I’ve always been underwhelmed by the Pterrans as an addition to Dark Sun. Now on the surface, I will grant they seem to be a good fit.
· They fit the reptilian theme. There was no playable reptilian race for Dark Sun at that time.
· They do have innate psionic abilities which fit the setting.
· They were foreshadowed by a Monstrous entry.
· A race with a focus on diplomacy does fill a role that DS races didn’t offer much of at the time. Some but not a lot.
· Very different social structure than others in the setting.
So on the surface, their biggest strength is that they aren’t redundant. Bit of a backhanded compliment, but a compliment none the less.
HOWEVER, I never really liked them. There are many reasons for this.
· Yet another surviving race from the Cleansing Wars calling into question the effectiveness of the SK and Rajaat.
· Their homeland and social structure is way too idyllic for Dark Sun. I am not saying everything needs to be a dystopian hell hole, but there is very little in the way of conflict or interest. For example, a caste system that is mandated by a corrupt elite who view it as a social control and who base it on garbled info from ancient ruins and have fanatical enforcers, that is interesting. An entirely voluntary one? Not so much.
· Their reasons for their initial isolation and then re-emergence always felt weak to me. I can understand holing up in a favorable area during the Cleansing Wars. However, a Great Quake activating a prophecy doesn’t strike me as compelling. I think it would be more interesting if the Quake destroyed a vital resource for the pterrans. They are sending out diplomats to either secure a new source, or figure out where they can migrate. Real stakes.
I can keep going, but I think I have made my point. Pterrans feel tacked on to me, and feel tame and unchallenging.
Part of the issues with Pterrans is that they have the Prism Pentad post issue. It’s where the first priority for anything the writers where adding to the setting was “explain why they weren’t involved in PP.” Not “how do we use unique elements of the setting” or “make it interesting.”
Here are two races I think would have made better additions to the roster of reptilian characters.
Jozhal. You can look up the monstrous entry on them, but to keep it short they are small, desert dwelling thieves.
· They have always been in Dark Sun, since the beginning. Nothing about them or the setting need be changed to make them playable and make sense.
· They are clearly intelligent. For example, there was one high up in the Veiled Alliance in Balic.
· The only drawback is that outside of the PP they got no development. No ruins, history, exploration of their culture. A lot would need to be created.
Dray. I especially love these guys for their origins. They are expressly created by a major power to serve a specific purpose. This is no Pristine Tower accident. While they start isolated, they are destined to march with Dregoth to lead his twisted crusade. Why they are isolated makes sense and why the isolation ends does as well. They have a fully developed culture and history. I can go on.
So…why weren’t they brought in as a playable race with the new box set? And no, calling dragonborn “dray” in other editions does not make up for this.
· Some of their unique elements pose a challenge. For example, there is only one known dray point of origin. Two settlements, one for first gen and another for 2nd gen. Both are highly secretive, ruled over by Dregoth and deeply indoctrinated.
· No known presence on Athas until Dregoth’s invasion.
· Any player running a dray (1st, 2nd or someone transformed into one) would need fairly extensive knowledge of a major secret of the setting.
Some imagination can easily fix these problems.
· Timeline might solve all of these problems. If Dregoth as already started his invasion, then dray have emerged in force.
· If players already know about it, and are able to RP their characters not knowing, then one can easily play as an explorer, emissary, spy or exile.
What do you think? Want to tell me I’m wrong? Go for it.