Heyo! I’m back after some time! It really isn’t easy to move across the country, takes time to get all the wheels rolling again. The gaming one has started and with a tabletop RPG to boot. Paizo’s Sci-fi offering Starfinder! It released late 2017 I’ve got two groups going right now and very excited to dive into the system and tell some stories. The bulk of my RPG gaming was sci-fi based a Warhammer 40k RPG called Dark Heresy so I love this stuff. Not to mention I’ve been an avid science fiction reader for many years. This game and the them is right up my alley.
Folks like to say oh it’s dnd in space. While that’s a good way for mainstream folks to understand it’s not a great way to sum up what Starfinder is. It’s much more than that and different than a mere science fiction skin over existing fantasy. It’s a whole new thing. Let’s delve into it Voracious Gamer style, this is going to be one long series if I manage to make it through all the Starfinder material I have, not to mention all the new shiny books around the corner and third-party additions. One other note, I despised the min\max element of pathfinder or the groups that I played in so much that I traded in my books and never played after a few forays. I’ve read through the core book twice to prepare for the two groups I’m running and I’ve got to say I’m digging it all so far.
The core book itself is nice and heavy with good art work and writing. There is some over writing in defining things and stuff but that’s to be expected. I enjoy carry the stack of RPG books around, this guy comes in at just over 500 pages. The first section is the overview. It tells the reader about roleplaying games, and that kind of thing, ends with an example of play for rpg noobs. The flavor or main themes of this game are Roleplaying, Exploring, Tactical Combat and Starship Combat, think many star systems, hundreds of different species and aliens and starships and all that jazz. The next chapter is where the magic happens though. Character Creation!
RPGs are all about the characters after all. You start by creating a concept, what do you want to be? It can be good to start with a character or something from a book, show or game and alter that to your liking or maybe you already have an idea. You can do anything really that can be thought of in a ‘sci-fi universe’ any kind of sci-fi really. So, you’ve got a concept like a veteran mercenary or an exiled healer or something like that next you choose a race. There are a TON when you look at all the player races in supplements and things but in the core book there are 7 to choose from, I’ll talk more about the races when we get to their chapter in the book for now they are Android, Human, Kasatha, Lashunta, Shirren, Vesk and Ysoki.
So, you’ve got a race and a concept, the next step is choosing a theme, themes help round out characters and express concept ideas as well as add some nice space flavor there are 10 in the core book. Ace Pilot, bounty hunter, icon, merc, outlaw, priest, scholar, spacefarer, xenospeaker or you can go themeless. We’ll go into more on theme later but you choose one and you get some benefits every few levels based on it. Step 4 is class selection, this is a big decision and controls a lot about the character you’re creating there are 7 in the core book and we’ll go into detail on them eventually but the list is Envoy, Mechanic, Mystic, Operative, Solarian, Soldier and Technomancer. When you add a class, you get a slew of other abilities and it also determines things like your HP and skill ranks as well as starting weapon and armor proficiencies.
Your Race, Theme and Class choices also come with ability modifiers, Abilities are the main stat of your character and there are six of them. Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma. You determine ability scores using a point buy system with 10 points to add to a base stat line of 10 on all 6 you can stress a few of them to alter how your character will perform at certain actions throughout the game. The other method that can be used to determine ability scores is to roll 4d6 and take away the lowest dice for each one, this can lead to vastly over or under powered characters though. Some folks (me!) enjoy the random element but most really don’t and would prefer the point buy mechanic for character creation.
