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ZEITGEIST Zeitgeist campaign tips

RoyalMoose

Villager
Hi everyone! I recently stumbled upon this forum and have been reading the many posts with much delight. I'm the DM of a group which started a bit over half a year ago with Zeitgeist in 5th edition, and we're all loving it so much.

We've just started adventure 5, cauldron-born, and I'm very excited to see some player backstories come up. It's been great fun, but I'm slightly struggling to involve the player's backstories and themes in the adventures. So what I wanted to do is introduce my PCs, and then see if anyone on this Zeitgeist sub has some cool ideas to have their backstory/fluff/theme come up in play.

Tips on running adventure 5 and onward are also very much welcome!

Oh yeah quick note, we're playing a gestalt campaign in D&D 5th edition, that means that all players earn levels in 2 classes at the same time. We've been playing 5th edition since it released and wanted something a bit different this time, which is working out greatly in Zeitgeist when combined with the gritty realism resting rules (short rest is a night, long rest is a week).

Dalton Pemberton: Rogue / Artificer - human Gunslinger.
Dalton is the estranged and only son of the wealthy industrialist Benedict Pemberton, who ever since his birth seemed to have hopes for Dalton which Dalton was never able to meet. Benedict was secretly hoping for Dalton to have inherited his dragonblood (unknown to the player), but so far has shown 0 magical aptitude or scales and the like. He lost his right arm in battle with a diplomat from the Unseen Court in adventure 1, and has replaced it with a mechanical replacement filled with gadgets. He's a big fan of technology and the wildcard in the party, and joined the RHC looking to do some good, after finding the army too restricting.
I'm so looking forward to revealing his father as actually being a dragon next adventure!! Suddenly his father's dissapointment would make so much more sense!

"Sister" Rachel Lang: Warlock / Lingering One (homebrew ghost class) - tiefling Spirit Medium.
One of the three original witches of Cauldron-Hill, which was slain on the orders of the Obscurati over a century ago. She somehow survived by bonding to one of her subjects, a corrupted Deva called Mordred, which was this guy's previous character but who got disintegrated at the end of chapter 4. Upon Mordred's death, a small imp wearing a witch-oil vial necklace originally belonging to Mordred rose from the ashes, which was the familiar of Sister Rachel who could now freely move around as a ghost or possess her imp, as long as she stays within 150 feet of that witch-oil vial necklace.
The hook for her to cooperate is that Nicodemus (I gave him truesight) recognized the ghost of Rachel as one of the witches he ordered to have killed, which he mentioned, which made Rachel very confused and made her swear a vendetta against the Obscurati. So working with the RHC is in her best interest, for now...
Her pact giver right now is the Demon on that cursed Crisiyliri island, but I'm not sure what she could want throughout the adventures from her warlock, until much later adventures.

the Boy: Paladin / Pugilist (wrestler) - half-elf Vekeshi Mystic.
The Boy (or Boy for short) was sent as a baby to live with the elven warriors in the Unseen Court (I ruled there are more dreadnoughts like Asrabey, as they killed one in the first adventure and I needed an explanation for why another one just pops up later). He knows his mother is Kasvarina, but doesn't know his father other than that he's human. He was trained in the Paladin (oath of the ancients) way with the Eladrin warriors of the unseen court but left due to him reaching adulthood much faster as a half-elf than the other full-blooded elves/eladrin of the court. He sought out his father but ended up on the streets where he lost much of his paladin training and became more of a backroom brawler, where he connected with the dockers and sought to help their cause. Later some mysterious benefactor got him a job at the RHC, where he realized he could do much more good.
So he never met his mother and knows only what Asrabey told him about her, it's going to be quite a shock to see she's with the Obscurati and doesn't even remember having him or who his father is. The tension of having left Asrabey's strict paladin training in favour of the human world is interesting as well to explore this adventure.

