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Dragon Kings (2e)

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Explore the 10th level of magic

Only the most powerful characters are destined to rule Athas. Warriors with vast armies of followers campaign for glory; rogues become masters of illusory magic to further their deadly schemes; spellcasters who can also master psionics open whole new tomes of magic available only to them - the most powerful spells ever! And not only do they gain greater magic, the spellcasters take on entirely new forms when they advance beyond 20th level - clerics can attain elemental form; preservers mutate into magnificent avangions; defilers can actually transform into dragons themselves!

Learn of these advanced beings, the new magical spells available to them, plus new psionic devotions and organizations, military vehicles and army lists, and more, all within the pages of Dragon Kings!

Product History

Dragon Kings (1992), by Timothy B. Brown, is the first and only hardcover rules supplement for Dark Sun. It was released in May 1992.

Continuing the 2e Hardcovers. In AD&D 1e (1977-1988) days, hardcover books were a yearly tradition (mostly) that marked many of the most important releases for the game. That changed with the release of AD&D 2e (1989). Afterward, production was a lot more varied and included boxes, folios, and the looseleaf Monstrous Compendium (1989-1993) volumes. As a result, hardcovers became less important to the A&D line. In all, the original AD&D 2e line (1989-1994) included just six hardcover rulebooks plus two setting-focused hardcovers: Forgotten Realms Adventures (1990) and Dragon Kings (1992).

Continuing the Dark Sun Series. Even more than most of TSR's D&D lines of the early '90s, Dark Sun was full of prestige-format releases, including folios and boxes. Nonetheless, the hardcover Dragon Kings was something special. Most notably, it included rules for high-level characters that had originally been considered for the Dark Sun (1991) box.

AD&D Goes Epic. In the earliest days of D&D, TSR fought with its fans over what power level was appropriate for characters. TSR believed in low-level campaigns, with levels initially topping out around 10th in OD&D (1974), then jumping up as high as 22nd in Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975). Meanwhile, some players thought levels should go much higher, with Dave Hargrave's Arduin Trilogy (1977-1978) showing what players were doing in the wild. It went all the way up to 105th level!

Frank Mentzer's BECMI edition of Basic D&D (1983-1986) was the only early TSR product that pushed the envelope on D&D levels. The release of the Companion Rules (1984), the Master Rules (1985), and the Immortal Rules (1986) pushed characters from level 15 all the way up to 36, then into the realms of the gods. Along the way, warfare and politics were introduced as major new spheres for the Basic D&D game.

However, the more popular AD&D game stayed closer to Gygax's original vision. Though levels were theoretically unlimited in AD&D 1e (1977-1979), they stopped being useful in the teens when spell levels and skills maxed out and new hit point decreased to a trickle. The fact that some classes (like druids and assassins) and most demihumans had level limits in the teens underlined the fact that AD&D was intended for play from level 1-15 or so. When AD&D was revamped for 2e (1989), levels capped out at a uniform level 20.

Which brings us to Dragon Kings. Its main goal was to expand AD&D 2e up to level 30 within the context of the Dark Sun setting — creating the first "epic" campaign rules for the AD&D game. Dragon Kings supported these new levels by introducing new rules for most of the classes, giving them interesting things to do that weren't in the code 2e rules. Rogues get some new skills, while warriors get army units as followers. Wizard and priest spells both expanded to 10th(!) level, thanks to psionic-enhanced spellcasting, while these spell-casters also begin turning into other sorts of creatures: dragons; avangions, and elementals.

The result was very specific to Dark Sun, and so it wasn't a lot of use for AD&D players in other settings. They'd instead have to wait for the release of Dungeon Master Option: High-Level Campaigns (1995), a part of the AD&D 2.5e line.

War World Battles. Dragon Kings was another early Dark Sun release that revealed the setting's origins as "War World" — a campaign setting for Battlesystem (1985, 1989). Here, warriors get Battlesystem units as followers, and there are also rules for several "war vehicles".

Integrating the Tome of Magic. Dragon Kings contains lots of information about magic, and so it's natural that it's also crosses over with the 2e Tome of Magic (1991) by providing rules for integrating that book of magic with high-level Dark Sun play.

Expanding Athas. Dragon Kings is largely a crunch book that portrays the world of Athas only through its rules. However, it includes a short section on "Legends of Athas" and also reveals The Order, a secret group of high-level psionicists.

About the Creators. Brown was the co-author of the Dark Sun boxed set. Dragon Kings and the Revised (1995) setting were his only other major works for the line.

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Thanks to Robert Adducci for Dark Sun advice. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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David S March 01, 2014 6:20 am UTC
This was one of the products that ended up getting sold by American Science and Surplus for quite cheap. Apparently a lot more were printed then were sold at full price.
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Product Information
Author(s)
Artist(s)
Rules Edition(s)
Pages
162
Edition
1.0
ISBN
1-56076-235-7
Publisher Stock #
TSR 2408
File Size:
6.63 MB
Format
Scanned image
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File Last Updated:
February 24, 2014
This title was added to our catalog on February 25, 2014.