Retroverse

By Kat (@SunsStepchild)
(above art by Lluis Abadias)

Snickelsox of Lasers and Liches just released a preview for Retroverse recently and I can’t wait to dig into it. As always, all criticisms are given only to find where the game would break down and point out clarifications. Snickelsox, if you’re reading, feel 110% free to contact me here or DM me on twitter for any responses to what you see here! ❤

Author & Books

From the company Lasers and Liches (twitter), Retroverse is written by Chris Lock (@Snickelsox) with art by Lluis Abadias. Lock is the lead designer of Retorverse and DM for the Nameless DnD podcast. He’s a dad of 2 and between that and his IRL job, somehow managed to put together most of Retroverse in just six months! The kickstarter will be releasing 2 books, the Player’s Mix (similar to 5e’s Players Handbook) and the Game Master’s Beats (will have all the resources to make your world fit the theme, will include magic items, monsters, and perhaps a full campaign too). 

(art by Lluis Abadias)

What is Retroverse?

Retroverse is a silly technicolor love letter to the 80s and 90s. It’s power rangers and TMNT, loud neon colors and video game references. It’s got a similar feel to Ready Player One’s homages to nerdom that’s less “hey look at my nerd credentials” and more of a subtle nod of appreciation.

It runs using D&D’s 5e system but has several new races and classes, but idealy will be balanced and versatile enough that traditional D&D classes like clerics and wizards as well as Retroverse classes like the Holo-Knight or Glitch Hunter will be able to flow freely between the traditional fantasy setting and into Retroverse.

World Building

Lock describes the world of Retroverse as sort of similar to Digimon level of technology, where there is a virtual world that feels as real as the physical one but that there aren’t exactly cyborg-tech that allows you to level up or incredibly advanced computers everywhere.

To explain the Anachronism Stew inherent in a game like this, Lock describes the “worlds” of Retroverse in an interview with The Nerd Cult, as “Dyson rings, imagine a bunch of flowing rings around a of light whatever you wanted it to be, that are constantly expanding and contracting, one ring may be purely fantasy but as it intersects another ring that suddenly in the middle of town square you’ve got an arcade cabinet for no apparent reason.” Spilled Ale Studios mentioned in an interview that it reminded them of the movie Wreck-It-Ralph, with the idea that there are dozens of unique and thematically different games all connected in a way that somehow makes sense.

While Lock has mentioned many times he doesn’t want to pigeon hold DMs into treating a definitive idea of what the world is, he does mention that “The world in our adventures will be very Final Fantasy-esque high magic, technology mixed in that’s never really explained because it doesn’t need to be.”

  • New classes:
    • Holo-Knight (the class detailed in the preview, a lightly armored warrior that can summon hard-light weapons and cast illusions)
    • Synth Weaver (bard-like class that buffs your allies while literally skating around the battle field)
    • De-Fragger (my personal favorite, a powerful paladin-like warrior that can grow a second set of arms, protect their allies, and channel their life-force to erase corruption from other creatures)
    • Glitch Hunter (a ranger-like bounty hunter with a unique gun that changes as needed that’s more lucky than most)
    • Code Warlock (a monk-like character that can hack the fabric of reality, charge energy in their hands, and negate all effects of a single attack, described by Lock as “if Neo and Goku had a baby”)
    • And the Goreangyr (a power-ranger like warrior that uses armor and mech suit animal companion to battle, their high-tech helmet letting them know their foe’s vulnerabilities)
  • New races:
    • Wo’nari (relentless, clever wolf-like humanoids that can shoot lasers from their eyes),
    • Ceran (hulking reptilian beasts with 3 horns on their heads, wise and deeply in touch with ancestors)
    • and 4 variants on dragonborn.

Let’s Dive Into the Preview!

dragonborn variants
(art by Lluis Abadias)

Draonborn Variants

I love the dragonborn variants! Those given are the Neon Dragonborn that breathes neon gas that deals fire damage, the Laser Dragonborn breathes a line of radiant damage, the Xenon Dragonborn exhales a chemical reaction that blinds everyone in a cone and deals psychic damage, and finally the Tesla Dragonborn discharges an aura that deals lightning damage.

I did notice however that the preview doesn’t mention the other racial traits Dragonborn characters get like strength and charisma bonuses and I wonder if that will be included in the final product or if you’ll need to consult the 5e Players Handbook when creating Dragonborn characters.

holo4
(art by Lluis Abadias)

Holo-Knight Class review

Really love the Holo-Knight’s weapon compendium, a book in their equipment that contains diagrams of every weapon they’ve ever encountered.

Spell slots are… weird. The spell progression doesn’t seem to match any 5e classes and that means it isn’t compatible with 5e’s multiclass spell slot progression chart. IF there is a variant multiclass chart in Retroverse it could work but otherwise it limits multiclassing to a homebrew ruling.

Holo Weapons

Allows you to summon any non magical weapon or shield as a bonus action.

Holo Armor

Summon armor (light at level 2, medium and heavy armor at later levels) that lasts until dispelled or for 1 minute. This takes “one round” to summon.

Except no actions in 5e takes “one round” to complete, all actions are considered a Move action, Action (attacking, casting a spell), Bonus Action, Reaction (usually used to make an Opportunity Attack or cast a spell), or an Interaction (speaking, drawing weapons, dropping items). I think this is implied to mean summoning Holo Armor requires an action.

Spells Known

Their spellcasting modifier is intelligence and most of their spells come from the wizard or bard spell list.

  • I do hope this isn’t all the spells that’ll ever be on the Holo-Knight’s spell list as it’s pretty small and can think of a few others that fit the concept rather well (Phantasmal Force, Phantom Steed, Absorb Elements, Dispel Magic, Elemental Bane).

Just like 5e’s Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster, the Holo-Knight only has access to limited schools of magic (“mostly around illusions and trickery”) but at 10th and 19th levels they can add spells from any school of magic.

  • Does this include spells from every spell list? Or from another class’s spell list (like the Eldritch Knight learns from the wizard spell list?)
  • And can they only gain one new non-school specific spell this way or can they also swap out an old spell with a new non-school specific spell as well?
Weapon Shatter

(I think this is how it goes) At 3rd level, you can make another attack as a bonus action, breaking your Holo-weapon in the process.

  • The pdf says that on a hit, the target takes weapon damage minus any bonus modifiers”. I’m assuming that means you just roll your damage dice without adding your strength or dex.
  • If that’s so tho, it’s no different than what any character of any level can do by using their bonus action to make another attack with a light weapon held in their off-hand. (If I’m interpreting this right) a Holo-Knight that specializes in two weapon fighting, would do better to just never use this ability, for the risk of breaking their weapon.
  • Personally, I’d love to see Weapon Shatter operate similarly to the 5e barbarian’s Reckless Attack and have that Bonus Action attack have advantage and maybe do an extra +2 or so damage.
Advanced Constructs

This ability allows you to temporarily grant your Holo-weapons magical +1/+2/+3 bonuses (rather similar to Pathfinder paladin’s Divine Bond ability that does the same but also allows them to gain magic weapon properties like flaming, holy or speed).

  • While it could easily become OP, it might also be interesting to allow this ability to be used to mimic the abilities of some magical weapons. Perhaps at level 9 they can replicate uncommon magic items, rare items at 15, and very rare items at level 20. That said, YES this could get VERY OP. Personally, I’d rule that if this were allowed the holo-knight would have to attune to any magic weapons that require it. If they are already attuned to the max number of items, they can end a previous attunement as a reaction and instantly attuning to their holo-weapon (ends when the Holo-weapon disappears and they must re-attune to whatever item they un-attuned from before).
Armor Burst

This is the only Area of Effect spell I can see for the Holo-Knight. When you gain this ability at 7th level, you can spend a bonus action to deals 2d8 dmg to every hostile (hey it avoids allies!!!) creature within 10 ft of you (dex save to negate the damage entirely).

  • Personally I find this pretty weak. Although it is useful for being the Holo-Knight’s only AoE ability, the damage is lower than the average dmg a 7th level warrior can put out by using Shatter Weapon (or simply two weapon fighting) as a bonus action for another attack.
  • An easy way to boost it’s effectiveness would be to make A) successful saving throws incur half damage rather than none, B) on a failed save the target is knocked prone/ stunned for 1 round, and/or C) simply boost the damage dice dealt from 2d8 (avg dmg 9) to either 3d6 (avg 10), or 2d10 (avg 11).
Double Team

This is easily the most flavorful and powerful ability the Holo-Knight gets so far. Spend a spell slot and an action (still have a bonus action for a spell or Weapon Shatter attack) to create a duplicate of yourself. They have your current armor and weapons and can attack once per round and use Weapon Shatter (but they can’t summon new weapons/ armor, don’t benefit from Extra Attack, and can’t use magic).

  • It is worth noting however, that unlike 5e’s Ranger’s animal companion, when a Holo-Knight uses their Double Team ability it doesn’t cost an action, making this a fair bit more powerful.
Elemental Add-ons

You can add elemental or silver effects to your Holo-weapons when created. The silver is only used to bypass resistance and the elemental effects cause no damage except in cases where the target is vulnerable to the chosen element.

  • When they say elemental effects I assume they mean acid/ cold/ fire/ lightning tho it would help clarify to list them out. Would this include psychic, necrotic, poison, etc?
  • If a creature is vulnerable what damage dice is dealt? The weapon’s damage dice? Or would it deal 1 d4 like 5e’s Paladin spell Elemental Weapon
  • Regeneration effects: Would this affect a troll’s regeneration? They’re not vulnerable to acid or fire so they wouldn’t take any extra damage so it wouldn’t hinder their regeneration. 

