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.