slate. The centrally-located Capital of Risur houses the royal palace, many ancient and esteemed noble villas, and the prestigious Mitchell University. Trait access: Civilized (social) and Patient Optimist (religion).
If you are Half-Eladrin, and you grew up in any of the cities of Risur gain Trait access: Forlorn (race). If you grew up anywhere else in Risur gain Trait access: Elven Reflexes (race).

If you are Human, and grew up anywhere in Risur except Flint gain Trait access: Planar Savant (faith).

If you are Gnome, and grew up in any rural area of Risur or Bole again Trait access: Animal Friend (race). If you grew up anywhere else in Risur gain Trait access: Rapscallion (race).



Danorian race subtable​

1-15Human
16-20Tiefling


Danorian hometown subtable​

1-5Hinterlands. As a heavily urbanized country, very little of Danor's populace live in rural areas. Those that do so are often not there by choice, but the result of banishment or shame. Trait access: Frontier-Forged (regional). Drawback access: Pride.
6-10Beaumont. The center of Danorian classical and high culture, featuring many theatres, schools, and high-end artisans. Beaumont is host to Lamar University, the most renowned military academy in the world. Trait access: Veteran of Battle (religion) and roll on Table 1-34.
11-12Keskay. A major hub on the Danorian railway, and a major port city in its own right. Trait access: Militia Veteran (regional) and Sea-Souled (regional).
13-20Cherage. The glorious capital of Danor is the most technologically advanced city in the world, but in the shadow of its opulence hides vast impoverished slums. Trait access: Vagabond Child (regional) and Civilized (social) and Guardian of the Forge (religion).
If you are a Human or Tiefling, and you grew up in any of the cities of Danor, roll on Table 1-39



Drakran race subtable​

1-12Human
13-19Dwarf
20Jotunn-blooded
Jotunn-blooded gain Trait access: Wrecking Wrath (religion).

(Jotunn-blooded are mechanically the same as Half Giants, but make must take the "Cold Acclimated" and "Liberty or Death" racial options, and replace "Naturally Psionic" with the Dwarven racial trait "Death's End".)



Drakran hometown subtable​

1-2The Mirskwood. These forests sprawl more than three hundred miles in hilly land south of the Shawl Mountains. Villagers here. known as Mirskwood Folk, earn tolls by maintaining roads and rail refueling depots in the woods. Trait access: Log Roller (regional).
3-5The Shandau. A snowy but temperate region on the east coast, north of Mirskwood. The folk here live a hardy, rural existence. Trait access: Frontier-Forged (regional).
6-7The Shawl Mountains. Tall, frigid, widely spaced, with rich iron veins worked by thousands upon thousands of slaves. Trait access: Life of Toil (social) and Freedom Fighter (race).
8-11The Stena. A temperate region west of Trekhom bordering the Malice Lands. It is a rich agricultural breadbasket, though its idyllic landscape is marked by towers and old killing fields for defending against malice beasts. Trait access: Militia Veteran (regional).
12Bhad Rhyzhavdut. The frigid mines in the Shawl Mountains feed ore to the eastern sea via the Volgir River, and this fortress city serves as a bastion against invasion by frost giants of the north. Most residents live in subterranean compounds dug into the hills alongside the river. Trait access: Tundra Child (regional) and Militia Veteran (regional).
13Lukhala. Located where the Mirskwood runs down to the coast, this small city is a renowned as a destination for 'freethinkers' who are looking to escape the conventions of Drakran society. Roll again on Drakran hometowns; when you were young, this is where your parents moved to Lukhala from: access its traits. Decide why they needed to escape conformist society. Trait access: Outcast (race).
14-16Mirsk. Dispatches mountains of steel goods to the rest of northern Lanjyr’s industry. Miners and forge-workers toil amidst smoke and dirt, many of them functionally slaves of private prisons. Accidents and “accidents” are legion, and morticians extort families to keep their deceased loved ones from joining the rumored ranks of necromantically-reanimated miners. Trait access: Life of Toil (social) and Deathtouched (bloodline).
17-20Trekholm. Chimneys rise from manufactories hidden below the earth, belching gray smog high into the sky. Great new philosophies and social movements now clash within; they fight to redefine the city, Drakr, and this new age of revolution. Trait access: Vagabond Child (regional) and Civilized (social) and Tunnel Fighter (race).


