1 "This massive 560-page hardcover rulebook is the essential centerpiece of the of the Starfinger Roleplaying Game, with rules for character creation, magic, gear, and more - everything you need to play Starfinger as a either a player or Game Master!"
2 "I mean, if Pathfinder is chocolate chip ice cream then this is chocolate chip mint ice cream."
3 "Are you going to care about your brother marrying a man when your sister's marrying a sentient jellyfish?"
4 "People want to be that raccoon!"
5 "So I wrote up a rules treatment for [druids] - as a specialization within the Mystic class - and presented them to the team, who went: 'Meh.'"
6 "Dwarf Solarian. His name is Wrothor Ironstar."
7 "But, why do you want to become a wizard and devote years of your life to learning a light spell when you can just buy a flashlight?"
8 "Everybody on the Serenity has something to do on Firefly. Everybody on Star Trek has a job."
9 "If you can make a game fun and robust with 150 feats, can you do it with 100?"
10 "... if you bring your barbarian from Pathfinder into [Starfinger] and he's going to run around shirtless with a longsword, he should probably get cut down with an assault rifle."
11 "If some guy just walks in off the street and says, 'I want a rocket launcher!', most people are going to say, we don't think you're rocket launcher-ready."
12 "But from day 1, one of our important goals were, if you are a power armor-wearing knight of Iomedae and you got a plasma cannon, it is important to us that you can have a holy plasma cannon, because when you're facing space imps you want the holy plasma cannon."
13 "We’re tweaking the rules around gear and economics and magic. We want to make it a little less bookkeeping and a little more 'sense of wonder.'"
14 "Flintlocks are under most circumstances a terrible idea."
15 "We don't have anything designed to be a Gundam, again because that's just not a Core Rulebook issue, just like we don't have howdahs in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook."
16 "I actually went in thinking: 'Oh yeah, starships are just how you get from Place A to Place B.'"
17 "And there's going to be, at the very high levels, it'll be more or less some of the small ships against giant capital ships are going to be fantastic battles that'll probably be told around your gaming table for a while."
18 "We want magic to augment what your character does, we don't want your character to only be able to do magic."
19 "So if you want to play an Ursula K. Le Guin style science fantasy, or C.J. Cherryh, who whoever it is that you're into, you can do that in our system."
20 "There are a ton of different styles of science fiction and science fantasy being blended together in [Starfinger]—everything from space horror like Alien or Event Horizon to Firefly-esque comedic escapades to the political drama of The Expanse—but at its heart, this game is really about exploration, seeing worlds no one’s ever seen before."
21 "The [Starfinger] Adventure Path, the first volume of which will come out in August at the same time as the Core Rulebook, will also have a Bestiary section just like the Pathfinder Adventure Path does, so right out of month 1 you'll have some new monsters, and every volume of the AP will have a selection of new monsters and new aliens and such."
22 "Musically, [Starfinger] is basically a Coheed & Cambria album."
23 "We didn’t try to make a fantasy that was so unique and bizarre that you’d never run into it before."
24 "As is always the case, I got super excited by all these ethical quandaries and was keen to put them in the game."
25 "That is known as the Drift, and when you go into the Drift, sometimes you pull stuff from other planes with you, whether that be a small chunk of Heaven or a tiny part of Hell or maybe a bit of the Maelstrom, etc. etc., and sometimes that comes with, you know, a bunch of angels minding their own business singing hallelujahs and suddenly they're in another dimension."
26 "Lots of considerations went into choosing the gods for [Starfinger]: how many old gods to keep vs. how many new ones to introduce, what kind of stories we wanted to tell, what gods already had a connection to space, how many alien gods vs. Pact Worlds gods, gender balance, alignment balance, an obvious god for every core race, etc."
27 "In the same way we did with Pathfinder, we’re trying to be all things to all people, which is normally a recipe for disaster."
28 "If we could do for space opera what Shadowrun did for cyberpunk, I’d be thrilled."
29 "If we terminate the License due to breach, you have to immediately stop selling products that use the Compatibility Logo and you must destroy all of your inventory of those products (including all marketing material)."
30 "So take home a deck of [Starfinger] Condition Cards—and all its space goblins—today. Please."

"This massive 560-page hardcover rulebook is the essential centerpiece of the of the Starfinger Roleplaying Game, with rules for character creation, magic, gear, and more - everything you need to play Starfinger as a either a player or Game Master!"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #01: "This massive 560-page hardcover rulebook is the essential centerpiece of the of the Starfinger Roleplaying Game, with rules for character creation, magic, gear, and more - everything you need to play Starfinger as a either a player or Game Master!"
(Credit: Paizo Store ad copy.)

So, it's time to return to the fields of Paizo. It's been a half-decade since my Pathfinder Roleplaying Game review, and those familiar with it will remember I found plenty to be critical about. was, frankly, a warmed-over version of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, which itself was a warmed-over version of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. Pathfinder was derivative RPG pablum that ignored most of the design innovations that Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 had made, instead favoring just dialing back the clock from 2009 to 2003. It was not only a rebuttal not only to Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, but to most of the innovative content that had been released under Dungeons & Dragons 3.5. That being said, it was attractively illustrated and laid out, had a very strong marketing pitch, and was very well-supported with adventures, setting material, and enough player options to choke a Tarrasque.

But there was one particular criticism leveled at my review: that Pathfinder Roleplaying Game wasn't just comprised of its two core books - that it was a living game, and to properly evaluate it, I'd need to be familiar with the current Pathfinder "state of the art" and judge it based on that. I reasonably maintain that if you write 904 pages of core material, that stands on its own and can be judged as a game, but they were not convinced. But there was no way I was going to sit down and review thousands of pages of Pathfinder material just to cover what I was already reasonably certain of. But Starfinger was coming. A new slate for Paizo. Certainly, I could go and see the Paizo's best foot put forward, and give them another chance.

To be fair, I poke fun. And hell, do I criticize. But I didn't come into this with a lot of preconceived notions. I expected something average - better than Pathfinder, but not massively groundbreaking. I may not have ever taken it too seriously, but I was hoping for something I could look and take some positive surprise from. I want to be impressed. I don't want to grind my teeth and sigh and cluck my tongue. After all, I don't want Paizo to just be stuck forever reprinting an RPG that will soon reach the age of majority in its home country. I want to see them free to design their own game, to be free of their albatross, to at least tip over some sacred cows. Will Starfinger manage a new, tasty recipe? Or will it just be astronaut ice cream?

Let's have a bit of a taste.

Starfinger Core Rules posted:

In Starfinger, you and your friends play the crew of a starship exploring the mysteries of a weird universe. Within this framework, however, there are no limits to the characters and play and the stores you can tell.

Well, aside from the classes and races available, and your capabilities at a given level, and whether or not you have the right feats... do you have the supplement to play that alien race? Pretty sure that's not out yet. Well, there are limits, and we'll be knocking up against them. They lied to us. (Marketing is like that.)

But first, what isa roleplaying game? Well, we get a pretty decent explanation. And we're ready to get started, because:

Starfinger Core Rules posted:

This book contains all the information you need to play Starfinger, whether you're a player or a Game Master.

Well, it's missing antagonists, unless you build all of your antagonists like PCs. Well, right off the bat, we have a bold untruth (repeated in the ad copy). Marketing is like that. But don't worry. We'll be directed to buy the absolutely necessary Alien Archive much later, but not here in the intro, when we're first deciding to buy the book. Of course, there's other stuff we'll need, which it tells us all about. We'll need dice, though! And pencils! And a map! Wait, where do we get a map?

Starfinger Core Rules posted:

Not sure where to start? Starfinger Flip-Mat: Basic Terrain and Starfinger Flip-Mat: Basic Starfield give you the maps you need to play, and you can find miniatures and cardstock pawns like the Starfinger Core Rulebook Pawn Collection at paizo.com, along with dice sets and other gaming accessories.

Ah, yeah, there's the Paizo I know. Remember boxed sets that came with everything you needed? Those were nice. This could use one of those. I suppose it'd be hard to find a box for this 560 page behemoth, though. Once again, why publish a Gamemaster's Guide when you can just bundle it with every Player's Guide? I mean, it makes the book really ridiculously big, but... then you can publish another book, and call it the Gamemaster's Guide, and make that seem essential! Marketing is like that.

As I read this, I'm flashing back to a month ago at GenCon, listening to Paizo publisher Erik Mona talk about how Pathfinder isn't really a game so much as a subscription. We're at the d20 retrospective, in which Ryan Dancey touts the accomplishments of the d20 license, which he was elbow-deep in creating. As for the cost to the industry, well, that's just on the heads of RPG publishers who made the wrong decisions.

Flash back a little further and I'm standing in line for the exhibition hall talking with people, one of which is describing multiple walls he has to dedicate to his Pathfinder collection. Another guy bemoans the fact that he had to cancel getting each case of Pathfinder miniatures because $300 a month was just too much and he couldn't keep up. Another talks about his friend who has a separate apartment just to hold his gaming collection. Not to live in. Just for storage. Not sure if that friend is a Paizo fan as well. These aren't people I sought out. They're not part of any of my game tribes. There's just enough of them that I can run into a few without putting any effort into it.

And we hop back forward to the the talk with Mona, where he mentions when they did Pathfinder Adventure Path #100, he felt like they were just kind of going through the motions, but now that they're doing Starfinger, he feels like Pathfinder Adventure Path #125 is finally a milestone he can be proud of, that they're finally moving things forward.

Let's move forward a little further, and I'm in the Paizo booth. It's huge. There are the Starfinger GM Screens and Flip-Mats in stacks, but the game itself sold out. Lisa Stevens mentioned at a talk that they'd brought 50% more copies of Starfinger in 2017 than they'd brought of Pathfinder in 2009. I feel really unconvinced by the notion that they thought it wouldn't sell out. Certainly she's aware that their player base probably was more than 50% bigger? I figure I'll ask some Paizo employee if the PDF is available, thinking about this potential review, but I'm distracted by a game writer I recognize and walk up to chat with them.

While I'm talking to the writer, they say, "Are you the guy that does those Rifts reviews? Oh my god, you have to send me the link for those!" I'm a bit shocked, but I can't pass on the name. I walk away from the Paizo booth having completely forgotten why I'd come in the first place.

Okay, that's a little off track, but I had to mention it. (I did send the link.)

I feel like there's a more interesting story here than the system or the game and more about the marketing itself. I go to the Paizo site to see what's available and nearly every page mentions a subscription. How did Paizo manage to get gamers to abandon the piecemeal supplement model of years past and get them to sign up for games like a magazine - a really expensive magazine, at that? It mirrors the Pre-Order Season Pass Early Access model we've seen hit videogaming around the same time, of effectively buying big blind boxes of content and trusting a company to make it all worthwhile... or for sunk cost fallacies to convince the customer that they're worthwhile.

I think of Erik Mona staring at a keyboard and thinking "What the fuck do I say about A Song of Silver that I haven't said about the last ninety-nine adventures?" I think of a customer going "Well, I could quit, but that'd mean admitting I was wrong about subscribing to the last hundred Adventure Paths, but fuck that. Someday I'll get to run them all, once the Singularity comes!"

And what is Starfinger, other than a new revenue stream, a new subscription path? I look at the author list for this book to see who I need to look up, to find out who's responsible, and there are over twenty authors this time around. RPG by committee, by any measure, and the usual auteur notions of RPGs are nowhere to be found here. This product belongs to nobody but Paizo. An extruded RPG product, if you will. I'm not saying there wasn't passion put into it, or inspiration. You definitely can feel both from the designers when the excitedly talk about it. But a lot of what fuels a product like this is folks like Mona or Stevens seeing folks cancel their $300 minis subscriptions and seeing buyer fatigue set in. Yes, fandom will keep people pitching money in, but only so far. They needed something that seems new and fresh.

Is Starfinger new and fresh? Well, that's about my limit in trying to analyze the business side of things. Let's find out about the rules.

Next: Roll 4d6... in space!

"I mean, if Pathfinder is chocolate chip ice cream then this is chocolate chip mint ice cream."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #02: "I mean, if Pathfinder is chocolate chip ice cream then this is chocolate chip mint ice cream."
(Credit: James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer interview.)

Time to get right into the toybox.

We're told to create a concept. So I'm thinking about a froggy space race pilot, and he like, pilots ships using an interface built off of his arboreal race where there are levers everywhere! He has like four eyes (two on either side of its head) and has an advanced set of spatial awareness since they can see in four directions-

Well, no, we can't do that, at least not yet - there are only very specific character races listed. You lied to me, Starfinger. (Marketing'll do that.) Well, here's how it actually breaks down: choose a race package, choose a theme package, choose a class package, work out your ability scores, gain your class benefits, assign skills, choose feats, purchase equipment, choose alignment, and note a bunch of miscellaneous stuff, until you end up with processed character spread. More interestingly, you get a spaceship!... well, your group gets a starship, but we've got seven more chapters to go until we can discuss that part.

Now, I'm going to assume this isn't your first d20 rodeo. If you need a primer, you can find it elsewhere. Like with my Pathfinder Roleplaying Game review! (Coming soon never: Fatal & Friends Flip-Mats.) Instead, I'm just going to talk about the changes here, mostly, such as:And with that out of the way, let's move on to our first big mechanical element. Even though we were told races were first, they're not first in the book. Instead, we have themes.


... stink. I hate to jump to being dismissive right off the cuff, but most of these are pretty dull. Back when I did my Pathfinder review, I noted "nickel bonuses" or "dime bonuses", fiddly little bonuses with miniscule impact on gameplay, which mostly just add one more thing to track without significantly impacting gameplay or providing new options. An example would be dwarves getting a +2 bonus on Appraise checks to determine the price of nonmagical goods containing precious metals or gemstones. Or gnomes getting +2 on a single Craft or Profession skill. Well, most themes offer tiny bonuses that are either nickel bonuses or weird situational shit, much like Pathfinder's traits. While Starfinger's traits are more robust than those of its ancestor, they're drip-fed so slowly the difference feels a bit academic.

Most themes offer the following: at 1st level, you get a +1 to an attribute, a reduced DC for checks for knowledge relating to your profession by 5, and +1 to a skill roll or an additional class skill. In addition, they give more stuff at 6th, 12th, and 18th level. The 18th level is almost invariably an additional means to gain 2 extra RP a day under certain circumstances, which is an effect actually legit disappointing to see have locked away only to characters who have almost reached Starfinger's endgame.

And I could cover every one, but they don't have a major impact worth focusing too deeply on. The Bounty Hunter gives you bonuses to tracking... only while on foot... in a space setting. The Icon has what I presume is a typo because it actually makes you worse at making Profession and Culture skill rolls in some situations. It's also got the awful "Celebrity" bonus where people recognize you more easily and might help you out or not, GM's call. The Mercenary gives you a +1 to Strength when working out your carrying capacity, which will be useful in corner cases. An Outlaw can bribe the authorities to get out of legal trouble at a cost that rises based on their level, so the more competent they are, the more they pay. The fuck?

It's not all bad, an Ace Pilot gets to be a more competent pilot by reducing penalties... at 12th level, anyway. The Scholar can reroll knowledge checks every so often. A Xenoseeker can communicate and get improved impressions against unknown races - sometimes. But like most Pathfinder material, the balance is all over the place. Some are really useful, others are... well, the Icon. Fuck playing an Icon unless you're real tired of introducing yourself or something. Yay, people know who the fuck you are! Does it matter? Who the fuck knows?!

TBH, the Icon's low-level ability is basically a punishment level for their later ability to reduce costs by 10% - which may not seem like a big deal, but... well, you'll see. It's a big deal to Starfinger.

Alternatively, you can tell themes to take a hike and just get a "generic" theme that grants an ability bonus, an extra class skill, and extra skill benefits which will be useful, so there's that. Which is nice, because there aren't that many themes and it's easily possible your concept won't neatly slot into them. Mostly, themes seem extremely conservative by d20 standards, as if thinking granting somebody notable benefits outside of a class structure might shatter balance somehow and bring the whole system crashing down. What's more, they tend to reserve their more interesting benefits for level 12+, at which point characters will be getting far cooler stuff from their classes. There's a definite hesitancy in Starfinger, as if the writers are staring warily at charop boards in remembered trauma.

It's not the best start. But things'll get better before they get worse.

Next: No elves! (Until the appendix.)

"Are you going to care about your brother marrying a man when your sister's marrying a sentient jellyfish?"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #03: "Are you going to care about your brother marrying a man when your sister's marrying a sentient jellyfish?"
(James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer interview.)

We have are seven core races of the "Pact Worlds" (whatever those are) in Starfinger, but before that, we have languages. So many languages. Everybody speaks... can you guess? Can you guess the language that everybody speaks? Yep, let's give a hand for good ol' Common! The language of the Commonians, I suppose? In any case, you speak your racial tongue if you have one (sorry, humans, you're still indistinct and get nothin') and your planet's language if it has one. And this game has no less than thirty languages, most of them relating either to regional languages we have no frame of reference for or the innummerable racial and planar languages of D&D Pathfinder. Even in the far future, speaking Halfling is still a thing. Halfthing. Something. Language barriers seem to be something the writers seem really keen on.

Unless you just pick up comprehend languages or tongues because you're a spellcaster. No, translator machines aren't a thing. "But maybe I can use the custom computer creation rules to make a translating compu-" No, that doesn't work either, not an option. Computers can only speak one language at a time, as far as I can tell. Go fuck yourself, C-3P0! Unless you're a wizard C-3P0. Then you can translate as much as you like.

It's a little early for us to be squinting at caster shenanigans, though, and there'll be time enough for that. Instead, let's have some people.

Androids (+2 Dex, +2 Int, -2 Cha)

These are androids modeled after humans, and only humans, so if you want to be an orcdroid, tough luck. Man, just mentioning that is disappointing, isn't it? Their big deals are being able to survive in space, low-light vision, and being able to install an armor upgrade in their bodies (which I presume they still have to pay for). They apparently were made for labor until they revolted and became independent, though sometimes people still make them unscrupulously for slavery. They're kind of impassive but... deep down, even an android can cry.

Humans (+2 to one ability)

There are no surprises here. Same as they ever was.

Kasathas (+2 Str, +2 Wis, -2 Int)

Four-armed coneheads, they get to ignore most terrain penalties and get four arms which lets them... hold more stuff. I mean, sure, they get some dime bonuses but who cares? (Not me.) They're from a desert world and apparently were derived from the "plane-hopping witchwyrds". These witchwyrds, whatever they are, told them to go to a planet and they did. Only they found out it had been already settled! Dammit, witchwyrds, check that shit first before you guide an entire race on a wild goose chase! So many of them emigrated around but a lot of them still survive on their giant colony ship. They're matriarchal and nomadic and prefer stabs to shoots. They have mysterious traditions! Traditions that are so mysterious that they aren't really discussed. And that's that!

Lashuntas (+2 Cha, +2 Str, -2 Wis or +2 Cha, +2 Int, -2 Con)

These are antennaed psychic sorts, and they get some basic mind reading (once a day), mild teke (whenever), daze (whenever), and limited telechat (whenever). They evolve into one of two subspecies depending on their early experiences, either the buff korasha or the smart damaya. Apparently this used to be a gender thing, but modern lashunta are more progressive and develop means to guide one's evolution towards the role one chooses for oneself. They have "natural pheremones" and "almost perfect physical symmetry" which apparently makes them the hotness of the galaxy but the art is not convincing me. Pink antennae on humans still looks weird to my eyes. (Sorry, Mantis, but it's true.) Otherwise, they're kind of generically enlightened and honorable hippie sorts. If there weren't already space elves, these would be space elves.

Shirrens (+2 Con, +2 Wis, -2 Cha)

Bug-people that apparently freed themselves from a hive mind called THE SWARM recently. They have blindsense, telechat, and one-a-day reroll when they're near a teammate, and that's most of what defines this race. It's also the first race we see with bonus HP (+2 per level). They have three sexes (female, male, and "hosts" which actually incubate the offspring of the first two), and carry around their baby larva in protective containers. Apparently choice and individuality has a druglike quality for them, and they're generally friendly since they fall back on old hivelike cooperation.

Probably the most interesting sorts I've seen so far.

Vesk (+2 Str, +2 Con, -2 Int)

Big lizard guys, which is of questionable benefit in a setting where people get lasers. They get nightvision and a bunch of garbage bonuses - a nickel armor bonus, a dime fear bonus, and a 1d3 lethal damage claw, be still, my heart. Well, they get an HP bonus, too They're organized and militaristic and aggressive but honorable... okay, they're lizard Klingons. I can just leave it at that, these guys are painfully generic. I like the visual design, but their personality is [insert warlike race here]. They're the kind of race that stole space travel just to make war on other races. But they've chilled out a bit since then.

