Help me write an EPIC campaign!


Advice


Here's the thing: I have 2-3 months left at college and then no more gaming group.
I have promised them one last epic traditionally iconic and a little over the top, borderline cliche awesomeness sort of campaign.

None of the classics are taboo here, though I would like some creativity as well.

Here was our first session:

The PC's are all very young and inexperienced, but have been summoned to a secret meeting of the Winbourne Alliance (think Harpers from Forgotten Realms) where they were told that they were the chosen ones to stop the great evil that is emerging on the world, blah blah blah...

btw, they all have an item that allows them to grow in power quickly... meaning they will be hyper-leveling in order to play this thing in only a few months.

while prophecies have chosen them and says that they will be called when they would be needed most, they have not been informed of what exactly the evil is.

Tomorrow they are off to find the sage that is familiar enough with the ancient prophecies to tell them what they will be up against.

The Problem: I don't know what they should be up against!

I am thinking maybe a vampire force of evil anti-paladins... but what would there motive be? or random gates that spawn and unleash floods of devils and demons???

or perhaps a devil-worshiping vampire army that is setting up magic gates to spawn hoards of devils and demons...

my problem is motivation of the evil group. I need help just getting all of this thought out so that we can come up with a plan for our heroes.

How would you construct this?
Who would the BBEG be?
Locations?

Any help or advice is very much appreciated!

Shadow Lodge

For epic showdowns, especially if you're willing to entertain cliche, you can't go wrong with DRAGONS.

A fiendish dragon - not unlike the Devil-Dragon of Cormyr, since you appear to be familiar with FR - would make a suitable opponent, especially if s/he had access to sufficient hordes of undead and evil outsiders.


Great! ^

I will look into this immediately!

I like that idea a lot. Now I just have to figure out how to drop clues of the dragon and lead up to the encounter appropriately.

maybe have a network of minions that they have to get to first in order to learn of the BBEG. idrk.


If you want to go classic, the dragon needs to have kidnapped a princess somehow...

Shadow Lodge

KILLDROID wrote:

I like that idea a lot. Now I just have to figure out how to drop clues of the dragon and lead up to the encounter appropriately.

maybe have a network of minions that they have to get to first in order to learn of the BBEG. idrk.

Kidnapped princesses, sacrificial offerings from the populace, scorched/frozen/thunderstruck/melted countryside ruins, half-dragon minion children, and just plain weaseling the info out of the underlings are all good ways to hint at or outright tell the players who they're up against.

Even better, make the dragon a legendary figure, known and feared by all, in the setting. In the low levels have your players hear legends of it, learn how fearsome it is, know how many foes have faced it and failed against its might. Then let them sometime later learn that YES, it's HIM/HER you're up against.


Very good stuff, thank you!

A kidnapped princess is a must.

My question now is:
What do i do until then? How do I stretch this into 8 or so sessions?

I mean, they surely can't face the dragon now and probably shouldn't even know it exists.

Does the Dragon need to be doing something and interacting with the world in a way that the PC's can thwart plans and save people from the evil, while still trying to connect all of the clues to learn of the dragon?

What would that be?

I guess what I am asking is; now that we have the conclusion... what is the exposition? what should be happening until then?

Silver Crusade

A temple of monks, multiclassed...
monk/paladin
monk/cleric
monk/sorceror


Orthos is absolutely right that it needs to end with a dragon because it's the game of Dungeons and [ERROR: NO CARRIER]

Um, anyway, yeah. But Dragons never want their talons in every little thing, that's what minions, slaves, and idiotic easily-manipulated other villains are for.

A lot of Epic Campaigns include The Man Behind The Man, sometimes more than once, so the greater plot is the Dragon planning on using incredibly powerful artifacts placed at leylines or some such to work a magic ritual that will reshape the entire world, kill all dragons but its own race, and possibly make it a god. The lesser plots are often mostly unrelated because The Dragon is employing shadow-games.

Another easy common trope? Mr. Sage is actually the dragon in disguise and half the quests the party goes on involve stealing or destroying artifacts that it needs to use for the ritual or out of the way to make the ritual possible.

Off the top of my head;

Demon-cultists of The Devourer were rewarded for their dark sacrifices with the Soul Forge vomited up by the demon-lord himself. The Soul Forge consumes living, sapient beings, and uses them as fuel to generate magical energy which can be used to empower enchanted items or, (if she's standing right on top of it) a spellcaster.

