Elemental vortices; or the contradictions in Dark Sun about how Sorcerer Monarchs grant spells

What a mess the canon is regarding the methods and origins of Sorcerer Monarchs granting spells to templars. Back on the WotC forums, the debates were lively. If the debates were in person, they may have resulted in a gladiatorial match.

Contradictions on the origins of the ability of Sorcerer Monarchs to grant spells.

Dark Sun Boxed Set (September 1991)

Templars are clergymen devoted to the sorcerer-king of their city. Like other priests, they are granted spells in return for their worship. Unlike true priests, who draw their power from the elemental forces of the world, Templars tap into the magical forces of their sorcerer-king. When a templar beseeches his monarch for a spell, the sorcerer-king grants the request by employing his own mystical energy to power the templar’s magic. Because of the strain this places on both the sorcerer-king and the surrounding land, young templars do not ask for (or receive) many spells. As close personal servants of the sorcerer-king, however, high-ranking templars have greater access to magic than one might expect.

Analysis: The templar’s spells come direct from the Sorcerer Monarch, drawing from the Sorcerer Monarch’s own store of energy defiled from plants and animals. Hypothetically, a templar could continually ask for spells, but as a practical matter they are limited by the number of spells per templar class level as given in the rules.

Dragon Kings (May 1992)

Essentially, the seven sorcerer-kings are the first defilers who matched their great magical skills with ultimate psionic power. When they attained this level of magic is unclear, though rumors about their age range into the thousands of years, they are probably much older than that. On attaining the first stage toward dragon form, the seven delved deeper into research to understand what they had begun.

Each had mysteriously become the focus of unlimited elemental magic. Though they couldn’t tap this power themselves, the sorcerer-kings could impart that power to their followers, the templars. The end result was clear, but why this transference of power became possible remains a mystery, even to the sorcerer- kings.

In actuality, with the casting of their first metamorphosing spells, the sorcerer-kings each attracted the attention of a very powerful and rare creature - a living vortex. With spidery fingers firmly anchored in all the elemental planes and the prime material plane, the living vortex is a continuous conduit of magical energy. The sorcerer-kings are, until their deaths, a source of elemental magical power funnelled directly to them by their living vortex, a creature they don’t even realize exists

With the passage of centuries, the living vortices have become extinct. Therefore, no future dragons will gain the ability to transfer elemental magic to templars. The original sorcerer-kings will take that privilege with them to their graves.

Having achieved magical mastery, the sorcerer-kings began their suppression of other wizards. They reserved wizardly magic for themselves, and fledgling mages were hunted and killed. In the centuries since they took power, no other mage has risen in power to challenge the sorcerer-kings.

Analysis: The ability of the Sorcerer Monarchs to grant spells was a mystical happenstance. They draw power from the elemental planes to provide spells to templars, contradicting the original boxed set. The living vortices are extinct in order to prevent the PCs from seeking this power is the metagaming perspective.

DSS2: Earth, Air, Fire and Water (September 1993)

Although templar magic comes directly from the elemental planes, templars do not have the ability to open these channels themselves. The templars must telepathically request spells from the sorcerer-king, and the monarch, in turn, taps into the elemental plane and funnels the energy into the disciple.

The kings have no pacts with the elementals, the source of their power is strange and singular. A living vortex of energy once planted its tendrils on the inner planes and was attracted to the strange metamorphosing creatures that the sorcerer-kings had become. The vortex was a living conduit of raw energy that the kings could direct, but could not control. Much to their frustration and dismay, the sorcererkings cannot use the vast amounts of power they receive from the inner planes, they can only redirect it to lesser beings - their templars.

The vortexes have now become extinct, but the kings have managed to keep the conduit alive much like liquid that, when siphoned through a hose, flows by means of the vacuum created. Once the reaction had begun it could only be stopped by the conscious effort of the one who had opened it. And that time is past and will never come again.

