Review: HopePunk Press – Spaceships and Starwyrms (Dungeons & Dragons)

Spaceships and Starwyrms
Spaceships and Starwyrms is a space fantasy core setting guide for Dungeons & Dragons, written by Benjamin Quiggins and Audrey Stolze and published by HopePunk Press.
By Aaron T. Huss

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Spaceships and Starwyrms is a core setting guide that adds a sci-fi layer to Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. I say “layer” because it does not attempt to re-write the D&D rules for sci-fi, but rather adds some science fiction to it to create a space fantasy setting with features unique to the sci-fi genre. It is an all-encompassing book, including the D&D rules offered-up by the SRD, covering a detailed setting, new classes, new backgrounds, new equipment, all the mechanics you need for spaceships, a space fantasy bestiary, and all the bits and pieces that go along with creating characters within D&D (equipment, spells, etc.).

Spaceships and Starwyrms is a great looking book with a collection of great artwork and awkward looking illustrations that create a complete setting in a single book. However, I want to emphasize that the book is space fantasy (or sci-fi fantasy) and not an attempt to create military sci-fi or hard sci-fi. This is an important factor to understand as the rules do not make the attempt to re-write D&D in a clunky way that creates sci-fi. Rather, it embraces all aspects of D&D and skins it with some sci-fi flavor to create a mash-up of science fiction and fantasy. The rules, mechanics, and character options all mesh very well with the base Dungeons & Dragons. (Spaceships are another issue, but we’ll discuss that in a bit.) With this core setting guide, you don’t have to re-learn the system; you’re just blending in some technology, just like adding clockwork to your fantasy.

There are a couple things I want to point out before getting to spaceships. First, Spaceships and Starwyrms is a full setting and contains a collection of new character species and classes to choose from. I really like how the species collection as I find them interesting and three-dimensional. I also like the character classes, but would have preferred more that are aligned with more common sci-fi tropes. However, those that are available are fleshed out well and again the mechanics blend seamlessly with the base D&D.

Second, Spaceships and Starwyrms has a collection of equipment… but I have mixed feelings. The developers went to good lengths to create sci-fi armor and shields. However, they did not go to these same lengths to create sci-fi weapons. Most of the weapons are typical fantasy weapons with just a sprinkling of sci-fi added in. Additionally, those that are sci-fi do not scale properly with the fantasy weapons. Instead, the developers created a list of space fantasy weapons that scale with the base D&D mechanics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it really pulled me out of the space fantasy mindset I had gotten myself into with the previous mechanics. Needless to say, I find the weapon selection to be very dull and would prefer a greater selection of sci-fi weapons that clearly outmatch their fantasy counterparts (non-magical fantasy counterparts of course).

Now for spaceships… wow! The developers clearly devoted a lot of time and effort into creating their spaceships for this setting. They devoted 40+ pages to describing the combat mechanics, detailing how spaceships work, and providing a huge list of ships to choose from. I love it! This is by far my favorite part of the book. I say this because creating space combat and spaceships is not an easy task and sometimes you need very original, potentially fiddly mechanics to do it. Instead of adding layers and layers of mechanics or complicating the matter, the developers again created mechanics that blend well with the base D&D mechanics to make space combat familiar while still being unique. Keep in mind, they may not be as elaborate or grandiose as other RPGs, but they avoid complication and stick to the way mechanics work in D&D to keep things that much simpler.

All-in-all, it’s a great space fantasy skin for your Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition endeavors and is worth taking a look at. If you really like the newest edition, which I actually prefer, and you want to add some sci-fi to your gaming table, this is a great place to start and should serve your gaming group well!

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