The Burnt World of Athas

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The Nature of Positive and Negative Energy on Athas

While having no direct connection, the Positive and Negative Material Planes seep their way to Athas through the elemental planes. Their energies predominantly ‘bleed’ towards the prime material by way of the para and quasi-elemental vortices. It’s unclear if this is a naturally occurring part of Athas’ cosmology, or a phenomenon that somehow developed over time.

Few Athasians know of the existence of the Energy Planes, and those that do have often struggled to find ways to harness their power.

Legend of the Thaumaturges

It’s unclear when such beings first appeared on Athas, but there are references found in folklore and ancient sources telling of individuals with rare and miraculous abilities, similar yet different from those possessed by masters of the Way or elemental priests. Referred to as Thaumaturges, they were rumored to be able to perform feats similar to those of clerics. They are not supplicants to the Elements, however, but to the forces of life and death.

Some of those who know of the Positive and Negative Energy Planes believe they may have been drawn to form weak pseudo vortices on Athas during the massive devastation and loss of life caused by the Cleansing Wars. Theories suggest that the Thaumaturges may have first manifested towards the end of the conflict, appearing in the dying world the Wars left in their wake.

There have been numerous accounts of the Thaumaturges throughout the King’s Ages. One tells of a woman entering the undead-plagued city of Bodach unaccompanied, and miraculously exiting unscathed. Another recounts a Thaumaturge’s journeying to the Forest Ridge and restoring a defiled sacred grove. The oddest (and possibly oldest) tale describes two separate pilgrimages to a high plateau far south, said to lie near the edge of the world itself, to witness mortal clerics transcend into living quasi-elemental gods.

The sorcerer-kings and other powerful beings know of these unique clerics and have sought them out over the centuries seeking to exploit or steal their powers. Rumor suggests that Abalach-Re had a Thaumaturge locked away beneath Raam for decades before they escaped, only to pass away soon after.

The Clerics of the Energy Planes

Only relatively small amounts of raw positive and negative energy reach Athas. As a result, there is only enough energy to grant clerical abilities to a single individual for each Energy Plane at a time. Where elemental clerics, druids, and templars elect to serve their patrons, this isn’t the case with Thaumaturges - whatever serves as the powers of the Energy Planes seem to arbitrarily imbue their energies upon persons, regardless of the being’s willingness or desire.

There have been several individuals who are known to have held the mantle of Thaumaturge over the King’s Ages. Some had their powers bestowed to them on a predecessor’s deathbed, while others were seemingly randomly imbued by the planes in the event of the Thaumaturge’s sudden demise.

A Thaumaturge has never been known to have had their abilities stripped from them by their patrons on the Energy Planes. These mysterious beings or forces appear to have no agenda or edicts to which their clerics must adhere.

It is said that at no time have the Thaumaturges ever encountered each other, but each knows of the other’s existence. Indeed, they seem to have no innate enmity with each other or desire to seek their opposite out. It is hard to imagine what would happen if two Thaumaturges ever did meet, but it would surely be a powerful and calamitous event.

Positive Thaumaturges tend to be neutral leaning towards good, and Negative Thaumaturges tend towards evil, but neither is strongly tied to either ideology. Thaumaturges tend to exist on the fringes of civilization, living as hermits or wanderers and staying clear of the city-states and larger communities. They purposely avoid bringing attention to themselves and taking on followers.

The Clerical Powers of the Thaumaturges

Below are a series of suggested abilities for Thaumaturges. A DM can of course use as few or as many powers as they feel appropriate. DMs are encouraged to create different or additional powers using those below as guidelines for Thaumaturge abilities in their campaign.

Note that the below are only general ideas for abilities that can be adapted to whatever edition or game system a DM is using; the specific mechanical details are up to the DM.

