Athasian Dawn Cataclysm?

No, not the nebulous plot of Lathander in the Realms!

So Athas has a different cosmology from the rest of the D&D settings. We have the Grey dampening ethereal and astral travel. We have the Black, the plane of Shadow analogue. Then we have the Paraelemental Planes that diverge from the core cosmology (no Ooze, Smoke or Ice).

I was thinking, could there have been a cataclsym at the dawn of Athas’ existence that led to this? Maybe even something that led to the Blue Age in the first place?

What if an Elemental Prince/Power attempted to maximise their own plane at the expense of the others? Or ancient divinities hatched some plot of ultimate power? Only things went terribly wrong.

The plane of Ooze dessicated into silt. Fire burnt purer and Smoke collided with the Quasielemental Plane of Radiance, creating Sun. The aftershock of Sun’s creation melted Ice into Rain.

The Plane of Shadow was damaged and became the Black and the Grey resulted from the planar environmental aftershocks.

You could even have Rain or Water having a near miss with the Prime Material and flooding Athas into the Blue Age.

Just something I’ve been thinking about when I should have been working :thinking:

You are starting with the assumption that Athas’s cosmology is somehow wrong and needs to be justified in its departure from the typical 4th edition cosmology.

Why does Athasian cosmology need to follow the standard? And what do you hope to gain from the explanations? Do you think they will come up during the game?


Athas, as I understand it, has always had these planar barriers and a unique cosmology. It’s the reason it has never had true gods, which is in turn the reason why there has never been any kind of deus ex machina to fix the world or prevent it’s destruction at any point in the history of Athas. You can see this trait of Athas as far back as the blue age, with the brown tide and such.
From a flavor point of view, this is because Dark Sun was heavily influenced by the works of Robert E Howard (such as Conan). Howard had a very specific view about how the gods in his world should function, and Dark Sun is as close as D&D gets to this vision. the gods aren’t here to save the day; they just want to serve themselves (sorcerer kings). there are no gods of good, or if there are, they are either powerless to stop the gods of evil (Oromis) or prevented from acting entirely (presumably any gods in the planar super-cosmos).

In other words, in order to keep both the chronology and flavor of Dark Sun consistent, the planar cosmology cannot have ever been different.

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Actually, Howard’s gods do interact with the world, like Mitra’s role in Conan’s ascension; In some version of the story, there were deities on Athas, but Rajat secluded them away; In 4 ed cosmology, it makes sense that, to win the War of the Dawn, the Primoldials used some cataclismatic weapon which spear headed the blue age.

There are a few takes on this.

The first take is that Athas is completely seperate from other DnD settings and is in no way meant to cross over. You have Athas and that’s it.

The second take is 4th edition’s where there was a war at the dawn of history between the primordials and the gods where the primordials actually won. I don’t know the details and lack the book on me, but this myth is explored some in 4e.

The third take is that Athas has a crystal sphere just like every other campaign setting, but its sphere displays unusual properties that have led to its isolation from the planes. This sphere is known as Red Space. No one is sure why Red Space is so different from other crystals spheres as far as I know and there is plenty of room to play with this concept.

I personally went with the idea that what makes Athas different is that all of its gods are dead, but went with a totally different reason for why. Long story short it involves an extremely advanced mortal civilization warring with the gods which led to mutual destruction, only this civilization used post industrial age technology as well as magic (fans of Blackmoor or Might & Magic will know what I’m getting at).

I’m a fan of the third option. Athas is a part of the d&d multiverse, but its sphere is difficult to enter and leave, at least from what I remember of 2e.

As for athasian gods, I’m not sure the designers even knew what they were going to do. Iirc, they borrowed/were influenced by other settings, which is why Gruumsh is mentioned in at least one dark sun product, only spelled differently. (Elemental shrine?)

My take is based on greek mythos, and karameikos Ascension, where powerful mortals “evolve” beyond mortal limits, and are viewed as godlike beings. So the gods of the green age (IMG) were literally “epic” level mortals.

