People love a good disaster story. Comets hitting the earth, the earth’s core stopping its nuclear reactions, crazy ice ages that blanket the globe after just a few days, and trees getting upset and causing everyone to commit suicide are just a few of the most recent premises used in stories about major disasters. I think one of the main reasons we like those kinds of stories is because we get to see normal people becoming heroes and adventurers. We get to think about how we would react in those kinds of situations, and what we would do to save the people we love, or live through the disaster.

In fantasy, there is a much larger area we can explore – things can happen in your campaign setting that could never, ever happen in the real world. I’ve decided to list a few ideas for different kinds of fantasy disasters that could take place, and I hope you guys will bring on your own.

Here are the categories, with examples of real-world catastrophes. Then I will list some fantasy versions.

  1. Local Disaster – something that covers the scope of a small village or town. A tornado that ravages a town.
  2. Regional Disaster – an event that covers perhaps a province or state in a kingdom. A large earthquake.
  3. National Disaster – an entire kingdom is devastated. Massive hurricane.
  4. Continental Disaster – the entire continent is thrown into turmoil. A small meteor strike or a megatsunami.
  5. Global – worldwide devastation takes place, threatening all life as we know it. A supervolcano erupts, a massive meteor or comet strikes the planet, the sun starts burning out.

Here are some examples of more fantastical and magical catastrophes you could use to throw the PCs into the thick of things.

  1. Local: Tainted Watercourse – A magical beast of some kind dies in the river upstream. Strange things begin to happen to villagers who drink the water.
  2. Regional: Underdark Sinkhole – Beneath the region is an evil artifact which has been eating away at the earth for centuries. Finally a sinkhole opens letting nasty things out to the surface and drawing evil creatures, who feel the pull of the exposed artifact.
  3. National: The Return – Long ago an entire city which was once the nation’s seat of power mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth. For some reason the entire kingdom actually turned ethereal. Now the kingdom has suddenly returned and wishes to once again lay claim to the nation.
  4. Continental: Continental Drift – a ley line eruption beneath the ocean sends out a wave of magical force which literally cuts through the landmass setting a continent adrift upon the ocean.
  5. Global: Cracked Moon – the world’s moon cracks in two, violently altering the tidal patterns. Worldwide tsunamis destroy coastal cities killing millions, and the world’s climate is drastically altered.

What kinds of crazy disasters have you thrown at your players, and how did they respond?