Dungeon 202 - Traveling the Athasian Wastes

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Dungeon 202
Traveling the Athasian Wastes
by Teos Abadia

One compelling aspect of the Dark Sun setting is its diverse landscape. The environment and ecology of Athas have been worn and transformed by the ravages of war, defiling magic, and relentless exposure to the crimson sun. This article provides ideas for bringing to life seven common Athasian terrain types.

Talk about this article here.

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A really handy set of encounters DS flavored for DM indeed !  Thanks to Teos for them!

Its sad that it has none of the monster Statsblocks again though. Its less convinient for DMs as is and require them to print and do extra work. I don't understand why this sudden absence of monster info in DM content.  

If its a new direction in their encounter design, i think they should let their sibscribers know in the next Dungeon Editorial at least.
yes no statblocks sucks

no need for an editorial, just change it back NOW.

first no compiled issues, now no statblocks? get a clue wizards

i cant even enjoy the article
It is foolish for them not include statblocks. There is no space limitation in digital content. There is no extra work involved for them, just copy and paste. But it is a necessary aid to a dungeon master.

I cannot properly read this article and assess its content, because I do  not want to tab back and forth between the compendium and the article just to skim an article and assess how an encounter might work. The entire purpose of Dungeon articles with encounters is for the dungeon master to have ready-made (and I mean ready) material for the table.
Member of Grognards for 4th Edition
Great article! This is precisely the sort of thing me and my group will really make us of. Yes, having the stat blocks in would have made it better... but I'm glad to finally get an article I can use.


"What is the sort of thing that I do care about is a failure to seriously evaluate what does and doesn't work in favor of a sort of cargo cult posturing. And yes, it's painful to read design notes columns that are all just "So D&D 3.5 sort of had these problems. We know people have some issues with them. What a puzzler! But we think we have a solution in the form of X", where X is sort of a half-baked version of an idea that 4e executed perfectly well and which worked fine." - Lesp

If this were a module and it did not include stat blocks I might be concerned, but since it is just an article it is not an issue for me.
well they did it on a module too, twice
At the very least they could include the stat blocks at the end of the article, appendix style. It's the best of both worlds: the narrative isn't interrupted and everything you need to play is still in one place.

Not having the stat blocks is going to get irritating if you have to open up 4 different books just to play.
and please nobody say 'just use the compendium', bc with 5e coming out and wizards not committing to leaving the 4e tools up, you might as well be saying 'use magic dust to read the monster stats'. its completely worthless advice
I completely understand the comments about stat blocks, especially since it is online content.

With this particular article, the focus was meant to be on creating a sketch of an encounter. The main goal I had was to be thought provoking. In my ideal scenario, a player would get a rich feeling for the environments and enjoy playing in Dark Sun more. A DM would get enough ideas that by the time they reached the encounter they would want to change it somewhat. The silt is a bit of an example of that, as I presented two options that will play fairly different. A DM that is short on time might grab one without making changes (and, of course, print the monsters from the MB or Compendium), but usually they would want to make some changes.

We did discuss internally both providing statistics and providing maps. Maps, as you might imagine, are a cost. I loved the idea of maps, but I understand cost issues and I do think even maps detract a bit from the point of the article. Far fewer DMs would use those maps than we probably expect. In the end, though, it really was about keeping the focus on the design goals. I still think leaving these elements out was the right decision - especially statistics.  

To share a bit more about the writing process, this is an article I pitched to the team and which was then assigned to the Dark Sun issue. This was probably as close as it gets to an "easy for me to write" article, in that I really like designing 4E encounters (and do so very often for published work) and I really dig Athasian ecology. I co-wrote an AD&D netbook on the subject in the 90's, I wrote a blog about Athasian terrain for 4E, I studied ecology at Duke, and I think about environmental and ecological issues all the time. It was a fun article to write and one that I felt very good about writing. One of the biggest challenges was trying to figure out how to write things from a somewhat fresh angle. The DSCS covers these terrains and two different writers described the terrains in the original and then revised Dark Sun boxed sets. It was challenging to cover the necessary information without being unoriginal or duplicating needlessly.

Finally, I confess to not having playtested the combats. Some are based on combats I have run (silk wyrms are mean!!!!), but many are just a feel for what would work well based on other similar combats. I would very much enjoy getting to run these. I love Dark Sun, love 4E combat design, and can't get enough of Athasian terrain! If you end up using any of these I would love to hear what you changed, what you liked, and how it played out!

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Dark Sun's Ashes of Athas Campaign is now available for home play (PM me with your e-mail to order the campaign adventures).

Thanks Teos for chiming in on this topic. Really appreciate the insigh into the writing process.

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