The Gatecrasher’s Song: Mapping and Naming an Absence

One of my colleagues found a planar map in the University of Sigil’s Arcane Sciences Department that was fascinating. For centuries this elven wizard charted all summonings that were licensed in Sigil. Points on the map noted where the summonings were from, as in this case, all of the summonings led to Sigil.

little circles

Centuries of summonings, thousands of spells cast, from angelic monkeys from heaven, to demon lords, to elementals of the basic elements to elementals of the quasi-planes where elements merge and react to become something new. There was a clear gap.

summoning circle

At first we thought it was Ravenloft but it was not. It turns out some murder elementals and mist demons are brought forth from the plane. For a while we wondered if we could summon a trapped mortal out from Ravenloft but none of us had the arcane acumen to begin to create such a spell.


No, this was a hole, where nothing was summoned out.

I was unable to leave Sigil but I interviewed countless travelers who had been near the gap and here are the facts that I can corroborated by more than a few trustworthy travelers, pilgrims and petitioners.


Gods are reticent to go anywhere near this place and Clerical spells work at a deficit, even to the most favored psychopomp or saint.

Magic is weakened here. At first I thought this was just a magic null zone but this turned out to not be true. One merchant who had travelled around this zone several times to avoid Githyanki pirates, told me that magic could work just as powerfully here as anywhere. However, to allow magic to work, one had to feed it with life energies. Only wizards whose towers are right on the border of this place and whose morals are flexible have discovered this.

Psionics seems to work well and children born near it are more often born with psionic abilities. I even met one such child, a daughter of a gun born on an elven Armada ship who could pyrokinetically light candles with her mind.

Having put these pieces together I have decided that I have, in fact, discovered this place and so I will name it. There is a word in the trade tongue that means a lack, a hungry, angry lack that makes folk thirsty to the point of murder. I chose this word because it sounds very much like a word that means gateless or doorless among the Sigil street urchins.


Athas: To be without resources or doors, thus inspiring murder and rage.

Adapted from The Gatecrasher’s Song, a planar wanderer’s journal.


There are those who say he found his way to Athas and that is why he was never seen again. Among many gatecrashers who follow in his tradition, to be Athased is to be stranded in a faraway plane without sufficient resources to make your way back to Sigil or even the Outer Planes.


Dark Sun Tweets

Sounds pretty damned cool. I’d love to see the environment be a real hazard, an enemy all on its own as it is in Mouse Guard.

From Critical Hit’s amazing coverage:

  • Athas in Seven Sentences (pic to come later), 4e setting had to follow all of them or else they did it wrong.
  • Area covered in Athas is “smaller than the state of Texas” unlike other settings.
  • Trying to take all the parts that original Dark Sun fans loved and take them back to their first exposure.
  • Dark Sun Campaign Guide: 8/2010, 224pgs, 2 new races, 10 character themes, paragon paths, feats, and gear.
  • Incorporates “Cutting edge D&D tech” incl. new traps and terrain powers, revised skill challenges, etc.
  • Theme is like a template for characters of any class. Things like Gladiators extend to all classes, so need another mechanic beyond classes
  • Themes give one encounter power, as well as powers you can substitute your class powers for. Some limits & restrictions
  • Gladiator gives a “controller theme” so it’s a backdoor way to get into a martial controller.
  • Themes might make their way into core #dnd – could represent something like a Pirate.
  • Creature Catalog: 144pg softcover, 50+ Dark Sun monsters in 120 varieties. 7 Sorcerer-Kings and Dragon of Tyr. +Templates, hazards, etc
  • Retailers gave feedback that players wanted more of the description of the world in the book that they read for campaign guides
  • Insights from Monster Manual 3 design were used in Creature Catalog. More flavor, more story, integration with hazards, other hooks
  • Marauders of the Dune Sea, 32pg adventure for 1-3rd level Dark Sun characters, designed by @brucecordell
  • Dark Sun will have support in D&D Insider
  • List of setting questions is up- pic to come later. Things like using dungeons in Dark Sun, role of Gods, handling Dragons, etc.
  • Q on Cosmology: decided to include core D&D cosmology. Part of the reason was for monster origins. Not that far from original Dark Sun cosmo
  • Shadowfell is close to the Gray, magic deserts and remaining forests relate to the Feywild.
  • D&D Cosmology included, mostly noticeable with monster origins. Dark sun twists on how the planes might be seen in Athas
  • Dragonborn “aren’t just bolted on”, and Tieflings will be there as well, both with hooks back to the original setting.
  • One of the themes emphasizes Psionic wild talent.
  • Wild talents can also get some “cantrip-level” psionic
  • In Dark Sun, trying to downplay the importance of magic items, and will use the options from DMG2 to achieve this.
  • Two races in setting book are thrikreen and mul
  • Mul is +2 Con and other choice +2 Str OR Wis. Edge against condition/status stuff.

From Wizards_DnD tweets:

  • Dark Sun- Dessert, savage, arcane magic defiles, sorcerer kings rule with an iron fist, gods are silent, brutal environment
  • Character Themes – A template that you can apply to any class. examples – Templars can be applied to casters, gladiator to melee combatants
  • Themes will provide powers that you can take in lieu of class powers, also required for some feats and other character options Schwalb: Race and class are two legs in character creation – Themes can be a third
  • DDI: Monthly support for Dark Sun. Maybe not an adventure for every month, but split between adventures for Dungeon and options in Dragon
  • Goliaths are flavored as half-giant in Dark Sun. HG changing alignment no longer required. Still have fluctuating personality as an RP hook.
  • Metal is scarce – Bone, stone and wood weapons are staple. No attack or damage penalties, but new breakage rules

Let us not forget our ideas for Dark Sun 4e back in the blog posts Dark Sun 4e and Dark Sun 4e: The Hard Parts.