Dark Sun 5E conversion - draft

toucanbuzz

Explorer
I got excited when the UA psion project came out that we might be getting a Dark Sun reboot. Alas, I've gotten Ravnica, ships, and some Waterdeep stuff, which has generated about .05% interest with my players. So, like others, I've taken on the task of doing it myself. It's been daunting. I found easily several dozen campaign conversions, some mechanically pretty good and others pretty bad, and I took what I perceived as the best pieces of each one and worked them into my own.

Anyhoo, attached is a Dark Sun Campaign Guide draft project using GM Binder (I'm no expert in coding but fairly user friendly): races section complete. I'll be working on classes next, then equipment. I'm shameless in borrowing material I like, so I don't lay any original claim to much except in my goal to keep the original 2E feel as much as possible (e.g. half-elves originally got an animal companion and half-giants had double hit points every level, which didn't translate well).

Since it's only a draft, not putting in downloads, but wanted to share for anyone to add, subtract, criticize, borrow, and so on.
 

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epithet

Explorer
After only a brief look at your draft guide, I like what I'm seeing so far. I'm looking forward to seeing your 5e rules for defiling or preserving.
 

toucanbuzz

Explorer
Defiling will be a task, to keep it simple yet meaningful. After all, there's a reason the sorcerer kings and so many others went to the "dark side" rather than preserving magic. As a background:

2nd Edition: defilers went up in levels quicker than preservers. Doesn't convert to later editions, and didn't explain what happened if a preserver, like Sadira in the books, defiled once because it was life or death.

3rd Edition: Dragon Magazine proposed "defiler points" for metamagic effects. It basically makes defiling an addicting drug, and long-term defilers junkies going through withdrawal. You can purge your withdrawal symptoms, which get worse the more you defile, by increasing your permanent defiler score, but once that hits a certain level, you become evil and an NPC lich junkie. It doesn't take long, either.

3.5 Conversion, Athas.org, major collaborative effort: Defile to take a full round to cast and boost caster level by 1, weaken creatures in the radius, then "metamagic" feats to improve defiling. All casters got a boost or penalty depending on the terrain. Not bad, but absent metamagic feats, hard to translate this. Idea remains that we keep the wizard as is and add a perk for defiling to explain why a lot of wizards give in.

4th Edition: Defiling lets you reroll an attack or damage roll (taking 2nd roll) at cost of minor damage to allies (why allies and not enemies, their excuse was things you have an "emotional connection" with), no sense but the reroll idea was pretty simple. Then add defiler-specific class stuff you could take to make this better. Not bad, but the damage ally stuff is silly.

5th Ideas: The conversions I saw (4 types) all had a basic defile anytime to get a minor bump in spell effectiveness (extra damage, DC, duration). All went with making wizards into a two Path class of defiler and preserver. The paths remove the 8 schools of magic, which sucks, and the preserver is pretty much gets healer, defensive stuff. Kinda sucks. I can't be an evoker? My benefits are stacked around protecting and healing?

I'm leaning towards the mechanic of the 3rd edition points if, and only if, we don't use a sorcerer class as I don't want to tread on their special territory. I like the idea of the addiction. The part that doesn't work too well is that it doesn't take long to become the undead lich thing (41 1st level spell castings, in theory, could do it...but I suppose that's why the populace takes special care to kill wizards on sight).

I'm leaning against the idea of two Paths. It seems like the 2nd edition issue of two classes and doesn't make sense that you'd always get protective healing stuff simply because you go Preserver.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
This is really cool! Some of the specific mechanical details of some of your races are not the way I would handle them, but it passes the most important test with flying colors: reading it makes me want to play Dark Sun ASAP.

A few mechanical details I really like:
- giving elves the Tabaxi sprint ability
- giving Halflings Savage Attacks and Fury of the Small
- giving Mul Relentless Endurance

I would straight-up use these as Athasian subraces for their respective races in a heartbeat. The Darksun-specific races feel a bit busy and overworked to me, except Mul, which are perfect.

