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Tabletop Game / Dragonstar

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Take your adventure to the stars!
"There's more of just about just anything you could want adrift in this sea of stars: wealth, fame, power, glory, fraternity, or whatever else you dream about when you go to bed at night. True, there's also more violence, hatred, bitterness, despair, and danger than your little world could ever contain.

But with nothing to fight for, what place is there for heroes?"
John Caspian, Imperial Legions

Dragonstar is a d20 System setting published in 2001 by Fantasy Flight Games, with a Science Fantasy theme. In the Serpent's Eye galaxy the Dragon Empire, an interstellar superpower prevailing through a combination of cutting-edge technology and magic, has reigned in relative peace for over five thousand years, constantly incorporating new worlds from the uncivilized Outlands at the Empire's edges. These worlds are your ordinary Dungeons & Dragons settings... until the Imperials decide to make contact with them. Many who were completely unaware of anything but their tribes and kingdoms are conscripted into the Imperial Legions and given high-tech armor and energy weapons.

For five millennia the good-aligned metallic dragons have ruled the Empire, but the Imperial Charter signed by all ten draconic houses after the great Dragon War means the time of the chromatic dragons is now upon the galaxy. 40 years ago the sadistic red dragon Mezzenbone took the throne, and many citizens fear what he has planned for them...

