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The Great Collapse

Arguably the most damaging event in the history of Awldor, that we know of, and few details of it are known with certainty. Nevertheless, we survivors must live with its consequences.
— Alicia Ravenwood, Historian
  The Great Collapse was not a singular moment in time that instantly shattered the world, but a prolonged period of famine, strife, ruin, and darkness. It was as if the world had been seized with a great madness brought on in no small part by the release of violent wild magics. These wild magics and the chaos that followed practically destroyed, scarred, or otherwise erased all that was. It was an era unto itself, a dark period time where the world changed in ways we still do not understand or even perceive. The world today is still sifting through the rubble of this collapse in the hope of returning to, or in the best case surpassing, the world that once was.

Time-frame of the Collapse

How long the Great Collapse lasted is not known. Estimates range from five hundred years to ten thousand years. The Archivists Guild believes that the most supportable time frame for the collapse is roughly one thousand years given the evidence. Old ancient structures can still be found largely intact. If the collapse had lasted for thousands of years surely these structures would be little more than dust, and us with them. However, the collapse was not so recent given that we have no memory of times before, and precious little to remind us. Therefore, a thousand years is the best estimate for now.


The Ancient Order

What was the world like before the collapse? Evidence from still standing ancient cities to scattered artifacts suggest that there was once a great and powerful civilization. The ubiquity of these remnants suggests that this civilization may have expanded and even unified the world. We call it the The Ancient Order, and little is understood of their way of life. The The Archivists Guild was formed in part to find out more about this before time. The guild is not alone in this endeavor, for somewhere across the Sininen Ocean the The Windtracer Company also seeks answers in their own way.

Can anyone who lives now know with absolute certainty what happened then?
Sanev Vensandoral, Master Mage

A Handful of Theories

Everyone has their own theories as to the exact cause of The Great Collapse. Few of these are often supported with evidence. Several of the more supportable theories are listed here:  
  • The Great War Theory: The collapse was the onset of an ancient and terrible war. This war being fought between factions within the The Ancient Order with incredibly destructive weapons. Sometime during this war wild magics were unleashed as weapons of last resort. Control over these doomsday weapons was lost thereby precipitating the long period of collapse we are still recovering from.
  • If a war was indeed the true nature of the collapse, then it contradicts the current accepted view that the The Ancient Order unified ancient civilization; a civilization with trade networks so vast and interconnected that war between any two groups would have been unthinkable. If this theory is true, then it implies that the ancient world was far from unified, and that the old world was more like the world we have today. This would imply that the common admiration held for the ancient accomplishments has been largely misguided.

  • The Singular Disaster Theory: The most straight-forward theory is that collapse was precipitated by a singular disaster of unimaginable scale. The Ancients had become too zealous in their exploitation of the arcane energies underpinning reality that they unleashed something they could not control. Their great experiment ultimately destroyed the order, and this destruction was the thousand year period we know as the collapse. One of the best evidences yet of this theory was the discovery of the vast Ancient Crater by Captain Amaya Quickwind.
  • It has been pointed out that such a disaster may only be symptomatic of the true underlying cause(s). These causes not having not been given their due consideration by this theory, which entirely rests on hubris as being the sole cause of the disaster. It has also been pointed out that a vast crater is not necessarily the product of an immense explosion- unusual geologic activity may have created a circular indentation in the earth by chance.

  • The Systemic Collapse Theory: This theory suggests that the collapse was not due to any one cause but several working in concert with one another to produce an inevitable result. In essence, the The Ancient Order had acted out that final stage of life: death. A systemic collapse brought about by several societal failures occurring at once- from civil unrest, an unexpected change in climate, and even the sudden release of violent wild magics.
  • This theory is difficult to evaluate without knowing more about the social structures and capabilities of the ancient civilization. It also seems unlikely that a mere systemic collapse would have precipitated many centuries of chaos; that civilization ought to have recovered far more quickly under this scenario than it actually has. Should it be confirmed, then it will have serious implications for our very society and even the nature of our world going forward.

