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ZEITGEIST Unseen Court Political Ties

Severalis

Villager
Hi all! First time posting here. I tried searching the forums for answers to this, but didnt see anything.

I'm nearing the end of running Act 1 Part 3, and my players met the Ghillie Dhu. In an effort to avoid fighting, my Vekeshi Mystic put on her mask and spoke in Sylvan, claiming that they did not need to be enemies, and that they could work together to avenge her death.

The Ghillie Dhu's alliance with The Dutchess isn't explained beyond that he is an ally, similar to Beshela. Which has lead me to some questions.

There are powerful fey who support the dutchess, but Asrabey is sent as a liason of the Unseen Court to kill the dutchess as a show of support for Risur. This means that the Court doesn't stand with the Dutchess, and that Beshela and Ghillie Dhu are not acting in step with their leadership. Is this correct? It seems strange to me that the Dutchess would seek support of non-Court members in her efforts, if she's partially trying to move Risur back to the Old Faith and realign with the fey.

Additionally, I'm not really sure how the Unseen Court interacted with, and continues to interact with, the Eladrin, Elfaivaran, and the Vekeshi. Srasama is described as a goddess of the Eladrin specifically, not of all fey. The Eladrin founded Elfaivaran on the border between the Dreaming and Material Plane. Some eladrin sit on or liase with the Unseen Court, but my understanding is that they aren't the majority of its leaders. How then, would other fey feel about Srasama, the Vekeshi, and the fall of Elfaivaran?

Thanks for your help!
 

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If you have access to adventure 9 - The Last Starry Sky - the Unseen Court is explained in more detail there. I honestly probably adjusted my original vision for them over the course of writing the adventure path, so there might be some small inconsistencies. For instance, there aren't any people from Elfaivar on the Unseen Court, though I think they might have some eladrin underlings.

The Unseen Court agree with Ethelyn, but they know that they have pacts with the monarch of Risur, and that's Aodhan, so they want to make it clear they value that centuries-old pact more than the temporary political situation. Fey logic being what it is, they won't half-ass it; they're legit trying to kill the Duchess, even though they hope she wins.

I hadn't come up with the Hedgehog Court yet when I wrote adventure 1. They also show up in adventure 9, and Beshela is a member. They're basically the loyal opposition to the Unseen Court. With the benefit of hindsight, I could have set up Ghillie Dhu as servant of either Karrest (head of the Hedgehog Court) or Furg the Toadstool Sage.

---

It's important to understand that the Unseen Court are only in control of Risur's section of the Dreaming. There are parts of the Dreaming elsewhere in the world with completely different stuff going on (which we never get into during the adventure path). They've been coordinating the relations between the fey who live in the area that is analogous to Risur for seventeen centuries.

Meanwhile, Elfaivar was established not long after that, forming from various disparate eladrin groups in that region as they united to block the Demonocracy's spread. They had a bunch of gods, and a bunch of cultures, but over the centuries they gained a bit of shared cultural identity. And they had close contact with the fey in the Dreaming analogue of their region too; but unlike Risur, which created an alliance, Elfaivar just conquered the Dreaming too.

In 500 BOV, Triegenes topples the Demonocracy, and Elfaivar is at first thrilled that their enemies are gone, and they're good with Triegenes and his Clergy (which is based in what today is Danor, but which spreads all the way to Vendricce). Elfaivar expands eastward for a while, but eventually circumstances change and the two countries go to war. This results in the Great Malice.

(Thousands of Elfaivaran survivors fled to Risur after the Great Malice, but most of them culturally integrated with mainstream Risuri culture or local elves.)

Now, before the Great Malice, Srasama was one of many prominent gods in Elfaivar, but by being sorta martyred, she rose in prominence among the survivors. The eladrin poet Vekesh started a movement to persuade his people not to all go on a suicidal rush to vengeance, but instead to focus on regrowing. This movement even attracts some followers in other nations, many of whom are shocked and fascinated and sometimes guilt-ridden about the devastation of Elfaivar.

Not long after the Great Malice, a mystical cult that was a subset of Vekesh's movement began the tradition of indoctrinating people by showing them memories of Srasama's death, which granted them a bit of magical power. They believe that they have an additional sacred duty to be warriors - at first against threats to Elfaivaran survivors, but over time spreading to target anyone they think is endangering the weak. Eventually, Kasvarina (one of the founders of the Ob) quietly takes control of the Vekeshi mystics. She lets them keep doing their own thing most of the time, but occasionally uses them to assassinate someone who's standing in the way of the Ob's objectives.

