13 November 2021

Campaign Concept - Great Planar Scavenger Hunt

tl;dr: a campaign set up for touring the planes with a drop-in, drop-out table

Starting from a place where:
- opportunities to travel the stranger corners of the planes are limited - see the gaps in available adventures set on the planes
- planar exploration takes a distant back foot to rocking up and murdering the locals

I want a campaign skeleton that lets me delve into all the varied corners of the planes. I need a universal socket to support whatever planar one-shots I could come up with and after thinking for a bit what I arrived at this. We draw on two pieces of background inspiration - low background steel and the familicide spell from Order of the Stick.

How do those fit together? Glad you asked; our pitch:
Many elven populations are tied to a world tree in the deep woods of Arvandor on the plane of Arborea; each tree acting as anchor for all the souls of a particular world. When they die, this tie guides them to their rest. Long, long ago there was a world that was attacked during the Unhuman wars and devoured by a witchlight marauder. Some elves escaped that disaster long ago but are still tied to that tree of their now dead and barren world.

Recently, an elf became a problem for someone. That person consulted an oracle who told them - 'kill this tree and your foe will perish'. This was true but the unintended consequences are that all descendents of any elf from that world will also sicken and die.

The inhabitants of Arvandor realised what was happening and while the original tree is past saving, there is still time to transfer the soul anchor if another tree can be found from that world. Thus the task - help is needed to find wood that was taken off world before the world was destroyed. From fragments of wood, a new shoot can be encouraged but it needs to be found, scattered wherever across the Planes.

This is the pitch - each session would be the available heroes, mercenaries and adventurers being dispatched after a lead on a remaining fragment of wood. The cast could rotate. Difficulties could be tuned session on session for those available, assuming the desperate elves are spread very thin and using the minimum capabilities they can for every hunt to seek in as many locations as possible.

For my Joesky tax - the key challenge in this particular scavenger hunt is:
1. The thing is lost - the oracles know it is generally around here but you need to find it. An example being the shields of the body guard of a great elven general who fell in battle in the heavens. The battle ranged across an entire valley, where did the general make his last stand?
2. The thing is lost and something else is also searching for it for a different reason - you need to find it without them becoming aware. The wood is the wreck of a ship that ran aground on the shores of the river Oceanus. A shift in the river has revealed the wreck and stories are circulating - others are likely to come seeking rumours of treasure.
3. The location is known but the site is occupied by hostiles - cultists, beasts, other living entities - who are unaware of it. The wood is in the grave goods of an elf queen buried where the Seelie court once passed. The impressive structure is the lair of some beasts.
4. The thing is valued and guarded by something powerful - you will need to strike a costly bargain or perform a heist. The wood is in the frame of a picture that a lower planar lord took as plunder. They greatly admire the painting and it sits in pride of place in their hall.
5. Access is hazardous because of local terrain conditions - digging something out of a glacier, fishing a wreck from a crevasse, etc. An adventuring group lost their caravan with multiple kegs of provisions during a mountain traverse. The unfortunate mules and their cargo plummetted to their doom. You must finding the site and retreiving the remains of the kegs.
6. Access is hazardous because of an active problem - a blockade, a great migration, a crumbling cliff - and it is expected the site will be destroyed soon. A great volcano has erupted and threatens what was once a high mages planar retreat. The site is already surrounded by lava flows and wildfires are advancing towards the building. Multiple small wood sources could be retrieved from spoons to book covers to the archmages wand.

Combine this with a random plane and then play to the theme of that particular plane to make them feel different. Suggest d4+d6+d10:
3. Astral - the realm of the mind, enforce your will or it becomes nightmarish
4. Mechanus - a logic puzzle that needs to be entangled
5. Acheron - the unending battle, war without rest
6. Nine Hells - the grinding of a cruel system, the system built to crush you
7. Gehenna - suspicion and greed, mercenaries working angles
8. The Gray Waste - traversing a nuclear winter, post-zombie apocalypse. No respite, no allies, no hope.
9. Carceri - crabs in a bucket, get in and then out of this ultimate prison
10. The Abyss - violence as the first resort, destruction for the pleasure of it
11. Pandemonium - the place of madness, where noone has a grip on reality
12. Limbo - the roaring chaos, avoid being boiled away in the chaos stuff
13. Ysgard - the heroic battlefield, fight, die, rise to fight again.
14. Arborea - proud passions and politics - Olympus, Arborea & the Seelie court having feuds
15. The Beastlands - hunters become the hunted, the animals rule here
16. Elysium - the mire of honey, only those of great purpose can avoid giving up and staying here
17. Bytopia - rules set the stage, help everyone work together. Work within the rules
18. Mount Celestia - justice tempered with mercy, they know best
19. Arcadia - harmony above all, you must not disrupt it
20. The Outlands - the tension of the balance point, disruptions will be strongly resisted

I have some ideas for a Mechanus showcase, a Beastlands one and a Ysgard one and plan to try and work up a Gehenna one to try and fill in the gaps we saw.

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