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General Tell me about your experiences playing Dark Sun

Wasteland Knight

Adventurer
I never played Dark Sun. It was coming onto the market when I was playing games other than AD&D. I've peripherally known about it, but never read any of the materials.

Recently I had a chance to skim through some material from the original boxed set, and my take on the game was a lot different than my expectation. I found the original materials more evocative and interesting than I anticipated.

Two things really jumped out - the focus on survival, and the recommendation for each player to create multiple characters what would be used in a sort of troupe play arrangement.
I'm curious to hear from people who actually played Dark Sun. What was the game experience like? What did PCs do in campaigns? It seems simple survival would always be a much bigger focus in Dark Sun, far beyond the "remember to buy enough iron rations for the Bag of Holding" that is my usual D&D experience.

But what else went on? Did PCs ever gain magic items? Here's your chance to tell me about your game, or tell me about your character :)
 

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ccs

40th lv DM
We played a bit of it when it was new the first time.
First up, nearly the entire party consisted of 1/2giants, Muls, & Thri-Kreen. There was one elf iirc.
Next up it became a celebration of higher than normal stats.
Then came the psionics. The elf (?) was a psion - all the bells & whistles. Then the DM gave everyone else some psionics.

Setting was explained a bit. And then promptly ignored save for the need for water & play was dungeon delving that would've fit in any other game/setting.

Game lasted 6 months or so.
 

Moon_Goddess

Adventurer
Supporter
Never got to play back in the day, just poured over the books and dreamed.

Had one session during the 4e days, i think it was adventure in the book. half of the players moved to the other side of the planet, and the game didn't continue.
 

Wrathamon

Explorer
Savage feel. Alien. Felt more like Sci fantasy then fantasy. I loved the setting and how it "changed" things to make them feel different. Have to like desert survival game. The defiling stuff was weird mechanically and I never felt it worked right or matched up how it was described in the books. I also never felt psionic combat never lined up with how cool it sounded in the novels. I like the concept of psionics it helps it stand out and gives it a different feel.
 

Too bad our games were too short to really tell a lot. I loved the races and the classes.
The feel of the setting was cool. The comouter gane was not bad at all and showed what could have been possible.
I also thinj the psionic rules held the setting back as it did not really play out as promised.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Disappointing. This was back in high school, so the DM wanted to run a game of it sold it as "Like Conan (the movie) but with weird sci-fi stuff". It wasn't at all how he sold it.

I made a mul gladiator, because even I could see how op it looked on paper. We had a thri-kreen psionicist, a half-giant fighter, and an elf preserver. Someone rolled up a thief, but never played. I don't think we did the pc tree thing because the DM didn't want to or didn't read enough to see it.

We dicked around in the main city for a while before deciding to go find some rumored magical item. The plot details are hazy. I remember the DM was extremely annoyed whenever the psionicist did anything because he actually hated psionics but felt it was part of the setting. I also believe my sword broke in the first fight and I was using a "shard" as a dagger for the rest of the game. The half-giant also got charmed/dominated by some strange cat-like creature and splattered the elf in one hit. I'm pretty sure we called the game there and never played it again.


I'm sure the DM did a lot to sour my impression of the game (I played with him for decades, but looking back I can see some real flaws in his game style) but after that, my impression was of a setting that was a meat grinder for munchkins. I never cared much for the setting until much later reading the 4e setting book and seeing the potential. It's not my favorite setting by a longshot (as I said elsewhere, I prefer Primeval Thule as a pulp setting), but I see some potential in it. Depending on how WotC handles it, of course.
 

Bitbrain

Black Lives Matter
I’ve never played in Dark Sun. For me, it’s one of those “run the game you want to play” situations.

Both times I’ve run a 5e Dark Sun-in-all-but-name setting, the players have told me it was shockingly different from what they were expecting. Less fantasy Arabia and more “Bronze Age at the End of Time”.
 


AdmundfortGeographer

Getting lost in fantasy maps
Dark Sun felt like an advanced setting to run well. Running the harsh environment by the rules was a major buzz kill, lack of metal meaning equipment has rules to break at exceptional rates. Heat rules and water rules added an accounting to the game that many players and DMs might not find causally fun.

