Zeitgeist Article.

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Not much to say on this one (word count not withstanding), but I thought I would start it off.

First it mentions that someone who believes in science in the age of reason would not believe that zeitgeists exists. I beleive in science and I believe in zeitgeists. The whole human race follows the tides of general feeling, opinion and beliefs.

In the world today common zeitgeist seems to be based on selfishness. In Britain this age of selfish, consumer shallowness was championed by one woman. Her name was Margret Thatcher. She changed the social landscape forever.

A nation changed almost overnight. Our other leaders followed her torch with Tony Blair, a supposed socialist and now Gordon Brown the money man (I'm not counting John Major - he just held the door open for Tony Blair as he was leaving.)

I'm sure other nations have their own champions they could mention. Lieutenants, minions, orders of knighthood, mage's guilds and thieve's guilds are numerous also.

Champion : Bill Gates.
Lieutenants : Paris Hilton.
Minions : Yuppies, gadget junkies, junkies.
Knighthood : MacDonalds.
Mage Guild : Microsoft.
Thieve's Guild : Inland Revenue.

Ideas are passed quickly from person to person through memetics. Even faster now the sciences have given us radio, television, the internet and mobile phones. But it has always been the same.

What is everyone's thoughts? How can this help our campaigns?

I know mine, with the points of light, will be a world on the brink of total annihilation. Zeitgeist : Age Of Total Ruin. Nothing like the end of the world to get your juices flowing and with all the media coverage of how we are all doomed for the sins of our excess, inspiration isn't going to be hard to find.
Zeitgeist?

What article are you writing about?
Plans are always subject to change.
What is everyone's thoughts? How can this help our campaigns?

Well, I had to look up the Wikipedia article for the word zeitgeist. Its a new one for me. It seems to be a philosophical concept. I'm all for a bit of philosophy in my D&D gaming. I don't have a solid enough grasp on philosophical study however to see myself ever throwing around the word zeitgeist (or even tossing it carefully and purposefully for that matter :D).

The ideas presented in the article do seem like they could help my campaigns . . . I'll have to give it a bit more thought. Aaargh!! My head hurts ;). For now, I'll just sit back and enjoy watching the philosophers handle this one :D.

In all seriousness, I am curious. The article is interesting but the philosophical underpinnings are out of my depth.
/\ Art
Now this is a unique article. I'm kind of amazed that this made into the "issue." It's certainly not bad, just a different sort of article.
I'm not really sure about the Zeitgeist thing. I mean, I suppose it helps DMs focus their campaigns and the like, but it just seems weird to me.

If they make it like an actual thing (like the picture looks like there's some sort of volcano that spews the Zeitgeist), then I don't think I'd actually use it, but the information and fluff it gives to the different eras may help me better flesh out my different areas and the like.
To me it seems as if were to help the FR players with the 100 year jump.
I've got an idea for how to translate this for you, Artifact.

The article seems to mostly be about a method for determining themes for your campaign. The themes are separated into Ages, which are time periods that can last for generations. Since this is a fantasy game, the Ages can have magical effects on the physical world, like making crops more bountiful or the stars dimmer. The Zeitgeist, whether it's an actual living spirit or more of a phenomenon (up to you), determines when an Age is up, and it choses who gets to pick the themes, atmosphere, and general physical effects for the next Age.

The "Threshold Era" is the transitional time between Ages. It's when an Age dies, and a new one hasn't been picked yet. It's when your PCs fight the BBEG (or fulfill the prophecy, or pass the trial, or whatever) and earn the right to determine the theme for the next Age. Maybe the BBEG wants the next Age to be about obedience and brutality, while the PCs want the next Age to be about freedom and kindness. Or maybe the PCs just want to stop the BBEG, only to discover after the fact that they've won new friends, followers and fans everywhere they go. How the PCs act after they win the Threshold Era helps determine the themes and atmosphere for that campaign world for generations, even after the PCs are dead.

This Zeitgeist model could work really well if you set successive campaigns in the same campaign world, one after another. In the first campaign, the PCs go through a Threshold Era and set up the next Age. Then, in the next campaign, the PCs are born into the Age that the previous PCs created. It could be up to these new PCs to protect their Age or to change it when the next Threshold Era comes along.

---

An example:

The Points of Light campaign world starts off in an Age of Darkness. Settlements are cut off from each other by monsters and wilderness, struggling to survive. Large empires once existed, but they collapsed long ago into ruin.

