Magic

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“The Tablelands are a giant wasteland, to the untrained eye barren and devoid of life. When people see plants wither and die when someone utters mysterious phrases accompanied by unknown gestures, they assume the worst. They cry wizard and the mob instantly gathers to kill him. But if people venture into the wastes and look under the rocks, they will learn that Athas is teeming with all sorts of life. And when the vermin swarm forth to envelop them, biting and crawling into every orifice, do they see the irony?” ―The Oracle, Blue Shrine Scrolls

Magic in Athas is relatively scarce and universally feared, while psionic powers are a common and accepted part of life. This chapter discusses the role of magic in Dark Sun, describes the planar cosmology of Athas, and includes spells lists and new spells for spellcasting characters. In addition, it discusses the relationship between magic and psionics on Athas; power lists and new powers are also included in this chapter.

Magic in Athas

The abuse of magic has shaped and scarred the world of Athas in the past 8,000 years. Because of that magic is universally feared and hated by the general populace. Wizards are outlaws that are hunted and killed by templars. Magic is hard to find, and even low‐level spells are not easily accessible.

Spells by Class

Spellcasters

Athasian wizards drain energy from the surrounding soil. The method used labels wizards as defilers or preservers. Preservers have the self–control to gather energy without destroying plants. Those who do not, or who feel no remorse about the damage caused, become defilers. Defilers leave behind sterile soil and infertile ash when they cast spells. Due to this fact, most wastelanders blame wizards for the desert landscape that dominates the Tablelands today, and their hatred extends to defilers and preservers alike.

Clerics, druids and rangers, like their counterparts on other worlds, cast divine spells. There are no paladins on Athas. Unlike most campaign settings, Athas does not have any gods to grant spells. Instead, clerics forge a pact with a particular element, and draw their power from the elemental planes themselves. Rangers learn to manipulate minor nature spirits, druids are granted their powers directly from the spirits of the lands, while templars are gifted with spell by their sorcerer‐kings.

The Corruption of Power

Defilers leave behind an ashen circle when casting spells. The radius is 5 ft. x spell slot level expended (a 0‐ level spell defiles a single 5‐ft. square occupied by the caster). Creatures except the defiler caught within the defiling radius at casting time experience pain and become sickened for 1 round. Plant creatures also suffer 2 hp damage x spell slot level expended (a 0‐level spell inflicts 1 hp damage).

Defilerʹs ash is black and totally devoid of life‐giving properties. It is the telltale sign of wizardry. Nothing grows in a defiled area for years. Even if the defilerʹs ash moves with the wind, the ground remains a lifeless scar. A defiler cannot preserve, but a preserver can defile if desperate.

When defiling, a wizard can extend the casting time of her spells to 1 round and gain a +1 bonus to caster level. Her defiling radius increases by 5 ft. Spells with a normal casting time of 1 round or longer require an extra round to be cast in this manner. Experienced defilers often increase their spellcasting power further through Raze feats (see Chapter 3: Heroic Characteristic).

The Road to Corruption and Redemption

Arcane casters who defile must roll a Will save DC 10 + spell level + amount of times previously defiled. Failing this save, they become defilers. Preservers succeeding the save lose their preserver status and become tainted. Tainted wizards are not defilers, but risk becoming so. Tainted wizards may seek redemption from a druid. The druid, if willing and able, can cast a conversion spell on the tainted wizard, restoring her preserver status (reset the number of times defiled to zero). The wizard loses 100 XP per arcane spellcaster level. Defilers can also seek redemption, but lose 1000 XP per arcane spellcaster level. Usually the defiler must undertake a quest or otherwise demonstrate a true willingness to redeem herself before the druid casts the conversion spell.

Terrain Modifiers

Terrain types affect arcane magic depending on the amount of plant life available. Barren and desolate terrains weaken spells, while fertile and abundant terrains boost spells. Spell save DCs and caster level checks are affected as indicated in Table: Terrain Modifiers. The Obsidian Plains are completely devoid of plant life. If arcane spellcasters have no alternative energy sources, or magical items such as wands, they are unable to cast spells in this terrain.

Terrian Modifiers
Type Examples Spell
DC Modifier
Caster Level
Check Modifier
Desolate Salt flats, sea of Silt –2 –2
Barren Boulder fields, stony barrens, scrublands –1 –1
Infertile Cities, rocky badlands, stony barrens, scrubland +0 +0
Fertile Verdant plains, savannahs, swamps, mud flats +1 +1
Abundant Forests, oceans, gardens +2 +2

Spellbooks

Athasian wizards conceal their “spell books” from templars, rival wizards and others with ability to discern them for what they are. Spell books take many forms, including animal hides, stone and clay tablets, bone staves, knotted giant hair and necklaces of colored beads. Wizards use different, often personalized codes and systems for organizing their spells. The Disguise skill masks a spell book’s true nature. Someone inspecting the spell book must win an opposed Spellcraft vs. Disguise check to identify it as such. Every time a new spell is added, a spell book must be disguised anew. Unless in a hurry, a wizard normally takes 20 on this check.

