What's Your History of Athas?

So to avoid derailing my clerics thread (which has gotten quite long anyway), I figured this was as good a place as any to discuss various changes we’ve each made to the setting’s timeline.

How do you depict the cleansing wars and eradication of the druids? Does Rajaat even exist in your setting? Are the sorcerer kings currently alive the ones who fought in the cleansing wars or descendants from a long line of powerful defilers?

And do you keep the large empty gaps in Athas’ history as they are, fill them in, or shorten them?

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Not as written. I gave an example of “political druidism” here, so I might be OK with something like that, but certainly not as written.

Perhaps. But not as some weird pyreen with a halfling obsession, but instead an elder evil with some sinister plan for Athas. What this plan is might be something like Expedition to Castle Ravenloft, where the villain’s motivations are different each play through. Perhaps Rajaat does want to restore Athas, but the restoration is to a pristine state of nature, and sentient creatures have no place.

The Sorcerer Monarch’s are just as the Wanderer described them in the original boxed set.

sm1

The Wander implies that anyone with sufficient magical and psionic ability could possibly become a Sorcerer Monarch. The Tyr region is the most intact region left on Athas. Elsewhere in the Tablelands there are other Sorcerer Monarchs, ruling over small towns and cities with as little as 10,000 people, that are dwarfed by the cities of the Tyr region (all of which have well over 100,000 inhabitants, except for Gulg).

There were no cleansing wars, only resource wars, which are ongoing. From time to time, very rarely, a Sorcerer Monarch falls to assassination or mishap. All of the Sorcerer Monarch’s of the Tyr region fear each other, but more than each other, they fear the hungry minor Sorcerer Monarchs of the Tablelands outside the Tyr region, who are always waiting for an opportunity to supplant a Sorcerer Monarch of a rich Tyr region city.

History itself is obscured. Even scholars are confused. Some claim a King’s Age used to be 7 years, or 17 years, but a King’s Age has been 77 years for at least the last 300 years.

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I actually like the idea of Rajaat as the settings ultimate villain. In my version of athas, all forms of power from psionics to druids come from the interconnectedness of all things in the world. It’s a spiritual idea shared by all inhabitants of dark sun on a subconscious level that can manifest as magical powers. These connections are Sort of like how the parts of a body are nothing more than flesh and blood but the connections between them make them something more-a thinking being. In the same way all living things are connected to Athas, and it’s this connection that can manifest in individuals as psychic powers (because they have a deeper connection with other minds) or clerical powers (a deeper connection with elements) etc. There is a theoretical point where all concepts, minds, and ideas touch, the Nexus as psionicists call it. Rajaat, however, learned to draw power by ripping these fundamental connections apart. This is the basis of all magic. In practice though it’s only feasible to defile from plants.
After his birth Rajaat was rejected by society, treated as a literal monster because of his appearance. After aimlessly wandering for centuries he traveled to the swamp at the edge of the world and discovered that his feelings of rage and utter isolation could have a physical effect: defiling magic. When his experiments were complete, he had ruined his body even further. The first people to look past his hideous body were a tribe of nomadic halflings who discovered him and nursed him back to health. As a result he believed it to be fate giving him a sign that it was his purpose to return the world to their kind. During the cleansing wars, Rajaats power grows and grows as the connections between people and the world are defiled because he is the source of this hatred. Essentially he takes his anger out on the species from the Rebirth and this rage spreads through the metaphysical connections, causing a collective isolation and angst that becomes a part of athas’s nexus, it’s spiritual fabric. This emptiness left behind by the hatred is called the Hollow-its physical effects are defiling magic and the sun’s darkening. In a sense, Rajaat, the hollow, the dark sun itself, and defiling are all the same thing, all so deeply connected as to be interchangeable. The rest of the history is pretty much the same as in the boxed sets, just based on this central system.

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Rajaat also truly believes that he can restore the world to the blue age if he completes his plan of horrible mass genocide. He believes that the most powerful form of defiling would come from wiping out an entire species, erasing their culture and history, and once he gains enough power from wiping out all the Rebirth species he will channel it to attempt to create a new world: a paradise. In reality though this will destroy the world utterly.

