|Designer(s)||Timothy B. Brown
Wizards of the Coast
|Publication date||October 1991 (2nd Edition)
August 2010 (4th Edition)
|System(s)||AD&D 2nd Edition
D&D 4th Edition
The themes of this setting could fit in the Dying Earth subgenre and include survival against the elements, ecological disaster, resource depletion, survival of the fittest, slavery and poverty, and the widespread use of psionic abilities. The political setting is similar to ancient Middle East, North Africa or Mesopotamia. Water and metals are extremely scarce. Survival against the elements has made it a harsh exotic world.
- 1 Development
- 2 Reception
- 3 Life on Athas
- 4 Geography
- 5 Other planes
- 6 Races and monsters
- 7 Classes
- 8 Established characters
- 9 Source material
- 10 Novels
- 11 Computer games
- 12 Footnotes
- 13 External links
TSR released the second edition of Battlesystem in 1989 and, in 1990, began pre-production on a new campaign setting that would use this edition in gameplay. The working title of this setting was "War World."
Contributors to this project at its beginnings included Rich Baker, Gerald Brom, Tim Brown, Troy Denning, Mary Kirchoff, and Steve Winter. With the exception of Denning and Kirchoff, design veterans such as David "Zeb" Cook declined to join the conceptual team for "War World" (later on, Cook would write the first two adventure modules: Freedom and Road to Urik). The majority of project members were freshmen to TSR, though not necessarily to the industry (Winter having worked at GDW).
The team envisioned a post-apocalyptic world full of exotic monsters and no hallmark fantasy creatures whatsoever. TSR worried about this concept, wondering how to market a product that lacked any familiar elements. Eventually, elves, dwarves, and dragons returned but in warped variations of their standard AD&D 2nd Edition counterparts. The designers actually credit this reversion as a pivotal change that launched the project in a new direction.
By the time the name "Dark Sun" replaced "War World," Battlesystem integration was still considered important; and mass-combat statistics accompanied early modules. However, poor sales for Battlesystem soon stopped any further inclusion in Dark Sun products.
The Dark Sun setting drew much of its appeal from artist Brom's imagery: "I pretty much designed the look and feel of the Dark Sun campaign. I was doing paintings before they were even writing about the setting. I'd do a painting or a sketch, and the designers wrote those characters and ideas into the story. I was very involved in the development process."
Game designer Rick Swan described the Dark Sun setting: "Using the desert as a metaphor for struggle and despair, this set presents a truly alien setting, bizarre even by AD&D game standards. From dragons to spell-casting, from character classes to gold pieces, this set ties familiar AD&D conventions into knots, resulting in one of the most fascinating and original game worlds that TSR has ever produced."
A reviewer for the British magazine Arcane commented: "There's plenty of atmosphere in Dark Sun and, despite the seeming uniformity of the geography, a great deal of imagination has gone into detailing its various regions." The reviewer concluded that "if blood in the sand is the bag you're into, you'll find plenty to enjoy under the Dark Sun".
Life on Athas
Once a blue planet teeming with life, Athas has since been stripped of its fertility by the use of corrupting magic known as Defiling Magic, and the decay of its sun. It is a sun-burnt land forsaken by the gods, water, and hope. The natural resources have been depleted and a lack of metal has resulted in the use of wood, obsidian and bone for weapons, tools and other common equipment - metal objects are rare and expensive. In such a harsh and unforgiving land, even the most mundane of creatures has developed psionic abilities in response to the constant struggle for survival.
Many thousands of years ago, through a combination of psionic power and defiler magic, a number of individuals set themselves up as sorcerer-kings, each ruling one of the city-states strewn across the sandy wastes of Athas. The societies that resulted are strongly hierarchical, heavily reliant on slaves, and partial to blood sports. Outside these cities lie vast expanses of deserts, mountains and desolate wilderness areas inhabited by monsters and tribes of humanoid races struggling for survival. In Athas, death by natural ageing is considered a great achievement, worthy of celebration and reverence.
The Sea of Silt
Water has long since ceased to flow in major rivers or lakes on the surface of Athas, and can only be found in small pockets and in the Last Sea. There are some oases, occasional small lakes and streams, as well as creeks and rivulets West of the nearly impassable Ringing Mountains of Forest Ridge. Forest Ridge is also the home of halflings, which in the Dark Sun world are small creatures that live in tribes in the forest and do not hesitate to capture and eat intruders to their realm. This makes the prospect of going West across the Ringing Mountains rather daunting.
In the place of an ocean, the world of Athas has a sea composed entirely of silt, thanks to the life-stealing effects of defiling magic. The loose surface silt is very fine and so is difficult to traverse and very easily coats the lungs. A strong wind from the Silt Sea can force people in nearby villages to remain indoors, though some make use of a mask-like silter which is placed over the mouth and nose and kept wet in order to help the user breathe.
The silt sometimes becomes hard-packed a few metres below the surface, but this is of little help to humans attempting to cross the Sea. Giants often make use of the packed silt further below and can occasionally be seen wading chest-deep, as one might wade through a swamp. Humans have built vessels that can navigate these silt roads much like giants do, though the going is much slower and both humans and giants still have to deal with the creatures that live in the Sea.
There are also the Shipfloaters, psionicists that use a large obsidian orb to focus their power and telekinetically levitate their ships through the air.
The Tyr region
The campaign setting of the Dark Sun world generally takes place in the Tyr region of the world of Athas. There are cities further to the North and South but the land is extremely unfriendly; most people do not wish to risk a journey of such length, and the location of other cities beyond the region is uncertain at best. Life within the Tyr region is inherently difficult, and embarking on expeditions for adventure or an altruistic purpose is extremely dangerous.
The Tyr region encompasses thousands of square miles, stretching from the Hinterlands in the west to the Valley of Dust and Fire in the east, and from the Dead Lands in the south to the Troll Grave Chasm in the north. It contains all but two city-states of the Sorcerer-Kings.
Within the region of Tyr are several large city-states, ruled by the former Champions of Rajaat now turned to dark Sorcerer-Kings.
Bodach is known as the City of the Undead and is also the location of the Sage. It is 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Salt View. The once-beautiful city is now overrun by the undead, protectors of a secret treasure.
Balic is the southernmost city of the Tyr Region, ruled by the sorcerer-king Andropinis. It is situated on the edge of the Silt Sea, and is the only city in the region to have a tradition of elected government. Balic's templars are elected into office, though templars that Andropinis does not want in power usually vanish. Public debate is allowed, except for any direct criticism of the Dictator. Aspects of Balic can be compared to Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome.
Located on a vast mud flat in the Northeast of the Tyr Region, Draj was formerly ruled by the brutally expansionist sorcerer-king Tectuktitlay. After his death at Rajaat's hand in Ur-Draxa, he has been replaced by his putative son Atzetuk. This city-state may take inspiration from the Aztec civilization.
Ruled by the sorcerer-queen Lalali-Puy, Gulg is unique among the city-states due to its construction from living materials of the forest instead of stone and brick. While she is an absolute ruler, owning just about everything in the city, Lalali-Puy is loved by her citizens since she is the bringer of rain and wheat. This city may take inspiration from the jungle cultures of Africa.
Nibenay is located closer to the center of the Tyr Region, just to the east of the city-state of Gulg. Nibenay is ruled by the sorcerer-king Nibenay, formerly known as Gallard the Bane of Gnomes. Now known simply as "The Shadow King," he is the most reclusive of them all. The Shadow King will often stay out of sight for years or more due to lack of interest in governmental affairs and to his devotion to personal projects. The inspiration for Nibenay may have been Angkor, capital of the Khmer Empire.
The largest city-state in the Tyr Region, Raam was ruled by the sorcerer-queen Abalach-Re, who was uninterested in her city's well-being. As a result, the city was always on the brink of rebellion. After Abalach-Re's death, the city has been thrown into chaos, divided among various struggling factions. The inspiration for Raam may have been the Mughal Empire of India with a dash of Pharaonic Egypt.
The eponymous capital of the Tyr region, Tyr is located just to the east of the Ringing Mountains. Tyr was ruled by the sorcerer-king Kalak until his overthrow on the verge of his ascension. It is now the only free city of the region, banning the practice of slavery. It has much in common with its historical quasi-namesake Tyre, including a monopoly over purple dye.
Urik is a highly efficient and highly militarized city-state ruled by Hamanu, the self-proclaimed "King of the World". Urik possesses the strongest army in the Tyr Region, and Hamanu takes a pointed interest in his city's affairs. Urik has become a closed city since the Great Earthquake, sending out trade caravans rarely and otherwise forbidding passage into the city. Urik may have been inspired by the ancient cities of Babylon and Uruk.
The Jagged Cliffs region
The Jagged Cliffs region is another region of hundreds of square miles, north of the Tyr region. It extends from the Crimson Savannah in the west to the Sea of Silt in the east, and the Burning Plains to the north. Two of the city-states of the sorcerer-kings reside here.
Eldaarich is the city of the former champion of Rajaat, Daskinor Goblin Death. The city is like a prison to its citizens due to Daskinor's paranoia.
Kurn is the city of Oronis (formerly Keltis), a sorcerer-king who abandoned the draconic transformation path and instead turned to preserving magic to become an avangion. Oronis moved most of his populace into "New Kurn," a hidden and disguised city that is rigorously policed to keep it safe, while "Old Kurn" is little more than a shell and a set of illusions to prevent outsiders from realizing the changes that have transpired.
The Crimson Savannah
The Crimson Savannah is an area of vast plains with sharp bamboo-like plants, inhabited by the various Kreen races (mantis-like humanoids).
The Dead Lands
The Dead Lands are an area of vast obsidian plains to the South of the Tyr Region. They were inadvertently created by the Defiler Qwith, an agent of Rajaat studying the inner planes.
The Last Sea
The Last Sea is the last large body of water on Athas, and is a throwback to the Green Age. It was preserved during the Cleansing Wars by the mysterious Mind Lords - psions of a caliber that recalls the age of Athas's pinnacle of psionic power. They still rule the valley region of the Last Sea, called Marnita, but have moved their minds into obsidian orbs hidden in the city of Saragar. Their immense age (over nine thousand years and counting) and the lack of physical sensation has driven the various Mind Lords to dementia.
In the AD&D version of Dark Sun, the Gray was described as a buffer zone on Athas that acts as a barrier between Athas's Material Plane and the Ethereal and Astral Planes. It is much weaker on the Ethereal side where it is easier to breach. On the Astral side it is almost impenetrable. Spellcasters seeking access to these planes (or the planes beyond) must attempt to breach the Gray.
The dead of Athas end up here after they die and are caught in an eddy and gradually fade away to nothing. When someone asks the spirits of the dead dwelling in the Gray where they are they reply "nowhere," and when asked who they are they reply "no one." However, they can prolong their existence by dedicating themselves to a cause which is greater than themselves.
The Black is a shadow dimension that exists inside all matter. The Shadow People, who are descendants of Rajaat's halfling servants, reside here. They can be called into service by someone giving them obsidian orbs as payment (which they use as seeds for more Shadow People). Shadow People on Athas are extremely cold to the touch despite Athas's extreme heat, and can not survive without light to give them substance. It pains them to be in weak light and no light causes them to cease to exist.
