Everyone's excited to see these exu calamity heroes die for the cause and that's absolutely valid because doomed narratives are compelling as hell.
I cannot help but think of the tragedy that goes slightly beyond that, which is the chance that at least one of them survives to bear witness to what happens next. Two thirds of Exandria wiped out. Two thirds of the party, maybe. The last third might survive by the grace or the cruelty of some higher power, but they do not win. Their names, perhaps at their own request, become lost to time.
Exandria Unlimited: Calamity Trailer Breakdown
Link to the full trailer :)
This is pretty long, so I’m putting it under a cut to avoid cramming people’s dashes. Basically it’s just a breakdown/analysis of all of the frames/stills/art in the teaser trailer in case you didn’t catch all the lore!
[ID: The symbols of Gruumsh, Tharizdun, Lolth, Bane, Zehir, Asmodeus, Tiamat, and Torog arranged around a green sphere. End ID]
The first image is the Betrayer Gods around Exandria. It probably represents the banishment of the Betrayer Gods from the Material Plane following the war with the titans, and where they reside at the start of ExU:C.
[ID: Art of a beautiful floating city with brumestone embedded in the bottom. There are many buildings with gold tops as well as golden flags with white symbols on them. There is a central building with a golden dome and six golden spikes that emulates the look of a crown. There are kites and animals flying in the sky as fireworks go off. End ID]
[ID: A close-up of one of the flags in the city. The crest evokes imagery of a crown, with four large spikes pointing upward coming out of a heart shape. End ID]
This is presumably Avalir, the City of Crowns. The crests on the flags are crowns and a lot of the buildings are vaguely crown-shaped. In case you missed it, Brennan mentioned Avalir in this preview of ExU:C
[ID: Art of The Raven Queen in a room surrounded by candles and raven feathers. End ID]
The Raven Queen’s Ritual of Seeding. It represents her taking her place in the pantheon and confirms that she has already ascended by the time ExU:C is set.
The voice over says, “Dire children chase the Matron’s wake” which refers to both Vespin Chloras and Vecna.
[ID: Art of Ghor Dranas, a city with sharp and menacing architecture. Catha and Ruidus are visible in the sky and there are smoke covered dragons flying around. Various symbols of the Betrayer Gods are built into the walls, gates, and roofs. End ID]
This is the city of Ghor Dranas shortly after the beginning of the Calamity (we know the time its set in because the art was also used in Exandria: An Intimate History). For those with a keen eye, the holy symbols for Gruumsh, Zehir, Lolth, and Bane are built into the architecture!
It is accompanied by Aabria’s voice over saying “Cities soaring, framed by ebbing stars, shake against the echoes of an old hunger, and festering wounds from schisms long since passed.” The “schism” is the schism between the Betrayer Gods and the Prime Deities that caused the Betrayers to be banished from the Material Plane. The “old hunger” could possibly be Tharizdun, who was banished long before the other Betrayer gods.
[ID: Art of Asmodeus and Gruumsh attacking Vasselheim, which is in flames. There is a large mountain range surrounding them. End ID]
This is Asmodeus and Gruumsh destroying Vasselheim, which is the moment that begins the Calamity officially.
[ID: Art of three humanoids running from explosions, a large flood, and buildings collapsing behind them. There are stone houses around them. End ID]
This is the start of the Calamity. Not much else to identify, the city and people are too indistinct to try and nail down onto one place.
[ID: The city of Avalir, but the brumestone embedded in the bottom of the city has started to glow green. End ID]
Avalir again, this time with Vespin’s green magic replacing the blue of the brumstone on the underside of the city. This could be implying that Vespin is the big bad of ExU:C, given that in the synopsis for ExU:C the party “uncover an insidious corruption beneath a city that they’ve sworn to protect”.
[ID: Art of Vespin Chloras, a man with short black hair and a goatee who is wearing mage’s robes. He has green magic flowing from his eyes and hands and is surrounded by candles. End ID]
This is Vespin Chloras releasing the Betrayer gods from their prisons. The fact that this frame flashes immediately after the green beam shoots up from Avalir in the trailer suggests that this took place underneath the city.
[ID: Art of Ioun facing off against Tharizdun. There is blue magic emanating from Ioun’s hands and she is on the floor. There are pillars with symbol’s of Ioun built into them beside Tharizdun. End ID]
Ioun fighting Tharizdun during the Calamity when she baited it to her temple in Whitestone and was severely injured.
[ID: Art of Pelor facing off against Tharizdun. Pelor has a flaming weapon and Tharizdun takes up most of the image, making it very dark outside of Pelor’s glow. End ID]
This is Pelor fighting Tharizdun during the Calamity.
