The Burnt World of Athas - 30 Days of Dark Sun 3: What's your favorite game mechanic?

The 4th day of #30DaysofDarkSun is here and the question is "What is your Favorite Dark Sun Mechanic?".

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

So many but I like the character tree idea and incorporate it into all of my RPGs. It’s very nice to have a livery of characters to call upon that are already semi-fleshed out and ready to plug-n-play with the party.

Hard to pick! Weapon breakage and survival days were great mechanics that really saw a lot of use in 4E. Piecemeal armor in 2E was great, and I really enjoyed the idea (not always the execution) of weapons and armor of different materials. Defiling never seemed to really work perfectly, nor psionic battles, but had awesome fiction and really are an important part of the world. Character trees, for sure. 4E’s rules for exhaustion and inherent magic item bonuses were both excellent for the setting.

If I’m honest, my favorite is something we created for the Dark Sun organized play campaign, Ashes of Athas. We wanted the world to feel deadly, but for players to not see death as the end of the story. If you came to a convention and played only three new adventures… and died in one… it would be easy to walk away from the campaign rather than start over (especially since you would need to create a higher-level character since the campaign progressed in level over time). So, we invented the Death Certificate. Each adventure had a death certificate with a unique to that adventure reward. You earned it only if you died, and it might unlock a special background or a unique race. In an adventure with Aarakocra, the death certificate unlocked that race for you and gave you a story of how you never fit your tribe, saw your old character, and became inspired to join. Another death certificate let you play a converted cultist who sees your dying character and repents. You now oppose the very cult you joined. Usually there was some connection to your dead character’s past, allowing you to retain some of the loot and certificates you had unlocked. I thought this system really worked well.

No doubt, the defiling magic. As for 3e DS, the Paizo defiling is not simply favourite, but the only element I have ever liked.

The defiling magic. In our campaign, it damaged animals, including NPCs, etc. It was another weapon of the Defiler with damage atop his spell abilities. This evened the playing field, particularly when the party consisted of only the Defiler.