17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Best campaign setting for 4e yet.
, August 24, 2010
This review is from: Dark Sun Campaign Setting: A 4th Edition D&D Supplement (Hardcover)
The previous campaign settings for 4e, Forgotten Realms and Eberron respectively, were pretty good books in my opinion. If I had one complaint about those, is that the books thought for you too much. They told you exactly who was important, where was important, why they are important, and in some cases, what would happen if they ceased to be. While some may like the amount of detail put into the world, I do not. I can appreciate what Wizards of the Coast was trying to do with those worlds. They tried, and certainly succeeded, in making both settings living, breathing worlds, full of history and culture. I found the amount of information nice to read, but stifling to make adventures for, and thus continued playing the default campaign setting, the unnamed "points of light" world that Wizards introduced in 2008 as the core setting.
Dark Sun is, without a doubt, a world rich in history. It became apparent as soon as I opened the book and started reading. However, there is a major difference between the Dark Sun Campaign Setting book and the campaign setting books of Eberron and Forgotten Realms: the information here is bare minimum. It is still enough to give you a detailed look at the world, but scarce enough to let you truly take any area of the world and do as you wish with it. I have already run two games in this setting, and I love the amount of freedom the world gives me. In Forgotten Realms, they tell you why Goblins are here and why Goblins would never be here. In Dark Sun, any creature of any level can be found in the vicious wastes. They don't tell you "Silt Runners won't be here because...", and that's what the previous campaign settings did wrong. In short, this book doesn't think for you, it thinks WITH you.
I can only hope that the future campaign setting books are designed like this. I know in full that the design of this book was an intentional throwback to the old book, and I say keep at it. Give me just barely enough information to know what is going on with the world. Keep it's true history hidden. Keep it's ruler's intentions secret. Let the players, not the world, decide what evils the enemies are up to. For the first time since the core ruleset came out, I have felt a world offer unlimited potential to both players and Dungeon Masters, and it is good.
I am, however, not without complaints. An earlier reviewer had mentioned there are far too many instances of complete page references, sentences that say "see page xx for details" and this is a legitimate excuse. Even during initial casual browsing, I found no less than three instances of it. Two, even one, is inexcusable from a powerhouse such as Wizards of the Coast. Other complaints I have are superficial, such as Wizard's continuing use of Wayne Reynolds, who is quite possibly the worst fantasy artist I've seen. Still, the good far outweigh the bad, and I feel that Dark Sun will be the best setting 4e has to offer for quite some time.
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