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D&D 3E
29th-Jul-2007 10:35 pm
Since I'd hate for gernbroken to feel lonesome, I'll post a brainstorming question I've been meaning to ask for a while:

So I recently restarted one of my campaigns online. As background action for the world, I've decided that Good [ie celestials] and Evil [ie. fiends--I'm ignoring the distinction between demons and devils] are going to try and take their eternal war to the mortal realm. They've begun granting powers to people, creating clerics for the first time [there were no clerics in the previous incarnation of this game]. The clerics and associated followers for each side are trying to complete a TASK, and the race is on to see if Good of Evil will complete the TASK first. Meanwhile, the rulers of the mortal realm, the Dragons, are trying their darndest to stop either side from succeeding.The PCs may or may not have any direct involvement in the TASK, but it will definately be going on in the background.

But the question is: what is the TASK?

I know there are a couple of standards: namely the Summoning [the Bad Guys are trying to summon a demon god, or the Bad Guys are trying to open a portal to hell so the forces of evil can come flooding in] and the Artifact [the Bad Guys are trying to find/build/reconstruct/operate a powerful weapon which will allow them to take over the world]. But as these are kind of cliche, I'm wondering about having the TASK be something else. Of course, I could always go with a cliche and then hope to put a new spin on it.

I like the idea that Good and Evil are trying to do the same thing, so they might inadvertantly help the other side or hinder their own side by their actions--it seems like that would allow for some fun situations (I almost imagine an Evil cleric and a Good cleric stumbling up the steps to some major site, yanking on each others legs like in a cheap comedy). It also might add just enough twist to make the cliche not such a groaner. And with the dragons as a third side (and the PCs don't really like the dragons), I'm hoping that something good can come of this.

So what other cliche TASKs are there, and which is your favorite? I mean, what are the other "end of the world"-type plans that the Good Guys always seem have to foil? Do you have any ideas for new TASKs? In the end, what should the clerics in my world be trying to accomplish?
30th-Jul-2007 05:49 am (UTC)
Just figured I'd post a quick idea that popped into my head. Not sure how feasible it'd be in a campaign but you could steal a page from the Nightwatch books and have a young NPC that's destined to be the baddest mofo ever to walk the earth but he's yet to choose a side. The powers that be are trying to recruit/stop the other side from recruiting/neutralize said NPC.

30th-Jul-2007 02:21 pm (UTC)
That's definitely a thought. I'm running the game online, so NPC interaction is very much a good thing. Thanks for the suggestion :)
30th-Jul-2007 04:09 pm (UTC)
Glad to help. I'm definitely interested to hear how the campaign works out.
31st-Jul-2007 09:33 pm (UTC)
Along those lines, he's not just the baddest mofo... he's going to be the next and most powerful diety....

Or my idea before was that Good and Evil are trying to create the first Gods, and so whichever succeeds first will have the upper hand.

30th-Jul-2007 11:23 am (UTC)
Perhaps taking steps to neutralize or control the dragons, since those seem to be the only other major power base in the world?

There's also the standard 'take over the world traditionally'.

I do like that the Forces of Good are being just as proactive as the Forces of Evil -- in the 'standards' you mention, Good seems horribly reactive.
30th-Jul-2007 11:33 am (UTC)
Something I've seen in several campaign histories as a pivotal point in the history of the world is whether or not extraplanar beings, particulary celestials or fiends, have free access to the Prime Material via their Teleport without Error ability, and great wars were fought to either gain or deny this ability. If your campaign starts with fiends and archons being able to pop directly into the campaign city, the dragons would be working fairly hard to stop that ability, a ritual which would take a great deal of time, effort and resources to set up (easily an Epic-level occurrence, since it will deny access to nigh-Godlike beings), and they don't care much about the great war (actually, that's a subplot: good, neutral, and evil dragons could have entirely different motives--perhaps the Neutral dragons want the war to take place on that sparsely-populated continent Over There).

On the other hand, if demons & devils are currently denied access, they would be working to either get that access for the first time, or cancel out whatever great work was done to deny it in the first place.
30th-Jul-2007 02:32 pm (UTC)
I don't really have good and evil dragons--since psionics are the primary form of magic in this game, the dragons are psionic gem dragons (which has the added bonus of getting rid of the color coding). I figure dragons are mostly neutral, though some are good and some are evil just like normal people. Also, for most of the past few centuries the dragons have been pretty much uninvolved, letting their draconian-type minions do the actual work of controlling the world. But the clerics are a large enough threat that the dragons themselves are starting to get involved, which is scary.

