B/X Known World
I have loved and played in Dark Sun since it dropped 30 years ago. I honestly cannot imagine a Dark Sun game that didn't at least partially touch on the topic of slavery. But yeah, I agree. Those absolutely are the pillars of Dark Sun. You couldn't just remove slavery and it remain recognizably Dark Sun.I think the issue with slavery in Dark Sun (and I say this as someone who absolutely loves Dark Sun) is that it's absolutely integral to the setting. Lack of water, gods, and metal, magic draining life, despotic sorcerer-kings ruling city-states, psionics, slavery and gladiatorial combat. Those are basically the pillars of Dark Sun right there.
They could also simply change the backstory on those. Just make them as natural as half-elves on other worlds. Though half-giants haven't really existed as player character options since the introduction of goliaths. Goliath replaces half-giants as a PC option. Half-giants as monsters to fight can remain and their origins don't have to be dealt with. Muls are rewritten as a natural, non-magical, and non-rape produced lineage.I think that WotC would include the slavery issue if they revamp DS, although I also think they would turn half-dwarfs and half-giants into full-fledged lineages instead of having them be the product of ongoing rape. Heck, I can see them retconning their origins to having been entirely the creation of psionics.
I want Dark Sun to come back. I want it to address slavery. But then I'd also want the entire or overwhelming majority of the writers working on it to be writers of color. I'd want the setting to be post-Kalak's fall with a Free Tyr as the home base of the PCs. And I'd want the adventure path to focus on bringing down another sorcerer-king, preferably Urik's King Hamanu. I'd want the writers to take Dark Sun and make it the slavery setting. Do all the research and put in all the history and real-world atrocities of slavery. Not literal real-world history in the game, but facts and ideas taken from history and used in the game. Show how brutal, inhumane, and atrocious it was. Don't treat it with kid gloves. I'd want things like escape maps in hair styles. The Underground Railroad. Make one of the main focuses of the setting on escaping slavery, freeing slaves, and abolishing slavery. Do the same with environmental collapse. The people who don't care about or the defilers who actively destroy the environment are utterly and irredeemable evil and have to be taken out with extreme prejudice. The only hope for saving the dying world of Athas is to put an end to defilers, the sorcerer-kings, the Dragon, and slavery. Luckily the two themes merge perfectly in the sorcerer-kings. They are the biggest defilers and they are responsible for slavery on Athas. Make bringing them down the focus of the setting. The only thing you can really do with such a dark setting as that is make it about hope.