The Athar

About the Athar

In the great cities of the world, temples to a multitude of gods and deities cluster together, a cacophony of holy symbols obscuring the sky where the gods are said to dwell. On days of solstice and harvest, you can hear a dozen or more different messages of truth and salvation preached from a dozen or more different priests, the heads of a dozen or more different temples, each promising to be the one true way, each claiming exclusivity, each preaching against the other.

Here, you may hear another message, whispered through the streets, or talked about in the cafes. This message is quiet, but it resonates longer than the exhortations of the multitude of clergy. It is a message of independence, of freedom, of dignity. It is a message that speaks of a power greater than the gods, that any person can access, without attending a service or making a single tithe.

The message is this: "The gods are frauds."

The organization that claims to preach this message, that whispers it and speaks of it, that writes about it in tomes of lore, and teaches it to students of magic, is called the Athar.

Of course the gods exist, say the Athar. They exist just as orcs and dragons and demons exist. But, much like a dragon, they sit atop their piles of divine power, hoarding it, only giving it to servants and sycophants. Each cleric or paladin is no better than a sniveling kobold, hoping to serve any creature more powerful than it. The gods are misers, and, say the Athar, they are unnecessary. It is not Pelor who brings in the harvest. It is not Bahamut that protects the weak. It is not Bane who grants victory. Who does these things? You do. You control your own destiny. You tap into your own native divinity. When the dark night comes, demanding your life, those divinities whose puppets sit in gilded temples will not save you. They will let your soul slip to the Shadowfell, no matter how devout you are. You can save yourself, however. All it takes is belief.

Abandon your servitude to your selfish deity, say the Athar. See how they war amongst themselves! They are unworthy of the love you give them. The gods are fractious, petty, self-interested, and insecure. Corellon wars with Gruumsh and Lolth, Tiamat and Bahamut rage against each other, Erathis brooks little insolence from Avandra or Melora, and Pelor and the Raven Queen can barely stand to be in the same room as each other. The list of deific tiffs that have blossomed into constant campaigns of petty backstabbing, if not full-blown holy wars, is longer than any sage can scribe, and is rife with body counts and troubles for mortal followers.

They claim immortality, and omnipotence, but the gods are neither. The Athar look out over a veritable graveyard of deities, whose empty husks drift forgotten in the Astral Sea. The world existed before the gods came into it, created before the Dawn War (a deceptive bit of propagandist history, told by the victors), and this world will exist long after they are but a memory. The gods cannot promise eternal life — they themselves do not possess it. The Athar can show you this graveyard, if you need proof of the gods' fallibility. They can also show you heroes and champions with powers like that of clerics and saints, powered by their own true divinity, without serving any god. They can show you all these wonders and more. All you need to do is follow them through a doorway…

The churches dispute this. Of course, they must. To say that you do not need a deity to help you through your struggles, that you can do it on your own, is tantamount to blasphemy. And what's more, it threatens their power base: less faithful members, less tithes, less people willing to throw themselves bodily into the next holy war, less power.

That is, of course, what it is all about. Power. The gods have it. The Athar, of course, do not. That is why they must whisper, and talk in cafes, and in schools, in large, protected cities. They have had some successes in converting cities and countries to their message, founding schools and hospitals. These are necessarily quiet successes, so as not to attract the attention of the powerful churches of the land, who would crush this heresy whenever they could find it. The Athar say that, with more followers, with more help, with your help, they may grow stronger. They need heroes to defend them against the inquisitors of the churches. They need crusaders to crush temples of the gods. They need your help, if you are receptive to their message, if you, too, would like to liberate the souls of mortal beings, enabling them to perform their own miracles, rather than begging and bargaining with distant, arrogant deities. Together, the Athar say, a mass of kobolds can overwhelm even the most powerful dragon, and can take its power for their own, to use as they see fit. And are not you better than a kobold?

This is a fight for nothing less the freedom, nobility, and autonomy of the spirit, for each and every being. Join the Athar and finally control your own destiny.


  • Do not worship the gods. They are frauds, deceivers, liars, manipulators, power-mad misers, and they are not worthy of your worship.
  • Teach others. Individuals are divine in and of themselves, and imparting skills and knowledge to any person is a worthy goal. Educate, train, and impart truth. Liberate their minds and bodies, and enable them to liberate others.
  • Support others. If divinity lies within each of us, we must ennoble each others souls, providing support and assistance as others need it.


The Athar is an inter-planar organization that works in the shadow of many large temples, everywhere in the world. Their headquarters is the Athar Citadel, which floats in the Astral Sea amongst the dead bodies and decaying realms of deities, looking out every morning on a reminder of how weak and vulnerable the gods are. They work through spies, healers, teachers, and agents in many cities in the world, empowering every-day farmers and teamsters to take control of their own fates, and to abandon their gods. They are not a large organization, but their breadth is significant, and their tactics are quite guerrilla: they take every advantage, and fade into the land from which they came, difficult to track without a high cost in terms of life and gold.


