Dark Sun is set in the post-apocalyptic world of Athas. Thousands of years ago, Athas was a green and living world. Through a series of disasters, Athas was turned into a burned cinder, with almost no surface water, blazing hot temperatures, and endless desert and rocky badlands.
The remains of civilization huddles in a region known as the Tablelands, alongside the dry, silt-filled bed of a long-vanished sea, the Sea of Silt. There, seven great cities serve as the last bastion of humanity on Athas, all but one ruled by a powerful god-like being, a Sorcerer-King.
Outside the cities, every living thing seeks to kill and consume every other living thing. The Sorcerer-Kings are hideously evil and tyrannical, but their protection is the only thing that stands between the average person and a gruesome death from thirst, exposure, raiders, or the deadly wildlife.
Over time, the people and creatures of Athas have developed strange new mental powers to adapt to their hellish surroundings. Nearly every living thing on Athas has some ability with psionic powers, from minor tricks of the mind to sanity-crushing abilities of nearly limitless power.
Humanity is dominant in the Tablelands, perhaps only due to the vast power of the Sorcerer-Kings. Elsewhere in Athas, the insectile Thri-Kreen rule the land, thriving in the baked and arid savannahs of the north and west. In the mountains above the Tablelands, where forests cling to the high slopes, tribes of savage cannibalistic halflings make their home, killing (and generally eating) intruders. In the arenas of the great cities, half-dwarven Mul battle for the amusement of the desperate populace. Their ancestral progenitors, the Dwarves, are a fallen people, searching the lands endlessly for their lost heritage. Elves are a nomadic people, raiding and stealing whatever they don’t swindle from other races through ruthless trading. Their occasional offspring, the half-elves, are outcasts, hated by elves and distrusted by all other races. Giants live on the islands in the Silt Sea, and through ancient magic, some of these massive humanoids were crossbred with humans, to form the race of Half-Giants, prized as warriors and gladiators in all the City-States.
Magic on Athas is a recent thing, arising out of the catastrophe that scoured the world. Magic is tainted, carrying with it a curse of defiling; the power that fuels magic is the power of life itself, and the use of arcane powers drains life from the world, withering plants, animals, and people alike. Defilers are loathed and feared, and are hunted down by the most powerful of all defilers, the Sorcerer-Kings themselves. Some few wizards have accepted a weaker form of magic, preserving, which does not cause death and decay, but for the common folk of Athas, the distinction is nonexistent. All magic is defiling magic, and all defilers are to be hunted down and killed.
There are no gods in Athas. No prayers are answered, no holy power is granted to worshippers. What spirituality there is, is tied to the land, the elements, and the people. For most people, the closest thing they will ever know to a god is their own Sorcerer-King, immortal and omnipotent.
Slavery is the normal course of affairs in Athas. Slaves are the engine which powers the world: slaves haul the water, grow the crops, tend the animals, and make life in the City-States possible. Where there are slaves, there are escaped slaves; the few that manage to find their freedom and escape to the wilderness are generally dead within a week, unable to defend themselves against the multitude of deaths that await outside the cities. Those that manage to survive gather in desperate villages, either to try their hand at building their own civilization or, more frequently, to raid merchant caravans to survive.
There is only one dragon in Athas. It is simply called the Dragon. It is the single most powerful creature in the entire world. Even the Sorcerer-Kings pay tribute to the Dragon rather than stand against it.
The game is set just to the north of the settled lands of the region. Between the three northernmost city-states, Urik, Raam and Draj, runs a great trade road, the King’s Way. North of this road is broken, dangerous, monster-infested rocky badland. Beyond this badland is a vast savannah. This savannah, and its surroundings, is the setting of the game.
This region is, comparatively, a lush paradise on Athas. Plants grow openly in the baked earth, and various herds of lizard-like animals wander the plains between a few known oases. Elven tribes and thri-kreen packs are the only order or civilization; the broken lands to the south form a barrier that keeps the Sorcerer-Kings’ attentions at bay. The only merchants who trouble themselves to cross into the plains are desperate or mad. North, beyond the savannah, bandit villages form a kind of loose ‘kingdom’ of the criminal, the depraved, and the dangerous.
There isn’t an overarching structure or plot to the game; I won’t be handing out adventure hooks with the expectation that you’ll follow them for months at a time, through a pre-arranged series of narrative encounters. Instead, you’ll be free to do whatever you like. The particular style of game I’m emulating is called a ‘hex-crawl’; given a rudimentary map of the wilderness around you, you strike out towards whatever seems interesting – rumors of a monument, a ruin, another village, an oasis, or whatever you like.
As you explore, you’ll be building your own map of the lands around you, filling it in with the details of what you’ve found. At the same time, the world won’t stay still while you explore; what was once an empty ruin might later house a bandit camp, or a lair of monsters, or a sheltering caravan. As well, your ‘home base’ will grow and change over time, possibly attracting the attention of merchants, raiders, and even the Sorcerer-Kings.
I will dangle interesting things in front of you, and you can follow up on those things, but at no point am I going to drop the ‘Plot’ in your lap and say ‘go forth and save the world.’ You’ll need to think about what you want to do next, and you’ll need to be somewhat proactive in making that happen.
I’ll be offering you a basic structure, which will hopefully be of value in giving you some reasons to go out looking for adventure: a village. Your ‘home base’ village will start out as a small collection of tents around a convenient oasis, but over time you’ll be able to develop it, helping to build new structures and new services, as well as defenses against the dangers of the wastelands.
Because it’s a sandbox, you can ignore the village if you’d prefer, but if you decide to stick with it, it will ‘level up’ as you do, becoming a more and more useful resource over the course of the game.
First and foremost: make sure your character can work with a group. Because there won’t be a Deadly Peril Threatening All Life (well, any more so than Athas usually has), you won’t be forced together as a team in the way that the typical linear narrative game would do. You’ll need to come up with your own reasons to stay with the group, and your own methods for resolving conflicts that might otherwise fragment the group. I want to keep the game a fairly strict sandbox, but the major concession I’m going to make towards traditional linear games is that I’m not going to let you go off on your own away from the group, because running two (or more) separate games simultaneously at the table is more work than I’m willing to handle.
So, in summary of the first suggestion: Don’t make a character that will inevitably leave, for whatever reason. This is why I’m going to suggest strongly that you not, for instance, make a character who’s a servant of the Sorcerer-Kings – that character might have an interesting narrative arc, but isn’t going to be around for the long term. Psychotics who plan to murder the rest of the group in their sleep are also a bad idea, as are characters so angry and grumpy all the time that they can’t actually work with others for more than a few sessions.
Second, you should think about why your character is in the northern wilderness, away from established civilization. This is especially true if your character’s background suggests a city-dweller – a noble, a gladiator, and so forth. The traditional Dark Sun background story is ‘escaped slave’, so if all else fails feel free to fall back on that. But if your character will want, at the first opportunity, to flee the wilderness back to the relative comfort of the city, and only the lack of transportation is keeping her around, that’s Not Good.
That kind of short-term goal could work if you step back from in-character motivations and think about your character in a larger meta-plot-arc sense: if you plan to return to the city, and you know ahead of time that your character will hate it there and return to the village, I can work with you to construct that arc so as to keep your character part of the game. (Also see below for a discussion of multiple characters; taking one of your characters out of the game for a few sessions is completely plausible, as well.)
