Tuesday, April 10, 2012, 6:50 AM
Article - Digital Dark Sun: History of Athas Online
The history of Athas is long and often lost to the sands of time. Similarly, the history of the Dark Sun setting's online presence is sometimes obscured. From the birth of the setting in 1991 Dark Sun has had a continuous online story.
October 1991 was our definitive introduction to Athas. The original Dark Sun boxed set was something never before seen. I marveled at Gerald Brom's art, covering the boxed set and the Rules Book and The Wanderer's Journal, as I poured over every word of Tim Brown and Troy Denning's unique setting. I was amazed at this new flip-book adventure format and the evocative artwork of Tom Baxa.
This was going to be my world. I had never DM'd a campaign before, but this was it. I read the boxed set and novels and then each supplement as it came out, but I always wanted more and I wanted to discuss it with other fans. I turned to the fledgling internet to find more of Athas .
Friday, December 23, 2011, 7:53 PM
Today I got a couple of reply emails to my Dungeon & Dragon pitches. I sent them on 11/23 and today is 12/23, so it took one month, which is much sooner than I expected. I was expecting more like 2 months since that seemed to be the window for some other would be authors.
I submitted eight Dragon articles, which were all between 1,500 and 4,000 words and five Dungeon articles between 1,500 and 9,000 words. All of my pitches were for the Dark Sun campaign setting. The replies to both emails (I sent one for Dragon and one for Dungeon) were from Chris Perkins.
In the Dungeon article email he stated that they're going to do a Dark Sun themed issue in the future and that one of my adventures had a similar bent to an adventure they were going forward with. He stated that if that adventure didn’t end up working out he might be asking me for a first draft! He also said to feel free to resubmit 3 of my Dungeon pitches in the next pitch cycle. His only comments for the other pitches were that they just didn’t grab him.
As for the Dragon article pitches there's one he's interested in that he needs to discuss with some of the developers after the new year. I'm keeping my fingers crossed about this! He thanked me for submitting so many Dark Sun articles and said there was more there than they could use and that they already had a few articles in the works.
From the results of some other submitters I was expecting more critiquing of the pitches. Maybe they're just busy or maybe they liked what I sent and just didn’t have the space for the articles. Who knows, perhaps no news is good news in that regard.
The one thing I did take away from Mr. Perkins' emails is that I should have submitted earlier. He said that they already picked some articles that had some overlap with my ideas. You can be that next time around I'll be submitting closer to the beginning.
So, I'm excited and hopeful about one article and I may just send him a first draft of my adventure anyway. All in all I think it's a great first experience with the submission process and I really appreciated the quick turnaround and personal replies.
Monday, December 5, 2011, 1:36 PM
"It’s easy to tell that Schwalb not only knows the [Dark Sun] setting (he is one of the 4th edition authors), but that he’s a fan."
I wrote a review of Robert J. Schwalb's new Dark Sun novel, Death Mark on athas.org
Thursday, December 1, 2011, 7:26 PM
From the 2nd ed Dark Sun Monstrous Manual.
Brambleweed is a thick, thorny, vine-like plant that grows with incredible speed. Only the leading edge of a brambleweed mass actually grows; the rest is an almost impassable wall of thorns.
Brambleweed grows as a thick, twisted, tangled mass of thorny brown-grey vines. The bramble vine does not put forth leaves. The stems are the actual photos synthetic component of the plant. The ends of each vine are the only parts that grow. As the vine grows, the older part of the brambleweed hardens from lack of moisture. In this fashion, the brambleweed forms its own trellis as it grows. Although hardened from lack of moisture, the underbramble remains tough, creating a deadly defense for the newer shoots. Hardened brambleweed does not burn.
I've always really like brambleweed for some reason and my recent terrain building has pushed me to explore the thorny Athasian plant.
I made this set of bramble weed, bramble trees, & bramble hedges as well as these ocotillo cacti this morning! Plus a little surprise at the end.
Here you can see the various shapes I made. I found this moss at Dollar Tree, each bag was a dollar. The "Floral Moss" is amazing! It looks pretty much what I imagine Brambleweed/ hedge/tree to look like.
