Today, I’ll be skimming over my Starfinder copy and giving an octopus-with-a-hanglider-eye-view of it for those interested. (I’ve had the PDF for about a week, and the hardcopy arrived today.)
First off, I’d like to take a moment to admire that the cover features one male character, and that’s the mechanic iconic, who is a rat-person. Two are women, and the last one is an agender android. This is deeply satisfying for a lot of reasons, most of which aren’t important enough to go into here, but hell yes representation.
Okay, so moving on from there. The first two chapter are fairly familiar ground for anyone that’s ever touched a RPG before; chapter one is the introduction, chapter two is character creation. We get information on important terms, such as Energy Armor Class and Kinetic Armor Class, Resolve Points, Stamina Points vs Hit Points, and a clever new bit called Themes, which are essentially archetypes you can apply to any character to make them a bit more distinct from others of the same race and class.
Chapter Three is races, which is a good thing given that the only race carried over as core from Pathfinder are the humans. We also have androids, which are mechanically distinct from Pathfinder’s androids as one might expect; Kasathas, who have four arms and don’t get extra attacks but can pack weapons in each hand for a variety of damage types; Lashuntas, who’ve finally gotten over their enforced sexual dimorphism to let any sex speciate to either subrace; Shirrens, which are bugfolk who used to be part of a nasty hive mind but who are now absolutely addicted to individuality; Vesk, who fill the painfully stereotypical role of That One Race of Proud Warrior Types that we really could’ve done without; and Ysoki, the ratfolk who grace the front cover as the one male iconic. It’s a nice assembly of weird races, really, even if the vesk make me groan.
Chapter Four is all about class! By which I mean we get to see the different classes and all their special tricks. Envoys get to be inspirational leader-type characters, kind of similar to bards; mechanics have a neat summoner aesthetic going on if they have a drone instead of an exocortex (how the sqrl do you rebuild the exocortex each level? It’s IMPLANTED for crying out loud!); mystics who cover all your divine spellcaster needs; operatives who are sci-fi rogues and will knife you from the shadows; solarians, who are here to fulfill your burning need to play a Jedi and/or Sith analogue, complete with the ability to have a lightsaber analogue and a Force Lift power; Soldiers, who know guns and face-pounding as well as any tank-type ever has; and technomancers, who mix up technology and arcane magic for a sci-fi spellslinger vibe. Each class section also has four examples, showing how race, class, and theme can produce significantly different characters.
Chapter Five covers skills; this is going to be relatively familiar to anyone that’s played Pathfinder, although streamlined and adjusted for the futuristic setting. I’ll talk about it more later, when I do a deeper dive on the book. (Which will come after finishing Aethera.) Chapter Six covers feats, which is as richly crunchy as you’d expect; there don’t seem to be any metamagic feats, which suits me fine – it’s bothered me ever since 3rd edition that a by-the-book GM would demand a spellcaster take Elemental Spell as a feat in order for them to have a repertoire of spells all in a given elemental type rather than just letting them reskin their spells to have an “ice mage” or the like.
Chapter Seven covers equipment in all its detail, and I’ll tell you that enchanting things is surprisingly cheap now, although with items and enchantments having levels you won’t be able to just enchant the hell out of your weapon with the shiniest bits early. You can also make any character a Jedi/Sith analogue, since there are plasma swords you can buy, and solarians can buy crystals to augment their stellar weapons.
Chapter Eight covers tactical combat, which is the scale we’re all familiar with; gunfights and swordfights run at this level and there’s no reason you’d really need to leave it if you wanted to keep an entire campaign here. Still, between “Hey, y’all have a ship together” and Chapter Nine being all about ship combat, it’d be a shame to not give people a chance to try it out, right?
Chapter Ten covers magic and spells, including a whole segment on combining spell effects. Plenty of familiar old spells and stylish new ones in the offered spell lists, including that old standby, magic missile. Thankfully, this early in the game, there are only two spell lists – one for mystics and one for technomancers.
Chapter Eleven is for the GM! Building adventures and campaigns, game prep and running, environments as pertains to space opera style games, settlements and how to build them, traps, afflictions from diseases and poisons to curses, and a segment on stat blocks that comes with a CR 20 goblin. Because of course it comes with a CR 20 goblin.
Chapter Twelve covers the setting, with two-page spreads on the system from the sun (which has an amazing cathedral of Sarenrae in a protected bubble-city) out to Aucturn, which is still a creepy fleshy nightmare planet. It details a handful of extrasolar locations, a bit on the planes, factions and organizations that are probably going to turn up a lot in Starfinder Society games, faiths and religions (interestingly, Asmodeus isn’t part of the core gods anymore, relegated to an Other Deities role) and a sampler of threats like the Azlanti Star Empire. Fun stuff.
Chapter Thirteen covers conversion of Pathfinder stuff to Starfinder, and has all the core races of PF pre-converted for use by PF grognards who want to be ELVES IN SPAAAAAAACE. Small-size creatures no longer take a size penalty, for those interested, so gnomes and halflings can keep up with everyone with no trouble.
After that comes the familiar back matter filler – character and ship sheets, inspirational material, a glossary, the OGL, and so on.
It’s also full of beautiful artwork, no surprise there.
Would I recommend getting it? If you like space opera, yes, I’d totally recommend it. Particularly if you appreciate representation, since shirren are a tri-sex species, androids are whatever gender they ID as, and a big chunk of the iconics are women who don’t exist in the Seoni Sex Appeal format.