Other times though, you get the 2E thri-kreen. And I'll get to that lovely confluence of madness near the end of today's entry.
First up, though...
The Athasian Dwarf
The dwarves of Athas, like most of the other non-human races, suffered terribly at the hands of those who would later become the sorcerer-kings. A vicious war of genocide claimed many of Athas's races in distant, forgotten epochs -- the dwarves nearly counted among them.
Athasian dwarves are cagey and quite different from their counterparts in other setting worlds, adapted to their environment in some harsh ways. You won't generally find dwarves on Athas with huge beards and faux-Scottish accents. Rather, many dwarves shave both face and scalp to deal with the searing daytime temperatures, frequently trading with the people of the city-states without a true culture to call their own. There is no dwarven homeland, no ancient underground citadel to which they might return.
They are quite stubborn however, so they have that in common with other dwarves, at least. Dwarves on Athas frequently devote themselves to a single goal, a focus, that they pursue with single-minded fanaticism. Once a dwarf focuses on something, it's easier to extract ore from rock with one's bare hands than it is to change that dwarf's mind.
The dwarves of Athas are identical to the mountain dwarf of the Player's Handbook, but I will be replacing their armor proficiency with the following:
Focused Mind. You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed by spells and effects.
I can already feel angry glares through the Internet. You nerfed the best combat-focused race from the Player's Handbook ever-so-slightly! How dare you! Tear up your books and flush your dice! All fun is binary!
Frankly, I don't see it come up much and I've been running this edition since its inception. If you're playing a mountain dwarf, chances are high you're already picking a class proficient in light and medium armor anyway. While I have fond memories of my breastplate-wearing mountain dwarf rogue, heavier armor types are hard to come by on Athas -- and owning a suit of metal armor just paints a huge target on your back.
I wanted to play up the dwarf's focus attribute without forcing a vague mechanic into it. Arguments around a table regarding whether a situation is related to one's focus to get a special buff just don't sound like fun to me. Focuses are best left to the dwarf's roleplaying and decisions rather than some wishy-washy system.
The Athasian Halfling
One of the first things Dark Sun aficionados say to folks who ask them about the setting is, "Dude, they have freakin' cannibal halflings."
And that is true. But not all halflings from the setting are like that, and it shouldn't be their defining trait. At the same time though, there's some lore from Dark Sun that is kind of weird regarding everyone's favorite diminutive race (unless you're one of those people who like gnomes*), and I alluded to it in the previous entry.
*My dislike of gnomes is legendary. PC races that are historically used for disruptive "trickster" behavior in my gaming past don't rate very high on my list. But on Dark Sun, they are all dead, so I merely steeple my fingers and make quiet "mmyes" noises. If you like gnomes, I don't judge you. Much.
What all modern-day Athasian halflings do have in common, though, is an aptitude for surviving the rigors of the world and a savagery that belies their stature. Halflings were touted as the only race that might eat a thri-kreen -- the other notable cannibal of the setting -- and that alone was enough to make the mantis warriors uneasy.
They also have a rich culture of art, storytelling, and reverence for the natural world (such as it is). Their racial bonuses should reflect that. To wit, they get this in addition to the base halfling stuff:
Ability Score Increase. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
Nature Tender. You know the druidcraft cantrip.
Tribal Knowledge. You choose to be proficient in one of the following skills: History, Nature, Performance, Survival.
It lacks the super-stealthiness of the Lightfoot halfling, but has more of a tribal shaman vibe. I thought at first to give them any druid cantrip, but I feel like that would come down to only two "real" options; produce flame or shillelagh. The inclusion of druidcraft gives them a folksy sort of mysticism that reinforces the halfling character without just giving them a flat combat power buff.
The Athasian Dragonborn
There actually isn't anything to change here, as I see it. The dragonborn-as-PC-race on Athas only came about in 4E, and they were a re-skin of an existing Athasian race, the dray. It was the backstory of the dragonborn, in fact, that saw the most change. Stock dragonborn (at least, as inferred in their flavor text) tend towards goodness and virtue, while Athas's dray are pragmatic and devious.
