ZEITGEIST The March of Progress: Campaign Log

ratzofftoya

Explorer
Hi folks! At long last, the Zeitgeist campaign I've wanted to DM forever has kicked off! We're actually streaming it--you can find watch here on our Twitch or, afterwards, check out the VODs, recaps, DM notes, and other content on our YouTube. The streams will be ~every other week on Fridays at 7 Pacific time! But more importantly than that, I'm so excited to start posting our logs here, finally joining the ranks of those whose awesome adventures I've been reading about for years.

Anyhow, let's go through the characters first!

Brakkus of Natarax (Minotaur Barbarian)
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Brakkus is the first-born son of a warchief of Natarax, a tribe in the mountainous region bordering Ber. Natarax was annexed by Risur with the promise of making them nobles, in exchange for their loyalty and acting as a buffer with Ber. Unfortunately, that left them without a real community--the tribes of Ber shunned them for the betrayal, and the people of Risur were loathe to fully accept this monstrous clan. As such, Brakkus never truly got to enjoy the fruits of aristocracy. After completing his martial training, he was sent to Flint, the nearest big city, and invited to the ranks of the RHC, one of the cushier jobs available for people of his stature and ability. He now languishes away on relatively uninspiring smuggling or corruption investigations, longing for something more exciting.

Dipnip Requloc (Deva Psion)
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When Srasara died, Dipnip was not at all involved in the battle--merely hiding on its outskirts and praying for his life. Little did he know that prayer would be granted in such perverse fashion. Resurrected century after century, Dipnip has not turned his apparent immortality toward deadly pursuits or adventurous lifestyles. Instead, he prefers only quiet comfort, taking solace in numbers and figures and, lately, the actuarial aspects of Eschatology. His facility for bookkeeping took him first to the freightyards of the Bosum Stand, then, by happenstance, to the RHC, which very much needed someone help with forensic accounting for their more complex financial crimes investigations.

Egberticus (Barri Paladin)
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In Risur, the Clergy is often strongest among immigrant communities, who struggle to find their place among the locals. The coastal Barri villages are no exception, and Egberticus may be the biggest exemplar of this trend. A zelously devout adherent of the Clergy, Egberticus elides the human-centricgospel and believes wholeheartedly in the awesome power of Triegenes. In his naval career, which began during the Third Yerasol War, Egberticus drew upon this faith to escape a flaming shipwreck with Ume, his subordinate, and dismantled the automated cannons which Danor set up on a nearby island. This made him a hero and set him up with a commission to Rear Admiral--a rank which he these days occupies in the Auxiliary Corps, focused primarily on keeping the rations and mess halls well-stocked as the Risuri Naval Service's culinary leader.

Ume (Kobold Rogue)
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Ume has been working in galleys with Egberticus as long as they can remember, and there's nothing else they would rather do. Fiercely loyal, quick of wit and rapier, and a damn fine cook, Ume loves the navy life and it agrees with them in turn. Ume left their forest home early to begin a career in the armed services--one of the only sure-fire ways for a poor citizen of "monstrous" origin to advance. Ume's loyalty was galvanized in their heroic turn with Egberticus during the Third Yerasol War, and they continue to serve to this day.

Ekthos (Tiefling Artificer)
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Ekthos grew up outside Cherage, his father building war machines for the Danoran army. When an explosion at the testing facility killed Orksos, Ekthos and his mother fled to Risur, where he spent his daytime hours whittling tiny versions of the animals he remembered seeing when he got to spend time outdoors back home. 27 now, he has settled in at The Ministry of Learning & Arcana’s Bureau of Modern Contraptions and Utilities, where he makes a modest sum working on harmless new technologies. Not feeling any particular allegiance to Risur nor Danor, Ekthos is good enough at his job to appear productive all day on whatever assignment he’s convinced his supervisor is worth his time, usually harmless in-home conveniences. He actually spends most of his brain power drawing up blueprints and building small prototypes for the after-hours projects that happen in his own workshop, still in the same spot he grew up: in the heart of the Mercantile, now covered in shelves filled with his little beasts.

