Dungeon Denizens - Adapting to Dark Sun

I found a thread out there (sorry don’t remember the name) about non-Dark Sun RPG resources. It was a good thread, but I thought much of it was surface level. AKA “This book is good.” That kind of thing. I thought I might do some posts on the books I have used, or would want to use. This would be primarily Pathfinder books, but there is also a large number of al-Qadim and other sources I will include.

Key points I would be addressing about the material are…

  1. Avoid canon violations. Where canon is silent on a subject, it should be used as a guideline regardless.
  2. Avoid excessive redundancies. I like to keep my lore lean.
  3. This one is key. Would the amount of time and effort to adapt the material into Athas be justified. It’s a cost effective thing. Just because you CAN bring it into Athas, does not mean you should.
  4. Is it a fun or meaningful addition?

To get this started I’ll do a simple one. Dungeon Denizens Revisited from the Pathfinder Chronicles. It covers various traditional monsters with a dungeon theme.

A) Bulette is already a recognized Dark Sun creature, and honestly it fits perfectly. What this book can add to Dark Sun, is the Delving armor quality and Bulwark shields. The Delving quality allows you to burrow through dirt, sand… tell me an Athasian adventurer wouldn’t find that useful. Bulwark shields are crafted from the head plates of the bulette and are powerful and prestigious.

B) Cloakers. Looking in the Terrors of Athas, looks like cloaker lord is listed, but cloaker is not. I will assume they are Dark Sun compatible. Given their isolationist nature, they would have little impact on the setting regardless. Insane ray like creatures, they would be an interesting monster to use, but nothing about them screams “Athas” too me.

C) Gelatinous cube. I saw a template for gelatinous creature in the monster list, but I don’t know if that includes three-dimensional solid object bounded by six square faces. There are Athasian slimes out there. They also would explain of Athasian sewers would work, with no water flowing through them. Still, they are an iffy add.

D) Mimics. Completely not listed in ToA. I don’t see anything that would conflict with the setting, but I don’t see them adding anything either.

E) Otyugh. Not listed in ToA. They appear in Shattered Lands, but the game doesn’t match canonically in some areas. These weird sewer mutants would fit thematically I feel. Weird, monstrous and freaky. They aren’t smart, but are sentient making for bizarre NPC options. They also love living in sewers, eating the trash and offal. This makes them as a convenient waste disposal tool, in the dry lands of Athas. However, their natural environment (swamps) is basically gone. Having separate breeds unique to each city state due to isolation is an intriguing idea.

F) Owlbear. It’s in ToA and it’s component monsters (owl and bear) are also listed. So I would say you’d want to change up the description to make them more Athasian sounding, but otherwise no changes needed. The book does introduce the idea of stealing owlbear eggs, which make for interesting loot. Also, they are hated by druids which fits into Athas nicely.

G) Purple Worm. Arguably redundant with sink worm and sand worm. They do have different stats, so if you’re hankering for a new or different worm, here you go.

H) Roper. Not listed in ToA. I don’t see anything that would clash with Athas, but nothing that makes me think they’d be a great fit. The one thing I observe is that they LOOK like earth elemental creatures (stalagmites) but are not. One posing as a false prophet to an earth elemental cult strikes me as a suitable Athasian adventure.

I) Rust Monster. If it ever existed on Athas, it’s clearly extinct now.

J) Shambling Mound. Not listed in ToA. It should be noted that the interpretation of this monster in Pathfinder is that it’s an alien intelligence manifesting in a pile of vegetation. Even ignoring that bit of lore (as awesome as it is), putting shambling mounds into Athas would be iffy at best. There are actually better monsters for this.

There is only one which is a huge get, which is the bulette. Most others already exist in the setting, and book would add some extra options or ideas. Some plainly just don’t fit. Great book, but surprisingly little applicability to Athas.


this one? Using other desert supplements for Athas

1 Like

If you look to the 2nd edition monsters, there’s a ton to mine for Athasian adaptation. All of the Mystara worms fit well with little modification. All plants, slimes and molds from any setting generally work. Same with most spiders, insects and some of the birds. You can adapt any of the cleansed races and fae to an undead template. All the elemental things fit well, at the very least in the inner planes. Some of the odd golems might work (like wax or repeater constructs). You can always take a humanoid you like and make it a larger or rarer variety of the existing ones - like adding abilities to a clan of Hej-kin. Some of the water-types can even be altered for silt existence… I have giant silt crabs in my game, there’s nothing keeping you from having silt crab men somewhere off the shore as well. I’ve been working on silt aboleth to possibly work with psurlon. And modified the psurlon to include a doppelganger-type variety.

1 Like

good feedback.
Undead cleansed races is clever - hadn’t thought of that before.
Silt-aboleth with doppleganger-psurlon! Brilliant!
On the topic of slimes, puddings and jellies though–wouldn’t those get somewhat desiccated?

First, bear in mind that Athas is not just one climate, it is many. There are cooler and wetter areas. The Ringing Mountains, caves, etc. Second, many of the more famous oozes (Tyrian, Dagolar) are known to exist in the sewers.

Finally, there are oozes that are confirmed to live in hot arid environment. Heck, if a lava ooze can exist, why not a desert one?

1 Like

I would agree that many can be easily done for Athas.

Animals and beasts.
Giant worms of all kinds
Vermin and swarms

However, I am looking not just what CAN be adaptable. I am looking for the things that can substantially enhance, grow the lore and improve the experience. In short, revel in what makes Athas unique, not just reskin something for convenience.

1 Like

I would argue that any addition that doesn’t directly conflict with canon removed species can enhance a game. The rules even state that often simply adding a small psionic power can be enough… and anything can be mutated by the Pristine Tower (and perhaps other relics of the past elsewhere on the planet). I never want my players to know the full extent of the bestiary in Athas and as writ, it’s a lot more limiting than any other AD&D game setting.

Quite true. Give almost any creature psionic powers, make it a bit more metal and nastier and you’re good to go.

However, I like limiting myself in this way. It forces me to be creative. Just by going over these things, I come up with cool ideas. Add in that, the wonderful people people of this forum have so many more cool ideas to add.

1 Like

I don’t know if you know about lomion - the site that compiled all the 2E monsters on one site, but if you page through it, it’s a veritable wealth of ideas. Not sure how legal the site is/was (it’s on wayback machine)… but it’s worth looking up if you have the time.

Interesting resource. Though I will say I don’t lack for good monsters!

1 Like