Friday, August 14, 2009

Dark Sun for D&D IV

Never let it be said that I don't occasionally have kind words for Wizards of the Coast. According to this press release, the next campaign setting for D&D IV will be Dark Sun, one of my favorites from the 2e era. Of all the settings WotC could have chosen to revisit for the current edition, I think Dark Sun is probably the best choice. Indeed, it's, as they say, a gimme, since Athas is a world perfectly suited for the style of play D&D IV is supposed to provide: over-the-top action by larger-than-life heroes amidst "points of light."

I will confess this announcement is the first thing I've heard from WotC that makes me even the slightest bit interested in buying it. Of course, looking over at the nearly-complete set of 2e Dark Sun materials I have, I quickly come to my senses again. If ever I wanted to play a campaign in Athas, I already have more than enough materials to make that happen. Nevertheless, I'll be keeping an eye on developments regarding the new Dark Sun, which I hope will, at the very least, be better than the half-baked treatment it was given during the reign of D&D III.

Part of me does wonder, though, why no genuinely new settings have yet been released for the current edition. Perhaps it's just a matter of time and costs: why develop something original when WotC has 30+ years of other people's ideas to mine. Or perhaps even the latest edition is not immune to the siren song of nostalgia ...

30 comments:

  1. Based on all the sudden Dark Sun novel re-releases, I thought this would be the setting they would announce.

    It's an interesting choice. Like you, I'm looking forward to seeing what WotC does with it.

    -Mike

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  2. did you miss this in the artical,

    July sees the Demonomicon as well as the next super-adventure following Against the Giants: 4th Edition's Tomb of Horrors!

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  3. Yes, I did miss that. I'm really not sure what to think about that.

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  4. Cool looking cover. I'm guessing it's WAR? I don't usually like his stuff, but that one is cool.

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  5. I have to admit that I never thought I'd see new Dark Sun material hit the shelves. This certainly isn't enough to bring me back to 4E, but I will at least give WotC a grudging thumbs up for picking this.

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  6. It's probably Wayne Reynolds, since he seems to do everything these days, although he probably has imitators. I'm not a huge fan of his stuff either, but this is certainly better than most.

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  7. Nice! I'm also a Dark Sun fan, though I've never played a campaign set in that realm. Read a bunch of the books though and I'm stealing ideas for my own Dead/dying Earth type campaign.

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  8. I've read elsewhere that they're going to be sticking to the timeline of the original boxed set, which I consider to be a positive step.

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  9. This might actually prompt me to buy some 4th edition material. I've been toying with it for a few months, as the rules seem to facilitate casual play more so than other rule-sets. I'm lukewarm about that, but I've some nephews in their early 20's that wouldn't be willing to dedicate the time to an older edition (or another game) but might be willing to with 4th. We'll see. I love Dark Sun, and it's still months and months away, I've time to waffle on this decision.

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  10. Looking at the cover I guess the setting will be pre prism pentad: wonderful. IMHO, unfortunatly, there's no so much good material for DS in 2e, and it could be a very good opportunity to have a beautyful "savage world" setting in 4e.

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  11. I don't see much value in this announcement. Just another nail in the coffin of The Brand. I'll stick with The Game.

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  12. I never got the itch to do a full DS campaign. Most female players I tend to have are usually more into fantasy tropes.

    But having gotten the old boxed set from Ebay months ago, I realized it would make an incredible place for the players to end up temporarily (gate and a geas?). I thought up how it could be an alternate universe of my own game world. In this alternate Dark Sun world the "dark lords" who ruled before civilizations of man actually won the great wars (imagine if Sauron had won - then imagine a dozen Saurons. They would be the rulers of the cities.

    I actually think the DS world might be better experienced by PC's from a more happy world. Give it some real perspective (maybe the players could be hounded for their rare metal weapons and armor).

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  13. There is one thing Dark Sun goes hand in hand with, and that is psionics. You can expect to see that option book out around the same time I'd expect.
    Is it an attempt to sell two books at once as opposed to just another setting?

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  14. James,

    Why Dark Sun? It's what you said a while ago: D&D mining the general culture of fantasy a long time ago and is now "about" D&D. It's a self-contained genre.

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  15. Theodore (and other curious old-schoolers who probably don't follow 4th edition releases), WotC has already announced that psionics will be the new power source for the Players Handbook 3, with two psionic classes (monk and psion) already announced and available in Character Builder. The psionic sourcebook will follow some time thereafter. The Dark Sun announcement is an obvious match in hindsight considering this.

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  16. I might buy this supplement - not to play with 4e but to mine for ideas as Im looking at running a DS campaign at my gaming group - not sure what system to use though.

