Campaign Arc Ideas....not quest ideas...

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So, a lot of talk goes into encounters, making them, running them, making them better, etc on this forum. One thing that I haven't seen (or at least isn't very talked about) are campaign arcs... I'm interested in compiling a list of different types of campaign arcs...So, please, post your thoughts....

Quests/Encounters are simple, they are all some derivation of:
retrieve X to save day, whodunit, survive x rounds, destroy some artifact, survive a dungeon, assassinate someone, escort someone, yada yada yada...they are the meat that makes up an adventure.

Campaign Arcs are more complicated and more high level.

Example...Scales of War, one of the most simple arcs ever...One god wishes to destroy another so sets forth a plan to do just that...heroic tier sets the stage of learning about Vale, getting the hero's their bravado, and it turns out their arch nemisis is simply a pawn in a larger conspiracy...then paragon hits and it's all about preventing a githyanki invasion which the heroic tier was simply a prelude to...only at the end of the paragon tier you learn that the true reason this is all happening is because one god wishes to destroy another.

So, even though a campaign arc might be about a character or party or world, it can be genericafied (like the quests, Retrieve X, Destroy Y) what I'm looking for are higher level arcs that you run...I seem to get stuck in a rut of 'party must save the world' and there has to be other things out there...

Starting us off...

1) Some power hungry being wishes to take over X (where X is the world, a town, a rivals territory), each tier exposes a different layer of his plot
2) Something that's been neglected for centuries causes strange behaviors and the party must figure it out before it consumes X, each tier things get progressivly worse until the party discovers it)
3) Someone is destined for greatness and outside forces wish to prevent said person from becoming great...each tier some nefarious force tries to assassinate the person and the party is responsible for preventing this and/or seeking out those and destroying/negotiating with them.

The Magic Goes Away. D+D and tolkiens LOTR were both set in a past when earth was more magical. What happens when the magic begins to fade. One generation can't cast 7th level spells, next generation can't cast 6th and above,and so on till arcane and divine spellcasters are legends? Outsiders with a strong ties to an alignment no longer survive in this part of the prime material plane. do those Outsiders with ties to an elemental plane like water hang on? Do undead cease to exist? Can dragons still fly and have magical breath? Random thoughts.

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Just to clear the air; I consider all encounters as part on an Arc (At least when I DM) due to there is always an Arc going on in the PC’s world; even if they don’t know about it….

That being said; here are a few I have run or intend to run.

Undead World; was the first one I ever ran, and it was basically Night of the Living dead in DnD, all manner of monsters returned from death and the whole world got insta-****ed over night.  The PCs got introduced into the plot when they returned from their first quest to find the party of orcs they had killed and left on the side of the road was reanimated; after defeating them they tried to return to their home town to find it had been overrun and on fire…What will they do next?

Magical Misfire: A group of mages have finally twisted magic too far and the results from their newly created magic ritual misfire and funks the world up. Alternative realms/dimensions start bleeding into the physical world and utter chaos ensues; it’s up to the players to try to reverse the effects, or at least establish some form of order in the chaotic wastelands which had been society only a few days past. Even worse, the ritual has transfused a small inland ocean to the far-realm, and an endless horde of monsters keep pouring out.

World War D: Simple concept, the world is on the verge of war after a thousand + years of peace, everyone is on edge because each of the 5 nations has very large armies and the magic/tech of the world could kill thousands easily. The players find themselves at the military camp where the leaders of the nations are meeting trying to reestablish peace, when “something” goes very, very wrong.  The ensuing bloodshed sees two of the leaders dead and the world goes into an all out blood fest; it’s up to the players to reestablish peace, see one side the victory, or see their world turn apart; all the while battling an unknown enemy who has been pulling the strings all along.

Crossover worlds; a very fun and comical at times Arc (aka Knight with a lightsaber); the players find themselves in pursuit of an evil mage who has stolen something of great power; but this mage feels into another world; forcing the players to follow if they wish to complete their quest. These beings a big series of cross-over adventures as the PCs race through various fictional worlds (Starwars/Jurassic Park/ext) to stop the mage, who is plotting with various bad guys from the other worlds.


