Reading Dark Matter 4: Character Options

This chapter details new character options. Mainly subclasses for the official D&D classes as well as for the proprietary ones. Also detailed are new feats, backgrounds, and new skills relevant for a more sci-fi, space-faring game.

Dark Matter sits on top of D&D5E so anything from the core system is compatible with DM and, should be, vice versa.


The first thing we see is the new proficiencies for classes. Of note are the antimattter dagger, arc baton, Avia-Ra sunstaff, blasters (simple and martial), blitz cannon, impactor, laser swords, magnus opum, phaser, photonic lash, psionic helm, REC gun, repeater, Skathari warclub, swarm pistol, thermal lance, and volcanic. This also tells us that the entire class of the original ranged weapons have been excised from the setting and replaced with various blasters. I guess we’ll get into what exactly are the new special ones later in the book in the equipment section.

What looks like the martial classes (I can’t really judge the Mage Hand Press ones as I am unfamiliar) get the simple and martial proficiencies or some specific martial weapons if they don’t get the whole class (Barbarian, Rogue). The less martial, or caster, classes get only simple and some specific weapons. I like the fact that almost everyone gets the simple blasters proficiency because I expect these kinds of weapons to be rather easy to operate successfully, even if it’s not with deadly accurately.

Equipment Packs

DM introduces the optional rules to modify the equipment packs. I like that because I like packs but I always have an issue with an item or two there. You can change between weapons of the same type, when range weapons are exchanged for equivalent blasters.

Then we get into specific packs available for a space-faring game. I’m going to have to jump back and forth to the equipment section to see what everything is. Not a fan of that but I guess I get it.

First, let’s see what repeats often.

  1. A comm set. Or comlink. Or communicator. Or whatever you want to call it. Basically, a walkie-talkie. Limited range but allows communication over distance. This setting would feel annoying without it.
  2. Backpack/Chest. Obviously. Since it’s not described in the book, it’s probably taken directly from the SRD.
  3. Datapad. The local computing device/e-reader. Would also expect everyone in this setting to have one.
  4. Flashlight, this setting’s version of torches, I’m guessing. Much more effective. Yes, I know that’s what a Bullseye Lantern is for but I like getting something this simple off the bat.
  5. Life Suit. A Hazardous Environment suit that can survive space for a certain time and is comfortable enough to wear under armor. Also, kind of necessary in this setting.

Another thing of note is that only the Marine’s and Survivor’s Pack contain a bed roll. This is a big thing for how adventuring in the game works. How does camping work? Do players always have a ship to go back to?

Now, let’s look at the things that are new and/or interesting on those lists.

The Ambassador gets a holosphere, a recorder and player that can replace the often used Minor Illusion for sharing information. And it looks like the R2-D2 recording from A New Hope which is kind of cool. They also get a Log Keeper which is not a short form for hologram but a long form audio recorder/player. Not sure why it’s not just one device with different capabilities but, oh well. They also get a Wristwatch which as an actual item in the list and just an abstract item. Why? Don’t know. They also get an Igniter, the current setting equivalent of the tinderbox. And they get an Omnitool which is like a Leatherman pocket knife jacked up to 11. I like it because it allows players to be creative. The final piece is what they call Vent Tape, 60 feet of it. Which is basically Duct Tape. That, I think, is an awesome idea. This just encourages creativity in all its forms.

The Marine gets a set of Binoculars. The book includes a sentence long, very mechanical, description of what binoculars do. They also get Concussion Grenades, a device very similar to a Flashbang. I would treat it as something you throw at the ground, not a target, and that everyone in the radius need to save with Constitution, not Dexterity, against the damage and deafening. And I’ll also add blinding, until the end of the next turn, not the start of it. The next interesting thing on their list is the Tactical Vest, like you see SWAT teams wear. You can wear it over armor and it allows you to carry a lot of things for easy reach. I love it. And it also looks like they’re one of the few who get rope.

The Researcher gets Binoculars, a Holosphere, a Log Keepeer, an Omnitool, and a Wristwatch as well. They also get Hypodermic Needle, which is like a potion administering device who doesn’t provide anything new except a more structured way for forcing it on someone else. Second addition is the Quadcorder, which is like a Star Trek Tricorder. Ah, I get it. It’s a Tricorder but better. It scans things. I like it. There should be more tools to get information.

The Surveyor gets a bed roll too, binoculars, the log keeper, an igniter, a quadcorder, some rope, and a wristwatch. (I’m still hung up on the wristwatch thing. Shouldn’t this be something anyone can just have?) They also get a bandolier, a mini-backpack for storing small things and mostly sounds like someone wanted to play Chewie.

The Spacer gets a bandolier, a data pad, a holosphere, log keeper, igniter, an omnitool, a quadcorder, and vent tape. They also get an interface rig, a very abstract thing that sounds like a Shadowrun deck but isn’t really explained beyond that. They also have Krash, an energy drink that reduces exhaustion temporarily. That is a very interesting addition.

Fighting Styles

DM introduces some new fighting styles. Let’s see how they look like.

Akimbo. What you think it is, two weapon fighting for blasters. It’s important to mention because the only thing close to that in vanilla D&D is the Crossbow Expert feat.

Crippling. Reduces speed on melee weapon hit. Not sure how useful it is. It’s like a reduced Sentinel but it’s only a fighting style, so maybe.

Duelist. A once per round extra die of damage to blasters if you shoot one handed and hit really hard. Kind of like Savage Attacker for blasters but I like the idea of hitting over AC instead of forcing you to take a penalty.

Shotgunner. The Scatterguns version of Great Weapon Fighting. Appropriate.

Titan Fighting. That is actually interesting if very situational. It gives you a damage boost vs larger enemies. I would prefer something like an attack bonus because it goes a longer way. Almost no one takes the Dueling style but Archery is a game changer for every ranged fighter.

The next section talks about what ship the characters should have. Good to get into that early. A galaxy-spanning game requires the characters to have means of transport. It’s also important to mention that low level characters probably don’t have access to the funds required to purchase a space ship. So it’s up to the guide and players to decide what kind of ship it is and how they got it, and, most likely, who do they owe for it.

The next post will be about the available subclasses. I could probably write a lot more about the official classes but they also have options here for Mage Press classes.

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