I was very happy when they initially announced remaking a 2nd edition classic into 4th edition. After reading through a good chunk of it, there are plenty of great blurbs on the Tyr region and city-states to give a lot of ideas to a DM. While there may be less points than a land like Faerun in Forgotten Realms, this place doesn't leave much to be desired. Similarly, it doesn't hold your hand like Forgotten Realms does, and lets the DM choose his path through the desert world. All in all, it's a great book for DMs who need a world in which to place their great ideas. Not saying that this book lacks information claiming that they're letting you decide; quite the contrary. There is a lot of information on the region, but it doesn't give you the "Adventure Sites" sections like FR, and lets you decide on any sites to go. This combines player and DM knowledge, in a bad order, so sometimes you're not sure what should be player knowledge, but beyond that, there is nothing substantial that should stop you from purchasing this book of you liked the original.
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Was looking forward to this when I found out about its release. Fell in love with this campaign setting when it was introduced in second edition. The other setting that I fell in love with was the Planescape setting as well. Harsh environments and harsh worlds to survive in, only the truly cunning and sternest of individuals can survive and prosper. Enjoyed the lore presentation and the art is I do with almost every Wizard Dungeons and Dragons product they release. Just hate the edition is all. If you plan to play Dark Sun fourth eidtion great source material, just make sure you buy it at below cover retail. Otherwise you spent too much.
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65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
Simply outstanding - an old classic revitalizedAug. 19 2010
William M. Wilson
- Published on Amazon.com
When I was in High School, the original Dark Sun 2e box came out after much (for the time) fanfare. I couldn't wait to get my grubby little paws on it, and once I did, it started a love that's lasted for almost 20 years.
Sure, at the time, I was largely interested in the powergamey stuff - the wild talents, the four-attack-per-round thri-kreen, the Strength 24 half-giants, and so on. But over time, as more outstanding supplements came out, I was enthralled by the setting itself. It's bizarre and unique and nothing quite like it has ever been released before or since. I mean, a desert world with unique and deadly flora and fauna, where psionics are commonplace, and powerful wizard-psions rule city-states while turning into dragons? It was insane and utterly captivating. And then TSR basically blew up the setting by throwing a common-for-the-90's metaplot at it. (A metaplot, fwiw, which my players and I completely ignored.)
Anyway, I've been anticipating Dark Sun 4e since it was announced a year ago. The book has been well worth the wait, and sets a new high water mark both for 4e settings (admittedly not a high bar at the moment) and 4e books in general.
Okay, so what can a fan of the 2e setting expect? Well, the most important thing to remember is that, just like Dark Sun 2e took the iconic parts of the 2e setting, Mad-Maxed them up, and added spiky bits, Dark Sun 4e does the same to the iconic parts of the 4e setting. So there's some new stuff - Tieflings, Eladrin, and Dragonborn for example. Much like the other races, these are thrown through the Athasian blender. Tieflings are "desert devils" - cruel, bloodthirsty raiders in service to demons. Eladrin are xenophobic, mage-hating psions clinging to the last vestiges of the rapidly-dying Land Beyond the Wind. Dragonborn are the Dray - which were around in 2e, reskinned. Half-Giants simply use the Goliath mechanics, which is fitting. Setting favorites Muls and Thri-Kreen make their 4e debut. There are very few other races still around, unless you wheedle your way into them with your DM.
By default, the gods are dead and gone. That means no divine classes, either. This was a jump a lot of people didn't expect them to make, but I'm glad they did. Taking the place of 2e's Elemental Priests are new options both for Shamans and for all other classes as well.
Mechanically, the biggest innovation for Dark Sun are Character Themes. More or less, these are paragon paths you take at 1st level; they sit on top of your class, and tie your character further into the setting. Among these options are Gladiator, Elemental Priest, Templar, Wilder, Noble Adept, Dune Trader, and Athasian Minstrel. They give you a handy Encounter power, and down the road, you can pick a series of Powers from your Theme instead of your class.
It also takes a major step back from magic items. An inherent bonus system, similar to the one from DMG2, is presented as the default, thank goodness. This makes the characters "work" mechanically, even without magical gear at all.