I actually just started a campaign that takes place in a split world.  Primordials became free and threatened the extinction of the gods and their creation.  The gods in an attempt to save their creation sought to erect a magical barrier that would envelope their people and their world.  It would have worked had not the enemy found out and ambushed them before their completion.  Due to this, only a small portion of the world is protected.  My PC's start in that world.

1st Arc:  In that world there is one leader, an ancient deva, that has become corrupted.  Due to this corruption he has sought to control the world and its people instead of watch over them as was his original role.  To that extent, he is using a war that he caused with the orcs (actually having bartered with him to start the war), to invoke ancient pacts between the humans whom he leads, and the other races of the world.  Should this work the entire world will be arrayed against the orcs, as he along with the help of his 'advisor'(the gith in the 3rd arc), seek to infiltrate the territory of the other races and collect ancient pieces of the ritual (from arc 2) to, instead of resurrecting a dead god, make himself into a true god.

2nd Arc:  With the gods disappearance, and presumed death, for even they were forced outside the field, the people of the world sought out an ancient ritual meant to resurrect a god.  Most of its participants were killed in its use, and those left 'alive' are forced to live off others as sort of parasites.  In their parasitic forms they are forced to see both the life and death of all things, including that of their hosts, leaving them body-less once again.  With one of the heroes emergence into this world(the only one from the outside world, ferried here through the use of both primordial and divine power), and the subsequent loss of his immortality and memories, one such parasite has learned the truth of the world, and used his immortal essence to keep his host alive.  With his new-found knowledge, he now seeks to escape his cursed bubble.  Thus he has delved deeper into the ancient art of necromancy, and using his knowledge of the deva, he is slowly building his own army to seek control of this portion of the world, and after lowering the barrier, to expand without.

3rd Arc:  Having found his way through with the PC, one of the gith(in this case one of the followers who released the ancient primordials and were thus subjected to their power and along with the rest of his race forced into their loyalty) has set into motion, plans of his own.  Having retained his knowledge after passing through the barrier, and having learned of the ancient deva in charge of this world, he has pieced together what truely happened here, and what has happened to his race as a whole.  Without the primordial influence in his mind he now seeks to win the power of this world for himself, to bring down the barrier and eventually once back into the rest of the world, to free his people at any cost.

Each race also has its own smaller problems, some of them even created by my PC's characters.  For example the elven nation is without a king, and several people are seeking to court the queen.  Two of my PC's play brothers   who are princes.  Over the course of the next year, the eldest brother will become old enough to seek the throne for himself, and as such, some suitors for the queen have become desperate in their pursuit of power and have gone to the point of hiring assassins to kill her children.
Unfortunately I did not have a dwarven player.  There is quite a bit of internal conflict amonst them, as they are 12 clans with no king, and without the gods approval or the ancient weapon of the first dwarven ruler, no king can truly be appointed.

At any rate, this is the thought of arcs for my campaign, as I said we are just starting it, and I have the hopes that when they reach the end, should the barrier protecting them fail, then the campaign will halt there and a new one will start for a group of heroes from the outside world from when the barrier was still up.  Culminating to a point where the barrier falls, the heroes meet and battle for the first time together, and then after that happens have any remaining heroes be chosen by the PC's 1 apiece, and the others disperse throughout the world on missions of their own.

I hope this was the kind of thing you were looking for, it is not exactly put into a generic form but I have no doubt that you could generalize it somehow.  Please let me know what you think of it as well, I appreciate any insight or thoughts I might be able to get on it
THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE! In most D+D worlds there's a never ending struggle between the races. Gary Gygax's Greyhawk was supposedly going to become Earth. Tolkiens middle -earth was going to become Earth as well. Spell jammer featured a lot of worlds where one race had beaten all the others. If all the gods start spreading a prophecy that only one race is going to survive in the end how do races react? Do elves create Reproductive items and Nanny races? Does some madman create 20 types of goblins to match the 20 type of elves you see? Do the epic level sorcerors of kobold cities create super kobolds who can fly and have breath weapons, making them a sort of mini-dragon. Do the mindflayers create a perfect slave race that doesn't betray them the way the Gith did? So perhaps you could create a sort of position paper to see how each race is going to respond ?

