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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
The ship has sailed, but. I would love it if something like:



Base "naked human" AC 8

Helmet +2 AC (light)
Buckler +1 AC (light)
Viking Shield +2 AC (light, martial, damageable)
Shield +2 AC (medium)

Padded Cuirass (gambeson or layered wool or fur) +1 AC (light)
(padded can be worn under other armors but turns light into medium and medium into heavy)
Leather Cuirass (cured hard boiled, scale or plate) +2 AC (light)
Leather Suit (adds arm and leg protection) +3 AC (light)

Chain Cuirass (short sleeve tunic) +4 (light)
Chain Suit (various garments to protect arms and legs, like longsleeve hauberk longcoat, or chausses leggings) +6 (heavy)

Scale Cuirass (fish scale, segmented "banded", brigandine, etcetera) +5 (medium)
Scale Suit (adds "splint" for arms and legs) +7 (medium)

Plate Cuirass (encased in sheet of metal) +6 (medium)
Plate Suit (adds chain and guards for arms and legs) +8 (heavy)

Renaissance Plate (total coverage, including arms, legs, and great helm) +12 (heavy)
 
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cbwjm

Hero
I'd keep things simple and follow the original 2e books, keep all armour the same as in the PHB, make heavy armour largely unavailable (ie., more expensive) as it has to be made from metal, though with the possibility of local materials being used for heavy armour with an increase in price.

Any metal armour exhausts the wearer due to wearing it in the heat of Athas, that could be disadvantage on attack rolls after a few rounds of combat or even actual exhaustion (this could be quite punishing but also, quite rare as metal armour should be almost non-existent).
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I'd keep things simple and follow the original 2e books, keep all armour the same as in the PHB, make heavy armour largely unavailable (ie., more expensive) as it has to be made from metal, though with the possibility of local materials being used for heavy armour with an increase in price.

Any metal armour exhausts the wearer due to wearing it in the heat of Athas, that could be disadvantage on attack rolls after a few rounds of combat or even actual exhaustion (this could be quite punishing but also, quite rare as metal armour should be almost non-existent).

Pretty much.

Some sort of con save when it's hot.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
I'd keep things simple and follow the original 2e books, keep all armour the same as in the PHB, make heavy armour largely unavailable (ie., more expensive) as it has to be made from metal, though with the possibility of local materials being used for heavy armour with an increase in price.

Any metal armour exhausts the wearer due to wearing it in the heat of Athas, that could be disadvantage on attack rolls after a few rounds of combat or even actual exhaustion (this could be quite punishing but also, quite rare as metal armour should be almost non-existent).
Pretty much what I've done, yeah. Just use standard D&D Armors and give them funny names and descriptions as being made of local materials.

I didn't even bother trying to do "Leather Armor is Kekestrel Feathers" I just made Kekestrel Feather Armor into an option to refluff any of the light armors.

And then if an armor gives disadvantage to stealth (Whether medium or heavy) it also gives disadvantage to Con Saves against Extreme Heat as an environmental condition.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Pretty much what I've done, yeah. Just use standard D&D Armors and give them funny names and descriptions as being made of local materials.

I didn't even bother trying to do "Leather Armor is Kekestrel Feathers" I just made Kekestrel Feather Armor into an option to refluff any of the light armors.

And then if an armor gives disadvantage to stealth (Whether medium or heavy) it also gives disadvantage to Con Saves against Extreme Heat as an environmental condition.
Maybe even go further. A one-to-one kind of Athas armor for each AC.

Light
• AC 11 (various heavy fabrics) ≈ padded
• AC 12 (feather) ≈ leather

Medium
• AC 13 (bone) ≈ chain
• AC 14 (insectoid) ≈ scale
 


Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
I'm saying that I made the -explicit decision- to not "go further" on that one.

Armor's abstract. We should let it be abstract. Besides, some armors fit some areas better than others, for narrative identity. So it lets people wear what feels "Right" for their character without stat penalties or high costs to fulfill their idea.
 
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tremeremagi

Explorer
Tyr write up sample.


Tyr


The so called Free City of Tyr is free in name only. Centuries ago they overthrew their tyrannical King Kalak and for a few centuries a council of freemen ruled the city. Around 700 years ago Sadira assumed the throne of Tyr as its new Sorcerer Queen. Despite ruling the city in an erratic and impulsive manner Sadira is a popular ruler. Centuries ago Sadira learned how to tame the Cerulean Storm and has siphoned off most of its destructive power and has increased rainfall in the Ringing Mountains.


