That old chestnut? Mind Flayers on Athas

Hadn’t really become active on yet, if I recall correctly.

That would have been around 2007, back I was fighting with the US government regarding family health and safety versus job security; they used that as an excuse to force me to “voluntarily” resign, as I was putting my family first and would not back down.

The project I was working on at that time was the collection of the entirety of the 3rd ed content from the WotC website and collating into my Archive (still available online).


<~~~~~~ Lurker for 13 years. Between 2004 and 2017.


I can attest to this. I don’t know why it was like that back then, but that was how it was.

I was focused on translation Ananasi (old World of Darknes) to polish,

I distinctly recall a post by a Templar to the WotC forums (don’t recall which one anymore) updating everyone on project status.

I and at least 5 other people immediately volunteered to assist on the projects, but got only radio silence. :man_shrugging:

That’s one of the major reasons that we’ll (the current Pristine Tower dev group) always prioritize finding a place for anyone that wants to help develop content for Dark Sun. :smiley:


I remember this. It was very much a closed shop.


Yup. And maybe it was due to all the 13 yr olds who were doing 3e stuff badly or whatever.

Recriminations be damned, I’m happy to learn from past mistakes and move on. :smiley:


Couldn’t have said it better.

Yesterday is gone, but we are alive and kicking now. The Pristine Tower lives!

And this stands as an open invite to everyone. If you fancy helping us on any ongoing project, or would like support on the project you’re currently working on, come join us on our Discord server!

Just contact me, @Grummore, @The_DMs_Revenge, or @raddu and we’ll bring you in. :slight_smile:


Bah! Excuses, all of you!


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My, working with you!
Already 15 years…

Anyhow, I’m mapping for those enthusiasts now :wink:
And helping on items when I can :smile:

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What a fascinating and challenging topic. I had not reviewed these various Mind Flayer posts in earnest until now. Amazing that such work has been put into the prospect of Mind Flayers on Athas, and if nothing else, the inclusion of the Dark Cupula on almost every serious map of the Anattan continent has led many of us I think to serious contemplate their inclusion.

Redking presents my hesitation well. Mind flayers are a difficult proposition for many reasons. Canon, established timelines, considerations of tone, and the consideration of injecting more “traditional” monsters into the unique bestiary of Athas definitely present challenges.

We do however have the precedent of Black Spine. According to this campaign boxed-set, both githyanki and githzerai hazarded upon Athas thousands of years ago. Thus, it could be argued, it is not impossible that illithids found their way to the universe of the Dark Sun as well.

To me, illithids are horrific monsters. True abominations. Ceramorphosis is shockingly disturbing. If Rajaat assigned a Champion to annihilate such parasitic and wantonly evil beings, in this case, Rajaat was right. If we are to place them in the world, I would cast my vote for them being in origin alien to the planet, much as the giythyanki and githzerai. I would prefer them in a small, isolated region. They are monsters best presented, in my opinion, when the campaign wishes to channel H.P. Lovecraft. They should be the stuff of a short adventure, a romp into the aberrant. Appropriately played, illithids of almost any variety are extremely powerful, even for Dark Sun heroes, and are very challenging. Geniuses and dominators, they would certainly have an array of mind-scrubbed servitors and layers of psionic defenses and more. Even a Champion would have been pressed to have cleansed them.

Therefore I consider their presence on Athas, though as an exception. A single ship may have crashed, somehow navigating to Athasian Space, or a single party may have breached the planar gulfs between universes and arrived on Athas. No further should come. Nor do I like the idea of them constantly threatening all of Athas. Perhaps they did, for one moment, as did the githyanki in Black Spine, but that moment has past. Any remaining threat, for now anyway, is in a realm which one ought not to go. If they were otherwise, we would suspect that the Dragon and/or combined might of the SKs would have annihilated them in the past. Therefore, in a discreet realm of supreme evil, let them remain, says I.

As to the Dark Cupula, I still maintain strong reservations. All respects to Sysane, but I see no need for it. The illithids would have most certainly remained underground, and therefore there would be no reason to dim the sun around their lands. Or so I assess.

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Athas lacking a true underdark would prevent them from retreating beneath the surface. Also for my game, illithid were prisoners of war and imprisoned in a life-shaping induced stasis. Their prison is located in the center of the Cupola which they have repurposed.


Sysane, who currently lives around this tower at the center of the Cupola? Who are they in past and present? What do they know? Do they have a special purpose there, or is their presence simply residual, an indifferent people taking advantage of the shade?

