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D&D General Brain Storming a Campaign idea

I was playing in a game where we ran into a practically-immortal wizard who'd accidently trapped himself inside his own pocket dimension. He asked for help to escape.

That got me thinking.

I'm imagining some kind of catastrophe that happens. hundreds of thousands or millions will die. Then a Powerful arch-mage opens up a pocket dimension and the people escape into it. This mage can control every aspect of the demesne: weather, looks, features. Everything. He makes a perfect habitat for the people he's saved.

Fast-forward 1000 years later. The players live in this place. The wizard is immortal (somehow...a lich? Wish? Strange Pacts?) and is worshipped as a God King.

What kinds of cool adventures can I plan? What do I need to build into the world?

  • a cult that believes King is a false god. There is a better place where greater gods exist.
  • a whole religion revolving around the God-King. What does this religion look like? Do clerics of this god get powers?
  • an elite force of Knights dedicated to protecting the God-King
  • What kinds of laws are there? bans on certain kinds of magic? (we don't want anyone accidently dispelling the dimension or traveling outside and finding out the truth)
  • What does crime and trade between cities look like in a land that always has perfect weather and great crops?
  • There is a place that is considered unholy that no-one must enter (The exit to the demesne...) What is this place? What does it look like?
  • What was the catastrophe? Was it a natural disaster? Invading Aliens? Nuclear War? Disease? Zombie Apocalypse? What does this place look like now?
  • what do actual Clerics look like? Are other religions banned?
  • what is the rising conflict? Is the mage going mad and the world is starting to crumble? Is the catastrophe from the outside making its way in?
I kind of like the idea of the group doing adventures in the 'world' but slowly finding out that things are not as they seem. That there are cracks on the edges. Then they find out there's 'another world' and, possibly, that their God-King isn't a god at all.

This is total homebrew so I'm prepared to throw away the regular Forgotten Realms (or any) Pantheon. Limit various Planes and play with the setting (high fantasy, post apocalyptic,). I imagine it will be high fantasy with some other flavour blended in.

Does anyone want to take a stab to help create something?
 

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Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
The pocket dimension is locked, in order to open it the PCs must restore the 8 Crystal Towers that act as the Key mechanism that will open the pocket dimension back into the Material Plane. Of course the exact location of the Crystal Towers is uncertain, each one is a dungeon that also needs to be unlocked and after 1000 years not everyone wants them to be recovered
 

aco175

Legend
There is some force that is slowly creating holes in the dimension and slowly eating it away. Think of The Nothing in Neverending Story. It is a threat that can start slowly and build giving the PCs a scale as they advance.

Who or what is behind it? Maybe a rival mage. Maybe a lost family member from the other side trying reunite. Bonus if you can have another group of players or the previous party the players are using find the link and be able to create a hole to get in.
 

Stormonu

Legend
Emil the one-eyed bard leaned back, the white tendrils of his hair gathered upon his shoulders.

"One hundred years ago," he said, coughed, the continued, "This world was not so nice a place."

"The mighty warlord Zamdir had just conquered the great realm, but sat upon a throne of ashes. The war that had swept him to power had scoured the harvests from the countryside and torn down many a home as his army had battered the city walls. Few remained loyal to him beyond the coin he paid them, and his coffers were already mightly drained. Hunger and rebellion stirred in the hearts of his subjects, and his brow was greatly troubled."

"One day, his men brought before him a wizened man dressed in a colorful silk robe bearing a simple wooden staff. Though age bent his back, the man's face was bright."

" 'Who are you and what business do you have in my kingdom?' Zamdir commanded of the old man."

" 'I am know as Gyland, the wizard,' came the response, 'And I came to your kingdom to observe.' "

" 'And what have you observed?' Zamdir growled, leaning forward on his sword."

" 'I see a land, much unlike my own,' Gyland admitted, leaning on his walking staff. 'Where I am from the sun shines warmly, but not too much so.' reminisced Gyland. 'There is bread and honey for all, though not one need toil for such fare.' At this Gyland leaned forward, 'And most of all, I am at peace.' "

"Zamdir stroked his beard as he thought on Gyland's word, 'I wish the same for my own people,' he admitted, 'but alas, the struggle to bring me here has been hard on all.' His eyes met Gyland, 'Perhaps I should visit your land of warmth and cheer.' "

" 'It is easily done,' Gyland happily intoned, and within the blink of an eye, Gyland brought Zamdir to his fabulous land. A great and clean city stood upon a small hill, basking in the warmth of a sun not to hot. Gyland's banners flitted in a cool breeze that caused the summer wheat in the fields outside the city to glimmer like the waves of a great ocean. Below the tower they gazed from, Zamdir could see the well-fed people of Gyland's city as they made their way unhurriedly to market or public bath."

"Slack-jawed, Zamdir was returned to his gray throne room, and Gyland slowly lowered his arms, a smug smile upon his own face."

" 'Where is this land?' Zamdir demanded."

"Idly, Gyland brought forth a topaz into his open right hand, a stone no larger than his thumbnail. 'Here,' he indicated to the stone. As Zamdir gawked, Gyland mused, 'I see many unhappy in your land, and it makes me sad. Give me leave to take those whom are no use to you to my land, and we shall both be better for it,' he told the king."

"Zamdir's thoughts churned, and he replied, 'Why should I send those I am unhappy with to a better land? Would it not be more beneficial if I take those loyal to me to this land, and leave the unhappy here with you? I would gladly trade this broken realm for one so free of worry.' "

"Gyland brushed his hand to his lip in thought, and a deal was struck. Now, under a hundred years rule under Gyland, our land is as fair as that in the gem, and the gem rests quietly in the treasure vault of our protector. None know the fate of Zamdir, but suspect he lived out his days in that quiet realm in the gem."

Emil leaned forward, his voice lowering. "But there are some who say it is we who dwell within the gem, and beyond the rolling countryside of the sunset hills, the old world lies outside and the forgotten realm of Zamdir, whom we followed to this jeweled kingdom."
 
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I'm imagining some kind of catastrophe that happens. hundreds of thousands or millions will die. Then a Powerful arch-mage opens up a pocket dimension and the people escape into it. This mage can control every aspect of the demesne: weather, looks, features. Everything. He makes a perfect habitat for the people he's saved.

  • a cult that believes King is a false god. There is a better place where greater gods exist.
  • a whole religion revolving around the God-King. What does this religion look like? Do clerics of this god get powers?
  • an elite force of Knights dedicated to protecting the God-King
  • What kinds of laws are there? bans on certain kinds of magic? (we don't want anyone accidently dispelling the dimension or traveling outside and finding out the truth)
  • What does crime and trade between cities look like in a land that always has perfect weather and great crops?
  • There is a place that is considered unholy that no-one must enter (The exit to the demesne...) What is this place? What does it look like?
  • What was the catastrophe? Was it a natural disaster? Invading Aliens? Nuclear War? Disease? Zombie Apocalypse? What does this place look like now?
  • what do actual Clerics look like? Are other religions banned?
  • what is the rising conflict? Is the mage going mad and the world is starting to crumble? Is the catastrophe from the outside making its way in?
I kind of like the idea of the group doing adventures in the 'world' but slowly finding out that things are not as they seem. That there are cracks on the edges. Then they find out there's 'another world' and, possibly, that their God-King isn't a god at all.

This is total homebrew so I'm prepared to throw away the regular Forgotten Realms (or any) Pantheon. Limit various Planes and play with the setting (high fantasy, post apocalyptic,). I imagine it will be high fantasy with some other flavour blended in.

Does anyone want to take a stab to help create something?
1. An AD&D Dragonlance mini-adventure had a realm in which time looped every day for a city that an archmage sought to save, but instead condemned to eternal "Groundhog's Day, " albeit a perfect day. If players stayed too long, they'd become part of the loop. The archmage was the only one outside this reset, but perhaps he likes this role, and perhaps he isn't too keen on introducing everyone to the regular timeline, in which all would instantly age and die. A thought.
2. The wizard didn't intend to become a god, right? He wanted to save folks and then find a way out. So it'd be counter-intuitive that he'd use this as an opportunity to seize power. Instead, it's possible a religion sprang up, no matter what he wanted (aka Dune) and he is behind the scenes seeking to quash it.
3. Catastrophe. Mystery and imagination may be the best way to play this. Something bad happened, but no one is quite sure what. Preserves an aura.
4. Clerics. Maybe this pocket realm is shut off from the gods. All clerics lost their power. People were used to clerical miracles and now they have none. People lose the faith. There is a subset of clerics who preach faith without power, that we remain loyal and true even though we don't get any powers or gifts.
5. Crime, Trade, etc. Trade ceases, obviously, but if this realm has unlimited sources, perhaps it's a paradise. As for crime, that's always there, but depends on the rules of the realm. If (see #1) everyone is immortal here and there's enough for everyone, crime drops to nil. However, you need a conflict.
6. Conflict zone. All good things must come to an end, or so it would seem. Wizard identified a zone in which everything could be undone. World would be returned to the apocalypse, etc. Or, if in a loop, a way to end it. Moral quandary: pure freedom vs. happiness.
 