Ysoki (+2 Dex, +2 Int, -2 Str)

The only "small" race we get, these rat-guys get... uh... cheek pouches. Seriously, one of their racial benefits is shoving shit in their mouth, and the designers think having a gun in your cheek is pretty rad. Hm. They also get darkvision, stand up really fast, ignore penalties for zero gravity, and get bonuses to run past people. They're kind of ubiquitous and do shitty jobs because they have blue-collar pride, apparently. Scrappy and energetic, they pretty much embody a generic but positive stereotype of rats. Or maybe raccoons? Wait, why did I just think of raccoons? Well, it can't be too important. Also, they love nicknames, like Blackjack. Or Sale. Or Rocket.

Oh, and it's all the way in the back of the book, but we still have dwarves, elves, half-elves, half-orcs, and halflings. There aren't vast changes to them save for their opinions on space (they're in it) and halflings are annoying "where are they?!" snipers now. Most of their statblocks have been adjusted but largely just to adapt them slightly to the new rules. It's all pretty much as you'd expect - dwarves like making shit, drow are still evil, halflings are now a bit redundant with ysoki around, etc. I might cover them a bit more when we get to their section, but for now you can sleep easy knowing that Paizo hasn't taken your elves away. There, there. It's okay. The elves are still there. The elves are still there.

Next: Space Bards and Mecha Rangers.

"People want to be that raccoon!"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #04: "People want to be that raccoon!"
(Credit: James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer interview.)

Time for Envoys, for those who want to explore the puddle-deep social mechanics of Starfinger, and Mechanics, for those who want a R2 to pal around with.


Did you know asian women have naturally dyed hair? It's true!

(Honestly, it's good to see the general diversity of the humans in this game, but... there's a spunky stereotype stumble here. Also, her dyed streak keeps switching sides.)

That aside, this is mostly a mix of social and skill monkey, Envoys are Starfinger's attempt to do a socially-oriented class, even moreso than Bards. They get an "Expertise" bonus on Sense Motive checks (that for some reason is a 1d6 or a 1d8 + a number depending on your level) that later they can apply as a limited bonus to their other skill checks they've taken (mild punishment feat) Skill Focus for. Their big class thing is that they get an "Improvisation", which are various social and attack tricks they get every 2 levels. Of course, some are listed as language-dependent or mind-affecting, so they might not work on, say, aliens that don't share your language or a robot... unless you spend the Improv tax to overcome those with specific Improvisations. Often you can spend a Resolve point to get a bonus with these or to turn a failure into a success. Sample ones include:So, some of the basic Improvisations are decent... in certain situations. Each one of these seems to be buried in special catches, though. They can be pretty good if you get some of the "Quick" or "Improved" versions, but even so, they tend towards slight benefits. I mean, Improved Get 'Em requires two Improvisation spends to spend a standard action to grant your allies +2 to hit one enemy for 1 turn... or any enemy with 1 RP. They end up being more flexible than bards, but since a lot of their abilities require standard actions, often they aren't doing much on their own but shouting benefits at party members and debuffs at enemies. And at higher levels, Improvisations are often so expensive you get very limited use of them. And there's the RP costs, which are nice to see as an option but potentially reduce one's lifespan

They also get Expertise Talents every 3 levels, and talents are like feats except... they're class-bound. Examples include:Basically they often let you overcome small limitations on skills, but sometimes at a penalty. They compliment well, but speak to the conservative nature of the class design that either most benefits are either A) small or B) large with a major cost. The Envoy may be the Bard of the game, but they lack a lot of wild benefits, presumably because mundane skills and words can't be allowed to do "too much" compared to a Bard's spells. Even worse, a lot of their social stuff will be overridden by spellcasters - particularly the Mystic, who gets to bypass stuff like Sense Motive and just read people's brains or charm them with a rider where people forget they were charmed. The main thing the Envoy is left with is giving party-wide bonuses, something that's been mostly cut from spellcasters' arsenals. The Operative, on the other hand, will drink their milkshake as the premier skill monkeys. While the Envoy is better at specific skills, the Operative is better at all skills, without a feat tax. The Envoy is left being a specialist and a slightly awkward support - which makes them a good fifth wheel, but that's about it. In my opinion, they're clearly the worst of the new classes, which is a problem with them being right up front here. However, being the worst in Starfinger is at least a much better place to be than the worst in Pathfinder.


So, these are the gear monkeys of the game, but only get a 4 + Int skill bonus. Well, who needs skills, anyway?... oh, right. These guys. Well, at least it suggests you specialize in Intelligence. They basically get a choice at first level with their "AI" ability: Drone or Exocortex. A Drone is a buff familiar that acts as a secondary character, while an Exocortex is an implanted cyberbrain that gives you direct boosts. They also get a variety of benefits on Computers and Engineering checks, as well as a more powerful toolkit. As they level up, can attempt to shut down electronic devices as a standard action (for 1 round only), hack at range, buff armor or weapons temporarily, heal ships, stun robots, various hacking bonuses, etc.

Their big thing is Mechanic tricks, which make up a lot of their choices for class abilities .Examples include:Most of these are pretty legit neat, though some are bizarrely situational and not likely to come up often - like the one that grants Energy Resistance if you have an Energy Shield up and only for one type chosen at purchase. Yeah, I'm sure folks will be jumping on that trap.

Drones come in three types: combat, hover, or stealth. If it gets wrecked, you can take a full 24 straight hours to rebuild it. You can also swap out the type or benefits whenever you gain a level with another 24 hours of work. Drones only get to move or do a standard action on their turn, but not both unless you spend a move action to directly control them (this is the only way they can do swift or full actions). The combat one is best suited to melee and takes less damage, the hover one can fly, but is weak, and the sneaky one gets fancy reactive camouflage. Otherwise, they're full characters, and can choose their own feats, level up ability scores, etc., through on a reduced schedule and more limited selection. They also get mods, which serve as their variable benefits, like:There's a lot of Mod taxes to make your drone a more useful character - other ones let it climb or swim or carry extra ammo, so there are ones that are straight benefits, but they definitely were playing conservatively again in letting you control two characters, since a lot of them just let the drone overcome being a drone.

An Exocortex, on the other hand, makes you into more of a straightforward fighter, letting you spend a move action to increase your attack bonus to equal your level against a single target. As you level up, you also get bonuses with skills, hack autonomously at a short distance), give yourself some basic drone mods at higher levels. In general, the Exocortex seems more utilitarian unless you really want the multiple attacks and bilocation having the drone grants, though your overall combat bonuses of the drone mechanic are lower over time.

In general the Mechanic seems like a decent class, as long as you can dodge the trap options that will rarely come up. Their skills are limited, though, presumably because they're positioned as a fighter-type, and Starfinger positions classes on the "useful in combat vs. non-combat" as a measure of balance. That's not a design notion I'm thrilled with, and it also means the Envoy or Operative can actually have a higher skill bonus at Engineering or Computers... though the Engineer has more they can potentially do with those skills, at least.

Oh, and these guys are loosely like rangers, given the focus on a companion and being a secondary combat class with environmental tricks.

Next: Unpriests and Star Scoundrels.

"So I wrote up a rules treatment for [druids] - as a specialization within the Mystic class - and presented them to the team, who went: 'Meh.'"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #05: "So I wrote up a rules treatment for [druids] - as a specialization within the Mystic class - and presented them to the team, who went: 'Meh.'"

James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Black Gate interview posted:

At which point I think I shut the door and said something like "Then none us are leaving here until we make it cool!"

Time for the Mystic, aka "somebody better fucking play one of these" because an erzatz Cleric is still a Cleric, and the Operative, the Swiss Army knife of sneaking skills.


This is our first spellcasting class, the equivalent of a Cleric or Druid, with spells being based on Wisdom. They also have a lot of psychic flavor, though. Unlike Pathfinder, they only get spells that go from levels 0 to 6 instead of 0 to 9, and it's interesting to see the game try and curb spellcasters somewhat. As they level up and get more spells, they can discard one old spell afor a new spell... of the same level. As a full action, they can basically read magic, because it sucked having to use up a spell slot on that one. In addition, they can heal HP on some once per day by taking 10 minutes to do so, so combat healing isn't a given anymore. However, most Mystics will be taking the mystic cure spell - perhaps the most reliable way to heal HP, making them as essential as Clerics ever were. As they level up, they can talk telepathically and... well, stuff at top level I'm not going to cover because who gets to 19th level before a game ends, anyway? Mostly, they gain spells. We're told the arcane / divine division doesn't exist anymore, but Mystics are functionally indistinguishable from the general concept of a divine casting class, save for the aforementioned psychic flavor - so they get some mind-affecting spells in place of the broader "everybody gets bonuses" sorts of spells, which the Envoy fills in for.

It's worth noting that they don't have to prepare spells, they can just cast anything they know as long as they have a slot to cast it with. Everybody is like sorcerers, more or less.

In addition to spellcasting, they get a "Connection" where they choose a god some force that grants them magical powers. This can be "any entity or concept", so I'm looking forward to my Mystic of Breakfast Cereals. "Behold my O of power, the Cheery O!" However, they have deific recommendations I'm likely to ignore. Connections give you special powers, extra spells, and skill bonuses, more akin to the bonuses Sorcerers got in Pathfinder. They include various benefits as you level up, such as:In general spellcasting seems as good as ever - not as good, but still able to step on the toes of a lot of other classes and also unquestionably gets the best healing. Their ability to overcome conditions and afflictions is so unparalleled that they're pretty essential, since otherwise characters are left laid out once a bad save vs. curses, poisons, and diseases roll out. As for the deities, they're mostly are word salad to me so far. Well, except for Nyarlathotep because we can't let Lovecraft just fucking go. I know some people are going to be like "I can be a priest of a racist monster an old racist dreamt of nearly a century ago!" and find it super exciting. I know you're out there!

Uuugh. Anyway, so, yeah, Starfinger is still Pathfinder, only less so. There are also a lot of healing effects only the Mystic gets convenient access to. If your character gets the space plague, loses an arm, or gets chopped in half and thrown down a shaft, you're gonna need a Mystic, pay for a Mystic's services, or... suffer. Suffer a lot. But we'll get to that much later.


These are the puckish rogues.

This time around, they get an bonus with initiative and skill checks, and choose a Specialization. Each Specialization gives specialty skills and a specific Exploit (this class' flavor of special benefits). They also each get a special power... at 11th level, so I'm not going to worry about covering all of those those. They are: Daredevil, Detective, Explorer, Ghost, Hacker, Spy, or Thief. About the most interesting 11th level power is that of the Thief, which lets you declare a backup plan during a heist to get a single benefit like a specific piece of gear you need or an ally that shows up in the nick of time.... but then it requires a skill roll with skill declared by the GM and a DC adeclared by the GM, and if you fail the roll you just say bye-bye to the RP spent. Pretty neat, but it has to come with a gamble because this is Starfinger, buckos.

Sneak Trick Attacks let you get bonus damage with small weapons but you have to make a social skill check against a difficulty equal to (20 + the CR of the foe), so be prepared to make some extra die rolls whenever you make an attack, but it can add up to big damage... at higher levels (around 5th level or higher). But it slows down the game more than Sneak Attacks, as you make an extra roll against an entirely arbitrary DC you have to check with the GM about. You get Evasion eventually because rogues got that back in Pathfinder, and as you level up you get extra speed, inflict conditions with trick attacks, ignore being flat-footed, and get extra attacks with small weapons (on full attacks only, so forget that extra movement you just got, this is Starfinger).

They also get their choice of Exploits every even level. I'll focus mainly on the ones you'll see based on Specialization:Mind, all those are advanced abilities you have to wait 11+ levels for if you don't get it as a starter. Here are some of the basic ones:That's operatives, they're... more flexible than rogues, but lack their damage until higher levels. They're really good at some stuff like sneaking or hacking, but those are something other classes do too now. It's kind of weird where they're the best at what they focus to do, but they have an extremely loose theme where they're the sneaky class that's social but not too social (because Envoys) and good with tech but not too good with tech (because Engineers) and good at fighting but not too good at fighting (because Soldiers).

Next: Indecisive Jedi and Shooter Guys.

"Dwarf Solarian. His name is Wrothor Ironstar."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #06: "Dwarf Solarian. His name is Wrothor Ironstar."
(Credit: Owen K.C. Stephens, Starfinger Design Lead, Diamond Bookshelf interview.)

This time, we have the Solarian, the attempt to make a monk that isn't a lotus flower filled with a curly turd, and the Soldier, who fights.


Starfinger Core Rules posted:

The stars guide the planets with gravity, create life with light and heat, and utterly consume worlds in supernovas and black holes. You understand that these acts of creation and destruction are not opposites, but rather two parts of a natural, dualistic cycle. You seek to be an agents of that cycle, and enlightened warrior witht he ability to manipulate the forces of the starts themselves. Constantly accompanied by a mote of fundamental energy or entropy, you can shape this essence in combat to create weapons and armor of gleaming stellar light or pure, devouring darkness.

Yes, because you understand stars real well, you can make magic swords representing, if you will, the light side of stellar bodies and, if I may, their dark side. This is Starfinger's most original class, I have to say, a wholly new concept with no previous precedent in pop culture.

Unlike other magic-themed classes, this is a fighting class, and you can tell because it gets 1 more HP and SP a level than any other class we've seen so far. They can generate a solar armor or a solar weapon. Solar armor, being a cosmic expression of pure might, gives you... +1 to AC. But hey, at 10th level, it's... +2. Starfinger! But at every 5th level, you get Energy Resistance +5 to fire or cold, and can switch it at will. Do other Solarians do fire or cold damage? Oh, lordy no. Solar weapons do 1d6 + Str, 2d6 at 6th level, and +1d6 per 3 levels after that. Weapon crystals are a type of equipment you can get if you want to do more damage, to focus your light weapon in various ways. Clever, I wonder how they came up with that idea? As they level up, they can do faster attack flurries, like Monks.

They can also go into "Graviton Mode" where they get a bonus to reflex saves and gain gravity attunement points, and "Photon Mode" where they add to damage and get photon attunement points, representing the darkness of a black hole and the light of a star, respectively. This novel duality is something they can switch at the start of a turn, though if they have points from either they have to go into an "unattuned" mode for a turn to dump their existing points before switching modes. They can also, as they level up, use these modes outside of combat for bonuses on certain skills, Graviton lets you be sneaky and insightful and Photon lets you be social and in touch with life. They get "Revelations" which are abilities they can only use by powering up these dark and light- er, Graviton and Photon meters.

Examples include, as their level increases:Top-level lets you end afflictions, go into stealth mode, block attacks, shoot starbolts, get bonus attacks, and there's even more but... hey... wait...

I get it now! These guys are kind of like Monks... but aren't they just Solar and Abyssal exalted from Exalted? I figured you out, Starfinger!


Fighters. +1 HP and SP per level tells us that. So, they get bonus feats like Fighters every two levels (meaning they basically get a feat every level with the increased basic feat rate). They also have bonus attacks at high level, and have to choose a "Primary Fighting Style" (you get a second one at 9th level). The styles are:They also get Gear Boosts at 3rd level and every 4 levels afterward, which let them get more out of equipment. Some have minimum level requirements. Examples are:Overall, Soldiers have it better than fighters, and they're legit great at doing damage, they're just... dull, mostly, and have to wait for fights to do anything. A lot of people presume the old Fighter problem was that spellcasters could take out enemies better, and that was true, but one of the core "Fighter issues" is that they're often just not relevant in any scene that doesn't involve a gridmap. As such, Soldiers still have similar issues that Fighter classes have in other d20 games, but they're at least better and more interesting damage dealers when the initiative dice go down.

Next: "Do you believe in such a thing as magic?"

"But, why do you want to become a wizard and devote years of your life to learning a light spell when you can just buy a flashlight?"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #07: "But, why do you want to become a wizard and devote years of your life to learning a light spell when you can just buy a flashlight?"
(James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer interview.)


Oh, like on Babylon 5...? Wait, I already linked that. How about "Once you become a Technomancer, there's no going back." That'll do for my requisite vapid reference.

So these are wizards with a vague technology theme, based on Intelligence. (You can tell they're wizards because they have 1 less SP and HP per level than other classes.) Spellcasting is their chief thing, and like Mystics, they can swap spells as they level up. They get a special device they lets them cast an additional spell per day of any level they can cast, and as they level up, they get Spell Focus, a bonus on Computers and Mysticism rolls, or be able to have the following spells up for 24 hours (but only one at a time): detect radiation, disguise self, keen senses, or unseen servant. Once again like Mystics, they don't have to prepare spells, they can just cast anything they know as long as they have a slot to cast it with. Though we're told that the arcane / divine divide between spell types doesn't exist, but these are pretty clearly modeled after arcane casters.

They also get "Magic Hacks" every 2 levels, such as:There are also a number that are like the old metamagic feats, but make you spend RP, so you can put them on your top-level spells now more easily. So, I like the thematic of getting to combine spells with tech - it keeps wizards from just ignoring equipment - but it's kind of funny how hard they lean into just giving Technomancers ways around many of their major limitations. Touch spells? Put them in a grenade. Spell slots? Oh, just drain your ammo instead. Engaged in melee? If you have Flash Teleport, just pop away. Etc. And yeah, they only get up to 6th level spells, but arcane casting is still amazing even if they don't become gods until level 20.

Wizards! Starfinger still loves 'em impiously.


So, you may think, now that the classes are more flexible, there's less of a need for variants. I mean, you have the Operative with its varying Specializations, Soldiers have their Fighting Styles, and each class has a set of abilities it can use to vary its arsenal. Feats are a lot more available than they were before. So there'd be less of a need for class archetypes, alternate classes, or prestige classes, right?

Pfffft. Starfinger knows better. It knows players want the allure of being the special snowflake, of having endless options even if a given choice will only see use in a tiny fraction of the games out there. (Marketing is like that.) So it's time for archetypes, which are variant class features that you can take as soon as their first class feature is available, and replace existing class features to modify your existing class. So if Foozle Fluffer gets its first feature at 3rd level, you can become a Foozle Fluffer at 3rd level. For those familiar with class archetypes from Pathfinder, they're similar to those, but not longer tied to class... which at least is nice in that you don't have to have a specific build to take one, but also have the related issue that they may or may not synergize with your class of choice. You can only have one per class you have, since it modifies a given class you're taking, and you can't double up on the same archetype for multiple classes. Generally speaking, they eat up the varying abilities each class chooses (Mechanic Tricks, Gear Boosts, etc.), though some classes have special considerations and there's a full page of those. We get two Archetypes in this book:

Phrenic Adept

This is the Archetype you take if you want to be a psychic!... but don't want to go full Mystic for whatever reason. You get telepathic chat (or more range if you already have it) and some extra languages. As you level up, you can spend RP to reroll a save against mental effects, reduce the damage and duration of mental effects against you, spend 1 RP to sense mental magic effects and gain blindsense, and then start gaining spells like charm monsters, clairaudience/clairvoyance (couldn't just name it "ESP", could you), and psychokinetic strangulation (like a baby Vader). It's kind of neat but doesn't let you do much overt until you're in mid-levels without dumping feat slots into the Minor Psychic Power feat, and doesn't really synergize with most class abilities - being a half-assed caster is rarely worth it to begin with, and this is more like a... quarter-assed caster. Not nearly enough ass.

Starfinger Forerunner

You're a member of the Starfinger Society, but we've got over 300 pages before we find out more about them. They're apparently into exploring and fingering all those stars. You don't have to take this to be part of the Starfingers, though, it's only for the more dedicated members. They get a shit-ton of tiny bonuses, like getting Culture and Survival as class skills, rerolls with those skills, identifying creatures even if the skill required isn't one they have (it doesn't give you the bonus you need to succeed, only the chance), make Survival checks to get food or endure weather without slowing their overland travel, initiative bonuses, extra information when identifying creatures, never misidentify strange writing (though they can still fail to read it), can always take 20 to identify alien writing, and spend RP to heal their allies' SP by a small amount or take time to automatically repair some HP to a vehicle. Modestly useful stuff if you're the kind of archaeologist archetype, but it's gonna hurt your ability to do anything fighty.

Next: Why learning a profession is just holding you back.

"Everybody on the Serenity has something to do on Firefly. Everybody on Star Trek has a job."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #08: "Everybody on the Serenity has something to do on Firefly. Everybody on Star Trek has a job."
(James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer interview.)

Skills! Are you excited? I'm faking being excited! Man, this is the best part of any book! It's not at all boring!

If you're played d20, you'll know the drill for the most part. Characters in Starfinger can invest skill ranks in a skill up to their level, add their ability modifier, and if it's a class skill for them, they get +3 to their rolls with it. Almost every class gets (4 + Int modifier) for skills, multiplied by 4 for the 1st level, except for Mystics that get (6 + Int modifier), and Envoys and Operatives get (8 + Int Modifier). This is because the best educated people in society are priests, con artists, and thieves.

You get all your basic features here - opposed skill checks, taking 10, taking 20, aid another, and then we get into specific mechanics. You can "Identify Creatures" with the Mysticism skill for magical creatures or Life Science for mundane-ish creatures. There's "Recall Knowledge" where you aim at an arbitrarily decided target number with any appropriate skill to know facts, but taking 20 requires a special information resource like a database or library (notable mainly because a number of class features let you ignore that requirement).