Ashiar Gancho (Ash): Bard / Artificer - Deva technologist.
Ash reincarnated about 40 years ago in Flint, where he made some friends and started travelling all over the world. Somehow he got split and ended up in the dreaming, from which he doesn't remember a lot and doesn't know how much time he spent there. When he returned to the real world his friends had aged and owned a bar in Flint now, and he had taken a friend from the dreaming in the form of a Faerie Dragon familiar, which he got "summon" and keep in this world by making stone bodies for his familiar. When he returned to Flint he heard his friends were troubled by local crimelord Lorcan Kell, and after having worked with the RHC to get him for awhile, he decided to formally become a constable as part of a new team.
He used to be a storyteller and traveller (bard) with a keen interest for the ancients and their technology/powers (artificer). He later got possessed by Xambria which only made this worse hahaha.
He's fluffing his technologist background as trying to rediscover "Ancient Artificing" of the ancients, which allows him to hear the spirits of machines, giving him an intuitive understanding of some machines. This explanation is not proving very satisfactory in play however. I'm trying to steer him into seeing ancient artificing as making golems with natural means rather than technological, as in his past lifes he used to make golems. We'll see what we can come up with.
I'm secretly planning for his last incarnation to have been maddened by the godmind urn, having worked for the Obscurati back when they started the golem process in Cauldron-Hill (just over 40 years ago so that works greatly), and having him be the designer of Borne, and mentor of Tinker Odcogg! When his madness got too much however, his companion throughout his lifetimes had to kill his last incarnation, also unbeknownst yet to Ash.

Lamorak: Ranger / Artificer - Warforged (golem) Martial Scientist.
Lamorak started out as a familiar and the first sentient creation of Ash in one of his many incarnations. He has had various bodies as Ash kept upgrading him, as his current one is a mix of natural things such as wood and stone, and technology. Think of the Techno-Organic Virus that Cable has in Marvel, but then stabilized. So Lamorak is a mix of living wood and can "absorb" technology into his body, such as armor and gadgets. Throughout his lifetime Lamorak has found Ash and protected him, as he was programmed to do (that's his prima directive). Ash doesn't know that yet though, because until he proves himself or figures out a master key (hidden somewhere on Lamorak's player sheet), that information is restricted. After Ash's last incarnation became mad and crossed a line (yet to be specified) that earlier incarnations of Ash said he would never be allowed to cross, Lamorak had to kill him. When the Obscurati boss found out he almost destroyed Lamorak, damaging his memory core in the process. All he knows now other than Snippets is his prime directive of finding and protecting Ash, some bits and pieces of past lives, and that he had to kill Ash in his last life because he went too mad in his pursuit of building golems, after which a deva damaged Lamorak. He hasn't shared this with Ash yet
After some years of slowly reconstructing himself he sought out to find Ash, but couldn't because Ash was in the dreaming. He passed the time by absorbing knowledge of fighting styles and sciences (martial scientist theme), and even managed to pass on his TO-virus/powers to an awakened shrub which became half-metal robot half-living wood, which is now Lamorak's animal companion (ranger feature).
After Ash joined the RHC Lamorak followed, and in play he's everything from the office printer, to espresso machine, to meatbag exterminator.
I'm planning to have Lamorak "recover" memory files when they enter places he would have known without context. For example, when they enter the Bleak Gate cauldron-hill facility he will download a map, probably confusing and freaking out my players to great ends mwahahah. Not sure what else Lamorak might recover from his memories throughout play. Maybe he suddenly remembers a snippet in which he recognizes Kasvarina as an elf prisoner of the Clergy, present in the first life of Ash on the day he got cursed to become a Deva?

Wow okay that turned out longer than expected. I want to share some hilarious anekdotes of the campaign so far later when I have some more time! But for now I would like to ask input in for 2 things:

1. Any thoughts on the themes and background of the players? Are there obvious things I have missed that could be a chance to further explore those backstories?

2. Any tips for running adventure 5, cauldron-born, or later adventures? Reading the stories of other groups has definetly gave me cool ideas already haha
 

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RoyalMoose

Villager
You... you breezed through 4 adventures in half a year?! I'm flabbergasted
Meeting weekly very consistently for long sessions has definetly made progression fast! But the group is also pretty goal focussed, so we haven't run any significant side plots yet
 

It looks like it took me 8 months and we have short sessions, it depends on the groups play style. I am slowing down a bit because of fight complexity.

For Eladrin dreadnoughts I have only Asraby at the Unseen court but it is the title used by the most elite warriors of the Eladrin enclaves so there are numerous dreadnoughts in Elfaivar all terrifyingly well equipped as they have the magical armoury of a vast empire spread among a few people. It may be interesting if Boy was trained in one of the enclaves which will feature in book 8, also the only human it looks like Kasavarina has associated with is Nicodemus it could be very interesting if Nic (in original body or another one) is the father, you could do a Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader seen at some point

Sister Lang, I would suspect Ashima-Shintu is not sure what to do with someone pacted to her. She does not know if she wants to be free or not perhaps she is using Lang to see the world beyond her prison and decide if she wants to be free and what she would do if she was.

For Dalton I would want to do something clever with Pembertons Dragon daughter but I can't think of any way to do it as she can't be human in appearance yet.

Ashiar could find an interest or evidence of a lost method of producing technology which does not intefere with the dreaming that could help a lot with fey/risuru interaction.


