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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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
The setting actually does incentivize defiling, in that defilers advance faster than preservers (i.e. defilers have a faster XP progression). This is directly referenced in the "Sage Advice" column in Dragon #182:
"You gain levels faster, but you can't actually ever use your magic when other people are around without being killed or imprisoned for being a defiler" isn't an incentive. I'd rather be a preserver who can use his magic.
Also, characters who are standing in an area as it's being defiled (except for the defiler casting the spell that defiled that area) take a penalty to initiative, though that's as likely to affect allies as it is enemies (and became less likely to affect either as of the revised boxed set, when they changed defiling so that it happened when a spell was memorized rather than cast, for some reason).
Yep. Yet more disincentives to playing a defiler. Even your party will want you dead as your party is more likely to be close to you, at least in the early rounds.
 

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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
"You gain levels faster, but you can't actually ever use your magic when other people are around without being killed or imprisoned for being a defiler" isn't an incentive. I'd rather be a preserver who can use his magic.
I'm pretty sure that being a preserver is also illegal in most of the Tablelands, as the Sorcerer-Kings know that preservers are their natural enemies (and most ordinary people fear and hate wizards in general, not bothering to recognize the differences between defilers and preservers). And they gain levels slower.
Yep. Yet more disincentives to playing a defiler. Even your party will want you dead as your party is more likely to be close to you, at least in the early rounds.
Or you just, you know, hang back from the rest of the group (the way casters usually tend to) so that way the initiative penalty only affects bad guys who close in with intent to kill you.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I may have had bad luck and ran into terrible DMs. But having over half the DMs I played with, knew, run for players I known, or ran campaigns I been told about heavily focus on the iffy aspects of them is not just a coincidence. DMs tend to go harder on a setting's themes and foci. They get looser or tighter with the theme's and foci's impact.

Forgotten Realms and Dark Sun both have slavery, cannibalism, forcred breeding, nature destruction, and transformation via horrible acts. Only DS focuses it on it. FR doesn't focused on the ant-paladin, bloodknights, and supremacist rangers. It has evil necromacers, demon cultists, death clerics, and martial raiders.
Dark Sun doesn't focus on either cannibalism or forced breeding. It has them, but the origin of Muls isn't a focus of play and the halflings are only in one forest that isn't gone into that often or maybe even ever. Slavery and nature destruction are foci, but as enemies to be fought.

For the transformation, are you talking about becoming a dragon? If so that's extremely far from being a focus. Hell, you don't even find out about it unless you buy a book from outside the campaign setting and it only comes into play if a PC hits level 20 in both magic-user and psionicist. It will probably never even enter play, let alone be a focus of the setting. If you are talking about something else, I'm not even sure what it might be.
And you are right. We are used to the problematic parts of Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance. That's why WOTC supports them. We wont care about it as much.

It's unfair toeDark Sun. But the point of Dark Sun was to be different and subvert the tropes we were used to.
If we're supposed to stand against bad things, I don't see the inclusion of those bad things as problematic. There are exceptions to that, but Dark Sun doesn't have any of them except maybe the Mul thing, and that wasn't even a focus of the setting so I doubt there would much pushback if their origin changed a bit.
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
I'm pretty sure that being a preserver is also illegal in most of the Tablelands, as the Sorcerer-Kings know that preservers are their natural enemies (and most ordinary people fear and hate wizards in general, not bothering to recognize the differences between defilers and preservers). And they gain levels slower.

Or you just, you know, hang back from the rest of the group (the way casters usually tend to) so that way the initiative penalty only affects bad guys who close in with intent to kill you.
I don't think it's because they are enemies so much as they are educated & can educate others. Educated victims of oppression rebel with competence.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I don't think it's because they are enemies so much as they are educated & can educate others. Educated victims of oppression rebel with competence.
No, I'm pretty sure it was because the Sorcerer-Kings (being apex defilers) regarded preservers as their natural enemies, in that being a preserver necessarily indicated your philosophical opposition to the entire ethos behind the use of defiling magic; ergo, all preservers had effectively declared themselves enemies of the Sorcerer-Kings (hence the Veiled Alliance, the preserver secret society). Certainly, that was how the fiction always presented it.
 

