Esper Genesis Review, Part 1

I’ve toyed around with science-fiction adaptations of D&D rules (in two separate posts) but today I’m taking a look at one in particular. Esper Genesis is a new product with big ambitions to bring the mechanics of D&D 5e to the heady realms of space opera. It’s got great production value and a good energy but what does it look like under the hood? Let’s take a look together.


Esper Genesis has eight unique races to pick from, plus a new take on humans which can be easily borrowed for other settings. These races have complicated relationships but they are all well-mixed in the default setting called the Silrayne Arc. There are no “outsiders” or “enemey races,” though they do have abilities and personalities that inform how people think about them.

Let’s start with the familiar: humans. There isn’t the familiar conceit that humans are the most populous race in the setting or even that they have some prominent position, though they are seen as impulsive and “unenlightened.” They are also survivors since Earth has been ruined by war and is only held together by machines generating artificial environments. Mechanically, there are four sub-types of humans including the Earthborn (from the PHB) and galactic humans (using the feat variant in the PHB). There are also the Utopian humans who are more refined and combative Scorched humans who live in the hell that once was Earth.

As for aliens there are some interesting neighbors for the humans, some familiar themes and others interesting twists. The dendus have a distinctly Star Wars vibe with their pastel skin and rope-like hair. They are big on self-modification and each dendus belongs to a genetic line which is represented by the subraces of high-kin (strong willed and focused) and path-kin (resourceful and quick). Similarly human-like are the eldori who look a lot like Chiss (Star Wars again) they are ancient and have been exploring the Crucibles for a milennium so they have lots of insights. They are a spiritual people which extends to their mechanics as well: eldori have bonus talents and their sub-species are lunar (monastic spiritualists) and solar (spiritual guardians).

Esper Genesis - Valna and Dendus
Image © Alligator Alley Entertainment

Less human are the matokai, large dinosaur-like warriors with four sub-types, and valna, the obligatory cat-people. These give you a chance to try something pretty different but they’re open enough that you can develop your people’s customs in the game. The kesh are also not very human, being not only green-skinned and stern but also constant wanderers (you can pick which sub-type you are for planetary or space abilities). If you want to be truly alien, though, you can’t go weirder than the belare who are energy beings that have to remain in their protective suits to protect those around them.

Lastly are the setting’s artificial beings, the ashenforged. Made by the dendus by blending dead bodies and new technology in a Crucible, they adapt quickly and are ready to start exploring the galaxy. This is the race for those of you wanting to place a robot just learning how one eats and shakes hands, as well as those of you who want a lot of gloom in your backstory.

A future supplement will provide guidelines for making even more races for your campaign, but the authors are clear that this is just the most common races out there. Make up your own or borrow from other 5e sources as you see fit!

Classes and Esper Powers

Classes in Esper Genesis get are able to use talents which take the mechanical place of spells in this game. Some are using the Crucible energies while others are just mechanical whizzes or weapons specialists. While some of these classes borrow mechanics from the standard D&D classes, they are distinct classes written especially for the Esper Genesis setting.

Adepts are psionicists with an empowering point system like sorcerers whereas Melders are more in the warlock/wizard bent with specific talents that shape their pseudo-spellcasting. Cybermancers are more than expert hackers but with the Crucibles they can hack reality itself. They have digital forms and complicated programs at their disposal, but their digital focus sets them apart from Engineers who are more of the tinkering and building type. The latter adapt weapons, boost equipment, and all have built-in rigging ability. I wonder if you could make an engineer who isn’t a rigger but I’m not complaining exactly.

esper genesis - characters
Image © Alligator Alley Entertainment

On the more martial side of things, Hunters are sci-fi rangers and Warriors are sci-fi fighters. The Sentinel is actually a really awesome class that fills the mechanical niche of the paladin but is actually a cybernetic killing machine. Their party buffs are technology manipulations and their powered strike is boosted by cyber-muscles. Last of all is the Specialist which is a sci-fi rogue with a healthy dose of Solid Snake built in.


The backgrounds available to characters in Esper Genesis are a lot like those seen in the Players Handbook. Backgrounds like the Patrician, Pilot, and Outlaw are sci-fi roles expected from a a conversion of D&D to a different setting. Other ones, though, like the Celebrity, Shipper, and Media Investigator are a different sort of occupation from those experienced by D&D adventurers.