RE: Defiling, I do like the idea of Metamagic points. I think that’s a nice, clean way to handle it if you don’t include Sorcerers. Another option, if you do include Sorcerers, might be to make Defiler a class. Characters who want to defile can multiclass into it. You could even make Defiler levels give you a bit more than standard class levels, to capture that 2e feel of “leveling up faster”.
 
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Delazar78

Visitor
here is how I handle Defiling in my campaign:

Defiling. When an Arcane caster (*) casts a spell using a spell slot, he
can choose to defile the land. All vegetation within 5ft times the
level of the spell slot used withers and dies. This area is halved
(round up) if the defiler is in an area with abundant vegetation (a
garden, a forest, a grassy plain).

When a spellcaster defiles the land, roll a d10. If the number
rolled is HIGHER than the expended spell slot, they immediately
regain a spell slot of the same level.

If the number rolled is a 1, the Defiler’s curse begins to take hold
of you. People start to recognize you as a defiler, with all the
related consequences (most probably burning at the stake)

Roll a d10
1. Gray skin
2. White hair
3. Yellow eyes
4. Long nails
5. Rotten teeth
6. Smell of decay
7. Limp
8. Cackling laughter
9. Random acts of cruelty
10. Ashen footprints

You cannot defile a patch of land that is already defiled.

(*) Arcane Casters = Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
 

vecna00

Explorer
Not bad! Your line of thinking matches my own on some things and I definitely want to see where how this turns out.
 

toucanbuzz

Explorer
here is how I handle Defiling in my campaign:...When a spellcaster defiles the land, roll a d10. If the number
rolled is HIGHER than the expended spell slot, they immediatelyregain a spell slot of the same level....
I like this line of thinking. It's like the 3rd edition "defiler points" crack. One option is to recover an expended spell slot. They put a cap on all the wonderful things you can do by your level. A first level wizard could never quicken, extend duration, or enhance spell damage, but they could make a spell silent or still (no somatic).

Defiling probably should depend on the terrain, and that would require a table. But I suppose that's what DM Screens are for.
 

toucanbuzz

Explorer
...The Darksun-specific races feel a bit busy and overworked to me, except Mul, which are perfect...
Always looking for improvement. Goal #1, get players excited about the new take on races. Traditional races can get to be old news, flat and generic if you play enough games.

But I don't have any framework or playtest to see how these work. When you say busy and overworked, let me know what you're seeing. I'm guessing there's too many traits going on. My goal #2 was to stay as true to the AD&D version as possible within reason (no half-giants, you don't get double hit points every level) and avoid things that don't fit (why would an Athasian halfling be "lucky"?)
 

Azzy

Cyclone Ranger
Defiling will be a task, to keep it simple yet meaningful. After all, there's a reason the sorcerer kings and so many others went to the "dark side" rather than preserving magic.
I see the common solution is to give defilers a bonus of sorts. If you want to encourage defiling versus preserving, that's one route. However, you could go about this in the opposite manner: defiling does provide any inherent bonus (it's standard spellcasting). Preserving, otoh, comes with penalties—say it takes longer to cast spells, or spells are treated as cast a level lower or whatever.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Always looking for improvement. Goal #1, get players excited about the new take on races. Traditional races can get to be old news, flat and generic if you play enough games.

But I don't have any framework or playtest to see how these work. When you say busy and overworked, let me know what you're seeing. I'm guessing there's too many traits going on. My goal #2 was to stay as true to the AD&D version as possible within reason (no half-giants, you don't get double hit points every level) and avoid things that don't fit (why would an Athasian halfling be "lucky"?)
Too many abilities, yeah, and some of the abilities feel clunky to me. Dasl, for example, feels really weird as a racial ability. I’d probably leave it out entirely and include in the equipment section that chatkcha and gythka are made from crystallized Thri-Kreen venom, and can’t be crafted without it. . Thri-Kreen physiology and weapon training feel distinctly un-5e like in presentation with those bullet points, though what they do seems fine given your design goals. Missile deflection feels really extra on top of all the abilities Thri-Kreen get. Also, why are they Large? They’re Medium in the monster manual.

