Dark Sun Rules Update v.3

Updates on Feb 1st are noted by being bold and underlined in red.
Updates on Dec 21st are noted by being bold and underlined.
While this is mainly for the players of my upcoming Dark Sun game, a few of you may find a couple of tidbits in here.
As you know, the Dark Sun player’s book is subject to some revision (largely being based on the Unearthed Arcana rules). A final version of many of the subclasses was released yesterday in “Xanathar’s Guide to Everything”!
In addition, Matthew Mercer’s “Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting” came out a month or so ago, and I’ve pulled some content from it.
So consider this an update citizens of Athas!

Races and Classes

No Changes from version 2.5 of the Dark Sun Players Guide

New Feats

  •  Dwarven Fortitude (XGtE pg 74)
    • Prerequisite: Dwarf, Mul or Half-giant
    • You have the blood of heroes flowing through your veins. You gain the following benefits:
      • Increase your Constitution score by l, to a maximum of 20.
      • Whenever you take the Dodge action in combat, you can spend one Hit Die to heal yourself. Roll the die, add your Constitution modifier, and regain a number of hit points equal to the total (minimum of 1).
  • Prodigy (XGtE pg 75)
    • Prerequisite: Half-elf or Human
    • You have a knack for learning new things. You gain the following benefits:
      • You gain one skill proficiency of your choice, one tool proficiency of your choice, and fluency in one language of your choice.
      • Choose one skill in which you have proficiency. You gain expertise with that skill, which means your proficiency bonus is doubled for any ability check you make with it. The skill you choose must be one that isn’t already benefiting from a feature, such as Expertise, that doubles your proficiency bonus.
  • Dual-focused (TDCS pg 108)
    • Prerequisite: The ability to cast at least one spell Countless hours have been spent training your mind to maintain focus on concurrent incantations, taxing as the process may be.
      • If you attempt to cast a spell that requires concentration while already concentrating on an existing spell, you can maintain concentration on both spells simultaneously. You must spend a standard action each subsequent round on maintaining this concentration or lose concentration for both spells.
      • At the end of each turn where you have two spells you are concentrating on, you must make a Constitution saving throw (DC equals 10 + the number of complete rounds you’ve been concentrating on two spells). On a failure, you lose concentration for both spells. You can drop concentration on one of your spells during your turn as a free action to avoid this saving throw.
        • Any time you would be forced to make a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration due to taking damage, the DC equals 10 + both spells’ levels combined, or half the damage you take,  whichever number is higher. On a failure, you lose concentration on both spells.
  • Spelldriver (TDCS pg 109)
    • Prerequisite: Character level 8th or higher
      • Through intense focus, training, and dedication, you’ve harnessed the techniques of rapid spellcasting. You are no longer limited to only one non-cantrip spell per turn. However, should you cast two or more spells in a single turn, only one of them can be of 3rd level or higher.
  • Thrown Arms Master (TDCS pg 109)
    • You’ve honed your ability to lob weaponry into the fray, including weapons not meant for ranged combat. You gain the following benefits:
      • Increase your Strength or Dexterity score by 1, to a maximum of 20.
      • Simple and martial melee weapons without the thrown property can be treated as if they have the thrown property. One-handed weapons have a range of 20/60, while two-handed weapons have a range of 15/30.
      • Weapons that naturally have the thrown property increase their range by +20/+40.
      • When you miss with a thrown weapon attack using a light weapon, the weapon immediately boomerangs back into your grasp.

Rules Clarifications

These clarifications will apply to the Dark Sun game only.

  • Characters begin at 2nd level with Maximum Hit Dice.
  • Each player builds a Character Tree composed of three characters.
    • Every time the active character goes up a level of experience, the player may also advance one of his inactive characters one level. The inactive character chosen must be of a lower level than the active character. Adjust the experience point total on that inactive characters sheet to the minimum number for the new level attained.
    • Replacement characters must be a different class and race than the lost character. They also start one level below the lowest level character that you have, at the time of the character death, but never weaker than 3rd level. Replacement characters do not roll for hit points, they receive maximum hit dice. 
    • Items and equipment cannot be freely traded between characters in your tree, nor does a replacement character ‘inherit’ a dead character’s gear. 
  • Attack rolls need to equal or exceed the AC in order to hit. Ties do not go to the defender.
  • If math/calculation results in a fraction, always round down.
  • A character can’t spend any Hit Dice after finishing a short or long rest until someone expends one use of a healer’s kit to bandage and treat the character’s wounds.
  • When you finish a long rest during which you slept in medium or heavy armour, you regain only one-quarter of your spent Hit Dice (minimum of one die). If you have any levels of exhaustion, the rest doesn’t reduce your
    exhaustion level.
  • Temporary hit points aren’t cumulative. If you have temporary hit points and receive more of them, you don’t add them together, unless a game feature says you can. Instead, you decide which temporary hit points to keep.
  • Drinking a Potion is now a bonus action.
  • Administering a Potion to a downed character is an action.
  • The spell Revivify is removed from Dark Sun.
  • Dropping to zero hit points applies one level of cumulative exhaustion to your character. 
  • Flanking grants a +2 to the attack roll instead of Advantage.
  • The spell Vigor is added to Dark Sun.
  • Vigor
    • 1st-level Necromancy
    • Classes: Cleric, Druid
    • Casting time: 1 action
    • Concentration: Yes
    • Range: Touch
    • Duration: Up to 1 minute
    • Target: one person
    • A creature of your choice that you can see within range regains hit points equal to 1 + your spellcasting ability modifier each round. This spell has no effect on Undead or constructs.
    • At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the Healing increases by 1 for each slot level above 1st.

Up Next






As of October 4th, my next projected Tuesday game will be set within the burnt world of Athas. While the setup and preparation have already begun, I anticipate that I’ll be trying to lock down my players before the end of November. The game itself will not start until my current game (The Curse of Strahd) meets its organic conclusion. I estimate that, to be sometime in the month of December, but I won’t be rushing it.

The game itself will not start until my current game (The Curse of Strahd) meets its organic conclusion. I estimate that, to be sometime in the month of December, but I won’t be rushing it.

Much like The Lost Marches, my Dark Sun campaign will contain a lot of ‘homebrew’ content.

  • So, if you are:
    • Free on Tuesday nights between 20:00 and 23:15 Eastern
    • Familiar with 5E Dungeons and Dragons rules or willing to learn
    • Have access to a PC, Webcam and Headset
    • Eager for a game set in a post-apocalyptic world
    • Want more details or to express your interest?


Dark Sun Game Setting

Dark Sun


From the earliest moments of the day, until the last glimpse of twilight, your life is constrained by the giant crimson ball in the sky. This is the world of Athas, the land of the dark sun.

Fables of a mythical ‘Green Age’, where trees once covered the dunes and plains do not cool the brow of man stranded outside at mid afternoon. Tales do not change the 130 degree heat, nor do they slow the bone scouring sandstorms.

Athas is a world that was subjected to unbridled power. Eons past, Wizards warred with each other for dominion, and powered their spells by drawing life from the very planet itself. Such power transformed the descendants of all who survived.

Latent powers of the mind, have manifested in nearly every form of sentient life as a method of coping with the harsh world. A Slave is just as likely as a Nobleman to be born with the powers known as The Way, or Psionics.

This is the world of Athas, a world where the cost of power is paid by all, but where the ultimate law is that of the strongest.

The World

The City-States

Once there were more, but now there are but seven city-states in all of the known lands. Each city is different in customs, dress, laws, culture, economies, demographics, but each is controlled by an immortal god-like ruler.

The Sorcerer-Kings are the absolute rulers of each of the seven city states. None broker any challenge to their power, and each is in in turn served by hundreds of devoted acolytes. These acolytes, sometimes known as Templar’s are granted divine and legal powers by the god-kings in return for their servitude. Serving as the administration and police forces of the city-states the Templar’s are reviled by all others.

As the largest bastions of humanity, the cities attract any and all manner of intelligent life. Life in a city may be harsh and cruel, but life outside the high city walls is certain death for all but Elves and the Thri-Kreen.

Most of the cities are divided into castes, where society is formed into a heirichial pyramid. At the bottom and most numerous are the Slaves; the farm slaves, the Soldier Slaves, Domestics, the Artisans, the Concubines and the Gladiators.

Just above the Slaves, one would expect to see the Merchants, who do not possesses citizen ship, but retain a certain level of diplomatic immunity from the Templars. Above them, the common freedman, who may live a harsher life than a slave, but he can at least say that he is free.

Above all of these, are the Nobility and the Templars. Depending on the city-state that one is discussing, either may hold more power or influence, but they are often equal in the number of slaves and coins that they control. Of course the Sorcerer-Kings can be found at the top of the pyramid, sometimes, as is the case with Tyr, literally.

The Tablelands

Stretching East to West, for nearly 800 miles, the Tablelands is the moniker given to the lands found between the city-states. No two cities are closer than 75 miles and in most cases, the nearest city is at least 200 miles. That leaves countless miles of uncharted barren sands, rocky hills, and silty wastes to cross should one leave the trade roads.