This looked cool and then I realized "Hey, wait, they can't hit a guy ten feet away?"

We've also got an issue here with the Difficulty Classes (DCs); some of them are based out off the Challenge Rating (CR) of an NPC you're targeting (or the Item Level of a device). For example: tumbling through a threatened area with Acrobatics, feinting a foe in combat with a Bluff, befriending somebody with Diplomacy, identifying or repairing an item with Engineering or Mysticism, or demoralizing a foe with Intimidation. And that can have issues where enemies end up being homogenous; a big dumb thug is as hard to feint as a canny mastermind of the same CR. But more than that, the DCs are based off (1.5 x CR), often something like "15 + (1.5 x CR)". Which means, presuming that the heroes are facing NPCs with CR equal to their character level (the norm), the DC increases faster than their ability to increase their bonus. This is subtle, but with "15 + (1.5 x CR)", the average maximized character will need a 8 or higher on a d20 to succeed at level 1 against CR 1, but a 13 or higher at level 20 against CR 20. That's a 25% increase in difficulty, meaning that you're less competent at high level than low levels.

Now, to some extent this can be offset by equipment and classes which grant skill bonuses. (It's already presumed you're getting all the ability score boosts you can.) But when you need to get class bonuses in a skill (like the Operative does) just to keep up, something has gone wrong math-wise. The skill bonus from a class should make you better than the average, not just allow you to keep par. Mind, most skill rolls are thankfully still quite functional. But this will be getting even worse - to a game-breaking extent - when we get to the skill rolls involved with starships. I'd normally hold off on mentioning that since that's chapters ahead, but's infamous enough at this point to just establish right now.

So the skills are very similar to Pathfinder, but let's go over them all once again:

And that's skills! It's nice to see them skim it down somewhat, but... there's still redundancy and a lot of charts most GMs will never touch, and the DCs are just utterly fucked in some cases. You'd think they'd understand the how math underpinning the d20 system functions after working with it for around a decade, but as the book goes on, it just doesn't seem like they understand their actual system inside and out like you'd expect. Hell, like I expected. I didn't think I'd be blown away, but I also didn't think I'd feel this disappointed. It's baffling. I can only guess that being at the top of the hill made them complacent. And, I suppose, why bother when most fans aren't likely to notice or care? It's too early for me to start drinking down buttermilk for bitterness, maybe the next section will be better, right? What's up next?

Next: Feats for 'Finger.

"If you can make a game fun and robust with 150 feats, can you do it with 100?"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #09: "If you can make a game fun and robust with 150 feats, can you do it with 100?"
(James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Gnome Stew interview.)

Starfinger Core Rules posted:

All characters have certain abilities that don't directly stem from their races, classes, or skills, These abilities, called feats, represent specialized talents that can come from a wide range of possible courses. When you select a feat for your character, it can represent advanced training, an arcane ability gained from a strange machine on an abandoned alien planet, a knack picked up during your youth, or nearly anything the GM agrees is reasonable for the campaign.

"What'd that strange machine do to you?!" "I think I'm better at cleaving."

I'm going to start by feats that are adapted or just plain copied from Pathfinder counterparts: Antagonize, Blind-Fight, Bodyguard, Cleave, Coordinated Shot, Deadly Aim, Deflect Projectiles (originally Deflect Arrows), Diehard, Drag Down, Far Shot, Fleet, Great Cleave, Great Fortitude, Greater Spell Penetration, Heavy Armor Proficiency, Improved Critical, Improved Great Fortitude, Improved Feint, Improved Initiative, Improved Iron Will, Improved Lightning Reflexes, Improved Sidestep, Improved Unarmed Strike, In Harm's Way, Iron Will, Kip Up, Light Armor Proficiency, Lightning Reflexes, Lunge, Mobility, Nimble Moves, Opening Volley, Parting Shot, Penetrating Attack (originally Penetrating Strike), Quick Draw, Reflect Projectiles (originally Reflect Arrows), Shot on the Run, Sidestep, Skill Focus, Spell Focus, Spell Penetration, Spring Attack, Stand Still, Step Up, Step Up and Strike, Strike Back, Toughness, Weapon Focus, and Weapon Specialization.

Whew! It's certainly possible I missed some, but it's quite a bit.

Some of them are somewhat modified for the new combat rules or updated (Toughness is better, but not by much, for example, giving some Fort bonuses against hazardous conditions in addition to a +1 SP per level bump). Others, like Lightning Reflexes or Skill Focus, are the same dogs they've always been. With that in mind, let's look at some all-new, all-different feats!

So, now that we have Improvisations, Mechanic Tricks, Connections, Operative Exploits, Revelations, Fighting Styles, and Magic Hacks, what, exactly, role do feats fill? Some feel like Mechanic Tricks (Amplified Glitch), others feel like Magic Hacks (Penetrating Spell), some are like Operative Exploits (Fast Talk). About the best guess is that they focus on boosting mundane actions, but it feels like they're in this nebulous design space where there's even less defining them than before, and class abilities are stealing even more of their show.

Next: Buying a knife is surprisingly complicated.

"... if you bring your barbarian from Pathfinder into [Starfinger] and he's going to run around shirtless with a longsword, he should probably get cut down with an assault rifle."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #10: "... if you bring your barbarian from Pathfinder into [Starfinger] and he's going to run around shirtless with a longsword, he should probably get cut down with an assault rifle."

James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer interview posted:

Because that just makes sense, right?

If I start looking unwell, don't call a doctor. This is just my acquired allergic reaction to gun lists in RPGs now.

Since this is the future, everything is done with credits, sometimes stored on "credsticks" so you can steal them sometimes. There's more about it but that's most of what you need to know. It also notes you can only resell equipment for 10% of its purchase price ever, no doubt to allow GMs to just load down enemy NPCs with badass equipment without worrying about breaking the economy. We're told this is because "any equipment sold by PCs comes without the guarantees and reputation of major merchants and producers (and may be broken, cursed, defective, or stolen)..." Apparently, all PCs automatically have a bad rap as con artists, which may just be accurate. However, they can sell trade goods for 100% of their purchase price.
So, instead of having encumbrance, you now have bulk, which is essentially just a very slightly more abstract version. You can carry bulk up to half your Strength score, and then take the encumbered condition (-10 speed, dex bonus is capped at +2, -5 to Str and Dex checks) if you have bulk up to half to your full Strength score. If it's greater, you get the Overburdened condition (5 feet speed only, max Dex bonus of +0, and -5 to Str and Dex-based checks). However, you can't become Overburdened voluntarily, only if you lose Strength score or get thrown into high gravity or whatever. You character will literally shake their head and frown at you, the player, for insisting they try and pick up more. Some things have a negligible bulk, so you can carry an infinite amount of such objects, where infinity is actually just whahtever point where your GM gets fed up with your nonsense. Some count as light bulk which is 1/10 bulk, at which point I realize you're mostly just counting pounds anyway... it's just that larger weights are abstracted. Slightly.

Equipment has levels now, and you can't buy anything higher than 1 or 2 levels above your character level (depending on the size of the community), because you apparently don't have enough rep to buy stuff that expensive otherwise, unless your GM gives special dispensation. Sorry, Timmy, I know you saved up at that summer job to buy a tactical knife, but that's level 7! Nobody will trust that you can handle it.

wait why is a tactical knife level 7?

If you replaced level numbers with colors, it'd be difficult to distinguish from Paranoia's security levels.

We get a lot of on hands required to use a weapon, which mainly just displays why kasathas having four arms is supposed to be a big deal, since you can't use two-handed weapons one-handed even at a penalty - it just fails. There's also weapon sizes, but medium and small creatures use the same size category of items so ysoka and gnomes aren't screwed. Tracking ammo gets a full half-page, reloading is a move action, there are bullets and energy charges and missiles. There are Improvised Weapons, but they generally do so little damage beyond Level 1 they're not worth using save out of desperation, unless your GM is nice enough to throw you a bone and let them count as more than a Level 1 club.

There are two types of Armor Class now, EAC (Energy Armor Class) and KAC (Kinetic Armor Class), which is fairly self-explanatory. There are the usual types of energy damage (acid, cold, electricity, fire, sonic) and kinetic damage (bludgeoning, piercing, slashing). We get weapon types (basic melee, advanced melee, small arms, longarms, heavy weapons, sniper weapons, special weapons, grenades, and solarian weapon crystals). Solarian weapon crystals are boosters for Solarians that choose those. Are there armor crystals for Solarians that pick that option? Of course not! Hope you ignored that lousy option...

Then we get seven and a half pages of weapon tables, each more baffling than the next, broken up only by a double-page spread of pictures of guns. One thing becomes aptly clear, and that's damage in this game is tied largely to your weapon, not your character. This is because - as far as I can tell from interviews - the designers see damage as being inherent to the weapon and the wielder being more of an aside. Show let's show a sample progression for somebody looking to use one-handed space swords.
Now, this is something of a simplification. Maybe I specialize in Improved Crit and take the Plasma Immolation Gear Boost and the plasma swords become a conceivable focus... but that's tangential to the point. The point is, the damage leveling in Starfinger is fucking weird because it's tied to arbitrary weapon charts. I mean, really arbitrary. If I decide to focus on laser pistols (from a "azimuth laser pistol" to a "zenith laser pistol"), I can upgrade at 1st, 6th, 9th, 12th, 14th, and 17th levels, doing from an average 2-3 damage to 20 damage eventually at a total cost of 386,840 credits. But if I decide to go with semiautomatic pistols (from "tactical semi-auto pistol" to "elite gyrojet pistol") I can upgrade at 1st, 7th, 10th, 13th, 15th, 17th, and 20th level from 3-4 damage to 22.5 at a cost of 1,089,160 credits. And I'm sure there must be some formula beneath it, but it's... ugly where a PC might be down three damage dice because their chosen weapon type gets an upgrade at X level instead of Y, or a PC might be spending over twice as much to do +2 damage three levels later than another character. Of course, you can just be weapon type agnostic and just reach for whatever seems to have a higher damage value. I can decide at 4th level I'm sick of doing 1d8 tactical longsword damage and and switch to a two-handed carbon steel curve blade at 1d10 damage instead if I really want. Is that intended? What sort of decision should I be making there? Well, the book offers up no answers. And then at some point I have to throw out my old "frag grenade III"s and instead buy a new lot of "frag grenade IVs" because grenades have levels too. Then there are batons - two of them. There's an 1d6 tactical baton at 1st level, and an 8d6 advanced baton at 19th level. What's special about an advanced baton that makes it do 8d6 damage? It "often has an additional shaft" and and a "weighted end". Oh. Can I just put a weighted object on the end of my tactical baton and have it do more- no? Not at all?

Oy. At least you don't have to level up your clips.

A tiny sampling of the weapon tables (level, price, damage, range, critical, ammo amount, ammo expenditure per shot, bulk, special effects).

It also creates weird situations where stores won't sell me a gyrojet pistol because nobody below level 13 has the rep to be allowed to buy a pistol that uses real-life technology developed decades ago. Or I can't buy a missile launcher because I'm not 10th level (or 8th level, if my GM is nice). And it's not a question of the joy of discovery or trying to figure out what's the best options with what an adventure randomly drops in your lap as loot - as previously stated, the game presumes that shops will have level-appropriate gear for you to purchase, credits allowing. (Except some won't, as we'll see later, without explanation.) In addition, the main way weapons are differentiated are just through A) damage ratings, B) damage keywords, and C) critical hit effects, so generally you're only looking at A.

Some people talk about RPGs being like "video games" disparagingly, and while I don't think an RPG being like a video game is necessarily a bad thing in the slightest, but this feels like a bad implementation of a video game concept. Having weapons be the core of damage is fine in Diablo and its derivatives works because you end up with piles of them, you can slot them in or out and that's that, weapons don't generally break or go missing, and if they do you can repair them. If you need money for a better weapon or a replacement weapon, you can just grind until you get it. Hell, you're likely to be swimming in excess weapons and money in a videogame if you've invested enough time in. In Starfinger, you might lose that 800,000+ paragon seeker rifle to a bad save or skill roll, after which you just have to hope the next adventure gives you a replacement or enough credits to recover it. Then again, you might have a ton of spares, given their shitty resale value - or not, depending on what kind of foes your GM throws against you. There's no real accounting for that. In theory, while GM is supposed to make sure you're properly equipped for your level, the game doesn't really discuss what to do when equipment is lost.

It also creates the weird tactic in high-level combat where learning how to sunder and break equipment - or even just disarm - can be really effective against other humanoid foes. Shoot their guns, and that evil mercenary goes from firing a 3d10 white star plasma caster to swinging a 1d4 rifle butt at you. Given the increased accuracy of Starfinger foes, this is even more effective than it would seem at first glance.

And how does this make sense from a setting perspective? Do manufacturers really make tiers of weapons where some are over ten times as effective as others, then only sell them to a tiny minority because they have some nebulous degree of accomplishment? How does that work? Or are they different brands aimed at different markets of adventurer? How is it that that I leave my hometown for a year, come back, and suddenly there's somebody selling guns that cost a lifetime's salary just because I walked into town? It's like Schrodinger's fuckin' economy.

Except later on communities get "maximum item level" with no explanation-

But I still have a lot of chapter to get through here, I should really just relax. But seeing them exaggerating and emphasizing D&D's equipment treadmill is- is-

It's certainly a design choice one can make.

Next: Materia.

"If some guy just walks in off the street and says, 'I want a rocket launcher!', most people are going to say, we don't think you're rocket launcher-ready."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #11: "If some guy just walks in off the street and says, 'I want a rocket launcher!', most people are going to say, we don't think you're rocket launcher-ready."

Owen K.C. Stephens, Starfinger Design Lead, GenCon Q&A Transcript posted:

You can have a .38.

Going onward with weapons, some have special properties. Some notable ones new to Starfinger include:
There are also a variety of new crit effects, most of which inflict some condition or another. There's also the "wounding" crit effect that does a hit location effect like a crippled arm or bleeding, and it looks suspiciously to me like a scaled-down version of the "Table of Ouch" from Fantasy Craft.

We also get descriptions of all these crazy weapons, such as:
Then, there are uncategorized weapons that include old-fashioned melee weapons and bows (often with high-tech construction), missile and grenade launchers, injection gloves, etc. We get a full list of ammo you need for given weapons, and that's that.

Now there's attempts to explain why one type of weapon is better than another from time to time, and sometimes they make sense, sometimes they don't. Why does a dimensional slice longsword do so much damage? Well, it's surrounded by a "blade-shaped aura". Oh. That explains... not much...

So, weapons can be made from special materials, because overcoming Damage Reduction is still a thing, just like in Dungeons & Digits 3.5. Presumably there are space werewolves and star demons to fight! So, we have the usual - adamantine, cold iron, and silver, and you can make melee weapons out of them or ammo. A literal reading of the rules implies you can also make adamantine lasers or cold iron sonic weapons by making them out of the right materials, but I get the impression that's not intended.

We also have "Weapon Fusions" which are the new form of weapon enchantment. Yes, because working out weapons wasn't complicated enough. They're supposed to be magical mods you plug in like Final Fantasy 7's materia but are hard to remove, and it takes half the cost of the original fusion to move it from one weapon to another. Exactly what you're paying for is unclear; maybe the fusion comes with a credstick reader to take the transfer charge itself? There are also "Fusion Seals" which can be more easily moved between weapons at a surcharge. However, Weapon Fusions and Fusion Seals have an item level they're rated for, and can't be placed on a weapon of a higher level... because... that's what it says in the rules. So if you have a 12th level holy Fusion Seal, you can put it on a yellow star plasma pistol but not a white star plasma pistol, because the cost of Fusions is based entirely on what weapons they can affect.

Did I mention this weapon system can be highly arbitrary?

So, if you know magic weapons from d20 games, most of these will seem familiar. You've got your aligned boosts (anarchic, holy, etc.), your elemental types (corrosive, flaming, etc.), and general effects (ghost killer, dispelling, etc.). Many don't even add direct boosts - aligned weapons just count as aligned, elemental weapons do elemental damage, while others add actual effects. Some have minimum levels they can be purchased at - vorpal is tops at level 10, which is weird because it all it does is grant the severe wound effect, which some weapons get by level 6. But, you know. It's arbitrary!

Next: Make sure you button down that shirt before you step into deep space.

"But from day 1, one of our important goals were, if you are a power armor-wearing knight of Iomedae and you got a plasma cannon, it is important to us that you can have a holy plasma cannon, because when you're facing space imps you want the holy plasma cannon."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #12: "But from day 1, one of our important goals were, if you are a power armor-wearing knight of Iomedae and you got a plasma cannon, it is important to us that you can have a holy plasma cannon, because when you're facing space imps you want the holy plasma cannon."
(Credit: Owen K.C. Stephens, Starfinger Design Lead, GenCon Q&A Transcript)[/i]


Armor is now just in two types: light and heavy. Medium has been excised. Armor works more or less like it does in most d20 games, save for a few additions. First, armor has levels just like weapons, and ramps from the "Estex Suit I" (EAC +0, KAC +1, 410 cr) to the "Vesk Monolith III" (EAC +26, KAC +27, 827,250cr). Secondly, as previously noted, armor now has Energy AC and Kinetic AC - though given they're almost never more than 1 rank apart, I'm not sure what the big deal is in dividing the two. Lastly, they have upgrade slots, which you can use to add various functions to your armor. As you can tell from those numbers, armor is the primary way Armor Class is significantly increased - even class benefits like the Solarian solar armor only provide a modest benefit, and level does not increase AC like it might in some other d20 games.

All armor comes with protection from hostile atmospheres and vacuum, an oxygen supply, a bonus against radiation (making those radiation powers seem less impressive now), and protection from modest temperature extremes. You have to turn on the environmental protection manually, though, so if you're unconscious you'll just suffocate unless a friendly person has enough Computer skill to hack your suit to turn it on. You'd think space societies could build a sensor that could sense dangerous gases or vacuum on its own, but apparently not!

Armor types include:
We also have Powered Armor, which requires a full-round action to exit or enter, and requires a special proficiency. It always strikes me that power armor is always way harder to use in RPGs than it generally is in fiction. Other than the general effects of armor, it replaces your Strength score, has its own speed, and may alter your size while in use. They also have a major energy cost, and most will run out a battery in only 20 minutes (only one 5th level suit lasts 20 hours, so it's quickly outpaced by the needs of leveling). They also have the issue that they don't really level all the way so they eventually become obsolete around 17-18th level, should you ever get that far. They're kind of neat but not really practical for any sort of extended mission - you can get in one for a fight but you can't just stomp around in one, which is a real issue for the Soldier builds that are designed around them. That full-round action needed to suit up seems like a really crippling flaw to work around, even presuming you have your armor on hand at all times.

Armor also has armor upgrades, and each armor has 0 to 7 upgrade slots (and is more likely to have more of them at higher levels). And yes, armor upgrades are leveled, too! Thankfully, you can swap them between armors, and it seems like you can add upgrades to an armor above its level, as long as your level is high enough to buy them. Some upgrades can only be installed in certain types of armor (light, heavy, or powered). So let's...

... let's look at them.


Yes, now you can cyber with the best of the punks. (Or bio with the best of the freaks.) There doesn't seem to be any drawback other than the fact that you can't double up on a particular location, which serves as Starfinger's equivalent of most magic item slots; magic items are restricted differently now. They're not affected by most things that affect machines unless they're specifically called out. Oh, and yes. They are level-dependent, like everything else. Some examples:

Next: "This is the impossible level, boys. Impossible doesn't mean very difficult, very difficult is winning the Nobel Prize, impossible is eating the sun."

"We’re tweaking the rules around gear and economics and magic. We want to make it a little less bookkeeping and a little more 'sense of wonder.'"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #13: "We’re tweaking the rules around gear and economics and magic. We want to make it a little less bookkeeping and a little more 'sense of wonder.'"
(Credit: James L. Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Geek & Sundry Interview)


So, uh. Time for Starfinger to teach us how to hack computers. Doing is at a DC of 13 + (4 x tier), where a computer has a tier between 1 and 10. Weirdly, unlike every other piece of equipment so far, the tier is not tied to a given level (either from the perspective of PC equipment or an NPC challenge). However, trying to gain root access to a computer and do cool stuff ramps up the difficulty by 20, meaning some computers can never be fully hacked. Tier 2 or 3 is about the tops for a portable computer, however, though you can spend extra to miniaturize a computer, and it is possible to get a tier 10 computer as a wristwatch if you have a loooot of money to burn.

Beyond just using apps on a computer, reading its data, or using basic functions (like using a door), a computer has "modules" that determine four more advanced functions that require extra work to access:
Finally, there are various countermeasures that take effect under various circumstances:
Bear in mind most modules / countermeasures cost a % of the original computer, which is a gaming concession and miles from anything realistic when an antivirus program costs you thousands of credits. It bears re-mentioning that computer tier scales well beyond level limits, so an optimized Level 20 hacker trying to hack a Tier 10 computer will only be able to gain basic access about half the time if they have the password and there is no security software. While being an operative or envoy can mitigate that, there's still a Tier ceiling even they can't cross. It's also worth noting that, bizarrely, actually having the password or security key for a computer doesn't even grant basic access automatically - it gives a bonus, but it's possible to steal somebody's password and still fail to access their computer. I guess the space heroes of Starfinger are just fumbletyping all the time? Root access can only be specifically be granted by another root access owner, you can't be clever and steal their password... because of some reason, I'm sure.