The Floral Moss Roll was what I used to make the hedges. The Raindeer Moss is for the secret at the end. I haven't used the spanish moss yet. I also got a piece of 4x16 balsa wood for 2.69. I already had the pipe cleaners from HObby Lobby and various paints and brushes and glue.
First, we'll start with the ocotillo. The ocotillo is my favorite desert plant. In the winter it pretty much looks like a bunch of tall sticks with big spikes on it, but in the spring in Arizona small green leaves cover up the thorns and it is topped by bright red flowers.
I used pipe cleaners to make the ocotillo. My first attempt was using the pipe cleaner as is. I just cut it with a pair of wire cutters about 4 inch strips, 3 for each one. BUt each strip was bent in half at a different place to give them variation in length. Then at the point where the wire was bent I twisted two different pieces together. After doing this with the three pieces I used needle-nosed pliers to bend the bottom into a small flat base, I then glued it on a disc of wood I had already painted. I found that I didnt like the look. Look at the black/dark green one. It just doesnt look like ocotillo to me. It looks ok, but not what I wanted.
So I decided to get a pipe cleaner and cut off a bunch of the fur(?) with a very sharp knife. I just ran the knife next to the wire.
Then did the same as above to put it together. These look better, but now you can see the wire and I tried to do a wash with paint, but it just ended up running down to the base and you could still see the wire, so I'm not 100% satisfied, but the one that's with the brambleweed (with the flowers) looks decent.
For these bramble trees I tried two different ways. The first, the one one the left I did by taking apart a pipe cleaner and using the wire. I then clinched the wire in pliers and rubber banded them closes, then put the moss between the pieces of wire and twisted, then put more moss, then twisted. This took a long time and didn't come out as well as the second version.
The second version, on the right, was just a short pieces of pipe cleaner bent at the bottom and glued to a disc. I then put glue all over the pipe cleaner and stuck the Floral Moss on it. I think it looks pretty good.
For the base on the big pieces I used balsa wood. I thought it'd be stronger and longer lasting than cardboard. The problem is that the piece I got bows on the bigger pieces, specifally the hedge pieces, otherwise it worked well.
First I measured out the size of pieces I wanted and scored them with a razor blade. If you go with the grain it cuts effortlesstly. When you go against the grain it takes going over it several times. I cut some large pieces and some wall type pieces to get varying shapes.
Next I took some cardboard and made little stands in the middle of the pieces so I could put glue on and the moss would be higher. As you can see I used several different ways of glueing the cardboard to the wood. Utlimatley the easiest was the best way (see the Z piece), I just glued the edge down.
After that I painted them with brown acrylic paint and put flock down, in this case, dried (in the oven) potting soil. Then I just slopped glue all over the pieces and used a brush to make sure it was everywhere, except the very edge. Then I pushed a bunch of the moss on. After it dried I turn the piece over and tap it on the bottom to dislodge any loose unglued moss. The wide (2sq) pieces didnt really need a spine though.
The bramble hedges were next. Using some of the longer thin base pieces that I had already prepared I broke out the rolled Floral Moss. This was interesting because it was relatively thin.
So first I cut a piece that was a little shorter than the base. The moss is backed by a latticed plastic. After I cut the size I wanted, twice, I then peeled the plastic latice off carefully. Next I slavered glue on the base and the back of one of the pieces of moss and then pressed them together. Since the moss pieces were used to being wound up they wanted to curl, so I placed a book on them with the base sticking out the side for a while. After drying it stayed straight, but the edges were ugly. You can see them in the picture on the 1/2 done piece. SO I just glued the edges and put some of the loose moss along it. I think these pieces came out great! I just need to make some corners for the hedges.
Last but not least. In several of the Dark Sun books they talk about plants with purple leaves, and how they're deadly. I tried to recreate that, using the Reindeer moss, glued on a painted wooden disc. I then drybrushed purple on. It doesnt look great upclose, but serves its purpose. What do you think?
Got any other ideas on uniqely Athasian terrain?
Wednesday, November 30, 2011, 1:49 PM
I blame Alphastream!
After seeing his great Dark Sun cacti, walls, and other pieces I got the itch.
I ordered two packages of these cacti.
