Exploring the Ancient Gods of Athas

As I contemplate the deep history of Athas, I explore the reality of the gods of Athas, apart from the religious milieu created by the sorcerer-kings. Explanations and histories of these matters are needed when you lead the campaign into a deep tour of some of the cultures of Athas, especially the core Seven City-States. Gods and god-like beings from the Green Age are referenced very rarely but often enough in the lore to take a more in-depth look at the matter. Even if they are almost always unnamed, often enough these ‘divine’ beings seem to survive at least in legends, and that is why it is useful to know a little more about them, and to have some understanding if they are or ever were real, and if they were real, how much their reality comports with the myths told of them.

I will not presently attempt to present a thorough catalog, but for the sake of concision, I shall focus on available data that I recall from the core cities of the Tablelands:

Balic: “Ancient ancestors of modern Balikites developed an elaborate non-religious mythology of fictional parables, like fairy tales. This legendary world pervades all the city’s culture, drama, epic poetry, and music…” (Veiled Alliance, p. 32)
Comments: Greek mythology is all but stated here. A tastefully if fairly heavily modified port of Greek mythology is necessitated here. By in a fantasy world, how many of these myths actually exist, or at one time existed? I believe Tyrian and Balican culture (Roman and Greek) are related to one another, and otherwise that Balican culture or versions thereof are widespread, especially along the Silt Sea littoral and islands. Exploration of Balican mythology thus is of major interest for mapping out “gods” in Dark Sun.

Draj: Obviously its god-king dominates the religion, and we may suspect that reference to all other deities are likewise artifices developed by the sorcerer-king. However, like the rest of the sorcerer-kings, King Tec did seem to come from somewhere, leading a culture to Draj’s current location from somewhere likely quite far away from the Tablelands. Whatever gods might have lurked in this older culture before Tec established his rule over them, we cannot see, though obviously they are a port of Aztec culture, and we might consider a sub-strata of beliefs in the divine from that culture buried throughout much of their surviving mythology.

Giustenal: Taraskir the Lion is a lazy observation, as we are all quite familiar with this demigod-like being, who was probably an immortal/advanced being of some sort from the Green Age (I speculate there were an array of such beings throughout Athas in those times). However, during his own lifetime he did not believe himself to be a god, and a single reference in CbtSS (Campaign Book, p. 10) references he had his own god: “Originally, the temple was dedicated to a forgotten god worshiped by Taraskir and his followers.”

Gulg: The oba seems to have completely monopolized the divine portfolio in Gulg. Though spirits and such are recognized, none seem to have taken the identity of ‘god,’ at least to my knowledge.

Nibenay: As I may explore in a separate thread, Nibenese culture, being a fairly direct port of the Khmer Empire, implies the potential existence of deities or at least god-like monsters in the past, though there are not direct examples from the lore, per se. But the Naggaramakkum, for example, is obviously partly based on the fascinating inner palace of the Khmer King. The matter of the Khmer King mating with the naga-spirit-turned-woman every night atop his central tower in the inner palace is an interesting myth that compliments the Naggaramakkum very well, and we may wonder how if any such real-world myths might best support Nibenese cultural development in Dark Sun. Was there a god-like naga that Gallard supplanted at one point? Was Gallard himself responsible for the seven-headed naga legend (if you wish to import that element)? Was such a naga lord a powerful demigod-like being, akin Taraskir the Lion? These are interesting religious themes to explore, or ignore, if you elect to port over much of Khmer culture to Nibenay.

The Ivory Triangle, one of the best DS supplements, does let us know that current Nibenese culture was overlayed upon a more ancient one: “All around the city is evidence of the ancient culture that Nibenay was built upon. Modern Nibenese construction surrounds and intermingles with ancient ruins and edifices. Some of these old sites are abandoned, but others remain occupied by the city’s masses.” (CSoN, p. 2) Nibenay seems a city and culture ripe with possibilities to explore legendary monsters and demi-gods from the remote past that may or may not be rooted in some sort of cultural reality.

Raam: Skipping over the obvious topic of Badna, which seems wholly an artifice of Abalach-Re, we are left with an Indian port, I think specifically that of the Mughal Empire. In this, it is hard to ignore an obvious and strong mytho-cultural link to Nibenay, as the Khmer Empire had major arteries of cultural influence from India. But what are we to find in Raam? The upadna to me are rather direct parallels to Buddhist stupas, which have been obviously crassly co-opted by the Grand Vizier. What gods or religion were these stupas once dedicated to? In my opinion, Raam is one of the least developed city-states, which is a shame, as it seems it could be quite fascinating. Bottom line, to me it needs a lot of work. Is there a sub-strata of the Vedic gods buried in the cultural mythos of Raam? Can we hear in their songs and stories parallel elements of the Rigveda and Mahabharata, tastefully translated to Athas in a not too direct fashion? Some early ideas to explore…

Tyr: The Roman cultural milieu is strong in Tyr. Kalak seems to have erased most any living memory of Green Age gods, but as we well know, reference to such beings are buried beneath the city, deep in its history. The Crimson Shrine is one of the best explorations of divine beings in all of Dark Sun lore, and I explore this below. We might suspect some more Roman and even Greek (via, Balic, in the Greco-Roman tradition) buried in the Tyrian cultural sub-strata, but by the same token Tyr seems to be among the most unique and wholly “independent” cultures of the Tablelands, and is a good model and reminder for how you might best follow certain real-world cultural threads without being too crass and direct (Tyr is a slight parallel to Rome, but only a little, and only in certain ways… always tasteful).