Adhering to the Athar dogma and creed is largely enough to get one in as a low-ranking member, as long as a higher-ranking member can vouch for you. Any class and race is welcome, especially divine classes, who do not loose their powers, even if they loose their faith. The Athar see this as something of a miracle, claiming that divine power is drawn from a force beyond the gods, that they call the Great Unknown.

Race and Class

Races with a deep attachment to a deity are rare among the Athar. There are few drow, few dwarves, few eladrin, few dragonborn, few shadar-kai, are willing to abandon their special relationship with their gods. However, races without a chosen deity may be well-represented. Tieflings, for instance, sometimes see their lineage as cursed by Asmdeus, and are more than willing to embrace the idea that he is just the worst liar amongst a host of them. Genasi, on the other hand, share a close bond with the primordial elements, and so find the gods irrelevant to their creation and their existence. Most Athar members are actually humans, who find that while many races have glorious tales of their deific creation, they have none. They are created, and abandoned, rather quickly, it seems.

The Athar welcome any hero of any power-source and class, though they tend to look very favorably on divine classes such as Invokers and Clerics, who prove when they join the Athar that the gods have no exclusive hold on divine power. Such characters are rare in the world, but they are valued. Other power sources, such as Psionic, Primal, and Arcane, are also well represented, providing alternate paths to powers that can exceed the gods'. There are fewer martial classes, however — too many attribute their power and success to divinities other than themselves. Still, the occasional Fighter, Rogue, or Warlord is welcomed into the faction as a representation of a truly self-empowered individual, relying on nothing outside of themselves for greatness.

Game Rules

PCs who become members of the Athar may gain a background, a theme, a paragon path, an epic destiny, and even some specific feats.

Athar Background

You have joined the Athar, and they have educated you on the finer points of their ideals and philosophies. You may maintain contact with them even now, with regular contact with at least one higher-ranking member who has taken you in as something of an apprentice. You may have simply attended one of their schools, or worked at one of their hospitals, sympathetic to their ideals, even if you aren't a zealot. You hold the Athar dogma dear, and now seek to put it into use in your adventuring career.
Associated Skills: Religion, Heal

Athar Theme

Theme Features

Starting Features

The Athar are sometimes known as "The Defiant," as they defy the commands of the gods. They also are said to worship a power that lies beyond the gods, something they call "The Great Unknown."
Benefit: You gain the Defiance power. You are considered a worshiper of all deities, and a member of a divine class for the purposes of any prerequisites. You gain proficiency with the Holy Symbol implement, and may use any deity's holy symbol.

Defiance Athar Utility
When given a command, you simply say "No."
Encounter * Divine
Immediate Interrupt, Personal
Trigger: You are hit by an attack that targets your Will defense.
Effect: You gain a +4 bonus to your Will defense against the triggering attack.

Level 5 Feature

You are not impressed with the shows of power and glory common amongst the gods.

Benefit: You gain a +1 bonus to saving throws against the Dazed, Dominated, and Stunned conditions. You also gain this bonus to saving throws against any Fear effect.

Level 10 Feature

Some Athar members are called "The Lost." This may be because, however omniscient they claim to be, the gods know nothing of them.

Benefit: No divination ritual that uses the Religion skill can perceive you.

Alternate Powers

Level 2 Utility

You can defy death itself.

Unclaimed Soul Athar Utility 2
Your soul belongs to you, and you do not surrender it easily.
Daily * Divine
Immediate Interrupt, Personal
Trigger: You are reduced to 0 hp.
Effect: You can spend a healing surge as a free action

Level 6 Utility

You can help others to claim their own souls.

Teaching Defiance Athar Utility 6
You give someone else the power to defy the gods' claim on their soul.
Daily * Divine
Immediate Interrupt, Close burst 5
Trigger: An ally within range is reduced to 0 hp.
Effect: The ally can spend a healing surge as a free action.

Level 10 Utility

A member of the Athar does not let their destiny rest with the gods.

Master Of Your Own Fate Athar Utility 10
You have the power to determine your own success.
Daily * Divine
Immediate Reaction, Personal
Trigger: You miss with an attack or fail a skill check.
Effect: The triggering attack hits, or the triggering skill check succeeds.

Priest of the Great Unknown (Paragon Path)

Priest of the Great Unknown
"The gods are powerful, yes. But beyond them is a power that even they bow to. That power that lies in each of us."
Prerequisites: 11th level, Athar member
The Athar know of a power that the gods must bow to. That power, true divine power, requires no mediation, no worship, no assignment. It lies inherent in each mortal soul, a spark that gives life and sapience to all creatures, an inborn right to a free spirit. The gods, through their dogmas, temples, and priests, manufacture an ignorance of this inherent power, and so most go through life never aware of it. So, they call it "The Great Unknown," a power beyond the gods, that sits in every person, unknown to them.

