The Savage Sun

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The World[edit]


Welcome to the world of Athas, where a blistering desert burns under a dark sun, where water is scarce, trust is scarcer, and metal is more valuable than gemstones.

It is a land ruled by the immortal sorcerer-kings and their templar servants, who command the city-states of the Tablelands . . . but all must bow to the raw destructive power of the Dragon.

It is a world where the powers of the mind are supreme, and wizardly magic is enough to see one burned at the stake.

It is a world without gods, but where mighty elemental forces empower mortal champions in a desperate effort to revitalize the dying land.

It is a world of slavery and rebellion, of treachery and heroism, where mantis warriors and half-giant gladiators walk side by side with treacherous elf thieves and half-dwarven muls.

Welcome to the world of Dark Sun.

Setting Rules[edit]

The following setting rules are in use:

  • BORN A HERO: Player characters ignore Rank requirements for Edges during character creation.
  • FANATICS: Enemy thugs take the damage for their masters.
  • FAST HEALING: Characters make natural healing rolls once per day instead of every five days, and recover a level of Fatigue from Bumps & Bruises every four hours instead of every day.
  • HIGH ADVENTURE: Spend a Benny to gain the one-time use of a Combat Edge.
  • UNARMORED HERO: Wild Cards without armor add +2 to their Soak rolls.
  • WOUND CAP: Wild Cards never suffer more than four wounds from a single hit

The People[edit]


  • Adaptable. Humans start with a free bonus edge. They must qualify for the edge normally.
  • Broadly Skilled. Humans start with d4 each in two skills, or d6 in one skill of their choice.


  • Agile. Aaracokra have a starting Agility of d6 and a maximum Agility of d12+1.
  • Wings. Aarakocra have wings and can fly. They have a flying Pace of 12", but cannot fly if they are Bound or Entangled.
  • Claustrophobia. Aarakocra are uncomfortable in enclosed spaces, and have claustrophobia as a minor hindrance.
  • Hollow Bones. Their lightweight build and relatively fragile bones reduces an aarakocra's Toughness by 1.

Aarakocra are feathered, avian humanoids with large beaks and vulture-like heads. Their forelimbs are great, spreading wings bearing delicate-fingered hands halfway along their lengths.


  • Agile. Elves have a starting Agility of d6 and a maximum Agility of d12+1.
  • Born Thief. Elves have a natural inclination toward trickery, and start with d4 in Thievery.
  • Swift. Elves have a Pace of 8" and a running die of d8.
  • Bad Reputation. Elves have a reputation as untrustworthy thieves, and take a -2 penalty to Persuasion rolls among non-elves.

Elves are tall and lean, with long, pointed ears and sharp features. Although they can reach seven feet tall, elves are all muscle and sinew, with long limbs and slight builds. Their skin is weathered by sun and wind, and the soles of their feet is as hard as boiled leather.

Clannish Nomads: Elves are a wandering people, drifting across the desert in clans united by blood. They do not build cities, and visit the towns and city-states only occasionally. Although fiercely loyal to their own kin, elves consider anyone else - even elves of other clans - to be outsiders, to be preyed upon and exploited without remorse. This has given them a not-undeserved reputation as thieves and cheats, and few townsfolk are happy to see a clan of elves wander by.


  • Focus. [1] All dwarves have a Focus, a specific goal toward which they work. A dwarf gains a +1 bonus on all skill rolls made directly in pursuit of their focus.
  • Hardy. [2] A dwarf who becomes Shaken from damage while already Shaken does not take a wound.
  • Tough. [2] Dwarves have a starting Vigor of d6 and a maximum Vigor of 12+1.
  • Driven [-1]. A dwarf is driven to complete their focus at all times, and can only turn away from it with an effort of will. All dwarves have Driven [complete Focus] as a minor hindrance (a dwarf can upgrade this to Major as normal).
  • Slow. [-1] Dwarves have a Pace of 5" and a running die of d4.

Dwarves are short, tough people, averaging four feet tall and almost twice as broad as a human of comparable height.

