I really like Dark Sun; its depiction of a whole world gone bad is just amazing. Unfortunately I don't think that the AD&D rules are well suited to it -- a little too high fantasy to deal with (the way I picture) the nitty- gritty world of Athas.

I'm considering porting the Dark Sun background to another more suitable system. Does anyone have any suggestions? I think WFRP might be suitable, but I'm not sure.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you be more specific about the aspects you'd like to play up, and the aspects you'd like to suppress? Particularly from a system stand point? High fantasy is a little vague in this genre... \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Feb 11 '11 at 16:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to play up the post apocalyptic nature of Darksun. I think that the "Add two levels" mentality of Darksun doesn't cover how people would adapt to the world. \$\endgroup\$ – Omar Kooheji Feb 11 '11 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Original question wasn't a "how" It's been edited. \$\endgroup\$ – Omar Kooheji Feb 18 '11 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Omar Are you just looking for system recommendations then, not advice for how to do it yourself? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 18 '11 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Pretty much, I figure porting it isn't that difficult. probably because I'd probably chooses a system that allowed you to be quick and fast with the rules. I get bogged down with AD&D these days... \$\endgroup\$ – Omar Kooheji Feb 21 '11 at 17:22

Step 1

You need to pick your system of choice. That's a matter of taste.

Step 2

Identify the key elements of the setting. For Dark Sun, for me, here's that list:

  • Unique race treatments
    • Thri-Kreen
    • Athasian Elves
    • Athasian Halflings
  • Unique hazards
    • Silt Seas
    • Unique Creatures
    • Defiler Magic
  • Metal Poor
  • Sorcerer-Kings
    • Transformation to Dragons
    • Clerics get spells from Sorcerer-Kings

Step 3

Begin adapting the key elements, especially races and sorcerer-king powers.

Step 4

Collate those adaptations into a useful and usable document. You generally get the best results from players by letting them see the players' sections of the conversion with time to plan.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a whole lot of upfront work. If the players are familiar with the setting, let them decide what they want to play and then port only the parts your need. If they're playing adventurers, how exactly sorcerer-king magic works probably doesn't matter. \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Feb 13 '11 at 13:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ If one of them is playing a priest, it's immediately relevant. Plus, in Dark Sun, the powers of the sorcerer-kings include magic that points out problems... the PC's don't need to know the details, but the GM certainly does. Doing a half-assed fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants won't be the same feel, as the level of player paranoia is only helped by knowing just how all pervasive the sorcerer kings Level 10 spells are. \$\endgroup\$ – aramis Feb 13 '11 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess you're most familiar with 2e D&D then? Templars are no longer clerics in 4e. If you've picked a different system, just use the new magic system and flavor whichever parts you want to belong to the sorcerer-kings. "Level 10 spells" don't mean anything outside of D&D. \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Feb 13 '11 at 17:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ What about psionics, gladiators, half-giants? There's a lot of information that would need consideration, or porting. If it was me, I would think of the process as using Dark Sun as an inspiration, and writing my own setting from scratch using the new rules. This lowers the pressure (players won't expect anything as complete, especially if it is being written session to session), opens the opportunity to better fit with the new rules, and can significantly lower the upfront cost. \$\endgroup\$ – blueberryfields Feb 16 '11 at 1:29

I played a one-shot game of Dark Sun using Burning Wheel.

Burning Wheel is already gritty. We cranked up the brutality and borrowed traits (e.g., Tasting the Lash) and lifepaths from the Orc stock (e.g., slavery).


I haven't tried it yet, but I've often thought that Dark Sun would make an excellent GURPS campaign setting. Fleshing out defiling and preserving magic with GURPS Thaumatology would be pretty straightforward, the fairly crunchy and flexible GURPS Psionics would, I think, fit the world better than D&D's increasingly dumbed-down psionics (God, it pains me when they write the phrase "psionic magic"), and the wide variety of physical advantages and disadvantages support a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting well.

As far as the "porting" goes, I wouldn't personally try to actually "port" mechanics, especially 4e mechanics. It'd be more of a matter of designing a campaign based on the Dark Sun setting in abstract than of saying "okay, a gaj has 12 hit dice, that means HT 18" or anything like that.


I once began the task of converting the Dark Sun campaign setting for use with the Pathfinder Ruleset. I didn't finish the task in the end, as the players decided that they would rather play Forgotten Realms instead (which was conveniently much more easy to adapt).

Anyhow, along the way I found a couple of other conversions of the Dark Sun rules - one for D&D 3.0 and one for D&D 3.5. Now, of course, these won't be of direct use to you in terms of the rules - but I found that they provide a great template for the bits of Dark Sun that you will need to convert (as opposed to the story-based bits that you can simply leave in their current form).

You can find the conversion for D&D 3.0 in the form of Dark Sun 3 on athas.org. The table of contents (and the PDF) shows the sort of things you will need to account for in the new system. For instance, Races, Classes, Skills, Feats, Equipment, Adventuring, Magic, Psionics, Spells, Powers.

You will have to hunt for the Dark Sun 3.5 conversion, as I believe it appeared across a number of issues of Dragon magazine. It comprises a similar set of content however, so I suspect the above document shows the majority of the elements you will need to consider when doing your conversion process.

Good luck!


If you use Legends of Anglerre (a FATE based game) you'd just need to look at race and class descriptions, choose appropriate skills & stunts and customise them with aspects. Same goes for the monsters. LoA is well suited for handling environmental hazards.

HeroQuest would also be dead easy to convert, as you can generate a character by writing a 100 word write up, and deriving stats from that.

Beyond that, Reign might be a good fit, there's already been some work in making FR one roll characters, so doing a similar thing with DS should be fairly easy, and with hit locations and low availability of armour, it would be quite lethal.


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