How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

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How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby Big Mac » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:43 am

According to the Prism Pentad Athas used to be a much more "habitable" world, before the arrival of the Sorcerer Kings.

But I've been thinking about this and it bothers me. The Dark Sun campaign setting is not the entire surface of Athas. It is just part of it. I'm not sure how much of Athas is in the setting, but I know there is a silt sea on one side and mountains on the other side.

If defilers "killed off" a lot of the ecosystem in the core Dark Sun area, what is happening on the rest of the world?

The Prism Pentad novels have an area in the mountains that is still "habitable". How many areas are there like this?

Are there other lands to the East, North and South of the silt sea that also have cultures with defilers? If not, are there areas where water still flows into parts of the silt sea?

Are there areas to the north or south of the Dark Sun area, where the water cycle still works normally?
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby ripvanwormer » Wed Jun 18, 2014 2:50 am

Here's a thread on the Wizards message boards in which a fan attempts to map the entire surface of the planet.

Note that local defiler magic isn't Athas's only problem. A lot of the environmental damage came from the damage done by Rajaat to the sun itself, which is why the whole planet's kind of messed up compared to how it was in the Green Age.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby agathokles » Wed Jun 18, 2014 9:59 am

I'd say it would detract from the tone of the setting if, instead of a massively disrupted ecosystem, you only had local defiled areas. Basically, people would have simply moved out of the defiled areas into more fertile lands. Since instead the core of human/demihuman civilization is still in the known areas, one must assume the rest of the planet is either in a worse shape, or controlled by other, more aggressive, species, such as the advanced Thri-Kreen.

Besides the Tablelands, there are indeed other areas of Athas mapped out in the 2e products. West of the mountains and the Jagged Cliffs there is a large savannah, which is the home of a Thri-Kreen civilization. In the middle of the Sea of Silt lies the Valley of Dust and Fire, and the dragon-ruled city of Ur-Draxa. South of the Tablelands are the Deadlands, an immense wastelands entirely covered in black obsidian, and full of undead demihumans.
To the North there is the Last Sea. In "Mind Lords of the Last Sea" it is said that it is the largest remaining body of water in Athas, and that's about 50 miles across -- only about 1.5 times the Dead Sea in the real world.
Thus, other regions are unlikely to have more than small terminal lakes.

Here a map of most of the known regions:
http://www.digitalwanderer.net/darksun/
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby night_druid » Wed Jun 18, 2014 12:39 pm

The map in the original boxed set detailed an area the size of Wyoming, IIRC. I don't think the combined mapped areas of the Darksun product line would cover an area as big as the lower 48 states of the US (probably not even half that size, if that). Its possible that the GM could lift the entire DS line and plop it down on another world, should he/she choose to do so.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby Raddu » Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:46 pm

The maps from Brian's original post can all be found here: Athasian Cartographers Guild

I made an alternate history that explains why all of the people of the Tablelands live in such a defiled place...it's the only place to live: Alternate History: Arcane Apocalypse
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby Big Mac » Thu Jun 19, 2014 12:35 am

ripvanwormer wrote:Here's a thread on the Wizards message boards in which a fan attempts to map the entire surface of the planet.


Wow! That's an awesome project!

We should have had a thread about that here (if we do not already have one). If there is anything out there (anywhere) that is that good, we should be telling each other about it.

ripvanwormer wrote:Note that local defiler magic isn't Athas's only problem. A lot of the environmental damage came from the damage done by Rajaat to the sun itself, which is why the whole planet's kind of messed up compared to how it was in the Green Age.


True. But, if you have defiling on top of solar damage, you would expect to see areas becoming less habitable.

I'm not sure exactly how defiling works (I know it is pulling too much magic out of the land) but I think that the only thing that makes sense, to me, is that if there was a global (or even systemwide) change in the way magic works. If there was a global change, then spellcasters on the opposite side of the world from Tyr would suddenly start defiling on the same day that people started defiling in Tyr. I don't know if Athas has something similar to The Weave from Forgotten Realms, or if it has a god of magic, but something that was there must have gotten damaged.

