ZEITGEIST The chronicles of Team Big-hearted And Determined (B.A.D.)

Echolocation

Villager
I'll be using this thread to chronicle a Zeitgeist adventure DM'd by me for my friends (Alf, Drift, Jae, and Saber please don't read this). We run using Pathfinder 1E. After reading gideonpepys incredible campaign diary, I liked the look of the Benny system. I twisted it to my liking, and with resounding support from the group, we adopted a Pebble system. Each player chooses a pebble word (underlined below) in character creation. If a character acts in a way which exemplifies their keyword, other players may award that character a pebble. Mechanically, pebbles can be used to alter the world in a way otherwise impossible via magical or mundane means, but only when this wouldn't provide a mechanical advantage. Thematically, pebbles are a recent addition to the folklore of Risur, and are a curiosity among scholars and philosophers alike. There's more info about the Pebble system in a supplement I wrote for my players (see attached).

If folks are interested, I'll post our sessions on this thread. I'd love to hear any thoughts you have about the characters and campaign, or even ideas for upcoming sessions.

Finally, let me introduce you all to the cast:

Avvakir Votyakov (Brawler, Yerasol Veteran theme feat, played by Saber) is a towering Deva, respected for his centuries of dedication to the people of Flint. From afar, the 6"5 shirtless slab of muscle may seem intimidating, but this demeanor is immediately betrayed by his sanguine (pebble word) personality. His closest friend, Roland Stanfield, constantly urges him to pursue a career in politics. Avvakir is much to interested in being a constable, and using his position to help the disadvantaged. Naturally, he is the face for the Risur faction (the RHC, the police, Risuri government, and military).

Angharad Cipith (Kineticist, Vekeshi Mystic theme feat, played by Alf) is a mysterious human stolen by fey at birth. Spending the first few decades of his life in The Dreaming, Angharad became a trained Vekeshi Mystic. A man who lives his life searching for answers, but not knowing the questions. After his years in The Dreaming, all that held him together was his passions, desires and wishes. Angharad is a face for the Unseen Court, being no stranger to their mischief. Fun tidbit: humans which are taken by the fey and return to Risur in later years are awarded the last name of "Cipith".

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Lisandra Arvantis (Charlatan Rogue, Spirit Medium theme feat, played by Jae) was an orphaned human child in recent Risuri war, before she was taken in by Father Otis. He taught her to read, handle a blade and how to use her pretty face and duplicitous skill set to con the coins out of people's pockets. Since then, Lissandra has spent her time hustling nobles out of their coin. The RHC caught her in a con. In return for discretion about her identity, she assisted the agent in gathering information from her mark, allowing the RHC to progress in their case. They were intrigued by her skills, and the pay was much better than hustling. She works there to keep a better life for herself, and make enough money to (secretly) help the street kids and poverty stricken in her old District. She will become the face for the Clergy.

Elanora "Ella" Cassia Arista Demetriou (Questioner Investigator, Technologist theme feat, played by Drift) was a very young Gnome Tiefling when her parents moved from Danor to Risur. Her father sadly succumbed to Bleaching when she was in her teens, leaving her to be raised by her mother and an eclectic assortment of relatives in Flint. They live together in a cluttered, rambling house on the edge of The Nettles and the Cloudwood, with a collection of cats and an overgrown garden. Still young in gnomish years, Ella only became a constable in the RHC a month ago and is somewhat overawed by her new position and responsibilities. She hopes to use her passion for investigation to help others, while also earning money to support her extended family. Although shy in nature, her motivation for discovery drives her to new experiences. She will eventually become the face for the Ob.
 

Attachments

arkwright

Explorer
What a terribly professionally-formatted supplement. It looks really nice.

Is this for a campaign that has finished, or is still underway?
 

Echolocation

Villager
I'll post my first few sessions. I'm not sure if I will always have time to post session notes, but I'll see how I go.

