Friday, August 20, 2010

Dark Sun 4e Review: Equipment and Coinage

Dark Sun Setting has always been one with little real wealth. Life is a struggle due to the harsh environment made all the worse by a lack of resources. The lack of metal was previous played out by either using a select number of weapons what did not require metal or using weapons whose metal components were replaced with various other materials. These other materials would affect not only the weapons ability to hit and the damage it could do (negative modifiers) but also had a chance of breaking with use. But since metal armor was also rare the armor classes of targets were also limited where the toughest commonly encountered armor was Hide.

In the new edition while metal is still rare, they have done away with the modifiers and the breakage while still there is total different. While in a certain way this makes sense, nonmetal armor does not protect as well so the nonmetal weapons perform as expected, they really do not have an advantages for using a metal weapon. Sure it might break a quarter as often in use but these are supposed to be great treasures. Probably metal weapons used on non metal armor should pick up an extra nonmagical enhancement bonus. Sort of makes them like lower level magic items.

The old rules used to have a piece mail armor system since a single steel breatplate could gave you better protection than most hide armors but that is also gone leaving only a rule about where a full suit of metal armor in the sun is going to be very hot. I think a full suit of hide armor would also have the same problem.

Dark Sun is also not supposed to be a world litter with magical items so the new rules have some options for this. First they have a fixed enhancement bonus system which improves characters attacks and defense as they go up in levels at a rate slightly slower than they would get with magic items. This allows the characters to still handle challenges of the proper level without everyone having to be loaded down with magic items like you are playing some MMO game. This is a great idea. To keep magic items lower they talk about removing and replacing treasure bundles. I have not taken a good look at the DMG so I cannot really comment on this.

Dark Sun is not really a place where you should be able to buy magic items. You might be able to sell them to some major players at the 20% value discussed in the players handbook buying them at any value should be very hard.

Item Value and Coinage has always been different on Dark Sun. Formerly anything not made of metal was considered 1/100 th the cost and copper pieces were replaced with ceramic pieces. So anything that used to cost 1 gp was now 1 ceramic piece and things that cost a silver piece cost a bit (1/10 th of a ceramic piece). This lead to some problems in that things also cost copper pieces and now you have no value small enough for that. This flat change also had some problems in that some things made of metal like the classic iron pot cost about 5 sp but had a material cost of the like 2 gp in metal. With laborers making less than a bit per day, a metal longsword at 15 gp represented a fortune.

In the revision they got rid of the funny down scaling of the currency but did not but a specific new value on metal objects. They say that city states produce ceramic coins of different values backed by their governments(like a 1 sp or 1 gp face value ceramic coin) and various trader with exchange these for other city states coinage at some discounted rate or exchange metal coins at full value to ceramic. This part is just not right. I like the idea of the different denominations of ceramic coins each back by the different city states. This gives a lot of flexibility and uncertainty in the value of things since Tyr currency is probably not valued very high currently in other city states. But saying that all the City States keep there currency on a gold standard does not make sense in this world. If a character starts out with 150 gp worth of equipment than that is the equivalent of 3 pounds of gold if anyone would actually do that exchange for you, but no one will so gold must really be worth a lot more. Using the Classic Scaling you get that gold is worth 5000 ceramic gold pieces per pound, 500 for silver, 50 for copper, and 100 for iron. Metal object probably cost about their weight times 2 for simple objects and 4+ for complicated things. It will be up to the GM to decide and find ways to keep even higher level characters from amassing to much wealth.


