One of the most enjoyable elements of the Dark Sun setting is its wide variety of strange and wonderful creatures. Mounts such as kanks, crodlu, and inixes, domesticated creatures such as the boneclaw and the ock’n, and mighty beasts of burden such as the mekillot.
This blog draws together information on over twenty of the most common such creatures and gives details on how to use them in your Dark Sun games, including information on using them as mounts, carrying capacity, and a master price list. Although these details come from the AD&D 2e rules, the blog is sparse on edition-specific game mechanics, allowing you to use this information, no matter which edition of D&D you play. As always, a pdf with the contents of the blog is available for download below.
So saddle up and head for the dunes! And don’t forget to feed your inix…
Aprig: The aprig is a domesticated farm animal raised for its succulent meat, known for its nutty flavour. Its hard shell is used in the construction of household implements and armour. Aprig sows also produce milk, but it is of questionable quality. A dead aprig is worth half the value of a live one due to the raw materials that can be extracted from its corpse.
Boneclaw: This timid omnivore has a poisonous bite that makes it a valuable and economical alternative to larger, more fearsome guardians. It is also domesticated as a vermin hunter and occasional pet. Boneclaw flesh is edible and water can be harvested from a sac beneath its back armour. The water is contaminated with the same poison present in the boneclaw’s bite and must be purified or neutralised before it can be safely ingested.
Bloodgrass: Bloodgrass is a blood-drinking plant that attacks its prey with wiry tendrils that twine around and paralyse the target, allowing the bloodgrass to drain the fluid it needs in order to feed itself. Although it is considered a dangerous weed by most, bloodgrass is used (by those who can afford its exorbitant price) as a watchdog, as it is alert, aggressive, and feeds itself.
Cactus, Rock: The rock cactus is a spherical plant that survives by attaching itself to other living creatures and draining the moisture from them through its spines. The rock cactus is edible if peeled, having a taste and texture similar to apples, and a single plant will yield up to a pound of flesh and 4 pints of fluid.
Carru: A strain of humped cattle with a bony skull and drab hide. With many products and resources being derived from it, the carru is a staple of Athasian life. The carru’s hump is used for water storage and holds 1d6+2 pints of water at any given time (and can be used to make a waterskin of similar capacity).
Critic Lizard: A small, multi-coloured lizard, the critic is innately psionic and attunes itself to its feeder. Critics are prized for their ability to detect hostile intent and poisons. As a result they are considered good luck charms in most households. Critics prefer to run free and become agitated if chained.
Crodlu: A crodlu is a large reptilian animal used for transportation or as a beast of burden. It resembles an enormous scaled ostrich, its limbs tipped with wicked claws. Heavy crodlu are bred for carrying Medium humanoids or pulling larger passengers and cargo, Warmount crodlu are powerful beasts raised for combat.
Regular crodlu can carry 90 pounds without slowing from their base movement rate of 24, and can carry no more than 360 pounds at MV 6. Heavy and warmount crodlu can carry 240 pounds without slowing from their base MV 18, and up to 600 pounds moving at MV 6.
Dagorran: Dagorrans are large, frog-like monsters with gold-coloured hide and a cluster of crystals on their back. Because of their innate ability to track the psionic signatures of most intelligent and psionic creatures, dagorrans are often trained to capture runaway slaves. They possess other psionic powers that allow them to attack and control the bodies of their prey.
Erdland: Large, flightless birds used as mounts or to pull caravans, erdland weigh 2 tons and stand 15 feet tall. An erdland is appropriate as a mount for a Medium humanoid creature and can be ridden into battle. An erdland has the same carrying capacity as a heavy crodlu.
Erdlu: Erdlus are smaller relatives of erdland, used as herd beasts by many different cultures on Athas. They stand 7 feet tall and weigh around 200 lbs. An erdlu is the appropriate sized to function as a mount for a Medium humanoid, but is hard to control in battle. Erdlus are skittish, but their scales, claws and meat make them valued as sources of various commodities.
Their omnivorous diet allows them to graze nearly anywhere, and their hardy nature keeps them alive in harsh terrain. The price of a single erdlu can be as much as double that listed or as little as half, depending upon availability. Erdlu eggs are also edible; one egg can fetch 3 bits.
Gorak: Goraks are lizards with colourful dorsal fins that are domesticated as herd animals and sources of food. When excited or threatened, goraks emit a loud hissing noise as a warning and extend their fins in an attempt to appear larger and more threatening. When extended, the patterns on the dorsal fin can induce a trance in the gorak’s target.
Hurrum Beetle: These brightly coloured beetles are prized for their pleasant humming sounds. Although flightless, hurrums can change their shell colour along with the harmony they produce from their wing beats. Remaining an hour or more in direct sunlight will kill a hurrum, as it attempts to cool itself by beating its wings, creating a sound that becomes higher pitched until it dies from its exertions.
Inix: The inix is a large, 16-foot-long reptile commonly used for riding and as a beast of burden. Each can carry up to 1,000 pounds without slowing, When carrying between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds, the inix has MV 12, and between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds, it has MV 9. Inix will not move if burdened with more than 2,000 pounds.
Though herbivorous by nature, inix are vicious combatants, attacking with both tail and bite. Inix trained for riding are also trained not to fight while mounted, for no rider could manage to keep his seat while an inix thrashed its mighty tail.
Inix are commonly used in the armies of the sorcerer-monarchs and as mounts and escorts for the caravans of the great merchant houses and dune traders. An inix can be trained to carry a howdah or bear a Large rider with a specially constructed saddle. Half-giants use them as individual mounts; they are one of the few beasts able to carry a half-giant comfortably. Inix can’t generally pull wagons because of their lengthy tails.