This ironically makes social engineering far more valuable than Computing itself at high levels. If you're trying to hack into a Tier 10 system, literally the only way to do that is by to convince a system administrator to grant you access. No amount of jacking in and running the net will allow you to beat a DC of 73 as the game is written now as far as I can see with the math. Even a stolen password won't get you very far there.

Technological Items

No 10' pole listed, but we do have comm units, detonators (with rules for explosives that are easily missed), fire extinguishers, grappling hooks, holoskin (for cancelling disguise penalities and cool CGI mask yankaways), laser microphones, locks, medical gear, motion detectors, portable lights, restraints, signal jammers, spy drones, tool kits, and x-ray visors.

Why, yes, of course equipment is tied to level. Grappling hooks are level 2, handcuffs are level 4 (zip-ties are only level 1), laser mics are level 5, motion detectors and medical labs are level 7. Seriously.

Magic Items

Yes, because we have space wizards, we have space wizard items. Now, because we're already loaded down with armor mods, cybernetics, etc., magic item location has been simplified from Pathfinder's complicated location-based list down to... two magic items that have to be different types unless they're rings. Sorry Zaphod, you can only wear one space magic hat. There are also magic consumables like potions injectors or scrolls gems.

And we'll go over some of them, of course. There aren't nearly as many as in d20, mercifully.

Then there are serums, which are basically magic potions that don't simulate a specific spell effect. Most of them give +2 to two skills and and a specific bonus - "commando" gives extra temporary hit points, "diplomat" gives an extra language, "scientist" lets you make untrained science checks, etc. There's also the Serum of Appearance Change that lets you change your appearance (but not race or gender) but not enough to copy anybody else because game balance. "Well, it says I have... well, it says here I have blue, but I decided I wanted grey eyes." We also have the Serum of Sex Shift, which I was like "Oh that's progressive." until I noticed it was Level 3. Because... game... balance? Granted, that's just barely in range to buy at Level 1 if you're in a "major settlement", but too high of a level for starting characters to get in a "typical settlement". It'll also cost you 1/3 of your starting cash, which I guess is significantly cheaper than RL trans procedures, but... yeah. I dunno. Requiring transgenderism, non-binary, postgenderism, etc. to bow to the universal demand of game balance feels pretty damned bizarre.

This equipment system just gets weird. And stupid. Can I go back to doing lists of guns from Rifts now? Palladium equipment rules may be trash, but they never asked me to log a thousand adventuring hours before I could buy a rocket launcher.

Hybrid Items

No, I can't. We're close to done, but not done. Hybrid equipment is supposed to consist of technological / magical fusions, but the net theme you end up for is "psychic stuff". They count as magic items for the purpose of wearing them, and can get nailed by either anti-magic or anti-tech effects.
I just- I'm going to go on about the Mnemonic Editor for a moment. Because this is a game that bends over backwards for the equipment treadmill, but doing character rebuild, oh, that's a step too fucking far and we need to punish the character for the player's lack of system mastery.


So, these are for riding, from the "goblin junkcycle" to an "exploration cruiser" to a "pump-jet sub". They have their own speed - which has a massive disconnect between their "drive speed" and "full speed", where the full speed is often 10 to 25 times as fast. In fact, the cruising speed is almost always slower than a person on foot. I've flipped forward to the vehicle rules section twice now and tried to see if there was anything I was missing, but it seems legit. And by "legit", I mean "broken". We'll be getting into the whys of wherefores of that once we get to the vehicle rules, though, which are a unique sort of rules disaster. They get their own size, AC, Hardness, HP, passenger count, skill modifiers (for pilots), item level, and collision damage.

Bizarrely, collision damage is based mainly on item level and size to a much lesser extent. That means between two vehicles going the same speed and of the same size and weight, one can do significantly more damage because of its higher level. Though there aren't any great examples here, it's also possible for a hovercycle to outram an armored APC because its level is higher. If that wasn't odd enough, the vehicle list ends at level 7 in this book. That means, like the videogame Borderlands, vehicles can currently get outleveled by the game math to the point where they become potential deathtraps, destroyed by the slightest at-level incidental attack leveled in their direction. Presumably we'll get some higher-level vehicles down the road, but for now they're a weird, neglected part of the equipment section.

Other Purchases

We have "personal items" which are basically equipment by any other name, just not with moving parts or electronics. You've got your backpacks, glue, clothing, hygiene kit, space suits, and tents. There are a few drugs - painkiller (bonus against pain saves, but you're flat-footed for a time), antitoxins, and sedatives (inflicts nonlethal damage). There are poisons here, but they're not statted. Are you interested in grain, textiles, or polymers? Those are detailed too. We get food, lodgings, services, and transportation.

Crafting equipment (tech, magic, or otherwise) requires units of "Universal Polymer Base" to basically 3D print it, but you still need the appropriate skill to craft it, because shut up is why. Starfinger's 3D printers apparently can't have plans downloaded to them, or something? However, crafting equipment doesn't change the cost. If the GM is nice, they might let you save 10% from parts taken from spare equipment (essentially the resale price for that stuff). The only advantage of crafting is being able to make stuff when you have time to do so, enough "UPB" to craft with, and no communities nearby to purchase from. Why? Because you can't use skills to fuck with the equipment treadmill even in the slightest, that's why. There's at least the neat note that UPB is used as a black-market currency because it's useful and untraceable.

Until this chapter, I was pretty neutral on this book. It was kind of dull to me, sure, but it was better than Pathfinder. The equipment section, though, is such a mess. It's weird because they obviously tried to reduce bookkeeping in other areas of the game, but actively made the equipment treadmill require much more bookkeeping, throwing out alternative solutions from D&D 3.5 and books like Unearthed Arcana or Weapons of Legacy. It grates at seeing just how hard they lock basic capabilities of the genre behind level gating to represent a system that has nothing to do with fantasy fiction, nothing to do with space opera, and mostly just requires an excess amount of accounting to make numbers go higher. Worse set, basic sci-fi / modern-day items like nightvision goggles or translators are not to be seen, because those have been cordoned off as character abilities because... because... they're already cordoned off as racial or magical abilities. Seriously.

Next: Time to use all those adjectives on your gun.

"Flintlocks are under most circumstances a terrible idea."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #14: "Flintlocks are under most circumstances a terrible idea."

Owen K.C. Stephens, Starfinger Design Lead, GenCon Q&A Transcript posted:

There's nothing you can do with a flintlock that a fully automatic rifle can't do better. Swords is a different question. One of our core deities is Iomedae and she fights with swords. We've got effective technological sword options throughout your class options.

I've mentioned it before in this review, but it's worth re-mentioning: I'll mainly only be discussing how this combat differs from normal d20 combat. For the most part, combat is the same was it was in Pathfinder. There are, however, some differences:

We also get a lot of terminology for senses, where you're "unaware", "aware of presence", "aware of location", or "observing", lots of discussion of lighting... and all the sorts of things that's essential to dungeon environments but seems less useful to a space game, unless you're largely just trying to recreate space horror/action like Aliens or Pitch Black - which I guess works given that Starfinger wants to be all space things to everybody.

We have details on special abilities, the only part of which that seems new is the "See Through" ability for Kryptonians with X-Ray Vision or-

Starfinger Core Rules posted:

. For example, a lycanthrope with sense through (scent [blocked by silver]) can smell through walls-but not through even a thin layer of silver.

Well, that's a weird example. Thankfully, my silver body stocking renders me unsmellable, and protects my essence. We get details on bonuses and penalities and what stays or doesn't stack. We also have details on area templates and effects, descriptors, durations, ranges, targeting, etc. - all mainly for spells and similar effects.

Conditions get covered here as well. New conditions include:
Cowering, Disabled, Fascinated, and Petrified are no longer listed. Things like Energy Drain, Invisibility, and Incorpeorality still exist but are listed elsewhere.

Keeping this short because it'd be easy to get bogged down if I go through a full summary - and most people will already know d20 combat. Next time, we'll get into the all-new rules and, well...

Next: *crashing sound*

"We don't have anything designed to be a Gundam, again because that's just not a Core Rulebook issue, just like we don't have howdahs in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #15: "We don't have anything designed to be a Gundam, again because that's just not a Core Rulebook issue, just like we don't have howdahs in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook."
(Credit: Owen K.C. Stephens, Starfinger Design Lead, GenCon Q&A Transcript)

Vehicle Tactical Rules

Even though vehicles only get a token listing in this book, we get the full vehicle rules, and there sure are a lot of them! Vehicles work in weird ways in Starfinger. I've read this several times and still am left thinking I must be getting something wrong, but I'll try and break it down.


What the-? How is this supposed to be remotely functional? I'm not expecting GURPS Vehicles here, but it's a hilarious farce. Maybe there's an error and the drive speeds are supposed to be faster - if they were ten times faster, these rules would be wonky, but... at least closer to functional. As it is, you're not likely to make a short drive to work without flinging yourself off the road. Now, to be fair, you can Take 10 on your driving rolls if the GM lets you, and there are no lasers popping off or anything distracting you. Hopefully, you've got enough skill ranks to do that with. Otherwise, off the road you go!

As far as I can tell vehicles have a low "drive speed" (i.e. combat speed) to make sure they don't unbalance combat, since they offer protection, and this bizarre full speed for overland travel but they can't turn. Yes, for some reason the combat tradeoff... for vehicles... was to make them go slower than people.

In addition, to do anything other than drive - because going to that "race speed" of 55 MPH is a full action - like making an attack, even with vehicular weapons, you'll have to slow down to 2 MPH. And these people are going to give us starship rules? That oughta be a sight.

Oh, here's a bonus: no crash ever kills anyone in Starfinger. Crash damage is taken by the vehicle. "Oh," I hear somebody mumbling, "- that's just an appropriate part of genre fiction." True, to an extent, unless you're being played by Alan Tudyk. But it also leads into the interesting followup tactic: buying vehicles and just ramming them into enemies, since you take 0 damage and they'll take whatever the full damage is. I mean, yeah, they get a Reflex save to avoid it, but a friend with a stickybomb can help out with that... presuming you can actually steer your vehicle into them and don't just swerve around wildly.

Future Fantasy Cars.

Vehicle Chases

So, chase rules.

Chases are divided into "zones", and vehicles in the lead get an advantage. Essentially, there are three phases. The drivers choose their actions and act in initiative order. They can take one half action or two, if they take two, they're at -4 on each. Then, any changes in zones are tracked, and then passengers (and pilots, if they only take a half action) act normally in initiative order for shooting or mid-car acrobatics or whatever.

Pilots are usually using the Keep Pace to keep steady or Speed Up to move an extra zone. However, they can also Evade to improve their vehicle's AC, Slow Down to avoid having to make any Piloting rolls, or Trick to give a penalty to chasing vehicles. They might also Engage Another Vehicle to move into melee / boarding range with another vehicle, or try to Break Free from another vehicle engaged with them. Success on any Piloting check moves you up a zone, failure means you stay where you're at. Speed Up is the only way to gain a second zone of movement in a turn. Engaged vehicles stay together if possible, so if one advances and one doesn't, they both advance. Getting more than two zones behind any other vehicle means you get left behind. You can deliberately not rush ahead if you want to stay in a chance, though.

Most of the DCs are dependent on the move you're doing, the level of the vehicle you're driving, or the KAC of the vehicle you're maneuvering against. As such, you have the weird side case that if you want to do better in chases, you might want to pilot a vehicle lower than your level. That carries the risk of having less HP / being more vulnerable, of course, but it's a weird tactic that results from weird rules. You may say "wouldn't high-level vehicles be faster?", well, I'll point out that your vehicle's top speed has almost nothing to do with the chase rules.

Again, for people skimming: the vehicle's top speed has almost nothing to do with the chase rules. The only time it comes up is that if you have a vehicle that's significantly faster (like, 50 MPH faster), you get a reduced penalty on multiple actions from the driver. That's all! A Police Cruiser can be racing a Goblin Junkcycle, and, despite being over twice as fast, it gets no advantage. Every time I see them try and come up with a new mechanic so far, it's where things fall apart. Like, every time. I thought with nine people on the design team, somebody might notice something like "Did you realize our Chase rules don't account for speed?" or "Why is it harder to drive better vehicles?" or "Why can't you steer a vehicle going 55 MPH?"

And now it's time to see that design team crash right into a wall. You can't blame them, though, if they were driving under their own rules...

Wait, I just realized something about the above picture. I had suspected this kind of thing given the "iconic" Envoy's dye streak swapping sides, but let's take another look at it.

Wow. Ooops. Consider this a friendly reminder of what not to do, for you layout professionals out there.

Next: "I canna' do it, captain! I just don't have the [roll modifier]!"

"I actually went in thinking: 'Oh yeah, starships are just how you get from Place A to Place B.'"

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #16: "I actually went in thinking: 'Oh yeah, starships are just how you get from Place A to Place B.'"

James L. Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer interview posted:

Like, what I want is delving into bizarre ruins on alien planets. And then some of the other people on the staff, most notably Erik Mona, the publisher, and Rob McCreary, one of the senior developers, were saying, “No, that’s crazy, this game needs to be about starship battles and strafing a star destroyer and flying through an asteroid field. That’s the science fantasy that we’re interested in.” So we ended up with this dual mandate: The game needs to be both. So while you absolutely can play a game that’s just entirely in one location, or where starships don’t play a big part, the base assumption is that your adventuring party is not just an adventuring party, but a starship crew.

(Also, don't get too excited by the big space battle above, Starfinger rules don't support something like that on any practical level.)

But before we see one of Starfinger's biggest faceflops, we get some of the first setting detail we see in the book. Apparently, though the "Pact Worlds" were able to develop a variety of interplanetary drives, they couldn't do interstellar travel. But three years after "the Gap", there was "the Signal" that sent out information on how to create an interstellar drive through dreams and crashed space probes or scrawled by robots across the universe. In short, he plot boot dropped and suddenly space travel happened. However, only cultures that were advanced enough to use it could, you had cavefolk occasionally getting starship plans that they presumably took a big cave shit on and forgot about.

Then, a god named Triune showed up before the Pact Worlds and was like "So, how about those space engine plans I just farted out, hot shit, huh? Worship me." It seems Triune was a trinity of networked minor gods that discovered "the Drift" and used it to become one of the most powerfulest gods thanks to various cultures now venerating it for space travel.

So, spaceships go through The Drift to get to anyplace fast, as it serves as this game's stand-in for hyperspace. The Drift is another plane only accessible through technology (so no plane shift-ing there), and Triune oversees it and makes sure nobody seriously fucks with it. But there's an issue where making space jumps through the Drift tears away a piece of a random plane (at first I thought it was the plane you're jumping from, which would be logical, but no, it's random) so you might accidentally tear a chunk of Heaven or Hell into the Drift with your space travel. Nobody seems to care too much about that aside from the gods themselves, but they aren't doing much about it, from all appearances. It's rumored that Triune is trying to increase the size of the Drift and decrease the size of other planes for mysterious reasons. It's a space oddity.

We get travel times by conventional thrusters and or by drift tech. In settled regions, there are space beacons that one can orient by, and so travel is relatively fast, around 3d6 days with a small chance of a random encounter (10%). Traveling into uncharted areas within the galaxy is 5d6 days with a notable chance of an encounter (25-50%). Nobody has returned from attempts to perform intergalactic travel with Drift technology. There is also Absalom Station, which contains the "Starstone" that apparently makes it easy to travel to for unstated reasons, and you can safely travel there in 1d6 days regardless of your location - and so it's clearly intended as a central hub for characters. Travelling with Drift engines requires you to stand still for 1 minute, so attempting to do so is essentially banned from combat unless you're willing to just take hits for sixty seconds. It doesn't mention this here, but ships with better drives divide these numbers by their drift rating.

Building Starships

So, even at Level 1, player groups generally get a starship unless the GM declares otherwise. No credit price is put on them, so forget buying one conventionally even if you theoretically could. Instead, you get Build Points (BP) based on your spaceship's tier, and players get a tier of spaceship based on their average character level - 55 BP at Level 1, and 1,000 BP at Level 20. You choose a basic frame, from a small racer or fighter to a carrier or dreadnought, each of which has a BP cost. You then add on the power core (which gives you a budget of "Power Core Units" to power systems) and the thrusters which also cost you BP. Once that's established, there are optional-but-often-necessary systems like armor (+AC,-TL*), computer (bonus to ship-based skill checks), crew quarters, defensive countermeasures (+TL), drift engines (bigger = faster), expansion bays (cool rooms and cargo bays for the most part, but also a few things like escape pods), security (various systems from anti-hacking to a self-destruct system), sensors (better range and bonuses, can scan other ships), shields (add regenerating SP to a ship), and, of course, weapons. Note that unlike all other equipment, nothing is level-based here - it's all point-buy. Note that ships are considered to be on a scale entirely different from normal engagements, and it's suggested that starship attacks on characters be treated more like hazardous environments with explosions going off all around than straight-up fights.

TL = Target Lock, your ability to avoid being locked onto by homing missiles and the like. I know, it sounds like it would be your ability to lock on, but it's the opposite.

Mind, it's hard to evaluate the system without building a ton of ships, but I'm sure ship optimization will have a field day on forums. In general, ship size breaks down into three categories on account of the classes of weapons you can mount: racer to explorer (light weapons), transport to bulk freighter (heavy weapons), and cruiser to dreadnought (capital weapons). A ship's HP level up only every 4 levels, and damage remains fixed by weapon, so the only real way to improve your damage is to make get better (more BP cost) weapons for your size or get a bigger ship, since damage isn't affected by PC level or abilities. Heavy freighter is probably the largest ship that can be crewed by PCs alone, requiring 6 stations (which means if you have 6 PCs, presumably one's sitting on their thumbs rules-wise because the rules are based around 5 PCs). Having a bulk freighter or anything larger is going to require an NPC crew, which will cost you (2 x skill bonus) credits a day. However, since they won't be making rolls, I imagine you just need to make sure they have the skill; recruiting a gaggle of incompetent redshirts would seem to be the way to go. Conversely, small one-pilot fighters have a serious problem where they can't pilot or shoot at the same time, and have to rely on computers or the like to do one of the other for them while doing the other, resulting in penalties. These rules are focused largely around mid-sized ships and everything else has scaling issues.

In general, that starting 55 BP won't get you much of a ship. Power cores and weapons are limited by size, and in turn thrusters, drift engines, computers, shields, and defensive countermeasures require decent numbers of PCUs. Drift engines are the biggest hogs, and though you can theoretically put drift engines on a fighter, it's not the most practical endeavor and you'll end up with a notably weaker fighter. Sorry, would-be x-wings Ironically, better drift engines have a "maximum size" so the best drift engine can't be put on anything larger than a transport - but the largest power core there this for a transport is 300 PCU, and the largest drift engine requires 200 PCU. Building a vehicle to reduce downtime is going to cripple its ability to engage in fights for its level (as that's the same PCU pool weapons, shields, etc. require), which seems to be the biggest issue. (And, as aforementioned, warping takes a minute no matter what, so don't think your fast drift ship can just avoid combat that way.) In general, the starship rules look solid enough, but the point-buy system means you have to be wary of choices which impact your ship's ability to fight at its tier level. Granted, this is nothing new for point systems - it's a problem that's dogged them since the days of Champions - but it remains an issue here.

Then, get get sample ships known within the Pact Worlds, whatever those are. There's no frame of reference for these yet, mind, since we haven't heard much about the setting. I know as much as you do. I'm not going to talk about the statblocks too much because they aren't that interesting and are pretty much what you'd expect.

Next: "Never tell me the odds!"

"And there's going to be, at the very high levels, it'll be more or less some of the small ships against giant capital ships are going to be fantastic battles that'll probably be told around your gaming table for a while."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #17: "And there's going to be, at the very high levels, it'll be more or less some of the small ships against giant capital ships are going to be fantastic battles that'll probably be told around your gaming table for a while."

Jason Keeley, Starfinder Design Team Member, Gencon Q&A posted:

Whether you win or lose them, of course, you might just get blown out of the sky. It's not a great story, but it's still a story.

Single-eseat fighters like this, as previously mentioned, aren't actually supported well, as we'll see...

Starship Combat

There are several roles you can take when piloting a ship in Starfinger: captain, engineer, gunner, pilot, or science officer. For ships with large crews, only one character is in each role, and people required to crew the ship beyond the core five are presumed to just be going whatever pleb job they have assigned for them and take no notable actions. "What if we don't have exactly five players?", you may ask, and that's a reasonable question! Unfortunately, no good answer is provided - if you're missing a gunner or pilot, any role can fill in and do a half-assed job at either. You can probably go without a captain, engineer, or science officer at notable drawbacks - only the pilot and gunner are strictly necessary. Of course, if your ship has less than five positions, this can be problematic. The worst are fighters and racers, which run into the huge issue that the pilot has to act as both a gunner or pilot, but can't do both at once, meaning the types of actions they can take will be limited and generally done at penalty.