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I keep mostly to the official timeline and history, my scope changes though.

Rajaat existed and ran the Cleansing Wars, however due to his alignment with the Pristine Tower, he was unable to actually contribute to most of the destruction, so he had use the Champions and worked in more of a supporting role.

The Cleansing Wars were worldwide, there were other Champions, some of which have taken over cities outside the Tyr region. The SMs are those who rebelled and have a vortex attached to them.

The druids once had huge world spanning organization, although it was tenuous, mostly built around individual druid circles. The Cleansing Wars actually killed many of the most powerful druids and destroyed the overall world spanning organization. The most powerful druids were targeted early, before anyone knew what was happening and those left behind were insular and not nearly as powerful. The Eradication was an event that happened later, only in the Tyr region, when the druids started organization again. Druids are allowed to remain are individuals or small groups, but organizations are stamped out as soon as the SMs learn of it.

Gaps in history I tend to keep, it’s mostly unknown to people, plus it leaves areas to backfill if needed for the story. Not having a specific history that covers all things allows for a lot of flexibility, and even when documented, allows for discrepancies and bias from whoever wrote it.

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A good opportunity to repost this. The setting significantly changed over time.

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…and at the risk of being contentious, I reckon it’s a good thing it did expand and change.

The Tablelands are about the size of Colorado, and the original boxed set and Prism Pentad had only one set of main villains and one arch villain. Even then, they managed to kill or contain half of them before the pentad series was up.

That is way too small of a vision for a whole planet to adventure on. As it is, the setting badly needs more geography and more villains. Sure, the Sorcerer Monarchs and Rajaat are something special (and I’m not averse to going back in the timeline a bit to use them), but it seems to me the setting has always suffered from lack of scope.

Indeed, the whole reason why I came back to Dark Sun was because of Athas.org’s extended timeline, and the Athasian Cartographer’s Guild’s world map.

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I agree. Increasing the hex size by 150% from 30 mi2 in 2E to 75 mi2 in 4E was a good move. That said, I’ve always been curious about the Tablelands Sorcerer King titled “Magnate”, but the Revised Campaign Setting wrote him out of the setting.

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Agreed. The conceptual sweep of the setting is/was grand, but the original developmental scope wasn’t terribly big.

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It raises interesting questions. Do you have pop up SMs periodically? Defilers who’ve managed to somehow temporarily amass power and a way to empower templars? Are these ‘little SMs’ actually Arcanamachs used as stalking horses by SMs and ‘loaned’ templars, to draw out pretenders, give plausible deniability to raids against cities and other nefarious schemes?

Could there be a few dozen/a few hundred lesser Lieutenants of the Champions (think Borys to Egendo) who somehow acquired a small portion of their bosses abilities and who sometimes appear out of stasis or the like? If that’s the case you could argue a full on Champion SM can grant 7th level (2E) or 9th level (3E) spells, whereas Lt SMs might only be the equivalent of Demipowers (so up to 5th lvl spells).

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Yes. It wouldn’t happen often, and quite rarely in the Tyr region compared to the Tablelands beyond the Tyr region. The Sorcerer Monarchs are the top dog Sorcerer Monarchs of Athas. Furthermore, they seem to have some sort of relationship with the Dragon. This relationship might be as simple as a protection racket, but whatever it is, the Dragon does not tolerate upstarts in the Tyr region. As for what happens elsewhere in the Tablelands, the Dragon doesn’t care because it’s mostly destroyed and there are only small settlements (note: I consider the Tyr region cities to be far larger than the canon numbers. Most of them over 100,000 people strong).

They could be. Some Sorcerer Monarchs might be outright fakes, relying on a real Sorcerer Monarch to empower his or her templars. It would be a quid pro quo relationship.

If I was following the Rajaat narrative, I’d just make all of his associates, like Irikos, champions capable of granting templar spells to followers. I wouldn’t go back to the bad old days of 2E demipowers being limited in the spells that they can grant, however.

