Sea of Dust

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The northeastern portion of the Sea of Dust and environs, as depicted on the Paizo map (2005).

The Sea of Dust is a vast desert of ash and dust bound by a number of mountain ranges, including the Sulhauts to the north, the Hellfurnaces to the east, and a spur of the Tyurzi Mountains to the south.


The Sea of Dust is dominated by powdery gray ash immediately west of the Hellfurnaces. More ash is added every year. It becomes less ash-clogged toward the Sulhauts, where ruined fortifications and walled cities of the Suloise can still be seen. These ruined buildings have the characteristic high-angled look still favored by Suel-descended peoples in places such as the Lendore Isles and the Sea Princes.

The central region of the Sea of Dust is the most alien. Rather than gray ash, the substance of the Sea is a white, caustic powder that blows around and causes those who do not protect their mouths and noses with damp cloths to cough blood. Mixed with water, it forms a strong lye. The light reflecting off the white dunes will blind those who do not protect their eyes with slitted visors or masks. Glassy depressions in the central Sea are said to correspond to former cities of the Suel.

In the southwest of the Sea of Dust there is a small amount of rainfall, and here various groups of nomads are able to survive. The dust of this region is dry soil rather than an alien alkaline material or ash, and it is extraordinarily productive for a time after the occasional rain.


The majority of the Sea of Dust is without water on the surface and has no plant life on the surface. In areas where the dust or ash lies thinner above the more stable earth the occasional vampire cactus is able to survive; their seeds were brought to the area by migrating birds. Deep beneath the dunes, some waters still flow, and burrowing creatures have been able to access it. Thus, certain creatures live in tunnels beneath the dust, including boring beetles, bulettes, giant centipedes, meenlocks, derro, horgar, jermlaines, osquips, purple worms, giant rats, myconids, snyads, and ankhegs.

In the foothills of the Hellfurnaces, firenewts and fire lizards hunt. In the same region a short, stocky human people cover their bodies with a foul-smelling wax in order to protect themselves from caustic dust and burning sun. This matches the description of the Hek people from the adventure All That Glitters.

Giant snakes and arachnids of various kinds can also be found in the desert


The majority of the derro race still dwells beneath the Sea of Dust, having survived the Rain of Colorless Fire thanks to the protection of hundreds of feet of earth. A major community of them lives in the Forgotten City.

Some of the nomads are of Suel descent, but most are a tall, slender, curly-haired people with blue-black skin and slanted eyes with origins to the south. They are rich in gold and gems looted from the ruined cities of the Suel.

Stories are told of packs of thri-kreen roaming the wastes of the Sea of Dust.

Features and settlements

The nomads move frequently between wells, as they are prone to dry up or grow salty when overused.

The dustlakes, or Ktosor-hep as the local nomads call them, are pools of dust anywhere between half a mile and six miles across that have been made magical by contact with the buried towns and cities of the Suel. While the wavelike dunes of the Sea of Dust do resemble the form of a watery sea, the dustlakes are completely liquid, able to support boats, swimmers, and divers just as water does. Unlike water, they are somewhat breathable for those wearing fine cloth masks, as the fluid somehow permits the passage of air between the grains of dust. The nomads require boys to dive to the bottom and bring back a trinket from the ruins in order to be accepted by their tribes as full men.

The Forgotten City, once the capital of the Suel Imperium, lies buried somewhere in the center of the desert.


This great basin was formerly home to the ancient Suel Imperium, a nation of fertile lands extending some one thousand miles west and south, before it was destroyed by the Rain of Colorless Fire in -422 CY. The Rain of Colorless Fire was sent by the Baklunish Empire to the north, in retaliation for the Invoked Devastation which destroyed all but the remnants of that empire.

Publishing history

The Sea of Dust was first described in print in Quag Keep by Andre Norton, who wrote the book with Gary Gygax giving her information on the Greyhawk setting in which it was set. It was described more formally and familiarly in the The World of Greyhawk folio (1980) with the description repeated in the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting a few years later. The Sea of Dust was described in much greater detail in Sea of Death, a non-TSR novel written by Gary Gygax in 1987, and in Greyhawk Adventures, published by TSR in 1988. There has been a little more information published since then in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer and elsewhere. The detail about thri-kreen packs was mentioned in Thri-Kreen of Athas, which had a short section on the thri-kreen of Oerth.


  • Beach, Tim, and Dori Hein. Thri-Kreen of Athas. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1995.
  • Moore, Roger E. Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins. Renton, WA: TSR, 1998.
  • -----. "Legacies of the Suel Imperium." Dragon #241. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1997.
  • -----. "Greyhawk Mysterious Places." Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1999. Originally appeared in TSR's America Online folder as a 2nd edition update to Greyhawk Adventures, later moved to its website. No longer live on the WotC website but available from the Wayback Machine: [1]