R'ren (Human Druid)
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R'ren is the last druid of his sylvan home near Bole, trained as a skyseer by his forebears and elders. Like many in his community, he has grown somewhat disturbed by the trends he has seen--the constant push for technology and advancement at the expense of the ways that allowed King Kelland and his progency to tame the lands and appease the fey titans. R'ren determined that the best way to temper these excesses was to remain close to them, joining the Bureau of Modern Contraptions and Utilities as a sort of "heritage ambassador," ensuring that the recovered and discovered technologies Risur adopted reflect in some ways the things that made it strong.
 

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ratzofftoya

Explorer
Introduction from Session 1:
People say morning comes slowly in Flint; they say it so much and with such conviction that most folks never stop to think what it means. In fact, like any good adage, it doesn't mean any one thing. To the fishers and whalers who leave the harbor for the Ayres Islands and farther into the Atleiotes Sea, it means that the dense layer of marine fog and, these days, coal soot is barely ever pierced by sun until noon, until they've already returned with the day's haul.

To the Dockers and workers of Flint, toiling away on the night shift at the factories and abbatoirs, turning newfangled, grisly machines upon the fishers' largesse, anointing barrel after barrel with precious crude, to them the phrase is also bitter, muttered as they wait for the bells chiming their freedom.

But to some in Flint, those who find sustenance in the old ways, the slower ways of doing things--and those who can afford a languid hour amid the ceaselessly grinding new age--the phrase harkens the sleepy burg that Flint once was, a humble harbor on the northern edge of Risur, largely shielded from the years of war with the land of Danor across the water to the north, and likewise isolated from court intrigue in Risur's capitol, Shale, many days to the south. But the march of progress carves an unrelenting path across the land until its ends up at your doorstep, bringing with it riches and plenty, but also war and toil. And when the men and women of Pardwright University ecstatically announced that just like its denizens, Flint's machines and workshops too could siphon life from the body of the whale, well, then Flint turned from just a hapless waystation along the march to its ardent trumpeter corps.

A lone crow stretches its wings and takes to the air from its humble nest on Cauldron Hill, the highest peak among the small spur of mountains called the Nettles, which cut into the city from the southwest. The crow is hungry, and has lately found repeat success at one particular windowsill in the city's central district. Its flight takes it first over the ever-increasing mass of clapboard hovels clinging to the side of the mountain, teeming with new immigrants looking for work in Flint's factories. The shacks cover the the switchbacks of the highway cutting through the nettles, just recently built to improve city travel, but offer little more than crumbs for the hungry crow, if that. An updraft, briny and cold, bolsters the crow as it flies over the walls of the central distric, homing in on its target. Finally, it spies the bright brue lintels of the building and alights on a first-floor window sill. It is a building belonging to the Risuri Naval Service, one of their few properties outside of the Royal Shipyard district. This building is an annex, where some of the more, let's say inessential work happens. Outside, two young men in uniform stand guard, barely able to stifle their yawns. The window which most interests the crow is foggy, almost completely obscuring the two figures inside as they rush about a spacious kitchen...
 


ratzofftoya

Explorer
Session 1: Maiden Voyage

We began our journey with a peek into a place beyond space and time, the Celestial Library, where Keeper Lefebvre greeted a new recruit. It turns out that the Canon-Mother is seeking a new tale to weave into the tapestry. Based on her rather particular requirements, including the need for themes of class struggle, a walrus-person, and a breathtaking narrative arc, Keeper Lefebvre selected a particular tome for canonization--the March of Progress--and began to read therefrom to refresh his recollection and elucidate for the recruit.

The tale began in earnest with Ume, a Sub-Lieutenant of the Risuri Naval Service's Commissary Corps, and his superior, Egberticus, a Rear Admiral and the Corps' commander, hard at work on the feast commissioned for the launch of the RNS Coaltongue, a revolutionary steam-powered warship that would usher in an era of naval and, more importantly, technological parity between Risur and their long-time rival the north, Danor. Egberticus had risen to his rank through heroism and determination throughout the Yerasol Wars, transcending the typically low standing of his fellow Barri tribesman, and becoming the pride of all walrus-folk. Though if you ask him, it was at least partly due to the intercession of the one true god, Triegenes, due to Egberticus's unyielding faith in The Pentonian Church. As for Ume, they were just happy to hitch their star to Egberticus's wagon, seeking fortune and escape from the squalid living conditions of their kobold tribesmen in Risur's foothills, but Ume may be selling themselves short in that respect. Their pluck and keen eyes have helped both them and Egberticus out of many a jam in the past. But, their fighting days behind them, Egberticus and Ume's current focus was on concoting the most sumptuous spready imaginable, worthy of the royal attendees that would be at the event today.

