Following up a live chat and offline interview with Hyperlanes creator Ryan Chaddock and a look at species from the cinematic sci-fi ruleset fueled by the fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons engine, we’re continuing on through the Hyperlanes corebook with Chapter 3: Class.
One of the best things about D&D 5E is the modular design philosophy. Stripping away all the class features, slots and so forth, D&D character classes are great framework to hang homebrew elements onto. I’ve had a lot of fun creating and playing with things like the barbarian Path of the Azure Primal Path and warlock Void Pact. There are six core classes in Hyperlanes, each with their own archetypes just like D&D. In fact, the class options in Hyperlanes are each built using one of the core D&D classes as a chassis. I’ve read through them all several times, ran a couple of sessions for players using them and certainly imagined more than one character I’d like to play.
Curious as to which ones?
AmbassadorReady to see what a bard is like…in space? The ambassador class in Hyperlanes is modeled on the D&D bard. Level breaks for class features match, hit dice and saving throws are the same and so forth.
Like bards, ambassadors are Charisma-based factotums specialized for shrewdness. Ambassadors serve as representatives of organizations, governments, merchants, causes and more. Talented in social situations, the ambassador can pull Deception and Influence gambits, inspire others and revitalize allies with rousing speeches. They are also very skilled and gain access to gambits from other schools and choose a profession path at 3rd level to further specialize.
Con Artist, Entertainer and Provocateur are styles and occupations available to ambassadors
Because they are modeled on D&D classes, D&D players will recognize how they’ll operate mechanically despite different flavors. The professions are not simply sci-fi analogs of bard Colleges though. Each is distinct with their own level Profession features.
The Con Artist naturally specializes in Deception and fast-talking abilities to confound and confuse creatures in and out of combat. Deception gambits generally focus on beguiling and subterfuge, and Con Artists have ways to gain additional gambits and pull them more successfully. Trickery is the Con Artist’s forte, gaining and exploiting the trust they get others to place in them.
Entertainers take Performance to another level. Through music, dance or even companionship these ambassadors rely on evoking emotion in creatures. Pulling Influence gambits becomes an art form for the entertainer, who can save a gambit slot by increasing pull time and turning the gambit into a performance over 20 minutes. Entertainers also have increased chances to pull Influence gambits against targets they’ve successfully pulled gambits on previously.
Finally, the Provocateur is an agitator who specializes in sowing discord and causing trouble. Instead of focusing on a particular gambit school like the other ambassador professions, Provocateur features make them masters of reading people and understanding how to manipulate them. Their highest level ability lets them create a mob sympathetic to the Provocateur’s cause and even put themselves in harm’s way in support. This ability can even be used multiple times in succession to cause a mob to swell into quite a large crowd.
GeniusWhat does a wizard look like in a sci-fi setting where technology takes the place of arcane magic? A genius, of course! As a big fan of the wizard class in D&D, the Hyperlanes genius was the first thing I checked out in-depth and it does not disappoint.
Like wizards, geniuses rely on Intelligence to pull gambits, conduct experiments and contribute to party success with knowledge and reason. A genius is a thinker, whether their brilliance is a result of years of disciplined study or natural smarts. Also like wizards, individual genius characters are widely defined by the types of gambits they most rely upon – but they have access to all of the gambit schools. At 2nd level, a genius chooses a specialty, but these differ from D&D wizards. There is not a specialty for each school of gambits. Instead, a genius specializes in either device manipulation, computer hacking or as a battlefield strategist.
Engineer, Doctor, Splicer and Tactician are the specialties available to genius characters in Hyperlanes.
To an engineer, vehicles, weapons and any other technological devices offer ways to display their genius. Right off the bat when this specialty is chosen, the engineer can burn a gambit slot to force broken or disabled technology to function for a few rounds. Later, engineers can improve weapons and armor with a variety of customized effects, modify starships and eventually create a Masterpiece vehicle, weapon or armor.
Diverging from the wizard purview of D&D, a Doctor uses advanced medical, biological and cybernetic knowledge to pull Medical gambits. Early on, the Doctor can heal injured creatures. As the Doctor grows in experience, their healing abilities continue to advance as well. At the highest level a Doctor gets such satisfaction from healing others, they regain their own hit points by pulling Medical gambits.
For a Splicer, computers, security and other electronic systems are child’s play to bypass. Getting into and out of secure areas and extracting information buried behind firewalls and intense security is a Splicer’s bread-and-butter. Later features make it more difficult for others to hamper a Splicer’s efforts and give these geniuses advantage pulling gambits against systems they’ve hacked in the past.
Lastly, the Tactician applies their genius in a military way. Devising strategies and leading others to victory allows these geniuses to use intellect against all the odds. New ways to interact with the Help action means the allies of a Tactician have much greater chances of success in their endeavors.
