Category Archives: Gaming

Gaming posts probably about D&D more than anything else.

Dark Suns: Mapping the Athasian Night Sky

There are very few references to the heavens in Dark Sun material so I thought it would be interesting to see if we might determine what the Athasian night sky looked like in celestial map form. At first I was going to find a vector map of our world’s night sky and make changes, however all maps I could find had to be bought. So using a watermarked celestial map jpg I traced it in Inkscape. Having that as a starting point I was then free to make the adjustments I wanted to implement.

The Athasian night sky really has only one solid reference to what the night sky looks like and that is the Star Signs in Ivory Triangle which consist of 12 signs that map to the 12 non-cusp months of the year:

Balimarash the Caravan
Fiddle the Beetle
Hesper the Kenku
Saurus the Lizard
Hortle the Spider
Sylk the Wyrm
Tasker the Scorpion
Pyrus the Wheel
The Dragon
Tyrospur the Lion
Scratch the Basilisk
Krawler the Kank

Taking these to be similar to the zodiac and so being found along the ecliptic I mapped these constellations to that line.

The Athasian Night Sky.

Though Ivory Triangle is the main source, there are other areas where I decided to color in some details. The first two come from Marauders of Nibenay where we encounter Nibenay’s orrery:

Nibenay’s Orrery

Two of these planets are very recognizable and so I would think the night sky would reflect their existence:

I also added a constellation not explicitly identified in Dark Sun canon, but the story of Coraanu from Elves of Athas makes it seem a natural subject to include in the Athasian Sky:

Coraanu raced across the stars by night, avoiding the heat of the day and the eyes of his slow, clumsy enemies. His feet barely touched each glowing step in the night-sky road, and he carried only the most precious items with him.

And so I included him (traced from the running elf in the original 2E boxed set) with a bright star in the satchel carry the “precious items”.

As I was moving stars around I also started making up stories around some of them, for example, the two bright stars on Hesper are broaches for his cloak and the Dragon is a larger constellation as a reminder of his domination and mythical status. One was a series of stars behind Krawler which I imagined the denizens of this world might say are its globules of nectar:

Another was in a version of the sky where I added a galactic plane (Milky Way) to the image for more realism. In doing so a cloud fell upon the Balimarash and my imagined Athasians may see that as the caravan in a sand storm:

The intent here is to fill in more constellations that fit the Athasian world, both modern and ancient, to fit various stories in a campaign or be a guide for role-playing navigation over land or silt. Even if it’s never used, the night sky is something rarely mapped in a fantasy world but it can help give more realism as well as providing insight into the fables and philosophies of the cultures that reside there.

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Urik’s Coins and Nibenay’s Banner

Polyhedron 99’s article “Coin Collecting Under Athas’s Hot Sun” by Carlo Anziano and Tina Brown primarily describes the coinage of the Tyr Region’s seven city states. It’s the kind of article that adds a level of detail you never knew you needed and gives the Dark Sun setting a touch of realism.

Of course there is a detail which we might question, namely the Nibenay banner having a symbol of a braxat rather than a cilops despite the article being published a year after Ivory Triangle which had this on the Emblems of Nibenay:

The royal seal is the Cilops, a gigantic centipede with one eye. Nobles and merchants use stylized images of the sorcerer-king, their ancestors, and themselves. Some use various creatures, real and fantastic, that come from Nibenese folklore.

And Veiled Alliance, published two years before the article, which has this to say regarding Nibenay’s emblems:

Many monsters, both real and imaginary; highly conventionalized representations of nobles, the sorcerer-king, and various nats; all integrated in a complex folklore.

The word “nats” must be a typo and perhaps was meant to say the word “natives” or perhaps something to do with “nature”. In thinking of what the banner of Nibenay would be though, I would like to think that it would be that of the royal seal (the cilops) as Nibenay should naturally see himself and the city as one and the same.

So the authors either got it wrong or had something in mind when they chose the braxat for the Nibenay banner, and with some imagination you might explain the use of a braxat or just use a ciliops for your needs. What can’t be explained away though is that this article describes Urik’s coins but the names of the coins are omitted from the main table. All we are given about them is:

The names of the coins reflect the different occupations prevalent in the city-except, of course, the gold piece, which is named for Hamanu himself. The gold piece, or Hamanu Gold, is also known as an auric, but not in Hamanu’s hearing. The arrow symbol portrayed on the obverse of the ceramic coins is shown fletched in fire rather than in feathers, and it has a barbed obsidian head. The silver piece boasts a halberd dripping blood from its chipped obsidian blade. The lire-maned lion, one heavy paw resting on a defeated foe, is obviously meant to pay homage to the great warrior King, Hamanu.

