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D&D 5E Wild Speculation: Athas, the World Without Dragons

DEFCON 1

Legend
This is one possible definition of the D&D multiverse, but it's a broad enough definition to be effectively meaningless.

My understanding of the D&D multiverse, and the understanding that I think others object to, is based on the shared cosmology described in Appendix C of the Player's Handbook. Plenty of D&D games don't share this cosmology, and I think it's a mistake for the designers to treat it as a universal or default setting element.
If you can and will ignore Appendix C, then what difference does it make what they say?
 

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Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
well.... why aren't there dragons in non-material planes? It seems that, much like giants, dragons really prefer the material plane. Why is that?
You mean like Shadow Dragons who are either native to the Shadowfell or became native to it through long term exposure?

Or Moonstone Dragons of the Feywild with the same schtick?

Or the aptly named Astral Dragons and Ethereal Dragons?

Granted, they didn't put the Astral or Ethereal Dragon into the Treasury, but it's canonical in FR so, y'know... it exists everywhere since it's all one giant multiversal setting!

Wonder if they'll also bring back Battle Dragons, Radiant Dragons, Adamantine Dragons, Elysian Dragons, Arboreal Dragons, Oceanus Dragons, Beast Dragons, Howling Dragons, Styx Dragons, Pyroclastic Dragons, Rust Dragons, Tarterian Dragons, Gloom Dragons, Chole Dragons, Deathmask Dragons, Chaos Dragons, Axial Dragons, Concordant Dragons, and the Frostforged Wyrm...?

Each of those is a canonical dragon native to one of the outer planes... Or was in 2, 3, or 4e.

Guess they could axe all of those to make it -just- the Prime Material ones... but they'd have to retcon Moonstone and Shadow Dragons from the Treasury.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
I can't really disagree with your subjective experience of playing Dark Sun, and I agree with you that the original boxed set is the best way the setting has ever been presented.

However, I absolutely want to see 5e try to duplicate the feel. 5e so far under-serves low fantasy, sword and sorcery, and sword and planet. Perhaps--in the same way that WotC is serving a new noncombat style of play in Wild Beyond the Witchlight--they could give those S&S styles and themes a try in a Dark Sun book. The ultimate outcome might not suit you (or me), but maybe it would--and the original version of Dark Sun will be around whether the setting is revisited or not.


Dark Sun is probably the most pro-environmentalist secondary world that has ever been conceived (if anyone can think a better one I'd love to be corrected here), and it's anti-racist in that it critically depicts prejudice and has genocide in its deep backstory. But the other themes you listed strike me as a bit curious.

Dark Sun is anti-authoritarian, I think, with all its petty despots and oppressive social structures.

But is it anti-fascist? The sorcerer kings exercise state power with no ideology--or with a religious one--and all their societies are very traditional. The pervasive cruelty feels Biblical Egyptian or Assyrian, not modern. I realize there are many definitions of fascism, and that Dark Sun's prevailing societies might fit some of them, but this seems incidental to me. What makes it strike you that way?

And is it anti-imperialist? There aren't any empires in Dark Sun, just city states, and they don't control large or diverse territories like, say, the Athenian empire did. There aren't client kings that carry out the sorcerer kings' wishes or mercantilist trade dependencies of raw goods for finished goods. It's just old-school stationary bandits collecting taxes with the help of an oppressive professional bureaucracy. Even the genocidal wars of the deep backstory come across more as movements than as imperial conquests, like decentralized 15th century religious strife or 19th century nationalist uprisings. Where does the anti-imperialism come in?

...Just a bit of friendly pushback--I agree with your point in general.
Anti-imperialist may have been a poor choice of words (though @Steampunkette does point out some places anti-imperialism is present.) Anti-authoritarian is closer to what I meant there. As for anti-fascist, I was thinking of Rajaat, who lead a war of extermination to try and restore an idealized, ethnically pure past.
 
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Scribe

Hero
You mean like Shadow Dragons who are either native to the Shadowfell or became native to it through long term exposure?

Or Moonstone Dragons of the Feywild with the same schtick?

Or the aptly named Astral Dragons and Ethereal Dragons?

Granted, they didn't put the Astral or Ethereal Dragon into the Treasury, but it's canonical in FR so, y'know... it exists everywhere since it's all one giant multiversal setting!

