Friday, August 20, 2010

Welcome to Dark Sun

For those of you waited with bated breath for my foray into Swordquest: Earthworld, you'll have to be slightly more patient. Instead of playing the game yesterday, I moved my wife and her partner's offices to their new building. The last thing that crossed my mind was to try to play and post about one of the most incoherent Atari 2600 games of all time.

So instead, I'm going to post something that doesn't involve having to play a videogame, and just talk about the 'new' D&D supplement, Dark Sun.

I played Dark Sun when it originally came out. My character was a Fighter/Psionicist Thri-Kreen that specialized in those little tri-pointed throwing stars. I believe he had a 21 dexterity and 22 strength. His name was unpronounceable, and the rest of the party just called him 'Tick'.

I don't recall much about the game, other than despite having a power-level orders of magnitude higher than anything I'd ever played before, we regularly got our asses kicked.

I'm pretty excited to see the new Dark Sun for 4e... I think it's a terribly good match for the system. Some people disagree with me, but lets take a look at it:

Dark Sun is a brutal world of isolated city-states, surrounded by deadly wastelands. Points of Light, check.

Dark Sun characters are incredibly powerful, exceptional beings that have to be that strong just to survive the rigors of the game world. Uber-powerful 1st level PC's, check.

Magic is limited-use and frowned upon, the gods are absent and magic use is destroying the world. Magic use is limited to in-combat attack spells and difficult rituals, check.

I think it's a perfect fit, and am already planning a campaign that will start once our Council of Thieves game wraps up.

I've even got a solution to one of the major complaints about D&D 4e, being that combat feels like a tactical game. My solution? The party is going to be a group of freshly captured slaves, thrown into the arena as Pit Fighters. Each session will involve social and roleplaying opportunities, as the party interacts with other slaves, slavers, bookies, and etc. Combat can happen in these portions, of course, but the players are prisoners, and jailbreak/escape isn't going to be on the table in the Heroic Tier, unless something extraordinary happens. Because of this, any 'riots' will be broken up by the guards/wardens more often than not.

In addition, each session will have a planned combat... an 'Arena'-style death match, where the 'party' will be on one side of a mass combat. The opposition will vary from week to week, as will the 'interesting features'. Sometimes they'll be able to bring armor and weapons of their choice, other times they'll have to take what is given, pr they may have to go for things on the arena grounds.

Each week there will be interesting terrain features on the arena floor, and more importantly... the most important factor of combat won't be 'kill it quickly and take it's stuff', but instead 'survive, while being as entertaining as possible to the crowd'. Boring fighters, when they lose, will get the 'thumbs down' from the crowds, while popular fighters will live even if they fail to win.

I think I can get through the Heroic Tier quite well with political intrigue, gambling rings, a prison economy, etc, with the fights as 'flavor' as opposed to the point of the campaign. It also gives me a lot of leeway on relative treasure levels and equipment... as nothing 'belongs' to the players, I can modify equipment on the fly, while still taking into account each player's preference, occasionally allowing them very early access to awesome toys...

It should be a good time. I've got a few months to prepare before CoT wraps up, as well, so I've got time to build an arena out of styrofoam and Hirst Arts blocks, as well as work up a large stable of NPCs.

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