Lets Create Dark Sun Characters (AD&D 2e): Pyras the Golden – Half-elf Bard/Preserver/Psionicist

Returning to our Dark Sun character tree, we move on to the second, and most complex, of the characters, the half-elven bard/preserver/psionicst. Already I have a picture of them, so lets try and build a character to match.

On face value, Pyras ‘the Golden’ is a typical half-elven bard, craving acceptance yet at the same time standing apart and remaining self-sufficient, and an entertainer that is accepted to be a spy and assassin.

This is just a facade, a role that he plays well to mask his true nature and calling, for he is an agent of the Veiled Alliance, and with them he has found acceptance and a purpose.

While noted for his graceful and charming performances, Pyras has hidden skills as well, with access to powers of the mind and the arcane. He favours subtle psionics and even subtler preserving magic that he can pass off as psionics should the need arise, using them to aid his subterfuge and investigations.

He knows that as a bard, people will suspect his intentions, but he counts on that to misdirect his foes. After all, if they think they know who he is and what he is doing, and if he lets them do so, then, in the surety that they are right, they won’t dig any deeper.

It is a dangerous game but one that so far he has survived.

We have the concept so lets see what we have to work with and how to build him.

  • STR 10 gives no bonuses.
  • DEX 18 gives +2 reaction, +2 missile attack and -4 defence.
  • CON 11 gives no bonuses.
  • INT 17 gives 6 NWPs, up to 8th level spells, 14 spells a level and a 75% chance of learning a spell.
  • WIS 17 gives +3 magical defence.
  • CHA 18 gives 15 henchmen, +8 loyalty bonus and +7 reaction.

Being a half-elf gives him 60′ darkvision at creation. When he hits 3rd level he gets a free survival proficiency in one type of terrain. At 5th level he gets a free pet of a local animal no larger than man sized. Not a whole lot of bonuses, but he gets the widest array of class options and highest level of advancement in them of any race that isn’t a human.

A preserver is no different from the regular wizard as in the PHB and a psionicist is as described in the Complete Psionics Handbook. It is the Athasian bard that is different than regular ones. They can still influence reactions, inspire and know a little bit of everything as per normal, but they loose the ability to cast magic. In exchange they get to use all thief abilities instead of the limited selection vanilla bards have, though they aren’t quiet as good as normal thieves. They are also masters of poisons; at each level they roll to see if they have mastered a new poison.

Athasian bards are a class of entertainers and storytellers prized by the city dwelling aristocracy. They are also known to lead double lives as blackmailers, thieves, spies and assassins. The nobles often use them as tools, sending them as gifts to other houses. Despite knowing who and what they are, it is considered rude to turn them down, and so a merry game of deceit and subterfuge begins. Consider that – your worst enemy sends a known assassin to your house and you can’t turn them away because it would be rude. After all, you have a reputation to maintain. Yeah, Dark Sun bards are a really cool concept.

As we are a multiclassed character, we start with enough XP to start at 2nd level with our most expensive class. In this case it is the preserver. That gives us enough XP to also be a 3rd level bard, but only enough for the psionicist to be 2 level. So that makes us a 3/2/2 bard/preserver/psionicist.

HP for multiclass characters can be a little tricky. For the first level we roll the dice for each class and then divide by the number of classes we have. In this case it is 1d6 for bard, 1d6 for psionicist and 1d4 for preserver, totalled up then divided by 3. After that, whenever we level up we roll the dice for the class and divide by 3, rounding down. That it the downside of a mutliclass character – you can easily roll badly and get no HP. Especially for multiclass wizards. So we roll (1d6+1d6+1d4)/3 + 1d6/3 + 1d6/3 (for 2 levels of bard) +1d6/3 (for 1 level of psionicist) + 1d4/3 (for 1 level of preserver).

We roll (6+2+2)/3 + 1/3+ 4/3 +6/3 +3/3 = 3+0+1+2+1 = 7 HP. When you consider Arkun our gladiator starts with 28 HP, you can see Pyras is a little squishy. And later, when we do our half-giant, he will look even more so.

Our next choice is kits. The rules for kits were never properly worked out. Some books (like the complete fighters) said that they were only available to single class characters, while others allowed them to be used for multiclass characters. And when it comes to Dark Sun, some races and classes had Athasian themed kits provided for them in some of the supplements, like elves, thri-kreen, gladiators and psionicists, while others got nothing as they never had books. Dwarves, especially, never received any love in Dark Sun. They were rather under-developed.

After searching around a bit, the kit picked for Pyrus comes Dragon Magazine #194, which had an article on kits in Dark Sun. It listed some from the various Complete books that were appropriate for Athas, as well as a few new ones, including a wizard kit called Veiled One. A Veiled One is a member of the Veiled Alliance, an underground movement of preservers and psionicists who oppose Defilers and the Sorcerer-Kings.

To be a Veiled One, a character is required to have WIS 13, which we do. They have a cover profession that they need to carefully maintain, in this case a bard. They receive the free NWPs of Reading/Writing, Disguise and Somatic Concealment, and are required to have at least one craft proficiency related to their cover identify. The benefits of being a Veiled One include access to safe houses and escape routes should you be compromised, as well as access to the spells and research of others wizards, allowing them to add one spell to their spellbooks each time they level. The hinderances of the kit are that they must carefully maintain their cover at the risk of being outlawed and hunted down, and that they have to honour requests for assistance made by other Veiled Ones.

So, with the kit decided, we move on to NWPs. Pyras starts with 4, due to being a wizard, and gains 6 bonus NWPs due to his high intelligence. He receives free for being a Veiled One 3 (Reading/Writing, Disguise and Somatic Concealment. As he has hit 3rd level Bard, he gains Survival as a bonus for being a half-elf. He chooses scrublands for his terrain. And for being a Bard, according to the Complete Bard’s supplement, he gets Play Instrument, Singing, Local History and Reading/Writing again. For Play Instrument, Pyras chooses the Harp and for Local History he goes with Tyr. That is a few bonus NWPs before he even starts spending his slots.

First up, because of his kit, he needs a proficiency related to his cover identity, in this case a bard. For this we go with Artistic Ability (Composition). Pyras is a crafter of songs and tunes, used to impress and inspire. He also picks up Spellcraft, an important proficiency for those involved in magic. For the rest, he chooses one that will help out his spying and bardic activities; Sign Language, Gaming, Tumbling, Etiquette, Dancing, Heraldry, Forgery and Juggling.

Next we move on to Weapon Proficiencies. Pyras has only two. He isn’t much of a combatant, and due to his role, he prefers small and easily concealed weapons. He goes with Dagger, which can double as a thrown weapon, and Ambidexterity from the Complete Fighter’s Handbook. As a Bard is part of the Rogue group, he can wield two weapons at once, in this case, two daggers. Normally he would suffer a -2/-4 penalty to his main hand and offhand, but ambidexterity means it is reduced to just -2 for both hands. Due to his high DEX, those penalties are negated so he can use two daggers without penalty, should he need to.

Now for his Bard abilities. Each level, a bard rolls 1d4 and adds his level to the number to find out wha new poison he has learned to make. On a duplicate roll he learns nothing new. Our rolls are 2, 3 and 5, meaning we know type A, B and D poisons. We missed out on the E poison, which is the best one around. All three are injected poisons with onset times of 10-30 minutes for Type A, 2-12 minutes for Type B and 1-2 minutes for type C. A combat round in 2e lasted 1 minute, to only really Type C is likely to have an impact. Damage is 15/0 for A, 20/1-2 for B and 30/2-12 for D. The first number is for a failed poison safe, the second for a successful save. A bard can make a single does of each poison he knows per day using easily obtainable materials.

Bards also know all thieving abilities, using the same starting values, but with fewer points to spend. They don’t get any at first level and only 20% per level after. As a half-elf, Pyras gets +10% to Pick Pocket and +5% to Hide in Shadows. His DEX gives +10% Pick Pockets, +15% Open Locks, + 5% Find/Remove Traps, +10% Move Silently and +10% Hide in Shadows. Wearing no armour, which he almost never does, gives +5% Pick Pockets, +10% Move Silently, +5% Hide in Shadows and +10% Climb Walls. The bonus points are split as follows; +10% Read Languages, +15% Move Silently and +15% Hide in Shadows. The final totals are’

Pick Pockets 40%, Open Locks 25%, Find/Remove Traps 10%, Move Silently 45%, Hide in Shadows 40%, Detect Noise 15%, Climb Walls 70%, Read Languages 10%.

Now his bardic abilities are sorted out, we move onto his psionic ones. At first level, we start knowing one of the 5 psionics disciplines, which is to be our primary school. At second level we get to choose a second one we can gain powers from, and later on we can add further disciplines. There are some restrictions on what powers we can take – firstly we must know twice as many devotions as sciences in any discipline, and secondly no other discipline can have as many sciences or devotions as they have in their primary discipline.

The five disciplines to choose from are telepathy (used to make direct contact between minds), clairsentience (used to gain knowledge though means other than normal senses), psychoportation (used to move characters or creatures around), pyschokinesis (used to move objects around) and psychometabolism (used to affect the body). (Technically there is a 6th, metapsionics, but it doesn’t really concern starting characters.)

Pyschometabolism especially, as well as pyschokinesis and pyschoportation, are not subtle enough for the style of character Pyrus is. Both clairsentience and telepathy work for a gatherer of knowledge that Pyrus is. In the end we go with Telepathy for his primary discipline, and take Clairsentience as his second one, mostly because telepathy allows the option of extracting secrets directly from other people’s minds.

For powers, at first level he starts with 1 science, 3 devotions, all of which must come from our primary discipline, and 1 defence mode. At second level we can add 2 more devotions, which can be taken from any of the two disciplines we know.

Our first devotion and science are pretty much mandatory – Contact (WIS) and Mindlink (WIS-5). So many other telepathic powers have these are prerequisites. Contact allows the mind of the telepath to touch that of any non-psionicist or willing psionicist mind. If they aren’t willing a psionic contest needs to take place. Mindlink allows for telepathic communication to take place between contacted minds. Our other two starting devotions are Conceal Thoughts (WIS), which prevents the reading or detection of thoughts through magic or psionics unless a psychic contest is won, and ESP (WIS-4), which allows the reading of surface or active thoughts of a contacted person.

For the first of the next 2 devotions, we are going with another Telepathy power, and this one a Telepathic Attack. While all psionicists start with 1 defence mode, chosen from a list of 5, they need access to the Telepathy discipline to choose any of the 5 attack modes. The only way to break through an unwilling psionicists defences to establish contact is through a psionic contest, which requires the attacker to make 5 successful attacks. So if Pyrus runs up against another psionicist, he needs at least 1 attack mode to use most of his powers.

