For the first of our 2ed Dark Sun characters in our chraracter tree, we are going to start with the Mul Gladiator, which is really the simplest of the lot. Firstly we will look at what we have to work with.
The stats they rolled are 20 STR, 16 DEX, 19 CON, 9 INT, 16 WIS and 8 CHA.
20 STR gives +3 to hit and +8 damage.
16 DEX gives +1 reaction and missile attack and -2 AC.
19 CON gives +5 HP a level, +1 poison save and 1 hp/turn regeneration. A turn is one hour, so it is slow but every little bit helps.
9 INT gives +2 proficiencies.
16 WIS gives +2 magical defence against attacks that target the mind.
8 CHA gives 3 henchmen and a -1 loyalty bonus.
Being a mul allows the character to choose if they are human (with unlimited advancement and dual classing) or demihuman (with class limits and multiclassing.) Given gladiators can’t multiclass there is no reason not to go with human, though about the only thing he could qualify for to dual lass in is cleric.
They also only require 8 hours sleep to be fully rested, no matter the amount of exertion they had experienced. And on top of that, they can work much longer than anyone before they need to rest. For heavy labour (such as running, quarrying etc) it is 24+CON hours. In our case 43 hours. So Arkun can run for 43 hours straight before needing any rest, sleep for 8 hours and be ready to go all over again.
Medium labour (jogging, light construction etc) is 36+CON hours. Light labour (combat training, walking encumbered) is 48+CON hours. Normal activity (talking, walking) is CON days. Yup, Arkun can walk for 19 days straight without rest. There is a reason why muls are such valued slaves.
Gladiators do one thing very well – fight. They are automatically proficient in every weapon, even ones they have never seen before and can specialise in multiple weapons. The only other class that can specialise in weapons is the fighter, and they can only choose one. They are experts at unarmed combat, gaining a 4 point modifier to punching and wrestling attack roles. At 5th level they can optimise their armour, reducing AC by 1 point for every 5 levels.
As normal, we start out at 3rd level as we are a single class. We get 1d10+5 HP per level due to our high CON, for a total of 3d10+15. Our rolls are 2, 3 & 8, which is a little below average. Combined with CON it gives us 28 HP, which is reasonable without being great.
For the purpose of building these characters, we will be using a range of options, not just the core rules. This will include the fighters and gladiator handbooks, The Will and the Way sourcebook and more, as needed.
Firstly we are going to work out his psionic wild talent, using The Will and the Way. This has an expanded list of powers and a new wild talent table to roll on. We roll a 1d100, coming up with 95. This means we can get a science, a usually more powerful ability. The second roll on the science table comes up as 37 – choose a psychokinetic science. There are 8 on it, including the extremely powerful disintegrate, though it has a nasty habit of blowing up the user as well. Instead I choose telekinetic flight, which allows Arkun to be able to fly for a short time, a useful ability, especially in combat. It requires a WIS -4 roll (12 in his case.) It also has two prerequisites which he gains as well, telekinesis (WIS -3) and levitate (WIS -3). He doesn’t have full control over them but they are useful to have. On top of that, with three powers he has a sizeable pool of PSPs to power them – 64 in his case.
The next choice is a kit. Kits in 2e added a little bit of colour to classes, coming with a few bonuses in the form of proficiencies and abilities, and usually with some disadvantages too. Instead of just having three fighters in a party, you might have one as a swashbuckler, another as an outlaw and a third as a berserker, meaning they all play a little bit different.
There are a few Dark Sun specific kits, though they only cover a couple of races and classes. It was something I always felt could have been expanded on. There are lists of what kits can and can’t be used from the various Complete books due to whether they are appropriate to Athas or not.
After looking through the Gladiator’s handbook, there aren’t any kits in there that really jump out as fitting the character so I turn to the Complete Fighter’s Handbook. Despite the name, it isn’t just for fighters but for all warrior classes. This was the first Complete Handbook that was released and while later handbooks were specialised for individual classes, this one wasn’t. Though Gladiators aren’t mentioned, as it predates Dark Sun, they are warriors and so qualify for the kits in there.
