Atlas   Rules   Resources   Adventures   Stories       FAQ   Search   Links

Spheres of Power as campaign themes

by Ripvanwormer

It's pretty easy to see how you could use a theme like "good versus evil" or "law versus chaos" as a campaign theme, but how would you use the Spheres of Power?

"Entropy versus the Spheres of Life" is still pretty obvious. This campaign would mainly be about undead and, at higher levels, fiends conspiring to kill all that lives, disintegrate matter, drain energy, suppress thought, and bring an end to time.

Energy versus Thought: This one is trickier, but technically these spheres are opposed to one another. You see this manifest in the enmity between the djinn and efreet (and other air and fire creatures) and between the Followers of Air and the Followers of Flame on Alphatia, and between the Magian Fire Worshipers and the faith of Al-Kalim, More philosophically, this struggle is reflected in conflicts between any group that's impetuous and power-hungry and one that's more thoughtful and conservative. One obvious example is the Fellowship of the Star versus the Ring of Fire among the Immortals; even though none of the members of the Ring of Fire belong to the Sphere of Thought, they're following the theme of Energy vs. Thought by being less impetuous. On one level, Energy vs. Thought mirrors Chaos vs. Law, though there's another aspect to it: Thought as the sphere of thieves, attempting to steal fire from the gods. Energy tends toward autocracy and tyranny because it resists having its will limited by laws and institutions. In resisting that, Thought sometimes takes the role of trickster-hero, taking away the power Energy hordes and giving it to the masses. An example would be a campaign involving spilling the secrets of Glantri's secret schools, or anything involving robbing the magic and secrets of wizards.

Matter versus Time: This is less used in Mystara. One example that comes to mind is the conflict between the land and sea. If dao and marid genies are used in a Mystaran campaign, they should be at odds; this campaign element might explore the Sphere of Matter as (broadly) a proponent of slavery as part of the traditional social order (since dao are primarily known as slavers) while Immortals of Time advocate free and voluntary labor so that workers can change careers and move to where other jobs are. Taymora is popularly thought of as an Entropy-worshiping land, but on another level it's simply solid land swiftly eroded by time, not turned to nothingness as Entropy would desire but transformed into sea. There are other examples of sunken lands in Mystaran canon and fanon, not least of which is Alphatia post-Wrath of the Immortals. On a broader level, this is the theme of stasis vs. change. A campaign centering around dispelling the Hollow World's Spell of Preservation would be exploring the Matter vs. Time conflict. Time seeks to foment revolution in ancient empires, lead migrants to new lands, and to make the desert bloom, while Matter seeks always to keep things as they've always been.