D&D General Fantasy Equivalent of the Nuke


I think it is more of a Manhattan Project type thing gone all kinds of wrong. That's a bit different.

Importantly, though, if it's not reproducible it doesn't fill the niche.
There's actually a lot of pretty obvious & deliberately unanswered sources for it. Reproducing the thing you didn't admit to triggering & reproducing a thing that might have been caused by any one or combination of various things you didn't do are very different things 😈 Here is a good list of examples from Keith Baker himself


If I don’t address this, I’m sure someone will ask, so let’s get it out of the way now. I can tell you some things that could have caused the Mourning…

  • The Ashbound and the Children of Winter are on the right track: The Mourning was the natural consequence of the extensive use of magic during the Last War. Ending the war has temporarily stopped it, but the Children of Winter believe that the damage cannot be healed: the only way the world can be restored is to go through the winter to reach the spring that lies beyond. If they are correct, the Mourning will eventually spread until it covers the world. But perhaps they’re mistaken, and there’s a way the damage can be undone… but it would still mean that the people of Khorvaire would have to be careful about overuse of magic in the future.
  • House Cannith was developing a weapon. Something went disastrously wrong. Questions that remain: could this weapon be restored or duplicated? Do any of the current Cannith leaders know about this project? Presuming the forgehold developing it was in Cyre, what happens if the Lord of Blades or someone else discovers it?
  • One of the Overlords of the First Age was bound beneath Cyre. Due to the machinations of the Lords of Dust, the fiend was partially released. The Mourning is a reflection of its influence. At the moment it is building its strength; there is one more step that is required to fully release it. If that occurs, its power – and the Mournland – would spread.
  • The Lord of Blades was behind the Mourning, an attack targeted against the heart of House Cannith. This may have used an epic artifact or eldritch machine — which could potentially still be tied to an Overlord or to the Daelkyr. Generating the Mourning drained the weapon of power… but the Lord of Blades is working to restore its power.
  • The Mourning was actually caused by dragons of the Chamber, as part of a necessary chain of events to prevent the release of an Overlord — for sake of argument, let’s say Tiamat. The Mourning can be reversed, but reversing it will unleash Tiamat, who will corrupt Argonnessen, and set into motion an epic conflict with the dragons.
  • In The Fading Dream, the Eladrin present a theory of what caused the Mourning and how it could be reversed. I won’t spoil it here, but hey, it’s possible.
That’s just off the top of my head. OK, you may say, these things could have caused the Mourning… but what did? I don’t know. In MY campaigns I’ve never felt a need to solve the mystery. What I like about the Mourning is the effect it has on the world: driving the cold war between the nations, holding the Last War at bay, creating a giant dungeon in the middle of things. If the mystery of the Mourning is solved, one way or another, it paves the way for the Last War to start anew. That’s not a story I’ve wanted to explore… so I’ve left in unsolved. Which means that I’ve never needed to choose between the host of possibilities. If I decided to tell that story, I’d pick one. But as it stands, I’m happy leaving it as an enigma.

That’s all I have time for, but let me know if you have questions about the Mourning and the Mournland… and share your favorite answers for the Mourning or manifestations of the Mournland!
I'm pretty sure there's been other indications involving things like something going wrong with the creation forge eldritch machine rabbit hole too.

Edit: day of mourning wasn't just any day either. It took place on the day of the biggest battle of the entere Last War.. Iirc there was a huge alliance against Cyre for a 5 nation on one kind of situation thing for the first time.
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I kind of like that temptation though. Sure, your mission is to kill the efreet and stop the production of the ring, but you could also let it go forward and then steal it so you can wish your dead spouse back to life..

That feels compelling to me.
Or maybe the efreet will only grant that wish without monkey's pawing you if you wish to burn a city first....


Guide of Modos
Summoned meteor strike.
Now. You're. Talking.

What's the deadly secret that threatens geopolitical balance? The Meteo spell. Not everyone can cast it. But those who can threaten the current world order. Lesser kingdoms want this spell; greater kingdoms want an excuse to use it.

Best not to tie it too close to actual nuke history . . . it's not pretty.

Well, the first things I thought of were from the Realms; mythals and the Sundering.

But really the first question is, do you want a massive explosion, or some sort of devastating social threat or perhaps world (local/regional) cataclysm effect?

Some of these types of things could just be unleashing the power of whatever powers magic in your world (i.e. the aether, the weave, etc) to make a big explosion. Or it could be corrupting that source. Such as with causing wild magic, or preventing resurrection magic (i.e. Chiult), or even threatening cutting off access to the power. Or releasing necrotic magic so that the dead rise and spirits can't depart etc.

Or if you don't want the danger to be magical, it could be a disease, like the Lady of Pain or whatever god/goddess you are using is going to unleash a plague (i.e. just like any bio-weapon thriller).

