Question about Dark Sun compatibility

Gringnr

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So, I bought the hardcover reprint of Dark Sun, because it's fairly cheap ($23.99) as of this posting.

My first inclination is ro run it (if and when it hits the table) with Swords & Wizardry. I have limited experience with 2e, and while I'm not opposed to using it, S&W really huts the sweet spot of "enough options, but not too much crunch".

I know S&W doesn't have psionics.

So, I guess what I'm asking here is, would you recommend:

-S+W plus psionics from Eldritch Wizardry reprint, for that full OD&D trip

-S+W, but hack in psionics from The Psionics Handbook, as they will be more compatible with the DS setting

-Run it with 2e, the way God intended

-other (please explain beloe)

Thanks in advance.
 

Gringnr

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I would probably run it with 2e, but I actually like 2e.

That said, I've hacked in lots of D&D stuff to 5e, so if you did go the S&W route, hacking Psionics in probably wouldn't be too difficult.
I've read differing viewpoints on the 2e psionics, specifically as they relate to Dark Sun. Your thoughts?
 

Sosthenes

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I'm quite fond of PX1 Basic Psionics Handbook, which distills the AD&D psionics ideas into a format suitable for Labyrinth Lord (and thus B/X, S&W etc.). Merges the psionic combat system with the "spell" part. Has a cool monk variant. I'd prefer that over other "basic" approaches, but actually liked both AD&D 2E and its psionic system well enough to use that. (My primary choice would probably be BRP, but let's not digress too much)

If I remember correctly, at least with Complete Psionics you could play someone who was a lot more subtle than the generic wizard, never mind Dark Sun Defilers.
 

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2e will probably give you the most authentic Dark Sun experience, but you should probably run it with whatever system you feel comfortable with. At the end of the day it's gonna be YOU, not the rest of us who's gonna be stuck with it for the rest of the campaign. System is not essential IMO, as long as you manage to emulate the core elements, like having some semblance of "psionics" (even if it's 3e version of them or just wizards with "mind magic"). You might also have to tweak divine classes around the four classical elements (Air, Fire, Earth and Water), since all divine magic in Athas comes from the elements. Gladiators would probably be Barbarian/Fighters.

When it comes to Preserve vs Defilers, if you're using 3e rules, you could add an extra spell slot per spell level to arcane casters if they're Defilers rather than Preservers, and use the old 2e Dark Sun rules to determine area of vegetation destroyed based on spell level.

If you want more nuance, you could handle Defiler magic as an optional thing, where arcane casters could use either one, at the risk of becoming a full Defiler. With this option arcane casters are Preservers by default, but could choose to cast Defiling spells instead to get a +2 bonus to spell level/spell DC (or use a bonus spell slot per spell level), but destroy vegetation in the process (and face people's wrath). If PCs use defiler magic more than once in a day you could have them roll a Will Save vs spell DC each extra time to avoid becoming a Defiler. Once the character becomes a full defiler they lose the ability to cast Preserver spells normally, and must succeed on a Will Save vs spell DC to attempt it. If they successfully cast three Preserve spells in a row they regain the ability. Back and forward.
 

Gringnr

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For those who'd prefer 2e, what about it do you like? As much as I like S&W, I'd hate to hobble the setting by using mechanics that don't allow it to do its thing.

Also, would For Gold & Glory plus the Complete Psionics Handbook work OK for running DS as 2e? Or would I be better off buying legit 2e on the secondary market? I don't see physical reprints available at present.
 

Tommy Brownell

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I've read differing viewpoints on the 2e psionics, specifically as they relate to Dark Sun. Your thoughts?
It's been my favorite of the Psionic systems. I liked how easily it allowed for a full psionicist as well as having wild talents.

And they and Dark Sun were literally meant to work together. Psionics in later editions (including 5e, my preferred D&D) felt very much like they were grudgingly added because people who were fans of 2e's psionics wouldn't let it go until they got included.
 

Brock Savage

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I would probably run it with 2e, but I actually like 2e.

That said, I've hacked in lots of D&D stuff to 5e, so if you did go the S&W route, hacking Psionics in probably wouldn't be too difficult.
I feel exactly the same. Using the source material's OG 2e rules is probably best but I think 5e could easily work. A few years ago I was toying with the idea of running Dark Sun using 5e and after some research I concluded that the amount of effort to make it work wasn't too bad.
 

Ben Adams

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Because I have to: C&C and their Amazing Adventures psionic rules or Grey-Elf.com rules.

