Wednesday, August 3, 2016

5E Dark Sun Games

I have it in mind to run a 5th Edition Dark Sun game one of these days, in the infinite amount of free time I have at my disposal.* There are a few fan conversions out there, though sadly outdated from what I can tell based on when they were released. Unearthed Arcana had yet to gift us with its proposed vision for the Mystic, what would once be called a Psion or Psionicist. Since that particular entry and its subsequent updating emerged from the stained whiteboards of WotC offices, I've entertained what could be done with it in a Dark Sun game.

* This is a lie.

Of course, anyone choosing to play a mystic would be limited to tenth level based on the released progression (I feel in no way comfortable expounding upon it), and the player would need to be flexible enough to roll with changes as they need to happen, so... basically it'd be an extended playtest of playtest materials. Imagine that, using a beta test as a beta test, not a free final product to review!

Anyway, I found a couple pretty nice resources already for a mul and a thri-kreen, courtesy of these two products on the DMs Guild. I suspect many who once played thri-kreen unabashedly for their hilariously broken combat mechanics and potential would balk at the incarnation showing up in the latter product, but I tend to lean more towards balanced play rather than munchkinizing.

Goliath is already a good stand-in for half-giants, so I can save myself some time there too (especially since I wouldn't intend to resurrect the "I'm a psychotic bastard who changes alignment every day" shtick they used to have). I could probably spend time making Athasian subraces for elves, dwarves, and halflings, but I am getting a bit burnt out on subrace bloat. I'm not sure it's worth the effort yet, though I will likely capitulate at some point and design a few. Not sure what they'd look like; tell me what you think in the comments!

There's a few choice bits I would pilfer from other resources as well. In particular, Primeval Thule has a great rule for character literacy that works perfectly in Dark Sun -- the sorry state of the world plus the sorcerer-kings that dominate the setting's power structure do their respective parts to ensure that most regular people can't read or write. Without being a jerk and just reprinting the full text of the rule here, it basically has you roll an Intelligence check at creation with a DC based on your class (Barbarian is DC 20, Wizard is DC 0 and thus automatic) to determine if you are literate. You can reroll the check every time you gain a level.

What I am actively working on are elemental cleric domains. Athas has no gods (whether it ever had them or whether the Primordials killed/chased them off depends on edition incarnation of the setting as well as conflicting in-world sources), so clerics draw their power from elemental beings and forces. In a lot of ways, the relationship is like that of warlock pacts -- you make a bargain with entities and in turn they give you elemental power.

An example Fire cleric domain looks kind of like this, drawing inspiration from what they could do in Dark Sun's previous editions.

Obsidian Armaments. When you select this domain at 1st level, you are considered proficient in any weapon crafted from obsidian.
Touch of Flame. You know the produce flame cantrip, and it does not count against any of your cleric spell selections.
Channel Divinity: Ignite. At 2nd level, the cleric may use their Channel Divinity as a reaction when inflicting fire damage from any spell, weapon attack, or other ability they possess. They may pick any single target affected by one of these sources, and force it to make a Wisdom saving throw against their spellcasting DC or be engulfed in flames. At the beginning of the creature’s turn, they suffer 1d8 points of fire damage, and may repeat the saving throw at the end of their turn to end the effect. This damage increases to 2d8 at 6th level, 3d8 at 11th level, and 4d8 at 16th level.
Channel Divinity: Ignore Flames. At 6th level, the cleric can expend their Channel Divinity to ignore the presence of fire for 1 minute. They can stride through flames, walk across the surface of lava (quickly), or stand in the breath of a fire drake and suffer no damage.
Igneous Armaments. Upon achieving 8th level, the fire cleric treats any obsidian weapon they wield as magical and deals an additional 1d8 points of fire damage with any attack made while wielding such a weapon. When you reach 14th level, the damage increases to 2d8.
Form of Flame. When the fire cleric reaches 17th level, they may use their bonus action to polymorph into a fire elemental. This form lasts for one minute or until the cleric uses a bonus action to return to their normal form. You revert to your normal form if you fall unconscious, drop to 0 hit points, or die. The cleric cannot use this ability again until they complete a short or long rest. 

