Defilers and Defiling, my modifications.

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Having played Darksun since it was released in 91, following through the 3e days, and then into 4e.. one of the things I did not like was 4e's interpretation on Defilers.  Darksun has always operated under the premise that Preserving was the harder path, and Defiling was the quick easy path, the "norm."  Unless you actively tried to Preserve, you were a Defiler.  In AD&D, this was represented with a more expensive exp track for Preservers.  In 4e, It is assumed that everyone is a Preserver unless you intentionally Defile.. and this just never sat right with me.

In 4e, they give you Arcane Defiling.  A Mechanic that, to me, is so skewed in the pro/con exchange, and really doesn't capture the feel of what it means to be a Defiler vs a Preserver.  So, I made a few tweaks that I use in my game, as quoted from my rules post on my group page.

56790198 wrote:

Arcane Defiling will be mostly the same.  You can use it as an interrupt to either an attack roll, or a damage roll.  When you use it, all allies in a Close Burst 20 take damage that is necrotic, unresistable, and un-reducable in any way.

The Differences are as follows.

  • Each ally in a burst 20 takes damage = 1/10 of their max HP

  • Until the end of an encounter, anyone that has taken damage due to Arcane Defiling that drops to 0hp or below falls unconscious and moves back to 0hp the first time only.  Arcane Defiling may affect the outcome of a fight, but it won't be responsible for any deaths.  Of course, ongoing damage still takes effect, as does the damage anyone chooses to do to an unconscious foe.  Also, being reduced below 0hp again takes normal effect

  • When you use Arcane Defiling to make a reroll, you make that reroll with a +1 bonus to the roll for every 2 allies (round up) in the burst.  Example.  If 3 allies are in the burst, then you make either the attack or damage reroll with a +2 bonus.  So, +1 for 1-2 allies, +2 for 3-4, +3 for 5-6, etc.  (So, essentially, if there are no allies affected by Arcane Defiling, then the reroll gains no additional bonuses outside of what Arcane Defiling already gets).  Every 3 minions count as 1 ally for this calculation


My reasoning here is based on the flavor of Defiling.  Originally, only the most powerful of Defilers (The Dragon, Some Sorcerer Kings, etc) actually damaged living creatures when they Defiled.  For your average, run of the mill, spell caster, they drained the life out of the plants/vegetation in the area, and caused some discomfort/annoyance to creatures.  I tried several ways to adjust Arcane Defiling to take the damage out, but it just changed too many Prestige Classes, feats, Epic Destiny options.  So, I settled for a slight math tweak to make it a lot quicker/simpler to figure how much damage any given creature takes.  And, as HP values increase in higher levels, this equation is a little more forgiving, and has less potential to be an Encounter killer, by which I mean it has less chance of allowing a Defiler to kill his own group if he needs to AD to land a spell on a BBEG.

And since Defiling originally just caused discomfort, I added the no-death effect the first time you drop to 0 if you had suffered from Arcane Defiling.

And, because the damage in a close burst 20 is very harsh, that it seems your average player would choose not to damage his allies by ADing, I threw in the extra incentive of an increasing bonus for more allies in the area.  I made this untyped, so that it would stack with any additional bonuses from feats/items/PP/EDs, and would give players of Defilers a little extra incentive not to try to make sure as few allies as possible are in the radius.


Certain classes are inherently Defielrs by nature, and certain mentalities.  If you are a Defiler, then you have a few effects.  


Because a defiler destroys life as a natural matter of course, his aura has a permanent taint that increases with every rise in level. At low levels, this taint is simply a bad feeling that others sense dimly. At higher levels, the taint becomes a malignant air of death that even the dullest half-giants can detect. In game terms, this is reflected with a Charisma-based skill penalty that’s applied whenever a defiler interacts with other characters that may have reservations about defilers. This penalty is a -2, regardless of level, for any favorable interactions.  For sake of Intimidate, there is a +2 bonus in some situations.


Because Defilers don't care about limiting the energy that they draw from their surroundings when they use magic, there is an obvious affect on the environment.  All plant life in a Close Burst 1 (per tier) turns to ash.  Also, all allies in this burst suffer a -1 to all d20 rolls until the end of their next turn.  However, because of this draining of power, the Defiler gains Brutal 1 on all Powers (even Arcane Healing Powers)

In AD&D Darksun, there was only 1 Arcane class, the Wizard, which was split to Defiler and Preserver.  4e has several Arcane classes.  Some of which, when you look at them, are classes which use Arcane casting as a convenience.  They rely on it, and by their very nature, this points out to me that they shouldn't start out as Preservers.  Like the Sorcerer.  Look at the description..
Wielding raw, barely contained magical power, sorcerers channel bursts and blasts of arcane energy through their bodies. They gain their power not through rigorous study of esoteric tomes, but by harnessing magic in their blood, waiting to be tapped and shaped. If wizards wield magic as fighters wield swords, a sorcerer’s magic is the arcing greataxe of a raging barbarian

This screams Defiler to me.  So do some other classes.  Artificer, Swordmage, Warlock, etc.  So, as the DM, I let my players know that some of these classes will start out as Defilers.  Of course, most will have the option of questing, and roleplaying a journey that would allow them to become a Preserver, but it's all in-game events.

The charisma skill mod is lifted directly from original Darksun, and tweaked to something I figured was fair for 4e.  I originally had a tier-based mod, but dropped it for a flat modifier.

Traditionally, Defilers leveled up faster than Preservers, which gave them a little powerboost over the Preserver.  They received access to spells faster, more HP faster, etc.  I wanted to give that back to players who chose to play a Defiler.  Brutal 1 seems, in my opinion, like a nice powerboost.  It doesn't let a Defiler do any more damage than a non-Defiler, but it keeps the minimum from being as low.  Defilers don't care to limit themselves, they don't take the time to only draw the power they need, and give the rest back, so this seemed a good effect for me.  And my players tend to agree.  And, to flavor Defilers back to the origins, when they would drain an area around them equal to 5 yards per spell level, I figured a Close Burst 1 per tier sounded about right, with a -1 to all d20 rolls of allies caught in this radius, until the end of their next turn.

So, that's my take on Defiling, and really trying to take it back to the roots of what it means to be a Defiler.  Use these ideas if you like, or post tweaks if you have your own.
"Five million Cybermen, easy. One Doctor? NOW you're scared!" - Rose Tyler
Those are good ideas.  

In my 4E Dark Sun game, the player with the arcane character did not find the rules for defiling tempting at all.  So, I changed it as well.  

First, I agree that it takes something special (obsidian orbs in the novels) to take life energy from animals instead of plants.  

Second, I did allow him to increase his damage die (so d4 -> d6 -> d8 etc) as well as adding a few more dice but am not exactly sure what I did.  Then, I had a LOT tougher fights and so every fight the player told me was tempting to defile.  And sometimes he gave into that temptation!  I thought it followed/mirrored the story of Sadira quite well.  

Third, I do agree that Sorcerer sounds more like a defiler but I would always allow a player to start as a preserver if that's what they want to do.  Whether or not you charge them a feat to have learned how to cast spells as a preserver is up to you.  

Fourth, I didn't allow any defiler, PC or NPC, to defile from the same place forever.  It seemed to me that they would need to move to get to their source of energy.  I don't remember what I did spefically to keep them moving.  What this did for me was make defiling that much worse because even the defiler can tell they are destroying something and yet they still defile!  It made defilers all that much more evil or selfish.  

Fifth, as a consequence of this, I made all SKs either much more aware of their defiling or they went out of their way to find a way to defile and use people, i.e. slaves, or to store up energy in other ways so they could still cast spells without doing defiling magic that kills plants.  In fact, I see the SKs and druids working together, in a very tenative cold war type alliance, because the SKs need people for some reason, or they would kill them and roam the lands, and the druids who do this see an opportunity to help some lands and the people in the cities without going into the cities themselves.   (Again, depends on how you see Rajaat as well.)  

Finally, I also increased the map by multiplying the scale by four.  I never understood how the city states could be in a such a small area.  They have to have extra in farming because if those huge city states are doing subsistance farming, the first time defiling happens around their city, the city doesn't survive from the famine, plague and other bad events.  

But those are my ideas.  Have fun!
Beeing too a Dark Sun DM since the first box, I was disapointing and I also changed rules for defiling but didn't test them (none of my PC play a defiler). Here's how it works:

I change the effect of the Arcane Defiling Power:

Effect: varies with type of power:
At-will & Utility: you defile in a close burst 1
Encounter: you defile in a close burst 1, and the power gain the reliable keyword
Daily: you defile in a close burst (1/2 level of the power), and you can reroll the attack or dommage roll but must use the second result.

Special: any person in the defiled burst is slowed until the end of your next turn.

Risk of defiling:
You could use defiling once between an extended rest without risk. All other action of defiling beyond this one made you make a saving throw.

Each time you failed one, your vicious aura expand (permanently):
* you have to apply a +2 bonus to one of this skills: arcane, bluff, intimidate or stealth
* ou have to apply a -5 malus to one of this skills: diplomatie, endurance, insight or perception

Once you fail 3 saving throw, you are a real defiler:
* you are obligated to use the Arcane defiling whenever you use an arcane power.
* every power you use gain the brutal 1 keyword (brutal 2 at level 11, and brutal 3 at level 21)

I made no rules, but their will be option to become a preserver again: with a ritual, primal power, story... etc.

My campaigns :

Dark Sun : La Décade des Héros (4E)

Al-Qadim / Golden Voyages (Next) Planescape (Next)

And excuse my baaadly and ruuusty english...

I never really changed the defiler powers back in my Dark Sun game, instead I added a lot more incentives.

Double Dice
I realized my player(warlock) would never defile if he had it his way. He stayed by the book as a Preserver for the most part, even though his character's background was that of a person plagued with the idea of gaining more power through defiling. His was originally trained by Templars.

In game he would roll his attack like a normal player and if it missed it missed. He was used to 4e so he considered the Preserver route as a normal Warlock. In order to throw him a curveball, I made it so he had to roll a second dice on all his arcane actions/attacks. This way he could see if he defiled whether or not he was guarenteed a better roll.  In one case he had a crit failure on his Preserver Dice, but the Defiler Dice was a critical success.

Normal rules for defiling were used, so he would cause damage to his allies.

Artifacts that could only be used by a defiler were hidden in a lot of ancient ruins. Fire swords that would suck life from the user unless they took it from someone else, invoking normal defile rule

Action Points
When the Sorcerer rested near Defiled terrain the player would recieve an Action Point that could only be utilized if the player defiled. In game turns it would allow the player an extra attack action, but would invoke the defile rule. 

Additional Flavor
Destroying plant life/creating defiled terrain was part of defiling in my game, but only as a method of flavor with minimal gameplay implications. I wanted my players to see the repercusions of their actions, as such if they defiled they would lose favor with the druids and Veiled Alliance allies that they had.

Psionic Defiling
Not for my players, but I did have an NPC planned to show up in one of my future sessions. The idea being that he was such a great Psion that realized he could use his own lifeforce to power his abilities. Having learned this skill from sorcerers he proceeded to train others in this skill and planned an uprising against a sorcerer king with his new found strength. One of my players found out about this and was interested in a character who would age as he fought(Gameplay terms being able to re-roll at the cost of a year of life)
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