Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dark Sun: Original vs Revised Part 1

The original Dark Sun boxed set came out in 1991, designed by Troy Denning and Timothy Brown, and the revised box set came out 4 years later, 19951 designed by Bill Slavicsek. Both are for AD&D Second Edition. What's the difference?

First, we'll take a detailed look at the rule books that came with each set.

Appearance: They're both ninety six pages long, so neither is thicker than the other. Both are soft cover. The art of the original rules book is much better, in my opinion.
The original cover features the familiar Dark Sun logo. The artwork shows a Tarek charging an unknown foe. The land is desolate, a city is far in the distance, Ral, or Guthay, is rising above the horizon, and a creepy skeleton guy is watching what's going on. Painted by Brom, it's simply a wonderful work of art.
The revised edition cover features a new logo. I don't know why they felt the need to change the logo, because there was nothing wrong with the original. The artwork shows a Mul, Thri-Kreen, and, who I assume to be, the Wanderer fighting a Pterran riding a Silk Worm. There's some ruins in the background and a dark, cloudy sky with lightning crashing down. Painted by Stephen A. Daniele, it's a nice painting, but lacks the quality of the original.

Conclusion: The original looks better.

Table of Contents: The original shows a list of chapters with the chapter heading. Small and slightly useful. It's also the credits page. It only takes up one page.
The revised has a much more useful table, showing a list of chapters with heading and sub-sections. The revised rule book also has a separate credits page. Total, it's three pages, which makes me wonder what was cut to make room for it, remember, they're both only ninety six pages long.

Conclusion: It's easier to find what you're looking for in the revised edition.

Ability Scores: The original chapter one is titled ability scores and it's one page long. It explains the new new ability score minimum of five and maximum of twenty. It also explains why they're higher than other settings. It gives suggestions on how to roll the scores and then states the assumption that the DM and players will be using the proficiency system.
The revised ability score information is contained in chapter one and fills approximately three pages. It explains the ability score minimum of five and maximum of twenty. There are new Strength and Constitution tables, which removes the exceptional strength system, which to tell the truth, I never saw a point of anyway. The Constitution table is only slightly different from the Players Handbook. Instead of assuming the DM and players are using the proficiency system, it states that the proficiency system is mandatory.
It explains why ability scores are higher than other settings. It states that if the players find themselves on another campaign world, their ability scores drop to the maximum level of that world. There's no explanation why this happens. It also gives suggestions for rolling ability scores, but states that PCs and NPCs do it differently. PCs have an advantage and usually will end up with higher ability scores. There's no explanation why PCs should have this advantage over NPCs.

Conclusion: Revising the strength and constitution charts is the best thing to come out of the revised book.

