Current trends in Western society could mean the end of Dark Sun

Basically - Dark Sun has slavery and other triggers that makes it unlikely that this gritty setting will ever see the light of day again. Or if it does, it will be toned down and won’t really be the same setting.

Sad!

4 Likes

I have seen the same concerns and even people talking about doing away with the slavery aspect of Dark Sun. I find this very odd.
I could understand if slavery was depicted as a good thing, but it is not. It is very clear that slavery is very, very bad.

4 Likes

While I agree with your logic Brent, the current atmosphere isn’t one where logic prevails. It’s a mob mentality.

Despite slavery, serfdom and indentured servitude being hallmarks of human civilisations until the advent of the Industrial Revolution, its currently only being interpreted through the prism of the Atlantic slave trade.

I unfortunately agree with Redking: we won’t see DS back any time soon. Even if we do, I’m not sure it would bear any resemblance to the setting we know.

4 Likes

We might not see anything official, or we might see something official we don’t want to use, but Dark Sun won’t end anytime soon. Fans have kept it alive for years and even without official sanction it’ll continue.

I’ve got a campaign world that has been going nearly non-stop since 91. The DM has changed (to me) and there’s only 3 of the original group left and it’s dropped to once every couple months, but there’s been a half dozen long term groups that have been around for a year or more, and easily as many short term groups that have played in the world for a few sessions in various spin off adventures.

I still get at least 1 or 2 new players a year and and that’s with me being stubborn about sticking to 3.5 rules and not advancing beyond it. I know of folks who have spun off into entirely different engines or even made up their own. A decade ago a few of us went into the desert and LARPed Dark Sun.

Dark Sun is here. My grand kids play it and bring their friends into it. I expect I’ll be long dead before it’s reaches it’s end.

4 Likes

I’m not too concern with Western-society and AD&D. In any Dark Sun game I run, there’s gonna be slaves, debauchery, cruelty and betrayals that would make the Romans, Sulla and Augusta cringe.

5 Likes

Progress in media (whether gaming, books, or tv shows/movies) towards inclusivity and away from lenses centered on the power fantasies of adolescent white boys unable to acknowledge their own internalized bigotry is a good thing. In my opinion. I also feel that that opinion is on the right side of history.

To the original post? It’s probably more than likely that our corporate overlords would rather shy away from a world with ever-present slavery for the time being, especially when they have all those MtG worlds to beat more cash out of. Money crunchers aren’t going to care about nuance, and with the pandemic the economy is pretty much fucked for the time being. Anything we get from Has Bros of the Coast is going to be a safe bet that plays to vanilla consumerism, with some lip service to progressivism on top for flavor and PR. Sooo . . . probably more forgotten realms stuff. Or something related to dragons.

However, I also agree that it’s important to remember that Dark Sun is an odd duck in more than a few obvious ways. Consider the novels: the likeliest “typical” hero is Agis (read: straight white male). And he gets ganked and ultimately doesn’t have much of a lasting effect on the setting. He was also an unrepentant slave-owner until the shock of his dwarf slave’s betrayal made him reconsider. Instead, the primary “hero” protagonist of the setting is a mixed-race woman. That’s pretty progressive considering fantasy narratives in the 90s. Additionally, the other “main hero” type we have is Rikus, who’s also introduced as a mixed-race slave. And who “saves the world” from Rajaat (aka “fantasy hitler the the nth degree”)? A mixed-race child with the power of his faith. Who’s the (pretty much only) other straight white male in the main characters? Tithian. We all know what a fine upstanding citizen of humanity HE is.

