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ZEITGEIST Worldres' Zeitgeist Campaign

Worldres

Villager
I started Zeigeist as a player in a group of strangers. We played from November 2019 to April 2020. We would play for five continuous hours a week, depending on whether the DM was prepped. It was maybe the most fun I have ever had doing anything… ever. (Look, I'm in medicine, and nothing fun ever happens these days.)

Unfortunately, the group disbanded due to a combination of factors, but after eight months of trying to recreate the high of Zeitgeist elsewhere and failing, I decided to DM it my darn self starting in December 2020 with a group of close ride-or-die friends to ensure the highest chance of success.

This group retains two of the original players (including myself) from the first Zeitgeist campaign, and began with Bonds of Forced Faith, and then started off where the last game ended - Adventure 3 just before Act 2. The new players were brought up to speed with what happened. So far, we've played ten sessions, and the group is in it to win it. They're already talking about me running Adventures in Zeitgeist, even though they have no idea what it is. I've encouraged them to all pledge to the kickstarter when it is out.

At the time, I didn’t know that 5eitgeist was still in production, because I only saw Act 1 on DriveThruRPG when I went to purchase it. One of my players refused to play 4e, and the other said she refused to play unless we used Pathfinder, so Pathfinder it was. I might have picked 5e if I had known it would be finished this year, but it is what it is. So far I really like pathfinder, so it's fine.

So, anyway, hi! I’m World. This time around, I’m going to finish this game if it kills me.

Let's play some Zeitgeist.

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"Be bold, be bold, but not too bold..." [source: The Invisible: Agents of Ungentlemanly Warfare.
A lot of my inspiration as a DM comes from this play.]


This is a spoiler-filled DM journal. I'll share in this thread unique things that happened in my game, when things went off script, when I decided to bring in my own elements, and when I get hopelessly confused. I hope people enjoy them or find them useful for their own campaign. All adventures are given an Onion Title or something similarly jokey, as per my players.

We’re also a group of artists, so I hope you enjoy our fan art and memes.
 

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Worldres

Villager
Adventure -1, Bonds of Forced Faith: ""Huh, that’s kind of weird," Thinks fruit fly diving into dish of honey containing corpses of 15 other fruit flies."

I assigned characters based on what I thought fit each player. I wanted every character to be used, so I brought in two guest players who had never played a tabletop game before. The game was not to exceed two three-hour sessions. I ratcheted down the difficulty and used it as a brief introduction to the world and to combat. We did both fights at Parity Lake, and the fight on the mountain top (vs The Contessa and Sister Pernicity). I allowed the witches to be vulnerable to fire magic.

My players decided right out the gate that Roland and The Red Contessa were ex-lovers. This started out as a joke on Roland’s player’s part, but the party instantly bought into it and took it as fact. Can Devas reproduce? Well, they can now!

So, that’s how Reed McBannin ended up being Roland Stanfield’s illegitimate grandson. Whoops!!!

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My players love them and are mad at me that I didn’t allow them to have more than one descendant.

Amielle’s player, I knew, was one of the best actors. I told her to play as though she were playing a more congenial Shadow Weaver from 2018 She-Ra and BOY did she nail it. Highlights include two flawlessly executed monologues, and setting herself ablaze with her remaining firegem cartridges to burn both herself and the Contessa alive. Amielle survived due to her fire resistance, though barely. Roland freaked out appropriately when he realized what Amielle was doing, but failed to stop her.

I wanted Harkover’s player to be able to stop the crowning of Melissa Galdot in an emergency that didn’t necessarily involve killing her, so I made up a rule in the Rights of Rulership that the crown is transferred once the successor is declared AND the crown is placed upon their head. The Nobles can still veto this choice with a supermajority; the Lords of Risur still meet to discuss whether the office of the King should be revoked from a hastily-chosen successor. I intend to exploit the heck out of this in Adventure 9.

This gambit paid off – I told Lorcan’s player of this rule, but she forgot it in the heat of the moment before Lorcan died. Lorcan declared Melissa his successor and immediately died, but when all Risuri fell prone, Harkover used the opportunity to steal the crown and withheld it from Melissa. This sparked a philosophical debate about who deserves to rule that was an amazing and thematically appropriate ending to the game.
 

Worldres

Villager
Session 0: “Explanation of Board Game Rules Peppered with Reassurances That It Will Be Fun.”

We design our cast. They are:

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Desdemona “Mona” Faellen-Brizside, 30, Kalashtar (homebrew pathfinder race) Skyseer Druid. The party mom. She cryptically foresaw her own death by exsanguination at the start of the campaign. She knows that her tenure with the RHC will kill her, but feels a strong sense of obligation to both Lanjyr and to the party. In truth, known only to me, she will die losing her mortality as she ascends to Godhood at the end of the campaign.


