In the Year of Blue Fire (1385 DR), a magical disaster called the Spellplague changed the face of Toril, its lost sibling Abeir, and even the planes themselves. Flesh, stone, magic, space, and perhaps even the flow of time were infected and changed.
Most scholars believe that the Spellplague was the direct result of the murder of the goddess Mystra at the hands of Cyric, which Shar engineered. This popular theory holds that magic was bound so long in Mystra’s Weave that, when the goddess died, it spontaneously and ruinously burst its bonds. Areas of wild magic, already outside the constraints of the Weave, touched off first, but the plague raged on and on in ever-widening spirals, devastating some places and leaving others untouched. It even tore through the realms of demons, gods, and lost souls before the end.
Ancient realms that had passed beyond easy reach of the world were pulled back, such as the Feywild (called Faerie in ancient days). The Abyss, home of demons, fell through the planes, unleashing swarming evil before finding its new home at the bottom of the Elemental Chaos. Even the long-forgotten sibling world Abeir burned in the plague of magic, despite having been cut off from Toril for tens of millennia. Portions of Abeir’s landscape were transposed with areas of Toril in the disaster. Such landscapes included their living populations, bringing realms such as Akanûl and Tymanther to Faerûn’s face. Across the Trackless Sea, an entire continent of the lost world reappeared.
The Spellplague was a potent agent of change, but it also set off a whole string of secondary catastrophes.
Effects on Magic Items and Spells
Most items that permanently store magic, such as weapons, armor, cloaks, and boots, survived the Spellplague and continue to function normally. Even though their creation used the Weave, permanent access to magic was built into such items when they were created. However, some items created prior to the Spellplague temporarily stored “charges” of magic, such as wands and staffs. Such items either no longer work or don’t function the same way they used to.
Many creatures that had been able to cast spells and channel magic through the Weave found themselves powerless in the Spellplague’s wake. Some never regained their abilities. Others attuned themselves to the new magical environment, aided by a diversity of talents, a process that took days for some and years for others. Still others took shortcuts to arcane power by swearing pacts to enigmatic beings.
Effects on the Landscape
The Spellplague ate through stone and earth as readily as flesh and magic. Broad portions of the continent of Faerûn collapsed into the Underdark, partially draining the Sea of Fallen Stars into the Glimmersea far below and leaving behind a gigantic pit called the Underchasm. The event splintered the Old Empires south of the drained sea into a wildscape of towering mesas, bottomless ravines, and cloud-scraping spires. Of those ancient lands, the most changed by the Spellplague were Mulhorand, Unther, and Chondath, as well as portions of Aglarond, the shores of the Sea of Fallen Stars, and the Shaar. What was once called Halruaa was destroyed in a great holocaust, as if every spell held there had loosed its power simultaneously. The land bridge between Chult and the Shining South was sunk; now only a scattered archipelago remains.
Tendrils of the Spellplague reached to many other corners of Toril, sometimes bypassing great swaths of land by infecting both sides of the many portals that dotted the world. Such an effect might have been responsible for drawing portions of lost Abeir into Toril. Some sages suggest that the two worlds have undergone periodic conjunctions ever since they diverged, but that these were too subtle for most creatures to notice. By an accident of timing, the Spellplague occurred during just such a conjunction, which caused the briefly overlapping lands to run athwart each other instead of passing in the night as before.
Pockets of active Spellplague still exist today, most notoriously in the Plaguewrought Land. Each of these plaguelands is strange and dangerous. No two possess the exact same landscape or features, but entering any of them could lead to infection by the Spellplague. Luckily for the world, the remaining plaguelands possess only a small fraction of the Spellplague’s initial vigor and are in hard-to-reach locales, often surrounded by twisted devastation. Most lands of Faerûn and Returned Abeir are entirely free of such pockets, though the plaguechanged and Spellscarred (see below) might appear in any land.
Effects on Creatures
A creature, object, or spell touched by the Spellplague usually dissolved into glowing, dissipating ash. Places hit in the first few hours of the disaster twisted into mad nightmares: delicate structures of mind-skewing dimensions, half-melted cities, and shattered physical and magical laws. Sometimes living creatures survived but were hideously mutated. In the worst cases, they were altered, twisted, or fused to other creatures (regardless of species) or even to portions of the landscape. Most such mewling horrors perished within a few days.