If that was done, you could have defiling magic without necessarily having Sorcerer Kings (and Templers). If that was done, you could create a Dark Sun sub-setting, that had differences, but still had the same theme of defiling magic.

agathokles wrote:I'd say it would detract from the tone of the setting if, instead of a massively disrupted ecosystem, you only had local defiled areas. Basically, people would have simply moved out of the defiled areas into more fertile lands. Since instead the core of human/demihuman civilization is still in the known areas, one must assume the rest of the planet is either in a worse shape, or controlled by other, more aggressive, species, such as the advanced Thri-Kreen.


I would not want that either. But I was trying to make sense of the effect of the Sorcerer Kings (and their Templers).

agathokles wrote:Besides the Tablelands, there are indeed other areas of Athas mapped out in the 2e products. West of the mountains and the Jagged Cliffs there is a large savannah, which is the home of a Thri-Kreen civilization. In the middle of the Sea of Silt lies the Valley of Dust and Fire, and the dragon-ruled city of Ur-Draxa. South of the Tablelands are the Deadlands, an immense wastelands entirely covered in black obsidian, and full of undead demihumans.
To the North there is the Last Sea. In "Mind Lords of the Last Sea" it is said that it is the largest remaining body of water in Athas, and that's about 50 miles across -- only about 1.5 times the Dead Sea in the real world.
Thus, other regions are unlikely to have more than small terminal lakes.


I guess that what Athas needs is different reasons for other areas to be deserts. I might start threads about some of those regions, to find out more about them.

agathokles wrote:Here a map of most of the known regions:
http://www.digitalwanderer.net/darksun/


I've seen that one before (and looked at it recently) but I just noticed something today.

All the areas with woodlands/forests seem to be to the north-east of mountains or cliffs. So I think you can infer some sort of direction for air currents that take rain clouds across the surface of Athas. If the rest of the global air currents could be inferred from that, it would be possible to randomly generate seas (dust seas) and mountains and then work out rainfall ares and create more forests there.

night_druid wrote:The map in the original boxed set detailed an area the size of Wyoming, IIRC. I don't think the combined mapped areas of the Darksun product line would cover an area as big as the lower 48 states of the US (probably not even half that size, if that). Its possible that the GM could lift the entire DS line and plop it down on another world, should he/she choose to do so.


True. I think that would be workable. The sun would need to change, but it could be done...not that I would want to do that.

Raddu wrote:The maps from Brian's original post can all be found here: Athasian Cartographers Guild


Thanks Raddu. I would put Brian's mapping project on a similar level (in importance to RPG fandom) to Anna Mayer's maps of the Flanaess. It is great to see they have been given a home.

I also like that the symbols are there. If Night Druid ever gets back to his Crimson Sphere crossover of Spelljammer and Dark Sun, it would be nice to have matching maps for the other worlds in the same crystal sphere.

Raddu wrote:I made an alternate history that explains why all of the people of the Tablelands live in such a defiled place...it's the only place to live: Alternate History: Arcane Apocalypse


I really like that, although I think I would be inclined to ignore the very end and use it as a false story put out by the Sorcerer Kings to trick some members of the Veiled Alliance into thinking they had been manipulated into joining a bad organisation.

If there was an actual way to make people believe they had seen your war, they would come back and try to get "good" people to sign up to join the crusade. Maybe they could even get people to march off and get consumed by the dragon's magic.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby ripvanwormer » Thu Jun 19, 2014 1:13 am

Big Mac wrote:I'm not sure exactly how defiling works (I know it is pulling too much magic out of the land) but I think that the only thing that makes sense, to me, is that if there was a global (or even systemwide) change in the way magic works. If there was a global change, then spellcasters on the opposite side of the world from Tyr would suddenly start defiling on the same day that people started defiling in Tyr.


Arcane magic has always worked that way on Athas. The reason Athas didn't suffer from magic-related environmental damage in the past is that nobody knew how to do arcane magic (during most of the Green Age, psionics was the supernatural art du jour). Rajaat discovered both defiling and preserving magic, and all modern-day mages (defilers and preservers alike) learned from those who, if you trace the educational lineage far back enough, learned from Rajaat. If there were mages on the other side of the world, they were part of the same tradition that Rajaat invented. I guess you could decide that other groups discovered magic independently, but if so they probably did so after Rajaat.