Positive Energy Cleric
Positive Energy Cleric by Neujack

Thaumaturge of Life Abilities

  • Obscured from being located via magical or psionic methods
  • Gate in positive energy healing to blind or heal the living (with the potential for over-healing causing targets to explode), and causing damage to undead
  • Can’t be raised
  • Extended age limit and slower aging with no aging penalties
  • Extraordinarily powerful or unique healing spells
  • Restore life to others
  • Greater undead turning
  • Cause regeneration in others
  • An illuminating aura that can be increased to blinding levels
  • Heals naturally at a quicker than normal rate (not regeneration)
  • Lay on Hands
  • Ability to summon a single Xag-ya
  • Sense the living
  • Prevent/reverse defiling radius damage
  • Instill temporary hit points
  • Act similar to a tree of life, allowing wizards to benefit from defiling without actually defiling the land

Thaumaturge of Death Abilities

  • Obscured from being located via magical or psionic methods
  • Gate in negative energy, damaging and/or weakening the living and healing undead
  • Can’t be raised, but may come back as thinking zombie seeking to guide the new Thaumaturge if unable to pass on the mantle themselves
  • Immunity to level drain
  • Ignored by undead
  • Sever undead’s connection to the Gray
  • Life draining
  • Accelerate aging in others
  • Speak with the dead
  • Shortened age limit or rapid aging, able to drain youth to reverse their own aging
  • Ability to summon a single Xeg-yi
  • Resistant to healing but not easily wounded
  • Delay death in others
  • Sense undead
  • Cause weakness
  • Transfer health between beings

Sample Thaumaturges

Below are two example Thaumaturges. A DM is free to use them as the currently active Thaumaturges in Free Year 10, use them as past Thaumaturges and create their own present-day Thaumaturges, or disregard them completely.

D’jaa - Thaumaturge of Life

A venerable female mul that goes by the name D’jaa (Dih-jaa). While old, she is still quite strong despite her advanced age. D’jaa has been a Thaumaturge now for nearly 300 years. Originally a gladiator from Raam, she was bestowed the mantle of Thaumaturge of life by an elderly stranger impressed by the mercy she showed opponents despite her forced servitude. While she is a soft spoken and kindly soul, the female mul is vehement in her pacifist ways. D’jaa can feel her time is coming to an end and is currently seeking her successor, but fears that she won’t find a worthy one before her passing.

Negative Energy Cleric
Negative Energy Cleric by Neujack

Kerpohen - Thaumaturge of Death

Kerpohen (Ker-po-n) is relatively new to his mantle. A young male half-elf and former Tsalaxa slave, he was nearly beaten to death two years ago for spilling a basket of expensive goods. As he lay near death at his master’s feet, Kerpohen feebly reached out in an attempt to fend off the finishing blow. On grasping his assailant, however, the half-elf found his wounds healed and his master withering into a corpse to lie beside him. Kerpohen has been on the run ever since, learning to use his new abilities and surreptitiously freeing slaves along the way.

Using the Thaumaturges in Your Campaign

It is not recommended that either of these sets of powers be bestowed upon a PC in a standard Dark Sun campaign. Because the source of their powers is so mysterious and their powers themselves are so unique, a Thaumaturge PC can quickly become the single or main focus of the campaign.

As originally conceived, the Thaumaturges were not meant to be major world-changing powers on their own, but were rather intended to be used as plot devices or as a means for players to achieve a goal, as their presence is meant to be an indicator of large changes taking place rather than a direct cause of change. However, DMs should feel free to use Thaumaturges in their campaigns in whatever way they wish.

Possible ways to use the Thaumaturges in a campaign:
* The PCs must seek out the Thaumaturge of Life to bring back a character who cannot be resurrected by any other means, or to restore an important defiled landmark.
* In order to contact long-dead beings far outside the PCs’ ability to communicate with, they must find the Thaumaturge of Death and convince him to help.
* The PCs are saved by one of the Thaumaturges, only to discover that their knowledge regarding one of these clerics gives them a powerful bargaining chip with a sorcerer-monarch, or perhaps it makes them a target.
* The PCs discover one of the Thaumaturges is being hunted by multiple factions and the PCs must help them hide and escape.
* The Thaumaturge of Death is rumored as an evil necromancer plaguing a nearby village, but in reality, they are only just discovering their abilities.
* High-level PCs discover a plot by a powerful defiler or templar to capture both Thaumaturges to fulfill an apocalyptic prophecy.