December 14, 2010

Dark Sun: Thri-Kreen of Athas

Recently WotC rereleased the Dark Sun setting for 4E. This article is part of a series that examines a release from 2E Dark Sun and sees how and if it can be integrated with the new 4E version of the world setting.

The sourcebook we’re looking at today is Thri-Kreen of Athas published in 1995. It is softcover and runs 128 pages. The book is divided into 7 chapters, with an appendix. Also included is a large fold-out poster. As the title suggests, this supplement covers the race of the Thri-Kreen.

Unlike other Introductions, which give nothing but a “here’s what’s in the book”, this one actually has some content in it. There is a short history of Athas as it pertains to the kreen. It also mentions here how there are different types of kreen, of which thri-kreen is the most well known among the non-kreen. The Introduction ends with large glossary of kreen terms.


Chapter 1: Psychological Nature
As the chapter title suggests, this chapter goes into the mindset of the thri-kreen. The first, and most important to a thri-kreen, is the Clutch, Pack and Nation. Thri-kreen are very pack oriented and this section goes further into this. It covers such things as Breaking the Ties, Clutch Leadership, Clutch Hierarchy, the law of the Clutch.

It next goes into the Hunt, which covers the most important daily activity of a thri-kreen. It discusses the preparation for the Hunt, the Prey, Hunting, After the Hunt, When the Prey is Scarce, and Other Types of Hunt. This can help a thri-kreen character take on the outlook of his race.

To expound on this concept the next section goes into the Mentality and World View of the thri-kreen. This is followed by their views on the other races. It goes into each other race and gives the typical attitude toward that race. While a player is free to react to the different races as they please, this does give some good suggestions.

The chapter ends with the thri-kreen stance on magic (they can’t use) and psionics (which they can use). Obviously in 4E, races are not limited in what class they play, so a wizard is an acceptable class in the 4E setting.

Chapter 2: Physical Nature
All about the anatomy of the thri-kreen. While it is fascinating, there is not a lot here that is strictly useful. It goes into the various parts of the body, skeleton, muscles, head, thorax, limbs, abdomen. Except for adding minute detail I can’t conceive of when such information will be useful.

The chapter also goes into reproduction and mating. It also mentions the life cycle of a thri-kreen, which might help with role-playing a thri-kreen. One thing to note is that the 2E thri-kreen had a paralytic poison they could secrete. In 4E, you would need the Thri-Kreen Predator racial paragon path to achieve this.

Chapter 3: Combat & Special Abilities
The chapter starts off with the concept of racial memory. This is touched on in the 4E book briefly, but it does make mention of it. In effect, the information in this book is a more detailed version of what is in the 4E book. The chapter also goes into some other abilities, here is an itemized list:
Hunting. This provides the 2E hunting proficiency. In 4E a player can choose nature as a trained skill and there is a feat that also helps here.
Antennae. This provides a perception bonus and a limited form of blind-fighting. Various regular feats in 4E do the same thing.
Armor. A thri-kreen has a natural armor bonus from it’s chitin but there is no easy analogy in 4E for this. There are, however, feats that will add to AC in certain circumstances. Unarmored Agility gives +AC when not wearing any other armor.
Speed. In 4E a thri-kreen has a higher base speed (7).
Constant Activity. This is the ability to do more in less time. 4E provides this for each thri-kreen with the torpor ability.
Water Use. A thri-kreen uses less water than other races. 4E does not allow for this.
Leaping. Base thri-kreen get a slight bonus when jumping and the racial paragon class adds another power that allows better jumping.
Dodging Missiles. A 2E thri-kreen gains the ability to have missile attacks miss them. I am sure by now there is a feat that allows for something similar (though I couldn’t find such a feat when just now looking for it). At the very least there are feats that increase AC which is similar if not the same.

The chapter also goes into the disadvantages of being a thri-kreen. However, a basic design philosophy of 4E is that no one should be penalized for choosing a specific race, so the disadvantages do not apply to a 4E thri-kreen. For example, 4E thri-kreen are medium in size (instead of large) and a thri-kreen can indeed swim if they take the right skill.

The chapter next goes into how thri-kreen interact with proficiencies (the 2E version of skills). It takes a look at each proficiency and puts a thri-kreen spin on it. For example, Herbalism (or 4E Nature) uses animal parts (glands, organs, scales etc) instead of leaves.

The chapter takes an exhaustive look at the chatkcha weapon. The weapon is in the 4E setting book, though. The section also mentions some of the other weapons the thri-kreen are prone to use, but only the gythka is in the 4E book.

Next the book goes into various combat skills, but they have little to tie them with the 4E rule set, so are of no use in a 4E campaign. 4E has its own way of using natural weapons, non-lethal attacks, and unarmed combat. The 4E setting book does provide for the use of 4-armed attacks. The chapter ends by going into magical and psionic attacks. None of it would apply to a 4E campaign.

Chapter 4: Thri-Kreen Society
This chapter is rich in role-playing information. Most of the information is geared for the player, but a good GM can sift some of the information out to be used as adventure seeds.
The chapter starts with a brief description of how the politics work, basically a system wherein everyone has a vote but only person makes the decisions. From there it goes into The Challenge, a system of challenges used to determine the outcome of dominance, disputes and wars between the thri-kreen.

Next up is a discussion on religion. Thri-kreen do not worship gods but they do revere nature. If a 4E DM were to read between the lines there can still be clerics and other divine classes but their worship would be directed toward nature and elemental beings. There is also a discussion of the afterlife and the Great One, an Avangion-like being from the thri-kreen racial memory.

