The Godswar campaign follows the premise that the gods of your campaign world are being attacked – the gods of a real-earth mythology are attempting to establish churches and replace the gods of your fantasy game world.
This campaign can two radically different approaches – You as GM should probably decide which approach you are going to use, or this can be a party decision, but it needs to be determined during the planning phase of your campaign, not the execution. The two approaches, either supporting the defenders or the attackers, require some very different story arcs, although many of the set pieces and events will occur in both versions.
Now, no matter what side you choose, the same basic points are true of the Godswar. Earth is either dead, or the gods have had other reason to abandon it – perhaps they are dying themselves due to lack of worship. Perhaps the gods just got bored. You can really choose the reason yourself, but we’re going to take the approach that the world is dead, and the gods aren’t dying, they’re just lonely. We’re doing this because we will want the gods to be potent when they arrive on Golarion, not struggling for power. Even though they are potent, they still have to win the war to control their portfolio, so there’s motivation.
To begin with, This series will assume a few things for you, although you are, of course, free to deviate. First, we’re assuming that your game world is Pathfinder, and that the “home turf” gods are Golarion’s core pantheon. If your game is a homebrew, or 4th edition, 3rd edition/non-pathfinder, or other, you will have to adjust the names in your version of this campaign to the gods you actually use. Hopefully we’ll be giving you enough to go on.
Our second assumption is that the invading gods will be the Greco-Roman pantheon. We’ll be using their Greek names, Zeus, Demeter, Hades, etc. rather than their Roman names Mars and Jupiter, for aesthetic reasons. Mostly, we’re such science nerds that when we say Jupiter is attacking, we want to pull out our telescopes. Also, we want to avoid Mars Attacks references wherever possible. You, of course, may know your players better. You may know that they hate Greek mythology, but would love a titanic struggle between Iomedae and Odin. Or Gozreh and Geb. So you will want to use Norse, Egyptian, Meso-American (yeah – imagine if Quetzalcoatl and Oxacoatipetl were invading!) or whatever suits you. If you’ve had an established game world for a long time, and your players are comfortable with your homebrew pantheon, you might even want to use them as the invaders, instead of the defenders. That’s perfectly valid, too.
Third, we’re going to assume your players care about the gods, one way or the other. In the interest of full disclosure, I originally wrote this as the premise for a 4th Edition game that never happened – a game wherein every player character was a Divine Class, because I’d never seen one. Now, we’re NOT assuming that all your PCs are clerics, paladins, inquisitors, oracles, avengers, invokers, or priests of some sort, although it does help. But we are assuming that some level of concern for the divine exists – there’s at least a handful, if not a majority, of divine classes, and that those that are not divine are at lease followers of a god.
What we’re not going to assume for you is which side your players take. We have more than just one segment to talk about this, and we’re going to try to cover the campaign from both perspectives. Hell, a particularly ambitious GM with more than one game group might choose to have his Friday night game support the invasion, and his Saturday night game defend against. Both options will be presented.
Before we begin to go into the details, and we’re going to tackle the campaign as defenders of the status quo, champions of the home team, and paragons of the Way Things Ought To Be before we tackle supporting the Invasion, we need to be clear on the differences for the GM and the players of each side of the story, and what that means for you, The GM running this at home.
What Choosing Sides means to you
Games centered on Defense of the Pantheon require the least set up, and are the easiest to motivate your players. We can reasonably assume characters native to Golarion, familiar with the pantheon, and respectful, if not necessarily devout. They have an innate motivation – to protect their gods and their world. The individual stories are a tad more complex. For dramatic reasons, you need the invasion to be relatively successful, so that at the endgame BBEG battle, the players are the last chance the old gods have to not be replaced. And yet, you need the players to be winning, or at least not losing horribly. They need to be achieving success on their front, while on every other front, the war is going horribly, until the gods themselves believe that the PCs are their only hope.
Choosing the Invaders to support makes motivation harder, but the overall story is easier to achieve. We’ll discuss player motivations for this game later, but suffice to say, convincing your players to be adversaries to their own world might be hard. Once you have them on board, the story is easy. The invasion needs to go well, with setbacks on other front that the PCs can help sway the tide of battle. It shouldn’t be a rout, but if the PCs are helping the invaders, you don’t have to try to justify the invaders gaining ground over the world when the PCs keep winning.
Finally, there’s the twists. Both plots are epic, and both deserve a number of twists. We’ll delve into each later, but it’s important to note that some twists can work for both campaigns, and some really work best for one or the other.
That’s a lot of set-up, and We’ve really said nothing at all except that the Olympians are invading Golarion. For both campaigns, what must be true is that the Olympians must do what all invaders do. Gather Intelligence, Arrange their forces, and hide. Invaders planning on simple conquest can bring their own armies, and the Olympians certainly will be doing some of that, but the Olympians want a full-on Coup. They want the conquered lands to worship them as gods, love them, fear them, or just respect an pay tribute to them. They need loyalty, so they need to add one more step – gain followers discretely.
The first part of the campaign will be the arena of subterfuge, where the world is unaware of the Olympian invasion, but the events unfolding around you will be portents thereof. The second stage will be an overt power grab, and the third phase… well, that changes based upon which side you take. Either it’s the Last Stand for defense of the Realm, or it’s the Final Crusade…