For half-giants, saying they occupy a 10-by-10 space and have double carrying capacity is redundant with saying that they’re Large. Large limbs seems strange to me as 10-foot reach is not typically a feature of Large creatures and it seems REALLY overpowered, especially with half-giants being able to wield oversized weapons. Also, oversized weapons don’t have an increased die size, they have double damage dice. Which would also be crazy op. I would recommend removing that from Giant Heritage, move the ability to use versatile weapons’ normal damage die when wielding them one-handed there from long limbs, and add the ability to wield two-handed weapons in one hand, decreasing their damage due by one step if they do. Either that, or get rid of the versatile weapons in one hand thing, and allow them to wield oversized weapons, but only simple ones.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I see the common solution is to give defilers a bonus of sorts. If you want to encourage defiling versus preserving, that's one route. However, you could go about this in the opposite manner: defiling does provide any inherent bonus (it's standard spellcasting). Preserving, otoh, comes with penalties—say it takes longer to cast spells, or spells are treated as cast a level lower or whatever.
Yes.

Personally, given my predilections (that 5e has cheap, easy, and abundant magic ... a little too much) I would totally play/run a Dark Sun Campaign that worked by making standard arcane magic work through defiling, and trying to cast it without defiling (preserving) would work with penalties.

Sort of a roundabout way of making a campaign more low magic. Might be interesting! :)
 

toucanbuzz

Explorer
Defiler Points (a proposal and 3rd edition conversion).Defiling magic is a key trope of Athas, and overuse of defiling magic is the central reason the land is a harsh brutal desert rather than a lush land of wonder. It is a constant temptation to take "just a little" from the earth in exchange for power. While most casters are trained to avoid taking too much energy and killing all plant life in the vicinity, every caster also knows she is voluntarily limiting her power this way. Doing so is an evil act, but many a good-hearted caster has resorted to defiler magic in desperate straits or when facing a greater evil.

Because it's THE reason the world is screwed, it may justify a more complex mechanic.

Defiler Points : Instantly apply metamagic effects to your arcane spells. In order to make this work, we'd have to remove the sorcerer class because this stomps all over its core feature.

When casting a spell, you can boost it with one effect by accepting a # of defiler points equal to 1/2 your caster level.

Effect and Points Earned

Distant Spell, 1 point
Subtle Spell, 1
Careful Spell, 1
Extended Spell, 2
Empowered Spell, 2
Heightened Spell, 3
Quickened Spell, 4
Twinned Spell, 4

Recover expended spell slot as an action that provokes AoO, 2 per spell level
Cast a spell without material component, 1 per 500cp (ceramic piece, equivalent to a D&D gold coin)

Replace all Charisma modifier effects with Intelligence, obviously.

The Taint of Defiling: Once you have defiler points, they have immediate affect and are cumulative until purged. The junkie effect.

Defiler Points and Effect

1+, -2 on Wisdom and Charisma ability checks.

11+, -1 on Constitution saves and ability checks. If you engage in strenuous activity (fighting, running, DM discretion) for more than 1 minute, you must make a DC 0 + # of current defiler points Constitution save or gain 1 level of exhaustion.

21+, another -2 penalty on Wisdom and Charisma ability checks.

31+, another -1 on Constitution saves and ability checks. Your alignment changes to evil if it isn't already.

41+ You become a t'liz (undead defiler) and become an NPC under the DM's control.

Purging Defiler Points. You can "Assume the Taint," or go to rehab, aka "Meditate" aka "Apologize to the Land" because you promised you wouldn't then you lied and stole from it to feed your habit.

Assume the Taint: At the end of a long rest, you may purge away all your defiler points and their negative effects, including any exhaustion caused by defiling. Add 1/2 of your defiler points to a permanent "defiler score." Reset your defiler points to 0. Your defiler score is different than points and is used solely to determine the effect of (new) Dark Sun spells that detect and damage defilers. There is no limit to your defiler score.

If you fail to purge points or cast (a lot), this can add up to undeath. Some really evil casters might even want this.

