Far off the beaten track is the Crimson Sphere, home of Athas, the world of the Dark Sun. Although there are well-explored and documented rivers through the flow to this sphere, they were lagely undeveloped. In over two thousand years, Multiversal Corporations have taken over administration of the Crimson Sphere.
The sphere of the Dark Sun seems massive. Between the outermost world and the spherewall is the Black Gulf, a cold, dark region that takes no less than two months to cross. The Black Gulf is haunted by unimaginable horrors. Ships that pass through speak of almost constant attacks.
The native cultures of the Crimson Sphere were quite underdeveloped. Environmental catastrophes on the core world Athas made sustaining a functioning civilization near impossible. In order to exploit the natural resources several venture corporations set up a patronage government to put the populace under control. The largest cities are ruled over by stewards who construct armadas from the husks of gigantic insects. They battle over rare verdant asteroids and tiny caches of ever precious iron. Always in the shadows are the illithids, awaiting the time when the might of the stewards fail and they can sweep over the system, expanding their rule.
The ships of the Crimson Sphere are small asteroid-hoppers powered by psionic helms or terrible lifejammers.
== History == It is not known what the Crimson Sphere was like prior to the Cleansing War. Fragments of ancient star charts hint at a prosperous family of planets, perhaps even ports and civilization beyond Athas. Much like on Athas, the Cleansing War swept over the rest of the sphere like an encroaching plague. To counter encroachment from other intrests, The Confederation appointed wardens. Each Warden took command of a great ziggurat. In each of these ziggurats was placed one of the twelve Shards of the Zodiac. Each bore a great army within their halls, led by their Warden captains.
Alien creatures, known elsewhere as illithids and beholders, sent their agents and fleets. Others came as well, such as the elves of the Imperial Fleet, pirates from a hundred spheres, and countless petty warlords. The Wardens battled them all, leaving much destruction in their wake.
The Wardens are not unlike the Stewards of Athas. Most are dragon-like creatures that grant spells to Templar followers. Unlike the Stewards, the Wardens are limited in their power, held in check by the Shards of the Zodiac.
Arun – This Warden was horribly burned in battle decades ago. Although his flesh was greatly damaged, he did not die. He locked himself away in his Ziggurat Station to slowly heal. His injuries are magical in nature, and cannot be healed through time. Instead, he must rely on rare herbs and powerful healing magic to restore himself. His templar are frantically searching the Sphere for the magic needed to heal their Warden. Those that return empty-handed are executed. Powerful spells keep the templar bound to Arun and prevent them from simply fleeing the Station.
Dabi – This defiler was the greatest and most powerful of the Wardens, such that the confederation named him “Shield”. From Sentinel station Dabi directed the defense of Athas against Ilithid invaders. After becoming a Warden, Dabi attempted to take short-cuts to become a full-fledged dragon. His attempt failed miserably, and is now a terribly deformed, yet powerful and dangerous, creature. His templar keep Dabi secluded in the catacombs of his ziggurat, tending him in hopes that he will recover his sanity.
Hananka – Called the Warrior-Warden by his followers, Hananka is the strongest and most ruthless of the Wardens. He is unafraid to board his personal warship, a fully-armed hammership, and lead his powerful navy into battle himself. Hananka has a personal hatred of illithids, creatures he distastes greatly. At the edges of his Ziggurat Station, Hopa, hundreds of illithid skulls have been placed on pikes, a sign to invaders that Hananka will never stop fighting them. Three Shards of the Zodiac have fallen into his possession.
Hu – The so called “Queen of a Thousand Faces”, Hu is a most terrible queen. Every year she selects the most beautiful girl in her city and drains that girl of all life and beauty. Hu takes the face of the girl she just murdered and wears it for a year. She ages rapidly, such that by the end of the year, she appears to be in her 80’s. Hu is the most brutal of the Wardens, subjecting her people to harsh and unyielding rule. Her Station is K’ydon, the most distant and isolated of the Ziggurat Stations, and has thusly been on the frontline of the war against the Invaders for many, many centuries.
Husam – This king seized power roughly 10 years ago, claiming Nijhal’s symbol of authority, a black obsidian sword known as Slayer. He is an aggressive, ambitious Warden who seeks to expand his rule at the expense of other Wardens and to crush the invaders, once and for all. Husam is not what he seems. In truth, he has been possessed by Slayer, a magical blade forged by Rajaat himself. Long ago, the Warden who first wielded it perished, but he transferred his essence into the sword. He then possesses those who would attempt to use Slayer, and masquerades as that warrior. Slayer encourages bloody coups so that only the strongest warriors will try to “claim” him.
Zol – This preserver left the sphere believing that the means to save Athas lay somewhere in other spheres. After many centuries of searching, Zol has come to believe that the key to Athas’ salvation is to be found on Athas itself, not in some distant sphere. He has only recently returned, and has not yet returned to Athas itself. Zol is a partially transformed preserver metamorphosis, having achieved only a low metamorphosis stage.