The one we go with is Ego Whip (WIS -3). Not only can it be used against psionicists, but against any contacted individual it hits, for 1d4 rounds they suffer -5 (or -25%) to all dice rolls, such as attacks or saves, and they cannot cast any spells above 3rd level.

For the last of our devotions, we go looking at the Clairsentience discipline, and from The Will and the Way sourcebook released for Dark Sun. The devotion we go with is Sensitivity to Observation (WIS). This is a power that is always on, unless otherwise chosen, and alerts the user to when they are being watched, even by means such as clairvoyance or clairsentience. Very useful for a sneaky character.

For his defence mode we go with Mind Blank. While in some way the weakest of the defence modes, it has no cost and is considered to always be on, even when sleeping.

Now to calculate PSPs used to power his abilities. With WIS 17, he starts with 24. INT 17 gives a bonus +2, but CON 11 gives nothing. At 2nd level, he gains 10 + 2 from his WIS, or 12. So in total he has 38 PSPs.

On to his wizard spells. A starting character has read magic, detect magic and 4 other 1st level spells. Due to our kit, we get one more 1st level spell when we reach level 2, so we have 5 1st level spells to choose from. Given our character description, any spells we do take will have to be subtle, so illusionary and enchantment style spells work best. In the end we choose Change Self (to help with disguises), Audible Glamour (to create fake distracting sounds in the distance), Charm Person (when we really have to get a person to like us), Message (when we need to send a message to someone without telepathic powers) and Hypnotism (to make suggestions to people to do what we want.) At any time he has 2 memorised, usually Change Self and Charm Person, though it can vary depending on the job.

As for a spell book, what he has is a song book, where he composes tunes in – and disguises his spells using Artistic Ability (Composition) to look like tunes.

His saving throws are as follows; Paralyzation, Poison or Death Magic (PPDM) 10, Rods, Staffs or Wands (RSW) 11, Petrification or Polymorph (PP) 12, Breath Weapons (BW) 15, Spells (SP) 12. We do have some bonuses to those rolls. We get +3 against illusions and spells that attack the mind due to our high WIS and +4 to attacks that can be dodged, like lightning bolts, due to our high DEX.

For money, he chooses the best option from his three classes, in this case 3d4 x 30 ceramics for a psionicist. The rolls are 2, 3, 4 for a total of 270 ceramics. And he is going to need them.

For started he needs a lyre, which in the Complete Bard’s book comes out to 75 ceramics. A set of thieves picks is another 30 ceramics. For clothing purposes, he selects a set of plain clothes, which comes out to 5 ceramics and 6 bits when totalled up, used for when he doesn’t wish to stand out. He also needs a flashy set, for when entertaining among the nobles, and so buys another set, paying 5 times the price to make it really good, which comes out at 28 ceramics. For weapons, he goes with a pair of bone daggers, each at 60 ceramics. All up he has spent almost all his money, leaving just 11 ceramics and 4 bits for anything else he should need. Luckily he is good at being a bard, meaning he can earn a living from it.

For his alignment, there is only one option available to us. We have to be good aligned to fit in the character tree, and a bard needs to be at least part neutral, so we are neutral good.

He wears no armour, as it would be a little obvious, but due to his DEX he is AC 6. Still, combined with his low HP, he really doesn’t want to get into melee.

His base THAC0 is 19, due to being a 3rd level bard.

Wielding the dagger he is THAC0 20 (-1 due to being made of bone), speed 2, doing 1d4-1/1d3-1 damage. He can wield 1 in each hand without penalty, attacking twice a round.

Throwing the dagger he is THACO 17 (+2 due to DEX), speed 2, doing 1d4-1/1d3-1 damage, and he can throw 2 a round.

On top of that he can coat the dagger with the poisons he knows.

And now for the physical characteristics. A half-elf starts at 15+2d4 years old and can reach 90+2d20 years old. They are 70+2d6 inches tall and weigh 120+3d12 pounds in weight. For his age we roll 2 & 3, making him 20 years old, and 2 & 19 for maximum age, meaning he could live to 111 years of age. For his height we roll 4 & 6, making him 80 inches (6′ 8″) tall and 8, 10, 11 for weight, making him 149 pounds in weight. For a half-elf, he is rather tall, as tall as some elves, and almost stocky. He certainly cuts a noticeable figure.

Pyrus the Gold; Bd/Pre/Psi 3/2/2; Kit: Veiled One; AL NG; AC 6; MV 12; HP 7; THAC0 19 (20 with dagger, 17 with thrown dagger; #ATT 1 + 1 (offhand attack), 2/1 (thrown dagger); DMG 1d4-1; STR 10, DEX 18, CON 11, INT 17, WIS 17, CHA 18.

Psionic Summary; PSPs 38; Disciplines: Telepathy, Clairsentiance; Defence Mode: Mind Blank (WIS -7, Cost 0, Maintenance 0); Sciences: Mindlink (PS WIS -5, Cost Contact, Maintain 8/rd); Devotions: Contact (PS WIS, Cost varies, Maintain 1/rd), Conceal Thoughts (PS WIS, Cost 5, Maintain 3/rd), Ego Whip (PS WIS -3, Cost 4, Maintain NA), ESP (PS WIS -4, Cost Contact, Maintain 6/rd), Sensitivity to Observation (PS WIS, Cost 5, Maintain NA).

Spell Book; Read Magic, Detect Magic, Change Self, Audible Glamour, Charm Person, Message, Hypnotism. Memorised; 2 x 1st.

Poisons: A, B & D.

Thieving Abilities; PP 40%, OL 25%, F/RT10%, MS 45%, HS 40%, DN 15%, CW 70%, RL 10%.

Saves; PPDM 10, RSW 11, PP 12, BW 15, SP 12.

Weapon Proficiencies; Dagger

Weapon Specialisation; Ambidexterity.

Non-weapon Proficiencies; Reading/Writing (18), Disguise (17), Somatic Concealment (17), Local History (18), Singing (18), Musical Instrument – Lyre (17), Survival – Scrub Plains (17), Artistic Ability – Composition (17), Spellcraft (15), Sign Language (18), Gaming (18), Tumbling (18), Etiquette (18), Dancing (18), Heraldry (17), Forgery (17) and Juggling (17).

Languages; Common.

Gear; Bone dagger x2, clothes (breeches, belt, tunic, cloak, hat, soft boots), expensive clothes (breeches, belt, tunic, cloak, hat, soft boots), thieves tools, lyre, 11 ceramics, 6 bits.

Cyberpunk Red Homebrew: Australia in the Time of the Red

I have been playing Cyberpunk for many, many years now, and as an Australian always had my games set in Australia. Cyberpunk 2020 had the Pacific Rim sourcebook that covered the situation in Australia at that period of time, but with Cyberpunk Red, the timeline has shifted forward a quarter of a century. Apart from a couple of very minor mentions, what has happened to Australia in the intervening time remains unknown.

So I have homebrewed up a version of Australia in the Time of the Red.

Economically depressed, politically unstable, with high levels of unemployment and poverty, Corps trying to muscle back in and a half built city that acts as a focal point for smuggling and piracy – government sanctioned as well.

These are just early notes. It still needs a bit more fleshing out and expanding on.

Lets Create: AD&D 2E Character: Faolan Whisperwind: Gnome Cleric/Thief

Before we return to creating our Dark Sun characters, I want to go back to vanilla AD&D 2e and have a look at it, and one of the most interesting multiclass choices available – the gnome cleric/thief.

For those who haven’t experienced 2e, not all classes were available to all races. The humans could be any class, and the half-elves anything but paladins, but the others had limitations, such as dwarves only being able to be fighters, clerics and thieves. On top of that, there were level limitations for demihumans as well, preventing them advancing far in the classes they did have access to. There were a number of reasons why this was put in place, and it was one of the most houseruled parts of the game.

Another difference between humans and demihumans was that demihumans could multiclass – the ability to be leveling in 2 (or 3 in the case of elves and half-elves) classes at a time. There were also limitations as to what classes could be combined. Only gnomes could be cleric/thieves for example. The classic gnome multiclass combo was the illusionist/thief, but the cleric/thief deserves a look at, if not for the fact that it is the fastest leveling of all the multiclass combos. On top of that, the gnomish gods are generally of the trickster and mischief maker types, so cleric/thief that follows in that vein is pretty thematic.

We are actually going to be looking at two variants of the character, starting with plain vanilla PHB only.

So what do we need to be a gnome cleric/thief. For cleric we need 9 WIS and for thief we need 9 DEX. A gnome needs a minimum of 6 STR, 8 CON and 6 INT, and has a racial modifier of +1 INT and -1 WIS. The last one hurts a little being a cleric but it cant be helped. All in all, not too difficult – we should be able to manage that with our rolls.

For this we are going with probably the most popular method of dice rolling for 2e – 4d6 drop the lowest. The average for 4d6dl is around 12.24, which means we should be able to roll up 2 9s, 2 6s and an 8, and hopefully higher, but it doesn’t eliminate bad rolls due to the small number of dice involved. So lets kick off and see what we get.

Roll 1; 6, 5, 5, 5 = 16

Roll 2; 2, 3, 1, 3 = 8

Roll 3; 3, 6, 2, 2 = 11

Roll 4; 6, 4, 3, 2 = 13

Roll 5; 4, 3, 5, 1 = 12

Roll 6; 6, 4, 5, 4 = 15

Getting a 16 is good while the 8, though not the best, could have been worse. We assigned them as follows;

STR 8, DEX 16, CON 11, INT 13, WIS 15, CHA 12. With racial modifiers that ends up as STR 8, DEX 16, CON 11, INT 14, WIS 14, CHA 12.

We do get a few bonuses from those stats; +1 reaction, +1 missile attack, -2 defense from DEX, 4 bonus NWPs from INT and 2 bonus 1st level spells from WIS.

Gnomes have a number of benefits. One of the languages they can learn is burrowing mammal. Basically they can speak with moles, badgers, weasels etc. It may not get much use but why wouldn’t you take it? They are also highly resistant to magic, getting a bonus to saves vs spells, rods, staves and wands based on their CON, the same as dwarves do. The down side is that they suffer a 20% failure chance any time they use a magic item except for weapons, armour, shields, illusionist items and items that duplicate thieving abilities if they are a thief. They have 60′ infravision, get +1 to hit against kobolds and goblins and when large monsters like giants, trolls, ogres and the like attack them, they suffer a -4 to hit. Also being exceptional miners, they can detect distance, direction and slope underground, as well as how safe walls and ceilings are, though I haven’t seen it used much at all.

