Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex
Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex Capsule Review by Alan D. Kohler on 17/12/01
Style: 4 (Classy and well done)
Substance: 4 (Meaty)
Take one part Jurassic Park, one part space adventure game, one part Civil War, and one part Old West. Place in blender on high... mmmm, a nice multi-genre D20 cocktail.
Product: Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex
Author: Joseph Goodman
Company/Publisher: Goodman Games
Line: D20 System
Page count: 96
Year published: 2001
Comp copy?: yes
Capsule Review by Alan D. Kohler on 17/12/01
Genre tags: Science Fiction Far Future Space Old West Other
Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex
The licensing arrangement of the D20 system helped spurn on many companies, producing items for both the existing D&D market and trying to re-market existing game lines to a wider audience. But a third area that a few publishers would try to exploit is that of creating new D20 based games, in hope the by building on the already established D20 system, they can create a game that will appeal to players by virtue of the fact that they don't need to learn a whole new system.
Broncosaurus Rex is one such game. It's central topic is dinosaurs, a topic that has only been tackled tenuously by game companies in the last decade (like GDW's Cadillacs & Dinosaurs and SJG's GURPS Dinosaurs sourcebook.)
But wait, there's more! Not only is it a game about dinosaurs, but a game about space, the old west and this civil war. A strange combination, but can Goodman Games pull it off?
A First Look
Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex is a 96-page softcover book, priced at $20.00 US (similar in price and size to the WotC classbooks.) The cover is color, with a purple background. The front cover depicts what appears to be a civil war era soldier wielding a glowing sabre, mounted on a tyrannosaurus rex. The background of the picture depicts lush jungle-like greenery, a pair of moons, and a pair of burning buildings. The latter appears to be an unfortunate coincidence that may remind some of the recent tragedies of the twin towers of the World Trade Centers.
The interior is black and white. The illustrations are black and white, and serve both illustrative and decorative functions in the book. The quality of the art is generally excellent, primarily depicting dinosaurs and characters from the setting.
The font size used in the book is compact, and the margins are thin. There is little white space or gratuitously sized art in the book. Overall, this gives the book a very good text density.
The price is slightly high for a book of this size, but comparable to a WotC book. However, given the text density and presentation, this book is a decent value based on production values and content delivered.
A Deeper Look
Dinosaur Planet: Broncosaurus Rex is arranged into 4 chapters, plus two appendices (a CR table and the obligatory Open Game License) and an index.
Chapter I: The World of Broncosaurus Rex
Broncosaurus rex is set on a large planet called Cretasus in the year 2202. Further, it is set in an alternate timeline. In the world of Broncosaurus Rex, the US Civil War did not end with the defeat of the Confederacy. Lincoln was assassinated two years before gettysburg and the emancipation proclamation was never written. However, the Confederacy freed their slaves in 1881. A cold war evolved between the north and the south.
This cold war soon evolved into a space race. Space was soon colonized, and with the assistance of naturally occurring "warp gates", these colonies extended to the stars. Conflicts flared up in some of these colonies. The Confederacy, despite some industrial and technological weaknesses, used their ingenuity and determination to gain the upper hand in space.
However, in doing so the Confederacy didn't take care of things on Earth too well. The Union struck and defeated the Confederacy on Earth. The Confederacy retreated to their impressive holdings among the stars.
The Union eventually formed a larger body including part of Europe, which would become the Federal Union of Nations. It eventually tried to expand further, but certain nations resisted. These dissident nations were forced of the planet, like the Confederacy. Unlike the Confederacy, these planets did not have a large body of Colonies. They formed a nomadic nation called the Free Fleet. After this time, the Union became the Federal Union of Planets.
The planet Cretasus was discovered outside of the existing borders of human nations. Cretasus is a huge planet - Jupiter sized - that for some reason (which is never explained) is not only capable of hosting earthlike life, but it is teeming with life like that of earth through various periods of prehistory. (Okay - this is obviously not a hard SF game...)
No political entity controls Cretasus as a whole yet. However, its biological resources and colonizable land are so huge, it has drawn characters from all of the major human nations to its surface, waiting to exploit it.
The major problem I had with this Chapter was the organization. The first thing my mind screamed out when trying to make sense of this setting was "What is going on here?" The chapter dives right into a description of the planet and then the political bodies before telling you that this is, in fact, an alternate timeline. I think that starting with a little bit of conceptual background would have made the chapter more comprehensible at first read.
Chapter II: Character Creation
The second chapter dives into variations on how to create characters in this setting, admittedly a setting far different from the D20 system's fantasy roots. That being the case, the race and class options are totally different than that outlined in the good old Player's Handbook.
