Excerpts Archive | 7/30/2010
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Atlas of Athas: Tyr
Dark Sun Excerpts

What remains of Athasian civilization is cupped in the broad plains and deserts between the mighty Ringing Mountains and the impassable Sea of Silt. This wide area is known as the Tyr Region after its oldest city -- and today's Dark Sun Campaign Setting excerpt.

These days, Tyr is no more powerful or influential than its neighbors. (In fact, Tyr, mired in turmoil, is desperately vulnerable at the moment.) Beyond the borderlands of this region lie desolate wastes; some people believe that the Tyr Region is the last habitable area on Athas, and that all the people remaining in the world live in these lands.

"Between the Ringing Mountains and the Sea of Silt, the traveler finds hermits, thri-kreen packs, nomad tribes, isolated villages, and the Seven Cities known to remain on Athas. One meets people of all races and classes: human nobles and slaves, elf raiders, half-giant mercenaries, and even the rare halfling wanderer. This region is the great mixing bowl of Athas, in which the different cultures of many peoples are forced to mingle or clash."
—The Wanderer’s Journal


The sorcerer-kings have ruled the Tyr Region for longer than anyone can remember. For generations, no one contested their power and lived to tell about it, but everything changed recently when a spear impaled Kalak, the sorcerer-king of Tyr. Kalak’s death and Tyr’s liberation marked the beginning of a new era, shaking thrones that had not been threatened in countless years. Rumors of Tyr’s newfound freedom spread like wildfire across the Seven Cities, giving pause to sorcerer-kings who hoped that thoughts of rebellion would not spread to their own domains.

First, Chapter 5 of the Dark Sun Campaign Setting presents a desert primer. Not all deserts consist solely of sand, and this section provides an introduction to the landforms and conditions that prevail over much of the world.

Next, the chapter describes prominent locations on Athas. These include the Seven Cities, the great city-states of the Tyr Region: Tyr, Balic, Draj, Gulg, Nibenay, Raam, and Urik. Tyr is described at greater length, since its current state of affairs provides many opportunities for heroes looking for a way to make a difference in the world.

In addition, this section discusses major regions of Athas in the vicinity of Tyr: the Estuary of the Forked Tongue, the Forest Ridge, the Ivory Triangle, the Ringing Mountains, the Road of Kings, the Sea of Silt, the Southern Wastes, the T ablelands, and the Western Hinterlands.

Tyr

"Is it true? Kalak dead? Slaves freed? Magic wild in the streets? Doubtful, but we’ll know soon enough."
—Shahin, wandering hermit

As far as most Athasians are concerned, Tyr has always existed. Certainly it has endured through the entire Desert Age, and even with the fall of its sorcerer-king, it seems likely to endure for centuries to come. And throughout all the long years of its existence, it was a city-state enslaved.

That has all changed.

In the courts of the other city-states, rumors of King Kalak’s overthrow are only whispered, but in Tyr, the repercussions howl through the streets. Many scheme to succeed Kalak, and the templars and other power groups vying for control struggle to keep the city-state from disintegrating into anarchy at the hands of people eager to enjoy their freedom. Nobles and merchants clamor for influence, and commoners and freed slaves openly celebrate, challenging civic authority and social boundaries at every turn.

Tyr at a glance

Tyr is a flashpoint of intrigue and change on Athas. Its Golden Tower and sealed Ziggurat are unique wonders that awe most visitors.

Population: Roughly 15,000 within the city walls, and about as many in the noble estates and villages of the Tyr Valley. Humans are the majority, constituting two-thirds of the population. Dwarves, elves, goliaths, and muls make up most of the rest.

Water: Seventeen public wells reach down below Tyr to tap one of the deepest, oldest aquifers on Athas, fed by runoff from the nearby Ringing Mountains. A Tyrian Guard detachment protects each well. Tithian (under pressure from others) has declared that each citizen is entitled to one hand-carried container of water per day. Those who try to get around this law risk being exiled. The city-state also has many private wells, such as in the King’s Gardens and in the Templar District.

Supplies: A wide variety of basic supplies is available in the Caravan and Merchant Districts, as well as in the Elven Market in the Warrens. Most days, a ragtag bazaar springs up near the Stadium of Tyr.

Defense: Most of Tyr’s army disbanded after Kalak fell, but the templars are currently rebuilding it as the Tyrian Guard. An uneasy mix of soldiers who formerly served Kalak, noble house contingents, revolutionary fighters, and freed gladiators and slaves, the Guard forms a standing army of about five thousand warriors of varying quality. The marshal is a mul ex-mercenary named Zalcor. In addition to the Guard, many noble and merchant houses keep large contingents of private soldiers on hand.

Inns and Taverns: The Caravan District and the Merchant District have more than thirty inns and an equal number of taverns between them. The Warrens offers more squalid spaces, including abandoned buildings that host squatters.

Tyrian Backgrounds

The sudden end of King Kalak’s oppressive reign has left Tyr and its citizens in a state of confusion and chaos. Tyrian characters are surrounded by new opportunities—and new perils.

Associated Skills: Endurance, Streetwise

Language: Elven

Embedded Spy: Tyr’s newfound freedom has caused no shortage of consternation among the Seven Cities. The other sorcerer-kings have dispatched agents to gather intelligence about the liberated citystate and create conflict where possible. You are one such spy. Were you born in Tyr, or are you from another city-state? To whom do you report? How do you view the rebellion?

Freed Slave: Following Kalak’s death, King Tithian outlawed slavery in T yr. You were one of thousands set free. Do you think your liberty will last? Who owned you? How do you feel about your former master?

Noble of Conscience: You have enjoyed comfort and privilege throughout your life, but you know that your wealth was earned through the efforts of people who didn’t have enough. You want to help the oppressed, but should you keep your title and become a protector of the weak, or should you fight to erode the power and influence of your noble peers?

Revolutionary: You worked to overthrow Kalak in the final months of his reign. Whether you spied on his nobles, preached rebellion to slaves in the brickyards, or carried messages for rebel leaders, you played a part in the king’s downfall. What will you do now that you have succeeded? What secrets did you learn? Do you have contacts among the groups vying for power in the city-state?

Exploring Tyr

Tyr hunkers within high walls in the middle of the fertile Tyr Valley, which lies in the foothills of the Ringing Mountains. From miles away, a traveler can make out the massive spires of the Golden Tower rising over the city-state’s walls. Not far from the tower, a brick step-pyramid soars above the walls: the Ziggurat of Kalak, multicolored and resplendent under the desert sun. The city walls are parched sandstone, smoothed by time and centuries of continual repair. Beyond Tyr loom the ramparts of the Ringing Mountains, whose topmost peaks glint with a dusting of snow during the months of Sun Descending.

Most traffic enters the city-state through the eastern Caravan Gate. This structure consists of two marble valves, each 20 feet high and nearly as wide, which are banded and hinged in precious iron. Inside, the thoroughfare known as Caravan Way leads through the Caravan District toward the heart of the city, where the Merchant District is nestled at the base of the towering Ziggurat of Kalak. The spacious stone residences that make up the twin wards of the Noble District lie north and south of the Caravan District, easily differentiated from the press of adobe buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Commoners and freed slaves live cheek by jowl in the Warrens, a medley of unplanned structures that sprawls away north of the Ziggurat. Criminal gangs roam the Warrens, preying on the weak. Temporary shelters built by recently freed slaves have sprung up in the Artisan District on the ziggurat’s north side. Although shelter and access to water is less certain in the Artisan District, fewer bodies turn up here each morning than in the Warrens. This district also now doubles as a training area for gladiators who choose to fight in the Stadium of Tyr during the infrequent games held there.

The stadium separates the Ziggurat of Kalak from the Golden Tower. Under the new regime, the sound of spectators screaming for their favorites is heard on just ten days of every month. The rest of the time, the stadium serves as an overflow market of disorganized stalls, tents, and blankets where misfit traders offer a multitude of goods and services.

