Star Log.Deluxe: Legacy Species Reforged (SFRPG) (Priority Review)
The fourth pdf in the Species Reforged sub-series of Star Log.Deluxe clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page introduction, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my supporters.
In case you’re new to these pdfs: The series essentially focuses on rewriting a whole host of playable species in a manner that emphasizes player agenda and lets you customize the experience to a higher degree than usual. This design paradigm is very much indebted to how Pathfinder’s 2nd edition deals with species/ancestries, and is also a design-paradigm that I could see in Everybody Games’ upcoming and highly anticipated RPG Eversaga. (Seriously, Eversaga is right now my most anticipated game!)
It’s been a while since we covered one of these pdfs, so to recap: Write down all 6 ability scores and put 10 next to them. You get an ability boost, which you assign and can’t reassign without a mnemonic editor or the like and add 2 points to the ability score for the boost. You can also choose a flaw, which means you need to subtract 2 ability points from a chosen ability—if you do that, you get another boost, and you may not apply a boost and a flaw to the same ability score.
A species’ vital traits entry lists the ability scores you can boost, but flaws remain yours to freely choose, at least usually. Then, you apply the theme’s ability score increase, and after that, you get 10 point to customize your character on a 1-for-1 basis. You can spend these however you want, but at the game’s start, ability scores cap at 18. Points must be spent and can’t be saved for later.
Simple, right? So, how does the engine proceed to work? Well, each species gets its vital statistics, which note the eligible scores for ability score boosts (and flaws, if relevant), the Hit Points, sizes, speed, sense traits (designated with the word “sense”), inherent abilities (designated as “inherent”), heritages (which may be specific or universal), and the character chooses two species traits, chosen from the character’s species or the “universal” list. The character gets an additional species trait at 5th level and every 4 levels thereafter. Minor nitpick: The “universal” list is not actually in this pdf, but the explanation of the engine does refer to it with 2 “see page $$”-references; while this is nota deal-breaker, considering that the engine actually gets better the more of these pdfs you have, it still was worth mentioning.
Okay, so what playable species are covered? The first would actually be the dragonkin, which get their boost to Strength, 6 HP, and are Large. They can get a second boost for a “flay” (should be flaw) to Dexterity. They only have a 5-ft. reach and get a 30 ft-fly speed with average maneuverability, and until 5th level, they need to end their movement on ground, or fall—nice way to retain the function of low-level modules. Less nice: The dragonkin fails to specify whether their fly speed is extraordinary or supernatural; I assume the former, but this must still be considered to by a glitch. Dragonkin get darkvision 60 ft. and low-light vision, immunity to sleep effects and a+2 racial bonus to saves vs. paralysis. The dragonkin chooses one heritage and one dragon graft at first level. The species gets two heritages to choose from: Compact dragonkin helps with size and nets you compression (nice!), while terrestrial dragonkin get a 10 ft. reach. Both of these provide meaningful, but situational benefits to the playing experience. The traits include blindsense (vibration), natural weapons (including a caveat that determined damage type), partner bond and the two traits that really interact with the graft thingy: One would be breath weapon, and the other lets you scavenge the chosen dragon graft’s abilities, including Resolve-powered auras, etc. This one precisely codifies e.g. resistances and immunities and balances them against the level; particularly for the more outlandish dragon abilities, this is one impressive design-achievement.
Dwarves assign their boost to Strength, Constitution, Intelligence or Wisdom, and can get a second boost by accepting a flaw to Dexterity; they have 6 HP and a base speed of 20 ft. that is not modified by encumbrance or heavy armor, and they get darkvision. There are three heritages: One reduces HP to 2, but nets you Skill Focus or Skill Synergy, and an additional skill rank at 1st level and every level thereafter. Duergar get see through darkness, extending to magical darkness, and the third heritage nets the classic +2 racial saving throw bonus vs. poison, spells and SPs. The traits include +2 to AC vs. AoOs and reactions/readied actions triggered by spellcasting; artisan lets you determine a type of goods and then nets you a +2 racial bonus to two skills determined by the type of equipment chosen. Master crafter lets you craft faster: When your ranks exceeds item level by some thresholds, you become even faster.
Opposite reaction lets you choose a combat maneuver, increasing your KAC against it, and when an opponent fails at it, you can attempt to counter with reposition or trip. Stonecunning is included (the bonus type should probably be “racial” and not untyped), and your combat training can matter: You can either get an offensive +1 atk bonus or a defensive one…that nets you a +4 racial bonus to attack rolls? Pretty sure that this is a cut-copy-paste glitch, and that this should be a “+4 racial bonus to KAC against attacks rolls of the creatures with the chosen type graft or subtype grafts.” On the plus-side, I like that the ability applies either to one type, or two humanoid subtypes. Another one nets you a +2 racial bonus to Engineering, Physical Science or Profession (miner), which also becomes a class skill, or a +1 enhancement bonus if you already have it as a class skill. Finally, we have proficiency with basic and advanced melee weapons, and specialization at 3rd level.
