Shardminds in Dark Sun

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In our version of Athas, shardminds are uncommon but not unheard of. The largest population lives on small islands dotting the Sea of Silt, where they can remain isolated from the larger world; even giants cannot stride here, and only Balican psionic-powered silt dromonds can reach many of the islands in the deep reaches of the Sea. Some shardmind communities have been uncontacted for hundreds or even thousands of years. Because shardminds do not require food or drink, some of these islands really are nothing more than barren piles of rock, housing a shardmind community that whiles away the centuries deep in meditation.

Here and there are some shardmind communities that have limited contact with Balic; now and then silt dromonds will land at these islands and trade for crafts or knowledge, sometimes departing with shardminds who wish to explore the larger world. Occasionally a Balican is even left on these islands to study with the shardminds for a few years (of course, the larger islands that have food and drink, not the smaller barren ones).

As such, Balic has the largest population of shardminds out of any of the city-states, and shardmind sailors are valued crewmembers on many Balican ships. The jobs suit them well--after all, if they fall overboard, they merely have to walk across the bottom of the Sea to the nearest shore--provided they are not attacked by the many monsters that inhabit the Sea on their slow trudge homeward.

Additional background (with slightly different associated skills)...

SHARDMIND ISLANDER: You have spent your entire life on one of the isolated shardmind-only islands located deep in the Sea of Silt. You have spent the years (or decades, or centuries) of your existence in an unbroken routine of meditation and learning, staring into the haze off the shore and wondering about the larger world you'd always read of but never seen. One day a Balican silt dromond arrived and transported you to the mainland--perhaps against your will. How do you react to your sudden immersion in the wider world? Do the books you've read about the world depict it accurately? Do you hope to return to your island one day?

Associated Skills: Arcana, History
Language: Deep Speech
Nice interpretation, might make another background with Giant or Dwarf as a language option as well, considering the locale. My current campaign takes place in the road from Balic.
Ant Farm
I like it!

Do you have any explanation (even among the shardminds themselves) as to WHY they are living constructs made of crystal?  Or do they just believe they have always existed?  Or is that what all but the elders think, those who maintain their true history (and perhaps purpose)?  Are they creations of the halflings of the Blue Age?  Did Rajaat create them and just forget about them (or never get around to using them because he was imprisoned)?

Oooh...that's an idea...Rajaat originally created them using a combination of Arcane and Psionic power.  And he created them with the ability to reproduce (obviously not in a sexual manner, but they have the ability to somehow make more, newer shardminds), in the hopes that their number would increase.  Seeing as how the creation of them involves infusing lifeless crystal with life and sentience, Rajaat intended them to be the material component (which would destroy them all) in a massive Epic Spell, which would release the life from their stone bodies into the world of Athas and return life to the lifeless wasteland.  This was to be after his Cleasning was complete, and Athas had been turned back over to the Halflings.  Perhaps only the most ancient of the shardminds remembers this, and patiently await Rajaat's return, while "younger" shardminds (who still might be hundreds of years old), have no knowledge of this, and, indeed, have free will and perhaps the desire to go out and see the world instead of patiently awaiting Rajaat's return.

Sorry if that kind of goes all over the place, I was writing as the ideas occured to me.
Very cool! I like having all sorts of different origin stories floating around without committing to one (until I need to for the plot) because I think it best replicates the zillions of competing myths that any culture comes up with.

The way we do shardminds is sort of through implication that an individual shardmind has been alive for perhaps thousands of years or more--that all it can remember is an unending daily ritual of meditating, perhaps puncutated with dim memories of visitors to their monasteries (I also have some shardminds in isolated monasteries in the mountains) that might be a decade ago or might be a thousand years ago. Our PC shardmind might very well have been alive ten thousand years ago, but shardminds don't form concrete memories or do active things they way other races do until they have decided to "venture forth" for whatever reason. So it's left very hazy how and if they reproduce at all, although I'd say that killing one shardmind doesn't necessarily permanently reduce the race, so they must pop out with new ones somehow...but even the new ones don't really have a sense of time and age and just kind of wake up into this eternal meditation haze and daily repeated ritual.

