Midnight at the Oasis
How do your favorite races fit in to the Dark Sun setting?
Specifically mentioned in the Dark Sun books and articles.
Dragonborn (Dray) — The dray were once humans, mutated by the magic of a long-dead sorceror-king. Dray are known for being duplicitous, sly, and pragmatic, and in their brutal sense of honor, they’ll go far to avenge a slight (although they’re cunning enough to follow a bargain to the letter). They are not a numerous people and as such, they travel in clans, and most make their living as slavers, mercenaries, or mages. Most struck deals with the sorceror-kings, paying for dispensations to freely practice arcane magic, giving them a reputation as sellspells, and they are not well-liked by the Veiled Alliance.
Dwarf — Known as single-minded and stoic engineers and masons, dwarves tend to live among other races and prefer to be builders and farmers instead of nomads and raiders. Dwarves have no lands of their own; they have a rich oral tradition, keeping alive tales of the ancient, glorious dwarven empires. Although they still speak the Dwarven language, no dwarf alive today can read it. Dwarves brag that they don’t need any magic to survive the harsh world of Athas.
Eladrin — Tales exist of another world hidden in mirages, a hidden kingdom invisible to the naked eye. This realm is the Lands Within the Wind, and the eladrin are its keepers. Most eladrin are unknown to the world at large, as most of the Lands Within the Wind have been burned away and ruined by the reckless use of defiling magic. The eladrin jealously guard their remaining holdings, and they abandoned arcane magic long ago in favor of the powers of the mind. Eladrin are haughty, demanding, and condescending, seeing their world as the true world and viciously hating defilers for the damage they’ve caused. Most now in Athas are spies, keeping an eye on the sorceror-kings and hoping to spark rebellion; exiles, cast out for choosing to use arcane magic; or exiles in search of a new way of life.
Elf — Elves are tall, long-legged desert rovers whose tribes wander the face of Athas. Traders and herders, elves rarely stay in one place for long. They have a reputation as charlatans, vagabonds, and thieves, due in part to the Elven Market, a sprawling bazaar in every city where elves sell their wares (most of dubious origin or worthless baubles). Elves are strongly bonded to their tribes and don’t feel too bad about taking advantage of outsiders, not out of malice but out of a sense of opportunity. Furthermore, elves almost never ride another beast as a mount unless his or her life is at stake — elves take pride in their ability to run, and beasts are for transporting goods or making war.
Genasi — Commonly known as “half-elementals,” most genasi disdain civilization and live in isolation on the Sea of Silt and are thought to be nothing more than legends by most of the people of Athas. They are wild and unpredictable, as their elemental heritage struggles with their humanoid forms. They are wary of most people, and they outright despise the sorceror-kings and defilers. Kalak‘s death has inspired many half-elementals to leave their isolation. Players who want to be genasi are encouraged to look at Dragon Magazine #396’s article “Genasi of Athas,” as Athas genasi have different elemental manifestations (embersoul, magmasoul, sandsoul, and sunsoul, in addition to the standard earth, fire, and wind manifestations).
Goliath (Half-giant) — The result of arcane experiments combining giant and human stock, goliaths are ubiquitous across Athas. Many goliaths are soldiers, mercenaries, or thugs, with many working for the highest bidder (often the sorceror-kings). The vast majority of goliaths make their living through violence. Some goliaths have formed tribes in the wilderness, and while a good number are mountain-dwelling reavers who think nothing of slaughtering travelers to steal their possessions, others embrace the primal spirits of Athas and dwell with their giant brethren in the Sea of Silt.
Half-elf — Sometimes humans and elves travel together, and if romance ensues, the child will be born a half-elf. A half-elf receives scorn from both sides; humans assume the child will show its elven nature as dishonest and clever, while the fiercely insular elves consider the child an object of shame and often leave them out for the desert to dispose of. A race of loners, half-elves typically are extremely resilient and self-reliant, and they take pains to make friends and beat expectations.
