[ZEITGEIST] Various inquiries concerning eladrin, fey, tieflings, skyseers, and technology

Adslahnit

Explorer
I have been engaging in a conversation via private message with the author of the Zeitgeist adventure path. I have been asked to repost this conversation in this thread for ease of reference.

Q from Me: The Skyseer theme's skyseer vision says, "Ask up to three questions about possible courses of action in the near future. At the end of your extended rest, you awaken from sleep having received a vision regarding your questions. This functions similarly to the ritual Hand of Fate (see the D&D 4e Player’s Handbook), in the sense that you receive vague images that provide guidance." However, the Hand of Fate ritual is limited to peering an hour into the future. Is this intentional? If so, then what are its uses, beyond simply deciding on what to have for breakfast? If it is unintentional, then what is the actual limitation for how far skyseer vision can look into the future?
A from RangerWickett: It's similar as far as how much info you get, but as for distance into the future, it's a bit of GM fiat: at least until the next day's sunrise, possibly up to a month away if events are unlikely to vary based on people's behavior, with the occasional long-term but very vague clue.

Q from Me: Is skyseer vision still limited to the "ask three questions on courses of action, then receive knowledge on which is the highest-reward" format? That is, is skyseer vision's function the identification of high-reward courses of action?
A from RangerWickett: I honestly don’t recall how the ritual worked in 4e. The idea was really that the other skyseer ability was the more useful one mechanically, and the ‘get a vision’ one was just an excuse for the GM to drop some hints and play up elements of predestination that matter in the meta-plot.

Q from Me: The Skyseer theme makes mention of various orders and factions of skyseers, but the books never seem to go into detail on these. What information is there on the various skyseer factions? What are the major differences between, for example, Risuran skyseers and Elfaivaran skyseers? The books focus on Risuran skyseers, obviously, but how great a deal were the Elfaivaran skyseers during the eladrin empire's heyday?
A from RangerWickett: We never planned anything with other skyseer factions.

Q from Me: Purely from a lore perspective, how much does the smog in Flint impede skyseeing? What of the light pollution?
A from RangerWickett: It’d be a little easier to see the stars than living in a modern city. Skyseers just can’t manage to get visions that are as vivid or useful as they used to.

Q from Me: How commonly are telescopes used for skyseeing?
A from RangerWickett: Telescopes exist, but my idea of skyseeing was that it was more like ‘opening yourself to the cosmos and sensing patterns’ than ‘looking closely at a specific star for details.’

Q from Me: If skyseeing is more about "opening yourself to the cosmos and sensing patterns," then why is it that the player's guide makes mention of how skyseeing often involves determining which moon phase occurs first during a season?
A from RangerWickett: (No reply yet.)

Q from Me: What is the lifespan of eladrin in the setting? Is it more akin to 4e's default lifespans for eladrin, or is it more similar to 3.X/Pathfinder's lifespans for elves? Do eladrin display meaningful signs of aging in their twilight years?
A from RangerWickett: My intent was for an eladrin who was an adult 500 years ago to still be able to be kicking around today. Most of the time they'd be old and frail, but if needed there's plenty of magical excuses they might not be. I'm not sure if you're a player or GM, so I don't want to spoil anything.

Q from Me: How exactly does the system of Risuran aristocrats, mayors, etc. taking in eladrin families work? Is it simply a matter of letting an eladrin family live in the household out of charity? What does the Risuran noble family gain out of such a thing? If an eladrin family sheltered by such a noble family gives birth to an eladrin girl, how exactly is that young lady treated by Risuran society?
A from RangerWickett: Think of it like a medieval family adopting an orphan after another powerful family is defeated. There are a lot of reasons – it might deter hostility against the adopting family by relatives of the defeated family, or it might indicate to people who were allies of the defeated family that the adopting family is on the same side. Or it might be seen as a moral obligation, to curry favor with the fey of Risur, since eladrin were more in touch with the Dreaming.