If you want, you could set the campaign during a Threshold Era. The Age of Darkness is dying, and it's up to the PCs to win the day and set the next Age for the Points of Light world.

If the PCs start building an empire, the new Age could be an Age of Civilization, where people band together to build great wonders, and roads seem to magically pop up on their own.

If the PCs start wiping out evil forces everywhere, the new Age could be an Age of Light, where people are generous, the fields are magically bountiful, and the sky is a bright, happy blue.

---

Whatever the PCs do after they win the Threshold Era, the world mirrors their accomplishments and methods. They not only influence humanoid cultures long after they've gone, they also have a fantastic, magical effect on the physical world. If they were generous, the land becomes generous, providing large crops and plenty of fresh water. If they were selfish, the land's crops become meager and the wells go dry. That kind of thing.

I hope this was helpful.
Not much to say on this one (word count not withstanding), but I thought I would start it off.

In the world today common zeitgeist seems to be based on selfishness.

Thanks for reading it I thought offering DMs the zeitgeist as a world building tool might give them a nice little framework to wrap campaign events around.

On the subject of the current age and selfishness. Are you familiar with Strauss and Howe's take on generation analysis?


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generations_(book)

(don't know if just cutting and pasting the link will work here, I'm all thumbs when it comes to technology )

It's another really interesting tool for world building. According to their theory, we are in the final days of an era of institutional decay and about to enter some great crisis similar to the Great Depression/WW2. Time will tell if it works as a predictive model, but using it in a campaign presents lots of interesting possibilities.

I think Jon Pickens wrote an article about how to use generation analysis in issue #241 of Dragon if you're interested.
Now this is a unique article. I'm kind of amazed that this made into the "issue." It's certainly not bad, just a different sort of article.

Thanks I'm going to take that as a compliment.

(you aren't the first to call me unique, but for some reason most people put quotes around it... )
I'm not really sure about the Zeitgeist thing. I mean, I suppose it helps DMs focus their campaigns and the like, but it just seems weird to me.

If they make it like an actual thing (like the picture looks like there's some sort of volcano that spews the Zeitgeist), then I don't think I'd actually use it, but the information and fluff it gives to the different eras may help me better flesh out my different areas and the like.

As you said, it's mainly a tool designed to help DMs focus their campaigns. Ideas come from the weirdest places. Sometimes you find an interesting word, look it up, and all of a sudden...


Hopefully you can find a use for it
I've got an idea for how to translate this for you, Artifact.

The article seems to mostly be about a method for determining themes for your campaign. The themes are separated into Ages, which are time periods that can last for generations. Since this is a fantasy game, the Ages can have magical effects on the physical world, like making crops more bountiful or the stars dimmer. The Zeitgeist, whether it's an actual living spirit or more of a phenomenon (up to you), determines when an Age is up, and it choses who gets to pick the themes, atmosphere, and general physical effects for the next Age.

The "Threshold Era" is the transitional time between Ages. It's when an Age dies, and a new one hasn't been picked yet. It's when your PCs fight the BBEG (or fulfill the prophecy, or pass the trial, or whatever) and earn the right to determine the theme for the next Age. Maybe the BBEG wants the next Age to be about obedience and brutality, while the PCs want the next Age to be about freedom and kindness. Or maybe the PCs just want to stop the BBEG, only to discover after the fact that they've won new friends, followers and fans everywhere they go. How the PCs act after they win the Threshold Era helps determine the themes and atmosphere for that campaign world for generations, even after the PCs are dead.


I hope this was helpful.

That's a really good summation Taski.

(I still hope people read the article of course )
In the world today common zeitgeist seems to be based on selfishness. In Britain this age of selfish, consumer shallowness was championed by one woman. Her name was Margret Thatcher. She changed the social landscape forever.

Thatcher's Britain. Thatcher's bloody Britain! Look at me. I'm young, I'm pretty. I've got 5 O Levels. Bloomin' good grades as well, considering I didn't do a sod of work cause I'm so hard. And look at me now! Homeless, cold, and prostitute.
Great article, Hal!

