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The best place to begin this guide is to define what it will be discussing. The concept of the Character Theme was recently introduced in the Dark Sun Campaign Guide, as the "third pillar" of character creation, after race and class. A theme can help hint at a unique character background, or perhaps reinforces a concept you already had.
Mechanically, choosing a theme grants you a free encounter power at level 1. That's right, free. Your theme also allows you to pick up extra heroic tier powers in lieu of class powers, most of which scale into epic tier. Themes also are the prerequisite for several feats and paragon paths as well. Finally, there will be a quick discussion about which classes would be best served by the theme.
This guide will work by breaking down each theme, first by free power it gives you, then by the powers it allows you to take in place of class powers, then feats required by the theme, then finally paragon paths granted by the theme. The options granted by themes will be graded by the CharOp Standard Color Scale:
Gold options are practically mandatory. Don't expect to see many of these.
Sky Blue options are the cream of the crop. They may not be mandatory, but you won't regret choosing them. Blue options are good ones. There's nothing really bad about these. Black options are solid. Not bad, but not the best. Purple options are limited. They'll only be useful in specific circumstances, and anywhere else they'll be dead weight. Red options are traps. Avoid them like the plague.
On Athas, its the guys in the jester caps that you want to look out for. The Athasian Minstrel is a Striker Theme with the Martial Power source, although it has a bit of a controller bent to it. What the Athasian Minstrel specializes is in poison damage, and using poison to debilitate single enemies at a time. Its attack powers all use weapons.
Poisoned Strike: This is a very nice power. The extra poison damage doesn't scale like the [W] part, but impeding a foe's mobility for moving more than a few squares or attacking is a very nice deal.
Fever Poison (Lv. 3/13/23): This power is very similar to Poisoned Strike, in that it deals 5 extra poison damage on a hit and punishes a foe for moving or attacking. Expect in this case, it dazes an enemy who does said actions. Very nice. It's only the damage that scales, but dazing is a great effect at all levels.
Crystal Spider Poison (Lv. 7/17/27): This power continues the trend of Minstrel Encounter powers that deal extra poison damage, and impeding foes for moving or attacking. Foes hit with this little number become weakened. The damage scales alright into epic, and weakening is a pretty nice condition, although its likely that you'll want to pick up a class power come level 27/
Draining Poison (Lv. 5/15/25): The [W] damage is low for a daily, even at heroic tier. The ongoing 5 poison damage is nice at heroic, but doesn't scale into epic at all, and the [W] damage doesn't scale either (2[W] at epic tier is rather pathetic on a Daily power, especially for a striker). The slow isn't save ends either. And worst of all, this power doesn't have any miss effects. Overall, its kind of underwhelming.
Insidious Poison (Lv. 9/19/29): This power really isn't much different than Draining Poison, except there's no slowing effect and the ongoing damage is guaranteed the first turn, providing you hit with the power.
Concealed Weapon (Lv. 2): You make a weapon you're holding invisible. This gives you combat advantage for an attack, which could be useful for some.
Envenomed Weapon (Lv. 6): You can make a foe vulnerable to poison for a round with this power. Obviously, this will make your minstrel powers all the more deadly.
Framing Assassin (Lv. 10): A daily stance, this allows you to use squares next to you that are occupied by enemies as the origin point for your attacks. This power is helpful for striking foes who like to hide behind their bigger allies, and other such tricks.
Inescapable Poison: A little extra damage on your Poisoned Strike, and it also deals damage if you miss with it. You probably have better feats to worry about.
Stinging Poison: The target of your Poisoned Strike takes a temporary penalty to saving throws. A Saving Throw penalty on an attack you already want to be using is definitely welcome.
Distracting Poison: Adding a (save ends) combat advantage clause to Poisoned Strike at Paragon Tier is pretty nice, but maybe not a high priority.
Arms Troubadour: First thing to note: The attack powers of this path require a Heavy Blade or Light Blade. Beyond that, features are all about skill usage, which is nice if you like hopping about the battlefield with athletics or getting a drop on foes with stealth. Its encounter power is all about repositioning, its daily utility makes an enemy hit another enemy (always a classic), and its daily gives your allies damage rerolls, which could be helpful. Overall solid, if a little underwhelming.
Unwelcome Guest: This paragon path continues the "sneaky poisoner" abilities present in the powers. You can immobilize foes you attack on an action point, you get a free alchemist feat and free alchemy recipes, and your poison powers become poison and acid, which far fewer creatures resist. The encounter is pretty similar to Poisoned Strike, which is awesome, its utility will debilitate a foe like no one's business, and its daily is kind of underwhelming, but ongoing 15 poison damage is still nice. Overall, a great pick.
Which classes should be Athasian Minstrels? While a Bard might seem obvious, the powers don't really synergize with it. Of course, Bards who do go this route will probably want to focus on Melee or Ranged Weapons, rather than implement powers.
The real winners when it comes to Athasian Minstrels are Rogues and Assassins. Rogues will love all the ways that Minstrel powers will net them combat advantage, and Assassins will be able to take advantage of all the Poison support that their class gives them. If you're using the Minstrel Theme, I'd recommend multiclassing into Assassin just for some of their delicious poison feats.
Dune Traders are Martial Leaders who ply their wares in the various City-States of Athas. They tend to be flexible, knowing that one response will not be the proper solution to every problem. Its attack powers all use weapons.
Quick Formation: A handy power that grants either you a substantial shift or all of your allies a smaller shift. The damage isn't that great, but it's not the focus of this power, and 3[W] in epic isn't terrible either.
