Well file this one under “I didn’t see this coming.” But I’m really excited that it is/will/might.
Back in 1991 when I first stumbled across a promo for Dark Sun in an issue of Dragon Magazine, I could have probably only ever told you the name of two game designers: Gary Gygax (AD&D, Greyhawk) and Ed Greenwood (Forgotten Realms). Ah the days of innocence. It wasn’t long before I added Tim Brown and Troy Denning to that list. The world they created, along with Gerald Brom, hit all the right notes at just the right time. And I happily ditched the warmed over Middle Earth repeats for the harsh climes of the Athasian wastes.
Flash forward now some 20 years, and it looks like Tim Brown is getting the band back together.
As a fan of the Dark Sun setting, I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this project come to light. But that enthusiasm comes with some trepidation too. I love Dark Sun for what it is, and I worry that any “spiritual successor” will come up wanting in my book. Am I so attached to headhunter pygmy halflings that I won’t miss them if they are gone? Will all that seemed new with Athas feel contrived and redundant with Khitus. I feel there is a lot more to Dark Sun than “D&D adventures in the desert”. Maybe after all this time, I’ll discover (to my horror) that it was Troy Denning that brought the magic and Tim…well…
So why am I posting this here? Oh sure, Heroes of Ash and Flame is set in the Dark Sun milieu, so its relevant regardless. It’s a bit of a inside baseball answer. See, if you look at the product library I’ve distilled into HoAF, it leans VERY heavily on the books that came out under Tim Brown’s leadership. While it doesn’t jive with corporate realities, I believe that game worlds are driven by their creators. Greyhawk was never the same without Gygax (sorry, Carl Sargant). Greenwood has managed to keep one foot in the Forgotten Realms, despite all the upheavals and edition retcons in its published history. Likewise, with Dark Sun, it felt as though it lost something significant when Tim Brown moved on. I can’t explain what that was. Perhaps its all in my head. It happened before the Revised world setting was released.
I’ve no doubt Tim Brown has big plans for this project. I’ve heard through the grapevine he’s tried to take back the reigns of Dark Sun a couple of times since TSR folded up. So if this project lets him build on what he left behind 20 years ago, without all the baggage that comes with the D&D brand? I’m excited to see where he takes it, even if the end result disappoints me.
Oh, and don’t let anyone tell you Dark Sun and prog don’t go together.
(Yes, technically Rainbow isn’t prog. It’s neo-classical proto-metal hard rock. But close enough.)