Last time I looked at Spaceships & Starwyrms I focused on the character creation side. Today, I’m wrapping things up with a look at the setting, the spaceships that characters will use, and the creatures they’ll encounter along the way.
The Nacora Galaxy
The setting for this game is the Nacora Galaxy, a galaxy distant from our own Milky Way and filled with the mysterious dark matter energy that allows for magic in the setting. Chapter One of the book goes through a series of intriguing planets, all of them homeworlds to one of the species in Chapter Two (discussed last time). Each world gets a small sidebar with relevant data (official designation like “Deru II” as opposed to “Deru,” system name, galactic sector, orbital and rotational period, environmental advisories, and dark matter energy levels).
Like a lot of sci-fi series (including Star Trek and Star Wars) planets in S&S tend to have a single dominant biome and one monoculture dominating. They come with a few plot hooks in the form of set pieces that might inspire adventures and social write ups that list some triumphs and difficulties of life there. All of them are great for setting a story and none read like duds… but the flip side is that none of them are breaking new ground in terms of imaginative or extreme science fiction telling. Like the species, they are all interesting and compelling while staying in the realm of the familiar.
These world write-ups are followed by descriptions of the Governments and Organizations of the Nacora Galaxy, and these are not your typical sci-fi governments. They are multi-species, complex, and believable. While some are more insular than others (or have philosophies that might not be as attractive to players) none of these organizations are obvious bad guys who exist without morality or motivation. The closest the book comes is the Veerux Empire, a distant theocracy from beyond the Nacora Galaxy, which is made up of humans so you can’t just dismiss them as alien. There are also pirate forces but… I mean you can’t knock people for being space pirates, right? It’s just so glamorous!
There are official calendars, lists of holidays, religions (complete with class mechanics), other planes (Ethereal, Astral, Feywild, and Shadowfell all with sci-fi names, as well as the elemental planes), and some less defined stuff. This chapter details a large amount of information, but also leaves plenty of hooks to make this setting your own. I really appreciate that.
First off, and this is a small thing, this setting doesn’t attempt to use “galactic pieces” or “gold pryons” or something weird to make the “gp” from the core books work. They use credits (cc) and they’re worth half a gold piece if you’re converting and players just have to deal with being in a new setting.
Since this is a sci-fi fantasy setting, things work along the lines of pseudomedieval equipment and you’re just as likely to see shields and swords as vacsuits and rifles. You will also probably have a good amount of your sci-fi equipment enchanted in one way or another. It’s baked into the system and there’s no separation like with Chris Dias’s Amethyst game. Equipment is also highly customizable with a number of modification slots (or “mod slots”) on each item to add what you like. There’s also, in case you were wondering, a two-page section on cyberware and a three-page section on computers including software.
Some gems in this section include omniwire armor (minor protection but lots of mod slots to customize for hacker/thief types), a plasma shotgun (just sounds cool), a liquid nitrogen grenade (I can’t even imagine…), a smuggling compartment implant (small box in your torso that’s undetectable to scans or magic), the included software for computers (technically not an item, but they include all the stuff you would expect on your new laptop in every computer in the game), mage sight goggles (tech that lets you see enchantments), and a jet submarine (for when you want to race around the ocean).
The chapter wraps up with a look at lifestyles in interstellar cultures and a new d00 table of trinkets to replace what’s in the DMG. When your players check someone’s pockets and you haven’t given them anything interesting roll here and they might find an ancient coin won in a gambling match, a single robotic foot, or a decorative fan depicting a smiling robot (legit my first three rolls).
A sci-fi game needs spaceships, of course, and that means you need some rules for them. Chapter Seven of this book details how spaceships are handled in S&S and how your characters interact with them. Whether single-pilot fighters or massive freighters with huge crews, spaceships are locations and equipment for the characters all at once. Player characters in spaceship combat roll initiative as normal and take their actions individually while NPC ships move as a unit.
Normally the pilot flies the ship and other crew members do a number of other tasks: using weapons, taking countermeasures, diverting power, overclocking the engines, and hacking the enemy ship’s systems. It’s a long section but it seems all pretty straightforward, particularly since it can work like ritual casting or beast companions. If someone wants to build their character around using the ship there’s lots for them to make use of. If you’d rather have this be a minor part of your game then that’s easy enough to do as well.
Creating a spaceship involves starting with a base ship (there are nine different templates, not including shuttles and escape pods and such) and each of those give you the basic stats for the ship. Spaceships have hit points and size like a creature but also body (damage reduction), speed and handling (used for maneuvers), turn (how tightly it can move), charge (startup time), weapon slots and development slots (for customization), and minimum and maximum crew sizes. Using these you can add on defense systems, weapon systems, and a host of other items both magical (abjuring chambers for magic circles) and mundane (A.I.s to run the ship or a medical bay). The chapter wraps up with twenty-six different templates for GMs to use right out of the gate.
While you can use standard D&D monsters in a Spaceships & Starwyrms campaign, there’s a big chapter at the end of the book with some great, thematic creatures as well. There are Extraplanar Abominations (a more sci-fi themed version of demons and devils), cyber zombies (someone with too many implants who becomes a horrible creature), deka (the plodding hunters of the plant-based Saguarin species), new elementals (regular and mephit forms of acid, electricity, metal, debris, and radiation creatures), various robots, the titular starwyrms (they remind of the astral dreadnoughts from old D&D but with stages), several Veerux threats (they’re the zealous cult from beyond the galaxy), and a small set of NPCs.
After finishing the whole thing, I think my initial impression holds. This is a solid project with more than enough to get your campaign going. The material isn’t predictable or boring but it also has enough tropes and archetypes that you will feel right at home. It’s professionally done and really a fun read. I can’t wait to set off in the Nacora galaxy myself!