A particularly ambitious Drow Vampire has spurned the church of Lolth and is raising an army (also vampiric), she also has an ace up her sleeve in the form of a project being constructed by enslaved Illithid (they can't mind-control undead) that will cover the entire nation in darkness and hide them from the eyes of the gods. The Illithid already hate the sun, so it's not that many skips and jumps to a process that works but at a price they can't afford, like massive psychic aftershocks that kill them and their elder brains.

The golden tusk of a particularly powerful champion of Gruumsh has been unearthed and inserted by a young warchief, his prowess and his legend grow daily, if allowed to continue he shall unite the tribes and bring the green tide down upon the civilized nations. Just killing him won't suffice either, the tusk has to be taken and disposed of properly.

A Zelekhut and its Arbiter sidekick are hunting and murdering reformed servants of an evil organization that was toppled a while back. Spoiler Alert: they're also spies who could alert a Varakhut when the dragon makes his move.

Were-critter plague started by high-level demon who took care of scut-work for the Dragon and already retrieved an artifact of Bahamut.


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KILLDROID wrote:


The PC's are all very young and inexperienced, but have been summoned to a secret meeting of the Winbourne Alliance (think Harpers from Forgotten Realms) where they were told that they were the chosen ones to stop the great evil that is emerging on the world, blah blah blah...

btw, they all have an item that allows them to grow in power quickly... meaning they will be hyper-leveling in order to play this thing in only a few months.

while prophecies have chosen them and says that they will be called when they would be needed most, they have not been informed of what exactly the evil is.

Tomorrow they are off to find the sage that is familiar enough with the ancient prophecies to tell them what they will be up against.

The Problem: I don't know what they should be up against!
...

Any help or advice is very much appreciated!

I always love to screw with my players' heads. I'd like to make the following suggestion:

Quote:
prophecies have chosen them

Make this a lie. Yes, they were gathered together and told that they were needed to save the world, but they were lied to. In reality, the prophecies have marked them as a threat or harbingers of something terrible. The Alliance didn't round them up to turn them into heroes, the Alliance gathered them to keep an eye on them and try to avoid the future (being good guys the Alliance didn't assassinate them upon identifying them). All the "missions of prophecy" aren't the result of oracular or prophetic vision, the missions are chosen by the Alliance as a way to get the party to solve problems that need solving, buy time, and hopefully get them killed off in the process by sending them to defeat extremely dangerous foes. From the Alliance's point of view if the party dies, then problem solved, and the bad guys did it. If the party survives, well, at least they made the world a better place by eliminating something evil.

Furthermore, the artifact doesn't allow them to level quickly - it's something else tied into the prophecy (maybe a key or a weapon) - they level quickly because of the nascent power that is quickly growing within them.

They should get the occasional clue that they're being lied to (like never getting to see the prophetic writings or meet the seer while every other fortuneteller they meet goes crazy at the sight of them) but it shouldn't be revealed until about halfway through the campaign - maybe 2/3rds of the way. About that time, the Alliance would decide that the characters are too dangerous to live and turn on them and try to kill them outright (by which time it should be too late for the Alliance to succeed).

I think that the prophecy would be one of a world-destroying (or close to it) apocalypse. The secret truth behind everything is that a Greater Power (or the universe, or it just happened) caused the characters to be born divine. Their destiny is to become gods - it's inescapable. after a certain point, they might not be able to die. Their ultimate enemies? The current pantheon. The inevitable war between the current gods and the characters will devastate the world. The characters are growing in power so fast that the gods will eventually strike first (but again, too late) and the characters will have no choice but to fight back if they want to survive. I suppose at the last session or two the characters could willingly sacrifice themselves for peace, but I'd expect that the current gods would have disgraced themselves in fear for their power and prestige and the characters probably wouldn't want to lie down and die for them anymore (even if they would have at the beginning).

This way you can justify the Alliance throwing them at every enemy in the book at lower levels (cults, undead, monsters, and even the occasional political enemy) and they can face demons, devils, dragons, and angels at the higher levels as the current rulers of the universe take note of a new threat. Everything in the Bestiaries should be on the table.

