While our world hopefully isn’t ending any time soon, that doesn’t mean that your fantasy world can’t face its own apocalypse.
How Does The World End?
In a fantasy world, there are countless options for the end of the world. Here are three scenarios that you could use in your D&D campaign.
The Dusk War
Ages ago, the deities defeated and imprisoned the primordials in order to preserve the natural world in a great conflict known as the Dawn War. Now the primordials have escaped their bounds and a new great conflict is engulfing the cosmos. The natural world will be at the center of this conflict as the primordials seek to reclaim their creation and destroy it in order to make way for new cycles of creation and destruction.
- Archons and other elementals begin to establish strongpoints throughout the natural world.
- Elemental forces in the world become more chaotic as primordials break free from their bonds. Volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis plague the land.
- Primordial cults begin to act openly and preach that the end of the world is at hand.
- Portals to the Elemental Chaos begin to spew armies of archons and destructive elementals into the natural world.
- Angels and other servants of the deities rally to protect the world, but lack the power to put a quick end to the conflict.
- Soon the primordials and gods journey to the natural world to join the war’s front lines.
- Destruction spreads quickly as the world is reduced to a great battlefield.
Escape and Prevention
- Sanctuary within one of the divine realms of the Astral Sea is likely the best way to escape the destructive forces of the primordials.
- Powerful heroes may be able to turn the tide of war early in order to once again imprison the primordials.
Madness and Nothingness
The entire multiverse was born from the utterly alien Far Realm, and that realm’s horrible rulers want nothing more than to reclaim every plane of existence and fold it back into the maddening nothingness they dwell within. Nightmares and insanity are the heralds of these alien powers as they begin to disrupt the basic structure of the multiverse and eventually tear reality apart at its seams.
- Cults devoted to Tharizdun become more active.
- People begin to be plagued by nightmares where they are terrorized by strange, alien creatures.
- The stars glow brighter at night, particularly those stars associated with star pacts.
- Animals and primal spirits seem to become restless as if they can sense something horrible on the horizon.
- The nightmares drive some people to madness.
- The stars burst into horrible burning holes in the sky.
- Alien abominations attack the multiverse en masse.
- Reality is disrupted with geometry and time no longer working right. Powerful psychics are able to manipulate reality like a dreamscape while weaker minds find their worst nightmares manifesting before their eyes.
- The mad god Tharizdun escapes his bonds. He may attempt to stop the powers of the Far Realm or join them in tearing apart the world depending on the whims of his own madness.
- Madness spreads throughout the populous.
- With the entire multiverse under attack, safety is hard to find.
- Some deities and primordials may attempt to create safe havens.
- A powerful psionicist could lead an exodus through the Far Realm into a new multiverse.
The End of Magic
What happens to a magic-filled fantasy world when magic stops working? In this scenario, the world doesn’t end, but instead magic dies away in the natural world. While not as destructive as the other scenarios, this will still lead to a lot of chaos, uncertainty, and hardship in a world that was formerly permeated with magic.
- Spellcasting becomes unreliable. Consider introducing a chance to fail for spells or increasing their difficulty.
- Magical creatures feel uneasy in the natural world and begin to act erratically or leave.
- Enchanted items are weakened. What was once a mighty +5 sword will begin to show signs of its age and might be reduced to a +2 sword instead.
- Spellcasting is impossible and enchanted items cease functioning.
- Monsters tied closely to magic, such as undead constructs and elementals, are destroyed.
- Medicine, communication, and travel are all disrupted due to their reliance on magical effects such as potions, magical messages, and teleportation.
- The natural world is severed from the rest of the multiverse making planar travel impossible.
- Nations ruled by mages or priests fall into chaos as its rulers lose their power and new factions launch coups.
- While this apocalypse scenario is easier to survive, heroes, particularly spellcasters, may still wish to escape it. Will they abandon their home in order to maintain access to magic?
- Powerful heroes may seek a way to repair the bonds of magic before it is too late.
What Do The Heroes Do?
Low Level: For low-level characters, it will be a challenge just to survive the end of the world. Without easy access to planar travel or the power to stop the apocalypse, they will need to find a way to survive. This might mean finding a fey circle that can transport them to the Feywild, a door to the Shadowfell, or some other way to escape destruction.
Mid Level: For mid-level characters, a good goal would be not only saving themselves but also saving as many other people as possible. Their goal might be to convince those in power to evacuate or simply to petition the common people directly and then lead them to safety. As with low-level heroes, a planar exodus is likely a good means of surviving the end of the world, but another option could be a magically protected sanctuary somewhere in the natural world that will be capable of sustaining life.
High Level: These mighty heroes should be focused on stopping or reversing the apocalypse. While less powerful characters try to survive, high level heroes are capable of challenging the powers that would destroy the world and preventing widespread destruction.
The image in this post is an illustration by Steve Ellis from the Manual of the Planes.