||This article may contain an excessive amount of intricate detail that may only interest a specific audience. (June 2015)|
|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
|Media type||Game accessories, novels, comics, role-playing video games|
Dark Sun is an original Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting set in the fictional, post-apocalyptic desert world of Athas. The original Dark Sun Boxed Set campaign setting was released in 1991. The product line ran from 1991 to 1996 and was one of TSR's most successful releases. Dark Sun is notable for its innovative metaplot, influential art work, dark themes, and its unique take on traditional fantasy role-playing game.
The original designers chose to drop the standard feudalistic backdrop of its contemporaries such as Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms in favor of a gritty composite of dark fantasy, planetary romance, and the Dying Earth subgenre. Rather than creating another pseudo-medieval, Tolkienesque setting, Dark Sun's designers created a savage, magic-ravaged desert world where resources, such as metal and water, are scarce and survival is a daily struggle. The traditional fantasy races and character classes have been changed or omitted to better suit the setting's darker themes. There are no true deities and arcane magic, which derives its power from the desecration of the earth, is the cause of the planet's current ecological fragility. As a result, wizards are hunted and reviled. Due to a tie-in with the Complete Psionics Handbook during the original release in 1991, psionics are as ubiquitous as magic is in other fantasy worlds.
The iconic art work of Gerald Brom often inspired the direction of the content and established a trend of game products produced under the direction of a single artist. The 2nd edition setting was supported by numerous source and adventure books as well as novels penned most notably by Troy Denning, all of which were closely tied into the setting's groundbreaking metaplot. It was the first TSR setting to come with an established metaplot out of the box and its dramatic advancement through its novels and source books was unique to the era.
Its popularity endured long after the setting was no longer supported by Dungeons & Dragons' new parent company Wizards of the Coast with a lively online community developing in its place. Notable material was produced for D&D 3rd edition by fans at Athas.org and by Paizo via open game license agreements.
A new edition of Dark Sun was released in 2010 for Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition. The game designers wanted to capture the feel of the original 1991 boxed set while opening the setting up to all of the possible adventures and options offered by the new edition. Though not technically a reboot, some of the characters, races, and setting details from the original boxed set were changed or removed.:5 The new setting rules continued Dark Sun's tradition of innovation by introducing character themes which provided background, character elements, and additional powers to newly created characters. Many former variant classes such as elemental priests, gladiators, and templars were replaced with these character themes.
- 1 Development
- 2 Reception
- 3 The World
- 4 Source material
- 5 Novels
- 6 Comics
- 7 Media
- 8 External links
- 9 Footnotes
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (2nd edition)
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 original Dark Sun Boxed Set released in 1991 presented the base setting details wherein the Tyr Region is on the verge of revolution against the sorcerer-kings. Set a decade after the first boxed set, the Revised And Expanded boxed set released in 1995 updated the setting to reconcile the events in the Prism Pentad novels. It featured an updated "Wanderer’s Chronicle" which included a summary of the material from "The Wanderer’s Journal" in the first boxed set, updates to the setting, events and characters introduced since the initial 1991 release, and details on the world outside the Tyr Region.
Tie-in with the Complete Psionics Handbook proved more successful, but designers regretted the extra time involved in attaching these rules to practically every living thing in the campaign world.
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."
Dungeons & Dragons (3rd edition)
Dark Sun was not supported by the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons but Paizo and the fans at Athas.org kept the setting alive with the blessing of Wizards of the Coast by way of an open game license.
David Noonan created an updated version of the setting for Paizo in 2004 that was published in their Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine that presented rules for 3rd edition. This version takes place three hundred years after the last published setting details and sought to return to the in-game political circumstances to something closer to the original boxed set.: 18
Athas.org presented another update to the setting for 3.5 in 2008. It was a rules conversion only but provided everything needed to play in the Dark Sun world through the non-epic levels. The Athas.org revisions contained a great deal of collected setting details that offered a much broader view of the setting giving the players an opportunity to create campaigns in virtually any era of Athas, even going as far back as the Blue Age.
Dungeons & Dragons (4th edition)
The 4th edition setting was heralded as a return of the feel of the first boxed set taking the setting back before the events of the Prism Pentad. The metaplot's timeline is set back to just after the original Dark Sun's first adventure, Freedom (1991). The sorcerer-king Kalak is dead and Tyr is a free city-state but the future of Athas beyond that is up to the players. Game designer Richard Baker said the design team wanted the game to begin when Athas had the most possibilities for adventure and offer a version of the setting where the Prism Pentad storyline would be possible, but not mandatory.
