Good has triumphed over evil. Through the magic of the gods, some wizardry and a bit of intensive farming the perils of disease, injury and starvation have been conquered. Even death is trivial matter with easily available Raise Dead spells ensuring most who die can be quickly returned to health. Permanent death and suffering have all but been eradicated.
But this utopia is doomed. A victim of its own success as its population ballons out of control and resources become depleted. It is a world on the brink of disaster and it needs heroes if it is to survive.
The second in a series of posts exploring how real world disasters may be used in fantasy tabletop RPGs.
The Last Spell Ingredient
The trouble with magic is it that it is unexplainable and inexplicable. Diligent research wizards may find cheap and common alternatives for some spells but there is no guarantee all ingredients can be replaced. A healing potion might just need that very specific breed of moth and human history tells us careful management of such resources is unlike to happen. Eco-systems will collapse as land is cleared for farming or housing and a chain reaction starts which leads to the extinction of once plentiful species. For the GM, this offers some interesting adventure possibilities.
- A breeding pair of Great Crested Newts have been spotted ten years after they were believed extinct. The eye of these newts are vital ingredients for only known cure for sexually transmitted diseases which doesn’t involve going to a priest and there are a lot of rich people who would rather keep that sort of problem private. A fortune can be made by anyone who captures the newts and establishes a successful breeding program. However the newts have been seen in a particularly treacherous region, known to be home to the last wild Rust Monsters and other magical creatures. It will take a resourceful band of adventures to capture the newts and bring them back alive.
- The Wild Woods of Stanthax is the last patch of genuine elven woodland on the continent. It’s name is misleading for the 100 square mile area is surrounded by human cities and farmland. The larger, wilder creatures were hunted out of existence years ago but the woods are still home to lesser dangers and some non-dangerous but beautiful fauna and flora. Now the woods are threatened with destruction as the local baron plans to clear the trees for farming. The handful of wood elves living in the forest cannot hope to stop the clearance and a call out for help attracts a rag-tag group of eco-warriors and drifters. How far will the defenders go to stop the baron and his plans for the woodland?
- Who knew bees were so vital? Certainly not Kranthax, creator of Kranthax’s Mystic Bugzapp! spell, the most effective way of eliminating every insect and bug in an area. With it, one poorly trained wizard can obliterate insects in a 100 acre area in an hour for less than 10GP. This typically triples the yield from the land, earning the farmer an additional 50GP per acre. Not surprisingly Kranthax’s Mystic Bugzapp! quickly became the most cast spell on the planet right up until the point people realised that the bees being killed as collateral damage by the spell were rather vital to the whole eco-system. The bee population has crashed and even with careful husbandry it will take decades for the bee population to recover and millions will starve long before that happens. There is only one option. A magician has found a way to another, unpopulated world which still has bees and proposes collecting the bees and bringing them back. As a first step the wizards needs to send an expedition of brave souls to establish a base camp and collect a few samples. Of course, no one could know that the world is occupied by an intelligent race of giga-bees who take a dim view of outsiders stealing their smaller cousins.
As once common resources become scarce it is only natural that people will go to war. Monarchs and governments know their population will rise in revolt if they allow standards of living to drop so it is better to risk war than end up as a head on a spike. For the GM, these resource wars provide a great backdrop for all sorts of adventure.
- The nations bordering the great lake of Traxneth have fought over the mystic island of Trax, home to an ancient shrine of healing, for centuries. Once it was a place of pilgrimage for the sick and control of the island meant power and wealth but when cheap and easy magical potions became available the shrine became irrelevant. A peace treaty giving all the lake’s nations equal access was signed and the region has not seen a war in over 100 years. However, the world-wide shortage of magical ingredients is once more making the island important. The leader of one lakeside nation, Banvia, wishes to take sole control of the island but being the first to break the treaty will unite the other nations against them in a war that Banvia cannot win. However, if another nation threaten the island then Banvia could seize the island on the pretext of protecting it. As no other nation is actually threatening the island, the rulers of Banvia need mercenaries to attack the island in a false-flag operation, giving Banvia the casus belli it needs to take Trax. Of course the mercenaries will be promised a lot of gold to keep quiet and just as certainly be killed by the Banvian troops to prevent the mercenaries revealing the truth. Only a handful of mercenaries escape the slaughter by hiding in the forgotten caves under the shrine…
- The great Ga’vette river defines the continent of Ga’ve. Its waters are vital to the survival of hundreds of millions of people but those at its southern end, in Han’tte, have been suffering as more northerly nations extract more and more water to irrigate their crops and service their cities. Now three of the northern countries are building a huge dam to completely block the river and divert all the river’s water to their own lands. The people of Han’tte will die within months of the dam being completed but the nation is too weak to fight the combined armies of their northern neighbours. So the nation of Han’tte quietly starts looking for a remarkable band of individuals capable of launching a daring sabotage mission…
- Without the bees, many plants died and without the plants binding the soil together with their roots, there was nothing to stop the erosion. This was most noticeable on the great plains of Kaxetstan where strong winds from the mountains created dust storms. No one cared, or at least no one other than the poor farmers whose livelihood was destroyed cared. That was until now. A giant dust storm has blanketed not just the plains but the great coastal cities. The populations of entire cities are fleeing the choking dust and neighbouring countries have shut their borders. After just a few days, the nation of Kaxetstan, despite all its wealth and resources, is on the brink of collapse and millions are in danger of starvation. However, one junior Government official stationed in neighbouring Avatstan has evidence that this is not an natural disaster. They need a small band of adventurers to escort them into Kaxetstan and the sandstorm to find what is left of the government and present the evidence. Then to carry onwards, into the heart of the dust storm, to foil the Avatstan plot.
A world lurching towards environmental collapse is a world ripe in adventures. There will be a need for tight-knit bands of heroes but the quests they embark on will be very different from the standard save-the-world quests characters normally find themselves on.
- Image Credit – Sedlec Ossuary – Skulls by Dominik Pierce – CC-BY-2.0
- Image Credit – Bees by Darko Mareš – CC-BY-2.0