Evolution of races

Has anyone ever seen any accounts or stories of how and why the races evolved as they did? For instance, how elves went from being high-bred forest/city dwellers to tall desert runners and thieves? Or how dwarves lost their hair?

DSS3 Elves of Athas gives the Legend of Coraanu Star Racer, the first running elf. I’ve always assumed the in-game history behind the myth was Coraanu was an elven leader who decided to bolt for it rather than face Albeorn (later Andropinis) Slayer of Elves. Natural selection over a 2,000 - 3,000 year period might account for the current elves being lanky long distance runners - the others couldn’t keep up and died, or stayed behind in the cities and forests and were killed during the Cleansing Wars. The degradation of Athas through defiling magic run rampant might have accelerated any changes that resulted from the natural selection.


Dwarves did not loose their hair. Rather, some ancient dishonor caused them to shave it all off in shame. As soon as they are born, they undergo a process that permanently removes their ability to grow hair. Theoretically, a dwarf that never grew up in primary dwarven society would appear much like a classic dwarf.

Is this canonical, or your interpretation? Because that’s very interesting.

I believe it is canonical. I don’t remember where I read it, though. I believe the source that I got it from also hinted that whatever the dishonor was that made them shave off their hair also caused them to leave their mountain homes. That part could just be my interpretation, though.

I can guess the halflings turned to cannibalism for survival. It does not only help with food issues, but maintain enemies at bay.

Take into account, though, that many races in Dark Sun are of artificial origins (muls, half-giants, etc.)

And the Thri-Kreen? Anyone have any sources about them?

Canonically, the Thri-kreen have existed in some form since the Blue Age. They had plenty of time to evolve naturally.

According to the crimson legion, the dwarf of the green age were hairy classical dwarves, why that changed over the centuries isn’t clear, but the now hairless dwarves are very ashamed of the hairyness of their ancestors.
If I remember correctly the kreen of the blue age had wings so they could fly from island to island, with the sea receding at the end of the blue age the lost the wings as they were no longer necessary.

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I recall the winged thri-kreen as well. I believe there is at least one prestige class included in the current material that references that.

Also it is worth bearing in mind that the Pristine Tower could potentially have accelerated the evolution of races, especially for any critters that might have undergone radical changes. This would almost certainly explain the surge of terrible desert monsters plaguing Athas but could potentially explain how elves went from their standard dnd self to the ones we see in Athas. However I honestly don’t see too huge a change in dwarves or halflings to warrant the Pristine Tower altering them. They changed a good deal, but nothing several centuries of cultural and physical adaptation can’t explain.

Dwarves are genetically hairless. That thing about shaving/process at birth or whatever, is not canonical. For example, the dwarves of Marnita/Last Sea are hairless, but wear scarves/masks to evoke the beards/hair they lost long ago.

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Another race that evolved (or rather de-evolved) are the gith, since they’re the savage descendant of the Githyanki who tried to invade Athas (and discovered that Athas is too much even for beings who are feared by illithids and made a pact with red dragons).

Actually, the Githyanki failed at their invasion because of the Githzerai mind bomb. And that was suuuuper long ago, although the source notes that the mind bomb may have resulted in the explosion of wild talents int he native population. Which would mean that Yathazor was founded during the blue age.

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I dnot see any need for the involvement of the pristine tower in the evolution of the elves, the cleansing wars are enough of an “environmental pressure” to drive the change from a good woodland creature to an egotistical sprinters.
Faster elves are more likely to outrun their enemies, so these are the qualities that will be past on, and since the population is in a constant drop, these gene will have easier time spreading to the entire race in a relatively short time.
This can also explain the changes to their society, with the good but aloof elves transforming into less and less benevolent beings, but more and more suspicious of others and reliant on their tribes and families, due to the constant pursuits by androphinis’s forces.


I think that every Rebirth race is quite “fast evolving”. Even for vanilla humans, the original boxed set talked about cosmetic mutations (strange eye colors, more fingers, etc) that can happen sometimes.

I agree that after the destruction of their forests, elves changed from woodland creatures to desert runners. Their incredible ability to run, their long limbs, etc, imho are simply the combination of the environmental changes brought by the Cleansing Wars and the “inborn mutability” of the Rebirth Race.

Same for the dwarves: I think that being hairless can help a bit to combat the heat.

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For most of the rebirth races I would honestly be surprised if any of them changed due to the Pristine Tower. I just think it is worth keeping that elephant in the room in mind when wondering what could cause radical changes in Athasian life. Personally I envisioned the races of Athas actually already having some of the qualities we see in them now during the green age and that the cleansing wars just caused a lot of the racial qualities to be taken to eleven in order to survive.

Elves are the one race among the rebirth races that I consider the most different from their standard dnd counterparts. However in other settings we see elves change into new subraces depending on their environment all the time. Wood elves, dark elves, sea elves, snow elves, etc.

+1 for the reminder that in the original box it was quite clearly implied that there’s a lot of rampant mutation in the setting. Cosmetic mutations, that sort of thing. In a lot of the earlier books a lot of NPCs were noted to have strange mutations, as well. So saying that the cleansing wars were the sole/main reason for mutations in the races is a bit disingenuous.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if Athas’ star is a red giant (which, yeah, it is), that means its putting out a lot less UV radiation. Which means that’s not really a “good” source of mutation. (it also means that you’re not going to get as much sunburn, if at all, and skimpy desert attire actually makes sense, since you only need to worry about the heat from the sun, and not the sunburn from the UV radiation, but that’s another topic). As a result, the Pristine Tower makes an excellent substitution for that. The tower was last used when they trapped Rajaat and transformed Borys, but then Borys went crazy and everyone fled, and the dwarves stole the Dark Lens.

Since then, there’s probably not anyone who knows what they’re doing keeping an eye on the Tower. Sure, there are the shadow giants, but their understanding of its workings are probably somewhat limited. So the tower was probably “on” when the dwarves stole a key component, kind of breaking/short-circuiting the whole shebang. Since then, it probably emits random bursts of mutagenic radiation, explaining a lot of the “mutability” of the races.

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That makes sense, and I agree with the “red giant/low UV” bit, but I’ve always seen the rampant mutation as a result of the massive magical ‘radiation’ from the Cleansing Wars. Mainly because I don’t like the Pristine Tower very much. The original boxed set doesn’t mention the Cleansing Wars specifically, but it’s clear that there was some sort of major magical war or wars that led to the current devastation.

The charm behind the first boxed set, imho, is that the past of Athas is shrouded in mistery.

We know that Athas is a dying world (there are abandoned cities like Bodach and Yaramuke, and no one repopulated them in centuries), that he used to be a better place, but we didn’t know exactly “what happened”.

Personally, I’m ok with Rajaat, the Cleansing Wars, etc., but that takes away room from creative DMs that wanted to build their own “Athas backstory” (ok that no creative DM should be blocked by anything that is published… Dark Sun may be an official setting, but the campaign and the world belongs to the DM and the players :wink: ).