The 4e setting strayed far less from the core rules than its AD&D counterpart. Rich Baker reported that the design team wanted the campaign setting to mesh closely with the core 4e rules and source material, such as the Player's Handbook, than previous editions had. Effort was made, however, to ensure that these more generic elements were in keeping with the classic tropes of the setting.
The most notable 4e change expanded character building by introducing themes. Themes were a third way to they define a player character identity through archetypes or careers allowing them to more clearly describe their place or role within the world. Some variant classes central to the previous editions, such as gladiators, templars, and elemental priests, were introduced as themes. Themes proved very popular and were widely adopted in other settings. The scale of Athas was reduced slightly but the geography was largely unchanged.
The edition change created other notable differences including templars as warlocks, the dray becoming dragonborn, and the introduction of 4e standard races such as tieflings and eladrin. The new 4e races were changed in a similar manner to the original fantasy races.
Possibly the most significant change to the setting was the inclusion of Athas in the standard 4e cosmology. In previous editions, Dark Sun was always isolated from the rest of the D&D cosmology making it nearly impossible to access via other planes or spacelanes.
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".
The original Dark Sun product line was one TSR's most popular releases with an enduring fan following. In the 1990s, fans formed multiple mailing lists, fan sites, and discussion boards concerning the setting. These fan sites grew to such a size and scale during the 1990s that TSR filed legal paper work against them for infringing on their copyright. TSR eventually relented after fan outcry and established a formal fan site dedicated to Dark Sun fan creations. When Dark Sun was not supported by the 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons, the setting remained popular and fans at Athas.org and Paizo kept the setting alive by releasing source material for the setting through an open game license with Wizards of the Coast.
Dark Sun is played on the fictional planet Athas. Novels and source books largely take place in the only habitable region on Athas known as the Tyr Region though other areas are described for a play such as the Ringing Mountains and the Jagged Cliffs. It is suggested that the game takes place on a single continent, but the exact configuration of the planet or if there are other continents is unknown. Few know what lies beyond the great Sea of Silt as it is difficult to cross. Athas has a single, crimson sun, and two moons named Ral and Guthay both of which are visible to the naked eye.
Dark Sun has a rich metaplot that spans several fictional ages into its past and the different editions go into differing levels of detail concerning the history of the planet. Roughly, Athas progressed through several ages roughly corresponding to the color of the sun and the state of the planet. The ages to date are the Blue Age, the Green Age, the Red Age, and the modern age known variously as the Brown Age, the Age of the Sorcerer-Kings, or the Heroic Age.:16-17:280:9-14. During the Blue Age, the sun was blue and the world was covered in a vast body of life-giving water. An environmental disaster brought the nearly death of the sea, in the end, brought forth a green, verdant world under a yellow sun known as the Green Age. During the Green Age magic was discovered by the First Sorcerer Rajaat and he created his Champions to serve as his genocidal instruments in the Cleansing Wars. The magic used during the Cleansing War turned the sun crimson ushering in the Red Age which turned Athas into a savage, desert wasteland described at the start of the game. The few pockets of civilization left in the Tyr Region are city-states who are ruled over by the oppressive former Champions of Rajaat known as the sorcerer-kings. The city-states tightly control the few remaining reservoirs of fresh water and other precious resources such as obsidian or iron.
Dark Sun features a number of important distinguishing features that differentiate it from other Dungeons and Dragons campaign settings. The brutal climate and the oppressive rule of the sorcerer-kings have created a corrupt, blood thirsty, and desperate culture that leaves little room for virtues such as compassion or charity (hence why paladins are excluded from the setting).:5 Slavery is wide spread, the people are violent, and monsters roam the wastes beyond the city-states.:4 Athas has no true gods and no formal religions other than the false cults created by the sorcerer-kings.:17 There is some contention within the source material as to whether or not there were ever deities in the setting. The AD&D source material seems to suggests that there weren't ever any gods worshiped on Athas while the 4th edition setting leaves the option open more explicitly stating that the gods were destroyed or driven away by malevolent spirits called primordials at the end of the Green Age.:208 Clerics and druids draw power from the Inner Planes/Elemental Chaos. Arcane magic draws its power from the life force of plants or living creatures with the potential to cause tremendous harm to the environment. Wizards and other arcane casters are despised and must practice in secret. Psionics are extremely common with nearly every living thing having at least a modicum of psionic ability. Due to a scarcity of metal weapons and armor are made from natural materials such as bone, stone, wood, carapace or obsidian.:119-120
One of the hallmarks of the Dark Sun setting was Athas' cosmological isolation. The Advanced D&D edition featured a notably unique cosmology that broke with the rest canonical Dungeons and Dragon's universe. Many of Dark Sun's AD&D contemporaries were accessible via planar travel or spelljamming (e.g. Krynnspace, Greyspace, Realmspace), but Athas, with very few exceptions, was entirely cut off from the rest of the universe.:8-9 While it retained its connections to the Inner Planes access to the Transitive Planes and Outer Planes was nearly impossible. The reason for the cosmological isolation was never fully explained.