Following in the footsteps of giants (gideonpepys and Colmarr), the campaign began with a bit of an unusual Session 0. Here's the recap:
  • We began by each player introducing their character: appearance, personality, class/archetype, theme feat, pebble word, etc.
  • The party begins in the RHC's break room, on a table surrounded covered in cupcakes. Pete, a grizzly war veteran and fellow constable, uses his newfound talent in baking to lure workers into the break room and entertain them with fantastical tales from the war. This time, he tells the party about a goblin assassin who camped a Danorian lavatory for hours, just to have a clear strike at his mark. A strangely furious Delft makes his appearance, and demands the constables meet him in his office in exactly two minutes. Pete suggests bringing him a cupcake (one with icing) to cheer him up.
  • Once they make their way into the office, the character are informed of a case colloquially known as The Children of the Hart. Every night since the beginning of spring, a child has been taken from their home (20 total). There is no sign of breaking and entering. The police have been sitting on the case for several weeks, and have only just handed it over to the RHC. Maxwell, a secretary who mans the front desk, has a box of confidential documents pertaining to the case.
  • The party meets Maxwell, a Crisillyiri who delights in order, hands over the box and reminds them of the proper protocols.
  • Once the party take the box back to their office, I revealed my true agenda for the session---to DM as little as possible. Each player is given an opportunity to describe how their character contributes to the investigation. There are no dice rolled for skill checks or for combat, only initiative. I give the players the last lines of their story, so they know what they are heading towards:
    • The constables find themselves deep in the blooming spring forests of the Cloudwood. With every step, the ground feels softer, the air thicker, and the vegetation less lively. They have good reason to believe Curo Selku---a Fey necromancer---has taken the Children of the Hart to a ritual site in a long-forgotten marsh. All the evidence indicates he is a lone wolf, with no ties to the Unseen Court or Archfey. Although the constables do not expect tight security, they are weary of the trickery of a desperate and lonely fey...
  • Drift takes the helm, and describes how her character, Ella, contributes to the case. Ella uses her spatial reasoning to quickly deduce that the kidnappings were predominantly from the Nettles. Fortunately, Ella has a contact in the Nettles---her own mother, the local healer. Before departing, Lissandra takes a brief look at the files. The constables eventually arrive to Ella's house, an erratic conjunction of what looks to be several homes. Her mother warns the party of Cauldron Hill, and suspects if there is trouble in the Nettles, it comes from there. Before the constables depart, she thanks Avvakir for helping with the herb patch the other week. After living in Flint for several hundreds of years, Avvakir knows a sizable portion of the population personally.
  • Saber takes the wheel, and describes Avvakir's contribution. Avvakir leads the party to Cauldron Hill , where they meet two guards: Bazza and Dazza. At this point, I should disclose both the party and myself are Australian, so somewhat regrettably, Flint is a bastion for horrible, horrible accents. Dazza hasn't seen anything that would kidnap a child. Bazza, a bit more of the reserved type, simply nods. Whilst walking around, a crazed man charges the party, explaining that he has seen a suspicious gentleman in torn but fancy clothes, covered in mud. The crazed man invites the party to throw painted stones with him, but they politely decline.
  • Jae demonstrates Lissandra's contribution next. Lissandra tracks down the house of a man whose murder had been connected to the case by the police. Using her spirit medium powers, she pries some useful information from a ghost. He confirms the appearance of Curo.
  • Unsure of where to go next, the constables look towards Angharad (played by Alf). Angharad uses his mystic insight to literally light a path towards their suspect. He runs throughout the Nettles and into the Cloudwood with his eyes closed, and a party of intrigued constables following suit. Angharad stumbles into a grove of children playing in trees. On closer inspection, the children appear to be hung. The party quickly spots a man hanging a child, fitting the description of the suspect. Avvakir charges at him, only to find the illusion of the grove dissipating and revealing a sickly Cloudwood forest.
  • The party continue through the marsh, guided by a psychic tug pulling on Lissandra's soul. They encounter a Dwarven druid who warns the party not to venture any further, for their own safety. After urging her to stand down, the druid attacks, summoning skeletal crocodiles and zombified piranhas in nearby pools of water. The party knocks her unconscious and moves on.
  • The constables find a child, long passed, hung upside down from a nearby tree. As they progress further, they find even more deceased. Their inspection is cut short by the scream of an infant. The party rush in to find Curo pinning a newborn to a makeshift grotto altar, surrounded by strange wooden jars with magical carvings. He calls each constable not by their name, but by their pebble word; ultimately introducing a mystery that will continue throughout the campaign (and one I've not yet fully thought through). Curo begins combat by pointing at Angharad and decries him as tainted by age and experience. A curse Curo intends to free Angharad of.
  • Smoking shadow pours out of the jars, providing Curo with temproary invulnerability. The party destroy the jars, each releasing blood and a piercing psychic scream within Lissandra's mind. After suffering a few blows, Curo retrieves papers revealing his diplomatic immunity and shows them to the group. Angharad, the fire kineticist, sets them alight with his fingertips. The party spare Curo's life, and take him and the dwarf back to the RHC.
  • The session ends with the constables reporting to Delft, who is drinking at a new tavern: The Fatal Footstep. Avvakir, the first to enter the establishment, stumbles flat face onto the floor. He looks back to find the floor of the bar is a few feet below the road outside. Together, the party approach Delft who opens a tab (this is an official and therefore reimbursable meeting, right?). They talk long into the night about their first case together, The Children of the Hart.
Post-game comments

This session was a gentle introduction into the world of Zeitgeist. The players enjoyed all of the NPCs, and adapted quickly to the cooperative DMing element. Given thinking-on-your-feet is a huge part of Zeitgeist, I'm optimistic that they'll enjoy the campaign. They are all exciting to begin the adventure and board the Coaltongue.
 
