5E Dark Sun Conversion: Campaign Guide & Monster Manual

toucanbuzz

Adventurer
Dark Sun 5E Campaign Guide

Dark Sun 5E Monster Manual

Well over a year ago, I began a project to convert Dark Sun to 5E rules with a primary goal to maintain the unique features captured in AD&D. This meant applying 20+ years of DM experience, including years of AD&D Dark Sun, and innumerable input from other DMs, gamers, and by review of homebrew material scattered across the web. So a blanket thanks to all. As life is oft to do, my plans of running a DS campaign were derailed when I took a new job out of state and had to leave a great group behind. While I have begun DMing again, Dark Sun is for down the road, not our current path. So, I wanted to share my campaign guide and a Monster Manual that should get you started. It's been a labor of love.

Campaign Guide's Top 3 (things that make Athas unique and make it hard to convert):

  1. Unique Races. A major draw to Dark Sun was new races and turning old races into something fresh. This means I avoided reskinning known races (e.g. the goliath,a medium sized creature, for the half-giant, a large sized 12 foot tall magically created species). The same went for the thri-kreen, which were large sized with thoraxes and unique physiology on Athas before 4E shrank them to match the other medium humanoids and fit easier into the miniatures game. Same with elves, who require sleep, and halflings who have no reason to be "lucky."
  2. Defiling. This is the cornerstone of Dark Sun. It's the damn reason the world is dying!It's also the hardest mechanic I've seen in homebrews for people to satisfactorily capture.
    • First, if it's the cornerstone, then this needs to be a special mechanic that truly explains the lure. Hence, I passed on "arcane recovery" and the like.
    • Second, it can't be a subtype or class, a flaw of AD&D. It's a choice, perhaps contemplated or even made just once in a person's life. It's a constant dilemma for the arcane caster in the amoral gray of Athas for casters, who might be faced with draining the earth to save the life of innocents, justifying "just a little bit" when "it would serve the greater good." And down that moral slippery slope many despots and tyrants have gone. Making someone take a defiler class when they may have only defiled once makes no sense, and there's no reason a person who defiles regularly would cast spells or use spells in a way different than one who calls themselves a preserver. Defiler seems a derogative title, nothing more.
    • My system is converted from Dragon Magazine, which did a big conversion for 3rd Edition. In short, they gave the 5E sorcerer's metamagic (which in 3rd edition were feats, not a part of the sorcerer class), as a reward for defiling. Want to recover spells, or quicken, or twin, and so on? Defile! It's really a perfect choice. BUT, this meant we'd have to scrap the sorcerer as a player option. And, I was okay with that. First, the Sorcerer subclasses really don't fit (dragon, wild magic, celestial, etc.). Second, Dark Sun had already nixed the Paladin. In a unique setting, there's going to be unique rules, and we still have Charisma-based casters (the bard and warlock).
  3. Psionics. I'm still not satisfied, but I went with I saw as the best option: a reskinned (for flavor) UA mystic, version 3. AD&D psionics were amazingly complex and burdensome, but man the novels made them work. It's part of the fabric of Athas. Every being accepts psionics as a fact of life. It's a given many beings will have, at the very least, a tiny bit of talent.
    • Why? Mostly because it's been playtested, a lot. It was designed by professionals who had such an investment to redo this thing multiple times. It feels unique enough to be a separate class. There's plenty of homebrew out there, including the DM Guild. Maybe some of it is solid. But if I'm going for something that I think has been put through the most scrutiny, playtest, and design, it's the mystic design.
    • What about the latest UA subtypes? This guide was made before that, and upon review, it feels a bit lazy. The true psion should be a unique class, not simply a reskinned caster or an afterthought to an existing class. Anyhow, no need for a war on that. If you can find a better system, I say give it a whirl.
Monster Manual

It's version .9 because I haven't scoured it for inevitable typos and if I calculated default HPs incorrectly or whiffed on an ability score modifier, and I probably got a few CR ratings wrong (used an invaluable online calculator). A handful are intentional (giving the erdlu no proficiency bonus on attacking because it's a herd animal). I used the AD&D Dark Sun listing of native monsters from other settings as guidance when adding official D&D monsters to the CR list. I intentionally left several monsters out that didn't seem likely to come up or ever be used, and I left out drakes altogether as I wasn't a fan of adding dragons to a world where "dragon" means something else. Rather than adopt the Player psion abilities, I had monsters use a recharge system for most abilities as that seemed easiest to implement. In nearly all cases, these monsters are exactly as originally designed, with the original Hit Dice and powers. There should be more than enough to last for years of play (I hope).

