I hope you aren’t tired of hearing a particular quote from The Dark Knight, because I’ve had it on my mind recently:

“You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Where do I begin with this idea?

Let’s start with what I need — I need to fill “dead levels” at 9th, 19th, and 29th level. You may know I’m considering awarding player characters with a personal stronghold at 9th level, and a personalized magic ring at 19th level.

I imagine the stronghold to be like the Batcave or the Fortress of Solitude. They can also be like Beowulf’s mead hall, or Robin Hood’s uh… a safe place to hide out in the woods or something. You know what I mean.

Magic rings are a little bit trickier. There’s a quote from The Lord of the Rings films, about how there are many magic rings in Middle Earth, and none of them should be taken lightly — I like to think that every ring is as unique as the hero who bears it, almost literally like a Ring of Power out of LotR.

With levels nine and nineteen spoken for, that left me with level twenty-nine to consider. With the stronghold, I imagined using it as a springboard to initiate player character affiliations per the affiliation system I’ve discussed before, but what do you give a character at the very end of their adventuring career?

I’ve bandied about the idea of PC immortality and godhood before, but it didn’t quite jell for me. How do you manage a growing pantheon of PC deities if every adventuring party contributes to The Great Frat Party In The Sky?

At the same time, I’ve been trying to work out villainous origins, and how to explain where campaign villains get all the stuff they use to threaten the next generation of heroes with — when the two ideas crossed paths in my mind.

With each successful campaign, more heroes are indeed added to the pantheon — more heroes than could ever be served by mortal followers — and when those ascended heroes find themselves neglected by the mortals they once protected, they get feisty — let’s say pop ’round the earth to stir up trouble?

In addition to giving every character godhood regardless of their chosen path, it instills that idea — ties every character to the setting — “if you stat it, they will kill it” applies not only to the monsters, but once the PCs ascend at the end of their heroic journeys, they will in turn become those with stats whom can be killed.

Why leave it ambiguous as to who becomes a deity at the conclusion of the campaign? Why not make every adventurer of a high enough level into a deity? Where many classical deities fail to meet the expectations of modern audiences, there seems to me a challenge worthy of an adventuring party.