The Priests of the Great Unknown are exceptional individuals who have learned to call on this inborn divinity. You have awoken your own divine spark, and have become one of these exceptional individuals.

You may not literally be a priest (though divine characters who join the Athar are often drawn to this path), but you are treated as a sage and a leader, a worthy champion, and an example for all. You manipulate raw divine energy, gaining mastery over all kinds of divinity, including that which immortal beings live on. You understand better than most the lies the gods propagate, well-intentioned or not, and you will show others that there is another way, a path of self-determination. You preach this message so that the Great Unknown will become the Great Known, and that all mortals may rise to their natural station as masters of their own fates, rather than servants of a god.

Channel Divinity (11th Level): You gain a Channel Divinity feat. If you don’t already have the Channel Divinity class feature, you can use a single Channel Divinity power once per encounter, and you’re considered to have the class feature for the purpose of meeting prerequisites.
Beyond the Veil (11th Level): You ignore Radiant Resistance.
Divine Action (11th Level): You can spend an Action Point to gain an additional Channel Divinity use in this encounter. You must use the Channel Divinity power when taking the extra action.
Bringer of Mortality (16th Level): You gain a +2 bonus to attack and damage rolls against Immortal creatures.

Tears of Angels Priest of the Great Unknown Attack 11
You channel true divinity, scattering those who claim it falsely.
Encounter * Divine, Implement, Radiant
Standard Action, Close burst 2
Target: Each enemy in the burst
Attack: Highest ability vs. Will
Hit: 2d8 + highest ability modifier radiant damage, and the target is knocked prone
Increase the damage to 3d8 at 21st level.
Effect: Immortal creatures in the burst take 5 points of damage.

The Power Is Yours Priest of the Great Unknown Utility 12
You awaken the inner spark of divinity in your ally, for a moment.
Daily * Divine, Healing
Minor Action, Close burst 5
Target: One ally in the burst
Effect: The target can spend a healing surge. Additionally, you can spend a use of Channel Divinity to allow the target to recharge one encounter power of the target's choice.

Heresy Priest of the Great Unknown Attack 20
You condemn your enemies for their faith in lies, and they find their power has left them.
Daily * Divine, Implement, Radiant
Standard Action, Ranged 10
Target: One creature in range
Attack: Highest ability vs. Will
Hit: 3d10 + highest ability modifier radiant damage, and the creature cannot use encounter or recharge powers (save ends).

Godslayer (Epic Destiny)

"The only difference between Tiamat and any other dragon is that she's got more heads."
Prerequisites: 21st level, Athar member
You have found truth within yourself. You have spread the message to receptive ears throughout the countryside. As they never have before, people are listening, and they are believing in themselves, in their own powers, more than any god. For the first time, mortals may be able to throw off the chains of the gods, and live free, in control of their own fates. But your work is not yet done.

You have defied the gods to stop you, and they have been unable. Your battle is no longer a secret. You are known throughout temples, far and wide, as a danger. Worse than any devil, more dangerous than any rivalry, more frightening to the gods than any primordial. The gods exhort their priests to vilify you in every way possible, to lie, to slander, to defame, to hunt those you care about, and to kill you if they are able. If you do not kill them first.

You may have learned the secrets of the gods as self-defense against their attacks. You may have learned it in a fit of hubris and arrogance. You have always known it to be possible to slay a god — the empty husks drifting in the Astral Sea are testament to that. You may have never imagined you would be the one to do it. Or, you may have always hoped that one day, it would fall to you.

Of course, the gods have a choice in the matter. They can step down. They can surrender their divinity. They can avoid much needless death and suffering, if they only give up their claims, dismantle their churches, divest their clergy, and allow their faithful to be free. They could undo themselves, to spare the wrath you may bring. There are whispers amongst some gods of doing just that. The wiser and more compassionate among them speak of your name in divine councils, and say, "Perhaps it is time we step aside, and let the mortals steer their fate. Perhaps our paternalism is unnecessary these days. Perhaps we can trust them with true power." Perhaps it is wisdom, perhaps it is fear. Those gods are few, but they do exist. Some have already started the steps on the road to becoming fond memories rather than great deities.

Power, however, is not something the powerful have ever been eager to share. There are gods more selfish, more self-important, more violent than that. These gods will fight tooth and nail to cling to whatever shreds of power and authority remain. You, as a Godslayer, have the power to give them a choice: surrender your power to the people willingly, or have it taken from you, violently, at the point of your sword. Not all gods will surrender. Some will have to be slain.