A first level cleric gets 1d8 HP and a first level thief gets 1d6. We roll a 5 for cleric and a 5 for thief, for a total of 10. Divided by 2 equals 5 HPs.

Taking the best saving throws per class we get PPDM 10; RSW 14; PP 12; BW 16; SP 15. Due to his CON, he subtracts 3 from the RSW and SP saves for PPDM 10; RSW 11; PP 12; BW 16; SP 12. In addition, if it can be dodged, like a lightning bolt, he also reduced the save by a further -2.

For proficiencies he receives 2 WP and 4 NWPs, with a bonus 4 due to his INT.

One of the conditions of being multiclasses is that he must abide by the weapon restrictions of a cleric, which is they must be blunt only. He takes sling and morningstar, giving him one ranged and one melee weapon. As he is a small creature, he must wield the morningstar 2 handed.

For his NWPs, he can select from the general, priest and rogue groups. He chooses Read/Write (INT +1), Language (borrowing mammal) (INT), Religion (WIS), Spellcraft (INT -2), Tumbling (DEX), Juggling (DEX -1), Ventriloquism (INT -2) and Rope Use (DEX). Its a mix of practical and fun as befits a gnomish cleric/thief who is probably a bit of a trickster and mischief maker.

A 1st level Cleric starts with 1 1st level spell, but due to his WIS he gets 2 bonus ones. The three that he starts with are Bless, Cure Light Wounds and Sanctuary, though that can change as needed.

Next the thieving skills. In 2e they worked a little different than later editions. They were a percentile check where you had to roll under the points you had assigned in them. At creation you had a base score, modified by race, dexterity and armour, and at each level you got 60 discretionary percentage points to assign, with no more than 30 per skill.

As a gnome we get +5% to open locks, +10% to find/remove traps, +5% to move silently, +5% to hide in shadows, +10% to detect noise and -15% to climb walls. Our DEX also gives us +5% to open locks. As long as he is wearing leather armour he suffers no penalties, but going up to studded leather or padded incurs fairly hefty ones, so he will stick at leather. One option is to wear no armour and get bonuses, though that is risky.

We go with putting +15% into Detect Noise, Move Silently, Hide in Shadows and +5% into Read Languages, Open Locks and Find/Remove Traps. Our final totals are;

Pick Pockets 15%, Open Locks 25%, Find/Remove Traps 20%, Move Silently 30%, Hide in Shadows 25%, Detect Noise 40%, Climb Walls 45% and Read Languages 5%.

For gear, we start with 3d6x10 gp as a priest. Our roll gives us 110gp, with which we purchase leather armour (5gp), a morningstar (10gp), a sling (5cp) and 20 sling bullets (2sp). We also get a set of thieves picks (30g), and a holy symbol (25gp). The remaining 37 gold, 5 silver will be spent on gear and clothing, and maybe even a mule to ride.

Leather armour gives him AC of 8, reduced to AC 6 with his dexterity.

His base THAC0 is 20, reduced to 19 with ranged weapons. With the morningstar he is THAC0 20, speed 7 doing 2d4/1d6+1 damage. With the sling he is THAC0 19, speed 6 doing 1d4+1/1d6+1 damage.

And lastly age, height and weight. Faolan is 60+3d12 years old (77), living to 200+3d100 (340). He is 38+1d6 inches tall (44) and weighs 72 +5d4 pounds (87).

So there you have him, a fairly rounded character. Can fight a bit (though preferably from range as they are a little squishy), cam cast a few spells, do a bit of sneaking and has some interesting proficiencies to use.

Faolan Whisperwind: CL/TH 1/1; AL CG; AC 6 (Leather & dex); HP 5; THAC0 20 (19 with sling); #AT 1; DMG 2d4 (morningstar), 1d4+1 (sling); Str 8, Dex 16, Con 11, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 12.

Saves; PPDM 10, RSW 11, PP 12, BW 16, SP 12.

Weapon Proficiencies; Morningstar, Sling

Non-weapon Proficiencies; Read/Write, Religion, Spellcraft, Tumbling, Juggling, Ventriloquism, Rope Use.

Languages; Common, Gnomish, Burrowing Mammal.

Spells; 3 x 1st (Cure Light Wounds, Sanctuary, Bless).

Thief Skills: Pick Pockets 15%, Open Locks 25%, Find/Remove Traps 20%, Move Silently 30%, Hide in Shadows 25%, Detect Noise 40%, Climb Walls 45% and Read Languages 5%.

Gear; Leather armour, morningstar, sling and 20 sling bullets, holy symbol, thieves tools.

Lets Create Dark Sun Characters (AD&D 2e): Arkun the Bronze – Mul Gladiator

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).

Languages; Common.

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.

Lets Create: Dark Sun Character (AD&D 2e): The Charismatic Fighter

In my previous post about setting up Dark Sun character trees, I made mention of how you could make high CHA, high INT fighters in 2e and that they could be the social face of the party as a result, unlike in later editions.

Thinking it over, I wanted to do just that to show how effective it could be, and decided to go with a Dark Sun character given that it what I was already working on . This character isn’t part of the character tree, but another one off example. Besides INT and CHA being the best stats, I am going to make STR the worst one.

That may sound crazy, but for 2e it is not an issue like with later editions were you needed to max out your primary stat to remain viable. In 2e, the difference between 9 (the lowest a fighter can have) and 17 STR was +1/+1 hit and damage. Admittedly, it could get a little crazy when you hit 18 or higher STR, which was very possible in Dark Sun, but not so much in vanilla 2e.

For races, there are only three options really; elves, half-elves and humans. The other races (dwarves, muls, half-giant, halflings and thri-kreen get a penalty to CHA. Half-giants, muls and thri-kreen also have penalties to INT to go on top of that.

Elves do get a bonus to INT but they also have a penalty to WIS. Plus you’d have to play an elf.

That leaves humans and half-elves, and given half-elves in Dark Sun have no level limits for being a fighter, that added with their other benefits gives them an edge. So half-elf it is. You get to be the moody loner wandering into town and rallying the locals to your cause through sheer charisma and intellect.

For stats, I am going to use the 6d4 drop the lowest and assign method. The end result is 13, 13, 17, 17, 17, 19 which are arranged as STR 13, CON 17, DEX 17, INT 17, WIS 13, CHA 19. Half-elves get +1 DEX and -1 CON, giving us STR 13, CON 16, DEX 18, INT 17, WIS 13, CHA 19.

STR 13 gives no bonuses.

DEX 18 gives +2 to reactions and missile attacks and -4 AC.

CON 16 gives +2 HP a level.

INT 17 gives 6 bonus nonweapon proficiencies.

WIS 13 gives no bonuses.

CHA 19 gives 20 henchmen, +10 loyalty base and +8 reaction adjustment.

While he might not be a beast in combat, he is still difficult to kill, and those that fight for him are exceptionally loyal.

Varus never knew his father. He had been a trader that had encountered his elven mother’s tribe but had moved on before even knowing she was pregnant. When he was born though, the tribe had driven his mother out with the newborn Varus for dishonouring the tribe. They were luck that his mother was able to find refuge in a small village of escaped gladiators, under the protection of a preserver/druid, Thaxar Stonehand, a half-elf like him.

Varus grew up in the village, learning all he could from Thaxar, though the druidic and preserver arts were beyond him. He likewise learned all he could from anyone else willing to teach him, whether trader, psionicist or gladiator. He trained with the local militia, becoming a competent fighter, helping defend against slavers, raiders and wild beasts. It was here that his natural talent at leadership and inspiration came to light, his quick thinking and way with words.

As he grew older, it wasn’t enough to simply defend the village though. While Thaxar was content to stay with the village and defend it and his guarded lands, Varus wanted more. He wanted to make it safe, to go beyond the village and provide its security for the long term. And so he has set out, armed for battle with spear and shield, intellect and charisma, to make his mark.

As a third level fighter, he gets 1d10+2 HP a level. We roll 5, 7 & 7, which, adding the bonus HP, comes to 25 HP.

For his wild talent, we roll a 63 – Life Detection. In effect we can scan for living creatures like a radar. The power score is INT-2, which is 15 for us. Initial cost is 3 with a maintenance cost of 3/rd. We start with enough PSPs to activate it once and to maintain it for 4 rounds, for 15 PSPs, and 4 more per level, for a total of 23 PSPs. Interesting talent, though fairly situational.

Saving throws for a 3rd level fighter are; PPDM 13, RSW 15, PP 14, BW 16, SP 16.

Fighters start with 4 weapon proficiencies and gain another at 3rd level, for a total of 5 proficiencies. I am using the Complete Book of Fighters, which has more options. He spends 2 slots on the Spears tight group, giving him proficiency in things like spears and javelins. He spends one slot on specialisation in Spear. The Complete Book of Fighters changed up spears (and added Long Spear as well), making them able to be used 1 handed or 2 handed. So it can be thrown, used with a shield or used 2 handed for extra damage.

For the last slot we are going with Two Handed Specialisation from the CBoF. When a weapon is being used two handed, the weapon gets -3 to weapon speed, making it faster. So a spear used two handed becomes speed 3 and does 1d8+1 damage, though it does lose the AC from not using a shield. All up it gives him a lot of flexibility with spears.

Fighters start with 3 NWP slots and get 1 every 3 levels. We also get 6 bonus ones from our INT, for a total of 10 NWPs. Fighters have access to the General and Warrior groups of NWPs, but can buy from the other groups (Priest, Rogue, Wizard) at the cost of 1 extra slot.

So, going through the Dark Sun book and the PHB, we go with the following NWPs; Etiquette (CHA), Heraldry (INT), Gaming (CHA), Bureaucracy (CHA -2), Heat Protection (INT -2), Armour Optimisation (DEX -2), Sign Language (DEX) & Modern Language (Elven & Thri-kreen). Bureaucracy comes from the priest group so it costs us 2 slots. In addition, at level 3 half-elves receive a bonus Survival (INT) NWP in one type of terrain. For this I go with Stony Barrens, one of the most common terrain types in Dark Sun.

Heat Protection and Armour Optimisation are mostly about surviving in the harsh world, but the rest are about various forms of communication and knowledge when dealing with people, especially in cities. Thri-kreen don’t start with the common language that others do (they have to buy it, as do halflings), so there will be plenty of them around who can’t be spoken to unless someone knows their language. And his heritage lends himself to taking Elven – plus elves can be a little bit difficult so them refusing to speak common wouldn’t be that uncommon.

