Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dark Sun 4e Review: Classes

The new Dark Sun character class setting section is an area where I think the designers let me down. They provide 4 new builds of existing classes: Wild Battlemind, Arena Fighter, Animist Shaman, and Sorcerer King Pact Warlock. I really like the idea of the classic Templar being a Warlock in the new rules. They also provide some new Epic destinies which are updated things from the classic Dragon Kings hardbound rule book.

The problem I have is that DnD 4e has like 20 classes currently. Are these all appropriate for the Dark Sun setting? Can all the changes be made using the Themes. One of the very important parts of the Dark Sun setting directly affect classes. Limited magic access. Arcane magic is only derived at this time from surrounding lifeforce and hence tightly controlled by the Sorcerer Kings and feared by the populace. So all arcane classes need to fit this mold. Divine Magic is derived from the elemental planes or forces of nature. These sources demand a real price for their power in supporting their expansion and protection.

They really give you very little guidance about how to fit or if to try to fit all these classes into Dark Sun. Most of the classes in the Players Handbook work pretty well without major changes except for Paladin which never existed on Dark Sun since people which such selflessness were wiped from existence thousands of years ago. Isn't natural or unnatural selection fun. I would also think that all clerics need to have the elemental priest theme and the only Warlocks should be the Templar Pact ones since Dark Sun is cut off from the Planes to make pacts with otherworldly beings. They do have a note about not allowing any divine classes but quickly list excuses for allowing a player to play one. They say like nothing should stop the player from playing the character they want to? There might be some other sources who can provide some powers adventure specific villains but probably not to first level PCs.

Distinctions get a bit tougher in the Players Handbook 2. You get classes like Druids, Shamans, and Barbarians which fit in just fine. The Warden might be fine also or could be made using Ranger and a Theme. All these primal classes give probably a to far to wilderness theme than Dark Sun should have. Then you get 2 Divine Classes that are tougher. Both the Invoker and Avenger seem like they might not fit even with elemental power source. Finally you get the Sorcerer and Bard which are the biggest problem. The Sorcerer could be fine but neither of the builds make sense because nothing in Dark Sun is naturally magical at this time. Both Dragonblood and Chaos magic just are not right for the setting. This class really needs a Dark Sun specific build to be included. Bards are also a problem. Classic Dark Sun Bards had no arcane powers, they were non magical entertainers and assassins since the populace would not be entertained/inspired by magical performers. I would probably totally eliminate this class and add a free performance skill to the Athasian Minstrel theme.

Overall I am not very happy with this section. Probably just a little specifics about good and bad classes for the setting and maybe 2 more Dark Sun specific builds should have been done. I know that they do not want to limit what you can do in your games but that is one of the points of a campaign setting to provide some additional structure to a very open ended game system.


  1. One thing that you missed, and I understand how you did so,( in that I can't find where I read that) is that there are NO DIVINE classes on Dark Sun. No paladins, avengers, invokers, clerics, runepriests, nothing. Templars are probably sorcerer's or warlocks. I think making Templars mainly Warlocks makes tremendous sense do to the power source of both the Templar and Warlock. the Warlock's traditional power sources (arcane) come from Infernal, Star, Dark, or Fey origins. Few of those have much to do with a Dark Sun campaign.
    I will agree with you on the Bard. The Bard in 4E is an arcane leader, so the potential for defiler is there. 4E bards for Dark Sun deserve to be a new class build entirely with different power selections and a martial theme.
    I will disagree with you on the Sorcerer however. Opening Sorcerer's to defiling makes a lot of sense, and I like the Sorcerer being included. You have a point though about Dragonmagic (if you remember, we had Wild Magic in our campaign, so Chaos works to me) so some elemental build should have been included.
    Removing the Trader Class and making it a theme was a good move. It was a weak class that was good for the world, but doesn't hold up with 4E.
    So, I do agree that more Dark Sun specific builds should be created for base classes, and more prestige classes need to be designed for the setting. Epic classes, well, much more work is needed, or conversely, most Epic classes fit well anywhere with tweaking.

  2. They mention something like that on page 6 in the no gods stuff but then they went and talked about ways around it in Divine Characters on Page 9.

    Sorcerers would be fine if they just wrote a new build with powers that matched life force as the fundmental arcane source.

  3. So now the elemental priest is mainly Shamans or Druids, both primal powered classes, and I have no problem with that. One is a Leader (Shaman) the other Controller (Druid). Druids should have been given some more Dark Sun attention for appropriate Dark Sun Beast Forms.
    Beastmaster Rangers the same for Dark Sun Beast companions.

  4. Additionally, on they have city specific templar pact feats which i think is a good touch. Unfortunately, it is subscriber only content, but I am a subsriber so you can be too.

  5. Have you seen Amethyst? It's a setting that disallows certain classes like divine on similar grounds. Being 3rd party, they...okay we (heh) got raked for it. It's ironic since in Amethyst, it says specifically which classes fit and which don't. By the way, if you are interested in a dialogue, email me as the link on your bar doesn't seem to be working for me...

  6. I have not seen your setting. Do not really get a chance to play but Dark Sun peaked my interest enough to buy some books to check it out. The link bar says ignore this since it was really just a test of code to add a similar thing to my wifes blog.

  7. Check out the webpage and while it might be interesting for my fantasy/sci fi mix I would go with Shadowrun since I have played that since its very introduction.

  8. Somewhere, and I can't seem to find it either, is a ban on all content from the Forgotten Realms player's book as well, except for Genasi?!
    That eliminates Swordmage (an Arcane Defender) which has a Eladrin/Genasi background story generally, Drow (of course), Warlock Dark Pact (Drow/Underdark Pact) and a slew of feats.
    For Warlocks, I like the Vestige pact to be allowed (fallen powers granting abilities, from Complete Arcane, Star Pact (there is cosmotology after all) and Sorcerer King Pact only.
    The Primal Classes all work for a Dark Sun setting in my mind, as do all the psionic and martial.
    As a side note, Paladins are now the alignment of their deity, not LG always. But since deities are eliminated, so too must be paladins, etc.
    You are right though, much more could have been done with this section to recommend classes to keep and ban for dark sun. Also, an Athasian Bard Build should have been included. The theme is just not enough.

  9. They just really need a list like in the class section:

    These classes fit without mondification.
    These classes work when taken with this Theme.
    These classes need this specific build.
    These classes you should work with the GM to determine if they fit.
    These classes should probably not be used.

  10. I have thought about Sorcerer and Warlock some.... Sadira from the original books was probably a sorceror (though the class didn't exist then) n generally a preserver. I think that if sorcerer's n warlocks n bards all have to adher to life energy as the basis for arcane power, then the build just reflects how they use it. As for disallowing the Dark Build for Warlocks from FRPG, well, what about the Grey, aka the Shadowfell.
    I remember we had kits that had Shadow wizards in 2E, why not the Dark Build for Warlocks, then shift a Sorcerer Build to suit the Gray.
    Lastly, I absolutely agree with you. Perhaps I will rough out that list later.