Urik: More than perhaps any other of the classic Seven Cities, the sorcerer-king of Urik seems to have wholly erased any gods that once existed for the people of Hamanu. No references to such beings in this cultural milieu are known to me. Much like Draj, Urik was heavily shaped by its king, and he seems to have crowded out any competing mythology.

Initial Review of Lore on Green Age Gods

From what we know of the gods of the Green Age, it seems that what reality and power they had was fueled only by the power of extraordinary belief. The gods may not actually exist, but the human belief in one could manifest in some of the traditional miracles of the AD&D multiverse, as demonstrated by the unliving knights of the Crimson Shrine beneath Tyr. “Faith keeps the candles burning,” Ktandeo explained to us about the candles of that temple, and mentions not the power (nor the name) of the eagle-headed, snake-tailed, bat-winged god depicted in the stained-glass.

But are we certain that gods on Athas are never affirmed in the canon? Denning quipped in an interview:

*Eric Anondson: “I know that no material was ever going to be published to declare whether or not gods ever existed on Athas. Could you enlighten how this situation worked for the raaig and the wraith of Undertyr?” *

Troy: “Sorry, I don’t think Tim and I are ready to say whether gods ever existed on Athas or not. (We’re STILL arguing about it!)”

There are also Denning’s comments in Dragon 173, p. 21: “Who can say what happened to these ancient deities? Did they ever exist? Did they die? Did they leave, or simply fade away as mortal spirits do now now? This is one of the great secrets that necromancy stands to answer.”

Although my general rule regarding the Denning novels is that when his characters state a thing it is to be taken as a truism for the setting, these above statements color the important comments from the Verdant Passage of Ktandeo regarding the ancient gods:

“The god can’t be still alive. Kalak would never stand for that beneath his city,” Sadira objected…

"You don’t understand, Ktandeo said, pulling himself completely upright. "The gods of the ancients aren’t sorcerer-kings. They were much more powerful. And those who worshiped them did so with all their hearts. Not the way the templars worship Kalak.

"What happened to these ancient gods? Agis asked.

"Ktandeo shook his head. “Like all glories of the past they faded away. No one knows why.”

I believe Denning took a step back from this assertion after Verdant Passage, for never again are we told that the gods of old had a certain reality and power. In this passage alone we are to take it that there indeed were gods, but the mystery is not in their existence, but rather what happened to them.
However, this is stand alone, and a firm no positivist reference to gods is adopted thereafter by Denning and all other DS authors. Certainly by the time of City By the Silt Sea, a more hardline outlook came to fore:

While he may eventually have his revenge on the sorcerer-kings who killed him, Dregoth will never become a god-at least not on Athas. Athas has never had any gods, and it never will. Why this is may never be completely understood, but the fact is that the conduits that allow gods (or powers, as they’’re called elsewhere) to draw strength from their worshipers simply don’’t exist on Athas. No matter what Dregoth does, he won’’t be able to change that fact —and he isn’’t even aware that this is a problem. Without these spiritual conduits, divine power can’t be attained. (CBtSS, Campaign Book, 90)

But what more can we gather regarding the deities of the Green Age. There actually is more lore, which perhaps I will explore further in this thread. Hopefully these explorations bear fruit for your own campaigns, which some of the secrets, and the rich flare they might present to your players, may breathe rich life into the setting.


Difficult questions but I may have an answer. The answer may be completely different depending on the campaign. For example, in one campaign, the gods previously existed. In other campaigns the gods may have never existed at all, or they may have existed in a different form, such as powerful beings or entities that were not truly divine.

If the gods did exist in the past, there are several possibilities for what happened to them:

  1. They may have faded away as belief in them dwindled. Without the power of faith to sustain them, they simply ceased to be.
  2. They could have been destroyed or killed, perhaps in conflicts with each other or with powerful mortals like the sorcerer-kings.
  3. The gods may have chosen to leave Athas, either out of disappointment with mortals, or to escape some cataclysm. They may still exist somewhere else.
  4. The nature of Athas itself may have changed in a way that made it inhospitable or inaccessible to divine beings. Perhaps the spiritual conduits mentioned in City by the Silt Sea were destroyed.

In a campaign where the gods never truly existed, the myths and legends about them could still play an important role. These stories may have been inspired by real events and people, like powerful psionicists or beings from other planes. Faith in these mythic figures could still manifest real power.

