Waypoints!

This is my last post of the evening (really, I swear!), and it has to do with roll20.net and movement.

Frequently we come into a situation where we need to know if a PC crossed into a given square or if they have enough movement to cross a certain distance.

Since 2013, Roll20 has had a built in tool for this.

Stay with me:

  1. Log into roll20
  2. Select a character that you can control with the Arrow icon (Select/Move tool).
  3. Now click and drag the character into another square/hex but do not let go of the mouse button. Drag it two squares for the sake of this example.
  4. Hit the spacebar once while you have the character moved over. You’ll see a ruler like line with a distance on it.
  5. Hold on, we’re not done!
  6. Without letting go of the mouse button, drag the character two more squares/hexes over and hit the space bar once again. Your path was extended and a Waypoint was marked (for steps 4 and 6 of this instruction).
  7. Now let go of the mouse button and click on a blank area of the map.
  8. Go back and select your character again by clicking on it once and releasing the click. Now hit spacebar! You can refer to your last waypointed path.

 

Audio Tracks

I’ve been collecting tracks for background music/atmosphere for my games for some time. Recently I’ve built up a collection of over 200 tracks created by Wes Otis of Plate Mail Games [http://platemailgames.com/]

I can’t recommend Wes’ work enough, and I encourage you to check it out. Tracks come on sale frequently, which is the only way I purchase them. Questions? PM me.

 

Curse of Strahd Update

Last night saw the party into their sixth session of the Curse of Strahd. This was a ‘plot and tone’ session, where story hooks and deeper information was presented to the group. They now seen that the lands of Barovia are brutal, though not quite lawless.

I’d say that it’s been a rather emotional run for the players so far. How emotional? Two thirds of the way into session six, one of the Players’ quipped out of character “I never thought that I would miss the Death House.”

Without spoiling Death House for those of you who may wish ‘enjoy’ it one day play it, it is a notorious party killing ‘Opening Adventure’ for Curse of Strahd.

I’m happy to say, that now that the theme and tone are set, things might lighten up for the sake of the players a bit (depending on the choices that they make). Darkness with the occasional shaft of light is far more dramatic that an unending abyss.

SPOILER ALERT

——————–

A one liner about each session to date follows:

  1. The party flees the armies of Tiamat and becomes lost in a Mist.
  2. Moving toward the nearest town, the party meets two children who need their help ridding their home of a Monster.
  3. Cleaning out the Townhouse commences, one PC goes missing.
  4. The children were ghosts and their bodies are laid to rest in Catacombs.
  5. The party defeats a tentacled monster, then the house attacks them as they leave.
  6. Visits to the Merchant and the Inn generate several leads and much worry.

 

A tardy Sunday afternoon RAW

I’m continuing from last weeks’ RAW, though I’m a little tardy.

Stealth

Stealth. Make a Dexterity (Stealth) check when you attempt to conceal yourself from enemies, slink past guards, slip away without being noticed, or sneak up on someone without being seen or heard. – PHB page 177

My take away: I need to read the rules more frequently (as you’ll see with Hiding after this). Stealth is the act of moving about in a sneaky fashion. If you are wondering what that is, imagine a Ninja moving around a room or trying to follow a guard on his rounds.

  • Certain types of armor add disadvantage to your Stealth roll. – PHB pg 145
  • Stealth also requires you to move at half speed, unless specifically stated otherwise by another rule. – PHB pg 182
  • You can not Stealth in the open. – PHB pg 182

You may ask: Okay so I use Stealth to hide from the guards, right?

What we misunderstood: Stealth is the act of being sneaky while moving, but it’s not Hiding which is an action (see below). You can move while Stealthy, but generally not while Hidden.

Hiding

When you try to hide, make a Dexterity (Stealth) check. Until you are discovered or you stop hiding, that check’s total is contested by the Wisdom (Perception) check of any creature that actively searches for signs of your presence.
You can’t hide from a creature that can see you, and if you make noise (such as shouting a warning or knocking over a vase), you give away your position. An invisible creature can’t be seen, so it can always try to hide. Signs of its passage might still be noticed, however, and it still has to stay quiet.
In combat, most creatures stay alert for signs of danger all around, so if you come out of hiding and approach a creature, it usually sees you. However, under certain circumstances, the Dungeon Master might allow you to stay hidden as you approach a creature that is distracted, allowing you to gain advantage on an attack before you are seen.