Delaying Strike (Lv. 3/13/23): This power takes what was great about Quick Formation, and increases the damage, slows the target, and increases the shifting speed of either you or your allies. Oh, and the shifting is handed out as an effect, so you or your allies are repositioned even if you miss.
Sly Gambit (Lv. 7/17/27): The initial damage on this power is weak, but making the target hit another enemy is sweet. You can also either get a bonus to AC, or force the enemy to provoke OA's when it attacks or shifts. Sweet.
Blunt Force Strike (Lv. 5/15/25): First thing to note is that this power is reliable, which is handy. The damage is so-so, but (save ends) dazing is always nice. You also get a follow up basic attack, or can allow your allies to strike at different enemies. Overall, a fairly solid power, worth keeping around in Heroic Tier.
Hounding Presence (Lv. 9/19/29): If you hit the target, you can keep it from shifting for a while, and as an effect, you either get a pretty good defense bonus or force the enemy to grant combat advantage while your next to it. This power's okay for melee Traders, but Traders who rely on Ranged Weapons will want to look elsewhere.
Slick Negotiator (Lv. 2): This provides a small bonus to a failed Charisma skill once per encounter. This doesn't really have any combat applications unless your into the whole "Intimidate foes into submission" schtick, in which you might want to look at this.
Deft Avoidance (Lv. 6): When an attack misses you, you force the enemy to grant combat advantage, and give either yourself or your allies a small shift. The nice part about this is that even if the foe is a square away, this still works.
Command Decision (Lv. 10): When you're hit, you can either expend a healing surge to get Temp HP proactively, or you can redirect the hit to an ally who is better able to take it. This power can be useful, but be sure your buddies are cool with you using them as meat shields.
Advantageous Formation: When an ally shifts next to an enemy as a result of Quick Formation, they get combat advantage for a round. Not bad, but not amazing either.
Quick Defense: Whoever shifts as part of Quick Formation gets a small bonus to all defenses. All right.
Devious Opportunist: Quick Formation deals an extra 1[W] damage, but only if you have combat advantage. The power's nice, but damage was never really its point. Skip this.
Caravan Master: Let's see, you get a speed bonus (and allies get the same bonus if they're near you), you get a fairly defense Action Point benefit, and you get a bonus to Insight and Perception (always welcome), along with flanking no longer bothering you. The powers are nice, as the attacks grant allies basic attacks (welcome if you have a Barbarian or Avenger in the group). Overall, solid.
Shady Dealer: The features of this path are all about social skill challenges, although the Action Point feature does prevent you from causing OAs for a round, which is nice. The powers are great, and are all about manipulating your enemies, including a domination daily power that still allows you to use the enemy's attacks on your turn even after the domination ends.
As Dune Traders are martial leaders, the first obvious choice for them is the actual Martial Leader, the Warlord. Resourceful Warlords especially will like the tradeoff abilities, as they match their style of adapting to any situation.
Beyond Warlords, Defender classes may want to look into this to allow them to get allies disengaged from the front lines, and skirmishing strikers like the Ranger or Monk may enjoy the mobility granted by Dune Trader powers, and the Command Decision power which will allow them to redirect damage onto a defender whose better able to soak damage than they are.
Although the Gods of Athas are dead, that doesn't mean that worship still doesn't happen. Prominent among those who believe are Elemental Priests, who worship the primal elemental spirits of Athas. Elemental Priests are Primal Leaders, who rely on conjuring spirits and enhancing them with implements. Elemental Spirit powers tend to enhance allies for the few turns they're present, before being expended to attack and debuff enemies. If you invest heavily in this theme, you'll likely be conjuring a spirit one turn just to dismiss it the next for its attack.
Spirit of Athas: Although currently the power has an unlimited duration, it's likely that it will be changed to last until the end of your next turn. Anyway, you conjure a spirit that gives an ally a minor defensive boost, which can be dismissed to attack and debuff a foe. The damage isn't fantastic, but it's the debuff that counts here.
Bloodthirsty Elemental (Lv. 3/13/23): Unlike Spirit of Athas, this power is a pure debuff, the spirit this power conjures forcing enemies to grant combat advantage. It sticks around until the end of your next turn, when you can dismiss it to make a close burst attack that removes an enemy's ability to shift. This power works rather well in helping defenders lock down enemies.
Elemental Justice (Lv. 7/17/27): Unfortunately, not that good. An attack bonus is handy, but you could be using that standard action to hand out an attack bonus while damaging an enemy. Which is unfortunate, because this is a very nice power otherwise.
Vengeful Elementals (Lv. 5/15/25): You conjure four spirits on the battlefield who enhance your allies' melee attacks. You can make one disappear as a minor action to allow the ally to make a basic attack, the basic attack getting a damage bonus if you sub this power in at higher levels. The bonus to attack rolls and damage rolls doesn't scale, but allowing your allies to attack four times per encounter as a minor action is pretty nifty.
Primordial Retribution (Lv. 9/19/29): Like Vengeful Elementals, you conjure four four spirits. These spirits don't enhance ally attacks, but instead are expended to restrain foes and hit them with ongoing damage. Restraining a foe is definite option denial, so if there's one foe you don't want to move, hit them with this. At higher levels, the foe takes some damage on top of ongoing 5 and restrained, but restraining up to 4 enemies a pop 4 times an encounter is the real draw of this power. The fact that the 4 spirits can block enemy movement just by floating in the movement path is also a plus.
