[Dark Sun] Converting setting to BWG

I’m new to BWG, but a rpg veteran. I’m trying to make BWG campaign in the Dark Sun setting and interested do hear about your ideas and experience regarding converting a setting.

How do I solve the following things in Dark Sun:

[li]Races. Sure, you could all play humans, but there are many other cool races.
[/li][li]Psionics. All have a random Wild Talent and others have psionic powers.
[/li][li]Preserving and Defiling (sorcery).

My own thoughts:


  • I’m thinking of removing Faith, Grief, Greed and Hatred.
  • Make all races humans with different traits and lifepaths. Elvs are OP.


  • Thinking about adding 6 new skills. Clairsentience, Psychokinesis, Psychometabolism, Psychoportation, Telepathy, Meta Psionics.
  • Each skill represents a group of powers. Example: Adrenaline Rush, adds 1 die to Power rolles, but only for the purposes of lifting, breaking and contests of strength.
  • Depending of the numbers of successes you can change range, duration, damage etc.

Preserving and Defiling:

  • Using the Life Dice example.
  • Not going to use Sorcery before the rules of BW are learned properly.


  • Found som basic lifepaths made for Dark Sun.
  • Using Waste Wanderers from the wiki.
  • Create new Traits for the setting.
  • Converting subclasses from Dark Sun to Lifepaths. Silt Pirate etc.

If you remove emotional attributes and change racial Lifepaths, you will find that you have a group of humans wit pointy ears, short humans, and humans who sunburn easily. If you change the big things which separate races, then the distinctions will blur.

Races with Emotional attributes are removed from humans by dint of their emotional attribute, as it makes a theme to play with or against. I suggest you keep the attributes in, even if Faith goes.
Elves are OP, but that just changes some of the scale. Elves are still as focused as other characters. Removing skill and spell songs, and replacing elven magics with psionics, would cut down their power whilst keeping the magic themes.

I don’t know Dark Sun’s magic, but a set of 6 skills seems like a good way of accomplishing psionics in a fun and varied way.

Lifepaths are a good change to be making, and throwing some new skills and traits into the mix really helps things.

In our Dark Sun game I played a Dwarf Templar, which was built on a Human chassis with a psionic power (telepathy I think) and a Belief to model his obligation to his father’s legacy. Psychokinesis was essentially a spell. I think we took out Greed as it didn’t fit, but oaths definitely worked. I’m trying to remember how we modeled the Templar’s ability to draw on the Sorcerer King’s power. I believe it was essentially Faith, but since we were trying to kill the sorcerer king, drawing on his power was a chancy move.

The defiler drew energy by making a versus test against the type of terrain that he was in and had to contend with an emotional attribute that would see him making an Ob 10 Forte test to avoid dying as he transformed into a dragon if it his corruption got to 10.

The GM invented a couple life paths at the start of the game to capture things like Defilers, Templars, etc. But we didn’t need to change too much.

I also found this documentonline that may give you some ideas.

When converting a D&D setting I would ask myself two questions:

Am I trying to keep a D&D-esque style of play (fighting monsters, leveling up characters, cool powers)?” Then I would probably convert the game to Torchbearer which has a nice rigid framework to translate all of those cool class abilities or Dungeon World which can gloss over all crunch while keeping a heroic adventure-esque feel to the play. Or “Am I trying to use the setting of of Dark Sun and tell an epic shared narrative campaign that the simple combat mechanics of D&D weren’t able to assist with?” Then I would go with Burning Wheel and I wouldn’t try and convert all of my video-game-powers into the BW system, but focus on telling stories about the people who live on a planet near a dark sun.

The D&D character sheet is 90% combat related, so if you’re focus is on translating you D&D character sheet into BW, you’re going to end up with role-master, i.e. a skill based level-less combat emulator.

  1. As an aside: Faith, Greed, Grief, and Hate all sound like awesome paths to becoming a dragon-king or Avangion.

  2. perserving & defiling. D&D had only one way to represent these two types of sorcery and that was in a mechanic related to combat aka spells. Perhaps thinking outside of the box on this one, yes, sorcery can incorporate defiling and whatnot, but perhaps other quasi-magical skills could as well. I don’t know what or how exactly, but try to pull away from representing that which makes dark sun, dark sun, with things that only show up in combat mechanics, D&D had to do this, BW doesn’t.

  3. psionics. Here to, for psionics to work in D&D they had to be marvel-superhero type powers. Psionics could be much subtler (and also of course, not subtle) if one wants. The persuasion skill (just thinking out loud here), might simply receive a +1D helping die from anyone who has a psionic “power” of domination/esp etc. Maybe psionics subtly acts as helping die or tools for established skills or even grey/white shades a related skill. What’s the difference between someone with an 8 white shade persuasion skill and someone with a “dominate” psionic power? Not much really.

Take a Tolkien-esque look at wizards for a moment; represented in D&D and in BW. For Saruman to control someone in D&D he has to cast Charm Person, in BW, he can have white-shaded (perhaps) soothing platitudes and persuasion. Think outside the box when it comes to representing things in D&D which may seem to require a 1:1 conversion.

