The Question: A 1st Level Epic Campaign. Can it be done?
The original line of thought for this campaign was, “What would happen if I started off a large group of first level characters that are all royal heirs, nobility, and very important individuals, and let them begin their adventure with epic magical items and a heroic legneary quest right off the bat?” This is usually where most campaigns get to the point of gearing down for a wrap-up. But, what if it was, instead, this is where it all begins?
Of course, those items would be be too powerful for them to wield, but assuming that those magical items (intelligent, of course) were willing to work with those wielding them, the power could be gradually increased as the characters progressed in levels.
I decided not to make the special abilities secret until unlocked, rather, allowing the players to randomly determine the entire large set of special abilities and magical functions of their items before even playing in the first game session. I felt this would add immediate incentive for progressing the character (other than the traditional rewards for doing so).
As the thought process continued, this evolved into adding factors such as limiting the items use to only the one character (or only one “chosen” character at a time), and the only way that a new character could be chosen was if the original choice was permanently dead.
I decided that I wanted the items to be something epic-worthy; something even a 20th level character would envy. This of course brought to light several factors that would eventually lead to balance issues with the standard game mechanics, and eventually I decided on limiting these epic magic items to weapons, and then specifically to melee weapons.
When I asked myself, “Okay, who made these items originally, and why are they so alike one another,” I decided that the powers of these weapons absolutely had to be divine in nature, placing soul responsibility on the gods themselves for empowering such artifacts.
So step #1 was to create a “template” for sorts for these items, to make sure that, though they are random, they ended up fairly balanced between characters and well structured for level progression. The working format of the Divine Receptacles’ powers and special abilities was the end result of that process. I would allow the players to choose the weapon type they wanted, require it be forged of adamantine, and then randomly determine the powers using the DMG (letting the players roll themselves) as a reference per the created template format.
Dungeon Master Commentary: Early Campaign Concepts