A Dwarf's Focus: All dwarves have a focus, a specific goal toward which they direct most of their energies. A focus is a task that can be described in a single sentence, and that is at least theoretically within the dwarf's power.

When acting in pursuit of their focus, a dwarf is driven and enthusiastic. A dwarf can turn aside from their focus, but only briefly; ignoring a focus or acting against it causes a dwarf great distress. A dwarf prevented from pursuing their focus may become angry and manic, or sullen and morose; some dwarves have suffered emotional breakdowns as a result of such a situation.

When a dwarf completes the task that is their focus, they choose a new focus. This choice is sometimes made immediately, and sometimes not, but waiting more than a day is extremely rare - a dwarf without a focus rapidly becomes nervous and unsettled. Legend holds that a dwarf who dies with their focus uncompleted will be cursed to wander the desert as a banshee.


  • Wise. Halflings have a starting Spirit of d6 and a maximum Spirit of d12+1
  • Healthy: Halflings gain a +2 bonus on Vigor rolls made to resist disease and poison.
  • Magic Resistance. All halflings possess the edge Arcane Resistance. They can take Improved Arcane Resistance normally.
  • Small. Halflings average three to four feet tall, making them Size -1. This reduces their Toughness by 1.


  • Animal Ken. Half-elves gain a +2 bonus on any rolls made to peacefully interact with an animal. A half-elf can ignore the Spirit prerequisite when taking the Beast Master edge.
  • Dual Heritage. A half-elf may start with a Dexterity of d6 and a maximum Dexterity of d12+1, or any edge the half-elf qualifies for as a bonus edge.
  • Quick Learner. Half-elves start with d4 in any one skill of their choice, or d6 in any core skill.

Half-elves are not a true race unto themselves, but rather are the product of an elf mating with a human. They resemble humans with pointed ears, lacking the height of their elven parent, though they do tend to run lean.

Beast Friend: Half-elves are born outcasts, distrusted by elves for their human heritage and by humans for their elven blood. Perhaps as a result, they have an instinctive understanding of animals, and an uncanny ability to befriend beasts of all description. Many a half-elf wins themselves an animal companion, an un-judging and forever loyal ally with whom to face the world. Some half-elves make a career of this knack, selling their services as tamers and herders of erdlus and crodlus, handling savage beasts for the arenas, and breeding kanks and other domesticated animals.


  • Hardy. [2] A half-giant who becomes Shaken from damage while already Shaken does not take a wound.
  • Large. [-] Half-giants stand ten feet tall and are heavily muscled. They are Size +2. This increases their Toughness by 2 and their maximum Strength by two ranks, but they take a -2 penalty on Trait rolls when using equipment designed for smaller races, and consume double the amount of food and drink as the smaller folk.
  • Strong. [2] Half-giants have a starting Strength of d6 and a maximum Strength of d12+1. Their great size increases this to d10 and d12+3, respectively.
  • Easily Led. [-1] Half-giants are highly susceptible to persuasion, and take a -2 penalty when resisting magical or psionic effects meant to control their behavior, as well as Smarts- and Spirit-based Tests.
  • Poor Defenses. [-1] Because they are such large targets, half-giants take a -1 penalty to their Parry.

Half-giants are towering people, ten feet tall or more, who resemble large and muscular humans. According to legend they were once magical crossbreeds of humans and some now-extinct species of giant, but modern half-giants are a true-breeding race unto themselves.

Social Chameleons. Half-giants have a reputation for being weak-minded and disloyal. In fact, they have a uniquely adaptive mindset that allows them to shift their outlook to fit with their current circumstances. Although a half-giant may have certain ethical principles they hold firm to, they are able to adapt to whatever situation they find themselves in. A half-giant servant may be meek and mild, but after a day or two in the company of soldiers and mercenaries, they may develop a brutal and aggressive personality. A half-giant gladiator who finds themself living with a group of monastics will soon take to the hours of meditation and devotion with the same energy they once brought to the fighting ring. The half-giant's fundamental identity does not change, but the details are flexible.