Races, part 1: The original book lists eight race possibilities; Dwarf, Elf, Half-Elf, Half-Giant, Halfling, Human, Mul, and Thri-Kreen. It gives the racial ability score requirements, racial ability score bonuses and penalties, as well as level limits. Languages are explained, listed, and humans get their own language, a D&D first, I believe. It then dives into racial descriptions.
The revised book lists ten race possibilities; Aarakocra, Dwarf, Elf, Half-Elf, Half-Giant, Halfling, Human, Mul, Pterran, and Thri-Kreen. It also gives the racial ability score requirements, racial ability score bonuses and penalties, as well as level limits. Languages are explained and listed, then it dives into racial descriptions.
Differences: The only real difference is the addition of the Aarakocra and Pterran as playable races. Everything else is pretty much identical.
Races, part 2:
Aarakocra are not a playable race in the original rule book.
The revised book introduces Athasian Aarakocra and gives a brief description of their appearance and home. It specifically states that playable Aarakocra only come from one place, Winter Nest, but it doesn't give an explanation why. Bonuses include a natural armor, flying movement, natural weapons, and a special javelin dive attack. Negatives include a claustrophobia combat penalty and susceptibility to bludgeoning weapons. The Aarakocra pictured is done very well and, in my opinion, is one of the best race drawings in the book.
The original book introduces the Athasian Dwarf and explains their appearance, no mention of beards, or hair. The Dwarf pictured has no beard, but has short black hair under a cap. It introduces the Dwarven Focus, gives a decent bonus for actions that work toward its completion, and gives the explanation of what happens if a Dwarf should fail their Focus.
The revised book introduces Dwarves and explains their appearance, again no explanation of beards, or hair, but the Dwarf pictured is completely bald. It also gives a rundown of the Dwarven Focus and gives the same bonuses. However, it gives Dwarves a new saving throw bonus to resist poison and wizardly magic, based on constitution. In exchange, Dwarves are forced to give up their combat bonuses against giants and ability to detect slopping passages, or other underground discrepancies.
Both editions give the Dwarf far less than a full page.
The original book introduces the Athasian Elf and gives a short rundown of their society and appearance. It stresses the importance of the Elf’s tribe and gives the bonuses of using a longsword, or longbow, crafted by the tribe. Elves get a surprise bonus in the wilderness, but have no special resistance to spells and no extra ability to detect secret doors. They also gain a bonus to their movement rate, for overland movement, based on their constitution score. It also contains some role-playing suggestions for them. The running Elf pictured is long of limb and very lithe.
The revised book introduces Elves and gives a short rundown of their society and appearance. It gives the same bonuses as the original book and they still lose their resistance to spells and their extra ability to detect secret doors. It also specifically states that they don't get any of the abilities from “The Complete Book of Elves”. However, they gain a bonus to all movement rates based on their dexterity score. They also gain Elf Run, which allows them to run for an extended period of time. The Elf pictured has a ridiculous hair style, but looks proportionately correct.
Both editions give the Elf well over a full page.
The original book introduces Half-elves and explains their appearance, as well as the prejudice they face. It stresses that Half-elves are loners. It states that they do not gain any resistance to charm, or sleep, related magic, or the ability to find secret doors. They do gain infravision, however. Half-elves gain the survival proficiency at third level, as a bonus. At fifth level, they gain an animal companion. This is followed by some role-playing suggestions. The picture of the Half-elf shows then cloaked in the wilderness. The elf features are subtle.
In the revised book, Half-Elves are presented similarly, explaining their appearance and the prejudices they face. They gain no additional bonuses, or penalties, that are not also in the original book. The pictured Half-elf has pal, white skin and looks more elven, than human.
Half-giants are introduced, in the original book, by explaining their possible origins. It then gives a description and lets you know they are not the brightest. It does explain, however, that they are curious and generally kind. The book explains that Half-giants are quick to change their minds and their alignment restriction, which can be an alignment expansion, however you look at it. It goes on to describe the single greatest benefit of the Half-giant race, their hit point bonus. Half-giant equipment is more expansive. Role-playing hints follow. The picture of the Half-giant shows a brute, towering over a human. The Half-giant has dreadlocks.
The revised book opens the same way, explaining possible origins and giving a physical description. Generally, the revised book does not alter the bonuses, or penalties, of Half-giants. The Half-giant pictured is crouched down and has dreadlocks. It is drawn very well.
The original book begins by describing the Halflings habitat, followed by a physical description. It goes on to describe their racial unity and unique society. Halflings gain the same bonuses as outlined in the Players Handbook, with the exception of additional languages and infravision. They are not divided into sub-races. Role-playing suggestions finish the entry. The pictured Halfings are one of my favorite pieces of artwork in the entire Dark Sun line.
In the revised book, the Halfing past is outlined briefly, which I dislike immensely. The history of the Halfings is the history of the world, and players should not always begin with this knowledge. It also mentions the Jagged Cliff Halflings, which are supposed to be isolated. The rest of the entry is very similar to the original book, except for the occasional mention of the Jagged Cliff Halflings, which I wish was left out. They do gain a new bonus to resist wizards spells, based on their constitution scores. The pictured Halfing is drawn quite well. It appears very savage.
The original book begins by stating the Humans are the predominant race on Athas and a physical description follows. It goes on to explain that humans can often appear bizarre, due to twisted magic. Humans gain no additional bonuses or penalties. The human pictured is a muscular human woman, it is drawn very well.
The revised book begins the same way, but removes the possibility of a bizarre appearance for a human. Also, it mentions the Cleansing Wars, which players should not always know about. The pictured human is three pages back into the book, but I guess they figured everyone knows what humans look like.
MulThe original book begins by making sure you know the proper pronunciation of Mul, as mule. I've never called them mules myself, preferring to call them Muls, with a short u sound. Enough of my ramblings, however. The book continues with the origin and physical description of Muls. It explains a bit how Muls are, normally, raised in slavery. Then, it outlines the Muls exertion bonus. Lastly, role-playing suggestions are written in. The drawing of the Mul is almost comical, his head appears too large for his body.
The revised book offers no further expansion on Muls, almost reprinting the same information. The Mul drawing is decent, but he's wearing some sort of duster that hides most of his body.
Pterrans are not a playable race in the original rule book.
The Pterran entry, in the revised book, begins with a description of them and states, like Aarakocra, are limited in their starting area. At least this time, it gives a reason. Not a great reason, mind you, but a reason nonetheless. It states some aspects of their society, but leaves much in the dark, which is surprising for a new race. Lastly, it outlines a Pterrans bonuses, natural armor and natural weapons.
In the original book, Thri-Kreen get the most detailed description. It begins by describing the physical appearance of Thri-Kreen. It also throws in a natural armor bonus and reduced blind fighting bonus. It then states that Thri-Kreen need no sleep. It goes through a brief list of Thri-Kreen weapons, before stating that Thri-Kreen cannot use most magical items. There is a brief description of the pack mindset, before moving into racial bonuses. Natural weapons, poison, leaping ability, special use of a chatkcha, and a non-magical missile dodge bonus. Finally, it rounds out the entry with role-playing suggestions.

Conclusion: The original rulebook offers less choices, but is better laid out, with the description and bonuses, followed by role-playing suggestions. Except Dwarves. I have no idea why Dwarves did not get role-playing suggestions included in the original book. I blame the Elves.
It greatly bothers me how the revised book assumes every player knows the background and secrets of the setting. I do like the revised edition additional races and bonuses, however.

Next: We'll continue looking at the rule book differences. Classes, Equipment, and Spells.

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