D&D General 1991 Dark Sun Setting Overview and Speculation

My position is that 5E Dark Sun should present a version of the setting that doesn’t necessarily take into account the post-box set additions but at the same time strives to be compatible with them allowing those who did enjoy the later aspects to add it back in.

my position on the dark sun novels being an integral part of the setting differs to my Dragonlance position. The novels were never as central in fan minds in Dark Sun as they were for Dragonlance.
 

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I guess we will see a reboot, like Ravenloft, but with littles touchs of ambiguity. It is not only about to keep or change the previous canon, but if they should add space for new elements, for example the PC races from the Expanded Psionic Handbook, or gladiators with ki "martial maneuvers".

Other option may be to allow a spin-off recovering some ideas from the setting Jackandor.

And we can't forget the possibility of a future "infinite crisis", a mega-event altering all the official D&D worlds.
 


I am in nearly the same boat as the OP.
We always wanted to play Dark Sun, but other than playing the computer game it broke down after very few sessions.

Probably the rules of psionics and atteibutes were somehow not working as we expected it and also the type of stories not as we used to play back then.
I am so hoping for a 5e version of Athas and I would really like to play it.

Most interestingly I found the 4e version quite intriguing, but it came out at the wrong time.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
My position is that 5E Dark Sun should present a version of the setting that doesn’t necessarily take into account the post-box set additions but at the same time strives to be compatible with them allowing those who did enjoy the later aspects to add it back in. [...]
Yes, that would make sense. I think being vague about the backstory and timeline is the best way to go. It's hard to be all things to all people but if new setting materials were written cleverly enough, while leaving the post-1991 set additions unmentioned, fans of those additions could connect the dots and new readers would be free to create their own headcannon.

Other option may be to allow a spin-off recovering some ideas from the setting Jackandor.
Intriguing. Jackandor had good premise, with it's morally ambiguous societies, but I'm not quite sure how they would fit into Dark Sun, which has shades of gray too but is generally pretty clear about who the bad guys are. What are you thinking the spinoff would look like and what would it recover?

And we can't forget the possibility of a future "infinite crisis", a mega-event altering all the official D&D worlds.
You know, in the past I would have been skeptical of that possibility. But with some kind of edition update on the horizon, Fizban's Treasury of Dragons, Monsters of the Multiverse, WotC's apparent intentions to move from the Forgotten Realms to a broader multiverse as the persistent default setting, and every Marvel movie now slapping me in the face with the word "multiverse", I'm not so sure.

Nope. I was fascinated, and read every word.

I now know what I want in a Dark Sun product: Your vision of the explored world of Athas. I like yours better than the original.
Thank you, I appreciate that. I wish I had the time and wherewithal to develop it further.
 