How about the potential for cutting off the gods from the mortal world? Perhaps if some celestial treaty/contract is broken via McGuffin the overgods act? Or perhaps some magic relic holds the power of one of the core gods and if it falls into the wrong hands the god could be banished/imprisoned for a thousand years?

Or even the return or rising of some threat? i.e. if X happens it will rally the orcs from around the world to attack Y? Or all souls that have not yet been reborn will be destroyed or unleashed? Or the dead within range of an angels anguish will rise?

Once you decide on the threat, then you have to decide is this some magic item that has to be recovered / destroyed / used? Some ritual that has to be prevented/completed? Some knowledge that must be gained / hidden.

Then you have to decide how to run factions. My go to for this is the Alexandrian Remix, but their are other good sources too.


Because atoms as we known them don't exist. Everything on the prime planes is composed of a mixture the four base elements. Those things given the power of life and growth are animated by the power of the positive energy element, while those given the power of death and decay are animated by the power of the negative energy element.

That feels like a matter of specifics and terminology though. Everything is still made up of these essential building blocks. The power to destroy one or all of those building block, to split something that had been thought to be indivisible, is a good basis for a nuke. It is not really relevant what we call the smallest piece of an element. Splitting the elements into new unheard of elements seems like nuclear physics to me (a layperson). In this scenario, arcane theory as wizards know it is being challenged, it might have been wrong all along, or maybe it was just incomplete, like all areas of science.

In a fantasy setting, there are all sorts of potentially odd reactions to that. I would lead towards Far Realms rifts opening when reality is destroyed or messed with. How do the gods feel about creation being destroyed? Are they scared too?


If you just need a nuke-type magical macguffin, anything could work, really. Your dragon egg idea is great, IMO. Or you could just invent an arcane bomb that will devastate the area for miles around, or a rift to the plane of fire, or all kinds of things.


I am a big fan of cold war espionage surrounding nuclear secrets -- mostly the real world stuff (but some fiction, too). I have long toyed with the idea of trying to create a fantasy campaign that fits embraces that genre, but I often get stuck on what the right equivalent of the bomb should be. Assuming D&D-isms (even if the game that I would use isn't strictly D&D), what do you think would make a good stand in for the nuclear weapon in such a scenario?

The one I keep going back to is dragon eggs. Like, the presumption is dragons are gone but eggs remain behind. Someone has figured out how to hatch them, though, and once hatched the dragons are loyal servants of the crown that hatched them(I am assuming some sort of "land magic" in the explanation). Also, these are not just dragons, but city buster dragons.

What do you think would make a good "nuclear weapon" equivalent in a D&D inspired fantasy setting? Remember, the pointof the thing is to drive espionage and fun spy action to try and acquire or preserve such secrets.
So my campaign world has uts origins in my exercise to map countless DnD humanoids to countless countries and their national characteristics in WW2.

I mapped mountain dwarves to America. Slow to join the conflict, the arsenal of freedom, and having invented a wonder weapon to finish off the war with as few casualties as possible for themselves.

The result was.....Warforged!

Their soul gems were accidentally corrupted during construction by using aboleth tainted underground springs to complete the process of smithing them into the body.

This resulted in...

1. An unexpected sense of consciousness and self preservation in some models.

2. A small but non zero possibility of "going nuclear" when destroyed physically obliterating a large area as well as destroying or damaging the weave to create a non or wild magic zone.

Now the free warforged are hunted by dwarven agents to try to put the genie back in the bottle.

Hawk Diesel

I think it is more of a Manhattan Project type thing gone all kinds of wrong. That's a bit different.

Importantly, though, if it's not reproducible it doesn't fill the niche.

It hasn't been reproduced, at least in the cannon as it stands now. Doesn't mean it couldn't be reproduced. And as @tetrasodium mentioned, it's never explicitly stated what caused the Day of Mourning. It could very well have been an eldritch doomsday machine that still has a bullet left in the chamber.

But regardless, the exact mechanism is irrelevant. In your original post, you yourself mention wanting to recreate cold war style espionage. That is exactly the state of the Khorvaire in Eberron. The nations, amidst a war that lasted over 100 years with no end in sight, suddenly sign the Treaty of Thronehold. And why? Because not one government knows what caused the Day of Mourning. But every nation has entire divisions created for the sole purpose of understanding the Day of Mourning, developing means to defend against another instance, and developing ways to recreate it in order to wield against their enemies. The only thing missing is the fact that multiple nations don't already the knowledge and means to recreate the destruction of Cyre.

In the War of the Burning Sky adventure path, the most powerful artifact in the world is the Torch of the Burning Sky, which lets you ignite a soul and burn it to fuel a powerful teleportation spell, which calls down a column of fire from the heavens to teleport an entire army anywhere under the sun.

In the ZEITGEIST adventure path, there is a ritual to do spoiler-y stuff that can change the spirit of the age, and steer the fate of the entire world.

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