ACKs of Athas: Some Worldbuilding assistance, if you will

Hey everybody. I’ve been playing a game of Dark Sun heavily informed by ACK’s worldbuilding policies. I’m using the DnD NEXT playtest rules, and in all honesty, in the event of a TPK I’m switching to ACKs full-bore. (I’m one of those DM’s who system hops pretty religiously.)

Introduction aside, I’m setting up a war between the city states of Urik and Tyr, and I am having a helluva problem figuring out what the military might of each of these cities is. Let me set up my assumptions, first.

The city states of the Tablelands in Athas are roughly the equivalent of the city-states of Greek Antiquity. Because there isn’t much in the way of natural resources on Athas, all civilization is densely clustered around pockets of arable land. These pockets are roughly the size of a domain, so 16 6-mile hexes or so. In between these areas, the landscape cannot support a dense population.

So here’s my problem: The population is extremely centralized around the city-states, but according to the setting information, the city population doesn’t go above 6,000 families. Extrapolating from the urban demographics chart, the city-states are the largest cities in the region, and the region seems to contain as a whole has 3.75-4 times as many families. Lowballing it gives a rural population of 24,000 families. If we assume that this only includes the domain around Tyr, this gives a population density of 1500 families per hex-- obviously wrong.

I’ve been trying to build the region, but the population numbers just aren’t working for this setting. So that seems to tell me that I need to work from the ground up and ignore the top-down system. But that led to other issues: when I calculated the income from a region, the result was 3-5 times what the book suggested. Again, I assume I’m doing something wrong, but I have no idea what it is.

On the flip side, I figured out how to handle Dragon Kings, and the Merchant rules has turned the game into a whole new beast. Which is good.

This might be helpful…

Oh, that does help a little. Since XP doesn’t ever vanish, it’s pretty easy to assume that the sorcerer-kings, being immortal, are 12+ level wizards.

Best line: “The themes in Dark Sun are actually accentuated by this treatment: under D&D’s instrumentalist ethics, genocide and ecological ruin are bad because they make it harder for you to level up!

According to Tyr has a population of 15,000 - that equates to 3,000 families in ACKs.

Using the chart on page 231, assuming an urban realm with a centralized settlement pattern, a city of 3,000 families traces up 4 rows to a realm with 12,500 to 22,499 families. Assuming Tyr fills a full 16-hex domain, then it can have 12,500 families.

In a normal game-world, filled with settlements, that would suggest that the ruler of Tyr is around 7th-9th level.

I would probably model them as 10th level Zaharan sorcerer-priests (HD 1, Fighting 0, Divine 2, Zaharan 4). Then replace “After the Flesh” with “Into the Scales”, where they need to transform into dragons in order to advance past 10th level.

That is a terrifying class! Yeah the xp costs are probably nuts (especially at the “into the scales” stage), but this is a Nobiran Wonderworker with better HD.

On this thought, though, is the HD boost needed for before the transformation? If into the scales makes you monsterous, then you get a d8 hit die anyway. I’m not very familiar with Dark Sun.

I would love to run ACKS dark sun some day, so seeing this thread crop up makes me happy.

I was thinking of handwaving the Sorcerer-Kings as invincible NPCs, mostly because if I ever do Dark Sun in ACKS, I’d rather the focus be on other types of adventures than go down the well-worn “Let’s take out one of the SKs!” route.

However if it emerges organically, I’m down for it. However, I don’t think they should be in the Level 10-14 range. I think I’d stat them up as monsters, frankly.

my knowledge of Darksun is fairly shallow, but the one who turned into a dragon at the very least should be higher than 14th level. Most likely just use the “life after death” rules for turning into undead but turn into a dragon instead.

I think the key to a sorcerer king is that you’re never going to catch them alone. Sure, they might only be level 11 or 12, but it’s very likely, due to the nature of city-states, that their 4 to 6 henchmen are high level templars that are RIGHT THERE with them. Good luck taking out 7 high level spellcasters in a massive ritual chamber.

You might consider something like “After the Flesh” from the Zaharan custom race, which would allow them to continue to gain levels.

I think the Tyr region is about the size of Colorado and has a population of around a million people. If you read the novels each city state has farm land etc around it and the population of the city is a minority.

The entire Tablelands (the region that encompasses the seven city-states of Balic, Draj, Gulg, Nibenay, Raam, Tyr, and Urik) is around the size of Colorado. If each city-state controls an equal amount of territory, the area they control would be around the size of Maryland.