The End of the World
Following a discussion we had on the site, I thought we could start up a thread to post the pre- and post-apocalyptic effects of a comet/minor planetary impact on a campaign world.
There is the obvious physical damage such as flooding, freak weather conditions and total black cloud cover before the dust thrown up by the collision settles, but how might these events affect the world and its denziens?
'A great fear has come over the people of our town. For five days now the sun has not risen, and unholy winds have battered the wood of our walls. No news has come from Kalabash...The unasked question hangs in our every mind, have they all been destroyed? Are we the sole remnant of this once-great race? More than the awe we feel towards the elements which berate us, we fear the yawning loneliness that may await...'
'Now after a month the people have grown starved and wild. It is only with locked doors that I can record this chronicle: everywhere one walks there are to be seen awful deeds. Monstrous cannibalism, carcasses litter the streets, for no food can we farm in this dark and filthy weather.'
Not only might doomsday cults commit mass suicide, but this would certainly be the signal for them to take control of a leaderless, terrified populace. Suddenly the players could find themselves confronted by mass conversions to cults whose leaders they'd annoyed/persecuted at some time during their adventures.
Conversely, some of the PCs' most deadly opponents might find themselves utterly disabled. The grand red dragon now ails in his cavern, unable to fly because of the foul air, pining, weak, dying. The malevolent forest sprites suffer the same choking fate as their parent trees. Great leviathans are washed up dead on the shore having died in the polluted waves.
When a falling meteor strikes a superstitious world...
A remnant of a lost world or dying moon has traversed space and crashed into the surface of your campaign world...
The players will likely first encounter the effect of this disaster when they meet those who have been contaminated by exposure to the cosmic debris.
Contamination make take many forms. Typically the victims may be suffering from intense rashes, skin pigment trauma and severe sickness - followed by death.
However some have in fact benefitted from exposure to the huge crater and it's strange remnants. Developing incredible intelligence, superior constitution and even pyrotechnic ability...
Having been endowed with such gifts - these superstitious folk believed they had been chosen as the apostles of some heavenly power, or the new bearers of some fallen divinity.
Who knows what strange things were spoken and heard in that impressive miles-wide basin where monolithic stones from the stars now leered over the scene? And what strange reasoning would have taken hold when exposed weapons and armour began to glow with seemingly magical ambience?
As the PCs enter even the most remote parts of this region they will soon discover that a strange new crusade is on the rise...
I'm impressed by that imagery ephemeralstability! I particularly like 'Great leviathans are washed up dead on the shore having died in the polluted waves' - that's powerful stuff!
Sounds like you'd probably have handled the concept with more power than I did. When I ran this idea I placed the PC's at the very fringe of things - which on retrospect meant they missed some of the potentially more dramatic sites/sights.
However it did allow for some interesting and subtle forebodings; strange prophets would filter into the cities carrying the bizarre message of purification by fire and showing disturbing signs of having been touched by some higher power. Weapons began to circulate which glowed eerily of their own accord. People were found dead or dying from a grotesque sickness, often vomiting out their own insides. Estates on the fringe of society were found mysteriously deserted. Charred corpses were discovered in the backroads.
Why not place it closer to the actual impact?
'Three days ago a god fell. We looked to the east and saw a great cloud rising into the sky, as the ground shook and a mighty wind cast us upon our backs. Then the ash began falling. It has not stopped. People cough and choke on their own fluids, eyes swell, and hair falls out. Is this the end of the world? I am the only one left in the village who can see. Please, if you recieve this, we need help.'
An asteroid of sufficient size impacting an earth-sized planetary body would create a mushroom cloud and minor radioactive fallout. This kind of imagery, used on players who are familiar with the effects of nuclear weaponry, can create a great deal of tension.
There would most assuredly be minor impacts all over the world and not just the one main meteor. For the rest of the campaign they could be coming into isolated patches were something struck and caused isolated devostation and, my favorite, mutation.
The first campaign world I played in used the unique metal from a meteor to create all the worlds magical weapons. The arrival of these meteors could be a new resource for the creation of a whole new breed of magic. Just have to come up with something unique to make them unique and not just another magic item that is now a different color or whatever.