== Races == Aarakocra – Despite the vast open spaces of the void, the confining nature of small air envelopes do not provide the space these wind-loving creatures desire. All aarakocra in space have been brought there against their will.
Dwarves – The strong backs and single-minded devotion dwarves possess proved desirable to the Wardens, so they brought many dwarves with them into space. Dwarves can be found in any of the cities and villages throughout the sphere.
Elves – The confined conditions of asteroids and ships is too much for the plains-loving elves of Athas, so very few of them make it into space. Elves tend to seek out their own kind and form wandering, gypsy-like clans. These clans are not well-liked, but tolerated for the entertainment they bring.
Halflings – Halflings are virtually unknown in space. They feel extremely uncomfortable when taken off of Athas, as if they don’t belong. After a while, they become jumpy and agitated a feeling that stays with them until they are returned to Athas.
Goliaths– These enormous creatures would not ordinarily be expected to be found in large numbers in the confined spaces aboard ships. Yet the great strength of these creatures has earned them a place in the Crimson Sphere as shock troops for the armies of the Wardens.
Humans – Humans make up the majority of the people in the Crimson Sphere. They are found everywhere that one can find civilization.
Muls – Many muls work as slaves and gladiators in all of the sphere. They are considered property and have no rights, although rare muls have been able to win freedom if they prove themselves in the arena.
Ptreen – Almost non-existent beyond Athas, the few ptreen in space keep to themselves. They avoid stations. It is suspected they have their own settlements carefully hidden somewhere in the sphere, but thus far none have been found.
Thri-Kreen – The center of thri-kreen civilization in space is the Suntree, a large free-floating tree orbiting close to the sun. The kreen are welcomed in the sphere, but tend to be isolated in ghettos of their own people.
Worlds of The Crimson Sphere
Size I Spherical fire body
The sun of the Crimson Sphere is a large, hot red fiery orb at the heart of the sphere. Ancient texts once described it as either a hot blue or a hot yellow sun, long ago. What manner of magic that darken the sun is unknown, but the illithids are extremely interested in it. If they can darken the sun more, they will no longer be adversely affected by its light, and their power will increase.
For all the mystery surrounding the sun, very little is found there. It is a barren wasteland of fire. Neither cities of effreti, or azer, nor any intelligent creature that makes fire its home dwell upon the sun. Although the sun is quite barren, occasionally some creatures have been found, such as elmarin, lavaworms, and the occasional focoid.
Size C Spherical earth body
Cinder is all that is left of an unnamed inner world that was consumed by the sun. It orbits barely an hour’s journey outside the sun’s corona. So close is it that Cinder is occasionally charred by solar flares.
The planet is tidally locked. On the far side of Cinder, facing away from the sun, is a patch of habitable land maybe 90 miles in diameter. This grassland gives way to thin mountain forests at the center. This is the domain of the Ziggurat Station of Mahda. The ruler of this station is said to be an undead creature, his body charred and burned beyond recognition. He uses his subjects as cattle for his experiments.
Size E Spherical earth body, 2 moons
The world of the Dark Sun, Athas is a desert world. It is the primary world of the sphere.
The moons of Guthay and Ral are slightly more inviting, but have thin atmospheres. A few slave camps can be found on Guthay, well-hidden in deep caves. The illithids are interested in establishing bases on the moons, but their efforts are always foiled by the stewards.
Behind Guthay is the Ziggurat Station of Sentinel. It orbits Guthay in a stable fashion that always keeps the city hidden from Athas. Sentinel is a disc-shaped station with strong walls and shelters to last a year-long siege. Rajaat built it as a last line of defense against any invasion of Athas from other worlds. The Warden of Sentinel is Dabi, the Shield of Crimson. He was the most trusted of Wardens. Dabi attempted many short-cuts to become a full dragon, and was horribly deformed by the process.
Size A to B Asteroid belt
In the ancient texts, this thin asteroid belt was a whole world. It shattered long ago in some unrecorded disaster. Today the asteroids are found in six clusters that share roughly the same orbit. Most of the asteroids are barren rocks with thin atmospheres, unsuitable for habitation. A few, maybe one in every twenty, has enough air and water to support plant life. The rare verdant asteroids amount to the bread-basket of cultures in the Crimson Sphere. These prizes are fiercely fought over by the Wardens and raided for slaves by the illithids.
Shard Islands – The largest cluster is the Shard Islands. The asteroids are the domain of the Warden of Hopa. Nearby asteroids are farmed and fiercely protected by the Hopa navy.
Verdant Stones – The Ziggurat Station of Nijhal is found at the heart of this, the most prosperous cluster. There are dozens of farmable asteroids, worked by slaves of Nijhal. The cluster is well-patrolled by Nijhal’s navy.