For equipment, fighters start with 5d4 x 30 cp. We roll a 14, which comes to 420 cp to spend. For the basics, we go with a set of inix scale armour at 120 cp and a leather medium shield at 7 cp. A spear costs 8 sp in the phb, or 8 bits in dark sun if not made with a metal spearhead. We have enough to afford one of those, as it works out as 80 cp. Javelins are just 5 bits each, so we get 4 non-metal ones at a total cost of 2 cp. We could afford iron headed javelins at 50 cp each, but there is a risk in throwing iron headed weapons at an enemy, in that they may not come back. We go with bone tipped javelins. That still gives him a lot of money left over for other items, such as clothes, mounts, adventuring gear, bribes and the like.

Combat wise, his AC with the scale armour, shield and dexterity is 1, meaning he is rather hard to hit. Without the shield he is still AC 2.

His base THAC0 is 18.

Wielding the spear 1 handed he is THAC0 17, speed 6, doing 1d6+2 damage and can make 3 attacks every 2 rounds. If he throws it his THAC0 is 16 but damage is just 1d6 – specialisation bonuses only apply in melee except for the rate of fire, but he does get a bonus to hit due to his high dexterity.

Wielding the spear 2 handed he is THAC0 17, speed 3, doing 1d8+3 damage and can make 3 attacks every 2 rounds.

Throwing his javelins he is THAC0 16, speed 4, doing 1d4-1 damage and can throw one per round. As it is bone tipped, it normally has -1 to hit and damage but the to hit penalty doesn’t apply to missile weapons. If he used it in melee it would apply. The benefit of the thrown javelin over the thrown spear is that it is faster and also longer ranged, with twice the distance of the spear.

Finally, age, height and weight. Half-elves are 70+2d6 inches tall and 120+3d12 pounds in weight. We roll a 7 for height and 29 for weight, making him 77 inches (6′ 5″) tall and 149 pounds in weight. Average half-elf height but slightly stockier than normal. For age, half-elves start at 15+2d4 years old and live to 90+2d20 years. We roll a 5 for starting age and 39 for maximum age. He starts at 20, again average for a half-elf, but will live to 129 years if he survives, about as old as a half-elf can get.

Of course, this is all put together in Dark Sun, so the stats are slightly better than normal, but the principle is still the same if playing in a vanilla campaign. A charismatic fighter can work just as well as just about anyone else, with the exception of a bard who gets an influence ability. You could go through the various source books looking for kits, other NWPs or the like to adapt it, even shop for magic items but the principle remains the same.

Varus: Ftr 3; AL NG; AC 1 (Scale, shield & dex); MV 12; HP 25; THAC0 18 (17 with spear, 16 with thrown spear or javelin); #AT 3/2 (iron spear), 1 (bone javelin); DMG 1d6+2 (1 handed spear), 1d8+3 (2 handed spear), 1d4-1 (bone javelin); Str 13, Dex 18, Con 16, Int 17, Wis 13, Cha 19.

Psionic Summary; PSPs 23; Wild Talent – Life Detection (PS Int -2, Cost 3, Maintain 3/rd).

Saves; PPDM 13, RSW 15, PP 14, BW 16, SP 16.

Weapon Proficiencies; Spear Tight Group.

Weapon Specialisation; Spear, Two handed.

Non-weapon Proficiencies; Etiquette, Heraldry, Gaming, Bureaucracy, Heat Protection, Armour Optimisation, Sign Language.

Languages; Common, Thri-kreen, Elvish.

Gear; Scale armour, medium leather shield, iron spear, 4 bone javelins.

Lets Create: Dark Sun (AD&D 2E) Characters

I have mentioned a few times how much I enjoy the Dark Sun setting, so it is about time I made some characters for it. For this we are going to be using AD&D 2e, because, in my mind, it is the best version of D&D but also because the setting was designed using 2nd ed, which makes it work best for the setting.

There have been fan-made rules using 3rd and 5th editions, as well as the official 4th edition rules. I will look at 4th edition to make characters in Dark Sun at some point – I actually liked 4th ed, more so than 3rd ed, as it has some interesting ideas for Dark Sun, as well as some interesting classes, but for me Dark Sun has and always will be 2nd ed.

Before we get started, there are a few things to cover. Dark Sun characters are a little different to vanilla 2nd ed characters. The setting was designed to turn traditional fantasy on its head, and that is reflected in character creation as well. Races are changed, classes are changed and even character generation is a bit different as well.

Back in 2nd ed, characters were not equal. Players rolled for their stats, which means sometimes you got characters with really good stats and sometimes you got bad stats. Those days are gone, which is sad, because rolling stats was fun. You never knew what you were going to get.

For vanilla AD&D, your stats were in the range of 3-18. The basic methods was you rolled 3d6 for each stat in order and noted what you got, which meant the outcome of the dice often determined what race and class you could play. There were alternative options provided as well, the most common one from what I have seen and heard was roll 4d6 and drop the lowest, then assign the results to the stats you wanted. Then end result was slightly higher stats and more choice as to what you played.

Dark Sun characters had better stats than vanilla AD&D. The basic method for them was not 3d6 but 4d4+4, meaning your stats were in the range of 8-20. The equivalent to 4d6 drop the lowest for Dark Sun was 6d4 drop the lowest and assign, but once again there were other alternatives provided as well.

On top of that, the races had bigger stat modifiers. Vanilla races got +1 to one stat and -1 to one state (except half-elves and humans, who got none.) Dark Sun races had more stats modified, with bigger modifiers. A vanilla dwarf had +1 CON and -1 CHA. An Athasian dwarf is +2 CON, +1 STR, -1 DEX, -2 CHA. The most extreme example is the half-giant, who gets +4 STR, meaning that with good rolls it can start with 24 STR. The maximum possible is 25.

Dark Sun characters also start at 3rd level, so they are a little more capable when they start playing.

And all Dark Sun characters are a little bit psionic. If they don’t have the psionicist class they have a random wild talent, which could be anything, ranging from near useless to amazingly useful. Normally the chance for a wild talent is around 1%, if you play with the Complete Book of Psionicists. Dark Sun PCs automatically get it.

So, yes, Dark Sun characters are a lot more powerful than regular vanilla characters. They need to be just to survive. When you start playing, you make up a character tree of four characters which you can swap in and out as you need.

You are going to need them, as Dark Sun is a setting with a high chance of death. 2nd ed tended to see more character deaths than later editions, which toned that down, but Dark Sun, by its very nature, if run properly, was even more brutal than vanilla 2nd ed.

There were no places of safety; everywhere was a battle for survival. Cities weren’t places of refuge; they were places of corruption, suffering and arbitrary laws, ruled over by ancient and incredibly powerful sorcerer-monarchs who were evil to the core. Outside of the cities was wasteland where every drop of water was precious and everything was dangerous, even the plants, many of which had psionics as well.

For regular D&D, the adventure started when you got to the dungeon. In Dark Sun, getting to the dungeon was an adventure in itself. The oasis you stumble upon? Yeah, in a regular world that would be a nice place to rest, but on Athas if the inhabitants, be it people or monsters, don’t try to kill you then the plants just might. And if there are none of those it might be because the water might try to kill you as well.

Yes it was brutal. Yes, you might lose characters. But it was different, had atmosphere and was fun for it.

So tougher characters, but what else was different?

Well, the races for starters. Standard races had a different spin on them and there were also new races added in.

Humans were pretty much humans, not really that much different than elsewhere, except for on average being a little bigger and maybe having a few cosmetic mutations due to centuries of abusive magic scarring the world. They might have slightly odd colourations, or webs between fingers or limbs of odd length but they could fit in anywhere.

Halflings are not the jovial, relaxed types normally seen. They don’t live in peace in The Shire. No, in Dark Sun they are feral cannibals that live in the last remaining pristine part of the world and kill any interlopers who trespass in their territory. (Technically they aren’t cannibals as they don’t eat other halflings but they see all other races as food.)

Athasian Elves aren’t the wise, long lived types who make their homes in the forests so typically of elsewhere. They are instead taller than humans, live not much longer than humans and are mostly members of nomadic tribes who travel everywhere on foot. To ride a beast of burden is seen as weakness. They are also traders but seen by everyone else as untrustworthy, underhanded, swindlers and thieves.

Half-elves are solitary self-sufficient loners rejected by both their human and elvish sides, as humans don’t trust them for their elvish blood and elves look down on them as not being pure elves. Yet at the same time they crave acceptance of those who have rejected them. They tend to get on better with other races who don’t judge them because of their blood.

Athasian dwarves are bald and beardless. Probably for the best in the heat of Athas. They also love toil, becoming hyper-focused on the task they are attempting. This foci they concentrate on with single-mindedness for weeks, months, years or even decades until they complete it. If they die with a focus unfulfilled, they return as a banshee to haunt their worksite.

Gnomes don’t exist. Technically, they don’t exist anymore. A lot of standard fantasy races, like gnomes, orcs, trolls, ogres and more used to live on Athas but went extinct at some point in the past.

Three new player races were added for Dark Sun; muls, half-giants and thri-kreen.

Muls are sterile half-dwarves who have the toughness of their dwarven parents and the height and cunning of their human parents. They are also noted for their extreme endurance, being able to continue working long after anyone else has collapsed from exhaustion. For this reason they make prized slaves and most are bred into captivity.

Half-giants are large and extremely strong, but not exactly bright, though they are friendly and eager to please. This eagerness sees them tend to have a fluid alignment, mimicking whoever they are trying to fit in with. While their size may give them formidable strength, it is not without its downsides, namely needing to consume much more food and water than others and needing to pay more for larger equipment.

Thri-kreen are a race of mantispeople. 2nd ed’s thri-kreen looked more like actually mantises but later editions turned them into mantismen, walking upright and with a more humanoid look. They are incredibly short-lived, at most reaching 35, but they make up for that by not sleeping, needing very little water, having natural armour, being able to leap, having natural weapon attacks and being able to produce poison. They really are the most alien of all the player races though.

So that is the races, but what about classes?

For starters there are no paladins on Athas. This is because there are no gods (though the sorcerer-monarchs like to pretend they are.) So how does this affect the priest classes? Instead of gods they worship the elements – earth, air, fire and water.

Clerics choose one of the elements to worship and receive a spell list based on that element. As can be understood, a cleric of water is very much in demand as they can produce water, albeit on a much reduced amount compared to vanilla. Their weapons and armour are shaped by their choice of element as well.