OK, enough about mechanics. The setting itself? Gorgeous. WotC listened to fans, and reset the timeline to just after the death of Kalak. This means no Cerulean Storm, no dead Dragon, etc. It's awesome. Each City-State gets a few pages all to itself, and every one gets a nice map. There's a lengthy section on adventuring in Athas, with (harsh and deadly) rules for travel and desert survival.
All in all, it takes all the stuff I love about Dark Sun and all the stuff I love about 4e, and puts them in a neat little package which my players are already clamoring for me to run.
I recommend this book to anyone who's a fan of Dark Sun of any edition, any DM looking for something other than typical fantasy, and anyone who was on the fence about 4e and needed something awesome to convince them to take the jump.
One note - if you are new to 4e, and Dark Sun has convinced you to take a swing at it, I'd strongly suggest a DDI subscription. It will let you get all the character options included in Dark Sun for an intensely low price.
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Wizards of the Coast Succeeds in Bringing Dark Sun to 4E!Aug. 22 2010
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I've been coordinating and running a table for the D&D Encounters Dark Sun adventure. The Encounters format and the Dark Sun adventure in particular leave a lot to be desired.
But in my opinion the new mechanics, the races and classes (and themes), and the setting descriptions have done a great job.
The game feels like a blasted world where survival is a challenge even when you aren't being chased by a powerful primal shaman and his hirelings or captured by a tribe of evil hobbits that plan to eat you.
Only 4 stars though, because the book feels about 75% done: * There are "page [xx]" typos. Simply inexcusable from a major publisher. Michele Carter, Greg Bilsland, M. Alexander Jurkat, Ray Vallese, and Kim Mohan (the credited editors) should be ashamed and embarrassed when even one of these gets through. * A lot of the little incidental art scattered through later chapters is just plain bad. Also, no one knows how to illustrate thri-kreen. * There are waaay too many small portraits of characters doing stuff throughout the rest of the book. There is not enough world building, setting defining medium-sized (like half-page or so) pieces. Which leads to: * The book feels very light on art, especially in later chapters like "Atlas of Athas" which contributes to the next point: * It feels short. The original Dark Sun had something like a dozen books and boxed sets released with three years of its release full of stuff to draw from. I expected more detail about everything: only four new rituals? the entirety of the forest ridge gets two pages? twenty pages of advice to DMs?
But a lot is really good: * It has the polished layout we expect from 4E at this point. * Though the art is a mixed bag, there is some really good stuff here. The splash page art at the beginning of chapters is mostly really good. The portraits in the Races and Themes chapters are mostly good. I love the city maps. * I love the pictures on p139 and p183. I wish they were larger and there were more like them. * I love the themes, muls and thri-kreen. They have "felt right" the ten sessions I've played with them. I don't have a problem with goliaths being plopped in for half-giants. In fact, I am likely to retcon goliaths in my games in other worlds as being descended from half-giants from Athas. * The few pages for DMs are pretty well done. The adventure looks lame, though. * The new mechanics unique to Dark Sun are just right. I like survival days, sun sickness, and weapon breakage.
So, I'd say WotC has succeeded in bringing Dark Sun to 4E.
It's a strong setting despite some failures in execution and presentation. Players will enjoy creating and running unique characters. DMs will enjoy new and unique ways to kill those players.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Best campaign setting for 4e yet.Aug. 24 2010
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The previous campaign settings for 4e, Forgotten Realms and Eberron respectively, were pretty good books in my opinion. If I had one complaint about those, is that the books thought for you too much. They told you exactly who was important, where was important, why they are important, and in some cases, what would happen if they ceased to be. While some may like the amount of detail put into the world, I do not. I can appreciate what Wizards of the Coast was trying to do with those worlds. They tried, and certainly succeeded, in making both settings living, breathing worlds, full of history and culture. I found the amount of information nice to read, but stifling to make adventures for, and thus continued playing the default campaign setting, the unnamed "points of light" world that Wizards introduced in 2008 as the core setting.