That's a really cool premise.

I would encourage you, though, to have at least a shiitty explanation for your mystery, instead of none at all. Being interested in a mystery and getting a sense that the author is pulling things out of his ass is frustrating, and me getting that sense from LOST and The X-Files and Battlestar Galactica was a driving motivator for writing ZEITGEIST.

Good luck. Keep having creepy ideas. It could be interesting to have the families of the child victims play an ongoing role, to show that the kids weren't just plot props, but real people whose deaths cause a lot of emotional suffering. If you want to get into that.
 

Echolocation

Villager
Thanks RangerWickett.

In this instance, there wasn't a structured mystery---just the ending was set in stone. This was to give players flexibility when narrating how their character dug up the next lead. In the future, when proper mysteries are present, I will take your advice.

I hadn't considered using the families of victims. One mother from the Nettles has already approached and thanked one of the constables for making the Nettles a safer place to raise her child. I dig the use of victim's families though. I already have some ideas bubbling away...
 

Echolocation

Villager
Session 1

The day of the Coaltongue's launch is finally here! The players and their characters are excited to work the mission.
  • Before departing for the Coaltongue, Inspector Stover Delft calls the party into his office. He congratulates each constable for their crucial role in collecting information (see attached; adapted from the book and from jacktannery). Avvakir for identifying the itinerary and veterans as potential threats; Angharad for researching Gale and identifying the fey as threats; Lissandra for profiling important guests and identifying dockers as threats; and Ella for researching the Coaltongue itself and identifying primalists as threats. Delft gives the constables a run down on their mission before dismissing them.
  • The constables meet with police in the Royal Square, to canvass the crowd and sift out troublemakers from harmless citizens. The party easily briefs the police, but struggles to canvass the crowd. Ella does most of the legwork, managing to stealthy weave through the ever-growing crowds. The party successfully nabs three dockers, within the last two turns of the final round of the encounter.
  • The party makes acquaintance with Thames, and tracks down the final docker on the bridge to Fleet Square. The docker spends a substantial amount of time insulting Thames for working with the police and being the "righteous, self-appointed leader of the working class". The docker turns the some from the crowd on Avvakir the Deva, and together chant at him ("worse than crime, man without spine"). When the fight turns south for the docker, Thames convinces him to jump off the bridge. The party debrief with Thames, tell the police to back off when they ask leading questions to implicate Thames, and Avvakir personally escorts him back to the Royal Square.
  • The party meet with Stover, who introduces them to Harkover Lee. The party decide to talk to Geoff Massarde, before he drowns in wine. Ella and Geoff talk shop. Geoff falls in love with the scruffy Emmett---Ella's Simulacrum dragon. The Duchess asks the remaining party for a room.
  • The King arrives, gives a short speech, and christens the ship. Everyone boards, and the ship departs. The constables meet and greet with various guests. Avvakir makes himself known to his old friends: Roland and Ruki, a recently retired constable. Angharad talks philosophy with Rutger. The shy Ella is beckoned by Pemberton, and taken aback when he deftly trims a loose thread from her clothing.
  • Ella and Lissandra explore below deck, finding their old friend Dazza (Session 0) protecting the fire wards. He tells the constables he's "bloody starving". They run upstairs, gathering Avvakir and a canape. Between a cupcake baked by Pete that Avvakir stowed in his pockets and a fresh canape of sandwiches, Dazza is stoked. Ella and Avvakir head to the lowest floor, and a young Fitzacairn awkwardly flirts with Ella. The two, both incredibly shy, are friendly teased by Avvakir. Ella examines the engine in awe.
  • Everyone regroups on deck. Delft tells the group to fetch the Duchess for the kings speech. Despite my insistence, only Angharad and Lissandra head below deck. As they knock on the Duchess' door, Sokana interrupts. They notice the policeman previously guarding the Duchess is missing, and the situation escalates. Sokana flees, and an assassin appears, slicing Lissandra's ankle (she's dropped to 0 HP in one hit). The Three Minute March begins. Combat is chaotic, as the full scale of the attempt quickly unfolds. By the time Ella and Angharad make it below deck, Lissandra is limping to get upstairs. Fire sprites are attacking the fire brands, and Avvakir is attempting to punch an invisible assassin. Sadness hits the players and character alike when they find a deceased Dazza, and eventually, an assassinated Fitzacairn. At some point, Avvakir opens the Duchess' door right as she jumps from the window. He sees her mounted on some submerged shadow in the water, standing next to an archfey.
  • Angharad sees Sokana throw some kind of gemstone into the boiler furnace. Two burly men seal the furnace shut rust magically applied from a strange rod. Angharad and Avvakir dash to the furnace deck, following soon by Ella. Sokana and Angharad dish out verbal and magical fire to each other. In the process, Sokana fails to dodge Avvakir's punch and falls unconscious.
  • Lissandra meets an officer who helps patch her up. She heads upstairs to debrief Delft. Lee overhears, whispers to the King, who then commands an evacuation. Several eyes rest on Geoff. Under the pressure, he reluctantly agrees to go downstairs and help the constables. A few police, a propped-up drunken Geoff, and Lissandra head to the engine. They arrive as the other constables knock the final accomplice unconscious. Geoff looks at the rattling engine in shock, dropping his wine glass in the process. The session ends with him drunkenly declaring: "Well, I guess we have work to do".
Post-session analysis
The players loved it. We typically play Pazio adventures, and the players were happy with the change of pace. In particular, they liked the opportunity to talk to a vast array of NPCs. Despite confusion in the initial encounter, my players adapted quickly. They liked the first encounter, claiming the different mechanics "kept us on our toes". They are excited for the next session, which unfortunately won't be until early December. With 9 rounds remaining on the clock until the engine explodes, I'm nervously excited too.
 

