Black Spine [DS official adventure]

I’m thinking of running this as the concluding adventure to my DS campaign. What are you thoughts about it? Have you run it? Any issues or inconsistencies worth addressing?

Yes, I ran it! Well, I ran part of it. Very, very difficult for my players because they thought it was just a bunch of low-level Gith. I advanced some of the Gith into formidable fighters and, of course, adapted it for 3.5. After they killed off the Gith, they thought they were finished, and never went through the round stone door that blocked off the nest from Yathazor. My players never went further. If you have read the adventure, then you know what happened a month later. I asked them several times…“Are you sure?” They said they would get back to it later. By the time they got back to it, the invasion was on. I used the Lich Queen adventure from Dragon Mag. #100 for the invasion. Loads of fun!


Been awhile since i read that one and i can’t find it for the life of me, so I’m going from memory (keep this in mind).

Firstly, you might want to add/change monsters in the encounters as there are too many gith… at least for my players (they get bored quickly with mono encounters).
Secondly, the first part seemed kind of ‘meh’, and I’d skip some stuff.


I forgot thirdly… crap.

Anyways, it really depends on you and your players. I really liked it and recommend it, I’d just change/add/remove some stuff, which is expected and encouraged, so as to tailor the adventure to your group’s tastes.
Sorry if i wasn’t much help, but i can’t find my copy of the adventure and I haven’t seen it for a while…

Anyways, best of luck! Cheerio!

I never ran it, as it introduces too much metal to Athas. I’ll eventually run it, but I’ll convert it to be an Athasian threat, as opposed to an other-worldly threat. Also, I never understood why anyone would want to invade Athas. Athas is a wasteland.

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Thanks for the feedback fellas.
@jcarless Such incidents suck, feels like the players just plainly abandoned your adventure, especially the juiciest part. But then, your idea of running the Lich Queen (I think it’s actually Dungeon #100) is one I seriously consider if my players dismiss the door.
@The_Wanderer LOL I bet I’ll change some stuff, to better suit my group’s playstyle. They might not bother with the limitless gith encounters; besides, they know Blackspine Mountains is infested with the lot of them. I also find the intro to the adventure kinda linear and uninspiring. Perhaps I could use some of the groups presented in the Ivory Triangle, like Poortool’s Horde or Fort Inix, and tailor them along with Tenpug’s Band into the story.
@Rajaat99 There’s too much metal to be found, indeed. And my players being the greedy type will always pick and arm themselves with every metal component they find (who wouldn’t?). Since it’s the concluding adventure to our campaign, however, I might have to overlook that. As for Athas being a wasteland, there’s also slavery. The gith would be much more interested in using/trading slaves than farming the land, bodies to be used for labour, cannon fodder, sacrifice, or whatever come to any DM’s mind.

Agreed, too much metal, not a fan of the planar travel either…

Unless they want the secrets to Defiling magic, so that they can go around destroying worlds and sucking them lifeless at the same time. Hehehe…

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Ran it back in the old days. It was fun for me, but my players hated it at the end. Adding githyanki to Athas ruined their sense that Athas was unique, they all said it was like turning darksun into post-apocalyptic greyhawk.


We ran it about 20 years ago in 2e. It was loads of fun. The players were evenly matched throughout and were the sole survivors of Tenpug’s Band, the rest having been slaughtered by the Gith despite the party’s best efforts. They clawed their way back and vanquished the foul foe, however.

There is a broad variety of environments, especially the dreamscapes and underground cities, and encounters and I distinctly recall the players thoroughly enjoying their newfound access to higher level spells. There were some very imaginative uses of Wall of Force, like cling wrap or a prison cell.

The end was cataclysmic and furious fun and the party unleashed the Gurdek entity on the Githyanki fortress. The shattered remains of Queen Trinth’s ambition are doomed to drift in the Astral void for millenia.


The PCs made few mistakes in preparing Tenpug’s band for Gith attack. Training was effective and weapons were sufficient. They sent out scouts to ascertain the enemy position and assigned themselves the most difficult watch hours. Terrible luck plagued them, however. Their scouts were caught and devoured by the Gith and their advance was invisible to the PCs. The PCs did not account for a powerful defiler/psionicist, Zigath, leading the enemy. The enemy conjured a great sandstorm and advanced under cover of darkness within striking range of the temple. The fighter, alone on watch in the middle of the night at the key outpost was blinded by the storm and unaware he had become surrounded. He was taken utterly by surprise when the fearsome Gith warlord and several of his stoolies appeared at his position and ambushed him. The warlord wielded a devastating steel two-handed sword enhanced with some terrifying power. The fighter did not have the chance to raise any manner of alarm. The party barbarian, later, not having heard from his companion, set out to investigate. The cleric and wizard remained at camp with only a small number of the tribe’s trained men awake and alert around them. The barbarian was taken utterly by surprise, and while not so easily overwhelmed by the warlord was quickly brought to task when Zigath intervened. The barbarian fell in the sand aflame and choking from the terrible death the defiler had summoned.