And then, if the impact is large enough, you have fun effects like mountain ranges changing, seas appearing, orbits decaying/widening, new orbital bodies... you can play merry hell with your world's physical characteristics.
DM: As you exit the forest of Arek-sulit you see the mountains of Eskade.
Player: Great! It will take us about a week to get to the Pass of Uris.
(One week, game time, later)
DM: The pass appears to have collapsed due to the recent meteor impact. You now face a 900 mile long mountain range stretching a quarter of the way across the continent.
Fun sounding, isn't it?
Of course, we are talking a phenomenally huge central body to have this kind of effect, but it would be something to think about. You could even, depending on the density of the meteor, have metals formed that are different than the meteor itself, or have new, super-hard crystals form around the area of impact. Possibilities are endless.
'Funny' encounter at some point in the past...
...the heroes meet a depressed looking individual, that claims to be a future-teller with a strain of bad luck.
'Damn, whenever I read my cards, I always get the same message: the person in question is going to die! I tried to read them for myself, but it is the same result... Could it be that someone has cursed... Or did I loose all my talent... I don't know anymore... I guess you don't want to know your future, not from me... *sigh*'
The Last Adventure
The heroes are waiting on the mighty Khelbas to arrive. Things went from bad to worst, the world was about to die. Maybe the mighty archmage had found a way... he must have found a way to stop this madness!
'Thank you for your coming. This may be the last time I ask you for something... We have had quite many adventures over the years, and I have come to trust you as if you were my family...' Sure, sure. He always has his loooong talk. But he will come to the point eventually...
'The task I lay on you is this: take these scrolls, tablets and other materials. They shall become a legacy of our world, of our time. Maybe someone will come after us one day... maybe that someone will want to know us, how we lived and died. Please, find a way how to preserve these treasures of knowledge forever, so they can be possibly found, one day...'
'What?' shouts the entire party, 'You mean, like, it's all over now? It's the end?!'
...mmm, what a moment to throw on a group...
With all the dust in the sky (effectively a nuclear winter of sorts), creatures of the night will be able to waunder everywhere.
A plauge of vampires (vampires could just have a field day in the chaos) and other undead will issue forth.
The Dark Lord could return to the land, as there is no sun to hold him at bay. Thus we have political uphevals, as well as an army of orcs/goblins/ bugbears/ insert race of choice, marching through the 'good' lands.
Lets not mention all the ecological damage that will be effecting the world for centuries. Little meteor strikes do not wipe out all life, but they are responsible for various shifts in biology such as jurasic, cretacious, etc, periods. Think about the tiny effects of Mount St. Helens, which was tiny explosion in comparison to what you are all talking about. It reduced temps, changed wind patterns, and changed sunlight access for two or three years after the one erruption.
Unless supernatural forces intervene, plants are going to be dying off soon. Famine is on its way.
Things will be cooler, so animals will be moving south. Animals, monsters, and people from colder climes will be moving towards the equator. People will be unprepared for the change in climate.
This will impact weather, as land refracted solar heat generate wind, and the dark will reduce evaporation and rain.
So after we factor all this in, we have all those underground races that will soon be dominating the world.
And all the top siders who will be doing crazy things....
Good thinking Moonhunter. It could have the opposite effect too: an empire could crumble in the darkness after the strike. The Pharaohs' names were often inscribed inside cartouches, which are supposed to symbolise the sun and all that it can see, the implication being that the Pharaoh rules all that lies under the sun. If the sun were blacked out, it would pose a philosophical crisis for the Dynasty of the sun...
I would down shift it
Instead of one big rock... I would have lots of moderate sized ones. (The moon falling apart into hundreds of smaller pieces). That way you get lots of the same social effects, with much less ecological disaster.
What about the Gods?
In our world, Gods, if they exist, are not very active, or their miracles are so common, that we don't even notice them. But in classical fantasy (as I imagine it), Gods do exist, and intervene. Not necessarily every day with displaying great powers, but they can.
What would gods do if such a thing was about to happen? Of course, keeping in mind gods are different in each game world. A few possibilities:
- Gods are simply not all-knowing in space-relevant stuff. Especially if they are strongly bound to the world is this true.
- Gods were ignorant to the danger, or were distracted. Undoubtly this will become one of the legends. How the guarding lord A was hot on the lovely immortal B, while evil demon C used the time to... Or simply another godly conflict.