Meditate: Aka go to rehab.Meditating in an undefiled area of Athas is the only way to eliminate defiler points. If a druid helps you, it doubles the rate, but druids like to kill defilers, so that would be a tough sell.

Terrain and Reduction
Lush (forest, garden), 2 hours per point
Abundant (grassland, farm, mud flat), 4 hours per point
Fertile (oasis, scrub plain), 8 hours per point
Infertile (badlands, bare mountain), 1 day per point
Barren, 1 week per point

Defiling Range: Every bit of nonsentient plant life in the immediate vicinity is turned to ash, and the land is rendered sterile, unable to sustain life for possibly decades or centuries after. For one year, no matter what is done, the defiled area can never be viable. Even afterwards, all the lifegiving nutrients have been leeched from the soil. This is tougher. Do we make it simple to calculate, or go more realistic in that trees provide more power versus scrub?

Terrain and Radius

Lush, 1 foot x # of defiler points used
Abundant, 5x
Fertile, 10x
Infertile, 20x
Barren, 30x

Successive defiling in an area that has been recently defiled (in the last minute) expands the radius by 50%. For example, a maximized fireball (4 points) on a scrub plain (fertile land) = 40 foot radius. An extended mirror image cast next round (2 points) would increase the destruction by another 10 feet (normally 20 feet, halved for an already defiled zone), as all apparent plant life has been destroyed and now we're leeching even deeper. We're at 50 feet of ash, and now our defiler uses recovery to get his fireball back (2 points per level = 6), doing another 30 feet of destruction.

When calculating defiler points (by the way, our defiler has to be at least 12th level because he just spent 6 points on one defiler effect, and he maxes out at 1/2 his level), our defiler has picked up 4 for the maximized fireball, 2 for the mirror image, and 6 for the spell slot recovery. He's up to 12, and assuming he's started the day clean, he now has a -2 to Wisdom and Charisma checks, a -1 to Constitution saves and checks, and risks exhaustion with a DC 12 save until he can purge the points. Anyone who defiles that much might be able to meditate it away with enough time, but any druid that crosses his path with the sense to have the (new) Detect Defiler spell will probably aim to kill on sight. Given there's no penalty to just accepting the taint, this really does a good job of explaining why defiling is so easy to get into.
 

toucanbuzz

Explorer
Too many abilities, yeah, and some of the abilities feel clunky to me. Dasl, for example, feels really weird...
Good point, probably better suited if someone wants to use an Alchemy tool kit. I drew this from an optional thri-kreen book, overkill.

Thri-Kreen physiology and weapon training feel distinctly un-5e like in presentation with those bullet points, though what they do seems fine given your design goals. Missile deflection feels really extra on top of all the abilities Thri-Kreen get.
Yeah, if I chop down the # of traits, this would look better. Missile dodge/deflection has been a thri-kreen attribute since the original AD&D days, but it appeared more a shout out to their overall dexterity (which wasn't tracked then) versus a supernatural monk-like ability. They've got a solid array of features to offset the inability to wear armor, gloves, hats, and boots.

Also, why are they Large? They’re Medium in the monster manual.
Good question. In 2nd Edition, they were large, but they've gone through some size adjustments each edition. In the original 1982 boxed set stuff, they were Medium, 6'. In AD&D, they got bigger and were reworked to look more like a mantis, described as 7 feet tall and 11 feet long. In 3rd Edition, they went back to being more humanoid and shrank to man-sized. After that, they've stayed humanoid and along the way gotten chameleon powers.

In short, I liked the 2nd Edition mantis better because it looked more insect and less like a 4-armed man. But my art is off. Since they don't get reach, even as large, and don't have the mass to support (new) oversized weapons, large hopefully won't be an issue.

For half-giants, saying they occupy a 10-by-10 space and have double carrying capacity is redundant with saying that they’re Large. Large limbs seems strange to me as 10-foot reach is not typically a feature of Large creatures and it seems REALLY overpowered, especially with half-giants being able to wield oversized weapons. Also, oversized weapons don’t have an increased die size, they have double damage dice. Which would also be crazy op. I would recommend removing that from Giant Heritage, move the ability to use versatile weapons’ normal damage die when wielding them one-handed there from long limbs, and add the ability to wield two-handed weapons in one hand, decreasing their damage due by one step if they do. Either that, or get rid of the versatile weapons in one hand thing, and allow them to wield oversized weapons, but only simple ones.
Good stuff. Yeah, missed the redundancy part.

