A Villain and his Artifact

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Hey everyone. I'm in the planning phase of a new campaign. The campaign I want to run will go from lvl 1 to 20, with the 3.5/pathfinder rules. The villain I have planned is a lawful evil lich, but where he differs from other liches is that he likes to use soul gem, by doing this he takes over the others body with his own. He has done this for many many years now. Now he is looking for an artifact called the black altar. Secret is the altar is just a cloth. Now I need the black altar to do something powerful. The lich wants it so he can use it for world domination.

So basicly I want to brainstorm. What are the liches many incarnations and why is he seeking the black altar?
Do you mean it's just a cloth as in it's just a mundane cloth? or will it have magical powers?

Also if this isn't your first campaign with these players how about saying that the lich was the force behind many major villains over the last few decades, one of which was one of the big bad guys in a previous adventure you guys have played. Even if they're using different characters it might excite or interest your players to realize that the 2 adventures are somehow linked.
The Altar Cloth itself is the artifact, i think its true powers should only be unlocked if its used as an actual altar in an unholy ritual in a church dedicated to a diety (a nice twist may be the diety must be good aligned when the evil cloth is draped over the altar, forever tainting it). The cloth alone is an evil magic item in its own right. I've ran a game before but this one is not linked to that one at all so it'll be  seperate in that regard. 

I do like how the lich is behind many of the major villains over the past few hundred years. I think he should run a secret organization whose goals are slowly coming into fruition! the last step is to retrieve the Black Altar. One they have the black altar (cue world shaking event mid campaign) they use it to do.... something! This is where i'm stuck, i want it to do something great! I have a few ideas, Maybe steal peoples souls, or perhaps mind control. How about it turns everyone into undead? I want it to do something significant, it is a major artifact afterall.

Here is a little bit of history on it. In its creation it was used as a burial shroud for a particularl evil villain. To destory it, it needs to be used as the burial shroud for a very good character, a paladin for example.

 
Well if your lich was a living magic user once upon a time, before he bound his soul to the soul gem then his living body would have been buried, so then the cloth could be his burial shroud.

And then, since the shroud is linked to him then we could say that if he manages to place the shroud over a diety's alter in it's main (biggest) temple, he will be able to possess that god. And that could be the target that the secret organization has been working towards.

Also if one of your players play a paladin of a cleric it might be a good idea to target their god. 
Well, it's an altar cloth that must be used in an evil ritual in a good temple...and it's an artifact level device...Why not make it hamper the deity whose temple was desecrated in some way? Maybe make all their clerics in some large radius have their powers reduced or even negated, and have the deity unable to intervene in that area as well for x amount of days or something. Powerful indeed, but hey, it's an artifact right?
I do like that idea w00f, Now with the lich dampening the powers of good aligned dieties in the area (along with assassinating certain nobles in the region), perhaps this will be the turning point of throwing the country into civil war. maybe then the evil aligned clerics go along and mass exterminate and raise undead. just an idea. i have a feeling most of this will change before the end.

So the Black Altar makes good aligned divine magic less powerful. Perhaps it raises every corpse in a certain radius as undead and puts them under the control of the bearer
I do like that idea w00f, Now with the lich dampening the powers of good aligned dieties in the area (along with assassinating certain nobles in the region), perhaps this will be the turning point of throwing the country into civil war. maybe then the evil aligned clerics go along and mass exterminate and raise undead. just an idea. i have a feeling most of this will change before the end.

So the Black Altar makes good aligned divine magic less powerful. Perhaps it raises every corpse in a certain radius as undead and puts them under the control of the bearer



Let's take this one step further. The cloth doesn't dampen divine power; it steals it. Your lich antagonist wants to grab divine power from as many good dieties as possible so that he can ascend to godhood himself.

I'd say that that is a suitably epic goal. 
Thats a great idea! 

I can picture it weakening divine magic for most of the campaign. by the time they face him at lvl 20 he may just be divine rank 0 or 1

I'm definately writing this into my notebook 
I love the idea of the Black Alter stealing divine power. And since every mortal has a spark of divine within their souls, every mortal who dies withing X feet of the Black Alter has their soul trapped within the essence of the Black Alter itself and the lich can channel that divine spark into himself slowly gaining divine rank.

The Lich himself could be a demilich (to add appropriate dangerousness to an epic level BBEG), however the demilich whenever he steals a body and inhabits it he is limited on the amount of magical power he has. Mostly because whenever he casts a spell it destroys the body he is in a little bit. Since he is channeling epic demilich magic through a flimsy, probably non-magic, corpse of a once living average person. Any spell higher than a cantrip makes the body deteriorate. The Demilich uses these bodies to futher his goals on many fronts mostly by leading his secret dark organization who's primary goal is to find the black alter.

Just some ideas I had good luck and happy DMing
Hello again, My plot has gone through a few revisions. I still like the idea of having the artifact for the villain but his goals i think have changed somewhat.

I took a page from Zeitgeist adventure path. The world is moving towards technology. Magitech, steam power. still mostly rennisance though most people of the world havent even seen this new technology before.  

In my previous campaign, which was in 4th edition I played it through the rise and flal of the Tiefling Bael Turath empire. Now what if the Lich was a tiefling and wanted to ressurect his old Empire? though a ritual? What would this epic ritual do exactly? I was thinking of him attempting to merge time or mess with time and change the events of the past. I think my players would LOVE to be able to fight along side their past characters to beat down the villains one last time. 

To sum it up: With technology, the villain makes a machine powered by the artifact to bend time, supplimenting the past army possibly with an army from present times. perhaps have adventures though different time periods? How can i build up to this over 20 levels? what could the consequences be? 

Any suggestions would be wonderful, i love brainstorming

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