Dark Sun characters

February 6, 2010 at 6:28 pm
filed under Roleplaying
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Have you guys seen this, the Dark Sun characters from D&D XP 2010? Courtesy of Critical Hits, there’s a scan of same. I’ve had a glance and I have some impressions.

Themes and classes

If you page through, you’ll see that there aren’t a whole slew of new classes to account for Dark Sun’s take on various archetypes, like elemental priest, gladiator, or templar. (If you’re ignorant of Dark Sun, you can educate yourself here at The Burnt World of Athas.) Rather, those concepts are listed as “themes.”

I don’t have any insight as to what those mean except that they clearly have a connection to the setting. It does appear to signal that, for example, gladiator won’t be an entirely new class. The sorcerer-king pact warlock (theme: templar) is interesting— in the old setting, templar were a priest class (in 2e, cleric was a another priest class, as was druid). This seems just as good if not better description of the relationship between templar and sorcerer-king, to be honest.

Beyond that, I’m curious as to whether theme has any implications beyond setting.

Weapon materials

Weapon materials are back, apparently! To refresh your memory, metal in Dark Sun is relatively rare. People tend to make weapons out of more readily available materials, like stone, obsidian, or bone. These materials were inferior to steel and would confer penalties to accuracy and damage.

From what I’m reading, they want to keep the feel of steel being kind of a special deal, but without adding a weapon penalty figure. The gist of it is that you can opt to re-roll an attack on a 1. If you’re using a non-metal weapon, your second roll has to get above a number (presumably based on the strength of the material) or else it breaks after the attack is resolved. If it’s metal, then it only breaks on a re-roll of 1 to 5.

I can’t remember whether magic items were explicitly rare on Athas, but my recollection is that this was the case. This would be consistent with what I recall of the setting. You perceive that this raises a question: will magic weapons get some kind of exemption? Magic items are somewhat less critical than in 3e but they’re still very important.

I suppose they could be treated as metal, or if the expectation is that you don’t re-roll with a magic item. Leaving them as-is means that you’ll seldom if ever want to re-roll with a magic item, which makes me wonder why you’d bother putting the mechanic in since, for the majority of the game, nobody is going to use it.

Gettin’ excited again

Regardless of how it turns out, I’m excited about Dark Sun. I’m still conflicted about the extent to which I can run a roleplaying-heavy D&D game. It’s certainly doable if the group is up for it. I would still wonder about how to handle leveling or gear if there’s only one or even no combat encounters for multiple sessions. Possibly that’s fodder for another post.

In the meantime, I’ll be checking in with Critical Hits in the coming months to see what kind of information we’ll get about Dark Sun and, I suppose, PHB3.

  • It’s hard to tell much from the character sheets but I too don’t think themes involve any new classes. I have a feeling that “themes” are basically just a new code word for backgrounds which usually grant bonuses to specific skills associated with them. It looks like they have a few new powers and builds (e.g., the sorcerer-king pact for warlocks) but nothing particularly new “under the sun” to use a bad pun. My one worry is that you’re going to see a slew of explanations (either in the book or in DDI) explaining how to incorporate every race that’s come out for 4E into the setting – hence you’ll see “making a warforged in Darksun” as well as a whole lot of other races that don’t belong there like shifters. The whole “everything is core” has had a very homogenizing effect on the 4E settings so far.

  • Themes give a specific encounter power, but I’m not sure if they do anything other than that.

  • Matthew

    @MJ: I hadn’t thought about the various other races. I noticed that they did one neat trick: rather than inventing a new half-giant race, they’re using the goliath as same.

    I could see them fitting some of the other races in with the setting better than others. Devas and tieflings seem a bit out of place. I could see warforged as having somehow been created by some of the sorcerer-kings or some such. I don’t remember what their deal is beyond that. Weren’t they made from, like, sentient trees or something?

    I’m not actually all that big on any of the previous D&D settings, so I suppose that’s why I wouldn’t have noticed a homogenizing effect. Truth be told, I only own the FR Player’s Guide because of the feats and Swordmage.

    @Dave: Oh. I suppose I’d have noticed that if I’d looked closer at the characters’ powers. Thanks!

  • MJ: The statement at the Dark Sun seminar was that for most races that weren’t in the original, they won’t be referenced. The example given was Gnomes: they don’t say anything about Gnomes, so they’re not a core option, but also not specifically disallowed if a DM wants to find a way to work them in.

    Of course, some races have been retrofitted- Dragonborn are Dray, Goliaths are Half-Giants, and Tieflings are… something.

  • Matthew

    @Dave: Fascinating. I must admit that I find that stance preferable. (I’ll admit that I feel some contentment at the continuity of a gnome-less Athas.)

    Tieflings, though, eh? Hmm. I wish I remembered more about Dark Sun. Possibly I could guess as to how they’d be, uh, reinterpreted.

  • Kenn G

    @ DT: In the original Dark Sun. Gnomes aren’t presented because they were one of the many races whos Slayers were successful… in short, they were annihilated.

    All in all, after looking at the snippets of what they’ve done, changed and shown… I’m not impressed, and certainly not enough to gag down the WoTCOffRPG in order to play a sure to quickly become an unsupported and neglected world setting again.

    Nah… I still have to original, I don’t see any reason to change.

  • MJ: The statement at the Dark Sun seminar was that for most races that weren’t in the original, they won’t be referenced. The example given was Gnomes: they don’t say anything about Gnomes, so they’re not a core option, but also not specifically disallowed if a DM wants to find a way to work them in.

    Of course, some races have been retrofitted- Dragonborn are Dray, Goliaths are Half-Giants, and Tieflings are… something.

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