The setting contains examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Represented by the Pilot base class.
  • Adipose Rex: Grand Duchess Ivaldor, the black dragon leader, is a bloated and decadent creature.
  • The Alternet: Dragonstar has the InfoNet, serving about the same purpose as the Internet but on a galactic scale.
  • Big Bad: Emperor Mezzenbone has been the highest authority within the chromatic dragons of Asamet for five thousand years, and while he didn't abolish civil rights and declare himself ruler for life upon ascending to the Imperial throne like many feared he would he's still as cruel and sadistic as they come, sending his Secret Police and personal assassins to eliminate threats to his reign and ordering mass exterminations of Outlands worlds that are particularly bothersome (if you're compliant he's only slightly nicer to you).
  • Big Good: Khelorn, the gold dragon who formed Qesemet and ruled the Empire for the first millennium, is still in charge of his house and is the most influential metallic dragon alive.
  • Blood Knight: Mezzenbone revels in slaughter, the horror of the Dragon War was paradise for him.
  • Bold Explorer: Organizations like the Royal Exploratory Service and independent adventurers venture into the Outlands at the border of the Empire to seek out new life and new civilizations. Many such explorers are rangers.
  • The Church: The Unification Church, the official faith of the Dragon Empire, teaches that all gods and goddesses throughout the universe are actually aspects of twelve true deities. They use this to explain Inexplicable Cultural Ties. Then there is the Dualist Heresy, which teaches that there are in fact only two deities, a God of Good and a God of Evil (though it leaves it up to the individual to align with either or both). The two churchs are naturally not particularly friendly towards each other, but although the Empire doesn't officially support the Dualists it doesn't suppress them either since many important dragons favor it either openly or in secret.
  • Church Militant: Some Unification Church sects employ paladin orders, such as the Father-worshipping SOLAR (Special Outlands Army Recon). The chromatics respond by creating blackguard orders.
  • Common Tongue: The Common language is the same throughout the galaxy, with at most differences in accent, and the same goes for most other languages.
  • Conscription: Whenever a new world is incorporated into the Empire its leaders are made to offer up able-bodied men and women to the Imperial Legions for a five-year tour of duty, a practice introduced in later years by Mezzenbone.
  • Crossover: A major selling point about Dragonstar is that you can take almost any d20 system world, established or homebrew, and integrate it into the setting.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The sect of the Father, Unification god of order, closely resembles this trope. The Dualist Heresy is more Crystal Dragon Zoroastrianism.
  • Death World: The red throneworld of Arangorn is a hellish, barren landscape too hot for normal people to survive on its surface without protective gear, and is on top of that highly tectonically active.
  • Decadent Court: All chromatic houses have their fair share of intrigue, backstabbing, and other pleasantries.
  • Do Androids Dream?: They do, in fact. In order to create a fully sentient synthetic lifeform a soul must be transferred into its electronic brain; the result is called a Soulmech.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The Dragon War ended when an unknown superweapon was detonated on the yellow dragon world of Krellis, blowing the planet to smithereens and killing over a billion, dooming the yellows to near-extinction. The sheer destruction convinced the two sides to end the war.
  • Eldritch Location: The Dark Zone is a region of space outside the reach of the Empire that is home to mind flayers and other aberrations. Few explorers ever return from it, and the few that do don't describe it in very flattering terms.
  • Elemental Embodiment: New additions to the standard array include radiation and space elementals.
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: Most dwarves don't actually have anything against standard variety elves, but they don't tend to like the drow. The elves, though, usually disapprove of the dwarves' industrialist tendencies.
  • The Emperor: The dragon at the top of the Imperial hierarchy. Each Imperial House (there's one for each of the ten major colors of dragons) reigns for a full millennium before handing over power to the next, and appoints a member of the house to the position. Should an emperor die or otherwise be found incapable of ruling before the thousand-year term is up their House appoints a new one. The current emperor, Mezzenbone, is a particularly cruel red dragon 40 years into his reign as the first chromatic to hold the coveted position.
  • The Empire: The Dragon Empire slides into this when the chromatics have authority over it. Before the unification their Asamet Empire was this too.
  • Evil Plan: Thought the lack of martial law and mass executions meant Mezzenbone maybe wasn't such a bad guy after all? Then stop that, because it's all just a part of his catastrophic plan millennia in the making. If he succeeds, worlds will burn and billions will perish as the galaxy is once more plunged into the abyss of absolute destruction.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Never mind that your ordinary D&D setting probably is this, this is a universe with a galactic empire that constantly absorbs such worlds into its magic-and-technology dominion. If it's not in the Dragon Empire already you can probably find it if you search the Outlands long enough.
  • Feudal Future: The Dragon Empire operates on a semi-feudal system.
  • Floating Continent: The city of Vespar on Aelding floats among the clouds and is home to the Imperial Society, the Empire's foremost order of wizards.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Members of the Mechanist class are described as having almost supernatural skill with machines.
  • A God Am I: Mezzenbone views himself as unto a god and the center of the universe.
  • God of Evil: The Adversary, invoked Chaotic Evil half of the Dualist pantheon. In the Unification pantheon the Destroyer is also called the personification of evil and hate.
  • God of Good: The Creator, invoked Lawful Good half of the Dualist pantheon.
  • Grandpa God: The Father, Unification god of order, typically appears as this in the cultures of short-lived races like humans.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Dragon War between metallic Qesemet and chromatic Asamet five millennia before "present day" claimed countless lives and threatened destruction on a titanic scale before the two sides came to their senses and decided to unite instead.
  • The Grim Reaper: The Unification death-god is aptly known as the Reaper, and typically appears as the typical incarnation of this trope, complete with the scythe being his favored weapon.
  • Gun Fu: Practiced by Gundancers, a prestige class with mostly monk members who blend spiritual discipline with firearms artistry. They even have an ability named Gun-Fu.
  • Hegemonic Empire: The Dragon Empire under the metallic dragons of Qesemet worked more like this; Mezzenbone's ascension drives it further towards The Empire.
  • Hobbits: The halflings of the Empire are a generally friendly lot and excel at computer programming, seeing it akin to riddles to be solved.
  • Inexplicable Cultural Ties: Why are most worlds so similar, down to having a Common Tongue despite no apparent connection whatsoever? The Church explains it by claiming that all gods everywhere are aspects of twelve deities who made it that way.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: The bronze throneworld of Endagar is over 90% water, and occasionally suffers the wrath of the larger denizens of the abyss. A kraken attack about a century before "present day" caused enough damage to shut down the Long Road for a week. There are also space kraken to trouble starships.
