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.

Interesting. A lot of thought goes into stuff like this. I had attempted a 5E conversion a while back but gave up when I was starting to look at psionics and it looked like the Devs were going in a completely different direction. If you could make use of my old notes I’d be happy to give them to you. I think I had Templar pretty much worked out in a very fair way, and had other classes “quirked” for DS.

I’m for the original charter of Athas, that is 3.x support and expansion. We don’t have permission to do anything else, and doing anything else might get the charter revoked.

While I’m ALSO in favor of updating all of the campaign settings to current editions (including psionics) , I think such should be done on another site.

Where can I find more information on what is allowed?

I remember 3rd edition (SRD) made a distinction between rules (open source) and thematic elements. Elves and Dwarves and most spells did not have restrictions, but Thri-kreen and spells using a name had copyright (or trademark?). But changing names to “Mage Disjunction” or so solved the issue.
Does 5E have an SRD in similar way?

This might mean thematic elements like names of City States are more restricted then mechanics (or houserules) for psionics. Do I understand correctly that Athas. org is allowed to support these things but only for 3rd edition?
Will it be ok with a disclaimer the rights remain at WotC and may not be spread (for profit) only used for personal use or so?

I posted the charter here somewhere in one of the threads… probably my thread about exactly that topic…

5e does have an SRD, but it is a lot more limited than 3.5, and there is no OGL for 5th.

[Disclaimer] I am not a lawyer.

Having said that, has permission to produce official Dark Sun 3.5e materials, which also includes some degree of being able to use copyrighted items, but only on this site. And everything posted here is co-owned by both and WotC, and by extension, Hasbro.

A disclaimer does NOT equal permission from WotC. If they want to be nasty about it a disclaimer will give one exactly zero legal protection.

You want to produce a 5th ed conversion, it can only be personal use, and technically shouldn’t be hosted here. However, last I heard the owner of the site works at WotC. So it would be up to him. And the real lawyers.

So far, everyone on this site had been laying low and avoiding doing anything that would draw WotC’s attention and possibly goad them into clarifying the whole legal fan site thing… and not in our favor.


I’m still in favor of updating all the campaign settings in general, but I also like the fan site thing and don’t want it to go away. ^^

Sure curious what notes you have!

For Priests I had some ideas to use access to domains like proficiencies, each domain costing only one point (half feat), but giving one spell per spell level. The four elemental domains can add some granted powers as spells, filling the gaps of missing spell levels and removing an additional unnecessary mechanic. Same for channel divinity as scalable cantrip that can also be cast as 1st level or higher spell.

You can cover all other priest spells using 8 domains instead of Cosmos.
You can cover all generic spells with four roughly alignment linked domains (positive, negative, protection and destruction).
Four Druids domains (animal, plant, sun, rain) could link between elements (the diagonals between the for elements).

Some spells or domains could be a bonus or synergy effect. like access to para-elemental spells a bonus from having both bordering elementals (or joined casting by two clerics). Psionics (Clairsentience) could cover basic version of divination spells, adding the stronger version (without concentration needed) if cast with a divine (or arcane) slot. Same for telekinetic powers if applied to one’s element. Telepathy might boost control or make it cheaper (for druids in guarded lands or on animals), and having both Psychometabolism and Animal domain gives access to Wild Shapes.

Making the actual lists at firsts seems easy (many editions have the same essential spells and some obvious gimmicks that can be deleted), but adjusting spells to 5E and balancing them may be a challenge.

For instance, carelessly adding Lesser Elementals could be trivial, fun or overpowered. It could also be a matter of preference to have clerics mainly as a summoner / pet class. Turning, banishing or stealing control suddenly becomes an important feature. I’d love the idea of a large random number (1d10) of weak critters possible exceeding maximum control. But not everyone would like randomly acting or hostile pets.

I was thinking of changing minor access to something that is easy to add, but costing one spell level higher to cast. That makes major access something rare but more powerful.

1 Like

So this site could portray 3rd edition thematic stuff, or stuff that has no mechanics just flavor content. Seems a guide per City State, Merchant House, Elven Tribe would be ok as long as you don’t officially combine it with 5E mechanics like backgrounds or classes.

In separate documents/threads one could use 3rd SRD, limited 5E conversion rules and house rules. Maybe refer to PHB and and not summarize it, and leave thematic Dark Sun elements out as well.
A 3rd edition spell list based on SRD could also works for 5E, but may not be presented as 5th?

Then for the combination of the two one could ask WotC permission to expand on it. If they like they could later extent 5th edition charter rights to just like 3rd. Or publish an official setting themselves of course!

1 Like

What? Spells? Fie on you, evil defiler! (Joking)

But seriously, there are already way too many spell this magic that in the rules as it is. We don’t need no schtinking magic.

More Psionics, rawr!

1 Like

Agreed. But DS specific spells I’ve always found refreshing, especially if they replace or “cycle out” stuff that does not belong in the setting, or condense down the nauseatingly large spell list (thanks FR, for doubling the cumulative spell material… ugh).

Indeed condense those spell lists!

I’d focus on spell level 1-6 first (higher spells need to be balanced separately anyway). This helps reducing the number of spells to balance, but still a daunting task.

I would prefer a comprehensive spell list with just one (main) spell per spell level for each school. But there are just too many spells! Many alteration and divination spells are kinda like boosted versions of psionic powers. These could be removed as spells, just having the power plus sorcery or certain divine magic gives this boosted version (if a spell slot is used).

I have some ideas to combine arcane specialty with multiple spells per spell level. This could give access to more versatile versions of spells.

Honestly the charter doesn’t mean anything anymore. I’m fairly confident that this site falls under the Fan Usage rules that WotC has set up. Which is basically as long as you’re not making money by selling content for their IP, go for it.