Lost Gods & Living Vortices

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Athas breeds god-killers. I’ll explain:

‘Dragon Kings’’ explanation of how the Sorcerer Kings were capable of granting their templars’ spells [i.e. the living vortices] always intrigued me as a kid. The idea of entities, external to the reality of the prime material yet connected to the prime via the Inner Planes and anchored to the SKs…I found the implied metaphysics fascinating.

Knowing that this connection was beyond the understanding or knowledge of the SKs at the time - that they were unique and siphoning the essence of these extraplanar entities by simply being - was another indication of how different Dark Sun’s approach to sorcery was in relation to standard D&D. Magic, defiling magic at least, had a corrupting, parasitic, influence on everything it touched…or that touched it.

This led to a few ideas concerning gods on Athas and the nature of the crystal sphere. We know, from the ‘Prism Pentad’, that the guardian spirits in the Crimson Shrine underneath Tyr worshipped a god from the Green Age and that their faith in that power kept the candles burning in the shrine. Knowing that gods are an irrefutable fact beyond Athas it’s not unreasonable to posit that gods are aware of Athas and may have interacted with the world in the past…so the possibilities are: gods never interacted with or had an impact on Athas; apotheosis, of a kind, existed via ascended elemental priests; or true gods were present, and for some reason, left, faded and/or died.

We know that Athasians, in general, are tougher, more deadly than their counterparts on other prime worlds. We also know from a few Planescape products that denizens of the lower planes admire and respect Athas’ defilers in particular for their sheer destructive power…simply through the act of preparing to cast a spell a defiler can corrupt and/or kill every living thing around them.

So, the point of this little thought experiment, the reason Athas is ‘locked off’ from the other planes, it’s divine conduits severed, is because it is a world capable of creating god-killers. Simply put, the other planes are afraid of Athasians.

Arcane magic-users native to Athas draw on life energy for power; at low levels, basic plant life; as they advance they can draw from more complex organisms. The most powerful PC in one of my campaigns became a plane-walking Defiler/Psionicist…23rd level…before he met his end. Imagine the havoc a mature Athasian dragon could wreak on the Outer Planes, places and beings suffused with rarified forms of magical life energy. Could a dragon drain an aasimon…or a pit fiend to fuel a ritual? What’s the upper limit?


There is no upper limit. That said - I don’t think there is defiling on the other side of the Gray. My guess is that on the other side of the Gray (on an outer plane for example) an attempt to draw magic simply draws from the ambient magic suffusing the plane. No defiling at all.

I tried to make sense of the cosmology, especially as it relates to vortices and conduits, on this thread.

(Stuart Lynch) #3

We’re on opposite sides of the argument Red when it comes to Athasian wizards drawing magic on the other side of the Gray.

I’d argue that not knowing how to access the Weave or other ambient magic field an Athasian wizard would still draw energy from plants until they were taught how to access the field to power spells.Once they’d been taught how to do that an Athasian wizard would have the option of drawing on the field or empowering their spellcasting through defiling (and raze feats).

By the same token, a non-Athasian wizard on Athas would need to be taught how to draw energy from plants because there is no field for them to reflexively draw upon. If they then found their way home they’d have the same option as Athasian wizards abroad.

Of course, that goes out the window if the other world’s magic was controlled by a conscious act of a divinity of magic (not Mystra of the Realms - she unconsciously grants access to the Weave to anyone seeking to draw upon it unless she consciously bars them).


Definitely on opposite sides.

My take is that a wizard from another setting on Athas will be defiling as soon as they try to cast a spell. They would only need to be taught to draw slowly like a preserver. Or if the effects were by visible and they had a high enough spellcraft score, perhaps they could work it out for themselves.

(Joshua Slane) #5

In planescape this was actually discussed. Defilers defile and preservers preserve, even off of Athas. The fiends admire the defiler’s lust for power and Winton destruction while higher beings admire preservers for their self control. (In contrast, Dragonlance wizards are derided in the planes as their magic is chained to their home plane’s moons.)

I believe I read that non-athasian magic defaults to preserving on Athas, though I am less certain of that.

Personally though, I think Athas is outside of the purview of the gods and always has been, a little dot of prime material floating around the inner planes all by its lonesome.


The way I’ve always run it is that Athasian magic is based on pulling life force. If an Athasian wizard goes to another plane, they continue to be defilers or preservers, pulling magic from the life around them. If they spend enough time on another plane, they could learn to use that plane’s magic but it would only be usable on the planes that used the same “type” of magic. This is something that works both ways, planar invaders have to learn life draining magic (it actually helped stall a gith invasion in one of my campaigns).

I also use life based arcane magic as a way around the gods. We once had an Athasian preserver help kill a evil god of magic in a normal world because the god couldn’t stop her from casting spells.


Way I saw it, defiling/preserving allowed a spellcaster to draw on life energy rather than the Weave and was an art that was never mastered in other crystal spheres because it was never necessary. However this also means that anyone that masters these arts of magic would be capable of casting magic that even the gods of magic have no sway over. Gods like Mystra or Boccob would be incapable of severing a defiler’s abilities because defiling doesn’t use the Weave (or whatever you want to call the source of arcane magic). Since I also depict the pantheons of other crystal spheres as being completely ignorant of Athas there is quite a bit of potential for some very crazy campaigns.


Actually, in the case of Mystra, her very presence more or less canonically prevents defiling from occurring. She is the weave connecting the energies of everything in Torril, and when a wizard draws on her for power, he is drawing on the power of the entire world at once, and indeed is prevented by the weave from drawing it from one location or another (though the weave may be charged in some locations). Likewise, the weave returns the energy back to the surroundings. Mystra is almost like gigantic plumbing system that pumps magic where it needs to go and then recycles it over and over again.
In other words, the people of Torril can’t defile even if they tried, because Mystra won’t let them.
Krynn, on the other hand… the magic comes from the gods of magic directly under normal circumstances, or from the Greygem in the case of sorcerers. This means that it is possible that there are other untapped sources, but they haven’t been tried because relying on the gods is so much more convenient. The same goes for eberron, but in this case they are drawing on the Ring of Siberys for power. Someone COULD develope defiling magic on either world, but why would they want to, since it would limit their spell selection, and there is so much renewable magic around anyway?
In the case of the Birthright setting, I’m guessing the only reason why no-one there has developed defiling is because magic is bound more tightly into the soil, the same reason why only elves and blooded individuals can use it.


Heh, I came up with a similar theory for Eberron. According to it, the Mourneland is an aborted attempt by the dread realms to absorb Cyre. It aborted the attempt because absorbing Cyre would also mean absorbing or copying the Draconic Prophecy in some form (as Ravenloft did with the moons of Krynn), which could easily be used by that one lich dude to break out, and they’re having enough trouble keeping him in as it is.

As for the possibility of Apotheosis, that has always been a part of Athas. You have the Dragons and Avangions of course, but also Ruvokas, Elemental Lords, Spirits of the Land, and others which divine casters can become or merge with, presumably gaining the ability to grant spells in the process.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the planar cosmology changed. It could be that a particularly powerful elemental cleric gained advanced being state and started claiming to be a living god, in the name of furthering the cause of his element. Artifacts from the Green Age supposedly from the “gods” might just be the result of such individuals and their cults.