Druids nurture and protect a specific geographical feature of the land, and draw their strength from that feature. What element they have access to depends on the feature they protect – a mountain would give them access to earth while a volcanic vent would be fire. Within their guarded lands they get many bonuses but they are enemies to all defilers given the way they have ravaged the lands.

Templars are a new priest class, the disciples and bureaucracy of the sorcerer-monarchs, with access to cleric spells granted to them via the sorcerer-monarchs they work for. Inside their home city they have vast arbitrary powers which get stronger the higher level they are, but outside their city those powers are non-existent, and they really have to take care in rival cities. Even in their own city, infighting and back-stabbing are rife.

Thieves are mostly unchanged from vanilla for the most, with the difference being they eventually find a noble patron to work for. Bards are still entertainers, but they are also spies and assassins. They lose the ability to cast magic and instead pick up the full array of thief skills and also the ability to use poisons, including some very nasty ones, even at low level.

Rangers are also largely unchanged, except that they also choose a elemental plane to worship and get their priest spells from that list. Athasian Fighters are masters of mass warfare. Eventually they begin to attract followers in the form of a small army that grow more and more numerous the higher level they reach. Dark Sun was designed with the Battlesystem rules for warfare in mind, which is what fighters use.

There is also a new warrior class available, the Gladiator. They do one thing, and they do it very well – fight. They can use any weapon without penalty and specialise in more than one as well.

The remaining classes are wizards. Arcane magic draws life out of the land to power it, and rampant use of arcane magic over the centuries is what led to the ecological devastation on Athas. Needless to say, it makes people not exactly fans of wizards. There are two types of wizards, the Defiler and the Preserver. The Preserver takes care to minimise or negate the damage they cause when casting spells but the Defiler doesn’t. They rip what they need from the land, leaving destruction in their path. It means the Defiler gains power faster than a Preserver, but they are hated by everyone, even other Defilers who see them as rivals. Preservers at least have some that won’t hate them.

All this has gone on a bit longer than I first planned, which means next time we will start actually working on characters, rolling the dice and seeing what we come up with.

Lets Create: Fading Suns Alien Character – Vasaati the Ghost

Previously we have covered the first three archetypes of Fading Suns characters – Noble, Priest and Merchant. Now we come to the last of them – Those Who Differ. The Aliens.

There are a number of alien species in the Fading Suns universe, but only three of them are an option in the core rulebook, those of the Obun, Ukar and the Vorox.

The Ur-Obun and the Ur-Ukar are technically the one species who followed and worshiped the mysterious Anunnaki long ago. There was some kind of schism or war between the Anunnaki and the loosing side took the Ukar from their homeworld and planted them on a harsher desert world millennia ago. Technically they are elves in space.

The Obun are a peaceful, philosophical race with a natural talent towards psychics. While most alien species are not well treated by humans, the Obun are generally respected as advisors and councillors, and one is a trusted advisor to the Emperor. They even have their own sect of the Church. So, yeah, your typical elf.

The Ukar are different. They are a warrior race, raised on a harsh world, only to fall foul of the humans and lose the following conflict with them. Embittered, divided and with long running feuds between clans, they are generally seen as violent, murderous thugs, assassins and criminals. It isn’t always without reason either, and those skills are valued. Think dark elves – and they even live underground as well.

The last of the alien races are the Vorox. Think of a cross between a lion and a bear with six limbs with poisonous claws, and just as big, all with the ability to think. Considered big dumb brutes with unwavering loyalty and trained as elite shock troops by many. They remove their poisonous claws to show their civilised nature, all except for the nobles who are allowed to keep one as a mark of their rank. Very much murder machines.

I’m not a fan of your typical elves, who have been overused and worse, which rules out the Obun. And while Vorox are fun (and borderline broken) we don’t need another combat specialist. So that leaves the Ukar, a race of embittered and touchy criminals and assassins, and that sounds fun.

Our character is going to be one of those sort; Vasaati the Ghost is a killer and criminal who fell in with Lady Isabel. Surprisingly she found a human that actual somewhat understood her people and could speak her language, and a person that had use for her skills.

All Ukar have the same Upbringing, which modifies their characteristics slightly from those of humans. They have a base of 4 for dexterity and tech and a maximum of 9 for both strength and endurance. Their upbringing gives them Strength +1, Dexterity +1, Perception +2, Passion or Calm +1, Psi 1 and Urge 1, Fight +1, Sneak +1, Knavery 1, Speak Ukarish, Speak Urthish and Survival 1. They have the blessing of Sensitive Touch (+2 Perception to discern touched objects) and the curses of Bitter (-2 Calm when dealing with humans) and Ostracism (Mild.) For Vasaati we go with Calm as I see her more as a cool and calculating type.

Next we come to her Apprenticeship. Ukari can join a guild her, going down the Merchant route if they wish. Otherwise they can choose between Chieftain or Warrior/Outlaw. I don’t see Vasaati as being the type who leads so for her it is Warrior/Outlaw. That gives her Strength +1, Dexterity +2, Endurance +1, Passion or Calm +1, Dodge +1, Fight or Melee +2, Impress +1, Shoot +1, Knavery 2, Lore (Poisons) 1, Stoic Mind 1 and Survival 1. For her we choose Calm again and also Fight – Vasaati prefers using her hands to knives.

Early Career has the same two choices so we continue down the Warrior/Outlaw line. That gives her Strength +2, Dexterity +1, Endurance +2, Perception +1, Extrovert or Introvert +1, Passion or Calm +2, Faith or Ego +1, Dodge +1, Fight or Melee +2, Impress +1, Shoot +1, Knavery 1, Lore (Poisons) 1, Stoic Mind 1, Survival 1 and Benefice: Family Ties (3pts). They also choose between Jox Kai Von Kick Boxing (Martial Fist, Martial Kick, Martial Hold) or Kraxi Knife Fencing (Parry, Thrust, Slash). Vasaati goes with Introvert, Calm and Ego – continuing on with the cold and calculating route, but with a strong sense of self. Once more they choose Fight and take the martial arts options – Vasaati is deadly without weapons.

For her two extra stages, Vaasati goes with the Cohort Tour of Duty followed by Another Tour of Duty. That gives her 4 points to put into characteristics and 21 to put into skills. For her characteristics, she puts 2 points into Wits, 1 into Perception and 1 into Ego. For the skills she goes Sneak +4, Observation +3, Knavery +2, Search +4, Streetwise +3, Inquiry +3 and Lore (Poisons) +2.

For her two Worldly Benefits, the first is Promotions and Rewards (1000 firebirds rank increased by 1 level) and the second is Friends (choose 4pts from Ally, Contact, Gossip Network, Retinue, Passage Contact or Refuge). Vaasati puts 2pts into Refuge (the equivalent of a small farm), 1 point into Contact (a weapon and poison supplier) and 1 point into Ally (a Decados knight). One thing to note is that the core rulebook does not show the ranks that aliens can gain

She spends her starting money on a dirk (4 firebirds), a heavy revolver (250 firebirds) with 30 rounds (30 firebirds), studded leather armour with plastic studs (15 firebirds), a squawker (50 firebirds), 3 doses of plox blade venom (75 firebirds) and 3 doses of grixi poision (150 firebirds). That gives her 426 leftover firebirds. The plox blade venom can paralyse those struck by it, while grixi causes excessive bleeding in its victims that is hard to staunch.

Vaasati’s final character looks like this;

Attributes: Strength 7, Dexteiry 8, Endurance 6, Wits 5, Perception 7, Tech 4, Passion 1/Calm 7, Introvert 4/Extrovert 1, Faith 1/Ego 5, Psi 1, Urge 1, Wyrd 7, Vitality 11.

Natural Skills: Impress 5, Melee 3, Charm3, Observe 6, Shoot 5, Dodge 5, Sneak 8, Vigor 3, Fight 8.

Learned Skills: Knavery 6, Survival 3, Lore (Poisons) 4, Stoic Mind 2, Search 4, Streetwise 4, Inquiry 3, Speak Ukarish, Speak Urthish.

Blessing: Sensitive (+2 Perception to discern touched items).

Curse: Bitter (-2 Calm when dealing with Humans), Ostracism (Mild).

Benefice: Cohort Charter, Rank (3pts), Family Ties.

Equipment: Dirk, Heavy Revolver with 30 rounds, Plastic Studded Leather Armour, Squawker, 3 x Plox Blade Venom, 3 x Grixi.

Lets Create: Fading Suns Merchant Character – Crosswire

Previously we have created Lady Ysabel, a Hazat Noble, and Brother Octavian, a Brother Battle Priest, so now we move on to Those Who Trade – the merchants.

Merchants is an inadequate description rally, as they cover a wide variety of professions. The guilds are the remnants of the corporations of the Second Republic (and dream of the Third), but have an important role in the Empire. Snubbed by nobles, seen as sinners by priests, nonetheless, the services they provide are ones that neither priest or noble can do without.

There are five main guilds, as well as many smaller ones, and even independents, freelancers beholden to none, though that leaves them without support should things go wrong. For freelancers, it is beast to make them through custom creation, but as usual, we are sticking with the main Guilds.

The Charioteers control the spacelanes. They hold a monopoly on the jumpcodes that operate the jumpgates, and are master pilots and master traders, travelling from world to world with cargo both legal and illegal. Since they can pack up and move so easily, often it is a case of buyer beware.

The Engineers (or Supreme Order of Engineers) maintain tech, recreate lost tech and discover their own innovations as well. Between that, and their habit of installing cybernetics in their bodies, they tend not to be on the best of terms with the Church. Regardless, when it comes to technology, they are the masters. Even if they have a few too many mad scientists in their ranks.

The Scravers started out as salvagers and reclaimers of old tech, often in ruins from the Second Republic, but have moved on beyond that. If you can’t find what you are looking for, legally, the Scravers can find it for you. At a price. They get involved with a lot of shady operations, and with the best enforcers to protect it. There is a lot of the mafia about them.

The Muster (or Chainers) specialise in the trade of people. They are a cross between a trade union, and intermediary job agency and a private military contractor, hiring out skilled workers like technicians, engineers, construction workers and mercenaries. However, it is their trade in slaves that most people associate them with.

The Reeves (or Grey Faces) are quiet, behind the scenes types who are reputed to be the richest guild around. They are a guild of lawyers and bankers, and as a result they have hooks in pretty much everyone. When they call in favours, few can refuse.