We're told that the Starfinger Flip-Mat: Basic Starfield and the Starfinger Core Rulebook Pawn Collection are the "perfect accessories" for this mode. While you're at it, you can bust out you can wear your Starfinger Blood Orange IPA to prove your brand loyalty.

So, combat. Usually shits ships start facing each other, but you can roll randomly for distance and facing. Facing matters in this mode, unlike normal combat. During a turn, you first have engineers try and do repairs or provide boosts. Then, pilots make Piloting checks to determine who goes first - the lowest roll goes first. Pilots can then roll for maneuvers and the like if they have to. In addition, the science officer may scan vessels or target foes. (Wait, wouldn't that be more of the gunner's job? Damn Vulcans, taking our jobs-) Lastly, we have the Gunnery phase in which everybody gets to shoot. Shooting is done in the same order as moving, but damage isn't applied until the end of the phase, so everybody always gets to shoot if they can. One of the advantages of going second is being able to shoot down missiles fired at you, if they're still in transit.

Some more details:
Lastly, we have the different actions crew members can take with appropriate skill checks. Some actions are unavailable if your station is sufficiently damaged by Critical Damage.

However, there's one major issue with all of this, it's that the DCs for making many of the required rolls for starship positions are badly broken. Many have rolls with DCs of 10-20 + (2 x tier) or 10 + (3 x tier). As such, they ramp up faster than PC skills can keep up. At a certain point, piloting, commanding, engineering, etc., becomes improbable or impossible for high-tier ships. By levels 11-16, certain actions will become near-impossible or outright impossible for PCs to make, depending on how much they've invested in their ship's computer and their own maximization. See, one of the key points is that these skill rolls also ignore any class bonuses, so even an Operator or Envoy's skill boosts are no good in this situation. While you can use Skill Focus, it's a stopgap measure.

Now, Paizo has now acknowledged this and said there will be a fix. But it's not out yet, so I can only judge the game in front of me. There are various fan fixes, but as it is right now, the game was published with a bush-league d20 error - the kind already seen and infamous from products like D&D 3.5's Tome of Magic.

Another observation is that the technology flavor text earlier implies there's a lot of magic being mixed in with technology, and that it's a space fantasy setting, but you can't see it at all in the spaceship rules. There are no fireball cannons, no spaceships cloaked with invisibility or consecrated as holy, and really not much way at all for spellcasting to interface with starship usage. Now, there are obvious reasons for the spellcasting limitations, not wanting wizards to dominate in spaceship combat, but the lack of any cool magic powers or weapons to buy for your ship seems like a real oversight. Granted, every part of the secondary systems in this book (vehicles, equipment, spaceships) speaks to the designers being rushed, possibly to hit this book's GenCon 50 release date. But ultimately, for a system they were proud to tout... somebody should have caught this before publication.

Next: The terrible spellcasters of space.

"We want magic to augment what your character does, we don't want your character to only be able to do magic."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #18: "We want magic to augment what your character does, we don't want your character to only be able to do magic."
(Credit: Amanda Hamon Kunz, Starfinger Design Team Member, GenCon Q&A Transcript)

Above: can you spot the magic? Because I can't.

Because you may travel light years across the galaxy, but you can't escape slot-and-level casting. To be fair, Starfinger curbs the power of spellcasters somewhat, limiting them to spells of levels zero through six. On the other hand, another limitation of spellcasters is hacked away with in the form of variable-level spells. A curbed spellcaster is still very much a spellcaster.

Variable-level spells are spells that can be cast at different levels. So instead of learning cure light wounds, cure moderate wounds, cure that wound in your heart from when your love left you, etc., you learn just mystic cure and choose what level you cast when you cast it. However, the weird and clunky catch is that the maximum level you can cast it is the level you learn it at. So if you learn mystic cure as a 3rd-level spell, you can cast it as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level, but never 4th, 5th, or 6th unless you relearn it again later, at which point you get the earlier spell refunded and you can learn another spell of the same level in its place.

However, there are no more Concentration checks, no more Defensive Casting rolls as in Pathfinder. If you cast a spell in melee, you trigger an Attack of Opportunity. If you take damage, the spell is lost. In addition, if conditions arbitrarily cause you to lose concentration, like getting blasted into vacuum, you can't cast spells. This is also an issue for spells that take 1 round or longer. Combat Casting still exists as a feat, but it only grants +2 to AC against attacks of opportunity and Reflex saves triggered while spellcasting. In a momentary Murphy's Rule, getting set on fire will break your concentration. Being on fire will not. You can still cast all the spells you want while you're on fire once you've gotten over the initial shock..

Otherwise, spellcasting matches its d20 counterparts for the most part. There are only two types of spells currently: Mystic and Technomancer. Mystic spells are the equivalent of Cleric with a slight bit more of a psychic theme, and Technomancers are Wizards with a notable technological theme. And for those that might worry that spellcasters have been cut down too much...

... don't worry about that.

Mystic Spells

Mystic 1
Mystic 2
Mystic 3
Mystic 4
Mystic 5
Mystic 6

Mystic / Technomancer Spells

Mystic / Technomancer 2
Mystic / Technomancer 3
Mystic / Technomancer 4
Mystic / Technomancer 6

Technomancer Spells

Technomancer 1
Technomancer 2
Technomancer 3
Technomancer 4
Technomancer 5
Technomancer 6

And lastly, let's go over Mystic Cure, the replacement for Cure [whatever] wound. I'm just going to quote directly from the most powerful Pathfinder single-target Cure spell, first-

Pathfinder SRD posted:


School conjuration (healing); Level alchemist 4, bard 4, cleric/oracle 4, druid 5, inquisitor 4, shaman 4, witch 5; Domain healing 4


Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S


Range touch
Target creature touched
Duration instantaneous
Saving Throw Will half (harmless); see text; Spell Resistance yes (harmless); see text


This spell functions like cure light wounds, except that it cures 4d8 points of damage + 1 point per caster level (maximum +20). Since undead are powered by negative energy, this spell deals damage to them instead of curing their wounds. An undead creature can apply Spell Resistance, and can attempt a Will save to take half damage.

And here's the Starfinger equivalent:

Starfinger SRD posted:


School conjuration (healing)

Casting Time 1 standard action

Range touch

Targets one living creature

Duration instantaneous

Saving Throw Will half (harmless); Spell Resistance yes (harmless)

With a touch, you heal and invigorate your target, restoring a number of Hit Points. If the target regains all of its Hit Points as a result of this healing, you can apply the remaining healing to yourself, as long as you are a living creature. On the other hand, if this isn’t enough to restore all the target’s Hit Points, you can transfer any number of your own Hit Points to the target, healing the target that amount. You can’t transfer more Hit Points than you have or more Hit Points than the target is missing.

Mystic cure restores a number of Hit Points to your target depending on the spell’s level.
  • 1st: 1d8 + your Wisdom modifier
  • 2nd: 3d8 + your Wisdom
  • 3rd: 5d8 + your Wisdom modifier
  • 4th: 7d8 + your Wisdom modifier
  • 5th: 9d8 + your Wisdom modifier
  • 6th: 11d8 + your Wisdom modifier
In addition, unlike most healing, when you cast mystic cure as a spell of 4th-level or higher, you have two options to enhance its effects. The first option is to restore an extra 5d8 Hit Points with a 4th-level mystic cure spell, an extra 7d8 Hit Points with a 5th-level mystic cure spell, or an extra 9d8 Hit Points with a 6th-level mystic cure spell. The second option is to bring a target that died within 2 rounds back to life. In addition to healing such a creature, the spell returns the target to life, and the target takes a temporary negative level for 24 hours. This spell can’t resuscitate creatures slain by death effects, creatures turned into undead, or creatures whose bodies were destroyed, significantly mutilated, disintegrated, and so on.

Casting this spell doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity.

A slight upgrade. Granted, it could be working overtime to try and make up for the loss of the ridiculous heal spell.

And because we couldn't leave wish behind, Mystics get miracle at 20th level once a week while Technomancers at 20th level can use two 6th-level slots and 2 RP to cast wish... well, as long as they have those two resources. While 20th level effects may as well not exist for most campaigns, it's at least noting that even in Starfinger, they still have to have "do nearly any damned thing" as a top-level power.

There's, of course, a litany of spells I didn't cover because they're just stuff you've mostly seen before, damage dealers with new themes, modest utility spells, etc. I tried to keep it short for the sake of our sanity, though it's a relatively brief spell list - about half that of Pathfinder's. Though Starfinger works hard to cut down the power level of spellcasters, they still remain very strong because they still have niches so vague as to step all over many of the other classes, even with the designers obviously eyeing that sort of thing more closely than before. After all, they clearly cut out bless and similar broad-boosting effects that would impinge on an Envoy's support abilities... and then left in every end-run around the social mechanics. So it goes.

Next: But are tabletop campaigns eligible for a Hugo?

"So if you want to play an Ursula K. Le Guin style science fantasy, or C.J. Cherryh, who whoever it is that you're into, you can do that in our system."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #19: "So if you want to play an Ursula K. Le Guin style science fantasy, or C.J. Cherryh, who whoever it is that you're into, you can do that in our system."
(James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer interview.)

So, their first suggestion is to run published adventures, and they encourage you to do so.

Of course they do.

It however, notes that some people just run on some basic notes or off the cuff, and that's okay too. They suggest that when writing up an adventure, just keep to broad strokes and when you're thrown off your guard, just grab some reference material and wing it. Reference material like the Starfinger Alien Archive.

Because of course.

There's notes that some people stat out every creature, while others just reuse material from the Starfinger Alien Archive. Others only write down partial statblocks. Actual advice? Why have that when we have noodle arms and a big fat shrug! Have we mentioned there is this Alien Archive book, even after we said this was the only book you need unambiguously? Welll... you might need that? Maybe?

Of course you do.

Designing encounters is "both an art and a science" but is mostly just bog-standard d20 Challenge Rating (CR) stuff, which is never gotten any fresher. For example, an NPC has CR equal to their level which uh, is rarely ever accurate and will usually get torn apart by any reasonably competent group of PCs. In addition, it means a 7th level Envoy is supposed to be an equal challenge to a 7th level Technomancer and that's either hilarious, sad, or both. Even sadder is that a 10th level Soldier sans equipment is CR 9, because an humanoid NPC without equipment is only -1 to CR. Suuure, I'm sure that Soldier will be terrifying, coming at you with their 1d3 nonlethal meathooks. Hey, there's this book called the Alien Archive that can help you with your NPCs, maybe?

Because of course there is.

It may seem I'm being needlessly pedantic, but they were the ones that said that this was the only book you need. Once again, from Chapter 1, page 7:

Starfinger Roleplaying Game posted:

This book contains all the information you need to play Starfinger, whether you're a player or a Game Master.

Chapter 1 had no mention of the Alien Archive. And why not? I mean, all of us who are RPG hobby veterans know that D&D clones are oft-separated into several necessary books, but Starfinger is aimed at new players as much as old-timers. So why not bring this up in Chapter 1? The only reason I can think on holding off on mentioning it until the midst of Chapter 3 and not even emphasizing it until Chapter 11 is to more or less obscure that fact and to make like the entry price looks like the $60 cost of the core rule book, when the entry cost for a gamemaster adds in the $40 cost of the Alien Archive for a total of $100.

And then they'd like you to subscribe...

Making money isn't wrong. And getting a fair price for your game isn't wrong. And getting financially supported richly by your fans isn't wrong. But obscuring the true cost of your game is a problem, I think. Thankfully, the days of just picking up a book in a store and trying to parse it out are over, and there are places where you can ask online "What do I need to play Starfinger?" But it's still curious that they wrote that this book was the only thing you need more than once, knowing that it isn't.

Moving on, XP charts still have a detailed chart based on the challenge rating of the creature and the number of people in the party, and formulae to adjust that CR based on the number of creatures of a given CR and all that. There's some handwaves done towards the notion of "story awards", but XP is still primarily gained by eliminating, overcoming, or bypassing specific threats - mainly fights (on foot or spacecraft) and vehicle chases. It does add that they have to be actual threats, and going around committing civilian atrocities shouldn't be rewarded. (Of course, like many such games, it provides an alignment system where you can be any alignment you like!... but presumes you're good or at least neutral.)

We have charts detailing the value of loot that should drop from each encounter and what the wealth level of each character should be for a given level. It notes that since usable loot is miserably salable (you can only ever sell equipment for 10%, as it restates) to make up the difference in terms of story awards like job payments. Of course, there's also the complicated issue of having to figure out what items count towards a PC's wealth value and which are only worth their resale, which comes down to trying to predict which equipment a PC will use and what they'll stash...

There's also the question of "what happens if the PCs decide to sell their spaceship" and... Starfinger doesn't have an easy solution to that.

Starfinger Core Rulebook posted:

But starships are expensive-what's to stop them from simply selling their starship and retiring, or using the money to buy gear far too powerful for their level?

Uh, the fact that sellers can automatically evaluate a character's level and not sell them equipment unsuitable for it? C'mon, they covered this. Well, it says that the GM can just instruct them not to. If that's not enough, they can come up with a story explanation where it's actually lended by a patron, or it has an AI that doesn't wish to be sold (wait, does that make it a character, then...?), or other reasons it doesn't ultimately belong to the PCs. Ultimately, starships are meant to be kept aside from the normal gear and wealth structure.

We've given sample DCs for GMs, saying that:

Starfinger Core Rulebook posted:

A challenging DC for a skill check is equal to 15 + 1-1/2 x the CR of the encounter or the PCs' Average Party Level (APL).

Which, while not as unworkable as the computer or starship rules, results once again in math where tasks get slightly harder at a rate faster than the PCs gain competency. At level 1, a PC with maximized bonuses might have a +8 against a DC of 17, meaning they need a roll of 9 or higher to succeed. At level 20, a PC with maximized bonuses will be adding +32 against a DC of 45, meaning they need a roll of 13 or higher. And note that most PCs won't necessarily have maximized bonuses in the skill checks they're making all the time. Operatives and Envoys have it a little better, but ultimately the slow increase in difficulty applies for most PCs.

It notes that GMs can fudge rolls in desperation, putting Starfinger in the pro-fudge camp - and to use a GM screen for that kind of thing - but not to be antagonistic about it. In addition, it notes you can adjust encounters if PCs don't have the tools to do so, like ignoring a particular type of Damage Reduction or giving PCs a plot twist that lets them overcome it, but not to overdo it. (Of course, they could have written rules where random rolls can't result in unresolveable failure states - or just unfun results - but Paizo's not in that business.)

It notes that character death should be addressed as quickly as possible, resolving encounters and working out whether or not the PC is going to stay dead - "You aren't required to let a dead character return to life." - or return. If a PC is to return to life, the GM is encouraged to immediately whisk them to the situation where that can occur. Alternately, if a player is moving on to a new character, it's suggested a player can take up the role of an established NPC for the meantime until the new character can be generated. Also, because the equipment treadmill trumps all other concerns-

Starfinger Core Rulebook posted:

Thus, it's usually easier to simply assume that the dead PC's personal gear (though not necessarily important story items belonging to the group) is destroyed, lost, or otherwise goes away.

I know Starfinger: a Game of Space Accounting might not have been an attractive title, but it certainly would have been more accurate whenever the subject of stuff comes up.We're given a variety of other pieces of advice - Starfinger guides GMs to confront problem players and dismiss them if necessary, advises keeping campaign journals, tells GMs to resolve rule conflicts swiftly, etc. It ain't all bad, and a lot of it is good advice, though it's mainly mainly matters of XP and equipment that get any real depth.

Next: Standing on the sun.

"There are a ton of different styles of science fiction and science fantasy being blended together in [Starfinger]—everything from space horror like Alien or Event Horizon to Firefly-esque comedic escapades to the political drama of The Expanse—but at its heart, this game is really about exploration, seeing worlds no one’s ever seen before."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #20: "There are a ton of different styles of science fiction and science fantasy being blended together in [Starfinger]—everything from space horror like Alien or Event Horizon to Firefly-esque comedic escapades to the political drama of The Expanse—but at its heart, this game is really about exploration, seeing worlds no one’s ever seen before."
(James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Gnome Stew interview.)


Or, more specifically, "environments that harm or impede you".

We deal with space first, where radiation and suffocation are dangers, as well as automatic turn-by-turn damage from decompression. They do get it right that space isn't "cold" (something RPGs get wrong more often than not) and that it takes hours for a body to begin to suffer from cold issues. We get descriptions of various planetary bodies, and we're told that you can't survive a star's heat at all without Immunity to Fire - otherwise you instantly just die, no saving throw.

Pathfinger Core Rulebook posted:

Any creatures or items not immune to fire are instantly and utterly consumed down to the molecular level-only spells such as miracle or wish can bring back such victims.

Well, hope you've got a 20th level caster pal to help you out with that setback!

There are corrosive worlds (they do acid damage), worlds without atmospheres (vacuum rules), thick atmospheres (sickens or suffocates), thin atmospheres (fatigues or causes ability score damage), and toxic atmospheres (various poison effects). There are clouds that can obscure vision and maybe be toxic or corrosive on some worlds. Extreme water depths can have the effects of thick atmospheres but ironically, there are no rules for the crushing pressure involved, so you can sink forever and not have to deal with that, apparently.

We get all sorts of terrain and weather rules we can skim over, as Starfinger doesn't get into the obsessive terrain rules that Pathfinder with its rules for berms and fence-hopping. Most of it is relatively reasonable, but extreme environments can be farcically punishing... but you also end up with the old-school effect where high-level characters can take farcical punishment. For example, a 10th level Soldier can take a lightning bolt to the head, a quick immersion in boiling water, or fall from any height (on average). That classic Murphy's Rule holds true.

Well, unless you're in extreme gravity, which triples the damage. Try not to fall there. Gravity itself affects speed (lower in high, no effect in low), jumping distance, and carrying capacity in predictable ways. Movement in zero-g requires you to push off objects and then move in a fixed direction - colliding with another creature or object can put you both into the "off-kilter" state - or to climb along handholds. Granted, the DC to stop your movement when hitting a wall or when climbing along a surface is a whopping 20, which means everyday folks who live in zero-g environments spend a decent amount of time stuck on or bouncing off of walls.

You can now successfully die from drowning or suffocating, unlike many older d20 games. Radiation is treated as a poison, and at high enough levels of radiation and low enough fort saves, it's pretty much a death sentence without remove radioactivity, thanks to a poison save DC that can ramp up to 30. (Medicine just gives a bonus to saves, while remove radioactivity requires a caster level check versus the DC of the radiation.)

Overall, the environmental rules are refined from Pathfinder and generally cleaned up, though their punishing nature can discourage risk. Or exploration. "Y'know, let's go do a job someplace that doesn't make our eyeballs melt." Presumably GMs shouldn't throw PCs places they aren't ready for, but there are no particular guidelines on that.


So, there are now stat blocks for settlements. They're more descriptive than mechanical, however, mainly dealing with the alignment and type of community, its level of population, government type (from anarchy to utopia), various settlement qualities (academic, devout, notorious, etc.). We then get a two sample communities:
Oh, and there's one more entry on the statblocks that's not actually mentioned or discussed: "Maximum Item Level". Yes, in contradiction to the equipment section that claimed all communities have level-appropriate gear for their locale, they instead have a maximum item level they can sell... which I guess means communities are divided into level zones, effectively? 01 has a level of 16, while Estuar has a level of 4, which means you effectively can't resupply some items in some areas now.

As if to underline that, the next section deals with "Settlement Technology", which isn't actually listed under settlement statblocks for some reason, but gives guidelines for how easy it is to hack into tech there. However, since the given level of settlement technology isn't actually listed in the statblock, it seems to be just left for GMs to wing it, like it was included as an afterthought. That then sequels into various durability scores for walls, doors, etc. We also get a few unusual materials:
Of course, since weapon damage scales but substance durability does not, this has some weird effects. This means many ranged weapons under 5th level will have a hard if not impossible time shooting through a wooden door. Hell, an azimuth laser pistol wielded by a first level character will take about ten shots - half a clip - to put a hole in a hide hut. Even at 5th level, it's a coin flip whether or not that same pistol will be able to punch a hole in that same hide hut - if they have weapon specialization!

On the other hand, high-level characters in the teens will be be doing enough damage to make a Rifts character proud, any stray shot slicing through stone or steel readily and causing massive levels of property damage. Not that Starfinger tracks that kind of thing, but high-level characters would regularly risk bringing structures down on themselves - to say nothing of punching holes in a ship or station wall.


