Starfinder: Galaxy Exploration Guide and Tech Revolution

Starfinder: Galaxy Exploration Guide and Tech Revolution

Back in September, I made it back to Gen Con. It was different in so many ways after the year off from last year. First, and perhaps least significant, it was in mid-September instead of the beginning of August. On the personal level, it was extremely different because I was there as a game designer, playtesting my new card game design, Eureka Science Academy, in the First Exposure Playtest Hall (a profoundly unfortunately-named place to hang out during a global pandemic). Normally, I’m there on a press pass, and my goal is to get exposed to as much new material as I can to share with the Black Gate readership.

On top of all of that, though, it was profoundly different because most of my favorite game companies weren’t even there. No Paizo. No Privateer Press. No Fantasy Flight Games. No Asmodee. No Looney Labs. No IELLO. Instead, these companies took their Gen Con presence online this year, and Paizo had a particularly robust selection of online content.

Here’s a link to Paizo’s stream of Gen Con 2021 videos on YouTube, for those who would love to catch up with what they have planned for the coming months and years. Even when Paizo attended Gen Con, they’ve been really great about recording their sessions and sending those presentations out over YouTube, and I’m sure that as Gen Con’s online component continues to be a success, they’ll have a big presence in that as well as (hopefully) a physical presence for those of us who make it every year.

This upcoming year looks like it’s going to have some big things planned for Starfinder … but first, a look at this year.

One of the major releases earlier this year was the Starfinder Galaxy Exploration Manual. I went into this largely thinking that it would be a Gamemastery Guide for Starfinder, but that’s not exactly the right perspective on it. Don’t get me wrong…. This is absolutely an invaluable tool to Gamemasters who are running Starfinder adventures and, in particular, campaigns where they are exploring new worlds. The rules presented involve an exploration system and worldbuilding, with details on creating civilizations, handling biomes, different technologies, and things like that. The Galaxy Exploration Manual also has some useful information for PCs, with a host of new character options for various classes as well as exploration-themed equipment. Again, it’s absolutely invaluable for a broad and flexible range of Starfinder adventures, but I’d like to see new systems like chase rules, social combat, or the like.

If I felt that my “new subsystem” appetite wasn’t quite sated by the Galaxy Exploration Manual, then I certainly got what I bargained for in Starfinder Tech Revolution, which came out just recently. The big news: This book introduces mech combat into Starfinder. The mechs sort of follow the format of starship combat which, to be honest, is a part of Starfinder that can sort of drag, and which most of the time I feel like the group is sort of waiting to get through so they can resume the “real” roleplaying game. I actually like the Starfinder space combat system a lot, but it feels like a different game. (In fact, I’ve often said that I’ve wanted them to build a separate miniature tactical game around it.) The mech system somewhat bridges that divide between individual action and starship combat, and it’ll be interested to see how popular it becomes within the game system.

Instead of buying mechs with credits, like most other equipment, they’re built from a pool of points that the group has, much like starships. Presumably they would salvage or loot one to get started, and then slowly build from there. You pick a basic mech frame, and then build onto it with limb configurations, power cores, weapons, auxiliary systems, and possible upgrades. So you can build anything from a one-person ninja mech wielding a plasma sword to what is essentially a troop tank manned by a half-dozen crewmen. The options here are very diverse, and for players who have been waiting for this it provides the flexibility for interesting customization.

Beyond the mechs, the book has class options, new gears, and vehicles. It doesn’t go quite as deeply into player options as the previous Starfinder Armory, which was one of the earliest Starfinder sourcebooks, but it’s always nice to have some new gadgets and gizmos to add to the list of supplies and loot. This portion alone makes the supplement a solid addition to the game, even for players who aren’t necessarily going to incorporate the mech system into their adventures.

There is also a 35-page section called “Galaxy of Tech” which is an interesting decision, to say the least. It’s a thematic section, with page-long entries on things like “Food Technology” and “Advertisements.” I definitely see what they were going with here, and in a way this section is a lot of fun for a geek like me who really wants to dive into the themes behind the game, the technology, and the culture introduced in the Starfinder setting materials. But still … 35 pages is a lot of space to devote to what is essentially fluff. And while some of them are narrative, like the entries on different planets that have a “day in the life” sort of feel to them, there’s a three-and-a-half page section on Media that is basically just an essay about how films/serials, reality shows, sports, and news manifest on the different planets. Thematically, this is something that’s touched on all over the place in Starfinder, and one of the things I like about the game … but I’m not sure these nearly-four pages contribute much to that effort.

In addition to these rulebooks, Starfinder has continued releasing their regular Adventure Paths and Starfinder Society scenarios. The current Adventure Path is Horizons of the Vast, which is a massive sandbox-style Adventure Path that allows players to explore and build their own space colony by exploring the newly-discovered world of New Harmony. Players make decisions about how the colony develops, interact with leaders of other colonies and settlements on the planets, discover the flora and fauna on this new world, and explore the mysteries of ancient abandoned ruins. One of Pathfinder First Edition’s most popular games is Kingmaker, where the players literally build a kingdom from the ground up, and this is something of a “Kingmaker in space” successor to that classic adventure path. The Adventure Path begins with Planetfall (Amazon, Paizo).

There are big changes on the horizon for Starfinder as they move into next year. First, while there have been many resources released for Starfinder related to technology, their Galactic Magic rulebook – slated for a January 2022 release – focuses squarely on the magical aspect of the Starfinder adventure setting. Previous supplements have included magical items and spells for Starfinder, but this really dives into the heard of how magic operates in the universe, including magical organizations, spellcasting schools, and faith-based options. This will also feature the Precog, a new Starfinder class that has the mystical ability to through the flow of time and influence events to their advantage. If you like a little more magic in your science fantasy space adventure game, then Galactic Magic will definitely be the supplement for you.

Then in May 2022 comes Starfinder Drift Crisis, a hardcover rulebook and setting guide that throws major transformations into the Starfinder core setting. One of the major cornerstones of the setting when the game was established with the idea of the Drift, a trans-dimensional space that is used to swiftly travel between distant regions of the galaxy, established by the god Triune. Things get a lot more interesting in the galaxy when the Drift suddenly stops working, throwing the established order into chaos. Here’s the description from the Paizo.com website:

In a catastrophic instant, travel through the faster-than-light Drift realm failed, with travelers vanishing in mid-flight, communications scrambling, and the Drift’s progenitor god Triune falling mysteriously silent. In the aftermath, empires cling to far-flung holdings, opportunists exploit the chaos, and everyone demands to know what triggered this Drift Crisis and how they can solve it.

The Drift Crisis hardcover rulebook and setting guide details this massive galaxy-wide event, introducing a vast array of new conflicts, opportunities, and stories. Equip your characters with the latest technologies and techniques for surviving the upheaval, with new gear and character options. Discover the influential factions that are restoring order, profiting on the wreckage, or perpetuating the pandemonium. And experience the Drift Crisis with 20 detailed adventure seeds that range from survival to saving the galaxy!

If you begin playing now, you’ll have enough time to establish a nice baseline status quo for the players … just in time to throw it all into disarray when the fundamental nature of space itself falls apart in a few months.

At this point, there is really no shortage of options for players interested in exploring the Starfinder RPG. If you’re interested in trying it out, a great way to begin is by finding a Starfinder Society game near you.

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