Reading Dark Matter 1.1: Races in the ‘Verse

This section details the new races in the setting as well has how the classic ones fit in it.

As you would expect, and the new Spelljammer books also assure us, you can’t have a space-themed fantasy without a new ooze-like race. That’s where the Amoeboids come in. They play the role of the strange and they are the race that manages the Maw stations, as previously discussed. Their origin is a mystery but they are tied to the ancient technological structures that are the Maws. As such, they are highly technological.

Myself, I consider the ooze-like creatures a clichรฉ in this genre but a kind of necessary one. Especially in this setting they are what I would expect every other creature except a scant few to be: wholly alien to our normal. Though they are depicted in the artwork in a somewhat humanoid form. Too bad this alien-ness isn’t represented anywhere else.

The Avia-Ra are this settings’ bird-folk. They appear to be a complete rip-off visually distinct inspiration from the Aarakocra in the regular 5E collection. They are also the highly religious race, worshipping the sun (There are lots of suns in the galaxy, I know), and it’s Platonic representation, the Sepulcher Star; The massive magically stable and invariant star orbiting the galaxy’s central super-massive black hole, even establishing their HQ citadel orbiting around it. They are missionaries through and through and, thus, are treated kind of like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Habadnikim: They are disliked because they preach but tolerated because freedom and free speech and all of that.

I think these are a kind of tired clichรฉ. Birdfolk are common in sci-fi and fantasy genres, even in space-based ones (Star Control has two, even a highly religious one) and they do make for a logical evolutionary path but I just wish they would make them more interesting and unique rather than another humanoid with an eagle-like face.

Dwarves come in at number three on the list, again, leaning into the stereotype of a gruff, stoic, mostly bearded race that takes so much inspiration from Viking mythology they even use exact names for things. They are the heavy engineering and stone industry race, as you would expect.

While the whole Rock & Stone(!) bit is good for a silly game, I expected a bit more flavor for a product that, I hope, is trying to make something distinct. I appreciate their need to remain somewhat faithful to the source material to maintain some compatibility but making the Star Dwarves sub-race somewhat more flavorful would have been a boon.

Coming up next are the Elves. Superior, Vulcan-like beings of great age and emotional complexes, these are again, somewhat flightless compared to the original elves from 5E. They are an empire of different houses with a very strict sense of what is allowed and disallowed in their society. The different subraces are represented in the Star-Elf dynasties and different houses. Their traits are only slightly ported over to this setting.

Again, I expected a brand new, very different setting of 5E to try to break the mold a bit, even while maintaining compatibility and the elves are one of the greatest examples here of not doing that.

The Gnomes, again in classic fashion, are the tinkerers and artisans, split into guilds and lean so much into technology that most other races don’t understand what they’re doing and even somewhat sneer at their audacity to not do things as they have always been done.

Here too, wanting something a little outside the fantasy norms, I am disappointed to find the same familiar gnomes.

I kind of don’t want to talk about the Halflings now as they follow the same old, even Tolkien-esque, stereotype: they are homely, welcoming, hosting race specialising in trading and hotel management.

I do have to mention what I really do like about what they did with the Halflings here is that they not only have a sort of shadow monopoly on banking and loaning, they are also in hidden control of the mafias/yakuzas/bratvas of the galaxy and like to make too curious people disappear.

Humans are also, predictably, quite conforming to standard you would expect if you know the setting’s inspiration genres. They are new on the scene, very versatile, and spread so quickly that despite being new, they are very numerous in the galaxy.

I pretty much expect the versatile side of the race by now and have no actual complaints about it but I don’t like the idea that they are especially new as this always happens in single-player galactic-spanning games because the player will usually play the human and they’re new to the game. This is irrelevant here because any player can play any player race. I also don’t understand the necessity of having humans as the most wide-spread and numerous race. It’s been done to death. One of the things I loved about the movie Titan A.E. was that there, a wierd race destroyed Earth and hunted the human race to near extinction so being human in the galaxy was a rarity.

You know what? I like the Nautilids. I expect to have a waterborne race to examine that evolutionary path and they’re usually very cool and interesting. I also expect them to wear some kind of mechanical contraption to allow them to interact with the rest of the air breathers but I love the fact that they are described as having hulking mech suits. I also like the idea that they don’t just need water but a very specific liquid solution to survive. It’s different and unique and adds another layer to them that they always need augmentation and they can’t synthesise it.

What I hate is the name! For the love of whatever tentacled monster is out there, why Nautilids?! Why is their home planet called Poseidon?! It almost ruins the whole thing.

If you know Orcs from the generic 5E fantasy, you know Orcs here. Just put them in space. They are tribal, they focus on war, and I bet their ship design also brings back memories of Warcraft architecture. Apparently, they also took the Dark Matter engine, what every other race uses for transportation, and turned it into a bomb.

I hate all of this.

The Skathรกri are the second interesting race on this list. As you might expect from the name or from whose turn it is on the genre races wheel, they are a hardy insectoid race that shun technology and survive in extremophile only zones where other races fear to tread without a full environmental suit, at least.

They are not really an innovation in this space but, to me, these are always interesting as they are always quite far from what you’d expect an evolved creature to be.

Finally, we have the Vect, last on the list and the least, at least for some (I had to pun). They are this setting’s humanoid construct race and they follow expected design principles with a still quite human-like frame. These were built by the Dwarves, apparently, who realised to late what they have done.

