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D&D 5E Dark Sun, problematic content, and 5E…

Is problematic content acceptable if obviously, explicitly evil and meant to be fought?

  • Yes.

    Votes: 205 89.5%
  • No.

    Votes: 24 10.5%

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
That’s the most “logical” answer, at least in terms of corporate logic.

But I don’t want to dismiss the idea that the creative team can’t figure out how to do it in a way they like, or can’t balance their desire to be true to the material with modern market realities, for any of the various reasons discussed in this thread.
I think they could do that.

The issue is they'll have to change so much that it wouldn't be Dark Sun anymore except by name.
 

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I would rather the excuse they are await to get ready the game mechanics for psionic powers, and to choose the possible changes, for example to break some previous limits for classes and species.

There is an option for a back door, a sourcebook about crunch, and only some pages about the Athasian tablelands, with other settings. Other option is a spin-off. This should allow more creative freedom for publishers in DMGuild.

Really I start to worry, or to suspect, when a company talks about being inclusive and being adapted to the modern sensibilities. That sounds like those Hollywood superproductions what are true bombs in the box-office because audience doesn't want to spend their money to preached with propaganda.

DS has got a great potential value as franchise if they play their cards in the right way. DS is perfect for a videogame of the subgenre survival + farm simulation + stronghold management. Those doors shouldn't be totally closed.




Other reasons is their writters are working in an event to explain the reboot of D&D multiverse ( until the next change because Hasbro has merger with or (be) acquired (by) other company and there are more IPs added to D&D).

Brom's art was awesome, but there were also other artists. And we are in 2023. Lots of profesional artists would love to sell their fantasy tribal-punk art in DMGuild.

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tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
I would rather the excuse they are await to get ready the game mechanics for psionic powers, and to choose the possible changes, for example to break some previous limits for classes and species.

There is an option for a back door, a sourcebook about crunch, and only some pages about the Athasian tablelands, with other settings. Other option is a spin-off. This should allow more creative freedom for publishers in DMGuild.

Really I start to worry, or to suspect, when a company talks about being inclusive and being adapted to the modern sensibilities. That sounds like those Hollywood superproductions what are true bombs in the box-office because audience doesn't want to spend their money to preached with propaganda.

DS has got a great potential value as franchise if they play their cards in the right way. DS is perfect for a videogame of the subgenre survival + farm simulation + stronghold management. Those doors shouldn't be totally closed.




Other reasons is their writters are working in an event to explain the reboot of D&D multiverse ( until the next change because Hasbro has merger with or (be) acquired (by) other company and there are more IPs added to D&D).

Brom's art was awesome, but there were also other artists. And we are in 2023. Lots of profesional artists would love to sell their fantasy tribal-punk art in DMGuild.

View attachment 277913
Don't forget the ability to have a netflix/prime d&d miniseries with someone like Peter Dinklage kicking ass 5-10 years before/after prism pentad
 

The issue is they'll have to change so much that it wouldn't be Dark Sun anymore except by name.
I think the setting elements that give WotC pause on the controversy front are much more easily fixable than the mechanical problems. I'm pretty confident I could come up with an acceptable modernised Dark Sun setting that's fairly true to the original spirit (with or without slavery), but hammering the square peg of a setting that was designed to be low-magic into the round hole of a very high-magic D&D rules edition is much harder. Especially if WotCs own overarching editorial guidelines metaphorically give you a marshmallow hammer to do it with, given the extreme reluctance of the designers to apply limits or have setting-specific modifications to spells, abilities, or classes.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
I think the setting elements that give WotC pause on the controversy front are much more easily fixable than the mechanical problems. I'm pretty confident I could come up with an acceptable modernised Dark Sun setting that's fairly true to the original spirit (with or without slavery), but hammering the square peg of a setting that was designed to be low-magic into the round hole of a very high-magic D&D rules edition is much harder. Especially if WotCs own overarching editorial guidelines metaphorically give you a marshmallow hammer to do it with, given the extreme reluctance of the designers to apply limits or have setting-specific modifications to spells, abilities, or classes.
5e's not really high magic either, it fails miserably at actual high magic settings because there's no room for it without rebuilding the much of the PHB. . The same is a true the other way around trying to compress it into any sort of low magic survival post apocalypse etc setting. I can't think of anything that fits 5e's power mold other than well...
Having magic items or powerful PCs does not make it high magic or heroic if the GM needs to carry those themes & tropes for the system.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I think the setting elements that give WotC pause on the controversy front are much more easily fixable than the mechanical problems. I'm pretty confident I could come up with an acceptable modernised Dark Sun setting that's fairly true to the original spirit (with or without slavery), but hammering the square peg of a setting that was designed to be low-magic into the round hole of a very high-magic D&D rules edition is much harder. Especially if WotCs own overarching editorial guidelines metaphorically give you a marshmallow hammer to do it with, given the extreme reluctance of the designers to apply limits or have setting-specific modifications to spells, abilities, or classes.
It's than just slavery. That's what most D&D fans aren't getting.
  1. Slavery
  2. Racial supremacy
  3. Racial subjugation
  4. Sexism
  5. Rape
  6. Eugenics
  7. Cannibalism
  8. Ecological destruction
  9. Political corruption
  10. Magical Corruption
  11. Mental intrusion
It's a lot. Doable but it's a lot. I suggest Dark Sun as an option for campaign and no one under 40 that I've asked even considers it.
 