Because a genius has access to all of the gambit schools and the potential to include every gambit in the game in their procedure book (aka spellbook) it is a very versatile class. For example, a Tactician could certainly focus on Tactics gambits and coordinate allies to dominate the battlefield. But they can just as easily pull gambits from the Medical school like mutagenics to grant an ally special abilities or make an impossible landing with a Vehicle gambit.
MuscleEven is a galaxy of ray guns and thermal detonators, there are warriors who wield swords, axes or their own two (or three, or four…) fists. Based on the D&D fighter class, muscle characters do not pull gambits and instead rely on perfection of combat skills.
Like fighters, muscle characters are fairly straightforward – they fight. But therein lies a lot of room for variety and opportunities to customize characters with skills, styles and lots of ability score improvements or feats. Muscle characters choose a fighting style, which include choices like Meditative that gives advantage on two saving throws of their choice and Reckless to give a bonus to hit at the expense of armor class.
Duelist, Martial Artist and Thug are the archetypes available to muscle characters, which fold in themes of D&D monks and barbarians alongside conventional warrior abilities.
The Duelist is a master of single combat, specializing in the use of a particular weapon like a sword. This Elegant Weapon must have the finesse trait, and a duelist gains offensive and defensive bonuses while wielding it in combat.
For a Martial Artist, their body is their weapon of choice. These unarmed and unarmored warriors gain many abilities similar to a monk, including scaling damage from unarmed attacks, movement increases and eventually resistance to damage from all mundane sources.
Finally, the Thug is a hulking monster whose savage violence intimidates and frightens foes. Interestingly, there is even a way to use a Thug’s intimidating nature while manning a gunnery station on board a vehicle.
OutlawBased on the rogue class, outlaws are scoundrels and those familiar with the seedy underbelly of the galaxy. These rebels and renegades live by their wits and enjoy all the cool stuff D&D rogues get like sneak attacks, expertise and evasion. Two of the outlaw archetypes gain access to gambits, but all three excel and getting into and out of trouble.
Bounty Hunter, Gunslinger and Saboteur offer outlaws three paths to infamy.
A Bounty Hunter pits special skills against the worst the galaxy has to offer. Instincts and customized tools and weapons help a Bounty Hunter track and take down targets in a variety of creative ways. One of the two archetypes with access to gambits, Bounty Hunters draw from the Arsenal and Survival schools, giving them access to a wide array of offensive options and the ability to operate in hostile environments to zero in on their quarry. Aside from gambits, Bounty Hunters can create customized armor and weapons using Improvements from the genius Engineer specialty and develop skills aimed at ambushing targets.
Gunslingers rely on reflexes and deadly aim to make a name for themselves as dangerous individuals. Masters of ranged weaponry, Gunslingers are foes to be reckoned with, and trouble follows with them wherever they roam. Special fighting styles give Gunslingers options to focus on fighting with two pistols, dealing bonus damage with shotguns and rifles, long range expertise as a sniper or fighting with a single pistol. As they gain levels gunslingers become faster and more accurate, able to make called shorts with alarming speed.
Finally, the Saboteur likes to make things go boom. Stealth and technical expertise give these outlaws the skills to infiltrate, sabotage and get away undetected. Disguises help a Saboteur get into places they’re not supposed to be, where they can pull gambits from the Engeineering and Splicing schools. As they gain levels Saboteurs develop talents to escape dangerous situation and use their Stealth to benefit a squad of operatives, as well as identify structural weaknesses to make further use of Sneak Attack damage.
PilotProbably the most divergent Hyperlanes class when compared to its D&D brethren, pilots illustrate the biggest difference in genre. Based on the sorcerer class, pilots would find much less need for their skills in a traditional D&D game because their focus is on vehicles. So why base it on a spellcasting class? The answer is an elegant one and a my home group came up with a similar homebrew system along the same lines. The Hyperlanes framework offers a much more robust system than our meager effort though. Sorcery Points are translated into Maneuver Points, and metamagic into Maneuvers a pilot can use to truly represent exciting vehicle simulations.
It makes perfect sense that pilots retain sorcerer hit dice and narrow range of skills – of course getting proficiency with flying vehicles of all varieties and the repair tools to maintain them. Beyond these features, pilots learn to pull gambits from various schools determined by their archetype, utilizing Maneuver Points to fuel their amazing aerial talents.
Ace, Racer and Smuggler are three avenues of specialization pilots can follow, representing different approaches and circumstances for pursuing perfection of piloting.
