Dragons! Spaceships! Wizards! Lasers! Catpeople! Evil empires! Elves! More Elves! Is there something else you guys like because we can probably shove that in too!
Original SA post
DRAGONSTAR - Dragons! Spaceships! Wizards! Lasers! Catpeople! Evil empires! Elves! More Elves! Is there something else you guys like because we can probably shove that in too!
Let's start with some background before we tear into the first part of the Starfarer's Handbook, the player core book for the setting. Dragonstar was an OGL/d20 System setting for D&D 3rd Edition published by Fantasy Flight Games. Yep, FFG. It's easily forgotten now, but their first foray into RPG publishing were a number of above-the-average-competency-level OGL supplements for 3rd. They had a knack for filling in holes WotC hadn't gotten around to yet, like a book on traps and one on nautical adventures. Then they went on to some settings and made a good effort at exploring areas that no one had gotten to yet - in addition to Dragonstar, they had Grimm which went into a whole dark fairy tale thing. I never could get my hands on that book though.
Right, Dragonstar. Spelljammer did D&D in space already (and I love me some Spelljammer) but it's fantasy space travel with crystal spheres and phlogiston and giant hamsters. Dragonstar doesn't do that. The best way to describe the approach is that it mirrors Shadowrun - Tolkien/D&D fantasy elements grafted onto a sci-fi setting. Shadowrun is cyberpunk with orcs, Dragonstar is space opera with wizards. I'm sure the vast difference is immediately clear to everyone
On with the show.
Definitely aping that goofy arts & crafts cover they had going on for 3rd edition, but FFG actually managed to make it look better than what WotC was doing. We've got 9 chapters here, but it's frontloaded as far as the interesting stuff.
Chapter 1: Welcome to Dragonstar
After a bit of an introduction that basically explains what I did above, plus some OGL boilerplate, we begin with some fiction! It's first person, as told to a generic PC. I'll let the narrator handle his own introduction.
Starfarer's Handbook posted:
So there I was, recruit: John Caspian, prince to a deposed and murdered king, working to someday exact my revenge on those who had betrayed my father and stolen my birthright.
It goes on to talk about Prince John here doing the adventurer thing, wandering around making friends, plotting his righteous revenge, and killing sentients who have green skin, because. Everything's going great. Suddenly - STARSHIP.
MinionOfCthulhu alluded to this. John witnesses the arrival of a starship above the capital of the largest empire on his homeworld, ye olde standarde medieval fantasyland. The ship bombs the shit out of the capital - except the palace - murders a squadron of pegasus knights, and tractor beams the commander of the guard. The invaders, lead by a Drow captain, proceed to execute the sitting emperor and co-opt his daughter to take control of the empire and bring these primitive yokels in the majestic rule of the Dragon Empire.
It's actually a pretty solid piece of introductary fiction. It does a good job of giving a "ground level" view of introducing the setting to an average adventurer, something the reader would be familiar with, establishes some basic concepts, and it's decently written on a technical level to boot. Plus, Dragonstar is explicitely written so you can slap it on top of an existing campaign setting or even running campaign if you want (shades of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks).
The rest of Chapter 1 is John giving the reader, here cast as a newly recruited adventurering yokel into the high tech world of Dragonstar, a primer on what the fuck is up.
He lays some basic setting info on us first. He explains that the Drow aren't in charge - they work for the dragons. Dragons, naturally, run the show.
Starfarer's Handbook posted:
Think about it. Dragons are among the most powerful creatures in the universe. They’re strong, aggressive, smart, full of magic, and they live forever. And the older they get, the more powerful they become. It’s almost inevitable that they’d be in control of things.
The point is that even something "rare" like dragons end up numbering in the millions when you get FTL travel and start linking together tens of thousands of worlds. Once that happened, they started talking and ended up getting into something like the "great game." The metallics kicked things off by founding a star kingdom called Qesemet - remarkably low on the unpronounce-able fantasy name meter - inspiring the chromatics to start a rival kingdom called Asamet (hereafter Assamet), because fuck those guys. The metallic kingdom was pretty decent, though all about dragons and thus sort of patronizing to everyone else. The chromatic kingdom - shockingly - sucked the big one unless you were a dragon. Both sides organized around royal clans by subspecies (color coded for your convenience!). Also we find out John doesn't much like dragons, for fairly obvious reasons.