Scion of Stone (Lv. 2): A daily conjuration that slightly boosts the defenses of allies next to it. You can expend the spirit to give the ally temporary HP that scales rather well.
Retrieving Elemental (Lv. 6): A fairly mobile conjuration that that pushes any creature next to it, friend or foe. Expending this spirit gives an ally a substantial shift.
Elemental Boon (Lv. 10): This spirit is all about healing the party, boosting the value of a healing surge by your primary modifier. And if any ally is dying, you can expend it to put them back on their feet. Unfortunately, since this requires a Standard Action to conjure, it's not really as good as it first appears. If you really need the extra healing that bad, try multiclassing to pick something instead that doesn't eat up a standard action.
Defender's Friend: Your Spirit of Athas power is now similar to a Bard's Misdirected Mark power, marking enemies around it for an ally of yours. Possibly useful if you have a Fighter, Warden, or Battlemind ally. Kind of lackluster without that qualification
Elemental of Guardianship: When Spirit of Athas disappears, the bonus to defenses its grants last a turn longer, and double. This is a solid enhancement to that power.
Warding Elemental: Spirit of Athas now gives allies near it resist 5 all. This is very, very helpful.
Rainbringer: If healing is what you want to be all about, then look no further than the Rainbringer. All of its features are about healing, whether granting nearby allies temporary hit points whenever you use a healing power, surgeless healing on an action point, or giving allies near you regeneration. The powers are awesome to, with a close burst weakening effect, a mass healing utility, and a daily zone that heals allies and blasts enemies with lightning. All in all, very effective at what it does.
Smoking Crown Initiate: This path is kind of odd. The features aren't amazing, with minor fire resistance (which stacks with any other resist fire you have, which is nice) that can be shared with allies at level 16. The action point feature makes you mark enemies for an ally (like Vicious Mockery), and also makes terrain next to you difficult terrain for the rest of the encounter. The encounter power is a blast that hits all creatures and makes them marked by an ally, which means you can have an ally marking himself oddly enough. Its utility power creates terrain that damages and hinders your foes. And the daily is actually pretty awesome, which basically duplicates the Warden's Form of Winter's herald on an ally, except it includes autodamage on any foe who tries to escape. Overall, kind of meh, but the daily is fantastic.
Now for the big question: who should be an elemental priest. The shaman is an obvious fit, sharing both power source and role. While the Animist Shaman in the DSCG will enjoy the more offensive powers, the Bear Shaman from PHB2 will likely enjoy being a Rainbringer.
Just about any leader who wants to focus on healing can make use of the Rainbringer, although the Cleric is a special case, since it possesses two At-Will healing powers that will generate extra temporary hit points on allies like no tomorrow. As the powers also have a controllerish bent to them, Druids, Invokers, and Wizards can also make use of them.
On Athas, slavery is simply an accepted way of life, a necessary evil for most. Some slaves reject their position, though, and try to achieve a greater destiny. Those who do find that their years under the lash has left them with a theme of the Martial Striker variety, which use weapon powers. Escaped Slaves use both subtlety and guile, drawing attention away from themselves so that enemies don't see the attack coming until it's too late.
Bluff Training: In addition to knowing Hidden Strike, all escaped slaves are automatically trained in the Bluff skill. An extra skill is never a bad thing, and since a few Escaped Slave powers require Bluff checks to be made as part of them, you'll always have a use for this skill in your adventures.
Hidden Strike: When you strike an enemy, you can make a bluff check to become effectively invisible to a foe. While this is good enough on its own, creative ex-slaves might try to convince the DM that they've made it look like a different enemy hit the target.
Repel the Siege (Lv. 3/13/23): Whenever 2 foes flank you, you can lash out at them as an immediate reaction, push them, and even if you miss, you still won't grant combat advantage. The damage isn't too bad either, considering that you're attacking multiple foes at once. If you play against a highly tactical DM, this might prove useful. Otherwise, forget it.
Astonishing Wound (Lv. 7/17/27): Before you make the attack, you can make a Bluff check to get combat advantage as a part of the power. Enemies who grant Combat Advantage for the attack get immobilized, in addition to fairly solid damage the scales well. This is definitely one to consider, especially against mobile skirmisher enemies or long-ranged artillery enemies. This is also the only Escaped Slave attack that can be used with a ranged weapon.
Turn the Tables (Lv. 5/15/25): An interesting retaliatory power that allows you to stand up from prone if you were prone. You also knock the enemy prone as an effect, and if you hit, you gain a bonus to defenses against the opponent's attack that, when stacking with penalties the foe will take from attacking while prone, will probably make the attack miss. A cool mental image to be sure, and solid on its own merits.
Who is Master Now (Lv. 9/19/29): In addition to having an awesome name, this power lets you dominate an enemy. Sure, you have to have the foe grabbed, but it's still domination at level 9. You can also end the grab and dominate to make your victim the target of an attack against you. The damage doesn't scale at all, but for those who enjoy making enemies do what they want them to, this is a solid pickup.
No Bonds Can Hold (Lv. 2): Basically, if someone tries to impede your mobility, you make an immediate escape attempt. Kind of situational, but could be handy.
Wary Defense (Lv. 6): A stance that gives you +1 to AC and a free shift every time an enemy moves adjacent to you.
Opportune Distraction (Lv. 10): You make a bluff check. If it succeeds, you're immune to Opportunity Attacks for 2 rounds. An excellent pickup for skirmishing PCs everywhere.