The Hollow is a simple void that exists beneath the Black on Athas. It is Rajaat's former and current prison.
There is a contradiction as to whether it is a natural place or created by the Champions. Hamanu in the Cerulean Storm states that "Beneath the Black is the Hollow, where nothing is missing because nothing remains: not the future, not the past, not even the Gray. Nothing. Simply nothing." This would seem to imply it is natural. However, in Rise and Fall of a Dragon King, Nibenay suggests that he created the Hollow beneath the Black.
Neither shadow nor light exists nor can exist in the Hollow, nullifying Rajaat's use of the Dark Lens and trapping him.
Outer planes of the Thri-Kreen
Races and monsters
|This article is missing information about the Pyreen. (May 2010)|
Due to harsh conditions on Athas, all forms of life have evolved to be extremely hardy and powerful when compared to their counterparts in other D&D campaign settings. Most if not all races on Athas have one or more unique self-defense mechanisms. These may consist of psionic ability, enhanced strength, augmented agility, increased mass, lower food/water intake, superior sensory capabilities, and/or various natural weapons.
In 2nd edition D&D, there are many differences between the Dark Sun versions of the races and those found in other campaign settings. For instance, an Athasian elf is faster, stronger and larger than elves from other D&D worlds. In some editions of the game, characters begin at higher levels and may have more abilities than in other D&D settings. There are no "commoners" (i.e., non-combatant bystanders) in Athas. Every "villager" is trained to defend herself against voracious creatures of the wild. No one is spared from such training. Those who cannot adapt do not survive.
The range of available humanoid races is drastically different from most campaign settings; additionally, elves, dwarves, and halflings differ greatly from their standard counterparts. Though Athasian humans are similar to those in standard AD&D settings, differences in other races range from subtle to dramatic.
Athasian dwarves are masses of solid muscle, standing less than 5' tall and weighing nearly 200 lbs. Each dwarf pursues a singular obsession, called a focus, that requires at least a week to complete. While performing tasks related to his focus, a dwarf earns a bonus to his saving throws and proficiency roles. Athasian elves are hostile nomads, marked by savage dispositions and a deep distrust of outsiders. The wiry halflings seldom exceed 3½' in height and live in shaman-ruled settlements in the jungles beyond the mysterious Ringing Mountains.
Player-characters may be drawn from any of the races, including three new races that also flourish in Athas:
- Muls: exceptionally strong offspring of dwarves and humans, commonly used for slave labor.
- Half-Giants: a cross between giants and humans who choose new alignments every morning.
- Thri-Kreen: savage insect men, also known as mantis warriors, with venomous saliva and armor-like exoskeletons.
- Aarakocra - A race of winged bird men, formerly appearing as monsters in other settings.
- Dwarf - Dwarves are short and stocky demi-humans who are single-minded in their pursuit of a task. They differ from standard dwarves in that they are completely bald and have no body or facial hair.
- Eladrin (added in 4th edition) - An isolationist race of veiled warriors clinging to their dying homeland.
- Elf - Distinct from traditional elves not only in flavor (often thieves and marauders) but also physically. They are taller than traditional elves and known for being able to run long distances. They have shorter life spans compared to elves of other worlds, and live for the moment...there might not be another.
- Half-Giant (Goliath in 4th Edition) - More intelligent than their counterparts in other worlds, but with a tendency to change personalities over time. They were magically created by the sorcerer kings from giant and human stock.
- Halfling - Generally known for being savage, often cannibalistic, tribal people. However, there is an ancient community of Halflings with a civilization based on life-shaping.
- Mul - A dwarven-human hybrid, they are able to work for long periods of time without rest, making them the most valuable of slaves.
- Pterran - A shamanistic race of reptilian humanoids. Essentially humanoid pterodactyls with only vestigial stumps on their shoulders where wings had once been. They worship an Earth Mother goddess.
- Thri-Kreen - A race of savage mantis people, formerly appearing as monsters in other settings.
- Tiefling (added in the 4th edition setting) - A demon-cursed race of bloodthirsty desert raiders.
- Dray (Dragonborn in 4th edition) - Created by Dregoth and live in New Giustinal.
In 2nd edition Dark Sun, the warrior category incorporates fighters and rangers, but paladins do not exist in Athas. The warrior class also includes a new archetype called the gladiator. Disciplined in a variety of combat techniques, gladiators are automatically proficient in all weapons, receive a bonus to punching and wrestling attack rolls, and are allowed to specialize in multiple weapons.
Thieves and bards do not differ significantly from the Player's Handbook descriptions. Priests on the other hand comprise three distinct categories:
- Clerics derive their powers directly from the elemental planes.
- Templars serve the sorcerer-kings and are dependant on them for magical energy.
- Druids are bound to the essence of a particular oasis or other geographic location.
Dark Sun wizards include defilers, whose powers come at the expense of the ecosystem, and preservers, who wield magic in concert with the environment. Illusionists specialize in illusory effects and may be either defilers or preservers.
Several classes common to other Dungeons & Dragons settings aren't found in Dark Sun. In the 3.5 edition of the game, paladins, monks, and sorcerers have no analogues on Athas. Conversely, the commonplace development of psionic ability, unusual nature of magic, and focus on survival skills have altered the scope and theme of some classes and added new classes.
In 4th edition D&D, new character options were introduced to modify existing classes to fit the Dark Sun themes.
In Dark Sun, there is a distinction between arcane spellcasters, priests, and psionic power users.
Wizardly magic derives directly from the life force of the surrounding ecosystem. Defilers have no qualms about exploiting the environment, as every spell they cast sucks the life from the surrounding area and turns it into a sterile wasteland. Defilers are considered evil; surrounding areas of vegetation turn to ash whenever a defiler prepares spells, which explains the current barren state of the planet.
Preservers take special care when preparing spells and only extract as much energy from the environment as they need, thus avoiding the sterilizing side effects. Striving to wield magic in harmony with nature, they cause no damage to the environment when they cast spells. Virtue comes with a price however, as preservers advance in level at a much slower rate than the self-serving defilers. Preservers and druids have a negative view of defilers, but both preservers and defilers are relatively rare.
- Defilers draw their power quickly, killing plant life around them and sterilizing the soil those plants were in, rendering it impossible to grow new plants there for centuries. Powerful defilers are able to draw power from creatures as well. Very powerful defilers (such as dragons) can kill people in this manner.
- Preservers draw their power more carefully, enabling them to cast their spells without destroying plant life but sacrificing spellcasting power. Powerful preservers are able to draw power from creatures as well. Very powerful preservers (such as avangions) have the ability to draw power from people as well, but they will not seek to kill with it.
Most ordinary people on Athas don't know that preservers exist and treat all arcane spellcasters as defilers, responsible for the destruction of Athas. The Veiled Alliance, an underground organization of preservers with resistance cells in all city states and most major villages, is bent on the destruction of the defiling Sorcerer-Kings.
In the second boxed set of the TSR publishing era, a handful of very rare or mutated Wizards could power their spells from other sources: the Sun, the Black, or the Cerulean Storm itself.
Third edition D&D style sorcerer class characters are almost unheard of, though in the Paizo adaptation, such power has been noted in dragon-descended individuals.
Athas has never had, and never will have, any true gods. Instead, clerics worship natural forces, represented by the elemental planes of fire, earth, air, and water. Clerics are allied to one of these planes, from which they draw their specialized spells. The only spheres accessible to Athasian clerics are those corresponding to the elemental planes, along with the catch-all Sphere of the Cosmos. Additionally, clerics and druids may tap into magical plants, called trees of life, once per day to gain heal, augury, divination, and magic font spells.
Clerics form pacts with elemental entities who demand absolute devotion and obedience. When clerics reach 20th level they have two options: they may continue to advance in level, or they may become elementals. Clerics who become elementals leave behind their humanity, relocating to the inner planes. Clerics who continue to advance gain access to the powerful Sphere of the Cosmos. They also tap into the paraelemental planes of Silt, Sun, Rain, and Magma, which grant powerful abilities. Most clerics fill one of four roles in the campaign world, each with its own responsibilities and specialties.
- Wanderers: wilderness experts and advocates of the underprivileged.
- Guardians of the Shrine: protectors of sacred edifices.
- Priests of the Cities: urban dwellers and friends of the common man.
- Shamans: mysterious primitives.
A druid forms a pact with an elemental power in much the same way as a cleric, though a druid is denied the cleric's granted powers. Druids must also choose between humanity and elemental transformation (becoming a "spirit of the land") when reaching 20th level. A templar draws magic from the elemental planes, but must funnel this request through a sorcerer-king rather than contact the entities directly.
Game designer Rick Swan felt that while "clerics got the shaft in the original Dark Sun set", the supplement Earth, Air, Fire, and Water "transforms the stodgy Dark Sun cleric into the setting's most intriguing character".
- Elemental Clerics draw their power from elemental sources, and frequently come into conflict with one another.
- Paraelemental Clerics draw their power from the paraelements: Sun, Rain, Silt, and Magma. These priests are fewer in number than elemental clerics and often have similar abilities to elemental clerics of the two closest elements. Imagine the elements and paraelements on a color-like spectrum: Fire, Sun, Air, Rain, Water, Silt, Earth, and Magma.
- Druids, who draw their power from what remains of nature's life force, are often the most vocal and violent opponents of defilers.
- Templars are granted their power by the Sorcerer-Kings themselves, from the Living Vortex.
Psionic power is very common on Athas. Every player character has psionic abilities, as do many NPCs. Psionic ability is about as common in Dark Sun as arcane magic is in other D&D campaign settings, and it is accepted as a normal part of life.
Schools of the mind exist, mostly maintained by and serving the Sorcerer-Kings.
The City-States of Athas, as described in the original AD&D books, are ruled by several "dragon kings," former Champions of Rajaat. Rajaat is/was the first sorcerer of Athas, an ancient being who discovered magic on his world. He was obsessed with returning the world to its Blue Age, an age when the world was covered by a vast ocean and ruled by halflings, the most ancient of the races besides the thri-kreen. Using his Champions as proxies, he sought to exterminate all of the "impure" races.
At Rajaat's command, the Champions then began the Cleansing Wars, a campaign of genocide against all non-humans that spanned more than a thousand years. However, when they learned that Rajaat intended to "cleanse" humans as well, they rebelled against him. The rebels could not slay their master because of his vast and unparalleled knowledge of sorcery, but instead imprisoned him in a place called "the Hollow". In order to maintain Rajaat's prison, they worked in concert to turn Champion Borys of Ebe into a fully-fledged dragon, capable of maintaining their erstwhile master's magical prison.
From then on, each of the remaining Champions stopped warring on the races of Athas and became a sorcerer-king or sorcerer-queen of his or her own city-state.
The Champions of Rajaat
Sacha of Arala: 1st Champion of Rajaat, "Curse of the Kobolds"; Male; Deceased; Exterminated the kobold race in 268 years. Sacha turned traitor on the other Champions and sided with Rajaat, warning him of the Champions' impending attack. He was beheaded by Borys immediately after Borys assumed full dragon form, as a sacrifice to help keep Rajaat imprisoned.