EDIT 1-28-20: Review of dwarven focus, it was too strong for traits it was replacing on default dwarf. Removed "and double the proficiency bonus."
 
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Athelstaine

Villager
Nicely done. I am sooo.. going to use this. Thank you for your hard work. I will probably make some minor changes with the players book. The monster manual though will get used as is. I like it all. I feel that you did a decent job of keeping the flavor of 2e.
From reading you above comments, I assume that the kaisharga was intentionally left out? I agree on the drakes though, not really needed. I also noticed the floaters are missing as well.
 

Coroc

Adventurer
While I cannot download your stuff atm, since ate work, I agree on your view of defiling and I did it similar in my attempt on homebrew. I added a necrotic damage circle and metamagic if some wizard decides to defile.

What I do not agree so much is to not reskin. You can reskin the Mul out of Halforc with some small mods, the thrikreen can use the dragonborns template but with poison bite instead of breath, and best solution for a 5e halfgiant is to view it as a human with a permanent enlarge spell on it. Works perfectly. Check my thread if you like.

I am curious on your rules though hand will download when at home.
 

Coroc

Adventurer
So did now download onto my mobile and check a bit: BIG BIG KUDOS on the MM conversion. I will totally steal this if I run DS in the future, I hope you do not mind.
On the rulebook: I really like the explanations, what I did not like that much, was your take on Halfgiant (breaks BA), Thrikreen, Mul (why does he get +wis? those are slaves?), some classes which imho just do not work for 5e darksung e.g. barbarian, bard(the standard bard), to name some, also druids are a bit problematic for any thing but NPC.
I like that you put Templar as a warlock, I'd do it the same.
Ok everybody got his own preferences, and caters to a different group eventually. For people, who don't know at all to approach DS 5e, your material is great.
What I also did not like is your weapon system, while only adding breaking vs. not-breaking to inferior weapons - so at least it makes a difference - is a valid approach, I think that the auto-breakage against metal armor is to much. Also the check frequency aka breakage chance is to high. I prefer my own thoughts on that topic (inferior material normal dice, metal one dice category up, breakage on nat. 1 with DC10 and DC5 for armor hit with nat. 20).
I would not play with feats in DS. Especially problematic are GWM, SS, resilience constitution, and the a feat that gives you an arcane spell (arcane initiate or so cannot recall the name right now) to name a few.
Just use psionic wild talents instead, which could be taken instead of an ASI.

But what is really great in any of your two write-ups is the layout I really love that it almost looks like official material.
 

toucanbuzz

Adventurer
From reading you above comments, I assume that the kaisharga was intentionally left out? I agree on the drakes though, not really needed. I also noticed the floaters are missing as well.
Felt kairsharga were basically liches so not worth the effort. The floater is in there (p23).
 

toucanbuzz

Adventurer
…. I added a necrotic damage circle and metamagic if some wizard decides to defile....
My thoughts on the defiling radius was to make it an optional rule as, in years of AD&D play, it ended up being a burdensome calculation that never really impacted play. Still, when you're on the Sea of Silt, it might matter quite a bit...
 

toucanbuzz

Adventurer
On the rulebook: I really like the explanations, what I did not like that much, was your take on Halfgiant (breaks BA), Thrikreen, Mul (why does he get +wis? those are slaves?)…
I considered the design of bounded accuracy with the half-giant. While it was intended to cap PC attacks at +5 for ability scores, the game built in multiple ways to violate this cap, including magical items and epic boons. I felt a 22 cap, 1 step up from traditional PCs, with an offsetting ability score penalty, kept it in line with prior editions without "breaking the bounded accuracy bank" and reflected the unique nature of playing a half-giant. You can get something no one else can.

The thri-kreen was designed to be as true to the original as possible and as alien as possible so players feel they're getting something (like the half-giant) that no one else can. This is a toned-down version from prior editions, which had broken features such as multiple arm attacks and Dodge missile.

The Mul wisdom boost reflects prior editions of Muls, and given the # of traits relative to other races, the Mul needs to be a 4-point stat increase race instead of 3. Wisdom reflects the stubborn, mental fortitude, perhaps inherited from some dwarven ancestors.

...some classes which imho just do not work for 5e darksung e.g. barbarian, bard(the standard bard), to name some, also druids are a bit problematic for any thing but NPC.
Nothing wrong with trimming the list, so long as players have options. The Bard was a tough call. I saw no need for a Dark Sun "Bard" class (a rogue who uses poison) as we already had that. But if we removed the caster Bard, we're down to 1 Charisma class: the Warlock (given the sorcerer is also out). I wanted at least 2 Charisma class options.

Curious as to your take on Druids and why you feel they don't fit DS.

