Updated: Nov 15, 2021
Dark Sun classes differ from the standard PHB classes in several ways, and these differences extend into higher-level play. Dark Sun’s Dragon Kings sourcebook gave rules for playing characters up to 30th level but a few years after this, another book for Core AD&D 2e – DM Option: High-Level Campaigns – also presented rules for play up to 30th level. But there was no real overlap between these two rule-sets. So here’s how you can use ideas from the High-Level Campaigns book with your Dark Sun characters.
We’re going to take a look at fighters in this blog, but at the end of the blog there’s a pdf with all the main Dark Sun classes expanded out to 30 levels of play, incorporating ideas from Dragon Kings, High-Level Campaigns, and a few other sources as well. Enjoy!
Ability Requirements: Strength 9
From the small forts in sandy wastes of Athas to the guards of the merchant houses in the city-states, fighters can be found everywhere in the Tablelands. On Athas, the fighter is a trained warrior, a soldier skilled in mass warfare. Every society on Athas maintains an army of fighters to protect itself from attack or to wage wars of plunder and annihilation against its neighbours. Fighters are both the commanders and soldiers in these armies and, at higher levels, are experts in individual and formation combat, leadership, and morale.
Fighters can be of any alignment. While fighters cannot cast spells, they can use many magical items, including potion fruit, protection scrolls, most rings, and all forms of enchanted armour, weapons and shields.
Proficient: Fighters are automatically proficient in all weapons without spending any weapon proficiency slots.
Specialisation: As a master of weapons and combat, a fighter can use a particular weapon with exceptional skill, improving his chances to hit and cause damage with that weapon. Initially, a fighter can only specialise in a single weapon.
A fighter can also develop his skill in a number of fighting styles. A fighter buys specialisations with weapon proficiencies. See our blog on fighting styles for more details.
Combat Dominance: The fighter can attack once per level every round against foes with less than one Hit Die.
Instructor: A fighter can teach other characters weapon proficiencies when he reaches 3rd level. The fighter can train students in the use of any weapon. The fighter may train a number of students equal to his level in a single class – a class requires 8 hours of training each and every day for one month. At the end of that time each student must make an Intelligence check; those who pass become proficient in that weapon. A student may only be trained once, regardless of success, with a specific weapon. Students can become proficient with any number of new weapons in this manner.
Danger Sense: From 4th level, the fighter can make a Wisdom check to discover threats that are not obvious to less perceptive characters. The fighter can sense if hidden enemies are lurking in any area he can see well, scanning an area roughly 200 yards square in a single round, and discerning approximately how many creatures are hiding in the area and their approximate size. On the individual level, the fighter can tell if a creature is prepared to attack, determining the battle readiness of every being in an area the size of a 30-foot cube. He can study a single creature to determine if it has any concealed weapons, noting their general size, location, and type.
Operate War Machines: A fighter can operate and supervise the use of war machines when he reaches 4th level, including bombardment engines (like ballistae, catapults, and trebuchet), crushing engines (like rams and bores), and siege towers. In addition to being able to serve as crew for these machines, war machines under his supervision can be prepared for fire without any additional delay.
(We’ll be covering war machines and defensive emplacements in an upcoming blog.)
Construct Defences: A fighter can supervise the construction of defensive emplacements when he reaches 5th level. The fighter can build them at half normal cost due to his skill and efficiency, if he does not already have access to the raw materials required.
Commander: A fighter can command large numbers of troops when he reaches 6th level. He has mastered the skills and techniques to take charge of 100 soldiers per level – this includes terminology, use of messengers and signals, use of psionic and magical aids to communication, etc.
The fighter gains a Command Diameter equal to his level plus his Loyalty Adjustment. Note that this ability allows the fighter to command troops assigned to him, but does not give him the ability to raise the troops himself.
Extra Attack: The fighter gains an extra attack every other round with all melee weapons at 7th level and an extra attack every round at 13th level.
Construct War Machines: Once the fighter reaches 8th level, he can oversee the construction of heavy war machines. The fighter can build them at half normal cost due to his skill and efficiency, if he does not already have access to the raw materials required.
Followers: As a fighter increases in experience levels, his reputation as a warrior and leader of men grows. As word spreads, less experienced warriors who are eager to fight for the same causes will seek him out. These followers remain loyal to the fighter for as long as they are not mistreated and there are battles to be fought.
Followers are always gained in groups of 10 individuals called a stand. All 10 are of the same race and experience level and have the same equipment. A unit consists of some number (usually 2–20) of identical stands.
Once a fighter reaches 9th level, he attracts his first unit of followers. This first unit will always be made up of warriors of the same race and background as the fighter (if the fighter is a slave tribesman, so will be his first unit of followers). The first unit consists of 1d10+2 stands (30–120 individuals). Roll 1d2+1 to determine the unit’s level.