Edit
its also worth at some point before episode 8 sounding out the players and their characters as to who may end up as monarch. It was an easy choice for my group as they only had 2 candidates and one of them joined the unseen court but it looks like more of your pc's have charisma.
 

hirou

Explorer
Still impressive. Just from the main plot:
  • Does Dalton know about his sister Teraklyr? Maybe consider dropping some info about her prior to adventure 6.
  • Does your group enjoy philosophical disputes on the nature of free will and second chances? If so, Ashima-Shimtu seems to be mostly motivated by the desire to be judged by someone more worthy than corrupt Crissiliury priests (in adventures 10-12). Rachel Lang certainly bonds with her as former "evil incarnate" character, so they both can share "road to redemption" trope... that is if your player actually wants his former witch and mass murderer to seek redemption. If not so, Ashimu-Shimtu may still be driven by her revenge against Clergy and Nicodemus (maybe he promised to free her and preferred to forget it?)
  • "allowing to hear the spirits of machines" seems to fit perfectly with Godmind Urn, seems to be a lingering effect.
 

RoyalMoose

Villager
Still impressive. Just from the main plot:
  • Does Dalton know about his sister Teraklyr? Maybe consider dropping some info about her prior to adventure 6.
  • Does your group enjoy philosophical disputes on the nature of free will and second chances? If so, Ashima-Shimtu seems to be mostly motivated by the desire to be judged by someone more worthy than corrupt Crissiliury priests (in adventures 10-12). Rachel Lang certainly bonds with her as former "evil incarnate" character, so they both can share "road to redemption" trope... that is if your player actually wants his former witch and mass murderer to seek redemption. If not so, Ashimu-Shimtu may still be driven by her revenge against Clergy and Nicodemus (maybe he promised to free her and preferred to forget it?)
  • "allowing to hear the spirits of machines" seems to fit perfectly with Godmind Urn, seems to be a lingering effect.
  • Dalton does not currently know anything about his father being a dragon, or of his sister in Ber. He just knows that his father has been increasingly going on business trips to Ber, while Dalton has kept what he's doing for the RHC a mystery. I'm planning a great "Join me son, make me proud, dragon fire is in your blood" moment on the island of Gnolls. First Dalton will keep seeing Pemberton Industries logo's everywhere, probably making him think his father is somehow involved with the Gnoll rebellion. Eventually they find his sister, father and Tinker Odcogg in the final encounter.
    • Hmm, maybe I will have his father tell him just before adventure 6 that he has a disformed sister in Ber which he doesn't know about in a special home, which is why he visits Ber so often as well. In addition Pemberton Industries will be moving a lot of factories from Flint to Ber, and he will ask Lance to join the family company, saying he needs him now. Of course I'm assuming Lance will say duty comes first, which will make their encounter on the gnoll island even more bitter. Hmm I'll sit on this for a bit but I'm quite liking it, thanks for the idea!
  • As for the ideas for Ashima-Shimtu, that helps a lot! I'll discuss with him what character arc he has in mind for Sister Rachel, and go with one of those tropes from there.
  • Perfect, I'll make sure to play up Tinker's ability to talk to machines as well when they encounter him in adventure 5, suggesting he has the Godmind Urn in his possession
 

RoyalMoose

Villager
It looks like it took me 8 months and we have short sessions, it depends on the groups play style. I am slowing down a bit because of fight complexity.

For Eladrin dreadnoughts I have only Asraby at the Unseen court but it is the title used by the most elite warriors of the Eladrin enclaves so there are numerous dreadnoughts in Elfaivar all terrifyingly well equipped as they have the magical armoury of a vast empire spread among a few people. It may be interesting if Boy was trained in one of the enclaves which will feature in book 8, also the only human it looks like Kasavarina has associated with is Nicodemus it could be very interesting if Nic (in original body or another one) is the father, you could do a Luke Skywalker/Darth Vader seen at some point

Sister Lang, I would suspect Ashima-Shintu is not sure what to do with someone pacted to her. She does not know if she wants to be free or not perhaps she is using Lang to see the world beyond her prison and decide if she wants to be free and what she would do if she was.

For Dalton I would want to do something clever with Pembertons Dragon daughter but I can't think of any way to do it as she can't be human in appearance yet.

Ashiar could find an interest or evidence of a lost method of producing technology which does not intefere with the dreaming that could help a lot with fey/risuru interaction.


