I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Adducci, the founder of The Burnt World of Athas. Robert is a well known figure among Dark Sun fandom. He, together with Wayne Chang, hosts a Dark Sun podcast, appropriately named Bone, Stone, and Obsidian and runs a Dark Sun game for his Patreon members.
The first question I had for Robert is perhaps the same I would have for any fan, "There are a lot of settings for D&D, what got you interested in the Dark Sun setting?"
"I got interested in Dark Sun in 1991 when I saw the first ad in Dragon Magazine. I had just started seriously DMing and was looking for a setting for my first AD&D 2nd edition game. When I saw Dark Sun, I knew it was going to be the setting for me. Dark Sun spoke to me in a way other settings hadn't." Robert continued, "The worlds of Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance, and Greyhawk, while cool, were alien to me. They predominantly featured northern European characters in forested landscapes. I am from Phoenix, Arizona so I know what a hot desert looks and feels like. Also, being a person of color, the multiple skin tones of the city-states was appealing."
It was an interesting response and one so different from my own. Robert was a fan of the Dark Sun setting for sure, but with all the writing and other work he had done, he was obviously not a casual fan. I decided to move on to some of the work he had done, namely, The Burnt World of Athas website. I asked him about the website, his role in it, and if he was the sole creator.
I noted a sense of pride in his work when he answered, "Yes, I was the sole creator of The Burnt World of Athas. A few years after its creation it became the official Dark Sun website. Then, I added some staff and shortly thereafter I left control to Chris Flipse. Chris was a long time member of the Dark Sun mailing list and he maintained the Dark Sun FAQ at the time. In about 2009 or 2010, I returned to the website with the returning of Dark Sun to print with fourth edition. Chris still owns it, but I do most of the posting these days."
Certainly, Robert has a lot to be proud of. I remember visiting the site when I first started playing Dark Sun in 1996, a year after the site was first started. It allowed all of the Dark Sun fans to connect in ways that were not possible when the setting was first created in 1991. I wanted to know more and asked, "When you created The Burnt World of Athas back in 1995, what was your goal for the site? Did you see it becoming a major Dark Sun website?"
His answer was somewhat surprising, "No. At the time I had two goals, the first was to learn to make webpages and the second was to put up my homebrew Dark Sun content. I never even conceived of it becoming a major part of the community. I was an 18 year old just reveling in the idea that others read my stuff!"
I congratulated him on achieving something that few fans will ever accomplish. After all, The Burnt World of Athas was the reason Dark Sun was available using third edition rules. I was further intrigued by this information, because while I have read many of the articles, I may have ignored the authors. So, I asked, "Do you still write homebrew material for Dark Sun with an eye on the new edition?"
"Yes, I do. I have a Patreon where I run some homebrew 5th edition Dark Sun games, so I'm always creating content for that." He paused for a moment, then continued, "Although, truth be told, I usually create content on the fly, rather than write stuff down. Although I do refine some stuff in hopes one day Dark Sun will be available to publish on the DMsGuild."
I hope Wizards of the Coast is listening. I was happy to hear that someone who has been involved for so long still runs Dark Sun games. "How many games do you run a month for your patreon members?"
"I'm currently running two games per month." He explained, "At the end of this month, we'll be starting a new campaign set in Tyr called the Dark Days of Tyr. We'll be running it in honor of Walter Bass, one of the co-authors of the City State of Tyr book. Walter passed away on June first of this year. He was a friend of mine and I'll be running it with him in mind."
I offered my condolences. Walter Baas is known for his wonderful work on the Dark Sun books: City State of Tyr and The Complete Gladiators Handbook. I asked, "How did you come to know Walter?"
"I met Walter in 2014 at Tacicon in Denver. I was running my business, selling used RPGs in the dealer room. A man walked up to my goods and browsed them. I noticed he was paying attention to my Dark Sun stuff. He pulled out the City State of Tyr book and I said, 'That's one of my favorites!' He replied, 'Glad you like it, I wrote it.' That introduction lead to hours upon hours of gaming and chats.
In one of my Dark Sun campaigns Walter played Andor, a halfling druid, a character that will now appear perpetually in my games in his honor. I regret that I did not spend more time with Walter, but I'm happy that I knew him and was able to game with a person that contributed to something I love so much."
The love he showed for his friend touched me and I didn't know how to continue the interview without being disrespectful. I told him that Walter did do some good work and, from all accounts, was a good person. So, I moved on and asked Robert what Dark Sun article or project he was most proud of.
"I think I'm most proud of the website. It has long been a place for the community to gather and create things. As for an actual game product, I like the Sands of Athas netzine, it was a product from the second edition days. Each issue was a compilation of short articles written by different authors. They were released as a set of html files to view offline. Some of the files still exist, but not as full issues.
For those interested, those articles can be found here.
During the interview, I could sense Roberts passion and love for the Dark Sun setting. I finally asked him about the future. I asked, "What do you hope to accomplish related to Dark Sun in the subsequent years?"
Robert explained, "The thing I love most about Dark Sun is the setting lore. Reading about new fantastic places, people, and creatures is what I enjoy. I'd like to write new content for Dark Sun, new locations, monsters, and people. I'd like to find out what is beyond the Silt Sea or the Dead Lands."
I thanked Robert for taking the time to speak with me and told him I looked forward to his future work.
"You're welcome." He replied, "Thanks for the interview!"
You can find Robert here: