In Anticipation Of Dark Sun

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on May 12, 2010

Dark Sun is coming later this year. In anticipation of the release of the next 4e campaign setting I’ve been doing my homework about the campaign setting. I never played Dark Sun when it was originally released, nor did I even purchase the box set. Though the setting looked interesting I never made the decision to get myself a copy. As a result I’ve apprehended Ameron’s copy and have been doing some reading.

Athas always appeared as a very savage, destructive and hard land. This is what the artwork has led me to believe, reading other people’s thoughts on the setting and of course reading through the source books themselves.

Over the next few months you can expect to see some of our thoughts on Dark Sun. Where we think the 4e release of the campaign setting will go. The original Dark Sun applied some specific rules that didn’t apply in other settings. These dealt mostly with character creation and it will be interesting to see how these changes will work in 4e. Of course there may be no changes at all.

What I wanted to share today was how much the language of Dungeon’s & Dragon’s has changed over time. The original Dark Sun campaign setting was released during the AD&D 2nd edition and as I’ve been reading through the campaign book I realized just how much the terminology of the game has changed. I’m not just talking about THAC0 or proficiencies. Character creation, classes and races are really very different from the current version of the game.

Now please understand my object here isn’t to start an edition war. There is nothing wrong with any of the earlier editions of the game. I’d like to think that I could go back to playing the earlier editions with minimal difficulty. I’m not sure if I would enjoy the experience but there is certainly a great deal of nostalgia in looking at where D&D has evolved from.

As we talk about Dark Sun over the next few months I hope that those who have played in the campaign setting previously will provide their insights into where they think the 4e version of Dark Sun is going.

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1 Glenn Peirce May 12, 2010 at 11:19 am

I was looking forward to this blog post when I saw the headline. But I find myself disappointed. It takes a lot of words to say:
“We’re eventually going to talk about Dark Sun.”

2 The Last Rogue May 12, 2010 at 11:39 am

The setting I’ve had the most fun in. Bar none.

3 Shane May 12, 2010 at 11:40 am

So, to stray from Dark Sun specifically for a moment… (though I am basically in the same position as you – never played in it, but always found it very fascinating)

I started playing D&D with 3.0, currently play 4th, and have purchased and been reviewing older editions especially recently. I dont see why there is even an edition war. Each edition has somethign of its own to offer and you can still get your hands on all the books and play whichever edition you like. It frustrates me to no ends when everyone starts bashing on one edition or another.

I once borrowed the issue of Dragon that had a lot of content pertaining to Dark Sun, which is what originally peaked my interest. From my understanding, there is less magic, more trying to just scrape by in the world. 4th edition loves throwing magic items everywhere. I really hope they create a reliable system for running a campaign with less magic items. I vaguely recall reading an official source somewhere in 4e some sort of plan for running a campaign with less magic items, but not being a big fan of how they worked it out.

4 Sersa V May 12, 2010 at 12:29 pm

I was too young to catch it when it first came out, but I’m very much thrilled to see it re-released, and I look forward to reading about your experiences with it.
.-= Sersa V´s last blog ..‘Breaching the Gauntlet’: The Art and Science of the All-Trap Encounter =-.

5 Kenneth McNay May 12, 2010 at 12:41 pm

i’m very excited about Dark Sun. I played the video game, but never the setting.

6 Wimwick May 12, 2010 at 3:11 pm

@ Glenn Pierce
My apologies for dashing you hopes on a great post, that should come next week. Having said that what are you anticipating most about the 4e version of Dark Sun?

@ The Last Rogue
What makes the setting so great in your mind?

@ Shane
I don’t understand edition wars either, but I know some are very sensitive to certain topics and I wanted to be clear that starting a bash fest wasn’t my point.

@ Sersa V
You won’t get experiences so much as my thoughts on how WotC might work certain mechanics. It’s all speculation until we start to see something new from them, which should happen in the next round of D&D Encounters.

@ Kenneth McNay
If you are interested in learning more it’s my understanding that WotC will be re-releasing the original Dark Sun novels. This might prove to be a quick way to get into the campaign setting.

7 Michael May 12, 2010 at 5:21 pm

@Shane: I think the source you’re referring to for running campaigns with few or no magic items is page 138 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide 2 – “A Reward-Based Game.” I’ve never tried this approach before, but it sounds from your experience that it’s not a great approach. I don’t care too much, as I have a lot of fun with magic items for now, but I could see wanting to try something like that in a future campaign.
.-= Michael´s last blog ..Private maps in Gametable =-.

