Overpriced Weapons in Athas

Hello there!
Here I am again with one of my material-related questions.

There’s something that always bugged me with weapon prices in Dark Sun. According to the original (2e) books, the general cost of life on Athas is calculated by simply converting GP (from the PHB) into cP. Meaning that if something cost 3gp in standard D&D worlds, it costs 3cp in Dark Sun. It also states that if something is made from metal normally, in Athas it’s made from something else.

So generally speaking life costs the same in Athas unless you are purchasing something actually made from metal.

The book implies that weapons specifically cost a % of their PHB gold prices instead. 30% for bone, 50% for stone, 10% for wood.

Which means that weapons, even from crude materials, are flabbergastingly expensive in Dark Sun. Here’s an example:
Metal Battleaxe: 500cp (since it costs 5gp in the PHB)
Bone Battleaxe: 150cp
Stone Battleaxe: 250cp
Wood Battleaxe: 50cp

Technically life cost in Athas is 1% of gold values for everything else. Meaning that while someone earns 10gp in a normal world, this fella would earn 10cp in Athas. But that fella in the normal world would buy his battleaxe for 5gp, while in Athas even a bone one would cost a whooping 150cp (300x more expensive relatively speaking.)

Personally I always house-ruled that bone/wood/obsidian weapons simply cost their PHB values in cP instead, like every other item.

It doesn’t seem right to me that in a world like Athas weapons would be so expensive to the point of most people not even being able to afford one. I know that supposedly the Athasian “original” weapons (such as Impaler, etc) don’t cost that much, but still it’s illogical to think that an Impaler would cost 4cp and an axe 150cp.

But I’m curious how other people approached this discrepancy.


I have also discovered this problem. I always convert the cost to cp, from gp, then reduce the cost. For example, that stone battleaxe would be 2.5 ceramic. 5gp becomes 5cp, multiplied by .5 equals 2.5.
Of course, I also swapped the bone and stone cost multipliers, because why do I pay more for an inferior weapon?

Rajaat99, I have done that a couple times myself.

Other times I set everything as just 1gp -> cp but made it so that each material is better for a type of weapon. Obsidian is better for cutting but worse for blunt damage. Stone is all right for blunt, and so one. Then if you use a more appropriate material its -1 adjustment only, but if using the worse option it’s -2 on hit and damage.

This sort of makes sense to me, as the people in Athas are not all savages improvising weapons, they just don’t have metal available, but I suppose they’d build their weapons with the most appropriate material available. Unless they really want to make it cheap, or for some other purpose like sadistically giving slave gladiators bad weapons to fight with!

1 Like

Curiously, the two old PC games use the rule as written. As in, weapons in those games cost a lot more than other things. Which doesn’t make much sense considering the amount of weapons everywhere.

What happens (and what would end up happening in a tabletop game as well), is that collecting weapons and selling them for the average 1/2 price becomes a huge and disproportionate money-making machine. If a stone axe really cost 250cp you could grab just 4 from a group of thugs you’ve defeated and fairly easily have money to buy a metal one for 500gp. In theory.


I’d have to go get my 2nd Edition box down and look to be sure, but off the hip I recall prices being really variable across the city-states. “Free” villages had the highest prices because most of them aren’t on a map or getting trade, but they also have the most limited currency on hand. So, the most profitable places to sell usually have the least amount of money to spend. I recall Urik having a reduced value on obsidian because it is the primary producer of obsidian, Nibenay and to some extent Gulg have a lower price on wood, Draj had a lower price on rope, clothing, and grain, etc. Particular materials also make for better weapons than others. Obsidian is better for slashing weapons, mediocre with piercing weapons, not great with bludgeoning, so an obsidian longsword will usually fetch a better price than an obsidian mace unless you’re selling to a picky Fire Cleric who wants a bludgeoning weapon. Stone was always irksome because you’d think they’d use flint for piercing and slashing weapons and something with different properties for bludgeoning, but I recall never being able to dig up any information on what “stone” was being used or where it was being produced to run through a value calculation.

The other thing is that the Athasian materials do have issues with breakage. You can’t reforge obsidian or stone, and I can’t recall if they can even be sharpened once they lose their edge. If the materials rules are enforced I’ve found that non-magical weapons break down regularly, especially if using the 3.5 hardness/item HP values and having enemy fighter types throwing sundering attacks… As literally anyone living on Athas would be aware that most weapons and armor can be broken down if you hit it right. Usually when I’ve run Dark Sun the party is more often than not scrambling for crafting materials or scavenging for themselves until a surprisingly high level (high weapon purchase costs and high breakage rates work against PCs and encourage crafting skills and… creativity). When they scavenge weapons or armor from bodies I’ll have them roll dice according to the item HP and subtract the value from the listed max to determine how many HP the item has left. For example, if a random item has 16 HP listed, roll 2d8 and deduct the result from 16 to see what kind of shape the item is actually in.