There are Vekeshi mystics all over the world, and because of all the assassinations and such, in most places they're not welcome, so it has become a habit to use some Elfaivaran tricks to slip into the Dreaming and hold their meetings there. So the Vekeshi mystics in Risur have made sure to stay on good terms with the fey in Risur's analogue in the Dreaming, and that includes the Unseen Court. However, they're not actually ruled by the Unseen Court, so they're not always in alignment. In fact, the Unseen Court (and most Risuri fey) don't really care about Elfaivar, or about Srasama. It's about as distant to them as the Crusades and the slaughter of Muslims in the Holy Land was to the Ming Dynasty in China. It was centuries ago, in another place, and while some survivors came here, it's old news and they don't really get why those folks are holding a grudge about it.

The final pieces of the puzzle are Kasvarina and Asrabey. Asrabey is a gigantic bad-ass, and Kasvarina sent him something like a century ago (I forget the exact date, but it comes up in adventure 8 - Diaspora) to be an ally with the Unseen Court and make them more sympathetic to Elfaivaran concerns. Over time, he came to be more involved in Risuri affairs than Elfaivaran ones. When the adventure starts, he hasn't been in touch with Kasvarina for decades (and he was never aware of the Obscurati). So when he hears about her from Nathan Jierre, his loyalties are torn.

Does that cover everything?
 

Severalis

Villager
Wow! I wasn't expecting such an incredibly thorough or quick response, thank you!

I hadn't realized that the Unseen Court was specifically Risuran Fey, that makes the separation between them and the Vekeshi/Elfaivaran factions much more understandable.

I had the Ghillie Dhu claim that Asrabey is a traitor to the court. After my Vekeshi revealed her mask, he allowed the players to advance provided that they promised to protect the Dutchess against Asrabey. As I originally stated things, I don't think that aligns perfectly, but with your added context I think it can, if I play it so that:

The Ghillie Dhu is part of the Hedgehog Court. He thinks that Asrabey's involvement in the court is not in the court's interests (hence calling him a traitor, even if Asrabey hasnt actually betrayed anyone). The Ghillie Dhu doesn't actually care about the Vekeshi, but is instead manipulating them into agreeing to stand against Asrabey. If the PCs kill Asrabey or vice versa, I dont think he really cares. But now, when the PCs eavesdrop, they'll be hearing two conflicting accounts of the Court's desires, which should foreshadow stuff happening there later on.

Do the Vekeshi have ANY organized allies or political sponsors outside of themselves?

Also, do most people now know how Srasama died? Not the details of Kasvarina and Nicodemus, of course, but that the Clergy summoned her and killed her? I had the Deva in my party have vivid flashbacks to the battle when she saw the mask, but I'm wondering how much history to explain to the party members who arent Deva or Vekeshi.

Thanks again for such a thorough answer, its really incredibly helpful!
 

arkwright

Explorer
Heyo. Zeit really benefits from reading ahead, but even then things can get confusing. I wrote up some advice, might be useful.

Asrabey definitely shouldn't be a traitor to the court; in Book 5 he shows up again, acting as the Court's loyal troubleshooter. Definitely have Ghillie be manipulating the party, as a member of the Hedgehog Court. This actually fits perfectly because later it is revealed that the Hedgehog Court are trying to manipulate/have manipulated the Vekeshi to their own ends. In Book 2, the Hedgehog Court try and get the party's Vekeshi Mystic to recruit Gale to the Court/fey.

It's a little easy to claim that Asrabey is acting against the Unseen Court's interests, since his appearance in Book 1 involves killing a whole bunch of Risuri soldiers.

Vekeshi organised allies, let me think;
  • Risuri members of the court, including the Old Stag, an admiral
  • Members across the world, such as Arena Master Kulp of Nalaam
  • Kasvarina Varal's Ob-aligned Elfaivaran enclave and assassins
That's probably about it.

Per the book, how Srasama died is a big secret. The official version of events is that Srasama manifested to help the Elfaivarans out with their battle, but the Clergy managed to kill her. Have you seen the big Srasama-death Vekeshi flashback and art?
 

Severalis

Villager
I actually read ahead when I was first prepping the campaign, but I'm running via forum and it took us a year and a half to finish adventure one haha. Its a lot to take in and process, but I'll reread again since stuff is starting to click a LOT more now.

I also just found this forum today, so after posting this thread I devoured everything I could here, including your link. I have it bookmarked and am going to be using it heavily for advice, so thank you!

I should clarify, I didnt mean actually have Asrabey BE a traitor, more that the Ghillie Dhu sees his involvment in the court as a bad thing for the court. Therefore, ANYTHING Asrabey does, Ghillie Dhu sees as being the wrong thing to do.