It's than just slavery. That's what most D&D fans aren't getting.
  1. Slavery
  2. Racial supremacy
  3. Racial subjugation
  4. Sexism
  5. Rape
  6. Eugenics
  7. Cannibalism
  8. Ecological destruction
  9. Political corruption
  10. Magical Corruption
  11. Mental intrusion
It's a lot. Doable but it's a lot.
Of these, only 1 and 8 are present in Dark Sun more than any other setting, or aren't founded in lore that was mentioned in passing in one or two sourcebooks in 1994 and could be removed without anyone noticing. Slavery has been basically discussed to death here (and I don't think I can meaningfully add anything new to that argument at this point), and frankly I think that anyone who believes that ecological destruction as portrayed in DS would be a hot-button controversial political issue that would in any way give WotC second thoughts about publishing DS is heavily overreacting and inventing problems that aren't there.

2 - it's certainly in the history of the setting, if you delve that deeply into the lore of the Cleansing Wars etc in your game, but it's history only. Albeorn Elf-Slayer stopped trying to genocide elves once Rajaat got locked away. There are still elves. There are still dwarves despite Borys Dwarf-Butcher being the most powerful creature in the world for the last thousand years. Same with many other the sorcerer-kings.

3 - i assume you're talking about the prevalence of mul and half-giant slaves here? That's easily removable, even if you keep slavery at all. There's some slave half-giants and some free - just like there always has been since the very first DS boxed set.

4 - where? If sexism is a major part of the setting I must have missed it. But again, if I missed something obvious, the template for handling it is right there in SotDQ, which just casually retconned the gender requirements for joining the Knights of Solamnia, and pretty much nobody minded.

5 - the mul breeding thing? Simply remove it. Retcon it completely. Muls are the result of a union between human and dwarf, nothing more complicated or sinister with that. It was never important to DS, and nobody will miss it. This is the easiest of possible fixes and will be utterly uncontroversial.

6 - the half-giant and mul breeding programs I assume? Again, simply removed them. They added nothing of value to the setting, and nobody will miss them. For muls, see above, for half-giants, just say that the sorcerer-kings created them by applying enchantments to humans to accelerate their growth. Or else they always existed, like goliaths in other worlds. The eugenics was never important to the setting and won't be missed by anyone.

7 - yeah, just remove it, other than in necessary and specific cases like ghouls. Once again, it's a minor detail with no structural importance to the setting, and if its gone, nobody would notice. Maybe the halflings kill you so they can bury your corpse in the Ringing Mountains so you'll fertilise the soil and help expand the forest.

9 - come on, this is in every setting

10 - this too

11 - and this is all over the PHB and every D&D game and setting ever.

(You did however neglect to mention the question of PC templars, which given it makes your PC a member of the brutal enforcement regime of a tyrannical state rules by a genocidal monster, probably ain't gonna fly in the modern day. Just see what sort of reaction Paizo got to Agents of Edgewatch during the BLM protests! This is a much more legitimately thorny issue to handle than most of the above. But again, simply deciding that all templars are NPCs across the board would be a perfectly functional , if rather crude and blunt-force, solution.)

Honestly, a lot of the 'problematic' elements that are being raised here aren't Dark Sun specific, they were present to greater or lesser degree in every setting TSR created, and D&D has largely grappled with the portrayal of them in previous products. A lot of this post seems to be making mountains out of molehills. There are legit difficulties in adapting the DS setting to modern tastes. I'm certainly not denying that (though I still think adapting the system would be harder), but I don't think we need to overstate the problems quite this wildly.
 

I would rather the explanation the "crunch" needs more time, and the psionic powers will have until the revised edition.

