As this total solar eclipse darkens the sky over most of North America today and the next one isn’t for another 7 years, I thought it might be a good time to explore some ideas around eclipses in fantasy and science-fiction settings for RPGs.
In our own world, there are many traditional myths and legends surrounding solar eclipses. TimeAndDate.com collected a few recently and I really liked the idea of celestial critters devouring/stealing the sun or gods and goddesses fighting over territory. You could easily adapt those and even add magic to the mix to really mess with worldly events. I would like to see a solar eclipse signal a wormhole in the sky through which dragons show up and cause issues.
In a fantasy world, it would be fantastic to utilize such celestial events as opportunities for different religious orders to gain or lose power. For example, the good old Pelor & Nerull from D&D’s Greyhawk might be struggling for dominance over the world. A cleric of Nerull (God of Death, Darkness, Murder, and the Underworld) could have their powers magnified while a cleric of Pelor (God of Sun, Light, Strength, and Healing) might have theirs weakened.
Such an event could signal the culmination of a battle between the forces of light and darkness with an all out attack on a temple in the Bright Lands to find some artifact to keep the sun at bay and hold the eclipse for eternity. Or perhaps under the cover of darkness, such forces could attempt to kidnap or kill a prominent member of the clergy to deal a blow to the realms and Pelor in particular. Would definitely be a cool way to kick off a campaign where the PCs are on the trail of the thieves, kidnappers, or murderers to get revenge or justice for such a heinous act.
In a science fiction setting, I would guess that such events would occur quite frequently depending on the system. A planetary system consisting of many planets with multiple moons might see eclipses (solar and lunar) on a regular basis. These would be perfect opportunities to perhaps land unseen on the dark side of a moon or planet to conduct a raid on the enemy.
That said, in either case, eclipses are definitely a weird time for the natural world. Suddenly it’s like nighttime in the middle of the day, temperatures drop, and all the animals freak out. The movie Pitch Black used darkness quite effectively to release creatures onto a world to cause serious havoc. I can imagine such a thing really causing some nightmares for players at my table in the near future if I choose to use a planetary alignment to create a period of total darkness of days, weeks, or months. What kind of creatures could come out of the woodwork then, I wonder?
No matter whether your world is set in fantasy, modern day, or the far future — eclipses are always going to be cool times to create some problems for your PCs!
What kinds of ideas have you come up with for eclipses in the past? Leave them in the comments!