Passive Perception. When you hide, there’s a chance someone will notice you even if they aren’t searching. To determine whether such a creature notices you, the DM compares your Dexterity (Stealth) check with that creature’s passive Wisdom (Perception) score, which equals 10 + the creature’s Wisdom modifier, as well as any other bonuses or penalties. If the creature has advantage, add 5. For disadvantage, subtract 5.

For example, if a 1st-level character (with a proficiency bonus o f +2) has a Wisdom of 15 (a +2 modifier) and proficiency in Perception, he or she has a passive Wisdom (Perception) of 14.
What Can You See? One of the main factors in determining whether you can find a hidden creature or object is how well you can see in an area, which might be lightly or heavily obscured, as explained in chapter 8. – PHB page 177

My take away: I really need to read the rules more frequently. I’ve made the comment in the past that Hiding is not like “World of Warcraft’s stealth”, and I was more correct than I realized.

You may ask: WTF, I thought you always read the rules?

What we misunderstood: Nearly everything. First off: you can’t normally move while Hiding. Second, if the enemy can see you, Hiding fails (so you can’t just hide in the middle of an empty room). Excessive noise breaks your hiding (I’d say nothing above a whisper in most cases). During combat everyone is on guard/aware so the likelihood of being able to Hide repeatedly during an average combat encounter is low. Invisibility and the Halfling ability to hide behind it’s allies screws with all of this.

Sunday Afternoon RAW

RAW? What the hell is that you may be asking! RAW stands for “Rules As Written” which is some jargon that I noticed on the Reddit D&D forums. This afternoon I’m taking some time to clarify some of the RAW on common things that come up in our games. I’ll be upfront and say, at times I don’t use RAW. The rules make sense most of the time, but not in every scenario or encounter. When that is the case, I modify them as needed. that being said, we’ve been using some misunderstood rules and holdout rules from past editions.

Typically Difficulty Classes

-PHB page 174

 

 

My take away: I’ve always wondered what a DC 20 was like in real life. Luckily I found the following online and I like the examples that it gives. It makes it pretty clear as to how hard a given DC is:

  • Trivial (DC 0) A task that is so easy that isn’t worth a check. An adventurer can almost always succeed automatically.
  • Very Easy (DC 5) Requires a minimum level of competence or a bit of luck to accomplish.
  • Easy (DC 10) Requires a minimum level of competence or a bit of luck to accomplish.
  • Medium (DC 15) Requires a bit more competence to accomplish. Can be completed more often than not by a character with both natural aptitude and specialized training.
  • Hard (DC 20) Include anything beyond the capabilities of the average person without aid or exceptional talent. Even with a bit of training and skill you still need some luck to pull it off (or maybe some specialized training).
  • Very Hard (DC 25) Achievable only by especially talented individuals. Nobody else should even bother trying.
  • Nearly Impossible (DC 30) Achievable only by the most trained, experienced, and talented individuals, and they probably still need help to pull it off.
  • Impossible (DC 35) An epic feat on which legendary tales are based on. The named masters of a skill come from acts such as these.
  • Godly (DC 40) Can’t be done without assistance unless you’re basically a demigod.

You may ask: So what have we been doing incorrectly? Really, we haven’t been doing anything incorrectly per say. It’s just understanding how hard a DC is.

What we misunderstood: Nothing.

Passive Checks

A passive check is a special kind of ability check that doesn’t involve any die rolls. Such a check can represent the average result for a task done repeatedly, such as searching for secret doors over and over again, or can be used when the DM wants to secretly determine whether the characters succeed at something without rolling dice, such as noticing a hidden monster.

Here’s how to determine a character’s total for a passive check:

10 + all modifiers that normally apply to the check

If the character has advantage on the check, add 5. For disadvantage, subtract 5. The game refers to a passive check total as a score. -PHB page 175

My take away: I use this frequently to speed up play/exploration.

You may ask: Since you never mention it, when ARE you using this DM? An example that comes to mind, when the party of trained PCs are on guard and are taking their time searching an occult library, they are likely to find anything that is hidden with a DC 20 or less.