That also solves the problem of Merek the Wrong from DSE1. His communique to Hamanu reads like that of an equal to equal, not a ‘mere’ upstart defiler lord to a Sorceror King.

It did get quite silly - 5th level for DPs, unless you were on their home plane, in which case you could get 6th. 6th lvl for Lesser Powers, unless you were on their home plane, in which case you got 7th lvl spells. We aren’t going to cover hero deities!

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In my history, true SMs are those who can grant spells via an elemental vortex link. Only a few of the vortex still exist, having been inadvertently during the Cleansing Wars or wasting away afterwards due to the planetary wide defilement and spread of silt (they require a balance of elements that no longer exist on Athas except in a few places) and all of them still alive were originally bound to a sentient being (replacing the link to Athas) in the Pristine Tower either by Rajaat himself, or the combined arcane and psionic might of the rebellious champions.

Others who claim the title of SM are free to do so (typically outside of the Tyr region) use other kinds of Templars. Spell pools, psioncs, dominated people, clerics, druids, wizards… they don’t typically have the capability of stopping their templars from casting a spell (Spell Pools are an exception for those bound to the SM) but a vortex connection with access controlled via a true SM is beyond them unless they manage to somehow bind one of the few surviving vortex.

Rajaat for instance can act as a channel for power (the original spell pool), Tithian acts as a patron for Rain, but they are for all intents and purposes rain clerics. So there are options, but not typically an option to become a true SM.

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Yeah, the FN -meta plot of Doyte Mal Payne becoming a Dragon and ruling a Bandit State village tracks with this idea. I’d imagine that eventually he might even topple the other BSs, enslave/absorb their people and form his own city-state, given enough time and lack of SM hassle.

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I keep it simple; I pretty much only use the basic 2e Box-set, along with most 2e products like Dragon-Kings, ; I like to keep things traditional and pure and most of my DS games are set in the past. I’ll use the map from 3e for my general information in case the players want to travel and the world map, below, in case they really, really want to travel; I use 4e for the maps of the City-States and I’ve actually never played or ran 4e, but one of these days I might.

I don’t use any of the mega-plot from the Prism Pentad; however, my players actually read the novels and, they are willing to drive 50 miles and spend the entire weekend, and I mean, the ENTIRE WEEKEND, sans sleep, playing Dark Sun.

I, on the other hand, like to keep it a post-apocalyptic Tolkienesque game. I’ve even ran Dark Sun using other gaming systems like R. Talsorian’s Cyberpunk 2020 and White-Wolf’s World of Darkness (Werewolf and Mage: the Ascension).

That reminds me I have to make my map of the City of Wonders.

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Do we have a timeline when the backstory events of Dragon’s Crown happened? Is it possible that Merek the Wrong was active when Hamanu was just another of Myron’s warlords, and not a Champion yet?

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I’m not aware of one, or whether anyone’s put something together. The key lore comes from Merek’s letter to Hamanu, detailed on p.24 of Book 2:

Hammanu [sic],
Tomorrow we will begin the assault on Akarakle. By sun ascending, I will control the largest deposits of obsidian on Athas. By morning, the red and black will fly over Akarakle and Haakar’s head will adorn the battlements of my new home.
Glad tidings,
Merek

So Hamanu must have been Champion by this point - perhaps only just elevated. Before his elevation he’s a no-one in Myron’s army. He’s certainly no one a powerful defiler warlord with his own army would taunt. Manu of Deche goes from being I’d guess the equivalent of maybe an Army Captain (so one of many) to being Hamanu the Champion almost overnight.

I mean the real reason is that the lore hadn’t been fleshed out fully at this point and the design team weren’t speaking with Troy Denning on what he was doing. But, retconning this, you could say Merek had a chunk of Myron’s army, took it to the Road of Fire to take down Akrakle, perhaps to prove to Rajaat that he should elevate Merek (after all, one Champion has just been killed by the Warbringer, why not his replacement) and got things terribly wrong (pun intended). At that point Hamanu hadn’t yet finished the trolls and hadn’t built up the village of Urik, so the obsidian taunts don’t quite ring true, unless Merek was a precog.

