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An ancient organization is a powerful cult devoted to Tsathoggua and operates as a shadow government behind the world's institutions. It's network of power has inflitrated administrative agencies, bureaucracies, armed forces, social authorities, and other organs of state in various nations in pursuit of its own agenda: to free the Sleeper of N'kai from its eternal prison. The cult is responsible for the majority of world events that have led to mass death. The spread of the Black Plague in medieval Europe, The Taipend Rebellion in China, the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, etc., were all set in motion by the cult to accomplish their task. The current tragedy resulting from their actions is a pandemic that has swept the world, shutting down countries and wrecking entire economies.

The purpose of instigating these events is to destroy the magical ward separating our world from the realm of the Outer God. This ward is made up of seven seals which holds reality together and keeps it from shattering. A violent act of murder releases a backlash of negative energy in our reality. One of these is small and inconsequential, and does minuscule damage. However, a significant event that leads to massive casualties, such as a war or a genocide, creates a significant amount of negative energy that causes ripples in reality itself. This energy builds up to a crescendo which permanently damages the ward, leading to the breaking of a seal. With each breaking of a seal, the ward becomes weaker until it completely cracks, allowing the Outer God to enter our dimension.

Since the breaking of these seals requires the release of negative energy, it makes sense for the cult to keep the world in a state of perpetual warfare, such as how it was in the ancient world and medieval period. The more death resulting from violence within or between countries, the more fragile the ward becomes. This would speed up its dissolution, allowing the organization to achieve their goals much faster. However, with every breaking of a seal, there is a "cooling off" process before the next seal can be broken. This allows the world to heal and recover from the damage inflicted, such as the reconstruction efforts made after WW2 in Europe and Japan. As a result, the world has become safer and more prosperous than it has ever been. The organization has even participated in these efforts, Which has stretched out their plans across millennia instead of a few decades, seemingly contradicting their goals.

What would make it necessary to allow the magical ward to heal before the next seal can be broken?

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  • $\begingroup$ This implies some, to put it safely, not so nice views. $\endgroup$ Dec 21 '20 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Eris the guest it's not meant to be taken literally. Changed it anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Incognito
    Dec 21 '20 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, makes me feel better. $\endgroup$ Dec 21 '20 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ Naxi Germancy? Does SE have an auto-censor I'm not aware of? $\endgroup$ Dec 21 '20 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ You said it yourself, that your world requires time to heal. Your cultists presumably can't amass their required death count if they kill everyone in a nuclear exchange or whatever. Because of this, cult leadership has decided to let the world recover so they can "reap what they sow" later. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Dec 21 '20 at 20:20
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You don't break a ward, you unweave it.

A ward can contain an elder god because if you try to brute force it it pushes back even harder. maybe the cultists tried brute forcing it and the ward got stronger. The only way to take it apart is to slowly unweave it bit by bit. You can't just throw energy at it you have to apply it in the correct way or the ward just fixes itself. Worse (for the cultists) they can't see the whole ward just the exposed layer so once they unweave it a bit they have to stop, map the pattern, and calculate new ways to apply energy. The ward is not healing the cultists need time to figure out how to keep unweaving it.

You can make it even harder by saying they don't just need to apply the energy in the correct way they need the right type of energy, WW2 was staged becasue they needed half a million dead Japanese, and British people and a million dead Russians, everything else was just collateral. So each layer is further slowed because it takes time to figure out how to get the right people to die.

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More People = Bigger Death Spike

In order for there to be deaths to power the negative energy backlashes, there needs to be people to kill. Killing too many people in too short of a time can leave too few humans alive to be killed. 1200 years ago, killing 2 million people with a plague would wipe out a half of the world's population, and it would take significant time to build those levels back up, with the possibility of that never happening if civilization falls too far.

Nowadays, significantly more people can die to a large event like that without destroying civilization, leading to a much larger maximum possible "death spike".

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It is not the ward that must heal between assaults, it is our world. There are multiple wards and each ward is stronger than the previous, requiring more negative energy to unmake than its predecessor. It is therefore necessary to build the world up in between each successful unmaking so that it can fall a greater distance during the next. Thus our civilization attains ever greater heights, not for the fulfillment of some manifest destiny, but rather so that we can suffer ever greater falls from those heights.

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Perhaps the ward is not destroyed by the negative energy of global suffering. Perhaps a better description would be that it is unlocked, by a series of negative energy bursts of exactly the right intensities, delivered across a precisely timed schedule of decades, in an exact order. This could be something like a mystic combination lock and our recent history of social improvement and decline, presented exactly as it has occurred and culminating with an upcoming near-apocalypse, is the one and only combination which will allow the ward to open.

The nice thing about this analogy is that combination locks can be relocked after the opening, so your story doesn't have to end with the elder beast's escape. If you and your characters are up to the challenge, you can chronicle the beast's recapture and reimprisonment.

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  • $\begingroup$ While your other answer is the more obvious, I like this one better. It permits the story to be complicated by yet another group that figures out what the Org. is doing and makes efforts to lock the unlocked seals. I'd happily combine the two: each succeeding lock is harder to unlock (and relock), which means the Org. is constantly building up both population and hope just to wreak havoc later when there's enough of both to affect the lock. Further, building on the combo lock idea, some of the Org.'s efforts may misfire because they overkilled population, now they must rebuild. Hah! $\endgroup$ Dec 21 '20 at 20:12
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Wards are destroyed not by negative energy itself, but a cycle of negative and positive energy.

We might draw an analogy to thermal stress in engineering. Steady, gradually applied heat and cold aren't as effective at breaking down structures as a rapid switch from one to the other.

In the same way, the ward is not destroyed merely by mass suffering (or by mass fulfillment). Rather, it is the tension caused by changing from one state to the other that damages the wards. If the world is constantly miserable, the wards can withstand that pressure much better than if it has periods of growth and recovery.

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