Dark Sun - A Veiled Alliance cityscape campaign
Athas at a glance, eight characteristics.
1. The World Is a Desert
Athas is a hot, arid planet covered with endless seas of dunes, lifeless salt flats, stony wastes, rocky badlands, thorny scrublands, and worse. From the first moments of dawn, the crimson sun beats down from an olive-tinged sky. Temperatures routinely exceed 100 degrees F. by midmorning and can reach 130 degrees or more by late afternoon. The wind is like the blast of a furnace, offering no relief from the oppressive heat. Dust and sand borne on the breeze coat everything with yellow-orange silt.
In this forbidding world, cities and villages exist only in a few oases or verdant plains. Some places don’t see rain for years at a time, and even in fertile regions, rain is little more than a humid mist that falls during a few weeks each year before giving way to long months of heat and drought. The world beyond these islands of civilization is a wasteland roamed by nomads, raiders, and hungry monsters.
Athas was not always a desert, and the parched landscape is dotted with the crumbling ruins of a planet that once was rich with rivers and seas. Ancient bridges over dry watercourses and empty stone quays that face seas of sand tell the tale of a world that is no more.
2. The World Is Savage
Life on Athas is brutal and short. Bloodthirsty raiders, greedy slavers, and hordes of inhuman savages overrun the deserts and wastelands. The cities are little better; each chokes in the grip of an ageless tyrant. The institution of slavery is widespread on Athas, and many unfortunates spend their lives in chains, toiling for brutal taskmasters. Every year hundreds of slaves, perhaps thousands, are sent to their deaths in bloody arena spectacles. Charity, compassion, kindness; these qualities exist, but they are rare and precious. Only a fool hopes for such riches.
3. Metal Is Scarce
Most arms and armor are made of bone, stone, wood, and other such materials. Mail or plate armor exists only in the treasuries of the sorcerer-kings. Steel blades are almost priceless, weapons that many heroes never see during their lifetimes.
4. Arcane Magic Defiles the World
The reckless use of arcane magic during ancient wars reduced Athas to a wasteland. To cast an arcane spell, one must gather power from the living world nearby. Plants wither to black ash, crippling pain wracks animals and people, and the soil is sterilized; nothing can grow in that spot again. It is possible to cast spells with care, preserving the world and avoiding any more damage to it, but defiling offers more power than preserving. As a result, sorcerers, wizards, and other wielders of arcane magic are reviled and persecuted across Athas regardless of whether they preserve or defile. Only the most powerful spellcasters can wield arcane might without fear of reprisal.
5. Sorcerer-Kings Rule the City-States
Terrible defilers of immense power rule all but one of the city-states. These mighty spellcasters have held their thrones for centuries; no one alive remembers a time before the sorcerer-kings. Some claim to be gods, and some claim to serve gods. Some are brutal oppressors, where others are more subtle in their tyranny.
The sorcerer-kings govern through priesthoods or bureaucracies of greedy, ambitious templars, lesser defilers who can call upon the kings’ powers. Only in the city-state of Tyr does a glimmer of freedom beckon, and powerful forces already conspire to extinguish it.
6. The Gods Are Silent
Long ago, when the planet was green, the brutal might of the primordials overcame the gods. Today, Athas is a world without deities. There are no clerics, no paladins, and no prophets or religious orders. Old shrines and crumbling temples lie amid the ancient ruins, testimony to a time when the gods spoke to the people of Athas. Nothing is heard now but the sighing of the desert wind.
In the absence of divine influence, other powers have come to prominence in the world. Psionic power is well known and widely practiced on Athas; even unintelligent desert monsters can have deadly psionic abilities. Shamans and druids call upon the primal powers of the world, which are often sculpted by the influence of elemental power.
7. Fierce Monsters Roam the World
The desert planet has its own deadly ecology. Athas has no cattle, swine, or horses; instead, people tend flocks of erdlus, ride on kanks or crodlus, and draw wagons with inixes and mekillots. Wild creatures such as lions, bears, and wolves are nonexistent. In their place are terrors such as the id fiend, the baazrag, and the tembo. Perhaps the harsh environment of Athas breeds creatures tough and vicious enough to survive it, or maybe the touch of ancient sorcery poisoned the wellsprings of life and inflicted monster after monster on the dying world. Either way, the deserts are perilous, and only a fool or a lunatic travels them alone.