Third, you should think about what drives your character to adventure. The classic motivation for a cloistered academic mage to go adventuring is ‘seeking magical power and magical artifacts’; this is an ideal example of the type of motivation I’m talking about. The sandbox style of game requires a lot more proactive play than a traditional linear narrative; you’ll be asked on a regular basis to decide where you want to go next, and what you want to do. Having an ongoing character motivation that drives you out to explore ruins, fight bandits, make trade pacts, and so forth will make that process much easier for you. What you don’t want to ever happen is for the party to ask, ‘What should we do now?’ and your answer is ‘I dunno, there’s nothing I particularly want to do.’ You should always have more that you want to do than could ever be completely accomplished in the game.
Here are some ideas off the top of my head for reasonable motivations. A desire to grow the village into a major trade town would lead you to seek out and neutralize threats to the village, as well as seeking out possible trade partners in the form of merchant houses and other villages. Perhaps instead you want to raise a conquering army and unify the north lands into a new kingdom; this would lead you out to recruit, as well as to secure resources to build up the town’s infrastructure and defenses. You might be simply seeking magical power, or ancient secrets; you might even want to renew the land and bring about a new Green Age. That would lead you to ancient ruins and rumors of mystical creatures and places in the desert. Perhaps you just want to get rich, and you’ll look for lost treasures to sell, and caravans to trade with (or rob).
An interesting possibility is to create a staged quest for your character. Obviously we’ll need to talk about any quest you want to add to the game world, but I’m happy to do so because proactive player content creation is awesome. An example is the classic ‘Rod of Seven Parts’, where a powerful artifact has been split and scattered around the world. If your character is chasing the rod, you’ll go out adventuring to look for rumors of the rod’s locations, and to follow up on those rumors. An interesting variant might be a revenge story where there are seven people who have betrayed you in some way, and over the course of the game you hunt each of them down. The important part of a staged quest is that it will take a long time to complete, but has visible short-term goals you can use to motivate your character.
Shortly after the first session, I’m going to ask everyone to make a second character. Both your characters will level up at the same rate, and you’ll be able to switch between them on a per-story basis. There are a couple of useful features this brings to the game: first (and most obviously) you’ll have a fallback if your character is injured badly or dies. Secondly, you can choose the character whose motivations are most appropriate to what the group wants to do, or whose current active plots interest you the most. Finally, you can experiment with a very different style of play from one session to the next, so you don’t feel stagnated.
Experience will not be generated by defeating encounters or challenges. Instead, you will gain a fixed amount of experience per hour of play, regardless of what you actually do in that hour. If you spend an entire session roleplaying with a bartender, you will get the same amount of experience as if you spent the session butchering a small army of gith.
The specific per-hour amount is still TBD, and may change over the course of the game to adapt to the actual pace of play.
If your character ‘dies’, except in certain circumstances, she will not actually die. A ‘dead’ character has suffered a debilitating and possibly near-mortal injury. She will recover over time, but the length of time could be very long, depending on the nature of the injury. While your character recovers, you can use your second character.
Recovery times will not be derived from a fixed formula, because I reserve the right to alter them to suit the overall game pacing. You can expect that a ‘dead’ character will be out of action for at least a month of game time.
Resolve is the mechanic by which the party moves around the map, explores the terrain, and generally spends their days. A high-level summary: for every 3 miles of travel, the party spends one point of Resolve; resting for the night restores Resolve.
At the start of each day the party receives some number of Resolve points, based on the quality of the camp they rested in the night before.
This level of camp indicates that the party traveled until they were too exhausted to continue, and then simply collapsed on the ground. No shelters were constructed, no food was prepared, and no attempt was made to secure the camp against wandering encounters. This level of camp provides 4 points of Resolve.
This level of camp indicates that the party made a brief effort to find a reasonable campsite, secured their belongings, laid out bedrolls, and ate a hasty meal. Any watch posted was perfunctory. This level of camp provides 6 points of Resolve.
Note that the party can always make a rough camp, regardless of the terrain.
This level of camp indicates that the party sought out a good campsite, off the road and featuring reasonable shelter. Where appropriate, the party dug a latrine pit, put up a shelter, built a fire, prepared food, and posted a watch. This level of camp provides 8 points of Resolve.
The party may not be able to make this level of camp, depending on the terrain or other conditions.
This is the highest level of camp, indicating the party has prepared a site in advance, spent a day building up an existing camp, or happened across a perfect campsite. This camp features latrine trenches, elevated berms for defense, a shielded firepit, weather shelters, and is sufficiently concealed to allow watchers to see possible danger long before the camp is discovered by intruders. This level of camp provides 10 points of Resolve.
The party will not usually be able to make this level of camp without prior preparations. Note that staying in civilization – an inn, a village house, and so forth – counts as an Improved camp.
Dehydration and Starvation
If even one member of the party is dehydrated, having drunk less than 1 gallon of water the previous day, the party receives only half their Resolve points. This is also true if even one member of the party is starving. If both conditions exist on the same party member, the party receives only one-quarter of their Resolve points (rounded up).
The party may spend their Resolve points to travel, or accomplish other traveling-related tasks. Resolve points can also be spent on other options, as described below. The GM may offer additional Resolve expenditure options.
The party may travel 3 miles in exchange for one point of Resolve. This is further modified as follows:
• In difficult terrain, one point of Resolve allows only 2 miles of travel
• In very difficult terrain, one point of Resolve allows only 1 mile of travel
• Roads and caravan tracks add one additional mile per point of Resolve
• Traveling during the daytime subtracts one mile per point of Resolve, down to a minimum of a half-mile. ‘Daytime’ is defined here as 2 hours after sunrise until 2 hours after sunset.
Water: Travel costs 1 unit of water per RP spent on travel. However, the first 6 RP of travel are ‘free’, in that they are already accounted for in the mandatory 6 units of water spent daily by a party regardless of activity.
After breaking camp, the party may spend 2 points of Resolve to generate an Extended Rest. Note that this is only available after breaking camp; the party cannot generate another Extended Rest later in the day without making camp and ending the day’s activities.
Also note that if the party does not spend this Resolve, the previous night’s camp does not count as an Extended Rest.
Water: Generating an extended rest does not cost water.
The party can spend Resolve points to make camp.
• Rough: The party can make a rough camp for 1 Resolve point.
• Standard: The party can make a standard camp for 2 Resolve points.
• Improved: The party can make an improved camp for 3 Resolve points.
Note that if the party has not moved since they last made camp, or specifically returns to a previous campsite, they can make camp there at the same level for free, or spend 1 point of Resolve to improve the camp to the next level.
Also note that some camps may not be improvable above ‘Rough’ or ‘Standard’, at the GM’s discretion.
Water: Making camp does not cost water.
The party can spend a Resolve point at any time to cause every member of the party to recover 1 Healing Surge.
Water: Recovering healing surges costs 1 water unit.
The party can gain an additional point of Resolve if every member of the party spends 2 Healing Surges.
The party can spend a Resolve point during an encounter to cause every member of the party to recover the use of one Encounter power.
Water: Recovering encounter powers costs 1 water unit.
The party can spend Resolve points to thoroughly search their current hex; this search happens at a level of 10 + (Passive Perception). The cost of this search depends on the type of terrain: normal terrain costs 8 Resolve points, difficult terrain costs 12 Resolve points, and very difficult terrain costs 16 Resolve points.
The party can accumulate Resolve points towards this search over multiple consecutive days, but if they leave the current hex any Resolve accumulated towards a search is lost.
Water: RP spent searching are considered ‘travel’ and subtracted from the free 6 RP of travel time. If the party spends more than 6 RP on any combination of searching and traveling in a day, the excess costs 1 water unit per additional RP spent.