In a modern or sci-fi setting these are more than just where you come from. A celebrity character’s background will affect their lives in general just like their class and race will. There’s definitely room to expand here but the backgrounds provided are all pretty great.

Next time…

The next post about Esper Genesis will delve into the equipment, spaceships, and setting of the game. Hopefully this gives you a good sense of how the 5e rules have been modified for science-fiction in this book. It’s a deft adaptation and worth purchasing just for this ruleset if you’re interested in 5e science-fiction. Still, as you’ll see next time, this is just the tip of a very awesome iceberg.

12 thoughts on “Esper Genesis Review, Part 1

      1. Totally cool, looking forward to it! I dig the game and reviews are sparse. So yours has been really helpful thus far!


  1. Although the setting has some original ideas it’s basically D&D in space without the fantasy races. The classes, spells, and feats are all the same just renamed to give it a sci-fi feel. We found the rules to be incomplete at times and used our knowledge of 5e to fill in the gaps.

    This game has potential but with only the core book currently available which contains a very limited bestiary, there’s a really not much you can do unless you’re willing to convert monsters from 5e content that’s available. Our GM had to do this for the entirety of our campaign and found it exhausting.

    Ultimately, we decided Esper Genesis wasn’t the right fit for our group. We thought there were some really neat ideas, but their implementation seemed incomplete and rushed. There’s a possibility of revisiting the game once all three books are available, but who knows when that will be. In the meantime, we’d rather play Starfinder or Scum and Villainy to satisfy our sci-fi itch.


    1. I know I’m a couple of months late with my reply, but my group has experienced exactly the opposite of your last line. We’re moving to Esper Genesis from Starfinder, because the Starfinder rules are so incredibly needlessly complex and unbalanced (seriously, why would anybody ever play anything other than an operative?). Esper Genesis uses the D&D 5th Edition rules system, which is, quite frankly, the best D&D rules system released to date. It’s easy, it’s intuitive. People have fun playing it. That last was actually an issue at my table. I had two different groups running Starfinder at one time, and I had a player in each group who were vocal in their opposition to playing Starfinder because it just wasn’t fun. I have some theories on why they didn’t find the system to be fun, but that’s a little off-topic.

      Right now we’re just running the Starfinder APs (because as much as I dislike the rules, the world that was set up for the system wasn’t half bad) with Esper Genesis rules, with me as DM converting on the fly. It’s not so bad, although like you said, I’m waiting for the next two books.


  2. I love the esper games our group has played, we’re making it a campaign and loving it. I have a sentinel and it is a cybernetic killing machine. We made it much like Tony Stark with the rig being a nano tech dispenser with the use of rig invisibility allowing me to have armor and weapons that appear on me as a bonus action. it’s been a blast.


  3. Just my character playboy, rich, smart, charismatic, and has a suit of kick ass armor. So far we are more like dark matter than avengers. That would be great to have the whole avengers in space thing going. I’d need the fly boots installed… lol


  4. I was extremely disappointed by the Sentinel class – its not really a Paladin stand-in. In 5e, Paladins are bulwarks against cosmic evil, and such existential threats. In Esper Genesis, the Sentinel has been downgraded to a ‘killer of robots’. The game designers should have instead made a ‘robot killer’ subclass of Hunter, and made Sentinels a class of spiritually-inclined warriors that are oath-bound to defend life and creation against the threats of Aberrations, Proteans and Netherants. In the case of Paladins, a big part of what defines the class is their sworn enemies. Take that away, and what do you have? Nothing worthwhile.

    And where is the “Find Steed” as a level 2 spell that summons and binds the equivalent of a warhorse to the Sentinel? At level 3 Esper Genesis has ‘summon car’, but that is not described as a combat vehicle. WTF? The Found Steed is arguably the other half of what makes Paladins cool. Nonsense!

    If I ever DM Esper Genesis, I will do exactly as I suggested above – fold the Sentinel class into a subclass of Hunter, and lift the whole Paladin class – spells and all – straight out of D&D 5e.


    1. Well, if there’s a strength to DnD then it’s the variety of it’s options and the modularity. I think you could have PHB classes and Esper Genesis classes side by side in a game and either reflavor or rewrite the setting a little but. I agree that the Sentinel has some thematic holes and this sounds like a great house rule.


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