A Burnished Throne
Themes of Athas
Slavery and Freedom: The Seven Cities adhere to hierarchies that grant rights, impose rules, and divvy responsibilities. Unsurprisingly, the heaviest burdens fall to the lowest class. Thus, slaves shoulder the simultaneously mundane and vital tasks that enable the city-states to function. Characters might begin their heroic careers as slaves in any number of roles—laborers, guards, gladiators, or servants—and find freedom through happenstance, negotiation, battle, or subterfuge. Alternatively, opportunistic slavers would think nothing of capturing free people and selling them into servitude. Adventurers would likely be lucrative to such malign individuals.
Survival and Danger: Athas’s wastelands are harsh and unforgiving. Travel from one settlement to another, even along a well-used road, is still a gamble. Unscrupulous raiders, vicious monsters, savage tribes, and the oppressive environment can mean a quick death for weak or foolhardy people. Running out of food or water rations, getting lost in feature-starved flats, and crossing hazardous terrain are pressing dangers, particularly when travelers venture off the trade routes.
Intrigue and Authority: Even though the city-states offer protection from the wilds, life within their walls can be just as savage. Athasians are survivors by nature, and they take advantage of opportunities to get ahead, even if it means stepping on the backs of others. The sorcerer-kings, nobles, and powerful merchants wield varying levels of influence, and characters could easily become embroiled in faction conflicts. Many power groups operate on the sly. The Veiled Alliance, for example, discreetly employs sympathetic outsiders to aid particular schemes, provide distractions, or act as cover for its various operations.
Discovery and Desolation: Athas’s wastelands entomb secret locales, including ruins from the forgotten ages before the world was dying, ancient bunkers in which the sorcerer-kings have locked away powerful knowledge, magically concealed sites that inexplicably gather power, and lairs of terrible primordial and elemental beings bent on sowing despair and destruction. Characters might be compelled to unravel a mystery or seek out a particularly lucrative relic or secret.