B/X Known World
That's a fantastic comparison.This goes back somewhat to what I wrote in another thread regarding Wakanda versus Luke Cage as power fantasies.
In the real world, lots of people face oppression of various sorts. I think that in the face of that, it is natural to turn to one of two types of power fantasies, exemplified by Wakanda and Luke Cage.
Wakanda is an utopia. It is rich, it is powerful, it blends super-science with tradition, and there's no oppression. There are certainly threats to Wakanda, but Wakanda seems to be mighty enough to meet most of them and prevail. This is a good dream to strive for, and it's clear that it plucks at the heart strings of many. This seems to be pretty close in principle to many settings: there is a status quo which is Good, and people are mostly equal – or at least not discriminated against on account of ethnicity, sex, or sexuality. The job of Our Heroes is usually to defend this status quo, at least on a larger scale.
On the other hand, we have Luke Cage. Cage lives in a grittier part of the Marvel Universe, where corruption is rampant, people in power enjoy holding that power over others, and oppression is a fact of life. In short, Cage's world sucks. But Cage is empowered to do something about it. He is the black man the cops can't shoot (the TV series used a more colorful metaphor which I do not believe our esteemed mods would appreciate). He's the one who can change the world for the better. This type of world is where Dark Sun needs to be: the world is in a very bad place, but the PCs are the ones who can do something about it.
I'd slightly disagree about where that line is. I don't see the setting as needing to start with Kalak already dead and Tyr already free. Not saying you're wrong, just that I'd rather the PCs be the big damn heroes of the setting and be the ones who overthrow any sorcerer-kings who are toppled.One problem is that writing something like that is pretty hard. You need to walk the line between making it grim, and making it grimdark. If there is no hope at all, then what's the point? So the world can't be all bad, but where do you draw the line? This is where I think the post-Freedom! Dark Sun setting shines: one of the sorcerer-kings has just been overthrown, showing that a better world is possible. But upsetting the status quo is not without risks. Other sorcerer-monarchs have their eye on the city of Tyr, who just lost their mightiest defender (for certain values of defender). The abolition of slavery has created a large poor underclass, leading to social instability as well as food insecurity (because who's tending the fields now? You mean we have to PAY them? But that'll make food more expensive!). That's a setting with lots of potential, but also one who could easily fall back into despair.
I'm not sure that's an accurate representation of that Kickstarter.Another problem is that a setting like that tends to attract some people who only look at the surface, and who see slavery and oppression and think "cool!". I'm thinking of a recent Kickstarter that tried ripping off Dark Sun, but fortunately never got anywhere. It can be hard telling these pizza cutters from fans who appreciate what little hope the setting has.
The great thing about RPGs is that there are thousands of them. Not every game needs to be for every potential player. Some games can deal with harsh and dark topics and the players who want to engage with those topics can. But just because some potential players don't like those harsh and dark topics in no way means that games touching on them should not exist. If some players don't want to deal with the harshness of the Dark Sun setting, they don't have to. But stopping others who do want to engage with those topics just because some other people might not like it is a rather terrible starting position.And of course, I'm writing this from a position of privilege. I'm a straight white cis dude who lives in one of the world's richest countries. In the great game of life, I'm pretty much playing on easy mode. For me, experiencing oppression in a game is a matter of escapism. I get to experience something else for a while, but when the game is done, I get to go back to my life of privilege. Not everyone has that luxury, and I can't really blame them for preferring a game where they get to take a break from oppression being a thing to contend with on a daily basis.