Starfinder is the newest addition to Paizo’s range of tabletop RPG’s, debuting in 2017 to critical acclaim. Despite its high tech space opera appearance, it isn’t a game that strays too far from the path…finder. Set in the same universe as Paizo’s flagship game but far in Golarion’s possible future, it adds lasers, aliens, spaceships, and teleporters to Paizo’s eclectic game world. To get a primer on Starfinder and all the options available to new players, I spoke to the game’s Creative Director Robert G. McCreary at Paizo’s booth at GenCon.
Dan: I’m coming into this as a Pathfinder player for a long time and for me, that sort of WAS Paizo. That’s what it was, they were intertwined. And I think this idea is still true for many people, even now that Starfinder has been out for a year. Can you give me a brief idea of the game and maybe of the game’s setting?
Robert McCreary: We consider it a “possible future” of Pathfinder. In Pathfinder we had a book called Distant Worlds that sort of described the solar system Golarion is in, and we found that that was a natural focus for the setting and took it into the future. We wanted to know what these planets are, what are they like in the future, etc. In this future, we’ve created this thing called “Pact Worlds” where they’ve sort of come together for mutual defense. Golarion, the planet of Pathfinder, has vanished. The gods are saying nothing. They could, but they’re just saying that things are ok, that it’s just off somewhere and in its place is a space station: Absalom Station.
This is the home of humanity now. There’s 14 Pact Worlds worlds, including Absalom Station, in this solar system. There’s a whole bunch of different flavors of planets, and that’s just the center of the game. You have the whole galaxy to explore in this game, and there’s a number of planetary groups around there that interact with the Pact Worlds, so you can set your game as closely focused or as widely ranging as possible.
Dan: How do you approach space travel?
RM: So space travel is a very important aspect of the game. The default assumption is that you’re playing the crew of a starship. And we’ve got starship building rules and starship combat rules, and as you go up in level you upgrade your starship as well.
For space travel, there’s a new god for Starfinder: Triune, The Machine God. It’s a triple god that appeared about three hundred years ago and basically gifted space travel to the universe through “drift,” which is an alternate plane of existence kind of like hyperspace that is only available through technology that Triune basically told everyone how to use. You enter this plane, travel through it, and come out somewhere else in the galaxy.
Dan: So it’s the far possible future for Pathfinder, a related setting. How have racial and class dynamic changed in this alternate space-faring future.
RM: Quite a bit. We have seven core races and seven core classes, the only one of which that you’ll probably recognize is human. There’s six other alien races that make up the core races of Starfinder.
There’s new classes that hit on the same themes. There’s the Soldier, which is kind of like the Fighter. The Technomancer, which is a kind of space-wizard that blends technology and magic together. The Starfinder rulebook does have a legacy chapter that gives playable stats for the sort of “classic” Pathfinder fantasy races like elves, and dwarves, and gnomes etc. You can still play them, but they’re not the center of the setting anymore. And beyond that, to sort of capture that “Star Wars cantina” feel, any monster you fight we give you the playable stats as well. So you can flip through the monster book go, “Hey, that looks weird. I want to play that!” and, sure enough, you can go ahead and play that as well.
Dan: But, mechanics wise, it’s still largely the same system that Pathfinder runs on?
RM: It’s based off of Pathfinder, but obviously things are different. There’s no spaceships or lasers or robots in Pathfinder…well there are robots but they’re based on a whole different thing than the ones in Starfinder. So we made another few tweaks to the rules. It’s still mostly the same, but there’s been a few changes. Like, you don’t get extra attacks as your base attack bonus goes up. Instead, everybody starting at 1st level can make two attacks except they have a -4 on both of those attacks. Some classes, like Soldiers, get to offset that penalty a little bit. Armor class has been changed as well. Instead of things like touch, flat footed etc., there’s just two: energy and kinetic, and which weapon you’re using decides which armor class you’re affecting. There’s a few other tweaks but you’re still rolling a d20, you’re still making saving throws.
Dan: So what’s the scope of Starfinder in terms of what’s been published? And what’s new at GenCon?
RM: So this GenCon we came out with the Starfinder Armory, which is just filled with tons and tons of equipment for the game: weapons, armor, magic items, tech items, augmentations like cybernetics and biotech, new vehicles. That’s really been the big thing, because in any science-fiction or science-fantasy game equipment is going to play a big part. We have a pretty sizeable equipment chapter in the Core Rulebook, but this gives us even more options.
We also have the Alien Archive, which is full of all the aliens and monsters that you’ll want to fight. We’ve got Pact Worlds, which is really our campaign setting book. The Core Rulebook has a little section on the world, but this lets us really do a deep dive into each of the planets of the Pact Worlds and maps of those planets.
We’ve got a complete adventure path that’s out now: Dead Suns. All six volumes are out, it’s a whole campaign. And we’re going be doing that every month from now on; this month we’re going to be releasing the Against The Aeon Throne adventure path, where you go up against the evil Azlanti Star Empire. It’s gonna be a lot of fun. And so every month after that we’re going to have new adventures come out. We’ve got flip mats, all sorts of stuff. We also just announced that we’re doing a Starfinder Beginner Box that’s coming out this spring. It’s gonna be sort of an introductory set to bring you to the rules and the setting, all in one box: characters, adventure, rules, dice pawns, everything. It’s really something for people who may be a little intimidated by a big, 500-page rule book.
Dan: Is there anything else to Starfinder we missed?
RM: We’ve also got the Starfinder Organized Play program. People might be familiar with the Pathfinder Society, which follows the same sort of thing at conventions or game stores. You can go, meet other players, try out the game—we’ve got new scenarios coming out every month that you can download from Paizo.com—and really just meet all kinds of people that like Starfinder and just want to play.
A big thank you to Robert McCreary for taking the time to speak with me about Starfinder. For full product descriptions and purchasing information, you can check out the Starfinder portion of Paizo.com. And keep an eye out here for more news on Starfinder as well as in depth looks at all their newest releases!