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Cleone Weld, physically 40 but mentally 20, Once-human Deva Technologist Trapper. A technology specialist recruited from Danor after the tentative peace began. She took this opportunity to run away from encroaching memories of one of her past lives, where she knows she killed many people in cold blood. She considers herself a good person, and is terrified regaining her memories will make her responsible for some atrocity. In truth, known only to me, her previous incarnation was an Obscurati hitman who believed they were fulfilling a necessary evil to save the world.

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Fijit “Hoya” Ipsworn, 40 (mentally 20), Gnome Spirit medium Archivist. An eccentric agent of chaos who wants to go everywhere and do everything. Was inspired to make a mark in the world by a childhood meeting with Tinker Oddcogg, with whom she travelled for nine years (y'know before he picked up the godmind urn). Got a lot of her quirks from him. Regularly changes her name to a random object she encounters, just for fun.

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(Original comic)

Gatria Nanan, 21, Catfolk Martial Scientist Slayer/Rogue. As an infant, Gatria was stolen by the Cult of the Steel Lord to serve as a child soldier. She was liberated in her teens and given the option to study at a martial university to make something of herself. She left Ber to escape finishing her thesis, and started pick-pocketing in Flint, where she was recruited by Morgan Cipiano. Now a “Friend of The Family”, she is very close with Antonia Cipiano, Morgan’s only daughter (I aged up Morgan into his mid-forties, here). She was brought onto the team as a bodyguard after Family mole in the RHC was assassinated, and Morgan found himself suddenly bleeding RHC informants. She will eventually become head of the Family after her marriage to Antonia and Morgan’s retirement at the end of the game.

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Party NPC – Marcel Sterling, 20, Human Docker Bard. A once-impoverished actor who played the women’s roles in an all-male acting company (a la how Shakespearean plays were originally staged). His coworker was my homebrew insertion of Flint’s Shakespeare equivalent, an infamously radical playwright named Gideon Ambrose. Marcel left the company in the fallout of a police-docker riot, where Marcel sold out some of his docker friends to save Gideon’s life. While most assume Marcel is just another self-obsessed bard, he cares deeply for the common people and took his recruitment in the RHC as an opportunity to redeem himself for his betrayal.

I know my party is very insecure about some party members being rewarded over others, so I'm making the party NPC King, and distributing his responsibilities equally across the party. So, Marcel will eventually be crowned King of Risur (I’m hoping in a last-ditch effort by Aodhan to keep the crown from the Ob), but will be jeered at by the house of nobles as a quasi “child-king”, likely narrowly missing the threshold to overturn his appointment. The party will be responsible for helping him manage his appointment as a group.
 
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Worldres

Villager
Adventure 1, Digging for Lies: “Learn about Ziggurats: It’s Totally ************ Mate, Big Time – A Zeitgeist Book."

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I'll skip to the ziggurat, because it's where stuff starts to diverge.

I gave each player a cryptic vision of what was to come as they passed through the Ziggurat. The Skyseer got the most explicit clues, while the others hallucinated that they were talking to an old contact. Hoya got a scene with Tinker where he said he had finally achieved his dream, but he knows his work will come to inconvenience her. Gatria got a scene of Pardo threatening her for leaving the cult, and claiming she can redeem herself at Isla dola Focas. Cleone got a vision of speaking with a past life in a mirror, who wears a ring of stone and promises that she will come to agree with him in time.

When my players asked him, they found out Marcel got a vision of reuniting with his impoverished father in Bosum Strand, who warns him that though he loves him, there will soon come a time when there is no coming back home. (If the players decide to lure the Colossus down the Stanfield Canal, Marcel’s father will be killed.)

I also gave each player a hallucination every time they found a planar inscription, giving them a chance to disarm the trap without a check. For example, the fire trap would be disabled by fire, so I gave Cleone a vision of her past life and a man handing her a cigarette, who holds it out in offering, saying “it’s Nicodemus.” The players snuffed a cigarette on the inscription. Of course, the true meaning of this statement flew over her head.

I allowed Mona to forsee her own death more clearly in the Seal of Apet, thematically having the vision of Reida being seen in one eye, and the vision of her death (which happens simultaneously) in the other. I gave her a cryptic vision where she has been stripped to a plain cloth gown, invited to speak her final words, and then has her throat slit by a man in a crown with a ceremonial sword.

I once took my players to see a musical about a cell of all-female spies in WWII (The Invisible: Agents of Ungentlemanly Warfare, mentioned above), who eventually become captured and are all executed at the end. I’m hoping to trick my players into thinking the party will suffer the same fate for treason against their country for doing the right thing.

Of course, this is actually the Sacrament of Apotheosis. She has been stripped so they can write the nature of her godhood on her, and the “ceremonial” sword is just Marcel’s gaudy taste as the King of Risur. It’s going to be delicious for Mona to be executed by her own party son.

