Releasing in August at GenCon, the Starfinder Roleplaying Game is an intriguing new science fantasy offering from Paizo, the makers of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
Set thousands of years in Pathfinder’s future, Starfinder is a stand-alone roleplaying game evolved from the Pathfinder rules and designed to bring you a whole new universe of science fantasy adventures.
GenCon can’t come soon enough! As information about the Starfinder Roleplaying Game continues to be released, I eagerly anticipate this game more and more! I just hope I’ll be able to find some demo tables giving us a taste of the Starfinder Roleplaying Game at PaizoCon.
Read on to see why I’m so excited!
Thousands of years from the current events in Pathfinder, the world of Golarion has mysteriously disappeared and in its place is Absalom Station, a huge space station. The disappearance appears to be attributed to the gods who have whisked it away to an unknown place for an unknown reason. The gods refuse to explain why. Much like the death of the god Aroden is a prevalent mystery in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game setting, where Golarion has vanished to, and why, is a major mystery in Starfinder. The memories and records of the time around the disappearance are gone or scrambled. This period and loss of information is known as “The Gap,” and occurred around three-hundred years before the Starfinder setting takes place. Researching The Gap is one of the driving forces for organizations such as the Starfinder Society, modeled after the Pathfinder Society, an organization of artifact hunters discovered in ancient records.
While magic is still a deep-seated element of the Starfinder universe, technology has stepped up as a much more prevalent part of the setting. In Pathfinder, magic is the all-powerful driving force in the world. In Starfinder, technology is playing a larger role, while magic has stepped back.
Faster-than-light (FTL) travel is a recent discovery that was gifted by an AI that ascended to godhood. The races can now journey almost anywhere in the universe. Player characters enter the Starfinder story at the beginning of this “land rush” (Taking 20, blog), exploring the millions of planets now available to them.
This old west, land rush concept conjures up images of Firefly, where there was a mix of low-tech and high-tech. The Starfinder Roleplaying Game is science fiction side-by-side with magic, gods, and dragons.
Starfinder is still a D20 system, utilizing the 20-sided die as the core game mechanic. The system is based on the Pathfinder system, but Paizo did not feel themselves beholden to the ruleset. Starfinder, a stand-alone game, will be “conceptually compatible” with Pathfinder. To what extent, we do not yet know. One thing I have heard Paizo say is that gamemasters will be able to drop Pathfinder monsters into a Starfinder campaign and vice versa with minimal conversion. As a conceptually compatible game, much of the game will be familiar to any Pathfinder player. It will still have feats, classes, and D20 rolls, so should be easy for players to pick up the game and hit the ground running.
A big difference is the way weapons are handled. Weapons like guns will behave differently than in Pathfinder. Paizo wanted the math to be different for a couple of reasons. One is that they wanted to better model the way the designers thought science-fantasy technology might work. James Sutter explained it in an interview, “in a world where a guy runs into a room with a long sword versus a guy with a laser canon, the guy with the laser canon should win.”
One of the most exciting elements for me is the introduction of starship combat rules! Paizo has been play-testing this at various conventions, and it looks like they hit the nail on the head here.
Starfinder introduces a system to design, build, and upgrade custom starships. Starships are core to Starfinder and, as such, the ship has identity and is almost another character in the game–much like Serenity in Firefly or the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars. Paizo has created a robust ship building system, with ships that can be upgraded as the party advances.
The designers were careful to ensure that all players in a party would have an engaging task during all starship action. In combat, each person has a key and important role and is adding to the success or failure of the ship. Roles consist of pilot, science officer, gunner, mechanic, and the engineer keeping the ship at 110% in the reactor bay.
Excellent–so players can all participate in combat, but what about faster-than-light travel? In a straight-up sci-fi it would be important to have FTL explained with something at least loosely based on actual science. Not true in a science-fantasy game. Paizo’s solution is just awesome, with FTL opening up whole game sessions of possibilities.
