Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rehash Redux, Dark Sun style

My last entry about my staunch opposition to the resurrection of long-dead franchises is about to be contradicted in a very poignant fashion. I spent so much time talking about how things that are dead should stay dead, that IPs should not be brought back from the grave, and so on... and then DARK SUN was announced. Anyone who knows me at all is well aware of how much I love the Dark Sun campaign setting, and just how overwhelmed by excitement I was when I heard that the 2010 campaign setting from Wizards of the Coast would be Dark Sun.

Yes, I previously have cited Dark Sun as a specific example of why dead or dying IPs should be left alone. My stance on the Revised Campaign Setting box from 2e Dungeons and Dragons remains the same: it was a good idea in some of its mechanics, but the strict adherence to the (admittedly pretty good) Prism Pentad as canon utterly ruined the setting. Instead of gritty, post-apocalyptic fantasy, we got pseudo-Star Wars (defilers as Sith and preservers as Jedi), among other questionable design decisions. Also, I am aware that the situation surrounding Dark Sun's impending return is eerily similar to that of the Fallout franchise. Like Fallout, Dark Sun has been acquired by a new company (Bethesda:Fallout::WOTC:Dark Sun) in between iterations. Like Fallout, Dark Sun had two versions produced by its original company, with a lengthy gap of time between the last release and the newest one. And yes, like Fallout, Dark Sun holds a lofty place in my own opinion, making any attempt to re-release it seem almost futile.

Unlike with Fallout (I boycotted Fallout 3 and will never play it out of principle), though, I find reason for optimism in the re-release of Dark Sun next year. Of particular note is the fact that Bill Slaviscek and Rich Baker are the lead designers on the project. Though they are not the original creators of Dark Sun (Troy Denning and Tim Brown have long since moved on), they are two of the contributors to the setting that produced material that actually fit the tone and purpose of the setting -- books such as Valley of Dust and Fire and Merchant House of Amketch are certainly my favorite 2e accessories, if not the best ones produced. The fact that they are heading the project gives me great reason to trust that the original boxed set's tone will be preserved (no cheesy Dark Sun pun intended).

That faithfulness to the original boxed set is perhaps the most important reason that I have for optimism toward Dark Sun 4e. James Wyatt, in an interview shortly after the announcement of Dark Sun 4e, emphatically stated that the campaign setting would be based off of the original boxed set, with the Prism Pentad as a possible outcome of the material presented. Since I feel that the designers' adherence to the Prism Pentad late in the original run effectively ruined the setting, it's encouraging to know that the same mistake won't be made this time around. Also, the fact that there will only be one product made for Dark Sun -- the Campaign Guide -- gives me reassurance that the setting won't be screwed up later on. (This is all in stark contrast to Fallout 3, which totally FUBARed the setting and kept piling on the mistakes. Of course, the public ate it up, much like they did with resurrected Family Guy -- then again, they are wrong. :) )

I'm usually not very optimistic about resurrected franchises, but come on: it's Dark Sun. I don't know to what degree the setting will still be the same. Mechanically, I'm certain that it's going to be quite different. I think a lot of the new classes and rules in 4e are very compatible with the setting, but I'm more concerned with the way that the mechanics influence changes in the setting. After all, Dark Sun 2e was pretty heavily influenced by its admittedly unique mechanics. Despite any reservations, I'm mostly optimistic -- at the very least, I'll be able to get some cool new Dark Sun miniatures.

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