Starship traveling through the Drift

The Drift: GeekDad Exclusive Look at ‘Starfinder.’ Watch Your Mouth, Kid, or You’ll Find Yourself Floating Home!

Geek Culture Tabletop Games

Traveling faster than light is not even the most interesting part of faster-than-light travel in Paizo’s soon to be released Starfinder Roleplaying Game. As I covered last weekStarfinder is a science-fantasy roleplaying game based in the same universe as the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. As such, Paizo is not beholden to science to explain such things as faster-than-light travel. In the Starfinder Roleplaying Game FTL travel is accomplished by jumping into a different plane of existence known as the “Drift,” which acts as a subway between origin and destination.

The Drift is a weird colorful void that ships can travel through, allowing them to jump out of the conventional world at one location and back into it somewhere far away, without passing through the space in between.

The Drift was gifted to the races of Starfinder by Triune, an AI that ascended to godhood. See, no science necessary!

What is novel and exciting though, is that entering the Drift causes pieces of other planes of existence to be torn off and drawn in, causing the Drift to expand, and the victim plane to shrink a small amount. There’s no telling what you may encounter as you pass through the Drift and draw some random portion of some random plane in. You may encounter an immortal devil from the planes of hell, irritated from eons of lingering in the Drift, a portion of a mega-dungeon now inhabited by other victims of the Drift, derelict spacecrafts, suddenly find your ship and your crew dying as you fly into a portion of the negative energy plane—the possibilities are endless.

Paizo kindly provided some of the rules concerning the Drift. Check out this exclusive look at some of the actual nuts-and-bolt rules and flavor text for the Drift to see how all this works!

Starship traveling through the Drift
A ship boldly travels through the Drift. Illustration by Tomasz Chistowski.

The Drift

When history recommenced at the end of the Gap, many worlds found they had already established spaceflight and interplanetary trade. Vercite aetherships, Eoxian bonecruisers, Brethedan vacuum-swimming biovessels, and more all plied the void, and magical gates and dimension-hopping spells granted opportunities to visit other worlds and confer with colleagues throughout the system. Yet while spaceflight was relatively common, the vast distances between the stars still made travel beyond a single solar system mostly infeasible—the realm of planeswalking spellcasters or long-lived daredevils.

The ascension of Triune changed all that. While the solar system had always had gods dedicated to machines, even back to confirmed antiquity, they’d always remained relatively minor. Yet exactly 3 years after the end of the Gap in the Golarion System, a new deity revealed itself: a divine network integrating Epoch, the machine-built deity of Aballon; Casandalee, the god of androids; and Brigh, the clockwork goddess. Calling itself Triune, this new collective consciousness vaulted to prominence by providing mortals with access to a heretofore unknown hyperspace dimension called the Drift, reachable only via technology and granting easy travel to distant stars. For a relatively low price, ships could now acquire a Drift engine that let them slip quickly between star systems.

In the wake of this revelation, a land rush began. The adventurous and disenfranchised sought opportunity in new colonies. Corporations sought resources and freedom from regulation. Governments sought to expand their territories. Yet as quickly as it began, this exodus hit its first hurdles, for many “new” worlds were already inhabited or bore strange contagions inimical to life, and predatory civilizations both vast and incomprehensible lurked in the dark between the stars. New races flooded the Pact Worlds in turn, coming in peace and in war, forcing the worlds to come together for mutual protection and in shared appreciation for all they held in common. Today, space exploration remains rampant and lucrative for citizens of the Pact Worlds, but it’s still a romantic pursuit and fraught with danger.

Using Drift technology differs from ordinary astrogation in that the distances between worlds are less important than the difficulty of correctly targeting the jump. Within a given solar system, jumps are relatively quick and easy, though this method is only moderately faster than flying between worlds using conventional thrusters. Outside of a given system, Drift tech divides the galaxy into two sectors: Near Space and the Vast. While Near Space worlds tend to be closer to the galactic center (and, incidentally, to the Pact Worlds) and the systems of the Vast tend to be farther out, the true difference between the regions lies in the density of so-called “Drift beacons.” These mysterious objects, sometimes spontaneously generated and sometimes placed by priests of Triune, help navigation systems orient ships in the Drift. While placing a single Drift beacon on a world isn’t enough to convert a Vast world to Near Space status, placing many in that general region of space can cause the shift, and thus it’s possible to find pockets of Near Space worlds all the way out to the galactic rim, as well as uncharted zones considered part of the Vast near the galaxy’s core.

When traveling to a world through the Drift, determine whether the destination is in the same system, Near Space, or the Vast. The distance between the start and end of your journey doesn’t matter, nor which category of space you’re starting from: traveling from the Vast to a Near Space world is no more difficult than between two Near Space worlds. Roll using the travel times below, then divide the result by your starship’s Drift engine rating to determine how long it takes you to reach your destination. For example, a starship with a Drift engine rating of 2 traveling to a world in the Vast would roll 5d6 and divide the result by 2. If you rolled 15, then the trip would take 7-1/2 days. Note that you never round down with Drift travel rolls, since these partial days can be extremely important when multiple spacecraft are racing each other to a destination. Additionally, since the Drift is a plane that you’re traveling through, it is possible to pause midjump, and even to land on one of the floating chunks of terrain within it or engage in starship combat. Time spent stopped in this manner does not bring you closer to your destination, and thus does not count toward your required travel time. Days spent in the Drift are no different for the crew than days spent in normal space, and thus they can craft items, heal, and take other actions as normal.