DeviousQuail

Explorer
  • a whole religion revolving around the God-King. What does this religion look like? Do clerics of this god get powers?
    • The God-King made a number of powerful demi-gods to oversee portions of the domain. These portions could be geographical areas or concepts like agriculture, life, death, etc. They power the clerics of the demense and may or may not know the truth of it and the outside world.
    • The only clerics in the world follow the God-King. They might be the chief enforcers of the God-King's will. Potentially all clerics are antagonists if the campaign turns the God-King into the bad guy. Or the God-King needs help and all clerics help the PCs.
  • an elite force of Knights dedicated to protecting the God-King
    • Can be similar to the clerics above. Only makes sense if something or someone is actively trying to God-King.
    • Might be purely a status symbol for families loyal to the God-King. Could be the focus of a lot of political intrigue if a person's ranking in the Knights determines their family's standing.
  • What kinds of laws are there? bans on certain kinds of magic? (we don't want anyone accidently dispelling the dimension or traveling outside and finding out the truth)
    • Any spell work over level 5 could be heresy. Those level spells could actually threaten the dimension. Quests to hunt down rogue spell casters sound fun. Very Dragon Age.
  • What does crime and trade between cities look like in a land that always has perfect weather and great crops?
    • Sounds like a good time to mine Star Trek for ideas.
    • Perhaps a caste or blood line system prevents socioeconomic movement.
    • Even with great weather and crops you still need people to make everything. So unless the God-King produces everything people wish for you'll still need laborers, artisans, business owners, etc.
  • There is a place that is considered unholy that no-one must enter (The exit to the demesne...) What is this place? What does it look like?
    • Either an actual threat or a fake one to keep the populous in line. Perhaps the dimension has an exit that can't be exited without major consequences. There are bigger and badder dangers closer to the exit but they might be there to keep things in instead of out.
    • Or they do keep things out and that's the scary reveal for the PCs who may have been led to believe otherwise.
  • What was the catastrophe? Was it a natural disaster? Invading Aliens? Nuclear War? Disease? Zombie Apocalypse? What does this place look like now?
    • Something bad enough that a very powerful mage would need to create a pocket dimension for thousands of people to escape to and stay in for a thousand years has to be pretty bad. Or there never was an apocalypse.
    • For something a little less normal you could go with an "invasion" of refugees from across other dimensions. The mage could have saved a few people, Noah's Ark style, from each dimension before a war for limited space broke out.
  • what is the rising conflict? Is the mage going mad and the world is starting to crumble? Is the catastrophe from the outside making its way in?
    • Maybe the mage is dying. Perhaps a successor is needed and it's a contest/race/struggle for a replacement. Or a successor isn't possible and all the beautiful weather, good crops, and stability of the world is taken away. Could be a nice way to make use of weather and the environment more.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
First, this is really cool.

Second, I've had this... crazy metal idea in my head for years that you might be able to use.

The world is flat, a disk. The sun is actually a huge fiery glowing crystal on a staff. The staff is rotated around the world by an enormous lich. During the day, he is "invisible" because of the glair of the staff-sun. At night, his form is revealed, illuminated from below the disk by the staff-sun (which is hidden from the people living on top of the disk).

The priests of this "god" would be either death (or similar) domain, or light domain (the "sun").

Perhaps there is a hidden city under the disk, hanging from ropes/chains?
 

NaturalZero

Adventurer
I'd go full gonzo and say that the real world was earth and the pocket dimension was a digital virtual reality world where magic is real. The arch-mage was a scientist and essentially an Oz figure that doesn't want anyone looking behind the curtain and traveling home.

