Beneath a crimson sun lie wastelands of majestic desolation and cities of cruel splendor, where sandal-clad heroes battle ancient sorcery and terrible monsters. This is Athas, the world of the Dark Sun campaign setting, a dying planet of savagery and desolation where life hangs by a thread in this barren land, and now it is up to you to write your own story in blood and glory.

The world of the Dark Sun setting is unique in several ways. Many familiar trappings of the Dungeons & Dragons game are missing or turned on their heads. Athas is not a place of shining knights and robed wizards, of deep forests and divine pantheons. To venture over the sands of Athas is to enter a world of savagery and splendor that draws on different traditions of fantasy and storytelling. Simple survival beneath the deep red sun is often its own adventure.

Newcomers to Athas have much to learn about the world, its people, and its monsters, but the following eight characteristics encapsulate the most important features of the Dark Sun campaign setting.

Sand, rock, sun, burning heat—these are the only properties that Athas possesses in abundance. Every living creature in the world works constantly to obtain food and safeguard water. Hunters might go days without finding suitable prey, and herders must drive their flocks from place to place to find good grazing. Water is scarce in the known regions of Athas, and those who control life-giving wells or springs jealously guard access to such riches.

City dwellers enjoy more security than do nomads or villagers living in the deserts, but it takes legions of workers—most of them slaves—toiling in the fields to support a city’s population. Great and terrible sorcerer-kings rule the city-states, each a long-lived tyrant who crushes dissent. Rapacious nobles, corrupt templars, ruthless merchants, and legions of brutal soldiers profit from or support the sorcerer-kings’ reigns, while the common folk groan under unjust laws and harsh taxation. Slaves survive only as long as they can earn one more day’s worth of food and water with their backbreaking toil. For most people, life is a choice between struggling to survive in the wasted wilderness or trading freedom for the relative safety of the oppressive city-states.

This is Athas, a world of cruelty and tyranny. Yet it is also a place of savage beauty and barbaric splendor—a world of heroes.

Dark Sun Campaign

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