Recently I was stopped in the street by a fan who couldn't wait until I made my appearance at Gen Con™ Australia to ask me when I would discuss official settings, a topic I haven't returned to since a previous highly illuminating post about Planescape, which ranked up there as one of the biggest English dungmuffins of 2nd Edition until the kind-hearted souls at Wizards of the Coast took it behind the shed and mercifully blew its brains out all over the fucking wall.
Well, here it is.
Dark Sun was a campaign setting devised for 1st Edition and eventually carried over until 2nd Edition, where it continued happily until it suddenly fell over and died in 1994 for reasons nobody can quite discern. Here is a standard Dark Sun adventure:
- You are in a desert. It is kinda thirsty and you have been drinking your camel's pee in desperation for about a week.
- You are sent on a quest to go check out some ruins by some guy nobody cares about.
- A psychic bear tries to eat your face.
- Someone name-drops some god-moding NPC who gets all the sweet things you don't.
- You eat your camel.
- You find the ruins. They have a dungeon.
- Everybody dies.
As it happens, I’ve never played Dark Sun in my thirty years of tabletop gaming, so don't take everything I say to be fact. I don't really want to make any comment on the quality of Dark Sun right now.
On the other hand, that might be because everyone knows Dark Sun is a steaming pile of 2nd-edition Gygaxian bullshit which imposed ridiculously arbitrary restrictions on spellcasters simply to make the player's life harder.
So when I found out that it was getting an update in 4th Edition - an actual update, not the Pathfinder conversion it got in Dragon #319 - I was a little surprised.
However, D&D is a collaborative game, and if a useless asshole like Rich Burlew can get a gig at TSR maybe I can lend a hand too.
So, my ideas for 4th Edition Dark Sun:
- Don't half-ass the water thing. Dark Sun takes pains to stress that Athas has no large bodies of water, but rather seas of silt, and then basically goes and says "Oh, well there are oceans, but we're hiding them behind these giant mountains populated by Mary Sue halflings." What the hell, Wizards. What the hell.
- Magic. So you can't be a wizard, but you can use psionics, which (in a sort of open secret) is almost completely indistinguishable from magic? It is basically magic's annoying little cousin, the one that nobody likes except a doting grandmother who has been kicked out of three schools for openly masturbating. Why can't you just allow wizards and be done with it?
- Make dwarves more unique than "THEY ARE CLEAN-SHAVEN, LOL!".
- Use the vastly superior Eberron halflings. In fact, using the Houses and some other things from Eberron wouldn't be a bad idea, it'd make Dark Sun unique and interesting.
- Use a race more interesting than the Thri-Kreen while you're at it.
- More adventures that aren't just trekking across Interchangeable Inhospitable Fuckfaceland #169 and eating your camel before trying to attempt some bullshit dungeon that reads like Gary Gygax snorting lines of cocaine from a camel's breasts. Take some hints from Valley of Dust and Fire and make something people can actually enjoy.
- Fix priests. Okay, so they can't worship deities, but they can worship elementals. Oops, I just summoned a Rain Elemental and a horde of Water Elementals to give everyone a nice hydrating handjob. What now, DM?
- For the love of Thor, use the vastly superior backstory for Athas provided in Dark Sun Revised Edition. At least it makes sense.
- Let people take the Dragon class as a starting class. It might spice things up a bit.
Of course, I don't claim that these ideas will solve every problem with Dark Sun, and they've probably been thought of already. Just my two cents.
Incidentally, I'm going to try something this coming month. I'm going to start posting entries without comics, maybe see if I can make more constructive posts like this one with less work.
Wish me luck!