This might be a bit of Planescape fanboyism coming through, but I couldn't help spotting alignments in the article's eight example ages. Here's what I figured:

LG: (nothing!)
NG: Age of Light
CG: Age of Heroes
LN: Age of Blood
N: Age of Nature
CN: Age of Chaos
LE: Age of Tyranny
NE: Age of Decay
CE: Age of War

Was this aspect planned, or just a coincidence? If it was planned, did I get the alignments right (and why was LG left out ;))?
Thank you, taski. That was indeed very helpful. I had translated some things from the article myself, but its still nice to have it summarized by someone who truly has a grasp of it ;). Your efforts will definitely help me get more real use out of the article, so again, thank you.

To Hal Maclean: I just want to take a moment to let you know that I really enjoyed your article for Dragon Magazine #354, “Ancient PCs: Playing Elders in D&D”. Its became one of my favorite (and most useful) articles in the last few years. Its articles like these that make Dragon enjoyable for me. Thank you so much.
/\ Art
Excellent article.

Very "Dm's guide" but with more than just the usual flavor. It really inspires one to create a solid homebrew (or even just tweak existing fluff to be more relevant to a different timeframe).
Great article! I could really picture a lot of the ages... it gave me some ideas for campaigns. I like having a conceptual framework for stories. Sometimes it's tough to put together a campaign with a coherent feel. There are rules for so many things, but the game so far has not given us much in the way of concepts.

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

I enjoyed the article plenty. To me, it'll be good for a PC and the background of any single campaign I may put together.

On ninjeff's missing age: LG- Age of Tyranny (redux)
Loved it Hal. It was a very useful framework tool and an interesting conceptualization pov. I'll probably curse you later when I'm reading a book and start trying to pigeon-hole the plot line according to this article. Be forewarned.
Great article, Hal!

This might be a bit of Planescape fanboyism coming through, but I couldn't help spotting alignments in the article's eight example ages. Here's what I figured:

LG: (nothing!)
NG: Age of Light
CG: Age of Heroes
LN: Age of Blood
N: Age of Nature
CN: Age of Chaos
LE: Age of Tyranny
NE: Age of Decay
CE: Age of War

Was this aspect planned, or just a coincidence? If it was planned, did I get the alignments right (and why was LG left out ;))?

Now that's what I call a first class idea! Wish I had thought of it. If I had I probably would have did up an age of Justice or something for the LG. I'm not sure if Age of Blood fits the LN description though. An age of bureaucracy seems more likely. Wow, the rest seem pretty much dead on though.

This is what's so great about feedback. People see stuff you never even imagined.
To Hal Maclean: I just want to take a moment to let you know that I really enjoyed your article for Dragon Magazine #354, “Ancient PCs: Playing Elders in D&D”. Its became one of my favorite (and most useful) articles in the last few years. Its articles like these that make Dragon enjoyable for me. Thank you so much.

Thank you. It was one of my favorites to write too. Right up there with the one on cleric domains themed on the seven deadly sins.

(Must confess I enjoyed the astrology article a little bit more though )
Excellent article.

Very "Dm's guide" but with more than just the usual flavor. It really inspires one to create a solid homebrew (or even just tweak existing fluff to be more relevant to a different timeframe).

Thanks If you ever do use it please make mention of it here in this thread or something. I'd love to hear how you adapted the ideas to your own campaign.
Great article! I could really picture a lot of the ages... it gave me some ideas for campaigns. I like having a conceptual framework for stories. Sometimes it's tough to put together a campaign with a coherent feel. There are rules for so many things, but the game so far has not given us much in the way of concepts.

Thanks. I think you could use these ages to create a pretty memorable campaign history. When I use them in my homebrews I always start with an age of nature. The premise being that civilization may well have existed before that but all memory faded away during the long period when folks lived as hunter-gatherer types. Nice rationale for ruins and weird magic no one can replicate anymore.
I enjoyed the article plenty. To me, it'll be good for a PC and the background of any single campaign I may put together.

Thanks I was hoping folks would find a use for it. Nothing worse than watching something you worked on sink without a ripple.
Loved it Hal. It was a very useful framework tool and an interesting conceptualization pov. I'll probably curse you later when I'm reading a book and start trying to pigeon-hole the plot line according to this article. Be forewarned.

Consider me properly warned (and chastened )
I enjoyed the article a great deal, although I can't help but consider the concept as a "campaign setting" tool rather than a "campaign" tool. I think when building a campaign setting from scratch it's useful to assign a theme, and this theme can be a sort of "zeitgeist". Unless your campaign spans multiple eras, it might be difficult to use this concept.