Maybe the shardminds all originated during the Red Age and all their memories only go back to the beginning of the Desert Age (still thousands of years back)? Your Rajaat story might fit well into that.

DontEatRawHagis, I purposely didn't give them Giant despite the Silt Sea background to underscore how isolated they are as communities, maintaining their own thousands-of-years-old rituals and ways. Thinking back to the time when Ur Draxa/Ebe was a real city--I considered making Draconic be their language instead. 
Another approach to using Shardmind in Athas is tieing them to the Crystal Forest in the Forest Ridge, how they were created is simple, they were created when the Crystal Forest was created due to a side effect of the clash of primal and defiling magics, in the DSCG it says htere are crystaline creatures living in that forest. Also, nothing prevents Shardminds from moving from the Crystal Forest, perhapse to the islands they now reside on in you campaign.

Also with using the Crystal Forest's creation you could also tie in Warforged to that forest as well, simply by having the Warforged be composed of rock, crystal, and organic materials such as plant and or animal 'materials' and simply having no metal in their bodies. A Warforged made of bone and stone with a mixture of 'silt and sap for blood' for example.

In the DS campaign I am running I have placed both Warforged and Shardminds in the Crystal Forest...and I treat them as both being from the same 'culture' that they have created for themselves inside the Crystal Forest as having been created due to the effects of the magic that created the Crystal Forest, and since then they have learned how to create more of themselves using special ritual that can either only be performed in the Crystal Forest, or in the presence of crystaline plants (as nothing prevents the 'plant life' from the Crystal Forest from being moved to other areas if your careful) did throw a bit of a surprise into the ritual in that any attempt to use defiling during the ritual, as the Shardminds and Warforged know it, will fail as it would destroy the life force energy needed to give life to the new living constructs it would be creating simply as a 'speedbump' to slow down a sorceror-king that discovered the ritual and wanted to use it to try to make an armor of loyal living constructs to unleash on his/her foes. Naturally if that occurs the PCs will have to try to do something to prevent the Sorceror-King, or the minions of a sorceror-king, from being able to adapt the ritual into a form they could use.

I'm treating Shardminds and Warforged as being very rare outside the Crystal Forest and have to conceal their nature, to avoid being hunted down by those that would wish to try to control them (such as the sorceror kings) but it works the two species are more open to working with the Veiled Alliance since those in the Veiled Alliance if it is proven that they wouldn't try to control a living construct, but even then those two races are careful to not reveal much about themselves for fear of being turned into 'lab rats'. Remember that while living constructs don't need to eat, breath, or drink... they are not immune to diseases and thus can get Sun Sickness.

However the concept of them traveling to a remote island in the silt sea that couldn't support normal life and is hard to get to via normal means is a good one that I'll be barrowing for my campaign. After all a group of shardmind and/or warforged walking under, or on the silt sea using a ritual (a silt variation of water walk for example), would be able to reach an island that would be difficult for others to reach.
Some awesome ideas there I will be incorporating into my game. I don't have warforged (I don't even know what rulebook they come from?) though.

I want to have several options for shardmind players for origin stories. Between the "Silt Sea Islander" and "Remote Mountain Monastery" and "Crystal Forest" background ideas, I think that's well covered now. It stinks when there really is only one origin story for all members of your race. Even from the islands I tried to leave plenty of options for a shardmind coming from there: it could (like my player) have been captured by a visiting Balican vessel and then escaped, or it could be a peaceful Balican "exchange student", or it could even have fallen overboard or been swept away in a silt storm and, decades later, washed up on the shore somewhere after spending years being rolled around blindly on the bottom of the sea.

