Dark Sun questions answered

June 21, 2010 at 9:00 am
filed under Roleplaying

I had a few outstanding questions about the how they’d handle some new things. Bloodsand Arena answers a couple of them. One of them is still unanswered, but a friend suggested a possible answer.

Magic items

This was one obvious question that came up when I thought about Dark Sun and 4th Edition. Given that 4th Edition, much like 3rd Edition, makes pretty heavy use of magic items, how would the designers reconcile this with the fact that magic items in Athas are rare?

The answer is that rewards will take a different form. Embarrassingly, it seems that because I didn’t look through the whole DMG2, I missed the part where they talk about alternative rewards. The Bloodsand Arena intro explicitly refers you to the DMG2, and it seems that the Dark Sun Campaign Setting will address this directly.

For those of you that don’t have the DMG2 handy, the notion of alternative rewards might not be that much of a revelation even so. That chapter discusses a few things, like training (e.g. special abilities granted from training with someone), boons (e.g. perform a service for a diety or otherworldly being, gain some enchantment or boon), and the brute force method of simply granting inherent enhancement bonuses to the PCs themselves.

At any rate, this answers the question of how to reconcile weapon breakage with the centrality of magic items. Magic items? Ain’t none! But maybe you can exempt them from the breakage rules in the event that you decide to give them out.


It seems that defiling, at least mechanically, is something more active than I recall it having been in 2e. (Sadly I do not have my Dark Sun stuff in front of me right now.) The templar character can choose to re-roll a single damage or attack roll, and in exchange, her allies take damage equal to have their healing surge value (e.g. 1/8th of their hp). This is pretty great.

Unrelated to defiling per se, I love love love the sorcerer-king pact warlock. This is one case where something from 4e suits Dark Sun as much as something from the original. Are you a cleric of a god-king, or did you go all-in and forge a mystical pact? Absolutely fantastic.

Open question: clerics

If you cast your mind back to Dark Sun, there were no divine clerics as such. This made sense because there were no gods as such. Instead, there were either the Templar— servants, secret police, and otherwise ruthless enforcers of the sorcerer-kings— or elemental priests, with the traditional fire, water, earth, or air aspect.

How are they going to handle this in 4th Edition Dark Sun? In 2e, it was a change in spell list for the most part. Retooling the entire cleric class seems less viable. I have a couple of ideas, one of them a suggestion from a friend.

One is that they won’t do anything special. Clerics might be the best at healing, but I think by this point there’s enough available from other classes that clerics themselves aren’t strictly required. Classes that don’t quite fit with Dark Sun could be tweaked just as easily as the races have been.

As a friend of mine pointed out, PHB3 also includes a new divine leader, the Runepriest. I don’t see it as particularly evocative of Dark Sun, but I’m sure there are ways around it.

Another alternative is that there’s a new class in the Dark Sun book. This seems unlikely. PHB3 provided all of the psionic classes to date, and while they’re usable elsewhere— they do a great job of rationalizing psionics in the default setting as a product of the Far Realm, alien and other— Dark Sun is where they take center stage. More likely is some kind of cleric build, perhaps a Sun cleric. Divine Power is slipping my mind, too— are there any cleric builds in there that might suit Dark Sun?

I think the most likely option is some combination of the first (play a shaman, warlord, bard, ardent, or runepriest instead) and the last (rebrand the cleric as a Sun cleric and/or offer an additional build).


Surely there are other questions, like how they plan to translate various races into a Dark Sun friendly flavor. These were some of the biggest ones, though, and the answers are pretty satisfying.

Anyone out there still have burning questions about the 4e adaptation of Dark Sun? Anything that’s been answered? Anything yet unanswered?

  • Excellent write up. We’ve written a lot on the new 4e Dark Sun at Dungeon’s Master based mostly on what we’ve learned from the D&D Encounters program. Regrettably I wasn’t able to get out and play this adventure this past weekend and certainly appreciate your review and insights.

    As for Clerics and divine classes, Wizards has said that in their materials divine classes do not exist. So no Clerics, Avengers, Paladins, Invokers or Runepriests. However, if you want to include them in your home game, that’s up to you and your group. With the other non-divine leader classes available it shouldn’t impact the game play very much.

  • Matthew

    Thanks for the comment! I should check out what you’ve written up. I didn’t find out about these encounters program until recently and I’m not sure it’d fit into my schedule, unfortunately.

    Regarding divine classes, I see what they’re up to, then. I had assumed they’d stick to the lack of paladins and other classes, but that they might feel obligated to find some way to make the cleric work. Once the idea had occurred to me, I had half-hoped they’d introduce some manner of Sun cleric, patterned after the character from the Troy Denning novels.

    It’s fair enough, though. The elemental cleric was pretty cool, but I’d probably put that more in the box of something not essential to the flavor of Dark Sun beyond having been included in the first place. The shaman is a more than adequate substitute should you require a mystically inclined substitute. Like the sorcerer-king pact warlock, it almost seems strange that it wasn’t there in the first place!

  • Can’t recall where I read it, but I remember it being from some official WotC source: the answer is that there is no divine power source in Dark Sun. Those elemental-based clerics have been cast aside for the primal power source.

%d bloggers like this: