the world of dark sun
ATHAS, A World of Fire & Blood!
The endless wastes . . . The burning sand. . . . The crimson sun. . . . This is the world of Athas, the world of the DARK SUN campaign. Athas’s savage, primal landscape is the result of long centuries of ecological and magical abuses. The world is dying. It breathes its last gasps as water turns to silt, grasslands become sandy waste’s, and jungles decay into stony barrens. Still, life finds ways to endure even in these hellish conditions. In fact, it thrives.
Athas is a place of contrasts. Bleak deserts exist beside verdant belts, rocky badlands give way to thick forests, and scrub plains surround opulent oases. These contrasts go beyond environmental conditions. Magic, for example, is relatively scarce and universally feared, while psionic powers are a common and accepted part of life.
Water is more precious than gold in this resource-depleted world, and metals
of all sort are likewise in short supply. Except for heat and sun, blood, and dust, few things can be found in abundance.
Children growing up beneath the crimson sun don’t aspire to become heroes.
True heroes who champion causes or seek to make the world a better place are as rare as steel on Athas. Living to see the next dawn is more important than defending a set of beliefs, so survival ultimately motivates all living creatures not virtue or righteousness.
Today, Athas rushes toward its future. If the course of destruction is to be diverted, of Athas is to be restored, then more heroes must grab the reins of destiny and give new hope and promise to the world.
The Merchant Houses of Athas
Merchant Houses are the few factions allowed to travel from city-state to city-state without issue. Many have a fort or city-state they have headquarters in, but the major ones have presences in multiple city-states.
It would be a terrible mistake to assume that all power on Athas rests in the hands of the Dragon-Kings. Power can be held in many ways, and many hands besides those of the cities' rulers may possess it.
The major Merchant Houses of Athas hold much of the balance of power, often to the dismay of the Dragon-Kings. The Merchant Houses supply the lifeblood of Athas--foodstuffs that feed isolated city states, construction materials to build the palaces of Dragon-Kings and decadent nobles, slaves to toil in fields or fight and die in gladiator pits, and many other vital items.
Organized along family lines with a matriarch or patriarch at its head, a major house controls dozens of caravans, maintains estates in several different cities, sponsors trading villages, and employs (or owns) thousands. The largest houses--Wavir, Tsalaxa, and their ilk--are very influential enough to make even the most powerful Dragon-Kings take heed.
Merchant House of Amketch
House Banner: Three Golden Coins on a Red Field
House Matriarch/Patriarch: Marius Amketch (LN; male, human, rogue [trader] 11th level)
Exports: Grain, Oil, Olives, Pottery, Textiles, Weapons (bronze)
A smaller merchant house based out of Balic, with satellite bases in Tyr and the Dwarven settlements of Kled and Ledo.
House Amketch is currently led by Marius Amketch, a tough, strong-willed man of about 40, Marius Amketch is a former adventurer who has spent the last eight years building a successful trading house. He is an honest man who earned everything he has through hard work, determination, and his own sweat and blood. Most people find him to be a likable person with a sharp wit and plenty of common sense.
Marius is working to transform House Amketch into a strong trading company. He is careful to maintain good relations with the most major houses, but has found himself at odds with House Shom. An incompetent agent high in Shom's hierarchy blames Amketch's competition for his own losses, and the corrupt old house is moving against Marius.
Marius is always looking for talented and capable people to sign on with House Amketch. He believes that if his employees are smart, honest, and self-reliant, the house will do well. He is fiercely loyal to those who work for him, and demands the same loyalty in return.
Merchant House of Stel
House Banner: Two Black Crossed Scimitars on a White Field
House Matriarch/Patriarch: Hargan Stel III (LN; male, human, rogue [trader] 18th level, fighter [caravan guard] 15th level)
Exports: Ceramics, Feathers, Obsidian, Slaves, Weapons (blood obsidian, obsidian), Wood
Based in Urik, it's not surprising that House Stel is the most militant of the trading houses. There are more rumors about them dealing with Elves, and therefore stolen cargos, than any other house. However, there is little doubt that any house would do this, if the profit were enough. There is no proof that they have ever broken the Merchants' Code, which makes it tough to do anything against them.