A big attraction to AD&D Dark Sun was some of the power gamer service built in. Starting at 3rd level. Ability scores up to 20 (when 18 was max in core AD&D). Everyone with a chance for psionic wild talents. Large size characters as Half Giants or Thri Kreen (they were large back then), plus fighting with 4 limbs!

We ignored the character trees aspect, though all of us created them. We know the trees were really there because we were meant to expect character death in high rates but none of us could get beyond our attachment to our characters. It takes a special table of DMs and players to agree on going into a setting where character death is deliberately high.

We ignored the weapon breaking rules, and just went with the penalties.

We played the published adventures, but they were just not great and a bit railroadie.
 

I didn't get to play it a lot. I got to run it quite a bit, though.

I only briefly ran 2e Dark Sun. Great setting but based on 2e rules. Not balanced. I routinely converted 2e adventures into 4e, since many of those adventures had cool themes. Also, more balanceable.

I liked the 4e version, except the Character Builder made it nearly impossible to keep stuff that didn't fit out of the game. I had to reflavor a paladin, because someone really wanted to play one. (4e templars didn't suit their previous flavor. Making them warlocks was pretty inspired, IMO, and making them secondary leaders suited them too, but they became too magical and not warlord-ish enough, IMO.)

Stuff like half-giants and thri-kreen needed balancing. They got that in 3e and 4e. Unfortunately half-giants lost their unique flavor. Eventually so did pterrans and some of the other more obscure playable races. Halflings didn't lose their flavor though :D

For the non-metal weapons, I recall that players would rather gain bonuses than take penalties. So instead of inflicting penalties, a metal weapon is effectively a +1 weapon. I also wasn't going to deal with broken weapons, since the game didn't have hero points, action points, fate points, etc that could be used as a metacurrency to compensate a PC for a broken weapon.
 

Unwise

Adventurer
Setting was explained a bit. And then promptly ignored

The official D&D adventures did this too. I remember a much hyped set of 4e D&D adventures, where the first room of the first dungeon had the PCs come across a pool of water about 10x25x25 feet in size. This was not a treasury, or a city's well or anything, just a random room in a dungeon so they could put in a water monster/trap. The PCs were rich before they did anything. They had obviously just got a dungeon from elsewhere and transplanted it into Dark Sun without thought or context. I found this to be pretty typical.

Also, Dark Sun had issues around believability with the lack of metal, wood and water. Most adventures still had locks to pick, chests to open etc. Are they really making all these locks from ceramic or bone? Where did the wood for the door and chest come from? There is no forest for hundreds of miles. How did we even make the mud houses without water?

It is just not a setting where cities or even villages would realistically exist for long. I found myself scaling down the scarcity of resources. I also made enchanted wells, where the water would refresh you, but only if you drank it right away or it disappeared. So the water scarcity was what limited travel, as people cluster around these wells to build cities. Water was a precious resource as it allowed travel and convenience.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
My introduction to D&D (well, AD&D Second Edition) was Dark Sun; it was the first setting I ever played in.

It was glorious. I played a thri-kreen psionicist/ranger, and this was back when thri-kreen were depicted as mantis warriors, not humanoid looking dudes with four arms. The rest of the group consisted of a Halfling gladiator, a half-elf fighter with a flame tongue bastard sword, a human Preserver, and a mul gladiator.

I think the DM was running the modules, but I don't know how closely he followed them. He was a very good DM and gave our group a LOT of freedom to do as we would. I remember the Halfling and I had a combat tactic where I'd throw him at our enemies, and I don't recall it ever actually working well (poor die rolls every single time; it became a running joke).

But the tone to the world, where magicians are distrusted due to the massive havoc and damage they'd caused over the millennia, was exquisite and the DM established it well. I remember having to cover for the Preserver at one point when hi blew his "conceal the fact that I'm casting a spell" roll and I had to pretend it was my doing. And since my character had a Charisma of 9, convincing anybody of anything was a Herculean task for me.