There was an attempt to name them in the Athas.org Athasian Emporium which used Polyhedron 99 as a source and had them named in this way:

Known as a Quiver, the ceramic coin has on the tail side the images of 10 obsidian-headed arrows fletched with fire in place of feathers. Each of the arrows represents one ceramic bit, or Arrow, when broken off. The silver piece is called the Blade and is hexagonal. The tail design is that of an obsidian halberd dripping blood. The gold piece, also six-sided, is named after Urik’s sorcerer-king. Known as the Lion, the tail side celebrates the sorcerer-king’s reputation as a great warrior. The coin depicts a lion with a mane of fire resting one paw on a defeated enemy. The gold piece is nicknamed the “auric”, although this name is not used near Hamanu by those who value their lives.

Which in terms of coin name and tail design means:

Arrow: Barbed obsidian flame-fletched arrow
Quiver: 10 arrows in a ring
Blade: Obsidian halberd dripping blood
Lion: Fire-maned lion with paw on defeated foe

But these names don’t match the description found in Polyhedron 99: “The names of the coins reflect the different occupations prevalent in the city-except… The gold piece, or Hamanu Gold, is also known as an auric”. It also doesn’t follow the theme of the other cities coin names in that they are not named to be descriptors of the tail design. We could say Urik is the exception had the article not given us a hint at what the actual names are.

So what names would be more likely? Looking at the original boxed set, Veiled Alliance, and Dune Trader the three major industries noted for Urik are quarrying obsidian, silk weaving, and pottery, with the professions of Quarrier, Weaver, and Potter therefore considered as “occupations prevalent in the city”. Granted though, the “profession” of quarrying obsidian would likely be carried out by slaves which is described several times in Slave Tribes.

Quarrier (formal)/Quarry (informal): Barbed obsidian flame-fletched arrow
Weaver: 10 arrows in a ring
Potter: Obsidian halberd dripping blood
Hamanu Gold: Fire-maned lion with paw on defeated foe

These are names that better match the Polyhedron 99 description in that the Potter (silver) is the highest profession as indicated in Veiled Alliance and Dune Trader, Weaver being less than a Potter and Quarrier (i.e. slave) being the smallest denomination (which in name is similar to Raam’s smallest denomination called a “Slave”). Quarrier though doesn’t really roll off the tongue and the language of commerce can be quick so one might imagine that the general public would have a slang word introduced and instead call it a “quarry” which is easier to say and conveys the same meaning.

Monsters for Dark Sun Dungeon World

There is talk, or rather a phenomenon, of “The Lazy DM” whereby DMing is made sizzzzzzmpler in planning and execution. One facet of this is reskinning monsters already published to meet a game’s need, and it is a noble tradition to carry on. Here is a reskinning or posting as written Dark Sun themed monsters. It doesn’t have all the monsters found in Dungeon World nor does it preclude their inclusion into a game, but I needed a set for many adventures and so here we are. Continue reading Monsters for Dark Sun Dungeon World

Dark Sun Dungeon World Characters

I have a love of lore. A consistent lore enables a world to be a common language among fans and a setting where players have a reasonable understanding of what to expect. So voluminous and rich was the 2e Dark Sun lore, the 4e Dark Sun could not match it. Instead, 4e hinted at people, places, or events covered more extensively in 2e. For example, 4e has a short section on the Kreen Khanates in the Hinterlands but is a far cry from the depth of the 2e Thri-kreen of Athas. The reason for 4e Dark Sun’s limited lore was in part so players and DM’s could explore and create the world. Extensive lore however is often seen as doing that for players.
Continue reading Dark Sun Dungeon World Characters

Dungeon World Defiling

Dungeon World is a game changer. It brings the focus of the fantasy rpg back to being immersed in the story rather than needing far too many reference books just to move a character. Since that’s what D&D was long ago, I suppose Dungeon World is a game changer-backer. No surprise then that I made the switch and am now using Dungeon World for a Dark Sun campaign. With so much lore available for Dark Sun (preferably from 2e) it was an easy switch, but I made a point to not make any rules that weren’t necessary. Continue reading Dungeon World Defiling