Here are the character creation guidelines for Sunburnt Land, intended to preserve the unique feel of the setting. If you really want to play a warforged cleric or something, let me know and we’ll see if we can work out an appropriate reskin.
All the characters will start out as slaves in the city-state of Tyr, bought by the same slave trader. You may have been born into slavery, captured in the wastelands, been sold as punishment or through treachery, or be escaping some worse fate by selling yourself willingly. You might have been a slave all your life, or you might have been a wealthy trader or servant to a Sorcerer-King, suffering your first day beneath the whips. Regardless, you will start with nothing but your wits and the clothes on your back.
Characters will start at level three, with the appropriate inherent bonuses. Characters will start without any money or equipment except for a simple suit of clothes, though they may have favour or other non-treasure rewards, depending on their background; this can be worked out in advance, or during the first few sessions.
Players can use any official published source for powers, feats etc. This includes the Essentials player books, Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, and Dragon magazine articles (with the exception of playtest material). All sources are bound by the race and class restrictions below.
Descriptive advice follows, but here is a list of allowed classes:
- Assassin – Executioner only (but all Executioner techniques are allowed)
- Ardent – all builds
- Barbarian – all builds
- Bard – all builds
- Battlemind – all builds
- Druid – all builds
- Fighter – all builds
- Monk – all builds
- Psion – all builds
- Ranger – all builds
- Rogue – all builds
- Seeker – all builds
- Shaman – all builds
- Sorcerer – all builds
- Warden – all builds
- Warlock – all builds, but only the Dark, Star, Vestige and Sorcerer-King pacts; see below.
- Warlord – all builds
- Wizard – only Arcanists and Mages of schools other than Necromancy; see below.
In a world where magic is reviled and there are no gods, it’s little surprise most of the heroes have relied on little more than a length of bone and their own martial prowess. All martial classes are allowed without restriction.
The only other weapon Athasians can rely on is their own will, and many practice it as a discipline; those that don’t still pick up a useful trick or two. All psionic classes are allowed, and in addition all characters will use the wild talent rules to gain a minor psionic ability. (See below.)
Magic is hidden, but not as rare as it ought to be on Athas. Bards, sorcerers and wizards of the arcanist and mage traditions are allowed. Artificers, swordmages and bladesingers do not exist on Athas; the practice of creating magical devices died out long ago, and swords of sufficient quality to allow spells to be chanelled through them are far too rare for any tradition of sword magic to survive. Warlocks are allowed, but only with Dark, Star, Vestige or Sorcerer-King pacts. Binders (Player’s Option: Heroes of Shadow_) and Hexblades (_Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms) are allowed, but only of the Star Pact (see the article in Dragon 393, here, for Star Pact Hexblades). Similarly, mages may choose any schools except necromancy. Arcane characters begin as a Preserver or Defiler, but this doesn’t have to be a permanent choice.
There are no gods on Athas – not any more, anyway. As a result, divine classes may not be used.
The elemental spirits and their energies still exist on Athas, so Primal classes may be used more or less without restriction. The caveat is that many powers will need to be interpreted differently – vines will not burst from the desert sand to entangle enemies, for example. Give your class features and powers an elemental bent, sticking to the four Athasian elements of Air, Earth, Fire and Water.
Access to other planes from Athas is severely limited, if not impossible; drawing on the energies of the Shadowfell, Feywild or elsewhere is beyond the reach of all but the mightiest Sorcerer-Kings. This is why witches are unheard of, and Shadow classes may not be used, which currently rules out only the original Assassin. Assassins of the martial sort, however, are plentiful on Athas; Executioner Assassins are permitted, though their more Shadowy powers are considered to be training in ninja-like techniques rather than access to another plane’s power. On a related note, Vampires may not be used; while vampires do exist on Athas, they are not of the kind found on other worlds, and every one is a unique and dangerous creature who does not make others of its kind.
The most appropriate races are dwarves, elves, half-elves, half-giants (Goliaths), halflings, humans, muls and thri-kreen. (Other races, from the Campaign Setting and older Dark Sun material, may exist, but are not available for player characters.) Note that most of the races have very different traditions, societies and in some cases physical traits in Dark Sun, even though mechanically they are (presumably) identical. Here are some basics:
- Dwarves are completely hairless. They also have tremndous willpower, which is focussed into devotion to a single purpose or idea, and they cannot be swayed until they achieve their goal.
- Elves are desert nomads famed for being swift of foot. They can run fast, and over vast distances. They are distrusted in the manner of itinerant peoples like the Roma or tinkers.
- Half-elves are rare, and face prejudice from humans and elves alike.
- Half-giants were magically created long ago, and are huge brutes. They are still capable of great psionic power, and have a bizarre psychology which may shift over time.
- Halflings have a civilisation resembling the Mayans or Aztecs in decline. They are cannibals who live in the mountain forests, extremely distrustful of all outsiders.
- Humans are much as they are on other worlds: culturally diverse, short-lived but tenacious.
- Muls are the sterile offspring of dwarves and humans, bred by slavers for hard work and the arena. They are incredibly tough and resentful of their bastard heritage.
- Thri-kreen are mantis-like creatures native to the wastes of Athas. Agile and fast, their minds are alien to the more humanoid races.
Psionic powers are relatively common on Athas; anyone with sufficient willpower is likely to develop at least slight psychic ability. To represent this, you will roll for a random Wild Talent power at character creation. There’s generally no way to improve or change this power during play, though if you get one that doesn’t seem to fit, you can have a re-roll.
You can choose any of the themes listed below. These help define your character’s training or personal life outside of their class (and before they were made a slave). Unless otherwise noted, themes are from the Dark Sun Campaign Setting book; some of the non-Dark Sun themes will require a little tweaking, so talk to the DM if you want one of those.
- Alchemist (from Dragon 399 – Heroes of Nature and Lore) – a student of the ancient art of alchemy, able to create non-magical items like sunrods and alchemist’s fire.
- Animal Master (from Dragon 399 – Heroes of Nature and Lore) – an animal trainer with a talented pet.
- Athasian minstrel – a talented entertainer who also doubles as a spy and/or assassin.
- Black-hearted Knave (from Dragon 406, here) – you’re a nasty piece of work, only concerned with yourself.
- Cultist (from The Book of Vile Darkness) – a believer in some dark power.
- Disgraced Noble (from The Book of Vile Darkness) – you were born a noble, but have fallen from the grace of high society – all too easy on Athas.
- Dune trader – an agent working for one of the merchant houses.
- Elemental priest – you worship and revere one (or all) of the primal elements.
- Escaped slave (from Dragon 390, here) – no longer a slave, but hunted by your previous owners.
- Explorer (from Dragon 399 – Heroes for Hire) – an experienced traveller of lesser known regions.
- Gladiator – you fight, or have fought, in the arenas of the city-states.
- Guardian (from Dragon 399 – Heroes of Virtue) – a sworn protector or bodyguard, probably for a Sorcerer-King or merchant family.
- Guttersnipe (from Dragon 399 – Heroes for Hire) – a street rat from one of the city-states.
- Mercenary (from Dragon 399 – Heroes for Hire) – a sellsword.
- Noble adept – trained by one of the psionic schools which serve wealthy patrons in the city-states.
- Primal guardian – a dedicated protector of Athas’ few oases and forests.
- Seer (from Dragon 399 – Heroes of Tome and Temple) – receptive to visions (probably from primal spirits).
- Templar – a servant of one of the Sorcerer-Kings.
- Veiled Alliance – you belong to a secret organisation of preservers.
- Wasteland nomad – you wander the deserts of Athas, existing independently of the city-states.
- Wilder – you have an innate natural talent for psionics (more so than other characters).
Backgrounds are encouraged as a short-hand way of fleshing out your character. You don’t need to take more than one, and you can have up to three, but as per the standard rules you will gain a language or skill-based benefit from only one of your backgrounds. (Weirder background benefits are not allowed.) Location-specific backgrounds from other campaign settings (Eberron and the Forgotten Realms) are not allowed; otherwise it’s fair game, though obviously you should choose something appropriate to your character and to Athas.
Standard race- and class-based feats for allowed races and classes are allowed, as are most general feats. Some specific categories of feats are not; there are too many to compile a list, but assume you can’t have things like includes Dragonmarks, guild feats and bloodline feats.