Alright, so you have your character idea in your head. You've got a race, a class, and a killer concept that makes it work. But, you feel that there's something that's missing. Your halfling spy needs smoke bombs for a quick getaway, or your Psion who dropped out of a Wizard Academy needs a spell or two to show that he does, indeed, know a little magic.
That's where the theme comes in. Introduced in the Dark Sun Campaign Guide, and elaborated on in Dragon 399, themes can help define your character in ways that a race and character class can't. Plus, it makes Heroic Tier that more interesting, which is always a plus.
As usual for guides like this, I'm going to be using the following rating system:
Gold stands for amazing/mandatory features. It's head and shoulders above any other choice. This won't show up often. Sky Blue is awesome. This is the cream of the crop. It's not gold, but its definitely worth consideration. Blue is good. These are solid picks that you can't go wrong with. Black is okay. It's not the best option, but you're not handicapping yourself either. Purple is meh. Situational at best, and a dead weight at worst. Red is . They're either obsoleted by other choices or just downright terrible. Stay away.
First thing to do with this guide is to define what a Theme is, as it isn't helpful if you don't know what's being discussed.
A Theme is, to go by WotC's definition, the third pillar of developing a character (the first two pillars are race and class). The idea of a theme is that it helps define your character's place in the world, and helps give some mechanics to story choices based off of a PC's background. It can also help differentiate two different characters.
For example, the Vampire class, introduced in Heroes of Shadow, is a class that doesn't have much variation in it. However, a Vampire with the Noble Adept Theme, and a Vampire with the Alchemist Theme, are differentiated from each other. One can use psionic tricks to direct damage away from itself and aid allies, while the other can craft helpful items that can help it deal with foes it might have trouble with, like swarms and insubstantial enemies.
The variation only grows with classes with a large amount of options, like the Weaponmaster Fighter. A Guardian Fighter with the Veiled Alliance Theme can use several close blast attacks to attract enemy attention, while a Great Weapon Fighter with the Wilder Theme can really pile on pain with multiple attacks and an improved critical hit range.
Basically, Themes add dimensions to a character that weren't there before.
There are two types of themes that this guide will be discussing: Dark Sun Themes, and Points of Light Themes. Both accomplish the goal that themes set out to create, but get there using different methods. Both types of themes have a few common elements: both grant a character a scaling Encounter Attack Power right from level 1, and both allow classes to swap their utility powers for Theme-specific utility powers.
Dark Sun Themes were introduced in the Dark Sun Campaign Guide. These themes were created when every class in 4e followed the AEDU-style of class, which means several of the classes introduced in the Essentials line of products can't use everything they have to offer. In addition to the benefits noted above, these themes allow characters to swap out Encounter Attack powers and Daily Attack powers that the theme offers, and they also qualify characters for Theme-specific feats and Paragon Paths. Since not all Essentials Builds use Encounter Attack Powers or Daily Attack Powers, they don't qualify for those.
Points of Light Themes were introduced in Dragon 399. These themes were created after the shift to the Essentials-style paradigm, and as such, all classes can benefit from what they offer. In addition to the goodies noted in the first paragraph, these Themes give characters 2 or 3 extra "class features." These features can range from extra languages, to skill check bonuses, to free minions or equipment.
One major difference between these two theme types is that PoL Themes are going to influence your character fairly heavily, since the extra Theme Features they grant you are always on. DS Themes on the other hand, can play an important role in your character if you swap for several Theme powers, or they could be limited to just the one extra power that you get at level 1.
Another big difference is that Dark Sun Themes are split along power source and role lines, where as the power source and roles of Points of Light Themes are blurred, and not so distinct.
Be sure to be aware of these differences when picking out a theme for your character.
Although Athas is a blasted wasteland, not everyone in it suffers endlessly. There are several who have it made, whether through a shrewd business sense, noble blood, or the favor of one of the tyrannical Sorcerer-Kings. This doesn't make life any easier though; at the end of the day, only the strong survive.
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.
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.
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.
Daily Powers 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.
Utility Powers 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.
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.
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.
Life isn't easy when your dirt poor and living in a world where everything has psychic powers and wants to kill you. Fortunately, the unwashed masses of Athas have developed a variety of ways to survive, from schmoozing (and sometimes Assassinating) richer folks, to being the best damn fighter in the arena, to escaping slavery, and even forming resistance movements against their oppressors. Skill sets that can be the jumping off points for some Athasian Adventurers.