Q from Me: What is the typical opinion of the eladrin (in general, not just the Vekeshi mystics) towards Danor? Danor's technological boom? Tieflings specifically?
A from RangerWickett: You’ve got the eladrin still in Elfaivar who loathe Danor, but hate Crisillyir even more, which is grounded in old grudges more than recent events.
Then you’ve got the eladrin scattered elsewhere who tend to have the opinions of whatever culture they’re living with. If you’re in Risur, your probably see Danor the way the British saw the French in the 1800s. They’re long-time rivals, but there’s a chance we don’t have to keep having warfare.

Q from Me: What is the typical opinion of the Unseen Court towards Danor? Danor's technological boom? Tieflings specifically?
A from RangerWickett: The Unseen Court and fey in general hate technology. The presence of tech makes them physically unwell. Tieflings don’t bother them, just things with finely-engineered bits.

Q from Me: How does the Danoran philosophy of Pragati deny the existence of the fey titans, who are very much real and tangible? Does Pragati get away with it by saying that the fey titans do not "count" as gods?
A from RangerWickett: Pragati is sort of like ‘secular humanism,’ with a focus on trying to distance ourselves from primitive nature and become ‘civilized’ and technological. They wouldn’t deny that magical entities exist like the fey titans, but they’d say those entities aren’t worthy of reverence, and that if they try to tell people what to do, people should reject their control.

Q from Me: For that matter, how does Pragati deny the existence and death of Srasama?
A from RangerWickett: In their view, whatever got killed during the Great Malice was probably a magical entity that people called a god, but that would be akin to worshipping a dragon or a tree. Yes, they’re big, but that doesn’t mean they are better than people.

Q from Me: What is the typical opinion of the tieflings towards the eladrin? Do most tieflings have a chip on their shoulder against eladrin, if "common belief attests that Srasama cursed the leaders of the Clergy with infernal horns and jagged tails, sacrificing half her mortal followers in a Great Malice when she realized she could not defeat the armies arrayed against her"?
A from RangerWickett: It was 500 years ago. Consider how pilgrims were persecuted in England, but they came to the US and now their descendants run things. There’s no bitterness. Tieflings like how they are, especially since most of the upper echelon of Danor are tieflings, so even lower class tieflings feel smug superiority about their identity. They’d find the idea of their form being a ‘curse’ laughable.

Q from Me: Why is it that devas are respected by the Clergy, whereas tieflings are cast out as apostastes? What makes one Srasama-spawned mutant different from the other? Is it really just a matter of tieflings receiving the short end of the metaphorical stick due to having horns and tails?
A from RangerWickett: Basically, yeah. You’re a priest, and you see horns as bad, shining holy light as good.

Q from Me: Like many "technology vs. nature" conflicts, there seems to be little on the "anti-technology, pro-nature" side. Is there any legitimate justification for opposing the rise of technology, as far as quality of life is concerned? Can any reasonable case at all be made for "Technology is nice and all, but I just wish people would focus on advancing raw magic instead and making it more accessible to the masses"? That is, an anti-technology stance, but one that pushes for a Tippyverse-like "utopia by way of magic" instead.
A from RangerWickett: Tolkien was horrified by the deaths caused by the technology of World War I, and it seems like he longed for a past where such wanton murder wasn't so easy. I suppose I didn't foreground that as much as I could have in writing ZEITGEIST, but it could have been a lesson coming out of the fourth Yerasol war, with tons of people being bombarded and beautiful landscapes ruined without any 'glorious battles' that people could romanticize.

Q from Me: Would that not be a case more in favor of "remove firearms" than "remove technology in general"? Is there any case at all that could be made for the rise of technology weakening magic in the world and diminishing the accuracy of skyseeing?
A from RangerWickett: If you want, sure. There's no canonical answer, because lots of people have different opinions. Mechanically, you just use the rules of D&D or Pathfinder. From the perspective of the characters, though, skyseers think smog makes it harder to get good visions, even though the effect applies even far from Flint's factories. People aren't usually rational, and get upset about things that they don't understand. Me personally, if I were in the setting, I'd be all for advancing technology.