- (ad Nitouken) As a result of a godly conflict, one of them truly felt on the world. Maybe he died, maybe not, the place may become holy one day, or eternaly desecrated and cursed. Whatever stays behind will be potent and deadly.
- Gods have seen this coming, but were unable to intervene. Even their power has limits. But it is likely some devout followers were warned (sounds Noah familiar?) to prepare.
- Gods have seen this coming, but were unwilling to intervene. Maybe they have finally enough of this world, or they had to save their power for some reason.
- Gods have seen this coming, but were happy NOT to intervene. To Hell with them mortals! Alternatively, the common godly games were getting too boring. Throw the rock, and then let's see who has tougher followers, or at least who survives. Morbid? Yes.
- Some god(s)/higher being(s) are actually the cause.
- Good evening, you were just overtaken. The point of impact was the seat of the former pantheon. More changes are prepared, including new gods and new priesthoods. Mortals, please stay on-line (and survive if you can) to meet your new better and more powerful deities.
- Gods are out somewhere and did not even notice yet...
- This should be the time even the slower deities should notice. Time to save those followers you value, laugh the ateists into face, and mourn/enjoy the cataclysm.
- Miracles are badly needed. A deity that can supply the right kind of magic will be highly praised, and attract many true, or at least token worshippers.
- The world needs healing. If gods take action in this, people will remember it forever, or at least for the next few centuries.
- A great time to mark all those that are OK, and those that are not OK. For non-pacifist deities this could easily equal a holy war! Beware if you lack in virtue. Or maybe only the unbelievers will be burned...
- If the gods are bound to their believers, with masses dying, some may start to loose power or fade entirely...
- Gods could decide to abandon the world entirely. Who wants a broken toy anyway?
So lets run with this....
What are the effects Gods and Religiously associated beings would have upon an IMPENDING disaster.
First, the world would need a myth about the End of the World will occur some day. If the world does not have one, people will simply expect the Gods to save them or the world to go on. But if the world can end, people will get a little wierd, because their Gods might not save them and the world will be over.
We would have dozens of messianic cults, as inspired individuals try to gain followers so they can be saved. Of course this will bring out the charismatic mad men in droves. Do the Gods actually talk to people, or even their preists? Maybe the Mad are on to something.
Certain sects will go 'Our God will save us' and do nothing in terms of preparation for the disaster except pray. (Reminds me of an old joke about a man who drowned in a slow flood, turning down help from a truckdriver, a rescue boat, and a helecopter... When he dies he goes to heaven and says, 'God, you did not rescue me.' God's reply? 'I sent you the driver, a boat, and a helicopter...'
Doomsday cults: Those who know the world is going to be destroyed:
are going to save themselves, and to hell with everyone else. They may steal and be violent to ensure their own survivial.
arrange for everyone who is wicked/ good to die, perhaps even ahead of time to make sure the disaster does its job of cleansing the bad/good people.
are going to even old scores, because the end is coming. So we will take back that piece of land that was taken from us centuries ago.
are going to give people license to be crazy. Law will drop out the window, since there will be no punishment for what you have done today because the world will end tommorow.
are going to question the existance of Gods. After all, they are going to let this happen. Why worship them?
are going to embrace their faith, as the reason the Gods are going to let this happen is that people did not worship them enough.
People may begin to defect in droves to the God of Death because when all the living are gone, he will be in charge.
If the Disasters occur and the God's do not intervene, this will bring doubts and arguments about faith. In short, fantasy religion will start looking like real world religion. If the clerical spells keep working, people will question where the power comes from or go on that we are being punished for being 'bad'.
Of course, someone will try to create a StarJamming like ship on short notice...
Perhaps the planet is going through a large belt of space debris causing a meteor shower that might last a few years.
All the predictions and divinations of the future would still have a place. Looking at Moons religion post, new religions and/or beliefs would appear.
New magic defense type things would be created to protect against the shower. Everybody fearful that life will continue like this forever.
Others would predict correctly its passing and preach that peace will once again come to the land.
