Theme: Redemption. The idea is that the world has been locked into a period of negativity, and it now has a solid chance to go somewhere new. The change is not easy and not without sacrifice, but for the first time ever it is possible for good to rule.
Power: This is set at Paragon tier. I had contemplated going mid-heroic (level 3 or 4) but in the end the scale and my desire to use the planes made me opt for Paragon. Specifically all characters will begin at level 11. Note that characters do not have to be older or have a lot of history. Among the humans it is possible to simply have appeared at this power level. For many planar beings and races, level 11 is wimpy. And even among the more traditional races, it is possible to have grown in power rapidly. However, characters should aim for having several years of "adventuring" history. Keep in mind what that means. A threat to "only" one city or province might be beneath you. It might not, but your motives and goals are bigger than those of people from heroic tier. You are of legendary power and can single-handedly change the fate of whole kingdoms.
Concepts: Cycles not entirely unlike the ideas in the Dragon Realms books by Richard Knaak, or the Taltosh series by Steven Brust, or the video game Mass Effect. I’m sure you can all think of more comparisons it is an old archetype afterall. Race after race comes to this site because of ancient places of power. Each uses rituals and artifacts to conquer this island. The rest of the world is a wilderness with a few city-states, and many "weak spots" where things cross over from alternate planes. Typically they arrive, then find their way intentionally or “by accident” to the island. They are again drawn to or find one or more of the ancient power sites and conquer it, moving from there to the rest of the island. They rule until the next appears and casts them down. Each rules with tyranny and violence.
Eladrin held the island for a long time and when cast down they “fell” and became elves. Much later this new race recovered and claimed the island. They had just been destroyed and driven from their holdings, but not by a new race, instead by seemingly unrelated groups of many lesser beings and monsters. Coming out of hiding from around the world, a small number of very wise Eladrin returned to the island. They took over two of the three remaining elven kingdoms and sent out a call for help throughout the world, and beyond. Many beings from all worlds responded to their offer, but very few to try and help them most just to conquer lands from a weak country. More details on this below.
(Stolen from my atlantis campaign but edited to fit this one better): A group of titans brought a flying rock from the elemental chaos and sailed it over to the island. They were loyal and trustworthy allies of the unseelie kingdom for years until one day the island was seen in flames. When some flying fey rose up to explore it, all the inhabitants were dead. It looked as if they had fought each other, no signs of any enemies. The fey moved in and it happened to them as well after a month. A tribe of goblins managed to get a few magic boats and used them to fly up and then used the island to raid. Until it happened to them. The island remained abandoned for a year and a day when it was found occupied by a tribe of particularly advanced humans. They all had complete amnesia about how they got there, but they could remember relationships. No facts or events, just relationships.
The Eladrin declared that they were a gift from the gods sent to give them the edge they needed to break the cycle. However the humans didn’t agree, they were willing to help the Eladrin, but they knew they were not there for that purpose. They actually didn’t understand or know the root of their relationship to the Eladrin, it was very confused.
The Eladrin knew that the cycle was a one-time thing only. No one had ever ruled twice. They planned to return to control over the island, claim the ancient sites of power, and use a ritual to break the cycle forever. They have learned that the seemingly unrelated forces are mostly being controlled by an unseen enemy from deep in the realm of twilight. This pleased them because they could time the defeat of their enemy, the newest turn of the cycle, to be the ultimate physical representation of breaking the cycle altogether. They see the use of many races as the same. Those from the past show the renewal. Those new ones who fail to claim the throne represent the fall of their enemy and the fall of the cycle. That the enemy is foolish enough to use a similar strategy of working with a collection of new and old races makes the enemy vulnerable to the ritual. Almost akin to them willingly participating. There are those scholars, however, who feel that the enemy is working its own ritual, and that the Eladrin are as much a participant in theirs as they are in the Eladrins.
Initial Story Hook: All
PCs are involved in supporting the last three elven/eladrin kingdom against
their mysterious enemy. The PCs may be mercenaries, locals, an ancient
race from the past called back, or a new race from outside the world
coming in or anything you can think of. None of that matters. But all are answering the eladrin’s
call and all will begin in one of the three provinces on good terms
with at least one legitimate faction of the elven/eladrin government
(can be on bad terms with as many other factions as you like if that
fits your character, but you have to be supporting at least one of them).
