Ashes of Athas
Your character’s abilities are a combination of three elements, their race, theme, and class.
Your race explains what you are. While humans are the dominant race on Athas, other races have unique talents that can be of great aid as an adventurer.
- Dragonborn (Dray) – lizardlike demihumans, they are rumoured to be sorcerous merchants, pragmatic mercenaries, and maybe even slavers
- Dwarf – short and stocky demi-humans who are single-minded to a specific task
- Elf – nomadic raiders, gypsies, and thieves, known for being able to run long distances
- Goliath (Half-giant) – enormous demihumans who have adapted to a variety of lifestyles in the many harsh terrains of Athas
- Half-elf – neither fully human nor fully elven, half-elves rarely find acceptance with either race
- Halfling – fierce warriors, savages, and some say cannibals, half the size of a human but at least as deadly
- Human – inhabitants of the desert world, Athasian humans are rugged and resourceful
- Mul – sterile human-dwarf hybrids, combining the adaptability of humans with the endurance of dwarves
- Thri-kreen – savage mantis-men who are formidable nomadic hunters, they respect the land and hate creatures that despoil it
Your theme explains who you are, and gives you useful abilities and skills that may be helpful in your quests.
- Athasian Minstrel – singers, acrobats, poets, dancers or storytellers, rumoured to be masters of poison, concealed weapons and subtle trickery
- Dune Trader – merchants, caravan-owners, entrepreneurs or artisans, skilled at dealing, profiting, and looking out for themselves (and their wealth)
- Elemental Priest – witchdoctors, soothsayers, or members of secret cults, they are servants of the Primal spirits and may call on their power
- Escaped Slave – criminals, or victims of misfortune or malice, some have been lucky or desperate enough to find their freedom
- Gladiator – survivor of the arena, skilled in combat, some have won their freedom, others are on the run from their former masters
- Noble Adept – members of the upper classes, educated and privileged, the most skilled of whom have developed their innate psionic talents
- Primal Guardian – protectors of nature’s unravaged secret places, some have been drawn from their charges to serve a greater cause
- Templar – sworn servants of a Sorcerer-King, they act as judges, officials and enforcers of the law, but some have turned their back on their masters and use their granted powers for their own benefit, or even for the greater good, while others claw for remnants of their dead master’s power
- Veiled Alliance – members of a secret society that protect preservers and attempt to bring the downfall of defilers and Sorcerer-Kings
- Wasteland Nomad – wandering herders, hunters and scavengers, they know the taste of freedom from the rule of the Sorcerer-Kings and possess fierce survival skills
- Wilder – born with raw psionic talent, they are able to unleash raw psychic power on their aggressors
Role, Power Source and Class:
Your role determines what you do, your power source explains why you can do it, and your class describes how you do it.
A character’s capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses are largely defined by his or her chosen class. For instance, a fighter is likely to have large amounts of hit points (and is thus able to survive multiple blows) and possess great skill at attacking an opponent directly in physical combat, while a wizard would be physically frail yet have a selection of powerful magic spells with which to aid the party.
The power sources are as follows:
- Martial classes have trained hard for their skills. Their abilities (called Exploits) are not magical, but they often involve action-movie-like stunts and weapon-use.
- Arcane classes use magic to warp reality and use their supernatural abilities (called Spells). They might be able to spray fire, or summon the undead, or bend someone’s mind to their will. In the world of Athas, arcane magic draws life from around the user, killing plants and weakening other life. Some arcane characters (known as defilers) embrace this dark power, while others (preservers) carefully try to balance the flow of energy to minimise the effect.
- Psionic classes use innate psychic abilities (called Disciplines) such as telekinesis or telepathy. Some turn their abilities inward, making them superhumanly fast or resilient instead.
- Primal classes are nature’s champions, drawing power from elements, plants or animals. Their powers (called Evocations) might involve shapechanging or taking on animal aspects, plant-control, or summoning fearsome beasts.
- Shadow classes use abilities (called Hexes) that draw on the power of the Shadowfell, a dark mirror of the world. They might use these powers to slip between the world’s cracks, or to make an enemy’s shadow trip or strangle them.
- Divine classes wielded their faith as a weapon. Their abilities (called Prayers) made them the righteous champions of their god. The gods left Athas long ago, so no divine classes exist in the setting, but relics of their power might still remain.
Each class has a primary role (and some have secondary roles too). The roles, and the classes in each role, are as follows:
Defenders usually define the party’s front line. Their job is to eat more hurt than the rest of the party, so that everyone else can do their jobs effectively. Abstractly, defenders should direct the flow of external effects that consume party resources. Usually, this means eating attacks that would otherwise impose damage or negative conditions on other party members. All defender classes have a special mark that imposes on the target a penalty to attack anyone but the defender, and carries some additional effect that varies by class.
- Battleminds are psionic defenders who, instead of locking an enemy down, stick to their marked enemies when they try to escape. Their mark has touches of controller effects, as it incentivises the selection of lower-damage powers if the marked enemy is not attacking the battlemind.
- Weaponmasters and Knights (Fighters) are the most versatile defenders, which makes a measure of sense: martial classes in general receive a tremendous amount of support. Fighters stand out even among them, with more support than any other single class in 4E. Almost all styles of fighter have the ability to be extremely sticky, forcing enemies to remain adjacent to the fighter, although there is support for a fighter who runs after escaping enemies, clotheslines them down, and holds them down. Fighters can be tuned for very high defense, very high damage, or amazing battlefield control.
- Wardens, as primal defenders, have more hit points (so can take more punishment) than any other class in D&D. They shrug off penalty effects, and vie with fighters for the title of ‘stickiest’ defender.
Controllers do their very best to make enemy—and tactically-minded Dungeon Master—lives difficult. Where a defender defines the party’s front line, the controller is disrupting the enemy’s. At the level of resource economy, the controller’s main job is to force inefficient enemy resource consumption. If an enemy is stunned, that enemy either takes no actions (the turn is wasted) or another enemy expends actions to remove the effect from its ally (instead of using a more effective action against the controller’s party). A controller who uses forced movement or who lays down hazardous zones can cause extreme difficulty in achieving optimal positioning on the part of his opponents.
- Arcanists and Mages (Wizards) are the original controllers of Dungeons and Dragons. Like fighters, they can be specialised for a variety of purposes: elemental damage keyword selection, high damage, area effect, crippling status condition imposition and other options. They have game-altering daily powers and useful at-will abilities. Mages specialise in a school of magic, such as Enchantment or Necromancy, while Arcanists are familiar with a wide range of magic.
- Druids are primal controllers who switch person-form, in which they play like a standard controller, and beast-form, in which they engage in a lot of close-range, almost defender-like control.
- Hunters (Rangers) use a combination of martial and primal power, utilising bows or crossbows, and using a variety of trick shots to disable and manipulate their foes.
- Psions, the psionic controllers, are (as they rise in level) uniquely able to apply the exact same medium-powered effect over and over, by empowering the same power into a variety of strengths depending on the situation.
Strikers rip people apart, piling damage onto their targets. A striker must neutralise priority targets. Strikers have exceptional mobility to aid in freedom of target selection, and also to let them draw enemies off. Many have additional controller-like or defender-like effects to help in temporarily crippling or isolating an enemy; some—e.g., most rangers—rely on pure damage to remove enemies more quickly.
- Assassins are shadow strikers. They have excellent mobility and decent evasion, but the assassin damage-enhancement mechanic takes several rounds to get going—which means that the enemy they’re prepping for a big strike might die before the assassin gets a chance to trigger the damage. A class for use in very tactically clever groups. Executioners are a variant Assassin that forgoes shadow magic and prolonged setups for exotic and dangerous weapons skills and the ability to make and use poisons.
