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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