Crisillyiri race subtable​

1-13Human (white)
14-16Human (brown)
17Half-Eladrin
18Dwarf
19-20Deva
If you are Half-Eladrin and you grew up in Crisillyir, gain Trait access: Forlorn (race).

If you are a Deva, gain Trait access: Reincarnated (Faith).



Crisillyiri hometown subtable​

1Penance Peaks. The rugged western border of Crisillyir is most famous for its scenic five-hundred mile long trail of shrines and pilgrimage stops. Trait access: Highlander (regional) and Wisdom in the Flesh (religion).
2The Deserto Senesi. A vast stretch of sand dunes spanning the northern breadth of the country, dotted with many open pit iron mines and oases supporting a constellation of desert settlements. Trait access: Desert Child (regional).
4-6The Lydean Hill Country. Lying at the southern edge of the desert, the Lydean hills are arid and short, populated by many small villages. Trait access: Savanna Child (regional).
7-8Mare Audacitas coast. The coast that faces Elfaivar is littered with forts and strange abjurations as a cost of the two Victories. Trait access: Eyes and Ears of the City (religion) and Seal-Souled (regional).
9-11Sid Minos. A fortified island-city and the heart of Crisillyir's military-industrial complex. Sid Minos is also known for its bad weather, and for its elite College of Divine Trails. Trait access: Divine Warrior (religion) and Sea-Souled (regional).
12-15Vendricce. The literal and figurative bridge of cultures, Vendricce has been variously conquered by the Demonocracy, Elfaivar, and Dragon Tyrants. Now, the city is Crisillyir's most important trade port, and launch-pad for its colonization efforts. Trait access: Civilized (regional) and World Traveler (race).
16-20Alais Primos. The most populous city in the world, the sprawling skyline of Alais Primos is dominated by hundreds of cathedrals, steeples, and apartments, sitting in a broad fertile valley at the foot of the volcano Enzyo Mons. The city is host to the greatest store of knowledge in the world: the Jenevah Grand Librarium. Trait access: Civilized (regional) and Well-Informed (race).


Ber homeland & race subtable​

Ber's table is organized inside-out. Figure out homeland first, then if necessary, figure out race.

1Orc Homeland: Citado Cavallo and environs. A somewhat-wealthy semi-independent peninsula that harbors the great sea chiefs of Ber, as well as their separatist sentiments. Traits: Sea-Souled (regional) and Shadow Whispers (religion).
2-5Orc Homeland: Renza and environs. A fast-growing loyalist port city and military outpost defending against incursions from lizardfolk raiders and gnollish separatists. Traits: Militia Veteran (regional).
6-7Minotaur Homeland: Shantre and environs. This insular, labyrinth city has changed the least since the unification of Ber. Trait access: Civilized (regional).
8-9Lizardfolk Homeland: central arid plains. The Lizardfolk have accepted the fact that Ber has incorporated around them, but they have done little to integrate into society. Trait access: Frontier-forged (regional).
10-11Goblin. Goblins are cowardly and easily displaced, and have no homeland. They can be found everywhere in Ber. Trait access: Outcast (race).
Also, reroll on this table until a homeland is found. You are part of a Goblin minority in that region and can access that region's trait(s).
12-13Gnoll Homeland. Gnolls are strongly loyal to their own tribe, but the loyalty of those tribes to the Berian unification project runs the gamut from cautious loyalty to zealous opposition, with lots of opportunistic piracy and infighting between. Trait access: Corpse Cannibal (religion) and Frontier-Forged (regional).
14Gnoll cultist. Off the southern coast of Ber, a particular tribe of gnollish cultists shun Ber's use of technology and view any use of metal as blasphemous, violently opposing modernization. The tribe is organized as a theocracy ruled by the priesthood of Steel Lord. Trait access: Sea-Souled (regional) and Mathematical Prodigy (magic) and roll on Table 1-35.
15Half-Giant Homeland: Anthras Mountains. Bordering Risur is the rugged mountain-country of Ber, seemingly sparsely populated with half-giants, but in truth, most of them just live deep in the mountains and seldom emerge. Many secretly worship the Risuri fey titan Granny Allswell. Trait access: Highlander (regional) and Surface Stranger (regional).
16Ursaliña. Since throwing off the Dragon Tyrants, Ursaliña has reimagined itself as the city of bears, and is now a fashionable, youth-oriented town. Ursaliña hosts the only internationally-recognized institute of higher learning in Ber: the Triunfo Vida bardic college. Trait access: Vagabond Child (regional) and Well-Informed (race).
Reroll to determine race, treating a 16-17 as Dwarf, and 18+ as Orc.
17-18Reo Pedresco. Ber's second-largest and fastest-growing city, the Bruse (King) of Ber plans on transforming Reo Pedreso to a western capital of sorts, with plans to develop it into a major rail hub. Trait access: Vagabond Child (regional).
Reroll to determine race, treating a 16-17 as Minotaur, and 18+ as Lizardfolk.
19-20Seobriga. The grand city of towering monuments, the capital of Ber used to be the capital of the Dragon Tyrants, and everything is built to draconic scale, now retrofitted for ordinary people. Seobriga epitomizes the "new Ber", and is rapidly adopting "modern" (read: Danorian) ways of thinking. Trait access: Vagabond Child (regional) and Scholar of Ruins (race).
Reroll to determine race, treating a 16 as Human, 17 as Half-Orc, 18-19 as Orc, and 20 as Eladrin.
Then roll d%, and on a 1-8 gain Trait access: Blood of Dragons.
21Kobold. How did you roll a 21 on a d20? Don’t you know that Kobolds don't exist?
Trait access: Rapscallion (race) and Tunnel Fighter (race).




