Villain: Dastigaan, The Maddest Mage of our Age
There’s a secret they won’t tell you about descending into the pit of madness. It’s that once you realize there’s no bottom your fall begins to feel a lot like flying.
It’s a well known fact that casters frequently meddle with powers beyond their understanding, at risk of not only inflicting trauma to their surroundings and their own mind, but onto reality itself. Dastigaan was the sort of mage folk all to reductively refer to as “mad”, the sort that confused the trauma he caused with an indicator of his growing power, and sought to cause more as a means of pushing his limits. He dealt with dark powers and lost himself in the forbidden reaches of the multiverse, returning home as a catacylsmic storm of arcane power that just so happened to still wear a mortal’s skin. Before he could unleash his terrible power he was caught and imprisoned by the great mages of the realm, an imprisonment that’s lasted for decades and will very soon come to an end, possibly with the party’s unwitting aid.
Dastigaan’s escape begins in the most innocuous way: The heroes come into conflict with a belligerent magic shop owner, who over promises on the capabilities or reliability of particular items and then throws the party out (using telekinisis) when they come back to complain. As they’re picking themselves up off the ground, a helpful tiefling by the tame of Tristham approaches to help dust them off and offer commiserations. the shopowner was an old business rival of his who elbowed him out of the magic trade and has been running roughshod over all the other enchantment vendors in town. Mutual cursing of the shopowners’s name turns into an offer of drinks, which turns into a completely innocent discussion of just how one might get into the shop and swipe a few choice items along with the owner’s collection of crafting diagrams. After the party returns victorious and after the heat dies down, Tristham will mention that he just so happens to have another job in the works, and that the party have just so happened to prove themselves more than qualified for an interview.
The architect of the big heist is one Ildra of Volennwal, a retired military officer and decorated war mage in her 60s who became dissolusioned with the kingdom’s goverannce after sustaining heavy personal injury including the loss of one of her arms to secure a victory that the diplomats traded away for trade concessions before she had even recovered. IIdra apparently has a plan to break a vault full of treasure held in reserve by the crown in the case of wartime, but is skeptical of the parties abilities to help pull it off despite her quartermaster Tristham’s appraisal. If the party want in, they’ll have to prove they can handle some danger... say by raiding a particularly notorious dungeon and bringing back a relic that will be useful in the caper
Drawn in by the promise of good pay and rich rewards by heisting an arcane vault, the party are half way into the execution of their plan when they discver that what they’re ACTUALLY doing is helping to break one of the most dangerous casters alive out of wizard jail. Do they abandon their plan an attempt to escape? Turn themselves over to the authorities? Go through with it and embrace their future as troubleshooters for a would be tyrant? They better make their decision soon, Ildra brought a small army of her old mercenaries buddies as a plan B of brute-forcing the jailbreak, and they won’t be too happy seeing their point-team turn tail and run.
Background: Far from the gibbering, nonsensical caricature that one could assume of most “mad” mages, Dastigaan is calm, cool, and in many ways perfectly reasonable. Backpacking through nightmare dimensions let him shrug off the destructive impulses of his youth and come to terms with what it really means to be a master of the arcane. The problem is where this reason will take him, as in order to avoid further pain, imprisonment, and attempts on his life, Dastigaan decided a few decades ago that each and every mage that acted against him or aided in his imprisonment must be made an example of. In order for these examples to be effective, they must be so direct and horrifying that they scar themselves onto history, a personal apocalypse delivered to each of the realm’s greatest casters to ensure the world learns from their mistake in opposing him.
This was exactly Ildra’s intent, having studied at the knee of one of those powerful mages and realizing far too late how his loyalty to the realm and distance and lofty position made him out of touch with the sacrifices of common people his grand stratagems necessitated. Knowing that she could never hold him, or the crown he served to account, Ildra remembered one of the old wizard’s forwarnings about the Maddest Mage of the Age and knew she had a weapon.
If your party don’t pick up on the original magic shop plot-tread (bastards) consider having them join up with the mercenary company that Ildra employs, or come into service of one of the mages Dastigaan is going to eventually target just before he escapes on his own.
The escape of the Maddest mage of the Age is going to make the great wizards and sorcerers of the realm shit their collective robes, having them stockpile arcane weapons, vanish completely as they flee to other planes, or drop all their responsibilities and disguise themselves as commoners while they wait for this all to blow over. While the panic and the chaos it brings begins to trickle down to the commons, the party end up adopting a skittish grey cat who seems intent on following them about for protection. This cat is infact Ildra’s mentor, having polymorphed himself into an easily overlooked form with a collar of nondetection.
While he possesses innumerable forbidden magics learned in his time beyond the stars, Dastigaan’s chosen method of avenging himself against his captors is to open the door to his good friend the outergod of paradox and let the lovecraftian horror horror go to work. Each of these violations results in the creation of a grisly monument, proportional in size and horror to how culpable Dastigaan believed that victim was in his imprisonment. Some are merely fist sized idols of clay and still living meat, others are grotesque instillation that eat up the lives and bodies of an entire city block.