I love RPGs. You know I love RPGs. I hate bad-mouthing games and especially hate any of those anti-this-game and anti-that-game ranting because game company X has raped your childhood and done something in a way you don’t like.
But even I have to admit that there are some bad games out there (right deadEarth?). James Ward and William Connor’s “Sundered Reaches” d20 variant is definitely one of them. Pimped as “the most challenging campaign setting ever created”.
Be warned, players and GMs looking for easy adventures need not open this book!
At heart this is a planetary romance RPG bolted on to the d20 system, but not done with any of the skill and design that the Iron Lords of Jupiter minigame from Polyhedron had. And it was just a minigame sold in the back of a magazine as opposed to a full book.
So, the basis of the setting is that game play takes place on Mars, and characters transported to Mars slowly change into one of the appropriate Martian races based on his class (and ignoring his race). Because the setting is so challenging, all the class/race combos start at level 4 (and although some of the races can multiclass, you have to extrapolate what the first three levels of each class is like since each one starts at level 4 – so a level 8 Helcenic who decides to take a level of Basinto would have to compare the Basinto race/class to a core D&D rogue and extrapolate what abilities are granted at levels 1, 2 and 3.
Hell, one piece of brilliance is the system for “Lumari Spells” – these are the ancient magics of the lost star children. All spellcasters get them and as they level up they get to apply metamagic effects to them for free. The spells are chosen from the “Lumari Spell List”. Then they finally tell us that there is no such list – the DM and player must work together for each character to determine what spells are available to each character through his genetic and family heritage of Lumari spells they have collected… Enamouring. I like games you get to customize, but this doesn’t even have any examples of a “standard” Lumari spell list, and there are no guidelines as to whether certain metamagics should be more controlled than others since they are “free” on Lumari spells (so a level 4 starting character would have 2 lumari spells on average and three metamagic feats permanently attached to them – I’m thinking of an empowered and maximized Scorching Ray dealing 36 damage, and a maximized Cure Light Wounds).
Anyways, enough griping. It is time to roll up a Martian or two!
I’ll use my typical Organic Chargen (3.5 DMG, page 169) – 4d6-L in order, reroll one, switch two.
- Strength 17
- Dexterity 10
- Constitution 14
- Intelligence 12
- Wisdom 16
- Charisma 5
Talk about a dump stat.
In D&D this would make a decent cleric (although the low Charisma reduces their ability to turn undead effectively). On Mars where the clerical race doesn’t turn undead at all, however… So cleric it will be, err, I mean a Halcenic – the slave race of Mars which looks remarkably like a hairy Neanderthal. Halcenics get +2 Wis and -2 Int… But before that I’ll take the Charisma reroll and see about swapping stats. 15 on the reroll and I’ll swap it with my Dexterity, making a potently physical and very wise creature.
Just to be different, and to point out how much more challenging this game world is, all characters level up with 10% less XP than needed in the core d20 rules, so a starting level 4 character has 5,401 XP. Also, they don’t get any feats until level 6 (ooooh, challenging!) and they get their first stat advance at level 5 instead of 4.
Halcenics get 2d6 hit points per level plus Con bonus (14 at level 1, and another 25 for levels 2-4). Even though they are the only divine spellcasters in the world, they are not looked upon as people, rather like cattle. Fit for backbreaking work, pretty good to eat if you cook them right, but they don’t make especially good pets. Yeah. Go team cleric!
As a halcenic, he starts off with 3d6 sp (Jim Ward and his love of the silver standard strikes again, for increased challenge!). 11 sp should be enough to buy… Damn, everything is so damn expensive, and NOWHERE in the book (at least that I can find) do they list the exchange rate between the two currencies – Silver Pieces and Water Pints. The conversion rate is mentioned a few times, but the actual rate is not give. Hrmph. Anyways, with 11 sp I can’t pick up any armour and the best I can manage for fighting is… a Longspear or a Greatclub (each set at exactly 11 sp). I am finally seeing exactly how challenging this game is – starting characters can’t afford more than a poking stick OR a shield. At level 4. Must suck to be playing a character race without spells.