Muls (Half-Dwarves)

  • Strong. [2] Muls have a starting Strength of d6 and a maximum Strength of d12+1.
  • Tough. [2] Muls have a starting Vigor of d6 and a maximum Vigor of d12+1.
  • Tireless. [2] Muls require only four hours of sleep each night, and gain a +2 bonus on Vigor rolls made to resist fatigue.

The product of human and dwarf crossbreeding, muls resemble short, muscular humans with heavy, dwarf-like features. They are completely hairless, a quirk of biology which sets them apart from both of their parent races. Muls are universally sterile, a trait which keeps them in short supply.

An Artificial Race. Unlike half-elves, which occur whenever an elf and a human are sufficiently attracted to one another, muls are largely an artificial race.

Thri-Kreen (Mantis Warriors)

  • Claws. [2] Thri-kreen possess sharp claws which do Str + 1d4 damage.
  • Leaper. [1] Thri-kreen can jump twice as far as normal for creatures of their Pace, and add +4 to their attack roll instead of +2 when they jump as part of a Wild Attack.
  • Natural Armor. [1] A thri-kreen's exoskeleton gives it 2 points of armor.
  • Sleepless. [2] Thri-kreen never sleep, although they can be rendered unconscious normally.
  • Outsider. [-1] Thri-kreen are the most alien of the sapient races and take a -2 penalty on all Persuasion rolls among non-kreen.
  • Racial Enemy: Elves [-1] Thri-kreen notoriously consider elven flesh a delicacy, something which elves naturally take exception to. Thri-kreen take a -2 penalty to Persuasion when interacting with elves, and have a hard time treating elves as people.

Character Creation[edit]

New Edges[edit]

Elemental Adept

  • Prerequisite: Arcane Background: Elemental Priest

Gladiator Display

  • Prerequisite: Seasoned, Fighting d8, Intimidation or Taunt d6

You're a born showman in the arena. When you hit an enemy with a raise and deal enough damage to kill them, you gain a benny which must be used before the end of the encounter.

Subtle Spellcasting

  • Prerequisite: Arcane Background: Magic

You know how to cast spells with the most minimal of words and gestures. Whenever you cast a spell, anyone nearby must succeed on a Notice roll at -2 to realize what you did. They may still realize that you caused some sort of supernatural effect, but they'll attribute it to psionics or clerical spellcasting.

Magic and Psionics[edit]

Athas is a world of supernatural powers, but all power has a cost.

The following arcane backgrounds exist in Athas:

  • Arcane Background: Wizardry. The ancient art of wizardry has a fell reputation on Athas. In the ancient Cleansing Wars, reckless use of magic devastated the entire world, reducing the once-lush world of Athas to its current scorched and barren state. Wizards are few and careful, forced to hide from vengeful mobs and predatory rivals, and even the most benevolent of wizards must face the constant temptation of defiling.
  • Arcane Background: Priest. This arcane background involves striking a pact with a powerful entity, and covers three different sorts of pact:

Elemental Priest: Athas is a world without gods, but the mighty and ancient powers of the elements fill a similar role. Although they care nothing for mortal worshipers or mortal morality, the elemental powers occasionally form pacts with individual mortals, granting them great power in exchange for promoting the elemental's agenda.

Druid: The fey spirits of the land, though few and weakened since their ancient days of glory, remain a force to be reckoned with. Like the elementals, they sometimes form pacts with worthy mortals, who wield their powers in defense of the dying world.

Templar: Agents of the immortal sorcerer-kings, templars wield spellcasting powers in addition to their legal status. Templars swear obedience to their patron, who grants them spellcasting power with which to enforce the sorcerer-king's will. This pact is closer to a business transaction than any sort of reverence, and rogue templars are not unknown.

  • Arcane Background: Psionics. The powers of the mind are well-known on Athas, and a psionicist is one who hones them to their fullest potential. Psionicists are respected and sometimes feared, powerful individuals beholden to no one but themselves.
  • Arcane Background: Wild Talent. All sapient people possess a spark of psionic ability, even those who lack the potential to become a true psionicist. The vast majority of humanoids on Athas are wild talents, capable of manifesting one or perhaps two psionic abilities through instinct and willpower.