The first thing that you will notice is that there really are no racial options per se. All player characters in DP:BR are assumed to be humans. In the place of a racial choice, players choose a place of origin for their characters. Place of origin basically describes the interstellar nation that the character hails from. Three of these, the Confederacy, the Union, and the Free Fleet, have already been regarded historically. A fourth, offworlders, describes characters from primitive backwater or frontier worlds. In addition to the standard characteristics allotted to races, a place of origin determines the character's capability to access high tech items. The general characteristics of these places of origin are as follows:
The one rules-related cringe here is that where classes have an ability score modification, it is a 1 or -1. While not a crippling flaw, odd m\odifiers lend themself to a bit of min-maxing by assigning them to odd ability scores and in essence losing nothing.
The standard fantasy-related D20 system classes are not used in DP:BR. Instead, 6 new classes are introduced that are appropriate to the setting:
My only concern about the class is the magnitude of bonuses that they receive. Numerical bonuses to such things as an attack bonus with a machinist's custom weapon or skill bonuses a two-fister receives are on the order of 1 per level This may not be a big problem considering these classes probably won't be played alongside standard D20 system classes, but I still wonder how well such large modifiers would work out.
The skills list is slightly altered in DP:BR. There are new uses for many existing skills. For example, skills like animal empathy are extended to dinosaurs and prehistoric mammals. New skills include ciphers, drive, operate ironclad, pilot, repair device, and use technical equipment.
New feats are introduced that are appropriate to the setting. There are 4 new categories of weapon proficiency: alien, ballistic, high-tech, and manual. Manual weapon proficiency applies to all basic, low tech weapon with few moving parts. Ballistic weapon proficiency covers all gunpowder weapons. High-tech weapon proficiency required that the character select one category of high-tech weapons: sonic, laser, plasma, freeze, or gravity. Alien weapon proficiency requires the character to choose a specific alien weapon.
Other feats include:
As can be seen, the skill enhancers in DP:BR are much more potent than those in any WotC material. This would be more of a balance issue if they were to be used aside other D20 system game character. Even if you don't, they seem a little broad to me.
Many of the feats are reserved for members of the confederacy only. There are no feats that are unique to any of the other places of origin. This seems to betray a little favoritism towards confederate characters in the setting, at least as far as adding definition to the characters goes.
The equipment section begins by defining tech levels. Twenty tech levels are described, but characters in this book can only access 16 of them. Characters are assigned a tech level according to their place of origin and intelligence modifier, but feats and classes may modify this. This determines what technology the character can understand.
Tech level also determines the availability of items. A table provided defines which items are available by the population density and controlling entity of the area.
The chapter introduced a variety of new equipment, including modern and ultra-modern weapons. At the low end, a .45 revolver does 1d10 and causes triple damage on a critical. This struck me as a little low if you are using the existing D20 system medieval weapons as a baseline, and the other weapons seem to follow suit. High tech weapons seem to be what a dino hunter needs, doing as much as 3d12. Some hard to find alien weapons do even more.
New armors in the existing categories - light, medium, and heavy - are only marginally better than the existing D20 system armor. However, a new category is introduced. Energy field armor provide modest AC bonuses (some against limited attack types) but do not restrain the character significantly.
Of course a number of other technological items, from jet packs to robots, are included to catch the D20 system up to the era depicted in the DP:BR setting.
Chapter III: Dinosaur Statistics
This chapter provides statistics for a variety of prehistorical beasts, primarily dinosaurs, as they exist on Cretasus. Dinosaurs here are presented as fairly intelligent compared to their presentation in the 3e MM. In addition to the new creature statistics provided, some of those previously appearing in the 3e MM are reworked in greater deal. For example, those perennial favorites velociraptors have several pages of materials, including three classes for velociraptor characters, warriors, tacticians, and shamans, each of which have certain feats and special abilities.
Each dinosaur type has details describing how it fits into the setting as well as a fictional take on their sociology and behavior, notes on how to go about training them, and byproducts one can get from their carcasses.
Chapter IV: Adventures on Cretasus
This chapter is brief but provides a few useful notes on running an adventure in the setting.
A brief listing is provided outlining all of the factions on Cretasus, and the motivations of some of them (settlers, the union, the confederacy, and the dinosaurs) are outlined that can act as driving forces behind a game and provide adventure ideas and insights into running NPCs.
Finally, a list of 100 adventure ideas is provided, in the spirit of the list of the same nature in the DMG.
DP:BR is one of the more unusual games I have seen coming out of the D20 system crowd. However, it does seem to be one of the better introductory products of a new D20 system company. The production values and presentation are very good, with very pleasing artwork and good content.
The author puts some nice touches in the text that help highlight the flavor of the setting. For example, weapon descriptions often have historical notes on how weapons got their names.
The concept for this game seems like an immense genre-bender. That may put many people off. However, perhaps this is one of the better roles to deploy the D20 system in. You already know the system, and the book is fairly cheap to jump into the setting with.
-Alan D. Kohler