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Opportunity Actions: Races of Athas – Shadar-Kai and Warforged

Looking through some Dark Sun materials this week, I was surprised to hear people say, “So, which races will you allow?”

I pitched this idea over at Wizards, and they told me that someone was already working on it. Everyone’s free to wait until that article publishes, or read it here, sooner. WOTC’s loss is everyone’s gain. (Wizards is a fine company, and I wish no ill on them for not taking my proposal. I’m just making good on something that I’m proud of, and want the world to see.)

I should preface this by saying I am not a big fan of the proliferation of fantasy races in D&D. It feels like an AA meeting of fantasy diversity. That being said, I think what’s good for the gander in just fine for this desert-stricken goose in this case. It just requires a little ingenuity, creativity, and a generous helping of BS.

The races we know about are already in the book, so I’ll leave them alone. It’s the others I’m interested in. So, here is my spin on the races of Athas that you might not have considered, and how to work them in.  I’ll hit these two at a time, to allow for space.

**IMPORTANT NOTE: I have heard many say that any race could be re-skinned as a mutant from the Pristine Tower. While that is a viable option, for the purposes of what I’m doing here, I want to see how far the races can be stretched while staying true to their origins.**

Shadar-Kai (Grayfolk)

Eons ago, humans bargained with dark powers, and the Tiefling race was born. Some humans, however, were taken to The Gray for unknown reasons. These Grayfolk, as they’re called, returned to Athas changed. The hot sun of Athas proved to be unbearable for these beings, and they were forced to wear heavy robes, keeping their skin always protected from the sun. This has driven many Grayfolk insane. There are those that believe the Grayfolk are simply ghosts, but others know that spirits of the Shadar-Kai of Athas are broken, leaving nothing that could return as a something spectral.


From the Gray

You are the first of your family to come to Athas from the Gray. The need to keep yourself covered means that others don’t usually see your face, a fact that you use to hide your motives. Also, the need to stay out of sunlight affords you the opportunity to understand places that light does not touch. Tunnels are like a second home to you.

Associated Skills: Bluff, Dungeoneering

Shadow Skulk

The Shadows are your friends. You know them better than anyone, and your knowledge gives you a certain advantage when among them. You also have learned to quickly dart from one shadow to another, jumping from one secure spot to another. Perhaps your origin in the Gray gives you this, or maybe it’s your avoidance of the light. Either way, Darkness is not a place where foes would choose to meet you.

Associated Skills: Acrobatics, Stealth


The toughest race to imagine in Athas could possibly be the cleanest fit. Warforged are constructs. In other D&D worlds, they are an amalgamation of metal, wood, and other materials. In Athas, metal is scarce. Here’s what we do.

In his early jihad against the Preservers, Rajaat needed an army. Using his magical abilities, he created such an army from the bodies of the dead and other materials. These constructs, the Warforged, were the precursors to Rajaat’s Champions of the Cleansing Wars. They fought tirelessly, sending the Preservers into hiding.

Their bodies are composed of bone, wood, ceramics, certain alchemical components, and the tanned skin of humanoids. This gives them an unsettling appearance, to say the least. When a Warforged is injured, portions of its body are destroyed, and these parts are replaced with parts of fallen foes that are prepared in a secret ritual, instinctively known to all Warforged. As a result, Warforged carry with them mementos of every foe they have ever faced.


True Relic

You are a product of one of the Cleansing Wars, and you have seen the horrors that made the world the way it is now. What do you know that others might not? You saw the effect of defiling magic first hand. How does that affect your attitudes toward magic?

Associated Skills: Arcana, History

Ship of Tyr

Legends tell of a skimmer sent out from Tyr that frequently met with danger on the Sea of Silt. It needed repairs, and parts of it were replaced with pieces of other skimmers that were wrecked out there. So frequently did this happen that, upon returning to Tyr, nothing remained of the original ship that left Tyr, just a collection of parts from various sources, yet none would deny that this was the same vessel. Your story is similar to this. You have been severely damaged so much so in the previous wars that you’ve had to replace almost your entire body with the parts of fallen enemies. Your appearance can be truly horrifying, but it is said that your body is made of stronger stuff now.

Associated Skills: Endurance, Intimidate


So, there’s two. There’ll be more to come, but now it’s your turn: What have I left unanswered here? What can be done better? Please comment, and watch those threatened squares.

Note on the images: the originals are not my work, however, I did manipulate them into what they are now. The unfortunate part is that I can’t, for the life of me, remember where the originals came from. Apologies to the original artists.

Update! 4/2/2012

Jared von Hindman of Head Injury Theatre fame painted his own version of my Athasian Warforged concept. This is truly one of the coolest things that’s ever happened as a result of one of my ideas. At least the of ideas that couldn’t get me into legal trouble. Enjoy!


The Opportunist (a.k.a Seamus) has been playing D&D and/or some other form of RPG for the last 24 years. For the past two years he has been at the head of the table, behind a screen, in the role of the DM. He began at Cub Scout Camp, played through high school, and still enjoys gaming today. Seamus is a graphic designer by day, a devoted husband and father of two all the time, and an all around good guy. That is, until you get him behind the DMing screen, then he can be a nightmare (in a good way, no, really!).

5 Responses to “Opportunity Actions: Races of Athas – Shadar-Kai and Warforged”

  • Very cool! I saw your post on Twitter and after reading these I think I’m going to run a Dark Sun game now. I had forgotten how much you can do with that setting.

  • Love, love, love this. I’ve been going back and forth about restarting up a 4e group, but Dark Sun has been calling to me — and your article tips the scale. Good stuff — can’t wait to see what else you come up with.

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  • Your cool Warforged image is gone… :(

  • Yep, that image belongs to Jared – I can attempt to contact him and ask permission to use it again.