Reviews and Ramblings
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DORF FORT ELLPEE by CAPSLOCKGUY - 10/19/08
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I'm liking this old-man reminiscin'...
03:46am EDT - 10/12/2008
Which means that you people get more stuff about 2nd edition AD&D. Topic for the day? Dark Sun. I figured that since I mentioned it in my last post, it would sort of make sense to tell people about it in this post.
So what is Dark Sun? The short description I always resort to is: post-apocalyptic D&D freed from a lot of the more annoying clichés of D&D.
The background is that the world of Athas, which is where Dark Sun happens, used to be a nice and cheerful ordinary Prime world. There were trees, seas and... well, just about two races, really, Halflings and Thri-Kreen(four-armed bug things that like to hunt a lot). No magic, however, the Thri-Kreen and Halflings were, however, capable psionicists and the Halflings were furthermore powerful scientists who basically ruled the world.
Unfortunately, at some point, either due to disaster or a poor experiment, the seas begin to die, and the Halflings undertake a grand project to stop it. They succeed, but at the cost of their sun, which turns from green to yellow, the world begins to dry up, less sea, more land, and hundreds of new races spring forth. Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Giants, etc. all of the standard D&D fare.
Now, things are pretty cheerful for a while, downright Utopian, in fact, though the original Halfling race is in decline, all of the younger races are growing stronger and better, many of them under the guidance of powerful individuals. One of those individuals is Rajaat, who nonetheless finds himself pitied as he was born with a deformed face, so he secludes himself in the deep forests and tries to plumb the mysteries of the world, which is when he stumbles upon magic. Not just any magic, but Defiling magic.
See, on Athas, there are two kinds of magic. Normal, ordinary D&D magic, and Defiling magic. Defiling magic gives you more powerful, but at the cost of destroying nature, and smaller creatures, around you whenever you cast a spell. Not something likely to make people love you on a world where nature is already dying.
Long story short, Rajaat becomes a bit loopy, gathers thirteen(or is it fifteen? I always forget) champions and teaches them the "wonders" of Defiling magic before stealing an ancient Halfling artifact and turning himself and the champions into beings of unrivalled power. His plan? Slay all of the "young" races and bring the halflings back into power. His champions who are human, however, think that the humans will be preserved as well. When they find out that they're not, well, they betray Rajaat, there's a brief rebellion and he gets banished to the Black, an altogether unpleasant hellhole.
Of course, the wars prior to the rebellion have basically left the world a devastated piece of shit, seas replaced with bowls of dust, plains are wastelands, lakes are empty holes in the ground or poisoned pieces of shit, most of the surviving animals are insects or lizards, etc. Oh, yeah, and one of the Champions of Rajaat went completely insane and turned into a giant dragon-like beast of unrivalled power who stalks the inhabitable regions demanding tribute from the various Sorcerer-Kings(the other surviving Champions) who have taken over the remaining centers of civilization.
So at this point you're probably going: "Sounds neat, but tell us some more about the DIFFERENCES from this and normal D&D, you were going on about those." Well good thing you were saying that, because that was just what I was going to do.
Firstly the races. Some races, like Gnomes, are just plain dead, killed during the Cleansing Wars before the Champions figured out what Rajaat was up to(this also includes some generally hostile/NPC races like lizardmen and wemics). Dwarves are short, bald and beardless fuckers who occasionally become banshees when they die. Elves don't live in fruity forests and sing songs, instead they're seven-foot-tall hedonists who sprint across the wastelands and raid caravans for laughs. There are half-giants and half-dwarves, yes, that is pretty fucked up, no, I'm not going to speculate about it. You have rules for playing Thri-Kreen, who are pretty fucking awesome. Oh, yeah, and halflings are now savage cannibals who live in jungles and hunt giant creatures for food.
Class-wise we lose Paladins, there are no Gods so Clerics worship the Elemental forces instead, we get Gladiators(super fighting specialists) to replace Paladins, Bards learn how to concoct terrifying poisons as their special thing and you can be a sort of specialist Cleric who works for a Sorcerer-King instead. Psionics are also pretty big in this setting, the Sorcerer-Kings attained their power by mixing(multi-classing) Psionics and Defiling Magic to a scary degree. Generally, Dark Sun is also a low-magic, high-psionics setting, because the Sorcerer-Kings tend to hunt down other mages who might threaten their power, and angry mobs regard(rightfully) defiling magic as what fucked up their world and generally try to beat any mages they find to death. With blunt rocks(and no, the average Athasian citizen does not know, nor care, about the difference between Defiling magic and normal magic).
Speaking of Scary Degrees, Dark Sun is also generally an Epic Power game. Or at least, it has the options for one. Players are started out at 3rd level because, as the book says: "This shit is generally just fucking lethal." and several of the supplements contain rules for advancing to godlike powers, like Clerics becoming partially fused with the essence of their elemental planes, Defiler/Psionicists becoming giant beasts like the Dragon and Preserver(normal mage)/Psionicists becoming angel-like creatures of peace and protection(Avangions).
Other new things added are Life-Crafted items, basically organic cybernetics and engineered lifeforms from the Blue Age(way back when the halflings were at the top of their science thing). Anything from organic gas masks to blades that hide under your skin until you flip them out and kill people. Generally some cool shit, that you can of course transplant to other settings if you want.
Dark Sun is one of those nice settings that lets the player and DM have a lot of freedom with what sort of game they want. There are options for turning it into a somewhat crunkalicious crawl(rules for water and ration consumptions in the wastelands, lots of combat stuff if you want it, etc.) but also plenty of room for roleplaying(inter-city politics and intrigue, dealing with Defilers and Preservers, psionicists make great behind-the-scenes villains because their powers are rarely glaringly obvious when in use, plenty of epically awesome places to go exploring, like ruined cities, the Last Sea, the Valley of Fire and Dust, Ur-Draxa, etc.).
Oh, and speaking of the Last Sea and Awesome Places. I would like to point out that, unlike any other fucking edition, setting or supplement for D&D ever, the Dark Sun supplement, Mind Lords of the Last Sea, adds a Surfing proficiency to the game. I'm not kidding, but I rather feel that it is the last proof anyone needs that Dark Sun is awesome as hell.
Of course it's a 2nd edition setting. But, again, like Planescape, it has some awesome creatures, locales and concepts that can be worth plundering for YOUR game. Maybe you always wanted to have Sand Squid who could attack your players while they were traversing a desert, or some interesting ideas for epic level shit, or some stuff to rip off for a campaign world of your own you.
Sadly, there have been practically no attempts to recreate this for newer systems.