Advanced Search

Dark Sun Boxed Set (2e)
Full‑size Preview

Dark Sun Boxed Set (2e)

Watermarked PDF

Amid the barren wastelands of Athas lie the scattered city-states, each in the grip of its own, tyrannical sorcerer-king. Protecting their own positions with dark magic, they demand absolute obedience. The restless mobs are placated with bread and circuses --the arenas overflow with spectators seeking release from their harsh lives.

The land outside the cities belong to no one. Savage elves race across the deserts while insectoid Thri-Kreen satisfy their taste for blood. Dwarves labor at projects beyond the scope of men, and feral halflings lie in ambush.

Athas is a land of deadly magic and powerful psionics that offers promise of glory or even of survival. Those who do not have the cunning to face life on Athas will surely perish - leaving nothing but bones bleached white under the blistering rays of the DARK SUN

    On the sands of Athas you'll face
  • Three new PC races!
  • Muls - half-dwarf, half-human; specially bred for combat!
  • Thri-Kreen - the savage mantis-warriors of the Barrens!
  • Half-giants - bred for tremendous size and strength
  • Three new PC classes!
  • Gladiators - heroes of the arenas, the ultimate warriors!
  • Templars - Wicked priests who serve the sorcerer-kings!
  • Defilers - wizards whose powers drain the life around them!
  • More powerful PC's
  • All Dark Sun game characters begin at 3rd level!
  • Ability scores that can go as high as 24!
  • All PC's have one or more psionic powers!
  • The new character tree allows players to advance many characters at once!

Product History

The Dark Sun Boxed Set (1991), by Timothy B. Brown and Troy Denning, is the supplement that kicked off the popular Dark Sun product line for AD&D 2e.

Origins. In 1990, the TSR higher-ups, worried about decreasing interest in Dragonlance, decided they needed a major new campaign world. They also decided that Battlesystem Second Edition (1989) needed a tie to a campaign world in order to be successful. Somewhere along the way, it was determined that the new setting would also support PHBR5: The Complete Psionics Handbook (1991), which introduced psionics to AD&D 2e play. The result of these varying directives was a design overseen by Steve Winter and created by Timothy B. Brown and Troy Denning that was initially called "War World".

Battlesystem would be integrated into the first few Dark Sun supplements, but this tie would soon be dropped. This Psionics connection was more long-lasting; psionics are ubiquitous in the Dark Sun world of Athas, something that was quite unique in D&D gameplay.

However, the demand for a new campaign world and the tie-in to certain supplements didn't tell Brown and Denning what the world was going to be like. They decided that Dark Sun would satisfy the "Conan or John Carter vibe", something that they thought was missing from existing settings. They began work on a savage, post-apocalyptic world that would be entirely unique in D&D.

By the time Dark Sun was released, some of this uniqueness had been reduced a little. At first the setting wasn't going to have any standard D&D races or monsters, but TSR's marketing department was uncomfortable with this idea. As a result, the Dark Sun designers added back standard races with wicked twists (like cannibalistic halflings!); they complained a bit at the time, but later said that the result was stronger than their original plans.

About the Artist. Dark Sun also had some of its origins in the works of Gerald Brom. His picture of Tyrian gladiator Neeva was completed before he knew anything about the setting and was what made Brown and Denning choose Brom to become the setting's main illustrator.

Because of Brom's strong aesthetic, Dark Sun became TSR's first "artistic" setting, with a firm artistic vision created by a single illustrator. Similar models would be used for some later settings, most notably Planescape (1994), which is well known for the art of Tony DiTerlizzi

Continuing the AD&D 2e Worlds. By 1991, TSR was publishing a new campaign setting every year, and so Dark Sun joined its two 2e predecessors: Spelljammer (1989) and Ravenloft: Realm of Terror (1990).

Beginning the Dark Sun Series. Following in the footsteps of the previous 2e setting lines, Dark Sun was supported by both adventures and sourcebooks, though the module coding for those lines was very erratic. Adventures appeared in the "DS", "DSQ", "DSE", and "DSM" lines, while sourcebooks appeared as "DSR" and "DSS" — with no apparent rhyme or reason behind the changes.

Dark Sun was also supported by novels from the beginning. The first five-book series was written by setting co-author Troy Denning, starting with The Verdant Passage (1991) and continuing through the entire "Prism Pentad" series. These novels quickly advanced the metaplot of Dark Sun and were also closely tied to the first few adventures, DS1: "Freedom" (1991) and DSQ1: "Road to Urik" (1992).

At the time TSR had already started playing with metaplot through Forgotten Realms events like Avatar (1989) and Empires (1990). However, Dark Sun was the first setting that had metaplot built in from the start, and it was TSR's only setting to ever lay out such a rapid and dramatic plot advancement.

Laying Out the Boxed Set. In the early '90s, TSR had a standard format for their boxed sets: two 96-page books, three or four big maps, and a pile of cardboard sheets. You can see this formula in Dark Sun, which includes a 96-page "Rules Book", a 96-page "Wanderer's Journal", two major maps, and a poster. However, Dark Sun also got to expand beyond those standards, probably as a result of the extra support that management was throwing its way. As a result, Dark Sun also included two unique spiral-bound "flip books" and a short booklet.

Beginning the Flip Book Adventures. Dark Sun was a box full of innovation, and the spiral-bound flip books were a large part of that.

The first spiral-bound book was the "Player Aid Cards". This was artwork to be shown to the players, an idea that TSR had originated way back in S1: "Tomb of Horrors" (1978), but which was pretty uncommon by the 2e era.

The second spiral-bound book was the "Dungeon Master's Book", which included the actual adventure. However, it was a non-traditional adventure for the time period: it was split into individual encounters that included specific sections for "Setup", "Roleplaying", "Statistics", and other important elements. Each encounter also ended with a list of which encounters the GM should "flip" to next, based on what the players did. The result was the sort of event-driven adventure that was common in 2e days, but with very different, easy-to-use formatting and with more room for player choice.

The flip-books were complemented by a "Story Book" that contained a short story, "A Little Knowledge", which introduced the adventure.

This innovative format would be used throughout the Dark Sun adventures, beginning with DS1: "Freedom".

Expanding AD&D. Dark Sun also dramatically innovated the AD&D game, taking it in new directions that had been unseen in the decades before.

  • Characters were more powerful, with stats rolled on 5d4, beginning with more funds, and starting at third level.
  • The classic but "twisted" races were complemented by totally new races: the half-giants, the muls, and the insectoid thri-kreen.
  • Many traditional classes were also transformed. Because there were no gods, clerics were powered by the elements. Wizards could be preservers who protected Athas' ruined environment or defilers who made it worse. Psionicists were also used as a standard class for the first time in any setting.
  • Even more varied classes such as the gladiators and templars also appeared.
  • Experience points were expanded with new rules for individual class awards that gave out points for acting in-character for a class.

Gaming Tropes. One rules change deserves an additional comment: the "character tree". Over the years, D&D had become focused on the idea of each player playing just one character, but by the '90s other games such as Ars Magica (1987, 1989) were challenging that idea. Dark Sun was the only latter-day D&D game to ever embrace this change; it did so through "character trees" where each player had four different characters and could decide who to play in each individual game.

Writing Tropes. Finally, Dark Sun also innovated the role of fiction in a game world. Not only did it include fiction for players to read, but it also included first-person narratives in the rule books themselves.

Expanding Athas. Dark Sun was of course the introduction to the world of Athas. Unlike the traditional settings of the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and Mystara, Dark Sun detailed just a small part of the world of Athas called the Tyr Region. Future books would continue to extensively detail this relatively small area of Athas over the course of the original Dark Sun run (1991-1995).

In order to introduce Athas, Dark Sun offered a big overview of the society of the Tyr Region, as well as short notes on many of the major cities and other areas in the region.

Future History. Dark Sun was one of TSR's more successful product lines in the '90s. It ran from 1991-1995 and was then released in a Revised & Expanded edition that lasted through 1996. Afterward it faded out, as D&D moved from TSR to Wizards of the Coast.

During the 3e era, Athas was kept alive with Wizards of the Coast's blessing by the fans at, then it reappeared for 4e as the Dark Sun Campaign Setting (2010). Most recently, in 2013, co-designer Timothy Brown kickstarted his own setting, "Dragon Kings", which he called his "spiritual successor to Dark Sun".

