A theme is a career, calling, or archetype that might include characters of several different classes and roles. Just as race and class help to identify who your character is in the world, theme adds a third character component to help refine your story and identity. You might be an elf rogue, but are you an elf rogue dune trader, an elf rogue nomad, or an elf rogue who spies for the Veiled Alliance? Each theme offers a different story for the same basic character concept. If a background describes how or where your character grew up, a theme describes how and why your character became a hero.
In today's Dark Sun Campaign Setting excerpt, we examine Dark Sun character themes -- specifically looking at the unwelcome guest.
"Noble, slave, templar, merchant—all are menaced by the sorcerer-kings. If we are to have any hand in throwing off the shackles of tyranny, we must not turn on each other first."
—Nori, Tyrian gladiator and revolutionary
Chapter 3 of the Dark Sun Campaign Guide introduces a new option for character building: your character’s theme. A theme is a career, calling, or archetype that might include characters of several different classes and roles. Just as race and class help to identify who your character is in the world, theme adds a third character component to help refine your story and identity. You might be an elf rogue, but are you an elf rogue dune trader, an elf rogue nomad, or an elf rogue who spies for the Veiled Alliance? Each theme offers a different story for the same basic character concept. If a background describes how or where your character grew up, a theme describes how and why your character became a hero.
This chapter covers the following topics.
- The basics of character themes, including rules for choosing your theme and how themes work.
- Ten character themes for a Dark Sun campaign from Athasian minstrels to wilders, each including a granted power and a number of theme powers.
- Two paragon paths for each theme, including paths such as the caravan master, jaszt dancer, rainbringer, and veiled guardian.
Whether prowess is measured by sheer physical prowess, by mastery of the mind, or by command of the arcane arts, many inhabitants of Athas have the potential to be heroes. Mercenaries, assassins, desert raiders, escaped slaves, seraglio spies, seers, hermits, and more—the call to adventure draws Athasians to meet their destinies in the deserts or cities of the world. Very few altruists live beneath the crimson sun, however, so what motivates you to make your stand? Are you a calculating sellsword who fights only in exchange for a suitable reward? Are you driven by a thirst for vengeance or the search for a loved one taken by slavers? Do you seek to make a name for yourself as the most fearsome warrior in the wastes, or to revel in gathering loot? Or are you that rarest (and perhaps most naïve) of creatures, a hero who fights to make the world a better place?
Heroes need both the freedom to act and the desire to make a difference in the world. Although a myriad of motivational possibilities exist, the following ten heroic themes provide a good starting place. You can have only one theme. To select a theme, all you have to do is choose one at the time you create your character. You don’t have to select a theme if you don’t want to. Once you select a theme, it grants you the following benefits:
- You automatically gain the theme’s granted power.
- You can choose to take additional theme powers when you reach the appropriate level.
- You unlock feats or paragon paths that use the theme as a prerequisite.
The themes presented in this chapter are summarized below.
||Entertainer, advisor, or assassin
||Agent of the merchant houses
||Worshiper of the primal elements
||Warrior forged in the arena
||Privileged and tutored in the Way
||Protector of oases and forests
||Agent of a sorcerer-king
||Secret practitioner of magic
||Raider or scout of the desert
||Hero gifted with psionic talent
“Would you deny shelter to a simple entertainer?”
Prerequisite: Athasian minstrel theme
People in the Tyr Region learn not to trust a performer blindly. An ordinary minstrel, a graceful dancer, or a honey-voiced singer might well be a killer sent by a bitter rival. Custom demands, however, that no entertainer be refused entry. The household should welcome such a guest regardless of any suspicions. Nevertheless, paranoid nobles might turn away one of these entertainers for fear of poison in their drink or a knife in their back.
Those who refuse entry to a performer do so at risk to themselves. Even if the new arrival did not have malicious intent, a refusal is an insult few performers can bear, and such an affront makes enemies where there were none before.
An unwelcome guest is a talented entertainer who uses his or her performer’s status to infiltrate a target’s house and get close enough to make the kill. Unwelcome guests master the use of poisons, hiding venoms and toxins about their persons for easy access when the opportunity to kill presents itself. Some unwelcome guests work alone, but many claim membership in an entertainer’s troupe, an organization often rife with murderers, thieves, and saboteurs. Bards make the best unwelcome guests, but rogues, fighters, and assassins might find something in this path for themselves as well.
Monday: "Athas is a barbaric shadow of some better world. All the races are but brutal descendants of worthier ancestors. The essence of every living thing has been warped to make it more vicious, more cunning, and more terrifying than its long-vanished forebears."