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Dark Sun

Let me put one thing straight from the moment go. I have been praying ( yes, praying) for Dark Sun to come back to publishing since the moment it was abandoned over a decade ago. It was my first setting I actually run when I was a young man and it was the first set of books I bought from eBay 7 years ago when I started collecting old TSR settings.

I LOVE Dark Sun and I was mega happy when I heard it was coming back on my table.

Fast forward to the recent past. I ordered the Dungeon Tiles, Deserts of Athas. I received them with cautious rejoice. Cautious because they were very standard. There was nothing unique to them that screamed “Athas” to me. Still, it is a sound product, good quality and, no doubt, will come in handy when I run the game.

Come to the even more recent past and think of the Open Gaming Day on the 19th of June. I run the first adventure for the Dark Sun setting. I was overjoyed. The adventure did capture exactly what I remembered of Dark Sun. The danger, the brutality, the inhospitable, yet gorgeous environment and the weird and wonderful fiends and friends one can expect in the Tyr region. Bring into the equation the good quality of the product itself, with lovely illustrations, great cartography and very good, sturdy pre-gen character sheets and it was onto a a winner.

Now come to the present day. WOTC decides to launch a mini campaign to aid the reawakening of Dark Sun and comes up with this feeble excuse of an RPG adventure.

Fury of the Wastewalker
Fury of the Wastewalker

I will not lie, there is very little I like from Fury of the Wastewalker.

I’ll get the good points out of the way. Great fights. That’s it.

The encounters are well balanced for 1st level characters and I am sure the players, if they are new to DS, will have a great time slaughtering the fiends sent their way. To make matters more interesting, the encounters are meant to run without a rest, so lateral thinking is even more important than good roll of the dice. A good skirmish session.

There are 4 interior illustrations. They’re good.

Now the bad. Everything else. It sucks, it really, really, really sucks.

For starters the cartography should be illegal. That’s how bad it is. Imagine you take your dungeons tiles, arrange them haphazardly and photograph or scan them. That’s what the maps for this so called adventure look like. It is so bad the cartographer is not even in the credits. Maybe there wasn’t a cartographer, which would explain that horrible mess. Or maybe he/she saw what rubbish was produced and didn’t want the name to appear on this product. Can’t be blamed!

The so called Art Director on this one, Mathew Stevens, should be really ashamed of himself. This is a very amaterurish product. It seems and feels it’s been put together by the junior staff at WOTC.

The plot is really sad and the adventure is terrible. Can’t be any more cliched. Guide a caravan from a city to another and get into trouble in the way there. How original.

The editing is not great either. I am no proof reader, but I can see the difference between Silt Runner and Slit Runner. Please M. Alexander Jurkat… you’re meant to be an editor. Edit!

I don’t know who to blame for the next one, the writer, Nicolas K. Tulach, or the guy in “Development”, Andy Collins. It seems that either no one has read about Dark Sun, that Dark Sun is going to fall from grace, or that they give a toss.

You ready for this?… there are goblins in this adventure.

If you’re new to Dark Sun, this will mean nothing to you. If you’re a seasoned Dark Sun player, you probably have your face in your hands now.

One of Dark Sun’s greatest points of interest when it came out, was that it didn’t have all the usual creatures, and provided with a huge amount of new ones to use. Off went the goblins, kobolds, orcs, trolls, knolls, dragons…. all of them. Out of the question. Why? Because someone in the setting, millennia before the events in the adventures, had committed genocide. All races except the few surviving ones, exterminated. And yet, in this adventure we have gobbos!

I pre-ordered the Dark Sun setting books as soon as they were available in my favourite online book retailer. I still plan on buying them, but I am bracing myself to be very disappointed. I am not one for changing adventures, settings or general material given by the publishers. I don’t have the time, to be honest. But if they change so much that they make this setting a common, un-charismatic one, I will probably do more than change the material they give me, and change game altogether instead.