The doomers were right

From the horses mouth. Dark Sun is “problematic” due to its themes and tropes.

There is a very sizable contingent of people out there that literally cannot tell the difference between writing about subjects and advocating for them. A lot of younger people are like this.

1 Like

Indeed, and very sad. But on the brightside it should motivate us to push harder on the 5e project, and give the community a standardized alternative.


I’m shocked, shocked I tell you. Who could have seen that coming.


Meh, they’re first and foremost a profit-motivated company appealing to the largest possible audience, so that’s capitalism more than anything, not surprising. From a calculated WoTC perspective, in that they don’t give a shit about writing or fanbases, and honestly neither did TSR, the setting has a lot of stuff that would neither be family friendly nor easy to easily reconcile without more resources spent on writers ect than they’re willing to spend on a fairly niche ip. To its credit, I think Dark Sun tried to be fairly subversive re a lot of the tropes in dnd that were “problematic” even as far back in the 80s and 90s like the tolkeinesque racialization of fantasy characters and endemic sexism of the era- on athas the ladies are as swol as the guys and everybody’s running around in bondage gear regardless of orientation, gender identity, or species, while most o the stereotypically “heroic pc races” like humans and elves are treated as no better than anyone else while the stock “apocalyptic mutant freaks” get sympathetic and heroic portrayals. Likewise, Revised Edition riffs heavily off the film Wizards for Rajaat and his Champions, they’re nazis who idiotically destroyed the world over human supremacy while all beings from troll to dwarf to human are basically variants of the same species, hobbit, throw on the vague hippie ecological parable stuff with the Brown Tide and Defiler magic destroying Athas. There was some legit earnest, if incredibly clunky, social commentary baked into DS from the start. Throw in issues like slavery ect and one can understand why hasbro, the company who leverages its reputation on broad appeal, might consider the product kryptonite. TSR would probably do the same if they were still in ownership of DnD, and really, was Dark Sun every seen anything more than “DnD but conan the barbarian meets mad max cashgrab” by the peoples running TSR?

Even for the continued work on the 3.0 fan content we’ve been trying to reconcile and grow Dark Sun up a bit, from more emphasis on the reality rebirth beings as “tribes” or “peoples” vs “races” (still using that in the context of the champion’s bios ect, as they’re shithead nazis) and more queer and gender-equal representation (it’s based off the bronze age mediterranean, when a lot of archaic societies were downright matriarchal and saw women in combat roles, trans people were often considered sacred beings, and same-sex relationships were often openly accepted), particularly in the comparatively enlightened green age. One of the most interesting aspects of finishing Secrets of the Dead Lands was writing up a region caught in the initial nazi-germany esque pograms and genocidal conflicts, basically frozen in time, and how the undead would handle those ancient traumas and vengeances.


True. That isn’t part of the setting as originally defined and published. It wasn’t part of the 4E Dark Sun setting. There are a lot of fans that could do without this particular metaplot, or perhaps could see it as one of many potential metaplots.

The point is that WotC is under no obligation to include genocide in their future product as a core theme, just like they didn’t do it in 4E.

The real issue is the American audience. Americans these days cannot separate slavery as a concept from the trans-Atlantic slave trade of Africans to America. Non Americans like myself have no such problem.


I can see why they are concerned about a setting where oppressive oligarchs keep the common folk crushed down to maintain their hold on power, all while not caring about the societal and ecological damage they cause in doing so, and the players are often rebels against the system trying to bring them down.

Probably hits a little to close to home to sit easy with them.


His exact words.

“The Dark Sun setting is problematic, in a lot of ways”.

But not a single problem was mentioned.

No mention of themes, tropes, psionics, or anything. Nothing.

I’m not sure he knows why it’s “problematic” for 5e or a future version and is just repeating what’s been said by others. They released it under 4e with many of the same tropes and themes. But magically,13 years later it’s problematic.

Problematic because the target audience refuses to buy it or because the writers refuse to produce it?

My two ceramic bits.


He said that WotC could not be faithful to the themes of Dark Sun while maintaining the inclusivity ethics of WotC.

I believe this to be true. A new version of Dark Sun would be gutted and not really Dark Sun at all. I appreciate his honesty. That said, WotC “ethics” suck.


“Maybe they should put Dark Sun in to the Creative Commons so that people can make of it what they will.”


I agree with his suggestion.

1 Like

I feel quite vindicated, because WotC confirmed what I already strongly suspected years ago.

1 Like

Not gonna happen. Hasbro will keep DS as their forever IP and chop it up to use the parts they like of it in other settings.


I’m sorry, but this is a jerk suggestion: that the IP owners “won’t do it right” (they won’t, but that’s beside the point) and should just let everyone else earn money off the IP instead.

What entitled crap. Fan work is already completely free and clear - the only thing the copyright is stopping anyone from doing is producing content to earn money.

1 Like

It’s worth looking into modifying (reducing) the length of copyright protection.


Yeah, no doubt. 70yrs + life of author is a bit much.

1 Like

The laws were supposed to protect the author, but often it doesn’t turn out like that it the content is owned by multinational companies. Also, there is endless pressure to further extend the copyright by these very multinationals.

