D&D General Thoughts on the Dragonstar D&D setting (3.0 E)

So I was recently reading my old Dragonstar books, and decided to write this post to generate more thoughts and ideas about the possible usages of the setting in a campaign, and possible variations and improvements that could be added to the setting.

Setting Overview

To give the most basic background, Dragonstar basically posits the idea that all "prime" campaign settings are set in the same universe of the Prime Material Plane and that there exist advanced civilizations in the Prime (ie it is only a matter of time before someone in a spaceship comes across Toril, iirc there is a cool post on enworld called Realmsian Dragonstar that explores this very issue).

Another major point it posits (and one that I frankly dislike) is that ALL of these worlds have the exact same "fantasy lineup" of humans, halflings, dwarves, elves, and so on, because the gods made it that way. Honestly, this part is more stifling than freeing in terms of game design due to its very nature.

However, this sort of ties into a couple aspects that I do like, or at least think are neat, those being that the idea of the Gods of the Unification Church being fundamental archetypes underlying the names each world gives them, or simply being superior to "petty gods" (and potentially other "cosmic beings" as popularized by "secular" sci-fi) on "outlander" worlds/spaces is interesting. In addition, the most preeminent creature in the galaxy are the dragons, having set up a galactic empire.

This brings us to the next aspect of the setting, being that the main government of the galaxy is the Dragon Empire. It is ruled by the houses of Asamet and Qesemet, representing the Chromatics and Metallics respectively, with 5 houses on each side. The rulership of the empire alternates between both sides routinely, though not regularly.

There is also some background plot involving the Dark Zone (Illithid ruled space that is dark) as well as "null-magic" areas and the rest of the galaxy that was unfortunately discontinued when 3.0 ended.

Review

In general, the politics of the setting, so to speak, are more-or-less agnostic enough that they could be used for a good campaign. If anything, the only real major problem is the over-reliance on specific aspects of things (like the fantasy races stuff) and lack of detail concerning tech and magic (more specifically though, the big problem being the need of the writers to adhere to the wonky raw 3.0 rules on crafting and generally many things evident in the shortcomings of 3.0's mechanics). Also, in terms of weaponry, combat breaks down in D&D system due to even the most basic firearms resulting in noticeably larger amounts of damage dice being rolled, with better guns doing much more.

Another major missing thing is the inclusion of the multiverse (in the form of Planescape or otherwise). Ironically, in trying to make everything conform to the specific milieu of bog standard D&D they seemingly forgot all about the cosmology. This is highly disappointing, since I feel it could have benefited a lot from including it, as I have shared in another post on ENworld (Planescape Future).

Personal Notes

In terms of my personal ideas on how the setting could be improved, I have a few guidelines in mind.

First, include the multiverse, likely in the form of the Planescape, but expanded to reflect a greater knowledge of the universe as well as interdimensional areas. This has the benefit of allowing you to keep the "standard fantasy worlds" assumed by Planescape in "crystal spheres" (which could be more like pocket dimensions in this interpretation, for one possibility) as well as introduce more typical sci-fi aliens in the forms of both extraterrestrial and ultraterrestrial (read: originating form another dimension) creatures. The inclusion of "Sigil" areas would be really cool as well.

Second, make the setting more diverse. This ties into the previously mentioned idea of "having more aliens" a little, but it applies again in showing the diversity of the universe and the multiverse. Maybe instead of only dragons the Empire also has some advanced AI/"petty gods"/cosmic beings/etc. etc. in its governmental body. In addition, include more civilizations in the setting, of many different varieties (again, this is unfortunately something that needs to be mentioned due to the original setting simply not getting enough page space probably).

Third, clarify and expand on technology and magic. Just having some kind of "Progress Level/Tech Level" table at all would be useful, just to make the assumptions of certain things and areas more clear. But it might also be useful to really reconsider magic's role, in how it honestly isn't different from technology, therefore having the two be more blended. This is a sort of a digression into mechanics and systems though, for gear, combat, and magic, specifically in how better systems are probably necessary to prevent every attack being rolling fistfuls of dice in a system not geared for such changed assumptions. But beyond this, emphasize the impacts of certain technologies and developments on civilizations as well, with one possibility being post-scarcity and its associated themes.


I hope you find this useful, and I am highly interested to hear your thoughts on this!
 
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Corinnguard

Adventurer
I owned a couple of the Dragonstar books several years ago, and found it to be a pretty interesting setting. I could see the Dragonborn playing a very prominent role in this setting. :) The Royal Imperial Guard for the current ruler of the Dragonstar Empire. The standing armies/navies for each of the houses in the Asamet and the Qesemet.
 

