"Blood red sands
stretched out around me.
The army, victorious -- Tyr, free.
New heroes had been born
Beneath the Dark Sun"
Tyrian Noble & Free Wizard
Step Zero: Character Trees
Each player is allowed to create a number of characters which they may
choose from, switching the active character between adventures or to another should their
active character fall prey to the countless dangers of Athas. Full details are lain
out in the "Character Trees" section.
Step One: Hand of Fate
The Narrator deals 12 cards to each character; in groups larger than four or five, the
Narrator should split the group in two for this process so that some unfortunate(s) does
not end up with "the bottom of the deck" or too few cards for a full hand. After
looking over their hand, players should sort their cards by suit or highest to lowest.
Step Two: Personality
The player should select two cards from their hand to determine the character's
personality, both the character's demeanor, how they appear to others, and their nature,
how they feel inside. Low numbered cards are best used in this respect, though certain
character roles may require the use of a higher value card(s).
Personality traits are listed on the cards in the Fate Deck.
Step Three: Quests and Reputation
This will determine the starting worldly experience or number of important events that
have occurred to the character before the actual beginning of the game, their background
history, so to speak. The higher the numerical value of the card placed in the character's
quest box, the greater reputation (how well known they are) that character has. The suit
of the card used may indicate the nature of the experiences the character has had.
Reputation also determines the number of cards the player is allowed to hold in their hand
during the game; note that it is usually good to assign a card of greater than 4 to this
All characters born under the Dark Sun gain a bonus of one card to the listed hand,
reflecting the greater ability to survive the harsh conditions of Athas breeds.
Step Four: Wealth and Social Status
The player should now choose a card to represent their character's social status and level
of resources, which are considered to be one and the same at the beginning of the game, though wealth may fluctuate as the
character adventures. See the "Wealth" section
for full details.
Low cards represent poor resources/a low social status, while higher cards
represent greater resources/a higher social status. A character also bases a number
of skills on their social status, see the "Social Status"
section for details.
Certain character roles require that the player choose a higher or lower value.
Step Five: Ability Scores
Now comes what some consider the core definition of a character, though it is more a
definition of what the character is capable of than who or what they are: the
determination of Ability Scores.
There are eight scores, evenly divided between Physical
and Mental categories, and further grouped into four pairs of related abilities.
The range of scores for a Human character runs from 1 (worst) to 9 (best), with 5
considered the average. Other creatures may (and do) have scores outside this range,
including some character races. A score may increase during play, due experience and
The player must assign one each of his remaining cards to the various abilities. The
numerical value of the assigned card indicates the character's natural talent in that
area, while the effects of the card's suit are detailed below.
Step Six: Ability Codes
While ability scores indicate natural talent, the Ability Codes determine the level of
training in the skills associated with that ability. The codes are 'A' (mastery),
'B', 'C', 'D', and 'X' (completely untrained), with 'C' denoting average training.
Further, there are a number of skills that can be learned under each ability, usually
chosen by the player, though certain character roles are automatically assigned some
The total number of skills a character has is determined by their social status,
and their proficiency within those is limited by their ability's assigned
To determine the code of an ability, check the suit of the card assigned to that ability.
- If the suit matches the suit of the ability, then the
character has a maximum code of 'A' in any skill related to that ability
- If the suit is that of the related ability, then the character
has a maximum code of 'B' in any skill related to that ability
- If the suit is from the same category as the ability, then the
character has a maximum code of 'C' in any skill related to that ability
- If the suit is unrelated to the ability (from the opposite
category), then the character has a maximum code of 'D' in any skill
related to that ability
- If the player used a "Dragon" card (which has no
associated ability), the character has a maximum code of 'X' in any
skill related to that ability
Note the effect of an 'X' code is that the
character can never trump with normal actions based on that ability,
excepting those specific skills which they have managed to learn
See the "Skills of Survival"
section for more information.
