December 27, 2010

Dark Sun: Freedom

Recently WotC rereleased the Dark Sun setting for 4E. This article is part of a series that examines a release from 2E Dark Sun and sees how and if it can be integrated with the new 4E version of the world setting.

The sourcebook we’re looking at today is the adventure, Freedom (DS1) published in 1991. It is in a folder which holds 2 spiral bound books, the Dungeon Master’s Book and the Player’s Book. On the folder itself there is a list of the monsters that appear in the adventure with their combat stats. This was the first publication for the Dark Sun line after the release of the campaign setting material.
I’ll mention here at the beginning that these adventures were written for the 2E system. Therefore the stats included in the modules are of no value beyond the level of an NPC for comparison’s sake. This article is more about how difficult it would be to adapt the module to the 4E rules and if there is anything radically divergent from the 4E setting.

Dungeon Master’s Book
The adventure is outlined in 6 Parts. It takes place during the time when the sorcerer-king Kalak is killed. This all happened before the official 4E campaign starts. The 4E version deliberately started shortly after the death of Kalak. As such, this adventure is a deviation from a 4E campaign. However, as written, the end of the adventure will see the same result as if the campaign had started as a normal 4E campaign.

Summation:
The player characters take part in the events surrounding the death of the sorcerer-king Kalak.

Part One
Herein the characters face 5 encounters all designed to get them captured and turned into slaves. The characters can start as a group or as individuals, but the end result is relatively assured.

Part Two
This Part starts with an outline of what it is like to be a slave working on Kalak’s Ziggurat. It covers such things as the daily work experience, food and water, tools and potential weapons, and attempts to answer as many questions that might arise as the characters adapt to being slaves and inevitably try to escape.

In addition there are 5 encounters written to allow the characters to explore the adventure in different directions. What happens with these encounters will affect what happens to the characters later in the adventure, presenting specially designed opportunities. Some are better suited to certain class types; for instance one can eventually lead to fighting in the gladiator games and one is about aiding the Veiled Alliance.

There are also allies and enemies that can be gained, either though GMs choice or from the encounters in Part One that caused the characters to be captured in the first place.

Part Three
This Part builds on what may have occurred in the encounters from Part Two. It is here that the characters can become movers and shakers in what is to come ahead. There are several opportunities to leave the slave pits depending on how these encounters go.

Part Four
Here we have a buildup to the final scene wherein Kalak gets speared by Rikus during the gladiatorial games. It starts with a slow buildup as the Ziggurat is completed and tension begins to fill the air. A long list of rumors feed into this tension. It all leads to the gladiatorial games being held in the grand arena, an event which all, including the characters, must view. The gladiatorial games are given encounters; those characters that went down the gladiator path can partake in the fights. The part ends with the attack on Kalak that sends him into hiding and starts Kalak’s master spell.

Part Five
Kalak’s spell starts to go off draining the life from all the people in the arena. Chaos quickly covers the arena and the characters are caught in the middle of it. Here they are presented with 5 choices of how to try and escape the arena. Each choice leads to a unique encounter.

One problem with this part is that in earlier Parts the characters may have been separated from each other. As written, this Part assumes the characters are all together but that is not likely. A DM will have to work around this somehow.

Part Six
Here the characters are regarded as minor heroes, assuming they were successful in their attempts to escape the arena while leading slaves out. The true heroes are the characters form the set of Dark Sun novels that did in fact end up killing Kalak, but the player characters can also receive recognition. The adventure ends following the outline of the novels, with Kalak dead, a new king crowned (Tithian) and all the slaves set free. Basically where the 4E campaign starts.

Player’s Book
This book is meant for the players to look at, at specific instances as called for in the Dungeon Master’s Book. Sometimes this consists of some text for the players to read, sometimes a map, and sometimes just a picture that lays out the scene the character are participating in. Some of the pictures are in color. There are also 5 characters at the back of the book that can be used as player characters or as NPCs if the players have their own characters.

Analysis: This is an opportunity for the players to participate in one of the most epic and sweeping events to happen in the Dark Sun setting. While it is true that they are not the true focus of the epic events occurring around them (the death of Kalak) they can still be important individuals in the area that they are participating in.

In addition, slaves are an iconic feature of a Dark Sun setting. Being able to explore the life and hardships of a slave is a memorable experience that highlights what Dark Sun is about. This adventure does an excellent job of doing just that.

A GM working to convert this adventure to the 4E rules will have some work to do. Fortunately, the majority of the combat encounters are with humanoid opponents and it should be easy to find an appropriate monster to use. The hardest part will be in designing all the encounters that will require a skill challenge, and there are a good number of these.

3 comments:

yog_slogoth said...

Did you ever play this one? Sorry to tell you, but there is no need for stat conversion, because the adventure is shit. The players are mainly forced through the adventure with only minor decisions to make, and while it has some kind of retro-feeling to make the PCs slaves at the beginning of the adventure the players hate it. And if the players hate your adventure from the the beginning....

Callin said...

I did run this back in 2E and my players loved it, even the slave part. Actually they liked the slave part a lot because it presented them with a real challenge wherein they had to survive with their wits, scourging for everything they had. I can see how some groups wouldn't like it, especially the heavy-handedness of how the characters are captured in the beginning.
The individual encounters allowed them to shine on their own while still being part of the party dynamic. My players liked that as well.
However, I will agree that it is exceptionally railroady, though it sort of makes sense since they do have limited options as slaves.

yog_slogoth said...

I did run this one around 1996, playing out how everyone comes into the slave pits. And the players hated it. So much that we canceled the whole after 5 or 6 sessions. I played it again two years ago, and I told my players that this campaign starts with them being slaves in Kalaks Pits. This was okay, but one of the players started a killing spree under the guards and so I had to beat him up quite well. He didnt like it, of course, but it was okay. I fastforwarded to Kalaks death and when they were finally free and went on to "Road to Urik" they really started to like Dark Sun.