Useful stuff from RaFoaDK


Lets list the useful stuff that Lynn Abbey introduced in ‘The Rise and Fall of a Dragon King’, and see what can possibly fit into canon. I will start.

In RaFoaDK it is said that Kalak was not a Champion (he is canonically the 2nd Champion), and that he used the maimed Champions, the heads of Wyan of Bodach and Sacha of Arala to provide spells to his Templars.

If you go with the revised Dark Sun boxed set, then the Champions gained the ability after their rebellion against Rajaat to grant spells to templars. I prefer that they were able to grant spells to templars during the cleansing wars, because it makes sense that this ability would be very useful in pursuing the wars. If you follow the revised Dark Sun boxed set then Wyan and Sacha cannot grant spells to templars, and the following will be of no use. If however you accept that Champions could grant spells originally, then read on.

While Tithian had originally intended to give the Dark Lens to the Dragon, he was able to find out on his own that the Dragon could not turn him into a Sorcerer King. It was then that Tithian turned to Rajaat for succor. We all know how that turned out, but what if Tithian had given the Dark Lens to the Dragon?

The Dragon could not make Tithian a Sorcerer King, but probably would have fulfilled his promise in the only way he is able - that is, make Tithian immortal and immune to aging, and bully or otherwise psionically control Sacha and/or Wyan (I forget which one is dead at this stage) into granting templar spells on behalf of Tithian (and also TO Tithian), like what Abbey said Kalak was doing in RaFoaDK. While Tithian would not be as personally powerful as Kalak, on the level of bureucratic power, he would be equal to Kalak.

So in this scenario Tithian gets part of what he wants. Being a Sorcerer King, even a fake Sorcerer King through Wyan and Sacha will give Tithian the power to sideline his political opponents in the Senate, and he will be able to rule much as Kalak was able to rule.

(Stuart Lynch) #2

The insight we got into Athasian Trolls was appreciated. These aren’t the uncultured savages of other D&D worlds, but thoughtful, erudite beings with a belief system that we’d never seen before. Abbey gives us just enough emotional investment in Windreaver and his people that Hamanu’s treatment of him, and Sadira’s inadvertant destruction of his essence, matters to the reader.

As for Sorceror Monarch status and templar spells, it’s clear that the canon changed as Dark Sun was developed. I prefer the idea that messing around with the Pristine Tower can create the link to the vortices, which would mean each of the Champions got that ability when they underwent their initiation process, not after the revolt. Like you said Redking, templars would be very useful in the Wars, but I prefer that it was an accident of the process, not Rajaat’s intention (the material we have suggests Rajaat didn’t understand how to draw upon the Elemental Planes - could the vortice links have been what triggered his interest in the first place?). It’s possible that anyone altered by the Tower in other ways around the same time (as long as the Dark Lens was used) would have been linked to a vortice as well.


Pennarin. Sucker-punch mob rush or not, it makes sense that Rajaat would not have initially gone down without some sort of a fight, and considering how he was mopping the floor with everyone in the PP finale there would have been casualties.


I do have to say, though, that whatever the reason is that RaFoaDK gets so much flak, it doesn’t make sense to me: it’s very well constructed and written. Sure, there are canon snarls, but EVERY IP that has multiple people contributing to it has that, and I don’t think RaF really introduces much that directly conflicts with other sources in a way that cannot be fairly easily reconciled.

I recall the author at one point clearly saying that one of her intentions in writing this was to actually CLEAR UP some of the prior conflicts in canon, and one of the ways she accomplished this was how Hamanu is EXPLICITLY an unreliable narrator: almost the entire story is from his direct perspective, and he’s very stuck in his own perceptions.


The Athasian trolls were good. If they were like the trolls in other worlds, there wouldn’t be much pathos in cleansing them because it is hard to imagine what possible contribution a standard D&D troll could make to the world beyond death and destruction.

The revised boxed set, Beyond the Prism Pentad, and Defilers and Preservers: The Wizards of Athas that changed so much canon. As for the revised boxed set, I think it is clear that Bill Slavicsek read the Prism Pentad books, and misinterpreted them, and this is how we ended up with the separation between Champion and advanced being metamorphosis (which I believe are one and the same - Champion being a title, and all of the Champions being advanced beings). Defilers and Preserves basically abrogated the whole concept of defiling by introducing necromancers and cerulean wizards that can draw upon unlimited amounts of renewable energy to the extent that preservers can be considered just as bad as defilers when compared to these magic users.

The Dragon Kings supplement says that it was accidental, and also that the vortices are current extinct.I nonetheless included a method to fashion a vortice in update for the metamorphosis epic spell seed - it isn’t easy though.

Totally agree. Lynn Abbey was doing her best to clear up the confusion caused by the revised boxed set and she wasn’t permitted to contact Troy Denning for advice either.


In RaFoaDK it is clear that after Hamanu is transformed by Rajaat that Hamanu gains a number of levels of wizard and psionicist (2nd ed version). This is understandable because in 2nd edition AD&D there would have been no way to have granted Hamanu power independently of levels.