We get some more detail on the whole magic & technology divide and fusion of the setting at a 10,000 foot level here.
Magic is kind of a swiss army knife that can solve anything and even break the laws of nature but requires special talent, while tech can solve very specific things and can be used by anyone but is also sharply confined by the laws of nature. There's also mention of soulmechs here, but we'll come back to that in Chapter 2. Basically the upshot is that dragons, being goddamn brilliant and also inherently magical, got the best of all worlds and were NOT shy about exploiting the advantage.
The inevitable happens. Qesemet and Assamet go to war. It's about as awful as you'd imagine, with dragons flinging planetary scale superweapons around all over the damn place. Nations are erased from history. Merfolk civilizations get boiled. And then the planet of Krellis, ancenstral home of the rare yellow dragons, goes boom. The dragons all have a collective "my gods what have we done moment."
This does set up a pretty good piece of setting fluff here. The fact that the dragons didn't really react after killing billions of non-dragons isn't ignored, but at the same time the narrator expresses some sympathy to the few surviving yellows - literal lasts of their kind that will endure alone for millenia. When people talk about maturity in RPGs? THAT is what we're on about, not tits and gore and whatever horrible thing the CthuluTech people dreamed up last.
Anyways, on a less ranty note let's have some art!
I should probably mention that Chapter 1 of this book is on glossy colored pages, while the rest of the book is black and white on cardstock. That being said, the art is very consistent in quality. It's not great, but it's professional and appropriate, and a few of the pieces stand out. Compared to the WotC books of the time, the highs weren't as high but the lows weren't as low. Compared to most of the other OGL stuff? Yeah.
So after the yellows get waxed the other dragons decide they have to end this war, so the leader of Qesemet, this gold dragon named Khelorn, comes up with the following amazing solution. The two kingdoms combine into one vast empire (the Dragon Empire, natch). There's a council of all dragon clans to advise the emperor. And, the real selling point, the throne passes from one clan to the next every 1000 years. Each clan picks the emperor in their own inimitable way. It's worked pretty well for 5000 years.
I think you can see where this is going.
See, the kicker to this brilliant arrangement is that all the metallics went first, in order. And now the chromatics get their turns. In order. Starting with the reds. Our current glorious leader is one Mezzenbone (hereafter Boney). So after 5000 years of general prosperity with some survivable draconic shenanigans, we're 100 years into 5000 years of chromatic tyranny.
We're about 2/3rds of the way through Chapter 1. I was hoping to get all of it down in one go, but like I said this is frontloaded as all hell, so I'll tackle the rest of Chapter 1 next time, and then do Races and Classes. The back half of the book, being more rules oriented, should go faster.
To editorialize for a moment, Chapter 1 gives us the dichotomy of Dragonstar in a nutshell. On the one hand you have an interesting concept put together by thoughtful designers with clearly professional, if tightly budgeted, levels of production. On the other you have it shackled to some of the goofiest legacy concepts of Dungeons and Dragons. That whole line of succession thing we just covered reeks of the migraine inducing problems of "always chaotic evil" in any kind of setting that tries for, you know, logic or a feeble pass at being realistic.
This is a recurring problem. It's not that 3rd edition was inherently awful (though I don't much like it personally). But Dragonstar just swallows the whole load, without any filtering. It lays its concepts right on top of the foundation of D&D and 3rd edition, regardless of whether they fit what the setting is trying to accomplish. Even WotC didn't do that in the end. Eberron, for example, despite all its magipunk and pulp wackiness, is closer to core D&D than Dragonstar, and it ended up with more setting-specific rules. Sure Dragonstar is 3rd party so they wouldn't have wanted to fuck with what people expected too much, but other 3rd party settings - like Iron Kingdoms - deviated a lot further and benefitted from it.
Dragonstar just doesn't do that. It's D&D through and through, for better or worse. But hey - at least some of the worse is pretty hilarious.
And since I just realized I have no idea what time it actually is now because its after 2am and daylight savings time ends this weekend, I'm gonna wrap this up and come back later.
Not enough dragons.
Original SA post
DRAGONSTAR - Not enough dragons.
Last time we got somewhere between half and two-thirds of the way through Chapter 1, which introduced us to the Dragon Empire and the core concepts of the setting, by way of the personal account of one John Caspian.