Stel's aggressive policies and militaristic nature have made more than a few enemies among their fellow merchants. House Tsalaxa, with its long memory for slights, is a particularly vehement enemy, as is House Inika, whose caravans have been raided and trade routes plundered far too often. Inika's methods of revenge are far subtler than those of Tsalaxa; although nothing overt has come of the conflict, observers are certain that it will emerge into the open soon.
Merchant House of Tomblador
House Banner: Three Gold Nuggets on a Field of Green
House Matriarch/Patriarch: Special. Tomblador runs the operation under the authority of they city-state of Balic.
Exports: Gold, Silver, Slaves
Site of the only gold mine known to exist on Athas, Walis is a tiny village atop a high spire of rock within a canyon in the foothills of the Ringing Mountains. A massive cargo bucket let up and down by slaves in a crank-house tower controls access to the community.
Walls is a client village under the control of the city-state of Balic and administered by House Tomblador. In addition to Tomblador’s outpost in Walis, two templars of the Dragon-King Andropinis and a small detachment of legionaries keep an eye on the village. The Balican templars allow Tomblador agents to do as they wish.
The gold mine lies at the canyon’s throat. Each day a working party of village slaves is let down from the crank-house and escorted to the mine under the sharp eyes of overseers. The miners produce only a pittance of gold, but it’s enough to sustain the operation. Suspicion greets the few visitors who come to Walis. Those whose stories check out can stay in the Yellow House, a hostelry and stable maintained at the spire’s foot.
House Tomblador jointly operates Altaruk with House Wavir and House Rees. The merchant house also maintains a presence in Dwarven settlement of Ledo.
Merchant House of Vordon
House Banner: A Black Diamond on a Red-Brown Field
House Matriarch/Patriarch: Thaxos Vordon (LE; male, human, rogue [trader] 20th level)
Exports: Iron, Weapons (bone, iron, stone)
House Vordon originated in the ancient city of Kalidnay, strategically located astride the vital trade route between the gold mines of Walis and the hungry markets of Tyr and Gulg. Exactly what caused the fall of this great city is not known today, but the patriarch of House Vordon apparently had some warning of the catastrophe. He and his retainers managed to escape just before the disaster, bearing what wealth they could.
Relocated in Tyr, the house struggled in dire financial straits for years, slowly rebuilding its shattered empire. When iron was discovered in the mountains surrounding Tyr, all of the city's merchants prospered, including Vordon. Parlaying the sudden windfall into a sizeable fortune, the newly ascendant Vordon quickly moved into markets from Bitter Well to Siren's Song, shipping iron throughout the Tyr region.
With increased prosperity came respect. Vordon's offices and outposts sprang up throughout
the region. Soon even the hardiest desert raider came to realize that Vordon's caravans and warriors were forces to be reckoned with. Vordon gobbled up numerous smaller houses, even displacing the venerable House Krosi of Urik as the chief carrier of iron and obsidian. By the time Dragon-King Kalak ascended to the throne, House Vordon was the richest and most influential merchant dynasty in the region.
At first, the prosperity continued, with Kalak's stern but fair rule bringing prosperity and security to the city. Members of the Vordon family became imperial favorites, sitting at the right hand of the Dragon-King at the gladiatorial games, openly associating with Kalak's templars and nobles.
For a thousand years this situation had prevailed, and House Vordon grew powerful and arrogant. But in recent years, as Tyr's vast resources are now being diverted to constructing Kalak's ziggurat, House Vordon's fortunes are declining. Trade goods are sold to obtain
cash for materials, slaves are requisitioned and set to work on the monument, and the entire city suffers. Vordon has become an object of derision and ridicule by other houses, who chortle at Kalak's senility and Vordon's current troubles.
Merchant House of Wavir
House Banner: A Silver Jozhal on a Blue Field
House Matriarch/Patriarch: Tabaros Wavir (NG; male, human, rogue [trader] 20th level)
Exports: Bronze, Ceramics, Grain, Iron, Livestock, Weapons (bronze, iron, steel)
Under the leadership of its current patriarch, House Wavir has risen far above its humble
beginnings to become one of the most powerful merchant houses in the Tyr region. From its base in Balic, Wavir now controls vast trade routes, dominating the shipment and sale of grain, ceramics, and precious metals.
Wavir's business practices border on the ruthless, but they are always conducted in accordance with the Merchants Code. All profits are reinvested in house operations. House Wavir's enormous wealth and influence have led many to speculate that Tabaros has a secret source of income, but so far no proof of this has been found.