Alternity Dark Sun Timeline

This is a re-imagining of the Dark Sun timeline I did a long while back to reconcile it to Rich Baker’s Alternity rpg as a kind of science-fantasy, or “sword & planet” setting. Most of my gaming experience has been with Alternity, much of which was recycled for the d20 Modern line, so this timeline uses a lot of that game’s nomenclature when it comes to psionics, interdimensional travel, alien races and that sort of thing.

Timeline of Athas

The Blue Age

• Fraal develop on a cool, rocky, mineral-poor water world with two moons, orbiting a class A (blue) star, in a dimensionally unstable region of space
• Psionic fraal build an advanced, global civilization based on mindwalking and biotechnology
• Fraal discover advanced psychoportation applications such as teleportation and dimension walking: exploration of these psions lead to lunar expeditions and contact with extra-dimensional beings
• First contact with illithids and psurlons, who share new (and ethically questionable) biotech applications and psionic disciplines
• Discovery of alien ruins on Ral and Guthay; recovery of ancient artifacts composed of fused silicates resembling obsidian; ruins sealed and further exploration forbidden due to paranormal phenomena associated with expedition members’ insanity and death
• Period of increasing social instability; rise of “nature bender” faction which uses biotech or “life-shaping” skills for purely amoral, aesthetic reasons; rise of alienist cults associating lunar, ruin-building, precursor race with early fraal deities
• Under auspices of illithids and psurlons, fraal collect and experiment on various alien life forms from parallel tangents and other regions of space
• Previously dominant fraal “nature master” faction under attack by nature benders and alienists: illithid and psurlons alternate support between vying factions in an attempt to foment chaos; races are fighting proxy war against each other, anticipating colonization of Athas in wake of fraal social collapse
• Nature benders ally with alienists to overthrow nature masters
• Dimensional travel, including illithid and psurlon establishment of permanent gates, weakens already thin tangent walls, bringing Athas closer to tangent in which alien “gods” are imprisoned
• Alienist gods are in fact hyperrealistic/superdimensional objects or beings existing across many tangents; their various aspects are unconnected, lacking human equivalents of consciousness and nervous/cardiopulmonary functions; alienists hope to propel Athas into the “Black Sun” tangent, bordering a division beyond the Fantastic, in which the alien gods’ consciousness resides, trapped in the heart of a dead star (i.e. a black dwarf)
• Nature benders and alienist factions defeated; they retreat underground and infiltrate nature master survivors
• Nature masters attempt to create self-aware, psionic macro-organism to aid in repair of damaged ecosystem; alienist sabotage results in creation of the “Brown Tide”
• Macro-organism project partially successful; constituent micro-organisms flood Athasian ecosystem creating a kind of “life-web“, generating energy, but failing to achieve critical life-mass, and therefore consciousness
• In dormant state, Athasian life-web represents vast, untapped psi-energy matrix; however, due to original programmed defect, if tapped in dormant state, it will react by killing living things
• Pristine Tower created to combat Brown Tide; nature masters hope to use it as alternate means of amplifying their psi-powers; in desperation, Tower project incorporates artifacts captured from alienists (including the “Dark Lens“) which seem to possess metaconductive properties capable of converting and storing energies
• In driving macro-organism into dormant state, Dark Lens destabilizes dimensional barrier, resulting in catastrophic dimensional outpocketing; local space-time superimposes itself on nearby tangent (one closer to the edge of the “Fantastic” division of superspace, beyond which the alienist gods lie imprisoned)
• Athas and moons manifest in nearby tangent, orbiting class G (yellow) star

