Class Introduction

“From the lowliest slave to the highest templar, our fates are decided for us. The slave at the hands of the master, and the templar at the will of the king. Pray to Ral and Guthay that your children are born when the stars align to favor them.

Few are those privileged to choose their own path of life, and cursed are those for they are bound by choice and have but themselves to blame for their misfortune. The bard addicted to his alchemical mixtures, the templar imprisoned for his crimes, and the gladiator sacrificed for the thrill of the fight. It is the choices that define who you are and how you die, regardless of who makes them.”

―The Oracle, Blue Shrine Scrolls

Almost all of the standard D&D classes are found in Athas in some form or another. In addition, Athas is home to characters of many strange classes not commonly found on other worlds. In the past this has mostly meant Psionic classes, but in this campaign, other more obscure classes will also get their time in the light. Still other classes are entirely new, such as the Gladiator or the Trader. The flip side to this is that several of the classics (such as the Paladin) are virtually unheard of beneath the dark sun.

In addition to detailing the new classes, this section outlines alterations for each of the classes. From variant animal companions for druids and rangers, different to entirely new class abilities, these changes make each class slightly different than those used in the generic D&D world. What Pathfinder calls “Archetypes” and D&D 3.5 calls “Alternate Class Features” or “Racial Substitution Levels,” we’ll simply call “Variants.” All major (mandatory) changes or (optional) variants for classes will be noted below.

Behind the Veil: Classes and the Adama

“Come young one, and reflect upon this work of art, for it is a thing of beauty and wisdom. I know you cannot read the runes in the stone – nor can I – but all must learn what it has to teach. See the shape of a pyramid carved in relief? The images of men climbing its slanted slope? The eyes above: one closed and one open? This is the Adama – the refinement of the Will through the generations. Today you may be but the child at the base of the pyramid, but should you live a good life and abide by the rule of your king, you shall be the man climbing the zenith in your next life…"

-A village elder teaching children the Adama

First of all, the passage above describes a concept called the “Adama.” It’s a both a physical symbol similar to the Eye of Providence (the same one on the US dollar bill) that represents how one climbs the caste system of Athas and a spiritual symbol similar to Karma or Punarjanma (in Hinduism) that represents death, life, and reincarnation. Besides giving an in-game explanation for the arrangement of classes for use in this campaign, it also serves as a convenient way to introduce the classes and organize them generally.

It’s not necessary to know every class listed here, but players are responsible for knowing their own class and understanding it well enough to use it in play. Most characters in the world of Athas won’t know every class either, but they will know the broad outlines as described by the Adama, so it helps if characters know this too. For example, a guard might not know the difference between a Totemist and a Druid, but he knows the difference between a Life-Shaped Soulmeld (like a Totemist’s) or a Divine Casting of a Spell (like a Druid’s). In some cases, variants of a class are so different as to warrant separate listings below, and so for all intents and purposes, they’re treated differently in the world. For example, the same guard seeing one character cast a spell, the next change shape into a giant animal, and the third ingest strange herbs might justifiably think that the characters trace their traditions from different origins – even if all three are technically druids.

Finally, to help reduce the complexity of choosing a new class or even just understanding an aspect of the Adama, I’ve listed just ONE BOOK where you can find the majority of information for each aspect of the Adama and its related classes. Remember that “fluff” means narrative information whereas “crunch” means rules information. I’ve also signified which classes are better for certain Combat or Intrigue roles. I hope all of this helps.


The Caste

Four groups of humanoid figures ascend the steep slope of the pyramid. These groups refer to the order of the castes in Athas, from slaves, children, and animals at the bottom layer to nobles, kings, and queens at the peak of the pyramid. This aspect of the Adama corresponds to the common people of Athas who seek mastery and refinement of the Will. It is associated with the elements of Animal & Plant: flesh, bone, wood, and blood. “Dark Sun – Dune Trader” (an AD&D supplement) is the main reference for these characters (but note that all can be found in this wiki). Note that the Athas.org website is also an important resource. The iconic classes of this aspect are called Caste-Members and are listed below:

  • Survivor Class – The hardy, teeming masses under the heels of the Sorcerer-Kings. An extremely defensive and somewhat utility oriented class, they account for the vast majority of Athasians (~60%) who can hope only to survive from day to day. The most common variant of the Survivor is the Slave, but other more exotic types also exist, such as the Abolisher or the Harrowed. Based off the Survivor Prestige Class from Savage Species and the Vow of Poverty Feat, they gain class features to compensate for a lack of equipment (since they can’t benefit from most items one way or another), making them simpler and easier to play than most classes. If you’re thinking it would be fun to play a slave, here’s a mechanical benefit to being one! Decent combat-oriented class (tank role), but not a strong intrigue class (the big guy role?), unless you choose one of the variants.
  • Master Class – The smart, skilled laborers and experts of Athas. An almost strictly utility oriented class, they represent the relatively small fraction (~10%) of Athasians who are especially skilled in some fashion. They come in four main variants: Craftsman, Performers, Professionals, and Scholars. Originally printed in the D&D 3.5 Dragonlance Supplement, War of the Lance, they gain a series of Knacks and Skill Tricks that make them the undisputed masters of their primary skill and chosen profession. Common gestalts include: Master Performer | Bard, Master Craftsman | Runepriest, Master Craftsman | Alchemist, Master Craftsman | Artificer, Master Professional | Vitalist, Master Professional | Trader, Master Scholar | Lexeme, Master Scholar | Erudite, or Master Scholar | Archivist. Strong intrigue-oriented class (the smart guy role), but a usually weak combat class (support role?).
  • Trader Class – The smart, shrewd businessmen of Athas. A mostly utility-oriented class with some combat ability, they’re able to barter with the best of them, and often do, being almost as common as Masters (~9%). Trader’s come in two main variants: Guild Members, those aligned with a guild or merchant-house in one of the city-states, or Scavengers, those who scour the wastes for anything and everything of value. Found originally on Athas.org (and the Dune Trader supplement), they gain some knacks like Masters and some bonus wealth like Nobles. Common gestalts include: Guild Trader | Master, Scavenger Trader | Survivor, Guild Trader | Noble, Scavenger Trader | Ranger, and Trader | Rogue. Strong intrigue-oriented class (leader, lancer, or smart guy roles), and serviceable combat class (usually support).
  • Noble Class – The charismatic, corrupt aristocracy of the Sorcerer-Kings. As the iconic 1% of Athas with real power, Nobles lord over the poor, pay homage to the elements, and engage in courtly intrigue of all kinds. There are few major variants that define nobility, but many small ones as narrow as specific family ties. In general, Nobles distinguish between those of Old Families and those of Newer Blood (recently anointed nobles). I cobbled this class together from a variety of homebrew versions online (principally Martin R. Thomas’ Noble class and Rodney Thompson’s “The Noble’s Handbook” D&D 3.5 supplement), but the idea is that they gain guaranteed wealth and followers (as the Leadership feat) in lieu of strong class features (which they mostly take from Marshals). They’re still great intrigue-oriented characters (as any role but the big guy), and with the right equipment or followers, they can be extremely versatile in combat as well (virtually any role, but usually support).

Caste-Member Notes:

  • Survivors are generally of the lowest caste, followed by Masters, then Traders, and finally Nobles. Many noble families tell tales of their origins as survivors (or even slaves) that worked their way into becoming masters, traders, and finally nobles.
  • The Adama depicts a child, old man, and domestic animals climbing the lowest layer (the Essence), followed by a variety of young craftsman, professionals, performers, and scholars on the next highest layer (the Law), then a caravan led by a middle-aged trader glancing back to the closed eye (symbolizing temptation) ascending the second highest layer (the Art), and finally a rich husband and wife holding hands atop the peak of the pyramid (the Way).
  • When they’re not gestalted with caste-members, characters of the other classes are generally considered to be at the same caste as the caste-member on their level of the Adama. Thus, Totemists would be considered low caste (at best), while psions might be considered high class (roughly). In these cases, apply half your level as a Caste-Member level (see Caste-Member Introduction for details).
  • Play a caste-member if you enjoy the flavor of Dark Sun and want to feel more connected to the world. That said, adventures are some of the least likely to be caste-members, so there’s no requirement to being a caste-member. Generally, you won’t be accepted in an Athasian community unless you have at least a few caste-member levels, however, so remember that when you decide to retire or buy property.
  • Some classes almost always gestalt with caste-members, such as Champions, Fighters, Templars, Alchemists, Runepriests, Ardents, Artificers, Vitalists, and others. Some, like Bards and Rogues, behave differently – fitting in with almost any caste until their illicit activities are discovered.
  • Generally speaking, what qualifies as a caste in one city-state might not qualify in another, so if you play one of these classes, expect to deal with the challenges of culture-shock.

The Essence

The lowest layer of the pyramid is blue tinted and depicts various animals caught up in a violent storm. This is a reference to the mythical brown tide that ended the Blue Age. This aspect of the Adama corresponds to raw, or unrefined Will. It is associated with the element of Water. “Magic of Incarnum” (a D&D 3.5 supplement) is the main reference for these characters. The iconic classes of this aspect are called Life-Shapers and are listed below:

  • Totemist Class – The hardy, animistic create-your-own-monster class. Totemists are offensive beasts that most commonly shape life energy into temporary magical arms and armor reminiscent of the creatures they revere, and are encountered relatively often out in the wastes (~5%). Though they are seldom encountered, their most common variants include Grafters and Cannibals. Originally printed in “Magic of Incarnum,” they emulate the unique abilities of the creatures of Athas, distributing essentia (life energy), shaping soulmelds and binding them to their chakras, or even taking the flesh of others into themselves to attain ever greater levels of power. Common gestalts include: Totemist | Survivor, Totemist | Barbarian, Totemist | Ranger, Totemist | Shaman, or Totemist | Druid. A very strong combat oriented class (mostly striker, tank, and controller roles), they are also considered to be one of the oldest classes on Athas, making up for their relatively lacking intrigue opportunities (leader? lancer? big guy?) with some unique twists.
  • Incarnate Class – The hardy, zealous advocates for their chosen cause. Incarnates are a rare (~1%) but versatile lot that shape life energy into temporary magical arms and armor charged with the very essence of their ideals. Since these core beliefs define them, their main variants depend on their alignment: evil Incarnates are often found as Necrocarnates, good as Vivicarnates, chaotic as Anacarnates, and lawful as Axiocarnates. Originally printed in “Magic of Incarnum,” they embody their alignment, channeling the life energy of those living, dead, and not yet even born who share the same ideals. This allows them to shape soulmelds, bind them to their chakras, and bolster them with the essentia (life energy) that they have collected – gaining many iconic abilities similar those of classic magic items or spells. Common gestalts include: Incarnate | Champion, Axiocarnate | Templar, Necrocarnate | Necromancer, Vivicarnate | Temptress, Anacarnate | Barbarian, Incarnate | Cleric, Axiocarnate | Monk, or Incarnate | Ardent. Decent intrigue-oriented class (leader, lancer, or chick) as well as a decent combat-oriented class (tank, striker, or support), depending on build and/or preparation.
  • Runepriest Class – The wise, elemental worshipers and chroniclers of the world of Athas. Though rare (~1%), runepriests are universally respected and feared for their offensive and utilitarian powers over the ancient words, places of power, and raw elements of Athas. Depending on the material into which they choose to inscribe their runes, Runepriests may have one of several subtle elemental variants, with Geomancers, Chroniclers, and Runescarred as their major variants. Conceived as a new class with aspects of the Incarnate, Truenamer, and various online sources (namely paradox42’s Foundationist), it combines secret-keeper’s utterances and incantations with life-shaper’s soulmelds in a novel way. Common gestalts include: Runepriest | Master, Runepriest | Oracle, Chronicler | Lexeme, Chronicler | Truenamer, Runescarred | Survivor, or Geomancer | Ardent. Decent intrigue-oriented class (the smart guy role) and combat-oriented class (the controller, striker, or support roles). Runepriest class levels count as half Life-Shaper and half Secret-Keeper.
  • Alchemist Class also see here – The smart, eccentric potion-brewing druggies beneath the Dark Sun. Fairly common in the big cities (~5%), alchemists create potions, bombs, drugs, poisons, and other items to defend themselves, attack others, or maintain their (ahem) lifestyles. See here for variants (they’re also at the bottom of the alchemist class page). Originally printed in Pathfinder’s Advanced Player’s Guide, I decided to change the limit on both extract and bomb use to instead be linked to essentia. The idea is that they can now allow other people to benefit from their extracts and they can prepare bombs in advance, but the total number (or power) of extracts or bombs they can share or store depends on the amount of essentia they have. Decent intrigue-oriented class (the smart guy or chick role) and combat-oriented class (the controller, tank, or healer roles).

Life-Shaper Notes:

  • Life-shaping, with its emphasis on chakras and the cycle of reincarnation, has a strong Hindu, Buddhism, and generally South Asian feel, hence its placement as the bottom (basis) of the Adama. The world of Athas shares many of these themes, and even outside of the Magic of Incarnum book, it has many references to life shaping, reincarnation, and similar concepts. If you’re curious, great! Try out one of these classes!
  • Druids, Rangers, and Shamans have Life-Shaper variants that give them many similar abilities as the classes above. Monks can optionally gain certain Life-Shaper abilities, as well.
  • I use the term Life-Shaper to refer to what MoI calls Meldshaper. So all the above classes would be considered to have full Meldshaper levels, etc.
  • Athas.org released a book called: “The Life-Shaping Handbook” that discusses a totally different set of (sloppy) crunch that otherwise fits with the fluff of Magic of Incarnum’s meldshapers. I’ve still got to work out exactly how that’ll all fit in with the system, so assume that MoI is the main source, even if Athas.org’s version of Life-Shaping is somewhat more official.
  • There’s tons of similar material out there for grafts, symbiots, and other nasty stuff that will be incorporated into this eventually. At the very least, these should provide some great inspiration for new soulmelds.
  • Life-Shapers are renown for their ability to engage in combat continuously – often without rest of any kind. This stems from their emphasis on Constitution and their unique at-will mechanics, so they really shine during slug-outs or battles of attrition.

The Law

The next layer of the pyramid is green tinted and depicts armies clashing on an open battlefield. This is a reference to the mythical cleansing wars that ended the Green Age. This aspect of the Adama corresponds to a tempered Will, still rough around the edges. It is associated with the element of Earth. “Tome of Battle: Book of Nine Swords” (a D&D 3.5 supplement) is the main reference for these characters. The iconic classes of this aspect are called Martial-Artists and are listed below:

  • Fighter Class also see here – The strong, resilient weapon-specialists and tacticians of Athas. Virtually the definition of an offensive and defensive class, fighters compose the rank and file of virtually all of the Sorcerer-King’s armies (representing ~10% of all tablelanders). See here for variants (also at the bottom of the fighter class page). Updated in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, I’ve combined them with Tome of Battle’s Warblade class (for martial maneuvers), and created a new Dragon Soldier Variant (which is itself a combination of the Dungeoncrasher and Zhentarium Fighter variants). This gives them access to many martial maneuvers such as special strikes, boosts, stances, counters, and rushes with which to express their martial art. Obviously, they’re one of the best combat-oriented classes all around (except for maybe the healer role), but also one of the worst intrigue-oriented classes (leader? lancer? the big guy?).
  • Templar Class – The strong, dedicated warriors of the Sorcerer-Kings. This excellent defensive class serves as the policing force of the Sorcerer-Kings’ city-states, and as such, its members are quite common there (~10%). It’s variants depend entirely on which city-state the individual Templar hails, but some Crusaders without such an affiliation (but with similar abilities) are also known. Originally printed in Tome of Battle, I’ve basically replaced both the Paladin and ToB’s Crusader class with this one. This gives the Templar access to martial maneuvers like a fighter and some of the class features of paladins (more like blackguards). Most gestalt with Inquisitors. Because of their unique role in the city states, they’re actually a fairly intrigue-oriented class (as the leader, lancer, or big guy roles) while still being a strong combat-oriented class (as a tank or healer role).
  • Barbarian Class also see here – The strong, furious natives of the wastes. Barbarians are quite common in the tablelands (~10%), but rare among the civilized folk of the city-states – against whom they often bring their offensive and defensive abilities to bear. See here for variants (also at the bottom of the barbarian class page). Updated in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, I haven’t changed them much – I just gave them access to a few martial disciplines from Tome of Battle (to put them on par with Fighters and Templars). Considering giving them more buffs, lemme know if you think they need it. Strong combat-oriented characters (striker or tank roles), but weak intrigue-oriented characters (definitely the big guy role though).
  • Ranger Class also see here – The dexterous, martial defenders of the wild. Largely offensive and utilitarian in function, Rangers are about as common as fighter or barbarians (~10%). See here for variants (also at the bottom of the ranger class page). Updated in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, the only major change has been to replace their divine spellcasting with martial disciplines (including a few ranged-only homebrew versions) with a dash of the old D&D 3.5 Scout class and the Sublime Archer (another homebrew). In this setup, Rangers are much more similar to their D&D 4th edition versions – able to initiate martial maneuvers to hunter their prey or defend the wild. Decent intrigue-oriented class (the leader, lancer, big guy, or smart guy roles) and also a decent combat-oriented class (striker or support roles). Rangers have variants that switch them to become half Divine Spellcasters or half Life-Shapers.
  • Monk Class also see here – The dexterous, wise students of many masters. Monks are rare (~1%), but nevertheless one of the most versatile classes in Athas. See here for variants (also at the bottom of the monk class page). Updated in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, I’ve decided to combine them with Tome of Battle’s Swordsage class and to give them options for using Life-Shaping or Psionic abilities in exchange for the martial maneuvers they would otherwise gain. Should make it interesting… and reflect the new multi-faceted world of Athas. Excellent combat-oriented characters (any role) and decent intrigue-oriented characters (leader, lancer, or smart guy role). Monk levels count as full Martial-Artist levels, and half Life-Shaper levels or Psionic-Manifester levels (depending on their variants).
  • Champion Class – The charismatic, crowd-pleasing adherents to an Athasian way of life. As with all extremely versatile and popular Martial-Artists, there never seems to be enough Champions (~5%). Most Athasians know them as Gladiators, Swashbucklers, Matadors, Warrior Poets, or any number of other flashy names. I’ve cobbled together this class from a variety of sources, namely the Athas.org version of the gladiator, the Complete Warrior version of the Swashbuckler, the Pathfinder variants of the same names as the above, and a few homebrews (namely Warrior Poet and Sublime Matador ). They gain martial-maneuvers that favor style and panache over brute force, and are experts at single combat. Whereas Fighters are excellent in an open battle-field or sports-field, Champions excel in the arena or in a duel. Excellent intrigue-oriented class (almost any role) and combat-oriented class (striker, controller, and support roles).

Martial-Artist Notes:

  • I use the term Martial-Artist to refer to what Tome of Battle calls Initiator. So all the above classes would be considered to have full Initiator levels, etc.
  • Martial-Artists are unique in that most of their abilities are extraordinary (not magical or psionic). This makes them somewhat easier to play than other magical or psionic classes.
  • Other traditionally martial classes, such as the Paladin, Knight, Cavalier, or Samurai simply don’t exist in the tablelands (~0.001%).
  • Soulknives, Bards, and Factotums have variants that allow them to be Martial-Artists. Additionally, characters of all classes may count half of their levels as Martial-Artist levels under certain circumstances.
  • Martial-Artists regain many of their abilities after only a short rest, making them playable over many encounters per day.

The Art

The next layer of the pyramid is red tinted and depicts the sorcerer-kings defeating Rajaat, the first sorceress. This is a reference to the mythical imprisonment of Rajaat that began the current era: the Red Age. This aspect of the Adama corresponds to the taming of the Will. It is associated with the element of Fire. The “Pathfinder Core Rulebook” is the main reference for these characters. The iconic classes of this aspect are called Arcane Spellcasters (although most simply call them witches) and are listed below:

  • Sorcerer Class and also see here – The charismatic, unwilling inheritors of forsaken bloodlines. As the oldest arcane tradition to be found on Athas, Sorcerers once counted Preservers, Defilers, and even Monarchs as part of their number, but are now a dying breed known mostly from myth (~0.01%). See here for variants (also at the bottom of the sorcerer class page). Updated in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, the only changes that I’ve applied are the standard defiling/preserving mechanics that apply to all arcane spellcasters (see notes below). Generally speaking, sorcerers are only sanctioned within the nobility of the sorcerer-kings (with them and all of their blood under the sorcerer-king’s strict control), but some of the Forsaken Races still maintain the tradition at great person cost. Excellent intrigue-oriented class (leader, lancer, chick) and combat-oriented class (controller, striker, support).
  • Wizard Class and also see here – The smart, intrepid students of all things arcane. Like Sorcerers, Wizards once dominated the world during the cleansing wars and their subsequent aftermath, but generations of persecution have caused their art to fall into obscurity (~0.01%). See here for variants (also at the bottom of the wizard class page). Updated in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, I’ve decided to all-but-replace Wizards with their specialized versions in this world, which I’ll treat as separate traditions passed down by just a few individuals. See Necromancer Variant, Beguiler Variant, Temptress Variant, or Warmage Variant. Other variants are either whole new classes (see Shadowcaster, Summoner, etc.), or have simply died out. Wizards are an excellent intrigue-oriented class (leader, lancer, or smart guy roles) and combat-oriented class (virtually any, but usually controller or support).
  • Witch Class and also see here – The smart, scheming wretches of the black arts. Having embraced the most offensive arcane magics (and the stigma that comes with it), witches are now one of the most common arcane spellcasters (~0.1%). See here for variants (also at the bottom of the witch class page). Originally printed in Pathfinder’s Advanced Player’s Guide, I really haven’t changed much about the witches other than to give them a new Debaser Variant. Common gestalts include: Witch | Warlock, Witch | Shadowcaster, Witch | Summoner, Witch | Necromancer, Witch | Necrocarnate, Witch | Sorcerer, Witch | Alchemist, or Witch | Totemist. Excellent intrigue-oriented class (chick or smart guy role) and decent combat-oriented class (controller, striker, or support roles).
  • Bard Class and also see here – The charismatic, multi-faceted jacks of all trades. Bards are mostly utility based, both in dire situations and every day ones, making them very common and in high demand (~5%). See here for variants (also at the bottom of the bard class page). Updated in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and also updated on the Athas.org website, I’ve made several small changes to the class. It is well known that Bards have used arcane magic in the past, but modern bards borrow from every aspect of the Adama – including martial-arts (in the form of maneuvers), life-shaping (in the form of alchemical potions), psionic-manifesting (in the form of powers), secret-keeping (in the form of pacts or recitations), arcane magic (in the form of spells or spell-stealing), or even divine magic (in the form of divine spells). Major variants include the Factotum Variant and the Spellthief Variant. Arguably the best all-around intrigue-oriented class (virtually any role), but not the strongest combat-oriented class on their own (usually the healer or support role). Bard levels count half as any aspect of the Adama, depending on the abilities they choose.
  • Shadowcaster Class – The smart or charismatic, mysterious apostates of Athas. Shadowcasters are virtually all that’s left of the ancient sorcerer and wizard traditions of Athas, using their spells and skills in deception to keep them hidden from society at large (~0.1%). I haven’t decided their major variants yet. Originally printed in Tome of Magic, they learn mysteries which act like shadow-themed spells. These eventually become less spell-like, until a Shadowcaster’s mysteries become incredibly subtle and all-but-undetectable. Common gestalts include: Shadowcaster | Rogue, Shadowcaster | Beguiler, Shadowcaster | Warlock, or Shadowcaster | Witch. Decent intrigue-oriented class (lancer or smart guy roles) and combat-oriented class (controller or support roles). Shadowcaster levels count as full Arcane Spellcaster levels and full Secret-Keeper levels (they’re one of the few dual-progression classes I’m allowing).

Arcane Spellcaster Notes:

  • Any character that casts an arcane spell (or uses an arcane spell-like ability) risks defiling. This makes arcane spellcasters difficult to play and universally reviled throughout the tablelands. See the Preserving and Defiling Rules for details.
  • Due to all the persecution of arcane spellcasters in the last few thousand years, there are very few arcane scrolls to be found – you’re more likely to find a martial script, psionic dorje, or even essentia jewel than an arcane scroll – so beware.
  • “Gish” classes, or those classes that combine arcane magic with martial training, are discouraged since I’d like each class to feel distinct and combining two different things is what the gestalt rules are for. Examples include the Magus or Hexblade classes. If you really want to play them, I’ll probably allow them though.
  • Other more exotic arcane classes, such as the Wu Jen, aren’t found in the tablelands.