Also, for a more grim feeling the d100 family of games should work (OpenQuest can do it w/little issue). You just need to convert the beasts.

As for 5e it would be pretty simple as well. There are no sorcerers in Dark Sun (all arcane magic pulls from the environment) so I think the UA psionic rules would work fine, warlocks are your templars, and elemental origins for divine magic. Defilers get a 10% xp bonus or can pull spell level worth of HP from a nearby foe or something to that effect.

Or use sorcerers for the defilers (since they cast wildly w/little concern) and look at the numerous psionics on the DMGuild.
 

Gringnr

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I'm pretty lazy, and am looking for the least possible conversion. So obviously, 2e is the best answer. I'd still rather use OD&D than AD&D, but again, if that would be to the detriment of the setting, I might change my mind.

Speaking of 2e, would For Gold & Glory do a good job running DS? Are there Psionics in FG&G? If not, would the Psionics Handbook contain everything I needed to us FG&G to run DS?

Thanks for the input, y'all.
 

Tommy Brownell

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I'm pretty lazy, and am looking for the least possible conversion. So obviously, 2e is the best answer. I'd still rather use OD&D than AD&D, but again, if that would be to the detriment of the setting, I might change my mind.

Speaking of 2e, would For Gold & Glory do a good job running DS? Are there Psionics in FG&G? If not, would the Psionics Handbook contain everything I needed to us FG&G to run DS?

Thanks for the input, y'all.
The biggest issue I see with OD&D vs AD&D is settling the race/class issue. I don’t remember how big of a deal that would be, though, as it has been 25 years since I read Dark Sun.
 

Sosthenes

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2E psionics has two major advantages for Dark Sun, in my opinion: Lots of powers to choose from and something that feels quite different from regular magic. The power balance is a bit uneven, but I see this as a feature.
I wouldn't mind AD&D 2E itself, especially with the evened out and extended ability tables in the Dark Sun setting (no more percentile strength, everything goes to 20 at least). The bigger numeric spread make some of the player races feel more different from the average, and leaves more room for things like bone/stone weapons being worse than metal etc.

Although I'd also be tempted to play a more resource-oriented game with the PX1 for psionics. Advanced Labyrinth Lord or OSE without racial classes, probably. Sure one could hack S&W into that, too.
 

Ben Adams

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I think OD&D is harder to put in that setting w/out a decent amount of conversion. Basic Fantasy is a BECMI clone w/separate race & class that you could look at that.

If I remember correctly FG&G was basically 2e pulled into one book so w/the 2e psionics you should be fine.
 

Ben Adams

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Although I'd also be tempted to play a more resource-oriented game with the PX1 for psionics. Advanced Labyrinth Lord or OSE without racial classes, probably. Sure one could hack S&W into that, too.
Or that.
 

Voros

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I'm pretty lazy, and am looking for the least possible conversion. So obviously, 2e is the best answer. I'd still rather use OD&D than AD&D, but again, if that would be to the detriment of the setting, I might change my mind.

Speaking of 2e, would For Gold & Glory do a good job running DS? Are there Psionics in FG&G? If not, would the Psionics Handbook contain everything I needed to us FG&G to run DS?

Thanks for the input, y'all.

FG&G from everything I've heard is quite faithful to 2e so I think you'd be good with it, the complete psionics handbook (assuming FG&G doesn't include 2e psionics) and the Dark Sun psionics supplement The Will and the Way. Just ignore the convoluted psionics combat mini-systems in all psionic system versions (including 1e).

I feel you on wanting a more stripped down system to play Dark Sun but I think using S&W would require some thoughtful hacking to work well.

Two things to remember regarding DS: psionics are powerful and distinct from magic and the general power level in DS is higher than the D&D average, the monsters are strong and the PCs have the ability to advance to quite high levels and power themselves. I don't think S&W can model either of those things without some work.
 

Gringnr

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The biggest issue I see with OD&D vs AD&D is settling the race/class issue. I don’t remember how big of a deal that would be, though, as it has been 25 years since I read Dark Sun.
S&W Complete separates race/class, but I'm starting to think it may be best just to go with 2e.
 