The ultimate outcome should be up to you - do the characters become new gods or fall to the old ones? But the characters should see the world grind to an inevitable and massive war for everything at the end. And while it's not their fault, they are the cause. What will they do to save the world - because it's their responsibility now.


Just a thought, but the first thing I think of when I think of 'truly epic' is some kind of incomprhensibly large and indescribably frightening lovecraftian elder god....

Then again, I would want to take it some sort of terrible dark way at the ending like 'congratulaions you managed to defeat this incredibly terrible godlike being... uh oh, it looks like he was the only thing holding back a much larger and much much worse being from beyond. Looks like he's about to.. yup he just ate the whole planet. Everyone is dead. The end."

lol...

just my 2c.


If you want something to remember, make one of the secondary villains an order of paladins. Have the players being manipulated to do something evil that needs non-evil to actually get it done. Have the paladins engage them and be the kill the non-innocents first, ask questions later variety.

I will always remember being almost TPKed by a relatively higher level group of paladins!


Classic...... try a zombie apocalypse in the making. Have on the early to mid level BBEG be undead Justin Bieber. I'm sure your players will thank you for allowing them to obliterate such a foul fiend.


Wow... I GM not because I like it, but because I would rather run a game than play in one with a worse GM than myself...

That being said, I realize now that I am a complete amateur (creatively) compared to all of you! You are all sickly creative and I like it.

I have a question about Mad Jackson's comment:
What levels are we speaking of to be able to contend with gods? and do we even have rules and lore for me to be able to run that effectively or would it be up to me to just make it up?

Keep em coming everyone! you are fueling a truly nasty (EPIC) campaign!


KILLDROID wrote:

I have a question about Mad Jackson's comment:

What levels are we speaking of to be able to contend with gods? and do we even have rules and lore for me to be able to run that effectively or would it be up to me to just make it up?

Gods are CR 40+. For example, Orcus is the demon prince of necromancy and undeath and borderS on god-level. He is classified at CR 35. At that level, though, CR is fairly meaningless.

I like the idea for defeating an uber-dragon more than taking on established gods, but that's just personal preference.


KILLDROID wrote:

Wow... I GM not because I like it, but because I would rather run a game than play in one with a worse GM than myself...

That being said, I realize now that I am a complete amateur (creatively) compared to all of you! You are all sickly creative and I like it.

I have a question about Mad Jackson's comment:
What levels are we speaking of to be able to contend with gods? and do we even have rules and lore for me to be able to run that effectively or would it be up to me to just make it up?

Keep em coming everyone! you are fueling a truly nasty (EPIC) campaign!

I love running epic high-power campaigns where the world gets reshaped.

To answer your question - I'd have them face off against the gods at the final session - have the characters at level 20 or 21. Since there's no epic handbook you'll have to tweak the encounter to fit or just make up some equivalent stats for the gods. At this point the characters should be a little outside the rules since it's a final fight and they're on the cusp of actual divinity.

It would help if maybe one of gods believes that the characters are better suited for ruling and has betrayed the current gods and made them mortal again or that's what the artifact does (maybe it has been suppressing the character's divinity the whole time and they use it to turn the tables on the gods in the end) or both. That would probably be best - as the characters powered up, the current pantheon was stripped of their divinity for the final battle and they'll fight the characters at "equal" terms for final fight. This way you can just make the gods as lvl 20 or 21 NPC's and not worry about having to track down or create epic stats. Or make them all monsters. The king of the gods is an ancient red dragon, the queen is a banshee, the wargod is a tarrasque, etc ... could be an interesting final battle.

Another way of handling it is to end the game at the beginning of the fight and then describe the chaos and destruction from a third-person view from an NPC that they left behind: "The fight begins and you and the remaining gods charge into battle. Back in Turnvale, Yorick, the old blacksmith who you befriended, looks to the sky and sees the sun turn black and the stars waver. The earth shakes and trembles, and in the distance he sees volcanoes erupt out of nowhere. He knows in his bones, as does every other living being, about the war raging beyond the sky and wonders if anyone will survive."


A great twist in the end-game always makes a story or campaign pop...

I came up with this off the top of my head:

Motivate them by proclaiming that the special magic items that pump their xp -- are special relics that need to be empowered with certain rarified forms of energy or they slowly wind down and/or cease to function -- keeping the item that cranks your XP awards up should be an INSANELY powerful motivator for the players... scare them or keep them on their toes by having the energies wane on the items rarely, from time to time, or at isolated intervals... so they fear it happening, but it's just a carrot to keep them running.