Character Background Restrictions:
All characters have to at least have good tendencies. No angst-ridden
anti-heroes. Batman is as dark as PCs can go (Serious and sometimes an
extremist, but not evil and never going to be). Someone who
doesn’t understand the metaphysics and doesn’t really care about the
metaphysics, but is generally trying to do good is fine. Don’t have to be an
exemplar of virtue, by any means. There are very scary unseelie eladrin
at work on this ritual and they have bugbears, gnolls, and other horrid
beings in their courts. But any PC affiliated with them ought not have
the mindset of a villain. No petty thieves either. Those are fine for
heroic tier, but by paragon tier, no one is petty anymore.
Elves are the bulk of the population in the cities of the island. They tend to try and make their own settlements outside the ruins which form the core of each city. Other races live in the “town” proper, while the elves come in from the surrounding woods.
Eladrin came across from the feywild long ago and conquered the island, then held by Efreeti. In time, dwarves, who were able to resist their magic, overran them and ended their kingdom. Over the millennia since their fall most of those who remained eventually became the elves.
Dwarves lost their empire to Dragons, greedy for their treasure. The few who escaped the beasts did so by fleeing to the outer islands. They and the Eladrin, spent long centuries in exile and have a friendly rivalry now rather than a bitter one regarding their ancient wars. They have many fewer clans than in the old days, but the old clans hold on in family names.
In the truly ancient depths of time it is said that devils ruled the island, and many scholars feel that the legacy of tyranny and suffering that besets all kingdoms, if not the very cycle itself may be the legacy of their rule. They were one of the most powerful rulers of the cycle, and did reach out across the whole of the world. They used the weak spots in the world to bring slaves from all over to serve them. Rumors have it they bred with their slaves and created the race of tieflings in the process. Tieflings clearly have some vile blood but scholars often say that they cling to the legend of the devil’s rule because they held the whole world, whereas most scholars say that tieflings themselves only held about 60% of the island itself. In fairness, their realm lasted longer than that of the devils that preceded them. And now what remains of the tieflings now wander the world, making disparaging comments about the petty realms that have grown up in their shadow.
Created as perfect warriors by an unknown deity, the Dragonborn were unleashed upon the world. They fought a massive, drawn out and in the end, mutually destructive war with the Tieflings. They held nearly all the outlying lands and launched a number of invasions trying to unseat the tieflings from the sites of power. The constant attrition wore both races down and in the end they annihilated each other. Dragonborn still wander the world, usually attaching themselves to underdogs and those who seem to have honor on their side. They have flocked to the Eladrin cause in record numbers and have formed a small army with dreams of founding a new kingdom for the first time in centuries.
Humans are one of the few local races who have never ruled. They are primitive tribal race, living near the coast. They have outlasted more than a dozen lords. Unlike most races, they have never tried to rule. They make as many allies as they can, and hold their lands with primal magic and access to divine favor. It also helps that they spread out across the whole of the coastline and many of the nearby islands. They were widely accepted into Elven society and are found in many parts of the Eladrin lands as well.
Half-Elves are a mark of how well humans and elves have gotten along over the years. Though they are not entirely “half-elven” they could really be any sort of fey, and essentially none have one fey and one human parent. In general they are mixed blooded family lineages with many generations of half-elf on both sides. Half Elve PCs are limited in only one way: They absolutely may not have one elven and one human parent. I will be adding two new subraces of Half Elf. One of the Half Elves are very tied to the sun and light and have a very warlike culture based around worship of the sun, but are quite kind, they see battle as a way to test the body to its limit, not as conquest etc. They live on the top of the mountains are are somewhat isolated from the three main kingdoms. The others are more Half-Eladrin than Half-Elf and have claws, green skin, and emphasize the creepy fey aspect. They live scattered among the jungles and have no real cities as such.
