Reading Dark Matter 2: Races

Let’s talk about races again. This time, mechanically.

Amoeboids are a classic space fantasy race so I would expect them to be included. As previously stated, they function here as the caretakers of the Maw stations, maintaining the ancient structures that allow everyone to traverse the galaxy. You get the predictable ability to change into the form of other races (I just don’t get why you get their language as well) and the ability to squeeze through very small spaces. I like the reform ability to heal some damage after being hit, symbolising their blob body.

The Avia-Ra race bothers me on so many levels. They are obviously taken from the Aarakocra, yet they have very humanoid, non-feathery, bodies but with a bird head and what seems like bird feet with talons. They are relentlessly, hopelessly, unapologetically, annoyingly, missionary religious. They draw their theme way to heavily from Egyptian mythology. They also get three signature Cleric spells (Thaumaturgy, Sacred Flame, and Bless) from the get go which I think should be more spaced out.

Nautilids are really interesting. They are fish-like, exact form unknown, because they are always encased in massive armor suits. They are obviously swimming and amphibious. I don’t get the investigation proficiency. However, I like the armor bonus, the powerful build granted from the suit, the ability to take on more armor, and that it grants fire resistance. Not sure about the universal translator though. I do like the idea and design for the race but I hate it that they take so much Greek influence.

The Near-Human race is basically the Variant Human, as seen in the Basic Rules, except this little tidbit: “Feat. You gain one feat of your choice. This feat must have Near-Human variant as a prerequisite.” and I guess we’ll find out what that means later in the Feats chapter.

I like the Skathári on many levels. Firstly, because they are bug people and I always like the stranger things and secondly, because, in an advanced world full of Class-M loving races, they are luddite extremophiles. I also like the fact that certain skathári have certain taboos exemplified in a neat little table to roll on or choose from. Tables are world-building! so I like these things and think they should be included more: every race, every background, every class. Adventurers will probably deviate somewhat from all that norm for the race and that’s fine but this is flavorful background. Skathári have names that sound like you would need insectoid mandibles to speak them and, I can’t remember the places I saw it before, they also come with honorifics they accumulate as a sort of life story that must be recited in full when they are introduced. If this was my game, I would also add that it must be in song as if you were a cantor leading a prayer.
Because of their hardy nature they ignore harsh environments, can hold their breath longer, and have advantage against gases. They can also glide and, thus, resist falling damage. They get Powerful Build, a climbing speed, and can regenerate limbs. In all, I would say this race’s description is predictable by their premise but in a very good way. Insectoid races are quite different across fiction from Master of Orion to Starship Troopers to Alien and you can’t really go wrong with them unless you copy a previous idea as is. The mechanics here very much live up to the theme and I also like the fact that they speak Common (something I hate another 5E insectoid race doesn’t) but their apparatus is so different it effects the way they speak it and their language is very difficult for everyone else.

Going to the Vect again, I look first at their name inspirations: A lot of standard serial number naming as well as by assignment but I like the idea of them calling themselves after some technical term from their field (like Phong, or Null). Wish they would have leaned more that way. They are, of course, modular so they can pick their +1 ASI. Their age is only limited by matter fatigue and software stability, which is good that they describe it that way. I like the thermo-vision but they could have done more with it. They are, obviously, resilient to a lot of things that take down meat bags, and they don’t really sleep but I like it that magic can put them to sleep. Their mechanical nature gives them advantage vs charm which is also cool. They have a configurable chassis that makes them more interesting than just a regular armor class and when they do go for AC, they can’t go crazy with it. Also good.

Lots of scifi and fantasy worlds have those creatures that go bump in the night, the ones that are a blight, everyone fears, and usually no one gets to witness up close and live to tell about it. The Reavers, Xenomorphs, Gorn, Xraki, Yuuzhan Vong, and now, the Wroth. In Dark Matter, the Wroth are unabashedly evil. They live in deep space, they raid, kill, and disappear, anything and everything without compunction. They form a sort of psionic unification, they create new drones in vats, they genetic engineer every aspect, and so, a rogue Wrothian PC has to be very special and is doomed from the start. I really like this idea that a PC with this race comes from a very dark place. This isn’t Drow or Orc or anything like that. The fiction of the Wroth means that if you see one, you run; if you see an armada, you evacuate the solar system; no other way about it. This PC just showing up in civilised society will run into immediate trouble if they’re not heavily disguised.
Darkvision is a must have for a race like this. They can mentally shut down other creatures at distance, which is a very cool limited ability. They rip and tear as a baseline and thus have natural weapons. And, they are, of course, telepathic. What I especially like about their traits section is that because the Wrothian language is mostly telepathic, they don’t really have names that a baseline humanoid can understand. In my game, I would ask the player of a Wrothian to either pick something silly their character thought would work when they entered society, or pick some kind of sound sequence their strange jaws can make that sounds very scary.

This is the end of the new races section, the one that explains options for player characters. Obviously, despite their being elves and dwarves in this setting, they are not detailed here because the writers expect you to have the PHB handy. They have some banal choices here but also some very cool ones that make me want to start up a new campaign.

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