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Yeah, i read that before asking.

None of that makes any logical sense, except from the standpoint of the writers of Dragon’s Crown thinking they were being cute, but not bothering to do thwir homework first (which I’m sure is actually true, given what went on with Lynn Abbey).

Manu wouldn’t go from zero to hero to replace Myron, that’s insane. It’d make much more sense if he was a warlord of similar power or standing as Merek, and they were maybe rivals.

If the iron supplies ran out by then and obsidian was what they were using for weapons, securing that supply before Manu secured the Smoking Crown would a great reason for a dig like that.

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There is a non zero chance that Hamanu was one of Myron’s templars. Sure, he might have been a farmer’s boy when young, but the rest of his narrative is self-serving. The more likely scenario is that Hamanu was inducted into Myron’s army as a templar, found out about the existence of Rajaat, worked to undermine Myron in Rajaat’s eyes, then replaced Myron as champion. Then Hamanu rewarded Rajaat with treachery in turn.

One hint that this could be true is the strictness of how Hamanu keeps his templars in line. Hamanu know the wages of treachery.

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I diverged.

Raajit was a sorcerer/ess (it was never made clear) on Earth, who travelled to Athas in the early Middle Ages, taking with them several villages to begin populating Athas. Their goal was to work on and complete the Godhead ritual in peace and quiet. Humans originally worked in relative harmony with the planet’s inhabitants, the Thri-Kreen, though there were farmer vs hunter/gatherer conflicts. When Raajit eventually came to the conclusion that they could not use Thri-Kreen to power their ritual, they had no more use for them. Champions were created and the Thri-Kreen were driven off the Tablelands (for the most part) to allow for more rapid human expansion. (My version of the Cleansing Wars). During the wars, Raajit and the Champions created variants of humanity to fulfill particular roles in the conflict - Elves, Dwarves, Gith, Giants, Hoblytan. Some hundred or more years later, Raajit was ready to attempt Godhood, but the Champions, realising that this meant the death of most of Humanity to ‘feed’ the ritual, rebelled and Raajit was defeated / imprisoned - this battle was the event that ‘defiled’ Athas and turned it into the desert it is now. (My version of end of the Green Age). The Champions / Dragon Kings as they now were, fragmented and settled in their cities to deal with the devastation of the planet - and many promptly began work to replicate the godhood ritual for themselves.

My players, spaceship borne travelers from the ‘modern world’ arrived and were promptly comprehensively turned over by Nibenay. It took them four (real time!) years before they felt strong enough to try Athas again…When they arrived, Hamanu had already destroyed Yaramuke, Kaud-ma had failed an attempt at Godhood, Dregoth had been foiled in his attempt (and was now a Lich), Kalak was holed up wounded in the Ziggurat. Andropinis had returned and ruled Balic Raam had Alalech-re and … and Raajit was still trying to get free. There is still a massive bounty for any captured / killed offworlders, and the planet is protected by a deadly magical / psionic barrier. The players always have to go ‘disguised’ and the use of any ‘technology’ attracts the sort of attention that ends with Dragon Kings / Templars poking your corpse.

I run a heroic type campaign so, over the years (I’ve been running for over 30 years now) players have been involved in taking down Dregoth (with Hamanu’s help), finishing off Kalak (he was wounded…) and being around when Hamanu and Nibenay were forced to ally to deal with the return of a rather vengeful Raajit.

Despite my playing fast and loose with canon, I have used / integrated a massive amount of material from this site and would like to record my gratitude to all those who have built it into the fabulous resource it is today. In my ‘scenario’ the age of the Dragon Kings is coming to an end and they aren’t all happy about it, though some, Hamanu, for example, recognises that their time is ending. But if and when it does, out in the wider world, there are Thri-Kreen Khanates who remember the slaughter of the Cleansing Wars, and there are still many millions of them, out on the plains…

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