Ultimately, the true history of Athas’ gods comes down to the individual Dark Sun campaign. The setting is intentionally mysterious about such metaphysical questions. This allows each DM to decide what best fits their vision of Athas and the stories they want to tell. Whether the gods were real, and what became of them, is for you and your players to determine.


there is two positions about gods on Athas, the first (seems yours) if that gods exists in the past on Athas,
but the second (and more possible, according to either 2e or 4e lore -who are different many ways-) is that gods -as D&D game understand those creatures or powers- NEVER -you read well, never- existed on the face of Athas, as they cannot reach Athas from the outer planes (that also includes evil gods and evil races such as demons and devils) as in Athas there are no planar connection to those places
That does not means that Dregoth cannot summon demons -who actually happens-, but that the godlike abilities of planars such as gods and, demigods does not function on Athas. That also means that abilities tied to the home plane of demons, devils, aasimon (angels), slaadi and others also does not function on Athas, like their gate abilities. Also that warlock pact patrons cannot reach Athas. In fact ANY abilities tied to the outer planes does not function on Athas


I compiled a pdf listing comments on gods on Athas. Here is the link Comments on Gods in all Dark sun products.pdf - Google Drive

You will find there are several types of gamers who believe:

  1. Athas never had gods, and these religions were always fake, only elemental worship existed.
  2. Athas once had gods but they are all gone, no one knows how or why.
  3. The truth is unknowable and although temples, and other places of worship as well as names of ancient beings exist, along with undead who still worship them. No one knows if they were actual gods or powerful elemental lord or something else entirely. The past has been lost to the sands of time, and any who know are not talking.
  4. Or they cherry pick the books and statements and ignore the inconvenient ones to build their narrative of their world view on gods.

I like the idea that there may have been gods in the distant past. That’s what I speculate on with my Dregoth in the outer planes fan fiction. In this scenario, the universe that contains Athas is the original universe, while the universe of the other campaign settings like the Forgotten Realms is the new universe. The Gray, in this fan fiction, was created to prevent the universe of Athas from dissolving completely.


Your compilation is excellent Xelu. Thank you for posting this. Quite useful. Indeed, I think your highlight from Air, Earth, Fire, Water is indeed probably right on target with the appropriate original tone for the setting. Props for zeroing in on this:

“If there is any truth to the rumors, the truth is now as irrelevant as the stony structures of the ancients that sometimes break the the surface of the blasted Athasian landscape.”


1a. Athas never had Deities. However, there were belief systems that developed into religions but the entities that they worshipped were Primordial Spirits of the Land (creatures far surpassing the RAW Spirit of the Land statblock). They were the original Elemental Vortices, Athasian versions of the Elemental Princes (of Admixture rather than purity). They had personalities and ‘racial identities’ but were not Creator Deities, just sentient metaphysical blobs of elemental mass that adopted the beliefs that their observers assigned to them through worship. The Way and Magic both created fractures in the personified elemental amalgams which created schizms in their cults and divided them into lesser beings which were just facets of their previous glory. They’ve been Spirits of the Land since the Vortices that remained were stolen while time degrades their power and memories of their lost greatness


I like to think gods on Athas were a thing, my working theory on this problem is this:
During the Blue Age the conduits required for the existence of gods were in a nascent state or out of whack, while the conduits linked to the elemental planes were already fully formed. The use of the Pristine Tower to kill the brown tide either supercharged them or shifted them into place, and allowed for gods to be formed during the Green Age, only for the third use of the PT by Rajaat/champions to kill the flow of power, either by destroying the less stable divine conduits (as they had to pierce through the gray in order to reach the outer planes) or shifting them out of place once again, where they decayed and were destroyed completely by the Gray.

Depending on the source, if it was Rajaat whose use of the PT to create the champions (as opposed to the champions later using it to turn themselves into 1st level dragons and Borys into a full one) changed the color of the sun, then he may tried (and succeeded) to kill 2 birds with one stone- creating immortal champions and killing the gods of his enemies who might have interfered with his plans.

The living vortices could may well be the last remnants of these divine conduits


I follow the multifarious Athas’s model. That means there are various possible histories, including Rajaat but also possibly excluding him or altering his background or nature.

One intriguing possibility is that the Sorcerer Monarchs were once champions of the true deities, whom they betrayed and cast out. Thus the powers of the Sorcerer Monarchs are based on theft. In doing this, the Sorcerer Monarchs denied Athasians the possibility of being reborn in the higher realms (the Outer Planes) as immortal souls. Instead their souls are dissolved in the Gray.


That’s interesting redking. I am not familiar with your fan fiction. Where might I find this?

That’s interesting, your proposed notion of an “original universe”. One of the better explanations I have come across. I do think the cosmology of Athas is important to any deeper exploration of the setting. It comes up too readily when you go beyond the surface level in game. To me it needs more exploring. I think it was Raddu who pursued the Crimson Sphere concept, and although I admit I am doubtful to admit many of his more far-flung concepts into my version of the setting, I do much appreciate his willingness to explore such topics, and I shall be looking to apply the best of his work there. Such explorations help plumb some important depths that are worthy of a player’s interest.


Most of the posts in this thread. I think you have already seen the first. The rest detail Dregoth’s adventures in the Outer Planes.