Raleel

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and of course, if you'd like some Mythras :smile:
 

Gringnr

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Okay, so, now that I've pivoted to using 2e (or a facsimile) to run DS, I got to thinking about other 2e settings. Namely, Spelljammer and Planescape. Seeing as these are, in whole or in part, available as reprints, let me ask the 'Pub a question: What is essential to running each of these three settings? I'm not interested in a ton of power creep or metaplot, just enough to run it with the proper "feel".
 

opaopajr

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Honestly S&W is far closer to AD&D 2e than it is different. I just did a pdf refresher on both and most of the chargen charts are the same. You sacrifice Thief Skills personalization, and simplify the Saving Throw, but it is like at least 4/5 the same.

Now, IIRC, the single Saving Throw will be an issue especially if you run Dark Sun's added psionicist class. The 2e Saving Throws were class differentiated -- and devotion/sciences ("spells") targeted different saves -- which created class strengths & weaknesses vs specific dev/sci. Like many games it kept the casting in check by creating complexity to decode. Thankfully S&W has that old Saving Throw chart reproduced later on page 35, Blue book version.

DS original Psionics is a blackjack system with crit and botches. The telepathy stuff had a 3 key code minigame (Tangents) to keep getting in others' mind challenging and discreet. DS Will & The Way supplement expanded on this blackjack system and added more dev/sci (spells). Involved, discrete (unintegrated), and quirky, but has its own functional flavor.

Players Option: Skills & Powers did a simplified almost roshambo/janken/rock-paper-scissors game of War until one side ran out of Psi Points... you lost some subtlety in the simplicity. Also one could read the replacement for Tangents rules overly generous and then non-psi seem helplessly prone to psi-users -- it was sloppy, ambiguous wording. Simpler, integrated (akin to combat atk vs AC), and direct, but can ride roughshod over a campaign due to seeming power creep.

There is a reason I have learned to be more discriminating about the praise of 'elegant' and 'integrated' design. Extra system entanglements and reduced operative compexity comes with its own costs and challenges. It is reminiscent of S&W simplifying Saving Throws making the psionicist (spellcaster) minigame easier. Choose with open eyes (paladin would seem extra strong using S&W single save, from my first glance).

I think you could port it into S&W without much trouble. Just curate your desired feel.
 

Gringnr

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Honestly S&W is far closer to AD&D 2e than it is different. I just did a pdf refresher on both and most of the chargen charts are the same. You sacrifice Thief Skills personalization, and simplify the Saving Throw, but it is like at least 4/5 the same.

Now, IIRC, the single Saving Throw will be an issue especially if you run Dark Sun's added psionicist class. The 2e Saving Throws were class differentiated -- and devotion/sciences ("spells") targeted different saves -- which created class strengths & weaknesses vs specific dev/sci. Like many games it kept the casting in check by creating complexity to decode. Thankfully S&W has that old Saving Throw chart reproduced later on page 35, Blue book version.

DS original Psionics is a blackjack system with crit and botches. The telepathy stuff had a 3 key code minigame (Tangents) to keep getting in others' mind challenging and discreet. DS Will & The Way supplement expanded on this blackjack system and added more dev/sci (spells). Involved, discrete (unintegrated), and quirky, but has its own functional flavor.

Players Option: Skills & Powers did a simplified almost roshambo/janken/rock-paper-scissors game of War until one side ran out of Psi Points... you lost some subtlety in the simplicity. Also one could read the replacement for Tangents rules overly generous and then non-psi seem helplessly prone to psi-users -- it was sloppy, ambiguous wording. Simpler, integrated (akin to combat atk vs AC), and direct, but can ride roughshod over a campaign due to seeming power creep.

There is a reason I have learned to be more discriminating about the praise of 'elegant' and 'integrated' design. Extra system entanglements and reduced operative compexity comes with its own costs and challenges. It is reminiscent of S&W simplifying Saving Throws making the psionicist (spellcaster) minigame easier. Choose with open eyes (paladin would seem extra strong using S&W single save, from my first glance).

I think you could port it into S&W without much trouble. Just curate your desired feel.
Thank you for that, great answer.

I will point out that "single saving throw" in S&W isn't exactly what it says on the tin. Classes still get a bonus or two here and there.

I've ordered the Complete Psionics Handbook, along with For Gold and Glory, and Eldritch Wizardry. Cover all the bases, y'know?
 

Voros

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Okay, so, now that I've pivoted to using 2e (or a facsimile) to run DS, I got to thinking about other 2e settings. Namely, Spelljammer and Planescape. Seeing as these are, in whole or in part, available as reprints, let me ask the 'Pub a question: What is essential to running each of these three settings? I'm not interested in a ton of power creep or metaplot, just enough to run it with the proper "feel".