Edit
its also worth at some point before episode 8 sounding out the players and their characters as to who may end up as monarch. It was an easy choice for my group as they only had 2 candidates and one of them joined the unseen court but it looks like more of your pc's have charisma.
  • I was indeed thinking Nicodemus would make quite a good Darth Vader in this context. Nic hasn't actually recognized Boy other than at MacBannin's mansion, as when he saw the party in Vendricce they were very well disguised, posing as some wealthy merchant family out poaching hunting, that had accidentilly come across the Obscurati and wanted to join.
  • Great idea for Ashiar, that should be right up his alley. Maybe I can have him develop things in later adventures much like Tinker Odcogg if he is recruited? I'll have to think about how to implement that
  • As for the crown, I'm unsure whether a Deva can have the crown, which leaves us with a hardcore Vekeshi Mystic and the son of a dragon, I'm guessing Risur is in for quite a shock hahaha. Of course both of those facts can be kept a secret, maybe I'll have both of them be named by the king, and have them roleplay out who wants the crown.
    • Knowing my group though, they might even put Stover Delft forward as the next Monarch if it's up to them, they trust him completely and might be their favourite NPC. Not sure whether having the next Monarch not be a party member is a bad thing though

Edit: Lamorak is out because he's a warforged, Rachel Lang is out for being an (ex-)mass murdering ghost, Ashiar is a maybe, but being a Deva might complicate things. I read in another thread that being a Deva has kept Stanfield from pursuing the crown, which makes sense to me so I might keep that in. So that leaves the Boy and Dalton
 

Having looked at it re3ently. I think a Deva can be Monarch but only for one lifetime however it may be easier to say they can't . Though that makes Nic's idea of making him King impossible but Nic may not know or care how the Risuri rulership rights work
 


arkwright

Explorer
Good to see a Zeit campaign going well. Let me see what I can suggest.

Reading ahead in Zeitgeist is often very rewarding when it comes to working in player backstories and themes. Do keep that in mind.

Dalton
-Other posters have mentioned Dalton's sister Terakalir. but it is also worth noting that the gnolls of the Isla dola Focas would regard Dalton as a near-god, once they find out about his heritage. That should affect how, say, Minister Pardo treats him in Book 5.
-In later books, Pemberton gets effectively promoted to party ally, and crucial to saving the world. Do keep this in mind, don't play him as too villainous.
-If Dalton is big on gadgets, then he might be interested in Pemberton's duplicant technology. Act 3 has some further stats on it. In my game we invented 'complicants', duplicants without any combat power and instead used for communications purposes, allowing for instant communication across for long distances.
-Harkover the dragon knows and doesn't much like Pemberton, so it would be pretty neat to have Harkover try to turn Dalton against his further/turn Dalton to Harkover's side

Rachel Lang
-Can I assume you have read through Bonds of Forced Faith? There are a few things in there that might be relevant; her knowing Stanfield, and her knowing about the Bonds ritual. This ritual was retrieved from Ashima-Shimtu. It is also a bit of a 'forerunner' of the Sacrament ritual used to create Srasama, and used to empower other characters later in the AP.
-Ashima-Shimtu is a 'reformed' demon, even if it takes her quite some time to get around to the 'reformed' part. One of her first acts upon being freed is to spread the Sacrament ritual around, indirectly causing an immense number of deaths. Her interests would include acting against Nic, being set free, stopping the angels who want to kill her, stopping the Clergy from doing evil stuff, and investigating blood magic. Ashima-shimtu has quite a bit of blood magic, so you could create hooks relating to that and Ostea.

The Boy
-Kasvarina has a history of marrying and getting her husbands to do her bidding; read about Bhalu in Act 2.
-Book 9 has a lot on the Unseen Court, lots of hooks you could try and work in for the Boy. Unseen and Hedgehog Court members who recognize him and want to work him into their schemes.
-There could be some Vekeshi fellows who see the Boy, fey-trained and Elfaivaran-born, as a natural ally. Note that Kasvarina Varal was a founding member of the Vekeshi, and the Vekeshi assassins.
-Have you written much about the eladrin of the court? It could be that they are an enclave who fled Elfaivar pre or post-Malice, into the safety of the Dreaming.
-You could have Grappa know the Boy, having heard Kasvarina talk about the Boy when she still had her memory.
-Perhaps you could write in a weretiger from the Children of Hewanharimau who are interested in pre-emptively turning the Boy against the enclave eladrin.

Ashiar Gancho
-'Hear the spirits of machines' sounds very much like Tinker Oddcog, as you say. You could perhaps steer him towards the Gidim; read up on Book 10 and the start of Book 11, learning about godminds. In my game I had it that the godmind urn was a Gidim artifact, containing the remnants of a vast alien psyche collective.
-If Ashiar was secretly Ob, then you could work that into Book 8, where the Arc of Reida can be used to re-play his memories and learn more. But I think you'll need to be very careful to make sure that the player has some choice on these revelations, and on what comes next.