BrokenTwin

Biological Disaster
From a practical perspective having perservers around is great for a defiler since they tend to actively work to restore nature, which the defiler can then use as fuel for their spells. There's just the whole preservers being completely ideologically opposed to them to deal with.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
The sorcerer-kings had a monopoly on arcane magic. They trained up defilers, not preservers. Arcane magic use outside of the sorcerer-king’s permission was illegal. The Veiled Alliance was dedicated to bringing up preservers, operated outside the sorcerer-kings’ permission, actively opposed the sorcerer-kings wherever they could, including assassinating Kalak and plotting against the rest, and would kill any defilers they could, including any Alliance members who even accidentally defiled.

This is one place where the mechanics didn’t match the fiction. In the fiction, all arcane casters could preserve or defile with each spell cast. In the game mechanics, they were separate classes with no possibility of crossover.

While some preservers were more actively pro-environment than others, they were mostly the “stop actively damaging the environment now” types with a “by any means necessary” attitude. For the proper hippy environmentalist stuff you have to look at the elemental clerics and especially the druids.
 
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Staffan

Legend
This is one place where the mechanics didn’t match the fiction. In the fiction, all arcane casters could preserve or defile with each spell cast. In the game mechanics, they were separate classes with no possibility of crossover.
That was a bit iffy. The Prism Pentad certainly portrayed defiling as something preservers could do when in dire straits (though it was rather silent on whether defilers could cast spells without defiling – I would think not, which means defiling is something akin to the Dark Side of the Force, where once you step across the line it's very hard to go back). But on the other hand, it can't have been completely obvious, given that Rajaat originally taught only preserving magic and kept defiling a secret until it was go time.

In the Dragon's Crown adventure, the PCs come across a ruined fortress from the Cleansing Wars where they can talk to the ghost of a wizard from way back then who in desperation had tried and, he believed, succeeded in cracking the code and described it as "It was not at all obvious, but once understood, so simple that it was stunning. It was like adding a sail to a ship."
While some preservers were more actively pro-environment than others, they were mostly the “stop actively damaging the environment now” types with a “by any means necessary” attitude. For the proper hippy environmentalist stuff you have to look at the elemental clerics and especially the druids.
While I liked Earth, Air, Fire, and Water at the time, in retrospect I'm not a fan of how it gave elemental clerics more of an ecological focus. I can see it being a thing for some clerics, particularly clerics of earth (if they identify the element more with soil than stone or sand) and water, but not really for air or fire clerics. I liked clerics potentially being of all sorts of alignments, and I liked fire being identified with the sun rather than Sun being a para-element. I thought para-elemental clerics added as "evil elemental" clerics was redundant.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Dark Sun doesn't focus on either cannibalism or forced breeding. It has them, but the origin of Muls isn't a focus of play and the halflings are only in one forest that isn't gone into that often or maybe even ever. Slavery and nature destruction are foci, but as enemies to be fought.

For the transformation, are you talking about becoming a dragon? If so that's extremely far from being a focus. Hell, you don't even find out about it unless you buy a book from outside the campaign setting and it only comes into play if a PC hits level 20 in both magic-user and psionicist. It will probably never even enter play, let alone be a focus of the setting. If you are talking about something else, I'm not even sure what it might be.
It's focus by Omission.
Dark Sun cuts so much out that more attention will go on what is left.

It's the old "Middle Earth Clone" problem. If you only allow classes, races, and backgrounds found in ME clone generic fantasy worlds, you better make your elves, dwarves, and rangers interesting as people will only get to look at them.

If Mul is one of the few races allowed, you are shoving slavery, forced breeding, and slurs in the fan's face.
 


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