While you are transformed, the following rules apply:

  • Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of a fire elemental. You retain your alignment, personality, and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. You also retain all of your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the elemental. If the elemental has the same proficiency as you and the bonus in its stat block is higher than yours, use the elemental’s bonus instead of yours.
  • When you transform, you assume the elemental’s hit points and Hit Dice. When you revert to your normal form, you return to the number of hit points you had before you transformed. However, if you revert as a result of dropping to 0 hit points, any excess damage carries over to your normal form.
  • You may cast cleric spells that you have prepared. You can communicate with fire elementals even if you do not speak Primordial.
  • You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them if the elemental is physically capable of doing so. You cannot use any special senses unless the elemental also possesses them.
  • You can choose whether your equipment falls to the ground in your space or merges into your new form. The elemental cannot wear armor or wield weapons, or use equipped and attuned magical items. Equipment that merges with your form has no effect until you leave the form.

I fought with that formatting for like fifteen minutes to get it to look even half right. Blogger does not like copy-paste from Google docs.

The fire cleric is all about burning things, putting a spin on existing abilities such as the extra pain on attacks dealt by other cleric domains. The temporary fire elemental polymorph (based off what a druid can do in wild shape, plus some minor changes) is probably stupidly overpowered, but at 17th level, there's a lot worse things you could be doing.

There's also a handful of wild talents I came up with based off what 4E did, since wild talents were pretty freaky in 2nd edition; you could have one player who ended up with Feel Light (that is, tactile detection of photons, not a euphemism for weight loss) and another who rolled awesome and had Disintegrate. That's a bit too much of a power striation for my liking based on pure dice luck alone.

Body Equilibrium: You may use a bonus action on your turn to activate this talent. Until the end of your turn, you may move across liquid, soft, or brittle surfaces without falling through; this includes silt, mud, or water. You ignore the effects of difficult terrain from these sources as you skim along the top of the medium without falling through. If you end your turn while still standing on the surface, you fall through and become mired or consumed as expected for its depth.

Distant Sensation: As an action, you can activate this talent to choose a point or object you can see within 50 feet of your location. You can choose to hear, see, touch, smell, or taste -- but only one of these -- as though you were standing at that point or next to that object. To indulge another sense, you must use another action on your next turn.

Psionic Image: You use your action to create the image of an object no larger than Small in size that lasts while you concentrate, up to a maximum duration of 1 minute. You can change the nature of this object as an action on your turn while you concentrate. Its nature as a psychic projection is obvious and it cannot be used to fool anyone save in the most creative of circumstances.

Telekinetic Grasp: The character may use an action to telekinetically grasp a creature or object they can see within 30 feet. This object can weigh no more than 20 pounds or be larger than Small size, and cannot be held or carried by another creature. The character must concentrate to maintain the grasp, and can sustain it for no longer than 1 minute. While grasping the object, they character can move it at a speed of 20 feet as an action on their turn. 

If a creature is an unwilling target, then an attack roll is in order. The relevant ability for this attack roll is Wisdom, and the character may apply their proficiency bonus to the roll. 

There are no visual or aural cues that the grasp is being used, allowing caged prisoners to filch keys in silence, charlatans to perform seemingly inexplicable sleight of hand, or wealthy merchants to retrieve disobedient pets from the unreachable rafters of a villa.

Thought Projection: You may use your bonus action to convey a mental image or silent message of 10 words or fewer to any number of targets within 30 feet of you.

While they're not in presentable form yet, I am also drafting up some ideas for weapon qualities (such as obsidian which deals extra damage on crits, fragile which breaks on natural 1s, etc.) and Advanced Paths for campaigns that reach that point. The Advanced Paths are really interesting to work on, and are meant to be discovered through the acquisition of epic boons after you achieve 20th level. A defiler might discover and wish to pursue the Path of the Dragon to become one of those fierce contenders for total dominance, while a barbarian might choose the Path of the Warlord and lead a tribe of freed slaves to conquer the city-states. Although, don't ask me how defiling and preserving will work yet. I'm not happy with any of the ideas I've come up with and I'm not particularly satisfied with any of the ones I've seen. I'll happily take suggestions.

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