One in particular sounds really promising – Wilderness Warrior. They are heroes that come from tribes that live on the edge of society, in harsh lands like deserts. Which is Athas in general. For the backstory, I have Arkun come from a tribe of nomadic herders that live in the rocky badlands regions of Athas, forever on the move trying to find food and water for their flocks. It is a perilous existence, forever in danger and one that breeds a tough type to survive it. He will also have a different set of beliefs and values to those who come from places like the cities.
The kit comes with some bonuses. They get 2 free NWPs; Endurance (CON) and Survival (INT) in their home terrain (rocky badlands). Endurance allows a character to perform continual strenuous activity for twice as long as normal. Meaning Arkun can work for a long, long time. Survival allows him to find food, water and shelter and know the hazards of the type of terrain it applies for, enough at least to survive, though not exactly thrive. There are also recommended NWPs, relating to their land of birth. For weapons, they can choose any they want, but the DM could insist they choose culturally appropriate ones, but a gladiator is proficient in all weapons to start with anyway. They may only spend their starting money on items appropriate to their culture, as determined by the DM. As a special benefit, they get a +5 bonus to survival checks, but only in their home terrain. If they pick up other survival terrains later, it doesn’t apply to them. The only special hindrance they have is a roleplaying one, in that in their early years they are occasionally hindered by a lack of familiarity of society out in the wider world.
So with that done we can work out the rest of our NWPs. A gladiator starts with 3 and he gets 1 more at 3rd level, plus 2 due to his intelligence, for a total of 6.
The first one I choose is Animal Handling (WIS -1) to represent his background, allowing him control over pack animals and beasts of burden. Of much use in the arena? Probably not but I want to actual be faithful to the kit chosen for the character. The next two NWPs chosen also tie into his background, as well as being useful – Heat Protection (INT -2) and Water Find (INT), from the Dark Sun Campaign Setting book. Given his low INT, Arkun isn’t exactly good at them, but again they are the kind of skills he would have learned in a nomadic tribe out in the wilderness. Heat Protection means with a succesful check they only need to consume half as much water to avoid dehydration and can also wear metal armour longer. Water Find means they can find enough water to sustain themselves for the day they can’t rehydrate but at least don’t dehydrate.. Unlike Survival it can be used anywhere, though it is water only, not food and shelter.
The last three NWPs go to ones of use for the arena – Tumbling (DEX), Dirty Tricks (WIS -2) and Taunting (WIS). Tumbling is a rogue skill and so would normally cost 2 slots, but in the Gladiator’s handbook it states that a gladiator can learn it for 1. It gives the user +4 AC rather than +2 when going fully defensive and also +2 to hit with unarmed attacks. The other two both come from the Gladiator’s handbook. Dirty Tricks covers things like kicking sand into the enemies eyes, giving a small bonus to the character or penalty to the enemy for a round, though can only be used once or twice against a foe. If the character makes a successful taunt roll, and the enemy fails a saving throw, the enemy becomes enraged, losing some AC and to hit, though doing a bit more damage. NPCs with 14 WIS or higher are immune. An interesting combo would be taunting the foe then going full defensive with tumbling to really make it hard to be hit while friends take them out.
Next we move onto the weapon proficiencies. A gladiator starts with 4 and gets another at 3rd level, for a total of 5. Given they are already proficient in all weapons, what they spend them on is specialisations. It still costs them two slots to specialise though, just like a regular fighter.
Dark Sun is filled with an array of interesting new weapons. There are some in the Setting Handbook but more appeared in the Gladiator’s Handbook and Dragon magazine, and these later actually had a difference to regular weapons – they got bonuses for use when someone was proficient or specialised in them. There is nothing to say we couldn’t go for normal weapons, but it is more fun and thematic to use them.