4th edition actually came up with the idea that magic works that way on Athas because of the effects the deaths of the gods after the war with the primordials had on reality. That's not part of the 2nd edition version of the history (where the official line was that true gods were never involved with Athas), but it's kind of a fun twist on the gods vs. primordials backstory that most of 4e uses. On Athas, all the gods died and only the primordials remain. Before the death of the gods, arcane magic was simply impossible on Athas. Magic is a flaw in the world.

night_druid wrote:The map in the original boxed set detailed an area the size of Wyoming, IIRC. I don't think the combined mapped areas of the Darksun product line would cover an area as big as the lower 48 states of the US (probably not even half that size, if that). Its possible that the GM could lift the entire DS line and plop it down on another world, should he/she choose to do so.


Some people have placed it in the Sea of Dust on Oerth.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby agathokles » Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:07 am

Another aspect to take into account is the following: the "Green Age" before the Dark Sun is not the first one in Athas. There was a Blue Age before, when Athas was actually a waterworld and the only humanoids around where the Halflings (Thri-Kreen and Pterrans are another matter). The end of the Blue Age was brought on by the Halflings, who did a mess similar to the one later caused by Raajat's actions. This turned the sun from blue to yellow and caused an increased rate of mutation in the environs of the device used which led to the birth of the other humanoid races.
So, the humanoid civilizations have always been centred around the region depicted in the map. The western regions where the homeland of Thri-Kreen since before the Green Age.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby Big Mac » Thu Jun 19, 2014 12:07 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:Arcane magic has always worked that way on Athas. The reason Athas didn't suffer from magic-related environmental damage in the past is that nobody knew how to do arcane magic (during most of the Green Age, psionics was the supernatural art du jour). Rajaat discovered both defiling and preserving magic, and all modern-day mages (defilers and preservers alike) learned from those who, if you trace the educational lineage far back enough, learned from Rajaat. If there were mages on the other side of the world, they were part of the same tradition that Rajaat invented. I guess you could decide that other groups discovered magic independently, but if so they probably did so after Rajaat.


That makes a lot of sense.

So I'm guessing that defiling and preserving must be a local effect caused by the nature of Athas and/or its Material Plane/crystal sphere.

ripvanwormer wrote:4th edition actually came up with the idea that magic works that way on Athas because of the effects the deaths of the gods after the war with the primordials had on reality. That's not part of the 2nd edition version of the history (where the official line was that true gods were never involved with Athas), but it's kind of a fun twist on the gods vs. primordials backstory that most of 4e uses. On Athas, all the gods died and only the primordials remain. Before the death of the gods, arcane magic was simply impossible on Athas. Magic is a flaw in the world.


So that would seem to suggest that the gods of Athas were supressing the ability to learn arcane magic.

agathokles wrote:Another aspect to take into account is the following: the "Green Age" before the Dark Sun is not the first one in Athas. There was a Blue Age before, when Athas was actually a waterworld and the only humanoids around where the Halflings (Thri-Kreen and Pterrans are another matter). The end of the Blue Age was brought on by the Halflings, who did a mess similar to the one later caused by Raajat's actions. This turned the sun from blue to yellow and caused an increased rate of mutation in the environs of the device used which led to the birth of the other humanoid races.


I did see that thing that all people were mutated halflings.

agathokles wrote:So, the humanoid civilizations have always been centred around the region depicted in the map. The western regions where the homeland of Thri-Kreen since before the Green Age.


Hrm. This still does not seem to add up. Would you suggest that halflings well away from the core Dark Sun region managed to avoid mutation?

Or would they mutate into races other than humans, elves, dwarves and other standard Dark Sun races?

Or were there parts of Athas that were totally uninhabited during the Blue Age or Green Age?

I can buy Athas having other areas that work differently, but there must be some central themes. And I can't buy Athas having uninhabited areas without some sort of plot-device mechanism to justify it.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby ripvanwormer » Thu Jun 19, 2014 4:10 pm

Big Mac wrote:So that would seem to suggest that the gods of Athas were supressing the ability to learn arcane magic.


Only in the sense that a healthy human body supresses the ability to bleed to death. If all goes as intended, your blood stays where it belongs. But imagine you acquired a nasty wound that refused to heal properly. It hurts, but you're not dying. Then a parasite comes by and burrows into your wound, opening it enough to feed on your blood. That weakens you, but it doesn't drink more than you can stand to lose. That's preserver magic. Now say the parasite gets greedy and opens up your wound so much that you begin to die. That's defiler magic.

