D&D 5E (+) What would you want for 5e Dark Sun?

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
I think the Dragonlance topic of the same name is pretty great and I'd like to follow through a similar course with Dark Sun under the following precepts:

1) Narrative Elements will almost certainly change to adapt the setting toward more modern sensibilities. More female characters, LGBT inclusion, wider ethnic diversity, and some elements may be trimmed or re-framed to be less offensive. This isn't inherently a bad thing. But if you're down with it, what kind of changes would you want to see?

2) Dark Sun has a ton of Systems Changes. From Defiling to Psionics to Environmental Survival. How drastically would you want to see those systems altered, or perhaps do you have ideas on how they could be carried forward? Or do you think that such changes should even be -applied- to a modern table sensibility due to the preponderance of roll-playing as opposed to role-playing in modern game design?

3) Power Level. While it could be included in the Systems changes, Dark Sun's monsters were stronger, it's characters had higher stat generation methods, and magic items, or even good quality weapons and armor, were rare to make things even more challenging. Should that stylistic and mechanical gap remain in 5e, or should it be brought into a more "Modern Balance" spirit where any Athasian character is no stronger or weaker, by default, than any Faerunian one?

I'll go first.

Narrative Changes for Modern Sensibilities:
  • More Female Sorcerer-Kings.
    • On Athas there were only 3 female sorcerer-kings. Abalach-Re, Lalali-Puy, and Yarmuke. And Yarmuke was destroyed by Hamanu who also wiped her city from the world.
    • Thankfully, most of the Sorcerer-Kings gender is pretty irrelevant to who they are and what they accomplish. So making Oronis, Tectuktitlay, or even Andropinis (Who has the most masculine name of them all, Man-Penis) into Female Characters wouldn't actually change much of anything.
    • Could even have one of the Sorcerer-Kings be transgender. Nibenay presents a draconic form and largely hides from the public eye. It could be interesting if that draconic form were feminine.
  • LGBTQ+ loose organizations could be neat.
    • I don't mean big and broad-ranging LGBTQ Lobbyists. I'm talking about smaller organizations of protection. Athas is a harsh place and having trans characters know that, for example, a building with a painted Kank's Head on the front wall wall is a safe space could be interesting. It would also set Athas aside from other settings as one that is harsh, but not without it's mercies.
    • Similarly, an alliance of people with different sexualities creating a group-atmosphere of protection and solidarity might be nice in a cruel world. Like maybe no one cares if some courtier is slipping into silk-sheets with courtiers of similar genders, or whether gladiators are coupling in the barracks between matches, but there's still plenty of reason for abundant caution and escape plans and the like for when bigots -do- rear their ugly heads
    • Though it would also be kind of great to just have no societal stigmas tied to LGBTQ+ existence, of course.
  • Slavery is a tough call. But I think they could largely keep it.
    • 5e D&D tries to keep slavery in the hands of evil people. Which is why the Drow are totally willing to enslave you at the start of Out of the Abyss. The main thrust of slavery in modern fantasy is that it exists, it is evil, and only evil people enslave others.
    • Therefore having slavery as a thing in the setting would still work, but the players would be actively encouraged to fight and kill slavers when possible/reasonable, and free any slaves they find. Which is what good people should do in any setting.
  • Points of (Dim) Light?
    • Athas has always been a place with a handful of real "Towns" and a few villages scattered across the sands between them, often 2-3 days travel apart (On foot) and usually plagued by cannibal Elves, cannibal Thri-Kreen, and cannibal Halflings. Because, honestly, cannibalism is just super popular as a dining option on Athas.
    • This sort of physical structure lends itself well to a Points of Light campaign. And, honestly, making that the style du jour for Athas could fit really, -really-, well. So long as the lights are dim. So long as the safety is fleeting, the comfort expensive, and the danger swift to return.
  • Ethnic Variety
    • Honestly, Athas could do this fairly easily if the art department goes for it without any sort of backlash. I don't think there's much chance, at all, that people are going to complain if Tecuktitlay isn't white as snow, or Lalali-Puy doesn't have blonde hair and blue eyes. Honestly, ruddy and dark skin tones should -probably- be the default for the whole setting, with pale skin being a rarity even among the wealthy.
