Thursday, June 10, 2021

Dark Sun: Sorcerer-King Ascension

 "I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls. My skin is black upon me, and my bones are burned with heat."
- Job 30:29-30

One thing I forgot to touch on in my last Dark Sun post--and it's a key trait of the Sorcerer-Kings--is their transhuman state. The first box set gives us very little on this, other than it's references to the dragon, but by the time of Dragon Kings, it is established that all defiler mages can potentially walk a path to becoming the monstrous personification of destruction, a dragon. Preservers, it turns out, can become the the mothman-looking avangions.

This is presented somewhat differently in the novels between the first box set and the hardcover. In Crimson Legion, Hamanu appears as a leonine creature. In Amber Enchantress, Nibenay is sort of immense arthropod-type monstrosity. Later works will suggest Hamanu can appear however he wishes and retcon Nibenay to having a dragon-type form. 

Admittedly, there is room to interpret their appearances in the novels as not their actual forms. They are mighty sorcerers and psionicists, after all. It seems just as likely to me, though, that the original plan was to have every Sorcerer-King have a unique transformation. In any case, there's nothing stopping me from running with that idea, whatever their intention. Maybe they're all going to be "dragons" (so as not to change the terminology), but dragon is a broader class of forms than a single, reptilian-humanoid body plan? It certainly dovetails with the elements I want to emphasize to look at it that way.


bombasticus said...

Not only is this juicy (every sufficiently evolved sorcerer-king approaches posthuman from a different angle) but it's starting to remind me of a take on 13th Age icons . . . only twisted and evil. For that matter someone really into Vampire could experiment with the antediluvians (each messed up in a special way and plotting to share their "vision") using 13A rules. I love it!

Trey said...

Good thoughts! Your mention of the 13th Age also for some reason makes me think of Marvel's Elders of Universe. Part of pursuit of dragonhood might include some monomaniacal pursuit of something, which dovetails nicely into Western Dragon's hoarding tendencies.

bombasticus said...

Treating the Elders like 13A icons is the hottest thing I've heard today easy. Cosmic super settings cry out for these kinds of patron structures.

Dick McGee said...

I seem to recall someone else discussing alternate-setting Icon equivalents (maybe on Facebook before I quit?) and both Dark Sun sorcerer kings and various comic book characters came up - Darkseid, his opposite Izaya Highfather, the Guardians of Oa as a collective, Shazam, the Specter, etc. The sorcerer kings (and preservers, psionics or druids who are sufficiently advanced on their paths) strike me as being perfect fits. Immensely powerful but not unbeatable, vulnerable to being killed or displaced from power, and prone to acting as patrons for adventurous types.

Deadtreenoshelter said...

I like the notion that Dragons are a type of magical super-mutants much broader than big flying lizards.

Are Dune's Guild Navigators "dragons"? Probably

bombasticus said...

Oops sorry @trey I got so excited I missed your main point, which is porting the Elders and their obsessions onto the SKs. Which is probably more immediately useful and awesome.

@dickmcgee thank you!! this is really exciting.

@deadtreenoshelter also super coooool. Thread for the ages.

JB said...

Huh. Wow. I've never read any of the Dark Sun novels (nor any later DS game books, like Dragon Kings), so I had no idea. This is much better/cooler than Thundarr're basically talking about some sort of monstrous apotheosis into mutant gods, which is a phenomenal idea, quite frankly.

Would definitely make for a cool set of antagonists for high level PCs.
; )

Does this work with your original ideas for re-imagining Dark Sun? The post-apocalyptic/Dying Earth/stone age? That would be my main question. The idea of wizards morphing into godlike beings would seem to require a bit more "societal cohesion" (large population centers, retained technology levels, etc.) to facilitate such transformations. Doesn't a god need worshippers (or sacrificial slaves) in mass numbers? Doesn't that require more than neo-cavemen eking out a hardscrabble existence?

I'd hate to send low level characters into Castle Greyskull and have them encounter some Elder Wyrm monstrosity (really!).

Trey said...

By Stone Age, I was referring to technology that doesn't require metallurgy, since that's part of Dark Sun as written. Obsidian daggers, bone arrowheads, etc. I feel like Dark Sun could have societies as sophisticated as the Incas, Aztecs, or even Iron Age cultures of the near east, just minus the iron.
Of course, the cities are all relatively few.

JB said...

Ah, I see. When I hear “stone age” and “Masters of the Universe” I naturally think of the old mini-comic “He-Man and the Power Sword.” I find it’s artwork/story quite evocative.

I’m not sure the prehispanic cultures of Mesoamerica are actually considered “stone age.” Maybe Bronze Age. And I believe the Incans uses iron for tools and (some) weapons (it’s been a few years since I was last researching them).

However, a lack of iron altogether starts to remind me of Tekumel (or Wormwood), rather than typical PA tropes.

Probably I just lack imagination.

Trey said...

The Incas did have copper and bronze, you are right, but no iron weapons. "Stone Age" which is why I described what I meant. The Aztecs did have metal weapons, but did work gold for instance. While we don't see much of the world in He-Man and the Power Sword, I only He-man's people see to be lacking metal. Teela certainly has metal armor and weapons, as does Man-At-Arms and Skeletor.

Iron exists in Dark Sun, it's just that its very rare. Metal weapons are very expensive.

Dick McGee said...

"Iron exists in Dark Sun, it's just that its very rare. Metal weapons are very expensive."

In that respect it's very similar to Tekumel. But the Empire of the Petal Throne setting has access to a large draft animal called a chlen, whose hide can be peeled (without harming the critter, like shearing a sheep), shaped like leather, and then treated with chemicals to harden it to something on par with bronze but lighter. The stuff can take an edge or be weighted to make suitable weapons, and can be crafted into armor, usually plate or even something like chain or scale by shaping cut-offs before hardening. Wears out faster than metal but it's a renewable resource that doesn't require mining for ore.