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.
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, it is 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.
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.
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 mandatory if you can regularly mark foes.
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.
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 usesImplement 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.
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.
The City States of Athas are not the be-all end-all of civilization. Even out in the desert wastes, there is still life. People outside the walls of the City States have to rely on unusual talents to survive, whether it is harnessing the power of the elemental spirits of Athas's untamed wildlands, or utilizing a freak psionic mutation that imbues one with uncontrollable psychic power. Whatever method one uses to survive, it is hopefully enough to beat back all of the savage predators, raiders, and monstrosities that compete for the scarce and disappearing resources of a dying world.
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 in 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.
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.
Surviving the Wastelands of Athas takes a lot. One has to be swift, cunning, and able to end threats relatively quickly. Wasteland Nomads are Primal Strikers, who utilize melee or ranged weapon attacks. Wasteland Nomad powers tend to emphasize going it alone, which means you'll tend to fight some distance away from your allies if you want to emphasize this theme.
Wasteland Fury: Not a bad power. You get a free shift if an ally's not near you, and you get extra damage equal to your primary ability modifier if you have combat advantage, which helps make up for the relatively low [W] damage.
Stalking the Prey (Lv. 3/13/23): If no ally is next to you or your target, you get combat advantage for this attack, which helps if you find yourself separated from allies for a turn. Hitting with this attack nets you combat advantage for your next turn too, which isn't a bad thing. The [W] is fairly solid.
Flensing Wind Strike (Lv. 7/17/27): The [W] for this damage is absolutely pitiful for a striker power. The extra damage if a foe doesn't move could be helpful, possibly getting you an OA, but this is really more a controller power than a striker power.
Nomad's Pursuit (Lv. 5/15/25): A fairly nice "hunting" power that gives you scaling mobility, provided you use it to close on on the target of this power, and aren't next to any allies. The damage is okay, but not amazing, for a Striker power.
Monstrous Savagery (Lv. 9/19/29): This power is similar to the Battlemind's Brutal Barrage, except it provides a (save ends) attack penalty instead of knocking an enemy prone. The power's damage scales kind of oddly, first providing you with an attack bonus at level 19, then upping the damage at level 29. In the end, probably not worth it, unless you have a serious vulnerability-abusing party on your hands.
Lone Resolve (Lv. 2): You start your turn alone, you get a saving throw that is highly likely to succeed. Kind of like a Warden's Font of Life, only once per day. Sure, the power recharges if the save fails, but you don't want the save to fail in the first place.
Dune Dancer (Lv. 6): If an enemy hits you with an attack while no allies are next to you, you basically reposition yourself next to that enemy and get combat advantage. The fact that this free repositioning scales with your primary ability modifier means that this power becomes really good at higher levels.
Lone Nomad (Lv. 10): A stance that gives you resist all 7? I'm down with it. Just be sure not to end your turns next to an ally, or the stance ends.
Drag to Death: Smacking a foe with Wasteland Fury lets you slide the enemy some, then shift next to that enemy. The fact that you can't slide the enemy next to an ally definitely limits the tactical options this would provide, though.
Dune's Advantage: If you hit a foe granting you combat advantage with Wasteland Fury (something you want anyway to get the power's bonus damage), you daze the enemy you hit. Dazing is a really good condition, making this a solid pickup.
Endurance in Solitude: A bonus to healing with Second Wind is nice, but not a real big priority for most characters.
Dune Strider: Despite requiring the Wasteland Nomad theme, this path is more a controller path than a striker path. Its action point benefit gives you a defense boost and the ability to ignore difficult terrain, and its other feature gives you a bonus to nature and endurance, along with giving you resistance to Sun Sickness and Survival Days on Athas (Campaign Setting specific, on other words). The level 16 feature is nice, giving you concealment against foes you shift next to. Its encounter power is very low-damage, but if you hit with it, a foe is guaranteed to miss you next turn. Its utility power allows you to shake up enemy formations and get combat advantage. The daily power weakens foes, with damage and proning as a result of failed throws. Again, not bad as a weapon controller path, but that's what it should be taken as.
