I have split this into two more specific questions: How can I represent the use of fire being misrepresented in a campaign? and How to make rituals a part of everyday life.
Below is the broad-strokes outline for a D&D 4E or Next campaign I am working on bit by bit.
What I'm struggling with is:
How to make the concept of many daily rituals (when using fire, drawing water, cooking, etc) are all a part of daily life?
How do I make it clear that, due to generations of influence by a god masquerading as the God of Fire (see outline, below) fire is regarded as dangerous, and only to be used by priests of the god of fire.
- I am worried that introducing the rituals would somehow result in the players knowing the overarching plot right from the beginning. Specifically, the part where the rituals for fire (note, not magical rituals) emphasizing that fire is dangerous and extreme care must be taken when using it.
Would making spells like fireball extremely hard to get be too heavy-handed??
How to avoid making the whole thing a railroad.
I'm considering using D&D 4th Edition or D&D Next
Here's the outline of the backstory and possible gameplay arc:
God of XXXX, aka GoX (Not sure what, perhaps Ice in order for nice symmetry) is jealous of God of Fire, aka GoF.
Many, many generations ago, large battle between GoF and some other god, which ended with a pyrrhic victory by the GoF which put him* in a coma/sleep/out of contact while he recovered. The priests of the GoX, or perhaps an ally of the GoX manage to release him from his coma early.
Priests of GoF held regular prayer sessions, including ritual blessings, to help GoF recover. (Note that this would be a basic blessing that would probably be done by everyone whenever they use fire.)
Over the years, this blessing has been co-opted by GoX to do something else, perhaps to make people be extremely cautious around fire and the blessings are thus no longer working towards helping the GoF recover. High-level priests of the GoF would have been corrupted and would be the only ones, along with high-level GoX priests, to know that the GoX is now responding to the prayers offered up to the GoF.
Note that the priests of GoX aren't helping the GoF recover. The priests of the GoF are trying to help the GoF recover through prayer. The priests of the GoX have somehow managed to awaken the GoX and he is somehow (insert god-powers here) intercepting and anwswering the prayers that are supposed to be heading to the GoF.
GoX starts opening small rifts to plane of fire, allowing elementals, etc to get out.
As heroes fight that, more evidence that GoF has gone insane, which is actually machinations by GoX to make it look like the GoF has gone insane?
The heroes go after GoF, and manage to seal him up in home plane/castle.
They find out it was actually GoX behind it all, and now have to release GoF and make nice with him to help mortalkind.
They have to then defeat GoX.
* Note that the use of masculine is simply due to laziness on my part.
I think that it sounds interesting as an overall concept, but I would like ideas on how to introduce some of the things in order to avoid making it seem fairly railroading.
I figure to have three overall phases:
Phase 1 would be the introductory phase. They would be sent on random adventures, you know, like adventurers do, but as they progress, they are coming more and more up against fire-based creatures from the elemental plane of fire. At the end of this phase, they would find out that it is the "GoF" (actually GoX) who is doing this. Maybe some piece of prophecy planted ages ago by GoX?
Phase 2 would be the PCs trying to get at the GoF (the real one) and imprisoning him or something like that. Due to the wounds he suffered in the battle, he will be weaker. They won't be able to kill him, but should be able to imprison him, perhaps with the aid of the GoX or another deity.
Phase 3 would be the reveal that it is actually the GoX who was behind all of this, and that he is now, with the GoX out of the way, making a move to dramatically increase his power. The PCs then have to somehow release the GoF (without letting the GoX know), get him up to power and take on the GoX.