On Athas, arcane magic draws on the vitality of plants, animals, and minor primal spirits. But if a practitioner draws too deeply, the life form fueling the spell might be damaged or destroyed. This act of destruction is called defiling. The greater the spell, the more widespread the damage is. Defiling is a major cause for the world’s foul condition. Other power sources do not have this corrupting effect on the environment.
An Athasian spellcaster has a choice between defiling and preserving. Defiling is easy and intoxicating, but it destroys or damages the life from which a spell draws power. Preserving is difficult and requires care, and it avoids harming the world around the caster. When you begin as a spellcaster, you might dabble in both arts, or you could let your morals or needs dictate your choices. Eventually, your use or rejection of defiling defines you as a defiler or a preserver.
Defiling and Preserving
When you use any arcane power, you can choose to defile, destroying mundane plant life within at least 1 square of you. When you use a daily arcane attack power, the damage to the world extends out a number of squares equal to half the level of the power you use. This destruction does not normally affect creatures or terrain, though defiled squares might become defiled terrain (described in the Dark Sun Creature Catalog) at the Dungeon Master’s discretion. You are considered to be preserving unless you choose to defile.
If you have at least one arcane daily attack power, you gain the arcane defiling power.
Free Action Personal
Trigger: You make an attack roll or a damage roll as part of an arcane daily attack power.
The Defiler’s Path
The easiest and most expedient path to power is defiling. Characters can use arcane defiling to alter the outcome of their most powerful spells by ruthlessly drawing vitality from nearby life forms. Many defilers destroy their surroundings even when performing minor spells. They relish the rush of power and the intimidating effect.
Defiling transforms small plants and vital nutrients in the soil into ash. Larger plants blacken and become brittle, often dying days later. The residue of these destroyed life forms is inert, leaving defiled lands barren and scarred for decades. Creatures with whom a defiler shares a mental or an emotional connection, such as allies or slaves, are wracked with pain as a defiler draws power. The most powerful defilers can use the act of defiling as a weapon, harming those with whom they share no connection.
The Preserver’s Path
Preservers believe that preserving is its own reward, given the state of the world. Through discipline, a preserver draws arcane power carefully instead of tearing it from the environment. Thus, a preserver can use spells without harming plant life. After finishing a spell, a preserver returns any excess energy to the environment. The most committed preservers eventually give up the ability to defile.
Disguising Arcane Powers
Arcane magic is illegal and can attract hostility, so a spellcaster often needs to conceal its use. When you use an arcane power without using arcane defiling, you can disguise the magic as another type of power, such as primal or psionic. Most people can’t distinguish between types of magic. The Dungeon Master might require a Bluff check to disguise arcane magic when it is performed in the presence of enemies familiar with psionic or arcane power, such as templars, defilers, or nobles. If a spellcaster is defiling, he or she cannot disguise the arcane magic because of the visible effect on the environment.