Each package comes with two sprues of cacti, red & yellow flowers, glue, & the grass. I only used 1 sprue for this. I didnt due a step by step because I didnt know what I was doing, now that I do, I'll do a step by step. It was really easy. I drybrushed some off white acrylic paint on the soil to bring out the highlights and painted the cacti, which are a green plastic, with lighter green acrylic paint.
The soil is potting soil, the gree shrubs are some woodland scenics turf that I got for like 4.99. The bases were precuts discs from a hobby store.
The dinosaurs/crodlu were from this TOOB of Carnivorous Dinosaurs
. I put them on large bases to use as mounts for Dark Sun.
The sand, I got from Hobby Lobby I used Red, Tan, and Brown. I think I like the tan best for my purposes, I tried mixing them with not the best results.
I like these skulls
and dinosaur bones
, which I want to get an use for similar projects. I definitely have the itch for this and plan on doing some cliff walls, some bramble trees and hedges, and some more cacti of course.
Next time I'll try to do step by step pictures.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011, 2:45 PM
Oryan from ENWorld inspired me and I went looking for a similar TV. I found the 40" LED UN40C5000QFXZA
for $500 (575 after shipping & tax), refurbished.
I went to Home Depot and bought a 36x24 piece of acrylic for about $23 bucks. I also bought some felt pad that I cut into .5inch strips to line the acrylic for $3 and a plastic cutter for another $3. I bought a pack of rubber feet for $3 too. I bought a laptop cooler with 4 fans for $21.
I got a VGA cord to connect my computer to the TV for $7 from a local computer store. Instead of making the PVC stand I found some sort of wire stand like thing from the GoodWill store for $1.99.
So for a total of $637 I have a working system as you can see from the images.
However, I'm not done. I'm going to make a table like the Uber-geek table
with slight modifications that will hold the tv and be relatively flush with the table with additional customization to prevent spillage and the like.
The felt around the edge is really ugly, but it will be hidden once the table's done.
Image 2 is the corner of the tv, you can see where I added the rubber bubble/feet per Oryan's suggestion that without them the felt will allow the acrylic to slide. So that worked well. The rubber doesn't touch the screen.
The 3rd image shows the laptop cooler under the tv, it fits perfectly and is plugged in by USB to the TV.
All pictures were taken in my living room with windows open on a sunny day. So when we game it'll be darker and the images look real nice.
The program I'm using is Masterplan
Wednesday, June 15, 2011, 10:28 PM
Created by a spring that flows from the Feathered Crags, the Silt Slough is one of the most dangerous areas in the Southern Estuary. In the west, where the stream flows from the mountains of the Feathered Crags and the land is firm, the area is a verdant paradise compared to most of Athas. A deep ravine descends from the mountains through the rocky badlands north east toward the Sea of Silt. The ravine is steep on both sides, making it difficult to access, even though precious water runs its length. As the land levels out the ravine was long ago choked with sand and silt, causing a silt bog or mud flat to be created. This Silt Slough extends miles brushing up against the falling walls of Celik to the Sea of Silt where the dust greedily sucks up the life giving water.
As the largest source of water in the area the Silt Slough is inhabited and visited by all manner of creatures from the surrounding lands. Bog Waders, cha'thrang, and cistern fiends are just a few of the creatures known to inhabit the area in large numbers. Floating Mantles and ruktoi seem particularly numerous where the Silt Slough is consumed by the Silt Sea. Beasts are not the only denizens of the Silt Slough though.
In the west, where the great ravine spills into the Silt Slough proper a tribe called the Kraecho survives against the onslaught of Athas and its inhabitants. The Kraecho are guided by their Bog Shamans who pray to the water spirits of River and Slough. When the spirits demand it, primal warriors are sent into the slough to make war on the numerous tribes of silt runners who have adapted to life in the bog.
The silt runner tribes are not the only enemies of the Kraecho in the slough. The Silt Slough is a physical manifestation of the water spirits' crusade against the encroaching corrupting silt spirits. As such the Kraecho battle silt elementals and silt horrors which sometimes find their way upriver. Due to the corrupting nature of the silt spirits, when a Kraecho shaman or primally invested warrior falls in this great struggle they will sometimes be denied death and return as Krags, undead twisted to the will of the silt elementals. To make matters worse these Krags can infect the living with elemental poisoning or disease with a bite, often turning them into Kraglings, binding them to the Krag. It is against these elemental abominations that the Kraecho battle against tirelessly at the will of their shamans and the spirits they serve.
