Oceans and the Sea of Silt

So this is a topic I’ve been meaning to get to for a bit especially since I’ve been fleshing out the regions beyond Tyr more fully. Is the Sea of Silt occupying what used to be an ocean in Athas or is it more similar to the Mediterranean sea dried up? This topic is one that the material has always kept vague and for good reason but I am curious if other regions may have oceans or if the oceans have completely dried up and are replaced by new hellish landscapes.

I personally side with whatever helps further the “struggle for survival” theme that is Dark Sun, but oceans existing I don’t think would take away from that as anyone trapped on a desert island can attest. So I am curious what you guys have gone with concerning the seas of Athas.

Oh and I am familiar with the fan made world map of Athas that shows all the oceans gone, but I’m more curious about your decisions and why you made them :slight_smile:

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There are a couple of things at play here.

One, we have that pretty cool-looking map of Athas that some guy made in the early 2000s/late 90s, that shows the entire planet covered in silt, and the Deadlands covering a sizable portion of the planet as well. You surely know the one I’m talking about, and I think it’s heavily influenced a LOT of dark sun players.

Second, there’s the athas.org team’s decision to blame the silt sea on Keltis casting an out-of-control epic spell to mess with some lizard folk, which resulted in the seas literally turning into silt.

Third, there’s the very clear implication that the Crimson Savanna of the Kreen Empire is actually the former ocean floor, with the Jagged Cliffs being the edge of a continental shelf.

Fourth, there’s the fact that the silt sea as it “currently” exists postdates the cleansing wars’ conclusion (Giustenal at the time of Dregoth’s assassination was still a port city on the shores of the Sunrise Sea).

Fifth, Borys is clearly blamed in multiple sources for the rapid degradation of Athas during his “century” of madness.

Sixth, Marnita is explicitly said to be the “last sea” of Athas (even though it totally doesn’t make sense as it’s barely more than a large lake, is well above the “sea floor” level of the Crimson Savanna [which, by the way, Kosveret is said to be an elf from the Crimson Savanna during the Green Age, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I always chalk that up to a lot of inconsistencies and lack of communication between TSR writers], and there isn’t any clear and plausible way that it could once have been a part of the oceans/seas of Athas before any sort of gargantuan terraforming project by the mind lords).

What you get as a result is the unenviable position of having to make a LOT of assumptions, and making decisions on how much realism vs fantasy you want in your game. I think 4e went the route of the silt sea actually being the “body” of a primordial? Troy Denning I think said something once about how a passage in the Amber Enchantress was meant to imply that the silt sea was a result of defiling magic’s effect on primordial water? City by the Silt Sea flat out says that the “bay” of silt that Giustenal is on the shore of could actually support water to the point that a powerful enough water cleric could actually “resurrect” the sunrise sea, at least in part. There are numerous instances of open water existing on the silt sea (vanishing lake being the most obvious). If you look at Tim Brown’s Dragon Kings project, one of the major themes that seems a holdover from his initial vision of Athas is that there are outside forces literally plundering the natural resources of the planet: an outside force siphoning off Athas’ natural resources would explain a lot, from the vanished seas to the almost nonsensical lack of metal and resources as a whole.

Personally, I think the silt sea is best as just the sunrise sea. I think there is a magical explanation for it, somehow linked to Borys (I think the Keltis explanation is bad, for multiple reasons). I think there must be other large bodies of water on Athas, just undiscovered for whatever reason, but that the majority of the former ocean floors are bare, as in the Kreen Empire.

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In 4e there is a primordial sleeping below the Sea of Silt, and its the spawner of the silt horrors, but the Sea of Silt’s origins are unknown in 4e. There is one theory that says that Ul-Athra was the one who turned the sea into silt during the Red Age (4e’s name for the Cleansing Wars time period), but there is another theory that says Ul-Athra was a creature native to the seas of Athas and was changed into its current state when the sea turned into silt. The ultimate answer was left to the DM.