8 Joseph May 12, 2010 at 10:22 pm

I played in a Dark Sun campaign during my time in the Air Force. It was a hoot as I remember, but mainly because it was so very over-powered compared to other settings. I had a half-giant barbarian (I think… it’s been nearly 20 years) and it was such fun making the DM actually look up the “structural damage” rules from the DMG.
.-= Joseph´s last blog ..Son of the thing that ate yet more Minifigs Pics =-.

9 Dungeon Newbie May 13, 2010 at 3:10 am

Exactly how many posts will there be? Will it be a review or a summary? Please elaborate.

10 Fauxcrye May 13, 2010 at 3:34 am

I am looking forward to the new Dark Sun. I am hoping they deal more with adapting 4e to a less magic laden world. I have been completely home brewing a campaign that has a more pulpy and dangerous vibe. The players are about to hit 3rd level and are feeling gleeful about finding weapons and armor that aren’t of inferior manufacture from their isolated island. So they have armor and equipment equal to 1st level characters now. We have added spell checks, arcane/psionic physical corruption (using these branches of power grant defects and mutation), magical items are extremely rare and unique in their nature. I’m hoping Dark Sun has more of this raw and dangerous vibe to the rules that can be brought over. 4e is awesome for creating campaigns with an older pulp feel. But, the default campaign and built in balancing assumes tons of magical items. We are not using the low magical world bonuses method, instead I have just been balancing monsters to the reduced power level. It has been a hoot on both sides of the screen. But, it does increase the work load for the DM.

Dark Sun has always been D&D’s badass older brother’s friend in terms of campaign worlds. And I hope they keep that vibe intact with the 4e ruleset.

11 Glenn Pierce May 13, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I am looking forward to Dark Sun for two reasons:

1. The setting still appeals to me after all these years. It was so strange and fantastic all at the same time, even within the RPG fantasy gaming world. Never before had I encountered a world that so completely turned what I thought I knew on its head (although, in fantasy literature, McCaffrey’s Pern came close)

2. Depending on how it gets delivered, Dark Sun is an opportunity for WotC to show off how versatile 4e can be. Dark Sun is *so* different from the default world (Points of Light), the Realms, and Eberron that its delivery should be able to showcase both the depth and breadth of 4e’s application range. If done extremely well, I suspect we will see the potential of 4e in a modern world game setting next (whether by WotC or a 3rd party).

12 Wimwick May 13, 2010 at 8:25 pm

@ Joseph
In reading the original it does seem like Dark Sun is a very over-powered world. Sounds like a lot of fun actually.

@ Dungeon Newbie
I’m not sure how many posts there will be and it won’t be a review. I don’t have a copy of the 4e version of Dark Sun. What you will get is my comments and thoughts on where WotC may take Dark Sun with 4e.

@ Fauxcrye
The two books being released for Dark Sun are the campaign setting and a monster manual. So it is possible that the treasure bundles for Dark Sun will be of lesser value and that the monsters will be balanced accordingly.

@ Glen Pierce
I don’t know very much about Dark Sun, yet. What appeals to me most is as you described the world is savage and very different from most heroic fantasy settings.

13 Lahrs May 18, 2010 at 1:10 pm

I know virtually nothing about Dark Sun the basic premise: low magic, struggle for survival, desert world. To be honest, the description alone doesn’t mesh with my play style, but that alone could be a lot of fun. Season 2 of Encounters will be an excellent demo of the world and system, so I will have a much more informed decision on whether I am going to pick up the books.

At this point, I have not picked up any campaign books for 4th. I have quite a few for 3rd, but my group has been running in my homebrew for so long I hadn’t felt too compelled to pick up the new books. However, I think it might be time to take a break from my world and try something new. I wish it were DragonLance, but since Wizards has been explicit in saying DragonLance will not come to 4th, I will be looking into other settings and Dark Sun seems to be as good a place to start as any.

I do not understand the edition war either. A good DM should be able to overcome any issues with a system, assuming it is not completely borked from the beginning. I like 4th, and in fact it is my favorite at the moment, but that doesn’t detract any enjoyment I may find in playing earlier editions. A good DM will always be greater than any edition.

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