  • Laser Blade: The Sunsword is a weapon sacred to the clergy of the Father and the Warrior, and used by their paladin orders. The sword is a piece of Magitek powered by divine magic that creates a blade of solar plasma.
  • Living Ship: The elves grow organic spaceships. The mind flayers of the Dark Zone have their own, more eldritch variants.
  • A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...: It's set in the fictional Serpent's Eye galaxy.
  • Magitek: Most technology is mundane, but some of it, like Soulmechs and starcasters, need a magical component to create and/or use. The Technomancer prestige class is all about this.
  • Master Race: The dragons, even the good-aligned ones, usually look down on non-dragons, and this is reflected in the structure of the Empire. Pureblood dragons are "the frosting on the upper crust" of society, with half-dragons below and sorcerers just above the rest because sorcerous magic is officially a product of draconic heritage.
  • Mother Nature: In Unification theology the Mother is the goddess of creation, nature, and fertility.
  • Murder, Inc.: Emperor Mezzenbone has a crack team of assassins known (though not by many) as the Black Talon at his disposal.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: They're the same kinds of dragons as in normal D&D, but here they rule an interstellar empire. There are also space and star dragons, but they prefer to stay far away from galactic civilization.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Like the other races they follow the standard D&D model, but they're described to have adapted well to life in the Empire. Underground living translates easily to living on cramped and dark ships and stations, and many take to conducting mining operations on inhospitable planets and asteroids. They also all have the ability to sense gravitational pull.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Non-dark elves are typically concerned with ecological matters, given how nature tends to suffer under the spread of high technology. Drow, on the other hand, are Emperor Mezzenbone's favorite non-dragons and make up his Secret Police. Under the scourge of chromatic dragons common elves have it rough, especially with the particular dislike green dragons hold for elves and fey.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Gnomes are described as the non-dragons most adapted to interstellar life, and are responsible for many developments in Magitek.
  • Playing Both Sides: On Primogen II there's an age-old conflict between good and evil, and the ISPD supplies both sides with advanced weaponry in order to prevent either from gaining an advantage and threatening Imperial affairs on the planet.
  • Portal Network: The Long Road is a 20-lane portal highway that connects the throneworlds. It is also rumored that the Imperial Palace structures on each throneworld are connected to each other by way of secret teleportation circles, and the prototypical Outlands Station is in fact ten stations all tied together with portals, one station at the border of each Imperial House's domain.
  • Precursors: The gnomish Forongorn Confederation of the planet Aranal was the first civilization to develop interstellar travel. When they inevitably encountered other inhabited worlds they soon founded the Star League, but the incorporation of dragons into their power structure led to tensions, and tensions led to the Star League falling apart and the dragons forming the kingdoms of Qesemet and Asamet. Thus began the Dragon War.
  • Razor Floss: Monofilament axes (and urgroshes) are available.
  • Science Fantasy: It's literally Dungeons & Dragons with space-age technology in addition to all the normal magic.
  • Secret Police: There's always been an Imperial Police, but Mezzenbone went a step further and introduced a drow-staffed Imperial Special Police Directorate. They're about as pleasant as you can imagine a Gestapo of dark elves under a chaotic evil dragon would be. Working closely with (and maybe even training) the ISPD is the black dragon-led Adamantine Order.
  • Secret War: The Dragon War never really ended, it just turned more subtle. Not that anyone really knows what counts as winning or losing anymore.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Space Elevator: Also called "skyhooks", the most famous example is the one on the silver throneworld of Aelding that has greatly helped make the planet the leading producer of spacecraft in the Empire.
  • Space Pirates: A natural feature of a setting like Dragonstar. One captain mentioned is the orc Draxt, who reveres a space kraken that makes Primogen V its home.
  • The Spymaster: Lord Shul, a half-black dragon Yuan-Ti assassin, leads the Adamantine Order agency and has the favor of Emperor Mezzenbone. Shul's former subordinate, the drow Avix Vazenorn, serves a similar role as leader of the Emperor's Secret Police.
  • The Starscream: Rumors say that the death of Asamet's blue king Lazalius during the last stages of the Dragon War was caused by his successor and the current emperor, Mezzenbone.
  • The Syndicate: The Black Hole Syndicate is a loosely-organized criminal empire with roots in pre-Empire times, currently led by the decadent rakshasa rogue Bazzrit.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Due to the Empire being based on an alliance between good and evil factions people of all alignments end up working together whether they like it or not. A paladin might be ordered to join forces with a drow ISPD agent, but it's illegal for either to attack the other just because they have opposite alignments.
  • Teleportation: Magitek devices known as starcasters give starships the ability to instantly travel across Imperial space.
  • That's No Moon: Asterwraths are giant space aberrations that look like asteroids and eat spaceships, and occasionally battle space krakens.
  • Unequal Rites: Sorcerers are seen as superior to Wizards (and indeed all non-dragons) in the Empire because their natural magic is officially deemed to be a result of dragon blood.
    Caspian: As far as the dragons are concerned, if you can't cast magic naturally, you're not meant to use it at all.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Caspian is observant and intelligent, and his introduction to the Starfarer's Handbook doesn't bother with censoring himself to avoid ISPD scrutiny, but there are things he simply doesn't know. For instance, all that stuff up under Precursors? Caspian's version of history completely leaves out the Star League and the Forongorn Confederation, and is phrased as if the two Dragon Kingdoms were more integral to the rise of interstellar civilization and less a result of the rise of interstellar civilization.
  • Walking Tank: Quadrupedal battle vehicles exist in both scout and assault varieties.
  • War God: Among the deities of the Unification Church, the Warrior and the Destroyer are the Lawful Neutral and Chaotic Evil versions of this, respectively. The Lawful Good Father also has War as one of his domains.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The Primogen system, designed as a starting point for campaigns, is intentionally left vague in terms of its location. The book gives some advice but ultimately leaves it up to the GM to decide where in the galaxy to place it.
  • Wolverine Claws: One possible spellware enhancement (magical cybernetics).
  • You Killed My Father: John Caspian wanted nothing more than to avenge his father the king... then the Dragon Empire forcefully brought his world into its midst and he became conscripted into the Imperial Legions. He still plans to deal with the whole revenge thing eventually.