Welcome to the next in my series of revisitings of old reviews. This time, we’re looking atthe first of three books in the Future Player’s Companion series by the Game Mechanics. Appropriately titled Tomorrow’s Foundation, book 1 covers the building blocks of a future character.
Who are You?
What would a generic sci-fi handbook be without aliens? It would be closer to not getting sold on some people’s scales, I imagine, so it’s fitting that our title starts out of the gates with new playable species. We get a base covering of new species:
-Kel-Thirad (Level Adjustment [LA] +1): A species of giant lizard-people with bladed forearms. They have brute strength and natural attacks due to their bladed forearms, but are impulsive and gruff.
-Liandran (LA +0): The lithe Liandrans essentially resemble black-haired, purple-skinned elves with fangs, and are a LA +0 species. They are dextrous but frail and suspicious of anyone and everyone.
-Grandrite (LA +1): Stocky, muscular beings with bone spurs and chitin plates covering their bodies, the strong but conspicuous Grandrites have natural adaptations to their hothouse planet and natural attacks with their spurs, but suffer in cold environments and are a bit lacking in the personality and common sense departments.
-Okulan (LA +0): Imagine a four-armed Gray alien; that’s pretty much the Okulans in a nutshell. They are intelligent, have four arms to work with, and can navigate better than nearly any other species, but are physically weak and rather small.
-Pernocian (LA +0): Pernocians fulfill the alien archetype of “the Space Bug”. These insectoids have a bonus to Wisdom and Charisma as well as a bonus to natural armor, but suffer a penalty to Dexterity due to their thick-shelled bodies and aren’t the best diplomats due to a cryptic personality that offsets their charismatic natures when interacting with standard humanoids.
-Vios (LA +0): Interstellar vagabonds, the Vios (singular and plural) are green-skinned humanoids that have no home they can truly call their own, mostly working as spies and informants. Frail and somewhat dense, but extremely personable and are capable of limited photosynthesis.
We also get stats for humans that have slight game stat alterations due to their adaptations to new worlds; for instance, while a human of the Lunar Colonist variant has an easy time getting resources and suffers no real penalties in low-gravity environments, they suffer twice as badly as most species if they go back to Earth and experience standard gravity. Variants are also presented for humans that have colonized the asteroid belt, Jupiter’s moon Ganyemede, Saturn’s moon Titan, Mars, Uranus, the biospheres of Mercury, the orbital space stations of Neptune, high atmosphere platforms of Venus, and the frozen penal colonies of Pluto. These are all rather well-done and present interesting ways to play both strange new species and somewhat distorted mirrors of humanity alike.
Next up come “Environment Packages”, essentially mini-templates designed to reflect residents of specific planetary extremes. Now, those of you who know me well know I love templates and the versatility they bring to creature creation, so it’s no surprise I was looking as these closely. I’m pleased to say they’re done well and add some spice to alien worlds beyond simply applying the Extraterrestrial template from d20 Future every time. Environment Package templates are presented for residents of all-desert worlds, “one side hot and bright, one side dark and cold” eclipse worlds, chemically hazardous greenhouse planets, worlds where life is utterly and completely connected to cybernetics and nanotechnology, planets where the only place you can safely live is below the surface, and tectonically-charged worlds.
Kid’s Got Talent
Now, here’s something that d20 Future itself actually never thought to cover…new talent trees for the six base classes. While d20 Future went straight for the advanced classes, the Future’s Player Companion takes a look at the beginning and supplies some alternate talent trees for each of the base classes, some of which actually fit in non-science fiction campaigns as well.
Strong Hero: The Strong Hero gains two new talent trees. The Feats of Strength tree has three talents, two focusing on increasing the Strong Hero’s carrying capacity and one that allows a Strong Hero to add their full Strength bonus to an aid another Strength check, instead of the normal mere +2 bonus. This is a fun talent tree, and while its realism is a little bit questionable, I can full see this being used in a normal campaign. The other tree, however…yeah. Man and Machine adds 3 talents that allows a Strong Hero to slowly add more and more of their abilities to a mecha they pilot.