Hell, I'd literally make the pocket dimension Oz.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
  • a whole religion revolving around the God-King. What does this religion look like? Do clerics of this god get powers?
    • The God-King made a number of powerful demi-gods to oversee portions of the domain. These portions could be geographical areas or concepts like agriculture, life, death, etc. They power the clerics of the demense and may or may not know the truth of it and the outside world.
    • The only clerics in the world follow the God-King. They might be the chief enforcers of the God-King's will. Potentially all clerics are antagonists if the campaign turns the God-King into the bad guy. Or the God-King needs help and all clerics help the PCs.
  • an elite force of Knights dedicated to protecting the God-King
    • Can be similar to the clerics above. Only makes sense if something or someone is actively trying to God-King.
    • Might be purely a status symbol for families loyal to the God-King. Could be the focus of a lot of political intrigue if a person's ranking in the Knights determines their family's standing.
  • What kinds of laws are there? bans on certain kinds of magic? (we don't want anyone accidently dispelling the dimension or traveling outside and finding out the truth)
    • Any spell work over level 5 could be heresy. Those level spells could actually threaten the dimension. Quests to hunt down rogue spell casters sound fun. Very Dragon Age.
  • What does crime and trade between cities look like in a land that always has perfect weather and great crops?
    • Sounds like a good time to mine Star Trek for ideas.
    • Perhaps a caste or blood line system prevents socioeconomic movement.
    • Even with great weather and crops you still need people to make everything. So unless the God-King produces everything people wish for you'll still need laborers, artisans, business owners, etc.
  • There is a place that is considered unholy that no-one must enter (The exit to the demesne...) What is this place? What does it look like?
    • Either an actual threat or a fake one to keep the populous in line. Perhaps the dimension has an exit that can't be exited without major consequences. There are bigger and badder dangers closer to the exit but they might be there to keep things in instead of out.
    • Or they do keep things out and that's the scary reveal for the PCs who may have been led to believe otherwise.
  • What was the catastrophe? Was it a natural disaster? Invading Aliens? Nuclear War? Disease? Zombie Apocalypse? What does this place look like now?
    • Something bad enough that a very powerful mage would need to create a pocket dimension for thousands of people to escape to and stay in for a thousand years has to be pretty bad. Or there never was an apocalypse.
    • For something a little less normal you could go with an "invasion" of refugees from across other dimensions. The mage could have saved a few people, Noah's Ark style, from each dimension before a war for limited space broke out.
  • what is the rising conflict? Is the mage going mad and the world is starting to crumble? Is the catastrophe from the outside making its way in?
    • Maybe the mage is dying. Perhaps a successor is needed and it's a contest/race/struggle for a replacement. Or a successor isn't possible and all the beautiful weather, good crops, and stability of the world is taken away. Could be a nice way to make use of weather and the environment m

a whole religion revolving around the God-King. What does this religion look like? Do clerics of this god get powers?
  • The God-King made a number of powerful demi-gods to oversee portions of the domain. These portions could be geographical areas or concepts like agriculture, life, death, etc. They power the clerics of the demense and may or may not know the truth of it and the outside world.
  • The only clerics in the world follow the God-King. They might be the chief enforcers of the God-King's will. Potentially all clerics are antagonists if the campaign turns the God-King into the bad guy. Or the God-King needs help and all clerics help the PCs
The 80s Galaxy Rangers cartoon had an episode Heart of Tarkon where they visited a planet that maintained a Medieval culture and used ‘Magic’.
The planets forbidden area was the Haunted Lands where The Heart of Tarkon was concealed and protected by giant ghosts.
The twist was that the Heart was an advanced biotech computer and the planets magic items (an allseeing eye and a talking sword) were communiation devices activated by the Heart.

Maybe this world has similar Guardian Spirits which controkl particular functions (Agriculture, Air Supply, Water Reticulation, Solar Power, Gravity, Communications, Security).
Clerics/Shamans carry a crystal talisman which marks them as Chosen and able to commune with the Heart and activate various effects,

The God—King is served by an elite force of Warforged Paladins who follow his every command,

Each person in society is dedicated to a particular Guardian Spirit and its Domain, the Domains are essentially seperate cults/tribes who Trade between their respective areas. Crime doesnt exist within a Domain but it can occur between Domains and this sometimes leads to war.
 
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aco175

Legend
The great and powerful OZ is the mage. He is trying to figure out how to return everyone to the real world, but is more the bumbling charlatan-type from the movie. Maybe he did cast the original spell, but now the number of people that this utopia can support is at the max and risks exploding. He needs heroes to figure it out and stop the fissures that open and let in monsters. With no monsters it would be rather boring to me.
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
Maybe there was a group of mages, and they created a network of portals from one demiplane to another. Some of them pose as false gods while others oppose them.

Or maybe I've just been watching too much Stargate recently...
 

I love the ideas so far!