It looks like there are two versions of the Sacrament of Apotheosis described in the game – one where a believer’s blood is drunk, and another where the subject’s blood is spilled. It’s probably an oversight, but I have decided to separate them. One of them allows you to become an avatar for an existing god for 24 hours and then returns you to mortality – the other is permanent, and allows you to become whatever kind of god you desire.

The party tripped the water/resurrection trap on purpose, because they are agents of chaos. They got out by commanding the mummies to help them in Ancient. The party lost their minds when they talked to the Voice of Rot, and are terrified of him.

Now, Xambria. My party is EXTREMELY suspicious. Delft? Sus. Weber? Sus. Margaret? Sus. Xambria? DEFINITELY sus. Though I tried to play Xambria as kind as cooperative as I could, they didn't buy it at all. When Caius was killed, they instantly suspected Xambria, and chased her out to sea. They caught up with her on The Dagger, and immediately interrogated her. After a long an exhausting interrogation (seriously, it took two hours), they managed to roll up her sleeve and find the eyeballs on her arm. Hoya gave an eyeball a strong poke, and I had Sihjen cut Xambria's consciousness to make her faint immediately in retaliation.

Unfortunately, they then took the icon of Apet off of her body. So, I have to figure out how to get that back or else I can't finish the adventure...

BUT, their current running theory is that the leader of the Gidim used Caius as a meat suit, and that it is currently at large. They seriously think that the Icon of Apet causes "Gidim cancer," and caused Xambria to break out in eyeballs, and that she has a brain tumour that is causing her to act the way she is. Maybe I can use that theory to manipulate them to get it back. Otherwise uhhhhh, can I somehow get Sihjen to Axis Island to get the other copy? Hm.

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Anyway, the party interrogated Rock while they were in Flint. They absolutely could not stand him, and Hoya even walked out of the interrogation in protest of his awful personality. Mona decided she would agree to let the police release him on bail, but she took his gun as collateral. She intends to use the gun to blackmail him into behaving.

Marcel recommended that the party talk to some dockers to try and reorient the movement away from Rock, though he refused to go himself. The rest of the party decided they wanted to promote some artists in his place, so they connected with Gideon Ambrose (see above). He agreed to help them keep Rock in check and start some counter-art. What they don't know is that Gideon is an obscurati double-agent (and the incognito twin brother of Catherine Romana, Irwin Romana - a very long story that won't be relevant for awhile) who is desperately trying to stop a version of Glamor Cell from taking hold in Flint - I'm hoping that the party keeps checking in with him (and Thames) from time to time to keep updated on Docker politics in the area. Gideon, in turn, will try to leach information from them to see how close they are to taking down the Ob. If the players figure out he is involved, they will have a choice between requesting all the information he knows and then having him disappear forever (making the grip of Flint Glamor Cell their problem now), or allowing him to keep his silence and continue to protect Flint. He'll warn them first that removing him from the equation will have serious consequences.


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Marcel and Gideon Ambrose in the in-universe rip-off of Eugene Onegin. I don't care about period accurate costumes, sorry!

That's all I got so far. I'll pop in every few weeks to share new shenanigans.

Thanks so much to the authors for creating what I consider to the consistently best time I’ve ever had with a group of close friends, and to this forum for giving me some inspiration for this game. I hope my campaign notes are useful, and that you enjoy them, too.
 


Worldres

Villager
Thank you! I hope so too! :p

Here's a fun update: So I'm realizing that one downside of playing with best friends that you have been close to for a period of time ranging from 10 to 20 years is that they sometimes get a little too on the nose with their predictions. Be it that they intuit things based on my interests, subtle cues in my body language, or how I play characters... well, one of my players had an interesting dream last night. She says she dreamt that Roland Stanfield was involved in a cult that somehow used the Icon of Apet to mind-control Flint, and that the RHC was the only ones immune who could stop him. She also dreamt that the Icon of Apet grew an eyeball on it, but, eh.

Another player replied:

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Yes, the name of our discord is "Zeitgeist... 2!"

Give me back the braincell, guys, I need it to plan the sessions.
 

Lylandra

Adventurer
Oh my, these sketches are lovely! I'm already in love with Gatria (yeah, she does look like new Catra!)
Marcel is too beautiful to be true ;)
And umm... you sure that Mona is not an Eladrin because she looks very very similar to my Eladrin character in our campaign :D

And don't get me started on premonition. It happens all the time when you know your fellow players for decades.
 

Good luck with the game. I always love seeing people's experiences in the game. And the art is, yes, a splendor.

I should have thought of a different way to resolve the climax if Sijhen doesn't get the icon. Maybe you could have them create an impromptu icon out of loosely-melted and formed gold, doing their best to recreate the effect. Then when they try to open the portal to Gidim, play up how unstable it is, and how energy is crackling from the faux icon. (And maybe the PCs could use the real icon to more easily seal the portal, to make them feel like they made a smart choice to confiscate it.)
 

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