The death of the gods created the wound, like the death of Mystra brought about Toril's Spellplague. I don't think the gods had to actively supress either calamity as long as they were alive, but the circumstances of their deaths resulted in great damage being done. On Athas, that damage is where magic came from (in fourth edition). Without it, the force that animates living things would remain inside living things, unavailable for mages to drain and turn into spells. Halfling lifeshaping, a gentler art that reshapes life without draining it to make magic, would still probably be doable. But even lifeshaping can do damage if done incautiously; it was lifeshapers who brought about the end of the Blue Age and nearly destroyed the world.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby agathokles » Thu Jun 19, 2014 4:23 pm

Big Mac wrote:So I'm guessing that defiling and preserving must be a local effect caused by the nature of Athas and/or its Material Plane/crystal sphere.


Not necessarily: Defiling magic is presented as a variant magic system for general use in AD&D in Player's Options, IIRC. Also, Preserving magic is essentially the same as standard magic in other settings. It is possible that in other settings, Defiling has simply not been discovered yet, or that the "gods of magic" of some settings (Mystra, the three moon gods of Dragonlance) entirely suppress it.

Either option seems to me a better fit for an integrated multiverse than simply having defiling as a local effect.

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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby Bouv » Thu Jun 19, 2014 5:02 pm

Would the answer "a wizard did it" work on Athas? :P
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby agathokles » Thu Jun 19, 2014 5:47 pm

Big Mac wrote:Hrm. This still does not seem to add up. Would you suggest that halflings well away from the core Dark Sun region managed to avoid mutation?

Or would they mutate into races other than humans, elves, dwarves and other standard Dark Sun races?


Mutations were centered around the Pristine Tower, so if some halflings lived very far, they might have not mutated at all.

Or were there parts of Athas that were totally uninhabited during the Blue Age or Green Age?


Since during the Blue Age most of Athas was underwater (e.g., the Tablelands up to Tyr), it would be reasonable. Possibly civilization expanded during the Green Age, but the Green Age itself was rather short (the entire recorded history of Athas is around 14.5K years, from Blue Age to modern day), so many regions might well have remained untouched, or lightly settled. The Green Age itself started 14K years before present, and lasted 10K years, until the beginning of the Cleansing Wars, where entire species were annihilated. The Cleansing Wars lasted for 1500 years.

Besides, since the entire area west of the Jagged Cliffs has always been settled by Thri-Kreen, and never by humanoids, it would be reasonable to assume other non-humanoid species might be present in distant isolated regions.

I don't see why humans or other humanoids need to be present everywhere, considering the relative brevity of their history: considering that Halflings were reduced to a feral state by the catastrophe that ended the Blue Age, it is very likely that many hard-to-reach regions remained unsettled during the Green Age. To give you a measure of the knowledge of other regions by humans, consider that for 3000 years during the Green Age, Thri-Kreens were considered unintelligent...

But, in the end, the final factor to take into account is the Cleasing Wars. A 1500 years-long conflict which annihilated most humanoid species could well left large parts of the land unpopulated -- at least, unpopulated by the races that took part in the conflict. Finally, all the surviving champions took residence in the area near the Tablelands, except Borys of Ebe, the Dragon of Ur-Draxa, who had a special task. This also points to humans only occupying the Tablelands and nearby areas.

Pockets of savage Halflings, who were generally spared by the Cleansing Wars, may have survived, but other large scale civilizations are unlikely, unless they belong to some pre-existing race such as the Thri-Kreen, which was not involved in the Cleansing Wars.

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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby ripvanwormer » Thu Jun 19, 2014 11:00 pm

agathokles wrote:Not necessarily: Defiling magic is presented as a variant magic system for general use in AD&D in Player's Options, IIRC. Also, Preserving magic is essentially the same as standard magic in other settings. It is possible that in other settings, Defiling has simply not been discovered yet, or that the "gods of magic" of some settings (Mystra, the three moon gods of Dragonlance) entirely suppress it.


The Planescape boxed set implied that defiling magic works on the planes. From A Player's Guide to the Planes, page 13: "Those [campaigns] that allow prime characters permit any class from the DM's base prime-material campaign.... Defilers and preservers from Athas have a special status. Fiends like the destructive powers of defilers, good beings hate it, and the relationship's just about the opposite regarding preservers."