The dray are the spawn of a sorcerer-king that was betrayed by his fellows. They are powerful and sly draconic humanoids twisted by dark magic into their new forms. Dray PCs in my conversion will belong to the Wayward Clans -- dragonborn cast out of the ruined city of Giustenal during an uprising. Statistically, there isn't much that needs to change from the dragonborn of the Player's Handbook, though I'd probably encourage all of them to be fire-based for consistency.
Some homebrew lore that will only make sense to people who know the setting:
"In year 36 of the calendar of Free Tyr, the city of Giustenal erupted in a storm of psychic energy invisible to all but the most accomplished students of the psionic arts. Several days after the event, packs of the mysterious creatures known as the dray poured from the shattered ruins of the city in apparent flight from an unseen danger.
"The truth of the event became known when small clans of these dray sought asylum in the city states of Nibenay and Gulg. Their fallen creator, the undead dragon king Dregoth, attempted and failed to bind a heinous psionic entity in the ruins of the city. The fallout from the event shook the faith of even his most ardent worshipers, and a rebellion erupted within the tunnels beneath the devastated landmark.
"The losers of this struggle, the Wayward Clans, were forced to flee from the city or risk destruction by their master and his loyal servants. With them came the terrible truth -- the dragon king, long thought destroyed by his contemporaries, lived still.
"With the Dragon of Tyr and several of the sorcerer-kings slain by a reawakened Rajaat, the remaining monarchs stayed their hand at a second attempt to destroy Dregoth. Were they fearful that the dragon king had achieved the mightiest stage of their terrible transformations and thus was beyond their ability to destroy? Or was it that they sought to make amends for their betrayal and gain a new ally in the struggle against the other city-states?
"The truth is not yet clear, but what is known is that Giustenal lives still, and both Dregoth and the psionic entity with which he fought make any forays into the ruins the most absolute of follies.
"The Wayward Clans that now wander the Tyr Region make their living as traders and mercenaries to the people of the city-states. Distinct subcultures have arisen within the clans, who sometimes feud with one another over territory and contracts. They keep their distance from most other races, however, due to their monstrous draconic appearance."
Hoo boy, here we go.
I love the thri-kreen. I also hate the thri-kreen. They are one of the most unique things about Athas and their inclusion as a player race was, and is, a wonderful idea. I would call you an excuse-making liar (I mean, politely and in good humor, of course) if you tried to make a case to me that they were at all balanced against the other player character races at the time they showed up as a PC race in 2E.
Compared to a starting player of any other race and class, thri-kreen had a host of powerful advantages, and they grew in power as they went. Most outstanding and abused was the fact that they have four arms, each capable of holding an object. Before sanity took hold in later editions, this led to anyone with a modicum of rules knowledge to begin coming up with any justification, rules-supported or otherwise, to become a quad-weapon-wielding murder blender.
They were also crazy-fast. And have chitin that was the equivalent of chain mail (AC 5, in 2E terms) in a world with extremely-rare metal armor. And they got paralyzing bites and absurd leaping capabilities as they went up in levels. And could make their own equipment with some sand and a gob of their own toxic spit. And they don't sleep. And can dodge missiles.
Oh sure, they had "disadvantages" if you want to call them that. Can't wear armor? Who cares, your Dexterity score probably gives you plate-level AC.
They were not balanced. But holy crap were they fun to play and came with a host of extremely enjoyable roleplaying hooks and quirks. You see, thri-kreen have a physiological compunction to bond with groups. There are two terms they use to describe this mentality.
First is the tokchak, or "clutch mind" in the thri-kreen language. Kreen bond in two types of groups, packs and clutches. Packs are large groups of multiple clutches, kind of like a human's extended family, though these packs aren't always biologically related. Clutches are small groups, immediate family or close allies. Kreen that don't bond in these ways are considered "broken" in a way; it is anathema for a thri-kreen to want to wander alone.
The tokchak is an instant roleplaying hook to get a thri-kreen to join an adventuring party. Kreen actively seek groups to which they belong, even if those groups are not themselves thri-kreen. There's no stigma to having a non-kreen adventuring companion; so long as the companion is useful and pulls their weight, they are as worthy as any thri-kreen. There's that whole sleeping thing though...