Next is a fairly long section dealing with their lifestyle. It starts with their perceptions of Time. Also included is the Chatkcha Ceremony (a coming of age thing), Gender Relations, Raising the Young, the Hunt, Treatment of Enemies, Travel, Camps, Jalath’gak (their beast of burden), and Death. This is followed by Customs and Practices. This section covers Trade, Art, Sculpture, Clothing, Decoration, and Recreation.

Next it goes into a thri-kreen without a clutch and how they deal with cities. There is also a section on how each city reacts to thri-kreen.

There is a fairly large section dealing with Language and Communication. It covers grammar, word structure, slang, sounds and comes with a list of sounds and how to speak as a thri-kreen with pop, clicks, etc. Mention is made on non-verbal communication, names and writing.
The chapter ends with notes on the use of equipment.

All this information will really help a player understand his thri-kreen character. There is nothing here that alters the 4E setting. However, and I will note this now though it applies in several spots, most of this information is overkill. Yes, all this information will help a player play their thri-kreen but it is almost information overload. There is so much to keep track of that very quickly a person wants to forgo the entire idea. However, if a player can integrate all this information in small chunks he can use it to augment his role-playing. I also advise a GM to add this information one piece at a time when the players run into thri-kreen. And just to prove me wrong there are some players that will really enjoy all this minutia.

Chapter 5: Pack and Nation
The chapter starts by going immediately into how the thri-kreen deal with various types of terrain in their wanderings; scrub plains, sandy wastes, etc.
From there it further breaks down the types of packs (societal groups of thri-kreen). First is the Hunting Pack and a sample pack is given, the Chtik-tek. This gives some good insight into how a specific pack functions and can be used by a DM as a group the players can run into. Next is a sample Raiding Pack, the Riik-kek.
These are followed by three samples of Special Packs that fall outside the normal two forms, Hunting and Raiding. There is the Kiltektet, a group of scholars, the Raam-tek, the thri-kreen of Raam and the third pack is the Thri-Kreen of Urik, again detailing the thri-kreen that have made this city their home.

Next in the chapter is a discussion of the varieties of thri-kreen to be found on Athas. To be expected in such a sourcebook, there is a wide variety spread throughout the world. A brief description is given for each. Of particular note is Thaythilor, a city of tohr-kreen.

The chapter ends with a note on thri-kreen of other worlds than Athas, such as Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Mystara, Krynn. It makes the supposition that the kreen originated on Athas and spread to other worlds through powerful psionics.

All the information found in this chapter is not found at all in the 4E setting book. While it doesn’t contradict anything in the 4E book, it does alter the landscape of Athas and makes reference to areas not part of the 4E setting. To include this information could produce a headache for a GM.

Chapter 6: Thri-Kreen PCs
This starts with a list of ability scores and level limits, legacies of 2E and of no use in a 4E game. It next goes into the various character classes. While the information here is geared for the 2E rule set, it can still be of use. A couple of examples are the Chakak, or thri-kreen psionicist which details their outlook on life and the pack. The portion on elemental priests is a good place to figure out how to integrate a divine class into the 4E setting.
There is a discussion on 2E character kits (2E versions of Paragon Paths). The book gives some new kits, but the kits are so basic they are covered in other forms and classes already.

Chapter 7: The Taste of Fear
This is an adventure for levels 6 to 9. Obviously it is not written for the 4E rule set so if used it will need some work first. Another problem is that it is completely set to the west of the Ringing Mountains and outside the areas described in the 4E setting book. There is also no easy way to bring it back into the areas of the 4E setting book.

The adventure is written in 3 parts with a variety of times that can happen in each part. The adventure does a good job of lacing bits of thri-kreen lore and customs throughout to make the adventure feel more thri-kreen-like. Despite it being written for thri-kreen, it is possible to run the adventure with non-thri-kreen, though I highly recommend there being at least one thri-kreen player character in the party, or else much is lost. The adventure seems to be a lead-in adventure to many more adventures as a lot is unresolved at the end of the written adventure.

The appendix adds 3 new monsters. None of these monsters are found in the 4E Dark Sun Creature Catalog.

Foldout Poster
This large poster is a collage of smaller pictures. Included are versions of the different varieties of thri-kreen with side notes giving a brief description of each. At the bottom are size comparisons and pictures of a thri-kreen during its growth stages. Also there are close-ups of select body parts for comparison and an anatomical look at the insides of a thri-kreen.

There are 28 pictures spread throughout the book. My personal opinion is that they are all of high quality and all look very nice. However, most are not good for setting a scene as the majority are simple pictures of thri-kreen.

Overall: This book can really help a player “get into” role-playing his race. The 4E setting book devotes 3 pages to the thri-kreen. The 4E book makes sure to cover some of the key points, such as clutchmates and the hunt, but this book can add so much more.

Most of the information could be considered “fluff” and thus does not directly contradict the 4E setting, at least as far their use as a race. The information could be considered minutia, but for those who like this level of deep details (and are interested in the thri-kreen) they will enjoy the book.

However, the book does discuss areas of Athas not included in the 4E setting so care should be taken when including this information, or simply not allowed. Unfortunately, the areas and information outside the 4E setting are interlaced with the other information so to include some almost means you have to include it all. It may come down to not allowing any of this book in play.
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