Open Call - Secrets of the Dead Lands Completion

Hello All:

For those of you who didn’t see the Dead Lands update forum list below, I’m assembling a team to help finish the Secrets of the Dead Lands book for general use:

What’s more, based on the discussions from the forum, we’re not just formatting the book, but finding ways to resolve the inconsistencies and incomplete bits of the work, as well as ensure consistency between it and the Dead Lands of Athas Ebook project that’s already been in circulation for more than a decade.

This is an opportunity to complete one of the last big puzzle pieces of the known world of Athas. Obviously, this is too much for one person to do alone. Besides, it belongs to all of us, so I’d like to give anyone who is keen on helping the chance to take part.

So I’d like to put out an open call to the group, asking if anyone wants to help.

In particular, there are a few key areas where I just won’t have the time to put any work into myself. Specifically:

1.) Proofreading, making sure the book is readable, and organised in a sane way.
2.) Checking the rules, NPC and monster stats.
3.) Checking for conceptual inconsistencies.
4.) Conversion form 2e to later editions. (Not as high a priority as the other bits, but still important)
5.) Helping with maps (the large one is already under works, but we need help with smaller area maps and adventure maps)
6.) Generating original imagery and illustrations

Would anyone else be willing to help out? If so, send me a personal message.


My area of interest is in the 3.x rules and the relationship between the rules and the world (meaning flora, fauna, biospheres, the environments, up to the world plus connected planes as a whole) and the rest of the 3.x D&D multiverse.

While the sphere of Athas has been and is currently locked, that doesn’t separate it from the rest of the multiverse other than as defined (and there are numerous ways around that) as is clear in the canon presented in the rulebooks.

Thus I might be lured into helping with rules related work.

(As a side note, it would be nice to get the r8 version of the core dark sun book that I submitted released to the site… @flip =D )


I have suggested a DC 100 Knowledge (the planes) and DC 100 Spellcraft check, both of which must be successfully passed when casting a plane shift spell to pass through the Gray barrier to the multiverse of the other D&D settings. For each additional creature brought along, the DC increases by 10. Alternatively, you can use an artifact like the Planar Gate.

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The original spell defines methods to bypass:

Proctiv’s Breach Crystal Sphere

Level: 11
Field: Variation
Range: Touch
Components: V, M
Duration: Permanent
Casting Time: 1 turn
Area of Effect: One sphere
Saving Throw: None

This spell allowed the caster to permanently close a crystal sphere to all traffic (if the reverse of the spell was used), though teleport spells would function. Casting the spell in its normal form superseded any previous seal cast on it, and traffic through the sphere was once again possible. (Any sphere sealed by this spell before the fall of Netheril was closed and cannot be entered except through the use of teleport spells).
The sealing of a sphere prevented spelljamming vessels from entering its space. Only through planar travel, teleportation magic, or other mystical means could one gain entry to a crystal sphere sealed by this spell.
The material component for this spell was a 100-ton spelljamming vessel that contained a major helm, which was consumed at
the utterance of the spell.

From this, we can see that there is no particular skill needed to bypass the sphere, assuming one can find it in the first place. Any planar travel effects, teleportation effects (with enough range), and the DM hand wave of “other mystical means” will suffice.

Obviously, you also had to have access to high magic to pull this or the reverse of the spell off. (High Magic being the original form of epic magic that The Powers sealed off) Or research a similar effect using the current form of epic magic, unless you are from a sphere where even that is forbidden. If I recall correctly, both Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms have epic magic on lockdown by something or someone.

This seems consistent with the means others have used to access Athas in various source books, indeed it answers questions I’ve seen others ask about the on again off again nature of Athas’ isolation. However, it’s not a bad idea to house rule it, especially if you want a little more isolation in your campaign.

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I recognize that spell, and I feel like I kinda get what you’re saying, but I’m here to tell you that it is completely irrelevant to Dark Sun. Defilers and Preservers specifies that not only is Athas crystal sphere sealed, but that the Gray creates a nigh impenetrable barrier against planar travel, and that teleportation magic cannot breach Athas’s crystal sphere. So no, ordinary methods and knowledge do not suffice.

See above. I’m not sure what cannon you are looking at, because TSR eventually settled on Athas being an almost perfect cage.

This is not even true in FR, much less anywhere else. Elven high magic still works just fine. 11 and 12 level magic no longer functions, but 10th still can. in 3e epic magic works fine as well.

Also, and this is getting into speculation, but the nature of magic on Athas leaves me convinced that even if you were to somehow get a Spelljammer into Dark Sun that it would fail to work. There simply isn’t any energy for it to draw upon in space, it would be literal suicide.

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I’m referring to the Gith getting in, the one if not two locations/items on Athas that allow planar travel to and from, and so forth. Ravenloft’s chunk of Athas sorta counts since there are ways to leave it.

For a “perfectly sealed” sphere, there sure are a lot of holes.

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I’ve never claimed it was a perfect seal, nor does Defilers and Preservers, it is, however, a very good seal. But it’s not a total lock like in Eberron, which seems completely devoid of any and all connections to the multiverse (Eberron was made in 3e however, so could get away with it. Still weird though.)

Furthermore a pair of artifacts hardly qualifies as “a lot” of holes. Note that the Black Spine adventure was made before a lot of this was settled (as was Dragon Kings, the other main source for planar weirdness), and even then the adventure specifies that the reason the Nightmare Gate was created was because the Gith found it extremely hard to leave Athas.

Ravenloft’s chunk of Athas is a notorious continuity nightmare, like a lot of things Ravenloft.