Alright, what else does a halcenic start with at level 4? Electrical Resistance 5, Fire Resistance 5 and a Lumari feat of his choice. This is a pain in the ass, as there are very few Lumari feats, most work with an existing racial power of the various races (and there are none specific to halcenics) and all have prerequisites including other feats which these characters don’t start with. So, this “free” Lumari feat? Yeah, there isn’t ONE that this character qualifies for. Hell, even if he started with a feat at level 1 and another at level 3, he still wouldn’t qualify for any of the Lumari feats. Nice system, guys.
He starts with basic weapon proficiency and four more proficiencies to assign to weapons or armour. So light and medium armour proficiency, longspear proficiency, and… longbow proficiency.
He does however get to choose two clerical domains, and can cast spells as a cleric (5 orisons per day, 3 level 1 spells per day, 2 level 2 spells per day) with bonuses for high Wisdom (+1 level 1 spell and +1 level 2 spell). He also gets to cast both of his domain spells at each level each day instead of one like a standard cleric, and he knows a level 1 and a level 2 Lumari spell (and 3 metamagic enhancements between them – although he may hang on to one of those enhancements until he has a level 3 spell to enhance).
For the fun factor, I’ll grab the Destruction domain (granting the smite ability 1 / day for +4 to hit and +4 damage), and the Magic domain (granting the ability to use magic user scrolls and other devices). In the end, this guy may have no gear, but he can cast a metric buttload of spells each day.
As a Halcenic, he has genetic skill bonuses to the following skills if he has at least 1 rank in them – Diplomacy (+5), Hide (+4), Move Silent (+3), Sense Motive (+4) and Use Magic Device (+4). Unlike any other d20 game, skill points are not modified by Int, but by your prime requisite. In the case of a Halcenic, this is Wisdom. So I get (3 + Wis bonus) x 5 + 24 skill points to start with, and an additional 3 + Wis bonus at every level hereafter. So that is 59 skill points, using the clerical skill list.
After selecting skills, we’ve got Snugrot the Hairy, naked Halcenic spearthing.
Snugrot the Hairy
Hit Points: 39
Armor Class: 12
Strength: 17 (+3)
Dexterity 15 (+2)
Constitution 14 (+2)
Intelligence 10 (+0)
Wisdom 18 (+4)
Fort Save: +6
Ref Save: +3
Will Save: +8
- Simple Weapon Proficiency
- Light & Medium Armour Proficiency
- Longspear Proficiency
- Longbow Proficiency
Skills (* are cross-class)
- Concentration (Con) [7 ranks] +9
- Diplomacy (Cha) [5 ranks] +10
- Heal (Wis) [7 ranks] +11
- *Hide (Dex) [3 ranks] +9
- Knowledge – Arcana (Int) [5 ranks] +5
- Knowledge – Religion (Int) [5 ranks] +5
- *Move Silent (Dex) [3 ranks] +8
- Sense Motive (Wis) [7 ranks] +15
- Spellcraft (Int) [7 ranks] +7
- *Use Magic Device (Cha) [2 ranks] +6
Spells (Save DC = 14 + spell level)
- Create Water x2 (Creates 8 gallons of water)
- Detect Magic x2 (Detects spells and items in 60’)
- Cure Minor Wounds (heals 1 damage)
- Bless (allies gain +1 to hit and saves vs fear)
- Sanctuary (cannot attack or be attacked)
- Obscuring Mist (surrounded by fog)
- Cure Light Wounds (heals 1d8+4 damage)
- Cure Moderate Wounds (heals 2d8+4 damage)
- Hold Person (paralyzes for 1 rnd / level)
- Shield Other (take half of target’s damage, target gets +1 AC and +1 on saves)
- Granted Power: Smite (melee, 1/day, +4 to hit, + level damage)
- 1 – Inflict Light Wounds (1d8 + 1 / level)
- 2 – Shatter (damages objects and crystalline creatures)
- Granted Power: Use spell completion and spell trigger items as a wizard of ½ level
- 1 – Nystul’s Magic Aura (alters an objects magical aura)
- 2 – Identify (determines properties of magic items)
Lumari Spells (each 1/day)
- 1 – Quickened Enlarge Person (doubles size, +2 Str, -2 Dex, -1 to hit and AC)
- 2 – Maximized Scorching Ray (24 damage)