Fast Hero: The Efficiency tree features talents that focus on increasing Initiative and how many actions the Fast Hero can take, while the Starship Pilot tree has three talents that allow the Fast Hero to augment a starship’s attack success rate, defenses, and survivability respectively, all without the benefit of the Dogfighter advanced class. Once again proving that anything you can do, the Fast Hero can do better. 😛
Tough Hero: The Tough Hero, in an unprecedented move, actually gets some pretty nice talents here, disproving the adage of “Tough Heroes can’t have nice things”. The Death’s Door talent tree focuses on allowing the Tough Hero to be…well…tough, and fight of dying better than others, while the Body Enhancement tree has talents that turn the Tough Hero into what is unquestionably the best class for cyborgs.
Smart Hero: Like the Tough Hero, the Smart Hero actually manages to get some decent stuff here. Want to expand your ability to focus on a single skill to an ungodly level? The talents in the Skill Enhancement tree allow you to increase your maximum skill ranks, your skill points per level, and eventually transform one skill’s relevant ability score basis from whatever it is to being Intelligence-based. Similarly, the Advanced Engineering talent tree (when the first two talents in it are taken) allows you to create items that are one Progress Level of technology above your own Progress Level (for a real life example, Hiram Maxim would have had this talent) and hardier than other items of their type; in addition, the third talent in three lets you automatically create Mastercraft items with a single Craft skill you’ve focused on.
Dedicated Hero: The Lore talent tree, while only having two talents in it, is a really fun tree; one talent allows the Dedicated Hero to use Knowledge skills untrained by gathering up fragmented pieces of knowledge (hey, it may not be as good as a trained Knowledge check, but it works), and the other allows the Dedicated Hero to deduce facts about a subject via character assessment. The Starhopper talent tree, on the other hand, somehow manages to condense Han Solo into three talents. Huh, I always pinned him as a Charismatic Hero…
Charismatic Hero: These are….eh….mixed. The Know Your Enemy talent tree is essentially the Character Assessment talent taken to a higher level, allowing the Charismatic Hero to deduce much more than the Dedicated Hero, and all simply on the virtue of their opponent’s reputation. The Instruction talent is fun, allowing a character to temporarily grant the use of a skill, feat, talent, or advanced class feature (depending on how far along in the talent tree they are), but…would that have been better suited for the Smart or Dedicated Hero? They seem more of the teacher types.
There are also some new talents for old talent trees from the d20 Modern Core Rulebook, but these aren’t extremely noteworthy. All in all, save for a few glaring examples, the talents here? Great.
Name and Occupation, Please
Along with talents, occupations are one of the things that d20 Modern brought to the table that added more versatility compared to its kin. It’s no surprise, then, that there are new occupations in a Player’s Companion book. Occupations in this book are:
Alien Visitor: A character that is part of the Alien Illuminati, as it were, unfamiliar with humans but tasked to watch (and quite possibly manipulate) them from the shadows anyway. This talent works better for an X-Files style campaign than a sci-fi one, in my personal opinion, as aliens in science fiction tend to be rather well-known unless the campaign is specifically of the “on the verge of discovery” type.
Dimensional Outsider: Your character came from another dimension, and either decided to stay or got stranded there. An example would be Rose Tyler from the modern era of Doctor Who.
Enforcer: While they may not work on the premise of a greater law, those with the Enforcer occupation definitely plow down their own laws on others. Just as usable in modern campaigns as future ones.
Experiment: Your character is a product of weird science. Clones, genetically engineered lifeforms, and cyborg supersoldiers all classify as users of this occupation.
Lone Survivor: The patented “last of their kind”, a Lone Survivor can range from being the last member of an otherwise dead space station all the way up to the last member of an entire species, or even an entire world.
Netizen: Professional hackers, cyberworld admins, denizens of futuristic virtual reality programs…all cover the Netizen, a master of the world of wires and circuits.
Temporal Castaway: They went back in time…and got stuck there.
Terraformer: Part scientist, part colonist, the terraformer is the parent of the new face of an old world.
Universal Vagabond: A la the Doctor from Doctor Who, a person with the Universal Vagabond claims the universe as their home, wandering from world to world each time they get bored of their surroundings.
Generic isn’t always bad, as these occupations exemplify. They are just generic enough to fill the gaps left by d20 Future, but not so generic that they aren’t interesting or fun ideas to play. The fact that some of them could work in a modern campaign doesn’t hurt either…
Coming up in the second half: Skills, feats, class archetypes, and the final verdict on the first book of the Future Player’s Companion series.