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

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
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?
 

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Yaarel

Mind Mage
See, I'd rather just change the core map of the world so it's got areas like this in it with this being sort of a "Tyr Region" all it's own. Like rename Tesara to Raam andI just have -that- be the area around Raam... I'd love that.

No other major city-states on the same map... just... y'know. THAT.

Then have all of them kind of loosely ordered around the Tablelands with vague directions toward the other City States so it's easy to get lost on your way to any place.
I like the idea that the city-states are remote from each other. Attempting to travel from one to an other likely ends in death.

Each city has its own hinterland around it, with populations that are semi-dependent on the city. There would be solid regional settings.

Also, spacing out the cities makes better use of the planet, and helps explain how their cultures are so different from each other.



I know there are regional maps, but is there a global map of planet Athas? I cant quite get a sense of where everything is in the big picture.
 

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Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
This is the biggest map there is, @Yaarel. TSR never bothered doing the rest of the world up because it was a desolate wasteland.

athas_map.jpg
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
This is the biggest map there is, @Yaarel. TSR never bothered doing the rest of the world up because it was a desolate wasteland.

athas_map.jpg
It seems like there is lots of room elsewhere for "easter eggs".



With regard to the city-states being far away from each other, is it enough to just change the scale of the map, such as moving the decimal place for the miles? Or are there certain sites that need to be nearby each other − thus requiring a new map?
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
It seems like there is lots of room elsewhere for "easter eggs".



With regard to the city-states being far away from each other, is it enough to just change the scale of the map, such as moving the decimal place for the miles? Or are there certain sites that need to be nearby each other − thus requiring a new map?
Changing the map scale works just fine, sure. I just like the idea of doing more stuff in and around each City-State than there is, currently. Spreading them out and populating their areas would be a great step toward that.

Would also make room for some of the weird stuff people want while still keeping it in the Sorcerer Kings' territory for narrative purposes.
 



Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
I like the idea that the city-states are remote from each other. Attempting to travel from one to an other likely ends in death.

Each city has its own hinterland around it, with populations that are semi-dependent on the city. There would be solid regional settings.

Also, spacing out the cities makes better use of the planet, and helps explain how their cultures are so different from each other.
The merchant houses are part of Athas' society. You can make trade / travel like the Silk Road - only high-value stuff is worth the cost - but not make it so prohibitive that there are no return trips.

If the city-states are distant from each other, there can be several villages called Freedom, which may or may not know of each other. Each village may or may not have a working relationship (of some sort) with the merchant caravans. Or may sponsor their own merchant house who are the only people that know the way in/out.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I REALLY hate that big map. The Tyr region is interesting because there's a lot of nooks and crannies where things are going on. The larger scale map is soooo boring with huge swathes of uninteresting terrain. I'd rather see it scrapped.

Athas doesn't have to be a planet, not even Earth sized. I'd be happy with just the Tyr region and the rest be unknown/edge of the world.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
There's unofficial fan maps of Athas and the far side of the Sea of Silt.

This is why I am originalist go back to first boxed set then you can branch off if you want to ignore kalaks death, Ignore Prism Pentad, ignore 4E, ignore revised set etc.

Other reason is pragmatic you're just creating more work for yourself.

Final reason is you don't need to retcon much if anything.

Whover writes it up makes the final call. Think I'm stealing Steampunkettes races as mine were just phb refluffed.

Might post some stuff tomorrow.
 
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Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
I REALLY hate that big map. The Tyr region is interesting because there's a lot of nooks and crannies where things are going on. The larger scale map is soooo boring with huge swathes of uninteresting terrain. I'd rather see it scrapped.

Athas doesn't have to be a planet, not even Earth sized. I'd be happy with just the Tyr region and the rest be unknown/edge of the world.
This is actually a really important and super interesting angle: Granularity.

Having the area of Tyr/Tablelands be small means you increase the granularity of -that- area. There's various objects on your map, different styles of terrain, geographical locations, etc. The closer the zoom, the more detailed it gets within the Tyr Region.

What're the odds that WotC would be willing to go all in on the Ravenloft Domain Map style and do maps of the regions near each of the City-States and then a big map with -vastly- less detail that just kinda shows how close the different City States are to each other with some of the bigger geographical features?

'Cause then you could show everyone the big map and hand the Trader player the regional city state maps. >.>
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
The Athasian Cartographer's Guild did put out their idea of the World Map. It's pretty bleak, really. Which I enjoy.

athas_kingage.jpg

Maybe Athas is more like Endor or another Moon-Planet in size... 'cause even the Tyr Region is huge on this globe face.
 



Yora

Legend
Doing a quick check, it's about 440 miles almost straight north to south from Balic to Raam. That means the Tyr Region covers an area in which you could fit Germany and Poland. Or Nevada and Utah.

Big, but only a tiny section of a planet.
 

See, I'd rather just change the core map of the world so it's got areas like this in it with this being sort of a "Tyr Region" all it's own. Like rename Tesara to Raam and just have -that- be the area around Raam... I'd love that.

No other major city-states on the same map... just... y'know. THAT.

Then have all of them kind of loosely ordered around the Tablelands with vague directions toward the other City States so it's easy to get lost on your way to any place.
legally no as that map is for another setting hence the inspiration as darks sun cant really go forward in timeline with out mucking it up thus it must go wide hence anything similar is a good idea to steal from.
The Athasian Cartographer's Guild did put out their idea of the World Map. It's pretty bleak, really. Which I enjoy.

athas_kingage.jpg

Maybe Athas is more like Endor or another Moon-Planet in size... 'cause even the Tyr Region is huge on this globe face.
it looks like a singular continent and a small one at that maybe it is bigger they just can see it yet?
 


Zardnaar

Legend
The Athasian Cartographer's Guild did put out their idea of the World Map. It's pretty bleak, really. Which I enjoy.

athas_kingage.jpg

Maybe Athas is more like Endor or another Moon-Planet in size... 'cause even the Tyr Region is huge on this globe face.

I like this map found it years ago.

Does make Athas a small world. Also mud flats bigger than theTyr region.

There's some art kicking round mapping that world map out as well. I saved it on my PC around 15 years ago.
 




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