What we misunderstood: Again, nothing was misunderstood, but a few players aren’t aware of this rule.

Climbing , Swimming , and Crawling

While climbing or swimming, each foot of movement costs 1 extra foot (2 extra feet in difficult terrain), unless a creature has a climbing or swimming  speed. At the DM’s option, climbing a slippery vertical surface or one with few handholds requires a successful Strength (Athletics) check. Similarly, gaining any distance in rough water might require a successful Strength (Athletics) check. – PHB page 182

 

My take away: Climbing anything that is ‘Medium (DC 15)’, ‘Easy (DC 10)’ or ‘Very Easy (DC 5)’ just costs you double movement, no roll is needed. Plus you don’t loose your action! If it’s a ‘Hard (DC 20)’ climb, it’s an Athletics check, and it may consume your action if it’s ‘Difficult (DC 25).

You may ask: So what does Rope do then? After digging around I can find no clear answer but, I will say that rope makes a climb easier. Effectively it reduces the difficulty by 5. So a ‘Hard (DC20)’ climb becomes a ‘Medium (DC 15)’, which doesn’t need a roll. As always, a friend can help you with their action, giving you advantage on a roll.

What we misunderstood: Our understanding of the rules suggested that every Rogue should put points in Strength so they could climb a wall reliably, also that a Rope gave advantage. This is incorrect.

Shoving A Creature

Using the Attack action, you can make a special melee attack to shove a creature, either to knock it prone or push it away from you. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.
The target of your shove must be no more than one size larger than you, and it must be within your reach. You make a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). If you win the contest, you either knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away from you.- PHB page 195

My take away: If you try to shove a creature as an attack, it’s a contested roll with your Athletics vs the targets Athletics or Acrobatics. If you win, you can knock the target prone or push it 5 feet away. Nothing is said about where you push it, if you opt to push it. I’ll be stating that you have disadvantage on any roll to push an enemy in any direction but directly away from yourself.

You may ask: Is this different than a grapple? Yup, as per PHB page 195.

What we misunderstood: We’ve been allowing the PCs to use shove to knock enemies prone AND to move them 5 feet away in a direction of your choice. Also, a shove is different than a grapple.

Grappling

When you want to grab a creature or wrestle with it, you can use the Attack action to make a special melee attack, a grapple. If you’re able to make multiple attacks with the Attack action, this attack replaces one of them.
The target of your grapple must be no more than one size larger than you, and it must be within your reach. Using at least one free hand, you try to seize the target by making a grapple check, a Strength (Athletics) check contested by the target’s Strength (Athletics) or
Dexterity (Acrobatics) check (the target chooses the ability to use). If you succeed, you subject the target to the grappled condition (see appendix A). The condition specifies the things that end it, and you can release the target whenever you like (no action required).
Escaping a Grapple. A grappled creature can use its action to escape. To do so, it must succeed on a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check contested by your Strength (Athletics) check.
Moving a Grappled Creature. When you move, you can drag or carry the grappled creature with you, but your speed is halved, unless the creature is two or more sizes smaller than you. – PHB page 195

My take away: This starts out similar to a shove, in that it’s a contested roll with your Athletics vs the targets Athletics or Acrobatics. If you win, you apply the grappled condition to the target. When you go and look up the grappled condition, you find that you reduce the targets’ speed to 0 and that you can move the target at double the cost to your movement.

You may ask: So the only thing that a grappled target can’t do is move of their own volition? That’s correct. The target of a grapple can still attack or react to anyone they can reach.

What we misunderstood: I think that the number of things that we misunderstood about grappling is too long to list. We’ve confused it with Shoving, we’ve used it to prohibit the grappled target from making any attacks, or to use them as a projectile…etc etc. At the end of the way, it looks like a good way to prevent the target from running away or moving, that’s it.

The Lost Marches

The Lost Marches

 Overview

Over fifteen hundred years ago, three forgotten Empires united together as one. Together they were known as The Great Compact. The borders of this realm extended far beyond those of the lands today. It’s said that several wars, and too rapid of an expansion took its toll upon the populace of The Great Compact. This, and other matters, led to the inner collapse of the Compact and the time of The Fracturing.