There’s also the worship of “gods” that aren’t deities. The followers of those religions simply believe them to be, such as the dragon, the sorcerer kings, and any being of immense power. Religions could be based on ancient statues and monuments, these “gods” nothing more than ancient heroes or famous, or infamous individuals. :beer::dash:

eh, i would argue that, at least mechanically speaking, the Sorcerer Kings could be considered “gods” of a sort; they’re essentially immortal unless killed, unimaginably powerful, and they can grant spells to their followers, which is essentially how D&D defines gods. The difference here is that 1) they are almost all irredeemably evil, 2) their very existence hurts Athas and 3) they were not born gods or adopted into a standard celestial pantheon.

Personally I hold the second theory, but also that their particular crystal sphere is dangerously broken, and is likely avoided by other starfaring races. Because Athas depends on plant life for its magic rather than the standard “cosmic energy” of Greyhawk or Eberron, entering its sphere would be potentially fatal for any ship that runs on arcane magic as all defenses against the vacuum of space evaporate. Alternatively, if you hold that spellcasters automatically tap into the most similar form of magic in the area, the ship would suddenly start defiling its crew in the absence of plant life to draw from, with similar results.

Whatever cosmic power that made athas screwed up and, realizing its mistake, abandoned its creation rather promptly. All gods on Athas since then have just been really powerful mortals who likely truly believed themselves to be gods, or denizens of the elemental planes who might as well be gods.

“Athas has no Gods. Athas needs no Gods.” - Rajaat99

My view is that there are no true Gods and there never has been. The crystal sphere around Athas is impassable by spelljammers. The Gray greatly restricts outer planar travel. Epic wizards and Gods might know about Athas, but have no desire to attempt to breech the Gray/Sphere because Athas has nothing to offer them.
Powerful elementals, aka elemental lords, created Athas, the Halflings, and the Kreen from the elements in their respective planes. They had to have worked together to create everything, because everything is made up of all elements.
Water somehow gained the upper hand and dominated Athas for a long time. Then the brown tide and all that happened. Now, the elemental lords are working together to survive, all except the silt lords, magma lords, and sun lords. Those three are happy with the way things are going.
When Borys used the Dark Lens and Pristine Tower to change the champions into Dragon Kings, it forced the living elemetal vortices to bond with them. I imagine Nibenay had something to do with that.
The elemental lords are furious that the SKs are stealing their power, again except the silt, sun, and magma lords.


My take is that Athas is a wounded material prime world which needs time to recover; It had gods, during blue and green age, it still has them, in some form (sorcerer kings and Elemental gods), and will have them again.

I am mostly in the “Athas has no gods and cannot support the existence of gods due to lack of conduits of faith to power the gods” camp. The gods who once walked Athas were not true gods, they could not draw power from faith nor could they grant spells. (Which isn’t to say the humans couldn’t draw power from faith to cast divine spells, but I’m saying the gods couldn’t do godly things with the power of faith (ie. no divine ranks).)

That aside, I’ve always kind of wanted to do a Dark Sun / Birthright cross over campaign where the Ersheglien transformation gets powered up by the Preserver Metamorphosis spell and the end result is an Avangion Ersheglien with the power to gain strength from followers until it can ultimately become a God on Athas. (Of course, nothing says Avangions or Ersheglien need a good alignment…) (It could work with Awnsheglien and/or the Dragon transformation, but those both scream evil alignment, and “I’m the BBEG, stop me please,” whereas a preserver empowered by a god of magic seems like someone the pcs would be more inclined to help.)

This question actually touches on a few things that have led me to reading through the site for answers, as I am getting ready to run a game and am hitting related lore problems. However, the longest game I ever played as a PC was essentially a split between Planescapes and Dark Sun, so a lot of answers were provided in the course of that particular game that I think work pretty well.

Once upon a time back in the Blue Age, Athas was going to eventually become a standard world with a normal crystal sphere. However, due to the Halfling natives, the prevalence of the Way being strong there, and no other worshipers of note, no gods took any interest in it. Another good reason for it to be ignored had to do with how Planar Travel and time coherency don’t always crunch out, so the Early Blue Age was actually contemporary to the Primordial Elemental Lords running amok in the Forgotten Realms setting, the Outer Planes being even more unstable with gods fighting and whatnot, and a ton of other reasons for no power to really care about a little place full of agnostic halflings. A combination of life-shaping on an undreamed of scale and powerful Psionics is responsible for the Grey, either creating it, or perverting it from some previous form that no one will ever truly know. Once the Grey was there, deities couldn’t pass through it, but some things still could. “Mortal races” with spells or other ways of traveling, specifically. At least for a time. In this incarnation, the arrival of the standard races wasn’t due to the Pristine Tower mutating Halflings, but rather as refugees from all of the crazy things going on everywhere else… The Halflings just saw these strange races showing up around the Tower, knew it caused… mutation problems… and made a logical assumption. Then again, this also included Mind Flayers showing up for a time, feeding on a world that played to big, psionic brains, and taking snacks with them as it got harder and harder to travel… the Gith, which at the time was plausible but I think has been debunked in the current material? It also explains why Psurlons seem to be fairly familiar with Athas.