The Way

The peak of the pyramid is gray tinted with swirling mists seemingly obscuring a deeper image. Many believe this to represent the next age. This aspect of the Adama corresponds to the mastery of the Will. It is associated with the element of Air. “Psionics Unleashed” (a Pathfinder supplement) is the main reference for these characters, although the “Expanded Psionics Handbook” and “Complete Psionic” book from the 3.5 era are also important resources. The iconic classes of this aspect are called Psionic Manifesters and are listed below:

  • Psion Class and also see here – The smart, self-reflective masters of the mind. Few can defeat them at their chosen specialty, since Psions are some of the most disciplined and available psionic manifesters (~1%). Common variants (specialties) include: the Seers, Shapers, Kineticists, Egoists, Nomads, and Telepaths. Updated in Pathfinder’s Psionics Unleashed, they gain psionic powers which are similar to spells in function, but different from spells in style and usage. As such, Psions are capable of overcoming virtually any obstacle to which they put their mind. Common gestalts include: Psion | Noble, Psion | Scholar, Seer | Oracle, Shaper | Incarnate, Kineticist | Alchemist, Egoist | Truenamer, Nomad | Monk, and Telepath | Trader. Possibly the most intrigue-oriented psionic manifester depending on specialty, with some combat ability (usually controller or support roles).
  • Wilder Class and also see here – The charismatic, emotional and instinctive psionic characters. A strong offensive-oriented class, wilders are relatively rare, but rightfully feared when encountered (~1%). I haven’t decided their major variants yet. Updated in Pathfinder’s Psionics Unleashed, they can let their emotions surge to the surface to execute awesome displays of psionic power. This allows them to augment their psionic powers similar to defilers, but at a personal cost instead of an environmental one. Common gestalts include: Wilder | Champion, Wilder | Sorcerer, Wilder | Barbarian, Wilder | Bard, Wilder | Noble, Wilder | Shaman, Wilder | Favored Soul, Wilder | Warlock, Wilder | Witch, and Wilder | Summoner. Decent intrigue-oriented class (leader, lancer, or chick) and decent combat-oriented class (controller or striker).
  • Soulknife Class and also see here – The dexterous, meditative brutes of absolute focus. A strictly offensive and defensive class, soulknives are slowly becoming more common in the iron-deprived tablelands (~4%). Soulknives have a martial-artist variant and a life-shaper variant. Updated in Pathfinder’s Psionics Unleashed, they can focus their mental energy into the shape of a blade, claw, or other infinitely-sharp weapon and lash out at their enemies. I’ve decided to combine them with Psychic Warriors to make them a bit more powerful, and to create the variants above to allow them to fit in with other types. Common gestalts include: Soulknife | Survivor, Soulknife | Monk, Soulknife | Fighter, Soulknife | Ranger, Soulknife | Champion, Soulknife | Warlock, and Soulknife | Rogue. Excellent combat-oriented class (striker or tank roles), but poor intrigue-oriented class (the lancer?).
  • Ardent Class – The wise, dedicated philosophers and elemental stewards of Athas. Being a largely defensive and utility oriented class, Ardents are easily accepted in most communities on Athas (~5%). I haven’t decided on their main variants. Originally printed in Complete Psionics (a D&D 3.5 supplement), they use psionic powers like other manifesters, but also take on concepts called “mantles” that improve them in a some significant way. I’ve decided to use the elemental mantles variant seen here to give them a place in the world (as some of the primary elemental worshipers), but many other mantles are available, such as the magic mantle, which allows them to act as though they were arcane spellcasters. Common gestalts include: Ardent | Champion, Ardent | Incarnate, Ardent | Vitalist, Ardent | Noble, Ardent | Runepriest, Ardent | Cleric, Ardent | Templar, or Ardent | Inquisitor. Due to their unique role in the world, they make excellent intrigue-oriented characters (usually the chick or the smart guy roles), but sub-optimal combat-oriented characters (tank or support?).
  • Vitalist Class and also see here – The wise, vivacious adepts of psionic healing. Almost exclusively defensive in use, Vitalist services are highly sought after in Athas (~5%), being the single most readily available (and legal) source of healing. I haven’t decided on their main variants. Originally printed in Pathfinder’s Psionics Unleashed, Vitalists use psionic powers and various other methods similar to the Witch’s Hexes to mitigate damage done to her allies, heal that damage, and retaliate against her enemies. Common gestalts include: Vitalist | Survivor, Vitalist | Master Professional, Vitalist | Trader, Vitalist | Noble, Vitalist | Vivicarnate, Vitalist | Alchemist, Vitalist | Templar, Vitalist | Temptress, Vitalist | Ardent, and Vitalist | Healer. Due to their unique role, they’re considered a decent intrigue-oriented class (smart guy or chick roles), and of course, an all-but-indispensible combat class (mainly healer role, but also tank or support).
  • Erudite Class – The smart, meditative scholars of psionics. Though rare for a psionic class (~0.1%), Erudites nevertheless have an astonishing array of psionic abilites learned through years of rigorous study. Their main variants are the Spell-To-Power Variant, Mantled Erudite Variant, and Specialized Erudite Variant. Originally printed in Complete Psionics (a D&D 3.5 supplement), Erudites use psionic powers like Psions, but unlike Psions, they learn their powers much like Wizards – with careful study and patience rather than through self-reflective meditation. This gives them greater versatility at the cost of some effectiveness. Common gestalts include: Erudite | Master Scholar, Erudite | Runepriest, Erudite | Wizard, Erudite | Shadowcaster, Erudite | Truenamer, Erudite | Lexeme, and Erudite | Factotum. Though versatile in combat (any role), they’re usually pigeon-holed into the smart guy role in intrigue-oriented encounters.
  • Artificer Class – The smart, crafty psionic artisans of Athas. Masters of utility, Artificers are one of the few reliable sources of wondrous items, psionic arms and armor, and other items important in combat, intrigue, or everyday life – making them fairly common (~1%). Their main variant is the Arcane Artificer Variant. Originally printed in the Eberron Campaign Setting (a D&D 3.5 supplement), they possess the ability to imbue items with temporary psionic properties, in some cases duplicating psionic powers and in other cases replicating the abilites of magical equipment. Common gestalts include: Artificer | Master Craftsman, Artificer | Runepriest, Artificer | Alchemist, Artificer | Fighter, Artificer | Wizard, Artificer | Summoner, and Artificer | Rogue. One of the best combat-oriented classes in the support role, but a bit lackluster in intrigue roles (the smart guy?).

