Part of the OSR/DIY ethos is building on what others have built, and I’ve taken that to heart here – almost everything in this post is borrowed from somewhere else. The basic framework is from Jeff Rients’s Epic sandboxery, with four of the six major world powers borrowed from the “very simple gameworld” example in Zak Smith’s Do you really want to know? The Six Spheres of Lubanjawi are from Rients again, the wonderfully evocative (to me, anyway) Ape Sultans are of course from S. John Ross’s Encounter Critical, and the Many-Angled Ones are Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s thinly-reskinned Cthulhoids from their Marvel cosmic comics. The abyssal ocean of blood is from James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen.
The Short, Short Version: the PCs have to find an Epic Sandboxery McGuffin – the Armor of Dawn – that can prevent the end of the world. But the parts were deliberately scattered and have now been lost for centuries or millennia.
Before their final battle with the Mother of Chaos, the Wind Dukes of Aaqa forged the Armor of Dawn for the hero Elbor Eocarr, their greatest ally on this plane. To the one who wears the complete Armor of Dawn is given the power to make and to break bridges between the worlds. After the defeat of the Mother of Chaos and the retreat of the few remaining Wind Dukes, the six pieces that make up the armor were separated by a council of powerful wizards. Those six parts were distributed to the six Great Powers: the Mountain Kings (King Evard’s distant ancestors), the Sea Queens (Queen Doralyne’s ancestors), the Lord of Death (forerunner of the Skeleton King), the Outer Dark (whence come the Many-Angled Ones), the Frost Giants, and the Ape Sultans. The idea was that the six powers would never share the pieces of the Armor of Dawn, nor would any one power let its piece fall into the hands of another, unless the world was once more faced with annihilation.
But that was long ago. These days few remember even the name of the Armor of Dawn, and among those who do, it is often dismissed as a myth. This is a problem, because the remaining Wind Dukes are planning to conquer chaos once and for all – by burning the Prime Material plane down to subatomic particles. Someone is going to have to go out there and reassemble the six pieces of the Armor of Dawn and stop them. Those pieces are:
- A sword, Worldbreaker, that can destroy anything it strikes (like the Lazy Gun in Ian M. Banks’ Against a Dark Background) – given to the Sea Queens, who seek trade rather than conquest.
- The Shield Impenetrable, which can withstand any blow (like Captain America’s) – given to the Mountain Kings, whose strength resides in their armies and their walled cities.
- The Fey Boots, which allow the wearer to step between any two places (like teleporting in Jumper) – given to the Ape Sultans, whose splayed feet cannot fit inside.
- The Hawking Helm, which allows the wearer to send and receive thoughts across any distance – given to the Many-Angled Ones, who think not as men, but only hunger.
- The Vital Scale, a chestplate that can cure any wound – given to the Lord of Death, who is not alive and cannot be healed.
- Might’s Compass, a belt which allows the wearer to lift any load – given to the Frost Giants, who are too big to wear it, and have the least need of it anyway.
There are some wrinkles:
- The empire of the Ape Sultans collapsed long ago, and the apes of the south are nearly extinct. The few that remain outside the jungles are bodyguards or pit-fighters in the desert cities. The jungles crawl with were-jaguars and the ruined cities are haunted by the Hounds of Tindalos. The Fey Boots are lost to history.
- The Shield Impenetrable has passed out of all knowledge of humankind (and elf-, dwarf-, and halfling-kind to boot). It was hidden on one of the Six Spheres of Lubanjawi by the wizard Vespar, who discovered its true nature long ago and foresaw the day when other powers would contend for it.
- The belt of strength, Might’s Compass, was built into the base of the crown of the Frost Giant king.
- The Hawking Helm was hidden by the Outer Dark in the stomach of a living planet.
- In the abyss below the Fortress of Death is an ocean, filled with all of the blood ever spilled in the name of peace. The Vital Scale is on an island in this ocean.
- Accounts of the whereabouts of the sword, Worldbreaker, are many and varied. It is rumored to be on the hidden island home of the Sea Queens, from which no man has ever returned. It may have fallen into the sea when the ship it was on was sunk by pirates. A roc may have carried it to its nest on a rocky precipice at the edge of the world.
So, that ought to keep ’em busy for a while.