So we've got this star-spanning empire, ruled by dragons. Currently one Boney, a red, due to this magnificent scheme of co-rule dreamed by the gold dragon Khelorn, who is either the dumbest wyrm ever or a galactic level troll.
We've still got some ground to cover before the setting is laid out though. Next up - THE PEOPLE.
So the galaxy is full of dragons.
John Caspian posted:
There are dragons everywhere, too, although a lot fewer of them. Given the geological speed with which the critters breed, this only makes sense. And you can thank your lucky stars for that. If dragons reproduced like rabbits, you can be sure the galaxy would be over-run with them from one end to the other.
So it's even more full of elves, goblins, orcs, and all the rest of the post-Tolkein rogue's gallery. We've got largely the same mix of races on every planet in the Empire (and by extension the galaxy), allowing for some regional variation and subraces and Jesus, Mary, and the fucking Bhudda how many types of elves do we really need?
We're not talking "largely similar analogues" on different worlds. An orc from Lordran is the same as an orc from Endragar is the same as an orc from Penbigan. In fact, it's not just that we have the usual group of demihumans, savage humanoids, beasts, magical beasts, aberrations, and crimes against common sense (I'm looking at you, owlbear) on every little rock between here and the galactic core. All these chucklefucks speak the same languages. Fly 1000 lightyears in any direction, pick a random world, and once you get over their goofy-ass accent, you can order dinner in any restaurant on the planet - in Common. Not their version of Common. Common, straight up. The same, everywhere.
Caspian goes on to explain that there's still a pretty big variety of cultures and so forth on all these different worlds, so it's not like it's completely cookie cutter. But it all derives from the same basic templates. The Japan-analogue on Scepter might consider spears the ultimate weapon and wear feathered headdresses, and the Egypt-analogue on Canin might prefer making giant cylindrical tombs and worship frogs, but you can still fit things into familiar categories and types.
Which begs the question - why the fuck? The same stuff everywhere? That shit doesn't make sense. How can this possibly be true?
John Caspian posted:
You’re thinking logically, when what you really need is faith. Science tells you that life evolved on another planet is going to be radically different. Sure, maybe you can argue for parallel evolution and similar theories, but given the vast number of possibilities, the kind of sameness we see in the known galaxy is inexplicable. At least by science. But it can be explained by magic — magic of the most powerful kind.
It's D&D. Gods - or at least divine power - isn't an article of faith. It's a verifiable fact of life. Every planet has some kind of pantheon of deities, and they all grant spells to their followers. And you get the same sorts of gods. Everywhere you go, the Drow have some kind of horrible demonic Spider Goddess
Suggestive, right? So before the Dragon War, some bright lads with holy symbols decided to create the Unification Church
. They say everyone worships the same basic pantheon of 12 gods, just under different names and with slightly different aspects emphasized. They give them creative names like the Reaper and the Destroyer (Boney's too favorites, by the way). Also dragons believe they are the chosen people. The whole flying, immortal, magical, genius predatory lizard thing kind of gives them some reason to, I guess.
There's also a bit here about the Dualism heresy. Because what's a galactic empire without some heresy, right? Joking aside, it's an interesting variation for clerics. You've got a good god - Creator - and an evil one - Adversary - and that's that. The dragons don't buy it, but the Empire as a whole doesn't suppress it either. Dualists and the Unification church are at odds all the time, and actually the Dualists tend to be a bit fanatical
Next up - the Law. This section has some
about laws against murder and theft and the usual crap, but it really has one purpose and one purpose only - explain how the fuck you deal with alignments.
John Caspian posted:
There is one tenet emphasized by every court and every institution in the Dragon Empire. It’s called the
principle of active morality
: People are to be judged by what they do, not what is in their hearts.
So basically your paladin can cool his fucking jets. Detect alignment is not admissible evidence in court, and smiting someone just because they set off your evil-o-meter will get YOU hauled up on charges. Doesn't mean people don't use alignment divination all the time - but it won't stand up in court as a justification for your actions.