We next checked in with two employees of Risur's Bureau of Modern Contraptions and Utilities, a sub-division of the Ministry of Arcana and Learning. Their Bosum Strand warehouse headquarters, typically empty so early in the day, was aglow with firelight as they prepared their things before heading off to serve as the Bureau's delegates to the launch of the Coaltongue. As one of the Bureau's interested in scientific and technological advancement, it was natural that someone should attend, and who could be better than two star employees, R'ren Nadurin and Ekthos. Both were ambivalent about the event, albeit for different reasons. R'ren, because his druidic, skyseer roots gave him a deep skepticism of technology in general, and war machines in particular; and Ekthos because he just isn't one for all the governmental pomp and circumstance. Ekthos is, by the way, a tiefling from Danor who grew up with a love of all things mechanical--for lack of a better term, Ekthos "does machines," partiularly simulacra of animals and other creatures. Before they left the Bureau for their assignment, Ekthos naturally donned his mech-suit, the "Ekthoskeleton," and R'ren shared a vision he had last night, borne by the evening sky.


On their way out, they were met by the Bureau's lead, Lorna Elk, who asked--read "demanded"--that they support the Royal Homeland Constabulary's efforts at the launch of the RNS Coaltognue....Something about Lorna serving on the event's central planning committee and wanting to make a good impression on the Constabulary's assistant chief inspector, Stover Delft, a relatively powerful man about town. Begrudgingly, the duo agreed, though it was unclear they had any choice given Lorna's pushy demeanor, and set off for Royal Square, where the event was taking place.

It wasn't long before they found Assistant Chief Inspector Delft, standing with two of his subordinates. Brakkus of Natarax, a minotaur, Delft's next-in-command and, besides, nominal heir to the Natarax chiefdom, scowled under heaving armor, looking about the Square to "optically ascertain" any threats to the event. Dipnip Requloq, a particularly forlorn deva with actuarial powers and light psionic talents did his best to seem mildly interested. Not making much time for pleasantries, the always-gruff Delft set Ekthos, R'ren, Brakkus, and Dipnip to the task of securing the event before the amassing crowds were given entry to the dignitaries' arrival area.

Their approach to the issue was...multi-faceted. Brakkus quickly set to the task of yelling at the closest foreign-looking person he saw, an unfortunate reflection of prevailing law enforcement practices. He did manage to intimidate this individual enough to effectively deputize him, enlisting much-needed help. True to his nature, Dipnip started on the very inefficient task of talking to literally every single one of the thousand or so people in attendance. R'ren seemed to be rather obsessed with taking the "natural" path, attempting to enlist the help of all mannner of beasts, but alas, and perhaps predictably, to no avail. But almost despite himself, R'ren's prophetic visions led him to an individual who sought to disrupt the event, and Dipnip managed to apprehend another by making them levitate off the ground, Wile. E. Coyote style, trying to propel themselves forward. That conspirator inadvertently admitted that there was another in their midst, whom Ekthos identified by using his robotic weasel.

Unfortunately, in the process of tracking down the would-be prepetrator, the weasel got underfoot of quite a few people, causing them to lose their balance and set off a domino reaction that ended with Egberticus and Ume's magnificent cake, expertly shaped to exactly replicate the Coaltongue itself, upturned and on the ground, along with a fair amount of their other various vinoisserie. Egberticus and Ume were irate, seeking justice for their carefully-crafted pastries. This impulse was temporarily put on the back burner, however, when Harkover Lee, famed mage and chief advisor to King Aodahn of Risur, thanked the party for their quick work (and the cake sacrifice), and imposed on them another request--to ensure the continued success of the party by keeping the various guests and their overblown egos comfortable and managed, such that nothing went awry. Ever the faithful servants of Risur, Egberticus and Ume obliged, as did the rest.