Services

Arcane magic, due to its universal loathing by the general populace, is almost never offered for sale. Regardless, there exist some avaricious black souls that sell their abilities to casts spells for money. They are mostly found outside the city‐states, among the villages dotting the wastelands or living in the tribes trying to survive by raiding every unfortunate that crosses their path.

On the other hands, divine spellcasters show less reticence using their powers to call upon the elements for the benefits of others. They still don’t overtly use these in the city‐states as the sorcerer‐kings and their templars don’t like to see such a power not under their control flaunted under their nose for all to see.

Securing the services of an arcane or divine spellcaster is often difficult, requiring time spent on Knowledge (local) and Gather Information checks just to locate such an available and willing spellcaster. Pricing for such services, if available, is found on Table 5–10 in Chapter 5: Equipment.

Communication

Most forms of nonmundane communications are done psionically on Athas (see Psionics in Athas), although most Veiled Alliance members usually have these kind of spells easily available. Air clerics also fill this role with spells such as sending and whispering wind.

Healing

Though magical healing is prohibitively expensive for most Athasians, many Water clerics have many trained in the mundane art of healing. These clerics use the Heal skill to treat disease, injuries, and poison effectively and even treat sunburn and heatstroke, although some sort of donation to their temple is required before the service is performed.

Transportation

Arcane magical teleportation, such as teleport and dimension door, is very hard to find due to the ban on magics. Some elemental clerics have similar abilities, such as storm legion, waterways, and spirit of flame, which they usually reserve for members of their faith and nobles who are in most need of them.

Other Services

Since arcane magic is universally feared and loathed, forms to detect arcane casters are high on demand, either in arcane or divine nature. City druids are hard to find, and most veiled ones are too distrustful of other arcane users to openly sell this kind of service. Those interested have to rely on chasseurs (see Prestige Class Appendix 1) or greedy templars or reckless defilers for that.

Goods

Magic items are no harder to create in Athas, but there are less spellcasters making them. Most city‐states have banned all types of arcane magic, and clerics are barely tolerated by the templars, and vice‐versa. In general, magic items are harder to find and purchase in Athas than describer on Dungeon Master’s Guide. This difference is reflected in the adjustments to the Cp limit for smaller settlements, as shown on the following table.

Town Size Cp Limit Minor items
Thorp 20 Cp None
Hamlet 50 Cp None
Village 100 Cp 1st–level scroll, 0–level potion
Small town 400 Cp 2nd–level scroll, 1st–level potion
Large town 1,500 Cp 3rd–level scroll, 2nd–level potion, 1st–level wand
Small city 7,500 Cp 4th–level scroll, 3rd–level potion, 1st–level wand
Large city 20,000 Cp 5th–level scroll, 3rd–level wand
Metropolis 50,000 Cp Any

Psionics in Athas

Unlike arcane magic, psionics is an accepted part of life on Athas. Wild talents and psionicists aren’t feared. Instead, a community’s psionic members are valued as vital assets and encouraged to improve. In many ways, psionics has become the edge needed to compete and survive in this unforgiving and dangerous world.

Powers by Class

Manifesters

Many creatures have learned to shape portions of their own psyche to attack other psyches, to defend their own psyche in unusual ways, or to directly affect the physical world. The general term psionics refers to the ability to use one’s psychic energy to affect the world outside of the mindscape. Various animals, monsters, humanoids, and even plants use psionics in various degrees and applications. Those who specialize in psionics are called psions; those whose psionic abilities are a lesser part of their lives are called wild talents; those who use any type of telepathic psionics are called mindbenders.

Magic Vs Psionics

Athasian magic works in a very different way than psionics and most forms of protection do not apply to both. Therefore, all Dark Sun 3 materials uses the Psionics is Different variant rule.

Services

Most Athasians who can afford supernatural services resort to psionics, because it is much easier to find, and cheaper. Almost every major city‐state or settlement has some sort of psionic academy that can perform services. However, most sorts of services are still mundane, especially when compared to other settings.

This section discusses in general terms the kinds of psionic services that are available and their impact on society. Specific prices are given in Equipment.

Communication

The specialist area of many telepaths, long‐distance communication is only one of the many services provided by the adepts of telepathy, with abilities such as mindlink and correspond. In addition, they can also serve as interpreters with psionic tongues, and repair mental damage with psychic chirurgery.

Transportation

Psionic transportation is available in a variety of forms and controlled by nomads in Athas. Certain psiologists from city academies can use psionic teleport to travel limited distances, carrying passengers for a fee. Many kineticists create and operate several psionic ships powered with obsidian engines, making them able to hover over the Sea of Silt and quickly carry cargo and passengers.