D&D 5E Running a campaign at the end of the world (+)


He / Him
For some reason I've had stuck in my head the idea of running a 5e D&D game that takes place at the end of the world.

How could this work, in a way that's satisfying to the DM and the players?

(This is a + thread because I want to encourage brainstorming within the topic. Let's come up with lots of different ideas. But if you don't think this would be fun or interesting, then this thread is probably not for you!)

Now this campaign would be different than "save the world" games in that the end of the world IS going to happen, no matter what anyone does. Maybe the moon is crashing into the planet, maybe an ancient prophesy has come true, maybe the gods are dying... Whatever reason, by the end of the campaign (or maybe even half way through), the world will end.

One idea is to use the Aztec idea of the end of the world as a rebirth. In Aztec mythology, the world has ended and been recreated multiple times. What if, in this campaign world, we are at the end of one cycle and preparing for the next? The characters could be going on adventures to set themselves up for the next world. Maybe there are magic rituals that can be done to help communities survive the transition to the new cycle. Or maybe the characters are looking to become the new gods?

Spitballing more about saving a community, one "end of the world" campaign could have an impending doom that can't be stopped... But the characters are just trying to save their hometown or kingdom. They are seeking magic items or powerful NPCs that could save their little corner of the world from the impending meteor storm, plague, flood, etc. The first part of the campaign is all about finding protection. Then the apocalypse occurs. The rest of the campaign is about surviving in this new reality!

Then again, maybe it's best to leave it up to the players. Let them know that in one year, the campaign world is going to face a mass extinctions. Their characters might want to try to save their friends and families, travel to another universe... Or just party and enjoy themselves for a final year of Bacchanalia!

So what are your thoughts? What could be fun or interesting or challenging about running a D&D campaign that takes place at the end of the world?

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Just an FYI, the new spelljammer product has a world that is slowly falling into to a black hole-like vortex call the Eye of Doom that is sucking the entire "Doomspace" system into. The world only has weeks or maybe months before it is sucked into the Vortex.

I also read about an RPG that had the premise that a giant snake/worm like monster was swallowing the surface of the world. Eating cities whole. The campaign starts after your city is swallowed. As cities travel down the digestive track of the monster more chaos & destruction awaits until it is completely destroyed. You can travel up and down the road to destruction IIRC.

The 3e Dragonlance alternate-history scenario Hourglass in the Sky in the Legends of the Twins sourcebook has a whole scenario where Raistlin isn't stopped and destroys Krynn, complete with countdown as he kills Krynn's various deities and various groups trying to survive. There was a movie, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, with a similar premise, but it's modern-day. There are numerous science fiction novels with this premise.

The thing is, roleplaying a year of drunken debauchery isn't as much fun as actually having one--Performance rolls for carnal knowledge aren't going to be as exciting as the real thing unless you're a very good storyteller. So you ought to give your characters some kind of goal. Let's be honest, one of the reasons for the popularity of RPGs is the lack of agency most of us have in real life.

If you're not averting the end of the world as a premise, you have many good suggestions--the players could easily be questing to set themselves up as new gods (going back to the old becoming-a-god-as-endgame of 2nd or 3rd edition), or finding some artifact that will save their town from the meteor storm. (You can set up moral dilemmas as people from the next town over may have sent their own heroes, and after all they're just protecting their hometown too, right? But there's only one magic McGuffin--if it's some ritual everyone can do it and then the world doesn't end, which you've said is what you're postulating.)
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