Dark Sun is a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting featuring the fictional desert world of Athas. The Dark Sun campaign setting was released in 1991
The themes of this setting could fit in the Dying Earth subgenre and include survival against the elements, ecological disaster, resource depletion, survival of the fittest, slavery and poverty, and the widespread use of psionic abilities. The political setting is similar to ancient Middle East, North Africa or Mesopotamia. Water and metals are extremely scarce. Survival against the elements has made it a harsh exotic world.
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The Dark Sun setting drew much of its appeal from artist Brom's imagery: "I pretty much designed the look and feel of the Dark Sun campaign. I was doing paintings before they were even writing about the setting. I'd do a painting or a sketch, and the designers wrote those characters and ideas into the story. I was very involved in the development process
The Physical World Edit
Once a blue planet teeming with life, Athas has since been stripped of its fertility by the use of corrupting magic known as Defiling Magic, and the decay of its sun. It is a sun-burnt land forsaken by the gods, water, and hope. The natural resources have been depleted and a lack of metal has resulted in the use of wood, obsidian and bone for weapons, tools and common equipment. In such a harsh and unforgiving land, even the most mundane of creatures have developed psionic abilities in the constant struggle of survival of the fittest.
In such a world as Athas, a death by natural aging is considered to be a great achievement and an event worthy of celebrations.
Sea of Silt Edit
Water has long since ceased to flow on the surface and can only be found in the last sea, some oases, tiny lakes and streams, as well as west of the Ringing Mountains in the Forest Ridge. Not only are the mountains nearly impassable (the name Ringing Mountains refers to the lightheaded feeling one feels from lack of oxygen when traversing them) but the Forest Ridge is the home of halflings, which in the Dark Sun world are small creatures that live in tribes in the forest and do not hesitate to capture and eat intruders to their realm. This makes the prospect of going west across the mountains a near impossibility.
In the place of an ocean, the world of Athas, due to defiling magic, has a sea composed entirely of silt. The silt is incredibly dangerous as it is not capable of supporting the weight of humanoid creatures, and the particles themselves are extremely fine and get into the lungs quite easily. A strong wind from the Silt Sea can cause people from nearby villages to have to remain indoors all day, though with a certain amount of water some people often make use of a mask-like object called a silter which is placed over the mouth and nose and kept wet in order to help the user breathe.
The silt actually becomes hard-packed a few metres below the surface, but this is of no help to a human as the level within the first two metres is extremely loose and fine. However, giants often make use of the packed silt roads further below and can be seen wading chest-deep through the silt. Humans have sometimes built crafts that can navigate these silt roads much like giants do, though the going is much slower and both humans and giants still have to deal with the creatures that live in the sea.
Another method of travel is the shipfloaters, psionicists can use a large obsidian orb to focus their power to telekinetically levitate and sail the ship as if it were sailing through water.
The Tyr Region Edit
The Tyr region is a region of Athas encompassing thousands of square miles, and stretches from the Hinterlands in the West to the Valley of Dust and Fire in the East within the Sea Of Silt, to the Dead Lands in the south, and the Troll Grave Chasm to the North, it contains all but two city states of the sorcerer-kings, former Champions of Rajaat.
The rulers of the isolated city-states are called Sorcerer-Kings and, in most cases, are secretly the Dark Sun equivalent of dragons. Templars can serve and worship these Sorcerer-Kings as a source for their spells (which are actually granted by something known as a living vortex), while Clerics worship Elemental forces (Air, Fire, Water and Earth) and Druids follow powerful entities known as Spirits of the Land.
The campaign setting of the Dark Sun world generally takes place in the Tyr Region of the world of Athas, an area that spans from the Silt Sea in the east to the Hinterlands in the west and a bit beyond, plus south to the dead lands and north to a certain extent. There are cities further to the north and the south but the land is extremely unfriendly and most people do not wish to risk a journey of such length, and the location of other cities beyond the region is uncertain at best. As a whole, life within the Tyr Region itself is hard enough, and though characters in the campaign setting begin on a much higher level than those of other campaigns, this is also accompanied by a severe practicality, that risking one's life for adventure or altruism is a foolish notion, and survival from day to day takes precedence.
The city of the undead and the location of the Sage, 30 miles south west of salt view. The once beautiful city is now overrun by the undead, protectors of the secret treasure.
The southernmost city of the Tyr Region, formerly ruled by the sorcerer-king Andropinis. It is situated on the edge of the Silt Sea, and is the only city in the region to have a tradition of elected government. Compare with Ancient Greece.
Located on a vast mud flat in the northeastern area of the Tyr Region, Draj was formerly ruled by the Sorcerer-king Tectuktitlay, but after his death at Rajaat's hand in Ur-Draxa he has been replaced by his putative son, Atzetuk. Inspired by the Aztecs.
Ruled by the forest-goddess, Lalali-Puy, Gulg is unique among the city-states due to its construction from living materials of the forest instead of stone and brick. Inspired by Africa.
Nibenay is located closer to the center of the Tyr Region, just to the east of the city-state of Gulg. Nibenay is ruled by the sorcerer-king Nibenay, formerly known as Gallard the Bane of Gnomes, now known simply as "The Shadow King," and he is the most reclusive of them all. The Shadow King will often stay out of sight for years or more due to lack of interest in governmental affairs and having other more important projects to work on. Inspired by Angkor.
Formerly ruled by the sorcerer-queen Abalach-Re, Raam was fermenting with revolt even before her death and is now filled with chaos, an armed camp divided among various struggling factions. Inspired by Egypt.
Tyr is located just to the east of the Ringing Mountains. Tyr was ruled by the sorcerer-king Kalak until his overthrow on the verge of his ascension. It is now the only free-city of the region, banning the practice of slavery. It shares much in common with its historical quasi-namesake Tyre, including a monopoly over purple dye.
Ruled by the totalitarian Hamanu, Urik has become a closed city since the Great Earthquake, only rarely sending out trade caravans and remaining otherwise sealed. Inspired by Babylon and Uruk.