Sand Reaver: A more strikery path, this path is all about ending bloodied foes. Its action point feature gives you a bonus to attack bloodied enemies, you get a boost to your healing surges, and at level 16, your attacks vs. bloodied creatures impose attack penalties on said creatures. The attacks include a close burst that forces a foe to eat an OA if it stays near you, a stance that gives you a damage bonus whenever you drop a foe, and an attack that makes a foe not shift, and may allow you to spend a healing surge. Overall, not bad, although there are better striker paths.
What classes make the best Wasteland Nomads? The original Primal Striker, the Barbarian, has the toughness to make good use of this theme, and the big weapons with which to really use the powers.
Avengers also make good Nomads, since their class features encourage them to fight one-on-one with enemies. The combat advantage aspects of the path appeal to Rogues, and Defenders who define the front line, like Fighters and Wardens. Finally, Seekers can make good Ranged Nomads, hitting foes from afar with bows or gythkas.
Sometimes, Psionic power just surges up in people at random. They could be a high-bred noble, or a lowly slave. These Psionic savants, known as Wilders, are Psionic Strikers who use Implement powers. The chaotic powers of the Wilder tend to focus on scoring and enhancing Critical Hits.
Psychic Surge: The damage for this power is kind of low, but the temporary increased crit range is definitely something to look at. This is the kind of power that you want to whip out on an action point turn.
Wildfire Bolt (Lv. 3/13/23): The damage isn't that good for a power that hits only one target, but if you manage to critically hit with this power, you can inflict ongoing damage on that enemy and on surrounding enemies. Critical hits are hard to predict, though, even if you use this power right after psychic surge.
Mind Clash (Lv. 7/17/27): The damage is a little better than Wildfire Bolt, and critting with this power nets you some extra damage and a daze. Without critting, though, this power is subpar.
Psionic Shelter (Lv. 5/15/25):Just not a good power in general. An immediate reaction attack vs. a foe that attacks you, you get a defense bonus as an effect. Problem is, the defense bonus won't help against the triggering attack, and it doesn't even last long unless you get lucky with some critical hits, which means the defense bonus might end up being entirely useless. There are definitely better dailies out there.
Chaotic Thoughts (Lv. 9/19/29): Definitely a nice striker power. The initial damage is kind of low, but the ongoing damage scales well, and if your foe fails its save, it takes damage equal to the failed save, which is an interesting twist. Hitting the foe with a crit dazes that foe as well, which is definitely helpful.
Wilder's Armor (Lv. 2): You get a temporary bonus to defenses for a minor action, and you get some temporary HP if you crit while that defense bonus is up. Could be useful.
Wild Repulsion (Lv. 6): A stance that gives you resist 5 to all damage, and this resistance increases if you score more critical hits. Just resist 5 by itself would have been good.
Psychic Feedback (Lv. 10): A stance that makes foes take damage whenever they hurt you. Scoring a crit allows you to end the stance to hurt the foe more. The damage provided by this power doesn't scale, though, so while it may serve well in late heroic and early paragon tier, you might end up replacing it later on.
Resurgent Wilder: An excellent path for Psionic Classes that want to add some more striker into their character. As features, you get the ability to spend a healing surge when you crit, you expand the crit range of all your powers when you spend an action point, and at level 16, you get a tasty 18-20 crit range with all At-Will psionic powers. Its encounter power is a fairly powerful implement attack that inflicts save-ends stunning on a crit, a daily utility power that automatically makes you or one of your allies attacks an automatic critical hit, and a daily which inflicts ongoing damage and gives everyone an expanded crit range against the victim. Again, solid for an character with psionic At-Will powers, useless without them.
Wielder of the Way: An odd weapon-wielding path that can also be used by non-Wilder Battleminds. Its features include expending a power point during a rest to give temporary bonus damage to a weapon you wield, paragon power points, an action point feature that gives you a Power Point back if you attack with the AP, and at level 16, a bonus to saving throws if you hit with an augmented weapon attack. Its encounter attack is low damage, but when augmented makes the enemy provoke OAs whenever it attacks. Its encounter power makes a weapon you wield daze the next foe it hits. Its daily power dominates a foe you hit. This path only really works for Battlemind and Ardents, and there are likely better paths out there, but its not terrible either.
Just about every Psionic Class can make use of the Wilder because of the Resurgent Wilder path. While Monks will likely want Skipping Stone Flurry or Starblade Flurry so that they can still use Flurry of Blows with Ranged attacks, the expanded crit range is definitely something they can use. Psions, Battleminds, and Ardents especially like Resurgent Wilder, since At-Will attacks is basically all they do.