Master of Escape: A +4 feat bonus to skill checks is huge, but the situations in which you use this are pretty situational, unless your in the kind of campaign where breaking the locks on people's houses is okayed.
Slave Sympathy: Again, a good feat bonus to skills, but only when applied to slaves. Also, Sense Motive isn't a skill anymore. We call it "Insight" now.
Slave to None: You get a bonus to saving throws versus slowed, immobilized, and dominated. The bonus vs. dominated is what you're really after, if your DM likes to throw those kinds of monsters against you.
Freedom Fighter: An odd paragon path, that combines some defender and some leader abilities. Also note that Warlords who aren't Escaped Slaves can take this path. Alright, the path features aren't too bad, with an Action Point feature that allows grabbed or marked enemies to retaliate against those who're oppressing them (or just 1 basic attack if there are no grabbed or marked allies). You get some situational bonuses to Aid Another, which is kind of lame, but a free bonus to Initiate, Insight, and Perception is always appreciated. If the path features are the leader section of the path, the powers are the defender section, with an attack that allows you to take the place of an ally when the ally is attacked. You can also make a saving throw as a minor action, and the daily attack is basically a short-lived Combat Challenge on Athasian stimulants. Free Action attack for violating a mark? Yes please! Overall, the crappy Aid Another stuff is made up for by everything else about this path.
First off, looking at the Martial Strikers, it appears that Rogues are better able to use this theme than Rangers are, if only because Rogues can get the Charisma to use bluff effectively. Rogues also enjoy the myriad ways of getting Combat Advantage that this theme allows.
Other than Rogues, most any class that has Charisma as a primary or secondary can do well with this theme. If a frail striker or controller doesn't want to invest heavily in a theme, choosing this theme nets them a solid misdirection power that will keep them alive when enemies close in on them.
On a brutal world like Athas, just about everyone learns to fight merely so that they can stay alive. But Gladiators go one step beyond that. Fighting is their art, their reason for being. The Gladiator theme is that of a Martial Defender which uses Weapon powers. Gladiator powers are all about one thing; keeping your foes on the ropes before dispatching them with brutal efficiency. Keeping your allies safe is just a side-effect of your rampages.
Disrupting Advance: And excellent defender power. It does excellent damage, and includes a push effect that slows multiple enemies if you can bunch them up just right. You'll be using this for a long time.
Savage Sweep (Lv. 3/13/23): A close burst attack that, while not possessing the greatest damage, includes an attack debuff on it. Not bad at all.
Murderous Rampage (Lv. 7/17/27): You damage a foe, and that enemy is suddenly a short-term danger zone for its allies. This power really shines in parties that include a lot of forced movement.
Infuriating Challenge (Lv. 5/15/25): A pretty high-damage daily power that also forces a foe to grant you combat advantage no matter what. And if you miss with it, you still get a chance to swing again, as it's reliable. Not bad.
Bloody Blades (Lv. 9/19/29): A definite defender daily through and through. You begin with free movement and a close burst attack, but the real meat of the power is in the stance it gives you. Free damage equal to your attack ability is nice, but the ability to stop foes next to you from shifting is enough to make any defender drool. Just about every character who styles themselves a defender can make use of this, although if you go for the excellent Gladiator Champion Paragon Path, you'll want to swap this power out come level 16.
Go with the Flow (Lv. 2): You react to a foe's movement as an immediate reaction, and get combat advantage. Not bad.
Bloodborn Menace (Lv. 6): Every enemy around you grants you combat advantage when you bloody or drop a foe. Neat.
Perceive Weakness (Lv. 10): When a foe misses you, your next attack against that enemy will hurt more and is more likely to connect. And you don't waste this power if the attack misses.
Brutish Disruption: For Gladiators with good-to-high Constitution scores. Since the slowing effect of Disrupting Advance depends on how many foes the target ends adjacent to, getting more push on the power could mean than many more enemies slowed. Definitely worthy of consideration.
Disrupting Shove: You knock the target of your Disrupting Advance prone. Yes please.
Thrill of the Kill: Sure, dropping a foe to get a saving throw is nice, but giving up your second wind to do it? Really depends on if your leader can't hand you saving throw bonuses.
Keep Them Close: Every foe marked by you is automatically slowed. This is just about as awesome as awesome gets.
Gladiator Champion: Simply one of the ultimate defender paths there is. Undaunted Action's reroll effect on an attack is nice, and Halo of Destruction is pretty good (albiet you'll want a good strength score to take advantage of it), but Whirlwind of Destruction is what really makes this path. Quite simply, if an enemy wants to get away from you, it will need to eat an Opportunity Attack to do so. The powers are all excellent too, with Opening Ploy leaving a foe and the foe's allies vulnerable to your party, Fail to Disappoint is a Free action that makes being bloodied not seem so bad, and Finishing Strike is a stance that can leave enemies immobilized. All in all, there is really nothing about this path that goes to waste, and it allows you to be a defender even if you can't mark foes.
Jazst Dancer: Compared to Gladiator Champion, this isn't quite as good, although a bit more strikery. It also focuses on using Light Blades, so be sure to have your Rapier or Dragon Paw handy. With Dancer's Grace, you can ignore difficult terrain if you charge, run, or move as part of an attack power, which is handy. It's action point feature allows you to inflict ongoing damage when you make an attack with a light blade, and Painful Wounds makes it difficult for foes to save against Ongoing Damage, which certainly synergizes with the Action Point feature. The powers are all excellent, with Principle of the Razor allowing you to daze a foe, Arena Dancing giving you solid defense and mobility boosts, and Dance of the Whirling Razors allowing you to daze multiple foes while giving them ongoing damage. While not quite Arena Champion, this path is still very good in its own right.