The Green Age

• In wake of disastrous tangent shift, races resulting from fraal experimentation and kidnapping leave preserves and spread across planet; many find niches, while others are extinct within a few generations
• Pristine Tower complex abandoned after specifically anti-fraal security measures activated to prevent its use by benders or alienists
• Surviving nature masters retreat to remote areas of globe and isolate themselves; some undertake guidance of young races (usually steering them away from psionics and life-shaping), and are revered as racial folk-gods long after their deaths: e.g. “sky-god” Ositan leads aleerin to Pesh, teaches them to domesticate hipolat-beast, and encourages priesthood in scientific enquiry; “Brood-Mother” Vec’t’lir leads sesheyans to the jungles of the Forest Ridge, her “sons” Tal the Hunter and Neshii’en the Trickster remain with the tribes for a generation, teaching them hunting and survival skills; “racial guiding spirit” K’san Ch’nak leads t’sa to rich marshlands, encourages exploration and enquiry, investigation and innovation; weren “ancestor-spirits” guide the earliest hunters to marrizhe migratory paths, show them how to harvest the hgoumas in lean times
• Young races prosper; agriculture, warfare and trade among and between peoples
• T’sa found first city-states, develop a common trade-tongue
• First reported sighting of the Messenger: a colossal, modular colony ship fleeing a ruined Earth
• The Messenger, utilizing a space-folding drive, has been ripped out of transit by Athas’ dimensional shift, leaving it crippled and drifting in the oort cloud; trailing a halo of accreted ice and debris, it is perceived as a comet as it drifts in-system
• Some modular ship sections break free and impact on Athas’ surface
• Human survivors, unable to survive independently, quickly establish friendly trade relations between neighbouring young races and their colony
• Human colony prospers, but, mindful of the loss of Earth, is reluctant to share advanced technology with young races
• Colony abuts aleerin Pesh; humans are tolerated grudgingly until series of territorial disputes culminates in human exposure of Pesh’s priestly magic as technological fraud; Pesh priesthood, covetous of human science, petition the Jowh to attack the colony
• Humans beg trade allies to intercede as the Jowh marshals his elite Nidrahz cavalry for attack; unwilling to antagonize the aggressive aleerin, the other young races decline to aid the colony
• Due to technological superiority humans are initially victorious and manage to evacuate many to pre-established rally points; however, enraged Pesh wears down defenders, raze the colony and enslave survivors
• One survivor Dr. Raja Atswari: betrayal by allies, slaughter and subsequent brutal treatment in slavery convinces him humanity cannot coexist with “aliens” unless it is from a position of strength
• Atswari escapes during earthquake induced mine cave-in
• In bowels of mountain, discovers chrono-cysts and awakens renegade fraal
• Weakened nature benders and alienists see potential tool in Atswari: a surprisingly powerful latent mindwalker whose trauma they can manipulate, making him a tool to regain access to Pristine Tower
• Subtly indoctrinated, taught mindwalking skills and introduced to biotech (gene sequencing and RNA retroviruses expand his abilities and lengthen his lifespan), eventually reconciled to alienist agenda as means to acquire enough power to protect humanity
• Leaves fraal conclave to travel Athas; adopts name "Rajaat’; notes with satisfaction that in intervening decades aleerin city-states have collapsed due to internecine warfare and demoralization following near-genocidal war on humanity; is dismayed that, despite flourishing population, human culture has regressed and fragmented
• Discovers evidence of another Messenger module but lacks ability to recover it
• Enters Pristine Tower and eventually unlocks secrets of life-web, advanced psionic applications, and meta-conductive “obsidian” artifacts; studies advance his mental deterioration, pushing him to a megalomaniacal, sociopathic state of disassociation in which power becomes its own end (rather than a means to benefit humanity)
• Begins to teach psionics in order to gauge relative levels of talent between races; publicly teaches techniques drawing on inner reservoir of power, privately develops technique to draw on reserves of Athasian life-web at cost of biosphere
• Recovers and awakens members of Messenger crew; misrepresents past and current racial relations to convince them humanity faces imminent threat, murdering those that cannot be convinced or psionically dominated
• Using life-shaping techniques and advanced psionic training, Rajaat prepares his “champions” for the coming war of liberation
• Champions assume aliases and infiltrate Athasian society:

  • Sasha Barelev / Sacha of Arala
  • Victor Calvin / Kalak
  • Gregory Roth / Dregoth
  • Pascal de Miron / Myron of Yorum
  • Manu Lakshmanan / Manu of Deche
  • Una Thorinson / Uyness of Waverly
  • Brice Gallarte / Gallard
  • Sibyl Banting / Sielba
  • Peter Andropolis / Albeorn
  • Tenoch Quintero / Tecktuktitlay
  • Ololara St. Croix / Inenek
  • Wayne Bryant / Wyan of Bodach
  • Boris Dragoslav / Borys of Ebe
  • Khalil Mahmood/ Kalid-ma