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  17. I wouldnt have too many kind words for WOTC yet. It reamins to be seen if they stick to the heart and soul of the setting, or if they bastardize it.

    We'll see.

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  18. On the subject of why WotC doesn't release a new setting... I imagine it's because they see it as safer this way. Dark Sun is well regarded by older players and sales are guaranteed. A new setting might flop.

    I also have my doubts about the current crop of writers' ability to come up with good new settings. They seem more interested in tinkering with rules than being creative with setting. That's just a gut feeling.

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  19. WOTC has become a snake eating itself.

    I predict a 4E version of Dark Sun will discard anything that made the original unique and evocative (the sense of struggle against a harsh and unforgiving world, defiling magic having a lasting price, doomed heroism, etc.) in favour of heroic fantasy in Barsoom-ish trade dress.

    Contrast The Wanderer's Journal with the cover of the new edition...

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  20. I'm not a 4e fan, but I do agree that it makes a good fit for Dark Sun. Heck you even started at 3rd level in Dark Sun which is keeping with the whole higher powered 4e vibe.
    This can be taken with as many grains of salt as one feels necessary, but from what I've heard from a couple of sources at GenCon is that WotC will be basing this on the first edition of the game and that they are attempting not to shoehorn 4e conceits into Dark Sun.

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  21. The announcement here -
    http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/4spot/2009August
    Makes it sound as if fidelity to the 2nd edition incarnation of the setting is somewhat of a priority. They're obviously going to make some different choices, and people are obviously going to kvetch endlessly about them, but I'd expect them to do a pretty faithful translation. (Also, I actually play 4e, so I know what are likely to be setting elements that will require more creativity to port forward.)

    For those keeping score, the 4e incarnation of FR received a somewhat cool reception. (Okay, a lukewarm reception punctured by shrill cries that the setting had been taken out back and had unspeakable things done to it.) The 4e incarnation of Eberron, on the other hand, has had a much warmer reception; not only is it lauded for its fidelity, but some of the elements native to the setting, such as Dragonmarks, are now more beautifully mechanically realized than ever.

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  22. @Theodore, you are correct. According to the press release, WotC is planning on including psionics in the PHB#3 next year.

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  23. Chris: "(the sense of struggle against a harsh and unforgiving world, defiling magic having a lasting price, doomed heroism, etc."

    These are all things they mentioned in various interviews that they want to emphasis and bring out. I specifically mentioning how they wanted to keep the defiling nature of magic and keep the world really harsh.

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  24. I'm beginning to think I'm the only person who actually liked the revised DS setting material. I readily grant that the heavy-handedness of the novel-based metaplot was abominable, but there was some good stuff in the later DS supplements. I thought that expanding beyond the Table Lands helped to emphasized certain science fantasy elements of the setting and gave a wider scope for campaigns.

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  25. Dark Sun is a grim, dangerous and often unfair setting, and I wonder how this will fit in with 4e's design principles; for all the talk of "points of light", the mechanics are based on the idea of making everything fair and balanced for the players, and that doesn't seem like DS to me.

    Still, we shall see. Here's to Planescape next!

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  26. Most female players I tend to have are usually more into fantasy tropes.
    Hear hear. I'm not as enthusiastic about this as I would have been for, say, Planescape or Greyhawk. But This'll still be nice. I bet we get Muls and Thri-Kreen!

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  27. Dark Sun fits 4e much better than it did 2e, IMO.

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  28. Yes James, you are the only one who prefer the revised DS. :)

    DS for 4th ed. Interesting.

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  29. Part of me does wonder, though, why no genuinely new settings have yet been released for the current edition.

    New settings require development work. Lots of development work. Revisions of old settings require less development work.

    New settings require building a base for the new setting. Revisions of old settings tap into a base that is already there and ready to go.

    I strongly suspect that right now Wizards isn't willing to take a gamble with a new setting. Especially given how hard certain quarters of fans have been lobbying for their particular slice of setting material to be revised - some of them since 3rd edition. Dark Sun is a good choice for that, since it never really got a 3e revamp (outside of a few articles in Dragon), so it's partisans are hungry for material. Plus it's a very different setting than just about everything else Wizards has in its backstock.

    I don't know what they're going to do next, though. I suspect Dragonlance, but then I thought they'd go the "easy" route and do Dragonlance for next year and pass over Dark Sun for a while. Now I'm not so sure. Who knows? Maybe by next year they'll be ready to take the plunge and do a whole new setting. (I still thnk that's a few years off - Eberron didn't even come out until the "3.5" revision of 3e hit the shelves after all).

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