A millennia later, a handful of successor Kingdoms have had time to heal and grow. Once again humanity has reason to spread and retake some of the lands that were lost during The Fracturing. With this return to expansion, some fortunate settlers have found ancient riches among the ruins of the Compact.

Those with a poor chance of inheriting, or with a sense of wanderlust, now travel to the border of the Kingdoms. From the border, these Settlers and Adventurers strike out into the wreckage of the once great Compact.

If their luck holds, Adventurers many be able find a lost horde, or they may be able to establish themselves as Nobility over the reclaimed lands. With no law enforced, these lands are full of opportunity, and even more danger.

The World

The Civilized Lands

Over the past century with no wars, and much milder winters, the surviving Kingdoms have seen a large population surge. The harvests have been bountiful and new fields have been plowed with each generation.
 
In years past the main concern of a Farmer was planting enough food to see their family through the harsh winter. For more than two generations, this problem was replaced with ensuring that a Farmer has enough land to award upon a child when they reach adulthoodFamily plots have become smaller and smaller, and the the next generation will likely be the last where all children may inherit
Likewise, the Nobility have always ensured that they had Heirs to spare. Least a war or machination claim their bloodline. With stability that has been unknown since the Great Compact, no war or major plot has thinned the  ranks of the Nobility for ages. Brash young nobles that once led hosts against their neighbors now sit idle at home. Now, it is not unheard of, for a Duke to see a half dozen children reach adulthood. Dowries, and suitable titles must be found for each, often at great cost. 
 
A decade ago, the greatest Houses of Confersus began to encourage that second and third children travel to the borders. Showing foresight they now rally the young to resettle the lands of the Great Compact. 

The Marches

Reaching The Marches

The Lost Marches are found on the northern side of two mountain ranges, The Barriers and the Shieldmounts. Separated by natural borders, the nearest of the human Kingdoms is that of Confersus. Access to the Marches is difficult without leave from the nearby realms of the Dwarves, as they control the pass through which a cart may pass North.
 
The Dwarven Halls of Barak Dur, act as the gateway to The Lost Marches, much as they did in the days before The Fracturing. By ancient treaty, and enforced with Axe and Hammer, any man or woman may passes North through Barak Dur’s gates at no cost. To cross into the South again, the Dwarves charge a steep fee; one thousand pieces of Gold, or their like in gemstones, for every man woman or child.
 

The Town of Limen

A decade of concentrated migration has settled the lands of the First Valley. The town of Limen is the only settlement that offers any true protection in the Lost Marches. Founded sixteen years past by the Baroness, Limen is placed upon a bluff that overlooks the First Valley and bookends Barak Dur.
 
On a clear day a resident of Limen can stand atop the high granite walls, looking to East one will see the gates of Barak Dur, to the South they will see the First Valley, and North lies the Second Valley.
 
As commerce is driven by settlement, trade tools and weapons are easy to buy in Limen. Whereas comforts and exotic goods that are common in the Kingdoms are attainable, but costly, in Limen.
Law and Order in Limen, and it’s immediate surroundings is all but indistinguishable to that of the Kingdoms. While not a title granted by the King of Confersus, the Baroness of Limen acts as the Feudal overlord of Limen. The Baroness is unchallenged in her claim, and the church of Pelor recognizes her rights over all citizens of Limen.
 

Adventuring

Beyond Limen and the Second Valley lies the hinterlands. Few hearty souls have made their homes in the vast wilderness since the return to The Lost Marches. With no law and order beyond a day’s ride of Limen, only Adventurers risk such a distant base of operations.
 
While no formal tally is kept, at least a dozen Adventurers have returned to Barak Dur, paid the Dwarves their thousand gold, and then still had coin enough to buy estates and titles of Nobility in the Kingdom of Confersus. The rumors hold that each found riches in the ruins of the Great Compact, but no two stories agree.
 

Race & Class Options

The Lost Marches are in a world that is being reborn after a dark period. Considerable knowledge was lost with the fall of the The Great Compact, and some options are limited because of this.

Unknown Races and Classes

Gnomes, Dragonborn, Tieflings, Monks, and Sorcerers are simply unknown in the lands that once belonged to The Great Compact.