[ID: The city of Avalir, but it is in flames and the brumstone is still glowing green. Catha and Ruidus are visible in the sky behind it. End ID]
Avalir (again) in ruins after Vespin freed the Betrayer Gods or beginning of the Calamity, it’s unclear which. (Ruidus and Catha are in the background... Interesting.)
Aand that’s all the images (phew)! I hope this illuminates some of the stuff that you maybe didn’t catch when you watched it!! I fact checked myself with the wiki on a lot of these, but if I got something wrong feel free to tell me!
So we know that this purple gem had something to do with transformation. And Matt described several times that feeling of a warm heartbeat (in Laudna's chest who as we all know is literally dead cold and has a very slow heartbeat) so what if
1. Delilah wants to turn Laudna back into an alive person to use her body as a vessel for herself
2. She wants to sonehow create a body for herself???
Also if we remember that the purple stone from EXU was used by the same people who literally somehow pulled(???) Ted (who was also a warlock patron) out of Opal's head and gave her what can technically be called a body, shit gets even more interesting
I am so ready for EXU: Calamity.
Like others have pointed out, I absolutely love that this is an adventure for which we know the ending, but we don't know the ending. We know what's going to happen, we know that nothing anyone can do will ever stop it — but we don't know what they will do. Matt and Brennan have created a story where tragedy and loss is inevitable, where the ending has already happened and the history has already been written, but they've done it in such a way that never robs the players of their agency.
Because the truth is, we don't know what happened. We don't know what will happen. The Calamity didn't just destroy 2/3rds of Exandria's population, it didn't just destroy every magocracy of the Age of Arcanum, it didn't just devastate the world — in a way, the Calamity destroyed itself. It destroyed its own history, and most of the history that came before it. We know that it happened, we know some of the things that occurred — but all that we know exists on the order of gods.
Vespin Chloras released the Betrayer Gods because he wanted to ascend like the Raven Queen. (Dire Children chase the Matron's wake.) The Betrayer Gods, upon seeing the world, no longer sought to destroy but to dominate. (Festering wounds from schisms long-since passed.) They formed a stronghold at Ghor Dranas, decimated Xhorhas, and launched an attack on Vasselheim. That attack forced the Prime Deities to descend and fight the Betrayer Gods. The Apotheon was given gifts of the gods and nearly defeated Gruumsh, Torog was banished (probably by Sehanine), Tharizdun was locked away by Ioun and Pelor, and the Betrayer Gods were imprisoned once more. The Prime Deities left Exandria and built the Divine Gate so nothing like the Calamity would ever happen again. (The wheel will always spin, its gilded fulcrum rotting from within.)
So the history is written, the time has gone by, but the stories haven't been told. Things end in tragedy and destruction and inevitable loss. The march of time will carry on, the march of time will stop for no one's hands, the march of time will inevitably and invariably push forward. That history happens, has happened, will happen. It's gone by. It's done.
But that's the thing about tragedies.
In my eyes, a really, truly good tragedy is a story where it seems like there are a thousand, thousand times where a character could've made a different choice, a thousand chances for things to end up better, a thousand opportunities to avoid what's coming next — but where it simultaneously feels like nothing could have ever avoided the inevitable end. A good tragedy comes when we know that the characters could have made a different choice, could have done something different, could have changed course, but we also know that those characters never would have. And that's what we know now: this tragedy will happen, because these characters may once have had a chance to stop it, but they were blinded by their comfort and arrogance until it was too late. They could have had a chance at stopping Chloras, but they never would have.
(Honestly? I think that these characters are the people who could've stopped Chloras from releasing the Betrayer Gods, but didn't. I think the city they're on either housed the temple he used, or floated above it. I think that we're going to get to see Brennan play possibly the greatest mortal villain in all of Exandrian history, and I really, really hope that this is the series where we finally get to see a full party of 20th-level characters.)
I can't find it anymore but there's a post floating around about Shakespeare's tragedies — about how if you put Othello in Hamlet's plot he'd have killed Claudius immediately, and if you put Hamlet in Othello's plot he'd out-think Iago. But it's because the characters are who they are that these inevitable tragedies are allowed to happen. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, had a saying that went something like this: character is destiny. I think this is what they meant.
We know how it ends, but we'll watch it anyway. Because really, we don't know how it ends. We know how people think it ends, we know how the gods told people it ends, and yeah, that might be the truth. But there's a world of difference between world history on the order of gods, and the tale of a group of would-be heroes who never really had a chance but tried anyway. (Especially when those gods are known to lie.)