As a long-time GM, I’ve found inspiration for adventures, campaigns, characters and locales in some of the most unusual places: history books, novels, paintings, sculptures, conversations, and songs, to name but a few sources. Here, I will briefly describe an idea that came to me while listening to Edge Of Seventeen by Stevie Nicks.
Enter our antagonist – the Priestess of Umberlee, The Bitch Queen. I chose Umberlee because, at the time, we were playing in the Forgotten Realms, and, in my mind, the antagonist worshiped an evil(or at least very demanding) sea god. This Priestess has found an ancient and abandoned temple to Umberlee in a cave on a cliff overlooking the sea. The temple was built by an aquatic race thousands upon thousands of years ago. At the time of its dedication, the cave itself was submerged. For some reason, however, the sea withdrew, the cliff rose out of the water, and the entrance remained undiscovered until recently. How or why did this happen? Did Umberlee punish her worshipers for some transgression? Did she lose some great battle to another god – the temple becoming the prize? Perhaps it was simply a natural occurrence, the result of an earthquake, or global cooling caused the sea level to drop? The answer to these questions could provide further hooks for the story.
What are this Priestess’s goals? More personal power? More power for her goddess? Does she wish to establish a following on land for her goddess? To me, Umberlee seems the kind of goddess who prefers smaller, more numerous groups of worshipers – as a Choatic Evil deity, larger institutions just don’t seem her thing. I’ve always thought of the Priestess as wanting to establish a small cult devoted to Umberlee. She seeks to increase her own power by increasing the influence of Umberlee. To this end, she needs followers…
Enter the cultists – two young men who serve the Priestess, in more ways than one. Yes, it’s hackneyed, but the Priestess has recruited the two youths by seducing them. They each seek greater attention by carrying out her orders, as well as sabotaging one another’s efforts. Not only does this competition have them putting forth more effort toward the Priestess’s goals, but also serves Umberlee’s desire for conflict.
For her part, the Priestess spends her days deciphering the ancient inscriptions on the walls, statue bases, stone tablets, etc. found within the temple. She sends her devotees for supplies, scrolls, and other items that may be of use in her endeavors.
Enter the heroes – this is where the PCs come in. Perhaps the Priestess’s two cultists have been too ambitious in their tasks? In gathering supplies for a ritual, they killed a local sage who became suspicious of them. Or they’ve been poaching beasts considered sacred to a conclave of druids or elves. Perhaps her devotees’ families are concerned about their sudden elusiveness and shirking of responsibilities. Or, for the darker campaign, perhaps the ritual calls for the sacrifice of “the blood and entrails of three-and-ten whose souls are pure” – and young children have been disappearing from several towns, villages or cities as of late.
I have to admit – I have a fairly well-defined framework for this story, but I’ve left much of it out of this post. I’d rather give a general idea for you to use in your own game(s), rather than specific details that wouldn’t work for you at all. Besides, I believe that a good GM would rather fill in the details himself or herself.
Speaking of which, how would you use the Priestess in your campaign? Would you like to hear more details from me, or would you care to fill in the blanks on your own in the comments?