Other Homelands​

1-4Yerasol Islands. Contested between Risur and Danor for generations, few Yerasol natives are left, now mostly replaced by colonists or military bases from one of the great powers. The Yerasol Islands stretch through an unstable magical field: effectively the Malice Lands at sea. Trait access: Magic Is Life (religion) and Sea-Souled (region).
Roll d20 to determine race: 1-10 roll on Risuri table, 11-18 roll on Danorian table, 19-20 Native Yerasol Human (black)
5-8Malice Lands: Orithea. A small city-state amidst the roiling chaos of the Malice Lands, Orithea has a true frontier-town feel, and is host to monster hunter lodges, political refugees from other countries, and eccentrics that couldn't fit in elsewhere. Danor has made repeated overtures to draw it into its orbit, a plan greatly helped by the recent arrival of the Avery Coast Railroad into Orithea. Trait access: Magic Is Life (religion) and Freedom Fighter (race).
Roll d20 to determine race: 1-9 roll on Danorian table, 10-20 roll on top-level nationality table.
9Malice Lands: Arrovia. An insular state centered around a mountain lake near the border of Drakr, the outside world knows little of what goes in the villages of Arrovia and the castles that loom over them. Many dark tales are told of that supposedly wicked place. Trait access: Deathtouched (bloodline) and Highlander (regional).
Race: Human.
10-12Nalaam. A sinfully wealthy independent city state high in the mountains between Crisillyir and Drakr. Ruled by arcane spellcasters, Nalaam is money-fueled libertarian kleptocracy where everything has a price, even life and freedom. The enchanted city is topped by its greatest site: the magnificent Grand Casino. Trait access: Tundra Child (regional) and Magical Lineage (magic) and Earth-Touched (magic).
Race: Human.
13-17Elfaivar. The jungle homeland of the Eladrin has been conquered, devastated, partitioned, and colonized by the great powers. Few Eladrin remain, and those that do are in hiding. Trait access: Child of Nature (religion).
Roll d20 to determine race: 1-12 Crisilliyi colonist, 13-14 Drakran colonist, 15-16 Risuri colonist, 17 Shahan colonist, 18+ independent Eladrin enclave with Trait access: Warrior of Old (race). On a 6-17, if your roll is even, you are a Half-Eladrin nominally loyal to your colonial power, gain Trait access: Forlorn. If your roll is odd, roll for race on the parent country's table.
18The East. You come from lands far to the east, perhaps the shogunate of Ragesia, or lands further on. You would have traveled through the city of Shaha on Elfaivar's southeast extremity to reach the lands of the Avery Sea. Trait access: World Traveler (race) and Outcast (race).
Race: Human (eastern).
19-20The Dreaming. You quite literally are not of this world. How you originally crossed into the Dreaming, by choice, by accident, by force, or some confusing combination of these, is a mystery that can never be fully untangled. Trait access: Magical Talent (magic) and roll on table 1-37.
Roll on the Risuri race subtable to determine race.