Attachments

Echolocation

Villager
Between Session 1 & 2

Between sessions, I ask players to answer a short question about their character. This is to keep players thinking about/fleshing out their character. Between this session, I asked players who aboard the Coaltongue they'd choose for in a game of Kiss, Marry, Kill. Principal Minister Harkoever Lee acquired a few kisses from the more subtle characters (Angharad, Lissandra). A few felt like killing Benedict Pemberton, after his folksy mannerisms terrified the city-dweller Ella. Goldigger Lissandra double-downed on marrying the City Governor, and Avvakir was particularly enamored with the ex-constable tengu and potential wife, Ruki.

This week's recap of Session 2 written was by Ella's player:
-----
We began the session with a sealed furnace on the verge of exploding, some unconscious thugs, a very drunk tiefling engineer, and less than 60 seconds to fix everything before the Coaltongue exploded in a raging inferno of fiery death.

Wasting no time, we decided to open the furnace to release the pressure and also calibrate the ship's capacitor to channel the excess energy into the brand.

Avvakir got to work on the rusted-shut door of the furnace open, while Lisandra and Angharad grabbed some tools and Ella ran into the engine room. There she found a techno-magical control panel, and started trying to calibrate it.

Meanwhile Avvakir had opened the furnace and Angharad quickly yanked out the magical gem with a pair of tongs and tossed it away. Unfortunately that still left a whole lot of firegems in the furnace.

Ruki appeared - with an unconscious gnome assassin beside her - and Geoff decided to make himself useful and help Ella. Between the two of them they managed to calibrate the capacitor sending the excess energy from the furnace to the ship's brand. And just like that, the Coaltongue was saved.

We made it upstairs in time to see part of the ocean vaporised, and then it was time for the king's speech. An enormous image of the king appeared - conjured by Minister Lee - and began to address the assembled ships and rescue boats.

The king thanked us for our efforts in saving everyone present, then gave a brief history of the Yerasol Wars and revealed his plans to broker a peace treaty between Risuri and Danor a peace that would be sealed with a marriage.

This announcement was met with... surprising support, with onlyGeoff Massarde and Benedict Pemberton seeming particularly sceptical.

Once the speech was over the king shook our hands and thanked us again personally, sharing his concerns about his sister's behaviour and stating his intention to find her and get some answers.

And then, with the day saved, there was little to do but sail back to Flint and mourn our losses.

Rest in peace: Dazza, Elion, Fitzcairn, and random assorted police officers.
...
The next week passed slowly, until the following Avilday when we were summoned again to Inspector Delft's office.

There we found Danor's Minister of Outsiders: Lya Jierre; niece of Danor's sovereign and an excellent swordswoman.