Psionic Manifester Notes:

  • This is THE WORLD for psionics, hence why their classes have so much variety and are so common. If you want that the-same-but-different effect, these are the classes for you!
  • Athasians don’t respond the same way to psionics that they do to arcane spellcasting. Generally speaking, psionics are accepted and embraced across the tablelands.
  • I’m considering merging the divine mind class with the ardent, but given that there are no gods in Athas, I feel like the current slate of divine characters is enough. The psychic rogue and the lurk have been merged with the rogue, while the psychic warrior has been split between the soulknife and the monk.
  • Some classes, such as Monks, Bards, or even Rogues have psionic manifester variants.

The Power

Above the pyramid on the left is an open eye shining like the sun. This depicts the life-giving and life-taking powers of the Sun, the holy splendor of the ancient gods, and the watchful eyes of the sorcerer kings. This aspect of the Adama corresponds to the voluntary sacrifice of the Will in an act of faith and worship. It is associated with the element of Light. The “Pathfinder Core Rulebook” is the main reference for these characters. The iconic classes of this aspect are called Divine Spellcasters and are listed below:

  • Cleric Class and also see here – The wise, classical religious worshipers of Athas. Since there have never been any gods to speak of on Athas, most Clerics are considered insane or to have gained their powers directly from the Sorcerer-Kings or Elemental-Planes – making these devout worshipers rare indeed (~0.01%). See here for their main variants (also at the bottom of the cleric class page). Updated in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, I haven’t made any significant changes to the class other than to make them exceedingly rare. Most of the Clerics that do exist are entirely dependent upon the Sorcerer-Kings for their power, but some have found other, more ancient sources of divine power upon which to draw. Due to their unique role, they make a fairly decent intrigue-oriented class (the smart guy or the chick) as well as being an excellent combat-oriented class (tank, healer, or support roles).
  • Druid Class and also see here – The wise, driven protectors of nature in Athas. Versatile and deadly wielders of nature’s anger and retribution, druids are few but powerful (~0.1%). See here for their main variants (also at the bottom of the druid class page). Updated in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, I’ve given them a Shapeshifter Druid Variant that gives them back the old D&D 3.5 wildshaping mechanic, but replaces Divine Spellcasting with Life-Shaping. They’ve also got a Shaman Variant, that makes them more of cultural leader than caretaker. In the world, Druids consider themselves the last line of defense against defiliers, and thus are almost always in conflict with them. A decent intrigue-oriented class (the smart guy or the chick) and a decent combat-oriented class (controller, tank, healer, or support roles).
  • Archivist Class – The smart, dedicated collectors and chroniclers of divine magic in Athas. An extremely versatile and rare class (~0.01%), Archivists encompass all the archaeologists, religious scholars, and fanatical hermits searching for the true history of the divines, despite the condemnation of the Sorcerer-Kings. I haven’t decided on their main variants. Originally printed in Heroes of Horror (a D&D 3.5 supplement), Archivists provide divine spellcasters an intelligence-based option, similar to Wizards. They can learn spells from almost any divine scroll they encounter, giving them more versatility than Clerics or Druids, at the cost of some sheer effectiveness. Like the Erudite, they’re versatile in combat (any role), but usually stick with the smart guy role in intrigue-based encounters.
  • Inquisitor Class and also see here – The wise, repressive and ruthless agents of the Sorcerer-Kings. Primarily offense-oriented, Inquisitors are seldom seen but actually more common than one might want to believe (~7%). See here for variants (and also at the bottom of the inquisitor class page). Originally printed in Pathfinder’s Advanced Player’s Guide, Inquisitors gain divine spells and other powers for the sole purpose of tracking down witches, apostates, and other undesirables. This makes them decent intrigue-oriented characters (leader, lancer, or smart guy roles) and decent combat-oriented characters (striker, tank, or controller roles).

Divine Spellcaster Notes:

  • Given that there are no real gods on Athas, and that most Divine Spellcasters owe their power and allegiance directly to the Sorcerer-Kings, it’s not terribly likely that players will be members of these classes, but they could still be fun if you wanted to try them out.
  • If you want to play a Divine Spellcaster, make sure to arrange with me the source of your divine spells.
  • Rangers and Oracles have variants that allow them to use Divine Spells.
  • Some more exotic divine classes like Favored Souls or Shugenja simply aren’t found in the tablelands. As has already been stated, Paladins don’t really exist either.