The first class that really screams "Gladiator" is the fighter, and this Theme really does work well with Fighters of all stripes. Fighters make especially good Gladiator Champions, because since their Opportunity Attacks stop enemy movement, the "can't shift away" aspect means that the only way for foes to escape is by taking an OA that will stop them from moving.
Beyond Fighters, all the other Defenders will really enjoy this Theme, if only for the "Keep Them Close" feat. Keeping all your marks slowed is just a good policy to have as a Defender. Barbarians are also good Gladiators, especially if they want to really expand Defender as their secondary role; Gladiator Champion will certainly help in that regard. Finally, Rogues and Rangers can make good use of the Jaszt Dancer Paragon Path, especially since they have feats that make all of their daily powers inflict ongoing damage, which works very well with the Jaszt Dancer.
The nobility on Athas is generally the only class who have the time to devote themselves to study. What they study is different disciplines of the Way, what Psionics is referred to on Athas. As such, this theme has the role of Psionic Controller, which uses Implement powers. Although this is a controller theme, there is a strong hint of leader as well, as the Noble tries to shepherd those of the lower classes to fulfill their whims.
Power Point: In addition to Adept's Insight, Noble Adepts also receive a free power point. While this power point will most likely be used to augment Adept's Insight, it can also be used to augment Psionic Items, Feats, or powers, which makes this a rather versatile pickup.
Adept's Insight: Not an attack power, but very useful nonetheless. You can add 1 to any attack roll, saving throw, or skill check you make. This power can also be augmented to add a d4 onto the result. All-in-all, very useful, much like a Deva's Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes, except it can also be used on allies.
Unnerving Suggestion (Lv. 3/13/23): Although this is an At-Will power, it must always be used in Conjunction with power points, so it could in effect be considered an encounter power. At any rate, you daze a foe, and give a nearby ally a damage boost vs. said target, so this isn't too bad at all. Although if you have Psionic Augmentation as a class feature, you may end up keeping the level 3 version of this power. It won't deal much damage, but dazing a foe for 2 power points could be quite handy at Epic Tier.
Cruel Decree (Lv. 7/17/27): An area burst this time. It only damages enemies, slows said enemies, and gives allies in the burst a bonus to damage rolls. That said, like Unnerving Suggestion, it always consumes power points when you use this power. This power is definitely best served when you have a multiattacking striker like a Barbarian or a Ranger in the party, so that they can use the +2/+4/+6 bonus to damage rolls to best effect.
Imperious Torture (Lv. 5/15/25): An interesting power to be sure. Basically, whenever the target's allies feel pain, the target feels pain. Also, bloody the target's ally, and the target falls prone. Handy at lower levels, but maybe not so much later on.
Face of Defeat (Lv. 9/19/29): You (save ends) daze a target, which becomes a stun when an ally hits it. The stun isn't (save ends) though, which kind of hurts this power a little bit. It's still rather nice, since stunning is always handy.
Slave's Sacrifice (Lv. 2): If you get hit, you can have an ally take your place instead, if the ally is willing. You also give that ally a bonus to defenses, which is nice of you.
Enforced Competence (Lv. 6): If an ally fails a skill check or saving throw, you can give them another shot at it. Of course, if they fail that, they'll take some damage, but that's clearly their fault and not yours.
Psionic Sustenance (Lv. 10): An ally loses a healing surge, and you get some power points back. This power works best in a party that contains a Constitution-heavy character, like a Battlemind or Warden.
Fluid Form Schooling: If you use Adept's Insight to help an ally, you can also give that ally a shift if they succeed. Helpful, if you're the leaderish sort.
Mind Barrier Schooling: Modifying an ally's roll with Adept's Insight also gives that ally a boost the AC and Will, even if the ally's roll fails. Okay
Vanquishing Noble: Modifying an ally's roll with Adept's Insight is more likely to succeed now, since you now add 2 to the roll when the power is not augmented, or 1d6+1 when it is. A shame it doesn't apply to you, but that's how it is.
Mind General: This paragon path is all about being a leader, just so you know. The action point feature allows you to move an ally an increase that ally's defenses. You can also slide an ally who drops an enemy to 0 hit points. You also get 2 more power points, for all you augmenters out there. The 16th-level feature is kind of weird, in that it allows you to reduce one ally's NADs to increase another ally's NADs. This penalty and bonus can be changed every round, so use it to protect allies who really need it. The powers are great, with an encounter power that dazes a foe in addition to granting one ally a free basic attack or move action as an effect (2 if you augment it). Legion's Press can help define a battlefield on the first turn, and Unequaled Demand is basically one huge shift-fest. All-in-all, a rather nice path, if commanding peons is your thing.
Psionic Scholar: Wheras the Mind General was a leader-ish path, this path definitely is a controller path. As features, you can daze enemies on an action point hit, gain psychic resistance, and can learn which of your enemies defenses is the lowest (no Paragon Power Points here, sorry). As for powers, you've got an immobilizing debuff for an encounter attack, a daily utility that both can save an ally from an attack and debilitate a defense on an enemy, and a daily power that can restrain, weaken, and inflict ongoing damage on 3 foes in a burst (meaning no chance of hitting allies). Overall, quite nice as a controller path.