For the first time in centuries running water flows under the Elven Bridge. The new river was named the River Agis for an ancient hero of Tyr. Tyr is a superpower among the city states and can easily defeat any two of them combined should they attack Tyr. Tyr was a founding member of the Free State Alliance between itself, Altaruk and Kled. The alliance can field the largest army in the Tyr region and is one of the best equipped with elite units having iron tipped spears and officers with iron swords. Tyrian legions march side by side with heavy Dwarven infantry from Kled and battle mages from Altaruk support them magically.


Government: The Sorcerer Queen Sadira rules Tyr. By normal Sorcerer King standards she is a weak ruler although she is popular with Tyrians. She is one of the most powerful wizards on Athas and draws her power from the sun. A side effect of her transformation in the Pristine Tower enabled her to grant spells to Templars although it was several centuries before this ability became apparent. Her role is largely ceremonial although once per year she ascends Kalak’s repaired pyramid and casts powerful spells to moderate the power of the Cerulean Storm.


Trade and Commerce: Tyr trades with every city in the Tyr region. It has a virtual monopoly on iron and due to Sadira's weather magic is also among the most fertile cities on Athas. The river Agis has reinvigorated the Tyr valley and lush fields extend down the rivers banks before it empties into fertile swampland in the Sea of Silt near Altaruk. Over the last thousand odd years due to the improved rainfall and food exports from Tyr the population of the Tyr region has roughly doubled. The population stands at around 30 000 beings with the surrounding fertile valley supporting perhaps ten times that number. Numerous client villages dot the landscape toward Alturak farming the fertile banks of the Agis river.
This is very similar to how i run it in my campaign (although I only jumped 40 yrs forward) I have also made Sadira the Sorcerer-Queen of Tyr, after constant battles between the council of Tyr, she took over. The ziggurat is gone, its bricks and stones used to rebuild the warrens and employ many of the former slaves and inlfux of escaped slaves from the wastelands. My Tyr FY49 Map is almost complete.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Armor's abstract. We should let it be abstract. Besides, some armors fit better areas than others, for narrative identity. So it lets people wear what feels "Right" for their character without stat penalties or high costs to fulfill their idea.
Ok, I can get into that. It reminds me of 4e Gamma World, that had "light armor" or "heavy armor".



In 5e, I would convert it to something like.

Light Armor (common): +2 AC
Medium Armor (uncommon): +4 AC
Heavy Armor (rare): +6 AC

Then give sample materials that are suitable for light and medium, and let player choose. Specify that heavy must be metal.

To kill a monster and make armor out of its parts, is a thing.



Likewise for weapons. Something like.

Finesse Light Melee Weapon: 1d4 (usable in offhand or while grappling)
Finesse Melee Weapon: 1d6
Heavy Melee Weapon: 1d8
Heavy Two-Handed Melee Weapon: 1d12

Then give sample materials that are suitable, and let player choose.
 
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Stormonu

Legend
With all this discussion, looks like I am going to be getting a Dark Sun game together. I found a site that has already done a write-up of both the player rules and converted the monsters to 5E. I'll be giving everyone the Magic Aptitude feat at 1st level to account for psionic ability. As I run across any rules holes or whatnot, planning to add/alter the base I've found.

I don't have a plot yet, and I'm still waiting for my group to build the initial characters before I put together the first few encounters, but I think I'll let that develop as we play. It will be interesting to see where the game takes me.

Lorewise, I'll be consulting the original boxed set and the initial supplements - Slave Tribes, Dune Traders, Veiled Alliance, The Will and the Way, Earth, Air, Wind & Fire, City-State of Tyr, Valley of Dust and Fire, Complete Gladiators and the races books. I intend to be ignoring everything from the Revised setting, at least initially - especially the entire Rajaat storyline.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
Most of you are familiar with the Aztec macuahuitl. It is a highly effective razor sharp stone slashing weapon. Here is a picture for comparison. The Dark Sun counterpart would probably probably have the obsidian stone blades set around a large bone, thus look different tho similar in concept.

09a2d7_e98bcc5e2db54be797bbcb20b2d89873~mv2.jpg


Otherwise, the largest practicable weapon from a single stone obsidian blade would be about a dagger (or a spear).
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Most of you are familiar with the Aztec macuahuitl. It is a highly effective razor sharp stone slashing weapon. Here is a picture for comparison. The Dark Sun counterpart would probably probably have the obsidian stone blades set around a large bone, thus look different tho similar in concept.

09a2d7_e98bcc5e2db54be797bbcb20b2d89873~mv2.jpg


Otherwise, the largest practicable weapon from a single stone obsidian blade would be about a dagger (or a spear).

Yep that's pretty much your stone sword.
 




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