There are fewer than ten sorcerer-kings and -queens, but they have shaped the Tablelands more than any other population in history. There are no recorded cases of a sorcerer-king's birth or death, with the possible exception of King Kalak's unexplained and relatively recent disappearance; to all appearances, they are as timeless as the world itself.

There are four things that all sorcerer-kings have in common. First, they are human, or at least they appear to be. Second, they have immense magical powers that verge on omnipotence. They are the only beings in Athas with the ability to control all five elements or to dole out magic to underlings. Third, they are immortal. Each of them has been alive since before recorded history, and they are apparently impossible to kill. Queen Abalach-Re of Raam was once run through with two spears in front of hundreds of onlookers, and she barely faltered before obliterating her would-be assassins. A less reliable story claims that King Hamanu of Urik was once beheaded in battle with Draj's army; he picked up his own head, put it back on, saluted his opponent, and quit the field with his troops. Fourth and most importantly, every sorcerer-king is the absolute ruler of a city-state.

Most religions provide explanations for the sorcerer-kings' powers, but no two creation myths tell exactly the same tale. The most popular themes are that they are gods who created Athas, or spirits who arose from the primal forces of the world, or demons from beyond, or mortals whose magical prowess let them achieve eternal life. For those who compare stories from across the Tablelands, the true origin of the sorcerer-kings remains a mystery.