I have suggested the idea of the Athasian Tablelands to be replaced with other place. Maybe the Athasians found a path to travel toward other wildspace and create a new civilitation. How example the "red steel" can appear in different worlds, with the secondary effecto of the creation of planar rifts toward certain wildspace. This place could be used as a mixture of Mystara's Hollow World, Mystara's Savage Coast, Jakandor and Dark Sun.

And even innocent children cartoons can suffer censorship. An episode of Pepa Pig was censored in Australia because it was about we shouldn't fear the spiders, but in Australia someones are it. You know the ridiculous reason because Winnie the Pooh was censured in China.

We know very well Conan the barbarian is not a franchise for children, but a cartoon was produced by Hasbro, wasn't it? Of course it was a total reimagination, avoiding the violence.

* What happened with the biotech? Those living machines could have saved by the sorcerer-kings to replace the slaves.

* The Grey should be rewritten, or at least the "land-within-the wind" should be the final fate of the souls of the innocent people. Or a strange meteor is fallen in the lands of the Grey, giving stranged gifts. Then the souls can get corporeal bodies as "petitioners" enjoying the opportunity to create a new civilitation. Later people from the material plane can be abducted or rescue, to repopulate the created domains.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Honestly, a lot of the 'problematic' elements that are being raised here aren't Dark Sun specific, they were present to greater or lesser degree in every setting TSR created, and D&D has largely grappled with the portrayal of them in previous products. A lot of this post seems to be making mountains out of molehills. There are legit difficulties in adapting the DS setting to modern tastes. I'm certainly not denying that (though I still think adapting the system would be harder), but I don't think we need to overstate the problems quite this wildly.
I never said it was Dark Sun unique. I said it contain all of them in a prominent position. (I can't forget I forgot Physical and Political Oppression).

The issue is that if you remove all of this, it isn't Dark Sun. It's just a generic wasteland setting with Dark Sun names.
There is no money in that as you anger old day and made something boring for potential fans.

WOTC could make a profitable wasteland setting. But it wont be Dark Sun.
 

pemerton

Legend
Here is the 4e text on Muls (from the Campaign Guide):

Muls are half-dwarves, descended from the union of a human and a dwarf. They have the stature, agility, and mental flexibility of humankind, coupled with the physical resilience and endurance of dwarves - a rare combination of qualities that makes muls more
than a simple blend of the two races.

Because they are strong, tough, quick, and blessed with fantastic endurance, muls are highly prized as slaves. In fact, most muls are born into slavery.

Play a mul if you want...
  • to be tough as nails.
  • to play a hero who fought his or her way out of the bonds of slavery.
  • to be a member of a race that favors the fighter, barbarian, and battlemind classes.
. . .

Most muls begin their lives as slaves. Slaveholders throughout the Tyr Region have long known that tremendous hardiness and stamina result from mixing human and dwarven lines. Muls make outstanding gladiators, slave warriors, and heavy laborers, enduring toil and hardships that would kill lesser folk.

Muls who set their hearts on freedom are difficult to keep in chains. Some escape to the wilds and become raiders or join tribes of ex-slaves, whereas others who escape become mercenaries and sell their fighting skills to whomever they can. Muls who don’t flee captivity can win their freedom in the arena or by completing a dangerous task for their masters. A few highly prized gladiators receive so many privileges and comforts that they are effectively free, enjoying great latitude to go where they want and do as they wish. The Dungeon Master might have mul heroes start the campaign as slaves. If not, assume that your mul character has already won his or her freedom by the time the game begins.

Muls are hard, driven, pragmatic folk with little remorse or sympathy in their hearts. Many grow up under the lash, having been taken from their parents while very young and subjected to brutal training for the arena or grinding toil in fields or quarries. Consequently, muls have a hard time offering friendship and trust to anyone. More than a few muls, scarred by the hardships of their upbringing, spend their days as bitter, violent misanthropes. Others are suspicious, grasping mercenaries who have learned never to lift a finger on behalf of another person without establishing what they will gain from providing aid. Despite their tendency to be sullen or self-centered, muls can learn to work alongside others. Growing up in the slave pits and the underclass of society taught them how to forge alliances and understandings; their survival demanded nothing less. . . .

The word “mul” is derived from the Dwarven term mulzhennedar, which means “strength.” Pronunciation varies
throughout the Tyr Region; the word can be pronounced as mool, mull, or mule, although this last variation is considered derogatory and might start a fight. Given the derivation of the name, sages who care about such matters regard mull as the most accurate pronunciation.​

I think it illustrates some of the problems that a 5e-era revival of Dark Sun would face.
 

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