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Dark Sun spiritual successor Red Dawn presents a new wasteland setting for D&D 5E with old problems

Update: Kickstarter campaign appears to remove references to 'slave races'.

Note: When it was originally published, this article did not acknowledge the elements of bioessentialism and racism present in both the original Dark Sun and Red Dawn, notably the setting’s handling of slavery. Dicebreaker absolutely does not support these views or any product that embodies them. We’re sorry for any harm caused by this article, and will address any such problematic elements in any future coverage.

A new Kickstarter for Dungeons & Dragons 5E campaign setting Red Dawn: Into the Dawnlands looks to offer a spiritual successor to a classic D&D setting without addressing some of its most problematic elements.

Inspired by the Dark Sun campaign for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2E - a popular 1991 release set in a scorched land called Athas - Red Dawn features a world that was once an idyllic place of magic and wonder, before becoming a harsh wasteland filled with corruption and danger. After a cataclysmic event which led to the mutation of innocents, the transformation of the land into a burning desert and the rise of greedy monarchs, the world is now a series of scattered city-states which house some of the last remnants of society.

Red Dawn: Into the Dawnlands rpg book layout

In the roleplaying game supplement, the player characters will have to make their way across the Dawnlands in search of whatever they seek - whether that’s peace, revenge, wealth or something else. Along the way, they’ll encounter people whose lives have been torn apart by tyrannical sorcerers, pirates searching for prosperity and bloodthirsty creatures who won’t hesitate to attack the party. The players will need to learn how to survive these scenarios, whilst making the best of the meagre resources they have to hand.

Depending on what class players decide to make their character, they may have to consider the damaging consequences of their actions. For example, casting spells causes the environment around the magic user to shrivel up, striking pain into the people, plants and creatures around them. Clerics and paladins are restricted to worshipping their deities in secret, whilst rangers will have to rely on the menagerie of strange creatures around them for companionship and aid.

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Besides making changes to D&D 5E classes, Red Dawn also introduces a collection of new playable species for people to choose from including the half-giant - a species that is a mixture of orc, dwarf and salt giants - mysterious thrall, the scorpion-like ala’cran and the nagini’ra, who have venomous fangs and scaled skin.

Despite updating elements of Dark Sun for D&D 5E, Red Dawn does not appear to address the depiction of slavery, racism and bioessentialism in Dark Sun's setting of Athas, which included multiple species explicitly created to be used as "slave soldiers" and a dedicated supplement for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2E focused on Slave Tribes.

Two of the species originally detailed on Red Dawn's Kickstarter page were outlined as being 'ideal slaves', implying continued bioessentialist and racist philosophies in the new setting. The Kickstarter page appears to have since been revised to remove reference to the two species, with no acknowledgement from its creators regarding whether the change will be reflected in the book.

The co-creators of Red Dawn: Into the Dawnlands are Jonathan Bourgeois, an art and creative director, and Andrew Depledge. Red Dawn will be released by Burning Star Games, with this RPG being the studio’s debut title.

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