Places and People of the Silt Slough
Aarakocra Bridge: The aarakocra, always feeding off the leavings of other Athasians, have taken over this ancient bridge and charge a tax to whoever wishes to cross. The bridge is one of the few places to easily cross the slough where its more river than bog. The location is highly contested between the Kraecho and the aarakocra of the Airy Cliffs.
The Espervale: Esperweed is a rare psionically active flowering plant that grows in mudflats. While not common in the slough it grows more in this area than anywhere else on Athas. One place in particular, the Espervale, is often covered in the blooms. Some local tribes brave the heavy black mud to harvest the roots of the plant, which they use in rituals to expose the psionic nature of their youth and ultimately destroy any psionic potential they may have. Some tribe harvest and sell the roots, before their psionic potency is lost, to Maraneth traders.
Steaming Falls: Water from the adjoining swampland falls into a gaping hole, causing a circular waterfall. The opening is over two hundred feet across and is constantly filled with rising steam caused when the falling water hits the surface of a lava lake hundreds of feet down. Elemental lava creatures sometimes escape the underground pool to wreak havoc on the surrounding athasian landscape. A rare Caldera of Magma priests inhabit the area, battling both the Kraecho bog shamans as well as the silt krags.
Kraecho: This medium sized village survives on whatever the hunters or the bog shamans of the village can bring back from the swamp. The homes of the Kraecho sit atop stilts several feet off the swamp with bridges running between buildings. Recently something has moved into the swamp beneath the village. Children and small animals have gone missing. Some say it's a large bogwader, others say a demon, punishing the village for losing the Aarakocra Bridge.
The Stifling Sept: Made up of all manner of silt priests as well as krags and kraglings converted from water worshipers and magma priests, along with their followers, the Stifling Sept is a chaotic, disorganized force. Many tribes of the region are cowed into service of the undead krags or led to see of the way of the silt by the priests. Either way the beguiled followers are often led to war against the other inhabitants of the slough leaving little in their wake other than choking dust.
Sunday, May 22, 2011, 10:21 PM
The Pitted Rock and its oasis is the center of life for the reptilian nikaal people of the Southern Wastes. The purple scaled people range far and wide, often coming into conflict with the human Tamwar tribes over resources and differing ideology. Nikaal cannot stay long in one place or they suffer the psychic visions of their ancestors, forever tormenting them for their pasts. However; the Nikaal of the Pitted Rock bands always return to the Pitted Rock, a holy place for those of the region. Where the Tamwar people worship personified embodiments of the elements, the Nikaal of the Pitted Rock worship the Pitted Rock as a manifestation of Athasian Earth . Many important moments in a local nikaal's life happen at the Pitted Rock, from naming, coming of age, marriage, and often war cries or peace treaties. The nikaal of the region are beholden to the great spirit within the rock and when they pray to it their prayers seem to be occasionally answered.
Life in the Southern Wastes is hard, but the nikaal survive through the raising of spitting drakes and surviving in small hunter/gatherer bands. The nikaal can raise and care for the drakes, because they are immune to the drake's acidic spittle. Each tribe generally has a large quiver or herd of the spitting reptiles, using them for protection, as well as a food and materials source. Much of the trading with outsiders the nikaal do, is to trade the goods they make from the drakes. Some of these goods include, leather, teeth and claw daggers, and some times the acid sacs. The nikaal will often psionically bond with some drakes of the quiver, allowing them to recall the quiver from its nightly wanderings.
Recently something has changed and the normally peaceful nikaal have become more aggressive (See the Pitted Rock). Coupled with the newly aggressive Tamwar lord of the Crystal Dunes much fighting has happened on the borders of the two peoples' lands.
Tsaerres is the war-band leader who has been stirring up the fears of the Pitted Rock nikaal. Tsaerres, formerly Kilsaen was the last of his band after a group of Tamwar came upon them in the night. Fleeing to the Pitted Rock to pray for guidance the distraught nikaal was visited by a spirit of an ancient nikaal hero and imbued with it's essence (See the Pitted Rock). Since then he has gone by the name of Tsaerres and has sparked a fire in the normally peaceful people with words of dread and prophecy.