We’ve got Lady Ysabel to handle the talking and Brother Octavian to handle fighting, so what I’m looking for is someone to handle the tech. In other games I’ve played characters who were combat engineers named Crosswire, so we are going to continue that here. While Engineers, Scravers or Chainers could all work, we are going to go with the Engineers.

First off we need to find out where Crosswire came from in his Upbringing. There are two parts to that, the Environment and the Class. For the Environment, they could come from a City, a Town or the Country. For Crosswire, we are going with City which gives Wits +2, Perception +2, Observe +1, Inquiry 1 and Streetwise 1. The second part is Class, either Wealthy, Average or Poor. Crosswire started with nothing so for him it is Poor. That gives Faith or Ego +1, Knavery 1 and Streetwise or Survival 1. For Crosswire, he had to learn to survive on his own, so Ego and Streetwise are the choices we go with.

At some point Crosswire began his Apprenticeship, either in an Academy of the best and brightest, a Guildhall, or on the Streets, where they have to learn the hard way. The last, The Streets, fits Crosswire’s background. It gives him Dexterity +2, Wits +1, Tech +2, Shoot +1, Inquiry 1, Read Urthtech, Tech Redemption (choose speciality) 2, Science (choose speciality) 2, Streetwise 1 and Think Machine 1. It also has the blessing of Innovative (+2 Tech when trying to invent something new and the curse of Unnerving (-2 extrovert when dealing with serfs.) For his Tech Redemption he goes with Mech, allowing him to fix, upgrade or jury-rig al kinds of mechanical devices, from a simple as scissors to as complex as generators. His Science disciple is Engineering, relating to the design and construction of buildings, vehicles, etc. Or in his case, the destruction of them.

With his Apprenticeship done, Crosswire moves onto his early career, being commissioned into his guild and getting his first jobs. He can pick Starship Duty (Pilot, Engineer or Gunner), Mercenary (Soldier or Combat Engineer), Scholar, Scientist Or Seedy/Illegal (Thief or Spy). That choice is easy having already decided what type of character Crosswire is – Combat Engineer. That nets him Strength +1, Dexterity +2, Endurance +2, Wits +1, Perception +1, Tech +2, Passion or Calm +1, Combat Skill (Fight or Melee) +1, Observe +1, Shoot +2, Drive (choose speciality) 2, Remedy 1, Tech Redemption (choose Primary) 3, Tech Redemption (choose secondary) 2, Science (Engineering) 1, Warfare (Artillery) 1, Warfare (Demolitions) 1 and a Benefice – Rank (Associate).

For his choices, Crosswire picks Calm over Passion – having a steady hand when dealing with explosives is kind of important. Combat Skill goes with Fight, Drive is Aircraft, his primary Tech Redemption is Mech and the secondary is High-Tech, allowing him to work on things like Think Machines (ie Computers) and Starship Drives.

Looking at his Extra Stages, Crosswire also goes down the Imperial Tours, taking the Cohort Tour of Duty as Brother Octavian did, with the 2 Attribute points, 11 skill points and the Worldly Benefit. For his second he goes with something a little different – Cybernetics. That allows him to install 20 pts of Cybernetic Devices. The Church may not like it, but as he is a member of the Engineers guild and a Imperial Cohort they are just going to have to live with it.

For his Cohort Tour of Duty, Crosswire puts 1 point in both Dexterity and Perception for his attributes, and 2 points in Shoot, Focus, Science (Cybernetics), Search and Read (Urthish) and 1 in Think Machines. For his Worldy Benefit, he selects Rich Rewards, giving him 2000 firebirds in money.

Now onto the Cybernetics. They are a really interesting system in Fading Suns as you basically build your own. You start out by working out its function (what it does) and then add in things like how it was implanted, how obvious it is, what it is made of, how well it was made, how it is powered and more. From there you can work out how many points it takes to build, and how incompatible it is.

There is only so much cybernetics that a person can install, and that is governed by incompatibility. Your Ego determines how much incompatibility you can have between all your cybernetics. In Crosswire’s case, he has 4 Ego, which gives him 14 incomparability points.

There are some already designed in the book to use, or to use as examples, which is what we are doing. An Engineer’s Eye is designed to make people see better, and looks a bit like a monocle, but one that can easily be removed. Crosswire’s is a mostly the same, except his is an actual eye implant.

So lets start with its function. It provides +1 Perception, but only when using sight. Cybernetics is the only way to boost stats above the starting value. Normally increased attributes cost 2 points per boost, but it only functions some of the time, it is 1 per boost. In this case 1 pts total. In addition it costs 1 incompatibility per boost.

In addition it has magnifier/telescope in built, for 1 point and 1 incompatibility, and ultraviolet vision, allowing him to see at night, for 2 points and 2 incompatibility. Total so far is 4 points and 4 incompatibility.

Next we work out how it is attached. In this case it is organic – wired into the body, connected to nerves and the like. It can’t be safely removed or repaired without surgery, and damaging it hurts Crosswire. The device gets 2 points back because of that, reducing the cost to 2 points but still 4 incompatibility.

Lastly is considering its power source. In this case it is self-powered, at 1 point and 1 incompatibility. We aren’t considering other options, like hiding its nature, making it of advanced materials or improving its design. The final product costs us 3 points and 5 incompatibility, leaving 17 points and 9 incompatibility left.

For the second piece, we are going with something much better and something that would make priests foam at the mouth should they ever find out – proscribed Second Republic technology. In this case it was some old, but functioning, nanotech from the Second Republic era that Crosswire discovered called Gemini Body Conversion and that he injected into himself, devices that totally rewrote his muscular and nervous system.

Lets start with its function, boosting Strength, Agility and Endurance by 2. That costs 4 points and 2 incompatibility each. It is self-powered at 1 and 1. It is also nano-tech which costs 3 points and 2 incompatibility. Nano-tech devices are counted as hidden, so it is not obvious to onlookers. All of that so far adds up to 16 points and 9 incompatibility. That is rather expensive, so he reduces the cost by 2 by making it organic and 2 more by also making it proscribed. The more fanatical members (ie Inquisitors) are liable to burn first and ask questions later. The final cost is 12 points and 9 incompatibility.

Crosswire has now used up all his incompatibility, but only 15 of his 20 points. So what happens to the rest? Well, he can increase related stats by +1 for 3 points and skills by +1 for 2 points. Crosswire decided to put 1 point in Tech and 1 point in Science (Cybernetics).

Now comes time to spend his 2000 firebirds. First off he spends 500 on a standard energy shield. The basic ones only work with light clothing so he spends 300 on Snythsilk, the best that can be bought, rare second Republic technology. The energy has a rating of 5/10, meaning it activates when 5 damage is received and soaks up all damage up to 10 taken. Any more or less than that has to be stopped by his armour.

In addition he purchases a knife (3 fb), a set of mech tools (5 fb) and a squawker (50) before getting to the good stuff – weapons and explosives.

First is a Demolition rig for 200 firebirds, a set of explosives and detonators he can configure in a variety of sizes and power. It comes with 100 dice of explosives, meaning he can make a very big bang if he wants. In addition he purchases 2 regular grenades (50 fb each) and 2 more powerful plasma grenades (100 fb each).

For a firearm he takes an Imperial rifle (200 fb) with 60 extra rounds (20fb) and backs that up with a short range Flame gun (150 fb) with 5 extra canisters of fuel (25fb). On a 1 on a dice roll, the damage can leak through both shields and armour. it also does ongoing damage until put out.

All up that costs 1753 firebirds, leaving him 247 in reserve.

Crosswire’s final character looks like;

Attributes: Body 4(6), Dexterity 6(8), Endurance 5(7), Wits 7, Perception 7(9 with sight), Tech 8, Passion 1/Calm 4, Introvert 1/Extrovert 3, Faith 1/Ego 4, Wyrd 3, Vitality 12.

Natural Skills: Impress 3, Melee 3, Charm 3, Observe 5, Shoot 8, Dodge 3, Sneak 3, Vigor 3, Fight 4.

Learned Skills: Inquiry 2, Streetwise 3, Knavery 1, Tech Redemption (Mech) 5, Tech Redemption (High Tech) 2, Science (Engineering) 4, Science (Cybernetics) 3, Think Machine 2, Drive (Aircraft) 2, Remedy 1, Warfare (Artillery) 1, Warfare (Demolition) 1, Search 2, Focus 2, Speak Urthish, Read Urthish, Urthtech.

Blessing: Innovative (+2 Tech when inventing something new)

Curses: Unnerving (-2 Extrovert around superstitious people)

Benefices: Cohort Charter, Rank (3pts, Apprentice)

Equipment: Standard Energy Shield, Synthsilk, Mech Tools, Knife, Squawker, Demolition Rig, Flamegun with 5 canisters, Imperial Rifle with 60 rounds, 2 Grenades, 2 Plasma Grenades, 247 Firebirds

Lets Create: Fading Suns Priest Character – Brother Octavian

In our previous Fading Suns character creation, we designed a noble, Lady Ysabel of The Hazat, and this time we will move onto the next roll, one of Those Who Pray – a priest.

The Universal Church of the Celestial Sun has a number of sects that a character can come from – The Orthodox, Brother Battle, Eskatonic Order, Avestites and Amaltheans. Through character creation, you could also go for a Mendicant Monk, one of those who wants nothing to do with politics. For this one though we are sticking with the five main sects.

The Urth Orthodoxy is the largest of the sects and the backbone of the Church, with members ranging from simple priest all the way through to powerful bishops. They tend the flock and defend the faith from threats and evil both outer and inner.

Brother Battle are, basically, the Knights Templar. They are warrior-monks who were initially founded to defend pilgrims but evolved into an elite military force, one of the best around. Also like the Knights Templar, there are rumours of heresy and usury.

The Eskatonic Order are mystics, heavily linked to theurgy and often considered wizards by common folk. They scour the universe for hidden lore, some of which is better not found. Once considered heretical by the Orthodoxy before being admitted to the fold.

Avestites are, well, the Inquisition. They are fundamentalist fanatics who often can’t even read, and they love purging with fire. They aren’t too fussy about who either, or even how minor the sins. Heretics, aliens, people who look at them funny. As a result they are feared and hated and have to travel in groups to avoid being dragged into back alleys and given a good kicking.

The Amaltheans are a healing order, devoted to aiding those who need it. Most of them are pacifists as well. Unlike the Avestites, they are beloved by the common folk. Turns out helping people out of the goodness of your heart goes a long way to making friends.