Athas is rife with slavery and racism and the male gaze is literally baked into its foundation (desert planet vs ice world, per the word of god). It’s definitely problematic in a lot of ways. But it also—as pointed out above by others—bakes no beans over whether or not the terrible aspects of slavery and oppression are bad. It’s fundamentally a power fantasy about overcoming oppression and callous environmental destruction: the war’s over and the bad guys won. Nobody else is going to save the day. Now what are YOU going to do about it? (and ok, yeah, prism pentad totally messed this one up, I know guys)

There are definitely some issues with the setting, but it was also incredibly progressive for its time and remains compelling in a lot of ways. I think people bemoaning a mob mentality and cancel culture are overreacting and crying wolf. I’d rather deal with and have the tough conversations where we discuss the problematic things we like than clutch my pearls and complain about how the mob is destroying the things i love. Why? Because that’s what it’s going to take for my daughter and countless other friends to eventually be able to enjoy and feel welcomed into a hobby and game that I enjoy without feeling like they have to get along to get by or accept blatantly not-ok behaviors, stereotypes, or –4 str bullshit.

1 Like

Terrible. These white boys should be thrown in prison. It’s better than the alternative.

Very important to be on the right side of history. People on the wrong side of history tend to get stomped.

Don’t forget that Agis is cuckolded throughout the Prism Pentad, so maybe he would fit in here in 2020.

Yes. But she’s a mixed race ‘white’ half elf. She’s got that white privilege whether she likes it or not.

True. Without those white males who would be the actors in all the TV ads for home alarm systems.

Cancel culture is a new term for something that has existed for a very long time. The difference is that it’s very visible now.

Conversation presupposes the possibility that someone might object or have a different perspective. What you are proposing is a hegemonic perspective that paints objectors as evil at worst, or unconscious bigots at best.

This reminds me of how bitcoin was said to be racist because Black people refused to use it. At at time when there was literally zero barrier to entry.

I don’t agree with your perspective. The map is not the territory.

3 Likes

I agree.

We will have to disagree completely on this. Everything Naggarmakam said is correct.

Well here’s a spicy topic if ever there was one, but I’ll bite.

Dark Sun is a rather gritty setting that includes a lot material that the twitter mobs would probably condemn. I also think it is a common mistake to believe a more inclusive society and the petty fair weather nature of cancel culture type nonsense are one and the same. Me condemning one is not me condemning both. Unfortunately it does look like D&D is moving towards being as “safe” as possible. This is reminding me of the satanic panic days of old and much like then I don’t know how this story will end.

So with all of that out of the way what does that mean for Dark Sun? Well 4e was trying to be as appealing to new audiences as possible and even that edition gave us some loving treatment of Dark Sun while 3e gave us a couple half baked magazine articles. That alone tells me that it’s difficult at best to predict the future of Dark Sun. Now I have seen people try and import Dark Sun ideas into a lot of D&D style games. Stars/Worlds Without Number has seen a lot of discussion regarding its ease of playing Dark Sun with and lord knows there’s a lot of other systems that have gotten the DS treatment. Hell making a thread to list all the systems with Dark Sun fan support might be a rather good idea.

Whether or not wizards supports Dark Sun I can’t say, but we’ve seen freaking Mystara continue getting huge support from fans and they have done some amazing work. Wizards has ignored Mystara for DECADES and that had nothing to do with politics. Whether or not Dark Sun sees official material in the future I am confidant that if Mystara, Greyhawk, and Blackmoor can continue to kick ass, so can Dark Sun.

5 Likes

Agis and Tithian are white? I may not be up on current PC culture, but are Middle Eastern peoples considered white?

3 Likes

Tithian strikes me as Middle Eastern, Agis may or may not be White. Whether they are White or not is not the point. The point is to frame everything in the most uncharitable light possible. So if Agis is White, its just a manifestation of white supremacy. If Agis is not White, then the author is poorly representing PoC perspectives, which is also a manifestation of white supremacy.

Likewise, if you are White and refuse to date a PoC, you are a white supremacist. But if you are White and do date PoC, you are also a white supremacist. The entire point of this is to make sure there is no escape route except for putting on the bully uniform yourself and joining the mob.