A party member with the Nature skill can choose to perform a specialized search in their current hex for food and water. This is a less thorough search than what’s described above, and will not necessarily uncover interesting features of the current hex. A Forage search costs 1 Resolve point.
The difficulty of the Forage task is set by the terrain:
• Shifting Sands: DC 26
• Obsidian Field: Not possible
• Salt Flats: DC 28
• Scrubland: DC 20
• Forest: DC 18
• Stony Barrens: DC 24
• Rocky Badlands: DC 22
• Mountains: DC 20
A successful Forage attempt generates enough food for one person for one day, and 2 water units. Additionally, a successful forage adds 1 RP to accumulated Thorough Search RP, as described above.
Each successful Forage in a hex imposes a +2 modifier to the DC. This modifier expires after one week of no Foraging in that hex.
Multiple party members with the Nature skill can assist in the Forage action, but only one Forage roll is made per RP spent.
Water: Forage RP are handled as Thorough Search RP, above.
The party can spend 2 Resolve points at any time to generate an Action Point (milestone?) for every member of the party.
Water: Generating a milestone costs 2 water units.
The party can spend 1 Resolve point to evade an encounter if they have not yet been detected by the encounter.
Water: Escaping an encounter costs 2 water units.
Previously used campsites can be used again at the same level, as described above. However, campsites decay over time, as scavengers, wind, blowing dust, falling rock and other hazards gradually leave the camp in increasing disarray. A campsite drops one level of quality after 16 days of disuse. This value is halved for each of the following that are true:
• The camp is located in a terrain type that changes frequently, such as shifting sands or a salt flat.
• The camp is located in a dangerous area with frequent encounters.
• The camp is located on a road or other commonly-used pathway.
During the camp’s construction, a party member succeeding at a DC 20 Nature check can remove one of the above conditions.
No Camp and Rough Camp levels require nothing more than a moderately flat patch of ground to construct. However, finding a suitable site for a camp of higher quality requires a Nature check. The difficulty of the check is determined by the terrain, as follows:
• Shifting Sands: Not possible (max camp quality is Rough)
• Obsidian Field: Not possible (max camp quality is Rough)
• Salt Flats: DC 14 (max camp quality is Standard)
• Scrubland: DC 14
• Forest: DC 14
• Stony Barrens: DC 16
• Rocky Badlands: DC 18
• Mountains: DC 20
This check is then modified as follows:
• Looking for a site at night: +2 DC
• Looking for a site at night with no moons: +4 DC
• Looking for a site while being pursued or hunted: +2 DC
If the roll succeeds, a Standard campsite is found. If the player’s roll is at least 4 higher than the DC, an Improved campsite is found. If the roll fails, the party can still make a Rough camp, or spend a Resolve point to look again.
For each day spent in the wilderness, there is a chance of a random encounter. The base chance of an encounter is 10%; on a d20 roll of 19 or 20, a random encounter happens that day. This chance is modified as follows:
• If the party camped in the wilderness, and has moved fewer than 3 hexes from their starting location, the chance increases by 1.
• If the party has moved fewer than 2 hexes, the chance increases by 2.
• If the party is in the same hex as they were at the start of the day, the chance increases by 3.
• If the party is traveling light (no beasts of burden, no vehicles, no mounts) the chance decreases by 1.
• If the party is traveling with extensive baggage (wagons, mekillots, inix), the chance increases by 2.
• If a member of the party succeeds at a DC (15+party size) Nature check, the chance decreases by 1.
• Terrain Modifier: The type of terrain alters the chance of an encounter as follows:
o Forest: +2
o Scrub and Sandy Waste: +1
o Barrens: 0
o Rocky Badlands and Mountains: -1
Thus the highest possible chance for an encounter is a party taking no special care to conceal themselves (-0), accompanying a caravan (+2) through the forest (+2), and staying a full day at the same campsite (+3); the chance of an encounter is 45% (11-20 on a d20). Regardless of care taken by the party, there is always at least a 5% chance of an encounter; a roll of 20 means that an encounter takes place that day, regardless of modifiers.
To determine the nature of the encounter, make a d100 roll on the encounter table for the region in which the party’s day ends.
The encounter can take one of two forms: the encounter happens at the party’s campsite that evening, or the encounter happens during travel. If the party did not travel during the day, the encounter happens at the campsite. Otherwise, the encounter happens wherever seems appropriate given the specific encounter generated and the events of the adventure.
For any encounter that happens along the road, there is a chance that the encounter is a Lair. Generally, a Lair is any stationary encounter the party happens across; this may be a village or campsite, or it may be a cave or ruined building. The chance of an encounter being a Lair is 1 in 6. Note that some encounters are always Lairs – stationary plants, geographical features, and so forth. (If a Lair encounter is generated when the party is stationary, re-roll until a non-lair is generated.)
When an encounter is generated, it’s possible that either side notices the other first. Both sides make a passive Perception check against a base DC of 20, modified as follows:
• -1 for each medium-sized individual in a group
• -2 for each large-sized individual in a group
• -1 for each wagon-sized vehicle in a group
• -1 in Scrubland or Sandy Waste
• +1 in Rocky Badlands
• +2 in Mountains
• +4 in a sandstorm or duststorm
• +2 for a party traveling at night with no light sources except
o -2 for traveling at night if the other group has heat vision
o -2 for traveling at night with light sources
• Any other situational modifiers that are appropriate based on the nature of the encounter
If only one side succeeds, that side is aware of the encounter first, and may choose how to react to it. Note that in some terrain, ‘hide and let them pass’ may not be possible. If both sides succeed, both groups are aware of each other at roughly the same time. If neither side succeeds, both groups stumble upon each other and are simultaneously surprised.
Home encounters are generated once a week, and are based on the village’s Value score. These encounters represent some group, creature or other entity arriving at the village. Home encounters can include arriving traders, elven raiding bands, Kreen emissaries, tax collectors for one of the Sorcerer-Kings, marauding drakes, as well as more general events such as weather phenomena, earthquakes, and so forth.
The players may not be present for a Home Encounter, but it should be generated regardless; they’ll discover the encounter (or its aftermath) when they return home.
The chance of a Home Encounter is equal to 0.1 x Value, per week. Home encounters are rolled for on their own table.
For each day that a character does not have access to the required number of water units, that character becomes dehydrated. A party requires 6 water units per day, minimum, to survive. For each water unit less than 6 the party consumes, each member of the party loses the use of one healing surge. This loss persists until the party consumes a full 6 water units in a day, as follows:
• The first day of adequate water supply does not restore the lost healing surges.
• Each day thereafter of adequate water supply restores one lost healing surge.
• Any interruption of full hydration will cause healing surge loss, and will require a full day of hydration before recovery begins again.
• Note that the number of surges lost is per water unit less than six; a full day with no water at all will cause every party member to lose six healing surges.
• Lost healing surges are lost ‘available’ surges; you can use your surges in combat, and dehydration can then consume those ‘used’ surges. Dehydration will always prefer to consume unused surges.
• Surges lost through dehydration come back in the ‘used’ state, and must be restored via an extended rest.
• In addition to lost surges, a dehydrated character suffers a -1 penalty to all actions for each lost surge.
• If, at any point, dehydration attempts to consume a surge and you have none available, you die of dehydration.
Characters operating in direct sun or extreme heat must make Endurance tests to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The threshold for this check being required is that a character is operating in direct sun after 10 AM, or operating in heat in excess of 120 degrees. The mechanic for this is as follows:
• For each hour of moderate exertion, such as digging or moving heavy objects, a character must make an Endurance test or expend one healing surge.
• Every fourth round of combat (i.e., on rounds 4, 8, 12 and so on), a character must make an Endurance test or expend one healing surge.