Its kind of hard to go passed the Knights Templar in Space, so we are selecting Brother Battle for our sect, creating a holy warrior who smites the enemy with righteous fury and shows no fear.

Like the nobles, we start with the Upbringing. Normal priests (and guildmembers) make two choices – whether they are from the City, Town or Country environment, and whether they came from a Rich, Average or Poor class. Brother Battle Warrior Monks are different. They are given to the monastery at a very young age and commence training. They don’t get a choice. Their Upbringing gives the characteristics of Strength +1, Dexterity +2, Endurance +1, Faith +1, the skills of Dodge +1, Fight +2, Melee +1, Shoot +2, Vigour +1, Focus 1, Remedy 1 and Stoic Body 1. They also get the Blessing of Disciplined (+2 Calm in combat situations) and the curse of Clueless (-2 perception to notice social clues.)

The Apprenticeship of regular priests sees them choosing whether they were trained in a Cathedral, a Parish or a Monastery. Those Cathedral trained tend to have a better eduction, those Parish trained better relate to people and those Monastery trained are a more reflective lot. Once more the Brother Battle doesn’t get a choice, and all Brother Battle Characters get the following; Strength +1, Dexterity +2, Endurance +1, Faith +1, Combat Skill (Fight or Melee) +1, Shoot +1, Remedy 1 and Stoic Body 1. Our character, whom we are calling Brother Octavian, chooses Melee and gets the Combat Skill abilities of Parry, Thrust and Slash as a result.

Finally the priest starts their Early Career, choosing from Preacher/Pastor, Monk, Missionary, Healer, Inquisitor or Brother Battle Warrior Monk. There isn’t actually anything saying you have to take the Brother Battle Warrior Monk early career, but I think its implied you are meant to. Anyway, that is what we are going with.

From it we get Strength +3, Dexterity +1, Endurance +3, Passion or Calm +1, Extrovert or Introvert +1 and Faith +1 for attributes, and Dodge +1, Combat skill (fight or melee)+2, Combat skill (fight or melee) +1, Shoot +2, Physick 1, Focus or Stoic Body 2, Survival 1 and Warfare (Military Tactics) 1. We also get the Benefice Rank (Apprentice) and a choice of one of the following; Mantok Martial Art (Claw Fist or Tornado Kick) or Sword Fencing (Disarm or Feint.)

For Brother Octavian, we put the +1 in Calm and Introvert, while Melee and Stoic Body get 2 ranks and Fight gets 1. Given we are favouring melee, we choose the sword fencing ability, taking Disarm.

Up to this point, most Brother Battle characters are going to look very similar. Now we get to the Extra Stages where we can expand them a bit and make them stand out a little. For his first one, he selects Imperial Tour, gaining the Cohort Tour of Duty. It was here that Brother Octavian joined up with Lady Ysabel. Cohorts get 11 skill points, compared to 10 for Nobles, +1 to two attributes, a Worldly Benefit and a Cohort Badge. It is mostly the same as the Imperial Charter nobles receive but only comes with 100 firebirds as a stipend. For his second one, Brother Octavian chooses Theurgic Calling in Occult Powers. He can now perform miracles. He receives Theurgy 3, Wyrd +2 and a 1st, 2nd and 3rd level rite, as well as a +1 to 1 skill related to a rite.

For his two attributes, Octavian increases both Perception and Calm by +1. He wants at least some ability to spot people coming, and remaining calm in combat – and other situations – is a must for a disciplined warrior monk. For his 11 skill points, he puts 2 each in Focus, Stoic Body, Stoic Mind, Remedy, Dodge and 1 in Melee. He takes High Promotion for his Worldly Benefit, which increases his rank by 2, to Acolyte, and comes with either Good Riches, or 600 in cash. Octavian takes the cash, rather than having some holdings as that seems better for a humble warrior-monk.

Next comes Theurgic Calling, in the Occult Powers. We haven’t had a look at them yet. Basically, there are two forms of occult powers, Psi and Theurgy. The first is psionics, more or less, while the second is more akin to clerical magic, just without the need to pray for spells. Mechanically they are very similar, and share the same attribute+skill roll for powers and rites that normal skills do.

There are differences though. Psi is largely powered by Ego while Theurgy is largely Faith based. It is possible to learn both, though not at character creation, but it is hard given that Ego and Faith are opposed spiritual stats and the Church also tends to take a dim view on it.

Theurgy also tends to be more powerful than Psi, but has the drawback that it takes longer to perform, needing rites and rituals performed while Psi can be performed near straight away.

There is a downside to both as well. All who delve into the occult gain a stigma, a mark that shows them as different from common humanity. Maybe their eyes are near totally white. Maybe they grow hair where it is not meant to grow. Maybe they sleepwalk. For those who use Psi, it tends to make them feared by superstitious peasant, whereas Theurgic stigmas tend to be more religious in nature and sees them more likely to be held in awe by peasants. They can still be feared as well, as even the chosen ones can have trouble following them.

And that is not all either. There is a dark side to the occult. Whenever an occultist critically fails a power roll (or experiences or performs some dark act), they gain a level of Urge (if they use Psi) or Hubris (if Theurgic.) Urge is basically the evil twin of the Psi users, the repressed darkness of the character coming to life and causing problems for them. At the highest level it breaks free into a seperate physical being let loose on the universe. For Theurgists, their dark side is Hubris, overwhelming pride. It isn’t a dark side, but more an overwhelming pride at being able to call forth miracles. At its worst it can curse the very ground the Theurgist walks upon, spreading plagues and even laying waste to entire planets. Not good stuff. The good news is that, with effort and hard work, you can reduce the dark side.

The Occult is powered by Wyrd, a spiritual energy that all have. Wyrd doesn’t have to just be used for Occult powers, but also things like inciting passion or calm. Non-occultists have Wyrd points equal to their Passion or Calm, whichever is their primary. Psi uses Extrovert or Introvert, which ever is primary and Theurgists use Faith.

Looking at Theurgic Calling, Octavian gets 3 rites. With Theurgy, each sect has its own rituals and there is also a group of rites common to all sects. Learning rites that belong to other sects can be done, but it is hard. Octavian is going to stick to general Church rites as well as Brother Battle Rites.

First level is either Prophet’s Holy Blessing, which aids a companion in a task, or Soul’s Vessel, which aids the character perform a physical task, like running or jumping. Octavian, being the helpful person he is, goes with Prophet’s Holy Blessing.

Second level is either The Devotional Litany, which boosts morale for those that hear it before battle, or Rightfully Guided Hand, which boosts the character in battle. Octavian is good in battle, but could be better so he goes with Rightfully Guided Hand.

The third level rite is either The Laying on of Hands, which allows the healing of wounds, or Armour of the Pancreator, which functions much like a energy shield. Both are useful, but being able to heal his companions seems the better choice for Octavian, so he goes with The Laying on of Hands.

He also gets 1 point to assign to a skill related to one of his rites; Focus for Prophet’s Holy Blessing, Fight, Melee or Shoot for Rightfully Guided Hand or Remedy for Laying on of Hands. For this, Octavian goes with Focus, to aid when he needs to deeply concentrate on a task.

For his Wyrd, Octavian gets a base equal to his Faith, 6, and a bonus 2 from Theurgic calling, for a total of 8 Wyrd Points. His vitality, how much damage he takes, is equal to a base of 5 plus his Endurance, or 13 Vitality.

Finally there is outfitting Octavian. He starts with 600 firebirds to spend. First up is an electrified two-handed sword, so when he hits things, they stay hit, at a cost of 60. He adds a knife (2 fb), an imperial rifle (200 fb), 30 rounds of ammo (10 fb), plastic half plate armour (60 fb), a squawker (50 fb), a medpack (20 fb) and an Elixir Injector (25 fb) with 5 doses of Elixir (50 fb). The last is a healing drug which he keeps for emergences for when his Theurgy isn’t available. He has 123 firebirds remaining for use on his adventures.

Octavian’s final character looks like this;

Attributes: Body 8, Dexterity 8, Endurance 8, Wits 3, Perception 4, Tech 3, Passion 1/Calm 5, Introvert 4/Extrovert 1, Faith 6/Ego 1, Theurgy 3, Wyrd 8.

Natural Skills: Impress 3, Melee 8, Charm 3, Observe 3, Shoot 8, Dodge 7, Sneak 3, Vigour 4, Fight 6.

Learned Skills: Focus 4, Remedy 4, Stoic Body 6, Physic 1, Survival 1, Warfare (Military Tactics) 1, Stoic Mind 2, Combat Skills (Parry, Thrust, Slash, Disarm), Speak (Urthish)

Blessings: Disciplined (+2 Calm in combat situations)

Curses: Clueless (-2 Perception to notice social clues)

Benefices: Rank (7pts, Acolyte), Cohort Charter.

Theurgic Rites: Prophet’s Holy Blessing, Rightfully Guided Hand, The Laying on of Hands.

Equipment: Shocker Two-Handed Sword, Knife, Imperial Rifle with 30 rounds, Plastic Half Plate, Squawker, Medpack, Elixir Injector and 5 Doses of Elixir, 123 firebirds.

Lets Create: Fading Suns Noble Character – Lady Ysabel Maria Sophiana de Vera Cruz.

Time to create our first Fading Suns character, starting with the first one listed – Those Who Rule (Nobles). We are going with the lifepath method for now.

Our first choice is to which house we belong. There are five great houses (Hawkwood, Decados, The Hazat, Li Halan and al-Malik.). There are also numerous minor houses and if you want to play one of those you can either choose the build options from one of the Great Houses that matches your concept or use the points buy method. For this example we are going to stick with one of the main houses.

So which one?

Well, first we will look at the houses and see what they are like.

House Hawkwood is proud and honourable, with all the strengths and weakness that come from that. They are taught from a young age that their House has a destiny, and to do the right thing, which includes treating their peasants well. Secretly, many Hawkwoods doubt that they are true Hawkwoods given the standards they have to live up to, but a Hawkwood never gives up. If you consider them as the Atreides from Dune, you wouldn’t be far long.

House Decados was once a collection of intelligence personal from various houses that game together, rising to power. If Hawkwood are the Atreides, then Decados is the Harkonnen. They are decadent and amoral but also devious and cunning and have a vast network of spies and assassins. And they don’t care who knows it.

The Hazat are headstrong and militaristic. They came to power by turning the army of House Chauki against them and (supposedly) wiping the family out. Also have a reputation as not being the sharpest tools in the shed. The other houses called them The Hazat (rather than House Hazat) as a bit of an insult to imply they weren’t true nobility, but they took it and ran with it.

