's original charter: 3.x development

The original charter authorizing as the co-owned official source of all things Dark Sun 3.x, stipulated ongoing development of third edition material as one of the qualifying prerequisites.

I am still interested in 3.x development of psionic material for Dark Sun. There seems too much magic this and magic that in the existing source material on I realize that magic is better supported, and more familiar to most, and that is part of the reason. The lure of the forbidden is also strong, as I am well aware.

I would like to poll interest amongst all the community, including the current devs, about the possibilities of a psi-centric discussion of existing material with an eye toward possible additions or changes, thoroughly community tested.

At this point, I am seeking only expressions of interest and people willing to brainstorm and discuss ideas in a thread, while keeping discussions polite and respectful, as there are sure to be differences of opinion.

Comments, agreement, disagreement, and discussion welcome.


I am all for further development of the 3e/3.5 rules. I have already extended a few ideas for further clarifications and enhancements of the rules as stated, and I would be happy to join in on a few more if others show interest in the subject, after my finals are over.

Also, anyone who wishes to work on new ideas for advanced beings and life shaping for that rule set?


Interesting thoughts.
A couple of the things I wanted focus on to start with is daily life, especially away from the cities; and the nature of the wild.

It has been noted that in times of natural disasters, Terran animals will flee together ignoring previous animosity, or even the division of hunter and prey. I would like to expand upon this idea and flavor it. As all Dark Sun creatures have psionics, it would be a natural evolution and expansion upon the concept to have local group minds form between disparate species of creatures for the purpose of mutual survival in the face of the world disaster. It wouldn’t even be surprising if insect hives incorporated other creatures into functional roles in the hive, especially if psionic fabricate allows the creature(s) to make food and our water, or provide other useful services; much as ants keep herds of aphids.

I’ll cover my daily life thoughts later.


Good idea. Sounds like the sort of thing that would happen in an athasian ecology. There are many possibillities for modeling this in game terms. Consider, for example, a horde of kanks linked together by a hivemind that has been dominated by a psurlon attacking Tyr, all having the highest initiative rolled by one in the group (aka, always 10, every single time). And by horde, I mean something large enough to both surround and fill the city with only a 5 foot gap between them.

Sorry, my inner DM came out.

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Heh. I know the feeling. When my players are running campaigns for all of their other friends, they come to me for plot twists, traps, and bizarre encounter parameters.

I was thinking more of a cooperative collective: a pack of carnivores protecting a herd of herbivores where the carnivores hunt for feed for the herbivores, protect them along the way, eat the sick and injured herbivores and carnivores as their food source, protect the herd while they eat and drink, and all of them fight together to protect against greater threats.

Also, with psionic linkages amongst disparate kind of creatures, the chance for increased cognition is greater, leading to the possibility of purpose driven deliberate psionic mutation or evolution for the greater good of a local group mind.

Not to mention the likelihood of genus loci developing, and getting involved in the mix.


General question about psionics in general. Has there ever been a discussion about the nature of psionics in Athas? I know that in eberron, psionics involves channeling the energy of the outer planes. This would, of course, not work all that well in Athas. Does athas have a world-specific explanation for how psionics work? Like, where the energy comes from?

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I am not aware of an official explanation, but then I only have a few of the original materials.

Psionics in 3.x D&D is one of two types: magic based, and non-magic based. Due to the transparency rules default setting, psionics draw upon the same source as magic, is channeled and shaped through the brain and mind, and are then manifested as powers.

The other main setting of the transparency rules is “psionics is different”. (There is a third setting, but if I recall correctly, the power source is the same as the first.) With the “different” setting, psionics is separate and draws upon a unique source unrelated in any way to magic. This should be the default setting for Athas, however this is not reflected in the current rule set, unless I miss-recall. (Off remains an existing option, however). In fact, given the current history, background, and rules regarding magic, the “psionics is different” MUST be in play for psionics to work in Athas at all.

In general, psionics is said to draw upon the mind, or the mind is drawing upon something. Various theories exist: the mind is converting biological energy into power; the mind is leeching vibrational energy from surrounding molecules and atoms in the air; Planc-sized structures in the brain and or body are pulling energy from the quantum foam in the surrounding space-time; the mind is tapping into a dynamo of some kind drawing off electrical energy - from technological motors, or perhaps from the iron core in the center of the planet; the collective subconscious of all living things is a sum greater than the total of its parts, this excess energy is what powers psionics; and your already mentioned extra planar source.

There are more, but this should cover the basics.

More later.


As mentioned, here are some more thoughts about living in the wild:

  1. It is not unlikely that a family or small tribe of a sentient species would also be incorporated as part of a small local group mind in some cases. The potential advantages to a group mind would be enormous.

  2. Life adapts. In the case of a nearly world wide disaster, life would flee. For Athas, that would likely mean a trans-planar migration by those with access to foresight prior to Athas being cut off. Also, for those not so prescient, underground. If an Underdark didn’t exist prior to the cataclysm, it is very likely to exist now, what with the crustal disturbances.
    Life would also adapt, the more extreme the environment, the more extreme the adaption. And with access to psionic powers, those adoptions could be quite extreme. Photosynthetic symbiosis, heat to bio-electrical conversion, parthenogenetic reproduction, elemental adaptions, possible hybridization of species, and so forth.

  3. Sentient communities would need someone who can convert energy into sustenance, be it via a crafting ability to produce a psionic item of sustenance, or the ability to produce food and water. Such individuals would be of such value that they would be targets of both adulation and darker desires. Various societies have placed certain classes of people in special statuses resulting in wars, slavery, privileged but caged existences, rulership by the special class, and so forth.

More later.

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A thought, Psurlons are organic creatures who live in the Astral Plane. In my adaptation of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, they are former residents of Ral who abandoned it when it became too inhospitable for them. So they would fit in the second category.

An interesting timeline, indeed.

I would like to expand upon in slightly more detail some of the adaptions previously mentioned.

Photosynthetic symbiosis: this could take several forms. Outright adaption of the skin to become more light sensitive and reactive, symbiotic adaptions with plant life to enable conversion of light to bio-energy, or a psionic power which accomplishes the same thing.

Light or heat to bio-electrical conversion: in species already winged with transparent membranes or materials, the wings could potentially adapt to convert light directly into bio-electricity. This particular adaption would be unlikely except to insectoid species as their wings already tend to fragment light. Again a unique psionic power might also suffice. Furthermore, as many species can adapt to living near volcanic vents without traditional light at all, there is no reason that Athasian species could not do the same, drawing their nutrients from an ecology surround a vent, possibly even converting heat to bio-energy instead of light.

Parthenogenetic reproduction: common to simpler life forms, however even the occasional complex life form can manage it in extreme or unusual circumstances. Athas qualifies. However, such reproduction seldom leads to generic diversity, even if it manages to sustain and perpetuate the species.

Elemental adaptions: Athas is effectively a combination of the elemental planes of earth and fire. Given the possibilities of psionics, and other methods of elemental bloodlines, having entire groups or even partial species conversion to an elemental nature would be a survival tactic.

Possible hybridization of species: in order to perpetuate and survive, some species might resort to extra-species liaisons. With psionics to smooth the way, it becomes possible at least, though for sentient species there remains the moral and ethical concerns. Dragons, at least those on other worlds, seem to do so with great regularity, if without any cultural or religious explanation being provided.

Symbiotic adaption of species: a more likely evolutionary scenario than hybridization, the physical or societal symbiosis of multiple species is an adaption of great likelihood on Athas. Some have already been mentioned: group minds, simple psionic linkages between disparate species to aid one another, plant-animal symbiosis, and so forth. Symbiosis with more exotic entities is also possible: elementals, ethereal, ghosts, vestiges… Some might even attempt to switch to negative energy to survive, though this last would effectively be much the same as a defiler.

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Elemental Adaptations: Perhaps this is where the tradition of the Ruvoka came from?

Hybridization: Dragons in eberron actually do have a cultural reaction to Hybrids: they hate them. One of the greatest massacres in it’s history occurred upon the discovery of a half-dragon among the elves with a dragonmark, and it was perpetrated by both elves and dragons.

Symbiotic: In one of my posts in “Beyond the Tablelands”, I described a species of elves to the west of the Dead Lands which developed a psionic group mind instead of the elf run ability. You may find it interesting. Also, I believe that the there was a species in Terrors of the Dead Lands which incorporated undeath into it’s life cycle. I believe they are called Zagaths, with the Scarlet Wardens being their undead form.

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Sorry, I play Greyhawk more than Eberron, so I did not recall that when I posted. Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance also don’t have the Eberron dragon’s bias, iirc. In fact most of the published worlds don’t, again, iirc.

Yeah, I’m aware of that. I’ve read every published 3e and 3.5 source there is for all the Wizards and TSR settings, and in most cases you are right. I was just pointing out an exception, and a possible way in which a species might handle hybridization.
It is a little odd that only the eberron dragons have this bias, though.

