Dark Sun and it's land of Athas will be used as the "basis" for the adventuring world, but may not follow the setting strictly according to the DSCG and other source books and novels. This is our Dark Sun to be used as we see fit.
To that end, there will be some some differences from published materials, but Dark Sun will “inspire” the mood and setting very strongly. Use the sourcebooks for inspiration, but don't take all the "facts" to heart. Some things may not be queit what they seem. Whereas Shantryl might be compared to DragonLance or Lord of the Rings, “Athas” would be a world where Conan, Beastmaster, 13th Warrior and 300 meet Mad Max and Reign of Fire.
One thing to realize about Dark Sun… Athas is neither fair nor balanced. It is harsh, brutal and unforgiving. DnD4e’s default setting leans in favor of the player so much that Dark Sun can be a culture shock for players not prepared for it. Gaming in Dark Sun requires mature, experienced players (which, I think, is what we have) who handle themselves with composure and grace. Enjoy the setting. Wrap yourselves in the mood and theme...and have fun under the crimson skies.
Check out the DM's Corner for Setting Specific Rules. The history of Athas can be found in the DSCS, however note the following with regards to angels, devils and devas...
Fall From The Planes
The history of Athas is lost to myth and stories surrounding a cataclysm that tore the world and heavens asunder. A cataclysm fuel by powerful, out of control magic. An event of such magnitude that it dried up the oceans, destroyed the green growing places, and ended millions of lives, forever changing the face of the Athas.
The gods left this world or were destroyed. No one knows for certain. There are many theories, some that give one pause, others that border on the absurd.
Some claim they abandoned Athas during the cataclysm, while the most popular theory claims they were overthrown and destroyed by the primordials. Others tell of the largest force of demons ever assembled being led into the Planes Above and destroying the gods, while others claim it was forces from beyond, powers even greater then the primordials.
Whatever the cause, the prayers of powerful priests ceased to be answered. Divine power was gone, and all was quiet in the heavens and the astral sea became, to most, a legend.
The Angel/Devil Wars
With thier patrons gone, angels and devils were now on thier own, cast out from thier former domains. Left to thier own devices, some attempted to carry out thier duties as always claiming the gods would return and that they were being tested, while others searched in vain for thier lost patrons. Still others moved to fill the void in attempts to become gods themselves. Much squabbling and conflict arose among the angels and devils, conflicts that soon led to blood on both sides being shed.
The Fading, The Dying
For reasons unknown, the more time that passed, the memory of the ancient gods faded from the minds of thier former servents. Angels and devils alike only retain a passing memory of images and feelings of thier former selves, their former patrons.
Worse still, Angles and Devils discovered they could not procreate. When they fell in battle, they were not replaced. They no longer knew their fate. They were a dying race. But would face thier worst threat yet.
The demons of the abyss watched in anticipation as the angels and devils tore themselves to pieces. And when thier violence eventually started to fade as both sides took stock of thier fate, the demons attacked. They came very close to genocide, almost sending angels and devils to join the fate of races like the gnome, almost wiping them out forever.
Devilkind eventually retreated to the Gray while the Angels, rumor has it, found homes in the Lands Between the Winds (the remains of the Feywild). Still, there are others of these immortals, who gave up thier immortality, for reasons of thier own, falling to become mortals. They walk among us now, as devas (see the Races of Athas page for more info).
Travel the land carefully...for the land is unforgiving
In the standard Dark Sun setting, there are no dragons as we know them. The classic dragons have faded into the distant past. Instead, sorcerer kings ascribe to become dragons the most powerful of which was the Dragon of Tyr, who used to collect a levy of slaves from each of the city states (the reasons for which are varied among the locals). The dragon was killed recently by upstart heros from the free city of Tyr.
Dragons Do Exist
Dragons do exist this setting, though they are greatly changed from thier former glory in the green age.
The dragons of this world differ from the standard D&D fantasy dragon in that they are not intelligent, social beings who strive to further thier own goals in the world. There are no "good" or "bad" dragons, and dragons are not color coded for your convience.
Dragons are forces of nature. One does not look at a dragon with the goal of defeating it, so much as enduring it, simliar to an earthquake or a tornado. They are not catagorized by color, rather, they are catagorized by region and/or features. Examples; the great northern mountain dragon, the eastern lowland dragon, the horned dragon, the sand dragon or the greater desert dragon.
Note that dragons "can" have names based upon color and/or powers, like the green bellied skirmisher, or the fire breathing red, but those are purely descriptive of the dragon same as region and features, regardless of breath weapon or powers.
Dragons are not intelligent in that they do not speak languages, shape-change, interact with mortals, study magic or play chess on giant chess boards. They are more akin to feral animals, and can most often be described as neutral to evil thier actions. They are creatures of prey, at the top of the food chain, and most are very aggressive and territorial.
When using the word "intelligent" to describe a dragon, it's akin to describing a highly intelligent animal, such as an ape, only are even moreso. Intelligent and cunning dragons should never be under estimated. The relative intelligence of a particular dragon can vary as well from breed to breed. Some are highly intelligent, even downright sneaky, while some are great brutes relying not upon finesse and guile, but rather upon pure brute force, strength and destructive power. Either type, is a force to be reckond with.
Most dragons that have fantastic powers draw upon the primal spirits of the world to fuel themselves. However, there are some that do tap into the dwindling arcane lifeforece of Athas, most likely unconsciouly, and can defile. And, of course, there are dragons with latent psionic abilities.
Click the following link to access a map of the 4th edition version of the TYR Region. A gorgeous, huge map you can zoom and scroll on.