How did Athas dwarf change so fast?

I have been rereading a lot of my Athas info and I have noticed that many races of the world have change very fast. For example some places say the dwarven kingdom was in place a little as a thousand years ago(The Crimson Legion novel), but most places say it is two thousand. I can see if the race lost the ability to read and write they could also lose track of the years.

So if we use the two thousand year as a point for the dwarfs having cities and culture very close to the other fantasy setting how could a race that isn’t known for change change so quickly?

I will agree two thousand years is a long time but if you think about in in generations that isn’t that many. Some setting have dwarfs living 400+ years but I see that dark sun says 200+ years. That would be some where between 5 and 10 generations have passed and in that time all dwarfs have lost
1 The ability to read and write
2 Lost most if not all the oral history and stories
3 Have no or little knowledge of their kingdoms
4 Physically changed to stronger builds and no hair.

My thoughts
1 I can understand if writing is outlawed you could lose that over time. My guess is it didn’t happen all at one time but over 2 or 3 generations I can see how that could happen

2 Oral history and stories I don’t see how they would be lost so easy, if you have lost the writing this is something you would have held on too very hard. I know memory is not perfect but we are only talking a few Generations it seems like a stretch to me

3 Again this seems like something you would hold on too and while you might have forgotten the locations but the names would have stayed along with the wealth the kingdom had.

4 I can understand selective breeding making them stockier or stronger but the hair I can’t explain. I also assume the this Pristline tower is causing mutations of the races which could also explain these changes and a shortened life span.

So my question is for anyone else that might know are there other reasons given for the changes that have happened? I can understand races with shorter lift spans changing faster but long lived races change would happen slower is my thinking.

I’m not complaining or saying the setting is screwed up I fully understand the DM is welcome to change things for his world as they see fit. I’m just wanting to talk with others about a cool setting I enjoy and maybe get some other view points on stuff.

It was the Cleansing Wars. I wanna say ~2% of the total dwarven population of the Tablelands survived; if Kemalok fell, they would have gone functionally extinct.

And remember, slavery (and Muls) is probably at fault for destroying a lot of that knowledge. Breaking up family groups is a pretty effective way of destroying culture…


I thought about the Cleansing wars too but that lasted 1,500 years so all the races had to know if was happening and maybe saw their end was coming. I wouldn’t be surprised if some leaders put things in place to help future generations save their history which is kinda what Kemalok was.

But I would follow up with this question. At Kemalok the king sent half the dwarfs into the caves to hide from Borys so the race would live on. So where did they go? I don’t remember reading anything about them years ago but I didn’t read everything that was out there. Or maybe that is a legend lost in time. It could be possible there is a underground dwarf city someplace on Athas.

I agree slavery would break up family units and would cause a huge lose in culture. I think that is a good way to explain how that came to be. But deep down I think less then 10 generations isn’t long enough because for the Elf that could have been 2 generations ago.

Do any of the books, adventures or box sets cover the gnome race? I could see their cities getting lost and maybe confused with Dwarf ruins.

Highly doubtful that anything gnomish was left considering it was Nibenay/Gallard who was Bane of Gnomes.

As for dwarves changing so quickly ,probably a combination of the Pristine Tower/defiling magic and the changes to the sun caused by Rajaat making the Champions.

Finally, as for the ones that were sent into the deep caves…if I am remembering correctly they became trapped and either devolved into the hej-kin or became trapped and interbreed with them, thought take this with a grain of salt because I can’t remember where I read this at.

Sounds like a good excuse to put Derro into DS…


Depending on what wild talents that derro would have on Athas…I still think the Hej-kin would still eat them alive, especially since we all know derro mine, which the hej-kin detest.

The Dwarves could still be down there, hiding from Borys. They could have died of. Or, they could have changed into something worse.
As for the Dwarf racial changes, they’re stronger because of natural selection. Weak Dwarves just died off. I thought the bald thing was because they were dipped in acid as babies to remove all their hair. I thought I recall reading that somewhere.

That wouldn’t explain why Muls are hairless as well…

I agree not likely the Gnomes are still around but it is a cool idea to think what if.

I didn’t think about the defiling magic side of it. But I do see the Pristine Tower is some kind of radiation maybe not the tower it self but what goes on there. That would explain a lot of the mutations and the “new races” that spawn up in the desert.

I will keep reading and make sure I read up on the Hej-kin that is a cool idea with the dwarfs.

I think the novels give a ton of info and are pretty good reads so far, I haven’t read them all yet but its a long summer.

Good point. I can’t remember where I read that anyway, it may have been one of the Lynn Abbey novels, which are not cannon and have a few mistakes.

Well with the Prism Pendat (spelling?) series anyone getting hurt near the Pristine Tower would turn into a monster, it almost happened to Sadira if I remember correctly. I try to play Dark Sun as dark as possible, it is a magical post apocalyptic wasteland after all. Surviving the world and maybe coming out a few ceramics ahead is your best case scenario.


About the great physical mutation, I agree that’s due to the Pristine Tower.
If we think about it, every Rebiorth race is a “mutated Rhulisti”, so I envision every Dark Sun race with a greater “mutability” than other fantasy race.
Let’s not forget the humans in the 1st boxed set, they could’ve webbed fingers, vestigial gills, etc.

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Within 2 generations the oral history of several surviving Native-American tribes were lost forever. Same goes for African slaves sent to the Western Hemisphere(better than being sold to the caliphates, i guess). Most Irish-Americans have no idea who Lugh the Shining One is. All it takes is for one generation to either deny or be denied their own stories. Do you know the tales your ancestors told one another 800 years ago? Or the names of the cities they inhabited back then? Most don’t.

I don’t recall hearing Athasian dwarves ever having hair, and for all we know they could be physically unchanged from their Green Age ancestors(though survival of the fittest is in full force on Athas, so they’re probably a bit tougher).

Elves have shorter max lifespans than dwarves in Dark Sun. Elves=160 vs Dwarves=280.

All that being said, the dwarves have a good chance of relearning their ancient history, considering how many undead Green Age dwarves there are canonically.

I think it was in one of the PP books but when Rikus met Rkard( dwarf banshee I think) underneath Kled it talked about paintings and wall murals showing dwarves with hair and beards, as well as bears and other animals that are essentially extinct on Athas. But it has been a decade or two since I read the books.

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That sounds right to me.