So anyway….. Dark Sun

By now, I guess we all know that the next campaign setting for 4e D&D is going to be Dark Sun. So, what does that mean – and (more importantly) what do I, this humble game geek, want it to mean? Well, I’ll tell you.

The Points of Light concept, at last
The idea behind Points of Light is a simple one, yet it’s a concept that Wizards of the Coast have yet to show to it’s full potential – until now. PoL postulates (good word, that) that there are isolated safe havens surrounded by danger. The PCs themselves are like mobile miniature Points of Light who brave the Darkness Outside to spread the light a little further.

Let’s make this clear. Forgotten Realms: not Points of Light, no matter how much you bend it. If you could bend light, of course. Eberron: Kinda Points of Light, but more like Lots of Light With Occasional Patchy Darkness.

Dark Sun: Points of Light. Totally. This is a setting where the world itself hates you, where civilization is scattered, isolated and suspicious of strangers, where Going Outside is something that the average folks Just Don’t Do.

In other words – it’s a perfect setting to (finally!) showcase one of the tenets on which 4e D&D is built.


The Environment
Yeah. The Environment. It’s not a pleasant place in Dark Sun. This ain’t no land of rolling hills, wooded glades and cute little fairy streams. Sure, it was once. But now….. it’s not a nice place, at all.

Here’s where I was going to suggest that Dark Sun needed more robust Environmental Dangers rules until I checked the DMG (page 158) to see what it had to say already. And it’s pretty good as-is. Make an Endurance Check every 8 hours or lose a Healing Surge. Given that Stifling Heat is DC26, Severe Weather is DC20 and Pervasive smoke or ash (I’d say sand too) is DC26 and you’d have to roll against all three separately if you’re caught in a sandstorm. Ouchy. Your average untrained 1st level party could be wiped out before they even meet the monsters.

Talking of which…

A whole new menagerie of beasties
More than any other setting, Dark Sun is home to the weird and wonderful. This isn’t a setting which will be satiated with a mere handful of new monster entries stuffed at the back of the Campaign Guide. Oh no. Ideally, it merits a entire freakin’ Monster Manual all on it’s own but as that’s not gonna happen we need a Guide that’s pack-jam full of critters and a slew of templates so we can easily “Dark Sunnify” what we’ve already got. Give us templates for Athasian Zombies, Psionic, Reptilian and more. We’ll work the rest out ourselves.

So, where to next?
Now that WoTC have given us something old, I reckon that the next setting should be something new. There’s one campaign setting which has been sitting under their noses for decades, and it’s about time it was given full treatment as a “core” D&D Campaign Setting complete with Players’ Guide, Campaign Guide and rockin’ adventure. I am, of course, talking about the world of Magic:the Gathering. It’s a setting they own, is well supported, loved by M:tG players the world over and they’ve got the complete creative team in-house ready and waiting to run with it.

What I wouldn’t want them to do though is just provide a lame-ass setting by throwing a map, collection of monsters and a history together and calling it a Campaign Guide. Each Campaign Setting should provide something new and exciting to the game so that it’s an appealing purchase even for gamers who don’t plan to use the setting as-is. Just as Eberron gave us Warforged, rules for Artificers and that all important Steampunk feel I’d want an M:tG setting to provide rules for increasing your power through drawing Mana from the Land and awesome Monster Summoning rules. Oh yeah!

Now there’s a thought – tap too much Mana and you might just end up with Dark Sun as a result……… way to go for tying two settings together!

Will 2011 be the year of Magic? We’ll see.

9 Comments on “So anyway….. Dark Sun”

  1. Interesting though Greywulf! I like the tapping the mana idea. I think that it would also add flavor, kinda like in SW when a caster fails, that there is some backlash from the land. Suddenly it summons a guardian to protect it, you lose the ability to pull mana for “X” time, you’re stunned and unconcious for a certain time period, or driven insane and go beserk, attacking at random. Just thoughts.
    .-= wrathofzombie´s last blog ..Deadlands Reloaded/Steampunk Kickoff! Part One =-.

  2. Yeah. There’s no much potential behind a Magic:the Gathering Campaign Setting. I reckon 4e D&D’s mechanics would work well in it too. Just add mana :D

  3. I already have Dark Sun in two incarnations. :)

    There was a lot that they were doing with Dark Sun during the days of the Theatre D&D (2e). A lot of people may not like the novel storyline, going with the original Dark Sun. To me, it really doesn’t matter. Dark Sun was well done, even the revised set was well done. In the days of 2e, new Campaign Settings just kept getting better and better; and implemented Theatre D&D very, very well.
    .-= Elton´s last blog ..Horror Scenarios =-.

  4. while I would love a fluff book on magic the gathering for d&d 4, I think it will feel a bit ackward at best, silly at the worst.

    As for Dark sun, I’m considering using it as a very far possible future of my campaign world (which is a pretty heavily modified version of Forgotten realms). In fact, I already introduced some strange wizards who, when casting spells, have a bad effect on nature (yup defilers), and have a faction of druids frantic to know exactly where those wizards come from and what to do to stop them.

    The campaign in dark sun would start with little easter eggs on the action of the other campaign, rediscovery of ancient history, the works… Dunno if I’ll go with it, but that’s at least the general idea for the moment :)

  5. from talks with People Who Know These Things, it sounds like Wizards has rules against crossing over its properties like that. so we’re not likely to ever see MtG in D&D. however, if they were to publish more things like the Planeswalkers Guide to Alara, it would be a pretty good start for doing it yourself.

  6. @drow Yeah, I’d heard that before. Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth then walking away! Just image what they could do with a decent, well marketed crossover event………

  7. its really all just to keep that self-important jerk elminster from barging in and mucking up another perfectly good universe. imagine the damage he could do in phyrexia!

  8. I totally agree with your PoL assessment. Dark Sun may not be my fave setting, BUT it is pure PoL!!!! You could say that Spelljammer was too, no flames please! :))

    One thing I hope translates over well is how DANGEROUS the darkenss was in DS. The environ was a beater and the encounters were killers! First campaign I remember where it was suggested that parties start at a level other than 1st…..and that still was barely enough!

    I do have to add that in my DS campaign 2 of my players were RPing a squabble and the elf turned to the thri-keen and called him and oddity….without missing a beat the thri-keen warned him that he was just a commodity! PRICELESS!

  9. @Etherrider You’re right – Spelljammer is another classic setting which would make a transition over to Points of Light. I’d suggest that of all the classic settings, the ones which best demonstrate PoL at work are Dark Sun, Spelljammer and Ravenloft – and I’d love to see all three given the full-on treatment in 4e D&D.

    I was surprised at just how harsh the Environmental rules are in the DMG as written, given that 4e has a reputation (unwarranted, imho) for being gentle on the PCs.

    For a typical Dark Sun Encounter, I’d suggest make the majority of them Hard Encounters (ie, 2-4 levels higher than the party level) and you’re there.

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