Sunday, 20 August 2017

Starfinder Review

A few days ago I picked up a copy of the new rule set from Paizo, Starfinder.

I’ve been anticipating the release of these rules for some time now as I have been hankering for a sci-fi RPG but couldn’t agree on a rule set with my players, but then, some time ago, Paizo announced a new set of sci-fi rules, based on the Pathfinder system, called Starfinder.

So I picked up a copy and have started reading through them.

It’s a big set of rules weighing in at 532 pages and has all the usual high quality production values that Paizo are known for.

Whilst the rules do remain fairly faithful to the Pathfinder ethos there are a number of refinements.

The system uses the standard 6 ability scores of strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom and charisma however the races, classes, skills, feats and equipment have all been refined to reflect the nature of the setting. 

The seven races include Androids, Humans, Kasathas (a four armed alien), Lashuntas (an alien looking similar to a human but with more psychic abilities), Shirrens (a kind of bug type of alien), Vesk (a kind of reptilian type of alien) and Ysoki (a kind of rodent type of alien).

There are seven character classes to choose from including Envoy, Mechanic, Mystic, Operative, Solarian, Soldier and Technomancer. The origin of some of the character classes at first glance seem similar to Pathfinder but they are in detail quite different. For example the Mystic is a lot more skills focused then a Cleric.

Whilst some of the Skills and Feats are the same as Pathfinder, many have been changed, representing the more viable skills and feats needed in a spacefaring setting. So, for example, whilst there is still the Acrobatics, Bluff, Perception, Stealth skills there is now also Computers and Piloting. It’s a similar situation for Feats.
Equipment, well where do I start. There are:
·        Melee weapons (including one handed, two handed, basic, advanced, flame, plasma, shock, sonic types)
·        Fire arms (including one handed, two handed and heavy weapons, grenades, cyro, flame, plasma, projectile, shock and sonic types as well as special materials and weapon fusions to customise your weapons)
·        Armour (including light armour, heavy armour, power armour, armour upgrades etc)
·        Augmentations (such as many types of cybernetics)
·        Computers
·        Technological items (eg comms unit, detonator, fire extinguisher)
·        Magic items (eg rod of cancellation, shadow orb, spell ampoules)
·        Vehicles (eg junkcycle, enercycle, exploration buggy, urban cruiser etc)
·        Personal items (eg backpack, space suit, drugs, medicines and poisons, trade goods)

Plenty of everything really to satisfy most sci-fi nuts including plenty of pictures. A lot of these items will help to customise characters as well, eg the augmentations.

The Tactical Rules (aka combat rules) are similar to Pathfinder but are a little simpler and include several refinements such as a Energy Armour Class and a Kinetic Armour Class, Stamina, Hit and Resolve points (instead of just Hit Points in Pathfinder) and a Full Attack option to let you empty that clip into your enemy. The Tactical Rules have been expanded to include vehicle tactical rules.

The Starships chapter is one of the big differences. There is every intent that characters will, in most games, have access to a spaceship and so a lot of thought has gone into to the design elements of the ships and also the character roles in guiding and looking after the ship, especially during combat. There are of course navigation rules and ship descriptions (including systems, weapons, armours etc) as well as a detailed section on Starship Combat. In order to give all the players a role during starship combat, Paizo have included a number of Crew Roles including the Captain (who can motivate the crew or taunt the enemy), Engineer (who can enhance the performance of the ship), Gunner (shoots weapons), Pilot (pilots the ship) and Science Officer (who uses the ships computers, scanner and other systems to better identify threats, target foes etc). So no sitting around just letting the pilot have all the fun. Everyone can participate.

The second last chapter is Magic and Spells which includes instructions for casting spells as well as the spell lists for Mystics and Technomancers. The spell lists are not as extensive as Pathfinder but they still include some of the classics such as Identify, Magic Missile and Mirror Image but they also include a lot of new spells such as Supercharge Weapons, Implant Data and Logic Bomb.

The last chapter is Game Mastering which is quite extensive as it needs to cover broad range of environments as well as the normal tips on how to run a game and how to generate scenarios and give experience points etc.

All up I’d say that I’m a little excited and daunted by the scheer scale of the rules but I’m looking forward to developing some new characters and getting into a game.

It’s a bit hard to know where to start with a campaign but Paizo have brought out a new Adventure Path called “Incident at Absalom Station” so I’ll be sure to check that out. Who knows that might just be our first adventure.



  1. I suspect if I hadn't recently bought the What's Old Is New "N.E.W." sci-fi RPG I could well have invested in this instead. From your brief description it sounds like it has much in common with "N.E.W." It may be a bit early to ask this but, might you plan a sci-fi play by blog campaign in a similar vein to your "Keep on the Borderlands" fantasy campaign? I am keen to know a lot more about "Starfinder".

