Contemporary rationale for banning certain classes in DS 3E

Here on LISTSERVE. I am going through all the old material to try and figure out why certain decisions were made, like the decision to ban the soulknife, sorcerer, monk and so on. As I learn more, I will update this thread with more links and quotes.

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Heh. We made a soulknife for Faces of the Dead Lands (one of the Undying Guardians of Nagarvos).

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It’s the PrC Soulknife from Appendix 1. Not that it is necessarily a bad thing. The baseclass Soulknife is pretty lame. Not even full BAB. To his credit, Bruce Cordell provided an update of sorts in Hyperconscious by giving them full BAB.

I think it primarily was to ensure that more people could play, so you didn’t have to have a bunch of other books. Just the core + books.

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Barbarian, which was an early ban but thankfully was reversed, is open gaming content. Ditto banned Sorcerer, Soulknife and Monk. All core only. In any event, the team could not use WotC content outside of core due to the agreement with WotC to publish content for Dark Sun.

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Justifications I’ve seen/heard for not using Monk and Soulknife (as a full 20 lvl base class) seem super legit: basically, they both completely mess up the “junk weapons” trope of Dark Sun.

Who needs a steel dagger if you can kill someone with your bare hands (or mindblade).


Yah because wizards, psions, clerics, druids, and templars can’t already kill people without weapons. 5 base classes that can kill people without shitty weapons is cool, but adding one more is a problem.

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But casters are EXPECTED and narratively balanced to kill folks w/o weapons and armor.

Weapon use in DS is and has to be balanced in regards to risk/reward with weapons and armor. Doing a fighter or gladiator’s role better than they can, without dealing with crummy weapons or the hassles of armor breaks one of the game’s tropes and would logically almost competely replace those classes very quickly.

Similar things can be said of Sorcerers relative to Wizards.

I’m you and everyone else can/will have plenty of examples and arguments about how those things aren’t completely true or don’t have to be, but that’s beside the point.

One of the things that setting design/development has to concern itself with how it’s decisions will make the setting feel and what it means for everyone who looks at the product, leaving individual DM’s free to do whatever they want from there.

Any discussion about why did/didn’t include a class has nothing to do with what you or i can or should do in our games.


That was one of the justifications. It is thin gruel considering that psioncists have been able to conjure weapons from level one. Ditto clerics with spiritual hammer. Also the Soulknife was turned into a prestige class.

The other was that there “are not enough monks on Athas to justify a baseclass”, “Athas does not have monk style martial arts”, and “does not fit the feeling of the setting” in the case of the Soulknife. The Soulknife get a double dose of circular reasoning. Since there is no precedent for a Soulknife in Athas (nor any other D&D setting as the class was created for 3E), there aren’t enough Soulknifes around to justify a base class.

One other aspect is that these were early days of 3E, and some among the LISTSERVE members believed the Monk to be an overpowered class. Years of real life playtesting has revealed the Monk to be one of the lower tier classes. Soulknife if even worse. In terms of class tier, it ranks just above Aristocrat and Expert NPC classes. If someone is willing to play a Soulknife, free weaponry is only a fair tradeoff.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think banning Soulknife is such a big deal because it’s a terrible class that will frustrate the player using it.

The real shocker was the initial banning of Barbarian. For some reason, some people claimed that the Barbarian class did not fit the setting. Fortunately, that didn’t stick.

ADDENDUM: And don’t get me wrong. The Athas dot org Soulknife PrC is a better class and fairer to players. If the reasoning was “we are going to fix the Soulknife by creating a PrC that is better for the game”, then that would make a lot of sense. That wasn’t the reasoning, however.


Monks make a lot of sense to me as a certain type of psion… that’s really all you have to do is reflavor them as psychometabolic psionic users that operate from a different tradition than the major schools in the city-states.


In Prestige Class Appendix 1 there is the psionic monk. Prestige Class Appendix 2 has the sensei. I wrote some stuff about these publications here. They could do with an update.


Yeah, exactly. But between the PrC and the ability of Psi-Warriors to ‘specialize’ on unarmed combat, that kinda hedges the core monk class out of the design space.

An early version (link to announcement) of the Templar here. Its a prestige class and comes with quite a few associated feats.

All in all, its an oddball class and you can see why it didn’t make the final cut.

The link to the announcement doesn’t go anywhere.

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I got to it via the feats link.

Yeah, I’d call a 20 lvl PrC masquerading as a base class an oddity.

I kinda like the idea of a Templar PrC though, it echoes the Templar Background from 4e.

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The link works for me.

I used to like the idea of a PrC too because I was fixated on one particular line in the boxed set that said that all templars got martial training, and they didn’t get spells until level 2 (after that they were much better than the standard cleric of other worlds in 2E).

The PrC idea was folly and I abandoned it. Instead I resolved it by giving them (in my own version) martial weapons proficiency with two martial weapons to represent basic martial training. By and large I like what the final product was with the templar by Athas dot org in that it differentiated well from the standard cleric and I used it as the basis for my own.

Yeah, the link to THAT page worked fine, the linknonnthat page to the Templar PrC was broken.

