December 20, 2010

Dark Sun: Slave Tribes

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 Slave Tribes (DSR1), published in 1992. It is softcover and runs 96 pages. It is made up of 3 chapters and an appendix. This was the first non-adventure accessory for the Dark Sun line; the adventure DS1: Freedom came out before this supplement.

This supplement is written in a different manner than other books in the line. This book is primarily written from the point of view (and thus in-character) of a former slave.


Chapter 1: Athasian Slavery
The chapter starts with some broad topics covering the generalities of slavery. Section headings include What is Slavery? What are Slaves? Who are Owners? What Do Slaves Do? The last section gives a detailed discussion on what types of tasks can be expected of slaves such as Artists and Artisans, Concubines, Domestic Servants, Farmers, Gladiators, Laborers, Scholar Slaves, and Soldier Slaves.

The next section goes into the Slaves in the City-States. It gives a detailed look into how slaves are treated in each city-state (as well as salves in villages) and the types of work that are unique to that city.

The chapter ends with a discourse on How Did Slavery Start? and Why is Slavery Necessary? These go into how slavery started and how the economy and well being of the city-states, and perhaps the entire Tyr region, is dependent on slavery as a way of life.

This chapter gives a broad overview of slavery with no “crunchy” bits. The 4E campaign book spends a total of 3 paragraphs on the topic of slavery and is also a broad overview, eerily similar to this 2E version. Whereas the 4E book mentions that slaves can be artisans, the 2E book goes into a lot more detail on the subject. Altogether, the information found in the 2E book is completely compatible with the 4E setting, just with more details.

Chapter 2: The Slave Tribes
Here we get to the heart and focus of the book. It gives extensive details on 7 slave tribes that can be used to interact with the PCs. Each slave tribe is given an overview and then particulars on Organization, Operations and Means of Existence, Origin, Location and defenses (which includes a numbered and comprehensive map), Relations with Others, Joining the Tribe, and Important Tribe Members. The tribes run a wide gamut of types and are…

The Free: The proto-typical slave tribe that raids to survive but tries to free other slaves when they can.
Tenpug’s Band: A group that survives by crafting goods and then posing as freemen to sell them.
Salt View: They raid to gather supplies, but they also exist by performing as an acting troupe that provides plays throughout the region.
Krikik’s Pack: A tribe run by a thri-kreen that has its organization based along thri-kreen pack lines.
The Black Sand Raiders: The arch-typical evil slave tribe that kills and steals from anything weaker than themselves.
Werrik’s Stalkers: Another evil tribe that survives by engaging in slave trade and specializing in recapturing escaped slaves.
Sortar’s Army: A slave tribe dedicated to opposing the sorcerer-kings.

The fluff parts of this chapter are excellent and would really help a GM run a slave tribe should the PCs come across one. There are a number of adventure seeds to be found in each listing that could easily be the focus of several adventures. The stats provided for the NPCs are, of course, of no use in a 4E game, but they do provide enough information so a GM can translate them into 4E stats, and the background information for each NPC is excellent.

Chapter 3: Life in a Slave Tribe
This provides a general overview of how life changes once a person is part of a slave tribe. It covers such topics as The Unspoken Agreement (just because you are free does not mean chaos can reign supreme), Social Organization, Customs and Laws, Lifestyle, Religion magic and Psionics, Tasks and Threats to the Slave Tribes. All this information is useful in two ways. First, as a source of how a GM can run a slave tribe should the PCs have issue to interact with one. Second, as a guideline if ever the PCs should become part of a slave tribe for whatever reason. Again this chapter is all about the fluff and has no mechanics so does not cause rule issues with 4E. As far as the fluff goes nothing contradicts that which is found in the 4E campaign setting book.

Appendix: Creating Your Own Tribes
Here we have a very nice chapter that details how a DM can create his own slave tribe. It provides for methods of finding out the Tribe Name, Tribe Size, Primary Alignment, Operations and Means of Existence, Personality, Origin and background, Location and Defenses, Standard Responses, How Do PCs Join the Tribe? Strengths and Weaknesses, and Important Tribal NPCs. Many of these are random tables and some sections are a discussion on possible choices or provides questions that should asked for generating that portion of the slave tribe. Overall this is all very good information for a GM creating his own slave tribe.

The next section is about Player Creation of a slave tribe. This may occur if the slave tribe is the starting point of a campaign and the GM wishes to allow the PCs some say in its creation. In addition the players may at some point find themselves as freed slaves with a bunch of other freed slaves looking to them for guidance and leadership. They may feel the need to create their own slave tribe. The players can use the previous information found on how a GM can create a slave tribe and can use that information as a guideline for setting up their own tribe’s organization.

There are 23 pictures to be found in the book. The majority of them can be used to showcase certain scenes the players will encounter. There are various views of slaves in action, which can be used to highlight the life of their fellow slaves should the players find themselves serving some time as a slave. Each detailed slave tribe has at least one image that can be shown to the players when they first encounter the tribe. Now if only Baxa wasn’t the artist I would like it all that much better.

Overall: The information found in Chapter 2 is a goldmine of useful information that can be used in any 4E campaign. In addition, the information found in the Appendix is also superb. There is virtually no rule mechanics involved in the book and very little 2E stats provided, so there is little that needs to be updated to the 4E rule set. Very little of the fluff deals with the meta-setting so does not contradict the 4E version of the world. This is an extremely useful book for a 4E Dark Sun campaign.
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