An "Expanded Athas"

This is a new thread created response to a subtopic being discussed in Hey! Templars. Did you ever thought rejuvenate or add new blood for help? about how do we, as a fan community, move forward with trying to get past all the inconsistencies in Athasian lore and canon?

“Canon” refers to a collection of rules or texts that are considered to be authoritative.

Without a unified effort in creating and maintaining an overarching story arc from the beginning, and because so many “official” publications were written, edited, and published by various people and entities, as well as having transitioned through four (mechanically different) editions, the Dark Sun campaign setting has always suffered by having a fractured, tangled, controversial, and sometimes contradictory metaplot.

I don’t think there is anything that can be done to reconcile this, and I don’t think an errata is the answer because an errata very unceremoniously erases all the work anyone who has ever put into developing the Dark Sun world and lumps it into a pile called “errors.” I do, however, agree that in moving forward having a single reference point to which new material begins and is presented, and eventually is adopted into a game setting metaplot, would make a substantial difference.

That being stated, I have to argue there are precepts regarding Athas and the entire Dark Sun campaign setting that have always been undeniably the standard for what is and what is not canon:

  1. The world is a desert.
  2. Life is brutal and savage.
  3. Metal is scarce.
  4. Arcane magic defiles the world.
  5. Tyrannical sorcerer-monarchs rule the City-States.
  6. The Gods are silent. Athas is a world without deities.
  7. Fierce monsters roam the land.
  8. Familiar races are not what you’d expect.
  9. Athas is a world of Planar isolation.

As far as distinguishing new lore for both metaplot and mechanics, a similar fantasy franchise has already blazed the trail in having created an “Expanded Universe,” to which any material that was not canon was simply placed under, kept separate, and clearly labelled.

Perhaps not as optional sourcebooks, but as supplements, I am in strong favor of having an “Expanded Athas” for anything that deviates away from the canonical truths. Remember, that which is canon is the story, and everything else is just a story.

I don’t have a good name for what these supplements of an “Expanded Athas” might be called, but perhaps it is most fitting to keep with the theme of the original “Wanderer’s Journal”? Something along “Dark Sun: Legends & Lore,” or “The Annals.”

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You forgot one, blast it, the most important one!

  1. PSIONICS ARE PRIMARY IN ATHAS.
  1. The world is a desert.
  2. Life is brutal and savage.
  3. Metal is scarce.
  4. Arcane magic defiles the world.
  5. Tyrannical sorcerer-monarchs rule the City-States.
  6. The Gods are silent. Athas is a world without deities.
  7. Fierce monsters roam the land.
  8. Familiar races are not what you’d expect.
  9. Athas is a world of Planar isolation.
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Indeed! Thanks for catching that massive error!

I think I don’t get what you want to achieve with this.

You want to separate the official and published supplements into two groups, canon and “expanded”? Or you want to label all the published supplements for the different versions as canon and the fanmade ones as expanded?

Please, can you give me an example? Maybe with the DS Campaign Setting for 4e, canon or expanded?

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This sounds very much like my proposal for Mysteries of Athas.

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I agree on the need for mysteries of athas, but you will still needs to establish whats canon and whats not for the main timeline

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The original boxed set is canon. Even 4E Dark Sun got it.

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Well @redking while 4e Dark Sun reset the timeline to original boxed set, it also included a bunch of updated material drawn from the second boxed set and other sources. No direct references to the blue age, but otherwise the history of the setting is mostly in, and frankly, I think that’s a good thing. Its utterly incongruent to me to claim that nothing outside the first box is canon, because A. not everything in the first box was necessarily good, and B. blanket annihilating 90% of lore also destroys a lot of good ideas as well as a plethora of mediocre to bad ones.

This is where we disagree. I believe that we should try to reconcile things, though I don’t believe that everything can be reconciled, so at some point nuking the most egregious issues just has to happen for the sake of the setting. Heck 4e did exactly that in several cases, so I don’t see why we can’t just follow in those footsteps.

As someone who has now seen a giant pile of stuff athas.org was working on that has never been released, it’s pretty clear that there actually was such a thing, at least to an extent. However, whether or not they chose a good point to do so is another matter.

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If we adopt the 4e approach, which to me sound like good compromise, where does it put the events detailed in prism pentad? Do they still happend?