Depending on who is believed it would give the excuse for many to believe all life is ending soon so make the most of now. This could cause a rathar large upheavel in misdeeds and pillaging and such. Perhaps some well place meteors will cause for the belief of one over the other. The positive thinkers temple gets destroyed so the doomsayers are emboldened in that area.
If you are looking for a dark and diry no holds barred type of game world, this would be it. Rules and Laws are out the window, back to Mad Max and the strong will survive. The knowledge that anywhere you sit or walk might get hit by fire from the sky sort of brings mortality right to you.
Would be fun to just let loose with your players, live in a state of anarchism, and do all those things that might normally be sociably unacceptable...or do just do what your normal unprincipled player that you have to keep cleaning up after does.
What about paranormal and metaphysical effects of such an impact? We have hit the hard science parts pretty well, but the fantasy side of the equation.
Geomancy - With the massive disruption of the surface terrain, it is safe to say that the ley lines and places of power are going to be shifted. While those in the immediate area of the impact will be obviously obliterated, those closer to it will be shifted. Entire networks of ley lines could readjust themselves, in the manner of a river changing course due to a landslide or sudden appearance of a new mountain range.
The first idea that comes to mind is the crater becoming a nexus of magical energy. This could be a great font of tainted and negative energy in the manner of the crater in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (That movie was pretty good in my opinion) Or it could become a giant battery of energy to the point that the other ley lines and places of power are being depleted by the crater's pull.
The effects of the mana drain could be as detrimental as the nuclear winter formented by the impact itself. The magical based species could be drawn to the crater to avoid suffering from a magic like asphyxiation. Another possible outcome could be an upheaval in the balance of positive versus negative energy. Undead could rapidly multiply as the boundary of positive energy is dramatically weakened. On the other hand, a sudden surge of positive energy could blast the vast and numberless legions of the undead back into a form of balance.
On a less dramatic note, many of the old places of power could shift, rendering obviously magical locales sickly and dying. If a fey forest suddenly has it's ley lines disrupted, it could cause a dying out of the fey side of the forest, leaving only a mundane forest in its aftermath. The fey ley line could now run through a city, spawning darkened alleys, and places where things really go bump in the night. The entire magical ecosystem would be tossed into a blender and placed on frappee.
There could be major changes in the very nature of magic. It could become more poweful with more mages spontaneously gaining magical powers. Entire populations might become magically irradiated, creating cities of magi. No experience, massive power, things are going to go very badly indeed. Alternately, the level of magic could plummet, with magic items failing, spells becoming dangerously unreliable, or even failing completely. The elite arch-magi could be left entirely powerless.
Back to the crater, the PCs might have to perform some heroic quest, bringing a potent magical item to the crater to heal the damage to the world. They could also have to find some way to cast a powerful spell to clear the skies of the perpetual darkness. The great arch-mage needs spell components from a ruined city, or a dangerous rival, or needs spell items to be place for the spell to work. The ideas could go on and on.
I guess the idea I would be trying to push across is that in our real life world of science, technology, shock waves and biodiversity, it is easy to forget the magical aspect of gaming and storytelling. For the characters, the world might not be round, it might actually be supported by four elephants standing on the back of a cosmic turtle. It can be an easy trap to assume that the laws of technology and physics (especially the weird ones like nuclear physics) are going to apply in a general world of undead, dragons, and magical swords.
I use comet strikes as the source of magic in my world. Humans didn't develop yet when the strikes occurred (or perhaps they were sparked by it...) The geographical changes to the landscape as described earlier are clear in the topography: craters, mountain ranges surrounding them, island rings in the ocean. However in the center of each strike is an island or small region that is magic gone wild. Naturally the non-magic experiencing humans avoid these places as supernatural danger zones. Recently the denizens of one of the islands figures out that forging the magic elements of the land into amulets allows them to venture beyond the island and still maintain their magic. Watch out world, your nightmares and or dreams are about to come calling!
After reading these threads I'm contemplating throwing a new comet into the mix and see how the place reacts. Should be very interesting...
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? Responses (8)
This is really cool. I hope my GM does not read it. I am not sure I am ready for 'The End of the World'.
Too Late. Muhahahaha. Oh wait, you mean your in person GM... well one E-mail will take care of that.
Love the concept. Thanks!
Neat discussion! A timely HoH bump.
Freaking awesome stuff here!