Important Women of Athas (or Lack thereof)

In the Personality of the Sorcerer Kings/ Dragon Kings thread a new topic was brought up.

So here is that new thread.

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So, do the females of Athas fall under the Conan sterotype? (seductive sorceress or hapless hanger-on were the two main types, iirc.)

Or did they actually get original with some of them?

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The relevant ones? Pretty much yeah, even all 3 female sorcerer monarchs depending on what you consider to be canon (I’m looking at you, Lynn Abbey’s interpretation of both Sielba and Lalali-Puy)

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The problem is, even when they don’t fall neatly under those two categories, they very rarely are the main focus. Just look at Neeva vs Rikus in the Prism Pentad. Sadira avoided that fate by becoming a living Macguffin.

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Jaseela comes to mind. Young and beautiful (at first anyway) full of drive and determination and willing to jump in immediately when the chance to revolt against Kalak occured. Then she took a half-giants club to the face. That pretty much ruined the beauty part.

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I have no opinion on Dark Sun canon / lore.

I’m the crazy meta-psiartificer of the site, mostly interested in the rules and mechanics and how I can “craft the rules better”.

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The point was more, yes they have been described that way in products that were either official or meant to be official.

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From a rules perspective, the original dark sun box made it a point to say that on Athas gender means very little. Only that there was a slight bias to making heavy work slaves male for the minor increase in upper body strength.

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Yes, but this is, frankly, more of a meta-lore discussion, and in lore, both in universe and from a meta perspective, there has been a larger difference than the first boxed set stated.

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The fact that as someone who has read every dark sun book/product at least twice front to back, I had to look up who you were talking about I think highlights the issue I brought up above.

Furthermore, I do want to note that 3 sorcerer monarchs, 2 other champions, Rajaat, 3 mind lords, the entirety of the upper crust of the order, 3-4 avangions, more than 6 undead rulers of the Deadlands…etc were all added post 1st box. Among all this, there are 3 women in total.
-Qwith in the Deadlands (the weakest among them both as a ruler and statistically btw, despite being Rajaat’s head reasercher during the Time of Magic)
-Barani, the psychotic mindlord
-Amiska, an ambiguously cannon avangion that showed up in a short story and never again.
That’s it. The sum total of historically important women added post first box and prism pentad. One weak, one psychotic, one never heard from again.

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Neeva or Sadira were pretty strong and self reliant. Yes they were described as attractive, but they were also very far from the damsel-in-destress stereotype.

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Sysane, I actually agree with you that Troy Denning tried with them. Unfortunately, Neeva is very much a secondary character even compared to Rikus, and Sadira stops being a character somewhere in book 3 and becomes a near blank slate living plot Macguffin. Troy Denning fell into the Ed Greenwood trap of forgetting to make your characters…well, characters first, and beings wielding awesome powers second. This is, ironically, where Lynn Abbey succeeded wildly with Hamanu even as she overpowered him to an absurd degree. His personality drives the plot far more than his abilities.

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To be fair 2 out of the 3 Mindlords are barking mad. Thesik is probably the sanest one out of the triad but even he’s got to be struggling with c. 8 millennia of existence. My beef with the Mindlords was more that they were all a part of a lovers triangle rolls eyes

To the wider point though, this is one reason I made Kalid-Ma female along with Thakok-An. Having 2 powerful female characters with different motivations adds some depth to my campaign.

I think one of the key problems is Hamanu. A lot of the early story set up revolved around Kalak and Hamanu - certainly the original boxed set and the first two PP novels. Swapping Hamanu’s gender around would suddenly make things much more interesting. A fearless and powerful warrior queen who’s undefeated in battle provides a neat contrast to Abalach-Re and Lalali-Puy.

Maybe going with Redking’s ideas of DS Heresy, what about a female Rajaat? Or perhaps Borys didn’t lead the revolt and a female Champion (Kalid-Ma?) was elevated to be Rajaat’s jailor instead?

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There’s also one of Abalach-Re’s illegitimate daughters, Nanda Shatri. Leader of Raam’s Veiled Alliance and aspiring avangion.

Obscure, yes, but there’s important female characters in the older 2e material if mined for. Had the product line not been cancelled these characters would have likely been more front facing in the larger metaplot of the setting.

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Is not that kinda the point of Athas.org? To bring these things to life in 3rd edition?

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As somebody who has read the 2e version of Dregoth Ascending, had the product line not gotten cancelled Nanda Shatri would have ran away and hidden inside of her own room while Raam burned (yes, really). Thankfully athas.org did explain that in the 3e version by having her get feebleminded by Dregoth.

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Nijineko, yes. Unfortunately the focus back in the day was crunch over fluff.

Would love to see these types oF NPCs evolve in future products. In my campaign Nanda Shatri jumped to 1st stage avangion. using the Star of Badna in a ritual.

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Bdmdragon. I’ll have to look at my 2e copy of that as well. Poor use of the character that athas.org luckily corrected.

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I gave up on the fiction after the first book, so my impressions are based on the original boxed set, what I’ve read recently in 2e adventure modules and what I’ve read on Athas.org. I’m going to try to guess where the problems are and please feel free to educate me.

  1. Only 2 out of 7 Sorcerer Monarchs are female? No idea know how that compares to Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms.

  2. Abalach-Re presented as ineffectual. All I can say to that is I’m happy to see that most of the people on Athas.org have a much greater appreciation for Abalach-Re and see her at least an equal to any of the other SKs. If I remember right, she’s also the only SM to make an appearance in 2 modules, if appearing in a module counts for anything.

  3. Lalali-Puy presented as too sexual (?). On the positive side she was the only SM that was actually loved by her people. But Gulg never seemed like one of the heavy hitters in terms of city states.

In terms of character development, I don’t recall that any of the SM’s had any sort of in-depth character development in the original boxed set.

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Actually, the first boxed set and thus the 4e reboot based on it aren’t particularly bad, besides the 2e box set Abalach-Re being ineffective. My concerns are more about the rest of Dark Sun continuity being full of well developed male characters but seemingly forgetting about half the population, the lack of women in historically prominent roles, etc.

The problem is less the 2 out of 7 and more the 3 (Sielba, also hyper sexualized) out of 13 (15+ if you include champions and not just Sorcerer Monarchs) and how little development they get. A similar ratio applies to other similar positions of power or historical figures in Dark Sun.

I don’t feel qualified to speak for Greyhawk, but Forgotten Realms is pretty lousy with respect to developed, interesting women. However, it also has a lot more prominent women in general, so through sheer volume there are a number of interesting and developed ones, as opposed to barely any. (It’s still not great)

This touches on more of a fantasy issue in general however, so I’ll keep it to Athas for now.

Absolutely. The 4e reboot also took this track, which helped a lot.

Aside from the art (which to be fair, oversexualised female character art is hardly a Dark Sun specific trend) and one brief line in an adventure, Lalali-Puy is actually one of the less overtly sexualized and (unrelatedly) one of the most interesting SM’s. Lynn Abbey is the only writer to have explicitly sexualized Lalali-Puy, but wow, she did so in a spectacularly weird fashion that has had me scratching my head for literally years.

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