Beyond Psionic Classes, classes that make multiple attack rolls can make good use of Psychic Surge. Rangers, Barbarians, and Avengers all possess the multi-attacks that can really benefit from the expanded crit Range, Rangers especially due to possessing several minor action attacks. Tempest Fighters also possess enough multi-attacking encounter powers that they might see Psychic Surge as a worthy investment.
In the days since the fall of Nerath, a lot of knowledge about how the world works has disappeared. Fortunately though, it's not all gone, and there are groups of people dedicated to keeping it around. Whether it is a Guild of Alchemists, a lone wanderer teaching others the secret to befriending beasts, an Order of Magicians, or a lone Wizard and her dutiful apprentice, there are those who ensure that the world's secrets are not forgotten.
The ability to mix different ingrediants together to create useful items is definitely a good skill to have. The adventurers who specialize in this are known as Alchemists, and whether they're traveling apothecaresists who deal in self-made poisons, herbalists who create home-spun remedies, or mad scientists with a penchant for lobbing explosives around, all can benefit from this theme. The theme itself is associated with no power source, and it deals with the creation and exploitation of alchemical items.
One thing to note is that many alchemical items are currently uncommon, which means they can't be created without a DM's permission. So be sure to clear that with your DM first.
Alchemy Feat: Theme wouldn't work without it, and hey, bonus feats are awesome!
Free Alchemical Item: At the end of a short rest, you can create one Alchemical item for free. This effectively makes said item your theme encounter power, which means that you have an incredibly versatile power on your hands. Know you're going to be facing a skirmishing wolf pack? Make a tanglefoot bag! Wraiths in your future? A dollop of Ghoststrike Oil is just what you need? Mobs of minions? A blast of Alchemist's Fire should do the trick! Just remember that you can only have 1 free item at a time, so you can't stock up on free stuff. There has to be a limit somewhere.
Aqua Regia (Lv. 2): If your party is trying to break something metal, you can give them a big bonus to do so. Kind of niche, really, unless the kind of enemies you fight like to hide behind metal doors and store their valuables in metal boxes.
Alchemist's Escape (Lv. 6): You throw a smoke bomb and use it to escape foes' notice. Useful if you find yourself getting mobbed, or want to reposition yourself for a flank and not get hit by an opportunity attack.
Goblin Oil (Lv. 10): An interesting power, to be sure. You create a zone that forces acrobatics checks. Creatures that fail it fall prone, and gain a vulnerability to fire damage, which is nice if you or an ally are into burning things.. It's not ally friendly though, so be careful about using it.
Who make the best alchemists? Well, just about anyone can use the theme and be competent with it, but there are some Artificer feats that enhance Alchemical items, which means that either being an Artificer or multiclassing into Artificer could be handy if you want to boost your proficiency with alchemical items. Creating Alchemical items is based off of skills you have, meaning that Rogues, Bards, Rangers, and Assassins will have an easier time accessing different recipes. The Mark of Making is also something to consider, if your DM allows Dragonmarks (or if you're in Eberron).
Two other things to note: Warforged have several exclusive items with really jive with Alchemical items, making them probably the best users of this theme. The Alchemist Savant Paragon Path is also a good pickup if you want to continue focusing on Alchemical items as a major part of your character, although you'll need a good Intelligence modifier if you want to make the best use of it.
There are already several ways to get helpful pets; Rangers, Sentinel Druids, and Arcane Casters all have ways to get buddies. This is another way, which grants you an animal friend of your very own. Your animal friend can also help you out in several ways, although don't expect your little terrier or your raven to be an expert combatant. Animal Master powers are either primal or martial, and they're all about your companion pitching in somehow.
Animal Minion: This is the reason why you take the theme. Your animal minion is pretty frail, and even the article in which they're introduced suggests keeping them out of the line of fire. If a minion dies, you'll have to wait some time before you can befriend another one. There are 5 kinds of Animal Minions, detailed below: Cat - A helpful companion if you favor sneaking around, cats remove penalties for quickly moving while hidden. Dog - Dogs can help you track dudes, giving you a sizable perception bonus to do so. Hawk - Hawks help you spot creatures from the air, giving you a big perception bonus when looking for them. Monkey - Tricky little monkies can pick pockets for you Raven - Ravens can perform sleight of hand, and are also the quickest animal minion you can have.
