Fans of the Pathfinder fantasy RPG looking for a new setting to play in will definitely want to check out Paizo Publishings latest offering, the "Starfinder" role-playing game. This review covers the core rulebook and Alien Archive sourcebook.
Coming in at a whopping 520 pages, the "Starfinder" core rulebook feels like a 36th-level spellcaster's spell book in the hand. The same beautiful artwork, organized sections, readable text and overall feeling inhabit the star systems of this tome. It is important to note that the two game systems are extremely compatible. With little effort the two can cross over.
The inside cover has a full-color map of the solar system for the "pacts world system," a science fiction based playground to set the scene for players. Aballon, for example, is the planet nearest the sun.
Chapter No. 1 of the book is an introduction to the game. This is helpful to read to know exactly what "Starfinder" is about and the similarities and differences it contains based on other role-playing games.
My personal favorite part of this chapter is the two-page role-playing play example. They are always fun to read and make fun of.
Game Master: You exit the shuttle and see two large boulders attempting to speak to you.
Roxy: I ready my blaster and fire.
Moxy: I throw a frag grenade at them.
Game Master: Roll this die before you get steamrolled by the boulders.
Chapter No. 2 is all about character creation. Fans of the Pathfinder RPG will see a lot of similarities. There are seven starting races, 10 character themes and seven character classes. Rules are given for starting at level one or starting a more advanced character with higher levels.
Something unique about "Starfinder" is the three-point systems used for tracking a character's life and ability. There are hit points, stamina points and resolve points.
Stamina points are lost before hit points and can be easily recovered. For example, when a character gets smacked over the head, he or she can shake it off by recovering stamina points. Hit points are the mainstay. It is the life essence of a character.
Resolve points allow players to improve skills, trigger abilities, recover stamina and avoid death. Once used, they take a full eight hours to gain back. If a character ever finds himself without any hit points or resolve points, a space casket is readied and shot out the torpedo tube of a battlecruiser.
Chapter No. 5 and Chapter No. 6 cover all the skills and feats available to player characters. And there are a bunch of creative ones. For example, blind-fight and improved combat maneuver combine to make a deadly pair. Have you ever been attacked from around the corner? It's possible. Heck, anything is possible in "Starfinder."
One of my favorite sections of any role-playing game is the magic items or equipment section. Did you know "Starfinder" has a full 75 pages chalk full of cool items and equipment that greedy characters will want more than life itself? There are even rules for weapon fusions. That means a player can combine weapons to make something new. How about combining a grenade launching fireball canon?
The book wouldn't be complete without starship rules and designs, although I found this chapter a little light. Could it be that there is a sourcebook in the future? Inquiring minds want to know. Pages 306-315 contain illustrations and starship examples.
Magic and spells in a science fiction role-playing game? That's right! Chapter No. 10 covers magic and spells. Understand that Paizo calls the "Starfinder" RPG setting a science-fantasy game. So sci-fi purists turn your noses back to the ground and see all the creative things "Starfinder" has to offer. For example, the third level mystic spell synaptic pulse can stun all creatures within 20 feet for a single round. Walk into a restaurant and eat for free.
For those worried about the thousands of dollars they've spent on Pathfinder books, don't worry. Paizo has you covered. Gamers rejoice in Chapter No. 13 with full details about converting Pathfinder characters into the "Starfinder" universe. Keep your Pathfinder books and enjoy them into the year 3032. You'll need enhancements though.
A review of any role-playing book would not be complete without a nod to the artwork. I am consistently impressed by the quality and quantity of artwork produced by Paizo. The "Starfinder" core rulebook is gorgeous. There are hundreds of pieces of art and almost every page has something. You could say that the book is dressed to impress.
The retail price of the "Starfinder" RPG core rulebook is $60. If you think this is too expensive, think about other role-playing games that require you to purchase 10 books to start your first adventure. Everything you need is in this single book.
Now, if you've played Pathfinder, you know that the bestiary is a collection of monsters with game stats that can be dropped into game sessions to add flavor. Well, in "Starfinder," the Alien Archive is a similar sourcebook that gamers can't do without.
The book kicks off with advice that the "Starfinder" universe is expansive and there will be much more alien and monster content to come in future publications. Tips on how to read an alien stat block and reference symbols help a game master or player see quickly if an alien is a combatant, spellcaster or expert.
For lovers of mech technology, Page 8 and Page 9 give details for the Ahau. This creature is a huge technological construct sporting medium machine guns or hell-hound flamethrowers. It can even bake chicken, extra crispy.
Page 16 and Page 17 contains a monster similar to a gelatinous cube but it is called the assembly ooze. It can actually create gear for players to use. Roll an eight-sided die and you might get a grenade. I think I found a magic wand in a cube once.
The Contemplative on Page 28 and Page 29 is a large brain with a dangling body that has evolved itself into a psychic powerhouse. It has spell-like abilities such as mind probe and psychic surgery. But don't let these pinheads fool you. They can survive in unforgiving environments.
On Page 54 and Page 55 gamers will see a familiar face: space goblins. The very next page contains stats for the well-known gray alien too. Did you know gray aliens carry needler pistols?
The book contains more than 80 life-forms and 20 playable races. There is an appendix for creating monsters and NPCs as well as an entire appendix devoted to summoning creatures. The book is rounded out with an appendix on template grafts and universal creature rules.
The Alien Archive is a must for "Starfinder" enthusiasts because of the sheer variety of creatures available. The artwork is stunning as usual but aren't new monsters a must for any role-playing game? Of course. The book retails for $39.99.
"Starfinder" will be an entirely new cash cow for Paizo Publishing. I can imagine more sourcebooks, adventure paths and even minis coming out over the next few years. Many products have been out of stock because of the excitement. While I'm clearing my shelves for more room, find out more about "Starfinder" at Paizo Publishing's website.