Wonder if they'll also bring back Battle Dragons, Radiant Dragons, Adamantine Dragons, Elysian Dragons, Arboreal Dragons, Oceanus Dragons, Beast Dragons, Howling Dragons, Styx Dragons, Pyroclastic Dragons, Rust Dragons, Tarterian Dragons, Gloom Dragons, Chole Dragons, Deathmask Dragons, Chaos Dragons, Axial Dragons, Concordant Dragons, and the Frostforged Wyrm...?

Each of those is a canonical dragon native to one of the outer planes... Or was in 2, 3, or 4e.

Guess they could axe all of those to make it -just- the Prime Material ones... but they'd have to retcon Moonstone and Shadow Dragons from the Treasury.
Do those options exist in the core 3 books of 5e?

If not, no they are not canon.
 



Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
I agree with your assessment of the themes.
I just don't think a major corporation would publish it in today's world.
I disagree. I mean, they probably won’t publish it exactly as it appeared in 2e. But because there’s room to freshen it up for new audiences, not because its themes aren’t appropriate by today’s standards, which they absolutely are.
We've seen companies like Pinnacle back away from the Confederacy in Deadlands.
Which was a good move, because having the confederacy as a heroic option was extremely distasteful.
It's different to present a world where a few groups uphold these awful practices. It's quite different when it's the standard, core themes of the setting. And your characters can't do anything about it.
Again, the core themes of the setting are anti-racist, -authoritarian, -fascist, etc. Those being core themes of a setting appeals to “modern sensibilities.” Yes, it’s a setting where the bad guys have won, but that doesn’t really hurt its appeal because yes, your characters can in fact do something about it. You can fight back against the sorcerer-kings, even kill them. It may be too late to save the world as it was, but by rising up together, you might at least be able to make the world you’ve got a better place.

In fact, a lot of young people feel like that’s exactly the case in real life - the bad guys have won, the environment may be too far gone to save, so a game/setting that lets you indulge in the fantasy of fighting back against those bad guys, even though they have everything and you have nothing, is incredibly appealing. Absolutely nothing about Dark Sun is anything but powerfully compelling to the people you think are too sensitive to abide it.
 
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squibbles

Adventurer
The whole destruction of the world came from a massive "Ethnic Cleansing" involving literally everyone that wasn't a human or a halfling.

All the Sorcerer-Kings were/are motivated by fascistic desires and structures. In large part through nationalistic fervor and the group-worship of a cult-leader in the form of the city-state's Sorcerer King.

Except Raam... Where Abalach Re presents herself not as the godly power, -herself-, but as the high priest of a made up religion in which only she can interpret the will of Badna. No one believes her, but everyone gives lip-service to Badna to avoid her killing them for being heretics.
I'm leery to go further with this tangent, but am going to push back a little more. Please view this response as being in the spirit of friendly discussion.

The Genocide in the background of Dark Sun is evil, but that doesn't inherently make its perpetrators fascist. Other extremist ideologies also perpetrate this kind of atrocity (as, for example, in the Holodomor). Similarly, personality cults are not specific to fascism. And, though some of the city states are characterized by fanatical devotion to their sorcerer king (principally Draj, maybe Urik and Gulg) that never struck me as specifically nationalistic.

The cruelty and badness of the city states seems to me to share a lot more with the god-kings of ancient Egypt, or of the famously cruel Assyrians (unfortunately, I couldn't find a Wikipedia page that quite captured it). We could say that the cruelty and badness of the city states is fascistic--they meet several of the characteristics of, for example, Umberto Eco's definition--but there are also a lot of particularly fascistic things that they lack. They don't fetishize technology, they aren't populist, they don't have a cult of heroic death, they don't believe in action for action's sake.

Dark Sun does clearly depict its societies as authoritarian and bad--it is anti-authoritarian. But there are many many kinds of authoritarian badness. Fascism is only one specific kind and, to my thinking, it's best to call the things fascist which are specifically fascist rather than all cruel authoritarians.

Tectuktitlay of Draj wants to conquer the entire Tablelands. He's only held in check by Hamanu the Lion of Urik.

Each of the Sorcerer-Kings (Outside of Oronis of Kurn) seeks to attain Dragonhood and take over what remains of the world after their rampage. Only Borys was willing to take up the role of guarding Rajaat with the stipulation that the other City-States bring snackrifices to Ur-Draxa on his behalf.