Traps are located with Perception, and then disabled with Engineering (mechanical traps) or Mysticism (magic traps). Let's get this out of the way: like the spaceship and computer rules, the trap DCs are busted because they use the same sort of formulae provided for general skill DCs in the gamemaster section. Now, unlike the spaceship rules, this can be compensated for by Envoys and Operatives with the appropriate builds, but once again, it's still an issue. It's worth mentioning that detect magic is explicitly no good for detecting magical traps, because traps are said to be specifically warded against that effect. However, unseen servants and other creative wizardly means are still fine for activating certain triggers remotely. Unlike Pathfinder, we don't get costs for traps, so it's not clear if a punji pit trap costs 750 credits to dig this time around.

Traps have very detailed statblocks complete with AC, HP, hardness, DCs, to reflect a variety of approaches, in case somebody wants to shoot them, blow them up, disarm them, whatever. And we get examples, like a pit trap, laser blast trap, jolting console trap, mind spore trap (poisonous spores that make it harder to think), hacker's curse trap (curses equipment with penalties), explosive detonation trap, nanoflechette launcher trap, obedience implant trap (shoots you with a "magic microchip" that takes you over), disintegration chamber trap, and a soul upload trap. It's always interesting how the more powerful you get, the more dire the consequences of the trap become...

Oh, and the most-detailed trap: a trash... compactor trap? Not sure why that was included, and I don't know why PCs would jump in a trash compactor. Maybe if they're really stupid? Don't just throw out a bunch of perfectly good PCs, GMs!

Next: I'm afflicted, you're addicted.

"The [Starfinger] Adventure Path, the first volume of which will come out in August at the same time as the Core Rulebook, will also have a Bestiary section just like the Pathfinder Adventure Path does, so right out of month 1 you'll have some new monsters, and every volume of the AP will have a selection of new monsters and new aliens and such."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Unknown, GenCon Q&A Transcript posted:

Will the Core Rulebook contain monsters, or will they be in a separate book later?

Jason Keeley, Starfinger Design Team Member, GenCon Q&A Transcript posted:

In a separate book later. We will have that First Contact Free RPG Day product available to even before Starfinder comes out, so you'll still have a couple of monsters. And also we know, as Owen mentioned earlier, that there's a philosophy where you can grab the (Pathfinder) Bestiary, plop it open, and run the monster that you find there.

Starfinger Core Rules Part #21: "The [Starfinger] Adventure Path, the first volume of which will come out in August at the same time as the Core Rulebook, will also have a Bestiary section just like the Pathfinder Adventure Path does, so right out of month 1 you'll have some new monsters, and every volume of the AP will have a selection of new monsters and new aliens and such."
(Credit: Jason Keeley, Starfinger Design Team Member, GenCon Q&A Transcript)


This is mainly describing four things: curses, diseases, and poisons. Curses have a single effect and require a specific condition be met to be removed (or just having a friendly Mystic with remove affliction). Diseases come in two types: physical and mental, and each has a 7-step series of status effects depending on how far along you are. Similarly, poisons have six types, one for each attribute, but with only 5-steps. And with both diseases and poisons, hitting the last step kills you. Some really deadly versions of either might skip steps. Drugs work like a low-level poison, but a failed Fortitude save can result in the addiction "disease" being inflicted as well. Poisons and diseases require medical card to basically stop the progression and start reversing the steps... or you can just cast remove affliction, though doing so requires a caster level check equal to the normal DC of the effect + 4... but also lets you skip a lot of the steps in recovery. Being cured requires a number or successful consecutive saves while being treated, though most poisons only require one save.

In general the DCs of afflictions doesn't see the escalation other systems do, going from DC 12 to DC 20.

For curses, we have:
Curses just highlight the need for a spellcaster and the presumption you'll be packing remove affliction or at least paying for an NPC caster to do it for you. Of the five, only one - Vainglorious - is inconvenient rather than crippling. Zealous is downright murderous, more or less excepting a whole PC from damage-dealing for a full month of adventuring to recover, which could be exceptionally dangerous. Miser, depending on how it's interpreted, could permanently leave a character permanently behind on the equipment treadmill. And so on. There's no point to even bothering with interfacing with the solution for Miser - you're better off just hiring a remove affliction service unless you're 4th level or lower where it's cheaper to just pay it off. (And that's presuming such a low-level character can even interpret the curse and it's solution.)

It's a bad mechanic. Actually dealing with the curse solutions is almost always too much trouble to worry about, and it's better to turn to magic to resolve the issue. Magic is, of course, the desired solution to all these problems.

Disease can really be divided into two types: fleeting and punishing. (Those are my terms, not Starfinger's.) Cackle fever, devil chills, filth fever, leprosy, mindfire, red ache, and shakes are all just fleeting ones - varying in type and DC, and a potential pain if you're got a bad fort save, but ultimately treatable given some downtime. The punishing diseases, however, are much worse, because if not swiftly treated (once again, preferably with remove affliction), they can have permanent penalties. And by permanent, of course, Starfinger doesn't mean actually mean the definition of the word - "lasting or remaining without essential change". Permanent means "you need magic to fix this". Namely, restoration, another Mystic spell. The punishing diseases are:
So, once again, you have this whole system where a number of the diseases aren't worth fucking around with. Magic is, once again, the key. Worth mentioning is the addiction disease, caused by drug addiction. It's a special case where it only kicks in if you fail to take the drug. It features a progressive DC the longer you go without, making recovering from drug addiction harder than surviving bubonic plague or ebola slimy doom. I know you don't want to make it easy, but recovering from megaopiate addiction requires at least three DC 20+s saves, where ebola slimy doom requires two DC 14 saves. Hell,

Speaking of which, let's talk about drugs! Drugs provide a minor benefit with the cost of addiction and penalties (the first tier of the "disease" they represent). You have to fail the save against addiction to get the benefit, however, but you can voluntarily fail if you really want it. The listed drugs are:
At first glance, drugs might seem handy for maximization, but the issue is that they work like diseases, which means failing a single save against them - and you have to fail a save to get the bonuses - means you move along the disease progression track, which always includes physical. The first step of a physical disease makes you sickened and fatigued, which is -3 to most major actions... and then it gets worse. You have to take drugs once a day or suffer from withdrawal, which also functions as a disease to recover from, one with very high Fort save DCs to do so. It makes me wonder why they gave drugs bonuses at all, because it's not like they offset the penalities in the slightest. At the third or fourth stage of the disease, you can only act in action scenes at severe penalities and self-harm. This can easily happen after a week or two of drug addiction. And yes, this also means all drugs are lethal. Space pot can conceivably kill you in weeks, not that it's likely to, given you'll be bedridden or comatose long before that, at which point you either need to have your dealer make a home visit or go through withdrawal. And withdrawal definitely can kill you if you fail to roll to recover.

Yes, some drugs can certainly be dangerous. They are. But this is some Reefer Madness-level rules, where one hit of a death stick, one failed save, and you're risking death. There's no point for a PC to bother with these short of having them inflicted forcibly on them somehow, but how often does that happen in genre fiction outside of drug scare films? And what's more, most of the prices for drugs are farcical. 22,000 cr for a single dose of megaopiate, a drug you have to take every day to avoid going into withdrawal? That's the cost of three cars. Meanwhile, the lost of a remove affliction spell is 1,000. Even if you presume it takes two or three spell treatments, that's worth it. There's no economy in drugs other than hyperleaf, and even that's only for the rich at around 3000 credits a month.

John, Expounded Universe podcast posted:

My name is Elan Sleazebaggano, and I looove death sticks.

In any case, we have poisons left. Poisons usually just require 1 save to recover from, maybe 2 for really lethal ones. The big issue is their frequency usually being 1/round, sometimes with truncated progression tracks. They aren't too interesting to talk about, though. Black Lotus Extract is the deadliest, killing you after four failed DC 20 saves and requiring two successful saves to recover from. Shadow Mist and Ungol Dust each inflict a permanent weakened state after a single failed save unless you have a restoration spell handy. Green Lotus Extract is your mind control drug, with enough failed saves putting somebody in a state where they effectively can't resist social skills. And so on.

With so much of these relying on the party having remove affliction or restoration to recover from or survive, you may wonder if there's any technological equivalent. Well, there are antitoxins that at least give a saving throw bonus against poisons, but unless you've taken that in advance, all it may do is save you from dying, but not save you from sucking. More pointedly, there's a the regeneration table, which works as a remove affliction, restoration, and raise dead, all in one. However, it's less portable than a spell, because it's a table. It's more expensive, at 45,000 credits. And-

Starfinger Core Rules posted:

As a result of its need to perfectly attune itself to one creature suffering one exact set of ailments and the expenditure of its quantum state particles, a regeneration table functions only once and is then inert and useless.

You know how much it costs to get a Mystic to cast all those three spells in a row? 13,000 credits. Basically, this is a whole subsystem that's fixed by one class and one class only, and if you don't have a Mystic around, you get severely punished.

Oh, and as a curiosity, the space culture of Starfinger is no better at curing diseases or poisons than the fantasy culture of Pathfinger. Possibly worse, given there are fewer classes that can effectively treat them.

How to Read Stat Blocks

Lastly, we finish the GM section with "how to read a stat block", which is of dubious usage given this book only contains a single monster stat block, but sure, here it is. The only thing that's really new to d20 other than sections detailing with Starfinger-specific traits (resolve points, EAC, KAC, etc.) is an "aura" entry (for persistent area effects from a creature). Interestingly, monsters now only have ability modifiers, not scores. (Scores were obviously still completely necessary for PCs, tho.) This is a section of the book only put in so you can understand supplemental material. It's not worth a thing on its own, because...

We get one statblock as an example, and a pointedly useless one: the "Space Goblin Monark" at CR 20, a space goblin technomancer with nearly 400 hp that does around 67 damage with each hit of its "quantum dogslicer", can teleport between planets, charm people, robotify people, spit acid, is invisible-

It's like a parody of 3.5 monster stats. I'm not entirely sure how serious this is supposed to be. It's also actually unusable even beyond its ridiculous numbers and abilities - it has a number of powers and effects that are never described in the book, like an "unnatural aura", "light sensitivity", or "earth glide". So, ultimately, we have an entire section that's relatively useless unless you pick up a book like the Alien Archive, since that's the only antagonist statblock we get.

Owen K.C. Stephens, Starfinger Design Lead, Gencon Q&A Transcript posted:

For the Core Rulebook, we already want everything that goes in the campaign book, everything that goes in a core rulebook, everything that goes into a system for starship combat. Ultimately there's only so much room for this thing if we don't want it to end up being 50 pounds and 5,000 pages. This is the solution we came up with that we all worked very, very hard on, so that we could give you the monsters you need, allow you to play on day 1, but not give you a book that you can't carry.

The final book is 525 pages and 3.7 pounds, for the record. We just hit page 421. I feel like it's a peculiar form of insanity carried the genes of D&D that makes a designer believe, with a straight face, that 525 pages is not enough space for a complete game. Those rules for deadly space pot? That spell that turns people into suffering robots? The fourteen pages of sample character builds I didn't even mention because who could possibly give a ysoki's ass?

That shit was necessary. Also, the designers were straight-up honest about it, why is the book adverted as... well, I'm probably not done with that dead horse just yet. But I wish I was.

Next: Mind the gap.

"Musically, [Starfinger] is basically a Coheed & Cambria album."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #22: "Musically, [Starfinger] is basically a Coheed & Cambria album."
(James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Tribality interview.)

So, most D&D-alikes only have a implied setting - maybe some gods are named, we know dwarves and dragons exist, some guy named Higbee had a spell named after him, whatever. But they don't often dictate a full setting. Starfinger breaks from that and has a defined setting: the "Pact Worlds". I had to wonder why it does this, of course, and the easiest reason is marketing. After all, if they wanted this to be true...

Starfinger Roleplaying Game posted:

This book contains all the information you need to play Starfinger, whether you're a player or a Game Master.

... they could have turned over the next 75 pages to antagonist statblocks. But they didn't. They also skipped the "how to create a world!" section you see a lot in D&D-style games. Because they're not interested in that, apparently. What they are interested in, however, is selling you on introducing the Pact Worlds setting.

I can only surmise the reason is marketing. It's easy to sell d20 players a big book o' crunch, but likely harder to sell their Golarion material. However, by getting players and GMs to invest in the Pact Worlds setting at ground zero, it makes them much more likely to buy setting books and adventures set there. And so Starfinger isn't just a game, but a setting. Now, plenty of games do this already as the default - Vampire: the Masquerade was anything but a game of generic vampire politics - but it's a shift for Paizo that's worth noting, and one presaged by Pathfinder products having become more and more tied to their setting of Golarion in recent years.


Hoo boy. history is a rough place to start. To editorialize: sell people on what makes your setting special and interesting, and then they'll be interested in the history and lore on their own. However, we go from here to a timeline in the span of three pages.Timelines are exciting, right? Super-exciting! They, uh, have numbers! And events! And a general lack of context! Everything you've wanted!

So, the big event that opens Starfinger's history is "The Gap" (not the store). Essentially, about three centuries ago everybody got hit with selective amnesia regarding an indeterminate space of time - you know, the movie sort where you forget your name or your history but can still remember how to hold a fork and all the appropriate curse words to use.It even seems to have affected extraplanar beings, so if you're like "Okay, I'll use Contact Other Plane and ask a space angel", that's no good either. The space angels don't know shit. And for the records, the gods were either affected as well or aren't chatty about it. It's intended as the big mystery, so you can go around being space archaelogists looking for answers as part of the Starfinger Society. For whatever reason, it isn't fully consistent - some places might have some details or records that were somehow preserved - but otherwise computers and records were wiped. Conveniently, people have rediscovered the name of the original planet that humans and all your Pathfinder races came from - Golarion - but it seems to have gone missing. After all, records from before "The Gap" (again, not the store) still exist. (Golarion is the published setting for Pathfinder.) The gods, when questioned, mention that Golarion still exists, but in some secluded space "unreachable by magic or science". So, you may as well forget about it, because that literally covers all means through which you would reach it, doesn't it?

In any case, the Gap (as a reminder, not the store) is an old conceit, going back likely to Rebirth: When Everyone Forgot!, a 1944 novel where a scientist inflicts an amnesia ray on the world, to anime like A Wind Called Amnesia. Starfinger takes place roughly three centuries after this event, so the holocaust of collapsing societies and reborn civilizations has already largely occurred and things can get back to relatively regular space business again. (Thankfully, any of the five or six conquering space forces all avoided the Pact Worlds during that period, or so it seems.) As many recovered, they discovered they already had interplanetary travel invented, but then the god Triune would come along and fart ou Drift technology for interstellar travel. This was already as discussed in the spaceship chapter, though this section doesn't beat around the bush and says outright that Triune is responsible for Drift technology. As such, you've had a rush by various civilizations to seek new worlds, but also the emergence of new threats from faraway places.

The Pact Worlds

The worlds of Golarion's system - the core of our setting here - were already settled after the Gap (not the store). In their exploration, they encountered the Veskarium, empire of the vesk, aka the lizardy not-Klingons from the character creation section. For mysterious reasons, the vesk had not gotten Drift technology, but were savvy enough to greet Golarion system explorers long enough to steal Drift technology themselves. Then the vesk, having the seeming depth of any generic warrior race, immediately put themselves to work building interstellar spaceships and then attacked the planets of the core setting. This forced the inhabitants of the Golarion system to form an alliance they would call the -

- Pact Worlds. Whew. I can now stop referring to the "blahdeblah of the Golarion system" which is awkward to say because Golarion already vanished into a plot hole. Anyway, the Pact Worlds and Veskarium would go to a low-intensity war, with neither able to obtain a decisive advantage. But then they were interrupted by the "a vast, world-devouring entity called the Swarm", so they put aside their conflicts and formed an alliance to fight off a big assault by alien bugs. While the alliance was tense afterwards, it has remained ever since. Other PC races like the shirrens or kasathas would show up, clock in, and then march onto the character selection screen obligingly. Why show up at the Pact Worlds, though?

Well, this isn't clearly explained here, but there's a space station orbiting the orbit formerly occupted by Golarion - Absolom Station. Apparently, it contains something called the Starstone which in prehistory supposedly allowed people to become gods. Right now it's not so much about the begodding, instead acting as a powerful Drift beacon. This makes travel to Absolom trivial as detailed in the starship section. As such, the Pact Worlds have become one big cantina scene writ large, with Absolom Station at the center of it all. However, it seems like it would also be really easy for the Pact Worlds' enemies to warp to Absolom trivially, avoiding all defenses, but this isn't addressed.


However, the Pact Worlds remain more of an alliance of different worlds than a one-system government. Though the Pact does allow things like interplanetary law enforcement, it's more of a European Union than a Galactic Empire. It ensures things like trade, some basic universal rights, and mutual defense. There's a Pact Council located on Abalsom Station, with delegates provided from each world in proportion to their population, and a Directorate of five representatives (one from each world). The Council decides issues by vote, while the Directorate handles deadlocks and particularly pressing or important crises. There's also a Director-General of the Stewards, who advises the Directorate and carries out their directives- he's elected by the Stewards. Who the fuck are the Stewards? Well, a Ctrl-F lets me know they're the Pact's Spectres interplanetary law-enforcement officers. Okay. Not all worlds get full representation - some are treated as protectorates. Moons are generally overseen by their respective worlds save for those who have achieved their own independence. And, lastly, some independent groups like the "Diaspora" or the "Idari" have their own Pact World status.

Magic and Technology

So, magic still exists, but as seen as requiring too much effort compared to technology. Still, it's sometimes incorporated into technology, though such small effects are apparently not included in dispel magic castings because that tech has work-arounds and reasons and blah blah metagame concerns. In any case, whereas there used to be a lot of magic traditions, now it's seen as one sprawling field instead. It turns out when we discover more about something, people specialize less. Sure, makes sense.

The whole melding of magic in technology is discussed a lot, but starships and rayguns still work like they would in any old science fiction setting outside of weapon fusions, so I'm not sure I see the point. Magic is everywhere, it just... doesn't affect technology or the world much, seemingly.


People communicate through... communicators. How do communicators work? By communicating. Are they radios? I mean, it says they're wireless. It mentions "cellular communication", so do they use cell towers? I don't think so. They can be jammed "electromagnetically" or blocked by materials "determined by the GM".

I'm starting to think they're not putting this under proper sci-finific rigor.

Well, however they do it, they communicate - and it mentions some powerful folks use space angels and space devils as messengers instead - but communication beyond a single planet requires fixed devices attacked to a Drift beacon, so shady sorts that need to use that kind of communications use other means or only turn on their communicators for short bursts.

Also various planets have "infospheres" (i.e. internet) and they have a not-wikipedia, but there's no internet connection between worlds, despite there being no actual technological limitation on that notion. Interplanetary communications exist, so there's not much reason why not other than cost and effort.


60 minutes, 24 hours, 12 months, since there are two different worlds and a space station that "through astronomical anomalies" have that day cycle.

Astronomers, your heads may now:

Years are marked as "AG" for After Gap, and PG for "Pre-Gap" but the latter tends to be inaccurate. So some use an older dating method called "AR" for "Absolom Reckoning". Days are literally "firstday, secondday" where firstday = monday, and months are named after various Golarion gods.

Daily Life and Culture

Despite the game being about about "... bold explorers, daring corporate agents, militant law keepers..." most non-player people are apparently wage slaves for the most part and capitalism is the norm. (Yes, space and aliens and all that, but we've got an equipment treadmill to run!) Prejudice is dampened due to the more cosmopolitan nature of civilization, but not always. In general, ethnicity and sexuality hangups have gone away, but there are still issues between races rarely. "Prejudice tends to be reserved for the most familiar and the most foreign..." Religion apparently unifies rather than divides, since most of the gods of the Pact Worlds are aligned. Well, except for the religiously-motivated antagonists that're coming up, but they don't count, do they?

Starfinger Core Rulebook posted:

At the moment, gritty Akitonian shumka beats and Absalom eyebite rock are becoming popular in many rougher venues. while upscale nightclubs play delicate Vercite ether-ballads or Aballonian-produced euphonies - music designed by advanced computing to directly stimulate aural pleasure centers, creating a perfect listening experience. High fashion remains dominated by the sleek styles coming out of Kalo-Mahoi , the eternal punk look of Absalom Station's trash-glamorous Spike, and the gothic severity of Apostae. Sports like brutaris, starlance, and ship racing persist in popularity, though most people find their thrills with VR parlor games or holo and stillframe shows.The most popular of these latter are inevitably Eox's blood-soaked reality broadcasts, constantly decried by censors but never actually crossing the line into illegality. Of late, ordinary books have even seen a surge in popularity, perhaps in part due to legendary lashunta holo star Cashisa Nox declaring a preference for well-read consorts.

I see, I see. Wait, what did any of that mean?

Next: Oh, the places you'll go (in 1d6 days/Drive Rating).

"We didn’t try to make a fantasy that was so unique and bizarre that you’d never run into it before."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #23: "We didn’t try to make a fantasy that was so unique and bizarre that you’d never run into it before."
(James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer interview.)

Time for the Pact Worlds proper.