... the auto-breakage against metal armor is to much. Also the check frequency aka breakage chance is to high....
Metal armor is unbelievably expensive and there's no incentive to wear it in this desert world, so this mechanic was designed to enhance the coveted nature of metal armor.. Even so, if you want to double the breakage chance from 10% to 20% or the like on metal, can't see it'd "break" anything. As to the breakage chance, with a d8 weapon, there's roughly a 1 in 50 chance each attack turn that the weapon would break against non-metal. The threat needs to be there, but not at an absurd level, hence the cap on # of checks.

But what is really great in any of your two write-ups is the layout I really love that it almost looks like official material.
GMBinder is handy, even for non-programmers like me.
 

Coroc

Adventurer
I considered the design of bounded accuracy with the half-giant. While it was intended to cap PC attacks at +5 for ability scores, the game built in multiple ways to violate this cap, including magical items and epic boons. I felt a 22 cap, 1 step up from traditional PCs, with an offsetting ability score penalty, kept it in line with prior editions without "breaking the bounded accuracy bank" and reflected the unique nature of playing a half-giant. You can get something no one else can.

The thri-kreen was designed to be as true to the original as possible and as alien as possible so players feel they're getting something (like the half-giant) that no one else can. This is a toned-down version from prior editions, which had broken features such as multiple arm attacks and Dodge missile.

The Mul wisdom boost reflects prior editions of Muls, and given the # of traits relative to other races, the Mul needs to be a 4-point stat increase race instead of 3. Wisdom reflects the stubborn, mental fortitude, perhaps inherited from some dwarven ancestors.



Nothing wrong with trimming the list, so long as players have options. The Bard was a tough call. I saw no need for a Dark Sun "Bard" class (a rogue who uses poison) as we already had that. But if we removed the caster Bard, we're down to 1 Charisma class: the Warlock (given the sorcerer is also out). I wanted at least 2 Charisma class options.

Curious as to your take on Druids and why you feel they don't fit DS.



Metal armor is unbelievably expensive and there's no incentive to wear it in this desert world, so this mechanic was designed to enhance the coveted nature of metal armor.. Even so, if you want to double the breakage chance from 10% to 20% or the like on metal, can't see it'd "break" anything. As to the breakage chance, with a d8 weapon, there's roughly a 1 in 50 chance each attack turn that the weapon would break against non-metal. The threat needs to be there, but not at an absurd level, hence the cap on # of checks.



GMBinder is handy, even for non-programmers like me.
I did consider the whole thing with extraordinary Attributes also, not only for DS and came to the conclusion that attribute scores in 5E are pretty abstract (same as with HP) while BA is not and is a solid helpful mechanic.
The prob with Halfgiant getting Str 24 is not the +2 to damage, that would be fine, it is the+2 to hit.
I mean we had this discussion about halfling with 20 Str. The only viable solution here is, that the range of attributes for PCs no matter if pixie or halfgiant ends at 20 naturally.
Unless yo uwant to introduce hefty attribute penalties for other races also.
My solution for halfgiant is consistent. +1d4 damage like enlarged human, unarmed damage 1d4.
Equipment costs x4 range 10 feet instead of 5. Water amount also higher.
Same for thrikreen, no 4 attacks or wielding 2 shields and a polearm gibberish, but 1d4 natural and a poison bite. Plus jump x3 and no swimming. No items but jewelry. They can craft catchkas and gythkablades from their saliva.
the bard is a super-tough call because DS is stoneage to antique culture level. the bard, especially the casting bard is a reflection of the medieval troubardor and court jester. From Lore aspects alone it is the most unfitting class for DS besides the paladin. Then you also run into problems with arcane casting.
Normal reaction for simple people witnessing arcane casting is to lynch the offender eventually. So no cantrip magic tricks to entertain the crowds. The only valid arcane casters fitting for darksun are wizards.
Sorry no cha class accumulation but does that matter so much? You can use psionics to enhance social interactions instead.
A bard (by name) is the rogue assasin in how i see it.

A druid is a very fitting class for darksun, just not as a player character:
They are pure land druids, not the lycantroph clerics like in vanilla. They are VERY much bound to their local surroundings, there simply is no reason for them to leave the vincinity of e.g. the oasis they guard unprotected just to go adventuring. Even if they get e.g. captured and enslaved, they would run for home at the first opportunity. The whole shepchanging thing does not fit and trivialises soem essential envirronmental challenges, so you got to cut that also.