Intersected by ancient roadways that connect the cities, a traveler would do well to fill every water-skin they carry at any Oasis they pass. A man can live without food for a week, but under the heat of the dark sun, not even the toughest barbarian can go for more than three without water.

Strictly speaking, the Tablelands are not composed solely of sand and rocks. Hidden pockets of lush greenery dot remote areas, higher elevations and a small crescent forest reaches between the cities of Gulg and Nibenay.

Yet even out on the plains, scrub grass may sporadically grow, showing a hint (and a hope) of life to those who know how to look.

The Fringes

Ancient Ruins

Athas fell to ruin through the machinations and misuse of Wizardry. No one knows how sudden the fall was, though evidence suggests it was rapid. Wanderers of the desert speak of great storms that shift the dunes themselves, revealing ancient fortifications, towns and even cities. A testimony to the power of ancients, entire rooms of metal weaponry are sometimes found in these ruins. Finding such a horde is the ‘simplest’ way to buying one’s way into a life of luxury.

Hidden Villages

Scattered throughout the edges of the Tablelands are hidden villages. Often composed of slaves that escaped their masters, these villages  depend on secrecy and self sufficiency. Others are not hidden in the traditional sense, but are mobile tribes composed of Elves of Thri-Kreen. With no fixed location, they roam the wastes as weather and resources allow. 

The Ringing Mountains

Forming the Western edge of the Tablelands, the Ringing Mountains prohibit all travel westward. Rising into the sky, with their tips obscured by the haze of the dark sun, the Ringing Mountains are even more dangerous than the wastes over which they loom. Home to tribes of feral Halflings and fel beasts, any who enter the mountains are best forgotten.

Silt Sea

While the Ringing Mountains border the West, the Silt Sea borders the East. Outside of the gardens of the richest Nobles, bodies of standing water are nearly unheard of on Athas, yet tales and ruins tell us that once a body larger than the Tablelands could be found to the East. Now, one finds a massive basin, filled with fine silt that rises like a fog and obscures the Eastern horizon.

Player Options

The effects of Magic and Psionics have left a mark upon all of the races of Athas, just as the survivor mentality has changed the skills that one needs to live.

Characters in Athas begin at second level and use a 30 point buy for creation. This reflects the hardening that the dark sun forces upon all who survive to adulthood. Only the strongest survive.

In all cases except where noted here, I will be using supplements for Dark Sun rules.

MAJOR EDIT 09/10/2017: While the below info on rules precedence is still true, I am editing/compling these articles into a PDF manuscript for the game.

Where information conflicts they rank in this descending order:

Wild Talents

Every player character is remarkable and has a greater than average chance at exhibiting a Psionic Wild Talent. Each character has a cumulative 25% chance per level of developing a single Psionic Talent (as per page 27 of the Unearthed Arcana – The Mystic Class). The talent is chosen at random by a roll of a 1D12. The Mystic class never develops Wild Talents.

The Character Tree

This is modified slightly (shown in red underline), but otherwise verbatim from the 1995 re-release of Dark Sun.

“DARK SUN campaigns are set in a violent world. Powerful magic and psionics, desperate hordes of raiders, and the unforgiving environment conspire against player characters. This makes death a very real possibility for player characters. To offset this in DARK SUN campaigns, players are encouraged to use character trees. Although they play with only one character at a time, they have four to call upon at the beginning of any particular game session thus minimizing the time needed to start up a game after a PC’s death.

A character tree consists of one active character (which the player is using as his player character) and two inactive characters. The active character takes part in the adventure, performing actions in the campaign world. When a new adventure begins, the player may switch to one of his inactive characters or keep playing his previously active character.

The character tree’s chief purpose is to give every player a pool of adventurers to choose from for different situations or when one of his characters dies. The player is familiar with these characters and can apply their strengths more readily than he might be able to with freshly created characters. If care is taken, the character tree can be a valuable tool for the player in an extended campaign.

To create a character tree, a player completely rolls up three characters, using the rules presented earlier in this chapter. Once this is done, the player selects the character that he intends to run for the first adventure, making that one his “active” character. The other two are considered inactive.

Every time the active character goes up a level of experience, the player may also advance one of his inactive characters one level. The inactive character
chosen must be of a lower level than the active character. Adjust the experience point total on that inactive characters sheet to the minimum number for the new level attained.

The three characters that make up a player’s character tree are unrestricted as to class or race; any combination is acceptable. However, the alignment of these characters is restricted. All of the characters in a character tree must be like-aligned as to good, neutral, or evil. Devotion to chaos or law makes no difference, however. For example, one character tree might have a chaotic-good dwarf Fighter, a lawful good Thri-Kreen fighter, a neutral-good human bard, and a chaotic-good elf Wizard. The Thri-Kreen couldn’t be lawful evil or even lawful neutral and still be a part of this character tree.