Mercenary Background

While this is a decent background, I did find myself wishing it was more divergent from 5e’s backgrounds. I would like to see more high-tech/ 80’s themed gear with the Tool Proficiencies and Equipment, even if they’re simply different names.

The Mercenary gets proficiency with one type of gaming set and either A) one type of musical instrument or B) an herbalism kit. Those could be reskinned easily to fit Retroverse!

  • Gaming set (gameboy, arcade games, card games/ board games/ dice games),
  • Musical instrument (synthesizer/ electric guitar/ beatboxing/ street drums, Note: After listening to this interview with The Nerd Cult, it looks like Lock is aware of this and plans to let the Synth Weaver class use boomboxes, megaphones, and/or beat boxing as their spellcasting focus)
  • Herbalism kit (med kit, nanite pills, health recharge station)

Shiny Variants

This is the idea that 1% of monsters (or however many the DM deems cool) are unique in color and abilities. A d100 table of 14 variants is provided although only 4 are detailed in this preview.

The Black Shiny variant is more suited to darkness and stealth. They have advantage on stealth checks made in dim light or darker, darkvision 30 ft (and/ro Blindsight 10 ft) and gain +1 to AC while not in bright light. They are also blind in bright light.

The Brown Shiny is can take a beating and keep on ticking. They gain +2 constitution, one additional HD, and advantage on saves against being knocked prone and grapple contests.

NEW Holo-Knight spells

Cantrips:

  • Translucent (gain +3 to stealth and attacks vs you in dim light have disadvantage)

1st lvl spells:

  • Bubble Vision (wisdom save or a target’s eyes are covered and they have disadvantage on attacks and perception/ investigation checks until they pass a wisdom save or the spell ends)
  • Crank Caller (wisdom save or grant any creatures within 5 ft an attack of opportunity)

2nd lvl:

  • Counter Illusion (any illusion spell in the area is immediately dispelled)

3rd lvl:

  • Old Friends (appear as specific creature the target has a memory of, wisdom saving throw to see through the illusion)

4th lvl:

  • Dream Weaver (wisdom save or target believes they’re in a dream, no harm can come to them and they have extraordinary powers- this one’s MAYYYBE a little OP, if only because it’s so open to interpretation)

5th lvl:

  • Ghost Potion (you create a single potion of common or uncommon rarity that lasts for 1 minute or until concentration ends. When the spell ends, any effects including healing is negated This is REALLY USEFUL. Mostly out of combat. While it’s a good way to stay in the fight longer with healing potions you can also make potions of climbing/ swimming/ water breathing/ hill giant strength/ RESISTANCE/ growth this is easily one of the most versatile and brilliant spells I’ve seen in a while)

6th lvl:

  • Nightmare Being (wisdom saving throw or target takes 4d4 psychic damage each round from an illusory being This seems pretty close to Phantasmal Force but a little stronger)

Monsters

Gooblins are oozes shaped like goblins. They have some abilities from both creatures and the art looks spectacular.

Neo Bandits are in-universe humanoids that serve one of the 4 Bandit Clans: Clan of the Foot, The Fox Snakes, The Death Lords, or Clan Rocket. This is easily one of my favorite bits of this preview for all the hidden 80’s and 90’s references.

  • Each clan has a short description detailing their goals, typical recruits, bases of operations, and habits.
  • In the stat block each is given a minor ability (Clan of the Foot can make unarmed strikes as a bonus action, Clan Rocket add +2 to Intimidation checks and have a +1 bonus to melee attack and damage rolls.

Pizza Slime– here it is, the monster you all saw and loved on twitter lol. I think the CR on this is a little low actually, with both it’s HP and Tooth Vortex damage being more in line with CR 2 creatures. That said, I can’t wait to throw this insanity at my players.

Magic Items

Fanny Pack of Holding– Need I say more? It’s smaller than a 5e Bag of Holding but otherwise pretty much the same.

Sunglasses of Protection these are basically a 5e Ring of Protection but they also grant advantage on saves against blinding effects.

Gods

Pahku Pahku: God I love everything about this universe. Recognize that name? Yep. It’s Pac-man. A Neutral Evil Pac-Man with the domains death or knowledge that is slowly consuming stars at the edge of the universe. His often seek forbidden brain-melting knowledge from him.

Overall

I do wish I could see more of the world building in this preview though. Lock has mentioned in interviews before that he’d like to keep the setting generic enough DMs can plop it down and run it however they like, but I could really use some more solid ideas of what the world is like.

Are video games, electricity, computers, and cars a common thing? Or are they artifacts from a lost world? Is technology more akin to the IRL 2018 or more like Spelljammer, Warhammer, or Star Wars? And how common are the abilities and magical items the PCs would run into? Some of these are answered in other interviews he’s done with The Nerd Cult, but I’d love to see it in the actual product.

I love it tho. Like I’m really, really, really into it and can’t wait for the kickstarter (it starts on April 10!). There are a few rules that I feel might need to be tweaked to help balance the class and clarify rules but what I’m seeing is really promising and refreshing.

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