FTL travel happens by passing through The Drift. The Drift is a newly discovered plane of existence introduced to humanity by an AI that has ascended to godhood. It can only be reached via technology. The Drift is a big empty space that serves like a subway from point to point, but every time someone travels through, it rips off pieces of the other planes of existence (including the prime material plane where the characters primarily exist). A small jump between two close points is pretty minor and takes just a small chunk of another plane. This might not even have noticeable effect in The Drift or the affected plane. If, however, you’re making a more significant jump, across the galaxy for instance, a large portion of some plane of existence gets ripped off and you may suddenly be faced with rather put-out demons, or suck a small village and its inhabitants to their deaths within The Drift. This form of travel results in The Drift constantly expanding and filling with random stuff and other planes shrinking in size a little.
James Sutter said this was their solution to random encounters that the average Pathfinder character runs into during travel. But it’s so much better than just random encounters; there’s enormous potential for adventure available just within this aspect of the game, let alone the millions of widely varying planets available to explore with the newfound FTL technology.
While all the core Pathfinder races, elves, half-elves, dwarves, halflings, half-ocs, and gnomes, still exist in the Starfinder game, the core races are different. Humans remain the most prevalent race, with the other core races being, androids, ysoki (rat folk), lashunta, kasatha (four-armed humanoids), vesk (reptile), and shirren (insectile).
In addition to these core races, as well as the Pathfinder core races,”there’s going to be a heavy emphasis on introducing more alien player races. Where possible, you should be able to play the creatures you encounter.” Absalom Station, and the Starfinder universe in general, is intended to exhibit the cantina effect. The players can expect a melting pot of wildly varying cultures, and while the core races depicted here are all humanoid, the design team has made mention of players being able to play the oozes or energy creatures they encounter as an example of some of the less humanoid possibilities.
At release we can expect seven core classes.
- Technomancer (“magical hacker blending technology and magic”)
- Mechanic (“engineer with a robot companion”)
- Solarian (“mystical melee combatant harnessing the cycles of the stars”)
- Soldier (“heavy weapons specialist”)
- Envoy (“diplomat and ally-booster”)
- Mystic (“caster channeling strange energies to manipulate biological systems”)
- Operative (“stealthy skill specialist”)
While there are some clear comparisons to Pathfinder here, such as the obvious fighter/soldier or rogue/operative comparisons, these classes are not just a direct cross over of Pathfinder classes. I’m eager to see the balance of technology versus magic and the specialties of each of these classes. I’m excited to spend hours in Herolab playing the character creation mini-game!
What’s Initially Being Released
All this sci-fi/fantasy goodness will be released at GenCon. There has not been this much anticipation for Paizo’s GenCon release since the original release of Pathfinder to eager fans in 2009. But what all will be available on day one?
Starfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook
Obviously and most importantly, the Starfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook will be there. The Paizo site lists the contents for this all-in-one rules book:
- All player and Game Master rules in a single volume.
- Complete rules for science-fantasy races like logical androids, telepathic lashunta, ysoki ratfolk, and more—plus all of the classic fantasy races of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!
- 7 new science-fantasy classes, from the spellhacking technomancer to the starship mechanic with a remote-controlled robot. Will you be a heavily armored soldier, a charismatic envoy, a stealthy operative, an occult mystic, or the cosmically attuned solarian, who calls forth strange powers and shapes energy weapons from stars and black holes?
- A detailed overview of Starfinder‘s core setting, including the planets of the Pact Worlds, their gods, major factions and threats, and more.
- Complete rules for starship combat, as well as for building and customizing your starship.
- Hundreds of science-fantasy weapons, armors, and items, both magical and technological, from plasma cannons and holy power armor to enchanted swords and cybernetic implants.
- Hundreds of spells to let your mystic or technomancer tap into esoteric energies and rewrite the laws of physics.
- Rules for alien environments, deadly traps, bizarre diseases and poisons, and everything else you need to craft exciting adventures.
- Advice on converting Pathfinder RPG content to Starfinder, and vice-versa.
- And much, much more!