The extra power point this Theme grants makes one immediately think of the Psionic Augmentation classes from Player's Handbook 3, and they'll do very well with this. Of the 3, the Psion is the most likely to benefit from everything, but the Ardent can certainly appreciate the Mind General paragon path.
Beyond those 3, the Monk will like the 1 power point granted by this Theme, as it allows the Monk to use all the cool Augment Feats that it couldn't use because it lacked Power Points. Leaders who don't really have very many tactical options, like Clerics or Bear Shamans, can certainly appreciate all of the slidey-ness that Mind General offers. And squishy Strikers or Controllers will like Slave's Sacrifice, because getting hit is definitely not fun for them.
Even on a blasted world like Athas, there are still some pristine places worth protecting, lands yet untouched by the blighted hand of defilers. Those who protect these places are Primal Guardians, Primal Defenders who mainly defend through weapon attacks. Primal Guardian powers involve a lot of self-polymorphing effects, so if you like changing shape to solve problems, take a look here.
Mark of Thunder: An okay defender power. Damage is kind of weak, but marking the foe as an effect is nice, and the foe takes damage if it doesn't attack you. Basically, this allows non-defenders to sub in as a defender for a turn.
Armor of the Land (Lv. 3/13/23): Now this is a good one. First off, you get resist 5 all for 2 turns, which is just fantastic. You also get an interrupt power that allows you to knock an enemy prone if it moves near you, and the damage isn't that bad either. This is an excellent defender power, through and through. Just be aware that this is a polymorph power though.
Armor of the Living Dunes (Lv. 7/17/27): As an effect, you become immune to forced movement, so if you face a lot of enemies that slide you, that's good. The real meat of the power is the close blast attack that pushes and blinds all the creatures caught in it. The damage isn't the greatest, but its adequate considering how nice of a condition blind is when applied to enemies. This is another polymorph power, so be aware of that.
Storm of Debris (Lv. 5/15/25): Another wonderful defender power. You get the ability to mark and automatically damage all foes who start their turns near you (and the autodamage scales). It also gets you a close burst power that slows foes, but that's kind of incidental to the mark and autodamage part. This is a polymorph power though, so be aware of that.
Of Wood and Stone (Lv. 9/19/29): Another polymorph power, this is basically all about buffing the allies right next to you, granting them resist 5 all and making them immune to forced movement. The attack this form grants you also allows you to weaken a foe. It's solid in melee-heavy parties, but kind of useless otherwise.
Sandstep (Lv. 2): You get a 3-square shift and concealment, which is also given to allies next to you. A nice mobility power.
Lifting Winds (Lv. 6): You allow yourself or an ally to fly a distance based on your primary ability modifier, and grant whoever just flew the power to push foes around willy-nilly. Not bad.
Balm of the Guardian (Lv. 10): A more leaderish defender power, you spend a healing surge, give nearby allies some solid temporary HP, and give enemies vulnerability to Thunder damage. A solid package, although limited since it's a daily.
Guardian's Mark: Hitting a foe with an Elemental Guardian attack marks that enemy. A way to get into the marking business if you need it, and if you invest heavily in the theme.
Mark of Elements: Your Mark of Thunder could also deal fire, cold, or lightning damage if you want to. Handy for getting by resistances, and helpful for taking advantage of vulnerabilities, like the one created by Wintertouched, for example.
Persisting Thunder: Mark of Thunder becomes a (save ends) effect instead of being until the end of your next turn. Not a bad way to keep an enemy's eye on you for a few rounds.
Demanding Spirits: If an enemy marked by you ignores your mark, you can pull that foe closer to you as an immediate reaction. This feat is more for those secondary defenders who want to give their theme-granted marks some consequences for being ignored, although this could also be used by some actual defenders who can only punish their marks at melee range.
Guardian of the Land: This path revolves entirely around the 11th level power granted as a feature, Guarded Land. On an action point, you can move the land, you can mark every enemy in the guarded land, and all of the powers involve the guarded land in some way. Land's Rebuke is a mark punishment power against all foes in your Guarded Land, Land Stride lets you teleport within it, and Awakened Fury immobilizes foes in the Guarded Land, in addition to hitting them with ongoing damage. The one problem is if a creature defiles in your Guarded Land, it goes poof, along with all of your path features and powers. Oh, but you no longer need to eat or drink, which on Athas, is a pretty big boon.
Voice for the Ravaged: Unlike everything else about the Primal Guardian, this path doesn't use Weapon Powers (although it doesn't use Implements either), and can be taken by a non-Primal Guardian Shaman. The features are okay, mainly about helping out allies. If you have a Tiefling Pyromancer or Frostcheese Ranger, they'll probably appreciate Spirit Ride. Wrathful action damages all foes next to you, and Bountiful Returns hands out Temporary HP and shifts to all allies near you when you use a Primal Daily Attack. The powers are a little more subtle, with an Encounter that deals light damage but makes the target hit someone else, a utility that gives surgeless healing and a defense bonus to allies near you, and a close burst that stuns foes, and dominates those who fail against stun, with dazing as an aftereffect. It's kind of odd, but it's not really that bad.
So who best wears the mantle of a Primal Guardian. Wardens are what first comes to mind, and they do all right. The encounter powers are some nice pickups while a low-level Warden still lacks a lot of Guardian Form powers. The daily powers are not Guardian Forms, though, and thus do not benefit from the Warden's Guardian Form feat support.