First up we go to the Complete Fighter’s Handbook for fighting styles. The first WP is spent on Ambidexterity, allowing us to use either hand equally well if something happens to our main hand, as well as reducing our offhand penalty by -2. In 2e, when fighting with two weapons you get a bonus attack with your offhand but suffer a -2 to hit with your main hand and -4 with your off hand and have to be holding a smaller weapon in your offhand. Ambidexterity reduces the penalty to -2 in the offhand. If we chose two weapon fighting specialisation it reduces both penalties to 0 and allows equal sized weapons in both hands. But we aren’t choosing that as we have another option in mind.
We spend two more on specialising in the alhulak, a Dark Sun weapon that looks like a grappling hook, usually carved out of bone, on a short rope. There is a related weapon, the cahulak, which is two alhulaks on a longer rope, and which features in a well known picture of Rikus the mul gladiator. Playing a mul gladiator with cahualks is probably a little plagiaristic though. Merely being proficient with the alhulak enables us to use a medium sized weapon in the other hand at -2 to hit and a small weapon with no penalties. In effect we get the benefit of two weapon fighting for free, but only with the alhualk. A specialist can also ensnare the enemy as if grappling. A hit does reduced damage but automatically grapples them, allowing the wielder to keep them off balance. Which will then make it easier to keep hitting them.
The remaining two WP slots are spent specialising in two-headed spear. From the Gladiator’s Handbook, it is basically a spear with a blade on each end and is counted as a medium weapon, so we can use it with the alhulak. It gets a -2 penalty, but remember our ambidexterity bonus? Yep, we get to cancel that out. It also comes with some interesting special abilities. The proficiency bonus of the weapon allows us to twirl the blades, using both ends in combat against a single opponent. This confuses intelligent foes who have never seen it before, giving them a -1 penalty to hit and damage for 2 rounds. Fun little bonus but is dependent on the whims of the DM – and doesn’t work against non-intelligent foes. The specialised bonus is a little more powerful, as can be expected. It can be used to attack two different opponents at the same time at -1 to damage. This is a extra attack in addition to attacks normally added from specialisation, as long as the targets are no more than a pace apart.
So if he is facing off against two foes before him, Arkun can make up to 7 attacks over two rounds. He gets the regular 3 per 2 attacks with his alhulak in his main hand and his regular offhand attack with the spear which can be split into 2 attacks. And we can swap out the regular alhulak attacks to try and entangle.
His saving throws are as follows; Paralyzation, Poison or Death Magic (PPDM) 13, Rods, Staffs or Wands (RSW) 15, Petrification or Polymorp (PP) 14, Breath Weapons (BW) 16, Spells (SP) 16. We do have some bonuses to those rolls. We get +1 against poisons due to our high CON, +2 against illusions and spells that attack the mind due to our high WIS and +2 to attacks that can be dodged, like lightning bolts, due to our high DEX.
A starting warrior in Dark Sun receives 5d4x30 ceramic pieces to purchase gear with. We roll 1, 2, 3, 4, 4 for a total of 14. Times 30 that comes to 420 cps to spend. We spend 120cp on a set of scale armour, 9 cp on a alhulak and 2 cp on a two-headed spear. Both of those are allowed to be made at 1% cost due to not requiring metal – it doesn’t say what they are made of so we decide on bone. 4 bone tipped javelins for 2 cp are added as well to give him some ranged options. We spend 5 cp on clothes (breeches, belt, tunic, cloak, hat and two pairs of sandals). We also buy some miscellaneous gear – a backpack (2cp), waterskin (8 bits), a fire kit (2 bits), 50′ of rope (1 cp), 1 weeks iron rations (5cp) and a small tent (5 cp). That is just 152 out of our 420 ceramics. We give the two-headed spear bronze blades, costing us 200 ceramics, taking the total to 350 ceramics. That gives us 70 left over which we will save for later, for food and drink and lodging and bribes as needed.
Scale armour is AC 6. With his DEX he is AC 4.
His base THAC0 is 18, dropping to 15 with STR.
Wielding the alhulak, he is THAC0 15 (+1 due to specialisation, -1 due to being made of bone), speed 5 doing 1d6 + 9 damage (+8 STR, +2 specialisation, -1 bone) and can made 3 attacks per 2 rounds if in his main hand.
Wielding the two-headed spear, he is THAC0 14 (+1 due to specialisation), speed 6, doing 1d8+10 damage (+8 STR, +2 specialisation) and can make 3 attacks per 2 rounds if in his main hand.
Throwing the javelins, he is THACO 14 (+1 due to DEX), speed 4, doing 1d4+7 damage (+8 STR, -1 bone) and can throw 1 a round.
As for alignment, the options are fairly limited. As part of the character tree, all characters must be either good, neutral or evil. Given that a ranger, which we have in the tree, must be good, all characters have to be good. Coming from a nomadic background, living away from the cities, Arkun strikes me as a chaotic good type.
Lastly we work out the physical details of the character – age, weight and height. A mul starts at 15 + 1d6 years old and can reach 80 +1d10 years old. They are 66 + 2d6 inches tall and weigh 220 + 5d10 pounds in weight. For his age we roll 4, making him 19, and 8 for maximum age, meaning he might live to 88. For his height, we roll 2 and 5, making him 73 inches (6 foot 1) tall and 1, 3, 5, 5, 8 for weight, making him 242 pounds in weight. In this regards he is about as average as they come.
Arkun is something of an oddity for a mul, born not as a slave but free. His mother belonged to a small tribe of nomadic herdsmen who tended their herd of erdlu through the canyons of the rocky badlands. His father was a dwarf cleric of earth who wandered the same region, aiding those who lived in the badlands. It was during such wanderings that his parent met, and he was the result of that. Though his birth was difficult, with the aid of his father his mother lived.
He grew up among the tribe, learning the handling of the erdlu and how to survive the harsh lands in which he lived. As he reached adulthood, he felt the need to leave the tribe behind for a time, to make his way in the world. As he left, his father gifted him with a bronze bladed double-headed spear. Heading to Tyr, he found the city strange and found that his strength and fighting ability were valued as a gladiator.
Arkun the Bronze; Glad 3; Kit: Wilderness Warrior; AL CG; AC 4 (Scale & dex); MV 12; HP 28; THAC0 18 (15 with alhulak, 14 with two-headed spear and javelin); #ATT 3/2 (alhulak or two-headed spear) + 1 (offhand attack), 1 (javelin); DMG 1d6+9 (alhulak), 1d8+10 (two-headed spear), 1d4+7 (javelin); STR 20, DEX 16, CON 18, INT 9, WIS 16, CHA 8.
Psionic Summary; PSPs 64; Wild Talent – Telekinetic Flight (PS WIS -4, Cost 15, Maintain 4/rd), Telekinesis (PS WIS -3, Cost 3, Maintain 1/rd), Levitate (PS WIS -3, Cost 12, Maintain 2/rd)
Saves; PPDM 13, RSW 15, PP 14, BW 16, SP 16.
Weapon Proficiencies; All.
Weapon Specialisation; Ambidexterity, alhulak, two-headed spear.
Non-weapon Proficiencies; Endurance (19), Survival: Rocky Badlands (14), Animal Handling (15), Heat Protection (7), Water Find (9), Tumbling (16), Dirty Tricks (14), Taunting (16).
Gear; Scale armour, bone alhulak, bronze two-headed spear, 4 bone javelins, clothes (breeches, belt, tunic, cloak, hat, two pairs of sandals) backpack, waterskin, 1 weeks iron rations, 50′ rope, small tent, firekit, 70 ceramics.