Lalali-Puy: most evil Sorcerer Monarch?

The “forest goddess” of Gulg is perhaps the most wicked of the Sorcerer Monarchs. Yet the Oba (literally “forest goddess”) is quite often mistaken for a force for good, or at least the regeneration of the natural environment, by Dark Sun fans. The fans can hardly be blamed for thinking so - the Revised Campaign Setting stated it outright.

A significant change in Gulg society concerns the Veiled Alliance of the city. Gulg’s Veiled Alliance has always actively worked to restore Athas to its verdant glory, never directly opposing the will of the sorcerer-queen.

Now that the Oba has declared her own intentions for restoring Athas, the two seem to have less to fight over. The Oba has even extended a “peace leaf” to the Alliance, calling for the preservers to shed the veil of secrecy and join the forest goddess’s quest to save the world. The Alliance hasn’t responded yet, but rumors persist that the preservers will soon come out of hiding in the forest city. The Alliance’s leader, Aukash-Pad (LG male human) , is utterly committed to restoring Athas’ life force. If the Oba continues to genuinely work toward that same goal, he may be forced to join with her for the good of the world.

Here are some of the crimes of which I accuse the Lalali-Puy. Some of it is necessarily interpretation made in good faith.

Blasphemy: Lalali-Puy claims to be a deity, a “forest goddess”. She forces or gaslights the citizenry of Gulg into worshipping her. The citizens of Gulg lay down their lives in the pointless wars and skirmishes with the more powerful neighbouring city of Nibenay, believing that they will join with the forest spirits after death.
Of course, some may point to the other Sorcerer Monarchs as doing the same thing. “The Mighty and Omnipotent Tectuktitlay, Father of Life and Master of the Two Moons” of Draj claims to be a god. However, it is not clear that besides his templars that his people have been deceived. Dregoth, ruler of Guistenal, also claims to be a god but is undead and mentally ill. Dregoth’s 3.5 statblock includes Delusional (Ex) as one of Dregoths stats. The people of Gulg believe the Oba.

Thrallherding: This requires a little bit of interpretation, because it applies to a 3.5e version of Lalali-Puy. Every 3.5e build that I have seen of Lalali-Puy includes levels of the thrallherd prestige class. That means that Lalali-Puy is a cult leader using a psychic resonance to control her thralls and believers (see the link for the mechanics). The 4E first party #414 Dragon Magazine article Eye on Dark Sun - Slaves of the Oba makes it clear that Lalali-Puy enslaves nature spirits as well. It is quite likely that one of Lalali-Puy’s thralls is a spirit of the land.

Hunting of Endangered Species: It was at Lalali-Puy’s command that the Gulgan variety of kirre was hunted to extinction in the Crescent Forest.

Training of Defilers: Although Lalali-Puy does not differ in any respect in this from other Sorcerer Monarchs, it does go to show that Lalali-Puy is not as respectful of the land as some people claim. To be fair, Lalali-Puy uses trees of life for defiling magic, just like other Sorcerer Monarchs, so the environmental impact is less than it would be otherwise.

Humanoid sacrifice: Lalali-Puy shares this practice with the ruler of Draj. Some of the humanoid sacrifices of Gulg are brainwashed volunteers, which in a way is worse.

Communo-fuedalism: All property in Gulg, including every sentient being inclusive of citizens and slaves, belongs to the Oba. Its hard to have any rights in a society when you are considered to be property of the ruler. Free commerce is basically non-existent.

Anti-Education: Even more so than in other cities of Athas. Even nobles of Gulg disdain literacy. There is an oral tradition in Gulg, but it is prone to corruption over time.

Conclusion: Lalali-Puy enforces primitivism on her subject population to make them uncritically worship her as a goddess.

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You forgot one, hypocrisy. If it was necessary, or if she thought it would benefit her enough, she would defile and destroy the forest without regret.

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Aside from hunting endangered animals to extinction, doesn’t Tectuctiklay do all of the above? I’m not doubting the Oba is an evil monster that deserves a place on the pyre with the rest of the SKs. Rather, none of the listed crimes were anything I didn’t associate with the majority of the SKs. Hell even humanoid sacrifice I associated with most SK rituals, just Tectuctiklay and the Oba made it an open and religious affair.

