Development Discussion for Dead Lands

Continuing the discussion from Updates or Info on "Secrets of the Dead Lands" or "The Emissary":

Hey all:

I’ve started a new thread wherein I’m giving the entire community a chance to say what they want to say/vent their spleens about the Dead Lands, and the books currently in the works.

It also gives the team and I a chance to answer your questions while we’re marching this book towards completion and playtesting.

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First, let’s finish the poll we started on Greycasting:

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@neujack , you want to use the results of the poll as feedback for the Dead Lands supplement? Because I thought that it was merely out of curiosity.

My opinion is that if the Dead Lands book is an official supplement for 3.0/3.5, it should follow the existing rules described in Defilers and Preservers.

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And I agree. For base rules, we’re working off of d20srd and existing books already made by Athas.org.

The rest is based on the original books or the (substantial) work done by our predecessors, and we’re mostly filling in rule gaps and various holes in plot/story/etc. as we find them.

Even so, I still want to remain open to your guys’ feedback and thoughts anyway. Because there’s no way we’re getting this big-arsed dead mekillot across the finish line without a team effort, I’m taking onboard anyone who genuinely thinks they can help, and community energy helps us.

With that in mind, if there’s a strong enough consensus about something, we’ll see if we can work it in, even if just as a DM’s option. That sound fair?

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Remove the suction cup hands from zhen and either replace it with spider-climb when scaling obsidian or doesn’t suffer movement penalties for difficult terrain when its obsidian.

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Okay. Here’s how we’re going to play it folks:

If enough people like a suggestion given on these boards, then we’ll look at whether we can work it in.

UPDATE: If it’s already canon in other already published books (such as “Terrors of the Dead Lands”), it’s going to be mighty hard to change.

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Suction cups are already out in the world (im not sure we’ll manage to get an edit in on TotDL), but i just assumed it was like a white dragon’s ice-walking…

I had forgotten about it until you mentioned it.

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I don’t think it’s a big deal to say that these special energy sources only exist on a particular timeline, and if you play on that timeline then you may or may not want the special energy sources.

But for other timelines, where the Prism Pentad did not happen, or it did happen but with a different outcome, there is no problem ignoring the special energy sources altogether because you don’t have to retcon a single published NPC.

As for the prestige classes allowing the use of special energy sources, they are very easy to enter.

How about an this possibility. All of them are defilers, but they get a boost when casting from the school associated with their special energy source, because they are using power from the special energy source to supplement the defiling.

As I pointed out in the other thread, the special energy sources appear in one 2E supplement and nowhere else. If the special energy sources are going to be a thing and consequence free like in PrCs from Athas dot org, at least address the implications of it. Such as “users of special energy sources look down on preservers because preservers are part of the problem of drawing energy from plants to cast spells. Radical factions have split off from the Veiled Alliance and now hunt preservers just like they hunt defilers”.

If you can’t face it head on, it’s setting warping.

Addendum: here is the relevant text from the necromant NPC, for example.

Gray Casting: Necromants have discovered how to draw energy from the Gray to fuel their spells. They can choose whether to utilize plant energy or energy from the Gray when casting spells. Gray energy has no impact on the environment.

They are better than preservers. The Veiled Alliance are hypocrites.

I’m not going to enshrine/establish that specific take as canon in a source book, but it’d make a fun premise for an adventure.

Certainly something to consider.

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After reading your comments, I have a more general question regarding the 3/3.5e supplements: are they following the established canon 100%? or the approach is to reimagine some parts the same way 4e did?

Because I thought it was the first case and the 2e and 3/3.5e canon would be the same. However, if things like the alternative magic sources can have they behaviour modified, then we have a new source of canon.

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The Athas dot org published supplements follow the 1995 - 1996 canon and retcons slavishly. 4E was a reset to the original setting. See what the designers thought about it here.

4E Dark Sun had no alternative energy sources. It was one of the things that the 4E team wisely dropped. In regards to how 2E alternative magical sources should work in 3E/3.5e, its important to remember that these are different game systems and implementation is thus going to be different. That said, the Athas dot org implementation is reasonably accurate to the 2E presentation of the alternative energy sources. The problem is that the alternative energy sources completely overturns the premise of the setting. I am confident that had TSR not gone broke, the alternative energy sources would have either been retconned out, or severely nerfed. As it is, we had to wait for 4E for the alternative energy sources to get the axe.

I think we can accommodate the alternative energy sources, but not as they stand as present. Right now these alternative energy sources warp the setting. I give a narrative example here.

Okay. I’ve heard the arguments, and the surprisingly strong opinions about Graycasting.

I for one liked the Defilers and Preservers supplement. It has flaws, but then again so did the Will and the Way, and we still use that. I’m not interested in forgetting the book as there are some things in there which make Dark Sun much more playable, and are relevant to the Dead Lands (indeed, I believe the Dead Lands would not have been made the way it was if there wasn’t the Defilers and Preservers “defiling while studying the spells” rules).
Obviously, play the game how you want, but if we were going to be totally first boxed set purist here, we wouldn’t even be making a Dead Lands supplement at all.

