This post was inspired by a post over in the D&D subreddit. You can have a link here.
The basis of the question is this:
How does your Big Bad Evil Guy wake up a dead god?
There are a few parts to figuring out how you want this to go down for your players. I’m going to put them into a simple checklist, but then later expand on each of them.
- Who is the god you’re trying to revive?
- How did they die?
- Why does your Big Bad Evil Guy want to revive them?
- Do you want the God to be resurrected?
- Can you trick your players into doing it for you?
Who is the God you’re trying to revive?
This matters a lot to having a believable ritual for bringing the God back to life. It can also provide you with story hooks and enemies for your players to fight against. We’re going to pretend that in the campaign we’re playing, the God Cyric is dead. Someone had to take his followers – As he was the God of Strife, Trickery, and Madness, most of them could have gone to Mask or Bane. There are two gods that would not want to see him returned. Additionally, he had a long list of enemies, which makes him the perfect God to “Kill off” and have “Revived”. There are a number of different enemies you can throw at the players, so that they don’t quite know what they’re dealing with. (Until it’s too late.)
The other part of knowing who you’re trying to revive is to make the ritual/ceremony way more personal. Cyric was a selfish, loner God. He was insane, and enjoyed tricking people into doing things for him. He created a tome, the Cyrinishad, that would make the reader view him as the One True God. He also took the tears of Kelemvore and Mystra after they realized their mortal love would not transcend into divinity. So we have a powerful artifact, and a selfish God that never enjoyed dealing with others, and he was insane. He enjoyed taking tokens from his beaten opponents, too. That’s enough to craft a ritual from.
How did Cyric Die?
So, this is also an important question, but for different reasons than above. If the God was killed by enemies, (other Gods) then they might actively try to stop the ritual. We need to determine where the God’s body is located, (if it even still exists) or where the God’s essence is located. (So it can be gathered.)
As Cyric was hated by a number of other Gods, it makes sense for one of his enemies to kill him. Bane is a good choice, having a domain of War, he could have easily pitted his church against that of Cyric’s. Tyr is another good choice, being the God of Justice. It could be that Cyric once again tried to reach beyo9nd the powers of his realm, and required justice be brought against him.
As important as how he died is what happens to a God after they’ve died. In this case, it is possible to bring in Kelemvore, the God of the Dead. Does he control the remains of the former God? Does he know where to look for the remains of such a soul? As a God of Balance, does he believe that Cyric should remain dead? Or does he have an opinion at all?
Why does your Big Bad Evil Guy want to revive Cyric?
I think this is possibly the most important question, and because we’re using Cyric, there can be a number of answers. This is important, because it will detail how the character thinks, and you can use that to develop a more complete series of adventures that will bring the players to their eventual conclusion.
- Power – The character is power hungry and thinks that by reviving Cyric, he will receive a portion of his power.
- Faith – The character has been worshiping Cyric for years, and as an ever-faithful servant, he wants to bring his God’s power back to the realms.
- Retribution – Spurned by another God, he hopes to resurrect the God of Murder and Lies in order to exact revenge against the deity that wronged him.
I like the faith aspect, because it limits the power of the NPC until such a time as the God is resurrected. Let’s say they were a former cleric of Cyric. They would no longer have the ability to cast divine spells, making them significantly weaker than they were before Cyric vanished. Their lifestyle would change drastically, and they may even be hunted by other religious groups. (For example: The priests of the God that killed Cyric.) Which is an excellent hook for getting the players involved with this character.
Do you want Cyric to be Resurrected?
This is very Meta – but it will help you figure out how to lay out your earlier adventures for the players. Do you want the Big Bad Evil Guy to succeed in resurrecting the God? Then you need to be flexible in what you need in order to get there. If you want him to stay dead, you can be a little more relaxed in your approach – it’s easier to let your players win believably than force them to lose.
If you are planning to have the players “lose” and bring Cyric back to life, you need a simple ritual that the players can’t interrupt once it has started, or make the players the final key in forcing the spell to work. Once resurrected, Cyric will be weak, so it’s doubtful it will stick around and fight with the players. An escape spell that removes it to another plan is handy for such an exit. You can also have the players be “awed” in the presence of such power, but being immune to it the second time Cyric tries such a thing. (Should they try and fight Cyric in the future.) Cyric has to regain followers, so it is important that he escapes and begin rebuilding.
All of that can be torn apart by resourceful players, however, and you don’t want to railroad them. Another option is faking his death – which could have been part of the plan from the very beginning. This is best achieved by giving them an “artifact” that works to “capture Cyric’s soul” or something of that nature. It can be the red herring that lets the players believe that they’ve “Won”, while allowing Cyric to slowly rebuild his church. (Which, of course, can be a great push in for other adventures in the future.)
Can you trick your players into doing it for you?
Some players are really astute, and you can’t really trick them into doing stuff that they wouldn’t normally do. (ie resurrecting an Evil God.) So if you want to try and trick your players into doing something like this, you need to cover it by having the characters do something they want to do.
For example, if you have a party of good characters, having them desecrate an evil temple might be a good start. A few of your earlier adventures for the players could be putting them in the path of “evil” groups who took over old Cyric temples. By destroying the relics of Bane or Mask, they are “cleansing” the temples, making way for Cyric to work his dark sun back into the fabrics. The fact that these are not “real” temples, but hidden areas of worship, will make it even easier to convince the players to do this.
If your group is less “Goody goody” and more “Money money”, priceless artifacts can help pave the way. Old ritual sites have a lot of relics in them, and plenty of treasure to bring your players into the mix. As they fight the opponents of various churches, (and here’s where you can start throwing Tyr, or Oghma, or even Mystra’s followers at them) they could be incorrectly painted on the side of evil, which allows you to “track” their movements and accost them as the players make their own hooks. This could lead them to get revenge, which a capable in-character NPC could use to skillfully direct them towards the materials or areas he needs them to modify.
Of course, you don’t have to do that. You can instead just do a pass-by, where the players get small scraps of details of Cyric’s upcoming resurrection, until it’s time for them to ascend the mountain and stop it.
So, you start off by introducing the characters to an old Cyric priest who is currently in hiding trying to resurrect his God. He helps send the players off looking for artifacts and relics that he will need to resurrect Cyric. Gods opposed to this vile work will send their agents after the players, evil first, but then others, perhaps, to try and fight them and stop the resurrection from happening. Finally, as the resurrection happens, the wool is lifted from the eyes of the players, and they must attempt to stop it. (And in so doing, they may actually complete the ritual.)
It could be fun to play, but you’ll need to keep on your toes, lest the players pull the rug out from under you.