Athas: Sands of Time
“I live in a world of fire and sand. The crimson sun scorches the life from anything that crawls or flies, and the storms of sand scour the foliage from the barren ground. This is a land of blood and dust, where tribes of feral elves sweep out of the salt plains to plunder lonely caravans, mysterious singing winds call travelers to slow suffocation in the Sea of Silt, and selfish kings squander their subjects’ lives building gaudy palaces and garish tombs. This bleak wasteland is Athas, and it is my home.”
~The Wanderer’s Journal
Welcome to the world of Athas, an inhospitable wasteland, left in ruins as a grandiose desert from an eternity of harsh elements. The world as you know it is naught but horizons of sand, clay, and rock, with sparse retreats of occasional hospitality in the form of oases or shrublands. But the grand attraction upon the Tablelands and in the Tyr region are the seven pinnacles of civilization: the illustrious city-states guarded and ruled by the iron whim of the immortal and all-powerful sorcerer-kings.
On Athas, these sorcerer-kings, beings who have always been, and always shall be, rule as gods where there are not any. Using great arcane powers that siphon the lifeforce from all living things about them, their eternal rule is unmatched. Thisa arcane power, known to the layman as simply ‘defiling’, is what keeps the rabble, street rats and merchants and nobles alike, at the beckoning of the sorcerer-kings. Alongside the terrifying arcane powers that bless these dictators, an equally potent source of power exists, known as the Way. The Way is a term used to refer to the latent psionic disciplines that a smattering of people across the barren wastelands of Athas have tapped into, and it has become a norm of life for even the most mundane of persons to experience in their own day-to-day routines.
Not everyone is bent on displaying their power of brute ferocity as defilers, though, and some users of arcane powers have devoted their lives to the art of preserving, drawing just the tiniest amount of power from the lifeforce of their surroundings to cast their magics. However, due in part to the stigma of the dogmatic portrayal that the sorcerer-kings have displayed with the carnage that their defiling can cause, any arcane user, even the most learned of preserving, is viewed as still a monster and met with fear from most.
But with no gods, and to those who have no care for harnessing the powers of arcane magics or psychic abilities, the mundane force of martial combat still exists. And to these folks, more often than not, go the riches of experience, as those who look just as tough as they are are often sold off into the slave trade, a lucrative business in nearly all cities of Athas, and put to work by their owners or pitted against one another in gladiatorial arenas, a common spectacle in every corner of the world. In a variety of physically demanding games, these gladiators often face off for the amusement of an audience with nothing but primal weapons made of bone and rock, due in part to the scarcity of metal in the vast wastelands of Athas. While most matches are not to the death, that does not stop the most blood-thirsty of savages from taking their fill.
Outside the walls of the city-states, dangers are abound in many a forms. Raiders, tribes, and monsters alike scour the wasteland and take advantage of any unaware travelers who cross their paths. Some seek a simple tax on your goods to let you pass unharmed, and others are much more ruthless in their endeavors in attempting to survive. Whatever the case, though, other living beings are the least of your worries, for the scorching sun of Athas is your most potent of foes, and is unwilling to let up upon anyone’s back.
In recent months, the world of Athas has dramatically shifted. The sorcerer-kings, whom were regarded as unkillable and eternal have suffered a severe blow: the great sorcerer-king of Tyr, Kalak, was struck down by a group of revolutionaries. In his stead, Kalak’s former High Templar, Tithian of Mericles, was crowned the new ruler of Tyr and abolished slavery within the walls of his city. These actions rippled through the land, bringing a new reality to the sorcerer-kings of the six other cities: death was a possibility for these supposedly god-like beings.
It is now the role of the players to decide their own fate in this strange, new world. Do they strive as preservers and allies to bring about a new age to the world of Athas, one that is already devoid of one powerful defiler? Do they wish to support the new rule of Tyr and see to it that slavery is abolished in more city-states, by their hand? Do they pursue a life, attempting to fill the gap that the power struggle in Tyr currently presents, crowning possibly one of their own as a new, more powerful sorcerer-king? Or do they simply wish to live in the world of Athas as layman of trade, battle, adventure, or other pursuits?