• The DC of this test is a Moderate skill DC (10 at level 1 to 3).
• Modifiers to this test are as follows:
o The character is wearing heavy clothing: +1
o The character is wearing medium armor: +2
o The character is wearing heavy armor: +4
o The character’s armor is made out of metal: +6 (in addition to the armor type)
o The character is heavily encumbered: +2
o The temperature is over 130 degrees: +2
o The temperature is over 140 degrees: +4
o The temperature is over 150 degrees: +8
• If you run out of healing surges, and fail another Endurance test, you fall unconscious.
• These are normally-expended surges, and thus recover after an extended rest as usual.
See the Languages section for more details on Dark Sun languages. Do not use the language list provided in the book.
Dragonborn: Not present in this form in the setting.
Eladrin: Not present in the setting.
Goliath: Goliaths are actually half-giants, not stone creatures. They are mechanically identical, however.
Halfling: The book version of halflings is much more nature-fairy than they will actually be in the game. Please talk to me if you want to play a Halfling, so I can break down how they operate outside of Halfling society for you. Do not take the ‘Nature’s Protector’ background.
Tiefling: Not present in the setting.
Warforged: Not present in the setting.
Other Races: No other playable races are present in the setting.
The playable races are as follows:
You must choose a theme for your character, or explain why you aren’t; themes increase your mechanical power as well as giving you more setting and flavor hooks, so there’s really no downside to picking one. Note that the DDI theme ‘Escaped Slave’ is available to you as well (see below).
Templar: This theme is only available to characters with the Defiling power (i.e., anyone with an Arcane-based daily attack power). You should talk to me before choosing the Templar theme, as I am generally not going to allow it. You cannot choose the Praetor Legate Paragon Path.
Veiled Alliance: If you are not a character with an arcane-based daily attack power, talk to me before picking this theme, as I am generally not going to allow it.
Wilder, Nomad, Slave: These are all good themes if you don’t really care one way or another, and just want to have some appropriate theme.
Arcane Defiling: If you have this power, you automatically have the ‘Defiling Action’ feat for free.
Wild Talents: You must pick a wild talent. If you don’t, I’ll give you one at random.
Warlock Sorcerer-King Pact: Talk to me before you take this option for a warlock, as I am generally not going to allow it. For all other pacts, talk to me about how they’re re-skinned in Athas to match the local cosmology.
Epic Destinies: Don’t plan for any specific epic destiny; you will probably not be allowed to turn into a Dragon King, for instance. We’ll discuss epic destinies further if/when the game reaches a point where it’s relevant.
Rituals: I will need to review any rituals you choose.
Metal Armor: See the Heat Illness house rules, above.
Weapon Breakage: I’ll be using a modified version of the Reckless Breakage rule. Instead of breaking, the first time your weapon ‘breaks’ according to the rule in the book, your weapon’s Proficiency Bonus is lowered to 0. This is repairable damage for many weapon types. If your weapon ‘breaks’ a second time without being first repaired, it is shattered and useless.
Survival Day: Ignore this item; see the Resolve rules, above. Also see house rules for Forage, above.
Currency: The currency as written in the book is ridiculous. We’ll be using the 2e currency rules, which are as follows:
1 gold piece = 10 silver pieces = 100 ceramic pieces = 1000 ceramic bits (note that 1 cp is generally perforated to break into 10 cb easily, to make change).
All prices for all non-metal items are reduced by a factor of 100. If an item is listed at a cost of 10gp, its actual cost is 10cp.
All prices for all metal items are unchanged.
Treasure rewards will be adjusted accordingly (reduced by a factor of 100).
Sand Skiffs: are just plain wrong, and do not exist in the setting.
Silt Skimmers: are not sail-driven; they move by either psionics or half-giant slaves with poles. Wind on the Silt Sea is lethal.
Magic Items: Assume that most, if not all, magic items typically found in 4e will not be present or available.
Note that the game takes place in the region north of Urik, Raam and Draj. Backgrounds that are tied to a specific location far from that area may be less relevant in play.
Tyr: Do not choose the Embedded Spy background.
Forest Ridge: Talk to me before choosing the Acclimated Trader background, as I am substantially revising Halfling culture. Do not choose the Spirit Guided background.
This section is replaced entirely by the above Resolve rules.
See items, above. The game will be using the Fixed Enhancement Bonuses rules. I make no promises about any treasure found; I will not be using the parcel system. I will be making extensive use of alternative rewards.
Except for the field, all structures occupy one or more Building Lots, each of which is 0.25 acres (a plot of land 100 feet by 100 feet). The number of building lots is listed after the structure’s description. The village has an essentially unlimited number of lots available, but keeping structures close together will make their infrastructure costs lower as well as increase their defensibility.
Fields occupy 30 acres, or 120 Lots.
Infrastructure costs: These are calculated as a number of hexes away from the well. For each hex away from the well in excess of 1, a structure’s cost to build is increased. (todo: infrastructure formula)
Field: 30 acres, requires irrigation, supports 10 people. Requires 4 laborers. No prerequisites; you can turn any reasonable patch of scrubland into a field by adding water and labor. You need 1 field for every 10 people in the village, minimum, and at that level you risk starvation if anything goes wrong with the crops. (Pop 4)
Weaver: Requires a field. Turn fiber crops into rope and cloth. Growing fiber crops is assumed to not detract from food production. Weavers are required for making any kind of tent structure, or anything else that requires cloth. (Pop 2 Lots: 1)
Tent: Made of cloth, leather, poles, and so forth. Materials are assumed to be available for the initial tents but after that, a weaver or beastcrafter is required to make more. Basic tents house up to 4 people, though past about 2 they’re not very comfortable. These are man-high, non-portable tents; a central stake supports the roof, and internal crossbeam poles allow hanging cloth to form ‘rooms’. This size tent is three rooms: two thirds are sleeping quarters for two people each, and one third is a sitting area. Larger tents can be constructed by combining any number of smaller tents. (Lots: 1)
Brothel tent: Slightly larger than the common tent, with four rooms: two rooms for customers, one entry area where customers and whores pair off, and one smaller room for private cleanup and toiletries. A brothel makes the village more appealing to caravans, and will therefore increase tax revenue. (Pop 1-4 Lots: 1)
Animal pen: A fenced-off area for confining herd animals. One of these is needed for each type of herd animal. Note that this doesn’t include grazing areas; this isn’t a pasture. Animals will need to be herded out to scrublands to graze daily. A single herdsman can manage all the animals from one pen. A pen can hold 10 small animals, 5 medium animals, 2 large animals, or 1 huge animal. Arriving caravans are assumed to care for their own animals. (Pop 1 Lots: 2)
Trading tent: A common trading area for arriving caravans. Consists of a single large room supported by multiple tentpoles, and enough space around the tent for beasts of burden to be tethered. A single trading tent can support two caravans at once; larger tents can be created by combining multiple smaller tents. Without a trading tent, caravans will sell few goods at the village, so this increases tax revenue and goods availability. (Pop 1 Lots: 2)
Trench, Berm: defensive earthworks. The trench is 6 feet deep, and the berm is a four-foot rise. Each section of these defensive structures is 200 feet long; four of them would enclose a single acre of land. Either can be upgraded with sharp stakes intended to break massed charges.
Road: a simple wagon track, this speeds up movement in the hex in which it’s located. Roads that connect to other villages will increase trade and thus tax revenues; otherwise, these are purely for player convenience in getting around the region.