In any case, though, Ul-Athra was not the Sea of Silt, just a primordial sleeping under the silt.

As for the rest of the world, I guess there must be a sea in another region of the world. In Dark Sun, we only explore Tyr, a region of Athas (and for what I’ve read, is no bigger than a small country). So, is logical to think that there must be a unknown sea in other regions, or in the other side of the planet.

I also think that the scarcity of resources in Athas is a bit nonsensical.

I agree on the scarcity of resources being a bit over the top. I lean much more in the direction of “mining and smelting techniques have regressed” along with iron being deeper and harder to find rather than all but gone. Civilization just needs to move forward again, unfortunately the world is in a sort of “post bronze age collapse” style dark age, at least in my depiction of the Tablelands.

As for the Sea of Silt being primarily the Sunrise Sea, that was the approach I was heavily considering with a southern ocean beyond the Deadlands. That said I am wondering if the Crimson Savannah region was an ocean floor during the Green Age or just the Blue Age. Since Rajaat did his various experiments at the bottom of the Jagged Cliffs I am inclined to think the Crimson Savannah was only an ocean during the Blue Age.

I, too, prefer to be Borys the responsable for the creation of the Sea of Silt. Maybe it could’ve been intentional: another layer of defense for Rajaat’s prison. The Dragon is “pratically omnipotent” being, he has imprisoned the only one that is more powerful than him… he’d do ANYTHING to make sure Rajaat stays imprisoned.

Here the web site with all the maps:


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Nov 7
There are a couple of things at play here.

  1. I personally love that map, and the blowups that go with it, although it doesn’t cover the entire world, just half of it. It can be used to reconcile some of these issues you mention.

  2. I don’t remember Keltis being the cause of the Sea of Silt, but he could be the originator of the spell and it could have just taken a long time to make it all the way around the world and back to the Sunrise Sea (I tend to go with the Cleansing Wars spanned the entirety of the world). Alternatively, maybe some areas, such as the Sunrise Sea were protected from the silt tide by various magic spells and psionic powers (See point 4 and 5). This does allow for areas to still have water, the Silt Tide could only travel through bodies of open water so isolated areas wouldn’t be affected by it and if the magic/psionic barriers held long enough the spell eventually burned itself out.

  3. Think of the Crimson Savanna as the Dead Sea Basin or the Salton Trough but blown up a ways. Back in the Blue Age, it was the bottom of an ocean, in the Green age, there was a lot of water, but not nearly as high, as the sun burned away some of the water, it drained into underground reservoirs via the Kano Swamp and the Northern Sea.

  4. Having magical/psionic protections on the Sunrise Sea combined with it taking time for the Silt Tide to cover the would could account for this, or even better, using both.160th Kings Age had a lot of cities getting swallowed by the Sea of Silt, protections failing all over the place but still holding in some places such as Bodach.

  5. 164th Kings Age sees Dregoth dead and in the 165th Borys finishes his rage. Borys’s rampage could have been taking out more of the protections and without Dregoth there to renew them, they finally failed allowing the Sea of Silt to take over everything east of Lake Island and the Isle of Bones.

  6. Marnita is the “Last” part of the “Sea” from the Blue age. The Burning Planes has a bit of a dip in it that allowed the Last Sea to connect to the Sunrise Sea.

You do need to make some assumptions and decide what is going to be fact in your world though. Keep in mind CbtSS also stated there were only 13 Champions and that Rajaat was the source of the Living Vortices. Saying each book is written by a specific fallible person helps. I can explain away the discrepancies on where the vortices came from by saying Rajaat initially discovered how to bind them to the Hands, and Dregoth duplicated the secret and helped Borys when it was time to turn the Champions into Sorcerer Kings. That fixes RaFoaDK as well since Hamanu served under Myron.

I liked the notion that Keltis effed up a spell to take out a Lizard Man city and ended up creating the Sea of Silt. It gives the reason behind him trying to restore Athas to the Blue Age (in a non-genocidal war Rajaat way) and also gives PCs a potential cosh to beat Oronis over the head with if they discovered who was to blame - handy psychological hook or emotional blackmail for the DM to use.