An Ace is a combat-focused pilot. Their time in the cockpit usually involves flying into and out of dangerous situations. Arsenal, Tactics and Vehicles gambits give an Ace tools they’ll need to employ the right weapon for the right job, coordinate with allies in the starship squadron and make the kinds of amazing moves they’ll need to survive a dogfight in the skies or outer space. As they gain experience, Aces become more and more adapted to environments in and around starships, learn to focus on their chosen course, develop intuitive skill with a favorite vehicle and eventually become a seasoned veteran able to share skill with other pilots in a squadron.
Racers are consummate pilots. An Ace employs their piloting skill in combat situations. To a Smuggler, a vehicle is a means to and end. But for a Racer, the vehicle is all that matters. Flying faster and farther, taking risks and performing daredevil tricks is the juice for Racers, who excel in the cockpit of smaller vehicles. Arsenal, Engineering and Vehicles gambits give Racers combat utility and ways to push their ship beyond its limits. At higher levels Racers learn to make the best of vehicle crashes, bury their fears, make nearly impossible vehicle moves and get in the zone when piloting at maximum speed.
Smugglers perform often dangerous work, transporting things from one place to another for credits. Adaptability and versatility are a Smuggler’s forte, as a simple job can quickly escalate and require piloting, combat and social skills. Engineering and Vehicles gambits let Smugglers pilot their way through tricky situations, affect shipboard or ground-based systems and navigate different social strata in the pursuit of fulfilling a contract. As they gain levels, Smugglers become adept at concealing items, fighting in close quarters, adding Deception to Vehicle gambits and get around undetected whether on foot or at the controls of a starship.
SoldierLike pilots, the soldier class might make seem like a strange pairing, being based on the D&D cleric. Again, the great design of D&D and creativity behind Hyperlanes results in a wonderfully thematic class. As veterans of conflict, soldiers rely on Wisdom gained through challenging encounters to keep their squadmates in the fight and using Arsenal, Influence and Tactics gambits. One of the most interesting features is a great divergence from standard D&D – the soldier uses their Wisdom modifier for attack rolls with ranged weapons (including vehicle weapons).
In place of Channel Divinity, a solider uses Guts & Glory to Turn the Tide and break the morale of hostile creatures, with additional features granted by a Military Specialty chosen at 1st level. Later on, soldiers can cause enemies to outright surrender, and then call on military support when needs are dire.
Commando, Media and Scout and the tracks a soldier follows. These enable a soldier to become a hit-and-run expert, battlefield healer or intelligence operative.
Commandos get access to specialty gambits they always have prepared, which aid them in surviving in hostile territory and disrupting enemy operations. Able to use any armor or weapons, a commando has seen the worst of war and lived. Guts & Glory for a commando makes them temporarily immune to Influence gambits, fear and charm conditions. Later abilities grant them bonuses to ambush targets, attack while on the move and inspire allies.
A Medic naturally keeps people on their feet and in the fight with specialty gambits to heal and cure a variety of effects. On a more practical side Medics become proficient in the Medicine skill and their healing gambits are all boosted in effectiveness. Because Medics work on the frontlines and seem the damage war can do, they can quickly assess the status of all creatures nearby – friends and foes alike. Higher levels make them better able to operate in the midst of conflict and treat wounds while on the move.
The Scout is an ultimate survivalist, staying alive and unnoticed in dangerous territory, gathering info and performing reconnaissance. Specialty gambits aid Scouts in tracking targets, dealing with terrain and remaining undetected. They are excellent snipers, getting bonuses for ranged weapon attacks from key positions and their Guts & Glory feature lets a Scout become a ghost in guarded areas. (Not a literal ghost; I’m talking special ops here.) The intelligence gathered by Scouts and their tactical awareness grants allies bonuses against targets they’ve reconnoitered as well as cutting down on travel times, ultimately giving everyone the ability to exploit weaknesses in enemy defenses.
Ready to play yet?
The classes and subclasses in Hyperlanes are all designed incredibly well and showcase the versatility of fifth edition D&D. Each one conjures images of characters from sci-fi settings while leaving enough room to customize and make a character your own. For example, I am a HUGE fan of the Mass Effect trilogy and I can imagine creating characters inspired by all of my favorites from that franchise. At the same time, they could just as simply have unique features distinguishing them from the wonderful cast of those games. Would Mordin Solus be a genius Doctor? Or maybe Medic soldier? Perhaps a multiclass character? My Commander Shepard would be a Scout soldier more than likely.
For your games, you can just as easily combine Hyperlanes class options with D&D material to create even more fantastic characters. A Gunslinger outlaw with a few sorcerer levels could use misty step to bamf around the battlefield in a firefight. Or a paladin pilot who smites foes with starship laser turrets?
Which of the classes sounds most appealing to you? Any plans to run or play in a Hyperlanes game or any questions about it? I’d love to hear any and all of your thoughts about the classes or anything else about Hyperlanes below.
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