But I'm thinking the extraplanar Teleport either doesn't exist, or at the very least doesn't work on the material plane. Or at least not for a very long time--maybe the demons [as a catch-all] can only stay there for a few rounds (or minutes for the real powerful) and then they go back to their native plane. Otherwise, why haven't demons really done anything on the Prime in the past (I haven't written in anything like that)?

Considering it, maybe I'll just have Teleport not be able to cross planes--so once the demons get to the Prime they can zip around all they want, but getting onto the prime is the tricky part.

But the question is, why would the demons want access to the Prime? Maybe their powers are greater there? Maybe (as jwmfleming suggested) there is some NPC/force on the prime that they can use? Or maybe the prime is just another small area they are hoping to conquer--like a 1pt territory in Risk. That could be kind of humbling :p
30th-Jul-2007 02:51 pm (UTC)
Oh, whoops... I may have misread the OP. I thought you meant that celestials & fiends were going to be coming to the Prime Material to duke it out, but upon re-reading, it looks like they're just going to be granting powers to natives of the PM to duke it out for them. That's very different.

Why would the dragons get involved? My guess is that, in a world without magic, psionic dragons are going to be top dawg. Suddenly clerics start waving their hands and hollering and causing all sorts of stuff to happen? No good. Quit that.

Why are the celestials and fiends doing it? Sucks to have to wait 100 years to be reborn, once you've been killed. Let somebody else get killed.
30th-Jul-2007 03:41 pm (UTC)
Hmm, interesting idea. Like they've come to some kind of agreement where they'll allow the mortals to fight it out to decide who wins (at least for this century)? It's a thought.
30th-Jul-2007 11:53 am (UTC)
thanks man. and its gernboken, only one "R". anyway, i've been doing a lot of reading lately about the monomyth. so what i have to add is, there's nothing wrong with a decent cliche. i mean, they're cliches for a reason. even still there's no reason to ham hand it along and shove it down the player's throats.

as for the task... maybe the dragons have offered a reward to whatever human can do X. or maybe they have to wake up an ancient sleeping dragon... or dragons. maybe there's a pair of ancient god/dragons who are sleeping and each side is racing to wake one of them up. the two dragons are in the same place and you have to do the same thing (or need the same artifact) to wake them up, all it comes down to in the end is which of the dragons you choose to wake. the fun thing to do would be to make there be only one sleeping dragon when they get there. or to make either dragon be really pissed when they wake up.

i mean, the legend says this is how the dragons wake up, and the legend says one of the dragons serves good and one evil, but the legend never said the dragon would WANT to wake up, or what it would do after it was awake...
30th-Jul-2007 11:56 am (UTC)
ooh! hah! what if the good dragon and the evil dragon are mates! you know, like a republican married to a democrat! HAH! that way no matter what happens in the end, whoever wins is pretty screwed! the dragon they wake up just wakes up the other one, and then they start... i dunno... arguing about foreign policy or something...

they idea may need some work.
30th-Jul-2007 02:39 pm (UTC)
Oh, sorry about that. I guess in my head I always read it with two R's. Arrrr....

And maybe I wasn't clear: the human/demihuman clerics are the ones with a TASK, the dragons are trying to stop that. The dragons want to maintain the status quo, to keep things as they currently are. The clerics want to change that through the TASK (which should probably allow the extraplanars to take over, or at least to muck things up).

But the idea of having the dragons try to awaken their own champion could be interesting (and helpful for breaking a set power level of the common dragon).
30th-Jul-2007 01:24 pm (UTC)
There are six ancient objects (elemental? Magic spears?). When these objects are brought together and placed into an ancient ring (at the center of an active volcano on a small stone platform surrounded by golems). When this is done the "spear of light" appears and allows[insert desired result]. Of course all of these spears are lost.

For more interesting effect, if the pc's do get this thing first, make it be like a nuclear weapon or something, so there is a great flash of light, then....a box appears... which doesn't seem to do much.
30th-Jul-2007 03:52 pm (UTC)
Damn, bulp, that sounds cool. I'm going to have to agree with gern, though, in that cliches are there for a reason (they work, say Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung), but yeah, you could do any number of things within any number of cliches. There's so much flexibility.

