The dividing line between fantasy and science fiction can be difficult to define. I’ve been on convention panels on the subject a few times, at both ConFusion in Detroit and Windycon in Chicago, and have been in the audience of even more of them, but never once have I seen a group of people fully agree on where that diving line is, or even that such a definition exists. The genre is so fluid, including settings with science so fantastic and magical systems so dogmatic that the dividing line seems impossible to lay out. Many of us are fans of both and always have been, though perhaps we appreciate science fiction and fantasy for different reasons, regardless of how we define them.
This weekend, at PaizoCon, the creators of the Pathfinder RPG announced that they would be happily dancing along this boundary with the new Starfinder RPG. With the Starfinder RPG Core Rulebook slated for an August 2017 release date, it looks like this will create whole spacefaring options set in the distant future of the Pathfinder setting, as described in the announcement blog post:
Starfinder is set in Golarion’s solar system, but far in a possible future—one in which the gods have mysteriously spirited Golarion away to an unknown location, and refuse to answer questions about it. In its place, the cultures of that world have evolved and spread throughout the solar system, especially to a vast space platform called Absalom Station. Gifted access to a hyperspace dimension by an ascended AI deity, the residents of the system suddenly find themselves with the ability to travel faster than light, and the race is on to explore and colonize potentially millions of worlds. But there are horrors out there in the darkness…
We’ll try to keep you up to date with new announcements as they become available, particularly closer to the 2017 release date. The definitive place to keep tabs on the development of the Starfinder RPG, and to possibly hear about playtest opportunities, would be at the new Starfinder Forum over at Paizo.com.
As great as this is, it’s worth noting that this isn’t Pathfinder’s first foray into overlapping their Pathfinder campaign setting with science fiction. The planet Golarion includes the nation of Numeria, the location of an ancient meteor (and more) shower, and resulted in a lot of crashed superscience technology that, over the years, has sometimes been discovered and activated. Though discussed in various materials, including the Inner Sea World Guide (Paizo, Amazon) Numeria entry, the real height of exploring this came during the Iron Gods Adventure Path (Paizo, Amazon), a campaign scenario in which characters become deeply involved with the war to control this vast super-technology. Nor have these been the only instances of Pathfinder exploring its sci-fi side:
- Pathfinder Tales: Reign of Stars by Tim Pratt (Paizo, Amazon) – This novel focuses on an exiled alchemist who returns to Numeria, and to the Technic League he fled, in an attempt to redeem himself, and also get access to cool new technology.
- Numeria, Land of Fallen Stars (Paizo, Amazon) – This installment of the Pathfinder Campaign Setting series of books provides a deep dive into the nation of Numeria, for those wishing to set their adventures there.
- Distant Worlds (Paizo, Amazon) – One of the first detailed explorations, this manual has information on the physical properties of the various other worlds in Golarion’s solar system, as well general information on their societies, the races that live there, and the dangers that await adventurers who stray too far from Golarion.
- People of the Stars (Paizo, Amazon) – Since Golarion isn’t the only world in the system, this Pathfinder Player Companion focuses on the races that come from those other worlds.
- Inner Sea Bestiary (Paizo, Amazon) – Though not centrally focused on technology, this manual does include statistics for androids (including as a PC race) as well as various sorts of robotic monsters.
- Technology Guide (Paizo, Amazon) – This volume focuses on the science fiction technology, mostly available through Numeria, but also through other means, including visitors from those other worlds. If your gunslinger wants a laser pistol, this is the manual for you.
James L. Sutter, the Creative Director of Starfinder, is a longtime friend of Black Gate. (Yes, blogs can have friends.) You can see some of our previous interviews with him (here and here), as well as reviews of his novels in the Pathfinder Tales line, Death’s Heretic and The Redemption Engine, which chronicle the adventures of an atheist warrior sworn into the service of a god. With his hand at the wheel, I have little doubt that the end product will be well worth a year’s worth of anticipation.
No pressure, though.
Other Paizo Announcements
In addition to announcing Starfinder RPG, Paizo also announced a number of other upcoming products recently. Each is surely worth a complete stand-alone discussion, but in the meantime, here’s the breakdown of what’s on the horizon:
- Later this year, the Pathfinder RPG Villain Codex, “full of villainous gangs, demon knights, merry outlaws, sinister cults, new rules for each organization, and tips for using these foes in your own game.”
- August 2016, the Strange Aeons Adventure Path begins, a series of 6 monthly adventure books that detail a campaign in which “heroes will be up against cosmic horrors of the Cthulhu Mythos, new monsters, mind-shattering terrors, and explore far beyond the known lands of Golarion.” This will no doubt draw heavily from the upcoming Pathfinder RPG Horror Adventures, so be on the lookout for that as well in the next few weeks.
- September 2016, Curse of the Crimson Throne Hardcover, collecting together the content from the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path into one volume.
- Spring 2017 the Pathfinder RPG Encounter Codex, “which will contain encounters from levels 1-20.”
As always, there’s a lot to look forward to coming out of the Paizo workshop, so get your D20s ready.
Andrew Zimmerman Jones is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. In addition to being a contributing editor to Black Gate magazine, Andrew is the author of String Theory For Dummies. He has written for About.com Physics, PBS NOVA, and assorted other publications on themes related to science and popular culture. You can follow his exploits on Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+.