Other good Primal Guardians are Fighters and Battleminds, who make good use of Generic Marks. Barbarians have the toughness to survive being a defender every now and then, and the features provided by this theme can provide the marks that will help them succeed at that secondary role. Other Constitution-based Leaders and Strikers who want to help take the heat off the party can also help, although they should be careful about getting in over their heads.
The Sorcerer-Kings of Athas are powerful, but they are also limited, in that they can't be all places at once. To help maintain their dominion, Sorcerer-Kings invest chosen servants with dreadful powers. These servants, the Templars, are Arcane Leaders who use Implement attacks. Templar powers do indeed empower allies, but those allies will often have to compete to obtain the powers that the Templar can grant them.
Templar's Fist: This is a pretty good power. The damage isn't amazing, but slowing a target is handy, and handing out an attack bonus to an ally is always appreciated. This power also gets some great feats supporting it. It also never provokes Opportunity Attacks, which is great if you're the kind that likes fighting up close.
Fearsome Command (Lv. 3/13/23): This power deals more damage than Templar's fist, and is also an area burst that slows. You can also help an ally automatically make a saving throw. The ally actually has to hit one of the enemies to make the throw, but it's still a great benefit.
Fettering Glare (Lv. 7/17/27): This power is a close burst, but it only targets enemies and knocks them prone. Plus you can grant an ally the ability to roll twice for his attacks, which is great. This is just an awesome power in general.
Glare of Oppression (Lv. 5/15/25): An area burst immobilizing (save ends) power, you can give an ally who hits one of the targets regeneration. Unfortunately, the regeneration doesn't scale with the rest of the power, so you may find this less useful at higher levels.
Imperious Gaze (Lv. 9/19/29): Let's see what's amazing about this power. A close burst power that only hits enemies and dazes them (save ends). You can also give an ally a chance to regain an encounter attack power. The power has to be equal to or less than Imperious Gaze's level, so you might want to upgrade this if you get the chance.
Reward the Obedient (Lv. 2): Giving an ally the ability to spend a healing surge and make a saving throw just because they ended their turn next to an enemy sounds fun, but you give up a Standard Action to do that. Maybe if the situation is really desperate, but only then.
Mantle of Might (Lv. 6): Let's see... encounter long debuff against foes who are next to you, which is nice for some close range arcanists, and you can give an ally an action point, which is all kinds of awesome.
Berate the Weak (Lv. 10): If you find yourself in dire straits, pull this out. Spending a healing surge, ending a dazed or stunned condition, or standing up are all excellent when pulled out at once. You also get to give allies moves, as long as the allies are moving next to an enemy.
Templar's Dazing Fist: This is exactly what it sounds like; Templar's Fist now dazes the enemy you hit it with. I see no reason why a Templer shouldn't pick this up.
Templar's Tugging Fist: You can slide a target hit by Templar's Fist. Not a bad benefit at all.
Benevolent Templar: Allies who get the Templar's Fist bonus to attack rolls also get it as a bonus to damage rolls. Not a bad feat by any means, but not amazing either.
Master Defiler: So technically, all you need to use this Path is the Arcane Defiling power, but since it's lumped in the Templar Theme, let's look at it. Defiler's Action is basically defiling action, so you can swap out that feat if you've been using it. Offensive Defiling allows you to damage an enemy when you use Arcane Defiling (no, it can't be a minion). And Defiler's Addiction allows you to use Arcane Defiling with an Encounter Spell once per encounter. Defiling Alacrity allows you to empower a basic attack, in addition to increasing the accuracy of your next attack. Defiling Recovery allows you to keep an encounter power that you miss with. Enemies to Ashes makes one enemy vulnerable to your Defiling damage. Overall, it's nice if your the kind who wants to make Arcane Defiling as useful as possible. Otherwise, pass on it.
Praetor Legate: Note that Sorcerer-King Pact Warlocks can use this path without being a Templar. The features are kind of scattered, with giving you combat advantage vs. a foe you just bloodied, giving an ally an action point if they hit an enemy you hurt with your Action Point attack, and sliding foes who end their turns next to you. The encounter attack power is a combination of Sorcerer-King Warlock and Templar power, in that it can be used in melee or at a range, and that it grants a boon to the first ally who hits the target; in this case, resist 10 all; it also pushes the target. Dustwalk gives you a fly speed; you can't fly very high, but you get concealment while flying. And Dictators Judgement is amazing. (Save ends) immobilization is pretty good, but giving an ally 3 healing surge's worth of surgeless healing? That can be lifesaving. Overall, a pretty nice leader path.
The archetypal Templar is the Sorcerer-King Pact Warlock, and they'll do very well with this Theme, even if they only take it for Templar's Fist. Of course, Warlocks of all pacts can do well here.
Beyond Warlocks, Bards match up with both power source and role, and they'll make good use of the powers provided. Other leaders can also make use of this, as well as controllers who want to add some ally support to their repertoire.
Although Defilers ruined the world, not all see Arcane Magic as inherently evil. The Veiled Alliance is an organization that teaches Arcane Magic to those who would follow the preserver's tradition, and vehemently oppose the Sorcerer-Kings who have brought Athas to the brink of extinction. The Veiled Alliance theme is that of an Arcane Controller, which uses Implement powers. Veiled Alliance attacks can usually be made more potent by spending minor actions to enhance them in some way or form.
Excise from Sight: A nice controller power that deals psychic damage and can make either you or an ally invisible to the target for a round, sort of like an expanded version of the Warlock's Eyebite. It can be enhanced with a minor action to slide the target one square which has some applications if you have a minor action to spare.
