With all the discussion of Dark Sun this past week, I could not help but want to do some delving of my own into the world of Athas. So I ended up kicking around the web, looking for Dark Sun resources that might have gone unnoticed with all the excitement over the upcoming release of the Dark Sun Campaign Setting in August 2010.
While certainly much of this information might become obsolete and out-of-date once the official Athas material is released, it is always good to have access to older source material. I have yet to find that WotC releases as much information in their re-inventing of settings under 4E rules as they had in the previous releases. Certainly, this was the case with both the Forgotten Realms and Eberron settings, where many of the geographical information entries were given short work or even ignored altogether, but (thankfully) had been fully discussed in the source books released under previous editions. So it never hurts to have access to the “old lore” if you are considering using the newly released 4E Dark Sun Setting as your next campaign, to fill in any gaps that might have been overlooked.
So as I began my search for Athas Lore, surprisingly I ended up at not one, but two Dark Sun wiki sites! The Official Wikipedia hosts a solidly detailed Dark Sun entry that has obviously been well-tended over the years by many Athas fans. This entry contains many details regarding the physical world of Athas and its geography, history, races and monsters, and character classes. In addition, there is a nifty section on the individual Characters which have appeared in the various “official” Dark Sun novels and short stories. And the entry wraps up with a solid bibliography of the original source material, a complete listing of all the Dark Sun novels, and some external links to other Dark Sun resources.
As mentioned, there is also a second, “unofficial” Dark Sun wiki site maintained by a fan which contains much of the same information as the Wikipedia site, but is not as fully detailed, and in many cases containing incomplete infolinks. I was intrigued by one entry on this site, labeled the Athasian Game Master – tips from Jon, which looked promising, with apparently information on how another Dungeon Master ran a Dark Sun campaign. But alas, the link was broken, which made this particular site pretty much a non-starter. I would definitely recommend sticking with the Official Wikipedia entry for your first delving into forgotten Athas Lore.
I did uncover a really great fansite detailing the “The City of Silt”, the City-State of Balic, which is set in the Dark Sun Campaign Setting. This city-state is richly and expansively detailed, covering important NPCs, shops, flora and fauna, and important locations. For potential Athasian 4E DMs, the city-state of Balic might provide a great place to have your new Dark Sun characters visit in the course of their adventures.
But possibly one of the most exciting sites unearthed in my search for Athas was at the “official” fansite for the Dark Sun Campaign Setting – Athas.org! Apparently, Wizards of the Coast granted this site its blessing, making them the “stewards” of the Dark Sun Campaign setting since it was re-released under 3.5 rules in 2000. This site not only carries the WotC seal of approval, but has created extensive fan-based content over the past decade.
Athas.org offers not only a full list of Dark Sun Campaign products from previous D&D editions, but also links to help you find old out-of-print materials on Ebay! In addition, this “official” Dark Sun Fansite hosts a forum called the Arena, a selection of articles written by Dark Sun DMs, and a whole lot of new content for Dark Sun under 3.5 rules. Ironically, I did find the lost article I mentioned from the “unofficial” Dark Sun wiki, Athasian Game Master – tips from Jon, right here in the Article section of Athas.org, and it did have some good advice in it about running a campaign in Athas.
But all that is nothing compared to the more than 20 source books I discovered, all in pdf format, containing tons of fan-created Dark Sun Campaign content at the Athas.org site! Covering every topic imaginable, the Athas.org members have been laboring away in secret, stockpiling up a vast library of ebooks brimming with exciting Athasian Lore. Now not all this material will be useful to 4E Dark Sun campaigners, particularly the content designed with D&D 3.5 in mind, such as Prestige Classes and Epic Level rules, but there is still a lot of material available for enterprising 4E Dungeon Masters to use to supplement the official re-release of Dark Sun in August. Athas.org has published two monster manuals, three adventures, and half a dozen setting-based releases, detailing information on topics like “Villages of the Wastes” which adventurers might stumble upon to details about the Athasian “City-State of Draj”. So there is plenty of material here if you are planning on using the new 4E Dark Sun Setting in your next campaign, and is well worth spending your time downloading!
There was also a very interesting link to a Podcast by Dragonlance Nexus, interviewing the creator of the Athas.org site, discussing his knowledge of Dark Sun and how he thinks that D&D 4E will handle various aspects of the world of Athas. The dialogue was frank and very insightful, and contains some fascinating observations on how WotChas dealt with re-envisioning various world settings, including Dark Sun, in D&D 4E.
So if you are like me, and are trying to get a handle on all-things Dark Sun before the August release, or if you are an old fan of Dark Sun, but have just been away from Athas for a while, these sites are excellent resources for learning lore and preparing for the upcoming campaign experience. There’s tons of great content and lore, and all kinds of inspirational ideas to help any Dungeon Master launch their new Dark Sun campaigns with plenty of adventure hooks and rich background information.
So until next blog… I wish you Happy Gaming!