Blasphemy is part and parcel for the SKs, just look at Abelech-Re and Tectuctiklay. Hell I’d lump in Hamanu there as a sort of Alexander the Great warlord styled as a demigod, but that’s debatable. It seems the biggest point you’re arguing about how the Oba is worse about it, is that we know for a fact her followers believe her lies. The fact Lalali-Pui has done a better job at her heresy (as I like to call false faiths in D&D) than the others feels a bit flimsy. But I also assume Tectuctiklay and Hamanu have the majority of the citizens thinking of them as divine beings.

Using psionics and magic to enslave those around you? If there’s a SK that isn’t doing that then color me surprised. I don’t fuss over 3e statistics, but I assumed all the SKs did that to some degree. The Oba would certainly be one who favors this tactic more than say Hamanu or Kalak. But I could see more than a couple SKs favoring the same tactic. Don’t get me wrong, thralling a spirit of the land is pretty damn evil. But Kalak, Hamanu, Dregoth, and Kalid-Ma all tried or did wipe out entire city states. The last fragments of civilisation that are practically irreplaceable. If we’re ignoring the sins of the Cleansing Wars (a big if) then that alone measures up pretty high on the evil scale.

Now the communo-feudalism and anti-education of Gulg is pretty backwards and horrible. So I do think you have a good point that the Oba is by far the most repressive SM in the setting to the point that her only rival in that area is Daskinor. I still see her as a deluded hypocrite that believes human sacrifice will lead to a revitalized Athas, but she absolutely is an evil monster that deserves to die and be remembered as nothing more than a cautionary tale.

TL;DR: It seems like the Oba is every bit as evil as the other SKs, but is also a huge hypocrite that also leads a highly repressive civilisation even by Athasian standards. Whether this makes her the most evil is debatable, but Gulg is certainly one of the worst city states to live in, if not the worst.

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I like all the different flavors of evil with all the SKs. One thing that came to mind with the Oba was does she have a ziggurat like the others? What does it look like? Or do her forests take its place?

I could see her equivalent of a ziggurat entirely built out of organic material and giant living trees. All kinds of foliage covering it and beautiful gardens surrounding it. Upon her transformation to a dragon, if she gets to that point, the whole thing is turned to a pile of ash in an instant.

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She lives in a giant tree. That’s her palace.

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Sure, but palace != ziggurat

Kalak lives in his Golden Tower and yet has a ziggurat.

I’m looking for the Oba’s equivalent of a ziggurat. I’ll go do some digging in City-state of Gulg book

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Kalak’s ziggurat served a specific narrative purpose. Unless Lalali-Puy is planning the same thing as Kalak, there is no reason for her to have a ziggurat.

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That’s what I thought. But then don’t some of the other SKs have a ziggurat or similar structure? Nibenay? Draj?

I don’t mean to get off topic. If the events of the Verdant Passage had happened with Lalali-puy instead of Kalak how would that play out?

I think we all think the only reason she has her forest is so she can just defile it as needed. And restoring Athas would only allow her to defile more.

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This:

Pg 62 Revised Boxed set

Behind the rhetoric, Lalali-Puy actually wants to help restore the vitality of Athas. The Gulgs have always had an enlightened understanding of the interconnected nature of all life, so they’ve always treated the forest as a precious resource that must be maintained and not depleted. This attitude comes right from the Oba herself, which may seem strange as she is a defiler of extreme power. Since taking over Gulg, however, she has learned to temper her use of defiling magic in favor of keeping her forest healthy.

Of course, this attitude was one of the contributing factors to the problems with Nibenay. The Nibenese saw the forest as a resource to be exploited, not a living thing that cares for its inhabitants as they care for it. Nonetheless, Lalali-Puy has made the first moves toward a peaceful existence with Nibenay, going so far as to teach the sorcerer-king how to preserve the life-giving environment of the Crescent Forest.

The Oba’s motivation isn’t entirely selfless. She believes that when the forests return to Athas she will be deified by all races, just like she’s been in Gulg. “Let Nibenay and Hamanu play as sorcerer-kings,” she has decided, “for in the end I will be as a god to all of Athas.”

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This paragraph indicates that more nature/trees will make the rest of Athas worship her like the people of Gulg worship her, not that she is plotting to restore nature just so she can defile it. The idea that more trees/nature will make people worship Lalali-Puy doesn’t really make sense at all when you think about it.

