This installment of the Starfarer’s Codex-series clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons.
All right, the dragonrider class gets proficiency with basic melee weapons, light armor, small arms, and elemental arms – these basically would be weapons depending on the type of the dragon: Black and copper. For example, net access to disintegrator advanced melee weapons and longarms as well as acid dart rifle longarms, while red and gold get access to flame advanced melee weapons, to give you two examples. There is a nice bit of future-proofing with the solar dragon going on as well – it’d usually provide proficiency with laser advanced melee weapons, but in absence of them, plasma is used. The class gets to choose its key-ability modifier: Either Strength or Charisma are eligible candidates. The class nets 7 + Constitution modifier Stamina Points and 7 Hit Points, and has 4 + Intelligence modifier skills per level. The dragonrider has full BAB-progression and only good saves, which is pretty potent.
Of course, the signature ability here would be the bonded dragon steed – at 1st level, the dragonrider already has a bonded dragon, and multiclassing into the class results in an eligible dragon approaching the PC within 30 days. A bonded dragon may carry its rider if it is of the same size category or greater, provided, its Strength suffices. Bonded dragons can fly at full speed even if heavily encumbered. Carrying of smaller creatures is accounted for. If a dragon dies, we are looking at a -1 penalty to atk and damage rolls.
So, let’s take a look at the steed, shall we? Hit Point-wise, we have a fixed progression, with a starting Hit Point array of 15, increasing to up to 295 at 20th level. Odd: While generally, the Hit Points are much less than e.g. those of a comparable combat array creature, 2nd level sports 25 Hit Points, which makes this level on par with the combat array default values. The bonded dragon has ¾ BAB-progression, and saves that start at +2 and increase up to +9. At 4th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the dragon gets a +1 ability score increase, with the ability scores available depending on the dragon type. The dragon begins play with a feat, and gains another at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, though feats requiring a BAB of +1 are locked until 3rd level, and the Armor and Weapon Proficiency feats are explicitly prohibited. Ranged weapons they are proficient with may be mounted on their shoulders at no expense. The dragon gets to choose a single skill chosen from a list, gaining the dragonrider’s class levels in it. Acrobatics and another skill, as determined by the dragon type, is also gained thus. At 4th level and 8th level and every 3 levels thereafter, the dragon gets an additional skill from the list to which these benefits are applied.
The base breath weapon is obviously dependent on the dragon steed type, with the Reflex save DC equal to DC 10 + ½ the dragon steed’s level + the dragon steed’s Constitution modifier. The breath weapon may be used 3 + the dragon steed’s Constitution modifier times per day, with a 4-round cooldown to prevent spamming between uses. At 10th level, the dragon gets ½ its level as Resolve, and may then spend 1 Resolve Point to regain a daily breath weapon use as a 10-minute rest. As the dragon progresses, its breath weapon increases in potency to 15 times the dice and 5 times the range. On the nitpicky side, while the universal rules for breath weapons establish that Reflex saves halves, it’d be convenient to have the action to activate and the caveat noted here – not complaining, mind you – just stating that this takes a bit more system mastery than it needs.
The core concept here, beyond these, would be the mystic focus: Without the dragonrider establishing mystic focus, the dragon only takes a move actions each round and reactions and things that don’t require an action. Each dragon steed requires a different action to establish the focus that lets the dragon and its rider bypass this – more potent dragons require more investment regarding action economy. Mystic focus must be established each round anew. True dragons generally require more valuable actions; when “free action” (not a term in SF – as the pdf knows and thankfully specifies!) is listed, the focus may be established as part of taking a standard, move, swift or full action. The focus may only be established during the dragonrider’s turn. While the focus is in effect, no verbal communication is required between steed and rider, and the dragon takes its turn on the dragonrider’s initiative count. The pdf specifies what happens when the dragonrider is incapacitated or unconscious. The two share a link and always know each others’ direction and distance while on the same plane, as well as any conditions suffered. 3rd level nets evasion (erroneously called “Evation”[sic!] in the table), and it, as well as 16th level’s improved evasion, only works while the dragon is unarmored and unencumbered, and obviously, the benefit is lost when the dragon is helpless or unable to move.
Third level nets the standard weapon specialization benefit of e.g. the vesk, and 5th level nets share spells. 6th level provides a +4 insight bonus to Will saves against enchantment spells and effects, 11th level nets Multiattack – three attacks at -6 to atk. Each category of dragon steed advances in two steps – we get starting stats, and at 8th and 16th level, we get growth and advancement stats for them. Beyond the chromatic and metallic classics, we have lunar and solar dragons, time, void and vortex dragons. The respective steeds do btw. gain signature abilities beyond the hard numbers of these stats – acid pools, striking through space, etc – these do, however, cost breath weapon uses. Minor nitpick: Not all of them properly list their activation action – the black dragon’s acid pool, the bronze dragon’s repulsion gas lack either a reference to “instead” of their usual breath weapon, or a listed action to activate these abilities. Not a game-breaker, but slightly inconvenient.
