The RPG community has been itching for a quality science fiction RPG for quite some time. The current market offerings leaves much to be desired, but Mage Hand Press has just released an Alpha of their Dark Matter rulebook and I expect this to become everyone’s favorite sci-fi RPG.
The Dark Matter ruleset is based upon Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition and even though that has a high magic fantasy focus the DnD rules are beautifully and seamlessly woven into this space setting. Stats and skills are very familiar and players who are used to DnD will need not fret about learning a whole new system.
In addition to the traditional races offered in the 5e Player’s Handbook, Dark Matter offers several new space-faring races and sub-races to explore the galaxy. This includes the shape changing Ameoboids, the bird-like Avia-Ra, the insectoid Skathari, and more. Each race is depicted with beautiful artwork and plenty of backstory and lore that brings these creatures to life. Racial traits are reasonably balanced for a 5e based game and there are lots of flair and character written into them. There is also a “near human” variant race that is rather generic but I am assuming purposefully so, as it gives a lot of leeway for the player to define their own character or own race as they see fit.
Dark Matter presents a whole host of new subclasses for the traditional DnD classes (they still have bards and fighters in space!) and they introduce their own new class: the Gadgeteer. Barbarians can now choose the path of the wrecker and focus on smashing machines, Clerics can venerate the domain of the Void, Fighters can be the iconic space marine, Rogues can become infiltrators and focus on teleportation technology, and much, much more. They even include options for Mage Hand Press’ own class creations such as the Gunslinger, Shugenja, and Warmage.
Skills, Feats, and Backgrounds
More character options available in Dark Matter include a new set skills such as Data, Piloting, and Technology (proficiency determined by class as usual). Based upon your intelligence stat these skills add a lot more options to interact with the environment than the basic DnD ones. There is a large list of feats available as well, divided between general (available to all) racial, faction-based, and role (specifically starship roles like engineer or pilot). Add to these several new space inspired backgrounds to choose from such as Technologist or Exile and you have yourself a hell of a character.
The section I am most excited about is the spaceships. I have fond memories of playing Star Wars D20 and my favorite thing to do was pilot around the galaxy getting into trouble and I have no doubt Dark Matter is going to give me that same feeling. The vehicle chapter is chocked full of information about ship types, speeds, distances, weapons, combat maneuvers, Racial and Legendary spaceships and more. The amount of information here is very impressive and I am eager to give it a shot in a long campaign.
Spells and Monsters
The book ends with two large and extensive chapters detailing their own monster manual and spell lists. The monsters are varied and interesting from rogue AIs to psionic squirrels to giant space worms. It is an impressive list of foes and NPCs and I think some of the best art in the book comes from this section.
The spell list adds a few dozen space inspired spells, in addition to the ones already offered by the official Dnd books. They include comet strikes, Logic bomb (for computers), intensify gravity, and more. It is a good solid list of spells and I am curious to see what players come up with as far combinations of arcane and scifi spells.
Dark Matter comes with its own setting and lore, but you don’t have to stick with it if you don’t want to. It is flexible enough to run Star Wars, Star Trek, Warhammer 40k, Firefly, or any of your favorite sci fi properties without any problem.
Mage Hand Press have a real gem on their hands, Dark Matter is one of the best RPG books I have seen in the last 2 years, and that includes offerings from industry giants like Wizards of the Coast and Chaosium. There is a huge demand in the TTRPG community for a science fiction space game and I think this is going to be a big hit.
Check out Mage Hand Press Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/mfov
And stay up to date on MHP news and releases on their blog: http://mfov.magehandpress.com/
And you can get your own copy of Dark Matter (currently in Alpha) here: https://darkmatter.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders