An ageing game, for the PC, I have had sitting on my bookshelf collecting dust for god knows how long. I decided to break out this game about a month ago, and I must say, despite the obsoletion of this game, it is incredibly enthralling. A strong storyline with undertones of political intrigue and a tired and abused NPC community.

The story is as follows. Many years ago, the world of Athas was a rich and fertile world, devoid of beasts and evil-doers, full of thriving cities and civilizations and magic abound for the good of all. Somewhere in the history of this arcadian world, however, mages came to realise that the planet was full of immense energy, and many fell prey to temptation and began sapping the planet's energy to increase their own. As the mages continued to sap the planet's energy, its life began to lose energy too. The thriving civilizations began to experience famine as game died off, and crops withered, failing year after year.

As the planet itself withered from a lush, fertile planet into a desolate, dry desert, the mages became increasingly greedy, and competitive with other mages. They began summoning horrid beasts, never known to walk on Athas, and unleashed them upon one another. They opened portals to distant realms, allowing more horrid beasts and evil creatures free travel to the world of Athas, and the once peaceful planet had became a raging battlescape. What was left of the civilizations was annihalated in the wars, and the surviving inhabitants were forced to retreat into isolated and heavily fortified cities. The long distances between the cities were filled with viscious beasts from other realms, bandits, slavers and other undesirables, including the original evil mages that brought this blight upon the planet.

By this stage the planet was utterly drained of energy, and the powerful mages turned upon one another even more than before, no longer searching for more power through the planet, but power through dominance of the planet. More cities were destroyed, leaving ruins for evil extraplanar beings to settle, and eventually one mage defeated all others, or at least scared them enough to accept that he now ruled. The people, devoid of hope and any will to fight, eagerly accepted leadership and the promise of peace. Aside from the constant attacks by desert beasts and the occasional raid by bandits, slavers or rouge mages, the people had relative peace. However it was superficial, as the people were opressed and exploited, increasing their plight even more than before. Those convicted of crimes were thrown in gladitorial pits, pitted against one another and desert beasts, much to the glee of the joyless populous. The harsh feudal law became the people's only escape from their dismal reality, however some people soon tired of the opression and rebelled in many cities. Casualties were impossibly high, and the rebellion was short lived, however it did plant the seed for disent, and many people escaped to the desert and set up makeshift colonies for those wishing to live free of the yoke.

This is where you and your party enters. You may have a maximum of four in your party (and no more may be added later on, although a few may join you in a fight now and then), and once you have chosen you are thrown into the dismal world, you and your party a freshly "recruited" party of gladiators. Basically, your goal is to escape, and as you explore the world you join a mysterious group and are thrown into an ever expanding plot of intrigue.

The game is based upon Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and the following races and classes are available:



The game mechanics, and all its beasts, classes and races are based upon AD&D, and it may therefore be translated for play with pen and paper. It may also be upgraded to Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition. The game world is an incredibly difficult one, and should be reserved for veteran D&D players, and will require an extremely experienced Dungeon Master. This is due to many factors, however, there are two major ones. Firstly, water is a major factor. It must be consumed every hour in the cities, and every half hour in the deserts, or the characters start to take dehydration damage. The second is that most NPCs are hostile and beasts are so numerous (around three to four times that as in normal D&D campaigns) that it is virtually impossible to travel anywhere without being attacked and ambushed several times. Although, it is a very challenging and enjoyable universe to play in, well worth the time spent translating the rules over.