Review: SSDC – Galactic Underground 2 (Battlelords of the 23rd Century)


Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century: Galactic Underground 2
Galactic Underground 2 is a sourcebook for the military sci-fi system Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century written by Lawrence R. Sims, Benjamin Pierce, Tony Oliveira and published by SSDC.
By Aaron T. Huss

Galactic Underground 2 is the second sourcebook of its kind expanding upon the core mechanics of Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century with new playable races, additional matrices, source material and advanced rules. Unlike the first volume, this volume takes what I see as a more exotic take on new playable races with the inclusion of seven very unique races. While these races alone add excellent new options for players, they also add new conflicts for the Battle Master to incorporate into their campaign. In fact, an entire chapter is dedicated to explaining the views between the different races adding even more possible conflicts for the Battle Master. As a continuation of the Galactic Underground series, volume 2 is a great addition.

THE EXPLORATION TIMES

The Exploration Times is really a two-in-one section. On the surface, it tells of a large number of recent events going on throughout the known galaxy. If you read between the lines, or simply translate the information into game terms, you’ll find a list of adventure seeds. Sometimes its not difficult to understand the real purpose for these stories when it contains the words  “A reward has been posted”. In addition, players can use some of this to seed their own backgrounds during character creation.

RACE EXPANSIONS

Race Expansions follows up Galactic Underground 1 in the same manner by presenting new playable character races. Seven new races are introduced and some of them are quite unique. The Andromeni are a completely energy-based race that must possess the recently fallen turning them into their new host body. As a player character, this can really make for some interesting role-playing opportunities, especially if the being is expelled from the host and forced to find another. This gives one the chance to take on the role of different personalities with an internal energy-based being leading the way.

Another race to highlight is the Fott race; sentient, synthetic rabbits originally created for what seems to be the purpose of annoying the Alliance. By the way, they reproduce at excruciatingly high rates. Why is this being highlighted? Because it can make for some comical relief in a military sci-fi game.

The third and final race to highlight is the Matrix Controller Gemini race; silicon-based beings made of a type of living rock. The reason they are unique is because of their nurturing tendencies and their protective nature. This is seemingly in complete opposition of what one may think a Battlelord’s life would be like throughout the course of their career. Again, lots of role-playing opportunities are created.

DISCUSSION OF RACES

Discussion of Races is broken into two parts. The first part is a deeper delve into the Phentari with another look at who they are and the stories surrounding their legendary general Jacquassarious Phentari (known as The One). This violent race is seemingly very hostile in the eyes of many other races. How you incorporate that into your role-playing is completely open for interpretation.

The second part is a grand collection of racial opinions. Essentially, what each race thinks of every other race. These opinions are given in one to three sentences and really meant to establish a possible mood should one interact with another. This is essentially cannon fodder background for role-playing.

MATRICES EXPANSION

Part of the Matrices Expansion section is to list the new matrices for the Gemini, Ikrini, and Jezzadei races. This is standard, but not the best part of the section. There are two other parts to this section which bring in new source material surrounding matrix powers. The first is the secretive subject of “How Matrix Powers work.” There are essentially 10 discussions on matrix powers including a discussion of “how they work”, a discussion of “you really wouldn’t understand”, and even a discussion of “isn’t this how they work”. Again, more role-playing source material to enhance the game.

The final part of the section is dedicated to mentors. A mentor is how a Matrix Controller learns new powers and this section includes a look at some schools available and what type of mentors are available (according to rolls on a chart).

RULES EXPANSION

Small bits of Rules Expansion give additional tips and fun content for the Battle Master, but the majority is dedicated to an excellent new mechanic. Galactic Underground 2 introduces rewarding players characters with Medals and Commendations. Each one carries its own unique bonuses and is a great way to reward players and their characters for excellent feats or role-playing. Instead of simply giving them additional experience points or a bigger paycheck, give them something all their own that says “Hey, I did something awesome.”

OVERALL

Galactic Underground 2 follows up the first Galactic Underground sourcebook in the best way. You are offered new playable races, new source material, new matrices, and another view of how the different races potentially interact (providing lots of new role-playing opportunities). A definite must have for Battlelords players and Battle Masters, unless all you want are the basics.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
The Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century series of products all exhibit the same publication layout and presentation. The good news is that the books all exhibit a very high-quality publication and continue that quality level throughout. Lots of illustrations are included and as always, placed in key locations adding value to the source material. These publications often use full-page illustrations to start certain sections that have always (so far at least) added to the visual appeal and understanding of the content. The big emphasis there is on the understanding of the content as these illustrations show you what the different races look like instead of simply describing them in words.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
There are two mechanics additions that really stand out in Galactic Underground 2. The first is the new alien races, primarily the energy-based Andromeni and the silicon-based Gemini. Not only do their backgrounds and role-playing opportunities stand-out, but they’re very different when it comes to sci-fi role-playing, especially the Andromeni. The possibilities presented with an energy-based species that actually lives by finding a fresh host can make some very interesting games. The second new mechanic addition that really stands out are the medals and commendations. These do not stand-out because characters can “show off” their awards, but rather they are an excellent way of rewarding great role-playing out outstanding feats during combat. This adds a whole new level of rewards besides experience points.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
A great value of the Galactic Underground series is that they have information for everyone. New playable races for players (with new matrices), new phentari source material, new adventure seeds for Battle Masters and medals and commendations that can be handed around. Galactic Underground 2 is another great addition to any Battlelords of the Twenty-Third Century player’s library.

Overall: 10 out of 10
There’s little more to say about Galactic Underground 2 other than it has lots of value for its price. Unless you want just the basics, the amount of new material is designed for everyone to peruse, not just those playing in a particular setting. This Galactic Underground series is composed of some very valuable content and volume 2 will not let you down.

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