Differences in Eight Characteristics of Athas


#1

I’m not sure anyone else but me cares, but I’ve discovered that the various versions of “Eight Characteristics of Athas” from the 4e reboot are not identical. I’ve found three versions: Fury of the Wastewalker, Bloodsand Arena, and the Dark Sun Campaign Setting. That was the order they were published in, but from the look of the changes, the DSCS version came first, followed by FotWw, then BsA, with some fairly extensive editorial cleanup on the latter. I’d post the text files for you to do “diff” on them if I could, but I don’t see a way to here, so I’ll post a few images with the biggest changes:

Dark Sun Campaign Setting on the left, Fury of the Wastewalker on the right:



I find the change from “ageless” to “immortal” (or, possibly, vice-versa) interesting. Also note that they decided not to capitalize “is” and “are” in the headings.

Fury of the Wastewalker on the left, Bloodsand Arena on the right:


Here the editor changed “deep” to “ancient” red sun, possibly implying that Athas’ sun is a dying red giant.

There were a significant number of editorial changes in the BsA version; they’re essentially all improvements, leading me to conclude that this is the latest version. This is just a few of them.


The editor decided that it was not necessary to point out that slavery is a “vile institution.” Also “Is” and “Are” are (correctly) capitalized in headings again.

As I said above, it seems clear to me that the Bloodsand Arena text is the most recent. Luckily, that’s what I happened to use as a basis for the setting info in my own campaign. Is anyone aware of any other materials in which the Eight Characteristics of Athas appear?

If anyone wants to see the original text files, let me now; I’ll be happy to send them along.


The Cost of Slaves
#2

Well spotted.

I wonder about the “vile institution” line there. It looks like CYA to prevent accusations that the writer is somehow pro-slavery. I suppose it can’t be helped since western society is currently a 24/7 witch hunt.


#3

I’ve found what looks to be the earliest version, in Dragon 388: (the lower case is an artifact of copying from a PDF, apparently)

athas in seven sentences

The world of the Dark Sun setting is unique. This is not a world of shining knights and robed wizards, of deep forests and holy shrines. Athas draws on different traditions of fantasy storytelling; simple survival beneath the crimson sun is often its own adventure. With that in mind, here are the seven most important things you need to know about the Dark Sun setting:
the world is a desert. Athas is a hot, arid world covered with vast stretches of desert—endless seas of dunes, stony wastes, thorny scrublands, and worse. In this forbidding world, cities and villages can only exist in a few oases or verdant plains. Beyond these islands of civilization is a barren wasteland roamed by nomads, raiders, and hungry monsters.
the world is savage. Life is brutal and short in Athas. The vile institution of slavery is widespread in Athas, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, are sent to their deaths every year in bloody arena spectacles. Metal is quite scarce. Arms and armor are often made of bone, stone, wood, and other such materi- als, because steel is priceless.
arcane magic defiles the world. Athas was reduced to a wasteland by the reckless use of arcane magic in ancient wars. To cast an arcane spell, one must gather power from the living world around. Plants wither to black ash, crippling pain wracks animals and people, and the soil itself is sterilized; nothing can grow in that spot again.
terrible sorcerer-kings rule the cities. The city- states of Athas are ruled by defilers of immense power. These mighty spellcasters have held their thrones for centuries. The sorcerer-kings govern through templars, a class of officials and lesser defil- ers who can call upon the kings’ powers.
the gods of athas are silent. Athas is a world without gods. There are no clerics, no paladins, no prophets or religious orders. In the absence of divine influence, people have turned to other sources of power. Psionic power is well known and widely prac- ticed in Athas, while shamans and druids call upon the primal powers of the world—even though the primal spirits of Athas are often wild and vengeful.
Fierce and deadly monsters populate the world.
Athas is home to its own deadly ecology. Cattle, horses, camels—none of these animals can be found in Athas. Instead, people tend flocks of erdlus, ride on kanks or crodlus, and draw wagons with inixes and mekillots. Wild creatures such as lions, bears, or wolves are almost nonexistent. In their place are terrors such as the id beast, the so-ut, or the tembo.
Familiar races aren’t what you expect. Many of the fantasy stereotypes don’t apply to Athasian heroes. On Athas, elves are a nomadic race of herders, raiders, peddlers, and thieves. Halflings aren’t amiable river-folk; they’re xenophobic headhunters and cannibals who hunt and kill anyone foolish enough to venture into their montane forests. Each of the major races has adapted to Athas in new and


#4

It’s interesting that it says “no prophets”. “No real prophets” is perhaps a better way of saying it, because in my conception of Athas the people of Athas are desperate for something to believe in. Athas is then actually teeming with false prophets, spreading man-made creeds and doctrines, as much as it has false gods like the Sorcerer Kings. Not to mention the phenomenon of “Thrallherds” from 3.5e.


(Dennis K) #5

I believe I read somewhere that the sun of Athas was once blue.


#6

Yes: First blue, then yellow, then red, changed by the Pristine Tower every time. But that was before the DS4 reboot, so it’s hard to know if that’s still canonical.


(Dennis K) #7

For me still the old Dark Sun Information (AD&D, books and Video games of that time, etc.) counts the most. Its the original world


#8

Sure, and I agree. DS1 is, for flavor purposes, the best. But here we’re talking about DS4.