Villichi, time to redraw

D&D being ethnocentric in favor of white males of European descent because of reasons, consider Dark Sun’s villichi. The lore casts them as human mutations susceptible to abrupt light (whatever that is) and possessing “paler” skin.

Pale skin, in an Athas meant to partly reflect our world.
The Seven Cities cover skin tones ranging from white or “olive” (Tyr & Balic - Roman/Phoenician/Greek), light brown (Urik - Babylonian/Mesopotamian), a deeper brown (Raam - Egyptian/Hindi and Nibenay - Cambodian/Thai), to dark brown/black (Gulg - Central Africa); I have no idea what skin color is Draj (Aztec).

So…what does a light brown, brown, or dark brown/black skinned human with “paler” skin looks like? There’s this bit of unconscious racism in the lore I am only articulating now through these words but noticed years earlier.

Villichi are a human master race, and they’re extra white. Mmm.


I think you’re choosing to be offended where no offence was intended.

I’ve lived in two different countries in the Third World, and travelled extensively in some others. All of those countries looked on obese people with some respect because they could, clearly, afford to eat and therefore must be wealthier than the skinny people.

It’s not about being prejudiced; it’s about seeing a natural consequence of wealth and then making a shorthand judgement accordingly. Even today, spending time in the farming areas near my house, if you are a local with paler skin you will be assumed to be wealthier because you’re obviously well off enough that you don’t have to spend time working in the fields.

How would you respond to that in real life?


Hi, and thanks for answering.
There was no offense taken on my part. If offense was suggested it is only from the limitations of the written word and my limited understanding of its use :wink:
That being said, isn’t the pale skin of the villichi supernatural? No matter the parents’ endowments the daughter ends up pale. It doesn’t match up with status symbols like weight.

I was wondering what the point of pale skin was, and stumbled on my conclusion that whoever imagined the villichi managed in the same breath to forget that Athasians aren’t the default whites that lots of fantasy settings imagine, but are full of varying skin tones.

Ask yourself: what does a villichi born of Gulgan parents look like? A paler version of brown or black? A paler version of white? Her parents weren’t white.

The “pale skin” bit is confusing.

The text kinda hints at albinism but says not quite. So is it a supernatural pigmentation that acts somewhat like albinism, and thus even black and brown skin parents would have daughters that are white and pale?

The text also states that their paleness is exacerbated but a sensitivity to sunlight that causes them to choose to cover up and stay indoor.

I think you are barking up the wrong tree, and in doing so, missing the history of people with albinism being associated with witchcraft, either as practitioners or as victims.

Its clear that Villichi are visibly different, as parents can discern a Villichi as soon as the baby is born. Its not just White skin. Its possible that the authors did not say clearly that it is albinism out of sensitivity.

You can see pictures of non-white albinos in the article that I linked. Those are your Villichi.

1 Like

The remark is misplaced, and orphaned in that you claim out of the blue a link between my focus on the villichi’s white skin and real world witchcraft. You need to explain your thoughts foremost, for I do not see the link.

Villichi children are feared by parents who don’t know the kid is villichi but sure know of the kid’s uncontrolled, dangerous power. Once adults are trained as priestesses, villichi are respected, honored, even feared, but are not hunted, targeted, harassed when the populace recognizes them for what they are.

As for authors saying clearly or not, here’s the DSMC1 quote:
“They are not quite albinos, although they do not like the sun. Their habit of protecting themselves from the sun makes them quite fair skinned, and on Athas, this makes them stand out.”

The author is all over the place. Is it albinism? Close-to-albinism? Consider the last line of that quote; doesn’t the presence or absence of sunlight have no effect on an albino’s skin pigmentation? If it’s not albinism, but the villichi is born of black-skinned parents, how does the condition manifest itself? Black people can be albinos, but is that what villichi are? I’m back to what is 'villichism": not albinism, albinism, a supernatural albinism?

At this point I’ve been told I’m taking offense, and barking at the wrong tree, but the treat I was really hoping for is an explanation for the villichi.

Pennarin - It has been some time since I’ve read the MC entry for the Villichi or how they’re represented in ‘The Tribe of One’ Trilogy…however, I would suggest, how one decides to ‘illustrate’ them as a DM is a matter of personal preference.

What works best for the internal functionality or ‘story’ of your Athas?

I have depicted ‘villichism’, as you term it, as a number of traits…including albinism and an extreme psionic gift, that express themselves together. So, in my version of DS, the Villichi have albinism.

I’ve disregarded several matters as regards to lore for DS in order to have a more cohesive world that made sense to my players and I. Most of what I use as a foundation comes from the original boxed set…but even there I’ve made a few cosmetic changes and disregarded portions of ‘canon’ where I saw fit…as everyone is wont to do.

Decide who your version of the Villichi are and move forward from there…


I indeed am a fervent believer in messing with canon for sanity’s sake. On the old boards the endless debates would make you queasy, but since then the release of DS 4e has hopefully shut up everyone about canon’s canonicity.

Here’s what I want: to go with consistency and rationality. I need every Athasian human skin color to be able to engender a villichi, yet every villichi’s appearance to be consistent without turning black people’s children into magical white people. Albinism already does that, but this is fantasy…so make this the supernatural sister condition to albinism.

