One of my favorite games over the last year has been Starfinder, the “Dungeons & Dragons in space” game from the makers of the Pathfinder RPG. I’ve covered this game since its initial announcement, and was thrilled to begin playing it when it was initially released at Gen Con 2017.
Pathfinder typically releases a torrent of rulebooks and supplements over the course of the year, at least two softcover supplements a month plus an adventure module, but by comparison Starfinder was much more modest in its approach. As a new game, for one thing, they really had no idea exactly what kind of demand there would be. Since the release of the Starfinder Core Rulebook, there was a quick release of the Starfinder Alien Archive and then the Starfinder Pact Worlds setting book, both welcome additions. And they’ve released their bi-monthly Dead Suns Adventure Path over the course of the first year, providing an extended adventure campaign, setting information, equipment, and adversaries.
While the array of equipment originally offered in the Core Rulebook was impressive, a science fantasy game of flying between worlds in spaceships calls out for cool gadgets and robots and weapons and power armor, not to mention magical items. Some have been dropped here and there among the creatures and setting information, but Gen Con 2018 saw the release of the Starfinder Armory (Amazon, Paizo), which provides ample options for anyone who felt that their character’s inventory was lacking.
Let’s begin, as the Armory does, with weapons. The first 60 pages are devoted to weapons and weapon-related equipment, such as the weapon accessories and fusions that magically augment them. The first 17 pages of this weapon section are full of weapon tables, listing out hundreds of different weapons. Basic and advanced melee weapons, small arms, longarms, heavy weapons, and grenades. Different energy damage types, ranging from laser to cryo to sonic. The weapons accessories, like a bayonet bracket, silencer, stock, sight, and inertial dampener, are new ways to customize your weapons.
The armor section covers 16 pages, with new special materials and armor upgrades. While there are a variety of light and heavy armors, many of which have some great new features, the key thing in this section has to be the 18 new forms of powered armor. Even though only some character types – such as the Soldier with the Armor Storm combat style – lend themselves naturally to using powered armor, characters can gain proficiency through feats, so many different types of characters could make use of these powered armor options.
The Core Rulebook contained some Cybernetic and Biotech augmentations, but with the Armory they add Magitech and Necrograft augmentation options. Robot drones are now available, along with a plethora of other new technological items. The magic item section of the Core Rulebook struck me as somewhat skimpy, but they make up for it here by including Starfinder-appropriate variants of classic magic items like the Hat of Disguise, Elemental Gems, and Figurines of Wondrous Power. And basic gear and personal items, like hammocks, canteens, mess kits, and religious symbols are detailed, as well as a greater variety of vehicles, drugs, medicines, and poisons.
The final chapter of the book focuses on new equipment-themed class options. The Charisma-based Envoy class gets benefits that allow for support actions, like granting allies with free actions to reload weapons or drink serums, to enhance the effectiveness of thrown grenades, act as a battlefield medic, or other new character effects. Mystics have a new Connection called Geneturge, which grants magical power related to biotech augmentations, giving you the power to alter your very genetic structure and gain powerful new augmentation benefits. Every class gets some nice new options for those who really want to become one with their technology.
Probably my favorite of the many new class features, though, is the Operative’s new Utility Belt feature. It basically grants an Operative the ability to draw instantly any weapon that costs up to 1,000 credits from his belt. Doing so “spends” the equipment’s cost from the 1,000 value of the belt, but a few hours shopping in a city allows the Operative to replenish it. There are restrictions on the equipment that can be pulled from the Utility Belt, and it’s always limited to equipment that’s of lower level than the Operative himself, but still, it’s a powerful feature.
The one drawback of the book is that it’s only 157 pages of content, which for a $40 hardcover book may seem a bit steep. However, those 157 pages are jammed full of useful content, so the density of useful material is probably higher than most other books you’ll come across. And if that price is outside of your comfort zone for a book of this size, then you can buy the PDF version for a mere $9.99 from the Paizo website. But if you’re going to go exploring in the Vast, you’ll definitely want to gear up with this book at some point.
While all these gadgets and equipment-related options are great (and I’ve had my character hoarding credits in anticipation of its release), the setting of Starfinder is what really draws me into the game. This has largely been expanded through the Starfinder Society organized play program. They release a couple of Starfinder Society Scenarios a month in PDF for $4.99 (or $3.99 if you have an automatic subscription) through the Paizo website. I’ve run several of them for my family. My son and I went to the Origins Game Fair this year, and also participated in several Starfinder Society games, including their Season 1 culminating adventure The Scoured Stars Invasion. They do a great job of engaging with an evolving storyline, and the culmination in Scoured Stars Invasion was impressive for everyone involved, even a couple of friends who joined us in the game at Origins as their first Starfinder game. The season finale scenario resolved some key elements that drove the first season and set up new conflicts that will no doubt play out over the second season as new scenarios begin coming out.
So what else is on the horizon for Starfinder fans to look forward to? Before the end of the year, Paizo is releasing the Starfinder Alien Archive 2, which will provide even more options for player races, enemies, creatures, and monsters. They are also transitioning from their bi-monthly Adventure Path releases to monthly releases, including a couple of smaller 3-volume Adventure Paths. The second Adventure Path will begin at a higher level, so you can play through the Against the Aeon Throne Adventure Path, confronting the militant Azlanti Star Empire and their threat against the Pact Worlds system, and then pick up at level 7 with the Signal of Screams Adventure Path, a space horror-themed adventure where they investigate a strange signal from outer space that causes murderous madness.
If you haven’t yet jumped into Starfinder, spring of 2019 will see the release of the Starfinder Beginner Box. Like the similar product from Pathfinder, the Beginner Box will include a basic set of rules, pregenerated characters, a starting adventure, along with a map and pawns of characters and enemies used in the adventure. And, I imagine, a set of dice. Everything you’ll need to start playing the game.