Friday, September 10, 2010

Playable Races under the Dying Sun

For a long time now, I've been working on the idea that the races in Dying Sun would all be analogous to those in Dark Sun.  This wasn't really a conscious decision; it just resulted from the idea having begun as a Dark Sun hack that changed so much that I decided to make it my own.  Of course, the races are all changed: Elves to Desert Men, Halflings to Wild Men, Muls to Helots, and Mantis Men to Scorpion Men (with Half-Giants entirely dropped).  But still, not to hard to work out the analogies.

Almost a year later, the always -clever Tim Kirk asks me, "Why have all those Dark Sun races?"  And I don't really have a good answer.  Which makes me wonder if I shouldn't take a design axe to the races.  On the one hand, I like humanocentric games and regard race-bloat as a bad sign in Ye Auld Game.  Scorpion Men have to stay, of course, because you gotta have Tharks.  But it would be pretty darn easy to turn Desert Men and Wild Men into purely cultural categories and drop Helots in favour of the NPC Infra-Men (although that's always like a dare to see who's the first to want to make a PC out of them).

On the other hand, I know that other folks really like having those choices.  And I kinda think I did a pretty good job on mine.  Well, the Helots are pretty bland really.  But I like the Desert Men a lot, I must say: copper-skinned, hairless, ectomorphs with nictating membranes.  Hmn.

Still, I'd love to hear what any hypothetical readers think about this.


  1. Having had no exposure to the Dark Sun materials, I have no preconceived baggage to colour my view, so I have no problem with the races you have presented so far.

  2. I like Desert Men as they are, they are an interesting choice to play, but Helots just seem like strong brutes and nothing more.

    BUT in the Psychic Sorcery section you wrote that their brains work differently, maybe they have some kind of weird cultural outlook or advantage because of this - something that the more brutish Inframan don't possess.

    When I used them in my Algol game they had a natural 'mind over body' drive that allowed them to endure, but they (stubbornly)culturally observed a midday siesta whether in recovery or not. They downed tools, weapons and went for a rest, annoying the hell out of their PC employers. They also had 100 terms for different types of sand and were quite boring when not slaying. Which works for NPCs but not PCs.

    Just something non-combat that distinguishes them.

  3. Whoah; that's cool. All I meant was that they can't possess psychic sorcery; Infra-Men not only can't possess sorcery, but also are resistant to it.

    But, geez, yours is cool.

  4. I think you should decide what the setting is about and then decide if the races help or hinder that aim.

  5. 'Under the Dying Sun is intended to help play games about the brutal struggle for survival
    on a hostile world'

    So, if that is what the setting is about, the races are firstly distinguished by what has helped them thrive - speed, strength, ability to hide, ruthless survival instinct - which Matthew has done. Then there is that cultural layer (are they a matriarchy, a monoculture, polygamous etc) where there has to be a balance so they are not too-mapped-out so a DM's hands are tied, but with enough detail to give a hook into playing them. The other layer is how they adapted due to interaction with the other races/cultures - separatists, integrationists.

    I think this is why the Desert Men work best for me - all the layers are there.

  6. Damn, Sean is writing a better game than I. :)