It's probably safe to say that if defiling magic didn't work at all on the planes it wouldn't produce such polarizing opinions (though I'm not sure why preservers would merit any particular comment regardless, except on Athas itself).
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby Big Mac » Tue Jun 24, 2014 12:55 am

ripvanwormer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:So that would seem to suggest that the gods of Athas were supressing the ability to learn arcane magic.


Only in the sense that a healthy human body supresses the ability to bleed to death. If all goes as intended, your blood stays where it belongs. But imagine you acquired a nasty wound that refused to heal properly. It hurts, but you're not dying. Then a parasite comes by and burrows into your wound, opening it enough to feed on your blood. That weakens you, but it doesn't drink more than you can stand to lose. That's preserver magic. Now say the parasite gets greedy and opens up your wound so much that you begin to die. That's defiler magic.


Fairly good analogy, but preserving and defiling are both arcane spellcasting, not divine spellcasting.

In Dragonlance you have three gods of magic and in Forgotten Realms you have one (with a hanger-on who is a god of Shadow-Weave magic). I can see one or two gods controlling magic on Athas, but not all of them. That does not seem to add up.

ripvanwormer wrote:The death of the gods created the wound, like the death of Mystra brought about Toril's Spellplague. I don't think the gods had to actively supress either calamity as long as they were alive, but the circumstances of their deaths resulted in great damage being done. On Athas, that damage is where magic came from (in fourth edition). Without it, the force that animates living things would remain inside living things, unavailable for mages to drain and turn into spells. Halfling lifeshaping, a gentler art that reshapes life without draining it to make magic, would still probably be doable. But even lifeshaping can do damage if done incautiously; it was lifeshapers who brought about the end of the Blue Age and nearly destroyed the world.


I don't know. The Weave, in Forgotten Realms, is everywhere. But on Athas, it seems like barren areas are low magic areas and all spellcasting comes from plants or animals.

I don't see how this is damage. It feels like an integral property of the Material Plane to me. I don't see why the gods come into it. I get the system, but I feel like there is something the Dark Sun designers have not explained. :?

agathokles wrote:
Big Mac wrote:So I'm guessing that defiling and preserving must be a local effect caused by the nature of Athas and/or its Material Plane/crystal sphere.


Not necessarily: Defiling magic is presented as a variant magic system for general use in AD&D in Player's Options, IIRC. Also, Preserving magic is essentially the same as standard magic in other settings.


I never knew that before. That is pretty interesting. From a multiverse, point of view, it does mean that if defilers learned how to walk the planes or travel on spelljamming ships, they could seriously screw up other worlds.

agathokles wrote:It is possible that in other settings, Defiling has simply not been discovered yet, or that the "gods of magic" of some settings (Mystra, the three moon gods of Dragonlance) entirely suppress it.

Either option seems to me a better fit for an integrated multiverse than simply having defiling as a local effect.


The Moons of Magic in Dragonlance do not actually surpress any sort of magic. Instead they have created a rigid culture of spellcasters (with the Wizards of High Sorcery) and have tasked them with hunting down and dealing with dangerous spellcasters. So a defiler would either be forced to use regular magic or killed on Ansalon. Things might be different on Taladas. And elsewhere in Krynnspace, there might not be an organisation to control defiling magic.

I'm not sure that defiling would be "deactivated" on Toril (or in Realmspace) either. If an entire Shadow-Weave could be created that is on a different level to The Weave, maybe other types of magic can also piggy-back on The Weave. However, I suspect that some sort of powerful spellcaster (like Elminster) would be dispatched to deal with a wizard that started to burn big "crop circles" whenever they cast spells.

I also think that if a lone-wizard started defiling crops and killing natural plants there would be peasants (and druids) running around with torches and pitchforks trying to hunt down the culprit. A high-level defiler might be able to get away with doing what they wanted, but a low level one, might not be able to defend themselves from an entire mob.

Bouv wrote:Would the answer "a wizard did it" work on Athas? :P


LMAO! :lol:

But did a defiler do it or did a preserver do it? ^_^

agathokles wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Hrm. This still does not seem to add up. Would you suggest that halflings well away from the core Dark Sun region managed to avoid mutation?

Or would they mutate into races other than humans, elves, dwarves and other standard Dark Sun races?


Mutations were centered around the Pristine Tower, so if some halflings lived very far, they might have not mutated at all.