Systems Changes:
  • Arcane/Divine/Psionics as different.
    • 5e's "All magic is just magic" is just not good for Athas. Athas uses Defiling and Preserving as a powerful narrative element, and one that Clerics and Druids are incapable of doing because their power doesn't defile.
    • Athas would need to break the "Weave Narrative" to work. Different types of magic -need- to be different to interact with this core identity of the setting.
  • Psionics as Default
    • A Psionicist Class (I love KibblesTasty's) would be great. Especially one that takes cantrip-casting to heart and builds off of it.
    • Probably a Psionic-Warrior option or something similar as well. Likely as a Subclass of Fighter or maybe Ranger?
    • Maybe just a whole mess of Psionic Subclasses in general.
    • Definitely a ton of Wild Talents as Feats.
  • Defiling as Default
    • Preserving should be something you actively choose, rather than a default. And it should cost you.
    • Yes. This makes Wizards and Sorcerers (if they're even in the game!) weaker unless they defile. That's the point.
    • Playing a Wizard should be unattractive in the setting to keep the Arcane magic level low. Not impossible, so people can still play their Wizards... but less attractive.
  • Travel Mechanics
    • Traveling from place to place isn't hard, really. Pick a direction and go. Getting there -alive- is the trick.
    • Heat Mechanics, Environmental Hazards, Dangerous Monsters, and most importantly LIMITED RESOURCES.
    • Water isn't always available on Athas. And even when you -can- get some it's often dirty.
    • Some sort of mechanical structure that makes survival against the World into it's own unique danger layered on top of everything else would be spectacular.
Power Level
  • Stronger Characters. Harsher Challenges.
    • Athasian characters have been stronger than those of other settings, often with less magical power available. Previous editions handled this with higher attribute scores, which is also an option but consider replacing Magic Items with "Heroic Power"
    • To replace magic items, there should be a new "Internalized Power" system that allows characters to function as if they -have- magic items in many cases and situations, without actually having them.
    • Perhaps give people a number of "Heroic Power" slots equal to their Attunement availability and allow the player to gain these heroic powers through gameplay.
    • Belt of Giant Strength? Nah. Your strength score gets boosted 'cause you have "Mighty Thews" which gives you a +4 Strength Bonus (Max 22) or a +6 bonus (Max 24
  • Bigger Stats
    • Maybe give players their level 4 ASI at level 1? Or their level 8 at level 1 so they just don't get one of the two during leveling.
    • This would keep their overall power level similar while boosting them at low-level play before they can play into the "Heroic Power" system.
  • Wild Talent at level 1?
    • Wild Talents are an important part of Athasian culture. Not -everyone- has them, but enough people do that it's just considered normal.
    • Maybe give all players a single level 1 "Free Feat" which can be a Wild Talent or not, as they personally prefer.
  • Interesting Weapon and Armor Rules.
    • In addition to having some really cool and slightly freaky weapons, Athas also had rules relating to Bone, Stone, and Wooden weapons that probably should be updated.
    • Weapon Breakage was a common problem for Athasian Heroes who would often see their favorite Carrikal break off in the thick armored hide of a Braxat or crushed under the bulk of a rampaging Mellikot.
    • Armor/Shield Breakage was also an issue, but slightly (SLIGHTLY) less common. Maybe give players the ability to actively sacrifice shields and armor to negate a critical hit altogether, or something? Not sure.

What are your thoughts?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Organize the Dark Sun guide into three sections.

The first section is classic Dark Sun. It only has the options for the lineages, classes and archetypes that exist in 2e, but translated into 5e in the most salient way. For example: make the Templar an archetype for Paladin or Warlock, or both, make Cleric cosmic force, make Mistrel a Rogue archetype, make psionics (and defiling and preserving) a free feat, and supply a 5e Psion. The setting flavor for these options are comprehensive.

The second section is for things that are not part of the original, but fit the themes of the Dark Sun setting well. For example: Barbarian class is fine, make Bard a psionic shaman, Psi Knight and Eldritch Knight are fine. New local settings, including the magical-technology "oasis city" of mages can be here.