Kalak: 2nd Champion of Rajaat, "Ogre Doom"; Male; former Sorcerer-king of Tyr (now deceased); Exterminated the ogre race in 1228 years. Kalak was killed by Rikus, Neeva, Sadira, Agis, and Tithian as part of the events of the Prism Pentad novels by Troy Denning.
Dregoth: 3rd Champion of Rajaat, "Ravager of Giants"; Male; Sorcerer-king of Guistenal; Cleansing unsuccessful. Dregoth was killed by several of his fellow sorcerer-kings, led by Abalach-Re. He was near to completing his dragon metamorphosis and ascending from a 29th-level dragon to a full 30th-level dragon. The other sorcerer-kings feared he would go through the same period of insanity that afflicted Borys after his transformation, attacking all and laying waste to vast areas that might include their city-states. Dregoth was raised from death by his loyal High Templar, after which he rebuilt his city. New Guistenal exists under the remnants of the old city, and Dregoth reigns there as sorcerer-king, a 29th level undead dragon lich.
Myron of Yorum: 4th Champion of Rajaat, "Troll Scorcher"; Male; Deceased; Cleansing unsuccessful. Myron was killed by Rajaat for his slowness in completing his part of the Cleansing War, and replaced by Manu of Deche (later Hamanu of Urik). Many believe that Myron knew of Rajaat's impending betrayal but lacked the fortitude and charisma to unite the other Champions against Rajaat.
Manu of Deche (Hamanu); 4th Champion of Rajaat, "Troll Scorcher"; Male; Sorcerer-king of Urik; Exterminated the troll race in 1505 years. Manu replaced Myron of Yorum, who was killed by Rajaat.
Uyness of Waverly (Abalach-Re); 5th Champion of Rajaat, "Orc Plague"; Female; former Sorcerer-queen of Raam (now deceased); Exterminated the orc race in 889 years. Abalach-Re was killed by Sadira as part of the events of the Prism Pentad novels by Troy Denning.
Gallard (Nibenay): 6th Champion of Rajaat, "Bane of Gnomes"; Male; Sorcerer-king of Nibenay; Exterminated the gnome race in 1229 years.
Sielba: 7th Champion of Rajaat, "Destroyer of Pterrans"; Female; former Sorcerer-queen of Yaramuke (now deceased); Cleansing unsuccessful. Sielba was killed by Hamanu. In The Rise and Fall of A Dragon King there is reference to Sielba as "Sprite Claw" instead of "Destroyer of Pterrans".
Albeorn of Brunswich (Andropinis): 8th Champion of Rajaat, "Slayer of Elves"; Male; Sorcerer-king of Balic; Cleansing unsuccessful. Andropinis was banished to the Black by Rajaat.
Tectuktitlay: 9th Champion of Rajaat, "Wemic Annihilator"; Male; former Sorcerer-king of Draj (now deceased); Exterminated the wemic race in 1409 years. Tectuktitlay was killed by Rajaat.
Keltis (Oronis): 10th Champion of Rajaat, "Lizard Man Executioner"; Male; Sorcerer-king of Kurn; Exterminated the lizard men in 1362 years (see below). Oronis was able to not only halt his dragon metamorphosis as Hamanu had done, but reverse it completely and begin the transformation into an avangion. He built a new city, aptly named New Kurn, and only keeps the old one functioning as a facade to fool the remaining Sorcerer-kings. During the Cleansing Wars, the Mind Lords protected a small number of the Lizard Man race, and they continue to exist in very limited numbers in a remote part of Athas.
Inenek (Lalali-Puy): 11th Champion of Rajaat, "Arakocra Scourge"; Female; Sorcerer-queen of Gulg; Cleansing unsuccessful. The Rise and Fall of A Dragon King makes reference to Inenek as "Ogre-Naught" instead of "Arakocra Scourge". If this is correct, she was successful in the Cleansing Wars, exterminating the ogre race in 1228 years.
Wyan of Bodach: 12th Champion of Rajaat, "Pixie Blight"; Male; Deceased; Exterminated the pixie race in 877 years. Wyan turned traitor on the other Champions and sided with Rajaat, warning him of the Champions' impending attack. He was beheaded by Borys immediately after Borys assumed full dragon form, as a sacrifice to help keep Rajaat imprisoned.
Borys of Ebe: 13th Champion of Rajaat, "Butcher of Dwarves", Dragon of Tyr; Male; former Sorcerer-king of Ur Draxa (now deceased); Cleansing unsuccessful. Borys led the Champions in revolt against Rajaat and was later tasked with keeping him imprisoned for eternity. He demanded a yearly sacrifice of 1000 slaves from each of the region's city-states to power Rajaat's arcane prison in the Hollow. Borys was killed by Rikus using the Scourge, Borys' ancient sword that was crafted by Rajaat. Rikus accomplished this with assistance from Sadira, Neeva, and Rkard as part of the events of the Prism Pentad novels by Troy Denning. In The Rise and Fall of A Dragon King, there is a reference to Borys succeeding a previous "Butcher of Dwarves".
Daskinor: 14th Champion of Rajaat, "Goblin Death"; Male; Sorcerer-king of Eldaarich; Exterminated the goblin race in 822 years. Daskinor descended into insanity and paranoia, and now terrorizes the citizens of Eldaarich.