• Traveling and observing, the champions note areas where racial tension exists; then, intervening on behalf of human interests, they establish themselves as popular heroes; eventually, they parlay their fame into positions of political influence, beginning as advisors but gradually seizing control and mobilizing entire armies, then city-states against the now antagonized non-human races
• Wars become defensive, then retaliatory, then pre-emptive, eventually degenerating into centuries of grinding, genocidal conflict in which neutral or opposing human city-states are as likely to be expunged as those of non-humans
• Cleansing Wars: initially sees use of mindwalking, PL 7-8 technology, gene-targeted plagues, and bioweapons carefully represented to indigenes as “magic”; however, as conflict continues, Rajaat restricts use technological artifacts, citing their disastrous misuse on Earth (in fact, he hopes to limit assets available to his enemies, and champions, should they betray him)
• War on culture; libraries, temples, academies razed; technologically innovative and artistic peoples particularly targeted by champions: e.g. t’sa driven from cities, survive by becoming nomadic, aleerin communities retreat to mining fastholds deep beneath earth; fraal monasteries discovered and put to the torch
• Alarmed by champions’ attacks, unrestrained tapping of life-web and “defilement” of biosphere, fraal emerge from sanctuaries to teach “preserving magic” and organize resistance cells under “Veiled Alliance” with young races and enlightened humans; these “Builders” are not appreciated by traditional fraal, who favor mobility and isolation as means of survival, becoming “Wanderers”
• Myron of Yorum expresses concern to Rajaat about widespread ecological damage caused by tapping the life-web; his master assures him the biosphere can be healed using his fraal allies’ biotechnology once the conflict is finished; during the largely telepathic exchange Myron accidentally discovers Rajaat’s true mental state and hitherto unknown alienist agenda
• Shaken by images of Athas propelled into the Black Sun tangent by an act of mass-sacrifice, the liberation of the alienist “gods” and Rajaat’s anticipated transcendence, Myron prepares to move against his master
• Myron embeds his memories of Rajaat encounter deep in subconscious of his subordinate, Manu of Deche, intending to use him as a courier to the other champions
• Ambitious and only half believing Myron’s ravings, Manu strangles his superior and burns his notes; Rajaat rewards him by granting him full champion status, carefully expunging Myron’s reasons for rebellion from Manu’s conscious mind
• Myron’s embedded memories gradually emerge in the form of increasingly disturbing dreams; Manu reports his knowledge of Rajaat’s hidden agenda to Borys of Ebe
• Borys leads the champions against Rajaat; he attempts to prematurely use the Dark Lens to propel Athas closer to the Black Sun tangent, but lacks sufficient energy to complete the transit; weakened by his efforts, he falls to the rebel champions
• Catastrophic dimensional outpocketing sees portions of solar system, including Athas, its moons, and the approaching Messenger, emerge in a parallel tangent, dangerously close to a red supergiant

The Age of the Dark Sun

• Champions discover Rajaat’s form and consciousness have acquired extra-dimensional properties precluding his death (in a conventional sense); using knowledge forcibly extracted from captured fraal and Rajaat’s notes, Gallard traps “the First Sorcerer” in a space-time wrinkle, in which seconds translate into centuries relative to Athasian space-time
• The wrinkle is anchored to the “Black Sphere”, another metaconductive “obsidian” artifact discovered in the Pristine Tower complex; it requires staggering amounts of power to maintain the prison
• Remaining fraal attempt to bargain for their lives, hinting at records of ancient mindwalking secrets buried in Pristine Tower archives; intrigued, but mistrusting Rajaat’s allies, Borys executes the survivors and pursues his own studies
• Borys discovers and miss-identifies one of the disciplines mentioned by the fraal: a psionic technique for the creation of purpose-directed thought-forms, or tulpas, of great power
• Physically unable to accommodate and direct the energies needed for the discipline, Borys uses life-shaping techniques and the power of the Dark Lens to alter his physical form: he believes this is preparation for an even greater transformation; the remaining champions excitedly begin their own transformation regimens
• Believing he is fuelling the creation of his new form, Borys completes his investiture of power in the tulpa; due to his misinterpretation of the discipline, it takes physical, visible form (appearing as an image from Borys’ subconscious representing, for him, power: a dragon); it consumes him utterly
• The Borys-tulpa or “Dragon”, imperfectly executed, begins a mindless rampage across the already ruined land; intentionally destructive, it is also the harbinger of terrible psi-storms
• Creation of the “King’s Compact”: an agreement between the surviving champions to each rule a city-state modelled on repressive, pre-industrial, earth-analog cultures; the compact includes provisions for the annihilation of indigenous culture, the suppression of literacy and scientific inquiry, and a moratorium on the development, recovery or use of technology above PL 1 (this compact is violated from its inception as each champion hoards at least some PL 6+ artifacts)
• Each champion founds or adopts a relatively isolated settlement, corrals starving and traumatized survivors of the disastrous dimensional shift, and begins their cultural pogrom; while formal titles vary, they are, in the eyes of their subjects, “sorcerer-kings”, in some cases taking new names to reflect their transcendence:

  • Manu of Deche / Hamanu
  • Uyness of Waverly / Ablach-re
  • Gallard / Nibenay
  • Albeorn / Andropinis
  • Inenek / Lalali-Puy

