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Following are the character creation guidelines:
DARK SUN™ campaigns are set in a violent world. Powerful magics and psionics, desperate hordes of raiders, and even the unforgiving desert wastes all conspire against player characters—death is not at all uncommon on Athas, nor is it uncommon for player characters in DARK SUN campaigns. Replacing a fallen player character of high level with a novice first level character is never satisfying for the player. Also, where this new character fits into the plot is usually contrived on the spot.
The above text is from the DS1 Dark Sun Rules Book, and applies just as much in DS4. In DS1 every player had a character tree of four characters. For our campaign, I suggest that every player create a single backup character and keep it handy. When a player character dies, that player will be allowed to introduce a character of one level lower than his previous character (with an XP total of the minimum for that level) as a replacement. If the deceased character was first level, the new character starts at first level with zero XP. If the backup character conforms to the rules below, it does not need to be approved beforehand by the DM; however, it is suggested that players provide a copy of the backup character to the DM so that it might be introduced as an NPC and thus have some justification for entering the party should it become necessary.
If a player wishes to voluntarily switch characters, this must be approved by the DM. If approved, the new character then enters the game with the minimum experience points to be the same level as the retiring character.
Starting at Higher Level
143, DMG gives guidance on creating a character higher than first level. This will be needed for creating backup characters if your current character is third level or above, for instance. However, step 7, Choose Equipment and Magic Items, does not account for the Fixed Enhancement Bonus rules. Instead of starting with one magic item of your level +1, one magic item of your level, and one magic item of your level -1, you begin only with one magic item of your level +1 (or magic items with an equivalent or lesser total value).
Races and Classes
By default, all of the races, classes and themes in the allowed sources are permitted. However, special permission from the DM is required to play any of the following races, classes or themes:
- Warlock (other than Sorcerer-King Pact)
Some of these are more likely to be approved than others. Wizards, for instance, will be automatically approved after some discussion and negotiation. Githzerai will probably be allowed—if the player is willing to revamp the race into Gith. Persuading the DM to allow a Gnome, on the other hand, is going to take a lot of convincing and a whale of a good story.
Multiclass and hybrid characters are allowed subject to the conditions above. In fact, the sorcerer-kings are all wizard/psions.
Classes with the Divine power source worship the elements, as described in House Rules. The elements are all unaligned, so any alignment is compatible with any element. Each Divine class worships a different element: Paladins revere Earth, Invokers revere Air, Avengers revere Fire, and Clerics revere Water.
Players choosing to play Divine classes must clear all chosen powers with the DM, and continue to do so as new powers are gained. In addition, the class description, chosen powers, and class abilities must be reflavored to be appropriate to the character’s patron element. This does not need to be submitted to the DM, posted, or even written out, but should be used to describe the use of the character’s powers and abilities in-game. It is requested, but not required, that these reflavored descriptions be posted to the wiki (Power2ool can help with this) to make life easier for future players of that class.
Contrary to the information on p. 46, DSCS, elemental priests all revere a specific element, either Earth, Air, Fire or Water, which must be chosen when this theme is taken. Each elemental priest power must be described in terms of that particular element. The elementals that are conjured using these powers are not created, nor are they summoned from the plane of Elemental Chaos (see Metaphysics). They are drawn out from the surrounding terrain. As stated in Heroes of the Elemental Chaos:
Those who observe me as I wield my powers naturally assume that I am summoning or controlling fire in some way. That is, of course, inaccurate. I have no font of elemental energy in my mind. What I do have is the ability to perceive the latent elemental energies that are locked inside matter. Even the most ordinary rock holds the memories of the deep fires in which it was born countless ages ago. My training in the psionic arts allows me to unlock the hidden fire sleeping in the world around me.
I do not create the fire; I simply let it out.
Any of the methods of generating ability scores on p. 17-18, PHB are allowed, but Method 3: 4d6-drop-the-lowest, is preferred. As the text on p. 18 says, if the total of your ability modifiers is lower than +4 or higher than +8 before racial ability adjustments, consult the DM before putting the character into play. However, don’t be too afraid of rolling low scores. As the 2nd Edition Player’s Handbook says (p. 18):
Don’t give up on a character just because he has a low score. Instead, view it as an opportunity to role-play, to create a unique and entertaining personality in the game. Not only will you have fun creating that personality, but other characters and the DM will have fun reacting to him.
Use your ability scores as a base for determining who your character is and how you will roleplay him. If you want some of your ability scores to be lower than what is allowed by the methods in the PHB, talk to the DM and something will be worked out (this sort of thinking—being willing to sacrifice game advantages for the sake of story—is strongly encouraged, and will likely be rewarded in its own way).
Any alignment listed on pp. 19-20, PHB is allowed. Disregard the first three sentences of the second paragraph, and the entire third paragraph, of the Alignment section on p. 19. There are no “universal forces” related to alignment that your character is aware of, unless you want to count the sorcerer-kings, or perhaps the Dragon, as forces of evil, and the elemental and primal spirits as forces of good and unaligned. But none of these are “universal” in the sense meant by the PHB, nor are there “teams” that individuals are on by virtue of their alignment. Choosing any alignment, even evil or chaotic evil, for your character is acceptable. Honestly, lawful good might be the most difficult alignment; a character that sees someone do something dishonest, underhanded or cruel and says “I must smite this evildoer!” would not last long on Athas.
Note that just because a character is evil, that does not mean that he is inherently disruptive. Even a chaotic evil character can get along with others if it serves his purposes.
The taglines at the beginning of each alignment description in the PHB give an excellent idea of how characters of each alignment view themselves.
Don’t forget about the Background benefits, Wild Talents, and Fixed Enhancement Bonuses house rules when creating or leveling up your character.