Debated on large limbs but yeah, that's a huge advantage (I took it from the bugbear, which is an overpowered race if used alongside most other PHB races). Probably best to do away.

Agree on weapons. This bugged me but probably easier to let them used the versatile weapons 1-handed and keep it at that. For verisimilitude, half giants are (relatively) new to the world and unlikely there's a reason to craft weapons just for them when existing stuff works just fine. I envision clothing being comprised of a tailor taking two or three tunics meant for a man and stitching them together to fit the giant rather then their own clothing line. I used the term "oversized" as a house rule; agreed the double die would be totally OP.
 
Just off the top of my head. Defiler or Preserver can be a bonus action cantrip. You get a metamagic effect when you use this bonus action. If you defile, you and nearby creatures gain levels of exhaustion from defiling a spell you cast. If you are the defiler, the exhaustion doesn't effect you when you defile, but it will if you then cast spells that you do not defile until you recover from all levels of exhaustion. If you use the preserver option, you get level of exhaustion on the first cast, but not on additional spells unless you defile again.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I see the common solution is to give defilers a bonus of sorts. If you want to encourage defiling versus preserving, that's one route. However, you could go about this in the opposite manner: defiling does provide any inherent bonus (it's standard spellcasting). Preserving, otoh, comes with penalties—say it takes longer to cast spells, or spells are treated as cast a level lower or whatever.
This is a really good idea, and actually fits better with the idea that magic is inherently damaging to the world, and preserving is a matter of using it with restraint.
 

cbwjm

I can add a custom title.
I liked tying defiling/preserving to the wizard's arcane recovery. If you defile, you can draw upon your arcane recovery ability immediately to cast a spell, it essentially becomes a small well of power that you can tap into, even a 1st level wizard who has cast both of their spells for the day can tap into the life energy around them to get off that final magic missile spell if they really want to. Preservers then have the standard arcane recovery ability which enables them to meditate and gently draw upon the magic of the land to replenish spell slots.

This method does have its issues in that it only takes into account wizards. It doesn't cater to sorcerers (though I always planned to allow them a way to defile for sorcery points), bards (technically, the traditional bard doesn't exist on Athas), or eldritch knights and arcane tricksters.
 

toucanbuzz

Explorer
Athas and defiling doesn't translate well for the hybrid as this is a world where casters have been winnowed out and destroyed. The sorcerer kings, defilers as they are, don't need a bunch of arcane casters running around sucking up what little life is left. Druids hunt casters down and they probably don't care too much if you radiate so much as 1 point with their (new) Detect Defiler spell. Clerics will kill them. The common citizen will kill them. If players are cool with this gritty idea that magic is rare and reviled, we're in good shape.
 

toucanbuzz

Explorer
Racial fixes:

Elf, removed weapon proficiency. The Athas elf didn't have them (they did get a bonus for using tribe crafted weapons, but not any bow and sword). Doesn't fit. Removed Keen senses, also not really an Athasian quality. Simplified the Elf Run to a huge bonus (Con score) to forced marches and no penalty to fast travel. Added Mask of the Wild (see Wood elf) as wilderness hiding is listed as an attribute of the AD&D athasian elf.

Half-elf, changed speak with animals to the Gnome version. Simpler and more in line. Modified Animal Friendship more in line with other innate casters, gain at 3rd level, affects medium, mirroring the AD&D size limitation.

Half giant. Removed features as discussed above. Removed bullet points.

Halfling, changed proficiency to stealth, blowgun, and darts instead of slings and all thrown weapons.