However...with 4E coming up, it's possible that many persons campaign settings (including forgotten realms) are "jumping forward" in time, and that this new edition might bring about a new era/zeitgeist for the same campaign setting. I find that concept very interesting.
fo diggity Twitter: www.twitter.com/fodigg Comic Books You Should Have Read: http://tinyurl.com/ycxe9l7
Another way to think of the zeitgeist is the Triforce from Legend of Zelda.

I really liked this article. I was planning on using something similar mixed with the Birthright setting rules in a campaign I'm working on. This article has helped perculate some ideas.
Another way to think of the zeitgeist is the Triforce from Legend of Zelda.

I really liked this article. I was planning on using something similar mixed with the Birthright setting rules in a campaign I'm working on. This article has helped perculate some ideas.

Now there's a philosophical concept that I can wrap my head around easily enough. I'm glad I took the time to tune into this thread; its been really helpful, and certainly made the article less intimidating (for lack of a better word) ;). Thanks!
/\ Art
I enjoyed the article a great deal, although I can't help but consider the concept as a "campaign setting" tool rather than a "campaign" tool. I think when building a campaign setting from scratch it's useful to assign a theme, and this theme can be a sort of "zeitgeist". Unless your campaign spans multiple eras, it might be difficult to use this concept.

However...with 4E coming up, it's possible that many persons campaign settings (including forgotten realms) are "jumping forward" in time, and that this new edition might bring about a new era/zeitgeist for the same campaign setting. I find that concept very interesting.

Thanks You're right, the zeitgeist really only comes into its own when the campaign spans multiple eras. That being said, you can still use it to rationalize any sort of tweaks you want to make to your campaign by setting it in an era that accomodates those house rules. It also gives your players a definite goal to work towards/against by making sure the next era isn't a disaster. And, if worse comes to worse, you can use it to make sense of your campaign world's history ("during the age of...").

I'm glad you found it interesting, here's hoping you'll find some use for it too
Another way to think of the zeitgeist is the Triforce from Legend of Zelda.

I really liked this article. I was planning on using something similar mixed with the Birthright setting rules in a campaign I'm working on. This article has helped perculate some ideas.

Glad it helped Good luck with the campaign. If anything interesting comes please feel free to drop me a line on this thread. I'd like to hear about how the article found a use.
This Zeitgeist model could work really well if you set successive campaigns in the same campaign world, one after another.

In some ways, this is precisely what C.S. Lewis did in the Chronicles of Narnia.
It also gives your players a definite goal to work towards/against by making sure the next era isn't a disaster.

Actually, the campaign setting that I'm working on is surrounding this concept, but not so much as a goal but as a theme. There is no way to "win" and save the world, but beating back the darkness is an ongoing process, and the manner in which the PCs do this is a major theme of the campaign.

It's not something I'll ever directly state to the reader, but framing this concept as a "zeigtgeist" will keep me on track during the writing process. When designing an iconic BBEG or community, I can always ask myself how it fits the "zeitgeist" of my setting. It's another way of looking at theme.

And I think it's a better way because...

you can use it to make sense of your campaign world's history ("during the age of...").

...history is hard to simulate. I've found it to be very easy to have the "theme" of my setting reach all the way back to the creation story. That's problematic because it creates a static world, doesn't explain where all these societies and dungeons and such came from, and it puts a limit on what the players can accomplish. If the world has never had "ages of light" then how can they expect to fight for one? That'd make for a rather depressing campaign, which is not necessarily what I'm looking for.

Originally I wanted to create an "empire" timeline, framing the eras by the most powerful political bodies at the time. This can get complicated if there are no meaningful political entities or if there simply is no "leading" political entity. With the concept of a "Zeitgeist timeline", I have more room to work. So I thank you for that.

Hopefully I'll have a PDF eventually and be able to show you what became of it.
fo diggity Twitter: www.twitter.com/fodigg Comic Books You Should Have Read: http://tinyurl.com/ycxe9l7
Hello Hal. I'm kind of surprised you actually took the time to interact with us. I actually enjoyed the article, but I was kind of hesitant to assume how others would react. It's a refreshing article, in the sense that it certainly generates tons of ideas while not bogging down in needless rules. I hope you continue to contribute to the digital Dragon and Dungeon.
Although I enjoyed the article, I was a bit disappointed that it had nothing to do with the film Zeitgeist. www.zeitgeistmovie.com

I was hoping for ideas on how to run a game that focused on the PCs discovering the deception of the prevailing ideas of the age that so many believe are actually good, but are really smokescreens put in place by wealthy, evil elite (maybe dragons or liches or extra-planar conquerors) to control the world.