• On the verge of “becoming a dragon” (this thought-image will dominate all future attempts at using the tulpa creation technique, as each sorcerer-king believes it is the natural result of the process) Dregoth and his city Guistenal are attacked by his fellows
• Ablach-re leads the former champions, acting on information that Dregoth has infected himself with a dangerous, engineered, cell-replicating virus which should sustain his mind though the transformation
• Devastating the city and surrounding lands, the sorcerer-kings confront and kill the writhing, half-mad, tumorous mass that was once Dregoth; his remains are secreted away by his followers, who witness their ruler’s “resurrection” thanks to the regenerative virus; they soon share his fate, living a subterranean, half-alive, half-dead existence, now infected like their immortal master
• The Dragon’s behaviour normalizes as it rediscovers its core “programming”; it contacts the surprised sorcerer-kings, demanding the lives of slaves as a means of maintaining the energy level required to keep the Black Sphere functioning; the sorcerer-kings comply
• After decades of increasing suspicion, Hamanu discovers Sielba has violated the King’s Compact: Yaramuke possesses near-universal literacy, state-sponsored science and civil service academies, and a merit-based system for earning emancipation
• Hoping to blackmail Sielba into making trade concessions, Hamanu dispatches spies to uncover the full extent of her violations; they are captured and killed after transmitting mental images of a rudimentary atomic weapon
• Hamanu invades Yaramuke in hopes of capturing the weapon intact; his forces face street-to-street combat with armed, near-fanatical citizenry; with exception of weren shock-troops, Urikites routed by withering cannon-fire as they reach the citadel
• Hamanu breaches the citadel, engages Sielba in single-combat, battering her into a coma; believing her dead, he leaves to rally his forces for the occupation of Yaramuke
• Sielba’s remaining templars evacuate their queen to a secret island location and detonate the atomic weapon
• Hamanu eliminates remaining witnesses to his abortive campaign, camping his surviving forces near Black Waters: they soon succumb to radiation poisoning
• Hamanu returns to Urik, proclaims victory; anticipating its wrath over incident, he empties treasury to appease Dragon
• Dragon constructs Ur Draxa with Urikite booty, using it to house the Black Sphere
• Sielba’s templars fail to revive queen; she is placed in relic cryo-berth from the Messenger; though comatose, her subconscious mind broadcasts powerful telepathic call for help; long after guardian-templars perish, superstitious travellers declare “Siren’s Song” cursed
• Shocked by Hamanu’s naked aggression (and reminded of their own mortality) sorcerer-kings re-evaluate positions and strategies: Kalid-ma accelerates attempt to transform, determined not to share Sielba’s fate; Kalak watches Kalid-ma’s ziggurat project intently, hoping to learn its secrets, tries not to provoke Urik; Hamanu rebuilds treasury and army; Abalach-re, traumatized by Sielba’s death, distances herself from own power as “Grand Vizier”, secretly develops death-wish, half-hoping she will be overthrown; Nibenay withdraws from present, obsessed with discovering where “everything went wrong”; Andropinis eagerly anticipates his fellows turning on each other, consequently becoming lax; Tectuktitlay insulates self from reality, layering his divinity with more and more blood sacrifices; Lalali-Puy re-imagines herself as savior of her people and Athas’ ruined biosphere
• Period of introspection sees increased experimentation with “life-shaping”; desire for novelty and specialized servants results in new life-forms; e.g. “mule” or “mul” a sterile humanoid derived from human stock: strong, robust, but weak-willed and easily “ridden” (for espionage or recreation) by sorcerer-kings using psychic projection
• Aleerin miners, pushing roots of fastholds deeper into Athas’ mantle, encounter Series VI life; “crystal plague” decimates population, but survivors form symbiotic relationship with silicate colonies; aleerin soon regularly born with Series VI life replacing or supplementing tissues and organs; aleerin characterized by eerie single-mindedness, illimitable patience and unnatural affinity for metal and earthwork;
• Kalid-ma successfully constructs tulpa and is consumed by it; new “Dragon” and attendant psi-storms ravage city and countryside; Kalak, having carefully observed the transformation, alerts Hamanu and Borys-Dragon; combining their efforts, the new Dragon is destroyed
• The Messenger, sheds its remaining rock and ice debris on a close approach to the sun; previously obscured solar cells begin to recharge
• Balic’s slave population is decimated by an outbreak of psionic vampirism; barely contained when the Dragon arrives for his tribute, Andropinis must sacrifice some of his templars and a portion of the city to appease its wrath
• Alarmed by the Dragon’s retribution against Balic, Kalak dangerously accelerates his plans for transformation; labor and resources are re-directed to building a ziggurat
• A Tyrian senator of House Asticles is murdered by his aleerin body-servant; templar and noble scrutiny of slave activities increases; as a result, an arena slave with ties to Veiled Alliance is discovered; she is publicly executed; social tensions increase
• A popular mul-human fighting pair are killed in a training match with a gaj; a riot results, but is quickly suppressed by templars and weren of the Royal Guard
• Kalak’s High Templar of the King’s Works is crushed in a construction accident; the only witnesses are a weren labor gang
• Public discontent over templar crack-downs, failing economy, crime in t’sa market, appropriation of privately held slaves for ziggurat construction and closure of iron mines
• Kalak announces lavish celebratory games for the ziggurat’s dedication ceremony

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