Defiling and Preserving[edit]

Wizardry is unique in that it taps into the life-force of nearby living things to manifest supernatural effects. When used with care and consideration, this does no harm to the biosphere as a whole; this form of wizardry is known as preserving. However, a reckless or desperate wizard can simply rip out the power that they want, stealing life-force to power their magic; this is known as defiling. The difference is not well understood by the common folk of Athas, who know only that wizardry is what reduced their world to its current blasted, ruined state; as a result, wizards and anyone capable of wizardly magic are hated and feared.

Normal spellcasting (using Arcane Background: Wizardry) is assumed to be preserving by default: the wizard skims off just enough life-force to power their spells, taking care not to cause permanent harm. Whenever a wizard casts a spell, they have the option to defile instead. If the wizard succeeds on their Spellcasting roll, defiling grants them an automatic raise, allowing them to cast their spells to greater effect. This still requires the initial Spellcasting roll to succeed; if the wizard does not succeed, defiling grants them no additional benefits.

When a wizard uses defiling magic, regardless of whether or not their Spellcasting roll succeeds, the land pays a price. All the plant life within a radius equal to three yards times the power's rank is instantly killed, reduced to dead gray ash. This area is halved in areas of dense vegetation (such as a forest), or doubled in areas of scant vegetation (such as sandy desert or rocky badlands).

In addition, all living creatures other than inanimate plants in the area suffer intense pain, and must succeed on a Vigor roll or take a penalty equal to the spell's rank on all Trait rolls until the end of their next turn. Undead and constructs are immune to this effect.

Druids, Templars, and Elemental Priests[edit]

Elemental Priests

Priests in the world of Dark Sun are those mortals who have sworn service to one of the mysterious elemental powers, beings of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. The elemental powers care little for the affairs of mortals, focusing their attentions on the dying world of Athas.


Druids are mortals who have struck a bargain with the spirits of the land, the desperate, dying entities associated with the life-force of Athas.


Templars are those who most directly serve a sorcerer-king,


The powers of the mind are quite common on Athas; most sapient beings possess at least a smidgen of psionic potential, as do many monsters, animals, and even some plants. Through discipline and study, a gifted few can hone their psionic powers into something quite formidable.

Wild Talents[edit]

The vast majority of people on Athas possess a wild talent: an innate psionic ability gained without training or study. Wild talents require no training or study; the manifest instinctively, usually around puberty. Many wild talents are weak and borderline useless, such as the ability to project a tiny telekinetic force weaker than a shove.

Wild talents operate identically to normal powers, but a wild talent user has no relevant skill or power points. Rather, to activate a wild talent the character must spend a benny and roll their Spirit.

Wild talents cannot benefit from any power modifiers, whether general or specific to that power. The power manifested is always the basic version of the power.

All wild cards roll on the Wild Talents table to determine their talent. PCs may roll twice and take the power they prefer. Characters with the Arcane Background: Psionics edge do not develop wild talents in the usual way; they may roll normally but simply add their wild talent power to their list of psionic powers and use it normally.

Wild Talents
d100 roll Power Notes
01-04 Beast friend
05-08 Blind
09-12 Bolt
13-16 Confusion
17-20 Darksight
21-24 Deflection
25-28 Detect/Conceal Arcana
29-32 Elemental Manipulation
33-36 Empathy
37-40 Environmental Protection
41-44 Fear
45-48 Havoc
49-52 Healing
53-56 Illusion
57-60 Light/Darkness
61-64 Mind Link
65-68 Mind Reading
69-72 Protection
73-76 Relief
77-80 Smite
81-84 Sound/Silence
85-88 Speak Language
89-92 Stun
93-96 Wall-Walker
97-00 Choose any one

Gear and Equipment[edit]