I also did the shardmind-island thing to leave some good adventure hooks. The islands are a great place for a genuine "uncontacted tribe" type adventure, where explorers on a Balican psionic silt dromond reach an island deep in the Sea that has not seen non-shardminds in thousands of years--or maybe never. So the "natives" are very curious, very alien, with the tense possibility of cultural misunderstanding and violence at any time. Maybe the characters could exploit the island, or maybe they could choose to protect it. So on and so forth.
Warforged are officially from the Eberron Player's Guide, page(s) 32, but there was a previous DDI article on them somewhat early on in 4e.

I agree that the 'living construct' (Whether Shardmind, Warforged, both, or something else entirely) communities on islands has a lot of potential for adventure hooks.
Right on.

I guess that sparks another question for me (though maybe it should get its own thread): what races do people allow in their versions of Dark Sun?

In my game, it's broken down this way:

PC races:
Human, dwarf, elf, half-elf, mul, thri-kreen, half-giant, shardmind, halfling, eladrin

Races which exist on Athas, but are not allowed as initial PC races:

Dray, gith(yanki), ssurran (lizardfolk), aarakocra, genasi, tarek

Races which do not exist on Athas:

Gnome, tiefling, minotaur, wildlings, deva, orc, half-orc, shifter

I guess I would put warforged in "do not exist", though the ideas that have come up in this thread make me rethink that. Maybe if the PCs ever get to the Crystal Forest...
Right on.

I guess that sparks another question for me (though maybe it should get its own thread): what races do people allow in their versions of Dark Sun?

In my game, it's broken down this way:

PC races:
Human, dwarf, elf, half-elf, mul, thri-kreen, half-giant, shardmind, halfling, eladrin

Races which exist on Athas, but are not allowed as initial PC races:

Dray, gith(yanki), ssurran (lizardfolk), aarakocra, genasi, tarek

Races which do not exist on Athas:

Gnome, tiefling, minotaur, wildlings, deva, orc, half-orc, shifter

I guess I would put warforged in "do not exist", though the ideas that have come up in this thread make me rethink that. Maybe if the PCs ever get to the Crystal Forest...



I'm a little curious as to why you've disavowed races that are mentioned as existing in Athas in the DSCS.  Tieflings, for example.  There's even an NPC tiefling in the DSCC.  I can see the other races you've disallowed, minotaurs and genasi are optional as mentioned in the DSCS, and if you want dray as an NPC-only races due to story reasons, I can see that.  But the tiefling bit puzzles me, especially saying they don't exist at all.

Personally, as cool as your shardmind idea is, I would be hesitant to allow them, since they do not eat or drink, and thus have less of a pressing issue with survival that other races do.
Well, the tiefling thing really grated on me when it was shoehorned into 4E Dark Sun. It's obvious they're a popular race (and, indeed, I think they're cool) and that's why it was done, but I'm really trying to keep the 2E Brom-Dark-Sun aesthetic that first captured my imagination, and tieflings are deeply jarring in the 2E aesthetic. A lot of their feel comes from our impressions of gothic-demonic stuff that is really medieval-Europey, and I think one of the biggest challenges for a Dark Sun DM is to jolt their players out of the standard-fantasy mindset. The whole demon idea is also really tied to ideas of religion, gods, and divinity that are also important to stamp out in Dark Sun. Yes, I know I could pursue a different backstory for the race (God knows I did it with the dray), but the tiefling aesthetic the players arrive with can't be shifted around that easily. Hell, WOTC didn't even bother to alter the appearance of tieflings from their classic medieval-gothic demonic look when they ported 'em over. I'm open to new races that weren't in 2E being in the world, but they really have to aesthetically mesh with the world (which is why I OKed things like shardminds, genasi, eladrin, etc.).

