Dungeons and Dragons executive producer Kyle Brink has made a return to the Dark Sun DnD setting seem pretty unlikely. In an interview on February 22, he tells D&D YouTuber Bob World Builder: “the Dark Sun setting is problematic in a lot of ways, and that’s the main reason we haven’t come back to it”.
The original Dark Sun Boxed Set first appeared in 1991, and it transported D&D to a post-apocalyptic desert world. With darker themes and less focus on magic, the setting shook up the tabletop RPG’s traditional fantasy formula. There’s been no first-party Dark Sun content since D&D 4e, but it remains popular with players. “We know it’s got a huge fan following”, Brink says in Wednesday’s interview.
However, the potentially “problematic” aspects of the setting Brink refers to are numerous. Sensitive topics like genocide are ingrained in the setting, and slavery is commonplace. Several DnD races from the setting also potentially perpetuate harmful stereotypes. According to the Dark Sun wiki, Dark Sun Halflings live in forest tribes and are known for cannibalism, and the Muls are a race of slaves noted for being particularly violent.
Wizards of the Coast has taken several steps in recent history to amend problematic content in D&D, such as tying ability scores to background instead of race in One D&D and hiring cultural consultants after players criticised the Hadozee Spelljammer race.
While it seems Wizards wants to stay far away from Dark Sun right now, some designers still see potential in the setting. Ajit George, co-lead on Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel, tweeted about Dark Sun on February 22. “I’d be intrigued with tackling a revised version of Dark Sun”, he says. “It’d be an amusing polar opposite of what I created with the Radiant Citadel and a fascinating challenge.”
Journeys Through the Radiant Citadel introduced several new settings to D&D, based on the real-world cultures of its black and brown writers. “The more I think on it, the more it intrigues me if I were able to do with it what I did with the Citadel – which is, it’d be a commentary on our society today”, George tweets. “The Citadel speaks to one path we might take that lifts us up. Dark Sun speaks to another that takes into misery.”