One thing I’ve really enjoyed about themes is that multiple themes can work for the same character depending on what the character’s focus is. Consider a person who grew up in a small farming village that was wiped out by orcs. That character could be a farmer, if they want to focus on their old profession; an epicurean, if they’ve recognized how fleeting life is and want to make the most of it; an expatriate, if they want to keep their small-town lifestyle and ideals alive even after they’re forced to move to a city; a pacifist, if they’ve seen enough death for one lifetime; today’s theme, if the orc attack itself drives them forward, and so on. Each sets a different tone for the character and provides wildly different powers. It’s not as simple as “I learned to farm, so I am a farmer”. It’s more like “farming is what I want to do with my life” and deciding how that fits into an adventuring career.
Your life is defined by disaster. Some natural, magical, or monstrous tragedy left it mark on you when you were young. Whether it left you an orphan, destroyed half your town, or only affected you deeply and permanently, it still haunts you wherever you go. You aren’t proud of your scars, but they do galvanize you and give you the focus and experience you need to help others in the same situation. If you can survive the worst of your past, there’s nothing the future holds that can stop you.
Theme Skills: Escape Artist, Knowledge (any one), Perception, Stealth, Survival
Theme Feats: Diehard, Endurance, Great Fortitude, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Toughness
Novice Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 3rd tier.
- The survivor arrives in a small town shortly after a major disaster. The town was largely unprepared for whatever happened, and its residents need help identifying the breadth of the damage and recovering. At best the survivor can help them prepare for a future disaster, but at worst he or she may need to convince the remaining residents that the town cannot recover and must be abandoned.
- A flash flood hits a mining town, the result of a subterranean lake escaping its confines. The town is completely unprepared for a flood, leaving the survivor to coordinate a response, including saving as many people as possible. But after the waters have subsided, there’s still the question of whether the mining itself caused the flood. The survivor may need to investigate the shady practices of the mining company, but he or she may also need to absolve an honest company from the wrath of a public looking for someone to hold responsible.
Expert Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 6th tier.
- A group of monsters is working their way through various small towns, razing buildings to the ground and killing everybody they find. Strangely, the monsters are of a type that normally would not band together like this, or would not be so thorough in leaving nobody alive. The survivor has to find out why the creatures have become so relentlessly hostile, but also persuade towns in their path that the unrealistic rumors they’ve heard are true.
- The lone survivor of a major disaster has lost their grip on reality, lashing out at everything and everybody even tangentially related to the suffering that befell them. They are skilled, crafty, and relentless in their hunt for somebody to blame. The survivor may be able to point them to the true culprit, but more likely he or she must stop them, knowing that killing them will just make them another victim of the disaster.
Advanced Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 9th tier.
- The survivor is called to handle an oncoming disaster at a small but major site, like an orc raid on a temple or a tornado at an isolated university. But just as the disaster is imminent, a second one hits, like an earthquake or a botching summoning ritual. The second disaster disrupts the plans for the first, leaving the survivor to pull things together and keep everybody safe from both at the same time.
- A group of magical researchers created a new spell for battlefield applications, but a mistake in their practical testing set the spell loose on a major city. The results were widespread devastation on the scale of war but much, much faster. The city needs the survivor’s expertise, not only with its response but also in containing the magic so the same devastation does not repeat itself.
Legendary Quest: The disaster from the survivor’s childhood is happening again, only this time it isn’t an isolated incident. It’s spreading across the continent in ways that defy precedence or explanation, hitting several towns at once and leaving few witnesses. Even if the survivor has come to terms with his or her past and can face the disaster head-on, the real challenge is in finding its source, going to the heart of the most dangerous calamity in ages and stopping it before it tears the world apart.
Combat-Ready (Ex): Disaster can strike at any time. You gain a +2 bonus to initiative checks, and you can draw a weapon as a free action during a surprise round or the first round of combat.
Ferocity (Ex): You can fight even when you’re on your last legs. You gain the ferocity universal monster ability. You must be at least 4th tier before selecting this ability.
Improved Survivor (Ex): You’re an expert in the field related to the disaster that drives you. Your bonus from the magic defender, monster scholar, or wilderness survivor ability doubles. You must be at least 7th tier before selecting this ability.
Magic Defender (Ex): The magic that hurt you once won’t work again. Select two spell descriptors. You gain a bonus to saving throws against effects with one or both of those descriptors. This bonus is equal to half your theme tier.
Monster Scholar (Ex): You’ve studied the creatures of the world. You gain a +2 theme bonus to monster Knowledge checks.
Survivor Guilt (Su): You won’t lose anybody else. Allies adjacent to you gain a theme bonus to Constitution checks made to stabilize. This bonus equals half your theme tier. You must be at least 4th tier before selecting this ability.
Survivor Rage (Su): Fallen allies spurs you onward. You gain a +2 bonus to d20 rolls for each unconscious ally you can see within 30 feet. You must be at least 7th tier and possess the survivor guilt ability before selecting this ability.
Twitchy (Ex): You’re never getting caught unaware again. Your bonus to initiative checks from the combat-ready ability increases to +4, and you can always act during a surprise round. You must be at least 4th tier and possess the combat-ready ability before selecting this ability.
Wilderness Survivor (Ex): You’re always on edge for natural disasters. You gain a theme bonus to Knowledge (nature) and Survival checks to detect and avoid natural hazards and dangerous weather. This bonus equals half your theme tier.
Tenacious (Ex): You cling tight to life. You do not die from hit point damage until your hit points drop to a negative amount equal to twice your Constitution score or lower. This does not apply if you would normally be destroyed at zero hit points. You also gain a theme bonus to Constitution checks made to stabilize. This bonus equals half your theme tier.
Unkillable (Ex): Even deadly blows can’t stop you. Once per day when an attack or effect would kill you, instead your hit point total becomes one higher than the amount that would kill you. If this puts your hit points at a negative value, you fall unconscious and stabilize.
Live On (Ex): You do not die from hit point damage until your hit points drop to a negative amount equal to three times your Constitution score or lower. This does not apply if you would normally be destroyed at zero hit points. Also, once per day as a move action you can become immune to death effects, ability drain, and energy drain. This immunity lasts for one minute.