Questions, thoughts and fact checking Athasian giants?

Giants are a big deal in the world of Athas. Rajaat devoted at least one SK to killing them off and is one of the few instances where the SK was not successful in exterminating them. They continue to have an impact on the geo-political landscape. The biggest effect is on Balic, being a neighbor subject to raids. However, anyone seeking to use the Sea of Silt, or wanting giant rope hair, needs to think about them.

The basic use of them in Dark Sun is dwelling as tribes on islands in the Sea of Silt.

Dregoth is no scrub.  Though it's perhaps worth noting that he did seem to lose interest in his mission, especially after the fall of Rajaat.  He did not actively pursue it at the very least. 

Now I read a Pathfinder book or two about giants, and it did go into the unique cultures and roles their different giants play. Given the somewhat unique elements of Athasian giants, I felt like digging in a little deeper.

For the sake of this post, I am ignoring the giants living in Last Sea. They are outliers at best, weird non-canonical adds at worst.

  1. Before the age of sorcerer kings

Curiously, there is no sign of giant civilizations prior to the Cleansing Wars. Giants were certainly around, but I have never found any mention of giant ruins, tombs or even plus sized tools or weapons. Given the small size of the Tablelands it seems likely to me that it may just be a question of geography. The actual giant ruins and artefacts might just be on another continent or something.

Still, this does mean that we don’t have any evidence of what their culture, beliefs or political organization was before the Cleansing Wars.

  1. After the Cleansing Wars

At first glance, the giants remind a little of Polynesians combined with ancient Greek myth. Polynesians did live on lots of small islands. The giants live on islands that would feel small to them. Also, giants in Greek myths often did live on islands, like the classic Cyclops.

The giant culture does seem very uniform. Polynesia could be very different from one island to another. I think the reason for that here is that the Silt Sea Islands have the same climate and terrain throughout most. The exceptions do stand out.

In terms of religious beliefs, I don’t see them as having druids of any kind. Templars, heck no. In terms of the elements, Silt would make a lot of sense. Alternatively, Air, Earth, Fire, Sun and Magma

  1. What is the deal with Taraskir?

So, this is beast head giant, who ruled Guistenal before the coming of Dregoth. After his death he was deified by the citizens and his worship did spread. Reading through the available material, it’s apparent to me that he’s an exception to whatever rules were active to then. Basically, he was a beast head giant adventurer. Sadly, his unique story seems lost.

Rom- This giant variant is from 2nd Al Qadim. Their lore is interesting and easily adapted to Dark Sun. In the original, the giants were a prosperous civilization that pissed off the gods. They were struck with infertility. Doomed to die off, the final members sealed themselves into cairns. There they rest as undead, mournfully playing weird music. Tweak the lore a little, apply a template (mummy, ghoul, etc) and they slot easily into Dark Sun.

Ash Giant- This is Pathfinder Bestiary. Ash giants are a kind of giant that has basically been mutated by toxic waste or some other equivalent. They also have close relationships to insects. This does make them a good fit for Dark Sun. Wonder if their insect affinity spills over to thri-kreen? Hmmm. I would consider using an ash giant as a “one off” NPC monster who lurks in an especially hostile region.

Cave giant- From Pathfinder Bestiary. Cave giants are a kind of sub terrain giant. Savage and degenerate, they look pretty darn bestial to begin with. To use these guys, I think they could be a beast head giant with cosmetic changes.

Cyclops- So these have always been canonically in Dark Sun. Now they are portrayed as giant kin. This is to say that they are smaller than traditional giants. Even in Pathfinder, they are usually classed as “large” rather than “giant.” I find keeping them in Athas to be easy. You need to use some “make it Athas” techniques. What I do question is when is should I use them, instead of b’rohg or megara? All three fulfill similar roles.


Canon is boring. Think outside the box.


Cave giant - FR has a similar idea, the Maur that i planned to eventually steal, though I’m not clear on if the Athasian underdark is verdant enough to support a population of giants.

Cyclops - One could make the Cyclops a (disparate) tribe of Giants that live near the Pristine Tower - Giants (with their high HD and Con/Fort save) should be able to resist the mutating effects of the Tower pretty well, but…

Alternatively, you could reskin Cyclopes as Cilops-Beasthead Giants, though i’m personally less excited about this idea.

Fair point about Giant ruins. Only place I’ve seen any mention at all is the unfinished Lost Cities of the Trembling Plains, which is weird; you’d think that cyclopean ruins would evoke Lovecraftian thoughts, which would play nicely into the Planet Stories-esque vibe of Dark Sun.