On another note: I do like that the respective steeds do differentiate between fly speed types as yet another balancing component. On the down side, I noticed two utterly unnecessary comfort detriments in the presentation of these steeds: We get the base ability scores listed, but the ability score modifiers are not listed. Sure, at this point we all can recite them by hard, but still. More grievous would be that natural attacks like bite and claws fail to list their proper damage-types, which flew back in PFRPG due to how sloppy that game handled them, but dragons in Starfinder very much codify these – to spare you the hassle of double-checking: Bites cause piercing damage, claws slashing damage.
But let us return to the dragonrider: 2nd level nets low-light vision, or darkvision 60 ft. if he already has it; otherwise, darkvision range doubles. 3rd level nets resist energy to the bonded dragon’s breath weapon,, starting at 5, and increasing to 10 at 8th level, and by another +10 at 13th and 18th level. This stacks with other resistance sources, and changes with the change of steeds. 2nd level nets spell-like abilities, with the spell-list determined by the dragon type, and DC equal to 10 + spell’s level and key ability score modifier. PRETTY sure that should be Charisma instead! Otherwise, choosing Charisma over Strength doesn’t make much sense regarding key ability modifier choice. This begins with 2 0-level at-will spells, and 6th level provides 2 1st-level spells, usable 3/day; 10th level, 14th and 18th level provide 2 spells from the respective higher spell levels, with lower spell levels gaining more uses and up to 2nd level spells becoming at-will. The at-will casting is not something that should be available for PCs – it begs to be abused to smithereens. This needs a nerf. Additionally, the verbiage on its own made it impossible for me to determine whether the limited uses of these SPs are tracked by SP, or by level of the spell of the SPs – granted, a swift check of the defaults of how SPs are tracked for critters does make that clear (it’s tracked per SP, just fyi), but I couldn’t help but feel like a slight verbiage tweak could have prevented the requirement for less experienced players to look that up.
3rd level nets Weapon Specialization for each weapon the class is proficient in, and 4th level provides arms training, choosing heavy weapons of the same type as elemental arms, all longarms, all advanced melee weapons, or all sniper weapons. Specialization is these is gained with a 4-level delay, and at 8th level, a new category is chosen, which then gets the Weapon Specialization benefits 4 levels later, etc. 4th level allows for the summoning of the steed as a “full-round action” 1/day, +1/day for every 3 levels thereafter. This ability is treated as a SP, with a spell-level equal to ¼ the dragonrider’s level.
5th, 9th, 12th and 17th level net a bonus feat chosen from a list; 6th level nets darkvision or limited telepathy, 10th level blindsense (scent), 14th level blindsight (vibration), all with notes on how they interact with senses granted other sources. 16th level nets +5 level SR, which is shared with the steed, and the capstone allows the dragonrider to 1/day use a 6th-level polymorph to take the bonded steed’s shape, though oddly, the fly speed type and the like are fixed, not based on the steed.
The pdf features notes for how the class interacts with altered/replaced class features.
The pdf features two new items – at item level 1, the dragon envirocollar wyrmling nets the Large or smaller dragon environmental protection, and the second is level 8, and helps for larger dragons.
This is not where the pdf ends, though: The pdf introduces a new starship combat role, the Draconic Harasser, which allows the dragon capable of spaceflight to play their part. (A magic item for dragons with extraordinary flight would have been nice), Draconic Harasser actions occur in Phase 4, after gunnery, and you can have as many of them as you have dragonriders + steeds. They have a range of 8 hexes. The actions available include using Survival to impose basically disadvantage on the next attack roll; alternatively, you can intercept TL-targeting weapons, grant +2 bonuses to Gunner or Science Officers courtesy to scouting, or provide a minor buff to AC and TL. Opposing gunners or pilots may take AntiDragon actions, which can checkmate you for the round and cause damage – so yeah, starship combat for dragons is nothing for wusses!
Editing and formatting are okay on a formal level, and good rules language level – I noticed a few inconveniences, a PFRPG-remnant, a missing “a” here and there – cosmetic stuff that doesn’t impede functionality per se, but that accumulates in its collective inconveniences. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and interior art is solid, but doesn’t reach the unadulterated level of awesome that Jacob Blackmon’s cover evoked for me. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.
Joshua Hennington’s conversion of the dragonrider class to Starfinder is a well-crafted supplement per se – while potent, the dragon is a valid and solid option, and I love the starship combat option. That being said, I do have several complaints that do extend to the rules: For one, the class doesn’t offer much differentiation beyond the steed-selection. Dragonriders with the same type of dragon are pretty similar. Secondly, the unlimited SPs need to die a fiery death. Thirdly, the pdf feels like it could have used a final editing pass to make it slightly more newbie-friendly.
These in and of themselves don’t make this a bad pdf by a long shot – this is, themewise, a great little booklet – one that could have reached the apex of greatness, but as a whole, these small gripes do add up. My final verdict thus can’t exceed 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo. Just watch out regarding those SPs and be ready to do some very close reading.
You can get this inspired, if not perfect class here on OBS!
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