Slave pens: if the players decide to institute slavery in the village, slave pens can hold 10 slaves each, making them space and cost efficient for supplying laborers. Note that slaves can’t be used for anything other than farm and quarry labor. Slave labor requires one slavemaster per slave pen. (Pop 1 Lots 1)
Potter: Makes mud and clay vessels, bricks, and tools. Required for a wide variety of other crafts and structures. (Pop 1 Lots 1)
Beastcrafter tent: Skinner, tanner, and chitin cleaner. Requires an animal pen or stable to function. Creates level 1 leather, bone, and chitin goods. (Pop 1 Lots 1)
Butcher’s tent: Turns animals into food. Supports 4 people, and completely consumes the output of one animal pen (though this does not prevent the Beastcrafter from using that pen). (Pop 1 Lots 1)
Stockade: A rough wooden wall. Requires a lot of wood to construct, so the village will need access to trees to build this. Roughly 10 feet high, and secure against casual raiding bands. Combine with a trench for a modest level of defense against well-equipped raiders.
Quarry: A pit dug to harvest usable stone blocks. Stone construction without a quarry is just whatever nearby rocks are roughly the right size; the quarry allows harvesting of larger, more regular blocks of stone. It’s required for a wide array of buildings. (Pop 6 Lots 4)
Stoneworker: Requires a quarry. Cutting of stone blocks into useful shapes and sizes, as well as any stone-based crafting. (Pop 2 Lots 1)
Grain mill: Requires a stoneworker, a potter and an animal pen. Turns farmed grain into flour, and ultimately bread, which can be stored and traded. Increases the support of each field by +1 person, and increases tax revenue. (Pop 2 Lots 2)
Glassworker: Requires a stoneworker and a potter. Turns sand into glass, which can be sold, or used to enhance a variety of higher-end structures. (Pop 1 Lots 1)
House: Stone and wooden construction; requires a stoneworker and a potter. A house supports 4 people comfortably, and up to 6 maximum. Houses are dug partially down into the earth, making them cooler and roomier than tents, not to mention more resistant to random raider attacks. (Lots 1)
Brothel: The upgraded version of the brothel tent, which can support up to 6 whores, and is stone construction. Requires a stoneworker and a weaver. Improves tax revenue. (Pop 1-6 Lots 1)
Metalworker: Melts down and re-forges salvaged and scavenged metal objects. Can make small metal objects, including small-sized weapons. Requires a stoneworker. (Pop 1 Lots 1)
Inn: The basic inn is a single-story stone building with a common room that seats 10 and two private rooms. Inns make a village much more attractive to caravans, and thus substantially increase tax revenues. Requires a stoneworker and a potter. (Pop 3 Lots 2)
Walls: Requires a stoneworker. Stone walls are the best defensive structures available for a village. Built of cut stone stacked to 10 feet in height, walls will stop all but actual armies. Walls can be upgraded to 15 feet of height, at three times the cost. As with stockades, berms and trenches, each section of wall is 200 feet long.
Stable: An enclosed animal pen. Requires a stoneworker. Stables are used exclusively for hauling and riding animals. Up to 10 Large or 3 Huge animals can be housed in a stable. (Pop 2 Lots 2)
Shop: A permanent merchant’s establishment. This allows a caravan to permanently station a trader at the village, enabling more goods to be traded, with higher tax revenues, as well as enabling special requests to be forwarded on to the caravan master. Requires a level 1 Inn. (Pop 1 Lots 1)
Distillery: A crafting structure for manufacturing alcohol. This has positive effects on village morale, as well as being a non-perishable trade good and generally increasing tax revenues. Requires a glassworker. (Pop 1 Lots 1)
House 2: A larger high-end house of stone and mud construction, two stories. This can house 10 people comfortably, or 4 people as a luxury house. Requires a glassworker and weaver. (Lots 2)
Inn 2: A larger, high-end inn of stone and mud, in two stories. The common room seats 20, and there are six private rooms. High-end inns are much more attractive to large caravans and wealthy traders, and will substantially increase tax revenues. Requires a weaver and a distillery. (Pop 5 Lots 3)
Shop 2: Offices for an established merchant, including a shop. When occupied by a trading caravan, this will give that caravan a direct and significant stake in the village’s success and growth. It vastly increases tax revenues, and will likely cause the caravan master to treat the village as a valuable ally. Requires a metalworker and a level 2 Inn. (Pop 3 Lots 3)
Blacksmith: Only available if the village secures a source of metal ore. Allows smelting of metals, and forging of metal objects of any reasonable size, limited only by the supply of ore. Note that currently the only significant source of ore in Athas is in Tyr, many hundreds of miles away. Requires a metalworker. (Pop 2 Lots 2)
Barracks: Train and house up to 10 soldiers. Requires a beastcrafter and a stoneworker. This includes a practice yard, sleeping quarters, armory, and sergeant’s office. Expanding the town’s militia requires building multiple barracks. (Pop 1 + 1-10 Lots 2)
Barracks 2: Improved equipment and training. Requires a beastcrafter and metalworker. (Pop 2 + 1-10 Lots 2)
A village has a Value, which is an abstract representation of how important the village is in the Tablelands, how much notice others take of it, how frequently caravans choose the village as a destination, and how likely the village is to draw raiders.
The Base Value for a village is 1. This represents the infrastructure necessary to ensure travelers receive the benefits of an Improved Campsite. Thus any Improved Campsite, if maintained, is technically a ‘village’ with a Value of 1.
Ready access to a source of water that isn’t easily depleted is +10 Value. Water sources that are more limited have accordingly less Value; a spring that dries up for months at a time might have a Value of only +1. The Value 10 water supply is assumed to be any supply in excess of the village’s needs.
All other structures in the village increase its overall Value. Some structures may be built more than once, for additional benefit; additional structures of the same type have half the benefit of the first structure (rounded up).
Roads act as a value multiplier for a village, according to the following conditions:
• No road: Village’s value is x1
• Trails: +0.1
• Cart Track: +0.2
• Maintained road: +0.3
• Maintained and patrolled road: +0.4
• Road connects to nothing: +0.0
• Road connects to a minor village or oasis (base value < 20): +0.1
• Road connects to a major village (20 < base value < 100): +0.2
• Road connects to a town (100 < base value < 500): +0.4
• Road connects to a City-State’s road network: +0.6
The final Value number for a settlement will, generally, be between 10 and 1000. This value can be used in several ways.
First, the Value provides a minimum floor for relationship Strength. For every 300 points of Value, every group in the setting has a minimum relationship Strength of 1. Thus at Value 650, all groups have at least a Strength of 2 relative to the settlement. Strength can be larger based on activity, but it cannot be smaller.
Second, the Value operates as a base chance that a sentient humanoid encounter has heard of the settlement, if the players mention it. This chance is a percentage equal to 0.1x the Value score. At Value 200, any encounter has a 20% chance of knowing of the settlement.
Finally, the Value is the base chance per week that the settlement has a Home Encounter. This chance is equal to 0.1x the Value score. At a Value of 600, there is a 60% chance per week that the settlement has a Home Encounter.
D6: village, Hidden Refuge. A small (~20) group of escaped slaves have a semi-permanent encampment at this murky pool. The kreen dislike the obelisk and leave them alone, but they are regularly raided by the local elven tribe, and are on the verge of being wiped out. (DC 10)
D13: elemental node. This node shrine is atop an inaccessible canyon wall, overlooking the dry riverbed hundreds of feet below. To reach the shrine, players will have to scale the mesa’s sheer cliff walls. (DC 14)
F14: Cave entrance: leads into a vast sprawling underworld beneath the mountains. The entrance should probably be dangerous enough to warn players off until later. (DC 20)
J16: another oasis?