So, celestials and fiends can manifest, shortly, but are mostly working through mortal agents? Sounds like some folks are tired of fighting their own war--or maybe they can't? Ok, so maybe the outer planes don't include means of travel between one another, and the only way they can fight it out is on our plane. Celestials, of course, would want to spare mortal lives and fight it out themselves (or maybe not, you never know), while the fiends would likely be all about the carnage and mayhem. What if one side seeks a way to travel between planes and bring the war to the home front? Could turn into a crazy plane-hopping campaign of negotiation and weird planar rituals.

But what about gods? Are there any? It sounds better without, honestly.

A good starter question would be why are they fighting on this plane in the first place. They can only manifest on this plane shortly? Well, maybe somewhere there's an artifact that lets them become natural denizens of this plane--a sort of super gate, if you will. Maybe there's a mortal who holds the key to the entire war. Or maybe it's all about petitioners; after all, fiend on celestial fighting claims a lot of casualties, and maybe they're both low on troops. In that event, what if there's only a handful of each left, battled to a stalemate, and the whole war could end with intercession one way or the other by some powerful mortals? Or, if there are no gods, what if there's one or more mortals on the material with a divine spark? Little godlings would be reason enough for the might of heaven and hell to come out, hoping to win them for their side.

You totally left out the other cliche: the Prophecy. What if all it takes to bring the multiversal balance over one way or the other is a prophecy about a mortal (or army of mortals, or what have you) going to some lost tower and establishing a weird cult nation? Dragons could be keeping the place secret, gaurding it, or even pay the PCs to fight off wave after wave of zealous believers. Or, going the other way, the PCs could be in one of those waves.

Another big question is possession/channeling. If these extraplanar beings can't manifest but for short periods, can they possess people, fighting it out on the material plane in borrowed bodies? What if that's the whole plan? The clerics could be running a body snatchers type of scenario, gaining new shells for their masters to inhabit. How's that for creepy as all hell?

Sounds like it'll be an awesome game, dude. Post later for how it works out?
30th-Jul-2007 04:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the support :) I just hope the medium (play-by-post with busy people) doesn't make the game fall apart :p But I'll definitely let you guys know how it works out !

First there are no gods--mortals still have religion, but those religions can mostly be seen as manifestations of the normal Good/Evil dichotomy: Heaven vs. Hell. Since the only divine casters are channeling the power of these extraplanar beings, they effectively ARE the gods.

I actually really like the possession idea--it really gives it that kind of "creepy cult" feeling that I'm hoping these new religious groups will have (and by new, I mean these are religions that have sprouted up within the past 10 years). Combine that with the extra-planar Prophecy about the God-slayer character... hmm...

I'll think about it at work today and then maybe post what I decide on tonight. Thanks for the input!! :)

30th-Jul-2007 05:00 pm (UTC)
I like the idea of the dragons being crucial. Some force involved in all of this is neutral. If either side can win over the neutral guys (slaadi/gith/fey), they've got the power to take and hold that chunk of the world. Then that becomes what can you give the fey that they don't have now?
31st-Jul-2007 01:25 am (UTC)
When I read your post, the first idea that popped into my head was one very similar to jwmfleming, however there is one distinction I would add. No one knows who it is. There's maybe some kind of enigmatic prophecy that points at a few different possibilities. The first half of the campaign would keep the players busy searching for the right one before he/she falls into the wrong hands. Then the second half could be occupied with protecting the chosen one and finding ancient artifacts to drive back the encroaching hoardes. Just a thought.

Also, I wonder if it would be more effective if you dispensed with celestials and fiends as incarnations of good and evil. If the celestials are truly good, you'd probably rather help them, right? Instead, while the fiends definately have havoc and tyranny in mind, maybe the celestials have plans for changing their world to their own concept of what's ideal. Maybe that concept really wouldn't be that great for the world. It would be a friendly tyranny as well, but still a tyranny. Or maybe that's what you have in mind already.

Second idea:
Outsiders can't enter the world, period. Except maybe Summonings, which are only temporary. The only connection to this world from the planes is like a thin strand that allows communication, but nothing more. Summonings work because their more like a reverse astral projection rather than bringing outsiders in bodily. A powerful artifact exists or can be assembled that allows that connection to be closed, kept the same, or expanded wide enough to let an army through, and also what planes are connected.
31st-Jul-2007 02:40 am (UTC)
Yeah, I think the first step would be the quest to find this "chosen one," and then to determine what to DO with him. Which is all kinds of nice quest material: the PCs have to go find the mystic sage, then try and find the man only to discover that he's gone somewhere else, then to go there...