3 Likes

Cards on the table, I self-identify as a very progressive person. Not exactly what you could call liberal, but to most outside viewpoints I’d certainly fall into a very far left category. I also work in a very conservative community and as a result of my job encounter and handle a massive amount of far right propaganda and political messaging. Within that community I tend and try to keep my head down and “get along to get by” and am able to do that because as a white dude I totally “fit in” and most people there don’t give me a second look (oh hey look, white privilege!). But there is rampant racism and misogyny on display every day. Within that community I have very little influence and there is not much I can do to counter the toxic culture without endangering my job. That being said, I have a young daughter and a teenage step-daughter. I have many friends who have small children themselves. Many of those friends fall into the LGBT range, as do some of their children. I am invested in doing what I can to create a better world for everyone, and try to do all I can specifically to create a better world for my daughter. I want to be able to play this game (and others) with my children, and not have to expend nearly as much energy as I currently do convincing them that they can also enjoy these things when their peers and society at large are so often telling them it’s “not for girls” or shaming them for liking “boy stuff.”

It is a fact that “nerd culture” can be very—to put it charitable—unwelcoming to girls and LGBT individuals. If you don’t agree that to be the case or claim there is “zero barrier to entry” to enjoy this genre of entertainment and media, I would argue you’re either (at best) ignorant, or have massive unexamined privilege, or are straight up lying (whether to yourself or those around you I don’t know and don’t care). For that matter, presupposing the possibility of conversation ACTUALLY presupposes the possibility that both sides are willing to argue/speak in good faith and consider alternate viewpoints.

I’m not seeing a lot of good faith here. Mostly I’m seeing a lot of “I dunno what the big deal is / This doesn’t bother or affect me” (which to be totally fair I pretty much totally expect to hear and am only a little disappointed by) or straight up vitriol that reads like alt-right propaganda talking points making a ton of straw man arguments and deliberately missing the point to score cheap shots in a totally different game. I legit thought it was meant to be a caricature at first.

I think this might be my last attempt to engage in good faith: you have to consider context. This game setting was created in the early 90s. There is plenty of problematic content in it, baked right into its central conceit (and real quick, the setting is a hodgepodge or cribbed cultures, but the representation and art makes it clear that Agis and Tithian are white. So is Sadira; but—obviously—none of the novels or material really address real world racial dynamics or intersectional privilege. It’s a fantasy world viewed through a white western lens, aimed at a white male adolescent audience. In the 90s.). But guess what? Pretty much everything that exists in the realm of media has problematic content. Does that mean we should just burn all our shit and throw our hands into the air and join whatever prevailing groupthink is currently on top?

NO. It means we should address and discuss problematic content to understand WHY it is problematic. Is that a personal attack on you? Whoever you happen to be? NO. It’s simply what is required to face down and address systemic problems in our world.

I enjoy Dark Sun. A lot. I’ve been into it ever since I saw the original boxed set back in 91 and bought it with my allowance and spent all summer digesting it as a child after my mother died. I was highly active on the old wizards boards, ICQ, and AIM and contributed a lot to discussions that informed how a lot of the 3e content shook out (under a different name, then). I have invested thousands and thousands of hours into this game over the span of decades. If there is something dark sun, including apocrypha, I have owned and/or read it (with the exception of some of the old Ral Partha minis). Like many of you have. I say this just to point out that I care about this all. I care about it, but I also have ZERO worry about some far-right bogeyman mob coming after and dictating what I am allowed to like. Will Dark Sun change? Sure. It’s done it before, and it will do so again. When 4e rolled around a lot of people were worried about what it meant for Dark Sun. And yet? I actually think 4e Dark Sun was great and the setting presentation was top notch (except the half-giant: I still don’t think anything after 2e has really captured the proper half-giant essence).

All that being said, if the community here is unwilling to engage in good faith and actually address (or at the very least acknowledge) problematic aspects of this media we all care about instead of making stark black-and-white statements catering to overblown senses of self-martyrdom, then I’m out. I have limited time and resources, and I’d rather just go cultivate my own community.

With blackjack.

And hookers.

3 Likes

Do something productive like support a Universal Basic Income. Turning Dark Sun into the New Warriors helps no one.

