The Burnt World of Athas

The official Dark Sun website

The latest in a series designed to provide DMs with encounter or location ideas to add flavor to their campaigns. In this installment, we focus on encounters taking place on trade routes between city states.

Along the major trade routes between the city states, there lie smaller roads that connect to mysterious places or lead to forgotten destinations. Such roads are often cited as the location of many a strange tale shared by even stranger travelers at watering holes across the Tablelands.

A thri-kreen and a human sit, making a trade
Thri-Kreen Trader by David O. Miller

1) A group of nikaals are gathered around an enclosed wagon drawn by an inix. The wagon belongs to the nikaals and closer inspection reveals an axle is broken. The nikaals are led by Fe’rok, an ex-gladiator. Behind the locked door at the rear of wagon is a group of tari that the nikaals are taking to be sold at a slave market.

2) What are first taken to be shifting shadows in the distance are revealed to be a group of tari. The pack is highly agitated due to slavers having captured several of their packmates. Any strangers they meet may be perceived as a threat.

3) A small oasis amid the last vestiges of an abandoned and forgotten town offers an opportunity for fresh water and good foraging. Hidden amongst the moderate vegetation ringing the oasis is a clump of bloodgrass. A pack of zhackals stalks the ruins, looking to take advantage of any prey that wanders too near the bloodgrass.

4) In the distance, silhouettes can be seen moving atop a lone butte. Traveling to the butte reveals ancient roadways carved into the rock which lead to the top but no beings are seen on the butte. Within a chamber hidden in the rock face along the road is a black obsidian obelisk, 30ft tall, centered in a pool of clear water. The writing on the obelisk is alien in appearance. Carvings on the cavern walls of the depict wormlike beings that have the shape of men but otherwise seem wholly unnatural.

5) A desiccated human corpse clings to an ancient, cracked jar. Within 30ft of the corpse, tiny parasitic insects swarm any who walk too close. The bites may induce vomiting and diarrhea, resulting in dehydration. Kept within the aged leather vest the corpse still wears is a map depicting an outline of rock formations. Nearby, the same rock formations can be seen just a few miles in the distance.

6) The wind has shifted the dunes, revealing the remains of an argosy buried in the sand. Amid the wreckage is a small pool of water and a lone woman taking advantage of the shade provided by the destroyed vessel. The woman takes a liking to a party member, seeking to get them alone. If she does so, she attacks, revealing her identity as a sand bride.

7) A lone tul’k wanders the road, famished and dehydrated. Cast out from his band, the tul’k has fared poorly and is eager to tag along with any group. Though likely unable to articulate his loneliness, his physical condition is due to sorrow from the separation from his band, rather than available substance. If the tul’k is allowed to follow, he brings gifts of foraged tubers and whatever game is available, and shows a marked improvement in health. He will only leave if driven away by force or fear.

8) A horned beetle, slightly smaller than a kank, pulls a small enclosed cart. Driving the beetle-cart is a scrab wearing a hooded cloak. If approached, the scrab identifies himself as Krask in broken trade tongue and claims to be a merchant. Krask specializes in dried foods, particularly meats. If elves or half-elves are present, Krask will offer poisoned food and intentionally steer them into other dangers in the area. Otherwise, the scrab seems to be a legitimate merchant, even if the origins of his dried meats are dubious.

9) Following a series of footprints, the forlorn countenance of a dhaot comes into view. Her name is Arima, and long ago she was embroiled in the Cleansing Wars. She died far from her lover, Oturax, and now asks that her remains, which still lie nearby, be taken to Waverly where she claims to once had a hidden treasure cache.

10) A traveling group of ssurran are resting in the shade of a large rock. They are eager to trade skins for dried meats if any are available. They eye any halflings in the party with hungry stares and may be easily provoked if some food is not provided.