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The Keltis creating the sea of silt bit was from fluff in the Athas.org 3E document release. It’s original to the template here, and not based (to my knowledge) on any prior material.

It just feels wrong somehow, partly because there are mud flats and open water in the sea of silt, and how would that jive with the idea that it’s an out-of-control epic spell that literally transforms water to silt?

Again, I also really like the (unexamined) idea that Troy Denning dropped in Amber Enchantress that silt was related to the brown tide and defiling magic’s effects on water/seawater/primordial ocean, and feel that’s a better direction to go than “Keltis wanted to screw over some lizard folk, so he effectively ruined the entire planet’s ecology all on his own.”

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Found it, DS3_r7, page 278, last paragraph of the 1st column.

“An early instance that proved particularly destructive was a spell cast by Keltis to obliterate a lizardmen settlement in the Sunrise Sea. After months of preparations, the spell was complete and the water started to turn to silt, polluting the settlement and killing many. The spell was more powerful than anticipated. The silt continued to grow until it became the
Silt Sea that exists today.”

I would expand on that.

An early instance that proved particularly destructive was a spell cast by Keltis in the 144th King’s Age the year of Ocean’s Agitation (FY -3525) to obliterate a lizardmen settlement in the southern Sunrise Sea. After months of preparations, the spell was complete and the water started to turn to silt, polluting the settlement and killing many. The spell was more powerful than anticipated. While intended to be a localized spell when it interacted with leftover remnants of the Brown Tide present in the water it mutated the spell causing the silt to begin to spread. Magical and Psionic wards were quickly devised to contain or repel the silt. Keltis, spent months attempting to discover what went wrong before Rajaat banned it’s use and ordered Keltis to destroy his research.

I would further add:

With the deaths of so many powerful magic and psionic users the wards degraded over time and in some places were never put in place allowing the silt to spread around the globe through all the oceans and rivers. Only bodies of water isolated from the oceans were safe. During Bory’s rampage the last of the wards in the tablelands were broken allowing the silt to overtake Baltic and with the death of Dregoth, Giustenal as well.

In the 171st King’s Age, the year of Silt’s Reverence (FY -1469), Daskinor Goblin Death slips into insanity. Keltis, Lizard Man Executioner, has an attack of conscience and denounces being a sorcerer-king after seeing the Sea of Silt overtake Eldaarich, the last of the northern wards. Over the next several centuries he strives to become something more noble and undue his earlier damage. Shedding his previous life, Keltis becomes Oronis, rejecting the path of the defiler and embracing the ways of the Preserver, one of his greatest tasks was to create a spell to reverse the Silt Tide. He was able to determine the Silt Tide had become dormant as the Brown Tide had done so long ago but was not willing to chance making things even worse by reactivating it to try reversing the process.


My personal approach is : The sea of silt is an inland see - like the mediterranean sea - that has turned into silt (whatever the reason you like).
The Crimson Savanna is the former ocean floor, with the jagged cliff as the continental shelf, where the water has receded in the most part. The ringing mountains are caused by a subduction of the oceanic plate below the continent where the Tyr region is located. Hence the explanation of the mists and volcanic activity at the base of the Jagged cliffs.
And depending on how you see the world, maybe only one former ocean and one continent (which is interesting because part of the inspiration of Dark Sun come from the John Carter saga which occurs on Mars, where the planet is grossly divided in two : one “continent” and one “former ocean”).
Maybe part of the ocean floor did not solidify and remain in lava state without the ocean above it, to add a bit more difficulties around the Kreen empire.
And maybe the true “last sea” could be the remains of the former ocean in an oceanic trench bordering the jagged cliffs.

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To be frank, at this point what Athas needs is not Arcane meddling, but the clerics of Rain and Water combining to open gates to the plane of Water and vast rainstorms to pound the silt into oeans again. Not sure what the clerics of Sun and SIlt will think mind!

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