For campaign progression, I'm thinking:
Tier 1: lvl 1-3 is standard fair adventures: helping merchants, doing tasks for Nobles. This is a great time to establish everything in the world. I want this place to be completely bizarre (because it's limited only by the Mage's imagination) and normalize those things for the Players. Weird, Dr. Seuss-like trees, maybe the world is a flat disk as described above, surrounded by a strange sea. Anyone who sails out gets lost or just returns to the place they left. Crazy laws etc...

3-5 is where they start noticing that things are not perfect. While I'd give clues to this at early levels, bring it more to the foreground: weird happenings, erratic weather, crops failing. At this point they might be working for someone who points them towards the exit....the illegal thing, the place no-one is allowed to talk about, or something like that. Maybe, at this point, they discover the world is dying.

5-8: Outside the Demesne. They discover the outside world. It is unlike anything they know. But it's livable. A place for the people to settle...but there are strange locals. These locals have their own stories of the 'catastrophe'.

8-12 They range further afield and learn that there are other cities (destroyed or not). It's here that they realize their homeworld is delicate, slowly deteriorating pocket dimension. They are now dealing with a main antagonist that is equal power to their 'God-King' and are trying to save all the people in their world. Maybe they are dealing with the original threat that their people fled from, or maybe that is dealt with at higher levels if I ever go there.


------------------------

I'm thinking that the original settlers worked closely with the mage. Maybe set up a counsel to make decisions for their people. Each counsellor represents a city/province from the outside world or is based on the races that were saved. I'm leaning towards the former. Over time, these became 'Noble Houses'. They became very influential. At some point, people wanted to leave. The Noble Houses didn't want to risk losing their power and prevented the others from leaving. They influenced the wizard. There was a rebellion and it was quashed. Since then, the heads of the Noble houses or the council are the 'Mouths and Ears to the God-King'. They changed history which is why there is no records to prevent future rebellion which is why there is no memory of what actually happened. Even if the people are safe to leave the domain, the ruling class won't allow it. The mage never wanted to become a god but the ruling class use him as such to maintain their influence and power.

I like the idea of the Mage Dying. That's why the world is cracking. I'm thinking of statting the Mage as an Elder Brain. There's nothing left of his body. Essentially, the Mage no longer makes decisions for the world. He's just a brain that keeps it working and the council manipulates it. But, maybe, there is something left of the mage's personality. Maybe the PCs convincing the remnants of the mage to release the people is one of the ways to set the people free...

I like the idea of limiting spells to 3rd level (especially since they will be leaving the demesne by the time they are 5th. I'd probably also outlaw conjuration.


Still processing some other ideas from the posts...I'll included them in a separate post.
 
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First, this is really cool.

Second, I've had this... crazy metal idea in my head for years that you might be able to use.

The world is flat, a disk. The sun is actually a huge fiery glowing crystal on a staff. The staff is rotated around the world by an enormous lich. During the day, he is "invisible" because of the glair of the staff-sun. At night, his form is revealed, illuminated from below the disk by the staff-sun (which is hidden from the people living on top of the disk).

The priests of this "god" would be either death (or similar) domain, or light domain (the "sun").

Perhaps there is a hidden city under the disk, hanging from ropes/chains?
What is your crazy metal idea? Also, the world can look like anything...so this has potential, although, I probably wouldn't go with a lich....but, maybe the effigy of the 'all-seeing' God-King.
 

Clerics:

1. Ok, I'm fine to totally drop all pantheons that have named gods with portfolios. In fact, I think it might work better if I do. I think it would be interesting to say 'clerics get no spells' and, if a player chooses to play a cleric at low level, I can compensate them with a magic item and, by 3rd, when they gain access to spells, they'll be the ONLY cleric in the world - once they find a way to channel their power. Maybe they worship an old - illegal - god. Really depends what kind of idea a player would come up with if I tell them, "clerics can't cast spells"

2 . If I use the idea where certain factions are in charge of certain aspects of society: Trade, Protection, Crops. (maybe I need to think of about a half-dozen to a dozen 'spheres') Then people can become clerics of these attributes. The same way a paladin no longer needs a god to get powers in 5e, clerics derive their powers from these ideals or spheres.

Noble houses or cults of clerics could be in charge of these spheres of influence.

I'm not sure which is cooler. I'm tired of the typical gods (especially Forgotten Realms). I want to simplify worship.
 

There is some force that is slowly creating holes in the dimension and slowly eating it away. Think of The Nothing in Neverending Story. It is a threat that can start slowly and build giving the PCs a scale as they advance.