Since we're talking about evil, now's a good time to bring the Drow back up! Essentially everyone's favorite spider loving white haired pointy eared fucksticks have a special place in old Boney's withered heart, so he made a special secret police unit just for them, the Imperial Special Police Directorate (this sentence is very special). They get to be his personal goon squad and spearhead the emperor's expansionist campaigns in the Outlands (basically un-explored space). Critics of their brutal tactics tend to get
Speaking of special privileges, if you're a dragon, you've got them in spades. The clans take care of their own. A hoard in every cave - or high rise sci-fi spire. But one of the features of 3rd was that dragons could bone ANYTHING. Which naturally they did, a lot. So there's a whole class of dragonkin in the empire who are one step down from the winged lizards. Dragons may look down their noses at them for being bastard offspring, but they're still blood relations. Also, FFG ran with the thrown in bit about sorcerer's having draconic blood, plus the dragons are of the opinion that if you can't use arcane magic naturally you shouldn't be fucking around with it, so Dragonstar is one of the few settings where they actually get to lord it over wizards.
The chapter's almost over, so we've got some random bits of important facts shoved in haphazardly to round things out. First off we finally get some info on the basic question in any sci-fi setting - how they hell do you get around?
John Caspian posted:
So how do people get around in this star-spanning empire? How is the Emperor to know what’s going on across his empire? As usual, magic is the answer.
For starships travel the dragons invented a magitech drive that casts super-accurate teleport for your ship.
Also sorcerers can teleport across interstellar distances if you give them the right information, so for critical missions you've got that.
We've also got the Long Road. A 20 lane, 100 mile long super-highway loop with permanent gates every 10 miles that take you each of the clan homeworlds, in succession.
So now that you can go places, where do you go? Well we get an explanation that the Empire is a big sphere in one of the galaxy's spiral arms. The areas outside of this edge are called the Outlands. The Royal Exploratory Service (PLOT HOOK DETECTED) explore the fringes of known space, looking for new worlds to contact and/or conquer. If you're slapping Dragonstar on top of an existing setting, that setting will be on an Outlands world.
Also we get our first mention of the Dark Zone.
It's a massive, impenetrable dark nebulae in the Outlands, home to mind flayers and other strange and terrible things. Most of the ships that go in, never come out.
John Caspian posted:
I'll mount an expedition as soon as I muster out.
Muster out of what, you ask? Well, throughout this whole thing Caspian keeps calling you 'recruit' and alluding to joining up himself. I haven't mentioned it before because we don't know WHAT he's referring to - until right now. Introducing the Imperial Legions!
The Legions have a bit of that old Roman flair, but really they've got a lot more Foreign Legion to them. Fighters from newly conquered Outland worlds typically get pressed in, as do the dregs from the many worlds of the Empire. On the plus side, they pay well and after a five year tour they get full citizenship, a pension, and get dropped off on any Imperial world they choose. Classic set up for a new adventurer.
And that's where we leave off - Destination: Adventure. I'm not shitting you, the last section is literally given that heading. But yeah, Prince John hasn't forgotten about that betrayal and murder bit way back when, and he's curious what happened to the Princess the Drow put in charge after they offed her father (alludes a bit to him maybe having a thing for her before, too), and gives you that push to go out and have your own adventures in this much bigger universe.
So we're FINALLY done with Chapter 1. Because all the setting layout is right there, it's hugely front-loaded. Later chapters should go faster - Chapter 2 and 3 are about Races and Classes, and how the usual D&D flair fits into Dragonstar.
The big takeaway from the second half of Chapter 1 is that shoving magic into a sci-fi setting makes things super-easy on the writers in a lot of ways. In normal sci-fi settings, you have to provide the nerds some reason that all the aliens are humans with funny foreheads or they start bitching about their verisimilitude, and you have to keep track of your technobabble, and then someone pixel counts your diagrams and puts up a 30 page treatise on how that railgun on your ship can't possibly cause the kind of damage it suggests.
Like the man said - It's magic. I ain't gotta explain shit.
Of Demihumans and Intelligent Rocks
Original SA post
Of Demihumans and Intelligent Rocks
I was going to do both Races and Classes out of the Starfarer's Handbook, but given the responses I think it'd be more fun to handle Chapter 2 and the Galactic Races splatbook together. So, let's check out some aliens!
And by aliens I mean elves.
Since this is primarily a rules chapter, we wave bye to good Prince Caspian and welcome in dry RPG copywriter #1138. Okay, that's a bit unfair, but while the copy is technically competent and apparently well edited (downright stunning) it's not really spiced up at all.
We start with some OGC/OGL boilerplate about how you can use stuff from other d20 products and from the core books and
Moving along, it's reiterated that you find the same races all over because the gods did it. We get a little more specific explanation, though. Namely, the Unification Church's official doctrine is that the various races were made in the images of the gods, so that's why the same basic body types and archetypes show up all over. We also assign a name - Nasuit - to the cleric who came up with it. As a quick aside, Dragonstar does a good job with making fantastic/sci-fi sounding names that are actually pronounceable.
