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 cliché 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 cliché. 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 Skathári 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.
Posted in Role-Playing, Thinking Out Loud and tagged Dark Matter by Eran with 6 comments.