Distracting Attack: If you're within 5 squares of your animal minion and an enemy, you can get combat advantage on that turn. Not a bad way to spend a minor action, and you can keep your pet relatively safe too.
Timely Trick (Lv. 2): It's hard to rate this power, because what it can do is so nebulously defined. That said, it takes a standard action, and you can usually better use those to attack something.
Guard My Back (Lv. 6): If an enemy flanks you, and you have your animal minion next to you, you get a defense bonus and don't grant combat advantage. Not bad, but it relies on your animal minion being in the thick of things, and they really can't take a hit.
Shared Sight (Lv. 10): This power is not meant to be used in the middle of combat; it's a scouting power, through and through. That said, sending a hawk or raven to scout out what lies ahead means your party has valuable intel for coming battles, which is definitely helpful.
So, who most benefits from having an animal minion? Rogues are a pretty good candidate. Getting a turn of combat advantage is nice, and the cat and raven minions synergize with the rogue skill list. Blackguards too love having combat advantage, and getting a bonus to some of the dexterity skills on their list can help counteract armor penalties that they have.
Beyond those two, and class that has stealth, thievery, or perception can benefit from a minion's bonus, and getting combat advantage is never a bad thing (especially if you multiclass rogue to get a once-per-encounter sneak attack).
Mage's Guilds are a pretty good place to learn some tricks for adventuring. Whether you're a wizard, a warlock, or something else, the abilities you can pick up as an Order Adept can be life saving. Order Adepts powers are all arcane, and tend towards control effects.
Argent Rain: A nice area burst power that creates a damaging zone. The zone's damage scales up, although the initial damage doesn't really do so. It's not ally-friendly either, so be careful where you light it up.
Level 5: A bonus to arcana rolls, and a differing benefit depending on if you're a Wizard or not. Wizards add one more level 2 power to their spellbook. Other Adepts can choose Wizard utility powers when they get utility powers. This feature is pretty nice, especially since Wizards have some sick utilities.
Level 10: Your arcana bonus from level 5 doubles, and you get a free +2 bonus to Will. Yeah, this is real nice.
What classes are the best Order Adept? Surprisingly, Wizards don't get as much from this theme as other classes do (although it's still a good pick for them). Classes with poor utility support at the moment, like Runepriests, Seekers, or Artificers, can appreciate the huge boost to their utility choices. Classes with poor Will Defense can like the boost to their weakest defense.
Finally, Weaponmaster Fighters can like Argent Rain. Hey, ranged multi-marking is a nice pickup!
Toiling for years under an experienced arcanist can definitely be grueling. The power you can learn from these old masters though, is not to be underestimated. Not only that, but remaining in contact with your old master can definitely open up opportunities that you wouldn't have otherwise. Wizard's Apprentice powers all have the arcane power source, and they have some interesting control effects.
Color Orb: This power is good. Decent damage for a control power, and it dazes on a hit, which is pretty powerful right from the get-go. It has decent scaling as well. It's short range and only hits a single target, but it's pretty good overall.
Disappear (Lv. 2): Invisibility is nice and all, but the duration of this power is too short for it being a daily. Look somewhere else for your invisibility fix.
Winged Sted (Lv. 6): Flying is a nice movement mode. Ignoring difficult terrain and getting up on high places without needing to climb is nice.
Minor Polymorph (Lv. 10): This isn't a combat power, but a scouting one. What's kind of odd is its open-endedness; you can turn into just about any tiny natural beast. Still, something you can use when being attacked might be more usful overall.
Some of the best Wizard's apprentices are Wizards (surprise surprise). Sorcerers too, can make good use of the theme. In fact, anyone who wants a dazing power at level 1 is well advised to check this theme out.
Some characters get their start through organizations like a church or a library. Said organizations will likely charge their members to find lore or artifacts that pertain to their goals. And sometimes, a PC can just see the future.
The various Churches of the world regularly grant divine powers to Clerics and Paladins. There are some lesser rites though, that grant only a little divine power to characters. This could be to augment a Cleric's already formidable powers, or it could be investing a Wizard follower of a God of magic with some measure of divine authority. At any rate, this theme is Divine, with strong leader overtones. The powers buff allies, including some minor healing effects.