It has never really come up for me, but an item that can’t be repaired and can be appraised to have less than half of its HP left would take a substantial hit in value… If the value is low enough, a stone axe (for example) might only be worth a bone quarterstaff + a leather strap divided by four because the party would be selling it for scrap/components, essentially. Less if they are in a region where bone and leather are highly common (I think, in this case, bone and leather are ubiquitous in the Tablelands unless they have special qualities).

There is also the problem of how they are carrying enough weapons back to “town” to be profitable. The cost of supplies and the problem of how 4 medium sized creatures might actually carry ten 2 handed weapons across a hostile desert and be ready to defend themselves… Not an encumbrance issue, more of a “Where are you putting the stuff on your body to carry it?” question. If they have a half-giant, they have to feed and water the half-giant for the round trip, and where weapons get the best prices, food and water usually have elevated cost, too. Spellcraft/Psicraft probably wouldn’t cut it at lower levels even if someone loaded up on carrying gimmicks. A kank and some tac and rope might be a cheaper alternative to a half-giant party member… and might even be profitable, but computing the quality and rarity by region I’m not sure it would be a reliable cash cow and a shortcut to metal. Oh, and of course, surviving killing armed wastelanders for their gear might be a snag in the long term, too. Doing this stuff in a city-state or outpost would be even more dangerous.

Stuff like this is one of the reasons I’m loving this site. I stumbled across it when just starting to plot out a game and a lot of the topics here are either things that I’ve never thought of or are good at provoking some thought into the unique nature of the setting.

1 Like

There was work on an errata page for 2E at one point. This was not my conversation. This was brought up; I cut out the specific part.

Weapon Costs: Stone-Obsidian/Bone/Wood weapons should cost 5%/3%/1%, rather than 50%/30%/10%, as listed in the book. Also, see below:
From: Eric Stephen Weilnau (The Sage)
Subject: [DARK-SUN:2504] Weapon costs corrected from AoH

In a personal message a member of the list (Teos Abadia)
suggested that if I simply gave the correct costs for the
Weapons Table in AoH it would not be a violation of
TSR’s copyright.

Cost (for metal)
Alhulak (CGHB) 9gp
Bard’s friend (DM#185) 10gp
Cahulaks (DM#185) 12gp
Carikkal (CGHB) 8gp
Chatkcha (TKoA) 1gp
Crusher (DM#185) 24gp
Datchi club (DM#185) 12gp
Dragon’s paw (DM#185) 15gp
Forearm axe (CGHB) 10gp
Gouge (DM#185) 6gp
Gythka (TKoA) 6gp
Impaler (DSRB) 4gp
Lotulis (CGHB) 15gp
Master’s whip (DM#185) 6sp
Puchik (CGHB) 6gp
Quabone (DSRB) 1cp (never made of metal)
Singing sticks (CGHB) 5bits (never made of metal)
Tortoise blade (DM#185) 9gp
Trikal (CGHB) 12gp
Weighted pike (DM#185) 6gp
Widow’s knife (DM#185) 5gp
Wrist razor (DSRB) 10gp

The alhulak, cahulak, carikkal, chatkcha, crusher,
datchi club, and master’s whip can be easily made without
metal for 1% of the listed price and don’t suffer attack or
damage penalties. I still recommend the use of the original
sources as they have better descriptions than AoH and the
Dragon Magazine and Gladiator’s Handbook give special uses
for the weapons for proficient and specialized users.

Date: Thu, 7 Dec 1995 07:10:19 GMT
From: Eric Stephen Weilnau (The Sage)
Subject: [DARK-SUN:2544] Re: Weapon costs corrected from AoH

On Tue, 5 Dec 1995, Fabio Mascarenhas wrote:

Thanks for posting this, Sage, this will help a lot.
Are the weight and damage in AoH’s table correct?
(for > stone/obsidian weapons, that is)

I rechecked the Table again. All the stats listed in AoH
(with the exception of the prices of course) are for metal
(not stone/obsidian) versions of the weapons listed. There
is one exception; the stats for the Trikal are all wrong.
Bill accidentally gave the stats for a Talid (which is a
particularly nasty gladiator’s gauntlet with spikes on the
knuckles, a horn on the elbow, and a blade on the thumb for
cramped fighting–4gp and can be made from other materials
without the usual to hit and damage penalties). The stats for
a metal trikal should be as follows:
Trikal 12gp 8 L S/B 8 1d10/1d10

Equipment: A barrel of water (30 gal) costs 2 Cp, not 2 sp. Otherwise it would be DOUBLE the price of a tun of water (250 gal). Kevin of TSR has backed this up. Also, the price of all materials, including water, is subject to change depending on where the characters are. See the Traders book.