As for the incarnations of good and evil... I was thinking that would be pretty vague. Pretty much the world has turned these powers into their definition of Good and Evil, but likely that was by chance--perhaps the Celestials have had "control" over the world for the past few millennium, and now the Fiends are going to try and take over.

I figure that the "good" Outsiders are generally nicer, but that doesn't mean they are perfect incarnations of all that is good. They can still disagree, and still do things that seem to be evil (with the intention of working for the Greater Good, perhaps). The game won't really have "servants of Good," it has "servants of Heaven"--heaven just happens to be the other side.

As for which is more attractive... well the PCs are pretty much evil (though the players of course have good motives), so I think both sides would be attractive in different ways if it came down to that.
31st-Jul-2007 03:52 am (UTC)
Remember that a lot can be done in the name of the "greater good". Look at Jack Bauer... does he serve the greater good? He certainly goes to great lengths to do it. Torture, blackmail, even possession can all be seen as tools to the greater good. Perhaps they would care more about collateral damage.

What about taking the statistics for angels, but changing their philosophical standpoint to be like devils... They are lawful, but not necessarily good. Or somewhere in between, like they are embodiments of lawful neutral.
31st-Jul-2007 05:02 am (UTC)
Something like that. I tend to ignore Alignment a lot anyway, as long as characters (player or otherwise) are consistent.
31st-Jul-2007 05:12 am (UTC) - Awaken the Deities...
I was in a campaign once, where we had to stop the Deities from awakening... It was awesome...

Here's a simple overeview- all the Deities are slumbering, forgotten by the races except for maybe a handful of sages, yadda yadda yadda... PC's find out about these "ancient beings of untold power" and must find a way to awaken them from their eternal yadda yadda yadda...
An interesting twist might be the availability for the PC's to wield said untold power, through an artifact, possession, etc... Before we could confront the awakening deities in the game I played, we all had to die, to cross-over... Lots of fun adding the ghost template to all your PC's for a section of the game... Ahh, memories...
1st-Aug-2007 12:16 am (UTC)
I have a question that may lead to some fun ideas ...

Where do little baby Fiends and Celestials come from?

One answer is that the living, when they die, move on to their appropriate planes and some of them are "promoted" to Fiend/Celestial status, but that's never seemed quite right to me.

Maybe the clerics are producing more Celestials/Fiends via a breeding program, or a ritual of some kind, or they'll find a MacGuffin that, when you immerse it in spring water on the third full moon of the Year of the Cosmic Alignment (which is next Tuesday, natch), sends out a big transforming ray of making-everyone-the-same-alignment-as-me, so when they die my army swells...

Summoning something big is clichéd, you're right, so invert it: don't summon something, export an army of newly-minted Angels and Demons.
1st-Aug-2007 12:27 am (UTC)
Good question and idea... I'll have to think about that.
20th-Aug-2007 01:16 pm (UTC)
Hi there, I just started reading this board today and, looking back, saw this post. I'd like to start by saying it sounds like a fantastic premise, and reading your discussion with other members has only made it sound better.

If both good and evil are trying to influence the mortal plane, mightn't there be some way they could apply the good- or evil-aligned planar traits to the plane? Give themselves and their side a home-court advantage? The long-term goal might even be to claim the material plane as a staging ground for strikes into the other side.

To that end, there might be far-flung beacons, magical landmarks, or the like which need to be found, attuned to whoever has claimed them, and then held. That has the potential to keep going forever, as simply claiming one of those sites won't be enough, and while the PCs are out claiming site number three, an evil army just might take back number one.

If the neutral dragons are currently running the show, it's in their interest to see that nobody wins; if angels or demons suddenly find the plane more hospitable, the dragons may no longer be the top of the food chain. Some might do this by trying to claim and guard some of the sites against both sides, while others might be constantly stirring the pot, giving one side just the edge it needs in information or aid to reclaim a site and keep the other side from getting them all.

For that matter, the plane itself might be the bone of contention; whichever side wins gets whole plane added to their side of the cosmology, while a new material plane grows up in the middle; seeing which side has more real estate, and how much, might be a sign of just how long this has been the game between good and evil, and who has the better record for winning.

Just a couple thoughts. Whatever you go with, best wishes.
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