The third section is optional variants for kitchen sink settings. Like plugging Dark Sun into the Forgotten Realm multiverse, introducing gnomes, dragonborn and tiefling, and so on. The section offers useful advice, with specific examples for how a DM might want to go about it.
 

log in or register to remove this ad


Zardnaar

Legend
why were the dray a bad idea?

Dregoth is a lurking threat, having a dray wandering around on the surface can kinda give the game away.

They're also distinct from Dragonborn.

Also when you only have one dragon as in THE Dragon a race of dragon people waters that concept down.

Dray are fine as NPCs or maybe a replacement character. Not something created to be played imho.

Also if any of the Sorcerer Kings or The Dragon get killed off it should be the PCs doing it. Dregoth was the replacement for The Dragon I suppose but I think the Prism Pentad metaplot was a mistake.
 

well, we will need some more dynamism setting wise? as with the death of one ruler everything starts moving?
so we just list goals and such.

That is the point about setting the book post-Kalak, I suppose. The pebbles have started moving, but the avalanche isn't in full cascade yet - that's something the PCs are going to have to deal with.

Tyr is trying to work out how it'll be governed now Kalak is gone. Lots of people disagree violently about this.

The anti-slavery message championed in Tyr (at least, publicly, and by the killers of Kalak, not everyone agrees...) will probably spread to other city-states.

Hamanu (or possibly Urikite templars and nobles acting without his formal knowledge or approval) wants Tyr's iron mines for Urik. Slavers are probably raiding Tyr's outlying villages already, now they know that Kalak's templars can't oppose them.

Borys doesn't care about slavery or about Kalak, he only wants his tithe of sacrifices every year so he can burn up their life-force in renewing the spells that keep Kalak imprisoned - and Tyr isn't going to avoid paying up just cos Kalak is gone.

Maybe Oronis might carefully start to reveal himself, or even establish communication with the new rulers of Tyr.

Sascha and Wyan, the disembodied heads of sorcerer-kings who sided with Rajaat, are now free of the enchantments Kalak placed on them and can now pursue their (or Rajaat's) agendas again

Dregoth is starting to send emissaries (even Templars) to Tyr and into the wilds, seeking followers as he prepares to seek revenge on his killers, or maybe seeking to install himself as Kalak's inheritor.

There's an entire palaceful of mind-numbingly dangerous and awful magic, prisoners, bound entities, artifacts etc sitting in the middle of Tyr, and nobody except Kalak knew what it all did, what it all was, what precautions needed to be taken to keep it safe, and what it might do if it got out.

Every elf tribe, trading house, spy ring, Veiled Alliance cell, escaped slave village etc that had dealings with Tyr has now had them turned upside down. No slaves any more, no templars any more, and long-established contracts, arrangements, bribes etc from Kalak's era aren't worth the clay tablet they're enscribed upon.

And that's just things that are DIRECT results of the fall of Kalak. If you want to bring in the Mind Lords, the Order, the psurlons, undead nastiness from the Obsidian lands, or living nastiness in the form of raiders, slavers, defilers, noble houses, or anything at all that might be happening in the internal politics of any of the other cities. Athas ain't short of a plot hook. There's LOTS happening.
 

Dray are fine as NPCs or maybe a replacement character. Not something created to be played imho.
They've been playable since day 1

Honestly my go-to with them is still "You're one of the failed first generation of Dray. Dregoth just threw your species out into the wastes to survive. You have no idea where you came from, but you're out here to survive" as it does an interesting thing with them having a whole 'there's two entirely different groups of Dray"
 

The irony here is that the idea that you have to explain where the Dray comes from is something of a spoiler and enshrines something in canon you might not want enshrined.

If their origin is a mystery in the setting, then why not let a mystery be the explanation for their existence?

I'm also curious. Dark Sun has several species of lizard people going back to 2e. Could they not just fill the same niche?
 
Last edited:

Zardnaar

Legend
The irony here is that the idea that you have to explain where the Dray comes from is something of a spoiler and enshrines something in canon you might not want enshrined.

If their origin is a mystery in the setting, then why not let a mystery be the explaination for their existence.