Step Seven: Race
There are many kinds of beings that call the wasteland that is Athas or
its few, crowded
cities home; of these, only a few are suitable as player-character races. Humans,
halflings, dwarves, elves and half-elves share Athas with muls (half-dwarves), thri-kreen
(human-sized mantis-like creatures) and half-giants.
The player can choose a race other than human if they wish, though the Narrator may
disallow certain races from his game (or add new ones, such as Gith or Pterran). To
qualify for certain races, a character must meet certain minimum and maximum ability score
and code requirements (set forth in "The Character Races of
Athas" section). Those who do not choose a race are assumed to be human, and have
no special requirements that must be met.
If a character does not meet these requirements initially, they may either reduce an
ability code to raise a score, on a one to one basis (the reduced code does not have to be
that of the ability to be raised), or reduce an ability score by two to raise a score of
the same category by one. If their scores are too high to become a particular race, they
may reduce them, but do not gain any bonuses to other ability scores or codes for doing
In addition, each race also has a few benefits and hindrances that make them stand apart
from one another.
Step Eight: Role
There are many character roles that can be played while on the crimson sands; from the
simple slave, to the ferocious gladiator, the sly-tongued bard and the secretive wizard,
the cruel templar and the land-defending druid, or even the simple merchant or caravan
guard. Roles make the character come alive; they also help fill in the details of the
character's background, such as their skills and where they learned them, personal habits
and the basis (or reflection) of the character's personality.
Also, there are a number of skills to which only certain character roles have access, and
some which are required by particular roles.
The player and Narrator should work together to either choose or create a character
role that fits the player's concept of the character, and works in the background of the
campaign world and provides unique benefits and hindrances.
Advantages and disadvantages of particular roles are detailed under the "Athasian Character Roles" section.
Step Nine: Arms, Armor & Equipment
Arms, armor and equipment of an appropriate sort to the character race and role should be
chosen. Life and materials on Athas are very different from life and materials in other
campaign worlds, the "Elements of Life" section cover
the common sorts of equipment and martial gear available to characters.
Step Ten: Final Touches
Finally, all other necessary information should be decided upon and recorded, such as the
character's physical appearance, name (or names), and other personal information,
including background. All heroes should have some distinguishing feature, such as a stripe
of white hair or missing fingers to make them more unique and memorable. Note that some
Athasians are also born with slight mutations (caused by the harsh environs), such as
webbed fingers or cosmetic gills. As the citizens of Athas are used to these slight
differences, they pay them no mind; however, mutations should not be disfiguring or
penalizing, or provide any special abilities or bonuses, they exist only to add color to a
Some of these details do not have to be immediately established, if the Narrator permits
them to be developed during the course of the campaign.
Once players have familiarized themselves with the necessary rules and details of
character creation, they may wish to shape a specific type of character. The order of
these steps can be disregarded to allow the player the freedom to create the hero they
envision; while the Narrator may decide to alter the methods used to create certain types
of characters so that a bad draw from the Fate Deck does not disallow the player from
Draws incompatible with an envisioned type of character should not be over-looked or
disregarded either, as they can make for excellent role-playing opportunities and lend
fresh air to a player's repertoire.
Growth of a Hero
With time and experience, the character grows in strength (both inner and outer) and
skill. This is reflected in an increase in both the number of quests the character has
completed, thus the number of cards in the player's hand, and also their reputation. The
event or circumstance that denotes the end of a quest is up to the Narrator, but should be
the completion or resolution of an important story line within the campaign.
Further, with the increase in the character's reputation, there is a chance that one of
their ability scores or codes will increase. The player should choose either an ability to
increase, or a code, then flip over the top card on the Fate Deck. If the numerical value
of the card is greater than the value of the ability, the score or code (depending upon
the player's choice) is raised by one point or step (note that the 10 of Dragons always
causes an increase of the chosen score or code).
Details on how a code increase affects skills can be found in the "Skills of Survival" section.