Conversion Project Outline


Dark Sun Conversion Rules Discussion

I’m restructuring my previous attempts at a 5E conversion.


  • Start a discussion on how to convert the Dark Sun setting to 5th Edition
  • Propose ideas to deal with various aspects especially Races, Classes and Psionics
  • Improve ideas with feedback
  • Combine ideas into a complete set of conversion rules (open source PDF’s)

This could eventually result in more:

  • An rules set with a semi-official Dark Sun status (including copyright / trademark content like Thri-Kreen)
  • Updated versions based on feedback from WotC and gamers playtesting. Eventually resulting in an official setting.

Some parts focus mainly on mechanics (aka crunch) like the original Rule Book, while the other chapters focus more on the story and role-playing aspects (aka fluff) like the Wanderer’s Journal.

I intend to create rules that fit with 5E in a modular way, so each subset of rules can be combined with the regular rules or other modules. I may split each module into three parts, Quick Rules, Detailed Sections and Notes.

Chapter 1: Character Creation

This can be split into six parts:

  • Ability Scores
  • Race: Size
  • Dark Sun setting bonus
  • Race: Special Abilities
  • Subrace (Origin)
  • Background (Profession)

Chapter 2: Character Progression

  • Deconstructed classes: benefits in a point based system

  • Mixing classes: Main Class and Subclass

    • Multiclassing and variants
    • Conversion of old editions
  • First level: saves, skills and other proficiencies

  • Character Level

    • Psionic Power Points
    • Ability Scores, Feats and Wild Talents
  • Hit points

  • Starting level and Character Creation

  • Progression

  • High level characters and Advanced Beings

Chapter 3: Game Mechanics

Basic and Variant rules for Overland Travel, Fatigue and Hitpoints, Combat, Weapons, Armor and Encumbrance.

Chapter 4: Setting Conversion

  • Races of Athas
  • Classes and Society
  • Timeline
  • Tyr Region
  • Magic

Chapter 5: Magic and Psionics

  • Revision of spell and power lists
  • Arcane magic and Schools
  • Divine magic and Domains
  • Psionics and Disciplines
  • Other magical abilities and feats

Chapter 6: Dungeon Master Guidance

  • Campaign themes
  • Adventures, Stories and Campaign hooks
  • Rule variants and extra options for (house) rules

The first chapter, Character Creation, contains all steps before class selection. It rebalances all choices to a fixed total point value and includes a way to properly portray size.

This setup should result in balanced characters where players choose scores, race and background based on what they want to play. It should give options to optimize a character without encouraging min-maxing.

The second chapter rewrites character progression, combining the benefits of classes in 5E (with subclasses) with the flexibility of multiclassing in previous editions. This system integrates psionics in an elegant way. Any class, or elements of one, can be converted in an easy, flexible and balanced way. For magic users mixing classes no longer ruins the character (trading high caster levels for low mundane levels) and mundane characters can easily add some magic or psionics allowing them to stay relevant at high and epic levels.

Later chapters are still (or even more) a work in progress. Various expansions can be integrated and the setting can be improved a lot by including how various game mechanics reflect on the world. Often settings have a focus on a very limited number of extremely high power individuals among a huge irrelevant mundane mass. What if those masses where all at least medium level and psionics really common? Anything minor to typical DnD can still have a huge impact on society.



To keep posts short, I’ll post ideas, reasoning and alternatives as notes.

DnD can be seen as various games in one. Like OD&D, one could split it in various level ranges, like in 4-6 leveled tiers.

At low level survival itself is a challenge, even traveling isn’t a simple endeavor. With most NPC’s and monsters a lot tougher, this can be deadly but rewarding for resourceful play.

At medium level conflicts, whether combat or intrigue, are still though. Most opponents are of similar power, and their “bosses” really ARE bosses if build as a character. Especially combined with a character tree, mixing different level characters, this can become a totally different game. DM’s don’t have to feel protective of characters as much, and losing and having to replace a minion may enforce the setting’s harsh vibe.

At high level the challenges change again, with even more emphasis on role-playing, intrigue and mysteries. High numbers of medium level opponents still pose a threat, and there are always bigger fish.

Dark Sun is a rare setting that seems made for epic level play. Advanced Beings are cool but it’s a waste to have elaborate mechanics just for NPC’s. A flexible system can really make these characters unique and fix inevitable balance issues of a one-class system.

A set of 20 fixed levels is impossible to be balanced on every level. I feel every level should add something interesting and preferably give a choice. Most play is probably around level 5-10, making half the levels irrelevant.

For now I would focus on a character level up to 12, with 6 levels in subclasses. For newer players classes could split into sets of 4 levels (so two subclasses) that can be combined in an easy way, like 3E prestige classes. More advanced groups can create or modify their own classes and combine them in any way.

With DM’s permission, one should be able to lose and swap levels over time.

While I have ideas on how to handle advanced beings, higher magic and planes I first want a solid foundation to build these on. The core concept will be advancing clerics, druids and mages (with at least 4 levels of psion), through a pre metamorphosis phase. This add caster levels beyond 12 while combining psionics with passive abilities (like monk and druid longevity and resistances).

With this preparation stage, the actual metamorphosis steps (17+) can stay balanced in points while adding everything an epic character should have.

Templars and characters with fewer or no caster levels can still also gain these abilities by advancing their psion class (up to 12). This may unlock a similar ascension (inspired by the uncarnate prestige class and monks evolving into outsiders). There may be other forms of ascension, changing one’s mortal race into something else (demonic, fey or undead).

With the conversion of a Magic: the Gathering setting to DnD, one may expect rules for Planewalkers that have some similarities to advanced beings and demi-gods.