The Void

Above the pyramid on the right is a closed eye as dark as night. This depicts everlasting death, the abandonment of the gods, and the mysteries of the planes beyond imagining. This aspect of the Adama corresponds to the voluntary sacrifice of the Will in an act of temptation and insanity. It is associated with the element of Darkness. The “Tome of Magic” (a D&D 3.5 supplement) is the main reference for these characters. The iconic classes of this aspect are called Secret-Keepers and are listed below:

  • Rogue Class and also see here – The dexterous, stealthy spies, infiltrators, and assassins of Athas. Absolutely everywhere (~20%), roguish endeavors have become the norm under the Dark Sun. See here for their main variants (also at the bottom of the rogue class page). Updated in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, I’ve given Rogues the option to learn mysteries (as a Shadowcaster), martial-maneuvers (Martial Rogue Variant), or even psionic powers (Psionic Rogue Variant). Also see the new Assassin Variant. Though technically cast out of the caste-system of Athas, I’ve woven them in everywhere I can (even among the nobility) – you should expect rogues just about everywhere. One of the best intrigue-oriented classes (any role), they’re also a decent combat-oriented class (striker, controller, or support roles).
  • Warlock Class – The charismatic, soul-selling deviants of Athas. One of the most offense-oriented classes with some utility, Warlocks are about as rare as Witches (~0.1%), and just as reviled. The Dragon Adept Variant is their main variant. Originally printed in Unearthed Arcana, Warlocks have bargained away their souls to entities beyond the mortal realm in exchange for unholy powers (called invocations) which they can use at will. Even though they’re not strictly arcane spellcasters (as Witches are), they’re often mistaken as such, so expect a lot of hate. Decent intrigue-oriented class (lancer or smart guy roles) and excellent combat-oriented class (striker or controller roles).
  • Oracle Class and also see here – The wise or charismatic, cryptic soothsayers, doom-speakers, and harbingers of the fickle future of Athas. Largely defensive and utility oriented, Oracles are somewhat rare (~0.1%) but a trusted source of wisdom and inspiration. See here for their main variants (also at the bottom of the oracle class page). Originally printed in Pathfinder’s Advanced Player’s Guide, I’ve changed Oracles to be wisdom-based Secret-Keepers by default, using utterances and recitations (as the Truenamer) in combination with their mysteries (which are also grouped with the Shadowcaster’s mysteries). Their Divine Oracle Variant still uses charisma for their abilities. Decent intrigue-oriented class (usually smart guy role) and decent combat-oriented class (controller, healer, or support roles).
  • Truenamer Class – The charismatic, exacting voices of the most ancient tongue. A versatile class for only those with the most extreme patience (~0.1%), Truenamers seek the very words that made Athas… and those that will destroy it. I haven’t decided on their main variants yet. Originally printed in Tome of Magic, I’ve adapted them from Kellus’ The Way Words Work and various other online sources to make them workable (since they were somewhat broken as originally written). They use utterances, incantations, and recitations to change the fundamental nature of their enemies, terrain, or even themselves. Decent intrigue-oriented class (any but big guy role) and decent combat-oriented class (controller, support, or healer).
  • Lexeme Class – The smart, eidetic researchers and vocalizers of Athas. Lexemes are similar to Truenamers in versatility and frequency (~0.1%), but they make up for a lack of fundamental understand with rote memorization and eidetic recall. I haven’t decided on their main variants yet. Originally printed in The Way Words Work, I’ve decided to combine the class with the Librarian Class, another cool homebrew. They use utterances and incantations like Truenamers, but gain even more versatility at the expense of some effectiveness. Decent intrigue-oriented class (usually the smart guy) and decent combat-oriented class (controller, support, or healer).
  • Summoner Class and also see here – The charismatic, pact-making mediums of ancient spirits. An extremely versatile class, Summoners would be just as rare as other arcane spellcasters if they hadn’t discovered a secret way to contact other-planar spirits (~1%). See here for their main variants (also at the bottom of the summoner class page). Originally printed in Pathfinder’s Advanced Player’s Guide, I’ve replaced them with Binder-like mechanics (from Tome of Magic) so that they can function without arcane spellcasting. The Arcane Summoner Variant is still their main variant, however. Generally speaking, Summoners contact spirits and form temporary pacts, gaining a sample of their power in exchange for allowing the spirit to experience life again through the Summoner. This makes them an excellent intrigue-oriented class (any role), as well as an excellent combat-oriented class (any role), given enough preparation and a good pact.

Secret-Keeper Notes:

  • Secret-Keepers draw from many more sources than the other aspects of the Adama. To simply things, I’ve decided to combine binder, invoker, truenamer, and similar power sources into the same source of “Secret-Keeper.” This means that the above count as having full binder, invoker, or truenamer levels, etc., as appropriate. Thus a Rogue that learns a Shadowcaster Mystery could potentially use it just as effectively as a full Shadowcaster, etc.
  • Secret-Keepers are generally tolerated in most societies of Athas, although practicing their skills is often illegal. Smaller villages probably won’t know the difference between Secret-Keepers or Arcane-Spellcasters, so be careful.

General Notes:

  • Classes not listed above may still exist in this campaign, so ask if there’s one you want included or changed.
  • Some scholars debate whether their was a fifth layer of the Adama (below the Essence) which corresponded to Metal and Technology.
  • Some scholars debate whether more variants of the above classes exist elsewhere in the planes.

Class Introduction

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