Second is the tikchak, or "hunter mind" being the translation. Thri-kreen are pack hunters, and have an intrinsic need to move around and sustain themselves. Packs wander the wastelands of Athas, hunting and taking what they need to survive in a world to which they are supremely adapted. The tikchak also drives them to work together with their clutch to accomplish goals and ensure all are cared for equally. This isn't (always) just altruism -- a clutch is only as strong as its weakest member, so it makes sense to share with all who are pulling their weight. If someone isn't pulling their weight, the thri-kreen makes efforts to help them improve. If they cannot, they are no longer fit to be in the clutch.
Sounds like the perfect adventuring companion, right? Loyal, won't actively try to screw you over, shares their treasure equally, and is a sleepless night-shift-watchbug with a stomach to rival any hungry halfling? Hmm. Hungry hungry halflings should be a party game.
So as great as these thri-kreen are, they also have to be brought down a peg. Their incarnation in 4E did just that, but at the expense of a bit of their flavor. They also endured a substantial change to their basic physiology -- 2E thri-kreen, like 2E half-giants, would be Large creatures in today's terms. They were physically similar to gigantic mantises, complete with a large abdomen and upright thorax. Now they're a lot more "humanoid" in appearance, though still very much inhuman.
Compare and contrast the 2E (left) with the 4E/5E thri-kreen:
This isn't all bad. Old 2E thri-kreen outright couldn't wear armor or many of the things that PCs find in their travels. Their shift to a slightly more familiar shape opens up some possibilities.
So I want to take a crack at them. Some people are very protective of their thri-kreen, so I expect divisiveness. That's okay. There's plenty of other homebrewed/DM's Guild variants out there. I just didn't like 'em much, personally.
Ability Score Adjustments. Your Dexterity score increases by 2. You may choose to increase either your Strength or Wisdom score by 1.
Age. Thri-kreen mature quickly and are able adults by the time they are 7 years old. They rarely live longer than 30 years.
Size. Your size is Medium.
Speed. Your base speed is 40 feet.
Carapace. Your base AC is 13 plus your Dexterity modifier. You cannot benefit from the protection of any armor that grants you an AC of 13 or lower. Due to the shape of your body, armor must be custom-made for your form and costs twice as much.
Desert Adaptation. You require only a half gallon of water each day to avoid exhaustion from dehydration. You do not sleep, and can gain the benefits of a long rest while performing only four hours of light activity.
Powerful Leap. You can perform a running leap to travel a number of feet straight forward equal to three times your Strength score. You can perform a standing vertical jump up to your Strength score in feet.
Multiple Limbs. You possess a second set of arms below your primary limbs. These limbs can hold objects and weapons, but cannot be used to perform more attacks than you normally have at your disposal based on your class and your fighting styles.
Natural Weaponry. You possess sharp claws and a painful bite. In lieu of any other attack you make, you can substitute a claw or bite attack to inflict 1d4 points of slashing (with claw) or piercing (with bite) damage.
Languages. Thri-kreen know their own language and the Common tongue of the Tyr Region.
It's a pretty big list of racial traits compared to most, but I think this fits without making them either sucky or overpowered. There's some things missing, though; what about that poison bite?
No bones about it, I love the idea of racial feats. I thought they were good when I first saw them in an Unearthed Arcana that included svirfneblin, and I like using them to add traits and powers to races. Here's one for thri-kreen who work to develop their poison glands.
Prerequisites: You must be a thri-kreen.
Effect: Your bite attack becomes venomous. You inflict an additional 1d4 points of poison damage with your bite attack, and victims must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or be poisoned for one minute. The DC for this saving throw is equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Constitution modifier. If a creature succeeds on their saving throw, they are immune to your poison for 24 hours.
I could make other racial feats for things like the missile dodging and such, but those are class abilities and I think it's verboten to trod on those. The race doesn't need to be any more powerful than this, though I don't promise that this is perfect. As always, these are the first drafts. I'd love to hear some feedback on it. It could suck royally and I'm too close to it to see.
Whew! Long entry. Hope this is of interest, as I'm having a blast writing and converting for Dark Sun. Next time I'll go over either some class bits or do a flat lore post about my homebrew version. Not sure which yet. Till then!