Ending the End of Days

The Wizards of the Coast storyline adventures for 5e get a bad rap for being “Realmshaking” and “world ending”. Even if you completely fail at all of them it just means Tiamat is walking around Faerûn (gods have walked across Toril before), an Elemental Prince is summoned (and likely causing a little chaos and destruction before going home), the Underdark is overrun with demons and demon lords until the drow & duergar manage to kick them out, Strahd continues to rule Barovia, and giants are being dicks across the North. In each instance, life generally goes on. It’s just crappier. In no instance, does the world actually end. The worst case is Out of the Abyss where demon lords are running amok.

Paizo ran into this with Rise of the Runelords. At the end of the first Adventure Path they has a “continuing the campaign” chapter and asked what would happen if the PCs failed. It was initially “well, the world ends” until a staff member pointed out the Runelords had ruled for millennia without ending the world. It just means that one region is slowly conquered and has a new ruler.

I’ve run into this with my sandbox campaign. I established an ongoing metaplot in the background that, upon being discovered, was assumed to be a world ending plot. The gnolls and their hidden masters were just going to end the world. But it’s not really. It’s not a world ending plot, it’s a world changing plot.