January 4, 2011

Changing Dark Sun

The 4E Dark Sun setting book did very little to change the setting from its 2E counterpart. The 4E setting is more about integrating the new rule set and less about changing the setting itself. Much of the setting is exactly the same as its predecessor. This is both good and bad. Good in that a lot of the older material is still relevant, at least the non-rule parts. Bad in that if you and your players have played the 2E version they already know the world.

What is a DM to do if he and his players have already played Dark Sun back in the 2E days? What can he do to keep it fresh and interesting? My suggestion is to change up the setting from what both 2E and 4E relate in their respective sourcebooks. There is no reason why some simple changes can’t be done that can keep your players guessing while still keeping the essential parts of the world setting.

Here are a few suggestions. Using one of these, or maybe a couple of them, can keep things fresh and keep the players guessing.

-Replace a sorcerer-king with a conspiracy of templars. The sorcerer-king died years ago and the templars have maintained a facade that he is still alive. It adds all sorts of new intrigues and the “reveal” when the players find out this big secret would be priceless.

-The Veiled Alliance was started by the Dragon. He long ago set up an organization of potential adversaries and then created a way to keep an eye on them. Every faction of the Veiled Alliance has their own way on inducting new members, but the Dragon set up each of these as a means to “tag” those that participate. This allows him to look in on any member of the Veiled Alliance at any time. While he can not control its members, he always has a means to find out if they are becoming a danger.
This would lead to a string of adventures where the Alliance is being betrayed from the inside, but it will take some doing to find out how. Eventually the Alliance would have to be rebuilt without the interference of the Dragon.

-One of the sorcerer-kings has turned “good”. He has given up defiler magic and is no longer trying to become another Dragon, instead pursuing the Avangion Epic Destiny. However, he can not reveal this to the world at large because he fears the other sorcerer-kings will see him as weak and pounce. Therefore the sorcerer-king has to maintain a face of evil while still trying to do the right thing for the majority of this people. The players may find themselves starting as his enemy and then slowly working with the sorcerer-king in an attempt to make Athas a better world.

-Someone has become a new Dragon and it wasn’t one of the sorcerer-kings. The players could stumble upon this information when they are the ones to discover the ruins of a formerly large village (like Altaruk) that was the scene of this new Dragon finishing his transformation. This new Dragon would not be from the earlier Ages, but rather has only been around for 100 years or so, a true wild card.
Adventures could start with gaining knowledge on its existence and then dealing with the damage from its rampage, including some sorcerer-kings futilely trying to kill it despite innocent bystanders. Thereafter, once it has regained its senses, the players may be caught between two Dragons.
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