Kalid-Ma: 15th Champion of Rajaat, "Tari Killer"; Male; former Sorcerer-king of Kalidnay; Cleansing unsuccessful. Kalid-Ma was believed to have been killed by Borys, Kalak, and Hamanu, but is presently trapped in Ravenloft in a comatose state by his High Templar Thakok-An. Psionic Artifacts of Athas states that the orbs of Kalid-Ma can be united and the sorcerer-king will be reborn. Originally, there was some confusion over Kalid-Ma's gender, with early sources like the Ravenloft Forbidden Lore box set and Merchant House of Amketch referring to Kalid-Ma as female, and the later Domains of Dread and Psionic Artifacts of Athas referring to him as male. This gender issue may have sprung from confusion with the real-world Hindu goddess, Kali.
Pennarin: "Centaur Crusher". Mentioned in The Rise and Fall of A Dragon King, Pennarin is the only Champion Rajaat killed in the rebellion against him. He is the most likely candidate for the title "Centaur Crusher". He is one of the three Champions known for their physical prowess, the others being Dregoth, "Ravager of Giants", and Hamanu, "Troll Scorcher".
Irikos is mentioned as a Champion of Rajaat only in the Book of Artifacts: "It was Irikos's ancient duty to destroy the race of orcs, and when the last orc was no more, he turned to the conquest of all who did not stand with Rajaat's captains." This conflicts with other references that name Uyness of Waverly (Abalache-Re) as the Champion tasked with the orc race's destruction.
Irikos was known as "The Left Hand of Rajaat" and was dispatched to destroy the city of Bodach during The Cleansing Wars because, "...the city of Bodach was a great neutral power. Its armies and magicians jealously guarded the lands of the city-state while the rulers refused all offers of alliance with the warring defilers and preservers." Also, "Irikos possessed a powerful weapon named the Silencer. Using the weapon, he and his host systematically destroyed the armies of Bodach and sacked the city. Still, the last and most powerful sorcerers of Bodach managed to cast a mighty spell of destruction against the defiler warlord, which blasted Irikos to ashes even as his hordes threw down Bodach with fire and sword. Only the Silencer survived."
This is the only reference to Irikos in any Dark Sun literature. This reference in the Book of Artifacts directly conflicts with all other Dark Sun literature. The Rise and Fall of a Dragon King states that all the Champions were involved in one form or another with the revolt against Rajaat, and Uyness of Waverly is "Orc Plague" in the boxed set literature. Therefore, it is commonly believed that this information on Irikos is erroneous at best.
The Silencer is one of three swords crafted by Rajaat the Warbringer. The Silencer, the Scourge, and the Scorcher are all extremely powerful cursed swords. In Psionic Artifacts of Athas, the Scorcher and the Scourge are described in great detail. In that book's description of the Scourge, as well as in many other references in other books, it is mentioned that Rajaat warred with the preservers before he instigated the Cleansing Wars, in a conflict called the Preserver Jihad. Therefore, Irikos could have been initially slated by Rajaat to become a Champion, perhaps even the "Orc Plague", when his early death in Bodach during the Jihad changed Rajaat's plans.
Agis of Asticles: a psionicist senator/nobleman from the city state of Tyr who plays a major role in the Prism Pentad novels by Troy Denning, the freeing of Tyr, and the pursuit of Tithian.
Tithian of Mericles: a nobleman who formerly served as Kalak's High Templar and who, after his death, crowns himself as King of Tyr amidst a crowd where he also abolishes slavery. Later, it is revealed that he is extremely power-hungry and evil himself, wishing to become the new Sorcerer-King of Tyr, and he attempts to free Rajaat The War Bringer.
Sadira—a half-elf former slave in Tyr who was taught the ways of a preserver as a young child, she is also instrumental in the freeing of Tyr and subsequent transformation into a unique class called the sun wizard.
Rikus—an ex-slave, a mul gladiator from Tyr, he is Neeva's fighting partner and former lover.
Neeva—an ex-slave, a human gladiator from Tyr, she is Rikus' fighting partner and former lover.
Caelum—a dwarven Sun Cleric (Paraelemental Sphere of Sun). Marries Neeva and fathers Rkard.
Rkard—a mul boy, son of Neeva, who is a sun cleric. His power is limited, but is able to, at the very least, cause minor pain to Hamanu (the 4th Champion of Rajaat, The Troll-Scorcher, and King of Urik) and therefore implies the possibility to harm other Champions as well.
Magnus—a new race Windsinger (Elemental Air Cleric) who is a cousin of Sadira (on her Elven side). He was mutated by the residual magics around the Pristine Tower, as a consequence he does not appear, even remotely, as his 100% Elven lineage would imply. He is tall and very broad, massively built and reptilian looking.
Official material for 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
- Walter Baas (March 1992). Terrors of the Desert (Dark Sun Monstrous Compendium I). TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-272-1.
- Bill Slavicsek (February 1992). DSR1: Slave Tribes. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-271-3.
- Anthony Pryor (May 1992). DSR2: Dune Trader. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-545-3.
- Allen Varney (October 1992). DSR3: Veiled Alliance. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-313-2.
- Richard Baker (December 1992). DSR4: Valley of Dust and Fire. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-313-2.
- Walter Baas (July 1993). Complete Gladiator's Handbook, The. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-616-6.
- Walter Baas (August 1993). DSS1: City-State of Tyr. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-629-8.
- Doug Stewart (October 1993). DSS2: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-652-2.
- Bill Slavicsek (November 1993). DSS3: Elves of Athas. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-665-4.
- Richard Baker (June 1994). The Will and the Way: Psionicists of Athas. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-861-4.
- Anne Gray McCready (March 1995). Terrors Beyond Tyr (Dark Sun Monstrous Compendium II). TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-7869-0097-0.