The Recovery

Recovery is generally believed to have begun roughly 1,277 years ago from when this article was written. This recovery is marked by the making of new records post collapse, and the formation of organized tribes. The Quassus calendar chooses the earliest known year of tribes as year zero. Since that time, civilization has made a remarkable come back when all things are considered. It seems as if the crises is over and that it is prosperity from here on out if people choose to continue to pursue it. The Kingdom of Helia in particular wishes to take up the mantle of the Ancient Order on their own terms.

The Crises Continues?

What started as an outlier theory is slowly gaining more support among small circles of scholars, farmers, and gardeners in recent years. The theory is that the only the wild magic period of the end of the world is over, that things are still on course to end. Farmland, though plentiful enough to fuel the recovery of civilization, are known to be slowly growing imperceptibly smaller crops year after year. The green fields of forests and grasslands continue to lose ground ever so slowly to encroaching deserts, particularly in the Deshret Continent. Even magics appear to be disappearing in a strange way, the occurrence of Magic Deadzones not due to artificial means or counter spells. In short, the world is slowly dying.   Many do not believe this theory is correct owing to the intuitive understanding that the world was ultimately changed by the collapse. It has been put forward that new cycles are at work that are not necessarily understood yet. In other words, there is a possibility that trends could reverse themselves. The other thing is that if things are worsening, it is proceeding so slowly that it is possible that it is not happening at all. It is possible that most who are against this theory are in denial. It is also possible that the theory's supporters are interpreting the worst from the evidence. Time will prove the correct position in the end.

Summarized Facts

  • The collapse happened over a period of 1,000 years

  • The wild magics from this period have quieted since, but their presence can still be felt through Magic Fields and Magic Storms.

  • Other kinds of lingering wild magics have manifested themselves in the form of floating islands- both in the sea and in the air.

  • Before the collapse, there was a vast empire known by many today as The Ancient Order. It was believed to have unified Awldor.

  • There are known changes to the landmasses of Awldor as a result of the Great Collapse. Some scars are more obvious than others.

  • Most of the dead as a result of this collapse do not rest. Many still wander the world or otherwise await to be wakened as Undead or Specters. Most of these can be found concentrated around the ancient ruins of cities, making the once thriving settlements dangerous necropolises.

  • The collapse may have introduced new peoples to the world. This theory has come about due in part to the strangely few distinct styles of architecture present in surviving ancient ruins. As more is understood about the Ancient Order and how its peoples lived this theory may be disproved.

Other Common Theories

Invasion Theory of Collapse
This one is quite popular if somewhat lacking in support. It supposes that the Ancient Order was destroyed by an invasion from another realm. There is some debate as to whether the invaders were from the astral plane above our own or if the invaders was some other realm such as the inferno plane.

  The problem with this theory is that it seems unlikely for any rational invader to conduct their invasion via uncontrollable wild magics. However, that hasn't stopped many from romanticizing stories about this version of the collapse and the heroics that doubtlessly ensued.

Wild Magic Fragments
Physical / Metaphysical Law | Jan 19, 2022

The fragments of wild magic have made the wilds even more unpredictable and perilous. By themselves, they can create magic fields. In numbers, they can create storms of terrible power.

Note(s) from the Archivists:

  It is a small miracle that anything from before this event remains. We could have had nothing at all considering the stories that are told. This is only one facet that highlights how much we do not know about the great collapse. - Archivist Taenya Naïlo

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Articles under The Great Collapse


Author's Notes

System's theory was inspired by Extra History's segment on the Bronze Age Collapse. You can find it here:

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5 May, 2021 18:49

This sounds like it would have been a terrifying time to live through. I like all the different theories as to what it could have been the cause.   Also the last section is rather scary. I hope that particular theory is wrong!

Emy x   Etrea | Vazdimet