I haven't seen any art or anything about the flashbacks. Im going to google it, but in case I dont find the correct stuff, can you send me a link?

So, as far as history is concerned, Srasama manifested herself, and the Clergy were just so strong that they defeated her? That should give the Clergy one hell of a Propaganda piece: they literally have a god killing weapon. Effectively a nuke. That creates a crazy power imbalance, so it makes sense that no one seems to mess with them now.
 

arkwright

Explorer
Hrm, not sure why but I can't find the Srasama flashback page I'm thinking of. It's a description of what the Vekeshi see of Srasama's death, along with a big picture of her. I can only find the picture separately, and the description in the Act 1 Premium Handouts. It starts with:


A shadow fell across you, and then heat baked your back and the glow
of fire above you drove away all darkness. You looked up past three
pairs of crossed, flaming swords to the face of a towering woman, a
warrior, a queen. Srasama, high goddess of the eladrin, strode past
you, drawing forth ecstatic cheers of victory from the armies who
could not believe a god had come to answer their prayers and fight
beside them.


As far as history is concerned, the Clergy took down Srasama with good old-fashioned spears, arrows and blessed swords. No godkilling weapon. It's a little awkward since on the one hand the Elfaivarans have no suspicion about why Srasama manifested, but on the other hand the AP never says that at any time in history a god has manifested. Crisillyir definitely isn't a superpower, particularly since they most neglect that darn devil-made technology.
 

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Severalis

Villager
Ah, I dont have the premium handouts, i only have the adventure documents, campaign guide, players guides, and Meanwhile In the News. I'll go ahead and buy those handouts later. Are there any other supplements that you recommend?

Regarding the nuke idea, I know they dont have one, but even if they dont advertise it there is a huge implied threat of "even if you throw a god at us, we'll still come out victorious". Even if they're not a superpower, that holds a lot of weight in regards to international diplomacy. It probably also massively reinforces their faith in their own righeousness.

Ive got to say, I absolutely love the lore and the landscape of this campaign. The puzzle pieces are still coming together for me, but its so well crafted and makes for such an interesting world.
 

arkwright

Explorer
There are separate premium handouts for Acts 2 and 3, might be useful when you get that far. Do you have the PDF with the full-sized NPC images? Might be nice.

Definitely feel free to play it as if the Clergy have that threat on their side. Have priests talk it up, have the Ob wary of it. Just know that the general attitude through the AP is that the Clergy's god-killing days are over (until Book 11).

Mmm, Zeitgeist is the greatest AP ever written, in no small part because the world was written for the adventure.
 

I am a little worried that maybe we didn't put the Vekeshi mystic initiation information into any of the print books. Which would suck.

I made sure to include it in the 5e setting text, with a few tweaks.
 

efreund

Explorer
I can confirm the Vekeshi initiation is not in any of the PF books. When I carelessly gave my PC his Vekeshi handout and then later he started telling me all of these things I didn't know about Srasma, I was definitely caught off guard.
 

Severalis

Villager
The premium handouts have a lot of great info! Thanks for the recommendation!

My Vekeshi has described herself as having "recently passed the trials and has common secrets revealed to her, but isnt deep into the order yet". So I dont think it makes sense to reveal the identities of the other Flint Vekeshi before Adventure 2. Im not sure if I should give her the flashback handout now (90% through adventure 1), or run a small meeting in the Dreaming between adventures. I guess if shes been through the trials she'll already have seen all of it, but I also feel like players remember things more if they play through the event.

Efreund, any thing stand out from your experience as beig particularly important to keep in mind? Or things you did that worked out well with your Mystic?
 

Andrew Moreton

Adventurer
My Vekeshi mystic did not get caught much up in the Vigilante side. She is an Eladrin and was much more interested in it as an insight into Eladrin culture and history. I did not tell her the true identities of any Vekeshi as whenever they meet they wear masks , so she had to deduce a couple. I took the view that as in a lot of mystery cults the Mystagogue who initiates the acolyte is the only one who knows their identity everyone else knows their cult identity . As the Vekeshi are fairly secretive I also assumed a cell structure where each Vekeshi only has contact with the people in their cell with one or two members knowing a contact one cell up and possibly some knowing a cell down.
I would say keeping the Vekeshi player interested in the secrets of the Vekeshi and Ssramma's death is important as it will help get them and the group more involved in Kasavarina's story. I did have Kasavarina fairly well known as a terrorist and Vekeshi as she has been active for nearly 5 centuries as a powerful and dangerous individual and it can help get the players interested when she shows up in the Bleak gate
 

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