The original Dark Sun boxed set was a revelation for me. My Dungeons and Dragons tastes evolved in a different way than most, pieced together from the BECMI (Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, and Immortal) version of D&D and whatever 1st Edition books I stumbled across. Since I didn’t read fantasy novels, my vision of fantasy was driven by the sword and sorcery movies on cable in the late 80’s: Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja, and Beastmaster. If people were half-naked and killing things with swords, I watched it. The world in my head was full of deserts and fallen temples, backwards cults worshipping dead gods and grim warriors taking the heads of their enemies. Without reading one word of Tolkien, the green forests and prancing elves of high fantasy repulsed me. The Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and Dragonlance held no appeal to me. What I wanted was something more… dark.
Dark Sun products were easy to find on the bookshelves of the Navy bookstore I bought them from because of my then favorite artist: Brom. There were no glittering gems and stout horses on the covers. Dark Sun was serious, bloody business. The palette of yellows and tans shone a world bleached of mirthful halflings and befuddled wizards. This was a world where dwarves had no beards, magic defiled the landscape, and dragons ruled like gods. I was in nihilistic, post-apocalyptic heaven!
Sadly, Dark Sun relied on the Complete Psionics Handbook, which was out of my meager means at the time. By the time I had all the books in place, everyone wanted to play Vampire: the Masquerade or Planescape, so I never actually got to indulge in my dreams of bloody gladiatorial glory underneath the Dark Sun. Even so, I hold out hope that someday, I will get to scramble over some rocks and beat a lizard monster to death with a jawbone axe. Someday.