The Burnt World of Athas

The official Dark Sun website

Level limits! Class limits! Who loves them? Here’s my take – they’re a powerful tool for world-building and in determining the power balance of a setting. If only humans can be archmages, if halflings can’t rise above 6th level as fighters, or if dwarves can’t be clerics or wizards, that tells you a great deal about what your gameworld is like.

Human by Brom
Brom Human by Brom
In AD&D, class and level limits are also used as a balancing tool. Demihumans, in part, get lots of cool abilities because they can’t be every class and can’t achieve the highest levels in most of the classes. Humans, on the other hand, can attain any level in any class but they don’t get any special abilities.

So what if you don’t want this?

You can easily just remove class and level limits – allow any race to attain any level in any class. This is the norm in more recent editions of the game. In AD&D, though, you could argue that this short-changes humans. So one way to compensate is to give humans a boost.

When I run AD&D 2nd Edition, that’s the approach I take. Specifically, humans receive a +1 bonus to any one ability score, and can choose two special traits that reflect where in the world they’re from – sort of like mini-feats. I originally took this idea from issue #315 of Dragon magazine, where they presented regional feats for characters from the excellent World of Greyhawk. Here’s what it looks like for my current Dark Sun game:


Ability Adjustments: +1 to any one ability.
Movement Rate: 12.
Background Traits: Humans receive two background traits from the following list. These traits should reflect the human’s origin or culture.

Human Background Traits

Arcane Affinity: Targets of your spells suffer a –1 penalty to their saving throws.
Arcane Heritage: Magic is in your blood. Select one saving throw category and apply a +1 bonus to it.
Alien Mind: Your thoughts are strange and unpredictable. You have 10% magic resistance against all spells that attempt to read your mind.
Aptitude: Choose one ability score. Whenever you make an ability check with this score, roll two dice and pick the best result.
Artisan: You receive a +2 bonus on all craft non-weapon proficiency checks.
Bareback Rider: You suffer no penalties when riding bareback. You can guide your mount with your knees, keeping both hands free. You gain a +1 bonus to hit when using a ranged weapon while riding bareback.
Bullheaded: You receive a +1 bonus on saving throws against mind-affecting effects and a +2 bonus on intimidation non-weapon proficiency checks.
Child of the Ringing Mountains: You suffer no movement penalty in mountains or forest.
Cold Resistance: You receive a +1 bonus on saving throws against cold-based effects.
Combat Training: You gain a bonus weapon proficiency.
Commander: Your hirelings and henchmen gain +2 to morale.
Cosmopolitan: Select a race other than human. All members of that race are automatically Friendly towards you when you first encounter them.
Desert-Born: You are immune to damage from heat stroke and exposure to the cold.
Elfblood: You gain 30’ infravision.
Expert Rider: Choose a mount type. Gain +2 on all non-weapon proficiency checks relating to riding this mount type. All such mounts are Friendly towards you.
Faithful: You may use your Will Bonus instead of your Stamina Bonus to determine your bonus hit points.
Foe Hunter: Select one race and receive a +1 bonus on damage against them.
Heat Resistance: You receive a +1 bonus on saving throws against heat and fire-based effects.
Lucky: Reroll one failed saving throw per day.
Mental Fortitude: You may use your Insight Bonus instead of your Stamina Bonus to determine bonus hit points.
Mercantile Expertise: Make a successful Charisma check to buy equipment at a 10% discount. You can help others get this discount. When selling, a successful Charisma check grants you 10% more in the sale.
Pathfinder: You are skilled at navigation and never become lost when travelling in the wilderness.
Raider: You gain a +1 bonus on saves vs. fear and a +2 on observation non-weapon proficiency checks.
Reduced Water: You need half as much water each day as normal.
Rustic Charm: All urban folk start out as Friendly, You receive a +2 bonus on all reaction checks.
Self-Sufficient: You gain a +2 bonus to survival non-weapon proficiency checks made in one type of terrain.
Silt Diver: You can hold your breath for half your Constitution score in rounds.
Skilled: You gain a bonus non-weapon proficiency.
Spirit Sight: You can see incorporeal or ethereal creatures on a successful Wisdom check.
Tough: You gain +1 hp per level.
Well-Trained: You receive a –1 bonus on all initiative checks.
Worldly Charm: You receive a +2 reaction bonus when meeting new people and a +1 bonus to etiquette non-weapon proficiency checks.

As a bonus, included in the attached pdf are the rest of the standard Dark Sun races, so you can see how humans compare to them side-by-side.