Planar locked Athas

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Hello all,

I was wondering if folks could help me weigh in on how Athas planar locking works. Last year I ran a game where we handled it by making it impossible to planeshift out of athas or gate out of athas (outside the planar gate artifact), but people could call demons into athas or gate things into athas…although they would get stuck there. I did this for convenience for the players to not invalidate too many things. I am wondering if this is part of the lore? My current DM is going to start a dark sun campaign at summers end and don’t want to steer him wrong.


Greetings. The Gray is a barrier that separates the Dark Sun setting from the settings of the Great Wheel (like planescape, forgotten realms, greyhawk etc). Something like this graphic below.

is it possible to reach outer planes by traveling through the elemental plane?

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Nope. Not in dark sun cannon, at least.

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That depends. The original boxed set allows it. And planar travel is still canon if you’re using the Defilers and Preservers supplement. It’s just less successful.

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The original boxed set is irrelevant considering that Athas’s unique planar mechanics hadn’t been designed back then. They were a necessity once plane hopping settings became more common and it got realized that Athas simply didn’t make sense unless it was almost entirely cut off.
His new question was about reaching the outer planes through the elemental planes, which is a hard no, whether in dark sun or planescape. Defilers and Preservers does allow for planar travel, but its incredibly risky, and can leave you stranded in the gray.

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Other than one option, there isn’t a direct way to reach the outer planes via the elemental planes. Here’s the available options if you’re using the Great Wheel cosmology.

First, you would need to travel from an elemental plane to the ethereal to a non Athas prime material, and then to the outer planes (lot of jumps).

Second, find a rare elemental vortice that leads from the elemental plane to a non-Athas prime material and then to the outer planes (one less hop than the first option).

Third and most direct. Find a planar gate on an elemental plane that leads to Sigil.

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The problem with all of these options is that none of them work for Dark Sun. Earth, Air, Fire, and Water and Defilers and Preservers are extremely clear that the elemental planes of Athas are as cut off by the Gray as everything else. They are functionally entirely distinct planes that happen to share the same names. The ethereal plane is in the same boat.

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Not clear where in EAFaW or DaPoA it explicitly states that Athas’ elemental planes are different than rest of the multiverse.

There’s the diagrams in DaPoA that supports the Gray making things difficult and the elemental conduits that punch through it to the inner planes, but I don’t see anything else.


Explicitly states? Never. Read the opening of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, then read the descriptions of the elemental planes. Hell, read about the paraelemental planes and their clerics as well. It is implied everywhere that the planes are completely different, and presents some information that is definitively not true in planescape. The elemental planes have been virtually destroyed by defiling, there are no true elemental lords, and half the elemental beings are stark raving mad. There is no way to reconcile this with planescape.

Edit: also, the para-elemental planes are different than the standard great wheel ones, and there are no true quasi-elemental planes. Both these things are discussed in the book as well.

The actual problem is that the diagrams in defilers and preservers for some strange reason don’t show the Gray surrounding the entirety of Athas’s planar orbit in addition to separating the elemental from the material, as that is what is implied and the only way to make the ecology make sense. Hell, the Grey even seals Athas’s crystal sphere according to Defilers and Preservers. Look at Redking’s post above for the clearest example of what the planar orbit of Athas actually looks like.

The only things I would add to that diagram is a portion of the ethereal plane that exists in athas’s planar orbit, and a note that the gray surrounds and separates every athasian plane, so the elemental conduits are the only known way of cleanly piercing that haze. THAT, would be a fully updated, accurate to the most prominent, non-retconned lore, version of the dark sun planes as they appeared in 2e and 3e. (4e, of course, dropped the great wheel and fans of dark sun were ever thankful)

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The 3-4 pages in EAFaW about advanced beings and adventures in the inner planes are pretty generic and light on the actual planes themselves.

I have no issues if people play it one way or another, just that there’s nothing definitive and up to interpretation.


Did you read the other sections that I mentioned? because it is not really “up to interpretation”. the very fact that quasi-elemental planes explicitly don’t really exist, and that the para-elemental planes are different is alone enough to prove my point, not to mention all the other stuff.

You can choose to go with whatever you like for your own games, but the most updated cannon sources are actually pretty clear in this instance.

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Are you referring to the section where it states that Athasians knowledge of the planes is less than perfect and clerics use different terms for some of the paraelemental planes?

Also, I always took the lack of qausielemental planes due to not having enough skin the elemental game on Athas.