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I’ve used both cyclopskin and non-beastheads recently in my play-by-posts.

The cyclopskin I have as herders in badlands, often claiming small box canyons or hidden caves. They fit well on the road north and east leading out of Nibenay.

The larger giants I introduced as a threat in the silt estuary near the Ledopoluses. These giants are allied with trading houses that compete with Balic and the nearby dwarves… trading flint, hair and goat products to non-dwarf folk for wood, clay products, and the occasional weapon. These are slightly more civil than the giant clans near Altaruk or the ones that guard specific oases… mainly due to influences of a local human druid.

Since these larger folk need a surplus of water and food to survive, any of their lairs, islands, etc… need to reflect this. Beyond the threat of attack, city-states and towns nearby a giant’s isle covet these resources… but there’s a reason they’re still untapped by the masses. If a sorcerer king or queen really wanted them dead, they’d have been removed already. So it helps to have a proper political reason in the background.


I quite enjoy canon actually. It’s a great aid to my creativity.


Canon is like the wall of a pool for me: its essential to the experience and its something great to push off from, but the fun is in the middle.

For me, finding little threads for canon history and spinning them into a new plot hook is my joy.

With only canon, you stagnate. W/o canon, its just that nutz homebrew setting i made up as soon as i got the 3 Core books…


Thing about canon is that most players wont give a rat’s ass about it. Maybe a small amount will, the rest will only be worried about their character development with their party within your story.

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Absolutely. But some players (me, for instance) , when they hit logical holes in backstory, will be taken aback.

Canon - having lots of folks working on the setting story for a while - helps with that (one would hope).

If no one asks questions, you’re fine. Its when they perk up and start pulling at threads that it matters.


I think like you. Having some boundaries helps me to think harder in order to make my adventures logical.

And usually they are also more interesting that the ones I imagine without taking the canon into account.

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Right. Or at least, i like to THINK they are.

“Bucket of silly crap” adventurers can be fun, but that can also get old.

Also, as usual: if you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.


That may be true of some players. Not the ones I have known. I can also say that it’s the responsibility of the DM to bring life to the characters and setting. Lore is an important part of that.

Thanks. "Hmmm. My usual go to won’t worth with this scenario. reads up on canon Ahhhhh, THERE’s a new idea for me to share with my players!

It’s what writer call a series Bible. There may be a lot of backstory and lore that never gets used, but it aids immensely in keeping things consistent. Consistency matters a great deal in having a believable setting and characters.

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Well said! Thanks for the feedback

I don’t know… based on what I have overheard others say about it, there is apparently quite a lot of pool fun to be had against the wall…?

About canon? Sure, but its hard to write a completely canon adventure; you HAVE to make SOMETHING up - extra character names, motivations, etc.

Even just the events that occur are usually non-canon.

I actually liken it to war gaming. War gamers expect the game to be able to replicate the original battle perfectly BUT also be able to play the game they want and to achieve different results. Canon vs free will all in service of group story telling.

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Taraskir is an interesting lore point, was this sort of thing common in Guistenal? Was the Lion an anomaly who could only rise to power in the crises of the Cleansing Wars?

I quite like the Athasian giants, they fit the ‘everyone is a mutant halfling’ theme pretty well, though I feel there should be an ‘exaggerated’ version of each of the Rebirth humanoids, like Gnomes, Dwarves, Orcs, ect.

On that note what’s the deal with the Beastheads? I recall some mention of magical experimentation as to their origin? Are they the result of defiling, the Pristine Tower, some quirk in the Rebirth genetics?

The Terrors of the Desert book has a pretty good description detailing them, the many different kinds of heads: eagle, goat, wolf, Id fiend, kirre, braxat.

They are described as being more dangerous than regular giants and have more psionic abilities.

Under ecology they are described as being “magical mutations of normal Athasian giants” and a “good source of source of spell components for both wizards and priests. The blood of a beasthead can be used in many different types of spells, but only those of preservers or druids. Also, beasthead giants provide unique spell components depending upon the type of beast head.”

They are also described as providing eight essential vitamins and minerals and a part of this balanced breakfast. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Mmmmmm sound delicious. Me want to eat more. Thanks for the info. I was aware of all of that. However, I am trying to dig deeper. I am reading Obsidian Oracle right now. It’s much more of a slog than I remember.