I never ran Dark Sun myself, but I bought and loved the novels and many of the supplements (Dragon Kings for the win!). And that first campaign (over 25 years ago now) absolutely impacted the way I view and run D&D regardless of the setting.
 

DnD Warlord

Explorer
In 4e I played a Templar pact warlock who was empowered by a dead dragon sorcerer king. The game was weird though because the DM used normal animals and monsters a lot... like horses and carriages instead of those big stone things with the bettle things.
 

Bitbrain

Black Lives Matter
I think the DM was running the modules, but I don't know how closely he followed them. He was a very good DM and gave our group a LOT of freedom to do as we would. I remember the Halfling and I had a combat tactic where I'd throw him at our enemies, and I don't recall it ever actually working well (poor die rolls every single time; it became a running joke).

My first group of players killed the BBEG with this tactic!

The Druid turned into a giant tortoise creature, picked up the halfling in his mouth, flung him at disadvantage, and hit. Cue death from flying halfling wielding an iron longsword in both hands.
 

Wrathamon

Explorer
I love the setting for its grit and makes for an interesting experience but it isn't the easiest game to run because it has so many moments were classic tropes dont work and players can get the wrong idea in their head. it requires really good DM to keep the setting in the forefront and not let it fallback on classic D&D darkage tropes.
 

Wrathamon

Explorer
"The game was weird though because the DM used normal animals and monsters a lot... like horses and carriages instead of those big stone things with the bettle things."

sounds like your character was awesome but the DM didnt know the setting ... too bad makes me sad :(
 

TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
I played a year-long campaign in 2E, several times a week for up to six hours per session. There were three of us total.

The other player and I built custom classes from the DMG. He was a fighter/magic user with psionics and an 18/99 strength. I was a thief/cleric without any healing spells. We were both very overpowered compared to regular classes.

We were also both playing characters with evil alignments; that was agreed upon with the DM before we ever rolled any dice.

I remember ceramic pieces as currency, no metal armor or weapons. Nobody had a good AC. Survival rolls were brutal so we traveled mostly at night. Athas was full of weird monsters we had never seen before, and weird takes on regular races: cannibal halflings. Life was harsh.

I think we played through forty or fifty sessions, gained maybe six levels--we started at third level, like the setting recommended. At the end of the campaign we might have had three magic items between us.

Our campaign involved a great deal of traveling. We experienced several of the different cultures. Ultimately, we freed a greater devil in disguise, choosing to believe its promises of power. When we failed to help it succeed in regaining all of its former abilities it killed us and ate our souls.

It was definitely different. I liked that.
 


Wasteland Knight

Adventurer
The official D&D adventures did this too. I remember a much hyped set of 4e D&D adventures, where the first room of the first dungeon had the PCs come across a pool of water about 10x25x25 feet in size. This was not a treasury, or a city's well or anything, just a random room in a dungeon so they could put in a water monster/trap. The PCs were rich before they did anything. They had obviously just got a dungeon from elsewhere and transplanted it into Dark Sun without thought or context. I found this to be pretty typical.

Also, Dark Sun had issues around believability with the lack of metal, wood and water. Most adventures still had locks to pick, chests to open etc. Are they really making all these locks from ceramic or bone? Where did the wood for the door and chest come from? There is no forest for hundreds of miles. How did we even make the mud houses without water?

It is just not a setting where cities or even villages would realistically exist for long. I found myself scaling down the scarcity of resources. I also made enchanted wells, where the water would refresh you, but only if you drank it right away or it disappeared. So the water scarcity was what limited travel, as people cluster around these wells to build cities. Water was a precious resource as it allowed travel and convenience.

So, one of my thoughts on Dark Sun was that with so many aspects of the typical quasi-Medieval-Renaissance-Tolkienesque D&D settings going out the window, a good portion of existing source material would no longer be applicable.

Which would put more onus on the GM to develop material.

I recently started running a Forgotten Realms campaign. I basically perused my library of sourcebooks and adventures, picked pieces that fit my concept, reskinned a few things and I had a campaign plotted out for 10 levels of play. It took me a few hours spread out over a couple evenings. Easy to do because so much existing material fits easily within the parameters of “default” D&D.
 

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