Technically that could work. But we end up with "Planet of the Halflings" for the rest of the world. Not to mention that someone needs to tell Night Druid to change his Crimson Sphere to be a sphere that only has halflings in it.

agathokles wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Or were there parts of Athas that were totally uninhabited during the Blue Age or Green Age?


Since during the Blue Age most of Athas was underwater (e.g., the Tablelands up to Tyr), it would be reasonable. Possibly civilization expanded during the Green Age, but the Green Age itself was rather short (the entire recorded history of Athas is around 14.5K years, from Blue Age to modern day), so many regions might well have remained untouched, or lightly settled.


So, does that suggest that the Blue Age would be Waterworld, but with halflings (instead of Kevin Cosner and co)? :?

agathokles wrote:The Green Age itself started 14K years before present, and lasted 10K years, until the beginning of the Cleansing Wars, where entire species were annihilated. The Cleansing Wars lasted for 1500 years.

Besides, since the entire area west of the Jagged Cliffs has always been settled by Thri-Kreen, and never by humanoids, it would be reasonable to assume other non-humanoid species might be present in distant isolated regions.


Well that goes against the "everyone was halflings" thing, but does that thing actually mean that halflings were the only humanoids?

Are we talking of the Green Age being an extended area around Tyr that had halflings and other regions of the world having various non-humanoid races over other parts of the world?

Is there any indication that any races (other than the Thri-Kreen) are not mutated halflings?

agathokles wrote:I don't see why humans or other humanoids need to be present everywhere, considering the relative brevity of their history: considering that Halflings were reduced to a feral state by the catastrophe that ended the Blue Age, it is very likely that many hard-to-reach regions remained unsettled during the Green Age. To give you a measure of the knowledge of other regions by humans, consider that for 3000 years during the Green Age, Thri-Kreens were considered unintelligent...

But, in the end, the final factor to take into account is the Cleasing Wars. A 1500 years-long conflict which annihilated most humanoid species could well left large parts of the land unpopulated -- at least, unpopulated by the races that took part in the conflict. Finally, all the surviving champions took residence in the area near the Tablelands, except Borys of Ebe, the Dragon of Ur-Draxa, who had a special task. This also points to humans only occupying the Tablelands and nearby areas.

Pockets of savage Halflings, who were generally spared by the Cleansing Wars, may have survived, but other large scale civilizations are unlikely, unless they belong to some pre-existing race such as the Thri-Kreen, which was not involved in the Cleansing Wars.


I guess that one way to expand Athas, would be to take playable races that are not mentioned in the original Dark Sun line, give them a Dark Sun makeover and throw them further and further away from Tyr. But I still don't see the culture that created the defilers extending out that far without something else going on.

ripvanwormer wrote:The Planescape boxed set implied that defiling magic works on the planes. From A Player's Guide to the Planes, page 13: "Those [campaigns] that allow prime characters permit any class from the DM's base prime-material campaign.... Defilers and preservers from Athas have a special status. Fiends like the destructive powers of defilers, good beings hate it, and the relationship's just about the opposite regarding preservers."

It's probably safe to say that if defiling magic didn't work at all on the planes it wouldn't produce such polarizing opinions (though I'm not sure why preservers would merit any particular comment regardless, except on Athas itself).


You kind of need defiling to work on the planes in order for the cosmology of Athas to work. Either that or you would need to give Athas a bepoke cosmology (like Eberron got). But they didn't start doing that sort of thing back during 2nd Edition.

The same goes for wildspace, although it is pretty tough to defile stuff in the void, as nothing is near you.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby ripvanwormer » Tue Jun 24, 2014 3:07 am

Big Mac wrote:Fairly good analogy, but preserving and defiling are both arcane spellcasting, not divine spellcasting.

In Dragonlance you have three gods of magic and in Forgotten Realms you have one (with a hanger-on who is a god of Shadow-Weave magic). I can see one or two gods controlling magic on Athas, but not all of them. That does not seem to add up.


Athas never had any gods of magic at all because arcane magic didn't exist when they were alive. Magic is a result of the damage done to reality when the gods died. The premise is that gods are powerful entities with some dominion over aspects of reality, so their sudden violent deaths can do damage to reality. The result was this wrong, dangerous, planet-killing potential called sorcery. It's not damage done to magic, but to reality itself. If (I'm making this up; the exact portfolios of Athas's dead gods were never listed) the goddess of nature, the god of cosmic order, and the god of life and death died the result might be a sickly, warped version of nature, life, death, and the cosmos in which it was possible to exploit life for personal power. The various divine spheres of influence that make up the totality of reality went wrong, and a cancerous loophole called magic was opened up.

