Today I’m going to take a little to outline a campaign I have in mind, which will be using a heavily modded version of 5th edition D&D because I needed something relatively rules-light to work with. The source material inspiring this campaign’s design are a few relatively famous video games – a couple of the Final Fantasy series, Chrono Trigger, and the continuity of the Legend of Zelda series. Sound interesting? Follow along while I outline what I’m up to, then.
To begin with, I’m going to be filching the tactic of players learning magic from an external source, as per the Espers in Final Fantasy VI; the direct fallout of this is that none of the spellcasting-primary classes will exist, as magic doesn’t exist and isn’t known at the campaign’s beginning. There’s an evil empire bent on conquering the world and actively engaged in that when the game begins, also drawn from the same game’s material.
Chrono Trigger comes in because I plan to let the players move between fixed segments of time, although doing so will be a bit more complex than Chrono Trigger’s method, due to the next bit I’m filching. Eras will be in temporal lockstep – spend a week in one era, a week passes in all eras. Some time passages may close when the ‘window’ they open onto closes. Change something, and the impacts will ripple down the timeline to varying degrees.
Legend of Zelda comes into it with the notion of the parallel worlds – the Dark World being the most prominent example for me – and with the divergent timelines that Nintendo introduced to explain the continuity of the games. At some point in the campaign’s deep past, an event happened that split the universe into multiple timelines, with exactly how many being something that will be revealed during the course of the game. This also ties into Chrono Trigger, as traveling between eras also involves traveling between the worlds.
Each era that connects is a chance to nudge the worlds closer together – or farther apart. Push a timeline too far from the others, and the next time you travel you discover it no longer connects from that point on down the timeline. Nudge it close enough and the timelines might begin to overlap and then merge. Whether they actually merge or simply begin to perfectly mirror each other may or may not be an academic question.
And, since a campaign is nothing without a cause for heroes (and this is a campaign where I hope to let my players be Big Damn Heroes indeed), one timeline is an existential risk to the others. As at least one player might be reading this, I’ll need to leave the details off, but the entire assembly of parallel timelines and mirror worlds is at risk of being destroyed by one of the timelines, and someone needs to rescue the whole from that danger.
And it all begins in the mining town of Last Hope, on the far side of the matriarchal nation of Belgrand from the expansionist Empire of Opals, where something strange is about to be found in the mines.