Kaelal is an elder of the nikaal. She carries an ancient and well used Tkaesali, a sacred polearm of the purple scaled people. Kaelal's band is large, numbering over a hundred even after losing some to Tsaerres' band. Kaelal worries the direction this newcomer, Tsaerres, is taking her people. Kaelal knows the history of her people and does not know the name of Tsaerres, the supposed ancient nikaal spirit, which concerns her.
Sali'ko is a well respected dune trader that has fallen under the sway of Tsaerres. He has contacts over much of the Southern Wastes and was instrumental in allying with the Salt Riders of the Alkalai Bed. Sali'ko trades regularly with the Villichi of the Villrathi Convent as well as the Aarakocra of the Airy Cliffs as well as the major merchant houses of the area, Maraneth, Wavir, and Tsalaxa.
Thursday, May 19, 2011, 9:57 PM
The Tari of the Ythri Colony are somewhat recent additions to Celik. Brought to the ruins by way of the visions seen by Rinch Whitefang, a druid. The tari are convinced that Celik is the site of their ancient homeland, Ythri. Since coming to the Celik ruins a couple of years ago the tari have made a home for the colony in what is now known as the Ythri Snarl. The snarl is a bramblwood thicket, a relative of brambleweed, that encroaches on the western side of the ruins from the edge of the Silt Slough.
The tari live in the Snarl instead of the Living City because they did not want to pay the "license fees" to explore the ruins Korsun Maraneth demanded. It is a source of contention between the two parties and they are as likely to cause each other trouble as they are to make deals in peace, depending on the situation and the tari involved.
The tari of the Ythri Colony make a living scavenging the ruins as well as gathering in the Silt Slough and when time and resources permit they sent scouts into the ruins, searching for evidence of their ancient homeland. These forays are few and far between, because the tari are constantly at odds with House Maraneth, the Bog folk, the Stifling Sept, or some other local group or recovering from some environmental incident.
Rinch Whitefang is the colony's Earth Speaker. After the colony was forced to flee Balic, due to misdealings by their former leader, most tari chose to follow Whitefang's visions of Ythri after their leader fell in a battle with Andropinis' Praetors. Rinch did not actually have visions of Ythri, but he chose to announce them in order to give his people a cause and a will to live.
Kurask Quickhand is the son of the former colony leader. He is technically the leader of the colony, but Rinch Whitefang has much of the power lately. Kurask didn't have much choice but to follow the colony south after they were chased out of Balic and his people followed Whitefangs words. Kurask has spent much time in the Living City and prefers the city life to life in the Snarl. He'd rather pay Korsun Maraneth and stay in the city than the bramblewood snarl. He has some respect for the colony earth speaker, but does not believe that Celik is old Ythri.
Vermik had been somewhat of an outsider to the colony when they lived in Balic, but they wisely heeded his advice as they crossed the desert to reach Celik. Now he enjoys a camaraderie with his people he never thought he had. He is thankful to Whitefang for his council and leads parties into the ruins as often as possible. He has fought all manner of creatures, from the undead to beasts called in psionically from the wastes.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 3:56 PM
Things to Know about Celik and the Southern Estuary
- Celik serves as some sort of strange psionic magnet. Many beasts from the wastes find their way to the ruins, drawn by an unseen force. As a result, the area is very dangerous for not only are there increased dangers from the wastes ,there are areas where things conjured in the mindscape may become physically manifested. These areas of psychic static are often perilous to the psionic practitioner
These strange manifestations are brought about as a result of the psionic calamity that befell Celik during the Green Age. During the height of psionic advancement and experimentation, the nobles of Celik attempted to bridge the space between two faraway cities. The name of the other city was lost to time and the inhabitants of Celik were ripped away from Athas never to be seen again. Thorough exploration of the ruins could reveal this historical fact and may expose a way to calm the psionic anomalies.
In addition strange creatures from other planes have found their way to Celik somewhat recently, making dens in what is known as the Raving Vicinages, drawn by the same psionic resonance that draws the beasts of the wastes. House Maraneth has yet to realize the threat these beings represent and it may be too late to deal with them.