(Also borrowed from my atlantis campaign): Halflings almost never go by that name. In general they are referred to as “pygmies” and they are the most reviled and hated race on the continent. They are completely incapable of wielding any form of magic, but make up for it with ruthlessness and violence. They were nearly incapable of conquering the island until they made an alliance with a group of demons. Things went well at first but their enemies eventually bound all of the demons. The Pygmies attacked the places where the demons were held, but instead of freeing them, the pygmies decided to take their power for themselves and bled the demons dry, then ground the remains into dust. As the stories go, their shamans made an elixir from the dust and blood and injected it into all their warriors. This gave them great power, but also made them ruthless and wicked beyond imagining. They conquered the island and then turned upon each other. They seemed all but incapable of living in peace and need a constant experience of violence. For nearly two centuries they ruled, leaving only a legacy of destruction. The arrival of Sahuagin from the depths of the ocean would have posed little threat to them, except the Sahuagin had studied their enemy beforehand, and bound the demon’s power with a great ritual, leaving the pygmies a faded shell of their past with no magical power to draw upon. They have fought back through the millennia since with their only remaining weapon: violence.
Half Orcs: Like Half Elves, PC Half Orcs may not have one orc and one human parent. They are a true breeding culture with generations of mixed lineage. The Half Orcs are inspired by some of the hunting tools archaeologists have found belonging to Homo Erectus, and are nocturnal hunters from the deep forests with ritualistic blood drinking rites and ties to vampires (yes, that is a reference to a heritage feat chain if you want it to be).
Others: All non-human races are available as well. Including many types that are just monsters, as this setting encourages planar interactions and there are a great number of races from the Elemental Chaos and Astral Sea. It’s not Sigil, but it is unusually easy to travel the planes compared to a normal campaign. Nearly any "vicious" race will be interpreted as an unseelie faerie or some such. So goblins are all originally from the Feywild and have become mortal in the same manner as elves.
Plot: The story is moving thusly: For about 25 years the Elven Empire has been in tatters. They ruled for nearly 2800 years and at their height traded with the Feywild and Shadowfell both through weakspots on remote lands. However, over the last century they had many more civil wars than usual, then lesser races started rebelling, whole cities fell into ruin, and each petty lord decided tehy alone know how to restore the race to its true glory. Of course it was not the end of their time in the cycle as no invader had appeared to take thier place. But the decline only worsened year by year. Eventually the various territories were so isolated that it was rare for them to communicate and each was left to find their own way to hold out. 18 years ago four boats of Eladrin sailed from the west and conquered two of the remaining three elven kingdoms. They allied with the third (nominally the "best" claim to the throne of the elven empire) and explained their plan to break the cycle forever. They also revealed to the elven emperor that there was indeed a new invader, but one moving in secret. The eladrin sent out hteir call for help, and many came. Not all came to assist. After almost 2 decades of preparation, the eladrin are ready to begin reclaiming lost lands.
Each of the three kingdoms is given a specific task: The elven kingdom, known simply as The Woodland Realm, is the largest, and has the highest population despite having no "cities" as such, and being almost entirely jungle. They are responsible for launching the counter invasion. The Seelie Court, Solarium, is a balanced land with much open farmland, some jungles, a long coast, and a few big cities. They are performing the ritual itself, and in so doing pulling, mystically, all their enemies to their lands. They are the shield holding out against the onslaught from the hidden enemy. They are also sending special teams on missions of importance to perform lesser rituals at key sites across the island. The Unseelie Court, Midnight, is the farthest west, the smallest, and the most urban. It has the largest port and is the most physically secure. They process new "recruits" are in charge of the efforts to contact other planes, and they are the scholars tasked with finding the enemy, due to the maxim "like calls to like". While Solarium sends teams to perform rituals, Midnight sends teams to hunt down and slay those servants of the enemy who do the same. When a new race comes through a weak spot and declares itself lord of the world, Midnight destroys them before they can disrupt the ritual, or pull the Woodland Realm’s forces back. And they are constantly at work seeing answers across the hidden ruins built by thousands of ancient tyrants.
All PCs who are not native to the island (name to come) arrive in the capital of Midnight by sea or by magic, or on the humans flying city (by magic). From there all traveled wherever they wished on whichever goal is appropriate. Natives could come from any of the three, or from an independent realm still out there fighting on by itself. All are asked (but not forced) to swear fealty to the ruling triumvirate, and are then set to work assisting as besttheir skills allow. Most simply head to the Woodland Realm and from there trek into the wilderness in search of a ruin to conquer and rebuild and to use as the seat of a new province ruled by the newcomer on behalf of the triumvirate. But there are many other options.
More details to follow. Leave questions you want answered, etc in the comments.