  1. The bonus enhancement system is a great addition. Removing parcels of treasure (usually the lowest and highest magic item parcels) to compensate makes sense. This reduces the coinage of the characters to a great degree, which in keeping with the flavor of the world, doesn't cripple them. You can also now be compensated in favors from powerful people or organizations which could be a great idea, I have to see it in play.
    Now metal items are rare all around. Metal armor has drawbacks in cold and hot in regular 4E, but you can imagine all metal armor baking in the sun. However, all HEAVY Armor, including Hide i believe, is now considered to be hot, with a penalty to endurance checks to resist the heat.
    Masterwork Armor now has enhancement bonuses without being magical, so keeping in line with the world, masterwork armor is a good treasure parcel. Previously, masterwork armor had a minimum enhancement requirement instead depending on the type.
    Steel Weapons are considered Masterwork as well, with similar enhancement bonuses.
    Having no penalties for using non metal weapons and armor suits me fine. They overdid metal inclusion in the 3.5 Edition treatment, so i think they have overcorrected to some degree.
    Now on to Coinage.... I would plan on using 1 GP=10 SP=100 Ceramic pieces as we did for the world. But 1 Dark Sun Ceramic piece being one 1 Regular Dnd GP equivilant seems okay to me for non metal items. I also like that cities can strike coinage in higher denominations, that helps account for not relaying on metal coinage. All city states using the gold standard is ridiculous anyway, as the barter system has to hold sway amongst 90% of the population.
    On the other hand, Characters are the heroes, and having a quick and simple money system lets them be heroes rather than accountants and commodities traders.
    So maybe houserules again?

  2. I guess they are just confusing me about the minimum enchantment bonus part. This must mean that if you are going to enchant this type of armor it must be to at least that level not that every suit of this type of armor is magicall.

  3. No checking the second players handbook it says all the masterwork stuff in it is always enchanted.

  4. Yes but i THINK that it wouldn't have to be so in Dark Sun, and i think they say that as well. On page 119 of Dark Sun it says that
    "Among higher-level magic items, both metal and nonmetals items can be found. Magic metal armor still exists. Such items are of masterwork quality, with a minimum enhancement bonus of +2."
    But as a house rule, one could say that masterwork weapons or items of better materials, simply bears the minimum enhancement bonus PRIOR to actually enchanting the item for Dark Sun. Such could contribute to a magic poor world.
    As the elimination of Divine casters, a whole group of ritual casters is eliminated, which is the means to enchant items. I would also assume more primal or psionic items would be available. They will no doubt find their way into treasure parcels in the way of player wishlists for playing such characters.

  5. But if you used the fixed enhancement system you probably do not need those bonuses but since each of the master work classes have a base AC better than the normal AC of the type you can use them at treasure that shows up later than the equivalent AC normal magic armor but before master work of the minimum enchantment level would show up. For example +2 armor is 6th level but by then you already have a fixed enhancement bonus to +1 so you might find the first grade of master work armor then which has a 1 better value than normal.

  6. Right. That could easily work for armor. Fixed enhancements players get treasure rewards 1 level of enhancement below the norm.
    For weapons, well, a +1 anything in the regular game is 360 gp, and a 1st level treasure parcel. If we apply the same to totems, orbs, wands, rods, staffs, etc that is true as well. A +2 item is 6th level and worth a base of 1,800 gp.
    Is an iron weapon or a primarily metal weapon +1? Is a steel weapon +2? Are both Nonmagical? or does it make more sense to say a iron weapon has a minimum enhancement of +2, steel +3 for enchantment purposes only?

  7. I think a GM should be able to figure this out as he goes without too much problem. He probably will just want to throw out the random treasure parcel idea anyway. If he finds that the PC's are getting to much magic stuff he can find way to alleviate them of that problem. Happened to us more than a couple of times.

  8. Removing two treasure parcels for the enhancement system reduces excess coin n magic. the treasure parcel system is useful in fact, as it keeps the pcs supplied for their level. Remember, the parcel system can give base levels for gp value, you can make that however you want, like trade goods, weapons, art, etc. I like the parcel system.
    Since we fought mainly classed humanoid opponants we were pretty rich in terms of magic n weapons, as they tend to carry that kind of thing. If we leveled up killing silt horrors, then we would have been a lot poorer.