The World of Athas

The task of creating a campaign for players is the ultimate challenge for many GMs. World building must be weaved with a plot that will excite and challenge your players. Fortunately for those who want to run 4th Edition D&D, Wizards of the Coast has provided a number of campaign settings that make running a campaign easier.

Dark Sun is the newest campaign setting released for 4th Edition. Dark Sun was originally a campaign setting for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, and much has been kept from the previous version. Athas is still a desert world lacking in gods, metal, and civilization. It presents challenges for players which aren’t staples of regular 4th edition play. Players on a quest to explore hidden ruins may find the journey through the desert the most dangerous challenge.

A Dark Sun game should have a feel of harshness to it, as the world of Athas is a dying planet. Struggle and slavery are common themes found among the average civilians. The inhabitants of Athas are rarely friendly. Compassion and charity are as rare as metal and rain. These qualities present a new set of challenges for players as it will forces them to deal will complications that are rare in the traditional fantasy world.

Arcane magic is considered taboo by the majority of the Athasians. Arcane magic is the reason for the current condition of Athas. Mages and wizards found ways to empower their spells by defiling the world around them. This turned the world into a barren wasteland, instead of the idyllic paradise it once was. Divine Characters are also rare, as there are no gods in Athas. Elemental forces exist, but are dangerous and uncontrollable. Psionics are more common throughout the world, and most beings possess limited amounts of latent psionic potential. Heroes with martial training are common, since Athas is a world where you are more likely to find a knife at your throat than to receive a warm greeting.

Weapons and armor in Dark Sun also defy the normal conventions of fantasy role-playing games. The lack of metal doesn’t make the world a safe place. Obsidian, bone, and scale replace metal as the articles of combat. With them comes a penalty, weapon breakage. Players of Dark Sun will have more control over weapon breakage than in previous editions, but the possibility will always be there.

Magic Items are much rarer in Athas than in most settings. Wizards compensates for this with the fixed enhancement bonuses system and with new non-item magic rewards. These consist of various gifts, boons, secrets and mysteries that take the form of daily powers the players can expend. These often level with the players and fill the gap left behind by the reduced frequency of magic items. This lack of magic items may be most evident in that they are virtually never available for purchase, so players and GMs will have to find new and interesting ways for the spending of accumulated wealth.

In the end, Dark Sun represents a vastly different world than most players will be used to. The positive side of this is that it also represents a very fun world where victory and success are all the more satisfying. GM will enjoy the new tools to work with, the new foes to pit players against, and the new rewards to bestow on them.

[tags]Athas, 4e, D&D, Dark Sun, Gaming, Role Playing Games, RPG, Tabletop, Wizards of the Coast[/tags]

5 thoughts on “The World of Athas

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  1. Darksun is the only campaign setting I use for D&D… However, this being said, I’m still running Darksun2.2 for AD&D2.0 🙂 I didn’t care for D&D3 or 3.5 and while I own the main 4 D&D4.0 books, I’m not that impressed with it either. So I stay old school. 😛


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