Elves apply their ability boost to Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence or Charisma, and a second boost can be attained by accepting a flaw to Constitution. Elves get 2 HP and have low-light vision as well as immunity to magical sleep and +2 racial bonus to saving throws vs. enchantment. Their heritages let them choose a swim speed as well as the aquatic subtype and amphibious universal rule. Forlorn elves et a bonus universal trait; telepathic elves get 30 ft. limited telepathy; traditional elves get a bonus elf trait, and drow get darkvision 60 ft. and can opt to get +2 HP at 1st level, but if they do, exposure to bright light blinds them for 1 round and dazzles them thereafter. The traits include adding a skill to class skills (or gaining a +2 racial bonus if it’s already a class skill) and +1 skill rank each level that must be used in that skill; additionally, this trait enhances Skill Focus and class features that net a bonus in the skill. Elf Magic lets you choose two benefits: A +2 racial bonus to Mysticism (and added to class skills), a +2 racial bonus to overcome SR, Minor Psychic Power (better if drow or taken twice) or a 0-level SP. Elves can choose weapon familiarity a keen senses Perception bonus, a speed of 35 ft. (including better Acrobatics/Stealth) and a bonus feat: Cool little angle for the latter: the elf may only choose a feat that lists an ability score of 12 or higher in an ability score you applied a boost to as a prerequisite. Cool angle.
Gnomes apply their ability boost to Constitution and can get a second one in exchange for a flaw in Strength or Wisdom, are Small with 30 ft. speed and have 4 HP. Gnomes get low-light vision and only need 5 minutes after spending a Resolve Point to recover Stamina, and heal 2 HP per character level with a full night’s rest, 4 per character level with complete bed rest. When they regain Hit Points, they gain additional Hit Points up to their level, capping at ½ the number of Hit Points the effect would usually heal. The gnomes get 4 heritages: Bleachlings must apply their second boost, if chosen, to Intelligence, and gain the trickery resistance trait (+2 racial bonus vs. illusions, and you get an auto-check when passing within 10 ft.). Feychild gnomes get to choose either eternal hope or ecstatic joy as bonus traits. The latter nets a saving throw bonus vs. pain and anger effects and nets you a minor bonus for a round when you roll a 20 on a d20; after the first use after daily preparations, this trait costs Resolve. The former nets you a +2 bonus vs. fear and despair effects and lets you reroll a d20 after you rolled a 1, and you need to take the second result. As before, additional uses cost Resolve.
Hyperspace gnomes get Kip Up and are not flat-footed, nor do they take penalties when off-kilter. Neblin gnomes get 60 ft. darkvision. Gnome magic nets you the classic SPs. Chameleon helps you with Stealth and Disguise, courtesy of limited control over skin pigmentation. Curiosity helps you if you enjoy legwork: When using recall knowledge or gathering information about something, you gain more information. Finally, gnomish obsession is a focus on a special skill, with bonus, free skill ranks and scaling Skill Focus.
Goblins get their boost to Dexterity, and can get a second one for accepting a flaw to Charisma; they have 2 Hp and are Small with a 40 ft. movement speed, darkvision 60 ft., and 3 heritages to choose from. Chomper goblins get a natural attack (including the usual specialization); junker goblins get tinker as a bonus trait: This one lets them repair equipment via Engineering or Mysticism in half the time, or, as a move action, remove the penalties of broken equipment until the start of your next turn, but if you do, it becomes unusable for 10 minutes. Monkey goblins get 5 arms, two of which act as “legs” holding something n one of them slows you down and prevents guarded steps, but you *can* do it! The traits include fire resistance, climb speed, advanced melee weapon and longarm weapon familiarity, and eat anything nets a bonus vs. ingested poisons and increases the meal quality of something you consume—oh, and you can consume super-poor food sans becoming sick. You can also choose some scrounging-related skills and gain bonuses/add them to class skills. With the scuttle trait, you can use a reaction when an opponent moves adjacent to you to use guarded step; to prevent abuse, additional uses require Resolve UNLESS you first take a 10-minute break to regain Stamina. Goblins are also obviously really good battle-rappers: They can use Profession (singer) to demoralize targets, and that lasts longer. Finally, tehre’s a trait that increases your HP to 6 and nets you DR versus falling; and if that eliminates falling damage, you don’t end up prone.
