My inspiration for The Great Work started shortly after finishing the Amnesia campaign. I wanted to create a story that took place in the game's universe, with a new story and a new cast of characters. More importantly, though, I wanted to root this story in history much like the original campaign. So, I began to research historical figures of the time.
I was drawn to the story of the Hartlib Circle of 1600s Europe, a sprawling network of associates that gathered and collected information. Samuel Hartlib himself was a brilliant and philanthropic man, whose goal was to gather knowledge for the sake of all mankind. He envisioned an office in every town where men could go to find any information he wished. The Hartlib Circle eventually grew to be the Royal Society of England in the 1700s.
The lore around the Hartlib Circle was filled with juicy details, and I knew I had hit paydirt when I found notes regarding the "Invisible College," a secretive group created by members of the Circle. They obviously weren't evil, but they were just shadowy enough to suit my purposes for making the bad guys of the story.
The main antagonist character, however, came in the form of a close associate of Hartlib's, Johann Moriaen. Not only did his name sound evil, but some aspects of his personality sounded suspicious. As opposed to Hartlib's idea of gathering knowledge, Moriaen believed humans could gain God-like omniscience. He also had close contact with Theodore Haak, one of the central figures of the Invisible College.
This was enough information to begin constructing a good story. Samuel Hartlib as the "good guy," with Johann Moriaen as the traitor, and the Invisible College as the evil organization.
The second major part of The Great Work's story is based on aspects of European alchemy and Hermeticism, which I made much more in depth than the original story. The Great Work, or Magnum Opus, is defined by many to be the altogether "goal" of Western alchemy. It involved several legendary objects that alchemists sought to create: chrysopoeia (the transmutation of lead to gold), homunculus (an artificial human, also referred to as a golem), alkahest (an acid capable of dissolving anything), and panacea (an elixir of life that grants immortality). Critical to them all was the Philosopher's Stone, the central symbol of Western alchemy.
As I'm sure most of you have notice, aspects of the historical Great Work show up in the story, as important goals of both Hartlib and the Invisible College. The monsters are artificial humans, you are required to create an alkahest, and the panacea is important in both Hartlib's background and in one of the endings to the game.
As the story came together, I married the mythos of the Hartlib Circle and the central tenants of alchemy to create the custom story you see now. And here you are, playing an unsuspecting archaeologist that gets drawn into a centuries old war between great philosophic minds.
More than everything, though, this story was created to answer one big question: What would happen if alchemists found an Orb, and thought it was Philosopher's Stone?
I hope you've all enjoyed The Great Work! I will keep doing my best to improve on the story, to make this a great experience for everyone!