The BBEG is some horrible evil from between worlds -- a mysterious religion had long foretold a series of events preceding the coming of horrible extra-planar baddie... but they were extremely secretive and all vanished some time ago (how long ago is up to you if you decide to adopt the idea after I've fully expressed it)

But basically the hook is this : the folks who gave the party those magical items that pump their XP are secretly (or mistakenly/deluded) THE BAD GUYS. The relics they have (you didn't describe them) are all the broken parts (whether they look like this to the players until the time is right isn't of particular importance) of a supremely unholy symbol that when fully sated of drinking soul energy (the rarified energy it is magnifying that is pumping the XP) it will actually enable the BBEG to open the gate and summon the horrible outer god (or maybe it's Rovagug the sleeping evil god or whatever unimaginable horror the BBEG is ultimately trying to bring forth)

Agents of the BBEG (or the evil/misguided folks who gave the party the relics) send the party on all sorts of missions to obscure places all over the Golarion (a stormy island in that giant hurricane on the west coast, A city-sized catacomb beneath geb, The Varisian Jungles, A ruined dwarven sky fortress, a remote Orv in the darklands... this is supposed to be an epic campaign so send them to all the areas they'd ever wish to go... to find these special places of the (Make sure it is not specified to them until the very end) repositories of the rarified energy for the relics...

...At each of these sites (Osirion Pyramid ruins, a pocket dimension at the lip of the world-wound, a haunted cathedral in the undead blight of Ustalav,etc etc etc the ideas are endless) basically at a hidden area in each of these places is a great pearlescent orb-like magical device that is tethered into the walls of it's sanctum with HUNDREDS of spindly silver cords.... cutting the cords drains the power from the device and strangely gives them great bumps in experience (it will keep them on schedule for level progression and they'll be CRAZY to get to all of them) .... the secret is -- Remember those weird religious guys I mentioned that opposed the evil world-ending thing that all disappeared at some point? Those silver cords are the silver cords that they while bound to that device, really serve the same purpose as "Silver cords" planes walkers use to travel the ethereal plane... they are getting all that XP because when they sever those cords -- those priests and cultists in the other dimension (who's master plan was to hide all of these devices in secret places nobody would ever find all of them, and in perpetuity forever perform a ritual that would keep the mega-evil imprisoned, no matter what the BBEG did to free his master.

So here they are, racing to destroy the devices all the while the BBEG (who may be searching for and breaking these items himself -- have the party believe that when the BBEG does it He gets the power stored in it for his purposes and they for theirs so they race/compete somewhat -- but no matter who wrecks the devices (and kills the goodly planes walkers in doing so) ... it's always bad and the BBEG is always ever closer to opening his portal (because they're helping!)... leading to a final confrontation.

When all the devices are finally wrecked (at a point where the players AND the BBEG and his best cronies in the same place, perhaps racing for what each side thinks is the pivotal tie-breaker energy source), The portal opens and the players sucked into a horrible place with the horrible god-monster hovering above or lurking below or is all around or whatever -- they are told by the horrible voice beyond the portal everything that was really going on... the items the BBEG and his cronies had, and the items the party had -- are each fragments of the only true altar to this horrible entity on golarion -- and EVERYTHING each of them killed during the campaign was basically a sacrifice to him... the soul energy was siphoned through the items and wittingly or unwittingly became an offering. This horrible place has circles and piles of splayed corpses of the priests that were slain holding him here as well -- their silver cords familiarly cut and flapping around in the extra-dimensional wind.... their souls were the sweetest and best offerings. The BBEG (cliche' I know) asks for his reward and his soul is flayed from his dead bones shrieking in the first birth throws of the now weak and newly reborn god-thing...

.... You could change up the end-game in that the BBEG must still be fought, or you both team up against the god in the end when it is seen how grotesque it is, or when it reveals it intends to eat all of you before breaking into Golarion and eating the whole world (the prophesies says the God would need a herald, but the newly reborn evil god says this is a lie, everyone will be eaten as a first meal to strengthen his form for its invasion of the prime material plane.