- Barbarians hit fast, hard, and with perilous abandon, like a primal striker should. Barbarians don’t have sissy damage-adder mechanics; their mega-damage comes from their massive weapons and high-hurt powers. Their rage dailies let them alter their playstyle a bit for an entire encounter at a time.
- Monks are multi-target psionic strikers. They prefer having lots of enemies within reach so that they can spread piles of damage around, which makes them less than ideal for a party going for quick-kill focus-fire. Their high defenses make them a great deal more survivable than you’d expect a striker to be, and their mobility competes favorably with that of fey-pact warlocks.
- Rangers multi-attack with huge weapons. Equally effective as ranged or melee martial strikers, rangers set the high water mark for damage in 4E. Having DM’d for a well-built ranger, I can attest that they also have sickeningly common evasion abilities, sometimes combined with off-turn attacks. Easily the purest strikers in the game, rangers have no pronounced secondary roles, but can dabble a bit in defender or controller. Scouts are a Ranger variant that exclusively fights in a twin-weapon style, losing out on the ranged capability of pure rangers for focused close-combat ability.
- Scoundrels and Thieves (Rogues) are martial strikers, and in many ways the bizarro version of rangers. Rangers get high damage from big weapons; rogues get massive damage with small weapons. Rangers don’t have much in the way of secondary roles; rogues can drop hard control like few other strikers. Rangers rely on evasion powers when the going gets tough; rogues are just innately difficult to hit. Rogues are notable also for being one of the only classes without a special rolling gimmick (multiattacks, or roll-and-choose multidice) to achieve the top tiers of accuracy. Rogues can, if built for it, hit same-level expected defense values on a 1-20 roll of 2 or higher.
- Slayers (Fighters) are a variant fighter who forgoes any aim of defending their allies directly, instead choosing to kill the threatening enemy faster. They utilise a variety of stances that modify their attacks to provide different benefits.
- Sorcerers are arcane strikers who are born to their power. Some inherit magical bloodlines, while others were born at the conjunction of distant stars, or during powerful natural or supernatural events. They have the best element-keyword selection among strikers, so they can be versatile. Also, they can drop some fearsome multi-target damage without having to sacrifice main-target damage, which gives them an edge over the monk for focus-fire.
- Warlocks, like sorcerers, are arcane strikers—and, like sorcerers, aren’t the best strikers. While Wizards learn their magic, and Sorcerers are born with it, Warlocks draw their power from pacts with ancient forces, such as demons, fey or the Sorcerer-Kings. They have a heavy side of controller-secondary, though, and will do a lot of short-term neutralisation to compensate for their lack of raw killing damage. Hexblades are a variant Warlock who manifest a weapon of pure magical energy drawn from their pact, using it to deadly effect in melee combat.
Leaders buff, heal, and empower allies. At the high abstract, leaders maximise party resource efficiency. Have a lot of healing surges? A leader can convert them to hit points. Have a decent attack? A leader can make that attack more accurate, more damaging, or both—and allow you to use it off-turn, at the cost of the leader’s own action. Some leaders, like many sentinels or warlords, are also able to stand on the front lines with defenders; others, like many shamans, sit in the back row and work at range.
- Ardents are a psionic leader, who combines combat prowess with emotional regulation to enhance their allies and to penalise their enemies
- Artificers use arcane power in unusual ways, making them one of them more versatile non-warlord leaders. They can buff, summon, and have a strong front-line impact even if they’re standing in the back rows. Their healing feature is one of the best in 4E, making them uniquely able to extend the party’s adventuring day, and providing a couple of additional buff options. It’s great that it’s so useful, because they don’t have a massive amount of additional healing beyond that.
- Bards are, as well, arcane leaders. They are bar none the masters of battlefield positioning. They lean heavily on control as a secondary role, but the synergies that has with their leader abilities are amazing. Bards also have a Swiss army knife-like ability to have a power or ability that will help in whatever situation the party finds itself in. I’d call them one of the most fun, clever classes in 4E.