They spent some time milling about the event, keeping a close eye on the guests while becoming passingly acquainted with some improtant individuals. Soon thereafter, the king's sister, Duchess Ethelyn, arrived, and Harkover asked that she in particular be monitored and coralled--subtly. The Duhess introduced herself to Brakkus, who held himself forth as part of the event staff, asking for a place to escape from the ehxausting social milieu; Brakkus duly obliged. Soon thereafter, the King himself arrived to much literal and figurative fanfare, cracked a bottle of Balora's finest bubbly upon the prow, and proceeded to board, as did our six heroes.

The video, for anyone interested:

The Twitch channel, to watch future sessions live: Long Strange Cantrip
 



ratzofftoya

Explorer
Our second session went rather well! Our party began on the deck of the Coaltongue, enjoying the few hours of calm sailing and peaceful bobbing in open water, surrounded by the escort vessels. The guests marveled at the arcs of energy zooming across the capacitor-cum-dining hall as the band played jaunty tunes. R'ren, not one for seafaring, was having trouble keeping many of the canapes down while Ekthos comforted him. Brakkus did his best from being literally bored to death as Stover kept ushering him around from one interminable conversation with a stuffy city official to the next. Meanwhile, Egberticus and Ume coordinated the dinner service while doing their best to enjoy the view.

After a brief run-in with King Aodahn, who was complaining to Harkover Lee about some fey-borne food poisoning--something about them not being pleased with the King's excursion into the sea--Ume had a run-in themselves. While trying to save a toppling tray of wolf fillets and chicory, Ume bumped Lorna Elk and spilled her drink all over her gown. Elk was not pleased whatsoever. As director of the Ministry of Learning and Arcana's Bureau of Modern Contraptions and Utilities, she had an important function to serve in the event, which was now positively ruined. Even Geoff Massarde's parlor tricks didn't manage to placate Lorna, who was absolutely inconsolable. Egberticus tried to defend their friend and R'ren ultimately intervened by casting Charm Person...on his boss. That decision would come back to bite him.

But first, Stover informed the gang that they were falling asleep on the job! Brakkus had helped Duchess Ethelyn to a room earlier, when she asked for a quiet place to take a nap. But now the king was minutes away from making his speech and Ethelyn, the king's own sister, was nowhere to be seen. This was exactly the kind of stunt that Stover and Harkover asked the party to avoid. While Egberticus and Ume continued with their culinary duties, the other four headed below decks.

There, they were greeted by the Duchess's handmaiden, Sokana Rell. Sokana informed them that the Duchess would be out shortly, but the gang was not satisfied with her somewhat obvious prevarication. Brakkus, not the most patient sort in the best of times, pounded on the door so hard that it flew open, and the gang instantly discovered that the Duchess had escaped, apparently out of a window.
Sokana wasted no time in attacking, along with an assassin who emerged from the shadows. The party dispatched the assassin and began to search for Sokana, who disappeared in a puff of smoke. They also quietly informed Stover and others about the would-be saboteurs, thereby alerting Ergberticus and Ume.

Before long, Sokana and two others were discovered in the ship's lowest deck, attempting to sabotage the furnace. Brakkus cleaved through the enemies with mighty axe blows. Though Sokana attempted to escape again, R'ren's panther form and Ume's keen bow stopped her in her tracks. With Massarde's help, the group managed to release enough pressure to prevent the boiler, and thereby the ship, from exploding, and while the guests were a little shaken up, a much more serious disaster was averted. The King still had the opportunity to make his speech, in which he announced the ushering in of a new era of peace and reconciliation between Risur and Danor--an era that would be punctuated by his marriage to a Danoran one year hence. He asked for an end to the pointless, wasteful escalation of bloodshed and expenditure in favor of the joint betterment of both of their nations. His sister, of course, was absent for the speech after all, albeit apparently for reasons far more nefarious than mere sibling rivalry. Oh and Lorna Elk totally fired R'ren and Ekthos for trying to mentally dominate her.

