Thinking about a RPG campaign, from the setting to the stories that are going to make it live, from the main story-line development to the various sub plots, on towards the impending end, a dungeon master always starts his/her task with this one solid certainty: the final chapter he/she wish his/her story to have.
Obviously, this is not a rule because, as we all know, sometimes one, five, even ten years may pass before a campaign can be safely pronounced ended.
In addition, players are going to change and pass and we all know how much unpredictable they are, almost as the roads they make their amazing alter egos walk.
Of course, this is not written in stone.
There are no set rules in what I consider a process of art creation itself even if, as usual, real art is created only by a few lucky ones.
That being said, though, wave your hand if you have, just for one time, started plotting your campaign by picturing in your mind’s eye the final epic battle between your friends’ adventurers and their nemesis.
Here lies one of the focal point of campaign plotting: the perfect enemy creation.
Starting here, recently, I tried to make a mental list of the most relevant antagonists that you can find in the Mystara setting just to find out, if possible and following my approach, how to define the enemy number one in the whole setting.
A kind of evil enemy for the whole mystarian kind!
Similar characters with different influences may be some Glantrians princes as Brannart McGregor or Morphail Gorevitch-Woszlany.
Prince Brannart McGregor [GAZETTEER 3: The Principalities of Glantri]
Hosadus, the Master of Hule, is surely a more feasible candidate.
He is a cleric, probably unmatched, that has been ruling with an iron fist for more than four centuries on territories that matches the whole Known World in extension, he commands armies that sow death and destructions in the near countries. Looking closer you can see that he is nothing more than a pawn in someone else’s clutch.
A puppet whose strings are drawn from powerful and stronger beings following their own agendas.
As deities in Classic Greek mythology, bored from their own eternal life, they played dice with the other creatures seeking that thrill and that uncertainty that only a finite life can achieve.
On that very concept delves, just an example, the larger and, for me, the most beautiful campaign set in Mystara. I’m talking about Wrath of the Immortals, an adventure that posed as a turning point for the lives of generations of heroes.
As we all know, Immortals have some physical limitations too, even if we consider the so-called Hierarchs, the oldest and most venerable Immortals, around which revolve some of the most beautiful written adventures (M1 – Into the Maelstrom, M2 – Alphak’s Revenge, HWA1-3 – Blood Brethren Trilogy).
In fact, this is not something that impedes them to be the ultimate enemy in Mystara, mind you. Probably Thanatos, Hel, Alphaks are the most likely candidates for that role.
I have the clear feeling that they are involved in an intermediate level, beyond which something even more terrible lies in waiting.
In the M3 – Twilight Calling adventure, as you can see we are talking about master level campaigns, a whole new population is introduced, the Carnifex that was a mighty menace for Mystara, and so will be for centuries to come.
So there is no longer a solitary enemy, the lone evil overlord against all the others, but a whole new race against the classical ones that are more or less thriving together in Mystara (above all the humanoids, which I consider is comprehensive of humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, sidhe, and all the humanoid races).
A “with us/against us”, “us/them” kind of people.
From total war to global carnage.
Mind you, it’s an idea.
Sure, it’s not a well-known path, maybe an interesting one, even a good one, in comparison to others.
It’s a theory that I’m not completely and wholly comfortable with, but it leaves me with a, not so easy to scratch, itch.
Lone. So let’s go back to the solitary enemy idea.
Taking a few steps back, I ask myself what is stronger and more powerful than Immortals?
The Old Ones.
It’s a beautiful and fascinating subject, but we all know how dangerous this road is to walk. Mostly because these Multiverse ancestors have restricted themselves to the other side of the Dimensional Vortex, without the ability to return back to their original dimension (?) just to forbid themselves from tampering with the lives of the creatures they had created (Immortals included).
So what? What is the answer to the first question? Who is Mystara’s true Enemy? Probably every DM has his own answer.
The following is the best answer I’ve managed to get myself.
I’ll take the long way around. (Will follow on “The Return of the Egg”).
(aka Master Puccio)