Warlock as a templar is super-fitting for 5e, unfortunately that is mostly an npc also, unless your DS campaign is "We all serve Sorcererking/queen xy" themed.
Again here only a refluffed tome pact makes sense: a pact based on a token, a ring a seal a chain of office or a lawbook or whatever given by the patron sorcerer king.
Blade is nonsense it trivialises the no good quality (or even magic) weapon the easy way principle which a DS campaign shoudl always follow.
Pact is selfexplanatory indiscussable, the only pact which would make some remote sense would be to some elemental lord granting a fire mephit e.g. but that is also something over the top for low levels. The sorcerer king has no stable of imps for his templar to summon at will while tied up in the opposing sorcerer kings dungeon.
 

toucanbuzz

Adventurer
…From Lore aspects alone it is the most unfitting class for DS besides the paladin. Then you also run into problems with arcane casting....A bard (by name) is the rogue assassin in how i see it.
As canon, totally agree. My Bard take was purely to justify a reason to keep them in the game.

A druid is a very fitting class for darksun, just not as a player character...
We can lump both the druid and templar in this category. Both were designed for play but their lore suggested they'd never be adventurers. I'd personally require some heavy RP justification.

For the Warlock, I should've made clearer that the patron might also be some entity from the Gray or Black, perhaps even Rajaat himself.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
PCs shouldn't have access to Rajaats as a patron.

Arcane magic also comes from plants not pacts so yeah warlock doesn't fit Darksun IMHO. At best an NPC class serving Rajaat.

The duality of preservers and defiler wizards is a huge aspect of Darksun. Adding more arcane casters waters that idea down.

Druids fit Darksun, only high level ones have lands and they are still allowed to travel. Removing that aspect of the Druid doesn't really hurt the setting in any way.

The classes don't have to 100% mechanically fit the 2E stuff but the big picture stuff should stay the same. By that I mean clerics should get their spells and probably domains from the elements. Clerics don't need to duplicate the 2E ones.

Some barbarians fit the setting, Warlocks, PHB Sorcerers hell no sorcerers in general no
 
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The only classes that should be in Dark Sun are fighter (champion, battle master), rogue (thief, assassin) and wizard (defiler, preserver), plus whatever they do for psionics.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
Hey man, great work. I wouldn't take too seriously the critics saying "X can't be a class" this is YOUR Dark Sun ideas, that you've been nice enough to share with a pretty handy format and design.
 

Coroc

Adventurer
Hey man, great work. I wouldn't take too seriously the critics saying "X can't be a class" this is YOUR Dark Sun ideas, that you've been nice enough to share with a pretty handy format and design.
I really like OPs work and of course he can do what he likes to, I just wrote what I would do different and why. You know sometimes I get curious, why other people are doing something differently than me, and maybe they found a reason that I could not see, and sometimes it is eventually vice versa.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I really like OPs work and of course he can do what he likes to, I just wrote what I would do different and why. You know sometimes I get curious, why other people are doing something differently than me, and maybe they found a reason that I could not see, and sometimes it is eventually vice versa.
I haven't had a chance to DL yet.

If someone comes up with something better it's not hard to yoink it.

After a decent water domain, using life atm.
 

Urriak Uruk

Debate fuels my Fire
I really like OPs work and of course he can do what he likes to, I just wrote what I would do different and why. You know sometimes I get curious, why other people are doing something differently than me, and maybe they found a reason that I could not see, and sometimes it is eventually vice versa.
I wasn't blaming anyone specifically, I just know as a creator that when you get a lot of blunt criticism, you can take it pretty hard. So just giving a reminder that he should be proud of his work.
 

Larnievc

Explorer
Dark Sun 5E Campaign Guide

Dark Sun 5E Monster Manual


Well over a year ago, I began a project to convert Dark Sun to 5E rules with a primary goal to maintain the unique features captured in AD&D. This meant applying 20+ years of DM experience, including years of AD&D Dark Sun, and innumerable input from other DMs, gamers, and by review of homebrew material scattered across the web. So a blanket thanks to all. As life is oft to do, my plans of running a DS campaign were derailed when I took a new job out of state and had to leave a great group behind. While I have begun DMing again, Dark Sun is for down the road, not our current path. So, I wanted to share my campaign guide and a Monster Manual that should get you started. It's been a labor of love.