Who or what is behind it? Maybe a rival mage. Maybe a lost family member from the other side trying reunite. Bonus if you can have another group of players or the previous party the players are using find the link and be able to create a hole to get in.
I love this.... Allow me to add on?

The Wizard who created the pocket dimension isn't alive after the thousand years. He died -centuries- ago. He's still worshipped as a god-king, because he left a large number of programmed images that are displayed at different times of the "Year" (Permanency) to guide the people who are trapped. Leaving his wisdom behind. But like Plato's Cave, the illusions is all that the people who live have known, so it is the God-King.

The "Nothing" that is slowly eating the plane, and the people, is the magic that sustains it being slowly drained over a long time with slowly increasing speed as the magic that holds the demiplane in one piece is being taxed by the increasing population.

It's up to the heroes to find out why the God-King has forsaken the people, reveal the truths, deal with the social fallout, and find a way to escape to a world these people have never known against the explicit wishes of the God-King.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
What is your crazy metal idea? Also, the world can look like anything...so this has potential, although, I probably wouldn't go with a lich....but, maybe the effigy of the 'all-seeing' God-King.
the crazy idea was that the sun was propelled around the world as the gem at the tip of a staff, by an undead being thousands of km tall, floating in space. This being would be visible at night but not during the day (a bit like how the starts are hidden by the glare of the sun.
 

I like the idea that overpopulation is part of the problem. It was never designed to be permanent. It was designed as a 'bomb shelter'. A temporary place to weather the storm. As the population increases, the realm is forced to expand and the magic is being stretched thin.
 


Istbor

Dances with Gnolls
I guess I would look at it this way, especially in the context of this portion:

"I kind of like the idea of the group doing adventures in the 'world' but slowly finding out that things are not as they seem. That there are cracks on the edges. Then they find out there's 'another world' and, possibly, that their God-King isn't a god at all."

That the souls of those brought his are also unable to escape this demi-plane. That over those 1000 years perhaps spirits of the long dead portend this place as a sort of gilded prison. Or something I like even more, stories or experiences of people remember different past lives. Compounded for a 1000 years as souls trapped simply return to the "Great cycle", people start to fall into a madness as these multiple memories mix and merge. Slowly eating away at the society that has been stable.

Now... my views on what absolute power would do to a wizard like this out of consideration, you could run the God-King as having become aware of the issue but trying in vain to fix a problem beyond his grasp. That could lead to very mysterious quests through intermediaries or disguises as the magic user ropes the players into helping find some solution, or it could lead to some well intentioned, but failed (perhaps horrifically so) past attempts at 'freeing' the souls from this artificial demi-plane.

I personally like that the wizard could still technically be completely benevolent but shut away to fix a slow building new crisis of his own creation. I would definitely see some players trying to figure out who this 'client' is that has been paying them to perform odder and odder tasks that might be revealing more of the truth of the world they are in. Then suddenly finding out through their own investigations they are working for this God-King wizard.
 

DeviousQuail

Explorer
I guess I would look at it this way, especially in the context of this portion:

"I kind of like the idea of the group doing adventures in the 'world' but slowly finding out that things are not as they seem. That there are cracks on the edges. Then they find out there's 'another world' and, possibly, that their God-King isn't a god at all."

That the souls of those brought his are also unable to escape this demi-plane. That over those 1000 years perhaps spirits of the long dead portend this place as a sort of gilded prison. Or something I like even more, stories or experiences of people remember different past lives. Compounded for a 1000 years as souls trapped simply return to the "Great cycle", people start to fall into a madness as these multiple memories mix and merge. Slowly eating away at the society that has been stable.

Now... my views on what absolute power would do to a wizard like this out of consideration, you could run the God-King as having become aware of the issue but trying in vain to fix a problem beyond his grasp. That could lead to very mysterious quests through intermediaries or disguises as the magic user ropes the players into helping find some solution, or it could lead to some well intentioned, but failed (perhaps horrifically so) past attempts at 'freeing' the souls from this artificial demi-plane.

I personally like that the wizard could still technically be completely benevolent but shut away to fix a slow building new crisis of his own creation. I would definitely see some players trying to figure out who this 'client' is that has been paying them to perform odder and odder tasks that might be revealing more of the truth of the world they are in. Then suddenly finding out through their own investigations they are working for this God-King wizard.
The movie Aeon Flux does something similar if OP wants an easily digestible take on this idea.
 

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