Monday, August 30, 2010

My Secret Life As A Walker In The Wastes

I heart Athas, hardcore style.

Dark Sun was probably my second favorite 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons setting. The first was Planescape and the third favorite was probably Ravenloft, which they're making into a board game or something. Weird. Anyway, I love Dark Sun. It is a pretty harsh world, magic has destroyed the majority of life in the world, leaving endless expanses of desert dotted with cities under the thumb of capricious and deadly sorcerer kings. The sorcerer kings are super powerful wizard/psion types that are on their way to becoming crazy immortal creatures that are nearly indestructible. On their rise to power, these dragon kings committed complete genocide on a bunch of races like kobolds, gnomes, orcs, trolls, etc. So not only is Dark Sun a completely alien environment, it lacks tons of trappings from the typical high fantasy setting, which makes it an even more alien place.

I've read through the Dark Sun Campaign Setting book I just got in the mail the other day and the flavor of the campaign is still there. All the classic weapons and races are there, the artwork is not good ole Brom's, but I find it to be adequate. All the pictures depict, heh, people wearing leather and hides and various types and colors of chitin. There's also some obsidian studded weaponry and some bone swords and such. The flavor is here, trust me, and it tastes as delicious as it did in the past. There will be a nit picked against the art a little bit later, but it is irrelevant to the art's quality, which is quite good in spots.

Races are good, Wizards found a decent way to fit Goliaths, Dragonborn, and Eladrin into the world of Dark Sun and remained relatively true to the source material by leaving out Gnomes and Shifters and Warforged and the like. Goliaths are now Half-Giants, Dragonborn are Dray, and Eladrin are...Eladrin, I guess. There is a mild concession they make that if you want to be something not normally found in Dark Sun you can be some kind of planar traveler or a deep desert mutant. I kind of call foul on that. Anyway, all the new backgrounds for the races are extremely fitting for the races of Athas. The Thri-Kreen and Mul are still very true to the source material, and the Thri-Kreen make me happy inside. They're all mantisy and whatnot, but I guess that's about all I ask of them. Heh. It all works pretty well and is pretty true to the intent of the source material. I think most of the race specific feats and paragon classes are pretty fitting as well, so I think it looks alright.

Classes are good. There isn't a new Gladiator class like there was in 2nd Edition, but that gets covered in themes and a new Fighter option. There are four new class features for the Battlemind, Fighter, Shaman, and Warlock classes. I really like the concept behind the Sorcerer King Warlock pact, I think it really works super well to show the nature of a templar or any spellcaster in service to a sorcerer king really, rather than them just being Clerics like it was in 2nd Edition. The Battlemind feature synchs up nicely with the whole "everyone is a wild talent and full of assloads of untapped potential" thing that Dark Sun does. The new Shaman feature is kind of meh, but I feel that way about Shaman's in general, so I may not be the best person to listen to regarding that. The Arena Fighter class feature is handling the whole "Gladiators are the best fighting class ever" thing that Gladiators had going in 2nd Edition. Not quite sure how it works yet, but I think I get the gist of it and it does a good job.

I really very much like the concept of themes. They're a way to offer added variety to a class, in addition to all the other feats and features you can pick and choose from. It is also a nice way for your character's background to have more effects on the way they are played. You automatically gain a bonus power and have the option of taking theme powers are certain levels, rather than class powers. The themes presented in the book cover all the bases for Dark Sun. Gladiator, Templar, Athas bard (which are more like assassins and are known for backstabbery and poisonery). I like the themes associated with minstrels and bards, they really channel the hardcore nature of Athas' bards. I was very concerned that the whole bard assassin stuff would get kind of swept under the rug, in 4th Edition, but they held true to the source material once again and this book is the better for it.

The latter half of the book appears to be mostly data about the various cities and features of the Tyr region. It also goes over some features of Athasian deserts. I don't know what else to say, I love the material presented in this book. I very much enjoy the map included with the book, I love maps though.

Price. This is always going to be my issue with 4th Edition books. They're expensive, thin, and have a lot of big full page color artwork, which means less content. As much as I like the art style of Athas, every picture of a lovely obsidian studded club or Thri-Kreen whooping ass means that there is less delicious content and options in the book. I know what a Thri-Kreen looks like and how a Mul looks dressed in insect chitin armor and facing off against a Dray. Anyway, the full price of the book is 39.95, that's a significant chunk of change. There are 222 pages, which is more than the thirty-five and thirty-seven dollar campaign books they've been selling previously, which have had 160 pages. But, those previous campaign books have been split into two books for campaign info and player options. Fuck it, I'm not going to compare DnD books. Here's my argument, I just bought a forty dollar Pathfinder book. It has over one hundred pages more than the Dark Sun book and it loaded to the gills with delicious content. Now, granted, its just a book of options and new stuff for Pathfinder, and not a campaign setting. Nonetheless, its packed with more info, smaller artwork and operates at the same price point.

It boils down to one thing I guess: I fucking love me some Dark Sun. Enough said.

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