I wasn't going to allow shardminds at first for exactly the reason you mentioned--and ticking off survival days, budgeting for travel, judging kank weight allowances to make sure it can carry enough water, and the like are a BIG part of my game. However, since I have five players and only one PC is a shardmind, I've found that the survival pressure is still on, even if the shardmind views the scrambling of the fleshy races to get drips of water with detachment and maybe even amusement. It makes for some pretty good roleplaying and story stuff and doesn't take away from the general desperate-survival feel of the game at all.
Remember that Shardminds and this would also apply to Warforged and Reverants that take the 'don't need to eat/drink/breath feat' are not immune to disease so they are at risk for Sun Sickness, so in my campaign I've ruled that such beings would still need some form of survival day although it could be modified in that it doesn't need water/food, but other things to protect against the sun/heat, although in a pinch water would work just fine for cooling off, maybe something extracted from the food to protect the skin, etc... (A quick/dirty way of finding the cost weight for such a survival day would be to deduct the weight and cost of a day's worth of food and a waterskin from a survival day. Or you could rule that the special stuff they would need would raise the weight and cost back up, but that would diminish the value of not needing to eat/drink/breath.)

Thus they shouldn't be able to avoid survival days completely, but could get buy with possibly cheaper and/or lighter versions specialized for their species, or use normal ones if they aren't trying to draw attention and can't scrounge up components for the 'specialized version' in a town. Thus it would give them a bonus of their survival gear is lighter and maybe cheaper, but wouldn't let them ignore the harsh environment in Athas.

However Reverants that take the 'immune to disease' feat when it becomes available would be able to ignore sun sickness and thus could truly ignore survival days all-together.
That's a great point for blunting the power of the shardmind eat/drink thing if you need it. I saw a breakdown of what goes in a survival day somewhere (maybe on this forum?) that separated out the costs of food and water, which could be useful if you're doing that.

I felt that sun sickness was laughably underpowered and re-did the dehydration/exhaustion system so you didn't have humans regularly surviving 20 days without food/water and not really being afraid of running out of water, so I handle it a bit differently in my game. Shardminds are immune to it, but again, I'm cool with that because it doesn't soften the impact of the barely-surviving theme 'cause it's only one PC out of five.

I remember in 2E there was some kind of rule that after a few days without water your character became Chaotic Evil, wasn't there? I'm not going that far, but I like the old system's commitment to how serious running out of water was.
I guess that sparks another question for me (though maybe it should get its own thread): what races do people allow in their versions of Dark Sun?

I was going for the Brom/2e version myself, but considered (and eventually approved in a few cases) other races if players had interest. So:

PC races (no approval needed): Human, dwarf, elf, half-elf, mul, thri-kreen, goliath/half-giant, halfling, kalastar

PC race (GM approval needed): Tiefling, minotaur, eladrin, wilden, shardmind, shifter, half-orc/tarek, changeling, warforged

PC race (prohibited): Everything else including monster races, deva, gnome

The PCs eventually ended up choosing humans, elf, half-elf, shardmind and shifter. The shardmind's backstory was that it was a unique construct made by an artificer enslaved to Kalak. I had some grand plans for his character, but the player left the campaign (and moved back home) after a few sessions. The shifter's back story was that there was a remnant of the shifter race living in a hidden paradise out in the middle of the sand plains (called The Colony). The PC himself was exiled from The Colony, the true purpose of which was later revealed (right before that player had to leave for grad school).

Pretty cool. I don't mind if the PC party ends up including a bunch of rare races and is not demographically representative of the world--they are the heroes, and "special cases" after all. My current party includes an eladrin, an elf, a shardmind, a thri-kreen, and a mul, which (besides the shardmind) is pretty standard, though. At some point I have to go through the Champions of Rajaat and alter their titles to reflect the differing race breakdown in my world. Who's gonna be the scourge of tieflings?

You say half-orc/tarek...is it because you changed history a bit to say orcs had not been exterminated, or do you use the half-orc stats but call it tarek?
Yup, orcs were eliminated IMC but I allowed folks to be a half-tarek (using half-orc stats).

Oh, I failed to mention that a player who joined later chose to be a wilden. He began in the (dying) Faewild but was transported (and later found was actually summoned) to Athas.

When I first started the campaign, I let players know of these restrictions and my concern that the party composition may end up being more like Forgotten Realms than Dark Sun (since most of the players have never actually played 2e Dark Sun, only read about it). But it ended up pretty well.

Going forward, I'm thinking of closing off all of the exotic races - but I'll just have to see as 1-2 more players may join.   
Half-tarek...I never thought of that. Interesting.

I'm going to go the opposite direction as you--allow more exotic races as the game progresses (if the current PCs die off). Part of the first portion of the campaign will be the return of the mysterious dray to Tyr after they fled before Kalak's assassination, but once they figure that out, I'd let 'em play dray. Likewise with other races. 
I actually have a player that was set on playing shardmind. There was a crystal cluster that was particularly receptive to absorbing psionic engergies. Since psionics is relatively common in Athas the crystal cluster absorbed enough energy that it was able to manifest it's own unique consciousness. There was a group of dwarven miners that neglected eating or drinking in lieu of following their passion for the dig. So the shardmind was able to observe basic humanoid actions and language. By the time the shardmind started moving around the dwarves had starved and dehydrated and passed. So the shardmind picked up their belongings and headed out of the cave. 

Now I have a tough one for you guys. How would you handle a player adamant on playing a genasi? 
Now I have a tough one for you guys. How would you handle a player adamant on playing a genasi? 



Kill them like a DM named Chris kills a Minotaur named Kevin.
/joke

Actuallity, I would probably work with the Player to set up a good background. Otherwise the DSCS has an island of Half Elementals that is recommended as their background. I would however ban water gensai for obvious reasons.

Ant Farm
I did not know that erachima. Ive really only skimmed the older books and none of the novels mentions it. I would definitely like to read more about that. If you wouldn't mind pointing me to the source so I can be more knowledgable that would be awesome. 

I've already decided I will let my player be a genasi. I just dont exactly love the elemental island. I suppose I will let the player decide how and why hes left the island and is now living around the other inhabitants since hes the one that wants to play it. 

I suppose I kinda did want a special reason erachima. I dont see it being a problem whatever the case happens to be. But it seems that since all of the other races have reasons why they are I wanted one for the genasi too.  
Now I have a tough one for you guys. How would you handle a player adamant on playing a genasi? 


Let him read this article. Warning: Magmasoul is a trap.
Perfect, thank you! 
although the published 4E Dark Sun material has been hit or miss, I think the Genasi article was well done. Read that. What do you mean that Magmasoul is a trap?
I am a canonical Dark Sun player from 2e when it first came out, so I do not allow many races to be in the world that are not part of canon.

However, I did make an exception for a player that wanted to be a sharmind. To make a long story short, he came from a sub-plane of the inner plane of earth and was ripped from his homeland by Nibenay before being "pickled" in the plane of shadow. After slowly becoming encased in a solid orb of obsidian in the gray, Nibenay brought him to his palace to continue his research. He chiseled the shardmind out of the obsidian and then a magical/psionic explosion (more than likely caused by Borys who was pissed) caused the newly chiseled obsidian shardmind to be blasted out of the palace.

Anyways, he awoke later, in a a smooth polished black obsidian body and has been adventuring ever since.
"If it's not a conjuration, how did the wizard con·jure/ˈkänjər/Verb 1. Make (something) appear unexpectedly or seemingly from nowhere as if by magic. it?" -anon "Why don't you read fire·ball / fī(-ə)r-ˌbȯl/ and see if you can find the key word con.jure /'kən-ˈju̇r/ anywhere in it." -Maxperson
My new player just created a magmasoul genasi! Still curious what is meant by "magmasoul is a trap"!
I finally figured it out.

Magma Eruption- (req. magmasoul)-a trap. While weakening sounds cool, they have to END in your aura, and THEN your turn will come up, and then they are no longer weakened. So it's only 1/2 damage on OA's, and so it's not great, at all.