Page reference please. Both the elemental and the para-elemental planes as described are clearly different from the planescape planes.

Also I note you haven’t said anything about this. These are discussed very early in the book, and seem like pretty damning evidence.

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Given that quasi-elemental planes require the positive and negative energy planes, also lacking from athas, I think there’s a much simpler explanation here.

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Page 14.

EAFaW came out before the Planescape setting so not surprising it doesn’t exactly line up.

Only references I see to mad pissed off elementals is in reference to Athas itself being destroyed not the actual planes themselves being diminished. The power they derive is weakening just like that of a god losing worshipers.


ummm…this might be technically correct, but it’s implications are not even close to true. the quasi and para elemental planes had been created long before EAFaW. I read the quote on page 14, but that quote doesn’t change that the descriptions of the planes as listed later in the book are simply not compatible with the terms used to describe them in other settings (No one could possibly mistake a plane of ooze for a plane of silt). Furthermore, Dragon kings is rather famous for having its discussions of the planes having been actually retconned out of existence.

Heres an exact quote form page 76 that specifies that the planes are different.
The inner planes that surround the world of Athas are somewhat different than those found in other campaign worlds. The elemental and paraelemental planes make up the entire region, and quasielementals are but a small por- tion of the larger bodies. The quasi-element of lightning, for instance, is incorporated into the paraelemental of rain. Whether the distinction is real or simply perceived that way by the adventurers who travel there is unknown.

Here’s some other quotes:
Some have heard the rambling tales of the desert madman who claims that each of the elemental planes was once ruled by individual, powerful entities. Most clerics now believe that even if this was true, those sovereign beings are long since dead.

To the elemental beings of the inner planes, the raw condi- tion of natural elements on Athas is fodder—food and sus- tenance. The earth provides the inner planes with power as precious water, mighty winds, and all-consuming fire feed their own. On most worlds, these elements are plentiful and rich, and the elemental creatures are well fed. On Athas, while most of the elements can still be found in abundance, they are barren and lifeless, like the heart of a sorcerer-king. Imagine being given a choice between a stale loaf of dried bread or a piece of rich, moist cake. This is Athas today compared to the world it once was. It is not hard to under- stand why elemental spirits are upset with the meager fare being set before them.

And here’s one that further proves how absurd the “athas clerics are simply ignorant” line is:
Although they are rare, there are a few seers who have looked beyond the elemental planes to the homes of the paraelementals—the realms of Silt, Sun, Magma, and Rain. These paraelementals are not as desperate their ele- mental cousins because they have not suffered from the defilers’ devastation of Athas.
As the relentless sun scorches earth into dust and magma spills out over its cracking surface, the power of the paraelements is growing. They are beginning to achieve lev- els of power heretofore unknown, and they are hungry for more. Where the elementals are concerned with quantity and quality, the paraelementals have not matured to that stage—they only want quantity.
This is from an OMNISCIENT narrator. I could find more if you like.
A final nail in the coffin of that line? Look at the granted powers for the para-elemental clerics. Strangely, though that line claims they are drawing from the plane of ooze, silt clerics can summon silt and survive in the silt sea.

Speaking of Silt…

  • The realm of silt bears a striking resemblance to the Sea of Silt on Athas, and some wonder if the similarity is more ominous than anyone imagines.

A traveler in the realm of silt quickly sinks beneath the surface and finds that he can move by swimming, as if he were in the Plane of Water. Visibility, however, is nonexis- tent, and the creatures that live here seem to sense visitors by other methods. Of all the ethereal planes, silt is one of the most uncomfortable to visit.*

Yeah, clearly the plane of ooze.

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I don’t know. With lines like “perceived” “unknown” , and “less than prefect knowledge” seems pretty obvious things were left purposely ambiguous for DMs to decide.


I agree that some of it was left ambiguous, however, the overall trend is clear. I could throw up quotes about the plane of rain (again, how does somebody mistake ice for rain?) and sun (sun being smoke? Yeah, I don’t think so. it even specifies that the sky is clear). The overall direction matters quite a bit. It seems very stressed that the base assumption is that the elemental planes are different. You can change it if you like, but the line that seems off is the line on page 14, not the rest of the book, which treats the elemental and para-elemental planes being separate from the rest of the multiverse as the basic assumption.

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No, only if you have to pass through the Gray to reach the inner planes as it shows in the picture. Since it is not hard, its clear that the inner planes are ‘close’ to Athas, and before the Gray.