Word of Comfort (Lv. 2): A mass saving throw for all your allies could help turn an encounter around, and free healing is okay. The healing doesn't scale up though, and overall you could probably replace this at higher levels. It also takes a standard action to activate, which kind of sucks.
Word of Protection (Lv. 6): A huge bonus to defenses for your whole party, but none of you can attack or the effect ends. A good power if you want your party to retreat, but practically useless in a offensively-tailored party.
Sanctifying Word (Lv. 10): This is overall similar to Word of Protection, only your party can attack. Also minor undead punishment. Overall, kind of meh.
Well, any variety of Cleric is an obvious pick for this theme. Wardens like this theme too, since the level 10 feature synergizes pretty well with Font of Life, and it can help compliment the Lifespirit build's leader subrole. If you want to help by buffing allies or debuffing enemies, then this is helpful.
Some people want to know things. It could be a monster's weaknesses, geaneologies of kings, or the history of the dawn war. Adventuring scholars use minor Arcane powers to help them root out the answers they want. The theme possesses hints of controller and leader.
Extra Language: How important this feature is depends on the campaign, but you get it for free in addition to your power, so it's cool.
Use Vulnerability: If you succeed on a hard knowledge check on an enemy, you get fairly substantial against that enemy based off of your Intelligence modifier. Failing the check nerfs your attack, so you obviously want a high knowledge skill if you use this power.
Level 5: You learn a new knowledge skill, and a new language. The language is of questionable use, but since your theme power runs off of how many knowledge skills you have, this ends up being pretty solid.
Level 10: You know every language now, which can be helpful. You can also use Arcana decipher magic scripts, although I'm not sure if anything prevented you from doing that before.
Useful Lore (Lv. 2): This daily power gives you a substantial boost to a skill of your choice for an encounter. Could be helpful, I suppose.
Inimical Lore (Lv. 6): You and your allies can deal elemental damage for a round in each combat. Helpful if you encounter a lot of enemies with weaknesses, or could be used to make the whole party exploit radiant or cold damage if one of your party members is into that.
Defensive Lore (Lv. 10): This power is actually pretty cool. You choose one creature origin, and severely debuff foes in a zone you create with this power that can be sustained. Said debuff includes an attack penalty, a defense penalty, and halving damage. If you have a party that can slide or immobilize foes, this could potentially help neuter a difficult fight. Just be careful to not hurt allies with this power; it doesn't discriminate between a fire elemental and a genasi buddy.
This theme depends on having a high Intelligence score, and having a high Wisdom score is helpful since having high Nature and Dungeoneering can make it more useful. So classes like Wizards, Invokers, Artificers, Shamans, and Avengers like this theme. Grabbing knowledge skills with a background is definitely helpful if your class doesn't get that many.
Seers can see the future. This can obviously be very helpful for an adventurer, but second sight can only help so much without other abilities to back it up, at least if you want to survive in a dungeon. Seer abilites have the Arcane power source, and they mostly focus on seeing the future (obviously).
Cast Fortune: This power can be controversial. Knowing what is coming up can be helpful (knowing ahead of time that you can crit with a high-damage daily power is obviously great). Still, some allies won't want you to roll for them no matter what, and blowing your bad luck on "trivial" rolls is a nebulous line. Do monster knowledge checks you know you'd fail, even if you rolled well on them, count as trivial? How about athletics checks to skip across the battlefield? The safest option is to check what is OK with your DM.
Clairvoyance (Lv. 2): This is not a combat power, but one that is used to gather information. Spying on a secret meeting of villains can be helpful, as can seeing enemy formations in a dungeon. It is only once a day though, so use it wisely.
Moment of Peril (Lv. 6): A classic seer trope: seeing an enemy's attack before they've made it, and stepping aside as they strike. That's basically what this power does for you, and as it includes a shift, that makes it extra awesome.
Eye of Seeing (Lv. 10): For one encounter per day, you can boost your perception and insight checks, and can see invisible creatures. Could be helpful, but kind of situational overall.
What classes make great seers? Well, all of them. Any class can appreciate seeing the future and perception rerolls. In fact, a seer is likely more defined by their allies: Avengers can help mitigate back luck through double rolling, and Rogues and Fighters can have high enough accuracy to make middling rolls hit their targets.