As you approach your highest skill, the gods fear and respect you, and you begin to see many gods abandoning their place at the head of pantheons, and embracing a life of leadership that still respects the autonomy of those that follow them, empowering their followers freely, and no longer claiming to have The Answer. You live on in story and legend as the Great Liberator, the Empowerer, who made the gods themselves realize and respect the value in a mortal soul. You may not live forever — that is an arrogance that you will not claim — but you will live unfettered by the gods, as will those who follow your philosophy.

The Unveiling: When you have slain the final petty god who clung desperately to their ever-waning power, you have freed the last of the divine energy, allowing all people everywhere to easily harness their own internal divine spark. From this point on, praying to a god does not bring miracles: only believing in yourself, and ennobling your own soul can do that. As people hear the message, and embrace their own power, they accomplish deific things: they are healthier, stronger, more alert, and more intelligent. Mortals have been made into heroes, and the former gods now serve them, seeing the mortal souls as stronger than their own. The Great Unknown is no longer unknown, thanks to you, and for the rest of your long life, you can rest easy knowing that all the multiverse has been made better by your hand.

Godslayer Features
Invincible (21st Level): You are immune to fear and charm effects. Allies adjacent to you share this immunity.
Inevitable (24th Level): When an enemy that you have damaged, or that has damaged you, saves against an effect that a save can end, the effect still lasts until the end of their next turn.
Inescapable (30th Level): You always deal full damage to your enemy, even if you are weakened, the enemy is incorporeal, or you are taking some sort of damage penalty. Additionally, any enemy that you have damaged cannot move more than 20 squares from you, and cannot discorporate. You may permit them to to either or both, ending this effect as a free action.
Seal Divinity Godslayer Utility 26
Any contact with you renders the enemy impotent.
Daily * Divine
Immediate Reaction, Personal
Trigger: You are damaged by an attack
Effect: The creature who made the triggering attack takes the following penalties until they make two successful saving throws. The second successful saving throw ends all the effects.
  • -4 penalty to all defenses
  • -15 penalty to all resistances
  • -5 penalty to all saving throws
  • Cannot spend action points

Sidebar: Believers, Heretics, Heroes

The message of the Athar is essentially one of opposition to the gods. This can make for some potential conflict, if there is another party member who holds a god, or several of them, in high esteem. If it is low-key and fun, there's no problem with it, but if it starts to get acrimonious, keep the following in mind:

First, keep in mind shared goals. While the Athar member might resent the paladin's protection or the cleric's healing, if it helps accomplish a goal for the party (such as slaying the frost giant jarl), it might not really matter. Presumably, both the Athar member and the divine character can see the benefit in joining forces for a common goal. Alignment plays into this as well. Even if the Athar member dislikes all gods, if both she and the party invoker of Corellon are Good, the two probably share broad goals of helping others, just disagreeing on how best to help them, and they can both readily agree that Lolth and her machinations need to be stopped.

Second, keep in mind the fiction of the game. D&D gods are pretty well-defined in D&D as being entities that are capable of being killed without throwing the world into tumult, or obliterating the souls of the dead, or anything apocalyptic like that. A faithful priest knows too well that there were dead gods during the Dawn War, at least. So even if a devout Avenger believes fully that the Raven Queen should be obeyed, that she has power over death, and should have that power, that devout Avenger should be aware that this is not the immutable state of things.

Third, keep in mind that the Athar doesn't necessarily demand that the message of the gods is ignored. An Athar member is perfectly capable of agreeing with a paladin of Bahamut that protecting the weak is a worthy goal. They simply don't believe that Bahamut has an exclusive right to that goal: anyone can protect the weak. Bahamut may even be one of the best creatures to protect the weak. It's not the message they disagree with, it's the way Bahamut shares power. They would have no problem with Bahamut as a powerful dragon whose knights helped protect the weak, as long as Bahamut wasn't demanding worship, sacrifice, prayers, souls, and other religious trappings. Bahamut can be a great leader and a powerful force for good without being a god. The Athar want Bahamut to respect those beneath him, and to defend not only their bodies, but their freedom to be their own people, with a right to life and autonomy as much as Bahamut has those rights. This may not be a message that Bahamut (or his faithful) really disagrees with, in the end. By Epic level, the Athar member might just be the one whom Bahamut is listening to. This doesn't mean that the paladin in the party can't be Bahamut's Vessel for their own Epic Destiny, it just might mean re-thinking what that means a bit, that rather than service to a god, the paladin serves the causes the ex-god supports, namely, protecting the weak. This is something Bahamut helps empower the paladin to pursue. Even if Bahamut doesn't demand worship and sacrifice any more, he is a powerful ally in the struggle to that the paladin is on.