The elder races watched the Great Compact crumble, and they have maintained a certain distance from the survivors. Dwarves and Elves, are unlikely to travel with Humans into The Lost Marches. They remain within their own realms, and generally refuse to discuss the world that once was.

Differences in Classes

Fighter – Fighters are prohibited from using the Eldritch Knight Archetype.

Paladin – Paladins are prohibited from following the Oath of Ancients.

Ranger – Rangers used the Revised Ranger from Unearthed Arcana.

Rogue – Rogues are prohibited from using the Arcane Trickster Archetype

Warlock – The only Archetype that Warlocks may use is that of The Great Old One, who’s name is Vecna (detailed below).

Sword Coast Adventurers Guide – All Archetypes are acceptable unless noted above.

Divine Differences

Since The Fracturing, the Pantheon of Gods that actively respond to the prayers of Clerics has dwindled. This has caused a fundamental change in society, with Pelor’s acceptance as the defacto religion of all of the human Kingdoms. The Gods who are known to have active Clerics are:

Pelor – The sole God worshiped by ‘Goodly’ people. Pelor the Lightbringer is the God of Justice, Light and the natural world.

Domains: Light, Nature

Alignment: Lawful Good

Ioun – The Goddess of knowledge, magic and study. She remains neutral in all things except her hate for Vecna.

Domains: Arcana, Knowledge

Alignment: Neutral

Raven Queen – The Goddess of the dead and dying. Goodly people only turn to her during funeral rites.

Domains: Life, Death

Alignment: Neutral

Bane – The God of war and slaughter. Bane’s power has been on the decline for over a century.

Domains: Tempest, War

Alignment: Chaotic Evil

Vecna – The God of evil secrets and the Undead has been all but forgotten due to his silence.

Domains: Knowledge, Trickery

Alignment: Neutral Evil

Arcane Differences

One of the few bastions that survived The Fracturing was the Academy  of High Magic. All but a few rogue Wizards belong to the Academy, and they maintain a stranglehold upon higher magical learning. When a Wizard reaches second level they are restricted to the three Arcane Traditions listed here:

  • School of Lucrum

    • The School of Lucrum focuses upon magic that protects and informs. Wizards who join this School wear white clothing to identify themselves as defenders. Wizards of Lucrum may learn spells from the following schools:
      • Abjuration
      • Conjuration
      • Divination
      • Enchantment
      • Evocation
    • Lucrum Savant
      • Beginning when you select this school at 2nd level, the gold and time you must spend to copy a Abjuration or Divination spell into your spellbook is halved.
    • Starting at 2nd level, you can weave magic around yourself for protection. When you cast a spell of 1st level or higher, you can simultaneously use a strand of the spell’s magic to create a magical ward on yourself that lasts until you finish a long rest. The ward has hit points equal to twice your wizard level + your Intelligence modifier. Whenever you take damage, the ward takes the damage instead. If this damage reduces the ward to 0 hit points, you take any remaining damage.
      While the ward has 0 hit points, it can’t absorb damage, but its magic remains. Whenever you cast an spell of 1st level or higher, the ward regains a number of hit points equal to twice the level of the spell. Once you create the ward, you can’t create it again until you finish a long rest.
    • Projected Ward
      • Starting at 6th level, when a creature that you can see within 30 feet of you takes damage, you can use your reaction to cause your Arcane Ward to absorb that damage. If this damage reduces the ward to 0 hit points, the warded creature takes any remaining damage.
    • The Third Eye
      • Starting at 10th level, you can use your action to increase your powers of perception. When you do so, choose one of the following benefits, which lasts until you are incapacitated or you take a short or long rest. You can’t use the feature again until you finish a rest.
        • Darkvision. You gain darkvision out to a range of 60
          feet, as described in chapter 8.
        • Ethereal Sight. You can see into the Ethereal Plane
          within 60 feet of you.
        • Greater Comprehension. You can read any language.
        • See Invisibility. You can see invisible creatures and
        • objects within 10 feet of you that are within line of sight.
    • Spell Resistance
      • Starting at 14th level, you have advantage on saving
        throws against spells. Furthermore, you have resistance against the
        damage of spells.
  • School of Aequus