I'm also curious. Dark Sun has several species of lizard people going back to 2e. Could they not just fill the same niche?

Yes let Darksun be Darksun.

I'm not opposed to Dray in a new City by the Silt Sea type adventure.

I'm opposed to then being baked into the core rules.

Any race could work as mutants I suppose there's that.

So something like Ravnica and Theros. These (few) races are what's available. Anything else is a mutant (instead of a visitor).

Some new things make sense on Athas or at least don't contradict it. Eg Barbarians yes, Warforged no.
 

Coroc

Hero
In 5e, Large is balanced.

Because 5e only allows one reaction per round, the reach doesnt matter.

The only thing that needs attention is accounting for damage bonuses to size, and that is easy as part of a lineage trait.
Which is simple. just do 1d4 bonus damage, like from an enlarge spell. No fiddling around with attributes, which does not work at all in 5e or weapon sizes which also does not work at all with 5e.

Of course some races should have better unarmed attacks. In my homebrew concept i use Thrikreen 1d4 (plus a bite modelled after dragonborn breath weapon) and half giants 2d4 (1d4 of this being the enlarged part).

Also for metal vs nonmetal weapon i thought out a totally easy method: metal wepaons get an increased die.

No fiddling around with +/- and allowing non metal magical weapons to exist beside non magical metal weapons without power discrepance.
 

Coroc

Hero
All the more reason for Dark Sun to be cut off from the rest of the Multiverse. Their Plane of Water is almost gone.

And when it's gone, when the last of the ambient moisture is destroyed... everyone dies.
Yep this would be an extraplus. No wheel, no connections no gates no spelljammers. Tbh you really do not need that for a good dark sunn campaign. No plot reason / twist or whatever gets to me which would make DS more interesting by adding planar travel of any kind.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Yep this would be an extraplus. No wheel, no connections no gates no spelljammers. Tbh you really do not need that for a good dark sunn campaign. No plot reason / twist or whatever gets to me which would make DS more interesting by adding planar travel of any kind.

I've had them travel to the Athasian elemental planes. They're basically wrecked.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Yeah, but baked into the actual core book and not as part of an adventure, which is what I assume that's from.
Tyr being a growing democracy is baked into the setting. Slaves from other city-states try to cross the wastelands of Athas to reach it so they can be free. The city welcomes them, but may soon have to find new sources of food and water to fill so many bellies.

That's just straight up background lore. Though there was an adventure ("Freedom") packaged in the boxed set which showed how the city became free in the first place.
 

grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
Dark Sun is about scrabbling the last bits of hope together in a wrecked world. It is difficult to survive, but that survival has to mean something. The overthrow of Kalak is a huge victory for hope, but it opens a whole plethora of cans of worms. Having several groups or organizations in the setting working to better the world is not a big ask, whether there are large world-changing groups like in the Prism Pentad or small bands working to free a handful of slaves or keep a Mul village from starving.
I can think of a dozen ways to incorporate Dragonborn and Tieflings into Athas, but why? Take the Theros example and showcase the races that exemplify Dark Sun. You can always have mutants if a player really needs to play a particular race.
What a Dark Sun setting book needs is a gazeteer, how to handle defiling vs. preserving, psionic feats/wild talents, a psion class and details of how classes and races differ in the Burnt World of Athas. Rules for survival and little things like weapon breakage, water spoilage and scarcity.
Not necessary but welcome would be a templar subclass and elemental priest domain. A reworking of the exhaustion rules to really emphasize the survival and environmental hazard of life under the Dark Sun.
 

nevin

Hero
Like... Why would you even -bother- leaving your super-magical-technological-oasis-city to go to the various places where you'd immediately be slapped with Slavery, ganked by kanks, or eaten by random desert elves?
Why do.people from first world countries leave and spend thier luves in tburd world countries?

Also lovely oasis is going to have old power structure you do things thier way, pay your due's wait your time to get your chance to step up. People who dont like that or want more quicker will move on, then youve got people whi want adventure, or get sent out for thing the oasis needs or wants that they cant produce on thier own.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Which is simple. just do 1d4 bonus damage, like from an enlarge spell. No fiddling around with attributes, which does not work at all in 5e or weapon sizes which also does not work at all with 5e.