8. Familiar Races Aren’t What You Expect
Typical fantasy stereotypes don’t apply to Athasian heroes. In many Dungeons & Dragons settings, elves are wise, benevolent forest dwellers who guard their homelands from intrusions of evil. On Athas, elves are a nomadic race of herders, raiders, peddlers, and thieves. Halflings aren’t amiable riverfolk; they’re xenophobic headhunters and cannibals who hunt and kill trespassers in their mountain forests. Goliaths or half-giants, as they are commonly known are brutal mercenaries who serve as elite guards and enforcers for the sorcerer-kings and their templars in many city-states.
Character Creation Guide – Dark Sun
Creating a Character
Follow the character creation guidelines in Rules Compendium, and you’re set. This guide acts as your DM for rulings the DM might make for character creation in a campaign. If this guide fails to cover something, use Rules Compendium as the default point of reference.
Dark Sun caters to deeper roleplaying, so a fun and detailed character concept can be rewarding. Who are you? Where did you come from? Does Kalak’s death mean anything to you? What have you lost in the harsh world of Athas? What goals are you pursuing? Let your concept help you make the choices during character creation and play.
Choose a Theme, even more important for role play than your character’s race and class is your character’s theme. As asked above, who are you? Your theme can help personalize your character and better define your character concept. As this campaign will focus on the Veiled Alliance, the Templar theme is not allowed at this time. All other Dark Sun themes are appropriate for play.
On Athas, the usual array of races available in a DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game is more limited. You may select from among the following races to create your character. While more races might exist on Athas, they do not reside in the civilized locales in which this campaign takes place and are thus considered either primitive beings or hunted monsters.
*Aarakocra – A race of winged bird men. Characters of this race do not gain the ability to fly due for reasons to be explained at character intro.
*Human – Some humans are just more adept with Psionic abilities than others, the Kalashtar bloodline of humans is a fine example of this.
*Pterran – A shamanistic race of reptilian humanoids. Essentially humanoid pterodactyls with only vestigial stumps on their shoulders where wings had once been.
Gods, if they exist at all, no longer speak to those on Athas. Primal spirits, ancestor worship, and the deification of sorcerer kings have replaced religion and the divine power source. No divine class may be played in Dark Sun. Available classed are found in the table below. Other classes may become available through special circumstances during play or future releases by WoTC.
Classes with * indicate a spellbook is required. In order to obtain new spells to fill your spellbook, the player must propose a creative solution to be taught those rare pieces of magic while on Athas. And as a friendly reminder, arcane magic is illegal on Athas making this a difficult and very dangerous task. You must consult your DM before choosing this class.
Background, Paragon Path, and Epic Destiny.
Select an appropriate character background from the Dark Sun Campaign Guide for your character and start thinking to your future. While no character will be tied to a paragon path or epic destiny chosen at character creation, choosing these options now will drive the storyline to incorporate your choices. Acceptable choices may be found in the Dark Sun Campaign Setting book as well as material presented in Dragon magazine. Additional options may become available with both DM and group consent.
In this campaign, you will be an associate of the Veiled Alliance in the Tyr region. As such, your alignment must be lawful good, good, or unaligned.
This Dark Sun campaign will use the fixed enhancement bonus system (Dark Sun Campaign Guide, page 209). You receive a fixed package of equipment defined below. All equipment is mundane unless otherwise noted. This campaign will use the rules for reckless breakage (Dark Sun Campaign Guide, page 122).
You might have access to rituals due to your class or specific feats. Follow the rules in the Dark Sun Campaign Guide, page 116. If a question exists in your mind as to a ritual’s acceptability in the Dark Sun setting, assume it is not acceptable. Your DM will disallow the use of a ritual inappropriate for Dark Sun.
Spells / Powers
Some materials and elements are rare on Athas such as iron and all forms of water and therefore powers relating to these items would not be appropriate for a Dark Sun campaign. If a question exists in your mind as to a power’s acceptability in the Dark Sun setting, assume it is not acceptable. Your DM will disallow the use of a power inappropriate for Dark Sun.