Themes: Atoner

This is the only theme I’ve written where I really, really feel like it should have an alignment restriction. I have a hard time believing a character could have this theme and remain non-good, and that bears itself out in the class features. But it is theoretically possible to take this theme and be some flavor of neutral or evil, so I’m not putting any such restriction in the rules themselves.

It’s also my first foray into Paizo-style design, where you take some existing character and try to write rules for them. I didn’t go fully down the nonsensical well of “you can play the character we had in mind and nothing else, so I hope you like Sherlock Holmes/Harry Dresden/Batman/etc.” but you can see glimmers of the character I had in mind here and there.


You’ve hurt a lot of people. Through ignorance, apathy, or outright malice you have caused a great deal of suffering, and you’ve now seen the error or your ways. Whether you want to make reparations to the families of those you killed as an assassin, fight for the rights of a race you tried to oppress or wipe out, or help the people you used to rule as an evil overlord, your journey is fueled by a need to balance the scales. You may never be forgiven, and you may be a pariah until your dying day, but you have to try.

Theme Skills: Disguise, Intimidate, Knowledge (religion), Sense Motive, Use Magic Device
Theme Feats: Combat Casting, Deadly Aim, Exotic Weapon Proficiency, Intimidating Prowess, Power Attack, Spell Focus

Theme Quests

Novice Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 3rd tier.

  • One of the victims, or a close associate of one of the victims, of the atoner’s pre-atonement life has found him or her. While the atoner’s intentions are genuine, the victim is likely to see it as an insincere ploy and an attempt to escape punishment. The victim isn’t powerful, but they’re armed with factual information about the atoner’s sins and a drive to see justice done.
  • A job or quest arrives for which the atoner’s old self has the perfect skill set. Falling back into old habits would be straightforward and easy, but keeping on the path to redemption will be hard and dangerous. The atoner has a chance to prove that his or her new outlook can be as successful as the old one, even if the methods vary wildly.

Expert Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 6th tier.

  • A copycat is following the atoner’s example, picking up where he or she left off before atoning. They’re doing it with such dedication it’s almost like the atoner has relapsed, and those who don’t know the atoner may think that’s true. The atoner must not only protect his or her reputation, but also stop the copycat and potentially show them the light as well.
  • Word of the atoner’s misdeeds have reached an influential section of the populace, who demand that he or she be officially punished for his or her crimes. Most of what they say is true, and while they may be jumping to conclusions about his or her current actions, their rage is not completely unfounded. The atoner must fend off their accusations without being able to honestly counter them.

Advanced Quests: These quests are appropriate for advancing through 9th tier.

  • Some small act from the atoner’s part has had large consequences, like the murder or disappearance of an influential figure or the destruction of a small village acting as an outpost against invasion. Some years later, that act has caused a major problem, like evil wizards taking over a town or an invasion of gnolls. Nobody necessarily blames the atoner and they may not even know he or she was involved, but the atoner can connect the dots. To truly make up for his or her past misdeeds, he or she has to correct the problem they caused.
  • The atoner finds himself or herself in a situation where his or her old methods are not only easier, they’re also the best way to keep everybody safe. Following his or her new outlook is not only hard, it also puts the atoner’s allies and other innocent people in danger. The atoner might decide that he or she can dip briefly into their old methods, in which case there may be fallout from those who have been following his or her path, or may stick to their guns, accepting the consequences for others.

Legendary Quest: A god, demon prince, or similarly powerful figure offers the atoner a chance at total redemption. All the atoner must do is complete a final task, one that seems arduous but doable, and the figure will wipe the cosmic slate clean. This may be a secret test of character, where the figure wants to see if the atoner is truly better or if he or she only wants their debts ostensibly repaid, or it may be a trick, where the figure wants to leverage the atoner’s guilt to accomplish some misdeed. With everything the atoner wants on the line, the actions he or she takes will reveal his or her true self.