K9: oasis; this is a regular camp for the local elves, and the ruined remains of several encampments makes their ownership clear. (DC 12)
K11: massive termite mounds (DC 10)
L17: red mesa, rises up higher than any other local feature. From the top, players can see multiple hexes around; also, possible old storage caverns inside the cliff face? Now inhabited by venomous flying insects? (DC 8)
L19: sinkhole (DC 10)
M16: old bridge, ruined keep half-buried in the baked ground (DC 12)
O16: obelisk; multiple obelisks throughout the region, each of which has some power? Needs to be activated; may not be possible yet. (DC 14)
P14: elven camp in the scrub brush; usually unoccupied. Elves are accustomed to using the oasis and when they finally arrive, will not be happy that it’s been taken over by a would-be human village. (DC 18)
Q18: The Oasis
Q19: cave in the back of the rocky valley; possible way down to the water source? (DC 10)
R11: ancient ruin
R20: elemental node. This node shrine is partially buried in broken, tumbled rocks and boulders. (DC 16)
S18: Ruined fort on a bluff overlooking the scrubland; narrow trail leads down to scrub but otherwise very difficult to approach from the rock side (DC 15)
S27: cave entrance: connects to major cave system (DC 22)
T17: second oasis? Dangerous, guarded by something, possibly toxic?
V22: cave entrance: connects to major cave system (DC 18)
Z22: necropolis: a ruined city of the dead, at the center of which is a ziggurat-style mausoleum. The city is empty and still, but the mausoleum has never been successfully breached, and something still lurks within. At night, the vast stone doors leading into it rumble open, and stay open until dawn. (DC 12)
AA29: cave entrance: connects to major cave system (DC 18)
Nearest area of stony barrens to the village. Low threat area, with mostly easy terrain. The border between this region and the scrubland is a rocky escarpment with only a few easy defiles leading up into the area.
West of the village and the NE Barrens, this region is extremely difficult terrain, with crevasses, escarpments, abrupt cliffs, and few easy paths. The area is extremely dangerous, frequented by Gith and Kreen raiding parties that strike Urik/Raam merchant traffic and then retreat back to the barrens.
Heavily patrolled by Urik, House Sten. The roads in particular are extremely well-defended, with guard posts every 10 miles and a system of messengers able to alert each post in case of trouble. All of Urik’s immediate surrounding terrain is heavily farmed (displayed as scrubland on the map). The barrens in the area are demarcated by a shallow escarpment with multiple caravan-sized switchback roads leading up to the highlands. The area is also rife with raiders; raiding parties in the region are large, heavily armed, and specifically interested in the large Sten obsidian caravans.
Proximity to Yarakmuke and the Kreegill mountains make this region extremely dangerous. Similar to NW Barrens, this is extremely difficult terrain, with many natural features making progress slow and treacherous. Gith raiders, silt runners, and the undead are common in the region, striking at caravans out of Raam.
Dedys, Tsalaxa caravans
M’ke, night runner elves
The region around the Black Waters oasis and the ruined city of Yaramuke is crawling with undead, mostly victims of the cursed waters of the oasis. The region is extremely dangerous, especially at night. Living creatures do not generally enter the region.
Protected from both the cities and the raiders of the south by the forbidding Barrens, this area near the village is relatively safe. Elven tribes are the primary danger, though this far from established trade routes they are mostly hunters, not raiders. Dangerous plant life is fairly common, as well.
Somewhat more dangerous than the western scrub, this area sees a fair number of silt strider and gith raiders from the south, and kreen raiders and hunters from the north.
Home to elven tribes, as well as gith and kreen raiders who use the relatively forgiving scrubland as a base from which to launch raids against the eastern trade routes from Draj to the distant north.
Further north from the village, the scrubland becomes hilly and more vegetated. Bandits from the north, from various slave tribes, scour the area for resources, merchant caravans, and unwary travelers. Kreen are common as well, and several large packs consider the area their home.
Dry Spring is an aggressively neutral and open village, serving as the only source of water in the northern area. Raiders, bandits, hunting parties, even gith and belgoi are all welcomed by the heavily-armed former slaves that own the oasis. The badlands surrounding it are treacherous terrain, and the few well-marked routes are watched closely by Dry Spring guards. Off those routes, sheer cliffs, precipitous drops, broken mountainsides, loose shale and sudden rockfalls make the badlands an extremely dangerous place to travel.
A network of twisting, broken canyons and massive fallen boulders, these badlands are nearly impossible to traverse. Travelers nearly always go around, through the Basin or the scrublands. The canyons are home to a wide variety of dangerous wildlife, as well as gith raiders and belgoi tribes.
In the foothills, raiding tribes of Gith make lairs in abandoned ruins and caves. Deeper in the range, several dwarven villages maintain patrols and keep their roads clear of danger, but their influence only extends a few miles. Several drakes are known to lair in the mountains.
Water hunter elves
These ancient shrines were part of a lifeshaper network designed to stabilize elemental forces in a large region. They’re evenly spaced about 40 miles apart in a grid across the tablelands region. Many are in ruins, but the intact (sometimes buried) shrines contain an Element Cradle. The cradle must be attuned to a specific element to activate it, at which point it becomes (among other things) an ever-full cache of that element.
A given node will empower its element in a region of about 10 miles around itself. Additionally, if four contiguous nodes are activated, the region enclosed by them is empowered in different ways, depending on the surrounding four nodes.
If the nodes are all active in such a way as to ensure no conflicting elements are adjacent, and all four elements are present, the region is Life empowered. All healing is increased by +1 point, and all Radiant damage is increased by +1 point. Necrotic damage is reduced by 1 point (to a minimum of 1). Life regions are more fertile; animals and plants grow more rapidly and multiply more quickly. Water is more abundant, as formerly dry wells and springs become active again. The air remains clear longer, and the power of dust storms is mitigated. Mineral resources are easier to locate, and produce purer ores.
E->A->E->A / W->F->W->F
If the nodes are active in such a way as to only include conflicting elements, the region is Death empowered. Healing and Radiant damage is reduced by 1 point, while Necrotic damage is increased by 1 point. Additional effects depend on whether the region is Earth/Air or Fire/Water.
In Earth/Air death regions, the air is heavy with dust. A constant gloom persists, and dust and sandstorms scour the area with alarming regularity. At their peak, these storms can scour flesh from bone and bury structures in sand in only a few days.
In Water/Fire death regions, the land bakes under a relentless sun. Water is impossible to find; previously full wells and springs dry up to a trickle. The heat is oppressive, reaching killing temperatures of 140 degrees at mid-day. Living things wither and die.
Adjacent identical elements create Elemental Resonance, increasing the power of the adjacent elements as follows:
Adjacent Fire causes the region to become hotter in the daytime, seeming to focus the rays of the sun. Fire damage is increased by 1(2)(4). If all four nodes are Fire, the region becomes a Fire Region, and all other elemental damage types are reduced by -1 as well.
Adjacent Water causes the region to become cooler in the nighttime, sapping heat from every source. Cold damage is increased by 1(2)(4). If all four nodes are Water, the region becomes a Water Region, and all other elemental damage types are reduced by -1 as well.
Adjacent Air fills the region with biting winds and electrical storms. Electrical damage is increased by 1(2)(4). If all four nodes are Air, the region becomes an Air Region, and all other elemental damage types are reduced by -1 as well.
Adjacent Earth raises a haze of dust into the air, and afflicts a region with periodic earthquakes and, if appropriate, landslides. Occasional noxious gases escape from the earth’s bowels, combining with the dust to choke and stagnate. Acid damage is increased by 1(2)(4). If all four nodes are Earth, the region becomes an Earth Region, and all other elemental damage types are reduced by -1 as well.