    1. I must admit I've been keeping up to date with your posts on NEW and I almost bit and bought the system but then I knew that Starfinder was coming out and that my face to face group was interested in it.

      I think we could do a blog campaign for Starfinder but it'll take me a little while to get my head around the rules first and we'll have to see what the rest of the players think. I don't think I could run two games at once on the blog. I think I'd end up getting overloaded.

      As Clint Eastwood once said "A man's got to know list limitations."

  2. Thanks for the great review of Starfinder. Now I need to figure what to do... 8th 40k or Starfinder... I wish life could be a later

    1. Hahaha. Get them all Gary. That's always the answer.

  3. I played a game of the D&D space setting, and like Pathfinder it seems there is a rule for everything. I know there are a lot of people out there that really like rules heavy systems, and a lot that like to "play the system" rather than "play the game", but I found it a bit stifling. I honestly cannot keep up with the the shear number of rules for the variety of situations (and even Pathfinder hasn't gotten grappling down to something easy!), and I give you high props for being able to do so! (and I do like it when you put up the rule that you're using for something specific in our campaign!) It's one of the reasons that I like Traveller so much, it's a huge universe with a lot of very deep backstory, yet it is quite easily playable. Of course, there isn't magic, and older versions had the option for you to work out your orbital mechanics, so no system is perfect!

    Anywhoo, great review! That sounds like a very big book! Might be able to use it for home defense! ;P

    1. LOL Home defense.... If you are married dont let wife use it on ;)

    2. I must admit I always liked Traveller but my mates in our gaming group aren't so keen on it. I think it's because they get a rush out of leveling and progressing their characters and that isn't so much of a feature in Traveller (character progression is pretty slow in Traveller by comparison).

      I must admit I found the amount of rules pretty daunting for Pathfinder when I first started but after a little while I found that apart from the rules for character there are really only a few rules that are pretty constantly used and you'll see it in our campaign.

      For example perception/stealth and diplomacy get used a hell of a lot.

      The hardest thing is trying to keep up with all the characters different abilities (and the monsters if you've got complex ones).

      I could make it more complex, like adding daily checks for weather conditions, grinding out complex rules etc but I typically find that they add complexity for not a lot of additional fun so I don't bother.

      And as Gary says, there is the added bonus of using the book for self defence.


    3. Err, as you and Gary say there is the added bonus of using the book for self defence.

    4. Lol, it won't be aerodynamic, but it'll pact a walop!

      Ya, I totally get the leveling thing. I know people that have their character mapped out all the way to level 20 way before the first gaming session! The thing I like about systems like Traveller and the old WEG Star Wars and Cyberpunk2020 is that the skills you use get better, the ones you don't use tend to wallow. I used to love Robotech/Macross, but I hate the Palladium system. I mean, just because I gained XP for shooting a bunch of Zentradi and go up a level doesn't mean I'm automatically a better dancer or cook!

      I think my predilection for gaming mechanics comes from tabletop gaming: I always found clunky rules systems un-fun. I've gotten used to knocking out 2 or 3 games in an afternoon rather than a 8 hour marathon for something like ASL. I sort of grew out of simulations in the early 90's. (That said, you should read the sandbox campaign I have going for traveller... crazy amount of simulation work...). When it comes to GMing, I try to never let the rules get in the way of a good story, unless it's patently wrong/against nature, and some rules-lawyer players I have gamed with just can't handle that. (The same people that tell me how to play my War Cleric, and that if I follow their leveling plan I can do XYZ, like they would if it was THEIR character... but it's not...)

    5. Sorry about the ramble, I blame the eclipse!

  4. "That said, you should read the sandbox campaign I have going for traveller... crazy amount of simulation work" - this sounds cool - where can I find it?

    You blame the eclipse, normally I blame the beer.

    One of the reasons I don't mind the many many rules that there are in Pathfinder is that for an over the internet game you guys have a pretty reasonable chance at working out the success of an action. It's one of the bummers that we cannot play face to face where communications is a lot easier but having said that this is probably the most detailed campaign journal that I've ever written. So there is that.

    1. Tis true, FtF would be great! I've tried some online games and they just aren't the same as being able to reach over and swap your buddy upside the head! I am really enjoying this game too!

      As for the Traveller game, alas it's all on old fashioned paper. 4 spiral notebooks so far. The PCs have actually made quite a few waves with their decisions and actions, basically precipitating events that are causing the Fifth Frontier War! Some of it has been shenanigans, but mostly good roleplaying. They learned early on that their actions have actual consequences in the region in which they operate, and their flippant decision to let one particular NPC die, just because, had some serious repercussions. Changed the whole complexion of the game, in a good way. Started out as a lark, but now they've gone quite serious and are invested in the outcome, which is always nice!