Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure

Athas and the sorcerer-kings.
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Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure

Post by kevperrine » Fri Aug 30, 2019 2:20 am

I only know a little, enough to be dangerous....
Were I to start a new Campaign for players less familiar with the world of DarknSun, than me....

WHAT elements?
Locations, creatures, themes, etc....
What is the Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure.... to INCLUDE?

and maybe more importantly - what is important to NOT INCLUDE that a group classically familiar with "normal" D&D might fall into the traps of including that don't fit the Dark Sun setting?

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Re: Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure

Post by ripvanwormer » Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:55 am

The most important thing is that you mention that the sun is dark.

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Re: Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure

Post by agathokles » Fri Aug 30, 2019 12:15 pm

I'd try to showcase the impact of magic on ecology. Thus, defiling magic should make an appearance.


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Re: Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure

Post by Big Mac » Fri Aug 30, 2019 12:33 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:
Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:55 am
The most important thing is that you mention that the sun is dark.
There is some awesome fan art out there (search for "Silverblade" and "Athas") that can help sell that.

Most of the world of Athas is deserts. And most of Athas is dangerous. There is very little water and various animals and even plants will happily murder your PCs (or anyone else) to get the nourishment and water contained in their bodies. (It's nothing personal - just survival.)

The city-states are as dangerous as the wilderlands. Each is controlled by a brutal Sorcerer King. The Sorcerer Kings use "defiling" magic, that takes it's power by sucking the goodness out of the land. A small number of powerful spellcasters have gone even further and found ways to use magic that sucks the life out of living creatures, as well as plants.

Sorcerer Kings are served by Templars, who gain clerical spells in return for worshipping a specific Sorcerer King.

Against the destructive spellcasting method of defiling, is the preserver alternative, where spellcasters learn to summon spellcasting energy without destroying the land.

Slavery is common in the City States of Athas and many slaves are forced to fight in the arena as gladiators. (Gladiator is a new class option and is an alternative to Fighter.)

You need to be pretty powerful to survive on Athas and there are half-giants, thri-kreen and muls as new PC races. Muls are half-dwarves. It's not easy for a mother to give birth to one and they are usually bred as slave gladiators specifically because they are good in the arena.

Your players may start off as slaves. They will have to fight to stay alive. And they will have to fight the environment, as well as monsters to stay alive.

If they want to make Athas into a nicer place, they may want to take on one of the Sorcerer Kings (each one functions well as a big bad evil guy/big bad evil girl). But player characters are not going to be able to magically provide food for thousands of people, so it's not quite as simple as killing a Sorcerer King.

Even if you kill a Sorcerer King, there may be a Templar or defiling wizard who wants to step up and take their place. And many or most of the people who own slaves are probably invested in the system that keep them wealthy enough to be able to afford as much water and food as they need. So to "change" Athas, your PCs need to work out how to deal with the power vacuum that killing a Sorcerer King creates.

With nature being nearly dead, the elves of Athas are not the same as standard fantasy elves. Dwarves are different too. So none of the standard tropes apply to Athas. Don't make any assumptions. Look things up and decide how to run them in your game.

Good luck!
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Re: Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure

Post by night_druid » Fri Aug 30, 2019 12:56 pm

Loss. The world previously was so much grandeur yesterday than today. There are ruins everywhere that awe the current residents, possibly giving a sense that surely giants or cyclops built them rather than their own ancestors. The current population cannot even sustain the low-level of tech they have today; their cities are slowly crumbling to dust. The PCs could very well find some relic that is fairly ordinary in another setting, only to find out nobody knows how to fix it should it break (a rusted lantern, perhaps).
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Re: Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure

Post by talsine » Fri Aug 30, 2019 11:22 pm

Arthas is a fantasy post apocalypse. If you would use it in a PA / Mad Max style game, it probably has a place here. Might have to redress somethings, since it was a magical apocalypse and not a technological one, but that's pretty easy to change. For me, the key things are

1 - the world wants you to fail. lean into it. survival is hard, resources are scares, and everything wants to kill you or eat you or both.
2 - Magic is destructive. and not just in the "fireball blows things up," way. Magic destroyed the world and using it speeds up this process.
3 - The gods are dead, they don't hear your prayers. This is something that gets over looked a lot and is a place where 4E Dark Sun (because of its primal power source) captured the feel of the setting really well. Clerics aren't really clerics, they are more shamans, tapping into the elemental power of the world to invoke divine like magics.
4 - Your power comes from within, not from without. There are exceptions, but for the most part, you carry within you all of the power you need. Its why Psionics are such a big part of the setting and something i tend to focus on. Anywhere you would use magic in another setting, i try to use Psi instead.

Hope that helps, Dark Sun is one of the few settings where I never pull my punches when playing. its the "iron man" mode for D&D and i always run it that way. it doesn't mean I try and TPK the party, but they tend to get less chances or warnings. If they investigate and it looks like its over their pay grade, and they go anyway? Then their death is on them. It has been pretty successful for me and its one of my favorite settings.

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Re: Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure

Post by Argentmantle » Sat Aug 31, 2019 1:41 am

I'll toss out one thing that EVERYTHING is selfish.

Nobles look out for themselves, nature looks out for itself, preservers look out for themselves, Templars look out for themselves, slaves look out for themselves... and so on.

Sometimes the best motivations are those that benefit themselves.

With this in mind, its all about competition, resources are scarce and everything is to be scrapped over. The PCs not only have to work hard to get something, they have to work hard to hold on to it.

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Re: Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure

Post by Boneguard » Sat Aug 31, 2019 12:50 pm

And above everything else: "Never, ever, turn your back on a halfling!
Roleplaying is not a's a Way of Life.

Consolidated projet thread

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Re: Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure

Post by Digitalelf » Sun Sep 01, 2019 12:40 am

Metal is super rare and SUPER expensive! So no metal armor or swords. Obsidian and bone rule the day here for weapons. Armor is made from hide, chitin, and the like.

Plant life is too valuable for weapons (so no wooden hafts, handles, shafts, and the like). It's also too expensive for normal clothing.

Money takes the form of ceramic if coins are even used outside of the city-states. Bartering is what is most often practiced.
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Re: Most Important Thing in a Dark Sun Adventure

Post by zontoxira » Wed Sep 04, 2019 11:15 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:
Fri Aug 30, 2019 3:55 am
The most important thing is that you mention that the sun is dark.
If only there was a +1 button. If only.
Have a look at my Dark Sun 5e Reconstruction or Planescape 5e Belief System
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