Like albinism it depigments your skin and hair; keeps your other features unique to the cultural background you were born to (thin or thick lips, straight or bushy hair, etc); limited range of eye colors; and strong psionics. What esthetically differentiates it from albinism? I guess the skin and hair color is slightly different than for albinos.

I would scrap the sensitivity to light mechanic and leave it as a personality trait.

Real world racism + white supremacy was alluded to by you. In relation to that, I suggested that you are looking at the wrong real world reason why people with albinism were chosen to represent people with inborn psionic powers, because albinos have a connection in real world history with witchcraft, as alleged practitioners or victims.

This isn’t difficult. An African (Gulg) phenotype Athasian Villichi would have sallow, albino like skin. According to the quote you pasted they are perhaps not quite as shock white as an albino, so imagine a photo of a person with a kind of high, bleached out contrast instead. Pale, sallow, but not necessarily white, and certainly not European if they weren’t originally of that phenotype.

1 Like

I think you’re reading a bit too much into it. The villichi entry in the monstrous manual says they’re not albino and nowhere does it say they’re white. It says they’re paler because they stay out of the sun. People with dark skin can still be pale when compared to dark skinned people who work in the sun all day.
Making them albino makes a lot of sense though. Otherwise, they’d all look like nobles. I mean how do you tell your daughter is a villichi at birth, or when they’re young?


Consider the darkest brown skin, aka Africa black. That particular skin pigmentation has the property of not getting any paler or darker whether you stay in the sun or not.

DSMC1 says: “They are not quite albinos, although they do not like the sun. Their habit of protecting themselves from the sun makes them quite fair skinned, and on Athas, this makes them stand out.”

Tribe of One: “They were extremely fair-skinned—not quite albino, but very pale, so that the sun burned rather than tanned them. To protect themselves, they wore their hair very long, and donned light cloaks whenever they went out into the daylight.”

“Unlike most villichi, who were born with blond hair and blue or light gray eyes, Ryana’s hair was absolutely white and her eyes were a striking bright green.”

Terrors of Athas: “Although apparently human, this woman has pale skin, ruddy hair and a long, slender neck and limbs.”

So all existing material describes them as nearly albino, fair-skinned, with blonde or reddish hair. So a cross between albino and ginger.

Do you see it’s a mess? You can ask yourself what exactly is being conveyed by the existence of these special people. If they are a throwback to a gentler age (the Green Age, before the Time of Magic, when the weather and sun were gentle, and psionics reigned supreme), it implies all humans were white…or at least the game designers forgot Athas comes with all the real-world skin colors. Maybe they didn’t forget, but chose a skin color that matches gingers of our world. But again, gingers are white. We’re back to the trope of this master race subset of the human race is white.

Saying it’s like albinism, now that works. Albinos are not white people, aka pink skinned people. They are depigmented people of any ethnicity.

Africans are subject to skin darkening and there is a variety of brown they can be. They can be lighter if they have to avoid the sun, however, I did not have the information from the Tribe of One series. Although, I must point out that the Tribe of One series is not canon.
Villichi are not a master race of white women. The master race on Athas is the Kreen. :+1:
So, reading it again, they are almost albinos, but not something our world has. Seemingly, albinism exists on Athas and some of them might be mistaken for Villichi, if girls. However, it seems that they’re almost albinos, but with a little more variation and maybe a little pigmentation to their skin, eyes, and hair. They might appear washed out, so even dark skinned villichi appear almost white, but still have a hint of their parent’s pigmentation, like watered down paint.
I don’t think the designers of Terrors of the Desert were/are racist.

1 Like

You are right that dark skin can tan too. I perpetrated a myth by not looking it up first.

I do not consider the designers intentionally racist, rather biased. It was the early 90s It took until 3e but mostly 4e for design directives sent to artists to include women wearing functional armor and clothing instead of being sexy, for characters being depicted as PoC in a random fashion instead of only for those “desert characters”.

This thread is proof that if there isn’t a problem, a problem can be manufactured if there is sufficient desire for controversy.

Villichi are pale skinned and sterile. That being, there are no racial connotations at all. I’ve been to over 20 countries and can attest that “pale” non-white people do in fact exist.

If you can’t wrap your head around it, the problem is with you.


You can find controversy anywhere, if you look hard enough.
Basic AD&D was set in a quasi-European/English setting, so naturally most of the people would be of European descent, aka white. However, if you look at the other setting books, such as Al-Qadim or Oriental Adventures, you’ll see a book with no Europeans.
In Dark Sun, most of the artwork is in black and white, so they can be whatever color you wish. A lot of the official color art shows brown/tan people with a smattering of non-Earth skin colors, like blue, red, or porcelain white. Officially, everyone in Dark Sun is not-white, except the Balikites. In Terrors Beyond Tyr, the entry for humans shows three non-white humans.


My headcanon about the human ethnicities of the city states is as follows.

The vast mass of humanity - meaning the slaves and freeman are everyman mixed race types. There is a little more variety in the freeman than the slaves, except for those slaves specifically bred for certain skin tones and looks.

The aristocratic class of nobles represent almost a pure phenotype of the original human founding population of each city. In Balic, Greek. In Nibenay, Thai. In Urik, Sumerian and so on. So the ruling classes of the city states do not look like their subjects. Likewise, the slave and freeman population of all the city states look much the same.


I absolutely do the same thing. The idea of all slaves in the cities fitting the same eurocentric mold allbit with a john carter bent never sat right with me.

1 Like