- Marshals (Warlords) are martial leaders, and as mentioned, martial means lots of support. As such, you can build a warlord that works well with almost any party. You can tune them for above-average healing ability, amazing buffs, tons of attack-granting, and almost anything else under the sun. While other leaders rely on magic to heal their allies, a Warlord is more like a high-school football coach or an army drill sergeant, yelling at their allies to stop whinging and suck it up.
- Sentinels (Druids) are primal leaders, combining front-line fighting alongside an animal companion with primal healing magic.
- Shamans are also primal leaders, and are mechanically focused around their spirit-companions. The companion acts as a node for a lot of the shaman’s powers, letting the shaman sit comfortably far from danger while the spirit works at the front. Shamans are second only to warlords in ability to be tailored to support a party with any leader effects desired.
Most classes can also be combined with another class, by playing a Hybrid class (such as a Hybrid Fighter/Warlord, or a Hybrid Ranger/Shaman. Hybrids gain some of the advantages of both classes, but not all combinations are effective.
Erdan is an Elf (race) Veiled Alliance (theme) Mage (class). He began his life as a member of an elven trading company, but his physical health was insufficient to survive the rigors of trading and long journeys. Taken under the wing of a desert hermit, he learned the ways of arcane magic. As magic is forbidden, he does not carry a spellbook, instead having his spell instructions tattooed in strange symbols on his skin that casual observers would not understand. Having learned to respect the sanctity of nature from his mentor, he joined the Veiled Alliance and works to protect members and recruit others to the cause.
Nalag is a Mul (race) Gladiator (theme) Slayer (class). A child of slaves, she spent her entire life in the service to a cruel master, first as a servant, then as an arena fighter. She distinguished herself in the arena, and seized the opportunity to escape servitiude in the chaos after Kalak’s death. She is unsure whether her master still lives, but if so he is unlikely to let such a valuable fighter go. After saving a preserver’s life while they were under stack from a Templar, she was invited to add her considerable muscle to the Veiled Alliance’s cause.
“Hakka_:http://www.baldmangames.com/aoadownloads/ashes-of-athas-pregens/Hakka_WastelandMonk2.pdf is a Thri-Kreen (race) Wasteland Nomad (theme) Monk (class). While he has no strong feelings about the cause of the Veiled Alliance, his entire clutch was slain by a templar in the service of Kalak. He detests defilers and their kin, and allies himself with the secret preserver group to best find new dangerous defiling prey to hunt in an effort to avenge his lost tribe.
Meryt-Neitt is a Human (race) Dune Trader (theme) Ardent (class). She comes from the gutters of Tyr, and has seen the worst and the best of humanity. Her psionic talents allow her to manipulate the emotions of others, a talent put to effective use as black-market merchant and a revolutionary before the death of Kalak, and now she has joined with the Veiled Alliance with the hope of correcting the imbalances in Tyrian society and helping those in need.
Terito-Tet is a Goliath (race) Primal Guardian (theme) Warden (class). Abandoned in the wilds, he was raised by the spirits of nature. While he is a valiant defender of nature, the spirits whispered to him that he would be needed in the ‘coming storm’, and sent him to the city of Tyr. He has found some likeminded individuals in the Veiled Alliance, and is allying himself with them until his purpose here becomes clear.
Nebin is a Halfling (race) Elemental Priest (theme) Druid (class). As the tribe’s witch, she served the elemental spirits faithfully. Recently, her dreams foretold a ‘coming cataclysm’, and urged her to travel to the city of Tyr to observe the ‘death of the ascendant one’. She arrived the day before the fall of Kalak, and has watched the chaos unfold as Tyrians come to terms with their new freedom. The spirits speak to her of the danger of defilers, and incited her to find those who will work with her to slay the unclean ones.
All characters begin play at level 3, using the above race, theme and class options (unless other options have been unlocked during gameplay). More details about the restrictions can be found here.