Coringurd said: I owned a couple of the Dragonstar books several years ago, and found it to be a pretty interesting setting. I could see the Dragonborn playing a very prominent role in this setting. :) The Royal Imperial Guard for the current ruler of the Dragonstar Empire. The standing armies/navies for each of the houses in the Asamet and the Qesemet.
I too think it was real cool, but still had a few things that didn't work for me (and unfortunately the edition shift resulted in the discontinuation anyways), which is why I wrote this post.

Do you have any other opinions or thoughts?

(Although if you are talking about Elder Scrolls I think an interesting plot would be an Imperial invasion of the setting ;) ).
 
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Corinnguard

Adventurer
Since you want aliens in addition to the fantasy races here in this version of Dragonstar, how about using some of the alien races from Paizo's Starfinder setting? Same with regards to the technology in Starfinder. I like to think that this setting would help you cover the second and third objectives you stated in your original post.
 

Since you want aliens in addition to the fantasy races here in this version of Dragonstar, how about using some of the alien races from Paizo's Starfinder setting? Same with regards to the technology in Starfinder. I like to think that this setting would help you cover the second and third objectives you stated in your original post.
Oh, sure. I've already checked those. I still have problems with that though, mostly due to that same setting's lack of detail on tech.

Personally, I use a "progress level" table similar to a combination of GURPS and Traveller's tables, taking the best from each and streamlining it.

(Minor digression, but my major problems with GURPS is due to being a bit too vague and symptomatic of "game designers who don't know a lot about this try to actually predict a billion years worth of tech instead of giving people useful guidelines." I mean, to give an example, I could easily describe Cyberpunk Red in such a way that it includes all of tech levels 1-10, meaning that there are a grand total of 2 tech levels left to describe anything else. Meanwhile Traveller is better, but is still too setting reliant).

Anyways, I'm interested in hearing about what you have done in your Dragonstar games.
 
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I loved it and ran it three times. I have never really used the 'go to other campaign settings' part but I did homebrew my own 2e stuff into it (rael from Tales of the Comet, and spell jammer magic)
TBH I may now that you reminded me break it out for a new spell jammer idea (into the dark forest)
 


Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
Interesting art and core ideas.

Terrible implementation. Everything revolved around the endless importance of what kind of guns and armor you were wearing. Class abilities were massively outweighed by whether or not you had a 5d10 plasma rifle and 3 attacks per round or more.

It's really and truly frustrating how many games and designs throw out the actual -game- in favor of making sci-fi weapons unreasonably powerful compared to non-sci-fi weapons in order to show how much better Sci-Fi tech is.

It made it super annoying to land a ship in, like, FR and just blast everything that moved. Completely undermined any sense of the setting's threats having weight.
 

Interesting art and core ideas.

Terrible implementation. Everything revolved around the endless importance of what kind of guns and armor you were wearing. Class abilities were massively outweighed by whether or not you had a 5d10 plasma rifle and 3 attacks per round or more.

It's really and truly frustrating how many games and designs throw out the actual -game- in favor of making sci-fi weapons unreasonably powerful compared to non-sci-fi weapons in order to show how much better Sci-Fi tech is.

It made it super annoying to land a ship in, like, FR and just blast everything that moved. Completely undermined any sense of the setting's threats having weight.
This. This is one of the MAJOR problems of the setting that I addressed in the op.

The worst part is that I firmly believe that a huge portion of the problems in the setting were due to needing to shoehorn things into the raw 3.0 rule set that was simply not built to deal with any of it (especially apparent in terms of magic as well).

I mean, I obviously recognize obvious advantages can and do exist, but it was implemented in the most awkward way possible.

And even then there were major gaps and shortcomings in the viability of the initial premise that just poorly impacted the setting as well (and which I wrote this post to address).

EDIT: Another big problem with the setting is the issue with magic items (actually a subset of major preexisting problems with magic and tech that the setting has anyways). Namely, and I again blame the wonkiness of having to force everything into 3.0, but they were just really poorly done, both thematically and mechanically. Thematically, no one could agree how magic works with science and thus you just have the whole thing be vague and confusing in terms of rarity, actual purpose, etc. Mechanically, they were overpriced and often simply weren't worth it since the use of magic with tech all under science wasn't clear or was outright contradictory, so a bunch of items just feel like a bunch of unrelated elements tacked onto each other.
 
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