Dungeons & Dragons: How To Run An Apocalypse In Your Campaign

In Dungeons & Dragons, the end of the world can be the start of a bigger story.

Dungeons & Dragons: How To Run An Apocalypse In Your Campaign

It’s the end of the world as we know it! And your players may not survive it! There are many ways to provide opposition and goal motivations for a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. Sometimes, it’s as simple as causing a firestorm to engulf the world. Incorporating world-ending events into your D&D story is a surefire way to test how well your players react and adapt to a drastically changed environment.

To be more specific, using a global-scale apocalypse as your main story element can give players a chance to either adapt, accept, or even fight back against this impending doom. But care must be taken to ensure that the apocalypse you’re running doesn’t overwhelm or underwhelm your party.

Apocalypses In Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons: How To Run An Apocalypse In Your Campaign

An apocalypse can take many forms, from modified weather conditions to an evil god and everything in between. The source of your apocalypse is entirely up to your imagination.

Most Dungeon Masters will have an apocalypse as the major threat of a campaign that the party must stop. Other times, the apocalypse may have already happened, and the players will have to manage around it.

For those daring enough, the apocalypse can be something the players have caused, intentionally or not. All of this depends on the direction of your world and story and what sort of character motives and elements your party wants to interact with.

A few examples include:

Apocalypse Description

Source & Party Motives

Creation Type

"The world is charred in ash and fire, with food supplies dwindling in every region."

A magic fire from an ominous fallen star spread around the world. The party must work to stop the source.

Naturally created.

"A god has been summoned into the world, wreaking havoc on any who oppose it."

The party attempted to stop the ritual of some cultists but were too late, causing the god to appear.

Unintentionally created.

"Dense fog has engulfed the kingdom and is beginning to spread into the surrounding area. Those who breathe the fog mysteriously vanish after 24 hours."

Knowing an invading army was stationed in an abandoned city, the party unleashed a magic fog given to them by a Sorcerer, not knowing that it would continue to spread.

Intentionally created.

If you find yourself struggling to create your own apocalypse, think of the world you are currently playing in and what would throw it out of balance. Magic-focused worlds would be devastated if something caused Wild Magic to occur every twenty-four hours, while a thriving kingdom would fall under the threat of skeletons rising from the grave and invading from within the walls.

Managing & Creating Rules For Apocalypses

Dungeons & Dragons: How To Run An Apocalypse In Your Campaign

Much like managing the stats of a monster or item, apocalypses need to have their own set of rules for you and the players to follow. Once you get past the creation of an apocalypse, you can start to go into more detail.

How Does It Affect The World?

  • What happens when someone or something interacts with it?
  • How does the general populace react to this occurrence?
  • Is there a set time that it will last/go away?

How Can It Be Stopped?

  • Is there something that can prevent/cure it? (More common for plague and virus-based apocalypses).
  • Is there a definite source? Do the players know what the mentioned source is?
  • Is this forever part of the world or will the players plan on stopping it?

How Does It Oppose The Party?

  • Are there benefits to this apocalypse taking place?
  • Do people not want the party to stop said apocalypse? (Cultists, fanatics, etc.)

Pointing out the benefits of an apocalypse in a campaign allows for incredibly interesting story elements involving certain NPCs' morals. For example, perhaps a King would favor a three-month-long global drought because it proves to him “who is meant to survive and who is naturally weak”.

Even though having an apocalypse in the world is already a strong enough plot point to drive your party forward, you can still throw in other enemies and bosses to challenge the party.

A tyrannical warlord may find it better to attack during a blood moon that nullifies any magic. The major kingdoms in the land have yet to create a peace treaty because one kingdom refused to share its resources when “The Great Flood” occurred.

Some Dungeon Masters may even use apocalypses as a subplot to already established stories, taking a pre-written adventure and adding a world-building twist. Picture a party attempting to correct the wrongs of Barovia and fight Strahd Von Zarovich when a crashed comet grants everybody the ability to fly once every seventy-two hours (at the expense of a random assortment of people entering an indefinite sleep every time).

Apocalypses are a great way to increase the depth of your campaign’s story in more ways than you may initially realize. When in doubt, release a five-headed dragon to conquer the world.

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