1 Like

We had a discussion about this yesterday in the Pristine Tower Dev Group Discord about asking WotC about releasing Dark Sun, and another discussion today about exactly what they might be thinking was “Problematic”.

Here are summaries of the points that came out of both discussions.
First getting WotC to release Dark Sun:

  • To get WotC to release Dark Sun would require convincing them it’s in their financial interest to release the property. That means either making it seem a liability to own (which would be bad for our future), or paying them for it (which we cannot afford, and Tim Brown already tried).
  • Moreover, it doesn’t solve the problem that it’s not just one IP. Thri-kreen have been separated out as an IP, among other things. Even if they do release WotC, they wouldn’t release all of those IPs which are seeing action in money-making products.
  • Another option would be to ask WotC to let a central license holder such as get the rights to develop with all these IPs. This doesn’t solve the problem as to why WotC would be releasing it though, and even if we could afford it would be a tall order at best.

Next, why WotC would find it problematic.

  • This chat has been raging for two days now on the DS Facebook Group. And based on the fact that there are already existing 5e products which feature slavery, I’m convinced slavery is not the main issue or the only issue.
  • While other 5e products feature genocide, Dark Sun is the only one which features successful genocides. As @redking pointed out, I agree the issues of slavery and race wars are a bit too on the nose for American society right now, so they are certainly contributing factors. But again I’m convinced these are still not the main or only issues.
  • So far as I can see, the problem with their releasing the product really boils down to a “more trouble than its worth”. If you combine all the minor issues such as alleged cultural appropriation (Aztecs, etc.), alleged racial stereotypes (elves compared to Romani culture, halflings compared to some indigenous cultures), successful genocide being a major plot point, racism and slavery both featuring prominently in the setting, and of course no mechanics for psionics, you have yourself quite a knot to untangle. Finally, I’d also add how aggressive and inflexible a segment of the community has proven to WotC itself. You get the impression some of these guys really don’t want a new generation playing the game, or even new products made by anyone. If I were WotC, I would probably think this is going to be a hard product to get produced in this current time in American history, especially if the target audience is teenagers of all genders. And even if they did, the reaction of veterans will be probably more explosive than the old Ravenloft community…

That doesn’t mean we’re stuck though. As Moneymaker pointed out on the FB group, we can still homebrew an independents like ourselves still have leeway to make what we want via OGL.

Similarly, I do think we could have an opportunity to “fix” the problems with Dark Sun’s lore, presenting a way in which WotC could move forward with bringing it back into the fold, but that would be a separate proposal, and would likely prove too spicy for some purists…


I follow the RL community fairly closely and was even published in one of their netbooks. The RL folk dealt with it fairly well by consolidating under two canons. The new 5E canon, and the old RL canon. Some of the 5E stuff is worth mining for ideas, or even making different domains out of them because they are different enough to co-exist alongside. Take Sri-Raji and Kalikeri, for example. Kalikeri was supposed to REPLACE Sri-Raji, but a lot of campaigns (including 5E campaigns) play them side by side as part of the same “cluster”.

I think this is the approach to take and is the approach that I hope that we will see here eventually.

This is the wrong starting point. The starting point is people at WotC that respect the setting. If someone thinks that the setting is “problematic”, for any reason, they will have an unconscious bias and will not do their best work. That’s human nature and it can’t be mitigated. Finally -

alleged racial stereotypes (elves compared to Romani culture, halflings compared to some indigenous cultures)

Its important to state that DS hating trolls are doing this deliberately. I’ve been a DS fan since around 1991. Never heard of halflings being stand-ins for indigenous tribes, or elves being “Romani”. Unless people push back, these trolls will meme this into reality. We should consider this a form of disinformation warfare and push back vigorously. But its hard when WotC comes along and says “that’s true!”, and throws their old game designers under the bus.


I think a further problem is the definition of ‘problematic’ in American society right now.

Dark Sun IS problematic by textbook definition right now - it’d be a pain in the a$$ for WotC to release.

Whether it meets the current understanding in America of “problematic” (notice the quotations), as in racist, sexist, homophobic, etc is a different story.

Keep that in mind.

1 Like

Those “DS hating trolls” you’re discussing are literally members of the DS facebook group. The hating is coming from inside the house! This is precisely what I’m talking about-- we are our own worst enemies!

And it seems to me our biggest enemies are purism and preciousness about the past. Clinging to these will do nothing for the future of the setting. If we want a new generation of people playing our game, we need to be flexible for them. There’s no way around that. Without a new generation, our setting dies a slow death. And no salesman has ever succeeded in forcing their vision of what the customers want onto the customers.

That doesn’t mean we can’t use “problematic themes”. But if we address these things early on in the book with disclaimer, you’ll be pleased with how much we can get away with.

As for defining problematic, even if we can explain away unintentional stereotypes, it’s pointless to argue about whether slavery, racism, and genocide is problematic or not. Besides, once again, it’s not about us. It’s about our intended target audience for these new books (which is newcomers, not us), and what they see as off-putting.