Haflings are Small (30 ft. speed), get 2 HP and their first boost can be applied to Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom or Charisma; the second boost can be attained in exchange for a flaw to Strength or Constitution; halflings get a +2 racial bonus to Perception, +1 racial bonus to all saves, and 3 heritages. Country halflings treat their Strength as 3 higher for the purposes of Bulk and becoming encumbered, and get Survival as a class skill, or a +2 racial bonus to Survival if it already is a class skill. Streetwise halflings get the city slicker trait, which reduces gather information time by half. Fated halflings can choose either the jinx trait (reaction; apply -1d4 penalty to an opponent within 30 ft. rolling some d20-based roll; additional uses cost Resolve to balance it) or the lucky charm trait ( +1 bonus for allies within 30 ft. as a reaction, same Resolve-based metric to use it additional times). Beyond these, the halfling traits include an enhancement to the halfling’s luck vs. fear effects, including reduced durations. Human mentorship nets a bonus feat; skittish boost initiative and atk vs. flat-footed foes, and also provides you a buff when affected by a fear effect. Sneaky enhances your Stealth for moving and sniping. Sure-footed boost two movement-related skills and nets them as class skills, provides a bonus, or Skill Focus. Winsome looks like it’s supposed to do something similar, but it’s probably glitched: The traits states “Choose two of the following
skills: Bluff or Diplomacy“; after reading the remainder of the trait carefully, I’m pretty confident that the trait works as intended: It’s just supposed to read “Choose one of the…”
Orcs get a free ability boost, and can get one additional one to Strength for a flaw in Intelligence. They have 6 HP, darkvision 60 ft., light sensitivity. There’s also a glitch in their conditioned focus ability: “Choose one skill that’s associated with the skill that the orc applied their first ability boost to and add that skill to the orc’s list of class skills.“ That’s supposed to read: “Choose one skill that’s associated with the ability score that the orc applied their first ability boost to and add that skill to the orc’s list of class skills.“ As usual, if the orc already has the skill as class skill, we have +2 racial bonus instead. If the boost chosen was applied to Constitution, orcs get Toughness instead. The species comes with 2 heritages: Feral orcs get the orc ferocity trait, which lets you keep fighting for 1 more round when reduced to 0 HP, and yes, this has a Resolve caveat to prevent abuse for uses beyond the first time after daily preparations. House orcs instead gain he enhanced conditioning trait, which builds on the conditioned focus ability and enhances the benefits by allowing you to choose to grant yourself a bonus to it. (And yes, orcs that choose Constitution are not left hanging!)
The other traits for the species include +2 skills to apply conditioned focus to, a combat feat, losing light sensitivity, weapon familiarity in analog advanced melee weapons and longarms, better saves vs. diseases and poison and reduced damage from dehydration and starvation. Fierce survivalist lets you unlock Athletics, Intimidate or Survival as a class skill (+2 bonus otherwise, or Skill Focus); combo’d with conditioning, this can be pretty nifty if you’re gunning for depth; personally, I’m not the biggest fan of the combo. Resiliency lets you reduce critical hit damage by level (Resolve employed for balancing), and finally, there is a scent-based blindsense.
Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level; while, as we’ve come to expect from Alexander Augunas, the precision of complex rules operations is commendable, there are a few typo-level hiccups that partially do affect rules-integrity; never to the extent that the pdf’s utility would be compromised, but they’re there. Layout adheres to the series’ neat two-column full-color standard, and each species gets a cool full-color artwork by Jacob Blackmon. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a bit of a comfort detriment.
I was so not looking forward to covering a pdf that deals with the legacy species. This may be me, but SFRPG gets me most excited when it does something that feels distinctly oddball and steeped deeply in scifi/space opera, hence also my fondness for weirdo races like skittermanders or msvokas.
But it’s Alexander Augunas.
I know no other author with such a consistent track-record of making me really enjoy content which I was sure I’d hate. This applies here as well. While the classic races, by necessity, won’t conceptually blow you away, HOW he implements them in SFRPG is awesome and shines in little design-flourishes that genuinely make the playing experience distinct. I was particularly fond of the implementation of the luck-angle for gnomes and how he dealt with halflings. Similarly, from a design perspective, seeing dragonkin handled in such a way was impressive. This is, most assuredly, one of the best and most interesting takes on the classic races I’ve seen for a while in a rpg-supplement, and it *is* worth getting. Were it not for the minor hiccups, this’d be a 5-star offering, but as presented, I can’t go higher than 4 stars. Still highly recommended, though—the species reforged engine is a pleasure to play with.
You can get this cool pdf here!
You can find the species reforged pdf for SFRPG’s core species here!
The Vesk Empire species reforged can be found here!
The Blood Space species can be found here!