I first started working on my worldshakers after reading some of Thoughtcrimes designs for Worldbreakers which are, I think, themselves a variant on the Icons of 13th Age. I know very little about 13th Age (almost entirely through what I’ve read about it on Thoughtcrime, actually), but I suspect that the worldshaker might be fairly similar to that idea. Essentially these are intended as a kind of force of nature, with personality. The worldbreakers at Thoughtcrime are meant as bosses but these here aren’t really meant to be confronted directly. Or if they are, it’s an endgame activity (one way or another).
A Worldshaker is a force of destruction, akin to a tornado but with motivations that can be understood, a mind with which to reason, and goals PCs can engage. Worldshakers are meant to be something inevitable, an element of the world to work around or deal with rather than oppose directly. A better metaphor than the tornado – there are certainly PCs who could stop a tornado – might the weather conditions that spawn the tornados. PCs might be able to stop one tornado, but they would have to break the world themselves to keep tornados from happening ever again.
Here, then, is my first:
The Ruiner believes art is held back by its past, scorns imitators, and wishes to see a world of creators. Towards this end, The Ruiner destroys and obliterates anything that is in danger of becoming too admired, that has been copied or replicated by artists who should be creating their own work instead.
The Ruiner does not care about function, merely admiration, and is mostly dangerous to the public when destroying works of art that are still in use. However, as time has passed, the Ruiner has been expanding its definition of art. Now almost anything admired is to be destroyed, including the artists themselves and especially those who would teach their technique to others.
Rumor has it that the Ruiner is beginning to eye the elves. Far too many human nobles seem to be trying to appropriate elf culture. That probably has to go, too.
Conflicts with the PCs when:
- The Ruiner sets its sights on a mosaic of the ancient world, the same map the PCs need for the secrets it contains to the location of a hidden tomb.
- The Ruiner has begun systematically destroying the architecture of the great Klovis Presidio. It has already reduced to rubble the Grand Coliseum, the Floating Gardens, and now approaches the Oroborian Colossus. The fourth work, considered Klovis’s greatest, is simply called The Aqueduct and an entire city depends upon it for drinking water and irrigation.
- The PCs’ last heist was amazing, a one-in-a-million success, pulled off perfectly, flawlessly, a true work of art. The PCs should pray the Ruiner never learns who managed it.
- Agents of the Ruiner have been seen in the same city where a PC’s [family member/mentor/patron] will be performing their masterpiece at a public ceremony. How can the PCs keep the Ruiner from learning just how skilled their friend is … without ruining the relationship?
- The PCs need an artifact but learn that the Ruiner destroyed it many years ago. However, there are rumors that The Ruiner always keeps a piece of what it destroys. Even a fragment of the artifact could help in their quest. The PCs need to find the Ruiner’s vault, and loot it.
- The Ruiner’s agents offer bounties on fine art gathered from the dusty halls of lost cities. The bounties are higher if the agents get the first look and highest if the explorers can lead the agents back to the original site.
- The walls of the enemy are impervious to mortal efforts. Can the Ruiner be convinced that those walls are a work of art in their own right? And what will it cost the PCs to come to its attention?
- The Ruiner only gets directly involved for works of the highest beauty, true masterpieces. For the rest, especially works derivative of that which the ruiner has already destroyed, well… the Ruiner’s organization is ALWAYS looking to hire.
- The Ruiner is rumored to be seeking the Dontrigan Harpsichord. The PCs need the Dontrigan Star. Odds are good they’re in the same place. The Ruiner is likely to lead them just where they need to go, but do they try to rush ahead and ransack the cathedral before the wrecking begins? Or do they hold back and try to find the Star in the ruins left behind?
What is the Ruiner?
- An archfey, attempting to guide the mayfly civilizations away from their lives of dull tedium, to inspire true creativity
- An elf, one of the oldest of its kind, bored, so bored, and just so tired of watching the lesser races repeat themselves
- A tarrasque with both intelligence and patience, delighted with itself for also finding purpose
- An ancient and intricate golem of adamantium and wyrdwood whose last instruction has been corrupted by its own rise to sentience
- An angel of beauty, implacable and determined to ensure mortal beauty never has a chance to decay into ugliness
- A night hag coven, with a taste for the highs and lows their victims experience when dreaming of lost treasures
Other easy fits: beholder, dragon, giant, vampire
The Ruiner has a vast organization of critics, curators, and assayers. Some know what their employer does with the information they collect. Many do not. There are even elements of the organization devoted to encouraging and promoting artistic growth. As long as you’re not the best or brightest, they can be quite helpful. It’s probably the only art school where competition is fiercest to be second best.
The Ruiner doesn’t have to be a worldshaker; there are definitely lesser, more approachable variants possible, against which PCs could triumph rather than simply work to mitigate.
- A petty wizard or baron, jealous of their own lack of art
- A duke or crime boss who measures their own power against the unique beauty they have seen and destroyed. “I was the last to gaze upon such works”