Cursed Cluster – This cluster is dotted with hundreds of abandoned settlements. Ravished by battles between the invaders and the Wardens, the Cursed Cluster has been stripped of all life.
Far Clutch – Most distant of the clusters from the major cities, the Far Clutch sees little trade. As such, it is a popular hiding place for escaped slaves. The illithids have begun to prowl the Far Clutch for new sources of slaves.
Salt Shoals – The ruins of an unnamed city-state are buried somewhere in this cluster. The Warden of the station defied Borys, who ordered the city destroyed and the land salted as a lesson to those that would defy his power.
Gray Reef – Found between the Shoal Islands and the Verdant Stones, the Gray Reef is a warzone. Ships from both Stations stalk each other. Free villages are becoming few and scattered as they fall one-by-one to one power or another.
Size C Spherical earth body
A dwarf of a world far beyond the Sextant, K’ydon has much in common with Athas. Both are dry, desert worlds with little life and scarce resources. K’ydon is a cold desert with long winters and short summers. Water can be found trapped in the permafrost tundra, but is difficult to tap.
K’ydon’s most remarkable feature is the Ziggurat that shares the same name. It is ruled by the ruthless Warden Hu. The five-sided ziggurat, a solid fortress, and a market square. It is found on the equator in the shadow of four great hills.
Size F Spherical air body, 3 moons
The largest planet in the Crimson Sphere. It is a dark, cold, ash-choked air world devoid of life. The interior is unexplored but probably hides ships lost during the Cleansing War as several battles were fought above Rajaat’s clouds.
The moons have been conquered by invaders from other spheres. Prime of these are the illithids, who rule from their throne-world of Th-ki-chu. Slaves toil away in mindless bliss in caverns under the illithid fortresses. The ruins of dozens of these fortresses dot the surface of Th-ki-chu, casualties of the Cleansing War. Such was the destruction that even after two millennia, the illithids are but a fraction of their numbers when they first invaded the sphere. Other moons include the remains of Hejin, a broken moon haunted by undead beholders, and At-ur, the obsidian moon.
Just beyond Rajaat is the dreaded Black Gulf, the region that divides the worlds of the Crimson Sphere from the spherewall. The Black Gulf has swallowed many ships that have dared to venture into its inky depths. From the accounts of those that survived trips into this forsaken region give a terrifying account.
At first, light begins to dim all around the ship. After two days, the stars twinkle out. After the fifth, the sun is no longer visible. Light from candles and lanterns dim, as if oppressed by some unseen shadow. Always one feels as if he is being watched. That is when the attacks begin. At first, lone watchmen at attacked by unseen creatures. Then the attacks intensify. After the tenth day, the attacks come hourly. While light can drive the strange creatures away, they can summon darkness at will, snuffing out any light source. Some creatures are so strong they can rend metal and rip off and carry away whole sections of ships. After many days, if the ship and crew have survived to this point, they escape the Black Gulf.
The spherewall is believed to give the Crimson Sphere its name, as it is very dark red in color from the inside. It has a rough texture, as if like sand, and cold to the touch. Standard portal spells work on the spherewall, but any metal that travels through the spherewall has a 75% chance of changing to stone.
The Stars appear to be great fires just behind the spherewall, burning furiously to escape from some crystal prison. Strangely, the starlight can be seen through the Black Gulf from the planets, but those that travel within the Black Gulf cannot see the starlight.
=== Additional Astronomicals ===
The Dead Forest
Somewhere near the Shard Islands is this lost forest of dead, butterfly-like trees. The trees, once magnificent and vast, are black and shriveled. Strangely, all have interior hollows, as if they were once used as dwellings.
The Fallen Forge
This rouge asteroid is perhaps 1000’ in diameter. A great dwarven face is carved into one side of it. Tunnels and chambers run through the heart of the asteroid’s heart, as if built by dwarves of great skill. Despite many centuries of looting, the Fallen Forge still yields treasure from time to time, such as gold, gems, and even powerful weapons.
Found not far from the edge of the Black Gulf is this strange collection of ancient ships. A terrible battle was fought here, one that left almost fifty ships smashed and ruined. Due to the defiling magic unleashed during the battle, nothing from the ships could be salvaged; all wood, metal, and weapons crumble to dust when touched.
A legendary comet that made a regular, 45-year cycle around the Crimson Sphere, the Messenger has mysteriously vanished. Strangely, even before the Messenger disappeared, none could approach it. Those that tried were never heard from again.
According to legend there is an asteroid with groves of fruit trees and water in fountains. This paradise is a false one, for the asteroid will seek to devour any that would dare tread upon it.
The home for space-dwelling thri-kreen is the Suntree, probably the largest tree in all of the Crimson Sphere. It is several miles tall and orbits close to the Sun. It is immune to defiling magic, and even resists preserving magic as well.
