D&D General 1991 Dark Sun Setting Overview and Speculation

squibbles

Adventurer
I do think Dark Sun in 5E needs to be close to the time of Kalak's fall (either right before, or shortly after). Part of the strength of that setting is the lore of the Sorcerer Kings and their tyranny, and I do believe that to set Dark Sun 5E in a different region in a different time period is a risk that WotC should not take. People really do like that established lore (myself including), and I don't have great faith that WotC can create entirely new stuff that is tangentially tied to the old, with the same caliber I enjoy from the old stuff. And I also enjoy the freedom of having some "unexplored territory" that I can homebrew my own lore to if I'd like.
This I would agree with. I think a lot of Dark Sun fans primarily remember the 2e days and the 2e art. Furthermore, I agree a draw to the setting is the tyrannical sorcerer kings and their templar. The wilderness is extremely inhospitable, and the cities make the wilderness look welcoming by comparison. That is an interesting idea even if hyper grimdark has worn a little thin in recent years. [...] Basically, I don't have faith in WotC, either.
Color me puzzled guys.

The 1991 set and the 4e redo are still around. They haven't gone bad or anything; you can still use them regardless of what 5e does. There are lots of Dark Sun fan resources for 5e too. @toucanbuzz did an excellent campaign guide and monster manual for it. It wouldn't be hard to run the the 1991 set or (inferior) revised setting in 5e--or 4e, or 2e. Forgodsakes there are fan conversions of Dark Sun for Dungeon World, Savage Worlds, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Anything that WotC does now would be an addition to the very large trove of Dark Sun resources that already exist.

Why ought they do the same stuff over again for the third time?

I understand your justifiable concern that new content WotC adds to the setting might be bad. Indeed, I am of the opinion that most content after the 1991 setting is bad. But... so? If it doesn't suit my headcannon I'll just steal the parts I like and disregard the rest. I'm sure you can both do so as well with, for example, hypothetical underground upside-down pyramid drow pirate mummy realms. (not to pick on you @Urriak Uruk --I just find that phrasing fun to write).

The whole problem is that the books start out with a much more interesting setting than exists at the conclusion. This is the problem with Dark Sun, Dragonlance, and Planescape (although I think Planescape has big problems even with the original lore). The most interesting bits of the settings happened before the "current" time, and they're just less interesting settings for adventure because of it. Many of the Magic: The Gathering settings have this problem, as does the Star Wars universe, the Lord of the Rings universe, the Harry Potter universe, etc. The draw to the world is partially that initial setting and conflict.
That goes without saying, right? Most good works of fiction start with more conflict and potential than they end with. Developing the conflict of the steady state world in a way that fulfills its potential is the point of the exercise.

But that's not to say that new and equally interesting conflict can't be built over the previous premise. I think Beyond the Prism Pentad actually did a pretty good job of that. To quote myself from another thread:
The post pentad status quo really wouldn't be all that bad as long as the deep lore abut Rajaat, the blue age, and so forth is kept obscure/ambiguous in published material. Maybe throw in the vague suggestion of a canonical retcon--but never commit one way or another. Moreover, with a soft reset that jumped the timeline past the book characters' deaths from old age, there'd still be plenty of thematic Darksun to go around.

The take in my headcannon:
Dregoth will have laid to waste and occupied Raam (and most people think he's the original dragon). Sadira will be the faux sorcerer queen of Tyr--less evil but still an eccentric dictator. Tectuctitlay's "son" Atzetuk will be the new divine ruler of Draj, by dint of extreme psychic powers. Balic will be a strife-riven disaster, but with Andropinis still exerting weird extra-dimensional influence. Hamanu, Nibenay, and Lilali-Puy will all be right where we left them. And there's omnipresent religious strife between Dregoth and Lilali-Puy's cultists. All of that is a straight line from 2e's "Beyond the Prism Pentad", with only minimal effort to curtail the metaplot's sunshine and rainbows.

There are many possible permutations of Dark Sun which can capture its "tyrannical sorcerer kings" goodness without being set immediately before or after Kalak's death.

I would like to see WotC try one.
 
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Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Color me puzzled guys.