Theme Abilities

Constant Reminder (Ex): The sins of your past give you resolve. Select one physical object related to the people you hurt before you began to atone, like a trinket or an article of clothing. As long as you carry that object with you, once per day you can reroll a saving throw against a mind-affecting effect. You must decide to use this ability before the results are revealed. You must take the second roll, even if it is worse. You must be at least 4th tier before selecting this ability.
Doldrums (Ex): You can dig yourself out of emotional holes. When you suffer a morale penalty, that penalty is halved.
Face in the Crowd (Ex): Sometimes it’s easier to be nobody. You gain a bonus to Disguise checks to disguise yourself as a generic person, but a penalty to Disguise checks to disguise yourself as a specific person. This bonus and penalty are equal to one-half your theme tier.
Get Behind Me (Ex): You won’t let anybody else fall. When an attack would reduce an adjacent ally below 0 hit points, as an immediate action you can move into your ally’s square and move your ally into your square. If you do, your ally takes no damage from the attack and you take the damage instead. You and your ally can move no more than 5 feet as part of this action.
Healing Penance (Su): You seek salvation through pain. As a standard action you can lose any number of hit points and heal an adjacent creature for the same amount. You can heal up to ten times your theme tier in this way per day. As this is not positive energy, you cannot use this ability to damage undead creatures.
Ignoring the Line (Su): You decide whether or not the universe perceives you as evil. You can activate your evil side as a free action and you can maintain it for a number of rounds per day equal to your theme tier. While using your evil side, spells, items, and effects treat you as though the moral component of your alignment is evil. You must be at least 4th tier and possess the skirting the line ability before selecting this ability.
Nobody Dies (Ex): Killing no longer interests you. When you would kill a creature with hit point damage, you instead knock them unconscious. If the creature would be destroyed at 0 hit points, you reduce them to 1 hit point.
Skirting the Line (Su): When you cast spells with the evil descriptor it is not an evil act, and you can use evil items without penalty even if you are not evil.
Take Me Instead (Su): You team is worth any sacrifice. When an ally within 30 feet must make a saving throw against a death effect, you can make the saving throw instead. If you do, the effect targets you instead of your ally. This occurs even if you fail your saving throw against the death effect. You cannot use this ability if you are immune to death effects. You must be at least 7th tier and possess the get behind me ability before selecting this ability.

Advancement Abilities

Determinator (Ex): You won’t die while you have people to protect. If one of your allies falls unconscious due to hit point loss during battle, you gain the ferocity universal monster ability and you can not not die from hit point loss. When combat ends, this ability ends. You can use this ability once per day.
Redemption (Sp): Others should follow in your footsteps. At 7th tier, once per day you can cast atonement as a spell-like ability, but only to offer redemption to evil creatures.
Absolution (Sp): Your efforts are finally being recognized. At 10th tier, if you are under any deal or curse that affects what happens to your soul after death, that deal or curse ends. If you have the evil subtype, you lose it.

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4 Responses to Themes: Atoner

  1. Alfred C says:


    A scorned lover, a once trustworthy friend, a dogma you thought was right and true, A country you once believed in. Wherever the knife came that stabbed your back, you never want to feel it again. Trust is something precious, worth more than all the riches in the world or a empty word used to fool the naive and ignorant. Though some of not many may see you as paranoid you know the cost and act to ensure you are savvy than your future traitors…even if sometimes your naysayers could be right…

    • MssngrDeath says:

      I’m not sure what this theme would be on its face. A cook’s goal is to be great at cooking, a dragonkin’s goal is to be a dragon, and an atoner’s goal is to atone. A betrayed’s job is to…be good at being betrayed?

      What would a character with this theme want? If he wants vengeance, then the theme is about hunting down those who wronged him (the retributor). If he wants to never be betrayed again, then the theme is about being suspicious (the skeptic, perhaps). If it’s about both, that’s fine as long as the abilities reflect that dual nature. But does he think trust is a valuable commodity or an empty word? Is the paranoia build into the theme, or is it just an option? Above all, how does he work in a cooperative gaming activity where the characters are intended to work together? This theme sounds like it’s for an angry, isolated character who tries to be one step ahead of everybody else, which requires a good player, a delicate hand, and a lot of out-of-character conversation.

      I think the betrayed would lend itself well to flavorful, balanced mechanics and with some tweaking and focus would get its point across excellently. I just don’t think it’s a point I want to explore.

      • Alfred C says:

        Didn’t realize until after post but betrayed is already a kind of story archetype in pathfinder (according to hero labs at least)… :/

        • MssngrDeath says:

          Sort of. It’s a story feat. It boils down to “you can survive when allies attack you, which makes you worse at being an ally until you’re suddenly better at it.” It’s in the Agents of Evil book. Draw conclusions accordingly.

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