This is inspired by an old ENWorld post I ran across: “Is Dark Sun an alternate future Forgotten Realms?” Now, I’m not interested in whether that was in the designer’s minds, or whether that notion is supported by canon; fairly clearly the answer to both questions is No. However, the original Dark Sun Boxed Set implies that Athas was once much like other D&D worlds, until Defiling magic came along and messed things up. Later lore mostly contradicted that notion, but that was the version of Athas I fell in love with, and that’s how it is in my campaigns.
Now I find myself running Forgotten Realms (don’t ask why; it’s a long story). I apparently have a deep aversion to playing standard D&D settings stock; I always heavily modify them in some way (I once turned Greyhawk into Middle Earth, for instance). So I was looking for some angle to make the setting my own, and came upon the idea of making the Forgotten Realms setting into my version of Green Age Athas.
The problem, however, is that, while I am somewhat knowledgeable on Dark Sun lore, I know almost nothing about Forgotten Realms. Perhaps this would be better asked in a Forgotten Realms forum, but I was hoping for some ideas and tips on how this could be accomplished; how the lore of FR could be shoehorned into the backstory for Athas. So—tips? Thoughts? Ideas? Thanks!
It does not have to be lore-compatible. I just want to use my version of the FR campaign setting that my players are playing in and transform it into a proto-Athas. And I just learned that Toril had its own Blue Age! The DSRB says, “Long ago, when the planet was green, the brutal might of the primordials overcame the gods. Today, Athas is a world without deities.” Seeing as primordials seem to be heavily involved in FR lore, it would seem that merging the two histories wouldn’t be that difficult. But like I said, I know very little about FR lore; I’m learning.
A similar Green Age in FR would be gods leaving Faerun, after having lost the world due to the brown tide and the halfling civilization. People might still revere them, but they answer to no call. Instead, psionics begin to develop rapidly, and more embrace this new power. In addition, Ao decides to tie arcane magic with the land itself, giving rise to defiling magic, that would be found by Rajaat, centuries later.
Of course, with no divine powers, the clergy collapses. The few remaining clerics choose the four elements as their patron deities, after realizing that the primordial do grant them with powers.
As for wizards, unable to cast a single spell, they become extinct rather soon. Or, they could have never existed in the first place, themselves being replaced by great psionicists (Elminster, the master of the mind).
I did something similar in an old campaign of mine, but it was more of a small Easter Egg.
The group was exploring Godshome and found the ruins overrun by rotting vegetation. The wizard found a set of magic robes (Robes of Defence) that looked identical to the robes a specialty priest of Moander would wear (as pictured in the Faiths and Avatars book). The look on the player’s face when I showed him the picture was well worth it.
Sadly, the campaign didn’t get very far after that. I was planning on introducing Moander into the world via the PCs. Things would have gotten very interesting from there
In fact, is quite the opposite, at least in relation to magic.
Yes, the Weave channel arcane force more easily to be shaped by spellcasters and limits high magic use, but according to Ed Greenwood, the Weave is also the lifeforce of the planet. As I understand defiling magic, it drains and spends lifeforce to increase magical power.
I can see defiling magic as a way to subvert the limitations imposed by the Weave —like if using brute force method—in a way that damages it (expending its life energies). I can even imagine Rajaat and the Champions killing Mystra just by overusing defiling.
For now, I have decided not to make Toril into Athas, because 1) I think I want my Athas to never have had gods, or, more precisely, that the Primordials won the Dawn War; and 2) I think the existence of dragons in FR really changes the tone of the setting in a way that damages Dark Sun. First off, where would they have gone? There was no Champion dedicated to killing dragons, and besides, it seems that it would have taken far more than a single Champion to do it. Second, it seems to make the Dragon of Tyr, and dragon-magic in general, far less interesting and special.
Instead of using the Realms as Pre/Blue/Green Age Athas, what about turning the Realms into a future self akin to Dark Sun? Ao dies and the gods die with him. Thay and a couple of other major powers discover defiling magic to replace Mystra’s Weave. Someone powerful rises to become a Rajaat figure and Cleansing Wars ensue in the Realms. That way you could keep most of the map contours but change it in an unforgettable way.
Are you going to run a long campaign, stretching across millennia of history that will show the inevitable downfall of Toril, or play a bunch of key moments in history, where Toril is slowly changing into Athas?
If you use the latter, you could easily explain any inconsistencies between DS and FR lore as wild myths or legends of the past. Just like Europe suffered two tremendous setbacks in society, technology, literature, sciences and philosophy (the Late Bronze Age collapse and the fall of Roman Empire), so did the kingdoms in Faerun. Candlekeep, the vast centre of knowledge was razed to the ground, after a cataclysmic event dubbed the Cleansing Wars. Historians, sages, and scholars were either too preoccupied with their own safety or instantly decimated. People stopped reading and studying, focusing more on surviving. Having lost any connection to the history of the Old Age, anything sung in taverns or around the camp is taken with a grain of salt (as the Wanderer claims). Gods living in the past? That’s a fascinating myth, fella! The Underdark? The only holes I’ve seen deep in the earth are the unlit mines of Urik and Tyr. Cormanthor Forest? Probably an older name for the Crescent Forest.
Make everything as vague and mysterious as possible; that’s what I really enjoyed with the Original setting, knowing almost nothing of the past, and doubting any fanciful or wild story.
As FR and DS are by far my 2 favorite world’s I love the idea… The Realms have a number of things going on that could “kill it” and turn into Athas. 1) Zas Tam has been attempting to cast an epic spell that will turn him into a deity for close to a hundred years now (When Karsus tried that it killed the original goddess of magic Mystryl and changed the face of Toril forever). 2) The time of Troubles- AO made all the gods walk the world and many died - what godly energy did that leave behind? 3) The Orc Gate wars. Approx 20 or so deity’s we’re killed on Toril in a very short time. 4) the return of Shade. Dozens of epic spell casters rivaling the power of Elminster came back - casting epic spells. 5) Shade was destroyed (along with the epic Mythal that kept it afloat). 6) Mystra (goddess of magic) was killed - again. 7) the return of the Imaskari - and all theyre epic spell casters - the cause of the Orc Gate Wars. 8)The reconnecting of Abier to Toril - and the return of the primordials. Take into account that almost all of these things happened within a hundred years of each other and a number of them happened or are happening at the same time - what irrevocable damage has happened due to all that? Magic has recently changed in the Realms forever. What happens when the Primordials attack the gods again at the same time Zass Tam is casting his epic become a god spell? Mix that with all the residual deific energy that is already on Toril due to the 50 or more killed deities? I think Toril becoming Athas is easily imaginable.
And as far as the dragon problem you mentioned, being as powerful as they are they would more than likely be pulled into the god - Primordials war joining either Bahamut or Tiamat. What happens to them when they’re creators are killed? Go mad? Die off? Kill each other off in an attempt to take over the mantle of they’re creators?