Each inix needs 150 pounds of food and eight gallons of water per day. If allowed to graze every day in scrub plain, forest, or verdant belt terrain, an inix will forage enough food for itself. Every day that an inix doesn’t receive its fill of water or food, it must save vs. death or go berserk. The animal’s basic saving throw is 11, but there is a cumulative –2 penalty on the save imposed with each passing day. The berserk inix’s aim is not to eat its masters, but to escape to forage elsewhere. However, it will attack those who try to stop it – once berserk, an inix must be either set free, magically or psionically charmed, or killed. The chance for an inix to go berserk is in addition to dehydration.
An inix can be pushed to double or triple its normal movement, like any other mount.
Jankx: Jankx are small, furred mammals that live in burrows in the desert. The common people of Athas think these prized creatures are too dangerous to remove from their lands, but those that are killed make good furs and are a good source of food. Jankx are not combative, but they do have a poison that has a withering effect upon flesh and is quite capable of crippling a grown man in moments. Jankx have bone spurs with attached poison sacs located on the underside of each limb near the paw.
Kank: Kanks are large, docile insects used as herd animals and beasts of burden. They are effective mounts for a single Medium character. Kanks are 4 feet high and 8 feet long, weighing 400 pounds, durable and easily tended. Kanks are not raised for their meat, which becomes foul-smelling as soon as they die. Instead, they are raised for honey globules produced on their bellies – each globule is worth 4 bits – and for chitin.
A kank can carry up to 400 pounds without slowing. Kanks burdened beyond this amount refuse to move. Kanks used as mounts require harnesses and saddles. Kanks can be hitched to wagons individually or in teams. A character needs the animal handling proficiency to effectively operate a team of kanks.
A kank can find food in any terrain other than salt flats if allowed to graze for a few hours each day. Otherwise, it must have five pounds of plants or vegetables per day. Each kank needs two gallons of water per day to avoid dehydration.
All kank mounts are of the food-producer variety, creating large globules of green honey on the abdomen every other day; it can be eaten by all the player character races and counts as one gallon of water. Characters on a strict diet of kank honey can survive on it alone for a period of days equal to their Constitution score; after that, the character’s diet must be supplemented with other foodstuffs or he will become ill. A kank that is dehydrated or underfed does not produce honey.
A kank pushed to double or triple its normal movement rate receives a + 1 bonus to its saving throw to avoid exhaustion.
Kip: The kip is a shy, six-legged, armoured reptile. Their supple, armour-like covering makes durable leather goods. Kip are non-combative and will flee if threatened. If cornered or alarmed, it will release a blast of delirium-inducing pheromones and seek to escape. A kip only attacks if panicked or if it has no other option.
Mekillot: A mekillot is an enormous six-ton lizard used as a beast of burden or to transport troops. Each one can carry 8,000 pounds or pull up to 40,000 pounds behind it. A mekillot can be fitted with a pack or war howdah, carrying several men into combat. These beasts are hard to control and usually require a psionic handler in addition to a tremendous amount of food and water. Mekillots instinctively drop on their bellies should something move beneath them, Wise Athasians know never to come between a mekillot and the ground.
A mekillot needs 300 pounds of food and 16 gallons of water per day. When in use as a pack animal, a mekillot may decide to stop working or to move in a random direction. Each day, roll 1d20. On a roll of one, the mekillot stops where it is and won’t move further that day. On a roll of two, the mekillot takes a new direction not given to it. Exactly when the mekillot becomes stubborn is determined randomly (roll 1d10 for the ten-hour march day). A stubborn mekillot can sometimes be controlled through magic or psionics. Any physical effort to change a mekillot’s mind (a beating, attempting to lure it with food, etc.) enrages it and causes it to attack. A mekillot cannot be pushed to double or triple its normal movement.
Mulworm Cocoon: The mulworm is notable because it secretes a powerful and versatile poison that can be applied in a number of different ways. The poison is difficult to harvest because it becomes inert soon after being taken from the mulworm’s body. This has led to a modest trade in the creature’s cocoons.
Ock’n: Ock’n are small, spiral-shelled snails that leave a slime trail composed of an amber-like liquid that has many household uses, including coating weapons, waterproofing materials, and sealing perishables.
Renk: The renk is a small, white caterpillar often taken on long trips. Renk store moisture in an extra stomach that ruptures when they are eaten raw. An average renk holds 1/2 cup of water (32 renks provide one gallon). Exposure to direct sunlight for more than 1d4 turns causes the renk to shrivel and die.
Sygra: Sygra are horned, cloven-hoofed quadrupeds with good hearing and peripheral vision. Semi-domesticated for their meat, milk, and hides, sygra eat almost anything. Sygra are near the bottom of the food chain and startle easily, running away from most threats.
Z’tal: Z’tal are small, stupid lizards that live in herds and are domesticated for their meat and razor-sharp scales. Z‘tal make a series of chirps, squeaks, and squawks to communicate with each other. When threatened, z‘tal scream and run.
Caring for Mounts and Livestock
Athas’ beasts of burden are hardy animals, acclimated to their world’s harsh conditions; they are generally self-reliant, if somewhat savage creatures. Many beasts are more intelligent and deadly than those used on other AD&D campaign worlds. A Dark Sun character has a more uneasy peace with his animal, and experience warns him that the rider may become the hunted.
Animals also suffer dehydration. Each day, animals require the following quantities of water: Tiny animals need 1/8 gallon, Small animals need 1/2 gallon, Medium animals need 1 gallon, Large animals need 4 gallons, Huge animals need 8 gallons, and Gargantuan animals need 16 gallons. Animal water intake can be cut in half for shade or inactivity, or quartered if both.
At the end of a day that an animal doesn’t get its full water allotment, there is a 10% chance it will die; the chance increases by 10% for each additional day without water. Animals are fully rehydrated after receiving their full allotment of water for one day.