Well, to be frank, religious zealots of any kind: hardcore atheists, warrior monks of various persuasions, yur-goin’ta-hell Christians or Buddhists, secret orders or societies, Eberron draconic prophecy adherents - they justify their extremism any way they can, and thereby comfortably commit acts of atrocity after which they feel self satisfied and justified.

Let’s say that it’s “sentient nature”, especially when said nature is not trained to logic, morality, ethics, and a balanced view of individual good versus the greater good.

Having commented on that, you are also quite right. There are those who, even in the face of such extreme efforts to survive and adapt, would view such alterations as abominations, and react accordingly.

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Another extreme possible form of adaption would involve more powerful groups or entities. Along with the concept of group minds and living meta-concert effects, a psionic form of group or circle casting would very likely develop over time. Another likely development would be that of more psionics oriented races such as various species (non-humanoid as well as humanoid) of elan or unbodied.

With the potential for boosted or pooled manifester levels, the creation of new demiplanes becomes possible, even if they must originate slightly differently. Given the “vacuum” of existing outer planes, there is a possibility that should sufficient numbers of demiplanes be created, they may eventually merge and/or grow into new planes in their own right. In any case, demiplanes could give new (and fertile) living options to the inhabitants of Athas.

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I did think of a way that the three mind lords would merge via metaconcert. It allowed the temporary entity to make Divine Minds

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The life cycle of a red giant star can last for eons, depending on how much starting mass it had. I have always wondered if the elemental planes of fire was actually based in the planetary mantel or possibly in the local star itself. Elemental plane of air might be in a gaseous giant in the solar system, water could be an ice world with liquid underneath.

In any case the habitable zone for terrestrial life is much larger for a red giant than for a yellow sun. Should there have been any other planets in the Athas sphere that survived the changes to the solar system, they may now be habitable as well. Depending on the number and former orbits of any icy asteroids in the system, some may have impacted on said planets, or could possibly be brought to Athas as a new water source.

Of course, who knows what may have been living on other planets… or asteroids.

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I though about the nature of magic on Athas, and have determined that it can be drawn from three different sources. These are the land, the sun, and the black.

The land would work in a similar way to earthpower in Birthright. The magical energies are powerful, yet tightly bound and thus not generally accessible, except if you have a strong connection to nature or have the blood of gods flowing through your veins. Given that gods don’t really exist on Athas, the second option is not viable, so earth magic is rare. Lesser versions of earth magic exist, in the form of the Moon Priests of Draj who use special rituals to access the power of the moons (rituals similar to those used by magicians on Aebyrnis). Other templar abilities could also be thought of as moon magic.

Sun magic explains most of the magic that is used on Athas. The magic of the sun is both powerful and loosely bound, but it is very dispersed due to distance. However, this magic is captured by plants during photosynthesis along with chemical energy, and then later transferred to animals. rhulisti lifeshapers bent the internal energy of animals to shape them into tools, vehicles, and servants. This was then developed by Rajaat into preserving and defiling magic of plants. He also created the champions of rajaat, who contained a portion of the sun’s vitality, making them immortal and capable of harnessing animal energies. Later, he developed a form of defiling which fed off incorporeal souls summoned from the grey, after discovering that such souls contained focused and easily accessible sun energy, thus producing grey wizards. Borys discovered a way to harness extra animal life energy (dragon magic), oronis learned to stimulate a font of life energy within himself (Avangion magic), Sadira was altered so she could harness power directly from the sun (Sun Wizard), and Tithian literally became the Cerulean storm, a collection of life energies so powerful and focused that they could be drawn on specifically by summoning a Tyr storm (cerulean)

Black magic works by thinning the line between reality and possibility, opening the world to incursions from the black. Not much to it, expept that prolonged use could start the end of cognizant thought.

Of all the sources, preserving is the safest, the most morally justifiable, the most reliable, and the most environmentally friendly. Excepting earth magic, which not even Rajaat could use very well at all.

Unless, of course, that IS what happened to the former Powers… becoming “mortalized”.

Also, I must disagree on one point. Psionics is the safest and best, not magic of any sort, even preserving.

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I don’t count psionics as magic. I mean, I know it technically is, but it has different mechanics and a different overall feel. But yes, psionics is MUCH safer and has significantly lower moral implications than all other forms of magic.

Technically, I was just referring to arcane magic. Druidic magic might be even safer than preserving (elemental magic is patently unsafe, at least initially when pacts are being made, but druidic magic deals with much more safe spirits of the land). But psionics is in a class of it’s own. Comparing it to other forms of magic is almost unfair. Especially given that in order to use psionics one must have at least a little in-born talent, where arcane magic is knowledge, skill, and stamina alone.

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