Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dark Sunday: Bring on the Drakes

Long ago in Athas, the Dragons were killed or just disappeared. I don't believe that there was ever a definitive take on what actually did occur in the past to leave the Dragon of Tyr as the last dragon, if in name only. When 4th edition tackled dragons in the actual Dark Sun universe though they gave us drakes, dragon's less intelligent cousins. Before Dark Sun most of the drakes tended to be glorified guard dogs. Then came the elemental drakes.

The drake creation rules are simple:

  • Take a Dragon stat-line.
  • Remove flight speed, unless Air.
  • Remove Language.
  • Remove breath weapon.
  • Dial down the intelligence and charisma, up strength and dexterity.
Drakes don't have breath weapons instead they can manipulate the area around them. So where a fire dragon might breath fire a fire drake would blight the land they walk on with flames and cover their bodies in flame.

Water Drake, lives in the already few oases
 Water Drake:
One might find a water drake in an oasis, but only the drake. Typically the entire wildlife will be fodder for the drake.
Along with the instructions above, take a white dragon and replace breath weapon with an aura attack 10ft around its huge size. This aura is a zone of boiling or chilling water that it can excrete so considered Fire and Cold damage depending on attack.
Air Drake, one of the few species that can fly
Air Drake:
Drakes seldom flie those that do are known as Air Drakes. They climb to the top of ridges and palisades ready to pounce upon unwitting passers.
-CrunchStart with the instructions above, take a blue dragon and replace its breath weapon with an aura attack similar to the water drake. This aura is a zone of fog or push of strong wind. So fog would act as concealment against ranged attacks. Strong wind would act as a large push to get rid of melee attackers.

Enjoy the drake creating. These are just a set of homebrew guidelines not associated with Wizards of the Coast, feel free to change as you see fit.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Dark Sunday: Kalak's Death and D&D Novels

This weekend I participated in a Malifaux tournament so today's Dark Sunday will be more about finding inspiration for your Dark Sun games. But instead I leave you with the pictures from 2nd and 4th edition showing how Sorcerer-King Kalak died.

Kalak really likes those green and blue leggings. - 2nd Edition

Anyone who has read the Troy Denning Dark Sun novels will know that Kalak was the leader of Tyr. In his growing madness he put his entire City-State in danger for his lust for power.

Kalak, this is why you stay outside of threat range.

There haven't been to many books in recent memory set in Dark Sun. For 4th Edition there was Death Mark, City Under the Sand, and the critically panned Under the Crimson Sun. I've only read the first two books and both are standalone novels that take place immediately after the first novel in the Troy Denning series. 

Death Mark was the second Dark Sun Novel I read and was more of a show off piece for Tyr. There are Templars still loyal to Kalak, Veiled Alliance take a bit more of a role, and how grand scale conflict in Tyr can be. One character's perspective takes place as part of a war party heading to retake Tyr for a would-be Sorcerer-King.

City Under the Sand takes place in the City-State of Nibenay which reveals a lot about Sorcerer-King Nibenay and his family. It probably shows how best to setup a party in Dark Sun. Players are forced to help the King, Templar politics screw over everything, and the dangers of the wastes.

If you can take away one thing from these novels though it is this, it doesn't matter how it ends its the journey that matters. As I continue reading more and more RPG novels this becomes more and more apparent.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dark Sunday: Travelling through the Desert

Dungeons and Dragons likes to present itself with two basic concepts Dragons and Dungeons. One thing I can say about Athas is that you do not need a dungeon to run it. Well technically neither does D&D, but that is a bit besides the point.

While running Dark Sun I found that travel was a necessity for the game. Getting from point A to B should actually matter as opposed to just happening instantaneously. That is why whenever the players were travelling I always had something prepared for them on the road. Typically this was a group of raiders or an exotic local, but most of the time these played in to a major part of the storylines.

4th Edition Map of Athas
Possible Story Hooks while in the Desert:
  • Bounty Hunters looking for a particular party member.
  • The remains of travellers long dead whose possessions may be more than meets the eye.
  • A shrine to an ancient elemental looking to destroy a rival.
  • A village destroyed by a creature that isn't too far behind.
For instance, when my players decided to flee the city of Balic they were already being pursued by the son of a noble they had killed. While fleeing across the desert they came across the full might of the Gulg army looking to attack Tyr while it was having its revolution. These were not merely sidequests these storylines involved all of the players and made them forget they were hundreds of miles away from reaching their goal. Typically I like to let my players stew for a bit before they encounter a new enemy. They'll first find the remains of those who crossed its path, either get a warning from the survivors or try to scavenge for clues before it comes back.

Dark Sun is meant to be tough and deadly, where players do not know if they will make it to see the next sun rise. So I ask that you make travel meaningful don't just handwave it away. It took my players over 4 months out of game to get halfway to Tyr and they were itching to complete the journey.

Think about the last time your party travelled across vast expanses. Did you zip through it or was it an open air dungeon waiting for them to explore?