How Beer-And-Pretzels RPing Becomes a Sweeping Epic

The Rasherochernon’s Folly campaign was never meant to be a decade-spanning epic saga. It was supposed to be goofball by-the-book D&D, a diversion from our very stressful life. Looking back, the contrast between the origin of various campaign features and their final expression is enormous. See if any of these examples have ever happened to you.

The origin of the planet

By the end of the game: The world of the Folly was very similar to Terra – deliberately so. Rasherochernon, the wizard who created the world (and after whom it would be mockingly renamed upon his expulsion) wanted to craft a permanent shelter for Terran refugees. As a teenager in the early ’80s, he knew that humanity didn’t have long – between the litter crisis, overpopulation, and the growing aggression of the nuclear powers of the world, life on Earth wouldn’t last the rest of the century. When he was cast off of Earth and flung into wildspace, he began a long journey which led him to the body of the dead god Abarak. He and several companions (who would later be the gods of the new world) used Terran artifacts to create a link between the body of Abarak and Terra. They invoked a ritual to create a new planetary system. Via the tether, Terra was used as a template for creating the new world – both to ensure that it would develop into something inhabitable and to help ease the transition of the Terran refugees who would be brought across by Rasherochernon’s magic.

The truth: I half-ass traced a map of western Europe as the first map of the game. It was part laziness and part an expression of just how not-serious the game was going to be.

The barrier protecting 1/3 of the planet’s surface

By the end of the game: After a war between the gods and Racherochernon, the wizard was forced to erect a magical wall against their pushes to evict or kill him. He put as much territory as he could behind the barrier. While he was eventually cast out of the world through unknown means, the gods were never able to take the barrier down because it so perfectly blocked their attempts at incursion. Eventually, the gods – now incarnated as mortals – passed deep beneath the barrier via the Underdark and discovered an impossible concave planetary surface beyond, with a moon hovering within the general outline drawn by the circumference of the rest of the planet. They fought against the dracocracy which lived on the moon and sought to convert the planet into raw godstuff so that they could use it as a machine in their war on the Astral plane. The gods finally expelled the ancient dragons by drugging their food, paralyzing them, and withdrawing the barrier into a pinpoint energy prison. They cast the prison to the sun and opened it, shunting the dragons through the energy well in the sun (which was not a proper sun, but rather a former prison of an elder demon and now a one-way portal to parts unknown). Their task accomplished, the gods removed the barrier, allowing free travel across the entire surface of the world once more.

The truth: That half-ass map? It was boxed off on a sheet of lined paper. My spouse saw the box’s edge as a challenge. When she reached the edge, I told her there was a barrier, mainly because I had nothing planned and I wasn’t confident in ad-lib GMing yet.

The nine gods

By the end of the game: When Rasherochernon was wandering the planes after his initial expulsion from Terra, he came across many people who suffered injustices at the hands of unfair hierarchies. He had already seen the damage that social stratification and power division caused on Terra. He was sympathetic to these refugees of inequality. A core group began to accumulate: a bard who told the wrong kind of truth, a monk whose ideals fell out of favor, a dryad clutching her own seed as she fled from environmental disaster, a nun escaping charges of murder… In the end, the group numbered ten. They all accepted Rasherochernon’s plan for a new world, one that could be guided so that destructive divisions could be minimized, if not erased. The group journeyed together to the site of the dead god Abarak. The nine companions would serve as anchors to keep the world balanced, while Rasherochernon and his demonic lieutenants (whom he had freed from their tyrannical overlord, earning their loyalty) would administrate the new world and ensure justice would prevail.

The truth: Nine gods: one for each alignment.

Have you ever had a stupid beginning turn into a powerful story? I’d love to hear about it.

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