There are of course oddball races, which the Church calls "the god's experiments." It's less patronizing than it sounds - it actually makes unusual races somewhat blessed, since they have unique destinies in the cosmos. The fact that there is variation within general themes is re-iterated as well. Dragonstar does repeat itself a fair bit on these core concepts.
From Left to Right: Dwarf being a dwarf, elf being a Spock, gnome being a techie, half-elf after someone shit in his boot or something - that one slays me every time, half-orc being a badass, halfling being an ace, human being... kind of boring.
Each race gets a headshot in this chapter, and FFG made the rather clever choice of having the same artist do all of them. It works nicely on several levels, not least that they picked an artist who does a good job getting the style of Dragonstar across. I literally just realized none of them are female though (save the drow of course).
As you can see we start with the old core races. Each one gets a write-up about their lands and relations with other races. I'm not going to really bother much there, because if you've come within spitting distance of D&D you could write 95% of each one yourself. However, several races also get extra features!
are, of course, good with tech in a workmanlike way. Out of their background we have
Starfarer's Handbook posted:
They hold the orcs responsible for the destruction of the Dwarven Commonwealth in the pre-Empire days. The devastation then was so horrible that it led to the dwarven Diaspora the dwarves still talk about to this day.
So they're Space Jews
They also get the racial feature Gravity Sense. They always know what the local gravity level is to within 10%, as well as the direction of the strongest gravitational pull. It's Inner Ears, the racial feature.
are stuck up treehuggers. So, you know, elves. Does mean in a tech oriented society they're the go-to guys for hydroponics, terraforming (through some druids at it), etc. They also have this loose elves-only-club called the Elven Nation that agitates for elven interests. Boney doesn't like them, natch. They've quietly been getting a fleet together in case they need to scram. The book casually drops that they are GROWING their ships, which is all sorts of cool, but completely un-elaborated upon here.
Elves also get bonuses for the Freefall and Knowledge (biology) skills. Since they didn't, you know, have enough features already.
have literally nothing in the background that is unexpected, if you expect a tinker gnome bent. Which you should. They do get Knowledge (chemistry) and Knowledge (physics) so they can explode things better, a to Repair so they can un-explode them. Oh, and they can chose Mechanist (detailed next chapter!) as a favored class
. That is all. They get the elven bonus to Freefall too.
are slightly less shafted fluff wise than normal, since the Legions love them, and they have a bit of an anti-defamation league going. Still not so good. Feature wise, they get a +2 to Demolitions! Which keys off a stat they take a penalty to.
So maybe they aren't any less shafted.
are good pilots, it turns out. Makes sense, actually. Plus they're tops in the service industries, particularly as programmers. Fuck if I know. They get a bonus to Pilot checks and Use Device checks (the later is the "make it go" skill for tech, as opposed to the fixing it or making it).
have an entry.
By the way, the dwarf and elf entries were each about a page long all by themselves. Half-orcs and half-elves each got between 1/3 and 1/2. Halflings? 1/4 of a page.
From Left to Right: Drow looking ice-cold killer, half-dragon looking smug as fuck, orc looking thuggish, soulmech looking - wait, soulmech?
After explaining that dwarves and elves are dwarves and elves, and that even in space half-orcs still get shafted, we move on the new races! Like drow, half-dragons, and orcs.
To be fair, Dragonstar came out really early in the 3rd edition cycle, so having these races written up for actual play as PCs was sort of useful at the time. Still.
We get another blurb about evil and the principle of active morality. Did I mention that Dragonstar repeats itself a bit?
(as dragonkin)got some play in Chapter 1, and their stats are the standard ones from 3rd, so we can gloss over them. Drow are still matriarchal and giant dicks, half-dragons are spoiled rotten mechanically and by the setting fluff. Just check out that smug asshole in the headshots.
are basically half-orcs but more so. They get +4 Str, but -2 Int, Wis, and Cha. Yes, all three. They're also light-sensitive! In exchange, they get... to use their Strength modifier on Intimidate checks. With other orcs.
Let's move on. Quickly.