Note that these effects are superseded by the Life Region effects, above. If the region has adjacent complementary elements, any other effect prevailing in the region becomes more positive. In Fire, the sun is hot but not cruelly so, and plants thrive; in Water, the night is cool but not dangerous, and the morning brings condensation and a blanket of mist; in Air, the winds stir fresh air into the region, sweeping aside dust and cooling the area; in Earth, the soil becomes fertile and plants grow readily.
If the region has adjacent conflicting elements, other effects become more negative. Fire leads to brutal heat at mid-day and plants wilt; Water causes dangerous chills and dry, sterile air; Air whips up dust storms and brings only more hot, stifling air to the region; Earth leads to baked, cracked soil, unusable for farming.
Fire: Fire damage
Water: Cold damage
Earth: Acid damage
Air: Lightning, Sonic damage
Death: Necrotic damage
Life: Radiant damage
Fire, Cold, Acid, Radiant, Necrotic, Psychic, Force, Lightning, Sonic, Poison
A network of psionic obelisks that, when activated, amplifies psi powers within their enclosed region. They also allow projection of psi powers to any other obelisk, effectively extending the range of psi powers dramatically.
Each of these obelisks contains an obsidian orb, mounted on a pedestal within the obelisk’s base. Activating one simply involves making telepathic contact with the orb while touching it, and asking it to wake up. Anyone touching an activated orb is ‘read’ by the sentience in the orb, permanently recording their mind-print for future use. Thereafter, any person whose mind-print an orb ‘knows’ can be contacted by the orb psionically while that person is within a 30 mile radius of the orb. Psionic characters can also proactively contact an orb to which they are known.
Orbs can also contact any awakened orb within 30 miles; they can pass messages, but can also be psionically ‘present’ at a location in the target orb’s radius. This power means that given enough activated orbs, a psionic character could use psionics anywhere in the world, through a network of orbs.
However, the further from the obelisk an orb attempts to act, the less powerful the actions it can take. Locally, an orb can teleport items and people from one obelisk to another, send full visual and auditory illusions to another obelisk, and transmit the usage of any psionic power from an attuned person at its obelisk to any other obelisk. When either the user of a power or its target is more distant, less power can be transmitted – a psion 25 miles from an obelisk attempting to contact an ally 25 miles distant from a different obelisk might only be able to send vague emotions or a sense of their identity.
Orbs are sentient and self-willed but will not appear as such to players initially; they should seem like no more than machines at first. Also note that the more orbs are awake in the network, the more self-willed and independent the network members will become; this is, in fact, why the network was shut down back in the Green Age.
Each power group in the region has a relationship with the village, defined by a Reputation number and a Strength number. Reputation is rated from -5 to +5, with -5 meaning deep loathing and a strong desire to go to war and wipe the village off the map, and +5 meaning a close ally, willing to supply troops and resources to aid the village when necessary. Strength is rated from 0 to 5; at Strength 0, the faction is basically unaware of the village, and at Strength 5 the faction considers the village a very high priority.
Thus a R5 S5 Faction is a close and involved ally, helping the village as often as possible. A R-5 S5 Faction is a dire enemy, seeking to thwart the village at every opportunity, possibly raising an army to destroy the village.
Reputation changes based on the quality of actions taken by the players in relation to the faction. If the players destroy a trade caravan, for instance, the Reputation of the faction will fall. The Strength of a relationship changes based on the frequency and scope of the players’ actions. If the players secure a permanent, large-scale trade agreement, this will increase the Strength of the relationship; if the players ignore a faction for several months, the Strength may fall by a point.
The Action value is a faction’s Reputation multiplied by its Strength. At Action values of -10 or less, the faction will actively look for ways to damage the village, in whatever method it is most comfortable; this could be raiding, military action, assassination, magical attack, or whatever means the faction has available. At Action values of +10 or more, a member of the faction will try to be available in the village at all times to offer assistance, and the faction will seek out ways to help the village even when not asked to do so.
Sky Singers: traders, permanent market in Nibenay; three clans. Enemies with House Stel, tentative friends with Veiled Alliance; open competition with Clearwater tribe, conflict with Silt Stalker tribe. Mostly operate in Ivory Triangle, near Gulg and Nibenay.
Dayjumpers – major commerce, city laws
Dawnchasers – herders
Twilightcatchers – arcane arts
Wind Dancers: ravaged by disease, thri-kreen hunting pack. No longer herders; now raiders. 2 of 5 clans remain. Allows outcasts of other tribes to join. Considers all outsiders enemies; particularly House Wavir, Inika. Also in conflict with gith ‘Blood Clan’ north of Lost Oasis. Operate between Lost Oasis and Tyr, in south table-lands.
Silver Hands: control and operate Silver Spring oasis between Urik and Tyr. No separate clans. Competing with Sun Runners; agreement with Black Sand Raiders of mutual aid. Operate only in the area around Silver Spring.
Water Hunters: traditionalists, hunter/gatherers and herders. Raw meat, trophies from fallen enemies. Devoted to elemental spirits of water. Three clans. Meet at their sacred place, Utbo, a grove at the base of the Ringing Mountains west of Urik. Consider House Stel a threat to their grove because of a recent attempt to build an outpost. Consider all outsiders enemies; however, on good terms with Hidden Village slave tribe, The Free. Operate in campaign area, Tyr to north of Smoking Crown.
Silt Stalkers: Raiding tribe. Three clans. Attack everyone equally; operates east of the Windbreak mountains. Basically enemies with everyone, esp. Sky Singers.
Fire Bow – scouts and wilderness skills
Fire Dagger – defilers, thieves, assassins
Fire Sword - warriors
Night Runners: mysterious and hidden, specialize in covert and illegal activities. 6 clans based on moon phases. Assassins for hire. Main base in Gulg but located all over the eastern region. Currently under contract to House Shom of Nibenay. Willing to deal with any outsiders except the Shadows. Wary of Silt Stalkers.
Clearwater: nomadic traders; all tribe members are traders first. A dozen clans. Relatively trustworthy (compared to other elves).
Fireshapers: wizards; sell weapons, clothing, spell components
Graffyons: non-magical, martial; sell weapons and domestic animals
Graystar: scouts; (rarely) trade in clothing, scavenged goods, dried meat
Lightning: weather and earth magic; sell spell components, enchanted items
Onyx: espionage and assassination; sell stolen, illegal merchandise and thievery as a service
Sandrunners: Scouts, acrobats, entertainers; sell gems, jewelry, wine, instruments, luxury goods
Seafoam: General traders; sell anything they can get.
Silverleaves: accountants, traders, guards; highly skilled merchants who trade everything
Songweavers: artisans and artists; deal in artwork, cloth, silk, gems, jewelry
Steeljaw: Metalsmiths and weaponmakers; sell weapons and armor.
Wavedivers: water magic; sell water, containers, water-related magic items
Windriders: air magic; sell light weapons, bows, other missile weapons
Swiftwing: raiders, desert tribe; trade is a sideline. Prove worth through foolish/brave acts. Hate defilers. Inexperienced traders, except in spell components and magical items.
Shadows: large, covert elven tribe, specialized in espionage, assassination, theft, contraband. Sense of justice and fair play; teach foolish outsiders about the consequences of their actions. Heroes, villains, amoral forces of nature. Cell structure, called ‘talons’. Talons are divided into ‘Claws,’ with specialties.
Mercenary: each claw has its own history and traditions
Magical: defilers, assigned individually to help other claws with missions
Thieving: thieves for hire, highly skilled
Espionage: spies and information brokers
Raiders: hired to disrupt merchant traffic
Merchant: buy or sell anything, to anyone, except sorcerer-kings/Templars
House Inika: hq in Gulg. Small, efficient. Fort Adros, Harbet, Skonz, Shazlim. Small numbers of elite troops. Non-confrontational. Allied with Wavir, unfriendly towards Tsalaxa.
House M’ke: hq in Raam. Neutral in potential revolt in Raam. Ruthless but cautious. Withdrawing to Raam to fortify vs. chaos in their home city. Fort Firstwatch, Isus, Xalis, Jalaka. Friendly to other major houses, vicious vs. small houses.
House Shom: Corrupt, decadent. Hq in Nibenay. Over a thousand years old. Willing to ally with thri-kreen, belgoi. House leaders are increasingly isolated from the world. Fort Melidor, Inix, Sunset, Cromlin. Ignore other houses, which causes hostility, esp. with Sten.
House Stel: Militaristic, aggressive. Hq in Urik. Own route from Urik to Makla and on to Ogo. Fort Courage, Iron, Sandol. Rely heavily on military and high-quality troops. Enemies with Tsalaxa and Inika. Neutral with Wavir. Hate nonhumans, elves especially (and Swiftwing especially among elves). Good relations with Sorcerer Kings.
House Tsalaxa: HQ in Draj. Espionage and intrigue; ruthless business practices. Fort Ebon, Kalvis, Rumish’s Rock, Ablath. Only good relationship is Stel (?). All other houses are obstacles to be overcome.
House Vordon: HQ in Tyr; fortunes have declined with the fall of Kalak in Tyr. Thaxos of Vordon wants to become a sorcerer-king. Fort Amber, Thamo, Mira’s halo. Owns many dummy houses long ago bought out. Fall in fortunes means other houses hold Vordon in contempt.
House Wavir: HQ in Balic. Ruthless but scrupulously legitimate. Vast wealth and assets, in grain and ceramics. Holdings in every city in Tyr, and along all caravan routes. Fort Glamis, Thetis, Outpost Ten, Outpost 19. Reputation for swift and overwhelming response to treachery or attack. Cordial relations with all other trade houses. Open hostility with Urik. Enemies with Tsalaxa. Rumored contact with the Shadows.
House Azeth: HQ in Kurn. Family business; all agents are blood or marriage relations. Cooperative, diplomatic; does not engage in illicit trade. Widespread use of magic items and preserver magic. The ‘official’ trade arm of Kurn.
House Ardian: HQ in walis, controls the gold trade out of Walis.
Dedys Consortium (Terg, Voyam, Shakktur): HQ in Draj. Cunning, given assistance by Wavir vs. Tsalaxa.
House Fyra: HQ in slave village of Salt View. Internal conflict and strife; trades in salt.
House Ianto: HQ in Tyr, traded in iron but fortunes fell when Kalak went mad; slow recovery since.
House Klethira: HQ in Urik, trading in obsidian and slaves. Stel trying to force them out of business; they’re considering relocating.
House Lamnos: Nomadic, move about in caravans. Harass, taunt larger houses.
The Renythi League: A dozen small houses, no permanent HQ. Meet to plan every 3-4 months. Bickering and internal strife.
House Sysra: Tiny, almost extinct house with one fortress.
Mostly concerned with Stel and Urik. They travel the badlands and scrub north of Urik but don’t consider any of it to be particularly ‘their’ territory.
The Swiftwings live in the scrublands, and consider it their territory. They assert ownership over all oases in the wilderness, excepting the few that are held by Kreen groups. These are the elves most likely to be encountered.
The Clearwaters operate trade caravans from the southern Tablelands to the Dry Spring oasis and the bandit cities north of it. They have watering agreements with the Swiftwings, but nevertheless move quickly through their territory, generally in smaller, more mobile caravans. Most elven merchants encountered will be Clearwater tribes.
House Azeth is the most powerful merchant organization north of the Tablelands. They operate the routes between Kurn and Draj, and are always on the lookout for new routes east and south. They have tried to establish new caravan routes through the northern Scrubland, but always fail due to raiders and highly aggressive protectionism from House Stel. They are natural allies for a group of PCs, but they are still merchants in the Dark Sun setting, which means they’ll squeeze even allies for every last concession they can manage. House Tsalaxa and House Dedys are hostile to Azeth, tolerating their operations only in the remote northlands past Ket and Fort Kel.
House M’ke is in a state of defensive withdrawal due to chaos in their home city. This has allowed Stel and Tsalaxa to dominate the route across the width of the Tablelands. M’ke plans to expand aggressively again once the political situation stabilizes. For the present, they’re mostly uninvolved in the northern area, but this could change if they see a route to Dry Spring as a way to secure themselves without confronting their two largest rivals in the region.
House Stel considers everything north of the trade route between Urik and Raam to be dangerous wilderness full of bandits and raiders. This probably stems from the constant elven, kreen and gith raids on that route, with the raiders retreating back into the badlands to lose pursuit. Stel will ocassionally mount an Urik-supported pacification mission into the badlands; they crisscross the rocky waste, killing everything they encounter. They consider the northern scrublands to be elven territory, and never stray far from the badlands except to take water by force. Stel doesn’t bother with trading to Dry Spring, considering the danger of the route to be not worth any profits they might make.
House Tsalaxa is mostly uninterested in the scrublands. They have tentative arrangements with the Swiftwings to harass Stel caravans in particular, but the agreement is informal and nothing like a real alliance. They would be far more interested in the scrublands if they were aware of House Dedys’ interest.
House Dedys is currently attempting to build alliances and peace treaties with the Swiftwings and the Kreen badlands pack to allow their caravans through the rocky waste and through the scrubland. They hope to open trade between Draj and the north, but they are aware that it’s risky; a lot of resources have to be committed, and if Tsalaxa discovers the plan, they could easily sabotage it. This makes Dedys a possible ally for the players, in that they need secure caravan resupply points in the scrub to make the route viable.
House Klethira is mostly unaware of the northern wastes, and are currently planning to move their operations south deeper into the Tablelands. They suspect this might be financially destructive to them, so a Klethira agent might be interested in hearing alternate northern proposals.
Any independent traders moving through the northern Tablelands are likely to be paranoid, extremely well-armed, and desperate.
This Kreen pack is aggressive and territorial. They’re in constant conflict with the gith, and freely raid Stel caravans that enter the badlands. They’re in a standoff with the Clearwater elves, as elven caravans are generally difficult targets. They’re generally hostile to all other races they encounter.
This Kreen pack is less aggressive than the badlands kreen, and has much less focus on raiding than on herding. They claim most of the available oases in the northwestern scrub, and regularly patrol them to keep them clear of interlopers. They aren’t inherently hostile to other races, other than the standard Kreen standoffishness, but believe that other races have nothing in particular to offer them. They occasionally skirmish with the Swiftwing elves over water and territory rights.
Water usage per point
1 hex = 1 resolve = 1 gallon water = 10lb provisions
Increased water expenditure:
• 6 water units per day required (6 gallons of water)
• 6 RP of travel covered by required water use
• If RP expenditure is marked as ‘costs water’, +1 RP = +1 water used
Brambleweed vine dungeon
Earth drakes hate man-made structures
Black obelisk in the sand
Bridge in the middle of nowhere
Veiled alliance camp
Ghazi: raider, warrior
Khamsin: hot, dry, dusty wind
Necropolis in the rocky badlands
Elven caravan posts