So, I’m digging the Dark Sun setting for 4E. I never got to play 2E, but I did get to hear the brutal tales of it from an old roommate and good friend.
But there is one part that bothers me….the “Defiling Magic” system.
You see, the big appeal to me here is that this was a setting where magic has dire consequences. Wizards and Magic Users are supposed to be feared — with good reason! The whole world is supposed to be like a fantasy Mad Max nightmare; the powerful magics of a war long ago resulted in a defiled, dying world. I’m cool with no Clerics because the Gods gave up and walked away…I’m okay with Primal powers still being around to channel the elemental and dying spirits of the world. I think it’s kind of cool where Magic and Divine powers left, Psionics became common place. But I want what little magic is in the world to have consequences. What drew me to this setting was the description that most arcanists were defilers, and when they cast magic it drained life from the world around them. And then there were preservationists, who were explained in the setting fluff (especially in the marketing of the lore) to be those who were capable of casting without causing harm….pending they tried a bit harder. Defiling was supposed to be easier.
But, instead, it seem to be mechanically the opposite: All players are assumed to practice “Preservation” magic until they use a nifty, and optional, At-Will arcane feature that lets them re-roll an attack or damage, at the cost of hurting allies within a huge area. And that’s only for Dailies. To me, that isn’t magic with consequence. It’s not making the path of the righteous harder or the wicked ways of the Defiler easier…..it’s simply making the “bad guy” decision being an optional choice on particular power plays. I may fall off the wagon and decide to inflict pain on my allies just so I can squeeze out that much harder of a nuke….but I’ll keep on slinging Magic Missile all day at no price!
Let’s kick this up a notch.
I know, I know, the real consequences come in the form of the setting and role playing. Get caught casting, and you’re likely to get reported to authorities or shived by some loyalist to a Sorcerer King. But, for me, I wanted Arcane magic just a smidgen more deadly. And I still wanted to leave in the temptation to walk on the wicked side, and inflict harm on your buddies just to squeeze out some extra results. And, thankfully, I have the most powerful DM’ing tool in the world: Imagination and Creative thinking. I don’t have to sit around crying on forums to get results….I MAKE MY OWN!
Making Dark Sun Defiling……Darker.
- That lovely At-Will Feature arcane magic users get in the Dark Sun setting? Keep it around. It can still be played.
- But also go ahead and print out these bad boys out and hand them to your spell slinger too:
There, problem solved. Now, ANY arcane power attacks are likely to cause some pain. You’ll notice I kept the range in half for “regular” casting. If a PC wants to “Do the right thing” and CHOOSE to Preserve, they get to spend a Standard Action preparing and properly channeling the necessary energies (as opposed to just blatantly sucking them up like a vaccum.) In essence, they’re giving up a turn to cast a spell safely the next turn. Or they can blow an Action Point to go that round. There, I feel like Arcane Power is a dangerous path in Dark Sun again.