Dark Sun…Returns in 2010

So the big news from Wizards of the Coast at GenCon was that the next setting they will be producing will be Dark Sun. Timetabled for the tail end of 2010 the first book to come out will of course be the Campaign Guide.

Dark Sun Campaign Guide

I’m torn on this one. On one hand I’m not a fan of fourth edition D&D but on the other hand I was a huge fan of the original version of Dark Sun for second edition. So much so it was all we played for several years until I joined a new group that only ran Forgotten Realms.

From the information that WotC gave out at the con it seems like we might actually get a faithful attempt at bringing Dark Sun into the current system. I was joking about on Twitter this morning about how they could mess it up but after looking again at the press release and the blogs of those that were there I’m quietly hopeful. So hopeful in fact that I might actually give up my card carrying hatred of the system and give it another go when it gets released.

So what is it that’s making think this is a good idea? Well aside from originally wanting Dragonlance to be the next setting I can completely understand their reasoning behind it all. They have a system that currently has a couple of settings on the bookshelves of stores but everything they have out there is very similar. They are being compared to computer games like World of Warcraft with the style as well as the game play. So they now want to push the boat out and show us just what the system can do with you give it something like Dark Sun to play with.

They have a couple of the original writing team on board who really want to get this project going and seem to want to keep it’s history and style rooted in the original books. I’m slightly worried about the comment they made about making sure that the re-release of the Prism Pentad novels fit in with the back story in a way that allows it to ‘one possible way things turn out’. But that aside going on their interview in Dragon 378. I’m quietly optamistic.

I also think that 4e’s reliance on mini’s and battlemaps may be able to improve on the one thing about Dark Sun that I really didn’t like. Structured one on one fights in a normal roleplay you can get away with but when it comes to gladiators and the games I think the 4e combat system will work fantastically well. I’m still not a fan of it for most settings but I think arena combat will really benefit from it.

Considering the changes brought in for the revised edition that made it’s way onto the shelves not long after the original setting was published I’m really curious to see where they are going to take this. It’s not a setting where you can just shove everything 100 years into the future as everything will be almost the same. Unless there were major uprisings the bad guys will still be there and if they are beaten then it changes both the feel of the game but also the earth itself will change as the amount of defilers on the planet drop dramatically with the Templars out of the equation.

Suffice it to say I’m looking forward to it and August next year can’t come soon enough!

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“The First Amendment does not cover MERPing”

I’ve previously mentioned that over the years I’ve lost an awful lot of my gaming books. I’ve misplaced at least half of my ADnD books somewhere and of all my other systems only my Rolemaster books seem to be in any fit state and that was only because I bought new copies on Ebay a few years ago.

Anyway I was intent on rebuilding my old collection any way that I could and whilst hunting down the Dark Sun campaign books that I’d misplaced over the years I remembered a system that I bought when I was 15 years old. It was quite famous at the time but if I were to ask almost any of my fellow gamers in my home town about it they wouldn’t have a clue. That game is of course MERP or Middle Earth Role Playing to those that don’t like acronyms. A lot was said at the time about how it was a handicapped version of Rolemaster or that it was too complex for beginners but we loved it. I was never a fan of the books when I was younger purely because of the size of them but I loved the setting and the half finished movie by Ralph Bakshi.

Over the years I picked up a few modules for it but it was never a game we could get much material for what with it being in the days before the internet and online shopping. We would spend whole weekends just working through complex back stories for our characters before we even thought about starting game but we’d always hit the level limit and want to go further. As time went on we ended up moving all our characters over to rolemaster anyway and keeping the campaign setting but to this day I miss the MERP books. There was so much history in the rulebooks that was not easily digestable from the novels that even after we moved systems we still used the MERP books as our number one resource for the campaign.

I miss those books. I’m really beginning to wish I.C.E. didn’t lose the rights to make LotR games in 1999 now.

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Black Hole Sun

After reading a review of the Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide over at the Casual Gamer blog I got to thinking. Out of all the D&D/AD&D settings the one I miss the most, and played the most, was Dark Sun. I’d never admit to playing the second edition of that setting but the first edition was to quite literally die for.

Dark Sun

You would think that a world that’s population was almost all under the rule of mad tyrants whilst living in the middle of a huge desert would be the most depressing setting you could possibly ever play in. And you would be right in thinking that but at the same time when your characters done well by god you felt good. It was like upping the level a few notches in a computer game and rerunning through it and beating it. You got an extra kick out of it.

Of course it had it’s bad points. I can’t stand the game mechanics for psionics and with everyone having a chance of having a power thanks to natural selection and the effect magic has on the planet your bound to have at least one person in your game that can wiggle their eyebrows suggestively at you and do something weird. I think we ended up banning everyone from using them at one point as they were just unusable in our games.

I loved the setting though the gladiator character class along with the new weapons made me a very happy person. I’ve still got a Mul character kicking about called Ryol of Calabash who is unbeaten in Tyr’s pit with singing sticks.

Dark Sun is a classic example of how to ruin a setting with the novels however. The bleakness that was there in the original setting was shattered within the very first book and from there on in there was nothing they could do to stop it. By the time the rewrite came around the characters in the novels had already killed a sorcerer king and you’d heard far to much about the avangion. I loved the books, don’t get me wrong , but as a way to further the setting you couldn’t have have found a worse destination to arrive at. All your mysteries were Scooby Doo’d in the first two series released and there was almost nothing left to wonder about.

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