Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dark is the Sun: Planning

Following my first and mostly successful local D&D 4e adventure, I've decided to try out Dark Sun. It is a campaign setting that was created in the early 90's for AD&D 2e and that was recently rebuilt for 4e this summer. Not that I don't enjoy a homebrewed campaign setting. It's just a ton of work. Planning for a night of BLoF takes about 20 hours. Writing, encounter building, map drawing, token making, etc. Factor in the time spent thinking about how it could all work in greater context of the world and it is a part time job. Hard work, but rewarding.

So I look to Dark Sun to alleviate my DM work load for a patch. It is not just laziness that drew me to a canned campaign setting though. Professional writers who are paid to make magic work on these things. What I have read of Dark Sun so far drips of that effort. The world of Athas is a harsh polar opposite of the standard high fantasy tropes. Up is down, down is up, halflings are cannibals. I'm really looking forward to exploring it with my players.

Not only the world is a change of pace though. Since I get a fresh start as a DM, I am taking the opportunity to apply some knowledge gained through my first adventure and to try out some new things...

Signature Item
Dealing out magic items has been a pain for me in my first campaign. They have no meaning to the characters except stats and the way they obtained them wasn't heroic. So to start out Dark Sun I am asking all of the players to come to the table with an item they already know. The gythka passed down through generations of clutches. The ancient shield pried from the sarcophagus of a dead hero. Give it a name, all the flavor you want and it will grow with you as you level like a heirloom item. See Ethan's blog for more.

Class/Role Changes
Since we are planning to return to their first characters eventually. I'd like my players to pick new classes and roles. It is fun to see how the other half lives and explore new mechanics in the game. So far it's...
  • Crystal: Striker to Leader
  • Ethan: Leader to Defender
  • Mike: Defender to Striker
  • Chuck: Striker to Controller
  • Gabriel: Striker to Striker
Party Background
Bringing the adventurers together as a rag tag group of strangers made it easier for the beginner players. Less background and story to remember so they could focus on learning to play the game. Now they all have a dragon kill under their belt and I'd like them to flesh out why their group works together for Dark Sun. I'll shape the game around that and whatever individual story hooks they come up with.

Free Expertise
Signature items will give them some of the stats they need to keep being effective at higher levels and item expertises should give the rest. Making them free means they aren't bogged down by mandatory feats and instead can pick fun ones. Which is what the game is all about.

No Inherent Bonuses
Many DMs are looking to IB for their low magic Dark Sun campaigns as a way to make up for lost attack and damage stats. As my players will be getting signature items and free expertise I don't see the need for them. My campaign won't be low magic, but I will try to do a better job of passing out items that are meaningful.

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Books Read

Recently Finished:

The Wise Man's Fear
Dynasty of Evil
100 Bullets Vol. 07: Samurai
Batman: Batman and Son
100 Bullets Vol. 06: Six Feet Under the Gun
100 Bullets Vol. 05: The Counterfifth Detective
100 Bullets Vol. 04: A Foregone Tomorrow
100 Bullets Vol. 03: Hang Up on the Hang Low
100 Bullets Vol. 02: Split Second Chance
30 Days of Night
100 Bullets Vol. 01: First Shot, Last Call
Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back on the Street
Uzumaki, Volume 1
Runaways vol. 1: Pride and Joy
The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 2: Dallas
The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite
Batman: Hush, Vol. 2
Atomic Robo Vol. 4: Other Strangeness