The one exception to the rules above is Absalom Station: for unknown reasons, the Starstone at its core acts as an extremely powerful Drift beacon, allowing ships from anywhere in the galaxy to jump to Absalom Station in 1d6 days.

While traveling through the Drift, a starship uses its conventional thrusters. For a starship to engage its Drift engines to either enter or exit the Drift, it must remain stationary with its conventional thrusters turned off for 1 minute.

Travel In-System (1d6 Days): Jumping between two points in the same solar system is moderately faster than moving between them in real space, and is so short as to carry only a 1% chance of random encounters in the Drift.

Travel to Absalom Station (1d6 Days): Jumping to Absalom Station always takes only 1d6 days, thanks to the Starstone.

Travel to Near Space (3d6 Days): Near Space contains the Pact Worlds system and most of the worlds colonized and contacted so far by their explorers, but there are still thousands of Near Space worlds yet to be investigated. Jumps to Near Space worlds rarely carry more than a 10% chance of a random encounter while in the Drift.

Travel to the Vast (5d6 Days): Largely unexplored, the millions of Vast worlds are significantly more difficult to get to than Near Space, and the risk of a random encounter in the Drift can be anywhere from 25% to as high as 50%.

Travel beyond the Rim: While other galaxies are known to exist, the distances between them and the galaxy of the Pact Worlds are so incredibly large that there have yet to be any confirmed instances of intergalactic travel using Drift technology. Whether this is due to the extreme travel times involved, limits to the reach of the Drift itself, or dangers encountered in the Drift during such attempts remains unknown.

There’s some great info in here. The Starstone is a special beacon, allowing fast travel from anywhere. We have the galaxy to work with, but the rest of the universe is currently out of reach. How did Triune, the collective consciousness come about, and what is its objective? Triune gifted FTL, but its plane, the Drift, grows and gains material every time the characters use the Drift; what anterior motives might Triune have?

I want to make a character that just spends his time in the Drift salvaging derelict spaceships and rummaging through all the debris pulled in from other planes. But just how does one actually get to the Drift? Again, entering the Drift can only be done with technology, in the form of a ship with a Drift engine.

Voidrunner kasathan-style ship
“The Idaran Voidrunner, a common kasathan-style ship. Few ships can match the speed and maneuverability of a Voidrunner, making it the perfect ship for daredevils, elite combat pilots looking to rely on skill rather than heavy arms and armor, and criminals in need of a fast getaway.” Illustrated by Ben Wootten.

Paizo also provided GeekDad with this reveal of the Idaran Voidrunner, a common kasathan-style ship. While not a Drift capable ship, there’s some great teasers here about ship game mechanics.

Few ships can match the speed and maneuverability of a Voidrunner, making it the perfect ship for daredevils, elite combat pilots looking to rely on skill rather than heavy arms and armor, and criminals in need of a fast getaway.

Tiny racer
Speed 12; Maneuverability perfect (turn 0)
AC 15; TL 14
HP 20; DT—; CT 4
Shields basic 10 (forward 3, port 2, starboard 2, aft 3)
Attack (Forward) gyrolaser (1d8)
Power Core Micron Heavy (70 PCU); Drift Engine none;
Systems basic computer, basic mid-range sensors, mk 2 armor, mk 1 defenses; Expansion Bays none
Modifiers +2 Computers, +1 Piloting; Complement 1
Pilot Computers +7 (1 rank), gunnery +5, Piloting +11 (1 rank)

This is just one page of the 528-page Starfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook. If even just some of the rest of these pages are this awesome, this laden with character or campaign creation inspiration, then we’re in for one heck of a ride!

The Core Rulebook will be available this August. At just $9.99 for the PDF, there’s really no reason to not check it out. Interested in learning more now? Go read my prior summary of what we know about Starfinder so far, or go to the Paizo Starfinder web site. I’ll be attending PaizoCon 2017 this weekend and will take in as much Starfinder as I can, hopefully finding a way to get some play time as well. Whatever I find out, you’ll be the first to know!

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2 thoughts on “The Drift: GeekDad Exclusive Look at ‘Starfinder.’ Watch Your Mouth, Kid, or You’ll Find Yourself Floating Home!

  1. All Praise Triune!
    Exalted be their name!
    May their blessed circuits never rust.
    Thy program run,
    Thy calculations summed,
    In Triune’s name,
    01000001 01101101 01100101 01101110

    1. Heh… I just got around to translating the binary… “Amen!”

      Though, I’d peg Triune as an EBCDIC guy…

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