The Black is another perversion of “normal” planes associated with Prime Material settings, likely created by The Warbringer as a demiplane monstrosity for some reason. Probably a source of power or a future home for himself, obviously not quite finished, and might explain why he was tasking Champions to bumble through genocide when it was well within his powers to do it and, if need be, disguise his identity in the process. The Lens/Pristine Tower/The Grey made it more than just a pocket, though, and it was suggested that the “Deep Grey” was what the intention was, but the Black was an outcome. I guess having a place that traps dead souls so you can defile them for power all over again and further makes the place unattractive to deities because no petitioners can come from Athas makes some sort of sense. Eventually Nibenay, who had the best understanding of that sort of thing, tweaked it further, and sunk the Hollow out there as a demiplane within a plane in the fashion of a Plane of Mirrors (?), with polished, perfect obsidian in the place of glass. Again, things didn’t go quite as planned, but it was anticipated it wouldn’t work right and hence, Borys the Dragon being made to watch over things.

In the older material, elemental clerics were essentially described as a recent phenomenon on Athas, and that was chalked up to beings like Kossuth seeing a world where no other deities could, would, or even cared to intervene, and they finally had their chance to grab and hold something, so they were “sponsoring” worshipers. In this, all of the standard paraelemental (and even strange things that were called quasielementals - combinations of 3 elements) were present, but not a major force… yet. It was the opening salvo of an invasion, more or less… and some paraelemental things, like ooze and ice, just can find Athas unpalatable. At least Rain and Water have a really good sales pitch for converts.

In this take, long before the Sorcerer-Kings were described as being aware of the planes, it was taken as a “duh, of course they can worm in and out if they really wanted to.” It was shown that only Oronis, Andropinis, Dregoth, and to a much lesser extent Nibenay, had any interest in what was out there beyond “big, nasty, powerful, deities that are capable of doing worse than what we did to Athas”. In a way, the Sorcerer-Kings were shown to view themselves as legitimate protectors of their world from these dangerous “outsiders”, and in some ways Athas is as much their planar domain as a normal setting. Their ability to shape the landscape by “magic!” without much in the way of how ever being explained (not talking about simple defiling, here) is very close to being a “divinely morphic” descriptor. They can also grant spells, and though I know it was explained a while back how this happens, at the time it lent a very credible nod to the overall tone that the setting was in some strange migration to becoming an odd, new, probably Outer or Demi, plane. At the time, the only other settings as “strange” in terms of cosmology things were Ravenloft (a plane) and Spelljammer (speaks for itself). Of course, there has to be a door to Athas in Sigil (opened on/around the Pristine Tower in the game I played), and in this game there was one somewhere in the Abyss (probably more than one), one in the City of Bones, one somewhere in Limbo, and one somewhere in Asmodeus’ palace that I can recall, and then various passages in the Elemental Planes. Of course, with the Planescapes focus on the Blood War at the time, Athas was, again, a hard place to get to but viewed as a very fertile ground for recruits/schemes/worship and any number of other nefarious things.

I’ve always used a take like this when DMing, as it seems to make more sense to me on a plausible explanation of why Athas has screwy planar mechanics. It essentially means throwing out everything after the Crimson Legion novel, especially the 4th Ed. stuff, but… some of the 4th Ed. stuff meshes fairly well with it, too.

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Actually, Athas has at least one official link to the rest of the D&D settings, but it only opens once every long period of time, and stays open for a very short time. Athas also has outer planes, though they seem to be vacant.

Also, the githyanki figured out how to get through the Gray from the Astral, and invaded once. It could be done again…