Of course some races should have better unarmed attacks. In my homebrew concept i use Thrikreen 1d4 (plus a bite modelled after dragonborn breath weapon) and half giants 2d4 (1d4 of this being the enlarged part).

Also for metal vs nonmetal weapon i thought out a totally easy method: metal wepaons get an increased die.

No fiddling around with +/- and allowing non metal magical weapons to exist beside non magical metal weapons without power discrepance.
If the size damage bonus replaces weapon size, then 1d6 is probably ok.

For example. Large dagger deals 1d4 + 1d6 Large. Huge greatsword deals 1d12 + 2d6.

Possibly only one size damage bonus happens per round, conveying the sense of inertia and getting a full swing in.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Yes let Darksun be Darksun.

Some new things make sense on Athas or at least don't contradict it. Eg Barbarians yes, Warforged no.
Yeah, most of the time it is obvious which lineages and which archetypes can make sense in Dark Sun, and which dont.

That is why I want separate sections: one section for purist Dark Sun and an other section that can make sense. Stuff that makes less sense, and starts to feel like a kitchen sink that can go into a third section.
 


Faolyn

(she/her)
Tyr being a growing democracy is baked into the setting. Slaves from other city-states try to cross the wastelands of Athas to reach it so they can be free. The city welcomes them, but may soon have to find new sources of food and water to fill so many bellies.

That's just straight up background lore.
That's good to hear. That's the sort of thing I'd like to see in DS.
 

Urriak Uruk

Gaming is fun, and fun is for everyone
Organize the Dark Sun guide into three sections.

The first section is classic Dark Sun. It only has the options for the lineages, classes and archetypes that exist in 2e, but translated into 5e in the most salient way. For example: make the Templar an archetype for Paladin or Warlock, or both, make Cleric cosmic force, make Mistrel a Rogue archetype, make psionics (and defiling and preserving) a free feat, and supply a 5e Psion. The setting flavor for these options are comprehensive.

The second section is for things that are not part of the original, but fit the themes of the Dark Sun setting well. For example: Barbarian class is fine, make Bard a psionic shaman, Psi Knight and Eldritch Knight are fine. New local settings, including the magical-technology "oasis city" of mages can be here.

The third section is optional variants for kitchen sink settings. Like plugging Dark Sun into the Forgotten Realm multiverse, introducing gnomes, dragonborn and tiefling, and so on. The section offers useful advice, with specific examples for how a DM might want to go about it.

Your last third is just not a thing for other 5E published settings, and I see no reason for why it should be for Dark Sun.

Eberron doesn't devote a third of its book to "Hey, here's how to use this material for not-Eberron!" That whole premise is silly, because the book is trying to get you to play Dark Sun, not a different setting.

Putting in a third of your book for people who aren't actually going to play Dark Sun is only wading into the pool instead of doing a full dive. You've got to commit to writing a Dark Sun book and use every page to sell the material, not half-ass it.
 

Your last third is just not a thing for other 5E published settings, and I see no reason for why it should be for Dark Sun.

Eberron doesn't devote a third of its book to "Hey, here's how to use this material for not-Eberron!" That whole premise is silly, because the book is trying to get you to play Dark Sun, not a different setting.

Putting in a third of your book for people who aren't actually going to play Dark Sun is only wading into the pool instead of doing a full dive. You've got to commit to writing a Dark Sun book and use every page to sell the material, not half-ass it.
eberron was designed to in principle be able to have anything from dnd in just recontextualised hence it never need that.
but you might have a point.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Your last third is just not a thing for other 5E published settings, and I see no reason for why it should be for Dark Sun.

Eberron doesn't devote a third of its book to "Hey, here's how to use this material for not-Eberron!" That whole premise is silly, because the book is trying to get you to play Dark Sun, not a different setting.

Putting in a third of your book for people who aren't actually going to play Dark Sun is only wading into the pool instead of doing a full dive. You've got to commit to writing a Dark Sun book and use every page to sell the material, not half-ass it.
Or third-ass it, as it were.
 

Level Up!

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top