    • The School of Aequus focuses upon magics that conceal and empowers it’s practitioners. Students of this School don grey clothing to show their commitment to walking a middle road. Students of Aequus may learn spells from the following schools:
      • Conjuration
      • Divination
      • Evocation
      • Illusion
      • Transmutation
    • Aequus Savant
      • Beginning when you select this school at 2nd level, the gold and time you must spend to copy a Evocation or Illusion spell into your spellbook is halved.
    • Sculpt Spells
      • Beginning at 2nd level, you can create pockets of relative safety within the effects of your evocation spells. When you cast an evocation spell that affects other creatures that you can see, you can choose a number of them equal to 1 + the spell’s level. The chosen creatures automatically succeed on their saving throws
        against the spell, and they take no damage if they would normally take half damage on a successful save.
    • Potent Cantrips
      • Starting at 6th level, your damaging cantrips affect even creatures that avoid the brunt o f the effect. When a creature succeeds on a saving throw against your cantrip, the creature takes half the cantrip’s damage (if any) but suffers no additional effect from the cantrip.
    • Empowered Evocation
      • Beginning at 10th level, you can add your Intelligence modifier to the damage roll of any wizard evocation spell you cast.
    • Illusory Reality
      • By 14th level, you have learned the secret o f weaving
        shadow magic into your illusions to give them a semireality.
        When you cast an illusion spell of 1st level or higher, you can choose one inanimate, nonmagical object that is part of the illusion and make that object real. You can do this on your turn as a bonus action while the spell is ongoing. The object remains real for 1 minute. For example, you can create an illusion of a bridge over a chasm and then make it real long enough for your allies to cross.
        The object can’t deal damage or otherwise directly harm anyone.
  • School of Nocens

    • The School of Nocens focuses upon magics that summon forth or steals power from another. Servants of this School dress in black as a deceleration of their ambition. Servants of Nocens may learn spells from the following schools: 
      • Conjuration
      • Divination
      • Enchantment
      • Illusion
      • Necromancy
    • Nocens Savant
      • Beginning when you select this school at 2nd level, the gold and time you must spend to copy a Conjuration or Necromancy spell into your spellbook is halved.
    • Minor Conjuration
      • At 2nd level, you gain the ability to reap life energy from creatures you kill with your spells. When you kill one or more creatures with a spell of 1st level or higher, you regain hit points equal to twice the spell’s level, or three times its level if the spell belongs to the School of Necromancy. You don’t gain this benefit for killing constructs or undead.
    • Benign Transposition
      • Starting at 6th level, you can use your action to teleport up to 30 feet to an unoccupied space that you can see. Alternatively, you can choose a space within range that is occupied by a Small or Medium creature. If that creature is willing, you both teleport, swapping places. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest or you cast a conjuration spell of 1st level or higher.
    • Inured to Undeath
      • Beginning at 10th level, you have resistance to necrotic damage, and your hit point maximum can’t be reduced. You have spent so much time dealing with undead and the forces that animate them that you have become inured to some of their worst effects.
    • Durable Summons
      • Starting at 14th level, any creature that you summon or create with a conjuration spell has 30 temporary hit points.

Revision Notes

  • Edit #1. – Saturday 11th of March, this is most of my first draft, I may refine it tomorrow. 
  • Edit #2. – Sunday 12th of March, refinement and expansion have begun with more info for the players added.
  • Edit #3. – Sunday 12th of March, edits after feedback from S.M. 
  • Edit #4. – Saturday 25th of March, edits and repost

Dark Sun Game Setting

Dark Sun

Overview

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 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. 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 the 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.”

Playable Races

Player races as per the Dark Sun PDF by Gabriel:

  • Dwarves
  • Elves
  • Half-Elves
  • Half-Giants
  • Halflings
  • Muls
  • Thri-Kreen

Permitted races from the Player’s Handbook

  • Human, Variant

All other races and sub races are non-playable.

Playable Classes

The Unearthed Arcana – The Mystic Class by Wizards of the Coast outlines the Mystic class, which acts as the Psionic class found in prior editions of D&D. The Order of the Wu Jen is the only aspect of this PDF which is restricted from players, and reserved for NPCs.

Player classes as per the Dark Sun PDF by Gabriel:

  • Barbarian
  • Bard
  • Cleric
  • Druid
  • Fighter
  • Ranger
  • Wizard

All other Classes and 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 flavor 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