The Renegade Octopus recently posted an interesting series of articles on making magic more like technology in a fantasy setting. The last article discussed Fallout, the polluting effects of magic in this style of setting. Immediately I thought of Eberron… and then I kept going.
Renegade Octopus’s design of magical fallout is based on the seven schools of magic. Too many enchantment spells lead to a zone where magical energies ensnare the minds of those passing by. Casting a large conjuration spell with sloppy practices can lead to an area where the fabric of the planes is thin and extraplanar creatures crawl through.
While this covers all magic, it’s interesting to see this as the arcane effects of magical pollution. If you’d like, you could have divine magic pollution could create something like miniature manifest zones where the divine energies blur the fabric of creation. Druidic magic could cause a riot of exaggerated natural occurrences such as stronger storms or fluctuating temperatures: the global climate change of D&D. Psionics is the strangest but something like a psionic disease would be intriguing, psychometabolic warping traveling through an urban population or telepathic emotional transference putting dozens in the hospital.
All of this might seem like overkill, or you might be be wary of ravaging the world of Eberron with too many environmental effects. I can certainly see the reasoning for this but I think it’s a great idea for the Eberron setting for two reasons.
Eberron is Already Polluted
It’s not such a stretch to include magical fallout into Eberron as there are already several similar things included. The most obvious one is the vast area of the Mournlands, rendered a deadly wasteland because of a magical disaster. It lessens the role that the Mournlands play in the setting to have it be just a simple example of pollution but it doesn’t have to be that way. Chernobyl, after all, is not just a simple example of pollution. It’s an extreme example and also something altogether different.
Likewise, the legacy of the Gatekeepers could be seen as a long-standing effort to contain and repair the pollution from the Daelkyr Incursion. The Dragons of Argonnessen also watch over many sites of demonic pollution and the dark Citadel of Atur is suffused the necromantic pollution.
Fallout Leads to Xenophobia
One of the prevailing themes of Eberron is the divisions and mistrust. Spy stories exist alongside the standard heroic monster-slaying and prejudice often holds back alliances that could otherwise stand in the face of evil. Sometimes this is explained by old wounds and conflicts but where it isn’t the effects of magical fallout offers some new explanations.
For example, the people of Khorvaire mistrust Sarlonans and treat them as outsiders. Simple fear of the other can explain some of this and those who know the true nature of the Inspired might worry about their influence. However, if the Sarlonans bring with them psionic diseases from casual use of their mental powers this can be seen as a curse or an intrinsic sickness of the Sarlonans themselves. A few “mindwarp” outbreaks in the lower levels of Sharn will make other cities think twice about their kalashtar communities.
Another mistrust in the setting is the theocracy of Thrane and its opposition to arcanists. This is only somewhat explained (my best theory is that the Thranes fear that the Twelve will usurp the Silver Flame in their country) but fear of arcane pollution might offer a good one. Like the psionic fallout of the Sarlonans discussed above, the real issue here is that it’s the unknown. Certainly, divine magic also leads to fallout (unless you hate that idea) but the Thranish know how to deal with that. It’s the fallout from mages and warlocks that really worries them.
What Do You Think?
Would you consider using pollution in your Eberron campaign? What would your fallout look like? Do you like the idea of a different sort of pollution for each type of magic (arcane, divine, psionics, druidic) or would use a “one size fits all” model?