The Wanderer says that although harsh and brutal Athas also has its fair share of stark beauty. Please share some of the more beautiful places you’ve created for your players.
The Singing Canyon
While travelling through the badlands my players found a canyon over 100 meters deep with countless stone pillars emerging anywhere from tens to hundreds of meters in the air. Galleries seemed etched into the walls of the canyons and hundreds of caves lined the walls, some so small only a rat could fit through, others large enough for a braxat to live in comfortably.
Archways and paths spanning one edge of the canyon to the next while others even connected many of the vast pillars to one another. Yet none of these structures had the smooth artificial appearance of magically conjured stone. Every single feature appeared sculpted by slow erosion over the course of centuries, if not millennia. Most bizarre of all was when the winds blew strong the pillars and caves intoned sonorous melodies one moment and lamenting howls the next. It could move even the coldest of hearts as Athas itself seemed to sing a song only druids could understand.
I did a whole series on the Dark Sun facebook group of doctored photos and a running narrative of a surveyor and his travels across underrated and underrepresented geographical features of Athas.
It was called “#darksundestinations”. And yes, the whole point of it was to show off the variety and beauty of this hostile terrain, and to prove that deserts are hardly lifeless…
Thinking about it, it seems to me Dark Sun remains one of the very few D&D game settings where you can actually do something like this. The extremes of the landscape somehow add to the drama and awe of seeing something beautiful.
This is exactly what I was thinking about Star sage. I can a recall a description of a tower or castle in the center of a salt flat with encrusted salt formations and crystals of various hues making for such a beautiful if deadly place to see.
I can also remember describing an area in the Alluvial sand wastes where a ruined hold has been partially eroded by the wide. This erosion created striations of colour in the surrounding sand dunes. The predominant being the usual orange but also, a brilliant green, russet red undertones of black and in a few places splashes of blue. It was an area of maybe a half mile but my players named them the rainbow dunes and used it as a marker of sorts.
Painted Dunes: occasionally stumbled upon by lost travelers in the Great Alluvial Waste. The painted dunes are a colorful collection of sandy hills: brilliant reds, blues, pinks, purples and greens stretch out away from an equally impressive and colorful oasis. Home to rare insects, amphibians, reptiles and more.
Cool Springs: A modest group of hot (warm) springs that can be found in the rocky badlands providing much needed metallic flavored water with just a touch of orange coloring. The nearby rocks are covered with an orange algae that has become resistant to defiling affects.
Windswept Forest: In the Silk Wyrm mountains south of Altaruk, a high desert pine forest with an actual creek of running clear water.