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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.

If you aren't into tabletop (aka pen & paper) RPGs, you might as well click to the next post now... Still here? Awesome.

I've recently started running a new D&D 4.0 Dark Sun campaign. If you don't know anything about Dark Sun, here's a quick intro:

The campaign take place on the world of Athas, formerly a lush green world that is now a desert wasteland. Forests are rare in the extreme, as is water and metal. Coins are made of ceramic and weapons are often made of hardened wood, bone or obsidian.

The green age of Athas was centuries ago and the current state was brought about through the reckless use of sorcerous magic. (In this world, you can augment spells by drawing on the life force of the world & people around you. This is called defiling. Preserving magic draws upon the casters life force and does not damage the surrounding world, but it isn't as powerful.)

Humans are pretty much unchanged, but the traditional fantasy races have changed quite a bit. Elves don't live in the forest, they are shifty and untrustworthy desert traders known for their ability to run long distances through the wastes. Halflings are not short, fat, pleasant little riverside people. Instead they are bloodthirsty feral cannibals that roam the few remaining forests and ride reptilians beasts akin to raptors. Gnomes are extinct, as are orcs. Dwarves are mostly farmers and gladiators, and live out in the sun instead of staying under the mountains. Goliaths are half-giants, not known for their intellect. Muls are a Dwarf & Human crossbreed that displays the best traits of both races (human height and dwarven stoutness.) Thri-Kreen are sentient mantis people that are extremely fast.

Most of the same character classes are available, with a few new twists. There are no divine characters (such as Priests, Paladins, etc) because the gods are gone. Nobody alive today can remember a time when they were still around. Instead, some folks worship the elemental forces (although they don't give out spells.)

The cities are all ruled by Sorcerer King tyrants (except one city: Tyr) who are hundreds of years old and still practice defiling magic whenever they please. Serving the Sorcerer Kings are the Templars, who are also defilers and psionicists. Crossing them is as bad, in many cases, as crossing the Kings themselves. Between the cities you have small towns and trading outposts, and mostly barren desert with sometimes 4-5 days on foot between towns and the nearest oasis.

Being caught out in the desert without adequate supplies and protection from the elements is pretty much a death sentence for even the toughest heroes. When you add in the natural (and unnatural) predators that roam the wastes, often in packs, most people don't last long alone.


In this campaign, the adventure begins in the (small) trading fortress of Altaruk, a couple weeks walking distance from the newly freed city of Tyr. A caravan carrying trade goods from Altaruk has not made it to Tyr and the local merchant house has dispatched the heroes to find out what happened and to retrieve the goods (and drivers) if possible.

The unlikely heroes consist of a human shaman, a thri-kreen monk, a human wizard, a kenku assassin and a (void aspect) genasi swordmage. Gathering up supplies and a little liquid courage, they set out into the desert and manage to find the northbound tracks of the wagon.

Shortly after finding the tracks, they are ambushed by a pack of silt-runners (small lizard people with very large teeth and poisoned pointy spears.) The party makes short work of the creatures, taking a few minor wounds in the process.

Proceeding onward without resting, they find the remains of the wagon and manage to sneak up on a pack of Kruthiks picking through the rubble and spilled goods. Unfortunately, they failed to take advantage of the opportunity and had a hard fight ahead of them. The party defeated the kruthiks, but took heavy damage (and almost lost a couple of their own) in the process.

Once the kruthiks were dispatched, they followed a set of tracks further north to a ruined tower...

Posted on Monday, January 31, 2011 5:07 PM Dark Sun | Back to top

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