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THE AGE OF EXPLORATION-The players are asked to explore a new world.
Archipellago of Wonder
A fantasy version of the bahamas. 700 islands , each adventure is episodic, like star trek. An island allows you to feature one of a kind monsters you don't want in your main campaign. A new group of strangers every week for your players to meet , kill and then sail away.
A typical hollow earth like Maztica or ERB's pellucidar. Reached by following a Beholder with a Disintergate beam? Strange Fungles that glow in the endless dark, inhabited by drow,duergar and mindflayers?
Fly me to the moon
 A gate between eath and the moon could allow a whole new world to adventure in. Does the moon have air like in Spelljammer? Goto for notes. Does every lunar deity have a home on the moon? Do lycanthropes gain super powers on the moon?

I will immediately report any Phishers or Lonely Hearts Scam Artists.

FREINDLY ALIENS ARE WATCHING US FROM A DISTANCE. Suppose there were freindly aliens sending us help like the aliens in Arthur C. Clarks 2001 a Space Odyssey?
A Monolith is 1 squared X 2 squared X 3 squared in size. So a Monolith of 1 foot thick X 4 foot wide X 9 foot tall. Light-absorbing black in color. Powered by a magic device that converts sunlight,water,metallicized hydrogen, etc. Monoliths can duplicate themselves given materials. A monolith acts as a doorway teleporting people across the universe in an instant. Monoliths can transmit signals at lightspeed. Other powers depend on the race that creates them.
Sent by a race of angellic beings. Grants +2 to wisdom . Adds Winged template from Savage Species. Grants ability to read ,write and speak the Celestial tounge. switches your alignment to Lawful Good. How do people react to angels amongst them ? Can nobles rule over former peasents who now fly over them and may be better than them? The pcs hear rumors about a town where a black door landed and turned thousands of peasents into angels overnite.
A monolith that casts Mass Awakening. This eithor Awakens Animals in general, a specific animal like horses ,or plants in general or a specific plant like oak trees. If these changes are genetically transferrable then these creatures from spreading all over the world. Do pcs meet a talking horse like mr Ed? Would players like a talking Wardog? What happens to lumber jacks in a world where the trees talk and walk?
Makes you LN. Grants +2 int. Adds Craft Alchemy with 4 bonus skill ranks. Grants ability to Speak, Read and Write the Vulcan langauge. May grant psionic powers. When a village of peasents becomes vulcans it causes a stir?
Just a few random thoughts.

I will immediately report any Phishers or Lonely Hearts Scam Artists.

Further Monolithic thoughts.
Savage Species has a section on how to turn animals into Animal -men. Suppose a Monolith landed and evolved animals like the High Evolutionary in the Marvel Universe. Depending on which animals were evolved it could give rise to a variety of scenarios.
Animal House
if farm animals like horses,cows and pigs were turned into animal men would they revolt against the farmers like in George Orwell.s Animal House? would fast -breeding animals like pigs be a danger to the human race?
If anthropomorphic animals exist in large numbers they could outnumber humans. Imagine if the pcs travelled thru towns of 80% of one type of animal man , much like Kamandi did in the Dc comic.
planet of the apes
Several primate anthropomorphic exist;Ape, Babboon and Monkey. Could form a society like Piere Boules' Planet of the Apes' where apes keep humans as slaves. Could also form society like the movie "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." where apes are newly sapient. Be sure to use phrase' Get you're stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!'.
All the Anthropomorhic races get good wisdom scores. A monolith could create them and replace their racial hit dice with levels of monk instead. therefore a Monkeyman would be a first level monk and know monkey style kung -fu? with everything from Ape-Wolverine men it could get hectic. To run this you must play "Everybody was Kung -fu Fighting" as background music.

I will immediately report any Phishers or Lonely Hearts Scam Artists.

Just doing a roll chart, nothing fancy, but try  1) rolling  3d8, 2) mixing and matching maybe for some ideas.. 3) add more to the lists or 4) roll twice, and go for broke.  


An Evil God
Undead Overlord
Ravaging Humanoids
The Evil Cult
The Guild of Assassins
The Fey Kingdom
Conquerers from across the sea
A Resurrected King

Foreshadows the arrival of
Opens portals to
Are fleeing
Is laying waste to the countryside with


The Ancient, World Ending Artifact
The Zombie Apocalypse
"The Horde"
The Inexplicable Elder God
Eternal War
The forces of Ancient Darkness
An All consuming Madness

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