Constructing outline for a Dark Sun campaign, help?

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Hello!
I absolutely LOVE the Dark Sun setting, and am in the process of creating a campaign that will hopefully take my players from level 1 to 30, or at least pretty damn high up there. I've got some vague ideas and a short outline, and I was hoping I could get some help and ideas from the D&D community.

The main plot of the campaign revolves around Athas' 2 moons-Ral and Guthay, and a sorcerer-king, probably Kalak or Dregoth, or a forgotten Champion of Rajaat from the Red Age, trying to open up Moon-Gates to tap into the HUGE sources of arcane power from the life on the moons, and using that arcane power to bring about a new Green Age, but with him as the tyrant.

The campaign begins with the characters in slavery in a short caravan to a location near Tyr, when a sudden sandstorm hits and silt runners attack the caravan. Though the caravan guards fend off the silt runners, the silt runners manage to make away with a few boxes; one of which is of vital importance to the Caravan Leader. The caravan leader offers the PC's a trade; if the PC's go retrieve the box and the goods, he'll free them. If the PC's refuse, he simply sends his guards to get the box. If the PC's agree, then the caravan leader marks them with his Psionic abilities, in case they try to run or open the box, and then they have a small dungeon to clear out of silt runners to retrieve the box. 

After the box is retrieved, be it by the guards or the PC's, the caravan stops in a small village to rest for a few hours. But when they arrive in the village, a small Veiled Alliance commando team attacks the caravan, trying to kill the Caravan leader, who uses his psionics to kick up a small sandstorm and escape. The commando team kills the rest of the caravan personnel, except the PC's. If the PC's are slaves, the commando team offers to help them get to Tyr in return for a favor. If the PC's are free at this time, the team knocks them out with psionics.

If the PC's are knocked out, they wake up in a cell, the leader of the commando team waiting outside of it. The leader offers them their lives and freedom, if the PC's do a favor for him. (This is the same favor that the commando will offer the PC's if they are slaves) The PC's need to infiltrate the merchant houses Vordon and Wavir, and steal wax stamp seals, profit legers, obtain secrets, etc.

If the PC's do this for them, they discover that both merchant houses have been obtaining slaves and trading them to a defiling templar who plans to use the life force of the slaves to throne himself as the new sorcerer king. After the PC's find this templar and slay him, they should discover in his lair clues about a Cabal of templars and defilers around Athas working towards strange goals. I have only thought of one so far, and that one will be studying Sunwarped monsters, and the overall process of sunwarping.

All these defilers' research will be somehow related to the Big Bad Evil Guy's plan to open up the moon-gates to get the mass stores of arcane power on the moons. Sorry if that's a little long, I wasn't sure how to summise it into a tl;dr.

Any ideas? The adventure will also be broken up with quests and objectives based on the character's own backgrounds and goals. 
First thoughts:

1. Sounds like you have a great idea for an over-arching plot! I find that this helps when constructing a campaign, so long as you're careful not to fall so in love with your storyline that you neglect player choice.

2. I generally like the introductory set-up, but how about some tweaks and options? For one, making everyone a slave seems a bit background-restrictive (how did my trader or noble adept suddenly become a slave?). How about you just have all the characters start out as a part of the caravan, whether as a spoiled noble hitching a ride in luxury, a crafty merchant traveling along for protection and profit, or a slave stuck with carrying some rich jerk's stuff. Unbeknownst to them someone on the caravan is trying to smuggle something (a Green Age artifact, a jar of seeds from a tree of life, a tiny obsidian marble containing the mind of a 1,000 year old halfling psion, etc) that the BBEG wants for his plan. The BBEG's sends his goons to attack the caravan and the PCs end up being the lone survivors. Their first "quest" becomes surviving the desert long enough to make it back to civilization, which gives them a natural goal to work towards that forces them to work together in spite of their backgrounds and has a very nice Dark Sun-ny feel to it. Once they get to civilization they find out that the BBEG's minions think that they have the item they were looking for and begin pursuit, kicking off the larger plot.
First thoughts:

1. Sounds like you have a great idea for an over-arching plot! I find that this helps when constructing a campaign, so long as you're careful not to fall so in love with your storyline that you neglect player choice.

2. I generally like the introductory set-up, but how about some tweaks and options? For one, making everyone a slave seems a bit background-restrictive (how did my trader or noble adept suddenly become a slave?). How about you just have all the characters start out as a part of the caravan, whether as a spoiled noble hitching a ride in luxury, a crafty merchant traveling along for protection and profit, or a slave stuck with carrying some rich jerk's stuff. Unbeknownst to them someone on the caravan is trying to smuggle something (a Green Age artifact, a jar of seeds from a tree of life, a tiny obsidian marble containing the mind of a 1,000 year old halfling psion, etc) that the BBEG wants for his plan. The BBEG's sends his goons to attack the caravan and the PCs end up being the lone survivors. Their first "quest" becomes surviving the desert long enough to make it back to civilization, which gives them a natural goal to work towards that forces them to work together in spite of their backgrounds and has a very nice Dark Sun-ny feel to it. Once they get to civilization they find out that the BBEG's minions think that they have the item they were looking for and begin pursuit, kicking off the larger plot.



While I like your ideas a lot, and I intend to make use of them, a problem I have with your suggested beginning is after the players make it to civilization, what's to stop them from splitting up, and no longer being a party? I've had troubles with a divided party in the past, and something important to me is giving the party a reason to stay together.
Nice ideas from both kiljoy and Kerapalli.

One additional comment that like many DS campaigns I also had my PCs start as escaped slaves. They were then free to roam the world with me creating plotlines based on where they ended up. While this was very open-ended and I like to think fun, it ended up being more work trying to constantly anticipate where they might end up and prepare material appropriately. If there is a way to keep the adventure location contained, at least as you start the campaign, then it makes your life easier. Plus, in the end I think the players appreciated some plot railroading because they ended up with decision paralysis otherwise.

Good luck! The campaign sounds fun.
My Dark Sun adventures published in Dungeon magazine.
I don't think starting as a slave is a problem for the type of character you want to do.

They can have commited a crime so the've been turned to any slave pit. Or they didn't commited a crime but have been accuse of it! It depends if your PC are creative or not. 
The Siltskimmer Page - www.siltskimmer.org

While I like your ideas a lot, and I intend to make use of them, a problem I have with your suggested beginning is after the players make it to civilization, what's to stop them from splitting up, and no longer being a party? I've had troubles with a divided party in the past, and something important to me is giving the party a reason to stay together.



So the divided party is an age-old DM problem, but is especially hard for "closed circle" parties ("You all escape from a jail" "You all wake up in room"). Here are a couple random ideas with my analysis.

1. Outside threat. Once the BBEG's agents realize that the PCs survived the attack, they harry them continuously to recover the MacGuffin, encouraging the PCs to band together to survive. The problem with this method is that you have the chance of getting "that guy" in the party who will gladly sell out the other PCs in order to save his own skin.

2. Expand the circle. Maybe the "civilization" that the PCs find is an oasis owned by a thri-kreen tribe, and the only way that the kreen will allow the PCs to use the water is for them to prove themselves a "clutch" willing to work together. This will keep the party together for at least one or two more adventures, but is essentially kicking the can further down the road and will force you contrive more coincidences to keep them together or hope that they naturally bond over time.

3. Harden the circle. One of the BBEG's agents in the first adventure attempts to activate the MacGuffin artifact but does so improperly, causing it to backfire spectacularly. Most of the caravan is obliterated by necrotic energy, but the PCs find that their life energy has been partially merged with the artifact. Now if they are more than X distance from the artifact (something reasonably relaxed like 60 squares), they start losing healing surges until they shrivel up and die. They're forced to stick together with the artifact (and thus each other) and fight off the BBEG's agents trying to recover it until they can figure out how to reverse the effects. This more of less solves the problem (albeit in a rather heavy-handed way), but you'll have to come up with some other rationale if you want to add new players.


Hope this is some help. Let me know how your other ideas pan out!       

If you do "harden the circle" as above, note that any third party can kill the PCs "by accident" if HE steals the McGuffin and leaves town with it.  And it's Dark Sun, so who cares if accidents happen?

Why the PCs start travelling in a caravan together will depend on what characters they bring to the table.  That cannot be predicted in advance.  Be ready to adapt to what you get.  I have played an Ashes of Athas module along with one permanent group of 5 who decided that their natural leader would play a noble and the others would be his retinue - a bodyguard, a sneak, a psion/trainer, and so on.  If you really aim to make it through 30 levels, this might work well.  (The noble has to have no particular responsibility that ties him to one place, though.)

Somebody in BBEG's retinue might be experimenting with Shadow magic, allowing you to use Heroes of Shadow.  Similar metaplot threads can be created for the other sourcebooks.  Perhaps their idea is to find a power source that doesn't destroy everything it touches, a la defiling, so they can defeat the SKs and conquer the world and still have something worth the effort afterwards.

My AoA dwarven druid is a merchant who wants to learn to read Davek (written Dwarven) so he can find the secret to restoring life to the world and making oases with no SK in residence.  Your PCs will probably bring similar Athas-engendered goals of their own to the group.  Find ways to work them into your metaplot; it is uniquely satisfying when the player goes home at night and realizes "Hey, we did something I've been wanting to accomplish all my character's life!  And we DID it!"  (My mid-term goal was to successfully RP and skill challenge Guide a Caravan from one city to another.)  It makes your (singular) campaign into your (plural) campaign.

Best complements I have yet received:

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Making it up as I go along:

{BRJN} If I was writing the Tome of Lore, I would let Auppenser sleep. But I also would have him dream. In his dreaming he re-activates the innate powers of (some) mortal minds. Or his dreaming changes the nature of reality - currently very malleable thanks to Spellplague &c. Or whatever really cool flavor text and pseudo-science explanation people react positively to.

{Lord_Karsus} You know, I like that better than the explanations for the Spellplague.

 

Prepped ahead of time:

I started the thread "1001 Failed Interrogation Results" (which seems to have faded into that great electronic goodnight, alas)

{ADHadh} These are all good and make sense! I just can't come up with something that's not covered here and is not completely ridiculous.

 

My 4e characters:

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LFR Half-elf StarLock8 Gondolin Nightstar

AoA Dwarf Guardian Druid8 Narvik from House Wavir

Character Ready-to-go:

Neverwinter Dwarven Invoker / Heir of Delzoun, worships Silvanus (!) "Truenamer" - speaks Words of Creation

Concepts I'm kicking around:

"Buggy" Wizard - insect flavor on everything.  His DMPC version is going to become a Lamia.  Becauae lichdom is so cliche.

Halfling Tempest Fighter - just because nobody else is doing it

Shifter Beast-o-phile Druid - for Nentir Vale campaign