I didn’t expect much from this design and got pretty much what I expected, along with the Eberron-like origin story but I do like the fact that they come from a highly intelligent mobile foundry that builds them and managed to elevate itself so much it no longer has any meaningful dialogue with the lesser races.

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Reading Dark Matter 1: The ‘Verse

The book starts off with a map of its galaxy. As expected, it uses the classic artist’s depiction of the Milky Way. The map looks pretty much like you’d expect from a new setting based on 5E. There are territories for Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, and even a little Gnomish region. Not a lot out of the ordinary. Also, the names for planets of various races are very uninspired like Grimdark names for Orc locations and a Viking theme for Dwarf ones.

What does stand out a bit is the Maw Stations Grid. Kind of like jump gates or mass accelerators, the Maws are connecting points that allow fast travel where traversing between star systems would otherwise be impossible. It also has a little whiff of Mass Effect as they are relics of an ancient race and maintained by an enigmatic race of strange creatures who are only ones that know how to keep them in working order so other races can treat the galaxy as their playground.

The terms used in this more thematic chapter will be very familiar to anyone savvy in space western works: The ‘Verse, The Black, etc… What might be new is the fact that the galaxy sports a few “Dead Magic Zones” where magic ceases to function, and, predictably, the Gnomish homeworld is in the middle of such a zone. So they’re very techy instead.

There is a lot of talk of technology in Dark Matter but it is so intertwined with its magic as to be almost indistinguishable. Every where you look there are void crystals and hard light, blasters working off of Arcane Batteries and jump gates built into the huge carcasses of ancient unfathomable space monsters.

I came to this looking for a more sci-fi-esque take on an OGL roleplaying game and so far it feels like I’m looking at something only slightly more advanced than Spelljammer. Which is sad because there is definitely a lot of style on display here.

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Reading Dark Matter (An OGL Compatible System)

With Spelljammer coming out for 5E (and even before that), I was interested in taking the system in a more space-y direction. I read the Wildjammer homebrew, which apparently stopped its development when Spelljammer was announced, as well as a few other system I thought my fit the bill. I started reading Dark Matter and I’m also looking into Esper Genesis. But let’s focus on the former for now. It is definitely cool and interesting and fully compatible with 5E, which is why they don’t include a lot of “basic” material in the book, assuming you’ve played and are familiar with the OGL core system.

Following will be a series of posts of my impressions from this system.

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Day 14-15: Ice Cream is Actually Kind of Fine

I still feel kind of stuffed most of the time and I think I’m eating well underneath the average calorie requirement for the day. Weight has actually stayed quite the same as before. I have been quite tired lately, just crashing when I get home. Though, yesterday, I can probably explain it with a sugar crash. It was happy hour at work and I did have one ice cream cone. I saw it’s only 22% carbs. Which is not great but not horrible. The bitter chocolate I have is more than that. Though it was still 11g of sugar so that was probably overwhelming to my system right now.

This weekend, there is a lot of meat in my future.

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Day 13: Stress at Work is Done

The thing is working and I think we all deserve a cookie. A very low carb, tasty cookie. Anyway, I decided to aim low on yesterday’s lunch and just bought a bunch of cold cuts, a pepper, a cucumber, and an avocado. And I didn’t eat the avocado. At home, I hate a couple strips of chicken, a handful of peas, and my bread with cheese.

I woke up today still feeling stuffed. Maayan told me to just eat the Avocado for lunch. I’ll probably still get another meat-like device but I think I’ll do what she says. She’s still planning on making burgers, I think.

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Day 11-12: Stress at Work Continues

Why is that pertinent? Because I had ice cream and I felt like I really needed it. Also, I’ve been waking up in the morning feeling stuffed. Meaning I’ve been eating too much at dinner. I don’t like that feeling. Makes me think about the hunger/life-expectancy experiments and maybe I should get used to being slightly hungry and skipping the idea of a standard meal.

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Day 9-10: Just a Weekend

Just staying at home as Maayan went to see her friends. Had a big salad, a bag of Schwarma and not much else. Did watch Morbius with a batch of Popcorn yesterday. Still conflicted about it. Popcorn is kind of carbohydrate rich but considering how filling it is… I don’t now.

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Day 7-8: My Stomach Has Shrunk

For the last few days it feels like my stomach has shrunk three sizes. Right now, if I have a big enough lunch, I can barely eat anything for dinner. Yesterday I ate two slices of sausage for breakfast which held me almost to lunch, had two vegi-schnitzels and two sausages for lunch, a handful of pistachios, and three actual schnitzels and a slice of bread for dinner. And that made me a bit stuffed. I don’t know exactly what’s going on but I’m almost never actually hungry during the day now.

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Day 6: Doing an Experiment

Found, among the various things I can order for lunch, a salad that comes with a burger. Added omelet on top and it was a nice lunch. Stole some salad and kebab from coworkers and then I ended up with some bread and cheese for dinner.

The point is I ordered two lunches (which was kind of cheap per) and saved one for tomorrow. That’s how I order cheaply and get over the order minimum.

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Day 5: A Bit Bad

I totally lost control yesterday and… at an icecream cone. I’m telling you, this job is having a bad effect on me. ๐Ÿ˜›

There were also Kabukim so I had a handful of that. But I did eat my salad. Today I’m thinking about ordering lots of meat for lunch and then saving some for tomorrow.

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