Hopa – The asteroid that Hopa is built upon is shaped like a great coin, about five miles in diameter and 1000’ thick. Dwellings are built not upon the surface of the coin, but in shallow caves in the cliffs. The top and bottom of the coin is extensively farmed. The individual dwellings can be easily fortified, making invasion difficult. A network of tunnels makes the whole city a well-defended fortress.
K’ydon – this city is ruled by the ruthless Warden Hu. Her seat of power is a five-sided ziggurat. Regular sacrifices to her are made at the dawn of each day. Depending on the day, these sacrifices range from fruit to roasted animals to sentient beings. After dawn sacrifice, the citizens begin their daily activities. The heart of the city is a market square, where anything can be bought, for a price. Above the city, on a high, steep-cliff hill is Fortress Soom, which guards the approaches to K’ydon.
Nijhal – Found at the heart of the Verdant Stones is Nijhal, the Jewel of the Sextant. The city sits at the top of a hill on a large asteroid, surrounded by sparse hills. It is in a constant state of turmoil as various races clash over petty issues. The ruler of Nijhal is the Warden Husam, who ruthlessly seized power ten years ago. He keeps the various factions at each others’ throats instead of his own in a bid to hold on to power. Nijhal has seen more than one hundred coups, each just as bloody as the last.
Mahda – The shadow of Cinder protects this city-state. It is surrounded by a hot jungle that seems to press down on the city like a siege. The templar are frantically searching the sphere for anything that will heal their Warden Arun, who was burned horribly in battle. Arun takes his frustrations out on his people, ordering random executions.
Sentinel – Hidden from view from Athas by Guthay, Sentinel is a large, fortified city. It is shaped like a great ziggurat, 10 miles per side and 3 miles tall. Buildings are along the nine ledges, with the poorest citizens living at the bottom ledge and templars living at the top ledges. Dabi, the Warden of Sentinel, has not been seen in over a century, and some suspect he perished.
Ships of the Crimson Sphere
Dragonfly – The thri-kreen make use of this small, unusual ship. The hull is the carcass of a giant insect while the wings are an unusual, paper-like material that the thri-kreen can make. Dragonflies travel in packs, as they are easy prey otherwise.
Eel – The eel is a fairly common tradesman in the Crimson Sphere. All eels are unarmed, by order of the Wardens.
Lamprey – Primary vessel of the illithid nations, the lamprey is a ship made from bones and chitin. It is indeed a terrible vessel to behold, decorated with human skulls and human-skin sails. A medium weapon is carried, firing forward.
Lesser Ziggurat – The lesser Ziggurat is pyramid-shaped and serves as the battleship of the Crimson Sphere. The interior is largely hollow with a much smaller pyramid at the center, from which the Templar commands his minions. A small army is carried aboard a lesser Ziggurat, up to six hundred men.
Scarabship – The Scarabship is another ship made from the chitin hide of a colossal insect, except made from a beetle. It has a pair of wings to improve maneuvering, but rarely armed. It is commonly used to carry important cargo or as a transport for troops.
Scorpionship – The Scorpionship is made from the chitin hide of a colossal scorpion. The lifejammer is kept in the head of the scorpion and watched over by a strong guard.
=== Artifacts and Helms === There are only two types of helms commonly found in the Crimson Sphere: the psijammer and the lifejammer.
Psijammer – the psijammer helm is the lesser of the spelljamming helms. It is a throne-like stone chair made to tune into psionic energy. A creature that can use psionic abilities can use the psijammer. Landing a ship using a psijammer is very tricky, as gravity puts great stress on the helmsman.
Lifejammer – the lifejammer is the most powerful spelljamming device common to the Crimson Sphere. It is a terrible device of black stone and defiling magic. When a humanoid creature is placed in the throne-like chair, it steals from him life to fly a spelljammer.
Shards of the Zodiac- This artifact is said to have originally appeared as a midnight-back orb fitted with diamonds that represented the 12 zodiac creatures. It was shattered into twelve pieces, once for each zodiac. Possession of a shard provides great power onto the owner. In effect, a shard can be used, given time, research, and much ceremony, to turn the owner into a dragon. It took the Wardens at least three centuries to discover the process to turn themselves from powerful beings into full-fledged Wardens, contemporaries to the Stewards of Athas. It is suspected that the aide of Borys is required for the process to be successful. Fortunately, the Wardens are limited in the growth of their power; to advance, they need an additional shard. In theory, if all 12 shards were recovered by a single Warden, he could potentially become a dragon even more powerful than Borys. Such an event is highly unlikely, since the Wardens have searched franticly for the missing shards and have turned up nothing in the last 2,000 years.
== References == Spelljammer.org Crimson Sphere article- http://www.spelljammer.org/worlds/CrimsonSphere/