Jeremy's Reviews Blog

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Blood and Space 2: High Flyers and Ground Pounders

Blood and Space 2: High Flyers and Ground Pounders

The original Blood & Space was a sourcebook for regular d20, and was sort of a "toolkit" for science fiction roleplaying games. Basically add-on stuff, like more classes, gear, a starship combat section. While I didn't use all of the original, I did use several of the classes and various other bits from it.

With the release of d20 Future, Blood & Space was dusted off and revised and rewritten for d20 Modern and broken up into several smaller PDFs. The first of which is High Flyers and Ground Pounders. Like the original, it's written by Charles Rice and published by RPGObjects

About half the book is dedicated to new character options. That is, classes, feats and such. While the 2nd is more options for Star Ship combat.


There are 4 new Advanced Classes introduced. The Operations Expert, the Starship Gunner, the Starship Marine, and the Starship Chekov, er Navigator.

The names are pretty much what you expect, with the exception of the Operations Expert. They would be called a Starship Engineer in some settings (like Star Trek)

They all seem pretty sound mechanically, with the possible exception of the Starship Marine, which seems a bit more complicated than it needs to be.

It seems to me, a class with "Marine" in the title should have the best base attack bonus (BAB) progression. I mean, fighting is what Marines do - they should be the best at it. While it's true, classes with the best BAB are sort of a rarity in the original d20 Modern, there are several in d20 Future.

The Starship Marine does in essence have one, since they get a bonus while they are on the "attack" which basically works out to be the same as the best BAB.

Similarly, they also have an ability, "Tough as Nails", which gives them an extra hit point per marine level. Which is pretty much the same result as simply giving the class a d12 for hit dice instead of d10. (The average roll on a d10 is a 5.5, plus one would be a 6.5. Which is the average for a d12.

Okay, nit-picky, but for the same basic results, you could have a much simpler class. Simpler is better, I think. I mean, having to ask yourself (or the player) whether or not a character is "on the attack" all the time seems like a big pain. You lose a little bit of flavor, but gain a lot in playability.

Also, historically at least, Marines tend to be less armored than regular troops, in both personal armor and support vehicles/gear. Because being able to move quicker is more important for shipboard troops than land ones.

While this perhaps mostly true for water ships, I think it's true for starships as well. While obviously armor would be useful when boarding a starship, they would also want to get to the key areas of an opposing starship quickly. Anyway, enough nitpicking about the "Starship Marine" (when I was a teenager, one of my favorite computer games was "Breach", about Starship Marines).

Still, somewhat contrary to the name of the book, all of the classes seem to be starship based. The original B&S had a "Colonial Marine" prestige class which was essentially the sort of marine from Aliens. I would have liked to have seen that one updated for d20 Future, but I guess the author felt it was redundant with the "Bughunter" advanced class in d20 Future. A few other classes from the original B&S seem suitable for a product like this: The Marine Commander, the Contact Specialist, the Mercenary, even maybe the Doctor (though the latter is probably covered by the ones in d20 Modern).

There's about 20 new feats. Many are piloting related. Some are leadership related, tied into the unit rules in the book. The description of the "Drill Instructor" feat seemed odd until I realized it was sarcasm.

One very useful thing is a listing of ranks for a space based military. Including rules for promotion and requisitioning stuff.

Ship Combat

The rest of the book is enhancements for the d20 Future starship combat. Basically 2 things: Crew Quality and Ship Boarding/Crew Combat and "Terrain" for space battles.

Essentially, it handles crew in an abstract manner, somewhat similar to a wargame. They are rated as either Untrained, Trained (ie, normal), Experienced, Ace, or Legendary. The quality modifies various combat statistics. There are several different crew types (helm, science, medical, etc).

The combat system, called "BUCS" ("Battlefield Unit Combat System") is very simple, basically, whichever unit that rolls higher + modifiers on a d20 wins. For every 5 over the other side, 1 hit of damage is given to the losing unit. Each "hit" degrades the quality level of the unit by one.

The terrain is pretty useful. While it's true that most of space is empty, a lot of fictional space battles have happened around "Terrain". The great "Kaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahn!" space battle in Star Trek II which happened in a Nebula. Or in Empire Strikes Back, the fight in the Asteroid Field.

Pretty much all the "terrain" in space that I can think of is addressed, both real and fictional. Accretion disks, black holes, asteroid fields, gravity wells, various sorts of stellar objects that explode. All are described accurately, too. As I mentioned in my previous reviews, it gets the difference between a "Nova" and a "Supernova" correct. (Which is more than just about any television show writer.)

Actually, one of my comments about the original B&S was addressed. In the real world, "Asteroid Fields" are not exactly dense. They are only slightly more hazardous than normal space. Which isn't very. So on this there are two options, one representing the real world versions, and one representing the ones you see in movies like The Empire Strikes Back and Space Balls.
Final Thoughts

The PDF itself is pretty good. Most individual items are bookmarked and such (which makes it real easy to count the number of them, handy for reviewers). The art (by V Shane) and flavor text is pretty much the same as the old Blood & Space. Which was pretty good. There are a couple of editing problems, for instance, the crew quality names were changed from the original Blood & Space to this one, but in some cases, it still refers to the old name.

All in all, it's a pretty useful PDF. I really would have liked to have seen more advanced classes, especially ones that are actually "ground pounders". And maybe some of the gear from the old B&S converted, like the Orbital Insertion Armor. But that's my only real complaint (other than maybe that the new allegiances seem odd), and really you do get your money's worth. B+