Lamorak
-Again, Book 8 has a ton of memories that might be relevant.
-Plenty of golems and walkers turn up in later books, like the draconic witchoil golems. Might be useful.
-Perhaps you could introduce a previous prototype of Lamorak as a recurring NPC? An 'older brother'- older, and wholly devoted to Nic and his ideology. Alternatively, have Borne be Lamorak's 'little brother', a later invention.

Not sure what general Book 5 tips to give right now, I'll keep thinking.
 

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RoyalMoose

Villager
Good to see a Zeit campaign going well. Let me see what I can suggest.

Reading ahead in Zeitgeist is often very rewarding when it comes to working in player backstories and themes. Do keep that in mind.

Dalton
-Other posters have mentioned Dalton's sister Terakalir. but it is also worth noting that the gnolls of the Isla dola Focas would regard Dalton as a near-god, once they find out about his heritage. That should affect how, say, Minister Pardo treats him in Book 5.
-In later books, Pemberton gets effectively promoted to party ally, and crucial to saving the world. Do keep this in mind, don't play him as too villainous.
-If Dalton is big on gadgets, then he might be interested in Pemberton's duplicant technology. Act 3 has some further stats on it. In my game we invented 'complicants', duplicants without any combat power and instead used for communications purposes, allowing for instant communication across for long distances.
-Harkover the dragon knows and doesn't much like Pemberton, so it would be pretty neat to have Harkover try to turn Dalton against his further/turn Dalton to Harkover's side

Rachel Lang
-Can I assume you have read through Bonds of Forced Faith? There are a few things in there that might be relevant; her knowing Stanfield, and her knowing about the Bonds ritual. This ritual was retrieved from Ashima-Shimtu. It is also a bit of a 'forerunner' of the Sacrament ritual used to create Srasama, and used to empower other characters later in the AP.
-Ashima-Shimtu is a 'reformed' demon, even if it takes her quite some time to get around to the 'reformed' part. One of her first acts upon being freed is to spread the Sacrament ritual around, indirectly causing an immense number of deaths. Her interests would include acting against Nic, being set free, stopping the angels who want to kill her, stopping the Clergy from doing evil stuff, and investigating blood magic. Ashima-shimtu has quite a bit of blood magic, so you could create hooks relating to that and Ostea.

The Boy
-Kasvarina has a history of marrying and getting her husbands to do her bidding; read about Bhalu in Act 2.
-Book 9 has a lot on the Unseen Court, lots of hooks you could try and work in for the Boy. Unseen and Hedgehog Court members who recognize him and want to work him into their schemes.
-There could be some Vekeshi fellows who see the Boy, fey-trained and Elfaivaran-born, as a natural ally. Note that Kasvarina Varal was a founding member of the Vekeshi, and the Vekeshi assassins.
-Have you written much about the eladrin of the court? It could be that they are an enclave who fled Elfaivar pre or post-Malice, into the safety of the Dreaming.
-You could have Grappa know the Boy, having heard Kasvarina talk about the Boy when she still had her memory.
-Perhaps you could write in a weretiger from the Children of Hewanharimau who are interested in pre-emptively turning the Boy against the enclave eladrin.

Ashiar Gancho
-'Hear the spirits of machines' sounds very much like Tinker Oddcog, as you say. You could perhaps steer him towards the Gidim; read up on Book 10 and the start of Book 11, learning about godminds. In my game I had it that the godmind urn was a Gidim artifact, containing the remnants of a vast alien psyche collective.
-If Ashiar was secretly Ob, then you could work that into Book 8, where the Arc of Reida can be used to re-play his memories and learn more. But I think you'll need to be very careful to make sure that the player has some choice on these revelations, and on what comes next.

Lamorak
-Again, Book 8 has a ton of memories that might be relevant.
-Plenty of golems and walkers turn up in later books, like the draconic witchoil golems. Might be useful.
-Perhaps you could introduce a previous prototype of Lamorak as a recurring NPC? An 'older brother'- older, and wholly devoted to Nic and his ideology. Alternatively, have Borne be Lamorak's 'little brother', a later invention.

Not sure what general Book 5 tips to give right now, I'll keep thinking.
That's some really cool ideas as well! You and the other people have given me tons to work with, I'm very happy, thanks everyone!

I'm excited to get to work with this, will let you all know how things go!
 

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