And now we're to the buried lead -
! I'd feel bad about not bringing them up before now, except FFG did the same thing. There are a few mentions of them before now, but they weren't exactly tantalizing.
John Caspian posted:
Soulmechs are the perfect example. With technology, we can build a robotic body and even give it an electronic brain.
Starfarer's Handbook posted:
There’s also a new race: the soul-mech, a sentient robot.
The first is the only mention of soulmechs in Chapter 1, and the second is from the intro to Chapter 2. There's a sentence or two about how each race feels about soulmechs, but since we don't really know what their deal is yet, it's mostly just confusing. Nothing like talking up the first completely new thing in your setting!
But we're here now, so let's take a look. Basically soulmechs are android bodies that have had a soul bound into them by magic. The body is pure tech, invented by gnomes. It's at the cutting edge even for the Dragon Empire, but true AI doesn't exist, so it needs something to give it that animating spark. Enter magic, allowing a soul from a living being to be grafted onto the body. The potential for abuse is amazing here, but in practice the vast majority of soulmechs were created through elective procedures or as emergency therapy, with a few draftees - specialists the empire could not afford to lose. Resurrection magic exists, but even high-level versions in 3rd have limits. Soulmechs can break those limits, sort of.
Soulmechs are often indentured servants, if they didn't pay for their bodies ahead of time, since the bodies are fuck-off expensive. Since soulmechs can be made from any race, you can in theory convert a PC to a soulmech. However, there's a -4 penalty to attacks and physical skill checks initially. It goes away... by one point per level.
We then get about two and a half pages of rules for how soulmechs work. Remember that these guys way predate warforged, so FFG is striking out into unknown territory. They do an okay job, I guess. FFG went with them being constructs, more or less straight up, as opposed to WotC's living construct hack-job when they ran headlong into the same design question. Here's what we've got.
They have no Con score, thus are immune to necromantic and death effects and anything that grants a Fort save, unless it also affects objects, use Cha instead of Con for Concentration checks.
Do not breath, eat, sleep, or age, and are also immune to effects that would cause sleep or aging or are based around eating, smelling, or breathing.
They can't heal on their own and are unaffected by divine magic, but can be repaired or healed by arcane magic.
Soulmechs themselves are unaffected by anti-magic fields or dispel magic.
They cannot benefit from potions or any other ingested item or spell effect.
They cannot raise their physical stats by level or by the effect of spells or magic items.
They are affected by mind-affecting effects (this sentence appears in the book, and is a crime against language there and in this post).
They cannot be resurrected, though the soul can be rebound to a new soulmech body.
Count as living creatures, not undead, for turning or rebuking.
Ouch. They do get Ambidexterity for free, +2 Str and Int (hows that for an odd combo in 3rd?) and -2 Dex and Cha. They're also faster than normal - speed of 40ft. Bonuses to Disable Device, Knowledge (mathematics), Repair, and Use Device, and a penalty to Swim. Low-light vision. Oh, and they don't need to recharged! So they've got that going for them.
It's a pretty ambitious design attempt, and definitely fits the setting. But goddamn does it illustrate a failing for 3rd. Edge cases or unusual ideas are a huge pain in the ass. The system has no built in flexibility, since the designers tried to create a comprehensive ruleset that covered every eventuality in detail - which of course they couldn't, so when you hit something that didn't fit the expected framework, you end up with what I posted above.
So that's the core races. We get setting specific info for the original races that's bleeding obvious in almost every case, some regurgitated "new" races, and one hyper-ambitious but klunky original race.
Fortunately, FFG came back later and gave us this:
This gives us a lot more to play with, and makes a lot more sense from FFG. See, one of their very first OGL books was Mythic Races (which I actually have on my desk right now and will reference a few times), so the fact that core Dragonstar didn't grab any of their cool ideas from before was a bit weird. I'd accuse them of holding out for a splat to increase revenue, but actually I really think it was a space issue. The classes section weighs in at 34 pages all on its own, gear is over 45 pages, and you still have to cover skills, feats, magic, and introduce rules for vehicles.
What have I gotten myself into
The races can be yanked out of Dragonstar whole-sale as well, so it makes sense to offer it as a standalone source-book that even someone not playing in the setting might want to pick up.