I like the PrC idea because it lends itself well to Royal Defiler/ Templars and Psionic Audator templars and War templars, etc.

But, its crap because it’s fiddley with regards to entry requirements and low-level templars, etc.

The link to templar, under the word “here”, also works for me. As long as you found it anyway, no problem.

Right. I came up with some similar things, but they work with the base class. For example, a psionic auditor templar would take this feat.

Mentat Templar [General]

You make yourself useful to the templarate by using your psionic powers. Your levels in psionic manifesting classes do not hinder your advancement within the templarate.

Prerequisites: Secular aptitude. Mitigate corruption.

Benefit: Your levels in psionic manifesting classes stack with your templar class levels for purposes of determining secular aptitude and mitigate corruption. In addition, if your combined class levels of psionic manifesting classes and templar should reach 14th level, you gain the benefits of the High Templar (Ex) class feature.

So they’d be templars, possibly with as little as one level in the templar class. They’d maintain the social meat and potatoes of the templar class, that is secular authority, ability to be corrupt, and progression up the hierarchy.

Right again. I think that different templar types are better handled with feats or ACFs. The way I’ve done it over in the thread I linked there is a lot of potential for variety, and no templar will be a cookie cutter copy of another.

A discussion about banning the Sorcerer class. From: sebastion gann

The only reason there is any primary source material for sorcerers in other game worlds is they wrote those novels after 3E came out! There was no primary source material for sorcerers in FR until the FR book came out, no one is complaining about them being included there.

This isn’t 2E, using “they weren’t in 2E” isn’t a logical argument. Sorcerers should be in DS, my opinion yes. There is no primary source stopping them from being in DS, but yes, there is nothing putting them there either. But ask yourselves something. Would Denning have used them if they were in the previous edition of DnD? I can’t think of any reason why not.

For me that is enough to include them. The only reason they aren’t in DS now is they weren’t in the previous edition of DnD. The best, and only, reason to include them is that they are in the Player’s Handbook and they do not go against the feel of DS. Yes, paladins can stay the hell out of dark sun thank you.

In my opinion this is also enough reason to include the Monk and Barbarian. Yes is see the Brute, but is see no reason to change the name. The reasons for include these three core (Barbarian/Monk/Sorcerer) classes is simple. None of them go against the flavor of Athas. They simply has the misfortune of not being used in 2E. There is no logical argument that would prevent their inclusion.

A reply by Chris Flipse:

Actually, I very much see the Sorcerer as going against the flavor of Dark Sun. The sorcerer paints magic as something that’s “inborn” and “natural” to a person … Dark Sun paints magic as something so unnatural that it can literally destroy the ability to sustain life.

There are other effects of including sorcerers … there’s less reason for sorcerers to be banding together, because they can’t learn from one another the way that wizards do … no spell research, no spell books. By-bye veiled alliance. Who wouldn’t want to play a sorcerer, seeing as lugging around a spellbook is like tattooing a big kick me sign on your back.

The sorcerer disrupts world balance in a way that makes much of the current situations involving wizards ludicrous. It’s fine to introduce on worlds where persecution of magic is not a major theme … but on Athas, the inclusion of the sorcerer changes too much.

A reply by Eric Arondson:

Not so, you are misinformed. had discussed the reasons for not including the sorcerer in past discussions and the fact they weren’t in the -rules- before wasn’t the deciding factor. The flavor and the backstory was.

There would be an impact on the wizard method of spellcasting just by having the sorcerer-method of arcane spellcasting available. Who in their right mind would bother to learn casting like a wizard, with all the social problems it causes, when you could cast spells like a sorcerer. Suddenly arcane spellcasters won’t need spellbooks any longer? That’s so severe a benefit over the wizard… on Athas… that players would swarm to the sorcerer over the wizard class.

The learning without mentors puts much of the Veiled Alliance out of business too. My personal opinion is that there /could/ be arcane spellcasters who cast like sorcerers do. I could see the three alternate energy mages from Defilers and Preservers fitting in that role. But not as a side-by-side equal to the wizard.

Redking’s comment: I don’t really buy that not having a spellbook is terribly unbalancing. I don’t even think that’s what game balance means. If we are saying that not having a spellbook is unbalancing, then you’d have to apply this to all applicable instances, sust as a fighter not having a spellbook. Also, there is the eschew material components feat. Is that to be banned too?

There is more there in this thread. Unfortunately it ended up with this sebastion fellow being piled on and accused of being malicious. It reminds me of the heated debates on the wizards forum.

I wouldn’t exclude any class, if a player wants to be a paladin in dark sun there are plenty of narrative reason for them to be one.
As for sorcerers, I would very much like to see sorcerers on athas as the offsprings of advanced beings, imo it would lend itself especially to the 5e sorcerer and its bloodline based subclasses. You can call them scions, say that this “mutation” only manifests in one of 10,000 to keep numbers low, they defile or preserve as wizards do, need training and studies to advance and learn new spell same as the wizard.
if the absence of a spellbook is so detrimental, one way to go about it is you can add that their magic is somewhat unstable and they have to roll a dice to determine whether they preserve or defile in a similar way to the wild magic sorcerer

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