In 3rd edition (or 3.5) templates simplify this. In this case rather than be instantly leveled to 20 psion/20 wizard, Hamanu would retain his previously gained levels but also gain the benefits of the template and metamorphosis granted by Rajaat. So after the metamorphosis by Rajaat, Hamau would most likely have retrained himself. Lets say for arguments sake that Hamanu was a 10th level fighter when transformed by Rajaat. Over time Hamanu would have gone through the retraining process (and detailed in D&D 3.5 ed rules) and become a 5 wizard 5 psion, for example.

This makes a lot more sense than having all them them start as epic characters courtesy of Rajaat. It would also explain why the cleansing wars went on for so long - the champions, as powerful as they were, were NOT epic characters to begin with. This meant that a champion could be credibly threatened by their enemies in battle.

Lets say that Hamanu is a unique case in that Rajaat selected someone that was not a student of wizardry. So what would the “average” Champion have looked like in terms of levels? I would say about 15 total levels. How about Sacha of Arala wizard 8 psion 7?

Of course, by the time the Champions confronted Rajaat in their rebellion, all of them were epic characters.

The true strength of the Champions was not their personal power, but their power to rally humans and grant them templar spells. This gave them the edge against their enemies.


At the risk of taking this off-topic (topic being nice things from RaF) . . .

Those Rajaat chose to admit into his inner circle were already considered accomplished in psionics.

Sidenote: this is also the reason why I think Qwith should definitely have levels in Psion or whatever: she was part of Rajaat’s inner circle of noble psions trained in defiling, except she wasn’t chosen to become a champion, heading up his transplant experiments, instead.

However, one of the artifacts of 2e thinking is that humans (who were basically chosen to be the race of champions because in 2e only humans could both dual-class and had unlimited advancement as wizards—muls could dual-class, but couldn’t be wizards) who dual-class had to finish and never return to advance in their initial class. This meant that, mechanically, the champions all HAD to be 20th level psions BEFORE they ever started learning magic from Rajaat.

With 3E we suddenly had freedom from that concept, and I definitely think it was a step in the right direction. Hand-in-hand with that, I really don’t believe that the champions and advanced beings in general SHOULD be maxed out psions. I don’t remember exactly what my reasoning was (and don’t have access to my computer files to check my notes), but I think I ultimately went with something like 12 levels of psion or something. Being able to manifest 6th level powers. Their primary forte is magic, and yes they use a weird application of psionic power to boost their spells, but they’re primarily SORCERER-monarchs, not sorcerer-psion-monarchs.

Anyway, going to what you said, redking, I would say that yeah, Manu got slapped with a template and was “encouraged” by the benefits of said template to advance in magic and psionic classes (as the template would make it comparatively easy and attractive to learn and utilize magic and psionics) and did so over the course of his (in context INCREDIBLY quick and efficient) campaign against the trolls.

As for the other champions, I would see them as accomplished psions who took up the study of magic, became at least as accomplished in magic, got their champion templates from Rajaat, and proceeded to level up as they saw fit over the course of the Cleansing Wars. I really appreciate how this is better represented in the crunch of 3E.

Outside of the RAW, I ultimately went full-bore with the home-brew route: 3 base classes, with magic/psionics/divine/etc being feat- and skill-based, with a franken-almagamation of saga edition star wars force powers for psionics and a similar abomination of the magic from monte cook’s world of darkness rpg. As a result, Hamanu could be a Soldier 9 who got slapped with a template that granted feats or pseudo-feats that provided access to magic and psionics, and either keep advancing as a soldier or take levels in Scholar or Survivor, benefitting from the inherent benefits of those classes (which are applicable regardless of whether you’re playing a spellslinger, a sneaky-type, or a tank).

Anyway, what I really feel is the best take-away from RaF is just having Hamanu’s perspective on things. Even if you can’t take it all as gospel truth, it has a lot of interesting potential. I really like the idea of Kalak as NOT being a champion, and just an over-accomplished but non-dragon non-champion psion and wizard (the original boxed set characterized him as one of the more powerful sorcerer-kings, noted for his pragmatism, which made his crazy behavior over the ziggurat more puzzling to everyone). I like the characterization of all the champions being uppity nobility snobs. I like how Sadira is painted as too upjumped for her own good, wielding more power than common sense. I like how Rajaat was finally brought down and defeated for good by his own hubris, underestimating Hamanu just like everyone else did (all the champions looked down on him because he was a peasant, but he not only turned the massive embarrassment of Myron’s campaign around and eliminated the trolls crazy fast, he’s also the only champion to have repeatedly taken down and killed other champions as well as created arguably the strongest and most successful city-state that could actually stand on its own without a sorcerer-king.)

I also like the Spirit of Urik, Hamanu as a farmer, and how that all ties together.


The City State of Tyr supplement lends weight to Kalak not being metamorphosed. In that Supplement his stats are 25th level wizard, 25 level psionicist. Unfortunately the supplement is problematic in various ways, and a reasonable person would question its canonicity.

That’s right. That’s exactly how it would happen in 2e. However, its also something I find doubtful in terms of the story line. Getting someone that accomplished to start slinging around 1st level spells seems unlikely to say the least.