Not going to be at GenCon to pick up a copy? You can preorder it now so you receive it at the same time as all the lucky-GenConners.
Adventure Path – Incident at Absalom Station
Incident at Absalom Station, the first part of Starfinder’s first adventure path, Dead Sun, will be available at release. It looks like we’ll get a chance to get to know Absalom Station, and save the ‘verse at the same time!
A deserted mining ship emerges from hyperspace at Absalom Station, towing a mysterious asteroid behind it. After battling warring factions on the station, the heroes are recruited to explore the ship and asteroid and discover the fate of the ship’s missing crew, only to learn that the asteroid is a fragment of a larger, ancient structure—an alien weapon that could threaten the safety and security of all of the Pact Worlds, should it fall into the wrong hands.
Prepainted Plastic Miniatures!
While it took us a few years to get excellent, affordable, pre-painted plastic miniatures for Pathfinder, we’ll have them out of the gate with Starfinder. Ninja Division is licensed to provide prepainted plastic miniatures! A few sample images of unpainted versions have been revealed. These miniatures have superb detail, each inspiring back stories and character ideas galore. The ships have octagonal bases for use on the octagon-style ship combat maps. I’m excited to see what else gets revealed in the coming months, and pitting these minis against some of my existing Pathfinder miniature baddies!
The game will also launch with various accessories. At the time of this writing they included;
- Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Starfinder GM Screen
- Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Starfinder Player Character Folio
- Starfinder Roleplaying Game: Starfinder Combat Pad
- Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Terrain
- Starfinder Flip-Mat: Basic Starfield
- Starfinder Pawns: Base Assortment
- Starfinder Pawns: Starfinder Core Pawn Collection
Just like Pathfinder, Starfinder will be released under the Open Gaming License (OGL) to allow an unlimited supply of third-party supplements.
Products Coming Soon After GenCon
More products including the second chapter of the Dead Suns Adventure Path, condition cards, and more pawns are already scheduled for release in later months. Bestiaries are always a popular release, and we’ll get our first Starfinder Alien Archive in October. This 160-page volume will include more than 80 new creatures. Many of the aliens will include rules for using the alien as a player character!
The release schedule will be scaled back as compared to Pathfinder. All Starfinder Roleplaying Game products will be covered by a single subscription with most ongoing new material being released through adventure paths and couple hardbacks a year. It will be easy to start at the ground floor and get it all!
So Much More!
There is now so much more information coming out every week, that if I try to cover it all here I’ll never get this post done. We’ve seen many new iconic characters, class descriptions, discussions of starship combat, and more on the Paizo blog.
Every time I discover more, I get more excited for this game. As I’ve spoken about before, I don’t have a great deal of time to game, and am already neck deep in multiple face-to-face Pathfinder games. Even so, I’m going to be sure to get in my science-fantasy, likely picking up Starfinder Society games at future PaizoCons, and throughout the rest of the year I will be playing and GMing sessions via play-by-post–getting in on the ground floor of the Starfinder organized play campaign I plan to write about it here.
If you want an early taste of some Starfinder Roleplaying Game goodness, get to your local gaming store for Free RPG day on June 17, 2017 to pick up Starfinder First Contact. A bestiary of 12 beasts, this special 16-page rulebook was created especially for Free RPG day.
Going to GenCon? Be sure to bring back Starfinder–make it your priority one. All other priorities should be rescinded. On the other hand, you can avoid horrible things bursting from your chest and pre-order on the Paizo online store, where you can pick up hard copies or PDFs, as well as subscribe to all releases. Amazon also has the physical books on preorder for a little less out-of-pocket.
I will be attending PaizoCon 2017 this coming Memorial Day weekend in Seattle, and while there are a few gaming sessions scheduled for Starfinder, I’m sadly not in any of them! I’ll be sure to glean whatever other information I can get from this Pathfinder, and now Starfinder, focused con!
Thanks to: Some information for this posting came from an interview with James Sutter in a Taking20 Interview, some information was gleaned from KnowDirection Podcast 153 interviewing the organized play gurus, and more from the Paizo site.