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Good stuff! A 3rd edition conversion would be great to have.

As soon as we have the lore and concepts straightened out, we will need various versions, and your help will be fantastic!

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That’s one annoying part of the lore-- they’re frequently contradictory as to how sealed the sphere really is. But I suppose that’s a good thing-- the increased power level of Dark Sun PC’s was never as big an issue as they made it out to be. I’ve found once you reached around level 9 or so, they really aren’t that much more powerful than vanilla D&D characters, especially in 3rd edition and later. Mostly this is due to the fact that psionics don’t really scale the same way as spells, stat bonuses can happen, and Dark Sun armour is comparatively rubbish compared to other settings…

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It’s not really a problem regardless because Dark Sun doesn’t have 500+ epic level mages like FR does, or the similar top end absurdity that pervades most other settings.


The sealed crystal sphere comes from the Spelljammer setting. As it appears in Spelljammer products, I rate it as being of dubious canonicity. This is a similar situation to the spaceport of Palanthas. The Spelljammer setting claims it exists. The Dragonlance setting itself shows that no such spaceport in Palanthas exists.

Oh, is it in Spelljammer? I didn’t know. I found it in the Netheril source book.

Anyway, let’s open another topic if we want to continue this, keep the thread on topic.

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The Grey Barrier around Athas’ crystal sphere is mentioned in several places:

-Defilers and Preservers mentions it
-One of the Planescape books talks about it (the Tales of the Etherial Plane one I think?), and actually gives rules.

Even the Ravenloft Dark Sun setting in Lands of Terror talks about the game balance problems of connecting Dark Sun to other settings…

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Generally, I have always approached the planar approach as having a few options:

  1. Any locked portals/Items that predate the corruption that happened to Athas’s planes. Think of the ethereal and other normal routes as wireless, and a fixed portal as a hard wired connection. Whatever happened to Athas destroyed the normal wireless routes. Dregoth’s gate is like this.
  2. Work from the inner planes back to the wheel. Realize here that any basic plane shift spells won’t work because they were developed during a time when standard planar travel doesn’t exist. So step one get to the inner planes. Step two survive the inner planes. Step three figure out on the inner planes how to get elsewhere (again fixed planar gates there would work). Arguably a psychoporter is the best type of character to do this, but despite its obvious superiority to telepathy and telekinesis it is not the most chosen discipline. I have always taken the Wanderer to be a very powerful psychoporter.
  3. Direct planar research. Very risky. See the Deadlands. To me the Dead Lands makes basic sense. Once you realize that a fixed hardline planar gate is what works best , then that is going to be your approach, however as many a planar traveler has found opening doors is easier sometimes than closing them.
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Hello everyone.

As an update, we’re currently finishing up the Faces of the Dead Lands project, and we could really use a few more good DM’s who are skilled in 3.5 edition rules.

Anyone willing and able to help us build the remainder of this Dead Lands book? You would of course get full access to the Dead Lands materials I have so far in their current state…

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I’d be willing to lend a hand. :wave:


I’m willing to help.

On the topic of leaving Athas, I don’t think that DC 100 checks are really a good way to go. At that point, it’s probably better to just say it can’t be done, or DM fiat only. Epic level spells really aren’t needed, but something resembling Khalid-Ma’s experiment would be appropriate. Setting and the conditions of the Grey and the Black to be sufficiently deadly is sufficient, IMHO. When you may need epic level magic to just survive in the the parts of the far-Gray or far-Black where a portal might be found, the dangers sort everything out on their own. It’s never going to be a reality for most people on Athas.

I recall a story about gith finding a rare portal to Athas, and after landing in the wastes, fighting hostile wild life, encounter hostile locals who were both willing and able to slaughter them, the gith left and collapsed the portal. Athas is a resource-deprived, remote, hell-hole populated by violent superhuman peoples and hyper predatory monsters. The Planar Sphere did a good job with the Dragon Lance knights who were beaten and some of them eaten by cannibal Dark Sun halflings. Those knights were DONE. They just wanted to get home. Anyone living outside Athas who eve knows about the place is probably glad there’s a wall no one seems to be able to get through. Heck, there may be outside forces that help keep Athas isolated. The gods probably aren’t keen on that god-killing thing spreading, and no one except for some fiends (not even all fiends, given the possible outcomes) want Athasian wizardry spreading to other worlds.

On the other side, anyone with the ability to even attempt to leave Athas is a high enough level that they risk a life that they’re almost certainly secure in, and may have even come out on top of, on a dangerous expedition to explore … what? Some unknown realm that may well lead to their deaths? Something that might be better, but could easily be worse? Careless gambles get you killed. Be grateful for what you have. You worked hard to get it.

So, if despite all this, a group of high-level characters have a story that leads them to overcome level 20, 25, or 30 CR challenges to escape Athas… awesome. If they’re lucky, they don’t die, and they end up in a multiverse of wonders, having escaped the harsh realities of Dark Sun. They continue adventuring on the bizarre worlds of the planes, or the campaign concludes at a natural end point.Either way, Athas continues trudging on, a bleak landscape, where most of its people too focused on daily survival to even think about fancies like escaping to other worlds.


Fair point. The only time I’ve used ludicrously high penalties or DC’s is if the party is ludicrously overpowered to the point where their abilities break the dice mechanics of the game. And even then I only did it to ensure there was a small chance of failure at doing something crazy.

If memory serves, this has only happened once in any RPG I’ve ever played.


At DC 100 it is DM fiat. You aren’t reaching DC 100 without a DM that wants it to happen.

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Sure. I just think it’s better to state it at that point.

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