I’d think with the bad magic and good magic you’ll just have to make two brand new classes and ban any other arcane classes. But this is where we run into my block on Dark Sun 4e.
The original boxed set had character trees to deal with the extremely high rate of character mortality in the setting and in the game and it mixed up the D&D “races” quite a bit and then there was the Brom art. Great stuff.
Discussing the game with Thor over IM has made it apparent that it isn’t a game about tweaking a single character to be powerful. The powerful unit in 4e is the party. This is a game about tweaking your stats and feats and powers to that you can better highlight the powers of the other characters. Character trees would allow for that kind of play throughout the campaign, which is really neat.
There was a whole lot of powerful thematic stuff going on in that original boxed set. Evil being the easier road and environmental destruction coming from magic being the big two. I don’t clearly see how 4e can pull those off and still be 4e.
Alright, what if the environmental stuff wasn’t just wizards. All psionics-capable folks (with lots of neat psionics powersy multi-class options available) can opt to reach into the earth and take some of its power for themselves. However, in doing so, it isn’t just a little black splotch on the ground or some nearby plants withering. In doing so, it is a cataclysm and it pushes the world towards the brink of destruction.
Dungeons have goals and if those goals are reached, again, the doomsday clock ticks off and the world comes close to ending. With character trees, TPK’s are possible and if they occur, the players pick up their characters and play through the follow-up dungeon in a world that is that much worse for wear.
So, basically, the world of Dark Sun has a doomsday mechanic, inspired by Conspiracy of Shadow’s Doom mechanic and the boardgame, Keep Cool (thanks ) . You can get your Daily or Encounter powers back when you need them but in doing so, you bring the world that much closer to ending.
The doomsday mechanics, as the world creeps closer to the end, has concrete consequences in game. Monsters get more brutal, the Veiled Alliance get’s squeezed harder. With these kind of mechanics, Dark Sun becomes a game where the players could fail to save the world, where the players very possibly lose.
That is kinda neat.