I'm in the early planning stages of a new 4E campaign and I'm having a bit of trouble organizing my thoughts and ideas, so I figured it can't hurt to post them up here and hopefully get some fresh opinions from people. Here's a quick introduction that I'm hoping conveys the general themes I'm going for:
The land is dying. It has been over a millennium since the Doom came to the heart of the Empire and heralded in the end of the 5th Age. In a single night of chaos and fire, the Emperor vanished and the Gods fell silent, leaving behind an unorganized and unprepared Empire to face the coming of the Blight. Leaderless and confronted by this faceless menace, the Empire fragmented and collapsed as provinces were overrun and the land withered and grew barren. Any semblance of organization and security collapsed when the remaining Imperial Legions fell before the hordes of monstrous creatures that travelled in the Blight's wake.
It was centuries before the wards were discovered: ancient symbols from a previous Age that, when properly scribed and aligned, kept the Blight at bay, if only for a time. With some means of defense against the Blight at last, survivors banded together into scattered city-states and settlements for mutual protection against the remaining creatures that stalked the wilds, but much of the damage had already been done. Aside from the newly rediscovered art of warding, knowledge of the arcane was largely lost amidst the Blight, and the Gods remained as silent as they had been since the Doom.
Granted, it's not much, but as I mentioned... I'm having trouble organizing my ideas. Currently aiming for a low-magic start, but I don't have any plans on restricting class choice or anything, so arcane wielding PCs will essentially just be rediscovering old knowledge and the like. Deity-wise, I'm currently playing with the idea of having a pantheon of pagan "Old Gods" that predate the Empire still being around and granting powers, with the catch that their practices generally involve things like animal sacrifices and blood rites, though not to the extent that the pantheon itself is evil by any means. The main reason I'm aiming for low-magic is really just the treatment of magic items in 4E; my players and I prefer our magic items unique and special rather than just a shopping list of things to buy as they level up, so I generally just go the Inherent Bonuses route and ensure any magic items around are rare and depply tied into the campaign and setting.
I'm also considering including various generally bad "curses" afflicting the various races available. Stuff like elves finding their lifespans getting shorter with each generation, or dwarves finding that whenever they try to craft anything their materials rust/decay away. I don't really have any specific objectives in-mind for these, I just figure it adds another layer of mystery and provides a possible avenue of PC interest if they want to go about correcting them.
Anyway, critique away. Am I crazy for thinking any of this sounds interesting? Are my (admitedly vague) timelines unrealistic and way-off? Should I quit trying to go for a low(ish)-magic campaign?
Sounds interesting. Just make sure your players understand what you mean with low magic. If you'll be limiting spells, they may not want to play certain classes. If you have good reasons for why things are as they are, ask the players to give it a go. If they enjoy it, keep on keepin' on. If they don't, try something else. Or let them be DM.
I did a similar thing like you're talking about with the elves. I decided beforehand that the elves were infertile and have been for 100 years or more, requiring all elf PCs to begin play with age adjustments. Since they were so old, I gave them some bonuses to knowledge history and some other minor perks of that nature... since they were THERE when history was made.
Magic was rare as well... I allowed spell-users, but was fairly tough on the casters in terms of how many spells per day they could cast. I gave them some trade-offs to balance out the fact that they were losing a lot of magic ability, such as 2 extra hit points per level to increase their survivability, and circumstancial bonuses here and there because they wielded very rare powers. I had to play it by ear. I also allowed them to do cool ritual magic stuff that would have been beyond their power by finding places of power and tapping into powers beyond the level of spells they could normally cast at their level.
Losing a couple of magic missiles per day didn't seem so bad whenever they were standing on a lonely heath at the volcano's edge and summoning an efreeti from the deep to do their bidding.
Bottom line... if the players enjoy it and YOU enjoy it, then it's ALL TO THE GOOD!
It looks good to me. Your vague timelines actually sort of fit, after all if there has been some cataclysmic event, most of recorded history would be lost any way, meaning that the recovery of lost knowledge could be the overriding theme for the entire campaign, as this sort of quest works just as well for a martial hero as it does for an arcane one. This could in turn tie in to the curses affecting the races. For instance, perhaps a patron is a wealthy dwarf, who has an old family tome detailing the many great weapons and armors his family wrought once upon a time, and he wishes to be able to do the same, enter adventurers.
In terms of gods and worship, your idea of having a pagan pantheon sounds very interesting. If I could suggest something, it might be an idea to offer characters access to different pantheons based upon race/area of birth. For instance, you might decide that dwarves have a different pantheon from elves, and from humans. You could then play off pantheons against each other, with the different priesthoods all vying for control and allowing the PCs to determine which group/s win or lose...
Don't worry. Most players aren't going to catch any discrepancy. If they do... just say... oh... you must be using the Common Calendar, I was using the Dwarven Rune-counting Calendar (or some such).
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