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5E Dark Sun doesn't actually need Psionics

Does Dark Sun actually need Psionics


  • Total voters
    124
  • Poll closed .

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
EDIT: Null Psi Field is meant to be the "Dark Sun doesn't need psionics" vote. Apologies for trying to be too clever and ending up in unclear.

Look! A Poll! Wonder what it does?

Dark Sun doesn't actually need psionics to be Dark Sun. Ultimately, the role of psionics in Dark Sun is to provide character options, but psionics don't directly address the central themes of the setting. You can have a perfectly cromulent Dark Sun game without psionics at all. It's not a necessary part of the setting, and the thing most easily severed from it without much change. I know, I know, lots of people liked psionics in Dark Sun, but it didn't define the setting, it just let you have wizards that didn't trip over the arcane magic is bad detail, or clerics when there were no gods. Peel off the psionics and your still left with an extremely flavorful setting with lots of room for play. Add it in, and you have pretty much the same thing just with some different character options. In fact, to say another bad thing, given how badly screwed wild talents could be in psionic conflicts in pre 3e D&D (I didn't do any Dark Sun post 2e), it might even be beneficial to avoid psionics in Dark Sun for non-psions/non-lucky-as-hell characters.

Anyway, I've said the horrible thing, now it's time to argue about it. Discuss.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Dark Sun fan here. If I squint hard enough, I can see the argument. But I'm also dimly remembering the novels that I admittedly read a long time ago in high school involving some measure of psionic content. Plus a lot of the weirdness of the monsters comes from having psionics.

I think you are correct though. It could be played without psionics. I think I'm happy to wait for good psionics rules to come out though before giving it a go.
 



UnknownDyson

Explorer
Forgottten Realms doesn't need gods, said no one.

You can't just go into that setting and be a Wizard or a Sorcerer, if you are seen casting arcane magic and aren't affiliated with a Sorcerer King, you are branded a defiler and hunted down.

One of the biggest fears that people have about a Dark Sun release is that we will receive a watered-down bastardized version that throws away the deadliness of the setting in favor of having things like clerics.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Okay, let me redirect slightly, as my point seems to be not very clear:

What central theme in Dark Sun is removed if you take psionics out, other than just not having psionics?

Dark Sun, to me, was awesome because it subverted the tropes of fantasy and mixed in post-apocalyptic themes. The coolest stuff in Dark Sun, again to me, was never mind magics, but instead the defiler/preserver duality. Psionics always felt like a way to ignore that divide and have "normal" magic. As such, it is not required for any of the major themes of Dark Sun. Instead, it's loved not because it made the setting work but because people liked the mechanics, and that's cool but not necessary to have to do Dark Sun well. The argument that's commonly made is that you need a psionics system to do Dark Sun well, and I don't think you do, at all. Dark Sun would work perfectly fine without psionics.

@iserith and @Paul Farquhar's points about making monsters more weird is certainly a good one, but I'm not sure you need psionics to do that.
 

@iserith and @Paul Farquhar's points about making monsters more weird is certainly a good one, but I'm not sure you need psionics to do that.
I wasn't thinking about monsters specifically.

It's more that Dark Sun started out as Gamma World in D&D, so one of the things player characters get is a mutant ability.

But the important thing about Dark Sun is it is post-apocalypse, and mutations are a trope of that genre.

The apocalypse is an environmental collapse brought about by the over-exploitation of a finite resource. I'm sure WotC want to lean into the topicality of this aspect, and aren't really bothered much about the Gamma World tropes in 2021.
 


Back in the day, we technically had everyone with their wild talents in Dark Sun, but we almost never used them. Maybe in a do-or-die situation, a player might be looking over their sheet and say "well, I'll give this wild talent a shot." So I would say that Dark Sun can exist quite happily without them.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
I agree with your premise. To my mind, the central conflict in Dark Sun is that magic is bad, and its continued use by the sorcerer-kings is actively destroying the world. Not having an alternate source of supernatural power makes concepts like the Veiled Alliance and preservers in general more compelling.

It also helps to center the dichotomy between arcane magic (dangerous, but compelling if controlled) and divine magic (service to the land itself).
 

Aldarc

Legend
Dark Sun, to me, was awesome because it subverted the tropes of fantasy and mixed in post-apocalyptic themes.
...you mean with things like psionics?

