"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

B/X Dark Sun - More Thoughts on Classes

I have actually been canvassing everyone I know about the idea of running the Dark Sun one-shot I have been thinking about. In preparation I have been reading some more of the original Dark Sun box set and thinking some more about a B/X version. As an aside, what would Erol Otus art have been like for Dark Sun?

Here is some more preliminary thoughts on B/X Dark Sun classes:

Cleric - As in B/X but instead of a deity, the cleric is devoted to one of the four elements. The spell list will still have to be worked on for each.

Druid - As in Supplement III - Eldritch Wizardry.

Dwarf - As in B/X but no special ability for detecting slanting passages, traps, shifting walls, etc. Instead they must choose a "goal". While in direct pursuit of their "goal" they receive a +1 bonus to saving throws.

Elf - As B/X Halflings. In addition, their overland movement rates as given in miles/day on page X20 would be tripled.

Fighter - As B/X.

Half-Elf -On reflection, I think I wold get rid of half-elves as they don't really fill a strong archetype.

Half-Giant - I mentioned earlier that I would get rid of half-giants as they infringe on the Mul's niche.

Halfling - As B/X Elf but spells are from the Druid spell list in Supplement III - Eldritch Wizardry. No immunity to a ghoul's touch.

Magic-User - As in B/X with the following changes to spellcasting.
Magic-users can cast arcane spells with a spell level equal or below 1/2 their class level, rounded up.

Edited: [Casting a spell of any kind costs Hit Points. The cost is double the level of the spell being cast:

Spell Level... 1... 2... 3... 4... 5... 6
HP Cost........2....4....6....8..10..12]

This loss cannot be healed normally but is recovered after 8 hours rest. There is no need to memorize spells in advance but it must be in their spellbook (I would use the Holmes rules re spellbooks). Select one ‘signature’ spell per spell level from 1st upward that they prefer to use over any other. These spells are easier to cast due to familiarity, costing 1 less HP to use.

Instead of drawing HP from his or her own pool, a magic-user can draw it from the lifeforce of the surrounding lands instead (“Defiling”). For each 1 HP of cost, a 5-ft radius of vegetation gets turned to ash by the power drain. Additional drains further extend the radius. Anyone caught in the radius must make a save or be “stunned” for 1 round. (maybe make this save or damage to make it really bad)
- Modified from Microlite20 Core Rules
Of course, this gets rid of everything that I love about the B/X magic-user but I think it works well with the defiler vs preserver thing.

Mul -
The prime requisites for a mul are Strength and Constitution. A mul character whose strength or constitution is 13 or greater will receive a 5% bonus to earned experience. Muls whose strength and constitution are 13 or greater will receive a bonus of 10% to earned experience.

RESTRICTIONS: Muls use ten-sided dice (d10) to determine their hit points. They may advance to a maximum of 10th level of experience. Muls may use any type of weapon but due to their strict training they may choose one specific weapon-type (eg. longsword, handaxe, etc) with which they gain a +1 bonus to hit. They may use any type of armour and may use a shield. A mul character must have a minimum strength score of 12 and a minimum constitution score of 12. Muls do not gain a stronghold or followers. Due to the fact that they are a slave race all muls suffer a -2 penalty to reaction rolls with non-muls. Muls attack and save as Fighters.


Noble - I think that the Dark Sun setting can support a Noble class. Nobles would progress, save and attack as a cleric but would have no spells and no weapon restrictions. Instead I would give them a bonus or penalty to reaction rolls depending on their stated intent - a bonus of they are trying to negotiate, etc or a penalty if they are trying to goad someone into attacking. I would also give them a protection from evil 10-ft radius effect. It would be non-magical and instead reflect the benefit of command, inspiration, etc (might be a little too 4E for some). They would have a prime requisite of charisma.

Templar - I think that these should be monsters/NPCs only. So, I could just treat them as normal B/X clerics.

Thief - As in B/X.

Thri-kreen -
The prime requisites for Thri-kreen are Strength and Wisdom. A Thri-kreen character who has a score of 13 or more in strength or wisdom will receive a 5% bonus to earned experience. Thri-kreen whose Strength and Wisdom are 13 or greater will receive a bonus of 10% to earned experience.

RESTRICTIONS: Thri-kreen use six-sided dice (d6) to determine their hit points but start with two hit die at 1st level. They may not wear metal armour or use a shield but they may use any weapon. Thri-kreen must have a minimum score of 9 in Strength, Wisdom and dexterity.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Thri-kreen have the ability to track the path of most creatures when outdoors and even in dungeons. Thri-kreen are able to follow tracks outdoors one-third of the time (a roll of 1 or 2 on a 1d6) when looking for them. In dungeons they have a 1 in 6 chance of following tracks. Thri-kreen are also experts at foraging and receive a bonus to Foraging as given on page X51. They are able to find enough food to feed 1-6 men on a roll of 1 or 2 on a d6. At 8th level, Thri-kreen are able to cast druid spells.

COMBAT: Thri-kreen fight and save as Thieves.

