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Psionic Artifacts of Athas (2e)


"Life-shapes are the wondrous tools of our ancient past. They are our heritage, our birthright. Cast off the dead. Use not the unliving tool. Our ancient glory can only be restored by embracing life, not death." 

"We are all that is left. We hold in our hands the fate of our people. The Rhul-thaun are the true fruit of the rhulisti tree. The life-shapes are what set us above the other races. Only we still know the secrets of life and how to shape it. Heed not the temptations for the powers of the mind, for they are amathema. Spurn the lesser races, for they are not of the true blood. Believe in the life-shapers, for only they can deliver you to the glory that is our birthright."

Loi Far-oneth, Rhul-thaun of the Jagged Cliffs

Incredible artifacts lie beneath the surface of the shifting sands of Athas, bringing great power to those strong enough to wield them. Power enough to overthrow a sorcerer-king. Power with a price...

This 128-page accessory features:

  • Dozens of artifacts from the Prism Pentad series of novels, detailed here for the first time.
  • Mysterious life-shaped items--living items from the Blue Age of Athas.
  • Dozens of new magical items unique to Athas.
  • Random powers tables for creating your own Dark Sun artifacts or customizing the ones in this book.
  • Expanded and revised Dark Sun magical item tables.

Product History

Psionic Artifacts of Athas (1996), by Kevin Melka and Bruce Nesmith, is a magic item supplement for Dark Sun. It was released in September 1996.

Continuing the Dark Sun Series. Following the release of Dark Sun Campaign Setting Expanded and Revised (1995), TSR published a series of supplements that dramatically expanded the world of Athas. Psionic Artifacts was the last of them.

A Different Sort of Magic Item Book. It was Mayfair who actually initiated the idea of magic item guides for AD&D with Fantastic Treasures (1984) and Fantastic Treasures II (1985) . Meanwhile, TSR was breaking magic-item ground with Basic D&D's AC4: The Book of Marvelous Magic (1984) and AC11: The Book of Wondrous Inventions (1987). However, TSR only brought the idea over to AD&D in the '90s, starting with some Encyclopedias that reprinted existing magic items (1992, 1994-1995). The first largely original AD&D magic item book was Book of Artifacts (1993).

Psionic Artifacts was different than the books that preceded it. Though some of the items in Book of Artifacts were setting specific — including a few Athasian artifacts — Psionic Artifacts of Athas was an entire book dedicated to the artifacts (and other magic items) of a single world. The idea was clearly in the air, because TSR also published Forged of Darkness (1996) for Ravenloft earlier in the year.

The Novel Connection. Many of the artifacts in Psionic Artifacts are drawn from the Prism Pentad novels (1991-1993).

Expanding Athas. Psionic Artifacts details not only Athasian artifacts and magic items, but also life-shaped items and artifacts — expanding on the new Athasian magic introduced in Windriders of the Jagged Cliffs (1995).

Future History. A few more magic items created by Kevin Melka appeared in "Artifacts of Athas" in Dragon #234 (October 1996).

Sadly, Psionic Artifacts was the final AD&D book released for the Dark Sun setting. TSR pulled the plug fairly abruptly, as the line was gone by the time they released their 1997 product schedule in Dragon #236 (December 1996). TSR also had two books which were all or mostly done, to the point that manuscripts were reputedly distributed to some GMs at the 1997 Gen Con Game Fair (1997). The first of these was an adventure called "Dregoth Ascending" and the second was a sourcebook called "Secrets of the Dead Lands". Kevin Melka was also considering other possibilities. He says:

"Another halfling product, a book on the dwarves, and a book on the Order were the other three (of the four products, along with Dregoth) that were part of my official proposals for 1997. Beyond that we poked around the whole Kreen Invasion idea, the mystery of the Messenger, and a product on the Silt Sea to expand the world before DS was canceled."

They never appeared.

With the release of D&D 3e (2000), Wizards of the Coast gave some fan sites permission to produce material for their unused settings. For Dark Sun, that was The site was also given the two unpublished manuscripts for Dark Sun and given the OK to release them once they had been converted to 3e. "Dregoth Ascending" (2005) appeared several years later, while "Secrets of the Dead Lands" (2014?) should appear soon; also published "Terrors of the Dead Lands" (2005), which lists "Secrets" as a source.

More recently, Wizards of the Coast themselves briefly supported Dark Sun for D&D 4e (2008) with their Dark Sun Campaign Setting (2010) and a handful of additional supplements and adventures.

About the Creators. Melka was the final Product Lead for Dark Sun and the author of a half-dozen AD&D books from 1994-1998. Nesmith had been writing for TSR even longer — since 1984; this was one of his last roleplaying books, followed only by Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: The Complete Starter Set (1996) and some contributions to Domains of Dread (1997).

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.

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