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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.)
 

Worldres

Villager
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.)
Thank you so much for the kind words! And thank you for this - this was a lifesaver! My players were proud of themselves for confiscating the icon, and I also like that it sets up the thread that those with a strong connection to a plane can make planar icons.

And umm... you sure that Mona is not an Eladrin because she looks very very similar to my Eladrin character in our campaign
I saw the art of your character in another thread and you're right, they do look similar!! We actually considered making Mona an Eladrin when we converted over from 5e because the race she was doesn't exist in pathfinder. It would have been pretty funny if we had, aha. Maybe they could have been sisters.

Adventure 1, Digging For Lies Part II: What we actually learned about Ziggurats

The rest of this adventure went off the rails, but in a fun way. See, our party is more or less filled with nothing but support characters, so my players try and twist themselves out of combat however possible, with sometimes hilarious results. They offered Bernard 3000 G to let them pass unharmed, which I let him accept, because that's a nice chunk of change. They immediately asked Finona to stand down by showing her Caius' ring and proving he was dead, and convincing her with several great Diplomacy checks that it wasn't worth fighting for a group she could no longer contact that she doesn't fully understand. They brought her back on their ship, and managed to befriend her, and later independently proposed that they use her in Adventure 4 without my prompting.

Also, the party literally lost their minds learning about the details in Caius' letter. Determining who is and who is not Obscurati is a party obsession, now, and I love hearing their theories.

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All bets were off about trusting Xambria. I tried to bargain with the players to give them Xambria's icon of Apet back, making her share some Sijhen-influenced sob-story about how the icon was the first finding of the first student she ever supervised and she wears it as a memento (I'm very sentimental about my own students), but no dice, the hard-hearted but incredibly savvy Gatria shut that down. They then left her alone in her room and discussed within earshot that someone from the party monitors her constantly going forward. Sijhen didn't like that, so it was Hydra time. When the fight was over, they went back to check on Xambria and realized their mistake when she was gone.

When they returned, there was still a few days until the Gala, so I let them hang out at the fair for a bit. I let them get introduced to Benedict Pemberton (I seem to recall from reading our old DM's book that the 5e version lets you do this, anyway), who was showing off Duplicant prototypes. Also present at Pemberton's tent was Heward Sechim, who Gatria pitched a new business to, and an incognito Catherine Romana, who is in Flint nursing her wounded pride for a short time after her Dream Road presentation was jeered at.

Look, I love me an uncomplicated villain. I love me a complicated villain too, but sometimes, it's just fun to be a jerk. I play Catherine Romana as a full 1959 Maleficent-esque witch, and I couldn't resist introducing her early as a recurring character. Because Mona is not smart, she was wearing Caius' Obscurati ring to the fair, and Catherine Romana, surprised to see an RHC officer in the Ob, tried to strike up a conversation with her to get a sense of where she fell in rank. Because Catherine later becomes one of the main faces of the Obscurati in Adventure 7, I figured that she would know a lot more about the Ob than your average tier-4, but hasn't been given her own cell because she is obviously power-hungry and using the Ob for her own thinly-veiled goals (her ring, by the way, says "Once Betrayed Clan"; she is the great-great granddaughter of Queen Caroline, who in my Zeitgeist was a traditional, Fey Titan-respecting Unseen Court-respecting Queen before her tragic sudden death and an extremely rushed abdication to the unwilling Lorcan - Catherine sees the country's shift away from traditional Risurian values as a slap in the face to her ancestor's legacy, and believes that she is entitled to finish Caroline's reign herself and enact her vision). She dropped a subtle clue, and when Mona didn't pick it up, Catherine figured it wasn't worth her time and dipped. Now my players think there is some activation phrase that lets Ob members identify eachother, which is a fun idea, especially since there aren't any Vekeshi mystics in our party and they do the same. Maybe higher ranking Obs can use some Palan philosophy to identify eachother or something, I'm going to workshop that.

I was going to have Catherine rat out the party to the Ob so the Ob could use Cauis' ring to spy on them, but Mona was clever enough to take the ring off after that.