Without bothering to explain her presence, the tiefling asked us a simple question: how do you supply three towers with magic from three portals without crossing any of the magical streams? It took us a few minutes, but we found a solution and Delft finally explained why were there.

Contrary to expectations, Risur had not been plunged into civil war by the king's announcement of peace plans. Instead, the king's sister - the Duchess - had captured one of Danor's islands in the Yerasol Archipelago and we were needed to help get it back before Danor could declare war over it.

We had three days: to get to Axis Island, infiltrate the fort there, open the sea gate to allow our fleet in, subdue the Duchess's forces, capture the Duchess herself, and hand back the island to Danor.

The voyage there would take two days, leaving us just 24 hours to complete the mission.

Lya Jierre also had a... more personal request to ask of us: rescue her cousin, Nathan Jierre, and ensure he came to no harm.

With little time to waste, we packed up, bought some supplies, got a nice surprise from Pete in the form of cookies, and hitched a ride down to the docks with Uncle Ivan.

There we found the R.N.S. Impossible waiting: the fastest ship in the Flint RHC's fleet, and met the first mate on the docks. She seemed... rather surprised by our unit name… and disappointed. Apparently she'd just lost a bet. But that didn't stop her from inviting us aboard.

On board the Impossible we found our quarters and met the infiltration team: a group of 4 fellow constables - plus doggo - who'd be leading the Axis Island mission. We even found out that one of them was the infamous goblin toilet assassin from Pete's stories.

We also had the chance to meet the ship's wind-summoners, and overheard one of them muttering about "Purple skies" in his sleep.

After two days’ sailing we anchored at the island, and the infiltration team leader - Tanya - outlined the plan: we would be swimming to a sea cave on the north side of the island, travelling through the mine it connects to, crossing the island to the rear of the fort, bypassing the fort's anti-teleportation defenses by casting Passwall at a weak point, and then capturing the lighthouse and opening the sea gate. After that, it should just be a matter of letting our forces do their thing, interrogating the survivors and finding Lya Jierre's cousin. Simple!

Although... Avvakir did cut in to warn us that the island seems to have a mind of its own. As in: the terrain changes, randomly, at any time; and magic has a tendency to function... strangely there. But that's probably just superstition, right?

Now thoroughly informed and prepared, we were granted Water Breathing through a unique, guided meditation style ritual - and then we were ready to begin!

Things went great! ...Until the infiltration team died less than ten minutes into the mission, somehow crushed by falling rocks while underwater. Only Bertin the goblin was left alive, ranting about "purple skies", a "cracked ceiling", a swamp, and "yellow frogs". We decided to take him back to the Impossible and continue the mission ourselves.

Rest in peace: Dan, Letmus, Duke and Tanya… Even your excessive overplanning couldn't prevent the classic "Rocks fall, everyone dies" scenario.
...
Fortunately, finding the sea cave proved simple enough. And within we found an abandoned mining operation, a magical coin, and the tunnel out. Unfortunately the way was blocked by a terrified Danoran man and his two pet elementals.

We managed to avoid killing each other - although Avvakir took some nasty strength damage in the process - and calmed the man down enough to talk.

He told us that his name was Nicholas Jubiarres(?), and he was the foreman of another mine here before the Duchess's forces attacked. He was convinced everyone else had died - a fear which sadly seemed to prove true as we exited the mine and spotted a pile of bodies. They looked like Danoran miners and guards who'd been ripped apart by the surrounding vegetation - as if the jungle itself was their enemy.

Seeing this, we immediately decided to steer clear of any wilderness and just follow the road to the fort, taking our chances with enemy patrols. Because to hell with becoming fertiliser for some kind of magic island.

And so we find ourselves - for the second time in two weeks - racing to beat the clock and prevent disaster. Except this time the futures of two entire nations rest in our hands: relying on our ability to cross a hostile island, infiltrate an enemy stronghold and capture it in less than 24 hours.


All in a day's work for Team B.A.D.! Right?
 
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Echolocation

Villager
Post-Session 2 Discussion:

It's going well. I think the players are well-imbued with a sense of mystery, and are eager to understand the Duchess' motives. For anyone interested, I've attached the King's Speech as well as the "Water Breathing through a unique, guided meditation style ritual", which took constables off the Impossible and to Letmas' tea party along the ocean floor.
 

Attachments

Echolocation

Villager
Fortunately, yes! Two players really enjoyed it, and one felt like screaming. So nobody was really singing moods.

If I ever run the book with another group, I'll need to include Letmas singing the song as the scene fades out..
 

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