- Jon Pickens (April 1995). Thri-Kreen of Athas. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-7869-0125-X.
- TSR, Inc. (June 1995). Beyond the Prism Pentad. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-7869-0308-2.
- Monte Cook (December 1995). Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-7869-0169-1.
- Nicky Rea (July 1996). Defilers and Preservers: The Wizards of Athas. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-7869-0383-X.
- Kevin Melka (October 1996). Psionic Artifacts of Athas. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-7869-0390-2.
- David Cook (January 1992). DS1: Freedom. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-105-9.
- David Cook (April 1992). DSQ1: Road to Urik. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-248-9.
- Bill Slavicsek (August 1992). DSQ2: Arcane Shadows. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-312-4.
- Anthony Pryor (November 1992). DSQ3: Asticlian Gambit. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-315-9.
- Richard Baker (March 1993). DSE1: Dragon's Crown. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-567-4.
- Sam Witt (April 1993). DSM1: Black Flames. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-580-1.
- Richard Baker (September 1993). DSM2: Merchant House of Amketch. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-643-3.
- William Connors (December 1993). DSM3: Marauders of Nibenay. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-677-8.
- John Terra (1994). Forest Maker. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-841-X.
- Box Sets
- TSR, Inc. (June 1993). Ivory Triangle, The. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-604-2.
- Walter Baas (February 1994). DSE2: Black Spine (Dark Sun). TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-824-X.
- Shane Lacy Hensley (September 1994). City by the Silt Sea. TSR, Inc. ISBN 1-56076-882-7.
- Matt Forbeck (February 1996). The Wanderers Chronicle: Mind Lords of the Last Sea. TSR, Inc. ISBN 0-7869-0367-8.
- Web References
Official material for 3rd edition
While the campaign setting was no longer supported with published rulebooks, rules for the 3.5 edition (d20) appeared in several places; the "Sandstorm" supplement, especially, included a number of references to the culture and climate of the Dark Sun setting. Both Athas.org and Paizo's renditions of Dark Sun were official versions approved and sanctioned by Wizards of the Coast, and provide two different renditions of the setting. Two of the authors of the Paizo materials, Chris Flipse and Jon Sederquist, are on the Athas.org "overcouncil," and are responsible for much of the development of the Athas.org rules.
A former fan site turned officially sanctioned web presence for Dark Sun, the users from athas.org re-created the basic rules, converted or created two monster manuals worth of enemies, and created several adventures and other accessories.
Paizo's Dark Sun
A special feature in Dragon Magazine No. 319 (the May 2004 issue) and a parallel feature in Dungeon Magazine No. 110 provide an alternate interpretation of the setting for the revised Third Edition (3.5) Dungeons and Dragons game. (The rules for defiler wizards appear in Dragon #315, and additional monsters in Dungeon #111).
In place of the higher dice for ability scores, the abilities of all of the player character races have been improved. Each (including humans) has an additional bonus to one or more ability scores, an innate psionic power, and often other bonuses. Every race has a level adjustment, meaning that a PC of the race counts as a PC of higher level than he actually is for purposes of balance.
Paizo rendition of Dark Sun
- Noonan, David (January 2004). "Defilers of Athas." Dragon Magazine, p33.
- Noonan, David (May 2004). "The Dark Sun DM's Guide." Dungeon Magazine, p60.
- Noonan, David (May 2004). "Dark Sun Monster Supplement." Dungeon Magazine, p84.
- Noonan, David (May 2004). "Dark Sun Player's Handbook." Dragon Magazine, p16.
- Flipse, Chris & Sederquist, Jon (January 2006). "Dragon Kings." Dragon Magazine, p22.
Official material for 4th Edition
On August 14 at GenCon 2009, Wizards of the Coast announced that Dark Sun would be the 2010 campaign setting. Wizards announced 2 source books and 1 adventure for the new campaign setting. The setting is a "reimagining" of the 2nd edition setting, returning to the time immediately after Tyr became a free state. As first indicated in the third excerpt, published July 19, the Mul and Thri-kreen races were included, with special racial paragon paths and several new options for all characters. A new rules element was the addition of Themes (Athasian Minstrel, Dune Trader, Elemental Priest, etc.). Each PC gained one theme that together with race and class helped define the character. Themes grant an initial power and additional powers can be chosen instead of normally available class powers.
Wizards of the Coast promoted the setting heavily. Rich Baker first communicated various likely changes to the setting via his Blog at wizards.com. He also indicated that a preview of Dark Sun would be available as an adventure at the 2010 D&DXP convention. The adventure description "Come join us for the first sneak peek at the next campaign setting for 4th edition. This full adventure will preview new material from the campaign setting and comes with characters already provided" can be found on the D&DXP site.
The fourth Penny Arcade/PvP series of Wizards of the Coast's D&D podcast, running for two weeks in May and June 2010, was devoted to a Dark Sun campaign using pre-generated Dark Sun characters. The character sheets and other information are available for download from the podcast pages. Throughout July and August, excerpts from the upcoming Dark Sun Campaign Setting supplement were scheduled for publication as free content on the D&D Insider web site. The first two excerpts covered basic information on the setting, which is similar to that of previous versions. A series of articles continued to provide glimpses into the setting prior to the release in August.
In addition to the first adventure at D&D XP, there were several other adventures provided before the release:
- The Dark Sun adventure entitled Bloodsand Arena was held on June 19 for Free RPG Day.
- The second season of D&D Encounters (featuring weekly one-to-two-hour adventures at gaming stores) was based in Dark Sun and provided players with 15 weeks of Dark Sun encounters.