The Advanced D&D cosmology for the setting consisted of the prime material plane (Athas) and two other transitive planes the Gray and the Black. The Black was roughly equivalent to the Plane of Shadows. Within the Black is a mysterious realm of absolute nothingness called the Hollow that formed a prison for Rajaat. The Gray is roughly equivalent to the Ethereal Plane in that it surrounds Athas forming a wide buffer between the prime material plane of Athas and the Astral Plane cutting it off from Outer Planes. The Gray in this edition is the realm of the dead where undead creatures and necromancers draw their power. The Gray, however, is thinner in regards to the Ethereal Plane bringing access to the Inner Planes with relative ease. Dark Sun's Inner Planes had different paraelementals based on natural phenomena: rain lay between air and water; sun between air and fire; magma between fire and earth; and silt between earth and water.
The 4th edition setting stayed truer to the core rules than previous editions placing Athas clearly within the World Axis cosmology, but retained its traditional cosmological isolation.:17 The Feywild, known as the Lands Within the Winds, is largely absent with its few remaining access points being jealously guarded by the remains of the eladrin on Athas. Shadowfell, known as the Gray on Athas, acts as a barrier between Athas an the other planes.:17 The Astral Sea is accessible via the Gray but the realm is largely empty in proximity to Athas with the connections to other realms lost. As with previous editions, Athas sits close to the Elemental Chaos and the planet has a special connection to these planes. These planes are accessible from the World and vice versa. Contained deep within the Elemental Chaos is the Abyss.:17
Athas is home to several of the standard high fantasy races, including elves, dwarves, half-elves, halflings, and humans, as well as a hand full of new or more exotic fictional races, such as muls, half-giants, pterrans, thri-Kreen, and aarakocra. Subsequent resources introduced more races such as elans, drays, and maenads. Player-characters may be drawn from any of the playable races.
Dark Sun races were distinctly different from those found in other campaign settings and some, such as the thri-Kreen, and aarakocra, were originally monsters. Though Athasian humans are similar to those in standard AD&D settings, differences in other races range from subtle to dramatic. For instance, Athasian elves are faster, stronger and larger than elves from other D&D worlds, and are hostile nomads, marked by savage dispositions and a deep distrust of outsiders. 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. The wiry halflings seldom exceed 3½' in height and live in shaman-ruled settlements in the jungles beyond the mysterious Ringing Mountains.
|Race||Editions as a playable race||Description|
|Aarakocra||2nd and 3rd||A race of winged bird men, formerly appearing as monsters in other settings. They were not included in the 4th edition setting.|
|Dray (Dragonborn)||3rd, 4th||Created by the sorcerer-king Dregoth in the city-state Giustinal most were destroyed along with their city-state. They are now a race of refugees living on the fringes of Athasians society.:24|
|Dwarf||All||Athasian dwarves are similar to dwarves in other settings but usually have little to no hair.:25|
|Eladrin||4th||Isolationist refugees from the dying Lands Within Winds attempting to save what remains of their decaying homeland. They excel at psionics and abhor arcane magic.:26|
|Elf||All||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.|
|Elan||3rd only||Former humans changed into a race of powerful psions. Elans were introduced in the updated setting description in Dragon Magazine (2004). In Athas, elans were created by the a psionic society known as The Order. They were not included in the 4th edition setting.|
|Goliath (Half-giant)||All||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.|
|Half-elf||All||The offspring of humans and elves.|
|Halfling||All||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||All||A dwarven-human hybrid, they are able to work for long periods of time without rest, making them the most valuable of slaves.|
|Maenad||3rd only||Maenad are not native to Athas. Along with the elan they were introduced in the 2004 setting brief in Dragon Magazine. They were brought to Athas as soldiers by the sorcerer-king Andropinus when he returned from the Outer Planes. They were not included in the 4th edition setting.|
|Pterran||2nd and 3rd||An isolated, shamanistic race of reptilian humanoids. Essentially humanoid pterodactyls with only vestigial stumps on their shoulders where wings had once been. They were not included in the 4th edition setting.|
|Tiefling||4th||Nomadic bandits and assassins who are the offspring of humans and demons :30|
|Thri-Kreen||All||Savage insect men, also known as mantis warriors, with venomous saliva and armor-like exoskeletons. They appeared as monsters in other settings.|
- Pyreen - The pyreen or peace-bringers are an ancient race of nomadic, psionic, druids that that mysteriously emerged during the Green Age who opposed Rajaat and the sorcerer-kings, and seek to restore vitality to Athas. :106–107 What they are and whether or not they are truly a race unto themselves is unclear as they their natural forms they have the physical characteristics of all the demi-human races. The pyreen appears as an epic destiny in the 4th edition setting.:102
Similar to the races, Dark Sun's classes were largely consistent with the classes of the core game rules, but with some changes to bring them in line with the game's unique themes. For example, 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 lead the addition of new classes. Bards, for example, are as likely to be skilled at assassination or poisons as they are with entertainment. Athasian clerics, rather than worship a given deity, pact with elementals. They also do not organize into churches, collect followers, and are allowed to carry edged weapons.