Also, I presume this tower is essentially impregnable, a product of the Blue Age that cannot be undone by might, magic, or the Way. If not, I would imagine some powerful force on the Anattan continent would have inspected its interior by now. If you could elucidate on what you imagined this tower to be, and the nature of the Dark Cupola itself (the nature of its power, its purpose, etc.) I would much appreciate it.

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Also, on this matter of an Athasian underdark, it seems to me there is nothing canonical that vetoes it. Black Spine provides examples of extensive underground tunnels (though effectively all artificial), and I find no reason to deny the existence of extensive cave networks, as often enough exist in the real world. Though I too am not overly a fan of an Athasian Underdark proper, a la Forgotten Realms. Not everything needs to be a copy of another.

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This should address the “why” of the tower:

Illithid-Rhulisti History

  • Long before the 1st World’s Age the rhulisti were a thrall race to the ancient Illithid Empire. Where the gith forerunners were prominently warriors, the rhulisti served the Empire as artisans tasked with producing life grafts, symbionts, and other biologic creations. Its unknown if the illithid appropriated rhulisti biological science or if the rhulisti adopted and advanced the illithid’s existing knowledge.

  • At the time of the gith forerunner revolt the rhulisti also rose up (referred to as the Great Upheaval) using their biologic creations to rout the illithid and their occupation of Athas.

  • Gith also have a presence on Athas during this period, but not in the same numbers as the rhulisti. Aiding the halflings in the Great Upheaval the gith left Athas pursuing the fleeing illithids. Leaving behind brethren unable to break their thralldom, the gith swear to return one day and free them.

  • Illithid unable to escape were taken as captives and forced into a stasis-like imprisonment via life-shaping. Kept alive due to the rhulsiti belief of "All life is sacred’’ in addition to information and bargaining leverage in the event of the illithids return. Gith unable to break their thralldom are also suspended.

  • Rhulisti build a towering life-shaped pillar-like structure and complex to keep the remaining illithid (less than 200), illithid tadpoles (hundreds), and gith (under 300) in a suspended state.

  • Githiyanki remembering illithids once had a foothold on Athas return centuries later seeking to eliminate the remaining mindflayers and free their thralled brethren. The githiyanki rebuild and repurpose Yathizor, a former gith slave pen facility.

  • During the Rebirth, rhulisti infused the new races with dormant psionic potential as a precautionary safeguard in case the illithid returned. This triggers in the Rebirth Races when the githzerai Psionic Devastator is detonated against the githyanki in the early Green Age. The mind bomb also weakened the illithids’ forced stupor.

  • Once awakened, gith were similarly impacted like their western counterparts. IIllithid were relatively unharmed (stunned for a few days) due to the extra precautions taken by the rhulisti in suppressing their active psionic minds while suspended. During that time tadpoles, illithid, and gith fully impacted by the bomb wander into the Mooncrest Mountains.

  • Illithid remain secluded and unnoticed for a century as they regain their bearings in the new world and plot their next moves. During this time they begin unlocking the secrets of their life-shaped prison.

  • Mindflayers are trapped in Athas space due to the Grey and being in a sealed crystal sphere. Unable to retreat beneath Athas because of lacking a true underdark, the illithid transform their prison into a small city over the centuries. They repurpose the pillar/tower (The Tower Consummate) to create the Dark Cupola (In reality, it just slows down the rate of light passing through the dome giving the illusion its shadow when its not – pseudo fantasy BS science). The Dome is powered via draining victims of psionic strength.

  • The Cupola was much smaller in the Green Age. Near the end of the Cleansing Wars hundreds of refugees fled to the Mooncrest Mountains entering the Cupola in desperation. Now supplied with increased ceremorphsis stock and fuel to power the Tower Consummate the Cupola increases in size. The Cupola originally encompassed only a 6 mile radius and remained that size for most of the Green Age. The shadowy dome has roughly “doubled/tripled?” in size each time its grown


Fair. Could they have found a subterranean location? Maybe. They could also try to escape Athas altogether. But what fun is staying with the illithid status quo?

I believe the 2e accessory the Illithiad touched on them building sun blocking domes on the surface. I spun the Dark Cupola off of that.


Good stuff. I appreciate the info Sysane.

It seems I am building a “stylized” incorporation of this. But I fear the details and even the substance of my incorporation will have to stay off this site for a time, lest a stray curious player of mine discover some secrets.