By now, I guess we all know that the next campaign setting for 4e D&D is going to be Dark Sun. So, what does that mean – and (more importantly) what do I, this humble game geek, want it to mean? Well, I’ll tell you.
The Points of Light concept, at last
The idea behind Points of Light is a simple one, yet it’s a concept that Wizards of the Coast have yet to show to it’s full potential – until now. PoL postulates (good word, that) that there are isolated safe havens surrounded by danger. The PCs themselves are like mobile miniature Points of Light who brave the Darkness Outside to spread the light a little further.
Let’s make this clear. Forgotten Realms: not Points of Light, no matter how much you bend it. If you could bend light, of course. Eberron: Kinda Points of Light, but more like Lots of Light With Occasional Patchy Darkness.
Dark Sun: Points of Light. Totally. This is a setting where the world itself hates you, where civilization is scattered, isolated and suspicious of strangers, where Going Outside is something that the average folks Just Don’t Do.
In other words – it’s a perfect setting to (finally!) showcase one of the tenets on which 4e D&D is built.
Yeah. The Environment. It’s not a pleasant place in Dark Sun. This ain’t no land of rolling hills, wooded glades and cute little fairy streams. Sure, it was once. But now….. it’s not a nice place, at all.
Here’s where I was going to suggest that Dark Sun needed more robust Environmental Dangers rules until I checked the DMG (page 158) to see what it had to say already. And it’s pretty good as-is. Make an Endurance Check every 8 hours or lose a Healing Surge. Given that Stifling Heat is DC26, Severe Weather is DC20 and Pervasive smoke or ash (I’d say sand too) is DC26 and you’d have to roll against all three separately if you’re caught in a sandstorm. Ouchy. Your average untrained 1st level party could be wiped out before they even meet the monsters.
Talking of which…
A whole new menagerie of beasties
More than any other setting, Dark Sun is home to the weird and wonderful. This isn’t a setting which will be satiated with a mere handful of new monster entries stuffed at the back of the Campaign Guide. Oh no. Ideally, it merits a entire freakin’ Monster Manual all on it’s own but as that’s not gonna happen we need a Guide that’s pack-jam full of critters and a slew of templates so we can easily “Dark Sunnify” what we’ve already got. Give us templates for Athasian Zombies, Psionic, Reptilian and more. We’ll work the rest out ourselves.
So, where to next?
Now that WoTC have given us something old, I reckon that the next setting should be something new. There’s one campaign setting which has been sitting under their noses for decades, and it’s about time it was given full treatment as a “core” D&D Campaign Setting complete with Players’ Guide, Campaign Guide and rockin’ adventure. I am, of course, talking about the world of Magic:the Gathering. It’s a setting they own, is well supported, loved by M:tG players the world over and they’ve got the complete creative team in-house ready and waiting to run with it.
What I wouldn’t want them to do though is just provide a lame-ass setting by throwing a map, collection of monsters and a history together and calling it a Campaign Guide. Each Campaign Setting should provide something new and exciting to the game so that it’s an appealing purchase even for gamers who don’t plan to use the setting as-is. Just as Eberron gave us Warforged, rules for Artificers and that all important Steampunk feel I’d want an M:tG setting to provide rules for increasing your power through drawing Mana from the Land and awesome Monster Summoning rules. Oh yeah!
Now there’s a thought – tap too much Mana and you might just end up with Dark Sun as a result……… way to go for tying two settings together!
Will 2011 be the year of Magic? We’ll see.