On their return to shore, the party was asked if they could follow up on their work to unravel the events of the Coaltongue's launch. Stover Delft asked them to report to his office the following morning. For this evening, however, they were free to enjoy a relaxing drink or two. They slept soundly that night, all except for Brakkus. His dreams brought the same recurring nightmare that seemed to come more frequently of late--a vision of his former commander challenging his so-called heroism during the Yerasol War, and demanding confession to his past sins. Morning brought relief for Brakkus, and rejuvenation for the others, and soon they were off.
 
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ratzofftoya

Explorer
Session 3 was a rollicking good time!

The party began by waking on the morning after the rather memorable maiden voyage of the RNS Coaltongue, aboard which they foiled a sabotage attempt by none other than Duchess Ethelyn of Shale, sister of King Aodahn, as well as her handmaiden and a few henchmen. The party now had the gratitude of King Aodahn and his chief advisor, Harkover Lee, as well as Royal Homeland Constabulary Assistant Chief Inspector Stover Delft. That said, the evening was not a complete success, as Ekthos and R'ren's intervention on behalf of Ume--and in particular R'ren trying to charm their boss to protect Ume--cost the duo their jobs at the Bureau of Modern Contraptions and Utilities. Luckily for them, in recognition of their fine (albeit unsubtle) work aboard the Coaltongue, Stover invited them to join their erstwhile shipmates for the next part of the journey as contractors. Eggberticus and Ume, meanwhile, were also asked to join on assignment from their typical positions with the Risuri Naval Service.

After Dipnip roused Brakkus from sleep five minutes before their meeting at the RHC headquarters, per their usual routine, the pair headed off, as did the others. Eggberticus, of course, had not spent the night at the inn, preferring his own spartan abode. And Ekthos, before setting off, was visited by a messenger who relayed a package that Ekthos had apparently received at his office before summarily being fired. His (former) boss curtly forwarded it on. Without even having to open it, Ekthos could discern it contents--the very gem he had been awaiting to complete his latest project!

But that would have to wait as the party arrived at Stover Delft's office within the RHC's Flint headquarters. Stover was there, now familiar to all, but so was a tiefling Danoran woman wearing regal finery and bearing a blade at her hip. She introduced herself of Lya Jierre, Minister of Outsiders for Danor, and evidently the progeny of the august Jierre family, one of Danor's most distinguished bloodlines. Without explanation, Lya greeted the party with a puzzle, placing figurines of towers, rings, and strings, on a table. True to its name, it was very puzzling, but Dipnip managed to recall this puzzle from one of his many lifetimes, and in particular that it is entirely impossible to complete under Jierre's conditions. Lya seemed mildly impressed that the party knew at least its limitations in that regard, and turned to the substance of the meeting.

As it turned out, Duchess Ethelyn fled from the Coaltongue to a Danoran holdfast known as Axis Island, situated amid the long disputed Yerasol Archipelago. With all of the island's magical protections and safeguards, it is unclear how she was able to capture it with just a handful of forces. Axis Island was largely unremarkable but for its connection to Danoran industrial production and some long-circulating superstitious rumors about unusual metaphysical events during the Yerasol Wars. Some veterans even claimed that the island itself seemed to fight back against both sides' incursions.

Jierre reminded the party that, under the strictures of the Danoran constitution, if Ethelyn--a Risuri, albeit a rebellious one--was not removed from the island within three days, Danor would have no choice but to declare war to retake the island, thereby shattering the two nations' fragile peace and ushering in more needless bloodshed and destruction. Therefore, she, Delft, and the Risuri military hatched a hasty plan to remove the Duchess. Namely, the Risuri fleet would sail to Axis Island and lie in wait just out of reach and sight of the island fortress's guns. The fleet would then rely on a crack team of RHC operatives, the Fox Team Four, to open the island's fortress's sea wall, allowing the fleet to sail into the fortress harbor and swiftly retake it with overwhelming forces. The party, in turn, would help assess the fallout and potentially question the Duchess and her accomplices, given their unique perspective as witnesses to the Coaltongue's would-be sabotage. This would be both nations' best shot at avoiding an international incident or worse. The party duly accepted their mission and Minister Jierre departed with a swoop of her cloak and a shallow bow, but not before asking an additional favor--if the party encountered her nephew, Nathan, who was holed up somewhere on the island, she would appreciate that he be brought to safety.