So, to go back to preserving/defiling. What are the beliefs of a defiler? D&D could only represent this with the mechanic of casting magic missile. A defiler in BW can be much more nuanced and subtle; more in his beliefs and instincts. “I will destroy anything in my quest for magical power”. The GM sets up an adventure where the player of the defiler can learn a new spell, but the means of acquiring it will kill the sacred tree in the center of a village and ruin the lives of the people who live there. Testing the characters beliefs is how you define a character in BW. Defining a defiler by having 10" of grass wither when you cast magic missile isn’t really as interesting, although that can be part of the game.

I knew that someone would comment on removing emotional attributes. It’s a huge part of BW.

  • There are no gods in Dark Sun or they simple don’t answer anymore. There are no clerics, no paladins, and no prophets or religious orders in Dark Sun.
  • Elves are a nomadic race of herders, raiders, peddlers, and thieves. Halflings aren’t amiable riverfolk; they’re xenophobic headhunters and cannibals who hunt and kill trespassers in their mountain forests.

It would be fun if Halflings had a Savage emotional attribute. Turning them into a vicious beast out of control, killing and eating everyone in there way. It would be great fun seeing a character slowly acting more on primal instincts.

I was planing to remove Spell Songs or change it into a more tribal version. Singing by the fireplace. But less powerfull then now.

Maybe “grief” is what defines a cleric in dark sun instead of faith? A priest who realizes that all the gods are dead and have no answers, or maybe never did. Faith is what a preserver uses (with the ascension referenced in the faith stat being turned into an avangion) Perhaps “hatred” is what defilers use (defilers taking over the racial/stock role of the orc).

Or the tolkenian concept of elf vs. orc, grief vs. hatred is transferred into the Manichean conflict between preservers and defilers. Re-skinning elves as human preservers and the orc life paths and magic system becomes the human defilers or re-skinning orcs as templars.

You could probably represent some psionic powers with Die Traits, too. Also, I would probably do something sort of like the Life Dice thing, but offer advantage dice to either/both Sorcery and Tax tests if you want to defile, and saddle defilers with infamous reps and something like the Corruption EA.

Also, while there aren’t any priests, you could probably use Spirit Binding to represent Dark Sun’s Druids.

I have the document your referring to and I like the Life Dice approach.

Regarding Dwarf, in Dark Sun they have Focus.

Taken from Dark Sun:
“Dwarven psychology is centred around the idea of the focus. All dwarves have one goal that overrides all others in their lives. This goal, called their focus, is one that informs every decision a dwarf makes. Dwarves are prone to steering conversations towards their focus, and judging others based entirely upon how they react to a dwarf‘s focus. It is said that a dwarf who dies without having done everything in his power accomplish his focus will return as an undead banshee, doomed to forever seek to complete his unfinished task.”

It fits perfect for BW, Beliefs and an emotional attribute. A Dwarf slowly losing focus and control in life. I’m without doubt going to keep emotional attributes.

Grief for Elves will work to. Living in a hot hell, slavery, survival etc. longer then anybody else is not the greatest joy.

Dwarf: I’ll change the emotional attribute to Focus, some of the traits and a few new ones, lifepaths.
Elven: Remove spell songs, some of the traits and a few new ones, lifepaths.
Halfling: New race based on Man. Savage emotional attribute, traits, lifepaths.
Half-elf: New race based on Man. Emotional attribute, traits, lifepaths.
Mul: New race based on Man. Emotional attribute (Broken, losing their drive?), traits, lifepaths.

I not going to use Half-Giant and Thri-kreen as player characters.

Yes, my dwarf had a focus belief and was struck down in our final battle with the Sorcerer King. However, he rose again as a Banshee and impaled the Sorcer King on his spear.

i think we used Spite instead of Grief for elves.

I did choose BW because I like it’s so different from anything else, narrative driven, rules forcing players to rolleplay, beliefs. Yes, I bought Dungeon World, but I have chosen the system I like the most.

I love the Dark Sun setting, the twist on the races, the story, Preserving/Defiling, Dragon Kings… I’m trying to combine both of them.

What makes the Dark Sun setting special is, Psionics, Preserving/Defiling, Templars (clerics) and somewhat Druids. I need some rules in BW for that.

  • Psionics: I’m not using anything from the setting other than it exists in the world. The ideas are taken from some other conversion to Dark Sun. I want to keep this simple. 1. It could be a power you simple fork and gets +1D, 2. A Psionic skill that depending of the numbers of successes you can change range, duration, damage of the power. Alter Features, alters the facial features for minutes. 2 successes above det needed Ob changes it to hours.

  • Preserving/Defiling: I like the Life Dice rules.

  • Templars (cleric): They get there powers from the Dragon King. I think I’ll use the King’s Favor attribute, which functions like Faith.

  • Druids: Looking into Spirit Binding from The Magic Burner.

Every settings needs to adjust something on the races, traits and lifepaths.

I like the idea of Templars (clerics) having grief, Preservers having Faith (turns into an Avangion) and Defilers having Hatred.