D&D 5E WotC: Why Dark Sun Hasn't Been Revived

In an interview with YouTuber 'Bob the Worldbuilder', WotC's Kyle Brink explained why the classic Dark Sun setting has not yet seen light of day in the D&D 5E era. I’ll be frank here, the Dark Sun setting is problematic in a lot of ways. And that’s the main reason we haven’t come back to it. We know it’s got a huge fan following and we have standards today that make it extraordinarily hard to...

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In an interview with YouTuber 'Bob the Worldbuilder', WotC's Kyle Brink explained why the classic Dark Sun setting has not yet seen light of day in the D&D 5E era.

I’ll be frank here, the Dark Sun setting is problematic in a lot of ways. And that’s the main reason we haven’t come back to it. We know it’s got a huge fan following and we have standards today that make it extraordinarily hard to be true to the source material and also meet our ethical and inclusion standards... We know there’s love out there for it and god we would love to make those people happy, and also we gotta be responsible.

You can listen to the clip here.
 

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Warpiglet-7

Satan’s Echo Chamber! Muhahahaha
Sure. I was talking mechanics. Converting the mechanics to 5E would take an hour or two depending on the psi stuff.

Or just look at older threads covering the topic and swipe away.

As I am looking at some of your responses to band food/water granting magic…I like that.

I also have the light cantrip on the chopping block for an upcoming campaign (it was know prior to a major religious event).

Of course it also makes survival stuff important too…

Anyway some good suggestions in that thread…
 

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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
On the topic at hand, Dark Sun is specifically not that. It’s a world of grey morals and evil standards that require good people to risk a lot. It resonates with a lot of people’s real world experiences for a variety of reasons and is for that very appealing as a setting to some.

Bolded the problem.

You won't make money selling a game where you can't be good in 2023.
A TV show or Movie where everyone is grey or evil , sure.

But a game has to have the good option in 2023 to make money.

If you try to be good in Dark Sun, a Sorcerer King, their templars, or one of the other eleventy seven evil or morally gray groups and individuals will kill you.
It's only fun for people who are playing just to be killed in funny way.
Those aren't the majority of 5e, 4e, and 3e players.
 

wellis

Explorer
Thinking on Dark Sun, with how bizarre its backstory could get with the halfling lifeshapers and their bio-organic tech, I think it's a shame the Green Age was so...conventional in technology & metallurgy with it being implied to be a rather typical fantasy setting.

I kind of wish TSR had leaned a little more into the Blue Age influencing the Green Age, meaning tools, armor, weapons, etc could've been weirder than players would've originally thought.

Like sure, on the surface the Green Age looked like a typical fantasy setting, but scratch a little and you find it's quite different in various ways.

So like stuff like say armor and weapons are more like analogues of weapons & armor and such from other settings, but are immensely prized in the current era due to protection, etc but still come with flaws and so on...
 

If you try to be good in Dark Sun, a Sorcerer King, their templars, or one of the other eleventy seven evil or morally gray groups and individuals will kill you.
It's only fun for people who are playing just to be killed in funny way.
Those aren't the majority of 5e, 4e, and 3e players.

I don't think this has ever been remotely true. Even the canonical modules from 2e Dark Sun had the PCs doing heroic things to improve the world. You were helping overthrow Kalak and freeing the Tyrian slaves. You were resisting the army of Urik as it tried to take over the newly de-Kalak-ed Tyr. You were fighting back an army of githyanki who were intent on making Athas even worse. You were resisting an extreme sect of psionicists who wanted to bring all psionics under their control. You were helping with the growth and plans of a young avangion who intended to help heal the world from the depredations of dragons and defilers.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I don't think this has ever been remotely true. Even the canonical modules from 2e Dark Sun had the PCs doing heroic things to improve the world. You were helping overthrow Kalak and freeing the Tyrian slaves. You were resisting the army of Urik as it tried to take over the newly de-Kalak-ed Tyr. You were fighting back an army of githyanki who were intent on making Athas even worse. You were resisting an extreme sect of psionicists who wanted to bring all psionics under their control. You were helping with the growth and plans of a young avangion who intended to help heal the world from the depredations of dragons and defilers.
You realize what you wrote.

The entire setting is based around a bunch of problematic and offensive forces being entrenched all over the setting and attacking you for trying to fix it. And your PCs being broken overpowered supers being the only reason they aren't all slaughtered.

WOTC doesn't think there is enough money in either a purist or sanitized version of Dark Sun to bother. A literal TSR situation of a too niche product. If not for being the main setting vehicle for psionics, it likely would have been shelfed long ago.
 

OldOwlbear

Explorer
edit: I misunderstood sorry!

Dark Sun doesn’t arbitrarily reward evil as a setting, it makes heroism more challenging. It’s an underdog narrative and that’s among the most popular tropes in human story telling.

Beyond that, people love bleak settings where it pays to be evil and being good is a challenge - Soulsborne games, Elder Scrolls, GTA, Dragon Age, and again, books and shows like Game of Thrones. GoT was applauded for making fantasy popular among the mainstream by introducing a morally grey world where good is not always rewarded.

But the point in those RPG settings is it’s fun to still try your best and see what you can achieve; to see the contrast between what you imagine your character as and what they end up being. Last of Us is resonating among people all over again with its tv show depicting a realistic version of Dark Sun! Of course this still sells. I have seen no indication that RPG fans are somehow such an exception that the majority of them would absolutely recoil from darker settings.
 
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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
That’s a rather broad assumption to make about so many people and I think it’s fundamentally untrue. I would curious if there are any metrics that would indicate it, but I haven’t seen that yet.

For one, underdog stories are among the most popular forms of story in all of human history - even in religious myths. Beyond that, video games like Elder Scrolls, Dragon Age, and Demon’s/Dark Souls and Elden Ring are all grey/bleak settings where being good can have great outcomes at the end, but can be very challenging before then. That’s a common story trope and it’s still very popular.
Elder Scrolls is dark it isn't bleak.
Dragon Age is neither dark nor bleak
And the Souls series is the definition of the "super hardcore cult classic game" that only got worked because there are a ton of gamers, is sngle player, and it lucked out to get viral.

The 5e audience skew heavily under 40 and to having a lot of control and freedom over your PC's actions. Medieval Fantasy without all the Fuedalism, Caste systems, and Dark Age chains holding you down. I mean D&D nobles should be extorting the hell out of PCs past level 6 as they are powerful classless dangerous vagabonds.

Dark Sun is niche. Dark Sun'sfocuses on themes that go in and out of popularity. There's not getting around that. So it quickly becomes a "how much money are you expecting to make via the e audience with this niche product with problematic themes in its core?" question for WOTC. And Brink stated "not enough"
 

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