Athas (the world of Dark Sun) is a special place. Here are some obvious differences, but more will be provided as time goes on:
- Athas is mostly an extremely harsh desert. Water is extremely scarce and precious. Food is hard to come by. Cities are sporadic (in fact, there are only seven real cities in the primary region).
- The world is simply brutal. In addition to a lack of the basics, the creatures are extremely tough and there is little trust. The concept of “good” is pretty weak in this world.
- There no gods on Athas. No gods, no paladins. Divine magic tends to be linked to the elements (Fire, Air) or land spirits. The land spirits are pretty pissed off, by the way, since the world is so screwed.
- Most arcane magic comes from defiling – the process of ripping the life force out of stuff around you in order to create effects. This is why the world is wrecked – LOTS and LOTS of powerful defiling magic.
- There are a handful of very powerful wizards running around and they want to keep all the magic to themselves. Thus, they make it a top priority to kill off upstart wizards. They also have legions of elite servants working to help them murder off people that make them unhappy. Further, systemic misinformation campaigns for centuries have left the world in a state where basically everyone hates and fears wizards. Casting spells or even writing (when you aren’t one of the elites that has a reason to write) can literally get you killed in the street.
- Metal is extremely rare and valuable. Most weapons are made of bone, stone, or wood. These weapons are less effective and prone to breakage. Magical items are unbelievably rare and valuable and draw lots of attention. Powerful characters are lucky to have even a few magical items which require careful guarding.
- Familiar races aren’t what you’d expect. Elves are tall nomadic people notorious for being lazy and treacherous. Halfings are feral forest dwellers who are known to engage in cannibalism now and then. Half-giants (Goliaths) are pretty much brutal mercenaries, not friendly giants. There are new races too: Muls (half dwarves) and Thri-Kreen (insectoids with a bizarre culture).