- When the psionic event happened that rid Celik of its living citizens, a rift to the Grey opened, and the spirits of those who previously died in Celik, or who's bodies remained there, returned and were bound back into their ancient remains. These newly created undead, both intelligent and beastly, have carved their own niche in the Celik environs. The restless dead can not travel too far outside of the city as some unknown force draws them back to their former resting place. Even if they are destroyed their body and spirit reform to haunt the mortal residents of Celik before too long. Most of the inhabitants do not recognize this fact and only see hordes of undead pour forth from the Lych Gate and out of the Roads Below.
The most powerful of the undead is a Meorty, a Green Age guardian of the city's class structure. Those who follow the Meorty's forgotten laws may travel the city unharmed, but those who break the law, knowingly or not, will suffer the wrath of the mummified sentinel.
- The Living City, Celik's civilized area, is ruled by Patriarch Korsun Maraneth. The trade lord is little better than a petty despot, using his House and caravan guards to maintain order. Additionally, mercenaries are hired to protect the walls of the Living City from the denizens of the unrecovered ruins. Any would be treasure hunters would do well to buy a license from Korsun to delve into the ruins. Failure to buy a license can result in indentured servitude as well as a 100% tax on the items recovered. If a treasure hunter can't afford the license a short period of indentured servitude will suffice.
Korsun Maraneth is not who he claims to be. He is an imposter who is responsible for House Maraneth's survival as well as its obscurity over the centuries. When the Maraneth agent, Turell Asai, found the ruins of Celik so long ago he also found some Green Age relics, one of which was a finely crafted necklace. The necklace held the psychic remains of a Celikite who was present for the psychic phenomena that rent the city so long ago. This disembodied ego has continually taken over the personality of the ruling Maraneth and continued its search of the ruins for a way to bring back those who were lost thousands of years ago.
- An ancient psionic terror rests in a dreamlike torpor beneath the city of Celik. Thousands of years ago the Villichi, a highly psionic offshoot of humans, failed to recognize one of their own in a child from Celik. The Villichi child, Karala, was shielded with The Way by her captors and kept as a slave by an ancient order of psion-monks. When the city was psionically sundered, the Villichi slave escaped, shielded by the psychic static. She has roamed the ruins of Celik for thousands of years by psychically feeding on those who happen to pass through the ruins. The Villichi from the nearby convent have, over the years, attempted to reign in their deranged, seemingly immortal sister to no avail. For reasons unknown, Karala will occasionally go into a psychic torpor lasting tens, hundreds or thousands of years only to awaken unannounced to wreak havoc on the residents of Celik. Recent events are soon to awaken Karala.
- A Tamwar elemental sovereign of the Crystal Dunes has risen and gathers the disparate tribes of her people for a holy crusade to the northern city-states. Given sanction by the elemental priests of her tribes, Whel-a-kai has united several tribes under her kite. She aids all in her path and her horde grows with every successful raid.
The people of the Crystal Dunes are a fractious lot and Whel-a-kai has many hurdles to over come before many tribes will put their face to the sand for her. Prophecy is never clear and the different opinions of the sacred orders stifle Whel-a-kai's ambitions. To create a horde large enough to conquer the northlands and draw all within sight to her kite, Whel-a-kai must destroy the sacred orders of his people.
- The nikaal bands of the Pitted Rock grow uncharacteristically aggressive as of late. A demon imprisoned in the nikaal's holy stone has taken over one of the reptile men, Tsaerres , and persuades the nikaal to war with all who oppose him. The demon from beyond Athas hopes that Tsaerres will be able to free him from his ancient prison in the Pitted Rock by bathing the rock in the blood of his enemies.
The nikaal are not a warlike people in general and finding allies has ben difficult. The gith of the region are cowardly and depraved, the Tamwar to the east have always been an enemy of the nikaal, to the west are a few undependable elf tribes and in the north are the flighty kenku of the Feathered Crags, which have been agreeable to fighting with the nikaal for a price. The kenku are better used as scouts than warriors so Tsaerres has sought out the reclusive Salt Riders of the Alkalai Bed, the salty wasteland to the southwest of the Pitted Rock.