I assert that Lalali-Puy cannot do what Bill Slavicsek proposes that she is doing in the Revised Campaign Setting. Look at the prolific forestation spell (I did a 3.5e conversion here). Avangions can do it because they are able to generate more life energy than they draw. They are like a magical free energy device. A defiler like Lalali-Puy would have to power the prolific forestation spells with her own XP, through sacrifice of living creatures (either animal or sentient), or a combination of both to gather the energy to create the forests.

It would be interesting to find out exactly how many people use Free Year 10 as the starting point for their Dark Sun campaigns. For the people that do not, what is the point of referencing the Revised Campaign Setting, which is based on the metaplot of the Prism Pentad (and arguably botched or retconned what happened in the PP)?

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Your reference to the prolific forestation spell makes me think that you see the reforestation process as a magical one. However, what I understand from the Revised CS text, is that she’s working in a natural way, as we would do on Earth.

And if she’s able to make the Crescent Forest bigger, the people who lives on the reforested terrain would probably be assimilated by the Gulg culture, and would worship the Oba as their savior.

And yes, I’m currently playing a Free Year 11 DS campaing :slight_smile:

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You should look into what it takes to reforest a desert in the real world without magic. It isn’t easy and requires vast resources, and that is with all our modern technology.

The people left maybe. The lifestyle of Gulg cannot support the population numbers of other places on Athas. Its basically a plan for genocide, if you think about it.

Of course it will take vast resources and time, but that is precisely something the SK have in abundance. And they can use preserver magic when needed to overcome problems we would solve using our advanced technology.

And regarding the genocide… yes! That’s something I would expect from a depicable sorcerer-queen! “A lot of people will die, sure, but in the end, the remaining ones will adore me as their godess”.

It’s the same thing that Dregoth wants, but using a different approach: she wants power and thinks the best way to get it is by increasing her followers. And their followers would thrive with more natural resources.

I always assumed defiling magic could be used to revitalize the land. We know there’s no higher moral power involved in defiling/preserving, just different approaches to harnessing life energy to fuel arcane magic. Defiling is a much more brutal, but also more overtly powerful method. So in theory what’s to stop a defiler from destroying one environment and using that power to revitalize another ecosystem? Preservers may be more precise and careful that they could probably manage this more easily, but I think it’s fair to say that the SKs are skilled enough defilers to be able to manage this despite its counter intuitive nature.

So if we go by that leap of logic, then it should also be possible to use dragon magic to wipe out entire populations to create new revitalized ecosystems. While these are leaps of logic, they feel a bit more reasonable when we remember the Oba has access to enslaved forest spirits and quite likely a spirit of the land. If anyone has the means to create such a ritual it’s Lalali-Pui (and probably Borys).

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Don’t forget that Sorcerer Kings and Queens could easily employ, enslave or buy the fruits of preserver magic. Just because they can’t cast prolific reforestation magic, doesn’t mean they wouldn’t harbor another mortal they can control.

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I actually use her as neutral in my Athas.

I’d be interested to hear more. Can you elaborate on this?

In my take of Athas there are a lot of sorcerer kings more then canon, because there are more city states. And not all of them were champions of Rajat. Some of the Champions actually turned from their evil ways, and the Oba is one of them. She is True Neutral and she is venerated by druids and her own clerics alike.

I actually think its hard to reforest a desert IRL because we’re shortsighted - we want it to happen like magic, but don’t have magic. Long-term, pushing grasses and some trees out a few inches or feet per year to take advantage of the nearby moisture retained by the forest and keeping the soil in place long enough to retain any available water is the exact natural process that would occur- its how/why dunes are retained in place.

Druid or preserver magic to accelerate plant growth or reinvigorate them when wilted would go a long way.

Given centuries, it’d have a real impact.

Also, i seem to recall that Glug/Nibenay have scrubland (or at least places with client villages) that extend away from the Crescent Forest, so there’s good-ish land to convert to forest already in place.

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More foliage would spawn defilers like maggots spawn on rotten meat. I’m not saying don’t do it. What I am saying is that the anti-nature forces are out there on Athas in a way that they aren’t in the modern world.