In fact, when Dregoth was close to achieving his draconic rising, the other sorcerer-kings, lead by Abalach-Re, slaughtered him mid-transformation and caused him to become Athas' first and only "Dracolich" because they wanted the detente to continue and felt he was too powerful in the wake of Borys' change.

Most of the adventure paths have you working against the Sorcerer-Kings because anti-authority to some degree... but you're also always stopping them from expanding their power and influence, except at the Black Spine mountains, where you're -actually- trying to stop Gith from absolutely wrecking Nibenay and everyone else in a planet-wide takeover with superior weapons from another dimension.

Which is still pretty anti-imperialistic.
Maybe I don't follow what is meant by anti-imperialism in this context. I know a lot less about, say, postcolonial theory than I do about the history of fascism.

To my understanding, imperialism is a system where an imperial metropole dominates and extracts resources from an imperial periphery. Not all systems of authority are imperial. Nation-states and city-states aren't, unless they control colonies. So it should be possible to be anti-authority without being anti-imperial like, for example, an anarchist is, correct?

I don't think it necessarily follows that conquest leads to imperialism either (in Dark Sun or in life). When Hamanu defeats Sielba and Yaramuke, he doesn't absorb the city as a territorial possession and treat its inhabitants as having a lower citizenship status like an imperial power would do. He kills everyone, lays waste to the city, leaves it as an abandoned ruin, and projects only limited territorial control over the area afterwards. What you describe with Tectuktitlay and Dregoth also seems more to me like balance of power politics prompted by the security dilemma than it does imperialism.

---edit---

Anti-imperialist may have been a poor choice of words (though @Steampunkette does point out some places anti-imperialism is present.) Anti-authoritarian is closer to what I meant there. As for anti-fascist, I was thinking of Rajaat, who lead a war of extermination to try and restore an idealized, ethnically pure past.
I quibbled a bit about the definition of fascism in my response to @Steampunkette above, mostly regarding things other than the cleansing wars, but when you put that fine a point on it--"a war of extermination to try and restore an idealized, ethnically pure past"--yeeesh, that's fair enough.
 
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And one Wizard Spell shuts off -all- magic. The GODS cannot cast magic into an Antimagic Zone. The freaking GODS. Shuts down Vecna -instantly-. Correlon? No magic for you! Mystra? Nuh huh, even though MAGIC IS HERS IN THE FORGOTTEN REALMS...

She can't cast a spell inside the Antimagic Zone 'cause the Weave breaks.
I don't think you got that one right.
And I'm not even talking about the Weave. The spell itself says it doesn't affect artifacts or a deity's magic. A GM can add whatever other source they think fit the setting, too, obviously.

As a side note, the Weave is one way to access raw magic. The gods of the Realms most certainly are not limited by the Weave to tap raw power, let alone Mystra. And mortals can cast magic without the Weave, too, but I'm not going to extend on this one, since you've made it clear you dislike the idea. BTW, I don't care about it, unless magic itself is the plot of a game I run (which, right now, is not).

5e psionics as presented thus far don't fit the setting.
I had the impression that psionics as a wild talent was the norm for Athas. I could be wrong about "wild talent as a core concept"; I've played in Dark Sun a long time ago, and for a short campaign only. The way I remember it, anyone could potentially have a limited psionic power, and few individuals could really unleash their full potential. In a way, it's similar to Eberron's "wide not high magic". The magewrights have severely limited magical ability, and they cast slower than real mages. Yet anyone can unlock that limited "wild talent", so to say.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
I don't think you got that one right.
And I'm not even talking about the Weave. The spell itself says it doesn't affect artifacts or a deity's magic. A GM can add whatever other source they think fit the setting, too, obviously.
Fair. The spell does call out that it doesn't affect Gods or Artifacts. But it does apply to Psionics, Nature Magic, Divine Magic, Arcane Magic, Alchemist Infusions, Pact Magic, and all other forms of Magic because it's all one thing: The Weave.
As a side note, the Weave is one way to access raw magic. The gods of the Realms most certainly are not limited by the Weave to tap raw power, let alone Mystra. And mortals can cast magic without the Weave, too, but I'm not going to extend on this one, since you've made it clear you dislike the idea. BTW, I don't care about it, unless magic itself is the plot of a game I run (which, right now, is not).
PHB Page 205. "The Weave of Magic"

It defines -all- magic as reliant on the Weave. That Arcane and Divine are just different ways to access the same thing. In Sage Advice articles, Dan Dillon and others have confirmed that this is how magic works across the multiverse on all D&D Worlds. Dillon, in particular, confirmed that Psionics is magic and thus uses the Weave, too.