There are 16 races in Galactic Races, plus a chapter of templates. Again, some of these "new" races are write-ups of monsters. For this, we get centaurs, derro, kobolds, and lizardfolk. A few other races are standard fantasy tropes - doppels, elem, pershala, peshivan, and sathoni - or fairly straightforward concepts - oruk, ith-kon, and siarrans. Then we've got some real oddballs - eleti, quasta, tarn idoun, and ulb. The book presents them in alphabetical order, but for the write up I'm going to cover them in those groupings.
By the way - the eleti, peshivan, and siarrans all appear in Mythic Races. I'll see if there's any differences in the two versions.
are pretty much what it says on the tin, and use the standard monster stats. They have a tendency either to be primitivists and hate tech, or be total tech-lovers.
are sort of the more-annoying less-competent gnomes who breed like rabbits. Plus they get a bit whiny about draconic heritage, which tends to annoy the shit out of dragons and dragonkin. They aren't very smart, but have a knack with both tech and magic, so they can be dangerous. They tend to get exploited by goblinoids a lot. They have a racial feat called Intuitive Mechanic which gives them a big static bonus, auto-class skill, and can take 10 whenever they want.
I mention them together because
When the art works for Dragonstar, it WORKS.
are the evil subterranean equivalent for dwarves. As per standard, they are basically short, less interesting dwarf flavored drow.
have a writeup extraordinary for its blandness. But they get one interesting feat.
Galactic Races posted:
By eating a bit of flesh from a dead enemy, you can prevent that corpse from rising again as an undead.
As a full round action, you may perform the rite of
on a corpse. To do so, you must eat a small portion of the corpse's flesh. Once you have performed the rite on a corpse, it cannot be animated as an undead. This effect ends if the corpse is brought back to life normally.
Creepy, but flavorful. Wait.
Again, PC-ified monster stats, not as cool art.
This post took about twice as long as I expected so far, so I'm going to leave off here and hit up the rest of Galactic Races tomorrow. But as a preview to whet the appetite...
Wait I'm Still Doing This?
Original SA post
Wait I'm Still Doing This?
Sort of maybe.
There's two reasons I haven't put up more of this before now. First is that my life got a little crazy for a few months - my basement flooded, I totaled my car, and I started on a different line of business at work.
The second reason is that this game is dreadfully dull reading. You'd think something about DRAGONS and SPACESHIPS would be wall-to-wall awesomeness, but no. Every worst thing about OGL writing is on display here. Outside of the fluff, it reads like a technical manual. Hell, some of the fluff reads like a technical manual. It takes six sentences to explain a rule concept in exhausting degree. It repeats information a lot - every single race entry includes the rules for favored classes, for example. There's some exciting stuff here, but it's buried under the dull, and there's nothing really offensive to get good and hopped up about either.
Here, take a look at this rule text out of the doppel section.
Seriously, we need 15 words explaining that Medium-size doesn't give you any penalties or bonuses? All the favored class rules in the description? And a line saying they have no level adjustment? Oh, and
Galactic Races posted:
Doppels have no lands of their own. They are cultural chameleons that live among other races.
I read a few paragraphs like that, lose the will to live, and go play Civ5 for two hours.
Some of this stuff should be cool. The
are a race of shapeshifters, done up before WotC gave us the Changelings in Eberron. They're feared thoughout the Empire for obvious reasons, and sought out by the ISPD because they make perfect assassins and spies. Should be something good there, but no, we get buried in exhaustive and exhausting rules, an autistic devotion to filling out every checkbox on the format sheet.
Anyways, I'm going to try something different to hopefully get through this. I'm going to throw in a piece here or there to show how stupifyingly boring most of these books are, and then pick out anything particularly cool or awful. Sadly there's more of the former. I say sadly because if it was mostly dull with occasional bouts of terrible, I could just toss these books and be done with it. But no, there really are some gems in this setting, you just have to slog through the mire to find them.
Okay then. Other races from
that are boring.
are Genasi before Genasi and have worse stats than actual Genasi. If you have 3.x books, you'll never use them because you'll just grab the superior first party version. And I'm almost 100% certain this came out after the FRCS.
are half-ogres. Their fluff is pretty obvious, but the stats... Large race with a huge strength bonus (+6!) and a big constitution bonus (+4) and reach, plus racial feats for Natural Armor. Holy cow. They have weird situational penalties (big penalty to certain saves because their lungs are overstressed in their huge bodies) and only LA +2. The LA is rough, but why would you ever look at a half-orc again?
are catfolk. There is some interesting history here - they're great spacers and actually put up a decent fight against the nascent Empire on their own, but ultimately: catfolk.
are inherently magical humans. Yawn.
are human-like chaotic good artistes with four arms.