The 1991 set and the 4e redo are still around. They haven't gone bad or anything; you can still use them regardless of what 5e does. There are lots of Dark Sun fan resources for 5e too. @toucanbuzz did an excellent campaign guide and monster manual for it. It wouldn't be hard to run the the 1991 set or (inferior) revised setting in 5e--or 4e, or 2e. Forgodsakes there are fan conversions of Dark Sun for Dungeon World, Savage Worlds, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Anything that WotC does now would be an addition to the very large trove of Dark Sun resources that already exist.

Why ought they do the same stuff over again for the third time?

I understand your justifiable concern that new content WotC adds to the setting might be bad. Indeed, I am of the opinion that most content after the 1991 setting is bad. But... so? If it doesn't suit my headcannon I'll just steal the parts I like and disregard the rest. I'm sure you can both do so as well with, for example, hypothetical underground upside-down pyramid drow pirate mummy realms. (not to pick on you @Urriak Uruk --I just find that phrasing fun to write).


That goes without saying, right? Most good works of fiction start with more conflict and potential than they end with. Developing the conflict of the steady state world in a way that fulfills its potential is the point of the exercise.

But that's not to say that new and equally interesting conflict can't built over the previous premise. I think Beyond the Prism Pentad actually did a pretty good job of that. To quote myself from another thread:


There are many possible permutations of Dark Sun which can capture its "tyrannical sorcerer kings" goodness without being set immediately before or after Kalak's death.

I would like to see WotC try one.

Well... you kind of make a good point. Personally, I despise the Prism Pentad, so I'm glad that 4E essentially dumped that and I hope it is never revisited.

However, I do like some of the old modules, like City of the Silt Sea, where Dregoth the lich dragon is (presumably) killed by the PCs. I believe Nibenay is also killed in the module Marauders of Nibenay, and I suppose Borys is in Valley of Dust and Fire.

So... I don't know, I guess I could enjoy the Tyr region if it's set after the old modules. It would be good to know how many of the Sorceror Kings are fought in the old ones, because if 5E Dark Sun was set after them we could track how many are presumably still alive.
 

grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
I keep being torn between wanting a faithful update of the '91 box set to 5E and a reimagining of Dark Sun for a modern audience. I love original Dark Sun, but it will be very hard to replicate in 5E with no psionics, lackluster defiling corruption options, and the problematic treatment of slavery and muls. I think an expansion beyond the tablelands of Tyr and having a more navigable silt sea would be awesome. A revisioning of Dark Sun would get rid of the distasteful uncanny valley aspect of a lot of reboots, where it is close enough to be glaringly obvious it missed the mark.
So I would love to see the Eastern shores of the Sea of Silt and their City-States, Ur-Draxa, and pirates of the Silten Sea. Bring on a reinvigorated Dark Sun in the spirit of the original. I have all my old Dark Sun stuff from 2E, if it sucks I am no worse off, except for the desire to see it presented to a new generation of gamers. Plus, maybe we can spur WotC to take a leap of faith and get a new system for psionics.
 

Mark Hope

Adventurer
However, I do like some of the old modules, like City of the Silt Sea, where Dregoth the lich dragon is (presumably) killed by the PCs. I believe Nibenay is also killed in the module Marauders of Nibenay, and I suppose Borys is in Valley of Dust and Fire.
Unfortunately, that's a no to all of those! Dregoth can make an appearance in the module that comes with City by the Silt Sea, but it's presumed the PCs run away from him - the module is for characters of level 5-9 and, well, he's a 29th level dragon. Marauders of Nibenay presumes the PCs help Nibenay, not kill him. And Valley of Dust and Fire isn't an adventure - it's a setting book. It does have a few details on how things might pan out of the PCs decide to take on the Dragon, though, so it's not impossible that high-level PCs could defeat the creature. And, well, if they don't, all those annoying NPCs will be along shortly to do it for them. The PCs can watch if they like! ;)

Only one of the original DS adventures pits the PCs directly against a sorcerer-monarch - Abalach-Re in Forest Maker - and I believe the module assumes she survives. I am hoping for a different outcome when I next run it...

If we do get a 5e version of DS, I really hope it presents us with something new.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Unfortunately, that's a no to all of those! Dregoth can make an appearance in the module that comes with City by the Silt Sea, but it's presumed the PCs run away from him - the module is for characters of level 5-9 and, well, he's a 29th level dragon. Marauders of Nibenay presumes the PCs help Nibenay, not kill him. And Valley of Dust and Fire isn't an adventure - it's a setting book. It does have a few details on how things might pan out of the PCs decide to take on the Dragon, though, so it's not impossible that high-level PCs could defeat the creature. And, well, if they don't, all those annoying NPCs will be along shortly to do it for them. The PCs can watch if they like! ;)

Only one of the original DS adventures pits the PCs directly against a sorcerer-monarch - Abalach-Re in Forest Maker - and I believe the module assumes she survives. I am hoping for a different outcome when I next run it...