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Novel 1 of the prism pentad has happened, but the others might never. Its a bit hard to explain without reading it, because there is a mix of “retconed to match more closely with 4e cosmology sans deities” and “this is clearly a nod to major issues people had with the setting in the past, and here are some solutions that can fit into older versions of Dark Sun as well as this one.” Maybe I’ll do a write-up to explain for people without access to it.

Edit: Also, just to be clear, when I refer to 4e I’m referring to Dark Sun material made in 4e other than the novels, because the few Dark Sun novels made during the 4e era make Lynn Abbey’s work look well tied into canon by comparison (I’m looking at you, Abyssal Plague).

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To my understanding, 4e reset the metaplot to just before or just after Kalak was killed, and there’s no mention as to who killed him or how if he was killed.

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I think something similar to what 4e did is the best. Rest the setting to just before or just after Kalak was killed, minus the named characters, leaving it open to the DM how it happened, assuming it did, and making the material from the original metaplot optional.

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Incorrect, It’s just after Kalak’s death, the campaign guide mentions he was was killed by Rikus, Sadira, and friends (or at least the Veiled alliance of Tyr), and the Heartwood Spear is called out as the weapon used in a Dragon Article, even in 4e.

I’m honestly amazed at how it seems like no one on this site has ever actually read the 4e materials, especially given that the Dark Sun 4e reboot was by far the best received of the 4e settings.

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Ah, gotcha. I glanced over the material back when it came out, but I was never a big fan of 4e, and I didn’t know enough people who were to really get into it. It’s not particularly surprising, really - I would have considered playing 4e to play Dark Sun, but by that point I, like most people who didn’t like 4e’s changes, were playing Pathfinder.

Either way, resetting the metaplot to the beginning is the best option IMHO.

Can you clarify? For instance, what about the history of Athas as revealed in the Prism Pentad, etc?

What most complaints I’ve seen revolve around, and that I can see merit it, is when Sorcerer Kings were getting killed left and right, Borys was killed, and similar events. It’s hard to have A) A grim Sword and Sorcery setting built on Big Damn Heroes who change the face of the world every few years and B) Having The Good Guys smite the Bad Guys repeatedly also doesn’t really fit the genre.

The history of the Green Age and the Blue Age is fine, and I would use them in my games. They’re ancient history, but there are useful story opportunities and character options that can be introduced with them, like using Life Shaper as a 5e Artificer, if there was a plot that reintroduced ancient halfling knowledge. The Green Age would also be a great setting for a spin off, especially the lead up to the Cleansing Wars, or even the Cleansing Wars, if a group wants a very Grim Dark game where the PCs know they’re on the losing side.

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Humph.

I don’t understand why we need choose to stop the setting timeline.

FY1 to FY10 have been developed and quite well. Yes, the Prism Pentad does kill a lots of peoples. Does it mean it must stay “cute” after FY10 ? As far as I am concern, other bad guys or awaiting less powerful SK could just take a step to take the place of those who died.

But still, athas.org here made an really good work on those Free Years and I’d be damn to dump what’s been so nicely done. Let me say it: I play with and without the expanded timeline (from the 1st to the 2nd boxed sets).

We need to focus on settling things that doesn’t seems to work, not those who have been already written.

If you want to develop new things, you can build them before FY1 or after FY10. There is enough place to play. What’s been created already shouldn’t disappear. We should make use of it for a better timeline and find little fixes (or big on some things maybe).

Someone want to play FY1 to 10 ? Heck! The material will exist! You want to play before or after FY ? Geez, by all mean, have fun!

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Have a look at this interview with the designers of 4E.

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I don’t think that’s anyone’s intention. The idea is to establish an agreeable starting point for the campaign, with the prism pentad as just an option for how events can unfold, but its your choice to if you do so, you are not obligated by the metaplot.
Full disclosure, i adore the prism pentad. Yes, its not an amazing piece of literature, not by a long shot, but it was my introduction into dark sun and it did a good job of capturing the mystery of athas and how different it is compared to other settings, but im not blinded to its many faults, if fy 1 is a consensus among the community as the best starting point for the campaign, im on board with it, because this means that the choice on how the world advances is back in the players and dm’s hands, and that should always be the case, at least in my opinion.

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Just an example. In FR or Warhammer, when they changed edition, some gods and important characters died and others rose instead. Maybe some peoples didn’t like the change, but it’s done.