A Brief History of the Development of Dark Sun
DARK SUN Product Line Lists
The second edition of Battlesystem Miniatures Rules is a revised edition for use with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, and was published in 1989. In 1990, in anticipation of that Battlesystem Skirmishes Miniatures Rules was about to be published, and since the most recent AD&D campaign setting… Dragonlance, ongoing since 1984 in novel form and since 1987 in playable form with the publication of Dragonlance Adventures… was feeling “old”, a new campaign setting was desired. TSR sought to somehow intimately tie the AD&D game into the second edition of Battlesystem Miniatures Rules.
“War World” was its name. Steve Winter and Troy Denning were the only ones out of about a dozen participants in the first brainstorming session to express eagerness to create the original new world. Winter, who had been recently inspired by the fiction of Clark Ashton Smith and Richard Corben’s DEN comics, suggested at that first brainstorming session that the planet Athas should be a “dying desert world built on the crumbling ruins of a long-lost civilization” .
I pretty much designed the look and feel of the Dark Sun campaign. I was doing paintings before they were even writing about the setting. I’d do a painting or a sketch, and the designers wrote those characters and ideas into the story. I was very involved in the development process. Brom
Originally, Athas was to be a world of humans, but also half-giants and other strange new creatures… a complete deviation from the standard AD&D species.
But at the behest of the marketing department, for familiarity’s sake, dwarves, elves, halflings, dragons, and other familiarities were added… but each with an unfamiliar quality or characteristic making them unique to Athas.
In 1991, the first Dark Sun product, Dark Sun World Boxed Set (Stock Code: 2400), was published.
Athas, a world ravaged by constant warring between the malevolent, proud dragon-king rulers of city-states, was intended to accommodate battles on a grand scale. Thus it was initially designed to integrate with the Battlesystem Miniatures Rules. And also thus, the first Dark Sun adventure modules included miniature statistics providing for mass-combat, but because the Battlesystem Miniatures Rules never became popular, it was soon that the minis stats ceased to be included in subsequent adventures.
Another new publication at the time was The Complete Psionics Handbook, which prompted the inclusion of psionics powers into every aspect of Athas, and which is required in order to “explore the world of dark sun” .
In retrospect I think we went a little too far with this. Every character and every creature had psionics, which meant that another whole system had to be dealt with in each and every encounter. If I had to do it over I would save psionics for special character PCs, important NPCs, and really bad-ass creatures. Troy Denning
Dark Sun, a gross deviation from traditional mundane fantasy worlds, Athas, a world on the edge of ecological collapse, where the powers of mind are to be feared and revered as much as those of body, took TSR to new heights of popularity and success.
In 1995, the Dark Sun World Boxed Set was replaced with an expanded and revised version, and a new logo is found on its cover. Note that this new logo does not say “WORLD” as does the previous logo. Also note that accompanying this new Dark Sun logo is a black Advanced Dungeons & Dragons logo that does not say “2nd Edition”, although these products rely on the 2nd Edition rules as do the original DARK SUN products.
This change from AD&D 2nd Edition logo to AD&D logo coincided with 2nd Edition Core Rules Revised books, Optional Rules Revised books, Monstrous Compendium Annual 2, 3, and 4, and other products, all of which have the new AD&D logo. This change seems to be TSR’s attempt at consolidating the AD&D name with the newly revised rules based on 2nd Edition. This new logo arrangement is found on the following Dark Sun products:
- Dark Sun Campaign Setting Expanded and Revised (Stock Code: 2438)
- Dark Sun Official Game Accessory, The Wanderer’s Chronicle: Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs (Stock Code: 2439)
- Dark Sun Official Game Accessory, The Wanderer’s Chronicle: Mind Lords of the Last Sea (Stock Code: 2444)
- Dark Sun Official Game Accessory, Defilers and Preservers: The Wizards of Athas (Stock Code: 2445)
- Dark Sun Official Game Accessory, Psionic Artifacts of Athas (Stock Code: 2446)
So what of stock codes 2440, 2441, 2442, and 2443? Well, 2440, 2441, and 2442 all have the Dark Sun World logo. 2440 and 2442 are novels.
But 2441, Dark Sun World Official Game Accessory, Beyond the Prism Pentad, while on the cover having the DSW logo also has a red Advanced Dungeons & Dragons logo without “2nd Edition”, but inside it has the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition logo and the stock code: 2441XXX1501, so this product was likely intended to be included in a boxed set of some kind, perhaps a new campaign setting; but it seems it has a new cover slapped on it so it could stand on its own as an accessory for the newest revision rules, and my assumption here is the set was never published. Do I have more searching to do? Hmmmm. Nope! Looks like we have our answer right here:
Beyond the Prism Pentad summarizes the key events from the Prism Pentad novel series and role-playing game products and updates all DARK SUN campaigns in anticipation of the revised campaign setting, DARK SUN: A New Age…from the back cover of Beyond the Prism Pentad
Interestingly enough, Stock Code: 2443 remains unaccounted for, unless perhaps it was intended to be the never officially published by TSR Dregoth Ascending, or perhaps, Secrets of the Dead Lands… keep reading.
Despite TSR’s success with Dark Sun, Dark Sun came to an abrupt end in 1996. The final TSR Dark Sun publication is Psionic Artifacts of Athas (September 1996, Stock Code: 2446), by Kevin Melka and Bruce Nesmith.
Although a few more magic items created by Kevin Melka appeared in “Artifacts of Athas” in Dragon Magazine #234 (October 1996).
In Dragon Magazine #236 (December 1996) no Dark Sun products were included in the TSR Reviews section (page 116).
Although two books, an adventure called Dregoth Ascending, and a sourcebook called Secrets of the Dead Lands, are rumored to have been so near to publication, that early versions were supposedly or reportedly given to some DMs at the 1997 Gen Con Game Fair. Three other products, again supposedly or reportedly, in development were, one about halflings, one about dwarves, and one about The Order. Beyond that, rumor has it that ideas were being thrown around for the Kreen Invasion, the Mystery of the Messenger, and The Silt Sea.
Athas.org has been the steward of the Dark Sun campaign setting since the release of D&D 3rd edition in 2000. In that time, we have released updated core rules, two monster manuals, numerous setting supplements, such as City State of Draj and Wisdom of the Drylanders, and the epic adventure Dregoth Ascending.Athas.org
[1, 4] Johnson, Harold; Winter, Steve; Adkinson, Peter; Stark, Ed; and Peter Archer. 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons and Dragons. Wizards of the Coast, Inc, 2004.
 Kenson, Stephen (October 1999). “Profiles: Brom”. Dragon. Renton, Washington: Wizards of the Coast (#264): 112.
 On back cover of Dark Sun World Boxed Set.