The coolest stuff in Dark Sun, again to me, was never mind magics, but instead the defiler/preserver duality.
The coolest stuff in Dark Sun, again to me, was the mind magics of psionics having a viable place in this Sandals & Sorcery setting.

Psionics always felt like a way to ignore that divide and have "normal" magic.
Except psionics doesn't replicate what arcane magic does.

As such, it is not required for any of the major themes of Dark Sun.
You mean apart from the Dragon Kings, weird alien creatures, and its relative ubiquity in PCs?

@iserith and @Paul Farquhar's points about making monsters more weird is certainly a good one, but I'm not sure you need psionics to do that.
Just like you don't need arcane magic to make a harsh desert world.

It also helps to center the dichotomy between arcane magic (dangerous, but compelling if controlled) and divine magic (service to the land itself).
Death to all false dichotomies!
 

UnknownDyson

Explorer
Okay, let me redirect slightly, as my point seems to be not very clear:

What central theme in Dark Sun is removed if you take psionics out, other than just not having psionics?

I think it is a central aspect of the world that shows how the inhabitants had to adapt to life with the absence of magic use from most people. In the same way that airships and warforged change the way that the world functions in Eberron, so do psionics in Dark Sun.
 

Psionics are an integral part of Dark Sun.

Part of the whole point of the setting is a place where psionics are built into the setting from the ground-up, instead of just an added-on extra element that's integrated later, where psionics is treated as a full peer to Arcane and Divine magics.

Dark Sun without psionics would be like Dragonlance without the orders of high sorcery, Ravenloft without undead, or Planescape without Sigil. . .you could create a form of the campaign setting where it wasn't present, but it would be very different from how the setting was designed and is usually played.
 


Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Okay, let me redirect slightly, as my point seems to be not very clear:

What central theme in Dark Sun is removed if you take psionics out, other than just not having psionics?

Dark Sun, to me, was awesome because it subverted the tropes of fantasy and mixed in post-apocalyptic themes. The coolest stuff in Dark Sun, again to me, was never mind magics, but instead the defiler/preserver duality. Psionics always felt like a way to ignore that divide and have "normal" magic. As such, it is not required for any of the major themes of Dark Sun. Instead, it's loved not because it made the setting work but because people liked the mechanics, and that's cool but not necessary to have to do Dark Sun well. The argument that's commonly made is that you need a psionics system to do Dark Sun well, and I don't think you do, at all. Dark Sun would work perfectly fine without psionics.

@iserith and @Paul Farquhar's points about making monsters more weird is certainly a good one, but I'm not sure you need psionics to do that.
Psionics absolutely existed as the "environmentally friendly" magic in DS. It worked because psionics was fundamentally different from magic in the way it worked, down to the mechanics the psionics system used.

I think 5e has a steep hill to climb to make it all work, though. Unless defilers somehow have a "quicker and easier" path to magical power and preservers have a "slower but safer" path, the need for psionics is diminished. And if psionics follow the same "just rebadge spells" formula they have through the WotC-era, the distinction will become entirely academic (and pretty pointless IMO).
 
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Okay, let me redirect slightly, as my point seems to be not very clear:

What central theme in Dark Sun is removed if you take psionics out, other than just not having psionics?

Dark Sun, to me, was awesome because it subverted the tropes of fantasy and mixed in post-apocalyptic themes. The coolest stuff in Dark Sun, again to me, was never mind magics, but instead the defiler/preserver duality. Psionics always felt like a way to ignore that divide and have "normal" magic. As such, it is not required for any of the major themes of Dark Sun. Instead, it's loved not because it made the setting work but because people liked the mechanics, and that's cool but not necessary to have to do Dark Sun well. The argument that's commonly made is that you need a psionics system to do Dark Sun well, and I don't think you do, at all. Dark Sun would work perfectly fine without psionics.

@iserith and @Paul Farquhar's points about making monsters more weird is certainly a good one, but I'm not sure you need psionics to do that.
I guess much depends on what you define as "magic", and whether psionic powers are magical powers or not.
Personally, i have no problem viewing psionic as the third realm of supernatural powers after arcane and divine magic, but I know that some really insist on psionic being radically different.
 

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