Dark Sun Apprehension

My group is looking to wind down the current campaign. That’s probably for the best: The current plot has dragged on for months, mostly due to our inability to get together this summer. A gaming drought makes it easy to loose interest move on to the current shiny, and from my experience this is common in our hobby.

It doesn’t help that the Dark Sun setting is finally out now. It’s certainly the new hotness, and the ‘nets have been going crazy for it. My fellow players are itching to play it, so we’re going to be moving on to it, once we finish up our current campaign.

Dark Sun presents a lot of interesting character options, but somehow I’m not jazzed by it. I read the novels and played a few adventures there back in the 2e days, but it doesn’t bring back warm memories for me. Maybe it’s because the DM kept trying (and succeeding) to kill us, or maybe it’s because I’m more of a high-fantasy type player. On the plus side, the savage monsters and hostile landscape are cool aspects of the setting, and Wizards has done a great job of providing lots of new monsters, themes, hazards, skill challenges, etc to go along with the setting that sound like a boon for any campaign. And on down side, the tireless struggle against all powerful sorcerer kings, the dismal life, lack of traditional arcane and divine magic, twisted races, and the whole Dune meets Conan setting doesn’t inspire me to be heroic.

I think I’ll give it a chance anyway since that what my group wants. It sounds like we’re going to spend a lot of time on the city, so I was thinking some kind of court intrigue/spy character. Any suggestions for race/class/theme combo?

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15 thoughts on “Dark Sun Apprehension

  1. “A gaming drought makes it easy to loose interest move on to the current shiny, and from my experience this is common in our hobby.”

    Agreed. I have a 21 session Changeling: The Lost chronicle circling the drain due to playing only twice in two months. I hope Dark Sun works out for you if that’s the path you choose.

  2. Well, one thing I noticed about Dark Sun is that unless the group as a whole approves of a grittier survivalist type of campaign, it can get tedious. Too much terror, sun sickness, starvation, and endurance checks can wear anyone down.

    To combat the inevitable drag, I had them ripped out of their dimension by Gagnazerak the lord of time and space and hurled into the burning sands at the edge of the silt sea. Finding a way home is their mission. We will finish out the heroic tier in Dark Sun and are having a great time of it.

  3. If you’re looking for an intrigue sort of character, you can’t go wrong with a half-elf Valor Bard with either the Athasian Minstrel or Veiled Alliance themes.

    Since it is a grave insult to turn away a minstrel, Bards and the like are always welcome in the places of power, even if they aren’t trusted by the people in charge.

    You can be so charming as to disarm the suspicions of the most cynical noble or templar. It is good to be a bard.

  4. @Christian,

    Thanks

    @panzerleader,
    Isn’t that the point of Dark Sun to wear down the players with the harsh environment?

    @countingku,
    I though of the half elf Bard, but our current campaign has one, and I don’t think I can do it better. But if Minstrel is a theme, maybe I can combine it with an assassin or ranger.

  5. You don’t have to do it better, just do it differently.

    Some bards are just natural talents who wouldn’t know they had a gift at all, aside from the people that are naturally drawn to them. Some know exactly how talented they are and have the huge egos to show for it. Some approach it as they would any other craft, considering people mere raw material to be hammered into a shape useful to them.

    If you do decide to go another way with it, you’re going to want maxed acrobatics for stunts, and good social skills for intelligence gathering.

  6. So, I guess my first question is what do you mean by high fantasy (I’ve seen different definitions). One of the reasons I’m suggesting Nibenay as the city, and why I want us to spend some time building the story together, is that it allows for other stories to be told. Perhaps you guys work with a group seeking to overthrow the established order by establishing schools or leading a slave revolt. In this campaign, the sky is the limit and the importance is on it being fun.

  7. @Michael

    “Isn’t that the point of Dark Sun to wear down the players with the harsh environment?”

    Not really, or at least no more so than the point of the goblin archers is to wear down the players. If done right, and done well, the enviornment is almost a running challenge in the background. And, just as good tactics can win the day in a fight, proper preperation should generally win out against the enviornment. You should never see the wilderness killing Prepared PCs on random rolls, though if it’s PLOT, you’re under-prepared, or you just plain roll lousy, it should up the risk factor for everything else you’re doing.