House Li Halan were once so debauched that it shocked even the Decados. Then overnight they converted to the Church and have been its staunched supporters ever since. Strict and pious, they believe that everyone has an ordained place they were born into and will die in, resulting in a very rigid caste system.

House al-Malik keeps to itself most of the time and tend to speak in metaphors. It sometimes seems that the only time an al_Malik is comfortable is when speaking with their traditional Merchant League Allies. They are generally better educated, have access to better tech – and draw the attention of the Inquisition far more than other Houses, though normally without anything to show for it. There are also persistent rumours that they seek to bring about a Third Republic, working with the Merchants to do so. Of course they deny it but the rumours persist.

Of course these stereotypes are just that – stereotypes. It doesn’t apply to everyone in those Houses. You can get pious al-Malik, devious Hawkwoods, honourable Decados and all sorts of other types.

When playing Emperor of the Fading Suns, my go to was always the al-Malik, so for this I am going to try something a little different. Hawkwood and Decados are too obvious, so what I am going with is The Hazat. One as hot-headed, tempestuous and impetuous as the rest, but whose passions run a little different to norm. Not a warrior, but an explorer and adventure archaeologist type. Kind of like an Indiana Jones in Space character.

So, we have a concept and a House for our character. Now it is time to build them.

We start off with their Upbringing, the period of life between birth and age 8 or 10, where they are moulded by their House’s traditions and family expectations. There are three options to choose from here – High-Court, Rural Estate and Landless. High-Court sees the child raised in a palace, attended to by servants and tutors and meeting foreign visitors but with high expectations placed upon them. With Rural Estates, they are raised in a manor or castle, far from the important doings of the High-Court. While they do have tutors, they are often busy with other tasks, leaving the children to find their own way at times. For Landless, their family has no home and must rely on the charity of other nobles for lodging or fostering. They often live in many homes and defend themselves from the insults of higher-born children.

For our character, whom we are calling Ysabel Maria Sophiana de Verz Cruz (Hazat characters often have Hispanic names), I am going with Rural Estate. High-Court doesn’t fit the concept I had, and I would prefer her not to be Landless. Rural Estate it is then. THis gives us a number of points to apply to our character. For stats we get Endurance +2, Perception +2, Passion (Primary) +1. For the spiritual pairing of stats, one is designated the primary and starts at 3, while the other is at 1. So Ysabel is tough, perceptive and passionate already. For skills we get Impress +1, Melee +1, Etiquette 1 and Read Urthish. We also get a Blessing (Disciplined: +2 Calm in combat situations) and a Curse (Vengeful: -2 Calm when honoured impinged, will never forget a slight.) Given our current low Calm, a boost in combat is helpful, but we are very, very touchy about our honour.

We next move onto our Apprenticeship, that stage between youth and coming of age. Normally at this stage it has been planned out by the character’s family and they have little choice in it, but as players we do get to choose. We can go Military (Solider or Starman), Diplomacy/Intrigue, Leisure (Duelist or Dandy) or Study. While Hazat generally gravitate towards military pastimes, Ysabel is not your standard Hazat. Going with the concept of a touchy explorer type, Diplomacy and Study don’t fit either, which leaves Leisure. That gives a choice of Duelist or Dandy. While being a Hazat means she is taught to fight, that isn’t her strength, so I choose Dandy, but slightly reflavoured. She isn’t lazy or foppish, but it is more that she is self-raised. As the fourth child (and only daughter) or her family, the family tutor didn’t have much time for her, and so she made her own way, being largely self-taught and choosing her own interests.

For stats, Dandy gives Dexterity +1, Wits +2, Perception +1 and Passion or Calm +1. Due to our concept, we go with Passion (which means it is up to 5 already). We also get a pile of skills; Any Skill +2, Charm +1, Observe +1, Shoot +1, Arts (choose a favourite) 1, Drive (aircraft or Landcraft) 1, Empathy 1, Gambling 1, Ride 1. For our Any Skill, we go with Charm. Ysabel is fiery, passionate and charming. Our Art skill will be Drawing and our Drive skill Landcraft (bikes, cars, skimmers etc).

Next, we have the Early Career. This is the role they fulfilled for their House after coming of age. The options are Military Command (Solider or Starman), Court (Duelist or Ambassador) or Questing. That is a very easy one given our character concept – Ambassador. Hah, no, Questing.

Questing gives us a lot more choice of stats than the other picks, which all have set stats. We get one body characteristic at +2 and the other two at +1, one mind characteristic at +2 and another at +1, one spirit characteristic at +2 and another at +1. I see Ysabel as quick, both of mind and body, as well as being passionate, so I give her the following; Dexterity +2, Body +1, Endurance +1, Wits +2, Tech +1, Passion +2, Extravert +1.

For skills she gets Charm or Impress +1, Dodge +1, Combat skill (Fight, Shoot or Melee) +2, Combat skill (choose secondary) +1, Observe +1, Sneak +1, Vigor +1, Drive (choose craft) 1, Inquiry or Knavery 1, Lore (People/Place Seen) 1, Remedy 1, Speak (choose Dialect), Streetwise 1.

Ysabel already is rather charming, so I choose Impress so that she really stands out. The combat skills get +2 to Melee and +1 for Shoot so she can handle a blade like a good Hazat should and shoot as necessary, Drive goes into Landcraft again, and she chooses Knavery over Inquiry, which allows her to fast talk her way out of trouble and lie with a straight face. For the dialect, I go with Vera Cruz, the dialect of her home planet.

Ysabel also gets a Benefice: Rank (Knight). It is the lowest rank that a noble can have, but it marks her as now being an adult and a noble.

Ysabel now moves onto the next, and last, stage of her life before starting adventuring proper as a player character – the Extra Stages. She can choose two from Tour of Duty, Another Tour of Duty, Imperial Tours, Occult Powers or Cybernetics. Each has various options to choose from in it, such as the choice of faith based Theurgy or ego based Psychics in Occult Powers.

Ysbael takes the Questing Knight Tour of Duty from Imperial Tours. Ysbael has sworn fealty to the Emperor Alexius and has joined the Company of the Phoenix, charged with heading out to explore and expand the Empire. The bonuses for it are the same as for a regular Tour of Duty, but they only get 10 new skill points instead of 14, and the Imperial Charter benefice. It comes with a small stipend of money a year and free transport on Imperial Navy ships, though they do have a code of behaviour and an oath of fealty to the Emperor, so they can be called upon to undertake missions on his orders.

Ysabel gets +1 to two stats, the 10 skill points mentioned and can choose a Worldly Benefit (Promotions and Rewards, High Promotion, Rich Rewards, Friends or Promotion and Friends).

For her second choice, she goes with Another Tour of Duty – basically an extension of her Imperial service. She gets another +1 to two stats, 10 more skill points and More Worldly Benefits (Promotions and Rewards, High Promotion, Rich Rewards or Friends.)

Spending her points, Ysabel assigns +1 to Wits, Agility, Perception and Extrovert. For skills, she spends 2 points to learn the Ukar language, 3 points to learn the first three Combat Skills (Parry, Thrust and Slash) and puts 1 point in Etiquette and 2 points in each of Charm, Impress, Observe, Empathy, Knavery, Search, and Xeno-Empathy (Ukar).

This all helps to emphasis her strengths, the quickness of mind and body, her ability with people, some basic combat training and on top of that I added a bit of an understanding of the Ukar alien race, who we will learn more about later.

For her Worldly Benefit she takes Promotions and Rewards. This bumps her rank up one place, from Knight to Baronet, and allows her to pick either starting with 1000 firebirds or to have Well-Off Resources, which gives her an income of 5000 for a year and 500 starting money. For her efforts in her first tour, she was rewarded with an increase in rank and a small estate that provides a steady income.

For More Worldly Benefits she goes with Friends. That gives her 4 pts to spend on Allies, Contacts, Gossip Network, Passage Contract or Refuge. 3pts are spent on giving her a Gossip Network across all Hazat House Holdings, so that wherever she goes among her House Holdings, she can pick up information and gossip. The last point she spends on getting a Retinue, in this case a Butler. When she travels, it is in style.

Ysabel also decided to round out her character by taking an affliction – a Vendetta. For two points she gets a group who wants to make her life miserable but aren’t out to kill her. Those two points allow her to take the Bold blessing, which gives her +2 passion when acting while others hesitate.

For her vendetta, I decide that the group is her brothers. Despite being the youngest, she has outshone them, and they resented that. Words were exchanged and, being Hazat, it got heated. While they aren’t out to kill her – she being their sister and all – they do want to take her down a peg or two.

To calculate her vitality, how much damage she can take, we add the base of 5 to her endurance, or 11. She also has Wyrd, which we shall explore at a later date. Not being an Occult user, it is equal to her passion or calm, whichever is her primary, so for her it is equal to 6.

Ysabel has 500 firebirds to spend on gear; she purchases a Heavy Revolver (250 fb) and 30 rounds of ammunition (30 fb), plastic studded leather armour (15 fb, 5d defence), shocker rapier (40 fb, electrified, +3d damage), a knife (2 fb) and a squawker (50 fb, a radio). That gives her 113 fb left over for expenses as she starts adventuring.

Ysabel’s final character looks like this;

Attributes: Body 4, Dexterity 7, Endurance 6, Wit 8, Perception 7, Tech 4, Passion 6/Calm 1, Introvert 1/Extravert 5, Faith 1/Ego 3, Vitality 11, Wyrd 6.

Natural Skills: Charm 8, Dodge 4, Fight 3, Impress 7, Melee 6, Observe 7, Shoot 5, Sneak 4, Vigor 4.

Learned Skills: Etiquette 2, Art (Drawing) 1, Drive (Landcraft) 2, Empathy 3, Gamble 1, Ride 1, Knavery 3, Lore (People & Places Seen) 1, Streetwise 1, Search 2, Xeno-Empathy (Ukar) 2, Speak (Urthish, Ukar, Vera Cruz Dialect), Read Urthish, Combat Actions (Parry, Thrust, Slash)

Blessings: Disciplined (+2 Calm in combat situations), Bold (+2 Passion when acting when others hesitate).

Curses: Vengeful (-2 Calm when honour impinged, will never forget a slight)

Benefices: Rank (5pts, Baronet), Well-Off Resources (5 pts, 5000 income/500 starting cash), Gossip Network (3pts), Retinue (1pt), Imperial Charter.

Equipment: Heavy Revolver with 30 rounds, Plastic Studded Leather, Shocker Rapier, Knife, Squawker, 113 firebirds.