I’m planning a new campaign, to be run as a open table sandbox in the West Marches style.
Almost nine years ago, I wrote about a campaign cosmology that has sat at the back of my mind since.
The gods created Paradise in order to avoid the effects of Amorphia, primordial chaos. Because Paradise was built as it was — in a damn hurry, that is, with additions as Amorphia surged and new gods were created — it was never fully stable and was subject to Amorphic events. The gods present joined forces to build a new structure (the elemental, ethereal, and prime planes) that would be more resilient and give them more shelter, but were interrupted before they were finished and the project had to be abandoned.
At the same time, Paradise shattered and the outer planes were formed from the remnants as the desperate survivors tried to save themselves. Many were destroyed, popped like bubbles, many survived, all were changed.
The project to create the Prime Plane was nevertheless a qualified success. The structure had the resilience to withstand the maelstrom that tore apart Paradise, even as the gods abandoned it to try to save themselves… but because the job was not completed, it lacked the ‘strength’ to actually support the gods being present. They had built a more or less safe shelter for mortals.
Before the maelstrom, mortal creatures had come into being. Some were deliberately created by the gods, some were more or less spontaneously generated as the consequence of the powers being manipulated to create and shape the planes. Some gods were interested enough in them to study them (“the spontaneous generation of bio-social structure” was a not-uncommon topic of conversation between some gods), and they were sometimes useful to the gods, sometimes a nuisance, sometimes entertaining, but most of the time generally considered not worth the trouble to destroy. That could always be done later if needed.
Sometimes entire civilizations might be destroyed if it turns out, for example, that “that continent is in the way right there, so just push it down half a mile or so for a few decades and get it out of the way until we need it”, but for the most part mortals tended to prosper.
When the maelstrom struck, however, and the gods had to drop tools and run, things got a little messed up. New mountain ranges formed, rivers changed course, time sometimes ran backward, things like that. Much, possibly most, of the structure that had been formed or used by mortals was lost. Not necessarily destroyed, but much of it was no longer accessible, and in many cases the location of various things might no longer be known.
For most mortals life basically continued on. Changed, but survivors survived and continued to prosper, more or less, rebuilding civilization.
For some mortals, though, the stories of lost wonders is something of a draw, much as a candle is to a moth. They want to find out what is over there? and how did this happen? and what does this do?
These mortals are the adventurers, who seek lost marvels and to bring back the wonders told of in stories.