Halfling — Most halflings hail from the Forest Ridge, the jungle atop the Ringing Mountains. They are a brave and savage people, living in tribes and hunting down any who would defile the forest. They have a strong sense of connection to the natural world and the primal spirits, and they are deeply spiritual. Some believe that halflings were the first race on Athas, and all others are their descendants. Recognizing their limited resources, most halflings are cannibals, not willing to surrender meat that can be eaten to survive. Most halflings who don’t still live in the jungle are slaves, raiders, or mercenaries.
Human — The most populous and diverse race on Athas, humans are present in nearly every community under the sun. The majority of humans live in the city-states, which provide shelter and water. As such, humans are largely ignorant of their past, and most know only the histories told by the sorceror-kings.
Kalashtar — Psionic study is the most common form of magic on Athas. Kalashtar are the descendants of human masters who have trained at remote monasteries for years, and they are, essentially, a psionically talented subset of the human race.
Minotaur — Centuries ago, a cult tried to breed beast-headed giants with humans to create an army to challenge the sorceror-kings. They were wiped out, but the warriors they created survived and spread across Athas. Most minotaurs are feral, violent raiders living in the wilderness, but some less brutal members look for employment in the Seven Cities.
Mul — Half-human, half-dwarves, muls are strong, tough, quick, and blessed with fantastic endurance. Most muls are born into slavery, working as laborers, guards, or gladiators. Any free mul has either escaped slavery or bought his own freedom (or won it as a gladiator). Most are scarred or tattooed. Muls tend to be driven and pragmatic, used to living under someone else’s yolk, but they can learn to work with others, doing what they must to ensure their survival.
Thri-kreen — Swift, athletic insectoids, thri-kreen have six limbs and are covered in chitinous plates. Thri-kreen are gender-neutral, and their society is based on the survival of the pack, making them valuable and faithful companions — all must contribute to the survival of the clutch. Thri-kreen tend to contextualize everything through the predator-prey relationship — they don’t hunt out of malice, but as a means to obtain resources to survive. Many thri-kreen also have latent psionic abilities, arising from the species’ racial memory. Most live out in the far desert, away from civilization.
Tiefling — Living on the fringes of society, tieflings are descended from humans who made a pact with dark powers for the power to survive the desert and destroy their enemies. Now commonly known as “desert devils,” most live in nomadic bands looking for victims to rob and kill, but some work as mercenaries or ingratiate themselves into society as gladiators, assassins, or even templars or nobility. Most tieflings believe they carry a blood debt as a result of their evil bargain, which must be repaid lest the tiefling suffer for all eternity. Some assume the debt can’t be paid and live lives of debauchery, while others lead lives of virtue in hopes of breaking the pact, and still others are merciless fiends who believe the debt must be repaid in blood.
These are races which aren’t specifically supported in the Dark Sun setting, but which I’d consider allowing if someone really wanted to play one.
Changeling — A character in the Dark Sun Creature Catalog is a changeling, but it’s purposefully unclear on the origin of his powers.
Gnoll — Specifically mentioned as a monster in Dark Sun.
Not for Dark Sun
These are races specifically mentioned to be extinct, or who don’t quite match up with the Dark Sun setting.
Deva — Has been extinct for thousands of years.
Gnome — Has been extinct for thousands of years.
Goblin — Has been extinct for thousands of years.
Half-orc — Has been extinct for thousands of years.
Hobgoblin — Has been extinct for thousands of years.
Kobold — Has been extinct for thousands of years.
Shardmind — Lack of need to eat and drink doesn’t go with survival aspect of Athas. Might still exist in Athas (there’s a Crystal Forest in the Forest Ridge where some might live), but not playable.
Vryloka — Vampiric races wouldn’t last long in a land of constant heat and sunlight.
Warforged — Metal is rare in Dark Sun, and lack of need to eat and drink clashes with survivalist aesthetic.