Or you could simply be wrong about this. I’ll eat my hat if you’ve examined that possibility

One of those times when you gaze into the mirror, and the figure in the mirror gazes back.

I don’t trust you to be a fair arbiter of this. How many foreign countries have you lived in? How many foreign, non-European languages can you speak, read and write? For me its three. I want to know that you actually know what you are talking about, and simply aren’t parroting back things you’ve heard in the media and the education system. I am happy to admit that what you are saying is the hegemonic standard, however. I really wonder about this town full of white supremacists that you live in. Why not just expose them? They’ll be canceled, from the mayor and everyone down from him.

2 Likes

Nagga, you’re confusing good faith and reasonableness with agreement. Its perfectly possible for people with opposing viewpoints to hold them out of sincere and ethical beliefs.

I am going to take issue with your comments about nerd culture and being unwelcome to girls/women and LGBT people. Yes, historically D&D has been very much a male dominated game. That’s because it grew out of historical wargaming, which certainly back in the 70s (and I’d argue now too) was almost exclusively male.

We’ve come a long way from the chainmail bikini days of fantasy art. Would I like to see more women in the game? Absolutely. Do I think WotC’s wokery is the right way to achieve that? No.

As a happily married gay man, I’ve never found D&D to even register for me on the sexual orientation front. I’ve played gay characters and straight characters. No one has ever batted an eyelid nor have I felt obliged to conform to some sort of Cis Hetero stereotype in either the characters I’ve played or the games I’ve run. Am I fortunate in that I don’t game with bigoted c***s? Possibly. Maybe I’m just a good judge of character (hah!). Or perhaps people who play D&D are more open minded than WotC give them credit for. The very concept of race, gender identity and sexual orientation rather fall by the wayside when a 60’ dragon’s munching on your town after all.

On the subject of race, the Orc strawman being held up by WotC doesn’t hold water. D&D does have a race problem to my autistic mind. It’s that it uses the word ‘race’ when it should be using the word ‘species’. Orcs, Elves, Dwarves et al aren’t human so the real world word we use for different ethnicities in the human race shouldn’t be used for these various fantasy species.

One last point: Neurodiversity. I’m autistic, diagnosed in my early thirties. I grew up playing D&D with at least 2 other people who are on the spectrum. I can recognise some of the same behaviours in some of my current players. Being autistic, I don’t understand people. I also don’t understand discriminatory behaviour. I know plenty of people, of all races and genders who are absolute douches. Their ethnic background, gender, language etc are entirely irrelevant to that. It’s entirely possible (and worthy of a psychological paper or two I’d wager) that people with autism particularly are drawn to a game where they can shut out the real world, give rein to their imaginations, and not be subjected to the abuse and torment that I was as a kid for being different. D&D kept me going through school. It equipped me with a formidable team of friends. It’s broadened my horizons and improved my handwriting (left-handed too!).

In my autistic opinion, the entire human race (yes, ALL of us) are little more than a bunch of clothed apes hitting each other with rocks. Or swords. Or fireballs, if we’re playing D&D.

*Note: edited for spelling.

2 Likes

Not sure how on topic this point of mine will be, but on the point of chainmail bikinis I’ve always wondered if you have men running around in nothing but a loincloth, boots, maybe a harness, and absolutely sculpted physique… isn’t that no different from the chainmail bikini? Both are over the top and impractical, existing for rule of cool/sexy while neither is a good idea to wear in the desert. The way I saw it was there’s eye candy for everyone, so I didn’t see the harm.

That being said I’m not a fan of either trope, I just don’t mind them at all. Personally I find wearing a little more to be more attractive/interesting unless the character is going for an especially wild look, like the barbarian berserkers who supposedly charged men wearing nothing but a pelt (might be hearsay, might not be, but fantasy is built on hearsay).