Dark Sun is, without a doubt, a world rich in history. It became apparent as soon as I opened the book and started reading. However, there is a major difference between the Dark Sun Campaign Setting book and the campaign setting books of Eberron and Forgotten Realms: the information here is bare minimum. It is still enough to give you a detailed look at the world, but scarce enough to let you truly take any area of the world and do as you wish with it. I have already run two games in this setting, and I love the amount of freedom the world gives me. In Forgotten Realms, they tell you why Goblins are here and why Goblins would never be here. In Dark Sun, any creature of any level can be found in the vicious wastes. They don't tell you "Silt Runners won't be here because...", and that's what the previous campaign settings did wrong. In short, this book doesn't think for you, it thinks WITH you.
I can only hope that the future campaign setting books are designed like this. I know in full that the design of this book was an intentional throwback to the old book, and I say keep at it. Give me just barely enough information to know what is going on with the world. Keep it's true history hidden. Keep it's ruler's intentions secret. Let the players, not the world, decide what evils the enemies are up to. For the first time since the core ruleset came out, I have felt a world offer unlimited potential to both players and Dungeon Masters, and it is good.
I am, however, not without complaints. An earlier reviewer had mentioned there are far too many instances of complete page references, sentences that say "see page xx for details" and this is a legitimate excuse. Even during initial casual browsing, I found no less than three instances of it. Two, even one, is inexcusable from a powerhouse such as Wizards of the Coast. Other complaints I have are superficial, such as Wizard's continuing use of Wayne Reynolds, who is quite possibly the worst fantasy artist I've seen. Still, the good far outweigh the bad, and I feel that Dark Sun will be the best setting 4e has to offer for quite some time.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Solid but has flawsAug. 30 2010
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I love the character themes and wild talents. It's a great way to take your PC out of the cookie cutter mold of 4th edition. It still feels like D&D fantasy but in a completely different environment. I'm new to Dark Sun but I definitely look forward to running a campaign.
So, my first and biggest complaint is that the only map of Athas is the huge fold out map. That really stinks because I like to reference locations visually and to do that, I have to break out the map each time. They should have had a page sized map included in the Atlas of Athas section of the book.
Second- and this is an ongoing rant I have with WotC is the adventure in the back of the book. I really like that they include it but much like Marauders of the Dune Sea (the first Dark Sun adventure module sold), it is really just a collection of encounters with no real story or role playing opportunity. I wish they'd remember that they produce a role playing game! With this product as with so many 4th edition material, the burden is on the DM more than ever to create fantastic role playing moments. Thank goodness the combat encounters are easy to run!
I also want to note that there are numerous editing mistakes where page numbers are referenced but in place of the actual numbers are XX's so you never know where to look. For an expensive book, you'd think a little more care would go into the copy editing.
Other than that, this is a solid book for both players and DMs. Now if they'd only make a 4th edition Dragonlance!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Give it a chance!Aug. 28 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
I must admit I was going to give this a 3 star rating a few days ago, but when I went to type the review I couldn't exactly explain why I took the 2 stars away. I guess after the immersive Eberron Campaign Guide that came out last year I was expecting the same depth and felt a bit cheated. But was I? I mean I paid twice as much for that campaign compared to this, and how often did I use the extra depth? How bored to tears was I as I read a detailed timeline I could care less about? So instead of writing the review I waited to actually run the game, and I'm glad I did!
While writing my first adventure I found the amount of information the book gave to be perfect. My favorite part was I read the entire book in an evening! I swear it took me like two weeks to finish the Eberron books. I also found that it contained just enough information to spring board my imagination into some really cool story ideas I didn't think I was capable of coming up with. I found I really enjoyed the freedom a loose setting gives you compared to the constant, "No I can't do that" thanks to some local/religious/NPC/etc. getting in the way in the more detailed, established campaigns.
Also the information in the book is just awesome! A simple rule to make the weapons break due to not being metal in exchange to reroll an important attack, a mechanic that lets you reroll spell attack/damage in exchange of hurting all your friends, and level 1 paragon paths and psionic "cantrips" to add to characters for free. Too cool! For the first time I think I'm going to use all the information presented instead of the usual 25% or so from other campaign books!
So before you write it off, give it a try!
And to those who are upset because they molded the setting to fit 4th edition... Really? Just what the hell were you expecting?!