Campaign Guide's Top 3 (things that make Athas unique and make it hard to convert):

  1. Unique Races. A major draw to Dark Sun was new races and turning old races into something fresh. This means I avoided reskinning known races (e.g. the goliath,a medium sized creature, for the half-giant, a large sized 12 foot tall magically created species). The same went for the thri-kreen, which were large sized with thoraxes and unique physiology on Athas before 4E shrank them to match the other medium humanoids and fit easier into the miniatures game. Same with elves, who require sleep, and halflings who have no reason to be "lucky."
  2. Defiling. This is the cornerstone of Dark Sun. It's the damn reason the world is dying!It's also the hardest mechanic I've seen in homebrews for people to satisfactorily capture.
    • First, if it's the cornerstone, then this needs to be a special mechanic that truly explains the lure. Hence, I passed on "arcane recovery" and the like.
    • Second, it can't be a subtype or class, a flaw of AD&D. It's a choice, perhaps contemplated or even made just once in a person's life. It's a constant dilemma for the arcane caster in the amoral gray of Athas for casters, who might be faced with draining the earth to save the life of innocents, justifying "just a little bit" when "it would serve the greater good." And down that moral slippery slope many despots and tyrants have gone. Making someone take a defiler class when they may have only defiled once makes no sense, and there's no reason a person who defiles regularly would cast spells or use spells in a way different than one who calls themselves a preserver. Defiler seems a derogative title, nothing more.
    • My system is converted from Dragon Magazine, which did a big conversion for 3rd Edition. In short, they gave the 5E sorcerer's metamagic (which in 3rd edition were feats, not a part of the sorcerer class), as a reward for defiling. Want to recover spells, or quicken, or twin, and so on? Defile! It's really a perfect choice. BUT, this meant we'd have to scrap the sorcerer as a player option. And, I was okay with that. First, the Sorcerer subclasses really don't fit (dragon, wild magic, celestial, etc.). Second, Dark Sun had already nixed the Paladin. In a unique setting, there's going to be unique rules, and we still have Charisma-based casters (the bard and warlock).
  3. Psionics. I'm still not satisfied, but I went with I saw as the best option: a reskinned (for flavor) UA mystic, version 3. AD&D psionics were amazingly complex and burdensome, but man the novels made them work. It's part of the fabric of Athas. Every being accepts psionics as a fact of life. It's a given many beings will have, at the very least, a tiny bit of talent.
    • Why? Mostly because it's been playtested, a lot. It was designed by professionals who had such an investment to redo this thing multiple times. It feels unique enough to be a separate class. There's plenty of homebrew out there, including the DM Guild. Maybe some of it is solid. But if I'm going for something that I think has been put through the most scrutiny, playtest, and design, it's the mystic design.
    • What about the latest UA subtypes? This guide was made before that, and upon review, it feels a bit lazy. The true psion should be a unique class, not simply a reskinned caster or an afterthought to an existing class. Anyhow, no need for a war on that. If you can find a better system, I say give it a whirl.
Monster Manual

It's version .9 because I haven't scoured it for inevitable typos and if I calculated default HPs incorrectly or whiffed on an ability score modifier, and I probably got a few CR ratings wrong (used an invaluable online calculator). A handful are intentional (giving the erdlu no proficiency bonus on attacking because it's a herd animal). I used the AD&D Dark Sun listing of native monsters from other settings as guidance when adding official D&D monsters to the CR list. I intentionally left several monsters out that didn't seem likely to come up or ever be used, and I left out drakes altogether as I wasn't a fan of adding dragons to a world where "dragon" means something else. Rather than adopt the Player psion abilities, I had monsters use a recharge system for most abilities as that seemed easiest to implement. In nearly all cases, these monsters are exactly as originally designed, with the original Hit Dice and powers. There should be more than enough to last for years of play (I hope).
I like that a lot!
 

toucanbuzz

Adventurer
Did you have a link to your campaign guide?
A dropbox link is on the original post to the PDF. If you're looking to modify with GM Binder, holler and I can provide that link.

And totally don't mind constructive criticism or discussion on what others are doing or have done. I easily looked over a dozen different conversions before I ever got to work.
 

Eltab

Adventurer
I read through the Player Guide and am working through the Monster Manual.

Nice job; well done!

My preferred changes are trivial; anybody can change fluff as desired.
The mul background is directed too strongly towards gladiators or "ox-substitute" slave positions. It needs a little more breathing room for a mul slave with other useful talents to be placed where they can be trained / exploited. For instance, a backstory that lets the character learn Animal Handling or Stonemason's Tools.

I had been thinking about using the Blight spell, modified to be an area-effect, as the core of a Defiling mechanic. The mechanic provided is another way that I hadn't thought about.

Hopefully there is a "Monsters by CR" chart in the back of the MM when I get that far. (If not, here is a New And Improved feature for the next release :-D )
 

toucanbuzz

Adventurer
...Hopefully there is a "Monsters by CR" chart in the back of the MM when I get that far....
There is, along with CR listings for official monsters that were either recognized originally as existing in DS or I felt would fit right in.
 

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