About the Creators. In 1991 Brown & Denning considered themselves the newcomers at TSR, and were willing to take on the Dark Sun line when no one else was. Of course by that time, Brown already had a decade of experience at GDW while Denning had been working with Mayfair Games since the mid '80s.

Neither author worked much on the Dark Sun roleplaying line after the release of this box. Brown only wrote the Dragon Kings (1992) hardcover, while Denning moved over to fiction with his work on the Prism Pentad series (1991-1993).

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

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (4)
Discussions (20)
Customer avatar
Nathaniel H October 05, 2020 1:09 pm UTC
I too would like to see a Print on Demand version of this product, especially hard cover.
Customer avatar
Amanda R September 20, 2020 5:00 am UTC
Customer avatar
Adam J September 02, 2020 1:03 am UTC
POD please
Customer avatar
Jose B August 27, 2020 6:07 am UTC
POD please!!!!
Customer avatar
Andrew K August 22, 2020 5:40 am UTC
POD please!!
Customer avatar
Adam G August 06, 2020 7:03 am UTC
I'd purchase if it was POD.
Customer avatar
Rafael L July 13, 2020 12:37 am UTC
The art of the box is included in the PDF to print and assemble?
Customer avatar
Ian C June 27, 2020 3:42 am UTC
Customer avatar
Timothy N July 10, 2020 8:47 am UTC
Print on Demand. Some (but not many) DriveThru items you can order a printed copy either instead of or as well as a pdf. They're more expensive and it takes time for them to arrive, but if you want a physical copy it's often the only way to get one.
Customer avatar
Jarad C July 22, 2020 2:10 am UTC
Tim, I think Ian is asking if they will be offering this on POD, not asking what POD is.
Customer avatar
Mathieu S June 06, 2020 8:39 am UTC
Please make this title available as POD. I'm looking forward to a Hardback edition please!
Customer avatar
Alexandre M May 24, 2020 7:15 pm UTC
POD please!
Customer avatar
Sebastian A April 28, 2020 12:39 am UTC
Customer avatar
Amanda R April 27, 2020 3:01 am UTC
please male a hard back premium print option plz
Customer avatar
Brent W April 04, 2020 3:56 pm UTC
I would buy this if it were POD.
Customer avatar
John R March 27, 2020 6:08 pm UTC
POD please...
Customer avatar
Garrett K January 14, 2020 5:23 pm UTC
POD = Instant buy
Customer avatar
Devin D December 24, 2019 8:17 pm UTC
If y'all make PoD, I will definitely buy this.
See 16 more
Narrow Results
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsSign in to get custom notifications of new products!
 Recent History

Product Information
Platinum seller
Rules Edition(s)
Publisher Stock #
TSR 2400
File Size:
97.1 MB
Scanned image
Scanned image
These products were created by scanning an original printed edition. Most older books are in scanned image format because original digital layout files never existed or were no longer available from the publisher.

For PDF download editions, each page has been run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to attempt to decipher the printed text. The result of this OCR process is placed invisibly behind the picture of each scanned page, to allow for text searching. However, any text in a given book set on a graphical background or in handwritten fonts would most likely not be picked up by the OCR software, and is therefore not searchable. Also, a few larger books may be resampled to fit into the system, and may not have this searchable text background.

For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. We essentially digitally re-master the book. Unfortunately, the resulting quality of these books is not as high. It's the problem of making a copy of a copy. The text is fine for reading, but illustration work starts to run dark, pixellating and/or losing shades of grey. Moiré patterns may develop in photos. We mark clearly which print titles come from scanned image books so that you can make an informed purchase decision about the quality of what you will receive.
Original electronic format
These ebooks were created from the original electronic layout files, and therefore are fully text searchable. Also, their file size tends to be smaller than scanned image books. Most newer books are in the original electronic format. Both download and print editions of such books should be high quality.
File Information
Watermarked PDF
Watermarked PDF

These PDF files are digitally watermarked to signify that you are the owner. A small message is added to the bottom of each page of the PDF containing your name and the order number of your purchase.

Warning: If any files bearing your information are found being distributed illegally, then your account will be suspended and legal action may be taken against you.

Here is a sample of a page from a watermarked title:

File Last Updated:
June 20, 2014
This title was added to our catalog on May 06, 2014.