If we do get a 5e version of DS, I really hope it presents us with something new.

Oh, that's good to know! Yeah I've never played them, just heard of these. I'm kind of glad none of them die, I really like the Sorcerer Kings as antagonists and don't want to see the missing in Dark Sun 5E (and I wants STATS!)

I kind of want a nice balance between, presenting all of the old Dark Sun stuff with updated art and stats for 5E, but also delving a little bit deeper into stuff like the area beyond Tyr Region, and the cosmology and stuff like that. I definitely don't want it set in a different region and different time period, I can make that stuff up myself when I need it.
 

squibbles

Adventurer
Also, there's the micro-cultures next to each other. Something they realized had to fix for Ravenloft and can be done there thanks to the nature of the setting.
I am guessing, as the environment is so harsh, that travel between this cities should be more difficult and infrequent, thus explaining the cultural differences. Trade happens between city-states and client villages. Conflict between then is extraordinary, raids by tribes and monsters the most common conflict. Make each city-state more relevant and different, give the sorcerer-kings a personality, etc...

My guess is it's begging for a bigger, about 2x, scale.
Interesting.

That's exactly what they did in 4e by changing the map scale from 30 miles to 75 miles. I don't think the 4e materials really stressed the limitations of travel and connectivity between cities, but the designers definitely anticipated your critique.

I keep being torn between wanting a faithful update of the '91 box set to 5E and a reimagining of Dark Sun for a modern audience. I love original Dark Sun, but it will be very hard to replicate in 5E with no psionics, lackluster defiling corruption options, and the problematic treatment of slavery and muls. I think an expansion beyond the tablelands of Tyr and having a more navigable silt sea would be awesome. A revisioning of Dark Sun would get rid of the distasteful uncanny valley aspect of a lot of reboots, where it is close enough to be glaringly obvious it missed the mark.
So I would love to see the Eastern shores of the Sea of Silt and their City-States, Ur-Draxa, and pirates of the Silten Sea. Bring on a reinvigorated Dark Sun in the spirit of the original. I have all my old Dark Sun stuff from 2E, if it sucks I am no worse off, except for the desire to see it presented to a new generation of gamers. Plus, maybe we can spur WotC to take a leap of faith and get a new system for psionics.
I'm 100% in agreement with you.

If WotC does an update of Dark Sun, they are going to sand down some of its hard edges to promote inclusivity. That's fine but, rather than getting a homunculus of the 1991 set--sans problematic bits--I'd prefer they start with fresh canvas.

Take all of the themes and conventions of the original, but create a new stretch of tableland with a new batch of city states and a new set of oppressive sorcerer kings. I bet there would be some truly excellent entries if new writers were set loose on that premise--entries that are enriched by our 21st century zeitgeist rather than hindered by it. There'd be some duds too but it's not like I'd have to use them.

And the beauty of setting things on the east bank of the Sea of Silt is that there's precedent for it--several of those ~60 sorcerer kings I mathed out from the implied premises of the 1991 set could easily be there. And they'd be independent enough from the prior lore that not much would need to be retconned (for those who care). Rajaat could just be said to have had a bunch more champions than previously recorded.

I really like the Sorcerer Kings as antagonists and don't want to see them missing in Dark Sun 5E (and I wants STATS!)
Yeah, stats are the biggest value added of an official product. But let me ask: do they need to be written for the 7 rulers of the Tyr region--Kalak, Hamanu, Abalach-Re, Nibenay, Andropinis, Lalali-Puy, and Tektuktitlay?

4e treated them as though they are very different from one another, but in the 2e materials--Dragon Kings, City by the Silt Sea, Marauders of Nibenay, Black Flames, Beyond the Prism Pentad--sorcerer kings are just different level 'dragons' with different loadouts of spells and psionic sciences, i.e Nibenay; 24th level dragon king, Hamanu; 23rd level dragon king, Dregoth; 29th level dragon king. Wouldn't, say, a half dozen sorcerer kings and a template to create more (and maybe an advancement path for high level PCs) serve for the Tyr region sorcerer kings? Some of the original seven, like Tektuktitlay and Abalach-Re, are pretty bland to begin with and wouldn't much suffer from reusing stat blocks written for other sorcerer king NPCs.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Yeah, stats are the biggest value added of an official product. But let me ask: do they need to be written for the 7 rulers of the Tyr region--Kalak, Hamanu, Abalach-Re, Nibenay, Andropinis, Lalali-Puy, and Tektuktitlay?