If a character is forced to change alignment so that it no longer fits within the tree, that character must be discarded (or, optionally, the player may discard the other three, inserting three new characters into his tree and adopting this new alignment). Discarded characters must be given to the DM for use as NPCs, likely against the party.”

Race and Class Options

Playable Races

The races of Athas have adapted to life in the dune wastes. Natural selection, mutation, and war have ensured that only the strongest survive. Therefore, each players race is different from a normal fantasy game. These races have been complied into a PDF as of 09/10/2017. Ask the DM for a copy of the PDF.

  • Dray (Dragonborn)
  • Dwarves
  • Elves
  • Half-Elves
  • Half-Giants (Goliath)
  • Halflings
  • Humans
  • Muls
  • Thri-Kreen
  • Waste Walkers

All other races and sub-races are non-playable.

Playable Classes

Just as the races of Athas have adapted, so too have the roles one may take. The classes and paths found upon Athas are listed here:

  • Barbarian
    • Path of the Berserker
    • Path of the Totem Warrior
  • Bard
    • Athasian Bard
  • Cleric
    • Elemental
    • Templar
  • Druid
    • Circle of the Land
    • Circle of the Moon
  • Fighter
    • Battle Master
    • Champion
    • Gladiator
  • Monk
    • Way of the Open Hand
    • Way of the Four Elements
  •  Mystic
    • Order of the Avatar
    • Order of the Awakened
    • Order of the Immortal
    • Order of the Nomad
    • Order of the Soul Knife
  •  Ranger
    • Revised Beast Master
    • Revised Hunter
  • Rogue
    • Assassin
    • Mastermind (Sword Coast Adventurers Guide)
    • Scout (Unearthed Arcana)
    • Thief
  • Wizard
    • Path of the Defiler
    • Path of the Preserver

All other Classes and sub classes are non-playable.

Revision Notes & Musings

I claim none of the artwork used in this article.

  • First Release, Saturday, March 25th
    • One of the reasons that I have taken so long to write this up, is the sheer amount of PDF’s, out of print material, and rules that I need to consult and cite. At the same time, I’ve held off ‘just encase’ an official release of Dark Sun was released. With the next official release of D&D slated for August/September, I’ve accepted that I’ll want a Dark Sun game before it comes out, so I’ll semi-homebrew it.
    • Over the years I’ve found a number of sources that give the flavour of Dark Sun;
      • The world of Mad Max as shown in Beyond Thunderdome and Fury Road.
      • The world of Dune, by Frank Herbert
  • Second Edit, June 2nd
    • Minor adjustments due to the announcement of the Tomb of Annihilation
  • Third Edit, October 6th-10th
    • Large edit pertaining to Classes and Races in preparation for the Dark Sun game.

An Update

Life’s been a little busy over the past week (our Internet went down last Wednesday and was only repaired on Saturday), but I’m eager to get back to some more writing. With The Lost Marches outlined, I’ll be turning to a Dark Sun write-up/campaign idea next. I’m eager to see which garners the most interest.

In gaming news, we had our third session of the Curse of Strahd last night. The players are doing very well, and touching upon all of the major plot points (that they have access to) so far. Further, combat has been going very quickly, and the pace of the game is fast (though not rushed).

Tomorrow night, we return back to Chicago by Night after a week long delay due to my own ISP issues.

And finally, next month, we will likely resume the face to face Giovanni Chronicles!



Back when AD&D 2nd Edition was the thing to play, we touched on a number of the published worlds/settings. Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and Dark Sun.

The one that caused me to expand my view of RPGs the most was Dark Sun. It’s a harsh world that breaks many of the tropes of fantasy. Metal is rare, and you fight your environment/surroundings nearly as much as you combat any foe.

I’ve had a love of that setting for over twenty years. In fact it was the Dark Sun that I brought with me and reread when our son needed to stay in the hospital due to complications, and I couldn’t sleep. I found comfort in that alien world.

With Curse of Strahd now underway, I’ve found myself in the usual ‘What is on Deck?’ phase of my gaming cycle. Unless things change drastically, I’ll be returning to Dark Sun for my next serious campaign. It has been a brainworm for a couple of years now, and it would have been my first foray back into D&D if there was published 5E content. I’m beginning my preparation phase for this game a little earlier than normal as I have considerably more content to generate.

And yes, for everyone who has heard my 90’s stories of Dark Sun, I will permit Thri-Kreen as a PC race.









This presumes that I don’t totally loose my mind and ‘Homebrew’ a campaign.


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