If Tomorrow’s Foundation was the mortar of the Future Player’s Companion series, then Tomorrow’s Hero is the bricks. Focusing on expanding the rules for aliens, robots, mutants, and experimental beings, this title takes the foundation that..well…Tomorrow’s Foundation laid, and builds heavily upon it. How well does it do? Well, let’s take a look inside…
Building a Character, From the Ground Upwards
Strangely enough, in spite of having dedicated chapters, the first taste of cybernetics, mutations, and genetic engineering alike you’ll get from this book is in Chapter 1: Character Creation. The first thing you’ll notice is a large list of costs and effects for genetic engineering, ranging from producing a beneficial mutation through gene therapy to artificially-introduced supernatural powers. You also get a handy set of new mutation drawbacks that are tied to genetic engineering and meant to decrease the pricey costs of gene therapy, such as Chemical Dependency and Mute. And what would genetic engineering be without some new templates to supplement those in d20 Future? The strong and smart but emotionally unstable Alphas, the dextrous Climbers, and the far-sighted Marksman templates are all presented for your use, and they’re…actually rather bland, to be honest. I know, it’s shocking for me to poo-poo a template, but these aren’t that interesting to me personally due to their limitation to humanoids and monstrous humanoids alone.
Suddenly and unexpectedly, however, the chapter shifts focus to cybernetics. Apparently some people weren’t too happy about the priceyness of cybernetics, as two methods of starting out with cybernetics rather than getting rich are presented. The first, being in debt to supply your cyborg needs, is self-explanatory. The other, cybernetic drawbacks, are a new system presented that is similar to the mutation drawbacks system; from shoddy construction or placement to partial rejection by the host’s body, these drawbacks make cybernetic parts cheaper but weaker. This system is good for two things: one would be reflecting “seedy parts” and inferior knockoff products in a dystopian future, while the other is reflecting the early stages of cybernetic evolution, where the bugs aren’t all quite worked out. Of course, after this minor note, we immediately segue into some notes on robotic limitations such as kill switches, inferior construction, and wear and tear. There’s also a set of prepackaged robot features that function as a sort of mixture between equipment packages and occupations (neither of which robots normally get). So…yeah. If there’s one true sin of this book, it’s that the first chapter is somewhat garbled and probably should have had its minor notes split and placed in their respective detailed chapters.
How to Build a Better Person
The first of the dedicated chapters, chapter 2 focuses entirely on genetic engineering. Clones get the shortest end of the stick, with only part of the first page of the chapter focused on them and split between standard clones, ones with altered DNA, and cloned organ replacements rather than full clones. There is also a single page dedicated to “Metahumans”; species of human that have engaged in artificial evolution. These three species (the smart LA +1 “Advanced Human”, the smart and naturally psionic LA +2 “Vanguard”, and the physically peaked LA +3 “Paragons”) are interesting but unfortunately less filled out than I personally would have liked; they and the clones get the short end of the stick in this chapter. So what, exactly, gets the long end? The generic “gene manipulateds”, of course. The first is a dedicated chart to how long it takes to map a genome of a creature type based on Progress Level. For instance, with current levels of technology, it is dictated that while a fey’s genetic map can be played out in 20 years time, it takes a massive 100 years to map the genome of a dragon. Why? I dunno, I didn’t write the system…
More interesting is the concept of gene splices. Rather than full-on genetic rewrites like gene therapy templates, splices inject a specific quality of an animal into the splicee. The only drawback is that some of them have rather goofy names; I mean, really, who wants to go “fear me, I have taken Scent of the Canine”? There’s a similarly presented note on just how much Craft (Biological) checks and cash you have to spend to replicate mutations. It’s not long-winded or particularly interesting, but at the same time it’s extremely valuable as a resource for the GM. But enough about minor notes, let’s talk biotech and bioware! This is the 800 pound gorilla in the room of this chapter, covering many bases ranging from “smart viruses” and nanocolonies to the good ol’ friend of the comic book and sci-fi writer known as the retrovirus. While they aren’t really for me, I can understand how these would be useful. And hey, if they’re well-written, who am I to complain?
A New Species Begins With a Mere Misplaced Gene
What better to follow up a chapter on genetic engineering than mutations? The two often go hand-in-hand, of course, so it’s no surprise that the first page is focused on ways to induce mutation via genetic engineering. Of course, that’s glossed over fast as we go straight into new mutations. These are mostly on the “Yay!” side, such as spines, natural flamethrowers, armored plates, and crustacean claws, but there are a few duds such as the “grand” ability to…gasp…pick up radio signals! Oh well, they can’t all be winners, so I applaud the fact that the winners are the majority here. Similarly, the new drawbacks are decent. With such mutation drawbacks as Hideous Visage and Uncontrollable Rage, you can easily replicate archetypical “mutant brutes” rather well. Of course, I must wonder why the drawbacks from chapter 1 weren’t placed here for convenience of collectiveness…
Coming up later, in the second half of the review: We cover aliens and robots!