There are also significant setting distinctions between arcane spellcasters, divine spellcasters, and psionicists that often do not exist in other fantasy worlds. Arcane spell casters are largely reviled, while divine magic is accepted though it sometimes presents an ideological challenge to the sorcerer-king's rule. Psionics broadly accepted and celebrated, and are by far the most common form of magic with virtually all living things possessing some psionic talent.
As classes changed in subsequent editions these were also reconciled with the setting. Available characters classes are not defined in the 4th edition campaign setting. Besides paladins: 5 being specifically mentioned as not being present there is very little information as to whether or not the other 4th editions classes should be included in the setting.
In 3rd edition sorcerers are almost unheard of, though in the Paizo adaptation they suffer an even greater stigma than wizards. warlocks, sorcerers, and artificers are standard classes available for play in the 4th edition setting. Other arcane spell casters such as sorcerers, and warlocks, or were not included until the Paizo later version of the setting in 2004. In 4th edition any arcane caster was ostensibly available if the dungeon master allowed it.
|Class||Editions as a playable class||Description|
|Bard||All||Bards were included in the original AD&D boxed set as part of the rogue class, and again in the 3rd edition rules.:15-16 Athasian bards differed from their counterparts on other worlds in that they are as likely to deal in poisons, assassination, and blackmail as they are in entertainment or lore. The original Athasian bard.:15-16 does not have the ability to cast spells. In 4th edition, the Athasian Minstrels is offered as a character theme and it is suggested that many Athasian Minstrels are bards but an setting specific bard class is not outlined.:5|
|Barbarian/Brute:15-29||3rd||Brutes had the same game statistics as the barbarians|
|Cleric||All||Clerics differ significantly in this setting. There are no gods in Athas so clerics gain their powers by making pacts with elementals (earth, fire, water, air) or paraelemental (sun, silt, magma, rain) of the Inner Planes, or in 4th edition, the Elemental Chaos.|
|Druid||All||Druids gain their powers by serving the natural spirits of Athas.|
|Dune Traders||All||Dune Traders were a new character class specific to the 2nd edition Dark Sun setting, introduced in the separate Dune Trader supplement. They have access to many of the same rogue skills as thieves, but to a lesser extent. In addition, they had several abilities unique to traders, including the cultivation of extensive networks of useful contacts. Traders either belong to and enjoy the backing of an established Merchant House, or can work to create their very own Merchant House. In 3rd edition they were a prestige class. In the 4th edition setting the dune trader is a character theme.:42|
|Gladiator||2nd||Specialized warriors who fight for entertainment.|
|Psion||All||Psionics are an important part of the setting. Psions and psionic classes of various types were always available depending on the edition. These included: psychic warrior, soulknife, wilder, and potentially other psionic classes included in 4e.|
|Templar||All||Templars are mystic servants of the sorcerer-kings. In previous editions they wre a specialized priest class, but in 4th edition they are a character theme that practices some sort of arcane magic. Many are warlocks|
|Wizard||All||In previous editions defilers and preservers were a separate class. In 4th edition, defiling and preserving is a matter of choice.|
Clerics and other divine spellcasters were particularly impacted by the setting; the lack of true gods meant that divine spell casters were particularly impacted by the setting. Without proper deities, clerics derive their powers from such as the forces of the Inner Planes, or in 4th edition, the Elemental Chaos. Divine spell casters, such as elemental clerics or druids, 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 (earth, air, fire, and water), the paraelemental planes (silt, sun, rain, and magma). Additionally, some divine casters may tap into magical plants, called trees of life, once per day to gain heal, augury, divination, and magic font spells. 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". With the 4th edition setting the elemental cleric became a background rather than a class in and of itself.
The idea of the divine spell caster changed significantly during the 4th edition of the setting with the introduction of primal magic. Some ostensibly divine spell casters, such as templars, became arcane spell casters. Others, such as shamans, clerics, and druids, cast spells using primal magic as opposed to divine magic. Clerics technically still used divine magic mechanics but under the same limited auspices that marked the previous editions of the setting.
In previous editions, Templars were considered to be a specialized form of cleric who derived their powers from their sorcerer-king. In 4th edition the templar class shifted away from being a divine caster to an arcane caster though not all templars are skilled in magic.:62 Many templars are not clerics at all but warlocks who have pacted with their sorcerer-king. Unlike other clerics templars are often organized into temples, bureaucracies, or pseudo-holy orders which are often false and corrupt. They are entirely dependent on their patrons for their magical abilities. Besides their cleric-like abilities templars also have special abilities that allow them to govern and control the population of their city-states.:26-27
Arcane magic in Dark Sun differs substantially from more traditional fantasy campaign settings in that it draws from the life force of the planet or living beings. Arcane magic on Athas is often a problematic (though not entirely) force and is largely believed to be the cause of the environmental devastation that plagues the land. Arcane spellcasters may cast spells in a manner that preserves nature, known as preservers, or in a manner that destroys it, known as defilers.
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.
Any arcane caster may choose to defile at anytime though not all of them do. Defiling exploits the environment, draining the life from the surrounding area turning it into a sterile wasteland. Defilers are those spell casters who routinely fuel their magic in a destructive way and have no regard for the life they steal. Defilers are considered evil as the surrounding areas of vegetation turn to ash whenever a defiler prepares spells, which explains the current barren state of the planet. Being a defiler, however, is really a matter of choice. Little is known about arcane magic by the general public and most not distinguish between preservers and defilers.
Psionic power are the cornerstone of the setting with nearly every living thing having some psionic abilities. Psionic ability is about as common in Dark Sun as arcane magic is in other D&D campaign settings, and unlike arcane magic, is accepted and revered. Practitioners refer to psionic ability as "the Will" and the development or schooling of in psionics as "the Way".
Rules for playing them were not published in the original Dark Sun boxed set, but rather a separate supplements; The Complete Psionics Handbook, and in the setting specific source book The Will And The Way. The Will And The Way expanded the psionic rules presented in the The Complete Psionics Handbook by providing new rules for psychic combat, new psionic abilities and disciplines all within the context of the world of Athas. D&D classic game line historian Shannon Appelcine writes that TSR's decision to publish a second psionic rulebook specifically for Dark Sun was a testament to the popularity of the setting and the importance of psionics during the 1990s.
The Dark Sun Campaign Setting, Expanded and Revised published in 1995 would later include rules for psionics as part of the core boxed set, which was intended to replace the original information published in The Complete Psionics Handbook. Players had the option of sticking with the rules set presented in TCPH, instead, if they chose to.
Later 3rd and 4th Editions of D&D would make psionics more common as an option in any D&D world, and would split the original Psionicist class into a number of different psionics-using character classes.
Source Material for 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
The majority of resources for the setting were released between 1991, when the setting founded, and 1996 when TSR stopped supporting the game line. The line included the original boxed set with rulebook authored by Timothy Brown and Troy Denning. Dragon Kings, released in 1992, featured rules for epic level character advancement for Dark Sun. The basic source material was later expanded and revised by Bill Slavicsek in 1995 to include the developments of the setting since the initial 1991 release. Additional source books further detailed the setting. These included a source book in-depth look at certain aspects of the setting including certain classes, such as gladiators, clerics, and psions; the races native to Athas, such as elves or thri-kreen; and more detailed setting information, such as the city-state of Tyr, the Veiled Alliance, and the different slave tribes.
Source Material for 3rd edition
Dark Sun was not supported under a with published rulebook under D&D 3, but rules for the 3.5 edition appeared in several places; the Sandstorm supplement included rules for the impact of desert conditions on game play. In 2004, Paizo published several articles in Dragon Magazine and Dungeon Magazine that brought Dark Sun in line with the 3rd edition rules. athas
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). 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.
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.
Source Material For 4th Edition
Lead up and promotion
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.
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