I have been thinking about the whole Orcus as the big bad in 4e. It's cool and it has a lot of fun about it. But there is a big issue I have with it. Orcus is a brute. He his not a planner or plotter. He smashes and destroys.
In my game multiverse Orcus used to be a Primal God. In 4e I am fine with this being called a Primordial, but now he is a demon. He is a demon prince and a very, very powerful one, but an over arching plot seems a bit cerebral for him. I am thinking that maybe Orcus is nothing more than the weapon being used by someone more powerful, but behind the scenes. But who and for what ends?
I mean Orcus is no dummy, but as a demon he is more concerned with destruction than labyrinthine plots.
Here are some thoughts on some potential players.
Vecna - God of evil knowledge and a lich, but what does Orcus have that Vecna wants? What could Vecna be using Orcus for?
Asmodeus - The Blood War may be in cold war mode now, but maybe the Arch duke of Hell needs Orcus to get the seed of evil.
Tharizdun - This one is easiest. Tharizdun wants out of his prison. While everyone thinks Tharizdun is imprisoned either in the Abyss or the Astral, he is in reality imprisoned in the lowest point in Hell. Asmodeus is still his jailer. I would make him a bit like Lucifer in Dante's Inferno, chained to very bottom of hell. Asmodeus thinks he is draining power off of Thaizdun, which is why he is a god-like power now. Tharizdun is allowing this knowing that he gains a little more control over Asmodeus. Who is using who? Well I guess that depends on who wins in the end.
Iggwilv - The Witch Queen wants the Abyss, and Orcus is one of the big things in her way. I have been dying to use her is some way.
So here is my plan.
Iggwilv and Asmodeus are working together to manipulate Orcus. He is being propped up as this huge threat so the PCs take him out. Iggwilv is directing the PCs to do this while also working on Orcus telling him that doing this will make him a god. The plan is to have the PCs kill Orcus and deliver his wand somewhere it can be destroyed. The PCs end up in Hell and hand over the Wand to Asmodeus. Asmodeus has told Iggwilv that he wants the extra shard and she can keep the Abyss. In truth Asmodeus is being manipulated by Thaizdun. Orcus' Wand and Asmodeus' Rod together will free him.
Yes, this is bit much for a D&D plot, especially a D&D4 one, but I like the idea. If the PCs play this right they could defeat Orcus, Iggwilv and Asmodeus all in one fell swoop.
The old AD&D adventure H4 Throne of Bloodstone is an influence here since the goal there is to destroy the Wand. The E1-3 series for D&D4 focuses on Orcus wanting to become a god. So I will merge them a bit. The whole Tharizdun bit is a bit recycled from the Gygax "Dance of Demons" book, but that is fine really.
Part of this though also depends on something else.
To defeat Orcus in the E series takes the characters right to 30th level. To then take on Iggwilv, Asmodeus AND Tharizdun then is something else altogether.
So I had yet another idea. What about Immortal Level D&D. Reading over the Mentzer D&D BECMI set I do see how well Immortal level play can work and that is something Immortals would do, stop the imbalance of Tharizdun coming back into play. I am just not quite sure how to do that in D&D4 just yet. I am sure I'll figure it out. Though I did ask about it on RPG.Net.
Presently I am working on finishing my 3.x campaign. Since the 4e characters are the kids of the 3.x ones I can start planting some seeds now. Drop the name Tharizdun and Iggwilv. Mention Orcus' and Asmodeus' rise to power. Might need to figure out how Vecna and Raven Queen fit into all of this. Maybe once Orcus is dead Vecna becomes the new patron of the Undead. Am I ready to get rid of Orcus once and for all?
Hmm. Interesting thought.