Sorrowstones and Shardstorms
Eight characteristics of Athas
The world is a desert
Athas is a hot, arid world covered with vast stretches of desert—endless seas of dunes, stony wastes, thorny scrublands, and worse. In this forbidding world, cities and villages can only exist in a few oases or verdant plains. Beyond these islands of civilization is a barren wasteland roamed by nomads, raiders, and hungry monsters.
The world is savage
Life is brutal and short in Athas. The vile institution of slavery is widespread in Athas, and hundreds, perhaps thousands, are sent to their deaths every year in bloody arena spectacles.
Metal is scarce
Most weapons and armour are made of bone, stone, wood and similar materials. Steel blades are nearly priceless; many heroes never see such weapons during their lifetimes.
Arcane magic defiles the world
Athas was reduced to a wasteland by the reckless use of arcane magic in ancient wars. To cast an arcane spell, one must gather power from the living world around. Plants wither to black ash, crippling pain wracks animals and people, and the soil itself is sterilized; nothing can grow in that spot again.
Terrible sorcerer-kings rule the cities
The city-states of Athas are ruled by defilers of immense power. These mighty spellcasters have held their thrones for centuries. The sorcerer-kings govern through templars, a class of officials and lesser defilers who can call upon the kings’ powers.
The Gods are silent
Athas is a world without gods. There are no clerics, no paladins, no prophets or religious orders. In the absence of divine influence, people have turned to other sources of power. Psionic power is well known and widely practiced in Athas, while shamans and druids call upon the primal powers of the world—even though the primal spirits of Athas are often wild and vengeful.
Fierce and deadly monsters populate the world
Athas is home to its own deadly ecology. Cattle, horses, camels—none of these animals can be found in Athas. Instead, people tend flocks of erdlus, ride on kanks or crodlus, and draw wagons with inixes and mekillots. Wild creatures such as lions, bears, or wolves are almost nonexistent. In their place are terrors such as the id beast, the so-ut, or the tembo.
Familiar races aren’t what you expect
Many of the fantasy stereotypes don’t apply to Athasian heroes. On Athas, elves are a nomadic race of herders, raiders, peddlers, and thieves. Halflings aren’t amiable river-folk; they’re xenophobic head-hunters and cannibals who hunt and kill anyone foolish enough to venture into their montane forests. Each of the major races has adapted to Athas in new and unexpected ways.