As for the elementals, they are powerless to stop the theft of their diminishing energies. They despise the defilers, but they are too detached and chaotic to identify the sorcerer-kings as the perpetrators.

Analysis: Earth, Air, Fire and Water restates the information found in Dragon Kings.

Dark Sun Campaign Setting: Expanded and Revised (October 1995)

Approximately 2,000 years before the present day, Borys and most of the Champions betrayed Rajaat and imprisoned him in the Hollow. In exchange for the help they provided, Borys gave the Champions that were now loyal to him the following benefits: First, he allowed each Champion to claim one of the city-states of the Tyr Region as his or her own domain, elevating each to the title of sorcerer-king. Then he taught them the process for taking the next step up the ladder of existence: Borys taught the sorcerer-kings how to become dragon kings.

Using the Dark Lens to focus their combined magic and psionic energy, Borys began the transformations of the sorcerer-kings. The resulting storm of energy as the initial metamorphosing spells were cast connected each of the sorcerer-kings to ail of the elemental planes, thereby creating magical conduits through which elemental priestly magic could be cast, This magic could not be used by the sorcerer-kings themselves, but it could be imbued upon their loyal servants, the ternplats, the humans who helped in the Cleansing Wars.

Now the sorcerer-king were like gods, but Borys did not stop there. “One of us must complete the full transformation to dragon if the spells holding Rajaat are to remain in place,” Borys explained. “One of us must become his warden for the rest of time". Borys, of course, was to be that warden. Using the Dark Lens again, the sorcerer-kings transformed Borys into the Dragon.

Analysis: The vortices (or vortexes - both terms were used) are now sidelined in exchange for the Dark Lens connecting the Sorcerer Monarchs to the elemental planes.

Defilers and Preservers: The Wizards of Athas (June 1996)

With the aid of a magical artifact called the Dark Lens, Borys tied the sorcerer-kings together by connecting them to all the elemental planes. They became magical conduits through which elemental priestly magic could be accessed. This allowed the sorcerer-kings to imbue their templars with priestly spells, though they couldn’t use priestly magic themselves.

And -

Although the sorcerer-kings are able to endow their templars with clerical spells, this is a function of their original linking with the Dark Lens. At that time a vortex opened to the elemental planes, granting them the ability to access elemental clerical spells, but not to use them themselves. That linkage is not available to anyone else attempting to become a sorcerer-king or dragon. All the other powers can be gained, but none but the Champions of Rajaat have the power to grant clerical spells to their minions.

Analysis: Dark Lens again, supporting the Revised Campaign Setting. In this instance, the Sorcerer Monarchs themselves are the magical conduits through which the vortex of elemental energy flows.

Addendum:
The Cerulean Storm (September 1993)

What of the Usurper? asked Khidar. Will you make him a sorcerer-king?

Yes, I’ll keep my promise, provided he honors the cause of the Pristine Tower, Rajaat answered.

And if he betrays us like Borys and the others?

My new champion will never do such a thing, the skeleton replied. After he witnesses the fate of the other traitors, he will not dare.

Analysis: Throughout the Prism Pentad it is clear that Sorcerer Monarch is synonymous with Champion. The Prism Pentad contradicts the Revised Campaign Setting and Defilers and Preservers: The Wizards of Athas, which is odd given that both of these products were published for the purpose of updating the Dark Sun setting with the storyline given in the Prism Pentad. In this version, the ability to grant spells templars was provided by Rajaat, using the Dark Lens and Steeple of Crystals, when he transformed his chosen followers into Champions/Sorcerer Monarchs/Dragons (all the same thing). Getting at what the author was thinking at the time is basically impossible, but it is either a retcon or a mistake. Given that the entire purpose was to update the setting to conform to the Prism Pentad, it seems likely that Bill Slavicsek simply misunderstood the background history provided by the various characters in the Prism Pentad.

There we go. Next I will examine whether the Sorcerer Monarchs receive spellcasting data when their templars cast or ask for spells. What exactly do the Sorcerer Monarchs know?

1 Like