On Athas they might not call it "The Weave" but a rose by any other name, y'know?
I had the impression that psionics as a wild talent was the norm for Athas. I could be wrong about "wild talent as a core concept"; I've played in Dark Sun a long time ago, and for a short campaign only. The way I remember it, anyone could potentially have a limited psionic power, and few individuals could really unleash their full potential. In a way, it's similar to Eberron's "wide not high magic". The magewrights have severely limited magical ability, and they cast slower than real mages. Yet anyone can unlock that limited "wild talent", so to say.
Wild talents were common in Athas, but The Will and the Way are also super duper important and are how full on Psionicists worked in the setting.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
[...] Wonder if they'll also bring back Battle Dragons, Radiant Dragons, Adamantine Dragons, Elysian Dragons, Arboreal Dragons, Oceanus Dragons, Beast Dragons, Howling Dragons, Styx Dragons, Pyroclastic Dragons, Rust Dragons, Tarterian Dragons, Gloom Dragons, Chole Dragons, Deathmask Dragons, Chaos Dragons, Axial Dragons, Concordant Dragons, and the Frostforged Wyrm...?
Good god. I hope not.

This is probably one of the reasons I like Dark Sun so much. It has one dragon--and his coolness is not diluted by obsessive cosmological spreadsheet filling.
 

Good god. I hope not.

This is probably one of the reasons I like Dark Sun so much. It has one dragon--and his coolness is not diluted by obsessive cosmological spreadsheet filling.
I personally would be more interested in getting interesting non-draconic planer life along with doing something with the inner planes and far realm.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Fair. The spell does call out that it doesn't affect Gods or Artifacts. But it does apply to Psionics, Nature Magic, Divine Magic, Arcane Magic, Alchemist Infusions, Pact Magic, and all other forms of Magic because it's all one thing: The Weave.
This is so surreal. I hate Antimagic Field in part because it doesn't do that.

Psionics that aren't explicitly magical (like psionic spells) ignore it.
Magical-ish powers like a Dragon's breath weapon ignore it.
Ki powers may or may not ignore it depending on how your DM is feeling that day.
The Artificer's Steel Defender still functions in it.
Undead created by the Animate Dead spell still function in it (despite AMF saying otherwise!)
Any power or ability that isn't based on the laws of physics but isn't "explicitly magical" ignore it. Things like Portent, for example.
You could even argue that Lay on Hands works in it based on two different exception clauses!

There are just so many exceptions that it makes it a nightmare to use.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
This is so surreal. I hate Antimagic Field in part because it doesn't do that.

Psionics that aren't explicitly magical (like psionic spells) ignore it.
Magical-ish powers like a Dragon's breath weapon ignore it.
Ki powers may or may not ignore it depending on how your DM is feeling that day.
The Artificer's Steel Defender still functions in it.
Undead created by the Animate Dead spell still function in it (despite AMF saying otherwise!)
Any power or ability that isn't based on the laws of physics but isn't "explicitly magical" ignore it. Things like Portent, for example.
You could even argue that Lay on Hands works in it based on two different exception clauses!

There are just so many exceptions that it makes it a nightmare to use.
According to Sage Advice, anything which duplicates the effects of a spell (Like Psionicists casting "Detect Thoughts") are subject to antimagic and dispelling like any other spell.

Sounds like your DM just isn't following the current rules as intended.

Though, to be fair, I wouldn't have zombies and skeletons wink out. I'd have them fall over, the magic that animates them stolen... then stand up when it returns.
 


Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
@Mind of tempest beat me to it, yeah.

Though Fizban's isn't canon and is trying to expand the canon so, ymmv on what is and isn't canon after it comes out.

The point remains that it's a bad design decision that curtails narrative variety, not encourages it.
almost any lore decision can curtain narrative variety if you think about it... Like for example, I could come up with an idea that the dragons are the defenders of the prime material plane against incursions from fiends and worse. If I follow your desire to have dragons everywhere, it weakens my narrative.

Every GM has to decide, if it comes up in their game, to ignore or adopt the "official" cosmology.
 

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