Staffan

Legend
There were other area's detailed in differeint supplements. Remember Dark Sun was originally inhabited by halflings who built a fantastic civilization, they were called the lifeshapers. It's inferred that they created the Elves and Humans who then went on to cause the catyclism.
Nah, the elves and humans came later. It goes something like this:
  1. In the Blue Age, the sun is blue, and the world is mostly covered in water with scattered islands here and there. The dominant life form are halflings who mostly don't use magic or psionics, except for a small bit of elemental cleric magic, but instead have devoted their efforts to the science of life-shaping.
  2. As they reach a population where it's getting hard to support themselves via what's available in the ocean (I'm assuming life-shaping assisted kelp/algae farming and fishing and the like), they decide to perform an experiment that's supposed to make the oceans more fertile. This does not work out well, and instead a "Brown Tide" spreads and starts to choke off the oceans entirely.
  3. In desperation, they use the magic of a place called the Pristine Tower (whose origins remain unclear), with the ability to draw power from the sun and which also has extreme mutagenic properties. They manage to destroy the Brown Tide, but in the process the oceans mostly dry up and the sun turns yellow. In addition, many of the halflings mutate into different forms, turning into other races (humans, elves, dwarves, gnomes, lizardfolk, giants, etc.).
  4. This is what marks the start of the Green Age. Green Age Athas would be somewhat recognizable as a regular D&D setting, but initially the main supernatural power is psionics which is developed to a very high degree.
  5. Among the new races created by the Pristine Tower are the pyreen, which share features of many different races. One of these, Rajaat, turns out deformed and bitter, however, and believes the world would be better off if returned to its former stage and returned to the halflings. But he doesn't really have the ability to make his plan a reality, so he looks for ways of doing that.
  6. Rajaat eventually manages to invent arcane magic. I think he first discovers defiling, and then refines techniques for preserving. He thinks this would be a great way for halflings to take over the world again, but as it turns out halflings can't use arcane magic.
    1. Side note: this is a continuity issue in the 2e material. In the original boxed set, halflings can advance to 16th level as wizards, but only as preserver illusionists, and two of the novels (The Verdant Passage and The Amber Enchantress) feature halfling characters that clearly use arcane magic and visibly draw power from nearby plant life. In the revised boxed set and in the later novels (can't recall if it's the Obsidian Oracle or the Cerulean Storm), it is explained that halflings can't use arcane magic, and that the halflings in previous books used elemental/clerical magic instead, which is BS. My headcanon is that halflings are unable to use defiling magic, which made them useless to Rajaat's plan.
  7. Rajaat teaches preserving magic to the world at large. Among his pupils, he identifies some who he believes would be suitable for his plans, and secretly teaches them more powerful defiling magic.
  8. Rajaat then imbues the most powerful of his secret pupils with additional power from the Pristine Tower, turning them into "dragons" (21st level defiler/preservers, at that point still mostly human with some draconian attributes) and charges each of them with extermination of one particular race. This drains more power from the sun, which turns red, and it also signals the start of the Cleansing Wars.
  9. As the Cleansing Wars go on for some time, Athas does not fare well. Both sides use defiling magic extensively, turning large areas of the world into desert. Some of the Champions fulfill their genocidal goals, but eventually they figure out that once all the elves, gnomes, dwarves, etc. are dead, Rajaat will turn on them and the humans. Before this can happen, they turn on Rajaat, but can't really defeat him. Instead, they imprison him in another plane.
  10. Borys, one of the former Champions, is charged with maintaining Rajaat's prison, and again the power of the Pristine Tower is used to advance him into a full dragon. The pain and power drives Borys mad with rage, and Borys goes on a rampage for a century. This is essentially what turns the whole world into a desert. The remaining Champions retreat to fortified cities where they become the Sorcerer-Monarchs we know and love.
  11. After about a century, Borys comes back to his senses and learns that Rajaat's prison is about to break. He calls on his former allies to provide him with thousands of people he can drain the life of to reinforce the prison, and they do so. This will then go on for quite some time.
 

AdmundfortGeographer

Getting lost in fantasy maps
That's a cool idea. Where would you go with it? Would it differ significantly from the ringing mountain barrier east and west and ringing mountain ribs north and south setup (i.e. no forest ridge), and what would the existence of the crater mean?
I picked up Wonderdraft recently and started on forging this into an idea that incorporates the Revised and Expanded box. Alt-Athas Ringed Tablelands Full Res by AdmundfortGeographer on DeviantArt

It’s in progress obviously. Since posted, I’ve added more and grown this to include a near-complete ring with gap in the south for the sea of silt to spill out which I’ll post the next update soon.
 

Bitbrain

Glory to Ka!
I picked up Wonderdraft recently and started on forging this into an idea that incorporates the Revised and Expanded box. Alt-Athas Ringed Tablelands Full Res by AdmundfortGeographer on DeviantArt

It’s in progress obviously. Since posted, I’ve added more and grown this to include a near-complete ring with gap in the south for the sea of silt to spill out which I’ll post the next update soon.

That is a truly glorious map! I can’t wait to see what it looks like when completed!
 

squibbles

Adventurer
I picked up Wonderdraft recently and started on forging this into an idea that incorporates the Revised and Expanded box. Alt-Athas Ringed Tablelands Full Res by AdmundfortGeographer on DeviantArt

It’s in progress obviously. Since posted, I’ve added more and grown this to include a near-complete ring with gap in the south for the sea of silt to spill out which I’ll post the next update soon.
Super cool.

Once you get the whole crater area filled in, I'd be interested to know what cities, groups, and geographical features you populate it with.
 

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