Q from Me: According to the player's guide, "it’s always dangerous to ask for help from the fey. Any favor must be repaid in kind, a bargain which can be magically compelled at any moment." Is there any actual net benefit to calling in favors from the fey, then? Is there a tangible, meaningful benefit to the Vekeshi Mystic's +1 Unseen Court prestige?
A from RangerWickett: Not all words in the book are rules, man. From your questions, I feel like you're expecting accuracy on par with a legal textbook. If things are slightly illogical or not fully fleshed out, that's my bad, I guess, but most of these things you're asking about were just intended as flavor to evoke the world.
Q from Me: I am not certain I quite follow you. Do you mean to say that calling in a favor from the Unseen Court is not actually any more costly than doing so with Flint or Risur?
A from RangerWickett: I'd say if you get a favor from the fey, you should expect the fey to want something in return. It might not be something you personally value. It'll probably be strange. It probably won't actually be a magically binding compulsion unless you got a favor from a really powerful fey.

Q from Me: The Spirit Medium's speak with spirit requires a dead person. Unfinished business requires someone to have died during the exact same encounter. This is an adventure path wherein it is strictly a no-no for PCs to go around killing people. The PCs are expected to leave people alive. How, then, are the Spirit Medium's starting powers supposed to be useful?
Since the Spirit Medium is a psionic theme, it would probably work better if it could be applied to creatures knocked unconscious as a result of being reduced to 0 hit points or fewer. Speak with spirit could be mind-probing, and unfinished business could call up a fragment of the unconscious creature's mind.
A from RangerWickett: (No reply yet.)

Q from Me: If most nations speak Common, then why is it that Ber, Crisillyir, and Danor seem to have their own regional dialects based on real-world romance languages?
A from RangerWickett: (No reply yet.)

Q from Me: What is the incentive for a non-eladrin to join the Vekeshi mystics? Why would a human born within the last two or three decades even remotely care about the death of some foreign goddess of a different species, which took place five centuries ago?
A from RangerWickett: They throw wicked cool parties, and you get to stick it to bad guys. The 'remember the death of Srasama' is just foundational. It's evolved from there, and has a lot more focus on enacting vengeance on people the society thinks are harming others, not just avenging the fall of eladrin culture.
Q from Me: In that case, why do the Vekeshi mystics have such a strong positive relationship with the fey? What lies beyond the surface of a "bored rich kid with edgy political ideologies" club, such that the Unseen Court genuinely respects and supports the Vekeshi?
Also, the player's guide says, "While many eladrin could not be stopped from their self-destruction, Vekesh convinced some of his people that a tale that goes from defeat to revenge to death is a shameful tragedy. Revenge distracts one from one’s grief, but is ultimately valueless. Instead, he said, a tale of defeat, resilience, and renewal is the best way to thwart their enemies’ goals. The proper form of retribution, then, is to endure, rebuild from weakness, and prosper into strength." With that in mind, why is the default theme power about directly lashing out against an enemy for raw damage?
A from RangerWickett: (No reply yet.)
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
1. What is the lifespan of eladrin in the setting? Is it more akin to 4e's default lifespans for eladrin, or is it more similar to 3.X/Pathfinder's lifespans for elves? Do eladrin display meaningful signs of aging in their twilight years?
There are plenty of references to 'elderly eladrin' later in the campaign, so I would say 'yes'.

2. The Skyseer theme's skyseer vision says, "Ask up to three questions about possible courses of action in the near future. At the end of your extended rest, you awaken from sleep having received a vision regarding your questions. This functions similarly to the ritual Hand of Fate (see the D&D 4e Player’s Handbook), in the sense that you receive vague images that provide guidance." However, the Hand of Fate ritual is limited to peering an hour into the future. Is this intentional? If so, then what are its uses, beyond simply deciding on what to have for breakfast? If it is unintentional, then what is the actual limitation for how far skyseer vision can look into the future?
My interpretation of this neat ability is that it gives the DM an opportunity to do two things: 1) Give the players a steer, point them in the direction of something specific that they have missed or warn them about something immediately dangerous; 2) foreshadow things that will happen in the more distant future in ways that are vague enough not to spoil things but obvious enough to provoke a light bulb moment once they actually occur.

