- The World is a Desert
- The World is Savage
- Metal is Scarce
- Arcane Magic Defiles the World
- Sorcerer-Kings Rule the City-States
- The Gods are Silent
- Fierce Monsters Roam the World
- Familiar Races Aren't What you Expect
The races that are in the book are met with mixed response. The Thri-kreen are such a different race and offer players the chance to play something very different. I played one in Encounters, and then had to make a Thri-Kreen in a home game. I find them to offer a nice alternative to standard races. The Mul on the other hand just did not see as much love/respect... and I'm not sure why. They are a very tough race, that can take a beating. They make great front line fighters to force the enemy to deal with. Oh, and on a side note, who would not want to play in a world with halflings that are cannibals!
Choosing a theme for your character allows you to access more powers and to give the character more flavor. There are 10 different themes offered in the book. Each theme offers a wide variety of options for creating your character, including access to different feats and powers. You do gain a power that is associated with the theme when you select the theme during character generation... which is really cool.
As magic is scarce, and illegal, on Athas you will find many players having access to psionics instead. At the DMs discretion, players can chose a Wild Talent. Wild Talents are minor psionic powers that characters can use in game that are similar to wizards cantrips.
Several new classes were added based off of existing classes, including Wild Battlemind, Arena Fighter, Animist Shaman, and Warlock Sorcerer-King Pact. These classes again add more of the Dark Sun flavor to your character and represent some of the differences in this very harsh world.
Maybe one of the most interesting pieces of the Dark Sun world is the lack of available metal. Most items are made out of more naturally occurring items. Horn, bone, hides, stone, wood, crystal, and shells appear in a variety of forms from armor to weapons. There are some metal weapons and armor, but they would be considered masterwork and difficult to find. To represent the fragile nature of the weapons on Athas, DMs can use the optional weapon breakage rule. The Reckless Breakage rule is the one I really like: If you roll a natural 1 you can choose to reroll the attack. A non-metal weapon breaks with any second attack roll, but you might hit! A metal weapon will break if you roll a natural 5 or lower. This can be a very useful tool as you might not mind breaking your item, but you really want to hit the monster!
So, if you have not tried Dark Sun out, or you were curious what the heck it is... give it a try! Dark Sun is a very harsh and gritty world full of danger, but offers a tremendous amount of fun to enjoy a new world to explore!