Dark Sun 2010
Anyone who has read about the Dark Sun encounters probably knows that pregen characters are not very well optimized. That said, the character that has caught the most flack for being virtually unplayable is Castri, the marauding ranger gladiator. I joined Dark Sun encounters late in this season, and I just completed my 3rd game last night. Castri was the character I was given because he was unwanted, and the table was one player short. Always up for a challenge I happily accepted this character. I was knocked unconscious in both of my first two encounters, but hey, that's Dark Sun (to some degree). After three sessions, however I think I've figured it out.
Play the Melee Ranger as a Ranged Rogue
On the surface Castri appears to be a melee character, but with his gimped hit points, healing surges, and defences, he goes down FAST if he's up close and personal for too long. Thus, to be successful with Castri, he MUST be played like a ranged ROGUE.
How to Achieve Greatness with Castri
Castri is trained in Stealth, Dungeoneering, Nature, Acrobatics and Athletics (Yes, athletics... this was one of two serious errors in the original Castri pregen sheet. The other was that he was shorted one healing surge.), which allow him to make some great knowledge checks, perform awesome physical feats, and fade into the shadows to avoid attacks. To be successful with castri, you REALLY need to be skill checks whore and get away with everything that you can. Secondly, by now most Castri players should have a Carrikal (axe), 3 throwing axes, and 2 daggers. My opening strategy is as follows: get to the back, make a dungeoning check for traps, make a stealth check to dissapear to get a bonus on ranged attacks (especially if there's dark spots), and then proceed to throw 2 hand axes on the first turn, and 2 daggers on the second turn (and don't forget to pick 'em back up at the end of the encounter!). This leaves me armed with a carrikal axe (1d8) and a hand axe (1d6) for melee. When I do make a melee attack, I charge in to get the charge and running attack bonuses, and I immediately use encounter powers to knock creatures into objects (hoping for extra damage, prone, daze, whatever). If I hit and disoriented my target, depending on the situation and terrain I might even make another stealth check to avoid any attacks that I can.
Yes, This Really Does Work
I followed the strategy above last night, and Castri shined brighter than all the other characters on the board. I made lots of checks. My first check got us a suprise round. Another allowed me to be virtually invisible for most of the encoutner (there was a very dark area on the map). I knocked creatures into pillars to do extra damage. Overall, Castri dealt a little over 40 damage this encounter. Play ended when one of the AOE creatures tried to run away, but the virtually invisible Castri hurled projectiles from the shadows, hitting with both attacks (with the help of elven accuracy, non crits) rolling MAX DAMAGE to deal the exact amount of damage the monster had left in HP, achieving a Moment of Greatness and high-fives all around the table.
So my advice to all of you forlorn Castri enthusiests is as follows: if you haven't been doing well, rethink how you play this character. Just because Castri is a bloodthirsty gladiator doesn't mean he's stupid. It takes a lot of cunning to survive a life in the pits, and given his personality I'm sure Castri is more than happy to let other morons charge forward to their doom, while he quickly, cautiously, and ever so carefully, makes the best tactical moves possible.