- Gen Con and PAX Prime held the "Glory and Blood" Dark Sun Arenas, featuring seven separate arena encounters held in each city-state. Each arena was of varying difficulty and players gathered glory. Winning six of seven adventures resulted in sufficient glory for a cloth map of the Tyr region, not currently available through other means.
- The Lost Cistern of Aravek for fourth-level pregenerated PCs was provided on August 21 for the Worldwide D&D Gameday.
- On August 17, 2010, the Dark Sun books were released.
- Richard Baker, Robert J. Schwalb (August 2010). Dark Sun Campaign Setting. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 978-0-7869-5493-3.
- Bruce Cordell (August 2010). Marauders of the Dune Sea. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 978-0-7869-5495-7.
- Richard Baker, Bruce R. Cordell (August 2010). Dark Sun Creature Catalog. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 978-0-7869-5494-0.
The 4th Edition Dark Sun books greatly change the setting, and the 4th edition races were added as well, including Tieflings, Dragonborn and Eladrin. Some topics are skipped as well and there are many notable setting conflicts with earlier material.
Mechanical differences abound, but reflect the 4th Edition rules. For example, in Second Edition defilers were a separate wizard class. In 4th Edition there are many arcane classes, so defiling became an at-will power applicable when using daily arcane powers. Elemental priests are now a new Shaman build, the Animist Shaman. Elemental worship is tied to the Primal power source, because the Divine power source (which includes clerics and paladins) is unavailable to player characters by default. Finally, non-metal weapons and armor are considered the baselines for 4e Dark Sun characters. Metal weapons, however, are more durable and less prone to breakage.
In addition, the Dungeon Tiles set released on June 15 was Dark Sun themed.
- Peter Lee (June 2010). Dungeon Tiles: Desert of Athas. Wizards of the Coast. ISBN 978-0-7869-5398-1.
Ashes of Athas Campaign
In January 2011 at the D&D Experience Convention, Wizards of the Coast and Baldman Games launched an organized play campaign set in Dark Sun. The campaign used the 4th edition rules and time frame. PCs played the role of Veiled Alliance members fighting against a secret organization named The True. Later adventures took players from Altaruk and Tyr across the Tablelands (Urik, Gulg, Nibenay, and many wilderness locations) to confront an ancient primordial awakening in the Sea of Silt. Chapters consisting of three linked adventures each were released at the D&DXP, Origins, and Gen Con gaming conventions. A total of seven chapters (21 rounds of four-hour play) were released, providing a single continuous story taking player characters from 3rd through 9th level (11th level at completion). Though the campaign concluded in January 2013 at Winter Fantasy, adventures can be requested from Baldman Games.
- Prism Pentad - Troy Denning
- Tribe of One - Simon Hawke
- Chronicles of Athas - Various Authors
- The Brazen Gambit (July 1994), by Lynn Abbey (ISBN 1-56076-872-X)
- The Darkness Before the Dawn (February 1995), by Ryan Hughes (ISBN 0-7869-0104-7)
- The Broken Blade (May 1995), by Simon Hawke (ISBN 0-7869-0137-3)
- Cinnabar Shadows (July 1995), by Lynn Abbey (ISBN 0-7869-0181-0)
- The Rise & Fall of a Dragon King (April 1996), by Lynn Abbey (ISBN 0-7869-0476-3)
- New Fiction (2010/11) - Various Authors
- Dark Sun: Shattered Lands (1993) - Strategic Simulations, Inc.
- Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager (1994) - Strategic Simulations, Inc. and Mindscape
- Dark Sun Online: Crimson Sands (1996) - MMORPG developed and hosted by the Total Entertainment Network
- "The History of TSR". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on October 4, 2008. Retrieved August 20, 2005.
- Johnson, Harold; Winter, Steve; Adkinson, Peter; Stark, Ed; and Peter Archer. 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons and Dragons. Wizards of the Coast, Inc, 2004, pages 130-138.
- Kenson, Stephen (October 1999). "Profiles: Brom". Dragon (Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast) (#264): 112.
- Swan, Rick (September 1992). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR) (#185): 65–66.
- Ramshaw, Cliff (February 1996). "Games Reviews". Arcane (Future Publishing) (3): 64–65.
- Swan, Rick (June 1994). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR) (#206): 85.
- Waynesbooks - Book reference information
- Carroll, Bart (August 14, 2009). "Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Article (And the Next Campaign Setting is ...)". Wizards.com. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
- "Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Product (Dark Sun Campaign Setting)". Wizards.com. August 17, 2010. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
- "Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Product (Dark Sun Creature Catalog)". Wizards.com. August 17, 2010. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
- "Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Product (Marauders of the Dune Sea)". Wizards.com. August 17, 2010. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
- "Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Article (Eight Characteristics of Athas)". Wizards.com. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
- "Dungeons & Dragons Roleplaying Game Official Home Page - Event (Game Day)". Wizards.com. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
- Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford, Rodney Thompson, "D&D Experience Podcast" at 2:02, Wizards of the Coast "D&D Podcast", February 11, 2011. Retrieved April 30, 2011.
- Matt Dukes, "DDXP 2011 Recap Part Deux", Critical Hits, February 8, 2011. Retrieved April 30, 2011.
- Chris Sims, "The D&D Experience", Critical Hits, February 4, 2011. Retrieved April 30, 2011.
- Baldman Games forums, "Ashes of Athas Adventure Now Available", Apr 2, 2013.
- Dark Sun Forums Wizards of the Coast official forums
- The Burnt World of Athas - recognized by Wizards of the Coast as the Official Dark Sun site on the internet
- TSR Archive Dark Sun product list