As the fighter gains each new level beyond 9th, he will attract another unit of followers. These subsequent followers may be of different backgrounds than the fighter himself.
A fighter cannot avoid gaining followers. The desperate populations of Athas are constantly on the lookout for great commanders; warriors who will lead them on campaigns of glory. These warriors pledge themselves to the fighter’s banner.
A fighter continues to gain followers beyond 20th level. Each level he gains another unit of followers with 1d20+10 stands and of 1d10+2 levels; it is 50% likely to be special in nature.
Bravery: From 10th level, the fighter can harness his own strength of will to resist any fear effect. The character is immune to any form of unnatural fear from a spell, creature, or magical item.
Bypass Resistance: Beginning at 11th level, a fighter using any weapon – including his bare hands – can harm creatures that are normally hit only by +1 or better magical weapons. The fighter does not actually get an attack or damage bonus but can harm creatures such as a lycanthropes with any physical attack. This power is not magical and is not diminished by factors such as planar distances or effects that disrupt magic. At 15th level, a fighter can harm creatures that are hit only by +2 or better weapons. This ability increases to allow the fighter to strike creatures that require a +3 weapon at 19th level, a +4 weapon at 23rd level, and a +5 weapon at 27th level.
Companion: At 21st level, the fighter gains a powerful individual follower sympathetic to his cause. The new follower must have been impressed by the fighter’s accomplishments before he attained his new level. The DM determines the exact follower. Some examples include a high-level preserver, cleric, or ranger; a belgoi champion; or wayward half-giant. If necessary, use the Ranger’s Followers table to determine the follower.
Elites: A fighter can create entire units of elites upon reaching 21st level. The unit of followers to be trained must be of at least 5th level and can have no more stands than the fighter’s level. The unit’s equipment, mounts, or special characteristics have no effect.
Training to elite status takes 30 uninterrupted days. At the end of that time, the unit gains certain advantages: its AD rises to the next higher die (AD 6 becomes AD 8, etc.); its AC is improved by one point; its hits are increased by 3 points; and its ML is raised 4 points. Individual characters within the unit gain no benefit; the elite status applies only to the unit as a whole. New characters recruited into the unit are not considered elites. A fighter may train unlimited numbers of elite units.
Improved Specialisation: From 21st level, a fighter can specialise in any number of weapons, paying for this as normal with weapon proficiency slots.
Challenge: At 25th level, a fighter can issue a verbal challenge that can shake an enemy’s resolve. To use this ability, the fighter must be in plain sight, within hearing, and close enough to see the opponent’s face clearly (10 yards if the visibility is good). This ability is not an attack and has no initiative modifier.
Opponents with 4+1 Hit Dice/levels or less retreat, cautiously backing away and avoiding confrontation with the fighter for the rest of the day. If the fighter or his party attacks, the creature can return the attack, with the penalties detailed below. If the opponent has more than 4+2 Hit Dice/levels, it receives a save vs. death magic to escape the effects.
If the creature fails its saving throw, it retreats from the fighter or remains in the area, suffering a +2 penalty on initiative and a –2 penalty on attacks, saving throws, and ability checks as long as the fighter remains within 60 feet. The creature may leave the area to avoid the effects, launching missile attacks or directing other activities, but the penalties return once it gets within 60 feet of the fighter.
If the opponent has 10 or more Hit Dice, it is compelled to answer the challenge and attack the fighter. If it fails the save against death magic, it must immediately advance and engage in physical combat unless restrained by another creature (restraint breaks the compulsion to attack, but occupies the creatures involved for a full round). Creatures unwilling to fight can attempt to save vs. death magic each round to break off the fight, otherwise, they engage in melee with the fighter. Affected creatures can employ spells or missiles if they wish, but must close to melee before doing so.
Hardiness: As a last ditch effort, a fighter can extend his life once per day. Instead of falling unconscious at zero hit points and dying at –10, the fighter can remain active until reaching –20 hit points, functioning in this state for 20 rounds. If not healed above –10 hit points by the end of this period, the fighter dies.
During this period, the fighter is immune to blindness, deafness, ability score reductions, paralysation, petrification, polymorph, energy drain, magical aging and the spells age creature, antipathy, cause blindness/deafness, colour spray, contagion, energy drain, holy word, hold person, phantasmal killer, polymorph other, and any power word.
Hardiness does not delay simple damage from any source, including continuing damage, such as Melf’s acid arrow or a sword of wounding, or special forms of physical damage, such as severed limbs or broken bones. Nor does it protect against effects that are not directly harmful, such as charms, entanglement, or imprisonment.
As promised, here's a pdf with all the standard Dark Sun classes, revised with the same approach as the fighter. Check them out and let us know what you think!