I wonder how a cleric would react in a world like this- where he finds that his religion is actually based off an older mythology, and that those who run his church are in league with the uber-evil wizards behind the curtain? What about paladins that are champions of 'good', as defined by the Zeitgeist, that find out that the 'good' they fight for is actually corrupt, or unsustainable?

etc. etc.

Thoughts?

EDIT: The dwarf-bankers in Eberron would make for great evil-masterminds behind a one world government-perhaps being controlled by the dragons and their Prophecies?
It's not something I'll ever directly state to the reader, but framing this concept as a "zeigtgeist" will keep me on track during the writing process. When designing an iconic BBEG or community, I can always ask myself how it fits the "zeitgeist" of my setting. It's another way of looking at theme.


With the concept of a "Zeitgeist timeline", I have more room to work. So I thank you for that.

Hopefully I'll have a PDF eventually and be able to show you what became of it.

I'm glad you could find a use for it. And I"m looking forward to seeing the spin others put on this idea.
Hello Hal. I'm kind of surprised you actually took the time to interact with us. I actually enjoyed the article, but I was kind of hesitant to assume how others would react. It's a refreshing article, in the sense that it certainly generates tons of ideas while not bogging down in needless rules. I hope you continue to contribute to the digital Dragon and Dungeon.

I hope I continue to contribute the DI too (it's only half up to me of course... must actually get a greenlight for my pitches )

Forgive me for betraying my status as someone who doesn't spend a lot of time on this particular message board. But... don't all the folks who publish articles here do their best to answer questions and the like?

My first 37 sales were to the print versions of Dragon and Dungeon so it just seemed natural to keep up the practice of respond to any comments I read. I enjoy the feedback. Hearing about how other creative people are going to translate my ideas. Getting some -hopefully constructive- suggestions about ways I could improve the piece.

After all, writers are essentially asking readers to loan them their eyes for as long as it takes to finish the piece, thanking them seems the least you can do.
Although I enjoyed the article, I was a bit disappointed that it had nothing to do with the film Zeitgeist. www.zeitgeistmovie.com

I was hoping for ideas on how to run a game that focused on the PCs discovering the deception of the prevailing ideas of the age that so many believe are actually good, but are really smokescreens put in place by wealthy, evil elite (maybe dragons or liches or extra-planar conquerors) to control the world.

I wonder how a cleric would react in a world like this- where he finds that his religion is actually based off an older mythology, and that those who run his church are in league with the uber-evil wizards behind the curtain? What about paladins that are champions of 'good', as defined by the Zeitgeist, that find out that the 'good' they fight for is actually corrupt, or unsustainable?

etc. etc.

Thoughts?

EDIT: The dwarf-bankers in Eberron would make for great evil-masterminds behind a one world government-perhaps being controlled by the dragons and their Prophecies?

You caught me by surprise. I never even heard of that movie! It's not the approach I wanted to take, but the notion of an article on conspiracies and layer after layer of contradictory "truths"finally revealing something completely unrecognizable strikes me as a pretty good concept. I'm waiting for 4e to do a lot of new article pitches, but, unless someone beats me to it, I might manage to find an interesting angle on that idea if I give it some thought.
Well, not as many writers actually hang around as much as you have Hal. There is Keith Baker and Ari Marmell, but that's about it most of the time. But then again, I don't read every single thread on these boards. I try to have a life outside of the 'net. Not much of a life, but a life. ;)
I gotta add props for Nick Logue too...

But, yeah, it's nice to have your thoughts and interest in our feedback. Keep those proposals flying!
Yeah, I forgot about Mr Louge. He's pretty cool too.
Hal, thanks for taking the time to respond to your readers.

If you come up with something, it would be great! Could even be in the vein of Final Fantasy or something, who knows?

If you haven't seen the movie, though, I highly recommend it!


As for your article, specifically, you've inspired me to run a short campaign in an age that combines the Age of Tyranny and the Age of Decay.

Thanks again.
Well, not as many writers actually hang around as much as you have Hal. There is Keith Baker and Ari Marmell, but that's about it most of the time. But then again, I don't read every single thread on these boards. I try to have a life outside of the 'net. Not much of a life, but a life. ;)

Bah, real life is overrated Spend more time hunched over a computer where it's warm!!!