So I made the visions fairly clear for questions about the next 24 hours, increasingly vague and abstract for anything beyond that.
 
Q from Me: Like many "technology vs. nature" conflicts, there seems to be little on the "anti-technology, pro-nature" side. Is there any legitimate justification for opposing the rise of technology, as far as quality of life is concerned? Can any reasonable case at all be made for "Technology is nice and all, but I just wish people would focus on advancing raw magic instead and making it more accessible to the masses"? That is, an anti-technology stance, but one that pushes for a Tippyverse-like "utopia by way of magic" instead.
A from RangerWickett: (No reply yet.)
Tolkien was horrified by the deaths caused by the technology of World War I, and it seems like he longed for a past where such wanton murder wasn't so easy. I suppose I didn't foreground that as much as I could have in writing ZEITGEIST, but it could have been a lesson coming out of the fourth Yerasol war, with tons of people being bombarded and beautiful landscapes ruined without any 'glorious battles' that people could romanticize.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
Would that not be a case more in favor of "remove firearms" than "remove technology in general"?

Is there any case at all that could be made for the rise of technology weakening magic in the world and diminishing the accuracy of skyseeing?
 
If you want, sure. There's no canonical answer, because lots of people have different opinions. Mechanically, you just use the rules of D&D or Pathfinder. From the perspective of the characters, though, skyseers think smog makes it harder to get good visions, even though the effect applies even far from Flint's factories. People aren't usually rational, and get upset about things that they don't understand.

Me personally, if I were in the setting, I'd be all for advancing technology.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
According to the player's guide, "it’s always dangerous to ask for help from the fey. Any favor must be repaid in kind, a bargain which can be magically compelled at any moment."

Is there any actual net benefit to calling in favors from the fey, then? Is there a tangible, meaningful benefit to the Vekeshi Mystic's +1 Unseen Court prestige?
 
Not all words in the book are rules, man. From your questions, I feel like you're expecting accuracy on par with a legal textbook. If things are slightly illogical or not fully fleshed out, that's my bad, I guess, but most of these things you're asking about were just intended as flavor to evoke the world.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
First: Yay for this very interesting and spoiler free Q&A

Not all words in the book are rules, man. From your questions, I feel like you're expecting accuracy on par with a legal textbook. If things are slightly illogical or not fully fleshed out, that's my bad, I guess, but most of these things you're asking about were just intended as flavor to evoke the world.
May I hug you for this statement?
Honestly, this is so true. Zeitgeist lives from its narrative focus, flair and cineastic imagery. If you are a DM and think something fits your narrative or theme, just do it. If you are a player and think it would be totally cool and suiting to your character to do something, just ask. The story seems robust enough to allow lots of creative freedom.
Also, from what I've seen so far as a player, the adventures make some really creative use of the rules system and you've still got lots of encounters where you don't need to throw any dice and can simply flow with the story. And sometimes what's happening simply breaks the (in-universe) standard rules. And when that happens you'll literally go "What the Eff!?".
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
Not all words in the book are rules, man. From your questions, I feel like you're expecting accuracy on par with a legal textbook. If things are slightly illogical or not fully fleshed out, that's my bad, I guess, but most of these things you're asking about were just intended as flavor to evoke the world.
I am not certain I quite follow you. Do you mean to say that calling in a favor from the Unseen Court is not actually any more costly than doing so with Flint or Risur?
 
I'd say if you get a favor from the fey, you should expect the fey to want something in return. It might not be something you personally value. It'll probably be strange. It probably won't actually be a magically binding compulsion unless you got a favor from a really powerful fey.
 

Lylandra

Explorer
I am not certain I quite follow you. Do you mean to say that calling in a favor from the Unseen Court is not actually any more costly than doing so with Flint or Risur?
Maybe asking a fey for a favor has a more random component to how exactly they'll help you. So, for example, if you'd want a nymph to lure a Kell guild member from the Nettles to Cloudwood to interrogate him, maybe she'll find interest in his girlfriend or squad as well and you have do deal with more than one charmed captive. Or the nixie you'd like to get an invisibility potion from wants you to dance the hokey-pokey in front of Lee's Barbershop (because she likes that old man and wants to cheer him up).