It's not necessarily the case that it took the deaths of all the gods to do this damage, only that enough of them died that the damage was done.

Perhaps a better analogy is the way magic works in Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories, where magic is a symptom of the ancient universe's increasing dementia. Magic exists because reality no longer works the way it should.

If this premise doesn't work for you, that's fine. It's not part of the 2nd edition version of Athas's history, where Athas never had any gods. It's just an idea they came up with to reference some of the core 4th edition concepts and simultaneously explain why Athas has both zero gods and funny magic. It may be awkward to try to reconcile it with the idea that defiling magic is also possible on other worlds and planes.

I don't know. The Weave, in Forgotten Realms, is everywhere. But on Athas, it seems like barren areas are low magic areas and all spellcasting comes from plants or animals.


That's correct; Athas definitely never had a Weave. I think the Weave is a construct created by Mystra in order to tame the natural wild magic of Toril and make it predictable. There wasn't any magic on Athas in the era when there were gods, so there was no way to make a Weave. Magic on Athas isn't the result of damage done to a magical Weave. Instead, magic is a corruption of the way nature was supposed to work. It doesn't work the way wild magic works on Toril because magic is a different kind of thing on Athas, with different origins and properties.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby Knightfall » Tue Jun 24, 2014 3:14 am

When it comes to Dark Sun, fans have little to go on compared to other TSR Worlds. Very little of the planet has been detailed and mapped out, officially. Thus, there is mainly speculation about what exists beyond the core material from the AD&D 2E era.

You asked if Dark Sun has any sub-settings. Well, Mind Lords of the Last Sea is the primary reference that comes to mind; however, it is not beloved by many Dark Sun fans. (I really liked it when it came out but then again, I liked everything that was put out for Dark Sun.) The revised boxed set greatly expanded the setting, and MLotLS built upon that as a mini-expansion for the campaign setting. (I'm sure that DRAGON and DUNGEON Magazine had adventures and articles for the region, but I cannot remember.)

My gut tells me that TSR had plans to expand the world even more, but it never came about. TSR went downhill and Dark Sun got shelved.

Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs fits into the same category. It builds upon the revised box and fleshes out a new region beyond the Tablelands.

One could also say that Valley of Dust and Fire is also a sub-setting, although strongly tied to the Tablelands. Does it stand on its own as a setting? I'm not sure I can say that.

Finally, City by the Silt Sea might qualify as a sub-setting. It went beyond the core DS boxed set to detail Giustenal in great detail. In a sense, the boxed set was to Dark Sun what the FR 2E Ruins of Undermountain boxed set was to the Realms.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby agathokles » Tue Jun 24, 2014 12:20 pm

All classic humanoids (humans, dwarves, elves, goblins, orcs, kobolds, etc.) are definitely descended from halflings. The attempted genocide of Pterrans, Wemics, Centaurs, Giants, and Lizardmen implies that they, too, are mutants generated by the magic of the Pristine Tower. Thus, it seems likely that only vastly non-humanoid species (like the Thri-Kreen) pre-existed the halflings.
And yes, the original, Blue Age Athas was indeed "waterworld with halflings". Thri-Kreen of the time lived on archipelagoes of small island, flying from one to the other. They had no contact with any mammalian sentient before the Green Age.

As I said, it is definitely possible that other sentient species developed elsewhere during the Blue Age, but any acquatic race has certainly died out since then. Non-acquatic species might have survived, having no contact with the halflings or kreen, much like these other races did not meet until the Green Age.

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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby XstarkillerX » Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:06 am

ripvanwormer wrote:Arcane magic has always worked that way on Athas. The reason Athas didn't suffer from magic-related environmental damage in the past is that nobody knew how to do arcane magic (during most of the Green Age, psionics was the supernatural art du jour). Rajaat discovered both defiling and preserving magic, and all modern-day mages (defilers and preservers alike) learned from those who, if you trace the educational lineage far back enough, learned from Rajaat. If there were mages on the other side of the world, they were part of the same tradition that Rajaat invented. I guess you could decide that other groups discovered magic independently, but if so they probably did so after Rajaat.

Big Mac wrote:Athas never had any gods of magic at all because arcane magic didn't exist when they were alive. Magic is a result of the damage done to reality when the gods died. The premise is that gods are powerful entities with some dominion over aspects of reality, so their sudden violent deaths can do damage to reality. The result was this wrong, dangerous, planet-killing potential called sorcery. It's not damage done to magic, but to reality itself. If (I'm making this up; the exact portfolios of Athas's dead gods were never listed) the goddess of nature, the god of cosmic order, and the god of life and death died the result might be a sickly, warped version of nature, life, death, and the cosmos in which it was possible to exploit life for personal power. The various divine spheres of influence that make up the totality of reality went wrong, and a cancerous loophole called magic was opened up.

I'm back from real life :D

Back on topic, I always envisioned it this way: preserving is the "natural" way to use magic, with defiling connected with its abuse. Everywhere. In every plane or crystal sphere, magic works this way.
But while on Athas it always remained this way, in other corners of the multiverse, gods of magic worked to make magic more accessible to intelligent races and to limit damages to the environment: on Toril, Mystra created the Weave; on Krynn, IIRC the Moon Gods taught directly to mortals how to use magic, and so on.
Athas simply never had gods to modify magic.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby Big Mac » Wed Jun 25, 2014 5:58 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:If this premise doesn't work for you, that's fine. It's not part of the 2nd edition version of Athas's history, where Athas never had any gods. It's just an idea they came up with to reference some of the core 4th edition concepts and simultaneously explain why Athas has both zero gods and funny magic. It may be awkward to try to reconcile it with the idea that defiling magic is also possible on other worlds and planes.


I guess that, just because there are no gods mentioned in he 2e Dark Sun, it does not prove there were not some in an earlier era.

If you connect Dark Sun to other planes, that would connect it up to all the gods in the Planescape Campaign Setting, even if they were not actually worshipped on Athas itself.

Knightfall wrote:When it comes to Dark Sun, fans have little to go on compared to other TSR Worlds. Very little of the planet has been detailed and mapped out, officially. Thus, there is mainly speculation about what exists beyond the core material from the AD&D 2E era.

You asked if Dark Sun has any sub-settings. Well, Mind Lords of the Last Sea is the primary reference that comes to mind; however, it is not beloved by many Dark Sun fans. (I really liked it when it came out but then again, I liked everything that was put out for Dark Sun.) The revised boxed set greatly expanded the setting, and MLotLS built upon that as a mini-expansion for the campaign setting. (I'm sure that DRAGON and DUNGEON Magazine had adventures and articles for the region, but I cannot remember.)

My gut tells me that TSR had plans to expand the world even more, but it never came about. TSR went downhill and Dark Sun got shelved.

Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs fits into the same category. It builds upon the revised box and fleshes out a new region beyond the Tablelands.

One could also say that Valley of Dust and Fire is also a sub-setting, although strongly tied to the Tablelands. Does it stand on its own as a setting? I'm not sure I can say that.

Finally, City by the Silt Sea might qualify as a sub-setting. It went beyond the core DS boxed set to detail Giustenal in great detail. In a sense, the boxed set was to Dark Sun what the FR 2E Ruins of Undermountain boxed set was to the Realms.


I would say that the first two are more likely to qualify as a new setting, as they have the same branding. Rpg.net concurs: AD&D Dark Sun Wanderer's Chronicles.
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby XstarkillerX » Sun Jul 06, 2014 1:12 am

Reading this thread again inspired me some thought that I expand upon here :P
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Re: How much surface area of Athas is actually defiled?

Postby agathokles » Sun Jul 06, 2014 6:55 pm

Big Mac wrote:I guess that, just because there are no gods mentioned in he 2e Dark Sun, it does not prove there were not some in an earlier era.

If you connect Dark Sun to other planes, that would connect it up to all the gods in the Planescape Campaign Setting, even if they were not actually worshipped on Athas itself.


It's different. In 2e, Athas has always been part of the Multiverse. However, gods cannot reach it (well, I suppose they could personally, but cannot grant spells, commune with their followers, and the like). If a non-Athasian cleric went to Athas (by means of a portal or spelljamming), he would be cut off from his Power.
Dregoth, the undead sorcerer king, aimed at becoming Athas' first god, probably by becoming a god and then travelling physically to Athas, but didn't manage to do so (at least, before the line was folded).

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