Tyr has always been two cities in one: the greater city, which is composed of commoners, slaves (now freed), and nobles, and the smaller Golden City, which is dominated by the Golden Tower and is the home of the resplendent King’s Gardens. Many civic structures surround the tower, along with giant warehouses that hold precious reserves of grain, iron ingots, water, and weaponry. In addition, the Golden City houses upper-class functionaries and templars.

The Golden Tower, Tyr’s most majestic piece of architecture, is constructed of rare golden granite and contains dozens of chambers linked by winding passages. A separate observation spire stands nearby, a smaller version of the main tower; a soaring bridge connects the two structures. According to rumor, defiling magic binds ancient elementals to the Golden Tower, creatures that remain vigilant against potential attackers. Since King Kalak fell, all attempts at entering the tower have failed.

Finally, beneath the city lies Under-Tyr, catacombs that represent the leavings of more than two thousand years of urban construction on the same site. Buried streets, cracked courtyards, and crumbling ruins abound in the darkness beneath Tyr. Secret cellars in surface buildings offer access into this dangerous realm of subterranean passages and forgotten neighborhoods.

The Stadium of Tyr

Tyr’s gladiatorial stadium sits between the walls of the Golden City and Kalak’s Ziggurat. A special viewing balcony, once reserved for the king and highranking templars, is set halfway up the Golden City’s walls. On the opposite side of the stadium, a great stairway climbs from the gladiatorial floor to the top of the ziggurat. Mosaics depicting Kalak as a warrior god adorn each step facing the stadium.

The spaces below the spectators’ seats are a maze of cells and passageways that hold prisoners and monsters destined for the arena. A wide avenue leads from the stadium’s north side to the nearby Stadium Gate in the city walls. This gate is carved to resemble the gaping jaws of the Dragon, and it is used to transport monsters captured in the mountains or the desert to holding cells until they are brought out for combat in the arena.

The Master of Games, a high-ranking templar, stages games on ten days out of each month and during festivals. Anyone can enter the games, although in practice, most entrants are professionals who win purses to support themselves or gladiators sponsored by a noble family or merchant house. Slaves are no longer conscripted to compete in the stadium. Deaths are far less common than they were under Kalak’s reign; most contests now end when one gladiator yields or is too badly wounded to continue. Any gladiator who performs a coup de grace on a downed opponent is exiled from Tyr. However, battles against desert monsters or savage foes are always to the death.

On days when no games are held, the stadium serves as an impromptu market of jumbled stalls, hide tents, and blankets where vendors offer goods and services. The sellers who display their wares need not pay any fee for the space they occupy as long as it is no more than two wagons wide. King Tithian was pressured by the freed slaves into making this decree to give ex-slaves a place to offer their services without going into debt.

Fighting in the Stadium

Player characters can fight in the gladiatorial stadium if they wish to enter the competition and pay a fee of 25 gp per game. They can take part as individuals or as a team and could be involved in a fight, a race, or an obstacle course. Create a stadium game just as you would create a regular encounter, setting the level of the creatures and threats in the encounter to within 4 levels of the party’s level. The purse for winning a competition should be a treasure parcel that is 2 levels lower than the parcel normally awarded for overcoming the encounter.

Monday: "The slightest breeze stirs up a silvery pall of dust that clings to the surface like a fog. It becomes impossible to tell where the silt-laden air ends and the dustbed begins. When the wind blows more strongly, as it often does, the Sea of Silt becomes a boiling cloud of dust, the edges tinged with crimson sunlight."

Excerpt Schedule

Monday Friday

July 12

An Introduction to Dark Sun

July 16

Ch 1: The World of Athas

July 19

Ch 2: Races of Athas

July 23

Ch 3: Character Themes

July 26

Ch 4: Character Options

July 30

Ch 5: Atlas of Athas: Tyr

August 2

Ch 5: Atlas of Athas: Sea of Silt

August 6

Ch 6: Running a Dark Sun Game

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