I can guess what the reasoning was - the same reasoning as’s products. To be able to become a dragon or avangion at 21st level (the standard epic level), level 6th powers is the highest that you can possibly get. This was debated on the old wizards forums.

As you may guess, I was against this. To me dragons and avangions not stand-ins for epic characters, but as actually post epic. Therefore I think that to cast the spell to metamorphose, an epic character must be able to expend an epic spell slot and an epic power slot. This would mean a potential dragon/avangion would have to be around 30th level before even attempting it.

The way dragons/avangions are implemented in Legends of Athas on this site means that the dragons/avangions end up as pushovers against single classed characters of the same level. The dragons/avangions will lose the fight every single time.

My next short project will be a radically different implementation of the dragon/avangion PrCs in conjunction with the metamophosis spells and my revised list of factors for the metamorphosis epic spell seed.


City-State of Tyr is actually one of my favorite supplements for Dark Sun, and although I agree with you on its problematic issues, the portrayal of Kalak as a dual-classed defiler/psion 25/25 is what really got my thoughts going on him being a non-dragon who was just REALLY powerful in both psionics and magic. However, the likeliest explanation is just that whoever wrote the stats intended him to be a 25th level dragon at the time of his death, and just didn’t really understand or properly implement the rules as they should have been reflected stat-wise.

I think that with the RAW, ANY multi-classed character ends up outclassed by a dedicated single-class character of the same level. Even if you bump it so a 1st-stage dragon or avangion would need to be 30th+ level, a single-classed defiler or psion of comparable 30th+ level is STILL going to outclass it. This is what—in large part—inspired me to go the pseudo-classless route I’ve taken of making magic/divinity/psionics/quantum powers/abilities based on a combination feat/skill system. A straight up psionics specialized character might have more options and utility in his/her power selection and implementation, but is not necessarily going to automatically outclass/overpower a magic/psion character: the power levels will be comparable, it’s just the options and utility of powers will be variable between the two. Add a template or dragon metamorphosis on the latter, and they’ll DEFINITELY outclass the straight psion.


quick aside: my take on Kalak is that he was a defiler/psion of immense power (25/25 in 2e terms) BEFORE even attempting his 10-stage insta-ritual, rather than the defiler/psion 20/20 that dragons typically are.

(Stuart Lynch) #11

I always assumed Kalak’s statline in DSS1 was meant to represent him as the heroes cornered him - he’d clearly advanced through several stages of the Dragon transformation by the time they stuck the Heartwood Spear through his head. When he kicked off the gladiatorial games he’d have been a plain Defiler20/Psion20/Dragon I.

Personal OCD grumble: This is typical of the continuity and quality assurance of TSR before it folded - multiple authors playing around in the same sandbox with no guarantee that anyone was paying attention to what everyone else was doing at the same time, let alone what had gone before. Mind you, the Star Wars Expanded Universe had enough difficulties keeping everything straight and that was with Kathleen Kennedy acting as continuity supervisor IIRC. Grumble over.


I’ve always assumed the same about Kalak’s stats, Kalindren. That being said, I just like the idea and happily run with it that Kalak was fundamentally different from the other sorcerer-monarchs.


The stats for Kalak were not the only absurdity in that supplement. How about the spy chief, ‘Minister Dark’ was his name I think. The name just screams evil.

I have to second your frustration about that time period, Kalindren. The confusion at TSR at the time introduced last kinds of problems. And if what Lynn Abbey said was true, it’s quite possible that they may have ruined the Dark Sun setting had the company not collapsed.

(Stuart Lynch) #14

I have to second your frustration about that time period, Kalindren. The confusion at TSR at the time introduced last kinds of problems. And if what Lynn Abbey said was true, it’s quite possible that they may have ruined the Dark Sun setting had the company not collapsed.

As opposed to Lorraine Williams’ tenure ruining the entire company :frowning_face:


Hey, just because some stuff winds up ridiculous and campy—does anyone remember Sturm and Kitiara flying to the moon with gnomes in Dragonlance?—doesn’t mean there aren’t good and interesting tidbits to be gleaned from the mess. City-State of Tyr has a lot of issues, but it also has a lot of interesting seeds to be gleaned. Ditto RaF, obviously.

Granted they’re both the result of the same problem: a shared setting too-far removed from the original authors’ vision without a strong guiding vision. I wholeheartedly believe Lynn Abbey was doing her best genuine effort to preserve the original integrity of the setting, and for the most part I feel she succeeded. Just look at the Simon Hawke books, also from the same time period: granted they were a fun read, but they also absolutely demolished the setting in favor of telling the story of Athasian Elfling Jesus.

So what do we do? I feel the most productive thing we can do is compromise. Not in the sense of compromising the integrity of the setting, but in recognizing the worthwhile contributions of a publication and finding a way to explain the most glaring inconsistencies.


I completely agree with that sentiment. Take what you can, toss out the stuff that doesn’t make sense or is incompatible with the broader setting.

Back on the wizards forums, I used to hash it out with the participants there. Everything from demographics to Athasian history.