Axis Island Map.png

Upon her departure, Stover expressed some misgivings about the mission, but agreed that it was in the best interest of Risur. He resolved that the party would sail aboard with one of the fastest ships in the fleet, the nimble RNS Impossible, helmed by none other than Captain Rutger Smith, with R'ren acting as the ship's skyseer to speed them toward the island in just two days and hopefully meet the tight time limit. He then summoned the quartermaster, Lydia, who provided the party their customary stipends and outfitted them with potions of waterbreathing, potions of healing, and a pair of slippers of spider climbing for Dipnip, who apparently wanted them...for some reason. Eggberticus took the opportunity to make a more exotic request: a neverending milk jug. Lydia said she would do her best to procure one within the next few days, but not in time for their departure. Egberticus would have to make do with a substitute--copious mundane jugs of milk to be loaded onto the Impossible.

Before departing, the party made one last stop, somewhat disruptively (albeit inadvertently so) visiting the Chapel of our Humble Father, dedicated to Triegenes and the Pentonian Church. Eggberticus, a zealous adherent of the Church, was keen to have the milk and their enterprise receive Triegenes' blessing, and the rest of the group felt that it couldn't hurt to do the same. While the deacon was initially put off by the distinctly...shall we say eclectic mix of individuals...represented by the group, he dutifully imparted the blessing and the group set sail!

RNS Impossible.png

The journey was relatively unremarkable and speedy thanks in part to R'ren's able navigation. Ume and Ergberticus naturally kept the crew well sated and slaked, while Ekthos put the finishing touches on his latest creation, Mekthos, a homunculus servant. Captain Smith took a particular interest in Dipnip, given his many years of life, but Dipnip was, as usual, not particularly interested in discussing it, regarding near immortality more as a curse than a blessing. Before long, the Impossible spotted Axis Island from among the various neighboring Yerasol isles, and approached its rocky shoreline. There, floating less than a kilometer from shore, the party rendezvoused with the Fox Team Four. This elite RHC unit turned out to be a more colorful bunch than expected, but undeniably competent. They detailed their plan to swim through a sea cave onto the island itself, then use a scroll of passwall to penetrate the fortress at a particular point. As Minister Jierre said, they would then open the sea wall, and allow the fleet to pass. To keep the party apprised of their status, the Fox Team Four would hold one end of a rope as they progressed through the sea cave, tugging intermittently to show progress. Then steadily to confirm that the coast was clear, allowing the party to follow as a second advance team. However, after a few minutes, the party felt a strong tremor, then frantic pulling on the rope. Thinking that the situation had deteriorated, the party drank their potions of water breathing and dove in toward the island.

Axis Island.png
Part way through the undersea tunnel, the party discovered that the Fox Team Four had been crushed by dislodged stones. All but one were dead. The party tried but ultimately failed to remove the large stone pinning him down, and he handed a scroll to R'ren, then begged the party to quickly end his life before the sharks did the same. Brakkus obliged with little hesitation, removing his head with a single swipe of his axe. The party then proceeded cautiously through the tunnel, fearing that the stones may have been triggered by a trap, but determined to carry on the mission in the Fox Team Four's stead. They emerged in a sea cave dominated by a large central obelisk, a splinter of white plunging toward its high, domed ceiling. After just beginning to explore and contemplate the potential ramification Brakkus granting the Fox Team Four agent's wish, the party was accosted by a crazed man who took cover and began shooting at them, shouting in Danoran. He seemed to be assisted by a shadow creature and an earth elemental who followed his commands and defended him. Dipnip made excellent use of his new slippers, climbing easily up the rocky wall to their assailant, while R'ren deftly navigated the cave's ramshackle planks and ladders in the form of an imposing grizzly bear. With some difficulty, the party defeated this trio and sat to get a much-needed breather as Ume contemplated the pendants discovered on the man's lifeless body. With the sea cave's entrance beckoning ahead, breathing the islands stultifying tropical air upon them, the party made a fire and tended to their wounds.

 
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