A good DM won't use the fey prestige requests as secret means to punish his players, but as means to put some life into the fey society and maybe hook you up on some sidequest.

For Prestige in general: I don't know how the other groups handle this mechanic, but we usually use it only as rule of thumb for what's appropriate to ask for. For example, we're in adventure 5 now (no spoilers!) and desperately need more officers in Flint. So we do some calculation, describe our case and circumstance and then get an answer on how soon we can expect help.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
The Spirit Medium's speak with spirit requires a dead person. Unfinished business requires someone to have died during the exact same encounter. This is an adventure path wherein it is strictly a no-no for PCs to go around killing people. The PCs are expected to leave people alive. How, then, are the Spirit Medium's starting powers supposed to be useful?
Since the Spirit Medium is a psionic theme, it would probably work better if it could be applied to creatures knocked unconscious as a result of being reduced to 0 hit points or fewer. Speak with spirit could be mind-probing, and unfinished business could call up a fragment of the unconscious creature's mind.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
If most nations speak Common, then why is it that Ber, Crisillyir, and Danor seem to have their own regional dialects based on real-world romance languages?
 

Lylandra

Explorer
If most nations speak Common, then why is it that Ber, Crisillyir, and Danor seem to have their own regional dialects based on real-world romance languages?
This is by no means official, but my/our own interpretation:
Common is something like Latin, a universal language of Lanjyr. I'd consider "high common" (or maybe original common) to be pretty accentless. However, languages evolve over time and 500 years are a HUGE timespan in terms of language development.

So, Crisillyir was once a pretty big nation and everyone spoke original common. Then the Malice happened and the nation got torn into two: Danor and Crisillyir. Now french and italian are pretty close in terms of grammar and vocabulary as they both originated from latin. So having original common develop into one french and one italian accentuated version doesn't seem so far off.

Ber is a bit trickier. Almost every tribe has its own language or dialect I guess. The nation was ruled by the Dragon Tyrants until 200 years ago, so until then they'd most likely have learned the language of their rulers (draconic) but not common. My guess is that common became common when Ber (or what would become Ber) came into closer contact with the language of the Crisillyiri via the Clergy. They realized that this language was pretty universal so Berans who'd consider themselves educated (or who wanted an easier time in trade negotiations) might have had an interest in learning the language. Still, common is a foreign language for the Berans, so they have a strong accent (maybe like English in India?)

Drakr has its own language in dwarven. Giving them a slavic accent (languages that don't have much in common with latin) suits them well.

Risur is pretty clear. The commonfolk speak primordial and more educated Risuri speak common with a primordial accent. That this "accent free" English common is set to Risur is most certainly to make getting into the setting less of an obstacle. I always imagine Risuri to speak Latin with an english (or whatever your own language is) accent when they speak common. As Primordial is the Language of the Fey Titans and very close to Sylvan which is "Olde English"
 
It would be much more implausible for Common not to have regional accents. Let's take the RW example of English. People in Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, the USA and Canada all speak english as their first language , despite the fact that in the modern world they have the ability to hear the correct pronunciation of the English language they all except the British get it wrong on a national basis.
Then if we look at Britain more closely their are distinct Welsh, Scottish , English and Irish (Northern) accents, then if you break down England the London, Liverpool and Newcastle accents are almost incomprehensible to each other.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
What is the incentive for a non-eladrin to join the Vekeshi mystics? Why would a human born within the last two or three decades even remotely care about the death of some foreign goddess of a different species, which took place five centuries ago?
 
They throw wicked cool parties, and you get to stick it to bad guys. The 'remember the death of Srasama' is just foundational. It's evolved from there, and has a lot more focus on enacting vengeance on people the society thinks are harming others, not just avenging the fall of eladrin culture.
 

Adslahnit

Explorer
In that case, why do the Vekeshi mystics have such a strong positive relationship with the fey? What lies beyond the surface of a "bored rich kid with edgy political ideologies" club, such that the Unseen Court genuinely respects and supports the Vekeshi?