Athasian Armor.jpg

Type Armor Min Str Weight Cost Covers
Heavy Cloth/Leather
Jacket +1 d4 5 20 torso, arms
Robes +1 d4 8 30 torso, arms, legs
Leggings +1 d4 5 20 legs
Cap +1 d4 1 5 head
Jacket +2 d6 8 80 torso, arms
Leggings +2 d6 7 40 legs
Cap +2 d6 1 20 head
Metal (chain)
Shirt +3 d8 25 3,000 torso, arms
Leggings +3 d8 10 1,500 legs
Coif or Helm +3 d8 4 250 head
Metal (plate)
Corselet +4 d10 30 5,000 torso
Vambraces +4 d10 10 2,000 arms
Greaves +4 d10 10 2,000 legs
Great Helm +4 d10 4 1,000 head


Type Damage Min St Weight Cost Notes
Alhulak Str + d4 d4 2 100 range 3/6/12
Calhulaks Str + d4 d6 4 200 Double weapon, two hands
Carrikal Str + d8 d8 6 400 +1d10 damage on a raise
Chatkcha Str + d6 d6 3 150 Range 6/12/24
Dragon's Paw Str + d8 d8 8 300 Double weapon, Parry +1, two hands
Gythka Str + d6 d6 4 150 Double weapon, two hands
Tortoise Blade Str + d6 d8 6 150 Parry +1
Trikal Str + d10 d10 10 400 Two hands, reach +1
  • Alhulak: A four-pronged blade on a short handle, the alhulak has a length of rope or braided leather attached to the handle. A skilled wielder can use it to hook an enemy's legs and drag them closer or knock them prone. On a raise, in lieu of extra damage, the wielder of the alhulak can make an opposed Strength check to either drag the enemy 2" closer or cause them to fall prone.
  • Calhulaks: A pair of alhulaks joined by a short rope or length of leather, the calhulaks is a favorite arena weapon. It is functionally a set of matched knives, and the wielder cannot be disarmed of either unless he is disarmed of both in the same round. If the wielder makes two attacks in the same round with this weapon, the multi-action penalty is reduced to -1.
  • Carrikal: Traditionally made from the sharpened jawbone of an animal, a carrikal resembles a double-bladed axe. Although heavy and somewhat awkward, it can inflict devastating wounds. A carrikal functions as a battleaxe, but on a raise it does +1d10 extra damage instead of +1d6.
  • Chatkcha: This deadly crystalline throwing wedge is favored by the thri-kreen; it is roughly triangular in shape and sharpened to a razor's edge.
  • Dragon's paw: An arena favorite, the dragon's paw is a short polearm with a heavy blade at either end and a bladed guard in the middle. If the wielder makes two attacks in the same round with this weapon, the multi-action penalty is reduced to -1.
  • Gythka: A favorite melee weapon of the thri-kreen, a gythka resembles a short polearm with a blade on each end. If the wielder makes two attacks in the same round with this weapon, the multi-action penalty is reduced to -1.
  • Tortoise blade: A blade attached to a round shield (traditionally made from a tortoise shell) that covers the wielder's forearm, this is effectively a short sword with a shield attached. It grants +1 to parry and functions as a normal shield, but if the wielder is disarmed they lose the shield as well.
  • Trikal: A long, heavy club, the trikal has great reach and is a favored weapon of half-giants.

Metal Gear: On Athas, metal is extremely rare and valuable. Metal gear is as described in the core SWADE rules, but the cost is ten times higher: a metal longsword will cost at least $3,000 if it is available for purchase at all. As a result, most weapons are made from other materials, such as wood, bone, stone, chitin and obsidian. These weapons may be weaker and less effective than their metal counterparts.

Non-metal weapons have a chance to shatter in combat. Any time the attacker rolls snake eyes (natural 1 on both the Fighting die and the wild die), their weapon breaks and is rendered useless.

The following weapons are not typically made with metal, and can be purchased at their listed price and used normally: Club (light or heavy), flail, lance, pike, spear/javelin, staff, bow, longbow, sling, net.

The table below summarizes the mechanical effects of weapons made of various non-metal materials.

Weapon Materials
Material Fighting Damage Weight Cost
Bone/Chitin - -1 75% 75%
Obsidian - - 100% 100%
Stone -1 -1 100% 50%
Wood -2 -2 50% 25%

Other Adventuring Gear