My goal to convert all of 2e Dark Sun into Fifth Edition content continues. So far I’ve gotten some great feedback and had a lot of fun converting stuff.
Next up, I’m tackling the massive Dark Sun bestiary. I’ll start with those creatures that were included in the original boxed set plus the crodlu from Dune Trader.
Note: I’ll be cribbing the fluff from the original books just to make my life easier.
The Dark Sun Bestiary
Life is a mysterious and resilient thing. Even in the starkest wastes of Athas, the careful observer finds it clinging to the horns of sand dunes, peeking out from beneath wind-raked boulders, and creeping along the cracked plains of sun-baked clay.
To survive, almost every form of life has become a monster. On the increasingly infertile world of Athas, these adaptations have taken an almost diabolical turn. The land is so barren that every form of life, to one extent or another, is both predator and prey. Some of the more notable of these monsters are described in the content that follows.
There are numerous domesticated animals on Athas. Some of the most common ones, at least in the Hinter and Tablelands, are described here.
Crodlu are large, reptilian animals that roam the deserts and scrublands of Athas in herds. Easily domesticated, they are widely used for transportation or as beasts of burden, particularly by merchant houses.
Crodlu resemble enormous, scaled ostriches with long arms that end in wicked claws. They vary in color from dusty yellow to brick red, with splotches or rosettes of contrasting color along their dorsal sides and lighter colored scales along the belly. Powerful muscles enable them to run across the sands at high speed. While their eyesight is poor, their sense of smell is acute, more than making up for their visual impairment.
Crodlu travel in herds of 5 to 30. Of these, one-fifth are chicks (1d8 hit points, a single 1d4 bite attack) and the remainder are adults. Each herd is led by a single adult male. If attacked, adult crodlu form a defensive ring around the young and, if necessary, die to defend them.
If taken from the herd as chicks, crodlu may be trained to serve as mounts. Only 10% of adult crodlu may be so trained, while male leaders can never be trained.
Each female crodlu may give birth to a single young each year. The chicks are able to run and fight within a few minutes of birth. Crodlu are omnivorous, feeding off anything edible they find, sometimes even resorting to pack hunting techniques against smaller animals.
When used as riding beasts, crodlu are unparalleled, carrying their riders with great speed and endurance. While crodlu normally flee rather than fight if carrying a rider or
cargo, war crodlu may be trained to use their substantial combat abilities in battle. Also valuable as beasts of burden, crodlu can carry substantial loads, although larger amounts reduce their movement, as shown in the following table.
Erdlus are flightless, featherless birds covered with flaky gray-to-red scales. They weigh as much as 200 pounds and stand up to seven feet tall. They have powerful, lanky legs ending in four-toed feet with razor-sharp claws, and can run at great speeds over short
distances (no more than half-a-mile). Their bodies are massive and round, with a pair of useless wings folded at their sides. Attached to their yellow, snake-like necks are small round heads with huge wedge-shaped beaks.
Erdlus make ideal herd animals, as they can eat many forms of tough vegetation, as well as snakes, lizards, and other small reptiles. They instinctively band together in flocks for protection. When threatened, their first impulse is to flee. If this is not possible, the entire flock will turn and give battle as a group. When they fight, they strike at their attackers with their sharp beaks and then rake them with their claws.
Erdlu eggs are excellent food, containing all the nutrients that a human or demihuman needs to survive for months at a time. If eaten raw, they can even substitute for water (1 gallon per egg) for periods of up to one week. In addition, the hard scales of their wings make excellent shields or armor, their beaks can be used to make fine spearheads, and their claws are often crafted into daggers or tools.
The inix is a large lizard midway in size between a kank and mekillot. It weighs about two tons and grows up to sixteen feet long. Its back is protected by a thick shell, while its belly is covered with a layer of flexible scales.
Inix make spirited mounts and are capable of carrying up to a seven-hundred and fifty pounds. They move at steady pace for hours on end, and over short distances, their charge is as fast as that of a kank. Inix riders often travel in howdahs, small box-like
carriages that are strapped to the beast’s back.
The one major drawback to traveling by inix is that these large herbivores need vast amounts of forage. If they don’t get enough to eat they are nearly impossible to control. Thus, they are seldom used in regions where forage is at a premium.
Kanks are large docile insects. Their bodies have a black chitinous exoskeleton and are divided into three sections: head, thorax, and abdomen. Kanks often weigh as much as 400 pounds and stand up to four feet tall at the back, with bodies as long as eight feet from head to abdomen. Around their mouths, they have a pair of multi-jointed pincers which they use to carry objects, to feed themselves, and occasionally to fight with. On their thoraxes, they have six lanky legs ending in a single flexible claw with which the kank can grip the surfaces it walks upon. Their bulbous abdomens have no appendages and are simply carried above the ground.
Kanks are often used as caravan mounts, as they can travel for a full day at their top speed, carrying a two-hundred-pound passenger and two-hundred pounds of cargo. They also make decent herd animals and are especially valued by elves. Because they can digest nearly any sort of organic matter, these hardy beasts will thrive in almost any environment. In addition, they require little attention, for a kank hive instinctively organizes itself into food producers, soldiers, and brood queens.
The food producers secrete melon-sized globules of green honey that they store on their abdomens to feed the young and when food is scarce, the rest of the hive. Humans and demihumans can live on this nectar alone for periods of up to three weeks but must supplement their diets with meat and/or vegetation after longer periods. The sweet taste of this nectar makes it very valuable, and it is this that has caused the kank to be domesticated. It should be noted that wild kanks produce far fewer globules than their carefully breed cousins.
When the tribe stops in an area that looks as though there is a considerable amount of vegetation, the brood queens lay a clutch of twenty to fifty eggs. The soldier kanks, along with the rest of the hive, ferociously defend this area from all predators, and will not leave until the eggs hatch. Herders must delay their migrations or abandon their hives when this conflicts with their plans.
Although predators may attack kanks for the food producers’ honey globules, only the foulest carrion eaters will eat kank flesh. As soon as a kank dies, its meat emits a foul-smelling odor that not even a starving man can stomach.
Mekillots are mighty lizards weighing up to six-tons, with huge, mound-shaped bodies as long as 30 feet. Their backs and heads are covered with a thick shell that serves as both a sunshade and protection from attacks by other large creatures. Their undersides are covered with much softer scales.
Despite their vicious dispositions, mekillots are often used as caravan beasts. A hitched pair can pull a wagon weighing 10-20 tons at a slow, plodding pace. Mekillots are never truly tame, however; even when they are hitched to a wagon, the stubborn creatures have been known to turn off the road and go wandering off for days—without any apparent reason. They are also noted for making snacks of their handlers. Because of the difficulties of controlling these beasts, most caravans rely on psionicists with the appropriate powers to drive them.
More to come…
Art by Wizards of the Coast