For a setting which depends on power sources for magic, it makes sense each of those power sources having drawbacks and restrictions. That is not being contested. However, what those restrictions should be are.

I’ve seen the results of the poll and it looks like we have a lean towards Con damage, negative reactions from natural beings, and possibly using defiler points for Greycasting. As mentioned before, we simply cannot make the Dead Lands work if only Necromancy is powered by greycasting, as defiling simply isn’t possible in a massive completely barren land. So restrictions aren’t a bad thing, but we have to limit how many restrictions for balance reasons.

The other problem here is the prestige classes book containing Necromants has already been published, so we need to be careful as to what we change. I don’t want to directly contradict existing canon if I can avoid it. We can get around the “Greycasting does not affect the environment” by clarifying that it does not affect the physical corporeal environment. You get the idea.

We’ll discuss it in the development group and see what we can do.

Thank you again for all your feedback and comments. If you have more on other parts of the setting, we’d love to hear them!

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I completely agree with you regarding the impact of the alternative energy sources on the setting. And as I said before, I don’t use them on my campaings or use them in a very modified way (eg: only undeads can greycast, or only on “dead areas”).

However, what I do on my campaigns is not the point. The point is, at least for me, if what Athas.org is making is an update of the rules from 2e to 3.5e as faithful as possible, assuming the controversial 2e decisions as their own. Or not, and therefore proposing new solutions for those decisions.

Both ways are ok, but when someone asks about our opinion over a topic related to this update, I would offer different opinions on each case.

EDIT: Apologies @neujack , I didn’t see your latest message before sending mine.

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SotDL is not going to retcon anything, but we (or at least I) will be trying to nudge everything to still be canon and potentially accommodate other viewpoints. Good writing (IMO), among other things, brings concepts together and allows them to live alongside each other harmoniously, rather than picking one and running with it and discarding the rest.

As much as i didn’t care for parts of 4e DS, they did neatly side-step a lot of these issues by rolling back the setting meta-plot.

I know some folks have issues with alternative power sources (cough, @redking, cough) and that’s fine, but you’ll notice 4e didn’t outlaw them, they just didn’t mention it. YOU can still do it in your game, they’ll just not address it.

That’d be my personal aim, to bring up the levels of logic and consistency and maybe allude to something with Graycasting, but only so those who want a change can see where we were thinking of going with it; and those who don’t want a change barely even notice. That’d be my personal objective with it.

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A deft solution. Nicely said.

We cannot guarantee we’ll be making the perfect book(s), but our goal is to give you all something you can enjoy using.

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Pulling over my comment from the other thread…

Yeah, I saw this whole conversation over in the other thread. A shame they didn’t respond here.
Can we close old threads somehow?

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Yes, I can close or archive topics. Let me know what you need

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TL:DR The Dead Lands are not larger than the Kreen Empire.

There have been multiple maps for the southern continent floating around recently, depicting the Dead Lands as covering roughly half the continent containing the Tablelands.

The team that is working on finishing the Dead Lands (Secrets of the Dead Lands, Faces, and the adventures-incl The Emissary) has decided to make some adjustments to the continental map in advance of their releases.

This is being done to accomplish at least these two goals:
-stop everyone from unnecessarily speculating about the size/whereabouts of the Dead Lands (according to the official project specs from athas.org) and provides the project team with stability / time to finish the project.

-provide everyone with a rough landscape beyond the official Dead Lands setting expansion (and Sundered Lands work) to fill up all you like.

With this we hope to accommodate the community with much needed clarity around the Dead Lands.

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Right, as @johndoe heralded, I’m going to drop a Dead Lands teaser.

We’ve been working on the Dead Lands book for a while now, and all the locations are pretty much settled down at last. But that left the issue as to how this was going to interface with the rest of the world. The old map had the major disadvantage of being an isolated form without any thought to the surroundings, and the Athasian Cartographer’s Guild’s wonderful planetary creation had the problem of making the Dead Lands larger than the Kreen Empire!

To further fuel the fire, the old test map Jhonny and I came up with for the expanded Dead Lands has been making the rounds.

So, I’ve updated the entire southern continent map now for everyone’s benefit.

A few comments:
1.) I know it ain’t that pretty. Yet.
2.) The main purpose of this map is to constrain the Obsidian, so there is a defined limit to it in every single direction, and I’ve set some plausible scale. (The red square is exactly the same size as the 4e Tablelands map, using the same scale).
3.) The square in read is the area we’ll be detailing in Secrets of the Dead Lands releases.
4.) Yes, surrounding it are several selected features from the “Dead Lands of Athas” netbook. We’ll be coming back to that at a later date…
5.) I’ve intentionally left a lot of the areas surrounding the Dead Lands without any specific descriptions on purpose, so you guys have areas to play with.

Here you go, in zoomable vector .PDF form!

Have a look, let me know your feedback, and enjoy!

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