For years, the publisher Paizo has been one of the major presences at GenCon. I still remember years ago (2009, I believe) coming upon their booth and seeing a pile of hardcover books for their new (at the time) Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook (now available in paperback, as well). I didn’t realize at the time that it was transforming the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons into a completely new and improved system of mechanics, and how many hours I would spend in the years to come pouring over their manuals, supplements, and novels.
Though they had some new releases this year, I was really interested in getting more information about their big 2017 release, the science fantasy game Starfinder RPG. We covered this when it was originally announced back in May, but a lot of questions were left open.
I sat down with James Sutter, the Creative Director of Starfinder, and author of two Pathfinder Tales novels, Death’s Heretic and The Redemption Engine. He is also continuing his work as the editor of the Pathfinder Tales line of books. Together with the work as the new Creative Director of Starfinder, this means it may be hard to fit in the writing of a third novel, but as a fan I’ll keep my fingers crossed. For now, he’s definitely got his hands full in bringing Starfinder RPG into the world.
The Starfinder RPG will be set in the distant future of the Pathfinder universe, in the surrounding solar system of planets. Golarion, the world upon which Pathfinder is set, has vanished, whisked away by the gods for unknown reasons, replaced by a giant space station. These other planets have already been introduced in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting volume Distant Worlds (Paizo, Amazon), but the technology and societies will be advanced by thousands of years in the future, having developed travel between these planets.
However, the gods are still active. For example, James hinted that Abadar, the god of commerce, will be worshipped through a massive organization known as Abadar Corp. Much of the rest of the pantheon will be around, but some of the other previous gods may be (inexplicably) missing, and there will be new gods as well. If I may speculate, some of the lesser deities like Demon Lords or Empyreal Lords may have moved up the chain, or perhaps in the intervening thousands of years there were some successful human ascension to godhood. And there will certainly be atheists (as there are in the Pathfinder setting), who may view the divine powers as merely an insufficiently-understood influence of powerful aliens that are ultimately amenable to scientific inquiry.
These changes in the divine status quo continue to have real consequences for the characters. Indeed, it turns out that a newly-risen god of artificial intelligence (which, James hinted, will be rooted in a god already existing within the Pathfinder game) has granted knowledge of faster-than-light travel, allowing adventurers to set out from their known cluster of worlds to explore distant regions of space and face new threats. This technology, however, involves traveling through a newly-discovered plane, and there are questions about the possible consequences about using the faster-than-light travel.
One of the best features of Pathfinder is that the world is so richly developed that really you can run an adventure in virtually any fantasy genre on Golarion. James confirmed that this will extend into Starfinder as well. Several genres of futuristic space adventures will have a potential place within the Starfinder game, ranging from Aliens-, Dead Space-, or Predator-style space horror adventures to John Carter of Mars-style planetary romances to Neuromancer– or Shadowrun-style cyberpunk to Star Wars-style intergalactic war to Star Trek-style exploration of new worlds, to name just a few possibilities. The recent emphasis on the Outer Gods existing in the Dark Tapestry of distant space, and even Cthulhu himself appearing in Bestiary 4 (Paizo, Amazon), provides some additional implications for what may exist out in the darkness of the unknown regions now being explored.
With the vast array of Pathfinder sourcebooks that are released on a regular basis, I wanted to know what to expect as releases for the Starfinder line of supplements. Would there be Campaign Setting and Player Companions books released every month, along with a Starfinder Adventure Path volume? James said that wasn’t the plan, and the releases would be more narrowly focused for Starfinder. The initial release will be a core rulebook, along with possible some accessories like a GM screen, but there will not be a slew of manuals coming out. There will be a Starfinder Adventure Path, and James foresees that as the major mechanism by which there will be new Starfinder setting information, player options, and monsters released. (I did not ask if we could expect Starfinder Tales novels, but we can live in hope.)
The last year has really seen Paizo trying to expand the themes associated with the Pathfinder game system. Earlier this year, they released the Ultimate Intrigue (Paizo, Amazon) manual, which introduces the Vigilante class and focuses on political intrigue adventures, such as heists, essentially setting up the possibility of an entirely different type of play than the traditional fantasy RPG. Their brand-new volume, Horror Adventures (Paizo, Amazon), helps create horror-themed adventures, with rules for a sanity/madness accounting system and gaining corruptions that slowly manifest a stain of evil upon the characters. (These include some great tips for me to incorporate into my D&D Curse of Strahd campaign, as well.) The next natural place for them to go is into the realm of science fiction.
James indicated that Paizo’s upcoming main books would focus on fleshing out adversaries, and the November hardcover release Villain Codex will do this by detailing 20 villainous organizations that can be dropped into Pathfinder games.