Either way I do think the fetish armor and hodgepodge look of gladiators is pretty iconic to Dark Sun, much like it is with Conan or John Carter. I’d say emphasizing the gladiator or savage barbarian aesthetics is the best way to maintain the look of Dark Sun without getting too many complaints. But to be honest I think Dark Sun already does that. Still 4e was able to maintain a lot of the aesthetic of the setting more or less (I’m ignoring goliaths and dragonborn) so I consider that a good sign.

2 Likes

"It is a fact that “nerd culture” can be very—to put it charitable—unwelcoming to girls and LGBT individuals. " The most important word here is CAN. Lots of things/people CAN be great or bad or whatever. I’ve even go so far as to say “nerd culture” IS OFTEN uncharitable/unwelcoming to certain groups.

So what? It can also be cool/welcoming, and even OFTEN IS. Your Mileage May Very.

I live in a small-ish town in Michigan. A game store opened in town for the first time since '89 a few years ago. It’s run by a 50yr old dude with a scraggly beard, and filled with white guys in their 20’s - 40’s. I played DnD/Pathfinder and X-Wing there for a while, then stopped going. Because they were jerks? No, because family obligations kept me from blowing that much time in the store. Those people are awesome.

Players’ wives eventually started coming out to the store and and even DM-ing games. When i brought my daughters and nieces out to play X-wing, the response was: “Cool, why not bring them to Pathfinder night too?”

Just because YOUR town/gaming scene seems/is full jerks doesn’t NECESSARILY mean that the whole national/global scene is too.

4 Likes

Going ahead Dark Sun is absolutely going to have a hard time with slavery so prominent in its storyline. It would not surprise me if it was not revitalized for that very reason. However, I think there is a lot that can be explored with a good GM guiding the way, but anyone who has run a campaign will tell you that it is hard to do Dark Sun justice.
Personally I think there is some really smart world building in there that makes it worth it. First, unlike most medieval settings which ignore slavery and feudalism, DS puts it front and center. If you want to play the game you are going to have to work with slavery and economic injustice. This is not going to be a vacation at Ren Fest. In good hands that can be really well done. Adding in Muls as a race specifically bred for slavery pushes that even further, and ensures that we are going to get uncomfortable in our white feelings.
That discomfort is good, and a good GM will drive that home. Like many here I would love to see more content for DS officially produced, but I get it. I love a setting with Psionics, slavery, and extremely low magic and I don’t know which one is more offensive to getting more content. Considering how psionics has always been an afterthought since its inception I am pretty sure that is the biggest problem.

2 Likes

Or to put it another way. Dark Sun is the only setting I know of that specifically asserts the economic injustice at hand in fantasy settings and begs the player to destroy that system. It does that by never pretending it doesn’t exist. That is kind of important.

6 Likes

I believe it will be a long while before anything from WOTC comes out for DS. WOTC is already facing cancel culture and introducing a setting with anything that can be considered controversial probably scares them.
I’d love to see an Asian or African setting, but if they don’t get it perfect, they’re going to get crapped on. Of course, not including an African or Asian setting will also get them crapped on. WOTC’s official settings are “too white,” a complaint I often see on Twitter, but if they try to do something that isn’t based on European settings, WOTC are racists because they got it “wrong”.
We’re not going to see 5e Dark Sun for a long while, if at all.

3 Likes

The whole situation is tedious.

I’ve been a forum dweller for over 20 years. The injection of politics into various hobby and discussion forums has derailed the original purpose of the forums, and made discussions uncivil. I’ve seen forums self destruct because the admin (albeit a newer admin who was handed the reins) got woke so he took down the forum and deleted years of archives. I’ve been a member of forums that no longer fulfill their original purpose, but are now dedicated to fighting ‘white privilege’. When I see that form of politics menacing Dark Sun/D&D as well, I correctly perceive that this hobby is going to be ruined if it goes down this path.

The thing is that these people can’t go it alone. If we decide to walk away, WotC cannot sustain itself. I doubt any of those people making demands on Twitter actually buy much product. They didn’t buy any Star Wars toys and action figures of Rey and the other characters from the new Star Wars movies either. For this reason they have to bully and cajole us instead of letting us go our own way.

3 Likes