Thri-kreen, fixed as discussed above. Changed the graphic to an AD&D mantis thri-kreen.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Racial fixes:
Elf, removed weapon proficiency. The Athas elf didn't have them (they did get a bonus for using tribe crafted weapons, but not any bow and sword). Doesn't fit. Removed Keen senses, also not really an Athasian quality. Simplified the Elf Run to a huge bonus (Con score) to forced marches and no penalty to fast travel. Added Mask of the Wild (see Wood elf) as wilderness hiding is listed as an attribute of the AD&D athasian elf.
Nice. An alternative suggestion for the Elf Run trait - what about instead of a bonus to all forced march saved and removing the perception penalty for fast pace, they keep the penalty (I mean, they’re supposed to be running the whole way, right? Disadvantage on perception makes sense) and auto-succeed on forced march saves, but only as long as they travel at a fast pace. Without Trance, that’s 16 hours of travel and 8 hours of rest per day for a total of 62 miles per day with no risk of exhaustion, but only if they eat that perception penalty the whole way. Slow down, and they lose their flow and start having to make Con saves.

Some additional thoughts:

How married are you to half-giants’ mercurialness being expressed through shifting alignment? Alignment has very, very few mechanical effects in 5e, so I don’t really see that ability doing much, other than starting arguments about whether or not the half-giant’s player is roleplaying their character correctly. What if instead, half giants take on a characteristic (which is to say, a personality trait, ideal, bond, or flaw) of one of their party members each day. Then you’ve got Inspiration acting as an incentive for the player to mimic other characters, and it’s focused on specific behavior instead of the more nebulous and controversial alignment.

On a similar note, what if Dwarves’ Focus took the form of a characteristic? Gain Inspiration whenever you make meaningful progress towards your focus, pick a new one when you resolve it. Maybe give some additional benefit for making progress towards and/or resolving your focus as well, so that it’s still useful in games with DMs who don’t like using Inspiration.
 

toucanbuzz

Explorer
Nice. An alternative suggestion for the Elf Run trait - what about instead of a bonus to all forced march saved and removing the perception penalty for fast pace...
I'm trying to figure when the character would actually use the prolonged run if not in an all-elf party (hence the sprint trait). Checked the monster manual athasian elf since the Boxed Set was really vague, and an elf adds her Constitution score to her overland travel pace if she does her "elf run." So a normal pace of 24 miles becomes, with a CON 14, 38 miles. I could envision wilderness survival wherein only the elf could get to the oasis in time to get water before people start suffering dehydration.

And, the monster manual athasian elf stated they need sleep, unlike D&D elves. I vaguely recall the novels and Sadira finding her elven father lazily napping.

...What if instead, half giants take on a characteristic (which is to say, a personality trait, ideal, bond, or flaw) of one of their party members each day...
Interesting idea! So if we take the example of the half-giant farmer who sees raiders attack and emulates their leader, he might emulate the Ideal of might makes right. When he travels into town to get supplies, he tries this out on the bazaar merchant, shoving him back and threatening to break his arms if he doesn't lower his price on the tack and harness. It works and he begins to dress like the bandit he saw. Several days later, the noble that owns the farm finds out and makes a visit. The owner has always been good to him, and he sees how much the owner is loved by the laborers. The noble sits him down and explains the importance of respecting the law and rules. He talks about people who got hurt because the raiders didn't follow those rules, people the half-giant likes. This shakes a board loose, and he decides to adopt the Noble's Ideal of responsibility. It doesn't have to be so schizophrenic (a half-giant might go weeks without encountering someone he would want to emulate), and it avoids the idea of changing his core alignment on a routine basis. And yeah, he could take flaws. If players need roleplay motivation or maybe are new to the game, we offer the Inspiration mechanic. Good stuff.

On a similar note, what if Dwarves’ Focus took the form of a characteristic?
I originally had an Inspiration style mechanic for Focus, gain advantage on a d20 roll, renews after a short rest, but it was hard to justify why he'd only be inspired on that one action rather than during the entire day if he's so focused. AD&D's monster manual dwarf had a +1 to saves and +2 to proficiency checks when focused. It's extra number crunching, but the idea was they were undeterred, not that they were divinely inspired or anything. Have to think on that one.
 

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