  8. I’m usually more of a high-fantasy player myself, but have kind of gotten into Dark Sun on playing it. It works well if you have a good DM to play with. And hey, it’s your group’s game, so if you want to tweak the game a bit to amtch your group, go for it.

  9. “I was thinking some kind of court intrigue/spy character. Any suggestions for race/class/theme combo?”

    I’m drawn to that kind of background as well. The Bard is the easiest fit… their Skill bonuses fit well in the sort of non-combat situations you’d find in an intrigue campaign. But if you’re wary because your current campaign has one, I’d suggest trying to embrace the things that are pure Dark Sun. I’m currently planning my character out for an upcoming DS campaign and I’m trying to make the character *very* DS. This is my one chance to reasonably play a Mul or a Thri-Kreen or a closeted arcanist. I’m going embrace it. That migth work for you, too. Besides, it’ll only be until Next Year’s Hotness (Ravenloft) is out.

    For you, I’d suggest starting with the Templar theme and working from there. It’s very “Dark Sun” and allows lots of story posibilities, given the variety of Cities/Sorcerer-Kings available. I can see some good Fifth Column or Conflicted Cop storylines. It’s probably the best way to get at that intrigue angle. If you made me pick for you, I’d choose a Tiefling Sorcerer Templar.

  10. I’d give it a try if I were you in case you find in practice that you actually like it, but I’ll repeat the least-liked, most-heard but truest advice I’ve ever been given – If it turns out you really, truly don’t like it, sit the Dark Sun stuff out. Nothing ruins things faster than the one guy who just really, truly doesn’t like it. I’ve been there, it sucked, and I left a group because of it – We’d turned to all combat, all the time, lost the silly tone we’d once had and I couldn’t stand the campaign anymore, and nothing was going to change the new paradigm as the other players and the DM who caused it were OK with it. I was miserable(I’m the guy who sits there and talks in character and occasionally gets up and semi-acts things out), it was starting to annoy them, I left. I was a lot happier. No gaming really is better than gaming you don’t enjoy.

    So, give it a try, try to get into it. And if you can’t? Sit it out for a bit. I feel you on this, I really do. Dark Sun is my least favorite setting period and I refuse to play in it at all because it contains everything I dislike in a setting and none of the things I do like. This makes me unusual amongst gamers, I’ve found, most of whom rave about it. I ran most of Season 2 of Encounters because they needed DMs and I wanted to give the thing a fair shake and see if in practice I’d like it more, but I don’t, and now that the store’s attendance has dropped to three people from my group and two from the other DM’s group, I just don’t go for Encounters because I really don’t want to play. Does it suck, especially in light of my college schedule this coming quarter conflicting with the awesome Forgotten Realms home game I’m in, thus leaving me without RL D&D for the time being? Oh yeah. Am I happier in the long run despite this because I’m not doing something I don’t like? Yes, absolutely.

    And hey, maybe your DM and other players will make it so awesome you like it anyway. :D

  11. Intrigue in Athas is best found in the Veiled Alliance or as a templar. All races would work, but if you want to draw the least amount of attention human would probably be best. Class I would recommend would be rogue, assassin, warlock, ardent, bard, sorcerer, psion & swordmage, my opinion the best would be rogue and the classes get worst further down the list you go. Anything not listed I would not recommend for an intrigue campaign though they are certainly possible to build in to it.

  12. I hope it all works out for you. In my experience, every kind of campaign is playable, if you bring the right character. Comic relief characters, high fantasy characters, all of them have their places, even when they are out of theme for the game. If that doesn’t work for you, then I concur with Nai, and sitting it out would probably be for the best. (For you and your friends.)

    I do sympathize with your dwindling game as well. I don’t know what kind of advice to offer there, but I see the same thing happening with other groups. (As well as my own.) I think it is just part and parcel with the gaming scene.

  13. you could play an assassin with the noble adept theme if you re-flavoured the shadow power source as more psionic. A character concpet could be a third or fourth child with no chance of inheriting titles/holdings but the family has had you trained to further the plots and plans of the family through spying or death dealing all through the cover of your nobility, which grants you access to many places.

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