Planetary Alignment

First roll a d6 and read down the left-hand column to see which planet you were born under.
The roll another d6 to determine how strong the conjunctions and alignments were at that time. Strong influence includes the all effects of weak influence.



1-5: Weak6: Strong
1JieseThose born under the Fires of Creation are destined to be cunning but perhaps in ways that are disruptive to the status quo.Roll 4d6k3 for INT, keeping the better result+1 INT, -1 WIS, Disadvantage access: Meticulous, Headstrong
2AvilonaThose born under the Silent Storm are destined to be stoic and unyielding but perhaps will see their efforts end before the time is right.Roll 4d6k3 for CON, keeping the better result+1 CON, -1 CHA,

Disadvantage access: Avarice, Provincial
3UrimThose born under the Golden Chain are destined to be prosperous but perhaps will distractable or unfocused.Roll 4d6k3 for CHA, keeping the better result+1 CHA, -STR,
Disadvantage access: Sentimental, Doubt
4MavishaThose born under the Mysteries of the Deeps are destined to be deep thinkers with rich inner lives but perhaps will have trouble forming close relationships with others.Roll 4d6k3 for WIS, keeping the better result+1 WIS, -CHA, Disadvantage access: Xenophobic, Paranoid
5Apet & ReidaThose born under the Far Reaches of History must contend with the paradox that they are to lead an auspicious life that will strongly impact those closest to them, but will have little impact beyond their hometown.Roll 4d6k3 for DEX, keeping the better result+1 DEX, -1 INT, Disadvantage access: Pride, Family Ties
6NemThose born under the Gate of Ruin are said to be cursed but perhaps in way that, only after the end, others can look back and see the blessing their life was to the world.Roll 4d6k3 for STR, keeping the better result+1 STR, -1 CON, Disadvantage access: Dependent, Power-Hungry
 
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efreund

Explorer
Our students so far:

Danorian Human from Beaumont, who later joined the circus and became a swindler
Risuri Human from Shale, whose entire family died in the 4th Yerasol war, and has gone a touch nutty
Danorian Tiefling from Cherage, whose set to inherit the family's dubious business connections with Arrovia
Risuri Human from Slate, who moved to Flint, fell in with the Kell Guild, and now wants out
Berian Gnoll from the south (continental), who is a premiere athlete in the sport of blood pig
Risuri Human from the deeps of the Antwalk Thicket, who aspires to become a Skyseer

Lifepath makes for weird party-fellows ;)
 



arkwright

Explorer
Neat stuff.

If you don't mind a clarification, the Gnolls of the southern isle of Karch are actually modernization fanatics, introduced to armor-forging by their dragon Steel Lord and now keen on industrialisation. They do have a religious practice where they believe it is wrong to touch metal with bare skin/fur, thus they all wear gloves when working iron.

Of course, might be your own homebrew/changed events at work there.
 

hirou

Explorer
I'm kinda tempted to model the houses after the fey titans, but that kinda conflicts with the "puma" thing I have going on, and since Pardwight is as much an engineering college as a magical college, that doesn't feel quite right. Any ideas?
It's unlikely that engineering was introduced more than a generation ago. Risuri king is equal to the titans, so it's possible that a new house of Kelland was founded by Aodan 30-something years ago.
 

efreund

Explorer
There are five houses at Pardwight University, each loosely modeled after one of the great Fey Titans. Over the years, each house has produced many brilliant graduates, and in turn, each their share of dropouts. Pumas can join a house once they become attendants. Nearly every student ends up joining a house, as this confers valuable structure and social connections, but this is not mandatory.

Ashbearers

Wisdom through loss, progress through setback, and the hunt for truth amidst the wreckage of failure.
Ashbearers tend to be introspective, and have a reputation for being the most emotionally mature of the houses. While all houses perform chartable work, the Ashbearers have a stronger tradition of doing it well compared to the other houses. They straddle the divide between modernity and tradition, working to bring forward the ashes of the past into a new world order. Never forget, but never stop growing.
Patron: Ash Wolf
Insignia: hands holding a bowl with smoke arising
Allied houses: Sorority, Gremlins
Rival houses: Thunderdome, The Voice


Thunderdome

Progress will lead us to pleasure and prosperity!
Pumas in Thunderdome embrace a fast lifestyle, believe in progress for its own sake, and aren’t afraid to break things. Undeterrable optimists, they pick themselves up quickly and move on to the next great venture. While they work study, perhaps exhaustively so, the Thunderdome also has a well-deserved reputation for being the party-house at Pardwight University. Work hard, party hard.
Patron: Father of Thunder
Insignia: three lightning bolts forming a triangle
Allied houses: Sorority, The Voice
Rival houses: Ashbearers, Gremlins


Gremlins

Secrets lie in every direction, hidden in the dark, in the light, in between.
Gremlins are curious, insatiably so, and have a strong penchant for questioning others’ assumptions and priors. The house has a reputation for harboring the most intelligent, as well as the most socially awkward, Pumas. Gremlins tend to favor pure science and publishing papers over engineering and creating physical inventions. They have no compunction against discovering the most modern of secrets, but can manifest a conservative streak when it comes to applying those principles in the real world.
Patron: Granny Allswell
Insignia: two non-aligned eyes
Allied houses: Ashbearers, The Voice
Rival houses: Thunderdome, Sorority


The Sorority of the Sea

We can change you, come and see.
In the earliest days of Pardwight University, women were not allowed to join any of the houses … so they founded their own. Today, all houses have an open recruitment policy, and even after the Sorority merged with the all-male Triton house, the name stuck. Pumas in the Sorority emphasize community engagement and development in ways that can bring society along with it. Ironically, this leads the Sorority to now be one of the most conversative houses, as they (rightly) point out that much of Risuri culture isn’t ready to realize radical change.
Patron: She Who Writhes
Insignia: one ship towing another
Allied houses: Ashbearers, Thunderdome
Rival houses: Gremlins, The Voice


The Voice

Listen.
Brimming with self-confidence, the Voice seeks truth and proclaims their truth to others. Though their preferred medium is through publishing papers, many are also gifted public speakers. Known as taboo-breakers, Pumas in The Voice would prefer to be known as “pragmatic.” The house can have a nihilistic streak, and seem to have no trouble reconciling the fact that all they learn is simultaneously ‘very important’ and ‘worthless, in the grand scheme of things.’ Perhaps that’s how they justify all the necromancy? Ironically, The Voice does not speak with one voice, and the house harbors staunch conservatives as well as radical progressives, who seem to delight in tearing dueling one another via the weapon of well-tuned rhetoric.
Patron: The Voice of Rot
Insignia: a snake skull, with the mouth open, ambiguously about to speak or to strike
Allied houses: Thunderdome, Gremlins
Rival houses: Ashbearers, Sorority
 
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efreund

Explorer
If you don't mind a clarification, the Gnolls of the southern isle of Karch are actually modernization fanatics, introduced to armor-forging by their dragon Steel Lord and now keen on industrialisation. They do have a religious practice where they believe it is wrong to touch metal with bare skin/fur, thus they all wear gloves when working iron.
My understanding is that in 500 AOV (when my Puma campaign is set), much of that was still under wraps.

When my main campaign played through adv6, I played Pardo up as a strong anti-technological luddite. It really confused the party when he went outside the Royal Palace to "call down the judgement of the Steel Lord" and he acted as if he was casting a spell, and then artillery shells started dropping from the sky. It further confused them when he took damage in the ensuing combat and I swapped out his character art for this:
1652166942050.png


Also, I'm being a bit coy on my own lifepath table. Within the "Gnoll Cultists" section, there's a redirect to "Table 1-35" which is then filled with technological / gunslinger traits.
 

arkwright

Explorer
Looking over the AP, you might be right. Book 1 only says that the southern coast gnolls refuse to join the nation and 'have a violent and messianic faith in the eventual return of their slain dragon tyrant Gradiax, the Steel Lord'. There's definitely nothing to say that most Berans would know what's going on in Karch, and decent reasons why the knowledge would be kept from the public. Good call!

Oooh nice Pardo art, my own is a bit more basic, heh.
 

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