Something awakens beneath the ruins of ancient Giustenal, the City by the Silt Sea. Many have tried to discover the secrets of this forsaken place, to plunder its legendary treasures. Few have returned from its shadowy embrace. Did they run afoul of savage raiders in the desert wastes? Did they lose their way in a sudden sandstorm only to sink hopelessly into the blowing, shifting silt? Perhaps they heard the psionic voice of the Caller in Darkness and succumbed to its mesmerizing summons? Or did they meet the true master of the ruins, a being as old as the Dragon-and just as terrifying?
The burning world has reached a critical stage. For Athas, it could mean the start of a time of renewal, or it could herald the end of the world! It all begins in the ruins of Giustenal, in a place from another age, in the corpse of a shattered, long-dead city. Something stirs in the City by the Silt Sea. Something evil?
City by the Silt Sea features:
- A 96-page campaign expansion book full of details on the area around Giustenal, the ruins, the strange beings who inhabit its darkest recesses, and the history of Dregoth, the undead sorcerer-king-revealed for the first time.
- A 64-page adventure book designed to introduce player characters to this fascinating, dangerous locale.
- A 32-page Monstrous Compendium appendix featuring all-new monsters and villains unique to the ruins of Guistenal.
- Six reference cards detailing important information about the City by the Silt Sea.
- A full-color, double-sided poster map of the area; the ruins, and the many underground locations waiting to be explored.
Can you find a way into the vast ruins of Guistenal? Better yet, can you find a safe way out?
City by the Silt Sea (1994), by Shane Lacy Hensley, is a boxed set for Dark Sun that combines setting information and an expansive adventure. It was released in August 1994.
Continuing the Dark Sun Series. Beginning with the Dark Sun boxed set (1991), TSR released one major supplement for the Dark Sun line every year. In 1992 that was the Dragon Kings hardcover (1992), in 1993 that was the Ivory Triangle boxed set (1993) and in 1994 that was the City by the Silt Sea boxed set (1994).
City by the Silt Sea was also the last RPG release for Dark Sun in 1994 … and it had been a slightly lean year. After a couple of years that saw about a dozen Dark Sun releases each, 1994 instead saw Dark Sun publication halved, with: a trilogy of novels, two adventure, one supplement, and City by the Silt Sea itself. Given that TSR had canceled several lines in 1993, this wasn't a horrible sign for Dark Sun. Nonetheless, the campaign setting would be released in a Expanded and Revised (1995) edition the next year.
Adventuring Tropes. City by the Silt Sea is a combined setting and adventure supplement. The adventure side of things continues Dark Sun's unusual encounter-based format — which lays out each encounter with a setup, start, encounter, reactions, statistics, and outcome. A few mapped locales are used in the adventure, but they are entirely subsumed into the encounters format so that each of these locales fits into a single encounter entry.
It was an unusual adventuring format at the time and remains unusual today — except in Wizards of the Coast's Encounters program.
Expanding Athas. City by the Silt Sea was one of the few early Dark Sun releases to explore the edges of the Tyr Region. In doing so it followed in the footsteps of DSR4: "Valley of Dust and Fire" (1992), which first detailed the Silt Sea (and went even further afield!). Besides giving more information on the Silt Sea, City by the Silt Seaalso explores the eponymous city of Giustenal, its sorcerer-king Dregoth, and the subterranean realms below.
Expanding the Outer Planes. A "Planar Gate" found in the adventure allows travel to other planes. This was a slightly unusual connection as Dark Sun was largely cut-off from TSR's plane-jumping settings of Spelljammer (1989) and Planescape (1994).
Monsters of Note. Because City by the Silt Sea was a boxed set, it had room for an extensive 32-page Monstrous Compendium. Among the monsters within are the Dray, a race of draconic humanoids.
Players are also given the opportunity to play members of the dray race. Though draconians had been running around the world of Krynn for a decade, since DL1: "Dragons of Despair" (1984), they were never offered as a PC race, so this was a first. Following the release of D&D 4e (2008), the dray were subsumed into the dragonborn race that were then infiltrating many of D&D's game worlds.
City by the Silt Sea was also the first Dark Sun book to give stats for one of the setting's sorcerer-kings. The rest would await the release of "Beyond the Prism Pentad" (1995).
Future History. When the Dark Sun line was cancelled around 1996, work was ongoing on a followup product called "Dregoth Ascending", which would have been about Dregoth's ascension. The files were afterward released to athas.org who updated them for 3e and published them on the 'net.
About the Creators. Hensley was at the time freelancing for TSR, FASA, and West End Games. Though he'd become better known a few years later for his creation of Deadlands (1996), he still regularly lists City by the Silt Sea as one of the RPG products that he's most proud of.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Thanks to Robert Adducci for Dark Sun advice. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.