Worshippers of Sarenae (that's the sun goddess) found a bunch of mysterious bubble-cities on the surface of the sun protected by magic, and have settled there with "sunskimmers" that gather up solar energy or "magically bottle nuclear fire" to keep the place running. There are corporate robotics plants or "jungle boxes" that make use of the solar energy, though some of the jungle boxes apparently had sentient plant creatures take over them.

Apparently the Sun naturally opens portals to the Positive Energy Plane or the Plane of Fire, and sometimes people meet delegations from the Plane of Fire at the bubble-cities. There are efreet and the like who say there's mysterious civilizations underneath the sun's surface that are also are mysterious, but are afraid to talk about them, in other to preserve the mystery.

Plane of Fire II.


The closest planet to the Sun, Aballon had robotic life seeded by a mysterious race called the "First Ones" who then apparently moved on after building a robot civilization. The sentient robots that inhabit the planet are divided between those who stockpile resources to give to the First Ones upon their "eventual" return, and those who seek to emulate the First Ones by traveling onwards.

You may think "Oh, this must be where androids come from.", but it isn't - most androids were constructed elsewhere. Instead, if you want to play a rad Aballonian robot, you're just out of luck right now. Maybe in a supplement they'll show up. However, it is a haven for artificial creatures. They also have a famous robot court and worship Triune, as Epoch, one of the god's three aspects, was constructed here.

Robot Mercury.


A hot jungle planet, this is mostly settled by lashuntas, elves, and formians. Oh, do you not know what a formian is? Well, you have to realize this Complete Game includes a lot of references to old D&D monsters it presumes you already know about. Like the efreet I mentioned above! Don't worry, no description or stats are available in this Complete Game, so just forget about them.

Apparently this has usually had matriarchal city-states in old serial sci-fi fashion connected by ancient teleportation portals (for all your MMO quick travel needs), but there's been more privatization and corporate exploitation nowadays (for all your Avatar emulation needs). The lashunta and formians used to be at war but have come to peace. Elves now serve as xenophobic psuedo-natives that keep people off their continent, should you need some angry natives.

Pulp Venus.

Absalom Station

As mentioned before, this is home to the Starstone, which acts as a Drift beacon and powers the station. There are myriad neighborhoods namedropped, no doubt to be dealt with in some fat location book, and right now we get engineering bays and corporate enclaves to gang-ruled sections. Because when you run the most powerful station in multiple systems that serves as the ruling seat of the solar system, what you put up with is outright gang rule over parts of it. That shit is okey-doke.

somebody's been playing too many bioware games, I think

There are a lot of ships called the "Armada" that use the station as a home base while the crew largely give in the chips. Technomancers are trained in the "Arcanamirium" and solarians are trained in the "Cosmonastery", which are real names I'm not making up. (I like getting a little cosmonastery myself, if you know what I mean.) They also have issues where nativist terrorists (that is, humans and other ex-Golarion races) want to kick out or restrict foreigners, which has increased tensions.

Babylon Citadel.


A dying world wrecked by environmental disaster, its mining industry was wrecked by the discovery of interstellar travel. These days it's a lawless desert planet where people fight all the time. The wealthy hold it together but everything else is falling apart.

Though it's home to a variety of races, the main indigenous inhabitants are the ysoki. There are are red martians taken straight from Barsoom minus the egg-laying, shobhads which are green martians but bigger, and lizardfolk "who make model citizens until their reproductive cycle drives them violently insane". A lot of races mentioned with no stats yet to actually use them, a... theme we'll see a lot in this section. A lot.

Tatooine Barsoom.


So, this is a tidally locked world. Could life actually exist on a planet like that? Don't ask questions like that, it does! One side is a desert home to "plants and animals with photosynthesizing skin" while the other is full of sinister predators because it's dark, man, so dark, like. Meanwhile, there's a temperate zone in the middle that forms the "Ring of Nations" that was the inspiration the Pact Worlds. However, they're occasionally raided by "Outlaw Kingdoms" that exist outside the ring, somehow. There are also solar farms and ice mines here as well. Inhabited largely by the verthani, who apparently are like humans but with color-changing skin and black eyes. Can you play one? Not yet!

Also there is a mysterious tube on the bright side of the planet that nobody has returned from exploring, and those who did only "transmitt[ed] only strange ravings about winged creatures in the depths". So bats? Sounds like bats to me. Spacebats.

'winged creatures' is supposed to be scary and ominous in a setting where a winged alien might be your goofball neighbor, I suppose

Coruscant meets Pandora.


Not a planet, but a kasthan colony ship parked in orbit just past Verces, since they couldn't find room on Akiton? Seriously? That place is a dying desert shithole where nothing grows and people kill each other every day, it can't have that many people. Well, whatever. I suspect they took one look at the world and were like "y'know, maybe space is better anyway". This has a large rotating center with people living along the interior of the "Drum", despite the fact the art makes it look like it has a big gaping hole in the side. Though it doesn't fly anymore, a good deal of the population works for the government just maintaining it. Yet despite this, anybody can emigrate whenever they want, so working on the ship must be a pretty sweet gig to hang around doing menial labor all the time.

They have a large spire-like temple called the Sholar Adat where the dead are taken, and they take a "hair-thin" slice of the deceased brain which can be used to summon back the deceased's soul for questioning via technomagic. It implies this might require an undetailed fee and accessing souls older than a century requires a warrant for some reason. Kind of a neat idea, but a bit vaguely presented.

Generation Ship.


An asteroid belt caused by the collison of two planets millennia ago, this is your standard asteroid felt with some larger chunks for settling. It's implied in the text it's not your cinematic sort of belt where the asteroids are close enough to form an obstacle course, but the art is firmly in the dramatic rock swarm territory. It's mainly home to miners and space pirates, but there are also "sarcesians", angelic humanoids adapted to hard vacuum. Are there rules for them or any more details than that? Of course not! Buy supplements, kiddo! Also they hate Eox.

There's also a small planetoid here called Nisis, mainly made up of ice and water and full of monsters that eat colonists. The solution, seemingly, has been to send more colonists. Also it has a magic river that flows between various asteroids and planetoids, but it's become more dangerous because of attacks of unseen creatures which are called "diaspora wyrms" even though nobody's seen them. Also Nisis is growing bigger! This is mysterious. What's going on?

Also there are spooky space cultists who all vanished and left a haunted asteroid. You should totally go there, that'd be a great plan.

"Looks like Poppycock."


Once home to the technologically and magically advanced elebrians - who were like humans only they were called elebrians instead - they became haughty and decided to blow up all other worlds that didn't acknowledge them as The Most Awesome Ever. So they blew up two planets and created the Diaspora (which is why the sarcesians hate them) but the backblast from the weapon nuked their whole world. Oooops. The survivors became necromancers and most of the survivors are undead or mutants, in that order. Bizarrely, though the elebrians previously had spaceships statted up, the elebrians get no stats themselves, despite being one of the core setting races who get mentioned a bunch.

Run by the bone sages (no doubt experts in the ancient art of boning), the non-undead elebrians are often contentious internally but united against external threats, and are generally just amoral as opposed to malevolent. Also they have a city set up entirely for living inhabitants which have "cruel reality shows and competitions" that are aired throughout the Pact Worlds. Seems ethical.

Ghost World.


So, this has an eccentric orbit that causes a 317 year summer / winter cycle, and is home to "ryphorians" who are humanoids that have dark sun during the summer cycle and white fur in the winter cycle (it's currently winter). Though the local humanoid nations have been traditionally at conflict with dragon-ruled nations, the Pact has gotten the dragons to go corporate (they're mostly evil dragons). A few Triaxian countries have rejected the Pact to embrace xenophobia, instead.

There's also the mercenary company called the Skyfire Legion that used to ride "dragonkin", which - I had to look them up because shit is so rarely explained here - are riding-sized dragons that bond with riders telepathically. Instead, these days humanoids and dragonkin team up as coopilots on starfighters. There's also Ning, which is anti-Pact but pro-Corporations and pro-criminals, and is "obsessed with honor and status" and has "genderless warriors" and... the whole thing feels vaguely Ming the Mercilessish, but it's not very detailed here.

Mongo Pern.


A ringed gas giant, apparently the gassy interior is well-populated witha fauna like "oma space whales", "giant bacteria", or "keji swarms". Apparently this planet is home to the "Dreamers", who are descendants of barathus colonists who have gone into an enlightened nature children sort of state and sing prophetic songs, like you do. Who are the barathus? Wait until the next planet for that. The barathus apparently are fairly territorial and see the Dreamers as "psuedoholy". As such, gas mining and colonization is fairly restricted.

Naturally, it has many moons, including Arkanen, which apparently loses its atmosphere throughout the year only to have it replenished in an "impossible" orbit that travels through Liavara's atmosphere, and some think it was deliberately crafted to orbit in this fashion. In addition, there's Osoro, which has settled mountains rising over a poisonous lower atmosphere. Melos had all of its population vanish and has ruins that get picked over. And there's Hallas, which is apparently isolated as the local energy beings tend to cause normal people's heads to explode incidentally.

Saturn Rukh.


A gas giant and the largest planet in the system. Here you can find the barathus, who are big jellyfish that are intensely communal and rely on biotechnology. They have a larger entity called Confluence that serves as the equivalent of a government when needed, formed by barathus who volunteer to be a part of a communal intelligence.

There's an ice-covered moon called Titan Kalo-Mahoi run by "the aquatic Kalo", a forested moon of Endor Marata with a "seven-gendered" "furry" race called the maraquoi who are split between trying to preserve their culture and joining with the rest of the solar system. There's Dykon which has the "urogs", brilliant crystalline creatures. Then there are the "death moons" like Thyst or Varos with extremely hostile environments that are largely home to mining operations.

Jupiter Medusa.


A rocky planet once apparently settled by a lost race, the drow have come here because it's dark and already has a bunch of ruins and tunnels carved up where they can be at home. And "home" involves summoning demons and using orcs and other races as near slave-labor. The Pact Worlds apparently put up with this because-

Since the drow settlements are comparatively small, there are still a lot of dungeons ruins to explore and a mysterious portal to an unknown location. Not really more to say.

Menzoberranzan Neptune.


A planet that most believe is actually a giant Great Old One egg, and apparently it's warred over by the "cults of the Elder Mythos" who want to ride it like an atom bomb and the "Dominion of the Black" who think they can control Peepthulu. There's also a big temple to Nyarlathotep which is run by Carsai the King who may actualy also be Nyarlathotep. He's apparently become a pop culture icon for the edgy and successfully promoted Elder God worship.

In any case, it's big organic goozone with a spooky and poisonous green atmosphere. There's apparently a mountain called the Gravid Mound that some think is a big pregnant lump where Aucturn will give birth before it's born because Those Are the Ways of the Goooods. Apparently, they think they'll get some sort of big pinata explosion of cool magic instead of all dying. Makes sense.

Yuggoth Pluto.

And that's that, we can wrap up the Pact Worlds system there. There are some interesting ideas, and some derivative ones, but it's hard to use either given the lack of stats provided in this section for the litany of things that are namedropped.

Next: New worlds, new civilizations.

"As is always the case, I got super excited by all these ethical quandaries and was keen to put them in the game."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #24: "As is always the case, I got super excited by all these ethical quandaries and was keen to put them in the game."

James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Starfinger Reddit AMA posted:

At which point the rest of the team pointed out that games are supposed to be fun, not just a vehicle for philosophical treatises.

Beyond the Pact Worlds

We get some notes that most other locales are wild frontiers, but there are other empires likt the Azlanti Star Empire (who?) and the Veskarium. Most places haven't arranged interplanetary empires, though. Some of the other notable places listed are:

After that short list, we get a longer list! Lists on lists.

And so, we come to the end of space. We've got a lot more to cover still, but I just want to stop and just emphasize how many races we're gotten to tease us for the Alien Archive:

Also, we have a variety of unnamed races - "pulsating philosopher worms", "hyperevolved energy beings", "several advanced aquatic civilizations", 15 unnamed Azlanti client races, "stone-faced squidfolk", "antlike beings", "feline humanoids", and "pacifist frost behemoths".

Starfinger Roleplaying Game posted:

This book contains all the information you need to play Starfinger...

Oh, shut up.

Next: What if you could Slide into a thousand nineteen different worlds?

"That is known as the Drift, and when you go into the Drift, sometimes you pull stuff from other planes with you, whether that be a small chunk of Heaven or a tiny part of Hell or maybe a bit of the Maelstrom, etc. etc., and sometimes that comes with, you know, a bunch of angels minding their own business singing hallelujahs and suddenly they're in another dimension."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #25: "That is known as the Drift, and when you go into the Drift, sometimes you pull stuff from other planes with you, whether that be a small chunk of Heaven or a tiny part of Hell or maybe a bit of the Maelstrom, etc. etc., and sometimes that comes with, you know, a bunch of angels minding their own business singing hallelujahs and suddenly they're in another dimension."
(Credit: Jason Keeley, Starfinger Design Team Member, GenCon Q&A Transcript)

The Great Beyond

Time to talk about other planes! Granted, this doesn't see much use unless you have a Mystic or Technomancer of 16th level or higher who can cast plane shift. In addition, casting plane shift requires you to have a specifically attuned object (for Mystics) or program (for Technomancers) for a plane in question. However, the nature of the Drift means you might run into a chunk of one of these other worlds there while warping around, so there's at least that, but it's a bit tricky to use this section as written. Additionally, it's real short, so there's not much to go on. Hell, there's barely anything to go on.

The Inner Sphere is the set of planes that make up most of the area "around" the Material Plane (the Material Plane being the actual setting of the game). They include:
The Astral Plane isn't something this book really cares about, and I don't have much reason to either, as a result.

The Outer Sphere is where dead people go, becoming the servants of deities or becoming an angel or demon, and a god named "Pharasma" (not the stormtrooper) decides where you end up. We have:
Of course, you can summon some of the creatures from these planes, but are there any rules for them? Of course not! Are there any rules for these planes? Of course not! Are we done with this section? Of course n... of course.

Abadarcorp and Starfinger Society illustrations.

Factions & Organizations

Like the "Beyond the Pact" section, it starts with micellany and then moves onto the main organizations? It's a weird layout, so I'll reverse the order a bit and start with the main factions.

Knight of Golarion and Hellknight illustrations.

Free Captain and Steward illustrations.

We also have a Corpse Fleet of rogue elebrians that go around raiding the living, cults of the public domain Elder Mythos, the Golden League of crime families, and the Skyfire Legion of mercenaries bound to dragonkin (the book still hasn't mentioned what dragonkin are).

... also the Golden League is an rather unfortunate name for an organization that has a very clearly Asian theme, I guess even the far future of deep space isn't immune to pulp Yellow Peril tropes. Dammit, Starfinger, you were doing pretty well there.

Next: Gods and monsters.

"Lots of considerations went into choosing the gods for [Starfinger]: how many old gods to keep vs. how many new ones to introduce, what kind of stories we wanted to tell, what gods already had a connection to space, how many alien gods vs. Pact Worlds gods, gender balance, alignment balance, an obvious god for every core race, etc."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #26: "Lots of considerations went into choosing the gods for [Starfinger]: how many old gods to keep vs. how many new ones to introduce, what kind of stories we wanted to tell, what gods already had a connection to space, how many alien gods vs. Pact Worlds gods, gender balance, alignment balance, an obvious god for every core race, etc."
(Credit: Rob McCreary, Starfinger Design Lead, Starfinger Reddit AMA)

James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Starfinger Reddit AMA posted:

Rob makes this all sound so calm and considered, not even mentioning all the times he probably wanted to throw me out a window.
Faith and Religion

So we have a literal score of gods to cover. This isn't a full list, we're told, but only the most commonly worshipped deities. In space, nobody can hear you scream, but prayers are heard loud and clear. But why does god allow [vehicle rules] to exist?
Oh, thank fuck I'm done- wait, no, there are more. Fuck it. Agradd is a dwarf god of dwarf shit, Arshea is a fuck god of fuck fucking, Asmodeus is a ripoff god of fuck you D&D, Black Butterfly is a nice god of fucking darkness, Calistria is a trickster god of fucking elves, Eldest are ruler gods of fucking faeries, Groetus is a skull god of the fucking apocalypse, Lamashtu is a mother god of fucking monsters, and Lissala is an Azlanti god of fucking tyrants. These are gods 21-29 and I've had enough.

Also fuck you, Azathoth, fuck you, Shub-Niggurath, and fuck you, Yog-Sothoth, I know you work for the fucking exposure and I'm stick of your fucking public domain asses, get out of my fucking sight. This is all I can think of when I see you.

And that- wait, that's not all? We also have "philosophies", fuck. Faiths 33-38. Fuuuuck. The Cycle are fortune cookie Jedis, the Green Faith is generi- er, fortune cookie nature worship, the Prophecies of Kalistrade are a wealth through ritual purity cult, Sangpotshi is... fortune cookie Buddhism, Singularitism is belief in a technological Singularity, and the Song of Silence is "becoming a lich is rad, let's do that."

In case you were wondering what the Solarians' faith is, herrre it is.

Starfinger Core Rules posted:

Introduced to the Pact Worlds by the kasathas, the philosophy of the solarians teaches that existence is an endless cycle. Stars are born, die, and are born again, alternately bringing life to the universe and destroying it. The balance of the cosmos rests on the Cycle, and it connects everything in the universe.

Did those words actually mean anything? I can't even fucking tell anymore.

Yeah, I know, I know. Most of the Golarion gods weren't made to be special snowflakes. They were made to be typical fantasy fill-ins and just be comfortable little slots for your Clerics or Mystics to swear by while casting spells, but boy, does it make for a boring read. It's also not actually that useful compared to factions or locations unless you're doing a tour of the religious practices of the setting, and even then 38 faiths is too fucking much. Granted, I may be worn a bit thin. Book's almost done. Let's, uh, finish the fucking book.


Villain stuff. Do we get useable statblocks to go with the descriptions? Haha! Not in this fucking book!

Next: A path back home.

"In the same way we did with Pathfinder, we’re trying to be all things to all people, which is normally a recipe for disaster."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #27: "In the same way we did with Pathfinder, we’re trying to be all things to all people, which is normally a recipe for disaster."
(James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer interview.)

I'm going to be skipping a lot of fine detail here. This section is mainly about the differences between Pathfinder and Starfinger, which I've already covered broadly throughout the text. We get conversions for things like bonus types, actions, and skill names, but the meat here is for conversions of monsters and classes.

Monster conversion mainly seems to consist of adding 25% extra HP, giving it Starfinger weapons if appropriate, removing multiattacks and adding its CR to its damage value, removing critical ranges on attacks (20s only), converting spells / feats / afflictions to Starfinger where possible, and generally adjusting to the new standards whenever possible. It's worth noting that monsters get RP but not SP.

Or you can just run it as written, as it notes for quick encounters that players are unlikely to notice any difference.

Class conversions are to be allowed by the GM only. This consists of giving them a key ability modifier (used to determine their RP), adjusting their hit dice to the HP / SP standard (it's worth noting that Starfinger uses fixed HP values), adding skill ranks for very low-skill classes, adjusting proficiences when necessary, giving new class features to enable added attacks for combat-centric classes. We have a long list of how to convert some specific features, though spells is mostly given a "yep, converting this will be hard". Of course, it's worth noting there's no mention of lowering full Pathfinder casters from their 1st to 9th spell level progression to Starfinger's 1st to 6th level spell progression, meaning wizards still rock the spacefaring house.

Finally, we get full writeups for all of the old Pathfinder races here in the back.

I feel like a memo got missed somewhere along the line. Despite racism largely having been supposedly discarded, elves and half-orcs are still loaded with discrimination baggage (as perpetrators or victims) as their primary traits, and gnomes are centered around a miscengenation dilemma. The dwarf writeup feels surprisingly thoughtless, as well. In general, the section feels a little off-note after the earlier race writeups, as if it was done by a different author than the core design leads.

After this, we have a glossary, most of which will be pretty familiar to d20 players that have gotten this far in the review. We're almost done.

Next: Appendix N.

"If we could do for space opera what Shadowrun did for cyberpunk, I’d be thrilled."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post


Starfinger Core Rules Part #28: "If we could do for space opera what Shadowrun did for cyberpunk, I’d be thrilled."
(James Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Gnome Stew interview.)

Presented without comment.




Next: The review at the end of the universe.

"If we terminate the License due to breach, you have to immediately stop selling products that use the Compatibility Logo and you must destroy all of your inventory of those products (including all marketing material)."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #29: "If we terminate the License due to breach, you have to immediately stop selling products that use the Compatibility Logo and you must destroy all of your inventory of those products (including all marketing material)."
(Credit: Starfinger Compatibility License.)

But do you want to compete with Paizo at their own game? Seems like a great plan for all the remoras out there. Well now you can... again! It's time for the Starfinger Compatibility License, which just like the Pathfinder Compatibility License, lets any person fall backwards into Starfinger publishing! Essentially, it lets you use the Starfinger logo and declare compatibility as long as you abide by Paizo's rules - no making a supplement that looks official, no "adult" or "offensive" content, nothing outright illegal, etc. And if you violate it... well, see the quote above. And so they know which people have signed up for this, they have a public registry. Which, as far as I can tell, they never review, check, or edit.

So, like the Pathfinder review, before we're through, let's take at best worst beworst entries on the registry. If you're just a little dev that really doesn't deserve this, you have my meaningless apologies.

Bat in the Attic Games posted:

I would be using the [Starfinger] rules to implement the Majestic Stars setting I have developed for the science fiction genre. Products would be a series of rules supplements, setting books, and adventures.


Mankind has reached the stars only to find… Earth
Birds flying under distant skies, fish swimming unexplored seas, and dinosaurs ruling unknown continents. On a hundred words there are the children of Earth. Children from an Earth of sixty-five million years ago.

Now man has outgrown his cradle and traveled into the black, wondering who and what scattered the seeds of Earth throughout the cosmos. Mankind is forging a new life among the stars but old fears and conflicts still threaten. The year is 2425 and this is their universe, the Majestic Stars.
What is the status of humanity?

Humanity has spread out in a 100 light year sphere centered on Earth and the other core worlds. They are still divided into nations and many world have multiple governments. There been limited exploration out to 500 light years. Hundreds of inhabitable worlds are known. It is appears that the vast majority of them are terraformed worlds that were created by a dinosaurian civilization dating from 65 million years ago.


It appears that the ancient dinosaurians terraformed most potentially inhabitable world within their range. The limits of which hasn’t been reached yet.

On some the descendants of dinosaurs still roam. On others they died out, mammals or other animal orders have taken their place. On at least two worlds, sentient life developed and created their own civilization. The mammalian Kang'rits whoes technology was a century behind humanity at the time of first contact, and the Saurians whose technology is a century ahead of humanity. The Saurians are descended from dinosaurs however they are not the Ancients of 65 million years ago.
Make space dinosaurs playable or hard pass.

When I looked up Tramma, I found more than I bargained for.

Davide Tramma posted:

The products are adventures/adventure paths compatible with the [Starfinger] core rulebook.
The will use the setting "The Pact Worlds System".
They will refer to the Product Identity as stated in the rules.
Is is possible to get this specific license in order to use the setting "The Pact World System" and produce e-book ?

Dear Paizo: please don't license out your setting to right-wing Italian fascists. That wouldn't happen... could it?

GeekPunk posted:

THE OUTBLACK - Amid the darkest portion of space, where the even the ancient light of the stars seem unable to penetrate the dark shroud of a post-apocalyptic expanse, the denizens of planets long destroyed struggle to survive amid the merciless void of the Outblack.
THE OUTBLACK is a proposed campaign setting for [STARFINGER].

It's said that not even light can escape the egotistical pull of an edgelord.

John R Davis posted:


Of all the great mysteries in the universe, one fact had always been held to be true. There is nothing beyond the Black Expanse.
Smah’ala Space Station, orbiting the great class III sun prides itself at being the Bastion of the Last Breath, The Anchor of Civilisation, the final point of cheer, beyond which there is nothing.

This is all set to change.

It is well documented that each time a ship enters Hyperspace a slight, near undetectable tear is known to open into the planes beyond. Recently a tear has grown in size and stability. Some call it a Rift in space. Through this burgeoning gap signals are beginning to be detected. They come not from the planes elsewhere, but from beyond the black expanse itself. Or so the greatest minds thought at that time.

A probe was hastily sent through and strange data arrays began to be broadcast back to the space station. Beyond all myth and legends, a Jump-Gate was detected, the safe and instant way to travel with no risk!!. The long held dream of all space-farers.

A crew of ready volunteers, some of the most experienced, intellectual, and bravest in the known worlds were sent through in the most modern and powerful ship able to squeeze into the fluctuating anomaly. Something went wrong, terribly wrong. Not only was all contact lost with the starship Herald but the rift began to become unstable and start to close. To the dismay of all, the chance to find an ancient Jump-Gate seemed diminished.

An eminent scientist, too old to travel she claims, found the cause of the catastrophe, the starships' energy profile was very high and caused a calamitous interaction with the rift. She proposes a low tiered vessel, a basic explorer designation craft, could simply drift through the tear on minimal power, and survive. With its crew, intact.

This is where you come in.

Sector Crawl: Beyond the Black Expanse is a 64 page 3-D hexploration set in the great beyond, for 1st level PC’s using the [Starfinger Core Rules]. It promises great glory, or a grim death, for those who dare to try to uncover its secrets.

An Adventure Scape (a sandbox in space) allowing the freedom to explore in any direction.
A set of ancient mysteries, long-held legends, and hidden untruths to discover.
A myriad of random and range encounters.
Aliens to encounter, moons to explore, resources to exploit and entities to exterminate.
Enough content to get PCs to at least 7th level.

3-D hexploration, huh? Also how black is space, let me tell you how black it is-

Production Platform 3 Toys, LLC posted:

Production Platform 3 will initially be converting our original Pathfinder Roleplaying Game sci-fi supplements to the [Starfinger Core Rules] mechanics and then expanding our catalog - from genetically-engineered humans to alien flora and fauna to be used anywhere adventurers dare to go. From super-soldiers to sky-sharks to space galleons, we're here for you.

Watch for our stand-alone campaign settings - RadLands and Crossing the Black - currently being developed!
It's so black.

Actual quote: "Next NPC up, Master Chief Squeaky, head of Custodial services aboard the Uranus Hertz. Created by Sean McMannamy."

Time for the cutting edge of planetary puns with:

Happy Gnome Publishing posted:

Happy Gnome Publishing, led by best-selling Spec Fiction author T.J. Lantz, is proud to announce Redshirts, a twelve level Sci-fi/Comedy campaign guaranteed to provide the funniest experiences in the Galaxy. Taking cues from genre classics such as Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Spaceballs, and Futurama, Redshirts aims to take you where no man has ever really wanted to go before (Like to pick up the captain's dry cleaning from a quarantined planet or to get the command crew tacos from a nearly abandoned space station). Everyone know the universe is a dangerous place, but it's even worse when you're a Redshirt.

Redshirts will be available September 2017.
"He's dead, Jim!" "It's okay, go ahead and cast mystic cure." "Oh, right. Jim, that tired old gag of mine doesn't really work in this system, does it?" "I suppose it doesn't, Bones, but given the ability of transporters to just replicate a person, in body, mind, and soul: did it ever really work?"

Well, at least there's unintentional humor in Starfinger to be found?

Louis Porter Jr. Design Inc. posted:

Polymecha - General [Starfinger] material
What, not Haven: System of Violence?

Nkids posted:

Dew Crew
Squirtle Squad

Have I mentioned that Paizo just lets people post anything to this registry? Well, there you go. One publisher posted themselves twice... or maybe there are two different companies named "Misfit Games".

Rite Publishing posted:

Jade Nebula Campaign Setting
Have you considered just calling it "Space China" or "China in Space" or "Kung Fu 2100"?

Ryan Wolfe posted:

I have a couple dozen starship designs that I have developed over the last decade or so and sell on RPGNow:


My plan is to create additional content to facilitate the use of these and future ships in [Starfinger].

I'd also love to work on official [Starfinger] products if I could be of service.

~Ryan Wolfe
I can understand putting in a job application online can feel like you're just flinging it into the void, but in this case it's literally true.

Silver Games LLC posted:

None yet, but Ponyfinder will launch to the stars, given time.
Oh. Well. Good for them.

given the endless march of space is so dark settings this actually feels like something of a respite

Spellhawks Press posted:

Riftjammers - The Alaxia Expanse is a star system on the Outer Fringes of the Great Verse. Transplanar travel through rifts in the void are dangerous and unpredictable but it gets you where you need to go. News of the Drift network in other systems has many talking but it's still the frontier in Alaxia. Too survive you need a ship,crew, and nerves of steel to enter the rifts.
A sentient Godmind A.I called Nexyss created the Omnicortex. A vast artificial mindscape that allows the flow of information, entertainment, and commerce.
All material is still being written & playtested. Nothing is official yet.
I'll wait for the official version, then.

Stephen Robertson - Final Frontiers - Prth posted:

I am the proud owner of a complete Pathfinder collection, part Physical, Part digital, and use it to promote Pazio content here in Perth through the Tabletop Gaming Organisation I am part of.
Did... you register just to brag? Well, to each their own.

Storm Bunny Studios posted:

Our first new setting will be Alessia - A Magitech World. Built to support 5e, [Starfinger], and Pathfinder, Alessia is a world that has reached the height of its magical development, which it has nurtured to replace technology at almost every level of society. Combining its understanding of magic with its need to reach the stars, Alessia has become a sanctuary world for over two dozen different races; it is a place of transformation and expansion, a world filled with Peace Keepers fighting to keep an encroaching darkness at bay.

Storm Bunny Studios will also be introducing Rænor, the Bloodlands, a Nexus System planet recovering from global devastation caused by the Everheart's Fall and the Skyfires it caused. Now in its Third Age, Rænor is waking up, recovering its history, and actively working to regain its place in a much larger universe.
All, yes, I remember Everheart's Fall and the Skyfires, and all sorts of other word salad that means nothing when you're doing a paragraph pitch for your game, stop that.

"But don't you want to know what that means-", the straw designer mumbles.


Terran Empire Publishing posted:

We hope to adapt our Pathfinder compatible campaign setting, Manastorm: World of Shin'ar, to [Starfinger]. The new setting will take place in the Milky Way Galaxy, centered on Earth and the Terran Empire that has risen from the ashes of alien occupation.
Wait, if it's centered on Earth, why is it called...?

Third-Party Publishers posted:

Use of the [Starfinger] Roleplaying Game Compatibility Logo for advertising licensed products, including on product covers and in product descriptions, per Exhibit A: Usage Requirements.
I don't know if this is a template that just somehow got put on the list or what. Did I mention they don't ever seem to check it?

XII-IXX (Twelve-Nineteen) posted:

As an imprint of GeekPunk Games, XII-IXX will expand THE OUTBLACK campaign setting, as well as additional [STARFINGER] compatible products including...

GRIMM SPACE - An original campaign setting inspired by the tales of the Brothers Grimm with a dark sci-fi edge.
Wait, why do you need an imprint for work in the same setting... wait, is that a space station made of gingerbread?

Mmmm. Looks delicious. Set a course!


"So take home a deck of [Starfinger] Condition Cards—and all its space goblins—today. Please."

posted by Alien Rope Burn Original SA post

Starfinger Core Rules Part #30: "So take home a deck of [Starfinger] Condition Cards—and all its space goblins—today. Please."

Jason Keeley, Starfinger Design Team Member, Paizo Blog posted:

These goblins have already tipped over the office fridge and are starting to gnaw on boxes of Flip-Mats. Oh no! I think they've made it to the serv—

They published the Adventure Path before the Alien Archive.

And why wouldn't they, really? Here you are, with your new copy of Starfinger Core Rules hot in your hand, but you don't have enough to run it. Ideally, you want the Alien Archive to complete your game, but it's not out for two whole months. So you pick up Dead Suns 1 - Incident at Absolom Station and run it with your friends. Eventually the Alien Archive comes out, but your friends ask: are you going to run Dead Suns 2 - Temple of the Twelve? And, well, it's the next part! It's only natural to run it. So why not?

Paizo wouldn't want to sell you the Alien Archive right off the bat, as a marketer. What you want to do is put everything else out there, whether those are Starfinger Pawns, Starfinger Condition Cards, Starfinger GM Screen, Starfinger Player Character Folio, Starfinger Combat Pad. Man, you wanted that Alien Archive, but maybe the pawns sound handy. So you pick those up and use them while running Incident at Absolom Station. Then, when the next set of pawns drops, it's designed for use with Alien Archive. So why wouldn't you pick them up? And when the minis come out, well, you're already used to using the Flip-Mats...

There's even a subscription for Starfinger accessories. When I harped a bit about Starfinger Core Rules declaring itself "everything you need", that was a soft target. Maybe it was just a typo. A marketing typo. But it's even softer when you realize that by no means does Paizo want you to just buy the core. I mean, they do, but what they want is to get people invested long term. And if they can get you to play through a year of a six-part Adventure Path, you're in. You're invested.

And that may sound like a condemnation, but I'm actually somewhat impressed. It's savvy. And it's hard making money at RPGs, and I have to admire anybody who can manage it. After all, most games you can walk home with the core and maybe a supplement or two and run for six months to a year without dropping money again. Paizo makes money at it - pretty good money from all appearances. Their GenCon booth is downright spacious, as you can see below. A lot of people just credit them for seizing the existing Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 fandom as the secret to their success, but I'm not sure that would be sustainable. I think it was relevant to their intitial success, but building on that success, we see all the lessons brought forth here in Starfinger... for both good and ill.

James L. Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Gnome Stew Interview posted:

Starfinger APs will be very much like Pathfinder APs, and we hope that you’ll subscribe! They’ll come out every month, so you’ll be getting two complete adventure paths a year, just like with Pathfinder. The books themselves will be a bit smaller, but they’re going to be your primary vector for all things Starfinger—in addition to the adventures, they’ll also have setting information, new rules systems, new monsters, etc. Unlike with Pathfinder, where we have a bunch of different product lines, Starfinger’s going to have a much smaller number of releases—mostly just the adventure path. So instead of getting your rules from one line, your setting info from another, and so on, you can subscribe to just one line and get pretty much everything.

James L. Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Geek & Sundry Interview posted:

With Starfinger we’re looking to do away with the distinction of “This is a rules book, this is a campaign setting book versus an adventure. If you like Starfinger, subscribe to the Starfinger line, get the adventure path, and that’ll also give you your rules for things related to it. The hope is that every month people will be getting another cool bite of that universe, whether it’s lore or crunch. You know, Paizo came from Dungeon and Dragon [magazines] and I used to be the editor/developer on Dungeon Magazine and that had the same vibe. Even early Pathfinder was just a monthly Adventure Path, and that was how we told you about the world.

James L. Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer Interview posted:

The adventure paths will be not just where we’re presenting adventure information, but really where we’re expanding the setting and the ruleset. It’ll be a little more comprehensive and address a lot of different things. So our hope is that means even more people will get into the adventure paths, just as their regular way to get more Starfinger content. With Pathfinder we had more of a pick and choose thing where it was: “Decide which elements of Pathfinder you’re most excited about,” and you can subscribe just to that. With Starfinger, we really want to say: “No, this is the game.” The stuff that we put out is going to be so important that you kind of just want to get the Starfinger stuff rather than some set of the Starfinger stuff, and in exchange, we won’t put out 10,000 books and make you go broke.

If only the game was better.

I believe some folks will point to one recurring joke I did and conclude "well, he didn't want to take it seriously anyway". And that's fine, it'll happen. I make a lot of fun in my reviews, I do, but it's not necessarily a criticism in and of itsel. However, I ran Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 for years and wrote hundreds of pages of fan material, some of it even licensed by Wizards of the Coast. I knew d20 very, very well back then. And while the game is profoundly flawed, I think you could take the Lego bricks of late-era 3.5 and make a pretty solid game. Unfortunately, Pathfinder dialed the game back to 2003. However, with nearly a decade since its release, I figured Paizo might be itching to do something new. I was legitimately interested to see, at the very least, a refined version of what they've been doing.

And let's get this out of the way: the major improvement is in the classes. They're far more robust and balanced. Granted, some are much more flexible or powerful than others, but the tiers of balance have narrowed, at least. The Envoy is obviously the weakest of the lot - fans have been calling that out as well - but there's nothing quite as bad as the Fighter or Monk were in Pathfinder. Feats have improved, if only incrementally - there's nothing as bad as Dodge or Weapon Focus was, though a number of the weaker feats (Lightning Reflexes, Skill Focus) were retained for some reason. Even spellcasting is much better balanced - still broken, but far less so. In general, the tiers between classes have narrowed significantly and there aren't any that seem straight-up unfun to play.

Where the game completely lost me was the equipment, though. It's simultaneously exacting and abstract at the same time, trying to be "realistic" in tying weapon damage to specific guns... but also making the entire economy abstracted in relation to it. But, at the same time, it wants to have "real" costs in an effectively unrealistic economy, and adds a layer of bookkeeping on both the player and gamemaster side of things without significantly improving the game aside from being able to do a it costs X to fire this gun for Z seconds reference. I'm not sure, in particular, in a "game for everybody" you'd have game accounting like this. It could have been trimmed down immensely.

Then we get into the effectively rushed and seemingly unfinished material - the vehicle rules, the limited spaceship rules, the broken DC values of many rolls, etc. For a company of Paizo's stature, this is inexcusable. While a game like Starfinger is near-impossible to fully playtest, given the time it takes to play out a full campaign and the number of mechanical options, the points where it breaks down should not be so immediately obvious. Some break points are inevitable, but here they're just nakedly clear on a extremely basic reading of the rules. And unlike the equipment section, this isn't a matter of personal taste, but numerous places where the rules lead to unintended results, like a starfighter pilot being unable to shoot and maneuver at the same time, or cars having to take turns at under 10 MPH.

And the setting - well, it has some interesting ideas. A lot of the odder worlds have interesting hooks, but the book doesn't have enough room to flesh them out. However, the feel of a "fantasy space setting" generally falls flat. Though we're told that magic and technology have fused to an extent, there's very little that gives that impression in the actual equipment section, which generally leans towards a standard sci-fi arsenal with a few magic oddities. And when we get to the worlds, that's even less so - the only reason to know it isn't just a standard sci-fi setting is because they insist otherwise. But magic only shows up with they absolutely need it, such as the necromancers of Eox, and then vanishes behind the curtain behind a veneer of standard space opera. The villainous factions in particular fall flat, having all of the cartoon villainy of the chaos factions of Warhammer 40,000 without the humor or heavy metal bombast. And without nuance or depth to carry them through, you mostly have just human-faced monsters to replace the orc hordes of old.

In fact, Starfinger is brazenly derivative at points. And that's not actually a problem if you have enough creative energy to make a recycled idea interesting again, but Starfinger... often feels like it's just filling out quotas. "Did you like Jedi, we've got those! Did you like Aliens? Got those too. Firefly? Don't worry..."

James L. Sutter, Starfinger Creative Director, Game Informer interview posted:

I actually think that the second Thor movie, The Dark World, watching that I remember at the time joking: “Oh well, that’s my favorite of any of the Star Wars movies,” because there’s so much of that which has that futuristic fantasy feel, where there’s starships blasting people, but also magic. So I think that felt very akin.

Oh, geez, I would've been totally down for Space Thor. Why didn't they make that?

Ultimately, it's a disappointment, and it makes the brazen push towards the "gotta buy it all!" marketing ring even more hollow than it would normally. It's disappointing. After all their years on working on somebody else's game, I'd have thought they'd be more willing to push the envelope than they did, but Starfinger is exceedingly "safe". There's very few surprises for dedicated Pathfinder fans, and not much to attract people who didn't like Pathfinder to begin with. Whether or not it's intentional, it seems aimed at milking their existing audience rather than significantly growing it.

But I don't know why I'm that surprised. Of the three principal designers, there isn't any apparent game writing experience outside of the d20 design bubble. James L. Sutter has written almost exclusively for Pathfinder (aside from some previous Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 magazine work). Robert G. McCreary started writing as a Pathfinder fan and has exclusively only ever written for Pathfinder. Owen K.C. Stephens is the only time you find broader experience, having gotten his start writing for the first edition of Star Wars d20, but even then he's only written for d20 material, like the Everquest Role-Playing Game or Gamma World Sixth Edition. While I have no doubt they might be familiar with games outside of the d20 bubble, they don't have professional experience there. And in Starfinger, that shows. Instead of innovating, it's more often just reshuffling chairs.

Once again, I wanted to like it. I actually kind of miss picking out the perfect prestige class for my character and finding weird mechanical combos. I miss the weird ideas that came out of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 later in its lifespan - the odd new races and classes, new kinds of magic, new options that turned the game on its head - and to an extent, Pathfinder has some of those. However, compared to its forebears, Starfinger is far more conservative. While Wizards of the Coast attempted to push the envelope on a relatively regular basis, Pathfinder lives in mortal fear of alienating its subscribers or introducing anything that might shake the game's compatibility with existing Adventure Paths.

It's still okay to play, and I have no doubt people will enjoy it. There will no doubt be uncritical reviews out there, much like the sort of softball marketing-masked-as-interviews I've gotten to quote throughout this piece. You can probably do a fair amount of game without seeing the cracks. But the fact that the cracks are there - and that they're obvious on a simple cover-to-cover read - means I just can't recommend it, especially in an industry that has games like Ashen Stars, Fragged Empire, or Stars Without Number. Or even just Star Wars. No doubt Starfinger will be a hit, but it feels it's as much to do with marketing as it might have to do with merit.

And that's all...

... wait, the Alien Archive is out? Already? The review took that long to- FUUUUUUUUUUU-

Back to it, then.

Next: This review is now over. If you have experienced any frustration because of this review, please enjoy a calming musical interlude before the next review. Thank you for reading.