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In Eberron there is an event known as the Day of Mourning, that changed the face of the world forever, and feeds the political fears and motivations of many characters within the system. I know no strictly canonical answer for the cause has ever been presented, but several possibilities have been said over the years both in official and unofficial capacity (I know the last issue of Dragon Magazine addressed it).

Many solutions have become quite popular (magic spell, warforged factory explosion). However, in Eberron, secrets get out, and players become informed. What off the beaten path explanations for the Mourning can I use that players may not expect, and will lead to an enjoyable game?

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I would change this to something slightly more specific to make it easier to answer. –  Pureferret Jan 30 '12 at 22:20
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@Pyrodante Please explain how you will pick the correct or best answer here. I must admit as an Eberron fan I'm curious, but as a mod and an SE grognard I don't this is a good question. –  C. Ross Jan 30 '12 at 23:15
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Because the Mourning is a key issue, that many players know about, I suppose I am looking for an answer that an average player will not expect. At the moment Jadasc is an excellent example, and will be likely accepted when I come through tomorrow to do my accepts. I suppose in this case the "accepted" answer is the "one I will use". similar to multiple solutions to a coding issue in SO selecting the option you decides fits best for your implementation. –  Pyrodante Jan 30 '12 at 23:19
    
You should probably mention in the question that the actual event that defined the day of mourning was a major country being turned into a magically twisted wasteland now known as 'The Mournland.' This info might be useful to people writing their answers. –  GMJoe Jan 31 '12 at 6:25
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5 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The atrocities of war sent the entire kingdom of Cyre to Ravenloft, where the newest Domain is a constant, WWI-esque battlefield ...

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This answer is amazing! –  Pyrodante Jan 30 '12 at 22:38
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@Thank you. It struck me one day and I've been looking for the right group to spring it upon. –  Jadasc Jan 30 '12 at 22:44
    
totally going into my tool chest since I love Ravenloft almost as much as Eberron! –  Pyrodante Jan 30 '12 at 22:46
    
+1 I've heard this idea before, but this is the first time anyone's actually made "Cyre is in Ravenloft" sound good. –  Alex P May 24 '12 at 23:56
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Some suggestions:

  • The Mournland is a manifest zone linked to Dolurrh, the Realm of the Dead. Hoping to activate some nation-wide magical boon, Cyre foolishly tampered with a powerful artifact originally created by the Daelkyr to open a manifest zone linked to Xoriat. Agents from Breland sent to spy on the project discovered the artifact's true purpose and, suicidally, sabotaged it by activating it too early, creating a rift to Dolurrh instead. Breland saved the world, but destroyed Cyre in the process.

  • Cyre acquired the Orbs of Dragonkind and began using them with impunity. The dragons of Argonessen decided to teach them a lesson and, in a massive collective expression of the Prophecy, erased all living beings from Cyre.

  • The Dragon Below has awakened, and only the Prophecy can stop it.

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I would avoid too strong of a twist here, because it can undermine the feel of the entire setting -- if it turns out the Day of Mourning was some kind of divine hoax, for instance, that's probably going to frustrate a lot of players.

To the best of my knowledge, popular Internet theories include:

  • Cyre is in Ravenloft (I like Jadasc's version of this -- emphasizing the "perpetual WW1 battlefield" angle really makes it much more evocative).
  • Cyre's artificers went too far in pursuit of the ultimate weapon.
  • The machinations of one of the setting's big bad guys caused it -- this would be the Inspired, the Lords of Dust, or maybe the lich-queen Vol.
  • The Mourning is the Turning of the Age or the result of a somehow failed Turning.

An actual play example

A few years back, I ran a campaign revolving around the Day of Mourning. Here's what we did with it:

The PCs started as Cyran soldiers (several years pre-Mourning, with the players having fore-knowledge that this would be a game about that). Through their heroics, they basically became commandos and then secret agents, working directly for Cyre's chief spymaster. He sent them on various missions, some of which were, of course, related to magical weapons research. They were out on such a mission when the Day of Mourning happened. Of course, the team immediately set upon REVENGE!

Well, after a long search that left them all kinda ragged and corrupted (one of our goals was to have a campaign where characters could be "evil" without doing stage-villain stuff all over -- so rage and selling your soul for power became kind of a thing), they finally discovered that the cause of the Mourning was a Cannith forge deep within Cyre, which had somehow been turned into a device to suck up life, magic, and souls. And, of course, the former boss had orchestrated this. Because he was actually a Lord of Dust, naturally.

I freely admit that this wasn't the most inspiring or surprising choice for a cause, but it worked because it was a suitable explanation for who would be twisted and powerful enough to attempt an atrocity like this, and sufficiently personal that it seemed like a natural part of the character's story. Importantly, it was suitably on-theme and suitably obvious.

The fun twist came at the end of the campaign, where, after defeating him, one of the surviving PCs, a Warforged, took the receptacle of Cyre's stolen souls and returned with it to the secret forge at the heart of the Mournland -- thereby, of course, becoming the Lord of Blades.

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As you've asked for answers that aren't obvious and already suggested in canon resources, here's a few ideas of my own:

  • Cyre was not destroyed at all, and the Mournlands are in fact a massive Illusion spell that a collection of powerful mages has cast to conceal a fortress preparing an army that will invade Khorvaire.

  • A monstrous underground race rigged a massive area in the center of Cyre with magical explosives, and detonated them, destroying the earth below a centerpoint of the nation, making it slowly collapse in a massive underground cave.

  • In an illegal lab in Cyre, alchemists created (by accident or on purpose) the biggest Living Spell ever, which destroyed Cyre and became the Mournlands themselves.

In any case, if you're trying to come up with an original answer for The Mourning, think outside the box. The biggest motto I go with when brainstorming on things like that is ... nothing is what it seems.

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Being a vague not really defined thing is beneficial for you as a GM, it was caused by whatever you say caused it and/or fixing the mournlands a little. As a result, you can slowly over time start heading towards unraveling it while mining their table-talk & guesses for your own direction

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