Arena of Draj review

Arena of Draj Challenges

As a hobby I like to adapt things to Dark Sun. Right now I am working on one from the beloved game Shattered Lands. The first stage, Arena of Draj. I ran into a challenge or two, and thought I’d run it by the community. Some of these I brought up in Discord, and have gotten some feedback on.

What I do…

I try to make it as accurate to the original source as possible, while also bringing in line with accepted Dark Sun canon as possible. Then enhance and improve it consistent with lore. I do tend to use Pathfinder rules, especially the customized rules for Dark Sun.

Examples of what I have done to the Arena of Draj include arming the guards with atlatls and maquitls to be more Draji, given them jhakar hounds to bully prisoners, and created a psion NPC as it makes sense to have a telepath on stuff in any Athasian ludus.

Now some fun snarls I have been dealing with have been….

Gilal. She is a worthless prisoner. She was a starving thief who stole bread out of desperation. She was thrown into the arena with other convicts. She survived, mostly because the monsters got full eating her friends. She could be tossed back in there to die at any moment. However, she knows about slave tribes and tried to use the secret passage to escape. After her escape attempt, she was given a psionic mind block to prevent her from accessing those memories.

Here’s the plot hole. WHY? Slave tribes are more or less common knowledge. No need to block that memory. Secret passage? Definitely don’t what that getting out. “Secret” and all that. So, why not just kill her? Why use the resources to block her mind like that? Most Templars or overseers I can think of would just kill her out of hand. Maybe display her body as a warning to other gladiators. Are feed her to the beasts. There is no need to preserve her life if she knows anything inconvenient.

In Discord, the main answer I got was “head Templar has emotional reason not logical.” Pity, sick sense of humor, rare compassion. These are all possible. Would be a challenge to work into the narrative.

My answer was quite darker. Her escape was sniffed out by the on duty psion. He used his psion powers to block it from her and control her. Why? Very non-consensual reasons that’s why. She’s a pretty woman he can victimize at will. Then wipe her mind. However, I do get that some groups would not be comfortable with that.

The secret crypt. Another fun puzzle. This is a series of room that has a coffin and everything. This was clearly constructed for that purpose. Right now I have an explanation that I borrow from Gothic tradition. The original builder of the ludus was obsessed with the project. He fell ill before it be completed, and in his will demanded to be entombed within. His inheritors quickly learned that not honoring his request earned them a lot of hauntings. So they entombed him properly and now his corpse only kills trespassers.

In terms of game mechanics I like to use a Haunt for the door. However, I am having trouble choosing an appropriate undead. Simple way is to just use a zombie. However, any one have better ideas? Something more Athasian, without over complicating it.

Secret passage. I can hear some of you sayin’. “Are you a Dungeon Master? Do I have to explain what a secret passage is good for?” No, don’t be silly. However, this is a secret passage INTO THE SEWERS. Why is it there? Who built it? Why?


This is what I’d go with, but you’re right it’s probably too dark for most. Maybe she knows something valuable but the pison can’t act on it yet? Maybe a treasure stash or she’s key proof of a templar’s wrongdoing somehow? If so, you could then imply he’s also keeping her for icky reasons w/o saying it, so folksx comfort levels are intact.

If you need a corporeal undead (and it sounds like you do), why not just a thinking zombie? His goal is to rest undisturbed in his arena forever; intruders disrupt that rest and so he gets up to kill them. We did something similar in the Dead Lands with the city of Tarktas.

The original builder (who’s in the tomb), for smuggling? (the best one, IMO, as the sewers were already there, so the secret passage being built as the arena was makes the most sense to me) The VA for access purposes? An ill-fated thieves guild?