Now it could become even cooler (or this is just a different hook/element if you might pick and choose) -- in that the players must decide to destroy their magical items as part of the ritual to slay the newly born god before it gathers strength (it begins drinking all the soul energy and when it's done it will be invincible and eat the world)... and DIG THIS: Take notes of every (or most) of the monsters they (And the BBEG and his cronies with their soul-eating items) and when the altar/artifacts are broken -- a who's who list of all the monsters and bad guys the party and the bad guys killed pour into this pocket dimension for a battle royale!

So you've got all the lesser bad guys and mini-bosses the players loved and hated the most, and all the enemy mooks the players killed and red-shirt folks who were friendly that the bad guys killed (special allies and contacts, town guards killed by attacks from the BBEG, you know, EVERYBODY interesting in the campaign... you've taken notes and you weave for them a picture of an insane battle where pretty much everything interesting in the campaign is there -- they don't have to FIGHT everything, just describe while they are fighting the best/most interesting encounters nearby skirmishes with callbacks to foes and friends they've had -- as well as the priests the party accidentally killed by cutting the silver cords -- you get the idea.

The fight can end by the party killing the terrible godling before it grows too much in power (so it could be a race to cut a swath through the battle royale to beat him before he gets too big) or failing that to fight from combat to combat saving enough of the priests to re-assert the ritual that will return stability to the godling's prison. You remember that video "The ultimate showdown of ultimate destiny"? If not -- youtube it. But you probably have, and that's the idea.

I know the idea is pretty crude, but with a little spit and polish could be useful. You've probably already started the campaign, but maybe aspects of this idea can flavor it if you are still taking suggestions. Hope it helped.

-V


Yeah... like others in the thread I'm against established gods... but in my scenario the "godling" is really more of an environmental hazard than a true god-monster. You could give it stats for various stages -- but You could just as easily make it amorphous or ambiguous and after a certain # of damage against it, it would be defeated.... or as I said, big battle with the most notable monsters and baddies (some of which might never otherwise be in the same spot justifiably)... could be cool.


I just wanted to contribute some more general notes that help make a campaign feel more epic.

First, spacing. The best way to make a campaign feel truly epic is to have zero downtime or have downtime happen very quickly in game time. Let me explain. Whenever our heroes solve a problem or even fail to solve a problem, a new dilemma needs to come up immediately. For example, heroes finish a dungeon crawl and beat the boss of the crawl. While searching the chamber, a priest of the order who sent them in the dungeon runs in panting to explain the town they just left a days ride away is under siege. They have to rush back to save the town. Sneak resting in there with something like a boat ride to sneak past the siege and into the town. Most importantly, the action shouldn't stop. Another example, the heroes have rushed back to the sieged city with a case full of magic scrolls powerful enough to turn the siege around. As they present them to the prince he holds an impromptu feast in their honor. As the heroes party up, a group of harpies and gargoyles bust in the action wreaking havoc and stealing the princess. The prince tells the heroes he has wizards who can use those scrolls, but they need to save his daughter! Try to end sessions on these cliffhanger moments so players want to jump right back into the action when a new session begins. You'll need a bit of improv skills to simply keep bringing up new emergencies, but as the campaign wears on, the players should also get a feeling that the world is literally falling apart.

Second, towards the end of the middle of the campaign, you should transition a little from these quick crises to a mystery session or two where the players have to figure out what is the REAL EVIL. This should also be a moment where the NPCs stop harassing them with their problems and start looking them for guidance. Someone should give them the line, "Well, you've been dealing with all of this stuff, so tell us what is going on?" This can be a strange session, but it finally puts the players on that pedestal where they are really in charge. It will really make them feel high level and important. This really pushes the last few sessions where they should really be in charge. They should know who the BBEG is, and they should lead the assault. What is important is that they do in fact lead, and are not just thrown in the front. Being the generals is a memorable moment in any campaign.

I think your enthusiasm will take you far, and I hope you have alot of fun.


If you're looking for multiple sessions, you could easily have the PCs have to assemble clues or items to defeat the BBEG.

If you go with the dragon idea, they might need to find an ancient scroll that reveals his true name, a suit of armor that makes the wearer fireproof, a dragonbane holy longspear, etc.

Of course, you should have minions and servants to make all of this difficult.

Check out the (old) Dragon Mountain for an example of how this could be done.

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