Level........ XP...... Hit Dice...... SpelI Ability (druid spells)
1............... 0.............2d6............. Nil
2..........2200.............3d6............. Nil
4..........8800.............5d6............. Nil
5........17000.............6d6............. Nil
6........35000.............7d6............. Nil
11.... 530000..........10d6+4...........2/2
12.....660000......... 10d6+6...........2/2/1


  1. Having played and run Dark Sun, way back when they hadn't killed the dragon, I would vote for keeping some form of psionics in it - perhaps by way of the mental mutations in Mutant Future - as I found they do help emphasise how alien the world is compared to fantasy worlds the players may be used to.

    Aftac, the Halfling Illusionist/Psionicist, is one of my favourite characters ever. Not for the race/class power combo, but for carving a bone flute out of the thigh bone of one of the enemies he slew, hiding in the pile of bodies when the caravan was attacked, and arguing with the thri-kreen over who would get to eat which part of the human gladiator :)

  2. I edited the hp cost for magic-user spells.

  3. Why this obsession with "strong archetype"? Is it the "Grognardia" germ that is spreading? :)

    I think this looks eminently playable! I'd love to play in such a DS game. I would, like myrstyr, add some sort of psionics to the mix, though.

  4. Why "strong archetypes"?
    Because its an archetype!?! The question is more why have a meaningless derivative?

    While I might be convinced into adding mental mutations from Mutant Future for each character, I am very much against adding in a psionicist class for the reasons I gave previously:
    - it gives a unwanted safe alternative to sorcery which has had an unmeasurable impact on the world, and
    - it lacks the connection to the resulting "nature" aspects ala the cleric and druid.

  5. OK, let me rephrase what I said without any attempts at irony.

    Why do you remove those classes? Aren't they there becuase Athas is different from the "generic" fantasy of D&D? Do you think their place could be covered just as well by other classes and that it's just class inflation?

    As for psionics I understand the objection that it is a "safe" alternative to magic, which cheapens the hard choice of whether to defile or not. But, it is kind of part of the flavour of Athas that there are psionics all over, don't you agree?

    The objection about lack of connection I just don't understand what you mean. You might say something I agree with, but I don't get it.

    Sorry for being dense.

  6. Ohhhhh. I get it now.

    My main goals in looking at this is to:
    1. Come up with a Dark Sun analog while using B/X
    2. Since I am using B/X, I am trying to stick to the precepts of B/X.

    So, why remove some of the classes? Three reasons:

    1. I mentioned in one of my "Why I love B/X" posts that race as class is the "purest form of the archetype system". As such, I am attempting to include only those classes (races) that have a clear, recognizable and definitive role.

    So what is the half-giant's definitive role? Bad ass combat guy? already covered by other classes.

    2. Why develop a whole new set of mechanics when a name change as some roleplaying are all you need. They just aren't different enough.

    You want to play a Gladiator? Why do you need different rules than a Fighter when roleplaying can take care of it? Just call him Braxor the Gladiator instead of Braxor the Fighter. I always felt the same about a "swashbuckler" class as well.

    3. Honestly, there are some classes that I think are difficult to model using B/X.

    Once again, looking at the half-giant, what mechanics should be used to make this class? B/X doesn't give attribute modifiers for choosing a class but it does have attribute minimums. So, should a half-giant require an 18 Strength? maybe 17? And if someone does roll an 18 for strength and wants to be a half-giant, what do they get? The Dark Sun half-giant doesn't really have any racial abilities besides the random and difficult to enforce alignment thing.

    That being said, if a player rolled an 18 strength and wanted to be a half-giant it would be no problem. He is a fighter and everything he buys costs twice as much.

    As for psionics, there are 4 reasons why I would get rid of it:
    1. the already mentioned "safe alternative" argument.
    2. To me the "feel" of Dark Sun was the gritty, dog-eat-dog, under the tyrant's boot thing. Not the psionics thing.
    3. It is also redundant from the perspective that all of the big bad guys were defilers/psionicists - why have both when one will do.
    4. There was a big disconnect to me of a world where all magic-users were feared and where every Joe Average had a psionic ability.

    Of course, all of this is just the way I would do it on a first pass. Maybe I am full of crap and it wouldn't feel like Dark Sun without a psionicist class. I will have to convince someone to play this to find out!

  7. I have looked at putting together the cleric elemental focused spell list a couple of times but I made zero progress. I seem to get stuck.

    In putting together the spell lists I want to keep the cleric's usual "support" role spells instead of damage inducing spells. I also want to have each cleric's (earth, air, fire water) spell list feel different from each other and also different from the druid and magic-user spell lists.

    I have looked at the original Dark Sun campaign box but I don't want to just copy its spell list as I feel that it would work great due to a different range of spell levels and 2E vs B/X power scale.

  8. Now I see what you mean, and I think I understand why you remove the classes. Makes a lot of sense.

    I still think the psionics was one of the distinct things about Dark Sun, and must confess I never thought about the (very valid) objections you raise. I wonder how I'd handle it myself? Hmmm.

    Something is broken about the clerics on Athas, though. They never felt right to me.

  9. RE Clerics:
    I think it is the spell lists. They try to take the standard 2E spell lists and reorganize them into a system for which they were not designed. I am struggling with how to do clerics myself. This is the one area where I think that a hack of a different system might do a better job than the original.

  10. I've been thinking about this, and I think you are onto something. I have my DS box in storage, and wont get to it in another three months time, but I'm seriously interested in breaking out the stuff and try to retool the cleric myself.