The original Planescape boxset and the excellent Uncaged: Faces of Sigil supplement will do you fine for PS, although if you dig a particular Plane the various boxsets for specific sets of planes of Law, Chaos, etc. are fun too.

For Spelljammer, again the main boxset and the excellent Rock of Bral supplement will give you plenty to work with.
 

Gringnr

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Problem solved lol

8c7f34.jpeg
 

opaopajr

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Nice, Justen Brown finally got 'For Gold & Glory' out and with a delightful "paladins & princesses" cover. :thumbsup: It's 2e (very) adjacent and the cover really does match how that edition can pull off that tone. I am happy for him.
 

Venger Satanis

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I'm biased, of course, but recommend mixing Dark Sun with Cha'alt and running it with Crimson Dragon Slayer D20. Cha'alt has a super easy, rules-light psionic system included.
 

Gringnr

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Awesome, thanks! I ordered a reprint of TSR's Eldritch Wizardry, thinking it would be the most compatible with S&W. But, I also ordered For Gold & Glory (a 2e clone), along with a used copy of the 2e Psionics Handbook, along with the Dark Sun reprint, of course. C&C is what pulled me back into gaming after a long absence. I drifted away from it, but I'll check this out!
I'm biased, of course, but recommend mixing Dark Sun with Cha'alt and running it with Crimson Dragon Slayer D20. Cha'alt has a super easy, rules-light psionic system included.
I'd rather have my balls smashed flat with a wooden mallet.
 

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My love for race-as-class aside... I don't think Dark Sun (or Planescape) are good settings for it. I would still recommend a B/X-based game (with a Companion) for Dark Sun, but I'd go with one of the clones that splits race and class and converting the races from the boxed set. I'll second the recommendation of PX1 for wild talents, though I think you can take or leave the Psionicist class.

Rules for arcane magic are pretty subjective... but for old school D&D, I'd recommend the Preservers & Defilers rules from Chapter 6 of Player's Option: Spells & Magic. This has the added benefit of letting you really tailor spellcasting classes to your game.

If you're looking at Planescape and Spelljammer...

Planescape
is another one where I really think you need to separate race from class. You need the campaign setting, you need The Planewalker's Handbook... and from there, it depends on what you're trying to focus on. If you want to focus on Sigil, I'd recommend The Factol's Manifesto; otherwise, I don't have a lot of good advice for you. I will also heavily recommend Player's Option: Skills & Powers here, along with Dragon #235, to keep all your prime and planar races feeling infinitely varied; for classes, you might want to stick to using what's available for your clone of choice and carefully curating your own third-party stuff. Otherwise... trying to allow your classes to keep pace with your races is a bottomless rabbit hole.

Spelljammer I am much, much more familiar with. I will recommend the the campaign setting and the "player's guide" (Complete Spacefarer's Handbook) right off, The War Captain's Companion. Spelljammer, I recommend going straight for the Rules Cyclopedia and Oriental Adventures and I simply don't have a Classic D&D compatible replacement for something like Complete Book of Humanoids or Savage Species, so the best I can do is recommend the former and make your own race-classes out of it.

I don't like using the Radiant Triangle (Realmspace/Greyspace/Krynnspace) but if you do... those three sourcebooks are all legitimately very good.

Finally... I'm pretty much always going to recommend the entire Player's Option series if I can get away with it... but that really, really goes for Spelljammer where you're going to be constantly churning out weird new subraces and obscure niche spellcasting traditions. Player's Option: Combat & Tactics also gives you some more basic martial arts rules to go with the more fantastic OA rules, and firearms rules.
 

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What I would do for Dark Sun:

Pick between Mythras (come on, you knew that would be coming...:grin:) and my own hack of Cepheus Engine, which is yet to get a tentative name...but it definitely needs to have a robust close combat system.
Surprisingly to some, I might well go for the latter:tongue:!

Anyway, further actions would be the same in both systems: make up a brand of Magic(k) that uses MP, but requires you to destroy the environment to recover them, and destroys the environment while casting. Feel like it's double-dipping? Why yes, it is...they don't call them Defilers for nothing:devil:!
But unless you go there, you're stuck with Psionics (Cepheus) or Psionics/Folk Magic/Ascetics (Mythras) for all kinds of supernatural effects, which are much less powerful. The only bonus is that MP lost for those recover naturally:shade:.
 
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