Dazzling Flash (Lv. 3/13/23): A very nice power indeed. You get a free shift as part of it, and the close blast attack it uses only hits enemies. Enemies who are hit by the power take a severe penalty to Opportunity Attacks and Immediate Action attacks. This penalty becomes an outright inability to use out-of-turn attacks if you enhance the power with a minor action. About the only thing bad about it is that it targets fortitude, which is usually a high defense for monsters (but this isn't always the case). Only the damage scales as the power is brought to higher levels, so you may well want to leave it at lower levels come level 13. After all, triggered action denial is what this power is all about.
Sandman's Veil (Lv. 7/17/27): Not too bad. The close blast of this power is smaller than that of Dazzling Flash, as is the free shift the power provides. The blast does only hit enemies though, and being hit means the enemy can only see your allies that are within 2 squares of it. Spending a minor action to enhance the power makes the free shift a teleport, which could prove useful if you have any teleport-enhancing items or feats, or you're surrounded by difficult terrain. Like Dazzling Flash, only the damage scales, which isn't this power's main point, so feel free to leave this at a lower level.
Psychic Veil (Lv. 5/15/25): A vs. Will close burst power is always nice, and hitting enemies with this deafens them and gives them a small penalty to OAs and immediate action attacks. While this penalty isn't as great as Dazzling Flash, it is (save ends), and you can even give the foe psuedo-ongoing damage by enhancing this attack with a minor action. Unfortunately, only the damage with the attack scales, so I don't see this being a good pick at higher levels.
Sequestering Veil (Lv. 9/19/29): Unlike the other Veiled Alliance attacks, this power isn't party-friendly. It's an area burst this time, which restrains foes and prevents them from teleporting (save ends), which can be really handy, and in addition makes all your allies who aren't next to the targets have concealment from them. This power targets Fortitude, but in this case, you'll be using it on skirmishers, so that's actually a benefit in this case. In addition, enhancing this power with a minor action means foes take a penalty to their saving throws against the effect, which is just what you want. Only the damage scales in paragon tier, but at level 29, it becomes an area burst 2. Whether this power is worth a level 29 daily slot is definitely something to consider, however.
Veiled Arcana (Lv. 2): You or an ally get combat advantage when using an Arcane attack, for the cost of a minor action. Solid.
Veiled Escape (Lv. 6): A nice pickup, which boosts either you or an ally's shift and gives the target concealment. Useful if you have a Cunning Rogue in the party, or for a ranged character who's too close to an enemy for comfort.
Sensory Absorption (Lv. 10): This power doesn't really have combat application. Still, seeing an hearing as if you were in another creature's space may have its uses, especially in an espionage or stealth campaign.
Concealed Conspirators: Excise from Sight now makes two allies, or yourself and one ally, invisible. Definitely a solid buff to it.
Expanded Excision: Any enemies next to Excise from Sight's target also lose sight of whoever becomes invisible. Depends on how often enemies cluster up.
Dependable Excision: Even if Excise from Sight misses, you still become invisible anyway. Having a dependable invisibility power can be useful.
Master Preserver: This path technically doesn't require you to have the Veiled Alliance Theme, only be an Arcane Class. Taking this path means you're barred from ever using the Arcane Defiling power again. You do get a bonus to some Athas-friendly skills, and on an action point, you get a Arcane Defiling-like attack or damage reroll, only without the devouring the life force of the lands and your allies. Its level 16 feature, though, is especially handy. When you spend a healing surge, you give an ally surgeless healing, and you get a bonus to arcane attack rolls. If you're a Constitution-focused caster, like an Infernal Warlock, Valorous Bard, Shielding Swordmage, or Summoning Wizard, you'll definitely like that part. Its powers are nice too, with Vital Spell boosting the power of an At-Will you use, in addition to granting some healing, Life Shield providing an Aegis of Shielding-like damage reduction effect, and Light of the Lost sun damaging enemies and preventing them from using recharge powers, before providing a rather big zone that gives allies free healing or extra radiant damage on all their attacks. A very nice path for Arcane casters that would like to inject a slice of healing into their repertoire.
Veiled Guardian: An odd path, in that it focuses on the use of Weapons unlike all the other Veiled Alliance powers. This path adds some defender into your character, with a free bonus to Will, insight, and perception, and an action point feature that marks a foe and makes it grant combat advantage (save ends). Its level 16 feature allows you to mark enemies next to you who are hit by your allies' arcane attacks, which means you'll want your allies to have arcane attacks. Its encounter power allows you to mark an enemy and restrict its attacks to basic attacks; enhancing it with a minor action gives an ally a shift if you hit. Its utility power is a move action with damage reduction, knocking foes who make OAs prone, and a free mark at the end. Its daily power is actually really potent, with a close burst mark (save ends) followed by a stance that's basically Combat Challenge that uses Opportunity Actions. Overall, only an actual defender can make any use of this path, and they have much better options.
So what classes make the best adherents of the Veiled Alliance? The original Arcane Controller, the Wizard, makes a good fit. The powers are all quite nice, and Wizards have generally free minor actions to be able to use them to their fullest extent.
Beyond Wizards, any class with free minor actions can use this well. Sorcerers, in particular, can make good use of the ally-friendly close blasts to help deal good damage and help their friends out at the same time. Other controllers can also make good use of the powers; druids are used to being near the front line, so they may like to pick them up. Fighters also can work, surprisingly enough; ally-friendly mass-marking and enemy debuffs sure sound good to me.