Now that that's out of the way, let's move on to some that are a little more interesting.
are magical skeletons! As undead they make great deep space explorers since they don't, you know, need to breathe or eat. They like the empire because they're legally protected from asshole paladins deciding they must be inherently evil since they're walking skeletons. They have a crap-load of rules to fit them into the 3.x undead traits, and a +3 level adjustment... with no racial hit die. Oh boy. They do have some bitching art though!
For your Cthulu wannabes out there, we get the
These guys are a race of half-illithid warriors created by the scary mindflayer empire as commandos. By half-illithid I mean they were created from mindflayer stock but had a lot of the most powerful abilities 'pruned' by selective breeding and creepy magic. On the other hand they picked up natural stealth abilities, like chameleon skin. They're slaves in the Dark Zone, but some escape and go rogue. They look like about what you'd expect.
The ith-kon are also just flat out overpowered. They have penalties to Wisdom and Intelligence, plus light senstivity. To offset this, they get a bonus to Strength, the ability to use clairvoyance once per day, the ability to get a +10 to Hide checks whenever they want, and a weaker version of the mental blast ability that's still way overpowered if you build for it. Did I mention they're LA +0?
Oh and racial feats to make that mental blast even more broken, or get inherent telepathy.
To fill in the hippy nature lover quota, we get
. These guys are actually less cliche then they first appear. For one, despite being tree-hugging dryad plant people, they LOVE technology, as long as its environmentally safe. Sathoni also have this weird sort of non-violent imperialism thing going on, where they used to send out space-going plants to colonize other worlds and add them to the Sarthoni Domain, whether the locals were interest or not. They just kept at it, very politely and patiently insisting you join their peaceful collective no matter how many you killed. It's for your own good, after all. It's sort of a cool and scary concept. They resisted the Empire a little at first, and then let it absorb them so they could go about taking it over from within over thousands of years if need be.
However they're so passive and do things on such a long time scale its hard to see how you'd actually play one unless you were some weird rogue sathoni. Also they have a stupid amount of rules. Seriously, there's almost a whole page filled with their racial rules.
Finally, we get to the really fucked up stuff.
I don't even know where to begin with the
, other than to show you this.
Quasta fucking love technology, and are very mercantile. They're also irritatingly upbeat, friendly, and curious by default. They're saved from being kender-like in that they can get overly enthusiastic in their curiousity, to the point of amorality. Think Friend Computer. These guys are small sized, but can naturally levitate up to 10 feet off the ground and have all-around vision. They have penalties to Strength and Dexterity though. A feat lets them send eyes off to scout for them.
It says something about gamers that the
probably come across as less weird than the quasta. These guys are big living chunks of ioun stones. They're big on technomancy. As living rocks they're methodical and are fairly emotionless, except in a particular field that arouses their passion. Tarn-idoun can also make ioun stones, and pretty quickly - 1 day per 1000gp of market price. Which ones they can make is restricted by level at a vague nod to keep some balance. They also have reach for fucks sake. They can be harmed by anti-magic fields and dispel magic, though, which is actually a pretty big drawback if the DM decides to play dirty.
Lastly we get the
. Intelligent one-celled oozes, the ulb get a pretty interesting description about how they are very family-oriented and believe in immortality through the actions of their children - which makes sense, I guess, given that they reproduce by osmosis. They're also very religious, due to being surrounded by evidence of the works of the gods - I mean, look at those humanoids, how the fuck does something like that show up unless some wacky deity made it? - and because the Unification Church has their backs (since ulb are evidence of the gods' work in exactly the mirror of how the ulb view everyone else). Rules wise they have some bizarre stats - they can't see past 60ft and are slow, but they can extend multiple limbs to hold things, can get a huge bonus to climb checks, get bonus hit points, and can hold their breath for ten minutes at a time if they need to. They are however vulnerable to piercing and radiation. Their base stats are frankly pretty terrible, but their feats... they can get blindsight and multi-weapon fighting, plus a gigantic bonus to Escape Artist that is secretely broken as hell if you're clever. Still, overall they have a cool concept but pretty shitty stats. However...
I love them just for that image.
So FINALLY I did the races. I will next attempt to read the class chapter without falling into a coma and post it in a few days.