In my world a war happened between a few tribal leaders a really long time ago. Those leaders had nearly god-like magical powers, giving them the ability to modify bodies, matter (like earth, stone, water), and power (heat, light etc.). They also had access to the highest steampunk tech you can think off.

My tribal leaders waged highly destructive wars for centuries, mainly because they couldn't kill each other. Eventually they tried to imprison one another. However, when the damage they caused to the planet became critical, the orginal creator of the world (who was more powerful than all the others) intervened and banished the tribal leaders to other planes.

Most of the creations of the tribal leaders and the remnants of their wars evaporated into a white ash that now covers a great portion of the planet.

What plausible explanations are there for the white ash?

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    $\begingroup$ Ash will blow in the wind and be washed away by rain. If too much time separated the Creator's intervention and the time of your story, it won't actually cover much of anything. In fact, if an eon passed, the ash will in many instances become sedimentary rock or a major component of your planet's ocean beds. Should respondents ignore the passage of time and the effects of climate, and assume a more-or-less evenly distributed ash all over the planet? Or should they care about those things, in which case we need to know how much time has passed? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jun 29, 2021 at 23:51
  • $\begingroup$ worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/140694/… which is considered a duplicate of worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/191826/… $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2021 at 11:44

4 Answers 4



ash on car hood


Gray ash comes out of some volcanoes. There can be a lot. It can cover things. It can bury things. The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried in ash. This car is covered with ash. And the problem is it is scratchy - not like wildfire ash which is soft. The volcanic ash is actually mineral particles, not carbonized trees and brush. If you wipe volcanic ash across the hood you will scratch the paint. That is a minor problem, agreed, but still a problem if people on your world have cars they want to keep looking nice.

There are some amazing photos from the eruptions this year (2021) of Mt Taal. Buried buildings, dead trees. Those photos are all copy protected. Go take a look! https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20210111/p2g/00m/0in/075000c

Why would a battle of gods followed by intervention by the Creator trigger horrific ashfalls and volcanoes? Why not? It seems appropriate for the scenario.

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    $\begingroup$ And looking at rock layers, there are some huge amounts of volcano ash from past eruptions. The Toba eruption covered ash over a large area including parts of Africa. India had 4-5 inches of ash all over it. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Jun 29, 2021 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ volcanic ash does not stay ash for very long, water quickly converts it into clay or other sediments. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Jun 29, 2021 at 23:06
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    $\begingroup$ To add: pyroclastic flows can blanket an area in ash; ash has "the consistency of ground glass", and "when mixed with water, this forms a concrete-like material." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_disaster#Volcanic_eruptions $\endgroup$
    – Tom
    Jun 30, 2021 at 0:16
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    $\begingroup$ We got off the train in Kagoshima Japan and went out onto the street and there was a light gray ("white") ash in a thin layer everywhere. It turns out that the volcano in the bay has been almost continuously erupting since the 1970s and that the people are just accustomed to sweeping it up almost every day... (The volcano is a type that does often spew magma but continually spews ash, due to its mineral characteristics). $\endgroup$
    – chadbag
    Jun 30, 2021 at 5:16

It looks like you are describing nuclear fallout

During detonations of devices at ground level (surface burst), below the fallout-free altitude, or in shallow water, heat vaporizes large amounts of earth or water, which is drawn up into the radioactive cloud. This material becomes radioactive when it combines with fission products or other radiocontaminants, or when it is neutron-activated. [...] After the Castle Bravo test, white dust—contaminated calcium oxide particles originating from pulverized and calcined corals—fell for several hours, causing beta burns and radiation exposure to the inhabitants of the nearby atolls and the crew of the Daigo Fukuryū Maru fishing boat. The scientists called the fallout Bikini snow.

If, as you say,

They had nearly god-like magical powers giving them ability to modify bodies, matter (like earth, stone, water), and power (heat, light etc.).

they can easily assemble a critical mass and create nukes with steampunk technology.

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    $\begingroup$ You don't need nukes, you just need a large enough explosion (source is irrelevant). Its just the case that us regular humans do not have any other way of producing large enough explisions without nuclear power $\endgroup$
    – Hobbamok
    Jun 30, 2021 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ This could be combined with a Nuclear Winter scenario, where a large scale nuclear war has put so much material into the atmosphere that it results in a longer-term global temperature drop, meaning not just "Bikini snow" but regular, actual snow in climates where you wouldn't expect it. Snow isn't ash, but it is arguably white dust, and possibly radioactive, contaminated white dust. $\endgroup$ Jun 30, 2021 at 13:30

An indestructibility enchantment that has been dispelled

The tribe leaders had imbued with their magic almost everything on the world, like buildings, vehicles and animals in order to power up them and use them in their wars. This magic allowed them to be almost imperishable and indestructible, but it also required a lot of mana in order to keep the enchantment active

But after the leaders were banished, they could no more provide their magic power to these items, so all the enchanted items started to corrupt and slowly become ash and powder, as they would have become if not enchanted.


Opening: Tribe leaders waged destructive wars for houndreds of years, mainly because they couldn't kill eachother - instead they tried to imprison their powerful enemies. When destruction of planet they caused became critical, orginal creator of the world intervened and banished those powerful beings to other planes.

Take into account you're citing chronicles from primitive times, we're 120.000 years further down the line. These white ash issues have been under thorough research by historians and archeologists. This peculiar ground layer has been a scientific mystery for many years. Recently, the remnants of a steampunker superstructure were found on Mespa, the neigbouring planet. Now the real story can be told.

Planet got disinfected. A neighbouring planet, inhabited by colonists who fled these wars, set up an operation to do that, because the two parties started to use a biological weapon that could spread through space. As a preventive measure, the planet was completely wiped clean using a gamma ray, taking out the larger cities first.. and then scanning over the planet surface, killing the virus, its makers and anything that could have gotten infected. After a single day, only white ash remained.


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