The only news the remaining PCs received of the Gith force was their howling battle cry as they entered the camp unopposed. Total slaughter was upon them. Men awoke with their throats cut or were butchered unarmed and confused. Those already awake or furthest from the initial onslaught managed to rally, the cleric at the fore. They stood shoulder-to-shoulder for a moment but were overwhelmed by the press. The camp was aflame and chaos was at hand. The cleric split the heads of many of his enemies, but was separated from the group and pulled down at last, thrust through with several lances and fell sitting upright, the lances holding him in place. Behind the dwindling shield wall, the wizard threw what he had at the enemy. He could not count how many he felled, nor gauge the effect. His presence was conspicuous and the warlord was a swift storm of agony and fear hard upon them. His terrifying weapon clove through the tribesmen and felled several at one sweep. The enemy leapt at the wizard and nearly ran him through, but the PC escaped, fleeing in the total route to the temple. Tenpug had been sheltered therein and knew too little of what was happening until it was too late.

The weeping civilians and the few remaining fighting men entered the temple and when the black mass of the howling enemy was visible slammed the mighty gates shut and barred them from within. Great stones were rolled against the gate to hold it against the foul enemy. Some were, of course, left outside beating against the shut gate begging for entry but were torn apart by the ravenous enemy’s advance. The wizard was lucky enough to make it inside the temple in time. There was store enough to last the remaining tribe some time against a siege. He found Tenpug and began to strategize the next steps.

The Gith clamored and rattled the gate for some time to little effect. Suddenly, their shrieking went quiet. The wizard approached the gate, suspicious. There was a deathly silence for a space. The wizard got closer to the gate and faintly heard a rasping whisper. He could not discern what was happening when suddenly a white smoke began to drift in through the great beams in the gate and beneath and around it. Smoke from a fire, he first thought, yet it seemed to move with a mind of its own, staying near the floor and advancing inward despite the still air. The wizard fell back, terrified, having never seen the equivalent. The people panicked and fell back shrieking. There were no other exits save the great barred gate. All were eventually pinned against the far wall. The first man touched by the advancing mist screamed in terror and agony and collapsed convulsing and foaming. This event repeated rapidly as the cloud overtook the massed tribesmen. Total panic erupted and the people stampeded. Men ran through the fog toward the gate with the expected results. Few made it to the great wooden beams and beat helplessly against the panels with open palm or their own skulls. The Gith were also holding it from without. The door did not budge.

Grief-stricken and hopeless, the wizard watched the wave of gaseous death wash toward him. His spells exhausted, the wizard transmuted himself into a bodiless ectoplasmic form and floated upward, pinning himself against the temple ceiling. He would be unaffected in this form by the gas. He looked on helpless as the totality of Tenpug’s Band gasped out its last breath in the deadly smoke. As each tribesman writhed, foaming, his eyes and mouth were set alight in flame and death came at last in an agonizing wheeze.

With time, the mist dissipated and the Gith pried apart the bulky wooden gate. They poured in, clambering over the great rocks, hissing and staring greedily at the wasted corpses. Some were yet alive, including Tenpug, coughing blood down his chest, but none were fit to fight. Tenpug was hacked to pieces and the warlord tore his head free and devoured the flesh therefrom. The Gith looted every scrap of material and feasted bloodily on the heaped corpses. As the enemy reveled in their slaughter, the wizard elected to escape. Unseen and unsuspected by the raiders, the ectoplasmic wizard drifted along the ceiling out of the temple and into the wastes. He would bide his time to counterattack. He had no idea the struggle to come.


Holy crud that was brutal!
I likes! XD

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When converting the Gith, change their weapons to bone except for a few of the leaders. They were given small amounts of metal as a sign of favor by the Githyanki (spear heads at most).

The Githyanki are using the small iron mine to get metal for themselves and prepare for the invasion. It’s an easy change that the original scouts made it to Athas without the benefit of metal. I ruled long ago that passing through the Grey from another material plane dissolved all metal. One of the reasons for the Nightmare gate is to allow metal through (much like Dregoth’s portal in my campaign). .

Back when I ran it, Githyanki also had to learn defiling magic in order to use magic on Athas. This explains why there are only a few casters on the Githyanki team (the 3 metallurgists, Raskon, and the 4 gish from a quick scan of the book and why they want to capture athasian wizards so badly).

FYI non-athasian dragons partially live on magic they innately harvest from the world. Should a red dragon come through the gate as happens during a later invasion during one of my sessions, it loses it’s magic, ability to fly, and slowly “starves” to death. They can’t learn to utilize Athasian magic to live but it’s possible a magic item that converts life energy may be created if it’s ever needed.

The rest of the adventure can be run normally, with your Athasian party astounded by the amount of metal all around them and greedily planning to take as much with them as possible. I checked the ending and the party does come back through the Nightmare Gate as it’s collapsing. Keep in mind, they likely just made it through the arena and their options for weapons are whatever they managed to keep as they fought to the final encounter or anything they could hide on themselves with at most another steel dagger per character (two of them dagger +2s), and if they get lucky they may have been able to grab some Steel Longsword +1s from the Knights (don’t give the players enough time to strip them of their chain armor). That’s easily controllable and with the explosion of the Nightmare Gate, you could easily rule the steel weapons didn’t make it through.


Rumors tell, that a new plot, called “Back To the Black Spine mountains” is on the way. I would love to see the notes to that adventure

Great little set that, if played to the end, is one of the legit ways to potentially get into Planescapes from Athas, if memory serves. It is just a 3-4 part, multiple module affair, so best for stable groups willing to play a story arc for a couple months.

Why Athas? To my mind, the real treasure of Athas is the secret behind the banishment of the Powers. (I prefer this old term for deity-level creatures.) If they can crack the secret behind the ousting of all the outer planar creatures, that would be game changing for every Prime they invade.