4e treated them as though they are very different from one another, but in the 2e materials--Dragon Kings, City by the Silt Sea, Marauders of Nibenay, Black Flames, Beyond the Prism Pentad--sorcerer kings are just different level 'dragons' with different loadouts of spells and psionic sciences, i.e Nibenay; 24th level dragon king, Hamanu; 23rd level dragon king, Dregoth; 29th level dragon king. Wouldn't, say, a half dozen sorcerer kings and a template to create more (and maybe an advancement path for high level PCs) serve for the Tyr region sorcerer kings? Some of the original seven, like Tektuktitlay and Abalach-Re, are pretty bland to begin with and wouldn't much suffer from reusing stat blocks written for other sorcerer king NPCs.

You make a good point, but I'd argue that the 5E designers should make them even more diverse (in abilities) than their original versions, so each one gets a niche in combat style.
 

Otello

Villager
I really liked your post and how you supported it with actual numbers and even if I can understand your disliking of the Revised Campaign Setting, Prism Pentad and sequent expansions, I think some of them can, and should, be incorporated. Even if this is something were we would not probably be able to agree, I would like to add some parts of them, as I think they help to support some of your points.

Also, since westerly winds blow between 30- and 60-degrees latitude north and south, that places the explored world well beyond Athas’ equator, which suggests that the equatorial regions of Athas are even more hellish than the parts the Wanderer describes.

That would make a lot of sense to me. I've already speculated with the possibility that the Tyr region is located on the southern hemisphere of Athas. This would also explain the region isolation: North you have the equatorial area, which as you explained would be too hot to support any big society, and East the Silt Sea, which would be a natural barrier. West I think you need to have some kind of large body of water to explain the rains over the Ringing Mountains, but you also have the Hinterlands and the Kreen Empire to block further exploration/expansion. And finally, South, were you would have the pole and therefore a colder area more suitable to support other civilizarions, the Dead Lands.

But let’s speculate: The small size of the explored world relative to the probable surface area of the planet Athas, the purported absence of sapient life in the lands beyond it (though, oddly, the Wanderer notes that many large animals live in the Hinterlands), and the cultural diversity of the city-states suggest to me that the explored world’s inhabitants all MOVED THERE FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE. The Mesopotamian, Indian, Aztec, Central African, Cambodian, and Greek inflected cities of the Tyr Region—none of which are especially adapted to a Mad Max-esque wasteland—could well be descended from larger culture groups that immigrated there centuries ago when the rest of their world died.

Another point on which we have reached similar conclusions. The inmigration option is the only one that helps to explain how so many different cultures can be found in a so small area. My headcanon is that the different Sorcerer Kings moved the remains of the different societies that survived the Cleansing Wars to the most habitable area: the Tablelands.

I also like to think that the real origin of those societies was that their original inhabitants were "taken" from the real Earth, but that's something more controversial and that I can understand will not be of everyone's taste :rolleyes:. Even if I think it's something that the original designers had in mind when they wrote the original Campaign Setting.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
If WotC does an update of Dark Sun, they are going to sand down some of its hard edges to promote inclusivity. That's fine but, rather than getting a homunculus of the 1991 set--sans problematic bits--I'd prefer they start with fresh canvas.
They're unlikely to do that, for the same reasons they didn't just create a bunch of brand new domains for Ravenloft.
 

Everybody can understand there are lots of people with darker skin in Athas because its hot weather. My fear is about if the novels will be not canon any more.

And we don't know the future plans about crunch. Somebody could say gladiators could learn martial maneuvers (Tome of Battle: Book of nine Swords) or incarnum (totemist shaman). Or the warlock replace arcane with "primal" magic. What if a player wants to add warderns or seers (primal classes from 4th Ed).

Any suggestion? To allow Jackandor as a hypotetical spin-off of Dark Sun. Maybe both are linked by means of the Feywild.

Are spynewyrms true dragons?
 

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