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Hey look, one of my players drew a Planar Magic Circle! From the top, clockwise: Av, Avilona, Reida, Mavisha, Nem, Urim, Apet, Jiese. "Earth" at the center.

So anyway, the players totally bought that Sijhen wanted those artifacts. They guarded them at the Museum, and groaned when Rock showed up. They successfully beat back Xambria, and she gave her confession at the RHC, and Sijhen's plan went off mostly without a hitch. Unfortunately for Sijhen, the players made it up to Saxby's office in world record speeds (ignoring poor Delft, leaving Cleone in a steamsuit to beat back the Ob hitmen, and letting Saxby flee) and curbstomped him. First they made him drop his star map and played keep away for awhile, passing the star map from person to person while others whittled him down. To make a long story short, after Xambria had been yeeted into Hoya's brain (MUCH to her delight; both Hoya and her player were literally thrilled to have her), they got Sijhen to 0 HP and made him beg for his life at weapon-point. He gave his spiel, told them he wouldn't hurt them, gave away that he had been trapped on Apet for thousands of years, now, by the Ancients, and that he just wanted to go home. They thanked him for the information, and then Gatria slit his throat. Savage.

Gatria also wanted to rifle through Saxby's stuff; I let her find evidence from the MacBannin case that Saxby had been hiding, as well as his ring, which Saxby had removed from his corpse. Gatria decided to turn everything in to the Family (without telling the party about what she found), so they know about the Ob, now. That'll be fun.

Now here's something really fun. Mona caught up to Saxby alone while the others rushed to close the seal. She put the Obscurati ring back on, and then tried to copy what Catherine said at the fair. Saxby had no idea what she was talking about, but bought her bluff. Saxby asked Mona what it had all been for (while Serena, Carlao and Dima looked on in confusion), why the King would let MacBannin be arrested for doing what he ordered, and Mona didn't have a good answer for her. Saxby realized she had been played, laughed, and told Mona that she "knew her future", because she had lived it - someday, just like her, just like Cillian Creed, Mona would become a sacrifice to be thrown under the spokes to serve the King. Mona remembered seeing her death, but then answered that she accepted her fate. Knowing she was outmatched, Mona then decided to let Saxby leave unharmed, but was successful in convincing the other constables not to go with her. I should think about how I want to deal with Saxby... If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear it!

So yeah, now the party is totally convinced that the King is the head of the Obscurati, not realizing that Margaret Saxby was just small-fry who didn't know what she was talking about. They are convinced that Mona's death vision is the King executing her for knowing too much.

>rubs hands together maliciously. All according to plan!!!

Onward to Adventure 4!

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Pictured: Gatria forced to wear a disguise in Adventure 4, probably.
 


Worldres

Villager
Thank you! >)

Well, I think it's impossible to predict what random NPC DMs (or players) will latch onto - Catherine was indeed introduced here in the paper, and serves her purpose just fine as written. Though I'm definitely pro-"read the entire game from front to back before you DM it" in case there's that one NPC that really resonates with you for some reason. I've constructed an entire Romana Family Line sidequest that I'm excited to unwind. DMs just add their own flavor out of nowhere, sometimes.

Speaking on things to latch on to, I forgot to talk about my player's crisis of faith in Stover Delft. He's their favourite NPC, they even think his weird tobacco habit is endearing. But every time someone mentions he might be in the Ob, everyone freaks out. They talked about not telling Delft about the Obscurati for about one second, then immediately caved. They asked him if he would consider not telling the King about their investigation, but Delft reminded them what the Royal Homeland Constabulary was created for, and that not cooperating would be treasonous. (The party decided they'll play it by ear, and expect to have to jump ship at some point. They hope to bring Delft along.)

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My players wish they could come to the forum and chat and share their theories, but me sharing caps of chat will have to do.

Oh man, Fake!Delft in Adventure 9 is going to be a very good time. For me. Hee hee.

Also Amielle's player (also plays Gatria) figured out what the rings mean and their pattern, and she's also not pleased that I (well, the story, but hey) manipulated her into setting up the Ob in Flint in Bonds of Forced Faith.

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Don't worry GS, I do this to everyone.
 


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