Also, the player's guide says, "While many eladrin could not be stopped from their self-destruction, Vekesh convinced some of his people that a tale that goes from defeat to revenge to death is a shameful tragedy. Revenge distracts one from one’s grief, but is ultimately valueless. Instead, he said, a tale of defeat, resilience, and renewal is the best way to thwart their enemies’ goals. The proper form of retribution, then, is to endure, rebuild from weakness, and prosper into strength." With that in mind, why is the default theme power about directly lashing out against an enemy for raw damage?
 
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gideonpepys

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Why do I get the feeling that you are RangerWickett's sworn enemy, and you've finally tracked him down?

Also, the player's guide says, "While many eladrin could not be stopped from their self-destruction, Vekesh convinced some of his people that a tale that goes from defeat to revenge to death is a shameful tragedy. Revenge distracts one from one’s grief, but is ultimately valueless. Instead, he said, a tale of defeat, resilience, and renewal is the best way to thwart their enemies’ goals. The proper form of retribution, then, is to endure, rebuild from weakness, and prosper into strength." With that in mind, why is the default theme power about directly lashing out against an enemy for raw damage?
Inconsistencies like this only serve to make it more realistic. Ever wondered, for example, why - despite the fact that Jesus is supposed to have said "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven" and advocated a simple life - the religious right and the GOP are obsessed with wealth, and 'prosperity theology' is increasingly popular throughout the world? Folks don't listen to their prophets, they do what they bloody well like!

Honestly, if I thought there were this many holes in a campaign setting (holes I couldn't live with or couldn't, y'now, fill with my own imagination) I'd have stopped reading it at page 3 and picked up another.
 
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Lylandra

Explorer
In that case, why do the Vekeshi mystics have such a strong positive relationship with the fey? What lies beyond the surface of a "bored rich kid with edgy political ideologies" club, such that the Unseen Court genuinely respects and supports the Vekeshi?

Also, the player's guide says, "While many eladrin could not be stopped from their self-destruction, Vekesh convinced some of his people that a tale that goes from defeat to revenge to death is a shameful tragedy. Revenge distracts one from one’s grief, but is ultimately valueless. Instead, he said, a tale of defeat, resilience, and renewal is the best way to thwart their enemies’ goals. The proper form of retribution, then, is to endure, rebuild from weakness, and prosper into strength." With that in mind, why is the default theme power about directly lashing out against an enemy for raw damage?
Okay, so maybe I can help again because we've discussed this in our group as well and it kind of made sense to us. (One major point again is the huge timespan and cultural difference between what happened in Elfaivar and the present time)

So first, Eladrin are Fey and if we understood this correctly, they are/were allied with other Fey of the Dreaming. Heck, modern Enclaves are partially in the Dreaming where the Unseen Court lives and rules. Vekeshi mystics originated in Elfaivar and they were avengers who originally swore to rescue Eladrin women from captivity (aka "undo one of the biggest wrongs ever done to our culture"). I guess the cult spread from there as Eladrin traveled the world to save their kin and return them so they could live in the true spirit of Vekesh. Just think about the following: there is no "living, enduring, prospering" victory if your people die out because evilbad persons think your women are trophies. Someone needs to get their hands dirty so the Enclaves (who do live in the spirit of Vekesh) may have a chance to survive.

Now the theme of "Avenging big wrongs that cannot be made right by official means" some time later meant more than just saving Eladrin women to people who joined the Vekeshi out of their own sense of justice. Which means that each Vekeshi group in each major hub may or may not have its own, unique focus, depending on legal state, degree of corruption, morale compass of its leaders etc.

(our Flinter cell in our campaign is pretty tame for example as Risur has a functioning legal system and because its leaders are no "bored rich kids" but people who are connected to ye olden ways and in more than one way affiliated with the local Fey. Hence the +1 Prestige.)

The whole Srasama/punishment ability is in my opinion a direct remnant of the rites of the Goddess who had nothing to do with Vekesh and his philosophy.
Just like you'll see christmas trees in catholic churches even if they originated from local winter solstice rites.
 
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