A few things changed by the Spellplague survived only by accepting the new reality. Living creatures so affected are differentiated into two broad groups: plaguechanged and spellscarred.
A massive change in body and mind marks a creature that has survived contact with the original wave of the Spellplague. Such survivors are called the plaguechanged. Few of their descendants survive today—the initial plague was so virulent, and the changes wrought were so extreme. As well, many decades have passed since the Spellplague’s end, and old age claimed most of the plaguechanged. A few of the horrifying things bred true, though.
Plaguechanged creatures are monsters, whatever their original race, driven insane by their dreadful metamorphosis. Even the least of them display potent abilities. Luckily, few of these creatures leave the plaguelands.
Spellscars are usually gained when creatures come too close to a plagueland, though sometimes they afflict beings who have never had any contact with rampant magic. Sometimes a spellscar is a physical abnormality, but more often it is an intangible mark that appears only when its power is activated. An active spellscar might appear as jagged cracks of blue light racing across the forearms and hands, a corona of cerulean flame, a blazing blue glyph on the forehead, or perhaps even wings of cobalt flame. In all instances, blue fire is a sure indicator of a spellscar.
A creature can learn to master its spellscar through a variety of methods. (The FORGOTTEN REALMS Player’s Guide has more information.) Some beings travel to plaguelands in hopes of gaining a spellscar; such “scar pilgrimages” are encouraged by an organization called the Order of Blue Flame.
For eons, magic in Toril was focused through the Weave, controlled by the goddess Mystra. although Netherese wizards of ancient days learned the truth, most people believed that magic would not be possible without the deity’s existence. However, the death of Mystra gave the lie to that belief. Now the term “Weave” is just another name for magic, if it is used at all.
THE SHADOW WEAVE
Just as Mystra controlled the Weave, the goddess Shar created and maintained the Shadow Weave as an alternative conduit to magic. Not satisfied with her portion, Shar plotted to seize control of both when Cyric murdered Mystra. She miscalculated. The Weave collapsed so completely that Shar not only failed to gather up its fraying threads, she also lost control over the Shadow Weave. Just as magic persists without Mystra, so does the power of shadow endure without Shar’s intercession. Powerful necromancers have developed their own unique methods for harnessing the dark energy of the Shadowfell.
Although sages and clerics might argue about the origin of the Spellplague, the effect was apparent to all. Huge swaths of the landscape were rent asunder. Entire nations were drowned, and large regions collapsed into the Underdark or were thrust up as spires of stone. The land became far more magical and fantastic in appearance, with islands of rock called earthmotes floating in the sky. The Spellplague infected everything: flesh, stone, magic, space and dimensional walls, and even the cosmology.
Whole countries are gone, especially in regions south of the Sea of Fallen Stars. Even familiar lands have become magical and fantastic in appearance. Islands of rock called earthmotes drift through the sky. Weird towers and spires of stone jut from the landscape. Spectacular chasms and waterfalls abound.
Portions of Abeir have fused with Toril. The Spellplague raged even beyond planar boundaries, and Toril’s long-lost twin world, cut off for tens of millennia, was also caught up in the maelstrom. Large parts of Faerûn exchanged places with equivalent land masses on Abeir, bringing their populations with them. Across the Trackless Sea, an entire continent of the lost realm reappeared, now called Returned Abeir.
The number of gods has dropped markedly. During the last century, even deities succumbed to divine and diabolical plots or to the chaos of the Spellplague. Of those now absent, many died, some left, and a few were revealed to be aspects of already extant gods. Others lost so much power that they became exarchs, lesser divinities who serve the other gods.
Huge Underdark collapses have changed the surface of Faerûn. As the earth fell away, the level and position of the Sea of Fallen Stars shifted drastically. An enormous opening into the Underdark has formed south of the Chondalwood. In addition to this country-sized hole in the earth, underground shifting has made the Underdark much more accessible to the surface world.