Step 6 is to apply your class which means make all the decisions involved in taking your first level of a class and applying its benefits. Step 7 is to assign skill ranks and take feats. Each class can take a certain base number of skill ranks per level and it’s modified by your intelligence modifier. All your main ability scores have what’s called an ability modifier. With a score of 10 your ability modifier is +0 so on a roll that involved your wisdom of 10 you’d add 0 to it. That mod goes up by one every two points you have in the ability, wisdom 11 is also a +0 but wisdom 12 is +1 along with wisdom 13, wisdom 14 is +3, you get the idea. There are a bunch of skills to talk about later for now just know you can start the game being good at a few things or well rounded, however you like to roll. You can assign ranks into class skills to get extra bonuses. (As in every class has a sub list of the available skills that pertain to that class). Characters all get a feat at 1st level as well, feats really define your character and make it unique. A feat will often grant a new ability or a new weapon\armor proficiency and some of them have requirements based on ability scores and prior feats. You get more feats as you level.
Step 8 is sweet, time to go shopping and spend 1000 credits on gear and things. It seems REALLY low to me because there’s so much awesome gear and things to buy. I’m running one game starting at 3k credits and considering starting the other at 4k to really break into all the available ‘stuff’ but they’ll make money for that soon enough eh? There’s weapons, armor and basic equipment to be bought as well as services, vehicles and the like. Step 9 is the last and involves finishing up your character calculating final armor class, attack bonus, carrying capacity, deity, description, home world, Initiative, Languages, Resolve Pints, Saving Throws, Size, Speed and potential Starship. A ton, right? But RPG are very front loaded in that there’s a great deal of work in the beginning to get up and running. It has always been worth it I assure you! We’ll talk about all this stuff more in future articles.
A note on Armor saves you have two of them EAC and KAC one for energy damage and the other for kinetic damage types. Also, unique to Starfinder is that you have two pools of health your Stamina Points SP and your Health Points HP. Stamina Points are depleted first and can be replenished relatively easily. The SP represents just getting beat up but not taking serious damage. Every 5 levels your ability scores increase, you choose 4 ability scores and increase them by 2 if they are currently 16 or lower or by 1 if the score is already 17 or higher. This allows your character to get much stronger as the ability scores and modifiers affect so much in the game like saving throws and damage rolls.
There’s some more to talk about regarding health you’ve got your SP and HP but also temporary HP can come into play via magic and the like and you also have Resolve Points or RP which you have a pool of equal to half your character level rounded down minimum of 1. You use the RP to avoid dying and to regain SP. Spend 1 RP and 10 minutes to regain lost SP. You can stabilize yourself from dying with RP too, maybe good to keep one of those in the back pocket for emergencies or bad decisions ha.
The normal d20 alignment system applies here too with Good, Neutral, Evil on one axis and Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic on the other. Characters can change alignment if the act against their current one. Different groups handle this differently but I believe it should affect how you play and act as the character. GM should ask for more description or explanation if something seems out of alignment but it’s all up to the group and style.
When you level up along with increasing ability scores you take another level in your class or a new one (yes there’s multi classing!) this comes with new benefits and updated base saves and bonuses. You get a new feat every odd level and a new theme benefit at 6th, 12th and 18th. There are XP requirements for leveling, some GM and groups use XP for this but others use a milestone method where certain story events level the players. I tend to go somewhere in between. I’m attempting to run my games now using actual XP gain. Multiclassing is cool, good for story but risky for gameplay. Let’s say you’re a level 2 Solarian when you reach 3,300 XP (Level 3) you can choose to take the third level of Solarian OR you could take the first level of Technomancer or Mystic. This can make some real unique characters and good stories. It’s often pointed out that multiclassing can distill the strength of your character, which is true so I feel if one character multiclasses they probably all should. On the other hand, the story elements and complexity added by multi classing is great, some combos are probably sick and waiting to be discovered. Characters aren’t meant to retrain as in all decisions are final but there are some in game (up to GM) items to assist with changing things the player isn’t happy about.
In the next article, we’ll go over the Themes in the core book, yep all 10 of them. The journey has just begun and many of these terms may not be familiar to you if you haven’t played RPGs in the past. The thing is, there is SO much info to digest to really ‘play’ a tabletop RPG so you kind of have to take it in chunks. I’m going through the book as it’s presented we’ll get to later chapters that are much crunchier in detailing combat, starships, computers and weapon and armor modifications.
Go find them stars!